Russian Roul-etiquette

Winter excavations are well underway at Chez Daisyfae. It is amazing what one finds when going through boxes that were hastily packed many years ago.  While digging through the storage room, i found a box containing the journals* i’d kept all through high school.  After a brief excursion down Painful Memory Lane, i put that box aside and kept plowing through.  A bit of a dark cloud amassed inside my head as i mulled over the words i’d written at the age of seventeen…

Moving on to a box full of old photographs and work memorabilia, i found a piece of paper that stopped me in my tracks.  i laughed so hard that i made the cat jump! The photo, from a hotel surveillance camera, carried me back to one of the goofiest things i’ve ever experienced.

Several years ago, i served as general chairman for a large international technical conference.  The conference would be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – a wonderful city.  We planned the conference for several years, and i worked very closely with event planning staff at the hotel – and we got along very well.

Expecting around 700 attendees, we knew that about a third would be from Europe and a third from Asia.  It was my goal to make sure that every single attendee had a grand time, and went home feeling good about their experience in this little river town.  We put together a solid technical and social program, and our evening events included a massive banquet held amid exhibits at the Carnegie Museum.

After that banquet, my major ‘hostess’ duties were done, and i could relax.  i relaxed by throwing a party in my room.  As chairman, i was given a two bedroom suite, with full kitchen, dining room and entertainment area.  We made the best of it!  My admin assistant and i had spent the Sunday before the conference making jello shots (“vodka jellies” to my friends in the UK).  We laid in enough booze, wine and beer to inebriate an army.  We’d brought food as well.

The party was “invite only”, but we still had about 200 people coming and going through the course of the evening. Teaching the art of the jello shot to the world! An international jam session started in one bedroom, when a senior German technologist grabbed my guitar and performed Leonard Cohen.  One colleague learned the hard lesson that one should never do vodka shots with a Russian – she drank him under the table, or under the toilet in this case.

My friends on the hotel staff knew about the party – they were invited.  The next day, one of the event planners found me at the conference headquarters room.

Stephanie:  Did you have a good time last night?

daisyfae: It was a throw down… We tried to manage the noise, and keep the guests contained.  Hope we didn’t cause any problems.

Stephanie [giggling]:  We caught one of your guys on camera at about 3am.  He came down to the front desk…

daisyfae:  What?

Stephanie: We had a guy show up at the desk wearing nothing but his glasses and underwear!  He’d locked himself out of his room.

daisyfae:  Are you shitting me?  Who was it?  Oh my god…

Stephanie [produces print outs from security camera]:  Here are pictures from the cameras.  He came to the desk, and was apparently pretty drunk.  The night attendant offered help, but she couldn’t understand what he was saying.  Finally, she just asked him ‘What is your room number, sir?’  He got agitated and kept saying “What is YOUR room number?”  She had some help from security, and they got him back in his room.  We just figured he had been at your party!

daisyfae [jaw on floor]:  Oh shit.  [staring at picture] i don’t recognize him – he wasn’t in my suite last night.  But i’m certain he’s with the conference.

My admin assistant, and a few of my friends, spent the rest of that day trying to figure out which guy at the conference was pictured in the photo.  We finally identified him – it wasn’t easy with his clothes on.  i tracked Stephanie down the next morning.

daisyfae:  Not only is he with the conference, but we comped his room!  He’s an invited speaker!  Be sure to tell your staff that he’s staying here for free!

What is YOUR room number

The next night, there was another party – this one hosted by a key industrial sponsor.  Chartered riverboats, Monte Carlo gaming, and another throw down for the conference attendees.

Hanging with our group was my friend, JP, who had also been helping us identify the Drunk Naked Russian from earlier in the week.  As we get back to the hotel, he realized that somewhere along the way, he’d lost his room key.  Stopping at the desk, he asked for another.

As the woman behind the desk asked for his room number, he recognized her as the desk clerk from the Night of the Drunk Naked Russian.  With the goofiest accent he could muster, he shot back “No!  What is YOUR room number!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Picked up the one on top, chronicling the summer after my 3rd year of high school. Read far enough through it that i decided i may need to burn these.  My escape from the Trailer Park was not a sure thing… i was reminded that it could have ended very badly for me.  

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Follow The Money

“You do realize that you’ve made the majority of your assets ‘payable on death’ to daisyfae.  The directions in your will do not apply to those assets – they belong to her the minute you die.  Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”

“I told her to divide by four.  She’ll divide by four.”

Mom didn’t even glance at me as she delivered the line.  She was not confused.

We met with Mom’s attorney about a year ago to wrap up loose ends of her estate planning.  Ken is a good ol’ country boy, close to my age, practicing law with two other attorneys out of a renovated house in a village near the Trailer Park.

“OK, then.  Let’s identify other assets you may have.  Do you have any cash around the house?” Ken was taking notes.  “How much, roughly, do you have on hand?”

“About $50,000.”

He looked up over his reading glasses – first at Mom, then at me.  Addressing him, i said “Excuse me…”.  Turning to Mom “What the fuck?  You have that much cash lying around the house?  You have been living like a gypsy for the past four years!  Jesus, Momma!  We’ve talked about this!  With all the workers and transients coming through there, it isn’t secure.”

“It’s in a locked box…”

“It’s in a locked box with a HANDLE!” i said, firmly placing my face into my palm.  Through my fingers i asked her “When was the last time you saw the box?  Inventoried the contents?”

“Well, I haven’t had a lot of privacy… Maybe two years ago?”

Ken barely raised an eyebrow. i apologized for the disruption and let them continue.  i was there as her driver and observer.

Through the course of the conversation, Mom laid out her financial soul*, and the circumstances of her life.  She declared her wish to leave the house, and the acreage, to my niece who had been taking care of her for four years.  Working through details for over two hours, Ken got a good bit of insight into life in the Trailer Park, and an introduction to the cast of characters.

When Mom landed in the intensive care unit after being admitted to the hospital, one of the first things i needed to do was get that box out of the laundry basket in her bedroom where she’d hidden it.  She’d also told me where she’d stashed the keys.

Preparing to leave the hospital that night, i told my niece, DQ, that i needed to swing by the house to find the original “power of attorney” form, which i believed to be in a locked box.  She said she’d call her husband, BJ, so he’d be expecting me.

BJ and the 7 year old, DQ III, were happy to help me find that box.  In fact, they had the box sitting on a chair in Mom’s living room.  BJ asked if i knew where the key was.  DQ III piped up helpfully “We don’t have the key!  We’ve tried every key we could find and none of them work!”

Grabbing another file box, overflowing with papers, i also snagged Mom’s purse, hoping that i’d find the key she’d hidden the in the lining.  “Well, i’m sure the form i’m looking for is in there somewhere… i’ll go through this all tonight” and beat a hasty retreat to my car.

Getting home, Studley was there to meet me in the driveway with a vodka tonic, and had dinner ready on the table.  We inventoried the box.  It was all in there.  Neatly divided into envelopes, recipients identified, she’d prepared all the cash for distribution.  Other treasures as well, including my grandfather’s pocket watch, and jewelry that belonged to my grandmother.

This belonged to the woman who didn’t want to call a medical transport to take her to the hospital because it might cost $250.  This belonged to the woman who fretted over every penny she spent on herself.  Prepared for a rainy day, she was now in the monsoon season.  Too late to enjoy any of it…

~~~~~~~~~~~

The week after Mom died, i met with Ken.  He got me started on filling out necessary paperwork, and coached me on navigating the wickets ahead.  We went through assets that were likely to be outside the estate, and the few items that would need to be included.  When we were done with the formalities, he looked me directly in the eye.

“Your Mom knew what she was doing.  Given all the crazy business in your family, your niece exploiting her, she just left everything to you, didn’t she?  She appreciated that you’ve worked hard all your life, and that you’d probably go do good things with all that money.”

“Ken, you heard her say ‘divide by four’.  That’s what she wanted.  The house and property go to my niece, and everything else is divvied up between me and my sisters and brother.”

“Yeah, but you’ve been the one who has looked after her interests for all these years.  Don’t you think she really left it to you because you’ll end up taking care of them all anyway?  Why else would she have done it this way?  You don’t have to tell anyone how much is there – it’s all yours.  They don’t even need to know…”

i was stunned.  Was he really suggesting that i keep it all?

Leaning forward, staring him down. “Sir, you are looking at 200 pounds of pure guilt.  She said ‘divide by four’ and i’m going to divide by four.  There is no other option.”

He sprouted a huge grin, leaned back in his chair and said “And THAT’S why she picked you!  Ok, about transferring the title to her car…”

honest lawyer

*Mostly.  i’m still finding Easter Eggs here and there.  Places where she stashed assets and either forgot about or forgot to mention… Going through some of her papers, there are a few mysteries afoot, too.

The Circle Game

i love my children.

Not just because 10 million years of biology has programmed me to care for, and protect, my offspring to assure proliferation of my genetic code. Come to think of it, that certainly is a factor… but not the primary factor.

i love them because they are smart, funny, thoughtful and good citizens of earth.

With the holidays, they were both able to visit for about a week.  First, The Boy arrived – stepping off a flight at midnight, completely soused, having learned the joys of holiday travel with a military haircut.  People just love buying drinks for our servicemen, even when not in uniform.

On Christmas day, the two of us headed for the airport to retrieve The Girl arriving from across the Atlantic.  A happy reunion, with a stop near The Trailer Park to pay respects at Mom’s grave.

We enjoyed a great visit, they had places to go, friends to visit, and spent time with their dad and his wife.  They spent time wrangling the manimals, eating shitty food, and yakking late into the night.  The Girl did a bit of shopping, as she needed to take 100 pounds* of America back to Turkey.  The Boy farted around with his pod of sk8rboyz.

As it got closer to departure time, they were ready to go home.

The Girl has a job, a serious boyfriend and a life back in Turkey.  The Boy has made some incredible friends in the Army, and it was clear that he missed them and his routine.

i had to smile with complete understanding, and just a bit of melancholy.  i remember that feeling…

When i was married, we’d make an annual trip to visit my in-laws.  People i genuinely adored!  Since they were 1,000 miles away, we’d spend a week.  They made an effort to keep us entertained, with excursions and adventures so we wouldn’t get bored, but we were often just happy to hang out and visit.  But after about four or five days, i was absolutely itchy to get on the road and get home.

Home.

i remember when i left home – 18 years old, leaving for university, and knowing…. KNOWING that i’d never go back.  Not because my parents were bad, or i’d had a horrible experience, but because i wanted my life to be my own.  Of the four of us, i was the only one that never ‘bounced back’.

When i’d visit my old home – now the home that houses my niece and her family – it was comfortable and ‘known’ in a way, but it was never my home again.  There were only a few weeks i stayed – maybe in the summer after my first year of university.  A few nights spent in the recliner in the living room, looking after Mom in later years.  But i never went back… i loved it, but didn’t miss it.

While my children will always find a sense of comfort coming to visit – wherever i may be – it will never be their home again.  As a minimum, they’ll stop by to eat my food, drink my booze and wrangle my critters….

There’ll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through…**

family

* It’s less expensive to check an extra bag than to ship. i’d say most of the weight was bourbon and peanut butter…

** Joni Mitchell.  The Circle Game.  A song i did at open mic nights when i was 20, thinking “wow, this is, like, sooooo deep.”  Now when i do it, i can’t finish without breaking down in tears…

No Regrets

Death.  It is inevitable.  It is closer than we expect.  Always.

My father died many years ago.  He was squared away with his life.  He told me that he had no unfinished business.  Nothing left undone.  “Can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but I’ve done what I wanted and needed to do.”

Go without regrets.  As good as it gets.

Mom?  Not so much.  She fought to the very end — with a ventilator in her throat, she gave a deliberate nod to inform the doctor that she still wanted to be resuscitated should her heart stop during the procedure to unblock her lung.  Three days before she died, she was still calling the shots.  Clearly, she was not ready to go.

i’ve learned a lot while handling her estate.  She did an exceptional job of getting things in order – the big things, anyway.  There are some things i’m discovering that have me scratching my head, but mostly she wasn’t confused about her wishes and had everything in place to make that happen.

i have some work to do… not just regarding the disposition of my estate, but making sure i can go without regret or unfinished business.  This will be a year of mindful attention to that.  Focus on a few items that could potentially be deathbed regrets.

Bridges:  There are people in my life that i have loved, and for whatever reason, discarded or lost.  In some cases, i have no interest in rebuilding the bridge – i feel an urge to nuke it til it glows and strafe it in the dark.  i can count such people on one hand.

There are others… a misunderstanding…  getting angry and closing the door, sometimes without explanation.  My tendency is not always to discuss, argue or sort it out.  i have, on occasion, simply walked away without explanation.  In other cases, it’s just life, distance, and circumstance that has led me away.  People i used to be close to, but our Venn Diagrams no longer intersect on a regular basis.  We’ve just lost touch.

If i were to find myself on my deathbed in the near future?  Suspect i’d have a few regrets about these relationships.  After Mom died, this started to gnaw on me a bit – a couple lost friends bravely reached across the divide to offer condolences. Condolences that were graciously accepted, and appreciated.  i need to work on a few bridges – not to rebuild old relationships in all cases, but to assure that there are no unresolved questions.

Ducks:  i’m over 50.  i have multiple hobbies that are somewhat high risk, i need to get my ducks in a row financially.  Simplify.  Direct assets rather than leave an estate.  No great epiphanies or soul-searching here, i just need to do the work.

This also includes a un-fucking my space.  We still haven’t started excavations on the massive storage locker full of all of Mom’s ‘stuff’.  i do not wish to leave a bunch of useless shit to my children.  The Boy says he’s selling my place fully furnished, all ‘stuff’ in place. Truth is, someone, somewhere, will be stuck going through all of this and i’d like to make it as simple as possible.  So the de-clutter and un-fuckage continues.

Vessel:  Retirement.  The clock is now UNDER three years.  As it looks, i will be able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle without working again.  This is amazing, and i should not squander such good fortune… Travel figures prominently in my future.  More than a week on holiday here and there, there will be months spent on the road.  Chasing the Northern Lights, hiking through the Sun Gate into Machu Picchu, being a volunteer SCUBA diver supporting reef health monitoring in a variety of warm climates….

i must continue to un-fuck my body… the vessel that will carry me forward (with any luck) into some ridiculous adventures ahead.  This is a lifetime thing, not a ‘one year and done’ endeavor.  Having a reasonable exercise schedule ingrained gives me a decent start.

battle cry“Life is short. Death is forever. Nothing left undone. Go joyfully” – Alan Cottrill

This is my charge for the new year.  The quarterly blog updates were helpful – i felt accountable.  i’ll do the same this year – as much for myself as for your entertainment!

 

 

Un-fucking Myself in 2014: Final Update

At the beginning of the year i had three broad goals – un-fuck my apparently broken finger, un-fuck my space (get rid of stuff) and un-fuck my body (get more exercise, eat better, lose weight).

With quarterly reports in April, June and October i captured my progress/regress as the year rolled by.  Here are the final scores and highlights.

Finger:  Un-fucked.  No surgery required.  This one was as simple as shaking off the anxiety and going to the doctor.  Follow through with physical therapy resolved most of the dysfunction. i consider this one done.  The lesson learned:  Rather than fret and make yourself crazy worrying about the possibility of surgery, or other drastic treatment?  Just go to the doctor and get professional help.  Problems are not solved inside your damn head!

Space:  A strong start in January and February, but i bogged down into the Spring and Summer.  After taking on Mom’s estate, and the associated mounds of paperwork, i regressed a bit – there are still piles of paperwork all over my office, but i will be ahead for the year once i close out estate business.

Body:  Mostly failed on this one.  On the bright side?  With the support of Studley as my accountability buddy, i managed to keep up a nominal 3 days/week gym schedule for the entire year (including two visits this week).  After a great start, losing 25 pounds, i regressed substantially by going back to my highly emotional eating habits.  Re-gained almost 15 pounds, so my net loss for the year was only 10 pounds.  This pisses me off, and i have no one, or nothing to blame, but my own undisciplined ass.

This was also the year i buried my mother.  We knew it was coming, and given her state of health, it wasn’t a surprise.  Regardless of your age there is a bit of an emotional sucker punch when you become an adult orphan.  i don’t want to use this as an excuse, but i am a bit more gentle with myself because of it.

Beyond that transition, and the quest for un-fuckage, it was a damn good year.  Time spent with my independent, adult children – it brings tremendous joy to watch them move confidently into their lives, following deliberate, chosen paths.  Time spent with my companion, enjoying two dive trips to warm, exotic locations along with many other adventures (large and small!).  Time spent with friends – some from my childhood, some i’ve only known a few years.  i am surrounded by good humans!

Reindeer Poo

Time spent with this ol’ fella.  When i started this blog in 2007, i really didn’t expect he’d still be with me – big dogs tend not to live as long as the little yappy ones…  He’ll be 14 in June.  Despite a serious health scare in November, he’s still going strong.  i sleep with this goofball every night – although he’ll need a ramp to reach the bed before long.  Perhaps one of the best things?  i had another year with Mr. Pickles.

Despite being somewhat random with my blogging last year, almost walking away from it several times, i’m feeling the urge to write again.  i’ve been living aggressively.  i have been immersed in some serious life business.  i am planning my retirement.  i feel the need to use this space to hoark up the things that are rattling around in my head, and organize my thinking.

Hoping the new year finds you all healthy and looking forward to what lies ahead!  i’ll be right back…