How Did i Get Here?

“Those are nicer cabinets than the ones I’m putting in my kitchen”.

Dan was half of a two-man crew from Habitat for Humanity, stopping by to pick up the oak cabinets i’d just had removed from my kitchen, in preparation for a massive remodeling job.

“i just want them to find a good home…”

Since i moved to the new place in 2008, i’ve been tackling one project each year. Billiards room, home theater/audio system were top of the list, but the office renovation, theatre room upgrade and fitness center remodel are all completed according to plan. i’d put off re-doing the kitchen because it would be more expansive – and expensive.

Initial plans were more modest, but once i realized that Mom and Dad’s final gift would be more than expected, i decided to go balls out – and make it a dream kitchen. Serious design work started in January with a professional, and i pulled the chain in March when i placed the order for cabinets.

And then the guilt started to work on me… My kitchen was perfectly serviceable. Why remove the walls? i’m not a serious cook – do i really need to upgrade to a gas cooktop and double oven?

My facebook-based flea market began in earnest – i gave away two perfectly good tables, a working refrigerator, stove and dishwasher. Donating the cabinets to Habitat for Humanity to make sure someone, somewhere could use them.

Realizing the magnitude of the job, schedule became a challenge.

“i’m going on a two-week European holiday at the beginning of June – can we have the work done by then?”

Did i say those words to my contractor? Yes. Yes i did…

In order to accomplish a 6 week project in 4 weeks, i took on a few parts of the job myself. Professionally trained as a program manager – Cost, Schedule, Performance – this is what i do for a living.  i worked with the contractor (and subcontractors) to run things in parallel where possible.

So i’m the luckiest… The absolute fucking luckiest human on earth right now.

Sure, i’ve worked to earn a paycheck from the day i turned 16. Something in my wiring diagram does not allow me to go without my own paycheck – even when starting university, i was in a co-operative education program  at 19, picking up a job as a secretary in the engineering office during the semesters i wasn’t working full time.

i made the choice to go to graduate school at night, while working full time and breeding. Those years are a bit of a blur, but i did it. So did my spouse.  My husband and i made the choice to live on one income, and invest the other. We lived well under our budget, and prepared to send the two spawn off to university should they choose to go.

Why do i feel guilty? Where does the voice come from inside my head that says “You’re being selfish? You don’t deserve this!”

Is it enough that i know i’m lucky to have found myself here? That i’m lucky enough to have had parents who squirreled away something for their children? That i haven’t been bankrupted by a major medical disaster, or lost my job through downsizing, or random events beyond my control?

As i write this, i’m sitting First Class, given a complimentary upgrade on a flight to Florida for my sister’s wedding. Drinking free booze, and munching on tasty kibbles handed out by a smiling flight attendant.  Unlike the guy that Exile on Pain Street wrote about earlier this week, you won’t catch me bitching about the lack of single malt scotch. i’m pretty happy with my Jack Daniels and Diet Coke.

jack and diet coke

Cannot be unseen…

We needed to go through Mom’s office. Because she valued everything she saved, we felt compelled to touch everything before determining disposition – we owe her that. Spending a Sunday morning at the homestead, my niece DQ, sister S, and i plowed into the task at hand.

We created piles – “Save”, “Trash”, “Donate” and got to work, each of us grabbing a box of stuff for excavation. The first box i grabbed came from the file cabinet. Reaching in, i pulled a worn envelope, stuffed full of aged, brown papers. Naked lady playing cards, purple mimeographed ‘office jokes’, and a stack of typewritten stories.

the collection

There was a two page “diary” entry, dated 3 November 1952, Avonmouth, Bristol, England…

Dear Diary:

I had a date with Ted last night and we drove along for about an hour or so until we came to a small house beside the road in the woods. Ted drove the car behind the house and we got out and knocked at the door, a girl came to the door and opened it. She was perfectly formed, having a beautiful body and legs. The rich crop of black hair at her cunt made me envious immediately.

Well… that escalated quickly, didn’t it?  Apparently Betty, and her boyfriend, Bob, were expecting company. Then the orgy commenced… Lots of poorly-written, detailed exploits for these two couples.  Criminal abuse of the words “juice”,  “moist”, and “moans of ecstasy”.

“Holy shit! i found Mom’s porn collection!”

Although badly written hard core erotica, i was delightfully surprised with the degree of sexual adventure it captured… Who knew grandma could get her freak on with another woman?

to be...

As traumatic as it was to find this gem in the stack of fragile papers, it was this one that makes me want to take a cheese grater to the memory lobes of my brain… In complete shock, i read it to my sister and my niece…

A True Dog Story

I was married when I was 16, younger than most girls nowadays. I had a good husband and life ran smoothly for me until I was 20, then my husband died. After I had been a widow about two years, there was a burglar scare in our neighborhood and my friends advised me to get a watch dog to keep strangers away.

Well. Can anyone else see where this is going?  After our heroine has to rush from the bathtub to see who is knocking on her front door, the new watch dog decides to get frisky… i cannot retype the entire text because i will end up stark raving mad. There are gems like this “He finally managed to lift my hips with his front paws…”and “After a short struggle, I fainted.”

As you can imagine, my sister and niece were both screaming at me, “STOP!  PLEASE!” but one must share such horror. It was a train wreck – i couldn’t make myself stop.

The lady and her dog apparently continued hot and heavy for a few months, until invariably a neighbor lady caught them. “You should have seen her eyes stick out when she saw that the dog had me pinned to the bed, screwing to beat hell”.

So what the hell am i supposed to do with this stuff? Trash it? Burn it? There is only one answer, at least now that i have been permanently scarred by this discovery…

Put it in a storage case and forget about it. Let my children find it after i’m dead. It’s only fair…

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

UPDATE:  Added this image for Ms. Texas Trailer Park Trash!  Apparently she found this in her Father’s stash when she was a child!  Since this was the least freaky of the things i found, i kept it and will likely use this for notes!

things to do today notepad

No Regrets – First Quarter Update

In January i identified a few things i’d like to focus on this year – things that will help me get to the finish line with no regrets. Not ‘resolutions’, but an attempt to be more mindful about things that matter. Last year, the quarterly blog updates proved to be a useful accountability tool. While these are certainly not the most riveting words, it helps, and i appreciate your tolerance of my introspection and intellectual monkey-spankage.

To better position myself for a ‘clean house’ at the end of my life, i picked three general categories:

Bridges – repairing relationships that have mattered to me.

Ducks – getting things in shape to assure the least hassle to my children after i die.

Vessel – assuring that my body can carry me through the adventures i desire.

Here’s how i’ve done in the first three months of the year.

Bridges: Got off to a quick and easy start here because an old friend finally replied to an e-mail i’d sent him last year!  Yoda re-appeared, after a post-retirement hiatus. He had been a friend and mentor, and we had an intense and occasionally tumultuous friendship until he retired a few years ago. Through a series of e-mails, we caught up a bit, reflected on our relationship, and considered prospects to meet up again.

One close friend was set adrift about four years ago. In a moment of anger, i slammed the door on a decade of friendship, with no explanation. He politely responded to my unexpected birthday greeting in January, and through an exchange of e-mail, we shared updates on the current contents of our garages. Not all that weird considering we’d spent a lot of time together in automotive pursuits. Need to keep working this one… at least i started a conversation.

Ducks: Building on my efforts last year, i have continued to work on reducing my physical footprint by shedding unnecessary ‘stuff’. A good start here, with three Jeep-loads of possessions taken to thrift shops. Also did a few ‘facebook flea market’ weekends, where i gave away items to friends. Re-homed many former necessities, and cleared a good bit of space in my storage room.

Six months after her death, i continue to bash through my mother’s estate. i have learned just how unprepared i am to die. Not much progress here, but i did manage to visit two different financial establishments today, the last day of the quarter! Making two major bank accounts payable on death to my children will reduce the complexities if i drop dead tomorrow.

Vessel: Started the year with a three week “cleanse”. Mostly as a means to jolt my brain into a healthier eating mode, it was also a chance to let my digestive system re-boot. Studley joined me, and we set about eliminating alcohol, dairy, wheat/grains, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and most fruits from our diets. Instead we ate a shit-ton of vegetables and lean protein. It was a good thing. i re-learned to make soups, and cook. Packed my lunch and saved a lot of money by not eating meals out. Saved money on booze, too.

Biggest surprises? i didn’t miss alcohol, sugar or caffeine all that much. What i missed? Cheese. Oh, lord, i do love a blast of bleu cheese or goat cheese on a salad! A nice hunk of smoked gouda makes a great snack! But we made it. We were eating well, shitting like cows, and very focused on whole foods. Many of these habits have stayed with me, and i feel pretty good.

Exercise has picked up, too. i added a ‘high intensity interval training’ workout on Saturday mornings, with modified workouts at home a couple of nights per week. Typical week has 4-5 workouts, plus bonus bike rides now that the weather has improved. I’m down twelve pounds in three months. A lot more to go, but a good start.

no regretsMuch more to do in all three areas of my life, but i’m content with the progress so far. The quarter ahead offers some challenges – major home remodeling project, several business trips, two significant vacations, three heavy-duty volunteer gigs and maintenance of an active social life, while working full time and finishing up Mom’s estate.

i can sleep when i’m dead. And if i do this right, it’ll be with no regrets…

Road hard

Three weeks of nearly continuous business travel. Given the run of frigid weather in February, i did gain some time in sunny, relatively warm California. Sure, i got to enjoy it a bit, walking to and from the rental car, and a few days spent dining al fresco for conference luncheons… but mostly, i was in meetings from 7am until 7pm or later.

Jacked up flights, due to weather.  i missed a connection at O’Hare by fivefuckingminutes, which led to a complete re-route to an airport near my destination, requiring a rental car and about six extra hours of travel time.  Missed a half day of work as a result, but made it. And didn’t get particularly stressed out.

IMG_20150317_213114

Similar jackage the next trip. i was halfway through a cardio workout in a hotel fitness center, when my phone lit up – 800 number.  i knew immediately that it was from the airline, likely delivering shitty news regarding my scheduled flight home the next afternoon. Rather than take the call, i finished my workout, then hauled my sweaty arse back to my room to deal with it.

As expected, my Wednesday afternoon flight was bagged, due to ice in Dallas, but they had conveniently re-booked me on the same flight for Thursday. “Well, that’s not gonna work!” A rookie traveler might have lost her shit at this point.

i dialed up my travel agent on one phone, and dialed the airline on my business mobile, while peeling off my sweaty gear. “Due to inclement weather, we are experiencing delays in customer service…” on both lines. Plugged in the phones, set both to speaker, and proceeded to call room service to order dinner…

i knew i’d have to bag the morning meetings and hook an early flight toward the east coast.  i set up my laptop, finished up the work that was required for the next morning. Room service arrived, bringing me a marginally edible flat bread pizza and a glass of wine.

As i emptied the wine glass, my travel office came back on line. Agent was able to wade through a pile of options and get me re-booked for a 6am flight. i finished the pizza. Once confirmed, it was about 9pm local time, meaning i had about 6 hours before my 3am wake up call.

Packed my clothes, sent my work off into the ether, set three alarms and was in bed within fifteen minutes. Was on the road to an airport an hour away by 4am, on a plane at half past five, and headed east around 6am.

Looking out the window. Thinking back on all the years i’ve been doing this. There was a  time when i loved it! Exciting, glamorous and chubb-inducing business action – i was a cog in my small corner of the technology world, and i enjoyed mixing it up with others in the field.

Now? It’s nice to bank all those airline miles and hotel points, but it’s just a longer commute. i try to be good at what i’m doing, but it is no longer my passion. Looking out the window of a plane, i just wanted to get home to my own bed, and my manimals.

And looking forward to the day – not that far away – when i will travel for only for recreation! Retirement lurks, and those airline miles are going to fuel a lot of roadtrips. Dive trips. Backpacking trips abroad – open ended, with no return flights booked.

Studley and i are in the midst of planning three trips between now and September. Uncharted territory – emotionally, mentally and geographically. i will continue to hop planes as a commuter, but i can assure you when i board those planes for uncharted territory, i am going to be one delighted adventurer…

i genuinely believe that a key element to happiness is having things to look forward to… i may be exhausted, but i am incredibly happy at this moment in life!

Trailer Park Family Values

With the passage of a law in the state of Florida, my sister, T and her partner, T* are free to marry! They’ve been together for nine years and have built a home – and a life – together. This is grand news, and plans for their celebration are underway!

T called me early last month to share the news, and check schedules. Studley, who is ordained as a minister in the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Motion**, will be performing the ceremony. The celebration will take place on a fabulous chartered yacht in Biscayne Bay at sunset! i will serve as MC for the reception! We are so very excited for them!

As T was working through details, she was wondering how to handle invitations to the members of the Trailer Park. Relationships were strained for the past few decades years. Like me, T was at odds with Mom’s living arrangements and choices. There had been scuffles – direct and indirect – that led T to take some time to decide whether she’d invite the rest of the family, or keep it fairly small.

With Mom’s death in September, i would have predicted that the entire clan would have imploded by now, and this would never be an issue. i fully expected to wander off from most of the rest of them after Mom was in the ground. T, already living a thousand miles away from The Park, had placed great geographic distance between her and the rest of the clan.

Yet it was my sister, T, who articulated the words that brought peace to most of the clan. In a conversation with my niece, DQ, T said “We all wanted what was best for Mom, we just didn’t agree on what that was… Now that she’s dead, none of that really matters.”

After deliberations, T decided to invite the entire clan, with some concerns about drunken drama and bad behavior causing disruptions. i assured her that i would manage the family dynamic, and promised to contain bullshit on her wedding day.

The curve ball in planning came from elsewhere. My sister’s partner comes from a family of means, politically visible and very well known in their hometown. Despite the fact that her mother shared a champagne toast to celebrate their engagement, she let it be known that she could not attend the wedding. T’s brother, also felt that a public wedding was not something he could support, and declined the invitation.

This was unexpected and heart-breaking for both my sister and her partner. Her brother had been with his wife for a mere two years before marriage – a fraction of the nine years T and T have been together. It seems they are more concerned about appearances than they are about the happiness of a daughter, and sister.

Fortunately, T’s sister will buck the family position, and is going to be there to celebrate.  As will the entire Trailer Park clan… Words i would never have expected to hear from my sister – “Our family is pretty fucked up, and we’ve certainly got our warts, but at this moment I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

let them eat cake

* i know this is confusing.  i should use names… i’ll figure something out. It’s only been 7 years out here… Give me a break!

** Not a real church, but neither is the one that grants on-line ordinations!

Out to lunch…

“My Momma made my lunch for me today. It’s in a big white bag with “Keith” written on it. It’s a tuna fish sandwich, potato chips, and cookies. I’d say that’s pretty lucky; I have lots of friends who would give anything to have their Mom make their lunch again.” – Uncle Keith*

This paragraph rolled through my facebook feed today.  It made me cry.

It also took me on a romp through some very wonderful memories…

There were two groups of kids when it came to school lunches – Packers and Buyers. As a wee lass, i remember feeling quite special because my mother loved me enough to pack my lunch for school every day.  A sandwich, fruit cocktail in Tupperware, and a Little Debbie Snack Cake were pretty standard fare.

School lunches were available, and the majority of students bought whatever was offered – “Pizza, corn, jello” on Fridays as the highlight of the week.  It cost $0.10 more if you wanted ice cream, and some of the lucky kids got ice cream, but that was a pretty extravagant item in our world.

Before leaving the classroom, the teachers would line us up by the blackboard – Packers first, then Packers who needed to just buy milk, and then Buyers. i was a bit cocky every day knowing that my lunch had been prepared for me, and was neatly packaged in my groovy lunch box.

ohmygod

i had this lunchbox.  i shit you not…

Shopping for a new lunch box was part of the ‘back-to-school’ ritual!  It couldn’t be taken lightly – you were judged by what was on your lunchbox.  Carrying that really cool “school bus” lunchbox might be ok in 2nd grade, but you’d be called a baby by the start of your 3rd grade year.

disney box

i tended to be somewhat conservative with my choices, going with bright designs rather than cartoon characters, or television shows.  i do remember being tempted by a sweet “Partridge Family” box, but opted for something less likely to get me verbally abused.

and this one

By the time i was about 10 years old, the lunch box thing wasn’t cool, but it was still preferable to pack a lunch and i ditched the lunchbox for a brown bag.  Still felt damn special, though. Eventually, i got fussier about what was going in that bag, and started packing my own lunches.

Thanks to Uncle Keith, i had a happy wander down memory lane today.  With a simultaneous ache of missing my mother… It would be wonderful to have her make me a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread, some syrupy fruit cocktail and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar again…

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

*Some of my older blogmates may remember Uncle Keith from a few years back. As the founder of his own religion, Keitholicism, and leader of The Riot Squad, he always brought insights and smiles.

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.  

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!