hand-flappingly busy

Ok now, all caught up (sort of) from Hurricane Matthew. Oh, North Carolina…my heart breaks for you.

The abattoirfreezer is ready to come back inside. I used a bit (I kind of hate calling things “tips” or “tricks” or “hints”) I learned years ago after I discovered the cat had been peeing aside the litter box and not in it, and a gag inducing aroma developed. Let me tell you what this WORKS. Mop up as much of the mess as you can, then cover the area with baking soda, and sprinkle it generously with lemon juice. It foams up and is all exciting. Then leave all that there until it dries- a couple of days. Within a few hours the unpleasant aroma is GONE. After it dries, scrape it all up and there you go. Clean and fresh and no more cat pee/death smell.  I can’t promise it would work on a crime scene, but I know it works on the sorts of biology-related issues I deal with. It doesn’t deal with stains, either. but I don’t care about those.

Several household projects bloomed from this one freezer thing. I have a big game room (pool table, gaming area etc) that will soon be populated by a couple of people who are, shall we say, “in between living situations” due to job issues, school, that sort of thing. They want to be there far less than I want them there, because it smacks of “living in Mom’s basement” and, while that’s not nearly as uncommon as it used to be, it is still kind of… I don’t know…undesirable. I’m not bothered by it because it is fairly isolated from the rest of the house as well as (hopefully) quite temporary. Anyway, that area needs to be cleaned out because it has become The Place To Throw Things. You know, that one room everyone has (or wishes they had) where all the stuff gets tossed when you don’t want to look at it anymore, or when your in-laws are coming and you’d like them to think you’re well organized so you gather everything up in random sized boxes and pile them on the pool table because you don’t have time to actually organize them and give them to the Salvation Army. Which is what you SHOULD do with them but that set of jars is just the right shade of blue for your (yet to be built) new bathroom and you might want them. even though you have never in the 30 years of being a grown-up stored anything in jars in your bathroom. But it looks pretty in the magazines so maybe you’ll start.

#2’s efficient girlfriend has been helping me out with all this- all the boxing up and sorting and wiping off the 10…ok 11…no wait I’ve been here 12 years worth of dust as I put stuff in boxes and keep thinking “oh I can’t get rid of this!” even if it HAS been on the shelf, untouched, for 12 years. What I need to do is walk away and let a hoard of people take what they want and start fresh like I did with the fridge and freezer after everything in them died.

Let me tell you, as horribly wasteful and sad as it was to get rid of everything from the freezer and fridge, (honestly most of the fridge stuff was those jars and bottles of stuff with too much to throw away and not enough to actually do anything), starting with a shiny clean spot with nothing at all in it save a quart jar of yeast and a gallon of milk was pretty nice. All my spices from the freezer are in glass jars too, so I kept those. All my nuts and dehydrated fruits for baking are in vacuum packed packages so I kept them as well, but everything else got pitched. It’s sort of refreshing to start from scratch. Kind of expensive, yes, but many of the condiments I have unopened in the pantry, so getting the mayonnaise and capers and Thai chili sauce won’t be a thing.

But, the house still sort of looks like a bomb went off. Or maybe a hurricane blew through.School still is happening and I still have to do the work so I’m not worrying about the the bins of paper plates by the sideboard. They aren’t hurting anyone and I have no plans to host any bridal showers. They’ll get put up soon enough. Maybe over the weekend.

I’m having to replace a couple of doors. One of the screen doors was snatched by the wind and broke, and since it’s one of a matched pair on a set of french doors, and the style is no longer available, I’ll either have to have a mismatched set or buy 2.  Whatever. Also an interior door has been so badly abused by sundry creatures that it needs replacing as well. Already bought that one but it needs hanging. Himself used to take care of all that but now I have to figure out how. I reckon it’s a new skill to learn, like how to measure for kitchen cabinets. All this education, both formal and informal, is making me a little anxious.

Also, people in my church keep having babies. There’s this sort of baby population explosion going on right now. I have a go-to gift for showers, and I’ve run out of them so need to make a bunch more. When? in between figuring out how to do accounting in Excel and scraping up baking soda? Pardon me for whining. It’s silly given the circumstances. But then I’ve never denied that I’m silly.

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I’ll write more in a couple of days.  Hurricane Matthew came through, we didn’t have any serious damage. The worst of it is the result of the freezer thawing out and leaking meat juice underneath, which I didn’t figure out until the utility room started smelling like dead things. With the help of a friend, it’s getting cleaned up. More later.

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Expect the worst, hope for the best

I’m a preparationist. Not a prepper and all that implies, but someone who believes in being prepared for pretty much any situation especially if it involves natural disasters like, say, hurricanes.  We live about an hour inland from the Georgia coast, and there’s all sorts of dire warnings about Hurricane Matthew and the potential it holds for this area. evacuations abound, all the hotels here are full, and the Walmart Parking Lot as well as all campgrounds are full up with travel trailers and RVs.

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]

I, being one who’s always expecting the worst, have cooked up a bunch of breads and apple cakes, made a pot full of soup that can simmer on the stove (we have a gas stove) (propane, that is, not natural gas. Also 2 spare bottles). Because I didn’t get any canning this done and not much dehydrating either,  there’s about 3 dozed quart mason jars and 10 or so 1/2 gallon mason jars that are clean and ready to be filled with drinking water.  All the cars have full tanks of gas. I’m doing laundry right now, in the event of power and water outages, we won’t stink. (Much).

A trip to the store on Monday means there’s toilet paper and dog food, grits and plenty of dried nonperishable foods. After we clean up tomorrow, the bath tubs will be filled with water to be used for toilet flushing (and only to be done when #2 happens) (if the water’s out). We are on a community well, so if the power goes out, so does the water. I have many large pots used normally for canning and mass cooking, those will also be filled with water.

Chances are, with all these preparations, nothing at all will happen. The power might blink. A neighbor might lose a shingle. Most likely we will get the proverbial (pardon the language but it’s how it’s done here)shit-ton of rain, and that means all the septic tanks and drain fields will overflow and the neighborhood will smell pretty funky for a couple of weeks. (shit-ton is more apropos than I realized just then!)

#4 cautioned me about being a little hyperactive about getting ready, perhaps even bordering on paranoid. But you know what? If it does go down big, guess who’ll be prepared? If the roof blows off my house and everything is ruined and I need a place to go, the car gas tanks are ALL full and I can go to Alabama and take the dogs with me. Plus extra people if I have to.  If it turns into a stiff breeze and a 10 minute loss of internet service, then call me paranoid because I don’t care.

I like the feeling of purpose that comes from preparing for a disaster.  Ok #4 just informed me if disasters happen he’s staying here and organizing his boy scout troop for disaster relief help. Good lad! I’m so proud of him! There are plenty of people with whom he could stay, starting with the scout master.

I went out this morning because it occurred to me that I had no candles nor lamp oil. Apparently that occurred to everyone else yesterday, because there was none to be had. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just sit in the dark. Due to a funky aroma from under the sink, I went scrounging for the bleach and came across. Lo! Behold! A 1/2 gallon of lamp oil! Enough to fill up 4 oil lamps! No matches, but #4 has several lighters and a whole bottle of lighter fluid. So, between those, the gas stove, and all that water, we’ll do fine for long enough to get somewhere else if necessary.  Prescriptions have been refilled so I’ll be good until November with those. Check, check and check.

It’s supposed to hit sometime tomorrow night. I’m thinking we will sleep downstairs in case the roof gets ripped off or a pine tree flies through a second story window. We have a couple of exceedingly comfortable recliners excellent for sleeping in. If there are extra people here, we have some twin mattresses that can be dragged out as well.

All lawn furniture has been laid over and put up against a fence. Umbrellas are down, basketball goal is down. Porch rockers have been brought inside. What am I forgetting? I’m sure I’m forgetting something that will become abundantly clear at the worst possible time to do anything about it.

Liquor cabinet is stocked. I have club soda and tonic water. Ginger ale for the requisite Dark and Stormies (that is, dark rum and ginger ale) (yum). Cards and board games are checked for parts. I’m hoping for an opportunity to show #4 what we did back in The Olden Days before the internet and TV. Ooh.  I wonder if there’s batteries for the short wave radio? Is that too old school? I need to make sure all the phones are charged up too.

I really hope I am over-cautious.


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A wonderfully ordinary day. So far.

I am thankful the philosophical megrims have subsided for a while. Oh, they’ll be back no doubt, but getting a breather is nice and makes them more deal-withable when they are sitting around fouling up the air.

Today has involved the things I found so comfortable through the past many years: doing laundry, cooking a nice meal, doing a bit of work…this time real work on the computer for school stuff.

I generally hated laundry but now it’s kind of comforting. Warm soft clothes being folded and ready to wear again. It smells nice, too. A while back I started making my own laundry detergent out of some sort of Ma Ingalls type of self sufficiency and money-saving endeavor. Now it’s a habit and I love the stuff. It’s easy, too. No fancy chemistry or mixing and waiting like I’ve seen on some detergent recipes. Nope. It’s a bar of soap, some washing soda and some borax. That’s it. Shred the soap real fine and mix it with the other stuff and boom. Laundry detergent and it works, too, even on #4’s stinky teenaged man-boy funk.  Here’s what it is: 1 bar soap (I use Fels-Naptha, but apparently any kind will work. Sometimes I use Zoat), 3 cups each washing soda and borax. Shred the soap super fine (food processor) and mix it all together. It makes about 7 cups. I use 2 tablespoons per load (front loading washer, I just throw it in with the clothes)

Image result for laundry on a clothesline

Photo credit:  Steve Raymer: Laundry on a Clothesline


The nice meal is the result of not cooking for a while and feeling the urge. Also finding a 3 pound rump roast in the freezer, that I’d forgotten about. So, pot roast, in an optimistic attempt to Bring On The Fall. Also rolls. And probably some sort of broccoli salad because there’s that in the fridge. Pot roast is one of those things about which everyone has their own methods and recipes. I snagged Himself with a potroast, assembled in a crock pot and left in his apartment the day he was due to return to school from Christmas break. It worked, too. The next day he asked me to marry him. True story.  I know of one other person who used my recipe and snagged a husband with it. It’s easy enough to make, if you want the recipe, leave a request in the comments.

The schoolwork is…well, it’s kind of fun. I’ve been learning Excel and it’s so procedural it makes my inner Seven of Nine all warm and fuzzy. In the Office Procedure course (essentially office and customer service etiquette) we are to make a customer feedback form, using Google Forms, and download it to the instructor. Excel has made me very familiar with the Microsoft procedures, so the process is familiar enough to add some warm fuzzies to the already existing ones.  Honestly, I am loving school, not because I’m all gung-ho about going to work, but because I’m learning stuff I didn’t know and reinforcing stuff I did…like the office procedure.

See, I am a sarcastic so-and-so, generally, and this customer feedback form is allowing me to let my inner 7-of-9 cock an eyebrow and offer answer options that may push the boundary of what our (somewhat humorless) instructor will accept. I have no idea how she will accept them, but since I am not actually breaking any rules nor making a form that is utterly incomprehensible, I’m hoping she will recognize that I understand the concepts and accepts the form with grace and humor.

It’s a peculiar dichotomy to be taking Office Procedure (How to be a Good Little Drone) and Leadership (How to Take The Bull By The Horns and Run Things, Machiavelli-Style) at the same time. I have to split my brain and not think of one while doing the other. The easiest way is to do the Procedure stuff (an online entirely course) on one day, and save the Leadership stuff for another.  I am not sure which mode I am entirely cut out for, but since I am only really wanting to work for 10 years or so, I’m pretty sure that Leadership is an exercise in Psychology, and other than dominating customers who annoy me, won’t be much used.  However, writing is a strength of mine, so maybe I’ll be put in charge of Customer Feedback Forms and add options that allow customers to recommend putting someone in Time Out.

So yeah, after the past several days (a couple of weeks, actually) of being all  introspective, it’s back to this side of my personality. Maybe it’s the season change. I love a good season change. Or maybe it’s the potroast. The house smells nice. Maybe it’s the underlying excitement of the upcoming life change. Who knows? It is what it is.

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My left eye started itching last night, like something was stuck in it but I couldn’t get it out. This morning when I woke up it was red and nasty. Great. Pinkeye. I thought only 2nd graders and heathens got that. Fortunately, #4 has been enough of a heathen that I had a largish bottle of antibiotic drops (because he went through a spell for a couple of years where he had it a LOT, and the doctor got tired of seeing him so prescribed a liter of the stuff…ok I exaggerate but it was a big bottle. And it hasn’t expired yet.) so instead of going to church I stayed home and dosed myself every couple of hours with it. And did some sewing, which always puts me in a reflective mood.


So, it’s been 19 months since Himself died, and I still see the last day in my head every day. Him laying in the hospital bed, motionless and plugged into every sort of machine, all those tubes and nurses hovering. I see him after the all the machines were turned off and tubes removed, motionless and still warm, and so pale. I hate that that is is my last memory of him. It makes me wish he’d died in a massive explosion so there was nothing left, and my last memory could be of him leaving that morning, lunch box in hand and the usual “I love you!” traded. Way back 30 years ago, when we got married, we decided that, no matter what, the last thing we would say to each other when one of us was going somewhere was “I love you!” because it was important that this was the last thing we would say in case something happened.

A couple of days after the funeral it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember if I’d said it that morning when he left for work, and I kind of flipped out (I was pretty busy flipping out over a lot of things just then). #4 reassured me that he remembered clearly us saying that to each other.  I guess we’d been doing it for 30 years and it was such a habit I couldn’t remember doing it, but I’m thankful that I did.

As much as it hurts to remember all that, I am thankful that I do. I hope I never get to the point where I don’t think of him and remember every part of our lives together. As much as it hurts to go through photographs or look at the pieces of furniture he built just for me (My entire sewing room, every piece right down to the box that holds all the buttons), I cherish every piece, every memory that is attached, and feel like he is still here in a way. It’s comforting, and sometimes I need that.

You see, Widowhood isn’t something you get over, it’s a Change, like…I don’t know…Puberty. Once you’ve gone through puberty, you are permanently changed and won’t ever go back to what you were before. When you’ve spent a long time (or even a short time, I don’t think there’s a certain point that makes one person’s widowhood more widow-y than someone else’s) with a person, experienced so MUCH life with them, whether it’s kids and moving or arguments and hurts, they’re so under your skin that they are a part of you, and when they’re gone, it’s an amputation of sorts, and that part can’t be replaced.

It can, however, heal. There are scars, to be sure. Any trauma this severe will leave them. I’m not even there yet. I’m still bleeding, though not nearly as much as even 6 months ago. For the most part I can talk about him and remember the times we had (good and bad) with love and warmth, but stuff still sets me off- like being in a room full of furniture he built, just for me, or looking at photographs. I think it’s fine to do that. Our culture tells us to avoid pain and Unpleasantness. Hurting people are given pats on the back and told it will be ok, or distracted away from the pain, or somehow told Pain is Bad. But the truth is, Pain is a part of life and not meant to be ignored. It’s part of growing.

But, pain also means there was 30 years of joy and struggles and love and perseverance. It was so worth it.

It still gobsmacks me, to realize I am a Widow. Sometimes I can think it, and shrug, saying “well, it’s where I’m at now.” and other times I think “What?! NO! RIDICULOUS!” I generally feel like I’ve accepted it, but occasionally…not really.

So, when I get all philosophical (like right now), I thank God for taking ahold of Himself and carrying him to a wonderful place where he can be free of frustration, and for providing me with the strength and encouragement to plow through this new territory called Widowhood. I’m grateful for the women who’ve been here longer than I have, because they can be so encouraging.

I have a whole different future ahead. Because I am a compulsive planner, I *think* I know what it holds, but if the last 18 months has taught me anything, it’s that plans can change dramatically in the blink of an eye, so while the plans are there, they are somewhat fluid. A house is being built, plans are being made to move, stuff is being learned, #4 is working on his plans for the future, as are the other sons. It’s all the stuff of optimism, even in the face of loss and sorrow, and it’s ok. Because that’s what life is made of.

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Algebra, you (expletive)

First, a question: Who reading this, who’s a non-engineer, uses algebra on a regular basis? I know accountants do occasionally, but I don’t think they use calculus, which is Step 2 after algebra. So I want to know. If you can give me a really convincing argument as to why I, as an administrative assistant, would need to know algebra, I would deeply appreciate it as it would give me a reason to know the stuff.

My emotions are kind of all over the place right now. Yesterday I got the grade back on a math test and I did HORRIBLY. And not in that “I’m used to getting A’s and I didn’t get an A” sort of way, but in that “holy cow, not only did I not pass, I not passed with flying colors and dive-bombing and flames with tire-burning type smoke” Apparently the rest of the class did the same because the instructor was all “Well. You guys weren’t prepared. I’ll let you retake the test after you do an hour with a tutor.” So I have an appointment with a tutor next Tuesday, which is the earliest time I could get one. Also #4 said he would help study. It’s not as though she (the instructor) doesn’t show us how to do stuff, she does, I guess I’m just thick in the head-Algebra Style.

90s school pete and pete pete pete the adventures of pete and pete

Thing is, that horrible grade threw me for a real loop. I actually felt pretty confident about the test, like I knew what I was doing. Discovering that I didn’t was a real hit to my ego, and that tiny voice in my head kicked in with all kinds of commentary. Stuff like:

“Who are you kidding? You can’t do this.” and

“What makes you think you’re competent enough to actually work a real job?” and

“Loser. All you’re cut out for is being a stupid housewife.”  I balked at that one because being a housewife isn’t the easiest, especially with a bunch of kids. But you also don’t have to go to school for it, nor do algebra. Thankfully.

That voice is a pretty powerful force, and the rest of my day was spent moping in a funk, feeling very discouraged about my future prospects and feeling like an abject failure. Also I cleaned out the utility room and gathered up all the clothes that no longer fit (I’ve lost ~40 pounds over the past 18 months), and that was mildly therapeutic, though the voice kept reminding me that one doesn’t usually make a living bagging up one’s oversized clothes.

The voice is an asshole.

A a couple (or three) episodes of Star Trek, a bit of junk food, and a good night’s sleep have remedied The Voice issue, and I woke up feeling more confident. Not only am I determined to rein in the Algebra Beast, I *WILL* find decent work when I move…or at least I will be doing what God intends for me to do, whatever that may be. I hope it will involve using this associates degree in business, but if not, then at least I will know how to use Excel and speak politely on the phone. And edit things.  God has seen me safely thus far, and if there is hardship ahead, then there is, and I’ll manage. If there’s work and a measure of success, then there is and I will celebrate and be grateful for it.

The good news is, I seem to be doing well in Excel, the next hardest class. The instructor watches me do the things, and gives me the grade, even when the online thing through which we do the things dislikes my methods (although the end result is correct) and refuses to grade me for them. He agrees with me that once I’m in the workplace doing the Excel, there will be no one who cares about the method, only the end result.

So, I’ve been feeling kind of picked on by the Universe, which is selfish and silly. because

A. I’m not special, and there are others picked on far, far worse.  and

B. Life is what you make of it. I refuse to allow a completely impartial thing with no brain and no subjectivity (that is, Math) to control my mood. I shall endeavor to persevere.



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Delicate Feelings

Today has been a Wear All The Feelings sort of day, the kind where the least little thing makes me get all soggy. It could be a thought or memory, coming across a photograph, or even that stupid industrial hole puncher that’s way overkill for household use. Himself was so proud of that thing.  When I’m like that, a dog squawking due to a pinched paw makes me cry. Thinking about my parents aging, or moving away from a bunch of people for whom I’ve grown fond, or the piece of cheese I’d been saving for lunch got extra moldy can send me into pillow-hugging wail-fest.

I don’t like that. It feels kind of weak and there’s always a little person inside (probably Agnes, who’s constantly fussing at me for something) snorting and calling me Emotionally Soft, which apparently to her is the strongest of insults.  I’d much rather laugh at something or tell a story about that time Himself and I tried making pretzels but the only coarse salt we could find was rock salt. Those pretzels were pretty but essentially inedible.

I’ve learned to allow the Soggy Days to happen. Stuffing them down is bad for the blood pressure and probably has some sort of adverse psychological effect. I’d turn into Kathy Bates from Misery, and bash in the kneecaps of unsuspecting authors. Better to be some Sensitive Woman of the sort that reinforces stereotypes of women who cry because of bad cheese. No one’s kneecaps suffer and I don’t care much about stereotypes anyway.

You see, it’s been 18 months now of Himself being gone. I don’t flinch at the sight of giant white Toyota trucks anymore. I’m still trying to figure out how to cook for one or two, and when that fails, there’s some people I can have over for a meal. I am learning that some things don’t have to upset me anymore- like disastrous attempts at putting cars on tow-dollies, or putting a scratch on a truck door while bending the mailbox lid. I can put dried onions in the cheese grits now. Himself hated onions in cheese grits but #4 and I like them.

However, he is still missed. I still sleep on one side of the bed. A dog and 2 cats have taken over the other side, and I’m fine with that. I don’t want to sleep over there anyway. His clothes are still in his dresser and the closet. I came close, a couple of months ago, to cleaning them out. I opened the dresser and took out a t-shirt, opened the closet at pulled out his flannel shirts. When I saw all those Carhartt dungarees hanging there, it made me catch my breath so I slammed the door shut and haven’t opened since. I figure that stuff will get cleaned out when I move. It seems like a logical time to do it. I’m keeping the flannel shirts though. They will be converted into stuffed animals for Grandpunkins, when they turn 1.  I’m more used to him being gone. I don’t look for him at 5:30 or 6 and that kind of makes me sad…the Moving On part. As necessary as it is, it still saddens me to know that it’s happening.

The Whole Thing has completely altered the way I see this world. It’s less permanent, less important. Sure, there’s a lot of nice things, and awful things, about it. I have a great family and every sort of blessing, but in my head there’s a part that kind of shrugs and says “well yeah, it’s nice and all, but there’s better things waiting and this is just a temporary proving ground (or something)” And I’m ok with that. I’m not at firmly tethered to the here-and-now anymore. Sure, I want to see the kids and the Grandpunkins grow up and old and graduate from various things, but the sense of desperate hanging on and fear of leaving is just…gone. It’s relieving, really. The whole idea of needing to have Just The Right (whatever…)So People Will Respect Me (or whatever)…my head thinks about that and says WHAT-EV-ERRR. I like it, the loss of permanence about all this.  It’s a release.


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