Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction

But on the other hand, sometimes truth is just truth and it’s normal everyday stuff. I’m not sure which one my life is, even though it seems strange to me, the strangeness might be so many tiny little oddities that arent’s so odd on their own, but all put together make one big patchwork quilt of weird.

The thoughts all started yesterday, when I went to see a friend who offered a haircut in exchange for my excellent (yes they are, I’m not shy of admitting it) mojitos. It’s all about the ingredients. Don’t be stingy with the mint and it needs to be real and fresh. Bar mojitos are stingy with the mint because they have to buy the stuff and are fearful that everyone in town will want one because it got up to 102 and it’s Saturday so they all did yardwork. So if you go to The Millhouse and order one the bartender’s like “Um…ok but just one because we have a limited supply of mint.” and then it comes with a single leaf on top. I, on the other hand, do not have a limited supply and probably should sell it to the local establishments. Thus, my mojitos are delicious and generous with the mint.

Where was I? Oh yeah, haircut and friends. So I went to get the haircut (an excellent exchange, btw, as she does an amazing job) and her boyfriend was there. I knew this immediately even though I’d never met him because there was a truck in the driveway that DEFINITELY wasn’t hers. See, she’s short and Mexican-by-way-of-Minnesota. This truck was Pure Unadulterated South Georgia- huge, mud tires, red, hunting club numbers on the back, and Mossy Oak trimwork down the side. Definitely not Minnesota Mexican. While I’m not sure how one such as her winds up with one such as him, no questions because she’s talented like that. When I got in, he had apparently decided to cook because the kitchen was full of Manly Foods like perfectly cooked ribs and a boston butt. And him, drinking a beer with that calm look South Georgia Men With Big Trucks can have.

Oh man, the ribs. I proceeded to eat one. Ok 2. Ok several. Then picked at the edges of a few more. Because they were…well. My friend and another friend poked fun at me for how happy-making those ribs were. It was one of those unexpected delights in the middle of an ordinary Saturday that started out with ordinary biscuits and discovering the half-and-half had gone blinky.

While I was busy with haircuts and ribs, David (#2) and Girlfriend (I need to come up with a name for her) (Maybe something like He’d Better Marry Her, or Would You Please Marry Her, or Do You Want Me To Pay The Fees) decided they wanted to do yard work, and since they don’t have a yard and I do, came and did my yard. All nearly-an-acre of it. Weeding, mowing, trimming, all that. Then she decided to make chicken salad, a big bowl of it. Then she decided to clean up the kitchen. All of it. Girlfriend’s got more hours in her day than I do. Also energy. And she wants to come back today and finish up before it gets too hot. Who am I to argue? I’m not going to argue.

Also this weekend a friend and her kids are here. They show up regularly and I keep the guest room ready because I never really know until maybe a couple of hours prior that they’re coming. Which is fine, they don’t require entertaining beyond a bucket of legos, some drawing paper, and a place to charge her phone.  I’ve never had such spontaneous company before. It’s strange to me, but in a nice way. I’m thankful someone is comfortable here enough to do that. But it is peculiar to have my house go from being empty of everyone but me and dogs, to being full of all these people, doing cutting grass and eating peanut butter and rattling around with the toys that haven’t been touched in years. Maybe it’s practice for grandbabies.

My life is so different. It’s not as calm and steady as it once was. I remember very clearly thinking, about 3 years ago, “This is too steady and predictable. It won’t last.” and knowing that was true, but not having any idea what would change. So much has changed that nearly everything seems new. School seems new. 7 months into it and it still seems new. I still get a little excited pulling into the parking lot and sitting down at the table. Deciding what to cook (and when, or if, even) without input or any sort of commentary seems strange still- but then 28 years of cooking for several will do that. Dropping everything and going to a friend’s, without telling anyone beyond “I’m doing this”, and not having to give an itinerary, then eating someone else’s excellent ribs and not worrying about ruining my dinner…coming home and finding all the work done…having many people of all sizes and no one wondering when they’ll leave…all so very, very different and strange. But I am getting used to it. It’s not BAD strange, just different strange. My life has taken on a completely different rhthym rythym  dangit how do you spell that..rhythm (there we go), totally different song entirely…like even the genre is different. It went from being a smooth 2 person waltz to maybe more like an individual on a dance floor, flailing away to her own private beat, and not really caring too much what other people think of it.

Nickelodeon dance dancing attitude harvey beaks

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It isn’t what it isn’t

It’s Midsummer, and it’s hot. and yes, I am a master of stating the obvious. The garden is doing moderately well. The okra isn’t as nice as it was last year, but whatever. The beans (bush and climbing) are fine, as are the tomatoes. The peppers are a complete bust, they are still alive but haven’t grown at all and certainly aren’t making any peppers. The eggplant, however, ok wow. I have one plant and it gives me 2 big eggplants a week. Rattatoiulle…Ratatoullie…ok that eggplant dish with all the vegs and tomatoes and like a fragrant herbish stew…that one. and also baked eggplant with tomatoes and a lot of cheese- not really eggplant parmesan but sort of. Because tomatoes. O yes. The big ones like Better Boy and Big Boy aren’t really making great big ones, but the sweet 100, one single plant, is giving me about 2 pints a day. good thing I like them. Ok that’s all on the garden

Now on to Life. It’s fine. No, really. I still have moments of “WHAT?! I’m a widow?! how very strange!” but then the whole FEELING of being a singular instead of a plural is getting to be more normal. Not coordinating anything with anyone is kind of nice. For instance, “I think I’ll go to Atlanta today. #4, I’m going to Atlanta. Don’t do anything I’d frown on.” and also call up a bunch of people, make a pitcher of mojitos, and have a spontaneous party.  Himself didn’t really like spontaneous things. It wasn’t a character flaw, it was just a trait. I shared the trait. Only now I don’t. Because I have learned the fun in spontaneous living. (to a degree. I still make menus and use a grocery list).

(The screen needs to be cleaned, I keep thinking this spot is a period but it’s just a spot)

I am discovering the types of people I enjoy.  which is basically all of them. I like nearly all people. In particular, I’m finding that the <30 menfolk types are really interesting because the conversation style is so interesting! While I feel a little bit like Aunt Iris at a soccer game, a group of young men, sitting around in a coffee shop is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours. The discussions range from ridiculously silly “Why are you wearing a dress?”..”.Because it’s 100 degrees and I’m a woman.”..”I wish I could wear a dress.” (which lead to an explanation of physics to the others, and the chimney effect and why so many Arab countries’ traditional dress involves a really long tunic and no belt), to the profound (Calvinism vs Arminienism). And, (it may have been the Aunt Iris Effect) it never devolved into anything nasty or profane. Perhaps it was the type of people they were (which I strongly suspect was the case). Occasionally a 4-letter word escaped, with a worried glance toward me, but I didn’t care.

/begin rant  (you’ve been warned)

Which leads me to a thing I find VERY ANNOYING. Our current culture sexualises everything. EVERYTHING. That means if I enjoy a conversation with a couple of young men in my classes, and talk about how I enjoyed it, there’s all these “oo OO oo” and waggling eyebrows and such. Geeeez. Can’t I even enjoy a conversation without someone making Cougar noises? Just because I LIKE someone who’s 25 doesn’t mean I wish to hop into bed with him. I enjoy talking to that particular demographic. I have 4 of them in my immediate family, and the conversations about ideas and dreams and “what if we did this” are a big part of their conversational style. I find that true in nearly every <30 man I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. I have found them to be honest, respectful, and interesting. Why does that have to turn into a sort of relationship I actually have no interest in?  Yes, I can recognize that this one or that one are good looking, just I can recognize that a particular work of art is well executed or Formula 1 cars are fun to drive. I have no interest in owning a Monet, or driving a Formula 1 car. So, American Culture, would you please get over the notion that every single interaction between a man and a woman is sexually driven? BECAUSE IT ISN’T.

*bow chicka bow-wow!

/end rant

I used to think I was a complete introvert, someone who preferred infinitely to spend time alone, puttering and doing projects. Now, though, that is being rethought. I’ve spent a LOT of time with all sorts lately, and when I’m alone, it is feeling kind of lonely. Especially during the day. School is something I look forward to, as much for the associations as for the actual education. It is making me look forward to having a job, to being around people for a day. When the day is full of people, I do look forward to a quiet evening, but when the day is quiet and slow (like today), notsomuch.  This week is Summer Break and yes, a lot has been done but…I’m ready to be back at school.

 

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Bits and pieces

I’ma use bullet points because they’re fun.

  • I have a new website:  Rootie Gets A New House. It’s the fun, bureaucracy, and paperwork of building a new house in a different state. Ok, so Dad is dealing with most of it and I’m just listening to the weekly update. But I get to do the fun part.
  • School is going well. Straight A’s even though I constantly argue with the instructors. you can do that when you’re older than they are. It’s a Southern Thing
  • Tonight I am cooking many slabs of beef ribs. They were on sale. I ran home during a break between classes and coated them in a rub (essentially the stuff you’d season chili with, only with the addition of brown sugar to make it stick) My local people are coming over to help eat them. Also: taters from the garden converted into tater salad.
  • It’s windy today. That’s unusual for this time of year. It is lovely and keeping things below 100F and the humidity seems low (er) as well. Maybe 50% instead of the more typical 75%
  • I am gradually clearing out the Stuff. The detritus of 28 years of marriage, all those thing bought for a reason then no longer used and stuffed into the attic. Much of it was taken to a school rummage sale (proceeds to benefit an upcoming trip). I’m not sure what sold and what wound up donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Chances are, that’s where I would’ve taken it anyway. The house that’s being built is half the size of the one I’m in now, so shedding stuff is more than just an exercise in decision making, it’s kind of critical.
  • I was warned that the 2nd Year of Widowhood would be difficult, possibly even more so that the 1st one. It’s not. Not really. It’s just that the difficulties are quite different that the first year’s. I’m becoming accustomed to being an I instead of a We. However, being an I, when one is used to being a We, is proving to be kind of lonely. Friends have helped, but they aren’t hugging me at 7am, and I kind of miss that.  School is helping, it’s heckalotta fun and keeps me busy.
  • I’m doing preliminary job searches in the town to which I’ll be moving, and they seem to be encouraging. Plenty of the sort I am educating for. Instructors have been giving me advice on getting that all important and required Year of Experience.Thus, it’s likely I’ll be signing up for a work-study program. It is, after all, actual work experience. They have been wonderfully helpful, those instructors. I may find a way to keep in school just for the fun of it.
  • My kids are all doing very well in their own ways. I’m proud of them for being who they are. So different from each other, and going their own ways. It’s really fun to see them growing up and being Real Adults.
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Rain

A tropical storm is dumping on us. No wind or anything dramatic, just a whole lot of rain, all night and probably most of today. I love it, as the garden got fertilized earlier this week and a good rain is a lovely thing.

It makes me think, rain does, by forcing me inside, where there’s time to sit and ponder. I like to avoid that when I can, the thinking stuff. It can snowball into melancholy or self pity or philosophizing in directions it shouldn’t go. So I work on school stuff (finished that up for the week), and sewing stuff- there’s no projects going on…ok, no projects that I actually FEEL like working on particularly…so I’m embroidering a pillow for the couch. No, the machine is embroidering it but I did spend some time on the computer fiddling around with letters and flourishes making a thing to put on the thing so the thing could do it’s thing and make a monogrammed pillow cover.  See how easy that is? All you need is a couple of things and a thing and there you go. I’m not sure how the machine decides what to do and in what order, but eventually it all comes out as I’ve directed. most of the time. Sometimes it goes NOPE and wads up the thread and makes an embarrassing mess but isn’t that life as we know it anyway?

We go along, doing things as directed and all the things behave and the bread rises and bills are paid and then it all wads up and goes NOPE. What happens then? What do you do when life says NOPE? Well, when the machine does that, I stop it, walkaway for a while then come back to it when my brain has calmed down.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could walk away from life for a while? I mean REALLY walk away from it. Not a trip to Disney or Dillard or something, because you still have to come up with money for fish&chips or an antique champagne glass, I mean totally walk away for a while and turn off the brain. Wouldn’t that be lovely!

About a month after Himself passed on, I spent several days trying to talk myself into a couple of months Somewhere Else, like maybe Panama or Costa Rica. Research and questions answered led me to decide on Panama, due to health care, friendliness toward Americans, and low cost of everything. I found a nice house on a beach to rent for about $1000 a month, within walking distance of a couple of markets (thus food availability), and round trip airplane tickets for $300. That’s right, for about $2000 I could check out for a couple of months. Sounds amazing, right?

And what would that solve, hm? Would I come back to find all the estate nonsense (wad of thread screwing with my plan) solved? What about the kids, also mourning a great loss, who didn’t have their other parent around for comfort? How would they feel if I just checked out like that? Wouldn’t that have exacerbated their issues? Probably. Then not only would that particular snarl of thread be bigger than it should, it would be all up in the machinery of my life and probably cause the need for repairmen and even a complete overhaul.

So no, even though the fantasy was lovely and I’d still like a month on a beach, it seemed more prudent to stick around and let them lean on me, and me on them. That kept the assorted snarls manageable, though unwelcome.  Now, a year+ later, I can see it’s a good thing that prudence reigned supreme. We are all doing just fine. #1 is looking at an accountant’s program at a local college, #2 is chugging away with his engineering degree, #3 has a fine family and job, #4 finished 11th grade intact, and started his first job today. I’m in school and enjoying arguing with my instructors about nearly everything. We’re doing fine. I don’t know if we’d be doing just as well if I’d bailed on life for a month or two. So I’m saving the chance to bail for a few years from now. Panama is still on the bucket list.

So for now, I’m letting the machine do it’s thing, I’m going to make bread for the week, and see what I can come up with for eating today, since noises have been made about people coming over and I can’t have people without having something to feed them.

 

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Ripping off the bandaid

I’ve started going through stuff in earnest. #4’s school is having a rummage sale next week and that is the ideal time to make use of all this STUFF. There is SO MUCH STUFF. Odd bits of individual glasses, Christmas things, assorted appliances never used, or used once and put away. Himself loved to provide for me, and if he saw (what he perceived as) a need, or felt like my life would be improved by a gadget, he got it for me. Now i have all sorts of things that are nice but unnecessary, and surely won’t fit in a house half the size of this one.

It’s tough though, some of these things. That glass I bought him at an antique store the time we took the trip to the mountains. It only means anything to him and me. All those candles because he was a Romantic, but many of them are unused and probably always will be if they stay here. Better to let some young couple from the school have them.

I thought it might feel disrespectful, or maybe dishonoring, to let go of these things, but they only meant something to the 2 of us, and we aren’t a ‘we’ anymore. I’m keeping photo albums, and the precious things he made for me over the years- furniture, a couple of fancy boxes. The rest of it, the odd bits and pieces, they can go. Let a kid with a handful of dimes and quarters buy them, or a couple just starting out.

There’s other things I have NO CLUE what to do with. There is a partial set of silverware, fine quality, nice and heavy, we received as wedding presents. It’s not complete and I haven’t used it…at all.  I have my grandmother’s silver now, if I need something fancy. Himself’s golf clubs- custom made for his long legs and none of our kids play golf nor are they built like him. There’s 100 sets of clubs at the pawn shop and Goodwill. I have a nice set of custom clubs as well, but he was my golfing partner and I don’t see playing again.

How you do this? Slowly, I guess. I had a fantasy of moving out, just the stuff I want for the new place, and leaving behind everything else. Then I’d have a sale, where people would get a big box, and for $5 they could have everything that fit into it. All furniture would be $10. Wouldn’t that be easy? Kind of like an estate sale only I’d still be alive. Hm. Maybe that’s just what I’ll do.

But for the moment it kind of aches to be doing this. I think it’s going well, but so far all I’ve dealt with are the things that don’t really matter anyway. That’s probably enough for now. And the ache could very well be the tacos from last night.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

 

The Good: I have self control

The Bad: I wrote a rather long post over the past 20 minutes, accidentally hit the magic button (which changes with the moon phase) and deleted it, then while attempting to recover it, deleted that as well.

The Ugly: My language. I am cussing words I didn’t even know I knew.

The reality: It ain’t the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I’ll be fine. I might even fix myself a nice G&T with this stuff made in Alabama that is a remarkable gin that somehow manages to be gin without tasting of paint thinner.  It’s all about the perspective these days. I also need to figure out what to fix for supper. I have a chicken leg, some left over spaghetti sauce, and a bunch of eggs. And some banh pho noodles. oh! I know! We’ll have Cheerios! #problemsolved  #4 has soccer practice and claims to be going to the university library afterward to look at pretty girls  work on an English project, and likely won’t be home until 8-ish. Cheerios it is.

School for this semester is nearly over. I have a final exam in 2 days, and the remnants of a project to turn in tomorrow, and that will be that. I met with an adviser this morning and got signed up for Summer, then met with a financial person who said she just needs one last thing to get financial aid in order. Naturally it is the one last thing I can’t find, which is why she doesn’t have it.  If I have to, we will start with The New Financial Year in August. I DO have the necessary stuff for that.  My grades were good for these 2 classes. 3 of the classes for Summer will be interesting. The non-interesting one is a required thing on How To Be A Responsible College Student And Make Your Parents Proud. I begged her tolet me test out of it. “I’ve BEEN a responsible student! I grew up in University towns and my father was a professor! I know how to take tests and promise not to OD on caffeine and I can safely guarantee I won’t ever get wasted at a frat party and be taken advantage of! (Even if I did get wasted at a Frat party, I’m not the type they’d take advantage of anyway. More likely they’d ask me for a good hangover stomach flu remedy. I would be mistaken for the Housemother. Do they even have housemothers anymore?) At any rate, I am kind of loving school. Learning stuff, doing something with a concrete goal in mind, all that.

I have started going through stuff and deciding what to keep and what not to. The land for my house is supposed to getting cleared this week, then construction will begin. Thanks to Craigslist, I have found Old Things to use in the house- solid doors, etc. those need to be on hand before the building begins, so the guy can measure and make the door openings the right size. Thing about these old stuffs is that they might not be exactly of a size, so each door will have to be measured as the framing goes up. Kind of fiddly and complicates things, but I am trying to have a Old House built, and putting in Old Things like doors and fixtures makes it feel old. I found a bunch of like-sized old doors on Craigslist, and will go get them this weekend, thus legitimizing my truck for more than taking trash to the dump. Also makes me feel better about having a long-bed.

Cleaning out and buying doors and investigating woodstove styles is making it feel more real. Deciding what to keep and what to sell can be painful. 2 days ago, as I was doing some cleaning, I came across a basket full of ornaments I’d made for Himself over the years, and that did me in for the rest of the day. Looking at each one, dated and remembering making it, and how he laughed about them was bittersweet. Maybe one day they will go up on a Christmas tree, or maybe I’ll let the boys go through and pick out a couple for themselves. For now, though, looking at them and all, it was kind of gut wrenching. I know there will be many moments like this as I get the house ready to move. That’s why I’m starting 2 years ahead of time.  I am sure, as time moves on, it will get less bitter and more sweet. But for now, I can’t look in photo albums or handle the bits and pieces of the last 28-1/2 years without having to take time after to recover. It’s just how it is, and that’s the story of my life right now.

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Taking a breath for a day

I *could* go to church today, and *probably should*, but I’m not and here’s why: Currently the lessons are on the book of Ephesians, and he’s at the bit where Paul is exhorting husbands to be good to their wives and how that’s done. I don’t want to hear about husbands being good to wives today. My mood is good. Himself was a most excellent husband, and I don’t particularly want to hear exhortations about it, and see husbands and wives nodding their heads or making faces or whatever. In general I don’t want to think about married life. It isn’t something I may ever experience again. Maybe will, maybe won’t. I just don’t know and I’m too busy thinking about other stuff. Plus I’m feeling pretty cheerful these days and I like that as well. So, sorry church, not there. Only not really sorry. Maybe I’ll go this evening instead. Maybe. (different preacher and sermon).

I think it’s the Springtime. My mood always improves when things are blooming, even with pollen issues. My eyes itch and sneezing abounds, but whatever. There’s roses and wisteria and dogwoods making lovely things to look at. I would say the air is warm but for some reason today it isn’t. The heater is on because Mom and Dad were here and Mom was cold. Also windows are all closed and socks are on the feet and I’m wearing a sweater. In April. Apparently in other parts of the country that’s not unusual. Only, there’s a new girl-person in the family mix (#2, The Engineer Personality, finally got around to noticing The Opposite Sex …am I supposed to say gender? whatever…and has a female companion) who’s from Way Up North and doesn’t find this arctic blast unpleasant in the least.

Mom and Dad (as previously mentioned) came for the weekend. Dad has an antique tractor that he uses for pulling parade floats and hayrides, and #4’s school was having a fundraiser, and since he (Dad) kind of lives for an opportunety Pooprtunitey  chance to pull many children in the trailer, he was happy to bring it over and do the hayride for the school. He pondered how the trailer was empty, and he was pretty sure no one wanted a hayride, then a thousand children appeared out of the ether and populated the hay bales. I said kids these days are like that. “Huh.” he replied. “At least they seemed to be well-behaved.” He also commented that there was one teeny tiny little girl who refused to get off the trailer, and simply spent the entire time riding around. Since she seemed to be enjoying it and wasn’t bothering anyone, he saw no reason to say anything to her. There were also a trio of hooligan boys who, inexplicably, never got hurt nor hurt anyone else, so he didn’t say anything to them, either. After describing them to me, I said at least one of them and possibly 2 were the older brother (s) of the teeny girl who wouldn’t leave, so if they’d done anything egregious, she would have reported it, and if anything had happened to her, he would have seen to it.

The whole event was fun, and there was the constant rhythm of a chugging tractor and raucous music of screeching children as a soundtrack. Fun stuff. Also the aroma of smoking meat, tables of cakes and bread …I nearly got into a physical altercation over a lemon velvet cake with someone, but we decided neither of us actually NEEDED an entire cake, so we split it and everyone was happy. Especially the woman who baked it because nothing is more complimentary than seeing people fight over your cake. Many items were auctioned off, ranging from tickets to Dollywood and a tank-driving experience, to baskets of goodies and bottles of wine. I love seeing the mixed bag of stuff people donate to such auctions (this was a silent one) and how invested some people can get in that particular basket or set of tickets. I am also pretty glad it’s over, because crowds of people are exhausting. Fun, but exhausting. Today I am hoping to speak to no one (another excuse to skip church.)

Today, while no one is speaking to me or making requests or requiring anything at ALL from me, I am going to read the instructions for the pattern of a prom dress. I’l read over it carefully, visualize every step, make the dress in my head several times, then get to work on it sometime this week. By the time I actually put scissors to fabric, I’ve already done it several times in my head, made the mistakes there, corrected stuff, changed something that was inefficient. It takes longer but beats having to run back to the store for for fabric because I messed it up.  I will, with permission from the young lady for whom the dress is being made, post pictures.

Or I might park in the comfortable chair with a book, an afghan, and a cup of tea. And a slice (or two… heh) of lemon velvet cake.

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