A Hose, Two Fans and a Thunderstorm

I grew up in a brick house with no air conditioning.  We used box fans in the windows and a sprinkler in the back yard (usually surrounded by neighborhood kids in bathing suits, waiting their turn to “run through.”)

For the past twenty years I’ve lived in another house without air conditioning. It has thick plaster walls, two layers of siding (some past owner just slapped vinyl over wood, and we left it alone) and a floor plan similar to that childhood home, where my brothers and I could run or ride a tricycle in circles around the ground floor while Dad played “Sweet Georgia Brown” on the piano. We called that “the running song,” and thought it was fun to zip past Dad, through the hall and kitchen, dodge the dining room table, scream and laugh our way through the front hall and then back past Dad in the living room.  After I became a parent myself, I realized Dad played “the running song” to tire us out so we’d go to bed. He was a genius at stuff like that.

When Angelic Daughter was a toddler, I bought her a Red Flyer trike, so she could do  circles in this current house – past the living room fireplace, through the kitchen, left through the library/dining room, across the front hall and then around again.

We’ve just come through three days 94-98 degrees (F) and very high humidity. No joke and very dangerous if you live an a brick-oven building in the city without air conditioning.

But we’ve got a yard, a garden hose and two fans – one box fan:

box-3998721_640

 

and one newer one, that stands on the floor and rotates.

Upstairs, there are three smaller ones, each with two fans that can be switched from “intake” to “exhaust.”

Friday night, the “exhaust” setting just couldn’t keep up with the heat.

So I set up the cot downstairs –  the cot I bought for Mike to use, if the heat became too much during that last summer. But he couldn’t lie down flat without excruciating pain, so he tried to use another “lounger” I bought, a cheap bench sort of thing, that could sit up like a pool chaise. But he couldn’t get comfortable on that either, no matter how we adjusted the pillows. It was rock hard.

The visiting hospice nurse took one look at him on that thing and said, “this is not under control. I’ll send an ambulance and get you into the hospital.”

So Mike got two days of blessed relief in air conditioning, adjusted pain meds, and a good break from the stress of being home and needing my help all the time.

That damn rock hard lounger was one of the first things to go. But I kept the cot, in case  a brother or a guest might need to stay over one night.

Last night, that cot gave Angelic Daughter respite from the upstairs bedroom heat. I slept on the couch, where I slept while taking care of Mike, in the front room where we had set up his hospital bed when he came home after his brief stay, so he could watch TV and eat dinner with us.

Around 2 or 3 in the morning, still sweaty and not sleeping, I stepped outside on the deck and noticed that the breeze had picked up.

It’s coming, I thought – relief.

It cooled off enough for me to open the ground floor windows (and still feel secure, since I was right there) and use the fans to draw in some fresh, slightly cooler air.  The forecast said it would be 85 by 7 am, so I shut them again and closed the drapes by 6:45, when the temperature began to climb.

Smoothies for breakfast: frozen yogurt, berries and cream in the blender. Voila.

Salad bar in the air conditioned grocery for lunch.

And the garden hose after 3, in the shade from the cedars outside my desk area window. Blessed lake water still icy cold in July. Squished around in a wet bathing suit for half an hour, and then the storms hit – torrential rain, thunder and lightning – and a temperature drop of 20 degrees within an hour.

Windows back open, despite the downpour, to take in that delicious, rain-cooled air.

Memories and moments like these free me from obsessive worry; they help me remember Mike (inventor of all our strategies for keeping cool in this house through the hottest heat waves) with love and gratitude, instead of pain, grief and regret.

For now, the heat is gone, the storms have blown over, the birds are singing and the yard is green.

May you stay cool and find your calm after whatever storms blow over you.

Yours,

Ridiculouswoman

Fan image by Katie White from Pixabay

Hose image by Renee Gaudet from Pixabay)

 

Too Old and Too Expensive

The door closed. So where’s that open window?

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,

Ridiculouswoman

A Sailboat and a Maid

Cooling off without air-conditioning on a hot day

That’s what I should have said, when the Jeopardy showrunner asked me in March of 2017 what I’d do with any winnings.

I should have just said, “buy a sailboat and hire a maid!”

But I was too long winded. I stumbled through a long recitation of how I had always lived or vacationed near large bodies of water and I was embarrassed that I had never learned to sail. I saw the guy’s eyes glaze over after about 5 seconds.

And I know I missed a question on the quiz they gave us, out of sheer nerves – made the cardinal error of changing my answer, when we all know the first answer you give is usually the right one – or the rightest one you know, anyway.

So I blew my chance to be a Jeopardy contestant.

Today it is 91 degrees and humid, not a cloud in the sky, and we don’t have air conditioning.  I have just finished washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the downstairs bathroom toilet, and doing two loads of laundry. This after my 6 am “30 minute total body workout with (8 pound) dumbbells” on YouTube (bodyfit by Amy)  in the relative cool of the basement, then shower, making breakfast for and driving Angelic Daughter to and from work and then to obtain her salad bar lunch, stepping out into the garden at high noon to harvest enough lettuce for my lunch, and streaming sweat (again) for the five minutes it took to wash each leaf thoroughly.

I am my own maid service, and even though this weekend was the Mackinac race (a sailing race from Chicago up the full length of Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island – pronounced “Mackinaw”) there’s not a sailboat in sight.  Although we benefit from the lake’s cooling breezes, it is two miles away.

On these hot, hot days, we used to just put on our bathing suits, soak ourselves in a cool shower, and walk around wet until we dried off, and then we’d do it again. Or, we’d go outside and use the garden hose to wet ourselves down with still ice-cold Lake Michigan water, and sit under a sun umbrella on the deck until we needed to soak ourselves again.

One excruciatingly hot summer, with multiple consecutive days over 100 degrees, Mike just sat on the deck in his bathing suit with a full bucket of that cold water next to him, that he’d dump over his head as necessary.

As I was toweling lettuce-and-floor washing sweat off, I noticed how it doesn’t bother me at all, to be streaming sweat like that, on a hot day. We’ve gotten used to it, and for years, when we go someplace that has air conditioning, it has been bone-chillingly cold and  has felt artificial and weird.

The house was built in 1948, best I know, and has a remarkable ability to stay relatively cool, as long as we use our “close the windows and the blinds before 8 am” strategy, and keep fans upstairs set on “exhaust.” Strategically placed trees provide shade, and thick plaster walls, insulation. The new windows do a better job of keeping the hot sun out, too.

But none of this keeps me from dreaming of learning to sail, and guiding a small boat of my own to a calm and lovely place on a beautiful lake, dropping anchor and diving in.

I skipped the Jeopardy online quiz this time – didn’t have time to practice and my failure on the first round took the wind out of my imaginary sails.

The caliber of the contestants has gotten so amazing that I’d feel totally out of my league, anyway, even if I ever got on.

But it’s a more realistic way to get a sailboat (and a maid!) than winning the lottery.

And as I write, Angelic Daughter’s new bathing suit arrived in the mail, and she promptly put it on and headed outside, to frolic in the cold spray of the hose.

That’s better than a sailboat, and worth being my own maid.

Off to allow myself to be playfully drenched, I remain,

Your two-or-three showers a day until further notice,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

Non-Toxic Love Challenge: Double Whammy Edition

Staying kind and keeping cool in the face of gross and angry behavior

How do you show love and compassion to someone who has just done something spectacularly disgusting, or said something hateful, in public?

Last night I took Angelic Daughter to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra play the score of West Side Story along with the film at the major summer music festival near here – a festival where I have been attending concerts and dance performances for over 50 years.

We had aisle seats, by design, in case of need for an early exit, and had to rise three times to allow those sitting toward the center of our row to pass. Once everyone was seated, I began to peruse the program while waiting for the show to start.

It was then I noticed that the elderly lady next to me was rummaging around in her large purse for something.

The next time I glanced up, it turned out that something was…

dental floss.

She was flossing her teeth, right next to me, in public, with visible chunks of her dinner dangling from the floss, which she was using to make at least two, maybe three rounds of her mouth.

This was without question the grossest thing I have ever seen someone do at a concert performance (or anywhere in public, for that matter, and that includes the guys who routinely used to pee against the fence of our city townhome’s backyard, which bordered an alley).

I put my program up next to my head, to shield my hair and face from chunks of her dinner flying from her mouth, or dropping from their tightrope of floss. I was thinking, “what the hell is the MATTER with you? In what universe is this anywhere close to acceptable behavior? THIS IS THE GROSSEST THING I HAVE EVER BEEN FORCED TO SIT NEXT TO! Couldn’t you have done this in A CLOSED STALL IN THE LADIES’ ROOM BEFORE THE CONCERT?”

When I slightly lowered and peered around my program, she was still at it, and continued for another two or three minutes, whereupon she began rummaging around again, and produced some kind of lollipop which she popped into the now flossed-and-flung orifice.

It occurred to me that maybe she had some medical condition that made her behave this way – maybe the lollipop was medicinal? Or calming or something? She seemed not to have noticed or was unperturbed by my shielding myself.

Then the orchestra, instead of launching right into the overture, began to play the national anthem. I don’t know if that was because it was the opening night of the orchestra’s summer residency, or if it was a gesture toward unity based on the theme of the film – hope (tragically dashed, in the movie) of overcoming differences based on background.

Never one to miss an opportunity to overdo it, I launched in to singing it, along with most of the rest of the audience. But my rendition comes with the showy high note toward the end — “o’er the la-and of the free-EEEEEE!”

And as the anthem ended, dental floss lady turned and, with an utterly innocent smile, complimented me on my voice.

I said thank you, and added a little flourish with my “fit and flare” dress and the black petticoat (worn as homage to the dance number “America” in the film, which has a lot of dress-and-petticoat flourishing in it).

When she looked at me with that wide-eyed smile, I didn’t tell her how disgusting and gross flossing her teeth in public was, because I decided she genuinely didn’t know that’s how others would view it, or that she had some medical reason to do it and had to do it there, because otherwise she’d be late for the concert.

Then today, I attended a town hall hosted by my representative in Congress. There was a couple there, trembling with anger over anything having to do with what they called “illegals,” especially extending health care coverage to them. The magnitude of their anger, fear and hatred was loud and clear to everyone in the room.

After the meeting, I was walking back to my car, and there they were, Mr. and Mrs. Angry.

I asked Mrs. Angry if I could ask her a an honest, genuine question. She stopped ranting long enough for me to ask, “if you tripped over someone who was obviously dying of thirst, would you ask them about their citizenship before giving them a drink of water?”

And she said, “never.”

So somewhere in there, hiding in the cracks between fear, anger and hatred, there was an teaspoon of compassion.

She continued her rant but I was able to tell her as I walked away that I was glad to know that she didn’t lack compassion.

Instead of getting into a heated argument about what an ignoramus she was.

Biting my tongue, I remain,

Your high-note singing, dress-swishing, hoping-for-unity,

Ridiculouswoman

The Big Six Oh – S**T! or, “Ah, F**K It”

The invisibility of being an older woman has its perks.

Sixty came and smacked me upside the head (and the hips and the knees). How the hell did this happen? There must be some misunderstanding.

I’m not done redecorating! I still have the metal tile that looks like a chess board as a gesture to Mike’s memory to cover the nasty old linoleum on the counter of the built-in bookcase that is going to become the coolest sideboard ever when I’m done with it!

I have two bathrooms and a front hall of wallpaper to steam off, and I still have to paint or re-wallpaper whatever turns out to be under there!

My brown hair has so little gray that it couldn’t even get away with being described as “sugar and cinnamon” much less “salt and pepper!”

I’m working out with dumbbells five days a week, doing mat pilates one day a week and yard work whichever day is left that is sunny.  Saturday I was up at six, and until 9:30 weeded the entire vegetable garden, planted some more beans, pulled out the peas that were done,  and raked the creeping charlie and hacked the weeds out of  the overgrown chicken coop so I can now actually see the squash and pumpkins I planted there.  I sweat every day!

But (oh thanks a lot, sixty)  if I so much as eat dinner, I mean a small, healthy dinner, I gain weight. Intermittent fasting can’t be intermittent for me if I ever want to…want …

Want what?

Good question.

I want a job again, a good one.

I want a man again, a kind one.

And I want to stop thinking that changing my personality or my body is the only way to get those things.

I woke up on my sixtieth birthday feeling fantastic, as if a switch had flipped or a weight had been lifted off me. I felt unburdened. Free.

It was my “Ah, F**K it moment.

Through blogging I’ve come across several women of a certain age who described themselves as feeling invisible.

I say, BRING IT!

If I’m invisible, I can wear anything and go anywhere I want! F**k it!

(Just don’t expect me to be inaudible. Singing comes with the package).

I gotta get to be me!

I will not go gently into the cardigan sweater years (although I am increasingly sensitive to cold, I prefer a form-fitting, henley-neck sweatshirt I call my “sexy sweatshirt”).

I’m no little old lady in tennis shoes (I wear Keds Champions – still the most comfortable shoes I have ever or will ever own. I’m not getting paid to say that, seriously. But if you’re listening, Keds, I’ll happily be the not-grey, not-very wrinkly, plump lady with wings (inside sleeves) shakin’ it the way women my age are not supposed to, anymore, in your next ad – and get paid for it).

I will sing, dance, sweat, laugh, overdress in the evening and wear paint-spattered pants to the grocery store the next day. I will openly appreciate male pulchritude with a smile that doesn’t entirely acknowledge the impossibility of being appreciated in return – but hey, I’m invisible! So it doesn’t matter anyway (and more often these days, I oggle appreciate on the sly from behind sunglasses a/k/a/ crows-feet prevention device.)

“I wanna live, not merely survive.”

So there, sixty.

Off to eat my damn dinner, I remain,

Your singing, sweating, gardening, dumbbell-weilding, Keds wearing, man-oggling-because-I’m-invisible-and-ah-f**k it,

Ridiculouswoman

How Not to Paint a Room: Jackson Pollock On the Floor Edition

Note to self: don’t clip fingernails before cleaning paint splattered floor.

Recall famous painter’s technique of splatter painting canvases placed on the floor, accessible from all angles.

Having completed front room walls and removed two inches of frog tape from ceiling and floor, regard floor.

Floor has become canvas.

Jackson Pollock you ain’t.

Sigh.

Contemplate possible cleaning techniques for wood floor.

Recall wood floor cleaning stuff gifted to you from company that refinished floors less than three years ago. AHA!

Now, tool.

Steel wool too scratchy.

Recall odd little green square scrubby thing for dishes.

Hmm.

If it is for dishes, must be reasonably gentle.

Select green scrubby thing as tool.

Starting in far corner, where precious high-boy writing desk hybrid goes, squirt floor cleaning stuff, and scrub.

Hmm. Comes off, but is smudgy.

Note plastic nature of paint splatters.

Imaginary light bulb above head.

Fingernail!

Test fingernail technique on long, skinny paint splatter.

Success!

Immediately regret having trimmed fingernails previous evening. Drat. These little stubs of fingernails combined with green dish scrubby thing will have to do.

Discover in short order that performing scrubbing task with what’s left of fingernails and green scrubby thing whilst (HA!) bending over from the waist is non-optimal. Back hurts.

Assume sitting position.

Discover that performing scrubbing task whilst (!) sitting facing splatters, one or both legs extended to the side, requires a degree of flexibility not yet attained through workouts.

Rotate to sit parallel to splatters, legs straight out in front.

Twist at waist, squirt cleaner, scrub with scrubby thing, pick remainder with stubby little fingernails.

Advance by walking forward one butt-cheek at a time.

Six hours later, gaze with admiration at exceptionally clean floor.

Recall Angelic Daughter’s astonishing patience in the face of need for food.

Arise.

Immediately determine that food will have to be obtained via fast food drive through, if you can make it to the car, that is.

Because it turns out that six solid hours of butt-cheek walking whilst (oh for God’s sake) twisting sideways, legs extended, results in never-before-experienced hip pain.

Deep, sharp hip pain. Walking difficult.

Eh, nothing Dr. Teal (Epsom salts) can’t handle.

Limp to car, sans shower. Drive through, right?

Place order at drive through squawk box thingee.

Advance.

Child at drive through window stares with (bemusement? shock? horror?) mild disgust at sweaty, paint encrusted old lady.

Hands over sandwich and smoothie.

Grip sandwich and smoothie delicately between thumbs and forefingers.

Eh, it’s wrapped up. Food remains pristine.

Drive home, present food to Angelic Daughter.

Attempt to climb stairs. Because, shower.

Discover malfunction in left leg, due to aforementioned (oh aren’t you just little Miss Multi-syllabic today!) hip pain.

Grip stair rail tightly.

Crawl toward tub, Teal, redemption and healing, expecting to walk normally next day.

Next day, limp toward furniture in need of return to appropriate placement in front room. This includes piano, high-boy writing desk hybrid, Grandma’s drop leaf table, Mother’s round bedside table, antique lamp, two other lamps, recliner, Ancestress Chair, couch, very heavy mid-century wooden telescope and tripod cases, with telescopes and tripods inside, several of Angelic daughter’s artworks and rolled up 9 by 12 fancy rug, first thing you bought together twenty years ago, all currently residing under enormous, heavy drop cloth.

Somehow figure out how five feet of you can fold and stow 9 feet by 12 feet of heavy drop cloth.

Begin dragging, pulling, swearing at and pleading with heavy 9 by 12 rug. Manage to wrestle it into position atop rug pad.

Crooked.

Swear, plead, pull, grunt, reposition rug.

No pad showing. Slight bit off by the fireplace, but who’ll notice? Good enough.

Commence shoving piano back into place.

Delicately walk step-Grandmother’s high-boy writing desk hybrid back to its corner.

Couch, recliner, Ancestress Chair, tables, lamps, artworks, telescopes.

Miraculously, nothing breaks.

Four hours later, crawl upstairs on hands and knees. Because, shower, tub, Teal, healing, tomorrow.

Four days later, work up strength to obtain and hang replacement curtains. Looks nice.

Observe again that two inches of frog tape on ceiling is apparently not enough to prevent ivory wall paint from marring white ceiling.

Decide that smudges and lines of ivory on white ceiling contribute to the rustic charm of 1948 Cape Cod. Isn’t that adorable! They did it themselves!

Real estate ladies everywhere recoil.

Mentally remind real estate ladies everywhere that you intend to stay in this house until removed feet first. Colorful smudges and charm in home decor will be exclusively their problem, then.

Smile. Expect Hope to enjoy several more decades (knock wood, don’t tempt fate) of eccentric color scheme, ceiling smudges and imperfect wall-ceiling intersections in charming home.

Because it’s a shitty paint job, but it’s my paint job.

With dining room and two bathrooms yet to come, I remain,

Your not-Jackson-Pollock sloppy do-it-yourself painter, suffering the consequences of her determination to do it herself (because, no money to pay someone),

Ridiculouswoman

Barbells and Buttercups

I was walking through the grocery store parking lot, freshly showered, sore and exhausted after my latest round of redecorating.

I passed a white compact car that displayed several decals, stickers, magnets, whatever, all in pink.

There was “good things come to those who sweat.”

There was a decal of an arm, with a prominent bicep, holding a barbel. Several others referring to how wonderful a life spent in the gym can be, also in pink.

There was a sticker, again in pink, that said, “Boss Lady.”

And on the bumper, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

I found the overall effect off-putting, with its superior tone, especially after having just spent two days muscling furniture around, climbing up and downs stairs and step stool, taping, wrangling a paint roller on a pole to paint a ceiling, and sweating my way through two or three coats of paint on the walls,  AFTER my morning barbell workout, conducted in the privacy of my basement.

But here she was, her car as her messenger, in my face with her apparent conviction that her physical activity is better than my physical activity.

Her car seemed to sneer at me, “My way of working out is better than yours! I bet you don’t work out anywhere near as much as me! I can lift heavier barbells than you!  You can’t possibly be as super-duper as me! Hang your head in shame, you wimp! Look at me! Boss lady! Fitness Nut Extraordinaire! Gym Owner! Trainer! Non-buttercup! Don’t you wish you were more like me?”

Well, no, if you’re going to be like that.

Bu let’s give you a sideways hand-clap, since you seem to need the attention so badly:

Suck it up, buttercup.

In the meantime I’ll be over here, busting my formidable ass to get my home and gardens into shape so I might actually be able to extend a warm welcome and some hospitality to the people who have been so kind and helpful to us since Mike died.

Keeping my barbells (mostly) to myself, having a little too much fun with the bitmojis and thinking this one probably should have been over in the Snark Tank,  I remain,

Your stout but unbowed, pretty fit for my age and getting a little fitter with every paint can I haul and 5 lb (I’ll be trading up to 8 lbs soon, take that, Boss Lady) barbell I curl,

Ridiculouswoman