Run Away, Run Home, Don’t Run

My project-filled year of grief avoidance is almost over.

The butternut squash is roasting in the oven, for the curried soup I will make for my brothers and sister-in-law, visiting tomorrow. The bag of orchard-bought Macintosh apples is in the fridge, waiting to become pie. Seven pumpkins (one big and six little) and ten gourds cost $24, total, which is another benefit of driving several hours to an actual farm to buy your fall decorative stuff.

I wonder if indulging in an extended (two overnight stays) fall excursion this year was a way of running away from waiting to hear about a job, and from the approaching end of my year-long redecorating project.  I’m starting to think it all was just prolonged “displacement activity,” to avoid being still and letting the grief soak all the way through.  Stillness is when the waves come, of grief, sadness, regret, anger, frustration and sense of incompleteness about a marriage that fast-forwarded to caregiving, skipping the “happy retirement rediscover one another” phase.  The rediscovery came only in those bittersweet, final weeks of hospice. I was and am so grateful for that, but I also feel cheated by the brevity of it, and feeling cheated makes me feel ungrateful, and feeling ungrateful makes me feel ashamed.  I should be grateful for just waking up alive in the morning.

Finally decorating and furnishing this house, a house that remained largely undecorated and unfurnished, except for hand-me-down furniture and the odd Black Friday deal on a couch or a glider or a new mattress, feels like closing the circle, doing the things we didn’t get done, as the years passed toward a future together that never came. Mike saw the kitchen, the deck and the basement. I want to believe he sees the rest, from where he is, and that he likes it, and that he approves of me making this house look like what I had hoped it could have been when we still had time here together.

The painters in the front hall got the wallpaper off in about half an hour.

“If I had known it would be that easy, I would have done it myself.”

“We’re pros. We make it look easy.”

Their van said “drywall,” so I asked for a little extra help repairing the hole in the downstairs bathroom wall, where I lifted one of the mirrors off and took one of the screw anchors with it.

The head guy agreed to do it for no extra charge. Maybe he thought what I had said meant I thought I wasn’t getting my money’s worth. I didn’t mean it that way, exactly. Just that I shouldn’t have spent the money if it turned out to be easy.

But then he took out all the old screws, and drilled four new holes and put new screw anchors and screws in, and patched the old holes, because nothing would have held through a patched hole.  And then they hung up the mirrors for me.

After I asked them to turn off the fans they were using to dry the front hall because the loud sound makes my daughter nervous, and they saw how I had to coax her downstairs to get past them to go to work, they asked me if I had paint for the front hall.  When I handed the can to the lead guy, he said he’d paint it for me.

“Really? You’ll make me cry.”

“Do you have paint for the trim?”

“Here it is. ”

“I’ll do the walls. You do the trim.”

Then he left and his guy did the trim anyway.

So yes, I cried a little.  I’m at the end of my rope with the work, and close to being done, and feeling stupid for spending so much on it all, and now these guys have gotten me closer to the finish line faster than I thought I could go.  I won’t be up until 2 am after chorus rehearsal tonight doing it myself, just to get it ready for my brothers and sister-in-law tomorrow.

When I feel defeated, like when that screw anchor ripped out of the wall,  I let go. Then kindness comes from unexpected places, helping me keep the faith that maybe I will actually get a job before I run out of money and have to start dipping into the already too-small retirement fund.

Sell more stuff on eBay,  lose the the cable, scour the house for more stuff to sell to Half Priced Books. We’ll have this house, for now, and this town, so familiar and comfortable.

The colors are more brilliant here than they were on our excursion. Yesterday we finally got our bright blue October day, and the sun just came out again.

Time to make soup. And pie.

Until pictures prove I actually made them, I remain,

Your grateful-but-spendy-and-anxious-but-hopeful,

Ridiculouswoman

Sleeves. Please.

I admit I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

In celebration of opening my new store, I am reminded to post my latest addendum to the Middle Aged Woman rules, to wit:

  • Always wear sleeves!

I don’t care how “toned” your arms are – I don’t care if you look like Linda Hamilton in Terminator, if you are a woman of a certain age, sleeves are required.

Even Linda wears them, short though they are, on the set of the new Terminator movie. 

I will never forget the first time I saw her doing pull-ups, sleevelessly, in the first movie of that franchise. (I could link you a YouTube of it, but the clip gets violent and who needs that on a beautiful spring day. You remember the arms, I know you do).

It was a searing moment of self-realization.

I realized that I will never have Linda Hamilton arms.

On the Presidential Fitness Award test, an exercise in public humiliation all fat kids of my era were forced to endure in elementary school gym class, my time on the “flexed arm hang” (basically holding your chin above a bar as if you had just completed a pull up – the girls’ version of chin-ups on the test) was never more than .001 second.

That glorious time of space-era inspired panic-patriotism (also known as oh-shit-the-Russians-are-way-ahead-of-us-on-satellites-and-sending-living-beings-into-space-so-we-better-get-our-asses-in-gear-and-get-fit-and-build-a-Saturn-5-and-send-some-guys-to-the-moon-like-Kennedy-said-we-would-not-because-it-is-easy-but-because-it-is-hard) included the joy of public weigh-ins (again, in gym class, in front of everyone, with the number announced aloud) and some moronic exercise called the “standing broad jump” where you were supposed to jump forward as far as you could with no run-up. Just stand there, and jump forward. As a dancer, I was actually pretty good at that one.

The year I actually completed the half-mile run without stopping, the program managed to turn that accomplishment into yet another form of crushing public humiliation when I was awarded the mortifying “most improved” certificate, given as a half-assed consolation prize to the fat kids who couldn’t keep up with the sporty kids on any of it.

As God is my witness, I didn’t let it lick me (but read “humiliated” where Scarlett says she never be”hungry” again and take out the lying, cheating and killing part – you get the idea.) Made the cheerleading squad in junior high, and directed the talent show in high school, which caused all the pretty, popular, sporty jockettes to suddenly become my best friends around tryout time. I’d include them in whatever Big Musical Number I was planning, choreographing and featuring myself in, surrounded by a bevy of said jockettes dancing the simple moves I had taught them, invariably earning epic applause.

But, sigh, there is no amount of applause or encouragement or coaching or weightlifting that will ever get me those Linda Hamilton arms.

At least I admit it. Hurrah for self-awareness. I live in a town where one of many guilty pleasures is to ridicule publicly (while devouring privately, dish, dish, dish) the local glossy rag that is filled with pictures of rich ladies in deep denial about their arms wearing sleeveless gowns at society fundraisers.

Sleeves, ladies. For the love of God, SLEEVES!

The first item I am featuring in my new store is a baseball-style shirt with three-quarter length sleeves and a message related to the (aspirational) theme of this blog. Some of my designs (if you can call them that – I come up with words and choose the fonts – but I did create the image for and design the logo, and I made the banners and drew the heart by teaching myself enough Illustrator to do at least those things, with a great deal of expletive-flavored trial and error) are blatant “branded items” designed to promote this blog, while others are just for fun, just because.

Some of them even allow you to customize a bit of text on the back (to de-brand it and put your name, or your church’s name, or something on the back instead of the website of this blog) or the type of item (style of shirt.) I hope I haven’t allowed any options for full-on sleeveless display. (We used to call that kind of shirt, pardon the slur, that’s what it was called, a “dago-T” or, eeww, aaaaak, a “wife-beater.” Yes, people used to casually use that phrase to describe a style of t-shirt. AAAK!)

So, anyway, even if the option is available to go sleeveless, don’t.

Just don’t. Please?

Even if they are short, you must choose sleeves.

Waiting for the next awards show to dish on who is sleeveless who really, really should not be, I remain,

Your three-quarter-length-sleeve wearing, vainly-hoping, barbell-using

Ridiculouswoman

Passion vs. Practicality; or, Is That A Burning Heart, or Just Heartburn?

My redecorating has taken on an aura of set design – creating spaces for an imaginary life.

(Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t watched all four seasons of “Mozart in the Jungle.”)

They play “with the blood.”

They drink, do drugs, and jump into bed with each other spontaneously, joyfully, seamlessly.

No fumbling around with condoms, no awkward conversations about past sexual and health history, no qualms, no jealousy, no regrets. Coitus with no consequences.

Artistic lives. Hollywood sex.

Passion unfettered with practical concerns.

Oh, except the first violinist/concert master with three daughters in college who tried to run an insurance scam by faking the theft of his priceless instrument.

By now, you will have figured out that I have been binge-watching “Mozart in the Jungle,” and getting a vicarious thrill out of the character’s lives in classical music. Who knew these longhairs (that’s what classical musicians were called when the cool kids were sporting crew cuts – before beatniks, before hippies, before I was born) were so lusty, so wanton, so drunk, so high?

They live with no boundaries, other than the demands of their art. Their hearts burn for music, for love. They play “with the blood.”

I finished season four last night.

Only then did I discover that the series has been cancelled.

Mozart disappeared. Rodrigo got fired and doesn’t know what’s next. Hai-lai (Hayley) seems to have taken over the symphony, based on Rodrigo’s faith in her, plus an unrealistically small amount of training and practice as a conductor and a second place finish in a major competition.

We’ll never know what happens next.

Bwaaaah! Curse you, Amazon! Why?

Back to the real world, where I impulsively signed up to go to the Midwest Writer’s Conference “agent fest” in early May (go for it, Annie! pursue your passion for writing! maybe you’ll meet someone! burn for love!) while worrying about spending the money on it (did I say money? I meant credit) and about how I’m going to manage care for my daughter for the one night I’ll be away.

What’s that pain in my chest?

The musicians in the show travel internationally on someone else’s dime and never seem to worry about who is taking care of the kids, if they have any.

Meanwhile back in heartburn land I watch my funds dwindle and frantically apply for jobs. Had two interviews, both went well, but I’m not hopeful. Even if I’m offered the weekend job I don’t think I can take it – two hour commute each way, on the weekends, when the trains and buses run slower and less frequently. The other is temp and part time, but it’s close to home and would bring in some funds, for a little while, anyway.

My redecorating has taken on an aura of set design – I seem to be creating spaces for an imaginary life.  I set up my “boudoir:” the little fantasy I created in my bedroom, which should have had that very expensive art-deco-y mauve chaise, but instead has an oddly oversized, mid-century style, eggplant-colored fake velvet chair, and a weird little round Moroccan leather footstool that’s just a bit too low and a bit too blue, purchased from a warehouse full of unsold, unwanted items crammed in long dark aisles under a crumbling, water-stained ceiling.  Together they cost a tenth of what the chaise alone would have cost.

Across from the chair is the TV with the Roku stick, connected to a network that has, oddly, gotten slower and weaker after the fraught installation of a new router, even with the signal booster.

There’s a chrome and glass bar cart, optimistically (who am I kidding, more like ludicrously) supplied with two champagne glasses, two cordial glasses, two cocktail glasses.  I sit alone in the cheap purple fake velvet chair, next to the cheap (but really cute) glass and chrome side table, watching stories on the cheap TV of people who live brave, passionate, unfettered lives, with hearts aflame, mysteriously available funds and few regrets.

Passion! Music! Bubbly! Wealthy patrons! La vie en rose!

In between job applications and query letters, I’ll keep writing, imagining that before I die I will add the words “author of….” after my name on Linkedin (in lieu of “non-profit/higher education administrator” and “certified forklift/electric pallet jack operator.”)

I’ll go to that “agent fest” I can’t really afford, pitch my book and dream of a deal, but happily settle for some good advice.

As the money dwindles, I’ll wear a name tag and clean toilets if I have to.

But I’m damned if I’ll drive a forklift again.

Pinballing between dreams and reality, with heart occasionally aflame but mostly just with heartburn, I remain,

Your occasionally optimistic, frequently floating in fantasy,  but mostly moored in the mundane,

Ridiculouswoman