Saturday, November 5, 2016

To My Family

As we come the the close of "the year of firsts", I need to pay tribute to my family.  I have these three sisters, you see, and I don't know that I have ever told them how truly bad ass I think they are.  I had to watch from afar for most of the year from hell as they juggled everything.  They had jobs they had to do, they had families that needed them and they had these two parents that careened off the rails at the same time.  They managed to handle it all, work as an incredible team and still love each other when the dust settled.  I don't know if they realized just how mammoth an undertaking that was, it was just something they had to do.  They coordinated doctor's appointments, emergency room trips, long term and rehabilitative care; they arranged cleaning, repair and emptying our beloved family home and no one hated each other when it was over.  I am not afraid of our family drifting apart because these incomparable women are made of the kind of glue that never, ever loses its strength.  I am in awe of them and I doubt I could ever come close to adequately expressing how much I love them.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my brothers in law, the men who slogged through that mess with them.  In a day and age when something like one in three marriages end in divorce, they have chosen so well.  Four of us, all 20 years in and we're all here, still together and that's a hell of a thing.  These men that arrived in our family 25 and 30 years ago walked through fire with us and lightened the load that threatened to bury us last year.  They are my brothers, my friends and the men I admire the most because they love my sisters and endured that terrible year with patience, grace and an unbelievable amount of manual labor.  There is no way we could have made it through without you, we are so lucky.

Their kids put up with their lives being upended as well.  They pitched in and did the heavy lifting, the cleaning and whatever else was needed, they showed us what wonderful adults they are and will be. They put up with moms that weren't as available, that were maybe more fragile than they'd ever seen and dads that were perhaps feeling helpless and unsure.  These kids are our legacy and I'm not worried about what kind of people they're going to be when they grow up because I've already seen what they're made of.  I'm so proud of them.

My husband felt as bewildered and helpless as I did, but never let me see that.  He kept me calm when I became frantic and guilt ridden that I wasn't down there in the trenches with my sisters.  He sat on the floor next to me when I'd finally crack and dissolve into sobs because it seemed my world was ending.  He never complained when I left every other week and came back wrecked because I didn't want to be here, but there.  I won the lottery when I married that man.

My boys saw their mom falling apart at the seams and showed me what wonderful men they're going to be.  They did everything in their power to make it better and they succeeded, I don't know if I've ever told them how much they helped me during that awful time.  I see so much of their father's deep compassion in my boys, they already are good men.

The extended family saved our sanity time and time again.  They showed up and did whatever needed to be done, dirty work included.  They reminded us again and again that we were not doing this all alone and that they always and forever have our backs.  I know our cousins will forever bring us joy and laughter and that feeling that the world can never break us because we have them.  My earliest memories are of them and my deepest love is for them.

The aunts are the old guard, they have the stories and the memories of what came before all of us.  They are the grande dames and the mothers of us all now.  These three women are our pillars and our roots.  They knew mom and dad before they were mom and dad, they loved us all from the beginning and we owe so much to their influence in our lives.

Our non-blood family showed us that family isn't always family.  They loved us and supported us and did not leave us when things got bad.  Mom and dad's oldest friends stuck through it with them until the bitter end and held us up as we waded through our grief, we did not drown because of these people.  They were a life raft, they were the hug from mom and dad that we needed as we buried our parents and said those painful goodbyes.

I don't know how I will ever repay these incredible people that got us through, there is nothing I can say except thank you and I love all of you more than I can ever possibly express.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting It All Out

In trying to not let the bad stuff creep into this generally happy space I've attempted to create here, I have come to realize that I've hamstrung myself quite a bit.  Last year sucked, it sucked more than I ever imagined anything could actually suck and still be survivable and I'm still not put back together yet. There it is, I'm not there yet but I'm trying.  The world has become dark and scary and finding patches of light has become harder and harder but we manage to do so, we have to.  I am finding that I have to detox from the news and the internet from time to time because I'm far more fragile than I thought. Sometimes the sad and scary stuff overwhelms me, I want to talk to my mom and I can't and everything just seems that much worse.  I haven't written a word for several months because I really didn't want to keep on the "poor me, my parents died" theme but you know what? My parents died and while grownup me accepts and understands it all, the me that still wants her mom and dad to talk to when the world is ugly and scary doesn't understand and will never accept that they are gone and not coming back.  These two factions have been at war and have definitely handicapped me in a lot of ways, but I'm trying.

I figure if I just lay it all out and organize it, I can start to shed some of the darkness and really step back into the lighter place I normally occupy, so bear with me for a bit.

For starters, 2016 really needs to take it down a notch, from mom, David Bowie and Alan Rickman to Prince and Ali, can we be done for a while, please?

I try to keep my little corner of the blogosphere fairly politic free, so I'm just going to do this once. I hate what our system has become. We LOVE to hold ourselves up as this shining example of democracy and, in this woman's opinion, we are screwing it up so hard.  I tire of paying a bunch of people to do nothing.  If the rest of us went to work and said it out loud that we had no intention of doing our jobs because we don't like the other people in the office, our asses would be out the door while the words still hung in the cartoon speech bubble over our heads.
I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend the reality that someone like Donald Trump is a viable candidate for the highest office in the land.  To people who support him, I am not going to vilify you or call you names, I just want to say one thing.  I am so sorry that things are going so badly in your life, that you are so afraid and beaten down that embracing a man with nothing to offer but hate, isolation and fear seems like the only way back.  I hope you find something to believe in, something to bring you joy before it is too late.  My dearest wish is that your world, your life, your situation improves to the point that you have room for hope and joy and love again.  It's dark as hell right now, but remember that even in these tense and troubling times, people are good, we are good and the only way through the dark stuff is by reaching for the light.  There is light, I believe it with every bit of my soul.  All is not lost and we're going to get through it the only way we can, together.
I refuse to let the ugliness of rhetoric, bluster and political posturing drive me under the bed or into a bunker.  I do not believe my country is a hate filled place, I know it's good, despite what they show us on the news.  I am not going to let CNN, Twitter, Facebook or Fox rob me of my joy and my optimism, it's mine and you can't have it.  I will share it with you, I will help you find some of your own and I will celebrate with you when you do. I challenge you to find some joy in each day.  Not a chuckle, not a fleeting ghost of a smile, but something that when you think of it later in the day, you smile and get all warm and fuzzy.  Go play Pokemon and walk around your neighborhood, stomp in the puddle, pop the bubble wrap, eat the damn cookie. Just fricking do it and quit being an old poop.  I'm sure I'm sounding naive and perhaps even a bit simple to some, but to the rest, I ask you to give it a shot.  You might live longer, or at least you'll be happier while you last.  Take a step back, turn off the world and just find something that brings you joy, you need it, trust me. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I'd Take That Class

My eldest was home for a few days last week and it was great for both of us.  I miss his company and he keenly misses just being home like the good old days before he was paying his own rent and buying his own groceries.  The discussion of how this whole business of being an adult is a lot harder than we thought when we were younger led to a discussion of what we wish we had known before we moved out. 
As a result, I've come up with a class everyone should take before moving out on their own.  I call it "Adulting 101", here is the course overview:

Money management:
  • Balancing a checkbook: the reality of "available balance" vs "actual balance"
  • Making and sticking to a budget that includes buying your own toothpaste and underwear
  • Taxes 101: how to fill all that shit out
  • Paychecks: who the hell is FICA and why do they take my money
  • Should I buy weed or beer?: prioritizing food, clothing and shelter
  • Entertainment on the cheap: it's not necessary to steal shopping carts
  • Paying bills: due dates are not suggestions, they fucking mean it
  • Renting that first apartment: questions to ask, what you have to pay up front and no, it should not smell like that
Feeding Yourself
  • Cereal: not always the answer, why toast matters
  • Preparing rice 87 ways, including some that don't suck!
  • Eggs: miracle food that even you can cook
  • When to throw it away: weird smells, bizarre colors and loss of structural integrity
  • Leftovers: why they won't actually kill you if eaten in a timely manner
  • Real butter: life is too short to use the fake shit
  • Nothing has an eternal shelf life: what not to buy more than one of
  • Buying in bulk: put half back, you don't have that much storage space
  • How to afford meat that isn't hot dogs or chicken nuggets
  • The freezer: not the key to food's eternal life, CLEAN IT OUT
  • Peanut butter: not the only protein source available to you
  • Chunky milk: you're not fooling anyone, you're not making yogurt in there and no, it should not smell like that
  • I don't know what the hell to do with quinoa, either, you're on your own
Laundry and Clothing
  • If it says "Dry Clean Only": why they mean it
  • You will never understand what all those symbols mean, no one does
  • Washing red things: it's going to bleed so keep away from whites 
  • Bedding DOES need to be washed on a regular basis: it shouldn't smell like that
  • Disappearing socks: you will never know why or how, a lesson in acceptance
  • Hot Topic: stop buying your clothes there before you graduate
  • Suits: you're going to need one sooner than you think
  • And nice shoes
  • And dress socks
  • And a "good" coat, your Arctic Cat snowmobile jacket will not cut it any more
  • You will never wear your letter jacket after your freshman year in college, buy the class ring instead, you won't wear that either, but it will take up less room in your tiny apartment
  • When to wash: no, it should not smell like that, do it now
You're Going To Get Sick But You're Not Dying
  • Surviving the flu: puking when you're sick is ten times worse than puking when you're drunk
  • When to call mom, the doctor, the ambulance or summon your God
  • Roommates: they aren't any better in a crisis than you are
  • Chicken noodle soup: voodoo magic that cures it all
  • What you should always have in the medicine cabinet and why pepto bismol is a gift from God
  • Alcohol is not a cure all: but a hot toddy will help a cold (this is a practical lesson, prepare accordingly)
  • It's not a tumor: headaches, hysteria and hypochondria
  • I think it's broken: when an ACE bandage just won't do
  • It might be infected: no, it should not smell like that
You Wanted A Car
  • What is that noise: when to turn the radio up and when to take it to the shop
  • Gas or food: the hard choice
  • When you just can't stop is past time to get the brakes done
  • Insurance: the most necessary evil and how it can save your ass
  • The backseat: not a dumpster, clothes hamper or junk drawer, CLEAN IT OUT
  • No, it should not smell like that: how to tell if something is living in your car
  • Winter driving: it sucks and you should avoid it as much as you can
  • Money pit: get used to putting money in constantly, good training for home ownership
  • Preventive maintenance: things to do before it starts smoking
You Live Here
  • Furniture buying: why you don't buy upholstered items from Craigslist (this will be an interactive lesson, please wear old clothes)
  • Beds: a mattress pad is not all you need, buy some damn sheets
  • Kitchen items: what to buy and what to steal from work
  • Paper plates are not considered fine tableware: some alternatives
  • Cleaning the bathroom: no, that's NOT frosted glass
  • Light up your life: why you need more than that one lamp
  • Decorating: why life sized cutouts from the bar are not a good idea
  • Pillows: you can wash them but you're probably better off throwing them out and getting new
  • Cleaning the toilet: no, it should not smell like that
I would have taken this class in a heartbeat.  Maybe I'll call the high school and offer my services.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Goodbye, Mom

I’ve had this image in my head of mom and dad.  Dad has been standing by the door these past couple of months, his jacket and cap on, mom’s coat over his arm and the car running, waiting for her to finally head out.  He was the the Irish leave, just slipping out the door and she, the Minnesota goodbye.  

Mom never taught us how to cook a standing rib roast, she didn't show us how to keep a perfect home with sparkling, streak free windows and things like knitting or crafts were forever a mystery to her. The things she taught us were far and away more important. She taught us to be passionate, dedicated and active members of our world. That it is possible and necessary to make a difference in our neighborhood, our school, our city and the greater world. We learned that anything is possible if you’re ballsy and determined enough. We were shown how strong a woman can be, how much power we have and how we could use it.  

We learned to be fearless from my mom, we learned that we had a voice and that speaking up was “what you do”. If Gayle had a catchphrase, it was “It’s what we do.” . You don't question, you don't wonder why, you don't think twice, you speak up, you take action, you take a’s what you do.  You stick up for people, individuals or groups, you don't let people get hurt if you can stop it and you never, ever let ANYONE get away with doing damage to the people you love, it’s what we do. 

Mom taught us how to be welcoming, embracing and how to bring people together. Gatherings at the Goodrich house were joyous, raucous and marvelous. Easter and Thanksgiving were the “sit down” holidays but there was always room for an extra chair or three.  The dinners lasted for hours and the world’s ills were usually solved before dessert.  Anyone could participate in the discussion with the unspoken rules of “stay on topic” and “don’t be mean”.  Christmas and the Fourth of July were events to behold.  Christmas at 2258 WAS Christmas, not only for us, but for so very many others, the open house became part of their holiday tradition.  Independence Day became the stuff of legend, due to my father’s love of explosives, ongoing skirmishes with St. Thomas security, disappearing Rice Krispie treats and the ever changing cast of characters, with Tom and Gayle at the center of it all.  Holidays were never meant for just family and there was almost always an honorary family member or ten included in the day. Strangers were never strangers for long, the seamlessness of being brought in and adopted into the family was something magical. You were welcome, you were embraced, you were loved. That’s what we do.

Mom showed us that there will never be anything as important as family. My sisters and I have been told repeatedly during this past year by doctors, nurses, social workers and the like how extraordinary we are that we haven't been fighting with each other, we have all been surprised by that.  It simply never occurred to us to behave that way, in times of crisis, you pull together and get things done, it’s what you do. Besides, when you’re not sharing a bathroom or cutting the hair off each other’s Barbie dolls, there’s really not much to fight about.  When her sister, Barb, moved back to Minnesota, mom added extra places at the table and we got down to the business of getting to know our cousins from the wilds of Michigan and now we can't imagine what life was like before they came home to us. When Grandma Summers got sick, mom was there for doctor’s appointment and hospital admissions because that’s what you do.  When my husband, Dan, lost his sister, mom and dad and Jenny came up to Crookston for the funeral, even though they had never met his sister. Dan was well and truly puzzled why they came and mom simply said “You're family, it’s what we do.” Growing up, I never could have imagined just how much this family they created would mean to me, but I know that there is nothing as sacred, as special or as wonderful as these people. She taught us that family can be so much more than what you're born into, family is what you create by who you love and with whom you surround yourself. Family is in laws, cousins, nieces and nephews, it's grandchildren and best friends. Family is neighbors and coworkers, it's the best legacy you can leave behind. Mom taught us that love is love and family is everything.  She and dad gave me the best gift I never even knew I wanted in this family. They taught us how rich you are when your family surrounds you. The past year has taught us how right they were, we never would have made it through without this family they created. We have been supported, helped and loved by the people she made our family. It’s what you do. It’s what we do.