Monday, August 31, 2015

The Week Before.....

The week before a massive family event is always complete chaos.  There is a list of things that need to be done, and just about the time you cross one thing off three more things have tacked themselves onto the end of it.

I arrived home from the mission trip tired and grieving.  B's sudden loss was a huge blow to all of us, and there was no time to even consider really processing it.  We had no idea what the final arrangements were going to be.  George's funeral plans hadn't been announced.  My Dad's memorial had been definitively postponed until the after-wedding chaos died down.

Our back entrance, a 10 x 12 shared space for the two apartments in our house, has always been a shambles.  It has no heat, so the genius who ran water out there for washers and dryers before we bought the place cost us plenty in plumbers' visits when pipes froze in the winter because tenants didn't want to pay to keep a space heater running.  Tearing out the plaster and lath and insulating helped keep it warmer but didn't really improve the looks of the room.  So while I was gone, Hubby tore out woodwork and put up beadboard and began the process of making it....pretty.  Citygirl and her beloved did a lot of painting, and one indoor/outdoor carpet later: Voila!  a tolerably good looking entrance! (I still need to paint the door.  Oh, there is still a list, but we promised ourselves we would do NOTHING in August.)

The kitchen backsplash needed to be put up.  I had picked tin ceiling tile (which, these days, is made of plastic and can be cut with a good pair of shears - awesome product, I must say).  With Babygirl's assistance, that project took two full days.  I did, at one point, literally tell my mom to 'SHUT UP!' after she had, for the fifteenth time, advised, "Measure twice, cut once!" and asked, "When are you going to do this on MY side?" again.  She left for her side in a huff.  And then forgot all about it.  Ah, the beauty of dementia. 

I had found some lovely fabric at a garage sale - an immense amount of yardage on the bolt, sold for $1 by a local interior designer.  I made new pillow covers for our very tired living room pillows and a bedspread for the rented guest bed.  I made beds, put out clean towels and washcloths for each room, made sure each room had curtains (Mom has never used the upstairs of her side, so we never needed them!), getting creative with antique lace tablecloths and twine when needed.  I bought fans. We had a professional steam cleaner come in and clean our couches (ahh, no doggy smell) and mom's chairs (cats, she used to smoke, and old lady.  We can't talk about how much better her side smells without being insulting about how bad it used to smell LOL).

On Thursday my sister-in-law and I did a sweep of the house, looking for any construction items that had not been needed, and we loaded up the truck and headed off to all the home improvement stores.  We came back with over $300 in store credit (yeah, I have all the receipts. No, I didn't have them with me.  Did I mention I still have a LIST?) and a lot more room in the basement. On Friday, while the bridesmaids were all off having their nails done, we whipped through the house for a final clean-and-polish, and then she and I went off by ourselves for our own mani/pedi. 

When we came home we tackled our final assignment:  Make pudding shots.   These were for the after-reception barbeque, and they were simple, fun, relaxing and giggle-inducing to make.  It was a good thing:  The rehearsal dinner was yet to come.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

WHY did you leave....

In telling people the complicated story of my summer, one of the commonest questions is, "Why on EARTH did you leave town for a week two weeks before Citygirl's wedding?"

The answer is a complex blend of the balance of our lives.  Citygirl's wedding was a high priority, indeed.  I had taken off the entire week before the wedding to help with preparations, and had dedicated every weekend from April through mid-July to readying the house:  Adding a deck, upgrading a kitchen and remodeling a bathroom were all accomplished in that time. 

But Citygirl isn't our only child.  Babygirl still needs raising, and her life, in the past few years, has been a lot different than Citygirl's exuberant high school experience.  I had no problem giving up Beach Week for an event as momentous as a wedding, but the annual mission trip is an opportunity for fellowship and friendship that Babygirl's illness so frequently isolates her from.  To complicate matters (and to add just a TOUCH more stress to an already far too stressful summer) Babygirl's June run to Philly had yielded some nerve-wracking lab reports.  Her neutrophil counts had dropped.  Not into the don't-go-out-in-public-without-a-mask levels, but suddenly and radically lower than they had been.  Low enough, that as they stood, the mission trip was off the table. 


Well, or you could repeat them.  So the Monday before we were to leave, we went to the hospital to visit our favorite phlebotomist, only to be told he no longer worked in the lab.  Crap.  When your kid has ONE vein on the back of her hand, you want someone you know can hit it, right?  We hooked up with a new lady, got the tests and waited.

Wednesday, two days before we had to load up the vans to leave, we got the call.  "Counts are back to normal!  See you in October!" 

So we went to Lincoln County, West Virginia to install a floor on house for a family who'd been living with a dirt floor (and no bathroom, kitchen or indoor plumbing) for six years since a fire gutted their first floor.  We were the final team on the 7-week project, so we did painting, tiling, and laminate floor installation.

On the last day we had a bit of extra time, and the building inspector had said that the family needed to clear the construction trash before they could move in, so I rounded up Babygirl and a girl from another team and we started loading trash in the van to take to our Center's dumpster.  After the second load I realized that we needed to move the bags from the front of the dumpster to the back so that we could REALLY pack it full.  The girl from the other team said, "I ain't gettin' in no dumpster."  Babygirl just laughed at her and said, "I'll do it!" 

(Caveat: Please remember that this was construction trash, not garbage. And the dumpster was dusty, NOT disgusting.  I'm not completely crazy.  I'm NOT.  Stop laughing!  I'd have done it myself except that although I was sure I could get into the dumpster from the back of the van,  I was equally sure I wouldn't be able to get back out.)

Babygirl hopped into the dumpster and shifted about 30 fully-loaded construction-sized trash bags from the front end to the back.  She was able to stand upright under the top of it initially, and was climbing over stacked bags as time progressed.  With each additional load we brought she played dumpster-Tetris and stuffed them from bottom to top, back to front, until we had filled the entire thing completely.  Toward the end, she stumbled and sat down on a bag of trash.  She laughed - she was in the shade of the dumpster lid, there was a breeze, and she said,  "This is the coolest I've been all day - I could sincerely take a nap right here!"

At the end of the day, one of our other teammates incredulously asked her, "You really went dumpster diving?"

"Yup.  Bucket list:  Check!"

Dumpster Diving

OhMyDearLord that kid is funny.  And kind.  Clearly not every kid on this mission trip understood that dumpster diving was part of being a missionary, part of getting a family into a home that, this winter, for the first time in six years, would have a floor, a toilet, and a kitchen sink.

THAT's why I left.


Friday, August 14, 2015


For the last six months our lives have been all about the physical de-crapification of our house.  Buy a shed to store the tools that clutter the yard we are covering with a deck.  Empty the kitchen to put in new cabinets. Ditto the bathroom. Clear every unused room to create a Bed-and-Breakfast atmosphere for the wedding. Clean the spare fridge and get it running. Tent, and then UNtent, the yard.  Party set up, party clean up, and restock the utterly depleted pantry.  Clean the spare fridge and shut it down.  Keep track of the finances of the whole enormous project.

Week after week I've watched appallingly large amounts of yard waste, trash and recycling hit the curb.  We've returned about $100 worth of cans and bottles at a nickel apiece. 

We are finally, for the first time in months, back to transplant-standard clean in every room in the house (our bedroom was the final holdout.  I don't want to talk about it. There cannot possible be that much dog fur loose in the universe).

The de-crapification of my heart and soul may take more time and energy than this.  The overwhelming beauty and joy of a wedding crowned a summer laden with loss and grief deferred.  Sorting through it all, finally feeling it all, and letting the healing start is the work of this last quiet month of summer.