Tuesday, August 27, 2013

7 steps to REALLY BEAUTIFUL looking skin.

At the tender age of 47, I have finally discovered the secret to having skin that looks gorgeous and flawless.

(1)  Buy a house in another state that you have never looked at (the house, not the state... you know what I mean).

(2)  Walk through the house on the day you are closing, and discover that you do not want your master bedroom and bathroom to be painted the color green that they are painted.

(3)  Decide to have the rooms repainted in Silver Gray, a Benjamin Moore color.

(4)  Realize, while planning the painting project that (a) you do not care for the light fixture in the bathroom, and (b) the large mirror over the vanity is corroding along its bottom, and also it does not offer any storage.  Ask the painters to remove the light and the mirror, and to dispose of them before they paint.

(5)  Move into the house, but do not replace the mirror for a week or two.  However, and this is the real key: do not replace the light fixture at all.  You may set a lamp on the vanity to help you find your toothbrush at bedtime, but leave the wires hanging out of the wall, and do not put up any vanity lights over any mirrors.

(6)  The dimly lighted vanity mirrors will (trust me) make your skin look more beautiful, fresh, silky and smooth than it has ever looked in your life.  Who needs airbrushing?

(7)  To make it even better, start to lose your vision on your 45th birthday, so that by the time you are 47, you have a desperate need for reading glasses in order to make out anything within four feet of your face.  And do not ever wear your glasses in your bathroom.  Combine severe farsightedness with no overhead vanity lighting in your bathroom: it's sure to put an end to any wrinkle, blemish or patch that ever appeared on your face.


Jon is 18

Today my "baby" turns 18. And he is in Pennsylvania at college, and I am in Illinois, still trying to finish unpacking. 

I wish like crazy I could make him a cake, but even if he were at home, I haven't found my mixer. 

 All the memories and emotions that flood my soul today, on the day my youngest child officially enters adulthood, are basically uncategorizable. 

Jonathan has never given us a dull moment, although we have inflicted plenty of dull moments on him. 

He started as a tiny baby boy, and grew and grew to be 6' 4", always with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his gorgeous big, brown eyes... when he was happy, and when he was being naughty. His good nature only wavered if someone called him Buster ("My name is NOT BUSTER!") or tried to make him order food off the children's menu. 

Yesterday he started classes as a freshman at college. 

You go, Jonno! 

And God bless you, today and forever.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dogs are pretty gross

This is not a particularly good picture of Piper.  
It is just the most recent picture I could find.

Ever since Piper got old, he's had warts on his head, an asymmetrical fat pad on one side of his chest, and a funny hemorrhoidal-looking bump bulging out from one side of his rectum.

Poor Piper.

The vet in Syracuse told me not to worry about these things, that they weren't cancer or anything, and dogs just get like this when they get old.

I'm not sure when it started.  Maybe it was Friday?  Piper started to strain a lot when he was trying to eliminate.  I gave him pumpkin, from a can, because that's what they used to tell me to do in NY.

It worsened throughout the weekend.  Of course, vet offices are not open on the weekends.  And we don't have a vet here yet, anyway.

The bump in his bottom swelled up so that the visible part of it was 2-3 times bigger than what we usually could see.  It turned from pink to an angry, dark red-black color.  He constantly asked to go outdoors, and then crouched and strained with no luck except for first thing in the morning when he really had to go.  As time progressed, he started passing little strings of very loose stool, which of course got tangled in his white fur.

I tried to give him a bath and a hair trim.  He cried pitifully.

We put him into the crate to protect the house.  Also, we thought that keeping him still might help minimize the feelings of pressure that kept making him strain to try to eliminate.

We ought to have left him in the crate overnight, but it stresses him out, and stress is not good for sick dogs.  So we let him sleep in the bedroom.  In the morning we found him lying oddly prone on his side, on the wrong side of the bed, near the wall.  There were streaks of dark stuff on the white carpet... I'm not sure whether it was blood-tinged feces or feces-tinged blood.  The entire area beneath his tail was nasty, caked with dark, moist stuff. I tried to clean him up with a wipe, but it made him cry.  The only thing I accomplished was proving that it was, indeed, bleeding, whatever it was.

So at 7:30 a.m. I started blindly calling vets, and I got one who said he would meet us at his office at 8:15.  Shawn put the crate into the back of the van for me, and I carried out the limp, over-warm little dog body.

This vet has an office here in town, and one in the bigger city.  He also does grooming.  He took one look at Piper and said that he needed his groomers to clean him up before he could figure out what was going on.  He told me he was short a groomer in this office, and said he would take Piper into the city with him.  "I have room for him," he said.

He did not look like our Syracuse vet.  He was shorter, older and less cheerful, and he did not wear a white coat, nor did he talk very much.  He did not greet Piper affectionately.  He filled out a photocopied form by hand.  Then he took off Piper's leash and collar and handed them to me, tucked a naked Piper under his arm, and walked away down the hall to pack up a vehicle with pets going into the city.  My tiny dog, sick, in a strange new place with a strange new vet.

I drove home.  My tea was still hot.

I haven't heard anything yet.

Schubert is disconsolate.

I cleaned the stains out of our white carpet with my Little Green Machine.  I thought about how we had just gotten rid of all the white carpet in our other house, right before we moved here to more white carpet, seven rooms of it, and even more if you count the upstairs hallway and the master bathroom (who puts carpet in a bathroom?).

I thought about how it would be so nice to replace this white carpet, but how the vet bill will cut into the carpet budget.

I am not sad.  Not yet.  I wonder why?

Perhaps it is because no news is good news.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


In January, Shawn started his new job.  I resigned from my new job, facing both a cross-country move and an unidentified illness.

In February my illness received a name:  Lupus.  We were not sure what that meant.  I started medication, and Shawn encouraged me to sleep in late, bringing me hot tea in bed at 8:30 or 9 each morning.

I don't remember much of March.  I think I did a lot of meaning to get the house ready to sell, and not really making much progress.  David had his senior recital and I made cupcakes.  We (and by "we" I mean Shawn) replaced the nasty carpet in our bedroom with prefinished oak, and it was gorgeous.

The beginning of April, we went to Illinois to look for a house.

The end of April, we went to Colorado to see my nephew get married.

In May we finally got our house on the market and sold it in 3 days (praise the Lord!).

In mid-May, David graduated from Syracuse University where he was named a University Scholar and gave the speech for the College of Visual and Performing Arts.  It was during these ceremonies that our realtor texted us the particulars of our house sale.

We then began to negotiate for a house in Champagne.  Nothing came together.  With a closing date of July 22 on our NY house (which turned out not to be accurate, but we didn't know that then), we got itchy to get something done.  And by itchy, I mean we were plagued by nervous stomach.  And then some.

I lose track of the time-frame, but David and I went to Minnesota to pay a visit to his grandparents before he entered medical school and to capitalize on the Minnesota wedding reception his cousin was holding after the Colorado wedding, a chance to see a lot of relatives.  This was at the end of May.

Shawn and I also made another flying trip to Illinois to look at more houses.  I am not sure when this happened.  Memorial Day, perhaps.

Jonathan graduated from Liverpool High School at the end of June.  Laura and Matthew came to Syracuse for the event, as did the grandparents Carpenter.

On July 6, we threw a graduation party for Jonathan.  It went astonishingly well, considering the circumstances.  I will be forever grateful for that weekend.  All six of us were together: Shawn, me, Shannon, David, Laura and Jonathan.  Just us, but all of us, intact at 8402 Sugar Pine one last time.  I had left the house "together" for the occasion.  I remember people commenting at the party, "You still have pictures on your walls."  Yes.  Yes, I did.  And I meant to, but I also paid for it.

Somewhere in there, we bought a house we had never seen.  Oh well.  We just did.

After the party, we began to tear the house apart, and mostly what I remember is driving to the Salvation Army and the dump, over and over.  I lived those weeks with a constant lump in my throat and tossed fitfully in my bed each night, my hungry eyes grabbing for every last possible glimpse of anything familiar and grieving as the house-scape disintegrated in front of them.

On July 19, Shawn and I drove to Illinois again, to close on the house.  I saw it for the very first time.  The short upper cabinets in the kitchen and the oddly protruding soffits made me feel as though someone were pushing down uncomfortably on the back of my head.  The total absence of a pantry, the corroding bright brass faucet at the kitchen sink and the fact that every sink in the house needed replacing caused a rising panic in my heart.  I have a memory of standing across the kitchen from our realtor, feeling the oppression of those soffits bending me forward, trying to swallow, willing myself not to burst into tears as she earnestly inquired, "Do you love it?"  This is not even taking into account the hours of weeding out gargantuan weeds that had appeared in the landscaping outdoors, a foreboding sight to a Lupus victim.  It was my brother's birthday that day, but I was lost in my own misery and never wished him a happy return.

It required more than all the value of our house in NY (after realtors' fees) and our 20 acres of beautiful land to purchase this place, and there is so much to do.  Housing prices in Syracuse are so unbelievably low; financially, it is a terrible place to move out of.  But there was no time to think about that.  We just signed over everything and drove 12 hours back to Syracuse where we had to hurriedly get ready for the packers.

I am not going to write about the packers again, or even link to a former entry about that.  If you are morbidly curious, you can find it yourself.  They packed on the 22nd and 23rd, loaded the truck on the 24th.  I am so thankful for people's kindnesses.  Some kind friends helped us clean the house behind the movers.  And that night, some kind neighbors fed us dinner and some other kind (and brave) friends hosted us and our dogs for the night.  In the morning we loaded everything that was left into our three remaining vehicles (we had donated Jon's van to the Rescue Mission).  Everything that was left included the dogs and the dog crate, which Jon and I had to take in the Odyssey.  And just like that, we set out, my men and me, 12 hours across the country.  I got to have Jon, and he drove most the way (maybe all the way?).  Shawn and DJ each had to stick it out alone.

We drove 12 hours the 25th, and the moving truck arrived at 9 am on the 26th, so the 26th was a full day of unloading everything we had not thrown out into a house that is smaller than the one we had before.  It does not fit very well.  We are still trying to figure it out.  There will be another garage sale, and probably more trips to a dump, if we can find one.

During the first week after we arrived, we tried to get our bearings while still getting David ready to go to medical school in North Carolina.  He left August 2.  I don't even know what day of the week that was.  He drove off in his little Corolla, all loaded down with all of his earthly belongings, or at least the ones he could find that the packers had not demolished.  His departure left a shockingly quiet emptiness from which I may never recover.  Jon was in social withdrawal, and by withdrawal I don't mean that he was socially withdrawn.  I mean "withdrawal" in the sense of a bad drug withdrawal, when the thing (in this case, friends) has been suddenly removed and there is an unbearable craving for it.

On August 4, Matthew brought Lu back (back?) from Cleveland where she had done her summer internship.  Their arrival was greatly cheering.  Lu brings sunshine most places she goes, and Matthew is always both uplifting and comforting.  We took some breaks from unpacking and just worked on living for a few days, exploring the park in our backyard.  Laura liked the house, which was a big encouragement to me, and helped me also to like it better.  We can make it nice.  As she says, "It has really good bones."  All it takes is money... all it takes is money.  Money and energy and imagination and a lot of cleaning up after projects.  Sigh.

On August 7, Matthew left, and on August 8 Shawn and I drove to NC for David's white coat ceremony which is a beautiful and stirring charge to new medical students to remember the humanity of their patients and to be good and kind doctors in the future.  They are so idealistic at this point, I hate to see it crushed after life happens to them.

While in NC (August 9 and 10), we procured a bed and other necessities for David, and then we drove home on the 11th.  Time to get Lu and Jon ready for college... Lu, facing her fourth year, was fairly good-to-go and completely self-sufficient.  Jon was not dialed in.

Wednesday night (August 14), the night before we took off for PA, at about 8:30 pm, Jon told us that he needed some after-shave.  We set out in the car for the Walgreens that is five minutes away.  On our way, Jon said, "By the way, did you ever buy me my refrigerator for my dorm?"  No, somehow I had forgotten to do that.  And so we headed home, got the van, drove to the city where there is a Walmart, and bought him a refrigerator and socks and underwear because he said he needed them.

I will not detail what else he did not have.  I just pray.  Prayer is a very good thing, a very good thing.  On a bright note, it only took about 15 minutes to move all his stuff into his dorm room when we got there.

We drove out on the 15th and home on the 16th, eight hours each way, and we left our two younger kids there, in PA.  My youngest child, dropped off early for marching band, probably with less than half of what he actually needs, unceremoniously dumped onto a campus that is not yet bustling... and I will be too tired to go back next week for move-in day and to hear Lulubelle speak at the big "Welcome to College" ceremony because she is the senior chair of the orientation board.

On the way home, I sent Shannon a bunch of texts, telling her I love her, because I do and because she always answers texts the fastest.

So now we are here, just the two of us and our dogs, and I am too tired to take a shower.  I have been lying on my bed for most of the day, because when I try to get up and walk around, I get really dizzy.  Shawn says I am dizzy because I have not eaten lunch, but I am too dizzy to make lunch.  And I cannot imagine what to make for dinner, for just two of us.  We have never been alone like this.  Maybe for an evening, but never like this.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Throw it away

When we had our kitchen done in our old house...

Augh.  I should not think about this.  I loved that kitchen.  It was practically perfect, and beautifully aesthetically pleasing besides, custom designed to fit my exact needs.  I miss my kitchen.  But this is not a post about my kitchen.  No.

When we had the kitchen redone, we (obviously) had to empty the original cabinets, and I found myself in quandaries about what to do with things.

I remember when they took down the cabinet over the refrigerator.  There was (among other things) a handmade puppet toy in that cabinet.  It was made from a cone and a stick, and by pushing up on the stick, you could pop a colorful, handmade clown up out of the cone.  Someone gave it to me at a baby shower for Shannon.

Having a long dowel as one of its major working parts, it was not the safest toy, nor was it good for cooperative play; things made of long dowels invariably become weapons, clubs, things to swing at people who do not have one.  This, no doubt, is why it had been consigned to the cupboard over the refrigerator.

That day, the cupboard detached from the wall and askew, open on the floor, I lifted the puppet toy out and considered it.  It was cute, handmade, a gift from a friend.

The guy who was doing the job looked over my shoulder.  "What's that?" he asked.

"It's a puppet toy," I said.  "I don't know what to do with it."

He took it out of my hands, smashed it across his knee, and handed it, in pieces, back to me.  "It's broken," he said.  "Throw it away."

This story recurs to me over and over and over as I unpack boxes packed by our Bad Packer.  "It's broken.  Throw it away.  It's broken.  Throw it away."

On the plus side: the next time we move, there will be less to move.