happy “boo”thday Billy…

31 10 2008

Eva had her last child on the day before All Saints’ Day.  Months later she would be gone.  The birth certificate says that the attending physician’s name was E.E. Evans so I’m still left with the question of the ‘E’ (only) as Billy’s middle name…after Eva?  Did she know he was her last?  After the Dr. with such an original set of initials?  

Halloween was extra special in our house given it was Billy’s “boo”thday.  I don’t remember cakes or special menus…I just remember feeling like we were extraordinary because he got to share his birthday with lots of kids who would come to our house.  Maybe he just learned early on that it wasn’t worth causing a selfish fuss to want a private celebration – but instead to embrace the day and be the giver instead.  That would be in line with his character.

There was one year that stands out from the rest in my memory.  It might have been the year of Huckleberry Hound and the horrible condensation behind the rigid, blinding, suffocating plastic mask with strings of elastic cutting into my scalp above my ears.  Before we could don our costumes, dinner MUST be eaten.  And if dinner was to be eaten, then the Family Altar or Devotions were also to be read.  I peered out the window at the darkening skies – I knew we were going to miss it all sitting here listening to some thoughts on who-knows-what.  It was a special kind of torture.

Finally we were released.  I was still too young to be out on my own so with my mother’s hand in mine, we set out.  I don’t imagine we went to more than the houses on our block but it seemed like we’d been gone forever.  Finally crossing the street to approach my own house once again, I let out a scream.

Santa stood in our doorway handing out candy.  I was devistated.  So confused.  How had I missed the preparations?  I suppose the only way to calm me down was to get close enough (I was terrified) to have my dad pull down the beard to reveal the magic. No wonder I’m so psycho.

I’d say that it had only been in the last two seasons that his love of dressing up to scare kids had been won over by the heaviness of his life.  But not too long ago – he could still be seen sitting in his favorite lawn chair, right inside their breezeway with a mop head wig, crazy hat and some other foolishness, scary sound effects blaring from the stereo – handing out candy.

Halloween will never be the same.  Some of the fun is gone.  Maybe, just maybe, what I need to do is to honor him by taking up his mantel.  It would also be selfish of me to think we are the only ones who miss him.

He has left good friends behind that shared the same birthday.  Justin’s mom, as only a life-long-school teacher can do, is the Queen of the Seasons.  She was the one who did elaborate Christmas cookies, decorate for each holiday and has sweaters to match.  (Maybe not so much now…but certainly in the 90’s).  Her busy household with a husband and two very active boys was never too much for her to find time to make a special cake that Billy and Justin would share.

It broke my heart to hear that this twenty-five year old wanted to come say good-bye to my dad when he was in hospice.  I don’t care how old you are, it was not easy way to see someone who had been very vital,  withered away.  I am sad for J that he doesn’t have a birthday buddy left.  It was a celebration that my dad talked about every year- even when he could no longer remember Justin’s name…he became “their older one”. 

Another very important family tradition must be carried out.  Who knows when it started, who started it or why…but as soon as the last note to “Happy Birthday” fades, we begin to recite:

We wish you many happy returns, 

On this the day of your birth, 

May sunshine and gladness be given, 

For God in his mercy prepared you on earth, 

For a beautiful birthday in heaven.

The changes are mine to make it fit.  I leave you with what I believe to be the earliest picture of Billy.  The writing on the back dates it to 1923 – so I imagine it to be before he celebrated his first birthday.  We miss him dearly but could never have given him a party like he’s celebrating today.

Pack rats have more fun.

29 10 2008

Yes, the answer to yesterday’s puzzler is right here before your eyes.  What would I do if money were no object?  I would get the right stuff and have fun.  These are old slides I’ve had since, ohhh 20 years or so…sleeping in their little clear plastic pocket beds.  So this morning when I should be doing something really productive before I leave for Indiana, I got distracted.  I had to see what our scanner would do.  Since I’m too impatient to read instructions, I just scanned the negatives, then printed from there then re-scanned the image into my iPhoto.  That is the way a dumb 53 year old rolls when she knows there really is a right way to do things – but there are other ways that get a quick, not-so-perfect task accomplished.

Back in the summer of  1975, my parents gave me a gift that changed my life and I want it back. They bought me a used Beseler Topcon SLR 35mm camera as a birthday gift before I took off on my first trip to Spain. A couple of rolls of film were shot before I left and the rest was learning as I went.  I have some great slides, since back in the day I only shot ASA 64.  And to think that in another couple of years – no one will know what that means.

Anyway, back to my dream world.  Maybe it’s not a dream world but a dream challenge.  There are things I need to do.  Digitizing all my slides (or at least the ones worthy of keeping) is something I want to accomplish.  With the right equipment, knowing what I’m doing and taking my time.  They do me no good wasting away in the bottom of the closet.

And it’s probably time to think about a good digital SLR too.  After the Topcon (you really have to know old time photography to recognize that name), I graduated to a Nikon F3 HP.  I walked into a candy store the other day (actually a camera store and Shop Girl said that it was the first time she’d ever seen me salivate in a store.  She likened it to her walking into a closet stuffed with Marc Jacobs goodies)…and found out that maybe just maybe I can get a digital that all my lenses (the ones with sahara sand deep in their innards – maybe they should be cleaned first) would fit on.

Ok, enough of this fantasy, lotto world garbage.  I really have work to do.  But just posting three old pics…is a big thing for me today.  Now to the business of dust bunnies.

well I never…

28 10 2008

I never remember seeing my grandmother get upset…except for the time she came into our house and I had a deck of cards all spread out playing solitare.  “I never thought I’d see the day that there would be cards in Billy’s house!”  End of card game.

I didn’t have much frame of reference for the tone in her voice at the time.  They were cards for Pete’s sake.  But we were a Baptist family and that came with its unwritten set of rules about what was and wasn’t acceptable entertainment.

Since I never knew my dad to gamble, I couldn’t figure out what her deal was.  Had that been one of his vices (and the worst of those was his stubborness), I could see that the very presence of the evil deck would be a temptation but certainly that wasn’t the case.  Knowing more of the family history and understanding that one of her brothers was a bookie might shed some light on the issue though.

I know of one time that Billy bought a raffle ticket from some guys at work.  He said he believed in the cause that they were raising money for and he laid out his few bucks…but he refused to take the stub.  He made the guy that sold the ticket to him keep his ticket.  He didn’t want it.

Guess who won the raffle of $100?  And try as he would, the fellow couldn’t get my dad to take back the numbers to claim his prize.  The guy that was trying so hard to return the ticket had a little girl who had down’s syndrome and needed extensive dental work.  Billy knew that and he made the guy keep the money to use for those bills.  Selfless and generous – that was the kind of guy he was.

I think I’ve played the Lotto once when the MegaMillions was up to 110 million or something like that.  I spent the better part of a day dreaming about how I’d spend all my loot.  Obviously, I didn’t win…maybe I should play with the numbers of Billy’s birthday.  Oh, I’d feel such Baptist guilt if I won.  But wouldn’t it be fun just to give it away to people that you knew really really needed it?

Or how about that question:  if finances were not an issue in your life – never having to work another day in your life – what would you do with your time?  Ohhh, now that will keep me busy for a while!

back to work

26 10 2008

Sometimes we just need posted reminders about where things go. For eight years I had a job in a four star hotel where my uniform was stored in a locker that I would open five days a week at around 6:30 a.m.  There are things that I don’t miss about that life but others that I do…like the great memos that would appear from time to time, whether circulated or posted – and always good for a laugh.  I remember the day I took this picture with my phone.  It still makes me chuckle – NOT chuck – chuckle.

Now I’m doing my own memo posting.  The ma is “green-challenged”.  Before I left her house this afternoon, a note that explains what is garbage, what isn’t and where it all goes was taped to the counter.  After 81 years of putting rubbish in the one logical place – I’ve thrown her a huge curve ball by trying to get her to sort plastics, glass, metal and newspaper.  She generates so little trash as it is that I may just make life easier for both of us and let her throw it all away.  I’ll sort it when I’m there. It’s the least I can do to make her world a bit less complicated.

When I walked in the other day she was watching What Not to Wear and paying close attention.  The issue of the “right shape of jeans” came up, she mentioned again that she needed a new pair.  I’m wondering if Stacy and Clinton would be interested in doing an episode for octogenarians?  A quick run to Target while channeling my stylist Shop Girl, I found a pair I thought would work and tried to imagine Shop Girl doing the same for me in 30 years.

It’s been just over two months and the ma is still trying to find her way.  All she wanted to do last week was to visit the dentist in the hope of getting work done then finishing up the process with some whitening.  She’s not vain.  These are just things that have been on the back burner for a few years as Billy declined and kept her close to home as his full time caregiver.  

But from the dentist chair to the hospital she went as her world started to spin, blood pressure spiked, horrible headache set in and she couldn’t walk straight line to save her soul.  Two days later after a CAT scan, MRI, blood work and the like ruled out stroke or tumor, she got to go home.  Her internist, who works exclusively with the elderly, said he sees this with women that go to the hairdresser each week. The degeneration present in cervical bones causes a shift that messes with the two large nerves that meet at the base of the skull and go up into the head.  The result is that the women collapse in a heap after they have had their heads tilted back at the shampoo bowl. 

We are addressing the blood pressure with new meds and given all she’s been through in the last few years and especially the last few weeks – it is not a surprise that it is on the rise.  No more dentist’s chair for a while and I’ll have to follow up with that Dr. to see where things were left.  

Needless to say, I put a few miles on the car this week but I feel good.  I am going back to work tomorrow morning – my kind of work – cleaning my very dirty post-week-long-film-shoot house. Visiting Nurses will be checking in on her in Indiana twice this week and I’ll be back there in a couple of days.

Maybe I’ll be surprised that my memo does the trick – but if not, it will take me all of two minutes to sort through what it there.  At least, she knows where the “locker room” is!

only 525,600?

23 10 2008

Exactly one year ago yesterday, I took this photo.  Just a year – just a series of seconds that became minutes, minutes that ticked away into hours, hours into days and here we are today. So many things have changed and so many just the same as they were twelve months ago. 

I can waste so many minutes in a day or I can take a few and do something that is really important and meaningful. That is the really tricky part of managing my life. I’d like to be more careful in the next 525,600 minutes to do the right things.  A balance of minutes that nourish me and minutes that care for those around me in a million little ways to let them know they are loved and esteemed. 

Because we all know that our lives can change in a second…

well THAT explains it…

21 10 2008

I just got a message via Facebook that asked two questions that seem to be rolling around my life right now, “What? Why?”  She was responding to a sudden change in my “status” that said I was sitting in a hospital room in Indiana after high tailing it off the set in Michigan just a few hours earlier.  

The ‘ma’ has been hospitalized with a headache, dizziness, unsteady gate, high blood pressure and some confusion after a dentist’s appointment yesterday morning.  By early evening she was admitted for observation and tests.  So one minute I was at Meijer buying men’s white T-shirts for the talent and the next thing I knew I was on the highway headed south.  I gotta hand it to this hospital for having wireless so I can catch up on a million things I’ve been ignoring since the shoot began.  

OMG – where is my iPod?  It only took the two hours I was here last night and the few hours I’ve been here this morning to be really annoyed with her roommate who is probably in her 60’s. Until…I got to hear her gabbing with a young nurse who she thought had time to stand around and get the story.

I know there is COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – horrible cough – nasty sounding. The backstory is that this WOMAN spent 26 years working IN THE STEEL MILLS.  I would have pegged her for a union boss in a factory somewhere but the MILLS???  There weren’t too many woman in the Mills in those days and I totally get that.  

The level of harassment leveled against females back in the day was some crazy stuff.  She watched as guys instructed a newbee to put her hands just so to steady an engine as they hoisted some other piece of equipment over it…and voila – an “accident” that took the woman’s fingers.  But that woman is still in the Mills…working with less digits but plenty of guts.  Yikes!  Wouldn’t want to cross her in line at Walmart!

So – here I am waiting for explanations and listening to explanations – hearing things that make sense and at times left wondering…at least I have internet access.  It might just be a double post day!!!!

(photo used by permission ©michael reichmann @ http://www.luminous-landscape.com/1photo-pages/pouring-steel.shtml)

a special something

20 10 2008

In a very few days, I get to spend the weekend with two of my best friends from high school.  We’ve not seen each other in, ohhhh about fifteen years.  One of them has a house on the Big Lake and we’re meeting there.  In preparation, I’m gonna burn some CD’s of some of our favorite music…and I heard this the other day and instantly started to cry.

Happy Monday.

I dedicate this to my favorite Shop Girl who is working her ass off.

You intuitively carry Neil Young in your heart and you get your best music from that deep place in your soul…right where I was storing it all through the 70’s – never imagining that barely 10 years later you’d come around-and that you’d start writing the sweetest tunes ever when you reached the age I had been when I was on a steady Neil diet.  Full circle.  All my love and my best CSN&Y vinyl is yours.

Life is like an onion:

18 10 2008

you peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep.

Carl Sandberg

I just found two more blogs that inspired me to sit here and type even though I can’t see straight. Too tired to be here making any sense of anything – let alone writing, I’ll link you to them soon enough but getting my cursor where it belongs, hitting the right keys and copying URL’s is over the top right now. Let’s just revel in the fact that I am discipling myself to write something today. Any points for that?

Fourteen hour days take their toll on the 20 / 30 somethings – let alone someone almost twice their age. My normal pattern is to start with a photo then move on to the writing. The camera I’ve been borrowing is far far away – taking in images I only hope to view someday with my own eyes parked behind the lens. There are lots of choices in my iPhoto library so in the meanwhile I will use something already captured and make it work. Today, or rather tonight – this one works.

It took some real ahh haa moments thinking about the centering issues I was having, to discover what was really going on in my head. First, having to go back to Billy’s Doctor’s office…but this time it was her turn. Last time, we never even made it back to the “re-visit” that was scheduled for three days later – because by then he was in hospice. To physically step back into that space for the first time was hard even though I wasn’t consciously thinking about it at the time. The second whack upside the head was going back to the funeral home to help her choose the headstone. Tomorrow morning I’ll head out to another necessary evil. There is a Memorial Service being put on by hospice for everyone that lost loved ones in June, July and August. Layer by layer, by layer…peeling it back…

I heard a piece on NPR this week that took my breath away. Please do me the favor and take a minute to listen to Ashley Grashaw’s essay about the California wildfires and the very personal way they affected her family. Even though I was in tears because it all seems too recent and too painful to have to do some of the things she talks about, I was strangely relieved that “dismantling” quirky little things left behind by someone’s life is not to be rushed, very hard emotional work and should come with whatever time frame is appropriate for everyone involved.

So about those onions…eating onions for every meal, every day is not what I want to do, but they are really good, served up many ways. There are times that I just need to peel it all back layer by layer, bit by bit and get at what it is that is making my eyes water. But long ago, working for a chef in a restaurant kitchen, I learned some tricks of the trade to keep my eyes from overflowing. I’ll do the same with all of this. I’ll savor the taste…layer by layer.


travelin’ man and his orphans

17 10 2008

The Dr. is off to exotic places until next month leaving behind two four-legged orphans for me to deal with.  Maybe this is a good – It’s 5 a.m. and I have to be up to feed them so they won’t wake the rest of the house.  It is just the incentive I need to write everyday while it is still and quiet. Again, it’s not a bad time for him to be away from the natural disaster that is caused by a week of shooting.  Knowing me, it will take the following two weeks to get the place cleaned up post-production.

Day Two of shoot week is a little harder to face – the adrenaline gives way to accumulated exhaustion but there are five more days to go so no time for whining.  The good thing is that they are doing three different projects so there isn’t too much room for boredom.

DotCross decided to put out a call to some big time directors to give them the chance to be involved in part of this project and – wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles – they got someone who wanted to work for alot less than she would normally bring in doing national commericals, MTV and music videos (like for Gnarls Barkley!!!!) to work on something that can make a difference in the lives of teens.  So welcome to our little world Wendy Morgan

I’ll tell you more about the what they are filming tomorrow.  Besides, it’s now just after 6 a.m. and I need to get up and outta here real soon.  “And ACTION…”

hooray for hollyhood

16 10 2008

It was hours before dawn when my alarm sounded. Quickly swallowing two café con leches, I was headed to the grocery store 10 minutes after they opened. There wasn’t enough milk for all the coffee everyone was going to need today. Next, I was off to Shop Girl’s place to load the car with enough black pants, skirts and sweaters and white collared shirts to clothe an entire choral group…but she needed plenty of options for the twenty teens that were to be glued to desk chairs for the 10 hour work day.

We were some of the first ones at the location and it’s a good thing because before long the hallway was littered with film boxes, camera carts, screens and other gear particular to the likes of these guys. Soon after we rolled in the rack of clothes and got organized, the “talent” (kids that had to look like they were in school even though they were skipping school to be in a movie…talk about karma) started showing up. Fortunately, most had enough of their own clothes to look the part of uniformed “prisoners”. Luckily having done her homework, Shop Girl had extra things for needed fill-ins. Before we knew it they were calling “quiet on the set”…and we were rolling. Literally…

Next on the agenda was to return all the various and sundry black and white designs that we wouldn’t need for the next two days. Yes, the return desk at Target looks a little wonky-eyed at Shop Girl when she comes back two days after buying dozens of options to return all but a few. Her credit card company even called to ask if someone had stolen her card there were so many random charges on it these last few days.

It’s the magic of hollyhood. Once we returned that stash, we were off to buy more wardrobe options from Goodwill and Salvation Army for the next two day’s worth of shooting. The fittings are tomorrow evening so what doesn’t work then will be returned by Saturday morning. Get it? This is just too fun.

One thing is for sure – we will all sleep better tonight. The night before shooting starts is a no-sleeper in our house – too many things whiring around in the head of Best Boy…too much wondering if Shop Girl got all the right sizes…and for me the only excuse is it was a full moon and I never sleep during those. But tonight – once the first shots are “in the can” – everyone will rest easier. By the time we repeat this pattern for 7 days in a row of 10-12 hour days on set and 4-6 hours of prep work…it’s no wonder why Hollywood types are so whack.