Call Me Crazy….

I’m returning to the scene of many a days of drama and trauma. Yep. I’ve joined sis and company on their road trip. They left their home in Northern Virginia and made a stop in Alabama to spend a few days with Rocket-man and me. And, with that, I decided to accompany them the rest of their way to their destination.

Carefree.

Yep.

Call me crazy if you will. Yes, I know. I’m fresh off a three-month stint in Carefree following the passing of my step-father and with all the sadness, angst, and hard work (including many a head-banging-born-of-frustration days) that followed and yet I’m going back to all of that?! I’ve got a person or two shaking their heads over it. At least Rocket-man understands…as does my sis and a few other folks. Lest you think I’m completely mad just know there is more here than meets the eye. There is an ulterior motive….a grand agenda if you will….

It’s a ROAD TRIP and though I’ve done this exact road trip a total of six times now, this one is different. It’s with sis and company. Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona……

How’s it going you ask? I’m having fun! Even the two-day drive through Texas has been a blast. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve driven through Texas and loathed the miles upon miles of …well…MILES. Nothingness miles. No Starbucks….not even a Cracker Barrel in site for hundreds and hundreds of miles. But this time was different. Country music (can you believe it?), Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and occasionally classical pieces kept us musically entertained along with Go Fish, picture-taking, pit stops, lots of silly-ness, and more.

And, after more than ten years of having him as part of the family, I’ve gotten a real appreciation for my bro-in-law’s LA roots (LOUISIANA that is!) to include some excellent “low-fat” (um….sadly not) cuisine. And tonight I did something I haven’t done in decades (though I won’t elaborate on just how many decades)….I went bowling!

Yes indeed. I probably won’t be able to write my name tomorrow after two hours of bowling but that matters not. I had fun groovin’ to the exceedingly loud music under the glittery disco-lights, throwing many gutter balls and watching Alexandre-the-Greatest throw strikes! Best yet…totally out of character for me…..I drank a WHOLE bottle of beer! Rocket-man didn’t believe it until sis snapped a photo of me, beer in hand, and sent it to him. It took me two hours to finish the bottle, but I did it!

Bro-in-law is still smiling with satisfaction. “Country music, bowling, and beer! You stay with us long enough and we’ll thoroughly corrupt you!”

I may be crazy, but I’m having fun on my first road trip with Alexandre-the-Greatest and his parents. Yep, family has its ups and downs but this adventure is definitely coloring my world in a happy way and its just what I needed to put certain things into perspective.

Of course I cannot say this adventure has been perfect; Rocket-man isn’t at my side. I do feel many twinges of guilt that he is at home working the salt mines while I enjoy a cross-country adventure. I am thoroughly blessed that he understands my Chihuly Blue heart and supports the twists and turns and ups and downs of every part of me. “Have fun,” he lovingly says “But do NOT stay gone for three months!” No worries there my dear!

So tomorrow late, we’ll arrive in Carefree and the work–and no doubt lots of drama–begins again. I’ll help sis with things for a week or two in our continued effort to get mom settled (although folks, prayers would be greatly appreciated as things on that front are NOT going anywhere near as well as we had hoped)….and then….I’ll fly home to my Rocket-man and The Poodle. With any luck, we will be on the homeward stretch to figuring out this whole Carefree chapter and getting things settled in the best way possible for our mother.

Dreary Weather is OK

It’s a rainy, dreary day in Middle Earth and it looks like our wet weather will continue well into next week.  That’s OK…mostly.  Lots going on in the world so I’m not complaining!   I’m grateful we had two straight days of perfectly lovely weather…which means minimal use of hair products. Yesterday morning it was a dry, cool 60 degrees when I stepped out to take The Poodle on his morning constitutional. The Poodle seemed just as happy as I for the cooler temps as he didn’t lag behind one bit on the climb uphill. I returned from our walk just in time to kiss Rocket-man good-bye before he headed off to the salt mines. I’ve been home two weeks and it’s nice to have had this much time with him. Next week he’ll be gone again on travel.

“Good-bye my baby-doll,” he says as he sets his baseball cap on his head and puts the top down on his car.  “I’m off to work to earn money so that I can buy kibble for the pooch.” “Or baubles for your baby doll,” I sometimes playfully add. Truthfully, its been a strained couple of months financially with all the happenings on the Arizona front. So, no…I don’t need anything sparkly….just a good glass of wine in the evenings and pretty much I’m good.

Yes….Rocket-man often says funny and downright adorable things…but sometimes he goes overboard and says something thoroughly inappropriate. I’ll never forget such a transgression while we were dating: I had playfully stuck my tongue out at him over something silly we were discussing and he replied, straight-faced, “No thank you, I use toilet paper.” Excuse me?! I was thoroughly mortified. Keep in mind I was brought up in ramrod straight-laced fashion by a set of parents each with their unique capacity for overbearing strictness. I wasn’t even allowed to eat fried chicken with my fingers let alone even think of something so… um…..uncouth. And yes, it was almost a game-changer for tying the knot with Rocket-man but I reasoned that he had some pretty important life-skills…like he could add lots of numbers up in his head (without the use of a calculator) and better still, he didn’t blink an eye when I took his Pittsburgh Steeler bedspread off his bed and permanently retired it to a closet.

So, on this dreary weather day….a day also of unbelievable sadness as the world seems to be getting crazier with each passing moment, I’m gonna embrace Rocket-man’s off-beat sense of humor and take pleasure in being able to relax after months of family sadness and drama.  This day will include a nap, a good book and some time with my new fitness toy….a $49.95 weighted jump-rope that I found on The Grommet,  http://www.thegrommet.com/sports-fitness.  It’s a terrific jump rope folks and since I cannot run for cardio, I’m gonna jump…until my knees again say otherwise that is!  Yep…expensive…. but I’m worth it.

Cross Rope weighted jump rope

Cross Rope weighted jump rope

 

Acclimation…So Not Fun

My body (and soul) still has not acclimated to being back in Middle Earth. I’m not complaining folks; it’s lovely to be back home…back to “normal” as it were…a new normal  (three months in the Sonoran desert did something to me which I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means!). In any event, The Poodle is eating again. He’s the only one that lost weight through this entire ordeal What’s up with that?!  And, Rocket-man is more than thrilled to have someone direct him (OK…he calls it nagging) again about the proper way to make the bed…not to mention the “honey do” list which is back on the front burner after three months of neglect.

So why aren’t I delirious with joy? At the moment it’s purely weather related. This acclimation process–defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as the “physiological adjustment by an organism to environmental change”–is so not fun. The humidity is literally sapping every ounce of energy I have. I can walk miles in the 100-degree plus heat of the desert but have trouble making it around the block in this humidity!  humidity2

Just a few weeks ago I was hauling boatloads of stuff into a flatbed trailer as I continued the process of de-cluttering mom’s house. Under intensely blue cloudless skies, literally baking under the scorching Arizona sun, where temps reached the low 100’s for weeks on end, I never once was drenched in sweat…. even through all the labor-intensive work around the house and during five-mile power walks  every morning.  But here in Middle Earth, just the 20 steps to the mailbox leaves me dripping in sweat and wanting to change clothes once back indoors. Walking the poodle around the block, down the hill and back up makes me ready for my second cold shower of the day. Add a work-out at the gym and I’m showering again. Yep…I’m spending a lot of time in the shower not to mention I’m back to using a lot of product on my hair in an effort to keep it in my zip code. humidity3

So I figure this acclimation thing is gonna take some time.  I’m trying to get my head back into the game in more ways than one. Yesterday I even got back in the cycling saddle. I’m way behind training for our October cycling vacation. We put in 30 miles and It trashed me for the rest of the day. Rocket-man says it’s just because I haven’t cycled in many months (Translation: You are out of shape Cristina). Ah… but I’m blaming it on Middle-Earth humidity. Yeah…I’ll admit it. It’s an ego thing. I’m only human.

Happy Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day. My Facebook friends have been posting Happy Father’s Day comments and photos for the past few days. Yep….lots of photos of dads with chubby little ones in their laps and other lovely…happy… childhood pics.

I cannot do the same, unfortunately. I don’t have any happy childhood photos to share of my father (and honestly, few with my mother). I also have to rack my brain to find happy childhood memories with my dad. Often through the years I’ve been very sad about this. Well…OK….downright depressed with a little bit of envy in the mix for those daughters that have terrific relationships with their dad. My father wasn’t the best father on the planet…in fact light years far from it. He had a great many demons to deal with and he wasn’t able to deal with them very well, if at all. Naturally this made him extremely difficult to live with (I’m being ever so diplomatic here folks). He took his dissatisfaction with himself and the world out on my twin brother and I…and sometimes on mom too. Certainly I won’t go into any great detail about what his behavior entailed; it’s extraordinarily painful and really, unnecessary in any case because it’s in the past. Suffice it to say that life with dad left scars on everyone.

So it comes as no surprise that I was estranged from my dad for the better part of my teens and all of my adulthood….until his passing some years ago. Perhaps its the heat of the Carefree desert that has affected my brain….or perhaps it is as simple as mellowing with age…like a fine wine….but here in this moment I’d like to share at least ONE good memory of my father. If there were more than one….well…I’d share those too, but lots of “stuff” is buried deep (no doubt the bad along with any good) and most likely all that stuff wouldn’t surface anyway unless hypnotism or years of psychoanalysis were involved. It’s probably better that way!

Anyhow….

Here goes.

I grew up with classical music in the house. Mom played beautiful classical music on the piano almost daily (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin….etc., etc.). And on the radio? There may as well have been only ONE station; only classical music was allowed in the house. It was simply the law of the land and honestly, I didn’t know any different. Until, that is, the day that dad gave me a Bell and Howell cassette player and with it a cassette tape. I want to say the year was 1972.

What cassette tape did dad give me you ask?

Ah….wait for it…..

Here’s where you folks are gonna laugh….and I’m OK with that!

Dad gave me a cassette of the music of Englebert Humperdinck.

OK. You can stop laughing now.

Seriously.

I loved my little Bell and Howell cassette recorder. After listening for hours to Humperdinck’s 1968 hits “Spanish Eyes” and “Shadow of your Smile” I was hooked….on music other than Beethoven and Mozart. Truth be told, looking back, I think dad gave me the music to spite mom which is quite possibly why I felt disloyal to my mother for some years until I learned that she had a penchant for Johnny Cash, of all people! Then I felt betrayed; All those years feeling guilty for listening to something other than classical music (which often entailed the volume being turned down very low so as not to annoy mom) and she tells me she likes this somber country music guy perennially dressed in black? Geesh!

Dad also let me listen to his Glen Campbell and John Denver tapes. I must have played John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” a million times. I swooned whenever I heard his voice on the radio. After John there was Simon and Garfunkel, The Beetles, Joni Mitchell, Helen Reddy, The Bee Gees, and Steely Dan. And on, and on……

So on this Father’s Day, I’m remembering my dad. Yes….A dad with so many strikes against him in the parenting department that it’s a wonder I didn’t turn out to be a monster myself. But as it so often happens, there was a silver lining in the dysfunction that colored my childhood black….Dad gave me the gift of loving popular music. I wish I would have kept that old Bell and Howell player if nothing else as a tangible reminder of something special that my dad gave to me.

Thanks Dad.

One Foot in Front of The Other

“One foot in front of the other,” she says….

I hear these words from mom as I prepare lunch for us today. She’s on the phone talking with my sis. Thankfully, mom’s attitude and mood is markedly different from the day before and though I should be happy about this, I can only be cautiously (and cynically) optimistic. The monster roller-coaster ride after Kurt’s passing continues and although mom is much more pleasant today I’m still feeling the effects of yesterday. In a word, I am exhausted.

Fortunately I don’t have to do much with meal preparation today since we’ll be dining on leftovers from a delicious meal prepared the day before by my friend visiting from Northern Virginia. “Evil Twin” is arguably not the best moniker for my lovely friend but trust me folks, it’s meant to be endearing and it seemed perfectly suited to a moment in time during our first months together as office mates over 14 years ago. It’s a name that stuck and we both treasure it.

I’m counting down the days when I can return home….I’ve got three weeks to go and I’m not sure I will arrive at my destination with my head and heart in one piece. Point in fact: I teared-up today at the check-out counter at the grocery store. The cashier didn’t have the price on an item that I had placed in my shopping cart. Well,” she said “I’ll just charge you 50 cents for this.”

“Oh thank you,” I said with fatigue in my voice. “Every little bit helps right now,” I said. I went on to share that I’ve been in Arizona for over two months now trying to help my disabled mother in the aftermath of her husband’s (my step-father) passing. She goes on the share that she took care of her disabled mother for twenty years. At this, I start crying and of course, I’m thoroughly embarrassed. I’m suddenly conscious of an older gentleman standing behind me in the check-out line so I try to quickly pull myself together. I’m trying to swipe my credit card but can barely follow the prompts through eyes blurred with tears. “I don’t know how you did that,” I said. “Truthfully,” said the woman, “I was much younger and if I had to do that now, I couldn’t.”

I didn’t even bother to go into my story of having to take care of my mother in my teens, when she was bed-ridden for nearly six months….or her time living with me after I married for the first time….or years later through other health issues. No doubt that would cause a torrent of tears on this sympathetic stranger with a New Jersey accent.

Yes folks, I’m worn out…physically and mentally…and the ordeal is not over, not by a long shot. There are simply too many days where I feel lost in a fog of exhaustion and sadness as I deal with a mother who not only refuses to help herself but refuses to cooperate with her daughters too, in the process of moving foward. Sis and I are doing sommersaults practically Cirque du Soleil style trying to get our mother to understand that she must move forward and live the best life she can for the years that are left. I firmly believe this is possible although mom does not. Her mood swings are (and have always been) a roller-coaster ride that would put any of the Six Flags parks to shame. Still folks, I am embracing this “UP” kind of a day with mom and I’ll cling tightly to my childishly hopeful exuberance that mom is turning the corner and will….this time….move forward with positive purpose.

The silver lining in all of this (and really, there are many) is the love and support of treasured people along the way. “Evil Twin” listened to days of my Good, Bad, and the Ugly stories….as did my California “mom” when she visited for a long weekend. They provided strong shoulders and loving hugs during a tremendously difficult time and though they perhaps had strong opinions or judgements of their own about what they witnessed and heard during their visit, they kept them to themselves providing unconditional love and support. And of course, my most cherished champions of all…Rocket-man, sis and bro-in-law….I could not have lasted a day without their love.

Truly….Love (and time) heals all things.

No Ordinary Hawk

So I’m up on my mom’s roof watching the sunset. It’s where I go most evenings now to catch my breath after a long day of dealing with the Carefree mess. It’s where I attempt to connect with what’s left of myself and, if I’m not spent, with Rocket-man and my sis too.

There are about 10 steps up to a small “observation” area on the roof. There’s just a small, weather-worn glass outdoor table there now (used to be chairs too but the intense heat of the desert sun ruined those some years ago). On this evening I recall I’d told my sis and bro-in-law just weeks before that we needed a hammock up here so that we could lay comfortably to watch the dancing stars at night instead of standing and getting achy necks in the process.

On most nights during every visit over the past 15 years I’d go up to the observation area to watch the sunset. And, if sis and family were visitiing
we ‘d all hang out together long after the sun went down, heads cranked towards the night sky waiting for a star (or stars) to fall. Sunsets in the desert are amazing; there is rarely a late afternoon that goes by without a spectacular show of reds, oranges, pinks, purples, blues and grays. I’ve spilled many tears on the roof during moments of reflection over one thing or another….and I’ve whooped cries of joy over seeing a shooting star or the twinkling brilliant stars of the big dipper. It’s been a magical place …mom’s roof top….always offering a splendid end to the day, no matter what drama was thrown our way. I will sorely miss this breathtaking ritual when all is said and done.

Therefore I am making a point of watching the sunset every evening while I take care of business here in Carefree. I had my glass of chilled white wine in one hand and my iPhone in the other as I made my way up to the roof. I decided to call my sis to check on her before the day was done. She’s been as stressed as I with all that is going on in her life, not to mention the added weight of our mom’s situation on all of us.

Despite the three hour time difference, she picks up the phone on the second ring and is happy to chat for awhile. As I recount the day of all the trials and tribulations over our mother, a movement catches the corner of my eye. I look downstairs towards the pool and see what looks like a very large insect from my vantage point. I continue to talk to my sis and decide to walk down the steps for a closer look.

Oh My God!

“Oh My God,” I say to sis almost dropping my phone in the pool (this would be my brand NEW phone, as the previous one got dropped into the pool just two weeks before!). “I can’t believe what I am seeing!”

“What’s wrong CC,” sis says with alarm in her voice.

“There is a large black wasp literally dragging a tarantula around the pool!”

“What?” says sis. “No way.”

“Yes! Oh God….wait….,” I say struggling to find the photo app on my iPhone without hanging up on her. “I’m trying to take a picture. You’re not going to believe it,” I say. I quickly took several photos with my phone and then realized the easier thing to do would be to switch to FaceTime and let my sis see the unfolding drama for herself.

“Wait,” I tell her. “Let me put you on FaceTime so that you can see for yourself.” Once done I try to get a little closer to the wasp; I’m holding my phone as close as reasonably possible (and given that I am terrified of most insects and particularly spiders, I’d say that was mighty brave of me!). Meanwhile sis is just as incredulous as I at seeing this wasp drag something that is three times it’s own size and for quite a long haul around the pool.

The wasp continued dragging the tarantula completely around the perimeter of the pool. I kept following the wasp while holding the phone out as close as possible. Then the wasp let’s go of the tarantula who appears to be dead (all legs pointing upwards towards heaven!) and starts buzzing around…at which point I jump back in retreat, making my way to the opposite end of the pool. I’m thinking (rightfully so) that I’ve been made and therefore I’ve royally pissed off the wasp. I continue watching for a few minutes while excitedly talking to my sis. Then the wasp goes back to the paralyzed tarantula and begins to drag it anew….towards a bed filled with pebble rocks.

Sis wanted me to run inside and get my Canon camera but darkness was fast approaching and there was no way I wanted be stuck outside in the dark with these characters. I bid my sis goodnight and then went to tell my mom what interesting event I’d just witnessed. Mom proceeds to tell me something which I think is entirely wacky so I had to check it out for myself.

A quick Google search confirms what my mother shared, which is: The wasp is called a Tarantula Hawk and it just loves tarantula’s but not necessarily to eat! No ordinary bird– hawk obviously, the female Tarantula Hawk paralyzes it’s enemy (the tarantula) with her stinger that’s up to 1/3 of an inch long and drags it back to her den whereupon she bores a whole and implants a single egg into the belly of the tarantula…carefully mind you because the goal is to keep the tarantula alive as long as possible. Once the larva hatches the offspring dines upon the tarantula.

Folks, I absolutely loathe spiders  but I can tell you I’m feeling mighty sorry for the tarantula. What a terrible way to go!

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Just One Day Off….please!

It’s a damned good thing that I love the desert.  It’s truly the silver lining during this…um…oh so “interesting” time in my life.

I’ve been in Carefree approaching six weeks now and still have two months to go, (that is, if this insane plan is still on course).  Naturally under the circumstances, my time here is anything but carefree.  Each day is filled with either some sort of catastrophe or an emotional outburst.  The other morning I thought I would have a repreive from both.  No so. The roof guy happened to stop by early. I was just starting out on my morning walk. He wanted to give me an update on the roof repair to mom’s house (of paramount urgency before the house gets put on the market.).

“We should be finished by Monday,” said intensely blue-eyed Ben. “There’s just one area that we cannot address due to the bees.”

“The bees?” I ask. “I thought we had already taken care of that problem!”

Indeed, just five days before we had plunked down another $350 to get rid of a hive of epic proportions. Those particular bees were dangerously aggressive (a story for another time). They had been housed in an enormous dead saguaro on the east end of mom’s house and had already sent three bee guys running down the street, not to mention leaving 12 stingers in one of the pest control guys…and that was through his bee suit!

Blue-eyed Ben points to the west end of the house. “Looks like they are regrouping to new digs ma’am. They are swarming around one of the Vega’s that we need to caulk. I’ll show you.”

We walk to the west end of the house, carefully stepping around the numerous cacti that Kurt had planted through the years. “Shit,” I say, upon hearing the unmistakeable loud hum as we approach the end of the house.

Ben points up towards the roof.

Oh my God. There, on one of the wooden Vega’s, is a swarm of what must be thousands of bees! Naturally I unleash a few expletives ending with “Can’t you cut us a break God? Just ONE F-ing day of nothing going wrong….please!”

Ben seems quite un-ruffled by my rant. He whips out his cell phone and says he must video it for his son. “He’s in the second grade,” he explains, “and he’s studying insects. He’s really gonna love this.”

With a heavy sigh I reach for my own phone and once again call the pest control company. I leave a message and hang-up and then start venting to blue-eyed Ben….a complete stranger mind you…about everything that has hit the fan in the last three weeks. “It’s one drama after another and money is flying out the window like there is no tomorrow,” I say with tears welling-up in my eyes. “And now the stupid pest control company wants to charge $1,800 to haul off the dead saguaro that had housed those terrorists bees on the east side of the house!” Exhaustion from it all has me in full rant mode now.

Ben looks at me with disbelief. “$1,800 to haul off that saguaro? That’s ridiculous,” he says.

I try to explain: “We have to get rid of it because those terrorist bees will be back…it’s just a matter of time. My mom’s already been stung and these bees are extremely dangerous. The hive that’s housed in it is apparently the largest seen in the area in years. The pest control company said that it must be chopped up in bits because of it’s heft and then carefully extracted from the area so that honey from the hive doesn’t get onto the driveway; they say it’ll stain the cement badly and it will be a mess to get out. We wanted to burn it but it’s been too windy.”

“I can haul it off for $200. Our equipment truck will be able to handle the load. We can do it for you next week.”

I’ll be honest folks….I was a breath away from kissing blue-eyed Ben.

“Oh my God….thanks Ben….I so appreciate your help,” I said as I shake his hands with heartfelt gratitude.

It’s one day at a time to be sure. But in the meantime, I’d like just one day off from problems….

pretty please, that is.

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