Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Father's Day, Dave...And To All The Other Wonderful Fathers Out There, Just Like Him!

While I have never known the joy of a single embrace from my own father, I have felt the reflected warmth of the countless hugs that my daughters have received from theirs.  It is, perhaps, my father's very absence that makes me hold so dear what others enjoy, but may also take for granted; the exquisite bond between a father and his child. More than many, I think, I notice the interaction between them and whether they be family, friend or stranger the emotions evoked within me are always powerful, indeed.  Some moments are so tender that it makes my heart ache for that which I will never know, but, far more often than not, I just feel an inexplicable joy for that which I have witnessed. Through those moments I feel I know my own father, and never more so than when I watch my husband interact with our own four daughters.
I remember when Holly, our oldest, was about two years old.  Whenever my schedule permitted I would drive over to the GM Tech Center, where my husband was employed, and we would wait for him at the end of his workday.  Holly and I would stand at the end of the long pathway, and I would watch as Holly's eyes excitedly scanned all who passed through the doorway, until that wondrous moment when the father she adored would finally appear.  Then, as fast as her tiny toddler's legs would carry her, she would race with her curls flying wildly in the wind until, with great joy, she would be caught up into her father's waiting arms.  It was a sight so enchanting, that any others on the pathway would turn to watch the moment unfold along with me, and comment on the sweetness of the love the two of them, quite obviously, shared.
Neither the passage of years, nor the growing number of daughters did anything to diminish my husband's love for his girls.  To him, each was perfect; their successes were to be savored, and their transgressions overlooked.  This, of course, led to me becoming the disciplinarian of the family, and, as sometimes happens as children grow older, the exchanges between the disciplinarian and those who are being disciplined, occasionally, grow heated.   If Dave was present I would be sure to hear a plaintive plea from him that he wished we would all stop fighting.  I would remind him in a very loud voice that, when an adult disciplines a child, it is not called fighting; it is called parenting... but my efforts would be to no avail.  To him their goodness outweighed any wrongdoing, regardless of the situation.
In the heat of the moment I would shake my head in frustration but, later, when I was alone, I would often find myself smiling, as I thought to myself, "I bet my father would have loved me that much, too.  He would have always been on my side, no matter what."
What Dave lacked as a disciplinarian, he made up for as a proud papa.  I remember a time, a few years back, when Dave had gone to the bank to inquire about a home equity loan. On his second trip back I came along to sign all the paperwork with him.  As we sat down to wait for our representative Dave took out a PILE of pictures of the girls.
"What are those for?" I asked with astonishment.
"Oh, Kathy wanted me to bring them.  I told her all about the girls last time, so she wanted to see their pictures."
"Are you crazy?" I asked, in disbelief.  "This lady doesn't want to see pictures of our kids.  She doesn't even know us."
Just then the woman sat down.
"Oh good!"  she said.  "I was hoping you would remember to bring those."  I shook my head, in resignation.
Along with his ever present pile of pictures, he has been known to make copies of the girls' report cards, not just for the grandparents, but for his coworkers, as well.  Somehow they must find his pride endearing though because, whenever I see them, they always seem so genuinely happy about the girls' achievements.  For all I know there are hundreds of General Motor's workers with copies of my daughters' report cards proudly displayed on all of  their refrigerators.
His three oldest girls moved out earlier this year... so other houses are the places they now call home.  Our youngest daughter, Olivia, will be leaving for college in the fall, and the swiftness of these endings has been hard for him to bear.  I see him sometimes as he hangs his head, while sitting on his chair in the kitchen.
"I miss my girls, Amy.  I wish they were still all at home."....and, for a moment, I live vicariously through his love for his daughters. I imagine what it would feel like to have a father who missed me that much... and, I can tell you, I think it must be wonderful.  I am lucky to have married such a man, and my daughters are even luckier to have had him as their father.
Happy Father's Day Dave... and Happy Father's Day to all those other wonderful fathers out there, just like him.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

To Anna....With All My Love

There is an old saying about being lucky to have had three good friends in life, but in mine, I have found, I have been blessed with a great many more.  At the age of 52, I find myself surrounded by a great many people that I do not even consider to be just good friends, for they are my best friends.  I do not use that term lightly, for to do so, would diminish the term's value and meaning.  To me though, these individuals embody the very definition of the word "best".   They have truly celebrated the joys that life has brought me, as well as helped me to shoulder all my burdens.  Perhaps, it is when the burdens are the heaviest, that the depth of their friendships are demonstrated the clearest though, for joy is easy to share, but sorrow, not so much. It was often during those hardest of moments in life, the ones when hot tears burned my cheeks and when I could see tears of their own flowing down theirs that I truly understood how lucky I was to count them among my friends.   They were never just sad during the times when my heart ached; during those times their hearts ached, too.
There was a time in my life, when I had very few friends with whom I was close, and the ones that I did have were seldom women.  Those boys, now men, are still a part of my life, and remain as important to me as do my own two brothers.  What surprises me today though is that the majority of my best friends are women and I owe that, I think, to a few women in particular.  It is a group so small that I can count its number on a single hand. I met them at different times in my life, but it was their love and their loyalty, that truly enabled me to let down my guard, with so many others. They helped me to open my heart to all the other women who now hold such an important place within it.  These few are the best of the best, and to me their friendships are like the horizon, for I do not need continuous proof of its existence.  I know it is always close by, and that it goes on forever.  They are there for me without question, and the relationship is reciprocal.
Of these few there is one whose life is most intertwined with mine though, and her name is Anna.  She is truly remarkable in every way, and has been a part of my life for the last 27 years.  Our friendship began at work, but spilled over into our home lives, as we brought together our daughters, Holly and Alana, who were only a year apart, to begin a friendship, which still endures to this day.  Alana was the last of Anna's two children, while I went on to have three more, but Anna played as an important a role in my other daughters' lives, as she had in Holly's.  Their childhoods were filled with one night sleepovers at Anna’s that transformed into three day stays and, even then, they only came home when I resorted to threats.   She didn't make pancakes that came frozen out of a box...she made them from scratch and shaped them to look like Mickey Mouse.  I might have bought them their dolls, (although she bought Olivia a whole collection that she still has to this day), but it was Anna who, when the girls awoke one morning after a sleepover at her house, had crocheted the beautiful blankets that they found those dolls covered up with.  It was Anna who taught each one of them to swim and Anna who taught them how to fish, while I, for my part, stayed on dry land filming the events.  I have videos of her putting the disgusting worms on their lines, and then bravely removing the flapping fish from off of them, after they were caught. Anna has always been fearless. She sewed all 5,000 of the girls' annoying Girl Scout badges onto their vests, after coming over to my house and, to her great horror, seeing that I was attaching all of them with safety pins.  All their birthday cakes, as well as my own, were baked by Anna.  One year she made me one that was shaped like tea pot; not flat like a picture of a teapot, but three-dimensional, like a real one. It was so beautiful that I refused to allow anyone to eat it, and for three months I kept it, until it collapsed in a heap, much to Anna's amusement and to my dismay.  For Olivia, her Godchild, she sewed all of the Christmas outfits that she and Olivia would decide upon together, while pouring over patterns during the weeks preceding the holiday. Years later, with her usual flair for genius, she presented Olivia with a quilt that she made for her, consisting of swatches of fabric from every single one of those dresses she that she had so lovingly sewn for her.  One birthday, she and her husband, Mark, gave her a room as a birthday present.  They knew of the unused space we had underneath our basement stairs, and they surprised her by carpeting the floor and putting fabric over the ceiling.  They then filled it with hand sewn pillows of every shape imaginable, to rest upon, so that Olivia and her friends would have a cozy "oasis" to read and to play in.
She has stood by me in my hard times, too.  She was there at the hospital when Dave was first admitted and we found out that he had Multiple Sclerosis.  Her support for both of us has never wavered once, through all the years.  She made meals for my family after each of my back surgeries, and then spent hours while I recovered, cruelly beating me at Scrabble.
She has not only shared my personal joys, but often has been the reason for them; like when we would take vacations together to her family's cabin or to our travel trailer, in Port Sanilac.  One of my very favorite memories is when, while up for a fall weekend in Port Sanilac, she and I walked together, along the residential street that hugs the water.  We noticed that one of the residents had amassed an enormous pile of leaves on their front lawn so, without any words passing between us, we both suddenly burst into a run and jumped into the middle of them. Just two typical women in their 40's, behaving exactly as one would expect...if they only happened to be several decades younger than they were.  A car passing by us actually stopped to commend us on our decision.
There are so many more memories that I could share, but I think the point is made.  I have been blessed with the friendships of many remarkable women, and most definitely, by one named, Anna.  I am sure you are asking yourself at this point, "Well, I see why Amy wants her as a friend, but why does she want Amy?" ...Don't worry; I am not offended.  I asked Anna that question, myself, once.
"You make me laugh," was her reply...somehow, that has never seemed like reason enough.  Here's hoping that a heartfelt posting on a blog helps to even things up a little more.  Thank you, Anna...thank you for being my "best" best friend.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Today I decided to go to the laundry mat.  Quite a bit of laundry has accumulated around the house as I have been neglecting to do it, while laboring in my flooded basement.  I am not sure why there so much to wash, since Dave and Olivia have both clearly stated that none of the dirty clothes belong to them. It looks like it is their clothes, but obviously, they are not the individuals wearing them.  I am left to draw the conclusion that those rascally pups, Teddy and Scarlett, have been conspiring with Copper Cat to play a prank on me.  I  can see the three of them now,  creeping through the house, late at night, working together to quietly open all the drawers and closet doors, and then, while clutching the clean clothes in their teeth, sneaking carefully back to the laundry room to add them to the growing pile.  Then, I can visualize the three of them going into the living room and all rolling on their backs, while quietly laughing; delighted with each other, as well as their amusing antics. 
In any case, my washing machine has been acting persnickety lately, (I realize now as I write this that the machine is probably a part of the aforementioned conspiracy), and periodically, it will not properly drain the water after the rinse cycle.  This forces me to have to occasionally, wring the clothes out by hand, which, since I am presently on medical leave due to a problem with my neck, right arm and hand, is very painful, in addition to being very annoying.  That being said, I decided to bundle up all the clothes and venture off to the laundry mat.  After packing 6 large black garbage bags of clothes, assorted laundry products, two books, hangers, and a bottle of water, I was on my way.
I stopped at the bank to get some currency for the money changer, and it is a very good thing I did so.  The cheapest washing machine available is two dollars a load, and the dryers operate for 8 minutes for a quarter.  (I am strongly considering investing in my own laundry mat, as it appears to be a very profitable venture.) I unloaded the considerable  baggage from my car, and was greeted with curiosity by the other customers present.  Undaunted, I exchanged my first $15 of currency for quarters and proceeded to place the seven loads of clothes, that didn't belong to Dave or Olivia, into the washing machines.  When I had finished loading I happily picked up my book to read, but first, glanced at the machine I had initially loaded to see how much time I had left before the load was finished.  It read 2 minutes.  The eighteen minutes it took to wash a load of clothes had gone by quite a bit faster than I had anticipated.  I went back to the change machine and got 10 more dollars in quarters.  While I waited for it to process the change I perused the signs that were posted in the vicinity.  "Washers have EXTREMELY HOT WATER.  Use care!"  Then, I noticed something about machine #19 and #20, but by then my change was ready, so I didn't finish reading it. 
I began the lengthy process of switching the clothes from the washers to the dryers, and then starting them after picking the appropriate dry cycles.  Suddenly, there was silence; dead silence. 
I looked around at the other customer's puzzled expressions as we attempted to ascertain what had just happened.  No one spoke a solitary word, and since every single washer and dryer had simultaneously stopped working, it was very, very quiet.
Finally, since it was clear that someone needed to say something, I spoke up.
"Hmmmm."  I said,  "I didn't see this one coming.  My washing machine isn't working right, so I brought all my clothes to the laundry mat, and now it isn't working right either.  I know I had a lot of clothes, but  still...."
An elderly woman who shared my sense of humor said, "Yes, that was pretty inconsiderate of you.  You broke ALL the machines, instead of just one."
Just then, an employee walked out and asked what had happened.
"This lady broke the laundry mat."  the elderly woman happily informed her.
The employee began to look at me with her eyes narrowed, and an expression that did not convey any amusement at the comment.
"Ahhhh....Just kidding."  I said.   " I really don't know why your laundry mat is broken, but I feel confident that I am not the one who did it," I added uneasily...even though, whenever something breaks it is USUALLY because I did it. 
Just then another woman, an angel really, said,   "No, no...this woman didn't break the laundry mat.  The power must have just gone out."
Together, we all turned and looked at the beautiful sunshine outside and the cloudless sky. 
"Yes," I said emphatically.  "That must be it.  The power went out  due to this inclement weather!" 
Thankfully, just then all the machines started back up in unison. 
"Thank God!!"  I said, sincerely.  " I would have been very upset if I had been forced to pay a million dollars to repair the whole laundry mat."  We all returned to our laundry.
After a lengthy amount of time had gone by, I completed my laundry and started to my car.  As I passed the sign by the coin changer I paused for a moment to finish reading it.  It stated, "Do not use the  #19 and #20 dryers at the same time!!!"   Nothing else... no ominous explanation as to what might happen if one did. On my return trip to get my remaining clothes I checked to see if I had been using  #19 and #20 at the same time.....and indeed, I had.  I think I understand the reason why the sign was posted now.  On the other hand, it might have just been the weather.  Happy Friday the 13th everybody!

Friday, May 6, 2011


Being a mother is a lot of hard work.  It is so much more than just starting your little ones out in the right direction, and then taking care of all their bumps and bruises, both physically and emotionally, along the way.  I think, in fact, that is probably the easiest part.  The hard stuff starts when you have to let go of them.  When you have to stand aside, as they go off in their OWN direction, even if you're worried that it might be the wrong one.  You know in your heart, that you won't always be around to take care of those bumps and bruises; the ones that you are afraid they are going to end up with, on that particular path.  So all of us, in our own way, strive to give our children the tools, for the "picking yourself back up and dusting yourself off" parts of life, and then just hold our collective breaths and watch our babies go.  It's brutal, but, hopefully, we know they are going to be okay in the end....even if we find ourselves humming the lyrics from Cat Stevens', "Wild World" all the time we are watching them from the distance.

You know I've seen a lot of what the world can do
And it's breakin' my heart in two
Because I never wanna see you a sad girl
Don't be a bad girl
But if you wanna leave, take good care
I hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there's a lot of bad and beware.

The two best tools my own mother gave me, and the ones that I hope that I, too, passed on to my children are a sense of humor, and the gift of knowing all about the mistakes that their mother made in life.  It is so easy as a parent to share all of our triumphs and successes, and it is human nature to be little more reticent about all of our own bumps and bruises that we have endured along the way... those are embarrassing.  Those mistakes my mother made though, along with the sense of humor that she viewed them with, are the very things  that sustained me the most during my own times of hardship.  Knowing, that even my mom, a woman that I hold in  the highest regard, could, occasionally, be pretty darn dumb, yet still laugh about it later, provided me with the courage to do the same.  It was in those moments, after I had run as fast as I could, directly into a pile of stupidity, that her honesty about her own mistakes gave me the strength to go on again.  I never doubted for a minute that my mother was a success; that was a given.  The thing I was the most grateful for though, was knowing that she wasn't ALWAYS a success, and, that not being one every time, did nothing to diminish the way I felt about her.  I hope I have given the same gifts to my own daughters.  In fact, I believe I have been even MORE generous than my own mother, in providing them with a multitude of mistakes and missteps that I, myself, have made along the journey. Frankly, I  have given them a veritable treasure trove of cautionary tales from which to draw upon, as well as to laugh about.  Hopefully now, when they are running into their own roadblocks in life they won't get too discouraged.  They can think of their mother and say, "You know, I remember something stupid like this that my mother did, and I still loved her.  In fact, we laughed together about it....I guess I will make it through this, after all."
Happy Mother's Day everyone!  May God Bless each of you, and all of your beautiful families!  And, on behalf of children everywhere, thank you for all of your mistakes!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"BRING TWO OF EVERY SORT OF ANIMAL"... but we just brought our two dogs and two cats.

A few days ago I went down into our basement, and as I walked across the carpeted floor I noticed a very distinct "squishing" sound.  Much to my dismay, I realized that part of our basement was flooded.  Puzzled, I checked our ceiling tiles to see if water was leaking from them.  This may seem odd to city folks, but shortly after we moved out to Romeo we did suffer a pretty bad leak from our ceiling.  We discovered that chipmunks had somehow gotten into our basement, and apparently, as one of our neighbors explained to us, they became thirsty and needed  water; to accomplish this they ate through some plastic water lines in the ceiling that were used in connection with our water softening system. As a result, our ceiling tiles became saturated with water, and began raining on our carpet.  Since chipmunks causing it to rain in the basement was a new concept to me this incident made an indelible impression on me.  In fact, because of this negative conditioning, I ALWAYS check the ceiling whenever someone's floor is flooded. (Not everyone shares my wealth of knowledge in this area, and, therefore, may be unaware that chipmunks could be to blame.)
This time, however, the source of our problem was a broken sump pump, so Dave made a midnight run to the closest Meijer store, a mere 14 mile journey, round-trip, and bought a new one.  He came home with a top of the line sump pump; a sump pump so impressive that it could probably drain Lake Huron, if needed.  He regaled me with information about all of its features and functions, and, sadly, I found myself listening with great interest.  I didn't even mind the cost, because, now that I live in Romeo, a sump pump is far more important to me than all those frivolous things I used to spend my money on, like clothes or perfume.  Dave installed our shiny new sump pump, and the next day I went out and rented a "Rug Doctor" and began hours of carpet cleaning.  Following our considerable efforts, made even harder since we are both somewhat broken, we conquered our flood, along with the help of a multitude of fans, and electric heaters.  We returned our "Rug Doctor," and went home; secure in the knowledge that we were now the proud owners of the best, damn sump pump in all of Romeo, as well as the driest basement.   Our happiness lasted for about all of two days.
I had fallen asleep on the couch sitting upright and uncomfortably, due to the fact that we were having a torrential downpour, accompanied by thunder and lightning.  The reason for my discomfort was because whenever there is thunder and lightning my pups, Teddy and Scarlett, are filled with anxiety and therefore must sit on, or in close proximity to, a human's lap for the duration of the storm. This time period could be up to and including all of eternity, if necessary. I woke up, pups still on my lap, to hear Dave informing me that our power had gone out during the night.  We both had appointments that morning, so we left the house in the hopes that our power would be restored by the time we returned.  It was....but not before our basement had flooded again.  Even the best damn sump pump in all of Romeo is ineffective, if one has no electricity with which to run it.
This time, due to the aforementioned torrential downpour, we had much more water.  There was water in every carpeted closet, carpeted cupboard floor, and all manner of nook and cranny.  Unfortunately, these were all the very places that I used to conceal a plethora of messy boxes and crates, so as to fool my guests when they come over, into believing that I am an exceptional housekeeper.  Clearly, I am not.  Once again, we rented a "Rug Doctor" but this time we needed to sort through 29 years of accumulated items; those items that are SO IMPORTANT that you absolutely cannot throw them out... but that you never actually look at again, once they are hidden in a closet.  Thus began the real cleaning.  Together Dave and I soldiered on, undaunted by the magnitude of our undertaking.
"Be ruthless," I told Dave. "Don't be afraid to throw anything out if it is wet, or if you can't figure out what it is!"  I felt empowered by my own words, and began throwing out bag after bag of unnecessary items.  Dave wandered over, and glanced at some of the items.
"Hey, isn't that the Bunn coffee maker that I bought you?  That cost a lot of money. Why are you throwing that out?"
"It doesn't work right, and Barb bought me the most awesome coffeemaker known to man.  I haven't a clue as to why I didn't throw this old one out to begin with."
"Okay, but what about this thing?  What is it, and why are we throwing it out?"  Dave asked again, holding up the object.
"Oh," I answered. "That is a food processor.  You gave it to me about 25 years ago I think, but I have never used it.  I considered trying to use it a few months back, but I couldn't figure out how it worked.  I am pretty sure important parts of it are someone who wants to process foods. Frankly Dave, it wasn't the best present for me.  Maybe you thought it would make me a better cook, like my sister, but, obviously, you were mistaken. It would have been much better to give it to her, and then ask her to invite us over for dinner.  I wish I would have thought of that, but it's too late now.  It has been flooded on, in addition to collecting dust for 25 years, and today it's going to go."
Dave frowned, and DID NOT put the offending food processor in the garbage. I waited patiently for him to become distracted, and then put it in myself.  I felt the weight of the food processing world, lifting from my shoulders!!
Together we forged on, puzzling over parts and items that we had saved for a variety of unknown reasons, and that now, after these many years had passed, left us totally baffled, as to their purpose. Out they all many, in fact, that we may have to borrow garbage cans from neighbors to contain them all.
Tomorrow, we will begin again, but in the end, it's all good.  When we are through we will have both the cleanest basement in all of Romeo, as well as the best damn sump pump in town!!   (AND, I finally got rid of that annoying, food processor...sigh, 29 years of terrible cooking and we're still married!  It's got to be love. )