Mortality, cont., Simple Thanks, “Sin Boldly,” and Whatever I Fear

 

I know it might be considered a bit morbid to troll about in old cemeteries.  As a kid cemeteries used to scare the living hell out of me (along with just about everything else, so go figure) but today I find certain cemeteries to be particularly serene.  In spite of the “buy one get one free” sign in front of the cemetery (Chapel Heights Memorial Gardens) where my grandparents are buried, it’s actually a very peaceful place to hang out.  People fish in the creek that runs in front of the cemetery which could be seen as irreverent by some, but I don’t think my grandparents would mind.  They always enjoyed fishing.

I’ve always loved willow trees.  This is the view of the creek that runs in the front of the Chapel Heights Memorial Gardens.  The peculiar thing about Chapel Heights, as far as cemeteries go, is that the only grave markers they allow are simple flat ones- like Grandpa’s Army marker. There are no obelisks, or statues, or ostentatious carvings. From a distance it simply looks like a park.  The beauty there is more natural than historical.   When the weather improves some (but before the mosquitoes take over) I will need to take another roadtrip up there to just sit and hang out for an afternoon.

My favorite cemetery (now that does sound morbid, but what the hey) from a historical perspective, is the Marion Cemetery – right across from the Harding Memorial on SR 423. The Merchant Ball is there, and you can see where it rotates on its base even though no one can explain how or why it does.   Some of the best examples I have seen of maudlin Victorian era gravestones anywhere are in the Marion Cemetery.  I have taken pics of a few of them (the one at the top of this page is one of my favorites) but I don’t have enough space in my memory card for all the really good ones.  I could literally spend a week in there wandering about and taking pics of cool old Victorian headstones.   There must have been a lot of people in Marion back in the day with a LOT of scratch to spend on their dead relatives from the looks of the monuments in the Marion Cemetery.  Today the place is so poor I’m surprised that anyone who dies now gets a burial or a grave marker at all.  If I would have to make an educated guess, cremation has probably become the dispatch method of choice for the dead, simply for the cost effectiveness.  From another practical viewpoint, I have to wonder about the wisdom of burying dead people in a reclaimed swamp.  Burying people in the ground- even in concrete vaults and steel coffins- doesn’t strike me as being terribly sanitary considering the high amount of rainfall and the poor drainage that is inherent to Marion County- and the rest of Central Ohio.

I am thankful the dryer works.  It can dry a large load in about 90 minutes which is encouraging.  90 minutes is a lot faster than 3 hours plus.   It feels good to have the laundry caught up. It is a relief to know that if I want to wash the dogs, or wash all the living room quilts that cover the furniture, I can.   I washed my bed sheets and blankets yesterday.  Since the dogs like to sleep in the beds I have to wash everything often, otherwise it ends up covered in hair and smelling like dog funk.  I’m glad that Lilo is really the only one of the three that ever gets much of a funk to her.  Clara has almost no odor, likely because of her short coat and sparse undercoat.  Sheena I can’t really explain.  She should reek to high heaven with her thick undercoat,  (Heidi and Kayla were purebred GSDs- and they both reeked no matter how often they were bathed) but for a dog with such a thick coat Sheena is remarkably clean-smelling. 

As far as my ongoing quest to live authentically (which is how I understand Martin Luther’s instruction to “sin boldly”- here is a link to a better theological understanding of that instruction) I can only appeal to the grace of God to overcome my fear.  I can only trust that He will give me the courage and the discernment to do the right thing- and the forgiveness I inevitably need when I screw up.

I’d like to have a spontaneous and unfettered approach to life.  Not being dead broke all or most of the time would help, which would require me to (somehow) get Jerry to pay for his fair share of things instead of just footing the bill myself because I know he throws major fits every time I request money.  He can go to the hell hole and blow hundreds of dollars and to him that’s quite fine, but if Steve-o needs $50 to pay his electric bill and I don’t have it, it’s a Federal case.  Jerry can be generous when he wants to be, (especially to his family, except Steve-o of course) but he simply doesn’t get it. No matter what method I use to explain it to him- spreadsheets, calendars, letting him see my bank statement, etc. he just doesn’t get it that I’m not randomly blowing money on frivolous and unnecessary things (such as beer, cigarettes or gambling, but I digress.) 

One time when I asked him for money because I was dead broke after paying the car insurance, he actually accused me of having an illicit drug habit!  I don’t.  I can’t even drink with the medical issues I have. Most of the illicit drugs out there would probably kill me outright.  He should thank God I’ve never been into crystal or the white powder, or I’d probably ripped his head off and shit down his neck hole years ago.    

Technically one could say that I do have a “drug habit” – but all the drugs I take are prescribed by my Dr.- and are pretty much essential to keep me vertical and above ground.  Otherwise I wouldn’t bother with expensive (though non-frivolous) things like blood pressure meds and insulin.  It’s not like I have the Dr. write me scripts for high dollar face Nair and that stuff that’s supposed to make your eyelashes grow.  (WTF?)  I simply don’t make enough money to pay for everything – stuff like car payments, the exorbitant amounts for various insurances, scripts, groceries, gasoline, etc. and so on- for both of us.  If I did have enough money to pay for it all, believe me, I wouldn’t ask.  I would just pay and keep my mouth shut.

I do draw the line at a few of Jerry’s vices.  I refuse to buy his beer, smokes, or to support his gambling habit. 

In his favor he does pay his own truck payment, and he has to buy his own beer, smokes and lottery tickets. 

Very few things terrify me and stress me out more than arguments about money.  I’ve never been a person of means, and I’ve had to scrape and pinch and rob Peter to pay Paul my entire life.  My parents were never people of means either.  Their most heated and (verbally) violent arguments were always centered around money and (almost always) the lack thereof.  Nothing would send Dad into a rage quicker than anything involving money.   I can’t blame him.  There were times when we were growing up when he had to make the choice between paying the mortgage and utilities or buying food or medical care. 

As a kid I remember weeks of eating pretty much nothing but Cream of Wheat or no-name Mac & Cheese to get by because there was no money for food.  I remember going without things like glasses or dental visits for years at a time, because there was no money in our household for preventive care. Before I could drive it really didn’t matter if I had glasses or contacts or not, so I just dealt with it.  Ignoring my health is likely how I ended up with rheumatic fever too, (you get it from untreated strep infections) because it came to a point when I would refuse to tell anyone I was sick, and I’d even try to deny it even if I was clearly deathly ill.  I knew they couldn’t afford the Dr. visit or whatever scripts he might prescribe- and I didn’t want to hear their fight about how much it cost and how they don’t have the money after the fact.  Now I have permanent heart valve and joint damage.

I should know better at this point in my life.  It’s not about lack of money, but how “household” money is being used.  Right now Jerry pretty much pays his truck payment and sustains his own vices and thinks that’s all he needs to do- while I’m footing the bill for Steve-o,  as well as Jerry’s scripts, Jerry’s food, all the insurances, etc. he insists on having even though it’s overkill, and so on. 

I am dead afraid of letting him get a taste of reality because I know he will do anything he can to punish me for it.

Why I am browbeating myself for expecting Jerry to act like an adult and take responsibility for his fair share is beyond me.  I’m glad he bought the dryer, because I really despise crunchy clothing and I’m not going to the laundromat, but in perspective, that dryer cost less than one month of all the various life insurance that gets deducted out of my checking account- on his insistence- every month.  The dryer is also a replacement for the one I bought for $350 back in 2000 that he has had the use of for the past 11 years, if you really wanted to play tit-for-tat.

I don’t think I owe him obeisance for anything.  For all intents and purposes I kiss his ass to keep the peace- but I of all people should know that feeding alligators only makes them hungrier.  Appeasement is Obama’s foreign policy and it’s not working for him either.

I know what I’m doing.  I don’t like it, but I need to find the courage to change it.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things (Yeah, Right…)

Cooking, I don’t mind.  I am a good cook, thanks to both of my grandmothers (God rest their souls) and the fact that I did the cooking and cleaning at home from the time I was 12, when Mom had her bad back injury and couldn’t do much of anything for several months.  I sort of ended up responsible for meals and laundry and cleaning by default.  My sisters were pretty much always out either playing sports or socializing.  Since I was forbidden both by health issues and by abysmal coordination from participation in any type of organized sport, having a good excuse for getting out of the house was a lot more difficult for me.  I couldn’t actually live at the library even though I spent plenty of time there. 

As an aside, I truly wonder if my heart valve damage would have been bad enough to make me drop dead from playing basketball like that poor kid in Michigan.  Is a “sports physical” for middle school or high school sports really anything more than simply checking to make sure you can breathe and have a pulse?  If that’s all that’s done, I probably could have passed a “sports physical” had I attempted it (not that I would!) because my valve defects are not always audible.   Even if I would have kept my mouth shut about having heart valve damage from rheumatic fever and went through gym class in spite of having the Doctor’s Note (oh, thank God for the Doctor’s Note that released me from that humiliation) would it really have made a difference?  I’d probably sat on the bench most if not all the time anyway.  I should have asked the cardiologist who did my echocardiogram back in 2001, just for my own personal curiosity.  I’ve been warned about getting my heart rate too high because I have an irregular heart beat and I’ll pass out- but I’m allowed to do all the swimming, walking and bike riding I want.  Unless I pass out, that is.

I didn’t do too much socializing either, other than avoiding getting my ass kicked, until I got a car.  Having a car- even one as distressed as that poor Subaru DL- afforded me both protection and people to party with, which was nice.   I am thankful for spending a good part of my teen years learning how to cook, fry, stew, bake, and make decent gravy. When it comes to acquiring Life Skills, nothing facilitates learning like being tossed in the trenches.  I know when I moved out Dad really missed those home-cooked meals.  Taco Bell just isn’t the same.

Cleaning is not one of my favorite things by a long shot.  There’s something about being awakened to way too many of Mom’s late night cleaning frenzies that has put me off of power scrubbing forever.  Especially because she is one of those types who worries about the crap you can’t see.  I am not going to lose sleep over dust bunnies under furniture, dog hair under the carpet, or that sort of thing.  I like clean laundry, a clean bathroom and kitchen and relatively clean floors, but I don’t have to Clorox the entire house every other day like she used to do.   I have a job and a life.  I also have dogs.  Large dogs.  Large dogs with hair.  The only time the dog hair issue really gets disgusting is in Spring and Fall when they blow their coats.  Sheena for some reason- probably due to the stress of her spay/partial mastectomy surgery- blew her coat in January, so I don’t anticipate her Spring blowout to be terribly severe.  Lilo is always an adventure because of her intense hatred for either bathing or brushing.  Thankfully she doesn’t have a really outrageously thick coat like Sheena does.  Clara’s seasonal coat blowings are barely even noticeable (gotta love that Malinois coat) and even if she were a heavy shedder, she adores being de-haired with the blade.

For those unfamiliar with the use of the shedding blade, it’s not cruel.  It’s actually a Godsend for short-to-medium haired dogs.  You glide the serrated edge of the blade with the grain of the dog’s coat, and all the loose undercoat, etc. is just peeled right off.  If Clara had her way, I could brush her out with the blade for hours on end.  The blade does not work well with long haired dogs, or dogs with heavy undercoats, such as GSDs.  GSDs, Huskies, Chows- (i.e. Sheena and Lilo…)-heavy coated medium haired dogs- require the rake.  That sounds like a cruel implement too, but it’s not.  It just digs deeper in the coat to remove all the loose undercoat.

Sheena is quite fine with being raked out, which is nice, because she has that ungodly wooly Husky undercoat.  Lilo also has a thick undercoat but she is incredibly body sensitive so I let Jerry go after her with the rake, and with the bathing.  None of our dogs like water.  I find it funny when we take the dogs near any body of water.  They all avoid getting wet, as if the water was hot acid, especially Lilo.  That is particularly amusing – our dogs cautiously avoiding the water- as we watch other people helplessly getting dragged into the drink by their Labradors.   Never take a Labrador to a body of water unless you are planning on either you or the dog or both getting wet. 

Sometimes the girls just plain get gamey. In spite of their dislike of water they must be bathed on occasion, which inevitably ends up with me, a boat load of towels, and the entire bathroom being thoroughly saturated. (Another reason why I need a working dryer!)  Clara tolerates her bath.  Clara is compliant, but she doesn’t like anything to do with getting wet, and she’s very glad when it’s done.   Sheena is mildly uncooperative with her bath and requires a little elbow grease to keep her contained.  Lilo positively despises being bathed, and has to be physically picked up and placed in the tub, but the last time I was able to keep her under control and get her reasonably clean. 

This is the reason why I never, ever touch the undersides of tables or desks- or the sides of bathroom stalls for that matter.  I remember way too many study halls in high school watching the gross kids scrape their boogers under the ledge of the desk. 

We had a particularly sadistic English teacher (thankfully he wasn’t smart enough to teach AP English, so I never had him for class) who was also a wrestling coach.  When he monitored study halls he liked to slam books on the desks to wake anyone who thought about sleeping.  I wonder if he quit or if he was fired for (allegedly) knocking up those cheerleaders.  That was back before DNA technology could scientifically pin him down as The Baby Daddy, as opposed to being maybe one chance in five, so I would assume the former.  I doubt if those dingbats even knew for themselves who the baby daddies really were.  The key to blaming one guy for being The Baby Daddy is to only do the horizontal mambo with one guy- unless you’re up for DNA tests on Montel, which was not possible back in the mid 1980’s.

I usually occupied myself by reading or drawing on the rare occasions my schedule allowed me a study hall.  I was very good at hiding my National Lampoons and MAD magazines inside of Scientific American (which I also read) or other serious-sounding techie type magazines, to enjoy throughout a mind-numbingly boring study hall if I wasn’t already in the middle of a Stephen King novel or other “recreational reading.”  Teachers generally left me alone as they just assumed I was reading above their heads (sometimes I was) and therefore was not into “contraband.”  I liked humor and smut as much as the next person. Unlike other people who were too stupid to change the covers on risque books, I got away with reading them whenever I wanted.  I read anything I could get my hands on, but even with a collection of smutty literature that would have made a trucker blush if it were illustrated, I could not completely ignore the depraved humanity around me.  The sight of assorted unwashed losers picking, examining, and then scraping their big slimy greenies under the desks is still enough, even after all these years, to keep me from touching anything under a ledge with my bare hands.

Appliance FAIL, Older, but Not Dead Just Yet, and Clean Clothes Rule

I really don’t know of a suitable requiem for a clothes dryer- it was 11 years old after all- but mine finally took its final puke yesterday.  Of course, with a full load of wet clothes in it. So guess who got to hang up various items all over the basement in the hopes that they will dry before they mildew.  The good news is when I came home tonight everything was dry and not mildewed- but stiff as a board because the clothing items were denied their tumble dry with the dryer sheet.  Nothing like crunchy undies.  Jerry’s going to bitch about that!

The dryer had been singing its swan song for some time.  About three months ago we put a new bearing in the drum and that helped for awhile, but for the past two or three weeks the drum would barely turn.  Then the spring on the belt idler pulley came off and the drum would not turn at all .  Jerry managed to get it back on.  It ran for about another ten minutes, then the belt broke and the pulley assembly more or less disintegrated.  The drum won’t turn, and without replacing the pulley assembly, the belt and assorted other goodies it’s not going to.  By the time I order the parts and fart around with it yet again, I might as well buy a new one.

I have to do shit tons of laundry around here between Jerry, the dogs, and the fact that I am totally anal about having clean clothes and bedding at all times.  As I have told Steve-o many times, if you wore it and it’s not been washed, it’s dirty.  No sniffing the crotch to see if it passes the “smell test” or anything like that.  You wore it, whether I can smell the funk or not, it smells like your bits and pits, and it needs washing.  If it’s bad enough for me to smell the body odor funk- with my seriously impaired sense of smell- it probably needs Clorox’d and/or burned.  The only thing I want to smell on clothing is the slight hint of Febreze and/or fabric softener.

I did the laundromat thing for five years which was five years too long.  I am not doing the laundromat thing again.  Especially these days when it is not safe for a woman to be out after dark anywhere for any reason, let alone while nice and vulnerable schlepping laundry baskets about.

I finally got some better pics of Sheena.  She is not that enthused about having her picture taken so I have to sneak them. She has a lovely coat.

I’m older, not necessarily wiser, but at least I don’t look like President Ford in drag. Yet.

That’s what really got me about this painting, although Quinten Massys- the artist responsible for it- died in 1530.

People didn’t bathe very much in the 16th century. Queen Elizabeth I was quoted to say that she bathed once a month whether she needed it or not.  For the time she was considered a frequent bather.  One could only imagine the pits and bits funk on Renaissance period clothing. No wonder they all had the lice and fleas and God knows what sorts of parasites and critters living in and on them.  The royalty and nobility would have smelled worse than dingleberries on a goat’s ass.  Just imagine the common people who lived in the streets and probably never bathed or changed clothes.  Nasty.

I need a new dryer in the worst way.  Just thinking about not being able to do laundry makes me want to wash everything in the house again and to be able to dry it in the dryer with a dryer sheet so it isn’t crunchy.

 

Need clean clothes…soft clean clothes….

The Precious Only Male Child Phenomenon

 

I have to deal with three men who are precious only male children on a regular basis- Dad, (and he was the least indulged or mollycoddled of the three) Steve-o, (who was a precious only male child simply by default- he’d have been an only child regardless of his gender) and Jerry, who was the long awaited “male heir”- coming after three older sisters.

Of course Jerry was by far the most indulged, mollycoddled and downright pampered of the three.

Old traditions die hard.   We aren’t that far removed from Henry VIII’s mentality even in today’s politically correct atmosphere.  If you must procreate, society places more value on sons.   Most men are not terribly thrilled about the arrival of children to begin with, and even if they don’t admit it, daughters are particularly disappointing for them.  I would say ask my Dad, but he won’t admit it- at least not in front of me.   A man wants his offspring to look and talk and swagger like he does.  He wants a man-child to carry on his name and all that happy horseshit.

Mothers of only sons tend to be more protective of their precious only male children.  I hate to admit it but I am guilty of it too. We defend them, we indulge them, we let them get away with far too much because we understand that testosterone short-circuits their brains and makes them unable to cook, clean, pick up after themselves or remember to wash their bits and pits while showering.  We assume that other females are too capable and able to tend to their own needs for us to cater to them- and besides, they have to learn Life Skills sooner or later.  We need not explain to other females that if you don’t cook you starve, if you don’t clean you drown in squalor, and if you want something, get off your ass and get it yourself.  Women do learn faster than men.  The testosterone-addled minds of male children, (probably a good number of adult males as well) however, can’t seem to grasp the concept that meals do not cook themselves, shampooing while showering is not “optional,” and we do not choose which pair of pants to wear based on whether or not the crotch passes the “sniff test.”

I have actually said this phrase out loud, and with all sincerity:

“Steve-o, if you wore them they’re dirty.  Don’t sniff the crotch.  Put them in the wash.  NOW!”

Steve-o has actually become somewhat functional in the self-care department.  He cares too much about his sex life to neglect his hygiene. The bad point about this is he cons his girlfriend into washing his laundry for him. She’s going to get really tired of that stinky chore.

Jerry I must say has good personal hygiene for a man, but his commendable life skills pretty much stop there.

I think his brain would explode if he had to:

Brew a pot of coffee (he doesn’t drink it so he wouldn’t bother anyway)

Wash a dish

Make his own Dr. or dental appointment

Get his own scripts

What is it about precious only male children that renders them helpless and unable to function without all sorts of high-maintenance interventions?No, I don’t dress him.  Not anymore.

 

On Maudlin Sentiment, Man-Clean, and Dirty Laundry

I don’t know what motivated me to take this pic but I find it interesting.  A couple of years ago I went with Steve-o to tour a technical school in Connecticut (thankfully he ended up in Lima, OH, which is sort of a long story, but the Connecticut foray was an interesting road trip.)  Just outside of Hartford CT, there are small family farms and it really is somewhat picturesque.  I took a pic of the compost pile above because I found it such a contrast- lovely scenery, a beautiful sunrise, and- boom-  a steaming pile of shit.  What an appropriate metaphor for maudlin sentiment.  I am not the type of person who responds well to flowery diatribes and superfluous praise.  In fact, I see right through it.  Cut to the chase and tell me what you want.  I have learned the (easy to me, at least,) lesson that no one butters a piece of bread without intending to take a bite out of it.   Nobody butters me up unless they want something from me.

It’s better to tell it like it is so that people know exactly where you stand.  Of course I don’t think Jerry has washed a dish in his life- which is OK with me- I eat off of those dishes and utensils too,  and I would rather have them clean and in one piece (tremor disorder and wet, soapy, slippery, breakable dishes do not go together well) than to attempt to drive home a point.  Perhaps the general laissez-faire attitude toward caution and cleanliness that is prevalent to the male of the species is the reason why so many mothers fail to train boys to do domestic chores.  I have to admit I didn’t usually press the issue of washing dishes with Steve-o either, not because I was afraid of him breaking dishes, but because I know where his hands have been.  Anyone who can jam his index finger up his nose up to the third joint and pull out a worm-like, amazing green, streamer of snot should not be fingering things I’m going to be eating off.  I know his hygiene has improved in the past few years but still.  No matter how much soap is in that dish water,  the snotty visual remains.

There is such a thing as “man-clean.”  Man-clean is when something is sort of cleaned up, but not very well. 

This toilet is man-clean, because you can actually see some white porcelain here and there, and there is clear water in the bowl.   Before the man “cleaned” it there was no toilet paper, and the bowl was full of used chili dogs and processed Natty Lites.  Putting toilet paper on the roll is a Herculean undertaking for any man, so he’s going to want brownie points for that, even if he used up most of the roll blowing his nose in it.  Flushing deserves even more points, especially if the plunger was involved.  Of course this level of clean is not acceptable to any woman, so when a man would report that he “cleaned” the above bathroom, a woman would don a pair of gloves, grab the Clorox and get to scrubbing.

I think men are allergic to Clorox.

Man-clean as it applies to keeping young children remotely sanitary is especially scary.  “Hosing off the big chunks” is not an acceptable approach to bathing kids, or dogs for that matter.   If it still smells like puke or shit, or it still has snot encrusted on it, you didn’t finish the job.

I got to experience man-clean as it applies to laundry last night.  In a rare and daring stretch of ambition, Jerry decided to put a load of laundry in the washer all by himself last night.  Jerry and his attempts at using any household appliance scares the hell out of me, especially after he caught the microwave on fire several years ago.  Handy hint: if you put popcorn in a 1200 watt microwave on full power for five minutes, the result is FIRE.  Just so you know.

Anyway,  Jerry didn’t make the typical man mistakes with laundry which generally include: washing whitey tighties with red t-shirts (leads to pink undies,) overloading the washer (leads to all kinds of potential fun) or putting too much soap in.  He didn’t do it right though.  He forgot the fabric softener, which you don’t do in beautiful Central Ohio for two very good reasons.  The hard water here is legendary.  Failure to use both liquid fabric softener and a dryer sheet will leave your clothing so incredibly crunchy it will crinkle and crunch and almost stand up by itself when it dries.  This time of year is especially bad because you not only get crunchy clothing, but crunchy clothing with static cling.

I put in a dryer sheet when I put his stuff in the dryer for him, but I am not responsible for his jeans standing up all by themselves.  He’s going to have a very scratchy day.  I buy liquid fabric softener for a reason. 

I hate ironing.  I admit it.  That’s why most of my clothes are knits.  Of course Jerry has a thing for oxford shirts rather than t-shirts or knit shirts, and most of the time (unless you hang dry them or retrieve them from the dryer right away) oxford shirts need to be ironed. 

That reminds me, I need to get his dress clothes to the dry-cleaners before somebody dies.  It’s been over a year since we’ve had to go to a funeral (Grandma’s, sadly enough) and unfortunately odds being what they are, someone’s going to die and then I’ll catch hell for not having his clothes ready for him.  I don’t know why he bothers dressing up to go to the funeral home when these days guys show up in Dale Earnhardt t-shirts and cutoffs.  I know it’s tacky to show up at the funeral home looking like the Grateful Dead, and I am somewhat old school about that- I have black dresses for funerals and other formal occasions- but he’s a dude.  Nobody expects dudes to dress up unless it’s absolutely required any more.