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    Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    2008: You May, At Your Leisure...

    ...GET THE FUCK OUT. Buh-bye. See ya. Don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha. Deuces. Make tracks. 'The fuck OUT. Seriously.

    Tonight I toast William, Aimee, my right arm which will never be the same, and all the other losses we have suffered this year. These last 365 days, I should note, have been speckled with some beautiful things - the birth of several good friends' children, hundreds of good times with our kids, a marriage that grew stronger through adversity despite our weakest moments, and the opportunity to learn new things about myself. But speckled as it was with good things, it was seemingly covered, doused, drowned with a veritable flooding of moments that sucked the wind out of me, and left me feeling sad and hurt and hopeless. I do not question my blessings, nor do I discount them, but reveling in them has been difficult with the burdens I have spent the year bearing.

    I hope for fewer moments like that in 2009. I hope for more joy, more gratitude, more reasons to cry tears of joy, more smiles, more laughs, and more blessings for all of us. Not perfection, I am not selfish - but more moments of happiness than tragedy will suit me just fine.

    Baby New Year, 2009, come on in. Welcome. Please bring the joy and hope we seek. Please.

    Tuesday, December 30, 2008

    Tuesday Tidbits

    Oh, I am clever with the cute little alliterations with the days of the week, huh?

    Anyway, since I missed my last chance to do a Monday Memorandum for 2008, this is what we've got. (I guess I could do one and back date it, but I'm all about keeping it real around here. Mostly.)

    She's still dead. I still miss her. Her baby would have been about 1/2 baked by now. She would be getting uncomfortable and we would talking about names and nursery themes and swollen feet. My heart still aches for her, and the loss we have suffered is still breath-taking and overwhelming. The thought of this being the last year she will have been part of my life makes for ONE tiny reason I'll be sad to see 2008 go. I know she'll always be with me, and I know she's watching, but that's not enough. We should have had a lifetime to watch each other's kids grow up, to grow old together, to laugh at how foolish we were as youngsters, and to value decades spent loving one another in the special way that we did. That will always feel a cheap shot from the powers that be. So as I've said so many times since September 2 - hug your loved ones. Kiss your family and friends. SAY I love you, even if it feels weird. You won't be sorry if you do, but you might be sorry if you don't.

    Gosh, suddenly I don't feel like writing anymore. A good cry sounds great, though, I may go for that.

    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Happy Holidays!

    Hope you all have a wonderful, blessed, safe, warm, happy, joyful, yummy, satisfying, fun, heart-warming holiday!

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    The Hits Just Keep on Coming

    It seems as though, since I have now called out 2008 as the whoring bitch of a year that it is, that the year seems determined to go out with a loud fucking BANG.

    We shopped carefully for Christmas this year, using very little credit to buy our Christmas gifts, relatively. Felt pretty good about Greg's company staying busy enough to keep his overtime going strong. Gas dropped like a rock, made it feasible to fill the tank again. Got 'caught up' per se, were no longer worrying quite so much about the grocery budget again, and have that general sense of being able to ....{inhale}....ahhhh....breathe easy, just a little bit.

    And then it happened.

    Yesterday, early evening, Jackson was in the bathroom, "cleaning" the toilet, with paper towel in hand, smearing water all over the seat. Dandy. Fine. I was on the phone at the time (part of the reason he was able to venture into the bathroom with paper towels at his leisure), so Greg took care of it.

    Later last night, I started a load of laundry, after having let it get behind again (be shocked, go ahead). It was laying, in somewhat sorted piles, in the laundry room. I first hear water backing up into the floor drain. This strikes me as odd...we snaked that drain several months back and while it has not been perfect, it rarely backs up when the washer runs anymore. Clearly, today was not a good day. As I'm discussing this with myself, I hear Greta crying.

    I look into the laundry room, where I see her, stranded on the other side of a not-so-mini-lake, as though she was on an island in danger of being swallowed by the sea.

    Note: the dog likes to sleep in my laundry room, under my laundry table. Since she does, her dog bed is in there, she loves it, she's not banished there. Anyway.

    So, I go to the other door of the laundry room, and rescue Greta. Greg hears the hoopla going on, wakes up, and comes to surmise the damage. The water is NOT going down. The drain is, clearly, NOT slow. It is clogged. C-L-O-G-G-E-D. And the lovely piles of clothes are now becoming wet, stinky islands. My throw rug is saturated half way through.

    Greg turns off the water, and sighs. He reveals now that when Jackson had been in the bathroom earlier, he went to flush the toilet and it was clogged...presumably with PAPER TOWELS. So he had plunged it, and it cleared at the toilet end, and he thought little else of it. Surely if it could clear the smaller toilet drain, it would clear the larger main line, yes?

    Uh, looks like a big fat NO on that one.

    This began around 12:30 (I thought it was earlier until I remembered I had just emailed Deb when it happened, and that was sent around 12:30).

    By 3:30 AM, we had called the city sewer department, our utility company, Greg had snaked the drain, from two spots, {intentionally} BROKEN an original piece of plumbing that was rusted/corroded shut, snaked the drain again, used the clog buster (which it turns out was not big enough for the main drain line), considered calling a plumber at 2AM (cha-CHING!), decided against calling a plumber at 2AM, shop-vac'd up all the water, 8 gallons at a time, over and over as we tried to break the clog with the hose and the clog buster (OH - and spent 20 minutes thawing the hose that we didn't empty in the fall...lesson learned there!). Finally we fell into bed between 3:30 and 4:00, having decided that Greg would go to Home Depot at 7AM to get a bigger clog buster, a better snake, and a new drain plug (to replace the broken one).

    We were so exhausted we didn't even care how badly we smelled. Greg got up early, went to HD as planned, got what we needed, and after much more effort, it drained. FINALLY. It drained. Hallelu!

    Greg went upstairs, took a long shower, followed by a double hot bath. The drain was fine, drying up nicely, drained fine after his bathing, and I was starting laundry.

    And then it backed up again.

    Greg snaked it again, and thought he felt it give, and then it drained again. And then it clogged again. And now it takes several minutes for it to drain, when it feels like it, if it drains at all.

    The plumber is coming between now and 4 PM. Greg is less-than-amused at having to call a plumber, I think it violates some manhood code in his family. I'm doubtful he'll even tell his father. Poor guy. He busted his butt, got stunk up more than once, and it's still not right.

    Aaaand remember all the comfort and joy about money stuff being OK now? Throw that shit out the window, because I'm almost positive this guy is going to want more money than we have in checking, so we'll be cracking open the credit card envelope. Won't that be fun? Merry Christmas, bank!

    So, 2008 is proving, once again, to be a shitty, shitty, pain-bringing year. Thank god it's only 9 more days until it's over.



    Plumbing is clear. $329. Got to see my drain lines on camera. Ho ho ho.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Monday Memorandum: V 2.0

    Ladies, gentlemen, bloggers - happy Monday!

    The year is waning fast, and while my general sentiment regarding that particular reality is "hey 2008--don't let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha!", I don't seem to have enough hours in the day to get everything done that I wanted to get done before Baby New Year pops his head in (...or out, maybe. Whatever.). But because I am so devoted to you (I know, warm fuzzy, yes?), here's the latest around here this week.

    Surprise Visit
    An important thing happened here at FMFO headquarters on Saturday afternoon. While knee-deep in holiday baking, we had surprise visitors - it was my good friend E, with the twins (who are so big now it's a little bit frightening and surreal, considering that just 9 years ago I was talking to them through a belly-button microphone) - they were in the neighborhood delivering Angel Tree gifts and decided to stop by. We chatted for a while, did a mini-catch up session in the kitchen while the kids sampled cookie bark, and then they went on their way and I dove back into baking.

    Why was this an important happening? you ask. I'll tell you. I have known E for...let's see...15 1/2 years now? Yeah - long time. We were even roommates for a year, so we know each other pretty darn well. But in recent years our visits are almost always planned out in advance, and when we meet here, it gives me the chance to do that dance we all know and love called "the house cleaning 26-step". This causes E, each time she visits, to say "You always say your house is trashed on your blog, but it's always clean when I come."

    Yes, E, yes it is. And what you saw on Saturday when you walked through the door is precisely WHY we plan our visits and I do the dance before you come.

    I had been baking for two days, and doing little else. Any of you with a husband, dogs, and kids (or any combination) knows what happens when you don't clean for two days with everyone in the house. Big "dog-hair-dirty-socks-legos-and-barbies-candy-wrappers-lunch-dishes-on-the-table-at-3-pm-sippy-cups-bills-on-the-table-dishes-piling-up" ole' mess. I blushed as we laughed about the tumbleweeds of dog hair in the corner. She was gracious, and if it had been anyone but her it would A) NOT have been funny and B) I would have probably run around cleaning up the whole time she was there. As it is, I know she loves me in that "just by your being YOU" Mr. Rogers way, and we just had a good chuckle about the experience of her getting to see my house in its natural state. (The state of disaster.) E, you are welcome any time, messy or clean. Except stop looking so hot and 24-ish when you come. Look your age already, would you? It's kind of pissing me off. But thanks for stopping by! Love you.

    Dogless Bark and Cookies As Far As The Eye Can See
    Holiday baking is in full-swing around here, and I need to finish up the teachers' gift baskets today or tomorrow. Chocolate-oatmeal no-bakes, rice crispie treats (with holiday sugar), strawberry bars, cookie bark (my own recipe*), holiday Kisses and other candies, all wrapped up in decorative tins - am I ambitious or what? And our families are getting group gifts this year - one to a sibling and their families. I highly recommend this gift and Greg gets all the credit for thinking of it (and why Blockbuster doesn't package this stuff I have no idea):

    Blockbuster gift card
    One "theatre-style" candy box per person
    Two or three packs of microwave popcorn
    Holiday-colored bowl for popcorn

    Put holiday paper shreds in the bottom of the bowl, stand up the candy and popcorn on their ends, put the gift card in front, and wrap it all up in clear holiday cellophane and tie with a bow. Viola! A group gift that fits nearly anyone. Christmas has never been this simple, and I am so glad for it. And they are damn cute if I say so myself. See?

    *Cookie bark: one layer chocolate bark, one layer colored vanilla bark, crushed holiday Oreos, and topped with more bark. So cute, and so good:

    Anywho, the baking will go on another day or two. And if I don't stop tasting as I go, I'll be sorry. There is no cookie bark on South Beach, let's put it that way.

    Recreational Torture
    Greg and I, in an attempt to spend some grown-up time together, are playing video games on the Wii after the kids are in bed at night. Right now we are in the middle of Alone in the Dark, Wii version. We found a decent walk-through online, but realized it stopped. As in, was not completed. Not completed starting RIGHT about where we are now. Driving this "car" out of the park is im-fucking-possible, and Greg gets so mad at the thing that we have to stop. It only irritates me because, back in the day, there WAS no game that could beat me. No game. Period. (Fine, whatever, dork alert.) So apparently I am getting old in every area of my life, because this game is kicking our collective ass. Makes me want to splurge and go find the actual player's guide. If there is one. Maybe the assholes who made the game didn't even finish it once they got stuck in the park with the alchemists following close behind and a car that runs like shit, with an irritating little fucker running his mouth in the passenger's seat.

    OK, fine. SUPER dork alert. Whatever.


    And finally, some random factoids for you on this fine Monday in December:

    Two-year old boys' fingernails are gross. Cutting them, also gross.
    Some people talk too much.
    -27 windchill feels like -227.
    Big sisters pick on little brothers.
    Little brothers learn to hit back.
    Chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies are addictive.
    Time waits until you stop to check email or write a quick blog, and then it runs away from you.
    Children are incapable of hearing the words "Get OFF OF THE DEEP FREEZE!" no matter how loud you say it.
    Blogs do not write themselves.
    Dishes do not do themselves.
    Little girls' bangs do not cut themselves.
    One little girl will be late for school if I don't get this posted and get my butt in gear.

    Have a wonderful Monday, and a great week-before-Christmas!

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Badge of Honor: Guest Blog

    It certainly is in this case. Deb blessed me with asking me to guest blog while she's in the hospital after the birth of their child (see previous blog for info on the little cutie, she was born 12/10), so if you need a dose of me today, check me out over there (and read some of Deb's stuff if you haven't - she is a great writer with a style you won't ever want to stop reading).

    So click HERE to check out my guest post at Deb's place. And I'll be back here writing again soon.

    And if you clicked over here FROM Deb's blog, thanks for stopping by! Feel free to nose around, read some new stuff, some old stuff, and stop back again soon. You can never tell when I'll be brilliant, and you don't want to miss that. ;-) Thanks!

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    The Best Thing to Happen in 2008

    Today, at 11:47, my dearest sweet friend Deb, and her family, welcomed their new baby girl into the world. She is beautiful, and her precious, perfect little baby cry split my heart wide open and burrowed in, even over the phone. I so very much wish our family could be there with theirs, but I know I'll get to hold that little one someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    In the mean time, welcome to our world, sweetheart. Thanks for giving me a beautiful, wonderful memory to be glad for in 2008. You're the best thing that's happened all year long. Can't wait to watch you grow up.

    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    No More Birthdays and Earthly Remains

    It seemed I hadn't thought of Aimee much yesterday, which is a rare kind of day for me. Who she was, and what our friendship was, was so much a part of my life for so many years that, frankly, it's hard to swing a dead cat around here without hitting something in my house, my computer, or my life that reminds me of her. But for whatever reason, when I talked to my friend Deb about this today, I didn't think I had spent much time thinking of Aimee yesterday...I would later remember that I had been smacked squarely in the face with the idea that she won't have a birthday next March while I was filling out my 2009 calendar. I sat at my kitchen table and cried when I saw her name on March 10 of this year. But moments of grief come and go, and I guess the sad reality is that I'm getting used to them. Anyway, the point is that I didn't think I'd spent much time thinking of her yesterday.

    So I was taken aback and breath-stolen to see her sitting before me last night, in my dream. She was wearing a green and white striped polo shirt, and her curly dark hair was falling gently across her forehead. I could see her then as clearly as the screen in front of me now. It was all so vivid, and lacked the usual dream fog that clouds their memory. I could see the crease in her forehead that is uniquely hers, and could feel her skin as I touched her arm, and she was exhaling her cigarette smoke in that way that she had. We talked, and laughed, and it was much like many of the real conversations we had together (save the fact that most of those were on the phone) when she was alive - not particularly significant (although there were certainly those had, as well) but just another fiber, another stitch, in the fabric of our friendship.

    What was different from the real-life chats we shared was how it ended. It ended with me waking. Waking to remember the reality of what's true.

    Aimee is still dead.

    She's not wearing a green and while polo shirt. She is wearing maternity clothes that she picked out but never wore with breath in her body. They are cut up the back, surely, and looked lovely on her as she lay in her casket. She is not sitting in a chair in a hotel room. There are no more chats. No more visits. No more meals together. Nothing.

    My best friend is rotting in a box in Iowa. THAT is the reality. Her tiny, petite hands that held my children; her beautiful curls; her perfect never-drilled-in-all-her-30-years teeth; her nose that wiggled when she talked; her ears that listened to every word I ever spoke; her arms that hugged me just days before she died; her mouth that spoke whatever words I needed to hear - all of her. She's decaying in a box, those parts of her we could touch, feel and see - while her husband, her parents and her best friend, along with countless others, are left to wonder why, to know that no medical explanation will ever ease any measure of pain for any of us. No amount of time will stop this ache at losing someone who meant so very much to me. Time does not heal all wounds. As I sit here sobbing at my keyboard - once again offering God anything if he'll just make it not true, if he'll just give her back - I know and feel and believe that there is no end to this loss.

    It seems vivid and grotesque to talk about the state of her body, I'm sure, and I'm sorry for that. Be assured it's not for shock value. It's just the only reality I can think of right now, for whatever reason.

    The other realities are too painful...and yet here they come anyway.

    I gasp for breath when I remember that she's almost 20 weeks along...or she would have been. Almost time to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl. She would have called me walking out of the OB's office and made me guess, and then screamed it to me, and we'd have spent an hour talking about names and clothes and nursery themes. I will never get that phone call. Nik will never see the ultrasound of his baby that his beautiful wife was carrying. Her parents will never, ever be grandparents.

    Because Aimee died.

    She died. Can you hear how fucked up and painful and gut-wrenching those two simple words are to me? To all of us who loved her?

    She died.

    So THOSE are the other realities. In light of all of that sadness and loss and emptiness, the state of her earthly remains seems almost non-offensive to consider. If I close my eyes, I go back and forth - between seeing her laying there in that box, looking so very much UNlike Aimee, and seeing her sitting with me last night, in that shirt, with that smile, talking and laughing and being my best friend. I am unable to discern which image is less painful...the beautiful mirage that teases my heart in my hours of sleep, or the cold reality that at least spares me any false hope.

    And at the end of it all, I don't think it matters. She's still gone, I still miss her, it still doesn't make any sense, and I still don't know how I'll ever move beyond the pain of losing her. And it's all come about because I filled out my calendar for the new year, on a day where I didn't particularly spend a great deal of time thinking of her. I had been hopeful that 2009 would bring brighter days, that there would be joy to come. And maybe there will be. But March 10 will suck. She would have been 31, and instead she just...won't be.

    And the tears come again. No catchy ending, no cleverly-worded poignant close. Just me, crying from the depths of my sad, broken heart, wishing the dream was reality and the last three month's reality could somehow be a dream.