Overtaken by Offspring (A Serial Theatrical Production)

Overtaken by Offspring
(A theatrical comedy about family get-togethers)

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE:

Lights come up on the family Matriarch as she sits in her recliner, nodding off to sleep. Suddenly, there’s a knock at the door. Matriarch awakens in a startled fashion, and makes her way groggily to the door. Opens door to Delivery Boy.

Delivery Boy: Telegram for Mom
Matriarch: (Yawns rudely) That’s me.
Delivery Boy: Sign here, Mom….ummm, I mean Ma’am.
(Matriarch signs)
Delivery Boy: Thank you, have a “good one!”
*{Please note: “Have a good one” is NOT an acceptable way to wish people a good day (if that is, indeed, what you are attempting to convey). “Have a good one” is a useless, grammatically incorrect statement….a good what?! A good lunch? A good commute to work? A good cry? A good laugh? A good report from my doctor…? A good nervous breakdown?! WHAT THE HECK do you mean by “one?”}

Matriarch closes door, fumbles around for reading glasses so she can focus on delivered telegram she holds in her hands, finally finds a pair and gets them correctly positioned on her face, and reads: “Extended family members to arrive next Tues (stop); Driving down from MN with camper (stop); Will camp out with you and rest of family (stop); Will expect all siblings, in-laws, and nephews to be in attendance (stop); Get EVERYTHING ready.”

Tired Matriarch looks at calendar and collapses.
Lights fade for end of Scene One

ACT ONE, SCENE TWO:
Scene opens on Matriarch with pile of papers in front of her, as she writes frantically on one of the papers.

Matriarch (talking to herself, as usual): “Okay….meal list complete; packing list complete; time to work on my shopping list, and then a detailed plan of action for the next four days so that I can be ready to go when the family camping reunion commences. Friday….at work all day; husband & I out with friends in the evening. Saturday…at work all day; to grocery store in the evening; Sunday…to Church in morning; get busy preparing all the meals we will need while on our campout. Monday….work all day; in evening, start packing my personal needs for the campout, also, clean the ENTIRE house and prepare to house numerous lodgers (i.e, twelve people, counting me) in case heavy rains come and we are forced to bail out (literally and figuratively) and head home for dry and comfortable housing. Tuesday…finish any last-minute housing and food details, pack personal belongings and food, rent moving van, head out to our Indiana property for the family camping adventure.

Lights fade as Matriarch climbs into bed and immediately falls asleep, murmuring something about bug spray, bubble wands, and big bottles of wine. The director thinks it best not to disturb her for a curtain call. Check back late next week when this delightful, dramatic comedy presentation continues with ACT ONE, SCENE THREE, when the Matriarch waves good-bye to her older daughters, sons-in-law, and five grandchildren as the visit (finally) comes to an end. 😄

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Close Encounters of the Spiritual Kind (Elder Care, Part II)

In my last post, I shared my personal views on elder care. There are many reasons for finding ourselves in this mess. First of all, let’s be honest, a lot of us are just too busy (or, too far away, … Continue reading

Tuckered-out in the Twin Cities

“Our family is really close, because we live in a small house!” This is a direct quote of my oldest daughter, from way back when she was about 8 years old. Yes, we were close, all right, with a small cape cod, 3 bedrooms for five people, and only one full bathroom. You learn military scheduling and crafty maneuvering in such tight spots, and even with those skills, inconvenient glitches often occur. With a useable toilet in the basement, bunk beds in the big girls’ room, and an extreme distaste for clutter, we survived quite well.

My two oldest daughters, now married mothers/homeowners, also have small houses. This simple living is the best choice when mama wants to be able to give her attention full-time to the little ones. However, now that we live further apart, these tiny houses are starting to cause us trouble. I can no longer find a workable, comfortable plan that will allow our oldest daughter and her family to bunk with us. And, with their growing family, the rest of us now have to travel in shifts to go visit them in Minnesota. We pushed the limits this time, by four of us coming at once. My middle daughter, her husband, and their foster baby, along with me, are all here at the same time. I got bumped out of my usual basement bedroom for the sake of the three of them. The oldest sent out a message through a neighborhood social media site, asking if anyone nearby had a room to rent. (I am so proud of her for doing this, because it is totally something I would do….have already done! 😉).

It took a few days, but some lady living close-by, in half of a duplex, replied to my daughter’s request, to say that I was welcome to stay with her, no charge! (A great example of utilizing my, “It never hurts to ask” life philosophy!) It’s a lovely little home, very clean and nicely decorated, and wonderfully quiet….except for her little dog. He’s a sweet boy, but it’s one of those “yippy” breeds of canines (by which I mean that he has a high-pitched, piercing bark that penetrates all possible defenses deployed for blocking out unwanted noise). That does not bode well for someone like me, who has trouble sleeping in any bed other than her own and needs absolute silence. The first night of our stay, I did not sleep well, mainly because of the new environment. By the second night, I was exhausted and ready to get a good night’s sleep. It was going really well until 5:30 am, right after my “landlady” left for work. Apparently, doggie sensed my presence, and thought I should wake up and keep him company….or, maybe there was just a squirrel outside. Whatever it was, the yipping started and didn’t stop. I grumbled to myself, pulled out my earplugs, turned off the fan, and went to tell him to be quiet. He did so….for about 3 minutes. I got up again, went to the bathroom, and told him again to be quiet. He obeyed. I laid back down, and tried to relax. Not happening, because now I am wide awake. I gave up and rolled out of bed once more. I shuffled downstairs to the kitchen, and fumbled around for a source of caffeine. Too tired for a shower, I headed over to my daughter’s house with my hair sticking out every-which-way. I somehow managed to make it through an entire day of baby bouncing, baby talk with so much smiling my cheeks hurt, reading to the older girls until my throat was feeling scratchy, playing pretend, and helping to hand-wash the dishes after supper. Luckily for me, the little ones go to bed pretty early, normally tucked-in by 7:30pm. By 8:00, I was at the “boarding house,” getting ready to settle in for (what I hoped might be) a long, winter’s nap.

I am happy to report that my landlady was also looking forward to sleeping-in that morning, so that meant that doggy would be sleeping, too (and quiet!). I slept until nine o’clock the next morning (over nine hours!). I had a nice, leisurely breakfast, chatting with my newest friend, then took a shower. My oldest daughter texted me to see if I was okay. The next daughter down called to tell me that the granddaughters were getting impatient, wondering where Mimi was. Gee whiz, people, give this old girl a chance to catch up on her sleep and squeeze in a quick shower. I should be there before the little ones head down for their morning naps! Tell them to start working on a stack of books for Mimi to read, and I’ll bring my throat drops. Gotta capitalize on this time together, so I’ll push myself to the limits (and sleep in as often as possible!).

Warning: Don’t Watch Movies With Me!

I have a hyper-tuned intuition about the essential nature of people. I sense things; I’m innately observant without realizing it. This gift comes into play during my interactions with folks in my day-to-day life, which guides my relationships and aids … Continue reading

Mimi On-the-Mend, From Her Minnesota Meanderings

Where did the month of November go?! I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a few weeks – consider this blog my excusal letter! I flew out of Cincinnati on November 1st, for a two-week stay with my daughter in … Continue reading

Sing, Sing a Song…

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Does anyone else besides me think in old songs? Like that one by the Carpenters, that I used for the title of this blog? (“…sing out loud, sing out strong.”) Seriously, just about any thought/idea/dream/inspiration that comes into my head, my memory can match a song to it. It’s not always a perfect fit…sometimes my creative mind has to change the lyrics just a little…or maybe a lot, but still, there’s the same melody from the original song. One little prompt, and a tune gets pulled from the vast music collection in my brain (just like an old juke box pulls out a 45 and flips it onto the turntable), and puts it to work helping me process whatever it is that I am going through. (Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were – “Memories, like the corners of my mind”).

Fifty-plus years of tunes (wait, did I say fifty yearsDon’t Blink, by Kenny Chesney), from kid’s songs, to camp songs, to popular hits, mixed right in with Sunday hymns, dance tunes, advertising jingles, TV show theme songs, and verses from musical productions – they’re all right there, in neat little stacks in my gray matter storage unit, and the central nervous system expertly selects them as needed, to insert into my wandering thoughts. I’m in the kitchen, and I catch a whiff of my husband’s coffee, and suddenly, my mind is performing it’s own rendition of, “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup.” Or I’m hanging out with some of my zany friends and their families (you know who you are, guys!), and the juke box in my head starts playing, “They’re creepy and they’re cooky, mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky the (fill in the blank) family. Du, du, du, dut, (snap, snap), du, du, du dut (snap, snap), du, du, du, dut; du, du, du, dut; du, du, du, dut (snap, snap)!” Sometimes, I do keep these little serenades all to myself, if I don’t want to seem too crazy, or if I think the sharing might offend…LOL

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There are often times when things don’t work out the way I had hoped, and I am struggling with the disappointment, and, then….before I know it, I’m transported back to my childhood home, with Christmas drawing near, watching the animated TV special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, listening to Clarice as she sings her words of encouragement to Rudolph, “There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Believe in your dreams come what may. There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Tomorrow is not far away.”

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Or how about those times when I am hating this city living, wishing for trees and open sky and fresh air, and planning my whole life around how many traffic lights I have to go through to get somewhere (the fewer the better, of course, because Norton, Ohio, where I grew up, had only two, full-fledged traffic light intersections when I was very young, and the words “traffic jam” were used to describe more than 10 cars. The freedom of such a simple, uncluttered life has hung with me, even after years of being citified). In my grown-up years, my choices for grocery stores, doctor’s offices, preschools, veterinarian’s clinics, drug stores…you name it, they were all chosen primarily based on how many traffic lights I would encounter on my way there. These days, when I drive to our property in Indiana (which I blogged about recently in A Walk in the Woods), and I’m reluctantly heading home after a beautiful day of bug-swatting, berry gathering, and drinking from the well, I find myself humming an old Salem cigarette ad in my head (with the word “Salem changed to my name)…”You can take Charlene out of the country, BUT…you can’t take the country out of Charlene!” Or, other times, I might break into a rousing rendition of, “Green Acres is the place for me!”

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For my grandchildren, I have taken to making up my own words for popular tunes and singing to them. When little ones are fussy, I hold them in my arms while doing the bunny hop. The bouncing, along with my wacky singing, almost never fails to calm a crying child – “You’re my little baby, yes you are, sweetest little baby in the whole, wide world. (Keep repeating, implementing a key change after every two “verses,” and just keep singing and dancing, until baby is calmed or grandma passes out on the couch). Singing to little ones is one of my most precious joys, and I’m sure I will still be singing lullabies years from now, when I am residing blissfully in a home for the memory impaired.

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I could go on for days about all the music in my head. (“This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue singing it forever just because, this is the song that never ends……”) Some of those childhood songs I try to keep in deep storage, because who wants to try to fall asleep at night with Found a Peanut or 100 Bottles of Beer stuck in their head?! But at this point, it’s getting late, we’re all tired, and I’m off early in the morning, for a twelve hour drive to the northern grandkids, so I can get to work teaching them all of those obnoxious (and otherwise) songs residing in my brain. You probably won’t hear from me again until I return late next week, so I’ll leave you with this modified Willie Nelson hit – “On the road again, I just can’t wait to be heading north again. Some folks I love are way up in those northern lands, so I can’t wait to get on the road again.”

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Fried Zucchini Summer

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The summer I graduated from high school, and my horse and pony had been sold in anticipation of me going off to photography school, my dad used part of our former pasture area for his first vegetable garden. He tilled and planted a whopper of a plot, considering our family size. By mid-August, we were drowning in egg plant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini. My dad lugged piles of produce off to work each morning, to share with his co-workers at Goodyear, and there was still plenty left over for us. My absolute favorite was the zucchini…breaded and fried zucchini, to be exact. My dad and I could polish off two large zucs between the two of us, because they were so incredibly yummy. It was a special thing we shared between us, that hankerin’ for fried zucchini. Now that I’m much older, and my dad is long gone, I can transport myself back to that bittersweet, transitional summer, with overgrown zucchini from my own garden. I slice them up, just like I did for my dad and I, then I dip them in egg and flour (actually, gluten-free flour, or sometimes almond meal), fry those babies up, close my eyes and take a big bite…and suddenly, I’m back in our old kitchen, with my father, living that zucchini summer all over again.

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It’s an inexpensive and safe method of time-travel, these sensory memory triggers. I travel the taste bud route quite often, with certain foods that take me back to times shared with my dad (because when little tag-along me joined the family, my mom went to work full-time, my Grandma Casey moved in with us, and my dad pitched in by taking over most of the meal preparation for our family). There were other food favorites that we had in common, like soup beans and ham with cornbread, and pot roast with potatoes and carrots. One bite of any of those, and the gustation process can carry me back in a second, if I close my eyes, sit quietly, and savor the flavor, along with the memories.

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The olfactory passage to the past is closely related to the taste route, so it often takes me to the same places, but is has the power to transport me to a myriad of other memories. All I have to do is walk into a horse barn, catch one wonderful whiff, and I am at the county fair, hanging out with my 4-H buddies, cleaning the stall, showing Paco (my quarter horse) in the ring, rubbing my hand down his soft, sweaty neck, or sometimes lunching on corndogs and lemon shake-ups, or inhaling the helium from a balloon to talk like Donald Duck. I am young and carefree, my parents are there with me at our campsite, and we are sitting around the fire with friends. Or, how about the passage power of holding a baby, and smelling his/her sweet head (what is it with the smell of baby’s heads?!). These days, when a baby is in my arms, I fly back to the early days of parenting, holding my own little ones, nursing them, rocking them in my arms while singing lullabies – it’s all there, in full color and complete, sensual detail. The quality of transport and the clear view of those days-gone-by is really quite amazing.

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Other times, I travel back by way of an old song that slides from my ears right down to my heart, and I find myself with an old friend, hanging out in their basement, or at one of our favorite haunts. Or I might end up at a high school prom, dancing in the arms of a high school heart throb. Sometimes it’s the sound of laughter that reminds me of my mom, and takes me back “home” again. She was the kind who would occasionally get unexplainably tickled by some silly episode, then laugh for 15 minutes, until she was crying and could hardly breathe, while the rest of us were all laughing at her (even though we were often clueless regarding the original trigger for her laughter, and she would be laughing way to hard to fill us in!). There are other times when a sound can transport me to completely unexpected places: I hear a train whistle, and suddenly, I am sitting at the tracks, in the car with my mom, counting the railway cars to make the time pass more pleasantly, and trying to be the first one to spot the caboose. A rumble of thunder, of the boom of fireworks can also occasionally work their magic on me. The hearing path to yesterday is probably the most surprising and mysterious for me, because I just never know when or where it will strike, and where I might end up.

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Of course, we can’t leave out the sight triggers for time travel – there are so many opportunities. We live in the age of photography, so all we have to do is pull out an old photo album, and BAM…we’re there again, with ease. Or how about digging through those storage boxes of sentimental items? Those have serious transference power, too. But there are also more subtle ways that sneak up on us, like coming upon a field of sunflowers, or finding a beautiful shell on the beach, or witnessing a breath-taking sunset. Our mind can latch onto anything our eyes take in, and, in a millisecond, carry us back to some almost forgotten place.

And then there’s that last sense….touch. In my opinion, touch kind of tags along with the other senses, and enhances the time-travel journey. When I’m eating fried zucchini, just the feel of it in my mouth adds to the full effect. And those 4-H fair memories….if I get a chance to run my hands down a horse’s neck or side, or touch his soft nose…that just makes all the above-mentioned images come more clearly into focus. Same concept with the touch of my lips on a baby’s head, or feeling the warmth of a wee one against my body, or their soft breath upon my neck as I rock them – the memories they trigger are like a 3D movie, with all senses fully functioning.

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If you have days of old that you would like to revisit, step away from the rush of life this week, and enjoy a cruise down memory lane. Your very own time travel voyage is just a taste (or a smell, or a vision, or a sound, or a touch) away, but you have to be open to the excursion and willing to put some effort into quiet reflection. I hope you have pleasant travel, and don’t forget to send me a postcard!

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