Tuesday, January 29, 2008

6 Year Old Versus My Friend

I know you're all waiting for the last story from the meme, but I'm having a crazy busy week, so it may be a while before I can write that one out properly. In the meantime, I bring you this conversation between my friend and one of her students.

See? This is where we signed our names on the form. And that's where I signed my name, right there. My first name is Katharine.

Katharine? That's your name? That's not an old lady name, that's a little girl's name!


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Meme #1: I Won't Continue Chain Letters

Earlier this week I was tagged with my first meme: "Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself." This is a further explanation of #1 on my list.

I won't continue any kind of chain letter or "chain email." (Except for one time that involved socks...)

Most chain letters have a section at the end that promises health, happiness and prosperity to those who continue the chain, and plague, famine, and pestilence to those who don't. Real or imagined, I won't send anything to people I care about that threatens them with death and destruction! (Though I find it interesting how many people have NO problem sending the threat of those things to me!) I especially won't re-send chain letters because so many people take them seriously. Oh you think that's silly? How often have you, or someone you know, continued chain letters because you didn't want to "tempt fate" or because you figured it couldn't hurt to take a chance at getting the good luck? ;)

As for chains that don't threaten gloom and doom, I still won't re-send them. Jokes, funny photos, "links I must see," petitions... I hate that stuff! I will only read emails whose content is written by, and is about, the friend or associate who sent them. If someone emails me anything else, I will politely ask them not to, and if they persist, I'll block their email address -even if they're a good friend. (If those same types of things are on someone's blog, that's a whole different story! I choose to read those!)

Memes are a bit different. I might tag specific people for some memes in the future, but for the most part, I'd rather have people volunteer to be "tagged." Memes should be fun, but some people stress out over them, and I don't know everyone well enough to know who'd like to be tagged and would think it was fun, and who might be feeling "meme-d out" at the moment! ;) I guess that, in general, I'm not comfortable volunteering other people for things without checking with them first.

About The Socks

There was one time that I broke my self imposed chain letter rule.

I was once sent a chain letter, through snail mail, that told me that IF I sent a pair of socks to the person at the top of my list, and IF I continued the chain by re-sending the letter to 5 people, I would receive over 10,000 pairs of socks in the mail from all over the world within the next 30 days.

The thought of this made me laugh SO hard that I decided to give it a try. I figured if I even got ONE pair of socks in the mail it would keep me laughing for the rest of the week -possibly even for the rest of my life! So I continued the chain and I sent the person at the top of the list a pair of funky tie dyed socks that I bought for them at a street fair.

Unfortunately, I never saw one darned pair of socks (No pun intended ;) ) But the thought that I could have opened my mail one day to find a pair of socks, still makes me giggle to this day (not to mention the thought of receiving "over 10,000 pairs of socks from all over the world!")


Friday, January 25, 2008

Meme #4: I Slept In My Car With A Squirrel

Earlier this week I was tagged with my first meme: "Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself." This is a further explanation of #4 on my list.

My friend's suggestion:
"You slept in your car with a squirrel."

Several years ago, as I was walking to my car, I passed a squirrel who was lunging at people. I originally thought he knew the woman he was lunging at because she seemed fairly calm and was laughing about it (nervous laughter). But it turned out that, luckily, although she'd never seen this squirrel, she wasn't afraid of him and that's why she hadn't hit him over the head with a shovel!

A small crowd gathered and I realized that this was going to be one dead squirrel if it kept "attacking" people desperately trying to get someone's attention. He wasn't trying to hurt or bite her, but the way he was relentlessly lunging and clinging to people, somebody was going to panic and kill it. He looked young. Maybe about half the size of a full grown squirrel. I hate taking animals out of their regular environment and away from their families, but even if this one's mother was still around, she clearly hadn't been able to care for him effectively. Squirrels behave this way when they're starving.

I told the crowd that if someone could find me a box or a sturdy bag I'd take him to a wildlife rehabilitator, but it had to be something that could be secured properly because I couldn't risk him getting loose in the car while I was driving. Finally it occurred to me to empty the contents of my knapsack into an empty plastic bag that someone had, and put the squirrel in my knapsack -which could be closed securely. We lured him in with food, closed the bag, and I started calling the wildlife rehabbers I knew.

I found a local rehabber that wasn't too far, but she couldn't take him until the following day. I was away from home, staying with a relative that week, and they made it very clear that there was no way in *&^%$#@! I was bringing a squirrel into their house. I told them it would be in a temporary cage and/or carrier and would be 100% secure. They still refused.

I drove to a friend's house who I knew had some spare cages and other supplies I could use for the night. They wouldn't let me bring the squirrel in either, but in their case it was because they'd had a squirrel infestation in their attic that they'd finally managed to control, and they were afraid to let the "scent of squirrel" anywhere near the insides of their house! But they did suggested that if I wasn't going to separate myself from the squirrel for the night (and they knew I wouldn't!), I could at least park in their driveway so I could use their bathroom if needed.

So that's what I did. I set the squirrel up in a cage with food and water, secured the cage with external clips, covered it with a towel, and slept in the car with the squirrel until I could take it to the rehabber the next day. Throughout the night I could hear him eating (best sound in the world) and could see him breathing through the rise and fall of my knapsack in the cage.

When the rehabber got "Jonesy" (her name for him, since he'd been found near Jones Beach) she said I'd been 100% right about him being young and starving, and she agreed that he would have died or been killed by someone if I'd left him there. I always have this moment with new rehabbers (new to me, not new to their jobs) where they question whether or not I know when to take and when to leave an animal, and whether or not they can trust my assessment of what's going on. The faster I can get past that stage with them the better.

"Jonesy" improved and was socialized into another group of squirrels she had (This rehabber specialized in squirrels). I met with her a month later and he was still doing well. As far as I know, his group was re-released into the wild several months later.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Meme #2: This Is Not The Sharpshooter You're Looking For. Move Along...

Earlier this week I was tagged with my first meme: "Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself." This is a further explanation of #2 on my list.
2. I stopped taking riflery at camp when I was 12 because I was afraid I'd get drafted.

I used to be very good at riflery. Then one day, I realized that the certificates of completion I'd received were from the National Riflery Association. -And I panicked. I immediately thought "Oh my God... The N.R.A. knows I'm a "Pro-Marksman." The U.S. government has documented PROOF that I can shoot a rifle! If they draft me someday, how am I going to explain to them that 'yes, I'm very good with a gun but I'll only shoot targets and I refuse to shoot something that's living!' ?"

I imagined all kinds of conversations where I'd try to explain the whole "I won't shoot living things" concept to various government officials and/or generals, or where I'd try to convince them to use my sharpshooting skills for technical things like shooting a weapon out of someone's hand, or shooting a bolt that was holding a crucial piece of rope at the top of a tall building way across a dangerous field... (Yeah... I didn't watch too much television! ;) ). But no matter how times I played out these scenarios my head, they always ended the exact same way -With the government officials or generals staring down at me in my olive drabs, handing me a rifle, and saying "we don't care."

So I did the only logical thing a 12-year old at sleepaway camp could do. I stopped taking riflery in the hopes that the N.R.A. and the U.S. Government would forget all about me, and never force me to go into battle and kill people. I never got drafted so it must have worked ;)


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meme #3 & #5: Memorization, And Captain "Dad" Picard

Earlier this week I was tagged with my first meme: "Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself." This is a further explanation of #3 and #5 on my list.

3. If I listen to a song 3 times, I know about 95% of it perfectly. Lyrics and music.

-That's pretty much all there is to say about this! Lol!

5. My father looks like Patrick Stewart. (Another of my friend's suggestions.)

Yes, my father looks like Captain Picard. Patrick's wiki photo could actually be a photo of my dad. My friends mention it, he's been mistaken for him, and when I watch re-runs of The Next Generation, even I sometimes see "my father" in the captain's chair. He and Patrick are now aging differently so they no longer look identical, but they could still pass for brothers. At least until they open their mouths. My father does a terrible British accent!


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Meme #6: The First Time I Saved Someone's Life

Earlier this week I was tagged with my first meme: "Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself." This is a further explanation of #6 on my list.

I was 11 years old the first time I saved someone's life. (That I know of.)

Ironically we were taking a certification test for "Basic Lifesaving" at the time.

I had already "rescued" my friend during my part of the test and next, she was supposed to "rescue" me. I said "Ok, better come save me. I'm drowning!" Then I made a face, crossed my eyes, plunged down under the water, and waited for her to do a surface dive and come get me.

And I waited.... and waited... holding my breath.... wondering what was taking her so long.... and then I saw her.... sinking down past me! I grabbed her and pulled her up to the surface. It seems that when I'd made the face and crossed my eyes, she'd started laughing and choking on water, and then had started to drown! I tread water with her and tried to get an adult's attention, but of course they thought we were still pretending to drown so they ignored us!

I held her above the surface for about five minutes until she stopped coughing and was breathing ok again. She told me she didn't want to go to shore and that she wanted to continue with the test. When she was able to tread water on her own and was breathing normally I asked if she was sure she wanted to continue and she said she was. So I said "Ok" and made some kind of wise crack about remembering WHOSE turn it was to drown! Then I dove back under the water and waited again.

And I waited.... and waited... and eventually I saw her sink past me again, semi-conscious towards the bottom of the lake. (Apparently this was MY fault too for making her laugh again re: my comment about remembering whose turn it was to drown!) This time I pulled her all the way into shore. She recovered, and is now married and a writer for the New York Times.

(I also had to paddle her to shore once during a canoe race after a neighboring rowboat whacked her in the head with an oar.)


Monday, January 21, 2008

My First Meme: 7 Random And/Or Weird Things About Me

I got tagged by Grandy for my very first meme: "7 random and/or weird things about me." I asked a friend to help me out with this, because most of the things that occurred to me were things I'd already told you all, or things I didn't want to tell you! Lol!

Since it's difficult for me to list 7 random or weird things without explaining the stories behind them, I'm going to do my meme a bit differently. I'll list my answers here, then expand on them over the next few days (Yes, it's another multiple part post! ;) )

I'm also not going to tag people for this because I am the dead end of all chain type letters (Actually that's a good random thing about me. That'll be number one!) However, if you are one of the last blogs on Earth who has not had this meme yet, and you'd like to do it, consider yourself tagged. If you decide to do the meme, link back here and let me know in the comments, and I'll list you as one of my "tagged" people at the end of this post (Which will probably drive some extra traffic to your site. -Didn't think about that did ya? ;) )

The Rules
  • Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
  • Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
  • Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

My list of 7 random and/or weird things about me
(To be explained in greater detail over the next few days)
  1. I won't continue any kind of chain letter or "chain email." (Except for one time that involved socks...)
  2. I stopped taking riflery at camp when I was 12 because I was afraid I'd get drafted.
  3. If I listen to a song 3 times, I know about 95% of it perfectly. Lyrics and music.
  4. My friend's suggestion: "You slept in your car with a squirrel."
  5. My father looks like Patrick Stewart. (Another of my friend's suggestions.)
  6. I was 11 years old the first time I saved someone's life. (That I know of.)
  7. I once made a cake in the shape of two large breasts. (Also my friend's suggestion.)

My List Of 7 Voluntarily Tagged People

(Your link could be here! Let me know if you take up the challenge!)
  1. Rebecca at Sunspotting
  2. MP at mysecondjournal
  3. Kendra at A Thousand Words
  4. 4 more volunteer spots!
  5. You know you want to volunteer!
  6. [Your Name Here]
  7. [Or Here. Heck you can even pick which spot you want! :) ]


Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Am Thankful For Online Grocery Shopping

On a day like today, I'm thankful for online grocery shopping just because of the convenience. But there were times when, due to injury or illness, I could not get to a grocery store in person. I ate a lot of takeout food then! -Except for the times I was physically unable to get to a grocery store and I'd lost my voice. Even ordering takeout food was impossible then.

My situation was temporary, but there are people who are always unable to get to a grocery store or to shop by themselves; People with physical challenges, shut-ins, the elderly, people who can't easily push a grocery cart, people who can't use a phone due to speech or hearing impairments, even people with certain mental disabilities.

Until recently, where I live, the only way to have groceries delivered was if you physically went to the store first, did your shopping, and then asked to have your purchases delivered when you paid at the cashier. There was no way to call, fax, or submit a grocery order online.

Eating healthy balanced meals has always been critical for people living with or recovering from physical or mental challenges, disabilities, or illness. Now a whole new class of physically and mentally challenged people finally have the tools to do just that. They can now order fresh produce, deli items, and even comfort food or junk food from their computers any time they want. For them, grocery shopping no longer needs to be a major planned event, and they no longer have to find ways to "make due" with canned, packaged, or take-out food until the next time someone is available to accompany them to a store.

Thanks to the increasing number of stores offering online grocery shopping in my area, thousands of people no longer have to be dependent on a volunteer or paid assistant to help them get something as basic as food. And now, thankfully, if I'm ever in that situation again, neither will I.


Friday, January 18, 2008

I Am Thankful For My Neti Pot

Several months ago, I had the Oprah show on in the background while I was cooking (and I was in the kitchen!), and I heard a guest say something like: "You fill the Neti Pot with room temperature water, add salt, then tilt your head, pour the water in through one nostril, and the water flows through your sinuses and out the other nostril."

Needless to say, I put down my cooking and stopped to watch!

-And there they were... pouring water in one nostril and out the other. The supposed benefits to this? Decreased illness and infection and decreased allergy symptoms, due to the irrigation and flushing out of pollutants and germs that can collect in your nasal passages and sinuses. Of course there were experts and non experts on hand to testify that the Neti Pot had alleviated all kind of problems for them and had saved them bundles of money on allergy medications and cold remedies.

I rarely get sick but I do get seasonal allergies, so I figured this was just weird enough and seemingly inexpensive enough for me to try. I did some more research first and found very few negative reports on this practice (which I learned has been around for ages). I also found numerous videos on You Tube of happy peaceful looking people pouring water through their nose. I figured that for about $15 it was worth a try.

Let me just say that my first few times using the Neti Pot were nothing like the peaceful serene people I'd seen on the You Tube videos! I knew that after a few tries, my body would learn the exact angle to tilt my head and just how far to lean forward to have the water flow freely from one nostril to the other. But the first 4 or 5 times BEFORE my body figured out what that angle and position were, I was keenly aware that, unlike the serene people in the videos, I was gripping the edge of the sink, leaning forward at a variety of different angles, and making a concerted effort to try to breathe through my mouth, all the while trying very hard not to drown. But eventually I figured it out. And now (as I knew would happen), I can instantly tilt my head at just the right angle to allow the free flow of saline through my nasal passages.

Does it work? I think so. I didn't use it daily (which might have yielded more dramatic results) but when I experienced allergy symptoms, the Neti Pot did provide instant relief. A cup of saline through each nostril and my itchy eyes and throat were instantly gone. Well worth the $15 investment! Plus there's no need to buy special saline mixtures. One cup of water to 1/4 tsp of table salt is all you need for a basic preparation.

A good rule of thumb is that if the water burns a bit, you should decrease the salt. If it feels like you've got swimming pool water up your nose, increase the salt a bit. I actually need a bit more salt in my preparation.

Whatever you do, I do not suggest you follow this guy's lead!
But do watch his video. It's hilarious!
(The first half is fine, but after 1:28... well... you'll see!)


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Intercom 101

The Right Way




(Or "Messenger Service!" or "It's [insert your name here]!" or "Prize Patrol!" ;) )

Ok, come on up!

(I press the buzzer to open the door.)

The Wrong Way












Ok, come on up!

(I press the buzzer to open the door.)


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Blame "K"

Normally the way I make garbanzo beans (chickpeas) is to open a can, drain, rinse and serve. A while ago I bought a bag of dried beans and figured I'd try to use those. It's cheaper and healthier and better for the environment and blah blah blah blah. I'm pretty sure that bag was in my cabinet for a year.

Two days ago, I was running low on food and didn't have time to go grocery shopping (but did have time to order Chinese Food!) and decided to make the beans. The instructions on the bag said I could soak the beans in water overnight, or boil them for 2 minutes and let them soak for an hour. -I did the latter. One hour later, they were still too tough. No problem. I let them soak for another hour. Still too tough. I decided to try option #1 and let them soak overnight. The next morning they were still too tough, so I decided to cook them until they softened up.

I cooked them for 30 minutes (checking every 15 minutes because anything I leave unattended in my kitchen for longer than 10-15 minutes always spontaneously combusts.). Still too tough. I continued to cook them for 45 more minutes (again checking every 10-15 minutes.) At this point they'd been boiled for 2 minutes, soaked for an entire day, and had cooked for an additional hour and fifteen minutes. -And they were still a bit raw.

My friend K stopped by that day and I explained my situation to her. She told me her black beans had to cook for 2-3 hours before they were edible. I later asked my neighbor M and she said, without hesitation, that garbanzo beans had to cook for 3-4 hours! I was really surprised. I said to both of them "Really? THAT long? This is too much darned work!" I'd figured a night of soaking and maybe an hour of cooking tops.

I can't cook something for 3-4 hours. It's not safe for me to cook anything that long. Really. If I can't cook something in 15 minutes or so, I don't -unless I'm sitting in the kitchen, the entire time, doing something (like preparing the rest of the meal.) And I never cook, not even for 10 minutes, without setting a timer. Never. Once I step out of the kitchen... strange things happen. I think the food waits until it knows I've left the kitchen, and then goes "poof!"

Now having said this, I'm a good cook! But I have to be in the kitchen cooking! I am not good at putting something in the oven, setting a timer, and then going into another room to fold laundry, or to work on the computer, or return phone calls (or whatever), until the timer goes off. If I do those same things in the kitchen, everything goes well. If I leave the kitchen to do those things, THE FOOD KNOWS!

I was trying to figure out my next "move" regarding the still slightly raw garbanzo beans, and was thinking that maybe in a couple of days, when I could be home all day, I might put them in a crock pot and set it on low for the entire day. That's generally safe. But my friend K said I was making things too complicated and worrying too much. She said to put the beans in a large pot with a lot of water, cook them for 4 hours instead of in a crock pot for an entire day, set the timer for every 45 minutes or so to see if the water needed topping off, and to NOT WORRY ABOUT IT SO MUCH! I tried explaining to her about how "the food knows when I've left the kitchen" etc. but she told me I was making a big deal out of something relatively simple.

This morning, I decided she was right. I got a big pot, put in the small layer of beans, filled the pot with water, started to set the timer for 15 minutes, then decided to do as K had suggested and set it to 45 minutes, then I put the burner on "low" and...

Let's just say I was on the phone when my smoke alarm went off, and now every window in my apartment is open and I have two fans going. -And yes, of COURSE I've already called K and left a message on her machine telling her that it's ALL HER FAULT! :P


I'll Get Right On That

I know I'm behind in responding to comments here and in reading other people's blogs. I will do all of that as soon as possible. Promise :)


Monday, January 14, 2008

Percussive Maintenance

The DVD tray in my DVD/VCR player was stuck closed. Couldn't get it open. I tried the remote, I tried the button, I tried jiggling, wedging things in to force it open, blowing air, unplugging the unit to re-set it... Nothing. I could hear the motor whirring, and the LEDs said it was opening, but it still stayed shut. This morning I thought I'd check the Internet and see if there were any easy solutions to this (besides getting a new DVD player). I tried several suggestions and nothing worked.

How many of you know what's coming?

Eventually I found a bulletin board where someone suggested whacking the DVD player. One person had replied that they'd tried it and it worked. Given my previous experience with my iPod I didn't give this a second thought. I walked over, pressed the button, whacked the top of the machine, and the drawer slid open.

I am The Fonz.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Note To Self

"Before calling out the window to a friend, check my hair."

(Hey at least I was wearing pants!)

* "Trousers" for those of you in the UK. I once got in trouble using that word incorrectly!


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
I'm home now, but not really "back" yet. I'm still "there" in a lot of ways. I'm also still in touch with her family. I know I didn't write much about the other people I was around the past couple of weeks. That's primarily out of respect for their privacy. I also didn't go into a lot of detail about what was going on emotionally for me, nor did I tell you a lot about my friend. Both of those things are difficult for me to write about, but I'm going to try to do the latter below.
  • She was in her 40s.
  • She didn't like computers, cell phones, or technology. If it were up to her we'd probably all be using carrier pigeons. ;)
  • Despite her dislike of electronics, she could talk on the phone for hours.
  • She sent out hand written cards for pretty much every occasion. Not just for birthdays and Christmas, but also for Halloween, Valentine's Day, Easter, Spring, Fall... I got about 6 to 8 cards a year from her. And I'm not the only one. She did this for everybody.
  • She loved antiques and her home was filled with them. -And if you ever called any of them "chatchkas" or "nick nacks" you could be due for a beheading!
  • She loved decorating her home to the hilt for every holiday or season. Each room in her house had a different theme.
  • She wanted everything she did for her friends to be special, and put a lot of time and energy into details, like the cards she picked to send, and the numerous details of the annual parties she'd throw. She didn't want people to bring food or help with her parties in any way because she wanted the parties to be her gift to her friends. One year when she was thinking about food for her party (there were always at least 20 different kinds of foods), she told me she was concerned about serving the same o'le things, because people might get bored with the food choices or think she didn't care. -The same twenty different kinds of foods! I told her if anything, people looked forward to some of those foods every year and considered them to be part of the tradition -because we did!
  • She loved romance, lace, victorian things, fairies, fantasy, renaissance festivals, theatre, and rock music. She loved hand made items, especially from good friends. She loved the arts.
  • In the months prior to her hip surgery, she told me she wasn't going to visit the renaissance festivals she loved so much because she was embarrassed to be seen in a wheelchair. I told her that friends who didn't know about her hip might be taken aback, but everyone who did know would be thrilled to see her no matter how she arrived. I also told her that strangers wouldn't care one way or the other, but if it really bothered her, we could decorate a wheelchair like a float so it could look like she was a fairy riding a dragon, or a princess sitting on a cloud. Then nobody would feel sorry for her. They'd think she was the coolest person at the faire! She didn't go for this, but I thought it was a brilliant idea ;)
  • She was very short, but she towered over "little people" and would glare down at them angrily if they came to her door trying to get her to join one of their organizations.
  • Because of her size, a good friend of hers once told his kids that she was the tooth fairy. She found out about this and every time one of them ran up to her excitedly asking tooth fairy questions she'd walk over to their father and whack him! According to him, his son once asked her: "How did you get to our house last night if you don't have any wings?" and she replied "I took the damn bus!" (Then whacked the father again!)
  • She worried about her mortality at times. She told me that when she died, she didn't want people to be sad and depressed. She wanted them to celebrate. She wanted everyone to throw a big party with balloons and streamers and music, to celebrate her life and not think about her death. She wanted people to remember her the way she was when she was alive.
  • She had a great laugh.
  • She laughed a lot.
To those of you who have read these past few entries, thank you. I appreciate your "listening."


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Part 3: The Services

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
I was very aware that I hadn't cried since the first night I got the news. I'd been more numb since then. And I did ok... until I saw the coffin.

The two days of services and visitation were difficult. I saw old friends and colleagues, members of her family that I knew... Lots of pictures of her. So much happened during those two days. Lots of things I can't write about. Some of which were extremely intense. But during those days I never once wanted to be anywhere else.

One of the first people I thought of when my friend died, was her 10 year old niece. My friend adored her and thought of her as if she were her own daughter. I knew that, during this time, my friend would have wanted to be sure she didn't get lost in the shuffle.

I wanted to get her niece something to hold onto. Something to hug. I bought her a medium sized, really soft, white teddy bear. I'd wanted to get her an angel bear, one with wings, but hadn't been able to find one I liked in the short time I had to look. My friend's niece had chosen not to come to the funeral because it was too upsetting for her, so I gave the bear and card to her parents to bring home to her, and told them I'd left the card open in case they wanted to read it first.

When her mother returned for the evening service, she told me her daughter had disappeared with the bear to another part of the house and had fallen apart crying and hugging it for a long time. She told me this was good because she hadn't really cried yet and had been holding everything in. I told her I was glad and sorry that I'd caused her daughter to fall apart! -And I was really glad, and also sorry. I remember 10 years old very well. I hope she's ok. She's a great kid and she has two great parents.

The service was performed by the minister who married my friend and her husband. She'd become good friends with them over the years and was a regular at their annual parties. The day of the service, she was sick with the flu or some kind of "bug" and someone told me that she'd passed out on a plane the day before. But she was going to do the service no matter what. -And she did. And, not surprisingly, she did a beautiful job.

It struck me while watching her speak, (because even though I knew this already, it didn't really sink in until then) that although we'd all known her informally for years, the last time she had spoken to this group in an "official" capacity was on my friend's wedding day. A happy beginning where everything was new and everybody was celebrating their fairytale love. And now, she was back talking to this same group of people about the same couple and their love for one another, but this time one of them was dead and lying in a (closed) coffin behind her. I couldn't imagine what it was like to be in her position. She did really well.

On the lighter side, there were some interesting things to note:

1) Despite my informing the funeral home about the glitch on their website, twice, it hadn't been fixed and a couple of people did get lost, (One of whom had tried walking from the train station in 15 degree weather!) so on my last day there I troubleshot the problem for them. Going to a funeral home is upsetting enough. Not being able to find it is just cruel.

2) My friend's husband, her sister, and a very close friend of hers, all reported supernatural occurrences in the days since she'd died. -Not like my "talking to her" while I was making her website, (which could have been just as much my active imagination as anything else) but electrical type stuff and flashing orbs of light. Also scents that people noticed as if she'd just passed by them. They believe it was her.

3) Several people commented that funeral homes could make a lot more money if they had a bar. Even the woman at the front desk of my hotel asked me (three times!) if I wanted a drink before heading to the funeral home.

4) I have to say that at a time when emotions are so high and everyone is so fragile, it is a bit of an amusing distraction to see little politics and family dramas play out. Those rare moments when someone said something inappropriate under their breath relaxed me (oddly enough) and snapped me out of the surreal world we were in from time to time. One example:

A conversation between a guest and "a woman from side A of the family" on the last day:
Who is that man?



He's [person from side B of the family].

He is?
He hasn't come up to me or said one word this entire time!

Well, you didn't know who he was. Maybe he didn't know you either?

Oh he knew who I was!
Next: Part 4


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Part 2: "Emergency Work Mode"

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
I called my friend's husband back immediately. He was on the phone with another friend of ours and I knew they'd be on for a very long time, so I asked him to quickly tell me how he was and what I could do. He told me he was having trouble finding numbers and to call everyone I could think of. I knew that wasn't going to work quite right, but since he was on the other line I told him I'd call him the following morning and we'd talk more then.

That night I felt.... You know, I don't have the words. It was awful.

The next day, a series of events pushed me into what's probably best described as "emergency work mode" -Something I do well.

My friend didn't own a computer. She hated them. So all phone numbers and addresses were in various handwritten phone books, or on little slips or paper, or just in her head. When I spoke to her husband the next day, he told me he was having trouble finding her phone books (because that was always her department) and he was upset because the books he had found were missing contact information for several of their very close friends and he had no idea how to get in touch with them.

I spent the first part of that day on the phone tracking down some contact info for him and getting additional information from the funeral home, in between coordinating with two other friends of hers trying to figure out the best way to reach everybody with no central contact list to work from. We decided that with the exception of a handful of people we were going to call personally, an email campaign would be the best way to reach the greatest number of people in time for the funeral which was only a few days away.

Additionally, due to the fact that:
  • My friend's husband could only be reached before noon because he was continuing to go to work every day (because that's what she told him she wanted him to do if she ever died. Go to work the next day and not mope around the house!)
  • Her husband had accidentally given some people the wrong address for the funeral home. (Not his fault. He was overwhelmed.)
  • Due to a glitch on the funeral home's website, their site was giving out a completely different wrong address (unbelievable.)
  • There was going to be a benefit concert for her at a later date and details were still to come.
it became clear to me that we were also going to need a website. There needed to be a central source of easily accessible accurate information for the upcoming funeral, and later the concert, so that we could say "Here's what happened. Go to the website for more updates" without having to re-contact people every time there was new or corrected information.

I had a basic website up in an hour. Then I had to write an email that was detailed enough, concise enough, and gentle enough to inform hundreds of people that someone they knew had just died -in an email. That took about another hour. I ran both by the friends I was coordinating with, for their input and approval, then I continued to tweak the website while one of them continued to compile the email list. -Why did I continue to tweak the site? Because the whole time I felt like my friend was looking over my shoulder and saying things like:

"Don't use that picture of me, I look puffy!"

To which I replied:

"It's the best picture I have of you... the other ones are too small or too dark. This one is good and your dress looks great."


"A website? I hate computers! I don't want a website!"

To which I replied:

"Don't worry, it will look better when I'm finished. I know your style and I know what you like. It'll be very "you" when I'm done. TRUST me. Besides we
need it for now. If you hate it, I'll take it down after your damn funeral ok?!"

We "talked" like this for hours (my friend was very opinionated) and by midnight I had a site that I knew she'd be happy with. An hour later, the mailing list was completed and the email was sent. Over the next few days the website had hundreds of visitors.

The next day (New Year's Eve day) I wrote (and again, didn't post) the following:
I seem to have gone past the sobbing uncontrollably stage, to the "take action" stage (yesterday was a marathon day) and I'm kind of in the "fog" stage now. I have travel plans kind of half arranged... It's surreal, I'm numb, tired, confused, angry, sad... people who knew here are a mess right now. I put up a website in record time yesterday, and in less than a day it's already had 80 hits. And not everyone knows it's there yet.
New Year's day is kind of a blur for me... I think I stopped by a neighbor's at one point, and finalize my travel plans. -And changed my mind every hour or so about whether or not to blog about this. The next day, I woke up early, did a quick load of laundry, ran a few errands, got on a train, arrived at my hotel at around 1:45pm, and a short time later I was at the funeral home.

Next: Part 3: The Services


Monday, January 7, 2008

To Write, Or Not To Write [About This.]

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
I've been going back and forth about whether or not to post here about my past 2 weeks. I've decided to write about it. I'll tell you up front, it's been a difficult time.

On December 20th I had a phone conversation that bothered me. I wrote the following immediately after, but never posted it.
I have a friend who I've known for over 15 years. Christmas has always been her favorite time of year. This girl used to throw parties to end all parties. I don't mean in a wild way. I mean in a "going all out" way. When you stepped into her home at Christmas time it was like you'd stepped into the North Pole! I have some funny stories about those parties that I may share with you sometime.

For the past 2 years she hasn't been able to throw her annual Christmas parties due to some mobility problems she's been having. This year, she's spending the holidays in a hospital recovering from hip surgery. She'll be there until January. I called today to see how she was doing. This is the conversation we had:


Who is this?

It's Melissa [my last name].
(*Note: I always tell her my last name when I call because her sister and I have the same first name and apparently we're not easy to tell apart on the phone!)

I'm confused right now.

Can you hear me ok? It's Melissa [My last name].

Yes. But I'm really confused right now. Could you call me back tomorrow please?

Of course.

I just... I don't know where I am.

You're in the hospital honey.

Could you please call back tomorrow?

Yes. I will talk to you tomorrow.
This is most likely from the pain meds she's on. Still, it broke my heart to hear her say that she didn't know where she was. My friend is in her 40s. She's not a senile old woman. I hung up, then called back and spoke to a floor nurse about our conversation, and asked them to check on her. The good thing is that my friend knew she was confused and disoriented. The bad is that she told me she didn't know where she was. It's not as if I called her on a cell phone where she might have been wandering around. I called the hospital phone in her room, -and she didn't know where she was.
I tried calling her a few times over the next few days, but was unsuccessful in reaching her. I didn't think much of it. It's hard to get ahold of people in hospitals. They get moved around a lot for tests or for physical therapy, or they're on the phone with other people.

I knew her husband and sister would be in touch with her daily and keeping tabs on her so, finally, on December 26th, I left a message at her home for her husband. I was cheerful and upbeat and told him to please let her know that I'd been trying to call her back ever since the brief conversation we'd had, and that I hadn't been having any luck getting ahold of her. I was getting busy signals or no answer... I asked him to let her know that I had been trying to reach her, that I was thinking of her, and to send her my love.

Three days later, on December 29th, I got a message from her husband on my voicemail. When I heard his voice I thought "Great! He's returning my call!" but it turned out he hadn't checked his messages. He was calling to tell me she'd died.

Next: Part 2: "Emergency Work Mode."


Saturday, January 5, 2008

I Needed A Laugh

I just saw a neighbor in the hallway. She told me she was on the way to the store and asked if there was anything she could pick up for me. I told her Romaine lettuce and fresh spinach would be great.

As she headed down the stairs she started chanting...

"Romaine lettuce and spinach...
Romaine lettuce and spinach...
Romaine lettuce and spinach...
Romaine lettuce and spinach..."

Halfway down the stairwell she yelled up,

"I'm going to keep saying this so I don't forget, and when I get back I'll hand you a bag and say 'here is exactly what you wanted: Soap, and milk.' "


Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Out Of Town

I'm going out of town tomorrow. I'll reply to comments etc. when I return.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2008.

Photo © Jeane Carley / The Ferret Company
Edit: Just editing this post to add that the photo above is by a very talented friend of mine who has been called "The Anne Geddes of ferret photography" ;) Click through the link to see more of her work.