Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Moving Memories


They look like just things and boxes, but it's a trick. Every book I pack for Saturday's yard sale, every china cup I let go of, even as I discard the yearly calendars that span back twenty years: they are all alive. Not things at all. 

I knew it was serious when I came across my daughter's tiny love letters and scribbles, written to me from her long ago kindergarten classroom that is no doubt much like the one her children now occupy; those same children who write me new love letters and scribbles. It's killing me to discard the old for the new, but I will not have room. I am moving and even if I managed to find extra space, it's time for me to rely on my memories as pure stardust and no longer on their physical substance.

My son-in-law's Father died two days ago. A freak terrible accident in his yard in Northern Maine, and  his children and the wife he left but always loved must face a sudden loss with no good-bye. Anything can happen: I know that. This kind of instant grief insists that I remember the high cost of regret. It's important that I love now and that I make that love clear and unmistakable. It's important to do the right things.

I am moving from a wonderful house. Box by box it is being unraveled and yet even as it empties it is still proud and whole. The hot tub has been sold. Furniture is on Craig's List. Saturday we will have a giant yard sale with relief that we will be lighter at the end of the day (hopefully.) I am moving to a place I know by the sea and it is well familiar to me and yet, I have no real idea what my life will be like there. The last months and the next months ahead are filled with so much exhaustion that I can barely imagine unwinding into a true pace of leisure. I will still work and I will indeed finish my story of the Macabees and I only hope my bum knee and hip will let me walk more and take in the healing ocean air. I hope I will have new friends and be visited by my old friends and I know I will travel every other week across a long bridge and on a long highway to see my daughter and son-in-law and four small children who still squeal and run to me every time I arrive. 

All of this and I have pneumonia! It's come from depletion and it is thankfully mild. In between packing and sorting and planning I rest on the couch and think about my luck of the draw. I now know I had very good parents. They are responsible for my core strength and integrity. I am no angel but I am honest and decent. Because I had very good parents. 

I am glad to be here at my blog tonight. I have a home here. It too has changed but the stardust of my memories is forever. Good that I know that. I hope you know that too about your own stardust memories. Memories are gold. You can't go wrong sharing them.

love
kj 




Monday, June 22, 2015

Selling A House (Not Just Any House) Part I



With his own hands and help from his stepbrother and father, my Father built this house in the early 1940's. I  just learned the foundation was dug out by hand, no machines, by a number of men who came from afar to help over a weekend.

What you are looking at is a solid house neglected over the past five or six years and also my Father's treasures and their display in his room in the cellar. 

We were advised to upgrade the electrical, fix the brick steps, things like that, but to pretty much sell the house as a fixer upper, After the tenant moved out, it was an unclean mess. Call it intuition or conviction or whatever, but I never wavered: there was no way in holy hell I would let my Father's house be sold looking like that. 

I was right. After a mason, electrician, two handymen-carpenters, landscaper, cleaner, and exhausted JB and myself: here is the house that made it's debut barely a week ago "for sale." The photos are fantastic: it doesn't look quite this charming, but honestly, we did a hell of a job. And my father's solid solid work--not one crack in the smooth walls when the wallpaper came down, and his perfect hardwood floors even after all these years--his quality just shines. 

Look here:


It was clean as a whistle. It sold in three days. I'm so glad for my parents. Before it's too late, my brother and I and our families will sit in the kitchen again, and eat pizza. 

love
kj

P.S. I know I'm absent here. I expect to be back, to be writing more. For now, it be true that I is in a whirlwind. A bit of a tornado, even.

xoxo

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Title Unknown :^)

Well here I am. I wish I had words to describe the last month or so. Maybe Whirlwind. Memories. Possessions. Houses. Photos. Exhaustion. Emotion. Love. Plenty of love.

JB and I put our house of 11 years on the market today. It made its debut today: an Open House with a good realtor who it turns out gathers an attentive audience with good food and good sangria. JB and I worked for days to clean and declutter and shine the house up and other people helped us and honest to god it looks fabulous.

And two hours away, my Mother and Father's house, on a dead end lane. It will go on the market next week, after the painters and electricians and handy people finish the repairs and upgrades. I keep thinking I will not let this house look one iota less than my Father, a mason, who built it himself, with his step-brother, would allow. There is pride in this house and it is a solid thing: you can see it in the walls. It's become old and tattered and I don't know how it will show itself in the end, but I hope I feel a certain way as soon as I set foot in it again. Tomorrow. 

Memories: I can't carry or keep them all. Especially the material kind: cards, bankbooks, presents, holidays, gifts, dishes, photos that cover four generations of my family. My Mother and her 15 sisters and brothers (4 were steps-.) My daughter and her wonderful wild wise kids. JB and the places we've been.

I'm feeling all of it. It's inside a list that's averaged twenty or more things that must be done, every day. For now.Things to be Scheduled. Arranged. Reciprocated. Inspected. Appreciated.

There's the word! Appreciated. I'm looking back on my childhood and I know I had good parents, a good family.

I'm looking at my Jessica and her Mike and those kids and I just about weep joy for her.

And JB. And myself. We are headed to a strange new land we ironically, intimately know. In time we'll pack up and move here and the commotion and bustle will settle down and then I will take a deep breath, drink that delicious cup of coffee a little slower, and then I  will wonder what will be next.

p.s. No complaints--who could really complain about a ride on a roller coaster?

Love
kj 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Here & There




It's been so long since I've posted. Life is changing.  Before the Fall, I'll be leaving the farms of Western Massachusetts, and this little house. I'll be leaving the best yard with the most sun I've ever had. And friends--I'll be leaving friends. 


I'm heading to the ocean. Provincetown on Cape Cod, to be exact. Population up to 20,000 in the summer and as low as 700 in the winter. JB and I are moving into our little cape house and we're determined not to clutter it. That means decisions about what to keep and what to leave. The place has an ocean simplicity to it: it's white and airy and relaxing and easy. But first, we have a house to sell. Wait, did I say one? Because it's TWO--my parent's house is going on the market at the same time. It is two hours away from me and in need of a cosmetic we won't do to my satisfaction. I hope some one, a family, walks into it and calls it home. It's been home to me for many years. My father and grandfather, and my uncle Sammy, built it themselves. That house too needs packing and cleaning and sprucing up.

It's all a bit overwhelming. I have a to-do list with at least 30 calls or arrangements to make a day. Masons and carpenters and emptying closets and file cabinets and Home Depot screw-ups and my work and the story of Christine Macabee and her family. And of course my own precious family including four littles, ages 8, 6, 3, and 1. And traveling to and from. 

Whew. 

This is the house where I'm heading. We'll be one block from the public beach and feeling the late afternoon sun on the back deck. I'll be writing and working and gardening here. I'll socialize. We'll adopt a shelter dog and I'll search for a publisher. If I'm smart, I'll also get myself in way better shape and not fail to regularly count my blessings. 




I'm also involved in the larger world. I've been following the events in Ferguson Missouri and now Baltimore closely- the black communities and poverty and the police. I think I know a lot about all this. I worked in a very poor inner city for five years as a therapist and I saw my clients in their homes and with their families. Plus I'm a counselor and I understand some things. 

The opportunities that used to exist don't. You can't make a real living on minimum wage. Not even on $ 12.00/hour. And even if you might come close, there are no jobs in the poorest communities. And no transportation. You get hired in a neighboring town and take three buses to get there and you get fired because you're too often late or you quit because three buses and four hours of traveling and eight hours working for $ 8/hour is  too much. Honestly, I don't think most of us would or could sustain that. But it's not just that. The effort puts you behind, not ahead.  

This is a reason why dealing drugs is high in poor communities. It's a way to make money. And a good deal of police activity is controlling drugs. It's a victimless crime but with great risk if you're a black male and you happen to encounter the police over it. That is just the way it is. Sad to say the facts bear this out. 

Petty drug dealing and use is a root of poverty, not to omit that there are also plenty of families in very poor communities that have nothing to do what-so-ever to do with drugs or crime but are also part of the cycle of poverty. It might look like a lack of motivation among those folks who could but don't work, but it's just the tip of it. I assure you that 2/3rd of my clients on welfare would work or agree to work if it wasn't so difficult and there wasn't so much to lose:  Public housing. Day Care. Food Stamps. Fuel Assistance. Health Insurance. Add those benefits up and you'd best be making $ 20 an hour or you won't even come close.

What's needed? Real Jobs. Unskilled and skilled both. And transitional or permanent supplements for paychecks that hover at the poverty level.

I wish I had the time and energy to contribute to solutions. But I don't and won't. Not to say that I don't look for ways to do my share, because I do. The thing is, I'm not as optimistic as I used to be, but I see more good than bad in most people and in the world. For me, that's my ace in the whole.

Best wishes and love,
kj



Saturday, April 11, 2015

Another Snippet


I can't say exactly why I'm chuckling writing a lot of this book, but here's an example that cracks me up between my main character Christine Macabee and her sister Louise  
 :^)

1997

The scream was so loud both cats dived under the bed. From his bedroom John made it to the kitchen to see my mother holding the phone above her head and shouting into it. The call was so animated he could hear Aunt Louise on the other end.

“He’s dead!” my mother shrieked. “He died!”

“Who? Who?” Aunt Louise shouted back.

“John! He died today.”

“John? Oh my god. Oh my god.” John knew that tone. Aunt Louise is about to faint.
My mother will have none of it. “Louise, don’t toy with me. I know you’ve never liked him.”

“Never liked him? John? Christine, are you crazy?”

The light bulb goes off. There is recognition on my mother’s face.

“John DENVER, Louise.”

“John Denver? Not John?”

“Yes John, but John Denver, not our John. Do you think I’d be blubbering if it was my John? I’d be comatose.”


“Son of a holy bitch, Christine. You scared the holy hell out of me.” Then, as an afterthought, Aunt Louise added, “In this case I have no sympathy.” Then, curiosity like cream rose to the surface., “So what happened?”

I acknowledge in advance that it's possible that this may not be as funny to you as it is to me this moment. :^) but either way, it's a good ride so far :^)

love
kj

Friday, April 10, 2015

Metaphorical Backpacks


Places I like
Things to do
Books
Songs
Movies
Food
Family
Subjects
Favorites

Yup. That about does it. (okay, of course add Sex too)

If a fourth grade class can pack a metaphorical backpack with simple pleasures, surely you and I can too.

Mine:

Places I like: Paris, New York City, Provincetown, Swimming pools on hot days

Things to do: Writing Books, Restaurants, Ocean walks, the Morning Paper

Books: Currently, my Own. About Family & Devotion

Songs: The Best Day of My Life, You Raise Me Up, Down at the Twist & Shout

Movies: Paddington Bear (I was with little kids but I loved it on my own)

Food: Artichokes, Mexican anything, Milk Chocolate anything, & Pizza

Family: No Price Too High for their Safety & Joy

Subjects: Relationships & Gardens

Favorites: Quiet Time & Wild Time

Sex: Wasn't That A Time

Things are hopping here. I'm back in Provincetown this time for a month, and I'm just starting to settle into a new all around rhythm. I still work, I still write, I still count money, I still love and gallivant with JB, I still relish time with Jess and Mike and the kids, I still scratch my head and I still give thanks.

It is almost Spring here. Almost.

And what's in your metaphorical backpack?

Love
kj

Friday, March 27, 2015

An Rambling Update on the Turtle


This is a little boy, Mr. Ryan, age 8, who put words and pictures to his life and is excited about all of it. His family, Cape Cod, sports, tacos. Travel. Video games. 

My list is half different than his. In fact, in the past few months I've become well acquainted with lists. There's been compelling reasons to be overwhelmed.

BUT

I haven't. 

Just so you have some context, my Mother's died, we had Christmas, I'm back to consulting work (happily so far), we renovated and rented our disaster of a condo in Rhode Island (another story), I finished 100 hours of professional online courses (had to), and we are beginning the beginning of readying to sell our house here in Western Massachusetts and move to Provincetown (big move). It hasn't stopped snowing. And I'm deep into writing my book (I love.)

I'd say that is a busy life. But funny thing is what's going on for me is inward and not centered on chores. I'm looking back and looking ahead, able to acknowledge how much right my parents did in raising me, and beginning to imagine how I want things to be for me ( and JB) (and Jess and the kids) in the months and years to come. 

I am nostalgic and wistful and grateful and hopeful. Most of the time I'm present and most of the time I don't stress or worry like I used to. I've discovered that my best style is truly turtle-like, not just a metaphor. I don't mean I'm slow, because I'm not. I mean that I don't do well when I have piles of things to do and I do do well when I look at that pile and just do what will work for me at the time, hoping that little by little that will be enough. And so far it's worked. I've gotten a lot done without being buried.

I actively follow the horrible events in the Mid-East and Israel and Ferguson MO and in the lives of elephants and dolphins and lab dogs and chimps. I know that Provincetown has a huge problem with affordable housing. 

And I have a garden to build. Travels to take. I have grandchildren who will go to the movies with me.  

So much is pretty close to perfection, huh? Yes. 

BUT

Life doesn't work that way. Just knowing that fact has prepared me to expect the best and the worse, depending, to be ready for either. If it's joy, may I put my hand out and grab it while it's flying by; and if it's despair may I know I have accumulated enough strength. 

That's how I seem to be living these days. Just saying…..

Love
kj