Friday, July 29, 2011

Missing Margot

It's been almost five months since my stepmother Margot passed away and although the rawness I felt upon her loss has abated, there is still an almost continual ache that lies just beneath the surface of everything I do, think and feel. I know given both the closeness we shared for over forty years and the completely unexpected suddenness of the circumstances that lead to her death that this ache is not unusual; not that it makes it any easier.

Over the past months, I've refrained from either saying or writing much about how I feel; mostly because, despite how much I love to blab on about inconsequential matters, I'm fairly private about how I am feeling and what I am experiencing. During this time, I've often found myself on opposite extremes of how I react to how others have responded to her death. At times, I've found myself irritated or even downright angry at what I perceived to be a false sentiment of sorrow. Other times, I've been both perplexed and sadly disappointed in how a few people have behaved; mostly in their absence of any real sympathy at all. Of course there have been my stalwart supporters; those I knew I could count on and, true to form, they've been there for me when I've fallen apart. There have also been some folks who came out of left field and surprised me with their kindness and understanding. Stark in her absence, of course, has been Margot herself; she was someone I could always count on to be there for me as I struggled through various trials and tribulations that I encountered in my life. I'm not entirely certain what she'd advise me now in how to handle her death and the aftermath of my grief, but, she'd likely tell me to go easy on myself and that everything will turn out ok sooner or later.

I've found it to be true what I'd been told about losing someone precious to you; it's not so much the initial rush of grief and sadness that is the most difficult to bear; rather, it is those sudden moments, least expected, where there is a stab of such deep and unspeakable sorrow that it can take your breath away, or bring you to your knees, or both. And, these moments, even as they may decrease in frequency, never let up in their rawness and intensity.

And, as I said, I still have the continual underlying ache going on. I do believe that this has contributed to my being slightly more than testy at times over the past months, and certainly recently, as we've been in the throes of uprooting and moving. In the back of my mind, I'm aware that this move probably wouldn't even be happening had Margot not died, at least not at this point in time. I know that had she been alive and we were moving closer, she'd be elated and thrilled. I can hear her saying "Wonderful, dear!" in my mind, and know that she'd be one of my top go-to people when I felt the need to rant and rave about all the little stressors that make up the process of moving. I'd rat a tat tat away on my keyboard, sending her any number of emails and would always get a reply to each one.

In fact, over the past months, I have at times gone into my email files, opened up the one labeled "Margot" and read through some of her sage advice on other matters just so that I could "hear" her calming voice most likely pointing out a few things I had over looked; or, to read some of her more humorous ones where she might be recounting something silly she did as a child or making a wry comment on the lack of someone's intelligence. Due to the fact my computer crashed not long after I learned about her illness, I have two separate email files for her, the one prior to her illness and the one after. Although it's sometimes too much to bear to read the ones from the prior file, I have to hand it to dear Margot that the tone of the ones in the after file remained, for the most part, true to what her character was and how she almost always interacted with me. Through the emails I can reconnect with her, something I am so very grateful for.

When I first learned of her illness and the likely, awful prognosis, I set about writing a series of emails to her that I labeled "Memories of Margot". Unfortunately, I didn't get very far before she was beyond the ability to read them. I also started on a story telling of the times the two of us shared in England in 1980 (it's about half done) and, after her death, began work on a memorial that will both have pictures of her throughout her life and tell her life's story. Working on this has been difficult at times but it's something I want to do and I want to do it well. As such, it's taken a bit longer than I originally anticipated but I know that she'd understand. I might share some of these memories here, which would also be fitting since she was an avid reader of my Blog.

I've not had many dreams about her and those that I have she's never herself as she was during the stages of her illness, and, in fact, she's always much, much younger than the sixty-eight she was when she died. One dream was particularly upsetting as in it, I had to tell her that she was dead, upon which she promptly burst into tears. Another, however, was much more positive and even helpful.

After she died, my Father and I were both puzzled to read in a document that she left behind for us that she wanted her cousin's daughter to have a certain "Civil War Era Buckle Ring". We'd looked at one another, perplexed, as neither of us knew what she was referring to. There was another, different, ring that she wanted another cousin to have, that we knew and had identified that ring. But, this? I later found a letter she'd written to the cousin's daughter detailing the ring's history, which, although explained the ring's origins and who had owned it, did nothing to assist us in figuring out where the ring was currently located. While I was there in March, Father and I spent some time looking for it, to no avail. Father told me on the phone a month or so later that he was convinced he'd looked pretty much everywhere it might be. Time marched on and both of us became involved in other things to think about so the elusive buckle ring remained missing. Several weeks before Mr. B and I were due to return to Florida, I had the helpful dream. In it, I was standing inside a grocery store near the front entrance with my Father and my friend Peri. The three of us were each glancing around the store, trying to locate Margot, because as was typical of Margot, she walked into the store and promptly charged off, leaving the three of us behind. In the dream, Father and Peri went off in opposite directions to find her while I stayed put in case she wandered by. Sure enough, Margot (probably aged 45 or so) walked up and stood next to me. While we waited for Father and Peri to show back up, I said to her, "Oh, by the way, Margot, where the heck is this Buckle Ring you want us to give to Dave's daughter?" She turned to me and said, "You have to look behind a picture". I woke up thinking there must be a clue in there somewhere! I told Father about it next time we spoke and also Googled "Civil War Era Buckle Rings" so that we'd have some idea of what we were looking for.

As it turned out, the ring was not behind a picture. Father looked and I looked and there was no ring to be found. One day, the last before Mark and I left Father's, I was standing in the shower thinking and thinking about this ring. Earlier, it had dawned on me that Margot had almost always routinely sewn items and family artifacts on her quilts. Father and I had both went to look at the quilt from the branch of her family it was most likely to be on. It was hanging in her bedroom, over her desk. Nope, nada. So, where was it? Finally, I remembered a quilt hanging in the closet in the guest bedroom; it had a love, marriage and family theme. Since the ring had originally been an ancestor's engagement ring, well, maybe it was there! I got out of the shower and went into the room and, sure enough, there it was, sewn onto that quilt. No, it wasn't behind a picture, but, it WAS behind a door.

What prompted this Blog entry today was I experienced one of those sudden painful moments earlier this afternoon while I was lying on the couch upstairs reading Roseanne Cash's autobiography "Composed". I was reading the part where she'd written the eulogy for her own stepmother, June Carter Cash. The eulogy was very beautifully written, which was pretty much all I was thinking until the very end where Roseanne says she knows when her time comes, she'll come around the bend while floating down the river in a canoe and see June standing on a dock waving "Hello! Hello! Welcome!" and I had such a clear image of my stepmother standing waiting for me wearing one of the hats she favored with pins from various tourist sites attached to the brim, ready to tell me all about where I was and show me around.

So, I got into the shower and cried and thought about how much I still miss her and knew that I needed to write about all of these things so that I could once again feel her near; and to let her know that she remains vividly alive in my dreams, thoughts, and heart.

Mrs. B

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hunk Oh Hunk Of Burning Stress

"They" say moving is one of the most stressful things a person can do in life; it keeps company on the list with getting married, divorced, starting a new job, being laid off or fired from your job, buying and selling a house, having a child/being a parent and having someone you are close to die. I've had experiences now with all but one of these and some more than others.

Probably the all time humdinger was in June of 2000 when FIVE occurred at once: I got divorced, we sold our house (while we were basically estranged), I moved from Colorado back to California (I had to leave my cats in Colorado for about three weeks; thankfully, I had a wonderful friend who went over to the house and checked on them every day), I started a new job where I had a lot to prove (or at least I thought so then) and I bought a house (and had to live almost three months in a Residence Inn until that process was complete; juggling what to do with Nigel and Clyde when I had to go out of town on business trips (please, maids, DON'T go into the room and let them out!))

When all was said and done, the entire change was crammed into roughly three months. Oh, and in the middle of all of this, my dad had a heart attack and my youngest brother also went through a nasty break-up and divorce (as an aside, our divorces were final within one week of each other; mine 7/24 and his 7/31, something I'll never forget).

Frankly, I'm surprised I didn't go totally bonkers because I was doing much of this by myself (although I did have incredible support from family and friends and certainly managed to have some fun along the way (thanks, Nathaniel)).

Anyway, it's eleven years later and the circumstances behind the move, although not 100% happy-happy joy-joy, are positive.

Still. Still. Moving IS stressful. And time consuming. And complicated. There are so many balls in the air at once and you really cannot drop any of them. Not only that, I feel as though I have to watch everyone else involved to ensure they don't drop any balls, either. I have a huge Excel workbook with multiple sheets in it, each one with a ca-zillion "to dos". Mr. B and I have assigned who is doing what and so far that is mostly working, with the only real problem being every time I strike one off, I seem to add five more. Mr. B tells me every day, "We're getting stuff done!", and, he's right, we are. In fact, frankly, I think we may be overly efficient as at times we're sitting around waiting for other people to do what they are supposed to and it seems mighty slow. I have to work hard on curbing my ex HRD persona and riding herd on those who don't return phone calls or emails as quickly as I feel they should OR who don't behave the way I believe they should. Mr. B sighs and probably wishes he could keep me half-snookered all of the time so that I'd chill out.

In my defense, it's extremely difficult to chill out when it's 100 plus degrees with high humidity such that it feels as though it's 115. And, this is likely one reason why things don't move along as quickly as I'd wish; it's hard to move quickly, period.

So, some of those most stressful/sad (for me) things about moving et al this go-around (including the fore mentioned aspect of people not having the same sense of urgency that I do) are:

Identifying and selling roughly 1/3 of our furniture. Or, hoping to sell it; whatever doesn't sell gets donated and written off. Although we opted for a smaller house, it's still somewhat sad to have to part with some of the things we've both had for many, many years.

Preparing for a moving sale. Wow, what a hassle! At times, I've found myself wondering if this is really going to be worth the effort.

Getting the current house ready to go onto the market/selling it. I've bitched enough about this so I won't go any further.

Having to leave the current house empty while we bop off to FL. I know I can't wait to get to FL, but, I feel "bad" for this house sitting here all by itself.

Worrying about the pets, well, really the cats, as we travel to FL. They've never had to deal with being in the car longer than 1/2 hour, let alone staying in a hotel room for several days.

Fretting about ALL the pets and how they'll adjust to their new home.

Money. Moving is not cheap. Everything requires money! You know it going in, but, after several weeks of writing checks for this or that, it wears on the soul.

Ok, enough negative crap. Across the miles, I can hear my Father saying to me as he reads this, "No crisis before its time, Christina!" And, my former Executive Coach just commented on one of my pissy Facebook status updates and reminded me that I am the Captain of My Soul and not to let things ruin my day.

I think I just needed to rant a bit, and, frankly, remembering that move back in 2000 really did help me appreciate how much improved the move circumstances are now compared to then.

Mrs. B

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Morning Turkey Ritual

Every morning, Mr. B gives Apollo and Lucy (and sometimes others but it's always Apollo and Lucy) bits of turkey lunch meat. Note how Mr. B has managed to train Apollo to sit (or, has Apollo trained Mr. B?) and how nicely Lucy the Goosie is sharing these days!
Mrs. B

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mom's Birthday Trip

For my mom's 70th, I presented her with four options to choose from for an all expenses paid mini-vacation. The only hitch was that I got to go along :-)

She selected the wine tasting trip (I wasn't terribly surprised!) We went on Wednesday and had a grand time!

Here are a few pictures! BTW, I'd recommend this gift idea for anyone who struggles with what to get someone who has pretty much everything they already need. I must give credit for the idea to my dear Mr. B.

At Ragapple Lassie, our first stop of the trip. Since I'm in the process of moving and already have enough wine that I have to either drink or figure out how to move, I didn't buy any wine this time but their wine is so tasty! Mom bought a few bottles.
Posing with the winery's mascot.
As always, mom managed to cut off someone's head. At least it wasn't mine! Can you tell how hazy it was? It was HOT HOT HOT!
At another favorite winery. All Italian varietals and the tasting room looks like an Italian villa. Lovely grounds, too. Oh, I did buy one bottle here; a fizzy dry rose. Figured it'd be refreshing as we all weather the heat here in NC.
We tried one I've never been to before, Laurel Grey. The tasting room was housed in this little milking barn. The wines were quite good. They also had various dipping and dessert sauces for us to taste.
Pretty roses!
Dinner was at Harvest Grill on Shelton Vineyard's property. A fantastic four course meal and a bottle of estate Chardonnay. Yum yum yum.
The view from our hotel room the next morning. Another hot one!
Mom and daughter tasting at Shelton Vineyards. We had a great TRA (tasting room attendant; my term). She was very generous with the pours and allowed us to taste more than the allotted amount. Too bad I had to drive us home or else we may have stayed there a few hours!

What a fun trip. I will never get tired of hanging out and talking with my mom!

Mrs. B

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Update on the Cats of B!

In all of the general excitement of late and drama with Lucy, the poor cats have not had the opportunity to be in the spotlight. Not that they care, mind you; but, I'd be remiss if I didn't post a few pictures of them with an update on their lives. Oh, and yesterday was a red-letter day. In preparation for our upcoming move (and to abate my paranoia that one of them may get out of the car during the road trip), we went to Pet Smart to get each one of them a collar and a tag. We put the collars on them and watched the fireworks erupt. After they were on a bit, we took them back off until the move (and Mr. B removed the damn little tinkle bells; how annoying!)
Pete has spent his summer (to date) enjoying the fact he has no clumps and mats of fur. After a day or so of being totally horrified after his lion cut, he realized it wasn't so bad, after all. He's become quite insistent on getting pets in the morning and has taken to jumping up onto our chairs at the table and demanding a lot of adoration. Pete's collar is a majestic, royal purple, as befitting the king of our cat colony. He took the collaring in stride; in fact, you couldn't hardly see it underneath that mane of his.
Lily resembled a little wrinkled lizard after her lion cut procedure. If anything, the elimination of much of her fur has increased her feisty factor. She continues to get into everything and be everywhere. Perhaps in retaliation for her hair cut, she's taken to chewing on my hair in the mornings while I'm still in bed and during the day, she jumps up onto my chair and tries to climb up my back to get at my ponytail. Her collar is pink with sparkles. She was very interested in it BEFORE it was put on her; after which, she tried to eat the tag.
Ares continues to be devoted to Pete and just Pete. Unfortunately for Ares, Pete pretty much despises him. Ares is very nice to look at; he has such unusual coloring and his face is very expressive. It's too bad his personality wasn't as good as the exterior package. Maybe we shouldn't have named him after the God of War; if we'd called him Sweet Cakes or Stud Muffin, might he be friendlier? Ares's collar is a light blue. He attacked Mr. B when he tried to put it on him; I finally got it on as he was eating. He promptly freaked out and ran around the house on a wild tear, eventually getting the collar off. Well, if he gets lost on the move, I doubt Mr. B would loose any sleep over it! Sigh.
Athena is our little quiet mouse; keeping a fairly low profile except for when she starts to play with one of her toys. Then, she sounds unnervingly like a woman in the throes of passion. She is still petrified of Mr. B but is starting to come around a little bit; usually when she's ready to eat, she'll forget she's petrified of him and rub up against his legs. She continues her somewhat destructive habit of chewing on everything, despite the many applications of Bitter Yuck. Her collar is also pink and, surprisingly enough, she didn't wig out overly much once it was put on her.
Our man Apollo continues to steal the show on a daily basis. His is so entirely laid back now; amazing, considering what he was like when he first came to us. One of his very favorite places to be is in the perch by the window. While the other cats are roaming about causing trouble, he's usually there kicking back; unless he downstairs begging Mr. B for turkey or to be fed; then, he does his best "Camillo" act of flopping down on the floor and pretending his dying. It's quite comical. His collar is bright red and he looks very handsome wearing it. He freaked out a bit at first, but soon decided to just chill out.

Mrs. B