Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Aunt Maxine Part I

*** This was written November 16, 2009 after a very emotional visit with my Aunt Maxine, as most of you know, my Aunt Maxine passed away December 4, 2010.  As the one year anniversary to her passing approaches, I feel the need to get some of these "notes" that I wrote on facebook moved over here. Anyway, this week will probably be mostly devoted to my memories of my beautiful Aunt ***

     The role of a Great Aunt can be significant for some people. Myself included. This past weekend, we had an "all girls weekend" in my hometown, Burlington, Iowa. On that visit, as all the others, I went to visit my Great Aunt Maxine.

Unfortunately, She has no idea who I am anymore.

My Aunt Max used to be quite the life of any occasion. She could also be a bit, eccentric. She has worn a wig of curly red hair for at least 40 years, but usually can be found wearing purple clothing that totally clashes! Her favorite colors of course are purple, orange, and royal blue; everything she owns is in those three colors for the most part.

She is also quite the talker. Aunt Max would talk to anyone for as long as they would let her. lol. My Aunt, although quite smart and full of life experiences, came across as a naive ditz sometimes. I say that with all the love in my heart...because I know why she was like that. She was so old fashioned at times, BUT, knew enough about my life growing up that she seemed modern.

I will never, ever forget the many family gatherings spent at her house~ especially Christmas! Aunt Max loves Christmas decorating. I will never forget spending my birthdays with her as we played pretend...event hough I was old enough to not "pretend" she taught me that it was fun to make believe as well as all the many life lessons she taught me on those days when I thought it WAS just pretend. SO many things learned. SO many stories shared. SO much history that I will cherish forever.

Aunt Maxine has Alzheimer's now. She gets confused about where she is, how old she is, where she is going, etc. She forgets things and asks questions over and over again. But, what hurts the worst is that, as of the Summer of '08, she has no idea who I am anymore.

She hugs me, and says things like "I know I love you, even though I don't remember." When she hugs me, I feel that she knows there is a strong bond between us, but, then she asks who I am, or where I am from, etc. She met Alena for the first time yesterday at church. I told her that her name was Alena Mae, named for her mother and sister...and she said "Yes, Mae...Edith Mae and Wilma Mae." She has no idea that they are my grandmother and great- grandmother. She then asked if any of my children would be named for her. =* (

Alzheimer's is so hard. It is hard for her, I am sure...but, she doesn't remember, which makes it easier...but those of us that do remember, it is extra tough. I miss my Aunt.

 (This is a picture of My Aunt Maxine and myself. Not my most flattering picture, but, it is priceless to me. See, if you look closely you will see tears in my eyes. Right before this picture was taken, she said my name for the second time in a year and a half. She would only remember me one more time after this picture was taken before her death.) 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

When a home falls apart and becomes a house ....

     Earlier this evening, my ex-husband informed me that he is letting our marital residence fall into foreclosure. I knew that this was a possibility, because I was served papers about the house being foreclosed on about a year ago. That suit has since been dismissed, but there seems to be another one brewing.  As much as I would love to be able to save it from foreclosure, I can't afford the $1500.00 mortgage on it.
     This house was a beautiful, dark brown brick ranch house, with cedar siding on the sides and rear. There are an abundance of windows, some of them in rather unique shapes and sizes.  The most prominent feature when looking at the front of the house are the beautiful burnt orange double doors.  There is a perfect little entryway with nice hardwood floors. From it you could get to the formal living room, and a little bit down that same hallway was the family room. The family room was my favorite room. It had the most beautiful fireplace I have ever seen.  It had floor to ceiling stone and a glass front. The mantle was a very thick, rustic wood that went great with the decor. On each side of the fireplace are two floor to ceiling, vertical windows. Everything about this house was a dream. The landscaping, the back yard, the house, the square footage, the neighborhood. All perfect.
     Until my marriage fell part eight months into living there. Then my beautiful home became my prison.

(This is how the house looks today (11-26-11) after being abandoned since 2004)

   I won't get into all that right now, but, I will say that I loved my house. It is where we had some of the best memories when Dylan and Amanda were small. Each room has a wonderful memory...and a painful one too.

    I gave up on my marriage on 9-11-2001.  I wasn't brave enough to actually file for divorce until August of 2002. And I moved out of the house in April of 2004. Nobody has lived there since. He has moved stuff in, and out, but he hasn't stayed the night in there, to my knowledge.  In 2009, a tree fell on the house during the crazy "May 8th storm," leaving a large hole in the roof. In fact, the tree was in the family room and kitchen! He didn't get it fixed right away, and he let water sit in there.  He had the roof fixed, but, little else. The house never has looked as good as it once did.

(This is the damage from where the tree came in the house on 5-8-09; never cleaned up or fixed. It is because of this hole that water got in the house, and just sat ) 

                                                    Jump to today . . . . .

    Amanda had some stuff at the house in her bedroom that she wanted to bring home, since they never went over there anyway; they couldn't!  A 32" Flat Screen TV, a PS3, lava lamps, disco ball, strobe light, all the Rock Band equipment, etc. Just a ton of stuff.  He told her that it would be fine to go ahead and get her things out of the house, simply because he was letting it foreclose and he has nowhere to put any of it anyway.  He did tell her that he sold her TV. But, everything else was still in their boxes.  Then he told me that I could help myself to whatever else was in there. He had a brand new couch and loveseat, and some of Amanda's bedroom furniture, etc.  So, I was just fine with that.  So I went ahead and grabbed some of that too, along with some of my items that I had to leave behind. My great grandmother's sewing machine chest, a pillow that she made me, some cards from my beloved aunt, a few pictures, etc.

     HOWEVER, when we went into her room. ALL of her things were GONE!  She had a bed, and two dressers left. And her jewelry box. That was it. He obviously sold the rest of her things. I am SO proud of my girl for not being upset. I think she is annoyed about it, but, she didn't once complain. 

    What I wasn't expecting hurt the worst. When we made our way to the family room, which is off from the kitchen, we noticed that the the floor was sagging. Then, in the kitchen, the floor had completely collapsed. The appliances, cabinets, were hanging down. We could see that the floor from the laundry room had collapsed with it. The clothes that were all over the laundry room were scattered down this massive hole. The washer and dryer were down too....only being held up by pipes.

 (This is the gaping sink hole in the kitchen. See how the dishwasher is on it's way down. The other side of the wall is the laundry room. You can see all of his clothes piling down. What you can't see from this shot is the washer and dryer in the hole. )

       I looked at the wall between the kitchen and dining room and noticed that the floor had fallen two feet from the wall. Of course, it was even lower away from the wall. Just horrible. The rest will go soon, and I do mean soon.

 (This is the dining room caving in. The doorway leads to the family room and kitchen.)

      We gathered up all the stuff we were going to take, but my brave husband decided to shimmy his way on a very weak floor to get to the garage. In order to do that he had to walk through the kitchen, and laundry room.  See, the day I moved out, it was not pleasant. He didn't even live there, but he showed up, and demanded that I leave and take the kids.  Why? Well, him and my nanny were having a "relationship." And they didn't want me in the house. So I lost my house and my nanny in one day! I couldn't grab everything that I wanted to. And by the time he left the house again, they had either stolen or broke/ ripped all of my things.  They broke the legs off my dining room table. They broke a leg and damaged the wood on my great granny's sewing machine, they slashed my leather furniture, they ripped pictures, broke frames, but worst of all...they stole my great grandmother's compete set of dishes that I had displayed in my dining room. They were worth the neighborhood of $3,000 - $5,000....but, to me, they were priceless.   I feel very fortunate to have been able to get a few things tonight that were still there, including a card from my Aunt with a beautiful note written inside. I also have the broken sewing machine cabinet.

      I can't describe the feelings of walking into the house and seeing it in it's current state. I can't help but think about how similar my marriage was to the floor, now caved in.  The floor hole is like a bottomless pit, that looks as if it were gobbling everything up....or like quicksand.  My marriage took something away from me too...my self worth, my ability to trust people, my contentment, my peace.  Those are things that I may never get back. I fear him and what he is capable of doing to me.  Nobody that hasn't been through domestic situations could ever possibly understand that even after all of these years later....I still fear him. I still cry over the things that happened in my beautiful home....that in all actuality, is just a house.  A broken down, former beautiful house that harbors so many memories of my former life.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Little Less of Yourself . . .

     In the hectic routine of mundane activities we call life, have you ever just taken a day or two to step back and take in who or what is going on around you?  It is a radical experience to do nothing at all. Ever try it?

     I recently did just that; nothing.  My husband and son were at a youth retreat. My oldest daughter was with a friend for the day.  I had the three little girls, that was it.  I had nothing going on but, there was plenty to do.  However, this day was different. I woke up with a heavy heart and knew that this day would be spent in self reflection and examination.  I would do nothing at all. 

     A mother of five doesn't often get the chance to do nothing.  Luckily we have lots of TV channels and a Wii that kept the girls busy during my Saturday adventure!  *gasp*  Yes, that is right. I used the TV and video games as a babysitter for the day! 

     The more I prayed, the more my heart was opened. The more I cried, the more clear my sight became. The more I read, the more enlightened I became.  I can't describe the thoughts that were going through my mind. Some was anger at myself, at circumstances, at things in my past, mistakes that I have made, and ones that others made against me.   The anger turned into forgiveness and the desire to put away, no, to dispose of all the negativity that I was harboring in my heart.  I needed to let go of the hurt, sorrow, and pain.

     I am a firm believer that my circumstances in life have led me to where I am today. I could whine and complain about my life and the hand I was dealt, or I could deal with it, embrace it, and move on.  I could think about all the people that have hurt me, or I could spend my time being thankful for the ones that love me.  I could concentrate on the "what could have beens" in life and let the blessings that I do have slip away.  I could let myself rot away with anger and resentment for all of the issues that I have had to deal with since I was a child, or I could learn from them and appreciate the experience.  It is a choice.

                                                   Pure and simple. A choice.

     My choice, my revelation,  this past weekend was to let go of myself. Let go of my fears, my worries, my anger, my sorrow, my bad feelings of lack of accomplishment....and feel free again!




Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dresses? Where did they go?

     I am not old fashioned by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think that I am a pretty "cool" mom when it comes to most things. However, dress shopping for a winter formal dance with my 11 year old put my coolness to the test.

     Amanda is my one remaining child in public school. She started junior high this year and is doing very well. She has straight A's, made the scholar bowl, is in two choirs, she is on the baton team, and is cast as "A Star to be" in Annie, the middle school musical. She is a neat kid.  With middle school however, comes more activities away from home and church.  Such as, dances.  I don't really like the idea of her going to dances at all. But, we came to the conclusion that now is the time to allow her to go because there is no dancing going on! They stand around in a gymnasium and stare at each other. Yep, sounds safe to me!  On top of that, she needs to learn proper behavior at dances before high school hits. So, I have had to relax a bit on what I allow her to do.

     Her first "formal" dance is coming up in two weeks. She is so very excited about getting all dressed up, getting her hair and make up done, etc.  This past week, her and her friend approached me about taking them dress shopping. Being the cool mom that I am, away we went for a Sunday afternoon dress shopping extravaganza!

 (These are the two that I liked on her. They didn't win. Which may be good because they were both $20.00 over my budget.)

      I walked in the store they both wanted to go in, and immediately wanted to walk out!  Where were the dresses?  Why did the dress area look covered in shirts!?  And how was I ever going to find an appropriate dress for two eleven year old girls?!  What do cool moms do? They don't freak out, they let the girls guide themselves.  A little.  We walked out of the store with two dresses that the girls love. They weren't the sleeziest things, but not what I would want to wear at age 11. Then again, I was playing Barbies at 11.

(This is the dress that she chose. It looks much better on her that this picture shows. We don't have it tied in the back, and she is standing rather oddly. lol)

     I won't get into the whole shopping experience, because that would just be too long.  But, what I would like to mention is that I hope, by the time she gets to high school, and the real dances begin, there had better be more material on her dress!  What happened to the beautiful and elegant gowns of the past? Why is showing skin so important now?  How do we go a bit backwards at this point? I am not saying 1860's dresses or anything...but, even in the 90's we were covered up! See....here is one of my junior prom pictures from 1997. I am sitting on the left in the black dress....

    Something to think about.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Big Families.

     Yesterday, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar announced the pregnancy of their 20th child!  It probably wouldn't be a shock to most of you that I am a huge fan of the Duggar family, and any family that chooses to follow God's will for their lives.  To be real blunt, I would love to have 20 children!

       I was reading some of the news stories this afternoon and below each story is usually a comment section where readers can sound off their opinion.  I was appalled at some of the things that were being said about this family just because they are different.  But, as I think about the reader's comments on the Duggar family, I think of some things that have been said, or assumptions made about my relatively small family of five children.

     First of all, we get the strange looks. The look of superiority.  The look of disgust. How could two people be so irresponsible to have so many children?   Stepping through the grocery lines waiting to see if I pull out a Link card so they can back up their assumptions. And as I whip out my debit card, they just start looking for something else to glare about. Perhaps Hannah has a Kool Aid stache. Tabitha's hair may not be parted evenly. Dylan could have big rips in his jeans. Therefore, I obviously am not doing my job!   Any number of things. Assumptions. Just because I have what they consider to be a large family.

     You also get the sorts of people that figure we are a drain on the world's population.  Well, here is how I look at it. There are several people out there that are unable to have children, or maybe they prefer not to have any.  Since the average married couple has 2.3 children (Don't ask me, I have never had 1/3 a child), I figure, I am just meeting that average for those that don't have any children.  LOL.

      And hold onto your seat belts when we are discovered to be a homeschool family! I don't hide this fact; in fact I am very proud of all that we have accomplished in the last two and a half years.  But, saying we are a HS family puts us on the fringe of society. It is then assumed that we just want to shelter out children and keep them from learning about "reality."  Well, I am not going to deny that one. Why not wait until they are mature, and properly equipped to handle the pressures of today's youth? I don't want my daughter believing that sex is cool in middle school. I don't want my son believing he has to stop playing with his light sabers just because he is almost a teenager. I don't want my children to learn a new set of words that don't have any proper meanings anyway.  If raising good, responsible, children labels me protective, so be it!  We take the name bigots, homophobes, racists, and freaks because we choose to keep our children just that - children. And for as long as we can!

     All of that said, we have had some amazing comments come from folks wherever we go.  We were walking through a parking lot and some guy pulls up and asks if these were really all my kids. While I was thinking, "No, I kidnapped all of them and decided to let them out of the basement today," I nicely nod my head. He said, "Wow. Good for you. We don't see too many big families these days, and it is great to see yours."  We had a Taco Bell worker come up to say that she appreciated the fact that my children cleaned up the floor after they were through eating, so she didn't have to.  We get told ALL THE TIME how well behaved our children are.

    As it should, the good comments definitely outweigh the bad/

     I certainly hope that eventually people would just learn to embrace what is different. I don't judge other people for having one or two children. I don't make assumptions about their family.  So why do they have to do it with mine?

    And since when did having five kids become a "big family?"

    So, I just hope that Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar stay oblivious from the negativity. They are an amazing family who really are just trying to show us how they function. I personally find them fascinating!  Lots of kids, faith in God, debt free, homeschool, and are very frugal! What is not to love?
     If everyone is SO worried about her health, say a prayer for her. That is what Michelle would want anyway. Her faith and trust is in the very God that blessed her with 20 babies!

And just for fun, a little humor.....

If you haven't ever heard of Tim Hawkins, you really need to look him up! By far, the funniest guy I have ever heard!