December 27, 2011

It's a good thing Catholics drink

Today was my grandma's funeral.  And I don't know how I feel about it.  I've spent the last week or so telling people, "I'm okay.  I know my grandma's in Heaven with my grandpa, which is where she wants to be."  And I do know that.  But that's not all I feel.

The early part of the grieving process is weird because shock plays a major role.  It cushions us from reality.  It creates a barrier that protects the grieving from facing things before we're ready. 

Shock is the grieving equivalent of diaper rash cream for sore baby butts.  The pain potential is still there, but thank God for the buffer. 

During the early stages of grieving, some feelings are like slaps in the face, while others are like wading through dense fog.  What happens in real time doesn't feel quite real.  And the memory of it slips away bit by bit like a fading dream upon awakening. 

Today doesn't feel real. 

Now, you might be thinking I need to up my bipolar meds.  And maybe you're right.  And I'm sure it won't help my case when I tell you that after the memorial service, we took my grandma's ashes in an urn to Golden Corral for lunch.  She was right there at the table with us.  She loved Golden Corral, and you know we have a history there, so it made perfect sense.

We had a deacon perform the funeral rite because our priest was out of town.  Another might-I-be-in-a-sitcom? moment was when I blurted out, "I don't believe my grandma's in purgatory and I don't think most of us even believe in purgatory anyway!" as soon as the deacon left the chapel.  He'd actually mentioned the possibility that my grandma might be in purgatory.  At. her. funeral!!!!  I couldn't believe it.  My grandpa was Catholic too, and there was nary a purgatory-related utterance at his funeral.  So it's not like purgatory references are standard Catholic funeral fare.  I don't know that I could have held that in for the entire funeral, so it was probably a good thing that the deacon left after his part of the service. 

After the service, I complained about the purgatory talk to my cousin and uncle.  I mentioned that when I saw the deacon at church on Christmas Eve, he asked me how I was doing with the loss.  I replied with my usual, "I know she's in Heaven with my grandpa..." comment.  And he hesitated for what was probably 3 seconds, but felt like a minute, and said, "Well, just continue to pray for her."  And I knew that purgatory was what he meant! 

In response to my complaining, my Uncle Craig dead-panned, "It sounds like the deacon must've known your grandma."

In case you are confused at this point, I'm Catholic.  But I struggle with some Catholic Tradition. (Like arbitrary capitalization, for example.)  Belief in purgatory is another Tradition that I'm just not down with.  And here's why:  Jesus already died for the forgiveness of our sins.  So why would we need purgatory?  (If you're a devout Catholic, it may seem ridiculous to you that I was offended that a Catholic clergyman mentioned purgatory at a Catholic funeral.  But see, my offense knows no denomination.  Catholic or not, I think it's annoying for purgatory to be mentioned at someone's funeral!  That's like saying, "She's in a better place.  Well, maybe.")

So that got me riled up.  I leaned over with a WTH? look to my cousin, Missy.  She had the same expression on her face.  Which made us both crack up, of course.  Which was totally irreverent and therefore, totally appropriate for a family gathering of my clan.

And then there was the music mix-up.  In planning the funeral, I'd requested Amy Grant's version of Amazing Grace.  When I showed up for the service, I was informed that the service coordinator couldn't find the song, so it would be Celtic Women's version instead.  No big deal, I thought.  And it started off fine.  Peaceful, like you'd expect Amazing Grace to be.  But come verse two, it got all, well, CELTIC up in there!  Not quite Riverdance, but still. 

And then Ave Maria was supposed to play as the good deacon finished up his part of the memorial service.  But it didn't.  I don't know what the service coordinator was doing back there, but she sure wasn't pressing Play.  So I encouraged the deacon to just keep going.  I thought we'd just skip the song, but apparently both the deacon and the coordinator had other ideas.  He asked for the song a second time and this time the music started.  But it wasn't Ave Maria.  No, it was an encore of Celtic Women's rendition of Amazing Grace!  And then it stopped.  And then it started.  And then it stopped.  And then it started.  It was like some crazed Irishman was trying his hand at skipping records!

This went on for a few minutes.  So I got up and went to the back of the chapel and said to the coordinator, "How about we just move on?"  The moment had passed, you know?  But she was determined, so she played it anyway.  As I sat through the 4 or 5 minute song, it was hard to keep a straight face.

I was a little afraid of myself at this point.  I'd planned the service well.  But the main players were not cooperating!  I wanted it to go PERFECTLY!  I wanted to finally be able to relax and just be present.  Not coordinating things.  Not fixing things.  Not worrying about the details.  Just being present.  And I felt myself fraying.  Going just a wee bit crazy.  Hence my "DOWN WITH PURGATORY!" protest.

Fortunately, things went more smoothly when they got more personal.  After the deacon left, I read my eulogy.  Laughed a little.  Cried a little.  Then I opened the floor for other people to share their Meemaw stories.  My uncle talked about how my grandma helped him walk again after the doctors threw up their hands at his polio.  My cousins talked about how they were scared of Meemaw while they were growing up.  That she threatened to swat them when they were kids!  And I was like, "What?!"  She wasn't that way with me at all.  At least, not until the past few years!  LOL! 

Also fortunately (for HER!), the memorial service coordinator got the third and final song right.  It was Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler.

Even with the glitches, I think we really celebrated Meemaw's feisty spirit.  There was reverence and tears.  But there was also laughter and joy. 

I don't think she would have had it any other way.


December 19, 2011

Rest in peace, Meemaw

My grandma went to Heaven early this morning.  She was ready to go.  And her passing was a peaceful one.  That gives me great peace.

Our awesome priest came to see Meemaw in between services Sunday morning. He prayed over her and performed the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  I am grateful for that.

I am happy that she is reunited with her husband (my Poppy), her mom and dad, and her brothers.  As well as with my brother, Collin.   And I love that she's meeting Jesus.  I hope they're all having a wonderful party!

And I am so thankful to have had my grandma for all 29 years, okay, 37 years of my life.  I know that many people don't have their grandparents that long.  Both of my grandparents passed away at the age of 87, far outliving the average life expectancy.  Another reason to say, "Thank You, God."

And thanks to all of you who have been praying for us.

Rest in peace, Meemaw.  We'll miss your sass and your pie crusts.  Thank you for calling me sweetheart.  I love you.

Dorothy Evelyn Eckmann Lambert
October 18, 1924-December 19, 2011

She did it her way.

December 18, 2011

Meet Tank

He's 80-odd pounds of drool love.  And he's spending the next couple of weeks with us to see if he's a good fit for our family.  He loves people and wants to get to know our lab mix Raven, but she's all I will CUT you.  We're hoping that's a temporary thing.

Nature Boy is super excited.  Tree Guy cracks up at Tank's snorting.  (He's not so crazy about the drool trails though...)  And I like Tank's wiggly butt and stub of a tail.

We're counting on Tank to bring some joy and laughter during this sad time.  My mom, GC Brawler, wants to meet Tank, so I'm taking him to her crib in a bit.  I'll kiss my grandma while I'm there too.  Hospice says it won't be long.  We decided to have an early Christmas this year.  We celebrated at my mom's last night.  Meemaw was able to open her eyes long enough to see me and Nature Boy looking like crazy folk in our Santa hats.  I hope it made her smile on the inside.

Please say a prayer for my grandma.  And for us.

December 16, 2011


I've got sad news to report.  My grandma is actively dying now.  Her hospice nurse told my mom that it will likely happen before Christmas.  As I'm sure you remember, Meemaw is naturally a feisty lady, quick to threaten to shoot you in the foot if you get on her nerves.  This geriatric badassness was still present a week ago.  She was getting physically weaker, but still had that essential sass that Meemaw is known for.

Not anymore.

She can barely talk or open her eyes now.  She has trouble eating and drinking.  A few days ago I told her I love her and she was able to say, "I love you too."  At that time, I knew that it was likely the last time I would hear her say it.  But I will always feel it.

When her husband, my Poppy, was dying in 2008, his hospice nurse told me that hearing is the last sense to go in a dying person.  Even when a person is in a coma-like state, he or she can still hear us.  I know that Meemaw knows I love her and am grateful for all that she's done for me.  But I'm going to continue to tell her every time I visit her.  I'm going to continue to share funny stories with her, so that even if she can't laugh, she'll be cracking up on the inside.  I'm going to talk to her about her husband.  Her husband who is waiting for her in Heaven.  The husband that she can't wait to be reunited with.

She's been saying, "I'm ready to go whenever the good Lord takes me," for the past few years.  I know she is ready.  And that does make it easier to accept that it's happening.  But it's still a shock.  It's still painful. 

I can't imagine a world without Meemaw in it.

December 13, 2011

Guest post: Eight Ounces

Here is part three of the Brie trilogy.  Thanks to the lovably sardonic Wendy for submitting these.

Eight Ounces

In my background as a mental health nurse I’ve learned many different theoretical models for treatment. Freudian therapy, behavior modification, solutions-based treatment, to name a few. I’m currently formulating alternative plans for a problem a certain family member has been experiencing since she moved in with us. Her name is Brie and she’s a dog.

The recent incident of her digging up, killing, and bringing a gopher inside the house and placing it in a not-so-obvious spot has put these alternative plans more in front of my mind. Have you heard about the gopher? It’s not so much that she lovingly killed the rodent and brought it to the one she loves the most as an offering of her devotion. I can appreciate that. It’s just that she placed her offering under my desk and behind a mesh bin where I store homeschooling supplies. I’m not really sure of when she did this, but gradually the odor of her offering caught my notice. It must have been at least 4 or more days before I fully investigated the smell, and discovered it was the smell of rodent death. I was not happy, and even today I have to make the choice to forgive her rather than hold anger against her. I remind myself that holding something against a person, or a dog, only hurts myself. Forgiveness is vital to move forward. Deep breath.

Moving on, it was my mother that brought up this alternative treatment in regards to Brie. My mother. You have to know her. She adores, not just simply loves, she adores dogs. She treats her own dog better than she treated me as a child. I’m not angry, just saying. This dog simply looks at her and my mom interprets him as saying, “I love you so much but my tummy is empty. Could I please have a little snackie?” And my mom feeds the dog. She lets him lick out dishes of ice cream. She allows him to have no boundaries so he jumps into people’s chairs or laps and puts his paws right up on their chests. He jumps up to greet anyone that comes to the front door. No boundaries. Life is all about him.

So my mom reads an article, cuts it out, and brings it to me. Frankly, I’m shocked. I thought she loved Brie but obviously she doesn’t. Here is the solution she shared with me, and that I’m considering should Brie not conform to the rules of my household:

Baked Brie en Croute With Pears

Ingredients –

2 Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
½ cup water
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 8-ounce Brie
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
3 cups baby greens

The recipe is pretty complex but you place the baby greens on a serving plate and place baked Brie on top. Serve warm.

I’m still trying to figure out what 8 ounce part of Brie to use…..

December 12, 2011

Of skinny tees, iridology, and e-collars

My grandma wasn't lying when she said, "It's hell to get old."  Not that I've experienced it myself yet.  But I've watched it, first in nursing homes when I was a gerontology student in college.  Then as my beloved grandparents aged, both of them eventually developing heart disease and lung cancer.  We lost my grandpa to cancer in 2008.  My grandma is now bedridden with it.  Please say a prayer for her.

I haven't written much about Meemaw lately because my mom is now her caregiver.  She's the one who's there for the day to day stuff.  And we've been busier than usual.  Since October, our days have been wrapped up in the slave market known as community theater.  For several weeks, Nature Boy had play practice four times a week, followed by a week of daily practice, followed by a total of SEVEN shows.  We're theatered out.

Also during this time, our 10 year old lab mix, Raven (who was sick this summer with a mystery liver ailment) got sick again.  She developed a giant hot spot, a fever, and joint pain.  Like last summer, the tests revealed exactly nothing.  This is her second hot spot in 3 months--after a lifetime of being hot spot-free.

Hot spots are no joke, people.  But they do necessitate interesting apparel.

$1500 in veterinary bills later, we still didn't know why our always-healthy dog was suddenly getting sick.  Conventional medicine wasn't giving us answers.  So we went to a Native American healer.


Phyllis sees both pets and people--for free--on a first come, first served basis.  She practices iridology, an alternative medicine technique.  Her family has been doing it for generations.  We entered the herb store and took our place among the other freeloaders.  We waited about an hour before it was our turn.  Phyllis looked into Raven's eyes and asked me if we'd sprayed our yard with chemicals over the summer, as she suspected Raven had been chemically poisoned, thereby inflaming her liver.  We had.  But Tree Guy assured me he'd used a safe spray.  Our next door neighbor, however, had used all kinds of crap--toxic stuff.

She told me the hot spots were due to a wheat allergy.  And that Raven's immune system was weakened after being sick all summer, so when her skin got itchy and she created infected sores by licking, the infection became systemic.  That was the cause of her fever and joint pain.

And really, it makes perfect sense.   

Phyllis "prescribed" a multi-vitamin and a probiotic, along with a few other herbs.  She recommended a switch in dog food as well.

She also "read" Nature Boy and me.  She asked about my right lung.  (I had a biopsy in my right lung in 2006 because of Bird Fancier's Lung, and I still have some fibrosis there.)  She was concerned about my blood sugar and mentioned digestion issues.  (I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Crohn's disease.)  She noted Nature Boy's allergies and told him to avoid wheat, corn, sugar, and cow's milk.  We knew about the cow's milk.  He pretended not the hear the part about sugar.

Nature Boy and I were given a list of supplements to take and foods to eat for better health.  (Good cabbage recipes, anyone?)

And to think, before our dog got sick, the closest we'd gotten to alternative medicine was the chiropractor.

December 10, 2011

A little unsolicited advice

The thing about having a blog is that you gotta rein yourself in sometimes.  You know, budget your creativity wisely.  A little funny here.  A little self-deprecation there.  A little rant over yonder.  If you blow it all in one place at the same time, you're gonna run out of crap to say.  And people will be disappointed that you can't keep it up.

It's like wearing makeup.  If you (like me) rarely wear makeup, people get used to looking at your natural (dark-circled, ruddy) face.  When you deign to put on a little shellac, people think you look like a supermodel.  Whereas if you always wear makeup, people get used to the spiffy you.  So when you don't have time for The Face one morning, or you just want to give your skin some breathing room, people assume you're sick or that your husband left you. 

It's all about lowering people's expectations, see.  And I, for one, think it's a good game plan for life.

My theory is that when you lower other people's expectations, any little thing you do is magnified to greatness.  Are you a terrible housekeeper?  Make the bed.  Your husband will be amazed!  Can't cook?  Throw a bunch of stuff in the Crockpot.  Your children will be in awe!  Never fix your hair?  Invest in a newsboy cap.  You'll look stylish without even trying. 

Don't show your game face all the time.  That way you can surprise people. 

And sometimes, you might even surprise yourself.

P.S.  I'm working on a cold sore now, just so people will think my lips look AWESOME at Christmas in comparison.

December 07, 2011

Those street sweepers move fast, y'all

There's an event in my life that I don't think I'll ever live down.  It follows me hither and yon like an illicit fart that you walk away from in the hopes that someone else will get blamed.  (Or maybe that's just me.)

I forget about it from time to time.  It's nice, really.  And then some smart ass relative or friend brings it up and everyone has a jolly HARHARHAR at my expense.  I mean, I can take it.  It is kind of funny.  It's one of those things that makes me unique.  Special.  You know, if I was at a conference and we were playing an ice breaker game, I could totally check off the box that says, "Have rear ended a street sweeper."

It was April 2006 and Nature Boy and I were headed somewhere in our new-to-us car.  He was in his big-kid booster seat (yep, I'm one of those moms) in the middle of the backseat.  I was driving.  I've mentioned before that I have OCD, right?  Well, sometimes it can be a bit of a road hazard.

We'd just left our subdivision when I had the obsessive thought, Are my eyebrows even?  Perfectly normal thought to have whilst driving (or any old time, really).  I glanced in the mirror conveniently located in my sun visor (for exactly this purpose, I'm sure).  The evenness of one's eyebrows are of the utmost importance, of course.  A girl can't walk around with eyebrows all akimbo. 

It seemed like it was just a second, but in that second, a giant grey street sweeper jumped out in front of my car.  One second the road was clear, and all of a sudden a giant metal tank appeared.  And it was coming up fast.

I mentioned earlier that this car was a new one.  I didn't know it had anti-lock brakes.  My old car didn't have anti-lock brakes.  I didn't even know how anti-lock brakes work!  And to be frank, I like to be in control of my own braking thankyouverymuch.  Anti-lock brakes think they're the boss of me, and I don't take kindly to that nonsense.

Anyhoo, I slammed on the (pitiful excuse for) brakes, but the car just started lurching forward.  I was slowing down a little bit, but was in no way stopping.  The street sweeper was getting much closer.  I realized that since my brakes were obviously bad, I probably wouldn't be able to stop in time.  So I weighed my options:

1.  drive over the curb into the grass, most likely damaging the front end of my new car  
2.  swerve into the middle turn lane without looking first
3.  take my chances and keep wrestling with the control freak brakes

I chose option 3.  We weren't going fast anyway, since we'd just pulled out of the neighborhood.  I figured either we'd stop just in time or we'd barely tap the street sweeper.  I figured at the most we'd have a small dent in the bumper.  I also figured fixing a dented bumper would be cheaper than repairing the front end.  The drive shaft or fly wheel or whatever it is that gets damaged when one curb-checks like a mofo.

In short, I figured wrong.

Nature Boy and I kept lurching forward.  I clenched my butt cheeks.  And we ran into the street sweeper.  It wasn't a major crash.  No big deal, I thought.  And then I got out of the car to look for damage.

A little bitty dinky air kiss with a street sweeper totally screwed up my car's bumper!  There was absolutely no damage to the street sweeper, of course.  To add insult to injury, the street sweeper-keepers called the police!  They claimed they were required to do it because street sweepers are government vehicles.  Yeah, whatever.  I mean, why couldn't they just shake their heads at my stupidity and then drive away like the couple I'd rear ended a few years before?  (I was making sure my eyelashes were even that time.  Totally different situation.)     

In addition to a messed up bumper, I got a ticket for reckless driving.  And we had to fix our own car, of course. 

Which makes this the most expensive eyebrow job I've ever had.

December 05, 2011

The winning contest entry! (Finally...)

Below is the winning entry for the Everyday Hilarity Writing Contest. Enjoy!

The Offering

Brie is Stefan's dog, but she loves me the most.  Why?  Because I give her daily massages and tell her what a cute dog she is, and she really is! I basically treat her with dignity and respect, as much as a dog deserves, considering she licks her butt then wants to kiss your face.  I even feel compelled to feed her when Stefan forgets.  It's the eyes.  I'm putty when her eyes give me the "I'm starving" stare. 

Stefan is the human that Brie can play with, especially when it means getting out of homeschooling (for Stefan, not Brie), and who roughhouses with her when she is in the mood.  He's the one that steals her toys and then tempts her to play tug of war with him.  Brie has to sleep in a kennel in his room...and she does, reluctantly.  If he forgets to latch the door to the kennel, like clockwork, Brie's on MY bed downstairs at 4:30am, snuggling.  And I let her.  It's the eyes.

Then there is the Great Leader.  He's that guy that Brie adores from a distant, yet creeps to be near him, only wanting his approval and even that rare pat on the head. If The Great Leader says something like, "You're a stupid, smelly dog, Brie,” she beams with joy as the Great Leader has spoken magic words over her.  I watch this display with disgust.  He hates you, Brie.  Why are you always trying to suck up to him?  Don't you know he loves cats?  Get a clue.

So one day I’m sitting down at my desk and smell that "smell" again.  It’s been in the air for a few days. It's like something's sour, something's awful, something's....dead.  No way.  I looked to see if Brie was under the desk, thinking she was having gas issues (we don't talk about it in front of her - she's sensitive about it, you understand).  She loves to sit at my feet, probably because she worships me.  I punt her in the head every time I re-cross my legs, yet she still stays. 

Back to the smell. Brie's not under the desk so it can't be a fart, excuse the language.  On a whim I pull out the canvas crate I have in front of the drawer to get a better look under the desk.  I first think I'm seeing a RAT!  It's lying on its side as if it's resting, but the smell gives away its secret.  It's a dead animal, a gopher.  And it's not just dead.  It's really dead.  There is a difference, you know.  It's based on a smell meter, and by the smell of this rodent, it's been dead a while, thus I can categorize it as "really dead."

Oh man… Stefan comes up and doesn't want to have anything to do with this potential science project, as I'm getting a plastic sack to "bag" the critter and consider the possibility of dissection.  I'm a nurse, you might not know that, and despite being a mental health nurse and not the blood and guts nurse like my mom, I do have a particular bent toward dissecting things.  I blame it on my mom.  We've dissected a few snakes in our day.  Killed 'em for scientific a purpose, at least that’s what we've told the snakes as they were getting their heads chopped off. 

So I pick up this gopher, obviously brought in by the dog as my husband and son are not the types to even pick one up, let alone bring it into the house. Frankly, at this point, the smell (believe me, I’ve smelled about everything) is strong. I feel a slight bubble of emesis (AKA vomit) in my throat, and I am not one to vomit at anything. I decide this specimen is a bit too dead to even get my mom interested in doing a science experiment with me. It goes in the trash bin in the garage, and a full forensic clean-up of the carpet and air ensues. Bring in the special air machine.

Then it hits me – where is the proof?! I just got rid of the evidence too quickly without taking a picture! Drats. I’ll do it later. I’m still smelling “the smell.” So Scott comes home, realizes the garage stinks horribly like something dead is in the trash, and puts it outside on the curb even through it’s 2 days early for trash pickup and the neighborhood Nazi’s (AKA neighborhood association) will surely contact us to tell us we can’t do that.

So I don’t get the picture of the critter. And the dog (I don’t even give her the respect of calling her by her name) knows that everyone in the household is mad at her. She comes up to me with the eyes….I only turn away and tell her I’m still mad at her. I can’t believe she did this to me. She had to know that I’d wind up being the one to clean up the rodent death smell as the others are too weak in their stomachs. I’m feeling betrayed.

The Bible says, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” At bedtime I decided it was the Christian thing to do to forgive her. I called her on my bed. (Did I tell you that after the cleanup of the death camp under my desk, she got a full scrub-down bath and no nice talk during it?) I told her I was choosing to forgive her, as He has reminded me that He created dogs to do dog things, and not to do people things. She was designed to dig - that’s really what Scottish Terriers were bred to do – dig out rodents, I found out AFTER we had adopted her. And she was designed to bring those trophies so proudly captured and killed to the one she loves most. Me. Yep. Her prize of this gopher carcass to me was only a sign of her immense respect for the one who cares for her the most. It was her offering to me. I didn’t want it. She knows that now. We’ve had a long talk (I did most of the talking) about what are appropriate behaviors of affection and what are inappropriate. Her motivation was right; her expression was wrong. She now knows that all gopher offerings are to be dropped outside the back door.

Her eyes told me she understood.