Sued51's Blog











{March 28, 2017}   Scenic Overlook

view

Scenic Overlook

For some reason I have never been able to find a writing partner, someone who is not too much better than me or no worse than me, someone who writes in my style, who instinctively understands me, or at least wants to understand me. So when I have a bad day, I either put on the fake cheer on Facebook, which is acceptable to most people, or write in a vacuum to get my thoughts and feelings out, producing yet another poem to stick in a bulging notebook of unread, unpublished efforts.

So yesterday was one of those days for me and this is the result. I am taking the leap of sharing my poem here with whatever readers I have left (considering that I haven’t made my blog a priority for a long time or kept up with the people I used to follow faithfully).

SCENIC OVERLOOK

Some would say life has brought me backward.

I grew up poor in a rich town

where I had to hide my dark hair

beneath a golden hat, which only

made me feel hot and awkward.

Now I live poor in a poor town,

a place most of my old classmates

wouldn’t get caught dead in,

but at least I blend in:

another gray wisp of a cloud

on a sunless day,

another brown leaf on the ground

of a winter wood full of leafless trees

in muddy March

when spring’s new hope

feels like a crazy dream…

But I digress.

 

Yesterday I drove through some rich towns —

just looking —

not like an open-mouthed tourist

but like a coroner searching for clues to a death.

I examined the details as I saw them:

the handsome man with the perfect haircut

jogging on my side of the road

wearing clothes that I recognized

cost more than two week’s of my groceries,

(he forced me to the wrong side on a curve).

Then I pulled over to gaze at a view,

and to avoid the impatient BMW surging

at my back bumper, like the rough waves

against at the rocks at the beach

with the “No Trespassing” signs, whose beauty

I had to observe from afar.

 

But I will keep my scientist stance

because I don’t like the flavor

of bitterness.

I theorize the owners of these million dollar mansions

with empty yards would naturally

look like the jogging man because their parents

looked the same, and because beauty and wealth

go together like cut glass and cognac.

Why would hothouse plants live among weeds

that may choke them

to death?

 



{April 30, 2014}   A Life of Irony

I am always reading personal development and inspirational blogs and books. I’ve tried meditation, visualization, and spirituality, and still I can’t figure out what my life’s purpose is and what I was meant to do. (PLEASE…THIS STATEMENT IS NOT AN INVITATION TO BLOGGERS OUT THERE WHO WANT ME TO JOIN THEIR PYRAMID SCHEME OF MAKING MONEY BLOGGING! I DON’T BELIEVE IN IT SO DON’T TRY TO HOOK ME.)

To bring God into it, I continue to be baffled by what he wants from me, I seem to be deaf to his messages in my life. My proof of this? My life is always full of irony. The moment I finally, after an agonizingly long time, make a decision, I am faced with an ironic response. Or my timing is off…things just don’t seem to work out.

Barricades

Barricades

My proof in point today: My to-do list had included the task — “make business cards” — for quite a while. My purpose was to use them as a tool to pick up freelance editorial work. But I wasn’t getting around to it. I finally decided to enlist the help of a friend’s daughter who is studying graphic design: good practice for her and assistance for me. On the front of the card I would advertise my services and on the back, my blogs. I finally spent the money and got them printed a couple of weeks ago.

And what happened in the meantime? One of the printers near me where I had planned to drop off a card and resume just laid off a large number of people. I was told by someone who works there…don’t bother…they won’t want your services…no work. I have been so busy working extra hours at my part-time job for the last month, as well as working on a freelance editing job and another part-time job, I have barely been able to visit my blogging community or produce blog posts. Result? Dead blog. JUST WHEN I PRINTED MY CARDS TO ADVERTISE. And now, a full-time job offer is on the table after I have been scrambling to pay my bills for a while…Although the job doesn’t involve what I THINK my talents are, I feel like I have to take it for financial stability.

What’s the message my readers? Is God telling me to give up my dreams and passion because it is not part of his plan for me or is he testing me? Based on the reading I have done, if you are following the path you are meant to follow, it will be smooth and easy. It won’t feel like constant barricades are being placed in your path. Or have I got that wrong?

I know that some of you manage to work full-time and still produce blog posts, but that doesn’t seem to be something I’m able to do. Is God it making a correction to my path or am I deluded as to what my talents are and what my purpose is?

I will move forward with the hope that there is a future I can’t foresee. In the meantime, I will try to post when I can. I’ve put 4 years into this…what’s another barricade?



{March 20, 2014}   The Pit Man

The Pit Man with his TruckThe Pit Man

The rumbling truck sound

sent us running on little girl legs,

between gushing giggles:

“The Pit Man’s Here!”

Funny how things turn up when the time is right.

I’ve been thinking about writing about the man I called, “The Pit Man” for years. I had started a poem that was never finished (see above). Then, over the weekend, my brother and I were back to sorting through boxes of old stuff at my mother’s. My brother found this solitary picture in a box of random stuff. He pulled it out and said, “Hey, is this the Pit Man?” I snatched it out of his hand excitedly and showed it to my mother. “Yes,” said my mother, “That’s him!”

When I was a child, my grandfather owned 18+ acres of land next to where we lived. He had owned the land our house was built on also, but gifted/sold it to my parents to start their family. The rest of the land was next to and behind our house and was leased out to a sand and gravel company. My parents ended up building their “retirement” home where the driveway to the gravel pit was. fifty years later the remnants of the chain are incorporated into the tree, and the rusty old cable is still coiled on the ground.

Chain incorporated into tree

Nature Devouring History

rusty cable

History’s Remnants

The arrival of “The Pit Man” was akin to a trip to the zoo for two five-year-old girls looking for something to relieve the boredom. He didn’t come every day, only when somebody ordered gravel, so his arrival was unpredictable and exciting. He would have to stop the truck in driveway to unlock the chain that protected it from unauthorized visitors. That gave us time to run over and greet him. He would always smile and spend a couple of minutes talking to us before proceeding with his work.

My memory is of a “James Dean” character: handsome, trim and tanned. The man shown in this picture resembles my memory that way Barrack Obama resembles Denzel Washington…NOT! I remember him in the heat of summer in a t-shirt: I remember staring at the tattoo on his sweaty arm while he smoked during a cigarette break…exotic! He didn’t speak like us. He spoke slowly; he said his “R’s”!  A  child’s first crush on an adult is a memorable life event. Funny how different our memories can be from reality, isn’t it?

Nowadays a mother would have to be wary of her daughter being around such a man; there seem to be so many brazenly bad people ready to hurt children. But back then, it was a different world. It was a small town; my parents knew him. (Funny that they even had a picture of him!) Finding it gave my mother the opportunity to tell me what she knew. His name was Lloyd; he was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She doesn’t remember why he ended up in New England — that would have been a big move back then when people were less likely to move so far from where they grew up, but it was likely economics or because of a marriage. She said he would often speak of his birthplace with affection and wistfulness, and he hoped to get back there someday. He never did; he died quietly in our small town. But he is remembered fondly…

Maybe I am meant to finish the poem…my tribute to what he meant to a small-town five-year-old girl.



{February 22, 2014}   Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

Survival Lessons

A friend recently recommended this book to me. I like Alice Hoffman‘s writing very much, so I got it out of the library.

I like to read thought-provoking or spiritual  materials in the morning. In the preface, Alice Hoffman describes her book as a guidebook for going through a life crisis; in her case, being diagnosed and fighting breast cancer. She said she wanted to write the book that she was looking for at that time, but couldn’t find.

It took me 1 hour to read: the time it took me to have two cups of tea and a couple of pieces of toast, so in effect, I devoured it. I would definitely recommend it as a “breakfast time book.” As I read it,  I could think of many friends I would love to give it to, people with loved ones going through battles with the big C. All of that being said, when I finished it, I thought, “If she wasn’t already a successful writer, this book wouldn’t have been published.” Not because it was wasn’t worthwhile, but because it was so simple. Some thoughts about life thrown together (not in a bad way), like having a good conversation over breakfast with a friend or reading some of the well-written blogs out there, complete with uplifting quotes and pictures. The reviews were quite good, if you would like to read them, but this is not a review…it is where my mind went after reading the book.

Every day I feel like I’m learning my own survival lessons, though I’m not going through a crisis of Alice Hoffman’s magnitude. Perhaps if I was, I would have gotten more out of it. I have been sick all week and I have been struggling through each day, unable to take a day off. Ok, I admit I was feeling some self-pity. I don’t have anyone to take care of me, and I live so on the edge financially that illness means a lot of money spent that I don’t have. It is a minor disaster to have to buy kleenex and medicine.

As I walked into the lady’s room with a coworker yesterday, I complained a little. She said, “what you need to do is talk to someone who is worse off than you.” Now, I have been told that before…and yes, sometimes it does the trick. But at what point does being surrounded by people with disasters in their lives make you suffer survivor guilt or give you a vision that life just contains too much pain and too little joy? A bit later I overheard her talking with her daughter on the phone and I knew she was suffering her own problems. I got up from my chair and went over to her, “That person worse off than me that you were talking about…was that you?” I said. Her eyes teared up, she gave me a quick synopsis and I gave her a hug.

A little bit later I had a conversation with another coworker who is in the process of finding out whether the cancer she just had removed is anywhere else in her body. She is extremely anxious about it, which is understandable, and I feel for her.

I said, “Ok God, I got the message,” and I shut my mouth because I didn’t deserve to complain. But I do have some bones to pick with the “do what you want to do” attitude portrayed in positive message blogs and in “Survival Lessons.”

Alice Hoffman recommends a lot of things in her book, one of which is to go on a trip to someplace wonderful: she chose Venice. And where does a normal person who is surviving one day at a time get the money to finance such a trip?? The people in crisis I know are lucky if they can pay their mortgage or afford their medical procedures. If I thought I was going to die soon, would I spend my retirement money? Yes. But, my grandmothers lived to be 102 and 96; unless the unforeseen happens, I have to be responsible and prepared to be able to take care of myself for many years to come, so a big “dream” trip is not reality for me.

I see people post wonderful blogs about doing all the things you want to do. I applaud them for doing what makes them happy, but I’m not a risk-taker so I’m not going to jump out of an airplane, and to be honest, I have no desire to. Even watching the skiers and snowboarders at the Olympics do the crazy things they do, gives me the shivers. So how does someone who doesn’t have big dreams or financial means celebrate life?

In very small, not particularly exciting ways. I enjoy walking, reading, blogging and playing with my cats. I am glad to say I have times when I feel content. But when I see others actually getting “excited” about things, I think I’m doing something wrong. I have convinced myself I don’t need much and really want for nothing, which is healthy, but is it real? I sometimes miss my younger days when a new CD or going to a show made me gush. Nowadays I don’t think anything is important enough to keep me from getting my sleep (including the Olympics).

So… “Survival Lessons,” I think I have achieved a passing grade: I am surviving. I have learned to appreciate each day in a quiet and grateful way, but sometimes I ask myself, am I living?




It’s a project, like refacing kitchen cabinets or refinishing furniture. Re-examining events in our lives, interpreting them, reinterpreting them…even if it means what I used to call “deluding yourself” and trying to enjoy the new look. Convincing yourself that it looks good after all the work…

Yesterday I started writing about Christmas memories in response to the daily prompt…it was a simple light-hearted post about my best and worst Christmas memories…but I didn’t finish it before I had to go to work. Then last night I had some bad luck. I tried to wake up today and have a good attitude. When I went back to the draft of the Christmas post…suddenly the worst Christmas seemed to be a metaphor for my whole life…UGH!

So now I’m ONLY writing about that hoping that if I write it down and re-interpret it, put a funny face on it, it might change things????  So here goes…the worst Christmas from a child’s point of view…

I think the secret purpose for Christmas stockings was that they kept us occupied long enough for our exhausted parents to get just-a-little more sleep! The rules were that we could get up whatever time we wanted and dig into our stockings, as long as we stayed quiet in our rooms at least until 6:00 am. So we would creep to the living room in the wee dark hours of Christmas morning, grab our stockings and race back to our rooms like squirrels with nuts. (In those days when my parents had very little money, that would literally be what was in the stockings…candy, nuts and fruit, an early breakfast.)

On this particular Christmas — one when I was still quite young and believed in Santa Claus — when I dumped my stocking on my bed, what did I find, but coal and crumpled paper. What???!!! I raced to my older brother’s room to see what he got. On his bed he had a load of candy and other treasures. “You got that?!” I said. He looked me in the eye and said, “Yes…what did you get?” The tears began to well up in my eyes. “I got crumpled paper and a lump of coal!” “Well,” he said matter-of-factly, “I guess Santa thought you were bad.” Now, I was a goody-two-shoes type of child who always tried to do the right thing and follow the rules, and yet…I BELIEVED this! I ran to my parents room crying my eyes out, disobeying the rules that you stay quiet until at least 6:00 am on Christmas morning. They grudgingly got up, not understanding what had me SO upset. They followed me to my brother’s room and figured out what was going on…he thought it was a funny joke to take my stocking stuff and replace it with junk. My parents retrieved my gifts and soothed me, but there was a pall cast over my day. Telling that story today I think that pall is still on me…

I opened the stocking of my life and found coal, despite my best efforts…and what did I do (and what am I still doing?). I cried about it. Only now, I cry to God. Is this REALLY what I deserve? When I don’t cry, I simply try to convince myself that the coal and paper are good…it means I have heat. But I know both reactions are unhealthy.

As I write this, I am determined NOT to keep handling this the same way. Today I am deciding to take my empty stocking and go off and search for my DESERVED treats. They have to be out there somewhere…Progress not perfection…it’s okay to share the struggles because we all have them.

I will just keep sanding…sometimes it takes patience and a lot of coats of stain to make them look good.




I have always loved Christmas decorations — their colors, their sparkle! It seemed like I could never have enough…until now. Whatever I have now, has to be enough. In my new small space I don’t have room for a big Christmas tree. This year my ornament collection of over twenty-five years, painstakingly unpacked, displayed, and repacked annually will stay packed away in storage. This year’s “late” Thanksgiving means this Christmas season is a short one, just 4 weeks (though the stores keep trying to make it seem longer) — definitely not worth digging through boxes in storage. Having anticipated this though, my 4-ft tabletop tree has been riding around in my car’s back seat for weeks. But what will I decorate it with? Surely I won’t be buying more ornaments? Imagination needs to be kicked into gear…But I do have something to draw on — a memory of a Christmas long ago…my Christmas in California.As someone born and bred in the Northeast, that was an oxymoron. Christmas is cold, and snow, and evergreens…

Tabletop Christmas Tree

Decorations to come…from my imagination…

That year my father had taken a temporary position in California. Near the end of his career as a marine draftsman, shipyards were closing and the need for ships was diminished, so he had to work where he could to support his family. I was in college, living in the house back home, while he, my mother, and younger brothers were living in an apartment in California. It was semester break and I was flying out to spend Christmas with them. I remember arriving at LAX two days before Christmas and seeing wreaths on the palm trees, thinking, “This is just wrong!” When we got back to their apartment, there was no Christmas tree! I was really disappointed and immediately complained. (I was young and ungrateful…after all, I should have just been happy to be with my family.) It could have been the start of a miserable holiday for everyone, but something wonderful happened. Always wanting to make me happy, my father said, “Let’s see what we can do…”

I followed him outside, not sure what he had in mind. Were we going out to buy one? Nope, he doesn’t have the car keys. Sticking out of the full dumpster outside was the top of a real Christmas tree; someone must have cut it off because the tree was too tall (or the ceiling too short). My dad pulled it out and said, “Here we go!”

I couldn’t help but smile, and I quickly jumped into the game. I pulled out some crushed soda cans…after all they were shiny and colorful! We got creative — using what we had and attaching things to the tree with bread ties my mother had stashed in a drawer. Our ornaments were stick-on bows, and gift tags, MacDonald’s toys, whatever we could find in the house…and we laughed and felt proud of our ingenuity. Charlie Brown had nothing on us!

I wish I had a picture of our “ugly” little tree to post here for you, but I don’t. I can only share a beautiful memory of a tree I will remember forever. A tree that helps me to remember to be grateful.



{October 26, 2013}   I Love My Landlady

Peter Pan and WendyHer name is Wendy. Not Wendy, as in caretaker of the Lost Boys, but Wendy as in caretaker of the Lonely Middle-Aged Cat Ladies.

She is a widow, a 5-ft tall dynamo who does the hands-on maintenance for her three Victorian apartment buildings. She implements a lot of rules, so she’s certainly not for those with a problem with authority or those who like to “buck the system.” But underneath her Type A exterior, she’s a compassionate nurturer. She’s like that teacher you had in school who was so tough on you…you grumbled about her at the time, but you knew she cared about you and wanted you to succeed. Although she was annoyed at having to totally rehab the apartment upstairs when the woman moved out, she spoke with compassion and understanding about the depression and hoarding issues that dumped that problem in her lap. And she helped the overwhelmed woman with her titanic task by taking some of her discards to a local donation center.

Knowing that I have very little money to live on right now, she has given me clothes (we are close to the same size) and she has left vegetables at my door (grown in the backyard by her and one of the other renters).

I have met two of the other renters in my building, both middle-aged ladies with two cats. (For those who don’t know, it is difficult to find a decent apartment that allows pets, let alone one that doesn’t charge you a fortune to have them.) For Wendy, who has done her share of cat-rescuing, her decision to rent to us is doubly satisfying…she is rescuing cats AND their owners. (I’ll grant you that quiet, middle-aged women probably cause her less trouble than other types of renters, but I really don’t think that is uppermost in her mind.)

This weekend, the aforementioned two ladies are having a yard sale, and they have invited me to contribute and hangout with them. I will likely do that. I have had conversations with both of these caring ladies and we have some similar life-experiences. If nothing else, we can talk about our cats!

But more than likely we will talk about what it is like to have lost your parents or to not have siblings or grown children to depend on; what it is like to be middle-aged women trying to make our way alone and invisible in a difficult world. But thanks to Wendy, we now have each other.

It’s never too late for a new family.




flashMy youngest brother swears my father had a “Flash”#1 comic book. He told me that in excellent condition it is worth over $100,000. “Then why aren’t we finding it right now?” I asked.

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that my much-loved father was somewhat of a hoarder.  I wax non-grammatical and say “somewhat” because it was never as bad as on the “Hoarders” TV show (and I loved him too much to put that label on him), but believe me…there’s a LOT of stuff.  My brother believes that particular treasure is in the attic of our mother’s house, so yesterday we spent a couple of hours dragging out box after box looking for THE comic book.

The boxes that were regular books had to be moved out of the way. There were magazines in piles that also had to be moved aside. “I’m sure we’ll find it in the boxes at the end,” my brother said. AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL, I said to myself.

Thanks goodness the weather wasn’t hot, but I can’t say I could breathe very well with the dust, spider webs and mouse droppings. Insert nose and mouth into shirt collar. There was no guarantee that if we found it, it hadn’t been chewed to pieces. The boxes were heavy and I had to carry them in a bent-over position because the attic isn’t high enough to stand up straight. But…as there are a few of us that need the money, I quietly carried on with the end result in mind.

We finally reached the “mother load;” he let me know which boxes had comic books in them and I brought those downstairs. We finally began looking through them. My father loved the artwork on the “Conan” books and some other comics that aren’t very popular. He had many Disney ones and Archies; many of the comics were newer ones (from the 60s or 70s). But…there were some from the 30s and 40s mixed in: Rin Tin Tin and “War Heroes.” “They’re mixed up,” my brother said, “we have to look through all of them.”

So we did…and…WAIT FOR IT: it wasn’t there.

My brother found HIS “Spiderman” #1 and #2 that he thought my other brother had taken from him years ago. We also found my great-aunt’s clock during the clearing of the path, which my mother had been looking for, but no “Flash.” That doesn’t mean it isn’t in a shed, the basement, or who knows where else, but it wasn’t with most of the other comic books. If it is in a shed or the basement, there is even less chance it is a sale-able condition.

My brother went home with his “Spiderman” comics, and I went home tired, dirty and disappointed, but it had made me think (and given me this blog).

I don’t gamble, because I feel it is a waste of money. Yet I was willing to waste 6 hours that I could have used looking for a REAL job, on what is really just another get-rich-quick scheme. Hoarders always think they have something special and most of the time, they don’t.

BTW, my father did have “Batman” #1 and “Superman” #1 comics that he sold many years ago when he was out of work and needed to feed his family. They did come in handy, but they didn’t make him rich. Who knows, maybe he sold his “Flash” during some other tough time my brother doesn’t know about, maybe he didn’t. Maybe we’ll find it one day or maybe we won’t, but I’m not holding my now dusty breath.



{September 23, 2013}   Is Living Small More Work or Less?

I’m not going to surprise you with my answer: more immediate chores that take less time. Does it equate to the same thing? I don’t know; I’m still in the discovery phase. I’m discovering that the chores are different, but are still there none-the-less. In a small place the chores are more immediate and cannot be ignored. This is what I’ve learned so far:

1. There’s a reason for that old saying: “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  Right now, I feel like I live in a thrift shop. It feels like my place looks messy, even when it is clean (still too much stuff), but if there is anything left carelessly on any surface, it seems to scream, “Put me away!”

And the corollary to #1:

1a.  You have to clean up immediately. I have always kept up with scooping the cat litter, even in a big place. But in a small space, the chore is immediate, or it smells BAD! Not only do I have to scoop immediately, but I have to get it outside to the dumpster right away. Also, although the number of dishes involved in the preparation and consumption of a meal for one person (and two cats) is a quick clean-up, I don’t have the space or the number of dishes to allow them to sit around dirty. I’m phobic about bugs so I want everything clean, clean, clean!

2. You have to go out of your way to recycle. Though my carbon footprint is smaller, it is less convenient to recycle when you are in a small place with no place to store up the recyclable bottles and cans. At my house, I could store them in the garage or under the porch until I could take them to redemption. As an apartment dweller, if I decide to go for a “can walk,” my route has to include a walk to the redemption machines at the local grocery store. When I first moved, I had noticed all the recyclable cans in my apartment dumpster and was amazed at people throwing out money! When I first saw them, I wished I could climb in to collect them, but now I understand why they are there. Too bad.

3. You can’t fit every gadget into a small space so you have to be creative and simple. I have a basic sink; there’s no vanity top for putting things down on (like putting on make-up, mixing up dye for my hair, etc.). Instead of putting the stuff on the toilet, I discovered the tray system. I take it out when I need it and put it away. Similarly, I don’t have a clothes drying rack, I have a small expandable curtain rod for my tiny shower. No big vacuum…a corn broom has to do.

small sink

Sink without vanity

small sink with tray

Sink with Tray

And under the bed, behind every piece of furniture and door, lurk the things you need, but don’t use often…but at least you don’t have to see them.

You can deal with anything with ingenuity, creativity and good cheer!



{July 19, 2013}   Home is Where the Cats Are…

My cats and I are country girls, used to quiet and beautiful window views. We are trying to settle into our small new space, which is located in a much noisier and busier area (the trade-off is that it is much more convenient to everything). The heat wave is dictating that we keep our blinds closed; we’re now surrounded by blacktop on the outside, surrounded by boxes on the inside. It feels stifling in more ways than one. I make use of the empty boxes as toys for the cats.

I play the stereo a lot to diminish the “city” noises of traffic and trains and keep the girls (and me) calmer. We all react to every sound…the upstairs neighbor coming down the stairs to leave for work in the morning; the maintenance man going about his business outside; cars passing within feet of our window on the way to the parking lot. But it is cozy and clean, and I can afford it.

It is still a small town, but we’re on a busy street, and the commuter train runs close behind our building. I try not to miss where I came from; I know I must embrace change and learn to love it. I know that though at times I feel like I’m in a big city, that is not reality. It is only when I compare it with the sleepy suburb surrounded by farms where we came from; it’s all relative. Mindset is everything.

We will all get used to it, given time. We’re together…that’s what matters.

cat lying on the floor

Zoee relaxing in her new space…

PS. There is no picture of Aimee because she is still spending most of her time hiding beneath the covers in the bed…but she did that at the old place too. Tabbies don’t change their stripes!!

PPS. It’s weird that I posted this yesterday and the daily prompt for today was about what makes home for you…



et cetera
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