Thursday, July 30, 2015

A (Bath)Room of One's Own

Four people. Four weeks. One bathroom.

We've started a master bathroom remodeling project which has left us with just one bathroom to be shared by four people, for four weeks.

Let me run those numbers by you one more time.

Four weeks.

Four people.

One bathroom.

Put another way, that's four people sharing access to one shower and one toilet... located in the same one room... for four weeks.

Sure, we're forced to share one bathroom between the four of us when we go on vacation. That may be why we don't take more vacations. And why we've never gone on vacation for longer than one week. 

It's only been one day and already I'm considering voting someone off the island. This is truly the most horrifying season yet of Survivor: Suburbs. Outwit (how many evening meetings can I attend?), Outplay (time limits on showers!), Outlast (cross your legs and for God's sake don't sneeze!) – indeed!

The Princess will be leaving soon to spend a week and a half at the state fair for FFA, and she's getting a little nervous. While I know I'll miss her, all I can think of is: "that's one less person using the bathroom!"

Four people, one bathroom... for approximately four weeks.

Let's face it. Remodeling projects never go as quickly as planned, so "four weeks" is really a best case scenario. And deep down I know it will be worth it when it's done. And it wouldn't take nearly so long if we weren't doubling the size of the bathroom. Instead of barely being able to turn around in the shower, someday (in four weeks) we'll have a custom-built shower big enough to (in the Princess' words) “wash a horse” in. Not that we would, but we could.

Of course that extra space comes at the expense of our closets, which won't be replaced until after the bathroom remodeling is done and the new addition is built. Two people, no closets, how many months? But I can only obsess about one thing at a time, and for now it's the lack of a second bathroom.

One bathroom, four people, four weeks.

I know there are many families – with more members – who share just one bathroom all the time. I know there are probably still people who share just one outdoor privy.

I've heard the horror stories.

I get it.

This is a first-world problem I'm experiencing here. I've become accustomed to a certain level of civilization and bathroom access, and by golly, I'm not ready to give it up!

To all you single-bathroom sharing, multi-player households let me just say it's not a competition, people.

Misery may love company, but it loves having it's own bathroom even more.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The New Normal

It's not the same.

The world did not stop when Mom died and sometimes that just seems so unfair.

Instead life kept rushing forward and I tried to keep up, tried to pretend nothing had changed. But of course it has.

Something – someone – is missing.

There is a hole in my life – bigger, deeper than before.

This is the new normal.

But every day is a new normal.

Things change, in big ways and in small, all the time. We adapt. We change. We accept.


When Mom first started to fail I would get so angry.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” I would think, all full of Dylan Thomas and daughterly angst. “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

My rage was big, and loud, and physical, and angry.

And exhausting.

And useless.

Now I realize she did rage.

But her rage was small, and quiet, and peaceful, and accepting.

And a blessing.

Her rage wasn't a fight to avoid change like I wanted, but a fight to accept change. To face the end with dignity and grace.

She raged against the dying of the light by accepting the limits of physical change, but not letting it change who she was inside.

She made the most of what she still had. And she could still make people happy.

She could care. Smile. Laugh.

At her burial, as the minister said those last few words, as we said our last good byes, we accepted the physical change in our universe – her passing would leave a big, black, sucking emptiness where her body used to be. (Was her ever-shrinking body supposed to make that empty spot smaller? It didn't.)

But the emotional change, the emptiness in my heart, how could I accept that?

An ice cream truck approached from down the hill, the familiar notes of “Turkey in the Straw” ringing cheerfully across the quiet cemetery.

The air under the funeral home's tent, stifling with heat and sorrow just a moment before, changed, vibrated with barely suppressed giggles at the absurd juxtaposition.

“Dorothy would be the first one at that truck, buying us all ice cream,” said my friend-family-sister Sue.

We laughed aloud in recognition and relief.

And acceptance.

Because that is exactly what she would have done.

Exactly what she would want us to do.

Make the most of what we still had: each other.

Make people happy. Care about them. Ask about them. Listen to them.



Buy them ice cream.

Accept the new normal.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Little Thoughts on the Prairie

Some days I run just to clear my mind. To escape from my thoughts.

But today I cannot out run them.

I run on “my” little prairie for its solitude and beauty. The summer wildflowers are now blooming.

The challenge of the grassy trail and the relentless hills require concentration. I am “all in”.

Until I'm not.

After a mile and a half I slow to round a corner and my thoughts overtake me, crashing over and crushing me, as the humid air wraps around me in a claustrophobic hug.

I have no choice.

I stop.

The warm energy of the Iowa summer-time green growth seeps into my muscles, even as it sucks the life from my bones.

I'm caught.

I wonder: If I lay down on the trail and stay still long enough, will the prairie absorb me? Will I become part of this wild green?

I've stopped at one of my favorite places. The view here is vast and sweeping. The prairie teems with life. The air vibrates with the hum of industrious bugs. Bird songs ring high and twee. Rabbits dart across the trail. The tall grass is restless in the wind.

And yet it's so wide open – here on this small patch – that I feel isolated and lonely. I marvel at the pioneers' determination and drive. Imagine crossing this small patch a thousand times over!

I give up. I give in. Admit defeat.

I turn off my runner's watch.

Ignore miles and time and pace.

I walk.

I jog.

I lay down and let the prairie take me.

I breath.

I grieve.

I accept.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Saying Goodbye: The Beginning of the End


The Queen Mother is not doing so well.

Really, really, not well.

As in, it's past time for me to just get a grip, and admit that she will be gone soon.

It's just that... sometimes I still can't believe the woman lying there in that bed is my mom.

My Mom.

My Mom was always so full of life and energy and spit and vinegar and ornery, ornery, ornery-ness.

And love.

Even today there was a glimmer. When I got ready to go and I leaned over to hug her – to hold those wispy, fragile, bony shoulders – and to kiss her cheek and press the side of my face to hers, and to tell her “I love you,” it was there.

Her eyes found mine for just a moment.

I love.”

A breathy whisper.

My heart broke, even as it filled to overflowing.

I realize that I only knew a part of her, knew her only for one segment of time. I realize that other peoples' memories and interactions with her were different than mine. But she was... is... my Mom. We weren't “Gilmore Girls” crazy (although we had our moments), or BFF's. She's my Mom.

My hero.

My role model.

Sitting at her bedside, watching her breath, wondering what she's seeing that's just beyond my sight, my mind swirls with memories and my heart fills with emotion.

Even when she became “confused” she was still Mom.

“She's good at faking it, ” I told a friend, “You could stop in to visit her and ask 'Do you remember me?' and she'll smile and say 'Of course'.”

“She was a good Midwesterner,” he said, smiling.

What a wonderful description! She was! She is a good Midwesterner.

“She always had a smile and a kind word for everyone,” said a different friend years ago.  I'm sure there are those who would disagree with that assessment, but for the most part, it's true. This was even before Mom got confused, when it was just too hard to get her in and out of the car to take her all the places she would have loved to go, to see people she would have loved to see.

The staff at the nursing home said the same thing. She was always smiling, always teasing. Just today the Hospice nurse, who has only been visiting for a couple of weeks, said that when she asked Mom how she was feeling, Mom would say she was fine and then ask “How are you?”

Do I remember to do that? Do I listen to the answers?

She was always willing to help. She helped coach my little league softball team. She became our super-support speech mom/one-woman cheer squad when I was in high school. She became a 4-H leader for our neighbor kids – long after I had aged out of the group!

She was part of a core group of ladies who took care of dinners at the church. There is nothing as polarizing, as potentially explosive as the politics of church basement ladies. Forget everything the talking heads on TV tell you as we head into another election year. If any politician – ANY politician – ever says “I helped serve dinners in the church basement” forget about religious affiliation and elect that person. Immediately.

After all those years of (church) basement politics, serving on the city council was the next logical step for Mom. She pictured herself a champion for the city workers, and was so proud to become Mayor Pro-Tem. How many people shun taking this type of responsibility, shy away from getting involved (myself included)?

Of course there's a fine line between getting involved and being a busy body. I think she stayed on the straight and narrow. Although, again, everyone will have their own opinion.

And she knew that, too. She knew that sometimes people tried to do the right thing, or at least do what they thought was the right thing. Even if she didn't agree with them, she recognized that their heart was in the right place.

Her heart was in the right place.

I just hope mine is too.

Even though it's breaking right now.

I love you, Mom.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Take the Long Run Home

It was a beautiful morning for a run.

Sunny and cool, with a slight breeze. A mostly-flat route, with a potential hill-filled detour if I was feelin' cocky.

Perfect for letting my mind wander. Luckily it sent postcards from the road....

Mile 1
My old buddies the cows have stopped grazing to watch me. It really creeps me out when they stare like that. Wait a minute, they're turning... turning... and Holy Crap! They're out-sprinting me! Damn show offs.

Now they've stopped to wait for me. Have you ever heard a cow laugh?

Not cool, cows. It's a marathon-ish, not a sprint.

Cows suck.

Mile 2
The farm dog has a better memory than the cows. He takes his own sweet time, meanders out to the edge of the driveway, sits down, yawns, scratches, takes out a Thermos of coffee, opens up the paper, shakes his head at the grain futures report, and gives a half-hearted “Woof” as I run by.

Then another “woof” just for good measure.

Not cool, dog. I'm running as fast as I can.

Smart-ass dogs suck.

Mile 3
Running downhill! Yay!

On a rutted, washed-out dirt road!

Dirt roads suck.

It's a long, slow decline with a short, steep incline. Steep like "climbing out of a ditch" steep. Like "where's the ladder" steep.

Morris Day launches into “The Bird” on my playlist (Honest. I couldn't make this up):
“Last call for alcohol/ If you ain't got what you want/You got to get the hell up outta here!”

Thanks for the boost, Morris!

Popping up over a hill rocks.

Mile 4
Finally get to leave the gravel roads behind.

Gravel sucks.

I have to make a choice. Should I take the flat, shady trail, or the sunny, quarter-mile-long hill?

Hill it is.

Hills suck.

Mile 5
The good thing about going uphill is that eventually you get to go down hill.


Forgot that this side-route has more hills. Lots more hills.

Uphill sucks.

Downhill. Yay!

Up. Suck.

Down. Yay!



Mile 6
If I finish six miles, I can have a cup of coffee and half a monster-sized cinnamon roll.

Another freakin' hill?

Make that the whole cinnamon roll.

Cinnamon rolls rock.

Mile 7
I have a cramp in my ass. Who gets a cramp in their ass?

How can my ass cramp up when it feels like it's bouncing around back there like a basketball?

Wait a minute, it's only the left side that's cramping and bouncing. The right side feels... nothing.

Holy Crap! My ass cheeks have merged into one giant, lop-sided, crampy basketball.

Ass cramps suck.

Mile 7.5
One more.



The end is near.


Not near enough.


This run was too far.

It's taken too long.

I've outlasted my playlist and my iPod has switched to shuffle. It's like musical Russian roulette at this point.

And the winner is (I shit you not): Billy Joel's “I Don't Know Why I Go To Extremes.”

Me neither Mr. Joel. Me neither.

I DO know finishing a 7.5 mile run ROCKS!


I'ma hava cinnamon roll!

And a steak!

Take that you smart-ass cows.