Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Addiction

For the most part, I haven't gotten swept up in the "reality show" craze. I am more of a makeover show person, although Extreme Home Makeover is a bit too dramatic for me.

I like watcing Changing Rooms and Debbie Travis' Facelift and Sell This House. I even like While You Were Out and In A Fix. I especially enjoy Life Laundry and Clean Sweep. Clean House is an also-ran, but I will sit and watch it anytime I catch it.

But they all pale in comparison to my new addiction: MTV's Trailer Fabulous.

This show has it ALL! Trailer parks, dramatic makeovers, funny schtick, exciting reveals, and did I mention trailer parks?

Brooks Buford, the rapper cum showhost who penned and cut the title song "Trailer Fabulous", is a crackup, formerly a crackhead, according to his bio. I believe his newest CD is titled "Straight outta Rehab", an homage to his departure from the rap duo Rehab. Drug addiction aside, this kid is funny. I predict that he will have a career that exceeds Trailer Fabulous, but hopefully, he will stick with this for awhile, cause it is a damn funny show.

Oh, and by the way, the trailer makeovers are stunning. Johnny Hardesty, the flaming designer, whips these trailers into a frenzy like a boa-feathered tornado. He reminds me a bit of Freddie Mercury, which is a plus. The landscaper is stereotypical Queens, ( not A Queen, that's Johnny). The interplay between the cast is fantastic.

If you haven't seen it, oh, you must. For the good of mankind, you simply must.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Speaking of portraits . . . .

Do you ever wonder what I look like? I find myself creating mental images of each and every blogger that I visit, and I wonder how close I am to reality.

Well, in the spirit of goodwill, I have decided to put a face with the name for any readers that might wonder . . .

For those of you that hate spoilers, or just want to stick with the Rita that you might have conjured in your mind, just click away. For all others, scroll down.

It's amazingly close. It really is.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

My "baby" brought this home from PreK today. After a tense few hours at a lottery drawing for coveted PreK spots this summer, we were elated that he was the 19th kid drawn for a single class of 20. Amidst our cheers, he sourly wondered out loud, "Who wants to go to this dumb ol' school, anyway?"

But, turns out that he really loves school, now that he has gotten used to it. First few days were rough, with tear-filled mornings, but now, he springs to life every morning with excitement.

I can't remember where I read it, but supposedly, you can tell quite a bit about a kid's emotional state from their drawings. If they draw fingers and toes, they feel very connected and secure in their surroundings.

If that's the case, then this prickly-toed picture is VERY encouraging.

What a great kid.

Editor's note: After sending this scan to my husband's email account, he printed the picture and hung it in his office. Last night, after he returned home, he told me that when he walked into his office after lunch, he was startled to see that from a slight distance, the drawing resembled something different, and he made some indications with his arms and hands, as though he were holding very large spheres of some kind. I didn't really catch on, and I was busy sorting out the kids, so I just let it slide by.

We went to trivia last night, and Hubby had taken a picture of the printout with his camera phone. Passing it around the table, the (all male) trivia team members all agreed, that yes, indeed, it did resemble a "trouser tortoise".

"A what?" I asked, not quite hearing them correctly over the loud music and other bar distractions.

"You know, Stretch Johnson and the twins . . . ." one offered. "Yeah, Russell the Love Muscle" offered another. Still seeing the confused look on my face, one after another tossed their impressions into the ring . . . "Puff the Magic Dragon!" and "Pink Floyd!" It just started a whole thing . . .

Sheesh. Men.

But I have to admit, it kind of does. That makes it even funnier, actually.

Friday, August 19, 2005


I spent last weekend sorting through my parent's house. My sister and brothers were there; so were my kids and husband. We needed twice that many people. And a dumpster. And a well-placed match.

It's been a constant battle to get my dad used to the idea that we are going to have to sell their home. We talk to him a little every day about it. Initially, he ranted and screamed at each of us, cursing and threatening. Over the past month or so, he has softened a bit, but he still flares up from time to time. He is adamantly opposed to selling the house. He built that home with my brothers back in 1969. Through the worst of times, he and my mom hung onto that house. Through years and years of unemployment, infighting, separation, and financial hardship, he and my mom managed to keep the house. It was the one thing that was stable in our lives, really. The house.

Viewing the house from the street is pretty impressive. It is a beautiful structure. Very modern ranch home with cathedral ceilings and expanses of glass on a huge lot in a prestigious neighborhood. It has weathered storms, survived decades of kids and pets, stood firm from Nixon to Bush Jr and spent decades out of vogue only to recently return to cool with the resurgence of all things 70s.

Inside . . . . a very different story. With his health as with his house, my father's credo has been if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and if it IS broke, ignore it. That outlook paired with his penchant to obsessively buy and hoard things, all kinds of things, has made the house a disaster area. His 2400 square foot basement was, up until May of this year, packed to the rafters with hundreds of rolls of vinyl wallcovering. Over 500 rolls that weighed about 75 pounds apiece. The really heavy duty commercial stuff that you would use in office buildings or hospitals. He was sure that it would be a goldmine, that he would be able to sell it and turn a HUGE profit over what he paid for it at a bankruptcy auction. When he bought this stuff 15 years ago, the basement had only enjoyed about a year of freedom from storing hundreds of airplane seats, purchased at the Air Atlanta bankruptcy auction. Selling those seats was a blessing and a curse. He and my mom really needed the money from the sale, but selling them for a profit only encouraged him to hoard more.

It was something my dad had resorted to in the late 80s after he had burned his last bridge in the aeronautical engineering world and was unable to get any more lucrative contracts. He started buying and selling. Well, wait . . . let me correct that. He started buying with a faint notion of maybe selling. He just loved the buying. And the keeping. And the hoarding.

He has never been able to let go of anything. He and my mom have had half of a garage all these years because he parked his 55 Ford Fairlane there when it stopped running in 1969. It had been his sister's car, and when she passed away in 1957 at 27, the car was given to him and my mom. Once it gave up the ghost, he insisted on keeping it but never intended to fix it; he just wouldn't let go of it. Anytime anyone visited the house, the first thing they would see when they pulled in the drive was this dusty, tarp covered monstrosity (they don't have a garage door, its open). Inevitably, someone would ask "What's under the tarp?" followed by a lift of the corner of the tarp for a peek. This would usually generate a gruff reply like "Don't touch the car - just leave that alone!" Grace and tact . . . that's my dad.

My dad hasn't set foot in the house since before his ill-fated car trip and wreck back in early December of last year. My mom moved to her apartment when he left to go on the trip, despite her begging and pleading with him not to go. He was on his way to Florida to sell his wallcovering to contractors and homeowners dealing with storm damage. He had just received the news that Mama was moving out, that she couldn't take living like they were living anymore, that she had done all that she could to convince him to do something besides sit on the sofa watching Home Shopping Network and ordering hundreds of dollars of crap every month. She was tired of living in her bedroom, avoiding him, watching him as his health slowly deteriorated before her eyes, watching everything except his temper grow weaker and weaker as their house fell into disrepair and her savings dwindled trying to support the increasing costs to upkeep the huge house that they could no longer manage.

In all of these months, a few things have happened to the house. The wallcovering is gone. I tried to sell it on Ebay, and had no luck. I listed it on Craigslist for free, and still had no takers. Thinking that we would have to pay someone to haul it away and dispose of it, we breathed a sigh of relief when my ex-husband (who kept up a friendly relationship with my mom and dad over all of these years) sold the lot for $2,000 and had the buyer come get the stuff. It took the buyers 3 trips with 4 workmen and a tractor trailer truck each trip to get all of it. The few rolls they left behind were the ones that had been crushed under the weight of the stacks and stacks of wallcovering. It was a blessing to have it gone, even though there were 50 or so rolls left to deal with. My ex-husband came back this past month with a dumptruck and a couple of workers and made three trips to the dump with what remained in the basement (wallcovering and other junk), and amidst howls of protest from my dad followed by quiet resignation, we gave my ex the old 55 Ford in exchange for all of the labor and disposal costs. He has coveted that car for years, and will likely spend the money to restore it. Besides, he had saved us thousands of dollars in labor and disposal costs by finding a buyer for all of that godawful wallcovering. Seemed fair.

Then the floods and storms came through in July. Everyone and everything has limits. The old house stood bravely as the water flooded and receded. The basement filled with a few inches of water, and water poured into the attic space through vents and weak spots, I guess. It was a quiet kind of damage, not apparent from the street. The house looked the same from the outside, but the inside was slowly, slowly being overtaken.

As soon as we knew that water had gotten into the house, we called my parent's insurance company. I reported the damage to FEMA. There were so many claims in this area and so few adjusters that it took until this past week for anyone to come out and inspect.

When we went through the house this past weekend, we all saw it: mold. Mold on the cathedral ceilings, mold on the carpeting, mold on their books, pictures . . .

My brothers tore down a bit of the ceiling and drywall and the insurance man stopped in his tracks. He has to escalate the claim up to some other level of adjuster; he called them the "Mold People". It is likely that the contents of the home will be a total loss, possibly even the drywall, ceilings, flooring, everything.

We were counting on selling the house and buying another smaller one for them near me. One that was new and clean and easy to maintain. One that cost less than what their home would sell for, so that they would have some cushion. You know what they say about best laid plans . . .

I was laying awake the other night, thinking about everything, and it dawned on me how metaphorical it all is. My dad, who has been strong and hardheaded all of these years, never sick a day in his life, was walking around with a heart that was essentially 90% blocked. My mom, who held a bedside vigil with him for months, seemed to be an endless well of stamina, was succumbing to cancer before our very eyes. And their home, the solid brick center of our world for all of the years that we grew up, seemingly the same from the street, is being consumed by the minute with creeping mold.

Some would say karma. Some would say inevitable deterioration. Some would say coincidence.

These days, I'm not saying much of anything.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Sorting rubble in the aftermath

First of all, I would like to say a very heartfelt "thank you" to everyone's kind comments and emails. If I had more time, I would answer you all personally. I hope that you won't take my nonresponse as more than anything than it is . . . just a necessity right now. I don't have a minute to spare.

This blog is supposed to be a chronicle, and even though the posts will inevitably get harder, I intend to use this to document my experience, and perhaps vent a bit.

First of all, my mom is out of the hospital, armed with very potent pain medication. Patches and pills for now - they seem to be doing the trick. The kind of cancer that she has is the kind that punctures little places into the bone, almost like cavities, if you will. We have been told that her cancer is metasticized from the breast cancer that she had back in 1987. Nothing about cancer can be considered good news, but compared to metasticized melanoma, this was the lesser of the two evils. We have been on such a rollercoaster, plunging down with one news report, and pulling out of the nosedive with the following report. Preliminary reports led us to believe we had only weeks, now, it seems that chemo is a possibility, not for curing, but for managing and giving her a little more time.

It is amazing the calls, visits, notes, flowers, dinners, and well wishes that have been literally pouring in. She is such a quiet person, shy really . . . I think she has been completely overwhelmed by the waves of concern, grief and love that have been washing over her. Mostly, she just says, "I WISH people wouldn't get so upset . . . . I hate that I am worrying people."

She is worried that she is a burden, that she is causing more problems for us kids. She worries about my dad, about my kids, about the time and energy we are all spending trying to care for them both, about the tremendous amounts of money going out the door for their care, housing, about their old house, storm damaged and rotting by the minute, by the overwhelming amount of things that are left undone.

She's a worrier.

One thing she doesn't seem to be too worried about is herself. She feels that she was given a tremendous gift - years of healthy living long after she battled cancer not once, but twice. She is handling this with grace.

My dad? Not so much.

He is fighting us, all of us. Fighting us about selling "his house", about finding a place for them to be safe and cared for, about taking medications, about everything, really.

He's been a challenge, and we didn't push the issue of a nursing home as long as she was insisting upon caring for him. That's past us now, and having private care is sucking money like a Hoover.

My patience is so thin. I want all of the doctors and staff to respond quicker than they are, or than they ever do. Battling hospitals for records releases and waiting on hold forever to make appointments is driving me crazy.
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