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Amazing Grace

by Viv Sade

Mom’s health began to deteriorate in June.

I stopped by her house in the morning before work and sometimes after work to help water her yard and flowers, do her dishes or take out her trash. My four brothers and two sisters also checked in on her, almost daily.

We were scared.

Mom turned 80 in January and that summer was the first time we ever saw our mom slow down. Even though Dad had died in 1999 and mom was diagnosed with breast cancer two years later, she remained very active, and seemingly healthy.

Mom – a retired nurse – also belonged to a quilt club and usually spent the day gardening, quilting, reading or in the kitchen trying a new recipe or canning produce. At night she loved to watch Jeopardy — she knew most of the answers — do crosswords and watch a good movie or television show. Well, actually, it didn’t even have to be good – off-beat, foreign, independent, popular, quirky — she was a movie connoisseur.

A quiet, but strong woman with a quick wit, my mom’s name fit her perfectly – Grace.

My youngest sister gave mom a hanging plant for Mother’s Day – a mix of cascading deep purple and orange-edged-with-scarlett fluted flowers. Mom hung it on a plant stand in her front yard. It was gorgeous.

Mom, who had become a Master Gardener and a licensed practical nurse late in her life, told me the correct botanical names of the flowers, but I could never remember them.

Mom tended to all of her flowers up through the end of June; the last entry in her gardening journal was June 20.

After that her kids took over. We were not quite as gifted. The gardens began to look neglected and weeds sprung in the previously immaculate flower beds.

I think that’s when I first noticed that the hanging plant was not looking too healthy.

Much of Indiana and the Midwest had been hit by an extreme drought and it seemed that no matter how many times a day I watered that plant, it continued to turn brown and shed its petals.

“What am I doing wrong?” I asked mom.

Mom tried to make me feel better, pointing out that it was probably the drought that was killing the plant. Also, it was a variety of plant that was difficult to care for and would probably die before the summer was over. It’s just one of those plants that was very pretty while it lasted, but it did not last long, she said.

I didn’t buy it. It had always looked beautiful under mom’s green thumb. It had to be me.

Through June and much of July, I fretted over that plant. I did not want it to die on my watch. Daily, on my trips to mom’s house, I couldn’t help but notice that despite my almost desperate attempts to keep that plant alive, it was slowly dying.

For as long as mom could, she liked to go out in the mornings and drink her coffee amid her beloved flowers and birds. Sometimes when I pulled up to her house in the evenings, I would see her  sitting in a chair in the back yard, near her bird feeder and bird bath, watering flowers with the garden hose.

It broke my heart.

On July 20, when the oncologist told mom he would like to run some more tests, she shook her head and said, “No more evaluations or treatments. I want hospice.”

That’s when we realized our mom was dying. She had been trying to tell us for months, but none of us could imagine life without her.

I grew even more desperate to keep the plant alive. I added fertilizer and pulled out all of the withered branches. It sprang back, and the purple flowers multiplied and bloomed in the midst of the drought.

I was encouraged.

Mom even remarked how pretty it was looking.

Mom seemed to be doing okay, sitting in her recliner, talking with her younger sister Evelyn, and smiling and talking with her grandchildren as they visited.

We were encouraged.

Two days later, I told her that two hummingbirds were on her front porch, enjoying the various potted flowers that sat on her steps, and two turtle doves were in the front yard, seemingly fearless of all the humans coming and going. Mom told me she had quit filling her bird feeders the week before.

“They’re on their own now,” she said, matter-of-factly.

We set mom up with at-home hospice and a hospital bed in the same bedroom that dad had died in 13 years earlier.

My siblings and I wrote up a daily schedule to make sure someone was there 24-7 to help if she needed it. Turns out, we only needed that schedule for a brief time.

She slipped quickly.

In death, like in life, my mom called the shots. And when she made up her mind to do something, she did it quietly, stoically and without fanfare.

PJ waters Grandma Grace’s flowers.

She died Aug. 3 at home just after midnight. My sister and brothers and I were there when she took her last breath.

We were devastated.

We were sure she would not die on our watch.

Three days later, after the funeral, I noticed that the plant was almost completely dead. Most of the flowers had withered and dropped to the ground below.

Oddly, the grass below the hanging pot was the only spot in the yard that was bright green and lush — from the twice-daily watering.

As I walked into the house, the hummingbirds that were drinking nectar from the potted plants on the front porch barely moved out of my way. I looked up. Two turtle doves studied me intently from the utility wire overhead.

They seemed to be assuring us that our mom was in another garden in another world, tending to acres of beautiful flowers that would never die.

Best stick to MickeyDees

I remember when I used to get the urge to prove to the world that I was a culturally diverse human being and exceptional parent.

That was when my kids were young. And before I gave up.

I remember taking my two youngest children —  when they were 6 and 4  — to an elegant Chinese restaurant.

The first thing the 6-year-old did was unfold the linen napkin and make a parachute for the G.I. Joe he had hidden in his pocket. He climbed under the table to assemble Joe’s apparatus and once done, stood on his seat and threw Joe skyward yelling, “Bombs away!”

Meanwhile the 4-year-old remarked to the waitress loudly that he didn’t want no dadgum subgum chicken because he had already had the chicken pox. I tried to point out the boy’s healing scabs — proof that he was no longer contagious — but the waitress just kept backing away from our table, while the people at the next table suddenly disappeared.

And don’t think I didn’t notice when we later left the restaurant, that those same people were sitting in another corner of the restaurant.

The 4-year-old liked the egg drop soup and was devouring it until the 6-year-old asked, “What are those gross white things floating around in it?”

They both stared into the bowl for a long time and then pushed it away.

The boys were thrilled that I was letting them order real tea for this special occasion. At the time the tea was delivered to our table, I was in the Outer Limits, daydreaming of being in a bathroom by myself with no one pounding on the door asking what I was doing and why was it taking me so long.

When I snapped out of it, the guy at a table to my left was giving me a look of disgust. The kids had each dumped about 16 packets of sugar into their tea and had used up all of the sugar at our table and the one behind us.

I glared back at the man. What the heck?! Did he think I would purposefully jack these kids up on sugar and caffeine? Did he think I want them even more hyper than they normally are? Was he implying with that look that I was a bad mother? Geesh, a bad mother would have ordered a bottle of Chinese wine with a wine glass and two junior cups with lids and straws.

Hey, buddy, it’s a special night and we’re trying to get some culture here, so bug off you dipshit son of a ——- …

No hon, that’s enough sugar … no more sugar.”

Steaming bowls of fried rice, sub gum pork and sweet and sour chicken were delivered to our table and the 4-year-old, who never talked in anything but his LOUD VOICE, immediately began complaining.

“Ughhh … What’s those green things? What’s those round things? Are those oniyuns?!  What’s that pink sauce? That’s not chicken! Where’s the leg? I want a leg! I can’t eat this! I will die!”

I ignored his cries of protest and ladled out a small amount of each dish onto our plates.

The 6-year-old wanted to season his own food.

“No mom, I’m not a baby like Ben. I can do it myself. No, let me! Whoa! — that came out fast, didn’t it? Here, just a little of this brown sauce — whoa! — that came out really fast, too, didn’t it? Can I use your napkin, mom? This yellow stuff is too hot! I need the pink sauce. Whoa! That came out fast …”

The 4-year-old was incensed. “I am not a baby!”

He ended up consuming nothing but two large bowls of white rice and two glasses of sugar-laden tea.

He then announced in that deafening preschooler voice that he was full and he needed a hard, folded-up cookie stuffed with paper thingies.

Both kids broke open their cookies and I translated and read their fortunes.

You must keep your eyes open to see the nice surprises in life. (i.e.: Be good and you’ll get a Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle at Wal Mart.)

He who rides with the wind has too much wind in his sails. (i.e.: Never, ever stay up past your bedtime or your eyes will grow shut.)

The boys loved their fortunes. However, mine was somewhat ominous.

She who tries to impart wisdom and culture on her offspring is left with egg (drop soup) on her face. Best stick to McDonald’s.

by viv sade

Why teachers and parents drink

I’m sure many of you have seen this floating around the Internet, but it’s worth sharing for those who have not seen it.

The following questions were set in last year’s GED examination. These are some of the actual answers received from teens who took the test.

These young adults will someday breed and maybe vote … which explains a lot.

1. Q. Name the four seasons.
A. Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar.

2. Q. Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A. Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutants like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists.

3. Q. How is dew formed?
A. The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire.

4. Q. What causes the tides in the oceans?
A. The tides are a fight between the earth and the moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins the fight.

5. Q. What guarantees may a mortgage company insist on?
A. If you are buying a house they will insist that you are well endowed.

6. Q. In a democratic society, how important are elections?
A. Very important. Sex can only happen when a male gets an election.

7. Q. What are steroids?
A. Things for keeping carpets still on the stairs.

8. Q. What happens to your body as you age?
A. When you get old, so do your bowels and you get intercontinental.

9. Q. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty?
A. He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery.

10. Q. Name a major disease associated with cigarettes.
A. Premature death.

11. Q. What is artificial insemination?
A. When the farmer does it to the bull instead of the cow.

12. Q. How can you delay milk turning sour?
A. Keep it in the cow.

13. Q. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorized (e.g. The abdomen)?
A. The body is consisted into 3 parts – the brainium, the borax and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I,O,U.

(This kid must have been up all night smoking weed … but it does deserve kudos for creativity.)

14. Q. What is the fibula?
A. A small lie

15. Q. What does ‘varicose’ mean?
A. Nearby

16. Q. What is the most common form of birth control?
A. Most people prevent contraception by wearing a condominium.

17. Q. Give the meaning of the term “Caesarean section.”
A. The caesarean section is a district in Rome.

18. Q. What is a seizure?
A. A Roman Emperor.

(Julius Seizure? I came, I saw, I had a fit)

19. Q. What is a terminal illness?
A. When you are sick at the airport.

(Irrefutable)

20. Q. Give an example of a fungus. What is a characteristic feature?
A. Mushrooms. They always grow in damp places and they look like umbrellas.

21. Q. Use the word “judicious” in a sentence to show you understand its meaning.
A. Hands that judicious can be soft as your face.

22. Q. What does the word “benign” mean?
A. Benign is what you will be after you be eight.

23. Q. What is a turbine?
A. Something an Arab or Shreik wears on his head.

College kids require tact … at your expense, of course

There has been a lot written on the subject of academia and how to successfully get your child off to college (at your expense, of course), but there seems to be a shortage of material telling a parent how to deal with a child who is busy furthering his/her education (at your expense, of course). So, I have come up with a handy pocket guide to use while visiting your college-based young adult/child in college (at your expense, of course).

RULES FOR VISITING YOUR CHILD’S DORM OR APARTMENT:

1. Never, ever make surprise visits.

2. If you must make a surprise visit, remember you will be much more surprised than your child.

3. Never look under the bed or in the closet. I mean it.

4. If you do look under the bed, do not comment on the three sets of eyes staring back at you.

5. Never open the fridge.

6. If you do open the fridge, do not comment on the fact that the only contents are a Ding-Dong, a 6-pack of beer, a bong shaped like Rush Limbaugh and half a bottle of Dark Eyes vodka.

THINGS NOT TO NOTICE:

1. The state and federal highway signage.

2. The large, neon flashing Miller Light beer sign above the bed or the life-size poster of a naked woman wearing nothing but a jock strap and baseball hat that says “I (heart) I-69.”

3. The absence of any fruits or vegetables.

4. The multiple packages of condoms on every table in the apartment. (thank god …)

5. The used condoms in the corner behind the bed … eeeiiiiooowww!

6. The mold in the bathroom.

7. The pubic hair carpet in the bathroom … eeeiiiiooowww!

8. The stack of pornographic DVDs next to the TV stand … eeeiiiiooowww!

THINGS NOT TO SAY TO YOUR KID:

1. When was the  last time you washed those sheets?

2. Is that a cockroach?

3. Are those college textbooks you’re using as a prop to hold up the kitchen table?

4. Have you found a good barber yet?

5. Do you have any idea what all this costs?!

6. Did you know that STDs are the fastest growing disease among college students?

7. What exactly is your GPA?

8. I too, used to listen to Led Zepplin.

THINGS NOT TO SAY TO YOUR CHILD’S COLLEGE ROOMMATE:

1. Do you smoke?

2. Do you drink?

3. Do you smoke marijuana from a Rush Limbaugh bong?

4. What exactly does that tattoo mean?

5. Have you ever bought alcohol for my child?

6. What is your parents’ name and phone number?

7. Does your religion prohibit premarital sex?

8. What is your GPA?

9. Did you know that STDs are the fastest growing disease among college students?

10. This is a very friendly town. I’ve noticed all the police call you by your first name.

11. Do you think my kid has any idea what all of this is costing his father and me?

12. Hey, I understand, I was your age once.

by viv sade

Happy birthday to my firstborn!

Happy Birthday  – June 6 – to my gorgeous and talented and intelligent daughter, Stacy! She gets none of that from me.

Check out the uncanny resemblance between Stacy and her oldest daughter, Eva. Talk about Déjà vu!

The youngest – Amelia – looks like her too, but more like her father, RT.

But unfortunately, Amelia acts like her Grandma Viv …

I see a bad moon a rising …

 

 

Teens must choose their own path; and run over anyone who gets in the way

Newborn babies make me cry. Beautiful sunsets make me cry. Weddings — especially some of my own — make me cry.

But nothing makes me cry like teenagers, especially teens who have passed their driver’s test. But what brings me to my knees is seeing the insurance premiums for two newly licensed teens — the result is all out convulsing, gut-wrenching, snot-running sobbing.

I subscribe to the sage advice of two late, great female humorists who said, “The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires,” (Dorothy Parker) and, “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth,” (Erma Bombeck).

It turns out I don’t have the let the air out of the tires – the high cost of petrol has taken care of that.

When my youngest got his license at the age of 16, he ran out of gas within 48 hours.

Awesome.

He was forced to hoof it for about two miles.

We used to find his little used S-10 randomly abandoned everywhere when he ran out of gas. I once had to walk around it in the middle of the driveway. My car and his 18-year-old brother’s car were blocked in for 24 hours until he scraped up enough change on his floor to buy gas.

The 18-year-old didn’t seem to run out of gas so frequently. This is because either: a) he has a part-time job and has more readily available cash; b) he’s learned the economical skill of siphoning; or c) he has a lot of down driving time because he tends to crash into things.

My fairly frequent and frantic one-sided phone conversations with my two youngest and other involved parties sounded something like this:

To the 16-year-old: “No, don’t drive to school. It’s four blocks! I don’t care. Use an umbrella. Since when are they only for sissies? When I was your age, I couldn’t afford gas or a car. Heck, I couldn’t afford a bicycle. I walked miles to school and … Hullo? … Hullo?”

To the 18-year-old: “So, had you noticed your brakes acting funny before this happened? Through the hedge over the fence and then hit the neighbor’s truck? The neighbor to the south? The important thing is that you aren’t hurt and you didn’t run over the neighbor … You didn’t run over the neighbor, right? Yes, you still have to go to school. Just walk. That’s where you use those appendages called legs and put one in front of the other. I’ll come home and call the insurance company. When I was a teen, I wasn’t  lucky enough to have a car. I sometimes had to Pogostick to school … Hullo?”

To the police: “That’s it – the Buick on top of the fence with the front end kinda sitting on top of the neighbor’s truck. No, that bumper was already ripped off from last month when he hit his grandpa’s fence. Oh yeah, the back window was already broke out after he locked his keys in the car and couldn’t think of a better way to get inside.”

To the wrecker service: “That’s right, the Buick on top of the fence and the neighbor’s truck. The start key is broke off in the ignition. Just insert a screwdriver in there and give it a little twist to the right and then jiggle it until it starts.”

To the neighbor to the south: “In another life I was childless. Really.”

To the 16-year-old: No more money for gas! There’s a thing in America called a j-o-b. When I was your age I walked to Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, planting apple tree seeds and wearing a pan on my head … okay, okay, that was Johnny Appleseed, but you get my point.”

To the 18-year-old: “Good grief! Your accelerator stuck and it’s been sticking for six months?! You drove through a two neighbors’ yards and crashed into a cement post? The same neighbor? No? Oh, the ones to the north. That’s good. A different set of neighbors. The important thing is you are not hurt and no one was in their yards or sitting on the post, right? Right? I’ll be right there. Yes, you will be late, but you are going to school. Yes – just walk. When I was your age … Hullo?”

To the wrecker service: “Yes, the same Buick you towed a few weeks ago, only this time it’s on top of a fence post near the two neighbors to the north. Remember how to jiggle the ignition? Nothing’s changed. Well, except if you need something from the trunk, go in through the back seat,  because the latch is broken.”

To the police: “Yes, I know, I know. This time it’s a different neighbor. What do you mean? Yes, I’m serious. No, I haven’t considered changing his name from Christopher to Crashtopher, but thanks for the suggestion. Are you laughing? My son could have been hurt!”

To the neighbors to the north: In another life, I was completely sane. Really.”

To the 16-year-old: “Okay, so far you are a better driver than your brother, but don’t get all smug. It’s only because you’ve never had enough gas to drive more than 12 feet. And no, I won’t reward you with $20.”

With the radio: “All of a sudden, a rod started knockin’, down in the depths, she started a-rockin’ … Well, they arrested me and put me in jail, I called my mama to make my bail, and she said, ‘Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop driving that hot – rod – Lincoln.’ “

Or Buick.

To the insurance company: (in my best Dr. Evil voice) “So, two teens plus two wrecks equals two meeellllyun dollars?”

To the bartender: “Give me another. I’m walking.”

by viv sade, a woman constantly in search of her lost youth and car keys.

Finally, New Year’s Resolutions That I Can Keep

by viv sade

For the first time in my life, I decided this year not to have the same old New Year’s resolutions that always manage to crash to the earth and die a horrible death by Jan. 3rd.

I am happy to say that it is almost June and I have succeeded at accomplishing all of my resolutions for 2012.

I do hereby resolve in the year 2012 that I will POSITIVELY, ABSOLUTELY do the following:

1. Get one year older.

2. At least once a week forget the names or ages or birthdays of my kids or siblings.

3. When writing a check, I will actually sometimes forget the %$#@ year!

4. Sleep less (refer to #15).

5. Reveal what Victoria’s secret is.

6. Never forget to eat.

7. Belt any skinny chick who says, “I try to remember to eat, but I just forget.”

8. Never get on the scales when I remember and remember and remember and remember to eat.

9. Dance more. And not only when I’ve been over-served at the wine tasting bar.

10. Confuse my job with my life.

11. Fail to end world hunger.

12. Succeed at ending my hunger.

13. Quit acting like I’m enthralled when a politician wants to talk about tax abatements.

14. Quit acting like I’m enthralled when a politician wants to talk about anything.

15. Drink a minimum of eight pots of coffee a day.

16. Never admit that all restaurant menus are starting to look like this:

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

17. Leave the mementos in the shoebox marked, “Baby Boy, 1987” and throw away the new scrapbook and scrapbook supplies.

18. Never dress in buffalo pelts (proven to add 15 pounds), buy 100 pounds of beef jerky or an AK-47, even if the world is ending.

19. Throw off the guilt while feeling smug about myself when watching a “Hoarders” marathon.

20. Decline to join a nudist colony.

21. Continue passing off the dust bunnies under my bed as beloved stuffed animals from my childhood.

22. Call 1-800-Psychic and tell her she should already know my Visa number.

Questions parents ask

Is that my toothbrush in the toilet?

Why is the cat wearing a diaper and a T-shirt?

Is that real vomit or is it a concoction of mustard, ketchup and old bread like last time you skipped school?

You don’t really think you are going anywhere wearing that, do you?

Does anyone know why there’s a big snake in a shoebox on the dryer?

Anyone know why there are 27 For Sale signs in our yard?

Who sprayed the dog with gold glitter?

Are moms allowed in the No Grils Club?

Why would the neighbor call and want to know if I have homeowners insurance?

Who cut off all the miniblind cords and tied them in square knots?

Did you put that toad in the mailbox?

Do either of you know who spray painted “Chris and Ben live here” on the front sidewalk?

OK, who attached the remote control to the TV with a big wad of chewing gum?

Why does the dog smell like WD-40?

Why do you smell like WD-40?

Why is your underwear on the picnic table?

What were you thinking when you used a  weed whacker to try and cut your brother’s hair?

Why were you on the roof with the garden hose?

Can anyone tell me why there’s a police officer at the back door? Anyone?

If you were at your friend’s house all night, then why did her mother tell me she thought you were both over here for the night?

Which one of you told those nice Jehovah Witnesses that we are from the planet Zadknaucher and are not human?

How could you not know that if you throw a lava lamp at your sister’s face, it would break her nose?

Damn it! … Who drew the Batman symbol on the back of my new sofa?!

Did you know it would catch on fire and explode?

Think it was funny to put sweeper hickeys on your brother?

Why are there dead crickets in the toaster oven?

Who is responsible for those BB holes in the bay window?

Anyone know where the snake is that was in that box on the dryer?

by viv sade

And the walls, came tumbling down … tumbling, tumbling … down

Here’s one prom night some Churubusco teens will never forget.

My sister, Margaret, and her husband, Greg, created more than a few Saturday when they were entering a gaggle of teens, serving them dinner and taking pictures prior to The Big Event – the Churubusco Junior-Senior Prom. Little did they know they were about to give the kids a prom night they would never forget.

After dinner, they took the teens outside to pose on the balcony.

Here’s one of the photos of the first group of the younger kids – freshmen and sophomores:

The younger group pose on the deck in all their finery, not realizing it was a good thing to be young and first in line.

Here’s the progression of the second group and their photos — there were not many, as this happened almost immediately after they posed for the photo:

The second, older group right before after the Big Crack and just before the Big Crash. The expressions … priceless.
Greg cleans up the aftermath after first checking the details of his homeowner’s policy.

Luckily, no one was seriously hurt and they marched on to the prom. One guy had a rip in his tux, another had a cut, another was scraped up and there were multiple contusions.

All I’ve got to say is it’s pretty hard to walk in those skyscraper heels, but those lovely ladies fell and were covered in debris and still managed to land on their feet without breaking an ankle. And they still looked amazing! They all dusted themselves off and looked good as new  – not one hair out of place.

Should have used some of that hair spray to seal the deck.