Saturday, March 2, 2019

Handing down, passing on, letting go.

Handing down, passing on, letting go.

In 1990, after almost 25 years in Newhall, my parents decided to move and build their dream house.  Like most things, dream houses change and evolve over the years.  When I was just about six-months-old in 1962 their dream house was in Placerita Canyon and that’s where they went.  From the small city life of Granada Hills to the country life of rural Newhall.

A few years prior, they had bought five acres of land in Agua Dulce with the plan of building the house they designed and wanted.  And what a house it turned out to be.

Roxanne was two, Cole hadn’t blessed us yet, and I was no longer working at my part-time paralegal job.  My dad hired me to be the contractor to facilitate and oversee the building of their home since he was back to work at the State Bar since retiring from the DA’s office and my mom was still teaching Third Grade in Palmdale.

He bought me one of those giant, new, plug-in car phones that took up half the front seat.  Armed with my fancy phone, legal pads, empty folders, a toddler, and no construction experience, I set out on this crazy adventure with my parents.

They knew what they wanted and obviously had spent hours and hours discussing their vision together.  The dream was a Spanish-style build with heavy Mexican influence.  Extra-thick interior walls, tons of windows, imported Mexican tile, and hand-crafted wooden doors, perfectly weathered beams and three inviting, artistically designed fireplaces. 

Do you know what the word “undulated” means?  I didn’t either, and neither  did the plasterers.  My dad did, and he wanted the entire interior plastered with a specific undulation.  

I can picture my dad now, in his calm and gentle manner trying to explain to the plasterers what he wanted,  after a couple of failed attempts.  I see his hand moving slowly and delicately waving over the wall.  Eventually he was able to convey exactly what he wanted.  The walls of that house are spectacular.  They are smooth, wavy, full of personality, and have the perfect amount of undulation.  I sometimes find myself touching those walls and rubbing my hand gently over the surface.

Within the walls of that house are also where laughter and tears occurred, lessons were learned, memories were made, and parties happened.

My mom loved to entertain; from her giant Christmas open houses, family Thanksgivings, birthday celebrations, teacher friends gatherings, housing out-of-town guests, to simply a glass of wine with the neighbor.  The house was filled with laughter, love, and food.

I know that my kids have their own moments and memories of their time in that house with their grandparents.  They spent more time there because we were fortunate to be able to leave them there with my mom and dad when we went out on the town or out of town.

I have pictures that my mom took of them there – messy hair, pajamas, and huge smiles.  I know they usually had chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes for dinner, and if stories are true, ice cream for breakfast.  I’m glad they have their own memories to look back on and share with each other.  Cars, dogs, donkeys, lectures, magic tricks, truck rides, and so many other things they can carry forward in their minds and hearts.

I too have amazing happy memories from there, but I also carry sadness because of the pain that cancer brought. Even though some of my most difficult moments happened in that house, those times made me grow, and learn what is most important in life.  Lessons I carry with me every day.

My mom and dad passed away in 2008, and 2009 respectively, and until now, I have done my best to maintain and keep their house and property.

Handing down, passing on, letting go.

It is time. For about the past two years I have finally been able to start thinking about letting go.  I don’t have the time, energy, or desire to keep up with the house anymore.  As Marie Kondo would say, it doesn’t “spark joy.”  The memories do, but the empty structure does not.  It has become a house instead of a home.

Its time to pass the house on to a new family – time for it to become a home again.  The walls need to once again be filled with laughter and love.  We accepted on offer this week, and escrow started Wednesday.  If all goes according to plan, come mid-April, a new little family will be moving into their dream home.

The words, support, and love that I’ve  received from Bill and the kids helps me to keep things in perspective.  As Roxanne has shared in words that I can’t possibly do justice by my memory, we are all so very fortunate to have many items passed down from them.  Small items that evoke memories and remind us of happy times. Our gifts and blessings that fit in our hearts and our own homes, are what we have now, and how wonderful it is to pass on the love of that home to others who will make and carry their own memories.  Just this last week while sitting in Cole’s house, seeing artwork and items that once adorned his grandparents’ house, brought such happiness to me. 

My friends and family have also been extremely helpful throughout this process. They too have their special memories in that house, and they will keep them long after the house changes hands.  One of the favorite messages I got was from my cousin Shauntel who has her own memories to keep.  When we listed the house in January she said, “The wonderful thing about memories is, we don’t have to sell them.”

So if you are a person who loved my parents and spent time at their amazing house, please search your thoughts and recollections for your favorite moments, remember the laughter you shared, and yes, the tears also, because those belong to you forever.  Those belong to you, not to the house.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Fashion or Fibro

How much do we really know about each other?  Or those we pass on the street?  I'd say, not much. We really only know what people tell us.  You can't presume to look at someone and think you know about them. They could drive a clunker of a car and have multiple hundreds of thousands in the bank, they could live in a fancy house and dress in designer duds and be tens of thousands of dollars in debt, they may be beautiful and put together and be suffering from disease or depression, we just don't know. We just don't know.

Fashion or fibro?  Or maybe a bit crazy? 

Back story.  In the Spring of 2018 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Dumb. I went through multiple tests, MRIs, exams, etc. and that is what it turned out to be.  It's one of those invisible conditions - easy to hide, but not easy to deal with.  Considering all the other things I was being tested for, I feel quite fortunate that this was my diagnosis.  It has been a learning experience for me, my family, and my friends who know I have it.  I haven't been very vocal about it. I'm a fairly private person and well, why the heck do I need to let you all know? Wow. Really, Kelly? That sounds a bit selfish.  I'm always spouting off about how much I like to try to help people.  I set them up with essential oils, I educate them on ways to promote better sleep, I refer people to a grief counselor I like, but then this fibro thing happened and I kept it to myself.  Not very helpful.  I want to change that. If I'm suffering from something and can offer someone in the same situation some help, well then, I need to reach out and help.  So that's that.  I'm going to try to be more transparent with my issues, and offer tips that have helped me.  And that leads me to these shoes.

Fibromyalgia rears as a different beast to those affected by it. Some people flare in heat, some in cold, and some because of changing temperatures, and about 103 other things that trigger symptoms. As Fall has turned to Winter, I have discovered that cold is definitely not my friend.  I've never been a fan of cold weather, but now it's more than that. Cold makes me hurt.  I first discovered this in June Lake a couple of months ago.  Since then, I try to be careful about the cold. If you've been to Von's on Lyons Ave., you know about cold. Holy crap, what are they thinking in there?  When Bill and I went to do our pre-Christmas shopping, I bundled up like I was headed to a sled race.  I wore my biggest, warmest coat, mittens, and a scarf. Yes, to Von's. 

Oh, yes, these shoes.  I have been wearing big, heavy slipper-socks in the house and the other day I had to go out, and really didn't want to take those bad boys off.  I realized that I could squeeze my big ol' feet encased in giant socks right into my rain boots. Yes! So here I have been, sun shining bright and beautiful and I'm hustling around town with rain booties on.  Maybe people think I'm completely unaware of fashion norms, or I'm a bit crazy, or I can't tie laces, it really doesn't matter what they think.  My feet are warm and comfortable and staying warm helps me feel better.  We just don't know.

As I sit here wrapped up like a burrito and blasting the heater in my house, I'd like to offer a couple more tips to anyone who hates being cold.  Bill bought me a wonderful heating pad, cape thing. It is amazing.  If I've been out in the cold, I sit on the couch with that on for awhile to heat me back up.  I mean, the thing is awesome, its warm, fuzzy, and looks like a cape. You just can't go wrong.  He got it at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Jenifer has been so concerned about me getting cold and has bought me two pair of the best invention ever. FEEJAYS! Sweatpants with feet. I have fallen in love. I wear them around the house, and I sleep in them. They keep me toasty and don't let any skin show. Just the line of skin that can show when the legs of your sweats ride up and your socks sink down, is enough to get me cold at night.  I'm quite a sexy sight at night. To bed I wear my feety sweats, a t-shirt with a sweatshirt over it, and wrap the blankets up around my neck. Cozy is key.

Those of you who have read my few and far-between blog posts know that I'm a rambler. And once again I have established that my thinking and writing skills are a bit all over the map.  But there are a few things I want you to take away with you. 1. We just don't know. Give others a break.  2. Someone may benefit from your experiences, share them.  3. Fibro sucks.  If you know someone with it, be understanding.  4.  Feety sweats are the best invention ever.  5. Rain booties aren't just for rainy days.

Make 2019 a great year.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Homelessness Has a Voice

In July of last year I wrote a blog post called “Homelessness Has a Name” about a homeless couple I met in downtown Newhall. During recent years I have been drawn to the subject of homelessness and just don’t know what to do to help. I was happy to meet and talk to people who are trying to survive without the basics that we all take for granted. I was happy to know their names.

This post is about the voice of homelessness    ~  A voice that seldom speaks, and resides in a body yearning for conversation.

Kalani – In Hawaiian means “the heavens”

I recently spent three weeks in Hawaii.  My husband is working there for about four months, so I go to visit.  His housing is in Waikiki about four blocks off the main street.  The main street downtown is where quite a few homeless people stay.  Some asking for help, some not, but visible, and many times in pairs or groups. 

A couple of times a day I would walk past a corner near the hotel that housed a bus stop…and a person.  It was a pretty busy corner with tourists and residents coming and going from the bus, and people hustling through the crosswalk like is common in the city.  Also on this corner is a concrete bench.  Probably big enough for three people to sit, but this bench wasn’t used by those waiting for a bus, it is someone’s daily perch, and home. For about my first five days there, I watched the person sitting on the bench surrounded by a pile of worldly possessions. Of the many, many homeless people living in the city, a large percentage have mental illness or some type of substance abuse.  I continued to watch and didn’t see any clues that lead me to believe that this person was a danger.  I think what a lot of people tend to not realize about the homeless is that many of them are people just like you and me who for some reason or another are down on their luck. Day in day out, I never saw anyone stop to talk or even say hello.  I decided that I wanted to say something; anything to this person who I thought must be so incredibly lonely. 

I am aware of the possible dangers of approaching someone on the street. On the news that week there had been two attacks by homeless persons. One who thought a storeowner was a vampire, and another occurred when a homeless person attacked a woman waiting for a bus for no apparent reason, causing her some slight physical injury and definite emotional anguish.

I decided to say hello and try to engage in a small conversation. I asked Bill to go with me and just be close in case something came up and I needed help. I was nervous and unsure of myself, but it was important to me.  Hello.  And that’s how it started. During the next two and one-half weeks I would stop numerous times. Her name is Kalani. In Hawaiian it means “the heavens,” such a beautiful name for a person who never gets to tell anyone what it is.  During our second conversation I asked if she needed anything. She said it was just nice to have someone to talk to.  Wow.  My heart crumbled at those words.

We yap and talk and interact all day, sometimes its meaningful, sometimes its just words flying out and maybe striking someone as important, or maybe not, and we don’t think anything of it.  Just nice to have someone to talk to.  I can do that.  This month is six years that she has been homeless.  She has a family, but as she said, they “don’t see eye-to-eye.”  She was born and raised there, and prefers to lay low and not be on one of the busy streets of the city.  I never smelled alcohol or saw any glimpse of mental illness.  We had some laughs, talked about different things to do on the island, and other small talk topics. I asked a few times if there was anything I could get her to make things a little easier. The only thing she said she could use that would be nice, was a new backpack.  I did bring her a couple things over the weeks, nothing major, just little things to help. I gave her a couple dollars here and there, never a lot, and she was very grateful.  Before I left, I took her the backpack and a little bag of necessities.  I explained that I was going home and that I would see her soon.  It was difficult walking away from her.  I wanted to be able to call her, but she doesn’t have a phone.  I wanted to be able to write her, but she doesn’t have an address.  I wanted to be able to help her, but I’m at a loss at what to do. 

Bill tells me what he sees her doing,; always sitting or laying on that bench.  He has heard her talking to herself quite a few times, but if you were the only person you had to talk to – well, its understandable.  I worry about her and am glad he keeps an eye out when he can.

A few weeks after I left, Bill told me that he had stopped to talk to her.  He asked how she was doing and told her that I asked him to tell her “hi” for me.  I didn’t.  He did that all on his own.  I can’t tell you how much that gesture meant to me.  If it’s possible to fall more in love in a minute, then I think I did.  I’m so happy that he understands and supports the things that mean so much to me.

I’m going back soon and am looking forward to sitting and talking with her.  I wonder about her family, and how this happened to them.  I worry about her and her loneliness.  The loneliness I think worries me more than the homelessness.  It’s the people in our lives who make life worth living, not the things.  I so wish that she had people.  I think about her often.  I have so many questions, but those aren’t for me to ask.  If she offers, then I will listen as long as she wants.  I look forward to seeing her, and letting her use her voice.
Kalani opening the last bag of goodies I took her.  After she looked in she said, 
"What did you doooo?"
This is where she spends all of her time. In three weeks I never saw her spot empty. I hope that in the middle of the night she walks around and goes places.

This is the view of the bus stop and her belongs from across the street.  The people there come and go and look at her and then look away.  Its hard, I get it.  I have trouble looking most homeless people in the eyes also.  Whenever I stood or sat there to talk to her, I would usually get strange looks from the people at the bus stop.

 According to City and County of Honolulu Mayor's Office of Housing, as of January 24, 2016, 4,940 homeless individuals across the island were counted. Of 2,173 unsheltered homeless, 631 individuals suffer from severe mental illness, and 623 individuals have chronic substance abuse issues.  Oahu is only 44 miles long and 30 miles wide,  It’s a pretty small island.  Anyone who is or becomes homeless is basically stuck there.  The only option is to move from one part of the island to another. Hawaii has the highest homeless rate per capita in the nation, according to federal statistics.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Its Just a Potbelly Stove

It all started with the twist and pop of the cap.  The familiar and memory-inducing scent escaped that old can, and the memories flooded in.  The snapshots became visible in my brain. As I poured the thick liquid onto the soft, white cloth, more scenes from my childhood started playing on the movie screen that is always open for business in my head.

“Unlike the other senses, olfactory nerves go to two destinations in our brain; one is the frontal cortex, where we consciously recognize a scent. The second destination is the limbic area of the brain, which is a more primitive and ancient part of the brain dealing with emotion, motivation and types of memory.” Dr. Maggie Grotzinger.

We’ve all experienced it. It could be a flower, a food, a perfume, any one of thousands of smells that bring a memory into our heads and transport us back to that place, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Today, that smell for me was Brasso.  Oh yes, Brasso was a big smell in my house as a child.  My dad liked shiny things. He was always shining something up with the Brasso.  Here is the short list - barber chairs, spittoons, car bumpers, knobs and handles, old fire extinguishers, and the potbelly stove. The potbelly stove.  That’s what I intended to write about initially, or maybe it was the power of our sense of smell - oh well.  My mind is like the pachinko machine we used to have, little chrome balls bouncing from here to there and back again. Did he polish those little balls too?  Not that I remember, but I can see it happening. Anyways, back to the potbelly stove; that beautiful piece of décor that has adorned my dining room for well over 30 years that brings back so many great memories….

I’m selling it.

Yes, you read correctly.  I’m selling it. But I just wrote all those great things about the memories and happy times.  It fits my dining room like a glove and is a topic of conversation and beauty in the house. I’m selling it.

I appreciate it, I don’t love it.  It has served its purpose and the time has come for it to move to a house where the new owner loves it. 

Before my dad passed away, he did his best to help ease what he knew was going to be the hardest part of my life. He lived here during his last six months and we had a lot of great conversations.  Knowing he was leaving me with a mess of things, he talked a lot about my being able to let go and get rid of the things that belonged to him and my mom.  I listened of course, I always listened to what he had to say, but carrying through has been a whole other story.

Nearly seven years later, I still have a mess of things. I’m doing better with letting go, but it has taken me a very long time.  Enter – the potbelly stove. I kind of remember when we got it. I was maybe 10? 12? 15? Not sure.  I also kind of remember that he asked me to “go in on it” with him. Now I’m not really sure why.  I’m guessing it was some sort of lesson in investing or partnership or something, or maybe he just didn’t have enough money.  There is no way to ever find out.  So, one way or another, either through inheritance, because it was left here when they moved out in 1991, or I am the proud half-owner, the potbelly stove is mine, and I am ready to let it go.

I’m starting to let more and more things go.  Things my parents love, collected, and used.  Some are beautiful and have some monetary worth and some are simply just crap and I have no idea why I have continued to hang on to them.  But, it doesn’t really seem to matter which group the items are in, it is still difficult to let them go.

I’m grateful for my time with the old stove. I have my memories of smell and mental snapshots. Those I carry with me.  As my collection of material items becomes smaller, my mind and heart become more full.  I welcome the trade-off.

Want to buy a potbelly stove?

Monday, September 5, 2016

New View

Divided-lite.  Even the name suggests an unclear view.  Sometimes old, outdated views need to be replaced, and opened up to a clearer picture.

Windows? Yes.  Life?  Yes.

Part of our three-room remodel involves replacing 60-year-old windows.  The wooden, divided-lite windows that are currently in the house look great when you drive down the old, dirt road and glance toward the ranch-style home.  They blend, they fit, and they seem to be aesthetically pleasing.  Is that enough?  Am I o.k. with inefficient, outdated windows that restrict my view and cloud my vision?  No. Sure, 60 years ago they worked.  They don’t work now.  60 years ago that’s what people had, they didn’t have many choices and they were comfortable with them.  I want my vision to improve; I want my views to be as open and beautiful as possible. 

Windows?  Yes.  Life?  Yes.

Bill replaced the first window of the remodel yesterday.  The dining room window that looks beyond the crepe myrtle and toward to the yard, the little free library, and an old plaster building across the street.  I love looking through that window.  I see a lot of things I love when I look out there.  I’m used to it, I’ve been looking out that window for over 50 years.  A standard double-hung wood window, divided into eight parts by wood that has been painted over with many, many coats of paint; a screen on the outside restricting the clarity and taking away from the vivid and beautiful colors of the yard. The old glass is scratched, thin, and like the other windows in the house, has a slight wave to it, which adds some distortion.  In addition to the appearance of the old windows, they aren’t efficient.  They don’t work properly anymore.  They don’t fully open, some don’t open at all. They have been painted shut and the longer they (and we) remain comfortable with that stubbornness, cloudy vision, and inefficiency, the longer our beautiful visions will be blocked. 

Windows?  Yes.  Life?  Yes.

Its not always easy working on a remodel.  Sometimes it’s hard to let go of things that remind us of good times and how things used to be. Change can be difficult and scary.  Is the new better?  And what do we mean by better?  Is better about looks, efficiency, the new view we will have? Will the unknown make me happy or will I long to go back to what seemed to be comfortable even though it wasn’t the best. 

A new window.  A window divided only in to two parts, and then only because it needs those to parts to open fully and bring in lots of fresh air into the house.  Double-thick glass to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  The new screen only covers the bottom half of the fully functioning window.  Why restrict the entire view when you can open your eyes to see more clearly?

The new window was installed with great care and precision. It looks great, it works well, and it is one more step in what will be a long process in remodeling.  Moving forward. That new window yesterday is not just a new window.  It kind of symbolizes how I’ve been feeling lately – wanting a clearer view, a new vision, one that will be more efficient and open me up to more beauty that the world has to offer.  Not every house can have all new windows.  Some need to work with the ones they have.  Fresh paint, maybe a little sand paper to smooth out rough edges, and sometimes the glass needs a lot of work to be able to see out clearly, but the view can always be improved.  I want to see it, and help open it up to others so that they may see it too.  No more divided-lites.

Windows?  Yes.  Life?  Yes.

“Better keep yourself clean and bright.  You are the window through which you must see the world.” 

~  George Bernard Shaw