Monthly Archives: August 2014

Packing Up a Life

As of this weekend, Mom’s place will be occupied again. This is good and right. It will be good to see lights on again in the evening, and people to-ing and fro-ing. I think it’s been helpful for all of us to have a deadline. It’s been tempting to put off decisions indefinitely, even small ones. More times than I care to admit during the past weeks, I’ve decided to go work at the apartment a bit, gone over, and turned around and come home without moving anything more than the air.

Because I’m facing a deadline, I’ve actually gotten work done the past couple of nights. There was a mighty pile of trash at the road for pickup this morning. The auctioneer is carrying off things from the garage and the living room as I type. (I moved a lot of things to the garage last night to consolidate. I didn’t fancy moving some of the furniture myself, though. Bookcases are one thing. A tall, wide, china cabinet with lovely breakable windows is another.)

I posted just a bit on Facebook about it, and the responses were varied (although uniformly kind and empathic because ya’ll are the bomb). What we choose to save, and to give away, and to sell differs for everyone. Grief is so individual and unpredictable.

I didn’t keep the red food coloring, or any of the five boxes of powdered milk I found (Mom made hot chocolate mix every year). I didn’t keep the hilarious red white and blue ankle weights that laid in the top drawer of Mom’s dresser since before Jane Fonda pulled on her first leotard. (I did take a picture of them.) I have no memory of Mom actually ever wearing them, though that doesn’t mean much. I didn’t keep the jingly apple toy.

I did keep the half-used laundry detergent, mostly because mine is running low. I did keep the letter I wrote her one Mother’s Day in the late 90s that I had no previous memory of. I did keep the letter my dad earned as the manager of the Rittman basketball team in the 40s.



While there were, of course, significant objects in every room and closet and corner, I was mostly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ordinary things. Mom had pared down her life to a few rooms, and given away a lot of things already, and the act of packing up her life still seemed monumental. I don’t really use hairpins, but does Goodwill take them? I tend to feel bad about throwing anything away that might have useful life. Toward the end of this process, though … my decision-making muscle had reached exhaustion. I’m sure I threw out some things that I should have donated because I was too worn out to think very well.

When my brother died in the spring of 2012, I remember helping to get a few things from his house. I didn’t help with most of it though. Mom must have done it, and I’m sorry now that I didn’t help her more. It must have been a terrible job, packing up after your son.

In the here and now, I am glad to have this job done. The boys and I ran errands today and I made a drop at Goodwill. I hope her clothes and things will find their way to someone who needs them.

Elias, as we were pulling in, said, “Oh, Mama! This is where we brought my elephant!”

I seriously can’t even remember how long ago we brought his toy elephant to donate. I do, though, see why he has a particular affinity to that animal. The memory on this kid sometimes.




I heard a song recently, and it came to mind yesterday as I was dealing with a temper tantrum. I changed it a little bit for my own purposes.

To the chorus of “Rude” by Magic!:

Why you gotta be so rude?
Don’t you know I’m human too?
Why you gotta be so rude?
You know it’s everyday …

Yellin’ at me
(I love you anyway)
Shoutin’ at me
(Yeah, no matter what you say)
You know you’re mine
And we are a family

But why you gotta be so … rude?



Elias gets really, really irritated when I use it on him and yells at me to stop singing.

It’s usually a nice change from whatever else he was on about, so it works just fine.



Just a Wednesday

This morning, I walked into the bathroom and said, “What are you doing? Stop soodling!”

Soodling, for those of you who did not grow up in a home heavily influenced by Anabaptist culture and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, means messing around with water and making a mess, or something close to dawdling. Probably depending on who you ask. In our house, it always involved water. I would be playing in the bathroom sink with the water running (for reasons that currently escape me but are probably clear to Levi), and my mother would invoke soodling. Her voice in my head made me both tearful and grateful as I wiped up the bathroom counter.

Some time later, as I was listening to the beginning of a conference call, someone yelled, “MOOOOOOMMMMM! I have poop on my hand!” and two thoughts came into my head:

  1. Dear God, thank you for the mute button. Amen.
  2. Sometimes, the responsibilities that come with the different roles I am currently occupying crash up against each other in ways that make me question my life choices. This is one of those times.

Still, the other day Elias and I walked down to get Levi off the bus at the end of the day. One boy played happily in the gravel and chattered general nonsense to me, and moments later another boy bounded happily off the bus and told me how much he loved school.

That’s pretty okay.



Also, cropped appropriately, the end of our driveway looks, at first glance, like a stony beach.

A girl can dream.


As Promised

We didn’t tell the boys about this until right after supper, because I was afraid they wouldn’t eat if they knew. When we did tell them, Levi thought it was a trick.

Paul: You guys get to dump a bucket of ice water on Mama’s head.
Levi: Um, what?
Paul: Here, like this. <shows them a video of someone else> You get to do that to Mama.
Levi: REALLY!?!!?!

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about at all, well, you probably live under a rock. If you don’t know about my own personal twist on this, check out this post: Not Wet. Yet.)

Here you go.

Want to help push me over the edge for more buckets? (The boys can hardly contain their excitement about doing it again. Levi thinks he should DEFINITELY get to do it again tomorrow because it’s his birthday.)

If you’re in, follow this link: That sponsors me in the Cycle for Life ride coming up in September.

Ice Ice Baby



Between people donating to my direct link to support Cycle for Life in September (Go here! and general donations noted on Facebook, I am up to 13.

I will be paying up and posting a video this evening. Don’t let the anticipation get to you.

(If seven more of you pony up, I’ll have to do it again tomorrow. Just sayin’.)

Not Wet. Yet.

It’s my first video on the blog, ever. You know you gotta watch it.

You know what to do! It only takes ten people. Visit my Cycle for Life site here.

Who knows? If this works, I may agree to be doused for every ten donors. I would be delighted to get really, really, thoroughly, wet and chilled. Repeatedly.



For more information about cystic fibrosis and where your money might be going (nearly 90% of it goes to research, FYI), visit the CF Foundation website.