Monthly Archives: August 2009

Monday Meme

Stolen, with love, from Kwizgiver.

what are your most common nicknames? “Mommy” is the most common one.  Occasionally (though not often), Mr. Chili will call me “babe.”

what is today’s weather? A bit cooler than I’d like, but it’s not supposed to rain!

where did go on vacation this year? The lake, the Cape, and the hospital.

what did you do there? Swam, breathed, and helped my mother die.

where did you stay? A rented cabin, TwoBlueDay’s summer home, and the fold-out cot

what job do you do? I teach English to high school seniors (YAY, ME!!) and writing to college freshmen.

describe where you live. The Chili family resides in a lovely part of New England, nestled between the ocean and the mountains, close (but not TOO close) to a couple of major metropolitan areas.  If we could ditch the stupid winters, I’d truly love it here.

what do you usually do on weekends? Errands, laundry, yoga, and family.

what food hits your ‘bliss spot’? Depends on my mood.  Chocolate is usually a sure thing for me, but I’m also fond of good pizza, my own spaghetti sauce, and Mr. Chili’s cheeseburgers.

what drink really does it for you? Iced green tea with a splash of orange-tangerine juice is my current love.

describe the first friend that comes to your head. Funny, smart, dependable.

what was the last restaurant you went to? We had dinner with the Senior Chilis at the Olive Garden last week.

where would you like to live if you had unlimited moneys and nothing stopping your dreams? Ummm… I don’t know; I’ve never lived anywhere but here, and I’ve not done much traveling…

what is the likeliness of your achieving this dream home? I am blissfully content in my CURRENT home (stupid winters notwithstanding).  As long as my husband and children are in it, whatever house we occupy is my “dream home.”  (say it with me, now; “awwwww!”)

what do you like to do in your spare time? Read, cook, play on the computer, write.

what’s your favorite genre for TV programs? Action/Adventure/Drama.  I’m fond of such shows as House and Medium, Sons of Anarchy, Rescue Me (I missed this WHOLE last season!  DAMMIT!), Leverage and Dark Blue.

what’s your favorite genre for music? Pop rock and folk.  MatchBox  Twenty, Vertical Horizon, Jonatha Brooke, Billy Joel, Nickelback, that sort of thing.

what’s your favorite song that’s sad? Um…  I can’t think of one that’s SAD.  I’ve got “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” originally by Elton John, but as remade by Oleta Adams in my head right now. (It won’t let me embed; go here for the video)

what’s your favorite soppy film? Does Forrest Gump count?

how about your favorite chick flick? Probably Moonstruck is as close as I get to chick flicks.  How come no one asks what my favorite shoot-’em-up movie is?!

what are you looking forward to at the moment? Going back to work!  Classes start at Local U. tonight!

what are you dreading at the moment? Going back to work!  I know it’s just the usual pre-first-day jitters, but I’m a little edgy…

how would you describe your personality? Compassionate, perhaps, or energetic.

if you had a personality eraser, what part of yours might you erase? impatience, self-doubt, procrastination

you are given $5000 to spend in 1 day, what do you do with it? remember, no limitations! Either a down payment for a new car for Mr. Chili or investments in the girls’ college funds.

what is your biggest fear? Unanticipated loss; things like strokes, anyurisms and car crashes.


Filed under Little Bits of Nothingness, meme

Compassionate Detachment

Someone I care for very much and with whom I spend a lot of time is, I think, teetering on the brink of a complete systems meltdown.

Peter and I have been friends for nearly forever.  I believe it is true that, excepting blood relatives, he and I have known each other longer than anyone else in our respective lives.  We share the kind of intimacy that, at least from my perspective, allows us to share literally anything with the other.  This comes in handy when major crisis hits (say, the death of a mother, for example) because one doesn’t have to waste a whole lot of energy with back story or explanation; because we’ve known one another for so long, we already know what kind of baggage the other is bringing to his or her particular party, and we have insight into how best to help the other navigate the way out.

Pete has been making what, in my estimation, are some spectacularly poor choices over the last half a year or so.  If I didn’t know better (and I should say here that I’m not really sure I do), I would say that he’s been making choices calculated to bring about his emotional destruction.  He’s done things that cause my proverbial jaw to drop into my lap, and he’s done them with a sort of devil-may-care attitude that, frankly, astounds me.  He’s a smart guy, my Peter; I thought it’d be a lot harder for him to behave like such an idiot.

Here’s the thing; Peter has not yet come to me seeking counsel.  He’s told me, several times and on no uncertain terms, that he fully expects to have a breakdown (even going so far as to suggest that he may need to be admitted on an inpatient basis for it), but despite my repeated reminders that I’m here and, as the person who’s loved him the longest, am uniquely placed to help him sort his shit out, he has remained aloof.

I suspect I know the reason for that.  For all that I adore Pete, he knows that I’m not going to let him slide on some of the things I’ve watched him do – and do with seeming purpose – over the last six months or so.  He knows that I’m going to be tough with him, that I’m going to call him out on his shit, and that I’m going to require that he take ownership and responsibility for his behavior.  He knows I’m not going to pat him on the head, call him a poor baby, and tell him that, sometimes, bad things just happen to good people. He knows it’s far more likely that I’m going to figuratively bitch slap him and demand to know what the fuck he thought he was thinking.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want that – owning his shit has never really been Pete’s strong suit – and I think he’s actually enjoying feeling sorry for himself right now.

The challenge for me, then, becomes stepping back and allowing him to self-destruct.  From my vantage point, I can see where his behavior is going to lead.  It’s not a great intellectual leap to see, really; one doesn’t need my place in Pete’s life to know for sure that his current road drives him right off a cliff, and soon – he’s fast running out of road.  My help hasn’t been asked for, so I can’t tell him how to avert his disaster (well, I can, I suppose, but he won’t hear me until he chooses to.  If I were to offer my advice, I’m sure I’d be dismissed as being intrusive).  I’ve experienced this sort of helplessness before; I’ve had practice in watching people I care about make choices they knew were detrimental to their lives, but make them anyway.  I’ve learned that the best thing for me to do when faced with a loved one who’s strapped a proverbial bomb to their chest is to clear the blast area so I don’t become collateral damage.  I’m not great at letting go – especially when someone I care about is so clearly bent on self-destruction – but I’m not so egotistical as to think that I can help everyone.

My fear, though, is that things are going to happen exactly as he’s set them up to do and it’s going to be far worse than he anticipated and far more than he can handle.  I fear that he may wind up dead as a result; that he may get himself to a point where suicide feels like a logical option.  Now my question becomes; can I practice compassionate detachment when I reasonably believe that my friend’s life may be at risk?  I think not, but I also wonder whether my unsolicited involvement would help or hurt.

Sometimes, love is hard.


Filed under compassion and connection, concerns, doing my duty, dumbassery, Friends, frustrations, Questions, ruminating, strange but true, technical difficulties, Worries and Anxieties

It’s 5:30 Already?!

What the hell happened to today?!

I got up this morning and headed to Mom’s house to help MeadMaker go through some of the stuff there.  We’re trying to get things cleaned up an organized ahead of having appraisers come in to have a look at some of the objects d’art and such things as we have no concept of their value.  Today, we worked on the living room.

It was a little wierd being there, but only because Bill has not yet returned the hospital bed that he’d borrowed.  I don’t mind being in Mom’s house, surrounded by Mom’s things, but the empty bed was a bit more obviously symbolic than even I can disregard.

Anyway, we had a relatively successful couple of hours there, then I went home to find that my family wanted to do brunch.  Since the local creperie is closed for vacation until early September (thank you, Internet, for coughing up that information instead of making us drive down there, eager for crepes, only to find locked doors!), so we headed to IHop instead (a VERY poor substitute, I assure you).

After that, we attempted to run some errands, but were largely unsuccessful; Mr. Chili wanted to go to the new Lowe’s to get a part for a potty that continually runs, but it turns out that the new Lowe’s doesn’t open until December.  We all ended up in the new Target next door, but because of the crush of back-to-school shoppers, we couldn’t find anything we were looking for (specifically, shoes; the girls’ shoe section looked as though it had been looted), so we left the store essentially empty-handed.

We made a quick and completely successful run through our local market for spaghetti sauce fixings and two giant containers of fresh tortellini, and good thing, too; after failing at two consecutive errands, I was ready for a little bit of easy and uncomplicated.  When we arrived home, Mr. Chili got it in his mind that we needed to clean out the fridge (he was right, by the way, I don’t begrudge him that; it’s just that I probably would have procrastinated in favor of a nap…).  Now, the fridge is clean and organized, there’s spaghetti sauce bubbling on the stove, and I’m ready for bed, and it’s only twenty minutes to six.



Filed under Little Bits of Nothingness, My husband rocks!, my oh-so-exciting life, on death and dying

The Mother’s Angel

Mr. Chili stopped by to visit his parents yesterday afternoon and came home with this.


It was a gift to me from his mother, he said, in honor and rememberance of my mother and her passing.

My first thought is that it was a truly lovely gesture.  I’ve always bristled a bit at my mother-in-law’s attitude toward my relationship with my mother.  Since Mom didn’t give birth to me, Mother Chili didn’t understand why I would consider her “family” (and had no qualms saying so out loud) and, as a consequence, I felt that she wasn’t very respectful of the profound relationship my mother and I shared.  That she would present me with this as a gift of sympathy for my loss was, I thought, particularly meaningful.

Then Mr. Chili told me the whole story of the angel.

I am not the first person to receive this angel as a token of sympathy for the death of a mother.  Mr. Chili’s sister gave it to Mother Chili when Grandmother died, and Mother told Sister that she would keep it until she encountered someone else who needed its comfort.

To say that I am incredibly touched by the gesture would be a gross understatement.  The combination of the compassionate thought and where (and from whom) the gift came from is almost too much, and I find myself welling up at the enormity of it all.

I have promised that I will continue the tradition and perpetuate the energy that Mother has invested in this simple little sculpture.  The angel will live with me until I send her on to someone else I love who needs her.

What a wonderful way to honor our mothers.


Filed under admiration, celebration, compassion and connection, family matters, Home and Family, memorials, messages from the Universe, on death and dying, ruminating


Mom died a week ago today.  This afternoon, I made the trip to pick up her ashes.

If any of you is considering cremation as the final disposition of your earthly remains, might I suggest looking into whether your state has a chapter of the Cremation Society?  At Ellie’s suggestion, I signed Mom up for membership in our state’s chapter, and the whole experience has been entirely agreeable.  The membership process was quick and easy and took me all of five minutes online.  Lifetime membership in our state’s chapter costs $30.  When the death occurs, one need only phone the Society; they arrange for transport of the body, they take care of all the paperwork associated with filing the death certificate (including, saints be praised, informing Social Security!), they cremate the remains in accordance with local ordinances, then they call you when the ashes are ready for pick-up.  While they have packages that include viewings and services, the option of a simple cremation without ceremony or fanfare is also available.

That’s the route we chose.  For around a thousand dollars, Mom’s body was retrieved from the nursing home, her paperwork was verified and filed, and her body was cremated.  Her remains were released to me this afternoon in a simple cardboard box that we’ll substitute for the urn that Sphyrnatude made for her out of wood he found in her art studio.  In a couple of weeks, her closest family will gather at the cemetery and we’ll bury her next to her first husband, MeadMaker’s father. While it’s technically not what she wanted – she gave me explicit instructions that she was not to have a funeral – I know that several of those she left behind would be comforted by some sort of formal closure.  I don’t think Mom would begrudge them that.

Bobbie and I decided this afternoon that it would be fitting for us all to go out for Chinese food afterward; no one’s sure why, but during the last month of her life, she talked a lot about Chinese restaurants.  Bobbie and I think that a Scorpion Bowl would be a perfectly lovely way to celebrate and remember…


Filed under celebration, compassion and connection, doing my duty, Home and Family, Little Bits of Nothingness, memorials, on death and dying

The Ring

Among other bits and pieces of material things my mother left to me is this beautiful ring.


Wow.  That’s a really shitty picture.  Sorry.

Anyway, the setting was found in a pawn shop by her last husband. The original stone in the center was replaced with what appears to be a 3/4 carat diamond (and it’s likely one of very high quality; it was replaced by my friend Bowyer who, at the time, was a jeweler with exceedingly high standards). The center stone is surrounded by 12 square cut sapphires, and a tiny diamond chip adorns each point.

My mother adored this ring, and she asked me to bring it to her a few months ago so that she could wear it. It was her belief (as, to a certain extent, it is mine) that it’s possible to imprint upon material objects; that a bit of one’s energy can be left with things that person held especially dear.  She wanted to imprint on this ring, she said, and she intended to leave it to me.  At the suggestion of the nursing staff, Bobbie and I removed it from her finger just a few hours before she died.

It’s lovely, but any of you who know me in real life know it’s really NOT my style.

So, here’s my question; would it be proper for me to have the ring reset into something that is more compatible with MY energy?  Would it be disrespectful for me to take the thing apart and remake it into something I would wear often?  As it is now, I won’t wear it regularly, and I feel as if that’s missing the point of her giving it to me.

My thinking is that it’s not the form of the thing that matters most; that to have it reset won’t diminish in any way the energy that the ring holds, or the meaning I place on it.  I would rather have something that I would enjoy wearing often than something that my mother loved that sits in a jewelry box, only to be brought out for special occasions.  What do YOU think?


Filed under compassion and connection, on death and dying, Questions, strange but true

Ten Things Tuesday

I just couldn’t stay away, you guys.  Blogging has become so much an everyday part of my life that I’m finding that taking the time away is more stressful than writing my daily posts.  Go figure.  So, I’m back.  Didja miss me?

1.  We had a wonderful time at the wedding.  Mr. Chili and I realized we’d made a milestone; we’re now going to our friends’ children’s weddings.  Next up?  OUR kids’.  Yikes.

The entire affair was lovely, but one part in particular stands out for me.  The reception started, and with it the parade of designated dances.  The bridal couple danced together, the bride danced with her dad; it was all pretty standard stuff.  Then came the dance with the groom and his mom.

The groom’s mother was a dear friend of mine who died several years ago in a single car accident.  When it came time for her dance, M had the DJ call his grandmother (his dad’s mom), Mama V, to the floor.  Mama V is one hot ticket; I have adored this woman for as long as I’ve known her and, in truth, aspire to be like her when I get older.  She’s kind and generous of heart, she’s funny and loving, and she’s up for pretty much anything.  Good thing, too.

She headed for the dance floor, took her grandson in her arms, and waited for the music to start.  What comes blaring through the speakers?



It was PERFECT, you guys!  The groom, in a stroke of inspired brilliance, chose to take what could have been a sad and contemplative occasion and made it fun.  His mother would have WHOLLY approved, and as I stood at the back of the room, alternately weeping and laughing, I felt April shimmer with joy.

2.  My Local U. syllabus is a MESS, and classes start next Monday.  O’Mama is coming by this morning so we can collaborate on our respective syllabi, and I’m hoping to have at least the hint of a clue by lunchtime.  We work exceptionally well together, so I have a high level of confidence that we’ll figure at least SOME of it out.

3.  On our trips to and from Maryland to celebrate the wedding, the Chili family played the license plate game.  We managed to collect license plates from every state except Hawaii, Alaska, the Dakotas, Kansas, Montana, Kentucky, and Idaho.  Not bad for only having traveled through five states.

4.  We made another magical history tour on our way home yesterday, this time stopping for a trolley tour of the Valley Forge National Park.  It’s a beautiful spot of land, and the 90 minute trolley tour takes visitors to a musket firing demonstration, replicas of the huts that soldiers lived in during that winter of 1777-1778, and to the headquarters that Washington used during the stay.


Image credit

The tour guide asked us to remember that, while there was certainly a great deal of suffering experienced by revolutionaries during that winter, there was quite a lot that was accomplished, as well.  The winter spent at Valley Forge may well have been pivotal in the training of the Continental Army into a professional fighting force and, as a result, influenced the outcome of the war.

5.  I really am doing remarkably well, despite the events of the last few weeks.  I think that I credit a lot of that to the fact that I used much of the time that Mom and I had together to process the reality of the situation.  I’ve welled up a couple of times over the last few days, but I’m not crushed by grief.  In fact, I’m still elated that I was able to actually be with her when she finally passed.  I was afraid that was a promise I wouldn’t be able to keep, and I’m profoundly glad that I was able to love her all the way out.

6.  Mrs. T., I haven’t forgotten about your prizes; I just suck at getting to the Post Office (ask Kizz; she’ll tell you it’s true).  Keep faith; I’ll get these things out to you sometime soon…

7.  I’ve discovered, much to my absolute delight, that water comes out of my tap hot enough to brew green tea!  How wonderful is that?  To not have to boil a kettle on an August morning to brew tea for later icing?  (truly; it’s the little things that thrill me).

8.  We’ve got to do some back-to-school shopping, but not before the girls go through both their closets and their craft center to find out what they already have.  I’ve been feeling conspicuously over-supplied lately; I want to whittle down to only that which we actually need/want/use and donate the rest to those who don’t have enough.

9.  I’m putting together a post in which I’m going to ask your advice about something I think might be a little tricky involving something Mom left to me.  Watch this space.

10.  Have you guys been acquainted yet with Foamy the Squirrel?  We found one of his Christmas rants a few years back, but Bobbie turned me on to this episode.  I’m never going to be able to say “cream cheese” again; it’s going to be “cheesy, cheesy, creamy cheesy” from now on (note, this is not appropriate for professional settings…).


Filed under family matters, Friends, fun, funniness, Home and Family, Little Bits of Nothingness, love notes, messages from the Universe, My husband rocks!, my oh-so-exciting life, on death and dying, ten things Tuesday