Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Genetic Mutations - my sister and I

So about 30 years ago we were involved in the filming of a documentary. It was about four years or so before the movie was released. It won awards, opened eyes, ended up on TBS when cable was still new and now is available on DVD for the first time. I was excited when I got the email from my sister letting me know it's available for purchase on DVD. It's an interesting movie about the affects of Rocky Flats in Colorado during its years of operation and it's after affects on various life in the surrounding areas. The movie, Dark Circle, is a true documentary. It tells human stories surrounding various nuclear testing and droppings in our history. It also tells the story of a young family, mine, leaving Colorado and the underground plutonium five miles away from their dream home in Arvada. When I was four or five years old, I remember going door to door with my mother asking people if they know what's in their water and soil, if they care what was being manufactured five miles away. I remember the day Chris and Judy pulled up in our driveway in Arvada next to our VW Bug to tape us kids playing on a dirt mound behind out house and interview my mother in her nice 1979 bathing suit while she packed up the stuffed animals in my pink room. I've seen the movie several times. Other than my children, it's really my only claim to fame. My mark. I can say I was in an award winning movie.

Little did I know one day, almost thirty years after filming, my image would show up with my sister's and neighbor's images on a website review of the film. It's a decent…well, truthful review. And on this site are some nice images of the movie. There's the thirty year old Rocky Flats employee with a brain tumor and the image of the affects on livestock. There is also a pictorial of each chapter. A scientist, an aerial photo of the plant and right there on chapter three, titled Genetic Mutations, is a picture of my sister, our neighbor and I playing on that dirt hill. It's taken me all the thirty years to figure out just what happened to me…..yep, it's right there in chapter three of the move Dark Circle, I'm a genetic mutation.

The hard lessons of a four year old

I wrote this in October 2008...I couldn't imagine having to explain the death of a beloved younger brother like a little four year old had to hear a year ago. Having to lose a cat was so hard for my four year old. I am amazed at the strength I see in others.

The hard lessons of a four year old...
After a rough night and slow deterioration, Saliers' body started to give today. He couldn't stand up and ended up lying in his own urine. I tried my best with fluids first thing this morning, lots of pep talks and old fashioned tender loving care. At 2:30 this afternoon, I took him to the vet for the last time and he got a shot in his leg. Moments later his eyes faded and he stopped breathing. It was the only choice I had. Well, choice number two was to make him comfortable and allow him to die lying in his own urine. That was not really an option for me.
The toughest thing was telling my four year old daughter.
I told her that I am taking him back to the doctor and he won't be coming home. It took a few times before she really seemed to understand he's never coming home. I told her he's going to die. And she gasped and said 'He's going to DIE??!! And keep dying??" I told her he was going to kitty heaven where he will be young and not sick and he'll be able to walk and run and play.

Funny coming from someone that doesn't have a religious idea of heaven the way many Christians do, but it's easiest explained that way to me I guess. I'm not sure that she gets any of it. But at least I was honest and at her level explaining the best I know how. I told her it's OK to be sad. I'm sad and I'm going to miss him. I love him. But I'll be OK and I won't be sad for long. I think she thinks he's just going to stay at the vet’s office forever and though part of me thinks it would be OK to think that, we have to take Mozart in a few weeks to get snipped. I'd hate the thought of her asking to see Saliers thinking he just moved to the vet's office.
She is taking it so hard. She broke down tonight when she came into my room and saw Mischief on my bed. She just said, "I miss Saliers," and started crying. I hugged her and told her I miss him too and it's OK to cry and it's OK to be sad. As soon as I said it's Ok to cry, she let it all out...just bawling. She said he couldn't die because she loved him. And I told her that's why we are so sad because we love him so much. She asked about heaven again and where it is. I told her I think it's beyond the stars and maybe when Saliers died he made a new star. We went into a dark room and looked outside at the stars (only it was cloudy, so all we saw were a few blinking lights from airplanes). I told her tomorrow when the clouds are gone we could look for a new star and just maybe that would be his star.
Later she asked me if Saliers was getting shots at the doctor's office. I simply said he's not getting any shots anymore. Then we went through the conversation again about him not coming back. I told her I don't know everything, but I will answer any question she has and then I told her sometimes big hugs help make us feel better when we are sad. We hugged and then she started talking about other things that die. This is going to be a long hard lesson...


written in 2008

When I was in college I worked on the play "Steel Magnolias." It was a favorite movie of mine before I got the opportunity to work in the theatre production. There is a favorite line from the show that I've never forgotten:
Truvy: Time marches on and sooner or later you realize it is marchin' across your face.
Don't we all know this is true. Many of my good friends are well into their 30's. My husband will be 40 in less than eight months. I am closer to 40 now than I am to 30 or even remembering what 30 was like. But life is good. I need a little extra conditioner in my hair each day and I have to remember to fight a few wrinkles with as much moisturizer as I can slather. I head to bed for as much sleep as my children will allow. I don't feel like I am 35...or at least what I thought 35 might feel like.
Here's what is strange for me. Maybe good thoughts for the manuscript since that is about a journey home..hmmm.... I didn't get married until a month before I turned 30 years old. Many of my friends from high school got married in their early 20's and many to their high school sweet hearts. Today, almost 20 years since I left that small town, I've found several on Facebook (and a few here as well) or I have been found myself 1700 miles away from home. I find myself looking at faces that look familiar but a bit older and even a few faces that look almost as they did twenty years ago. But sadly I see many are single with children meaning divorced. Many have children ten years old and older; some have teenagers! Oh my gosh! My oldest is four years old! I've only been married for just over five years, so I certainly don't feel like I've managed a huge feat they weren't able to accomplish. There is a bit of nostalgia in chatting with old friends you haven't seen in years. The thing about journeys is that they require deep thought and understanding of who you are, who you were and who you've become. The journey I go through when looking into lives of old friends is one filled with compassion and questions. One tends to ask throughout life what would have happened had I taken this road instead of the one I took. I ask myself that all the time. I have a wonderful husband and a wonderful luck filled life here in Colorado and this is where I was born and where my heart is. Home is where my family is, so home for me is split between my love in Colorado and my family and history in Virginia. I often think about where I would be had I not left Virginia...or specifically Middlesex because I did live in Richmond and then Charlottesville for years before coming back to Colorado. Would I have married a high school sweet heart or a great love from college? Would I have waited years to be married with someone that didn't want to visit with down that road? Would I have longed for someone that would be wonderful to be with today but not back then? So many of these people I know or knew years ago are happy now and have been down roads I've yet to venture down. Did I miss a road somewhere or did I take the right one? At age thirty five, I am about to give birth to my third baby. Many friends are about to send their children to middle school or even high school. One just walked down the aisle. As we grew up together, we all talked about our dreams and our goals. I never thought I met mine. But yet I am happier and better off than I think I would if I did. I hope those wonderful people in my life so many years ago did well for themselves along the way, with great spouses or lovers replaced, wonderful loving children, successful careers and laughter every day. There are those that I think of often and that I miss greatly, but the difficulty is that I don't know that person today. I know that person from almost twenty years ago. Would the person today even like who I am today?
Time marches on and one day you realize you are a new person with pieces of these people you've loved in life. Time marches on and you realize you love ghosts and need to live today.

Is it really going to be 20 years soon.....?? WHOA!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Black Widows and more...eeekkk

I wrote this over three years ago...I still have the same paralyzing fear of black widows and there is one in my garage now. Read on and you can see why I have this fear and you'll know I will be dreaming about her coming to get me over night....because I know that's what her goal will be.

I am done hosting the bugs of Firestone. You are no longer welcome here. I understand when we moved in here, we were moving in on your territory. However, we did not build this comfortable warm house for you. It is our house and you've have several months to relocate. Now please leave.

According to Wiki, houseflies live from fifteen to thirty days. We've been here almost sixty days now and we are down to one super fly that refuses to go to fly eternity or wherever the little fly souls are that were once attached to the millions of fly bodies that litter my basement floor. Oh, yes…little dead flies everywhere…that's why you've never been in my basement. They will be gone soon…as soon as my husband decided to sweep them up for me.

We went through this cycle of bugs. When we moved in, it was the month of the spiders. I was capturing…yes, capturing…and flushing, but not squishing, spiders all day long. Each time I would go into the garage for a box to unpack, I'd have to battle a black widow. Yes, I capture and flush and I battle black widows. It's all true. Spiders really bother me. I've mentioned the little eight year old girl that still lives somewhere inside me and hordes this memory of a giant black widow coming to get her while she sleeps. That's a memory I have from childhood. No, I can't remember too much from back then, but that huge black widow trying to get to my room is so vivid it's like it really happened. It was just a dream, and I was so lucky that she was so large she couldn't fit down the hall to get to my room, otherwise, that little eight year old girl may have become spider food instead of the mom and wife she is today. So battle…yes, that's what they are; battles. If you were to witness them, you may call them stare downs or anxiety attacks that force me to freeze and say out loud and over and over, 'what do I do, what do I do, what do I do?'

But to me, they are intense battles. I usually win because I have to and because somewhere inside I know I am the bigger and smarter species. It's that small child that is dwarfed by the red spot on the spider's belly that can't seem to remember this fact.

So the black widow invasion ensued. But they seemed contained to the garage. After a few days, I just didn't go out there any more. Jeff was instructed to check every box before bringing it into the house and I stayed away from any open box because I just knew I'd peer down inside only to find my shoes have been eaten by a new colony of red spotted spiders whose mission was to take over my belongings and my home. I know now that's not a rational thing to think, but to keep those thoughts at bay, I just stayed away from it all.

Then the big freeze hit. Days of freezing weather, snow and ice. Our house was cozy and warm. Our garage was still full of boxes and bitter cold. Jeff told me he was finding little frozen bodies out in the garage. The black widows had lost the battle and I didn't have to fight anymore. The weather got them. I win!! Right?

In the middle of the garage spider invasion, the flies begun taking over my house. I was thinking about pitching a tent on the back yard for a bug free haven in which to sleep. I learned quickly the flies liked hanging out in the kitchen. I think I threw more food away in that month than I had in the year prior. If it didn't get eaten or wrapped quickly, the flies would swarm then hover over it and I'd have to toss it. They slowly met the end of their fifteen to thirty day lifecycle and many succumbed to the suction of my vacuum cleaner.

Somehow at the start of what we would think of as winter, the mosquitoes took over our house. The flies were dying off, the spiders were about to freeze, and the mosquitoes were discovering the bright yellow house on the corner of two country roads. It was like a big mosquito trap. Only they were trapped in the house suddenly. The morning after Thanksgiving, I walked into the kitchen to see the few dishes we didn't bother cleaning the night before. On the counter was a water pitcher and inside the pitcher was a bit of water and about seven mosquitoes. A new bug invasion. In the weeks since, I have managed to captured and flush about one a day. Yesterday I saw one sitting on a wall. I can only hope that one can't reproduce alone like some oddities in the animal kingdom. I don't know the lifespan of a mosquito, but if I can catch him, I can only say it won't be much longer.

So we were swimming in flies that were literally dropping, dodging mosquitoes that are thinking this is their new home and quite certain the spiders are gone. Until Jeff goes into the basement to set up our exercise equipment. He came upstairs to tell me he killed two black widow spiders in the basement. I guess the dead flies were probably good food, but since they no longer fly, the red bellied spiders had to go find them. Now I'm freaking out again. My first time on the treadmill was exhausting, but not only because it was a great workout, but because I kept searching the walls and ceiling for black creatures with eight legs. That's way too many if you ask me. Maybe that's my problem. Four legs I can deal with, when you have six or eight, you need to stay away from me.

Later that week, I asked Jeff to show me where the spiders were in the basement. Turns out one was not in the basement, but nesting on the staircase. She was coming to get me. I just know it. Only she was small. It a matter of weeks, she could have made her way up the other staircase and down the hall into my bedroom. But my husband got her! My husband is a great man indeed. Spider killer and garage fairy. Well, I don't think he'll like being called a fairy. But during Christmas, I kept throwing wrapping paper and boxes and adult proof toy packaging out into garage and magically it was all cleaned up. I kept calling it the garage fairy, but like Santa Claus, I know it's really my husband that cleaned my huge mess. He also cleaned the rest of the garage. Enough so that we could put both my van and his truck in the garage…along with Arwen's jeep, Zoe's car, countless tools, strollers, yard tools and Jeff monster motorcycle. While he was doing that enormous job, Jeff told me he found and squished three black widows. He said one was a fat one.

I'm back to not wanting to spend any time out in the garage. It would seem the freeze didn't get them after all. They just got smart and stored food and hid from the warrior. No, I'm not really a warrior. Let's just call me box slammer. That's the only way I could deal with them. Drop a big box of books on them. Now what will I do since all the boxes are gone?

Spring is on it's way. Let the battle begin!