Hoarders and letting go…

I may have mentioned before that I have watched an episode or two of the television show, “Hoarders” and the more disgusting variation, “Hoarding: Buried Alive” otherwise known as cockroaches, poop, mold, and gross things. I watch people recoil at the moldy food in the oozing refrigerator and smugly sit on the couch thinking, “I would never let my house get like that.” Well, lah dee dah, missy. No, I recognize my hoarding tendencies. I have always had a difficult time letting go of things. I look at the paper box that my son made in first or second grade that says I love you mom and there is no way that’s going in the garbage. Instead I put it in a box and shove the box into the attic. Or at least I did. Heads up people, I have changed. I have had the breakthrough of a half century. The shutdown has led to a massive cleaning in our house. Hoarders helped. I started to actually listen to the counsellors on the show and take it to heart. Here’s what I discovered.

  1. I like my things. I can’t just get rid of only the things I don’t like because I do like them all. If I didn’t like them I wouldn’t have them. But I have to get rid of things I like because it’s just too much. It’s like Bruce and the chocolate cake in Matilda. The psychologists on Hoarders ask do you use it? Does it fit your life right now? I guess if I didn’t know it was there until I uncovered it in the attic, well no.
  2. Many of the things were gifts and have memories attached. I’ve always been afraid of forgetting things. I’m afraid I will forget without things to bring the memories back. I guess this is true, I may forget. But for me there is a real danger of living in the past. I hold the baby clothing and remember how precious and adorable they were. (I’m talking about my kids, all over 26 years old, still precious and adorable).
  3. Something about my kids’ artwork just screams “Keep Me!” Especially the self-portraits. It doesn’t help that they are good…that’s not what makes it tough. I told my husband if I throw out a self-portrait it feels like I am throwing out a piece of the kid. It’s like Voldemort in Harry Potter—each self-portrait is kind of like a horcrux. But my kids did not leave pieces of themselves in paintings in the closet.

With all of these mental roadblocks, I have still cleaned out about six moving boxes worth of stuff. I have thrown out artwork. I gave away baby clothing. What happened? Simple, my son and daughter-in-law bought a bounce house.

My grandsons are six and almost three years old. With the COVID shutdown their activities have been curtailed aka non-existent. Of course I had some ideas of what they should do, but before I even thought to offer my keen insight, or at least much keen insight, they bought a bounce house. Yes, a bounce house! The kids absolutely love it and the six year old can connect it to air and fill it up. It’s wonderful! Even more wonderful is that it is something I never would have thought of!

Here’s what I realized in two nutshells: they are creating their own memories. The boys will grow up and say, “Remember when we had that bounce house? That was so much fun!” I had the chance to create memories with my kids. I don’t need to keep every game, every toy, every book for the grandkids because they have things of their own. Honestly, I don’t think I was keeping it for them anyway. I was keeping it because I had such a good time with my own kids I thought we could have the same time with the grandkids. I wanted to relive it. But it wasn’t for them it was for me. I just didn’t realize it.

My kids are making memories. They are good at it. I don’t have to worry. I’m giving away all the stuff I have hung on to for so long. They have the right to create their own remembrances. I don’t have to pass mine on. The best things in life are ephemeral anyway. When I used to play something on the cello and it went really well (not that often but even I got lucky sometimes) it was magical. But we didn’t have cell phones with recording and when I was done it was gone. Even now recorded music can never have the same feeling as the live moment. The moment is loved and enjoyed then it’s gone but that doesn’t mean it was nothing. My kids’ art is sort of similar; it reflects a moment in time or a person in a moment in time. Keeping it won’t bring that moment back. The kids moved on to more moments. I need to as well.

The other nutshell holds this thought: stuff can really weigh you down both physically and mentally. I don’t want to walk from room to messy room. I can’t clean the ever present dog hair or cat snot off of stuff. It’s bad enough to vacuum the floors every day and wipe down the bathroom mirror so people won’t think I’m a snot face. I don’t want to clean dog hair and cat snot off all the shells I picked up from the beach or the stuffed soft kitty, or the kid’s paper box that says I love you mom. I can’t solve the world’s problems if I’m busy moving stuff around. I have to clear out my head and my home.

Not that it’s easy. When I have a difficult time my husband knows now…he switches the tv to Hoarders. It’s always on, I swear. I watch the lady with the mansion—9000 square feet of hoard. I tsk, tsk, shake my head, then I’m back. The counsellors say you have to live with the discomfort. I can live with the discomfort and let it go anyway. It’s OK. I am brave.

We have reached a milestone as of last weekend. Our attic is totally cleaned out. And no, I didn’t just move it to the garage, I know what you’re thinking! Well, I did move one thing, but only one and it will be gone soon. My dear husband has made full car after full car trips to Goodwill or Salvation Army, and our dumpster was overfull today. In fact I put a white plastic bent drawer thing out for the trash and someone took it!

I know this post isn’t about Chester, but Chester has been a lazy boy lately. He has only wanted to go for short walks and when Brittany comes he just lays on his back so she can scratch his tummy. She knows his tricks though and usually can get him outside. While I clean, he watches. Good news–he has conquered his fear/outrage at the lawn mower. John can mow and he ignores it. He does like to pee on my new plants, which can’t be good.  I included a picture of him just because he’s so darn cute. Now if you’ll excuse me I must go clean something.

Pete’s Pond and a time to change…

It has been a couple weeks since the Enzo debacle and Chester has been a particularly good dog. We went to a new park, called “Pete’s Pond”. Why Pete’s pond you ask? (I know you asked, I heard you). Well, let me tell you…there was a former landowner named Pete. There is a 19-acre pond in the middle of it. Got it? OK then, moving on. It was a Friday morning walk just before it rained. This really does have to be one of the best kept secrets near us. It was just beautiful. The May apples were in bloom along with wildflowers and cattails. The path is not paved but is well kept and easy to walk. The highlight reel would note the abundance of chipmunks. They were everywhere, just like at our house lately. Usually Chester would be going crazy, but he didn’t even see them. He had his nose to the ground the whole time. I was more excited than he was about the munks. I did not chase them through the mud and woods though. Below are some pictures of this new park. 30 plus years in Lake County and we never knew about it! Go figure.

I know this is a hard time in the world. I started to say “our” world then retyped it. It’s not “ours” any more than it belonged to people 100 years ago. We don’t own the world, if we did we would be able to control or eradicate COVID. We can’t and never will. A vaccine is our way of saying we are adapting to this new variable. We must be flexible, and fight for survival. We (as in humans) have to adapt because if we don’t, more will die. But it seems to take so long, doesn’t it? And do you feel like we are just way too slowly starting to learn more about it and how to change the statistics? We still have too many people dying but isn’t it true that we know so much more than we did? Yet we can’t seem to get where we need to be. Every action seems to be an agonizing decision because we don’t know if we will be safe or not. Should I go to the restaurant? Should I let Chester go to doggie day care? It wears us down.

I thought I was dealing with COVID pretty well when we learned of the death of George Floyd, and the subsequent riots. So far I have been unable to say much because I have nothing but sadness. I, usually one who will wait and see evidence, have nothing to wait for. It is what it is, and what it is, frankly sucks. There have been too many for too long killed unjustly. Each time it happens, I think maybe this is the time, the uncontroversial time that everyone will realize what is happening and change will happen. Even now I hope that finally, with this video evidence, there will be unanimity in the condemnation of racism and brutality. I’m not sure though. I thought that about firearms when Sandy Hook happened. I was wrong. I may be wrong again. I hope not, God I hope not.

Here’s the thing…there are events we cannot control and have to adapt to, like COVID. They take a long time to sort out, but we adapt and will learn new habits to keep us safe. We must figure out a way to adapt our country to prevent events like this event, the death of Mr. Floyd. We must learn new habits to keep people safe.  Right now are protests, (and I mean protests, not looting which is just stealing stuff). But deeper change has to come later. There just must be a collective effort to solve this. We don’t want to go back to the way we were, ignorant. Just like we are making changes because of COVID. We must develop a vaccine against racism and injustice. We must be able to change it like the flu vaccine when a new strain comes, because racism, like a germ, sneaks its way into situations and people.

I think we, or depending on our age, our children, will succeed. I think there will come a time when there are so many different skin colors that the old, race based ways of identifying ourselves will have no meaning. What is white? What is black? Think of it like a business—bigger businesses take longer to change. I remember working in a smaller company and my boss said the big business mentality and bureaucracy would drive her crazy because nothing gets done quickly. Well America is one giant business. From our start it has taken a long time to get things done. There often comes a boiling point, the final straw as it were.  I think or hope that we are at that point. We should have been at it long ago.

Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your time with me. If you get a chance and are in the area, check out Pete’s Pond. If not, go outside. We are at a point of change and it will be good. Welcome the change and let’s rise to a greater, healthier, kinder country. We are at the low point, but we have the opportunity to create a better way. To everything there is a season.

Don’t give up.

Pete's Pond
overlooking the famous pond
tired and happy!

Chester’s arch-nemesis and just for fun flower signs…

Over the weekend Chester and I had quite the adventure. It rained in the morning so we went later than usual. The walk was nice, and I saved multiple worms. One was pretty big and it looked like it was low on energy to get off the street. I set it in a bed of clover to either gather strength and dig or die and be eaten. It reminded me of the Hunger Games.

Because of the worm saving mission, we were a little slow. We made it around the big block toward the other end of the development when we caught a glimpse of Enzo. If you remember, Enzo and Chester are mortal enemies. Whether you remember or not, Chester remembered. He flipped out, howling, barking, and making otherworldly noises. He pulled as hard as he could, lunging and running around me in his desperation to get to the dreaded Enzo. Chester’s over 70 pounds, maybe more with the COVID snacks, so I had to ground myself. I spread my legs apart and bent them a little, hanging on for dear life like I was waterskiing. I was yelling “leave it” and “No” and the bag of poop attached to the leash was flying in circles with every pull. Keep in mind that because of the rain and the shutdown my hair was frizzing out which added to the visual. Picture a Sumo wrestler with frizzy hair and baggy capris and you’ll have it. Not my best look. Meanwhile Enzo was just sitting on the other side of the street. His owner petted him and said “see what you made him do?” If I hadn’t been in the middle of a Chester-induced hurricane I would have said, “No, Enzo didn’t make him do that, he is choosing to do it himself. He is being a BAD DOG right now. We are not responsible for the actions of others. We may be a trigger, whether we did anything or not, but we are not to blame. Don’t take that on yourself little Enzo.” Of course I said nothing of the sort, I was busy dragging Chester down the street like I was in a truck pull.

Chester calmed down, and we walked home. It was warm and humid, and I didn’t save many other worms because I was d-o-n-e DONE. We got home, and I started to throw the bags of poop out…oh, did I say bags? Because there was only one still attached to the leash. Groan. He had done one prior to the Enzo debacle and one after. I could tell by the weight that the one prior was still there and the other must have fallen off. It couldn’t be far, I reasoned, so we walked back. I could have let him go in the house but he is the one who pooped. So we went together. We retraced our steps, and retraced and retraced all the way around the block again, peeking around corners to avoid he who shall not be named. It was located just after the scene of the Chester meltdown, a little blue blob on the side of the road. We collected it and went home. Sometimes things happen. His tongue was hanging out and he didn’t look one bit guilty. I couldn’t stay mad since he looked so happy. Sheesh.

On the plus side of the great poop escape, during the second walk I started to think about if flowers were people what kind of personality traits they would have. I came up with one word answers that I instantly thought of… based on some of the flowers here in northeast Ohio. Then because I have alot of time on my hands I tried to match them with astrological signs based on their personalities. Totally not official or anything, just kind of fun. See if you have the same reactions!

Sunflowers – joyful, definitely a Leo! Nothing shy about sunflowers!

 Lilacs – precious, maybe Cancer.     

Tulips – graceful, a Virgo? I wish Virgos were graceful but I hate to say…I’m, I mean they’re not.         

Daisies – cheery, let’s say Sagittarius. They happily do what they want and people are happy to let them.    

Crocuses – eager and independent, like Aquarius! Grow wherever the squirrels plant them.

Pansies – gentle, Gemini, my Grandma used to say they are like little faces looking to the sun.    

Marigolds – strong, like Taurus. Even bunnies won’t eat them.

 Petunias – easygoing, Libra? They are definitely gracious.

Irises—royal, Scorpio, of course. 

Roses; determined (they have to be, especially in my garden) like an Aries.  

 Daylilies—reliable, like a Capricorn. 

Finally let’s go with Hyacinths—intoxicating, maybe artistic like Pisces.

Now that I’ve used up another few minutes of your time, I’m going to smell the lilac bush that is blooming like crazy in our back yard. Let me know if you agree with my in depth and very scientific flower analysis!

Matthew 6:28-29

Lilacs
Our lilac tree
This is just a tree at sunrise but i like how the light makes it look like it’s dipped in gold.

The neverending mud and Ohiospeak…

Chester loves the mud. He’s a mudder. I am not. I am so sick of wiping those (used to be white) paws after he goes out. He has decided that the chipmunk under the patio should be dug up. Not just the chipmunk but the bunny under the shed, the cat in the wayback yard, and by the gate. He is digging a hole all the way to the center of the earth as we speak. Now the center of the earth might sound dangerous but it would not be overly hot because of the wet mud that permeates the entire Ohio universe. In Ohio aka Cleveland aka our backyard the everpresent mud is everypresentwhere. Oh, and I mean everywhere. It’s on our carpet, our rug, our floor, our couch, the bedspread (I don’t know why because he NEVER goes on the bed…) my shoes, my husband’s shoes, my slippers, the side of the chair from when he shook, the counter. It’s also on him. This is not ordinary mud, no no. It stinks. Maybe ordinary mud stinks too, I’m not sure. I don’t see how it could. I cannot describe to you the smell of this mud. I sat on the couch and kept smelling it but didn’t see where it was coming from. I got on my hands and knees and sure enough, just like a fish in the car trunk for a few days (been there done that) there was a chunk of it that had come to fruition. I was able to remove the offending odor. Unfortunately if A =stinky mud and B=muddy dog then A+B=stinky, muddy dog. It’s destiny, me and the mud. Ugh.

Due to A + B above, we have been trying to take Chester for walks more. I took him yesterday or the day before, or shoot, could be last week, who the heck knows, and he peed on a fire plug. I started to think of words that we use here in Ohio that may or may not be the same as all over. Our mud is special, maybe our language is too. Take the word fire plug. Is that what you call it? or is it a fire hydrant?

Maybe it’s just my family. Families and friends make up words and phrases that have meanings that others don’t understand. I read once where a long time friend died, and the survivor said the thing they missed the most was not having anyone to understand the references and appreciate them. I think that will be difficult when it happens. My husband and I can quote almost any line from Seinfeld in any circumstance. But we’ve been married almost 40 years, there are alot of references.

Some other words—treelawn is the area between your sidewalk and street, if you have a sidewalk. We do not unfortunately. The Wayback is the, well, way back of a station wagon. We did have a station wagon…several in fact. When my husband first met me back in high school my parents had two Volare station wagons. One had a hole in the floor where my sister’s heel went through. My dad wouldn’t get a new car until the old one literally died on the street. 

When my family first got a television, it was a little black and white one, and there was no such thing as a remote control. The first remote control was dubbed the “clicker.” Not to be confused with the “clapper” which we also had. (clap on, clap off, etc) We say “pop” here in Cleveland, while two of our kids say “soda” having moved to NYC. Drives me crazy. A soda is an ice cream float type of thing at DQ. Speaking of DQ I’m hooked on the oreo-cheesecake blizzard. Or the chocolate brownie blizzard. Or just a SODA. But I digress…

I work in words for my job and can write professionally. When I speak I can go either way. My coworkers say we can make entire sentences out of abbreviated words and acronyms. Every field has its own lexicon. Families too; when our families are together we all lapse into the casual speech we grew up with. I sound something like, well, you know, OK, right? Shut up, seriously? Yeah? Get out. It’s delightful I’m sure.

With our social distancing I have been reading more blogs. I appreciate the writers who keep on keeping on. I like reading about other people and their traditions, customs, activities, and yes, pets! If the speech and words are a little different than mine it makes it that much more fun. I almost said funner. But I didn’t! (I might have if I was talking though)  Thank you bloggers for your time and thank you readers for yours. Read on, reader…

and just because, here is a picture of Chester and the fire plug he just peed on. Also one of my new supervisor at work (at home), Zeus. Okey dokie artichoke?

Mom’s proud of me:)
Get back to work!

A Chester Q&A and my house…

I belong to a facebook group called City Dogs. It’s a great group for adopters who have pit bull mixes from the city kennel. Mostly we show each other our cute pictures of the smooshie faces of the pups and rave over how cute they are. In that vein, they started a Q&A so I filled it out for Chester. It goes like this:

Name: Chester

Nickname: Chester no! No, No Chester! OMG really Chester?

How old are you? 5-7

What’s your favorite human food? cheese sticks. I could be in a coma and wake up if I heard the wrapper.

What are you scared of? the big inflatable snow men that I saw at Christmas. And little white bossy dogs.

Favorite toy or thing to play with? any stuffed animal. it needs tearing up. Especially if it’s a bunny.

What’s something you don’t like? when mom shuts me out of her office because a cat is in there. I sit in the hall and whine. also bunnies. I hate bunnies. Favorite things to do? zoomies in the back yard, especially after a bunny.

Have any other furry siblings? two bad cats but we had a falling out. I thought they were bunnies.

Human siblings? no, just the two little boys that come over sometimes and drop food.

Something you get in trouble for? eating things off the counter. But it’s soooo goood!

Where do you sleep? On the bed of course. I really stretch out.

Do you bark? Yes, I have to let mom and dad know when the UPS guys comes or a dog walks by or somebody is pushing a stroller or a squirrel is getting cheeky.

What is your best attribute? I make the hoomans laugh. Also I never have accidents in the house and I have a cast iron stomach. I like most dogs except for Enzo down the street. He’s evil. My mom says she loves me.

Do you go to the groomer? No I go to the dog wash. But they’ve been closed so I’m kind of dirty. Mom loves me anyway.

Do you like car rides? Yes! Especially to PetSmart!

Do you snore? Yes sometimes!

Pass the time and share about your dogs!

Then we post a bunch of pictures. It was fun, so I wanted to share with you. I’ll share some photos below.

I walked Chester this morning in the rain. I thought it would be a wormapalooza but we only saved one. In fact, I just redirected it since it was heading toward the street. It turned around and I encouraged it to the grass. So in between worms needing saving and raindrops and pee breaks, I thought about my house.

My house is not my house, and if you believe my grandson, it never will be. It’s a little house on the way home from picking them up. It used to have all sorts of stuff in the yard like old bicycle wheels or metal pots or just plain junk. The house itself is adorable. It’s brick in front, on a corner, with a small yard. Apparently someone made the garage into another room, a maneuver that I hate. And, it was really run down.

My grandson and I would play a game and pick one thing to take out of the yard that would improve the looks. Or, it could be something like fixing a door. Or the windows. The house was somewhat in disrepair so this went on for awhile. But a funny thing happened. As we mentally removed things, I began to see some artistic value in the stuff. We changed our game to what we would keep. I began to love the house, junk and all. And I was super curious about the people inside. This went on literally for years.

One day, we noticed that some of the stuff was gone and the lawn mowed. We commented on how nice it looked. Then more stuff disappeared, and brush and trees were cut down. Something was going on. I looked up the address on Zillow and put my investigator skills to work. The house was foreclosed on and I had not noticed. Apparently an artist did live there. I found him on ETSY. The bank owns it now but for much more than it’s worth at this point. I called the bank to see if they were going to put it up for sale. They said maybe in February. I called the realtor who put me on a list. But nothing yet. Once we drove by and a window was left open. I called the bank and told them to get over there and close it. The next day it was closed. I started calling it “my house.” My grandson said it wasn’t my house and never will be. He got sick of hearing about it and told me to drive home the other way. (I didn’t)

The grandson is right. I know that. I’m being totally irrational. I would love to think we could buy it and fix it up. My husband and I don’t have the skill or know-how for that extensive of a project, not to mention the money or time. Shoot, If we did our own house would be in better shape. We don’t need another house that’s for sure. And if we did fix it up, I don’t think I could sell it. What is it about this house? Why does it call to me?  Maybe because an artist lived there and I grew to see the beauty in the junk. Maybe it just looks like a cozy, warm home. I feel good driving by. I don’t know–all I know is that I want it to be happy. I hope it finds a new owner who can fix it up. I hope someone will plant flowers and make the garage a garage again. I hope someone will love it as their first house, a dream come true. When this happens, I will stop driving by.