I’ve watched and read too many crime dramas, in my day, yeah, I know. But some things make a person go hmmmm. A case in point.
The house I live in now had previously been occupied by, let’s say, a “different” kind of family. I bought the house and according to the terms of the sale, the family rented it back from me for six months. During the rental period I worked on the outside of the house and occasionally the inside. I got to know the family. Sometimes they told me things I’d rather not know, but people need to talk and what the hell, I’ll listen.
Five people lived in the house. There was the ailing matriarch I’ll call Betty. She was only in her early sixties but suffering with what became terminal cancer from lifelong smoking and hard living. She was an old soul. Twice divorced, she had had three children. A boy and girl in their forties and another girl in her twenties. I’ve previously referred to the grown son as PissMan, read Piss, Puke, and Porn, and you will know why. PissMan lived there with his girlfriend, I’ll call her Diane, a quirky, frail woman (probably ninety pounds soaking wet) who seemed to have some mental disabilities. Her head was too small for her body. That isn’t a joke, it’s an observation, by many people.
The younger grown daughter from Betty’s second marriage, whom I’ll call Lori, and her school-aged son also lived in the house. The boy was adorable, but disturbed. The older grown daughter Gina, lived elsewhere, but nearby. She was the one that got away, so to speak. She held a job, had a home. She had no children of which I was aware, but she had a female friend who was often around her, they may have been a couple. She was a second mother to her much younger sister, Lori, because Betty wasn’t always around for her in those early years. Betty went through periods of never leaving the house, so I was told. I’m sure the family loved each other, but there was a lot of resentment and drama.
You know those people who, without any real prompting, suddenly launch into the most horrific personal stories? Well, this was a whole family of them.
I learned that the matriarch Betty and her youngest daughter had both been victims of domestic violence, and had been in relationships with alcoholics and drug addicts. I learned that the little boy has been in treatment because of his disorders resulting from his violent father and that there were ongoing legal battles over his abusive father’s visitation rights. The little boy’s sick grandmother, Betty, was his best friend. But Betty and the boy’s mom, Lori, mutually admitted that they have never gotten along. Betty and Lori told me so, separately.
I learned that when he was a child PissMan had been in an accident from which he never fully recovered (I think it must have been a head injury). Sister Gina always resented him because Betty babied him and never let him truly grow up because of it. PissMan did grow up to have a drug problem, however — crack, that is. He also has a grown son from an early marriage. This young man allegedly beat his disabled girlfriend. I met them both. The girlfriend had recently decided to give her abuser another chance.
I also learned that PissMan and his current girlfriend Diane had had a child once. Diane was so small, I had a hard time believing that she could carry a child at all. She had the body of a ten-year-old. Diane told me “they” took the baby away. Diane was counting the days until this child was old enough to look for his birth parents. (I secretly hoped that the child never did so.) Diane also told me that PissMan was her “first.” (Let the record reflect that I did not ask for this information.)
Youngest sibling Lori seemed to hate her brother PissMan and his girlfriend Diane because of the way they lived ( like hoarders, cats and all). Plus, PissMan and Diane did not seem to do much. Other than walking to the store or to the bank to cash disability checks, PissMan and Diane seemed to spend hours just sitting on the porch, smoking.
Over the six month rental period, the mother, Betty, became progressively worse, though her mind was still intact. PissMan and girlfriend Diane took care of her. In the last month, youngest daughter Lori had found somewhere to move with her son, and they left. The older daughter, Gina, only visited from time to time. Eventually, Betty was confined to a hospital bed in the front room because the home’s stairway is too narrow to get the bed and supplies upstairs. By the end, Betty could not get out of bed.
Betty was still talkative and seemed to enjoy company. I would sometimes visit with her when I had to be at the house. PissMan and his girlfriend Diane stayed with her around the clock, feeding her, caring for her, even when she became immobile and incontinent. Care did not always include good hygiene, however. Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell? Gina would come around to visit on occasion and help when Betty needed to go to the doctor, since she had a car. But Gina did not make frequent or even regular visits.
Regardless of their shortcomings, it was PissMan and Diane who were there for Betty. They seemed to really care.
The date the family was scheduled to vacate the home was fast approaching, and the family was looking into finding a facility for Betty. They had not had any luck. They didn’t know where they would go, let alone how they would house and care for a dying woman.
One Spring day I was at the house working outside and was surprised when the older sibling Gina came outside. Gina wasn’t often around. She explained that she had come to give PissMan and girlfriend Diane “a day off” and sent them away for the day. Mind you, as I explained earlier, PissMan and the Girlfriend rarely went out much, even before Betty needed so much care. I hadn’t known them to stay away for the day, I hadn’t known Gina to stay around all day. I thought it was strange at the time.
I didn’t go inside. I didn’t stay long that day. Though PissMan and Diane seemed to welcome my company, Gina didn’t seem to want me around.
When I came back the next day, no one was home. Betty had suddenly taken a turn for the worse and had been transported to the hospital the day before, sometime after I left. Having lapsed into a coma there, she was taken off of life support, with her family surrounding her. Reportedly it took hours of watching Betty laboring to breathe before she finally died. It was not a peaceful passing to watch, according to youngest daughter Lori. It was horrible, she said.
I think it was PissMan’s girlfriend Diane who later told me what happened that last day. She said simply that Betty had choked on coffee — and that she wasn’t supposed to have coffee.
I’ve always wondered —
Why did Gina, who wasn’t around often, suddenly decide to give her brother and his girlfriend “a day off” and spend the day alone with her sick mother?
Why did PissMan and his girlfriend Diane uncharacteristically leave the house and stay away all day?
Why, while in Gina’s sole care, did Betty suddenly choke?
Did Gina do something to make sure that her ailing mother Betty would never have move in with her?
Or, to be more direct, did Gina send Diane and PissMan away for the day so that she could kill her mother?
Just Me With . . . suspicions.
I’m just sayin’ . . . .
Postscript: PissMan and Diane asked to stay in the house for an extra month so that they could find a place to live, having been distracted from doing so earlier because of Betty’s illness and death. I gave them the extra month. Ironically, it was Gina who found them a place to live, and it wasn’t with her.
On every home makeover show, every real estate show, they talk about how everyone loves the open floor plan. It’s the new black. Homeowners are forever busting through walls to open the kitchen to the family room and eliminating the dining room altogether.
There are two main reasons why the open floor plan is so so popular:
1. It is great for entertaining. People always end up in the kitchen anyway, right? This allows the cook to be in the kitchen puttering around and interact with guests.
2. It is great for parents of young children. It allows the parent to be in the kitchen and still keep an eye on the little ones in the family room. No more baby in a playpen or high chair in the kitchen while you make dinner.
Do you see the theme?
“STAY IN THE KITCHEN!“
The open floor plan negates any reason to actually leave the kitchen.
But there is a third reason: knocking out walls creates space, or at least an illusion of space within the same square footage.
When you think about it, the open floor plan has been common in apartments for years. Walk into an apartment and you can see everything except the bedroom. It was supposed to be a move up for an apartment dweller to buy a house and actually have separate rooms. This new open floor plan trend has essentially turned high-end palace homes into nothing but super-sized apartments, with a second floor.
For those of you who don’t have the open floor plan, before you take out all the walls in your house, and before you feel badly because you have a wall that you can’t take down, consider this:
1. Your children won’t be toddlers forever.
Children tend to grow. And there will come a time where you don’t want to and don’t have to watch every move they make.
2. Yes, you can see your toddlers, but your toddlers can see you, too.
My husband and I used to go into the laundry room to shove a snack into our faces so that the babies wouldn’t see and start wailing for some. Sometimes, I’d drop down behind the island like I’d heard sudden gunfire in order to have a cookie.
3. You can see your school-age, tween and teen kids, but they can see you, too.
With an open floor plan, you can forget coming down to sneak a snack over the counter in your jammies late at night, or reading the paper at the kitchen counter/table in the morning before your shower. There’s nothing like hearing, “Hi. Mrs. Peterson!” when you’re bra-less in a vintage tee and boxers drinking coffee in your kitchen. And if you dare talk on the phone while cooking or cleaning, you will be shushed by someone — or perhaps worse, a child will be listening in on every word. And it is a truism, a simple fact of life, that as kids grow, parents spend a fair amount of time hiding from them. The open floor plan is antithetical to the natural course of child-rearing in this respect.
4. Your kitchen must always be spotless . . .
There’s no door to close. When unexpected guests pop in — yours or your children’s — and you haven’t unloaded and reloaded your dishwasher — everyone can see it. Suddenly you’re a slob. The rest of your house could be spotless, but under these floor plans, no one ever sees the rest of your house.
5. Your family (TV) room includes a kitchen– a noisy, smelly kitchen.
Imagine sitting down in a darkened room, ready to watch a great emotional or talky movie and — oh hello, there’s your kid or spouse or whatever, in the kitchen, talking on the phone, repeatedly opening the fridge, making bacon, arguing with someone. Go ahead and click pause, because you can’t hear whatever George Clooney is saying, not that you need to . . . . but I digress. Your quiet moment has been ruined.
6. Children’s Programming/Teen programming/Sports/News — Anything you don’t want to watch at any given time.
Your little kid is watching Dora. Again, and again, and again. You can’t get away from it. iCarly? I get it, but I’ve had enough. People are enjoying the big game, snacking, yelling at the screen, having a good old time. You are wiping the counter after having loaded the dishwasher and setting out food for them. Worse, you can’t even mutter to yourself or roll your eyes at the unfairness of it all, because you are on display.
Essentially, the open floor plan allows you to be in the kitchen and watch — other people watch TV. Humph.
7. “Oh my gosh I dropped the chicken!”
In a perfect world, no one would know. Open floor plan? Well, it’ll be tweeted in minutes.
8. When entertaining, sometimes you need a minute.
Your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, your boss is bored, your husband/wife is saying something he/she shouldn’t, you need yet another drink, you just said something really, really stupid. With an open floor plan, THERE’S NO PLACE TO GO!!! I love all the classic TV shows where people could say, “Can I see you in the kitchen” or “I’m going to check on the food,” followed quickly by, “I’ll help you.” (This is all code for “We need to talk.” ) With an open floor plan I guess you have to hide in the bathroom, and that’s just plain icky.
One big room is fine, it can even be intimate when you are alone or coupled up. But once there are people of different ages, interests and responsibilities, well let’s just say that all this open living can be downright oppressive.
I speak from experience.
I knocked out a kitchen wall in my old house and built a family room addition. Instead of looking out my kitchen window and seeing trees, I created a view of my family room. I had young children at the time. I fell for the “I can be in the kitchen and see the kids” trap. Well, the children grew, the husband left, and I downsized to a much smaller fixer-upper home.
When it was time to do the kitchen, the contractor asked,
“You gonna knock out this wall?”
I said, “No. I want my wall. I need my wall.”
Truth is, I need some division in my life.
Sometimes I watch a little TV or listen to music while cleaning or cooking. Sometimes I sit at the kitchen table on my laptop or the phone while my kids are in the family room watching something that literally makes me ill. I’ve even been known to channel my inner Beyoncé and dance to my heart’s content in my kitchen. With my wall intact, I can be unseen but close by, and still opt in or out of the children’s entertainment at will.
It’s the little things . . . Sometimes a wall is a good little thing.
Just Me With . . . a divided floor plan and a bit of, well — if not sanity — at least a bit of privacy.
How to Get Rid of That Hoarder’s Smell
I’m not an exercise monger, but I’ve always been active one way or another. I’ve only thrown my back out three times in my life. The first time was at the beach. It was a drive-by water gun shooting incident initiated by my nieces and nephew.
My niece, the driver, drove up all slow like, the mini-van door silently opened, and her brother opened fire (water) on my sisters and I, which included his own mother. We scattered. I pivoted hard to dive into the brush to avoid the assault. They hit and drove off quickly into the night. My sisters and I walked back to the beach house — dripping and sore. By the next day I couldn’t move. It only lasted a day, though.
Fast forward to last year. I was laying a natural flagstone patio in my back yard. And by “I” — I mean “I”. I had help from guy friends for a couple of days for the really big stones, see Friends Without Benefits, but most days I was on my own. I’m always so careful with my projects, safety first, safety last, safety always. After the drive-by incident I have been living by the mottoes: “Lift with your knees, not your back” and “Take your time.” But one night after I’d completed the work for the day, actually after I’d completed the whole patio, I made a mistake. Instead of getting up to get my toolbox, I turned to grab it. I was probably already weakened from the heavy lifting anyway, but it was that quarter turn that got me down, literally. I felt a sudden pain in my lower back. After two or three days of back pain and walking funny, I got better. Still, I was benched from hard labor for a couple of weeks.
This was supposed to be part of my trying to manage my chronic depression. Changing what I can, acknowledging what I can’t, making attainable goals, knowing that I can’t do it all, taking care of me. Blah, blah, blah. I had gotten off the daily meds, see Getting Off The Meds, but I still have to be able to combat the depression without them. Universally the pros say that exercise is key. Now, I’ve been extremely physically active over the last couple of years, practically speaking. In addition to dealing with five kids, I’ve packed up, moved and renovated a house. I’m talking about being on ladders, heavy lifting, digging, up and down stairs constantly. But much of that work is done now. I thought I would try to start running. It’s cheap and effective.
Always so careful, I decided that running on a nice rubber track would be easier on my body and bones, plus I could keep track of how far I have gone and avoid being seen by the general public. I was surprised at how well I was able to keep going, running painfully slowly but continuing nonetheless. Mind you, I hate running, but I knew it would be good for me. I used to run track in school, which I loved, but absent the chance of getting a medal at the end, well, running for the sake of running has never been as fun for me.
Coming off of the back to school preparation with five kids, who can be difficult (autism, anxiety, depression), I was feeling overwhelmed. Still, I had been so proud of myself about getting the things done on my do-to list, getting the paperwork and physicals ready for five kids in a more timely fashion than in previous years, making sure they had the school supplies and clothing needed to start school, getting organized, girls’ hair done, etc. and having done all of this after having taken the kids on our first cross-country road trip.
Despite my careful planning, budgeting, “to do” lists and many trips to stores, one of my daughters (the anxious one) flipped out about not having “the right” pair of sneakers for volleyball try-outs. I tried to tell her that she has the perfect shoes to wear for the first day, actually for the whole season — basketball shoes. Volleyball is played on the basketball court, so that made sense to me. Plus, if she made the team and actually needed different shoes we could deal with that later. She wasn’t hearing it. She also refused to acknowledge that fact that even if I wanted to, I could not take her shoe shopping in one hour we had before her dad was scheduled to pick her up for the dinner visit (he doesn’t do any of the school preparation —- don’t ask). I tried to tell her that by the time we got to the store, parked and looked at shoes it would be time to come home. She did not believe me. Instead, she became furious with me. She was completely agitated. She said everyone would notice she had the wrong shoes. The more I told her that was not the case, the angrier she got, accusing me of causing her never to be prepared.
I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies lines, from a woman to her grown daughter: “I never should have encouraged you to speak.” I talked to my babies incessantly, so they would learn. Now? They spew nastiness at me.
We weren’t going to the store and she was angry about it. She was completely convinced that she would not be prepared for try-outs and would be embarrassed. And that this was all my fault.
I had not anticipated this. This was not on my things to do list. I tried to explain that she would not be the only one wearing basketball shoes on the basketball court. (By the by, I know this for a fact because her three sisters would be there, also wearing basketball shoes on the basketball court). She wasn’t hearing that, saying that people (always these unnamed people) would notice her shoes because her shoes were different from her sisters’ black basketball shoes because her shoes have a red swoop (gasp!) Whoa. I did not see that coming either. I tried to explain that if she chose not to wear her basketball shoes she could wear her other sneakers. Her response? They were too small . ( She was wearing them at the time.) I explained that if she’s grown out of her every day sneakers and needed new ones that I would take her to get some but I just could not take her then (because of the visitation order and all, which pisses me off, too, but I digress.)
Why couldn’t she understand?
But she was being completely unreasonable. Generally speaking, an unreasonable person cannot be reasoned with. This I know. I must have forgotten it then, though.
So many things send this child into a frenzy — from having a braid that doesn’t hang properly, to someone burping in the car, to thinking everyone will notice that her sister’s hair is longer, to seeing a bug, to hearing someone talk about a book or movie, to being asked if her homework is done, to someone using her soap, to not being the first at . . . well, everything. etc. Note to parents of boys: This is not typical girl behavior. This is over the top. I’m only scratching the surface here.
I lost it.
Well, I lost sight of the fact that there was no reasoning with her. I wanted her to understand. I was tired of the back talk and the refusal to hear common sense — i.e. there is simply no time to go to the store right now! So when she tried to walk away from me, I blocked her. Physically blocked her. I just wanted her to hear me say that — yes she would be prepared for try-outs, that no one will notice her shoes, that I will take her shopping when the schedule permits. I don’t know, maybe I wanted some recognition for trying to get her what she needs, if not everything she wants. Mostly, I didn’t want her to walk away from me while I was talking.
So I blocked her. Or at least I tried. Rookie mistake.
My body was already weakened by my previous day’s running. This child is my smallest child, but she’s strong . . . and headstrong.
She dropped to all fours, like some sort of ninja wrestler, and began to push by me . . . with her head!
I admit, this pissed me off. “This child was not going to physically intimidate me.” Or so I thought.
I reached down to pull her up. (Lift with your knees, not your back, lift with your knees not your back, LIFT WITH YOUR KNEES, NOT YOUR BACK!!!!!!)
But it was too late.
I had reached down and pulled up. It was classic poor lifting technique. I heard a snap, felt a sudden pain in my left lower back and fell to the floor.
She stepped over me. I was roadkill.
Volleyball? Really? Clearly this child has missed her calling — I’d say wrestling or football are in her future — or prison.
This back injury has by far been the worst and the longest.
I rested it. It started to feel better. Then a different child wanted her hair flat ironed for her class picture. I thought I could do it, if I took my time and rested. No, the bending or whatever, the next day I was almost as bad as the first day. Then I caught a cold from another daughter who has a disgusting habit of letting her used tissues lie about the house. But, of course, when I caught it, I got it much worse than she had it. Every time I coughed or sneezed or had a chill it sent my back into spasm. That was the first week.
The second week came with one gig and two back-to-school nights which prohibited any real rest for me. Too much walking and lifting. For the gig I had to swallow my pride and out of necessity asked a fellow musician help me carry and set up my gear. At the last minute, though, he couldn’t help. I often rely on the kindness of strangers, and got the sound man to help, I had no choice. But it was not ideal, and it was stressful. Then I came home to children who had not done their homework or cleaned up after themselves. My progress regressed. So sore.
Later in the week I had to attend two back-to-school nights, one of which in theory required me to be in four places at once, eight periods in a row. I felt beat down. But the kicker was when the anxious ninja wrestling child had yet another fit because she needed my help with her homework — at midnight. She had refused to do it earlier. She refused to let me rest. I could not remove her physically and she followed me where ever I went. She was in tears worrying that she would be in trouble and unprepared. Again, somehow, it was all my fault. Still, my help, in her world, must not include actually talking to her or reviewing the assignment. No, no, it consisted of me just sitting being there and taking the verbal assault from a child who is truly distressed and anxiety ridden. (I’m looking to get her some help, in case you’re wondering.) It was hard to sit in one position while she worked so I thought, stupidly, “I’ll empty the dishwasher.” ( “Resting” my back had turned my house into potential Hoarders episode). So, I carefully leaned over to pick up one plate, just one plate . . . and . . . snap!
My progress had regressed yet again.
The pain! It had gotten so bad I actually went to the doctor, not usually my thing. He gave me muscle relaxants, told me to take Tylenol, gave me back exercises, and I got a flu shot.
Oh yeah, and did I mention the dog was sick? She was vomiting and had diarrhea all over the downstairs, the floors are tile and therefore easy to clean — but not if you can’t bend over. Lovely.
By the time the dog was pooping blood I figured she had to go to the vet. She weighs only 12 pounds yet I had trouble picking her up. I made the girls go with me to help. I had a back spasm at the vet parking lot, good thing the girls were with me, they had to check in for us while I was outside leaning against the railing, waiting for the spasms to subside long enough to go in.
The Vet said, “You don’t look like you’re doing too good.” Yeah, ya think? Embarrassing. Painful. Typical.
Well, things got bad before they got better, the cold with the back spasms continued throughout the weekend. The kids went with their Dad for their half-weekend, which left me to deal with the dog’s poop and vomit — alone.
The kids had only been gone for 34 hours but when they got back they immediately asked me,
“What’s wrong with your face, Mommy? Why do you have droopy eyes like Daddy?”
“I do not have droopy eyes!!” My indignant response. (I have my suspicions as to why Daddy has droopy eyes, but I digress.)
I was deeply hurt. I mean, I was in pain and I had a cold and certainly was not at my best, but still there was no need to insult my looks. When I finally hobbled to a mirror I was slapped with understanding. Bumps, welts, and swelling all over my face, neck, shoulders. Lovely.
Then the itching began. Lovely and fun.
What was it? The muscle relaxants? The flu shot?
Back to the doctor, who determined I had developed hives . . . probably from the Ibuprofen, and told me to switch to Acetaminophen.
More attempts to rest my back, which meant no housework, but I still had to do everything else. Not to mention the anxious child and the depressed child have been fighting . . . a lot. But I kept my physical distance. I’ve learned my lesson. And I had another gig, which required moving the gear again. But this was week three and I’d started to feel a little bit better. I thought I could handle it. I moved my gear slowly, using my knees, not my back. I asked for and accepted help when I could get it, but I was still alone. I’m always alone . . . I digress again. At least by this time the hives were small and couldn’t be seen from a distance, even though my face felt like sandpaper. No matter, nobody was going to be touching me. Sigh. I got my gear moved and played the gig. But the next day?
Apparently the pain was just packing up to move elsewhere. Since the gig I have had excruciating constant pain from my hip to my knee. Both interior muscular and exterior pain — it hurts to the touch like a burn. The internet gods tell me that this is sciatica, nerve damage which can follow a back injury. Whatever, it hurts.
This time I just made a call to the doctor, because I don’t feel like going anywhere. (Plus, I’m afraid he thinks I have a crush on him by this point.) My doctor referred me to physical therapy. I’m still taking the muscle relaxants and I can also take sleeping pills, he advised, since I’ve been unable to sleep. Let’s hope I don’t end up on Intervention. (Wow, a Hoarders and Intervention reference in the same post, A&E should be paying me, but I digress, yet again.)
In the meantime, the demands from my kids are unrelenting. At least the dog got better. But the complaints from the kids about our house being too small and that everybody else has an iPhone and iPad and “I’m so bored” coupled with, can you pick me up or . . . can you take me . . . can you buy me . . . and can I do . . . blah, blah, blah . . . Well, it’s all a bit much these days. Feeling this badly for so long has not helped my depression. I’m coming up on week four. The tears are back, one time in public. Ugh.
My grand plans for taking care of me, taking charge of some things, well, everything has been “back-burnered.” heh heh. Actually, this sh*t ain’t funny.
My load is a bit too heavy right now. Ask my back.
Anyone out there considering running? — Or having children, for that matter? Give me a call. I’ll have you channel surfing on your couch, popping birth control pills and swaddled in a body condom in no time.
Just Me With . . . a different kind of “back story.”
Ah yes, my landscaping work. The back yard was a mess. There was a retaining wall that wasn’t retaining much, there were stepping-stones beneath inches of wet decaying leaves and muck, there was mud. There were bricks, rocks, slate and overgrown I don’t know whats. My raking just to clear the path turned into landscaping which turned into demolition of a retaining wall which turned into completely regrading the yard.
This required digging, and dig I did. I removed pounds of dirt, along with natural stone, and man-made brick and concrete. I made archeological finds — railroad ties, nails, barn and shutter hinges all likely from the 1800’s. I uncovered a mysterious large concrete block with an iron pipe through it — still don’t know what the heck that was, but it was too heavy and went too deep for me to move so I buried it again.
I removed brush and plantings gone wild. Dig around the roots, flip and pull. It was kinda cool. And I was transforming my new home from a very scary place to what I hoped would be a cute little Victorian actually worthy of saving rather than one step from the wrecking ball. The kids were, as usual, and like many of today’s healthy red-blooded children, inside. They were enjoying some sort of technology, while I toiled outside in the fresh air. I was on my own. No power tools. No help.
When I was digging and moving earth I pulled up some trash bag type plastic. Okay, I’d already pulled a lot of this stuff up. The prior owners used garbage bags as landscaping fabric. As I pulled I saw that the garbage bag had something light-colored in it –some white cloth. I wondered, “Now what could this be? A buried treasure, maybe?” I dug and pulled.
Just like with the shrubs gone wild, I dug around it, started to flip it out of the dirt, reached down (with gloves of course) for one last pull . . . and . . .
I’m not usually a screamer.
But when I pulled, the bag ripped open and the cloth fell out. The cloth was stained, had something stuck to it, something . . . that appeared . . . to . . . be —- HAIR !!!! This is what turned me into a screamer.
I ran inside to get a kid, any one of them would do. I needed a witness (well actually, support). The youngest ones were curious enough to venture out into the sun. And we, of course, did the mature thing.
We took a stick and poked at it.
Because, not only was it a cheese cloth like old world material, brown blood stained and showing bits of hair type stuff, it had a bulge in it.
So, we poked some more.
My optimistic child said the bits of hair like stuff was really mulch. Gotta love her — but the stuff was not mulch. I untangled the cloth with a stick, revealed and uncovered . . . some skin, a skull and bones. EWWWWWWW!
I had exhumed a pet of the prior owners. I didn’t need to call in CSI or NCIS or any of the Law and Order folks to figure that out. Thank God it wasn’t the remains of a human. Remember, this is the 150 year old house of Piss, Puke, and Porn — it could have been anything.
By the size and shape of the skull I surmised that this thing had once been a guinea pig, maybe a rabbit, possibly a kitten. It must have been a cherished pet at one time since it seemed to have had a proper burial — complete with a white shroud. And, I presume, it was resting in peace. That is, until I got to it. EWWWWWW!
There is a beautiful contemporary country song, sung by Miranda Lambert, featured on her album, Revolution, called “The House That Built Me.” It’s about a troubled adult going back to visit her childhood home to get grounded. Miranda sings to the current owners of her old house. . .
I bet you didn’t know under that live oak,
My favorite dog is buried in the yard.
Yeah, okay, Miranda. Love the song, it makes me cry. But as the new owner of the former childhood home of somebody, where somebody buried their pet in the yard and moved away — only to leave poor unsuspecting landscaping me to dig it up . . . well, it’s not quite the same sentiment.
More sticks and a shovel were used to dispose of the remains, remains that the kids now wanted to keep. I caved and we left the skull out for the rest of the day. Other critters must have carried it away during the night because it was gone by morning.
Just Me With . . . lots of dirt, a shovel, and apparently — a pet cemetery. EWWWWW!!!!!
This house had some bad mojo, no joke. See, What Happened In My House? Murder?
I’m on a sleep regimen. No messing around this time. I have a lot of crap to deal with and I need to do it without being sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture — of mind control, right? (We all saw the third Bourne, it can drive you to kill.) I haven’t slept on a regular basis in years. This week I have been making a point of going to bed at a decent hour. No television, no computer, no phone. I’m also taking a very mild sleeping pill. I have a low tolerance for sleeping pills, however, they put me seriously out, and I’m often groggy the next day, even though I’ve allowed myself the full eight hours of sleep recommended. Consequently, I take a low dose and break it in half. Still, two nights ago, it didn’t work well. I had trouble falling asleep with the half pill. So last night, I figured I’d take a whole low-dose pill.
All of my night-time routine work was done, i.e. dishwasher was running, instrument had been played, kids were in their rooms, dogs had been out and were back in. It was all good. Sleeping pill taken. Then,
“What?!!!!!!!!!” (I’d like to say I said, “Yes, Sweetie,” but I don’t think that was the case.)
“I CLOGGED THE TOILET!!!!!”
Swearing in my head commences. We’d just had a bad experience with this about a month ago, hereinafter known as “The Last Clogging Incident.” It was not pretty.
You should know that I hate plungers. I hadn’t bought one for this new old house (except for the first few days, we didn’t have a working toilet here anyway in so it was unnecessary . . . but I digress). I hate plungers because although they serve a useful purpose, I despise cleaning them afterward. It’s just one of my things. My usual method of unclogging is to pour water down the toilet, quickly, to “flush” out the obstruction. Often this must be done multiple times, but it works, it’s less messy and less smelly. During The Last Clogging Incident, however, it did not work. There was no plunger in the house and it was after midnight. Suffice it to say, I have a plunger now.
Back to last night, the hour wasn’t as late as The Last Clogging Incident, and I now own a plunger, BUT I HAD TAKEN A WHOLE SLEEPING PILL!!!! If I had a strong reaction to it, I would be a stumbling idiot in a few minutes. If not, and I simply attempted to override it, I would be cursed with a blinding headache. Plus, two kids had to use the bathroom. The “clog-her” was content in her bed, reading on her Kindle. grrrr Still, I had one on deck and one in the hole. The drug would soon take effect, and I, too, had to go to the bathroom. (As a result of prior medical/emotional issues, if I don’t go to the bathroom right away when nature calls, I become nauseated). Oh, did I mention we only have one bathroom in a house with 5 girl-type people and one boy?
It was a race against time. But since The Last Clogging Incident — when we ran out to a convenience store to use the bathroom just to buy time for me to figure out what to do and stave off my nausea — I had gained some knowledge. It is amazing what a simple Google search will yield. I had searched then for “How to unclog a toilet without a plunger.” I found the following. I do not claim ownership, authorship, or creative input. In short, I did not invent this method, but I pass it on.
Squeeze liquid dish detergent into the toilet.
Slowly pour boiling water into toilet.
The theory is that the soap lubricates the mass (ew) allowing it to pass more quickly and the boiling water breaks it up. All of this is safe for your commode — unlike using chemicals (which neither I nor the convenience store had anyway).
Last night I chose to use a variation. Liquid soap, hot, but not boiling water. I couldn’t wait for the boil, wanted to avoid the plunger. After a while — it worked. Two kids used the bathroom (before me, of course, I ignored the airline face mask on the adult first mantra).
After the second kid used it,
“MOM!!!!! THE TOILET’S CLOGGED AGAIN!!!!!” (The cursing in my head resumed also.) Time was not on my side, I was already feeling woozy and nauseated.
This time I got the plunger, the soap, and hot water (still couldn’t wait for boil). It took some work. (Note to self: add more fruit to kids’ diets). One kid helped (as I stood back, letting the wall hold me up, pinching my nose closed). But this was the kid responsible for The Last Clogging Incident, so I felt no compassion.
“It smells, Mommy.”
But finally, the sound of a flushing toilet. Twice for good luck. Thrice — well, for me. The plunger was rinsed, wrapped in a plastic trash bag and still sits on my back deck. I went to bed. I slept. I feel like crap today. I will only take a half a sleeping pill tonight. Still, I am triumphant. I am strong. I am invincible, I am . . .
Just Me With . . . a plunger on my porch and a half of a sleeping pill with my name on it.
I’ve talked about the crap I’ve had to deal with in my new house, well not crap, piss, actually, see Piss, Puke and Porn, but my old house had been a fixer upper, too. There were a lot of jobs that didn’t get finished, what with kids that started coming two at a time and then the husband walking out and all. But I had decided to sell and I had to do cosmetic changes quickly to make the house more appealing.
I needed to get carpet on the stairway and upstairs hallway. Not a job I could do myself. Even the most avid DIY-ers will call in the pros for carpet installation, especially stairs. So I got a quote from one of those next day installation companies since the house was already on the market and I needed a quick turnaround. Didn’t like the sales guy that came by hours late — said he couldn’t find my house and when he did, there were no cars in the driveway so he thought I was out. Wrong. But again, I needed a quick turnaround so I went ahead and booked a time for neutral colored carpet to be installed next day.
For staging purposes, I had already moved one of my dressers from my bedroom to another room to make my bedroom appear larger. (This was a big house , but it was an old house so we didn’t have the huge walk in closets, etc., just a lot of rooms). So my dresser, containing my bras and panties and pajamas, was in the room (formerly and traditionally, a nursery) adjacent to the master bedroom at the top of the stairs. I sometimes keep important documents in my panty drawer (anyone else do that?) so I had been looking in there for a credit card I don’t usually use to pay for the carpet. I admit that I may have left the drawer slightly ajar — cracked, but not completely open.
Sitting with the supervisor downstairs I completed the paperwork and made the down payment. While we were doing this the workers came in to prepare for installation. This much must be understood: this was a hallway carpet installation, the previous carpet had already been removed. In other words, there was no furniture to move out of the way and no bedrooms were getting new carpet. After the paperwork was finalized, I checked on the workers.
I walked upstairs to find a man in the extra room with his hand in the now open underwear drawer, gazing at and fingering my panties. My good, lace, hoping I’ll get lucky — underpants. Ew. (Ladies, you just crossed you legs, didn’t you?) As soon as he saw me he dropped them, removed his hand, looking like a kid caught with his hand in the candy jar — or more accurately — looking like a man caught with his hand in my panty drawer!
Nothing was missing from my drawer. But in my mind my panties would never be the same. I complained to the supervisor who spoke to the workers — in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish. I complained to the corporate offices in writing. I got a call saying that they had investigated and the worker said the drawer probably fell open while they were moving furniture, and of course I countered,
THE WORKERS DIDN’T HAVE TO MOVE ANY FURNITURE TO INSTALL HALLWAY CARPET! THEY HAD NO TO REASON TO BE IN THAT ROOM AT ALL, LET ALONE IN MY UNDERWEAR DRAWER!
Now, I understand that any company can get a bad worker, but not only did they offer me nothing for my experience, but I even got the subsequent follow-up marketing calls, you know, the “How did you like our service?” calls. It was funny, because I would calmly respond, “The carpet is fine, but one of your workers played with my panties and that kinda of ruined it for me. So, no, I can’t recommend your company to anyone.” Ha! Oh, the stutters I would get from the unknowing telemarketer!!! But really, what kind of company would keep me on the call list after I’d complained in writing?
This is a national carpet company — and to this day when I hear their ads with their catchy jingle, I sing a little ditty — “They’ll install carpet and feel up your panties — today.”
Just Me With . . . panties that get more action than I do.
I was in the midst of a nasty divorce and remodeling a nasty house. (See Piss, Puke, and Porn). I was learning how to do so many construction type things by myself. I went almost daily to the Home Improvement Store.
Sometimes I bought what I needed.
Sometimes I’d just stare at items and plan my next project.
Sometimes . . . I would just stare.
I had decided I would learn about electrical work (dangerous, I know). My thinking was that carpentry is all good but it requires a fair amount of strength – man strength that I just don’t have, and I’d often need help for those projects anyway, same with plumbing. I was looking to learn how to do things I can do my own damn self. So electrical work– nothing big– more like just being able to trouble shoot and maybe one day being able to replace a receptacle or put in a light fixture — could be a skill I could use by myself. It doesn’t take a whole lot of strength, and it seemed like something about which I could at least try to develop a working knowledge. So I bought a book and was standing in the electrical aisle — you know, just looking.
(As an aside, if you like the work boots kinda guy, it’s fun to look at the home improvement store customers early in the morning during the week if you can get there. Weekends, not so much, unless you want to ogle married guys with their wives and kids in tow.)
Anyway, a nice gentleman working there asked if he could help me. He was okay cute, well-spoken, friendly — impressed when I told him about my projects but not condescending. The conversation turned personal and I found out he was divorced with grown kids (he must have married young), and he owned his home. I told him I was getting divorced too, hence my move to the fixer home (my Hoarders dump).
I started to think: Well, this is The Perfect Man. Based on his store discount alone I could justify falling for him. Plus — bonus, he actually had skills, electrical skills, construction skills — and a nice smile. This man could teach me things. (I was still mid-divorce nastiness, not dating but trying to be open to it.) I started to fantasize about power tools and having someone to hold the other end of the tape measure. Ahhh “Maybe I should go out with this guy,” I thought. “What can it hurt?” So when he finally got around to asking if he could give me his number (very gentlemanly I thought), I just said, “Sure.” At the time, this was a huge step for me. Though my husband and I had been separated for a while, I did not feel very single yet and was not ready to be “out there.” (Sadly, some of that has not changed.) Anyway, he got some paper, scribbled his name and number and handed it to me.
His name? —- SAME FREAKIN’ NAME AS MY ESTRANGED HUSBAND!!!!
What the . . . ?
I kept his number for a while, but I couldn’t bring myself to call. I knew I’d never be able to say his name. Never. Ever.
My Home Improvement Store Guy Fantasy was over.
Just Me With . . . the digits of a guy with the same name as my husband.
My Marital Home was large Victorian fixer-upper still in progress. I had accumulated a lot of children and stuff over my years there. One of my forms of therapy has always been to get rid of things and rearrange furniture (I know, a little weird) . Consequently I’d been cleaning crap out with a vengeance after my husband left (so much so he thought I was moving way before I even thought about it).
When the real move was on the horizon, I was faced with moving from this big house to my new little project where Piss Man and his GF were living (See Piss, Puke and Porn). So I basically decreased our belongings by — my guess — around two/thirds . . . Mind you the kid count was remaining the same and they were/are growing by the minute and although some days I’d like to sell them, I’m aware that generally this is frowned upon. Consequently, other stuff had to go.
Since I’m a purger by nature I drop by Goodwill often; they know me (even got hit on there). But since I was already doing this massive move by myself, including getting the Marital Home ready for sale and fixing up the new old hoarder’s house, I was quickly tiring of schlepping my stuff to Goodwill. I also tired of selling individual items, you know, meeting strangers at inconvenient times, etc. to maybe or maybe not make a sale. (Sounds a little like dating, but I digress.) I’ve never had luck having yard sales. So I started posting things for free.
We’ve all seen those ads, “Free Stuff” “Moving” etc. Well, I became one of those people. I decided to give away everything I could on one beautiful weekend. I took pictures, posted them on Craigslist and said FREE — come get it . . . first come, first served.
When living in a smaller space you don’t have the luxury to store certain things, one of them being holiday decorations. I’d already gotten rid of much of that stuff, but I was ready to let go of almost everything else. I told myself, and I was right, that I probably wouldn’t miss it and if I wanted more decorations later I’d start fresh.
My kids’ babysitter (now a good, good friend) had given them these beautiful angel decorations — you know the kind with the velvet gown and fur and whatnot — I had four of them for the girls and she’d given the boy a big nutcracker (heh heh). The angels had looked beautiful in my formal dining room when I had my Christmas sing-along parties. But, that life was . . . over. Still, even for me, it is a bit harder to get rid of items that were thoughtful gifts from a loved one– so I struggled a bit.
I knew I couldn’t store the angels and I knew that in the new old house I wouldn’t have a place to display them at Christmas . . . so . . . I took a picture of the kids’ pretty angels, posted it on Craigslist and put them out on the street, convincing myself that my friend would understand. It felt kinda like giving away my four girls, except my girls aren’t always angels . . . but I digress.
After posting, I got an email right away from a guy wanting to know if I still had them. I checked outside and they were still there. He asked me to hold them until he could get to my house.
I mean, they were pretty, but I didn’t know they’d be hot property — in June. I moved them to a more secluded place and told him where he could find them. He came and got them right away. I never saw him.
“Cool,” I thought, “My stuff is going.” It’s amazing how you can’t sell something for a dollar but if you offer it for free — it’s gone.
A couple of hours later I got an email from the man who took the angels. He thanked me for the them, telling me that they were for his mother who was going through Cancer treatments and having a pretty rough time. She didn’t get out much, he said, hardly ever. But when she saw the picture of my Christmas angels she wanted them so badly that she rode with him to get them.
He said those angels made her so happy. He was thrilled to be able to make her smile.
He just wanted to let me know how much I’d done for the both of them.
I almost cried. I’m lying, I did cry.
Oh wait, it’s Just Me With . . . tears in my eyes . . . again.
For what happened when I prepared the Marital Home for sale, see My Panty Drawer/Your Panty Drawer
For my purging of marriage related material, see:
and for what I wish would happen with Craigslist, see, A Craigslist Fantasy.
As I noted in Piss, Puke and Porn after I bought my new old house I allowed the prior owners to rent it back from me for a number of months while my marital home was on the market. During this time I worked mostly on the outside of the house.
It needed it.
When it got closer to move-in time I did do some work/planning inside the house.
It needed it.
One fine day I was in the kitchen measuring, trying to come up with a plan to remodel the kitchen which, again, was nasty –I mean it had stained, smelly carpet — IN THE KITCHEN! Once white ceiling tiles which were brown from cigarette smoke and water damage, and the kitchen boasted a lovely exposed toilet pipe, etc. But I was financially challenged and wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to afford all the home renovations needed at one time. I briefly considered trying to live with the kitchen “as is’ for a while. (Of course, after removing the carpet and massive cleaning and disinfecting.)
During the rental period, the matriarch of the family, bless her heart, had become ill. She was staying in a hospital bed in the front room (the hallway was too small to get a bed upstairs). Her common law daughter-in-law (the one living upstairs with Piss Man) was her primary caretaker. See What Happened In My House? Murder? The daughter-in-law seemed to want to befriend me. I can talk to anybody, really, so we were chatting it up. Mind you, this was before the discovery of The Piss Collection.
But then something happened.
Piss Man’s Girlfriend had gone to check on the Matriarch. I stayed in the kitchen, pondering — what to do with this mess? Then, Piss Man’s Girlfriend returned with a full bed pan and proceeded to empty it — into the kitchen sink — INTO THE KITCHEN SINK !!!!
She did this right in front of me!!!
My hopes of my family using the existing kitchen for a while and thus staggering the home renovations were dashed, or should I say splashed down the kitchen sink. A kitchen sink currently being used and surrounded by dishes and food.
When the family moved out of my new old house, the entire kitchen — including the kitchen sink — was demolished by a friend and I — within days. We lived for four months with no kitchen at all. But I’d rather have no kitchen at all than —-
Just Me With . . . The Ever Popular “Toilet — Kitchen Sink Combination.”
Related: What Happened in My House, Murder?
Piss, Puke and Porn. Ahhh, my new house. Just Me and the Kids had been living in the very large marital home since the Husband moved out. I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t take care of it. But I have five big kids so it’s not like I could hole up in a one bedroom apartment. Plus, the kids and I loved their schools and I did not want them to have to change, for academic and emotional reasons. So, I bought this little house because I could make the bedrooms work and my kids could go to the same schools. But the house was in deplorable condition (which is how I could afford it). The people living there had owned the house for generations but had done no maintenance. Plus, they were sick and poor. The house looked like it should have been condemned. Actually the back part of it was condemned and had to be demolished.
I couldn’t even tell the kids about the house because it looked so bad it would have been too traumatic for them. We drove by it every day and the kids had no idea. The prior owners rented it back from me for 6 months and I worked on the outside of it when the kids were in school so that it wouldn’t look so bad.
Meanwhile, the marital home finally sold. I would have two weeks from the time the prior owners/renters left the new old house before I had to move the kids and I there. The prior owners were heavy smokers, and I say this with no judgment, just the facts — nasty. I knew that I would be undertaking an extreme makeover but . . .
I get that it was a tough move for the prior owners. Their family had lived there for over 60 years. I stopped by on move out night and they asked if they could leave a couple of boxes to pick up the next day. Sure, I said, because I’m nice that way. But when I went over there the next day and could see what was left in broad daylight, it made me sick.
These people kept cats but did not take care of them. They left me litter boxes with cat poop and no kitty litter. The boxes merely had newspaper lining the bottom of the pan. They also left used wet cat food cans. This was late Spring, people. Temps were in the 80’s and rising. Also, there was cat poop that didn’t make the cat box at all. They had apparently kept a cat locked up in what would become my room. The cat had yacked numerous times and they hadn’t cleaned it up. It took a paint scraper to get it up the big chunks and later a full sanding of the hardwood floors. See, That Hoarders Smell Not to mention the cat urine which had soaked into the floors and the wet cat food in there — the smell was indescribable.
But the third floor attic bedroom was even worse. A grown man (like in his 40’s) and his girlfriend had lived up there — like hoarders. The side of the attic which was used for “storage” had clothes and debris thrown over there, not in boxes, not in bags, and another cat had free rein up there. Think about it. The storage area was nothing but a big litter box.
Anyway, after the move out there were some boxes and debris left there. Well, okay, I thought, they said they’d leave some things and be back to get them. But I had to inspect the property anyway and start to clean. I had to.
This is what I found: bags of trash, well, actually garbage, including used tissues and vintage porn with sticky pages, more cat poop and litter boxes without litter, an adult diaper (used), little green baggies (which I’m told was crack), and, 2-liter soda bottles — a lot of them strewn about, in boxes, under debris, etc. These soda bottles were not empty — but no soda, either —
I found approximately fifty 2 liter bottles of HUMAN PISS!
No wonder the house smelled so bad! Understand that the bathroom was always in working order. Understand that the guy who lived up there, though collecting disability, was not immobile — he could walk, climb stairs, etc. and was not developmentally disabled to the point that he was incontinent. In other words, he was capable of carrying his lazy ass to the bathroom and knew that’s where people are supposed to urinate! Understand also that he had a girlfriend who must have allowed this!!!! (What kind of woman would . . . ??????) Let me say it again — 50 bottles of human piss — in my new house. I knew I’d have to do major renovations, but piss removal?
Thank goodness the kids weren’t with me when I made this discovery. Even my therapist said she’d never heard of anything like this. (This was before the show Hoarders was so popular.) I stopped looking through stuff. My daughters’ future bedroom was a toilet, literally. And people, this was an attic bedroom — in June! It was ten degrees hotter up there than outside. It was nauseating. Truly. And I was going to move my kids in this house in a matter of days. Looking back on it I still shudder. Yeah, I’ve been through some crap . . . and piss.
Just Me With . . . 50 Bottles of Piss in My House, 50 Bottles of Piss . . .
For another urine story, see “Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell?“