Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"Free Smells"

I don't know if you can see what I need you to see in the photo below.  I took it from a distance while stopped at a red light, and using my cell phone's camera.  When I tried to enlarge it ... let's just say the photo quality isn't too great.

This is a "Jimmy John's" restaurant in Tempe, Arizona.  Can you see the little red neon sign in the window?  The one that says "Free Smells"?

Can you tell what the sign is exactly next to?

It is directly next to the restrooms.

Mmmm, tempting.....   but let's just say I've never stopped in to enjoy those particular "Free Smells."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

AB, rest in peace

On Sunday, three fire trucks and an ambulance pulled up to the house across the street.  Firemen and paramedics entered the house, and a few minutes later, carried our neighbor Angelo to the ambulance on a stretcher, still pumping at his chest.

It did not look promising.

I learned later that evening that Angelo had died, of a heart attack.

Angelo and his wife, Jean, bought their house when it was first built, in the 1950s.  They have been our neighbors since we moved in across the street from them, over 20 years ago.  They are old enough to be my, or my husband's, parents.

They are wonderful neighbors, kind, friendly, not nosy or intrusive, yet they keep an eye on the house when we are not here.  They share oranges from their trees with us each year and back when they used to go out to farmers markets more frequently, they would sometimes bring us peaches or apricots.  They wave when we walk by and they are sitting on their porch.  They smile when we are watering our lawn or getting into our car and they are bringing out the recycle bin.  They buy girl scout cookies and Scout-O-Rama tickets when the neighbor kids sell them.  They chat with us when we have time, and smile and wave when we don't.

They have many adult children.  The ones who live close by have, for years, come for Sunday dinner, often bringing the grandkids.

Angelo and Jean kept their yard looking beautiful for many years until they could no longer physically handle it. They loved the flowers they planted each spring.  They loved planting, watering, watching things grow.  They cried when their big beautiful old tree in the front yard died and had to be cut down.

Over the past couple of years, both Angelo and Jean have had some health issues.  Their wonderful grown kids have taken turns taking care of mom and dad.  It is obvious they love their parents very much.  They take care of the yard, although they do not plant as many flowers as their parents did.  They take their parents shopping, help them cook, hang out with them on the front porch.  They bring the grandkids to visit.  Some of the kids come from very far away.  One lives in Hawaii.  She comes and stays for weeks at a time.

The kids are good neighbors, too.  Friendly, but not nosy or intrusive.  They wave and smile, and chat with us when we have time, just like their parents.

Angelo was a good man.  He loved his wife and his many kids and grandkids.  He was smart and funny.  He was a good neighbor.  The world was a better place with him in it.

Goodbye, Angelo.  May your soul find peace and contentment.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

RKT, 1972-2013, rest in peace

My friend killed himself. 

I just learned yesterday afternoon that he killed himself a few weeks ago.

I didn't see it coming, even though I was probably one of the last persons to talk to him.

His daughter is friends with my daughter.  We've known them 6 years.  He was divorced from his kids' mom.  She had been ... Away, for a while.  But she recently came back into the kids' lives.

He had sole custody and had been the kids' only parent for years.  But he worked a lot.  His boss demanded long hours and Saturdays.  And so at first he was happy to have her back in the kids' lives, giving them another adult to turn to.  But then after a while, she seemed to be working hard to turn the kids against him.  Even though she had been gone for years, she had the kids convinced that she was the better parent, the one who loved them more, the one they should stay with.  They spent less and less time with their dad.

She let the kids run wild.  He set limits.  You can guess which parent they preferred... And which parent they were increasingly angry with...

He talked to me one day, about his legal rights, obligations, options.  I can't say, here, specifically what we talked about. Client confidentiality and all that.  Looking back, he was more agitated than I'd ever seen him, but it was understandable, under the circumstances he described.

We also talked the next day, as friends.  He called to let me know how things were going.  He talked about how frustrated he was, to have sacrificed so much to be the good dad, always putting the kids' needs first, working overtime to buy them Christmas gifts, while the ex just disappeared for 10 years.  And then to have her reappear and have the kids preferring to be with her.  He was understandably hurt and angry.  He loved his kids, but felt like they were turning against him.  He felt rejected, hurt, angry, sad...  He wondered if he was handling things properly, if he was doing all that he could do.

I listened a long while, and commiserated with him, told him his feelings were completely understandable.  I told him that I was sure the kids would come to understand much more as they matured, that they are teenagers - notorious for being insensitive and self-centered and ungrateful - that the excitement of having a mom again would wear off as they started to see how often she "forgot" to buy groceries or pay the electric bill, that as they grew older they would realize what a great dad he is and that they never went without food or shelter or cool toys for Christmas, or love, when they were with him.  I also told him I thought he was handling things well, doing a good job of taking care of his kids, that he was a good dad...

When we hung up, he seemed.... determined ... and ok, if not happy.  Determined to do the best he could for the kids even if they seemed to resent him for it.  Less agitated, though still frustrated.

The next day, he killed himself.

I will never know whether there were other burdens he hadn't shared, whether something else happened during that day that sent him too far down the path of despair, or whether I just missed the signs of his total despair and desperation.  He certainly never said anything about feeling suicidal or about the kids being better off without him.  As far as I can remember, there was no sign or feeling that he was giving up...  but maybe I missed it....

Should I have tried harder, helped more?  Was there anything at all I could have said or done that might have helped things go differently...?  Should I have been giving him the number for a suicide hotline?  Were the signs there and I just didn't see?   I just don't know. 

A couple of times over the past couple of weeks, I'd thought about calling him, but it wasn't unusual to go weeks or sometimes months without talking to him - we were both busy, and our main connection was our kids, and my daughter was out of town the past couple of weeks.  It wouldn't have mattered, I guess.  By the time I was thinking about calling him, a few days later, "just to check in," he was already dead. 

Maybe if I'd been the kind of friend to call daily?  But that would have felt like interfering, prying, being nosy, in the context of our parent-to-parent friendship.  We were close enough to share our kid problems and dilmemmas, to ask each other for favors now and then, to hang out and share pizza occasionally while our kids hung out and played video games or went biking, but not the sort of buddies who call each other daily.  Maybe I should have tried harder to be that kind of friend for him.

He was a good man.  He worked hard.  He was honest and kind and handsome.  He was creative, inventive ... building things, photography, music...  He loved his kids more than anything.  He was kind to the people at his workplace; the customers loved him, thought of him as a friend or almost as family.  He was a good Dad.

His passing has left a hole in my heart.

I hope the kids will be ok.  I hope their mom will step up and be a good mom.  The kids are going to need her.


Goodbye, Robert.  May your soul find contentment, peace, and love.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"Adventure Camp"

My son has been visiting my Dad in Virginia for a few weeks this summer. He attended a basketball camp the first week he was there. His report: "It was fun!"  He learned a bit about basketball, had a good time with his cousins who were also attending the camp, and yes, he'd like to do it again next year.

This past week, he attended the accurately-named "Adventure Camp." At this camp, the kids went caving, mud-pit jumping, hiking, swimming, zip-lining, and more. My son’s report: "It was so awesome!!! It was so fun!!! I loved it!!!  I want to do it again next week!!!"

I pressed for details. What made it so great?

Disclaimer: I may have some of the details not-quite-right. I got part of the story from my son, and part from my Dad, and my son was so excited and talking so fast that it was hard to understand half of what he said, but this is what I got out of what they both told me:

For starters, he learned that he is, as he put it, "slightly claustrophobic," meaning that when they went caving, he "freaked out" because the walls seemed like they were closing in, and he had to go back outside. But the camp counselors were awesome (and patient) and knew some shortcuts, so after a short while, he agreed to go back in, and they took a couple of the shortcuts and caught up to the rest of the group. He was so proud and happy that he overcame his fear and finished the caving expedition.

They also got to a place where there was a ledge and they had to jump down about three feet, but they made it, and it was "awesome!" (My son is 10. He is only about four feet tall, and he is generally scared of heights, so this was a huge big deal to him!)

And then ("the best part!"), coming out the other side, the kids unintentionally re-created a scene from Winnie the Pooh.

As in, a rather large child got literally stuck in the cave entrance (exit?).

Some kids were still inside the cave, behind him. Others had already emerged from the cave. So the kids outside pulled and the kids inside pushed and they pulled and pushed and pushed and pulled and ... nothing. Someone eventually called 911. The emergency crews came, and it took them 2 hours to remove the kid from the cave entrance. When he was successfully removed from the cave entrance, there was applause and cheering all ‘round.

This was, according to my son, "awesome!"

At first I was a little taken aback, but my son reassured me that the kid was laughing, not crying, and no one was teasing him or making fun of him. They all just thought it was a great adventure, and a great story to tell.


On a different day, they did some sort of zip-lining.

A child got stuck at one of the poles when the pulley jammed. He was dangling from the wire many feet above the ground while one of the camp counselors poked at the pulley with a stick. No luck. So another camp counselor had to climb the pole and work him loose. Again, the kid was stuck for about an hour, dangling from a wire, while they got it figured out.

My son’s report: "Awesome!!"

Again, the kid was laughing about it, and no one was traumatized, apparently...

Then on another day, they were swinging on a rope over a giant deep mud pit and doing cannonballs into the mud. My son apparently had a hard time getting out. It was thick and hard to move and.... well, the other kids had to all grab him and pull.

My son’s report: "Awesome!!"

As a parent in our "safety first" society, I feel like I should be cringing and swearing I’ll never send him to that camp again and/or trying to get it shut down. Too dangerous or something. But I don’t feel that way at all.

Instead, as a parent of a kid who is generally somewhat bookish a little timid, but came away from these scary events laughing and saying "Awesome!!" I feel like I ought to be writing the camp directors a big thank you letter.

Because in the end, no one was seriously injured, everyone came out of things ok, and what the kids learned (whether they realize it or not) was that there IS risk in great adventures. (As my husband would say, it’s that "air of danger" that makes it fun!) And if you’re going to have a great adventure, you need to be willing to accept the risk that something might go wrong. But also, when things do go wrong, you don’t panic, you stick together, you figure out a way to solve the problem, and you laugh about it afterwards because crying about it is just no fun at all.

So, he had fun, he overcame some fears, and he learned a bit about handling "sticky" situations.  Sounds like an "awesome" week to me!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Customer "Service"

Here is what I felt like saying to the idiot on the other end of the 1-800 number:

"I can't decide whether you are being intentionally obtuse because you don't want to tell me what is going on with the check I deposited, or whether you simply don't know and you think I am so stupid that if you just keep repeating over and over again that "we are processing it," I will say, 'oh, ok' and go away."

Here is what I said instead  (I thought it was much kinder.  Perhaps it was too kind...): 

"You have repeated the phrase 'we are processing it' four times now.  What, specifically, does that mean?  What specific actions are you taking to 'process' the check?"

Here is the response I got:

"Well, we are processing it.  The funds will be available on July 22."


Decision made.  Intentionally obtuse AND doesn't know jack shit.


Thank God for the wonderfully responsive, smart, and kind individuals working at my actual bank branch.   I will have the funds available by Monday, which is when I need them!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What Should I Do?

Help!  Which sign should I obey?

I swear, driving in New Orleans can be so very confusing! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Have you ever had wasabe?  It's the green spicy stuff often served with sushi. 

I snapped a picture of this license plate a while back, using my cell phone.  It was dark out, so it was hard to get a good picture.

Indeed, the vehicle was the color of wasabe.

Suddenly, I felt the urge to find a good sushi bar...