Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

The mechanical breeze from the fan overhead wafts against my face, the wet hair clinging to the back of my neck catches a bit of the air too, causing a wonderful chill. I've been in the kitchen, on and off all morning. The carcass of the turkey exposes itself to the remainders of the side dishes lined up on the counter. Another Thanksgiving feast has come and gone leaving bits and pieces of leftovers to be plastic encased and placed in the refrigerator.

Thankful? Yes. I'm thankful the task of cooking is over. I really don't mind the cooking; it's the finish line that gets a bit hectic with the last minute gravy making and potato mashing, while keeping an eye on the hotrolls that are browning.

I had a bottle of wine, cork removed and breathing, poured and consumed, almost entirely mine alone.

It's nap time. Could it be the combination of wine and good food?
Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 24th Twas the Day Before Thanksgiving

My view through the sheers covering the front windows is on the house across the street. Sunlight hasn't yet reached that rooftop to melt the white glaze of frost.

The big maple tree to the left  barely in my view has overnight changed from bright green leafs to a garnet colored cluster of beauty. The ground is covered with those leafs that have now given up their status as tree leafs and  have become ground cover. Such a drop in status for a leaf I'm sure!

I had to wrap up in my fuzzy robe this morning. A cup of hot coffee and a humming furnace add to my comfort, both of which I'm thankful for after all, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I don't require big things to remind me to be grateful.

I haven't heard from Ms. M. ("my homeless until recently" friend). Apparently she had lost my number. I stopped by to check on her yesterday and then quickly drove to the market. I don't know what she usually does for Thanksgiving but I bought traditional meal foods, Turkey, dressing, yams, fixings for green bean casserole (can't imagine a holiday without GBC) and some hot rolls and a pumpkin pie. She wasn't home when I returned. I lugged all the stuff from the trunk of my car to the long narrow table that occupies a portion of her deck.

Soon I received a phone call from her. She had returned home to find the groceries and was so thankful. Usually her little family visits a place here that provides a free Thanksgiving meal to the less fortunate. This year her car is out of commission. A trip to this place was looking dicey. She loved going to this place saying "They don't make you feel like a loser. The atmosphere is very pleasing and respectful of all that enter." (I want to find out more about this place at a later date). 

She will now be able to have a turkey in the oven and left overs to sustain her family for a few days.

Both of her sons have been working. Hired to help put up Christmas lights, they have an income which now allows Ms. M to put her car in the shop and get it fixed. Progress, as slow as it seems, doesn't deter or depress her. She has more patience then I and I have much respect for her strength.

The husband remains at home and may just get to be here for turkey day. He gets daily reports on the rigs progress and remains "on alert" for this west Texas job.

My long breakfast bar is laden with the supplies for my Thanksgiving meal. I readied it all up yesterday so I could plunge into meal preparation this morning. As the husband and I were talking, he mentioned the day of the week. I was astounded.
"Today is Tuesday?" I asked.
I thought he was teasing me and he had to drag out his phone to show me that it was really Tuesday and Thanksgiving was TWO days away. Thankful we had this little conversation or I would be in the kitchen this morning baking a turkey a day early!
I really need to get a job. The days all run together when you are jobless!
It's time for my shower and last minute checks on what is needed for TOMORROW.
A pleasant Thanksgiving to one and all.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Once Again

I remember a time when most of the people I knew were healthy and vibrant. Was it the age we all were at that time? I'm fairly certain there were young folks around that were not in good health. Did I just not notice?

It has been cold for the past few days. Our temperatures have nose dived into the thirties, but I'm expecting after this week to be listening to the ac unit kicking on instead of the furnace.

I love this time of year here in the deep South. It's my time of year. It's time for a sweat shirt and sweat pants or a pair of jeans and a sweater, socks and shoes. That's the only part I don't like is the socks and shoes. I have been known to wear my flip flops regardless of the weather.

As soon as the cold front arrived, I slipped into my "warm" clothes and went shopping. Though I've been here over 20 years, I'm still not "nativeized" (not a real word) and I easily note the natives by the layers and layers of clothes, the tall boots and the total body shivering, fast walking, hunched over sprints to get out of the weather. I just reached the point yesterday where I had to add a light jacket to my ensemble when out of doors. I find it invigorating. The heat of summer and the humidity oppresses me, hence my fondness for the winter months here.

Slipping into the mall, a place I seldom visit, I was on my way to pick up a package ordered online and being shipped to the store. As I stood at the register waiting for the clerk to ring up my purchase, a woman approached, smiling and greeting me with a "Hello there! I haven't seen you in such a long time!" As she approached with her greeting, my hands went up in front of me to ward off her greeting and let her know that she must have mistaken me for someone else. Someone she knew. This happens to me often. People are always coming up to me and starting a conversation thinking I am someone they know. I usually try to stop them quickly to avoid embarrassment to them.

This woman stopped and said "You don't know me?"
With this she mentioned her name. It was my turn to be embarrassed. She had lived across the street from me for over 10yrs. She downsized and moved into a smaller house as her children left the nest for their own homes and families.

As one does, when reconnecting with someone after years of not seeing them, we chattered on trying to catch up in the few minutes she had before going back to her job. I shared my diagnosis; she embraced me with her exclamations of sorrow. As we stepped apart she said "K has cancer too."

K is 21 years old. She was about 10 yrs old when Sue left this neighborhood. I had not seen her since she left with her mother. I was terribly saddened and at a loss for words. Her cancer is a sarcoma. A cancer of the tissues instead of the cells. 1 in a million contract her type of sarcoma and the rarity is prompting them to go to M.D. Anderson in Houston for treatment.  She was diagnosed in September and since then had 5 surgeries. One to remove the sarcoma with the remaining for reconstruction. Her scalp had to be removed from the forehead to the mid part of her skull. Further treatment will be done in Houston.

My days following this encounter with Sue has been interrupted with thoughts of "K" and her future. I'm hoping with all my heart that this young lady gets to return for her last year at LSU and continue on with her life and that this is just an interruption and a short one.
I won't be sharing this post on Facebook. It's one of those posts I have to do as a part of this path in my life.
"K" if wishes come true, you will be safe"
I'll be making that wish every day for you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Person, a Life, Part II

Ms. M. and I continued our trip to complete her errands and as we moved along from stop to stop she regaled me with bits and pieces of her life. At one time she lived in a prosperous part of town in a nice home with her first husband and two children. This part of the tale became a bit cloudy but she mentioned drugs and her husbands habit and the demise of that relationship that produced two daughters. These daughters live in New Orleans, one a lawyer, the other with a master's degree in social work. I quietly wondered why they weren't helping their mother who was in such dire straits. That revelation would come later as the story of her life continues.
Very nonchalantly, she continued with the story of the second husband who was abusive and "I killed him." Without missing a beat she spoke of the abuse and the three sons produced from that union. I tried not to look slack jawed at her admission of murdering someone. I slid a look sideways at her and then turned back to my task of driving.
I gathered she was on disability; the 'check' she mentioned was apparently not a physical disability. I had to ask.

Bipolar. Then she mentioned that she was on methadone. She continued on with her tale of homelessness and how she had lived in a shelter for a year while her sons were elsewhere. Eventually I had to ask, "What was your drug of choice?"
Quite openly she said "Meth and IV pain medicines."

She didn't hesitate or try to evade any questions I asked and I knew now why her daughters had not come to her rescue. Apparently, though struggling in their new careers, they had sent her 300.00 a month to pay for her methadone. The methadone keeps her off street drugs and the daughters knew this and had lived with her drug and alcohol problems during their childhood.
 She had been on methadone for 8 yrs. and as soon as her disability came through, she left the homeless shelter and rented a place to live with her two sons.

Piecing together the stories and getting them in chronological order requires many clarifications. Apparently, until the three boys came 'of age' she collected social security from the second husbands account. The husband that she "killed". When it ran out she was penniless and homelessness was the end of this particular part of her life.

We made our final stop of the day to the bank to get her free 4 blank checks she can get each month. She had to pick up her methadone the next day. As we entered the final phase of our trip, I had to ask "How did you kill your husband?"

"A fillet knife to the heart." She was feeding the chickens, the ground was muddy. He slapped her to the ground and while in the mud, he kicked her. When he went back into the house, he had a fillet  knife hidden in the bed where he lay. When she walked into the room, he jumped from the bed and came at her with the knife. She grabbed his arm turning the knife toward him; he stumbled into her and the knife lodged in his heart.

She wasn't indicted for the death. It was noted as "self defense".
There is a lot more to this woman's story; the early death of her mother in Oklahoma; her father sending her to Louisiana to a girl's school and never coming to see her and the street life we had no time to discuss.

I make no judgement on this person. I will make sure she has food this month. She has had unexpected expenses and feeding her family shouldn't have to be one of her worries.

One of the stores had a sale on chicken leg quarters and eggs. I stopped by this morning and bought 20 lbs at .49cents a pound. 99cents for a dozen eggs. I came home and cut the leg quarters up and bagged them in gallon zip lock bags and put them in the freezer. Tomorrow I will call Ms. M. and make arrangements to deliver them to her home. You can make a lot of different dishes out of chicken. Egg sandwiches are healthy and filling. I'm sure it will be appreciated. She appreciates any kindness offered her.

"But for the grace of (insert your higher power here) go I..and maybe even you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Person

The weather has slipped quietly into fall. Just a few days ago, the heat stirred the a/c unit to buck up and keep the house at a comfortable temperature. Suddenly the night temperatures plummeted. We are in the mid thirties during the night and I was excited. I don't to heat well and the fall temperatures were welcome. I spend more time outdoors then in and on one of these days while out running errands, I drove by a woman trudging down the highway. She leaned forward into her walk letting gravity pull her forward. Her purse in one hand and a shopping bag in the other, she looked worn out and it was questionable on whether she would reach her goal. Obviously she was not doing a pleasure walk but one of necessity.

There go I but for the grace of  (insert higher power of your choice here).  Being a single mother for many years, I feared I would lose my job or my health and be homeless, carless and penniless. This instilled great empathy for others down on their luck.
I slowed down and hit the window button and asked "Do you need a ride?"

Her bright blue eyes looked out of a haggard face, sheened in sweat. Her long grey streaked hair was pulled back and up into a ponytail that was thin and straggly. She initially refused my offer saying she didn't have far to go. Traffic backed up behind me. I pulled forward and off the road to turn around and go back. This time she accepted my offer and opened the back door. I had the front seat filled with my shopping and no time to clear that seat for her.
Another mile down the road and she directed me to her home. There wasn't much time for talk but she did say she was without a car. Her son had driven her car into a large pot hole in a parking lot and the car had been damaged and had to be towed. Her 'check' would be here soon and she could buy some food. "I'm cooking a big pot of beans so we can eat tonight."
She said she had spent over 200.00 on taxis the day before and her money was now gone until her 'check' came in.
I left her at her door with a promise to check on her every day to see if she needed a ride anywhere.

I have a fully stocked freezer and a pantry that overflows with too much stuff. My daughter sometimes shops my mini store here.
The thought of someone hungry living just a mile from me was just too much to comprehend. I scooped up frozen chicken and  hamburger and various canned vegetables, noodles and spaghetti sauce, mayo, oil, margarine, bread and sugar along with toilet paper.
Within a few minutes I was back at her house with bags of "stuff". Most of this was bought on sale and 'stocked' so it wasn't a big money expenditure on my part. It would feed her little family until she got her 'check' which was due in two days. Later that evening I made a trip to the market for shampoo, conditioner, soap, coffee, creamer and Ramen noodles. I still didn't know much about  this woman and the predicament she faced except for the broken car.

A little more information was gathered. In her rapid hurried way, she talked about her son that was a little autistic. He met me at the car to help carry in the groceries, a handsome young man that I guessed might be in his early teens only to find out later he was 27. Her life story was disjointed, the bits and pieces difficult to merge into one coherent biography. I did gather that two of her children lived in New Orleans; one a lawyer, the other with a master's degree in social work. I left her with the shopping I had done with plans on returning to check on her the next day.

On the afternoon of the second day, I drove into her driveway and sounded my horn. She peeked out and said she was fine and didn't need to go anywhere.  The walk I found her on the day before  was back from CVS pharmacy where she had to pick up an antibiotic for the pneumonia she had. She was resting.  I drove on.

This was my weekend. I had promised her that on Monday when she got her check I would take her across town to pay the tow bill and have her car towed to her house so she didn't have to pay the storage fee. Monday arrived (yesterday) and as promised, after receiving her phone call I drove around and collected her for the  trip across town with a few stops afterwards. During this ride, she shared her story. I tried to not look slack jawed shocked. I should have been prepared. One of my friends kept telling me there was a lot more to this story then a "broken car" and there was.
(to be continued when I have a bit more time)..................