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Thursday, November 11, 2021

Different Demons

 Back in May, our across the street neighbor sold his house for an insane amount of money and moved to Idaho (no comment). The gentleman who bought the house was reportedly overjoyed because he had been looking in this neighborhood for quite some time for a house.....for his daughter.  M'kay, that's nice. I live in my parent's first home. Two of my neighbors to the right of us are also the grown children of their parents who first owned the homes they live in, and the same with another neighbor across the street.  But I digress.  The purchaser told the realtor (who is also a neighbor) that he was looking for a "Leave it to Beaver" type neighborhood where his daughter and her husband could raise their children and get that old "Mayberry RFD" feel.  M'kay, I guess my parents kind of thought of this neighborhood that way 48 years ago. So, great!  We're getting new neighbors!  I thought.  That was 6 months ago.  There are still no new neighbors. The house remains empty.  

We have now taken to calling this house "The Winchester Mystery House".  If you know, you know.  If you don't, read up.  This house has been worked on DAILY for six months, non-stop.  Now, let me just say that our former neighbor, the previous owner of the house left that house in turn-key condition.  I actually LOVED the house and everything he and his wife did to it.  It had beautiful wood flooring, gorgeous kitchen, big, open living room - dining room floor plan. HUGE backyard.  He even built the kitchen AROUND his grandmother's vintage O'Keefe & Merritt gas stove, which was something of great pride to him. So it really did make us wonder WTF was going on over there.  Why so much construction? Why the daily crews of workers for a turn-key home supposedly purchased for a young family? When was this new family moving in? As the months dragged on, and no one moved in, we began to think that maybe this guy was just a flipper.  I mean WHY would you want to demolish this?...

Last Friday, I walked down the hall to my office as usual (that commute is brutal), opened the window shade and surveyed yet ANOTHER work crew, sat down at my desk and started another typical work day.  I heard a familiar voice at the front door calling; "Helloooo...anybody home?" I went to the door to find my former neighbor.  He was visiting a friend down the road and dropped by to see how the new residents were settling in to their new home.  I laughed as I regaled him with all the happenings and informed him that there is STILL no one living there.  However, we do see the man who bought the house quite often as he's here daily checking on the work. I made him laugh in return when I told him that we were now calling his former home the "Winchester Mystery House" (heretofore to be referred to as WMH) and since he knew exactly what I was talking about, and he's quite the gun enthusiast and hunter, he said "Well, I thought I took all those 'demons' with me when I left." He then told me that the neighbor directly across the street from that house (kitty-corner from us) sold their house for another INSANE amount of cash, and that the guy that bought the WMH also made an offer on that house when it came up for sale.  He said; "They kinda told him to stuff it."  So then I told him that just made me think that we might not be so far off the mark in thinking this guy was just a flipper.

Then my former neighbor said something that I'm not sure is intriguing or creepy. "You know, this guy is major rich." He then pointed off into the distance at a building in the commercial area near our neighborhood. "You see that building? He owns it. He also owns the entire top floor. And he told me when he was looking at our house that he could see this neighborhood, more specifically YOUR house, because of the Italian cypress trees lining your backyard wall."  

This is the view of what he's talking about from my front porch...

And this is a close-up...

Ummm...ok.  So he sits up in his ivory tower and wants to rule over all he surveys?  WTAF!  We continue our conversation and I tell my former neighbor that I have actually been quite sad that no one has moved in, that they have gutted that beautiful house, and that I wished I had the money to do just a FRACTION of what this guy has done AND pay people to do it for me. So basically, I admit to him, I'm super jealous. He just lamented that he didn't take his grandmother's vintage stove with him. "The intact milk glass salt and pepper shakers alone were worth a lot of money."  I suddenly put a little bit into perspective, quelled my jealousy talk, and felt bad for him...for a minute. Dude made bank on that house and built a new house in Idaho (no comment). So sympathy waned quickly.  I'm going to hell.

I asked him about his new life in his new state and if he was happy with his decision.  Of course, he was.  I asked him about his wife, his dogs, his dad (who lived in the house before him...it's a thing in this neighborhood).  All was well in Boise.  He left his greetings for Charlie, I asked him to deliver our regards to his wife and his dad, and we said our goodbyes and good lucks.

You'd think the story would be over, wouldn't you?  But no.  This week, painters arrived. So Charlie and I figured this was the last of it. After this house is painted, that means the new folks will be enjoying Thanksgiving in their new house, right?  Well, they did indeed paint the house (white on white), AND THEN, they painted the roof!  You heard me. They literally got up on the roof and painted it BLACK. They painted the shingled roof of a Southern California house BLACK!  I wasn't sure of what I was seeing, so I got out my camera and took a picture. Then I got on the phone and texted my sister Loke, because my brother-in-law Phil is in Roofing.  "Is this a thing?" I asked her. "Is painting your roof a thing?"  She said it was becoming a thing...but it's a stupid thing. They are asking to bake themselves in the heat of summer. Their AC, if they have one, is going to work extra hard because their attic and roof space is going to be an oven, and they are shortening the life of their shingles. 

Who does this?

Now it's done.  Right?  New owners are moving in, probably this weekend. Right?  But wait! There's more!  This morning, large equipment started showing up and going into the back yard.  Mini-cats, water trucks, large dump truck. OMG, the beeping. THE BEEPING! I stepped out onto the porch to check things out, and it appears that they are now landscaping the backyard. The neighbor behind them, with whom they share a back wall, stepped out of the house in her jammies to see what all the noise was.  I could tell she was annoyed and I felt bad for her. For a minute. She was the realtor who sold the house to this guy. Sympathy waned. I'm going to hell.

To sum it up, the story isn't over. Much like the demons that haunted Sarah Winchester, this effing house is haunting me every damn day as I sit at my desk and observe. Also, even though I've seen this supposed "daughter" who is the recipient of Daddy Gotbucks gift only once, I won't be hurrying over to bring a welcome to the neighborhood housewarming gift. I guess I hoped that they would just move in right after the house was bought and like other folks start fixing it up, little by little, the way they wanted to, over time. You know, like everyone else in the neighborhood.  Work for it. Sweat equity. Not have it handed to them on the proverbial silver platter. Isn't that the "Leave it to Beaver/Mayberry RFD" way?  Doesn't matter. I'm not June Cleaver and I'm not Aunt Bea. No homemade jam or cookies will be crossing this street.  I'm definitely going to hell.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Gift of "Late on Purpose"


In 1992, about two months after my Jackie-mom passed away, I received a sympathy card from a friend. It began; "Dear Pua, this is late on purpose..." and it went on to explain their own experiencewith the aftermath of the passing of a loved one.  This wise friend said that during her own grief journey, there was a time that came between 5 weeks to 2 months after, that felt like a void, or a vacuum.  A place where time seemed to either stand petrifyingly still, or just drag into minutes that felt like days.  A place where you weren't really sure how to identify the aftermath of the avalanche of feelings you had just experienced in the days and weeks that passed, but you settled on numbness. Sometimes, you felt devastatingly alone. 

The "must do's", and "time is of the essence" things had been ticked off the list. The initial shock had passed. Friends and family had been called. The services had been dealt with and the loved one's desires for their aftercare had been arranged. The arrivals of flowers, meals, and cards slowly waned or had now ceased. Cherished possessions had been dispersed to friends and loved ones as instructed. You walked through the spaces in the home where they once walked.  You touched the things that they once touched. You remember a moment, a memory, a scent, a sound. But they are not there. They are not there, and you still talk to them as if they are.  And now comes the numbing void.

She said she remembered thinking that she wished there was some sort of sign during that strange period of in-between, where you just needed a push to get from one stage of grief to the next. You could call it a kick in the butt, or a hug from afar. She just wished it came. And she decided then and there, that she would remember this for when someone she knew had a loss. She decided she was going to be the "Late on Purpose" person. 

That is when the "late on purpose" note arrives.  That is when, of all times, it was needed most.  That late on purpose lifeline saved me.  I was the mother of three very young children aged 6, 4, and 2.  Losing my mother at that time of my life was one of the most devastating and life-changing events that I had ever been through. I was there, in the aftermath, all the "urgent" things had been done. I was in what I called my "zombie phase".  Not here, not there, just functioning by rote because I had to. And out of the blue, when I thought I just couldn't face another day despite the fact I had the most supportive husband one could possibly be fortunate enough to have, this one very significant sympathy card arrived. In her wisdom, my friend reminded me that yes, there is something beyond that numbing void. That only when it is darkest, can we see the stars. "Go out and look at the stars, Pua".  So I did.  I still do. 

"Late on Purpose" was something that salvaged my broken heart then. But more than that, it became something that I felt was important that I pay forward. It was the absolute right thing to do.  For years now, when I send a sympathy card, it has always been a "Late on Purpose" card, sharing with the recipient the same loving gift my dear friend gave to me all those years ago. When my wise friend herself passed away, the woman who bestowed that generosity and kindness upon me all those years ago, I did the only appropriate thing. I sent that "LOP" card to her daughter, who said that was exactly the kind of thing her mother would do, and thanked me for sharing that with her.

It is only March, and I have already sent two LOPs.  To be honest, I'm so utterly devastated myself by the loss of one so dear to me, that I too, am struggling.  I'm standing in that weird in between place again. That numbing void. It feels larger, multiplied by the empathy I feel for someone whose loss of this dear one makes indulging in my grief seem selfish. And yet, it is real and painful and I know that for my own sanity, I need to acknowledge it.  So, I acknowledge it when I put pen to card and write those words "Dear Friend, this is late on purpose". When I do, I feel just a little bit of my own grief moving in the same way I hope the recipient's grief will move.  That we, both of us, can just take another step forward away from the numbing void.  One step toward healing for me while I write. One step away from grief for them while they read.

Tonight, I will go outside and look at the stars.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Plan Z


"The timing isn't right."

"Something better will come along."

"God has a better plan for you."

"It wasn't meant to be."

The list goes on and on of all the things people have said to us to try to comfort us as pretty much everything has gone pear-shaped with regard to the house, Mexico, the Mexico house, moving, etc.  I've been living on pins and needles for almost 3 months. I'm over it. I pretty much feel like throwing in the towel.

The truth is, I'm really not ready to talk about it much right now.  But it really all comes back to nothing is ever easy.  NOTHING.  Even the word "easy" has absolutely no place in our lives.  Just once...just one damn time, I wish one thing we try to do wasn't met with one road block after another.

I'm tired. I'm sad. I'm depressed. Stick a fork in me. You know the rest.

Today is bad.  I hope tomorrow will be better. But I'm not holding my breath.  Right now, I'm in "fuck it" mode.

So, fuck it.  I guess that's Plan F.

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Presence of Breath

             "Hawaiian Mother and Child" by Jim Stickley, Hawaii Kai 1970

I have been awake since 2:30 am today.  Usually, when I wake, I listen for two things; the breathing sounds of my husband, and the breathing sounds of my dog.  I usually hear Charlie first, and if I do, then I do not move one iota.  Because if I do, then Kili will hear that I am awake and he will start the "Oh good! Finally you're awake and we can start the day!" process.  Which will then wake up my sleeping husband.This morning however, as luck would have it, Charlie was also awake, as was Kili.  So here we were, the three of us lying in the darkness trying to decide whether to just get out of bed. I went first....straight to my computer.

You see, this day is the anniversary of the day I first became a mother.  I've been thinking about it quite a lot this past week. That hasn't been easy. It's been a pretty rough week for me.  In fact, the last two weeks have been positively grueling emotionally, mentally, and physically.  In between that trifecta of going through the motions, have been the little vignettes of thoughts falling upon my brain to remind me of Averie's upcoming birthday. What to say that hasn't already been said?  How to impart to my child the weight and merit of her place in my heart, in my life, in the depth of my soul. 

Charlie and I have always worked so hard at not taking for granted that each one of those three that we are responsible for bringing into this world know unequivocally what they mean to us. I remember once many years ago, Charlie having a conversation with his father about one of his sisters.  He asked his father if he ever told his sister that he loved her. I knew the question arose because Charlie said his father didn't know how to say those words. That he had never said them to Charlie. That Charlie never heard him say those words to his mother.  His father scoffed and said; "No. But I don't need to. She knows."  We both were saddened by that answer. We weren't even parents yet, but later that night, we had a long talk about how, when we had children, they would never question our love for them.  They would always know. We would always say the words; often and with meaning. 

As I danced with these thoughts, it dawned on me that this year has been a year of struggle for everyone.  The entire world is upside down and topsy turvy.  Everyone is doing their best to just get from one day to another.  And I went right back to this morning and the daily routine of listening for the breath sounds of my beloveds.  The kukui (light) went on....

Averie Joy Maikalima O Makua, you have been the absolute definition of ALOHA during this past challenging year.  It sounds so very trite to the malihini ear. As if we're all attending some touristy kitchy luau in Waikiki. But I think you, more than anyone, will appreciate what comes from my heart to you.  ALO (presence) HA (breath) literally means "The Presence of Breath" or "The Breath of Life".
That is how you have handled everything that has come your way this past year; good, bad, ugly, beautiful.  You have done it with an enormous amount of grace, class, integrity, soul, and an endless depth of character that makes me cringe at my own faults and foibles.  

Your presence of breath, your breath of life, your true and noble Aloha may just seem to be a second skin to you.  But to those who are witnessing it from the outside looking in (because really, that's all any of us has been able to do this year) it is a litmus test for what humanity can and should be. From your volunteering, to your standing up for those less fortunate.  From giving your voice to the voiceless, to trying to represent those who have not been represented.  Even in your darkest hours, when you were trying to understand the reason for the knives in your back when you should have been receiving accolades, you stood head high.  Yes, you had your moments, but you took those deep breaths and propelled forward, always forward. Only one way to go; IMUA. You give of yourself when you are pained physically and when your body wants you to stop. You give of yourself monetarily when the country we live in praises selfishness and capitalism.  You give of yourself creatively to bring truth where history would rather leave the coffin nailed shut.  The presence of breath. The breath of life.  That is you. That is the depth of you.

From this mother's heart, I send YOU all the Aloha, in celebration of all the Aloha you've gifted to this world.

Hau'oli la Hanau kaikamahine.  Aloha wau ia oe. 


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Forward Momentum


This last trip to Mexico was a pretty good one.  We ended up finding a house we really liked, and it was even better that my sister and brother-in-law were there to see it with us.  Mixed in with the margarita-drinking fun, we fell into another "Serendipity Place" south of the border.

We got a lot of very good information, some sound advice, and on our own, we have done quite a lot of research.  So, when we saw this house, we both knew it was exactly what we wanted.  Location, price, all the amenities on our checklist, check, check, check.  Intent to Purchase Agreement drawn up and signed, and a good faith deposit check delivered.  We have two months to work out the lease details, and make a solid offer agreeable to the seller.  Even better, the seller is not in a big hurry to sell or move, as she's building another house in the same neighborhood, just three doors down from the house she wants to sell.  So, she needs a place to live until her new house is finished, which is expected to be in the spring next year.  It all just seemed to fall into place.

Yes, there is still much to do and yes, things could go pear-shaped. But we're used to stuff like that.  What will be will be. We will work through whatever comes our way.  I do know however, that Mexico is definitely where we'd like to be, and that house is definitely the house we could happily live in for the rest of our lives, in a place we've loved for decades.

More to come as we move toward the goal.  Mexico 2021.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Galletas Cálida con un Perseguidor de Tequila

After a month of lying awake staring at the ceiling in the darkness of pre-dawn and running scenario after scenario through our thoughts, voicing them to one another, the decision has been made.

We are moving to Mexico.

This is not a decision taken lightly, nor is it one just decided upon after only a month.  Our family has been going down to beautiful Baja Malibu for many years, in fact decades, with our friend Nancy.  I've written many many blog posts about our trips south of the border to enjoy time at her little "Bird Nest on the Ground" in Campo Torres at K22.  We've enjoyed celebrating many happy occasions there.  It has become a second home.

When we first started traveling there, it certainly was just a dream to sit on the patio or on the beach and think about the "What ifs".  But here we are today, after decades of joyful days looking out on the horizon and watching the sun set behind the Coronados, thinking about owning our own home at K22.  Only now it's not just thinking.  It is not just dreaming. It is the new journey of our lives.

Where once we watched Averie, Caris, and Bryson play in the sand, surf, enjoy the company of friends, and imagined that we would one day retire, the days of simply dreaming are over.  We're taking the necessary steps to finally make our dreams come true. There are many other reasons that the time feels so right to move forward in this journey; not the least of which is ironically, to feel safer.  Especially for ME to feel safer after 4 years of feeling less and less safe in the city I basically grew up in.  However, many more reasons will be shared as we move along.  

We expect friends and family members to run the gamut of reactions; surprise, shock, disdain, discomfort.  But we hope more than anything that they will be happy for us.  Of course, we hope for their excitement and support for our decision.  However, we don't really need it.  This is our life, and we're ready to enjoy the life we dreamed of  together.  We've always told our kids to pursue their dreams and we've supported each one of them as they worked toward their goals.  Now it's our turn.  It's time for us to realize and work toward our dream. Truth of the matter is, not only do we love Mexico and the people of Mexico, but realistically for us, it's what we can afford. For us, the dream of retiring is not attainable in the US. If we have any hope of enjoying whatever time we have together in the future where we are not still chained to jobs until we die, then we have to go.  

It seems especially fitting to come to place of deciding so close to the eve of my 60th birthday.  Again, it's never too late to blossom into the life you want for yourself.  I've wanted this a long, long time.  I'm overjoyed Charlie is now, completely onboard.  They say that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step, and though our destination is a mere 100 kilometers (give or take), we expect this journey's timeline to take between one to two years to be finalized.  We're taking you along with us by chronicling our adventures here, as always.  As it was in the beginning of Warm Cookies, so it shall be with Galletas Calida.

We're ready to take flight and say "Adios Estados Unidos!  Hola Mexico! Vamonos!


Friday, July 03, 2020

Oh, Did We Sing....

When I started this blog in March of 2003, it was called "The Abyss".  I started it because I needed an outlet.  A place to vent, share, write, brag, cry, and throw tantrums if I wanted to.  After all, I was the mother of three teenagers. It was better than drinking.  Okay, who am I kidding? I did that too.

In what today seems like an eternity but was really only two years, I made friends pretty fast out here in the ether. My blog family grew. I "collected" treasures from all over the world and put them into my blog basket. They listened, they commented. I went to their "houses" and I listened and I commented. Soon, real life phone numbers were exchanged, and real life adventures were shared.  Real life everyday friends were doling out warnings about "stranger danger" and asking questions like how I as a mother could put my family at risk by sharing so much with people you don't really know. They would admonish Charlie for "allowing" me that much freedom, or they would roll their eyes and call me crazy. I shrugged my shoulders and carried on. I received so much love and acceptance from my blog family that it really didn't matter to me what people who lived in my 3D world thought.

This blog was my saving grace. The family I gleaned, the treasures I collected, the world I was a part of here in the Blogosphere rescued me.  Soon "The Abyss" became a happy world. My writing blossomed. My stories came to life. My joys overflowed. And one day, my daughter said to me that I needed to change the name of my blog. "The Abyss" did not fit anymore.  I remembered an email I received from my darling friend Hot Toddy, wherein he said:

    "Your entries are like a plate of warm cookies with a side of whiskey to me. Just the right mix of comfort and shenanigans."

That's how "Warm Cookies With a Whiskey Chaser" was born. It came forth from the most appropriate place; Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven.  The irony and joy of that, for those who knew him at this time, perhaps even later in life, was that dear Toddy, by his own admission, was a disaster in the kitchen. But for me, he's the "Baby Daddy" of my blog.  He'd laugh at that and ask me if Charlie minded. As with everything in my life, my husband never minded. He was joyful in my joys, happy in my friendships, proud to be a part of a shared world that made me smile, and laugh, and love.

I know this is a weird way to pay homage to someone; to talk about my own blog. But the truth is, I really don't know of another way to express how important this family was, and is to me, and how so much of my life was filled with the wonder of the souls who allowed me in.

Yesterday, after getting a message from Byrne, and feeling the great disturbance in the force at the loss of beloved Toddy, I first called Auburn Pisces because I knew she would need a hug, or ten. After leaving her, I sat down for a long time in quietness, with Kili across my lap and occasionally nudging me in the neck with his nose. Then, I did the only thing I could do with my helplessness; I came to the sanctuary of the Blogdom, and went straight to the Toaster Oven.

I read, and I read, and I read.  I stayed there for hours; crying, laughing, crying, laughing.  The man had a wicked sense of humor.  As MzOuiser said as we shared our shock and pain; "He was the funniest MFer" and we both shared our favorite posts of his.  She said she had just reread "Reader Testimonial", or as she likes to call it "Magma Mouth". I responded with "OMG! I just read "Seething Cakes of Hatred".  We laughed together. Just as I'd moved from crying to laughter with Aub hours earlier.  That is the real treasure, and the real pain.  We will have these memories. We will have this blog and his words. But no more will be made. Our great loss.

Once MANY years ago, when I was going through a really rough patch in life, I asked Rocket Man to play substitute "bartender" here at WC2. The sweet man that he is, he took on the task with love and care.  He asked our blog family to take turns writing posts. Every post was loving and comforting.  Every post an outpouring of love like I had never felt before. I think back on the warnings of "stranger danger" from friends and family with good intentions. How much smaller and less loving my world would be without this blog family who have loved me through tragedies and grief.  How blessed I am to have words like Toddy's, and others bestowed upon me.  Not only on this blog, but on his own where he honored me with posting about his new baby niece and me in the same entry.  There will never be a world like the blog world again. To me, that was joy, and caring, and actually being a part of someone's life, though far apart.

I counted.  On my own blog, I have no less than 100 posts that mention him.  Even more right after our actual first face to face meeting for Aub's Birthday at the Coast.  There was so much unmentioned. So much love as I rode with him in "Sven", his white pickup truck, from Portland to Lincoln. Hours and hours of talking about life and love and family. Sitting in the rain listening to Patti Griffin's "Heavenly Day" and both of us with tears rolling down our faces and saying how grateful we were for this moment.  How very grateful I was to Aub for sharing this beautiful, beautiful soul with me.

This grief will change into something less painful. At least for me. I cannot begin to fathom the grief of Aub, of his mother, of his sister, of those who lived in his everyday world.  I can only share in the wonder and the joy of having called that Knight in Shining Armour, that sweet loving spirit, my friend.

I will remember calling the floor of your Portland apartment a roller coaster, and you pushing me around your tiny living room in your wheeled office chair, back and forth, while I read your Amy Sedaris "I Like You" book.  I laughed so hard I got the hiccups.

I like you Hot Toddy.  You will always be my favorite apron-adorned kitchen disaster-slash-carny.

I will remember and treasure, with unending joy, the memory of standing on the cushions of a fireplace hearth with you and Pony in a beach house on the coast of Oregon, and belting out "Popular" from "Wicked" at the tops of our lungs.  Oh how we sang!

I love you Hot Toddy.  You will always be my Glinda.

I promise that you will always live on in my heart, and with my words I hope to honor you.