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A Museing

I’ve recently been sidetracked by many things going on in my life. Actually, maybe my life went exactly where it was supposed to but I wasn’t expecting it? Regardless, the purpose of my blog has sort of blurred from a cry for help to suburbia, to a cry for help in suburbia. Lately I’ve wondered I can get things together again to keep this blog where it needs to be? Where is my muse?  I realized today all I needed to do was look out my front window.

I was sitting on my couch this morning, tackling my mountain of bills, when I heard the most horrible rumbling outside my front window. I looked outside to see what in God’s green earth was going on at an hour where the sun was barely awake yet. There was my neighbor, doing something that has been quietly irking me for the past few months.

On our street, like most places where people throw out garbage, every house has one huge garbage can called a “tote.”  These cans are so big you could easily squash down six big bags of garbage and have plenty of room for a crate of rotten onions and two bike tires (Note: we also recycle here). Each house puts their can out in front of their house early in the morning on garbage day, or late the night before, along with items for recycling, and anything else they want to get rid of labeled with a “free” sign. This is a good way to find ugly sofa art, racks  that are missing crucial bolts and odd toilet parts.

Anyway, my next door neighbors are new to the area – here less than a year. I like to think of them as the “newlyweds” in the grizzled marriage of suburban life. Perhaps they aren’t used to the idea of following societal norms, but for some reason they don’t put their extra-large tote in front of their house. Instead they park it at the end of the strip of property on my side of his driveway. Seems petty, sure. But it is very irritating. This is a problem because our front yard is so tiny that whenever you look out in a front facing window on garbage day all you can see is his extra-large green tote in front of our house. Perhaps I’ve gotten a little territorial, but what the heck? Maybe we should move our can down to the last square inch of our yard next to that strip? It just seems awkward and out-of-place. I feel crowded and suffocated by the mysterious rubbish within. Is it too hideous for him to have in front of his house? Is he embarrassed that he’s overfilled his can….again? Maybe I need to send him a note to address the issue. Or take it up with the Homeowners Association. It’s the little things like that make the subdivision walls close in even more.

There! I did it. And, I’m feeling better. Complaining like this about my street somehow seems to put a smile back on my heart! Wait….I feel more complaints surfacing. The flood gates are opening. But, they’ll have to wait for next time. For now I have to keep a watchful eye on any infringing totes from cul-de-sac greenhorns. Fortunately this is easily done at any time….either by daylight sun, or night time glow from the Walmart parking lot behind our house.


Killed by the Sandwich

I’m among a generation of other people caught up in the middle of caring for children and parents simultaneously. This generation has become known as “The Sandwich Generation.” Much like those pieces of turkey and cheese, I am being squashed by those two pieces of bread.

It seems like things were easier long ago, when families lived closer to each other in the same towns. Back in the day you would have the support of cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, which greatly helped relieve the stresses of people who were taking care of multiple loved ones. Long ago it seemed like neighbors cared more for each other, and communities and families supported each other and were willing to pitch in when times were rough.

My elderly mother’s recent stroke really highlighted the fact that I am all alone in her care. My siblings live in other cities and states. A phone call once a week from them to me or my mother doesn’t do much in the way of relieving the stresses my mother and I both encounter while trying to make sure she is safe, happy and living her golden years in the most fulfilling way possible. Living with the stress and fear that her health and well-being is all on my shoulders alone makes me terrified.

Finding the services and support to care for our elderly in a way that they can stay independent in their homes is an area that is severely lacking in our society. I recently learned that assisted living facilities begin at $2,500 a month. And they don’t take insurance, so this is needed in cash. Some places make you prove your finances ahead of time to show you can pay for two years worth of this cost before they will even consider admitting the elderly person. Medicare facilities, which would pay that cost for the elderly person, are few and far between. And I’m sure the waiting list is incredibly long.

It makes me outraged that the fate of every person will end this way….you work until you retire – if you can afford to do so. Then, you use up the rest of your money living as modestly as you can, and when there is nothing left then you go on Medicare – and hope you can get into a facility that is a decent enough place to live out the rest of your years. It is a sad state of affairs that our golden years ahead may not be so golden after all.

In addition to caring for my mom, I am also raising young kids. They are still at the age where they need me to be there for them for just about everything. And of course I give 150% of myself to them, because I love them and because I am their mother. They do not know how thinly stretched I am also trying to also take care of their grandmother, as well. My elderly mother knows I am her only family member in the area, and she knows I would do as much as I can for her also. But these two forces are pulling in opposite directions making me feel stretched to my limits in the middle.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle of trying to do it all for every family member.  It seems like there are a million silent Generation X’er’s in this same situation. So, where can the Sandwich Generation go for support? We are all quietly struggling to hold our families as close as possible for as long as possible. Considering how many of us there are out here, I’m really surprised this hasn’t received more coverage in the media.

It must be the nurse in me, but I really think there needs to be a way to unite the Sandwich Generation. If our communities and families can’t give us the support we need, perhaps we can give this support to each other. It is amazing how wonderful it can feel just knowing that someone else is out there to listen, support or offer advice or wisdom to you from their own experiences.

A Haiku For You

A Haiku For You

In the cul-de-sac
I sit alone and wonder
Where did I go wrong?
                                    – Fortyteen Candles

You Know The Neighbors I’m Talking About, Volume Three: The Holier Than Thou

ho·li·er-thanthou (h l – r- n- ou ). adj. Exhibiting an attitude of superior virtue; self-righteously pious. Thank you

I was actually afraid to bring up this neighbor-type. Although the Holier Than Thou neighbor has nothing to do with religion, I was afraid of being blasphemous. How dare I speak against the ways of those who think they are perfect? Once I realized I was only displaying the typical behavior of a non-perfect person, I knew it was okay to proceed with my writing.

We all know the self-righteous neighbors are out there in the neighborhood. Quiet as they may be, the goodness they radiate can be felt through a heat shield. Perhaps they snip their shrubbery with some extra-knowing vigor. Or perhaps they paint their garage with the most divine color of paint from the most virtuous of paint manufacturers. They might even be able to talk to animals. Or, at least this is what they would have you believe.

The Holier Than Thou neighbor can be an inherently good person. Sometimes that doesn’t seem to be the case. However, this self-appointed neighborhood role model prides themself on being a living example of all that you, and the rest of the mortals you share a mail route with, are not.

The Holier Than Thou neighbor lives a life as perfect as their landscaping. Their cars are spotless. They will use a leaf blower to remove debris from their driveway that is invisible to the human eye. They spend their Saturdays vacuuming their front sidewalks, dusting their mailboxes and installing nets over their gutters. There seems to be no end to the many things they will accomplish before your bleary, weary eyes. And to think YOU believe you’ve accomplished a great deal by collecting the mail from your mailbox every few days. In that time span they’ve added a new room on to the back of their house, bought and sold several ride-on lawn mowers and have created a sanctuary for the rare Yum Yum Tree in their backyard – which was also featured on the local news.

The Holier Than Thou neighbor also happens to know everything that goes on well-ahead of everyone else. “The tornado should be tearing up the next block over by mid-afternoon.” They know of every event going on at anyone else’s home in the county, “Today is Uncle Bob and Aunt Sally from Clowterville’s 65th wedding anniversary! I hope everyone remembered to call them with congratulations.”

You are uncomfortable by all this fact-knowing. You are instead worried because your kids left the upstairs windows open and your cats might walk out onto your roof because there are no screens in them since they popped out a year ago. The Holier Than Thou neighbor senses your distraction and quietly reminds himself that you are not perfect like he is.

Warning: Do not try to one up them on anything. You’re going to the dentist? They’ve never had a cavity. You’ve recently been on a road trip? They just drove back from Scotland. You like ice cream? Their great, great, great-grandfather invented it. A fan of country music? Willie Nelson lives next door to their uncle. You think your minivan is hot? Theirs is the special NASA edition in which they Skype astronauts up in the space station every night after dinner. Little wonder indeed why it is so much easier for you to stay inside in your comfy pajamas watching your mail pile up, instead of risking a winless battle of the comparisons.

In the rare instance anything should not go perfectly for the Holier Than Thou neighbor, they have (drumroll, please….) PERFECT excuses that make you ashamed for even asking about them. Of course their car leaks oil, they are collecting samples for research at a local university. The twig in their yard was purposely left for the young bluebird family to use to build their first nest of the season. “The bluebirds are also newlyweds, but I’m sure you knew that and sent a card,” they will tell you with a great deal of sincerity.

You look down and see that you are still in your pajamas and wonder why you are outdoors before noon. Perhaps you are on your way to Hallmark. It is more likely you are on your way to the lumber yard to buy a twelve-foot tall privacy fence so you can sit on your front porch in your pajamas drinking day old coffee in peace. But you’ll probably have company.  It is more than likely the bluebird newlyweds would rather live in the privacy of your well-fenced yard than cope one more second with the relentless pressure they felt at your neighbor’s to use only the most virtuous twigs for their nest.

You Know the Neighbors I’m Talking About, Volume Two: The Profilers

After being overwhelmed for the past decade by my “sabbatical into suburbia,” and after many false starts in trying to write down my experiences in the field, I finally broke down a few days ago and started a series of essays dedicated to the curious people I live near known as “neighbors.” After writing my first essay a few days ago, dedicated to “The Social Climbers,” I’ve been overwhelmed at who to examine next. Really, at the speed of a cautious minivan full of kids, the different categories of neighbor-type carefully drove by my brain until I could take it no more. So here is my second installment of the series. Perhaps you may even know this/these neighbor(s). I know one or two of them. I call them “The Profilers.”

Now in this day of intense police television drama, the term “profiler” takes on an exciting new meaning. It is not the meaning I’m referring to here in my bland cul-de-sac. When I say “profiler” I literally mean that this is the only part of the face you will ever see on these neighbors. For reasons unknown, as soon as The Profiler spies you out of the corner of their eye they turn away and pretend they have no idea you are standing next to them.  Now I must emphasize that not all neighbors are a Profiler.  There are many different crayons in the box. Even I am a crayon in this box.

The Profilers are a neighbor that took me a while to recognize. At first you wave hello, or look in their direction to catch their eye, but they are always too busy to notice or slow down to return your “hello.” You think, well they have a lot of children running around or must be on their way to an important business meeting. I’ll say “hello” next time. But the next time it’s the same, this time they’re juggling groceries, on the cell phone or dashing into the house like they are improperly digesting a rich and spicy lunch. “Next time,” you say. But the next time you see them they’re with some other Profilers. This time they are in deep discussion in their front yard about who knows what. Something flashes and you’re hopes are elevated, “Was that a wave?” As you return the gesture you notice by the grimace and shrieks from The Profilers that they are actually swatting at a bee that has decided to attack them. “Good Bee,” you think.

Slowly it begins to sink in that The Profilers want nothing to do with anyone other than their select group of Profilers. You start to wonder, “What would happen if we were trapped in an elevator together? Would they speak to me then?” Seems that as long as a cell phone was handy the answer would be “no.” Maybe it’s for the best.

Here is a true story. One of the worst Profilers in my neighborhood and I were in an interesting social situation a few years ago that should have rightly resulted in an exchanged hello. I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store when I recognized the back of the head directly in front of me. I knew that back of the head! It lived across the street from me. As this person turned around and faced me I realized I’d never seen their full-face before. I seriously was looking at a stranger. We locked eyes, and I knew she knew who I was because I’m not a Profiler. As soon as she saw me, and in textbook Profiler haste, she said not a word, about-faced and continued unloading her cart. Never to turn around again. True story! It really is quite funny.

So, why are The Profilers so exclusive? I can only make guesses. I’ve never spoken to The Profilers directly in more than two or three word hurried and awkward sentences at a time.  These exchanges are at the mailbox or bus stop. Here is the exchange after nearly a decade: “Hi! How are you?” Neither of us sticks around to hear the other’s answer.  I’ve come to accept it.

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