Monday, September 4, 2017

Bringing home Mom

I dreamt about my mother last night. It was vivid, like it was yesterday when I saw her last. It was refreshing, since my memories are less intense, and more sporadic these days. On my way into town this morning, it dawned on me that I should really go pick up my mother’s ashes from my dad’s basement.

When mom died, we displayed an urn with her ashes on the mantle. Each one of my mom’s children received an urn. Friends and family suggested it was morbid that we had one on display. It made them uncomfortable. We removed the urn from the top of the fireplace and put it in a box with my sister’s share of mom’s ashes, before I moved away to college.

They’ve lived in the basement of my father’s house, in a box marked “Fragile Mickie”, for the past 12 years. I know my mother’s spirit is not in that box. But I’ve struggled deciding where to take my mom’s ashes. I thought that time and space from her death would enlighten me. At first I had several ideas. Kauffman Stadium, Longview Lake, Wayside Waifs, plant a tree, take her on a road trip. Nothing really seemed to fit though. None of those things really made up who she was. We didn’t have a home that was special to us, since we moved every few years. I struggled feeling like I didn’t know my mother at all. Who was she if none of those places or things really defined her?

The longer I’ve waited, the more the memories have seemed to fade. Things are no clearer to me now than they were almost 15 years ago. But I woke up this morning with an unwavering feeling; I need to bring mom home.

I called my dad to let him know I’d be stopping by. When I got to my dad’s house, the box was sitting in the living room. There it sat. Fragile Mickie. I lifted the box into the back of my car, and headed toward home.

I changed the radio station at least 100 times in the first 20 minutes of my drive. I imagined having to explain to my mother the state of country music in 2017. I bet she would find it hard to believe that my students several years ago had no idea who Garth Brooks was. Instead they listen to songs about beer, “gettin’ some”, and fluff. Less subtlety.  Not as much heart or soul, no story or lesson to share.  “Kids these days,” she’d say.

I exited the highway and came to a stop. My car rumbled below me. It’s not fancy, but it’s gets us from A to B.  Eric and I paid cash for it after sharing a car for nearly a year. My views on money have changed a lot over the past decade, and I’ve worked hard to avoid unnecessary debt. Eric and I haven’t made a car payment in years, and while it seems minor, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. My mom spent money when she had it (and sometimes when she didn’t), although never on herself. Our Christmases were large. Our friends and neighborhood families were always treated by my mom, whether it was ice cream from Dairy Queen, or a new pet hamster. Giving gifts was one of my mother’s love languages. Everything she left that was hers alone fit in the box in the back of my car. Fragile Mickie.

As I continued my drive, nearing the gravel roads that would ultimately bring me home, I thought about the things I never understood about my mom. Time and experience have helped me understand.  I could never figure out why my mother always seemed so sad. How could someone so brilliant, funny, and bold not be happy? She was dealt many difficult cards throughout her life, but she was so loved and everyone’s best friend. How could she feel alone?

I know now what it is like to feel sad for no reason, to feel overwhelmed by the mundane, and anxious about the future. I fight a constant battle to stay positive and overcome my negative head garbage, and when I’m down, I’m healthy enough to stand up and face the day. I don’t remember my mom ever being healthy. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.

I turned down our gravel road. On our street you have to slow down to let the goats cross the road. Our neighbors wear rhinestones on their jeans and cowboy hats. “Coon”, from two streets over, is the neighborhood watch. He’s been watching these streets for 30 years he tells us. His friends call him, “Coon”. Lisa next door, drops off flowers while we are gone for us to plant in our garden. Kevin and his wife, South of us about a half mile, are quick to share with us the small-town gossip. Carl, two houses up, used to return the toys his dog would steal from our yard, before he was hit by a car. I miss that dog.  The cows get out from up the road and sometimes the horses. Tim hays our fields, and for a dozen eggs, buried a horse on our property when she suddenly died.

This is the exact life my mother talked about me having and the type of people she hoped would take care of me.

I pulled into our driveway and pushed Fragile Mickie through the basement door. When I opened it, there were two urns. I took them out so I could see what else was in the box.
Gawdy bed sheets, six shirts, a pair of jeans, a heating pad, and three candle votives. I let that sink in for a moment. That was it. That was all Fragile Mickie had for me.

I pulled the shirt I remembered her wearing, close to my face. That’s her. Everything in Fragile Mickie smelled like her. Somehow a plastic box had maintained the scent of my mom for the better part of 15 years. I wept into every piece of clothing as I pulled them to my face. Then I folded them nicely and put them back in the box.

I sat looking at the two urns. One, my own. The other belonging to my younger sister, Carmen. I prayed for Carmen in that moment. The past 15 years without Mom to wrangle my sister have been difficult. My dad has done everything he can. I struggled with guilt for many years, not being able to save my sister from herself. I wondered if it’s the one way I have failed my mother. I wondered if she could have made a difference. But God has reminded me time and time again, that love and forgiveness is all I can offer. I learned that first when Mom died.

Fragile Mickie sat below the table full of wedding supplies. Mason jars, burlap runners, and twinkle lights. Everything prepped and ready to make its way to the venue for the biggest day of my life, only two months away. Mom won’t be there. Neither will Fragile Mickie. But the clarity about who Mom was and where Fragile Mickie rests, will be in my heart.

I picked up my urn and took it upstairs to the back deck. I sat it down to pet my pup, Walt, and held him close. My mom would have loved my puppies, and kittens, and chickens, and ducks. She would have begged me to name the bunnies and I would have let her. She would have been so happy for me.

Fragile Mickie is just a box with the physical remnants of my mother. My mother didn’t have a lot of hobbies. She didn’t hold on to jewelry to pass down generations. There was no place she ever talked about visiting time and time again. She left nothing of value for anyone and no instructions on what to do with her ashes. She didn’t care. But the people who loved her stubborn, brilliant, fighting soul miss her always. So did the animals she left behind.

My mom made it to where I always dreamed she’d go, and Fragile Mickie has finally made it where she needs to be.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


As I stood at the counter tonight, cleaning, drying, and divvying up our chicken eggs, I tried to reason with my 10-year-old hound dog.

" many times must I tell you that barking to go outside so you can bark to come inside, is not an appropriate use of our time this evening?"

As I tried to negotiate with my dog, I finished drying the egg in my hand and opened the dishwasher. For a brief moment I thought about where the egg goes in the dishwasher. 

The egg doesn't go in the dishwasher, Katie...

I'm tired, after a restless night of sleep, a full day of work, and all my household chores and projects. Which begs the question, how in the heck do any of you have any time for anything? I'm looking at you, mom of two with another on the way. I'm looking at you, budding business-woman with meetings that run from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. I'm looking at you, full-time teacher, coach, and marathon runner. I'm looking at you, entrepreneur engaged in non-stop business planning. I'm looking at you, full-time farmer, with a family and community to feed. 

Someone please prove to me that you're not all robots with steel hearts, manipulating time in your favor. I know social media is often-times a series of highlights in peoples' lives. I know I'm guilty of this as well. In fact, this weekend I posted pictures of Eric and I fishing with our pup. It was a feel-good moment in my day. I was feeling grateful. I wanted to share. I even posted a new profile picture that probably gave people who don't know me the illusion that I can get my hair to stay curled for more than six minutes at a time AND that I always do my makeup before leaving the house.

These moments were real. These moments were beautiful. But I don't think it makes me any less grateful to say that most moments don't look like this.

I asked Eric today what makes him jealous. What makes me jealous is people who seem to have managed their time so efficiently that they are able to accomplish everything they want in each day. I DON'T UNDERSTAND.  Meanwhile, I'm over here wondering how long I can let this avocado clay mask sit on my face before it starts doing more harm than good. It's supposed to "purge your pores of all dirt and oil". Seems nice.  It said 10 minutes, and even though it's been about 30, I think I'm still okay.   

Anyway, I often feel guilty voicing frustration over my long days. I am living an overly-blessed life, as are most of the people I surround myself with, even if they can't admit it. What gets me...what really irks that this life has me wanting so much out of every day, every second. I think that's when I end up overwhelmed, under-satisfied, and jealous. 

So in the real world, this is what my day and night looked like. 

I slept less than five hours because I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about an event at work over 4 weeks away. But that got me thinking about the next thing and the thing after that and before I knew it, it was time to feed the animals, eat leftover tuna casserole for breakfast, and drive to work. 

Work was fine today, and by fine I mean I didn't cry, yell, or lose my mind. But I didn't leave the office until after six, so I got home after 7 PM.  I also caved to tacos (for the second time this week) instead of a salad. Woe is me.

Eric was working his second job tonight, so when I got home I went through the normal routine of letting Roxxie inside so she could run upstairs to go outside. There she holds our younger pup hostage and both the kidnapper and the hostage become quite hostile if their hangry needs are not addressed ASAP. 

After feeding all the furry animals, I started what I like to call "pretending to do laundry". It's where I take the clothes from the dryer and throw them on the guest bed to be folded at a later date. Maybe tomorrow, maybe a week from now. Then I move the clothes from the washer to the dryer where they tumble and then I pretend for 45 minutes that I'm going to take them out and fold them when the buzzer alarms. I took things a step farther tonight and actually tended to the clothes on the bed. By the time I was done with that, it was time for the farm duties.

I spent approximately 7 minutes searching for one of the two ducks that we currently have roaming our land. I discovered that one chicken was also missing. It wasn't too long before I realized that Gerget (the duck) was downhill in the chicken run, trying to fornicate with Juniper (our mama hen) against her will. Or maybe it wasn't against her will, but either way, the scene was unpleasant and it's not quite safe for the hen. I cut that romp short and then went on my way. 

I cared for the baby chicks and ducks. And by cared for, I mean wiped poop off their waterer with my bare hands because we were out of paper towels in the barn. They're still cute though so it doesn't matter. Then it was time for the scariest part of the farm duties, when I take the bigger tub of chicken food out to feed the chickens.

If you know me, you know I've had to overcome a pretty serious fear of birds. And I wouldn't say I've overcome that fear completely. When you take the can of food out, all the chickens start chasing you. I have to get the food a football field away before I'm attacked and eaten by my own birds. Some days are really touch-and-go. Today, Gerget distracted them by heading back down to the coop for round two. I broke that up again, locked the chickens in their run and worked on the next task. 

Trick the ducks into their pen is a fun game, that has many-times, brought me to tears. No joke. Sometimes those damn ducks are so naughty that they make me cry.  When you desperately want to sit down after a long day, chasing the ducks for 5-30 minutes can seem almost too much to handle. I owned them tonight though and the waddled in, even before dark.

When I came inside at 8:00 PM, I started to clean the eggs that we are going to take to work tomorrow to sell. This is when the negotiations started with Roxxie and our young pup, Walt spent some time going through the "clothes to be donated" bags that I put together last night. He has excellent taste.

I made sure to spend some time thinking about that salad I didn't eat for dinner during this time and contemplating whether or not I should just eat ice-cream since I already had the tacos anyway. These are tough life decisions.

Roxxie stole an egg for dessert while I ripped the Nashville souvenir from Walt's mouth for the third time tonight. Sidenote...I just had to google how to spell souvenir which makes me think that my student loan payment that is equivalent to a mortgage payment, really wasn't worth it. 

I spent so much time during that egg-cleaning session thinking about how I'm going to accomplish everything this week that I want to and also have time to sleep and eat, that I decided I should come write about it. I want to see if being a robot is an option or if everyone else really struggles with adulting. Google is now telling me that "adulting" isn't a word. I've had almost as much as I can handle in one day.

I had to take a break from this blog to go see why Walt was silent. Turns out he ripped up one of our expensive throw pillows that Eric got me for my birthday last year. Then I had to call and tell Eric before he got home so I didn't have to see the disappointment in his face. Bad dog-mom.This is why we can't have nice things. 

Meanwhile, it's now an hour later and I still have this mask on. I'm guessing it's not going to turn back time and make me look 20 instead of 42 like I looked in my most recent photos, but a girl can hope. Eric just texted me and asked me if I wanted anything from Quiktrip. When I told him tea, he replied, "Caffeine? Will that keep you up tonight?" 


Now I need to go e-mail this birthday card to my friend Sara's baby girl. She'll be two in June and I want to make sure she gets this Happy 1st Birthday card before then.