Family & Friends · Thoughts

My gang

My sister has a group of friends she met when she was a teacher at the same Catholic school she attended as a kid. I think there’s four of them that are each others’ support group. She calls them her posse. I like that. I think it’s great to have a posse.

Me, I have a gang. Not a big gang, mind you, though the name itself would suggest that. No, it’s a small gang; sort of a gang of two. But between us, we’ve weathered births, adoptions, divorce, and heartbreaking death; life at its best and worst; while helping raise each other’s kids. They say it takes a village. My family was my village, but she is my person. She knows my darkest secrets, and I hers. After more than 30 years, I’ve learned that she will caveat to the point where I often just make a quick mental note where she started so I can get her back on track when needed. We’ll run the gamut of raucous laughter to silent sniffles, each of us knowing what the other one needs at any particular time. We will challenge each other, make us face our fears, always offer support and of course unconditional love. We can go for months on end and not talk with each other outside of maybe a text or two saying, ‘Hey, I’m still here, are you?’ And then out of the blue one of us calls the other, and we’re on the phone for hours asking about family and friends, the fun and the not-so-much-fun that’s been going on since we last spoke.

We are pretty much total opposites in many ways; it’s really a wonder we clicked as we did. And while we are the same age, she grew up in a very dysfunctional family of five where all the kids (three boys, two girls) had male names. Alcoholism ran rampant in her clan who all lived within miles of each other. Raised on a farm in mid Michigan in the 60s and 70s, hard work was no stranger to her. While the rest of her siblings stayed close to home, at 18 she left for the dance world and never returned, forever the outcast who dared to choose a different, better life. I was raised in a tight Irish-Catholic clan with 10 siblings, lots of love and laughter, pretty much oblivious to the lifestyles of other families. I had my own struggles growing up; we didn’t have much, and I wasn’t popular in school. It was a strict upbringing that included church, chores, curfews, but lots of love and laughter.

She (given name Dale) was and is athletic. I am not. She has two children through adoption while I gave birth to three (she was there with me for the last one). She is the Diane Keaton to my Annette Benning, good at acting as if all is well when it’s not. We both weathered destructive marriages, and we are now both retired with grandchildren. We live a thousand miles apart, but we also know if one of us were in need, we would be right there for the other. We can agree to disagree on many things with no judgement while we encourage, advise, empathize, and console.

There’s a quote from Grey’s Anatomy where this ‘my person’ idea started, and I think it says it all:

This is life. Bad things happen. You find your people, you find your person, and you lean on them.

Meredith, Grey’s Anatomy

So she is my person. I have other close friends that I love dearly along with many acquaintances, and I try my best to stay in touch, even if it’s just a quick text or email. All our lives are constantly changing. After being alone for 11 years she has found a nice man she enjoys spending time with. She’s in a really good place right now, deservedly so, and I am more than happy for her happiness. I have remarried. I am in a good place as well, though there’s a bit of a ‘limbo’ feel to my days while my 94-year-old mother lives out the rest of her days with us. We are far apart in distance but always close in heart.

I love her. She is my person, my gang.

Moving forward · Randomness

FSBO – yay or nay?

Anyone who has ever sold a home knows how valuable a realtor can be. But is a realtor, even a good one, worth 6 percent or more? Think about it: Say you list and sell your home $250,000. 6 percent of $250,000 is $15,000! Add to that title costs and all the other fees associated with the sale, and we’re talking upwards of $20,000 right off the top!

In the past year we have sold two residences; one, a 2/2 condo, and the other a much sought after 3/2 pool home under $300,000. The condo went with an agent, and arguably, trying to sell amid the COVID crisis was challenging at best. I barely broke even and, after realtor fees and other costs, I limped away with a paltry sum. So when we were ready to list our pool home, we decided to try it ourselves. There are plenty of FSBO sites online, and after much research we settled on Houzeo.com. Beginning in October of 2020, we went through the very clear steps of listing with a Houzeo rep to get our place on the Northeast Florida MLS and immediately, within 24 hours, we had an offer. We were thrilled! After going through the many steps of document signings, appraisals, and inspections, within the required 15 days, they backed out.

It went back on the market and again, two days later, we had a second contract signed. After another round of document signings (thank God for e-sigs), appraisals, and another inspection, we felt pretty good about this deal. And again, 15 days in, their agent called to tell us they never mentioned they needed to sell their house.

Is this where a realtor earns their keep? From what I’ve heard, this isn’t typical for two deals to fall through within a month of each other. Both buyer’s realtors apologized profusely, and both said they’ve never had this happen to them before.

What we discovered during this time was that all of the potential buyers were from north of us. We learned through a couple local agents who brought customers through that they never saw our listing on our local MLS. That wasn’t going to work for us, so we contacted Houzeo and insisted they find us an agent who could list our place locally as well as regionally. And back on the market it went again.

The third time was a charm, a cash deal from someone who never actually saw the house. We got our asking price, plus they paid all the typical seller’s title fees, and their title company even came to our home for the closing. Though this ended up being pretty painless, I wasn’t going to count any chickens prematurely and, feeling a bit gun shy, we didn’t tell anyone about this third contract until after the deal was done.

Would we do it again? Probably. FSBO saved us close to $20,000. And while there was a lot of angst and hours involved, I think it’s definitely worth another try.

I’ll give it a YAY!

Moving forward · Randomness · Us

Kissing frogs (aka Online Dating)

Ohmygod. Where do I start? I guess I start in 2016, unattached, independent, and looking for love in all the wrong places. When you’re past middle age, where the heck do you meet someone of the opposite sex? I’m way beyond the bar scene, even though that scene is quite active here near the beach. But I never settled into a local church, I don’t have school-aged kids, and my hospice job exposed me to mostly women. Most of my friends were either married or didn’t know any eligible men.

Enter online dating. Zoosk, POF (Plenty of Fish), Match, I shudder just to think of them. But truly, at the time and even now, it’s probably the single best way to get yourself out there and start meeting people. I know many, many now married couples who met the same way, and yes, they all have their horror stories, just like me.

It was to my great advantage that I grew up with eight brothers. Men don’t intimidate me even when they’re trying to be intimidating. And so I was able to view the pompous retired Army commander in much the same light as the pitiful Uber driver (“I’m in transportation”) or the starving artist. I discovered there definitely is such a thing as a mid-to-late-life-crisis in men. These are the men who divorced, sold everything they didn’t lose in the fight, and now live on a boat. There were too many of them to count, but I always wished them great luck.

After more than two years of online exposure (not a solid two years; I took breaks of months at a time), I was actually getting pretty savvy about the whole process. I found the fakes quickly by copying and pasting one of their photos into Google Images. Funny how that same great-looking guy is everywhere! And with different names! Or I would copy and paste part of their written profile into a Google search and see it appear on various sites, word for word. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google are all great places to investigate potential dates. Pictures speak a thousand words, but the real-life person can leave you speechless when they look nothing like said pictures. (That’s awkward.) Then there’s the multitude of men who would spend hours talking my ears off and then walk away knowing little to nothing about me.

Probably my most interesting discovery (duh) was that an inordinate number of these men simply wanted sex. Or they wanted to talk about sex. Or they thought if they fed me, they’d get sex. I suppose dinner is cheaper than a hooker, but really? I often felt like I was back in high school in the front seat of the car where some guy is trying to make out. I discovered from one ‘gentleman’ that the price of him helping me replace my thermostat was sex. (I settled on a YouTube video.) I’m not sure who some of these guys think they are, but spending any amount of time with them explained why they were still single.

With MY prince!

I did meet several really nice men; a couple actually became friends. But I think I knew when I met Mr. Right. I can still see his smile as he came out of the beachfront restaurant to greet me, and our good-night kiss is etched in both our minds. Was all that weirdness worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again if I had to? I don’t think so, but who knows? It’s scary putting yourself out there. It takes guts. You have to keep your confidence high and your expectations at least reasonable. But I am thankful every day there are online dating sites at our disposal, because really, there are some pretty great people out there looking for the same things we all are. You just have to kiss a few frogs before you find them.

Moving forward · Randomness

There are no winners here.

I don’t typically engage in political dialogue. There’s nothing to be gained by a conversation expecting to change someone’s thinking. It just rarely, if ever, happens. So I suppose this is as good a place as any to voice my opinion without too much repercussion.

I am a registered Independent. After my favorite president (Reagan) left office and very post 911 – post us all banding together when Americans briefly felt united after the terrorist attack – what was once considered ‘news’ became more and more opinion with both sides telling us what we should think (like them!) and why. Except the ‘whys’ were usually biased and often interjected with fearmongering and speculation. As the years progressed, it only got worse and more vocal, more obvious seemingly to everyone but them.

Now that the election is over (practically), I will finally admit that, after much listening and reading, I cast my vote for the single-most ill-equipped individual to ever grace a podium. I am with you if you believe President Trump, as a person, is a tactless, mouthy, brash and narcissistic human being. If there ever was an antithesis of Ronald Reagan, it is Donald Trump. I often hear, “He’s no politician.” And a truer statement could never be made. But honestly? I think that’s why I voted for him!

I’m sick to DEATH of politicians; the slick-talking, tell-’em-what-they-wanna-hear, say-anything-to-get-elected politicians who, without flinching, play into Americans’ paranoia and fear that they, themselves create, making lame promises of change they assure will happen, all the while knowing THE BIG SECRET: Just get elected, then do whatever the lobbyists paid you to do. As despicable as Mr. Trump is, I truly believe he’s in nobody’s pocket. Who would have him? And I believe he has the best interest of America – not himself – at heart. Who better to head the business of running a country than a successful, smart businessman? Should someone have banned him from Twitter and all social media? You bet. The man’s a social idiot. But he’s the best idiot around for the daunting job of getting this country moving again.

President Joe Biden? Please. I give it a year, maybe a year and a half, and Kamala Harris will be stepping in, pushing her near-socialist agenda with the full support of the leftist media and social platforms. I have nothing against Ms. Harris. As an American, I sincerely hope she is successful running the country. But I pose these questions:

  • After eight years of Barack Obama, why was the African American community no better off than before he took office? I’ve never heard a good answer to that question.
  • If Antifa really was an independent group, why so quiet after the election? Did ‘their guy’ get in?
  • Wasn’t it reverse discrimination that got Ms. Harris her position? Can you imagine the uproar had she been a white woman? (Perhaps Antifa might have been vocal then?)
  • With the COVID-caused unemployment rate hovering around 13%, would you rather have a successful businessman or a lifelong politician in charge of your family’s future?

Frankly, I think President Trump needs to concede this election. Despite very clear instances of voter fraud on so many levels (the most obvious being the dead voters), it’s time to put the election behind us and try to crawl the rest of the way out of 2020. Time will tell in the upcoming months and years whether the elected ticket will fulfill all their promises. But I’ve always been a believer in real-life consequences; you couldn’t ask for a better teacher than the real-life consequences of the choices you make. Coronavirus aside, the voting millennials of today have never suffered through a depression, an energy crisis, vast unemployment, or sky-high mortgage and interest rates. They take what they hear at face value with nothing for comparison in their own lives, and they believe what the biased media tells them. In all honestly, with the COVID-caused unemployment currently, you can bet I’d rather have a businessman in office than a life-long politician in the pockets of self-interest groups.

I just want it over. All of it. COVID, the election, the crazy weather (I live in Florida). No one will come out of 2020 unscathed. Believe me, there are no winners here.

Childhood · Moving forward · Thoughts

In recovery.

I was born and raised in the Catholic church. As Irish Catholics, we were all baptized as infants, received the Sacrament of Holy Communion at seven years of age, and at 13 we acknowledged following Christ with the Sacrament of Confirmation. We attended church regularly. Like an ever-expanding parade, my siblings and I would follow Dad, single-file, to the very front of the church and fill an entire pew. If the girls forgot their chapel veils, my mother would place a Kleenex on our heads. We of course had no idea at the time why we were wearing a veil, but we never thought to question. We dutifully confessed our sins weekly through the Sacrament of Penance and knelt and recited by rote our Hail Marys and our Acts of Contrition. We said our rosaries and table grace with the speed of an auctioneer. Steeped in Catholicism, we never questioned that fact until we left home and were on our own and . . . exposed . . . to outside influences.

I have never doubted my faith and belief in God. (Well, maybe once, in college, but it was very brief.) I have always believed that Jesus is my Savior, that he died for our sins and that he will return in the second coming. I have no fear of death because I believe in heaven and hell and life eternal. I try and treat others the way I would want to be treated. I was married in the Church and raised my three children in the Catholic faith. They briefly attended Catholic school until we could no longer afford the tuition. All three received the same Sacraments I did.

But somewhere along the way I began to be disillusioned with the Church. It seemed the longer I was in the Catholic Church, the more I became aware of the intolerance and insincerity that existed most often in those professing to be staunch Catholics. (That’s actually a term often used. ‘He’s a staunch Catholic.’) I started to see the hypocrisy in so many self-proclaimed Catholics with their righteous morality and unchristian conduct. Some of these people were pillars of the parish involved in the Mass, befriending the clergy. Even the bishop showed the true colors of betrayal, at least in my eyes and certainly many others.

That was the beginning of the end for me. I call myself a recovering Catholic. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic. But I discovered it is more important and meaningful to behave as a Christian than behave as a Catholic. I have a relationship with God that I didn’t have before or perhaps had once a week for an hour on Sunday. I currently don’t attend a formal church setting, nor do I feel the need to. I work in hospice, and I see daily in our caregivers the Christ-like behavior God is seeking. Perhaps when you’re repeatedly exposed to true Christian conduct, the falseness of those who flaunt their Catholicism with hypocritical judgment and behavior becomes glaringly apparent.

Family · Thoughts

Weddings, families, and mantras.

Last year my Goddaughter, was married in a lovely ceremony with lots of family and friends in attendance. This past weekend, another niece was married in what apparently will be forever referred to as a ‘COVID’ or ‘RONA’ wedding. While they were both beautiful events, they each left me a little sad for reasons I won’t go into. Suffice it to say, one of my favorite sayings by David Foster Wallace was certainly brought to mind:

“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.”

My friend Sarah and I love to hash things out about relationships, personalities, and other deep-thinking subjects. For instance, in a particular scenario, I might act or react in an entirely different way than perhaps she would. And in trying to understand someone else’s actions, we have to remind each other, ‘Me … NOT me.’ Meaning, the way I might treat someone isn’t necessarily the way someone else might treat me in the same scenario. It’s actually very helpful when you’re on the receiving end of a situation where you simply cannot comprehend someone’s actions. It removes the burden of trying to understand the motivation behind their decision and simply realize that just because they may believe what they did was right, that doesn’t make it right for you. And that’s okay. It’s not you. It’s them.

That’s where I am with these weddings. I struggled last year, and I struggle again this year because I do not understand the thought process behind certain events. I’ve hashed it out with a few friends and even some family members, and frankly no one ‘gets’ it. And so I struggle finding the high road knowing that’s where I need to be because we are, after all, a polite and friendly bunch. But I will continue to repeat the mantra, ‘Me … NOT me’ until these feelings fade away.

And they will.

Moving forward · Randomness

Unretired.

Kindred Hospice Staff

When I tell people I retired from hospice, the atmosphere changes around us. Things get quiet, more somber, and they invariably say thank you. But it’s not like that. Hospice is the best place I’ve ever worked. You hear, ‘You have to be a special kind of person to work in hospice.’ And when it comes to those doing patient care, I would have to agree. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve seen quality staff members come and go in a matter of months, some of them walking off the job leaving us and their patients high and dry saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’ve seen tears of sorrow and frustration as well as the ‘aha’ moments that make it all worthwhile. The ups and downs of this job in this hurricane-prone area are abundant. I will be the first to admit that not all hospices are created equal, but mine set the bar quite high.

The hospice care team consists of a Medical Director, a registered nurse, a social worker, a spiritual advisor, and a CNA. It is an interdisciplinary team, and they are remarkable. These special people go into patients’ homes, with all the dynamics you can imagine, and they go above and beyond. It’s not easy. Sometimes a patient’s family members are in denial. “Don’t tell my husband you’re with hospice.” Sometimes they are demanding and high maintenance. “I need at least six more packs of wipes!” But sometimes the patient is alone.

I worked in the office coordinating care alongside my Manager of Patient Care, a veritable dynamo in her own right. I learned about a level of compassion and empathy I’d not seen before. I was amazed at the number of staff who had lost a child of their own now working in hospice. I became accustomed to the quirky humor that comes out of nowhere adding a macabre levity to the scene. These people are different, but in a way that slowly and permanently endears you to them in a most profound way, and they would do everything in their power to fulfill a patient’s end-of-life dream.

This job can burn anyone out even if you are that special kind of person. And that’s not taking away from anyone who tried it and chose to work elsewhere. I’ve worked with people who have been with hospice 25, 30 years. To me they’re angels on this earth doing God’s work in an atmosphere where sadness and grief can be the tenor of the day. At any time of day or night, any one of the care team will stand a bedside vigil while someone takes their last breath. There may be family members present with questions to be answered. Or there may be no one, with only our hospice team member there with them so they’re not alone at the end. These people will attend funerals, send cards, and check up on the family in the ensuing days.

So many don’t understand the hospice philosophy: “At the center of hospice is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain free, with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Having hospice doesn’t mean you’re going to die in a week or a month. There are certain criteria to be met before one can even be admitted to hospice care. And you don’t have to be in a hospital or facility. You can be home where you’re most comfortable and the care comes to you. It can go on for many, many months or even years, depending on the case.

If you have a problem, you’re covered. Any issues are covered, and it’s such a relief. It has taken a lot of grief out of our life…Don’t look at hospice as a last-ditch effort; they are there and can help well before the end. ~Larry, Kindred Hospice patient

My manager asked if I would be interested in coming back part-time to help her. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

Randomness

High Flight

I miss it

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
.

By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.