Happy Ed Balls Day! (Krissie)

There’s a reason so many romance writers and readers are Anglophiles.  Yesterday was #Ed Balls Day, an unofficial national holiday in England.  Five ago a luddite British politician accidentally tweeted his own name, Ed Balls, and nothing else, and of course Twitter in England went wild.  People do all sorts of ridiculous things to honor it (Domino’s in the UK had pizza balls with his face on it) and in general have a good time. I do love the British.  http://mashable.com/2016/04/28/ed-balls-day-2016/#YZuYWd4LFiqT

Unfortunately for me, April 28th has another meaning.  It was the day my sister Taffy died, just a few days short of her 65th birthday.  I’d even gotten her an iPod Nano with her name and “happy 65th” on it.  This followed the death of my father at 58, my nephew (Taffy’s son) at 18, my adopted-away niece (Taffy’s other daughter) at 37, and my brother at 40.  This left me with our problematic mother — Taffy and I used to say “don’t you dare die and leave me with her.”  I know Taffy is still chortling that she did.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad day for Taffy — she died peacefully in her sleep, her last act was to smoke a little weed, and she wanted to be reunited with her son.  She didn’t particularly want to die (I kept razzing her about her health) but she always said not to worry because she’d be perfectly happy to be back with him.  She didn’t want to leave her daughter (Mini-me) but she was good with what fate handed her.

My son is still torn up about it, seven years later, because she filled a spot in his life that no one else did.  She also smoked weed with him when he was young, and it’s a good thing I didn’t know about it or she would have died even younger (grrr).  But mostly we’ve simply made room in our hearts for the sadness that always linger (though in our family the dead take up a lot of room).

Every year us few remaining would call each other on the anniversary of deaths and bring flowers and find some way to mark it.  I would find myself getting depressed as the time neared, remembering all the grief. But as the years passed we decided we should celebrate their lives, not their deaths.  In fact, six weeks before Taffy died I brought her flowers on the anniversary of Stuart’s death (her 18 year old son) and she said she was now going to mark


his birthday instead.  (I also told her about falling off the rolling walker I was using in the store and being unable to get up and me crying and the girl behind the counter crying, which in retrospect we both found hysterically funny).

I talked with Mini-me and my son yesterday, and didn’t say anything about the date.  But reading about Ed Balls this morning, it gave me a new attitude.  Life is about the ridiculous.  Life is ridiculous – there’s no rhyme or reason.  There’s actually as much joy as there is pain – my fall in the store ended up being funnier than sad.  It’s all in how you look at things.

So from now on April 28th is not the day I lost my sister.  May 11th is the day she was born (four years before I came along and ruined her life) and April 28th is Ed Balls Day.

So to you and all your loved ones, Happy Ed Balls Day!


Krissie: Downer

Photo on 2013-07-11 at 08.52 Don’t bother to read this, guys. I just need to talk a little.
So it’s the anniversary of my mother’s death. It’s not so much her death that bothers me now — she was almost 98, she lived independently (with my help) and she was facing having to live in some sort of assisted living. She was smart and with it until the end. Whatever my unresolved issues with her were, those have faded (at least, pretty much).
I think it’s more that it was the end of a section of my life. The end of my family of origin (only Mini-me is left). And whether I want it or not, I keep thinking of my life so far, and I think mostly of loss (right now, that is).
As I child I was a fixer. I was the strongest — stronger than my siblings (not so much a stronger will — Taffy could be quite fierce when she wanted her own way) but stronger in holding things together. Much stronger and wiser than my parents, even when I was ten. Seriously. At least in terms of emotional intelligence and common sense. And God knows I tried to hold them together. Tried so hard I started trying to kill myself by the time I was in sixth grade.
I think back to my thirties, and how much I desperately wanted to get pregnant. I think back to my forties and the unceasing row of early deaths.
Even the good times make me mournful because they’re over. (No, not all the good times. Just the ones I’m thinking of).
So I think part of it is turning 65. It’s normal to look back at things, take stock. I keep trying to figure out ways things could have been better, but that’s a waste of time. I can’t change it, so why try to figure out? Things hurt.
One of my favorite lines is from The Long Kiss Goodnight — ‘life is pain — get used to it.’
The mother says that to her six year old. And it’s true. It’s full of joy too — but the pain can drown out the joy. (BTW, writers have a bad habit of remembering only the negative reviews, never the raves).
So I’m reliving the pain and the failure. I could never fix things, never make things better, never get what I needed.
(Mind you, I have Richie, which is far more than most people ever have).
But I feel alone. I’ve always felt alone, always looked for family even when I still had a family of origin. I never found the family I needed, and I couldn’t even make the family I wanted. I couldn’t get pregnant, and when I adopted my babies I screwed them up by being way to accepting and loving and not setting boundaries. I wanted to protect them so much I undermined them.
Can’t change that either. At least, I can’t change the past.
I need to let go of the past, but I think I need to process it. Or do I? It seems as if I make sense of it then I can let go. But maybe there’s no making sense of it.
Anyway, the one thing I can remember doing with my mother, from early on, was shopping. She loved shopping, though she only loved cheap stuff. When she took me shopping we had fun.
So I’m going shopping today. Seeing my shrink and then heading off. (I don’t have rehearsals today). I might cry. (Probably will). Might buy an iPad. No rules. Today is for me.
Tomorrow rehearsals start again, and it’ll be a very busy weekend. I’ll worry about that when I get to it.
Today I do what I want, I get over it and move on as best I can.
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

Krissie: At It Again (All About You)

Photo on 2013-05-27 at 08.28


This is the summer of our discontent. Except it isn’t summer yet. I’ll go into it tomorrow. Instead, today I’ll just wish my darling nephew Stuart a happy birthday. He was born in 1971, and he was the sweetest baby, the sweetest kid. He had a sunny smile, a darling disposition, even though he had to go through a lot of eye surgeries when he was a kid to correct his crossed eyes (there must be a PC term for that nowadays). He was teased in school, but he never let it get him down (he never let much get him down). He went to France and Russia, he broke his hip ski-jumping and pretty much bounced back up again. Oh, he wasn’t perfect. He got a little pompous in his mid to late teens, but he was coming out of it, and God knows it’s hard to find your identity at that age. He was one of those bony, vulnerable little boys you see and either want to hug or weep over. At eighteen he’d learned to fly.
He died when he was eighteen. He’d let a friend with a learner’s permit drive his car, she took a corner too fast and was heading straight for another car. So he grabbed the wheel, they went in the opposite direction, off a bridge, and he had electric windows. He managed to get her out. Even with nearby construction workers and over 50 people trying desperately to help him, they couldn’t get him out in time.
Not to bum everyone out. He lived a rich, gorgeous life in his 18 years, and as someone pointed out to me, he never had to get old. He could be a boy forever.
But you know, he would have been adventurous and happy (and hell, maybe a little pompous) no matter what age he was, no matter what challenges he met. Time passes, it doesn’t necessarily heal things but you learn to live with a hole in your heart. Mine’s getting to be a bit like Swiss cheese.
He was Mini-me’s brother.
My task for the week is to work past the blues that descended on both me and Richie. It comes from a variety of things — a day of snow on Saturday, my son being a first-class prick on his birthday, financial stress, etc. For the first time in a while Richie felt worse than me when we went out for lunch yesterday.
So I need to cheer myself and Richie up. Do I need to take responsibility for Richie? Pretty fucking co-dependent of me. I think the thing is to see what I can do to help him feel better, feel a little more positive, but not go into a decline if I can’t. Even though we’re joined at the hip I have to let go with love if I can’t change it and can’t cure it. Especially because I know I didn’t cause it.
Oh, plus I have revisions to do, and then head down to Albany and back to Jenny’s on Friday, which is a mixed blessing. I just did the drive, but at least Richie did it, and it’s getting to be a long drive.
But I get to spend time with friends in Albany and I get to have time with Jenny where we can do our usual girly things. Plus I miss the advent of Richie’s family, and right now they’re a major problem for me.

So it’s all good. Managing the eating better — I just hope I don’t slip too much as I revise the book.
Oh, and I must Clean All Things. No, actually I must take measured half hours chipping away at stuff, starting with the bedroom, since that’s where I work.

So, what’s on your agenda?

Krissie: Oh God

Literally. I’m going to church. I probably shouldn’t, considering I have a book to finish plus thanksgiving meal to cook, but it’s our minister’s anniversary of his ordination, plus he’s baptising his first grandchild and he’s written a song for her (he’s a musician as well as a minister). And the baby is doubly precious — his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early twenties. And it might even be the first Sunday in Advent — I haven’t looked at a calendar. I haven’t done anything but write.
But I figure if I can’t take an hour and a half off for church then screw it.
I wrote 7k words yesterday, and could have done a lot more if I wasn’t having brain problems. I’m not sure why my mind isn’t working right. I checked my meds and it’s not side effects. I think it’s part of PTSD over all the deaths in the family, including my mother’s. Right now I’m having trouble seeing the big picture, so I’m just writing and writing and hope I can pull it all together in the end, by cutting and slashing. Some people, me included, usually get the first draft pretty close to right. Some people’s first drafts are in scenes and outlines and bits and pieces all over the place. That’s what this one seems to be, but I’m determined not to panic. Once I have all the pieces then I can figure what works and what doesn’t.
So. It’s snowing and blowing, and I’m not allowing myself Christmas until after we have Thanksgiving dinner and after I finish the book. And I’m champing at the bit (chomping at the bit?) because lord knows I am the biggest Christmas slut in the world.
But bird by bird. I need to cook a meal and finish a book. then I can move ahead.
I got an unexpected check in the mail, and I’m putting it to one side. It’s not that big, but it’ll help, and I’m hoping I can use it for a modified Christmas. There’s only the immediate family and Mini-me, so it’ll be pretty easy. Except that I love to give gifts.
One day at a time. My son’s going mad from bug bites — there are fleas in his room (not in other parts of the house) and he’s always been terribly allergic to bites. Plus he’s still getting hives from the sulfa drug they gave him three weeks ago (and he promptly stopped taking).
Anyone know of a) a treatment for hives and b) a healthy way to get rid of fleas. We’ve dosed the cats, we have the magic clicky things in the outlets, which help with ants and stuff. His room gets very very hot, and I think that’s why he has the problem.
Ah, I know. We could take up the carpet (we put it down ourselves, we can take it up.

Any other ideas?

Krissie: Sometimes Life Sucks

That’s my scared look. With good reason. Life has gone sideways. Is it the Mayans? The stars? What the hell is happening?

I miss my mother. I felt trapped by her. As I mentioned before, I had good reason not to feel terribly tender thoughts for her, and yet I took exquisite, loving care of her. Never realizing that I actually loved her after all. And now I miss her. I keep thinking I need to call her, or that she’s coming over for dinner, or that I need to ask her something. Who would have thought it?

Mini-me never had to deal with my mother’s craziness. Don’t think she ever saw it, which was one good thing. She had wonderful times with her: together they traveled England and Europe twice, once when she was sixteen and then when she was in her late twenties. That was one good thing about her not getting back to see my mother before she died. My mother was once more out of control, and it was good Mini-me didn’t have to see it.

Mini-me lost the brother she’d grown up with when she was 20. He drowned when his car went into the Delaware Canal. She lost her darling Uncle Dougal (only good uncle she had) about a week after her engagement party. She lost her adopted-away half sister, Jill, right before her birthday a couple of years later. For many many years her birthday was forever associated with the death of a sister she had just found.

But Mini-me is an extraordinary creature. She survives. She adapts. She moved to England, went to school (with Damien Lewis and Joseph Fiennes) and got her degree in stage managing. She toured England with operas and musicals. She married a lighting designer over there, got burned out (not by her husband ;> ) and went to work for Virgin Atlantic, which was great, taking my daughter and me to Tokyo, England and Venice. Then, when her husband got burned out they left England and moved to Lake Tahoe to become ski instructors, because, as she said, she could be happy anywhere and that was what put the light back in her husband’s eyes. Really, she’s an extraordinary person.
So after all that sorrow, all that adaptability, what happens? Her mother dies when she’s only 64. Leaving her with not just terrible grief, but the biggest physical and financial mess you can imagine.
As icing on the cake, just as Mini-me felt like she could get her birthday back after years of associating it with her sister’s death. So in honor of this totally shitty year, in which she lost her beloved grandmother, her father-in-law, dying slowly and painfully of bladder cancer, dies on the morning of her birthday.

I told her she should do what I did when my sister died a week before my birthday. Just stop celebrating it for a while. And therefore, don’t age that year. By those standards I’m in my late fifties (except then it comes to Medicare, which I will embrace with passionate enthusiasm).

So Mini-me, after three cross-country trips to VT this summer, now has to make her second trip to England with her husband tomorrow. She’ll go to Peter’s service on Friday, then fly out and arrive in NJ to go to her grandmother’s service, most of which she arranged and even paid for the catering, bless her heart. Hours after the reception is done she’ll get on a plane and fly back to Reno, then get a ride back to Tahoe, where she’ll immediately go back to work while her husband is behind in England for two weeks.

And she’ll be cheery, upbeat, and serene. She really does live the serenity prayer, pretty much always have. She was just born with it, she’s extraordinary, and I love her to pieces.

I can’t spare her the shit she’s going through. I hate that after all her expenses she then paid for the catering, and I wish to god I could have helped, but the little bit my mother left isn’t going to cover that as well as the minister, organist, etc.

Crusie’s not having a walk in the park, either. She spent a fortune on glasses and none of them work — she’s better off with over-the-counter reading glasses. Not a tragedy, but just one more kick in the ass. She just keeps getting slapped upside the head. Someone go out there and distract whatever vengeful god has her in his sights. Just wave wildly and then duck for cover. If enough of us do that They won’t find her.

As for me, I soldier on. I baked yesterday, put Autumn-y runners on furniture, plus fake foliage in pitchers for a splash of color. Then I went through a new box of photos and ached inside. But that’s to be considered and dealt with later…

In the meantime, we’ll all get through this year as best we can. But spare a thought for Mini-me. She may seem invulnerable, but I think she’s had enough shit thrown at her for a lifetime.

Krissie: Mea Culpa

All right, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. What the hell did I say yesterday? That one has a choice between mild depression and being happy?
Not so fucking fast, Krissie. What an arrogant thing to say. Sure, why don’t I tell Kieran that while she’s struggling to finish a book and then gets blindsided by a young, tragic death?
Why don’t I say that to someone who’s trapped in a lousy marriage and doesn’t know how to get out, caught in a dead end job with no sign of hope? Why don’t I say that to someone so anxious about money and a job that they’re paralyzed?
Yes, you have a choice. Sometimes. Sometimes you can fight off the blues, do what you can to break yourself out of it. Go out in the sunshine, do little rituals to release grief or sorrow or anxiety (the physical balloon thing, or you can do it mentally, putting whatever is making you feel awful in a little imagined box and sending it skyward to whatever higher power you believe in, you can take a trank to help with the anxiety (as long as you don’t do that too often) or you can go for a walk).
But the danger is in thinking that if you still feel bad, you’ve somehow failed.
My HP (that’s Higher Power, not Harry Potter, though you know, Harry Potter makes a fairly decent higher power) decided to slap me upside the head with the Salmon of Correction.
First, I tried to attack the overwhelming mess of the living room. Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s what it looks like:
So I started trying to go through stuff, empty stuff, then went in and did the dishes (Richie’s done them all for the last month or so), then Richie came in with the bills and the confusion with Chase over college loans still hasn’t been cleared up, and Richie said that was why our credit limits on our Chase cards had been dropped (which makes sense). And I immediately felt anxious and hopeless (there’s no place to put all this stuff, there’s no way to fix the money situation) and I snapped at Richie.
Then, feeling remorseful, I went out to apologize and talk to him about how bad I felt. (He’s always in the garage trying to organize for the yard sale). so we talked and I cried and then I started looking in some of the tubs I needed to go through and found a picture of my mother and a shawl she loved and I just fell apart. And the day didn’t improve.
I decided to go over to the lake and curl up on the porch and read the new Loretta Chase, and I think I’ll do that again today. I’m so weary of going through boxes and reading letters that hurt and not having places for things to go. And I don’t understand why I miss my mother when she was such a pain and why I get such weepy days.
But you know, for all this seize the day and be glad in it, sometimes it’s a waste of time to fight it. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to feel weepy, be gentle with yourself, curl up with Loretta Chase or Sherry Thomas (we’ll assume we’ve read all Crusie and Rich/March and Stuart isn’t usually cheering).
So, anyway, my apologies to anyone who felt guilty that they couldn’t seize the day. We can always try, but sometimes the universe has other ideas, and it decided to teach me a lesson yesterday.

Krissie: Another Funeral, Another Show

Seriously. There was a benefit dinner and show last night for GAAR (the Greensboro Arts Alliance & Registry) and it was utterly fabulous. We had David and CJ, Charlie and an astonishingly talented young woman from the area play Shakespeare’s lovers, and it was funny, riveting, romantic. I’d forgotten just how much I loved Shakespeare. I’d also forgotten that back in my youth I memorized both “To Be Or Not To Be” and the entire balcony scene from “Romeo and Juliet.” Ah, youth.
There was one troublesome thing about it, though.
Charlie is 24 years old, the son of the director of GAAR, and he’s darling. He was the assistant stage manager in TSOM, as well as the priest and a a Nazi, he was on Broadway by the time he was seven, and he was the one who chose the selections and acted in half of them. He was brilliant. He went from Romeo to Richard the Third to Lysander, all of them funny and sly and charming (yes, even Shakespeare’s evil Richard had a certain reptilian charm).(And guess who I found the hottest? How well do you know me?)
Anyway, Charlie’s going to be a doctor. He wants a normal life, a wife and children, he’ll probably do family practice or pediatrics (not going for mega-bucks). He’s level-headed and sweet and hard-working.
But his gift! (She wails). Not for me to judge — I’m sure he’ll find his balance in the long-run. Having grown up in the business, he has a more jaundiced view of what life in the theater involves. He’s wise for his age (well, wise for any age), and he’ll make the right choices for him. It’s just that he was sooo good, and the thought of him throwing that away …
He’s not throwing it away. He’ll be saving lives. Except, of course, I believe that art has the ability to save lives. Gotta hope and believe it’ll work out as it should.

And then, for the third week in a row we have a funeral. Three weeks ago we buried my mother. Last week it was Uncle Walter. Today it’s Francy, a sweet, sweet woman who was a dear friend of both Richie’s Aunt Alice and my Aunt Emilie. She had a long, valiant fight with cancer, and was lucky enough to be able to make it up here to spend her last weeks, and after a lot of pain she went quickly and peacefully.
But I’m just not sure I can face another funeral. At least this one is in the church, not at the graveside. But in a way that might be even worse — since I didn’t have a church service it might just let the floodgates loose.
It’s about 70 degrees with a breeze and a clear blue sky. I want to be outdoors. So that’s what I’ll do.
Self-care. My god, isn’t that a major part of Reinventing one’s Fabulousness? And how often do I do it? Not very.
Another sign that this is really working.