Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Tale of the Christmas Cookies, or, Anything You Can Do I Used To Do Better

Ah, Christmas.

It's my favorite time of year. No, really. As a Christmas baby (Dec. 22nd), Christmas is my middle name (Kimberly
Noel). And nothing warms my heart more than combining my two great loves - Christmas and baking. Hence, Christmas cookies. I tend to bake twelve or so dozen of them, sticking to a basic three (cut-outs, chocolate chip, and raspberry turnovers) and then picking a few interesting things for variety. This year it was rugelach pinwheels, flourless chocolate walnut, and Linzer cookies. I take this seriously. I start preparations weeks in advance, and bake with the mental focus of a professional chess player.

Granny used to bake. Used To. And she won't let me forget it. And I am a captive prisoner to her baking stories while I use her kitchen to make cookies.

Did you hear the one about how, when my Aunt Rose moved to California something like twenty-seven years ago, my grandmother baked some kind of Italian chocolate-grape jelly concoction and sent them to her? Like three hundred of them? You didn't hear that one? Because I have. Ten times.

Did you hear the one about Minnie down the street, you know Minnie, her husband still has the diarrhea, how she bakes all those Italian cookies? No?

How Granny always carried her cookies in a specific basket when taking them anywhere? And I should really use it, since she still has it? Haven't heard that one?

And how they used to have tasting parties at Home Bureau, and there were like sixty ladies there, but no more because the fire department wouldn't let any more in the building?

My professional chess player concentration is faltering. AND THAT WAS HER EVIL PLAN ALL ALONG.

Because you see, she can't stand that I can do it and she can't. And that I don't do it exactly like she did. Nevermind that there is a fifty-five year age difference between us. This is a competition folks, one I never asked to be in. Granny is the very definition of frenemy.

Eventually she will take a different tack. "Why are you baking all those cookies?" she will ask in a stricken voice. "Who's going to eat them?" She will do the same thing on the morning of Christmas Eve, when I make a broccoli casserole. "Who's going tho eat that?" she just about screams at me. Now, I can assure you that my family has never thrown away a Christmas cookie or leftovers, so, again, the competitor is back.

But the funniest part is this: She won't eat the cookies, even though she desperately wants to eat the cookies. Now if Minnie down the street (George still has the diarrhea, BTW) brings her a plate of cookies, I never hear the end of it, about how incredibly tasty they were. For days, hundreds of cookies resided in her kitchen, untouched. I took them to my mother's for Christmas Eve. When my Aunt El showed up with my grandmother, she pulled me aside and said "She was panicked over what happened to the cookies".

"Well, they're all here..."

"I know. She brought her own container to take some back home in."

I Don't Want To Get Old and Afraid

Ask anyone how long they want to live and how they want to die and most will give you the same answer. "Until I'm 100 and I want to die at home". I think these people had grandparents that dropped dead at 40 or so, because if you see what 91 looks like up close I think you would reconsider. Oh sure, you always get that 95 year old on the news who just swam the English Channel, but that's the big exception to the rule. Just this Sunday, the New York Times outlined how most elderly and some terminally ill people die - hooked up to Lorazepam, sedated to the gills, unaware of the fact that they're not dying at home and immune to their loved ones' goodbyes. Everyone assumes that dementia, Alzheimer's, emphysema, cancer and adult diapers will happen to someone else.

Granny has undergone a precipitous physical decline in the last two months. In October, she was getting around the house just fine, if slowly. Then the cane came out. Now its the walker, and it's all the time. She still insists on doing what she thinks she can do for herself, like still getting down into the cellar to do her laundry, but she really shouldn't
have to be doing these things anymore. Last week Monday, I came home to find her attempting to make soup. She said to me, "I couldn't carry the soup" which I guess was her way of saying "I dropped the soup". She has lost the strength in her hands, and last week her sister had to put the sheets on her bed for her. She can not go to bed without taking copious amounts of Tylenol to dull her aches. Because of the loud ass walker (and my constant state of night-owlishness), I know just how many times a night she gets up to use the bathroom. Tying a garbage bag closed is becoming a production.

She can no longer even walk to the mailbox to get her mail or Sunday newspaper, nor can she really make it around a supermarket anymore. Which means she no longer really leaves the house. My aunt got her to my parent's house for Christmas Eve, but she couldn't really stay long. Then she yelled at me for buying her Christmas presents. And "making all those cookies". But that's a story for another post.

The physical decline is sad, but even sadder to me is the near constant state of fear and worry she lives in. This is a woman who lived through the Great Depression, World War II, raised five kids (two of which weren't technically hers), and yet she could beat Woody Allen in a game of neuroses. For instance, once it gets dark outside she wants to have the house all locked up for the night. Now that works in July, but in December it gets dark so early, so, ya know, I might still need to get into the garage for something after 4:15 pm. And that drives her

Here is a partial list of things Granny fears or worries about:
The placement and amount of the garbage can and "recycles", when it gets picked up and who will bring the can back to the house. That I might get run over/kidnapped/shot in a drive-by by random thugs when taking the garbage to the curb or getting the mail. That I may drop dead of a heart attack/stroke while shoveling snow. The amount of snow in the driveway despite it getting plowed and whether or not my car will get through it. Where I am when I am not in the house, and when I am coming home. That those damn kids will trash her new mailbox/steal her mail/steal her newspaper while walking to or from the high school down the block. That I am not using the proper rolling technique while making Christmas cookies. That I will drop or ruin said cookies or desserts while transporting them because I do not transport them like she used to. That I am not putting enough of something in the hamburgers. That the house is too cold. That the house is too hot. That the guy ringing the doorbell the other night at 7:15 was here to murder us (it was UPS).

Though I am not her caretaker, she has become spoiled by the fact that I have been unemployed since June and am usually home. But come the new year I really have to find a new job, and hopefully an apartment of my own. Who will get her mail? Her newspaper? Take her garbage out? Find her if she falls down the stairs?

I think I wanna check out at 70 or 75. That seems like a nice round number.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Groceries Again

First of all, I apologize for the lack of posts lately, things have not been all that calm on the homefront.

Secondly, she's at it with the groceries again.

Granny really can't be taken to the grocery store anymore. She really can't walk or stand for any length of time, and her recent bladder control issues make anyone unwilling to put her in their car. So she depends on the family to fetch her groceries for her.

The problem is this...she waits until she is completely out of food to inform any of us that she has no food. In short, I think she likes creating emergencies so that someone, anyone, has to rush around to do her bidding.

Now I live here, but I don't really feel it is my place to keep a tab on her food consumption. She is an adult and still in her right mind (theoretically), and to do something like that is akin to infantalizing her, in my mind at least. However, if she continues to insist acting like a child, we're going to have to start treating her like one.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

Making sure the top of the window was totally closed this afternoon...they have a tendency to fall when you open the bottom. Pushed on it a bit and... CRACK!

The house is very slowly falling down.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

To All My Haters. All One Of You.

I was reminded recently, by someone out of my past, that I used to be a better person. This is most likely true. Weren't we all? I was thinking over the weekend that I'm becoming a mixture of Larry David, Frances McDormand's character in Friends With Money (rent it), and Liz Lemon when she bought all the hot dogs out of spite after some guy cut the line in front of her at the cart. So, no I'm not perfect. I have been a good daughter and a bad friend. I've been the best girlfriend in the world and a total bitch. I've been the life of the party and the sucking black hole that's killing the room.

I must be good at this though, because even my haters still read my blog.

Call me any name in the book, but please do not take joy in my misfortune, no matter how much you may dislike me or my actions. I'm not Hitler for eff's sake. I don't go around trolling on your blog.
It's not that my feelings are hurt, it's just that you have NO CLASS.
If it wasn't my dog that had died, but my father, would you have said "what goes around comes around"? If I had been badly hurt or killed in one of those car accidents (and I got hit hard, the rental was totaled), would you show up at my funeral to tell my parents "Good riddance"? Done a jig at my hospital bedside?

No class. None.

Any future anonymous troll comments will be trashed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Drop The Puck

Hockey season started a few days ago, bringing with it Buffalo's renewed, neverending, useless hope for Lord Stanley's Cup.
Two years ago I returned from a late work meeting to the sound of a Sabres game turned up to ear splitting volume. That's odd, I thought, because Granny rarely watches television, and when she does she usually sets it on mute so she can read the captions. This is it, she's gonna be dead in the middle of the living room floor, having breathed her last to the sounds of ice skates.

But no, there she was, standing less than a foot from the television, fervently praying her rosary.

The Sabres won that night.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cooking Vicariously

One of the hardest things about living with Granny is that the kitchen is not really "mine". I love to cook and bake, and I hate having people hover over me when I do so. Granny is bored, and likes things done her way, so when I try to cook I get, "Do you need a pan? I have this pan. Do you need salt? The salt is over there." She has set aside a small amount of space in the kitchen for some of my cooking stuff, but it's nowhere near enough - there are boxes and boxes of kitchen things in the cellar. So when I cook, I'm going up and down two flights of stairs, unless I super organize ahead of time.
She just bought a new refrigerator which ended up being smaller than the last, so God forbid I take up too much room. Not that I want to keep tons of stuff in there, as she'll just end up washing it all again. (P.S. If I live to 91, God forbid, I'm blowing all my money on expensive appliances. Stainless steel, French door refrigerators, Viking ranges, front loading washer dryers with nano-steam technology, one of those dishwashers that will wash a plate even if it has an entire piece of cake on it...)
Anyhoo, yesterday I bought a bookcase for my cookbooks, which is already nearly full. And I didn't even include what we referred to at the bookstore as "food narratives", books of people writing about cooking. I guess I'm cooking vicariously through my books for now.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And Then...

I got rear ended driving my loaner Friday afternoon.

I am beyond being upset or angry. I'm about 80% to sheer catatonia.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Worst. Day. Ever.

It all started with the television. I had been willing it to off itself last November, so I could take advantage of the Black Friday specials on flat screens, but no, it waited until I had been unemployed for three and a half months to go. So I spent $400 of money I don't actually have, but man, does Food Network look glorious in HD.
That was Monday.

One a.m. Wednesday, and Chloe breathed her last. Chloe was my ex's dog, who for the length of our relationship I considered ours, and well, never really stopped considering ours even though we were living apart. She was eleven and had been suffering from diabetes for two years, and for the last two weeks she had been on a steady decline, which is also why I have not posted anything. Still, we are heartbroken.

Can it get worse? Yep.

Aunt Maisy decided to take Granny for lunch Wednesday afternoon. I didn't hear her come, since it's hard to hear anything over the roar of the Thruway, and when I went to get the mail, I locked the front doors behind me, as she would normally do. Well, it turns out she doesn't have a key to the screen door (as I do), and when they came back, couldn't open it. I was upstairs listening to really loud music with my headphones, so I didn't hear them pounding on the door.
Oh, it gets better.
Maisy ended up dropping Granny off at my Aunt Rose's, about a mile and a half away. My mother called and said I had to go pick her up.
Now I never usually park in Rose's driveway, as there is an electrical pole literally a half an inch away from it, and virtually everyone in the family has hit the damn thing when pulling in or out. But I didn't want Granny to have to walk across the street, so I pulled in, thought to myself, "I really need to be careful with that pole" and went inside to get her.
You see where this is going right?
Yeah, I hit the pole, turning while backing out. Peeled off the entire front end of the Mini.

And this is the point where I really LOST MY SHIT. Because, you see, there are two things I absolutely, unhesitatingly love in my life...my dog and my car. The dog was dead and the car lay in ruins. I can't have anything nice, can I?

It's amazing really, when bad things pile on, how sympathetic total strangers can be. When I called State Farm, I burst into tears to the poor guy on the other end. He was very kind, told me how he had lost his dog two months ago, and when things like this happen, he puts on a funny movie to try and take his mind off of things. When I dropped the Mini off at the repair shop, the kid working the counter for the loaner cars asked me what had happened. I said, "OK, let me tell you about the worst day of my life." He said, "Jeez, it really piled on there didn't it?" Then when taking my info, he asked for my current employer. I told him I was unemployed. He looked at me, aghast. I said, "Yeah, everything's coming up roses for Kim Bojanowski!".

I can't help but think they're sympathetic because they're thanking God it's not them.

I know I would.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Put Down The Remote

If you watch any TV, you may have seen an ad for a new NBC show called "Flash Forward" in which everyone on Earth blacks out for two and a half minutes and sees what their future will be in six months.

My grandmother thinks its real.

As in, there will be some kind of electrical black out lasting two and a half minutes sometime in the near future. Then again, she handed me a coupon for Cesar dog food the other day thinking it was for people food, so I think the long, slow slippery slope has suddenly tilted aggressively downward.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Strangulation Conversation

Granny: Your mother said you hit your leg.
Me: My leg?
Granny: On the bed.
Me: Oh yeah. I was hitting it, like, every day. So I put the bed back the way it was
Granny: You should have kept it the way it was.
Me: I did. I put it back on the floor.
Granny: Uh huh. What?
Me: I PUT IT BACK ON THE FLOOR. No more scars.
Granny: hahahaha

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ten Days...

...and still no word from Granny about the bed. Must be a record.

Yesterday she wanted to eat some leftovers I had left in the fridge. I had been meaning to throw them out but kept forgetting. They had been in there for eleven days. She kept insisting they would still be good. No Granny, I really don't think those two slices of barbecue beef will still be good.

I really hope she threw it out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Burning Bed

That's it, as of today, I had finally HAD IT.

When I moved in two years ago, we could not fit the box spring for my wonderful Simmons Beautyrest Olympic Queen bed up either of the two staircases in the house. We were able to squeeze the mattress up the stairs, just barely.
So the mattress rested on the floor, Japanese style, in a way I actually liked. I enjoy being close to the ground, and the box spring had actually made the bed too tall for my tastes. I feel I slept better this way.

Needless to say, Granny wasn't having it.

"You can't have your mattress on the floor!" she despaired.

"Why not? I like it there." was my reply.

"Because!" was her answer.

She also insisted on me re-installing the mouldering lacy curtains that had been hanging there. Never told her I had dumped them in the garbage.

This went on until fall, when my mother called to say, "We have to do something about your bed. I know you like it there but I'm tired of listening to her complain every single time she calls."

And so we trekked to Lowe's, bought some wood and jerry-rigged a base for the bed, laying it on top of the bed frame. And a day later I started banging my shins on the corners of this thing. This GOD-DAMNED thing.
At least twice a day for nearly two years I have scraped or hit my legs on the wooden corners of this damned thing. I have constellations of scars to prove it.
Today was the last straw.
After putting a particularly ugly scratch into my calf, I swore, loudly, and then pictured myself having one of those freak accidents (did I mention I'm a total klutz?) where the entire wooden corner ends up in the soft tissue of my leg, requiring skin grafts, fearing sepsis, etc.
And it was then, despite the 89 degrees in the air, that I picked the mattress up off this jerry-rigged monstrosity, moved the damn thing into the attic, and put my mattress back on the floor, where it belongs.
Countdown to how long Granny notices, and starts bitching again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is Mom's birthday.
Last year Granny called to wish her a happy birthday and then went on a tangent about how, when she found out she was pregnant with my mother, she was so incredibly disappointed.
"I didn't want you." Granny said.
Now I know what you're thinking, that Granny then went into an extended riff about how my mom turned out to be a blessing, a joy, that her moment of despair was tempered by the reality of having this precious child come into her life.
Yeah, that never happened. In fact, she repeated the story to my mom two or three more times in the following weeks.
No matter what, my mom came along, which of course led to me coming along. I'm sure there were times she felt she shouldn't have bothered. Lord knows I have mornings where I feel she shouldn't have bothered.
Happy Birthday to Mom, the world's coolest, most unwanted baby!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stuart Smalley Pep Talk

"Well I'll meet you at the bottom, if there really is one,
They alway told me when you hit it you would know it.
But I've been falling so long it's like gravity is gone-
And I'm just floating"
-"Gravity's Gone"
The Drive-By Truckers

I'm tired of being miserable.

Lord knows, my life fell apart awhile ago, and I've been making a break for the surface ever since, with no guarantee that the surface was really there.
On paper, I am a total loser. Unemployed, dumped, living with my grandmother, and, according to those nifty height/weight charts, morbidly obese.
But I've had this feeling for the last few weeks, that maybe, and pretty soon actually, something was coming. That I was finally going to bust out of this funk and do something great and dare I say...useful. No, I don't know what it is yet. Perhaps it is a delusion, but at least the delusion is mine.
Do I love living with Granny? No. The one thing that I wanted most in life was my own place. I still don't have it. Yes, that's misery-making. But when I feel down, I remember what I used to tell myself on the most miserable days working my miserable, useless job.
"This isn't the rest of your life".
This will not be the rest of my life.

A very wise drunk once said to me, "Kim, you can not blame the accident of your birth into a lower middle class family in Buffalo, New York for what has gone wrong in your life. You weren't born into an upper class family of Jewish intellectuals in New York City. Your Mom wasn't a famous actress, so you could have connections. Your Dad wasn't useless European royalty, so you could swan about gardens all day and never have to worry about money. You can't change the past. You can change the future. You have problems? So does everyone else. They give you these," he said flexing his arm muscles. "They make you strong".

Now, I have never been a happy-go-lucky person. My mother once said, "You were a perfectly happy child until I sent you to Catholic school. I don't know what those nuns did to you." So it's not like I am making a base change in my personality. But there will be no more blame. There is no evil force keeping me down. Bad luck? I laugh in its' face. I put myself here. I'm going to get myself out.

Hanging On The Telephone

When I moved in two summers go, my grandmother proudly told me "My doctor says I don't need a hearing aid yet!". At the time she was 89, so I wondered exactly when this "yet" was supposed to come. Her old doctor retired and her new doctor says nothing is wrong with her ears. I don't know where either of these chuckleheads go their medical degrees, because she's deaf as a stone and everyone can see it but them.
Granny spends a lot of time on the phone, although I'm not quite sure how much she hears. Sometimes I sit at the top of the stairs and listen. She agrees, then giggles, agrees some more...in other words, she can't hear a word the person on the other end is saying.
I once left the house on a Sunday afternoon to go to a baby shower. I said, "Granny, I'm going to a baby shower". After I left she jumped on the phone to my Mom to say I told her that there was something wrong with the shower upstairs.
My Mom can go for days without speaking to her because she does not hear the phone ring, especially in the summer when she spends all her time on the sun porch. Her deafness, combined with the dulcet tones of the New York State Thruway just over the fence, leads her to think my Mom never calls her. Oh, Mom leaves messages, but Granny thinks the red blinking light on the phone is for decoration. "I get everyone's phone calls but yours!" she says to my Mom.
She calls my Mom, but let me tell you about my Mom. She cares for two of the most insane animals in the history of petdom. She has two very dear Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. There's Chance, the canine equivalent of Don Knotts, and Tess, rescued from a puppy mill, where she was forced to breed litter after litter of puppies. This has destroyed her bladder. She is not incontinent, but when she's gotta go, she's gotta go NOW. It's like living with infant twins, on a schedule - breakfast at this time, lunch at this time, dinner...etc. When one is asleep the other one is up. When one wants to go out, the other doesn't...but wants to go out fifteen minutes later.
These are the exact moments when Granny decides to call her, and it goes something like this-
"Yeah, hi ma, yeah...what? The dogs are barking I can't hear you, it's snack time...wait hang on Tess has to go...nevermind she just peed on the floor".
"Your mother and those dogs", Granny will say, out of the blue. "I haven't talked to her in days!"
I'm unemployed. I'm usually home.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Full Of Grace! Full Of Grace!

The Blessed Mother is back.
I had to take this picture on the sly in the middle of the night.
Granny sometimes turns off the lights so the fake electric candle to the left can emit a red, Carnival of Souls vibe over the living room.
The lamp behind her is older than me and has a twin. In fact I think they may deserve their own entry eventually...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oh Crap.

I went downstairs to get something to drink. She was asleep in a chair in the living room.
There were two pots boiling away on the stove.
Oh crap.

The Black Mold Is Taking Over

I think Granny's basement is infected with black mold. I have no proof because I'm too afraid to look.
When you go downstairs, you have to keep your mouth closed, or else it gets in your lungs, and then you're pulling a Bill the Cat to get the stench out of your throat.
My treadmill is down there. Bad idea.
Perhaps my grandmother is not really my grandmother, but a collection of mold spores held together with a rosary. This may explain why she has lived to 91 despite breast cancer, pneumonia, thyroid disease, Parkinson's, detached retinas, melanoma and those pins that are holding her arm together.
Perhaps that's why she claims she doesn't smell any mold.
One night I'll wake to find her hovering over me in my bed chanting "One of us, one of us" while tendrils of black mold try to wrap me in a cocoon, Body Snatcher-style.
I love all of you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Me A Ticket, I'm Going On A Guilt Trip

It all started with the cilantro, which I made the mistake of leaving in her refrigerator. I thought, hey it's got a crisper, that will do it some good. Because Wegmans only sells cilantro in bunches the size of a basketball. You'd really have to love you some cilantro to eat it all before it goes bad.
By the next day it had been washed, dried, and separated into two plastic bags. Of course she used paper towels to dry it so now I can't ever eat it, due to my weird intolerance of squishy wet paper towels.
Granny: "Is that parsley in there? Because I washed it and dried it..."
Me: "Granny, you don't have to do that. It's cilantro."
Granny: "I didn't know if you'd be mad at me for doing it..."
Me: sigh
Granny: "You should put half of it in the freezer, I always used to freeze parsley."
Me: "No, I don't need to freeze it. Granny, I'd prefer if you didn't wash my stuff."

Half of the cilantro is now residing in the freezer. I know I didn't put it there.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love You Long Time Ashtray: Weird Stuff Around The House #4

This is just plain wrong on so many levels, but I think nothing says "get well soon!" like an ashtray.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This...Thing: Weird Stuff Around The House #3

She's thrown out tons of stuff and yet this...thing is still in the basement.
It's full of plastic flowers and is taller than me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sam Kinison Tribute




Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anyone Up For Some McNuggets?

For two years I lived on fast food and anything that could be heated up in a toaster oven. Needless to say, svelte is not a word that comes to mind when I look in the mirror. When my position was terminated and it became clear I would not be able to move out this summer as planned, I finally held my breath and my cookbooks and went downstairs to the kitchen.
This afternoon was a reminder as to why I didn't venture down there to begin with.

Granny: "Are you making hamburgers?"
Me: "I'm not making hamburgers."
Granny: "I like them with Romano cheese."
Me: "I'm not making hamburgers."
Granny: "They're so good with Romano cheese, Minnie down the street told me that."
Me: chopping onions..."Mmmhmmm."
Granny: proceeds to watch me chop said onion.
Me: waiting for direction as to how I should chop said onion, which surprisingly never comes, but makes me tense nevertheless, because I can sense the disapproval. This is usually where I cut myself, which surprisingly also doesn't happen. I pick up my specially selected, retro-style fruit printed flour sack kitchen towel, Crate & Barrel 95 cents.
Granny: "You should wipe your hands on a paper towel!"
Me: "I don't like paper towels." (I don't, especially the weird wet squishiness they get)
Granny: "Then you won't have to wash them!"
Me: holding 8 inch Forschner chef's knife in one hand, "I don't like paper towels!"
Granny: "Do you need a frying pan? There's frying pans in..."
Me: "I have a frying pan."
Granny: "Yeah, but you keep going up and down the stairs."
Me: brandishing large, Cooks Illustrated-approved stainless steel skillet, "I have it right here."
Granny: "There's a tunderstorm warning until 4:30."
Me: "Mmmmhmm."

Summertime, And The Living Is Annoying

Contrary to popular belief, it does not snow nine months of the year in Buffalo. In fact, one of the reasons people who live here keep trying to justify their lives is that "We get all four seasons here!"
Well, actually, that whole four season thing ended about fifteen years ago. Now there's Hot Sticky and Exhausting (July 5th to August 27th) and Cold Wet and Muddy (the rest of the year). But not this year! Hot Sticky and Exhausting has been replaced with Overcast and Kinda Warm. Which is fine with me, but everyone is bitching. Because if it was 87 degrees and humid for weeks on end, they would supposedly be really into that.

Buffalo weather is marked by a series of questions. The local newscasts go like this:

Will we get some rain to water the grass?
When is it going to stop raining?
Will we have a white Christmas?
When is it going to stop snowing?
When will it warm up?
When are we going to get a break from the heat?
When will we see the sun again?

I started this post with the weather situation because no matter what the summer weather, its always 80 degrees up stairs at Granny's. This wouldn't be so bad if I weren't so heat sensitive. Anything over 72 and I'm about to spontaneously combust. To combat this, I purchased one of those rolling A/C units, which looks a lot like R2-D2. A loud, cold air dispensing savior on wheels.
The heat is a problem, but the stale air is another. You see, 85% of the windows in this house do not open, some because they're broken, but mostly because they were built that way. Why Poppy, or anyone for that matter, would choose to install fixed windows but not central air is beyond me.
Thankfully, the windows in my upstairs rooms are OK. My bathroom window needs to be propped open with a stick lest it fall closed, but at least it opens. The same can't be said of the kitchen window above the sink (only the left side opens), the majority of the Jalousie windows on the porch (either broken, permanently closed or permanently open -they no longer make Jalousie windows anymore to replace them), or the window at the top of the staircase (hasn't opened since it was re-installed backwards after a siding job).
Then there's the giant wall of windows in the living room (fixed), the windows in the kitchen corner by the table (fixed), the window in the downstairs bathroom (opens to the enclosed porch), the windows in the downstairs bedroom (they open, but Granny is to afraid to leave them open, in case someone would decide to murder her in her sleep), and the left side of the kitchen window above the sink (she leaves it open maybe an inch).

It's like living in a vacuum, and not even a nice, posh Dyson.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Well, That Certainly Came Out Of Nowhere

So I was cooking some dinner, minding my own business, when Granny came into the kitchen.

"If these coloreds keep killing themselves, we won't have to worry about them much longer! It's all DRUGS!".

Alrighty then.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Granny!

Goin' to the Wilco show, see ya.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Vader Was Nothing But a Toady

Even back in 1983, I thought Granny kind of looked like this dude.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Anybody touches my stuff...I'll kill you."

Living here has turned me into that guy from Stripes, the one who wanted to be called "Psycho" but who's name was really Francis ("You call me Francis...and I'll kill you")

Granny, please stop touching my stuff.

This morning I found my underwear on her kitchen table. It had been in the dryer overnight. My grandmother knows what my underwear looks like. FML.

Spiders (Kidsmoke)

The other afternoon I happened to notice some tiny dark spots on my bathroom ceiling. I looked closely but couldn't quite figure out what was going on. Then I got distracted by a puppy or something so the topic was dropped.
That night there were thirty or so baby spiders ambling around my bathroom ceiling.
Now I'm a live and let live type person, so I let them be. It was also 3:30 in the morning and wasn't quite sure if I was seeing things or not.
Seriously, I do not have a spider phobia, and since they were all barely the size of a pin head I let them go become part of the ecosystem of this house, where I'm sure they will strike up conversations with the mice and centipedes.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bring Out Your Dead: Weird Stuff Around The House #2

As I approached the box slowly, a mouse skittered along the edge of the attic, stopped in its tracks, swayed woozily for a moment, and fell on to its back, stone cold dead. I noticed the box's U-Haul logo had been burned off. Strange, I don't remember that at all. I saw visions in my head of great, ancient armies raising a reign of terror in their path, sparing no one.
Do not look directly at it, do not look directly at it, I mumbled to myself.

This atrocity should be familiar to anyone who spent anytime upstairs at Granny's, where I now reside. It hung in the hallway between the bathroom and the bedroom, usually topped by a piece of yellowing palm from that year's Palm Sunday service. Within minutes of moving in, I removed it to a box in the attic, because it has truly scared the living crap out of me my entire life. I could have thrown it in the garbage, but could not chance world apocalypse had it fallen into the wrong hands. Just taking this picture caused my camera to explode.

As you can see, it is a framed crucifixion scene.
It's in 3-D.
3-D, folks, and Jesus' dying eyes seem to follow you as you pass.

The funniest thing is what's printed on the bottom. "Kazmierczak Funeral Home, 852-2222". So, what, this was in a funeral goodie bag? Or a gift with purchase? Like at the Clinique counter?

Even Better Update: My mom claims there used to be a calendar attached to this. I imagine this conversation took place a few times...

"What day is the 4th?"
"It's a Wednesday. Jesus died for your sins, you know."

Friday, July 10, 2009

On Remorse and Resentment, or, How I Got Here

Folks, I'd like to turn down the lights for a moment and get serious.

When acquaintances find out that I live with my grandmother, they picture us living together in a candy cane cottage, where she bakes me cookies and I listen intently to her stories of the Depression, when they may not have had money but they sure had plenty of love.
"How charming!", they exclaim, "How very sweet of you!".
I do not tell of the time she threw my Netflix DVDs in the garbage, or how she once pawed through my birth control, or how she would roam my rooms while I was away at work to snoop, claiming she thought something was leaking in my bathroom. How she once washed a bag of produce I had in my room, because as a 35 year old adult, I am seemingly incapable of knowing that I should wash my fruit. How she hardly ever speaks of the past, certainly almost never of her family, and when she does it is only to mention something the neighbors did forty years ago.
"Yes" I say, smiling, faking a glassy eyed stare. "It's delightful".

Now you may be saying to yourself, how does an adult woman with a full time job and a generous hourly wage end up moving in with her grandmother when she no longer had a boyfriend to share the rent with?
Well, in my twenties I had a love affair with my credit card that was not only more passionate but more tragically predestined than that of Romeo and Juliet's. I was irresponsible enough to rack it up, but always responsible enough to pay the bill on time. I bought a lot of cool stuff, ninety per cent of which is packed into boxes in Granny's basement. I haven't seen it in two and a half years. I could now give a lecture on how the stuff you own ends up owning you, but I like my stuff, so suck it Buddha.
I take full responsibility for this. I am an adult who should have known better. Actually I did know better, but I did it anyway. I just figured that someday I would be rich and famous and it would be taken care of. Seriously. I really believed that. Still do actually.
I am angry with myself. Extremely angry. I am filled with self-loathing for putting myself in this position.
Angry, because as an extremely private person, every piece of mail, every package, every conversation, every time I come and go, is noted and commented on in numerous phone calls to my mother, aunts, and distant relatives who have not seen me since my christening in February of 1974.
Angry, because as an animal lover I can not bring a pet into this house. I've heard the horror stories of how she dispatched my mother's pets when she still lived here.
Angry, because I have watched numerous friends default on their credit cards, student loans, etc., and yet they all end up living in way, way, WAY more fabulous apartments than I could ever hope to rent.
Angry, because as a formerly precocious child who did well in school, who's parents couldn't afford to send her to the college of her choice, should, through hard work, talent and pure guts, be able to find a niche for herself in a career that doesn't make her completely miserable, and yet, and YET is so paralyzed by social awkwardness, fear of embarrassment and a strange reluctance to "put herself out there" that all she does is sit in front of the TV watching Flight of the God Damned Conchords and listening to Spoon.
Angry, because I miss my dog and my boyfriend, admittedly sometimes in exactly that order, angry because I did my part in messing up a relationship that was essentially pretty great, and which now may never be made right again despite the copious apologies issued from both sides.

For the most part, Granny means well. My anger should not be her problem, and though I may have let my frustration slip on occasion I mostly just seethe to myself. I get a lot of headaches. Must be the brain tumor.

Credit cards are a hell of a drug.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous: Weird Stuff Around the House #1

After Poppy died 17 years ago, and Granny started getting rid of things, she asked me what I might want. My immediate response?

"The Schlitz sign."

Don't ask me why. I wasn't even 21 and didn't really care for beer (yet). But the Schlitz sign had been a constant at all our family gatherings, hanging on the wall opposite the wet bar Poppy had built in the basement. Those were good times, back when the whole family still lived here. Yes, I thought, the Schlitz sign please.

The Schlitz sign still hangs on that wall in the basement, waiting for the day when I have my own wet bar. It's probably gonna be a long wait.

It was only a few weeks ago that I took a good look at it. I always knew it was plastic, maybe like a giant plaque, but in reality its very thin, like those cheap Halloween or Christmas decorations you get at Dave's Christmas Wonderland (or if you want to get old skool, Harlem-Genesee Nursery). You may not be able to tell from the picture, but it's 3-D, and juts out from the wall. I was going to take it down to clean it up, but stopped after realizing there may be some unpleasant things living behind it.

Interesting side note: Pabst now owns Schlitz. So all you Wisconsin-living hipster deebags can get your drunk on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Keep It Legal

I think that once you hit 90, you should be declared legally insane.
Seriously, you've just seen too much. You've "been in the shit" as the Vietnam vets would say.

In honor of Granny's upcoming 91st birthday, click below to hear Patton Oswalt's theory of birthdays.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Heaven Help Me

Granny is really big on religion.
After barely surviving breast cancer and nasty case of pneumonia in 1965 (my mother said, "They thought to call a priest but not a doctor"), she became even more devout. She used to make a yearly pilgrimage to St. Anne de Beaupre in Quebec. She was always going to church, saying rosaries and novenas and whatnot. Up until a few months ago, she hosted a statue of the Blessed Mother in the living room, surrounded by candles. I still have to write out the checks for the weekly collections at her church, which she can no longer attend.

I grew up going to Catholic school and it does one of two things to you -

1.) You become a really good Catholic, or
2.) You become an atheist by first grade.

Guess which one I became?
Religion has little place in my life. Though I enjoy learning about other world religions and think there are things to be said for Judaism and Buddhism, it doesn't ever cross my mind on a personal level. Roman Catholicism, which I grew up with, especially rankles me. I find it medieval and backward. There's a reason Martin Luther went to get a hammer.

Still, every night, Granny walks the bottom floor of the house, fervently whispering her rosary. And every night I want to shout down the stairs, "Granny! IT'S NOT HELPING!"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Coming Soon...

I will be posting some pictures of "Weird Stuff I've Found Around Granny's House".
Granny has gotten rid of a lot of stuff over the years, but after approximately seventy years or so of living here, there's still lots of strange stuff floating around...I know some fellow family members who's memory will be jogged, and as for the rest of you, well, I think you'll get a good laugh. Or be terrified. Six of one...

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Old people and raisin bread.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

You Know, This One

As I type my grandmother is in the kitchen on the phone. With whom, I don't know. Doesn't matter anyway. She is going deaf and mostly agrees with stuff, but it is also when she throws out one of the classics...

GRANNY (on phone): Uh-huh, mmm-hmmm, yeah, you know this one, down the street, he still has the diarrhea after the surgery, because he went...uh-huh, uh-huh, he has, you know, this one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poppy had The Sugar

My grandfather's name was Edward (ok, it was actually Ignatius but no one called him that). Granny called him Eddie but we all called him "Poppy". He had a sweet tooth. He also had a low grade form of diabetes.
Despite this diagnosis, what I remember about visiting them as a child was the constant stream of cookies, candy and ice cream. Oh, the ice cream...
Despite her ever increasing state of deafness, thirty years ago Granny could hear the freezer door open from a mile away.

GRANNY: Eddie!
POPPY: What?
GRANNY: Stop eating that ice cream! You've got the sugar!

So, why would you keep this stuff in the house with a diabetic? Granny claimed it "was for the grandkids". So those three empty half-gallon cartons I saw in her trash last week were "for the grandkids"?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coversation with Mom #1

Mom: "Can you believe she's gonna be 91 next month?"
Me: "And in nine years she'll be 100, because she will outlive us all"

The Granny Diet

The key to living to 91 is to pickle yourself. No, not with alcohol (though that is an option). With preservatives, my friend.
Forget whole grains, green leafy vegetables, lean meat, and locavore-ism. Say hello to frozen meals, mystery meat and the fine art of 'baked goods".
Here's a sampling of what we bought at Tops (inside joke slogan "Tops never mops") yesterday...

Oscar Meyer bologna (the all beef kind at least)
Boston Market frozen meals
cubed steak
Half gallon Edy's French vanilla ice cream
Package of monster sized cranberry muffins
Several packages of Green Giant frozen veggies w/cheese sauce
Stella D'Oro cookies
sliced mozzarella
Red Baron French bread pizza (two boxes)
Milk of Magnesia (natch)

Fry everything. EVERYTHING.
Small capitulations to healthy eating: oatmeal every morning, fresh fruit, Activia yogurt drinks
She will be 91 next month, and has never really been overweight.

If I ate like this, I would top 350.

And it begins...

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you may have been hearing a lot of stories on TV or online about how grown adults have had to move back in with their parents or grandparents, sometimes with children in tow, due to our apocalyptic economy. This is not my story.
Two years ago this month, for reasons too ridiculous to recount, my six year-long relationship ended. I should have found my own apartment. But I was low on cash (as I always was). And Granny needed a roomie.
At the time, Granny was almost 89, still of sound mind, maybe not so sound of body. Poppy had been gone for 15 years, and she could have used someone in the house. Therefore, by the grace of God went I.