Friday, June 28, 2013
Thursday, June 27, 2013
Friday, June 21, 2013
Thursday, June 20, 2013
1 - Last Thursday my sister and I boarded a plane to fly to Michigan. Although my sister and her husband had just been in Michigan only a few weeks before, she was headed back again. Her strong urge to schedule their vacation for May and to drive there to see our 90-year-old grandmother Viola gave them a last chance to see each other before Grandma's life came to an unexpected close.
2 - This is the quilted runner that my sister made for Grandma, using her favorite color -- purple. Grandma was a talented quilter. The purple quilt which she made for my wedding is one of my most prized possessions.
Grandma had not been ill, merely elderly. No one was expecting her to pass away, although my sister's urge to get to Michigan was, in hindsight, an important one.
4 - This was taken at a Phillips family dinner in Michigan, where I lived until I was six. I'm the older sister in blue. Grandma was the originator of what is now known as Phillips rice, my most favorite food in all the world. It was served at every Phillips dinner, and is now made by all of the granddaughters -- even by me, the non-cook.
It's fairly simple: just cook the rice in chicken or turkey broth instead of plain water, with a bit of butter if needed, and a few blobs of ketchup, and a bit of black pepper. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Grandma got this recipe from an old Armenian neighbor of theirs.
5 - I believe this was a Thanksgiving dinner, 1970-ish, at Grandma and Grandpa Phillips'. Pictured from left: my Grandma Doucet (my mom's mother), a family friend whose name escapes me, my Aunt Suzie (Dad's sister) and Uncle Raymond, Grandma Phillips, Grandpa Phillips, Aunt Denise and Uncle Maurice (Dad's brother), Aunt Loretta (Dad's sister), little me, my dad, little Michelle (my sister) and my mom. My Grandpa Doucet (Mom's father) was a photographer and likely took this picture. He definitely took the black-and-white portrait at the top of the blog.
6 - Cheers! My grandparents came from Quebec to Michigan in the 50s for work, and like immigrants everywhere, all of the French Canadians found one another in their new anglophone American life. That's how my two families -- my dad's side and my mom's side -- came to be friends with one another before my parents even began dating.
7 - Here's a great shot of two sweethearts in Canada, 1942. Gaby and Vi, starting a life together.
8 - Did I mention that my silliness factor always rates in the higher percentile? Quite obviously, inherited.
9 - Here my dad is sneaking up on us in my grandparents' backyard. Silly.
10 - Uh oh...still silly.
11 - This was a Christmas celebration with the Phillips' after many years celebrating with the Doucet side in Nova Scotia, Canada. My parents had moved back to Michigan for a year in the late 80s. I've got my back to the camera as we sang carols together.
Six years ago, only a month after I began my blog -- the imminent passing of my dad encouraged me to put waiting aside and seize the day -- Grandma Phillips, my Aunt Loretta and my cousins Shelly and Jenny hopped in Shelly's van and raced out here to spend my dad's last days together. Grandma, my step-mom Doris, my Aunt Loretta, my sister and I were all present when my dad passed away. I'll always remember how my grandma laid her hand on dad and said, "I was with you on your first day, and now I'm with you on your last." Then she led us all in a recitation of the Hail Mary.
It was a bittersweet joy to reunite with my aunt and my cousins for my grandma's funeral. My thanks go out to them for their trip here six years ago.
Pictured from left, back row: my late Uncle Maurice's daughters Jamie and Christa (with recently-wed Casey in Oklahoma) / Aunt Loretta's daughters Jenny and Shelly
Front row, L to R: oldest sibling Norman's daughters, myself and Michelle / the last member of her immediate family, my Aunt Loretta, and her daughter Tammy
Friday, June 14, 2013
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Thursday, June 6, 2013
For most people, having someone come over to install a dishwasher wouldn't be that big of a deal. Perhaps sweep up, maybe move some stuff off of a counter.
However, when you're a hoarder, things are never, ever that simple.
The dishwasher installation is going to include some electrical work, which requires access to a room once intended to be my writing office, but which is now packed floor-to-ceiling with stuff.
My husband has rapid cycling bipolar disorder with high levels of agoraphobia, and a heaping helping of obsessive compulsive disorder in the form of hoarding tossed in.
We've been working on maintaining clear living spaces over the years, with baby-step successes. However, when an electrical-work-access situation crops up, I need to step in and move that section of the hoard out of the way.
I'm happy to report that Brad has been feeling only minor amounts of anxiety, leading up to this weekend. Previously, moving so much stuff and having someone come into the inner sanctum has been very hard on him. Years of continued treatment with his psychiatrist, years of slow-but-steady behavior modification which my husband and I work on ourselves, and going to acupuncture for the past few years have all combined to create this current state of not-doing-too-badly.
I'm very proud to say that Brad himself moved some of the stuff on his own while I was at my day job. The urge to root through the various boxes and bags is so very strong for my husband, but for now we're concentrating on clearing space for work to be done.
It's hard not to notice the odd thing, here and there. For this week's Thursday Thirteen, here are thirteen things we've discovered in the hoard:
1 - My black Bright Lights Big Stories keepsake bag from the Romance Writers of America 2011 writers' conference in New York City. When I got it, the inks on the bag were rather overwhelming for allergic-to-inks-and-dyes me. After two years of airing out, it looks good to go. Yay!
2 - Brad's SWORDS OF CEREBUS graphic novel.
3 - My old, worn-out comforter. It was an awesome comforter. Got me through many a frozen Canadian winter night. But it was splitting open in spots. I opened a garbage bag and stuffed it in.
Note: for many hoarders, the idea that there still might be some use for the worn-out object is too strong, and it gets set aside for 'just in case'. For my husband, the act of throwing out something that is quite obviously beyond its usefulness is highly stressful. For me, because I don't want to increase Brad's stressors to unmanageable levels, I wait for him to be in the right frame of mind before we start throwing things away. So yes, I've tolerated a worn-out comforter in the storage room for a few months now. My tolerance level for the hoard is quite high. I would rather that Brad feel lower levels of anxiety.
It also brings us more overall progress if Brad is involved in throwing things out, than if I simply start tossing things. He will just re-acquire objects to replace what has been 'tidied up'.
4 - A crumpled box of cassette tapes. Brad did make an attempt to sort through the box, but I reminded him that he can do that later -- we're just making room for the electrical work. We stayed on target.
5 - My National Ballet of Canada Rite of Spring ballet poster. I quickly stashed it away on my own shelf so it wouldn't get buried again. Time to get it framed.
6 - The demon mask we used in a short film we were making about an agoraphobic's attempt to make it past the threshold and out the front door. The film is unfinished, but the footage can always be revisited.
7 - A taped-up box labelled 'Julia's lace curtains / Santas / figurine / FRAGILE'. Successfully left taped up. The urge to open and sort is terrible for someone like Brad when in the clean-up phase. That only serves to distract the person from the original game plan.
8 - An exercise medicine ball. Not helping us much, under the hoard!
9 - A silverware chest. Presumably with silverware inside -- again, peeking inside successfully avoided.
10 - Another taped-up box, this one a mystery box marked 'flea market'. Still taped up, moved from the storage area without being opened.
11 - A box with unwrapped glassware and china pieces clanking around inside. I did glance briefly inside -- nothing appeared to be broken. I sense some future donations to Value Village are inside.
12 - A navy-colored down-filled coat which once got me through a winter trip to frigid Toronto, but has definitely seen better days. Not enough life in it to donate to anyone. In the garbage bag with the worn-out comforter it went. One wouldn't think that it would bother Brad if I want to get rid of a woman's coat. That's where the irrational part of the compulsive disorder shows itself. What is Brad going to do with it? It's getting easier for Brad to take a step back and answer that question with 'Nothing.'
13 - A stuffed Coca Cola polar bear holding a little bottle of Coke. Brad's animal totem is the polar bear, and his favorite tasty beverage is most certainly Coke. This bear has been patiently waiting for us to find him under the pile. He's now sitting in our living room where we can actually see him, and where he can make us smile.
More reports about our Adventures in Unearthing the Hoard as we progress.