MILLS!!!

Life is short and we should never forget it.  But I did for a minute.

I worked with Kristina at my last job.  I really really liked her.  She was the woman some of you have heard me talk about – we went to Weight Watchers together.  I called her Mills most of the time.

She was tall and loud and funny and smart and quick and kind.  You could count on her.  She had a big smile and a huge laugh and a wild streak.  She was intelligent and competent.  She also had a young son.  I would laugh at her when she would tell me stories about how she would have to suck it up and talk to him seriously about kid/growing up stuff.  “Wow Mills you were really mature.  And you kept a straight face?  I‘m so proud.”  Laughter.  Kristina loved her family and her Nicole.  She vacationed with her sister in California and she loved those times.  She had some really big high heels in her cube and last year when she was in California, several of us (women and men alike) put them on and modeled.  We took pictures and messaged them to her.  We all laughed.  Kristina had been through some tough times but her life was getting right.  Better.  Good.  She was in love.  She was one of those people whose life was happy anyway.  Her happiness came from within.

She was good to me when I started my job.  I already knew a lot of people there having been in the printing industry in Connecticut forever, so it wasn’t a hard job-beginning.  But almost right away, I would hear the voice yelling from her cube behind me – BUNNNNNNN.  And I would holler right back – MILLLLLLLLLLS.  And we would laugh.  We were sympatico.

Sometimes I called her my bad child.  We had a lot in common.  I told her she was me – minus 23 years of maturity.  We talked to each other about important stuff, life stuff, girl stuff.  I trusted her.  After I was laid off, I missed her.  I missed a lot of my work friends, and I thought of Kristina often.  She kept popping into my head last week.  And I had heard she was unwell, had taken a leave from work, and I kept thinking I should call her.

Well Kristina passed away last week.  She was 33 years old.  I didn’t call her to see how she was doing.  I had no idea I wouldn’t have time.  When I worked with Kristina every day, she was one of my favorites.  I thought the world of her.  I just wish I had called.  Said how are you doing?  If I had know she was in rehab, I would have driven over for a visit.  I had the time to do it.  But I just didn’t know.

So.  You know what I’m going to say next.  Pick up the phone and call someone you miss.  They probably miss you too.   Only takes a minute.  You never know what is going to happen tomorrow.

And lastly…

I’ll miss you Mills.  The world will be just a teeny weeny little less bright without you.  A bit quieter.  A touch less fun.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of my life.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hartfordcourant/obituary.aspx?n=kristina-m-mills&pid=160090431&fhid=4128#fbLoggedOut

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On inner peace and blogging and dying and sex. Oh my.

I love blogging.  It makes me about as happy as anything I do.  I thought about it for years and didn’t do it.  I don’t know why – I think I was afraid I had nothing to say – nothing worthwhile.  I was afraid I would run out of “stuff”, but I don’t think that is happening.  Not yet anyway.

This is my life.  This is my blog.  This is my expression of feelings.  This is me.  You don’t have to like me.  I would like it if you did but the other is OK too.

It’s my practice book, my true confessions, my intellectual and emotional vomit, my autobiography, my silly tales, my thoughts, hopes, dreams, my guts, my hurts, my triumphs and my disappointments – my story.

When I was a child I used to write fictional dialogue in my head all the time.  And I mean all the time.  In my mind, I turned all situations into stories – usually semi-autobiographical in nature, often dramatic, humorous, sarcastic or some combination thereof.

Now blogging is a little like that.  I don’t know anymore if I have it in me to write a big fictional story but I know I do have it in me to document my life and my feelings.  To explore and to learn.  Most of my blogs have been well-received and the more I write, the more I am read and I love that.  And I want to again say THANK YOU for reading.  I say it every time I put up a post and I mean it.  It is not something I say to “just be polite” but something that comes from my heart.  I appreciate each and every one of you who takes a few minutes out of your busy day to read what I have written.

I read an article on the internet recently about the “Top Five Regrets of the Dying“.  Here they are…

1.  I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2.  I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3.  I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier

I blog to share.  I blog to help myself not have any of these regrets and this writing I do here goes a long way toward eliminating 1 and 3.  And number 5 gets a kick too.  Blogging makes me happy and helps me to know what I need to be happier still.  I blog to throw my feelings out there and hopefully to find out if anyone else feels the same way.  This may be asking a lot of some.  I don’t think everyone wants their innermost feelings to be known.  But I do.  I hate secrets.  I think for the most part they are not healthy.  I think most of us have more in common than we will ever know because we don’t say what we feel.  I don’t think anyone will ever say that of me.  Ever.

Number 4 – I do pretty good at that one.  Always have.  I remember a few years back I tracked down someone with whom I was very good friends in the late 70’s when we lived in Florida.  I could tell she thought I was weird for calling her.  So that one didn’t go exactly as I had anticipated but that’s OK too.  I tried and I didn’t care that she thought it was strange.  I thought it was fun.

Number 2 – I have learned that one already.  I work hard now for me.  I will work hard for someone else too but I will not dedicate my life to an employer.  I will not become my profession.  I will be me.  Hard-working, good-humored, dedicated when I’m there.  Otherwise, I have a life.  A good one that I enjoy actually.  Do you know that old party game?  Who/what are you in five words?

I used to be
1.  Production Manager

The other 4 didn’t really matter to me.  Some variation of wife, dog-mother, daughter, sister, friend, lover, girlfriend, aunt, reader, cook, traveler, Faux-French, gardener…  But Production Manager came first.

Now it is not that way.  I’m not sure what I am first but I do know that nothing I am has to do with an employer.  And that has gone a long way toward my overall self-improvement plan.  And my inner peace.

Which reminds me of another thing.  A long time ago – probably about 15 years – an old beau asked me what I wanted for my birthday.  I said Sex and Inner Peace.  He gave me sex and a mani/pedi gift certificate.  Both well appreciated by me.  His birthday was shortly after mine and he wanted the same thing.  Not the mani-pedi.

Hopefully I will be lucky enough to continue on my path of enlightenment and self-improvement for many more years to come.  That does sound hokey but I don’t know what else to call it.  And I do believe it.  My newest frontier – aging.  I have had to look at aging a lot lately.  My parents are getting older.  Some of my friends have deceased parents.  One aspect of my life I’m not enjoying a real lot.  So I’m just going to work on having no regrets and attaining inner peace.  And more sex.  That’ll keep me cheery.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bronnie-ware/top-5-regrets-of-the-dyin_b_1220965.html

Forgiveness II and Mennonites

So you all know I read.  Pretty much all my “spare” time and unspare too is spent with my nose “buried in a book“, as my mother has been saying since I was old enough to hold onto one.  And I read everything, both fiction and non-fiction.  When I was a child, I used to tell my parents I was afraid of the dark so they would leave the hall light on.  Then I could lay upside down on my bed and see my books by that angled dim light.  I read the news, biographies, novels, classics, memoirs, history, magazines, current commentary, blogs authored by both the famous and the un-famous, travel guides – you name it.  I read gossip at people.com, I look at CNN.com at least five times a day, and I read cook books like they were juicy romances.  I read Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and the dictionary.  I love to read books that get everyone talking and books that my friends have read.  I love it when I find something with which I strongly identify.  I love books.

So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog called Forgiveness which I put up and brought right back down.  And then strangely enough I picked up a memoir from my mother’s book pile in Maine and there it was – Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen.  I read the first page and thought oh I am not going to like this she is trying too hard for the laugh.  But I kept on going.   And I found profound thoughts and words scattered throughout this book.

p. 85
Like many women, I can take a hearty string of expletives, but Nick really knew how to go for the jugular.  He had a knack for it.  I didn’t mind the broken fans, the amputated chairs, the shattered glass, the holes in the wall.  I minded the hurtful things he said to me.

Perhaps because I am a writer, or perhaps because I mean what I say, I attributed the same intentionality of expression to Nick.  I thought that at some level he must have meant the terrible things he said.

p. 127

“Damn,” I said again.  “Middle age is all about learning to live with ambiguity.”

P. 172

It was easy for me to show compassion and understanding for Flip’s suffering, since Flip had never hurt me personally.  But it is much harder to show compassion and understanding when we are the ones being hurt directly, when the wrecking ball of someone else’s misery takes us down, too.

P. 173

I know a woman who is still holding on to her feelings of betrayal after twenty-two years!

Are there not other ways to process abandonment than through the lens of our own victimization and anger?

p. 174

Who knows how we can be both good and bad, both hurt and hurtful?  The answer is that none of us knows.

And since even the most virtuous among us displays this adiaphorous morality, what if we agreed just to let people be who they are, since we can’t change them anyway?

And lastly on p. 175

But I have come to believe that virtue isn’t a condition of character.  It’s an elected action.  It’s a choice we keep making, over and over, hoping that someday we’ll create a habit so strong it will carry us through our bouts of pettiness and meanness.

So here it is.  A beautiful well-thought expression of anger, betrayal, the search for forgiveness.  And lots of other things too.  A lovely memoir from a woman who has explored her innards.  I want to meet Rhoda and I want her to be my new BFF.  I think we could have marvelous conversations after which at least one of us, me, will be a better person.  A person who has been given a new idea.  All I want from any book I read is one good idea.  And I got a few from this one.  Thank you Rhoda.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Maine

I was born in December 1955.  In June 1956 when I was six months old, my very young parents took me on a family vacation to Lake Ebeemee, Maine.  And so began my lifelong love affair with this place.

I was my grandmother’s first grandchild and her pet.  I loved both my grandparents and they loved me.  I spent many weekends in Connecticut having sleepovers at their house.  I would pack my “bookcase” and away I’d go.  Like many people from Maine, my grandparents moved to Connecticut for work and left as soon as my grandfather retired from General Motors in Bristol.

I spent a lot of time here on Ebeemee Lake as a child.  My grandmother’s brother had a “camp” and when I was a small child, my grandfather and his friend George jointly purchased a log cabin for $500, next to which they began building the camp I am in right now.  Throughout the years, I came alone with my grandparents and also with my immediate family. My grandmother may hold the record as the most difficult woman who ever lived.  And I remember how my mother used to dread having to be stuck here for a week with her and three little kids.  I was too young to really understand then but I did later and I do now.  Stories of my grandmother’s vituperative outbursts and temper tantrums could fill a book.  Truly.  But if she controlled herself at all, and she didn’t all the time, it was around me.  Having said all that, I preferred being here alone with my grandparents to being here with my family.  It was better.  Easier.

My grandfather worked at the New Departure division of General Motors.  He got out of work at 3 PM and was home by 3:20.  Five minutes later, the three of us were in the car heading north.  Back in the day, there was no electricity on this lake; no indoor plumbing; i.e. no toilets or running hot water – actually no running cold water either; no telephones.  We would get here some time around midnight and I used to think my grandfather was amazing because he could guide the boat across the lake in the pitch black – there was no road then either – and land safely at our dock.  We would unload the boat in the dark with the aid of flashlights.  A propane tank with copper lines ran to gas lights fastened to the inside walls.  We pumped water from a pump and heated it to do dishes.  We had both a gas stove and a gas refrigerator.  We peed in the outhouse.  After a very short while, my grandfather brought running cold water and the toilet indoors.  We were fancy then.  As for baths, my grandmother washed up in the sink with some of that water she‘d heated up.  The rest of us took a bath in the lake where we would, as the old folks used to say “wash up as far as possible, down as far as possible, then wash possible.”  Ivory soap does indeed float.

I fished.  An older neighbor woman and I fished every night.  Right after dinner, she would putt over here in her little boat and I would run to the dock and jump in.  We would go back and forth all evening.  My grandparents liked the fish too but I began to catch so many that Nana said I had to learn how to clean them.  So I did that too.

Also up here, there was the most exotic of animals – boy cousins.  I spent my childhood surrounded by girls.  I had all sisters, my two best friends had all sisters except for a straggler boy bringing up the rear in one of those families.  It took me forever to figure out what to do with boys.  There were so foreign and exotic to me.  And funny and bold.

Lake Ebeemee in Maine is not like lakes in Connecticut.  It is smack in the middle of nowhere.  It is not crowded.  The nearest town is 25 or 30 miles away.  Going to the grocery store or “to town” is a journey.  You try to not run out of things.  If you go to town, you ask your friends on the lake if there is anything they need.  If you want to go to the movies, you go to Bangor, a trip which exceeds an hour one way.  Easily.  We are off of Route 11 halfway between Milo and Millinocket.  Some people have heard of Millinocket.  Baxter State Park and Mt. Katahdin – the highest point in Maine – are there, as is the end of the Appalachian Trail.  Route 11 is a two-lane winding road along which you’d better drive carefully, watching for a logging truck to come barreling around a corner right at you, while scanning side to side looking for a moose to jump out in front of you.  Moose have huge bodies and very longs legs.  You don’t want to hit one.  Their legs break and their moose torsos come through the windshield and kill you cemetery dead.  Logging trucks defy gravity and are taller than they are wide.  They sway all over the road and I can never figure out why they don’t tip over and kill people.  After you find the turnoff, from what we refer to as the “hard road”,  you then drive four-and-a-half miles on a dirt road through the woods to our driveway.  When you reach the end of our driveway, you will see a lake.  To me, my arrival is like the sun rising.  Especially the first time I come in the spring.  Up over the little rise and there it is.  Just sitting there.  We can see lake out of every room in our camp.  A big beautiful, clean, cool lake.  In the spring you will see moose.  You may see bear.  Or deer.  You will definitely see turtles, eagles, osprey, ducks, loons – anyone who has not heard a loon’s night song doesn’t know what they are missing.  There are squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, bats and beaver.  We have a pet lake Raven.  He goes from house to house and is so tame that he will sometimes take a cracker out of your hand.  Hummingbirds.  We have a feeder in the front yard and outside the back door.  Hummingbirds are everywhere.  All the time.  You will catch fish.  Perch is our main eating fish.  There are bass in this lake.  And pickerel which are fun to catch but not so much to eat.  There are lots of fish in this lake.  You may catch an eel.  They are disgusting.  Your mother may drop your pretty red fishing pole overboard.  An hour later your father may hook this same fishing pole and bring it up, reel it in and find a fish on the end of your red line.

You may be bored when you are here.  I have some friends who love this place, some who cannot understand at all why I want to be here.  There is not a lot to do.  You have to be able to amuse yourself.  If we get a rainy patch, out come the cookbooks and a list is made followed by a trip to town.  Cooking projects often fill the time during inclement weather.  We play cards.  For those of you who know me, you will remember I have “my spot”.  I sit in my spot and read.  It is no more than fifteen feet from edge of the lake.  I have a comfy chair.  I get my coffee or my diet coke and my peanut butter filled pretzels and sit in the sun with my dog and read.  And think.  And enjoy the solitude.  And the peace.  My friends go by in their boats.  I look up and wave.  Sometimes they pull in and we talk for a minute or two minutes or an hour.  They go on and I go back to my book.  On hot days, you gather a pile of magazines, grab a bag of chips and make a couple of sandwiches, and pack a cooler full of beer and soda and water and drive the pontoon boat into the middle of the lake and drop anchor.  Hook up the ladder and voila – instant diving platform.  Remember that floating Ivory soap?  Take that in with you too.  And noodles and rafts.  There is a river that comes into this lake.  You can paddle up the river with your friends and neighbors in your canoes and/or paddle boats and/or kayaks.  At some point, you will need to get out and portage.  You can get on the ATVs and head back toward the “hard road” and take any of the side paths and roads and drive all over the woods and mountains.  You can write a blog.  You need to go somewhere to get an internet connection to post it but you can certainly write in peace.  Looking out a window.  At a beautiful gray blue lake.  The water sparkling like diamonds.  Wearing your bathrobe and your pink rhinestone flip-flops.

We have all the modern conveniences now.  Kind of.  I describe this place as “rustic“.  We have telephones, electricity, indoor plumbing including a toilet, shower, hot running water, and even a washer and dryer.  We got DirecTV a few years back since my parents retired and started spending gads of time here.  My mother has a dial-up modem that she uses to get on line but I don’t have the patience for that.  Besides, two years ago, Verizon put a tower close enough for smart phones to work.  And a small company has made high speed internet available.  They charge you a jillion and half dollars to have it installed but the monthly fee is the same as everywhere.  We don’t have that but maybe next year…

Progress has come to Lake Ebeemee.  We have friends that have very fancy places on this lake, some who live here year round.  Not us.  We are “rustic” and not winterized – no insulation.  None.  Which basically means every fall my father drains all the pipes and the toilet and washing machine – anything with water involved and fills them all with anti-freeze.  He pulls the dock and the boats and puts away everything that needs to be protected from the elements. We turn off the phone and the satellite dish and go home until Mother’s Day weekend.  Winters here are harsh and cold and snowy and long.  Which brings me closer to where I’ve been heading.

There have always been people who lived here year round.  Even back in the day when there was no electricity or phones or running water.  The hermits.  The ones I considered strange, a little off.  I used to wonder if these people were society’s rejects but now I think maybe it is the other way around.  Maybe they are choosing a different life.  A life of peace and solitude.  There are year-round people who live here now too in big beautiful homes with all the amenities.  And the others who live here with their woodstoves and outhouses and holes cut in the ice for water.  And now, I could live here year round in a minute.  I don’t need much.  Plumbing is the problem.  We have a daybed tucked in corner of the main room.  The woodstove could make that room so hot, you’d need to open the back door to cool things down.  I’d have my dog.  I could read all day every day.  But then I would be one of the strange, eccentric, hermit-like, a little-off people.  Which is OK with me.  Don’t think I don’t consider it every day.  I was here for nine weeks in the summer of 2005.  I wasn’t working and I was here, mostly by myself.  And I liked it a lot.  My friends would say aren’t you afraid?  Don’t you want to come and sleep at our house?  But I did not.  I liked the solitude.  And this is my fantasy now.  A high speed internet connection and me.  I would read and write all winter long.  I would sit here and look out the window at the snow.  I could go to town and visit my cousins if I got bored or lonely.  Or wanted a long hot shower.  Or needed to do laundry.  I think I would like it, to do it and write about it.

I love it here.  For some reason it makes my insides peaceful.  I generally consider myself a pretty social person and I love to be active and with people, however there is a big part of me that is very black and white.  I enjoy extremes.  And I appreciate solitude.  The older I get, this seems like something I want to try.  But it is not an easy thing to accomplish.  First off, one needs money and secondly – firewood.  Probably an unimaginable amount.  And four-wheel drive and a plow or a very big snowblower, a snowmobile would be wise.  And a good back which is actually the very big problem.  Not to mention the little plumbing issue.  But hey, it’s a romantic notion that I entertain.  To be left alone here, with my dog, and mountains of books, and my computer with that high-speed internet connection.

Puppies, Kittens and Forgiveness

I took down Forgiveness.

My blogs are about me.  I wrote Forgiveness about the biggest hurts of my life.  But someone thought I had “really lost my marbles” and said I shouldn’t “wonder why my life is where it is”.  This single person’s reaction was really, I thought, over the top.

I purposely do not identify people in my blogs,  however blogs are not meant to upset anyone.  I consider them more to be emotional regurgitation – a way to clean out my mind, a way to communicate and hear from others who feel as I do, get some feedback.

There are a very few people, OK only one actually who has said so, who don’t like anything I have written.  And I don’t know why this person continues to read my stories.  When I’m pushing buttons in the car looking for something to entertain me, if I come upon Rush, I keep on going.  I don’t watch Fox News.  Not interested at all.  I don’t watch The Bachelor or that Donald Trump show.   Not interested.  I hear a show called Honey Boo Boo beat the RNC last week.  I did not contribute to either’s ratings.  I would hope the few people who read my blog would not continue to return to it if they weren’t enjoying it.  That wouldn’t make sense.

Now on to Puppies and Kittens.  I don’t want to write about them.  I want to write about me.  My good bad happy sad colorful boring exciting messy silly serious busy life.  Maybe I need to work on a memoir instead.  But I’ve always considered my blog posts pre-work, if you will, for a memoir.

Anyhow, as I said, I took her down.  Thank you to all of you who are so encouraging to me.  It means a lot.  And makes me happy, happier.