Funerals and other parties

I want my funeral to be a big party. After all, I’ll be 103 and I’m pretty sure people will have an easier time with that whole letting go process. My 50 year old blind lover will probably take it the hardest but he’s still young and quite fit so I don’t doubt he’ll find someone else in time. Hmmm, my daughters will be around 70 and their kids will be probably in their 40’s; he could go either direction. That’s kinda gross and a little twisted. Oh well, I’ll be dead, I won’t care.

A bunch of years ago I started planning my funeral party in my head. Just for fun. It revolved around music, food & laughter…and my body over there in the corner for viewing and making snarky comments. Even though I know I will be at my funeral party and probably affect some sort of shenanigans, it made me a little sad that it would just be my spirit. And family & friends that are older than me and a bunch that are younger will already have died.

Sidenote: I’ve had conversations with the funeral director in town and he said it’s never too early to start planning your funeral so if anyone thinks I’m weird for thinking about this, well, I’m not. I’m normal, dammit!

So anyway, when Gary and my 25th wedding anniversary was looming on the horizon my brain also became aware that I would be turning 50 that year (Yay for the Golden Year; break out the bottle of Goldschlager!). If these aren’t two huge reasons not to have a party, I don’t know what is! You may already be dead if you don’t agree. It was at that moment that a huge 3000 watt light bulb went on over my head. My world became crystal clear…I WAS going to be at my funeral party…in the flesh. It would be the perfect trial run (only with a live person, not a dead one…and probably a lot cheaper). We were going to celebrate with family & friends, right now, while we’re all alive!

The party took place and it was wicked good fun! It revolved around music, food & laughter and just like any big party you obsess about and take over a year to plan, it was over in the blink of an eye. The first half of the party celebrated our 25 years of marriage with a loosely-based ceremony & food. The music & dancing was all about me; my birthday gift to myself with family & friends. The funeral party trial run was a grand success and I haven’t done any funeral planning for myself since. I’m glad I was able to party with the people I love…in the flesh. I danced all night until I could barely walk. Good Times! I appreciate all the people who came to my ‘funeral party.’ Thank you!

Our daughters walked us up the ‘aisle’

Our ceremony was way more fun and a lot less serious this time. My sweet eldest sister officiated (she’s ordained on the Internet…how fun is that?!) and we had a ceremony for our girls and gave each of them a Tree of Life pendant

Happy 25th to us!

We started off the dance with an anniversary dance

And then…it was all about me!

Friends+Whiskey+The Bocks=Therapy

Today’s been a relatively normal feeling day. Only one episode of crying during a moment of quiet in the car between the chaos of planning the funeral, helping my mom and trying to accomplish my own errands. My house is crazy dirty & unorganized because before I took off down to be with my dad we were in the midst of purging the house and reorganizing; that all got put on hold right in the middle of things getting worse before they get better. Things are still in the ‘worse’ stage at home.

In the middle of an errand I get a phone call from two friends, Kathy & Maria, who went to my father’s funeral only to discover that no one was there…
“Hmmm, there should at least be cars from the family here!”
They were all dressed up with no place to go so we made plans to meet at a local restaurant. I call Gary to let him know I won’t be coming home because I’ll be having a pre-wake for my father with friends.
“What a surprise,” Gary exclaimed, “Russ & Julie are here at the house because they went to the funeral and no one was there.”
“Holy Crap!” How many people thought the funeral was today?! This is insanely embarrassing! Earlier today two of my mom’s friends were bringing food for all the family that was expected and it didn’t occur to me what was happening because there actually IS family coming to help prepare for the funeral.

I thanked Julie & Russ, Kathy & Maria, for coming to my dad’s funeral…a week early. We talked, laughed & reminisced. It was still a pretty wonderful time because all of them can relate with losing a parent and they know what I’m experiencing (even if I hadn’t told them) and it’s oddly comforting knowing that. I love you guys a lot!

Coming home to the band practicing was another level of therapy. I brought shot glasses and my Irish whiskey to the basement and the guys and I toasted to my dad and his incredible gift of music. Coach taught himself to play the guitar just like my dad did. We talked about life and they played to me the music I love. Music, friends & laughter are the best kind of therapy around. Once again I am so aware, at this exact moment in my life, of how freaking blessed I am! I am so grateful for the people that are in my life. It feels like my dad is already communicating to me through my friends.

I cried so much over the last 2 weeks and now, I feel oddly at peace when I think of my dad. I had an incredible relationship with him; through happy & difficult times. Without really having the right words, my visual take on it is that, it feels like his unconditional love for me is wrapped around my heart like a protective shield…at least for now. The emotions may flood back once the funeral is underway. But for now, I appreciate the peace I feel.

Goodbye Dad, I Love You!

I love my family. They’re a freaky fun umbilical cord to my gene pool.

This week my family has been gathering in Madison to laugh, to cry, to share memories and ultimately, to say goodbye to my father. I find it ironic that he was born in Madison and even though he doesn’t live here anymore, he will come full circle by dying here. Life’s little coincidence? I don’t think so.

We had great fun and wonderful memories coming to visit my Grandma & Grandpa and aunts & uncles in Madison. My dad had some pretty incredible parents & siblings. They did remarkable acts of love for each other and my parents did the same for us kids.

By some other people’s standards we were poor. My parents reproduced like rabbits and raised ten kids on a very limited income with help from his brother’s & sister. As far as us kids knew we always had enough. We ate cheaply but we didn’t go hungry. We weren’t the best dressed kids but we had clean clothes. We didn’t have the latest toys but we were quite an imaginative bunch with creating our own fun, especially outside. By a freaky twist of fate all ten of us were born in a different month so at least once a month we had birthday cake.

When they couldn’t cram all of us into a station wagon ‘comfortably’ anymore they bought an old school bus & converted it into a camp-mobile. Our camping trips were epic! Dad playing his guitar & singing around the campfire was the highlight. Our family times were filled with laughter, fun, fighting, humor, cat-fights and just enough dysfunction to keep our bonds of loyalty intact.

My dad gave us unconditional love. He was there for us when we needed his help and he was with us to help celebrate the little stuff along with the big. His caring & giving to people and animals was immeasurable. He had a wicked sense of humor that was passed on to us kids which often bit him in the ass because we gave him a run for his money when bantering back & forth with him. Some people may have viewed it as being disrespectful, instead, my dad enjoyed it and found the humor in it. I could talk about anything with him and often did. Nothing was off-limits.

When I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday night it looked like I would not have the chance to ever communicate with him again. Wednesday morning I was talking & laughing in his room with siblings when I had a light bulb moment & in an excited voice loudly exclaimed, “We can bring Dad to Ireland!!!” (referring to his ashes). His eyes popped open & he looked at me. I was already excited but now I’m thinking, “Holy crap! He’s not in a coma!” So without a beat I said, “Dad. Do you want to go to Ireland with us?! “When?” he said. “I don’t know, sometime in May?” He actually looked like he was thinking and made some ‘maybe’ noises and then went back to sleep. I was ecstatic! I was so going to bring my Dad to Ireland!

This last week of his life has been a truely spiritual gift. When doctors thought he was entering into the coma stage of death, he defied them and ‘came back’ to us for additional days of interaction. Despite the emotional roller coaster ride of watching someone in the throes of dying, my dad’s verbal and non-verbal interactions with us and the hospital staff brought us sweet relief in the form of laughter & words of love. He loved puckering up and giving my Mom kisses.

We’ve brought him to hospice now and he’s in the final stages of life. I curse these damnedable love emotions and the tears they create. I’m tired of crying and yet the tears keep coming and they burn my eyes. Going out to the woods to cry was therapeutic; you can really let loose and Mother Nature is very understanding. I am honored to have had my father’s unconditional love and even though I went kicking and screaming into caring for him, I have learned valuable lessons from the experience. I learned that I have unconditional love for him too.

Old people ROCK! (‘n roll…some, only when they get pushed down a hill)

The kids asked us to have a New Year’s Eve party. Not the kid living at home of course; daughters #2 & #4 who are in their own apartments. I’m happy they want to continue the tradition (the real reason…they didn’t have any plans or place to go) but last year when Gary & I went out to party at a bar for the first time in DECADES, I was hoping we were starting a new New Year’s Eve tradition…and it would continue this year. We’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve since we started having kids. As they grew, so did the party. Eventually, the number of kids overshadowed the number of adults. It was always great fun and was a favorite tradition; lots of friends/family, food, music, games, bonfire & laughter. One year Gary scavenged a big red bubble light that was being thrown away. He saved it from certain demise after being discarded from an old road grader. We turn that light on any chance we get but ALWAYS at midnight on New Year’s Eve. It flashes out of the windows & bounces off the stop signs a block away. It looks very cool!

Our Party Light.

Our Party Light.


So anyway, I agreed…somewhat last minute & reluctantly to make food & have a party. One of these days they won’t want to hang out so much with us because they’ll have their own lives so I might as well enjoy the time given me. The party was mostly 20-somethings with a sprinkling of ‘old’ people. Even my parents showed up and we kept them amused until midnight. You heard me right…Midnight! I believe the ancients were silently pleased with themselves. I told them now they can brag to all their friends that they stayed up really, really late. It was probably one of my mellowest New Year’s Eve. I should’ve known something was amiss when I wasn’t allowed to do a remake of taking my mom to the floor during a rousing game of Spoons; I was the second person taken out of the game with 10 playing. The rest of the night I spent people-watching. It’s fun to observe the younger generation, they are quite amusing. It was also a relief to get to the end of 2012. It was a very difficult year and I have a strong feeling 2013 is going to be spectacularly awesome in all sorts of ways. It’s my lucky year!

If my life was a game right now it would be called

Strip & Go Naked! I’ve been having hot flashes since I was 31. When a nurse told me that I was too young to get hot flashes I laughed to myself. Oh really?! Then why is heat rolling off of me like a smelting furnace? Granted they were few and very far between and very doable as far as intensity & duration goes. They’ve accelerated slowly as I strolled my way through my 40’s and entered my 50’s. The last 3 years the night sweats started, still…not a major problem. Not at all like the horror stories I’ve heard that other women were having; poor women & their crazy sweatiness! Well, in the last 5 months my hormones have cranked up the thermostat and are blazing like an inferno that could start a brush fire. One recent day at school I was totally bundled up in winter wear heading outside onto the frigid, windy playground; whining because I forgot to put my Cuddleduds on under my slacks that morning.

Not 3 minutes later a 500˚ wave of heat rolled off of me and was trapped inside all my warm, protective gear. In less than 10 seconds I had my hood down, scarf & ear muffs ripped off, wool mittens torn off, zipper undone from my coat, zipper undone from my sweater and facing my body into the relief of the winter wind. Ahhhhhhh, sweet relief! After about 3 minutes when the sweat had sufficiently evaporated from most of my body I resumed dressing myself again because it was really cold out!

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I can’t wear the snuggly sweaters I love so much because I need to be able to strip down when an inferno rolls off me and then be able to add warmth back on because I’m cold again. Same goes for sleeping even though the heat vent is closed & the window is cracked open. I’m pretty sure the lack of a good sound sleep will affect me eventually. Fortunately, all 3 of us are taking it in stride…that whole strip & go naked & then getting dressed again. How long before I break is anyone’s guess. I’m sure I’ll let you all know when I no longer find humor in this. Until then I’m heating the house with my hot flashes!

Twas the night AFTER Christmas…

I was hoping to post stuff throughout the excitement of our holiday adventure but there weren’t any quiet times. It was a continual blur of activity. All four girls & their guys along with our 5th pretend adopted daughter were here by 3 PM on Christmas Eve and started pitching in to help finish getting the house & the food ready & ornaments on the tree. Two of the kids had never seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation so that was a priority on my list. Of course the kids are still sort of kids (if you compare them to an 80 yr-old) so they wanted to open gifts and do Yankee Swap first.

From the front, she looked like a normal Christmas tree.

From the front, she looked like a normal Christmas tree.

Anytime Christmas tree lights are added...it becomes magical, especially at night with Christmas music playing!

Anytime Christmas tree lights are added…it becomes magical, especially at night with Christmas music playing!

Dressed up in all her sparkling finery, it's almost like she's taking a bow to her admirers.

Dressed up in all her sparkling finery, it’s almost like she’s taking a bow to her admirers.

Our tree's empty space is being 'filled' by a talking Santa & a large star I received as a gift. We envisioned a large disco ball there but, surprisingly, we don't own one! Our living room screams for a disco ball.

Our tree’s empty space is being ‘filled’ by a talking Santa & a large star I received as a gift. We envisioned a large disco ball there but, surprisingly, we don’t own one! Our living room screams for a disco ball.


Gary & the kids got the cool stuff they asked for but more importantly, let’s talk about what I got! I got my winter boots & Cuddleduds but can you believe Santa forgot to bring me snow pants?! I’ve wanted them since last winter and I cannot believe, with all his magic, that he forgot them. I guess he was too busy concentrating on the boots & long underwear. I also got a Tree of Friendship glass ball, a bunch of warm cuddly socks, lots & lots of headbands (I shouldn’t run out for…forever!), a huge bag of pecans, a jar of raw honey, a magnifying glass & along with some DVD’s from the family pile…Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure! (to go along with the classic Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special that we already own) Gifts from the kids include a big kickass LED TV from daughter #1 (now the lights won’t dim like they did when we turned on the big old ginormous one!), a gift certificate from the delicious Teavana store & a wine accessory kit secretly hidden from burglars inside a pretend wine bottle from #2 & her PoohBear, a Charoite stone & a gift certificate from a goddessey new-age store I adore from #3 & her OsoBear, #4 & her new sweetpea gave me a DVD & a 10 pk outdoor solar light set for when we get around to making the far-far back yard look pretty this summer (*crossing my fingers*). On Christmas day everyone slept in except me because I was determined to make breakfast recipes off my Pinterest boards; Apple Cider Pancakes & Bacon in the shape of hearts (don’t bake them crispy because they break REALLY easy!). They were obviously delicious! Our final adventure before all of the kids were gone for work or significant others’ family celebrations was sledding down the town’s snow hill. (This is where those snow pants would have come in handy) Elizabeth wasn’t too keen on going but Betsy & Tebazilena were already bundling into snow gear so she didn’t have a choice.
Snow Tube 'Island' Adventure! The trick is to make sure you hang on tight to another tube (as well as your own). We try putting the youngest in the back so they have a better survival rate in case there is a tubing mishap.

Snow Tube ‘Island’ Adventure! The trick is to make sure you hang on tight to another tube (as well as your own). We try putting the youngest in the back so they have a better survival rate in case there is a tubing mishap.

It was GREAT FUN!!! We assembled all the tubes into a mass island, hung on to each other’s handles & inched our way to the top of the hill and…….adults just need to do that at least ONCE in their lifetime. It really brings out the kid in you!
Sometimes the 'island' becomes a 'peninsula!' At least we're all in the same general area. Looks like someone lost their mitten in the adventure!

Sometimes the ‘island’ becomes a ‘peninsula!’ At least we’re all in the same general area. Looks like someone lost their mitten in the adventure!

It was a great Christmas! We should be relaxing now but #2 & #4 informed us that we need to have a New Year’s Eve party here. Why? Because THEY don’t have anything planned to celebrate. I guess we need to enjoy having the kids spend time back home while we’re all young.

Best Exotic Old People

We watched the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last night. It’s about 7 elderly English people whose lives are seemingly at an impasse and boldly decide to go to India to ‘start over.’  The hotel turns out not to be the romanticized version from the brochure. The dramatic change in culture tests all of them, for the better and the worse. It takes a while to get to know all the characters but eventually you get wrapped up in their issues and look forward to finding out how they’ll work through them. This is the second movie I’ve seen recently (Hope Springs was the other one) that revolves around ‘old’ people (older than me) and I’m finding that they freakishly resonate with me, probably because that time of my life is ‘just around the corner.’ I like that they focus on the fact that being an older person doesn’t mean you go off somewhere to shrivel up. Old age isn’t a disease and it isn’t an end to being a whole person. It’s a new adventure and if you can get past the fear of starting over or starting something different, change, it can make you feel young again, and again, and again. Our minds don’t grow old (I’m 24), just our bodies. I need to be reminded of this at least every decade if not every year. I’m starting over again…and it’s scary. But it’s also opportunity for a great adventure! The movie ended with a peaceful feeling of happiness for me. Let me know what you think of it if you watch it.