Monthly Archives: October 2007

Too close to home

I’m up late tonight because I can’t sleep.

I don’t know whether the story has traveled very far beyond the local news, but some of you may have heard about the beach house in Ocean Isle that burned over the weekend and about the seven college kids who died there. When I heard the news Sunday, the first thing I did was call my son, who often takes off on a moment’s notice for a weekend with friends at the beach. Even though Ocean Isle is not one of his regular destinations, you never know. But he was fine.

I have deliberately avoided watching the news for the last couple days, because this just hit so close to home. I can’t even tell you how many beach vacations we’ve taken, staying in houses just like the one that burned. Or how many times my kids have stayed with friends and their families in similar places. From the Outer Banks to Beaufort to Wrightsville, to Sunset and Holden, to Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, even down to South Ponte Vedre. All those beach houses are different, but they are exactly the same: weathered wood structures meant to stand against wind and waves. Not fire. I did not want to hear the details.

This morning I turned on the TV to watch the weather forecast and the first thing I saw was a video clip of that house completely engulfed in flames. All I could think about was those seven kids trapped inside, burning. It made me feel physically ill. And I cried. For those kids and for their families and for all those who loved them.

The horror of telling that story, of speaking those words, should have been bad enough. Showing that video was inexcusable sensationalism.

Tonight I talked to my daughter for the first time since I heard the news. I knew she was not at the beach, but she told me that a friend of hers was there. He and some other friends were staying at the house right next door to the one that burned. They had met those kids and hung out with them the night before. Needless to say, he is not in a good place right now, emotionally. Along with so many others.

It struck me again how easily that could have been one of my kids, or their friends, going up in flames on the morning news. And I wish I could get that image out of my head so I could sleep.

It’s hard to believe the parents of those seven kids will ever sleep again.


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What can I say?

I got an email the other day asking why I haven’t posted here for a while. The short answer is that, for the first time since I started this blog, I don’t have anything to say. No, that’s not quite true. I don’t have anything to say that I think anyone would be interested in reading.

There is nothing unusual or fascinating going on in my life. Nothing particularly funny or meaningful. Nothing weird or wonderful. I have no insight or wisdom or humour to share.

Really, I checked. Nothing. You’re going to have to trust me on this.

Lately, life events have been mostly tedious mediocre drudgery. No one wants to hear about that. I sure don’t want to write about it.

Mom always told us: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. I figure that also applies to when you don’t have anything interesting to say.

So I’m not.

Until I do.

Which could be two months. Or tomorrow.

But then I will.


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Packing it up, packing it in

Knowing you will soon have to pack up and move everything in your possession, even the stuff that’s yours by default rather than choice, really forces you to make some decisions about what has value and to finally deal with all that damn clutter that built up while you weren’t paying attention. Translation: No way in hell am I taking all this stuff with me.

Here are some random things I’ve learned recently, most of which serve to reinforce the conclusion that this house is indeed too big for my current needs and it is way past time to move:

  • I have too much stuff and it has predictably expanded to fill the available space, but some of this stuff is not mine and some of it I’ve never even seen before, so I suspect at some point I must have agreed to store things for the neighbors, and all their friends.
  • The cat has expressed her digestive displeasure in some places I almost never see, in some rooms I rarely frequent.
  • I had forgotten how very nice my kitchen table looks with nothing on it.
  • My refrigerator looks very nice too, without all those cute magnets and funny notes from the kids (all now stored safely, no need for panic here).
  • My daughter made the Dean’s List last year — which I knew, of course, and I’m very proud of her accomplishment — but I didn’t realize the university had sent me a certificate of recognition.
  • I have managed to accumulate more shoe boxes than I have pairs of shoes.
  • There are definite tactical disadvantages to being the last one to move out of a place, after others have taken only what they really want and then disavowed responsibility for disposition of the remainder.
  • Getting rid of some of this stuff is entirely too satisfying and is no doubt damaging my karma.
  • The fact that a house has a lot of closet space is not always a positive feature, something I do not intend to point out to prospective buyers.
  • Three broken fingernails, a smashed thumb and a bruised shin can be seen as badges of courage (as opposed to sheer stupidity) for doing some things yourself instead of waiting for help — especially if, once you stop swearing, you squint your eyes and tilt your head just right.
  • Old dust makes me sneeze, violently.
  • Taking pictures of things you are about to throw out, maybe even a few things you plan to keep, then emailing said pictures to the kids with a message saying, “You didn’t really want this stuff anymore, did you?” will prompt some rather interesting phone calls and provide an entertaining break from the tedium.
  • There are times, unlikely as it may seem, when a 96-gallon garbage can is Just Not Big Enough for the needs of a one-person, one-cat, one-dog household.
  • Some things do not fit easily into either a packing box or a trash bag; interestingly, they tend to be the same things that were damn near impossible to wrap as gifts.
  • Loud music helps ground me to present day reality when memories threaten the momentum.
  • It has been way too long since my mom came for a visit and, in spite of telling me not to go to any bother on her account, prompted that guilt-induced flurry of “Oh My God I Have To Clean Up This Mess Before The Woman Who Knows She Raised Me Better Than This Gets Here” activity.
  • It’s shocking, I know, but it seems possible that procrastination is not always the best course of action.

I’m exhausted and I’ve barely made a dent in it. I’ve decided the only way I’m going to get all this done is to give up either sleeping or writing. There’s no question as to which would provide more motivation. So today I packed up my ms pages and my research notes and my reference books, though I couldn’t make myself seal the boxes. Good thing I have also recently discovered my very impressive talent for stubborn determination. I’m going to need it.


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