It’s Been a Weird Few Months

And then the radio silence ended…

I’ve struggled to find the right words that describe the last several months for those of us at Pug Hollow. Weird is the first to come to mind (coupled with a variety of adjectives), but it’s been much more than that. We could easily include eventful, exhausting, frustrating, hectic, chaotic, refreshing and memory-making in the list. There’s much more to share than one post can contain, so I’ll break it up over the coming days.

Earlier this week, we laid to rest Betty Just – Cathy’s mom. She was 83. It’s been a long, difficult road for everyone involved, but especially for Betty and her daughters. The ravages of COPD exacted their toll in what seemed to be one-inch increments. Amazingly, she was able to stay at home until only two months ago, when it was no longer safe for her to be there. The last few months were spent in home hospice care at Cathy’s sister Cindy’s house. When she passed, it was with Cathy and Cindy at her side – the way all three of them hoped it would be.

As my friend and former collegiate offensive lineman Jim said, “she’s the only 75-pound lady that could scare the bejesus out of me with just a look.” Everyone in the family got the opportunity to experience that at some point. My turn came when all I tried to do was arrange for regular pest control for their house – and when she found out how much it was going to cost, that 4’10” lady (she was taller in those days) stood toe-to-toe with me, jabbing her finger into my chest, all the while looking up at me and telling me that there was no way in hell she or anyone was going to pay that. (It should be noted that Cathy’s dad sat in his chair and laughed during the entire episode.) She made it quite clear how things were going to run in her house.

It can never be said that she didn’t raise daughters that were equally tough – they just didn’t know how tough until recently. She was able to stay at home for as long as she did because of the girls’ never-ending pharmacy, grocery, doctor and hair appointment runs. Home hospice was a bold and heroic step, particularly for Cindy. Most people can’t do it. Hospice professionals often discourage it, because of the toll it can take. Quite frankly, I don’t know that I could have done what she did. Assuming the role of round-the-clock caregiver takes extreme commitment, extreme patience and the ability to run on close to zero sleep. Cathy provided as much help as she could, quite often being at home only long enough to grab some clothes to head to her sister’s to provide a relief shift. I know heroic seems like a strong word for their efforts, but what they have done for their mother over the last several years was nothing short of it. I mean that.

Her grandchildren were the highlights of her life – and made her smile into her final days. Cathy and I both believe that Nicholas gave her years she otherwise would not have had. We’re glad, for both of them, that the opportunity to bring each other happiness was there.

Betty’s passing was the culmination of 15 years (my best guess) of declining health; she’s finally at rest, no longer struggling to breathe, and no longer angered by the fact that she was being challenged to do so. She’s with Bob again, who she’s missed terribly these last seven years. The best I can figure is that his first words to her upon arrival were “what’s for supper?” – and she’d have it no other way.

Rest in peace, Betty. And don’t worry about your girls, they’re going to be just fine. That’s the way you raised them.

22 Years

Wow, that’s a long time.

20111021It was 22 years ago that we were anxiously waiting for the snow to melt from the record 9″ of it that fell two days before. I picked up my best man and his wife at the airport – flying in from Phoenix, so they were dressed for fall in Indiana. Winter was not on the radar.

Mike’s first words to me when I saw him in baggage claim: “What the hell is this?”

And then there was the rehearsal dinner – we were supposed to be in a “party room”, and it didn’t work out that way. Heat was not working in the room, apparently it too was a little stunned by snow in October. So we had dinner in the main dining area, with everyone else.

Then came wedding day. I can’t speak for the bride, but the groom and the best man were sitting in front of my trusty 13″ television watching a football game eating pizza at 3:30 in the afternoon, until one of us (can’t remember who) looked at the clock and said “we should probably get ready.”

I had one thing to remember to bring with me – the now famous pina colada scented unity candle. Did I remember to bring it? Hell no. Mike jumps in my car, drives back to the apartment to get the candle in record time. Did I mentioned he lived in Phoenix, and may not have had the best grasp of the roadways in Indianapolis? Good thing he’s smart.

Nerves were starting to catch up with me. Fortunately, our good friend Jim (who had just finished playing in a Butler football game that afternoon) arrived with the gym bag that made clinking noises. My hero.

I almost won the bet during the ceremony that Cathy would pass out – she still denies it to this day, but she did a big “I’m gonna pass out swoop” about halfway through. But she survived. We should have had the pool set up for whether or not Cathy’s dad would get through it without incident. He had one line – “Her mother and I” when asked who gives this woman. He was circling another planet when the time came, and all I could hear was Cathy and her sister talking out of the sides of their mouths “Her mother and I”. When he returned from orbit, he said “Come again?”

It took us 20 minutes to get married. It took us 90 minutes (or what seemed like an eternity) to take pictures. The natives were getting restless at the reception; the wedding was at 6:30, so people were getting hungry. The food line was held until we arrived. Needless to say, we were hustled to the food.

The reception was a party. And a half. We still hear stories about how much fun people had at our wedding reception. The bar bill was an accurate reflection of that. About 90 minutes into it, my freshly-minted father-in-law checked to see where the bar tab was, and the response was “How much?!?!!” (extra punctuation is necessary and appropriate). Good thing the bride’s freshly-minted father-in-law jumped into the fray with subsidy offers. A good time was had by all. Those of you that were there and are reading this – testify.

Funny how after 22 years, I still remember all of this. Even funnier is that I remember most of the other things that have happened since, and there’s been a lot. So to my dearest Fartblossom I say this: It’s been a terrific ride so far, and I’m sure the rest of it will be just as much fun. For me, it’s been “friends with benefits” all along. Which is nice. We’re in what’s becoming an elite club – those of us still married after all of these years. Thank you for putting up with me (I know it’s not easy), and for allowing me the privilege of putting up with you.

Notice I didn’t mention anything about putting up with you being easy (or not)? It’s things like that you learn after 22 years.

Happy Anniversary, Cathy!

Look Out World – She’s On

Brace yourselves, everyone – Cathy’s on Facebook. Yes, the queen of social (dubbed that by not only me, but by many of her friends) has finally boarded the train.

lookoutworld Believe it or not, it was part of my Father’s Day present.

Each year, I ask for the same thing for Father’s Day (and get your heads out of the gutter – you know who you are). The request is simple: a no commitment, no visitor, no going anywhere, do-nothing day. I wish to be a slug, and to completely dictate how little I want to do.

This year I added two more things, neither of which costs a dime: sign up for Facebook (because I know she’d get a big kick out of it) and sign up for Twitter. I got Facebook – two out of three, I can live with that.

So what’s been the resistance? Fear of privacy, mostly. It’s a legitimate concern, one that I completely understand. People should value and protect such things.

Unfortunately, the media is rife with horror stories about how Facebook jeopardizes personal privacy, wrecks marriages and bestows all kinds of horrors on society. Yes, you surrender some of it when you join social media networks like Facebook, but it does not have to be the personal information free for all that so many paint it to be.

So with the helpful guidance of some info written by my friend Abby Butts (everyone should read these posts by the way, they’re full of really good info), Cathy got herself all hooked up. She’s done an excellent job of bolting down her account, revealing only the things she wants revealed. There’s no magic to it, it’s just simply taking a stroll through your Privacy Settings and setting the restrictions to a level with which you are comfortable. And if you didn’t know, the default settings are not very secure – at all. Just ask Cathy.

So if you’re interested, pop in on her here. At a minimum, you’ll at least be able to make an introduction from there. That security stuff works pretty well when you set it up the right way.

The Apology

As most of you know, the boy has been participating in baseball. If you didn’t know that, you’ll want to go back and read about his first baseball game and check out the pictures.

Another thing that most of you know is that the boy has been accused of being “easily distracted”. For those who know his parents, it’s pretty easy to see that apples usually don’t fall far from the tree. I’ve said it many times, he is his mother. No, I’m not being mean here; I’m pretty certain she’d say the same thing about it.

Which brings us back to being distracted – it’s the end of the game on Saturday afternoon, it’s the boy’s turn to bat, and there’s an issue. Mom (who also serves as the team mom for this little band of baseball players) is called to home plate by the coaches to chat with the boy. It’s apparent things are not going terribly well. Upon our return to the car, there was pretty thorough, one-sided and relatively high-volume discussion between the boy and Momzilla (yes, there was a transformation) about how that was not going to be tolerated. I still didn’t have a lot of details on what happened, but that really wasn’t the time to be asking questions. I sat there quietly, it was the best and safest course of action for me.

Rather than my muddling the story from here, I’ll share this little email from Mom to the coaches. I think this closes the loop:

From: Cathy Bridegroom
Date: 05/17/2011 01:15 AM
Subject: Nicholas

Hi Guys,

I just wanted to give you both a heads up that you will be receiving a letter of apology in the mail tomorrow from Nicholas.  It is my way of teaching him that it is not okay to throw fits, pout and essentially act up when things don’t go his way.  As you both may recall, he was a bit out of sorts towards the end of the game on Saturday.  It was due to an incident on the bench minutes before you both had the pleasure of dealing with him up to bat, and he decided to “shut down.” I have found from past experience having him write notes is a good way to talk about what happened and also explain what he did was not a good choice and to make a better one in the future.  He does not enjoy the note writing experience, which in turn “motivates” him to not act up in the future or suffer the same consequence.  It may seem a bit extreme to some, but I’d rather take these teaching moments when I get them and address them pronto!

Soooo, here is what the notes say because I am afraid you will have a tough time reading them.  I equate his handwriting to a drunken chicken walking across the page – ha!

“Dear Coach, I am sorry I threw a fit and did not listen at the game.  I will not do that again.  Nicholas”  I would have had him write more, but frankly the little dear was exhausted from writing what he did.  My point was made.

Gentleman, thank you for patience and all the good you do for the kids.  It is truly appreciated.

Take care and see you at Thursday’s game provided no rain.

Good night and yes, I’m going to bed.  I’m a night owl!

Cathy

This is what we call motherly brilliance. It’s also helps to reinforce those three words that he’s obviously not grasped – don’t cross Mommy.

The Nerdification

This was one of the pieces I was holding onto for The Bridegroom Report. As promised, I’m unearthing the five or six things I had held back, just a little bit at a time. This particular item, though, has some evergreen qualities; you’ll see as you read it.

2010 was a landmark year for Cathy, at least in terms of technology.  Let’s go back about three years, when the first bit of life-simplifying technology was offered to her: the Blackberry.  Of course, she fought it, saying that she really didn’t think shed use what the blackberry a had to offer.

Fast forward to today, and she would be the first to tell you that she would be lost without it.  She probably reads 65-70% of her incoming mail on her phone (she’s on her second one), and deals with who knows how many text messages.  She’s even using the Blackberry Messenger instant messaging tools.  Simply amazing, considering her prior medieval ways.

So let go back in time a little bit to October 2010, when she asks me how much laptops cost. My first reaction was stunned silence, followed by “you really want to know?” Her phone gives her great mobility, and sitting at her desk apparently is confining.  So we do a little bit of shopping and pricing.

And then Apple starts running commercials for the new MacBook Air.  She’s smitten.

At her request (that’s the truth, it really was her idea), we make a trip to the Apple Store.  This is her first opportunity to see both the Air and an iPad.  While we escaped without buying anything, it was pretty clear she had her mind on something.

So in late October, we get her an iPod touch (her first such device).  She’s thrilled with the fact that she can take all of her music with her.  Literally all of it.  She’s also discovered that Nicholas is very aware of what can be done with an iPod touch: he loves to play Angry Birds (Dad’s fault).

It’s now the day after Thanksgiving – the one day of the year that Apple runs their computers on sale. She asks for my MacBook Pro, to take it for a test drive. Done.

Now she’s got her own laptop, and we can officially declare that it’s begun: The Nerdification of Cathy.

It takes getting through the holiday rush for her to sit down and use it, but she does. The touchpad is a little foreign to her, but the more she uses it becomes less and less of an issue.  Now every time I see her with it, and it’s all over the house now, I hear these words: “I love my MacBook”.  Music to my ears.

But the nerdification was not yet complete – there was more to do. Besides, Treat Week was upon us.

(For those unfamiliar with Treat Week, it’s a tradition I started for her several years ago. It runs for seven days, starting on her birthday and ending on Valentine’s Day. Each day, there’s a treat for her. I know, I’m a fabulous husband, hold your applause please.)

Treat Week arrives, and I’m at a loss for what to do for my big finish.  A week before, we had a pretty lengthy talk about the differences between iPad, Kindle, Nook and the various readers & tablet devices.  It was a conversation she started, and she had some really great questions regarding which device did what, etc.  I took that opportunity to listen to her answers, it made my shopping easier.  I decided to go big – her own iPad.

When I handed it to her, I was in trouble for about 5 minutes; then she realized what an interesting device it can be. In all honesty, it’s absolutely perfect for her. It’s users like Cathy that Apple had in mind when the developed this thing. It’s one of the greatest consumption devices ever made – if you’re not creating a lot of content, but taking in a ton of it from other places, there’s simply nothing like it.

Her favorite app: Netflix. Go figure. Sitting anywhere in the house watching a movie. That’s Cathy.

I am very pleased to say she’s using all of them, which makes me quite happy. My concern about offering these technology “things” to her was would she use them (because I knew they’d make her life a little easier). It’s certainly no longer a concern. Does she use them to the fullest in making things easier for her to accomplish? Not yet, but she’s trying. That’s all I can ask or expect, and she’s doing great.

See? Technology can make a positive difference in our lives, even for those previously labeled “technologically challenged”.