Friday, September 04, 2015

6 years

Today marks 6 years since my sister's death, from ovarian cancer. Falling on a holiday weekend, I have awakened each September 4 since in a camper, usually spending an hour or so feeling like I have a weight on my chest, before I can get up and join the rest.

This morning I awoke and decided instead, to focus on the laughter. The old stories that we told, time after time, and the secrets that shared together. I've summoned a few to share:

Go-go boots of Mud: Growing up in the 60s and 70s, as little girls we pined for go-go boots and short-shorts, and blue eye shadow and frosty white-pink lipstick. As we were 7- and 8-years old, our parents did not grant our requests for go-go clothes. 

We improvised with every rainfall. At the base of our front yard, where the neighbors sunk their tires every time they pulled into their driveway, there was a mudpit. My sister and I would run out and sit on the curb, mix rainwater into the soil until it was just the right consistency, and then spread it on our legs, a la go-go boot style. Once we were covered toe-to-knee, we'd get up and dance. 


For two little girls, I always look back and think that we fought more than two boys every would have. We slapped and pulled hair and tackled one another and rolled around on the floor like crazy cats one minute, but were best friends the very next minute. Teri was extremely protective of me outside of the house, and many was the time some neighborhood boy would taunt or torture me and end up running for his life when Teri stepped in. I can see her running, in my mind, with her arm behind her head, palm open, geared to slap the bully square in the middle of his back. She rarely missed her target.


Although we grew out of the catfights in our pre-teen years, we were occasionally still bratty to one another through our teen years. Mostly friends, but with mischievous moments.

She loved jumping out of dark doorways to scare the hell out of me.  To this day I hate to be startled, and avoid "fun" places like haunted houses.


She teased me mercilessly about my clothes and makeup on high school date nights, knowing full well that while I looked just fine--if not beautiful--that I'd run screaming back into my room to change my clothes if she said "is that what you're wearing tonight?" or worse, "when are you going to start getting ready?"


I picked on her occasionally too, and a famous family story is about my picking on her in the back seat of our Suburban on the way to the racetrack. We were 18 and 17 years old at the time--old enough to knock it off--but still I purposefully bothered her. I can't remember what I was doing, even--something likie putting my finger next to her eye and claiming "I'm not touching you!" or tickling her with a piece of grass every time she closed her eyes. Something especially annoying, I know, and she warned me repeatedly to stop.

I did not stop, I just kept messing with her.

She finally, silently, reached behind the seat in the Suburban, grabbed a torque wrench out of an open toolbox, and smacked me in the elbow with it. There was a resounding crack of wrench against bone, and she calmly said "Now are you going to stop?" I writhed in pain and laughter as I screamed "Uncle."   I remember the entire family howling with laughter--once we'd determined there was no broken bone. I deserved that.


In our adult years, raising kids and taking care of folks...we had different lives, different interests, but spent hours on the phone, hashing out trials, tribulations, joys, and laughter. 

She phoned me one October and asked what I was doing that night, and I popped off with how busy I was, and I had this to do and that to do, and I really needed to just get off the phone. An hour or so later, I realized that it was her birthday, and she had been calling to see if Brian and I would like to join the family for dinner that night. 

Instead of being hurt, Teri just sat back and smiled, knowing she had an ace-in-the-hole, and that I would figure out, eventually, what I had just done. 

She knew I figured it out when I sent flowers to her office, with a card that said "I hate myself."


Until she passed away we shared a bit of wonder, glee, and downright perplexity at a distant family member [Bob] that adored her, but would not speak to me. Even if Teri and I were together, she would be addressed, and I couldn't even make eye contact with [Bob].

Reporting in about [Bob] became a great source of fun for us, Teri calling me to say "I ran into [Bob] and he gave me a big hug and talked my ear off!" and I then, later, would call her and say, "I just stood right behind [Bob] at Farm and Fleet, and he didn't even speak when I said hello."


Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed the stories as much as I have enjoyed revisiting them. Laughing over these memories today has been much more constructive for me than pouting and aching, and if she's reading my blog--she better be reading my blog!!!---I know she'd say, "well, it's about damned time."

Monday, April 20, 2015

To Make or Not to Make

I've noticed, lately, a series of "Why You Should Make Your Bed" articles and speeches, alleging that bed-making is a simple habit that will increase daily productivity. The claim is that it's the first task—and thus, the first accomplishment—of the day, that will set off a chain reaction of tasks through the rest of the day.

Who makes this stuff up?

Why does making my bed have to be my first accomplishment? What if I trade it for putting my coffee cup in the dishwasher? Or hey!  Putting on a bra! I can honestly state that I get less done on days I don't wear a bra. Those are most often snow days and sick days (and Sundays), but the donning of the bra is usually the first sign of getting back down to business.

I imagine a day shot because I didn't pull the covers up before I left the house. An email to my boss: "I'm sorry, but I didn't make my bed this morning. I'm discombobulated. I just need to ... go home and restore my chakras." If a couple of hospital corners put me back in the groove, I'm likely to delve into the possibility of deeper issues.

I'm not saying that I don't ever make my bed, or that I don't feel good when it's all tidied up; I'm simply going to get as much done in a day with or without bouncing a quarter off of it before I leave the house.

To boot, some days I feel like not making my bed is my first act of kindness of the day.

There's a chain reaction I can put some stock into. 

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Vintage Nightstands and Creative Property

After years of searching for a set of vintage nightstands, Clint and I hit the road last weekend to Louisville, KY, to buy a pair he found on Craigslist. Yes, we did drive 4 hours to Louisville, because there were 2, count 'em, 2, matching, vintage nightstands, in beautiful shape. We have been on the lookout for these for at least 5 years—vintage nightstands seem to come in 1s, and not 2s.

Once we'd procured our purchase, we wandered Louisville for a while, then drove back towards Nashville, Indiana for the night. On Sunday we leisurely meandered our way home, pulling over or turning around when something caught our eye.

Somewhere in Indiana, something did catch my eye: a spectacular old car—not sure what kind, but think Model T—in front of an antique shop. The owners had covered the car with all kinds of fun stuff. A sink faucet sat atop the radiator. Floorboards are covered with house keys, and the dashboard had old wrenches mounted all over it. There were flower pots and antlers and gears and fan blades—it was a sight to behold!

We browsed inside and out for awhile, and I stopped to take a photo of the car before we took our leave. While I did so, the owner quickly stepped outside and asked me "What are you going to do with your photos? Are they for your own personal use?"

On the spot, I could only think that I'd probably have sent the pic to my son, but that seemed like personal enough use, so I said, "Um, uh yes," whereupon she retreated back inside.

I am still a bit curious at what she thought I might have done with that phone-photo. Print it and make millions, without giving them royalties?

I work in publishing, where pirating and copyright infringement is rampant. I have signed cease-and-desist letters. I have a reasonable understanding of plagiarism, and have spent a fair amount of time trying to decipher the often-blurred lines of intellectual and creative property.

I understand that when we take a photo of an artist's work, we do kind of walk away with something that was theirs. I could  never afford this so I'm going to take a picture of it for free and keep that instead. That's offensive. You shouldn't do that.

Perhaps that's the category this old car fell into, but I still feel like I'm missing something—why on earth would the owners lure you into their shop with this spectacle, and then verbally police the photography? How exhausting for everybody. A better tactic might be a sign reading  "Take a picture with our Jalopy—$1" or even "By God, No Photos!"

In all honesty, I probably would have posted my photo on Facebook, along with the name and address of their business, and I would have encouraged about 700 of my friends to pull over and check it out for themselves. If it were my junky little antique store, I would surely capitalize on my spectacular creation and ask you to tell everybody to come out and see it.

But that's just me. The bottom line is that the owners have their reasons, and I am absolutely not entitled to take any photo I want to.

I respect that.


Here's a photo of my nightstand.*

*Image of this nightstand Copyright 2015, Lori Stewart Weidert. All right reserved. No form of reproduction of this image, including copyrighting or saving of digital image files, or the alteration or  manipulation of this image is authorized unless accompanied by  written permission granting specific usage rights for an agreed-upon fee of a hundred million dollars. This image may not be legally reproduced without prior written authorization from Lori, beyond the screen you are currently viewing. This photo is not freeware. For information regarding commercial or personal use, contact Lori at this blog.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Mama's Secret Recipes—Yours for the Taking

Wandering around the grocery store for a dinner option the other night, I contemplated my pantry, versus my mother's, when we were growing up.

My mother was an enigma in the kitchen: kind of a terrible cook, yet an adventurous one.

Of course she could make a nice salad and bake a chicken or throw a steak into a cast iron skillet. Anything fancier  came from a kit. Chef Boyardee boxed spaghetti dinners—a can of tomato paste and a packet of spice—add water to make sauce, and Italian! Muy Ooo la la!!

She was just never good at choosing two ingredients that went well together. She had a recipe called "chicken and sauerkraut for one." I wonder if she didn't write it that way because "chicken and sauerkraut for four" didn't fly in our household.

On the other hand, she was using cilantro in this berg for years before anyone had ever heard of it. She dragged us into the only Asian store in town, and bought cilantro, and fresh mushrooms—also newfangled—when midwestern fungus-eating hoity-toitys only bought canned. She fixed exotic dishes with tongue. She invented a weird sloppy joe recipe consisting of onion soup and flour.

I ended up walking out of the store thinking we were probably better fed than we ever knew, and we never went hungry, and probably my sister and I were kind of assholes for giving her dishes names like "Garbage Soup."

Honestly, I thunk myself into a bit of shame and chagrin for being such a brat.

Tonight, however, I was flipping through her recipe box and found this:

Jellied Prune Whip: Orange jello, egg white, and a jar of baby prunes.


I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

The moral of the story: I wish that my sister was here so we could slap our knees and laugh "we weren't assholes! We were right!"

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Honeymoon Notes: Lighthouses, Phobias, and Tennis Shoes

Clint and I are honeymooning in Nag's Head, North Carolina. We're balancing our time with a bit of sightseeing each day, and a lot of crashing on the beach, which happens to be just below our balcony.

Tuesday morning we set off to tour a few lighthouses in the area. "Touring" means "photographing" for me, and "climbing to the tippy-top" for Clint. I came to terms with my fear of heights a few years ago when I thought I wanted to zipline in Cancun. Climbing the stairs made me hyperventilate, so I'm not sure why I thought I wanted to jump off the tower at the top. Lesson learned! I sent Clint off alone to climb these stairs

(Photo credit: Clint Weidert)

To the top of Bodie's Lighthouse:

And promised that I would take this photo:

When we arrived, I noted this sign in the lawn in front of our car:

It was a shortly-trimmed lawn as far as I could see, and I joked on Facebook that it was probably just a great way to keep people off of it.

Still, while Clint joined his tour group, I opted to trek down a surrounding boardwalk to a nearby lookout point, and it wasn't long before I met up with a family admiring this guy:

"It's a black snake," one guy said; "they are so beautiful." Beautiful my ass! I skirted by and used the super-de-dooper zoom on my camera for this shot, and continued down the boardwalk, now scanning left and right, checking the lawn and the boardwalk.

I've never really liked snakes, but I could recognize that for the most part, it was a phobia handed down from my Mother. She had a few childhood stories: A snake fell out of a tree onto her at the San Diego Zoo when she was a kid, and a blue-racer chased after her once as a child. She hated snakes. Truth be told, while they kind of creep me out, I've never really been face-to-face with one to know if I would be terrified or not. 

After meeting that big guy, I confirmed that I was kind of scared of them. The guy that thought they were beautiful served as a bit of a buffer, but he was gone now, and I sure as hell didn't want to encounter another on my own.

I moved on down the boardwalk then, and, after inspecting for snakes, leaned over this rail to see what I could in this freshwater pond.

I spotted a giant crab lumbering about in the muddy bottom, and was busy watching it eat, when a very large woman came trundling up the boardwalk, screaming. "Eeeeee, ohhhhhh!!!" I turned to find her coming right at me, pointing at my feet. I screamed too, then, dancing and moving away from what I assumed was another 5-foot long black snake, when she gushed,

"I just love your shoes!"

Holy Mother of God. I thanked her and set about trying to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat. I had to laugh, later, that I opted out of climbing the stairs to the top of the lighthouse to avoid the very sensations of fear and anxiety that I ended up encountering anyway. 

Phobias are kind of interesting. Even though I have an intellectual understanding that a set of stairs into the sky aren't going to hurt me, the wobbling knees, churning stomach, and vertigo still set in. Even though I know on some level that a snake "is more afraid of me than I am of it." [::coughbullshitcough::] I will scream my head off and dance a jig at the possibility that one is slithering towards me, before I even verify it.

Things I Learned on Day Tuesday of our Honeymoon: 

1. Irrational or not, I *am* afraid of snakes.

2. "Bodie" is pronounced "Body." It has 219 stairs, and two 1,000 watt bulbs (one is a back-up, in the event the other goes out) that is on 2.5 seconds, off for 2.5, on for 2.5, then off for 20 seconds, and every mariner knows that is Bodie-Body's pattern.

3. I have great tennis shoes.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I Always Did Like Valentine's Day

Last February 14, Clint called me at work and asked if I could cut out a little early to meet him at his parent's bank; he needed a witness to sign some trust papers. We were in the middle of a minor snow storm, and leaving--and getting home--early sounded good to me anyway.

I trudged out into it then; the snow was coming down faster than bank maintenance could keep up, so I pulled into a parking lot piled with about 4 inches of snow. I spotted Clint's truck and tried to grab a spot next to him but none were available. I ended up exiting the lot, going back around, parking farther away, and scuffling up to the bank door in snow up to my shins.

As I approached the door, Clint called me over to his truck. "Hey! Come over here and give me a kiss! Remember what happened here 8 years ago?" 

I did remember. I had parked in that space 8 years ago for our class reunion ice breaker, and we were among the few that chatted until the very end. Clint and I grew up together and were close friends in junior high and high school. Well, as close as awkward junior-high kids could be; he was my racing buddy, my friend I invited to come to the track every weekend when Dad raced. My sister and I were allowed one friend each, and he was mine.

We reminisced until Bunny's closed the door at 2 a.m., and Clint chivalrously walked me back to my car, a block away from his own, and kissed me goodnight at my car door.

8 years ago. Our first kiss in the bank parking lot.

This Valentine's Day we stood in the slush and the snow, hugging, while Clint remembered: "Our first kiss. I waited 30 years to do that."

The next thing I knew, still holding my hand, he was down on one knee, getting soaked to the skin, pulling out a ring-sized box he made himself, and from it, this very beautiful ring, and he asked me to marry him. I said yes, of course, and he put that beautiful ring on my finger.

Then he pulled himself up out of the slush, pulled another ring out of his pocket, and said "Since you said yes to that one, you might like this one too."


Clint and I were married last Saturday, September 20, on the deck we designed and built together, at our home. All of our children were with us; Son and Grandson Craig and Will stood up with Clint, Daughter Jen and son Brian were on my side, and our son-in-law Bill became ordained to perform the service. 

We are gleeful, and incredibly blessed to have so many loving friends and family!

WooHoo, ya'll!


P.S. There were no papers to sign at that bank.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tough Day

I recently made an interesting personal observation: I don't cry much these days. I compare to 5 years ago, when my sister was dying of cancer, my mother was losing her mind with Alzheimer's, but just coherent enough for Teri's illness to be new and shocking to her every day, and my son was preparing to go to Iraq.

I cried a lot then, but oddly enough, still mostly in private. I usually cried in the car. I cried when I drove from home to Mom, then I bucked up and dealt with things. I cried between Mom and Teri's house, then got my shit together. I cried from Teri's to work, where I pulled it together to put in my 8 hours. 

A week from now will mark the 5-year anniversary of Teri's passing. She died on Labor Day Weekend, and, while she is always on my mind, I feel like she's sitting on my soul every year at this time. 5 years. I can't believe it. I reflect on our daily conversations, and how she actually wondered where we would each be after this much time. I often wish I could tell her that it's no easier now than it was on Day 1.

It remains to be seen, however, that all of those terrible circumstances that had me bonking into walls in 2009 don't exist, and life is good, and I laugh now, much more than I cry.

However. 5 years! She's been on my mind, with this "landmark" anniversary. I can hardly believe it.


This morning I walked into Carle Clinic for a doctor appt., and was directed to a self-check-in. Upon verifying my identity, a screen popped up: Is this still your Emergency Contact? It was Teri. Teri's first and last name. Teri's address, and her phone number and her work phone number, and her relationship to me.

It hit me in the gut. I added Clint as my Emergency Contact. And then there were 2: Clint and Teri. I stood there, and hit the giant red "X" next to Teri's name. I scanned my card, printed my receipt, and went upstairs.


Perimenopause, my diagnosis is, from one of the nicest Ob-Gyn doctors I have ever met. Exactly what I expected. There is medication for my problem (women can guess, men don't want to hear about it)--BUT. But there must be a "procedure" first. A biopsy. Usually a woman has fair warning, and can take some Tylenol ahead of time, but if I want to get this mess taken care of ASAP, we can do it sooner. Like, now. The biopsy is procedural and routine. It allows the doctors and powers that be to say, "see? Those meds are the right thing to do, because this over here isn't the problem," when the results come back that there isn't a problem.

I opted for the procedure, sans Tylenol prep. It had to be performed twice, but was over quickly, and was only vaguely uncomfortable. The doctor noted, as she sat me up, that she'd like to clone me as a patient, stoic and calm as I was. 

As the sweet nurse agreed with her, out of nowhere I fell into tears. I mean, I. lost. it. The ugly cry. The two of them stood there, stunned. I knew my behavior was a surprise, but the more I tried to compose myself, the harder I cried. 

I finally managed to get out that Teri was still my Emergency Contact, and that I was feeling fragile when I walked in. And then ticking off my family's medical history--all of them essentially gone--when I'm naked but for a sheet, is hard every time I go to the doctor. Followed up by an on-the-spot decision about a medical procedure, and finding the statement "this really is a crazy amount of blood" both vindicating and unnerving--well, I guess I just lost my ability to buck up.


It's a strange mix: grief and hormones and aging and life's natural progression. While I felt a bit undone this morning, I know that women my age are losing their composure in clinics all over the world, and I'm not the first patient my doctor has ever watched burst into tears. I'm 51 and fabulous, dammit, and all of this is not unexpected. I drove myself home, just fine, in need of an afternoon's sleep, and that was it. 

As tough a morning as it was, in the end, I can only circle back to how this post began: I don't cry much, these days, and I cherish that. One "public" outburst is pish-posh after the seasoned veteran I became in 2009. The pendulum may swing back to tough times some day, but in the meantime, I appreciate where I am right now.

Also, I miss my sister.