Well, the Locks Work

I love my new home, which was built in 1979 and still has mementos, shall we say,  of those early days.

No sense getting rid of something if it works, right? I learned the hard way just how well some of those pieces have held up over the years. Take the doorknobs, for example. Or let me say, take the doorknobs, please.

Last night I had one of those fluke home accidents that are difficult to reconstruct and embarrassing to explain. So rather than try to paint a detailed picture for you, suffice to say, some tissue caught on fire, I tossed it in the toilet, had the presence of mind to turn the fan on, and closed the door so the smoke detectors wouldn’t go off. It should be noted I was certain the fire was doused at that point.

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Yeah, one of the cats could’ve opened it.

Later, when I was sure the smoke was cleared, I returned to the bathroom and — the door was locked. I did everything I knew to do with a locked bathroom door, including breaking a hanger so I could use the hook at the top to pop out the lock, sliding a credit card past the latch and looking at the other locks for clues.

Oh yes, checking the door sills for a magic key. Those, no doubt, were lost long ago.

This morning, promptly at store opening, I entered Lowe’s and headed to their key counter, hoping they had a magic key. No such luck. Use a hanger, the guy told me, or a credit card.

My neighbors helped me with a tool or two, but still, nothing worked. I was forced to call my landlord, who got a good laugh out the situation. She’d done it herself, she said, but she couldn’t remember how she’d gotten the door open again.

A picture is worth a thousand words…here’s before and after…what you can’t see in this picture is how we tried to take the door off the hinges, then realized we’d have to pull it straight out and try not to tear out the latch. We abandoned that idea.

Eventually Catherine, my landlord, somehow got the door open with a credit card and a screwdriver. We’d tried that before, to no avail, but this time she got it to work.,

It took an hour, and that was the time spent on it after she arrived. The cats were confused, but friendly (they like Catherine).

Last summer she debated about changing the door knobs. Now I helped make that decision for her.

But I can get into my bathroom again.


Image of Cat © geosap — Fotolia/AdobeStock

Help or Hindrance

While living in my last apartment, I got to know an amazing variety of people, most poor, and several with stories that oftentimes seemed unbelievable. One of these woman was Cecilia, a bright lady with a distorted view of her role in the world.

bird-1048269_1920She had twin daughters, Chantal and Sabra, who had just turned 18, but were both emotionally much younger. Chantal was the cherished child; as a result of her mother’s difficult pregnancy she had mild cerebral palsy, and every accomplishment was heralded by Cecilia as a miracle. When I say every accomplishment, I mean each one, no matter how mundane, routine, or handily achieved.

I believe in helping those with disabilities deal with their disabilities.

That is the fair and decent thing to do, to give everyone a chance to live a decent life and fulfill their dreams. But it ends there. Children with cerebral palsy are not angels. They are children.  Yes, they have special needs that must be cared for, emotionally and practically. Beyond that, they have the same mix of good and bad every child has, and need to be treated with love and discipline.

Chantal had been taught that because of her cerebral palsy, she was the angel child, entitled to whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted it. In the months after I met her, I began to get calls at all hours asking me to take her to the store and buy her treats, DVDs, games or anything else she desired at that moment. It never daunted her to ask me to spend my limited funds — and limited time — on this child I barely knew. When I refused her, she very nearly got violent in telling me off.

Sabra, healthy, smart and beautiful, was, in Cecilia’s mind, the demon child. Never mind that the girl was obedient and disciplined, she not only could do nothing right, but as she grew older her mother began to accuse her “evil” daughter of beating both her and Chantal. Cecelia showed up at my door one day and pointed to her cheek, saying, “See what Sabra did this time?!”

Hummingbirds FightingI could see nothing amiss. Cecelia asked me to come over and help her care for Chantal, whom she claimed had been beaten with a wooden spoon and thrown repeatedly to the floor by Sabra. I had my doubts. I’d caught this woman in a number of lies before, and I’d figured out the family dynamics. Still, I was concerned about Chantal. Even if Sabra had done nothing, I was beginning to wonder what her mother was capable of doing simply to get a little attention.

Chantal was stationed in front of the television, watching cartoons and eating cookies. She greeted me with surprise, and when I asked how she was doing, said, “okay, I guess, but my favorite DVD is broken and no one will buy me a new one.”

I knew that story.

“Where’s Sabra?” I asked, ignoring her attempts to manipulate me.

“I dunno.” Just at that moment, a sleepy Sabra emerged from the girl’s bedroom.

In the meantime,

Cecelia was calling 911, once again claiming one daughter had beaten the other and smacked her around as well. Since Cecelia was a good six inches and 100 pounds bigger than either girl, it was hard to believe she couldn’t have overpowered Sabra. But that was only a small part of my doubt.

The ambulance and police showed up a few minutes later. “Hi, Cecelia,” the first officer through the door said. “What’s going on today?” He sounded weary and as skeptical about the situation as I was, and asked some very pointed questions clearly meant to poke holes in the woman’s story.

It turns out Cecelia made this accusation, or one similar, on almost a weekly basis. At her insistence, Chantal was always taken to the hospital, and would return home within two hours. Charges were never pressed against Sabra.

canary-20522_1920Until a month later. I never did find out whether or not she actually struck Cecelia (at some point I figured the girl would break), but Sabra ended up in jail for two days before appearing in court, where the judge dropped the charges and advised her to move out of her mother’s home. She did just that, and within a few weeks, Cecelia and Chantal left their apartment in the middle of the night.

Two years later,

I ran into Sabra while shopping at Walgreen’s. She gave me a big hug, and when I asked how she was doing, told me in great detail about the good things in her life. Her boyfriend, her apartment, her job…it all seemed good. I knew she had a lot to overcome, but she seemed genuinely happy. Relaxed.

“Do you ever see your mom?” I asked.

Bee eater BirdThe smile faded a bit. “Never,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again.” She paused. “They removed Chantal from her home. I want to see her, but she thinks I was the one who took her away from our mom.”

I decided not to ask if she had anything to do with it. “I think that’s the best thing for her,” I said. “And I don’t think you should see your mom either, at least not right now. Maybe someday.”

I hope the day comes when Sabra can see her mother again without falling back into the emotional abyss she had to be living in. This woman raised both daughters in such a manner the courts took action, but she is still their mother.

Help or hindrance, they will always need their mother. Just not the one they got while they were growing up.

Photo Credits: (birds in nests) and (bird in cage) courtesy of Pixabay; (fighting hummingbirds) and (bee-eaters) © Adobe Stock

The Letter (sigh)

Heart drawn on rainy-streaked window

When I was 36, I moved from Minneapolis to Nashville for a relationship. I distinguish “moving for a relationship” from “moving for a man.”

It was a decision I made because it was what I wanted to do, and not because I was one of those women who would sacrifice anything for the man in her life. I’d made big moves before, so I knew what I was getting into. In fact, I was looking forward to the change and opportunities.

But overall I wasn’t content in Nashville. I broke up with that boyfriend a year after my move, and made only one true friend in the three years I was there.

Still, something special did happen, a seemingly small event, but one that lifted my spirits for years. I wish I could go back in time for this simple reason: to save that letter.

It was January,

Sad love heart symbol background

a few months before Mark and I split up, and I knew our relationship was coming to an end. Still, I wasn’t going to go out with anybody else until it was officially over, no matter how appealing he might be.

No matter how appealing he might be.

The apartments I lived in at the time were nice, but they didn’t have a washer & dryer hookup in the units. Instead, there were a handful of washers and dryers in the mail room. To avoid the crowd, I did my laundry early Saturday mornings. I didn’t dress up by any means — sweats, no makeup, my hair looking like a bird’s nest. I think I even wore slippers. I did take a shower and brush my teeth (my concession to public sensibilities), and likely wore my contacts out of habit. But it was not a moment to capture in either mind or photo.

A man started showing up at the same time, somewhat older than me, and very kind. We’d talk, but I’m not a morning person, and generally I was there to throw my laundry in and haul back to my apartment. I barely noticed him.

Then one day I got a letter,

in an ordinary office envelope, written on plain yellow ruled paper. The return address was the apartment in the building next to mine. I was curious, and a little nervous. Who on earth?

adobestock_125247617-convertedIt was the gentleman who’d been doing his laundry at the same time I was. Turns out it was no coincidence he showed up every Saturday morning for weeks on end. Despite my scarecrow appearance and nominal conversation, he wanted to get to know me.

It was the warmest, most heartfelt letter I’ve ever gotten, ending with an invitation to dinner.  It made me feel treasured. I kept that letter for years, and today I have no idea what happened to it.

I spoke to him the following Saturday and told him while I truly valued his letter, I wouldn’t be comfortable going out with him since I was still dating Mark. He suggested coffee, but I knew how Mark would feel about even that casual of a meeting (despite the growing distance between us), and I knew how I would feel about it, too. I told this gracious man if I ever broke up with my boyfriend, I’d look him up.

By the time Mark and I did split, the man had moved away.

I don’t regret not going out with him. I believe in honoring the relationship you’re in, even if it’s rocky. Tempting yourself isn’t wise.

If I could go back in time, I’d travel to the moment I decided to throw away that letter (if indeed I did, perhaps it was tossed accidentally) and save it instead as the rare gift it was.


Image Credits: (car) © James Group Studios Inc — Adobe Stock; (window) © robsonphoto — Adobe Stock; (letter)  © vladwel — Adobe Stock

I’ll Take a Gnome, Please, but I’ll Wait on the Flamingo

It’s so much fun decorating my new place. Since I live in an area replete with similar townhouses, I’ve had the opportunity to see how some of my neighbors have fixed up their homes, and it’s given me some great ideas.

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My neighbors to the right.

One area I haven’t touched yet is the front of the home. You don’t have to go far to see the variety of opportunities for beautifying the facade of the buildings. They range from tasteful to tacky, conservative to wacky, and my neighbors on either side of me are great examples of the range of these options.

I do plan to add a planter  or two of flowers out front, and for Christmas no doubt I’ll find something to tack on the front door. This may be the perfect time to pull out that latch-hook door hanging that says “Noel.” I made it in high school, I think, or shortly thereafter. It does, admittedly, veer to the campy side, but hey, it’s Christmas. And compared to what they’re likely to do next door (to the left), it’s downright classy.

There are four units in each building, and the buildings are in various stages of upkeep. One group of my neighbors recently painted their building a charming springy-green, and each door is now a different color, rich shades of red and blue and other colors I don’t remember. It looks wonderful. From seeing this outside view of their homes, I believe they are good neighbors.

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My neighbors to the left.

I’m not big on gnomes, but even so, the doorsteps down the block that hold two or three of them are welcoming. Even the pink flamingo sends out a happy greeting. I suspect the latter may reveal a bit of the owner’s sense of humor.

I love that such a large group of homes — and there are dozens of these townhouses nearby — offers such an opportunity to display the owner’s (or in my case, renter’s) personality and hospitality.  It makes coming home every night a delight.



Facade

 

Everyday Value

My neighbor died today. Her granddaughter found her on the floor at home, apparently dead of a heart attack.

Her little dog was frantic, as you might imagine, and the granddaughter is taking the pup home for now. She told me she hopes one of her cousins will take him in as she’s due any day with her first child and doesn’t need the additional burden.

maple branch rev c milavas sm shadowThis lady was nice, with a wry sense of humor and countless grandchildren who took advantage of her. The police were at the apartment keeping them out; they all insisted they had things they owned in that apartment, and likely some did, but at this point under the law it all belongs to her and her estate.

I suppose the police would need to wait for the locks to be changed, because you can bet those kids all had keys. This wasn’t an entirely bad group, but one or two were pretty awful. One young man came to my door early on asking for the passcode to my wireless account. When I refused to give it to him, he broke into my apartment and got it off of the wireless box. Of course I changed the passcode and now he’s in jail for breaking & entering as well as felony theft. In my state, you serve time for theft of services.

Now, mine wasn’t the only apartment he broke into; I didn’t report the crime until the police came to me. And I shouldn’t say he broke in, although legally it was B&E. I’d left the door unlocked when I went to get my mail and he ran in then. Creepy. I lock the door now even when I take the garbage out.

But I don’t hold it against my late neighbor. I liked her. She did her best and I know she was struggling financially, or she wouldn’t have been living in these apartments. She didn’t own a car, in fact, she maybe didn’t even drive. She was disabled and couldn’t walk in a straight line very well because of the way her body was twisted. I’m not sure her vision was very good, either.

It’s funny the impact virtual strangers have on your life. I don’t know this lady’s name and I never had much of a conversation with her, but I appreciated her as a neighbor. She was kind and courteous. She loved her grandchildren, and despite what I’ve said so far I’m sure most of them are good people, young, perhaps, and a little thoughtless, but they will miss her. The granddaughter I saw today certainly seemed genuinely upset.

Smileys c Stuart Miles - Fotolia

We wonder about the impact we have on others’ lives, and it can be as simple as being a good neighbor. Earlier this week I was walking into the grocery store and smiled at a woman approaching from a different direction. She smiled back, a genuine, friendly smile that made feel good. I’d been having a difficult day. It made a difference.

“Thank you for smiling!” I told her.

“And thank you for smiling, too!” she said back cheerily. I felt good the rest of the day. That woman is important to me in that small way.

If ever you are feeling unimportant, if ever you wonder your value in life, it is there. It is in the small things and the grand, for life is made of all those things.

But mostly the everyday things.

Image Credits: (Leaves) © milavas — Fotolia; (Smileys) © Stuart Miles — Fotolia