Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

    ***If you have never read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day please click HERE.

     I am going to let you see a little glimpse of just how quirky I am.  Why I share these things for the world to see... I am just not sure.  Maybe it's because the truth sets us free. So, if I share these quirks of mine with you, maybe I will be free from them.                                                                     
     And, about these things... I rope other people into them and they start believing for me.  I have some kind of sick seductive power over my husband and a few select friends.  The amazing thing... they stay with me even when it doesn't pan out.

     See, I am convinced that one of these days I am going to win some big contest. 

      Last year, on the Ellen show, she was giving away a road trip to her show and a GMC Acadia.  Ellen was celebrating a milestone, turning 50, and she wanted to celebrate with someone else who was also celebrating a milestone.  So, I wrote about how I had wanted to adopt since I was 19. And, 17 years later, it was about to happen.  What a better thing to celebrate, right?  I had overcome many obstacles to accomplish the milestone.  It had to be celebrated!

     I wrote this really great letter, selected my friends to go with me, and then we started dreaming about how great our road trip was going to be. We would talk about it on the phone almost daily.   I even went so far as buying some new clothes, clothes that I would wear on the show, and then packing a suitcase in preparation to leave. 

    You think I am kidding.

     You gotta have faith, you know?  Jesus couldn't do in miracles in one town because of the people's lack of faith.  So, I was not about to NOT be chosen because of my lack of faith.

    Well, you can imagine my disappointment, when as the time drew near, I knew I could not have possibly won.  And, then came the terrible announcement on the Ellen show... she had in fact chosen someone else.  That disappointment quickly turned to anger when I realized these girls were not even celebrating a milestone.  They had just made a funny video about what they would do on a road trip.  I could hardly watch as these girls took my trip across the good ol' USA.

     Then, Ellen did the unthinkable.  She took a huge bucket of salt and poured it into my gapping wound.  She not only gave the girl who won the contest a GMC Acadia, she gave one to each of her road trip friends.  I was sick!  I hated Ellen (ok, not really.)  (I am also really dramatic about things sometimes.)

     This year, I learned Ellen was having a new contest.  She was giving away a $30,000 trip to Hawaii.  Included in that trip: 2 luxury hotel stays, a swim with dolphins, helicopter tour (which I probably wouldn't do because... I don't really like helicopters... something about one nut or screw,"the Jesus nut" that holds the whole copter together... freaks me out a bit.)

     I saw the rules of the contest.  Write an original story, with a comedic tone, indicating how a trip like this would benefit you.  I thought and thought and thought.  I came up with a brilliant (at least I thought) idea.  

     I set out on my mission... I was going to Hawaii!

     Here is what I was going to submit:

     April and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year

     I slept on my neck wrong and I could hardly move it for months.  Then I did some laundry and the sink backed up and poured water all over my laundry room floor and the water ruined the power pack on my printer and now my printer's ruined and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

     I could tell because in May the Miller family ( a little shout out, Sharla- click for her blog) received travel approval to go to China and adopt their little girl.  Then the Foster family  (shout out to Rett-click for her blog) got their travel approval to go to China and adopt their little girl.  Our little girl's foster family wouldn't return her to the orphanage, so we never got out travel approval.

     I think I need a vacation to Hawaii.

     Our agency said we'd have to start the whole process over with another child.  I told them I didn't want another child.  I told them I was sad.  I told them I was crying all the time.  I told them that if I didn't get THAT little girl my heart was going to break into a million pieces.  I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

     That's what it was because our agency got us a new little girl and told us the paper work would only take a couple of weeks.  It took a couple of months.  They told us we'd travel with a large group.  We traveled alone.  Who needs a travel group?  I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

     I could tell because I didn't want to travel at the beginning of the school year.  We traveled right when school started.  I at least hoped we'd have a lay over... in Hawaii.

     I had a headache the whole way to China.  I threw up with first morning.  I thought the whole country of China smelled like a rotten fish boiling in soy sauce.  It made my stomach lurch.  I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible no good, very bad year.

     That's what it was because the orphanage director handed me my beautiful little baby in China, but my baby hated me.  They didn't feed her so she was severely malnourished.  "Just give her lots of milk over the next few weeks and she'll be fine, " they said.

     In the next few weeks, I am going to Hawaii.

     While we were in China someone wrote an email and told us a hurricane hit Ohio and we had a tree on our house.  (Since when do hurricanes hit Ohio?)  We came home from China to no power and all the meals I had prepared and froze so my life would be easier upon returning home, were now ruined.  I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

     I took three of my children to the dentist and the dentist told me two of them had cavities.  He said to make an appointment and he'd fix them.  I tried really hard to remember that except I just kept forgetting because I was dreaming of a relaxing vacation in  Hawaii.  They each had to have a rotten tooth pulled.  It's been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

     I had strep throat twice and I hate strep throat.

     I had the flu on Christmas day.  I hate the flu.

     My severely malnourished child decided she didn't like to eat so she threw up all the time.  We spent a lot of time at the doctor.

     My oldest child woke up with a very tight cough.  I boiled some hot water, gave it to her in a coffee mug and told her to breath in the steam.  She said it wasn't working.  I went to take it away and I was as careful as could be except I knocked it down the front of her and gave her 2nd degree burns over 14% of her body.  We spent 4 days in the hospital.

     Our van broke down.  Our gazebo collapsed.  I've gained 15 pounds because of all the stress.

      It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

     My mom says some years are like that.  Even if you win a trip to Hawaii.

      I was so proud of my little story I wrote.  I rushed to the contest page to submit it.  The submitted story was allowed to be 1500 characters.  I hit submit and it told me it was took long. So,  I copied and pasted my story in a character reader that would let me know how many character were in my story... my story was 7, 856 characters long.

     There was NO WAY to cut the story and keep the essence of the story.

     2 hours of my life... wasted!  

     That's ok! 

      It was a stupid, no good, dumb contest anyway.

     I wonder when the next one is?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Favorite book

     My favorite book... actually, it's my favorite kids book,  is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.

     In case you've never read it, here are the words.  I only wish you could see the pictures too.  But, I still think it's funny even if you can't see the pictures.

     I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

     At breakfast Anthony found a Corvette Sting Ray car kit in his breakfast cereal box and Nick found a Junior Undercover Agent Code ring in his breakfast cereal box but in my breakfast cereal box all I found was breakfast cereal

     I think I'll move to Australia.
     In the car pool Mrs. Gibson let Becky have a seat by the window.  Audrey and Elliott got seats by the window too.  I said I was being scrunched.  I said I was being smushed.   I said, if I don't get a seat by the window I am going to be carsick.  No one even answered.  

     I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

     At school Mrs. Dickens liked Paul's pictures of the sailboat better than my picture of the invisible castle.  

     At singing time she said I sang too loud.  At counting time she said I left out sixteen.  Who needs sixteen?  I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

     I could tell because Paul said I wasn't his best friend anymore.  He said that Philip Parker was his best friend and that Albert Moyo was his next best friend and that I was only his third best friend.  

     I hope you sit on a tack, I said to Paul.  I hope the next time you get a double-decker strawberry ice-cream cone the ice cream part falls off the cone and lands in Australia.

     There were two cupcakes in Philip Parker's lunch bad and Albert got a Hershey bar with almonds and Paul's mother gave him a piece of jelly roll that had little coconut sprinkles on the top.  Guess whose mother forgot to put in dessert?

     It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

     That's what it was, because after school my mom took us all to the dentist and Dr. Fields found a cavity just in me.  Come back next week and I'll fix it, said Dr.  Fields.

     Next week, I said, I am going to Australia.

     On the way downstairs the elevator door closed on my foot and while we were waiting for my mom to go get the car Anthony made me fall where it was muddy and then when I started crying because of the mud Nick said I was a crybaby and while I was punching Nick for saying that my mom came back with the car and scolded me for being muddy and fighting.

     I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I told everybody.  No one even answered.

     So then we went to the shoestore to buy some sneakers.  Anthony chose white ones with blue stripes.  Nick chose red ones with white stripes.  I chose blue ones with red stripes but then the shoe man said, "We're all sold out.  They made me buy plain old white ones, but they can't make me wear them.
    When we picked up my dad at his office he said I couldn't play with his copying machine, but I forgot.  He also said to watch out for the books on his desk, and I was careful as could be except for my elbow.  He said don't fool around with his phone, but I think I called Australia.  My dad said please don't pick him up anymore.

     It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

     There were lima beans for dinner and I hate lima beans.

     There was kissing on TV and I hate kissing.

     My bath was too hot, I got soap in my eyes, my marble went down the drain, and I had to wear my railroad-train pajamas.  I hate my railroad-train pajamas.

     When I went to bed Nick took back the pillow he said I could keep and the Mickey Mouse night light burned out and I bit my tongue.

     The cat wants to sleep with Anthony, not with me.

     It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

     My mom says some days are like that.

     Even in Australia.

     I am sure you are wondering why in the world I would take the time to write this whole book out.  Hang with me... I'll tell you tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet Gracie Girl

     That's Gracie... there on the right.  I also call her Hollywood, for obvious reasons.  I mean, look at her!

     She earned another name this week.  But, for fear of a self-fulfilling prophesy, I am not going to call her that name.

     I feel like it's been a rare event this year... sitting down to do school work.  But, Tuesday, we were actually doing just that.  If we keep it up, maybe, just maybe they will be able to read by the end of the year.  Kidding!!  Just kidding!  They can read, very well I might add.

     Anyway, all that is beside the point.  I was trying to help Shelby with a hard geography lesson.  We were going to read it out loud and Gracie was sitting beside us.  So, I said, "Gracie, why don't you got sit at the table so we don't bother you?"

     "That's ok!  I just want to sit here."

     3 MINUTES LATER.....

     "Mom, I think I am going to go sit at the table."


     When she came back, I said, "Bring your book here so I can check it."

     She had two questions that required her to write at least a sentence.

     I read the first answer and I said, "Gracie, great answer!"

    Then I read her response to the second question.  This was her answer:

    Answers will vary.

     I looked at her and I said, "Gracie, where did you get that answer."

     She just sat there.  Starring at me.  We locked eyes for a long time while I waited for her to answer.  I noticed the longer we waited, the redder her face got.

     Finally, she burst into tears, put her head down on my lap and said, "YOU"RE SO MAD AT ME!"

     I am so bad!  All I could do was laugh and laugh and laugh.  I did manage to keep the laughter sound from escaping.

     You see, in the back of this particular book, one can check the answers. I am usually THE ONE  This time, however, she took some liberties upon herself.  It just so happened to backfire.

     For the teacher or mom, the manuel frequently says Answers will vary.  That means right or wrong is up to the one doing the checking.

     She is very sensitive and hates to do things wrong.  She was very sorry.   But,  I just can't let it go.  It cracks me up!  So, when she asks me 2, or 10, or 25 times a day if I will take her to see Taylor Swift in concert, I say, "Answers will vary."

     She doesn't think it's very funny.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Audrey Part X- THE END

      I was not going to have conversations about Audrey's money anymore.  Nor was I going to give Audrey financial advice.  Who was I to tell her what she could/should do with her money anyway?  Still, it didn't change the fact that I just couldn't stand the thought of someone like Barbara receiving a significant amount of money.  

    While I was not going to have conversations about money with Audrey, I was going to have a few conversations with her whether she liked it or not.  And, for the record, she always liked it. She enjoyed having conversations with me... that I can be sure of.

    If you remember, I started telling this story because of I was afraid of Paul filling in for the pastor of a very large church in our area and giving the sermon, 3 separate times.  I always grow a little bit nervous whenever he speaks.  I can trace it all back to Paul's first funeral, Harold's. (Audrey's husband). It matters not that my husband has redeemed himself time and time again.  I was scarred that day.  Scarred, because in the middle of Harold's eulogy, Paul remembered that he had not even met Harold.  So, all of a sudden, he decided he could not speak with certainty on the eternal destination of Harold. Since he could not, he said, "Harold is in Heaven... hopefully.  (long pause)  And, Audrey will soon be joining him.... like in 5, 10 or 20 years."

     I decided with Audrey, I wanted to do more than 'hopefully.'  So, I shared the most important part of me with Audrey, my faith.  My faith is wrapped up in  His story (history).

     His story, takes the whole Bible.  And, at the center of His Story, there is a baby, the Child upon whom everything would depend.  From Noah to Moses to King David, every story in the Bible whispers his name, Jesus. 

     Paraphrase of John 1:12-13 For anyone who says yes to Jesus.  For anyone who believes what Jesus said.  For anyone who will just reach out and take it.  Then God will give them this wonderful gift:  To be born into a whole new Life.  To be who they really are.  Who God always made them to be- Their own true selves- God's dear child.

     John 3:16-17 (paraphrase) "Jesus said, 'God loved the people of the world so much that he gave his only Son.  So that anyone who believes in him will have eternal life and never really die.  He did not send his Son into the world to punish people.  He sent him to rescue them.'"

     Jesus died a criminal's death.  The humiliating death of being nailed to a cross.  But, he rose again.   And, when he did, He said, "Go everywhere and tell everyone the happy news.  

     "Tell them I love them so much that I died for them.  It's the truth that overcomes the terrible lie.  God loves his children.  Yes, he really does!"

      "Now everyone can come to God, " Jesus said.  "Death is not the end of you.  You can live forever with your Father in heaven because I have rescued the whole world!"

     I wanted Audrey to choose Jesus.  I wanted her to know that death didn't have to be the end for her. 
    I shared these things with Audrey a few times.  Not exactly like I just did or in as lengthy of a manner.   I was never pushy.  People don't really care how much you know... until they know how much you care.  My mom and I took the same approach.  We shared the gospel with Audrey as often as we could, without using words (St. Francis of Asissi).  We loved her.  Both of us really did.  Neither mom nor I ever had a good grandma.  Audrey was as quirky as they come, but we had a love for her.  I think, she became like a grandma to both of us.  

    We never really had a grandma and Audrey never had children or grandchildren.  I like to think God puts families together... even if it's at the end of one's life.  After all, that's when Audrey needed a daughter and a grand-daughter most.

     We also served her.  We, especially my mom, gave and gave and gave without ever expecting anything in return.  Audrey had made it clear that whatever was left when she died had to go to Barbara and/or her son, Russell.  Or, it was to go to the state.  

     Unfortunately or fortunately, however you look at it, this life comes to an end.  In  the fall of 2002,  Audrey began complaining about her back hurting.  She also mentioned she was having trouble breathing.  My mom made her an appointment and took her to the doctor.  The doctor ordered an x-ray. 

     We were very surprised when the test results came back and showed Audrey had lung cancer. We expected the tests to show something, just not cancer.  The doctor decided it would not be worth putting her body through chemo or radiation.  At 91, she may die from the treatments before she'd die from the lung cancer.  Regardless,  Audrey was left with a little bit of time.  

     I imagine getting a diagnosis like that, one's life plays like a movie on the screen of their mind.  I think everyone will have regrets, some many more than others.  Some people, like Natasha Richardson, will not be given time to think through final decisions.  Others, like Audrey, are given a time of grace, a time to let good decisions cancel out some of the bad ones. A final chance to let good triumph over evil.  

     At the end of May 2003, Audrey asked to speak with her lawyer, Brian. She said she wanted to change her will.  Usually, my mom left when Audrey met with him.  This time, however, Audrey asked her to stay. 

     "Audrey, what about your will do you want to change?", asked Brian.
     Audrey looked at him and said, "Can I leave my money to you?"  

(Sorry!  I have to interject here!  Um... why on God's green earth would any normal human being asked to leave her money to a lawyer?  Are you kidding me!!??  And, ask in front of someone who has given years of her life helping you FOR NOTHING!!)

    "No!  You can't leave it to me!  You are already paying me!"

     He stopped to give her time to think.  After a few minutes of silence, Brian said, "Audrey, why don't you leave it to the people who have helped you the most?"

And what happened then...? Well...in Who-ville they say That the Grinch's small heart Grew three sizes that day!

     Oh, sorry!  Wrong story.

     Something did change in Audrey's heart that day.  She changed her will completely.  

     About 3 weeks (June 16) after that change of heart, it was obvious Audrey was in her final days.  I had given birth to Jackson on May 2 and we moved on June 2.  Moving 4 weeks after giving birth, with another baby who wasn't even 2 yet and a 4 year old (almost 5)... I wasn't able to make the 45 minute drive to see Audrey very often.  

     I was able to make the trip once to introduce Jackson to Audrey.  And, then, I was able to make it one final time when she was still coherent but very much in and out.  I sat by her bed feeling very sad.  My heart was broken for Audrey.

     She was almost 91 years old and the only person sitting with her on one of her final days was a young woman she met at a grocery store.  How do you get to the place in life where you have no one?  I hope I never know.   I was humbled that God would use me.  I hoped that she felt God's love as she lay there waiting to take her last breath. 

     I was able to tell her that I loved her.  And, I shared Jesus with her one final time.

     My mom hardly left Audrey's room the days prior to her death.  She did not want Audrey to die alone.  She made sure the nurses at the assisted living facility knew that.  

     Unfortunately, one night I talked my mom into staying at her own home and getting some sleep.  I assured her if Audrey grew worse during the night, they would call her. 

     They did call... after Audrey had passed.  It happened at about 3:30 in the morning on June 20, 2003.  My mom was very, very upset that she wasn't there.  I understood her sadness. However, I think Audrey waited to die.  I think she wanted to die alone.  She didn't want my mom to have to have to watch.

     Audrey had a very small graveside service.  Paul was the minister in charge of the service.  He did a great job delivering the message to the 10 people that were there.  It was a message of the hope we have in Christ.  The message we hoped Audrey had chosen to receive.

     My parents, myself, Paul and the kids went out to lunch and talked about Audrey.  We talked about how she could be sweet one minute and then down right quirky the next minute.  Never mean.... just, quirky.  That is the best word I can use to describe her.

    To illustrate, this is my favorite example.  I mentioned earlier that Audrey loved for my parents to take her to dinner.  About the last year of Audrey's life, her hands ached a lot, they shook a bit and it hurt her to write.  So, she began having my mom sign her credit card receipts. Once, right after my mom signed, she looked at my mom and said, "I can't believe you just did that.  You could get in trouble for signing some else's name like that."

     My mom looked at Audrey and said, "Audrey, I have done this 1oo times before this because you have asked me to.  I don't know what you are trying to pull, but if you do it again, we'll stop going out to dinner."

     Of course, it never happened again.

     Anyway, after lunch, we went back and began cleaning Audrey's room.  We had about a week to do it. So, we did it in stages.  First, we threw away things like old newspaper clippings and other odd things she was always saving.  Next, we packed up her clothes and gave them to the Salvation Army.  Then, we packed up the pictures that were on the wall and lots of other odds and ends.   Things she had for Shelby when she would visit: coloring books, crayons, picture books, and a little chair. Finally, we were down to just the furniture.  

     Audrey had told me one day before she died that she wanted me to have the antique beds, the side table and a beautiful antique chest.  I was so thankful.  I still am.  I love that when I look at these pieces of furniture in my house that there is a story behind them.  A very interesting story at that.  I love that she wanted me to have them.  I will always cherish them.

     The last order of business was for my mom, the executor, to carry out the things Audrey had in her will.

   Remember Betty?  Audrey left her and her husband $2000 each.  She left my dad $2000. Paul and I received $2000 each.  And, the neighbors that used to help with the house, she left each of them $1000.  She also left $500 to a local Lutheran Church, $1000 to the local Girl Scout Trail Counsel, and $200 to the local Humane Society.

     $100,000 was put into a living trust with her lawyer, Brian,  appointed as trustee.  This money was for Barbara.  And, in the event that Barbara was no longer alive, it was to go to her son, Russell.

     If there was anything left after all those funds were distributed, it was to be split between my mom and Betty.  I think they each received around $60,000.  

     About 2 months after Audrey died, my mom received a call from the lawyer's office.  They had tracked Barbara down.  Of course, that sent chills up and down my mom's spine.  The last thing we wanted or needed was for this crazy lady to come back to her old stomping grounds and start turning over leaves looking for trouble.  I am sure we would have been first on the list of people she would to come after.

    However, the phone call took us in a different direction.  In the year 2000, the year we moved Audrey into the assisted living facility, Barbara died in a trailer, by herself, in Arizona. Her body was not found until she had been dead for several days.  At that point, her body had been subjected to the temperature swings of the desert and therefore,  the report was a bit gruesome.  The lawyer's secretary didn't go into much more detail.

     Now, the $100,000 is being held for Barbara's son... whom no one has found.  In the event he is not found, it would again be split by my mom and Betty.


     Betty, the only other person to be a constant in Audrey's life.  Betty served Audrey probably 10 years before we came into the picture.  Betty was very suspicious and cold during our several encounters.  All one had to do it watch the news to understand why.  People prey on old, vulnerable people like Audrey.  But, as time passed, all Betty's suspicions melted away.  As a matter of fact, since Betty was becoming more feeble herself, I sensed a relief that all Audrey's responsibilities were not on her shoulders.  Betty and my mom developed a really good friendship.  Betty is in her 90's now.  She and my mom still talk on the phone.  She is starting to forget a lot of things now.  My mom called her to ask her a few details for me.  It was sad because she couldn't even remember of the bigger events... like the house.

     The events in this story are true.  I filled in a few details here and there, but for the most part, the story is 100% true.

     Thanks for hanging in there and reading it!  I have enjoyed remembering everything and sharing it with all of you.

       I really would love to write a book.  It would be much different than what I have written in my blog.  I am in the process of praying and praying about it while I research different things.  It can be a dark story.  My fear... I want whatever I do in my life to bring honor and glory to God.  The letter I put in my blog... I know it was nasty but no where near what was actually written.  I shared it because it was part of the story.  It's life.  Life is messy and ugly, sometimes.  But, you know what, Barbara and Audrey... those are the kinda people Jesus would have been hanging out with.  Besides, the Bible isn't exactly the cleanest book.  Have you read it?  Murder, incest, rape, adultery....

     The ugliness and messiness of life, is a constant reminder of our need for a Savior.  With Jesus, we have the hope of a life that is beyond our imagination and almost beyond description. Jesus gave John a dream in the book of Revelation.  He told John to write it down so that we could read it and wait with happy excitement.

     It went something like this:

     .... And I see Satan- God's horrible enemy- thrown down, defeated

         I see a sparkling city shimmering in the sky: glittering, glowing, coming down!  From Heaven.  And from the sky.  Heaven is coming down to earth!

     God's city is beautiful.  Walls of topaz, jasper, sapphire.  Wide streets paved with gold.  Gleaming pearl gates that are never locked shut.

     Where is the sun?  Where is the moon?  They aren't needed anymore.  God is all the Light people need.  No more darkness!  Nor more night!

     And the King says, "Look!  God and his children are together again.  No more running away.  Or hiding.  No more crying or being lonely or afraid.  No more being sick or dying. Because all those things are gone.  Yes, they're gone forever.  Everything sad has come untrue.  And see- I have wiped away every tear from every eye!"

     And then a deep, beautiful voice that sound like thunder in the sky says, "Look, I am making everything new!"

     The most wonderful thing about His story... it can be your story too!!

**** The words in red were taken from  The Jesus Storybook Bible  written by Sally-Lloyd-Jones.  If you are looking for a place to start, a place to really understand the Bible.  This kids Bible is one of the best I have ever read.  It makes everything so clear and easy to understand.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coming Monday-The End of the Story of Audrey

***EDITED***  Because someone misread my confusing post below.  I want to clarify 


     I was not planning on NOT finishing the story on the blog... I just wanted a reaction.
I said I just wanted to see what you all would say about it... I had no intention of torturing you and not finishing what I have started here. But, I am going to write a book. And, when I do, I don't think you will think it's dark. I gotta plan, people. You're gonna have to trust me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What to do?

     I am seriously thinking about trying to write a book... about this whole Audrey/Barbara story.  Seriously!  But, it would be written much different than this.  More content, etc... As a matter of fact, I tested the waters a bit and I have completed one chapter.  

   Obviously, it's going to take me awhile. I need to do some research and stuff.  Who knows how long it would take?

   So, my question is.... do I make you all suffer and NOT finish this story on my blog?  I know that is so mean.  Just wanted to see what you all would say about that?  And, would you read a novel about this story?  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Audrey Part IX

     It was a difficult decision for Audrey to move to the assisted living facility.  She was feeling a great sense of loss.  Her house was sold, her apartment was empty, and all her belongings were going to fit into the one room she would call home... for the rest of her life.

     I think if I could ask Audrey today if the move was a good decision, she would give me an emphatic "yes!".  My mom may not have been able to see Audrey every day after work, but I think she would see her a good 5 times a week.  On those visits,  Mom would take Audrey a little stash of things she loved.  Pepsi, fresh tomatoes, oranges, soup and an occasional pizza. Before she left, mom would always open a Pepsi and put it in Audrey's refrigerator. Audrey's old arthritic hands couldn't couldn't pop the tab on those cans.  And, heaven forbid Audrey would ever call the people she paid to assist her.  Hello!!  Assisted living.  They are there to assist you.  But, that was an endearing quality about her... she didn't really take advantage of anyone.  Remember when I first met her?  "Honey, when you get old just have to do what you have to do."

     Audrey was not demanding, but she did have one frequent request.  She asked that my parents take her out to dinner.  And, I guess one could argue about who was taking who.  Audrey couldn't drive, so, of course, mom and dad would pick her up, help her in and out of the  car and help her into the restaurant.  But, in a sense, Audrey took them because she paid.  And, they didn't argue.  They could only take so much Bob Evans.  Besides, it was not a line item in the budget for them to eat out that often.

     Going to dinner was definitely a highlight.  Another highlight for Audrey was when Shelby and I could visit.  Remember how hard it was for Audrey to hear?  I am sure it sounded, to an outsider or a child, like we were always yelling at little, old Audrey.   Apparently,  we would frequently ask Audrey if she wanted some juice.  We know it was frequently because there would be many times when Shelby would wander around talking to herself (when we weren't even with Audrey) and we would hear her yell, "AUDREY!!!  YOU WANT SOME JUICE????"  
Every once in awhile, just for the heck of it, we still yell it out.

     We always tried to get Audrey to come over for the holidays, but she wouldn't hear of it.  She told us it would make her too tired.  We would push her a little bit, but not too hard.   We wanted to respect her wishes.  We were afraid it might make her sad to see our family get together when she never had children of her own.  But, one Christmas, we had let her push us away enough.  So, we all packed up and showed up at her place.  Seeing her face, made me wish we would have done it more often.

     So, there were many pleasant times with Audrey, but there were still times that frustrated the life out of us.  Like the conversations that always wound their way back to getting her affairs in order.  Of course, her affairs always meant talking about Barbara and Barbara's son Russell and how she had to leave them her money.  This would be in the midst of a conversation about Barbara doing drugs and being in jail and sending her nasty letters.  Mostly, I just tried to listen, but one time, I had had enough.  So, I finally said to her, "Audrey, you don't have to leave them your money.  Why don't you do something else with it?  You love the Girl Scouts.  Why don't you leave a legacy for yourself and set up a foundation that gives away a college scholarship to deserving young lady?  I could manage it and your name would live on and deserving young girls would benefit in your name."

     She promptly told me, "Don't tell me what to do with my money!"

     "Audrey, I am not trying to tell you what to do with your money.  You were mentioning Barbara doing drugs and all kinds of other things you don't approve of.  I would just think you wouldn't want your money used for that."

    "Well!!  Maybe, I'll just leave it to the state!"

    That's a great idea Audrey!  We spend our lives paying taxes.  It would make perfect sense to leave your money to the state.  AHH!!!  

     I was so mad.  I would not entertain any other conversations about her money again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Audrey Part VIII

     I can tell by all the comments....NOT.... that you understood Barbara's letters about as much as I did!

     Barbara was found not guilty on the charge of murdering her mother.

     There were many, many more letters from Barbara.  They were very difficult to sort through.  With little reference and no dates on the letters, it was hard to make sense of all the rantings.
     I do know that Barbara was married at least 4 times.  She claimed at least one marriage was just to keep her off the streets.  In another marriage, she mentioned her husband paying her for different types of sex.   One of her husbands did drugs all the time, but only the kind you smoke, was her report to Audrey. (Because, hey, if you're only smoking drugs, then it's a perfectly acceptable thing to do.)  She claimed she was raped frequently.  On one of those occasions, it was by four different men.  She was raped in the hospital and in jail.  In Barbara's world, there was a rapist waiting around every corner and they all wanted her.

    Another recurring theme in the letters was her desperate plea for money.  The house, the one with all the antiques, part of it belonged to Barbara.  It seems the three of them (Audrey, her sister Virginia and Virginia's daughter, Barbara)were bequeathed the house from an Aunt Helen.

     After Virginia's death, Barbara begged Audrey to buy her share of the house from her.  They mutually agreed that the amount would be $15,000.  Audrey's lawyer, Debbie, was supposed to send the $15, 000. From the letters it seemed Barbara managed to get $2500 of it.  The other $12,500... I couldn't make heads or tales of what happened to it.

     When Audrey asked us to help her get her affairs in order, she wanted a new lawyer because she claimed her old lawyer, Debra, was a crook.  This may or may not have been true.  From what I could make of the letters, Barbara should have received the remaining $12, 500.  Barbara even wrote a letter to the legal society of Audrey's city asking for an investigation of Debra.  I am not sure a copy of the letter ever made it to the officials, but Audrey did have a copy of the letter Barbara threatened to send. 
     Barbara claimed she was destitute.  There were times she didn't have a roof over her head or food to eat.  Living in the Florida Keys, she was severely sunburned.  Her feet were blistered from walking and walking with no shoes.  She ate one cup of oatmeal a day for 2 months because she didn't have any money.  She may not have had money to eat, but she sure scraped it together to buy postage to send nasty letters to Audrey begging for money.  That $12,500 was the difference between life and death, according to Barbara.  

     We all know that someone with Barbara's track record wasn't going to get far with $12,500.

     By the time I met Audrey, the letters from Barbara had stopped.  

     Now there was only talk about Barbara.  The house had been cleared and the contents sold.  Audrey wanted to make sure Barbara got her share.  It didn't matter that in one breath Audrey would recall Barbara's antics, marriages and drug abuse because in the next breath, she just had to find her.  Maybe there was some guilt on Audrey's part.  Maybe Audrey didn't send the money.  If she didn't, she had a reason. Who knows?  We don't what changed that now made Audrey want to give her the money.   We just know Audrey begged us to find Barbara.

     My mom and I gathered up all the names Barbara had used.  We scoured the internet and called every number that came up listing a Barb/Barbara with any of her last names.   The phone calls always ended at dead ends.  We even paid a search service that claimed they could find anyone.  (I am hear to tell you...they can't find anyone.)  When that didn't turn up anything, we stopped the search.  To be honest, we didn't want to find Barbara.  We were scared to death of her.  If Barbara started coming around, we intended to do the disappearing act ourselves. We never let Audrey know we stopped looking.
     After the sale of the house, my mom did work on getting Audrey's other affairs in order.  This time the affairs did mean cleaning up Audrey's apartment and giving away Harold's things.

     Once that was done, my mom convinced Audrey to move out of that apartment.  It was a good 20 minutes from my mom's house and it just wasn't convenient.  Besides, that once beautiful, safe part of town wasn't so beautiful and safe anymore.  Furthermore, because of my mom's own medical issues, she didn't have an abundance of energy.    Working from 7 am to 1:30 pm and being on her feet all day, she didn't always feel like driving, hanging out with Audrey and then driving home.  And, since it wasn't feasible for my mom to see Audrey every single day, we thought it would be a good idea if help were readily available.
     So, in 2000, my mom moved Audrey 2 miles from her work and 4 miles from her house to an assisted living residential facility.  We would learn later on, the year 2000 was significant far beyond Audrey's move.

     Stay tuned....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Audrey Part VII

*** If you are new or lost, this is a continuation of what I thought would be one post.  It is now the 7th post about Audrey.  To catch up, start with Audrey Part I.  

     Now....where were we....

Barbara was sentenced to a trial by jury. She was implicated in the death of her mother.  While awaiting trial, she wrote lots of letters to Audrey. The letters were full of things that made me blush to read.  Here is one of them:

Dear Aunt Audrey,
      I was released from jail after a severe beating. I think they thought I was going to die. I forgive you for keeping me in jail- although it ended my life. I had a strong body before this happened.
Both the checks you sent went back to you. Cancel the endorsement. Alicia loaned me $230 for one week in one room. I have had no food since Monday.
     On Tuesday another $230 is due or I will be put in the street. You must mail express or wire to my bank. I will pay back. I will be arrested for vagrancy if I am on the street with no money.
A month ago, I had a job waiting. A free room for a month and I could have saved my car.
     Now, I am so badly injured I don't know what is going to happen. (On the side of this paragraph, in different colored ink, Barbara wrote: I have to go back to jail so don't worry about future rent.)
I am having to pay for the room. You didn't save my money
     What in God's name is wrong with you? The horror you put me through.
     There were women in jail who had their breasts mutilated. (This is the clean version of what she actually said.) There was one woman who dropped bowel movements all the time because she had been raped in her bowels. Woman stuffed pillows up in them so they couldn't be raped. Women scar and maim other women so they aren't attractive to men anymore. I was being tortured and I was too afraid to write to you and my father refused to call me.
     I have to go to court in a week so I don't know if I can work.
     I have pleaded with my father all I can plead.
     Tell him this much: unless he calls me and lets me explain what is going on, he is definitely going to be arrested himself for spouse abuse.
     The guard took his one letter and called for police to read.
      I need the money you told me was already sent - that is only FAIR. You didn't keep your word.
I promise you- you will get your blood money. I WILL PAY BACK EVERY DIME.
     I am sending you pictures of the jail. What we had was a little better- we had mattresses- but not much.
     I can not survive unless you get the money here by the 29th.  I will be charged with defrauding an Inn Keeper (Where is she?  The little town of Bethlehem?) if bill is not paid by 11 am. This is a felony charge.  But, dear God don't wait until after Tuesday and say Oh I couldn't get there before Tuesday.  I need FOOD and don't tell me to go to CHARITY they will send me to JAIL.
I have to go back to jail on the 12th. There was severe over crowding so they made deal to release me.
     Send me the money and both checks if you can or as much as possible. NOW. $230 pays rent. Need food and clothes.
     Don't hoard money because I will need next month anything I can do to help myself. It has to be done NOW. Dear God, PLEASE listen and don't make me suffer needlessly.

     Love, Barb

  I am not sure free-associating describe the letters Barbara sent.  Is there a word to describe Barbara?  

     I am tired from just reading and writing all that.  Plus, I know you need time to digest it.  More tomorrow.... I promise.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Working on it

     This is my really good friend, Jennifer.  She came over today to read these crazy letters and help me sort them out.  What you can't see very well, is that some of the letters are 20+ pages long.  Those letters are the most free-associating, schizophrenic, vulgar, mean letters... it's just hard to describe. 
     I have really considered trying to turn this story into a book.  But, after reading some parts to Paul, he informed me that there was no way I could ever associate myself with this stuff.  He said, "Maybe you could write it under a ghost name like, April Pisaacs."  To which I laughed for at least 20 minutes.  Actually, it makes me laugh every time I think about it.  It's really not that funny, I know.
     During our conversation about this, I also told him that sometimes I wonder if maybe Audrey was the crazy one because sometimes, sometimes Barbara sounds really intelligent. That's when he told me he didn't know who was crazier, Audrey, Barbara or me.  
     He hasn't read all the letters... so there.
     Anyway, I am working on sharing a letter with all of you- piecing several together while still trying to keep my testimony in tact.  It's not an easy feat to undertake.  Come back tomorrow.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Audrey Part VI

     If you are new or haven't been here for awhile, start with Audrey Part I.  

    For some reason, I had a really hard time with this because the details were hard to piece together.  I hope it's not too confusing. 
     I remember sitting with Audrey while she told me stories about her sister, Virginia.  Oh, how I wish that I would have known then that I was going to love to write.  I would have written everything down.

     Virginia was born about 6 years after Audrey. Audrey was really jealous of her.  Audrey was used to being the center of attention. That all changed when Virginia was born.  Audrey grew up thinking that Virginia was prettier than her and better than her.  I know at some point they grew to be good friends and that Audrey really loved Virginia.  But, I wonder if that jealousy didn't resurface.  There were more reasons to be jealous in their early adulthood. Virginia was able to have a child, Barbara, while Audrey suffered at least 3 miscarriages.

      Since Barbara was the only child in the family,  Audrey doted over her.  She talked about her like she was her own.  Barbara had her own room at Aunt Audrey's complete with books, toys and a little custom made tea table (I have some of  Barbara's books and the tea table.  They were gifts to Shelby.) It was almost as if Barbara was the daughter of Virginia and Audrey.

     Despite the fact that Barbara seem well-loved and cherished, she didn't grow up to be a stable adult.  Maybe that is because all the influences in her life were unstable. I mean, not fixing the plumbing in a beautiful house and choosing instead to pee in bottles and leave them laying around... kinda screams unstable to me.  The thing that Barbara had going for herself ... she thought she was beautiful.  But, even that seemed to be a curse.

      In many of the letters that Barbara had written  to Audrey, she was always talking about how beautiful she was and how men were always in love with her. Maybe that is why Barbara couldn't stay married.  During Barbara's first marriage, she became pregnant.   She had a boy and named him Russell.  And, according to Barbara, the doctor that delivered Russell kept telling Barbara how beautiful she was.  He was so consumed by her beauty that passion took over.   So, he raped her. Barbara's first husband would not claim Russell as his own.  Anyway, by the time he was born, she was already living with what would become husband number 2.

     Virginia, along with her husband John, lived a thousand miles from Audrey.  Barbara lived with them, or near them... who knows.   But, the distance was the reason Barbara was always writing letters to Audrey.  And, in one of those letters, the instability of the other adults in Barbara's life, was further confirmed.  

     Barbara had written to Audrey telling her that her mother, Virginia, was not sleeping in the the same bed with John.  And, since Barbara called him John, I am going to go out on a limb and say John was not Barbara's real dad.  The reason Virginia didn't sleep with John was because she didn't like being looked at when she was naked.  Apparently, she liked to be naked a lot, or often enough that Barbara reported that John was always peeking in through the keyhole trying to catch glimpses of a naked Virginia.  

     And, since Virginia was practically raising Russell, who at this point was 5 or so, she slept in a bed with him, naked.   At some point in time, Children's services got word of this and Russell was taken away.  When Virginia and Barbara appeared before a judge trying to get Russell back, the judge told them it was the worse case of child abuse he had ever heard.  Apparently it wasn't bad enough,  Russell went back to living with his mother and grandmother.  According to John, Virginia fought tooth and nail so the state wouldn't take Russell away again.

     In  the early spring of 1993, Virginia became sick.  She had been sick with something similar prior to this particular episode and the sickness prompted them to call 911.

     However, this time when she became ill, she would not seek medical attention.  Despite John's prompting, Virginia insisted she just had a cold.  As her symptoms grew worse, she refused to call 911 and Barbara would not allow John to call either.

     If 911 had been called, the authorities would have seen the deplorable and unsanitary living conditions of the house and Russell would be taken away again.  The house was full of animals and animal waste.  It smelled to the high heavens.   The kitchen was full of dirty dishes caked with old food and mold.  The refrigerator was full of spoiled meat and soured milk.  There were mice droppings all over the counters.  Trash was everywhere.  It was certainly no place for a child to live.  So, instead of seeking medical attention for her mother outside of calling 911, Barbara let her mom die.

     Virginia died on a Monday in April of 1993.  On Thursday of the same week, Virginia's body was still being held under the order of a medical examiner.  John watched as Russell was hauled off screaming and crying by Children's Services.  And, Barbara was placed under arrest and sent to jail.

     Barbara was sentenced to a trial by jury.  While awaiting trial, she wrote lots of letters to Audrey.  The letters were full of things that made me blush to read.

     I am going to stop here for a couple of days. So sorry!  I am having trouble piecing together some things.  My mom has all the letters so I am going to get them from her on Sunday.  I can't do it before because Paul is marrying some people on Saturday and my mom lives 45 minutes away.  So, I am going to get them on Sunday.  I would love to be able to share some of the letters... they are pretty nasty...I am going to have to see what I can do.  

    Thanks for reading and hanging around here with me!  I may try to right about some lighter things, things that don't take hours to write over the next couple of days.

    And, you lurkers out there... what do you think of this crazy story?  I know it sounds made up, but... I am not that creative.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Audrey Part V

                                                      Antique hutch

                                                     Dovetailed drawers

                                            Pie safe
                                          Antique 3/4 bed

     Apparently, my mom did not communicate to me in drastic enough terms how much GORGEOUS furniture Audrey had in that decrepit old house.  She told me there was lots of things I would like, but for some reason it just didn't register.  So when I pulled up and saw enough furniture to fill about about a quarter of a football field, I couldn't find a parking place fast enough.  Yes, find a parking place.

     People come out in droves for auctions.  Did you know that?  Because had I known that...I would have done some thing differently!

      The house was swarming with people.  I began looking at the furniture and then I proceeded to wipe the drool off my face.  I made a decision right then and there, that I would bid on one thing.  I figured a couple hundred dollars would get me a nice piece of furniture.  I'd have to scrape that couple hundred dollars together but at least I would have something nice.  And, I would have something to always remind me of Audrey.

     Because as quirky as Audrey was, my mom and I had grown to love her.  It was very obvious how much Audrey loved us.  It seemed her body had found a miracle in the time between the congestive heart failure spell and the auction.  Her body found a miracle or her heart found a family.  I think the latter was true.  Audrey had a family now. When we (my mom and dad, me, Paul or Shelby) came around, she would light up. She told us we were her family. All of a sudden she had a reason to live.  She was alive and well the day of that auction.  

    I found her, hugged her and said 'hello' and then I made my way back through the sea of people to look at the furniture.  There were end tables, drop leaf tables, a pie safe, 2 hutches, chairs, beds and on and on and on.  All the furniture was in mint condition.  There were no scratches or missing knobs or rickety furniture.  There was only gorgeous cherry furniture, all wood furniture.  The kind they don't make anymore.  Furniture with tongue and groove drawers (or dovetailed drawers) and square nail heads.  One piece of furniture was constructed without any nails.  There were tables with the little wheels on the bottom and furniture with circular saw marks (indicating it had been made prior to 1850).  It was unbelievable.  I  set my heart on one of the hutches.

     It was time for the auction to begin.  All Audrey's old possessions were to the side of the house, toward the back and in front of a detached garage.  The auctioneer positioned himself in front of all the people sitting in the chairs and began to auction off a myriad of smaller items. Old Fenton glass, postcards, paper mache pumpkins, dishes, lamps and loads of other nicknacks.  

      Some of the post cards went for $40+  and one of the paper mache pumpkins went for $60 some dollars.  After both the postcards and the paper mache pumpkins sold, my mom looked at me and said, "Do you know how many of those things I threw away?"  

     I told you she had a hard time determining what was trash.    At one point, the auctioneer held up a one inch mohair monkey.  That little tiny, and  in my opinion, ugly monkey, sold for $80 some dollars.  I started to have a bad feeling about the furniture.

     After several hours of auctioning off the smaller items, the bidding for the furniture began.  The auctioneer started with the largest items, the hutches.  My heart hit rock bottom as the auctioneer began.   The bidding for the hutches.... started at $1200.  Twelve hundred dollars!!  I couldn't even start the bidding.  I believe they sold for between $4000 and $5000.  

     "That's okay I thought.  A table would probably be better and more functional.  Yeah, I'll just get one of the little end tables."

     The bidding for the tables began between $300-$500.  I couldn't start the bidding on those either.

    The last thing auctioned off was a 3/4 bed that my mom desperately wanted.  She bid until she won.

     When the auction was over, I went up on the porch and sat by Audrey.  It must have been a really hard day for her.  She had to sit and watch years and years of  hard earned money used to accumulate treasures go to complete strangers.  It was a reminder that we can't take things with us when we are leave.  It was also a painful reminder that Audrey was alone.  Her things were gone.   There were only a handful of people that cared about her.  We were present that day... me,  my mom and dad, and Betty and her husband.  There were no other relationships to speak of.   Her mentally unstable, drug abusing, mean niece was no where to be found.  Audrey didn't have any one to leave her things to.  There was no one to treasure those things and remind people of Audrey and Harold.  

     I learned another lesson that day.  A lifetime can be spent accumulating things.  Things can't love you or help you, hug you or encourage you.  There isn't a value one can put on relationships.  Rather than being surrounded by furniture and things, I hope when I am Audrey's age, I am surrounded by people that love me.   People that love me because I have served them and loved them well.  People I have invested in and prayed for.  

     As I sat contemplating these thoughts, Audrey spoke to me.  And, what she said all of a sudden stirred up this sinful person in me and made me rage with anger on  the inside. She said to me, "Were you able to get anything?"  She would have had no indication I was angry because I just responded sadly and quietly saying, "No.  I didn't have the money to even begin bidding on most things".  Her response, "Oh, you should have told me."

     I was so angry.  When I met Audrey, I assumed she was very poor.  Judging by that apartment, I thought they were rubbing nickels together hoping to be able to eat from day to day.  And, even when the house was discovered and the treasures were revealed, I didn't think much about them.  But, when the auction was over and I was walking away empty handed, I was ticked.  My mom and I, but mostly my mom, and Betty had spent years and countless (and sometimes thankless) hours helping Audrey.  When the house was discovered, we could have went in and robbed it blind.  You would think the least she could do was offer us our choice of something we wanted from her house.  And, it wasn't like she needed the money.  Because she had also asked us to help her find a lawyer, we knew that, even without the auction, she had enough money to live for 10 more years.

    I was angry because I would have loved to have had something of hers. I would have treasured it and displayed it in my house with pride.  But rather than Audrey being thoughtful and giving to the people who had given to her without expecting anything in return,  Audrey remained consumed with Barbara.  The auction wasn't about getting money so Audrey could live.  The auction was getting rid of her things so she could die and give more money to Barbara.  

     By that time, I had learned that Barbara was not just a mean.  Barbara was worse than a drug abuser.  She was worse than mentally unstable.  Barbara was a murderer.

     I really don't long to leave people hanging.  I didn't set out to write a novel.  But, since that is what it turned into, I just can't seem to get it done.

     ***These are not actual pieces of furniture from the auction... just examples.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Audrey Part IV

     First of all.... sorry, sorry, sorry!  I was a single parent from Friday morning until Monday afternoon... Paul was out of town (although, I did have lots of help from my mom, thanks mom)  Then, yesterday and today has bee full of appointments.  We had a post-placement visit from a social worker, (I can't believe we have had Emme six months already), 2 doctors appointments and a dentist appointment.  Big surprise!  AND, HELLO!  I am supposed to be teaching my girls in the midst of this chaos!  They are going to be dumber than a box of rocks!

     So, back to Audrey and her house.  If you are behind or new... read the 3 posts prior to this one.

     Audrey's illness brought on an urgency to get her affairs in order.  And, like I said earlier, I thought "affairs" meant cleaning up a cluttered apartment and getting rid of Harold's clothing, etc...

     However, unbeknownst to us, Audrey had a house about 3 minutes from her apartment.  She wanted to sell the house.  This was to be the first thing she wanted my mom to help her with.

     Picture any town USA.  Full grown trees shading and lining a wide street.  Old houses with inviting front porches, neighbors chatting on the porch while swinging  on a porch swing, screened doors that squeaked when they were opened and slammed when they were shut, manicured lawns, beautiful flowers, kids playing kickball in the street while flags adorning the houses flapped in the gentle summer breeze.

     Well, that's how I pictured Audrey's house back in the day.  Even though her street was still beautiful, her house had become an eye sore.  Someone, I believe some old friends down the street, still mowed the grass.  However, the bushes were overgrown.  The lawn was full of weeds.  The house and the yard surrounding it showed no signs of life.  It was a dreary, depressing sight... to say the least.

      And, that picture I painted earlier, with the neighbors all hanging out, I am not so sure the neighbors were hanging out with Audrey and Harold.  I think the neighbors who mowed the lawn were two of a very, very small handful of  friends.

      Despite the potential beauty of this house, it was never cared for properly.  At some point, the plumbing in the house quit functioning and for whatever reason, they never fixed it. Without proper plumbing, it's hard to go to the bathroom and then flush the toilet.  So it seemed,  Audrey and Harold decided jars and bottle would double as toilets.  Therefore, there were jars and bottles of urine laying all around the house.  

     The bathroom was disgusting.  The bathtub was black from years of not being cleaned as was the toilet and the sink.  As a matter of fact, at some point the bathtub doubled as a closet for more loads of toilet paper and paper towels than you can imagine.  When nature calls, nature doesn't care nor does it know whether there is a proper place of disposal, so one better be prepared.  I guess.  I have tried not to spend a whole lot of time thinking about it.

     Because the plumbing didn't work, they also did not have running water.  Through reading letters, we figured out that Harold used to take the bus to the YMCA downtown and take a shower.  And, Audrey, as best as we can guess, would take what my mom calls "whore baths." And... I'm going to leave that one to your imagination as well.

     Moving on...

     The rest of the house was trashed.  There were dead raccoons lying around.  They had crawled in through the chimney and  apparently could not get back out.  Because of this the house had a thick rank stench about it.  Plus, it was full of dust, trash, papers, books, furniture, dishes, beds, nicknacks and on and on and on.   Don't forget about the bottles and bottles of urine.  Are you kidding me??!!

     My poor mom didn't even know where to start.  And, honestly, for awhile, she resented me getting her into this mess.  But, in my wildest dreams, I could not have envisioned anything like this on that winter night when I met Audrey.

     I may have taken one look at that house and walked right out.  But, not my mom.  She has a fierce determination when it comes to starting something and finishing it.  If something is broken, she will fix it.  With my mom, where there is a will, there is a way.  Audrey didn't have anyone else.  So, combine that with my mom's huge soft heart and.... challenge on!   

     So, my poor mom and Audrey were like the bling leading the blind trying to work their way through that mess.  My mom has had a lot of health issues in the past plus she has a bad knee.   Her and a 90 year old woman trying to clean up a mess like that....  See, the blind leading the blind!!

     They decided to take one area and a time.  They would work for as long as they both had energy.  

     My mom started by throwing away all the trash.  Some things, we found out later, weren't trash, but one has to start somewhere.  As she moved through the house, some of the "trash" was money waded up and stashed in odd places.  My mom would bag it up and hand it to Audrey.  I think it amounted to several hundred dollars.  

     After months and months of cleaning, it was time to call in an auctioneer.  He came in and accessed the items, tagged them, etc...

     The auction was held in October of 2002.  I had mentioned earlier in the story that I was surprised and blessed with an unplanned pregnancy.  And, because of feeling sick and living 45 minutes away, I had been unable to get to the house until the morning of the auction.  

     I will never forget what I saw when I pulled up.  I had absolutely no idea.....

     So sorry AGAIN!  I have to sleep!  I PROMISE more tomorrow!!