Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Miss Cooke Celebrates

Newspaper databases add new papers to their files all the time, so even though I’ve searched my direct line ancestors before, I continue to check now and then to see if new items are available. This weekend I hit pay dirt, finding two stories about my grandmother Marion Stokes Cooke (1902-1960) in The Chat, a newly added Brooklyn, NY paper on Newspapers.com.

First was “Miss Cook Celebrates Her Birthday Anniversary” from 1923. It tells me their address, that both parents were living, describes the decorations, and gives a guest list with names I recognize as including cousins. By this date, my grandmother had already graduated from Pratt Institute with a certificate in Trade Dressmaking. Some of the other guests were possibly classmates.

Marion Cooke Celebrates Her 21st Birthday -
“Miss Cook Celebrates Her Birthday Anniversary,” The Chat (Brooklyn, New York), Saturday, 12 May 1923, p.43, col. 3 ; digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 31 Aug 2019.

The second story from 1927 describes the wedding of my grandparents as “one of the prettiest weddings of the week.” It includes her address, that only her mother was listed as a parent, that only my grandfather’s mother was listed as a parent, describes her dress (which she made), marriage location, and lists members of the wedding party – which included cousins of not only the bride but also the groom.

Flanders-Cooke Wedding announcement in The Chat (Brooklyn, NY) -
Weddings: Flanders-Cooke,” The Chat (Brooklyn, New York), Saturday, 19 March 1927, p.50 col. 5; digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 31 Aug 2019
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Yes, I know weight matters

Fat woman in a bikini

You don’t get to be 65 years old without knowing that carrying around excess weight matters. It matters in how I look, how clothes fit, what hairstyles work, what shape glasses to wear. It matters in how the joints feel and how the spine compresses to pinch nerves. It matters in how fast I can (or can’t) move and how my feet hurt. It matters. I get it.

This has been Medical Month with tests and assorted doctors. And I’m sick of all of them. Each office, even if connected to the same hospital system, has forms to fill out and require me to produce insurance cards and a list of current medication. No, it hasn’t changed since I saw the other doctor on Monday.

Every visit starts with stepping on the scale, which for me means not eating or drinking for at least 3 hours before going, because every ounce matters. Then they take my blood pressure and wonder why it’s high. Because you just made me get on another scale, morons.

If I’m lucky, the medical person, be it nurse or doctor, will listen to me explain why I’m there. But mostly I think they are concentrating on something else because I have to repeat what I said before they seem to comprehend it. Then they tell me that I should lose weight, eat fewer carbs, and exercise more.

Really? REALLY? You think I got to age 65 as a morbidly obese person and never heard that before? Do you think I don’t know that my weight complicates things for my joints and my heart? That people who weigh what I do chop years off of their lifespan? Do you think you are the first person to EVER tell me that losing weight would help?

You don’t know me. You don’t know anything about me if you think that’s true. I have been overweight since I was 10, when I remember being put on a diet by a skinny mom. I learned to despise squash and cottage cheese because fat girls needed to eat that to help lose weight. I’ve damaged my body and my spirit by yo-yo dieting for 50 years. Massive amounts of weight, my friend. And I’ve always gained back every pound and more.

Except this time. I had lapband surgery 10 years ago and gained most of it back, but I am still 40 pounds below my top weight from before surgery. This is the first time EVER that this has happened. For me to stay at the same weight, or within 5 pounds of it, for 4 years is a MAJOR accomplishment. So telling me to lose more, to get to an ideal weight, is laughable. And it’s not going to happen.

It hurts me when you see me as just a big blob. I need you to LISTEN to me when I tell you I will eat carefully, I will try to move more, but if I die tomorrow, I’m good. I’ve counted calories and fat grams and points and protein for long enough. I can’t do it anymore.

I am more than the size of my body. I am someone who feels and hurts and laughs and loves her family and friends and her sweet cats. And if I do not lose another pound, I will not blame you if something goes wrong with my heart or my back. That’s on me.

I’m practicing being strong because I have two more medical appointments next week, and I know they will have me get on a scale before they even talk to me. I’m not looking forward to it.


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Making House Decisions

I’m making choices right and left; you’d think I’d been contemplating making changes to the house for years. Well, er, um, I have been, just not thinking I could actually do any of them.

In the last two weeks I’ve made decisions about a whole bunch of things.

  • Cabinets: I’m not painting them. I like the wood, and the dark wood trim in the kitchen, and I’m keeping them.
  • Countertop: I visited three granite yards, one of them three times. Such pretty colors and patterns! And the prettier the pattern, the pricier the slab.
  • I picked Giallo Napoli Granite. I fell in love with the purple splotches that look like little drops of wine. This wasn’t my first choice, but when I went to pick out faucets and sinks, I saw a counter on display made out of this granite. I just loved it, so I went back to the yard to look again. It’s hard to envision from a giant slab what a smaller section will look like, so it was great to have the chance to see it before I committed to my first (and more expensive) choice. It didn’t appeal as much in the slab but looks amazing as a counter, and I’m very pleased with it.
  • I picked a faucet and new composite sink (no sink picture; sorry, but here’s the faucet). The double sink will be “chestnut” which has a little sparkly in it, with a low divider between the two sides, making it easier to wash large pans. The faucet has a pull-out sprayer on the end that pulls back with magnets. I’m also getting a new disposal.
  • Yesterday I picked out a porcelain floor tile and a marble and glass tile backsplash. It has rough stone with both frosted and shiny glass, and is pretty neutral. Here they are with a small door from my cabinets and my granite sample. Because the cabinets are heavily grained and the granite is busy, I wanted neutral floor and backsplash that wouldn’t fight with either one. They will really brighten up the space, and the floor tile is textured so it won’t be slippery.

Still not sure what I’m doing about paint colors – so many! so many that look almost alike, except some are pinkish or tint yellow or green or are too dark or whatever. But it’s probably going to be one of these:

To help me figure it out, I’ve ordered more 12×12″ peel-and-stick samples from Samplize.com. These are so cool and so easy – they paint the squares with real Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore paint. You peel off the backs, then slap them up on a wall – or cabinet, or ceiling. Whatever. Easy to peel off and slap up on another place to see how it looks in different light. Right now I’m leaning forward Kilim Beige but we’ll see after the samples get here.

I have an estimate from one contractor on all of the work requested, including screening in the back porch, reworking the garage dryer vent, and painting the bathrooms. The bottom line is below the number I’d mentally set as my limit. I’m pleased and relieved to know I can actually do this, with money left over for soft changes like window treatments, a new couch, and new seats for the dining room chairs.

I stopped by the cemetery today to talk with my mom about changing her kitchen. I know she’s not actually there, and I’ve talked with her here at the house. But I just want to feel that she’s okay with the changes I’m making to her home. And I think she would be. She would want me to be comfortable, to make this place mine. She wouldn’t be going as fast as I seem to be in moving forward, but she would support me – and go with me to pick things out. I miss you, Mom.


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Where did this stuff come from?

When it’s time to pack up the kitchen before countertop demo in the coming weeks, I decided to go through everything in the cabinets to see what I no longer (or never) use. Packing is laborious enough – why include things that I don’t need?

First I weeded pots and pans. Casserole dishes. The dutch oven my mom used for pot roast but hasn’t moved in at least 8 years. A juicer. Melamine dishes. Loaf pans. Mom’s old cookie sheets. All now boxed up to deliver to charity.

Next up were plastic containers. Dear Lord, where did they all come from? Were they making little baby containers in the back of the cabinet? Why don’t the tops fit the bottoms? Honestly, I was stunned by the debris but think the collection really got started when my dad died and when I was post-op and people brought food. I sorted and weeded, trying on tops and then just giving up and dumping a whole lotta plastic. Kept about 1/8 of what you see on the counter. Now I know what I have and everything can go in the freezer, which is important.

Still need to go through what’s on the top shelves of the cabinets. I never use them because I can’t reach, being shorter than everyone else in my family. What’s the point of putting something on a top shelf if I can’t get it down?

By the time I actually need to pack things up, it should be super easy – she said optimistically.


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Dividing up treasures

Half of the silver

My mother, sister-in-law, and I all chose the same Towle Old Master silver pattern. I never married but didn’t let that stop me getting pretty things. We grew up using the silver every night for dinner, not saving it up for only special occasions, and I wanted to be able to do that in my own home. My mom bought me some place settings from estate sales, I bought some, and my grandmother would sometimes give me a teaspoon or fork for my birthday.

I gave 4 of my place settings to my oldest nephew when he got married, but have rarely used any since moving to Texas. I added mine to my mom’s set carefully wrapped up in anti-tarnish cloth when I moved here, but it’s not doing anyone any good just sitting in a drawer. So as part of my house transition, I decided it was time to pass it on to the next generation. Not being a fool, I checked with my brother and sister-in-law to be sure what I wanted to do was equitable.

Today I spread all the pieces out on the dining table and started dividing them up. There were actually almost 16 of everything, which was more than I’d realized. Each of my nieces will get 8 place settings. But then there were the odd things that I never had in my set (spoons for iced tea and soup, little individual butter knives, pickle forks, etc.) and larger serving pieces that were a combo of Old Master pattern (large spoons and fork, pie server, gravy ladle) and miscellaneous pieces that I’d inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother. I randomly divided these between the two piles.

Most of me is happy that the new generation will have and use these, and hopefully will think of us when they do. But part of me wants to cry to part with these pretty silver things that I never use but know where they came from and (mostly) what they’re for, including the tomato server and sugar sifter. I just love them. But it’s not fair to them to be wrapped in a drawer and ignored. So I will polish them up, wrap them carefully in anti-tarnish cloth, and pack up to give for holiday celebrating – and hope that the pretty things don’t get mangled in a disposal. But if they do, well, my mom did that as well. It’s just stuff, even if it’s shiny.

I’m keeping a few things, though. I just couldn’t part with the silver sifter or the little sterling swords for appetizers or the baby set to give when the next baby is born. But most of it is divided up, hopefully fairly. Next decisions will involve silver and silverplate bowls and platters. I do not need two intricate silver breadtrays, Revere bowls, or the well-and-tree platter. I think the nephews are getting silver for Christmas, too.


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Making their house my house

I inherited my parents’ house last year when my father died. They moved here in 1985 and lived in it for 33 years, and everywhere I look, I see their choices: some furniture, art, wallpaper, countertops, paint colors. Last weekend I actually looked at another house for sale in our community and fell in love with it for three reasons: it’s completely renovated, has a screened in porch, and would be mine, not my parents’. But I couldn’t give up my huge triple window that looks out on the golf course. I don’t play golf, but after years of living in apartments, the expanse of lush green feeds my soul. Plus someone else takes care of it!

So now I’m looking at my house to see what changes I can make to turn this more into MY home and not my parents’. I haven’t been idle, there have been changes, but other things I’ve said I need to change have just sat there while I delayed making decisions. Partly that’s because I was worried about costs, and about my complete lack of experience in managing any renovation projects. And partly because some of the things I thought about getting rid of may be things my brother wants – unlikely, but still. And a large part was simple inertia.

But it’s time now. I took down all the remaining wall art that belonged to my parents that I didn’t really like so I can see blank space and start to picture what will go there. I’ve been having fun searching Pinterest and websites, reading up on decorating options and getting ideas. I’ve watched HGTV for years and know what I’m looking for, though there are certainly things I could miss.

Living Room: I already bought new lamps for the living room and am starting to look at different furniture options. And the window here also needs a window treatment, probably a cornice to match the dining room. I’m keeping the carpet because it’s what I’m used to from apartment living, and the off-white walls work for me. I did make changes to the white brick fireplace and hearth decor, but there’s way too much furniture that doesn’t match or match me.

Opposite the fireplace is a three-piece dark wood bookcase unit that has been exactly in that spot for almost 35 years. I hadn’t really thought about getting rid of it until my brother said it sucked the light out of the room, and then wham! I saw it was true. So I put it up on our community newsletter and sold it. I have something else in mind for the space but it would need to be assembled – and I could hire someone to do that for me, because I don’t think I’m strong enough to manage it.

Dining Room: My giant McKnight poster is going up here, which will transform the space. It’s hard to hang alone but I’ll have help this weekend when my brother and sister-in-law come. I also ordered two framed vintage travel posters to flank the huge window in the dining, prints I’ve been looking at for almost 2 years. I removed a leaf from the table and will pack up the china and silver service from the china cabinet, to go to my brother’s house eventually for his children if they want it. I don’t hate the chairs but I do hate the chair SEATS and need to figure out how to get them recovered. And the window needs a window treatment that’s too high for cats to destroy. A cornice would fit and there’s fabric I love that might work.

Kitchen: Lots of thoughts here. It’s a huge space with an eating area and acres of dark wood cabinets and tile countertops. I’ve thought about painting the cabinets white, painting them two tone, or not painting them at all, which what I’m thinking now. But the wallpaper is definitely coming down and the countertops need to go. And if I don’t paint the cabinets, I can use the savings to spring for new flooring, which is also needed.

Bathrooms: The biggest problem with the bathrooms is the wallpaper, which is original to the house. And it’s butt ugly to me. Yes, I would probably enjoy a new vanity and sink, but really what I want is to paint over the very dated walls – and put a pivot door on my stall shower, because I’m not turning the jetted tub area into a big roll-in shower as long as the cats enjoy playing around it. But the red and white striped master bath walls have to GO.

Exterior: I want to screen in part or all of the large back porch. Mine is the only house in my block on the golf course side that hasn’t glassed in the back porch to make more living space – but I’m one person and certainly don’t need extra space to heat and cool. Screened porch, though, would be a wonderful treat for me – and the kitties – to enjoy the outside without bugs. I also need to have someone punch a hole in the brick exterior by the garage to I can vent the dryer to the outside instead of inside the garage.

So I have plenty of things to look at and into. I need to decide what I want so I can then get some cost estimates to work out a budget and see what I can do now and what needs to wait. I’m very lucky – my father left me not only the house but also some savings that I can apply to the renovations.

It’s time to do this and not just think about it.


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To Boston and Back

Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston

I flew to Boston last weekend for a special event that I anticipated for weeks. I left Boston in 2007 for a new job in New Haven, a whole 2.5 hours to the south, but rarely went back even though it was close. But I’d missed it. I missed the history, the bustle, the traditions, my church and the choir, the weather. And then I moved to Texas; quick visits weren’t possible anymore.

So I was super excited to get an invitation to go to a 25th wedding anniversary party for two special people, having sung at their wedding years before. The bride was a member of our choir, and her father described the wedding as a “concert accompanied by vows.” I knew there would be many other choir friends present, and I’ve missed that choir like my right arm. I had to go.

Saturday night was magical, seeing my happy friends and meeting their talented, creative children. Catching up with those I hadn’t seen in years as though that time was just a blink of an eye. As one friend said, “It was like, ‘Yes, that’s you, I had you on my heart all the time’.” I had spirited conversations with spouses I’d never met, gave and received hugs, shared wine and song and delicious food with wonderful dinner companions I haven’t seen in ages.

And there was music. How could there not be, given how important it is to the happy couple? The band was fun, playing Motown and standards, for dancing and for the caberet songs that seemed spontaneous but weren’t. It was like old times – and then they called the Trinity Kwah alums up to sing two pieces that we sang at the wedding 25 years before (“Rise Up My Love” by Healey Willan, and “Ubi Caritas” by Durufle). And for other occasions, to be sure – we all knew the music by heart and hadn’t rehearsed, but the sound knitted together seamlessly under the direction of our fearless director. It was Magic.

Trinity Church Reflected in the
John Hancock Building, Boston

Sunday I went to church at my former church, the gorgeous and historic Trinity Church at Copley Square. And I was disappointed. It was not realistic to think it would be the same but in my mind, I thought it would be all that and more. Congregational singing was minimal which made me crazy because music was such a huge part of my life in that place. But in a way, it’s good that I wasn’t blown away because then I would be even sadder to have left it behind.

After church, I lunched on Newbury Street with a law librarian friend, comparing notes about her new job, cats, and Irish genealogy among other topics. The afternoon was an adventure on the “hop on, hop off” trolley which has graduated to buses instead of trolleys. I’ve seen the inside of all the historic places and walked the Freedom Trail dozens of times. What I really wanted was just to ride around and see Boston without trying to drive in it, to see the changes post-Big Dig – and boy, there were many. So much construction everywhere! A little shopping after, a lobster roll for dinner, and early to bed before an early morning flight home.

What I hadn’t really understood was that traveling itself would be very hard. I hadn’t flown in almost 4 years and plane seats – and bathrooms! – have gotten a lot smaller. My body is not in good shape and I traveled with a folding cane to provide extra support and balance. Hiking through the airports was exhausting. Walking through the city was slow and lumbering. My sciatica was in full force with pain up and down my right leg. I couldn’t walk far or long without stopping, short of breath and hurting. I felt like a cow. And I was actually ashamed to see how hard a time I had getting around. I have things to work on before I can consider taking another trip but at least I know what they are.

Trinity Choir at Salisbury Cathedral

Taking the trip, taking the time and expense to travel back for something as frivolous as a party, was important. And it wasn’t frivolous at all to be there. Thank you, Carrie and Jon, for the invitation. Thank you, so many choir friends, for connecting and for sharing a few things that you remembered that shone crystal clear once you spoke of them. You matter. You all matter. What we did then mattered, and how we are connected now does, too.