Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

Category: Family

Ancestering, People Watching, Organizing

I’ve been ancertering lately. Yes, ancestering is a verb. It’s fascinating stuff, and I’ve made a lot of headway, but I’m beginning to see that it’s endless. Every path leads to another. There were ministers in my family, but most of us were farmers, carpenters, boat builders and homemakers. Working people. I don’t think I’m going to find royalty, philosophers, musicians, or artists, but you never know. The quest goes on.

I had to get a chest x-ray yesterday and some labs. Since a bit of waiting is the norm, it gives me a chance to engage in one of my favorite pastimes, people watching. There were two older women sitting across from me. The larger one wore bright yellow pants and a striped shirt of yellow, green and blue, and she had a PhD in bossing. Clearly. She also had a horrid case of RBF. She was knitting away, but it did not interfere with her bossing job. She kept leaning over and giving the smaller lady her opinion about what she should do and how she should do it. I could only hear the tone, not the words, but the facial expressions and body language of both women were something to behold. The smaller woman looked like she was used to it, but did not subscribe to the larger woman’s philosophy… despite her PhD. I bet they were sisters, and had been at it since they were toddlers.

I plan to organize my closet today. I don’t think I’ll toss much because I did that a few months ago, but I need to get my summer clothes in one section and my winter things to the back so I can find what I need when I need it. We’re going on vacation soon, and I have to decide what I’m taking and maybe even… wait for it… iron a few things. Ha! I’m looking forward to wearing some of my new things. It’s so nice to have clothes that fit again. I still need pants. My niece has implored me to get new pants. She says a commune of hippies could live in there. I still need to lose weight, and I’m still losing very slowly, but it feels more like maintaining to me. When I get back from vacation, I plan to get serious, but I have to enjoy myself. It is vacation!

The certified letter was from the bio-daughter. More of the same. Sigh.

A Family Affair

It’s been a busy time. I haven’t written posts or visited blogs this week. We’re in spring planting mode around here, and H put down mulch Saturday. It always looks so nice, but that isn’t what’s on my mind today.

My niece took us to dinner on Saturday night, and I busted my diet. I’m getting good at breaking the daily routine and getting right back on the horse the next morning. It’s becoming the norm, but I must say that it took my system until mid-day the next day to feel just right again. It’s gotten used to eating clean and lean, but it was so much fun being with her. She has the kindest heart.

We talked about my sister (her mother). The daughter she put up for adoption in 1960 is still trying to find her. Well, I should say, she’s trying to get my sister to meet with her. A few months ago, she sent my brother and me letters and photos (she looks like my other niece) asking for information. Neither of us contacted her. We both feel that it’s our sister’s decision, and at this point, my sister knows about her so there’s no business in this for us.

Months ago, when she first contacted me, I searched for her online. I found her thread on a forum for adopted children looking for bio-parents. She wrote about her search for my sister. I didn’t look at it again until a couple of days ago. She had written much more about my sister and our family. That’s where I learned that since sending the letters to my brother and me, she also sent a certified letter to my sister months ago, and my sister signed for it. So my sister knows, but is not talking to any of the family about it.

On the thread, Bio-daughter said she found two cousins – one on our side of the family and one on her bio-father’s side – who agreed to meet with her. She already visited one, and will visit the other soon. She also found her bio-father who lives down the street from my brother. He called my brother and asked for information on my sister, but “he refused to talk about his sister’s pregnancy.” She wrote that he would now try to contact her mother’s younger sister (me!). Her bio-father felt I would help because “she’s more talkative.” Really? Why didn’t they just say that I’m a snitch? Ha! I’m sure he meant more cooperative or social or something flattering like that.

Even though my brother and I believe we would choose differently in this situation, if my sister does not want to meet with her bio-daughter, we cannot be the ones to give her information. Though I do sympathize with her bio-daughter, I find that even though my sister and I are not close and barely see each other, I cannot help her make contact with my sister (I think she wants a cell # and general information). It doesn’t feel right, but at this point, it doesn’t matter anyway. The bio-daughter isn’t stopping, and will make contact with every relative my sister knows until she agrees to see her. Even though one of my other nieces asked her to stop, she is as persistent as my sister, and will not take no for an answer. I don’t know what I think of that either. Shouldn’t either side have the right to say yay or nay. My sister must feel that her life is being picked apart… molecule by molecule as bio-daughter visits, contacts, talks and writes to every relative she can find. In the letter she sent to me, she wrote, “I don’t want to cause trouble.” Why then does it feel like I’m watching a trouble train coming down the tracks… closer and closer?

When we returned home from dinner with my niece on Saturday, a card  from the postoffice was waiting for me in the mailbox. It was a notification for a certified letter. It’s at the postoffice and I have to sign for it. Two guesses who it’s from? I will know today. What a sticky situation. I’m thinking that my sister never told her present husband, and to say that his entire family will be surprised by this is an understatement, especially his children. I think they already have a few issues with my sister.

I’m pretty sure that my sister feels shame and embarrassment. I’m not saying that she should, but how awkward this must be for her. Over fifty years ago, in a different time, she found a good family for her child. She wanted the best for her, and by that child’s own words, she had a good life with loving parents. Her adoptive mother died two years ago, and that’s when she started looking, which says a lot about what’s going on here. She is successful, degreed, smart and incontestably determined. She is definitely my sister’s daughter.


Names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.

Because rain was expected on Saturday, and because old retirees are flexible, my niece’s moving day was changed to Friday. It’s a good thing because it rained buckets on Saturday. When we arrived, she was drying one last load of clothes.

Her next-door neighbor Mike popped in unexpectedly and helped H move the washer and dryer. He seemed like such a nice guy, and he was a lot of help. He and his wife are expecting their first baby. Crystal said they’ve been great neighbors for six years, always helping her with things around the house that would be difficult for a single woman. She repaid them with pots of soup and spaghetti sauce. They both begged her not to move.

When they started to move the washer and dryer, Mike called to her, “Crystal, what do you want to do with these?” She’d left a few panties in the utility room. She was so embarrassed. After a few exclamations of “Oh, my God!” she apologized. Good-naturedly, he said they weren’t the first panties he’d seen. We all laughed and moved on.

Crystal called last night and said, “Auntie, Mike texted me, saying he’d like to see me, that he’d like to take me to lunch” (he works from home, and his wife works during the day). She texted him back, told him no, and reminded him that he was married and about to have a baby. He texted her again, reiterating that he’d like to see her and hoped she’d reconsider. She ignored him.

One other thing: she’s a lovely and fit 52, and he’s in his early 30s. She said she lived there for six years, and he was never anything but polite and gentlemanly. She never felt any weird vibes from him. Nothing. I would never have pegged him for a hound either, but a hound he is.

I told her that her life is exciting, but exhausting. The only drama around here is what’s for dinner, what will we plant in the yard?

Dinner tonight: Chicken Under Brick

Plantings: impatient plants, hostas, coral bells, ferns, bleeding heart, zinnia seeds…

Fact: Bella Rum wears 100% cotton grandma panties.


My Niece’s Move, My Brother’s Knee Surgery, H’s Niece, My Cousin, Doctor Visit

I’m at home today, so I thought I’d jog the blog muscle a little. Our life has picked up the pace recently.

As they come on the market, we’ve done a few drive-bys on houses in my niece’s price range, and we’re helping her move the last of her things to her storage unit on Saturday. It’s amazing how much easier it is to move if you have the time to do it. She started early since she isn’t waiting for a close date on another house. We helped her last Saturday and the Saturday before that. We finished before noon both times. A few big things remain: a wardrobe, sofa, washer and dryer. They will be a little awkward, but shouldn’t take long. A friend of her’s will help H, and H has ramps and a dolly and a hand truck, and straps. He is very good at this. My niece is so much fun to be around. I will be glad when she finds a house. She’s as picky as I am. So…

My brother has severe arthritis. One of his hips was replaced 17 years ago at age 53 (he needed it long before he did it). The other was replaced 14 years ago. They both need to be replaced again. Both of his knees are shot, so his doctor asked him where he wanted to begin. He chose his left knee. That was three weeks ago. He and H are the same age. My brother seems so much older.

I went to Marshall’s a few days ago, and hit the jackpot on tops. That never happens. I’ve complained that I don’t look like I’ve lost any weight. My DIL and niece both told me that my clothes were too big. I hate to buy clothes while I’m still losing, but I have nothing that fits and we’re going on vacation soon. I think I went a little crazy because when I tried things on in the dressing room, I could see a big difference. Not there yet, but progress. It felt good. I found white and black linen pants in my closet that I didn’t take to Goodwill, and that was helpful.

H is making noises again about climbing to the top of the huge tree in the front yard, and getting rid of a bad limb. I over heard him telling my son. It’s too high for him to reach with his pole trimmer.

We ran into H’s niece in Marshall’s. That was a delightful experience. I haven’t seen her in years. She’s as beautiful as ever, inside and out. H’s sister-in-law is turning 80 soon, and she invited us to a dinner for her. She told us that H’s 82-year-old brother (her father) injured himself while on a ladder replacing a window on the second floor. The window was resting in the frame but not attached when it fell, shattered and cut him badly in several places. There was an ER visit. It must run in the family.

A cousin I haven’t heard from in years called me yesterday. We caught up on family that I haven’t seen in ages. She told me that one of my cousins, while working on the roof of his barn, fell and broke his pelvis, one arm, and a few other things. His cell phone was at the top of the ladder. He had to climb back up the ladder to call for help. His recovery was lengthy and laborious. Can you imagine?

I went to my doctor Tuesday. She was pleased because I’d lost another 10 pounds since my last visit. A new nurse was shadowing the other nurse to learn the routine. She was showing her my info in the computer. She quickly went down a list of things, and all I caught was “fall risk assessment.” It made me feel old for a minute, but I know how much better I feel. I think it’s my cousin’s, H’s brother’s and H’s fall risks that need assessing, thank you very much.

Looking at Houses

After three practically sleepless nights in a row, I slept eight straight hours last night. Oh, my! What a difference that makes. Life is so much easier when you sleep.

Boy, did I ever have fun yesterday. I love spending time with my niece. We helped her move some of her things. When we finished unloading and moving it all into the storage unit, she showed us the stats on a house that was in her price range. She had more “moving” things to do so H and I did a ride-by for her. It was a charming little house: good roof, good neighborhood (which isn’t always true in her price range), large deck in the back, and lovingly maintained.

The photos of the inside were even better.

I called her and told her to drop everything and get her realtor to book a showing for her. She called her realtor, but it had gone under contract that day. It was only on the market two days. Things are flying off the market especially well-maintained and updated homes.

In the afternoon, we looked at two other houses with her. One was very much like the one we rode by, but it had not been lovingly maintained or updated, and the lot was a difficult one – especially for a single woman – with a steep bank in the backyard. It would be difficult for even a young man.

I love looking at houses. It’s even more fun when I don’t have to buy one. I will compulsively look online at everything that hits the market in her price range until she finds something.

Lunch, Refrigerators, Washers and HVAC

Patsy will be here around noon for lunch. The refrigerator repair guy is here now. H is in there talking to him. The guy is telling him all about it. H loves this stuff. He wants a play-by-play if possible. I just want an ice maker that makes ice and doesn’t leak. This is the fourth time we’ve had him out here. Instead of repairing the old one, he is replacing it with a new one this time. Let’s hope this one works for more than 18 months.

Oh, and the washer wouldn’t do its cycle this morning. It kept making funny noises. I cancelled the load and started all over, and it worked the second time. Fingers crossed.

Lunch is as simple as it gets. Grilled ham and cheese sandwich, potato chips for Patsy (not us), and lemon thins and coffee for dessert. The only time I eat bread anymore is when I’m with someone else for lunch. I splurge.

My DIL just texted that the HVAC guys are at her house to install a new heating/ac unit, AND it’s the kids’ first day of spring break. So she’ll have those guys and three kids all day. That right there puts my mean-reds’ post into perspective. What’s a little itchy eye and a headache? Absolutely nuthin’.

Honestly? Do you know anyone whose junk breaks down more often than ours?


A Grand Visit

What a great weekend for a visit with the Grand Trio. It was in the seventies and sunny with the bluest skies you’ve ever seen. It was a three-day weekend because of Presidents’ Day, so they didn’t have to leave until Monday.

The meatloaf and mashed potatoes went over just fine with my grandson. That kid makes me feel great. No matter what I cook, he likes it.

The oldest grand will turn eleven soon. I’ve smartened up about the older ones. I got her to show me what she wanted online. The little one is still pleased with anything you give her, but the older they get, the more selective they become. You can’t just pick up a doll with magnetic clothes or a stuffed doggie anymore. She chose something very inexpensive (I didn’t even know what the thing was). I wanted to give her more than what she chose, so her mom took mercy on me. She told me I could contribute to a larger gift they’re getting for her. That makes it so easy for me. I think this is the way to go as they get older.

img_2332Lilou loved the bike that H found for her at Goodwill. It looked brand new, and it even had a basket on it. H bought pink handlebar streamers, and that was all the fancying up it needed. A man who can choose pink streamers and knows all the names of all the Disney princesses is a rare find, and she knows it. She loves him so much. If he goes to the bathroom, she instructs me to tell her as soon as he’s finished. When it was time to leave, she told him she didn’t want to go.img_2334

It came equipped with a princess license plate: wrong state, correct title.

Since it was such a pretty day, we took them to a nearby park. On the way home, out of the blue, Lilou asked, “Do you know what would make me happy?” Impersonating the intensity of a talk-show host, her dad said, “No, Lilou, but we’d love to hear. What would make you happy?” She said, “A puppy!” Still the baby – for now – but it’s fleeting.

I did not see a blow-up swimming pool this weekend, but I did see bare feet. And no one caught pneumonia.

Bare feet in February!

Today is detox day: clean food, exercise and lots of water.

Aunt Ruby

Aunt Ruby called yesterday. There are two things you need to know about Aunt Ruby. She has a good heart, and she is a compulsive talker. She’s been this way her entire life, and it isn’t easy for those around her. It can’t be easy for her either. She’s aware that she talks constantly, and I believe she knows that she drives others to distraction, but she cannot stop herself.

It is impossible for me to convey how much she talks, how many words she can put into thirty seconds, a minute, an hour.  She never stops. Being a compulsive talker is not the same animal as being a regular extrovert. They need little if any response, they only need to talk, they are compelled to talk. Aunt Ruby never met a period. No periods. She’s just one long narrative.

I answer the phone. She says, “Bella, it’s me. How are you?” I say, “Fine.” She says, “How is H?” I say, “Fine.” And those are the last real words I say until the end of the conversation. The rest of the time I grunt, uh huh, laugh, aah, etc. If I do say something, she will stop for a second, I will think she heard me, then she will pick up exactly where she was, as if I’ve never uttered a word.

She adores H. Why? Because he is a polite and patient man who will listen to her. At family gatherings, we sit with her.

Bless her heart, Aunt Ruby is neurotic. Usually compulsive talkers are. They often drive people away faster than a mad man wielding a large stick. She has a gentle spirit, but strangers would never get a glimpse of it. It’s impossible to see through all the chatter about new babies in the family, friends of friends of friends of her children, sick people, dead people, old people, young people, church, the weather, her health, life in Georgia when she was growing up, and on and on. She jumps all over the place. It’s difficult to follow sometimes.

I’ve learned to put the phone on speaker, and do other things while I sort of listen. This is good for her. She just needs to know I’m there. Every now and then I catch something about a relative or old friend that interests me, and I have to stop her, and get her to go back because I missed it. This is not easy, because she’s entrenched in the next topic, and it’s near impossible to pull her back. If I really want to know, I have to ask about three times.

At the end of the conversation, which she tries to end several times during a conversation, but cannot stop talking long enough to do it, she apologies for talking so much and so long, and she allows me to tell her it’s okay and to tell her I love her and to say goodbye.

I have more tolerance for Aunt Ruby’s talking than some, but you’d be surprised by her supporters; they are legion. I think this is in large part because she’s lived in the same neighborhood since she married Uncle Wishie over sixty-five years ago. Everyone knows her. When you live in a small town or community, it’s harder to ignore or shun your fellow-man. You know him, and he is you or part of you. I’m amazed at the people who help her, who take her to church, do her taxes, take her to the grocery store, repair something in her house. Aunt Ruby may drive you to distraction, but she has a sweetness that seems rarer and rarer every day. She also has one daughter who is very devoted to her, and a niece.

Sorry about the length of this post. I do run on a bit myself.


I’m in a pensive mood tonight. I was exhausted after the ride home, and fell asleep early. Now I’m awake in a quiet, cool house. I donned my soft, fluffy, stay-at-home socks before even getting out of the bed. I turned the fireplace on a few minutes ago, and it will be warm as toast in here soon.

I was happy to be with family yesterday. I always know that Aunt Ruby may not be with us on the next holiday, yet she keeps ticking. Endurance is her thing. There was talk of assisted living, though her resources are minimal. I don’t know what will happen on that front, and it’s on my mind.

My brother was quiet and dealing with a painful back and probably feeling like I felt – there’s a lot of missing family. I did pretty well the year after Dad died and even the next, but this year I felt the absence of family: sisters (one passed and one who lives far away), nieces and nephews and kids who have their own families and traditions. It’s a natural progression, but traditions are the backbone of holidays. We make traditions, we break traditions, we modify traditions and we ultimately miss relinquished traditions – what ever the reason for their disappearance.

My cousin Sue, Aunt Ruby’s daughter, was there. I’ve rekindled a relationship with her over the past few years since she’s started coming to our Thanksgiving dinners. She’s younger than I am, about the age of some of my nieces. She lived next door, and I loved her to pieces when she was a little girl. Then I moved away when she was still a child and hardly ever saw her again. In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate how atrophied relationships can be revived, and how the old bond, if massaged the tiniest bit, can spring back to life in a more mature and even deeper way. It’s a wonderful thing. I’ve lost a lot of people in the past decade, but I’m beginning to see that I have new-old relationships all around me in the form of nieces, nephews and cousins.

My brother’s son is my favorite relative of all time. I could spend all day telling you how much I love him and why. His three little girls are growing up. What beauties they are and so smart. It’s fun to watch them interact. Sisters! What a special bond that is.

Yesterday was a wonderful day, but bittersweet. I’m glad for this holiday. I’m grateful for it. But it is a day of reflection and reflection does what it will with us. Still… the mashed potatoes and gravy helped a lot, and the bread pudding didn’t hurt.

Today’s agenda: drink lots of water, exercise, eat clean

Note: Only two mentions of politics. Once when Aunt Ruby mentioned President Obama’s pardoning of the turkeys, Tater and Tot, and another when H heard someone mention President-Elect Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education. Not sure what was said.

Happy Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-horn-of-plentyI just wrote an obnoxious post about a run-in with a company about an online purchase, but I decided today, the day before Thanksgiving, is not the day to hit publish on an annoyance that has already been resolved. Besides, it’s out of my system now.

This morning I’m making my dishes to take to Thanksgiving dinner. H is prepping for the marinated vegetable salad for me, and I’m showing him how to make my pumpkin pie recipe. The oven will soon be making that wonderful holiday smell of pumpkin, nutmeg and cinnamon. I turned the television off the news, which is nigh on to driving me crazy, to the channel that plays seasonal tunes. I’m part of the population that likes Christmas carols.

I talked with my brother this morning. Thank goodness he loves to keep family gatherings a part of our lives. He is committed to it, and I love him for it. He reminded me to bring a big cooler for oysters, shrimp and venison. H enjoys venison, but I’ll take care of the shrimp, thank you very much. We both love oysters.

We plan to take Route 5 down to my brother’s. It’s a historic route, established in 1619. Its plantations and farms along the James River have survived the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the War Between the States. Years ago, we used to ride H’s motorcycle there. It’s a beautiful drive. It takes a little longer, but we decided to leave early and enjoy. There will be less traffic and no traffic lights. That’s a bonus even if it takes longer.

I commented on a blog yesterday that I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and it’s true. It’s been a good year, and I haven’t always been able to say that. Who among us has? Whatever your situation this year, I hope you can enjoy this day of thanks. Happy Thanksgiving to you.