Looking for answers to life's questions

Posts tagged ‘sisters’

A Shoehorn

The line between a hoarder and a creative collector is very delicate. I’m beginning to see how wobbly I walk that line. It may have to do with the intention behind it. The last few weeks in the process of moving my daughter into my house has had me looking at that line a lot more closely.

Still sorting and shoveling in the sewing room

I’ve emptied a closet full of crafting and fabric tubs, as well as the linen closet to make room for my daughter. She brought her bed, linens, dresser, while I provided an emptied bookshelf. Everything on the bookshelf had to go…somewhere.

We have both moved so much stuff last month that it’s giving each of us pause. Boxes have been filled for donation. She sold most of her furniture with only two cherished pieces in storage for now. More will be sold at the summer yard sale.

I managed to give away the queen bed and frame that was my guest bed to a young couple. My daughter’s box springs came to the house, her old mattress went to the dump. My sister and I took care of that. We are so proud of ourselves for all the lifting and maneuvering of heavy obstacles at our age and in our condition. My sister loves trips to the dump; chatting up everyone who works there with her friendly nature. Couldn’t have done this without her.

When expected help didn’t show up, my daughter and I looked at each other and decided we would manage on our own to move the last heavy item. Then there was the cleaning of 3 years’ worth of living in 400 square feet with appliances older than my daughter. We also had the free use of a moving van to move her stuff in storage closer to my house where she will have easy access to go through and continue to purge. We didn’t need a truck that large by any stretch of the imagination but she had fun driving it just to say she could do it. There is something very empowering in doing things you didn’t think you could do before.

We were both so tired that meals were catch-as-catch-can. To be honest, I didn’t know how exhausted I was getting until it was all done. Then it caught up with me big time. I went down for a week and could do nothing but sleep. Eating wasn’t going well either. So, I’ve been taking some gentle time for myself and doing next to nothing. Trying to read and leave comments was a short-term project most days and I’m not sure I was totally coherent nor were my comments. After a fair amount of rest with some exercise for good measure, we are both beginning to feel human again. The next move is up to someone else.

Sewing room shuffle

Do you ever have the tendency to push your limits too far? What do you do to recover? Did you find yourself purging excess in this first month of the year?


From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

SUZY Q The Maids Quarters

Once again, mom sent me out to find my sister, now four years old. Mom’s hands were full and she wasn’t moving as fast as I could. My sister also did not want to be found or confined in any way. The pursuit of freedom was her agenda in the world, along with a good time.

I looked outside first. Outside was the place to be. When that search was exhausted, I looked to the playroom. As I reached the fourth floor I looked into the playroom on our side of the building with no luck. There was another playroom all the way across on the second side of the building with the long hall housing maid’s quarters. I would head that way just in case.


A reminder of what it looked like.

We never saw the inside of those tiny rooms because they were always locked as was the common bathroom for them. That was not the case this day. Someone had left the bathroom door unlocked. There, leaning up on the sink was my little sister, trying to figure out how to turn off the hot water but the handle had become too warm and water was running everywhere. Lots of water. She told me her hands were dirty so she wanted to wash them. I quickly shut off the taps and walked her all the way across the top of the entire building and down the other side hoping to get her dry enough that the parents didn’t notice.

Unnoticed by our parents, no questions were asked when we slipped in the door. They didn’t notice things like my sister sneaking sips from their Cognac glasses while they played cards with friends either. She was much easier to put to bed afterward so I wasn’t going to tell.

I never gave the water incident another thought until several days later. I was up there again and noticed the wood floors in front of the bathroom and most of the way down the hall formed a little hill. The floor had lifted up in a way that you almost couldn’t walk on it. I knew, just knew, that this was a result of my sister letting the water run but I just did not know what to do about it. So, I stayed silent. Speaking out would have brought extreme consequences to my sister.

As it was, we were getting ready to move out of these apartments and back to the States. No one ever found out about the floors while we were there and my sister played outside.

For some reason, the move to the States slowed her antics down. Maybe it was because she was getting older as were my baby brothers. With less available for her to get into,  life became a bit less chaotic. She continued to tromp through life at full barrel, swinging off vines in the woods behind our Georgia apartment for the next five years.

Can you see it yet?

At the same time, my memory of her later antics started to fade. There were times that I would catch her doing something I knew would get her in big trouble and I would paddle her as only a preteen could and tell her not to do it again. I did not want heavy hands coming down on her. Her exuberance fed me.

Life was never easy for this child that refused to fit in any box. A creature of her own making, she is out to show the world that she will live life on her terms. And so, she has; with all my love.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Suzy Q at School

My little  sister wanted very much to go to school with me every day. At three, four and five, there was no school for her on our Army base in Aschaffenburg, Germany.  Our mother would have liked nothing better than to send this curious and very active child to school.

The school building was just a block away from our apartment building. There was no enticing playground equipment. It was a basic building in an L shape with no frills. Our days were spent inside trying to learn hard things like arithmetic. I loved school with all the pencils, paper and notebooks. I could bring mine home to do my homework. My sister loved them too. We started playing school where I was the teacher about that time.

One afternoon in the middle of class, an office worker summoned me to the principal’s office immediately. I had never been to the principal’s office and was very surprised to see my little sister out their window with her arms full of paper, pencils and crayons. She had a smile on her face and seemed so pleased with herself.

I was told to take her home and then come and clean up the mess she made by turning over the big trash barrels outside to get all this wonderful stuff that had been tossed out. Wow, I thought to myself! How did she know all that good stuff was in those trash cans and how did she manage to dump them over? When I asked her about it on our way home, she said she had seen them tossing stuff out and wanted some of it to play with.

My little sister caught up with me in size quickly. This was taken a couple of years later by the grandparents with a camera our parents didn’t have. I was 9, she was 4 here

Well, I couldn’t fault that or the ingenuity to get it done but when I looked down at her feet I realized she was wearing my slippers, not her own. I asked her why she was wearing my slippers outside and all she had to say was she didn’t want to get hers dirty. Mom would be mad at her if she did. There was that devious mind I knew and finally grew to love.

Remember the slippers? Our Oma gave them to us and we loved them. Mine were never the same.

Always the wise, resourceful little dickens but it was one more fun thing she was not allowed to repeat. I was really sorry about that.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

SUZY Q Juicy Fruit Gum and Jail

During my sister’s third year of life, she was more or less a Houdini. My mother would send her out to play because that’s what you did with children that would not quietly sit on the square of a blanket and play quietly with their toys. That is how things were done back then. My sister would find another neighbor kid banished to the out-of-doors and hang out until called for dinner.

I was always the one sent to get her but finding her was always the challenge. Our base area was not gated in or walled off like many are. School was right next door and up the hill maybe half a mile was our non-denominational church. Another half mile or so was the commissary (grocery store) that children were not allowed to go into. They had a caged area in front for us to wait for our mother to finish her shopping. like little monkeys.

Most of the time mom would leave the kids with me while she did her grocery shopping so we didn’t have to be in the cage. In my search for my sister I found her and another little boy sitting along the back of the closed commissary munching away on packages of Oreo cookies and they had many packages of Juicy Fruit gum spread all around them.

They were so cute sitting there with their picnic and I asked where all the cookies and gum had come from. Maybe the little boys mother gave them packages and packages of cookies and gum. But that didn’t feel like the answer I was going to get. I asked again, “where did you get the cookies and gum?” “From the jail my sister responded.” “What jail” I asked?  My sister got up and showed me all the little windows lining the bottom layer of the building on a side I had never noticed. The little windows had bars on them. She pointed to one that was partway open.

Sis and her friend had wiggled into the basement of the commissary and carried out all those packages of Oreo cookies and Juicy Fruit gum and managed to get back out with them. I couldn’t imagine how they did it but I knew this was not good. I had them scoop up their loot, and I walked the boy back to his apartment and then walked my sister back home. She was pleased as punch with herself for discovering this treasure trove.


I’m hiding her behind me. Notice the slippers, They will be important later.

My dad was less pleased. He told my mother and I that she was not be outside of the house for any reason for at least two weeks in case someone might see her and identify her as the thief. He knew that if someone found out, he could lose his stripes over it and that would reduce our income. Then he went to visit the little boys family to make sure they understood what had transpired and the ramifications.  I’m pretty sure my mother was well on her way to a breakdown after those two weeks with my sister confined to quarters. I’m also certain there was some stiff corporal punishment along with the confinement so that she never went near the commissary again. In the meantime, I developed quite the lifelong taste for Juicy Fruit gum and Oreo cookies. Yum. My baby sister, the procurer of contraband. How I loved that child. I smile every time I think about it.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

SUZY Q Introduction

Two months after my fifth birthday my mother came home from somewhere. I don’t remember her being gone but I do remember her placing the baby in my arms. Somehow in my mind, that baby was a gift for me and she was mine. We were living in a tiny flat above Leo’s market across the street from my father’s family while he was doing a tour of duty in Korea. My sister was already several months old before he ever met her.

Kindergarten school photo.

Our mother had been very ill during her pregnancy. I tried to take care of mom when she was too ill to do the dishes or pick up a bit. A lot of her illness may have been about missing our dad or a lot of homesickness. We left Germany before my sister was born and my father’s family was not particularly pleased that we were part of his life. The rest of her illness was because there was apparently an RH factor involved and my sister needed complete blood transfusions after she was born.

Waiting for delivery

There was also not much in the line of groceries in our house or even in my grandparents’ house for that matter. Times were tough and tight with lots of tension all around but that baby made everything feel better. Of course living above Leo’s market helped a lot. I would smile and be rewarded with a treat or carry up something we needed.

In my best apron taking care of mom

This new baby was mine to care for and love. I learned to feed her and watch her when mom put her out on the porch in her pram for fresh air. Mom said babies needed fresh air no matter the temperature outside. She would be bundled up with only her fingers and face sticking out. I would come home from Kindergarten every day to take care of my baby. My baby sister was my first child.  As she grew up, I made it my responsibility to  keep her safe, entertained and hopefully out of the trouble her curious mind always seemed to find.

Pleased as punch with my baby.

That day began a journey that spanned more than 60 years. We are and have always been each other’s friend and adversary on occasion. No one realized what an adventure her life would take us.

Let the story unfold.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Where to start

It would seem an easy decision. It is not. This month has been so busy that I didn’t know how much to tell you about or where to start. I guess I’ll start with a day trip my sister and I took.

I’ve lived in my house for three years  and my apartment for two after visiting Portland many times over the previous 20 years. My sister has been my  tour guide, knowing this area like few natives do. Driving for Tri-Met (Portland’s city bus co.) for 15 years gave her an advantage not many have. Her passengers were always treated to a dialog of great information about the city if they were from out-of-town.

Beautiful wood carving

Her daughter has been accepted into the honors program at the University of Denver in the fall and sis is going to help get her settled. Yes, sis came to parenthood very late in life in a nontraditional manner but the deep love and caring are just as intense.

my sister at the mt

Little sister in front of Mt Hood

As a precursor to the upcoming trip to the mile high city, sis thought it would be wise to observe how well she could handle the altitude. Given her geriatric age (I’m sorry little sister, I just had to) and the fact she has pulmonary fibrosis, I agreed. So off we went to somewhere she had never taken me to see. The infamous Mt. Hood. It is a potentially active stratovolcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc of northern Oregon according to Wikipedia.

getting close

Almost there. Nice highway to it.


I see it clearly every time I drive down the main street to my neighborhood. It’s quite impressive all covered in snow. But I couldn’t photograph it well while driving.

Only an hour from my home, the ride was not difficult. Sis does all the driving since I can’t go that distance anymore. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was lovely. I must say though, when we got there, I was not quite as impressed. Being on the mountain is very different from looking at it from a distance.

not so impressive

High desert is just like where I lived in Arizona. Not so impressive close up.

Timberline Lodge was built by the WPA in 1936 to 1938 and it’s beautiful. We had a rather expensive buffet lunch where I ate my money’s worth making it my only meal of the day. By the time we were done with lunch and started walking back to the truck, the 6000 foot elevation began to signal her it was time to drop down a few feet quickly.

Dining room for the buffet lunch. Good food and great view

I knew I could drive if necessary for a short distance though it turned out not to be required of me. Sis has checked in with her medical team to decide what can be done to make elevation a bit easier to do. There is no question she will make the trip to Denver. It was quite an eye opener for us. I lived at 7200 feet before moving here and neither of us had a problem at that time. Lungs are a delicate thing.

I have been busy enough that more will follow shortly. Have you had any experiences you have waited a long time to enjoy?

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

In Search of My Sister

I’ve come out of my cave this week. This may be the last of the hibernation. With the assistance of some wise words by a fellow blogger, I began to understand the reason for the retreat. When a blogger said she didn’t own a self-help book, I had to take a look at why I needed so many.

The last three years have brought many changes. Not all of the changes were pleasant, all were necessary. Through it all, I’ve had my sister to support me, along with my wonderful adult children. Sis has gone through so much more hardship than I can even imagine and we are both somewhat lacking an essential ingredient to make life as successful as it could be.

Lonely seagull waiting, watching

Lonely seagull waiting, watching

Self-esteem, not inflated ego, is absolutely necessary to healthy relationships. Unfortunately, you can’t get that from a self-help book. Three years ago, she came to my rescue with a big yellow truck and drove it 1800 miles while my daughter helped me pack and drove my car. This weekend, it was my turn to rescue her.

Sweet Downtown
 Port Townnsend, WA.

Sweet Downtown
Port Townnsend, WA.

She was left stranded with no vehicle and no phone four hours away in a lovely little town. Fortunately, she had her laptop and e-mailed me. We had to wait until Friday afternoon when my daughter got off work and could drive while I navigated the unfamiliar roads. Somehow, my daughter and son have healthier self-esteem and I’m grateful for them both.

Would have been nice to be stranded here but not in our budgets

Would have been nice to be stranded here but not in our budgets

The reason my sister was so far away was so she would be cut off from any support system. When a person you are in a relationship with starts to separate you from those that care about you, warning bells often go off. Many of us chose to ignore the bells. I’ve actually had the hair stand up on the back of my neck to warn me that I was approaching a bad situation. That, I listened to, thankfully.

That was the other reason I had retired to my cave. I felt helpless to do anything and devastated at the possible loss of someone else I loved. All I could do was sleep, eat and pray. Someone must have heard the prayers because the spell has been broken. I was going to leave her there if it had not been. It’s interesting the things we as humans will do to be loved by another. Intelligence has very little to do with it. Human behavior is something that I am absolutely fascinated by.

Ships reminder at the dock

Ships reminder at the dock

Now I feel like I can work again. I’ve been slugging away at a project that just wouldn’t come together until now. Hopefully, by evening it will be in the finishing stages. Pictures will follow if success is achieved.

Know your comments are always appreciated and taken to heart. I may be an old woman but I still have so many lessons to learn in this lifetime. This one taught us both so much. I am grateful to have found that sister I love so much once again.

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. ~ Agatha Christie

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself