Category: Relatives

Arts & Crafts

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I don’t watch a good deal of commercial television anymore. We do have a cable connection through Spectrum (the old Time Warner) on one of the boxes in the house, but the 42″ in the den isn’t connected to the system. On that television, I have a ROKU stick and use it to connect through YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and a host of other services that cater to that particular streaming option. Since we do still have the Spectrum account, I can even use the logon for the online service to connect to commercial stations like FoxSports, ESPN and even MLB to watch baseball occasionally. So I don’t need to spend the extra $60/month for another cable box.

Lately, I’ve been watching YouTube more than anything else, and my videos have been a collection of wrestling recaps (I may not be watching the WWE in Mondays & Tuesdays anymore, but I’m still keeping up with the gossip and random inanity they generate), how-to videos, and other accumulated pap just to keep myself entertained after working all day. About two weeks ago, I happened upon a video where this fellow from Utah was making a wallet from scratch, from leather. It was pretty fascinating. And intriguing. And I’ll admit, it looked pretty simple the way he was doing it. The caveat is that he’s been doing it for about 8 years now, so his movements are fairly practiced, still precise and he makes it look easy, although something of that quality rarely is. If I were standing next to him at his drafting table, making one right alongside (without coaching or tips) I can imagine my wallet would look very different from his. After watching the first video, I watched another. And then another. I didn’t subscribe to his channel, but I did start looking at other crafters videos, trying to get a handle on my interest. Was it just fleeting, or might there be something here for me? I’ve been looking for something to bring in a little extra money, and a bespoke business, even if it just sells a few somethings might be an interesting side gig. Of course, the initial outlay would be a slight impediment, since leather is a pricey commodity to be working in. The tools, for the most part, aren’t extremely expensive, but if you choose to do your stitching with a machine rather than using needles, nylon thread, and a saddle stitch, then you’re talking something in the thousands of dollars. Certainly way out of the budget of a hobbyist or sometimes crafter.

Unless you already have something on hand that would do the work in the meantime.

As it just so happened, my mother-in-law owned a Singer sewing machine.  As did my own mother, but hers is a 221 Featherweight, which I still have.  It’s definitely not designed for leather work, just mending, or making clothes.   In fabric.  It has a belt drive and the motor is very under-powered, on purpose, because of what it is, and what it was designed for.

My mother-in-law’s on the other hand, is a larger machine, with what’s called a a gear drive.  The wheel on the right side is turned by a gear on the inside, and it’s directly driven by the motor that’s attached (people have coined it the ‘potted motor’ because the housing on the motor looks like a small pot) giving it more torque and the ability to sew through heavier materials like denim, canvas or leather.  It took me a little time to figure out what model it was, as there was nothing on the machine that told me that directly.  Fortunately it still had the serial number plate, and with that I determined that the machine is a Singer 15-91 made in 1941.

Quizzing my wife about the machine, she informed me that her mother bought it new, and used it for all sorts of repairs on clothes, much as anyone that had purchased that model would have done.  It was colloquially referred to as the ‘Farmer’s Wife’ in that it was essentially ‘over-built’ in that it could do just about any repairs or duties that a rural wife would need done on a farm.  No Wal-Marts in those days.

It’s enclosed in what Singer called a #40 cabinet, where it would be attached to a plate and could be dropped down and the work surface folded up and over, making it into a small cabinet when it wasn’t being used.  My mother had one like it for her Singers, but her main ‘go-to’ machine when I was growing up was a little bigger than the 221, and it was partially computerized, in that it had stitches in memory, that could be produced on demand.  Even so, my Mom never got rid of her Featherweight, she’d had it since she had gone to college, and I was glad she kept it, as she taught me how to sew with it, and I still remember her lessons.

Getting back to the 15-91, my wife informed me that her mother kept it in good condition, but it really hasn’t seen any action in the last 30 years.  I’d actually completely forgotten that we had it, since it’s been in its ‘storage’ mode ever since we’ve been in this house.  Over the ensuing years, we’ve used the top of the cabinet for that purpose, and a lot of stuff had been piled on and the contents underneath left to the spiders.  It was pretty cobwebby when I finally pulled it up a couple weeks ago.  Even so, 30 years of inactivity hasn’t been unkind to the old girl.  I wiped it down, and did a little inspection on what it might need to be workable again.  Asking my wife again, she informed me that we apparently didn’t move her mothers’ sewing supplies, so all of that was lost to the auction when her parent’s house was sold back around 1999.  A loss to be sure, but not a completely insurmountable one.  The manual I found online, and there are a wealth of websites and videos that talk about this model, and since it is a rather popular model, there are a lot of places where one can get original as well as quality replacement parts.  Even motors, if it came to that.

My initial investigation and inspection informed me that it’s in pretty good shape for being set aside for as long as it’s been.  Its lacking in oil for lubrication and in order to do leather sewing it’s going to require a little assistance in moving the material.  An industrial specific machine would employ what’s colloquially known as a ‘walking foot‘ mechanism, but Singer never made such a thing for their domestic machines.  Fortunately, there’s an aftermarket walking foot available for about $20, and I found a website that caters to the 15-91 (as well as other models) and I can get not only that but the thread spindle that’s missing from the top of the machine.  While I’m at it I went ahead and got some leather specific needles, just to have on hand.

In the intervening week since I started this entry I received the items I ordered, installed the new presser foot, put in the thread spindle and was able to successfully wind a bobbin and thread the machine.  I even put in a leather specific needle and tried sewing on a scrap of old leather from an old restraint that I had laying about.  It worked pretty well overall.  About five minutes into my test the machine started to squeal a bit under load, so it definitely needs a shot of oil in certain spots.  But it was able to sew the leather adequately, and it didn’t shirk when asked to do so, even though I was using cotton thread instead of the nylon that’s recommended for leather work.  I made a side trip to Joann Fabrics last weekend and was able to get the specific oil for Singer machines and will be making use of it in the near future.

Needless to say, unless I lost interest in the near future, I might have something to keep me busy in the interim.

When you’re not -quite- family

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I received a message from my birth mother this morning, informing me of the rather unexpected death of my Aunt Lorraine.  Except that I was unaware of Aunt Lorraine.  And I’m not entirely sure that she, or her family was aware of me.

I may have mentioned this before, but if I didn’t here it is now.  I was an adopted child.  As a baby.  3 days old as a matter of fact.  Born on a Saturday morning, shipped off to NYS (USA) on a Tuesday.  My birth mother was finally able to relate to me the story of how I came to be with another family in the same geographical area where she grew up.  Even if she was unaware of it at the time.  Since it was a private adoption, neither she nor her family was allowed to know where I ended up.  They could have made some guesses, due to the lawyer that worked the adoption at one end (he was local), but other than that, it was private, closed, and she wasn’t permitted to know more details than basic ones. (Loving family, had one child already)

Anyway, after ‘Mom’ told me about Aunt Lorraine’s passing (via text message, I was asleep when she sent it) I did a little digging and came across Lorraine’s obituary.  Then her FB page.  I didn’t do much digging after that, because what I found out was nice, but a little disconcerting as well.  But not wholly unexpected when you think about it.

Lorraine lived a long life, was much-loved by her family, and had several children of her own (my cousins).  She was very active, even into her 80s (84 when she died last week).  Lots of activities, some travel, interactions and she was religious, or so it seemed from the posts from her church and in reference to church related activities.  I do have to mention here that Lorraine was not my direct relation.  She wasn’t my mother’s sister, she was the sister of the man who my mother married in the 1970s.  NOT my birth father, so Lorraine wasn’t a direct relation.  Sort of an Aunt once removed.  But the thing that irked me a little was how the obituary was printed and shared in the newspaper.  To be blunt, I wasn’t listed.  My half-brother and half-sister are there, but no mention of me or my wife.

Now, I can understand how it came to be, even though its been 2 years since my mother and I were reunited, I’m still much of an afterthought when it probably comes to familial interactions on her side of the state.  To be honest, it took my Mom all of about 20 months before she listed me as her son on her FB profile.  She said she hadn’t really thought about it, and I can understand and appreciate that, but now it’s corrected and out there for anyone to see if they care to look.  My conception, birth and adoption in the 1960s was one of her family’s things they didn’t discuss, considering the fact that when she was found to be pregnant in 1964, she was shipped off to live with an aunt in Indiana.  So that the neighbors in their little town wouldn’t know that an unwed mother was living in their midst.  While nowadays that can be considered normal, 50 years ago it just wasn’t.  Too, this was 8 years pre Roe v. Wade, so an abortion wasn’t legal.  Not that they weren’t done, but getting one required extraneous or extraordinary circumstance.  No Planned Parenthood, nothing of that nature.  It was considered (and was) illegal, period.

So, Aunt Lorraine has passed on.  Obviously, we’re not going to the funeral.  I offered my condolences to Mom and her husband Ron, and wished them safe travels (they’re flying up from Florida for the services, staying a couple of days then flying back to resume their winter layover that they do every year) seeing as it’s snowing here in NY currently.  I expect my half-brother and his family will be at the funeral as they live locally.  Fairly certain my half-sister won’t be driving up from VA, since they have 2 small children and travel might be a little problematic, too they’re both teachers and would more than likely have a little difficulty getting the time off from work to travel.

Having this to think about the last day has me wondering what’s going to happen when Mom does eventually die.  Is it going to be late in the planning stages when someone finally remembers that I need to be notified?  My half-siblings and I don’t have the most engaging of relationships.  When I visited the area 2 years ago, my half-brother couldn’t be bothered to introduce me to his wife.  I had to meet his children when they visited their grandmother, and then only for a few minutes before they wanted to go off and do things on the computer (they’re in their teens, I can understand the mind-set).  Sort of a “hi, here’s your Instant-Uncle, be nice to him!”  I haven’t had any interaction with either of them since.  And really, don’t expect to.  Too, I’ve only interacted with my half-sister and her family through a couple of video chats, her 3-year-old has no clue who I am, whenever he sees me on the video screen, his response is “where’s Grampa?”.  Thanks, kid, makes me feel really welcome.  [Yes, I know he’s 3.  That was sarcasm, fyi.]

Not for nothing, but it all reminds me of when my estranged brother got married for the first time 30 years ago.  He wanted the wedding announcement to be put in the New York Times, (at the time he wanted to be known as an ‘up and comer’) and whoever took down the copy at the Times got the names mixed up.  If anyone bothers to look in the Times history, my adopted father is listed as the groom.  Nice going, NYT.  And one wonders why copy editors are so highly prized.

RIP Aunt Lorraine.

Another of those ‘holiday traditions’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Christmas cards.  The bane of anyone that doesn’t plan ahead.  Every year it’s the same question.  Should I get them done before the 10th, or wait until the last-minute and pray that the post office doesn’t let me down for being procrastinatory?  Usually it’s the latter.

Every year we get in the mail a pile of free cards from one charity or another, so it’s not like I have to go to a stationery store (like there are thousands of them nearby) to get cards.  Sure, even dollar stores nowadays have a small selection of cards for those of us that don’t really give a rip how much the things cost, though I fondly recall my mother going all out to make sure the cards were done every year and sent out across the country to the relatives.  But then again, our relatives for the most part were in two Northeastern states.  Post 1975, two parts of the Ohio contingent relocated to Virginia and South Carolina respectively (due to marriage), but it wasn’t putting a bind on the USPS to get the cards to them in time.

As the years passed on, my mother became less enthused with getting the cards out.  I think it had a lot to do with her becoming bored in her home life, and the more that happened, the more she was drinking. The consequences of that became very obvious.  More things tended to either get pushed aside, or forgotten completely.  Certainly this seemed to have an effect on my brother and I in various ways, but one major effect was, when we’d get birthday or Christmas presents from my paternal aunt, we’d have to be browbeaten into sending thank you cards.  Finally, it came down to a halting thank-you phone call, because we were just becoming too lazy to send a card.

Fast forwarding 30 some odd years, for the most part my wife and I don’t send out cards every year.  Only in the last couple of years has that changed a little bit, but that’s been due to the reconnection between myself and my birth mother.  She still sends out cards for all occasions.  So over the calendar year we get cards for Easter, my birthday, my wife’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Each one has a personalized note and it arrives on time.  So to counter, I’ve been trying my hand at doing something similar, just not as prolific.  The last couple of years I also sent out cards to my cousins in Syracuse.  To be honest, they are the ones to which I still have addresses.  I have 3 other cousins who live elsewhere in the US.  One of which I’m in touch with via Facebook.  But we were never so close as to be exchanging more than pleasantries.  So she’ll just get a message on FB.  Seems a good compromise.

ChristmasCards2018
Christmas Cards from the web

Tree trimming conundrum

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My wife and I go through this every December.  When is the best or most convenient, or proper time to trim the tree?  For a couple of years, when the cat was a bit younger, we didn’t have the 7 foot tree set up, because he (the cat) decided that the lower branches needed fixing, and desired to pull them down and lay on them (we have an artificial tree).  Consequently, my wife purchased a smaller (predecorated) tree and we set that up on a box in front of the large window in the living room and used that as our Christmas tree.  After enduring that for a couple of years, we tried again with the larger tree, and for the most part, kitty has left it alone.  Sure, he occasionally bats at some of the larger balls on the lower branches every now and again, but at least he hasn’t tried to climb the tree, or worse yet dismantle it.  A 20 lb cat can be rather murderous on an artificial tree, no matter how good a base it has.

Getting back to the question at hand, when’s the optimal time to decorate your tree?  From my youth, I remember vaguely doing it on a Saturday or Friday night usually, since Dad was home from work and didn’t work weekends (he was an engineer at IBM).  We’d get out the Christmas albums from his record collection, cue up the stereo, Mom & Dad would troop up to the attic to fetch the decorations, and my brother and I would, either with or without Mom or Dad, go to the basement to get the lights and garland.  We always had a live tree, cut fresh at a Christmas tree farm in Red Hook, NY.  The place is still there today, though the price of trees has gone up significantly.  The last time we bought a tree was probably 1984, and then we paid $25 for it.  I believe the farm is selling them for $75 presently, though there are a lot more people from NYC buying trees and either using them in their Hudson Valley secondary homes, or shipping them down to the city to use in their over-priced apartments and townhouses.

But the timing needs to be right.  Decorating it too early causes it to get stale (like overplayed Christmas music), and doing it too late doesn’t allow you sufficient time to enjoy the spectacle of a fully decked out tree.  Too, considering that you’re putting a lot of effort in getting out the decorations, arguing about how much garland (or not) to put on the tree and a dozen other decisions, you don’t want to spend too many hours before it’s time to separate yourself from your loved one(s), and just spend a little time with the pets, since generally they don’t tell you that you have too many red balls on the left side of the tree.  So it can be a bit of a juggling act at times.  A little patience goes a long way!

I remember one time that my Dad suggested after a contentious row amongst him, Mom and my brother and I, that it might be prudent to cut a hole in the ceiling of the family room, hook the tree to some sort of pulley system, and just hoist it into the attic and lower it every December.  Considering it was a live tree, that wouldn’t have worked out very well in the long run!  But it still tickles me when I think about him suggesting it.

I asked my wife this past weekend when she thought would be a good time to decorate.  Her reply was ‘whenever you want to drag the tree upstairs….’  Well, that certainly settles that!  I’m pretty settled on doing it this coming weekend.  Close enough to the holiday, but not too far away from 12th night, when we’ll be taking it down. (12th night for us is Jan 6, 2019 fwiw)

I wonder where the wreath is?

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Not a happy sort of anniversary

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I’m just adding this as a bookmark of life, as I do on occasion.

November 22 is always a melancholy day for me.  For most people my age and older, it’s a memorable day in the way of remembering a great US President in that it was the day JFK was assassinated in Dallas, TX.  For me, it was the day I lost my adoptive mother.  She was only 59 when she passed away and I still remember the events of the day, at least starting around 10 am.  The day ended up being far more surreal than when it started, and the events in the coming days didn’t make it any better.

Just reminded every year around Thanksgiving that I have a lot more to be thankful for now than I did then.  Having relatives dying around the holidays is about the worst thing that can happen.  Losing people you love is bad enough, but throw in the build up to a holiday, and then have something negative like that occur, and it just blows it all out of the water.

Definitely put a damper on my day.  My girl and my wife did manage to keep my spirits up just the same, but by the same token they mostly left me to my own thoughts, which I appreciate far more.  Even 29 years after the fact, it still hurts.  And when you’re hurting, you do NOT want anyone giving you thoughts and prayers. Or offering condolences, or things of that nature.  Which, coincidentally, is why I stopped posting about it on Facebook…because you invariably get people trying to make you feel better.  When that’s the last thing that you want.  They mean well…but, they just don’t understand.  And I’m beyond trying to make them get it.

And yes, I appreciate whatever positive thoughts you, the reader wish to offer, if any.  But I’m disabling comments here as well…because…I can.  Thanks anyway.

The ‘other’ family

Reading Time: 6 minutes

My birth mother is visiting here for the first time.  It’s a rather different experience for me, since when I met my wife, my adoptive mother had already passed away, and my adoptive father was in the midst of his Alzheimer’s, so he didn’t possess his full faculties when interacting with my wife (who at the time was my girlfriend).  So, in this instance the woman visiting is my mother, but she didn’t raise me.  When we first met a little under 2 years ago, there was a point where we had to decide what I was going to refer to her as.  Would I use her real name?  No, that didn’t feel comfortable to me.  Growing up, when I addressed my friends’ parents, I never called them by their first name, it was either Mr. Smith, or Mrs. Jones.  As I got older, one of my neighbors had mentioned that now I’d gained my majority, that I was in my 20s, it would be ok for me to call them by their first names.  I tried it, but it didn’t feel right.  So I went back to calling them Mr. and Mrs. It just felt better.

So we settled on ‘Mom’.  She felt that was better, but she wanted me to be aware that in NO way was she interested in supplanting the memory of my adoptive mother, or replacing or disrespecting her.  She wanted that understood from the very beginning and I most definitely felt better when she said that.  She just wanted to be a part of my life now that she had finally found me again.  (Who can blame her, it took the better part of 50 years for her to be successful!)  Admittedly, after getting the message from my half-brother asking for information and trying to be sure I was the ‘right’ person, he did offer me the option of just telling her that I was ok, but I didn’t wish further contact. I thought long and hard about that…considering that both my adoptive parents were deceased, my adoptive brother is estranged and I don’t interact much (at all) with my cousins.  So in many ways, in a family aspect, I keep to myself.  My wife is much the same way with her extended (also adoptive) family.

After much thought and discussion with my wife, I decided to allow the contact to develop on its own.  Over the years I’d thought many times about taking the effort to go look for her, but was always stopped by the possibility that she didn’t wish for me to do so.  That she’d rather keep the distance the way it was.  I only had a basic understanding of what the circumstances were regarding the adoption, and certainly that was from the interpretation of my parents.  Their lawyer knew all of the details of course, but did he share them with my parents?  I didn’t know, and by the time I received the latter information from their lawyer’s office (after his death), it was a moot point.  There may have been details that he took to his grave.  In my adoption papers, on the cover, it said ‘Infant male baby Adams‘.  So, I had a probable starting point.  As it turned out, that was my mother’s maiden name.

As I always do, I’m getting off topic here.  If you’ve read me for a time, you understand that happens.  Long winded and get off topic….that’s me!  Anyway.

I was walking through the house this morning, and happened to look upon my (rather dusty) DVD display rack.  When I was cleaning house over the last month, I’d taken care to ‘sanitize’ the house of certain aspects of my kink existence.  Certainly there are hints (if one looked closely enough) that people are less vanilla than one might expect.  If my mother forayed into the back bedroom and snooped around, she’d find one or more of my toy bags, chock full of my BDSM paraphernalia.  Too, some of the larger steel items are tucked away in drawers and closets in one of the other bedrooms.  If she got really bold, in the back of my clothes closet is hanging part of my flogger collection!  But as I was looking at the display rack, I did a double-take and then an eye-roll.  Right there on the top shelf, between two Hollywood blockbusters were three kinky BDSM movies.  Oy.  Has she seen them?  I have no idea.  Should I remove them, and then she’d notice they were missing after looking over the collection again?  Well, I’m not sure, but I did remove them and put them elsewhere for safe-keeping.  Granted I haven’t watched those particular videos in probably 3 years, and by all rights I should have recycled, re-sold or just plain pitched them (they’re not original movies, just re-treads from a now defunct website).  But I just smiled a little to myself and thought “It’s an adult household”.  BDSM may indeed be becoming more mainstream, but not necessarily where my mother is concerned.  And no, I don’t wish to go to the spot in my mind (like every kid) where they think about their parents doing ‘the dirty’.  Or anything else.  Thanks.  Please pass the brain bleach on that one!

All in all, the visit with my mother is going well.  Two years ago I visited her at her house (I stayed nearby in a motel, I didn’t feel comfortable staying in her house, even though she VERY graciously offered her guest room) and we did some sightseeing in the area.  I grew up in the Hudson Valley, but my section was in the northern confines, and where she lives is a bit further south.  So, while being familiar with the area generally, she knew things that I didn’t and showed me places I was unaware of.  Too, she showed me where her childhood home was, and I did the same for her.  Showed her where I went to school, to college and where I lived at various points in my life.  She shared with me my family history that (naturally) I was completely unaware of, and certainly compared to my adoptive family, I have a far-flung off extended birth family that’s quite prolific.  Not to mention that I’m an Uncle four times over spread over two half-siblings.  And in contrast to my adoptive upbringing where I’m (by far) the youngest, I’m the eldest in this ‘new’ family.  Which is admittedly, weird.

Admittedly, I wasn’t looking forward to her visit, because we’re such homebodies here.  She’s going home tomorrow…and for some reason, I really don’t want her to go.

This is gonna take awhile

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Fuck.  I’d forgotten how much I hate cleaning.  The last time I’ve had to do this much sorting/cleaning etc was when my wife and I moved into this place back in 2000.  As we all know, with procrastination, things get bad over a long period of time, and in your head you think “No problem.  I’ll do this, this and this, and it’ll be over before you know it!”  Yeah, well it doesn’t work that way, buttercup.  Even with my music playing in the background from my phone over the Bluetooth speaker, it was taking a frigging eternity to sort through the pile of crap that’s been accumulating over the last couple of years next to my computer.  TWO kitchen sized trash bags FULL of stuff, not to mention two paper bags full of scrap paper recycling and I’ve managed to reduce it to a pile of stuff that needs to be sorted again.  Old pictures, tech hardware, SEVEN old cellphones (I shit you not), and a host of other stuff.  I did manage to find the photo manipulation software I’ve been looking for since I recycled my desktop tower, so I got that installed so I can stop jury-rigging pictures with MS Paint.  That was a pain in the ass, for sure.

All of this effort is to get the house ship-shape for my birth mother’s visit next week.  I visited her 2 years ago, we’ve been sort of shuffling back and forth about how she was either going to get here, we’d meet in the middle or some other plan.  This summer she had hip replacement surgery, so she wasn’t able to travel for at least 6 weeks post surgery, so we had to schedule around that.  Even so, she’s not frisky enough to manage a 4-5 hour drive alone, so she’s going to be taking a bus here.  Naturally there’s no direct service between where she is, and here, but at least she was able to find a route that only had one small layover.  She’s going to be here for about 3 1/2 days, give or take.  So we have to make sure that she’s comfortable, I have sufficient things for us to do to keep her out of the wife’s hair, and so on.  There’s enough things to do in the area vis-a-vis sightseeing and so on, but as we don’t normally go out much in the evenings, it’s a matter of keeping her entertained in the off hours.

Just stopped in to kvetch.  Back to work.  Wish me luck, I’m going to need it in spades!