Not Just Another New Year's Eve

The year 2009 draws to a close on a totally different note than I had anticipated. I received a call from my sister yesterday morning informing me that our Dad had died suddenly. He was 84 years old and lived in South Dakota, as she does. Apparently he was on his way home from running an errand in the small town where he lives and something unknown happened that caused his Jeep to swerve across the road into the other lane and slide into the ditch. It is bitter cold in South Dakota this week and the ditch was filled with snow. From the tire tracks in the ditch (and the reverse gear of his transmission destroyed) it was apparent that he had tried to free the Jeep with no success. He must have gotten out to check on it or try push it, because two young men who soon passed by found him laying on the ground beside the vehicle. They administered CPR, but he was already gone. The ambulance arrived almost immediately and transported him to the local hospital just a short distance down the street where he was pronounced dead.

Such a sad scenario, and so very much like my Dad. My sister found his cellphone at his apartment. Apparently he forgot to take it along so couldn't call for help, but being fiercely proud and independent, might not have anyway. We'd had several conversations with him in recent months about driving and how it was time to face the difficult decision to surrender his license. He wasn't having any of it and let us know so in no uncertain terms. We worried constantly that he would be involved in an accident and might possibly hurt someone else. It was to the point where we knew we would soon have to intervene. Just the previous weekend he had driven himself and his girlfriend 90 miles down snow packed highways to pay my sister and her family an after-Christmas visit. They asked him not to come due to the weather conditions, but no one suceeds in telling my Dad what to do, and he came anyway. He made it home safely that day by the grace of God. This time it was not to be.

I am very sad, as are my sisters, and the girlfriend who has been his companion since mom died 14 years ago. But we are also thankful that God chose this time and this way to take him home. His health has been declining rapidly in recent months and congestive heart failure was taking a toll on him. He lived with chronic pain in his back and legs, shortness of breath, and diminished ability to walk more than a few yards unsteadily. He was old and tired and so very ready for the end of it.

It could have happened in much worse ways... on the highway last weekend, in Arizona while on the trip they had planned for January, or after lingering in a hospital or nursing home with little dignity or self-determination left. It could have fallen to his girlfriend to be the one to find him gone, and thankfully it didn't. We have much to be grateful for. As it was, he likely suffered only moments if at all as he passed quickly from this life to the spirit world. We all knew the time was coming. We all sensed that our family gathering in San Antonio in October would be the last time my children, husband and I would see him, and that this Christmas would likely be his final one on earth. But when the time comes, you are never ready, never prepared for the emotions of losing a parent, much less your second parent - rendering me and my sisters orphans now.

I didn't sleep well last night. I find it hard to shake the image of my frail yet stubborn German father struggling with his Jeep stuck in the snow. We wonder if a black out caused him to swerve across the road. He's been falling asleep often lately, and his blood sugar could well have been high too. I know he had to leave this world some way, there is no train station to simply catch a ride. He could have been involved in a terrible accident that would haunt us all forever. So this is better, and mercifully quick. No lingering illness, no gut-wrenching goodbyes. But God, the pain inside is terrible.

John is a tremendous comfort and source of strength to me. He has buried his own mother and two wives before me, and knows well the pain and sorrow. Arrangements have been made and we'll be heading home tomorrow, flying thru Denver and on to Fargo and driving the remaining 130 miles to the small town in the northeast corner of South Dakota where I grew up. The funeral will be on Monday morning, followed by lunch at the church and then a 60 mile ride to the cemetary where he'll be buried next to my Mom. I'm praying for good road conditions.

We'll be staying at his apartment with my younger sister and her husband. My older sister and her daughter will also be driving in from Minneapolis. Our relationships with her have been strained in recent years, hopefully we can pull this off without a major conflict such as occurred following my mother's funeral. Temperatures in South Dakota are in single digits this week and next. I haven't experienced weather that cold for a long time now, and I'm not looking forward to it. Icy air and asthma don't mix well. Those heavy winter coats we've had packed away in storage will come in handy, and my beloved sandals will have to remain in Texas this trip. My mother's funeral was also on a cold, snowy day in January many years ago. It feels all too much like deja vu.

I'm not sure if I'll have an opportunity to blog, email, or update Facebook while I'm there, so I'd like to wish everyone who stops by here to visit a truly blessed new year. Dad will be spending New Year's Eve with Mom this year, and thinking of that makes me smile. Me, I'll be spending it quietly packing for the journey that will take me home to South Dakota on New Year's Day and wondering what the new year is going to bring.

Junk

This week's prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "junk". Here is my story...

Todd found Elisabeth sitting on the floor of the spare bedroom they used for storage. Next to her was an old battered suitcase he'd seen her looking thru at least a dozen times before. Contents of the suitcase scattered around her on the floor, Todd could tell that Elisabeth was somewhere far away, lost in her memories.

She didn't notice him standing in the doorway watching her as she picked up items one by one - an old postcard, an empty perfume bottle, a faded man's handkerchief, a tarnished locket, a battered pocket-size New Testament, a ragged piece of fabric that looked like might have been a baby blanket at one time, a small teddy bear with a missing eye, and at least a dozen other things that looked more like trash than treasures to him.

Elisabeth touched them gently, caressing them and holding them close to her heart as if they held some magical power. It seemed like every time they'd had an argument, and there had been a lot of them lately, Todd would find her here going thru this stuff. He'd asked her about it once, when they were moving and trying to pare down the stack of belongings going with them. But she'd cut him off short with a glare, "Drop it... it goes."

Elisabeth wasn't one to open up about her past, but Todd was growing impatient with this suitcase ritual. "Good grief" he exclaimed, startling her as she became aware of his presence. "It's just a bunch of crap, a pile of junk. Why don't you get over it and get rid of it?"

She looked up at him with more coldness in her eyes than he'd ever seen before. It scared him and he backed off. "Fine, just sit here with your suitcase full of garbage and stare off into space" he snapped, "I'm going out", and with that he stomped down the hallway, grabbed his keys from the hook, and slammed the door.

A tear rolled down Elisabeth's face, and then another and another. If only he could understand that this beat-up old suitcase held all that remained of what once was her life - before the fire that took her Mom and her baby brother, before her Dad became a raging alcoholic and hung himself one night... and now Elisabeth feared that she was losing Todd too.

(Now head over to Sunday Scribblings for more stories from some great writers!)

Bump In the Night

This week's prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "bump in the night." Here is my story... and it's true!

Julie's husband played in a rock n' roll band so she was used to him being out late for gigs. She didn't mind being home alone at night, she enjoyed the quiet time to read and write and watch the kind of movies that he wouldn't watch with her when he was home. They lived ten miles out in the country on a lonely stretch of highway that didn't see much traffic. A single yard light cast shadows in the darkness, providing only enough visibility to see a few feet near the driveway and backdoor. It's pale glow gave the trees and outbuildings an eerie feel.

On this particular night in late October, Julie had just finished cleaning the house and mopping floors. She settled comfortably on the sofa, a glass of cold milk and a plate of warm brownies close at hand, and opened the book she was currently reading. Her cats curled up around her, purring contentedly. Down the hallway she could hear the clothes dryer softly rumbling as it tumbled a load of laundry. She didn't have the tv on tonight, she didn't need it for noise in the room as some people did. Julie loved the quiet. The house was dark except for the table lamp she read by and a small nightlight in the kitchen. She was frugal about things like utilities and didn't light the house up just because she was alone. She'd never had cause to be afraid there even if the nearest neighbor was over a mile away.

Julie was deep into the story, reading chapter after chapter - always telling herself "just one more before I head off to bed". It didn't matter how late she stayed up reading, her husband would come home later still and tomorrow was Sunday, a good day for sleeping in. She was starting to get drowzy, and her eyelids were getting heavy. She nearly nodded off, but was brought abruptly to attention by the sound of a dull heavy THUMP against the side of the house... and then another even closer to where she sat! Startled, adrenalin begin rushing thru her veins. The cats' ears and tails stood straight up as they rapidly abandoned her and headed for safety under the bed.

A sliding patio door was centered on the west wall of the living room, and although it was locked Julie knew that it would take little effort for someone to shatter the glass. No one ever used that entrance for visiting; there was no sidewalk leading up to it, just a yard full of prickly weeds. If someone was lurking out there it couldn't be for any good reason.

The thumping against the wall grew louder as it came closer and closer to the door. Julie's heart was pounding in her ears as she set her book down and arose slowly from the sofa. Who was out there beating on the wall... and why? Did whoever it was know she was home alone?

There were no weapons in the house. A product of the 60's, Julie hated guns. But now, rapidly becoming terrified and realizing that she was defenseless against intruders, Julie was questioning the wisdom of that stance. Quietly she slipped across the room and put her back against the wall, fully expecting the glass door to implode at any moment.

When she couldn't bear the suspense one moment longer, she inched along the wall until she was standing next to the door. Reaching up, she flipped the porch light switch with one hand and grasped a corner of of the curtain with the other. Wild-eyed and shaking with fear, she jerked back the curtain, preparing to confront whoever was lurking there. And there he stood, staring straight back at her with a head twice the size of of any normal man... a hairy beast with massive shoulders, piercing eyes, and and saliva dripping from his mouth.

As Julie and the beast came face to face she collapsed on the floor, overcome with laughter and relief. There before her stood her father-in-law's massive bull, El Diablo, thumping the house as he rubbed his hairy head against it. Once again he had managed to escape the confines of his pen and had wandered over to pay a visit, scaring the hell out of Julie in the process.

She called her father-in-law. Roaring with laughter, he apologized and said he'd round up a couple helpers and come down to get the bull. Julie assured him that any future nocturnal visits from El Diablo would most definitely result in his conversion to prime grade Black Angus steaks for her freezer.

Upon further inspection the next morning, Julie and her husband discovered that El Diablo had not only roughed up the siding on the house and trampled their rural mailbox, he had also decided to take a large bite out of their big post-mounted satellite receiver dish, rendering it inoperable. You can imagine how much fun Julie had explaining that to the service rep when she called to obtain another! :-)

(Note: Head over to Sunday Scribblings for more scary stories.)

The Colors of My Life

Thursday is nearly over and this is the first quiet moment I've had to sit down and write today, so I'll make this week's Thursday Thirteen short and sweet - a list of the colors that paint my world, and what images each of them brings to mind...
1. Yellow - One of my favorite colors, representative of all things bright and sunny. I love yellow rosesand lemon meringue pie.
2. Red - Not a color I often choose or wear - too bold, too intense, too much blood and suffering. Red looks good on strawberries, geraniums and fire engines!
3. Blue - My husband's favorite color and the color of his eyes. Many of the walls in our house are painted a shade of sky blue and we love it - cool and calming.
4. Green - Speaks to me of growth and life, and lush green places that I'd rather be. Green is the color of living in harmony with the earth. It is also the color of money - the obsession of many.
5. Orange - When I was younger I loved this color paired with yellow - citrus and summery. Orange is beautiful on tiger lilies and of course on sweet juicy oranges themselves. It is also the color of autumn and Halloween pumpkins- John carves the most amazing jack o'lanterns!
6. Purple - My most favored color in it's deepest, royal hue. Amethyst is my birthstone, and I wear it every day. It is the color which most speaks to my soul. If purple is one of the options when I am shopping, it is most certainly the one I will choose. Purple is the color of lilacs (also my favorite scent), irises, and brightly painted pansies. I would love to own a purple truck! :-)
7. Turquoise - When I was young, my mother painted my bedroom this color at my request - a pastel shade of aqua that I loved. If I shut my eyes I can still see it. In this part of the country, turquoise stone is almost a jewelry staple, but not one of my favorites. Maybe if I was a native to the Southwest I would like it more.
8. Brown - Warm and comforting - another autumn color that hints of Thanksgiving and good things to eat! A lovely skin hue that I wish was mine. (What do they call this pukey pink/tan/white shade I am covered in anyway?) Of course for me, brown conjures up images, flavors and the scent of rich chocolate in any form - my addiction. :-)
9. Pink - For the most part too girlie for me, though pink roses and bright pink Stargazer lilies are an exception. My mother loved pink, it covered her kitchen walls and windows, and the hall bathroom tile and carpeting. This sink was pink, the commode was pink, the towels were pink. Pink peppermints were her favorite - enough said. I do occasionally buy something pastel pink to wear, because I like it with my brown (well used to be brown) hair.
10. White - The total sum of all colors, purity and light. White is the color of spirituality, angel wings, and clouds in the sky. White is the color of winter and soft, fluffy snow which we rarely see here. I miss it at Christmas time. My windows are all covered with gauzy white curtains that frost the view but permit the light. I love them!
11. Black - The absence of color, the darkness of night, distance from God, a place of despair. Black is a good color for rich earth to grown things in, for soft leather chairs, and for shiny cats with green eyes! Black and white mixed become gray the color of apathy and mediocrity.
12. Silver - Also not one of my favorites - too reserved and cool. I don't wear silver jewelry. Pewter and brushed nickel have a softer feel and use them in my home. Shiny silver is pretty in a pile of newly minted coins, or in tinsel reflecting colored light on a Christmas tree - which I still use it no matter how outdated it may be, as it brings back memories of childhood.
13. Gold - Warm and bright - the wealth of kings, the color of my wedding band! My son once sent me a dozen red roses, each stamped with Happy Birthday in gold - they were awesome!
There you have it, the colors that surround me and set the tone for my life. If any were to be removed from the palate my world would be less because of it. I love color, lots of it, and the brighter the better. I saw a double rainbow the other day, it made me smile!

Now head over to Thursday Thirteen and see what some other folks wrote about today!

Big Hands, Bigger Heart

"When you get home you might want to bring some cat food over here" my husband said when he called me as I was leaving work on a recent Saturday.

John is the general manager of a truck accessories store, and my first thought was that a hungry stray had found it's way there, as has happened before.

"I just saw the little orange kitten underneath the bed of my truck," he said. "It climbed up on top of the rear axle."

"Our kitten?" I asked, totally confused.

"Yes, that little stray one that showed up. He must have climbed up the wheel well of my truck and hitched a ride to work with me. I stopped for breakfast on my way and was parked there for about 45 minutes. I guess he was so scared that he stayed there the whole time."

"Oh no!" I thought to myself. He is my favorite of the outside cats, very friendly and with beautiful swirled orange markings on his sides. This is a feral cat, and not one you can just scoop up. I had no idea how we would catch him even if he could be lured out of hiding by some kitty food. I was terrified that he would take off running, and John's store is on one of the busiest streets in town. The kitten wouldn't have a chance. If it headed the other direction to the open lot behind the store, he would surely fall victim to other animals roaming there.

I sat in the drive-thru line at the bank with a heavy heart, impatiently waiting for my turn so that I could head home and grab some food, praying that somehow, someway we could catch him. Just as I completed my bank transaction, John called again. "I got him!" he said.

"You caught him?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "How?"

"I popped open the truck hood and there he was, sitting on the radiator. He must have climbed up there from the drive shaft. He was just getting ready to jump and I grabbed him. He was scared and bit my hand but I didn't let go. I was trying to hold him tight enough that he couldn't get away, but not so tight that I would strangle him. I walked back toward the store holding him with both my hands and yelled for one of the guys to let me in so I could put him in the cat trap cage we have."

I was amazed that his reactions were quick enough to nab a tiny wild kitten with his great big "bear paw" hands. I guess that comes from his years as a boy on the farm with all kinds of critters to catch. He suffered a couple of good puncture wounds from tiny kitten teeth chomping down on his hand, and also a bit of good-natured ribbing from his co-workers about his valiant efforts to rescue my kitten.

Once the wide-eyed kitten in the cage was safely loaded into my car for a return trip home, I asked John what possessed him to try to catch it. He said that he knew it was my favorite kitten, and that it wouldn't stand a chance of survival if it escaped. He couldn't bear the thought of this little guy becoming roadkill or being attacked by dogs.

Once again, my husband proves to me just how big his marshmallow heart is... and one sweet little kitten was very, very happy to be back home. I don't think he's planning any further hitchhiking adventures, in fact he is now a bit wary of both John and the truck. :-)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

 
This week's assignment for Sunday Scribblings is to invite seven guests - living or dead - to dine with you, explain why you chose them, and note what you'd serve them.

I am not one who loves crowds or groups of noisy people. I do not enjoy parties or social situations where one must be "on" and have a mastery of meaningless small talk. I do far better with one-on-one or small group encounters in situations that afford real conversation and discussion about meaningful issues and ideas. It can be fun and light, it can be serious and intellectual, but always I wish to share my time with people who challenge me and my own understandings.

If you first met me you might think I was either shy or standoffish, but if you took the time to get to know me a bit better, you would soon find that I can talk your head off, and ply you with dozens of questions in my eagerness to discover who you are and what you are all about. Age, sex, culture, or social status have little impact on my reactions, after all - we are just human, and far more alike inside than we are different.

That being said, I have opted to host two smaller dinner parties where more intimate conversation could take place. Rather than assemble an eclectic group of guests to entertain me I would first invite Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi to join me for an evening of good food and conversation.

I choose them not because they are famous, or because they are the role models for my own spiritual journey, but because I would like to ask each of them about the difficulties of melding the human side of their nature with the spiritual. At what age did they realize they had a gift to share with the world, an "assignment" so to speak? What were the really difficult times? At what times did they feel like giving up? Did they ever resent their assumed roles or the people who flocked to them for guidance and just to touch them? What advice would they give to us living in the modern world where materialism and self-centeredness reign? What hope, if any, do they see for the future?

Obviously, this is going to be one of those evenings where conversation goes long into the night. Our dinner fare would be something simple and healthy but substantial, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and bread made from whole grains. We would partake of several small courses throughout the evening rather than a table laden with an array of rich foods right at the start. But of course I would have it catered, as I would want to spend the entire time focused on the sharing and interaction rather than the timing of soup and rolls!

For my second dinner party the guest list would be more personal. I would invite my mother and my two grandmothers. My mother passed into the spirit realm about fifteen years ago, my paternal grandmother a few years prior to that, and my maternal grandmother when I was very small, I have no memories of her at all other than visiting her bedside when she was terminally ill.

Both of my grandmothers are of European heritage, my paternal grandmother of German parentage and my maternal grandmother emmigrating from Sweden with her family at the age of seven. Both grew up as farm children (as did my mother) and became farmer's wives as well. All three, including my mother, lived thru the "Dustbowl" days and The Great Depression, and made do with very little.

While I had my mother in my life for all of my growing up years and well into adulthood, and spent a good amount of time visiting my paternal grandmother as well, I realized only when I was older and they were gone, that there was so much about them as women, as people, and individuals that I didn't know. What were their favorite colors? What made them laugh? What made they cry? What were the hardest times of their lives and the happiest? How did they feel about their marriages and motherhood? How did they feel about themselves?

How much did my maternal grandmother remember of her early childhood in Sweden? What was it like to be raised in a German-speaking home and school when the World Wars broke out, as was my paternal grandmother? And of my mother I would like to ask, was she ever truly happy? What were her best memories? Her favorite boyfriend? Did she ever regret her choice? Does she understand now why I was so angry and rebellious and how I felt about my role as the middle child? I know this would be an evening of laughter and tears and many stories that I would want to record for my children and for future generations.

The menu for this dinner would have to be the hearty Sunday dinner fare that I grew up with. Could I talk my mother into making fried chicken, which somehow I am unable to duplicate to taste as good as hers? And of course boiled potatoes squeezed thu a ricer and covered with creamy chicken gravy thickened with flour, not cornstarch. Fresh vegetables from the garden, the inevitable Jello salad, and perhaps I could beg for my paternal grandmother's blueberry pie - my very favorite.

Oh! Now I am missing them so much! Memories of long ago flood my mind. Just one more dinner together would be priceless. But I believe that life is eternal and those we interact with in this life will be reunited with us in the spirit world and in future lives yet to come. They are not gone away, just a little distant. Perhaps they are with me now, summoned by my thoughts. I know they must be smiling to see my life at last happy and my spirit at last at peace.


Note: Head over to
Sunday Scribblings and see who other bloggers are inviting to dinner.

Vacation Notes

We are on the road home from the mountains. My Thursday Thirteen for today is a list of notes from our vacation...

1. My husband is more organized and efficient at packing than anyone I’ve ever known. It is wise to be ready to go, as your things will be packed and loaded regardless. :-)

2. Living without watches, alarm clocks and schedules feels great! Kicking back on the front porch is awesome!
3. Food eaten outside tastes twice as good, and even better if it is cooked over an open fire. Breakfast on the back deck under a canopy of tall pines is a wonderful way to start the day!


4. Deer, elk and moose lose their antlers every spring and regrow them in the fall. Each year their antlers grow larger.
5. Fort Stanton has been home to an incredible assortment of occupants thru the years… Col. Kit Carson, Buffalo Soldiers, German POW’s, merchant marines, tuberculosis patients, individuals with developmental disabilities, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and convicted felons. With over 80 buildings, most of them now in a state of disrepair, the grounds are still beautiful. The sense of spiritual presence is everywhere.

6. Visiting the local tribal casino is a sure way to support the tribal economy. It is not a fast road to fortune, but it is fun.

7. The tin cups and plates used for feeding cowboys on old-time cattle drives keep hot food incredibly hot and cold drinks amazingly cold! The Flying J Ranch chuck-wagon style barbeque we ate Wednesday night was delicious!

8. No matter how proud you are of your pistachio farm business, erecting a 30 foot statue of a pistachio, complete with lighting and a bronze plaque is just plain nuts. :-)

9. The road from Alamogordo to Cloudcroft increases over 5000 feet in elevation in under 20 miles. The view is breathtaking, but winding mountain roads make me dizzy.

10. Knotty pine floors and ceilings are warm and beautiful, every house should have them.

11. Whirlpool tubs are wonderful for relieving aches and pains. I want one at home.
12. Mountain village shops cater to tourists with money. While it is fun to look, I have no desire to buy. Instead I am coming home with a small Western style cross decorated with pheasant feathers, and a tiny carved stone box to hold my rings. My husband chose a new cowboy hat to wear at his Masonic Lodge meetings. It looks great on him!
13. My favorite vacation memory is of my husband picking a bouquet of brightly colored wildflowers for me, finding nine different varieties within a few feet of where we were sitting in the forest. He took the photo below so I can remember them always. Romance is not just for kids. :-)

Now head over to Thursday Thirteen and see what some other folks have to say!

Thirteen Things I Need To Do

 
Today's Thursday Thirteen is a list of things I want to work on...

  1. Eat more healthy - plan meals ahead.
  2. Get my butt out of the chair - go for a nightly walk
  3. Keep up with the housework - do an extra chore each day.
  4. Keep up with the laundry - do at least one load each night.
  5. Brush all three cats every night - they love it and it reduces the fur floating in the air!
  6. Work on writing John's biography daily - this is a gift for him and his children
  7. Make time for a little book reading each day - along with reading blogs and the news.
  8. Start a craft project - begin the cross-stitch gift for my daughter.
  9. Send more love notes to people I care about - especially to my hubby and kids.
  10. Find a job with better pay - that is also more fulfilling.
  11. Work on sorting and organizing drawers and closets - and then the storage.
  12. Complain less - and compliment more!
  13. Stop procrastinating - starting with this to do list!
Now head over to Thursday Thirteen and see what some other folks are thinking about today!

Finders Keepers

 
This week's prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "Where in the World?" This is my story...

"Where in the world did you find him?" she asked me curiously. I can't begin to count the number of times I've been asked that same question in the past eighteen months. When I tell people about my new husband the reaction is always the same - he seems almost too good to be true, and good men are very hard to find.

"I met him on the Internet in Yahoo! Personals" I respond with a smile. This is true, but I also I know that God was behind our meeting - it wasn't just a chance occurrence. God often uses everyday means to effect miracles in our lives.

Reactions to my good fortune vary, depending up who is doing the asking. The few people who truly know me and love me are delighted that I have finally found someone who will treat me the way a wife should be treated. Single friends who have been alone a long time try hard (and sometimes not so hard) to conceal their jealousy. Family members who have always questioned the sanity of my choices when it comes to men wonder what major character flaws this one has that they can't see on the surface. His friends wonder why he chose me of all people, when they knew lovely women they were eager to match him up with. They question why in the world would I be search for love on the Internet, and why would he?

"That's dangerous", said many a well-meaning friend. And yes, it's true - there are a lot of crazies on the Internet who pretend to be something they're not in an attempt to lure in unsuspecting women. But not everyone who places an ad on an dating site is deranged and/or dangerous. Some of us are just plain lonely folks whose lifestyles don't afford the opportunity to meet members of the opposite sex in traditional environments.

"Internet relationships never last", others say. Well I believe this one will, and I personally know a few other couples who met on the Internet and who have been happily married for several years now. I run into more couples who've met this way all the time!

"Aren't you a little old to be placing ads on the Internet, isn't that stuff for young people?" gasp the naysayers who probably secretly wish they could have such good fortune or experience the excitement of trying something new. Can one ever be too old to find love? People use whatever means of connecting is available to them, and for many of all ages the Internet has provided a great way to do this.

Certainly I had to sort thru some less than desirable characters to find my Prince Charming. In fact, by December I had just about given up on Internet dating and planned to let my subscription to Yahoo! Personals lapse. After all, I'm not Barbie and Ken wasn't looking for someone like me. But that little voice inside me said "give it one more chance", so I renewed my membership for one more month, telling myself this would be the last renewal, and I kept searching.

Just a few days later I spotted John's profile and pictures. The attraction was instant and I liked what he had to say. I sent off a greeting, he replied quickly... and the rest is history! Just five months later I moved to a new town to begin our life together and three months after that we were married. There hasn't been a single day since that I've regretted those decisions.

John told me that real love grows deeper and stronger every day. I didn't believe that back then. I really didn't even believe in love, but he's made a believer out of me and all I can say is "finders keepers!"

Note: Head over to Sunday Scribblings and see how other bloggers have responded to the "Where in the World?" prompt.

Things I've Learned Along the Way

 
My contribution for today's Thursday Thirteen meme is a list of things I know now that I wish I did way back when.
THIRTEEN THINGS I'VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY
  1. It is important that we value ourselves. Don't let anyone destroy your belief in yourself. People who try to tear you down are rarely happy with themselves and their own life.


  2. Your children will grow up amazingly fast. Spend time with them now - read, play, talk. Do less yelling and more listening! There will be plenty of time for dusting when they're gone.


  3. There will never be enough time and energy to accomplish everything on your "To Do" List. Keep focused on the people and things that are most important to you, and don't beat yourself up for what doesn't get done.


  4. Don't be pressured into overcommitting yourself. It is healthy to learn to say No! If you are constantly busy you'll become exhausted and resentful. It's important to slow down and let that quiet voice inside guide you.


  5. Don't becoming a caretaker or enabler for someone who should be taking care of themselves. You will wear yourself out and you will cripple them. Everyone needs to grow up and learn to function independently before they can contribute to a relationship.


  6. Don't judge people by what's on the outside, and don't make an instant judgement. First impressions - both good and bad - can be very wrong. Take some time to get to know someone before you decide.


  7. Don't get caught up in the need to constantly acquire more stuff or in trying to keep up with someone else. The happiness material acquisitions provide is very short lived. You can be happy with far less, and it's so much easier to move! :-) It isn't what you have, it's who you have in your life that's important.


  8. Create something! Everyone has creativity within them. Find something you enjoy doing. It can be your salvation when life is stressful.


  9. Keep some space between your work life and your personal life. Don't drag work home and don't drag your personal issues into work. Don't get involved in coworkers' drama.


  10. Everyone has a purpose and something of value that they can share with others, even if it's just a smile and a friendly word. What a difference a small act of kindness can make!


  11. Count your blessings! Find something to be grateful for each day, no matter how hard the day has been.


  12. Tell the people you care about how much you love them - do it often, and don't just tell them - show them! You never know if you'll have that opportunity again. Send love notes or leave them somewhere to be discovered. They are real daybrighteners!


  13. Believe in the future and never give up hope. No matter how dark life seems, the sun rises in the morning and it will for you too. You will be given enough strength to go on.
Oh dear, I'm already at 13 and I'm just getting started! I'll stop here for today and maybe come back and add to the list as time goes on. If only we knew at 25 what we know at 50, huh? :-) Now head over to Thursday Thirteen and see what some other folks had to say!

The Ghostlight Was Shining

 
A few months ago I posted the following story on my other blog. I am reposting it here because I want to share a special update with you at the end of the story. If you've read it before, skip down to the epilogue.

GHOSTLIGHT
We have a frequent guest at our home. We note her visits in spousal shorthand..."The ghostlight was on when I came home today."

Several years ago, my husband's wife of many years died tragically from an aneurysm. He was away at the time it happened and never had the chance to say goodbye. He wishes that he would have told her more often how much he loved her. (A good reminder for all of us and the people that we love.)

Not long after her passing, the lamp on the table on her side of the bed began coming on spontaneously. He believes that it was her reassuring him that love transcends life and that she was watching over him. When he remarried and moved to his new wife's home their bedside lamps (which were hers, not the ones he had previously) also came on from time to time - and always the one by her side of the bed. Sometimes it even came on when one of them was standing in the room!

Some years later this beloved wife died after a long battle with cancer, and in God's time John met me and we moved into our new home to begin a life together. This time a pair of bed lamps I owned grace the tables beside our bed, yet we continue to find the light on my side of the bed burning brightly on occasion when we return from work. Sometimes this also occurs while we are at home but in another room.

One night I noted to John that it was interesting the bedroom light has continued to come on spontaneously despite the changes in both houses and lamps, and that no other lights ever come on. The next morning when we awoke the lamp by my chair in the living room was on... this lamp was the bedside lamp at his previous home! I had to chuckle, because I guess she was listening. :-) It has not come on since. It is also interesting to note that all three sets of lamps were/are "touch lights" the kind that don't have a switch. There really is no pattern or time frame for these occurrences, it's very random. Sometimes it happens often, and sometimes not for a couple weeks.

There is a very peaceful feeling in the bedroom when I find the light on, never scary or intimidating. In fact one day when I was home from work miserably sick with the flu and feeling down, I headed back to bed after being up for a little while to find the ghostlight shining. It tells me that she is happy with the love I have for John and that she cares about me too. I always greet our ghostly angel with "Hi Sweetie", and John says to her "I love you too, Darlin'." She is welcome in our home and I hope her light continues to shine now and then for all the years to come... it testifies to our belief that love is eternal.

EPILOGUE:
It's been over a month since the ghostlight has come on. Last evening all three of John's daughters, their spouses, and four of the grandchildren were gathered in our living room visiting. It's the first time they've all been together since the funeral of John's previous wife. It was a lovely evening with storytelling, photo sharing, and much laughter.

John went back to our bedroom for something and then called to me. I went to our room to find the ghostlight shining brightly. What a warm feeling! We smiled at each other, knowing that it truly was a family gathering in every sense of the word... the girls' mother had come to join us. :-)

Shame


Here it is again staring me in the face, the cold result of my inattention. The note says "This will be the last message you will receive from me if I don't hear back from you... why don't you write or call me.... what has happened to our friendship... did I do something wrong?"

Oh God! I lower my head as a blanket of failure weighs down on me. Why do I do this? Why do I let valuable friendships with people I love and care about fall by the wayside? Do I really want them to say goodbye? Do I really want to let them go? Am I so callous that I really don't give a shit about their feelings? No, no, no! Then why do I let it happen? I honestly don't know.

For one thing, I hate to talk on the telephone... hate it! Phone conversations tend to go on and on, taking up way too much time that I have so precious little of. Time has always been my enemy - so much I want to do and never enough free waking hours to accomplish half of it. I don't know what boredom is. Some folks insist on phone calls and feel slighted if I don't return the repeated messages they leave on my cellphone.

Email me instead I say, update me on your life. And sometimes they do, but mostly not. I am a writer, not a talker, something they cannot understand. Written words are more precise and more carefully thought out. You can say so much more, share so much more. And later on you can't say "I didn't say that", because the proof is right there.

I am a hermit by nature, a recluse, and the urge grows stronger as I grow older. Acquaintances laugh at that, as they see me visiting away with people and handling myself ok in one-on-one or small group situations. But the truth is I'm miserable in any group larger than two, and my most fervent desire is to escape to the sanctuary of my home. I don't want to converse, I don't want to engage in polite conversation, I want time to think about the things I say, and to talk about things that have meaning.

Or am I just kidding myself with such excuses? Is is more true to say I am just a sloth, an unappreciative, uncaring friend who never quite gets around to responding to the people she truly cares about... and I DO care about them.

Sometimes, no most of the time, I feel overwhelmed by the "to-do" list in my life. Not just the "must do" list but also the "want to do" list. I don't handle pressure well, I don't like anything or any feeling imposing on me. I don't like restriction or requirements. Rebellious attitude much, huh? Even when I really want to do something and know that I should, I don't always do it. When the pressure to perform starts building I feel backed against the wall, and I become paralyzed. I don't do anything, not even the things I really want to do, or know that I should do.

So, for reasons I can't really explain to anyone's satisfaction, including mine, I don't respond. I sadly observe the phone messages come in and the emails pile up. The please for communication go unheeded. And finally they grow sick of my silence and tell me off because they're hurt, or just go away and leave me feeling even worse about my inaction.

I always promise myself I'll try harder, respond sooner, at least to a couple folks each day... stay on top of it and not let it become an imposition. Not let the list pile up until I feel overwhelmed. I promise myself that, and I try, God knows I try. But I break my promise far too often.

Part of me wonders if a therapist would find deep unresolved issues that makes me behave this way. Do I fear being misunderstood? Do I fear rejection? Do I fear that my words will be turned against me? Do I fear that I will disappoint them? Do I fear that if they really knew me they wouldn't like me that much anyway? Maybe all of that. So sometimes it just seems easier, though unforgivable, to just let things unravel. Everything and everyone who has ever been important in my life up until now, has in some form or manner been taken away. Maybe in my lack of reaching out I am just hastening the anticipated end result.

Or maybe none of the above and I am just a shitty friend that never quite gets around to telling some very wonderful people that I love them and I care about them and I truly do want to know how things are going in their lives.

In the darkest, hardest hardest times of my life I withdraw from people. Like a wounded animal I go off on my own until I feel better about being among the living. Maybe over time I've grown accustomed to that place and my need for the safety and security of refuge overtakes my desire for companionship. Sometimes I wonder if my life has damaged me beyond repair, beyond the ability to trust relationships and to trust myself.

I write about my life here for folks to follow along, it's so much easier (and admittedly lazier) that way. I wish everyone blogged, I love the real sharing that takes place.

My heart cries for the friendships I've let fall by the wayside, and the longer I let the silence grow between us, the harder it is to come back and say "hello, I've missed you, how are you?" I am ashamed, because I know this is not how you treat people you love. I need to do better. I need to apologize. I need to make amends.

This Makes Me Smile

Over twenty years ago I read "The Greatest Salesman in the World" and "The Greatest Miracle in the World" by Og Mendino. Awesome little stories that had a permanent impact on my life. If you haven't read them, do sometime. I promise you'll feel uplifted!

One of the imagery pieces in the story is a red geranium in an apartment window being observed by the narrator of the story. It charmed me at the time, and ever since when I see a bright red geranium it makes me smile.

This spring, while we were out shopping for flowers for the flower boxes, I spied a small potted geranium with bright red blooms. I had to have it! Bringing it home I set it temporarily on the counter in our master bathroom where it could enjoy bright morning sunshine and escape the curiosity of our cats.

It was my intent to purchase a hanger and move it to the living room out of reach. But the geranium decided it likes it's humid, sunny spot on the bathroom counter and is thriving. My husband and I decided that we want to leave it where it is. It never fails to make me smile as I get ready for work, a bit of beauty brought inside to remind me that life is good.

I know my daughter is going to chuckle when she sees that red geranium amidst the toothbrushes, toiletries, and cosmetics scattered on the counter. She will undoubtedly suggest we hang it up somewhere more visible. And she will shake her head at her mother's insistence that it should stay just as it is.

What things do you have around you just to make you smile?

This Is To Be Human

 
This week's prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "human". What does it mean to be human? I smile in acknowledgement of the ready-made example that has been provided by my life.

I have been married four times. The first three evolved into destructive relationships that ended badly. I didn't mourn the first two, I was simply filled with the relief of escaping hell. My third marriage ended in complete devastation. Love existed between us at one time, and never have I tried so hard to prevent the loss of something that was beyond being saved.

By the time my divorce from my first husband was final, I was involved with the man who would become husband number two. I don't believe there ever was love present in that relationship in the real sense of the word. Once again it was a case of two misfits finding commonality in an uncommon situation. Had my first two husbands met me at any other time and place in my life it is unlikely marriage would have been the outcome. Yet I am thankful for those turbulent years, since from them came my daughter and my son, and their being gave me a reason to continue living.

After the demise of the second marriage, and a long, slow, tortuous death it was, I declared with absolute certainly that I would NEVER marry again, yet less than three years later I met the man who would become my third husband. We were both lost and lonely souls looking for warmth and company and told each other that the "L" word and marriage would never be part of the equation. Just a year later we were standing in front of a minister repeating vows. Despite the obvious difficulties I knew the relationship was going to present, I truly loved this man and when I took those vows they were made with serious intent. So did he, but it didn't work out that way. Thirteen years later there was little semblance of the love that once was.

That separation and divorce was exceedingly painful although I initiated it. I knew had to end if I was to escape with my life and what was left of my sanity. It took a full year for me to recover and begin living again. I've never cried as much as I did that year. This time I was absolutely certain that I would NEVER trust someone with my heart again. It was much too painful and always ended badly.

Then, after a few typically horrendous dating introductions, I saw HIS pictures and profile on an Internet site and sent off an introductory greeting. Little did I know then that God had just placed the most amazingly wonderful man directly in my path! We talked for hours and hours on the phone at night in those first weeks, and before long we arranged to meet in person. Not many weeks later we both knew that we wanted our relationship to become something permanent, to be more than bf/gf or cohabitants.

Slightly less than nine months after that first fateful Internet encounter I married the man of my dreams. All thoughts of avoiding marriage and withholding my heart melted in the warmth of his love. He told me that real love grows stronger with each passing day and year. I didn't believe that was possible, but now I know it's true. I have also been delighted to discover that marriage partners CAN live in peace and harmony, can work together to build their lives, can love and laugh and look eagerly forward to time that can be spent together. Marriage can be good? Love can be for real? Who knew?!

For me, to be human is to not give up on love. That no matter how badly a human heart is battered and broken, at some point in time it will heal, the steal door of fear will creak open, hope will rise eternal, and the search for love will begin again.

To be human is to believe in what seems impossible... to have faith, hope and trust that we are all intended to love and be loved, and that there is someone perfect waiting for you in the right place and at the right time in your life. It is human to experience dark times and doubts, it is also human light a candle in the darkness and pray for the morning light... and it comes, my life stands in witness that it comes!

Some People Are Just Plain Toxic


Recently I came across this article in Yahoo's online publication, "Shine" - 8 Toxic Personalities to Avoid. It's an excellent read. In it the author Brett Blumenthal presents the personality characteristics of people that tend to have a negative impact on our lives, how to spot them, and why they are so destructive. We passed the article around work and had a good chuckle noting which of our coworkers could be closely identified with some of the traits listed, and which ones we tended to be most like. Not surprisingly, the person who could have most benefited from seeing herself there on the page didn't find the article the least bit interesting. We tend to see ourselves a lot differently than others see us.

Later on I was reflecting on the various relationships of my past and how some of the people I chose to closely engage myself with had such a devastating effect on my psyche. Things usually started out ok in those relationships, and it wasn't until they progressed that I began to see the true nature of the individual I was dealing with and how I was being sucked in, and in some cases sucked under, by their poison. While it's true that we all have bad days, bad weeks, and maybe even bad years, what I'm talking about, and what the article was referring to are individuals whose core personality fits one of the descriptions listed. In other words, that's the way they behave the majority of the time. We can almost see their picture next to the stated traits.

I used to be a victim, and a doormat... a people pleaser who would stop at nothing to appease and meet the needs of my so-called friends and partners. In some cases the extremes I went to in order to accomodate those people astounds me now. In fact in a couple instances I narrowly escaped the relationship with my soul intact, much less my mind or any shred of self-worth. It is amazing how we can let another individual erode away at us until there is little semblance left of the person we once were. It can be a subtle process at times, like drops of water wearing away at a rock, and with other people it can be bold, in-your-face behavior that maybe seems kind of cute or quirky at first, but later proves to burdensome and obnoxious.

In the last two years I've changed my perspective greatly on the kind of people I need and want in my life. I choose not to be a doormat, a target, or a chronic care-taker that never is cared for back. I shy away from people who are needy, negative, always finding fault with others, and having nothing uplifting to give. I avoid loud, agressive types. Most importantly, if anyone who has access to my life takes advantage of me or becomes abusive in any manner, they get one warning, and then they're gone - locked out forever.

Please understand that I am not claiming myself to be a perfect person, partner, or friend. I have my faults and plenty of them. But I am striving to be a positive, caring, encouraging person, and in order to become that it is essential to surround myself with like-minded people of similar spirit and intent. We all know how difficult it can be to live with or work with someone who sees the world thru dark glasses, feels sorry for themselves, and seems intent on bringing everyone around them down. My goal is to watch myself and my conduct carefully, to avoid becoming one of those people who is a chronic downer and to maintain a healthy distance from people who are like that. It's more contagious than swine flu!

I encourage you to read the article I've linked to above, and to think about the relationships in your life. Have any of them become more of a burden than a gift? Is someone draining you? Maybe it's time to take an inventory of the plusses and minuses and see if you'd be better off setting yourself free. We are not obligated to put up with people who are toxic.

A New Public Blog!

Most folks who know me are aware that I blog regularly and some have expressed curiosity about what I write. My personal blog was originally in the public domain, but thanks to a few unsavory characters and a psycho sister it proved necessary to make it accessible by invitation only. But many of the thoughts that tumble in my head and fall onto the keyboard are less personal in nature and could be shared publicly. Thus, I have decided to begin a third blog under a different identity in which I can express myself more openly, in addition to continuing my personal blog here and a private blog written for solely for my husband. Stop by "Sophie Says" and check it out when you have time. And please remember that I go by Sophie there instead of Josie! To make it simpler for those of you who use readers, I've added a handy link to this blog in the sidebar of Sophie Says under the heading "Places I Visit". Sneaky, huh? :-)

It's Time To Start Again

Welcome to old friends and new visitors! I've been hibernating lately, keeping a low profile in the blog world. Today seems like a good day for a fresh start in a new place, something I've been wanting to do for some time. I've learned a valuable lesson regarding anonymity, but realize that private blogs aren't accessible to those who use a reader, so I decided to return to the public forum. My posts here will be a bit more generic in nature, or at least I'll make an effort to refrain from providing details that can lead back to my door. It's my nature to "put it all out there", so we'll see how successful at this endeavor I can be. Those of you who want to read more personal stories of my life know where and how to find me. If you're new here and would like to visit my other place, send an email to my address posted in the sidebar. Thanks for stopping by!

Clay Balls

I received this forward in my email today. I don't know who wrote it but I liked the message and thought it was worth sharing...

A man was exploring caves by the seashore. In one of the caves he found a canvas bag with a bunch of hardened clay balls. It was like someone had rolled clay balls and left them out in the sun to bake. They didn't look like much, but they intrigued the man, so he took the bag out of the cave with him. As he strolled along the beach, he would throw the clay balls one at a time out into the ocean as far as he could.

He thought little about it, until he dropped one of the clay balls and it cracked open on a rock . Inside was a beautiful, precious stone!

Excited, the man started breaking open the remaining clay balls. Each contained a similar treasure. He found thousands of dollars worth of jewels in the 20 or so clay balls he had left.
Then it struck him. He had been on the beach a long time. He had thrown maybe 50 or 60 of the clay balls with their hidden treasure into the ocean waves. Instead of thousands of dollars in treasure, he could have taken home tens of thousands, but he had just thrown it away!

It's like that with people. We look at someone, maybe even ourselves, and we see the external clay vessel. It doesn't look like much from the outside. It isn't always beautiful or sparkling, so we discount it.

We see that person as less important than someone more beautiful or stylish or well known or wealthy. But we have not taken the time to find the treasure hidden inside that person.
There is a treasure in each and every one of us. If we take the time to get to know that person, and if we ask God to show us that person the way He sees them, then the clay begins to peel away and the brilliant gem begins to shine forth.

May we not come to the end of our lives and find out that we have thrown away a fortune in friendships because the gems were hidden in bits of clay. May we see the people in our world as God sees them.

I am so blessed by the gems of friendship I have with you.. Thank you for looking beyond my clay vessel.

Trying to Heal

This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is "healing". The past two and half years of my life have been just that... a time for healing. The years prior to that were spent in a destructive relationship that was devastating. The extent of this has become more apparent since John came into my life. How hard it has been to learn trust him... to trust his kindness, his goodness, his motives, even his love. It was even hard to come to the belief that I was capable of maintaining a good relationship, or worthy of being loved.

I believe that psychological abuse causes as much, if not more damage to an individual than physical abuse. In such situations, and especially if one has been involved in multiple abusive relationships, the very core of one's personality and belief system is worn down and torn apart, leaving you to wonder who you really are and if anything is really good or really true.

 

A Change of Pace

So often when I pray about something my prayers are answered in ways I never would have anticipated that are even better than I could have hoped for. John is the finest example of that! Recently, another has come into play, just a small thing but it's making such a difference for me...
Since I began my job here I've been working 9-6 Monday thru Friday and Saturday mornings. Business has been very slow in recent months so the company has cut overtime. I am the only one in the office on Saturday mornings and after 5 on weekdays so they need me to be here then. To eliminate overtime, my new hours were to become 10-6. I asked if I could work 11-6 instead without taking a lunch break, and my supervisor and boss agreed. I've been doing it for a couple weeks now and I love it!

At first I was worried that it would be hard to work seven straight hours without a real break, but the truth is that the day seems to go by faster. To come in at 10 and then go to lunch two hours later doesn't make sense. Now I am only away from home 8 hours a day (including driving time) instead of ten. An big plus is that I eat breakfast at home and then bring a sack lunch to eat at my desk mid-afternoon. This eliminates the expense (and obvious health issues) of breakfast burritos, lunch out, and afternoon vending machine snacks. The savings nearly compensates for the lost overtime and I am eating healthier. Also, it's hot outside and now I don't have to go out and melt during lunch hour. I can stay inside where it's nice and cool!

Most importantly, I am still getting up at 7:30 AM most mornings, but now have time to make a little breakfast for John and visit with him before he leaves for work (I used to go before he was out of the shower.) I can make the bed, wash a load of clothes, do a bit of cleaning, run errands or grocery shop, schedule an early appointment, and still be into work on time. I am loving it!

In recent months I had become increasingly frustrated by the lack of time to accomplish very much at home. We have yet to finish organizing the house since we really only have Sundays to work on it. Most evenings find us tired and ready to relax rather than kick it into high gear with projects. Also, after 18 months of living on my own, I missed having a bit of quiet alone time to read, respond to email or whatever. I am a morning person and I love starting the day out slowly, playing with the cats and just collecting my thoughts for the day. Since it gets so very hot here during the day (already over 100 yesterday), I will now also be able to go for a morning walk while it is still a bit cooler. I need to get myself motivated to start that!

Already I am feeling more relaxed, and like some progress is being made with the housework. The workday feels shorter and it is also nice for the office to have me here to cover whenever either of the other two admin folks want to go to lunch, run errands or whatever. We don't need to schedule around each other's breaks. Since it is slow right now, is also an hour less to fill time each day (though we are allowed to read, play games on the computer, or whatever).

I am so thankful for how God continues to meet my needs and respond to my wants in such good ways. Yes, the paychecks will be smaller, but they are so small already compared to what I used to earn that it hardly matters. I have learned to live with less. A change of hours seems like such a little thing, but it is indeed a very big blessing in my life!

Sunday Scribblings: Don't Follow Me

This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is "follow". I'm not much of a follower, and never was. I can follow instructions, and I will most often do what I'm told, but I don't enjoy it. I have a stubborn streak and much prefer to do things in my own time and in my own way. That also means that I've had to learn most of life's important lessons the hard way - sometimes repeating the same mistakes two or three times before the futility of the situation sinks in and I begin to consider the wisdom of choosing other options.

To follow in someone's footsteps or follow their advice is a choice, and not usually the choice I've made, though at times it would have been so much wiser. I'm not terribly proud of many of the choices I've made in my life, and for some the only plausible explanation is temporary insanity. :-) But I have also learned a great deal by taking the winding path instead of the straight one. I have experienced so much more than some my age. I have known and befriended people of all ages and from all walks of life. I have witnessed how brutal life can be, and how ugly people can be toward their fellow human beings, but I have also witnessed moments of transcendent beauty and love. I have learned first-hand not to judge another if you haven't walked in their shoes and lived their life. It's always so much easier looking from the outside in.

While I have acquired an array of emotional baggage and battle scars by choosing to march to my own drummer rather than following the norm, I have also learned the greatest lesson of all... compassion for others who are struggling on their own paths.

I observe my co-worker who at 27 conducts her life more like I did at that age than I would like to admit. Sometimes I have to smile, knowing now what I didn't know then, and remembering how clever and wise I thought I was at the time. Sometimes I have to cry, knowing how she really feels inside and how some of the choices she is making hurt her and others. Sometimes I just shake my head realizing that all the talk in the world probably won't influence her enough to prevent her from making some really bad choices that will impact the rest of her life... but talk to her I do.

"Don't follow in my footsteps", I tell her. "Don't make the same mistakes I did." Don't limit your choices and close doors to your future by stubbornly refusing to see the obvious, and neglecting to consider the long-range ramifications.

"You did that when you were my age?" she inquires, at first doubtful, and then shaking her head in laughter. She has come to know that the dowdy middle-aged woman sitting next to her has been around the block more than a few times and has lived a fairly colorful life - and a relatively foolish one... too many unwise choices, too many lost opportunities, too much time trying to force situations that were never meant to be, too much acting out without first really thinking it thru.

"How did that work out?" I ask after her latest failed love affair. "What were you expecting to happen?" " Did you really think he would leave his wife for you?" "How successful were you in your plan to not let your heart get involved?" She listens to me, and quietly considers her answers, and she smiles in the awareness that no matter how she replies, I know the reality of her experiences. She knows that I will challenge her, encourage her to think harder, to consider her own worth more. She also knows that I will not condemn her.

I do not truly regret anything I have done in my life, or anything I have experienced, because all of that has combined to make me who I am... and I am not ashamed of who I am. I have learned, and I have grown, and I have finally in my 50's arrived at a place of peace and understanding.

"Don't wait until you are 50 to start making wise choices", I admonish her. "Don't follow in my footsteps, don't live my life. Be smarter, love yourself more, care about others more, consider where you want to be and what kind of person you want to be. Don't be afraid to love, and don't be afraid to believe that you are lovable. Respect yourself, respect others, respect the wisdom of those older who understand what you are going thru better than you can imagine."

"Don't follow me, don't do as I did. Your life doesn't have to be that hard. You can learn the lessons younger, you can arrive at my age with less baggage and fewer scars. You can have more fun along the way. You can feel more successful. Listen and choose wisely... don't follow me."

Relaxin'

I'm at my daughter's house in San Antonio, and loving it. Very relaxing with just the two of us... and two sweet kittys and one very hyper dog. At my suggestion we are teaching him "Stay" this weekend. As in stay in one spot anywhere for more than 10 seconds! LOL Really, he's sweet and is doing very good. He waits so intently for the command to release him from sit still hell. Last night we took him out for a long walk in the area they've moved to. It's beautiful - so many trees and lots of big houses. Living in West Texas I sometimes forget how much I miss trees and grass and water. However, I do not miss humidity and would not want to live here mid-summer when the steam starts rising. The kids new house house is so pretty - two story this time, with lots of floorspace and beautiful fireplace and a wall of real wood paneling in the livingroom - how I love that stuff! If I lived here, I would have to take over the large screened in porch room as my own. What a great reading spot!

Yesterday we headed out for some much-needed clothes shopping. I came home with four pair of jeans, three tank tops, two shirts, and a wonderful lightweight denim jacket that has dark blue floral embroidery all over it - subtle yet very feminine. Totally my style! My kid is so good about helping me choose things that look half-way decent on my fat body.

Yesterday we happened by a cross-stitch store, a rarity anymore, and she saw a wonderful piece that is birdhouses done on an oatmeal colored background with several of the little 3-D button dodads stitched on - birds, flowers, a ladybug, and a cat. So I got all the supplies, including the damned high-dollar hand-dyed yarn, it requires and will begin working on it as a gift for their new house. At my usual speed of completing things, should be done by Fall, LOL. I haven't done counted cross-stitch for a few years and I really miss the peaceful feeling it gives me - good therapy. I love the way a palette of colors formed into x's creates a piece of art. Something to do with my hands while watching tv with the Papa Bear in the evenings. I'll post a picture when it's eventually all finished.

Today we are soon heading out to shop for a new kitchen faucet set - her choice for a birthday gift. I also want to drive by the hospital where she works. Then I'm going to bake some peanut butter/kiss cookies for Jason's birthday gift. He'll enjoy coming home to those much more than cake.

Our guys are having a fishing adventure at Lake Amistad, including the discovery of a crack in the boat hull that required welding (thankfully not large enough to cause a capsize). Hopefully they'll have some great fish stories as well! We meet up with them in Del Rio again tomorrow for the return trip home.

Time always goes way too fast when I'm with my daughter. We have so much fun together. How I wish she (and my son) lived close enough to do this often. But I'm also so very proud of them for their independence and how well they are doing with their lives.

Time to hit the shower! Will be back around and reading blogs on the trip home.

Ok, So I Blew It

I screwed up. Not that I don't do that fairly often, but this was a big one. Last night I was having my regularly scheduled phone conversation with my father, who is 83. (Yes - he schedules such things and one must account for being absent or unavailable at the appointed time. Groan.)

Anyway, I started the conversation by asking how his Easter was. My younger sister and her family had gone to visit him, and they had a nice time. He loves to cook and made a great dinner with both turkey and ham. (I haven't heard her report on the day yet, so I imagine I have somehow displeased her. She usually calls or writes me when she returns home to tell me how it went. Ahhh, my family can be such "fun". )

Then he asks me if I got my Easter lily. Hmmm, scratching my head, and wondering what Easter lily he's referring to... "I got your pretty Easter card and the $20 in it", I said cheerily. "We really enjoyed the Easter buffet, thank you!" (Each year my father sends cash with his Thanksgiving and Easter cards which he designates to be used toward our dinner.) "I didn't get an Easter lily though??"

"What?!" he sputtered. "You didn't use the money to buy an Easter lily?" I could sense his blood pressure rising and I was totally confused.

"What are you talking about, Dad?" I asked.

"I wrote in the card that you were to use the money to buy an Easter lily and then whatever was left over should go toward your dinner. Didn't you read the card?"

My mind drew a total blank as I struggled to remember what the card had said. I recalled the picture on the front - a purple background with a beautiful cross and lily. Surely I'd read it, what did he write?

"Go and get it and read it", he demanded. Well.... I couldn't because it was somewhere in the stack of clutter on my counter.

"I'll check it in a little while, Dad", I said. "I'm sorry if I misunderstood what you wanted."

"I think you intentionally forgot what I said to do so you could spend all the money for dinner," he accused.

Oh, Lord, here we go again. "We have enough money to eat dinner out, Dad" I said, "it's just that you always say to use it for dinner, so I guess I must have misread the card or forgot what it said."

"Well you find it and read it and let me know what it said next week when I call!" he blustered.

"Ok, I will Dad" I said, feeling very blindsided by the whole thing. He's never sent money for anything other than eating out before. The rest of our visit was shaded by his unhappiness with me, making it very clear that I had once again disappointed him. Story of my life.

As soon as I hung up I dug thru the pile on my counter for the blessed Easter card. Sure enough - in it he clearly wrote that I was to buy an Easter lily for our home, and use any remaining money for our dinner. He had instructed my two sisters to do the same, and he had placed one on the alter at church in memory of my Mom. (His church does that each Easter.) It was a really nice sentiment and I was touched. I could understand his disappointment. Both of my sisters has followed thru and I blew it. Always me, just as he has come to expect. And then I felt really bad.

No real way to undo this one, just apologize, as I did, and wait for it to blow over. I'm still wondering how I could have missed that in the card. Didn't I read it?? Surely I did. Did I just space it out? Very possible, I have at least a hundred things on my mind right now and I am so forgetful. But of course this is implausible to him, even though he is forgetful too. So I guess I'll just take the rap of doing it intentionally or whatever he wants to believe. Sometimes you can't win for trying. SIGH

If these fun little encounters serve any purpose it's to remind me NEVER, EVER to lay guilt trips on my children. The burden of trying to please parents can be immensely heavy. My kids already know how proud I am of them, how much I respect the people they've become, and how much they are loved. I don't care if they screw up now and then, we all do.

This and That

It was a quiet Easter weekend here. With no family around we really didn't do much in observance, other than enjoy a really nice buffet at one of the local hotels. They arrange all the dessert offerings in a circle around their fountain on beautifully decorated tables - much too much temptation! John threatened to chop off the bunny cake's head for his plate, but I insisted it would traumatize the many children attending. :-)

I thought about attending an Easter service but I'm really not impressed by people (including myself) who only show up at church on Christmas and Easter, kind of misses the point. I'm still unchurched and will probably remain that way at least for the time being. I have heard very good things about one of the local pastors here who is also the hospice chaplain. John knows and likes him too, so we may end up visiting his church to see what it's like.

I hate to admit it, but one of the things holding us back from regular church attendance is that it breaks up Sunday too much. This is the only day we have off each week and we like to get up, eat and be actively engaged in some project before noon. Most church services here start at 11, which means getting out at noon and then fighting crowds for Sunday dinner out. So you don't really get much done before it's time to dress for church and tend to lose the desire to be productive afterwards. I realize that's hardly an insurmountable obstacle, just one of the things I consider. I remember that the Catholic church in the town where I grew up started a Saturday evening service for folks who couldn't/wouldn't make it on Sundays. Used to be kinda funny though to see those folks leave church and then head out for a night on the town. While I am a spiritual person and a Christian by my definition, it's always been difficult for me to find a church home that fits right. I have been a member of several denominations over the many years, but it's more about the people who make up the church. My social anxieties make participation a struggle not a joy. I also tend to get easily irritated about the oft found blatant hypocrisy. Yes, I know church is for sinners, not saints. Still, I'm a practice what you preach person and I like to associate with folks trying to do the same. I've become a little cynical I guess. I see spirituality as so much more than being religious, maybe that's why churches feel confining to me. I am not comfortable with having my own personal beliefs limited by tenants I don't necessarily agree with. Stick to the Book, and let us figure out the rest of our relationship with God for ourselves!

On a lighter note, Saturday afternoon we got the storage shed from John's old house moved over to our lot. It is wired for electricity and is just the right size to turn into a great workshop. We're excited about having a place for woodworking, repairs, etc. and to store our tools and equipment. Talking about getting a turning lathe at some point. They are fun to work with!

We'll be taking Thursday, Friday and Saturday off this week, heading south to meet up with my daughter and son-in-law. I'll be spending the weekend with her at their new house in San Antonio - a girl's weekend, while John and Jason are off on a fishing trip to Lake Amistad on the border between Texas and Mexico. They are so excited - John texts him a picture of our boat. He sends back a picture of a new lure he bought! :-) Saturday is Jason's 34th birthday so this is a really fun way for him to celebrate, and I'm so glad for John to have a chance to get away from it all and enjoy doing what he loves most!

My son called last night and we had a nice visit. He was reminiscing on the Easters of his childhood and the fun of those treasure hunt clues to find their baskets. He's in the process of buying a house in Clarksville, Tennessee - his first, and I'm so proud of him! He said he's been living in apartments for ten years now and at 30 is ready to have a place to call his own. He's very careful with his money and his decisions so I know he's got this well planned out. I am grateful that my kids have both turned out so amazingly well, able to support themselves, and above all are really wonderful, caring people!

The furkids are adjusting to being a threesome, Stormy is out and around the house and getting comfortable. The girls are still a little leery of him, especially since he's made it clear that they are not to mess with him. Now he tries to make time with Sophie and she goes wide-eyed. There have been no fights though, and all are living peacefully with doors open. Saturday night one of them, most likely Emily - since she likes to walk the kitchen counter (even though she knows she's not supposed to be on it) - managed to knock a bowl of kitty snacks on the floor, and get the lid off. Needless to say, they indulged in a snack party and the bowl was nearly empty when I found it. Guilty faces all around. :-)

The Sunday Scribblings theme for yesterday was "Scary" with the assignment to write about what scares us. Reflecting on it, I realized that there isn't all that much scary in my life anymore. That sure wasn't true two years ago! The only fear I sometimes harbor in the back of my mind now is one we all share - that of losing one of the people we love. Rather than dwelling much on that, I try to make sure that the people I love know it and that every encounter ends up on a good note. It's about quality of time shared, not the quantity. None of us can foresee what the future holds anyway, so no point stressing over it. All in all, my life is good - I am so blessed with John that it would seem trivial to sweat the small stuff. His positive, "I can handle this" nature is comforting and encouraging. I know that whatever comes, we'll get thru it!

Almost time for lunch here, just two and half days of work remaining this week - sure wish every week was like that. :-) I hope everyone has a good week, it will be what you make of it!