Dust to Dust

I got a call one evening last week that I'd been anticipating. In fact I pretty much knew it would come at some point. My ex is going to lose the house (manufactured home) he kept in our divorce. He can't cover the mtg payment/insurance/utilities on his latest job - a warehouse worker for Kmart earning $7 an hour. Big surprise there. Before getting this job he was out of work for a couple of months, so was already deep in the hole... again. Holding jobs has never been his strong point.

Since our bankruptcy determination included the option to return the home as a voluntary repossession, there should be no attempts on their part to recover the substantial amount owed over what the house is now actually worth - which is not much since it has been badly neglected for the past few years. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I will be VERY relieved to have this last piece of legal/financial business between us concluded. My name is on the loan with his and it was impossible to change that. It is far better for it to show up on my credit now when my credit rating is already in the toilet than a few years down the road when it is starting to look better.

But then there are the emotional factors. My ex will be out of a home to call his own. He is planning to move in with his parents who live a mile down the road, at least until he can get back on his feet. The reality is that there is no place one can afford to rent on that kind of income. His girlfriend, who has lived with him for almost two years now, will move in with her mother in town. She and I have become close friends and visit often. I know that she is ok with this development as it gives her a less confrontational way of separating from him. They have had a lot of ups and downs and she's pretty worn out with trying to make it work. They may find a way to live together again down the road, and may not. I have mixed feelings about that too. He needs her and she loves him, but she deserves much better.

And then there is the house itself. He and I purchased the home together, using down payment money that was a gift from my dad. It was beautiful 15 years ago, shiny new, top of the line, the first home I had ever owned. We cleared the land for it, which belonged to his grandfather and was where he had grown up, hauling out years and years worth of trash, dead trees, junked cars, etc. to make it look good. I planted flowers and lilac bushes. We watered the trees, planted vegetable gardens, and mowed the weeds until it began to look like home. I loved living in the country back then, and he always did. But as the marriage unraveled, so did the dreams, and the yard, and the house. With frequent bouts of unemployment there was little money for repairs and upkeep, and what money there was too often went to other things that it shouldn't have. Motivation to work on repairs and upgrades went by the wayside as his use of illegal substances escalated and his work record deteriorated. By the time I finally left in December 2007, what remained was a battered house with siding falling off, holes in the walls and busted door frames from his tantrums. It looked as unloved and abandoned as I felt. On the few occasions that I had to visit him later or drive past it, it broke my heart to see such disrepair and the weeds once again overtaking it.

I had a short uneventful phone conversation with my ex on Friday night to discuss what he needed to do regarding the house. It's the first time we've talked in several months. After all this time, hearing his voice still gets to me emotionally. I guess the feelings I once had for him will never be truly gone, though I wouldn't want him back for a gift. I don't wish for anyone to lose their home, or their partner, or their pet (Stormy - his cat of nearly 15 years will probably be coming to live with us). Of course he brought it on himself. In the end, we reap what we sow, and we live with the decisions that we make, both good and bad. Still, I feel sad for him. And I could not help but shed a few a tears over what will be the final conclusion of our life together. The land will revert to what it was before we came there... a pasture full of weeds where the ghosts of lives past and love lost can be heard whispering in the night. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Life Keeps on Moving

Yikes! Once again it's been three weeks since I've posted anything. Life gets in the way of blogging. But then, life is what it's all about right? Living! I'm doing that in much more active and abundant ways than I have for years... probably since my kids lived at home - and my daughter turns 34 this week.

We keep busy, and we keep busy together - that's the best part! Days are long, evenings are short, and there really isn't a lot of free quiet time where I'm just by myself, by my own choosing. When there is, such as when John is at the lodge, I am most likely catching up on washing dishes, doing laundry or baking muffins for morning breakfasts on the run. I like being busy. And when we aren't, I like just being together - sitting quietly, watching tv and holding hands. Talking about the future and the plans we have for the house and our lives. It just doesn't get much better than that and I pray that we have many years to share.

The last couple weekends we've been working our butts off sorting and moving mountains of clutter, with mountains more to go. We've purchased a large new storage shed and we were finally able to get all of my boxes out of expensive rental storage. We are talking 90+ boxes along with misc. small appliances and furniture. Thankfully, the weather was mild and the rental storage place lets you use their trailers for free. It was definitely more exercise than I've done in a long time!

This weekend we went thru John's storage building at his old house. It was also crammed full of boxes, old clothes, assorted fishing and camping gear, tools, and keepsake stuff. We hauled off two truckloads of trash, gave another two truckloads away to friends, and moved a great deal of the rest to our new storage. The remainder is in large tubs, etc. that will remain in place while the shed is moved to our property. There it will be transformed into a workshop, the first one John has ever had. We're excited about having a place to work on projects together.

We still have a good deal of sorting to do at his old house, nicnacs to clean and pack, etc. Our goal is to be finished with it in the next couple months so we can be rid of it. Then comes the daunting task of starting to sort thru those boxes and tubs we have in the new building. And when we're done there will be much, much less of it. Not a fun process, but getting life pared down to what we really need and use, with a few keepsakes from our past lives, will feel so good. There is much bantering back and forth about whose boxes contain treasures and who has a lot of crap. :-) It was a dirty, tiring process, but coming home to clean up and go out for a nice dinner felt great, and so does the sense of making progress. Needless to say, we slept very well! We look eagerly forward to the weekends when we can choose a fun activity instead of "what do we need to do".

Work has settled down again, and I have managed to implement a "no negativity" policy in our admin office which means I've enjoyed two weeks now of not hearing fellow employees being bashed or gossiped about. At first that was tense as I held my ground, but now it is just nice to visit about other more positive things and no go home with a pounding headache at night. It's a good change for all of us and I am grateful that God helped me take a stand. I'm sure there will be times when reinforcement/reminders are needed, but it is much, much better. Now I wish that the economy would get back on it's feet and work would pick up. Things are very slow here and everywhere in town, and that always makes employees nervous as there is not enough work to justify pay. I would much rather be so busy that the day flies by and it's time to go home. But again, I am grateful to have a good job in a time when so many have lost theirs.

For John and I life is good. It is better than good... it is great! I think I will always be amazed at how easy it can be for two stubborn old farts to get along and enhance each other's lives. I never thought such compatibility was possible. Sure it takes a little work, a little compromise, a little patience, but it isn't hard... especially when it's what you both want. We treasure each other and that's what makes it work. We also play a lot and laugh often. Maybe it's retaining some of the childlike simple joys in life that makes it fun.

Now if the washing machine and dishwasher would become self-loading, that would be miraculous. But you know, life is short and sometimes it's better to let those things wait while you stop to plant some flowers!

Checking In

Last week was busy, stressful and tiring, and I'm glad it's over. The weekend is ending on a lighter note, with a sense of accomplishment in some of the house tasks we were able to accomplish. Every bit of progress we make toward sorting thru the his/mine/ours clutter and getting our house organized gives us hope that there will come a time when Sundays are once again for kicking back and relaxing, or planning something fun. We have a long way to go yet, and long list of projects, but it's getting better and we're both happy with our efforts and the results.

Work is stressful at the moment, lots of personal drama involving my coworker desk partner and my supervisor. I'll elaborate more on that at another time. Suffice it to say that it can be tiring to be somewhat in the middle and also to know that additional work is going to fall into my lap because of medical issues they both face. One does AP's one does AR's. I don't enjoy accounting stuff, I'm not in love with numbers. They are absolutes and I don't see the world as black and white. So it will be a struggle for me to learn new tasks and I don't relish it. However, I will do what I must do. That's life. It won't hurt me to acquire some new skills... I guess.

Friday night turned out fun. John's boss was taking his newly restored classic car to the local drag strip for the first time. John really wanted to go. I was tired from the week and not too thrilled about the prospect, but it turned out to be a great time. I've seen drag racing on tv but never in person, and it really is exciting... and noisy! His boss's car is beautiful and he did really well in the time trials. Racing begins next week. He was very pleased that we came and for John's help. John has worked at the drag strip in years past and knows the ins and outs.

I sometimes think there are very few things John hasn't done in his 55 years of life. I am going to start writing his story this year, as a gift to his children. It may turn into a good book. The things he has experienced, survived and overcome are a testament to his perseverance and his ability to maintain a loving heart and make good things happen in his life. I wonder if I would be able to do half as well. More stories for another day.

The time change...ugh. I really hate it and I think it's purely stupid. (Pardon the venting.) It takes a week or more to adjust to getting up earlier. I can pretty much judge the morning time by the amount of light coming thru the window and most often I wake myself up a few minutes before the alarm clock goes off. Our furkids also have internal time clocks and the change confuses them as well. Thankfully, most of the electronic devices we have now are self-adjusting so we didn't have too many clocks that had to be reset. I will not like getting up early tomorrow. I will try not to grumble. :-)

The week ahead is going to be hectic and demanding, but I am focusing on doing it one day at a time. I know I can handle that, and will just do the best I can with it. Lots of good things coming up later in the week, including the Celtic Heritage Scottish-Irish Faire which we will both love. John is of Scottish/Irish heritage so it will be a fun weekend.

Guess I'd better stop here and head to bed. The laundry didn't make it on the schedule this weekend. I wonder if I could go to work in one of my kaftans. No, probably not. Time to hunt thru the closet and see what I can put together. I wish you all a good week ahead. Remember to live in the moment, and to take time to count your blessings!

Telling It Like It Is

Tonight the Peterbilt dealership where I work held it's annual "State of the Company" meeting. It was held at Jason's Deli and spouses were invited. This was my first time to attend and it was actually quite interesting. I've heard of (and worked for) companies that don't tell their employees anything about financial matters. The first we would know of problems was when we were informed our paychecks would be short or late. If things were going great it would most likely be reflected in enhanced benefits for the CEO such as attending a "seminar" in some very nice place. Given the very shaky state of our economy I applaud my company for presenting a full financial picture to it's employees, including comparisons to previous years and to our competitors, as well as a look at trends and predictions for the current year.

The presentation was given by our CEO from Lubbock. The dealership is family-owned and operated, and encompasses five West Texas locations). As it turns out, our financial picture is quite stable, more so than for some of our largest competitors. Certainly things are tougher than last year, especially since Odessa has an oil-based economy, but there is still a healthy profit to be made if the right steps are taken and business is handled wisely. Our jobs are not on the line, pay is not being cut, and benefits are not being taken away.

Additionally, the General Manager of our local dealership is a sincere Christian - not one who just preaches, but one who walks the talk and sets an example for others to follow. He is extremely intelligent, fun, thoughtful, caring, and a really nice person to work for. (The rest of my fellow employees are a true cast of characters that will most definitely provide fodder for blog posts down the road. :-)

In addition to attending a nice casual event with coworkers, I felt doubly blessed to be there in the company of my spouse. John handles himself with such class, and interacts with everyone from my boss to my young coworkers with such ease, that I feel exceptionally proud to be with him and much more comfortable in these situations than I would on my own (or - God forbid, in the company of my previous spouse who was capable of anything at such events). John is so very affectionate and attentive to me when we are out together, and staff have noted previously that I just seem to glow in his presence. That's pretty much how I feel too!

When I count my blessings... as I do often, and there are many... among the items at the very top of the list you'll find my beloved husband who I treasure more than life itself, an employer that takes care of it's employees, and a boss that I respect. I am so very thankful for what I have!

I Can Hear You Now!

I've been gradually losing my hearing for the last ten years or so. In recent years it has progressed to the point where there are many sounds I cannot hear and many conversations I cannot follow. It makes it hard at work and in social situations. It is frustrating and isolating.

It saddens me when I can't hear the things most people can. A couple years ago my daughter asked me if I could hear the brakes on my car grinding. No, I didn't. John asks if I can hear the train, or the helicopter overhead, or the thunder, or the cat pawing at the door. I sadly shake my head and answer "no". I can't begin to tell you how many jokes were generated over things I misheard. I laughed along and laughed at myself, but it didn't really feel all that funny on the inside. I also lost the ability to accurately gauge if my own voice was too loud or too soft. It always sounded ok to me, because we hear ourselves differently than others hear us.

A few years ago I bought a pair of hearing aids, and they weren't cheap. But they were the analog kind, not digital, and they did not adjust to different sound environments. I had to constantly adjust the volume manually. They did not filter out background noise. I heard everything - from a paperclip falling on the floor to my keys clicking against the steering column of my car. I am extremely sensitive to noise and it made me crazy. When using the telephone they squealed with feedback. Ouch! The audiologist who prescribed them assured me that I would get used to this, but I never did. They weren't very comfortable either and having them in my ears bugged me. I couldn't wait until bedtime so I could take them out. Eventually I just gave up the struggle and put them away in a drawer.

Since that time I've been fumbling my way thru meetings and conversations, and asking for the tv to be turned up louder so I could hear it. My new work environment accentuated the problem and made me aware of just how much worse my hearing has become. I answer the telephones. We have ten lines and twenty one extensions. It keeps me busy. I have to strain to hear what is being said and respond correctly. Sometimes I have to ask customers to repeat themselves. There is a glass window in front of our counter with an opening at the bottom for payments to be passed thru. When customers talk to me, the glass muffles their words, making it even more difficult to hear what they are saying. By the end of the day I am exhausted with the effort.

But wait... this story has a happy ending! At long last I am finally in a financial position to be able to afford new hearing aids (though it will take me two years to pay for them) - state of the art digital hearing aids that are mini-computers capable of self-adjusting to various sound environments. They automatically sense when I pick up a telephone too, and adjust accordingly so I can hear conversations clearly with no feedback. (How do they sense that, you wonder? So did I. The answer is that phone receivers have a magnet which they can detect. :-) A week ago I went for new hearing tests and they were ordered, and today I was able to go and pick them up. The audiologist actually connects them to his computer to fine-tune the settings for each individual's needs.

WOW! I left his office wide-eyed and near tears. I can hear.... I CAN HEAR!! I could hear his receptionist talking to us from the next room. When I got in the car I was stunned to discover that my car radio was blasting. (It always seemed moderately loud to me before.) I called John on my cellphone just to hear his voice... it was wonderful! Then I returned to work and for the first time had no trouble hearing what customers and callers were saying. I could hear (too well) the ongoing gossip of my supervisor who sits about 20 feet behind me. :-) And - these hearing aids fit comfortably just as the audiologist had promised. Within I short while I was able to forget I had them in my ears.

Two tiny computers, not much at all to look at, almost invisible when in my ears... but to me they are two tiny life-changing miracles, and tonight I am feeling blessed beyond words. Thank you God for the gift of renewed hearing, it means everything to me!