Z is for Zebra


I started the A-Z Blogging Challenge at the beginning of April with A is for Aardvark.  Therefore, it seems only fitting that I end it with the classic Z is for Zebra... like the one peering inside our truck in the photo above!

Last June I took my husband to Glen Rose, Texas for a long birthday weekend stay in a wonderful little cabin on the Paluxy River.  One of the places we visited while there was the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.


It's a drive-thru animal preserve with a long winding road that takes you past all kinds of animals, both common and exotic.  


The fun part is the feed you can purchase at the tourist center to hand-feed the animals enroute.


Believe me, they know you've got it and come right up to the truck window for a treat, often sticking their heads inside.  While the brochure warns you they can bite, and not to feed them from your hand, everyone does and it's such great fun!


The animals roam free within the confines of the preserve and they literally swarm the slow moving line of  tourist vehicles at some of the road crossings, knowing that there are plenty of treats to be garnered. 


They are so used to human contact that they show little fear, and I swear some of them actually enjoy posing for pictures. This guy looks like he's wearing a toupee!  We had a great time and will definitely return for another tour the next time we're in the area.

This brings our month-long A-Z blogging community adventure to an end. I've totally loved reading all kinds of wonderful posts and making some new friends along the way! Now I wish it was possible for us all to gather somewhere for a 3-day weekend where we could meet each other and get to know the faces behind the blogs. That would be a great adventure indeed!

Y is for Yesterday

This photograph of me was taken when I was three.  I am closing in on sixty now, and yet it sometimes feel like only yesterday that I was young.  I look at the little girl in the  picture above and I wonder what she was thinking, her eyes bright, but smile shy. What was I holding in my fingers? I wish I would have asked my mom that.  My sister, two years older, was sitting next to me, sadly much closer than we are today as adults. Where did all the years go, I wonder? I think back thru the places I've lived, the schools I attended, the friends I've had, and in later years, the marriages that mark the adult chapters of my life, and it seems to have gone by so fast!

I've watched my children grow from infants into wonderful, competant, caring adults that I could't be more proud of.  I wish they lived closer so that we could be together more. I've buried both my parents, and felt the sadness of  having the items that surrounded us growing up being disbursed to various family members, friends, and garage sale shoppers. It is unlikely that I will ever return to visit the small town where I grew up It holds nothing to draw me back now. There is no place left to call home.

I observe the young people where I work, remembering that I was once so much like some of them.  I smile in how I thought I knew it all back then and was ready to take on the world.  Those illusions have long since been shattered.  The older one gets, the more you realize how little in life is certain and how very little you truly know.  Now I am one of the "old fogies", the grandma they come to, to share their worries and their joys.  Little could they imagine what my life has been, and that I was once young too.

My children are in their thirties.  I remember being that age.  They were both growing up by then! It wasn't an easy time, my life hasn't been easy at any stage, but I must say it's much better now.  I will readily admit that most of what has transpired along the way was due to my own choosing... poor choices, and then trying to live with them, when it times it would have been much wiser to walk away.  But of course it wasn't that easy, it never is.  It is only easy to see what might have been better paths when one is looking back down the road. 

My early forties were good years...  I felt good, and I looked good, and I had energy to spare.  The kids were grown and on their own, and I had more freedom to discover who I was and what was meaningful to me.  That is also when I was introduced to the Internet.  How did I ever live without it?! :-) 

Much like an old quilt, my body soon begain to show some wear, and bit and pieces have "gone to hell" since then.  I move slower, and often with pain, have far less energy, and my short-term memory is pitiful at best. I worry about my job. I am working at the keyboard sometimes up to nine hours a day.  What if my fingers don't hold up to the task?  What if younger people come along who can do it faster and better?  A feeling of security does not accompany age, worry does instead.

There have been several times in my life when I wasn't sure if I could find my way, and the strength to go on. But, by the Grace of God, I did... and I am so grateful!  I have learned that the darkest hour is always before dawn, and perseverence is the key. I have learned so much along the way, both what to do and what not to do.  I have had the opportunity to meet amazing people from all walks of life, and to experience things that most people never will. On the surface, my life might appear to have been dull and routine, in truth it has been anything but that.  I am thankful for the adventure, and for the person I have become as a result of all that has transpired. 

Job, as his story is told in the Bible, had more than his share of trials and tribulations. Yet at the end it goes on to say that "The LORD blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first.... And so he died, old and full of years."  That's true of me also. God has blessed me richly with the wonderful husband that now shares my life. Everything has changed, and I have everything that really matters... especially love.

I am no longer young, but I am also not old yet... well, not really old anyway! :-)  I will get there soon enough. In the mean time, I'm going to enjoy each day, cherish the ones I love, and take it as it comes.

X is for Xeric


Xeric is an adjective referring to an extremely dry habitat.  That would be where I live.  Our West Texas landscape consists primarily of range land dotted with green sage bushes, clumps of bright wildflowers, and fields that must be irrigated in order to produce successful crops.  Trees and open water are at a minimum. It is a long drive to a lake or river of reasonable size. I miss the beautiful green trees and lakes of Dakota where I grew up (but I do  not miss Winter that starts in late October and runs into April).

This year we have had no rain, no moisture to speak of.  Everything is tinder dry and wildfires are running rampant throughout the region. Last night our sky was hazy and the air was thick with the acrid smell of smoke being blown our direction by strong winds from a raging wildfire 150 miles to the south of us that has consumed over 200,000 acres and has yet to be fully contained.  The smoke burned our eyes and throats and made us aware of how bad it must be for those fighting the fire or fighting to save their property where the fire is burning.

We've had several smaller grass fires closer to home as well. A corner of the highway intersection we cross everyday had a large area of charred ground and burned mesquite one day last week when we returned home from work.  Thankfully, they got that one stopped before it went further. We live in fear of fire and the damage it could do if it headed in our direction, our house being surrounded by open pasture land with dry grass and weeds standing a foot or more tall.  Everything could be gone in an instant.  We pray for rain.

Spring equates to blowing wind in West Texas... and with it blowing dirt that darkens the sky and fills your eyes and mouth with grit. It sifts thru the car vents and the smallest cracks around windows and doors in the house, and covers everything with a layer of dirt. To wear white clothing or black clothing is a major mistake, as you will soon resemble "Pig Pen" from the Peanuts gang!  It is a  "white-glove" housekeeper's nightmare.  Thankfully, I gave up that obsession years ago. :-)

Because we live in such a dry climate, water is used conservatively.  Watering restrictions in the cities near us are common during the long, hot summer when temps reach a hundred degrees or more, sometimes for days on end.  I do not like the heat of summer; it doesn't like me either, it makes me sick.  I am so very thankful for my air-conditioned office, car, and home.  I wonder what it was like to live here before A/C was common.  The concept of an afternoon siesta during the hottest hours of the day, makes perfect sense to me. It is much nicer to be outside in early morning or late evening. 

Living in a xeric environment means landscaping that can survive the intense heat and drought. Much water is consumed in cities by people determined to maintain large, lush,  green lawns. This is wasteful.  Xeriscaping - landscaping with plants friendly to the desert climate - is becoming more common place and certainly is more ecologically responsible.  I would happily settle for a small 3x3 foot patch of grass where I could plant my feet, close my eyes, and remember what it was like as a child to walk barefoot in our back yard in the cool, damp grass. As it is, our two acres of weeds thrive nicely on neglect. Little by little, we'll be working on that. I suggested, only partly tongue-in-cheek, that we cover our acerage in gravel or concrete rather than attempt to get something to grow. That had a certain appeal until someone reminded me how much snakes like to sun themselves on warm rocks.  Rattlesnakes are very common here, and I definitely do not want to encourage visits to my yard.  Many friends have found them on their porches, in their garages, etc.  That would give me a heart attack!

One delightful accompaniment to our xeric surroundings is the family of roadrunners that live nearby.  They run across our yard and driveway frequently in the mornings, and have been known to leave a trail of tiny roadrunner footprints across the hood of my car!  They are the cutest things, looking so much like the cartoon version we are familiar with! Roadrunners are surprisingly unafraid of humans and can actually be tamed to eat out of the hand. Being carnivores, they love hamburger. Maybe that will be my next undertaking... pet roadrunners! :-)

W is for Wordy


My name in real life begins with a W. It isn't "Wordy," but perhaps it should be! I've had a love affair with words since I was old enough to sit on my mama's lap as she read to us. I suspect this is true of most folks in blogland... we simply love words... the way they look, the way they sound, the way they fit together to let us transcribe our thoughts and feelings onto paper, or as is the case now days, the screen.

Although I've never made a conscious effort to learn or use big words - words uncommon to everyday conversation - I've apparently picked up some along the way, probably from a lifetime of reading good books.  I'm often accosted by friends and family for using big words, or am asked to define them.  The truth is, I just like words... they are fun!  In fact I like them so much that I use them profusely, as anyone who is familiar with my writing can attest! :-) 

In public, I am more shy unless I know you, and I totally clam up in large social situations, but set me down one-on-one with someone - anyone - and I can run on a mile a minute, and if they're lucky they might get a few words in when I come up for air!  I don't mean to be a conversation hog, really I don't, I just love to communicate on real topics (not trivia or fluff, please), and I love getting to know how other folks think and feel about things even more.  I tend to ask probing questions, lots of them. I can annoy folks at times, although I'm not so much snoopy as I am curious about what "makes them tick".   Believe it or not, I can be a good listener too!

Before the days of computers, I wrote longhand letters that consisted of pages and pages.  I wrote a diary once too, but that fell into the wrong hands (my mother's) and made my life miserable.  A journal kept as a young adult also had repercussions in my life that made me regret writing it.  It was a long time before I trusted my thoughts and feelings to the written word again.  But the advent of online friendships, and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who see things much as I do, led once again to the pouring myself out in emails.  One friend and I carried on a daily email correspondence for over a year that involved long, long emails and afforded us a good deal of mutual support and encouragement.

Then I discovered the blog.  I read a newspaper column that interested me, and at the bottom it listed a blog address for the author.  I checked it out, and fell instantly in love with the concept.  This was something I had to try... and thus I became a blogger.  My life has never been the same!

I have to chuckle when I read various guidelines for good, readable blogging and it says that brevity is important, most visitors won't take the time to read thru a lengthy post.  I agree that's probably true, but it's just not me, brevity is not my thing, I'm not good at it because it's not the way my mind works.  I don't have a plan or an outline when I write a blog post. I start with a topic or a theme I want to write about, and then I just write what flows from my brain into my fingers.  I don't do a great deal of editing, other than to check spelling and try to cut a few unnecessary words here and there.  What  you read is pretty much off the cuff.  Sometimes it's sharp and to the point, sometimes it meanders down the road, and at times my train of thought derails completely! :-)

For most of my life I've taken a lot of flack for my wordiness.  I've been derided by family members for my "sermons" and "epistles" and for "going on and on".  I know that at times they are right, but I wish they could just accept the spirit of what is written, the message tucked in there somewhere amidst all the words.  I'm really not trying to preach at them, or intimidate them, or outshout them with my words, I am just trying to communicate, to explain.  That may be the real message behind all my words... I am trying to communicate, to explain myself, in a world where I have most often felt  misunderstood.

Well, if you've made it to the bottom of this post, you are to be commended. I know it's wordy, I know it rambles on.  It is what it is, and I am what I am, and I thank you for taking time to stop by to visit and read.  Your comments are appreciated and treasured, I read them all, and respond when and if I have time, which isn't nearly as often as I'd like.  But I do try to get around and read your blogs often. I love the inspiration, the smiles, the tears, and most of all, I love the magic of the words shared!

PS - W is also for Word Verification - those sneaky little non-word codes we have to type in on some blogs before our comments will be saved.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!!!  I like to "hit and run" comment... read, respond, and move on.  Too often in my haste, I write a nice comment only to see it vanish before my eyes because I have clicked over to another page before noticing that darn word verification box, or I get frustrated after a couple failed attempts at deciphering the letters and say to heck with it and move on.  I wonder if everyone but me really has a big problem with spam on their blog or if it is just chosen as a random option when the blog is set up.  Have mercy on this old woman, please! :-)

V is for Values


It is said that the measure of a man's true character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.  Being found out  - having our misdeeds discovered, is probably the greatest deterrent to conduct that we know deep down is wrong to begin with.  But what if we were certain no one would ever find out?  Would it affect the choices you make each day about what to do and what not to do?  Hopefully not, but probably yes to some extent. 

Knowing right from wrong is fairly simple, living with those rules can be a bit harder. We all know "The Golden Rule", and most of us are familiar with "The Ten Commandments." They are sound, time-tested principles on how to conduct your life.  And yet how many of us have struggled from time to time with some of those rules?  We often tend to look for the "gray areas", ways that we can rationalize our behavior, which pretty much means coming up with excuses for why we didn't do it right in the first place.  Sometimes there are mitigating circumstances or situations, but truly, honestly, usually we just blew it and are looking for ways to avoid the fallout.

Recently, someone I know of  was involved in an illicit affair with another married coworker.  Not only were they stepping across the lines of wise choices in pursing this relationship, but they were not being very careful about concealing their affair.  We all know the signs and symptoms of people in the workplace who are just "much too close" for there not to be underlying reasons.  The company they work for monitors the use of the company messaging system, as was clearly stated in their handbook.  When supervisors needed further proof of the improper goings on, they needed only to review the exchange of messages between the two offending parties, to accumulate enough evidence to fire both of them, which is what happened.  What a sad and embarrassing way to lose one's job.  Imagine coming home trying to explain that to a spouse.  Not much you can do to put it in a good light, is there?

The issue at heart is the values of the two people involved.  Did they believe that what they were doing was ok, despite it being deceitful as far as their spouses were concerned? And, did they really think they wouldn't get caught?  It's amazing how many people I know who go through life believing that they will never be caught doing some of the really dumb things they do!  In an instant they can be proven so wrong, and end up fired, divorced, or in the case of illegal transgressions, end up in jail!

So it comes back to our core values. What tenants do we seriously adhere to when it comes to our own conduct and the conduct of those we associate with and have relationships with?  For me, honesty ranks right up there at the top, as does openness.  A half-truth is really not the truth at all, concealing part of the picture is deceitful.... it should perhaps be called a half-lie instead! 

Dependability is another big one.  I want to be the kind of person who follows thru and stands behind what I say.  I don't want to make promises I can't keep, so I take care not to make ones I'm unsure of.  I don't want people in my life who don't keep their word either.

Integrity is a big one - doing the right thing, rather than doing what you think you can get away with.  If you know better than doing something... don't do it!  I had a friend who is an alcoholic.  He would ask his sponsor how to avoid falling back into a state of self-destructive behavior.  His sponsor responded, "It is simple... don't take the first drink."  Life is much like that in all areas, if we risk that first small step, the first tiny act that we know is wrong, it becomes so easy to break bigger and bigger rules. I don't trust people who try to hide behind small transgressions or overlook them in others. If you will tell small lies without it bothering you, you will tell big lies. If you will steal small things without it troubling your conscience, you will steal large things if the opportunity presents itself.

I could go on at length, but I think I'll stop with one more value that is important to me... compassion.... the ability to care about other people, to have a heart for their situations and their struggles.  It is easy in our society that is bombarded with violence disguised as entertainment, etc, to become calloused to what we observe - those who inflict injury, be it emotional or physical, and those who are injured by it.  It is important to me to stand up and say "It matters," and "I care".  It is also important to me that the people I am close to feel the same way.  If we are unwilling to take a stand against what is wrong, who will? 

I want to be able to look in the mirror each night and know that I didn't consciously make wrong choices that day.  Sometimes I will slip, sometimes I will fall, but always I will dust myself back off, readjust my attitude, and try harder the next day to be the kind of person I want to be.  Having values, and trying to live by them is important.  What we do with this time we call life matters... the choices we make individually affect us all!

U is for Unforgettable


There are moments in our lives that stand out far above the rest, times that were simply the best ever. In this post I'd like to share one of my most unforgettable experiences with you...

In the Fall of 2001 a friend and I initiated a friendship/class sponsorship with young teacher just starting her career teaching first graders at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Over the course of that school year and the next I became a penpal friend to the children in first and second grades, exchanging pictures, visiting with them on the phone, and getting to know them and the school. 

In the Spring of 2003 I was invited to spend a week at Red Cloud Indian School, staying in one of the guest rooms of their convent, attending classes with the children for an entire week, and getting to meet some of their parents and siblings.  I returned for another week-long visit the following Spring.  The time I spent in the  company of these beautiful, amazing children remains one of the happiest memories of my life.

I will never forget the first morning of my arrival, when a little girl moved forward thru a group of shy giggling children to meet me and introduce herself.  It turned out to be a wonderfully bright little girl that had called me on the phone to visit on her own initiative prior to my visit.  Her last name was Brave, which seemed oh so appropriate!  We became fast friends, and remain so to this day, though it has been some time since we have seen each other.  Her life has been anything but a picnic, both in her preschool years before I met her and in the years since, in fact most of us would be unlikely to have survived it, and yet somehow she does, managing to do well in school despite countless moves in and out of various foster homes.  It is my dream to see her graduate from college some day, and I believe she will.

Then there was the painfully shy little boy who had experienced a bad dog bite injury to his hand. I had mailed him a TLC package of little toys, puzzles and such that could be enjoyed with one hand while the other was bandaged. When I arrived in his classroom that Spring, he spoke barely loud enough for me to hear, but we hit it off instantly and have remained close at heart.  The next Spring he wrote me in advance of my visit to invite me to sit with him at lunch the first day of my visit.  What a delightful and proud lunch date he was!  A few years later he was hospitalized with a diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, something very familiar to me as my daughter was diagnosed at age 12. I was able to share support, and encouragement to stick with his diet and shot regime,  and I sent him a large stuffed animal that he loved.

I could go on with more two or three dozen more examples like this, each child, each friend with their own special story and unique spirit, each one capturing their own special place in my heart then, and remaining there now.  The hearts of these children are amazing. They grow up in one of the poorest counties in the nation, food is in short supply in their homes, as is heat, adequate clothing, and all the other basic necessities we take for granted. Domestic violence, child abuse, sexual abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism and gang affiliation run rampant and effect nearly every family on the rez.  It's not easy for a child to grow and bloom.  It's not easy for a child to even survive there.  Unemployment is extremely high and jobs are nearly non-existent. The future holds little promise for those who choose to stay , rather than leaving the reservation for college and a life elsewhere. But for them, it is home and the only way of life they know, with strong cultural traditions and identity, and where family extends far beyond the boundaries defining it in other cultures.  

What amazed me most about these children was their resilience, their ability to laugh, love, learn, and hope, in the face of some horrific experiences.  Hardly a child there hasn't experienced several untimely deaths of relatives by they time they reach young adulthood, all too often thru violence, suicide, or alcohol related auto accidents.

The second thing that amazed me was their strong desire to give when they themselves had so very little.  They came bearing presents for me each time I visited, and sent them stuffed in envelopes with pencil scrawled letters... precious gifts, trinkets, some handmade, some treasured, such as the much loved/worn stuffed rabbit one little girl gave me that I took home and made the main character in letters and photos I sent her from there on, much to her delight. Some children brought beautiful beadwork and quillwork done by family members for me. One mother came to school with a beautiful star quilt she had made for me - a tradition Lakota gift of honoring.  The teachers and students worked together before my arrival to create a quilt formed of squares bearing the decorated handprints and names of each child.  It is amazing and crafted with so much love! All these gifts, large and small, I treasured and still have. Even more treasured are the memories of times shared, bright smiles, warm hugs, little hands holding onto mine and clinging to the edges of my jacket as we walked across the campus to lunch and to their school buses at the end of day. 

Now many of these children are completing the 9th grade this spring at Red Cloud and other schools across the reservation and state.  Some have fallen a year or two behind, lagging in their studies and struggling  to continue.  Some have dropped out altogether.  One has taken her life by suicide and several others have attempted the same. Within a year or two, there will be some who are pregnant, some who are gang members, and some who are addicted to alcohol or meth; some already are. I still  manage to keep in touch with a few thru Facebook and email that they access thru school computers and their phones, and for each of us, the memories of those early years and the times we shared remain precious and unforgettable. 

Someday I hope to take John back home to South Dakota to experience the Paha Sapa Wacipi (Black Hills PowWow) in the Fall, and to meet some of my friends, now nearly grown up.  I pray for these young people daily, for their safety and wellbeing, for their families, and for their futures.  I still struggle to understand why they should have to make do with so little in the midst of a nation that has so much.

T is for Terrifying


T is for Terrifying.  Nothing is more terrifying than a bad dream that awakens you in the middle of the night, shivering and shaken. The Monday Memories prompt for this week is to write about a dream or nightmare we remember. It's incredible how vivid the details of a dream can be and how well we remember them days, weeks, sometimes even years later.

When I was still living at home, my Mother had a nightmare about being in a horrible car accident with a couple who were their friends.  The following weekend, when they were supposed to go out with this couple for the evening, the friends arrived at our house dressed exactly as they were in her dream. She refused to go.  My father was furious with her, but I think I would have felt the same as she did.

One of the most terrifying nightmares I've had in  recent years occurred when I was living in an apartment on my own, prior to meeting my husband.  I dreamt that my daughter was dead and lying in a body bag on the floor in the doorway of the guest bedroom of my apartment.  It shook me so badly that I can still clearly recall every image and detail.  She was going thru a really hard time in her life right then, so I suppose my mind was reacting to my stress and worry. Still, I was glad to move away from that place, knowing that dream can never become a reality.

Like all of us, I've also had some interesting dreams... deja vu experiences where I dream something, and then as it happens in real life I recall dreaming that I said or did that exact thing! It's puzzling to say the least.  Some dreams repeat themselves over and over, especially if we are trying to work thru some situation in our lives. Over the years I've dreamt about a large house in great detail and in being there for various reasons, yet to the best of my knowledge I've never visited this house in real life and I don't know where it is.  I wonder if it really does exist somewhere, or if it's been entirely fabricated in my mind!

I love dreams where you find yourself meeting up with people you haven't seen in a long time, and it feels so very real when you wake up, as if you really did go for a visit. You wake up smiling and wishing that you would have remained asleep so you could have stayed wherever it was longer.  Dreams about meeting up with ex-spouses are not included in this group, those dreams usually fall into the category of nightmares. :-)

In contrast to terrifying dreams, are the wonderful ones we wish were real. It might be an amazing romantic encounter, a new job, or even possibly a visit from someone who has passed over into the spirit world.  I have had several dreams about my Grandma in recent years.  Although she lived well into her 90's, and that's the way I remember her best, in these dreams she is young, and beautiful and strong - the trait I always so admired in her - and she comes to comfort and encourage me.  She is always smiling and reassuring.  I wish I could capture her dream image in a picture to see how it compares to the photographs I have of her when she was young, and a widowed mother of four sons, raising them and running a farm on her own.  The lovely image of her in my dreams always fades immediately upon awakening and I can only remember how good it felt to see her again.

Dreams are obviously complex, the reasons behind them complicated and varied. Some we would like to erase from our minds if we could, some we treasure, but I will gladly endure the rare terrifying ones as a trade off for the delightful ones that leave me smiling whenever I think about them. How about you, have you had any good dreams lately?  Why don't you share them with us over at Monday Memories.  You can add a link there anytime this week!

S is for Sorry


This week's Write A Letter Wednesday prompt is to "write a letter of apology."  That ties in nicely with my "S" word for the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  What follows is an excerpt from a post I wrote back in October of 2007 - a series of  mini apology notes, some of them with a twist. Re-reading it four and a half years later, I realize that I was carrying a lot more guilt and resentment than I am now, although I will readily admit that some of the sentiments expressed still hold true. :-)

"What else can I say? All apologies..."

To my Creator... I am sorry that my faith is not as strong as it should be. I am sorry that I am sometimes unable to trust You when I am in pain.

To my Father... I am sorry that I disappointed you, and failed to live up to the person I could have been. I am sorry that you were never able to feel proud of who I am.

To my Mother... I am sorry that we never did find a way to really talk to each other, before it was too late to talk. I am sorry that you didn't understand my way of seeing and doing things.

To my Older Sister... I am sorry that I didn't stop you the first time you attacked me, before you went too far. I am sorry that you are hurting so much inside that you lash out at others.

To my Younger Sister... I am sorry that I ran away from home, and left you to handle the important years on your own. I am sorry that I too often still leave you to handle things alone.

To Tony... I am sorry that I didn't get to know you better. I think that we could have made amazing friends. I am sorry for the drugs and pain that took your life.

To Donny... I am sorry that I believed you. I am sorry that I was so desperate for love that I was willing to believe anything.

To My First Husband... I am sorry that you were hurt so badly as a child that you were emotionally damaged beyond repair. I am sorry that the first time you struck your daughter as a baby I didn't take her and run.

To my Second Husband... I am sorry that I ever married you in the first place, when deep down you really didn't want me, and I knew it. I am sorry that I didn't stop you from treating me the way you did.

To Kevin... I am sorry that I took advantage of your friendship and caring, and couldn't be what you wanted. I am sorry that the one time I asked for help that was easily within your means to provide, you refused me.

To Ken... I am sorry that I cared too much about you. I am sorry that I couldn't save you from yourself. I am sorry that I didn't realize at the time you were using me.

To Ricky... I am sorry that I didn't believe you when you said that I would always be #3 in your life. I am sorry that I couldn't find the way to make our marriage work. I am sorry that I still care for you after everything you did to me.

To My Daughter... I am sorry for for the father that abused you, and for the step-father that didn't believe you. I am sorry for not always being a mother that you could turn to when you most needed one. I am sorry that I can't find a way to take away your pain.

To My Son... I am sorry that I let you go live with your father, even though I thought it would be best for you. I'm sorry he lied to you about the reasons behind it. I am sorry that you didn't
 to experience what it was like to grow up in a stable, happy home. I am sorry that I don't get to see you more often now.

To Sidekick... I am sorry that no matter how hard I tried to get along, you tried harder to cause me problems. I am sorry, sometimes, that I didn't smack you the first time... that would have resolved things one way or another. I am sorry for whatever pain makes you act this way.

To The Children In Dakota I Love... I am sorry that I couldn't be there for you, I know you needed me. I am sorry your lives have to be so difficult, and sometimes so cruel. I am sorry that I can't steal you all away.


To Old Friends... I am sorry that it seems like I have walked away from you. You are never far from my heart. I wish you could understand that I am doing all I can do right now, and I wish that I had more time to spend keeping up with you.

To New Friends... I am sorry that my days aren't longer and my energy isn't stronger. If I could have a magic power, it would be to stay in touch with each of you every single day. I am sorry that sometimes I seem indifferent to your needs. In many ways you are my salvation.

To One Who Cares... I am sorry that I sometimes let my fears and insecurities overtake me. I am sorry that you didn't come into my life fifteen years ago.

To Myself... I am sorry that I don't take better care of you. I am sorry that I didn't choose a path that would let your full potential shine. I am sorry that I have made it so difficult for you to survive... but, most days, I am glad that you are still alive!

R is for Respect


In the A-Z Blogging Challenge, R is for Respect. (R is also for being really behind in my A-Z posts now! I didn't get much writing done this weekend. But who knows, I may be able to finish the Challenge in time yet, if I don't get too wordy... figure the odds on that! :-)

Respect is an essential ingredient not only in our relationships with others, but in our opinion of ourselves.   If we buy into the negative messages about ourselves we sometimes receive growing up or in current relationships, it is easy to lose our sense of self-respect and self-worth. When that happens, we tend to live down to opinion those other folks have of us. We forget to listen to the small voice within us that says we are of value and we are worthy.

Respect for others, especially those we have relationships of one kind or another with, makes all the difference in the world regarding how we respond to them, and how we perform.  If we respect them, we tend to rise to the example they are setting for us.  We work harder to be like them, and to please them and ourselves. If we don't respect them, it is hard to care about our effort and response.

In all relationships and situations, repect must be earned. It doesn't come with a job title, or a wedding ring, or a parental role. It cannot be bought or bartered for.  I can command  you to obey me, but I cannot command your respect,  I must earn it thru my conduct.  I like that about respect, because it doesn't always come easy.  Sometimes we have to strive to reach a place where we can like and respect ourselves, and they in turn have to strive in their lives to be someone worthy of repect. 

Respect is also incredibly fragile, easil broken, and very hard to restore.  Once our faith in someone's respectability and trustworthiness has been shattered, it will take a great deal of time and effort on their part to gain it back, if it is even possible.  Often it is not.

Sadly, when people have been thus burned, they tend to lose their ability to trust others as well.  I once had a spouse who had a lot of baggage from a previous relationship in which his spouse had proven unfaithful.  He told me that if I remained faithful for seven years he would begin to trust that I, as a woman, could be trusted.  I did remain faithful and worthy of his trust for all those years and more, but he was never able to free himself from the belief that I might change at any moment into someone deceitful, therefore I was always under suspcion.  I realized at some point that no matter what I did or didn't do, he would never fully trust me.

I have learned thru the years that we can't always trust the promises people make to us.  They change, and situations change.  Even promises made with the best of intent cannot always be honored.  So we need to learn two things... the first one is to allow for a little flexibility in ourselves and in others, but that doesn't mean making allowance for gross misconduct issues.  The second lessons is that we need to take care is what we purport ourselves to represent and in what promises we make to others.  Be yourself, and not someone of your creation, disguises can become a heavy burden to carry later on.  Promise less than you think you can accomplish. People will be pleasantly surprised when you come thru with more!  Additionally, be careful to overextend yourself trying to do too many things and be too many things for too  many people.  You can't care for everyone, you can't support everyone, you can't fix everyone's problems... but you can certainly wear yourself out trying!

The first rule of respect is to be yourself and to practice the Golden Rule without fail... treat other people as you would like to be treated, and you will most likely earn their respect.  Adding on to that, treat yourself the way you deserve to be treated... as a precious and beautiful creation, worthy of love and tender care!  I liked the image at the beginning of this post, the Respect sign pointing upward, because it's true... if you conduct yourself respectfully, it will not only raise you up, but it will uplift others too.  Upward is a great way to go!

Q is for Question


Did you ever have one of those days when you question everything... every decision you've ever made and everything you're doing now?  I had one of those this past week.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.  The good news is, that the next day life looks better again.   We have to take care not to let the "little picture" of what's happening in the moment overshadow the "big picture" of our life.  It was just a temporary loss of perspective.

P is for Peter Cottontail


P is for Peter Cottontail.  Do you recall the song "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" from your childhood? I  remember the bright yellow 78rpm recording of that song that my Dad brought home for us when he purchased the first "Hi-Fi" stereo for our family. I was about five at the time.  We must have played it a hundred times in those first few days, memorizing the words so well that they are still stored away in my head! 

The Write A Letter Wednesday directive this week was to "write a letter to an imaginary character or friend, or to the person who brought this mythical character to life and made us believe."  This letter is in memory of my Mom who made Peter Cottontail and Easter so much fun that it became a tradition we carried on with our own children.

Dear Mom,

It's Easter weekend and I am missing you... 

I miss coloring hard-boiled eggs in cups of dye at the kitchen table, you overlooking our mess and always assuring us our creations were beautiful... even the ugly brown egg my big sister had to make every year by dipping an egg in every cup of dye!  Indeed they did look pretty in their basket of green shredded cellophane grass.

I miss digging into the box of holiday decorations in the storage to find our Easter baskets, the same ones we used year after year, and filling them with new "grass". Leaving them out in excitement and the belief that the Easter Bunny would indeed stop by and fill them with candy, chocolate rabbits, small toys and jewelry while we were fast asleep.

Most fun of all was waking up on Easter morning to find a trail of handwritten clues, a set for each of us, that led us clue by clue on a treasure hunt around the house, upstairs and downstairs, until we reached the final clue pointing us to where our Easter basket was hidden.  The clues often took the form of silly rhymes that make me smile even now, such as "The bunny backed into the heater and there he burned his little seater" (leading to the next clue to be found taped to the water heater in the basement). Only when my own children were growing up and I spent the nights before Easter carefully thinking up and hand-printing clues for their Easter hunt, did I realize how much work and love you put into them!

Easter morning arrived with we three girls scampering thru the house, squealing as we spotter our next clue, and stopping to help our little sister decipher hers.  Cheers of delight, "I found mine - I found mine," soon followed!  You always had our baskets done up so beautifully!!  I wish I had pictures of them now. Maybe some still exist in the boxes of old photos that my little sister is waiting for me to come and collect.

Breakfast, intermixed with candy and bites of chocolate bunny ears, was soon followed by getting ready for church.  You always made sure we each had a lovely new Easter dress, a new pair of spring dress shoes, and a new spring coat to wear. Sometimes there were lace gloves and Easter bonnets as well. I realize how lucky we were compared to what some of the other kids had.  Some years when we were small we had matching dresses. I remember the year we had polka-dot ones, and your dress matched ours. How special we felt, how proud we were to look just like Mom!

After church it was off on the long drive (or so it seemed at that age) to one of our relatives houses where we would share a big dinner, men being served first in the German farm tradition, and then quickly change from our dresses into play clothes along with our cousins, so we could spend the afternoon outside at the farm before heading home again at suppertime. 

I find myself wondering now if you would have preferred spending more holidays with members of your family instead of dad's, though I'm sure you had little choice in the matter.  Was it fun for you, or was it just something to get thru, something expected of you? I remember discussions in the car on the way home about some of the petty remarks and comments made. I think you often felt insecure or left out, and that the other aunts were a bit jealous that dad had done well financially.  Life wasn't all roses for you by a landslide, and I know that each of us inherited some of your insecurity and social anxiety.

I know that Easter, all the holidays, were a lot of work for you, I know they were also a labor of love. Not every family remembers birthdays and holidays as special events. It wasn't that a lot of money was spent, Dad would have frowned on that. It was that you took time to do the special things, like the treasure hunt four our baskets, that made us eagerly anticipate the next year, a tradition you continued long after we knew that the Easter Bunny wore a kitchen apron most days, and hand handwriting that looked a lot like yours. :-)

I wonder now, if it pleased you when we grew up and continued the tradition of Easter Basket hunts with our own children, making another generation of happy memories that our kids still talk about, and will likely pass on if/when they have children of their own.  My daughter even used to make Easter treasure hunts for her now ex-husband, using a shiny new tackle box or tool box for his basket and filling it with goodies such as fishing lures, golf balls, and gift cards, along with an assortment of candy. He loved it, and even wore the large bunny foot slippers she provided for the hunt! :-))  I'm sure she is remembering that too, a memory now tinged with sadness. I hope that You and Dad are watching over her and maybe pointing some wonderful new guy in her direction.  She really needs a bit of Easter joy this season, Mom. 

In closing, I just wanted to say thank you now for all the times you made special in our lives, for all the extra efforts you made, above and beyond seeing that we were taken care of... and for all the times I didn't say thank you, and didn't realize how hard you tried. Early tomorrow morning, the Peter Cottontail song will probably be running thru my head as I lay there on my pillow remembering and smiling, and there just might be a chocolate bunny hiding somewhere around the house waiting for John to find it!

Love always and forever,

Your middle child

O is for Oatmeal, Onions, and Oranges


O is my next letter in the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  O is also for "Oh dear, this week got totally away from me, and now I have a lot of catching up to do!"   The Monday Memories assignment this week was to write about a shopping experience from the past...

Shopping was much different back when I was a girl growing up in a small town in the  Midwest fifty some years ago.  There were no malls or superstores at that time, at least not in those parts.  Our town had an old-fashioned mainstreet with stores that looked very much like the one above... a  bakery, a butcher shop, and a couple each of grocery stores, drug stores, five and dime stores, hardware stores, drygoods stores, clothing stores, furniture store/mortuaries, cafes and bars.  One could find pretty much everything needed for day to day life.

Growing up in rural America was fairly safe for kids back then, and we were free to roam the town on foot or bicycle when we weren't in school, as long as we showed up at the appointed times for dinner (as lunch was called), supper, and bedtime, and had completed our assigned chores.

I have wonderful memories of walking to the dime store with my allowance, which was not more than a quarter, or 50 cents as I grew older, and shopping to my heart's content thru toys, craft supplies, a huge variety of penny candy, and candy bars much larger than today's for just a nickel.  It was also where we purchased birthday gifts and Mother's day gifts, tried on summer flip-flops from a giant bin, and bought our school supplies in the fall.

Mom bought groceries once a week at the local Red Owl grocery.  We were well fed on about thirty five dollars a week, in addition to meat being purchased in quantity for our deepfreeze, and milk being delivered to the doorstep twice a week in glass bottles.  There were no plastic shopping bags to blight the local landscape.  Groceries were packed in boxes that the goods had arrived in at the store, and later on in brown paper shopping bags that sometimes broke thru on the bottom if packed too full!  As I grew older, Mom would often send me to the Red Owl on my bicycle to obtain some item needed for baking or supper.  With sidebaskets on my bike I could carry quite a bit and make the round trip in no time!

My favorite shopping memory from my childhood was at Christmas time. The stores would stay open in the evenings for Christmas shopping. All the shops were decorated and colored lights were strung across the mainstreet in several rows.  Crunching thru the snow, my breath freezing in mid-air, it was a magical time to look for just the right gift for each family member to be purchased from the small stash of money I'd managed to save up and Dad had supplemented a bit.

When we reached our early teens, a larger city about an hour's drive away got the first shopping mall.  It consisted of one large store and maybe five or six small ones, but we thought we'd hit the big time when we got to go there!  An out of town shopping trip usually included a stop at the German Meat Market, where we'd buy old-fashioned  handmade weiners that came attached to each other in a long string and tasted so good that we would often eat one or two "uncooked" on the way home!

A couple years later I discovered the tiny treasure of a bookstore tucked away near the end of Main Street in the city. Reading had always been my passion, and it was love at first sight!  No large chain bookstore will ever be able to compete with the magic of that little shop, books cleverly displayed to catch your attention. I can close my eyes, step thru the door, and remember it in exact detail!  I did a lot of babysitting back then, so always had money for few new books.  I still have some of the ones I purchased there.

Life was so much simpler back then... not always easy, but not nearly as complicated, busy, or risky as it is for children growing up now.  I think we lost something good along the way.

N is for Nutty


This post marks the second half of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge and I'm rolling right along. It keeps me motivated to write something, and surprisingly I don't have much trouble coming up with a topic for the letter of the day. 

N is for nutty... cuz that's how I am... a little nuts, or at least a little absent-minded for sure. I thought I'd lighten things up a bit after my last couple posts and write a post about a few of the nutty things I've done that have given my husband and friends good reason to laugh, and I have to agree with them.  Sometimes I worry about myself, and what I will be like in my 70s if I've already lost it this badly in my 50s! :-)


Case of the Missing Keys:
We stay up fairly late in the evenings, since we don't get home until late from work, so I have my morning routine down to getting up with just enough time to shower, dress, feed the cats, and head out the door in time to get to work. Any major delays will make me late. 

One morning dressed and ready to go, I picked up my car keys and purse from the counter, stopped to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and headed for the door. As I stepped outside and turned to lock the deadbolt I realized that I no longer had my key ring.  Thinking it must have slipped out of my hand, I came back inside and checked the hallways floor, and then the kitchen floor.  No keys.

I checked the counter, then my pockets, and ... growing ever more frantic, the various compartments of my purse. No keys!  This is a fairly large ring of keys and not that easy to overlook.  I was totally puzzled and growing frazzled as the clock ticked.  I was about 99% sure I had picked them  up off the counter originally, so I tried to retrace my footsteps mentally.  Then a possibility dawned  on me... I opened the refrigerator door, and sitting on the shelf next to the bottles of water bound together in their plastic ring sat my car keys!  Obviously when I stopped to pull a bottle of water loose from the pack, I had set the keys down so I could use both hands.  Case solved, pounding head on fridge door for being so absent-minded!

Case of the Missing Cellphone:
One Saturday afternoon I was at home waiting for my husband to return from work. I wanted to check my text messages but was unable to locate my cellphone. Usually I keep it close at hand, but on this afternoon I wasn't able to find it anywhere.  After searching for a bit, I hit upon an idea, and using the house land line telephone, I called my husband at work and asked him to call my cellphone so I could here it ringing and locate it.  He did so, but pointed out laughingly that I could just as easily have called it myself using the land line phone I had just used to call his cellphone.  Hmmmm, why didn't I think of that? 

Case of the Misplaced Truck:
Last June found us on the road headed for the Paluxy River and a cabin I had rented for long weekend as a birthday gift to my husband.  Stopping at a small town convenience store enroute for snacks and a restroom break, my husband headed back out to his big white Ford truck.  After finishing my snack purchase I followed out the door, headed over to the white vehicle, and reached to open the passenger door.  It was locked.  Thinking that he was being funny, I looked up expecting to see him laughing.  Instead, I found myself looking straight into the face of a confused and somewhat bemused lady, and only then did I realize that it wasn't our vehicle at all, but instead a white SUV. 

I slunk away behind her vehicle, thankful that the door had been locked or I most certainly would have climbed in beside her! I was hoping my husband had missed this embarrassing moment, but no such luck.  By the time I got to our truck, which was actually parked at the opposite end of the row, he was laughing his head off.  As I climbed in red faced, he told me the lady in the SUV had looked over at him as I was attempting to enter her vehicle and he had just smiled and shrugged at her as if to say, "I'm sorry, they let her out of the home for a visit today!"  We laughed at my case of mistaken  identity for the next fifty miles.  I'm sure the lady had a great story to share with her family as well, about some crazy woman who tried to get in her vehicle at the convenience store!

Case of the Wrong Curbside Service:
I would like to be able to say that was the only time I've misplaced our truck, but far from it.  One time John was waiting for me in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. I had stayed behind waiting for take-out cups for our iced tea.  Arriving at the truck, I reached thru the open passenger window and handed one cup of to him as I usually do, so that I can climb in with the other. 

I looked up to see an unknown male driver smiling broadly as he said to me, "Well thank you Ma'am!"  Ooops! Not for you, sorry!  Once again I slithered back to our own truck in embarassment to the laughter of my bemused husband.  He has come to expect such antics from me. 

I really do need to learn to pay more attention to details... like what our truck looks like! It actually has a white custom painted grill guard unlike most, a black rolltop bedcover, and a Masonic emblem on the hitch cover, so it's not all that hard to identify!  I just tend to live in my own little world, happily oblivious to all that goes on around me. 

Some people would say that I'm a little nutty... and they are probably right, but I'm basically harmless!  :-)

M is for Mirror


This week's Write A Letter Wednesday challenge was to write a letter to the person we see in the mirror, or the person we'd like to see or wish that others saw. So this post is not only for letter M in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, it is also for Write A Letter Wednesday. WALW is one my creative writing pages, and I'd love it if you'd stop over and add a letter of your own.  It can be a letter to anyone or anything, and it doesn't have to be posted on Wednesday! How's that for flexibility? :-)


Dear Lady In My Mirror,

I stare at your face looking back at me in the mirror. Who is this old woman with the white streaks in her hair and eye-lids drooping down a bit at the corners?  Your eyes look puzzled, as if you cannot recognize the image reflected back at you, yet you should know her well.  Fifty seven long years you have lived inside her skin, felt her grow and change, fought with her and against her thru good times and bad, followed her thru countless adventures in many places and encounters with endless people, and yet in some ways she remains an enigma to you, and to many folks it seems. 

I've seen you struggle to try to define her, to explain her, and even to conform her to what the world expects her to be, all without a great measure of success.  You are one of the different ones, aren't you?  One from another tribe of misfits, not content to move along with the flow of things, always questioning, sometimes rebelling, sometimes reeling from the sting of defeat. 

If I were to choose words to describe your life now, I would have to say first of all - loved, and that's a rare and wonderful experience for you! It has been so good to see you laugh, and love, and trust again - to truly feel alive!  Secondly, I would say you are for the most part content, certainly more content than you've ever been before with your life.  You love being at home with your husband.  Your furkids and your laptop are your only other constant companions - except when you are at work. 

Work is another story. You seem destined to never find a job that you truly love, that fits you, that makes you want to come to work each day.  What you are assigned to do, you do well, or at least as well as you can. You're an organizer and a team player and your do everything you can to help out.  But deep inside you know this not really what you should be doing, could be doing, with your life.  There were other dreams once long ago, and every now and then you wonder what would have happened if you would have chosen a different path, rather than the one you did.  Would it have been any easier? Would you feel more fulfilled?  Would you possibly even be retired by now, as some of your friends are?  You know that is not to be. I hear your sigh of resignation, it will always be necessary for you to work in order to live. 

Your eyes look tired, they often do.  You feel tired more often than you don't, right? And you know a large part of that is your lack of effort in maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise.  Instead, you sit at an office desk for nine straight hours most days, getting up only for a trip down the hall or to the filing closet.  And at night you collapse onto the sofa next to your husband, weary from a day of constant push and focus, and having little desire to move except toward bed a few hours later.

It's Springtime now, how I'd like to see you find the motivation to get out there and start doing more, get active, re-energize, and make a real attempt at eating more healthy home-prepared foods.  Not only would you feel a whole lot better if you looked better, but you  might live longer with less complications too. Your Dad spoke of that often in his last years.  Remember how he regretted not having taken better care of himself? 

I know you feel overwhelmed most days by the tasks and responsibilities required just to maintain your simple life and work routines.  I know you struggle to deal with the unfairness of situations in your life and in the lives of others you care about, over which you have little or no control.  You're doing better at learning to let go, to just live in the moment, but you still need to let go of more stress if you want that stomach to stop hurting by the end of the day. Prilosec can only do so much!

I'm so glad you've learned that life won't end if the dirty dishes sit a bit, or laundry doesn't all get done at once. You used to be just plain anal about keeping everything cleaned and polished as your mother did, but she had all day at home to do it, and you don't! Most days you're away from home for more than ten hours!  While tasks do need to be accomplished, and you do have a tendency to procrastinate, you also need to know when to pamper yourself and ignore the dust!  I'm glad you've got Saturday's to do this now.  You need your quiet time, your alone time, to read and write and think! Along with your passion for writing and blogging, you need to make some time in your life again for reading and craftwork.  I know you  miss curling up with a good book, and I remember how relaxing and therapeutic you used to find cross-stitch and crochet. I'd still like to see you attempt quilt-making some day too!

What I want to say to you most of all, lady in my mirror, is that you've done pretty good in life.  No, it's not what  you thought it would be, nobody's life really turns out as they expect it will.  But you've lived a full life, with all kinds of experiences that most folks will never know.  You've raised two amazing children in the midst of chaotic marriages, and you've been blessed with a wonderful man to keep you company in this stage of your life.  I know you aren't all you wish you were, I know you struggle to live according to what you believe, I know you're never satisfied that you've done good enough, but in truth you've done pretty darn good! 

Smile at your reflection in the mirror now and then.  In fact you should smile more all the time! Think of all the good times, the magic times, the fun times, the crazy times, and the times when you realized just how blessed you really are.  Smile in the knowledge that you're not really as crazy as some folks might believe, or maybe that you are!  Ha, I knew that would make you laugh! We'll just keep that our little secret.

Love yourself,

Josie

To The Lady in My Mirror


Dear Lady In My Mirror,

I stare at your face looking back at me in the mirror. Who is this old woman with the white streaks in her hair and eye-lids drooping down a bit at the corners?  Your eyes look puzzled, as if you cannot recognize the image reflected back at you, yet you should know her well.  Fifty seven long years you have lived inside her skin, felt her grow and change, fought with her and against her thru good times and bad, followed her thru countless adventures in many places and encounters with endless people, and yet in some ways she remains an enigma to you, and to many folks it seems. 

I've seen you struggle to try to define her, to explain her, and even to conform her to what the world expects her to be, all without a great measure of success.  You are one of the different ones, aren't you?  One from another tribe of misfits, not content to move along with the flow of things, always questioning, sometimes rebelling, sometimes reeling from the sting of defeat. 

If I were to choose words to describe your life now, I would have to say first of all - loved, and that's a rare and wonderful experience for you! It has been so good to see you laugh, and love, and trust again - to truly feel alive!  Secondly, I would say you are for the most part content, certainly more content than you've ever been before with your life.  You love being at home with your husband.  Your furkids and your laptop are your only other constant companions - except when you are at work. 

Work is another story. You seem destined to never find a job that you truly love, that fits you, that makes you want to come to work each day.  What you are assigned to do, you do well, or at least as well as you can. You're an organizer and a team player and your do everything you can to help out.  But deep inside you know this not really what you should be doing, could be doing, with your life.  There were other dreams once long ago, and every now and then you wonder what would have happened if you would have chosen a different path, rather than the one you did.  Would it have been any easier? Would you feel more fulfilled?  Would you possibly even be retired by now, as some of your friends are?  You know that is not to be. I hear your sigh of resignation, it will always be necessary for you to work in order to live. 

Your eyes look tired, they often do.  You feel tired more often than you don't, right? And you know a large part of that is your lack of effort in maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise.  Instead, you sit at an office desk for nine straight hours most days, getting up only for a trip down the hall or to the filing closet.  And at night you collapse onto the sofa next to your husband, weary from a day of constant push and focus, and having little desire to move except toward bed a few hours later.

It's Springtime now, how I'd like to see you find the motivation to get out there and start doing more, get active, re-energize, and make a real attempt at eating more healthy home-prepared foods.  Not only would you feel a whole lot better if you looked better, but you  might live longer with less complications too. Your Dad spoke of that often in his last years.  Remember how he regretted not having taken better care of himself? 

I know you feel overwhelmed most days by the tasks and responsibilities required just to maintain your simple life and work routines.  I know you struggle to deal with the unfairness of situations in your life and in the lives of others you care about, over which you have little or no control.  You're doing better at learning to let go, to just live in the moment, but you still need to let go of more stress if you want that stomach to stop hurting by the end of the day. Prilosec can only do so much!

I'm so glad you've learned that life won't end if the dirty dishes sit a bit, or laundry doesn't all get done at once. You used to be just plain anal about keeping everything cleaned and polished as your mother did, but she had all day at home to do it, and you don't! Most days you're away from home for more than ten hours!  While tasks do need to be accomplished, and you do have a tendency to procrastinate, you also need to know when to pamper yourself and ignore the dust!  I'm glad you've got Saturday's to do this now.  You need your quiet time, your alone time, to read and write and think! Along with your passion for writing and blogging, you need to make some time in your life again for reading and craftwork.  I know you  miss curling up with a good book, and I remember how relaxing and therapeutic you used to find cross-stitch and crochet. I'd still like to see you attempt quilt-making some day too!

What I want to say to you most of all, lady in my mirror, is that you've done pretty good in life.  No, it's not what  you thought it would be, nobody's life really turns out as they expect it will.  But you've lived a full life, with all kinds of experiences that most folks will never know.  You've raised two amazing children in the midst of chaotic marriages, and you've been blessed with a wonderful man to keep you company in this stage of your life.  I know you aren't all you wish you were, I know you struggle to live according to what you believe, I know you're never satisfied that you've done good enough, but in truth you've done pretty darn good! 

Smile at your reflection in the mirror now and then.  In fact you should smile more all the time! Think of all the good times, the magic times, the fun times, the crazy times, and the times when you realized just how blessed you really are.  Smile in the knowledge that you're not really as crazy as some folks might believe, or maybe that you are!  Ha, I knew that would make you laugh! We'll just keep that our little secret.

Love yourself,

Josie

L is for Life


For thirty five years, thru change after change in my life, I've managed to hang on to a small piece of jagged granite on which is inscribed... "Life is not a  problem to solve, it is a mystery to experience."  It sums up what I've learned in over a half-century of living. 

In my younger adult years as a parent, life was about the daily struggles of raising children and trying to provide for them, and work full-time while doing it.  There wasn't a lot of time or leftover energy to ponder the meaning or purpose of life, while making sure the kids had food and a decent place to live, and did well in school.  When you have children, parenting is, or should be, your number one priority.  (A lot of young folks have missed that message today, and are so busy focusing on their own lives that their kids are pretty much raising themselves.)

Sad to say, much of my energy for living, up until the last four years, was also taken up with trying to make various marriages work, having made very poor choices in partners.  I have said often that I count myself as a survivor of those relationships, and I celebrate my birthdays as such... as another year when life didn't get the best of me!  It's been hard, really hard, at times.  Still, the magic and wonder of human existence hasn't escaped me along the way.

I used to believe that life was all about solving the problems, climbing the mountains, crossing the valleys, and acquiring knowledge. Much like running the good race, and hoping to make it to the finish line in best form to win the prize. I don't believe that anymore. 

Of course we are here to learn along the way, hopefully we pick up some bits of wisdom in the course of years,  probably more from our mistakes than our successes. We learn what works best for us and what doesn't work, and we learn a bit about human nature and interacting with other folks.  But it isn't all about the learning process.  Some folks get too focused on the process and forget about the bigger picture... the experience!  It's kind of like looking at a rainbow and examining the arc and intensity of each color band, but never noticing how it all comes together to create a breathtakingly beautiful arch across the sky, often after the darkest thunderstorm. 

The various pieces of our lives, when looked at in perspective, fit together like the pieces of a crazy-quilt to create a unique picture of of strength and beauty.  Sometimes it's almost magical how weird jagged shapes fit into the next piece just perfectly, better than we could ever anticipate.  Much like what life bring us next!

In the last ten years or so, long after the kids were grown and out on their own, and the striving to earn more and acquire more stuff had lost it's attraction, it began to dawn on me that the real purpose and meaning of life... the real place where joy is to be found... is in helping others.  In reaching out with a friendly smile, or a hug, or a cheerful comment, or to lend a hand.  Finally it became clear that nothing else in life is really all that important. Things come and go, and all that we hold dear can disappear from our lives in an instant. What lasts is the good feeling that comes in knowing we made someone else's life just a bit easier or brighter, if even for a moment.  That's the life I want to live, and it's the legacy I want to leave behind. 

Much about life remains a mystery.  We do not know all the answers - why things happen as they do, or what comes after. But I do know with certainty that life is about learning to view the bigger picture, about treasuring the experience, and about realizing that we are all interconnected... all family... here to help each other along the way. Join me on the journey... reach out to someone and let them know you care!

K is for Kittens

If C is for Cat in the great A-Z Blogging Challenge,  it follows that K must be for Kittens!  It's time for a final update on our litter of kittens who are six weeks old today! Here's how they looked the day they were born...


Daisy, their mama, is a young rescue kitty.  She's surprised us with her excellent parenting skills. As you can see in the photos below, she's done a wonderful job, and all six babies have grown into bright-eyed, healthy little fluffballs!


Their mama has weaned them now, and they've taken to solid food like ducks to water. I don't have to call them twice when I put their dinner down on the floor!


They also began using the litter box the very first day I put a low one next to the big one and their Mama showed them what to do with it. Kittens are so much easier to potty train than puppies, in fact they are pretty much self-training! 


We've spent countless hours cuddling and petting them, and watching them play. They are well-socialized and trust us, so they come running up to us the minute we enter their room.


Very soon four of them will be adopted into loving homes, and they'll do well with their new families.  We're going to keep a couple of our favorites.  Daisy will be be spayed, as will the females we keep as soon as they are old enough. 


Having these adorable babies share our lives for these past weeks has given us so much joy, and we look forward to long, loving relationships with the keepers in the years ahead.  


The little tortoise shell girl above is the one I'm keeping. I've named her Gracie. She is small, shy, beautiful, and so very sweet!


At the moment, the orange tabby that John has named Tiggy after her dad, is snuggled up next to him in the recliner, and they are both fast asleep. I wish life could always stay this simple and beautiful!

J is for Just Do It!


Nearly everyone is familiar with Nike's "Just Do It" slogan. Their massive advertising campaigns have promoted it so successfully that it has become a common household expression epitomizing the desire, energy, and drive to make a move in life, to stop making excuses, to stop talking about it, and just DO IT!  That hasn't been an easy concept for me to assimilate in my life.

I was raised under the conservative parental banner of Don't Do It... Don't do that, you might get hurt... Don't do that or you'll be sorry... Don't get involved with that, it's none of your business... Don't try that, it's too difficult. The unspoken but none the less clear message between the lines was "Don't do it, you can't handle it" (translation - you aren't smart enough, fast enough, pretty enough, capable enough, mature enough... not good enough.

The effect of such programming is to grow up with little or no self-confidence, lacking not in ability but in belief in oneself... fearful to try, to participate, to get involved, to take a stand. Programmed to fail before you've even begun.  How sad.... but not hopeless.  We do not have to accept the negative messages we've been raised with as a death sentence.  Let me restate that so everyone got it, because I am tired of hearing people use their childhood experiences as an excuse for their failed adult lives...  WE DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT THE NEGATIVE MESSAGES WE'VE BEEN RAISED WITH - OR LIVED WITH IN THE PAST - AS THE TRUTH FOR OUR LIVES NOW!  We can replace the "I am not" and "I cannot" message tapes that play in our heads with "I am" and "I can!"  We can learn to believe in ourselves. We can learn to live a life of dignity and self-respect.

But, as the slogan says, it is not enough to hope, or to believe.  Wants and wishes will get us nowhere.  I can spend my whole life dreaming of becoming all that I'd like to be, of learning things I'd like to learn, of experiencing things I'd like to experience, or...  I can make a plan and JUST DO IT!   That's the key, the point that separates the dreamers from the doers... the inner desire and determination to make it happen, the willingness to take the first step instead of making a million excuses for why we can't do it - at least not yet, or shouldn't, or whatever.  Just Do It! 

Sometimes we have to just take a first step of faith and leap into life!  Sure, it's a risk, everything involves taking risk, breathing the air is a risk!  But the alternative is to die never having really lived at all.  Join me in learning to take first steps, and sometimes leaps of faith, into living a life of  purpose and meaning... and joy!  (And if your in a situation where you are bombarded by negative messages on a regular basis... find a way out!)  Stop waiting until all possible obstacles and objections have been overcome, and JUST DO IT!  I promise you'll be glad you did!

(Note: This post was written for the letter J in the awesome A-Z Blogging Challenge. We're having a great time blogging our way thru the alphabet this month! Click on the navigation buttons at the top of my sidebar to read what some other bloggers had to say about the letter J.)

I is for Irritation.... and IHOP


I had another I-word in mind for today's A-Z Blogging Challenge post, but sometimes the events of the day produce other inspirations - or irritations as the case may be.

Most of you can probably identify the food item pictured above as a "patty melt", basically a hamburger with grilled onions and American or Swiss cheese, served on grill-toasted rye bread. It's not fancy fare, and certainly doesn't fall into the category of health food - or anywhere near it, but as some of my long-time readers know, ordering a patty melt at IHOP (or International House of Pancakes as it was previously known) is a long-standing tradition of mine... and it tastes good! (Well, usually, but I'll get back to that shortly.)

Several years ago, my ex-husband, who played the drums in a rock-n-roll band, usually had band practice on Monday nights.  Sometimes it was held at a bandmate's home, but most often at ours, which meant the floors and walls shook with the loud reverberation from multiple amplifiers. Either way, it meant it was a great night for me to take a book and treat myself to a blissfully quiet supper in town.  The local IHOP became my place of choice, as they would happily seat me off in a corner where I could leisurely eat with one hand, sip iced tea, and flip the pages of my book with the other, long before the days of Kindle.  I am a creature of habit and routine; when I like a menu item at a restaurant, I tend to order it repetitively.  Boring, I know... maybe I like the lack of surprise, or the comfort of familiarity, or maybe I'm just not all that adventurous. :-)

So anyway, it became my routine to spend Monday evenings at IHOP dining on a patty melt that looks much like the above.  I always specify Swiss cheese instead of American cheese, and no seasoning on the fries, as I don't care for their blended seasoning, preferring to lightly salt my fries when they are served.  I order it this way every time I go.  I would sit there eating and reading, and often dreaming and longing for another life, and a partner who would want to share evenings with me, one who would not have a rock band as a mistress that consumed all of his time and interest. 

As our relationship turned dark, I spent my IHOP nights longing for escape, for freedom from the misery our marriage had become, and for a place of my own.  A couple years down the road that finally became a reality when, with the help and support of my daughter and then son-in-law, I left him and moved into town and an apartment of my own.   From that time on, IHOP night became a time of thankfulness, of remembering what I'd come from. I didn't have to dread going home after dinner anymore.

Fast forward to my meeting John and our subsequent marriage.  Not too many months later I found myself living in a city in west Texas with a husband who prefers to spend his time with me, and we nearly always eat supper together.  John is a Freemason, and a Past-Master of his Masonic Lodge.  This means he attends various lodge meetings,  typically about three times a month.  On those nights, I have continued my tradition of visiting the IHOP here to enjoy a patty melt and iced tea while reading or playing on my iPhone, and reflecting on how much my life has changed for the better.  John will call me at work to remind me of his meeting and I"ll laugh and respond "patty melt"!  Then he laughs, and tells me I'm a member of the "IHOP Lodge". True!  :-)

Our local IHOP leaves a bit to be desired in decor, service, food quality, and overall management.  It doesn't begin to compare to the one where I lived  previously, but it's more about the pleasure of carrying on the tradition... and I enjoy patty melts!  So a couple times a month you will find me seated there, patiently enduring service from a staff of frequently changing faces.  Recently they underwent a change of management, and a major remodel.  At first things looked promising and the atmosphere was certainly more cheerful.

The last time I went, I noticed that the size of the hamburger in my patty melt was a bit smaller, but downsizing while increasing prices is the name of the game in the restaurant world, and I didn't make a fuss. This isn't high-class cuisine and I'm not a demanding person. 

Tonight was another story.  I was seated promptly, and placed my usual order with a polite young waitress.  The restaurant was barely occupied so I anticipated reasonably quick service.  It took awhile longer than usual for my food to arrive, but at first glance it appeared ok.  Lifting the sandwich for the first bite, I noted that the burger inside was now covering less than  half the surface of the bread. Geesh (think sliders)! I ate a couple bites and realized it tasted bland. The reason was soon obvious, it completely lacked grilled onions... they were non-existent. 

I nicely requested that the waitress ask the manager to come to my table.  He looked to be in his early 30's, if that.  I lifted the toasted bread to show him the lack of onions and also noted that I thought the hamburger should be reasonably larger.  He agreed and took it back to the kitchen for a re-order.  This generally scares me, since in complaining you are inviting retaliation by a minimum-wage frycook, but I hoped for the best.

Nearly 25 minutes later, by which time my stomach was growling and I was becoming annoyed, the waitress finally returned with my replacement meal.  The "grilled" rye bread was barely toasted and pale, and upon inspection there was once again NO ONIONS!  Now I'm pissed!!  I also noted that it had first been covered with American cheese, which had been apparently scraped off and replaced with a piece of unmelted Swiss cheese.  The burger was not one bit larger than the first one.  We're talking a bread sandwich with a few bites of burger at best.  Grrrrr!  

I again requested the manager while still being polite, as I didn't see any of this as the waitress's fault and I detest people who take their frustrations out on innocent waitstaff.  He comes to my booth and I point out that the new sandwich which has just now finally arrived at my table looks exactly like the last one, including the lack of grilled onions.  I inform him that I have been there over 45 minutes waiting for my dinner, and I have run out of patience.  I got up from the booth and told him I was leaving.  He said he was very sorry, and that was it... no show of displeasure with his staff, and no offer to give me a comp meal card for a future visit to  make ammends.  You can bet I had no intention of paying for the current one! 

I walked out hungry, angry, and disappointed that my little self-pampering ritual had been nicely ruined for the evening.  By that time, nothing else even sounded good so I came on home. It will be a long time before I'll return to this IHOP for another go at it, if ever.  And yes, I will be sending a letter of complaint to the local franchise owner.  In my opinion, it was the manager's responsibility to make darned sure that the second patty melt arrived promptly and done to perfection. He failed miserably on the follow-thru and showed little real concern for the poor performance of his kitchen staff. 

Maybe this is the universe's way of telling me I really don't need to be eating patty melt's anyway, or maybe it was just the topper to a relatively crappy day, but now that I've vented my frustration here I'm over it.  My husband just called from town, his lodge meeting is over.  They didn't have a meal tonite as he had expected so he is hungry too, and will pick us up something tasty on the way home. Life is looking up! :-)