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The Gift


This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is "give/gift/giving/gave".  I thought long and hard about the many awesome gifts I've received in my 55-plus years of life, and what I realized is that it is not the material gifts that stand out, but rather the gifts of the heart, the gifts of self that have given me wonderful memories, added something special to my life or changed it in meaningful ways. 

One gift stands out above all others because it's a gift I dreamed of for so long, never believing it is something I would really have in my life.... the gift of my husband... the gift of being truly and unconditionally loved. Having experienced several relationships that proved to be something so different than what I initially believed they were, I had come to the conclusion that all men were decietful and not to be trusted. I was certain that love was only a temporary state of lust and that once the lustre wore off, the harsh reality would surface and shatter your heart.

It is only after meeting John, marrying him, and being with for three years now that I have come to the realization that I never even knew what real love was before I met him. I knew how to love, but I did not know what it meant to be loved, to feel loved, to wake up knowing I am loved, and to go to sleep knowing that I am loved.  That is a gift far more precious to me than anything I own and one I will treasure for all the days to come.

Oh, and the picture above... it's heart John drew in the snow for me when we went home to South Dakota a year ago in the bitter cold weather of January to attend my father's funeral. Even then, at that very sad time, he knew what to do to make me smile and feel warm inside.  Thank you Lord, for this man that I love, this one who loves me!

Six Word Saturday - 6/25


Two More Days Til Hubby Returns!

That's what I have to say for Six Word Saturday.  I can't wait for him to come home,  I have missed him so much!  Exactly one year ago we were staying at a little cabin on the Paluxy River. He found this heart-shaped tree stump in the woods and captured it with his camera for me!  I need to get the house in order before his return, I've been lazy with housekeeping this week.  I'll be back later for some real blogging and reading. Hope you all are enjoying your weekend!

Bits and Pieces

  • I liked the chocolate brown background on my blog, but it was so dark that it was straining my eyes, and probably hurting your eyes to read my lengthy scribbles too, so I've changed to this instead. It feels lighter, I hope you like it!
  • I am so missing my beloved husband... five nights down, four more to go. He's having a wonderful time with his family though, so it's all good, and I will probably live until he returns home Monday night.  He's missing me too, the reunion will be sweet!
  • I think our new office supervisor might just be a winner!  She's 40, intelligent, poised, and very personable, we like  her a lot... everyone does so far!  A major contrast to what we had previously.  The mood in the office is upbeat and "we can do it"!
  • It makes me so angry when people toss their gum on the ground for others to step on.  I had lots of "fun" removing some lovely pink gum from the bottom of my sandal today. The same goes for those who spit on the ground, toss trash, cigarette butts, disposable diapers, etc.... gross, gross, gross! Thoughtless and lazy too!
  • Our awesome truck sales lady sent some important papers FedEx to another city in Texas to the north of us.  Where did they end up instead?  HONG KONG! I kid you not!  How the heck did that happen?
  • Had a great conversation with my daughter late last night, and an awesome one tonight with one of the three daughters I acquired when I married John.  I am blessed to have these wonderful young women as my family.  How sweet it is that they value my presence in their lives and enjoy our conversations as much as I do.  I am so glad that long distance calls are no longer charged by the minutes... I would have to take on a second job! :-)
  • Tomorrow is Friday and I'm so glad it is!  It has been a long week.  I work much harder at this job than I ever have before for half as much pay. I work Saturday morning this week too, but a half-day passes quickly.  I am ready for the weekend, even if I have more work to do here at home.  I like being my own boss!
  • Heat and I do not agree, that makes our hot summer days here in Texas pretty miserable for me.  I live indoors for the most part, only venturing out for  brief moments in the sun.  I am always glad for the Summer Solstice as this means the daylight will be a bit shorter each day.  By fall I will be able to spend more time outside. I need to live in a mild, tropical climate... preferably with lots of money so I won't have to work! :-)
  • Nothing says love like five furkids scrambling for the door when they hear my key in the lock each afternoon.  They each wait to be petted and greeted by name, and then of course it is time for supper... I'm sure that has nothing to do with their eagerness to see me! :-)
  • On that note, I'm headed to the hot tub for a little moonlit soak time. It does wonders to relax me and clear my mind for sleep. The hot tub turns out to be one of the major expenses I most happy about making. I would be sad to be without it. Great for old achy bodies and stressed out minds!
  • It has been wonderful to have a little extra alone time for blogging this week, every situation presents blessings if we look for them!

A Plea for Parenting


The prompt for this week's edition of Write A Letter Wednesday is to write a letter of advice to someone.  Here's mine...

To Whom It May Concern,

While I realize we all have to learn most of life's lessons on our own and the great majority of advice people bestow on us falls by the wayside, the situation is such that I feel I must speak up, at least a little, and share my thoughts on parenting with you...

From the moment you give a child life, either by planning or the lack of it, you are responsible for that child's well being. You are responsible for providing not only the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter, but also important necessities like love, support, encouragement, guidance, discipline, and protection.  I can't begin to emphasize how important these things are!

Becoming a parent means putting your child's needs first... always! It means putting away your own childish desires and learning the difference between wants and needs in your own life so you can teach it to them for theirs.  You do not need fancy nails or a new purse if you can't really afford them, even though you may want them - your child needs healthy food, adequate clothing, and quality daycare.  Their needs come before yours, they are totally dependent upon your providing for their needs. 

In the same manner, if you can scrounge up money for cigarettes, alcohol, or high dollar cellphones and service, you should be able to scrounge up money for your child's shoes, clothing, school supplies, and hot lunches.  Don't beg for help in feeding your child if you are managing to feed your bad habits.  Again, their needs come  before yours!

Children need affection, encouragement, praise, guidance, and plenty of one-on-one time with you.  They are not an inconvenience to be sent off to a bedroom full of electronic gadgetry,  or shuttled off to a friend or relative's house frequently so you can have your time to yourself.  While it is important for you to have a little down time and some breaks now and then, you are a parent first and foremost.  Your children need you and they need to know that you enjoy their company and miss them when they're gone.  Children are smart, and can tell  when you are eager to get rid of them!

Guidance is every bit as important as discipline.  Children need limits, they need to learn right from wrong and the consequences of making poor choices.  They also need to be shown how to recover from bad experiences, how to learn from mistakes, and how to dust themselves off and try again.  They need encouragement, they need praise and to see that you are proud of them.  They do not need to be berated, shouted at, cursed at, or told that you wish they weren't there!  

Children need guidance on grooming skills and clothing choices.  While you can't always ensure your child will conform to your tastes and rules about appropriate appearance, you can help them select clothing, etc. that is reasonable, not sexually explicit, and doesn't  promote alienation.  Once again, you have the right and the obligation to set reasonable limits on what is acceptable in your house. 

You have the right and the obligation to insist on manners, treating others with respect, and helping out with household chores. Life is not a free ride!  Additionally, you are not a limitless supply of cash... set rules and stick to them on what funds will be available.  Teach your children to handle cash responsibly, and teach them the dangers of indebtedness.  Insist they honor contracts they make with you and with others.  Be open and honest with your children, encourage them to be honest and open with you. Teach them that dishonesty has consequences.

Teach your children to love books by reading to them and by letting them read to you. Make time to experience fun things that don't cost a bundle.  Make time to play together with each child individually and as a family.  Show them the beauties of nature, and teach them to welcome adventure and new experiences.  Teach them to think situations thru before they react, and to make smart choices when faced with tough decisions.

Start every single morning with greetings of affection, and end every day with expressions of love and appreciation.  Teach your children to be grateful, caring, compassionate, and helpful.  These are lessons that will serve them a lifetime!

Lastly, and maybe most important of all... be a role model to your children! Don't just preach at them ("do as I say, not as I do") show them!  Be reasonable, don't respond out of anger and emotional extremes, but rather from a calm place of wanting them to learn.  If you're not in control of your own emotions, how can you teach them to be in control of theirs?  Take a time out (for everyone including you) to restore calm before you try to discuss difficult situations.

Please, please, don't become so consumed in the drama, excitement or business of your own life that you fail to notice that your children are drifting away from you into scary places... be an aware, interactive parent... BE THERE FOR THEM, they need you!  You are the adult, you are the parent, it's a powerful role - you can and will shape the life of your child in ways that will affect them forever!

Sincerely,

Another Mom...
(Who knows it isn't easy, but hates to see children being neglected by uncaring, self-consumed parents)

No Regrets?


An acquaintance recently posted this as her status on Facebook..."Never regret a thing, mistakes are the ingredients to life!"  It started me thinking about the pros and cons of regret...

For the most part, I've lived my life with "no regrets," what that means to me is a philosophy of not living in the past, nor letting past mistakes or poor choices cloud my ability to live and love in the present.  I've often said that I don't regret anything I've done in the past, since it has taken all those experiences combined for me to evolve into the person I am... a person I am pretty much comfortable with now days, at least 95% of the time :-)

Yet, when I read that comment on Facebook, I couldn't help but wonder if she truly didn't want her husband to have any regrets over his recent bout of infidelity which had hurt her heart so much.  Should he regret those actions?  Can she really just dismiss them as "ingredients of life"?  Or wasn't she including that particular issue under her canopy of no regrets? 

Have there been some things I have done in life that I regret? Oh hell yes, plenty of them! Haven't most of us?  There have been things that I regret not having done too.  I agree that life is a learning experience, and that whatever choices we make will teach us something... either what to do or what not to do in the future.  I definitely don't think it's healthy or advisable to let regrets and remorse from the past overshadow us to the point that it leads to depressing, self-loathing, and loss of the ability to lead a happy and productive life.  I think to regret something so deeply that one decides suicide is the only acceptable response is beyond tragic.  I believe that redemption is always possible. I want to believe that, even if in some very dark cases I have wondered.

I think that, kept in proper perspective, regret serves a purpose.  It reminds us that a choice we made or an action we took turned out in a way that left us unhappy, or hurt someone we cared about. Regret gives us the opportunity to re-examine our choices and decide if we want to choose differently in the future.

Over the years I've told both of my children some of the decisions/actions I regret making as a parent, things I wish I would have done differently or not at all, and things I wish I would have done that I didn't do.  I want them to know that parenting isn't easy and I am not a role-model of perfection.  I never heard my parents admit that just maybe they'd made a mistake once or twice in our growing up years. I think it might have healed a lot of hurts it they would have.  The response I got from my children was so supportive and loving, they were quick to point out all the good things they thought I was as a mother, and both noted that I judge myself far more harshly than they ever thought of.  That's another good point to consider.  While regret and remorse may have a place in our lives, and I think they do, there is absolutely nothing good that comes from beating oneself up over and over, for a lifetime of perceived mistakes and inadequacies.  It is said that in order to love others you must first love yourself.  Amen to that! It doesn't matter one iota what you were or where you come from, what matters is who you are now! 

As the header on my blog says, my philosophy is to "Learn from the past, live in the present, and believe in the future."  I think all three of those things need to happen in order for us to truly be happy and at peace with what life brings us. If a person gets stuck on any one of those points... if they never learn from their mistakes and repeat them over and over, or if they are so chained to their past that they don't really live in the present, or even worse yet - if they have no belief in the future, no hope that life can be good, it will be extremely difficult for them to have a joyful, meaningful life. Balance is the key, discovering who we are NOW and what we believe NOW, based on what we've learned from the past, and then believing and working toward creating a future that will help us attain a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. 

While I didn't always make the best choices, and I have my regrets, most often I did the very best I could with what I knew and what I had at that time. When the end of my life comes, I hope I can say with confidence that I ended up being a pretty darn good person after all... that I loved and was loved and return.  If I can, that will be enough!

What about you, do you have any regrets? Do you believe "No Regrets" is a good philosophy to live by? Is it possible to truly have no regrets at all?

The Softer Side of Dad


Yesterday being Father's Day, many thoughts and memories of Dad drifted thru my mind, so for this week's Monday Memories I wanted to share a few stories about him that will forever make me smile...

I am a middle child with a sister two years older and another three years younger. My older sister was clearly my mom's favorite - the one she focused on, while my little sister was "the baby" and the apple of my Dad's eye.  Like most middle children I fell somewhere in between, struggling to develop my identity and role within the family.  Since my Father had no sons, I was the one who became his fishing partner, home repair assistant, and general helper.  I have good memories of the projects we worked on together, and the times we spent together fishing. 

I remember one remodelling project in particular... Dad was creating a recreation room in our basement for us and our friends.  This included framing in walls, hanging that ever-popular 1960's wood-grain panelling, etc.  Mom had an large oval kitchen table which had been replaced and reincarnated for use as a folding table in her laundry room in the basement.  Dad and I were using it as a worktable to cut large sheets of panelling to size.  At one point, he misjudged the distance of the circular saw blade from the edge of the table and accidentally sliced a nice long piece off the rounded corner.  He looked at me and I at him, knowing that Mom was not going to be happy about this development.  In an unspoken vow of secrecy, we finished our cutting, and then cleverly (or so we thought) replaced the plastic tablecloth mom kept on the table, thinking she wouldn't notice the slightly irregular shape it had taken on.  We were wrong. Mom spotted the defect quickly, and she was definitely not amused!  The table remained in use in the laundry room for several years to come, and I smiled every time I looked at the flat edge it had acquired.  I think I gave it a touch of whimsy!

On another occasion, Dad and I had taken the boat out fishing at a nearby lake one evening.  We weren't particularly successful fishermen, but on this night I had managed to reel in a nice-sized walleye that was intended for the frying pan.  Dad secured the fish on the stringer and tossed it over the side of the boat to keep it fresh while we continued to fish.   We didn't catch anything else, so when the time came to call it a night, Dad momentarily forgot about my fish on the stringer and gunning the boat motor, turned the boat sharply to head back to shore.  The fish stringer was just long enough that it was swept back toward the motor, the propeller nicely slicing off my fish. The moment he heard the propeller struggle, he remembered and quickly pulled up the stringer,  but it was too late... all that remained was a fish head, the fish being neatly sheared off.  He felt bad but we both ended up laughing, and took it home to mom to show her our "catch of the night".

Dad was raised in a serious depression-era farm family of sturdy German stock. There were no open displays of affection and horseplay was frowned upon. We were pretty much raised that way too. But beneath Dad's non-nonsense surface lurked a sometimes playful heart.  I remember a warm summer evening with Mom standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. There was no AC in houses back then, so the window over the sink was open to catch whatever breeze there might be.  Dad was outside trimming the shrubbery and watering the lawn.  In a rare moment of daring, he aimed his water hose squarely at mom, sending a stream of water blasting thru the window screen, soaking her, the curtains, the counter, the floor, and pretty much everything else in range. My sister and I were drying dishes at the time, and were flabbergasted and then delighted by Dad's spontaneous playful act.  Needless to say, it didn't go as well with mom, who let lose with a string of brightly colored words we very rarely heard used in our household. Ok, so it was a bit of a mess to clean up, it still was pretty funny since such behavior was so out of character for Dad.  I shudder to think what might have happened if one of us girls had pulled a stunt like that! I can still envision my Mom's shocked face, water dripping from her hair, and the brief impish smile that crossed my dad's face. It was priceless!

Do It Now!


This week's writing prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "opportunity."  Today is also Father's Day, so I'm going to tell you about an opportunity that became a precious memory...

Early in 2009 my Dad hatched a plan to travel south from where he lived in Dakota, to visit me in Texas.  I hadn't been home to see him for some time, and it had been even longer since he'd seen my son who lives in Tennessee or my daughter who lives in San Antonio. Dad, even though in his early 80's, still loved going on trips more than anything.  And so we made a plan to all meet up in San Antonio in late October, when the weather would be cooler there, but still good for travelling on his end. He would come, along with his girlfriend, my son would fly in, and my husband and I would drive down from Odessa.  It would be a weekend to remember. 

As the time for our family reunion approached complications set in, my daughter's marriage was in the midst of turmoil and it didn't seem like a good time for them to have company.  I talked to Dad and suggested maybe we postpone his visit for a bit, but being the stubborn determined German that he is, he wasn't having any of it.  He proclaimed that he was going to San Antonio on vacation on the dates already planned, and we could all meet him there or not, it was up to us!  Well, ok then!  So we got things in to gear and made plans to meet up on the appointed weekend, staying together in a motel there.

As is common these days, Dad's plane flight out of Dakota was delayed, causing them to miss their connecting flight from Minneapolis to San Antonio.  It looked like they would be stuck in Minneapolis overnight, but managed to get on a late flight, arriving weary but happy very late in the evening, without their luggage... which was still sitting in Minneapolis and took another 24 hours to retrieve. 

Dad was in the late stages of congestive heart failure... breathing and walking were very difficult for him, though he stubbornly refused until the very end of his life to use oxygen full-time, only keeping it by the bedside to use at night.  My daughter rented a wheelchair which at first he grumbled about, but ended up really liking as it enabled him to get about easily, with one of us providing the push power. 

We had a wonderful time together, laughing, eating, and telling stories.  My daughter and then son-in-law took us all to a very nice Brazilian Steakhouse, and once Dad caught on to the concept of continual servings by using little "flash cards", he had a blast and ate more at that meal than any of the rest of us, even though his appetite at  home was usually poor!

We took a cruise boat down the river, and toured the Alamo with my husband serving as tour guide.  Dad loved history.  The next day we all went to Sea World, as there is nothing Dad enjoyed more than animals, zoos and such.  He had a marvelous time, enjoying every exhibit and show, and smiling throughout. 

One memory we still laugh about is when John and I were driving Dad and his girlfriend to my daughter's house.  As we pulled into their driveway our GPS said "You have arrived at Shallah and Jason's house".  Dad was immediately super-impressed and said "How did it know that?"  He didn't realize that we had pre-programmed their address into the GPS and was wondering if maybe it was smart enough to know who lived at each address!  I could sense that one would soon be on his Christmas wish list.

On our final day together, before we had to head back home for work on Monday, we had lunch at my daughter's house, serving Dad's requested favorites... "grilled brats and beer", with cheesecake for dessert.  He loved it! We think of him now every time we sit down to a supper of brats and beer.

As the weekend came to a close, my daughter sent the photos from our respective cameras and phones off to the CVS photo shop and had them printed for him to take along home.  He was so delighted with how fast this could be done and that he could share the highlights of the trip with his friends.

After warm goodbyes, I departed with awesome memories but a heavy heart, knowing that this would likely be the last time I would see him.  We all knew his time on earth was short.  What we didn't know was just how short it would be.  The phone call from my sister came just two months later - on December 30th, telling me that Dad had died. 

I did not have the opportunity to see my Mother before she died.  I had wanted to go home and visit her for more than two years, but money for the trip was never available. My heart still hurts over that.  I am ever so grateful that when the opportunity presented itself for all of us to get together with Dad we didn't pass it up.  He had done a lot of visiting family members that year, and I think deep down he knew it was important to have these last goodbyes.  Everyone of us had a wonderful time and will hold the memories of this last weekend with Dad in our hearts forever.  I thank God for that!  The above picture of Dad was taken that weekend, I treasure it.

The message of this story is this... don't wait for the opportunity to come along,  make it happen now, while you can! Don't wait to spend time with your loved ones, don't wait to tell then how much you love them... do it now! And when an opportunity presents itself in your life... seize it!  You may never have that chance again.

Note: Stop over at Sunday Scribblings and read some great posts on the theme of opportunity, and stay tuned here for my Monday Memories post coming up tomorrow... it will be another story about my Dad.  Better yet, why don't you join us at Monday Memories  and share a memory of your own?

Another 6WS Post


Here's another Six Word Saturday post that is self-explanatory...

Kittens do not make good assistants!

They definitely had great fun "helping" me arrange some silk flowers though! :-)

Gonna Miss Him


It's time for a round of Six Word Saturday and here's what I have to say...

Husband headed east, missing him already!

After he gets off work today, my husband is headed to east Texas to spend a week visiting with his beloved great-aunt who is 92, his sister (and only sibling), two of his daughters, and four of his grandchildren.  I won't see him again for ten days... until a week from Monday after work.  He has more vacation time than I do, since I haven't been at my job that long, and this is a great way for him to spend some of it - with people he loves and doesn't get to see very often.  He is excited about the trip and I am happy for him too, in fact I suggested it. I'm also glad he will have a much-needed break from his work, he puts in long hours on his feet every day and it's exhausting.

Still... it is hard for me to see him go. This is the longest time we will have been apart.  I am thankful for devices like our iPhones and the Internet which make it easy for us to stay in touch the whole time, but it will be too quiet and lonely here at the house.  Already last night one of our cats was crying at the bedroom door as he was inside packing his clothes. It was as if she knows that her favorite lap buddy was about to abandon her for a bit.  Tonight I will have all the furkids juggling for places on and around me on the sofa, including the ones that usually prefer his lap. Cats are acutely aware of someone missing from their daily routines.

In the past, it has usually been me that has gone on road trips. In my past marriage I would travel to Dakota to visit family or friends and be gone one or two weeks. Most often I couldn't wait to go and dreaded returning home to the same issues and struggles.  Instead of absence making the heart grow fonder, the temporary freedom just convinced me all the more that I felt trapped in a marriage that wasn't working.

It is so different now, and I am grateful for that, even if it means being lonely for a week or so. We part with sadness and will eagerly count down the days until we are back together.  We both would have much rather made this trip together, had that been possible.  When we are not at our respective jobs, we spend 95% of our free time together, because that's what we most enjoy.  I am blessed to be married to my best friend and soulmate. 

I look forward to the pictures and stories he will bring home to share with me, and I smile in the awareness that we will spend our nights talking on the phone before falling asleep, just as we did for hours each night when we first met, before I moved to Texas and married him. 

Now I'm going to do a bit of blog reading, then get dressed and head off to town for a little shopping before it gets hotter here.  Every day has been well over a hundred, reaching 109 yesterday! It's supposed to again today.  That makes it miserable to be outside running around.  I could do some major housecleaning in his absence.... but you all know I'll probably be spending my alone time right here in blogland! :-))

Note: This post is for Six Word Saturday, why don't you join us there!

Blessed Are My Blog Buddies


This week's Write A Letter Wednesday assignment is to write a letter to an individual or group of people who have played an important role in your life, or someone you miss.  Here's my letter...

Dearest Blog Buddies,

To call you buddies or friends doesn't do justice to the depth of my feelings for you, for in truth you have been more family to me than the family I was born into.  During what proved to be the very darkest and most difficult years of my life, you were there for me, listening to my anger and my anguish, soothing my fears, guiding me toward the light, encouraging me on, and giving me a place where I felt safe to share all the turmoil I was experiencing.  I know beyond a doubt that had it not been for the caring and camaraderie our little group of blog buddies shared, for the laughter and the tears, for the gentle words, and sometimes the harsh ones I needed to hear, I would not have survived that time, and I would not be here now. 

I think about how I often came home on Friday after work and didn't speak to another living soul until I returned to work on Monday  morning.  At those loneliest of times, all I had to do was climb into the comfort of my favorite chair at the computer desk, sign into my blog, and instantly connect with people from around the country and even across the waters, that I knew cared about me and understood what I was going thru.  Anyone who says blog friends aren't "real friends" hasn't had the experience that I have. My blog family knows far more about who I was and who I am than anyone in "real life", with the exception now of my new and much beloved husband.

I believe that God sends people into our lives for a reason. Those we encounter are not by accident or mere coincidence.  As surely as I live and breathe, God sent each of you to me as angels to help me mend my own broken wings and learn to fly again.  My blog back then was called "Picking Up Pieces", remember?  And indeed that's just what you helped me do... sort thru the broken pieces of my life, discarding what was no longer right, and helping me to rebuild myself into something strong and able to love again, and ready to be loved.  Your gifts of endless patience, encouragement, laughter, and even shared commiseration, were the vitamins that fed my soul!

We have all changed a lot in just a few years, in ways most of us never dreamed of.  For some of us life has gotten so much better, for others it has been a hard road with  many challenges yet ahead.  The bonds of love and friendship we built back then remain with us now, and keep us ever mindful that there are always those to whom we are important, who can see our inner beauty even when we can't see it ourselves, and who will stand by us and encourage us, and hold our hands when we are afraid. 

I just wanted to take this moment to say thank you once again, although the words can never be enough.  You saved my life... and I will always hold you in  my heart!  And to those of that small circle who no longer blog with us, but I know linger still and hopefully sometimes lurk, I say, come back to us now and then... leave a comment or a post, or even just a word or two to let us know how you are doing.  We love you and we care, we will always care! Blessed are my blog buddies, they truly are my angels!

Sincerely,

Josie Two Shoes

Note: Why don't you stop by Write A Letter Wednesday sometime this week and leave a link to a letter of your own!  There's some great letters by other bloggers linked up there too!

Make Your Own Kind of Music


JL Dodge over at Dodge Writes  just started a new writing prompt called Tales of Tuesday.  Using "music" as her theme for this week, she has written an incredibly moving story about her life, and the roles both music and and writing have played in it.  Like many of us, she is a survivor, having come thru some very dark times to a place of personal joy and contentment.  She writes wonderful poetry, and is once again making music with the help of a beautiful guitar that has been given to her.  This is a story worth reading, it will uplift you and you will want to cheer her on in her efforts to reclaim was was once taken from her.  Rather than write my own tale about music today, I encourage you to read hers. While you're there, you can read my comment on her post, as I got "a little" carried away and pretty much ended up blogging in her comment box, talking a bit about the role of music in my life too.  And if you're looking for a new place to share your poetry or prose, check out Dodge Writes... she has great daily prompts to inspire you!

My Mother's Mondays


Most of us face Mondays with at least a little bit of dread, heading back to the daily grind after enjoying the freedom weekends bring.  I actually had a good day today, the tone in the office being so much lighter, even if the phones were ringing off the hook and papers continued to pile up at record speed.  (Remember how they used to tell us computers were going to lighten our workload? All that really happened was that they provided increased capability to do so much more with all the data and information!)

As I tossed a load of laundry in my washing machine tonight before settling down for a little blogging, I thought about my Mother's Mondays and how different they were from mine.  I wonder if she she sometimes dreaded the drudgery of her chores too.

For all my growing up years, Monday was my mother's scheduled laundry day - the days she washed the previous week's accumulation of the family's soiled clothing and linens.  It took her nearly all day to complete the task, and this was only the washing and drying part.  Ironing was another daylong process, it took place on Tuesday!

When I was very young my mother had an old-fashioned ringer washing machine.  Some of you might be old enough to remember them.  Laundry had to be manually wrung thru the ringer device to squeeze out the soapy water, then deposited in a rinse tub, swished about, and rung out again, before being hauled in baskets to the outdoor clothesline where it was hung up with wooden clothespins to dry in the breeze.  Nothing smelled better than bedsheets fresh off the clothesline!  Living in South Dakota, laundry day in the winter meant the clothes often froze stiff on the line, or had to be hung in lines strung in our basement laundry room, taking much longer to dry.

My mother, like most, had her favorite brands of household products.  Clothing was washed in Tide or Cheer, whites were bleached with liquid Clorox bleach, and everything was softened with an ample dose of Downy fabric softener.  To this day I can pick someone out of a crowd if they use Downy in their wash, the smell remains that strongly in my mind.  Downy was synonymous with fresh and clean.  I still use it in my front-loading energy efficient machine, but sadly must opt for the fragrance/dye free version as the scent now kicks my allergies and asthma into high-gear.

As we grew older Mom got her first automatic washing machine, and not long after that her first electric dryer, though she kept her ringer washer for several more years, preferring it for soaking items or washing blankets and such.  With a family of five, including three daughters, the laundry still piled high and required the better part of each Monday to be washed, dried, folded and put away, or sprinkled with water and placed in the large plastic laundry bag to await ironing on Tuesday. 

My mother ironed nearly everything, including my dad's cotton handkerchiefs, and our sheets and pillowcases.  I am so thankful I live in a time when most clothes are "wash and wear" and can go straight from the dryer to the hanger.  The button-down shirts my husband wears to work in the winter are dropped off at the cleaners or "ironing lady" to be pressed. How my mother must groan at her daughter's avoidance of domestic duties! :-)

My mother, a "housewife" using the label of that era, took great pride in taking care of her family... a spotlessly clean house (mine is not), freshly laundered clothing, and good meals on the table three times a day at 8,12, and 6 PM without fail.  It's true that she didn't have to schedule these duties around an 8 hour a day job. I leave the house at 8 AM and am rarely home much before 7 PM.  That doesn't leave a lot of time for domestic duties, and it certainly doesn't leave the energy or inclination to accomplish them. A load or two of laundry gets done each night, a bit of cooking, and basic surface cleaning on the weekend.  It is rare to have all the laundry done  up at once, or the entire house white-glove clean, although I remember things being that way when I grew up, and I truly wish they still were.  Clean feels so good!

I am not at all convinced that "woman's liberation" liberated our lives all that much.  I think in many ways we had to learn to settle for less, while being responsible for doing a great deal more.  My mother would have welcomed the opportunity for a job, at least part-time, outside our home, but my father wouldn't hear of it. That would have diminished his role as "breadwinner" of the family.  Mom had worked as a telephone operator in Portland Oregon during WWII before she met and married my Dad, and I'm sure at times she must have missed the socialization of a work environment.  I, on the other hand, would welcome the opportunity to be a stay-at-home "housewife", and to be able to make the care of my home and family job priority number one.  Funny, isn't it, how in our lives the grass most often does appear to be greener on the other side of the fence? :-)

Note: This post was written for Monday Memories.  Drop by and share one of your memories with us anytime this week!

The Road Goes On


What a week it's been!  First - some updates on recent posts...

On Wednesday I observed the somber sight of Joe's truck loaded on a trailer along with his tool chests as Our Service Manager (who was also Joe's supervisor) headed out of the company parking lot and down the highway to return them to Joe's family in Arkansas.  He stayed to attend graveside services on Friday. Joe served in the Air Force and was a veteran of the War in Iraq. His burial took place in the military cemetary at Ft. Smith. My prayers are with his family.

On a much brighter note, Best Buy called on Wednesday to inform me that my new iPhone had arrived and was ready to be pick up. That was fast, and it didn't cost me a penny.  The insurance for these phones is great, and worth the price. I was so happy to have it back. It was surprising how cumbersome my old phone seemed after the ease of navigating my iPhone. Somedays I wonder how we ever survived without cellphones and the Internet. They certainly make life much easier, and have opened up so many doors!

As of Friday morning our Office Manager was no longer employed.  Much occured this week leading up to that.  All I can and will say is that I am not sorry she is gone. Working with her was extremely "challenging", making it hard to face each day.  The hard part starts now, as I face the prospect of orienting to what will be my sixth supervisor in less than two years!!  After they find, hire, and train one. I have no  voice in the selection process, though I wish I did.  I am praying the sixth one is the charm!?! My office coworker and I were pleased that  a part-time filing/phones person has been hired and will start Monday, and possibly another one to come.  That will help tremendously as we each take on more work once again, to cover the vacant position.

The oppressive heat and drought here are depressing.  Each day in the coming week is to again be over 100 degrees F.  Yes, it is a "dry heat", with zero humidity, but it is overpowering none the less, and one does not stay out in it for long. My body has little tolerance for heat and it quickly makes me ill.  We have had no measureable rain in the past six months. Grassfires are a daily occurance, and since we live surrounded by dry pasture land, it is worrisome.  It only takes one careless act to destroy hundreds of acres and property. My daughter commented recently that she cannot live where it is brown and dry, that it makes her feel dead too.  I relate to that, and I greatly miss the lakes and trees of easter-river Dakota where I grew up. (I do not miss the mosquitos and snow from October to April.)  My daughter chooses to remain in San Antonio where there is plenty of green and water to be found, despite the heat. She is licensed as an RN in Texas, and transferring it to another state is a hassle, so at least for now she stays, although alone in the big city and still missing having a significant other in her life, since her former husband left over a year ago. I keep praying that God will send a good guy in her direction soon.

Next Saturday my husband is leaving for a nine-day vacation to East Texas to spend time visiting his great aunt, his sister, two of his three daughters, and four of his grandchildren.  He has more vacation time than I do, so this is a good way for him to use it and he is so looking forward to the trip and to getting away.  He would have liked me to join him, but with the current situation at work, if I had planned to go, it would have been cancelled, as one person can not run the office alone. We haven't ever been apart for that long, and I already dread it.  He is sad about that too. Travelling together is so much more fun, and spending the nights alone just plain sucks.  It is difficult to sleep well when the one you love is not beside you. The furkids and I will survive though, and will rejoice when he returns safely home again.  This will be a busy week as we get things organized and ready for him to go.  No doubt there will be a bit more time for blogging in his absence. ;-)

Our two kittens, now four months old, are growing long and tall and are on the go constantly, playing and wrestling, and generally functioning as a house demolition duo.  It is worse than having two toddlers in the house, but they are a source of great amusement and affection to both of us and to the three adult cats who are amazingly tolerant of their antics!  They have determined that Stormy, the grumpy 14-year old patriarch of our furry clan, is their protector, and much to his disgruntlement can often be found napping (recharinging their batteries) snuggled up next to him. I will take some new photos to post soon.  Their four siblings are also doing great in their respective new homes.  I am glad they were adopted in pairs. Life is much nicer when you have a playmate! :-)

One more happy note, before I get up and start moving on laundry, dishes, and such... yesterday my niece caught at 29" walleye at a lake in Minnesota where she lives!  She is dear to my heart and has gone thru some very dark times in recent years, so I'm delighted to see her happy in her new relationship and enjoying things such as fishing that she's never done before.  My father, her grandfather, would have been so proud of her. He loved fishing more than anything else!  I just know he had to be smiling.  She looked great in the photo, healthy and happy, proudly displaying her giant fish.  I thank God for seeing her thru, as He does for each and every one of us! 

And, as I said to my boss on Friday afternoon... "On we go."  Who knows where the road will take us next.

Note: This week's writing prompt at Sunday Scribblings was "the next step". Most often in my life, the next step is a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where it leads.  This post was written in response to that journey, indeed that's what this blog is all about! Check out some other great posts about "the next step" over at Sunday Scribblings.

Ouch!



This a picture of what you don't want your iphone to look like!  Thursday afternoon I picked my phone up from the desk only to have it slip from my hands and land with a loud crack face down on the hard tiled office floor.  I knew that couldn't be a good sound.  Amazingly, it still works perfectly, so I guess the protective case did ok for shock absorbency, but the only thing holding the shards of the screen together is the sturdy screen protector film over it.  They crystallized effect is rather pretty, but makes reading the screen quite difficult.  SIGH

Thankfully, the phone was insured, and the replacement will not cost anything. Which is a relief since a new iphone without a new service plan runs at about $600 - well beyond my budget!  On the down side, while it usually only take a few days for them to send in the old one and the new one to be shipped out, the warranty facility has run low on iphones and has them on backorder (why me, Lord!), so it could be anywhere from 5-30 days before my new one arrives at Best Buy.  Sure would be nice if they had refurbished loaners one could rent by paying a deposit or something. 

I do have my previous cellphone that they reactivated for the time being, but I am so in love with my iphone and it's many capabilities that this is much like driving a dinosaur, and the touch screen requires "pounding" in comparison to the feather touch needed with the iphone.  One of the things I miss most, along with the handy voice activated Google feature, is Words with Friends.  My husband and I, and my son and I each have a couple games ongoing at all times and playing them throughout the day is a fun way of saying "I'm thinking of you".  It's also great brain exercise for us old farts!

I smile at my loneliness in the absence of my iphone friend, and wonder how it is we ever all survived "way back then" with just one dial up wall phone in the house, very limited long distance time due to the expense, and of course we kids were the "answering machines", just as we were the "remote controls" for the television! :-)

Still, it's not just all pleasure with cellphones, they are life savers, and peace of mind machines.  I love knowing that my family, or anyone, can reach me anywhere 24 hours a day, and I don't have to rely on recorded messages or keeping them updated on my whereabouts.  I also remembering driving 1000 miles down lonely country highways in an old car to visit my family in Dakota on a wing and a prayer, hoping that there would be no breakdowns or problems.  A cellphone would have been so good to have on those trips, and saved my mother lots of worry.  I think too how she would have loved "unlimited minutes" and the ability to visit often and and long as we wanted without Dad tapping his watch to note that her "seven minutes" were up! I'm betting she would have learned to text in time too, or at least would have loved messages and pictures popping in from us!

I will probably survive the temporary absence of my iphone, though I did try to con my husband into buying us a new one so my old one could be a "backup spare" - to no avail.  That might have had something to do with the price. :-)  What we learn when we don't have something we take for granted every day (and of course this goes doubly for the people in our lives) is how blessed we are to have them in the first place! 

Now to go study more two and three letter words to use in defeating my very clever son in Words with Friends, when the games resume! :-)

The Rest of the Story


This relates to my previous post...

Joe's mother arrived at our dealership yesterday morning, having driven all night from Arkansas to get here, along with Joe's older brother and his wife.  They came to meet us, to get insurance documents they will need, to pick up his belongings from work and his apartment, and to collect his beloved dog Casey and cat Simba and take them home.  Joe's body has not yet been released by the coroner as an autopsy was required.  How stupid is that?  I mean there were several witnesses to the shooting, not likely he died from anything else, huh?  I suppose it is for forensic evidence for the trial.

Joe's mom turned out to be the most lovely lady.  While definitely in shock and dealing with great pain, she was so kind and beautiful, and a woman of strong faith which will see her thru this.  She knows Joe is in a better place.  When she came into the office I got up to give her a hug, and to share my sorrow for her as another mother with a son of the same age.  She was sobbing and said simply "he's my baby".  Her youngest, as is  my son.  I cannot imagine her pain.  We sat and visited with her, and Joe's brother and sister-in-law for a good while.  She told us several stories from his life, and at times we were all laughing thru the tears.  When she got up to leave she thanked us for listening, noting that talking about him helped to make what had happened seem not so real, at least for a little while. 

The hardest part for Joe's older brother, was when one of the mechanics from the shop brought up his work coveralls and boots.  He headed out to the car with them, overcome with emotion and trying hard to "be a man" and not cry.  While in the office earlier he had talked to his dad (also Joe's dad) on the phone, making preliminary funeral arrangements.  It turns out that Joe's parents divorced before he was born and she raised the kids on her own, but the relationship between them is ok.  There will be a full military funeral/burial for Joe in Arkansas, and they will accompany his body safely home to the family.  Joe would have liked that a lot.

When they left, they were headed over to Joe's apartment.  How hard that would be. His Mom told us that Casey had been with Joe for the last seven years and always came along when he came home to visit.  She would make chicken and rice just for Casey.  So Casey will be going home with family she already knows and loves, along with Joe's cat Simba.  That made us all feel better.   When they stopped back by later in the day Joe's mom said they'd found more cat and dog food in the  house than people food.  Yes, that was Joe, he loved Casey as much as she loved him!

Although it was hard for all of us, I am glad they came so that we could meet them, extend our condolences in person, and share our love and prayers.  I think they left realizing that Joe had been a member of our family too. 

In the past couple days I've looked up from my desk several times, half expecting Joe to come walking down the hallway and pop his head into the office to say hi, or see Casey come in for greetings all around and the doggie treats she knew we kept on the shelf.  It is a sad realization that won't happen ever again.  If only people would think before they respond with violence.  Senseless.  Rest In Peace Joe, you will be missed.

Life is Fragile, Handle with Care


Across the road from the iris farm we visited on our trip to the mountains, was this abandoned church.  I was sad that it was padlocked, as I wanted much to go inside, to see what remained of it and what spirits might still linger there.  Always when I see abandoned buildings, I wonder about the lives of the people who once visited or resided there.  In this case, there were surely baptisms, weddings, and funerals, family celebrations and times of trial. Who built it? How many hands from the village helped to raise it up? How old was it and how long did it remain in service? Who decided that its time of usefulness was over, or that attendees had dwindled to the point where it was no longer feasible to keep it open.  Were the old ones who remained sad to see it fall to ruin? Is anyone still in the area who once attended services there?  A building is so much more than walls and ceilings and floors... I think it would make a good story to tell a tale of the various families whose lives were intertwined with this church.

On the topic of life and death... I arrived at work today to be given the sad news that one of my coworkers, a 32 year old diesel  mechanic, had been shot and killed in an altercation in the parking lot of his apartment complex last night.  A second victim remains in critical condition in the hospital, and the third person involved is in custody on charges of first degree murder.  Some sort of argument had taken place, some say our friend tried to intervene, I don't know if that's what went down.  What I do know is that in an instant of crazed anger one young man's life has been cut short, a second hangs in the balance, and the third has been cursed with the burden of knowing he is responsible. His life too is now forever altered. The tragedy and the stupidity of such occurrences boggles my  mind. 

Joe is survived by a young son who resides with his mother in another state, and a mother who also lives a few states away.  I pray to God that I never have to receive that kind of call regarding one of my children.  I can't begin to imagine the shock... horror... pain.  Joe is also survived by the most beautiful and gentle big dog I have ever seen. Casey often came to visit at work with Joe and we all loved her.  I am not a dog person but she captured my heart. She was present last night when Joe was shot. A neighbor took her home for safe keeping.  His mother is coming to retrieve her, Casey is now the closest connection she has to her son. Being an animal lover, my heart goes out to  Casey who must be struggling to make sense of what occurred last night and to understand why her best friend Joe is no where to be found.  Animals are perceptive of spirits, I am sure she knows that Joe has passed over, but how she must miss him!

It was a quiet, somber day at work.  What can be said to make sense of something that is utterly senseless.  A coworker-friend who is a few year older than me noted the fragility of life, how we are here one moment, and gone in a flash the next.  It seemed like Joe should come walking down the hallway and pop into our office to say hi today, as he does many days. I looked up several times searching for his face that wasn't there. I think of the ripple effect and how very many lives have been affected by what occurred last night. I believe that things happen for a reason, and perhaps even that Joe himself chose this path before being born.  I am not sad for him... he is set free, but I am deeply sorrowful for the mother and the young son who  must go on living without him.

No Time Like the Present


Yesterday is over and tomorrow has not yet come, we only have today. Cherish the gift that it is!

I know it's been nearly a month since I've posted, I've been busy isolating and slacking and trying to balance what free time I have, while struggling with the three-ring circus called work.  It hasn't been easy.  I feel tired a lot, and grumpy, and overwhelmed. As those of you who've followed me for awhile know, when that happens I crawl into my cave and operate on remote until I feel like it's time to return to the land of the living.  Today is the first day of June, and that time is now.  Time to get back to the business of life.  Overall I have a very good one, with the most loving husband anyone could dream of, two great grown children who are making their own way, and five furry felines that shower me with affection, make us laugh, and soften all the surfaces of our home with a layer of cat fur. :-)

Two weeks ago my husband and I took a 3-day weekend and headed to a small range of mountains in New Mexico for a stay in the fresh pine-scented mountain air.  It was exactly "what the doctor ordered" for both of us, a much needed destressor and time to  enjoy each other's company without clocks, schedules or our usual weekend list of things needing attention.  We had such a wonderful time!  On Sunday morning we drove to a little Iris farm in the Hondo Valley that had the most beautiful collection of blooming irises I've ever seen, like the one in the picture above. My husband is a camera pro and willingly captured every blossom I ooohd and ahhhd over.  Now when I look at the pictures I remember, and I smile. :-)

I don't write a lot about work here, I don't think it's a wise idea on a public blog. Suffice it to say that it's been one damned thing after another when it comes to personnel issues for the nearly three years that I've been there, including adapting to five different supervisors. Yet, other than that "small detail", I like my job in that it suits my needs, if not my interests and talents.  I have learned new skills and I fill my position competently. I just wish so much energy wasn't expended on dealing with the ups and downs of people lacking in maturity and grace. Attitudes are so very contagious.  Still, I try to make the best of it and to maintain my own balance and perspective... most days anyway. :-)

It's getting late, just enough time for a short soak in our hot tub (my favorite way to end the evening) and then off too bed.  The house is peaceful and quiet, I can hear the kitten purring contentedly in  my lap while John sits beside me. This home is my refuge, he is my strength, my faith in tomorrow is unwavering. I'll get back in gear with blogging this month, I miss it greatly when I don't.  And life goes on. :-)