We spent the last three nights watching the Hatfields and McCoys on TV, did you?  The tone was so very dark and heavy, but there was also a powerful message.  I think what bothered me most was that the two men responsible for starting the feud both lived to be old, while their children and grandchildren died senselessly while still so young. 

There were two scenes in last night's episode in which fire was consuming the McCoy house, and in the end, the man who fostered such evil.  Watching the  flames conjured up this old memory that I originally wrote about for Sunday Scribblings in February of 2011...

It had been years since she'd returned to the town where it all began... her introduction to the madman who was to become her husband.

Travelling alone across the state on a journey to visit her parents, she had stopped at the cemetery along a stretch of rural highway north of town. Something inside her demanded that she go there to see his grave with her own eyes, to make certain he was really gone. The small military headstone bearing his name and vital statistics gave no clue to the nature of the man interned there, but she remembered.

Before leaving, she took a photograph to share with her daughter when the time came that she would want to know, that she too would want to be certain. Road weary from the journey of nearly a thousand miles, she decided to spend the night in a motel, giving her time to drive around and see what places and images still remained familiar from the those years of her life.

She drove past the nursing home where she'd worked as an aide. It hadn't been a good place then and she was glad to see it boarded up now, the souls of those she'd cared for long since ascended into heaven.

She drove past the small college where they'd both studied, and past the house with the tiny upstairs apartment where they'd lived when they first brought their daughter home from the hospital. She drove past the old hospital too, remembering so clearly that day more than 20 years ago when she first held her daughter in her arms.

She drove past the park where she used to take her daughter to play in the grass, where she would squeal with delight as squirrels scampered close by.

Finally, late in the afternoon, she summoned up her courage and turned on a familiar street not too far from downtown. Driving slowly, she spied the fenced playground of the old parochial school across the street from "the big house".... but where was the house? In the place where it should be there was nothing but an empty lot. Suddenly she found herself confused. Was this the right place or had the years played tricks on her memory?

But yes, there was the yellow house on the corner next door, the one with the teenage daughter that used to undress in her room upstairs with the window shade up, much to the delight of the young men in the big house. She stared again at the large, grass covered lot beside it, still not quite believing what she was seeing, or in fact wasn't seeing.

It was the right address, the right location, but the big house had vanished as if into thin air. The empty lot, with its neatly manicured lawn, held no trace of the large three-story white house with the sweeping front porch on which she's sat so many nights breathing in the evening air and praying to whatever gods there might be for deliverance and redemption.

It seemed like forever ago that they had lived there - she and her husband and their young daughter - serving as house parents for the dozen or so young men renting rooms while attending the local vocational college. She remembered each of them. For the most part they had been like brothers to her - caring and supportive, and enchanted by the little girl who delighted in their attention.

But there were two among them that she later learned were in alliance with her husband, and in allegiance to the power of darkness that he served. It was not long before that darkness began to seep into their lives and permeate the rooms they occupied. A shiver went up her spine as she remembered all the evil that had transpired there.

She was young then, and not nearly as sure of herself as she was now. She had cowered in fear, and remained obedient to the bonds that held her there, though she often considered leaving and at one time went so far as to investigate a nearby apartment as an option if things got worse. And they did, but still she stayed. She didn't understand back then that there are always other options.

When he graduated from college they moved to Denver so he could attend graduate school. Not long after, he decided instead to join the military and a year later found them living in Germany, the place where it finally came to an end as the marriage unravelled and she went her own way.

That relationship had come and gone at great emotional cost to her and her daughter. As she sat there in the car staring at that vacant lot, she couldn't help but wonder how differently life might have been if she had left him in the beginning instead of at the end.

Later on she did a little research and learned that a raging fire had consumed the big house one night, after standing a few years vacant. It was thought to be a case of arson but no one was ever caught or punished for the crime. Perhaps they didn't know, but deep inside she knew. She knew well his love of fire and his penchant for destruction.

So many lives had been damaged and destroyed by his actions. He had returned to this town to live at some point after their divorce and his release from the military, and he had died there at the age of 35 - from heart failure the death certificate had said. But no autopsy had been done, and she knew there was more to that story too.

Heading back to her motel room she breathed deeply in the night air. It was finished... he was gone; the house was gone too. The ground had already purified itself and reclaimed the sanctity it once held. It was going to take a lot longer for her and for her child.

We Have a Winner!!

Two Shoes in Texas officially registered it's 30,000th pageview today! 

As promised, in honor of that milestone, each comment made on posts
between the announcement and tonight was assigned a number. 
All the numbers were written on slips of paper and put in the hat -
Papa Bear's hat, of course!

Then I mixed them up and had Papa Bear draw one. 
The number he drew corresponded with a comment
made by none other than Lily!

Email me your snail mail address, Lily, and this set
of Lonestar Coasters will be headed your way!

To everyone who has stopped by my blog,
and has taken the time to read what I have to say about life,
I thank you from the bottom of my heart...
It is all of you who have made this the wonderful experience that it is!

Here's to the next 30,000 pageviews ... Onward and upward!

This Thing Called Prayer

I don't know what prayer is exactly, or how it works.  What I do know is that it does work. 

Last Thursday I finally felt like I was making headway on the backlog of paperwork to be scanned and attached at the law office where I work.  I arrived at work Friday morning in brighter spirits than usual, anticipating a productive day, since Friday is most often fairly quiet and good time to play catch up. 

Shortly after I got here, one of my attorney/supervisors helped me rearrange my office to better accommodated the copier/scanner so that I wasn't continually running around the desk to scan just as the phone would ring - and back around I'd go again to answer it and refer to the client's file online. 

We shut down the computer and moved the desk and equipment, then reconnected everything carefully.  When I rebooted my computer it began to initialize, then froze at a black screen looking for a boot disk in the drive.  It was impossible to go further, the message just repeated.  We shut it down and tried again. No luck.  We rebooted the main server and tried once more, still no luck.  My supervisor called our IT person at our home office and he confirmed what we suspected, the hard drive had gone bad and there was little that could be done except to replace it.  Not as simple as it sounds, since our company orders its computers online, and there is a wait of several days for them to arrive and be set up. 

The problem is that, being a "paperless" office, there is almost nothing that can be done without the computer and access to our network.  I can't even answer a telephone and look up the client's file to provide information to the client or to Social Security.  All the plans for catching up evaporated, and I spent the afternoon doing what little I could to assist others, and borrowing other folk's computers when they were away from their desks briefly to accomplish critical tasks like processing outgoing mail.  I couldn't even print envelopes and had to have our case manager do that.  Needless to say, they weren't particularly thrilled with the extra duties either, having plenty of their own work to do.

I went home Friday night with a heavy heart, knowing that this week was going to be a nightmare, and not at all sure about what I was going to do except stand around and look frustrated.  I envisioned paperwork stacking high, and disgruntled coworkers as the week wore on.  I dreaded today more than I have dreaded any day of work at this job so far.  I tried to put it out of my mind over the long holiday weekend, but it was always there, lurking in the background, raining on my parade.

I woke up early this morning, at 5 AM to be exact, and wasn't able to get back to sleep for the extra hour I would have liked.  My brain was already stewing on the problem at work, and how we were going to handle the busy incoming phone calls when everyone had appointments scheduled and would need their computers for those.  I did what I always do in situations where I feel powerless, I prayed.  And every time anxiety tried to worm its way into my head as I got ready and drove the 20 miles into town, I prayed.  I still felt totally down as I dragged myself across the parking lot and into the building.  This was going to be a miserable long day.

Unlocking the office doors, since I am always the first to arrive, I put my things away, settled in, and decided on a whim to flip the computer on, just in case, but not expecting anything different to happen than did last Friday. Much to my amazement it came to life and booted up correctly, allowing me full access to the network and files!  I sat there staring, then smiling, a peaceful feeling settling over me.

I prayed and God took care of it, why do I always doubt? I didn't pray for God to "fix it".  I rarely pray like that.  I pray for God to help me with my attitude, to help direct me in the way to handle things, and to accept His will for my life and the lives of anyone else I'm praying for.  I believe that God always answers our prayers, not always in our time frame, and not always in the ways we expect or want, but in the time and ways that are best for us.  Sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer comes as a total surprise, like this morning.  How simple... how beautiful... the broken computer is working just fine now!  

There was a dark period in my life where I didn't believe in God or in the power of prayer. I was hurt, angry, and very bitter.  I didn't understand that God was looking out for me and had a far better plan than any I could imagine.  I read once that God answers desperate prayer.  For me that means when I reach the point where I realize I am powerless to fix a situation, when I give up, God steps in.  I knew there was nothing I could do about the computer, other than find a way to deal with the situation without loosing my cool.  God, once again, had a better plan - He fixed it! Yes, I believe that! 

I believe God once fixed my arm when it was broken too... so does my husband.  Even the nurses at the emergency room, and the tech who was preparing to take the x-rays believed that it was broken, you could visibly see the misaligned bone protruding in a bump. It hurt like crazy.  But then, as both my husband and I prayed about it, it wasn't broken, and it no longer looked like it had initially.  Another mini-miracle, this I believe.

Prayer has the power to change things. Prayer has the power to change people, it has the power to change lives. There are mini-miracles happening all around us everyday, and sometimes some really big ones too! Never doubt the power of God to move mountains... to heal broken bones... or even to repair computers.  God is love, and we are loved in manner far beyond our ability to comprehend. 

It's turning out to be a good day after all! :-)

In A More Perfect World...

It happened just a week ago, and any day now it will be happening again. It happened last year too, and the one before that.  Children getting pregnant and having babies, children on the rez, children that I care deeply about. 

Life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota is hard.  Teen pregnancy and teen suicide rates far exceed the national average. One in four infants there are born with fetal alcohol syndrome or effects. The prospect for their future is frightening. But this isn't about statistics, it's about real people - people that I know and love.

Kay's baby is due any day now. Kay won't turn seventeen until later this fall. 

I met "Kay" when she was in the first grade at Red Cloud Indian School.  It would be more accurate to say she reached out to me first.  I'd been corresponding with children of the class thru the exchange of letters and artwork.  I obtained an 800 phone line so they could call me to visit, and Kay's was the first little voice I heard, the first one brave enough to make that call.  We were friends from the start.  When I went to visit at Red Cloud for the first time, it was Kay who bravely stood at the front of a line of shy, giggling little girls eager to meet me and to find out if I knew their names from the pictures they had sent.  It was Kay who would captivate my heart, and it was Kay's life that would break it over and over again in the years to come.

Kay was among the poorest of the poor on the reservation... with little to wear, little to eat, and little stability in her life.  Her mother and step-father were alcoholics, a situation tragically common among children of the rez.

In her first grade class, with the best teacher God ever could have given them, Kay found love and encouragement, and she showed herself to be a bright, inquisitive little girl, eager to learn.  But often Kay didn't make it to school at all, no one at home cared enough to see that she got on the the school bus.

With their mother's permission, Kay and her sister had a wonderful time staying overnight with me in a motel with a swimming pool, and eating more breakfast the next morning than I've ever seen a child consume!  It makes sense... a bounty of food was a rare ocurrence in their lives.

Kay and I stayed in close communication for the next few years, talking on the phone as best we could over the noise in her house, and exchanging letters, with me sending stamped envelopes for her to use.  From time to time I would send a few dollars for her to buy a treat at school, or for her and her siblings.  I was not surprised to find out later that her parents confiscated it for alcohol and drug money, as they did with a larger sum I once sent for them to buy Christmas gifts and food. This is common, stealing from your own children, taking food from their mouths.

In her Jr. High years I began to sense that things weren't going well in Kay's life, she withdrew and our contact was less. She lost her place at Red Cloud, since her parents failed to get her re-enrolled on time.  She ended up at another school, and then another. Visiting her web page on Bebo told me she was living a life far too common to young people there, and far too advanced for her young years.

Then came the tragic news that her mother and step-father were in jail on charges of sexual abuse, and more.  Children are not safe even in their own homes on the rez. Her parents and siblings turned against her as if it was her fault that they family had been torn apart.  Abused children of the rez are expected to hide dark family secrets, just as they are elsewhere in our world. This took a toll on the bright little girl who once was, and she dealt with her pain in the same ways that most there do, alcohol and weed. 

I began to lose hope.  I wanted desperately to kidnap her, to bring her home with me and give her a normal life, if only it were that easy, if only it would work to pull a child from all they've known and transplant them in a foreign world and a school that would be unaccepting.

Kay's life in recent years has been controlled by child welfare services, being shuffled from place to place and eventually involving minor run-ins with the law.  Kay was relocated from the rez to a nearby city to keep her safe from her family, and at first it looked like that might make a difference.  She was doing well  in school, an honor student as she was meant to be. She stopped drinking and made positive efforts to keep her life on track.  But from time to time she'd be back living with her mother and her mother's boyfriend of the moment, and then shit would hit the fan and she'd be moving again.  No stability, no security, and far from enough love.

Several months ago I noted a series of days of comments on her Facebook page that she was feeling sick, and then that her brother had accompanied her to the doctor.  I know the signs all to well.  I wrote and asked her, "Kay, are you pregnant?"  Yes, of course she was. It was almost to be expected.  And the father? An on again, off again boyfriend. A young man not nearly up to taking on a comitted relationship, much less parenthood. He's been out of the picture for some time now. 

Kay has struggled to stay in school and keep up with her classwork, struggled even to find ways to get there at times.  She was moved from a school she loved to one she just barely endures. She's working a part-time job, and is tired, so very tired, as is often true of pregnancy.  She is sixteen, pregnant, and has dark circles under her eyes.  She's staying straight and sober, soon to get her own apartment, and trying hard to plan a life for her and her soon-to-be-born son.  Kay wants to be a good mother, a mother better than the one she has known, a mother that she loves despite all that has happened. 

When she was young, it was Kay's dream to one day go to college and become a teacher, an awesome teacher like the one she was blessed with in First Grade, a dream within her reach.  What will her future hold now, I wonder. Will she finish high school? Will she go on to college? Will she stay out of trouble, away from alcohol, and away from men who would abuse her?  Will she make a good life for her and her son?  Only time will tell.  If God answers my prayers she will.

In a more perfect world, someone would have cared enough to see that Kay was fed, and kept safe and warm, to see that she got to school, to see that she avoided drinking, to see that she was safe from predators and violence, and to see that she she used birth control.  In an more perfect world... someone would have done that for her mother too.  I pray that the cycle will be broken.

Papa Bear's Tale - The Complete Interview

I've concluded my interview with Papa Bear, and we had a great time doing it.  In case you missed part of it, links to all four posts in this series are included below. They can also be found in my sidebar underneath his picture. :-)

If you have any questions you're curious about that weren't covered in the interview, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or on any of my posts.  He'll be more than happy to answer them!

Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part III

Continued from Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part II

1.  You have a prominent tattoo on your forearm. Tell us about it.  When I was fifteen I tattooed a crude J for John on my arm.  I've always hated it.  A few years back I found a decal in a motorcycle magazine that portrays a bald eagle overlaying an American flag. I thought would make a cool cover-up tattoo.  When I met Josie she decided to have it done for me as a Valentine's Day gift.  It turned out great, with vibrant color and amazing detail. I've been given hundreds of compliments on it. 

2.  (Guest question from Annie)  I understand that you think of sushi as bait.  I must assume by this that you like to fish. What is the biggest fish you ever caught? (No "fish tales"...tails?)  The biggest fish I've caught was a fifteen pound striped bass that I landed at Lake Proctor last month.  He put up quite a fight and I didn't think I was going to land him. He tasted mighty good in my belly :-) My favorite place to fish is Caddo Lake in East Texas where the above photo was taken. It is the only lake in the state of Texas that has 2000 year old cypress trees and alligators. I've been fishing there since I was nine years old.

3.  Of all the places you've visited, which was your favorite, and are there any places you've never been that you'd like to see someday?  The place I loved the most was Colorado.  I rented a jeep and drove over mountain passes that were over 13,200 feet in elevation. It was the most beautiful place I've ever been!  I'm still trying to persuade Josie to go there with me, but she has a strong dislike of heights and winding mountain roads.  What a weenie! :-) I'd like to visit the Giant Redwoods in California, and go to Alaska, and Ireland - the home of my ancestors.

4.  What made you decide to become a Freemason?  When I was a young boy I used to notice that many of the town's men went to a building each month, all dressed up in nice suits.  I didn't know what the place was back then, but I remember seeing a square and compass on the front of the building. Many years later I noticed my great uncle wearing a ring with the same square and compass.  I asked him if he was a Freemason and he said yes. Then I asked him how I could become one, and he said "You just did - to be one ask one." Thus began the process of me becoming a Freemason.  In 1995 I was raised to the degree of Master Mason, and became a 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Mason in 1997.  I served as Worshipful Master of my Lodge in 2009, and now enjoy the status of being recognized world wide as a Past-Master.

5.  What effect has being a Freemason had on your life?  Freemasonry turns a good man into a better man through it's teachings and precepts, and thru fellowship with other brethren.  No matter where I go, when I see someone wearing the square and compass, I know that I am in the company of a brother Mason.  Many of this country's founding fathers were Freemasons including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

6.  How has time and experience changed you? In what ways are you different from who you were 25 years ago? Over the years I've developed more patience and tolerance. I guess you could say I've mellowed out. I've learned that I'm not bullet-proof and I'm not going to live forever. Other than that, I think I'm pretty much the same person I've always been, my beliefs and opinions haven't really changed all that much.

7. What would you like to tell today's young people who are graduating?  To be self-sufficient and accountable in their lives, to work hard for they want, and to conduct themselves with integrity.

8. You have a great sense of humor and playfulness, and have been known to address unsuspecting people in silly voices.  What other funny things have you done?  Picture two people in their fifties engaged in a food-fight over a shared piece of chocolate cake in a restaurant! Cake was flying everywhere and we were both laughing so hard tears were running down our faces.  People sitting around us were staring and probably wondering who let us out of the home!  We did clean up the mess before we left.

9.  (Guest question from the Lady in Red)  How and when did you know that Josie was the one for you?  I knew that I wanted Josie to be with me forever because she made me happy, and she made me laugh, and she helped me forget all my troubles.  We knew we wanted to make a life together just a few weeks after we met.  A lot of people thought I was getting married again too soon after my last wife died, but I asked them how long I should be alone. I have always been married and I am used to having a woman to share my life with.  Josie is the most unusual woman I've ever met and I knew our life together would be fun and interesting. I love Josie even more today than I did yesterday, my love for her continues to grow with each passing day.

10. What advice would you give to couples regarding relationships?  To always say your sorry.  It doesn't matter if you think you were wrong or not. The best way to end hard feelings is to apologize. Don't go to sleep angry with each other.

11.  (Guest question from Louise) Have you counted your blessings today? And is Josie at the top of the list? :)  Not a day goes by that I don't thank the Lord for everything that He's given me, including Josie.  I love her more than all the stars in the sky; I love her more than words can say.

This concludes my interview with Papa Bear. We hope you've enjoyed these brief glimpses of his life.  It doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all that he has experienced in the past 58 years. I am planning to write his biography as a gift to his children, his grandchildren, and the generations to come. Papa Bear's tale is the story of overcoming hardship and becoming the kind of person you want to be, despite what life has handed you.  Papa Bear is an amazing man, to be his wife is an honor and a most precious gift!  I urge you to treasure the people in your lives, and listen to their stories! - Josie

Sisters of the Heart

My Six Word Saturday post is in honor of someone very special...

Sisters of the heart - greatest blessing!

Happy Birthday Annie!  I'm celebrating having you in my life!

Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part II

Continued from Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part I

1.  You grew to be nearly a foot and a half  taller than your mother. Was it hard being a big kid growing up?   Yes, I was picked  on and made fun of, and called fatso, tubby, Baby Hughey, names like that - it hurt. Until I stood up to one of the bullies and punched him. Word got around fast in our small town and they left me alone after that!

2.  Can you tell us about a time when that size and strength was put to good use?  When I was fourteen and living in Memphis, my mom had a heart attack and stroke at home while my step-father was out somewhere with the car on a drunk. We didn't have a phone to call an ambulance so I more or less carried my mom the eight blocks to the hospital. I was scared to death, her speech was slurred and she could hardly breathe.  I just knew I had to get her there, and I did. She recovered, but went on to have several more heart attacks in her lifetime.  She died at 64, following stomach surgery, with me holding her hand.  Her heart wasn't strong enough and she never came out of the anesthesia following surgery. That was the most painful day of my life.

3. You worked at several jobs between the ages of 16 and 27 when you started your current job at the truck accessories store.  What kinds of things did you do?  I bussed tables and washed dishes at a steak house, pulled 300 pound blocks of ice at an ice house, cut wood in a furniture factory, worked as a carpenter's helper, a service station attendant, and a roughneck on a drilling rig.  I sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door, and I drove a tow-truck where I saw terrible things at accident scenes that still haunt my memories.

4. What was the most unusual job you've ever had?  The most interesting job I ever held was working on a drilling rig at a nuclear test site in Nevada, drilling holes that were 100 inches wide and 4,500 feet deep. They were used for underground testing of nuclear bombs.  I got to witness some of the explosions by closed circuit tv.  You could see the ground rise up several hundred feet in the air and then collapse, leaving huge craters that looked like a moonscape.  I did that job for six months, and even though the pay was good, I decided to return to West Texas.  I missed my wife and children, and I didn't want to relocate them and have my daughters growing up in the Las Vegas environment.

5. You had a near-death experience when you were in your 40's, tell us about that.  Some friends and I were camping at sand dunes near here in the winter, and were out riding four-wheeled ATVs.  We headed back to our campsite as it was getting dark.  It was cold out - in the 20's, raining and sleeting.  I was wearing insulated coveralls and boots for warmth.  The other riders were more experienced than me. I  was at the rear having a hard time keeping up.  I lost sight of them in the dark, and as I topped a dune and started over, the ATV started sliding down toward a large pool of water at the bottom.  I applied the brakes but continued to slide.  The ATV flipped forward into the pool of water, which was about eight feet deep, throwing me over the handlebars.  It landed on top of me pinning me under water at the bottom of the pool.  It happened so fast I didn't even have time to hold my breath as I went under.

An ATV weighs over 600 pounds, but some how, by the grace of God, I found the strength to push it off of me so I could rise to the surface.  One of my friends had turned around to come back and find me, and he saw my headlight go over the dune and disappear.  By the time he got there I was clawing my way up the steep bank, soaking wet, and freezing cold. 

I went back down in to the water to upright the ATV and my friend and I managed to push it out of the pool and drag it up the slippery bank.  We towed it back to the campsite behind his ATV using my belt for a tow rope. Nearly two hours passed from the time I fell in the water until we arrived back at the campsite.  I was frozen through and shaking uncontrollably. My friends helped me change into dry clothes, gave me coffee, and warmed me up by the campfire. That's the only time I've ever had death staring me in the face, I was lucky to get out of the water alive. It was not nearly as much fun as skinny dipping when I was a kid!

Continued in Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part III

Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part I

Continued from Papa Bear's Tale: The Intro...

Without further ado, I would like to present the man best known in the blogsphere as Papa Bear...

1.  References to you are quite common in my blog posts, what made you agree to this interview?  To help satisfy people's curiosity about me.

2.  What do you remember about your Dad? I don't remember anything about him, all I have is pictures of him.  I do remember my Mom coming home from his funeral dressed in a black dress and crying, but I was too young to understand what had happened. I just knew she was very sad.  Sometimes I think about how different our lives might have been if he hadn't died.

3.  You lived on your grandparents farm for four years after that, how did your grandfather shape your life?  He was very strict but I knew he loved me.  He was a good role model and he taught me honesty, the value of hard work, integrity, that a man takes care of his family, and that you have to work for what you want in this life, it's not just handed to you. He died when I was fourteen, but I think in many ways he made me the man that I am today.

4.  Your mother remarried when you were nine, spending the next the next ten years with a man who was an alcoholic and was very abusive toward her.  How did that affect you? I hated him and how he treated my mother. One time he even attempted to strangle her. If I hadn't been there to hit him in the head with my baseball bat he would have killed her because he wanted money for wine and she wouldn't give it to him. How could you treat someone like that if you supposedly loved them? Seeing what my mother went through taught me a valuable lesson  - women should always be treated with love and respect. 

5.  You've told me stories about the "Girl Haters Club" you formed when you were young.  Why did you start the club, and what brought about it's demise?  My friends and I dug a giant hole in a vacant lot and covered it with plywood and dirt.  It was our clubhouse and we put a sign out that said "GIRL HATERS CLUB - NO GIRLS ALLOWED".  We thought that girls had cooties. :-)  One of the club members let his older sister into the club house one day and I took an interest in her. The sign came down, and I later married her.  I would say that puberty brought about the end of The Girl Haters Club. 

6.  What caused the end of your first marriage?  I married my first wife when I was seventeen years old because she was pregnant and I thought it was the right thing to do. I came home early from work on our first anniversary to surprise her, and found her in an intimate situation with someone else. I knew that I could never trust her again and that our marriage was over. One blessing did come out of that experience - my daughter, who I love with all my heart, and who has also blessed me with three wonderful grandchildren.

Continued in Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part II

Papa Bear's Tale: The Intro

I'm delighted to present the first-ever guest appearance of Papa Bear on my blog in the form of an interview. There is no one I am more proud of, and I'm excited about this opportunity for you to get to know him a little bit better.

Papa Bear (aka John) was born right here in in West Texas nearly 59 years ago. Following the death of his father in a car accident when John was three years old, he moved with his mother and older sister no less than 13 times while growing up, being in five different schools in the 6th grade alone! John dropped out of school at 16 to began working full-time and he's been working ever since. He married at 17, becoming a father just two months later.  That marriage ended in heartbreak a year later and a short while thereafter John relocated to West Texas and began a series of jobs which let to his current employment at the truck accessories store where he has been for the past 31 years, rising from the ranks of a lowly installer to General Manager. John married twice more, tragically losing his wife of 29 years to an aneurysm, and his following wife just six years later to breast cancer.  He has three wonderful daughters and six awesome grandkids ranging in age from 10-22.

John's life has been anything but easy, and yet he is a man of love, laughter, compassion, and courage. He could have chosen to play the role of a victim and no one would have blamed him, but instead John chose to make something good of his life, and is a powerful example of what one can accomplish if they are determined to overcome the odds.  John is a Freemason and a proud seventeen year member of his Lodge, recently serving a year as Worshipful Master.  There is not a place we go in this city of 100,000 people, that someone doesn't walk up to greet him and shake his hand, including some of the most wealthy and influential men in the community.  Everyone knows him and respects him. When I was engaged to John and new to this city, I had a local businessman tell me that John is "the real deal". Indeed he is that and much more. 

Continued in Papa Bear's Tale: The Interview - Part I

Celebrating 30,000 Visits With A Gift Drawing!

Sometime within the next couple weeks or so, the Total Pageviews on this blog will hit 30,000!  Of course I realize that not everyone who stops by actually reads what I've written, but if even one out of three visitors read a post, that's still a whopping 10,000 times that something I've posted here has been read by another human being... it truly amazes me! To celebrate this milestone I'm going to do a gift drawing for a set of four beautiful "Lonestar" sandstone beverage coasters made right here in Texas! They make a great place to park a hot cup of coffee or an ice-cold beer!  Anytime anyone comments on a post I write between now and the day my pageview counter hits the 30,000 mark they will automatically have their name entered in the drawing (one entry per person per blogpost).  When the time comes, I'll announce the winner in celebration of 30,000 pageviews, and in gratitude for your continued encouragement and support. Thanks for all the times you've stopped by, it truly gladdens this old woman's heart!

One Question Wednesday... Ask Papa Bear!

Several of you have been requesting a guest post by the now famous Papa Bear! He has declined that offer, saying that he's "not good with words" which isn't really true, he's just much more comfortable talking to folks than writing down his thoughts - one way that we are clearly opposites.  However, he has graciously accepted my request for an interview, so getting back in the swing of One Question Wednesday, I'm going to change things up a bit and let you ask the Papa Bear a question this time around!

Leave your questions for Papa Bear in the comments below, and  I'll post his answers tomorrow night. Any subject is fair game. I'll probably pose a few of my own questions as well.  I've given my word that I will type his responses verbatim. Of course that doesn't mean I can't add editorial comments following his interview, hehe!

And by the way, if you'd like a question to expound on for One Question Wednesday, let me know that in the comments too, and I'll be more than happy to oblige! :-))

Tearing Down the Walls

Last week I wrote a post about folks who alter their appearance with excessive amounts of makeup or plastic surgery. Today I want to say a bit about another kind of cover up... the kind where people create bigger-than-life personas to hide the fact that inside is a kinder, gentler, more sensitive soul - and a more vulnerable one. 

We've all known folks who are just over the top with behavior, who will say or do anything to draw get a laugh or draw attention to themselves, often in negative ways.  They are usually loud, boastful, and sometimes downright obnoxious.  A little bit of being around someone like this goes a long way; it rapidly becomes tiring.  If you're subjected to it on a regular basis in the form of co-workers or friends-of-friends, as I have been from time to time in my life, you have my sympathies. 

In a well-known poem called Desiderata, Max Ehrmann says to "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, for they are vexations to the spirit."  Amen to that!  The energy they emit is disruptive and can easily distract you from being the kind of person you'd like to be.  Let's just say it doesn't bring out the best in bystanders!

What I've learned, is that these folks are often not nearly the pompous buttheads they appear to be.  If you watch and listen carefully, and take time to get to know one a bit better, you just might discover that underneath that bold, egotistical exterior, lurks a gentle soul and a marshmallow heart... carefully concealed and protected by a wall of self-generated hype. 

There is nothing wrong with being a little loud or a little crazy, or even with being an entertainer of the masses... there's just a time and place for it.  Sometimes the people who behave like that forget to take the wall down now and then and just be themselves.  Maybe they think it's too risky.  What if folks didn't like them as much the way they really are?  What if no one wanted to be their friend?

We are all vulnerable, and we all use different means to avoid getting hurt, but sometimes we do that to the extreme, and to our own detriment.  The blog world is a place where I've seen some amazingly well constructed walls come tumbling down,  first with a tiny peep hole in the bricks, then sharing enough of themselves to allow us to get a glimpse, and maybe finally tearing down that wall and replacing it with a doorway so we are free to exchange the true depth of our thoughts and feelings. 

Blogging affords a small degree of anonymity, and a safety valve in that you don't have to see how the other person responds if you say something very personal and they think you're a complete idiot, or worse.  We tentatively offer bits of ourselves, then maybe more, and at some point realize that there are folks who can relate and who yes, really like us just as we are... warts and all, maybe even clown suit and all!

If you're tired of putting on that show for the world everyday, give us a chance to know the real you, you just might be surprised at how positively folks respond.... and anyone who doesn't respond kindly to the "new you"  probably wasn't a real friend to begin with, they were just riding on the coattails of the show.

Manly Monday - 6/21/12

Andrea over at From the Sol, hosts "Manly Monday" each week.  It's a cool way of honoring or promoting any guy you think fills the bill. Check out this week's post on her blog for more details, and then tell us about the Manly Man you admire!

I'm sure it won't surprise you to learn that when I think of "manly" the first name that springs to mind is my beloved husband.   Ok, so "Papa Bear", my pet name for him, may not conjure up the most macho image in your minds, but how about this one.

 In a former life, Papa Bear could easily have been a sheriff, bringing law and order to some dusty West Texas town.  He is an imposing, no-nonsense type of guy, and he's all about doing what's right.  Papa Bear's not afraid of anything or anyone.  He's the first to step up when something needs to be taken care of, and he wouldn't hesitate to shoot any bad guys that might threaten his family or the town.  Would he really arrest a sweet little old lady for harboring too many varmints in her house... I'm thinking he just might! :-)

Heart-Shaped Memories

 It's time to play Six Word Saturday!  My thoughts at the moment...

Happiness is...  photos that spark memories!

I bit the bullet and updated my Facebook page to the new Timeline format this morning.  No, I'm not crazy about it, but change is inevitable, so I might as well embrace it.  Looking thru my photo files for a header photo, I came across this one. It's a bouquet of wild flowers that the Papa Bear picked for me as we were walking thru the woods in the mountains at Ruidoso, New Mexico.  So beautiful... such an incredible variety! Far more precious than any florist shop bouquet I've ever received! And a picture, taken by him - the perfect way to keep them fresh and beautiful forever! 

That started me thinking about what a true romantic the Papa Bear is, full of sweet gestures and little surprises, like a fudgesicle bought from the corner store on a hot day, hands hidden behind his back, waiting for me to guess what the treat is!

When we went home to my Father's funeral at the beginning of January in 2010, the bitter cold (19 below zero at the airport in Fargo when we got off the plane), and the incredible amount of snow (they were trucking it out of the city to clear streets and parking lots) were a totally new experience for the Papa Bear.  We went out to the frozen lake one morning, another first for him - walking on a lake - and he drew this heart in the snow for me...

This next one is his beach masterpiece, done when we were on an autumn vacation at Port Aransas in the Gulf, beautifully decorated with seashells!  It was my first time at the beach in many, many years, and the most peaceful place I've ever encountered.  I want to return so badly, when we have the time and money. 

This one he found - nature's handiwork with a bit assistance by someone with a chainsaw.  We were staying at a little cabin on the Paluxy River in Central Texas, my surprise gift for his birthday. He went walking in the trees near the river, returning with this amazing photo of a stump remaining where a tree had been cut down.  A perfect heart... a perfect remembrance of his love for me!  How very blessed I am!

Take time now and then to do something special for the people in your life that you love. It's the little things that count, the sweet gestures like the ones above that will be most treasured! 

Paint and Plastic

Last night I was commenting on a picture of a friend near my age, noting how beautiful she was. She laughed, but truly there was so much beauty and light in face, and a lifetime of stories in her eyes.  To me, that IS beautiful!  She was also natural, my kind of woman.  I have little time or interest in "paint and plastic" and sometimes it pains me to see what people have done to their faces and bodies in the name of "beauty".  If you want to be horrified, go to Google Images and search "plastic surgery gone wrong" - before and after pictures that are tragic, to say the least.  What is wrong with a society that pushes people to such extremes in an attempt to look 21 forever?  Why is it that we can't see beyond that very surface appraisal of what is attractive?

I once had a friend that used makeup like an artist's palette, applying thick layers of bright colors and ridiculously long lashes until she looked very much like a circus clown, or at least Tammy Faye Baker's sister!  Her husband tried to tell her to tone it down a bit, we all tried subtly to suggest that less can be more, but when she looked in the mirror she felt that all this was necessary to make herself "beautiful".  How sad.  The Creator made her beautiful when she was born, and she remains that way today, with or without makeup.

I've never been one for much makeup or fancy hair - it's that 60's thing again, I suppose.  From time to time I have worn a little, and wear eyeliner now just because I like it. Eyes tend to disappear behind glasses.  I dyed my naturally auburn hair for about a fifteen year period too, in a futile attempt to make early gray hair disappear, and also for the fun of it, trying on lighter and darker colors to see the effect, and once even going candy-apple red... that was "interesting"! :-)   I have no problem with young people who do that, we all need to do a bit of experimenting to find our style and discover who we are in life.  My issue comes with those who feel they are ugly without all that, that being "Plain Jane" isn't good enough. Sometimes I also have the urge to approach my middle-aged male friends who have dyed their hair three shades too dark and ask them if they really, truly think it makes them pass for younger.  If we look in the mirror and can't abide what we see, the problem is most likely far deeper than what meets the eye. 

The same goes for plastic surgery.  Would I love to lift droopy eyelids a bit or tighten up that sagging chin line?  Sure, I'd prefer if gravity didn't take a toll on our bodies as we age.  But would I go to the extreme of paying someone to surgically attempt those alterations?  Hell no!  I am fine with being 58 and I am fine with looking every bit of that.  I am also blessed to have a husband who loves the natural look, who says please don't dye your hair, and whose own hair is prematurely silvery white... and I love it!  When I braid my long hair in a single braid, as I often do for work or sleeping, the colors are a mix of everything from white to darn auburn and I think it's lovely that way.  I'll be thrilled if it someday turns totally white!  I am not 21, and I have no desire to try to pretend I am, or 30, or 40.  To be in great shape for your age is admirable, and I wish I was.  I can improve that some with a bit of effort. But other than that, I am what I am, and when I see other women who are comfortable in their own unaltered skin, I see beauty... naturally... the way God made us.  No paint or plastic for me please, but to each their own.

Just Listen

There is an elderly Hispanic gentleman who is one of the clients where I work.  We helped him file a disability claim.  During the lengthy process he called in several times to ask questions, seek assistance, or just to touch base. After receiving a favorable decision from the judge on his case, he called in to express his gratitude for our assistance in helping him navigate the Social Security maze.

Mr. G has "old school" manners, insisting on calling us Mr. or Mrs __, rather than by our first names, always saying please and thank you, and always apologizing for taking up our time.  Mr G likes to talk, and he likes to take his time about it, obviously thinking about each word used and each thought he wishes to convey.  If multiple phone lines are ringing and everyone is busy, it is tempting to try to cut him short, and push him ahead to the finish line.  The funny/neat thing about him is that he really can't be hurried.  If you try to redirect the conversation or speed up his train of thought, he will pause and then continue right where he left off.  Some of the other staff here find this exasperating and if by chance they take his call, they are quick to pass it off to me with much rolling-of-eyes. 

Mr. G has taught me patience... and to LISTEN.  All he wants is for someone to take the time to listen politely so that he can be heard and understood.  He is an intelligent man, and obviously a deep thinker.  After awhile he realized that I would not try to rush him, so now he always asks for me when he calls (more eye-rolling from other staff :-).   I don't mind a bit, in fact one day I complimented him on his manners and how refreshing it is to find someone like that in this day and age.  It pleased him to no end, and now when he calls he includes even more pleasantries in our conversation.  We aren't talking about a thirty minute conversation, maybe ten minutes at most. I figure that if I can't take ten minutes out of my busy day to listen respectfully to an elder, something is wrong.  And you know what?  I find that by the time we have finished our conversation at slow pace, I am breathing easier and feeling more relaxed too! 

Recently Papa Bear and I were watching the movie "We Bought A Zoo".  One of the best comments made during the show was "The secret to talking is listening."  So true!  I love to talk and ramble on, and of course I love to ask lots of questions, but if I really want to have a meaningful exchange with someone else I need to listen, and I'm actually a pretty good listener too! Everyone has a story to tell, you can learn so much from them if you will just take the time. If we all slowed down the pace of our lives just a bit and took time to really listen to each other it would be a much nicer world.


Sophie is a "Daddy's girl".  She has a reserved spot draped over his leg where she parks every night as soon as he sits down and stays there 'til bedtime.  She is very possessive and gets disgruntled if Chole or Tiggy, who also love laptime with him, try to horn in on her space.  In fact she'd even rather I not try to cuddle with him if she's there first!  I thought this picture taken last night says it all about furkids' devotion to their caretakers. Sophie is a rescue cat and is such a mellow little sweetie, true to the nature of Maine Coon cats; if I could clone her I'd have a dozen more!

I'm A Winner!

I woke up this morning to discover that Ken over at at ken-inatractor had bestowed the Liebster Award on me.  That certainly started my day off with a much-needed smile!  Liebster in German, means dearest, beloved, or favorite, and it's for bloggers with under 200 followers.  THANK YOU, Ken, I'm honored to be included in this prestigious group!

Not long ago I followed Lady in Red over to Ken's blog and was immediately impressed with what I found there. Ken's a farmer up North in Canada. Being raised in the agricultural Midwestern plains of Dakota, that's a very familiar environment to me.  Not only does Ken grow grain and raise cattle, he's been known to raise a little Cain now and then too! :-)  Ken is actually a great writer, and his posts are always interesting and fun to read; he's a great commenter too!  With so many women bloggers on my blogroll Ken is a very welcome addition, we can always use a man's perspective - especially one who is an all-around great guy.  If you're looking for a new good read and want to learn a bit about life behind the barn, check out ken-inatractor, I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

These are the official rules that go with the award:
  1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  2. Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
  3. Copy & paste the blog award on your blog.
  4. Reveal your 5 picks.
  5. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
I'm supposed to tag five fellow bloggers with this award, but I"m not a tagger. If you're on my blogroll it already means that I think your way cool and what you write is worth my time to read.  It also means that you regularly torture yourself by reading my extremely long posts thru to the end! So grab yourself this award, paste it on your page, and go for it... you've earned it!


Why, oh why, do I let myself get sucked into drama with my sister? 

Yesterday wasn't one of my better days, I wasn't feeling great because the weather changes leaves me achy and moving slow, I was missing my Mom and my kids who I visited with on the phone but who live too far away to see, and we had to make an unplanned afternoon run to Wally Hell  which took a bite out of my day.  Then, late in the afternoon, I received an email from my younger sister. (I have two siblings, a sister who is older than me by two years and another who is younger than me by three.)  In a brief, biting message she stated something to the effect of  "I feel hurt because you didn't_______x________.  I used a "fill in the blank" here because this is just one of many such emails I've received from her in past years.  This time my transgression was that I had failed to text her son with congrats over his college graduation after she told me to do so in an email last week.  She noted that she had been upset about my lack of caring and consideration all week, that she can never count on me, and then finished up with her usual "please do not reply, I just needed you to know how I feel".

The truth of the matter is that I had planned to send my nephew a congrats card with money in it this week after I get paid on Tuesday.  I was not even informed of his pending graduation until a couple days before the event when she noted in an email that she wouldn't be home due to going to his graduation.  He and I have never texted, and I didn't see any reason to go that route now.  It seemed kind of cheap and impersonal.  Up until the time they got older I used to send he and his brother gold dollar coins for their birthdays and they enjoyed showing them off to their friends, so I had planned to buy a couple rolls of gold dollar coins to send, something with a bit of sentiment attached.  I didn't feel the need to inform my sister of my intent, thinking whatever manner I chose to acknowledge this milestone was up to me.  My mistake,  I should have immediately updated her on my plans so she wouldn't have spent a week stewing about my lack of followthru!

If I had at least half a brain, I would NOT have responded to her email last night. That would be the intelligent way to deal with her verbal spew.  But NO, dummy here just had to respond.  I don't like it when someone puts me down but then says "don't reply".  Why shouldn't I have a rebuttal opportunity?  So of course I took one, noted what my intended plans were and that I really didn't appreciate the chronic "you let me down again" missives.  I apologized for her hurt feelings and said I would take care of it this week.
Of course that wasn't good enough for her and a more heated exchange took place.  She went on her usual rant that I have plenty of time for my Internet friends but never time for her, asking why that is. In reality she has no knowledge of how much time I do or don't spend blogging or on Facebook.  I fired back that maybe it was because the people I know online don't spend a lot of time judging me and everything I do or don't do!  Needless to say, things spiraled downhill from there.  I apologized again for her hurt feelings but reminded her that most of her disappointments in life come from the expectations she sets for others not being met.  I told her that she needs to focus on her own expectations of herself and stop deciding what everyone else needs to do or not do in relationship to her and her family.  If  I had decided to send nothing to my nephew, that would have been my option too, but such was not the case, nor am I that negligent. 

Family drama is nothing new, the issues are endless. That's one of the reasons I left home, and then the state many years ago... way too much interference in my life! I would love to have close relationships with either or both of my sisters, but it's just not possible.  The older one is certifiably crazy and wrecked all kinds of havoc in our lives shortly before Dad died.  She has a problem with truth and her fabricated versions of it. I find it far healthier to avoid communication and keep her at arm's length.  My little sister operates on very middle-class ethics and has little tolerance or understanding for anyone beneath that standard.  In a recent phone conversation (another point of contention - she doesn't want to talk to me on the phone, preferring emails - while I don't like to email her because it always seems to end up in another verbal tennis match), she noted how much she dislikes all the ESL students in the school where she works as a para-professional, and how she absolutely refuses to do the physical care associated with the more severely challenged students now enrolled in their special ed program.  She won't so someone else has to. She also complained in past years about being asked to take along a child on her son's team to an out of town game because the single mother was working and couldn't afford the time off or the gas money. I reminded her that I was a single mom for awhile and how hard it was to cover the bases and make ends meet.  Her response - then maybe their kids shouldn't be in sports!! She's also had plenty to say in the past about my affiliation with children on the rez. She lives in a "white bread" world and prefers it that way.  If you know me at all by  now, you can guess that we've locked horns more than one time over her snootiness!

So anyway, after a couple of replies and HER telling ME how I had once again made her feel so bad, I apologized once more, and then told her it was time to move on and goodnight.  Needless to say, I felt like a limp dishrag.  These family entanglements take so much out of me emotionally.  They replay hundreds of such tapes from the past and I have long since reached the point where I can barely tolerate them. 

So why do I allow myself to get sucked in to these games?  Old triggers die hard I guess. I'm always angry with myself afterwards, and I always feel like shit for once again letting her get to me.  SOMEDAY I am going to be the stronger, wiser one and just hit the delete button, no reply.  For now, I can expect another period of cold war, as she noted that once again I have proven we can't have an honest relationship with her sharing her feelings.  (Translate that as she can share hers, but I am not to share mine, she doesn't want to hear them.)  ARRRGGGGHHHH!!  

How I envy families where the siblings are close and enjoy the support and encouragement of each other. Along the way in life I've had to create my own family of people who love and trust me, and actually like me! That's fine by me, I'm just sorry that my blood family still has the power to get to me. 

Yes, I know life is short.  Much to short for this kind of stupidity.  I will "make nice", send the card and coins as originally intended and make no further reference to it.  I will send short, innocuous emails regularly as expected/required/demanded to keep her happy.  Anything for the sake of peace... but what an artificial peace it is.  SIGH

It is a gray, rainy Monday here.  I love the rain but its adding to my gloomy state, along with the phone craziness of Mondays.  Now that I've vented, and let all of you share in my woe, I'll shape up, shake it off, and get back in the game of life.  Day half over, I think I'm gonna make it.  Going hunting for my smile now, bye!

In the Beginning I Believed

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "In The Beginning"...

In the beginning I believed my father when he told me...
that it was better not to get involved in other people's problems; and
I believed him when he said I didn't know enough to handle things on my own.

In the beginning I believed that "the group" knew the answers...
one world, one way, a new day - or so they said.
I believed that the world as we knew it was going to end soon,
no need to prepare for a future in traditional ways.

In the beginning I believed that my first husband was brilliant,
and he was - according to the numbers;
I believed him when he said the child I was carrying would die if it wasn't his.
I believed him when he said he really didn't mean to strike her when she cried.
I believed them when they said he had a right to spend time with his child.

In the beginning I believed that my second husband was much better than the first,
I believed him when he said that he would take care of me and my child.
I believed he would learn to love her, I believed he would learn to trust me.
I believed he could control his drinking.... and his anger.
I believed him when he said that I didn't have the balls to leave him.

In the beginning I believed that my third husband loved me,
I believed that his mellow manner was natural, not the byproduct
of a chemical high.
I believed that one day I could become number one in his life....
not making music, not using drugs, me.
I believed that if I did everything exactly right I could make him happy,
and he wouldn't get angry or hurt me.

In the end, I learned that the only one I could really believe in was me.

And then, I met the Papa Bear...

In the beginning I believed that no man could be trusted
I believed he would change once the other foot fell
I believed it was only a matter of time before his sweetness ended
I believed it was impossible that he could really love me.

Eventually I learned that I was wrong about many things
I had come to believe;
The truth is that he is good, and kind and trustworthy,
and yes...amazingly, inexplicably, he really does love me!

In the end I realized that I am smart enough and strong enough to survive.

I Am Free

Saturday morning finds me in my usual place, in my rocking chair in front of my laptop, catching up on blog reading and trying to write with my arms stretched over Stormy, the sleeping elder cat curled up in my lap. I can't bear to put him down, he so loves to snuggle in and snooze. Ahhh to live the life of my cats! :-)

It's time for another round of Six Word Saturday, and this is what's on my mind...

Freedom Is Not Just Another Word

Being an Aquarian, and true to my sign, I am freedom-loving to the point of passion, maybe even obsession. I don't do well with arbitrary limitations or heavy-handed control on my life. I have had way too much of it.  "Don't tell me what to do" I will shout in anger, "Ask me, but don't tell me!"

My friend Elsie commented on a recent post that she knows how much I cherish my freedom.  I suppose it's fairly obvious in my writing that freedom means a great deal to me, in fact it means everything.  Lines from old poems I wrote years ago, spring to mind...
"I remember watching Autumn thru wire-covered windows... Then and now, I do not know I will ever be free of the restrictions placed upon my life" - from a  poem about a time of confinement.

"But I will live and someday may be free" - from a poem regarding  the mindset of my first husband, and the obsessions which killed him.

I was looking thru some blog posts from years back, and I noted how often I spoke of freedom in those days...

"Freedom came with a heavy price" - about the months after leaving my ex-husband.

"Free at last" - when bankruptcy proceedings which consumed my life and took well over a year were finally concluded.

"My boss released the balloons outside... free... like me!"  - following my final day of work at a job I held for 19 long years.

In fact, when I ran a search of my old blog, the words free or freedom appeared in over 40 different posts!  It can safely be said that freedom is precious to me.  But there have been times when I wondered if freedom truly is, as the song said, "Just another word for nothing left to lose".  The struggle to regain myself, my identity, my very soul, meant losing nearly everyone and everything I once loved.  Freedom does indeed come with price, but it is worth every penny of it!

My life now is more free than it ever was... I am free from abusive ex-spouses; I am free from job environments that destroyed my desire to give all that I had to give;  I am free from constant financial worry;  I am free from living in a place owned and controlled by someone else;  I am free from the noise and chaos of crowded living situations;  I am free from needing to pretend to be something I'm not; I am free from the guilt of my past; I am free to express my thoughts and feelings here without fear of repercussion; I am free to love, and I am free to be loved. I am free to love myself!

Yes, there are days and times when I feel the stress of being limited by time, money, or necessity. I can't do everything I want to do, I can't refrain from doing everything I don't really want to do; but when I review the list above I realize that I am ever so much more free than I once was, much more than I ever thought I would be.  Truly, I am blessed.  Freedom is a  precious gift, cherish it... I do!

Five Things I Miss About Mom

It's Friday... another work week survived!  Mother's Day is coming up this weekend. It's a bittersweet day for me, even though my children will call  me and send wonderful gifts to make me feel special.  My Mom passed to the spirit world seventeen years ago - I miss her.  We didn't have a picture-perfect relationship, I was the middle-child and different in ways she didn't quite understand.  But I know beyond a doubt that she loved me, and I loved her.  Not having her in my life leaves a hole in my heart.  This week's Five on Friday is a list of things I miss about Mom...

1.  I miss the way Mom loved holidays and birthdays and always put so much effort into making them special for us. She made amazing birthday cakes and wonderful Christmas cookies, and made sure we had beautifully wrapped gifts to open. Birthdays meant streamers and balloons hanging from the ceiling light over the table, paper party plates and matching napkins too.  Christmas meant a a real Christmas tree that we helped her choose and decorate, lights around the windows, and a nativity scene set up in the wall niche.  Birthdays will never seem quite as special and Christmas will never smell or feel quite as magical again.

2.  I miss my Mom's Sunday dinners... fried chicken I can't duplicate, riced potatoes and thick cream gravy, vegetables, rolls, a Jello salad, and always pie or cake, or somethimg else equally wonderful for dessert. When Dad would call on Sundays after I grew up and married and inquire about what we were having for dinner, I would make up the menu, so he wouldn't be disappointed in my lacking efforts.

3. I miss doing projects with Mom.  My older sister was the prissy one, not inclined to be up to her elbows in paint cans or garden soil or cleaning out the garage, and  my younger sister was too small to be very helpful, so it fell to me to be Mom's working partner.  I learned to bake with her when I were very small, kneeling on a chair at the table to reach the bowls.  We made a rock garden with flowers tucked in the crevices at our lake cabin. I helped her stencil a lace pattern using sponges on the cement walls of her basement laundry room... it was lots of work but sure was pretty!  I fussed about the frequent cigarette breaks she required when we were in project mode. :-)

4.  I miss the shopping trips we took to a town sixty miles away to buy school clothes and shoes, and special dresses for Christmas and Easter.  I wrote about those trips in this post... A Special Place to Eat.

5. I miss the care packages of baked cookies, fudge, divinity, other treats and party napkins that she would put together and mail us for our birthdays or Christmases long after we were grown up with families of our own.  I do that for my own children now, but I'd give anything to find a box addressed to me in her flowing handwriting in the mail.

I could go on and list so many more things I miss about Mom, and I realize it's not the big things but the little things that count, the simple memories that are sweetest. 

I have a set of white dishtowels that she spent  hours embroidering for me. I have never used them, I can't bring myself to see them become faded and worn. If I shut my eyes I can see her sitting in her big rocking chair in the evenings after supper was over and dishes were done, turning tiny perfect stitches into delicate designs on on dish towels or doll blankets, her wooden sewing box and neatly wrapped cards of colored thread beside her.  Dad didn't much like her doing it, he preferred her undivided attention. I do counted cross-stich, and I share her love of designs created by colored thread.  

My Mom collected cups and saucers like the set above.  I thought they were lovely.  Her collection  now resides in my little sister's china cabinet, displayed just as Mom had them in her dining room at home. Last Fall when John and I went on a road trip to Tennessee, we shopped in a wonderful old-time style general store.  He purchased a beautiful china tea pot with two matching cup and saucer sets for me.  Why did I like them so much?  They reminded me of Mom. :-)


I'm not so sure if patience is a virtue, or if it's more the art of concealing your impatience!  Such as just now, when my co-worker strolled in from lunch 15 minutes late without explanation or repercussion, thus making we wait 15 minutes to start my lunch break.  She has it down to a science... arrives late, leaves for lunch early, arrives back late 9 days out of ten,  closes the office five minutes early, and actually works about half of the hours in between.  It drives me crazy... blame it on my old fashioned work ethic and staunch Midwest upbringing.  It obviously doesn't bother her supervisors much, so I guess I shouldn't let it get to me.  May "subtly" suggest we exchange lunch hours so she can take her dear sweet time. 

My daughter called in to report that she finally got her Tennessee driver's license this am after waiting for two hours and forty-five minutes for her number to be called!  She said the counter folks were moving sooo slowly in her category that people waiting would clap every time they called a number.  Too funny! 

She has actually been to the Motor Vehicle Department twice before trying to get her license. The first time they told her she needed a copy of  her birth certificate, which she didn't have and had to order.  Then they needed a copy of her marriage certificate since the last name is different than the name on her birth certificate and TX driver's license.  No shit... isn't that true of most women who marry?  She had to order that too.

By this time her Texas license has expired, since she procrastinated on starting the process.  Last night I harassed her a bit about driving with an expired license, reminding her how upset she will be if she gets pulled over and gets a high-dollar ticket or worse.  I guess she got the message because she waited out her turn in line this morning.  But really, 2-3/4 hours is ridiculous.  She said there were five counter people and they really weren't that busy, just very slow, lots of visiting between them.  She has even less patience than her mother, so I commend her for sticking it out and getting it done.  As it was, she left with her new license with barely enough time to make it to her 1 PM appointment with her diabetic doctor across town.  I'm sure new speed records were set, since she'd been waiting for that appointment for some time now.  Ahhhh!

Patience has never been my strong suit either, though I get a little better at is as I grow older.  I reminded her this is just one morning out of her life and it's better to breathe slowly than to tear someone's head off when you finally make it to the front of the line!  I try to put myself in the other person's place and realize that maybe they are having a hard day, and I know that some days people are impatiently waiting for me  as well. 

I'm getting "better" at procrastinating as I get older too!  I used to put things off 'til I had just enough time to get them done, functioning at my best under pressure. Now I tend to wait a bit too long until I've made things more complicated, or I just don't get it done at all.  I have a stack of greeting cards I've purchased thru the years that never got sent out.  Some of the intended recipients aren't even alive anymore!  Maybe I should send the cards to my daughter and see if she can do better with them.  Yes, that's a good idea, hand me down guilt! :-))

Happy Feet

I forgot to count one of my blessings last night... my supervisor overruled the company policy and gave me permission to wear sandals to work! Company policy requires shoes with enclosed toes... and I HATE SHOES!  I typically wear sandals year around, with the rare exception of snow days!  My feet like to feel the air and my toes like room to move.  I was delighted to finally be back in sandal feet after four months of shoed misery.  Sometimes the little things can make a really big difference in morale - a good lesson for all supervisors and managers!  (That carpeting is in our hallways at work... ugly, isn't it?)

Much To Be Thankful For

Beginning yesterday, then last night, and most of today we've had a beautiful steady rainfall here in very dry West Texas.  The clouds are piling up for another good rainstorm coming in tonight.  I can't begin to explain how beautiful it is, or how blessed we feel to see that rain coming down! 

I drove the 22 miles in to work in a major downpour this morning.  The skies were so dark and heavy that all the streetlights were still on downtown at 8 AM! Water was running curb deep in several areas, and traffic was moving really slow.  I used to drive a little Toyota Corolla and driving in deep water always stressed me, worrying about my car flooding out in the intersections. This morning I was so thankful for the Ford Escape I have now, plenty of height and clearance to safely navigate deep puddles!

I was thinking about what a pain it was going to be to walk the 1/2 block from the parking lot to our office building carrying a tote bag, my tea mug, and an umbrella.  As I got within a few blocks of the office the rain let up and then totally stopped.  I walked from the car to the building without a single drop of rain falling on me, when I got safely inside and upstairs it started up again.  It was like God turned off the faucet for a bit just for me!  :-)

This week also saw the start of a new part-time helper at work. We need the extra help badly to keep up with the massive amount of paper scanning/attaching to be done.  She'll work  every  morning. She's nice and catching on quickly. I am so grateful that our supervisor/bosses and the company owner heard our cries for help and responded! Hopefully, it will help reduce the stress levels of always feeling swamped.

Another bit of good news arrived in the mail yesterday.  Long time readers here will remember that I had to file bankruptcy when I divorced my ex-husband. His many bouts of being unemployed were devastating to our finances.  Once that was over and I got established here in Texas with John, I obtained a small credit card from the bank I've been with for 20 some years.  It was a secured card, with money deposited in savings as a backup guarantee, but it was a start.  Several months ago they raised the credit limit on it as they saw I  know how to handle credit responsibly.  Yesterday brought a letter stating that they had reviewed my spending/payments and decided it was time to upgrade my status to an unsecured card.  They will be refunding the initial savings deposit back into my account.  Wonderful! Bit by bit I will  get my credit rating back up to where it was before I met my ex.  Thankfully, John's credit rating is excellent, so we've had no trouble with major items we needed to purchase like appliances for our home or his new truck.  We live carefully, and I am thankful for his financial responsibility.  I never have to worry about money being squandered.

Topping off a day of counting blessings, my daughter called late this afternoon to tell me she had put a deposit down on a lot to have a new home built in Nashville.  She's been looking and hunting there for some time now and has done her homework looking for the perfect lot, home builder, and financial arrangements.  She has been living in small apartments since her divorce two years ago, and it's been hard on her.  Prior to that she and her ex-husband built a house in Temple, Texas when they lived there, and then bought a large fixer-upper in a great neighborhood in San Antonio and were in the process of doing major renovations to it.  She couldn't afford to keep it when the divorced, so he did... and moved his girlfriend in. It broke her heart. 

After having nice spacious homes, being squished into small, over-priced apartments with her two beloved cats has taken a toll.  She loves to work on house and yard projects, has installed sprinkler systems, planted trees, floored and insulated attics, and strung Christmas lights on rooftops! She is a talented decorator that makes her homes feel warm and inviting.  Living in an apartment and knowing its only temporary has left her with little to do but stare at the tv, and that leads to isolation and depression, her arch enemies.

She's been debating back and forth between two homes/builders/areas for the past couple days weighing out all the pros and cons and found out today that she could get the house she liked best of all for nearly the same monthly payments as the one that was second best.  So she overcame her fear of failing, took a great leap of faith, chose a great lot in a nice development, and put down a deposit.  Tomorrow or Monday she'll finish deciding on all the options  available, and will sign papers to build the house. It should only take a few months, and they will even pay the $1000 required to break her apartment lease! 

To hear the excitement in her voice tonight as she shared pictures of the model home with us, was just WONDERFUL!  Anyone who knows what she's been thru in recent years realizes what a huge step this is for her, to let go of the past, and take a step forward with her life, not waiting for someone to come and rescue her.  As a registered nurse, she is financially able to purchase a very nice home, and having it will be great motivation to get thru work each day.  I am as excited as she is! 

When I talked with her just a short while ago she was updating her online dating profile.  That's good news too!  Being alone at nearly 40 is hard and lonely and thus far she's met a bunch of losers, feeling more defeated after each encounter.  She is long overdue for a new responsible nice-guy in her life, and would make an awesome partner.  All prayers to that effect will be gratefully accepted!

So as I sit here tonight, tired from the week of work, watching a bit of tv with the Papa Bear, surrounded by purring furkids vying for lap space, I'm smiling.  I realize that life is good and how very blessed I am!

Tomorrow is FRIDAY, one more reason to  smile and to be thankful... weekend coming up! :-)