Sons and Mothers

Sons and mothers... a very special relationship, a very unique bond.  Different from the relationship sons have with their father or daughters have with their mom.  There's a sense of closeness and caring that doesn't change over the years, if anything it grows deeper.  Eventually roles reverse and the son finds himself in the role of being caretaker for the mother who once took care of him.  It is rare to find a grown man who feels ill will toward his mother, unless he grew up in an abusive or neglectful situation that overshadowed love. 

My husband towered over his tiny mother. He became her protector at a very young age.  He saved her life on more than one occasion,  and together they made it thru the worst times of life.  Materially, they had nothing, but when it came to love, there was no doubt.  He will tell you that the saddest day of his life was the day she died. 

I asked him one day when he was sick why it is that men seem to handle sickness and pain less well than women, wanting and needing extra comfort and attention.  He thought about it a few minutes and then replied that it goes back to their memories as a child, of the comfort mom provided whenever they got sick or hurt or something bad happened.  Even as grown men, they cherish those memories, and those tapes replay in times of discomfort.  Mom will always hold a very special place in their heart.  

My son was affectionate when he was small, and has remained caring in every way as he's grown up. He never fails to say kind, loving things, and to thank me for being his mom.  There is nothing he wouldn't do for me, and I know I can count on him to be there if I need him.  One of my treasured memories when he was small was of him often laying on the sofa with his head resting on my lap. It wasn't very many years ago that he was home visiting and watching tv, lounging on the sofa beside me, and before long his head was resting once again in my lap.  It was so sweet I almost cried.

My daughter and I share a wonderfully close relationship, cherished even more because of the teen and early adult years when we struggled to find common ground.  My son and I never had to go thru that identity struggle, the bond between us has always been forged in steel and encased in love.  Even when he lived with his father, the caring between us never diminished.  Having him distant was hell for me, and I know it was hard on him too. But love survived it, love conquers all.

If you are a mother with a son, you are blessed indeed, and if you are a son... remember to let your mom know how much she means to you.  Those words are precious to her heart!

Mea Culpa

Mea culpa... yes, I am guilty.  I freely admit it.  God has a way of humbling people... sometimes it's almost funny how it happens.

Yesterday I put up a post here.  It started out like this...

"Would you trust me with your child?  Do I strike you as being a poor influence?  Am I of bad moral character or prone to leading small children astray?  Do you think I am dangerous?  No, not really?  I don't see myself that way either.  But it appears that someone does."

You may have read it or noticed it on your list.  Then it disappeared. Why? Because it was a pity party.  It was Josie feeling sorry for herself.  Poor me... poor misunderstood, maligned me.  Yeah, I was feeling a little down in the mouth and was pretty sure that someone was judging me unfairly.  I made an ASSumption... and I made an ass of myself in the process.

After I thought about it for awhile, and a close friend gave me a bit of honest feedback, I realized that it wasn't one of my best writing efforts, nor did it reflect the kind of person I try to be.  I didn't feel very good about it so I pulled it off the blog.  Several people have commented or written to ask me where it went... that's where... gone.  Appropriately banished to terminal draft mode.

Ok, but here's the funny part... so typical of my life that I nearly laughed out loud early this morning when it occured.  Here I am griping in my blog yesterday about someone who I believed was intentionally choosing not to respond to an email I'd sent, being rude.... and what do you think happened?  I received the email response I'd been waiting for all week.

The person I'd been bitching about in yesterday's post had no way of knowing what I'd written.  No one tipped her off that I was getting more than a little miffed at being ignored.  Call it God, call it fate, call it whatever you want, but the timing was uncanny.  She admitted that she had neglected to check her email address, and she apologized for the tardy answer.  She went on to write a very nice response that was genuine, and affirming of what I'd requested. 

I still carry a lot of emotional baggage, though I work hard at ridding myself of it.  I waste no opportunity to replay old tapes in my head that tell me I am bad, unworthy, not someone anyone would want to trust or befriend.  So of course, I listened to those voices and convinced myself  that I was right.  Jump on the rejection bandwagon. Yup... poor, poor pitiful me. 

I WAS WRONG!  I was listening to those negative messages and they were LIES.  They are always lies!  Why am I so quick to buy into them?  It's embarrassing, and worse yet I was thinking some pretty negative thoughts about someone who didn't deserve them.  I feel ashamed about that.  I apologize for the snarky things I said.

The lesson of the day... Give people the benefit of the doubt... don't be so quick to judge them!  Don't be so quick to judge yourself harshly either.  You are worthy, we are all worthy!  Wiping egg off my face now, lesson learned. :-)

Trust Me

"Trust me," said the spider to the fly... and boy did that prove to be a big mistake!   There seems to be something in human nature that makes us want to trust other human beings, so that we can share our true selves with them without fear of being laughed at, hurt, or destroyed.  Yet trust is such a fragile thing, so easily shattered.  Once damaged, it's difficult and sometimes impossible to repair. 

It didn't take the fly long to discover he'd made an error in judgement.  In some situations it can take much longer, even years.  I once married a man who said he didn't trust anyone, but told me that if I gave him time he would learn to trust me.  Seven years of marriage later I still hadn't earned his trust despite being the best wife I knew how to be. I realize then that the task was impossible, his heart was closed to trusting, no amount of evidence to the contrary would every gain anyone admittance. I've found that to be true more often than I wish. Yet I am determined by nature, and if I think the person is worth the effort, I will stick around and chip away at that granite wall, hoping to slowly break down the barriers to communication and sharing.  Trust is a precious gift, it enables us to be real!

Although it is certainly possible to be easily misled by bad guys and master manipulators, I think we lose out on a lot of life... and love... if we close ourselves off to other people and become inaccessible.  We can't, or at least shouldn't let the experiences of our past overshadow our present and steal our potential joy.  What's important is to evaluate the character of the person who is attempting to elicit your trust.  Are they fair? Are they honest? Are they kind?  Do they speak badly of others?  Are they often angry or expressing contempt?  Do they have a genuine interest in helping others, or are they self-serving? 

As it is written, "Do not bestow pearls upon the swine"... be they your words, your thoughts, your feelings, or your stories.  At the same time, if you keep them hidden away from everyone, who can share in their beauty and delight with you in their value?  It always comes down to a matter of choice... choose wisely and move slowly, then love and live freely! 

Trust is a two way street.  I cannot feel safe about sharing myself with you if you don't trust enough to do the same with me.  It is give and take, safe in the belief that the person you are entrusting will not turn on you at some point and use what you have shared against you.  Yes, we've all had that happen, but it doesn't always happen, and if you choose wisely who to trust, it won't often happen. 

Make a pledge to be a trustworthy person.  Keep your promises and your word. No matter what might come between you and the other person in the future,  promise to never divulge information that could hurt them.  Holding the heart of another in trust is a sacred responsibility, treat it as such.  Increase your reputation as a person who others can turn to with their darkest fears and deepest hopes.  Having a trusting relationship is a wonderfully precious gift.  Work at it! Be the kind of person you want others to be. 

When trust fails, and at times it will, don't wall yourself away for ever.  Get back up, dust yourself off, and try again. Open yourself to trust again, a little wiser and a little stronger.  It's worth it.... trust nurtures love, and love is worth the risk!

Invisible Me

Yesterday over at McGuffy's Readerin a review of  the book "Calling Invisible Women" by Jeanne Ray,  Annie wrote "If you have ever felt invisible, or perhaps wished to be, you will enjoy this book."  That caught my attention and started me thinking...

There's definitely been ocassions when I've felt invisible in life... unnoticed, unwanted, and unloved.  At times I wondered how long it might take anyone to notice if I disappeared altogether, and I used to joke with former coworkers about digging up any freshly planted sod over a large pit on our acreage to search for my remains.

On lighter notes, I'm betting most of us pondered as children how fun it might be to be invisible... most certainly a wonderful "super power" to have!  The idea has crossed my mind now and then as an adult too, "How I'd love to be invisible and hear what they say about me when I'm not in the room!"  Then again, maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing, imagine all the hurt those carelessly spoken words might cause if people had the ability to be an invisible witness to conversation.  Do I really want to know what they think about me?  Probably not.

Being invisible could certainly prove entertaining for it's voyeuristic properties, for finding out exactly what's going on behind closed doors.  What does Carol look like without all the face paint?  Maybe Bob isn't quite the super-stud he claims to be, and maybe Sweet Pea isn't half as shy as she leads us to believe!  Ok, lets not go out on that tangent too far or my page views will spike to amazing highs for all the wrong reasons.  :-)

Getting serious, being invisible would be a great crime deterrent, far better than a sign stating that the premises was being monitored by cameras... not just electronic eyes and ears, but brains to analyze data and maybe even provide a bit of interference that would be guaranteed to scare the daylights out of kids intent on vandalism or adults engaged in something worse.

Pondering how I might actually put this super-power to good use, I came up with the pefect answer... the ideal career for an invisible woman - or an invisible man, that of working for child welfare to observe and report on suspected cases of child neglect and abuse.  So often the perpetrators are family members whose crimes are kept secret and whose demeanor doesn't give them away out in public.  But someone who knew the signs to look for, and who had the ability to see into a hurting child's eyes... in that case an invisible witness could provide just the evidence needed to bring low-life creeps to justice.  I like that idea very much! Where can I sign up for an invisible cloak?  What would you most like to do if you were invisible?

Paper and Pen

Do you have any cards or letters stashed away, something you received from someone close to your heart?  Maybe from a partner or a lover, or a mother or a daughter.  Maybe words of wisdom from your father, or a special thank you from your son.  Years ago letters and cards posted thru the mail were treasured, tied up in bundles and put away in boxes or drawers for safe keeping, to be read again and savored, sometimes even passed down from generation to generation.  What made them special enough to keep?

I have a few such things tucked away, cards and  letters that touched my heart, words of forgiveness, encouragement, appreciation, love.  What makes them special is not only what they say, but that the words are written in handwriting so familiar, inscribed by hands that touched the page... and touched my heart.  Sometime I trace my fingers across the words, connecting with the energy that formed them.  Emails screened up on the computer don't quite have that same effect, do they?

Letter writing has nearly become a lost art.  It is rare to find anything fun in your mailbox amidst the advertising and bills.  How awesome it is when it happens!  I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who often sends me something fun in the mail. We pick up our mail from the post office a couple times weekly, and nothing brings a smile to my face more than to find her graceful handwriting on an envelope or flat.  I never wait until I get home to find out what's inside.  Like an eager child I must open it as soon as I am back in my car.  I do, and then I smile, warm in the knowledge that she was thinking of me.  Thank  you Annie, for your love, and for adding these wonderful bright spots to my life!

When was the last time you sent someone a handwritten letter or a greeting, or picked up some small item and sent it off with a note, just to say hello?  Don't think about it... DO IT!  You'd be surprised at the reactions you might receive from a parent who is missing you, a child away at college, a brother you don't see often, or a friend who is going thru tough times. It doesn't have to be eloquent or fancy, it doesn't have to be paragraphs and pages long.  Just share what's in your heart and mail it off!  I promise that small act will create ripples of happiness in the universe.  And on top of that... it's fun! :-)

Treasured Words

The writing prompt at Sunday Scribblings today is "treasure".  Here's my story...

The old woman sat in the rocking chair on the front porch of the small nursing home where she lived.  It wasn't a fancy place, her stay there being funded by government dollars. She had been there seven years now, watching others arrive, often angry or sad and confused.  She tried to comfort them and welcome them to their new surroundings.  It seemed the only time family showed up to visit most of them was in their last days and hours, when it was proper to make an appearance and act as if they cared.

She often heard the young staff at the home talking about her and the other residents as if the were deaf and not right in their heads.  She was saddened that they showed so little appreciation for the treasure of stories and wisdom that could be gleaned from these people, if only anyone cared to listen.  But no one ever did, they were busy with meals and bath time, and medications and such... and even more with sitting in the office and talking to each other the old woman thought.

One day a young man appeared at the office door of the crumbling old home, which was surely as old, if not older, than many of the people who resided there.  He told the owner of the facility that he was doing a living history project for his college class, and should like to speak with some of the elders in the home, to record their stories if they were willing. 

The owner told him he was welcome to introduce himself to the residents and visit with them, but not to expect too much, because most of them were just "senile old farts" who couldn't remember what day it is much less what happened last year or ten years ago. 

The young man was soon to prove her wrong.  He began stopping by each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, making the rounds to talk awhile with each of the residents, asking them about their families, their lives, and what the world was like years ago.  He carried a voice recorder with him so that he didn't have to interrupt their conversations to write down their words.  For the most  part he  just listened, something no one had done for these folks in a long, long time.

An interesting thing happened.  Folks at the nursing home began to look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the visit that was sure to come.  Staff noticed that the old men were tending to shave and the ladies were dressing up a bit, putting on necklaces and earrings, and sometimes a bit of rouge on their pale cheeks. 

It wasn't long before a group began to gather in the day room on those afternoons, whereas they had mostly stayed in their own rooms in the past.  As the stories were shared with this eager  young man, they began to listen to each other, and to add on.... "Yes, I know that place, I first met my wife there at the Friday night dance!"  "Yes, they used to say that doctor was an evil one, if he thought a woman had too many children already, sometimes the new one didn't live long after birth." Another would nod in agreement. 

They shared stories of births, deaths, and marriages, of careers and children growing up.  Of holidays and parties, places they'd visited, and pets they had loved.  The young man recorded every word, and transcribed it into written form, often staying up late into the night to complete his project before then end of semester and Christmas break. 

A few days before Christmas, everyone was surprised to see him juggling a large box as he came thru the front entrance.  He headed toward the scrawny artificial Christmas tree under which very few presents were scattered, and began to unload package after package, all similar in shape and size - rectangular and not too large.  The large print tags showed there was one for each of them. His eyes sparkled, but he wouldn't offer a clue as to what the brightly wrapped boxes contained.  It became a source of increasing curiosity among the residents.  Guesses abounded and excitement grew as Christmas morning neared.

The young man showed up early, bedecked in a bright Christmas sweater and a Santa hat, which made them smile.  On this morning he joined them for breakfast, and helped staff pass out gifts.  Thankfully, the staff had made sure there were at least a couple wrapped packages for each resident in addition to the ones he had brought.  He watched eagerly as crippled fingers and time-worn hands began to undo ribbons and tape and scatter paper on the floor.  They smiled in appreciation for the small gifts they received, and noted wistfully the nicer things that had come for those who had families that at least cared to some extent. 

Then it was time to open the festive packages the young man had given them.  The room grew quiet as boxes began to open, and soon their were exclamations of "ooh and ahhh", and more than a few tears from residents as well as the young man... tears of happiness... tears of understanding, definitely tears of love.  

Each person had received a bound book with their own stories neatly typed in large print. On the cover of each volume was their name deeply embossed with gold leaf.  Gnarled fingers traced the fancy letters.  "What a treasure!" one woman exclaimed, and they all quickly agreed.

An old man who usually remained quiet then spoke up. "Son, you are the treasure", he said in a voice choked with emotion, "You came in here every week to visit us and to ask us about our lives, and you helped us recall all the memories we hold dear.  You took the time, and you cared."  Then he looked down and said "I only wish we had something we could give you in return, we appreciate so much what you've done here."

The young man stood, eyes glistening with tears.  "Oh, but you have already given me the most precious gift possible," he said.  "You gave me stories of your lives and taught me what life was like in the time before I was born.  You helped me understand what it must be like to have family.  You see, I grew up in an orphanage.  I never got to know what it was like to have parents and grandparents.  Now I think a little bit I do."

"You are all my treasures," the young man continued, "I will keep memories of you and your stories in my heart forever.  I hope someday, when I am older, that my life too will hold wonderful stories to share."  As the group gathered round offering thank yous and sharing hugs there was not a dry eye in the room. 

Before long, most of them had shuffled off to their favorite sitting chairs, and were busily reading their own stories.  Smiling at the wonderful job the young man had done, not just in recording their words, but in understanding their importance. 

The young man would continue to visit the residents as he finished school and began married life.  He brought his children to visit those that still remained, and their eyes danced with pleasure to see life continue as it should.

The Rusty Years

Yesterday involved a visit to the doctor to get my left wrist checked, it's been hurting a lot and some of the fingers are tingly/numb. At times the pain goes all the way up my arm. No, not a sign of impending heart-attack,  got that cleared with my cardiologist on Monday.  It is what one would expect when they've spent anywhere from 5-10 hours a day on a keyboard for the last 30 years - carpal tunnel syndrome.  Lovely.  For the present time I have a brace and short dose of steroids to see if it will settle down again, it has before.  Will go back for re-evaluation in three weeks.  Does this keep me off the keyboard?  Well hell no, not at work, and definitely not for blogging!  Life goes on.

Then there is the issue of the chronic back pain, and the worn out knee, and... and... and so forth - the indignities of getting older.  John deals with more of it every year too, and we dread what shape we will be in at 70 or 80, should we live that long.  Golden years they're not... more like the rusty years!

Thirty some years ago, when my then-spouse and I moved to New Mexico, I took a job as a receptionist/clerk for an insurance agent.  He was a wonderful man in his late 50's.  A retired cop from New York City, with a heavy Irish accent.  His wife worked at the agency with him and they treated me like family. They had moved to the Southwest planning to eventually retire in the warm climate. They always talked about the places they were going to go and the things they were going to do when they retired.  Even after thirty some years, they were still deeply in love with each other. 

Then came a time when he needed cataract surgery, a simple enough procedure.  When he went in for the pre-operative workup, they did the usual chest x-ray... and found spots on his lungs.  Six months later this man who hadn't been sick hardly a day in his life, died of cancer.  It was a tragedy, and a shock to all of us. All their plans for spending the golden years together never came to be. 

I think about them often now, as we get older.  We are at the ages they were then.  We often fantasize about how wonderful it would be to retire, to not "punch the clock" anymore, to spend our days travelling, doing what we choose, and maybe some days doing nothing at all.  Life has been a little harder for both of us, and  we have no great amount of retirement funds saved up, so we will undoubtedly be working at least a few days each week in our senior years to have enough money to live on, but even having more than one or two days off sounds pretty wonderful at this point.  The truth is, we are both just tired of the daily grind.  We've done it for so long, and it isn't very exciting anymore. It sure would be nice if Social Security kicked in at 50 instead of 65. 

Not trying to be Debbie Downer or just plain morbid, but my biggest fear is that when the day finally comes to have more free time to spend together, will both of us be well enough to enjoy it, and even more importantly, will both of us still be here?  Scary thoughts folks, but that's just the way it is. 

The only thing we can do in life is to not let our fears get the best of us.  Take it one day at a time, cherish each moment spent together now, and make sure to stop and smell the roses along the way. It's far better to enjoy them now, than to wait for someday down the road and have folks sending them in your memory. 

I keep thinking there's gotta be another way to live, rather than just working our lives away to pay the bills and make ends meet... working five days to earn two days of freedom; but for the life of me, I can't figure out what that is... so back to work I go, lunchtime over.

Life On the Other Side

As most of you know, we are owned by five cats. For awhile they were all inside cats to keep them safe from harm.  With both of us being away at work all day, they spent much of their time staring out of windows from the assorted window seats and cat trees in the house.  Two in particular, both rescue cats, seemed to long for the freedom to roam that they once had.

Finally we relented, and let them go outside for awhile in the evenings when  we get home.  The change in their demeanor was remarkable as they became more alert and less lethargic, and better behaved when inside due to expending some of that pent up energy. 

Even Stormy, our senior cat who was terrified of the great outdoors when he was young, soon took interest and made it clear that if they got to go outside, so did he!  The two one-year-olds followed suit, though Gracie (the baby of the bunch) tends to stay in close proximity to the door.  None of  them wonder off very far, playing in the tall grass and weeds near the house, and hanging out on the big back deck enjoying the fresh air and scenery.  By the time it gets dark they are ready to come in and revert to lap cat status.

Last night when I let them outside I left the door open to enjoy some fresh air into the house since a lovely rain shower had cooled things off beautifully.  I sat in my rocking chair with my new Eee Pad, catching up on blog reading and Facebook.  When I glanced up, what did I see?  A row of furkids sitting up on the hot tub cover staring in the window at me!  It made me laugh.  When they are inside they watch out the windows intently and long to be outside, once outside their greatest curiosity was apparently what was going on within.

I had to smile, realizing how much we people are like that.... always curious, and a bit discontent with where we're at and what we have - wondering if the grass on the other side of the fence might not indeed bit a bit greener than our own.   It reminded me of the photo above in which Story was watching a couple of the feral cats outside the window who were in turn watching him.  I'm sure to the insiders, all that freedom to come and go as you please seems quite wonderful to dream about, and to the outsiders the soft comfort and plentiful food to be found within must appear to be a life of luxury.

It is easy to assume that others have it far better than we do, that their lives are easier with fewer worries and less stress, and that having more money, more love, or good health would solve all our other problems too.  But the truth is that happiness and contentment are not conditioned upon these things. It is not what you have or don't have, it is how you approach life and how you deal with the things it brings your way.  Attitude is everything... real happiness must be found within. 

My cats have the very best of both worlds... they are able to spend some time outdoors roaming free, and still have the security of a good home, plenty of food, and the love of caretakers.  I wonder, if they had the ability to reason and had to pick just one, which they would choose... inside or outside?  What about you, which do you long for more... freedom or security?  If you are able, like my cats, to enjoy some of both, you are truly blessed! 

Life may always look a bit brighter elsewhere, but if you stop to count your blessings, you will realize that there are many good things right where you are.

Twinkle Toes

Last Thursday night I left work tired and brain dead as usual, looking forward to relaxing in the chair at my favorite nails/pedicure place. After selecting a shade of deep purple polish, I slipped my feet into the soft perfumed water, flipped the switch for back massage and reclined, preparing to shut my eyes and enjoy. 

A young girl was seated in the chair next to me, waiting on her mom who was in the back getting her eyebrows waxed.  The little girl looked at me hopefully, and I thought to myself  "Oh crap, she wants to visit."  Normally I'd feel more social, but I was tired and out of sorts, and really just wanted to melt into my chair. 

The little girl glanced up at the cartoon playing on the big flat-screen tv in front of us, and then looked at me, and said in a quiet voice "I don't care very much for that show."  That was a rather mature comment for one so small, so I asked her why.  "They are rude to each other" she said, and I agreed with her.  That seems to be a common trend in kids cartoons nowdays, obnoxious kids who are not only rude to each other but to adults as well.  I told her that I didn't care much for it either. 

I commented on the long pretty braid that held her curly hair neatly.  "Do you braid your hair everyday?" I asked.

"No", she said very seriously, "My Grandma does. I can't do it myself, I am only five years old." 

By now I was smiling.  She introduced me to her doll, and I asked if she had a name.  She looked at me like I was from another planet and said "It's Dora"!  Well duh, of course, Dora the Explorer... I remember now!  She pointed out that Dora was dressed as a ballerina, and that she wanted to be one someday too. 

I commented on how pretty she looked, dressed just like Dora in a fluffy ruffled skirt and pink leotard. I told her I thought she would make a lovely ballerina.  She smiled, then did a couple spins for me, arms poised gracefully above her head. 

I noted how much I loved her colorful, sparkly tennis shoes that lit up with each step.  Something I hadn't seen before.  "Those are very cool... I wish they had them in my size!" I said.  This is where most kids today would respond with a look of horror and come back with something obvious like "Your feet are too big".  But not this sweet little girl...

She looked up at me with a beaming smile and said "Oh, but you can get some!  If you go to the store at the mall they have sizes for children and bigger ones for grown ups on the other side. You could buy a pair of shoes just like these!" 

Just then her Mom reappeared, collecting the little girl whose name I never found out, with Dora the ballerina in tow, and off they went, but not before she turned back to me and waved goodbye.

A little girl with a kind heart and a desire to be friendly made all the difference in this old woman's day. She helped me reconnect with my smile, and you know... I just might have to hunt for a pair of those sparkly shoes! :-)

Parting Shots

Today's writing prompt for Sunday Scribblings is "limitless".  Here's my story...

It had gone on for years.  Everyone was amazed by Sue's limitless ability to forgive.  She'd forgiven him time after time for the unfaithfulness, the lies, the jobs lost, the nights spent alone wondering and worrying, the outbursts, the missing money that he never could explain. They all knew.  They all wondered why she put up with it.  She never talked bad of him, never shared what was really going on in her life.  On the surface it appeared that it just didn't matter, or that she'd found some way to block all the disappointment and pain.

One morning early, the people in her town living vicariously through reports on their police scanners, were startled to hear that Joe had been found in his bed with a bullet in his heart... and one in his head for good measure.  Apparently he'd finally crossed the line.

His n' Hers

We are now a two Transformer Prime Eee Tablet family... and we're are loving them as we learn together.  A zillion Android apps to download, 10 inch HD screen, 8M camera, Kindle reader, ... the works... yet extremely light weight and sooo much easier on the eyes than our tiny iPhone screens! I can hear my laptop whimpering in the corner of obsolescence. :-)

My Baby is Thirty-Three

That sweet little boy up there... that's my son Ian at two years old!  He's celebrating his thirty-third birthday today!   Wow, I can still remember when I was that age!  Now I really I feel old!  I remember well walking along the banks of the Danube River in Germany when I was pregnant with him.  He was born at the military hospital in Augsburg there.  Since he was born C-section I had an appointment for his birth day, I thought that was pretty cool!  I was awake for his delivery and I can remember his first deep-voiced cry so well!  I swear he smiled at the pretty nurse when we were leaving (taking after his Dad right from the start! :-) 

His given name is William Ian.  His Dad insisted on that, since it's his name, and his father's name as well, though they all have different middle names.  I agreed as long as we called him by his middle name, which is what he grew up with.  He joined the military when he graduated from high school, so then became William officially, and now goes by Will, except with family.  But he will always be Ian to me, and he will always be my baby, even if he's now thirty-three.  Kids grow up too darned fast!

From the time he was very small, Ian's idea of a great afternoon was going to the nearby airport to watch planes take off and land.  Now he's doing his dream job... landing planes and helicopters as an air traffic controller, first for the Air Force and now for the Dept. of Defense.  He loves it!

Ian has a beautiful home that he bought near Nashville. He's not married yet, though I fuss at him about wanting some grandkids.  He promises me that will come someday, but right now he says he "likes his freedom and his money too much".  When he was younger I used to worry he'd fall for the first hot blond that came along and smiled when she saw his paycheck.  I'm grateful he's proven to be much wiser than that!

Ian has such a caring heart, one of those guys with a secret marshmallow center. He spends his money carefully, and probably still has the first dollar he ever made, but at the same time is extremely generous with gifts to his mom, and always has such loving things to say in his cards and texts.  He's inherited his mother's warped sense of humor and sarcastic wit, and never fails to make me laugh.  I recently sent him a copy of Sophie's first blogpost, and here's the response I got back...
"Hahahahaha. Wow Sophie, with no toes and all still managed to type an excellent blog. Quite interesting, I'm sure 50 Shades of Fur will be an excellent book when Sophie decides to write it! Love this! By the end I was almost believing this came from the mind of a cat...or maybe it did! Haha 
Love, Son"

When we went to Nashville last fall to visit Ian and my daughter who lives there now too, he couldn't have been a more gracious host - a tour of The Hermitage, a riverboat cruise, tickets to the Nashville Predators hockey game, great food, and lots of laughter.  How I wish we lived closer!

I couldn't be more proud of the man my son has become, he is everything I dreamed of, and so much more.  Life wasn't always easy for my kids growing up, and yet they've both turned out to be intelligent, responsible, caring adults.  I thank God for that every day!

Here's my handsome son now... (with his cool and easy shaved head, though his mom misses his beautiful dark hair :-)  I love him with all of my heart!

Cattails #2 - Bad Guys and Cat Burglars

Hi Everyone, Sophie here!  Mom's been slacking on blogging lately, she said something about her mind being blank.  I can attest to that, the other night she forgot to refill my food bowl before she went to bed. I wasn't very happy with that little memory lapse! You can see from our pictures that we're underfed, especially me.  She tries to serve that yucky stuff in cans for our supper, and I won't touch it. I'd rather starve! I don't see her eating it! If  I hold out she'll usually give me a dish of treats or something off her plate instead! Mom loves me more than she loves the other cats, I'm sure of it. They don't have their own bedrooms, do they? :-) 

I see Mom's got several draft posts in the works but none of them look very good to me, so I thought I'd step in and give you something new to read.  I want to tell you about what happened here this morning.  I swear that I had nothing to do with it, I'm just an innocent bystander!

Mom has to leave for work before Dad gets up in the morning. Before she goes, she lets me out of my bedroom so I can keep an eye on the other cats while she's away.  They think I'm kind of dull and quiet... the furbrains don't realize I'm an informer.  Of course I don't mind ratting Mom out here either.  Hey, that makes me a kind of a double-agent doesn't it? Cool!

When Dad leaves, he turns on the security alarm.  There's a reason we have it, but I'll get to that a bit later. Mom and Dad learned a long time ago that putting on the motion sensor doesn't work well with multiple cats in the house.  We don't just lay around napping all day, contrary to popular belief!  "Some of us" are a little more active than others though, and think the house is one giant racetrack.  My little sister "Hairball"(as Dad affectionately refers to her) and Chloe, that sneaky-looking black one, like to roughhouse. Sometimes even mild-mannered Tiggy gets in the act, and all "heck" breaks loose. (Mom says I can't use bad words here.  Like she never does, right?)  They go tearing around the house and bouncing off the furniture, chasing each other up and down our tall cat trees, and knocking stuff off the counters.  Mom isn't very happy about that when she gets home.

Well today, they took it a little too far, swinging off the top of the cat tree, and before long Dad was getting a call at work from the security system folks, saying that the alarm was going off in our house.  They could tell it was set off by the motion sensor.  Good job Dad, hit the wrong button going out the door, didn't you?  That blasted alarm was beeping for what seemed like forever!  It was driving us crazy!  Well, except for Grandpa Stormy, he's kinda deaf and it didn't seem to bother him too much.
Dad told the alarm people to ignore it, that he was sure we were the "cat burglars" in question.  Then he texted Mom.  Mom took pity on us and drove the twenty miles home from town to turn it off so we wouldn't have to listen to it all day long. Whew! She didn't seem too thrilled about making an extra trip. I curled up in my favorite box when I heard her pull into the driveway. (Appearing sweet and innocent is something I do very well!) When she walked in I just nodded toward those other furballs who were looking kinda guilty anyway.  She knew, but once again, soft-hearted ol' Mom just petted every one of us and said everything was fine.  Just once I'd like to see them get in trouble, maybe grounded so they couldn't go outside in the evenings.  No, wait! I don't want to be stuck here inside with them 24/7, then they'll  start picking on me!  Anyway, all's back to  normal at our house, and hopefully Dad will be remember not to set the motion sensor tomorrow.  Maybe he's getting a little blank in his old age too!  :-)

Oh, about the security system.  When Mom and Stormy lived on a farm in New Mexico with Stormy's Dad, long before they got me, their house was broken into three times in one year!  Some bad people smashed in the sliding glass door, and glass flew all over the room!  They stole a bunch of good stuff like electronics and jewelry and made a mess going thru things.  The second time they stole a bunch of band equipment that wasn't even insured.  Mom's pretty sure it was some of the less desirable types that hung out with the band and knew the house had a lot of good stuff to hock for drug money.  After that they had a security alarm installed, and it stopped them dead in their tracks when it went off!

Stormy was there when the house got broken into and he said he was terrified.  Mom said she looked everywhere for him. The burglars had left the door wide open and she was afraid he'd gotten out.  She finally found him cowering in the corner behind the big tv cabinet, with his nose to the wall, hoping that made him invisible.  She said he was shaking and his eyes were as big as saucers!  It turns out Mr. macho tomcat is kinda nutless when it comes to guarding the house.  For that matter he really is nutless, but he gets upset if we talk about that!  Mom was pretty shook up about the whole thing too, she said she felt violated with all their stuff gone thru, and vulnerable out there alone late at night when Stormy's dad was playing band gigs or working night shift on the oil rig.  That's why they got the alarm system, and now she wouldn't be without one.  Most people who break in aren't going to hang around waiting for the sheriff to show up when the security people notify them, but hopefully we won't ever have a bad thing like that happen here.

And speaking of bad guys.... Mom was reading this over my shoulder, and told me that the office building where she works had a break-in last night on the 10th floor just above her offices.  Some computer equipment got damaged and stolen and the guy who did it was wearing a security guard outfit! But it was an impostor, not the good guy who actually patrols the building during the day.  I guess the video monitors picked it up, so hopefully they'll catch him.  I will feel a lot better about my Mom being alone in her office there at times once they do, though I don't think anyone would be dumb enough to try that during the day. If they were going to come in armed, they'd probably hold up the bank downstairs instead.  Hey, that would be something exciting to blog about....

Oh-oh, Mom's giving me that look that says she doesn't approve of my comments, just scratch the bit about the bank robbery, ok?  I'm getting booted off the computer now, but I'll be back to blog another day, you can count on it! :-)

PS - That cat burglar up there looks a lot like Stormy.  Who knows, maybe he was a bad boy in his youth and his past is starting to catch up with him!

Not Every Day Is A Winner

Ahhhh, it's Saturday!  How I love having no alarm clock nagging at me in the morning, the freedom to roll over, snuggle into my pillow, and wake up only when my body and mind feel ready.   Now it's  Six Word Saturday time!  My six words of wisdom are...
Not Every Day Is A Winner!

Once again, Marc and Angel at Marc and Angel Hack Life inspired me this week with another one of their fantastic lists on how to approach life.  This one is entitled  75 Happiness Quotes to Live By.  Take a little time to check it out, you'll be missing out if you don't read the whole thing!  One of the items on the list that stood out is no. 2 - "Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life." 

I had a day like that this past week, I suppose we all do once in a while.  Our Independence Day holiday started out great, slow and easy, enjoying cinnamon rolls - with coffee for Papa Bear and tea for me.  We watched part of a historical documentary on tv, and I did a bit of blogging.  Then we headed over to the nearby city (about 15 miles away) to Best Buy to pick up my new Asus computer tablet, which they had to order since they sold the last one in stock an hour before I came in to purchase one last Saturday. 

I was so excited! I was anticipating just a quick trip, and we'd be back home to enjoy our day off together.  Collecting the tablet from Customer Service, we headed to the Geek Squad desk where they were to install the virus protection software and a screen protector.  The young computer tech, with hair dyed white as snow,  said it would take ten to fifteen minutes. So we left it there and went to do a bit of browsing.  I returned to the counter about 20 minutes later, fully expecting it to be ready to go... no such luck.

As I sat in one of the chairs waiting, I could see Mr. Geek just unpacking the pad from it's box and opening the screen protector package. Obviously he hadn't started yet.  Hmmm, but it wasn't going to take that long, and Papa Bear was still happily engaged in the purchase of a new GPS for his truck.  About ten minutes later, Mr. Geek comes to the counter and says "I couldn't start on installing the virus protection until you got here because I need your google account to sign into the tablet.  Geesh, wish he would have said that before, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn't know or forgot. 

So he brings the tablet to the counter and turns it on, and then realizes that it has almost zero power. He will need to plug it in and let it charge up a bit before he can install the software.  He says that will take about 10 minutes.  Ok, I say - breathing deeply, and return to my chair to wait. 

Papa Bear arrives, and about five minutes later Mr. Geek leaves the counter area carrying his coffee mug.  We assume he's taking a short break while it charges.  Twenty minutes later he still hasn't returned!  WTH!  My impatience is growing stronger by the minute, and my blood pressure is rising.  Did he just go to lunch and leave us sitting there??  Papa Bear wisely went for the store manager who was nearby to have him check out the situation.  It seems that it would take a little longer to charge up the tablet.  Well WHY didn't Mr. Geek tell us that before he departed??  The store manager apologized for the poor communication, and we left to go grab some lunch and diffuse a bit.  Needless to say, by then I was an unhappy camper as the entire morning had been wasted and we weren't done yet.

When we returned to the store about 30 minutes later, Mr. Geek got busy and finished up the tablet.  He never apologized or said a word about his untimely departure, and I didn't bring it up... don't aggravate the man who is holding your expensive new toy in his hands! 

We finally got back home around 2 PM, all my plans to accomplish a few tasks at the house pretty much blown away, so I decided to get acquainted with my Transformer Prime... the cool name given to this device since it is both a tablet and attaches to it's optional keyboard dock to become an ultra thin, ultra lightweight notebook.  Isn't that convenient and clever? (Josie must have a real keyboard to blog, the onscreen keyboard is great for commenting and Facebook, but a writer must have keys beneath the fingers! :-)

I upack the keyboard dock, which had been in it's box, patiently waiting for it's tablet since last Saturday's purchase, and then proceeded to spend the next 30 or more minutes trying to fit the tablet into its slot on the dock.  It appeared to be a simple enough... inset the tabs into the appropriate slots, aligning the however-many-pin jack to it's port.  I tried and tried - getting one end to settle in, or the other, but  not both.   I was beginning to feel totally inept... how could I ever learn to use this new Android based creature if I wasn't even smart enough to assemble it's two pieces??!  Fearing that I was approaching meltdown stage, Papa Bear decided it was time to intervene and came over to assist me. He was also unable to do it. 

Then I examined it more closely and realized that the dock tabs were not spaced far enough apart to properly match up to the slots on the tablet.  WTH?  Checking model numbers, I see that the dock is a T101 while the tablet is a T201.  We both then vaguely remember something about the salesman telling us that this keyboard/dock is not the newest one (which they didn't have), but he felt it was the better one anyway.  Hmmm.

I called the Asus tech support number and spoke with "Chris" (yeah, right) in Bangladesh or some such place, and quickly learned that my suspicion was correct.  I'd been sold a keyboard/dock that did not fit the new tablet.  It required the new T201 keyboard/dock.  Well of course it did, that makes sense, doesn't it?!

My next call was to Best Buy.  Did they have a T201 keyboard/dock in stock? No.  Did the store in the other city close by? No.  We would have to order it.  But of course, to do that without using a credit card to pay for it, we would first have to return the one purchased in error.  GEEESH!!

So, at about four in the afternoon, we head back to Best Buy to return the wrong keyboard and order the correct one.  It took about 30 minutes to accomplish this.  While we were there, Papa Bear again spoke with the store manager who saw us in the waiting line at Customer Service.  He apologized, but make no effort to appease our disgruntlement with a small discount or gift card, something he easily could have and should have done, especially after Papa Bear noted that this was our third trip to the city to complete one purchase and would require yet a forth to pick up the new keyboard when it arrives.

We left, and headed to the Olive Garden next door, hoping for a relaxing dinner to unwind and release a bit of inner frustration.  Yes... and no.  The waiting time for a table wasn't too bad, but the meals for the two tables of people seated near us arrived far ahead of ours, although we were there first, with our waitress stopping by now and then to assure us it was coming.  By then I was soo frustrated, and soo hungry.  Thankfully, it was a good dinner when we finally got to eat!

I was pretty much worn out and frazzled from an entire day shot to hell at Best Buy, and was totally grumpy and out of sorts.  I snapped at Papa Bear,  I fumed about the stickers in our yard when one got in my shoe,  I kicked the pile of laundry that I nearly tripped over, I pushed a cat away when it came to sit on my lap (probably trying it's best to soothe me).  I was mad at fate for stealing my day off, and I was madder at myself for letting it undo me emotionally.  I like to think of myself as able to ride out the storm with some kind of inner calm, but certainly I'd let the boat sink this day!  In just eight hours I'd gone from anticipating a wonderful day together to hating my whole life!!!

I'm happy to report that the day ended on a better note, with Papa Bear shooting off some wonderful fireworks into the night sky just for me (and for some folks down the road that we could hear ooh and ahhh)!   We then soaked in the hot tub to relax the tight rubber bands that my muscles had become over the course of the day, and got to watch fireworks going off in the distance around us as other folks enjoyed theirs.  It will certainly be a Forth of July that goes down in memory, but it won't be one we recall fondly!

Needless to say, I didn't sleep well, and woke up aching all over - stress does that to fibromyalgia.  It wasn't a great way to start the day, and I headed down the road to work feeling tired and with a chip on  my shoulder, not with my usual morning attitude of praise and readiness.  Then I realized that I needed to LET IT GO! 

Not every day is a perfect day, not every day goes as planned, or turns out well.  If we didn't have a crappy day now and then, how would be recognize the truly wonderful ones, and appreciate them?  Life is all about ups and downs - the contrasts.  My goal is to learn to embrace them both, and not to let something that doesn't go right ruin my entire outlook.  How often on Facebook I see someone comment "FML" (#&%! my life).  That comment always irritates me.  I want to reply and ask if their whole entire life is really that bad, that horrendous, or is it just a bad moment or maybe a bad day?  I would do well to remember that myself!  There have been times when my whole life WAS bad, and this surely isn't one of those!!!

I once had a boss who said that if one would just wait three days, most of the issues and problems that seemed critical at the time would no longer be important.  I've found that to be true.  The 4th of July was a bad day, most of it didn't go well at all, and I let it get to me.   However, I was able to refocus on July 5th, and now - three days later - the events of that day seem so absurd that it almost makes me laugh. 

Today, when Papa Bear gets off work, we're headed over to Best Buy one more time.  God willing, I'm coming home with the T201 keyboard/dock for my tablet which Best Buy's email says has arrived... and they will fit together just perfectly, as pictured above.  Good things are worth waiting for.  Patience has never been one of my virtues, but I'm working on it! :-)

Let Freedom Ring

Not long ago I wrote I Am Free -  a post about freedom and how much it means to me.   Today is a day to celebrate freedom on a much larger scale - the incredible blessing of living in a country where I have the freedom to be me in almost anyway I choose - as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others to do the same.  Do you ever stop to realize that's not true of folks living everywhere? The harsh reality is that opression abounds in our world.

As writers and bloggers in the USA, we have one of the freedoms I cherish the most - freedom of expression... to say and write what we think on anything, and to do so publicly without fear of punishment, imprisonment or even death.  We can even write about the faults of our governement!  See how long you stay free in some other countries doing that!  We have the right to believe what we want, and to share those beliefs, no  matter how different they may be from mainstream thought.  If you don't appreciate what a gift this is... you don't deserve to have it!

I wish this wonderful day of celebration wasn't better known and more often referred to as "The Fourth of July".  Of course it is that, but far more importantly, it's Independence Day!  I wonder how many school kids, and indeed some adults, could tell you the significance of this day.  Remember that our independence didn't come without a price, it came after a hard-fought war... freedom is never free. 

Take a moment to actually read The Declaration of Independence today,  and think about those brave men who dared to sign it. It was an act of courage, and devotion to freedom.  Freedom which we, as Americans, tend to take for granted. As you are either watching or participating (as we are) in shooting off fireworks tonight, remember what a precious thing it is that we are celebrating.   Happy Birthday America... Let Freedom Ring!!

The Hardest Thing

The heavens are a little brighter tonight, but here on earth someone's heart is broken.  A good friend of mine had a beloved old tomcat that got sick and had to be put down today. She'd had him since he was a tiny kitten she fed with a bottle to keep him alive. If  you've had animals in your life that you've loved, I don't have to tell you about the hurt she's feeling tonight.  The sad fact is, most of us will outlive our pets... a blessing to them, but certain heartache for us.  It is rare, by the time someone reaches adulthood, that they haven't wept tears over at least one pet they've had to tell goodbye.  If you're older, it's likely been more than one, but each one just as loved and missed, whether their time with you was short or long, and their passing sudden or expected. 

We've heard some people say "they're just animals, not children", but for many of us that's simply not true.  They ARE our furry children, loved and treasured members of the family, each with their own personalities, their own facial expressions, and their own unique way of doing things.  One by one they've carved our places in our hearts, and to suddenly have them gone leaves a gaping hole in our lives that only time can heal. 

A hug and "I'm sorry" seem such small comfort for someone who has suffered such a loss. All we can say is "I understand", and note the good life and love this treasured furchild was blessed to have.  It doesn't take away the sting, but it is a comfort to know that friends and loved ones acknowledge the place this special animal had in your life.

After a time for mourning, I believe that the very finest way to honor the memory of a beloved pet who has gone to the spirit world, is to share the love that was once bestowed on them with another animal rescued or adopted from a shelter, one to whom a new home and a new family would mean everything. 

Love.... be it of family, friends, or furkids... it's the gift that keeps on giving. Life and death are the natural order of things; but love transcends death... love is forever!

With Great Love

The above magnet hangs on my refrigerator. It is a quotation by the woman I most respect and admire... Mother Teresa.  She is my hero. Not only do her words ring true, but she lived what she believed -  she walked the talk.  She lived simply, without want or need of  great material possessions, yet she spoke with the greatest political and religious leaders of her time.  She loved God with all her heart and soul, yet at times, like all of us, she questioned whether or not she could handle all that God gave her to do.

To do small things with great love is my creed also.  We cannot all do grand things that will lead to honor and fame. We do not all have large sums of money, large amounts of time, or great talents to share with the world.  What we do have is far more important than any of these... we have love!  We have that most precious gift which multiplies as we give it away, creating ripples as it is passed on from person to person, and comes back to us one hundred fold! 

Recently I read a comment on a blog post in which someone noted that she just didn't have time to do "random acts of kindness".  I thought about how sad that person's life must be. No time for a smile, or a kind word, or a hug? No time to say I love you, or I care about you?  Perhaps there is a need to reprioritize how she spends her time!  I wondered to myself if indeed when her time comes to leave this world, God will turn away and say "I'm sorry, but I have no time for you."  I know that God is greater than that, more compassionate and merciful.  It is my hope that she will find a bit of compassion in her heart, and look outside herself to see what she can do!

We are not asked to do great things, we are asked to do things in a spirit of love. This applies to the way we treat our children, our spouses, our parents, our co-workers, our neighbors, and strangers on the street.  Don't worry about if they are deserving, or if your kindness will be wasted on them... just do it.  Another of my favorite sayings by Mother Teresa is "If I spend time judging people, I will have no time to love them." Amen to that as well!

Of No Consequence?

Today my friend Annie at McGuffy's Reader wrote a blog post entitled A Lonely Grave about a single gravesite located between two truckstops off I-70 in Pennsylvania.  The grave marker states that the man buried there died in 1818 at the age of 41.  Not a great deal more is known about him.  One of the comments on her post said that "Perhaps he was a man of no consequence, if there can be such a thing." That set my mind to thinking...

Is it possible that anyone could be of such insignificance that his living or dying was of no consequence to the world?  When I visit old cemeteries, or gravesites like the one pictured above, I always wonder about the person whose physical remains are buried there.  He had a mother and a father, what was his childhood like?  Was he a loved and valued member of his family, or were his early years marked with neglect or abuse?  Was he well fed or did he go hungry? Did he laugh more than he cried? 

What about when he grew up? Did he marry and raise a family?  Were there children and wife to mourn his sudden demise?  Forty one really isn't very old, even though folks generally didn't live as long back then as they do now.

Where did he live, did he have a good home?  In the country or the city? How did he earn a living? Was he wealthy or poor? Was he a man of good character, or was he the town drunk or ne'er do well? 

We will probably never know the answers, but it brings forth another and perhaps more important question....  Even if he was the lowliest member of the community, was his life of value?  What if he was homeless, or a drunk, or a drug addict, or a wife-beater?  No value at all then?

I once had a co-worker who used to refer to people he deemed unworthy as "a waste of skin."  How that remark used to rile me!  Sometimes it is easy to look upon such people with an uncaring heart or even with contempt or scorn, but is it fair to say that their life had no meaning or purpose at all,?  Would it truly have made no difference if they were never born? Would it perhaps in some cases be better if they had never lived at all? 

What about people like Adolf Hitler, at whose hands so many suffered and died?  Would the world have been a better place if he had never lived? Or is it likely that someone else would have been born to fill that role, to take that place in the grand scheme of life. Would the ultimate outcome of that horrible time just have been played out on a different stage in another way?  I don't know the answer to that anymore than anyone really does, at least while they remain in the realm of the living.

I do know what I believe though, and that is that each individual is imbued with spirit, and that together as a whole we make up life, along with all created things; each is a piece of the puzzle which is essential to the entire picture, and puzzle with one piece missing is a sad work of art indeed. 

Whether or not anyone remembers the man buried in the grave near the truckstop, or remembers anything of you or me after we are gone, I want to think that in some way he made a difference, and hopefully that I did too.