Archive for the ‘anxiety’ Category

What a stressful week. Whew. Night before last I got in bed after dinner, pulled the covers over my head, and hibernated. I switched the phone to silent, turned the TV off, and went to sleep. Yesterday was just a whirlwind, but today, I feel I am finally rising up above the haze. Most of the day yesterday was spent prepping vegetables for our big turkey dinner this afternoon. For me, though we are having turkey, the big bird is not really the main event, nor the vegetables, rolls or decadent desserts. On my plate, hands down, the stuffing is the star. From what I’ve observed, most of us prefer the stuffing (or dressing if that is how you say it) we grew up with. Some cooks toss in the gizzards (I simply toss them), others add cornbread, some include sausage, and the list goes on. My grandmother used to buy loaves of bread ahead of the big day and allow them to get slightly stale. I can still see her cutting the loaves into cubes in her kitchen in Nova Scotia. The kitchen would be in full production mode before the chickens opened their eyes. Uncooked pie crusts would be resting over glistening glass pie dishes waiting to be filled, and the cavity of the big bird would be cleaned and seasoned and waiting to receive the perfectly seasoned stuffing before going into the oven. Yum and double yum.

Back then, the stuffing was most likely cooked inside the bird. I haven’t done it that way in many years because they (whoever they are) determined this method to be more likely to make you sick. I don’t remember as a child ever being sick after eating a holiday meal, unless it was from eating that last piece of pumpkin pie when my stomach was already filled to capacity. Also turkeys, chickens, pork chops, or whatever, were taken out of the freezer and left in a dish in the sink to thaw. Now, of course, you wouldn’t do that. How did we survive before we had all this information? I can’t imagine.

Though I am not the head chef this year, nor is dinner being produced in my kitchen, I am a contributing partner. My portion of the meal is salad and vegetable side dishes. On paper, this sounds fairly foolproof, but with my strange behavior over the past few weeks, I hesitate to declare a solid win. Yesterday, for example, I had to go to several stores to pick up some last minute items. At the first store, I had a chat with the clerk while she was ringing up my items. This is a Dale residual effect. Dale talked to everyone, as I’ve said, and knew their name and they knew his by the time he left a store. Having lingered longer than I expected, I was rushing so I could get home and get on with the long to-do list waiting for me on the dining room table. Hopping in my car, I headed to the second store I needed to visit. Picking up what I wanted, I took my place in the already long line and finally got up to the cashier. Reaching in my purse, I realized my wallet wasn’t inside. Have you ever had your stomach drop so fast it actually hit the ground and rebounded back up? Happened to me, right there, and right then. I had a fair amount of money for Christmas shopping in my wallet, all my credit cards, and I just got my license with my new California ID. Panicked, I asked the clerk to hold my items and ran back to the car and backed out. Retracing my steps, I flew with gossamer wings back into the first store I visited. As soon as I entered the door, I could see the friendly clerk waving her arms at me. In one hand, I could see she held my wallet. Thank you God. This, I believe, was a Susie wake up call from the universe. The message was clear as a bell ringing in my frazzled brain. “Slow down, take a breath once and a while, pace yourself, and remember you are dealing with a fair amount right now. Last we looked YOU ARE NOT SUPERWOMAN! If something does not get done the earth will not stop turning, you will not be in trouble, and life will continue to go on. Remember, be kind to yourself”. Message received and noted. Whew. I felt like I’d just run the Preakness. Back to the store where they were holding my packages, I again got in line behind a number of other shoppers. The clerk, catching my eye, waved me to the front of the line. The lady in the very front looked like she was going to whack me over the head with her stuffed reindeer as I passed her up. I would have stopped and explained, but to be honest, I didn’t like her attitude. Had I been less irritated, I would have told her one of her reindeer’s feet was missing a hoof. Ah well. I’ll do better next time. I’m still stirring my pot of holiday good cheer, and it’s not quite done yet.

So, I came home and began methodically going down my list of things I had to get done. Veggies, as I said, were a big part of my day yesterday. Cooking them is never particularly complicated, it’s the peeling and chopping that takes the time. I decided with so much to do I’d have my groceries delivered. It’s a little more expensive, but less crazy in the store time, and frankly I didn’t know when I’d have had time to do it. If you’ve every done this, your “personal shopper” texts you back and forth as they are shopping with your list to ask questions or suggest replacements, etc. With so many things not being available this year, predictably my phone began to blow up once my shopper began pushing her cart through the aisles. Because half my clan are vegan, the other half carnivores, cooking becomes a bit more of a minefield. I tried to stay true to the vegan portion of the program by asking for organic products. She texted me the four bags of chopped rommaine were not to be found in organic packaging. “Okay”, I told her, “let’s do two bags of organic rommaine hearts”. Good to go. I can chop. I have the technology. Sooooo, when the bags arrived I waved at my lovely elf through the window, and gathered the spoils of her activities. Yay. Done and done. While unloading my food, I realized I had four bags of chopped rommaine plus six bundles of rommaine hearts. Wowser. Apparently I’m expecting ten extra people. I may have to set up a salad bar out by the curb.

So, I am salad rich over here, and feeling thankful. Thankful that I have too much salad, unlike some who don’t have enough. Thankful for my dear friends who have been there to prop me up as I’ve made my way through the crazy past three years. Thankful for my family who I love so fiercely, and that my dear little mama will be present at our table for yet another remarkable dinner. Thankful for the roof over my head and that I’m blessed with good health and a beloved kitty, who is obviously enjoying her Thanksgiving treats by the crunching I hear in the background. Oh and thanks to all of you who stop by and read my meanderings week after week.

Have a blessed day. Enjoy each minute with those you love. They are the most precious moments we have in our lives.

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The weekend has been busy. I spent Saturday night with my daughter and her family at a Winter Wonderland attraction. For Zeppelin, who recently turned three, this was a magical adventure. Being a “COVID” baby he hasn’t had much exposure to the outside world over the past couple of years. Snow cascaded down on us inside the gate, generated by a snow machine set up towards the entrance to the light show. This, for the small set, was the big deal of the night. The look on his face reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw fireflies while living in St. Albans, West Virginia. Only difference, I was thirty-eight at the time. Wonderment, is wonderment, no matter what the age, I like to think.

The Christmas elf in me seems to surface no matter what external forces are going on in my life. Always, I have come to life this time of year, and in spite the fact Dale will not be with me for the official lighting of the tree, the tree will go up as it always does. My son-in-law stores my tree in his rafters each year. Before going over there I asked him to get it down for me so I could bring it home with me. There was a time when I wouldn’t have owned an artificial tree. Part of the experience of having a tree for me, was to go to a lot or Christmas tree farm and pick out a tree the day after Thanksgiving. Since the kids have their own kids, and particularly now the cat and I are the only ones here to appreciate the splendor, I’m happy to have a conveniently accessible tree-in-a-box to put up instead.

Getting ready to head home yesterday morning, my son-in-law offered to put my two bags in the back seat of my car. I thanked him as I was going out the door, where he pulled me aside for a moment. “Don’t open the bags in the house”, he whispered in my ear. “Why not”, I asked? Apparently, Zeppelin had been playing in the garage with my son-in-law and he told him he was afraid of the bag. When asked why, he indicated the bag had been moving by itself. Oh-oh. Soooooo, I am being told there could be something in the bag? The bag now resting in my bag seat? Swell.

On the way home I jumped every time I heard a noise, and kept looking over my shoulder expecting to see two little rat ears and a big set of razor sharp teeth staring back at me. Thankfully, nothing escaped and hopefully there was nothing to escape. Once home, I unloaded my other items leaving the bags in place for last. Pulling on my industrial plastic gloves, I retrieved a long pair of tongs from my utensil drawer. “I’m going in”, I thought to myself. Dragging the cumbersome bags over to the side of the house, I watched them for a moment to make sure I didn’t detect any movement before unzipping the first bag. There were no obvious signs of entry so I felt pretty comfortable removing the contents, picking them up with the tongs just in case there were any surprises in store for me. The second bag was a totally different story. On one side there was a huge jagged hole obviously gnawed by huge jagged teeth. Let the games begin. Gingerly I pulled back the zipper. Grabbing the section of tree on the top with my tongs, I pulled hard dislodging a jack in the box ornament flying which came flying up out of the hole and landed on my head. The dance that ensued was worthy of at least a 10 from Len Goodman on Dancing with the Stars. Good form, excellent footwork, nice content. When my toes finished tapping, I looked up to see my neighbor leaning on his rake watching me. What? He waved at me cautiously in my direction, as one might do when dealing with a crazy person. In the end, there was no creature tucked in with tree either dead or alive. However, something had definitely eaten a hole in the side of the bag as well as all the fake cranberries off some decorations in the bottom of the bag. Note to self: Find a place in the shed for my trees.

Rats, well pests in general, are a way of life. Whether you live in the inner city or in rural areas a rat or two is going to turn up at one juncture or another. I try to find the inherent blessings in all living things, but I have to stretch a little farther to find the value in these nasty flea carrying rodents. Wherever there is food, rats will congregate. When we owned the restaurant I would sometime see them foraging out by the trash bins. Euuuuwww. When recounting the above rat story to a friend of mine, she said she saw a wire hanging beneath her car. When she reached up to yank on it to pull it out, a dead rat fell out on the ground and she was holding his tail. Ugh. They will get up under the hood of your car for the comforting heat of the engine. While visiting, they will chew on wires and connections leaving a mess if you’re not careful.

Moving on lest you’re eating and rodents put you off your food, this morning I am making soup out of what is left in my vegetable bins. I haven’t been shopping lately the way I did when Dale was here for meals, and I haven’t been cooking much either. The refrigerator, I’m afraid, reflects this lack of interest. I found four carrots, three stalks of celery, two onions, and some green beans hanging on for dear life in the bins. I had a half a rotisserie turkey breast that was about to travel south with the veggies so figured they’d all play well in a bit pot of soup. It’s supposed to be cold today, so what is more perfect on cold days than a piping hot bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, yes?

Murphy has been mucking about in my house the past week. As I mentioned in my previous blog, both toilets went on the fritz one right after the other. At the end of last week I was working on organizing my shed and one of the doors came off in my hands when I tried to close it. Thankfully, I figured out how to reattach it, or that would be the perfect place for critters to take up residence as the cooler weather prevails. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love my critters, but don’t really want any unwelcome surprises when looking for a package of paper towels out there in the dark.

So, this morning I began to assemble my soup ingredients. The landlord installed shelved pantry units in the laundry room to give me more storage. As I’ve said, this is a small house. I am very creative when it comes to using up all the available space, but even I have my limitations. The shelves in these cabinets are held up with little metal fasteners which regularly wear out, or come out and disappear into the atmospheric continuum somewhere. My theory is they are out there hanging out with all my missing socks. I have stocked these shelves fairly substantially so these little fasteners are being asked to hold up a fair amount of weight. This morning they rebelled. Opening the cupboard, cans, boxes, bags of pasta and all manner of consumables came pouring out like the dam had sprung a leak. A large can of crushed pineapple landed on my baby toe which is now the color purple. Ouch. I will find that Murphy one of these days and see he gets some of what he has dished out. Sorry, lost my head for a moment.

Not to be deterred from the task at hand, I sorted through the mess until I located what I needed and made my soup anyhow. What is it they say, “it’s not what happens to you in life that is important, it’s how you handle what happens to you”, or something along those lines. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Another minor annoyance, more to Boo than to myself, is that because nothing is getting to the store shelves these days, her cat litter brand of choice is out of stock. Boo, like most cats, is not a fan of change. Forced to either choose a new litter or allow the aromatic smell of ammonia to waft up to permeate my nostrils, I bought a different brand. The one I got was clumpable. I know, or really I didn’t know. At any rate, I diligently cleaned her box and sanitized it and poured the new litter inside. Shortly, as she always does, she sauntered up to take a virgin run at the fresh litter. First she smelled it, then after circling the box for ten minutes she deigned to step inside. You would have thought I had filled it with hot coals. She walked around lifting up her paws and behaving as if torture could only be a worse fate. Really? After a few days she accepted the fact that the old litter was not returning any time soon, and adapted herself to the situation. I, on the other hand, didn’t do as well. The clumps as it turned out were how the litter dealt with the bodily fluids etal. Huge clumps form in the litter after the cat uses it, looking like meteorites. They weigh a ton and hardly fit in the trash can I’ve always used to store the ……..um, well, poop. At any rate, it got kind of funny to me at one point but finally just annoying so I went and bought a new brand. Boo is circling the box as we speak. Life on the edge over here.

Happy Monday. The beginning of Thanksgiving week. Stay safe, spread kindness, be happy.

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Murphy showed up at my house yesterday in a playful mood. Both toilets kept running and in order to get them to stop you had to remove the top of the tank and jiggle the plastic ball inside. Next the sink would fill up if you ran the water and take an hour to drain again. After repeatedly jiggling and waiting, I put in a text to my landlord. Luckily for me, he lives in the house directly across from me. Checking both bathrooms, he determined we would need parts and that a plumber would be needed to fix the one with the uncooperative drain. Okie. Everything under the sink is now on the floor in my master bathroom, and the spare room toilet tank lid is in my laundry room. Tomorrow is the target date for the parts to arrive. As long as I can use one or the other I’m not in a hurry. When I first moved in here a tree limb broke through the sewer line and I had haz-mat teams in here. This, as they say, is a walk in the park, when I think of those times. I didn’t have an extra bathroom for nearly two months during that mess, and no walls and half a floor. Easy peasey this fix.

Remodeling or repairs are not always fun, particularly now with COVID putting everything two years behind and people not populating the work force like they were before the bug blew into town. It was always a production to hire dependable contractors who did top grade work. There are a lot of them out there, but you have to be careful not to just sign on with anyone. When Rick and I had the big house on the lake, we decided to remodel the third floor. Technically this lower square footage wasn’t factored into the total square footage of our house as it wasn’t fully cleared up with the building department. This had to be rectified before any work proceeded. The original owner of the house was also the builder so I don’t know why the paperwork wasn’t as it should have been, but that was as it was. It was the third floor that held up the other two so I would assume it had to be built fairly well or we’d all be sitting in the basement. The work was partially completed down there. Existing was the framework for the kitchen, but only holes where the sink, plumbing and appliances were to go. Originally they had planned to use it for the owner’s father-in-law, but the gentleman had passed away before the room had been completed.

It was a long rectangular room. At one end there were two additional rooms, one a bathroom with a shower stall with no plumbing hardware, and no toilet, and the second a laundry room. The plumbing had been installed in both, which was a definite plus, but nothing was hooked up and no appliances were in yet. In the laundry room there was also a place for a portable dishwasher which we intended to fill.

Rick, usually extremely diligent when researching everything (he was a virgo), took the word of a neighbor and called three brothers this gentleman recommended. When the men arrived at the house, it was obvious the oldest brother was also the spokesperson and negotiator. He and Rick went down to the bottom floor and discussed the work that needed to be done. The man was personable, seemed knowledgeable, but when I saw him interacting with his brothers they behaved like high school kids. This made me a little nervous. There was a lot of teasing and butt slapping and general goofing around I hoped wouldn’t carry over to the job. A mental picture of Larry, Moe and Curly Joe kept circulating through my mind as I watched them head for their truck. I asked Rick if they were licensed. He said they said they were. Hmmmmm. I could say I am CFO of Microsoft, that does not mean I get a paycheck from Bill Gates every other Friday. Oh well. I trusted Rick to handle these things. I’m just an empty headed old girl after all and don’t know of such things. NOT.

So, the work began. The first week they were to show up to start the renovation we got what I refer to as a Sweetie Call. Sweetie calls are when someone is going to blow you off, but does it nicely. You know, “Sweetie, I’m so sorry but I’m not going to make it today.” Two weeks after the first such call, the truck once again pulled in our driveway. The first day was quite productive with a lot of hammering and sawing to be heard seeping up through the house most of the day. We went down that evening to find sawdust literally covering every available surface and a generally full fledged FEMA situation. What a mess. When the three left they said they would be back the following morning to pick up where they left off. Yay. Around noon the second “Sweetie Call” came in. Truck problems. Uh-huh.

For six months the three men came and went as the wind blew, with Rick’s patience starting to become nearly non existent. One thing I did learn from that experience is never, ever pay for a job in full until it is complete. Lessons on the board there. Once they had the money in hand we might not see them for three weeks. The two younger brothers didn’t seem to me to be very well versed in construction. At one point, one of them called me down to look at some cupboards I had picked up at Home Depot. The cupboards in question were the thin landscape style cupboards typically found mounted over a refrigerator. When I got down there he said I’d picked up the wrong doors. Huh? Standing there he was holding one of the doors in a vertical position. He held it up to the cupboard and said “see, it doesn’t fit”. I thought he was kidding. When I showed him if he rotated it, it fit perfectly, he just said, “oh”. Should have been oh-oh. OMG.

When I told Rick this he got pale. A lot of money had gone into this room and it would be very upsetting to find we could as easily have stood in the middle of room and cut it up and thrown it in the air. When they were finally finished it looked great. They were paid, and off they went. Shortly thereafter, we began to actually use the room. There was an above ground pool on the third floor and it was nice to be able to walk in on the same level and use the kitchen and the bathroom rather than going up through the whole house to the main kitchen on the top floor. The leaks began first, then the flooring began to buckle. The toilet was installed improperly and had to be pulled and redone. One cabinet began to fall off the wall. The sealant they’d used on the concrete was having issues. When we tried to contact Larry, Moe and Curly Joe our calls went directly to voicemail and were never returned. Rick actually went to the address on their business card only to find a vacant lot. Hasta la vista, Baby. That was a very expensive lesson I always remembered. Poor Rick who prided himself of being diligent about looking deeply into the pot before picking something out, felt terrible. I resisted the urge to say “I told you so”, but it lingered tantalizingly on my lips.

Ah well, in the end we had a lovely room, put together by a licensed contractor. It cost us time and double the money, but we learned a lot from the experience.

I have a friend who had a similar experience recently with an in ground pool. The contractor got half way through and disappeared with all the way funding leaving a huge unfinished hole in her back yard. Wow. She had to hire a whole new contractor like we had to do to complete the job.

Update, my landlord just arrived with the parts. Yay. While trying to fix the toilet in the spare bathroom the entire tank shattered and is now in pieces in my trash bin. Murphy is really having a good time at my house. My metaphysical friends say this is a time of turmoil and unrest in the universe where things break and to expect the unexpected. To quote Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatlbelts, we’re in for a bumpy night”. The days might be a little tricky as well.

I went to Costco yesterday with my friend. Took us a half an hour to find a parking spot. Wow. People really are getting out and shopping early this year. Had they been giving away free $100 bills they couldn’t have attracted a bigger crowd. Think I’ll do a lot of ordering on line this holiday season.

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Dale’s celebration of life was Sunday. Once the ashes have been distributed, this will be the last of the rites associated with his dying to complete, at least for us. What a wonderful tribute it was to a man who believed life was all about love and service. All the time and care he dolled out liberally to those around him was really evident in the standing room only crowd, as well as the multitude of faces popping up on the Zoom screen. We, his family, spoke first, then people lined up on both sides of the room to say a word or two to honor Dale. It was at the Elk’s Lodge, so two huge elk busts presided over the front of the room. I kept picturing Dale straddling one of their sets of massive antlers taking it all in.

Going through this process again reminded me how important it is to be present in the day, even the moment you are in. As I’ve said often, life can change in an instant. A right turn instead of a left, a connection you missed at the airport, a spot you didn’t notice on your leg. Life, as they say, is capricious. Those of us who have been in the trenches more often, develop stronger armor I believe. When you are faced with adversity and struggle, through it you will most likely add a little more support to your arsenal and know better how to get through the maze the next time you are faced with it.

Looking in front of me, I see a lot of blank pages yet to be written on. Behind me, the pages are filled with pictures, words, smudges where tears have fallen, lipstick stains from kisses, and hearts and smiles. What to write on the pages not yet written on remains to be seen. I have been pro-active with building a foundation for my new life over the past week. Yesterday I went to the gym, my mind yelling and screaming the whole time “Turn back before it’s too late. Run save yourself”. In spite of the dire warnings being issued by my internal monitors, I pushed open the door and went in to the reception area. The Manager of Sales, a lovely young woman by the name of Seasons, guided me around the facility. As I’ve said, for me the smell of sweat and machine grease is not an incentive to pick up a free weight and jump into the fray. Walking or swimming are my exercises of choice, but actual rigorous workouts in a gym make me want to get on my pony and ride. Seasons took me through a labyrinth of fitness rooms with coed groups grunting and groaning to music or on convoluted looking machines of torture. We ended our tour at the pool area which was perfectly suited to what I had in mind. Yay. On the way out, she took me into the dressing room and locker room area. A lady wearing nothing but her smile was bent in half by the showers, her generously cut behind facing our direction tying her shoes. Hello? OMG. Some things you simply can’t unsee. Now, the logic of tying one’s shoes when naked and wearing no pants defies logic, but really OMG. In spite of the trauma of that moment, I signed up for a year. I’m going to enlist the help of a personal trainer for the first month, so I don’t repeat the pattern of my last two gym experiences and show up on three occasions then spend the rest of my year in physical therapy. Step number one of my rebuilding of Susie project, done and done. Dale would be proud of me. He knew how much I hated the thought of doing this, but encouraged me to do it to keep me vital as I lope into old age. Note here, I never saw him taking a tour. Just sayin’.

Next, I located a grief group in my area which begins the first of January and added my name to the registration list. I have a lovely group I’ve been going to since Rick passed away but they are virtual, and I prefer to attend in person. I will still go to them but not as often, but they are now my friends and I like to keep up with them. Second layer of bricks down, with step number two checked off my list.

Once the tree is tucked away again until 2022, I’ll begin looking for a part-time job. I’m giving myself a little breathing space over the holidays to get situated in my new life. It feels like I’m wearing somebody else’s shoes right now. I can’t get comfortable.

Someone asked me the other day how I feel. Interesting question that oddly comes up often. People don’t ask how I’m doing, but rather seem to want to know how I feel. Perhaps it’s because seeing someone close to them lose someone dear to them, has them looking around at the chickens in their yard. I’m not sure. After searching for an answer to actually describe how I am feeling, I came up with this. Imagine the person you love dearly and share your life with walking out the door and never coming back in again. You will never touch them again, see their face, exchange another word, eat another meal, watch another movie, or create another memory. That, perfectly describes how I feel. This eases, of course, as the days pass. I know this because the process is not unfamiliar to me. However, in the beginning that feeling of unease and unfamiliarity hangs over you like a heavy cloak. I was watching Dancing With the Stars the other night. Amanda Koots is one of the contestants. You may remember her husband, Broadway star Nick Cordero, died of COVID in 2020. Dedicating a dance to him, she said afterwards “When you’re grieving, you feel so alone”. Really true. You could have three hundred people in a room and be unable to locate the one face you are looking for. So, a lesson on the grieving process you perhaps didn’t need today.

On a lighter note, I am moving forward. It is okay to laugh, and feel peace, and have a moment of pure joy. Grieving does not mean you are on your knees in gut wrenching misery 24 hours a day. It is more of waves of sadness and loss that sweep over you and then recede.

So, I feel progress slowly but surely. Dale’s nephew gifted me a weighted blanket that “gives you a hug” when you place it over you. How sweet is that? He left me many angels to take care of me so I am most grateful for that.

Thanksgiving is coming up. Looking forward to digging into some yard bird with my family and friends. Life continues to ebb and flow.

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I have to say, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, has stepped up to the plate in a big way since Dale passed away. As it does after someone dies, the house goes from a hotbed of activity, to a quiet, sometimes deafeningly quiet, refuge. Family and friends return to their lives, and you are left alone (if just the two of you) to sort out the remnants of yours. Boo has been my steadfast companion over the past weeks, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. In times where I felt lost, she would find me. Her beautiful silly furry face would lift me up from whatever dark space I had crawled into, and pull me back into the world. God bless animals, really. We could learn a great deal from them about humanity.

I have had many pets over the years. I never say I owned my animals. To my mind you can’t own a living entity. You share space, possibly rent one for a while, as they can be costly, but never own one. My first “pet” was a loaner who haughtily sauntered into my life when I was about the age of six. Whiskers was a grey tabby with attitude, who lived with our neighbors, The Bells, in the house directly across the street from ours. Not permitted an animal of my own, Whiskers and I made a silent agreement to meet every day in front of the garage for scratches behind the ears and a few moments of cat to human companionship.

I didn’t get an actual pet until third grade, when three guppies, and two angel fish showed up in a small aquarium under the Christmas tree. A puppy was what I had written on my Christmas list, but fish were what Santa delivered. Watching them milling about inside the glass I believe for a moment I thought about leaving him a hunk of coal instead of chocolate chip cookies and milk the following year. To give Santa his due, we lived in an apartment with a “no pets” policy, so fish were all I was allowed to own. He must have read the lease before crossing my golden retriever off his list. They were entertaining, for creatures that basically just swam around, pooped and ate, but they weren’t much when it came to going for walks or playing in the yard. Santa had included a manual detailing the care and feeding of each species, however, it included nothing about the reproductive status of guppies. As things will happen when you put males and females of a species in the same environment, one of the guppies got pregnant. When she produced her offspring, I watched in horror as the father immediately gobbled up all his own children. It seems this is not an uncommon phenomenon among the male guppy population, which leads me to wonder there are any guppies in the aquariums at the north pole to provide for children over the holidays. The following day, my mother found a new home for my tank.

To ease the loss of my guppies, a new furry face arrived on the scene in fourth grade. A Boston terrier by the name of Puck. That is Puck, from Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a P. To be honest Puck was not a name I might have chosen for obvious reasons, but he came to us at six months old, and his previous owner had a leaning towards Shakespeare. Not wanting to confuse him, Puck he was, and Puck he stayed. Puck was a little black and white shivering bundle of energy. He had one blue and one brown eye and was prone to passing truly obnoxious clouds of gas at the most inopportune moments. His favorite game, if left alone and the bathroom door open, was to grab the end of a roll of toilet paper and run through every room of the house until the roll finally came to an end. Often I came home from school to find him sitting in clouds of Charmin looking really pleased with himself. In his defense, the only companion the dog had when I was in school was my mother’s roommate’s brother’s mynah bird. Follow that trail if you can. The black menace, was a contentious feathered creature answering to the name “Uncle Charlie”. Uncle Charlie could match expletives with the vilest of sailor’s mouths and could often be heard in his owners room blaspheming loudly to his little hearts content. Puck’s bent for flatulence, unfortunately, turned out to be more than just socially unappealing, but also an indicator of an underlying serious intestinal condition resulting in his demise before he celebrated his second birthday.

I didn’t venture into the realm of pet ownership again until the eve of my thirteenth birthday. The doorbell rang that night just after we had cut my cake. I opened the door, to find a delivery man standing there carrying a cage. Reading from a card he had in his hand he announced he had a special delivery for Susan Dennis, which at time would have been me. Handing the cage across the threshold to my waiting hands, he turned and walked down the driveway. Looking inside, I was more than surprised to find two large frightened looking topaz eyes staring back at me. “Hello”, I said? Taking the crate in the kitchen, my mother determined the gift had come from my Aunt Eleanor. Eleanor was not really my aunt, though I called her Aunt El, but rather an old friend of the family. Eleanor was in her seventies at the time (I perceived her as ancient and more than a little eccentric). The woman lit one cigarette off the last, drank vodka by the truckload, owned three beagles who smelled like old socks, and was a retired legal secretary. She had never married, had no children (except her beagles who she called her “girls”), and her only relative was a rather unproductive brother who lived in her spare room with Mr. Charlie the foul mouthed mynah bird. Aunt El, however, in spite of her many quirks, had a heart the size of New Jersey. Knowing it was a difficult time in this girl’s life, she knew a kitten might just fill the fill. Had she asked my parents permission, I’m sure the answer would have been a resounding no. So El came at the situation like she did most situations she had during her life in the legal field, and just cut through the red tape. The eyes as it turned out were attached to a peach colored persian kitten, who aptly came to be called “Peaches”. Peaches was gorgeous even by persian standards. In the dark, her golden eyes shone brightly like the orbs of a underworld goddess replete with locks of flowing curly golden hair. Her regal bearing belied an underlying love of martinis, which came to the fore after a night of partying on the part of my parents and a group of their friends. I woke up to find the living room littered with the remnants of the previous night’s festivities including half filled martini glasses and bowls of crusted over guacamole. In the middle of the disaster sat Peaches happily lapping up what had to be her second or third gin martini.Oh-oh. On seeing me, the fuzzy sot weaved across the carpet in my direction getting about halfway to where I stood before dropping on her side like a possum caught in the headlights of a car. Thankfully, the amount of alcohol she consumed did not do her in, but the next day she had the same look on her lovely face I’d seen on my parents the day before. Peaches would be my steadfast friend and companion for the next two years, before being hit by a car on our street and having to be put to sleep. My young heart, as they say, was broken.

It was to be, that once again I was to mend my broken heart from the loss of one furry friend by finding another one to step up to make me smile. Don’t misunderstand me, you can not simply exchange one pet for another and make everything all right, any more than you can with human beings. Each animal, like each person in your life, if special, occupies a certain space in your heart and mind that is unique and belongs only to them. Their imprint, can never be written over with a new one, but will rather stand side by side with the others. Such was the case with the little Pomeranian puppy given to me on my sixteenth birthday by my mother. Mandy, like another guardian angel, arrived on the scene when life was a bit bumpy at our house and a loving companion was just what was needed.

When Mandy came into my life I was sweet sixteen, with more emphasis on the age than the description. My home life was complicated, and in reaction to that chaos I was a bit rebellious. Toss all those ingredients in a bag and no matter how much sugar you added the cake it still didn’t taste that delicious. My mother and I were trying to find a way to communicate, and teenagers aren’t notably gifted in this area, and my stepfather, well that’s for another blog. Mandy helped to iron out some, not all of the wrinkles at home, making life a little easier for all concerned. Small in size, with a pointed snout and a bush of reddish gold hair, she resembled a little fox. Before long we were inseparable. She understood me, didn’t ask a lot of questions, and was an excellent snuggler, and for a small being, a fierce protector. What more could I ask for? My stepbrother, Mike, also had a dog, Chip. Mike’s parental visits included every other weekend at our house during the school year, every other holiday, and a month during the summer break. Chip accompanied him on the summer break the first year Mandy came to live with us. My mother and I had discussed getting Mandy fixed as soon as her first heat and come and gone. Apparently Chip, an ardent suitor, hadn’t read that far in the book. Sure enough, before the surgery could be done, Mandy was pregnant. The vet said the pregnancy was too far along so we would need to complete the journey. One night I noticed Mandy was very restless. She stood up, then laid down, yawned, and then whimpered. This went on for some time. Alerting my mother something was wrong, she called the vet and they said we should bring her in. After an xray revealed two puppies, one too large to come through the birth canal, (Chip was a mutt, but a mix of larger breeds) Mandy was prepped for a C-Section. This would end up costing my mother nearly $400, pricey even in those days. Mother was not wearing her happy face on the drive home two puppies richer. Mandy produced her only offspring, Chip and Dale. The boys were healthy but an odd pair, with Chip being at least double the size of his brother. When they were old enough,we put them up for adoption and they were scooped up before the ink was dry on the ad. Mandy remained with me until I got married three years later. She stayed with my mother until I could find an apartment where I could bring her. I think she died of a broken heart, though they said it was liver failure. As I’ve said often, life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.

There have been many other memorable fur babies between Whiskers and Boo. If I mentioned them all you’d have to put on a fresh pot of coffee. Dale’s memorial is tomorrow. Nursing a big case of sad this morning but Boo is here at my feet keeping a watchful eye on me. Happy Saturday!!

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Someone said to me the other day, “you are a warrior”. I don’t view myself that way at all. Am I am fighter? Absolutely. I will continue to try to reach the surface no matter how many times the waves push me back down below the water line. That is a truth I know about myself. My mother used to say I was like one of those inflatable clowns with sand in the bottom. You knock me down, and I spring back up. It’s often hard to identify our own strengths. Certainly it is difficult, at least for me, to have a spotlight shined on them. Two things I am skilled in, I have to say are, I am good at defraying compliments and excellent at not asking for help. If someone tells me I look pretty, until recently I would answer, “Really? I couldn’t do anything with my hair”, or I would alert them to a cold sore threatening to rise up below my lip, in case they wanted to rethink their assessment. I don’t think I’m alone in this. If you say something negative about someone they often nod there heads vigorously in acknowledgement and say, “I know. I’m working on it.” In turn, you might compliment a recent weight loss in a friend, and get in return “I still have twenty pounds to lose”. Thank you, is all that is needed by way of reply. Two simple words we should have little difficulty forming with our mouths. Why can’t we just say them when told something pleasant about ourselves? So easy to see our dark sides, and so uncomfortable for us to embrace our positive traits. Unless, of course, you’re a narcissist. You know who you are. If that description fits you to a tee, you point out your own good traits and accomplishments, and expect others to do the same. Aside from working on being able to handle someone saying something nice or complimentary to me, receiving help from other people would be another area I have begun to do some strong work on.

Before Dale got deep into his cancer journey, I ordered a work station on the Internet. I hesitate to do that usually, because furniture of any type always requires assembly. It’s not that I can’t do it, I’d just rather not. Even when Dale was in the house, I would be the one sitting on the floor with parts strewn all around me. To me, it’s like a puzzle, and I do love a good puzzle. Usually I can manage to figure it out in spite of the spotty instructions often included with the item, but this work station would prove to be a project I just could not take over the finish line. For two days I grappled with the *x!!!## thing. To begin with, the directions were abysmal, and I’m being polite here. Supplied with the hardware was a one page sketch. Whatever genius drew it, he made it an overlap of diagrams supposedly constructive in guiding you through the assembly process. Not. To add to the mix, the pieces are heavy and cumbersome, and are hard for one person to hold onto to screw in parts, etc. At one point such bad language was crossing my lips, even the cat went under the bed and put her paws over her ears. Some projects like this I have been able to actually “eye” and put together. This one I couldn’t manage with both eyes, the sketchy sketch, and a team of builders. Good Lord. Finally, with my blistered hands, I hoisted the white flag up the pole and said “ENOUGH”. Before placing the parts back in the box, putting the box in the middle of the street, and annihilating the whole thing with my vehicle, I picked up my phone. Yes, I really did. Dale has a dear friend who extended a hand to me recently should I need help with anything around the house. Looking at his kind text on my phone, I stood frozen for ten minutes before actually banging out a message in the sand reading “H.E.L.P.”. Quickly he responded and reinforcements showed up after lunch today. Easy peasey but not for me. Oh no, not for me. I absolutely loathe admitting I can’t do it myself. This is definitely a personality defect I need to improve on. Somewhere in my minds file cabinet I have sorted and compiled information which tells me asking for help is a) inconvenient for the person I am asking, b) a sign of incompetence on my part that I cannot complete the task without assistance, and c) they might turn me down (ouch), and that would be embarrassing. In reading up on the subject I was surprised and interested to find that one has to be more evolved as a human to reach out and ask for assistance. Oh-oh. Asking for help allows you to a) move forward from the point where you have become stuck, b) possibly work with someone to get the job done whose company you enjoy, and c) learn something from the experience. Who knew?

After acknowledging as I said,the directions were virtually useless, my rescuer began the business of putting the work station together without them. To be fair, he has been in the construction for many years giving him a decided edge on me (if you’ll pardon the construction pun). In forty minutes, he had the unit up and fully assembled. Sometimes, you just need a guy. I thanked him profusely for taking time out of his day to help me. I bagged up all my leftover Halloween candy for him to take home for his trouble. Not much of a paycheck, but it was all he would take. He told me it made him feel good to help out. There’s another reason to ask for help once and a while, the person helping gets to feel good when they lend a hand. Many lessons written on the board today.

Before he arrived, I got my Moderna booster shot at a local pharmacy. Looking up the documents required, I noticed they wanted the COVID card from my previous shots. I have the website in my contacts on my phone where I can pull up the official records which I have used everywhere I’ve been asked for proof of vaccination. I figured this would be sufficient. Never out think yourself. You are asking for trouble. I arrived ten minutes prior to my appointment as instructed. Atta girl. Waiting in line, I took my turn at the counter telling the girl why I was there. Immediately, she asked for the COVID card. When I explained I had the official site on my phone, after conferring with the pharmacist, she said that would be fine. I pulled it up, inserted my password and bupkus. Why? Really why? Perhaps I should have checked the password before leaving the house? Fine. So, I got in my car and hot footed it back to the house and retrieved the actual card from my files. Back in the car, I made the third trip down the same route back to the pharmacy where I got in line. Sigh and double sigh. Finally, I stuck my arm out and got dosed. Whew. Hopefully, the half dose won’t produce the same two days of misery the two prior full doses did. I have a lot to do this week and don’t want to do it lying flat on my back.

Dale’s Celebration of Life is on Sunday. Apparently nearly three hundred and fifty people will be attending both virtually and in person. I’d have to raffle off a new Mercedes to have that many people at my funeral. Such a friendly and giving human being. You really do get back what you give out. He will be sitting in a corner at the event somewhere like a little leprechaun taking it all in. I have to put together a program some time over the next day or two so counting on the universe to shine her light somewhere else for a bit so I can make some forward movement.

A funny thing happened yesterday morning. Whether you believe people who have passed on send signs or not, this made me happy. After Rick died, there were so many signs that he was still in the neighborhood, but with Dale they have been fewer, though not non-existent. I was in my bedroom around eight o’clock. I had looked out into my back yard and was deciding whether or not to add raking the leaves to my list of chores for the day. Coming out into the living room, I switched on the news. Hearing the weather report, it seems a storm with wind was heading our way. I decided raking the leaves would be a rather fruitless endeavor as the storm would undoubtedly distribute a new layer. This news, let me say, did not break my heart. Feeling a bit melancholy, I once again went to my room to retrieve something. Passing my window, I again stopped to look out. Just at that moment, three balloons floated down from the sky landing on my patch of grass in the far yard. The wind turned the middle balloon around to reveal a huge smiley face on the front of the balloon. Whether you believe or not, and I happen to, that made me smile.

So, as it turned out I spent a miserable night tossing and turning dealing with burning skin, muscle aches, and a headache. This reaction is not as severe as the original two injections, but I’m missing a lovely lunch with a friend because of it, and that chaps my hide. I’m glad it’s done now. Hopefully life will find the needle pointed more in the normal section of the dial. Have a great day!!!

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Today I could really see through a clear lens, how distracted I am at the moment. The indicators of this lack of concentration became obvious early on in the day. For some reason, I seem to have accumulated a plethora of uncooked vegetables in the refrigerator. Though food isn’t high on my priority list right now, I hate to waste it. Particularly, with what they’re charging for everything with the supply chain issues at the grocery store. Also, my mother and grandmother drilled me well on the dire situation in China with all the starving children there when I was young and wouldn’t eat my Brussels sprouts. However, the truth is there are people who don’t have something to put on their plate right here in the good old U S of A. Knowing this to be a fact, there’s something terribly selfish to me about tossing food out in the trash. My ex husband grew up in a poor family in backwoods Arkansas. Their finances improved greatly when he was a teen, but his mother really scraped the bottom of the barrel to put food on the table when he was grade school. Often, with nothing much else to give him, she would give him beans and biscuits in his lunch. Kids can be really miserable when they smell vulnerable prey. If there is anything different about you, be it clothing, accent, looks, hair color, or in this case food choice, they pounce on you like a rat on a piece of ripe cheddar. At the noon break, he was teased regularly about what was in his lunch box. Where most kids had peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese and a bag of chips, David might have sorghum on rice or rabbit stew. Sometimes he went without eating to avoid scrutiny and his mom said he regularly got off the bus after school sporting a black eye or bruises on his hands from defending himself from bullies. Some days he would ask her to give him two biscuits in his lunch bag. She never knew why. Later he was to tell her, he would eat one and then go over to the trash can and toss the other one to prove to his tormentors his family had enough food to waste. There are so many children in the U.S. without enough food to eat, it is sad to me to casually throw something out because you don’t make good use of what you have. Just my opinion, but it’s a strong one.

At any rate, surveying my bounty and thinking Peter Rabbit would be right at home in my vegetable bin, I took out the bags and cleaned and trimmed my veggies. The cauliflower and broccoli could be steamed together. The rest of the vegetables I decided would work perfectly in a vegetable soup. I have to pay attention to my eating while going through this time of mourning. When you are being a caregiver, quite often self care gets puts on the back burner. Meals get skipped, or something is hurriedly consumed while standing at the counter. Then, after the person being cared for passes away, you enter a grief period where you really don’t want to eat. A double edged sword of sorts. Blessed with my mom’s rapid fire metabolism, it won’t take long for the pounds to begin to melt off if I don’t pay attention. I looked at a photo taken of me not long after Rick had passed away. I’d gotten so thin the only thing visible indicating I was in the picture were my big feet.

Being in the kitchen is cathartic for me. Standing there peeling and chopping it almost felt like a normal day in the life of. Settling the steaming tray in the bottom of my pan, I dumped the cauliflower and broccoli in and secured the lid. Turning on the burner, I went off to take a shower and get ready for the rest of my day. This would’ve been excellent except for the fact I forgot I’d left the vegetables cooking on the stove five seconds after exiting the kitchen. This is not easy to ignore, as both vegetables emit an odor when cooking I liken to elephant gas (not that I’ve ever actually experienced this phenomenon firsthand) to remind you they’re on the stove. Somehow, I managed to circumvent the signs, and pretty soon the smoke alarms loudly reminded me of my oversight. Darn. Aside from the cat losing a life or two, I managed to ruin a relatively new pan and reduce my veggies to a black gelatinous blob in the what was left of the bottom. Sigh.

Beyond the humanitarian side of food waste, it costs a lot to eat these days. In an effort to defray the flow of cash moving steadily out of my bank account, I have begun to watch for coupons. This is something I used to do routinely, but sort of phased myself out of over the last twenty years. The other day I was in the pharmacy picking up some toiletries. I pulled my cart up behind the only other shopper in line standing at the only checkstand with it’s light on. In the “baby basket” as I call it, the woman had what looked to be a wedding album sitting alongside her purse. Kay. Though her cart was not filled to the brim, there were a generous number of items resting inside the basket. I have learned to relax into those situations. Getting all impatient and wound up, at least I have found, doesn’t make the line move forward any faster. Unloading her purchases on the conveyor belt, the woman opened her book. Now I was not being nosy, but I could clearly see it was bulging with plastic covered pages lined with all manner of coupons. Well maybe a little nosy. This woman, apparently, had created the Bible of all coupon books and as I stood there she went through what felt to me to be every single one. By the time she was done, I had meditated three times and begun doing Tai Chi in the aisle. I believe this is called “extreme couponing” and I am here to tell you I don’t have either the time or the patience to pursue such an endeavor, but God bless her for doing it. While I’m still on the subject of the pharmacy, why is it one pharmacy in particular (if you’ve been there you’ll know which one) insists on rewarding your patronage by giving you a receipt long enough to write a legal brief on the back of it. If you walked into the Amazonian jungle and dragged this receipt behind you to leave a trail to follow you wouldn’t run out of paper until you hit Columbia. Aren’t we supposed to be saving trees? I realize these are all store coupons printed on the receipt but in my experience every time I’ve tried to use one of them it had either expired or couldn’t be used for whatever item I was buying. I’m just sayin.

Once I had put out the fire both literally and figuratively in my kitchen and disposed of he charred remains, I went outside to pick up all the twigs strewn around my yard from the last storm and put the trash cans by the curb. While standing by the bin, my neighbor wandered over to ask if Dale had passed. Telling her he had, though we speak frequently over the fence, I suddenly struggled to remember this woman’s name. I knew it had something to do with the TV show Bewitched. I set up little reminders in my tired brain to trigger a response for names. I am terrible at remembering them. Sometimes I have to look at the name embroidered in my underwear to be able to write a check. A light went off. “Tabitha” that’s it. Proud I had conjured (pardon the pun) up the correct name, I applied it liberally during our conversation. Before leaving, she turned and said, “Oh, and Susie, my name is Sabrina not Tabitha”. Drat the luck. Close but no cigar. At least I didn’t call her Darrin.

I’m trying hard to deal with the emptiness in the house. It hits me every time I leave to do something away from home and then come back into the front door. Dale was such a large presence in my world, it is hard to fill up the empty spaces, so I don’t even try for now. Easy to laugh, he was always already chuckling before telling a joke, and his hearty guffaws could be heard at the other end of the house when he was talking on the phone to one of his friends about something that greatly amused him. Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a sparkling conversationalist on most days, really hasn’t exhibited much of a sense of humor.

Feeling a bit antsy after cremating my innocent veggies, I decided to take myself to the store to get some more of the same and start the process again. Damn the torpedoes and all that. This time, I would cook them with my eye on the clock and the stove. I bought a few extra groceries while there, you never get exactly what’s on your list, and pushed my cart out into the parking lot. Pushing the trunk release on my remote, nothing happened. Really? Now the remote and/or the car is not working. WHAT IS GOING ON!!!!!! I pushed it again, and then again. Why do we do that? It is obviously not working. Perhaps it’s our mind way of coping with the situation. I gave the door handle a jiggle. Nothing. Suddenly a man came up behind me. Fine, now I’m being accosted in the parking lot. “Excuse me”, he said politely. (I thought he was going to offer to help). “Yes”, says I? “You’re trying to get into my car”. “What”? Looking in the window I realized I did not leave a gym bag in the back seat nor did I purchase the Starbucks coffee sitting in the cup holder. “Oh”. Insert red face here. Quickly I apologized for the mistake and located my car two rows over. Hello?

After that I just came home. I entertained the thought of going in the closet with the bottle of Gray Goose and some fiery Cheetos but decided to tough it out and cook my vegetables instead. This time without nearly setting the house on fire. Another day worked through and I’m still here. Hugs from me.

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I promised myself to imbue a little light into my next post. This is me doing exactly that. I made it. I made it through Halloween, and not only made it through my birthday, but I pulled a rabbit out of the hat and probably enjoyed the most heart warming birthday day I’ve ever had. Who knew? Yesterday, I added another candle to the cake. Pretty soon, I’m going to need to add another cake to support the candles. At any rate, I had no expectations of anything special heading my way when I opened my eyes in the morning. I had plans for lunch and shopping, but the rest of the day I was to manage by myself. Keeping busy is my way of coping. However, you cannot keep too busy as to avoid being in touch with your feelings or go through the process of grieving, or you will not do your work and complete the process. The morning was filled with catching up on paperwork and pulling together some graphic designs for a local charity I’ve been working with for about eight years. The phone began ringing about 8:00 and I am here to tell you that device never stopped until my head hit the pillow last night. What lovely pops of bright sunny colors on a day destined to be filled with hues of purples and greys. Texts arrived with lovely warm messages of support and love, people posted on my social media pages, and as I said the phone earned it’s keep for the full time I was awake. You don’t know, unless you are the receiver of it, how very important that kind of contact is to a person feeling especially fragile and vulnerable. If they could bottle that, therapists would have to hang up their shingles.

My son and his family gifted me an hour and half massage at a local spa. I have never had a massage, or let me clarify, I have never paid to go to a facility to receive one. My first reaction when reading the gift certificate was “hmmmm”. This keeps coming up in my life of late. When Dale’s daughter and her husband were here they both made appointments to get some “body work done”, as they put it. When I said casually I had never been to a massage therapist they seemed shocked. What? I never had a pedicure until I was over forty. Apparently I am not a high maintenance girl. Once I did have a pedicure, I have routinely gotten them since. I think before the actual experience I hesitated because I felt sorry for people who were tasked with washing other people’s feet. I’ve seen mine, and even I don’t like to wash them. Recently I had to go to the podiatrist for what they call a planters wart. I apologized before removing my socks, to which after seeing my feet, the doctor replied “Your feet are great. You should see the feet that I do ever day.” “Really. My feet are great”? This is Rick’s fault. He liked to tease me. For some reason he targeted my feet early on in our relationship, referring to them as UGHS. He used to tell me to cover them up, I was scaring small children. Who’s the child, I ask you?

The big gun holidays are looming on the horizon. Not sure if my brain is wired at the moment for all the chaos associated with shopping, crowds, decorations, parties, etc. No matter what, I always put up my Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Was I confined to a hospital bed with tubes attached to 50% of my body, I would figure out how to do this remotely. As ritualistic as I am about the date they go up, they also have to come down the day after Christmas. Decorating is a happy and time consuming process I look forward to every holiday season. I love the first twinkle of lights on the tree, and watching as the pile of wrapped presents grows beneath it’s decorated boughs. I used to be somewhat of a fresh tree snob. I admit it. Never could understand why anyone would go artificial. Over the years, my stringent holding on to one view over another has eased considerably. These days I find myself a rather mellow being who puts less importance in having to do something my way or the highway, and am wide open to many points of view. That being said, my artificial tree is residing in a zippered plastic bag in my shed waiting to be gloriously adorned yet another year. Yay.

Today I am heading out for a walk and lunch with a friend. We’re going to walk downtown and browse through the shops. I am looking forward to getting out in the lovely fall weather and stretching my legs. I have been in the house quite a bit over the past year and feeling a little guilty pleasure at the thought of being outside in the fresh air. When you are the “survivor” there is a lot of guilt to go around. I try not to dip my ladle in that pot too often. It can can be habit forming. Though intellectually I know it is not my “fault” I am still here, there is part of me still feeling guilty for being so. When grieving it is hard not to feel guilty if you laugh at a joke, or enjoy the scenery, or sit down to a delicious meal without your partner, friend, spouse, parent, being there to enjoy it with you. I would consider this a very natural reaction. I had a lovely day with my friend yesterday, first at lunch and then dropping a dime or two at Home Goods. This does not mean I don’t miss Dale with all my heart, or am not feeling the tremendous loss of his presence. We go on, and that is the way we are structured. Those of us participating in this dimension are like flotsum caught up in the waves. We bob and weave with the currents and move along as the days move forward on the calendar. If you stop and do nothing but allow yourself to be consumed by grief and loss, there is always the danger you will remain firmly rooted in the spot where you are standing. That, is not healthy for anyone. I know when my time is here I hope my loved ones celebrate my passing with jokes and silly stories. That they sorely miss my presence in their lives, but go on to enjoy full and rich lives that I will always be a small part of. This does not mean I don’t allow the tears to flow when they brim at the ridges of my eyes, or feel the my stomach pinch when the memories begin to stream across my mind. There are times when the loneliness washes over me chilling me like a rush of cold frigid air and then recedes. This is all part of our life process, and death and change are right up there with living in what we have to deal with.

So for today I will take my melancholy mood for a walk in the crisp air and allow myself to be thankful for all I have, all I have had, and all I will have. Have a blessed and full day. Remember to tell those you love how important they are to you every chance you get. Dale used to tell me, “I will never apologize for telling you often how much I love you”, and he did tell me often. Those sweet words and all the lovely verbal gifts he gave me are tucked away in my mind to be pulled out as needed on my journey.

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Once again Halloween has rolled around on the calendar. Friday night I went to town with Dale’s daughter to have a goodbye for now dinner, as she was returning the following morning to her home in Los Angeles. For the past month she and I have worked as a team to take care of Dale’s end of days, providing us with a sort of forever bond of comradeship which I will treasure. Yesterday we said our goodbyes and I went to spend the night with my daughter and her family sort of a pre-birthday celebration. At some point after a loved one dies, you have to face your empty house.This morning I did just that. Opening the door, the rooms seemed full of shadows and quiet spots. Light will once again fill the corners and the days will seem less heavy and long, but for today I am feeling quiet and like my well has run low and it is hard to draw from it. Perfect Halloween mood, yes? Dank and dark. Sorry about that.

Halloween, being the eve of the day I whooshed into the world, has always held a special spot in my heart. Being somewhat of a large kid, dressing up is something I have enjoyed since I came to understand that was what the celebration is all about. Over the years, I have arrived on the scene as so many different characters. One year I was a fried egg, with my date accompanying me as bacon. Another year I was eve, with a serpent wrapped around my arm. At one time, I actually had a chest which held all my different costumes, wigs, and accessories. These days, I don’t attend many costume parties, but imagine I might step up to the plate again should an invitation show up in the mail next October. My first husband and I kept an actual wooden coffin in our storage shed. Sounds macabre now, but at the time we thought it a great Halloween prop. He lined it with visqueen each year and it was filled with ice to keep soft drinks and beer chilled when it was party time. Always I had several skeletal hands reaching up through the ice with a little fake blood to add to the ambience of the experience. One year, I actually purchased a brain from the local butcher. We suspended the organ in a glass bowl in lightly tinted water and put a back light on it. Even I was creeped out by that one.

Looking back, there were many fun parties, many dress ups for work days, and loads of memories with my children and theirs to make Halloween still feel special to me. Tonight, I imagine the turnout will be substantial. Kids and parents have been locked up due to the virus for several years, and my guess is they will be out en masse. Looking forward to seeing all the decorated faces at my front door. Friday night when we went to dinner downtown it seemed as if the entire population of our small community had shown up for the occasion. Street vendors lined both sides of the street, huge metal trash cans were ablaze to keep hands warm when the sun went down, country music could be heard in the distance, and kids and adults alike passed by disguised as cinderella or the incredible hulk. After we’d eaten, we strolled through the crowds. One vendor was completely lit up with well, things that light up. I bought a pair of pink kitty ears that blinked in three colors and at different speeds. I left them for our littlest member when visiting my daughter’s yesterday for a pre-birthday celebration. In spite of Dale’s recent passing, I had fun and found myself smiling and moving to the music when we stopped to listen to the band. Sometimes when someone passes away, the survivors feel guilty when they laugh or experience a joyous moment. I know in my heart Dale would never want me to be so miserable I could not smile or laugh. One of the things he said he liked best about me was my happy nature. I’m sure he would not be pleased to find me hovering in the corner dissolved in tears all day. Not that there haven’t been tears, nor that there won’t be more. Grief is something you move through not work around. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, other times manageable, and at other times the sadness lingers in the background playing softly rather than up front with the band.

I will survive, because that is what I do. As the days pass the pain will ease and I will step back into the life going on around me and create something new and as yet unknown for me to experience. Happy Halloween. See you tomorrow another year older.

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Friday I said goodbye to my partner and love, Dale, after he lost his long and courageous battle with lung cancer. As much as he wanted to stay in this realm and continue the lovely life we had begun building together, his body couldn’t keep that commitment and needed to rest. His cheerful spirit remains in all of us who knew him, and his loving soul has gone on to where good souls go when they leave the earthly plane. I am left behind to wonder what might have been, and memorialize his passing. To say I shall miss him, covers so little ground in describing the sadness I feel he will not be walking next to me as I come to the crossroads of the next turn in the path in what seems like a most convoluted journey. My mind keeps asking why I am the one to accompany people exiting this world, but remain here myself. There aren’t really any answers expected, but the question floats about in my subconscious asking why, and then why again.

I remind myself when the sorrow drops like a heavy blanket around my shoulders, I am lucky to have been well loved by these two men in my life. Rick, who passed away three years ago after twenty years together, and now Dale with two. In my earlier years I tried on many partnerships, but I didn’t always choose my partners wisely. Thankfully, some of the earlier relationships taught me enough about what I didn’t want in a relationship to provide guidance when stepping into new partnerships as I got older. Were these two men perfect? Was I? Hardly. Life is not perfect, despite advertisers attempts to convince us otherwise. People are not perfect, and thus relationships cannot possibly be perfect. If someone tells me they exist in a perfect pairing, I give them a wide berth. They be crazy.

Though not perfect, they were healthy. There was give and take on both sides, lots of love, much laughter, generosity, some tears, occasional misunderstandings, and for a pinch of spice, some hearty disagreements. All thrown in the pot, this still produced good relationships. Someone said the other day, “you’ll move on and find someone else”? People need to THINK, as I have said so often, before allowing their lips to form words. You do not replace a person in the manner you would a worn out couch, by simply replacing it. You have to slog through the difficult process of grieving their exit from your world (in the physical sense only) and capture your memories to carry in your heart as you proceed on your way alone. There is no guideline for grief, no timeline you must follow. Grieving is a very personal and individual endeavor carried on in private (usually) by those left behind.

My birthday is Monday. This is really not a time I wish to celebrate but a friend of mine suggested we go to lunch and help support some of the local businesses by dropping a little money in their tills. Why not? Dale’s daughter will be going home over the weekend and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I will once again be the only two beings on the premises. This could make for the perfect storm for a day of abject self pity, so I decided since I had a choice in the matter I would prefer to go shopping instead. When relating this story to my cousin, she stopped me at the part about not wanting to dip into self pity. She said she wondered why we aren’t permitted the indulgence of allowing ourselves to really dive deep into our feelings, rather than being expected to immediately dust ourselves off after a huge loss, and get right back in the game. I have to agree with her. Americans really do not like to speak of death. I’ve discussed this before. Grief groups are not readily available for many people struggling through the rough waters alone, and people are uncomfortable to enter into a discussion with someone recently experiencing the loss of a loved one. Truth is, from my experience, people want to talk about them. It helps in the healing process. I know for me if I didn’t have the steady stream of support my dear friends and loved ones provide, a stranger might be talking me of the ledge about now.

Life must go on, and normal things sometimes bring solace. Taking inventory of my cupboards I got dressed and headed to the store. I bought a large bag of Halloween candy. Intuition tells me this year might produce a good turnout. When I got to the checkstand I took out an equity loan to pay the bill. Everything is soooooo pricey these days. I understand chicken is going way up as well. Fowl was my go to meat. Drat the luck. I’m clipping coupons and trying to conserve where I can. My usual cat litter, Boo is picky, was not on any of the shelves I visited. Supply chain strikes again. I guess I should have stocked up, but who knew cat litter wasn’t made here in the U.S. Is anything these days, one wonders?

Flowers and cards have been arriving. I can’t put them on any accessible surface (cat accessible that would be) because Boo has a flower fetish. If she sees one, she eats it. As many blooms and plants can make felines sick or worse, I have to place them in awkward places when an arrangement arrives or I’ll come out the following morning to a collection of stems. She doesn’t differentiate between artificial or real either. The other day I found small fronds of a recently purchased fake plant in the litter box. That sort of says it all.

Today is a tricky day. I feel sad and then okay, then okay, followed up by profoundly sad. Mostly I am just tired, which is a sort of side effect. My limbs feel like they weigh about five hundred pounds apiece and lifting my feet up to propel me from one room to the next is a decided effort. This too, like all things, will pass. There is sunshine awaiting me in the future, but sometimes the moment seems overshadowed by clouds and dank.

I miss you my dear Dale. For you the pain is over. For those of us left here to grieve you, it is just beginning. Now you know what lies beyond the human experience as we know it. Send me a cryptic note if you get a chance. Sending you a bag of smiles and endless giggles in case you need them.

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