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Archive for the ‘moving forward’ Category

I had minor surgery on my back yesterday to remove a cancerous area. This is not my first rodeo when it comes to this type of surgery, and it won’t be my last. As I said in my previous blog, it is the curse of being a fair skinned, light eyed person of English descent. I shall drop a note to the Queen one of these days and tell her I don’t at all appreciate the extra burden my British ancestry has imposed on my life.

The appointment was set for the ungodly hour of 8 am. It’s not like I’m not up with the chickens, but don’t necessarily wish to be on the road that early now that I’m not punching a clock anymore. Several friends called to wish me well, putting me a little behind. I gathered up the accoutrement it appears necessary to get me up and running and locked the door behind me. In the car, I cranked her up, and noted the “check engine light” that keeps turning on and off, was once again front and center on my dashboard. I contacted Ford the other day to get an appointment to get this looked at and the overly burdened lady in their service department told me she could fit me in just before the holidays roll around again this year. Sadly, with everything being so far behind, I told her to add me to the roster. Sigh. What’s a girl to do?

Pulling out into the street I glanced down at my feet only to have instant realization of how distracted I have been of late. Secured on both feet were my big green fuzzy slippers. Thankfully, I noticed before I plodded into the doctor’s office to check in for my appointment looking like an oversized version of Oscar the Grouch. If there are any keepers out there needing work, please leave your applications with my people and I’ll get back to you. Good Lord. So, back in I went, now late, and shoes were put on both feet as it should be. All was well with the world.

The procedure took about an hour. Once they anesthetize you, the worst of it is over. Until, of course, the numbness wears off. I was a dental assistant in a former life. One of the things I liked least about the job, and there were many, was being the one who prepped the syringes. Always, I felt like the executioner getting the noose secured to the scaffold. The practice I worked for specialized in orthodontia. That being said, most of the victims, uh patients, were children. That was difficult for me. Why on earth I ever decided to go into that field to begin with still boggles the mind. I can’t stand the dental office. The smells, the noise, the pain, the blood. I would rather be shot in the foot. What was I thinking? I actually wanted to be a medical assistant, but couldn’t handle the thought of giving people injections. Perhaps neither job was in a field I should have been sniffing around in. As a teen, I wanted to be a nurse for a while, like my paternal grandmother. Somehow I knew my total inability to deal with visceral issues such as throwing up or worse meant I wasn’t ideally suited for training for that profession.

After the surgery, they had me straddle the chair and drink apple juice from a juice cup. A nurse came in and handed me a package of crackers, instructing me to eat them before leaving. With the little shirt on they gave me to wear during the procedure, I felt like a fourth grader. To complete the picture, the doctor kept referring to me as a “peanut” because I am a rather slight human. Truth is, I didn’t mind it. I’ve been called worse. So, I can check that off my list. It felt strange when they asked me to confirm my information at the front desk. One of the questions the lady in reception asked was whether Dale was still my emergency contact. “Sadly, no”, I replied. Watching her delete him from my records felt deep to me. The significance of that action was not lost on my heartstrings. I have to go back every two days and have the bandage changed for twelve days, because where the wound is located I am unable to reach myself. The universe was giving me a clear message, “You’re on your own, kid. Better learn to deal with it.” Heard and received, thank you very much. Driving towards home, my mind told me I needed a treat so before merging onto the freeway I pulled in behind the other cars at the Starbuck’s drive-thru. A caramel frappuccino has cured many a rough day for me.

After I came home, I gave myself a rare pass for the day and binge watched Netflix shows and did not one productive thing to support my goal of being a useful human being. It was rather glorious. Wouldn’t want to do it every day, but I think my body was telling me it was tired and needed to rest, and I felt I needed to honor the request.

Today I am stiff, but doing much better. I seem to have picked up some juice after wiling away a 24 hour period on my back eating Doritos and enjoying some chill time watching Grace and Frankie. Definitely, a walk is in my future today before those corn chips decide to take up permanent residence on my posterior side. I had to cancel a session I signed up for several months ago with a local grief group meeting today which saddened me. This was a new group, and I was looking forward to meeting others in the area dealing with the loss of a spouse or life partner. With things as they are right now with the bug, going into an unknown group of people who have a choice of whether to mask up or not is not an option for me. Between my mother, who is most vulnerable, and our littlest member, who is three, I can’t take the chance of bringing a hitchhiking germ home with me.

One thing I remind myself frequently, as these are challenging times, is that a year from now things will look different. As with everything, the tide will go out again and we will return to normal (whatever normal might be). So, I forge on undaunted and plan to clean out closets and drawers today in case the Queen stops by for tea.

Take a breath, drink in the glorious pink colors cascading across the sky as the sun comes up, and hold tight to the good thoughts of better days to come.

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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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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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Birthday months are coming up in my family. I keep a calendar to remember all of them, but in spite of the effort, often find myself sending belated birthday cards these days. Too much going on to keep up with, and it leaves me feeling totally disorganized. My cat is sitting at my feet as I write this, waiting impatiently for her morning allotment of fishy treats. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, could care less if I miss a birthday or two here or there, or if dinner is on time, or I’m behind schedule. Her main concern is four times a day I show up with two treats in my hand for her to enjoy. My, my, we are a tad self involved, even for a feline. Being her one and only well loved human, I do my best to keep her needs met. Keeping everybody happy is a job no applicant is qualified to fill. I know, I’ve tried for lo these many years. Finally, I have learned you have to keep yourself afloat, and then when you’re buoyant enough, you can lend a hand to pull others in the raft with the energy you have left.

The weather lady is saying another epic heat wave is headed our way. Oh goody. It’s supposed to reach 107 and above by Saturday. This will test people’s nerves as well as our electrical grid. Hopefully, it will not ignite any brush fires or create rolling blackouts. We have a generator sitting by the shed all primed and ready to go, but you can’t hook your A/C up to it. It’s only the first part of July, and already we are logging our third dangerous heat wave. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. Personally, you could eliminate summer entirely for me, the way things seem to be headed, and leave the three other seasons for us to enjoy year round. As a kid, I could not wait for summer to arrive. Ahhhhh, sweet, lazy, crazy days of summer. No school, of course, was the main attraction, and it brought with it glorious long, hot, days filled with chlorine laced pools, bike rides along tree covered paths and backyard barbecues on the weekends. I can still picture my stepdad on the patio in his “Kiss the Cook” apron. The man could smoke, drink, and talk concurrently. He’d be flipping burgers and turning hot dogs, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, and his martini glass glistening in the cone shaped glass next to him with an olive floating in it. Back then, other than the holidays, it was my favorite time of year. Not any more.

Since summer has arrived, whether I welcomed it or not, I decided to take a trip to my son’s next week. Recently he has upgraded his backyard and the pool area and he’s invited me to come and check it out. Having little access to swimming areas over the past few years, I didn’t have much need for swim wear. After looking at what my closet had to offer, I decided it was time to go bathing suit shopping. Not my favorite way to wile away an afternoon. It’s not that my body would cause young children to cringe in horror was I to expose it, mind you. However, though my weight has remained fairly static over the years, things aren’t as toned and firm as they could be. “You could go to the gym”, you say. Yes, I could. It’s not that I get no exercise, I walk every day, but I realize this does not have the same impact as taking up jazzersize, or zumba or whatever is fashionable with the impeccably cut ab group these days. Truth is, I am not one of those humans who can’t wait to pull on some Spandex and go work up a good sweat on an elliptical cross trainer or get up close and personal with some free weights. Actually, I’d rather be shot in the foot. There is a great gym not to far from my house. Pre-Covid I went down and took a tour. I talked myself into signing up for a year’s membership and then the virus showed up and blew the wind right out of that sail. Don’t feel sorry for me, there were no tears shed over this. Now I’m thinking about signing up once again. I’m not doing anything about it, but at least it’s shown up in the options for getting in shape column.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting older or the changes occurring to the body. Mostly, I’m just excited when I open my eyes in the morning and find I’m still here. Aging is part of life. Nobody is going to avoid it. Even those with the wherewithal to hire skilled plastic surgeons to pull up this up and tuck that in will eventually have to concede to the passage of time and go through the process with the rest of us. I still want to take a swim, and will continue to do so even when my body does scare young children, because life is to be lived and I intend to do exactly that for all the years I’m gifted with while on this earth.

So many of my friends worry endlessly about other people’s opinion of them. I try not to do this. It’s not I don’t care what people think about me, I do. I don’t think anyone enjoys being disliked or ridiculed. It is more I have come to the understanding every person I meet may not like me. Not every human I come in contact with will share my point of view, find my personality engaging, see humor where I do, or wish to spend time with me. This, in my estimation, is a fact of life. It does not mean I am a bad person, not likable, or obnoxious, though some might argue the point, but rather we all have different tastes and enjoy different types of people. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who instantly on meeting them we feel a strong connection. I am blessed to have a lot of dear friends who fit under this category. Then there are those people who you might have known for a long time who you will never share that special type of bond or friendship with. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good people, just not a connection of commonality you wish to foster on a deeper level.

I have reached a point where, though I’m still learning new things each and every day, I have pretty much set my sail in a particular direction and most likely that is the lane I will hold my course in. I do keep doing my best to adjust my lens when new opinions cross my desk, and keep my mind open to other ways of looking at a given subject or new concept. Nothing should be totally static in our lives, for that can create a stagnant state. Things can change tomorrow, they often do. My life has changed so many times up until now, I have run out of digits to count them on. Change, like growing older, is an expected part of being alive.

,Sometimes I think I’m ready to move again. My best friend is leaving California, my children are well established and busy with their lives, but where? This is not an imminent thing for sure. I have my mom to take care of and Dale, my companion, has cancer, so these are situations floating about in limbo riddled with question marks and unknowns. I will ride out each of these storms until the dust has settled once again in my world and the compass point is again directing my way. Being a bit of a fairy dust spreader, I hope my mother and Dale are with me far off in the distant future. The end to their stories, and mine, is yet left to be written in the great book chronicling our lives. It will be as it is, and all I can do is hold on tightly to the side of the boat and hope we all remain together until the end of the ride. Hope is such a powerful emotion. I’m glad when we were in the conception phase of being, our creator thought to include it in the original package. It’s like a warm blanket to wrap around us in cold harsh times.

Moving, as I’ve said many times, is not unfamiliar to me. Thirty-nine times I have packed up my worldly possessions and moved to another location. That’s a lot of packing paper to my credit. When my ex-husband and I got assigned to a job in Nitro, West Virginia we were at the time winding up a year and a couple of months in Arkansas. Moving was part of the landscape for the type of work he did, so Nitro was simply the next pin on the map. The spouses of those employed for the construction company he worked for were accustomed to having their lives uprooted and replanted somewhere else around the country. We formed a wives group, after a while, composed of those of us moving in similar circles. At one meeting, since most of us liked to cook, we decided to compile a cookbook of our time together, to include all our favorite recipes along with a story to accompany each contribution. Being the only artist in the group, I was tasked with creating a suitable cover. I came up with a picture of a woman, bent over, carrying all her wordly possessions on her back. It was a great success. Often I take out that old binder, pages now dotted with the usual grease stains and spill marks associated with someone who likes to work in the kitchen, and reread the stories included with each recipe or put one on the menu for dinner. I haven’t seen these ladies since that chapter of my life closed, but think of them often and the laughs and tears we shared. It was a time of great adventure on the open road. There was a real freedom associated with not hanging your hat too long in one location, paired with a sort of heady anticipation of what was to come around the bend on your next assignment. The enticing uncertainty associated with living your life in an unpredictable sort of way. After I had hung up my hard hat, as I worked a job or two myself, and David and I too had said our goodbyes, it took me a while to plant roots again in one spot without the restlessness whispering in my ear it was long past time to move on.

Nitro was an interesting place to find ourselves. David, my ex, worked at the plant located in Nitro itself, but we found a home to rent across the Kanawha River in St. Albans. A lot of people discount West Virginia as a great place to live, but truly the “mountain state” has a lot to offer. Visually it is quite beautiful, with a lot of gorgeous spots for a person taken with being outdoors to explore. We were to spend three years there on two separate trips, and of all the places we made our home over our eight years on the road, West Virginia would come to be remembered as my favorite. I will write more about my adventures there in my next blog. For now, I wish you a great day filled with exciting adventures.

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I had a discussion with a young parent the other day I found interesting. She told me she asks her children what they would like to eat before preparing a meal. Things really are different then when I was growing up. I can honestly say I was never consulted about a meal really. What was put on my plate and served to me, I ate. If I chose not to eat it, my grandmother, at least to my recollection, never got up from the table and went in the kitchen and whipped me up something else more to my liking. Sometimes at breakfast, my grandmother did ask if I wanted my eggs poached, scrambled or fried, but other than that, what showed up on the plate was generally what I was expected to eat.

Now that I think more about it why shouldn’t children have some choice in their menu plan? They aren’t old enough always to make all the choices but I do think after they have tried a food several times and still have a strong distaste for it, perhaps they shouldn’t be made to eat it? This does not mean they can exclude every vegetable, fruit, or meat and substitute ice cream or candy bars, but within reason if there is a food they really do not like perhaps they need not be made to eat it? My son, for example, could not stand peas. His father, thought children should eat what was placed in front of them, and not waste food. The “starving children in China” script was pulled out often when food was left uneaten on their plates. This particular meal, the peas remained intact on my son’s plate and like the elephant in the room did not go unnoticed by my husband. “Eat your peas before leaving the table” was put out there. The gauntlet had been thrown. Dishes done, I came back to find my little one still staring at his plate. Stubbornness is definitely genetic. After a while the fork was lifted to his lips and he took a big bite of the dreaded little green bullets. The face was too much as the chewing commenced. Shortly, as quickly as they had gone down the chute they made a return visit all over my tablecloth. Having had enough of both men in my household, I scooped up my son and headed for the bathtub and handed his father the cleaning utensils to clean up the mess. Peas were no longer an issue at our house.

I never had to be forced to eat. I liked just about everything my grandmother put in front of me except for the dreaded liver and onions or the god forsaken beefsteak and kidney pie which were both my kryptonite. Ewwwww. Food was where she and I totally bonded. So many of my warmest memories of my younger years were created in my grandmother’s sunny kitchen. Sometimes, one of those memories will pop up in the most expected location. The other day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I had some time to kill. When driving into the complex parking lot I’d noticed a “Grand Opening” sign on a sandwich board in front of a new antiques and collectibles store. Antiques not really my decorating style, I decided it still might be interesting to take a look and see what they had to offer. On entering the store, it gave off that same musty, dusty smell most stores of that genre seem to have. Since the store (at least according to the sign out front) had only been open a couple of weeks, it got me to wondering if that scent actually came in a spray can, like new car smell at the car wash. Perhaps it’s the Moldy Oldie fragrance collection by Air Wick or the Granny’s Attic grouping by Fabreze. At any rate, while looking at the eclectic assortment of oldies but goodies for sale along the cluttered shelves, I came across four little china egg cups. Seeing them on the shelf took my mind immediately to childhood breakfasts in my grandmother’s family home on the hill in Halifax. The main focus of the room, was the lovely picture window looking out over Halifax harbor. Always I loved being in that kitchen with my grandmother. I can see her busy at the stove, apron in place, and if I inhale deeply I can almost smell all the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Our evening meals were usually taken in the formal dining room replete with all the bells and whistles. Breakfast, however, was served with far less fanfare at the little formica table by the window in the kitchen.

My grandmother woke up precisely at 6:00 every day. If asked why in later years why she still got up so early when she could have languished in bed, she said “you have plenty of time to sleep after you die”. Before coming out to greet her day, her nylons were in place neatly secured to her undergarments beneath one of her house dresses as she referred to them. These were cotton dresses all cut from the same pattern in varying fabrics, with short sleeves and a parade of buttons marching down the front. Specifically they were worn for working around the house to keep her good clothes from getting soiled. Up until she was in her eighties, when my mother finally convinced her pants on women were not the work of the devil, did I ever see my grandmother’s knees covered by anything other than a suit, skirt or dress.

The first order of business each morning was always to prepare my grandfather’s breakfast. A urologist, his days often began quite early. Breakfast was served to him on a tray each morning in bed, accompanied by his morning paper. Very health conscious, and dealing with some health concerns himself, the menu was shredded wheat with berries, a glass of juice, one half a grapefruit and a slice of whole grain toast. A small vase with one flower from the garden was added during the summer months next to a colorful little china pot filled with Gammy’s delicious homemade marmalade. Once my grandfather had opened his paper and begun to eat, she tended next to the needs of the smallest member of the family, namely myself. Eggs were often on the menu breakfast. They came dressed up in a variety of ways, my favorite to this day being Eggs Benedict, basically poached eggs perched atop a split English muffin then smothered with buttery Hollandaise sauce. Yum. These days no one has time to whip up homemade Hollandaise, or at least I don’t. Back then, there were no packages to buy at the store to add water to. If you wanted Hollandaise, you dragged out the double boiler and whipped up a batch yourself. Another way I loved eggs was soft boiled and served in an egg cup. The shell was left on with the top sliced through (it’s hat, as my grandmother would say) and you lifted it’s hat, and dipped your toast in the gooey yolk.

Funny how smells, tastes, sounds and pictures can trigger an immediate memory of perhaps an easier time or those you particularly enjoyed. Of course, these sensory reminders can also be of traumatic or unpleasant experiences, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of the moon at the moment so let’s stay there for a while. My memories are often associated with food it seems. Always I have loved to be in the kitchen. Although I have to admit these days I do find myself tiring of coming up with new dishes to tantalize my guests. As I’ve said before they need to introduce a new meat, or at least a new vegetable for those of us who love to cook to play with. Perhaps they’ll just create a new one. My granddaughter, a vegan through and through, says other than organic vegetables and not all of those, you don’t know anymore if the vegetable you’re eating is real or was created in a lab somewhere. I think we need a new blue something, something. At the moment blueberries are kind of holding down that fort all by themselves.

I bought the little egg cups as it turned out. Did I need them? Nope, not in the least, but want won that argument and they are sitting in my china cabinet waiting for a soft boiled egg to bring them back to a useful life.

This has been a rough year. I thought last year was full of potholes but that was just the preliminary match, and, unfortunately, this year seems to be the main event. I am working on my grateful self. I am grateful the virus seems to be getting under control. I am most grateful it got a hold of me and my partner Dale, and then threw us back relatively unharmed. I am grateful all my family and his, and my friends and his, are still here to talk about what a strange year it truly was. I am simply grateful for so many things.

On the downside of things, Dale, my partner and companion, has cancer. Being asked to be grateful about this is certainly an uphill climb. Rick, my partner in crime for nearly twenty years, as I’ve mentioned many times, passed away nearly three years ago from lung cancer. In a stroke of synchronicity even I find hard to grasp, Dale has been given the same dire diagnosis. The oxygen compressor is once again humming in my spare room and questions without answers are swirling and twirling about in my head.

So, I pull up some happy thoughts and fond, fond memories of being young and free and unaware of all the sadness that life insists on being peppered with. Memories, I always feel, are tucked away to be pulled out perhaps when you need a hug and don’t have one handy, or are feeling blue and want to remember the pure joy of laughing out loud. Memory really is such a gift, and probably one we take for granted. One of the hardest things for me is to watch my mum slowly loosing her grasp on all those wonderful mental highlights she has stored away over the years. I am her memory these days and I’m okay with that. Again, I lean to the side of gratefulness and remind myself she remembers my face and that alone is money in the bank.

Sorry if this post is a bit of a song with sad lyrics. Usually I am upbeat, but even a stand up comedienne has days when he or she can’t pull a joke out of the hat.

Have a good one. Remember to not put your “I love you’s” off until a better day, there is never a better day then today. Talk soon.


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Rolled over on my pillow this morning and opened my eyes to find a wee mouse face staring back at me. Boo, apparently, was having a restless evening and decided to invite a friend to sleep over. Thankfully, this mouse was of the stuffed variety. Had it been our other cat, Mouse, named appropriately, this story would have ended far differently. Mouse was a hunter by nature. We inherited her from our neighbors, who moved neglecting to leave a forwarding address for their cat. Can’t tell you how much I dislike that kind of behavior. Mouse came blasting up our driveway one morning yowling in distress, and within three weeks had moved into our guest room on the second floor, much to Boo’s disdain. Mouse was a street cat, in comparison to Boo for whom the only street she identifies with might be Rodeo Drive. Boo, would never reduce herself to catching her own food, but rather has hers delivered by her minion, namely me, in her pretty china bowl with her name engraved on the front.

I believe Boo brought me the thoughtful gift by way of telling me it was cold in the house. Though temperatures have been high in the area for this time of year, a winter storm is pushing over us and the thermometer has dropped considerably. Tomorrow is predicted to be in the fifties, as compared to close to ninety last week. Weird, weird, weather of late to go along with weird, weird everything else. The house was cold, as it turned out, not because the heater was off, that would be too easy. The house was cold in spite of the heater being turned on. Oh-oh. The lovely bonus of renting rather than owning a home, is when something goes wrong it is someone else’s responsibility. I have to say, I embrace this part of being a tenant with great enthusiasm. Texting my landlord, who lives across the street from me, he came over almost immediately and confirmed what I had told him, the heater was not going on. Coinciding nicely with Murphy’s Law, this always seem to happen on a Friday, just before a weekend. Also, it has been warm enough outside not to need heat until, yes, you guessed it, this weekend. Sigh. The repairman was not available until today, and if parts are needed, then the repair will have to wait until they arrive. Meanwhile, two small space heaters were brought over last night in case my teeth took to chattering.

It is hardly brutally cold, like east coast cold, but fifty is not swimsuit weather either. I’ll cross my fingers it is the thermostat that needs to be replaced and not something more complicated. Last summer the A/C went out in the middle of a heat wave (Murphy again) and we nearly stewed in our own juices. Thankfully, my landlords had a portable air conditioning unit at their disposal because the part to get the unit up and running (due to the pandemic) didn’t show up for nearly a month. Without the portable when found, we would have been but two oily puddles with underwear floating in the middle, oh and one small puddle with an abundance of white cat fur.

I do like the freedom owning your own home affords you. You don’t have to ask if you want to get a dog, or paint a wall. If the mood strikes you to paint your spare room royal blue, you do just that. Also, you are accruing equity in something you own rather than depositing your money in someone else’s retirement account every month. As I’ve said before, I do not get an “A” for planning for my golden years. It’s like that old saying, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself”. I think when you’re young, you can’t conceive of ever not being young. I first noticed the change in status when my doctor, while explaining a minor health problem I was dealing with, said to me, “well, this is to be expected as we age”. We age? Who’s aging? Moi? No, can it be so. But I guess I can’t ignore the reality, it can be so, and it is. I always quantify, however, I would rather be getting older then not getting anything at all, so there you go.

Lately I have been looking at my finances. I do this with one eye closed, sometimes both, and using a pair of tongs. Living in the moment is where I try to remain, but sometimes for practical reasons I have to look a little further down the road. My road, though I hope spanning many miles in front of me, isn’t going to find me rolling in prosperity or living in the lap, or even the the shin of luxury at this point. Rick and I cashed in my 401K early to get the restaurant going so that avenue has been cordoned off, and Rick is no longer here so his income is gone. Apparently, I have to pull on my big girl bloomers and figure something out myself. I have looked over my shoulder and don’t see anyone jumping up and down, arm raised, saying “I’ll do it”, so I’m assuming I’m the only man (or woman as the case may be) in the raft. Drat the luck. I have skills and certainly could fall back on my graphic art background. The idea of polishing up my resume and stepping back into the working world is about as appealing to me as crawling across a field of yellow jackets, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. I’m thinking freelancing might be the ticket. Whatever it is I decide to take a shot at most likely I want to work from home. Fortunately, now is the prime time to do just that, so I will begin exploring some options sooner than later.

For today, as Scarlett might say, “Fiddle-de-dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow.” It’s the weekend and there’s a chill in the air, food in the cupboard, and a roof over my head. Life is good.

Whenever I think of air conditioning units I think of the south. I lived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for a year in the 1990’s. Sent there for a short-term job, we needed to find accommodations allowing us to move before the year was up without involving a lease. my ex-husband and I located a lovely three bedroom brick home in a nice bedroom community which rented month-to-month. Perfect. To say it got hot in Alabama during the summer would be like describing a Ferrrari as a nice little luxury car. Hot, hot, hot. Air conditioning wasn’t a luxury when living there, it was a life or death choice. Thankfully, our landlords were diligent about keeping up their rentals so when we moved in the A/C was happily pumping out chilled air and the house was comfortable and welcoming. Once my husband got settled in at his new job I began the process of finding temporary work for the short time we would be in the state. We had one car at the time, because it was practical for our lifestyle. Construction bums of a sort, he worked for one company who shopped out his skills to jobs all across the U.S. Two vehicles meant we had two vehicles to move each time we relocated, and that we couldn’t ride together when on the road. Though it suited our purposes in that way, once settled in it made things a little more dicey if both of us wanted to work. Signed up with a temp agency, I was quickly placed at the local hospital in their infectious disease department. My duties included urine tests on new employees and random tests on current employees making me about as popular as the plague. After doing this for several weeks I came to believe it wasn’t that I was chosen first out of a group of candidates but rather the only one willing to take the job.

My husband got a ride to work each day with another pipe fitter living just around the corner. That freed me up to take the car to work. It was old, even by classic standards, and a boat. The chassis seemed to extend for miles beyond the front window. When you rode over a pothole you glided rather than bumped over it. The front seat was a bench seat and the car so massive I had to use a makeshift adult booster seat to allow my feet to reach the pedals. Another distinct liability was the A/C came on and went off at whim, making it like driving in a tomb on extremely hot, and always unpleasantly humid summer days. Often by the time I reached home, a 40 minute commute, my face would be lit up like a ripe tomato. During one particularly hot spell, I actually had to pull over at the mall and get a cold drink and cool down half way through my trip each night to keep from ending up prostrate by the side of the road. People who hail from Canada are not meant for hot, sticky climates. We’re just not built for it.

Just before we were set to move on to our next assignment, the old beater finally decided to admit defeat and refused to go into any gear but reverse. Had we wished to back our way all the way to West Virginia, this would have been handy, but otherwise this put us in a situation. The neighborhood we lived in was friendly. We knew most of our neighbors by name and well enough to stop and carry on a conversation, and some we socialized with. One family, directly across the street from us, was more of the “hi, how are y’all doing today” variety than the let’s break bread together variety. Nevertheless, seeing the hood up on the car seemed to trigger a visceral response in the men in the area, and pretty soon there were four or five heads bent over the cars internals discussing the situation. Turns out the car needed a new transmission, among a long list of other things I’m sure. Had it been human, my doctor would have repeated his statement mentioned above. Transmissions were not a cheap fix I was given to understand. What I know about the workings of the combustion engine could be jammed into the head of a straight pin with plenty of room left over. As it turned out, our neighbor knew a guy, who knew a guy, who had a wrecking yard. Heads were scratched, calls were made, and pretty soon my husband and Bud, as I came to know him, were off to pick up a replacement transmission in the nearest big city, about a two hour drive. As we were to leave in two days, work began on the car as soon as they got back. Men came and went, the sound of beer cans being opened and electric drills filled the air, and the testosterone was so thick in the front yard I hesitated to step out and offer food lest the hair on my legs grow two inches before getting safely back in the house. Somehow, the old trannie (their word) got pulled (also their word) and the new one dropped in. Quite a feat in the time constraints and in a yard, the story would be told. All Bud would take for his efforts was a steak dinner with all the trimmings, which I made happen before we hit the road.

In my life there have always been angels who showed up just in the nick of time before despair ruled the day. I feel quite blessed to have them around and perhaps even more so in the strange times we currently find ourselves in. I’m sure you have a few of your own whether you’re aware they are there or not. Keep your eyes open next time you find yourself approaching the high water mark.

Have a great weekend!!

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The thermometer is going to push 90 degrees here, in what feels like perpetually sunny California of late. Another drought plagued season in this beautiful state will not bode well for what our firefighters will face as the inevitable summer heat presses down on us. Sigh. Already we had the first power outage of the season in our area Sunday. Predictably, the power went off right around dinner time. Not late enough in the day to have dinner prepared and on the table, but rather right in the middle of cooking time for my pork loin in the oven, and pot of corn on the cob happily boiling on the stove top. Fortunately, it came back on before we either had to order in, or label our dinner an early breakfast. Typical. If not in the middle of the meal, the power is guaranteed to go off immediately after I’ve purchased a large amount of groceries and meat at Costco. It’s like a signal goes off from the cash register directly to the power grid reading “Susie will be storing $300 worth of perishables in her refrigerator. Initiate two day shutdown protocol”. I have a generator my son gave me to use when when an outage occurs. They seem to be coming more and more often which each passing year. Summer before last, I threw out an entire refrigerator full of food three times. At least that is not a worry I will have going into this summer, hopefully. I have never used a generator before. From what I understand, you have to be careful how you use them, because if they are too close to the house or are used in an poorly ventilated area, they can prove lethal. This, I have to say, makes me a bit less enthusiastic about a trial run with the damnable thing. Being one of those people who can get her finger stuck in a manual can opener, anything with the word lethal in the precautionary hazards, is a bit worrisome to me. I am working hard on holding my grateful place so rather than complain, I will look for a positive spin to this. Let’s see, I am thankful I am blessed to have a new generator with which to off myself with. I’ll leave it at that. Good old PG&E.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at my house for some unknown reason. Though not in a bad mood, I also haven’t been my usual sunny self. Could be spring fever, or cabin fever, or simply part of emerging like a pupa from a cocoon after a long period of hibernation, I don’t know. Seems a lot of friends and close acquaintances I’ve talked to lately are going through some transitional pains while beginning merge back into public gatherings again as well. I went out to lunch with a friend of mine on Friday. Both of us noted, sitting inside at a table felt both familiar and strange at the same time. Certainly it looked different. Notably, while we waited for our order to arrive, there was nothing on top of our table but our elbows. No napkins, utensils or condiments, as I would have expected to see pre-pandemic. When my friend asked for salt and pepper, a pile of small packets on a plate were delivered to the table. I’m so glad we didn’t own our restaurant during something like this. Restaurant ownership on the best of days is a stressful existence, but trying to work with these kind of restrictions must be like trying to do up the laces on your running shoes with your hands tied behind your back.

People ask me often if I would want to own a restaurant again. That, I have to say, is an answer requiring little deliberation on my part. NO!!!! Sorry. Was that too loud? Now, my response would be much different was I asked, “are you glad you owned a restaurant”? That answer would be a resounding, “yes”. It was an experience like no other in my life. I am both thankful to have been a part of it, and even more thankful to have come out the other end. Rick was the one carrying all the restaurant experience both going in, and going out. What knowledge I had about restaurants was limited to where to go to get the best Cobb salad, or where not to go for bad Chinese. However, by osmosis, I soaked up information along the way and managed to learn some of the ins and outs of the business for the two years we were open. Who knew? Not I certainly. I didn’t even have the usual street creds young people have on their resumes like “Waitress” or “Server”. Other than a brief, and might I add highly unsuccessful, Memorial Day weekend cocktail waitress debacle on Martha’s Vineyard in my early twenties, I was totally a restaurant virgin.

You know, rethinking my answer about ever owning a restaurant again, I have to say I have day dreamed about a little place that just served breakfast and lunch somewhere by the sea. Even perhaps a lunch truck of some description. I’ve also thought I’d like to work or run a bed and breakfast by the coast one day, but these thoughts are definitely can be found under the “dream on” column of my to do list unless I either hit the jackpot or marry well in the future.

Lately, the ocean has really dominated my thoughts. How I miss it. Sometimes it is an actually longing, like missing someone you love. For me, growing up smack up against water on all sides, it became a part of me, and, I, in turn, became a part of it. The Atlantic, where I grew up, is a far different beast than the peaceful Pacific here on the west coast. That is why people flock here, I would suppose, to enjoy the endless coastline decorated with long stretches of white sandy beaches, warm waters, and gorgeous sun soaked vistas. If one can afford it, of course. In my case, one can’t. Both oceans, to my eyes, have their own style of beauty and mystery.

The Atlantic always felt to me a far more angry stretch of water than the Pacific, harboring (no pun intended) darker moods and deeper hues. The sea, depending on you location, shows itself in many ways. The waters surrounding Hawaii, for example, have a light and yes, tropical, feel to them. Almost as though they know they are playing in paradise and wish to reflect the mood. The ocean there is a clear azure blue. When walking into the surf on Waikiki Beach the water was so translucent my feet were clearly visible on the sand below me.

I also enjoyed the beaches in Ft. Lauderdale, during my one and only visit there. Florida offered up some prime coastal experiences. If it wasn’t for the extreme humidity, frequent hurricanes, outrageously large insects, and flourishing alligator population, Florida undoubtedly would be a great place to live. If I was disposed to move to that part of the U.S., which I am not, I would prefer to live on the Keys. Key West is the only one I’ve visited but that would suit me just fine. Each night I would find my way down to the beach and sit with the locals enjoying the glorious sunsets and possibly indulging in a little cracked crab washed down by an icy margarita. My mouth is watering simply imagining it. Massachusetts had some nice coastal stops as well. Cape Cod waters are far more brooding and dark, the beaches there wearing a more windswept and scruffy look. Cape Cod, I believe would be a lovely place to write a novel or find oneself after being lost.

If I cannot be there right now, I can at least remember times that I have been. Memories are such lovely parts of our makeup. I’m glad whoever shaped our existence thought to include them in the factory rollout package. At times they can be both a curse and a blessing depending on the content, but being able to bring up the pleasant times in our lives like slides on a screen and to recall the smells, feelings, and colors of our experiences is a wondrous gift I have to say. Like pictures in an album, our memories lose their clarity and richness as the years pass. Still, they can be called up to be revisited from time to time and bring us joy. Often, I feel sad for my mum to have lost so many memories over the last few years, but dementia knows no master. Truly, I am blessed I am one face she never seems to forget.

So with thoughts of the sea on my mind, I am definitely adding a trip to the coast over the summer months. It’s about a four hour drive, which isn’t too much of a stretch. Rick and I often went to Little River, one of my favorite spots. Situated atop the craggy bluffs south of Mendocino, Little River is more a dot on the map than a thriving metropolis, only boasting a bustling population of 117. I have not gone there since he passed and am not sure how I will feel when I do. I do know I will go again when I’m ready, because it is such a beautiful place to visit. When we are left behind, it is up to us to find joy in the time we have, and I know he would always want me to do that.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with thoughts of sea breezes, calling gulls, salty smells, and foghorns until next time.

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