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I’ve been struggling this week. I read my monthly horoscope when the first of October arrived, as I generally do the beginning of each month. The astrologist said there were to be hard edges to the month for those born under my sign, and those sticky points are already poking me in the ribs. Let’s face it, sometimes life isn’t easy. I try to put on my smiling face in the morning, as I far prefer it to my other expressions, but sometimes it is an uphill battle to keep the corners facing up.

My relationship bag is filled all the way to the brim, and slopping over onto the floor. It seems like I get the wrinkles smoothed out of one relationship, and a bubble seems to pop up in another. Truthfully, I think life has become so stressful over the past couple of years, people are starting to wear thin at the edges. Friends and relatives who are usually amiable and easy to get along with appear to be sporting thinner skins than usual of late. I’m sure of guilty of a bit of that myself.

There are days, when I think I could happily inhabit a small hut at the top of a mountain in Tibet with only Miss Boo the Queen of Cats and perhaps a small dog for companionship. I know this is simply how I am feeling today, but as it is definitely how I do feel today, better to acknowledge it and do something constructive to get on past it. Sometimes, you have to get these feelings out, hang them out on the line to air for a while, and then take them down and put them away in order to move on to the next thing on your agenda. When I do that, rather than stuffing them way down deep inside me or turning to a Midnight Milky Way or caramel frappaccino for solace, I find I function on a much higher level.

To help with my anxiety, I’m seriously thinking about joining a local gym. That statement in and of itself should be an indication of how desperate I am for outside stimulation. The first gym I joined was in my twenties. I actually won a two year membership to this gym in a contest I entered at a car dealership. I never win anything. So, when they drew my number, I felt I had to acknowledge the universe for the nod, and went religiously until my free membership expired. After that, I slowly drifted back into my old habits. It’s not that I don’t exercise, I do. I am very active most of the day, and try to walk at least forty minutes every day without fail. It’s structured exercise I rebel against. Every time I get involved in a gym situation, something in my body goes south. The last time I signed up, had me in physical therapy for three months for a pulled shoulder muscle. This time, I believe I will engage a personal trainer for a couple of months to show me how to do the work outs correctly. I tend to get overly zealous and most probably forget the correct way to use the machines five minutes after I am shown what to do, if not sooner. Sometimes we retain only what we want to retain, or what interests us, letting the rest of the information seep out the other ear to disappear into the wind. For instance, if someone tells me the Door Dash driver is about to deliver my cheeseburger and fries I’ll be standing at the door waiting, but if an instructor has just shown me how to use a pulley that feels like someone is ripping my arms from my shoulders, my interest level may be less than keen. I’m just sayin.

On another front I need some work on, I watched a financial planner on a news show this morning discussing ideas for living within a budget. I find this almost as riveting as a lecture on exercise. With prices appearing to be endlessly rising, however, I felt I’d better listen in. Rent, for example, is really sucking me dry, as for about everyone else who doesn’t own a home in California. Blessedly, my landlord has kept my rent where it was when I started, so at least I’m not worse off in that area than I was three years ago. There’s not much risk with me as a tenant. I’m neat, I pay my rent on time, Boo and I don’t throw a lot of wild parties, and I don’t do drugs or drink alcohol (well other than an I occasional margarita with friends). God, when did I get so boring? The only thing I’m addicted to these days is Downton Abbey and my morning coffee. Sorry, I was stifling a yawn.

Another thing on my to-do list, once my world finds a comfortable place to rebuild itself, is I am definitely going to have to seek out some kind of work. This financial planner said take your gifts and use them. Huh. Again, the idea of going back to work is also not one that has me dancing on the coffee table. I’ve worked most of my life, and wasn’t opposed to not doing so anymore when the opportunity arose to allow me not to have to. I’m not a lazy person at all. Really I’m not. I am, however, tired of having to get up and spend the day in an office somewhere at this juncture. If totally honest, I would prefer not to ever have to do it again. Since I didn’t marry for money (something I might have put more serious thought into), and didn’t plan well for when I got older, unless I hit Super Lotto or someone unexpectedly donates millions to my savings account as a benevolent gesture, I am going to have to figure out a way to get some money coming in rather than just sitting here watching it going out.

I have a friend who housesits. I don’t hate that idea. Currently though, she is staying at a house that is very isolated, minding both the house and the owners two beautiful golden retrievers. Recently I spent the night there with her for a bit of a break. As gorgeous as the location is, I wasn’t sure I was still in California by the time I wound around the mountain backroads in order to get there. I need a little more interaction with civilization than that. I like to see a neighbor or two mucking about in their gardens from time to time, and a little life around me. A dessert oasis or Montana ranch probably wouldn’t be the ideal place for me to make my home. Conversely, I don’t like living in the city either, butted up next to your neighbors with endless lines of traffic and a crush of people everywhere you go. Where I live now seems to be the best of both worlds. A small foothills community with enough people to be cozy but not so many as to make me claustrophobic. Traffic here is not a problem, which I really enjoy. When I lived in the Bay Area, it would sometimes take me two hours on the freeway on a Friday night in bumper to bumper traffic to get home from work. I am so happy those days are behind me.

Once, back in my twenties, I was stuck in such a log jam of vehicles on a Southern California freeway. I smoked at the time. In my defense, everyone smoked at the time. You smoked in offices, you smoked in movies, you smoked in bars, you smoked on airplanes, you smoked, smoked, smoked. We didn’t know as much about the dangers during those years, though it was beginning to become apparent tobacco certainly wasn’t beneficial to our well being. I remember my mother had a flat covered gold dish on the coffee table filled with cigarettes for company. Kill your neighbor, was the policy at our house. Who knew? But, I digress. That day on the freeway I was driving my VW bug. I had the window down on the drivers side and was happily puffing away as I inched along the road stuck in the poorly titled (at least on that day) “fast lane”. As usual, the radio was pumping out some tunes and I was busy with my free hand shifting gears on my manual transmission. In traffic such as that you shift from second to first and back up again as traffic ebbed and flowed. I do love a stick shift. Still miss driving them. Have to admit though, in rush hour traffic constantly having to be messing with the gear shift and clutching can be exhausting after a while. My back seat on that particular day, was piled high with items I was going to donate to the local thrift shop the following weekend. On top of the pile, a big macrame type throw pillow that had seen better days. A car jogged in the gap between the small space separating my bumper and the car in front of me, causing me to react suddenly. Jerking my arm up my cigarette slipped out of my fingers and flicked out the window, I shifted (pardon the pun) my focus to what was going on ahead of me and leaned back to enjoy the nice breeze flowing in from outside. A mile or so down the road, I began to smell smoke. Being young, and blonde (a lethal cocktail), when I noticed little bits of ash floating about, I attributed the embers to a fire brewing outside somewhere. I’m shaking my head along with you. Why there would be embers inside my car was the fire outside, boggles the mind, but what can I say? Sometimes I’m amazed I made it past twenty-four. Drivers on either side of me were now gesturing at me. To be polite, I smiled back and waved back at them. I know, pitiful. Finally, sensing these people were not just being friendly, I looked in my rear view mirror to see my back seat filling up with an alarming amount of smoke. Hello? Turning to look over my shoulder, the pillow was fully engulfed. The only good news was it seemed to be the only thing on fire at that point. Stuck in the fast lane, I somehow was able to grab the edge of the flaming fabric and with one strong tug miraculously threw it out the open window. God takes care of drunks and fools, as they say. Moving along, I could see my pillow burning brightly on the asphalt in my driver’s side mirror. The guy behind me just rolled his eyes and turned both palms towards the sky. Sorry. So glad I don’t have any of those habits to worry about getting off my back anymore, and that I’ve picked up a few gray cells along the way during my travels.

So, for today, my boat is holding water. Yay. Hope yours is doing the same. Until next time. Have a great hump day. I do love autumn.

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There are lessons, as I’ve often said, to be learned from all experiences we encounter in our lives. For me, going through my second caregiver experience in four years, I am learning many lessons along the way. One becoming particularly clear to me, is learning not only to give help, but to receive help in return. I have never been very good in that department. I’m the one in the kitchen after a large dinner party standing next to a massive pile of dishes saying “no, I’ve got it, thanks” when a guest pops in their head to offer some assistance. Just what I’ve always done. These days, on a bit of an overload, I find when a hand reaches out I am more likely to accept it.

I have always been independent as a being. One thing I have learned while running the rapids in my life is the one person who always had my back should I fall overboard (which I often did), was me. Now, this is not to discount in any way all the wonderful friends I have had and do have, or my family. It is simply I knew when things got rough I could, in most instances, take care of myself. Truth is, I am finding, we all need other people to lend a hand at one time or another.

Being a scorpio by birth, I tend to follow some of the traits commonly mentioned when discussing my sun sign. Secretive, comes to mind, for example. For the most part I am a private being. Aside from being a November baby, this could also have something to do with being an only child, particularly one brought up in a cold climate. Winters in Nova Scotia could pack a substantial punch. Often as a youngster I was stuck inside with a storm raging beyond the windows leaving me to provide my own entertainment when not doing something with my mother or my grandparents. Unlike the little house I live in now, the house I grew up in was large, including two floors of generous living space, a basement and an attic. I wonder at times was I to visit there now would I find it as majestic as my child’s mind envisions, but to me when I was little it was a palace and I the resident princess. The door to the attic was, as to be expected, on the second floor just outside of the spare bedroom. A chrome key dangled from an hourglass shaped hole in the lock. I had been told never to unlock it without permission from a grownup, but as my grandmother would be happy to attest to was she here, I did not always listen to what I was told to do. There were three bedrooms in total on the second floor, plus a bathroom, and a large sitting room where the only TV in the house made it’s home. Sundays, if my grandfather was home from rounds at the hospital (he was urologist), we ate our main meal at noontime after church in the dining room. Later in the day, a light supper was served in the sitting room on TV trays. My grandfather would seat himself in front of the small black and white TV set and his chest would rise up and down and he watched Lucy and Ethyl get up to what Lucy and Ethyl got up to best, trouble. After that Ed Sullivan would show up for an hour of variety and then it was off to bed, for me at least. I was thinking while writing this, Elvis Presley had to filmed from the waist up back in those day when on the Sullivan show because he undulated his hips suggestively while singing. Those censors would be really surprised at what shows up for them to monitor on the TV these days. I saw a show advertised the other day called “Naked and Afraid”. At first I thought it was show about the agonies of bathing suit shopping in the spring, but then looking into it further, not too much further, I discovered the plot line revolved around two strangers asked to survive together naked on an island for 21 days. Really? The worst part…..wait for it, they had no phones. I KNOW. Good lord. Seriously, if I don’t have better things to do with my time I need to do a total reexamination of my life path.

When I get to feeling shaky under my feet I sometimes think of that lovely house I grew up in and the people inhabiting it. That solid foundation I was given in the first nine years of my life, most likely provided me with the balance and strength to deal with my crazy life that came after it. Having healthy and nurturing relationships in those formative years, or so I’ve heard, has a great deal to do with shaping who you are as a person as you mature. Certainly I have done many things over the years since leaving my grandparents home that most likely would make them raise an eyebrow or two, but thanks to their guidance and love I have always righted my ship again and gotten it back on the right course.

I am asked regularly of late how I am doing. With Dale in a cancer battle, the obvious answer would be not great. However, actually we are maintaining quite well considering the circumstances. I believe when people ask that question, they really don’t want me to answer in detail. A simple, “fine”, or “so-so” will suffice and let’s move on. That works for me. I have a therapist who gets paid to listen to my woeful stories, so I try not to go on and on about things that might be depressing or sad when a friend is kind enough to inquire, but rather stick to the Readers Digest version and just provide the bulleted items.

This has been a week where I have really had to test my leaning on others capabilities as I have been fighting a miserable little bug that has taken up with my lung cavities and seems reluctant to leave. It sent me to bed for five days and even though I’m up and moving around again it lingers on causing me to go into coughing fits that with COVID running around has people giving me a wide berth. It is not COVID, as that was the first test they gave me when I showed up presenting symptoms at the doctor’s office. It is bronchitis, however, but I was told after a week I shouldn’t be contagious. I am the world’s worst patient. Staying in bed is like a prison for me, when forced to do it on a long term basis. So, today I finally gave in and began the prescription of antibiotics I was given in the event the germ didn’t vacate the premises on it’s own by this weekend. Sigh. I’m not complaining. Well, maybe I am just a little. Thank God we have these drugs to avail ourselves of. Imagine what people did back in the day when there weren’t any cures in a bottle for what ailed you. They died, is what they did. I’m not a fan of medication if you can avoid it, but certainly understand the value these miracle medicines have brought to our world. Measles, although on the rise again, would still be plaguing our population or polio, or smallpox, and so many other nasty little germ populations bent on attacking our immune systems and culling the herd.

On my bookshelf, I keep a small reminder of how medicine was practiced when my great-grandfather, Joshua, was plying his craft. It is a diminutive brass mortar and pestle which he used to prepare his medicines for his patients. Medical school, when Joshua attended, would most probably have included three years of study, a thesis and oral exams because that is the amount of information they had to pass on to doctors in training. I’m sure they didn’t spend the next twenty years paying of their college loans back then either. So many things we take for granted now simply hadn’t been heard of or explored at the time my great grandfather was running about Nova Scotia in his horse and buggy delivering babies and an occasional calf or two. My great grandmother, Susan (who I was named after) was twenty years Joshua’s junior. Susan, from all accounts, was quite a lively girl who gave Joshua a run for his money. I remember my grandmother telling me Susan (or Susie as she was called) often complained that she never had linens in the house because Joshua would strip the clean bedding off and pile it in his rig in case he needed it when visiting a patient.

I jump back and forth across the fence when contemplating if life was simpler then, or more difficult. I think medically it was far more taxing. I can’t imagine, as I said a few blogs ago, having to deliver a baby back in pioneer days. These women regularly died in childbirth or didn’t live to be a very ripe old age. So, today I am celebrating having a small pill to go in and fight my battles for me. I’m also giving a nod to my great grandfather, who I’m sure was an excellent physician, and all the physicians out there fighting COVID on the front lines.

How I got on this subject from needing a helping hand I have no explanation. Ah well, thank you for stopping by. Have a great day. Go 49er’s!!!

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A friend of mine recently started dating for the first time since going through a messy divorce about five years ago. Her children are grown, so that is one issue she won’t have to deal with. Still, dipping your toe in the dating pool again is a slippery slope when you first put yourself back out there. On this specific subject, I can speak with some authority having been married four times. Now, having been married four times certainly does not qualify me as an expert. Let’s be real, betting on four horses who never crossed the finish line is not exactly to be considered a stellar track record. However, those unions and others have left me with a sizable bank of experience on the topic of relationships at this stage of the game. For the most part, I have already fallen in most of the potholes encountered while looking love, and climbed back out of them more times than I care to mention. Hopefully, I have gathered a little knowledge to take with me each time I made it back to the surface.

I was thinking about Rick and our first date. He took me to a hockey game in San Jose. The Sharks were playing the Canucks. At the time, we were still at the stage where we were gathering information about one another. The fact I am Canadian by birth hadn’t been a topic we’d discussed at any length. Seated in his excellently positioned season ticket seats, we had a great view of the ice. Naturally, being in the Shark’s home stadium, the stands were packed with ardent Sharks fans wearing all manner of team shirts and waving Sharks paraphernalia. A man two seats over from me had his head completely obscured by a full size shark head with a hole in front where he could watch the game between the teeth. When the Canucks took the ice something deep in my roots pushed my nationalism button and I began whooo-hooing vigorously for the Canadian players. Rick turned to stare at me with his mouth fully agape. Aside from the fact he was a die hard Sharks fan, this was not recommended behavior when seated smack in the middle of a huge pool of fans rooting for the other side.The man who’s face appeared in the middle of the sharks teeth turned and actually stuck his tongue out at me. Really? In spite of a bit of a rocky start to the evening, people forgot my indiscretion in the heat of the game, and we had so much fun. Talking came easily between us. After the game was over, and my Canucks had plummeted down like a maple leaf swirling in a stiff breeze, we decided to go to a local hot spot where there were video games lining the aisles of every type and description. Sitting side by side on motorcycles connected to a screen in front of us, we leaned left and then right. Manipulating the controls on the handlebars, an animated screen simulated our movements as if we were actually careening along the highway faced with obstacles along our way. That, I have to say, was the highlight of the night for me. By the time we said our goodbyes, we’d sewn the first seeds in what was to be a nearly twenty year relationship.

I have had some really memorable dates over the years, both good and bad. Just because you remember an evening, doesn’t always mean you recall the details for the right reasons. Getting married the first time at the ripe old age of nineteen, I never dated as a legal adult until I was single again at twenty-seven. Though unattached, as far as relationship status on my Income Tax papers, I did not consider myself unattached. There were two children in the picture. This puts dating on a very different level. Being a single mother is very rewarding but it isn’t a walk in the park. All the parenting falls to you, and the decisions you make whether the right ones or the wrong ones, lead back to your door as well. Essentially, though there were stepfathers in the picture, my biological father died when I was one year old, so I consider myself raised by a single mother as well. After my father passed away, my mother didn’t start dating again until I was around four. I was her point man. As she likes to tell it, if a date came to pick her up at the front door, I would look up at the man she was going out with and say, “are you going to be my daddy”? There it was, I was a buzz kill at four. As you can imagine that cooled off a lot of engines before the first rush of gas even made it to the carburetor. Looking back, I think I was interviewing for the job. My mom was a beautiful young woman, so there were a lot of eligible men interested in getting her attention, who I perceived as potential fathers. About two years into the program, I had made my choice from the selection I’d been given of the gentlemen in her social circle. Admiral Fox, was his name, Foxy to his friends. The first time I saw the admiral, he arrived to pick up my mother to take her to a dinner dance. As my grandmother was to describe him, the admiral was a “tall drink of water”. When he entered the house from the foyer and stepped into the downstairs hall, he had to remove his hat to keep from knocking it off as he walked through the door. An impressive man by any standards, to me he looked like a prince standing before us. Bending down to shake my hand, I thought him resplendent in his naval uniform adorned with all manner of medals detailing the history of his military achievements. Interested in winning over my mother, and understanding the chain of command standing between him and that goal being my grandmother and then myself, he wisely brought my grandmother flowers and for me a sailor’s hat plus an armload of comic books. He had my vote tucked in his well decorated pocket before he left on my mother’s arm for the evening. Unfortunately, though he was my choice for hero, he was not to be my mother’s. The heart wants, what the heart, wants, and in the end Foxy was not what my mother’s heart wanted. That being said, after a lovely lunch on the aircraft carrier Admiral Fox commanded and several dinners and outings following, I bid a regretful “ships ahoy” to the admiral and the search for a dad continued. Note to reader here, I am still on that mission.

I was allowed to begin dating, other then in coed groups, when I was fifteen. The one place I was forbidden to go whether as a couple or with other couples, was the drive-in. My parents viewed drive-ins as hot beds of raging hormones populated by steamed up windows and overheated teenagers. Which, of course, is exactly what they were. Mother was a bit of a helicopter parent, before the phrase had ever been coined. I can remember when I was in high school she would send my dog in the den with us if I had invited a boy over. To preface, my dog, a tiny Pomeranian named Mandy, didn’t like men. This, largely due to the fact my stepfather didn’t like dogs. It was a Mexican standoff between the two of them and there were to be no winners. He would make his distaste evident by leaving her in the back yard when she wanted to come in or yelling loudly when she barked. She, would exact revenge by urinating in his slippers or lying in wait for him as he was headed to the kitchen for coffee, and nipping at the back of his ankles. Even more than the dog’s dislike for men, she resented anyone sharing my affections. If she detected someone else was getting more attention than she was, she would give it her best effort to level the playing field. Positioning herself between my date and I on the couch. If I put her down, she’d jump back up. If I removed her from the room entirely, she would sit outside the door and howl until let back in again. If put outside she would scratch at the screen until my mother let her in. What she lacked in menacing stature, the dog made up for in dogged (pardon the pun) tenacity. I believe she was in fact a well trained agent in my mother’s network of spies. If the boy as much as lifted his arm to scratch his nose, Mandy would curl back one lip and growl menacingly. Should he try to place that arm around my neck, my diminutive guardian might attempt a coup and snap her teeth together in his direction. In her defense, though she could appear menacing, she never bit anybody. That being said, she could be a fierce little defender when the spirit moved her.

The trouble, beyond the obvious, with ending a relationship with one person, is eventually you most probably will have to begin a new one with someone else. This means starting at Ground 0 once again, answering all the familiar questions and establishing new bonds with yet another potential mate. The song “Getting To Know You” is now freely streaming in my head. Sometimes I think I’d rather get a puppy or a bird and just leave it at that. Other things to think about might be if the new man or woman in your life has children. If they do, it will mean meeting them. Just because you are enamored with one of their parents, does not offer any guarantee you will feel the same way about his or her offspring, nor them about you. Friends too can be a problem, especially best friends, if there isn’t a connection to be found there. The more I write about this the more attractive adopting a little Corgi puppy is beginning to sound.

Thankfully, Dale and I haven’t had any problems over the last couple of years. He is a likeable being who attracts likeable beings to him making the whole process so much easier. He, in turn, likes my friends, an eclectic bunch, but very lovable. I like them just that way, and wouldn’t change a hair on their pointy little heads. Always I have chosen to associate myself with interesting, somewhat complicated, fun human beings. People who can see more than one side of the coin, and have something interesting to contribute when sitting across the table from you. I also like people who are willing to get a bit silly at times, dance in the moonlight, or sing karaoke even if totally off tune like myself. People, I guess you might say, not afraid to color outside the lines on occasion, wear white after Labor Day, or live their lives without having to always do the “right thing” at the “right time”.

Many times I have gone on dates where I knew in the first ten minutes of the evening would last for only that one encounter. Chemistry, I believe, is not something that can be created. It is either there, or it is not. For whatever reason like little fireflies blinking in the dark, some people’s lights shine brighter for us than others, and that is a fact of life. I have met people I instantly felt a connection with, both friends and love interests. People who I could talk to right out of the gate, and share a commonality with that would endure over the years. Other people, and I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, I could be locked in a vault with for thirty days and a single spark would never ignite between us.

There are certain traits I have identified over years of dating, I choose to avoid. I don’t enjoy people who still have the first dollar they ever earned. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a high maintenance female, but also I don’t like someone who when you share a tab tells you your share is $15.92 exactly. It is important to establish from the beginning who you are and what you enjoy doing before you fully commit to getting to know someone. For example, your idea of fun is staying in binge watching “The Crown” and ordering take-out on weekends, and he is a guy who climbs Half Dome for fun on Saturdays or has a kayak rack on top of his SUV you have to wonder how that is going to work out on down the road when the fairy dust has dispersed. Picking the right partner in the sea of humanity we have to choose from is no task for the feint of heart I’m telling you. I always admire people who do so successfully in the beginning and remain in one union for sixty or so years.

So my thoughts for a Monday. Rick’s birthday was yesterday. Seems like he was sitting next to me in the car last week and it has been nearly three years since he passed away. Happy Birthday dear Ducky. Thinking of you.

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It’s been a week this week, I have to say. Yesterday morning my IPhone froze up. For over an hour I followed instructions to unfreeze the damnable device producing no change whatsoever in the screen. I can’t be without a phone at the moment, and this one is relatively new. Finally, totally frustrated, I got in the car and drove the twenty or so minutes to the nearest dealer to have them take a look at it. I walked in the door, explained the situation to the clerk at the front desk, handed my device to a kid who looked to be in middle school, and with the flick of one thumb and two fingers “voila” the phone released the screen. Really? The gods are angry.

At least it is at last September. The days are marching forward in a steady rythm towards fall. I cannot tell you how ready I am for autumn, and all that season promises this year. I already have a few fall touches sprinkled about the house by way of a welcome mat for my favorite season. There is a bit of melancholy attached to fall creeping up so quickly. Before long all the beautiful colors decorating the landscape, the pumpkin lattes, and artistically carved jack-o-lanterns grinning on people’s stoops will have come and gone. I am feeling this way as I approach the end of this difficult year, I believe, because I have become weary of saying goodbye.

This has been a stressful couple of years, I have to say. Dale and I have spent a lot of time together the last year and a half, partly due to Covid and partly to the fact he has lung cancer. Though he doesn’t let his prognosis overrun him, with oxygen equipment all around and medicine containers, you can’t help but notice the elephant in the room every day when you wake up. When you think about sharing company with someone dealing with a terminal illness, several adjectives probably immediately come to mind….. depressing, sad, exhausting. Surprisingly there are many other adjectives of a positive nature that apply as well…..tender, compassionate, warm. Don’t misunderstand me, for I don’t want to misrepresent the experience, it can be all the darker adjectives and a bag of chips on some days. However, there is another, perhaps lighter side to it, people don’t often talk about. Along with all the deep emotions involved in losing a loved one, there is also the gift the person dying gives to the people they ask to share their last journey. The sweet gift of allowing someone you love to accompany you on your final days on this plateau. At the beginning of your travels with someone facing such a challenge, you will walk side by side. As the disease progresses, however, you will reach a crossroad. When at the fork in the road, you will continue on to wherever your destiny is to lead you, and the person transitioning will stay on their path to complete the final lap of their trip alone. Dying is an integral part of life. If we looked at death more directly instead of being afraid to say the word out loud or speak of it, perhaps we would be able to approach it with more easily with grace and dignity. Let’s face it, thus far none of us have gotten a hall pass to avoid it, so perhaps it would be better to accept, even embrace it.

Though the situation Dale is currently dealing with tends to pervade our lives, it’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be. We still find plenty of time to catch a favorite movie, sit outside under the umbrella in the yard and watch the grass grow, and now that we can, spend time with our vaccinated friends and family. I say that not as an arrow directed at the hearts of those who still choose not to get the vaccine, but because Dale is definitely compromised when it comes to health issues. Being around someone who possibly could transmit the virus to him would be unwise. The beginning of the week we had a friend stop by to spend a couple of hours. She texted me not long after she’d left to tell me driving home from her shopping trip, she could see a huge plume of smoke billowing up behind the hills near where we live. As we were speaking, I began to hear planes flying overhead and sirens in the distance. Oh-oh. Sure enough, a fire was brewing and neighborhoods in our general area were being evacuated situated closer to the origin of the blaze. Sometimes it feels like it never rains but it pours. I’d like a rainbow or two thrown in for good measure. I’m just saying. While I was packing up the trunk of the car as a precaution, I thought once again, “the gods really must be angry”.

Maybe there’s some truth to that? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if our creator or creators, however you believe, aren’t particularly pleased with how we’ve been handling ourselves recently. We’re not exactly behaving like kind, compassionate beings. Turn on the news for an hour or so, to remind yourself how true that statement is.

On the good news side of the page, since I wrote the paragraph about a fire brewing, the blaze, thanks to the continuing efforts of firefighters keeping us safe all over the state, has since been contained. Another “whew” moment for us living here in the north state. No structures or lives lost is always a good days work. Continuing with that positive note, I woke up in the middle of the night night before last to the sweet song of rain drumming on the roof. Wow. It has been so long since I’ve heard that, I almost didn’t recognize the sound. Got up the following morning and took a long walk just to grab a lungful of the sweet fresh air outside my window. There really is nothing to compare with the smell of the earth after it has been soaked with a good dose of rain.

This morning, I actually have the windows open in the house. A lovely cross breeze is flowing in through the screens. Between the smoke and my allergies, I haven’t been able to open them in a while. PG&E will undoubtedly be sending us a thank you letter for keeping them afloat with our energy consumption this summer. Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Seems as though it was so much more recent than that. For most of us, I’m sure what we were doing the exact moment we got the news of the events unfolding on that day has become permanently etched in our memory banks. I know for me it has. I was at work, standing in the conference room with a large group of co-workers standing in front of the TV. We watched in disbelief as one unreal image after another appeared on the screen. No one spoke really, other than an occasional “oh my, God” or “oh no”. When the realization of what had just happened on U.S. soil sank in, most of us filtered out the doors and went home for the day. There was no point in trying to work with those images fresh in our minds. Driving down the freeway I remember tears sliding down my cheeks. So many lives were instantly changed in those moments. My daughter-in-law, who’s birthday falls on September 11th, said that her birthday was changed forever for her with all the memories attached to it after the Twin Towers fell. I’m sad to say we lost her as well recently due to an unfortunate accident. So, I remembered her as well, and am thankful for the two beautiful grandchildren she left behind for me to share time with.

It is not an easy planet right now. Not that the earth has ever really rested completely comfortably because, in the end, it is a globe populated with human beings replete with all their foibles and missteps. Perhaps 9/11 is a day to remember how much we have to be thankful for, and be reminded in the end we’re all trying to survive as best we can and not as different from one another as it might sometimes appear.

Have a great day. Remember those who bravely went in to help and never came out, those who were in the buildings that fell, and those amazing passengers who brought down the second plane before it could reach the intended target. Bless them all and bless us as we move forward. We are left behind as caretakers of this glorious planet and I believe we need to step up and do a far better job.

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Hamburgers are on the menu for dinner tonight at our house. You can pretty much gauge my mood by what I’ve got planned for the evening meal. Right at the top of my comfort food list you would find in bold capital letters and underlined, “cheeseburgers”. Funny isn’t it, how comforting food can be? Perhaps that’s why so many people in the country are overweight? Being handed a bowl of hot chili in the winter, is like being offered a warm blanket on a frigid night. Food is the obvious solution for so many problems to my mind. Your boss is an idiot? A Kit-Kat will make it all better. Your husband ran off with the cleaning lady? Wolf down an entire bag of double dip Oreos and that will mend a few holes in that broken heart. If we’re not eating away our problems, we are numbing them into submission with alcohol or drugs. It’s the American way. Let’s face it, none of us want to feel the pain in our lives, particularly when it becomes oppressive. So much easier to drown our misery in a caramel frapucinno or bury it in a couple of oversized tubs of brownie batter ice cream. I know for me, simply saying the words “I’ll have four number three’s please, oversize it” into a microphone, makes a bad day feel better. Easy peasy. Please believe me, there’s no finger pointing going on here on my part, simply making some observations. Why do you think cheeseburgers and home made fries are on my menu tonight? My hands are definitely not clean, if you get what I’m sayin.

Believe me I am hardly one to talk. I am a good pusher of feelings. Push, push, push. It wasn’t until things were spinning out of control in my early thirties, I realized this method of handling my innermost turmoil, was not proving to be an effective way to manage my life. Now, I didn’t exactly come to this conclusion on my own during an epiphany over my cheese omelet. Noticing my life was taking on water, and the boat slowly sinking, I sent up a distress signal. This resulted in me soliciting the help of a wonderful therapist who guided me through some of the rougher currents. With her assistance, I began to figure out why, though I was paddling really hard, I wasn’t finding my way to the shore. I hope you didn’t get seasick with all those ocean analogies. Please understand, going through that soul discovering journey does not mean I found all the answers to my problems. Not even close. I work on plugging up the holes every day (Sorry, I can’t seem to help myself today.). It only means, I took the time to stop and take a look at what I was doing, rather than just doing, and began to explore which behaviors worked for me and those I needed to cut loose and allow to move away from me. As I’ve said many times, I am a creature of many flaws. The difference being, now I can examine my flaws daily and manage to love myself anyhow, and have learned to make friends with these dents in my armor. Along with my finer qualities, these less desirable traits are an integral part of the whole that makes me who I am.

Though I may still enjoy a good juicy cheeseburger with all the trimmings when my life is threatening to overwhelm me, I try also to deal with what is on my plate, aside from consuming the perfectly seasoned ground beef. This isn’t always easy for me. For example, in the last two months four boils have risen up one after another on the lower half of my face. Fortunately, we are wearing mask, so no young children have been traumatized by these events. Also, thanks to a good dose of antibiotics, my facial features have returned to their pre-eruption smooth landscape. Whew. I am not subject to boils as a norm. However, skin, being the largest organ, as well as one we can see, it is often the first to reflect signs of stress in our bodies. Though stress definitely effects all organs in our body, skin is the only one where the effects become immediately obvious. When I was going through a particularly angst filled time with an ex-husband, I ended up with psoriasis over 70% of my body. Never had it before, nor have I experienced it since. It took me a year of light treatments, nightly soakings, a myriad of creams and prescriptions, and releasing the ex-husband, to right that ship. Not boarding that cruise again, so deal with my feelings I must and will do. Dramamine anyone?

Yesterday began like a Monday, and continued to behave like one all the way through the day. At 8:00 I showed up at the DMV to complete my application for my California ID. There are extensions in place for getting this done in place due to Covid, but I like to move things off my to-do list as quickly as possible, that way I don’t have to think about them. On the DMV website it was suggested you make an appointment. Right. You click on “yes, make an appointment” and are redirected back to “yes, make an appointment”. Fine. So, I completed my application, gathered the necessary supporting paperwork, put a bottle of water in my purse and headed to the DMV with no appointment in place. The seats were fairly occupied but there were several in the back with no one seated directly next to them. Everyone was wearing a masks except one couple. There is always one in the crowd. Also there was one guy who had a mask on, but it was pulled underneath his chin. I haven’t read the CDC guidelines word for word, but I don’t believe this is the suggested way to wear one. Just sayin.

My number was G12. The PA voice was calling G01 when I sat down. Didn’t seem like too long of a wait, but that was before I discovered there were “B” people waiting as well as “G” people. K. All about letters and numbers at the DMV it would seem. About an hour later, my number was getting close to the starting gate. The “G” man before me totally lost it with a clerk about a registration snafu with regard to his mother’s car. I know this, because he was yelling loud enough to trigger a car alarm in the parking lot. After enjoying a meltdown any two year old could have been proud off, he tore his mask off, threw it on the ground, and stomped out of the building throwing all his paperwork up in the air on the way out the door. We all watched as the papers floated to the ground, nobody saying a word, as if this is what one does when exiting the building. Love human nature. Fascinating really. “Next.” Oh, that would be me. I had to produce my actual green card. My name is listed on my immigration card with my middle name, as that is what is required by their office. All good. However, my driver’s license has only the initial. Apparently the DMV system didn’t like this, so it kept spitting out the application. Forty-five minutes later, it finally decided M was a good enough equivalent for Maureen and we were off to the races. Sigh. Next, the clerk had me stand in front of a blue screen to have my picture taken. She told me to smile, so I did. It won’t matter, I will still look like a felon when my card arrives, but what the heck, I’ll play. Holding the smile for what seemed like fifteen minutes, my lips were beginning to get stiff. Relaxing for a moment, I asked if we were done. Exactly at that moment, the flash went off. Should be an interesting shot. Anyhow, done and done.

Before leaving the house to go to the DMV, I changed the sheets on both beds. Love clean sheet day. There’s nothing like climbing into clean sheets after a long hard day, particularly if they were hung on the line to dry. Nobody does that anymore, I don’t think. When I was growing up, my grandmother always hung her sheets out “to get some fresh air” during the summer months. Coming home this morning with my California ID mission completed, I went in my bedroom to change and get on with the business of the day. Dead center in the middle of my freshly clean blanket was a huge mass of ewwwwww. At first I thought it to be some sort of creature that had possibly crawled up there after meeting a nasty end, but on closer inspection, I realized it was, in fact, a hair ball. Ewwwww, again, and it had friends. Friends on the pillow, friends on the carpet. Sigh. Last week I had taken Boo to the vet to be checked out for a suspected UTI (Urinary Tract Infection). They gave her a shot of a long lasting antibiotic that works on 65% of animals. Leave it to Boo, she has to be an over achiever, she obviously ranks among the unworkable 35%. The next step would be a urinalysis, and a culture. Those babies amount to $325 and change. She’s my cat, and I love her, so, of course, I’m going to do pay the ransom, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain while I’m writing the check. Sooooooo, I called the vet and made an appointment for Boo to get further evaluated, then stripped the bed and threw the sheets back in the washer. Monday, Monday…….can’t trust that day. Go, Cass. That woman knew something.

Finally settling in with a soothing cup of chamomile tea, I picked up the stack of mail I’d brought in earlier. Second envelope in the pile had printed clearly in the left hand corner in bold letters “Internal Revenue Service”. It was addressed to my mother at this address. I believe I mentioned some blogs ago I was doing a couple of rounds with them over some unfiled tax returns of my mother’s. I spent $600 to get everything straightened out months ago, refiling the missing years. Before I opened this letter, I considered just burning it and not bothering to look at the document inside. The better side of me voted to go ahead and take a peek. Remind me not to get my better side her pumpkin spice latte next time she asks for a treat as we pass a Starbuck’s. Damn. After all the trouble my tax accountant and I went to, it was yet another demand letter for thousands of dollars which my mother doesn’t owe printed on half a ream of paper. Wow. Don’t they have more to do than to hound an elderly woman with dementia on hospice who’s only income is Social Security? I could give them a few leads to follow that would guarantee a much more satisfying end result. Let’s see Trump, Bezos, come to mind. Gets my Irish up.

So, Monday was a bit of a wash. Tuesday seems to be shaping up to look much better, but it’s early yet. We are all praying for our beautiful Lake Tahoe. Please put your good energy in the pile for the people living there and the glorious lake and landscape surrounding it. That gorgeous piece of California/Nevada real estate is now under siege by the Caldor Fire. So much of this lovely state has been devastated by the incessant and relentless fires, and fire season is just getting warmed up.

Keeping your chin up lately seems to require two men and a ladder. Have a great Tuesday.

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Sometimes I think our devices are more trouble then they’re worth. My new phone, though I love it, can be really annoying at times. For example, I had the phone sitting in front of me recently and was engaged in a discussion with someone in the room about the weather. Suddenly, my phone lit up and displayed a link to to an APP for making weather tracking easier. Siri, it appears, was listening. Siri is always listening. If she had a cup pressed up against our walls, she couldn’t be gathering more information about our lives. I just hope she isn’t watching. I’m just saying.

The other day while seated in the movie theater, the flashlight on my phone turned itself on without any encouragement from me. For some reason, no matter what I tried, including putting in a request to the ever present Siri, it refused to turn off. I wrestled with it so long, an usher finally came to the aisle and asked if something was wrong. Explaining the situation to him, he suggested turning the phone off. Oh. Embarrassing. Have to give it to that kid, he resisted what I suspect was his first impulse, rolling his eyes. The fun part of that sentence is, I was in a movie theater. It’s been some time since I’ve ventured into one, and have to say I really enjoyed it. The theater we chose is one of those with the incredibly comfortable chairs where you can pre-select your seats. The seating chart on the website allows you to see what seats have already been purchased, so we chose three seats in a section away from the majority of the people, and it worked out perfectly. You might ask, why would we do that when Dale, dealing with cancer, is obviously someone not needing to be exposed to a precarious health situation where the virus might be lurking. After weighing the pros and cons involved with taking a chance and going, and following all the necessary measures to ensure he was well protected, the best answer would have to be, “because he really wanted to go”. We have all been vaccinated and he and I have survived the virus, we wore masks and we kept far away from the other movie goers. He has a lot on his bucket list to accomplish and we want to make sure he crosses some of those items off as the disease progresses. In the end, no matter what the circumstance, I believe it is better to live your life as fully as you can, while you can, and never sit around passing time waiting for life to happen to you. Life is very whimsical. Truth is, feeling secure about tomorrow in many ways is only an illusion. So many things can come along in a twenty-four hour period capable of totally changing the direction you are currently heading. While tucked away in your bed a tree could fall on your roof, a runaway car could come flying through your bedroom wall, or a poisonous spider could plant a mouthful of fatal venom in your behind. There are no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like, so best to do what you can when you can. Not to be depressing, but the reality is we, as living beings, are marching steadily towards dying, from the day we draw our first breath. So, without being irresponsible or stupid about what you are doing, I think it is important to live with the most verve that you can each day you are here. Expect the unexpected. That is my mantra, and I’m giving it my best shot. I may have a tee shirt made.

Speaking of making tee shirts, I believe that will be my next project. Several months ago, I had some demo shirts printed of my various designs. I wore several of them around town to see if that elicited any comments or reactions from people I interacted with. Happily they did. So far, the feedback has been positive, which gives me incentive to move forward with my plans. Definitely within the next year, I need to come us with something to generate some extra income. I don’t want to go back to a regular job, but would rather pursue something that captures my imagination. It’s a weird time for me, as I’m sure it is for many of us, and I need to find my joy and center myself once again.

Another unexpected occurrence, though not really a surprise with the drought and lack of rain of late, was there was yet another fire in my old neighborhood this week. The unexpected part of that statement, is not that there was a fire, but that is was the second to pop up in that many weeks, and closer to the town itself. Friends of mine were evacuated, making me thankful yet one more time, I made the decision to sell my house in the mountains and move down to the valley. Also, made me most grateful those who were evacuated were able to return to their homes today thanks to the wonderful firefighters getting the fire quickly under control. These firefighters are amazing. Our unsung heroes. They get out on the fire lines weighed down by layers of heavy protective gear, work in unbearable heat, and battle these dangerous blazes until the last ember is extinguished. Because I have some understanding from the footage I see on TV of what they must be enduring, I try not to complain too much about the smoke in the air. Hard to work up a good whine, when I am safely inside with the A/C running and my air purifier cranking away in the corner.

Life is in such disarray these days, I keep my mind off things by enjoying pleasant daydreams of moving to a lovely cottage by the shore. In my minds eye, I can picture the interior of the building with French doors opening up onto a bright and sunny deck. I see sheer curtains blowing in the gentle sea breeze at one of the many windows, each providing a view of the glistening sea beyond the deck. Each morning waking up to the calling of the gulls and the peaceful heartbeat of the ocean as it moves in and back across the sand. Ahhhhhh. In this cottage in one corner where the light is perfect, I would set up an easel, with all my drawing tools arranged on trays around it. The kitchen would have an oval pan rack hanging over a generous center workspace, and in the bedroom, there would be a wood stove and a comfy overstuffed bed with lots of brightly colored pillows and throws tossed across it for settling in with an excellent book. They say if you imagine it long enough ……

What’s interesting, to me at least, about these daydreams, is I have never verbalized them to anyone. Well, at least, until the paragraph above, which I wrote yesterday. Up until I hit publish on this blog, they have remained only sweet, wistful wishes floating about in my brain as I’ve been going through my day. Oddly enough, however, after writing the paragraph, essentially giving the thoughts life, I have begun to be inundated with pictures of beautiful homes by the sea on my social media pages. Siri really is good. Not only can she see you and hear you, but apparently she can also feel you. Someone posted an array of pictures featuring a gorgeous home on Prince Edward Island. How I would love to visit there one of these days. The home was Victorian in style with modern flourishes. The aerial view of the property showed the ocean not far from where the house was located. The inside was immaculate and impeccably decorated. The huge well-appointed kitchen literally made me salivate on my new “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine” tee shirt. I’m spreading the word. There were numerous bedrooms and bathrooms, a great room, a formal living and dining room, a large laundry room and a myriad of other enticing amenities. All that house on a large chunk of ocean front land and they were asking $386,000 and change. Wow. This house I’m currently occupying is under 1,200 square feet. If you turn around in one room you might find yourself entering another. In California the market value for this home runs close to $500,000. There is no garage, mind you, and the grounds, though not postage stamp size, are most certainly not what you’d advertise as acreage. If you wish to get an ocean view from here, it will necessitate getting in your car and driving four hours west.

My “wishcraft” as Rick was always calling it, seems to be on the money of late. I think about something I would like to happen, and before long it seems to materialize. I believe my receptors somehow either got a good cleaning with all the high wind passing through our area, or that knock on the head I got last week when someone left the cupboard door open (no names shall be mentioned), shook something loose over the hair line. Rick often hinted I should use some of my pseudo magic powers to work the numbers on the lottery or the Keno cards in Vegas. I don’t think it’s that kind of magic. If it was, I would throw a spell in Dale’s direction to reverse the cancer and rewrite the end of that story. Unfortunately, we are where we are. Watching him begin to fail, brings up a lot of memories for me of when Rick was at a similar stage. Though they both were diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, it has manifested itself differently in both men. Thankfully, at least so far, there has been discomfort, but little pain. I hope that will remain the case. In this way, the cancer experience for both men has similarities. For those dealing with lung cancer, from my experience, it is all about the breathing. Being an asthmatic, I totally empathize with that feeling of being unable to gather a breath. It is very scary, triggering the bodies fear mechanisms and creating much anxiety. There are so many synchronizations between these two men in my life. Same diagnosis, same doctor. It’s weird, but then my life tends to run along a weird and peculiar vein. People ask how we’re dealing. Hard to answer that question. We’re dealing. One step in front of the other. Deep breaths, I say, and then we soldier on. All you can do really. We throw in lots of hugs, and many laughs and pour in a large helping of hope and make the best of a bad situation.

On the subject of soldiering, I want to stop here to acknowledge the fallen men and women in Afghanistan. Like our firefighters, these brave people are responsible for depending our citizens and those in foreign lands, and sacrifice so much to keep us safe. I will never understand war. The cost will always be too much, in my estimation, to ever justify the gains expected to be achieved by engaging in it. Watching what is going on overseas, does solidify my feeling of gratefulness at being fortunate enough to live in a country that welcomes freedom. I guess I don’t think anymore, as I have logged a few years on this planet, that anything is really totally free. As with the balance in all things, for what you receive, something is generally given up in kind to keep the scales in check. However, I am viewing my blessings today, and trying not to dwell on those things that make my heart heavy.

The winds are up outside this morning. The air is supposed to get better as the day progresses so my plants and flowers in my unhappily neglected garden will be thankful to get some much needed oxygen and water. Have a safe and grateful day.

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I am uncharacteristically grumpy today. Usually I try to at least begin my days in a sunny and upbeat mood. This morning was no exception. I sat quietly next to the cat enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee, watched enough news to want to turn it off, and read a couple of affirmations to help jump start my positive energy. When my smile was adjusted perfectly on the lower half of my face, I set off to have a productive day. Over the course of the morning, one call came in after another. It seemed each person on the other end of the line was either upset by what’s going on in our world, or upset by something going on in theirs. Before long, the barometer on my end seemed to adjust to the mood shift, and my smile began to droop slightly along the edges. There is no denying the outside world is a bit rough to deal with lately. The persistent virus continues spreading like wildfire, and in our area, the wildfires are spreading like, well, viruses. People are feeling unsettled and irritable. I caught the mood from someone somewhere along the way, and now seem to be a carrier.

Adding to the macabre feeling of gloom and doom, the outside air is heavy with smoke and the sun is surrounded by an eerie crimson ring. Reminds me of one summer up at the lake, where Rick and I bought our first house. It was our third summer in that house, and it was a long, and tedious season, we referred to as the “red summer”. Fires raged on all sides of us during most of the hotter months. An ever present reddish cloud hung ominously over our heads. Even when the blinds were shut, the reddish glow managed to seep in through the cracks. My asthma was as bad as it has ever been. Worried about my health, Rick planned an escape in an effort to find some fresher air. “ROAD TRIP“. Immediately, I jumped at the idea. Had it simply been a matter of us hopping in the car and heading for the open highway, we would have been gone that day. However, there was also Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, to consider. Boo, is not a good traveler. In a normal situation, our regular pet sitter would have been the obvious solution. Boo could have remained at home with all her creature comforts. But, with fires nipping at the fringes of our county, it didn’t seem prudent to leave her behind. So, it was either take my feisty feline along for the ride, or stay home and wait for fall to arrive. As miserable as the conditions were, the decision to take her with us was was not one we made easily. We’d traveled with the cat before. It was not an experience fraught with heady, happy memories. Only once before, actually, and on a relatively short trip to my mother’s house in the Bay Area.

The trip going down to my mother’s passed uneventfully. Boo howled annoyingly part of the way, but we tried to tune her out. On the way home, we decided to allow her to roam free in the back seat in an effort to keep the complaining (both on her part and ours) to a minimum. We were just pulling out of my mother’s 55 and up housing community, when I caught sight of Boo out of the corner of my eye. The cat was standing on her hind legs looking out the window in the back seat. While I watched, she placed one paw on the control button for the window and down the window went. Sensing an avenue of escape, Boo plunged out the window into the oncoming traffic. At that point, I lost my composure, and began yelling for Rick to stop. By the time he pulled to the side of the road and I got out, Boo somehow made it safely to the meridian, and was hunkered down under some plants and shrubs with only her tail visible. Praying she would not make a run towards me, I waited for the remaining cars to pass, and ran to where the cat was hiding. Finally, after coaxing, pleading, and perhaps some ardent begging, she climbed into my arms and I got her back in the car. Releasing her to the back seat, one of her claws got stuck in the skin over my left thumb. Panicking and still terrified, she sprang out of my arms taking half the skin off the top of my thumb with her. In seconds, a gusher rose up out of the gash. I was staring at my mangled hand while Rick, unaware anything was amiss, was looking out the window trying to merge into on coming traffic. Seeing my hand when he turned back, his mouth hung open. Again we pulled over, this time to try to stop the blood flow. The only paper in the car was a map, so Rick grabbed his tee shirt and wrapped it around the side of my hand. First, he asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I’m not fond of ER’s. We would have been there for hours, and again, we had the cat. If no medical attention was forthcoming, it was obvious I would at least need some kind of first aid items so we pulled into a drug store parking lot. Leaving him in the car, I went inside looking like the victim of a shark attack. I asked the lady behind the counter where I might find bandaids. Horrified, she suggested a local Doc in the Box instead, but I declined. I bought first aid cream, disinfectant and bandages. By the time we got home my thumb looked like an over inflated water balloon. Amazingly, I didn’t get an infection, and my thumb remained attached where it was intended to be next to the four fingers associated with it. But, when it came to traveling with the cat once again, you can understand how I might be hesitant to give it another go. To add to my trepidation, this trip was to take us much farther afield. First, to a friend’s house on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho, then west to Oregon to visit another friend of mine living in Ashland. Three weeks was to be the total time away from home.

Even though we would not be in the vehicle the entire time, the thought of those moments shared with Boo in between destinations was a bit daunting. One thing we had learned from our first debacle was to ensure the “child lock” was on when the cat was in the car so her window trick couldn’t be repeated. The SUV was a good sized vehicle, but with Boo loose inside, a tour bus didn’t seem like it would provide us with enough wiggle room. The reason she has to be loose is because if confined to her much detested crate, caterwauling ensues until you give in out of total desperation and let her out. After about two hours of the endless yowling, your mind begins to unravel. Images of the cat sitting by the side of the road with a sign around her neck reading “Free Kitty” begin to pervade your brain.

Another bump in the road, aside from the above, was locating pet friendly accommodations along the route we were to be following. Hotels or motels allowing furry friends were few and far between crossing Northern Nevada at the time, particularly along Highway 50, touted as the loneliest road in the United States.

After some research, a motel was found and booked. We went through the usual song and dance associated with getting the cat in the crate to transport her to the car. Sophisticated secret agent avoidance tactics must be employed to stealthily maneuver the cat into crate without her knowing this is the desired end result. If Boo sees the crate, game over. Get a beer out of the fridge and relax on the couch for a few hours until she resurfaces. I swear she’s a shape shifter. When she wants not to be seen, you can look under every bed, in the back of every closet, and behind all the furniture and no furry face will be looking back at you. I believe Boo morphs into a potted plant on the window seat. I could swear I saw a blinking eye in the middle of the wandering Jew. Successfully completing our mission, Boo was loaded in the car with the rest of our gear. Relaxing a bit, we gassed up and headed out of town.

Leaving the red sky behind as we made our way east, felt like dropping a heavy burden you’d been carrying onto the ground. My lungs, though already impacted by the incessant onslaught of tiny particles, were even feeling somewhat less restricted. Boo began her siren song about five miles down the road, but after a while even tired of the game herself, and found a place to settle down on top of some duffel bags for a nice long nap. Quiet returned to our world.

Entering Nevada, we began our trek across the high desert. Looking out the window there wasn’t much to see beyond cactus and tumbleweeds, but possibly more cactus and tumbleweeds. Occasionally, a road sign would pop up or an abandoned building could be seen hinting at some sort of life form existing out there. Pretty much, though, it was mile after mile of the similar nondescript scenery. Deserts are not my favorite part of the world. I do have to admit they offer up a certain sort of stark beauty. Coming from an area replete with green forests and deep blue seas, I think for me I find them a bit one note. All the muted and subdued colors blending together in a melange feels desolate and bleak, like a property abandoned by it’s owner, all overgrown and scruffy.

My step daughter is always trying to sell me on desert living. She lives in Phoenix, has for many years, and loves it. I am not a person who enjoys extremely hot weather. Perhaps it’s because I hail from a colder climate, or it could be as simple as I don’t like hot weather. For me temps in the eighties are perfect. I can live with 90’s, but when the thermometer starts pushing up over 100 I’m all about air conditioning and swimming pools. In Phoenix during the heat of the summer the average temperature ranges around 106. Not for me. Nope. Also, when it starts to really amp up and climbs into the hundreds and teens, even the swimming pool isn’t an option because it will cook you like a crab in a pot. I can remember going on a trip to Arizona when my kids were toddlers. Their dad thought he wanted to go to college in Phoenix, so the visit was sort of a scouting expedition, to see if I would consider it. While checking out the campus, we walked out on the tennis courts to give the kids a chance to run off a little excess energy. The expedition was a short one. It was so incredibly hot, I had to abandon my tennis shoe on one of the courts because the sole melted onto the asphalt. For all I know, that blue Van slip on is still a permanent part of the back court.

In the end, all my worry about the trip to Idaho was for naught. Boo behaved herself most of the way. She rode along like the queen bee that she is, allowing her minions (that would have been us) to transport her in and out at our various stops and destinations, empty her litter box, and fill her feed bowl, without giving us much push back. The only real issue we had was coming back into California stopping at the California/Nevada border inspection. Boo, it appears, is considered to be an alien of sorts, in need of papers. Who knew? A certificate from the veterinarian is required stating that your animals have their pertinent vaccinations and are in good health before they are allowed to cross the state line. Oh-oh. Here I thought he would be more interested in the bag of peaches I had tucked away in my overnight bag. Darn. For a moment, I thought my dear sweet feline was going to have to be relinquished to kitty jail while we drove back to retrieve the necessary documents. We got lucky. The border patrol guard was either a really nice man, or in a good mood that day, because he allowed us to go through. Whew. As annoying as that old cat can be, she and I have been through a lot over the years and I have big love for her.

Driving over the hill and back into our town it was like driving back into the bowels of hell. Everything was still touched with a hint of red from the midday sky to the leaves on the trees.

Thankfully, here today the wind will come up and blow the smoke out of the valley so we will have a respite for a while. The problem is when it leaves here, people down wind have to deal with it. Also, more wind doesn’t bode well for the fires already burning.

What a strange couple of years it has been. We sit here dry as a bone hovering one spark away from disaster, while residents on the east coast are floating around in their backyards in kayaks. I heard Tennessee got 17 inches of rain in a two hour period. When all the bad vibes pile up on me, I try to remember to be thankful for all the gifts in my life and concentrate on that. So easy to allow a glass half empty mood to overcome you, if you let life take you down. Make it a good one. Hope your smile is perfectly placed for a Tuesday.

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Recently I spent the night at a dear friend’s house on the way home from visiting my son in the Bay Area. Her house, a gorgeously appointed home, reminds me of an aerie. It sits perched high on a hill offering up a view of the San Jose valley stretching all the way to the Santa Cruz mountains. Typical of such a nest, birds seem to be visible anywhere you look. This, most likely due to the multiple bird feeders dangling from the branches of the prolific fruit trees lining the property. While sitting on her patio, it would not be unexpected to have a hummingbird stop by to check out who is hiding behind the sunglasses you are wearing, It’s a favorite hangout of mine. When I visit, we begin our days seated across the counter from one another in her bright, welcoming kitchen. There we discuss shared interests such as cooking and art, solve the world’s problems, and generally catch up on family news. While seated at that counter she has tried and failed miserably on numerous occasions to teach me to crochet. Crocheting is something she is exceptionally gifted at, and I, as my track record will attest, am not. This we always do over a cup of hot tea, served properly in a delicate china cup and saucer. Like me, she was born in Canada. You’d never catch a traditional Canadian serving tea in a mug. She was born on the west coast, namely British Columbia, while I arrived in the world all the way to the east in Nova Scotia. Though we’ve both kept a lot of the basic substance that makes us Canadian, she migrated to the U.S. as an adult, instead of coming here as a child as I did. Perhaps because of this, she has retained more of the Canadian colloquialisms in her speech. Eh, comes up often in her conversations, where in my case, you would rarely here me say it.

Cleaning up after dinner, I noticed her washing out a resealable bag. I asked why she would not just toss it in the trash. I didn’t think it would be a hardship for her to purchase a new box of bags should she run out. She explained, though financially comfortable at this time in her life, she grew up, as she put it, “church poor”. The clothes she wore were either hand me downs from her older sister, often missing a button or sporting a jelly stain on the collar, or something picked up at the church rummage sales formally worn by someone else’s child in the congregation. Once, she said, her mother got her a pair of shoes that were several sizes too big. In spite of the fact they didn’t fit her feet properly, she was thrilled because they clop, clop, clopped as she walked along, making her feel very grown up. That being said, she learned not to waste what she was given, lest a replacement wasn’t forthcoming anytime soon. Made me think about how much our childhood experiences are tightly woven into the fabric of our adulthood. Good or bad, our formative years, though they do not define us, do help to shape us into who we are as adults.

It’s funny how all the things we are taught as children seem to stick with us like flies to flypaper throughout our lives. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I make my bed every morning before coming out for the day just as I was taught to do in my first tiny bedroom. Traditions honored in our homes growing up, are often carried along with us when we have established homes of our own. Traveling across the U.S. in my earlier years I was privy to a lot of different traditions and ways of doing things. Some which I packed in my bag and brought along with me, others I sampled and left behind. While living in the south and in West Virginia, it wasn’t always possible to travel to the west coast to visit my family when the holidays rolled around. If in town, my husband and I often shared holiday meals with friends and their families living nearby. Traditions clearly illuminate themselves during such occasions. At each household where we enjoyed either a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, their families customs would be evident first and foremost in the kitchen. If a turkey was to be the main course, the stuffing (or dressing, depending on your preference), was usually a recipe handed down from the previous generation, who it turn had gotten it from the one before. Each house had it’s own approach to the same recipes. Do you add the giblets or leave them out? Is yours a mixture of cornbread and white, or do you stick with one or the other? Where some cooks stuff the bird before popping it in the oven, others cook the dressing separately. This followed on down to how they cooked the turkey, or if they had turkey at all. For some families it was ham or prime rib that was to be the star of the meal. However it went, it all seemed to align with what their parents had done at their tables and how they had prepared it. I know I often say if complimented on my potato salad, “thanks, it’s my mom’s recipe”. I know she learned it from her mother, because I heard her often say it when complimented herself.

Certainly there are recipes my children will ask for when I’m under their roofs. For my son, it would be twice baked potatoes, and my daughter often wants me to cook poached eggs. Funny, I end up doing poached eggs for friends as well. Interesting, it’s really not rocket science, but for whatever reason I seem to have developed a knack for cooking them well. A latent talent there really isn’t much call for in the current market.

Grandparents are tasked with passing on some of what they have picked up along the way to their grandchildren. When I was down visiting my son and his brood, I spent some time with his oldest, my granddaughter, Ailish. Ailish had gotten a sewing machine, but had never used one. I have sewn for years. At one time I had an entire booth set up I used for local fairs and art and wine shows to sell both my hand sewn items as well as my artwork. These days I still find myself seated at my machine around the holidays whipping out aprons for my friends or family members, or on occasion doing some quick alterations for people in my life who can’t sew. Other than that, I don’t have the time, nor the energy with everything going on at present to thread a needle. Being able to show my granddaughter, however, was such a treat. To hand down a few pointers to get her started for me was so very special. This was a gift that cost nothing, but gave something both to her and to myself. Loved it.

With our busy lives these days, a lot of traditions have been forgotten, or simply been thrown out the window. We eat on the run, rather than stopping for a moment to come together over a meal. Instead of being seated at the table with friends or family, we often grab something on the run or even eat at different schedules. Perhaps the kids eat at a TV tray in front of the TV or in their rooms with their video games or cell phones, while you find yourself standing at the counter picking at the remains of last night’s take-out order. There is something elegant, even decadent, about sitting down to a nice meal, to me at least. The act of removing a cloth napkin from a decorative ring, lighting a candle in the center of the table, and eating off a lovely plate at a nice place setting makes for a dining experience and not just something to put in your mouth. Several younger women in my circle make breakfast in a blender or bullet. Everything but the cat is dropped in there in there in the morning, and with the push of a button reduced to mulch. Once the caldron has been primed, the liquid is poured into another container, and either sipped or gulped down on the way to work, the gym, or wherever else they might be headed. In my experience no matter what goes in them, these drinks end up a rather uninviting green color. Though I have no issue with green, it is after all the color of nature. However, when offered up in a drink, I find it less palatable. There isn’t a green vegetable I’m not happy to see on my plate, oh, except kale and okra. God knows I’ve tried to like both, but there’s something about them that leaves me wanting less, or preferably none at all. I’ve recently discovered arugula, and find I really like it. Rick used to tell me his grandfather, a scientist, ate arugula every day to keep his mind and body healthy. This was a tradition Rick allowed to fade into the background and disappear. I wouldn’t need to have it every day, but it’s certainly better than kale.

My grandmother gave me so many traditions I still practice in my life. In my drawer the other day I came across a packet of letters written in my grandmother’s hand. Her handwriting was very distinguishable, almost artistic. I would recognize it anywhere. Up until the several years before she died, she wrote me letters. Always I enjoyed seeing one of her envelopes in my mailbox. With her flair for telling a story, she would bring me up-to-date on my cousins in Canada or what other relatives she was in touch with had been up to. It made me feel part of my distant clan rather than having the many miles we had between us. Nobody writes letters anymore. It is another lost tradition, as are thank-you notes. I think the only time I’ve gotten a thank you note in recent years was following a wedding where the bride was acknowledging a wedding present I’d given to them. I guess if they’re not even teaching cursive in the classroom anymore, I won’t look for these to make a resurgence in the future.

Aside from family traditions, we absorb traditions familiar to our area, our religion, our race, and even our neighborhoods. My traditions have at times varied drastically from the people I was associated with. Rick, as I’ve mentioned many times, was born in Cairo, Egypt. Cairo was home, until he came to the U.S. to attend college. Egypt has always held a sort of fascination for me. Growing up, I wrote nearly every essay in geography or history about Egypt. I wanted to be either an archaeologist or Egyptologist when I grew up. As I am not writing this in a tent at a dig in an exotic location, you might guess I really didn’t hit close to the mark. In the nearly twenty years Rick and I spent together, he answered many questions for me about life in Cairo and Egyptian traditions. The fact he had seen the great pyramids, even ridden there on a camel, was enough to make him a hero in my book. He had boxes of pictures for me to look at, and so many details to fill in, I would never had known had not he shared them with me. It was in such contrast to my upbringing in Nova Scotia. Had we planned it, we probably couldn’t have created two more opposite upbringings.

When we spoke of Cairo, our conversations often turned to food, and for Rick, coffee. Being foodies both were subjects we had a personal investment in. Coffee houses were big gathering spots in Cairo. At the time he was there, they were only frequented only by men. They would gather there to drink tea and smoke flavored tobacco through a hookah. Strong, turkish coffee was also served in these cafes as well as espresso. When he first arrived in Michigan, where he was to go to school, he was surprised to discover he couldn’t get espresso anywhere. Coffee wasn’t the trendy drink it has morphed into these days. Remember when you just ordered a cup of coffee, and the only additional information required by the server was whether you wanted it black or took it with cream and sugar? The original Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971, so if you weren’t around before then, the answer to that question would no. Now when ordering a cup of coffee, you have to stipulate what blend, temperature, size, and even strength. You need a coffee map to order. When living in Boston, the first time I ordered a cup they asked if I wanted my coffee regular. I had no idea how to answer that question. Was there an irregular? Turned out regular was with cream and sugar, light just cream, and then black, if that was your preference.

Today is definitely not a hot beverage kind of day. The thermometer on the porch reads nearly 100. In spite of this fact, I noticed in the stores the other day Halloween decorations are beginning to replace displays featuring coolers or beach umbrellas. Fall, for me, can’t arrive too soon. With the delta variant of this incredibly persistent virus beginning to set the rules for the nation, it makes me wonder what the holidays are to look like this year. I was hoping with both Covid and the vaccinations behind us, there might be a lighter feel to the festivities this year. This remains to be seen, of course, and I will welcome the holidays with whatever they bring.

A friend asked me the other day if I thought our world would ever look the same. Tough question. Since I’m trying to give up clairvoyance, I didn’t have a good answer for her. Truth is does it ever look the same? It may feel like life goes on without change day after day at times when you’re bored or unmoved by what’s going on around it, but it is endlessly changing and we shift and change with it. Summer melts into fall, fall into winter. We tuck away our shorts in a box, and bring out our sweaters and boots. I thought by now I would have sacrificed my masks and begun a renewal of sorts when it comes to all the Covid reports, but it is what it is. I only have one friend who remains unvaccinated and we had a discussion about it yesterday. Being a friend, is staying on the sidelines often and keeping clean boundaries. Part of that is not butting in when we haven’t been asked our opinions on a particular subject and respecting the other person’s point of view. In this case, I stepped over the line for a moment, and suggested she put her arm out and get a shot. Her family has had theirs, and apparently now vaccinated people can transmit it to those who are unprotected. I explained I love her, and was getting extremely tired of saying goodbye to beloved people in my life. I believe my arrow hit its mark, as we signed off with her going to look for a local place to get the injection.

So, on that note I will look wistfully towards the end of summer and welcoming in the cooler months. Fall being the season of my birth, I have a special affinity for this time of year. There’s something so cozy about walking along a street, bundled up against a cool wind, and hearing the crunching of the fallen leaves under your shoes. When the days begin to draw in, and darkness falls earlier, I like to be tucked in and warm inside with a candle burning and something hot and delicious bubbling in a pot on the stove.

My grandmother used to always tell me “Don’t wish your life away”, if I wished for time to pass more quickly. This year holds so many mysteries yet to unfold, I will settle for being in this day and try to make it eventful and interesting. I wish you the same and a happy weekend.

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I’ve been dealing with the IRS this morning. You might want to approach me with caution. OMG. The most frustrating people to deal with. This interaction is on behalf of my mother, actually, not for myself. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I don’t make enough income at this stage in my life to have them sniffing around trying to catch hold of my scent.

At any rate, about six years ago I took mother’s documents to a tax preparer who told me I really didn’t need to file. It had something to do with the estate and how it was set up. Okay, one thing to tick off my to-do list always feels like cause for celebration. It’s enough for me to try and figure out my financial situation, but having her accounts as well as mine can really be a bag of snakes at times. All went along smoothly until last year. Let’s face it in 2020, if it could go wrong, it seemed to go right ahead and do exactly that. An envelope arrived mid-year addressed to my mother at my address on official IRS stationery. Oh-oh. Somehow they had deduced she owed $12,000 for one year of unfiled forms, and God knows how much else for the other five. After consulting my current tax accountant, he said we would just file the missing years and this would iron out all the wrinkles. Good, I do enjoy a nice crisp, unmessy life on occasion, so sign me up for that. Not so fast, you say. Last week I got another letter from the IRS, (they must have an official letter writer over there with nothing much pending on their calendar). This one said I needed to verify my mother’s identity before they could process the tax returns. “Yup, she’s my mom”, I said out loud. Apparently that wasn’t sufficient. I was instructed to either go into her on-line account and verify her identity, or an 800 number was provided for those people who didn’t use, or have access to, a computer.

To do a little back story here, my mother has never owned a computer. Well, to be specific, she owned one but never learned how to use it. It was her husbands while he was alive, and when he was gone she kept it so visitors or family could use it when visiting. Once I tried to teach her how to use a PC, but after ten or so lessons each time reexplaining how to power it on and off, the difference between portrait and landscape configuration, and the basics of using the mouse, I realized there wasn’t enough vodka in the stores to cover that particular endeavor. I suggested she enroll in a beginning computer skills class at a local adult school. When that too was a total bust, we left it to the gods to sort out. After that, I became her go-to computer person. Truth is, I fill that void for several of my technology challenged friends as well. I don’t mind. Keeps me off the streets. That being said, my mother surely did not have an on-line account, so I began the process of creating one for her. They required a number of documents to complete this process. Seeing this was going to be an all morning affair, I thought since it was early in the day I might try the 800 number to speed things along. Not. I waded patiently through the myriad of road blocks designed to make you hang up early on in the call, and finally was dropped into a queue and told to wait there for a representative. About twenty minutes into listening to their music, a new message came on informing me they had a high volume of calls and they were disconnecting me. I was told to call back tomorrow, or possibly next year. Thanks so much. In the letter a time line was indicated to get this process done, so back to Plan A. I once again navigated my way through their website and began the process of setting up an account for my mom. When I got to the password and username section, it took me twenty minutes on that page alone just to somehow select a password and username that fit with the parameters they’d outlined. You know the type, “Password must be 18 letters long. Choose one letter from the Arabic dictionary, one Hieroglyphic symbol, and two latin verbs, every other letter in each word must be capitalized.” Once I was done and mission accomplished, I was about two hours into it. This all for something that is generally a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. My mom is an elderly woman with dementia who has paid religiously over the years and worked hard, and doesn’t owe them a nickel from all accounts. Sigh. Amazing to me they waste all this paper, sweat, and manpower on someone like her when there are billionaires out there raking in huge amounts of cash who don’t pay their fair share of anything. Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.

I set aside the entire day for catching up on paperwork and other chores I have uncharacteristically been putting off. As I’ve mentioned before one of the pearls of wisdom my grandmother passed on to me was to do the things you least like doing first, then tackle the ones you either enjoy doing or at the very least don’t mind. That plan has been a very successful one for me. If I leave something floating around out there I am really not looking forward to doing, it hangs over my head and bothers me. If I do it, and get it over with, the rest seems so much easier.

Another unpleasant chore I decided to cross of my list, is studying for my drivers license renewal which is looming on the horizon. Even though I have been behind the wheel of a car since I was sixteen years old, I still get intimidated by the DMV. When they hand me that scroll of a test, my mind immediately forgets everything I do every day as habit when driving, and the questions look suddenly like they’re written in a foreign language. This time I have gone on line and downloaded a huge batch of “practice tests”. Some of the questions appear to be written purposely to trip you up. For instance, one of the questions asked was what a driver should do when passing a bicyclist who is riding in the lane next to you. One of the answers was “honk your horn before passing”. This, as it turns out, is the correct answer. Now, is it just me? If I was riding along minding my own business in the bike lane and some car came up behind me and blew his horn I most probably would end up either jamming on the brakes and catapulting over the handlebars or swerving and ending up under his right front tire. That, however, is what you’re supposed to do. Write it down for future reference.

I think this general paranoia stems from my early interactions with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Unlike a lot of young people I see today, I could not wait for the day I became eligible for my learners permit. The calendar hanging on the wall in my room had x’s leading up to the day of the big event with a huge star highlighting the day I was to turn exactly 15 1/2. My mother took half a day off from work to drive me down to the DMV. I passed my written test, and was handed my temporary license. Had it been made of 14 carat gold, it couldn’t have been more precious to me. It was the first ticket on the journey into adulthood. What a heady experience. Looking back I have to wonder what the big hurry was to get here, but at the time being 18 or 21 seemed fraught with adventure and filled with mystique. Little did I know it was more fraught with dishes, and filled with dirty diapers and long days at the office.

Where passing my written test had turned out to be a walk in the park, the behind the wheel test was more like a leisurely stroll through a minefield. It took it three tries. The first time I nearly took out a young mother in a crosswalk pushing a baby carriage. The next time when I was parallel parking I backed into a trash bin and knocked the entire contents into the middle of the street. I somehow managed to scrape by with one point above failing on my third attempt, even though I technically went through an intersection after the light had turned red. I’m pretty certain I only passed because the harried DMV examiner (got the same guy all three times) tasked with grading my test must have figured three times was the charm, and tempting fate a fourth time would definitely have put him in fear for his life. Truly I am a good driver nowadays. Dale, my partner in crime, always comments on it. I shall leave my opinion of his driving skills for another time.

Just as I was finishing up reviewing my tests, PG&E arrived to tell me yet another part of my shade tree has to be removed as it’s interfering with the power lines. When I moved in I had a lovely shaded backyard. These days there are two sparse trees left, with one having the back half almost entirely missing. It looks like a bald man with a bad hair piece. Had to buy extra patio umbrellas so we don’t bake in our own juices on hot days.

So, I am off to the DMV on Friday. Wish me luck.

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In 1990 I found myself living in Ashdown, Arkansas. Ashdown is on the southern border of Arkansas about 45 minutes north of Texarkana. The area is generally referred to as the tri-state area because the borders of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana all come together just south of Texarkana. Texarkana is marked by State Line Boulevard running smack down the center of the city. If you are driving south, the right side of the white line lies in Texas, with Arkansas falling on the left. The Texas side, surprisingly, was dry when I lived there, with the Arkansas side being wet. I have no idea how this stands as of this writing. Ashdown, was in a dry county. If you wanted a beer on payday on a hot, sticky, Friday night (which would be most of them) you had to hop in your car and drive twenty-five minutes to the next wet county to get you one. The amount of liquor you could bring in was also monitored, and if you were an over imbiber your neighbors would sometimes check out your trunk to see what you were unloading and put a bee in the right ears about your activities. Once I drove to the liquor store on such a Friday night to get my husband a six pack so he would loaded and ready for bear when his ball game came on the following Sunday. The liquor store was situated on a rather isolated patch of land about halfway between Ashdown and Texarkana. Pulling in, I parked my car in the nearly empty dirt lot across from a beater of a pick up truck with three men seated in the cab. One of them, the driver, said something suggestive out the window to me as I got out of my car and headed toward the building. I had worked on construction sites for several years by that time, and had learned to ignore such statements. Inside, while retrieving an ice cold six from the cooler, I took notice of the man standing behind the counter. Built like a wrestler, he was wearing a Harley Davidson shirt. Though his left arm was whole, the right arm stopped at the elbow, and was wrapped with an ace bandage. I say this not for any reason in particular, except when he was ringing me up he dropped something, and while retrieving it brought up the missing appendage telling me he’d lost it while serving his country in Viet Nam. I thanked him for his service. After carrying on the usual customer, clerk, conversation for a few minutes, I placed my beer on the counter. I paid, got my change, and headed back out the door stepping into the oven-like lingering heat of the day. Standing by my car were the three men from the truck. By all appearances, they had already availed themselves of something alcoholic to drink. One of them, the driver again, was resting directly against my driver’s side door. I stopped walking towards them and pondered what course of action to take. One of them made another off-color comment to me, and the man next to him whistled loudly. My internal alarms began going off. Surveying the situation, I realized how vulnerable I was. Lonely stretch of road, small woman, three inebriated men, not great odds. Instead of continuing in the direction I was going, I turned and went back into the store, explaining the situation to the owner. When I stopped talking, the man reached under the counter and whipped out a shotgun, and in one swift movement with his left arm cocked it and walked out the door. Hello? I was thinking more, let’s dial 9-1-1, but okay. Wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into, and writing a note to self to have my hubby get his own beer from now on, I inched over to look out the window. The four men were gesturing and obviously not having a friendly chat. The driver, offering one last international one finger salute, followed the other two men to their truck, and music blaring, started the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot. My heart began to settle down to a normal rythm rather than the drum solo from Wipeout it had been previously entertaining. Whew.

I remained in the store until the owner returned, thanking him profusely when he came in for protecting my honor. He suggested I stick around about fifteen minutes to give the men had a chance to get a good head start. I didn’t need to be asked twice. Returning his weapon to it’s original hiding place, we easily took up our previous conversation where we’d left off. As often is the case in that part of the country, the topic turned to fishing. Catfish was a mainstay around there, being featured on nearly every menu I’d opened since arriving, along with it’s sidekick, hush puppies. Catfish was still considered a bottom feeder on the west coast, and hadn’t gained popularity in California as yet at that time, but has certainly picked up speed since I’ve returned. David, my husband, was from those parts and had been dropping a line in the water since he was a boy. Many times while we were living in Ashdown, the southern fried catfish served to company at our house was put there thanks to David’s excellent angling chops. Explaining this to Ben, we were now on a first name basis, him being my hero and all, he suggested we join him for a planned fishing trip on the bayous two weekends from then. Exchanging contact information, I told him I would ask David and get back to him. Keeping one eye open for that beaten up old Ford truck, I made it home without any further trouble. David, when I recalled my adventures, said I was never to go there again alone without him. Check and double check. It’s a dangerous world out there. I didn’t want to be featured on an episode of the Forensic Files.

David rarely passed up an offer for a day on the water and this was to be no exception. Plans were made with our new friend, Ben, and times set for my first adventure out on a bayou. I was both excited and terrified, at the same time. David had shared with me many of his experiences back in the swampy areas of Arkansas and Louisiana, both states of which he lived in at one time or another. One particularly alarming story he told was when he and a friend had gone fishing in Louisiana. It was early morning, as he told it, and as soon as he dropped a line in the water it seemed like a fish was on the line. In order to keep the fish fresh, as he reeled them in, he attached them to a stringer. A stringer is a long chain with a series of hooks attached to hold your recently caught fish which you dangle off the side of the boat submerged in the water. The two men sat peacefully floating along, I’m sure with an empty beer can or two between them, when David noticed the stringer was moving around quite vigorously. Thinking perhaps a larger fish was pilfering one of the smaller ones on the line, he yanked the stringer into the boat to investigate. Mouth expanded over a fish, a cottonmouth landed, writhing and not at all happy about the situation he was in, in the bottom of the boat. David said he and his buddy nearly beat each other to death with the oars trying to get it back in water, finally succeeding. I asked why they didn’t jump in the water. His reply, “he may have had friends, or there might have been a gator floating around. What? Why would you choose to fish there? Surely there are safer waters to find yourself floating on? As they say in the south,”I guarantee”.

Another fishing story floating about in my mind that morning on the way to Ben’s, was again set back in the bayous. This time David was by himself in a piroque. A piroque, is a flat bottomed boat, looking much like a canoe, in his case made of aluminum. The bayous, as I was come to learn, have a unique beauty to them. Eerily still, but for the sounds of birds calling to each other from the tree tops, or insects buzzing around your ear. Things can be seen floating by under the surface of the muddy water. I didn’t ask, and didn’t want to know. On the day he told about, he said there was no breeze and it was sticky hot, an apt description for any sunny day down there. Suddenly, he heard a noise that sounded like a freight train that seemed to be rolling toward him out of nowhere. In seconds the sky over him got dark and he was surrounded by a huge cloud of mosquitos. “Momma”. He said they were swarming on his face, arms and legs. For weeks he was covered in calamine lotion to the point where he looked liked a Kabuki dancer. Not for me. I’m not a bug girl on even the best of days.

The last story, another fishing tale, of course, took place in Louisiana once again. Fishing with a buddy from work, according to David the fish weren’t biting much as the heat of the day had arrived. As is typical in Louisiana and Arkansas, clouds had moved overhead indicating a quick dousing of summer rain was imminent. This was a phenomena I had to adjust to when living down there. It doesn’t rain in the summer in California, or at least very rarely. In the humid southern states it’s nearly a daily occurrence. This accounts for the fetid smell in the woods there, because the vegetation below the surface rots under the sizzling top cover. This day the clouds opened up and a downpour ensued. The weather turned ugly fast and, according to David, a water spout, or water tornado formed where they were. The story goes all the water was sucked up leaving them almost stranded on a bank and holding on for dear life and then the sky relinquished it’s burden again nearly drowning them. Now these fish tales may be only that, but they had enough validity for me to have me wondering why I was bumping along this dirt road in Southern Arkansas probably heading toward certain death.

In the end, I found the bayous most enchanting in their way. In spite of all the bug spray I was sporting, I managed to get quite a few bites on what skin was exposed. I caught a few fish, heard some fascinating stories, and had an adventure, while making a new friend. Our day culminated with fried catfish, hush puppies, steamed corn and lots of laughs. Another stamp in my memory book.

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