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Here we are perched on the lip of another election year waiting to be swallowed whole. The usual onslaught of mean spirited ads already populating prime time slots only promise to increase in ugliness as voting time draws near. Male against female, democrat versus republican, conservative swatting at liberal, and none of them playing well with others. Throw all this in the pot with the impeachment trial looming on the horizon and you have a really unappetizing stew.

It is idealistic at best to think we’re all going to get along. History tells us we do not get along with each other as a general rule. This began in prehistoric times with one tribe member bashing another over the head over a hunk of raw meat, and has expanded to entire nations going to the mat over land, resources, or religious division. Each faction believes theirs is the best way to do things, their needs the most critical, their skin color the most desirable, their method of operation the most efficient, etc. etc. Wars do not erupt because people are seeing eye to eye. It would be nice, however, to occasionally strike a harmonious note. Just for a change of pace.

Interestingly people seem to come together at their highest level when the situation is dire. In an emergency the issues of race, religion, political bent, or social status seems to disappear in the mist and in many cases people work together toward a united goal. Too bad we have to wait for disaster to find this common ground.

Last weekend I watched the movie Thirteen Weeks for the first time. The central plot revolves around the Cuban missile crisis. Too young at the time to realize how close we came to going to war with Russia, I do recall teachers putting us through bomb drills.  We would practice crouching under our desks with our hands over our heads. This apparently was to be our defense in the event a nuclear weapon was hurling towards us through space programed for our exact coordinates. Really? This would do what exactly? We wouldn’t see it coming? Several families in my town had bomb shelters built as an added precaution. These cement structures were fully stocked and ready to roll should an invasion become imminent. From what I understand fallout remains in the air at a toxic level for about two weeks so that seemed like a viable way to go or at least it did back in the day. Perhaps not having wars or setting off bombs might be a better solution, but those are just my thoughts on the subject. Sounds simplistic but in actual fact that would be the cure for the disease.

During a conversation with one of my Canadian cousins last week she mentioned she had been terrified the first time she ventured into the states. To their minds we are gun toting outlaws something like those who existed in the Wild West. According to her she thought everyone is the U.S. was “packing heat”, so to speak, with concealed weapons more common then sneezes in a flu ward. It is true, if indeed my facts are correct, U.S. citizens are the most armed of any nation in the world. Whether or not you are more likely to be “packing” might depend on any number of factors. Where you live perhaps, what you do, or even how comfortable your family unit is having weaponry on the premises.

For example, David, my ex-husband is from Texas. People hailing from those parts are not a group known for voting against the NRA. For many of them weapons are a way of life. Early on David was taught by the older members of his household to respect the guns in the house and how to safely use them. The man was Texan from the top of his Stetson hat down to the heels of his scuffed cowboy boots. That being said, his choice of transportation was naturally an old Ford pick-up. The failing work horse was his baby. They shared many a weekend with David lying on his back on the driveway or bending over under the hood trying to keep the car on the road. Forgive me, truck, not car. I was called to task frequently for referring to his vehicle as such. Apparently in Texas this could be a shooting offense. Physically it had also seen better days. The paint job had long faded from a bright factory yellow to a faded buttermilk with spots of rust peeking through here and there.  The window on the driver’s side door was missing replaced during rainy months with a 33 gallon trash bag to keep the driver dry. A gun rack hung in the back window next to a picture of the American flag and his rear bumper sported a sticker reading “Honk again I’m reloading”. Believe that says it all.

When he went on the night shift leaving me to fend for myself after dark, he suggested getting a pistol for my protection. I voted no. I did not grow up around weapons. Nova Scotia is well known for its hunting areas. Often during hunting season I would hear the distant sound of gunshots. Certainly I wasn’t harboring the assumption hunters chased down their prey then asked the animal politely to sacrifice themselves so they’d have something to hang over the mantel. However, no one in my circle had a gun or hunted so I had never seen a gun of any kind. Truth be known guns scare the bikini underwear off me and I never had any interest on being on either end of one of them.

My lack of enthusiasm having been registered and vetoed, he purchased a gun anyhow. Don’t ask me what type it was but semi-automatic handgun would be a safe description. You had to pull the “thing” back to “chamber” a bullet. Don’t ask me to name the thing, I didn’t want too much information in case an interrogation lurked in my future. The gun was too stiff for me to chamber the bullet so he concentrated on teaching me to aim and shoot it. After nearly taking out the wall in the garage and an unsuspecting neighbor’s cat the decision came about that he would load the gun, leave the safety on and show me how to remove same should an intruder be in the house. Great. I left it under the night table fully aware if I ever had use it most likely by the time I remembered how to remove the safety and aim it I would either be overrun by the intruder or most probably have shot myself in the foot.

One night about a month into my gun ownership I woke to hear a loud banging in the back yard. My dog was barking and madly scratching at the sliding glass door in the kitchen. Slowly I crept out of bed retrieving my weapon from under the night stand and made my way to the kitchen. Heart pounding at an amazing rate I took off the safety and flung the drapes back on the window. Flicking the light on I yelled, “I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it”. The light flooded the patio illuminating the culprit now clearly visible standing by the barbecue. A large possum had it’s head caught in the drip can (a tin can used for catching grease) and was frantically trying to smack it off by beating against the foot of the grill. Poor little guy. They’re already nearly blind as it is and having a No. 10 can of creamed corn covering his head surely wasn’t improving the situation. Gently placing the gun back in it’s hiding place I went out to see if I could help. Possums are not known for their sunny dispositions when it comes to interacting with humans. Before coming outside I pulled on David’s heavy industrial gloves which covered my arms to my elbows.  A lot of writhing and growling ensued before I was able to free him or her with the help of a long handled fork (my weapon of choice). After that I insisted the gun find another home and never saw it again. Not any worse off for it I assure you and the possum too. That possum was lucky that the inside of that corn can wasn’t the last thing he saw before I blew him and the precious barbecue into the atmospheric continuum undoubtedly shooting myself in the foot in the process.

I’m sure gun laws will be bounced around in this election year. I’m on the fence about this. I believe this can be a dangerous world and if someone with malignant intentions was threatening me or mine I like to think I could react in kind. However, I see absolutely no reason for hunters to be armed with automatic weapons to shoot a poor deer. The need for these high powered guns escapes me. Probably if I had to shoot anything I’d become a vegan. Easy to hide behind a plastic wrapper in Raley’s meat department. While living in Arkansas I saw David field dress a deer. No he was not picking out a nice billowy cotton sheath for the poor animal to wear, he was removing its entrails to keep the meat from spoiling. Warning this is not a procedure I suggest you observe if you are planning on eating meat or anything else really for the next couple of weeks. One of the younger men lost his lunch on his blue tick hound while watching and I thought seriously about joining him. As David would say, “Texas is hard on women and dogs”. He had great respect for the animal and though I am not fond of venison he made a lasagna using the meat that was actually delicious.

Perhaps my thought for today is to think before you react. We’re all in this together. It doesn’t make it any easier when we can’t work as a team. Reminds me of being in a row boat with eight people each trying to row in a different direction, highly frustrating and doesn’t get you closer to shore. Have a great one!

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The time has come to begin searching for a part-time job. God knows I’ve avoided it successfully as long as I can. Money needs to start coming in as well as going out or this boat is going to spring a few leaks down the road. Not that I’m allergic to work, I’ve worked most of my life, I just don’t hate not having to. Ah well, we do what we need to do to sustain ourselves, yes?

An email showed up in my in box yesterday from a social media website I’m a member of. They were alerting me to the fact there is an opening for a social media director for one of the NFL teams I might be a good candidate for. Really, in what universe would that be? If I’m qualified for that job why not try something new like, say, brain surgeon or perhaps I could apply to NASA for a neuroscientist position? I do enjoy watching those rockets plummeting into space. How hard can it be a little rocket fuel and a match? Let’s see, with all the candidates running for president at the moment would anyone even notice another hat tossed in the ring? Why not go for the gold? As far as I can tell I’m probably as qualified as most of the people in Washington at the moment so why not?

Updating my resume it occurred to me my graphic arts background isn’t really going to hold a lot of weight if I’m stocking shelves at the Dollar Store or wrapping up purchases at Penny’s. Probably their HR departments won’t be overly impressed by the fact that not only can I bag the items for the customer, but I can draw them a rendition of the bag if needed.

Utilizing my graphics or writing skills while earning a paycheck would be the ideal situation. Unfortunately, these types of jobs are often full time positions with plenty of overtime, which I’m not looking for, or the hiring bodies are targeting younger candidates who can remain in place longer than a baby boomer such as myself.

Over the years I have assumed many identities in the working world. I began as a secretary, clerk really, for a moving company. An eighteen year old girl green as a gourd working with a bunch of rough around the edges movers in a large combination warehouse and office. I earned my stripes there. The men were respectful for the most part, as I remember. However, the dispatcher working directly across the aisle from me had a mouth like a sailor. When things weren’t going his way the air was alive with words my grandmother would have washed my mouth out for repeating. I remember once the warehouse manager came to me to tell me the ladies, of which there were four of us, needed to be alerted there were crabs in the women’s washroom. Until the situation was resolved, we were instructed to use the men’s room. Fascinated there were live crabs on the premises, I asked if perhaps I could see them. Stepping a bit further into the humiliation pit I went on to explain though I enjoyed crabs, I actually preferred lobster having grown up in Nova Scotia. Yup, fully immersed in the pit of humiliation at that point. After staring at me in disbelief for a minute he broke out in hysterical laughter. For the next two years I had to hear the crabs story repeated more times than I care to remember. Back then if asked about an STD I might have answered “isn’t that motor oil”? Yes, yes I know it’s STP.

My second job was for a huge engineering company working as a secretary to one of the junior VP’s. My desk was one of a bank of desks and executive offices referred to by the staff as “mahogany row”. Things were much different in those days. Women wore dresses, heels, and nylons to work. Pants were not allowed on the ladies. Men were encouraged to wear them thankfully, there are laws against that. Pants suits made an appearance not long afterwards, though I wouldn’t have missed them if they hadn’t. Polyester nightmares with matching jacket and pants usually suffering from static cling or just basic bad taste. There were no casual Friday’s. Women were to be dressed accordingly five days a week even if their toes were sacrificed to tight pointy toed shoes or their bodies circulation diminished by suffocating pantyhose. Mini skirts were also on the scene at the time. Accessing a filing cabinet wearing that minimal piece of fabric required real finesse necessitating squatting down rather than bending over the file drawers lest you provide a distraction for the engineers on the floor. The campus I worked on consisted of five multi-story buildings, mainly staffed by male engineers, draftsmen, and support staff. Women engineers were tossed in among the mix but certainly were a small minority. Often the ladies with the engineering degrees were difficult to sort out from the gentlemen. They tended to dress in a very understated way bordering on dowdy to maintain a businesslike persona. I was told by one female engineer they dressed down in order to be accepted by their male colleagues. I could write volumes about how I feel about that, but I digress.

Part of my job description was generating travel paperwork for engineers and staff reporting to our overseas operations as well as the Alaskan pipeline and South America. Shots were required when entering certain foreign countries as well as the typical government documents such as visas and passports. If needed quickly, I would hop a plane from LA to San Francisco to visit the embassy’s involved to get paperwork moved through as expediently as possible. For me, this was the whipped cream topping of my job. Entering the exotic offices staffed by people from lands I had never visited was fascinating to me. There were times when I wished they were placing official stamps on my documents so I could board the plane as well.

Certainly my dream as a child was not to be typing engineering reports or transfer papers. Sometimes life doesn’t look the way you thought it would. As a kid my mind was filled with Egypt, oddly leading me to end up with Rick an Egyptian by birth. Daydreams of dusty digs in steamy desert settings uncovering long buried tombs with ancient artifacts filled my days. As I approached puberty, my career goals shifted to include nurse, like my grandmother, and circus clown and in high school I decided I wanted to fly the friendly skies as a flight attendant. In the end, I got married at eighteen, had two children by twenty-one and found myself seated in front of an electric typewriter pounding keys for a living. I don’t regret this for an instant because was I to create a paradox in my world and change things my two beautiful children wouldn’t share my life nor their offspring so I wouldn’t change a thing.

I view each experience as a building block to the next. Had I not taken typing in high school simply to fill an elective spot, I might have been pushing biggie fries at McDonald’s. Not that that’s a bad job. I think anyone who works hard in whatever position they hold should be commended. However hindsight being 20-20 I do wish at times I had enjoyed the full college experience when I had the opportunity to but as I always quote, “don’t look in the rear view mirror, that is not the direction you are going”.

So I look at working once again and still find myself pondering what I want to be when I grow up. Working with food might be interesting. Standing behind the deli counter at the market slicing meats and cheeses seems like it would be right up my alley. My girlfriend always tells me I would have make a good waitress. I like the idea of serving people meals, as being in the kitchen or around food is my happy place. That being said, having owned a restaurant with Rick I do know first hand how difficult waiting tables is. Long hours, poor tippers, complaining patrons, and sore feet. Hmmmm. Maybe a mermaid? I’ve never been one but always felt I had the predisposition for it, and how I do love the water.

For now I will scan the on-line sites advertising local jobs and see what catches my eye. Fortunately I’ve kept my computer skills up so I have something to offer in that area.

Another new chapter to explore in my crazy interesting life. I do look forward to finding out what the next year will bring with it.

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We are smack dab in the middle of what astrologists refer to as a mercury retrograde. This began officially on Halloween, but the effects were already being felt two weeks prior. Such occurrences in the universe are usually marked by communication and technology breakdowns, nervous anxiety, travel delays, and lost items. Goody.

I mentioned a blog or two back I have been experiencing a lot of such breakdowns. Even after the electricity was finally restored following a five day power outage my land line remains dead as a doornail. A repairman is headed my way after numerous attempts by my provider’s technical staff to try to figure out what is wrong. Immediately after getting that situation on the road to a solution a friend advised me my car was leaking unknown fluid onto the driveway. This means locating an auto shop at my new location to take a look at what’s going on under there. As an aside, have you ever noticed all these types of mini disasters seem to occur on weekends or holidays? It’s so common in my world I can’t help but wonder if perhaps it’s part of the master plan. As to lost items, I spent an hour looking for my keys this morning until just short of panic mode I discovered them dangling out of the lock in the door on my way out to take the trash. Thank God I’m careful to lock the door lest someone try to break in. Sigh. This retrograde will continue until November 20th which tells me November may prove to be another red letter month at Susie’s house. Jeez.

Halloween itself was a pleasant surprise. Having lived in rural mountainous areas for the last twenty years we were lucky if we got one little pirate or a scant princess knocking at our door so this year was actually fun. I bought a huge bag of candy thinking if nobody came I could sacrifice myself and not let it go to waste. As darkness began to fall I sat down to watch the news and eat my dinner when the doorbell began to ring and didn’t stop until I turned off the lights around 8:30. Sometimes there were as many as ten children standing there when I opened the door. They were all really inspired costumes for the most part ranging from a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder and a lit lantern to a diminutive ninja turtle looking just like the ones on the big screen only tinier. It was good to see parents allowing children to go door to door again, though I noticed many of them lining up along the sidewalks with flashlights talking among themselves as their offspring gathered their loot. Reminded me of the old days when my kids were school age when we totally decorated the house and created scary haunted houses in the garage. Very nostalgic for me an old Halloween lover from way back missing being born on the very day by a mere five hours. Such a fan of all Hallows Eve am I, my mother swears I came down the chute wearing a rubber nose, moustache and glasses smoking a cigar.

The day after Halloween I celebrated my birthday. Thankfully, this went off without a hitch. My daughter and her family, including our youngest member, Zeppelin one year and one month, took me to the zoo. Going to the zoo is always a bittersweet experience for me. Don’t misunderstand me, never, even at this ripe age, do I tire of seeing the amazing animals housed in America’s zoos. That being said, I do always feel a tug of guilt these glorious creatures are confined in such a way for our amusement. Seeing the animals through Zeppelin’s fresh eyes was the best part of the day. Each cage was a new adventure for our little guy who’s eyes were wide as dinner plates as we moved from one display to the next.

My mother joined us towards the end of the day. Since she broke her hip it is more difficult to include her in family outings because her stamina has diminished since her injury. Also, as the dementia continues to intrude on her thinking keeping her overnight as was my habit before she fell has now become more difficult. My house is an old cozy dwelling with lots of hard angles and unusual rooms. A wheelchair simply can’t navigate this space comfortably. Sadly once again I watch the progress of aging taking away more and more freedom from my dear mother. I also see spurts of anger not present before. Can’t fault her for that. I’m pretty sure as active as she was, being confined with no real goal or purpose to her days must be terribly frustrating.

There are several new tenants in her board and care. One lady is older than my mom which pleases her to no end. She mentions often she’s tired of being the oldest chick in the hen house. In her fifties during her mid-life crisis, as she called menopause, she refused to devulge her age. She began to shave years off so fast at one point we calculated I was actually older than she was. For me I don’t mind telling my age. Not saying the number out loud doesn’t make me any younger. My view of aging is if the universe allows we’ll all be ten, twenty, thirty, etc. Each stage has it’s pluses and it’s minuses. Not sure I’d go back if I could. Would I want to be back in high school again? There isn’t enough money. Sometimes I think I’d like to revisit my forties but I don’t believe that’s in the contract. Soooooo, I yam, what I yam and that is it. I still feel like a kid so will have to be satisfied with that. Thankfully I’m still healthy and agile which is such a bonus. It pleases me I am still able to be surprised, amazed, disappointed and enlightened so there’s still much work to be done, places to go, things to be accomplished. I’m signed up for a clay class this month. Always wanted to try sculpting. We shall see what comes of that.

Have a great and productive day.

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A lot going on in the news of late. Very unsettling way to spend an hour first thing in the morning before consuming your allotted amount of caffeine. Sometimes I just tune it out, opting for something easier on my brain before it gets revved up to its full momentum for the day. I’ve been thinking seriously about exploring meditation or yoga as forms of relaxation. So far these remain in the thinking stage, but at least they are floating around up there with the rest of the things I’m thinking about doing probably tomorrow, maybe the next day, or perhaps this coming weekend.

Usually I am not a procrastinator. Many of the things I was taught as a child were thrown against the wall and ended up sliding back down, but some suggestions actually stuck. One, from my grandmother, was do the thing you least enjoy doing first rather than placing it at the end of the list. That way you get it over with and it doesn’t hang over your head while you’re doing whatever else came before it. I adhere to this in most things. Take bathrooms, for example. I find nothing stimulating in any way about scrubbing the toilet bowl, pulling hair out of the shower drain, or removing soap scum. Do I enjoy a clean bathroom? Certainly. That being said someone has to clean it and low these many years I’ve never noticed any hands going up when I suggested it might be someone other than myself.

At the moment I feel like I’m trying to manipulate an eight man scull with one oar in the water. To begin with, my mother is in a skilled nursing facility recovering from a broken hip. Being an only child, and with my two kids and their families scattered about and busy, this requires a heavy commitment of time on my part. I have groups and appointments that have been moved around and juggled to the point my day planner looks like a five year old scribbled the entries with a kindergarten pencil.

My house, though not large, continues to distribute dust and crumbs at an alarming pace, and though I am taking a stab at keeping up with this progression, sometimes it feels as though I’m losing the race. The thought has occurred to me to hire someone to clean the house, but this thought is generally overridden once I consult my bank account for available funds to make this happen. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a dainty eater insists on removing each kibble from her bowl and chewing it to shreds over the floor creating a pile of large and small debris suitable for keeping a cat shelter going for several months. Yesterday I stepped on a particularly large chunk and spilled coffee all over my pants trying to right myself before I ended up in a bed next to my mother.

Something I have observed when your schedule starts to blink “overload, overload”, is you begin to do really stupid things. Now, I am the first to admit I often do dumb things as a rule of thumb, but I mean really mind numbing idiocy. Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store after being unable to think of one meal I could pull together with yellow mustard and sour cream. Racing though the aisles I piled on whatever looked good, was two for one, and I remembered I was out of and went through the checkstand. It had begun to rain at a fairly heavy pace when I pushed the cart out the front door. Locating my car I pushed the “open trunk” button on my remote and attempted to do just that. Nothing. Fine, now the remote was broken. Again I pushed a button, this time for the car itself. Nothing. Stupid remote, stupid manufacturer, why is it pouring? Finally I looked inside the car to see an In n Out cup sitting in the cup holder. Hmmmm. The last time I’d had an In n Out burger was a year ago. A light blinked in an otherwise dark chamber in my mind allowing a cognizant thought to emerge. “This is not my car.” Got it.

This vein of stupidity has run through my entire week. It’s like a wicked fairy tapped me on the head casting a spell where 40 IQ points were immediately erased from my intelligence quotient, leaving me with the brain capacity of a domestic turkey. This yet another reason you shouldn’t leave me out in the rain. Duh, and more duh. I put my trash out on Thursday which would have been excellent was it not for the fact that was the trash pick up day at my old house. The new house has trash pick up scheduled for Wednesday mornings. I’m sure the gardener will be pleased to note the clippings from last weeks trimmings are still poking nearly to the top of the compost bin. Sorry. Don’t hate me because I’ve been struck stupid. Hopefully, this will pass.

To add to my prefrontal cortex malfunctions, I have a head cold. This means I either need to abstain from visiting my mother or wear a face mask. If you have ever tried to breathe with one of these masks over your nose when your nasal passages are tighter than Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s abs, you would understand why this option is not at the top of my list. That being said, I have opted to rest in place for the day, binge on old movies, and face the mask tomorrow after two or three dosings of Airborne and some rest. Check please.

On another note, I have to say it was wonderful to see the rain. Thankfully summer in the Sierra Nevadas didn’t dole out it’s usual bounty of sweltering days this year. Summer passed on a somewhat milder note keeping devastating fires off the front page as often and making for more tolerable days outside.

With the rain accompanied by the first dusting of snow in the mountains fall is dropping hints it’s just around the corner. There’s something about autumn that stirs my soul more than any other season of the year. The glorious colors bursting forth on the trees, the rich earthy smell after a good downpour, and my three favorite holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas lining up on the horizon.

Cooking begins to cross my mind this time of year as well, Delicious meaty stews, comforting soups, and the king of the birds (at least to eat) the turkey. Yum and more yum.

As the calendar rolls over to October I will begin digging in the storage shed for the Halloween decorations tucked away in their orange bin. Since I have enough bins to start a department store I have found color coding preferable to spending an afternoon opening one lid after another trying to determine what lies beneath it. Red and green for Christmas, orange for Halloween, well you get the idea.

Monday has arrived on the scene again. The week before me is jam packed so I am gearing up to prepare for it armed with the industrial pack of Airborne for my cold and a mega sized cup of coffee to get my blood moving. Have a great week. Take a chance or two, hug your kids often, say hello to a stranger, and discover something new about yourself.

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Well here I am standing at the year mark since Rick passed away. Seems impossible at times to realize 365 days have passed, yet on particularly difficult days it can feel like so many more. Much has happened, so many changes have taken place. Sometimes when I see my reflection in the mirror it’s as if the outlines of my face have altered and shifted, as though I am still asleep and dreaming.

Was I to encapsulate the first year I would say grief has a way of defining you in those early days. Caught up in a whirlwind of emotions you soar up into the clouds then catapult down over mountains of memories assaulting your mind and clawing at your heart. Then slowly, ever so slowly, the storm subsides. Like the morning after a heavy rain, there is a gentle stillness as the earth absorbs the nourishing water, and animals hesitantly peek out from their dens to see what the day is to bring. Your tears begin to diminish, feelings return to a more tolerable level. Life, once again, begins to stir beneath the surface.

People say odd things to you after someone dies, sometimes insensitive. “Time heals all things”, “he’s in a better place now”, “it was his time”. In retrospect I do not believe they do this out of a lack of empathy, but rather they really do not know what to say. Even though as human beings we are beginning to die with the second breath we take, we still haven’t come to terms with dealing with it. To begin with death remains a mystery. No one, at least as far as I know other than Christ, if this is your belief, has returned to tell us about it since time began. That alone might make it the biggest mystery on earth even than discovering what lies beyond the universe, and don’t even get me started on that.

Even as we avoid death we are drawn to the subject. Stories meant to scare and excite us are often centered around the afterlife. Dracula, zombies, Frankenstein, poltergeist, and on and on and on. Edgar Allen Poe wrote about death as a rule, not an exception. The House of Usher, about a woman entombed while still alive, kept me up for weeks  in high school after I chose it out of the assigned reading list in English. Dark tales of people rising up from the grave or the undead feeding on the hapless townspeople captivate television and movie audiences. The ancient Egyptians erected the great pyramids as an homage to their deceased rulers, going so far as to entomb live servants and pets with their dead masters to accompany them on their journey.

Where do our souls travel when our bodies wear out? Will we join our loved ones when our time here is through? As with many unknowns in our world, these questions linger unanswered as one century folds into the next.

For me, I am struggling to recreate myself as a single woman of a certain age once again. Not that I haven’t been single before, one cannot be married four times and not find themselves single at one time or another. This is the first time, however, I have been totally on my own without the responsibility of children living at home or a roommate to fill a bed in another room. Just me and Miss Boo, the Queen of cats, who though fond of me would never let on she actually needs me around.

When a year or so has passed following the death of a loved one people want you to get over feeling the loss and move on. Death makes us uncomfortable I believe because it shines a light on our own fragility or that of our loved ones. So many times lately I’ve been asked if I’m ready to start dating. You cannot replace a loved one like you would a goldfish that had met a soggy end in your fish tank.

The thought of beginning again building a relationship with someone new is daunting at best. To start at the ground floor learning whether he likes blue cheese or ranch, has anchovies on his pizza, prefers jazz to classic rock, or goes to bed early and gets up late or is a night owl nearly makes me break out in a sweat. It takes years to build the foundation of a strong and lasting partnership, some people never achieve it. I wonder at times if I’ve had my time in the sun. Do I have the energy to bring someone new once again into my world? This remains to be seen I would guess. I do not have the ability to peek into the final chapters of my life. Hopefully someone will come along who I can enjoy a meal with, watch a movie next to or do a little traveling alongside.

I have reached a point where the extreme sadness has eased and I treasure the time I shared with Rick. The memories are the gift he leaves behind and the love he gave me unconditionally always believing I could do whatever I set my mind out to accomplish. If he were standing here I would thank him for the twenty years he shared with me. No one can replicate or take that time away.

I will keep my mind open as I move on alone. Should I find myself loving someone again it does not mean I lose Rick but rather gain someone new and totally unique from him. Can you ever welcome too much love in your life? Looking forward I hope to discover more about myself as each day unfolds. Standing on my own isn’t always easy but I am taking one step, one day at a time.

So I begin a new year full of new hopes and dreams praying this year brings some relief from the strain of the three behind it allowing me to find a little peace. There are unconquered hills to climb, new valleys to explore and paths yet untraveled for me to look forward to. Life will never be a flat line. Always you must deal with disappointment, heartache and unrest but they are balanced out by moments of pure joy, genuine happiness and peaceful contentment. In the end it how you react to what is placed in your way that makes the difference in the quality of your life I believe.

You will be missed, dear Rick, while I light a candle on our one year anniversary apart. I love you. Thank you for all the magic moments, silly laughter, intimate shares late at night, and accepting me for who I am without question. May you too have found peace wherever good souls go.

Ending on a light note, I would like to share the wisdom of a 103 year old helping her 107 year old sister celebrate her birthday on a TV news show. When asked what the secret to a long life she wisely answered, “just don’t die”. There you go. Words to live by. Reply

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When someone you love passes away the fragility of life gets pushed to the forefront. Suddenly you become more aware of how quickly time passes and how fleeting your most precious moments. When Rick, my significant other of twenty years, died of cancer last year this was true for me. When diagnosed, his prognosis was six weeks. Forty-two days, forty-two days for him to get a lifetime in order, say his goodbyes, memorize the rich colors of blue decorating the sky, see the stars come out at night and watch the sun rise in the morning. Chemotherapy and radiation allowed us an extra three months, a gift I will always treasure. There are never enough hours to spare, but each extra day gave us another chance to wipe the slate clean before he left on his journey.

Rick’s passing has heightened my awareness, if you will. Before I may have taken life a little for granted as many of us do. One day folds into the next, we plug in our coffee maker, put on our makeup and muscle through our existence. Often our lives are incredibly busy. With each hour fully accounted for, there is little time left over to pause and admire the new rose blooming on the bush by the front door or to catch the hint of sadness in your teenager’s eyes. Even stopping to breathe deeply and be present in the moment can seem an impossible task while a pile of laundry beckons or a client waits to close an important deal. Yet in the end whether the socks get sorted or the product gets shipped is rendered unimportant when you are faced with writing the final chapter of your book.

Immediately following the death of a family member along with dealing with the overwhelming grief, end of life arrangements, and friends and family coming and going, survivors are expected to take care of all the details involved in day to day living. All this is complicated by coping with what is termed “grief brain” making concentration difficult to achieve and scattered behavior more common than not. I actually came out of the store after doing some grocery shopping and after storing my bags in the trunk I seated myself in the back seat of the car. As I was there alone, this probably would appear odd behavior to the casual observer. Not wanting to confirm myself a complete idiot I looked around as if waiting for someone and waited for the area to clear before hopping into the driver’s seat.

To help me cope with everything swirling around me, I began compiling to-do lists. Some lists were compiled by priority of things that had to be done, while others held ideas for things I hoped to do in the future. Many items on my “have to be done” list I have already accomplished. With Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, at my side I have sold my house and moved to a new rental home. Check. Slowly, I have established new routines revolving around living alone rather than sharing space with someone. Check. This week I joined a gym, something not on my list of favorites but a healthy decision, and begin water aerobics tomorrow. Check, check and check. With each step I have moved a little further away from the life I knew and grown closer to the new life I am creating for myself. I have to say it is game changing.

As this year has unfolded I have found myself searching for the path I want to follow. Standing at a crossroads in my life with so many options possible which way do I go? Certainly I must go forward, but do I veer to the right or to the left?

This period of new growth and exploration I refer to as the “unfolding”. For the person going through it may feel as if they have shed their skin leaving their nerves exposed and raw. Life, as it once was completely changes the moment a loved one ceases to be in it. To expound here, the person passing away ceases to be in it in a physical sense. In my case, I feel Rick will be walking along next to me in spirit always.

For a while, and each person experiences this time frame individually, it seems as though there would never be a day when you will feel “normal” again. As time passes, like all wounds, the rough edges begin to smooth and the sun once again will begin to feel warm and welcoming on your face. Hope returns for a future on some level and unless deeply depressed you begin to explore this new life you are left with.

During this period I began to think about my own life. Though I am definitely looking at the downhill slope there are still, God willing and I don’t get run over by the garbage truck, many years to fill. The choice here would be to sit and feel sorry for myself or find a way to live the most rewarding and happy life I can. I chose the latter. I began to think about what I would like to do with myself. If I have been the one to remain behind it stands to reason this in a way is a gift and I did not want to consider it frivolously.

Again I went to my lists. On my list of exciting adventures I hope yet to do visiting the Grand Canyon, for example, is right up there towards the top. Always I have wanted to see this natural wonder. In spite of numerous trips by car across the U.S. the chance to do so has continued to escape me. Definitely I want to try zip lining, and after a recent trip to Lake Tahoe I have added river rafting down the Truckee River as a must do when next summer rolls around. My son recently went parachuting while on vacation in Santa Cruz. Although this sounds intriguing to me on the surface, I have a feeling if faced with an open door and 15,000 feet of open air space below me I might rethink my enthusiasm, most likely shortly after I wet my pants. We shall see. Though included, jumping out of a plane is definitely hovering (if you will) towards the bottom of the line.

Finding myself heading into my golden years with less gold on hand than loose change, traveling extensively is not in the stars for the moment. If my bank account was representative of my desire to see the world I would be floating lazily across the Mediterranean in a private yacht or dining on trays of succulent meats and cheeses at the Rodostamo Hotel in glorious Corfu. Unfortunately, my budget leans more towards a Motel 6 in Barstow and Taco Bell, but one never knows what the next bend in the road will uncover. Perhaps that pesky winning lottery ticket I never purchase will miraculously come floating through the window? One thing I have learned about my years spent on this earth, is you can never discount anything because life, as most of us are aware, is a capricious host serving up surprises with each passing day.

From each experience good or bad we take with us lessons. It is our choice whether or not to draw from these lessons. No matter what the experience there is something slightly life altering we add to our bag after having lived through both the difficult and the soul elevating times. From this experience I have learned to value today for that is what we have. I have learned to remember to say “I love you” every time I leave someone I care about, to make that phone call to a friend even if you’re busy, and to give when and where you can without hesitation. Make it a great and meaningful day.

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Sometimes I find myself studying couples and wondering what on earth brought the two of them together. I’m talking about those couples who outwardly appear so completely mismatched you wonder how they ever found a common path. We’ve all seen such unlikely pairs. He may be very tall with lanky dimensions, slightly balding, with a quiet, almost shy demeanor. She, a diminutive woman of generous proportions with masses of wild ginger hair and vibrantly colored lips which never stop moving. Yet, somehow like the smooth ocean waves caressing the rough edges off coarse grains of sand they pair together in a perfect dance.

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The mating dance in some form or another occurs in all creatures on earth except those who produce asexually such as starfish and sea anemones. Thankfully, with humans, it takes two to tango. And, whether we tango or foxtrot, in nearly every species it is the male tasked with making the first move. For some creatures, such as the male black widow spider, this privilege may come with questionable rewards. Once the deal is consummated, the object of his affection then kills and eats him. To my mind not much incentive to be in a hurry to fill a spot on Saturday night.

For me, one of the more magical of these mating displays are fireflies. I saw my first firefly in the backyard of my home in St. Albans, West Virginia in 1991. Spring had merged into summer in the Mountain State. Humid in that part of the country, the new season brought with it hot sultry days followed by restless sweat filled nights. The ceiling fan pushed the hot air around in the kitchen while I finished cleaning up after dinner. Thankfully there was a window over the sink allowing a breeze to sift in through the screen. The kitchen was situated towards the rear of the building facing the back yard. Beyond the house the lawn faded into an alleyway where a line of scruffy shrubs separated the alley from the railroad tracks. Fascinated I watched as a sea of  twinkling lights began to flicker above the shrubbery like a thousand Tinkerbells signalling for Peter Pan.  I called my husband. Growing up in Texas he was somewhat amused at my reaction because because fireflies were a familiar sight for him. This lovely display, he explained, was the male insects signalling they had their tap shoes on and were ready to dance should a so inclined female be in the area. Absolutely one of the most enchanting natural phenomena I have witnessed. Never, in the three years I lived there did I tire of seeing these tiny beacons as the sun settled down for the evening.

As I said in the first paragraph, the interesting part for me is not that we pick partners. We are, after all, programmed to procreate. Rather I am fascinated by the partners we pick. Sometimes in the logical scheme of things on the surface our partnering seems to make perfect sense. Beautiful runway model marries equally beautiful football quarterback, or a doctor elopes with his nurse. You’d think when like meets like, it should create a perfect pairing. However, look how many of these perfect pairings end up seated next to their high priced lawyers arguing over who is going to get the Lamborghini in their property settlement? Perhaps our need to mate coupled with our inability to delineate the right person from the wrong one has to do with the high divorce rate in this country? Most of us spend more time researching the best vehicle for our needs before driving it off the lot then we do choosing people we are planning to commit a lifetime to. Certainly I am guilty of this. You don’t get married four times if you’ve chosen well the first time.

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My last relationship, undeniably my best and longest, was with a man I had little in common with. Rick and I met on Matchmaker.com. My profile was number 227 on his list of compatible ladies. After attempting several meetings with the more probable candidates that lit no fires for the parties concerned, he told me he kept returning to look at my profile again.  After our first date which was a hockey game and video arcade we were rarely apart. During our twenty years together we looked forward to seeing each other every day, enjoyed lively conversations about everything, laughed often, and rarely shared a harsh word.

Conversely, sometimes a pairing that outwardly seems not to be working, might actually be moving along swimmingly for those involved. Take the couple married forty years who haven’t agreed on anything since they said “I do”. Some people communicate best when bickering with one another. For me, I enjoy a little spirited debate though constant arguing would have me running for the door. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

Rick and I were as unalike as Kim Kardashian and Mother Teresa. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, while I was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Rick’s palate leaned toward heady exotic foreign flavors whereas I was weaned on orange marmalade, New England style boiled dinners, and poached salmon. Over the years each of us bent toward the other, learning to embrace what each brought to the table. One night a month we celebrated “eeewwee night”, a night where each of us cooked our own meals featuring something the other didn’t enjoy eating. For Rick it was usually organ meat such as liver or kidneys which I prefer to pass on. For me scallops or a fat juicy hamburger which weren’t on his list of favorites.

Food issues can easily be compromised. However, there are some key areas that absolutely need to be discussed before prior to booking a venue for the nuptials. Areas like children, yes or no?  If one player wants a big family where the other prefers living life footloose and fancy free this can create huge roadblocks down the road. Making a decision on whether or not to have offspring is not like saying one prefers abstract paintings in the living room while the other is partial to country chic. Deciding whether or not to have children affects your life now and in the years to come. For the partner who wants children but denies themselves the opportunity, this could build resentment, as it may as well for the partner who has children without having the desire to do so.

Religious preferences could possibly also be a touchy area, as well as political differences. Politics can be difficult if you sit on opposite sides of the fence because it often reflects an ideology that is totally different from the other person. I have even heard of couples breaking up over which football team they supported.

It always makes my heart sad to see couples probably together for many years, seated across from one another in a restaurant not exchanging a single word. Being a communicator myself, this lack of sharing would drive me over the edge of boredom and far far away. I often wonder if they simply have run out of things to say to one another, though God knows the world offers up a vast array of things to discover together, or if at some point they simply stopped caring enough to try. At that point I believe I would either do something proactive to change the dynamics, or throw in the towel and go down to the local shelter and adopt a kitten. I would most certainly prefer my own company and an occasional lonely moment. Nothing more miserable than being lonely together.

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So I continue to explore the coupling experience. At this stage of my life I find I am very clear on what I want and what I do not. Rick, who passed away last September, will always be in heart and memories and for now that is enough. Each person who touches your life leaves a bit of their story with you and you with them. Should someone come along as I continue along my way then we shall see then how my story ends.

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