Friday, December 25, 2020

Joy to the World

Thought for the day: Hang onto your hat, hang onto your hope, and wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. [E.B. White]

Well, it's Christmas. Doesn't feel like it... but it is. The house is very quiet, making it easier to hear the ever-present high-pitched monotone ringing in my ears. Both cats sit close beside me, the feeling of their warm bodies a reassuring reminder that I'm not entirely alone. Oh, I could've gone to Alabama to spend the Holidays with my son and his family... but I wanted to stay home. Really. I'm hanging in there pretty doggone well since my husband died five month ago today, but I'm not ready for any raucous celebrations just yet. I seek solace in the quiet... the normal. Not much in the way of decorations here this year. Our same-old, same-old wreath hangs at the front door, and bright red poinsettias sit atop the shelf above the fireplace and on the coffee table in the sunroom. Also on that fireplace shelf are two candles that I've had forever... one of a jolly waving Santa, and the other a snowman with a huge smile. My kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus salt-and-pepper shakers sit up there, too... and one other cheerful snowman figure. Next to the TV is a seated fabric Santa that my mother made years ago, and the hooked rug my father made is in the sunroom. That's it, but don't you dare feel sorry for me. I didn't want all of the trappings this year. No cards, no gifts, no twinkling lights. Just a peaceful day with a minimum of tears. I'm not exactly pretending that it isn't Christmas, but I don't want to be reminded any more than I am every other day that Mike isn't here. 

It seems I'm not the only one who skipped sending cards this year. Mike and I used to get a kazillion cards, but this year, there's only been a trickle. Which is fine. Better than fine, actually, because that makes me feel less guilty about not sending any myself. But holy moley! I got cards from some of YOU. People I've never met face-to-face, but whom I've grown to love, nonetheless. Thank you. Thank you for caring. Thank you for spurring me to sit down to write this message to all of you. I know you care, and that means so much to me. I care about you, too. It's been a hard year for all of us, but today is a day for joy. For hope. Next year, we can celebrate, hopefully, but for today, let's embrace hope. Hope that each day will be a little better than the day before and that normal is right around the corner. Don't despair. We'll get there. You and me. All of us. We'll get there.

One tiny bit of normal is the following post, one I've shared almost every year since I started this blog. It's... a tradition. That's what you guys told me. So fine, let's go with that tradition. It seems I can do quite well without decorations and presents, but who knew? It appears I don't wanta do without Louise...


Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.

No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.

We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made by my sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. This year, very few decorations found their way out of the storage boxes. (A RED tablecloth counts as a decoration, right???)

These carolers once belonged to my grandmother.

Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)

                                         We're more like the house on the right these days:

And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.

Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning, the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were always left dangling as empty as ever.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll required a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of a bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and she let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning, my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but his poor dog was very confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom every morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's demise. We discovered that she'd suffered from an acute case of hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can sneak out of the house.


             Merry Christmas! May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                                                                As for 2020?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Gratitude and Joy

Thought for the day:  I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness--- it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude. [Brene Brown]

 Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. For a number of years, this drawing, along with my silly Thanksgiving poem, provided an easy-peasy starting point for a blog post to celebrate this time of the year. A good way to ease into the Holiday season with a smile.

But this year feels different.

Because it is.

This year is different in many ways, not just for me, but for all of you, as well. How do we give thanks when the entire world is being swamped by the third... and largest... wave of this relentless pandemic? When our healthcare workers are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients, by their own exhaustion, and by what must be utter frustration at the number of people who still refuse to wear a damned mask?  

How do we rejoice when we're still isolated, for the most part, from our families and friends? How do I rejoice without my husband? How do you rejoice without that special person you may have lost this year? How do we keep smiling through our tears?

                                           One day at a time... one blessing at a time. 

image courtesy of Unsplash
It's been four months since my husband died, and I must admit, it's still sinking in that he's truly gone... and each time that soul-sucking reality punches me in the gut, it knocks the wind out of me all over again. Yes, it brings tears to my eyes, but not for long. What good will tears do?

Far better to concentrate on the many blessings that still remain. We can spend all of our time lamenting what is gone... what has changed... or we can choose to accept our circumstances and be grateful for the many good things remaining. Goodness and joy are still all around us... we just have to look away from our sadness and anxiety and pay better attention. 

I betcha turkeys are finding it easier to be grateful this year, eh? Especially the really big ones. Not much demand for 20-something pound turkeys when our gatherings will be so much smaller. My daughter, her husband and a family friend will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with me... but no turkey. Not even a little one. It almost feels like blasphemy to have something other than turkey, but Mike was the big turkey-and-all-the-fixings fan in our family, and it seems almost disrespectful to go through all the hoopla without him. So we won't. New beginnings. New traditions. We'll eat lighter fare, and we'll enjoy each other's company. And we'll shoot pool. Maybe play some board games. The one thing I'll try not to do is cry. Laughter is so much better for the soul. 

For all of you, I wish much joy and laughter, too. Whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving or just enjoying a regular run-of-the-mill Thursday, I wish you a grateful heart and many blessings. In spite of everything, life is still good. Different, yes. But still good. I am soooooo grateful for my kids... my friends... you. Hang in there, people. We've got this.


                                         Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, October 30, 2020

If I Could Turn Back Time

 Thought for the day: If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. [Maya Angelou]

I reckon we've all had to change our attitudes to survive this crazy Twilight Zone of a year. Fine, I can do that... I have done that. I'm sure you have, too.

But one thing I don't want to change is my darned clock. I mean, why in the name of all that's good and holy would anyone choose to nudge the clock back an hour this weekend? Who, I ask you, is delighted at the prospect of prolonging this year from Hades by adding an extra hour to it? Now, if the powers that be really want us to turn back time, I think they should make it worth our while. Why not crank it back ... oh, I dunno... maybe twenty years or so? Betcha that would garner near-unanimous support.

Could be worse, I suppose. 

At least we don't have to rearrange huge stones to change the time, eh?

                                                     A handy-dandy guide just for you...

Yeah, I know it's a pipe dream to think we could dig our heels in and forget about changing the clock. (Now if we could move it forward ... like past the election, past the pandemic, past the insanity...)

I trust that, like me, you've had enough of this stinking year. We've had our fill of the pandemic... the needless deaths... the racial divide... the protests and rioting... the toxic political atmosphere... the lies... the venomous hatred. It sucks. All of it. But wait! That's not all! Let's not forget the horrific wildfires, the hurricanes, and the floods. And how about them murder wasps? The brain-eating amoebae? And of course, for me, the worst thing, the most definitive thing, has been my husband's death. Some of you have lost loved ones this year, too. I say ENOUGH, already! We're full of this year. Fed up! Done with it. Then again, so many bad things have already happened this year,  what else could possibly go wrong?

WHOA!!! Scratch that! I take it back. If the zombie apocalypse is coming, I don't wanta know. This year has been for the birds. I tell ya, it's enough to make a saint swear.

Come to think of it, birds, too. Yep, I've got it on good authority that birds are fed up with this year, too. Specifically, ever since five African grey parrots were adopted (from five separate sources) by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in London, those angry little guys have been cursing a blue streak. To keep their fowl attitudes from spreading to the other parrots in the sanctuary, the ornery little potty mouths had to be moved away from the others. Quaranteed. So to speak. Hmmmm, I bet that didn't do much to improve their attitudes...

 On the plus side, this year... this pandemic... this unrest... can't last forever. Before we know it, it'll be winter. Then a new year... and hopefully, a better year. A more hopeful year. Less stress. More joy.

                               But FYI: best to be careful this winter. I mean, it's this kinda year...     

 Sure, this year has given us all a ton of challenges, but it hasn't been all bad.  There's been some good stuff, too. Like I found a really good company to fix our air conditioning when it went belly-up smack dab in the middle of our Georgian summer. I've also gotten pretty darned good at fixing toilets, if I must say so myself. Plus, all that hand-washing and disinfecting has made toilet-cleaning easier than ever. It seems the stuff has permeated my skin, so now the toilet gets cleaned every time I tinkle. Woo HOO!  Oooh, and our younger son got me set up on Netflix. Awesome! I loved it, and quickly developed a brand new binge-watching talent. Until it stopped working. (My TV isn't "smart," so he fed the stream through our DVD player... which decided to stop working. ) BUT... a new TV... a "smart" one... is supposed to be delivered today. I also got a cellphone. A first for me. Something I never ever wanted, but I got tired of my friends and family insisting I "had" to get one. So I did. A week ago. I hope they're all happy now. (Just because I have it doesn't mean I'm gonna use it.) Just kidding. A little. At first, I kept it nearby... in its box. Turned off. (sigh) Fine. It's still in its box, but at least, I turned the darned thing on. Baby steps, right?

Anyhow, chins up, people! (Otherwise, you'd be staring at your feet or your boobs all day. And that's just weird.)  Maybe if we were to rate 2020, we'd struggle to give it any stars at all, and we wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but this, too, shall pass. Honest. Sure, if 2020 were a drink, it'd be hemlock or maybe that yummy colonoscopy prep stuff.. If it were a movie, it'd be ... what? Baby Boss, maybe? Sausage Party? Which song...? Oh, I've got it. It'd have to be the dogs barking Jingle Bells. Come on... help. Which song and/or movie do you think suits the essence of 2020? Sock it to me. I've got nothing but time.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


Friday, October 9, 2020

A Salute and a Toot to Sophisticated Humor

After being such a barely there blogger for the past few months, I'm kinda late to the game. You guys got a big ol' fat head start on me, but I'm only just now beginning to "appreciate" the "new and improved" version of Blogger that's been foisted upon us by the mighty blogging powers that be. (Yippee, huh?) Turned out, I freaked out over nothing. Yeah, the draft of this old post looked weird... I mean, the html coding showed in lieu of the pics and videos that were in the earlier post... but that was it. Much to my delight, everything re-appeared like magic once I hit the preview button. So not a big deal. But even if it had been, it would've totally been worth it. See, my wonderful son-in-law is verrrry musically talented (in oh-so many ways) and I simply HAD to rerun this oldie-but-goodie "just for him." And for you guys, too, of course. I mean, we ALL need to lighten up and laugh, right? (Right!)

Thought for the day:  Beans, beans, the musical fruit; the more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot, the better you'll feel, so beans, beans for every meal!

Nope; it wasn't ME!
Have you ever wondered what makes something funny? What makes one person laugh uproariously at a comedian, while the next holds his nose and says the routine stinks?  I mean, we all laugh at something. Even little babies laugh.

Music and laughter ... universal languages. Is there anything better than the sound of a baby's unbridled belly laugh? That in itself sounds like the sweetest music, doesn't it? So we cross our eyes, stick out our tongues, and make all kinds of faces at babies. We tickle their chubby little bellies, make utter fools out of ourselves, and generate weird noises... all in the hopes of getting to hear their precious laughter.

And what, I ask you, does almost every baby in the world think is funny?

                                    Apparently, they're partial to... farts ... those musical toots.

Please don't think lesser of me, but (shhh!) so am I. There must be something wrong with me. Maybe a twisted kink in my DNA helix has stunted my maturation process. That would explain it. Why else would a woman my age still think flatulence is so darned funny?

I know. Embarrassing, isn't it?

What three qualities matter most to you in the people you hang around with? For me, it'd have to be kindness, intelligence, and a good sense of humor. But lately, I've begun to question the quality of my sense of humor, because I must admit, few things are off-limits when it comes to cracking a joke or twisting words into a groan-worthy pun, and it doesn't take much to make me laugh.

Like last week. While talking to a  gastroenterologist's appointment nurse on the phone, I asked her where I should report. Upstairs, where my regular doc saw patients? No, I was to go downstairs. "Figures," I said. "In the bowels of the building." Nothing. (Tough audience.) So I apologized, and said she must hear that all the time. Nope. I was the first. See? Sick sense of humor.

Then there was the time Smarticus came home from a hunting trip and told me about a harrowing experience he'd had after one of the other fellas fell out of a tree stand. While driving his friend to the hospital, my poor hapless hubby looked out his truck window and saw a wheel roll past... HIS wheel. Needless to say, he got everything fixed, and got the guy to the hospital okay, but what would YOU have said to him under the circumstances? Me? I sang. Uh-huh. I sang, You picked a fine time to leave me, loose wheel ...  See? Sick, sick, sick.  But not as sick as my penchant for potty humor.

Years ago, when our daughter was about eleven, she ... how shall I say this ... cut the cheese in church. Not noisily, mind you, but with an exuberant and lingering bouquet. Most normal mothers would have scolded her for not saving her stink for the bathroom, or at least given her a suitably disapproving look. Not me. I leaned over and whispered, "Gives a whole new meaning to church pew, huh?"

Fortunately, we weren't asked to vacate the premises.

This is an ACTUAL musical!
But I can't help it. I think the sounds of  flatulence are absolutely hysterical.

Call me gauche, but the very idea of a musical about a man's fartistic abilities strikes me as fall-down-on-the-floor funny. (I mean, really! Can you imagine a man on stage tooting his arse  like a trumpet?)
But I'm not kidding! 'Twas an honest-to-goodness off-Broadway play intended to delight all lovers of potty humor and "pull my finger" shenanigans. Entitled The Fartiste, this play, based on fart artist (I kid you not!) Joseph Pujol, a 19th century Moulin Rouge tooting star, blasted its way to some great reviews and thunderous applause. Pujol had the unusual ability to suck air in through his anus, and then blow it out again, which enabled him to use his posterior portal to tootle tunes on a trumpet, emulate the sounds of thunder and ripping fabric, and even to blow out the theater's gas jet lights. What can I say? From what I've read about it, the play didn't stink.


  Can you watch this video without laughing? I can't.

A few years ago, Smarticus and I saw two boys in a Dollar Store aisle playing with Whoopee cushions they'd pulled off the shelf. The more rude noises they squeezed out, the more they laughed. Um, me too. Matter of fact, I just HAD to get me one of those things. For one of our grandsons, of course. Didn't mean I couldn't entertain myself by squeezing it as we went through the store. (WHAT? I had to make sure it worked, didn't I?) Anyhow, the intended recipient of the grand gift didn't enjoy it nearly as much as his younger siblings. Especially the twenty-month-old, who would squeeze out a good one, wrinkle his nose, and say, "EWWWWW! Schtinky!" Then he'd laugh hysterically. Um, me too.

It was about then I began to wonder if some aspects of my humor weren't a tad juvenile. I mean, laughing at the same thing a twenty-month-old found amusing? The same thing that makes babies all over the world laugh?

But, as it turns out, I'm not alone. That book on the right? Belongs to my husband. One of our grandsons picked it out for him. The shameful truth is ... our whole family cracks up at bathroom humor.

And we aren't the only ones. The reason for this, I don't know, but many people find flatulence hilarious. Not burps, or hiccoughs, or sneezes ... just poots.

Smarticus once emailed me a newspaper article about a little girl who won a speech contest with her speech about ... you guessed it ... farts. I even read an article in a scientific journal about a medical researcher whose major focus is studying ... you guessed it ...  farts. (Guess his lab is in the bowels of the building too, eh?) Sorry. And another about an Australian study to determine whether pooting in the O.R. could contaminate the field of operation. The conclusion? There's a minute possibility, but only if the perpetrator is naked and taking direct aim at the surgical site. But, don't worry about your surgeon eating beans. According to the study, flatus germs are as benign as the bacteria in your yogurt. Both of these article, I must say, although reporting on the results of serious studies, (or as serious as studies in this particular field can be) were full of puns, innuendos, and fart jokes. Y'know, like something I would've written.

                                                               Kinda made me proud.

So, um bottom line, maybe I'm okay after all. Right. I'm a mature sophisticated woman. (Shut up. This is MY fantasy.) And maybe I'm not the only one with an inner child squealing I don't wanta pull your finger.

So, how's the wind blow with you? Fart jokes crack you up, too, or do they just plain stink?  And what's the most inappropriate thing you've ever said or done in the name of humor? Come on. You can tell me ...

                                There was an old fellow named Clyde
                                Who fell into an outhouse and died.
                                One day, his brother
                                Fell into another,
                                And now they're in-turd side by side.

                                 Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Just Call Me Edison

 Thought for the day: Regret won't change the past. Anxiety won't change the future.

Hi-ya, guys. So how are things going with you?  I know... I know... some days, it feels like a tsunami of anxiety is threatening to engulf the whole darned planet, but hang in there, okay? Just grab yourself a gnarly surfboard so you can ride that wave with a big ol' smile on your face. 

So to speak.

 I mean, we may not be able to change what's happening in the world... or in our lives... but we always always have the power to make the best of it. And we can always always search for the bright spots, the humor, and the hope. If it's too hard to smile, fake it. Whistle a happy tune, people, because we're gonna get through this. Really.

Me? I'm doing okay. I miss the crap out of my husband, but I don't reckon that'll ever change. There's a big ol' empty spot in my heart, but I still have the privilege of knowing a bunch of caring people, and the world doesn't feel empty to me at all. Just... different. It will always be... different. But the stark truth of it is, the long and beautiful saga Mike and I wrote together is over. The ending sucked, and he's gone, but it's time for me to write a new story. My own. 

Yep, time to reinvent myself, because my life ain't over. Not yet. 

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. [George Bernard Shaw]

Mr. Shaw was a brilliant man, but I don't think I need to create myself so much as I need to figure out who the heck I am. See, I've been Mike's wife... or Mike's girlfriend... for well over half a century, and after decades of bending over backwards to accommodate him and keep him happy, I kinda lost myself in the process. Now I'm taking baby steps to find out who I am and what I want. Simple things like putting yummy mushrooms in the lasagna sauce... which he never liked... and  getting rid of some stuff he liked... that I secretly hated. As stereotypically 1950s-like as I was as his wife, he was equally as 1950s-like stereotypical in his role, too. He took care of things. Fixed everything. Took care of the financial planning. Paid all the bills. And I've gotta tell ya, as scared as I was at being thrust into the position of suddenly having to do all of that stuff myself...rising to those tasks has given me a sense of accomplishment. I'm a tad surprised... but also proud. 

I don't know how extreme my makeover is gonna be, but I think it's gonna be okay, and so am I. For quite a while, the changes are mostly gonna be in our house. My raison d'etre right now is getting rid of a bunch of stuff and simplifying everything so it'll be easier for my kids to handle when I shuffle off to join their dad. Oh, and I want to turn one of Mike's many storage areas back into a bedroom... and fit it with a couple of bunk beds. Then, the grandkids can stay with me from time to time. Once the coronavirus has passed and a certain amount of normality has returned to everyday life, there may be more changes. Like... I might like to join our local community theater group. Maybe take tai chi classes. Heck, maybe I'll even learn to tap dance. Who knows? It's a new adventure, and I can set my own path. (Hopefully, my woeful sense of direction won't prove to be too problematic...) The jury is still out as to whether the new me is gonna be a blogger... or a writer. I think so. Maybe. Then again, I might be too busy learning how to play the saxophone... 

Heck, maybe we all need to reinvent ourselves to some extent. No matter how old we are, or what our circumstances may be, it's not too late to climb out of that rut to explore new things and learn how to bloom again. How about you? What new things might you try?

Don't ever feel like your best days are behind you. Reinvention is the purest form of hope. Make today your best yet. [Phil Wohl]

Okay, so I'll be Edison... who wants to be Tesla...?

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                              Still feeling a little blah? This video's guaranteed to lift you up.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Treading Water

 Thought for the day: It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we love. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.{Lemony Snicket]

Hi. Last time I posted was July 24, when I told you the end was near. It was even nearer than I feared. The love of my life took his last breath the very next day, and life will never again be the same. 

And yet, somehow, life goes on. It's chaotic, a little scary and sometimes overwhelming, but there are still moments of levity amid the tears. Our daughter Sunshine spent the night on the 24th, and my gal pal Pam was planning to stay the next night. I guess you could say they were kinda circling the proverbial wagons around me, offering their support and trying to shield me from what we all knew was coming. I'll be forever grateful Sunshine was here when Mike died, and even more grateful that she stayed another night. That afternoon, my daughter-in-law Sarge popped in for a surprise visit. She was on her way home to Alabama from visiting a friend in Charlotte, and she just planned to stop by to give me a hug, but she ended up staying overnight, too. Sunshine's husband came over for five hours or so, and I know Mike would've approved of how the four of us spent the evening... we ordered pizza, turned on the music he and I always played while shooting pool... and we shot pool. Sure, there were some tears, but there was plenty of reminiscing and laughter, too.

There's been so much to do, so many things I had to learn to do that I never expected or wanted to do. (Being the adult in charge sucks!) Everything from having to fix a squealing toilet to dealing with all kinds of government agencies and a multitude of banks, insurance companies, and the probate court. Because the titles to all seven of our vehicles are in Mike's name, I have to go through probate before I can have them re-titled in my name. Not a pleasant discovery, I'll tell ya. The will leaves everything to me, but that doesn't matter. Nope, because those stupid titles are in his name, the kids, as heirs, still have to attest not to contest said will. Then the judge will provide me with the required letter to take to the tag-and-title folks so I can change those titles to my name. At that point, I can sign over six of the vehicles to our kids. (Hopefully, before I have to pay insurance on all those buggers.) A tip to you guys: if you're married, consider putting all of your assets in both of your  names. It makes things a lot easier.

To tell the truth, it still doesn't seem real. After being a part of my life for more than sixty years, it doesn't seem possible that he's gone. I arrange his pillow lengthwise in the bed every night, so if I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll see a shape in the dark beside me. Not that I'm fooling myself, but it's a teeny tiny crutch to keep me from breaking down if I open my eyes and see the obvious expanse of empty bed next to me. A million times a day, I think I have to ask him something... or tell him something. If I doze off in front of the TV, I startle awake and immediately look at his half of the love seat. When I don't see him there, my first thought is... he went to bed without me...?

Going through his stuff, I'm astounded at what a pack rat he was, and touched at some of the "treasures" he'd tucked away. Like ticket stubs to the movies, shows, and museums we went to together. Our kids' baby teeth! Poems I'd written to him over the years. Lots of crap, too, like a bazillion cheap hand-outs he'd picked up at the many trade shows he attended over the years. It seems like he placed the same relevance to old yellowed receipts for items we owned forty years ago and to long-defunct insurance policies as he did to current banking, stock information and insurance policies. To be sure, it's been a challenge, and if I continue working at it every day for the rest of my life, I don't think I'll ever get it all squared away. But I'll try. It's my goal to clear things out and simplify things as much as I can to make it easier on the kids when I go to that great big pool parlor in the sky. I sometimes wonder if Mike left me this ungodly mess on purpose... you know, to keep me so busy I don't have much time to think or wallow in grief.

I have a feeling he's watching and laughing his ass off at me trying to figure it all out. Before we were married, he took great pleasure in driving me to the middle of nowhere and challenging me to find the way back home. Me?  Directionally challenged me? Oh yeah, I got us home eventually, but sometimes we meandered in clueless circles for hours, until he'd start saying things like, "Are you sure you want to go that way?"  Laughing. Making me laugh. Reminding me that we both had to go to work the next day...

Now, I'm struggling to navigate through a whole new kind of existence, and he's no longer here to nudge me in the right direction. I'll undoubtedly make some wrong turns, and sometimes, I feel a tsunami of emotions washing over me, but I'm treading water as fast as I can. So far, so good. I like to think he's somehow helping me keep my head above the water. 

There's a shelf above the big-screen TV in our pool room. That's where his ashes rest... right in front of a triangularly-folded U.S. flag,...and surrounded by five smile-inducing minions. I think he'd like that. 

My kids, grandkids, and friends... including you guys... have been tremendously supportive. In a way, lots of people are helping me keep my head above the water. That's good. After all, Mike might have something better to do these days. I sincerely hope so.

                                Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

I've told my kids that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. To me, death is a graduation. [Elisabeth Kubler-Ross]

Friday, July 24, 2020

Another Update

 Thought for the day:  Appreciation is the highest form of prayer, for it acknowledges the presence of good wherever you shine the light of your thankful thoughts. [Alan Cohen]

May, 2019, when we were in Charleston celebrating our 50th anniversary
First off, let me express my sincere appreciation for all of you guys and your continued thoughts and prayers. Your kind words have meant the world to me, and they've never failed to put a smile on my face. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

What can I say? The end is near. As much as I hate to say it, or to even think it, I know it to be true. I can't bear the thought of losing him, but I also know he wouldn't want to live like this, either. No one would. It's beyond horrifying what cancer does to the human body. I lie on the bed beside him and hold his hand. Stroke his arm. But I don't know if he even knows I'm there. I like to think he does, but I don't know, because it isn't really him any more. It's some bizarre bastardized shell of who he used to be.

The end will come as a blessing. For him. But God forgive me, not for me.

I know. It isn't about me. That's what I tell myself umpteen times a day when the tears start to fall. It's about him and about me taking care of him, but it's so hard to think of a world without him in it. It's hard to think of the things he'll never do again... all the things we'll no longer be able to do together. After knowing someone for more than sixty years, it's terrifying to envision the enormous vacuum he's going to leave behind.

Thank God for the hospice nurse. Mike didn't want any part of anyone else from hospice coming, and he didn't want any part of having a hospital bed, either, but he did agree to let the nurse come. Everyone keeps telling me to get the hospital bed, because it'd be easier for me. But that isn't the point, is it? He wants to die in his own bed. Without benefit of some stranger... i.e. a nurse's aide... taking care of him.  End of discussion, even if he can no longer speak for himself. That's what he told me, and my only choice is to honor his wishes.

Anyhow, the nurse... Kathy... has been coming twice a week to check Mike's vitals, and after a couple of weeks, she arranged her schedule so her visit with us is the last stop of her workday. That way, she can hang around and spend as much time here as she'd like. Really cool, huh? Yesterday, she was here for more than two hours. Talk about a blessing. We just talk (and talk and talk...) like normal people. And laugh. She feels more like a friend than someone who's here to do a job, and her visits are helping preserve my sanity. (Because no matter what anyone tells you, doing in-home hospice is HARD. The hardest thing I've ever done.) She says she spends more time with me because she likes me. Whether that's the case, or she simply sees me as someone desperately in need of company, I appreciate the living daylights out of her.

She agrees that the end is near. That means she'll be back today... and every day... for as long as I need her. Says I can call her any time, day or night.

I think there's gotta be a special place in Heaven for people like her, don't you?

So, bottom line, he's still hanging on, but just barely. As hard as it is, I'm grateful. We've had more years than most, and we sure had a helluva run.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come. [Rabindranath Tagore]

Friday, June 19, 2020

A Quick Update

Hi-ya, guys. I just wanted to take a sec to update y'all on what's happening with us. First off, thank you so much for your continued support and caring messages. I appreciate them more than I can say. Bottom line, we're now doing hospice care in our home. This isn't the outcome we would've chosen, but we're blessed to have had so many years together. Sure, we would've liked to have had another 51 years of marriage... hey! we coulda made it into the Guinness book of world records... but no, alas, that's not to be. Things are kinda rough right now, but the hospice folks are a Godsend, and somehow, somehow, I'll make it through. I think. I dunno when.... or even if... I'll return to blogging. But if I can... I will.

Y'all take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 29, 2020

More Than a Number

Thought for the day:  Time is but a stream I go a-fishin' in.  I drink at it, but while I drink, I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  Its thin current slips away, but eternity remains. [Henry David Thoreau]

I didn't just want to go fishing in it; I wanted to stand in it. I wanted to feel the waters of time swirl around my feet, to be made poignantly aware once again of its dual nature of fleeting and eternal. I wanted to hear the haunting call of the seagulls, and breathe in the distinctive briny scent of the ocean. And five years ago...when Smarticus took this picture of me at Myrtle Beach... he and and our friends Kati and Cliff allowed me to do just that. Even though none of them share my passion for the ocean, they indulged me by granting me some time to stand in the surf and replenish my soul. I appreciated it more than I could say. Having them do that for me was humbling and made me feel cared for.

Recently, while struggling to keep my footing in a surf of swirling emotions, I momentarily felt as alone as I look in that photo. As a number of you already know, Smarticus... AKA Mike... my Number One and only... went into the hospital last week. Watching that ambulance take him away and knowing that because of coronavirus safety precautions, we can't see each other while he's there, was as painful as a kick in  in the solar plexus. With a steel-toed pointy boot. But thankfully, that devastating feeling of being totally alone has passed.

Our kids and friends circled the wagons, reminding me that I'm not alone at all... and that circle includes you guys. I'm humbled by your expressions of concern, and I appreciate your outreach more than I can say. Thank you.

We can... and do... talk on the phone multiple times a day.  He's been getting treatments to ease his pain and make him more comfortable, and he'll be transferred to an acute physical therapy place today, where the hope is to get him back on his feet again so he can come home. Believe me, if anybody can accomplish that, he can. Then we'll be ready to tackle whatever comes next. For more than 51 years, I've leaned on him, and now it's his turn. He can relax and lean on me now, and much to my surprise, I've discovered that I'm more than strong enough to hold us both up. We've got this, and we're still laughing together... even if it's only over the phone for now.

I'd planned to post the following video last Friday for Memorial Day, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. But ya know what? It isn't too late to post it. I'm one of those strange folks who still thinks of Memorial Day as falling on May 30, as opposed to the last Monday of the month, so as far as I'm concerned, this post is right on time.

Yesterday's newspaper said we've now surpassed 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus here in the U.S. It's hard to wrap our minds around such a big number, isn't it? Hard to imagine such a profound loss. It's as difficult to assimilate the number of global deaths from this virus as it is to grasp the huge numbers representing the men and women who've died during wartime. Stark heartless numbers tend to dehumanize the reality of each of those individual deaths. In 2013, British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss organized an amazing artistic endeavor called The Fallen that poignantly depicts the reality of the 9000 who lost their lives on the beaches of Normandy:

To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace. [engraved on the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial]

[Yes, that's my hubby in the header pic... taken when he was a grunt in Vietnam. He's writing me a letter...]

       Again, thank you all. Your caring truly lifted me up. And psssst... keep smiling. I am.

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Vive Les Differences!

Thought for the day: Do you think God gets stoned? I think so... look at the platypus. [Robin Williams]

[image: wikipedia]
You ever feel like you're moving in slow motion? Unmotivated and more than a little lazy?

(ahem) Yeah, me neither.

Who am I kidding? Lately, I feel like my inner self is turning into a sloth.

Not that I don't appreciate the sloth, mind you... I do. With that Chewbacca-like long hair and those diva-like long nails, it's a veritable glamour queen of the animal world, and it undeniably marches to the beat of its own drummer. A verrrry slow beat. But as much as I appreciate the sloth, one of the animals I appreciate even more is the wonderful, amazing, totally unique duck-billed platypus. Talk about individuality! I dunno if Robin Williams was right to say God was stoned when he created the platypus, though. I prefer to think of the platypus as being the manifestation of a great sense of humor.

[image: wikipedia]
I mean, really. Think about it. The platypus has clawed feet in the rear, webbed feet in front, a beaver-like tail, otter-like fur, and a soft pliable duck-like bill. Believe it or not, this unusual-looking guy shares DNA with mammals, birds, AND reptiles. It's as though he were made from a bunch of spare parts, all thrown together willy-nilly. (The original case of cosmic recycling?)

I like the duck-billed platypus
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family,
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude. [Ogden Nash]

Um, then again, maybe the platypus wasn't one of the original animals from the get-go. Maybe there was a little bit of (ahem) hanky panky taking place on that ark...

Alas, most of us will never have the pleasure of seeing a duck-billed platypus in person, although it's one of those bucket list kinda things for me. You folks in Australia might not even ever see one in the wild, because they're pretty introverted and vant to be alone most of the time. But at least you guys have the option of seeing them in your zoos and conservation facilities. (Lucky you!)

Some interesting fun facts about the platypus:
  • They don't have stomachs! (So that's how they stay so slim...) Instead, like fish, they have a gullet that connects directly to their intestines.
  • Their bills are covered with thousands of super-sensitive cells that detect the electric fields of other critters... kinda like a sixth sense. When a platypus goes underwater, a protective flap of skin covers his eyes and ears, making him both blind and deaf, but his bill more than makes up for it. That handy dandy electrolocation ability in his bill takes over and allows him to zero right in on his prey.  
  • They're one of only two egg-laying mammals in the world. (The other is the echidna, also native to Australia.) And although they lactate, they have no nipples! What they do have are mammary glands, and their babies simply suck the milk from their mother's abdominal skin or fur.
  • The males have a venomous spur on each hind leg, which is only activated during mating season, presumably to prevent other amorous males from getting too chummy with their ladies. 
[image of spur: wikipedia]
  • The webbing on their front feet is retractable. It helps them swim in the water... using their front legs, like a doggy paddle... and then retracts on land to reveal sharp claws.
  • They have no teeth. The adults don't, anyway. (Babies have tiny teeth, but they don't last long, and once they fall out, they don't grow new ones.) They scoop up gravel from the river bottom to use as makeshift teeth to grind their food. Pretty cool, huh?
  • Their tails may look like beaver tails, but they serve a different purpose. Platypuses don't use them to slap the water as a warning, like beavers do. Nearly half of their body's fat is stored in the tail... kinda like a back-up pantry... and it serves as a food source during times of scarcity. Moms also shelter their incubating eggs against their warm bodies with those tails. 
  • Know what platypus babies are called? Puggles! Isn't that adorable? Wouldn't you love to snuggle with a puggle...? (They're such spiffy dressers!)

                                    Is it any wonder I'm so enamored of these creatures?

In December of 2019, there were so many duck-billed platypuses in Australia, they were deemed common. (As if!) Sadly, as of January of this year, they've joined the ranks of endangered species, due largely to drought and wildfires. Thankfully, there are many people dedicated to saving them... like these folks with the Taronga Zoo in Sydney:

If you're like me, that isn't NEARLY enough footage of these critters. So how about  a little bit more?

There are sooooo many incredible, awe-inspiring creatures in this world of ours, but to me, the duck-billed platypus is in a class by itself. Truly unique, in every sense of the word... kinda like... us! So I say embrace your differences, people! Celebrate the unique! You may not have the privilege of being a platypus, but, by golly, YOU are the only YOU in the entire world. Like the platypus, you are truly one of a kind.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot. Did you ever wonder what a platypus sounded like? Well... wonder no more:
                                                                (You're welcome!)

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

In the Zone

Thought for the day:  Hopeful thinking can get you our of your fear zone and into your appreciation zone.  [Martha Beck]

Yes, indeedy. It's that time again, people.  Yet another month has slipped through our fingers, and it is once again time for our IWSG monthly posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. I'm telling ya, this group offers better support and lift than the world's most expensive bra. (No pesky underwires, either!) To join this super duper supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Well, yes sirree, I took most of the month of April off from blogging, ostensibly to get back to my poor neglected manuscript, which has been gathering dust for the past year. I knew it would be difficult to get back into the groove after so long, but um, I failed to even find the darned groove. To tell the truth, I didn't spend much time looking for it, either. I still believe in the value of the story I want to tell, but the truth is, I don't know if I can regain the enthusiasm it requires to get 'er done or not. At least, not right now, because I'm having a hard time believing writing even... matters. (Yeah, I know. Blasphemy, eh?) But I'm not quite ready to give up yet.

Because of my current situation, this month's question is particularly pertinent:

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

[image: unsplash]
Well, that's a real challenge, isn't it? Or as someone much smarter than I said, "Therein lies the rub..."

OY! I'd LOVE to get back into the normal zone again. I really would. I'd love to fire that ol' football into the end zone in a perfect spiral, right into the hands of a deft receiver. Woo HOO! Touchdown!

Or, um... I'd settle for a few successfully written pages.

Unfortunately, I seem to have... dropped the ball. And rather than trying to recover it, I've retreated to the bench. I don't feel like playing.

The zone is a state of mind which is marked by a sense of calmness. In addition, there is a heightened sense of awareness and focus. Actions seem effortless and there is an increased belief that your dreams or goals can become achievable and real. In addition, there is also a sense of deep enjoyment when the person is in this unique, special, and magical state of being. [Dr. Jay Granat, sports psychologist]

[image: unsplash]
You ever been in that kind of zone? The closest I've ever been was at the bowling alley some years ago. At the time, I bowled on multiple leagues, and I was pretty good... but certainly not great. But that one night... it was as though I could do no wrong. STRIKE! STRIKE! STRIKE! Some of my balls curved into the pocket like magic, but even the ones that weren't exactly on target resulted in yet another strike. It was incredible! A crowd gathered behind our lanes, watching and cheering me on, but  I could barely hear them for the pounding of my heart. I could barely breathe.

And I blew it. Got a split in the tenth frame and ended up with a 261. But man oh man, it sure felt good while it lasted. It felt good when I was writing regularly every day, too, but if I were to compare what's happening now to what happened in that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to roll a perfect game, I haven't just rolled a split in the tenth frame. I didn't roll a ball at all. I simply shoved it back into my bag and retreated to the lounge to sing some karaoke.

[image: unsplash]

Alas, my bowling days are over, but it's probably just as well. Judging by how lost I feel these days, I'd probably roll the ball in the wrong direction.

It's the same with writing. I've been in the zone there before, too, but I'm having a hard time finding my way back. Then again, I'm not looking very hard, either.

[image: unsplash]

Sure, I used to have some writing rituals. I learned to write first thing in the morning... before I even allowed myself to read the newspaper. And I'd stop writing for the day right in the middle of a scene, which made it easier to get back to it the next day.

Now, it's like my inner self is rebelling. Reading the newspaper comes first. Writing generally loses out, because there's always something else that requires my attention.

Clearly, I need some new rituals if I ever want to finish my book(s). (Or maybe I just need to get back to the old rituals.)

                                                    But rituals don't always work.

[image: wikimedia]
Not that I'm not in the zone... of course I am! For better or worse, we're all in some kinda zone. The problem is, it feels like I've ventured into the twilight zone.

Life has been rather surreal for the past year. Between my husband's whack-a-mole battles with cancer and now, this pandemic, somehow, whether or not I write doesn't seem to matter very much in the scheme of things, ya know?

What matters most is spending time with  my husband. What matters is laughing and making the most of each day. In due time, perhaps writing will regain its level of importance in my life that it once enjoyed. But ya know what? If it doesn't, I'm okay with that. Life is good. And besides, writing isn't the only game in town. (Think I'm too old for football...?)

How about you? How do you get... and keep... yourself in the zone? Go on... I'm all ears...

                                        Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.