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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Year End Review/Memories

At the end of 2005, I thought things couldn't get any worse...but I was wrong. I'll never say never again.

Yet, this past year has to be one of the worst I've ever lived through (with the exception of my entire childhood).

A rundown list:

1. February 21st, my husband died of acute leukemia/heart attack.

2. I sold the farm, did major clean-out work, went through h@ll trying to sort through all manner of stuff DH owned -- three outbuildings, a barn, and more.

3. I moved back to the city -- which I consider a good thing, BUT had to have the house I bought renovated and that was an ordeal (since all work had to be hired out).

4. Early summer, one of my brothers-in-law's father died. This particular brother-in-law was supposed to help me since I'd given him all of DH's tools/etc. And he did, to some extent, but for a long period -- unfortunately during the time I was going through a move -- he couldn't do much.

5. My only renter of the house where we'd lived 20+ years moved, so I had to do extensive cleaning, etc. before finding another renter. So far, it seems as if I did get good renters -- but time will tell.

6. My step-father unexpectedly died in his sleep, early November. That meant my mother couldn't live in their home, financially OR physically, since he'd been her main support. That situation is still unresolved, but for now, mother is living with my middle two sisters. The house/property is sold, the closing tomorrow. There's unavoidable tension between one of my sisters and the other three, but in time, maybe that will resolve itself.

7. In mid-December, my other brother-in-law's uncle died; my brother-in-law is executor of his estate (since the aunt is dead, and they had no children). Lots of work dealing with the disposal of a large farm, and all that entails, added to my sister's current problems with mother.

8. Mother's place had to be totally cleared out by me and my sisters/brothers-in-law. NOT a small task, and we're still not finished.

So, that's the negative side. All told, I've been working on houses/clearing out/moving for about 3+ years now, and darn if I'm not sick and tired of it. The whole thing started when we moved to the country, and renovated the farmhouse...and still hasn't ended.

The positives:

1. I adopted two little dogs I love unreservedly; and who give me total unconditional love in return.

2. I still have my six cats, with no major illnesses.

3. I feel fairly healthy (but who ever knows, really?)

4. I'm fiancially secure, or at least what passes for it in this country (NOT rich).

5. And NOW I have DSL internet, a MAJOR improvement over dialup internet!!

Today I took a trip down memory lane, went by the farm where we lived. The young couple have made it look wonderful, and I even stopped and petted the goat and two pot-belly pigs they have now. So CUTE! All their horses look great too. Also, two cats came from the backporch, and wanted me to pet them(one looked suspiciously like the barn cat who had been in the big barn). I'm glad to know that what DH and I did with the house renovation, building a big barn, is being taken care of and expanded. That makes me happy and I know it would make DH feel so proud of the young couple, and ME, for finding them to carry on there.

I wish everyone who reads my blog a HAPPY NEW YEAR. And as I stated at last year's end, NOW to 2006: "Goodbye and don't let the door hit you in the @ss on the way out!"

I sure hope next year is better for me, yet we just never know what's around the next curve in life.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas, Etc.

Today was a gorgeous day...nearly 65, sunny, no wind. I took the dogs for an early morning walk in the neighborhood, then did some housework, etc.

Later, I went on a long bike ride and when I returned, I decided to take the dogs to the nearby park. I let them into the car, halters/leashes on, and we went to the park where I used to bike. Rambo is very serene when riding; he will even lie on the seat and make no fuss. Oscar, however, wants to stand at the side window and look out, slobbering on it too. He whines, whines, whines...but once we were at the park, they had a GREAT time. There's a small wooded section, and I let them romp through it as if they were actually out in the woods somewhere. On the return trip, I parted the window a little, and Oscar loved sticking his nose out, just to get a whiff of whatever we passed. I'm hoping I can get them both accustomed to traveling in the car, so I can take them to different places for walks.

Yesterday we all met at my mother's place, and cleared out more stuff. All the closets are empty now, and we had two pickup trucks full of discards: some to the Goodwill, some to the dump. Exhausting, not to mention that it rained all day and was dismal. We think one more full day of work will have the place cleared out for the new buyers, but that will probably be sometimes in early January.

Late in the day, after I returned home, one of DH's fellow workers dropped by to give me a keepsake from this year's rodeo. The rodeo was dedicated to DH this year, and though I didn't go, the co-worker told me all about it and gave me the program to keep. I was afraid I'd cry through the ceremony, so I just didn't go. And he understood, I suppose.

No family gathering for Christmas this year. We all decided to cancel it; my sister who usually hosts it is exhausted from taking care of mother, and having her own two grown kids/grandkids there on Christmas, so we decided against it. I had already made a decision NOT to go, and don't regret that. Every time we get together there, I remember DH so much; it feels like he should be in the other room joking with the kids, or talking to my brothers-in-law. It will be easier for me to spend this holiday alone.

And finally, I decided on my Christmas gift to myself: DSL internet from Bellsouth. It will cost $25.00 a month, but I think it'll be worth it. Since I moved back to town, the slooooooooooow dialup speed has been horrendous; it takes me FOREVER to get anything done online, and all the websites with video, pictures are virtually inaccessible. Which means MOST of the websites, since between flashing/java ads and loads of other unnecessary crap, it takes too long. My DSL modem arrives next week, and I will install it myself.

For all my readers, I wish you a Merry Christmas and that you remember to cherish the moments you have with a beloved spouse; it can end in a flash, without warning.

And then for a laugh, I have to post this tacky photo I found recently on the web:

Merry Redneck Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Burnt Cookies

Okay, I know some of my readers will think, "Ah, NOW she's totally lost her mind." But...bear with me.

The other day I was watching Oprah and she had a female guest, Anousheh Ansari, who had "lived her dream" of going into space. Yep, Ansari had the big bucks, 20 mil, and paid her way into orbit. I don't really have any objections to people doing this, since there is no use in elaborating on what 20 mil would do to help starving, screaming, sick humans/animals, so don't even think of that pointless reasoning. No one wants to hear about that, otherwise there wouldn’t BE starvation, suffering, wars, stupidity the world over.

At any rate, when the spacecraft docked with the space-station, the astronauts told Ansari she'd get a whiff of what outer space smells like. It would be brief, fleeting, but indeed, she could "smell" space. And of course, Oprah asked her, "So what did it smell like?" And Ansari said, "Burnt cookies."

I almost fell out of my chair laughing...with mirth. Come on, there is a LOT of burning/blazing/exploding stars and stuff is REALLY cooking (at evil hot temps) all over the cosmos, so of course, it smells like something is burning.

Then I laughed even harder, because it occurred to me that...what if...we are ALL (the cosmos included) actually in HELL, with all this burning going on, and don't realize it? I have always thought that humanity and earth, and possibly the whole shebang (cosmos too) is some sort of crazy, awful dungeon from which escape is impossible (except via death -- which might be even worse). Isn't that the Biblical definition of Hell? I'd say we are closer to Hell than Heaven, by any estimation.

Oh, you don't agree? IF we were all in Hell, wouldn't there be groups who'd think not, who'd think it was actually Heaven, that we condemned humans were special, some who'd make-up religious crap, who'd try to "figure it all out" as scientist do (but be stymied at every turn)...on and on, ad nauseam?

Just think about it: that's your philosophy lesson for today from yours truly, Mad, Mad World.

P.S. I’m NOT in a depressed mood; just thought this idea was too good to pass up!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pictures & more

Thought I'd post a couple pictures of my house/fence, since I haven't had a current photo on the blog recently. These will show the shutters I painted gray back in the fall, and the new wood fence.

Note, still NO seamless gutters. The guy who gave me an estimate has failed to show up now for a month. I think I've given him PLENTY of time, and after the holidays, I'll find a professional to do the job. What I'm learning is that you pay MORE for professionals, but they get the job done pronto and do what they promise. There are a lot of "so-called part-time workers" and frankly, they just do not deliver. Best tip I found on is once you find reliable help, keep their phone numbers on a list and always call them for necessary repairs or whatever.

Here's the pictures (still the old cheap camera):

The gray shutters/door match the roof well, I think.

LOVE this fence. Need to get a photo of how my carport is now a nice refuge/private place, almost like a patio

And now a couple pictures of Oscar. He has become the most spoiled dog brat EVER! He stays inside more than outside and LOVES his long walks through the neighborhood, as does Rambo. But Oscar starts whining around the time I usually take them on the walk, and will NOT stop until he gets his walk. I've met LOTS of people in the neighborhood on walks, know just about everyone around here. One elderly man drives a golf cart and carries his 2-month old daschund (Clyde) with him; he stopped beside me the other day, and asked about Oscar. It's amazing how walking dogs attracts others with dogs and sort of encourages meeting new people.

And speaking of new people, a young couple moved into the house behind me -- our yards join and share a chainlink fence. They moved from Nebraska, and have several large pure-bred Mastiff's (one is a show dog). And though there are dogs all in the neighborhood, there's no problem with barking at night since we all keep them inside!!!

Between the long walks with the dogs and biking, I get plenty of healthy exercise too!

Oscar loves his naps!

"Mom, it's time for our walk, NOW!

Undecided about Christmas, but I think I'll spend it alone. Might prepare a feast of food I hardly ever eat, and just pig out -- save the leftovers for later. And I also might spend the day (between eating/pigging out) writing a short story. Maybe next year I'll volunteer to help the elderly or do something like that, but this year, I think I need to be ALONE and creative.

As for a gift for myself, I probably won't buy a new digital camera. I've had so many expenses lately (at this house and the rental) that I won't splurge on any gift/gifts. However, I will eventually buy a new camera, just not now. At any rate, Rambo and Oscar are the BEST gifts I've given myself this year anyway. Never a dull moment with those two around, and there is ALWAYS unconditional love from them and my cats. Now that IS worth living for.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Understanding grief

Excellent article online here:

Bereavement and Grief

Perhaps some insight for those who have never lost a loved one, either husband or whoever was the most important person in their life.

Horrid day. Had to have plumbers out to repair leaking shower, which ended up with new shower equipment, hole in the wall to get to pipes for replacement, new apparatus in commode so it would flush properely. Dropped nearly $500.00 on that puppy...but hey, at least the plumber showed up and did the job TODAY. Called this morning, so that is kinda warp speed for most jobs.

Yesterday my nextdoor neighbor installed a doggie door for me -- free. Said it was an early Christmas gift. He did it in 30 minutes -- like DH could have. It's amazing what you can do with the right tools and a bit of know-how.

Oscar LOVES the dog door, is constantly in and out. But Rambo is scared of it, and I have only coaxed him through it a couple times. Wonder why? Maybe he had some trauma in the past about going through small holes? Who knows?

Another death: brother-in-law's uncle passed away. I just could not go for the visitation since the deceased is at the same funeral home where DH was. And I can't go to the funeral either; it's just too soon -- especially just having my step-dad die early last month.

I'm beginning to believe this quirky take on a quote:

"It's always darkest...just before it goes totally black."

I won't say this year can't get any worse, because it always can. But I'll say this: the only funeral I'll be attending again this year would HAVE to by my own.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Seeing Ghosts....

When my father died at age 42, all of us were in shock. I remember the LONG sleepless nights, the horrible reality of bleak days. Sure, he was an alcoholic, abusive, disturbed (whatever term you want to call it) but I guess I always hoped he'd improve, get better, get over it...whatever.

He was a long-distance truckdriver and for YEARS after he died, I'd see truckers in profile, shadowy in their truck cabs and think it was daddy. He really wasn't dead, it was all a mistake. Once, DH and I went to see a movie (early 70s) with Steve McQueen, and I thought that HE was the spitting image of daddy. YES, they resembled one another...but not THAT much. It was a nightmare, plain and simple.

When we were at my daddy's funeral, I had this awful thought that the only way the situation could be worse was IF it was DH who died. I was young, fragile, and DH was always there for me.

When DH died, I could not look at a patrol car or horse or ANYTHING that he was part of, that he cared about, without crying. I still find that difficult even now.

Isn't it strange how we think that we humans can arrange and plan our lives, when in fact, we have no control. The ONLY true fact is this: "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." Too bad I can't claim that wisdom as my own.

Just having a really sad, bad night.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Belated update

This past week has been hectic. We had a couple more full days at my mother's place, clearing out stuff, disposing, sorting, etc. NOT fun.

I got my dental work finished (for now), new glasses (which I hate because of the "progressive lenses" and will take back for basic tri-focals), yadda, yadda, yadda. Mother is still living with the same sister, and though she DOES qualify for quite a good bit of income from the VA -- she can't get it for NINE months. Ahem! That is thanks to our dear prez. (And I have noticed that Iraq is now into civil war, a total disaster and ahem!, didn't I call that at the VERY start of the whole shebang!)

In the meantime, war has broken out here between my two middle sisters, since they seem to be saddled with my mother. I told them I will NOT have her stay here more than a couple days. So the one sister who told mother's doctor SHE would let mother live with her is now "up the creek without a paddle." Mother's GP was filling out forms for "assisted care" when this sister volunteered. Now she will have to go back and tell him she can't manage all that physical care: and it is a LOT. Mother is a diabetic, had a stroke some years ago, cannot get up and down steps without assistance, is incontinent and more. Surely more than I could manage.

This afternoon I went to see a movie alone, just one of those "chick flicks" -- The Holiday. I didn't know if it'd be all that great, but knew if it involved scenes of a cottage in England, it'd be great. I LOVE the English countryside, and cannot resist a good movie with fabulous "big-screen" imagery of it. The movie has an interesting premise: two women exchange houses for a "vacation." There are many websites with ACTUAL people wanting to do this very thing, so it's not that unusual. And it was a romantic comedy, but turned out to be a little more serious than I thought. Overall though, a good movie.

Today there was an ad in the local newspaper seeking a news reporter. Should I apply or not? Ah, the million dollar question. Haven't decided just yet. I may or may not.

More later.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A year ago...

I wish I could say I have some "happy" memories of my last birthday, but not really. I do recall that DH had a bad leg/foot injury from the LAST horse-ride he went on.

I love critters, I really do. My life attests to that, from the cat/dog rescues. But I also have my limits: I cannot handle a critter too large, too dangerous. Even the miniature horses I rescued were a bit too big for me to care for. Certainly, I learned that lesson again this past summer when I adopted a dog too large for me to take care of, and had to return it to the vet who raised it. (Otter is still there, perhaps happy to be in a familiar place.)

DH loved horses, perhaps to his own detriment. On his last horseback ride in the forest (with buddies) he had his first ever accident, and in some ways, it was a fatal one. I recall that after the oncologist told us he had leukemia, and said that "something" must have triggered it...I thought it was the heart medications, Plavix, Lipitor, etc. But I remember DH just looked at me, and said, "No, it was that." And he pointed at the spot on his leg where the horse had hurt him so badly.

Here's an excerpt from an entry about that last year:

DH's broken toes are healing well; however, he has a nasty-looking bruise/gash on his shin that happened at the same time. Apparently the horse's hoof hit DH's shin first, which is a more serious problem. The orthopedic doctor has him on the antibiotic cipro, and he's wearing a "boot" brace. But the shin wound keeps getting irritated, and is badly swollen, tender, sore, hot. He is following doctor's orders, but having some pain with that area. We just hope it heals, and the infection responds to the cipro.

He's beginning to have doubts about the whole horse thing, now that he realizes the complications that can arise from injuries and/or the medications. I wouldn't be as alarmed over him having minor accidents if he were not on so much heart medication that can truly cause complications. For example, the Plavix thins his blood so much that the least little bump produces a HUGE knot/bruise which takes days, if not weeks, to heal. IF he should ever get a head injury, we both fear that the bleeding around his brain would be a disaster!

Frankly, if it were me, I'd half the dosage of ALL the doctor has ordered. Once I was on extremely dangerous medication, and had I not cut it waaaay lower than the recommended dosage (eventually stopped taking it without the nephrologist's permission), I'm sure I'd be dead by now -- not from the kidney ailment I have, but from the "medication." But he has to make his own choices and decisions.

I don't know IF the horse injury triggered the leukemia; something did, but I still believe it was a combination of various things that happened and his medications. Plus, there was a definite "genetic" link to acute leukemia in his family -- unknown to us until he fell ill.

At any rate, a LOT of my "rationlizations" this year for his untimely death are similar to Joan Didion's book about her first year as a widow: The Year of Magical Thinking. We always want a reason why someone, especially a spouse, dies unexpectedly.

Perhaps though, as DH so often said, and as one of my former reporter friends said, "Shit happens." No more, no less than that. Who really knows? I don't. BUT I do know that DH DID think his leg injury contributed to his development of leukemia. He had so little time to consider his dire circumstances, and maybe that was for the best. He went to sleep after one chemo treatment, and just never woke up.

Today was a bitch! Family all worked to get mother's place cleared out, but still have to return on Monday and finish the task. Mother seems to be in that fog I was in, sort of between worlds. Of course, as I had figured, my sisters have realized they can't care for her, and are desperately looking into "assisted living" places...though until mother knows the exact amount of funds (SSI and VA benefits) she'll receive, there's no way to know if she can afford that. In the long run, she may end up in a nursing home.

I'm just rambling, thinking of the most horrible year of my life thus far. I can't wait for it be OVER, and hopefully start a new year that will be better.

Happy myself. So far, a survivor!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Leaves are all gone...

Thank goodness! I've raked leaves from one huge Bradford Pear tree for at least two weeks, off and on. And while I love it, I'll have to have it removed before spring. Turns out that I can't get an awning/extension beyond my (now fenced) carport (zone ordinances), and this tree is ruining my car! I won't miss raking all the leaves though.

I have several smaller trees in the backyard, and have it all tidy, neat now too. Seems like I've worked for a week or so on getting my yard in good shape, and next summer I plan to mow my own lawn too. Just got to find the right lawnmower (push, not riding) and think of it as GREAT exercise!

Tomorrow all the family is meeting at my mother's house to sort out and dispose/store most of her stuff. She will be going into assisted living soon, if the financial stuff works out, and her place is in the process of being sold. I dread the work, and it hasn't been that long since I had to do the same kind of grueling emotional/physical labor in clearing outbuildings, barns, house, etc after DH died. Must be done though, no use complaining.

Today I took Rambo and Oscar (separately) on long walks; I want them to know the neighborhood, in case they get loose they'll be able to find their way back home. Then around 4:00 in the afternoon, the gate was barely open (I was bringing in the rake) and sure enough, Rambo shot out of it and took off. I called him a couple times, then just left the gate slightly open to see if he'd return. Within FIVE minutes he was at the back door, whining to come inside!!! I try my best NOT to let them out of the fence, but accidents do happen and it's best if they "know" the neighborhood and how to get home.

I also took these cute photos this afternoon. It was only in the 40s here today, so I put their "outfits" on them, and let them romp in the backyard for awhile.

Oscar mugging for the camera

Rambo at the fence by neighbor's dogs

Rambo doing his favorite thing: digging!

There's more, but I'll post them later. I do hope to find a new digital camera soon, maybe next week.

And I'll end with a list of rules for dating I found on

If a man wants you, nothing can keep him away. If he doesn't want you, nothing can make him stay.

Stop making excuses for a man and his behavior.

Allow your intuition (or spirit) to save you from heartache.

Stop trying to change yourselves for a relationship that's not meant to be.

Slower is better.

Never live your life for a man before you find what makes you truly happy.

If a relationship ends because the man was not treating you as you deserve then heck no, you can't "be friends." A friend wouldn't mistreat a friend.

Don't settle.

If you feel like he is stringing you along, then he probably is.

Don't stay because you think "it will get better." You'll be mad at yourself a year later for staying when things are not better.

The only person you can control in a relationship is you.

Avoid men who've got a bunch of children by a bunch of different women. He didn't marry them when he got them pregnant, why would he treat you any differently?

Always have your own set of friends separate from his.

Maintain boundaries in how a guy treats you.

If something bothers you, speak up.

Never let a man know everything. He will use it against you later.

You cannot change a man's behavior. Change comes from within.

Don't EVER make him feel he is more important than you are...even if he has more education or is in a better job.

Do not make him into a quasi-god. He is a man, nothing more nothing less.

Never let a man define who you are.

Never borrow someone else's man.

If he cheated with you, he'll cheat on you.

A man will only treat you the way you ALLOW him to treat you.

All men are NOT dogs.

You should not be the one doing all the bending...compromise is a two-way street.

You need time to heal between relationships... there is nothing cute about baggage. Deal with your issues before pursuing a new relationship.

You should never look for someone to COMPLETE you... a relationship consists of two WHOLE individuals... look for someone complimentary...not supplementary.

Dating is fun...even if he doesn't turn out to be Mr. Right.

Make him miss you sometimes... when a man always know where you are, and you're always readily available to him- he takes it for granted.

Don't fully commit to a man who doesn't give you everything that you need.

Keep him in your radar but get to know others.

{By the way, this was written by a man.}

Sunday is my birthday. I'll probably spend it alone. I was looking forward to turning 55 until DH died. I always thought it'd make me eligible for all those 55+ benefits. Now it just seems sad and means I'm getting OLD!