Every year on January 1st my father, G.K. would sit down with his yellow legal tablet and calculate how much money he spent on booze, dogs, and guns. I think he must have been satisfied with the number, because he continued to spend his time and money on booze, dogs, and guns. That’s a good life, no?
His health went south in his late 60’s and he paid the price. He had a series of small strokes and ultimately died from a heart attack the day he was to enter the nursing home. It took about 10 years to die. That’s a long time. Comeuppance.
I remember the day he died- November 3, 1995. I was happy that he at least got to stick around to see the OJ Simpson verdict on October 3rd. He was watching the trial daily and I think he would have been irritated to miss the ending. I was in my 4th year of optometry school in Oregon- also addicted to watching the trial on CNN. It gave us something to talk about. It brought us closer. Isn’t that crazy?
Today, I did my own reckoning. I went back a few years to get a better idea of where I stand. Basically, I factored how much time and money I spent on doing things that were optional and gave me pleasure or made my life easier.
2019: Plane tickets (Florida, New Orleans, Las Vegas, North Carolina 2X, and a driving trip to St. Louis), gambling trip to Vegas, writing workshop. 2019 was a good year for me- both personal and business. Worked hard/played hard.
2020: Sauna, stressless recliner, grocery delivery. This was a hard and sad year for me. I was lonely and scared. I gained 9 pounds in 9 weeks when the office was closed. I had to stop baking. You can bake if you can give it away. No one person needs a lemon meringue pie. I’m still working on getting the weight off. Dammit.
2021: Doggie daycare, work/friend trip to Las Vegas, new technology. Stevie Nicks, the black lab puppy came into my life late 2020. She is a darling, and my best friend. I’m not lonely anymore. I had a trip before things went COVID crazy again and it was a mixed bag. Adding technology has made my life easier- both personally and professionally. Infrastructure is good.
This year is still up in the air- but I hope to manage a trip or two.
I love to travel. Sometimes, I go to favorite places that are familiar and remind me of good times. Sometimes, I go somewhere new. That is probably the most exciting and good for me because it requires me to try new things, be flexible in mind and body, and open to the possibilities of whatever comes my way. Traveling somewhere new is a good challenge. I’ve never been to Paris. It’s on my list- but not this year. A girl needs to be practical. A trip to the mountains is in the works- fingers crossed.
Vegas: Vegas for me is about relationships. I have two groups of friends whom I meet in Vegas. Both sets of friends are important to me. It’s an easy destination- and we all enjoy a good time. Short and sweet. One trip involves gambling, one does not. Vegas for me falls into the same category as G.K.’s booze, dogs, and guns. I do it for fun. I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink very much, I don’t bowl or play darts… it’s my only naughty thing. I think a person can have one naughty thing as long as it doesn’t make you go broke or land in prison. What happens in Vegas…I’m going to a slot tournament in February with the gambling girls. Wish us luck.
My third vice? Hmmm…. I am a bit stuck on that one. I used to golf- but I didn’t golf at all last year. I golfed every Friday for years. Usually followed by a fish fry dinner. When Mom died, so did my golfing and fish fry dinners. I love boating- but don’t own a boat. That puts me at the mercy of friends, ex-boyfriends, or family to take me out on the water. That can get tricky…for obvious reasons.
If I don’t have golf or boating- I don’t know what to do with myself. Who am I?
I might buy a riding lawn mower. I bought a house with a humongous yard. Last summer, I used my ancient push mower to get the job done. It was the talk of the neighborhood- they all thought I was crazy. One time, it was very hot. My neighbor squirted me with his hose because he thought I was in danger of having a stroke. It was slightly inappropriate considering what I was wearing… but we laughed, and I told him to squirt me again. I have good neighbors. I also have a good fence. Mom always said, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
I think I prefer reckonings over resolutions. It’s like the old saying, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
I like going into my infrared sauna to sweat it out. It helps with stress reduction. My regimen is to bake at 140 degrees for 50 minutes. It gets the toxins out. Ideally, it is best to come back to temperature naturally. Because I like to sauna later in the evening, I cannot come back to temperature, take a shower, and get to bed at 9:45. Heavens, I stay up past my bedtime! The best night for me is the night before clean sheets.
Usually Sunday. Some deviation for unexpected dirtiness. I go from the sauna to my bed all sweaty and gross. I sleep like a baby. Stevie Nicks, the black lab puppy, jumps into bed with me and we snuggle. She doesn’t mind sweaty and gross.
Not every day can be the night before clean sheets… because that would make you a slob. The next morning, you rip off the dirty sheets upon waking so that you are not tempted to go one more day. In a perfect world, the fresh sheets go on right away- but sometimes life happens- and you forget and walk into your bedroom late that night to a bed with no sheets! Dammit.
A decision must be made- put on clean sheets, sleep in the guest room, or have no sheets and just roll up in the comforter. I have done all three. I never sleep well in the guest room, or with no sheets- wrapped up in the comforter. Take the time to put them on and sleep well. Mom always said, “You sleep better with clean sheets.” She was right.
My mom, Betty, was a true believer. She believed in God, and she lived her life pretty much according to the rules of the Catholic church. Betty believed in the Church, but she was an avid reader and I think she loved books almost as much as she loved God. Betty used to say, “If you want to read a juicy story- read the Bible!”
She read everything and she allowed her children to read everything. No censorship. Thank you, Mom!
I remember when the middle school morality police confiscated my copy of Judy Blume’s Wifey. I had purchased the book on my own, with my own money, and without the consent of Betty. Truth be told, the content was a bit too adult. I was hoping for another Forever. I love Judy Blume and have watched her class on Masterclass several times. She is a treasure. Anyway…. I was not punished for buying that book.
Mom had the theory that if I was brave enough to walk into a bookstore and buy a book with my own money- I could handle the story. Amen.
Christmas Eve we always went to Mass. Front pew. Everyone knows the story… there was a census and Joseph took his pregnant virgin bride Mary to sign up and she went into labor and there was no room in the Inn. Jesus was born in a manger, was greeted by wisemen, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It’s a lot to digest in one sitting. It takes about 50 years to fully understand the beauty of unconditional love.
Betty had a portrait of Jesus above her bed. It was the one where Jesus looks kind and has a lovely tan. He has long brown hair. brown eyes and is bathed in beautiful light rays. Very attractive. To this day, I am a sucker for a brown haired, brown eyed man. On a trip to Seattle, WA in 1976 we visited my Aunt Virginia and her family. My cousin Kevin looked just like Jesus! We thought he was “hot” and to show our love we filled his shoes with pinecones.
I think that when they used to say we should love Jesus, they didn’t mean we should LOVE Jesus!
Jesus isn’t the only hot guy with brown hair and brown eyes from my childhood. My best friend, Elaine, is 100% Greek with brown hair and brown eyes. Now, I love Elaine dearly and she is a very attractive woman… but her brother John… he was a gorgeous creature. Tall, dark, and handsome. He was also as lovely on the inside as the outside. He went to Heaven way to soon and left a void. He is one of my angels. My warrior angel. He gives me strength.
My father was a difficult man. He was highly intelligent, opinionated, and raised by an overbearing mother. His father died when he was 8 years old. I am his youngest daughter- the last hope for a boy.
For the first 10 years of my life, I was his little buddy. We went hunting and fishing. We went to the bookstore. I remember those years fondly. My parents were old to be having me- Dad turned 50 the year I was born. So, if you do the math… he retired when I was in middle school. Mom and Dad would go off fishing and leave me alone. Mom would leave me five bucks and a note saying, “Take Elaine to The Hut for dinner. Back at 8pm. Love, Mom. XO
That’s what we did. We did more than just go to The Hut. We ran wild and did mostly what we pleased. I think that turned us into some interesting and independent girls.
Trouble is…. Sometimes Dad’s don’t want their teenage daughters to be interesting and independent. We had some issues. Issues related to self-esteem, commitment, and how to disagree without starting WWIII (aka effective communication). Control.
I’ve been a harsh critic. I’m softening up a bit as the years go by- mostly because I have turned out to be my father’s daughter. I have crashed and burned and made many of the same mistakes.
I sometimes run into people who still remember Dad fondly. It reminds me that being a father is only one aspect of a person.
He was a good friend. He loved the outdoors. He loved to read. He was a life-long learner and intellectual person. He was fair.
I recall an occasion when one of my sisters was being treated unfairly by a teacher. Dad went to school – meeting with the principal and teacher. He applied his critical thinking and stood up for my sister. Problem resolved. We celebrated the victory at home, and I clearly remember us all being ecstatic. Dad showed up and made mincemeat out of the competition. He may not have been 100% involved 100% of the time, but he was 100% that day.
He was not one for a lot of praise or demonstrative with affection.
For some strange reason- I despised peeling oranges. Every winter we would get a couple of boxes of citrus from Texas. Oranges, grapefruit… stored on the basement stairs. Probably purchased as part of one of the endless fundraisers for band or choir. Dad would tell me to go get an orange. I would watch as he would carefully peel the orange, making sure to get all the bitter pith off. He was very good at peeling oranges. He had very long fingers and kept good care of his fingernails. I remember this clearly… I can see him peeling the orange.
I realize now, peeling that orange was an act of love. He couldn’t say it, but he could peel me an orange.
Usually, Elaine was with me- and he would peel for us both. Dad was particularly fond of Elaine. She called him Mr. A. I have very specific memories of the three of us practicing math and vocabulary flash cards. We were competitive- but in a good way. It’s good to be smart. Thank you, Mom and Dad for not raising dodo birds.
Where am I going with this?? I have no idea.
I think that this year has been a trying year. There is so much information to digest. So many opinions, so many decisions to make, so many expectations. It’s overwhelming.
My hope is that on Christmas Eve you can remember the good times, acknowledge the bad times, learn from mistakes, forgive yourself and others, and understand that we are all human. We can agree to disagree. Peel an orange for someone you love. When in doubt, put on clean sheets. You sleep better with clean sheets.
I woke up this morning. That was a good start, and it got even better. It was early- 5:24am to be exact. No alarm, my sweet puppy Stevie Nicks lying peacefully by my side. I feel blessed, excited and dare I say it… content?
It’s a good feeling. One I haven’t felt in a while. Welcome back, old friend.
In March of 2020 I closed my optical shoppe for 9 weeks. It was unexpected, both mentally and emotionally crushing, and physically isolating.
For the last 2.5 years I had worked in the downstairs portion of my historic building and lived upstairs in a super cute remodeled historic apartment. I was technically living alone, but not a lonely person. In 2019, I treated the apartment like a condo and basically left almost every weekend to travel both near and far. It was fantastic and I was on a roll. The practice was thriving, and I was thriving. Full stop.
Covid hit. Office closed. I wanted to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, so I stayed home. Alone. I went to the grocery store once a month. I watched CNN constantly. I tried doing the 9 jigsaw puzzles I had sent over from the game store across the street. I think I managed to complete two puzzles in 9 weeks. I had no energy, no creativity.
The one thing I did manage to do was cook and bake out of my pantry. I made some good stuff, ate it, and gained 8 pounds in 9 weeks. Uh oh. Looking back on it now, I was doing a dance with a bad date called depression. I had no idea.
Luckily, a dear friend noticed I was losing it. She insisted I visit her. She was in a COVID bubble, I was in a COVID bubble… we should be COVID bubbles together. I fretted about it and finally gave in. I visited and we cooked and laughed, and I managed to find a few pieces of her jigsaw puzzle. We walked her rural road. I went to visit her several times over the next month or two. Depression started to lift. Thank you, dear friend.
The office was closed, but we started to get some orders for contact lenses. My staff took turns meeting me at the office every few days to send off orders. We masked and stayed apart. It was a saving grace for me. We shared stories about lockdown. It gave me perspective. I realized that being alone during a lockdown can be easier than being in lockdown with others. There are two sides to every coin.
The office opened 9 weeks later. It was a beautiful thing and still is. My team and I did everything we could to maintain safer standards. Patients did their part- they came in and were willing to do the COVID shuffle. My schedule was full. I have since seen over a thousand patients, and I can count on one hand the number of issues we had regarding COVID policy. Of course, I remember those incidents. When I do the math- statistically it was a minute percentage. This helps me to remember… most people are fundamentally good, kind, and willing to help.
For me, the hardest part is accepting help. It’s a flaw. I blame it on my upbringing, which is what I do whenever I face issues about myself that I don’t like. The problem with blaming everything on your upbringing is that somewhere around age 30 it gets old and worn out and your friends and family get sick and tired of it. Around age 50, the people you like to blame for your issues are dead. Your excuse is gone for good. Time to take a good look in the mirror and figure some stuff out.
I am learning. I am learning how to ask for help, accept help and be thankful for it.
Fast forward 3 months. I’m working hard now. Busier than ever. Still a little lonely as things are not back to ok with COVID. No vaccination yet. I’m starting to have COVID envy. I have a few friends and family that got COVID and recovered and are going out to dinner. Son of a bitch.
I would love to go out to dinner and be served. I don’t care what it is. If someone were to ask me, “Ma’am would you like another?” I would respond immediately, “Yes, please.” I don’t care what it is. I just want to be pampered and waited on. If I had my choose-it’s I would prefer an VO press Old Fashioned with pickled mushrooms, but I would settle for a cold Bud Light. Envy. Envy- the green-eyed girl. Wanting what other people have is usually a recipe for disaster. This includes medical conditions, choice of spouse and children, and bank accounts.
Fast forward another 6-7 months. I’ve now acquired a darling black lab puppy named Stevie Nicks. She is my new best friend and is living up to her name. She is beautiful, independent, maybe a little wild and very loving. She was an unexpected addition to my life, and I will be forever grateful. Stevie and I had some crazy times living upstairs and trying to get potty trained in the middle of winter in Wisconsin.
Stevie and I went downstairs every two hours and walked around the little park next to my office. In my work clothes, in my yoga pants, in my pjs and robe! The neighborhood folks got used to it and we made friends.
I had been looking for a little house to buy for some time. If you have been paying attention to the real estate market, you will know that it’s a real challenge to find a house. I looked, looked, and looked some more. Just when I gave up… yep, my dream house found me. I bought it. Stevie has a yard and I have a kitchen. We are happy clams. It’s perfect, and I didn’t change a thing. Timing is everything.
The tricky part is how to handle life when life’s timing isn’t in sync with my timing. There are many books and memes and prayers that address this very issue. A friend sent me a little meme during the pandemic. I can’t remember the whole thing… but it basically said, “You are Loved.” There was some other stuff I can’t remember, and “You are Enough.” Those two things I remember. I hope you remember them too.
Life has slowly returned to almost normal. I’ve been socializing a bit and seeing friends. I am one of the youngest people in my group. Some of the others are a bit older and starting to retire. I’ve been around when the talk turns to retirement and money. I was feeling bad about it. I am late to that game. I spent most of my youth and adolescence screwing around. I did what I was told by my parents, went to the same college as Dad and The Sisters. I stayed in the same dormitory, I took the same classes, went to the same underage bars. Haha! I was young, naïve, and not particularly driven. I mostly liked to have fun. I was pretty good at it, but that doesn’t really show well on a resume or add to the retirement account.
Somehow it all worked out and now I am structured and have a roof over my head and a decent job, so I won’t go stick my head in the oven. That being said, let’s spend a moment to think about life. It does require a certain amount of intention, or things tend to go haywire. Mom used to say, “The road to Heaven is paved with good intentions.” To be honest, I never gave it much thought. That has apparently gotten me to my current state of being.
Heaven and Hell. Decision, decisions decisions…I always thought the sinners had more fun and it might be worth it. I also think the road to Hell might be paved by kombucha! What?? Seriously, I was just at the new co-op and tried some and there is no amount of Tito’s that can fix it. I promptly made a nice cup of French press coffee to go with my Thunderbird Bakery pain au chocolat and life improved dramatically. I digress. Where was I? Oh yes. Intention. Intention deserves a bit more thought.
I spent some time thinking about it and determined that for me- I want to work. For one thing, Anderson’s live a long time. Mom made it to 90 and Grandma A made it to 103! That’s a lot of years to finance. I didn’t do so hot when I wasn’t working during the shut-down. It only takes an hour or two to work out and clean your house and then what? There are a lot of hours in the day. So, I need to figure how I want to work. I’ve given it some thought.
I don’t want to work like a crazy person and be stressed out. I want to work and have a balanced personal life. I want to like my patients and staff. I want to feel valued. I want to be interested in what I do. That’s a lot of wants. I will need to make a few changes.
There is never a good time to change. I’m looking at it as a positive because I am choosing to change instead of having change forced on me. There is a difference. Let me provide an example.
About 15 years ago I worked for a doctor in his practice. I was miserable. The terms weren’t as we discussed. I tried to communicate and negotiate for a tolerable and fair situation. No go. I finally quit. Then, and only then did the doctor want to communicate and negotiate. Too late, pal. “Freedom’s just a word for nothing left to lose.” Thank you, Bobby McGee. It was a hard change. It cost me in many ways… the only thing I regret is not leaving sooner.
Good change is what I am trying to achieve. I have changed my work schedule and I am entertaining the idea of adding a sub-specialty to my practice that I find interesting. There will be some short-term pain. I am doing my due diligence and not jumping into anything without a plan. This is progress, friends. In the past I would have jumped both feet forward off the cliff with no plan. I still plan to jump, but I will be wearing a parachute, just in case. Progress.
I have a friend who is very strong mentally. He’s got a good relationship with his wife and children, works hard, is physically fit, and likes to have fun. Overall, a balanced person. One time when I was complaining about something he said, “There are facts, and there are excuses.” That shut me up.
Don’t complain about being fat if you haven’t done anything to not be fat. Don’t complain about not having enough money if all you’ve done is go out and spend money. Don’t complain about being bored it you made no effort to connect with people and make plans. Don’t complain about your house being dirty if you haven’t done your part to keep it clean.
I now use that statement in my head to help me control my actions and emotions. I used it two days ago. I turned my apartment into an Airbnb. It took a bit longer than expected to get ready, but it has turned out great. I had it booked out months ago for the big summer event in town, EAA Airventure. Every hotel is booked solid for 30 miles. It’s a money maker. Two days ago, my renter cancelled at the last minute because her teenage son and adult daughter contracted COVID. The show starts in two days. I’m screwed. I was bummed out. Then I applied my new thinking. There are facts, and there are excuses. The fact is, I did my part. The apartment is clean and ready to go. I kept my end of the bargain. Done. Stuff happens, whether it’s COVID or something else. It doesn’t matter what happened to change the trip. It’s out of my control. It’s done. Once I got my head around the situation, I felt better. It’s a disappointment, but in the grand scheme of things not a deal breaker. Mental fitness. It’s a game changer.
The other night I went on a boat ride across Lake Winnebago. The water was smooth as glass. It was a beautiful evening. We ate at a tiny restaurant by the water. This spot is known for it’s beautiful sunsets and we were expecting a treat.
The restaurant was struggling to serve the patrons. There was very little staffing. We were served by children- literally- age 10 if not younger. Nothing came out as ordered. But, it was okay because you can’t expect children to know how to be servers at restaurants. Clouds were coming in and the wind was picking up. There was no sunset. I paid the bill and left a huge tip.
We had jackets and foul weather gear. The ride home was bumpy. I stood up the whole way, holding onto the railing and using my knees as shock absorbers. It wasn’t exactly a fun ride home, but it was exhilarating. I’ve got a good grip. We were all laughing and shrieking as we hit the big waves. It’s good to be with people who can laugh when things get dicey. The boat and captain were solid. I had faith we would get home in one piece. Ironically, we aim for the lights of the insane asylum to find our way home. That also seems appropriate for my life. It’s the journey, not the destination.
I published my first book. It is a “cozy mystery” that is very loosely based on my life. Don’t worry, old friends. I made up most of the juicy stuff. Most of it. Not all of it! Someone had to die and I didn’t have the heart to kill any of my real friends so the dead people are all fake people. There are some nods to people both dead and alive who have made my life interesting. It is a love story in more ways than one. It’s a nod to the hometown I grew up in, the town I live in now… and most importantly the friendships and relationships that have molded my life.
The years are going by fast for me now. Looking back into my early twenties and writing a story based on those years was a blast. The twenties are such a crazy time… trying to figure out what to do with your life… managing the expectations of others… and maybe not really knowing what to do… somehow it all gets sorted out. Those decisions turn out to be important and pretty much dictate how life is going to go… so it’s not without risk. This book made me think about the decisions I have made in my life and what the end result turned out to be. I felt both happy and sad. Woulda, coulda, shoulda….
I published it on Amazon. I don’t expect to make a ton of money on the book… I just wanted to try to write a book. That is something I have wanted to do for many, many years. In my high school year book- my ambition was to write smut books! That is so funny to me now. I think I just like to make up stories and see where they go.
This book was written from August 2017- February 2018. I walked many miles along the lakeshore plotting of good ways to kill people. I attended the Writers Policy Academy in Green Bay, WI last summer and it was in the arson investigation class that my first big idea for the book came to me. Actually, it was presented to me in class and I twisted and turned the idea. Thank you WPA. I am attending again this summer. I have a bunch of questions to ask and I am sure I will get some more good ideas and information.
The characters have become friends and I can’t wait to see what happens to them. Jac Sanders and her best friend Sissy McNamara can’t help but get themselves into trouble! Throw in Sissy’s hot big brother Mick and a German Shepard named Paulie who flunked out of police dog training and you have got…. another story!
Last year I attended my first writers workshop. I went to the Writers Police Academy in Green Bay, WI. I went for a number of reasons. Initially, I signed up because I wanted to see Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series) in person and listen to his keynote speech. Then I decided to attend the entire three day conference and signed up for classes in Death Scene Investigation, Blood Spatter, Arson etc… it really lit a fire under me! Hahaha! I met a lot of interesting and friendly writers who are obsessed with telling stories about people dying in very unpleasant circumstances. It was right up my alley. I participated in a hands on long gun class- which means I shot an assault rifle. It was informative, engaging and a great way to get my creative energy flowing.
The last evening of the banquet I sat at a table of about ten writers. We introduced ourselves and discussed what we were writing and if/how we were planning to publish the book. I admitted that I did not have a book, but that I had wanted to write a book for as long as I could remember. The writers all encouraged me- regardless of whether it would be self-published, published independently, or if I got an agent and publisher. They told me it didn’t matter. Just write a book. So, I did.
It’s a “cozy” which means it is a lighthearted romance with a murder/mystery thrown in. I started writing November 1, 2017 as a first time participant in NaNoWriMo and published it on Amazon today. I don’t know what will happen next, but I know that writing this book was fun.
I signed up for the Writers Police Academy again this year. Jeffrey Deaver is the speaker this year. It should be interesting… It’s the ten year anniversary for WPA so they are going all out. The classes and speakers look great. I signed up for a bunch more hands on classes and look forward to learning new ways to portray my characters and get them in and out of hairy situations.
Mostly, I can’t wait to see my new friends and tell them that I did exactly as they recommended. I wrote a book. I just might write another one. My main character, Jac Sanders is a lot like me. I have to figure out what happens to her. I will keep you posted.
I have always had a hard time at Christmas. When I was a kid I would always think that this would be the year where we would all get along and there would be a pile of Christmas gifts from Santa waiting for me under the tree. In my fantasy, my Dad would not drink too much and become a morose person lecturing us on how “We did not know what it was like” to grow up poor. My Mom and Sisters were okay and we all tried to make it through with no damage done. Thankfully, we are all bookworms so a few new books in each of our hands and we would retreat to our neutral corners. Nancy Drew saved the day.
I would open a few gifts, maybe a game or two along with some socks and batteries in my stocking. I laugh now thinking about getting batteries, but you know… that is kind of crucial to the whole new toy thing working out. I have memories of driving around our little town looking for a place that would be open so that we could get batteries to fire up the new Merlin game. Thank you, Holiday gas station.
Later in the day I would call my best friend, Elaine, and I would ask her, “What did you get?” and she would say, “Nothing…. What did you get?” I would then reply, “Nothing.” We would then agree to bundle up in our snow pants and meet half way between our houses and go freeze our asses off skating or building snow forts. We did that for many years. One year, Elaine got a diamond necklace for Christmas. It was very pretty. I was jealous. I was also happy for her because she deserved a diamond necklace for Christmas.
This year has been a year for changes. My Mom has had a series of health issues and decided to go live in assisted living. It is for the best and I think it increases her chance of surviving to see another Christmas. Earlier this year, I had thought she might not make it to this one. There have been some bumps along the way. These types of changes in life are tough on everybody.
For my Mom, I am sure it has been difficult. She has been incredibly fortunate to be athletic her entire life. For 88 years she was a rock star. She has always walked many miles, been a great golfer, and just a year or two ago was lifting weights at the gym. That is all gone now. Her heart is broken. Literally. The valves are leaking, and the rhythm has gone haywire. The frustrating thing is that her will is not broken, but the physical parts are not cooperating. She told me a month or two ago that “Getting old sucks.” It is true. Thankfully for her it did not hit until age 89. Still….
What happens when the head honcho/matriarch isn’t physically/mentally/emotionally able to boss everybody around? The shit hits the fan. That’s what happens.
My Mom has always been a huge influence on me. I am the youngest of three daughters. My Mom has been my Mom/best friend/head shrinker/drill sergeant…. My whole life. I have made most of my biggest decisions in life based on her advice and my desire to please her.
When her health began to decline it affected the three daughters in different ways. We failed to communicate and our differences in opinion regarding her health and her care resulted in a major falling out between myself, the Sisters, and Mom. My feelings were hurt, and I was offended to the core of my being. Words were said that can never be forgotten. I felt that no one could hear me or see me. Nothing I said had any value and nothing that I did was appreciated. I was drowning in my despair.
I am pretty sure that the Sisters and Mom would argue that I was the asshole and was the one causing the problems… I have thought about it for many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months and I have finally found some peace with the whole thing. I did what I thought was best. I offered up what I could and would have been able to do. Done. It did not work out, but I did the best I could. That has to be enough. It is enough.
I know, I know! Merry Christmas, right? Wait, it gets better.
So, what happens when you are 48.5 years old and you get pushed out of the nest?
You fly. You fly.
I have learned a few things these past few months. I have been making some choices. Choices that are all mine. When things get ugly, when times get tough… how are you going to respond? I responded by taking care of myself. I increased my yoga sessions, increased my water intake, cooked some good, healthy meals for myself and tried to go to bed early. I reached out to some old friends. I opened myself up to making some new friends. I made myself available to accept the invitations I had been declining because I was always going back to my home town and my Mom every weekend. I grew up. I got a life.
I set some boundaries. Boundaries for myself and for others. I have forgiven myself for screwing up. I have forgiven others for harsh words and actions. I am entertaining the possibility of mending broken relationships. For me, I cannot and will not pretend that nothing has occurred. That is the easy way out…but not the way out for me. I am wondering if something that has broken in many pieces can ever be repaired? Can it be functional? Can it be better than the original?
There is a term in Japanese culture called wabi-sabi.
I have a Pinterest board on it. Basically, it is the art of finding beauty in things that are broken. Picture an old tea cup with a crack in it. The crack has been filled in with gold. The tea cup was not thrown away. It was painstakingly repaired, and it is now more than a tea cup- it is a work of art.
I was broken. I am being repaired. I am being repaired by the love and kindness of old friends, new friends, and strangers. Is the new GGJ going to be better than the original? I hope so.
Last night, I went to Christmas Eve mass with some old friends at their Church. It was a beautiful old Church filled with dark wood, Tiffany stained glass and a massive organ. The service was filled with music. There was a beginning part where the huge organ was playing a funky mix of Christmas carols but with a steam-punk kind of attitude. I pictured a mad person wearing a leather duster and goggles running the huge organ while smoking a cigar. Later, it turned out that the organ player was a sweet little old lady who came out to read the story about Mary having Jesus in a manger. Who knew? She rocked that organ!
We were sitting in the pew waiting for the service to start when a young friend came in with his parents. He saw me and said, “There’s Jill” and he sat next to me. His parents ended up sitting one pew up and over. I think perhaps that he thought that they would join us in our pew. I give him credit, he stayed by me. I did not know some of the hymns, but there were a few of the classic Christmas carols. I was singing what I knew… and then I heard his voice join me. The sweetest, clearest 13 year-old voice in my ear.
The finale was the best when they turned off the lights. We were holding candles and one by one they were lit. My young friend lit my candle. We sang Silent Night, Holy Night. It was beautiful.
Have you ever wondered what makes a relationship last? Not just romantic relationships, but friendships as well?
Last night I had a great talk with one of my dearest friends.
We did not grow up together.
I met TR (The Rock) when I moved to Oregon to go to optometry school. I had met one other person at a summer class the previous summer, but other than that I was moving to a place where I did not have any friends.
I did not meet TR right away. A few months into the first semester I went on a group shopping trip into Portland with some girls. She was there. We both were complaining our boobs were too big and nothing looked good. We promptly whipped off our shirts and compared boobs. A bond was forged.
For the following 4 years TR was the “THE ROCK” of our group. She and her husband had a great relationship, she knew how to cook and she was absolutely committed to her pursuit of optometry. She fed us, let us stay at her place to study and we basically did everything she did. We all passed with flying colors and had a pretty damn good time doing so. Left to my own devices, the outcome may not have been the same. Twenty odd years later, we are still great friends. We have now been friends for more years of my life than we have not been friends. I like that feeling.
I think in life, people are either rocks or floaters. My friend TR is a rock. I am a floater.
Rocks are solid, durable, permanent. They do well on planet Earth. Gravity works in their favor. They are great planners, nurturers and have the ability to stay the course. They are happy where they are and don’t seek constant movement or change. Rocks sometimes suffer when forces beyond their control erode them and put them into unplanned or unexpected motion. Storms can be tough on rocks. Rocks can sink.
Floaters are different. Floaters go with the current and are in a constant state of change. Floaters can try to tread water and stay in one place, but it requires a lot effort and leads to fatigue. Floating is effortless. All you have to do is let go and rise to the top. (It’s those boobs.) When you float, it’s easiest lying on your back. It allows you a great view of the sky and the world of endless possibilities. Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination?” That was written by a floater. There is a downside. It is easy to lose sight of the shoreline unless you constantly look back or to the side… floaters can get lost. That is both a blessing and a curse.
This summer I was on a boat with a group of people who were going to swim across Lake Butte des Mort in Oshkosh on the 4th of July. It was a motley crew… all ages and all abilities. The swim was in memory of a fantastic woman who used to swim across the lake every day. It’s a big lake and the water is kind of brown. One of the swimmers lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and commented that the wake churned by the boat motor looked like “fine cognac.”
Initially I wasn’t sure I would swim. I was on the boat mostly for fun. When the swimmers started to swim I had to make a choice. My ex-boyfriend who is now a friend was doing a running commentary about the performance of the swimmers and their choice of bathing attire. I shed my shorts and t-shirt, jumped in and started swimming.
I guess when push comes to shove, I am not designed to sit on the boat and observe. I had to swim.
I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go… I am not in the best shape of my life. I was fairly confident I would not drown and just figured the rest would work out. I used a combination of breast stroke, back stroke and side stroke to get across the Lake. I stopped looking at the shore. I looked at the sky, the HWY 41 overpass with the semis going by, I looked at birds. I could hear the hum of motorboats and the weird tinkling sound water makes…it was a symphony. Every once in a while I would look for my spot across the lake. I kind of got off course, but I would just make an adjustment and before I knew it I was across the lake.
That is kind of how life works too.
Rocks and Floaters make great partners. I think that is why my friendship with TR has endured.
She has helped me more times than I can count. Her husband is kind of big so whenever my heart has been broken she tells him he needs to go beat that person up. I love that. She is my professional role model. What worked in optometry school still works 20 years later. I just do what she does. She said we should get board certified- so we did. It was a pain in the ass but it was good for me and for my profession. TR knows what to do.
I think I may be of some use to her right now. TR was recently diagnosed with a chronic illness. (MS) The sucky thing about MS is that is un-curable and unpredictable. It’s not like cancer (which is horrible) where you cut out the bad stuff and kill it and get fake new stuff and move on. You never know what the next day will be like. One day you are pretty good and the next day you can’t get out of bed.
She told me she fell yesterday. She got out of bed and her brain thinks she is normal- but her legs don’t work right and the next thing you know you are weaving around like a drunken sailor and boom, down you go. I told her that was okay, that I fall down a lot too. I like to wear slippery socks and my house has wooden floors. Sometimes I run to get a Diet Pepsi or go pee pee during a commercial break and boom, down I go. We laughed.
She is doing fine. One big thing that everyone who reads this should think about is this- It is absolutely imperative that you have proper disability insurance and financial planning. My friend is going to be fine in that department no matter what happens. That didn’t just happen- she had a plan.
(I was actually a little jealous talking to her – she is in a much better place than I am. When you are jealous of your friend who has MS and her disability plan- that is sick my friends. Being single makes it even more important to have a plan. It’s a terrible feeling to worry about whether you are going to have to eat cat food when you are 80.)
OK, back to the story. So we talked about that and then we got to the nitty gritty…..
The hardest part of having to deal with this illness is the unexpected changes. TR has a plan. She wants to get her youngest kid off to college, work really hard (because she likes it- crazy, I know!) and finally have the time and ability to treat herself and her husband to some traveling, adventures and really good shoes. And not feel guilty. MS is a sucky disease. I think it pretty much guarantees that you have to wear practical footwear for the whole rest of your life. WTF? That is crazy.
She had her plan She thought that her next turn in life would be a turn to the right….. EXCEPT….. The road doesn’t go right. So now she has to go down a road that she’s didn’t choose, doesn’t know where it goes and …she has to cross a river. It’s a big river.
Now the river’s wide and deep and brown And she’s crossing muddy waters….–John Hiatt
The river is a scary place for a rock.
That is okay, she is best friends with a floater.
I don’t care if the water is deep, I float. I don’t care if I can see the bottom or where I am going. I will look at the sky. She doesn’t have to do a thing. I have a strong grip and I will get us to the other side. It’s not going to be a straight line and it may take a while. That’s okay, it’s the journey not the destination.
I couldn’t sleep last night. I have to get this off my chest.
I had the best weekend with my family. Watching the Packers beat Seattle was the icing on the cake. But…. I could not get the images from the Sunday news out of my mind.
What is happening in Syria is wrong. There I said it. Before everybody gets all pissed off – let me explain myself. I don’t have an answer to the problem.It’s a very difficult and scary situation.
I can only speak for myself but I would imagine that some of you feel the same way.
I am afraid of Muslims. In my head, I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. It’s just that the most recent terrorists have all been Muslims. That being said, we have had a few of our own… Timothy McVeigh….the Unabomber….and the multiple gunmen who have massacred innocent movie goers and school children… there have been a few.
I know that not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Germans were Nazi’s and not all gun owners are shooters of schoolchildren. In fact, it’s the opposite. Being scared makes it hard to see the forest from the trees…or the trees from the forest.
I was trying to recall some of my history lessons….
When I was partying in New Orleans many years ago we made a pit stop into a museum. Many historical parts of New Orleans are paved with the original cobblestones. Do you know who laid those bricks? Slaves? Creoles?? Nope, those bricks were laid by Irish immigrants. They were cheaper than both slaves or Creoles because they had zero guaranteed rights regarding food/water/shelter/hours. Immigrants have long suffered.
World War II was such a bloody and terrible time in World History. From what I remember – the US got involved after we were attacked by Japan. We didn’t involve ourselves in the genocide of over 6 million Jews until the attack hit home. I read a lot of novels so I can’t be trusted with historical fact- but it is my understanding that the Vatican wasn’t exactly helpful in that time either. Hmmm…. I think Pope Francis is a totally different cat – in a good way.
From what I gather, Syria is conducting genocide on its people. It’s not like they have a choice. If I had to choose to either die by chemical warfare or bombings or other horrible means…. I would start walking. I would hope that if someone was able that they would help me.
It’s not like we as Americans are having to face 3 millions refugees parked at the front gate. The Atlantic Ocean is too big and rough… the dinghy’s aren’t going to make it. (If you need to see a scary Atlantic Ocean movie, watch The Perfect Storm) I haven’t seen a lot of refugees talking about a desire to get to the US. They want to get to Germany.
After tossing and turning all night, I came up with a plan that makes me feel a little better. Today I made a contribution to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
I am not going to wait for the government. (When we need to wait and trust the government to do the right thing…. something is not quite right. I am not completely comfortable with that on a number of levels.)
I know there are administration fees and that only 93.7% of the funds will go to helping people. That’s okay, I gave enough that I think it will still help someone.
People are worried that ISIS has infiltrated the refugees and has a plan to infiltrate the US. It probably has already happened. It is my opinion that we have a far greater risk of creating terrorists by putting refugees in fenced- in areas and blasting them with tear gas. If that happened to me, I would never forget it. On the other hand, if someone gave me food and water and a safe place to sleep….. I would never forget that either. I want to be on that team.
Giving money is easy. Let me tell you how I am financing it.
I am having a lean year with having just purchased a new business. But, I am not completely broke. I looked in my vehicle and in my loose change jar. In my purse alone I had almost $37.00. That is the money I usually put in my Las Vegas trip jar. I thought I could do better than that so I decided to eat out of my existing pantry and freezer tonight. I have to wrap this up because my ham and scalloped potatoes are done. Tomorrow I am going to make chicken piccata and watch the premiere of NCIS. Normally, I would get some Thai take out while hoping that Leroy Gethro Gibbs survives and that Tony and Ziva get together. There, that is my donation.
I don’t know if it will make a difference. I hope so.
This blog is only a hobby for me. I have never asked anyone to share my stories or tried to profit from it. This time, I am going to ask my friends and family and readers to share it ….if they know someone who may be willing or able to help. There are other organizations that are trying to help… Unicef comes to mind as well. I picked the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) because it was easy to access and donate. Whatever you can do and feel good about is the goal. Let’s try to move the dial on this one.
Yesterday I moved. Again. It’s been a recurring theme for me over the years. I have never been attached to a property- but I do get attached to the people who make a house a home.
When I first moved into the house over 7 years ago, it was chaos and my place was a total mess. I had spent several months gutting the house and replacing a lot of things… so I had been around but hadn’t been living in the house. One day I was in the kitchen getting ready to go for some exercise. I had some bottoms on but I was topless digging through a laundry basket and putting on a jog bra -with no curtain in the window.
My neighbor Jerry just happened to be returning my garbage can to its rightful spot when ….BAM….he got a full frontal assault of my considerable rack. We both panicked. His eyes got wide and he was heading across the driveways in record time. I knew it was a crucial moment. This would record me as the nutty naked lady or I had to fix it. So, I quickly got some clothes on and yelled out the door, “Hey Jerry, I didn’t mean to give you an eye-full!”
He came back and said he was really sorry, he was just putting the garbage can back for me. He told me he had raised four daughters so he was used to seeing stuff like that. We both laughed. It was going to be okay. Just like that….we were friends. A few days later I come home to a little sign tucked beside the window that said “BEAR AREA”. It hung in my carport shed for the next seven years.
One of the first summers I lived there, we had a mama snapping turtle come up the bank, dig a hole in my yard and lay her eggs. We marked the spot with a stick and waited. And waited. One day, there was some activity and we watched the baby turtles emerge. Jerry and I felt we had an obligation to make sure that the baby turtles made it back to the river without being gobbled up or smooshed. We took our baby turtles named Harry, Hermione, Ron and Lord Voldemort down to the river. I kind of tossed one of mine in the river. Jerry said, “Well, that’s one way to do it.” He put his turtle gently down on a stick and let the baby turtle find its own way into the river. I learned something. When you are trying to save something it is best not to kill it before you have a chance to save it. Patience, little grasshopper. I did better with my second turtle.
It’s not like it happens overnight. But, little by little I would reveal bits and pieces of my past to Jerry. He was a good listener. He had a very successful marriage, so he was pretty good at giving out love life advice. He spent a lot of years in the automotive industry so he would take notice of the vehicles that would sometimes park in my driveway. Sometimes, he would ask where the Honda went and I would say, “He’s long gone Jerry”… and he would say, “He’ll be back.” And then we would laugh. He lost his wife a few years back and asked me if I liked being alone. I told him I liked being alone more than I liked being with the wrong person… but I would like it better if I could be with someone who didn’t drive me nuts. It’s tough out there. When you find someone who doesn’t drive you nuts, I would recommend you hold on tight. I think Jerry would agree with me. See, I was listening.
Winter in Wisconsin can be tough. Early on, Jerry showed me how to use his snow blower ‘just in case’. I really never had to do any snow-blowing because he would do it for me. He knew my schedule and I would hear the snow-blower start up around 6 am and he would plow me out. He did my driveway before he did his own. That is a major act of kindness. Last year, I did get to do some snow-blowing because Jerry had a bum ankle from falling on the ice. I would go over and fire up the snow blower and start plowing his driveway. He would yell at me to go do my own and leave his for later. No way! This was my chance to finally reciprocate. It’s a good problem to have when you and your neighbor are yelling at each other for getting the others driveway plowed first. Kind of like when you go out to dinner with old friends and everyone fights over who gets to pay the bill. Those are the days! By the way, snow-blowing in the moonlight is kind of fun in a weird Zen way. Just trust me on this one. I think it may have something to do with sniffing gasoline.
I travel sometimes and would most often remember to give Jerry a heads up about my absence. He hung a little thermometer in my kitchen window (scene of the nakedness) so he could check to make sure my heat worked during the winter so I wouldn’t have frozen pipes if something bad happened. Sometimes, I would forget to tell him about my traveling so he would call my Mom to make sure I was okay.
When you live alone, it is nice to have someone notice if you might be dead or not quite dead laying in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs.
I really could go on and on… about the time we took on the City government for giving us tickets for improper sidewalk maintenance and we were victorious, or our many garden projects including the ill-fated asparagus patch or the hornet’s nest incident…. You get the picture.
When I had to leave for the last time, we both got really teary. I told Jerry, “I refuse to say goodbye.” He said, “Okay.” As he was walking down the driveway, I yelled “I love you Jerry!” and he yelled back, “ I love you too, Jill.”
If you are going to yell at someone, those are the best words to use.
The Time Machine Factor: = Real Time/ Fun Quotient
We have all experienced it. Sometimes time goes by so quickly and sometimes it drags on endlessly. How is this possible? I have figured out that real time in days, hours or minutes (it doesn’t matter how you figure it) is divided by the fun quotient to then become the perceived time. Got that?
Here are some examples.
Youth: Do you remember being a kid and the days never ended? School was boring and endless, summer started out fun but then got boring and endless.
I am the youngest in my family with two older sisters. Let me tell you, time goes even more slowly for the poor bastard at the end of the line. All you do as a kid is wait to be big enough or old enough to do the fun things the big kids are doing. Even worse, you are exposed to all of the fun stuff at an early age so that you really are prepared to have fun but are restricted by parents or rules or laws or some other form of regulation.
But being a kid, is kind of fun. I remember lots of fun days swimming, riding bikes and making mud pies sprinkled with my Mom’s flowers (pretending I was a witch and poisoning my enemies).
On a scale from 1-10 (1 being the least fun and 10 being awesome) I would rate being a kid a solid 3. Let’s do the math.
= 24 hours/ 3= 8 hours
So, in kid time one day seems like 3. That sounds about right.
Love: Love is the best thing ever. Especially in the beginning. There has got to be a time machine factor involved here, because how else can you stay up all night, get 4 hours of sleep and go to work with a huge smile on your face? There has to be some kind of time warp.
= 24 hours/ 10 = 2.4 hours
How fun is that! Being in love slows down life, allowing us to spend more time with the person we love. Fabulous! Sign me up.
Work: Before we get too excited we have to address the down side of the fun quotient. Specifically, how time is altered when we are not having fun. I use work as an example, but I think that being sick or angry would work too. For those events I use 1 as my fun quotient. The only way to go lower would be to use zero, but then I think we would be dead. And when we are dead, time is a whole different ball of wax. I think.
= 24 hours/1 = 24 hours
No surprise there.
Fun: There are many forms of fun and luckily they all apply to the time machine factor calculation. It’s why our days off always go so fast. Planting flowers, going out for a great meal, seeing a movie, walking the dog, listening to music….all ways to change the way the hours roll by.
There is one exception that I have experienced so far:
Boat Time: There is just something about being on a boat. I love boats. I have been on big boats, little boats, sailboats, dinghies, canoes, kayaks….I just love them. They completely alter time in a unique way. Time is both endless and fast on a boat. You can be reading and look up and it’s been five hours or you can look up from reading and it has been five minutes.
Love time and boat time can be interesting when put together. When it goes well it’s the best time ever! When it goes bad….well, let’s just say that the boat may come back with one less person and leave it at that. Accidents can happen on a boat.
Make sure to combine love time and boat time with the right person.
Jimmy Buffett knows. I saw a sticker that said,” What Would Jimmy Buffett Do?” I would say that when in doubt that is not a bad way to approach pretty much any situation.
“These changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes, Nothing remains quite the same. Through all of the islands and all of the highlands, If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” – Jimmy Buffett
How can we alter time?
I am thinking a lot about youth. Is it the hormones? Is it because we are learning? What is the secret?
I think hormones are going to be the next big thing.
I was going to go see a doctor in Milwaukee to have my hormones tested. But, it is pricey! It’s like a thousand bucks to just get the basic work-up. Then, you have to buy the hormones. Would I inject myself daily with HGH if it meant I could lose those extra ten pounds? (Twenty would be better) You betcha! Especially if it meant I could eat bread and pasta again. Sigh…
Anyway, I never made it to the hormone doctor because I went to the dentist and had to have some of my old silver fillings replaced plus a crown plus apparently I am a “grinder” and it’s making my gums recede! Yikes. So, now I have to spend the hormone money on fixing my teeth and gums. I haven’t had the gum surgery yet, but my options are to “harvest” tissue from the roof of my mouth (yuck and ouch) or use “donor” tissue. My sister and I are calling it “dead people gums”. I am leaning toward the dead people gums. I will just name them Stan and Lila and smile and be fabulous with my new pink gums.
Going to have save up for the hormones. It’s on the list.
Learning is good. And it is fairly cheap. I want to learn how to play the piano, speak either French or Italian and learn how to draw/paint. Ok, they are all on the list.
Love is a tricky little devil. It can be so great and also crush you like a bug on a windshield. I am going to work on this area. It’s on the list in pencil, not pen. If I get my gums fixed, my new killer smile might just help me out in this department.
If you are already in love, then you are one step ahead. Now you have to stay in love which is a whole lot harder than falling in love. Go ahead, pull the trigger. Book the weekend getaway, buy some new undies, turn on some music…Guys, take your girl out for a walk, hold her hand and ask her how her day was. Throw in a movie or go see a band. Call if you are going to be late. Go to the grocery store with her. I can feel the love from here.
When in doubt, go for a boat ride. Check the weather first.
It’s Friday! I am going to put my new found time machine factor to good use. Who knows, maybe it will provide ample fodder for another story. Good luck to everybody this weekend. I hope your day is as fast or slow as you want it to be.