Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Can I dress myself?

I am in a confessional mode now (dangerous to a former Catholic!). So I thought I would share something with you all.

As I mentioned, we had Christmas Eve at my sister's and her boy/manfriend. He's in his mid-60's so I want a better phrase to use. Suggestions?

Anyhoo... I was staying at my mom's. Showered, got my hair blown dry (vital that your hair is very dry, before venturing outdoors in Cold Country), dressed and put on my face. So we drove out to A and R's, mom riding shotgun. Along the way she announced that she was not drinking alcohol that night. I replied that I was. I am not a fool - I will not drive if I am impaired. Unfortunately for most women, that limits me to about one drink or glass of wine during an evening - but I do know that and live with that limit.

I had really watched my food intake over the holidays, trying not to overstuff myself on cookies and the like. I thought I had been very successful. However, when I got dressed, I noticed that the waist of my underlovelies (panties, to the rest of you) seemed uncomfortably snug. So I figured that maybe I hadn't been so successful with those calories, after all. Sigh. All that sitting around, I figured.

After some time at A and R's, I had to use the loo. So I went in, shut the door, and dropped trow. Pulled down said underlovelies, and imagine my surprise! They WERE snug - but for a reason. Some idiot had pulled them on sideways - yes, what should have been the waistband was, instead, a leg opening. And when you see that fuzzy little portion of the undies on one of your hips instead of its intended place, you know that something's wrong. So I proceeded to take off the shoes, remove the jeans entirely, put the undies back on in the fashion they were designed to be worn, pull jeans back on and slip shoes on feet again. Somewhere in all of this undressing/redressing activity, I managed to remember just why I had gone in that room originally, so that also was taken care of.

Sometimes it's not easy being me.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reality lurks around the corner

Well, I am back at my humble abode, unpacked, looking at the bills that arrived while I was gone.

My mother aside (FAR aside), this was a good visit. Saw only a small handful of friends and family, and I was liking most of the situations. Had Christmas Eve at my sis's - only she and her boyfriend (still not liking that "boyfriend" phrase, but...), her daughter and mom and me. Had pizza for our holiday meal! It was actually good stuff - a regional chain makes these take-and-bake ones, and the ingredients are fresh and the crust is freshly-made. Just gotta bake 'em.

I don't know how much y'all can take, of me carping on my time in my old "hometown". You know, I only lived there from ages 9 until 18. I lived in the Mpls. area about 18 years or so, and will mark my 24th year in Houston on New Year's Eve. So just what criteria qualifies someplace as your "hometown"?

Mom made this a very difficult time - much more than when I was there in July. I just don't know why she is acting like this. Harp, harp, harp. Criticized my driving a LOT, and I never sped while she was with me. Makes me wonder how I have been able to drive myself to and from work in heavy Houston traffic, all these years!

Anyway, I guess I just need to move on to some more fun things to describe. Tomorrow, I'll explain how much trouble I have, dressing myself.

'Bye for the evening.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bidding goodbye to Cold Country

Well, I am nearing the end of my visit back to Cold Country, and damn.... I don't know how my Texas-acclimated body will adjust to living in this weather again. I think I may be a winter Texan - A LOT. I'll spend time up here in the spring/summer/early fall, then go back to warmer climates, returning only for a courtesy visit over the holidays.

Lots of fodder for the blog. Not a lot of it pertaining to "warm and fuzzy" stuff. I do envy those of you who have a great relationship with your mothers. Me, not so much. I can only say that I stayed with her 8 days (and nights) and it was a very stressful time. Much easier to chat with her by telephone than to be up close and personal, if you get my drift. My dear mother is 81 and keeps saying that she's gonna live until 104 (one of her grandfathers was that age when he died). And my sister confided in me - "I can't take 23 more years of this." Somehow, my mother has turned into this carping, complaining, critical old lady. Very judgemental - VERY - and of course, freely shares these judgements with me, my sis, whoever.

On the plus side - I did talk her into a humidifier (her apt. is like Death Valley, for humidity), a floor lamp, and a new box springs and mattress (which I told her I would pay for). Re: mattress -- my back was KILLING me after many days on that thing. Neither my sis nor I can recall it ever being replaced - AND I slept on the side of the bed which my much-heavier father slept on for lo, those many years. So... she assures me that she'll buy a new set today (Monday). I think she is afraid that I will not visit her again if she keeps the old one - and she is correct.

I am typing this on my brother-in-law's desktop in his basement and it is COLD in here. My Reynaud's syndrome is about ready to shut down my fingers (they get white and numb in the cold weather). So I'll cut this off and let you all know that yes, Virginia, I DID have a white (and COLD) Christmas this year. Lovely to look at, nasty to shiver in...


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quick update

Hi, all!

Up here in the Great White North Country. Freezing my ta-ta's off, although, by Minnesota standards this is quite reasonable. It's 13 above zero - yes, that IS below freezing. But hey! Above zero is okay, in this part of the country at this time of year. Back in Texas, if this was the weather, we would probably be shutting the entire state down!

Definitely having a white Christmas - ground is frozen and fresh snow has been falling fairly frequently, just dusting off the earlier accumulations. It gives the snow a fresh, clean look.

Having to get used to driving in this stuff again... I am probably more timid than I would have been years ago. Got a 4-wheel-drive vehicle at Hertz, and I could not have been happier about that. Uses more petrol - but that's a sacrifice that I am willing to make (for my safety - but more importantly, for the safety of the other innocents who are driving alongside me!).

Anyway, just wanted to say that I am here, not liking the cold, but toughing it out. We may get some nasty weather and that may impact tomorrow's (Sunday's) plans. If it gets as nasty as the weather folks are hinting at, we will NOT be going to Duluth to gather with my cousins. And I will definitely NOT be driving to the Cities (Minneapolis-St.Paul, to you outsiders)later that same day.

Low-key days, unusual for this working stiff, but I think I can adjust. Hopefully, I won't go stir-crazy. Trying to keep occupied with my mom - we have a jigsaw puzzle to take up some of the time.

Gotta go shopping for some boots to replace this pair that I am wearing. The sole is separating from the main part of the boot! I have had the pair (which look like new) for many years - and of course, the boots haven't had much wear over the years. So I'll have to replace 'em. Wish me luck on finding some...

I'll try to post later. Not having easy access to a pc can be a killer!

-- Merry Christmas, if I don't post before then!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No ho-ho-ho

For obvious reasons, this is not gonna be a merry Christmas for me. I am trying, though, I really am.

I had already decided that I would not, could not decorate this year. It was too much of a WE thing, something that we always did together. So… not. this. year. But last weekend, I had an urge to listen to Christmas cd’s. We have (I am guessing) about a dozen or so. And I could not find them. Could not find them – anywhere. I had assumed that they would be with the rest of the cd’s – wrong. I was all over the place in that house – both floors, all kinds of places where I thought they might be stashed. Nothing.

I reached the point where I was exhausted/frustrated from all the searching-and-not-finding. And I lost it, dissolved in tears. All I wanted was some Christmas music. Was that asking too much? Apparently. After reflection, I thought that Mr. Organized (aka Greg) had probably packed them up with the Christmas decorations that I am NOT unpacking this year. And maybe there will be a happy reuniting of me and said music another time. Maybe he just could not stand another year of hearing me caterwauling along with the music, even given the distance now separating us. He always knew how much I liked music, and even more so if I could sing along when the lyrics were familiar.

On a related holiday note: I decided that I would send out Christmas cards this year. I always like receiving them – particularly if the sender(s) have included some kind of family/personal update on the year just passed. I composed a letter and printed out several copies of same. Brought the copies home, then (next day) re-read what I had written. I cannot in good conscience send those out. Too much of a downer for folks, even if it reflects my mood (at that time). So I’ll try to write an upbeat letter, somehow. Most of the folks on the card list know what happened, and for the one or two that do not… I’ll try to be gentle.

The struggle goes on, and those who are walking in these same shoes, know just what I am experiencing. Only for me, this is the first time – this Christmastime – that I am really feeling the depths of doing this alone, when so many have family or a spouse or a significant other (how DID we ever start using that phrase, anyway?).

Hug someone you love today.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Moving forward after Bird-Day

So... another "first". I am getting so tired of these. But there they are. Only two more to go: Christmas and New Year's Eve/Day. We won't discuss 2009 yet.

Thanksgiving was fine. I was with friends, weather was great (close to 80 on Thursday), and the deep-fried turkey was great! Love it!! Had the traditional dishes, except for mashed potatoes. And let me tell you, a day without pie is... GREAT! Since I never (okay, rarely) have pie, it was at first a treat. Eventually, it felt like a prison sentence that HAS to be completed. I copped out with just a small portion for take-home and I am thankful that I did not bring a bigger cooler with me and thus could NOT take home any more than that little bit. The turkey carcass (destined for soup stock) took up too much room!

My Wimberley friends have goats on their property (referred to as a "ranch" in Texas) which they raise for meat (they don't do the prep work - they will truck off several of them to auction from time to time). It was baby-poppin' time, and those little guys and gals (called kids) and all their bah-ahh-ing for mommies was cute to see and hear. Four of 'em needed bottle-feeding, as either they were offspring of a mama who has since died, or of a mama who would not let them feed. So-o-o, four times a day, a bottle was prepared for each, and we would walk into the holding pen and feed 'em. I somehow managed to miss that 7 am feeding, but was there for the noon, 5 pm and 10 pm ones. The first bottle that was produced was attacked by one kid, with 3 others trying to grab it, too. So you literally had to grab one by the head and practically shove the bottle in its mouth, to break up the mob. They made short work of the bottle, I can attest!

Anyway, the weather was cooperative, and the last two days were cooler, but tolerable. Traffic was HEAVY on the way back to Houston, including a half-hour slowdown that was caused by rubber-necking at a minor accident on the opposite side of the interstate. Puh-leez. Since most of us were probably heading back to Houston and had seen our fair share of accidents over the years... what was so damned fascinating about THIS accident? Jeesh.

My W/W group has its monthly dinner this Saturday, and since A is going (she went to the church bazaar the weekend before Thanksgiving), I guess I will go. That creepy "assistant organizer" is going, too. Need to avoid HIS end of the table, for sure. Plus G, along with her boyfriend. So far, it seems like a small group will attend. That could mean an early exit me. I don't want to listen to B complain about how "we don't ever get over it". I want to shout, "Speak for yourself!" It is a journey, this grief, this loss. But we WANT to heal, and still remember the times spent with our spouses, the good and the bad. It is a journey, there is no doubt.

My Christmas will be quite subdued. No decorations. Greg and I always put up the tree together and also decorated it (and the house) together. He had a good eye for these things. I have been trying, in my mind, to write a brief letter to include with cards this year. Almost everyone has heard the bad news, and I cannot think of one (on the card list) who has not. I am sure that some will fall off the card list, thinking that the only reason they were comminicating was because of Greg - and not knowing that I addressed the cards and composed most of the letter. Last night I was thinking - I got lots and lots of cards from MY friends, but very few from his. His family has been very attentive to me (okay, except his brother, but that is HIM, not me) and were great to visit with this past summer. The guy who surprised me, who sent me (out of the blue) Greg's certificate for induction into the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame, was a former bandmate of his. His income had been pretty stretched, and still he sent me money and a nice note. Greg would be happy about that. Not for the money - but for the thoughtfulness. I need to try to see him on one of my trips to Mpls.

Need to try to get a package mailed up to MN before I head up that way myself. Greg's sweaters would probably find a better use in northern climates rather than in Houston weather. Nice sweaters, too, and in good condition. Maybe a Christmas gift for someone who can't afford much but will shop at Goodwill. Hope that is the case.

I have already received a few cards - on Thanksgiving and one Christmas card - telling me that these holidays will probably be pretty lonely ones for me. Well, way to pump up the spirits of the widow, folks! Come on... please just wish me a Merry Christmas and tell me that your thoughts will be with me, or something along that line. Or would you rather have me collapsed in tears most days?

Okay, okay.... I'll calm down. But if you ever find yourself thinking about what to write on a card to a widow (or widower) for the holidays, think about the wording, eh? I'm just saying.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-Thanksgiving post

Well, here it is, the day before Bird-Day. I will be heading to the Texas Hill Country on Thursday morning, having been invited by my good and supportive friends to spend some days with them. They are one couple who has NOT discouraged my contact or involvement. The wife knows that I am NOT after her husband, and I consider her to be my very closest friend here in Texas. And he is up there with her, in support and friendship. And they both like wine!

Last weekend: Friday evening, after my return from work, I was busy. Finally decided what I would bake for the church bazaar. This bazaar is always on the weekend before Thanksgiving, and there is a tea room as part of it all. You can buy a cup of coffee or tea and a single-serving of some nice baked products - for example, I saw a wonderful red velvet cake and also rosettes - and then eat that there. Also, church members bake and contribute goodies for sale to the public. So I made two 8 x 8 sized pans of triple-layer peanut butter brownies. But not just any brownies - I make these with the Ghiradelli brand brownies, and they are to die for. After the brownies cool, you make up one batch of instant vanilla pudding, using only half the milk usually called for. And you blend in a cup of peanut butter plus a cup of powdered milk with the pudding. Spread that on top of the cooled brownies (the peanut-butter pudding combo is enough for the 2 pans). Then melt 3 squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate with (approx) half of a container of Cool Whip (unthawed, to start with). Stir the Cool Whip and chocolate together, then spread thinly on top of the peanut-butter layer. Refrigerate until shortly before serving. Yummmm..... They put a price tag of $12 on each pan, and they both were sold before too long. So I feel like I at least contributed something to the church bazaar. I just couldn't bring myself to sign up for working at any of the areas where they needed help. Maybe next year - if I am still in Houston at that time.

Two of the women I met at the Widows group, came to the bazaar, too. We met, browsed and shopped, then went to lunch together. I had met these 2 the night of Greg's birthday, which was coincidentally another W/W meeting-dinner. A and E are fun, close to my age, and E brought her sister-in-law, who matched wits with us over lunch. Fun group to talk with and laugh with. We had (the widows) all, separately, come to the same conclusions about a few who are in the W/W group. And we may start to back away from that group and "do our own thing" in our portion of suburbs. The organizer of the group seems hell-bent on dragging her "boyfriend" (also widowed) with her to all the meetings now, kind of (IMHO and shared by the other two women) in a "look what I have and you don't" way. I am happy for her... BUT. It seems like such a juvenile approach, sort of an attempt at one-upsmanship. Maybe we are ALL wrong about this. And we all think the assistant organizer, B, is off-balance. His wife has been dead about 2 years, he can't forgive the guy who caused the traffic accident resulting in her death, and his 26-yr-old unemployed son lives at home with his dad and stays in his room. Weird. And I think he "likes" me - the others share that viewpoint too - and I try to say snippy little comebacks to him, to discourage him. I don't think that he "gets" that, either. If you saw the guy, you would realize that there is NO way in hell that he would be on my "dance card", so to speak.

We got to discussing cruises - these women have gone on several, me: none - and they said that if we all go, the 3rd person signing up goes for free. So we could split the cost of 2 tickets, by 3. Sounds like a good proposal. I am just hangin' back on this, to see if they decide to plan a cruise. I don't know: 3 middle-aged women on a cruise sounds like the plot for a sit-com. And I don't want to find a cabin steward as my "dream date", either!

Anyway, it was nice to have a week that didn't involve family occasions to bring sadness. There was another family death, but it was a cousin that I have never met (long family story behind that). Still, sad to lose another family member. I will probably send sympathy cards to some of his family. I am in touch with this cousin's surviving brother and sister-in-law, but have not met them, either. Meeting this couple IS in my plans, and I hope to do this soon after returning (permanently) to MN.

So... I am thankful for family and friends. And for (most) co-workers. I am thankful that I will receive a pension (for which I have not had to contribute one dime) and also social security, when the time comes. And I have faith (or maybe misplaced confidence) that my deferred compensation (457b plan) will come back in value, and I am still buying - buy low, they say - and I am grateful that I do NOT need this money right now. My biggest thanks goes to my late husband, who gave me years of laughter and love and companionship. I miss him terribly, but each day gets a little easier. I'll just have to remember what your hugs were like, babe.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Six months

Another “anniversary” – and not the kind you want to note, believe me. Six months on Saturday, following Greg’s death. Six long LONG L-O-O-O-N-G months. And yet, so NOT long. Amazing that half-a-year has slipped away, somewhere in the haze and the fog. Six months of trying to find ME in that mist somewhere. I guess I have made some progress. I’m cooking and eating again. Not so much fun, all alone. Worse than when I was single, when I had hope, when I was a lot younger. When I looked forward to weekends, rather than dreading them.

When I picked up the mail on Saturday afternoon, it was primarily junk mail. Which I didn’t get around to opening until Sunday. Due to my attitude, no doubt. I mean, where’s the rush on ANYTHING nowadays? And lo and behold – advertising from the Neptune Society. Are you familiar with this organization? They provide cremation services without the necessity of using a funeral home. At least this letter was in MY name and not his. I have never been in contact with this group, so I am not sure what triggered my name going on the mailing list. Bad, BAD timing, is all I can say. Although – if I returned the requested information on the card which was included, I would be eligible for a pre-paid cremation! Woo hoo – and then I would have to declare the “value” of the prize on my income tax form as income, I am sure.

Shifting gears, trying to get into a better mood. Some good news – the woman that I car-pooled to my last W/W dinner with, found my earring in her car! It was on the rug, and although she had looked the following day, it didn’t reveal itself. Later in the week, she was unloading groceries and moved the rug and there it was. I am happy to be getting that back – it was a better quality pair of earrings and unique enough that I was kicking myself for losing it. Not REALLY expensive - I recall $30 or less, but love the style and color. Seems like you rarely lose one of those crappy little costume-jewelry kinds.

My last remaining aunt (on my dad’s side) died yesterday. She had had emphysema for years and needed oxygen for many of the last years, too. She was rushed to the hospital over the weekend and then was diagnosed with a fast-growing type of lung cancer. She refused any treatment and returned to the home that she shared with a son, daughter-in-law (who is a respiratory therapist) and their kids. They didn’t think she’d make it through Sunday night, but she finally slipped away Monday afternoon. She was married to my dad’s youngest brother, who died several years before her. So now my mom is the last living embodiment of my dad’s generation of that family. When she goes…. Well, then it will be down to me and my cousins (about 35 or so of us), as we start our own countdown. Weird, and yet it is “the circle of life”, as we all know from The Lion King. So the deaths of the last two aunts really, REALLY made me even more happy with my decision to attend the family reunion in July. I got to see and talk with both of them, not knowing that they would never be at another family reunion again. (As one cousin remarked, at the reunion held after my father’s death four years ago, they “are at the better family reunion”. And I am sure that they are – all the brothers and sisters together again, most with their spouses except my dad. Maybe they have a card game going – this family was fond of playing cards. And my gram has probably got a game of two- or four-handed solitaire going, and someone else is pouring/mixing drinks.)

I like to think of Greg like that - sitting in on sessions with his old band-mates and maybe some others that he had rubbed elbows with during his lifetime. And maybe, just maybe, checking in on me to see how I'm doing.

Some more of his clothes went to the re-sale shop (I donate, they resell, but no profits go to me). This time it was jackets and fleece tops and sweatshirts, since Houston had its first cold spell of this season and it was time to recycle that kind of clothing. In Minnesota, they don't even wear a jacket on days like this! I hope that someone is keeping warm (on a limited budget) because of this donation. I also have some flannel shirts of his to bring there.

Sorry if this was a bit "down" to post. Too much on my mind lately and I need to get out and do something FUN. Maybe this weekend will change my tempo. Church bazaar and maybe lunch or dinner with a few of the W/W gals who live in my area. We think we will skip the movie group this time.

Gotta run...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

All Saints Day

A weekend to put behind me…

Not a lot goin’ on this past weekend, except –

An oil change that grew more expensive, when the radiator, cracked and leaking antifreeze (so that’s what that smell was!), had to be repaired. The Honda is a ’97 and has many miles on it, and many more to give – I hope – so it was worth the investment. The place where we have had our Hondas worked on for many years, has always been fair and honest. So I gave the assent on getting the necessary work done.

Early voting – so-o-o easy! Used a new polling location that I think a lot of folks do not yet know about. There were maybe 6 or 8 booths, and only 3 were in use when I strolled in. And… NO LINE! I did my bit and only wish that I could have cast a ballot for Greg, too. When I talked with my mom on Sunday, she informed me that Minnesota does NOT have early voting. Maybe we have early voting in Texas, due to the much larger population?

Picked up my re-sized wedding ring, so I have a connection to the old, married gal that I used to be, before I was suddenly turned into a widow. I had the ring set (soldered together years and years ago) sized for my right hand, and my right hand is slightly bigger than my left. It is a very pretty diamond that I probably should list in my will. It felt good to have it again, but a bit odd to wear it on my right hand. Still, a connection to that bright and hopeful day 23 years ago.

Had to meet (at the jeweler's) with the co-worker who bought Greg’s old Subaru. Between the two of us (she and me, that is), we had filled out paperwork that the state of Texas had on the internet and then I signed in a couple of places. A signature was missing in a couple of spots, so it was provided and she was able to file for the title change and make everything all legal-shmegal. You can discuss amongst yourselves, as to whose signature was missing – and just how it was provided. I will deny everything.

Sunday was another tough day for me. Our church always celebrates All Saints Day on the Sunday closest to that day. They read the names (submitted by members of the congregation) of family and friends who have died during the preceding year. I had 3 names this year: Greg’s, his dad’s and my Aunt Rita, who would have turned 90 in March. Plus this year, they dedicated a Prayer Garden and planted some roses in that garden for the congregants who passed away. The service was held outside, the weather was gorgeous (in the 70’s with sunshine and low humidity), and the setting was nice, on a hilly embankment leading down to the little lake (more pond-sized, maybe?). They rang a handbell (one of the deeper-toned ones) after each congregant’s name. It was very emotional, and yet I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. At the same time, it was rather like re-living the memorial service. So another emotional day for me.

Finishing this posting on Election Day. I certainly hope this country has taken to heart just what has transpired the last 8 years and wants to take a new direction. As always, time will tell.

Over and out...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wedding anniversary

Yesterday was another one of my "firsts" - our wedding anniversary, and the first one ever that we did not, will not be able to spend together. I think I talked with him a whole lot more during that day, than I have any day since his death. I made cookies (something he would have enjoyed) and had a glass-and-a-half of wine with dinner. And cried. Now I really know the meaning, the feeling, of “bittersweet tears”. Bitter, because he is gone and I am alone. Sweet, the memories. Happy anniversary, baby. You are loved... and terribly, awfully missed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I Miss You

Today is the five-month mark. From May 15th to October 15th. And I wonder when... if I will ever stop missing him. By degrees, the hurt and pain seems to lessen. But that ache, that very deep ache remains.

I need to record Greg’s voice – because I cannot remember the sound of it. I miss his hugs, his “I love you”s, his veggie-chopping while we are preparing another new dish to try. And here I am, typing and tears are loading up my eyes. Miss you, babe – and I hope somehow that you feel that. Love you…

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ike wrap-up and other stuff

Wrapping up after Ike… most little things are repaired. I did have missing shingles, but that could only be seen from the back yard of my next-door neighbor. She’s the one who told me about them. I showed it to the couple who had their roof so devastated following the storm, and the husband got two shingles and used my extension ladder to crawl up there and patch it up. I hope it holds. Free repair – the shingles were leftovers from another neighbor and the donated work was gratefully accepted by me. I still have to have the remainder of that split tree removed, but I’ll get to that when I can. It could be worse – there are lots of blue-tarped roofs all over the block, and at least one of them is NOT mine.

Having some weepy (or near-tears) moments today. Reading other blogs about those who have also lost their spouses.

Birthdays are tough ones, it seems, for most of us. I kinda thought my own would be difficult, but his - September 20th - was the absolute worst. Because he will always and forever be 56, while I age onward. I will have to find a way to mark his birthday, for the future. It was just too emotional for me to even think of doing anything this year. Our wedding anniversary is October 26th. Another tough day looming.

I went through some old cards recently – we had a bad habit of saving the cards that the other one had given us for various and sundry occasions. So I thought, it’s time to weed these out… and then I came across one of those little cards that are included in a floral arrangement. This one said, “Remembering the day when both our hearts were saved.” And it marked the anniversary of one of my open-heart surgeries, and I cannot remember which one that was (I have had two such surgeries). But pow! Like a sucker-punch to the gut… and the tears flowed. I just was not expecting that.

Re-inventing yourself, is what one of the attendees said at one of the Widow/Widowers meetup dinner. He said that’s what he has decided he has to do. And I know that’s true. But it seems so hollow sometimes. There was another W/W meetup Saturday night. Some of us were talking and saying how we would look at dating couples and remark to our spouses that we were glad that that was not us. And one of the women said, “And now… look at us. How do you start to approach dating at this point in our lives?”

For all you complacent folks out there, in committed relationships – I truly, truly hope that you are able to go forward with your partners into old age. Cuz I gotta tell ya, having no one by your side as you face the future, just absolutely sucks. There is not one of us at the W/W meetups that could have placed ourselves right where we are, right now. Ever.

I sold Greg’s car on Friday. A co-worker knew that I was thinking about selling it, and when her teenage daughter’s car was wrecked, the insurance company (of course!) put her daughter onto mom’s new car. Much higher rates. So the ’99 Subaru Forester belongs to someone else now. Greg was always so good about having regular maintenance done to the cars, so I know that this is a safe car for a teen girl to drive. I emptied out the car, and found a note I had written to him around this time last fall. It said, “Don’t forget to get your flu shot! I love you” and I had drawn a heart after that. Schmaltzy, but that was the kind of thing we did with each other. Again, an unexpected link with the past and tears flowing again. Damn.

Still going through Greg’s clothes, parsing out the ones that I’ll donate here in my area, and some that I will send up to my mother (probably) to donate to Goodwill or some such organization in northern MN. He had some really good sweaters and a very nice, very warm winter jacket that would probably be appreciated and put to better use in that part of the country.

I could really use a hug today. Damn, again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ike chronicles, part I

Left the neighborhood late this morning (11-ish) to grab lunch out. What can you do without power? And going a bit stir-crazy, too. Ran into 3 friends from church at the Chili’s and we exchanged war stories. A few restaurants were back on the grid (God, I hate that phrase – sick of hearing about power grids). When I drove back into my neighborhood, the neighbor’s young son was yelling, “We have power, we have power!” Whew - I have never been so happy to have the electricity come back on! Small things that we take for granted... lights, television, a/c, internet and e-mail. Folks calling me from around the country and telling me what they had seen on tv - and my neighbors and myself are living through it and cannot see what has been on national tv, let alone local tv. Grrr...

Well, what was it like? Scary, just damned scary. This would have been hard to go through with Greg, and more difficult than I can say, all alone. Ike was, of course, very noisy, very windy and the force behind the rain? Unbelievable. I actually got to sleep before anything started - I think that was after midnight. The power went out in my area at 11:38 (I have an atomic clock), I had just hung up with a Minnesota friend, less than a minute before that. I was awakened around 3:45 or so - power came back on, so I jumped out of bed with enough time to turn off the light in the family room and the tv, too. Power dropped before I could get back to the bedroom. I think the big blast in my area was around that time. The windows were rattling, shaking fiercely, and of course too dark to see what was happening outside. A hurricane at night – your worst nightmare.

I was out of bed before 5 am. I could hear water running somewhere. Where, WHERE? and using the flashlight to survey the second and first floors. Couldn't see a damned leak anywhere, and still could hear the water running, running... When it finally got a little settled down (daylight, still lots of wind and lessened rainfall), I went outside and found a water spigot had snapped off. Water was gushing out of there like it was a fire hydrant. (Gonna have a BIG water bill this month, uh huh) I drafted the neighbor's brother in turning off the water to the house.

More damage – several sections of fencing in the backyard fell down. Fence posts just plumb fell over, a combination of the saturated ground and 12 years of wood rot from Houston weather. So I introduced myself to the husband/homeowner (of the over-the-fence property) and was talking about the water spigot problem. He gestured to the young man with him, saying, “He’s a contractor. Have him take a look at it.” This guy is his son-in-law, and so he walked over the downed fence section and came around to the spot with the broken spigot. He got the spigot back on with plumbers putty, but it was still spewing water. His suggestion: attach a hose with a handheld sprayer to the faucet. That did the trick, until Home Depot was completely open and I could get a replacement faucet/spigot combo.

Final damage – one of the two big oak trees in the front split and a fork of that oak came down – about a third of the tree. Best news: did NOT fall on my house, my car (was in the garage), or anyone else’s property.

House seems to have come through it great! All damage was external. Worse news: my homeowners policy has nearly a $4,000 deductible, which I will most likely NOT exceed, so it’s on my dime. But hey – I did this, survived it and met lots and lots of the neighbors, who offered lots of help.

One home had the worst damage in my immediate block-sized area. Shingles ripped off, saturated insulation and a caved-in ceiling. And they were still willing to offer aid to others.

After all of this, the biggest problem was power. Without power: no gas stations were able to pump. And without gas, no generators could continue running (if you were fortunate enough to have or find one), no cars could go very far. People were running out of gas, waiting in line for the very few open stations. No refrigeration, no a/c. And for anyone who has not experienced the summer weather here, just think sauna. Hot and steamy. So we are not whining about a/c – it is a necessity, just like heat is for surviving northern winters.

No stores – gotta have electricity to log those purchases. No restaurants – gotta have the juice, Bruce. All the things you take for granted.

I tried without success to find an open Home Depot on Sunday. I saw a line at the entrance to the lumber area and was told that they were only issuing fencing and other building stuff – no store admittance at all. The only grocery store open that day, had a single entrance open, minimum lights and only admitting a few at a time. Folks were standing in the rain (yes, more rain on Sunday), awaiting entrance. To see what had happened, what others were seeing, I had to buy a Sunday newspaper. I felt very isolated from all the news coverage. I could listen to tv coverage on my batter-operated radio, but could not see what they were showing.

BUT - the greatest thing out of all of this – meeting and helping each other up and down this street. I cannot tell you how heartwarming this has been, sharing and caring for each other. Gives you faith in your fellow man/woman.

Phone calls from caring folks: thank you all for thinking and caring and praying for me. I feel like Sally Fields during her Oscar acceptance speech: “You like me, you really like me!”

This may bore you - but I will probably continue this saga tomorrow. Work has been cancelled for another day. Might be back to work on Thursday...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Busy, stay busy

Note: this posting was started on August 26th. Good intentions, but...

It helps me to stay busy, stay occupied. And it really, REALLY helps to do activities outside the house and with other people. Unless you are very alone (meaning no family lives with you, no roommate, nobody), you probably cannot relate to this need, this compelling need to socialize.

Anyhoo... It has been and will be a good, busy week for me. Last Saturday was another Meetup for the Houston Widows and Widowers group. Much better one (for me) this time. It was a movie meetup. We met at a pre-assigned time, chose our movie (Tropic Thunder for me and most of the others, Mirrors for 2 remaining), then met at Cafe Adobe afterwards for food and talk. Miss Chatty Cathy was there with her 2 daughters, but somehow did not monopolize the conversation. I am not sure how or why that happened, but it was a blessing for me and for some others. We think she might benefit from a grief group or from conversations with a pastor or something. I just know that we should not have to act as a counselor for her. Don't tell me that I am cold or unfeeling - it is just that we all deserve a few minutes to speak our piece, share our quirks and questions, express our fears or reluctance. And when she starts to talk, that does NOT happen. It turns into a filibuster.

After we ate, most of us stuck around to try to plan some upcoming activities. We think we might get better attendance if we have a variety of things planned. I did meet 2 additional members (one a recent joiner and one who joined several months ago). Plus I met the organizer, a very vibrant and supportive woman.

Tonight (Wednesday) I signed up for a cooking class. Don't know if it will be any of the ol' hands-on stuff, but I hope to pick up some recipes, pointers, etc. And it will allow me to meet some MORE new people. The theme is Asian food, so that should be interesting. Many years ago, I went to a cooking class on stir-fry cooking, and that's how I got started on using a wok.

Thursday is the monthly dinner-group meeting, with the people from church. We are going to Rudi Lechner's Restaurant - I think the owner is either Austrian or German. The food is a good selection of some German-style favorites. I really like going to this restaurant during the Oktoberfest time - because then they have a little German-flavored entertainment, with music and a guy who does a comedic bit - and of course I really like the sing-along songs. A coupla beers loosens my vocal cords! My fellow dinner-groupers are probably happy that this is NOT Oktoberfest and they will not have to listen to my caterwauling.

The Meetup group has an afternoon of miniature golf planned for Saturday. This is a long weekend (Labor Day holiday) and we tried to schedule something so that we can get out of our houses and mingle over that time frame. I am looking forward to sleeping in for a couple of mornings.

Finally, I would suggest this particular blog-posting for anyone in my situation (lost your spouse). The fellow who writes this blog has recently remarried, and I hope they have a long and happy life together. His wife died over 2 years ago, leaving him and his 2-year-old son to carry on. This blog comments on dating again, on going forward after losing your spouse. Please pay attention to his warnings about reading it - if you are not yet open to approaching life again, or you are not ready to socialize yet, then this may not be something you should read. For me, the timing was right... but then, I have always been a social-type, and I enjoy meeting others and feel like I am not ready to dry up and blow away. Anyway, here is his blog about Honoring Your Wedding Vows. It really spoke to me. Really and truly.

I am finishing this long-delayed post (written about a week-and-a-half ago) so that I can get over this one and move on to another.

Today was the four-month mark for me, after Greg's death. And I am amazed at the progress. Yes, I miss Greg; yes, I am lonely; yes, I curse about having to do EVERYTHING myself. But I am amazed at how much progress I have made, emotionally. I never, NEVER thought I would be at this stage by now. I can talk freely about him without breaking down into sobs. Of course, I will still be caught off-guard. I had found a good country-music station which broadcasts out of Austin, on my return trip yesterday from visiting my friends in Wimberley. And this song comes on, I'll Wait for You, which I vaguely recalled. And when the song was ending with these lines:

The doctor said, she's in a better place
She said to give this you this note just in case

And it said, I'll wait for you at Heaven's gate
Oh, I don't care how long it takes
And I'll tell Saint Pete I can't come in
Without my love and my best friend
Oh, this ain't nothin' new
Sweetheart, I'll wait for you
P.S. I love you, too
Sweetheart, I'll wait for you

Well, that was it for me. I was in tears. Just drivin' and cryin'. Caught off-guard, like I said. A song that I would have previously dismissed as schmaltzy. Now with a new meaning to me. Just like Garth Brooks' song, The Dance.

Posting this one... and hopefully followed by another, in a much shorter time frame.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

This awful club

Here is one of the latest blog postings by the woman who writes about losing her husband and the father of their 6 kids:

Bandages and Wounds

She is fortunate that she has identified (somehow) a group of widows up in her area (the Woodlands, which is about a 1-hour drive north of where I live). And I know what she means by this "same sucky club" that no one wants to join.

Like she expressed: I am sure that people look at me and hear me and think (or tell each other) that I am doing so well. NOT. It is a facade, folks. Smoke and mirrors. You should see the house and how neglected everything is. Not really dirty. But just kinda, why bother? Who else will see it? It's just me, the bills, the tv and the empty house. Every time Greg's watch beeps (on the hour, EVERY hour) and I am there to hear it, I'll make a remark to him (as though he could even hear that remark). But it's the only "person" that I have to talk with. Try going an entire day without speaking to another living person. Not so great, eh? And that's my day, if I don't go to work or shopping or some other place where folks probably think that I am way too chatty. If they only knew.

That beeping watch. Greg brought it back with him from Phoenix. It had been his dad's, and good ol' Bob, an engineer to the end, had obviously set this Timex to do that (beeping on the hour) and then descended into the hell that is Alzheimer's, leaving his watch beeping on. I complained to Greg - he, who needed the hearing aid, after damaging his hearing over years of playing live music next to amps - and told him that I could hear it when I was in the kitchen and it beeped in the bedroom. I could, I really could. Annoying. And now it is a measure of comfort to me. Strange, eh? It reminds me that another hour has passed or that a new day is starting, or that another day is drawing to a close.

Next week it will be 3 months since Greg died. I can go up those stairs now, but I always think about how I found him there that day, after his life had ebbed away. Poor baby - all alone, and all I can hope is that it was quick and that he didn't linger there.

I know that I am not the only woman (or person) who has gone through this, or who will go through this. It is just so personal to each of us, and some days are tougher to get through than others. I bought a grief journal last week, and it arrived a day or two ago. I hope that, while writing in it, I can make progress in my sorrowful journey. I want to laugh again, find joy again, have dreams again.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Where do the dreams go?

So, Saturday night was my first Meetup with the Houston Widows and Widowers group. At a local Mexican chain-restaurant. A good excuse to have an alcoholic drink and snarf down some tortilla chips. Ninfa’s has a good red sauce, and their green sauce (guess it is probably tomatilla sauce) is great!

Seventeen (out of membership of 50-plus members) had signed up for this one. Believe that we ended up with a total of only 10.

Unfortunately, I chose tne wrong end of the table to plop down at. Sat and listened and listened and listened, as one widow merrily rattled on, oblivious to the fact that she was completely monopolizing the time and conversation. To listen to her: theirs had been the perfect marriage, they were so compatible, they had so many likes and dislikes that they shared, etc. And I gotta tell you that she was not a new widow – which some of us at this dinner were – nor was this her first Meetup with this group. We can post our impressions of the Meetup online, and another widow remarked: “The girl next to me didn't really let alot of us share things about our life and our grief. In fact, I didn't talk much about my grief at all.” And that was not the first comment about (I am sure) this same blabbermouth. From a previous meeting, I read: “One person often dominated the conversation, but maybe they needed to.” Oh, please. Once, maybe she was happy to have someone to share with. Twice, you are a pain in the ass. You are NOT the only one with loss and pain. She lost her husband two years ago. And there were women there with very VERY recent losses. I wasn’t sure that I would return to another Meetup.

However, I was able to make a bit of conversation with D, the woman seated to my left, and with J, the woman seated across the table from her. D asked, “Do you have dreams anymore?” and I paused, thinking that she meant those dreams that occur while you sleep (and which I rarely remember, although I guess I do have them). Then she explained that she was talking about plans, ideas, future things you might do. And I realized (and answered the same), “No, I don’t.” And she concurred with me on that.

When Greg died, the idea of fun, retirement plans, future trips, etc., died with him. The joy or potential for joy seemed to die, too. We had hopes, ideas, dreams. Wanted to go back to Europe, since our one and only visit there back in 1996 had been so much fun. Thought we could drive to various places in the U.S., visiting friends and acquaintances along the way. And now? Now I guess it’s either go alone (hoo boy – what great fun that would be), travel with another woman (my friends are all paired off), or live vicariously through another’s dreams and travels. Damn. Damn, damn, damn. The dreams go… and they are replaced with loneliness, lots of “to do’s” that you can’t share with anyone else, meals eaten alone, and too many tears that you shed behind closed doors.

What a crappy sorority that I didn’t want to join. But did. And can’t opt out of.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Return to Houston

I have been in MN for many days - the 17th thru the 28th. Many firsts, such as travelling solo for the first time in several years (although Greg and I were not joined at the hip). It was strange to look at the occupied seat next to me and think that that was Greg's place until his death changed all those plans - changed all MY plans.

It was a bit strained, to see family that I had not seen yet. Most knew of Greg's death, but apparently I missed notifying one branch. They crawled all over themselves, apologizing, but hey, how would they have known? Three of the cousins in my age bracket are widows, including myself, my sis and cousin Lynn. Lynn's husband was the same age as Greg was when he died. The weather was good, expected MN summer weather. Of course, that was cool for me when I first got there, but I eventually got a little bit acclimated.

I brought Greg's ashes with me in the carryon bag. I was told by the funeral home that I had to personally carry this rather than in checked baggage, and I would have felt pretty bad if he had been in a bag that ended up lost (or worse yet, stolen by the nefarious baggage handlers/thieves). But wouldn't they have been surprised?! I am still uncertain about what to do with the ashes, but I'm leaning towards the same Duluth cemetery where my sister's husband is buried and where my dad's older brother and his wife are interred, too. Until then, my mother volunteered to store the box on a shelf in her apartment. I amused her by commenting that "the poor man will have to spend months alone with his mother-in-law". Anyway, I was touched by her offer.

A high-school friend suggested that I could place some of the ashes in jewelry, so I hunted out a couple of web jewelry-sellers. And yes, folks, there are those who specialize in this kind of product. I found a tasteful pendant with a very tiny opening into which you place the "ashes", then put superglue on the opening and screw the top onto the pendant. "Ashes" is really a mis-description, since I discovered that they are really more like coarse sand. That helps to define the weight that I toted - over 10 pounds - in the carryon.

This was one family reunion where I did NOT take one photo. Greg had always graciously snapped so many group shots, and I just could not bring myself to "replace" him in that capacity yet. Maybe the next time. I missed him so much, at so many times and for expected and unexpected reasons.

Still, I saw some cousins I hadn't seen for many years. And I am kinda nudging some of them to update their family dates - marriages, births, divorces, deaths. I do not care if someone "had" to get married, or if they had a child out of wedlock, or even if they have had 3 or more spouses. This is just for the record, folks. So I think that we are living in a more open-minded society and maybe I will get better cooperation out of this (my) generation than possibly from the earlier one.

My sis's boyfriend of a few months met the family at this reunion. I think it went pretty well. They seem well-matched and happy. I feel like I have (at least temporarily) lost her. Kind of wrapped-up in each other and she usually does not return my phone calls. And I do not bother e-mailing her, since she rarely stops at home to check her pc for anything. They are sort of teenage-ish in their relationship right now (but free to have sex and not pretend that they are NOT). I hope it all works out for them. But I do miss her.

Mom did not cook while I was staying with her, other than the boiled dinner that she had prepared ahead of time. A couple of bowls of that were, however, enough for me. She had had her teeth pulled (uppers?) recently, so she turned to soup while we ate meals at some of the local cafes. There are a couple of little eateries in the town (pop. of 800+) where I was raised, so for lunch, I too enjoyed some homemade soup. She had a chicken-wild rice and I had a mushroom soup - portobellas! - both of which I thought were a tad salty. But then, since I do NOT add salt to my cooking, my taste buds may be a little more sensitive to that. Then we had split pea and ham soup at the local truck stop. Surprisingly NOT salty, and very tasty and loaded with ham. Could not get over the bargain prices. Most times we each got a bowl and iced tea, and the total was only about $10 or less for both meals.

My sister turned 59 on the 22nd, so we celebrated with a meal at the Applebee's in the next town. Sis, boyfriend, Mom, me, and sis's girlfriend and her husband. The girlfriend happens to be the younger sister of the boyfriend. Maybe the girlfriend has better luck, talking with my sis. Ya think?

Anyway, I am going on and on and no one is being entertained by this. I'll probably expound on part 2 of my stay - in the Twin Cities - in another post.

I have been reading some blogs written by other widowed folks (male and female) and like this woman's - maybe because she is a Texas-based blogger. Like me, she really misses her husband and tries to go on. Sometimes she's funny, sometimes poignant. I like her web page and she also has posted the lyrics from Garth Brooks' song, "The Dance". Check her out: One Breath at a Time - if you feel like it.

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance - I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My birthday

Well, that dreaded birthday - my 60th - was on Monday. And I was dreading it, not because of the number, but because it was the first birthday I would mark without Greg by my side. I did my damnedest to keep my mind occupied, and that did seem to work. For that day, anyway. I attended a fun, family-friendly Fourth party on Friday, and a wedding on Saturday. I had carefully planned to be at the home of two very good and dear friends for most of that weekend. So I woke up on the 7th at their home. They even had a gift for me, good people that they are! In the morning we worked on some projects at their place - they are readying a backdrop to bring to a Las Vegas trade show in a few weeks.

At mid-day, we drove into San Marcos, looking for some additional things for the trade booth. We took two cars, so that I could continue on back to Houston after lunch. After the brief shopping, we ate at the River Pub (or some similar name). Well known for a good spot on the river so you can watch the tubers frollicking (sp?) around, and the burgers, fries and Shiner Bock were also good! They then headed for home, while I went to the Outlet Mall and shopped for a carryon bag that would be big enough for my personal stuff plus the box that holds Greg's ashes. I don't know if he would approve being transported in a bag whose color is labeled as raspberry, but maybe he will see the humor in it.

So I didn't get in the door at my house until close to 6 pm. Unloaded the car, etc., and then the phone started ringing. (And I also had several "happy birthday" messages from friends and family on the answering machine.) By the time I hung up with the last caller, it was about 9 pm. I rounded up my stuff for work the next day - cobbled together something for lunch - and went to brush my teeth. And then it hit me. We always stood side-by-side at the dual sinks and brushed away, and the one who finished first would grab the mouthwash under the cabinet, set it on the countertop and uncap it. I saw his toothbrush in the holder - the one I can't bring myself to throw away yet - and whispered, "You should be here," and I teared right up. Just like I am doing now, while trying to relate my actions and emotions on that day. So, yeah, I nearly got through that day sans tears. Oh, well.

I have located some other good blogs by widows (and a good one by a widower). Some are around my age, and the guy who blogs lost his wife - when he was only in his early 30's - and he's raising a 4-year-old alone (wife died about 2 years ago). I also went poking around for a support group. There is one that meets monthly somewhere in the general Houston area. So I joined that one - I'll miss the July meeting/meal, but hope I can make the August one. The thing I read over and over again is how much advice is given by those who have not walked in our footsteps ("our" being widows/widowers). I thought I was the only one who felt like this - but it seems to be a universal complaint made by so many grieving folks. I am anxious to try this group and exchange some info with them. There appears to be more women than men, but the fact that a few guys even had enough guts to join and/or show up at a meeting is encouraging. I know it is so much harder for men to talk about or share their emotions. We are in this together, and I hope these gatherings will be helpful and maybe even give me a friend in my geographic area.

I am suddenly struck by the ironic title of this blog: aka Nancy Drew. Who knew that I would end up searching for me, for myself, under all this rubble?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My relationship with Greg

A friend from my high-school years e-mailed: "There is, still, some curiosity toward what about the man contributed to the depth of relationship you two shared."

And I replied:

I don’t know if that comment was only from you or from others, but it made me think. I guess what happened is that we were kind of set adrift – without family or close friends – when we decided to move to Houston. You know, many of us have long-time friends that we have had for years. Well, we still retained those friends (only the closest ones, as the years went on), but only made a few friends that we would ever grow so close to in our lifetime, here in Houston. We have both always treasured family and friends, and we had that in common.

So, anyway, in the absence of “old” friends, I guess we developed into each other’s best friends. We enjoyed a lot of the same things – browsing at antique malls, being the keepers of our family momentos/old photos/etc., listening to music – he really knew the “family trees” of old rock groups, had common political leanings, etc. I used to think we spent too much time together and would sometimes plead for a little “alone” time (little did I know that I would have more than I wanted). I loved to cook, he was very good at barbecuing, and he always assisted in the kitchen (chopping up onions and celery and other veggies is time-consuming, and he would willingly do those things). He wasn’t afraid to do laundry, wash dishes or do other mundane things that some guys will not even attempt. He was a good and fair partner and a very loving, warm, humorous guy. His sense of humor is what first attracted me to him.

I’m not trying to bestow sainthood on him, by any means. But I guess you don’t appreciate what you have – what WE had – until that is taken away from you. I don’t think I’ll see these qualities in one man, ever again. And I miss him. I miss his fairly reliable once- or twice-a-day phone calls. I can’t remember his voice, so I have to call the house to hear the message he recorded. It is so difficult, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Genealogy and death

Today I entered my husband's death date in my genealogy program. So hard to do. I inadvertently entered it under my name. But that was sort of fitting, because a part of me died that day. I hope you don't experience this yourself (loss of a spouse), because my crummy little sorority/fraternity will have grabbed another member.

I have so much to do. I must find the info on the airline tix that Greg set up back in May (I think) and double-check on the car he had leased. I did find a confirmation number with Hertz written on the same slip of paper. I suppose the airlines will also want a death certificate in order to refund this. In a little over a month I will be flying solo, except Greg's "ashes" will also go with me, in the small, but heavy, box that they put them into. I am steeling myself to open this container, because I want to remove a small portion of these to keep with me here. I still don't know what to do with his remains, so I hope to store them at my nephew's home in a Mpls. suburb until I am back living in that area.

I have been going through his summer clothes, to sort the ones that will be given to a shop which does resales for those less fortunate in their financial status. Since Houston is so hot in the summer, I have not even entertained moving other clothes along yet. I am sure that some male of larger girth (38" waist or so) will welcome a choice of some very good men's denim and dressy shorts. So something good can at least come from his unfortunate death.

I have to force myself to eat something, which is now compounded by the fact that I seem to have temporarily upset my tummy. So I was sipping on beef broth and chewing on soda crackers this morning. Unfortunately - memories of Greg on his last evening with me. He had been having digestive upsets, so I had made the beef broth and then added some soda crackers for him, too. I felt so guilty when he died that next day, since I had rather nagged at him, that he wouldn't get better if he didn't eat something. And now here I am....

I didn't go to church this morning (because of my queasy tummy) and miss seeing my elderly friends who were so supportive of me through all of this. Betty rode along with me when I drove up to the funeral home to pick up Greg's ashes, then invited me in for wine and cheese at her house. Very nice lady. Never thought my 56-year-old hubby would be the first of our dinner group to die - Betty's husband will turn 80 this year, as will another spouse in this group.

My sister said that the lessons she learned from her husband's death, were ones that she used to help my mother. And also she has helped me now, too. Don't want to dwell on all of this, but it is just hard to deal with - and you do NOT know unless you have walked in these shoes. Do not tell me that "I know what you're dealing with". I prefer the honest statement, "I can't imagine what you are going through". Or just, "I'm sorry for your loss". And a figurative hug, anyway, if you do not encounter me in person. That's all.

Need to shower. I think I am downright disgusting in personal appearance right now and must run some errands. Until later....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How do I write this?

This is one of the most difficult blogs I have ever posted. My husband died on Thursday, and I found him when I got home. I have always referred to him as Drummer, but his name is Greg. I guess that should read "was". It is so hard to type this in. He was only 56.

His memorial service is today at 11 am. He was a truly good guy, warm and caring and always telling me that I was the best thing that ever happened to him. I never felt like that was true. I only hope that he knew how much I loved him. We did the "I love you" bit with one another, usually several times a day. Little did I know how abruptly that would end.

Family is with me now and most will fly back to their homes in MN tomorrow. I am the 3rd (and final) female in our family to be widowed - my sister 6 years ago, my mother 4 years ago, and now I enter this "sorority" and didn't want to be inducted at all. Certainly not this early.

The support and warmth that I have felt from family, friends, neighbors, old high school classmates and co-workers has been overwhelming. Truly a blessing to know them and to get their hugs and even their stunned reaction at the news.

Anyway, I don't want to get maudlin, but wanted to post this. I have been awake since around 3 am, and finally slinked into here to write this.

Guess I will brew some decaf and try to steel myself for this day. I am told it is the hardest thing I will ever do. As they say, "Put on your big girl panties and take a deep breath." Oh - and probably grab lots of kleenex.

Best wishes to all who may read this.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Poor excuse - better than NO excuse?

I have turned into a poor excuse for a blogger. Never turning in my homework, so to speak. Why do today, what I can put off until tomorrow? Or as it is turning out, until next month... I had to use my web address in a contest today (love that PW!), so it sent me hurrying here to post something - ANYthing.

Inertia has grabbed hold and it ain't lettin' go. And to tell the truth, I wasn't trying to pry its little grubby fingers off my hands, either. So a good swift kick in the pants (this contest) did the trick.

Well, I don't want to waste this space by blogging about this total be-yotch that I had a run-in at work with, earlier this week. Although she certainly fits the name, I just hate devoting time to her. But here goes.

I betcha that a lot of you who tote your lunch to work in the interest of (1) eating healthier or (2) eating cheaper or (3) cleaning out your leftovers from home, have encountered a nasty 'fridge at work. Am I right or am I right? This building has several fridges and the one in this area is the oldest, smallest and nastiest. The seal around the door is shot, so now we have a nice case of mold growing on there, plus it drips condensation also because of poor seal. I wipe it off from time to time, but it keeps on a-growing back. I try to monitor the contents from time to time, and I sometimes throw out the science experiments (translation: food so old that it now is giving birth to something green/white/gray). So I did this the other day - blueberries so aged that wrinkle cream was not going to be able to help them at all. They needed collagen, I'm tellin' ya. One of the women from another dept. saw me toss 'em out. So she must have mentioned this to the previously mentioned be-yotch, who showed up in less than a minute, loudly complaining that I had no right to be going through people's lunches and throwing stuff out. I told her that these berries were sitting on the shelf in plain sight - not in someone's lunch. No matter how often I repeated this, she kept on a-bitchin'.

My blood pressure was rising, and I really didn't want to blow out an artery or anything. So I dug in the garbage can (which by now had something slimy dumped into it, over the spot where the berries were) and pulled out the container and waved it in her face. Gotta admit that my voice was beyond normal volume by now. Not to mention my hand was now slimed and I didn't want to get on my lime green suit jacket (don't criticize the color - it's a cool suit with a navy skirt). She stomped off, still complaining and now I had to really wash my hands off. Ugh. I swear, her picture must be next to the word "bitch" in the dictionary.

I know - leaves you hungrily anticipating my next blog, huh? Boy, just wait until I mention the condition of the communal microwave. I wonder if anyone looks at the insides of this thing before they nuke something? and why would someone put food in there to reheat without a cover, when the ceiling of the thing has so much crap on it that it could feed a homeless person? What does someone cook that explodes like that?

Oh, wait - I guess I blew it. That IS the condition of the microwave. Never mind.

Damn - anyone got any ideas for posting? We were always told (back in the school days when we were lucky to have access to electric typewriters and pc's were only a glimmer in Bill Gates' brain) to write about things we know best. Anyone want to read about (1) genealogy or (2) faux painting or (3) favorite recipes of mine? No? I didn't think so. Ideas, people!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Olan Mills photos and others: great laughs!

Prepare to laugh out loud (I did!). Great photos gleaned from contributors. These'll take you back to YOUR graduation photos or old family photos...

List Of The Day: Great Olan Mills photos

Friday, March 14, 2008


Well, Drummer’s been back nearly a week now. I can’t imagine what he has been through, emotionally. He was steeling himself for his father’s condition (Alzheimer’s had been advancing recently) and wondering if his father would even recognize him. And instead his father dies within a few hours of his arrival in Phoenix/Sun City.

We decided that with the cost of air fares, I would be better off making and receiving phone calls, to let family and friends the plans as they developed. I hope I was able to be helpful in that respect. Drummer thanked me for that, while I stayed at home and felt worthless.

He returned and we talked, him remarking that he hadn’t even taken the time to grieve for his dad yet, with his time being spent on planning funeral stuff, going through various file-cabinet drawers, to ensure that nothing was missed (he actually came across 3 life insurance policies that his stepmother had forgotten about). And retrieving his dad’s clothes from the care facilities, going through his dad’s books and photo albums, and other tasks too mundane to even list. Anyway, whew – he was pretty drained.

He returned to this part-time job on Monday, and by Tuesday evening he was feeling pretty punk and asking if I had had any adverse reaction to the food we had recently eaten (I had not). Without going into unnecessary detail, he spent a bad night visiting le potty frequently. So trying to get him on the mend was the task. Fortunately we had chicken noodle soup and saltines at home, and I warned him away from anything dairy (particularly milk). I love the guy, but he turns into such a baby when he’s sick. This, my friends, is why women do the childbearing. I could not stand to hear a litany of physical pains or bodily changes all through a nine-month pregnancy!

Best thing is that he is once again healthy (apparently). Last night we were breezing through his dad’s stuff, in this case a folder with WWII stuff in it. There were about a half-dozen letters in there, that he had sent to his sweetie (his first wife – aka Drummer’s mother, who died nearly 17 years ago). Plus a letter which his father (Drummer’s granddad) had sent to him in 1943, where he had remarked that he was mailing this as Bob approached age 21. And how he had never pictured that this was where his son would be at this age, in uniform, with WWII going on. In fact, Granddad remarked that he thought this war would have occurred much earlier, and had, in fact, discussed this with Grandmom. She had wondered to her husband if he thought their son would ever have to fight a war, and he said he was sure that Bob would be too young, when it would start.

His dad’s military service made him a candidate for the GI Bill (I believe he finished his college education with that) and also for the home mortgage under one of the given benefits for those who served during WWII.

Bob’s own sons never had to serve in the military, and that was during the Vietnam War era. Older brother was in college and had a deferment, and then went on to seminary school. And Drummer was with those lucky guys who, when the draft lottery was instituted, got a high enough number to avoid the call, too.

Bob was inured in the military cemetery near Phoenix, joining his first wife in that locale. A long way to travel, to say “hello” to the ashes of your parents. I think that we will always identify Drummer’s childhood home and that suburb with his dad, the most.

Farewell, Bob.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Drummer's father died Sunday evening. It was sudden, it was unexpected, it was all those things that people say. We had expected Dad to go on and on for years, slipping deeper into Alzheimer's. God had other plans.

Drummer was able to be there - a flight he had booked weeks ago - but by the time he arrived, his father was not conscious for those few hours. His dad's wife, supportive until the end, had not wanted to worry Dad's sons, so had not told them of his hospitalization, which quickly turned into pneumonia, lung problems, labored breathing, lack of consciousness and finally death.

Drummer was steeling himself for his father's declined condition... and instead saw his father's final struggle with life. I will probably not be blogging much for these next several days, as I'll be looking for a flight to Phoenix. Plans are up in the air for scheduling funeral services and so on.

I am at home, even as I write this. I had selfishly looked forward to having time to myself while Drummer was in Phoenix. That will have to wait until some other time. Family needs take precedent now.


Friday, February 29, 2008

New addiction

Mmmm-mmmm! I recently discovered the combination of rich, dark chocolate with peppers. And I can see why the Mayans loved it so much. It leaves an aftertaste that lingers in a very satisfactory way, with the luxurious feeling of the chocolate (so dark that it is only slightly sweet) and the warm tingle that the chilis provide.

The Mayans in Central America farmed the cocoa beans and traveled into Mexico, which is how this was introduced to the Aztecs and in turn, to the Spaniards, who brought it to Europe in the 1500’s. Chocolate grows on trees, appearing in its raw state as melon-like pods on the 40-60 foot tall trees known botanically as "Theobroma cacao," which means "food of the gods." I cribbed this item from a website, - it gives you all kinds of info about this most-delicious of food and drink, probably more than you would ever want to read.

In Target over the weekend (that store could be an addiction of mine, if I had the money and the time), I stumbled across a Lindt chocolate bar that is combined with chili pepper. I have a cookie recipe with this hot + chocolate flavor combo, that I have not yet tried. Since I am the only one in my house who likes the unexpected spiciness that this hints at. Maybe I will try the recipe this Christmas and bring it into work, to share with some who might like this combination as I do. Anyway, returning to this Lindt bar. After I had tried it for the first time, I had to go a-searching for it on the ‘net (addict that I am to Google). The Lindt site describes it this way:

Excellence Chili

This combination of fine dark chocolate with exquisite chili pepper delivers an absolutely unique taste experience. When savoring this new creation, chocolate connoisseurs will experience how the initially mild, delicate flavor of cocoa gradually gives way to a full-bodied but harmoniously spicy touch. Seductively piquant!

I break this bar into the individual squares (which are 50 calories each, folks!) and turn this into a slowly-consumed treat after my lunch. Only allow myself one square a day. Gotta say, almost as satisfying as really good sex… almost. If I fell into a not-too-hot vat of this stuff, I would just have to turn cat and slowly lick myself clean. It is that good and not to be wasted on an indiscriminate palate. Way too wonderful to waste or to share with small children. Sorry, kids. I would gladly surrender hundreds of those “fun size” candy bars to a child at Halloween, rather than part with one square of my Lindt bar. “Fun size” candy bars - who coins these phrases, anyway?

Now I do like my Dove chocolates (dark only, please) and even the Target brand of chocolate treats, Choxie, which is surprisingly good and fits in my price range. But, OMG, this new favorite of mine runs rings around those. I have found my ultimate food treat and its name is Lindt Excellence Chili. I am so happy that I did not give up chocolate for Lent! Amen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

God of Cardiology

So I had to suffer through my annual visit to the Great God of Cardiology on Friday. Seriously, this guy is good at what he does and all, but I am a bundle of nerves when I go to see him. I have had two open-heart surgeries – they were only 5 years apart, and the last one was 16 years ago – and I am in dread of having another one foisted on me. This is my incentive for healthy eating and other (hopefully) healthy habits, some of which elude me at times. I am only human, after all. It doesn’t seem like exercising is first on my to-do list when I drag my tired ol’ butt home from a day that started around 4 a.m-ish and finds me walking in the door at 5:40 or so. With a meal still to prepare or at least to reheat (we cook on weekends and reheat during the week), too. I do feel more energized after I exercise, but try telling that to my body which just wants to plop down on the couch!

I had the unfortunate experience of having rheumatic fever when I was 9, and it whacked-out my immune system. So when I got any subsequent strep infections (many which were never diagnosed nor treated), scar tissue formed on my mitral heart valve. And of course those infections lasted into my adult years, culminating with an eventual replacement of that valve with an artificial one when I was only 43. These valve jobs last only so long. So far, so good for me on that score – it’s still flapping away in there, just fine. If I am in a very quiet room, I can actually hear it, in fact.

I knew my blood pressure reading would be higher than the god liked (it always is – I definitely have that white-coat syndrome when I see him). He wants it below 120, seriously lower than that. As usual, the nurse had trouble getting a bp reading on me – apparently my sounds are very quiet. She had readings from 127 to 138 (guess which one she wrote down?). The doc had doubled up one of my bp meds last year, and within a few weeks my ankles and feet were so swollen that it looked like I was trying to wear shoes much too small for me. So I went back to the original dosage, knowing that this would raise the bp more than the doc would like. But at least my ankles returned into the pre-elephant-man size they had been.

I had to do blood work so that he’d have the results before I got in there. So last Friday – showtime! After a 2-hours-plus stay in the appropriately-named waiting room (yes, this is how it frequently goes in cardiology), I was finally ushered into the office where the afore-mentioned bp readings were noted and I surrendered my somewhat lengthy list of daily meds. Then I just sat and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Good thing I had picked up a recent book to read. For a change of pace, I read a magazine which was on the desk in the examining room. And thought about what I would get for lunch after this was over – other than the stiff drink that I really wanted…

Finally he enters the room. Looks over my folder. Asks how things are going (I swear that I would not confess to doubling-over chest pains, even if it were true, to give this guy any satisfaction). Not really. But that’s how I generally feel in there. In my mind, it’s an adversarial situation.

I explain to him the side effects I had from the doubled-up dose of that bp med, and then told him I went back to the original dose. He chose another med to double-up on. We’ll see. I think I’ll do some advance scouting on the internet on this one and see what possible side effects I should watch out for.

Next he glances at the blood work results. “Your LDL reading is high”. He wants it in the 70-something range, and mine apparently came in at 98. I retorted, “Do you know what I eat?” and of course he didn’t. So I laid it out for him – fish twice a week (not fried), chicken and just a small portion of red meat. We even have meatless meals. What else should I do? He didn’t have a reply. I didn't even add that we only drink skim milk and have for years.

I checked it out on the internet when I left there – HDL and LDL and the relationships between those two. Turns out that I am in the optimum range for LDL (anything below 100 is okay) and my HDL is off the chart – reading of 100. Anything above 60 is considered HIGH and also considered desirable. What a chump he is. Always gotta find something to nitpick. I am so glad that I am not seriously overweight. I am sure that I would feel humiliated by the time I left his office if that were the case.

My cardiologist is mean. That’s it, folks – just mean. Maybe I can find a more easy-going cardiology doc when we relocate to the Minneapolis area. At least a more benevolent one. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Candy hearts - a quiz

We grow up here in the U.S. with so much focus on Valentine's Day, including candy associated just with that day - those ol' familiar nothin'-but-sugar candy hearts.

Here's a quiz to take, so that the correct candy heart will be selected just for you:

Apparently my candy heart says Hug Me, which I find pretty sappy and plaintively needy-sounding. Sort of like those Kiss Me I'm Irish (or I'm Irish for a Day) buttons that are worn into bars at St. Patty's Day. Funny how states like Texas or Minnesota have a suspiciously-high number of Irish descendants on that highest of high days of drunkenness and rowdiness.

But I digress. I wonder what quiz answer(s) I gave that directed that result? There were only a handful of questions. And these supposed-details are what my answers resulted in:

A total sweetheart, you always have a lot of love to give out. [But I want to stress that I am not loose or easy]
Your heart is open to where ever love takes you! [Does that mean in the geographic sense, the sexual gymnastics sense, or...?]
Your ideal Valentine's Day date: a surprise romantic evening that you've planned out. [Ahem - that is just how it was worded, folks, God's honest truth - but I provided the italics]
Your flirting style: lots of listening and talking. [True]
What turns you off: fighting and conflict. [Only if it is unresolved or pointless - and never a physical fight between genders]

However, in the interest of scientific (?) research, I re-took the quiz, changing a few of my answers. And whoa! now I am a Cutie Pie! [Friends and family will rightfully disagree.]

The detailed answers were even more disgusting than the above explanations purported to be. So I have ended my research prematurely. Bogus quiz - bah!

Sorry - I am ending my Valentine's Day comments and travel on to other topics tomorrow or whenever I next post.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Valentine's Day list

I wish I could say this idea was mine. I read it on another blog and wondered if I could also come up with 1,000 words on what I love. Here goes:

I love being safely snuggled in the house when the skies open up and it pours, pours, pours rain. I love the early spring when the sun is still not relentless and a seat in the sun just feels nice and warm. I love that I have “met” so many shirt-tail relatives and made acquaintances through the genealogy boards that I have posted questions (and a few answers) on. I love that I have basically become the family genealogist on more than one of my own and my spouse’s ancestral lines. I love the few old photos of long-deceased family members that I have been fortunate to find or to have someone share with me. I love corresponding with old, opinionated, sometimes cranky Great-Uncle Pete, my grandfather’s sole surviving brother.

I love my current haircut/hairstyle. I love approaching 60 and hoping that many more years await me. I love that my sister is finally dating again, after her husband passed away almost 6 years ago. I love the fact that we have decided to move back to Minnesota in a little over 2 years from now. I love that I will actually retire in 2010.

I love a glass of good, mellow red wine that is sipped at leisure. I love a bowl of freshly popped popcorn (not microwaved!) with some butter and a bit of that forbidden salt on it. I love knowing how to cook and bake and being willing to always try another new recipe. I love fresh salmon on the grill. I love a chuck roast and the lovely cooking smells that it puts in the house on a chilly day. I love having an appreciative man to help prepare and share my meals with.

I love the smell of sheets that have been hung out on the line. I love the clean, outdoorsy freshness of the air as you drive north out of the Twin Cities. I love the atmosphere of Texas’ Hill Country and the many small towns there. I love the cool breeze that blows in your face and hair, as you motor across a lake in a boat in Minnesota. I love the fragrant perfume of blooming lilacs in the spring. I love the ethnic foods of Minnesota. I love the TexMex food of Texas. I love rich, dark chocolate. I love extra sharp cheddar, pungent Swiss and creamy Brie cheeses. I love strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and the fact that they are all known to carry a good dosage of antioxidants.

I love that I was born intelligent. I love that I still have my health (mostly). I love that I have close family that I care about and that care about me. I love to read and I love a good mystery novel. I love that I have good friends both here in Texas and back in Minnesota. I love that I have cousins that I am still in contact with. I love the adults that my sister’s kids have developed into. I love that my mother feels so safe and happy in the senior apartment that she moved into. I love that she, too, has her health and also her mental faculties.

I love a variety of music, from show tunes to jazz to country to some hip hop. I love that my memory is still good enough to remember many lyrics to songs I grew up with. I love that I can carry a tune and sing along to those old songs. I love sleeping in on Saturday and Sundays. I love arriving at work safe and sound, on those days when I am a passenger and not the driver in the car pool. I love 3-day weekends and 3-paycheck months.

I love that I am female and that women build support networks from friends and co-workers. I love that my husband and his brother have bonded more as a result of his dad’s Alzheimer’s than they probably would have, without this disease being a factor. I love that my husband has a good group of close cousins that will help him if anything happens to me.

I love Paris and the parts of Europe that I have been fortunate enough to see, so far. I love Halifax/Darthmouth and the Bay of Fundy off Nova Scotia. I love archaeology and anthropology. I love visiting the ruins of Tulum on the Mexican coast near Cancun. I love seeing the left-behind dwellings of the cliff dwellers of Mesa Verde in Colorado. I love the mountains of Telluride in the summer. I love seeing historical Boston. I love visiting San Francisco and seeing the tourist-y sites, including the cable cars.

I love keeping in contact with two ex-sisters-in-law. I love old cemeteries and reading the inscriptions on the headstones. I love seeing the areas where our ancestors first made their homes in the U.S. I love organization and wish that I had some of it, myself. I love pets and babies, even though we have never had either of those ourselves. I love intelligent movies and television shows and those presentations that do not “dumb down” to reach an audience. I love that there is a real chance that the Democrats might (s)elect our next president.

I love that I have worked in a variety of industries and that I was given an opportunity to better myself through training. I love that I have a good sense of humor and so does my family. I love hugs and tender kisses. I love the sloppy wet kisses that small children give. I love seeing children develop language skills. I love the off-key songs that children sing at the holidays, mangling the tunes and the words. I love seeing the snow fall and knowing that I do not have to drive anywhere in it. I love hearing from distant friends and family at the holidays. I love learning about other religions and having new respect for those of other faiths. I love life.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

This says it all!

I am definitely going to start reading this gal's blog! Gotta love her for this statement - and ya gotta read the comments that follow, too.

You go, girl!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shelter in Place

I work for the Port Authority and our office is on the Ship Channel, about an hour’s-plus ship ride from Galveston Bay. We are surrounded (or sort of) by multiple chemical plants, producing God Knows What products, but all undoubtably toxic to breathe. And somehow, the air is SO polluted all around here, but no one owns up to releasing any noxious stuff.

However. This morning, around 10:30 or so, we get a system-wide phone message. “This is a shelter in place. A shelter in place. Please report to your respective areas. Repeat. This is a shelter in place.”

Given our locale, we have fairly regular fire drills. And then, more recently, we have had shelter in place drills. When this happens, we are to gather at the place selected for our floor and stay there. Fortunately for us, ours is the lunchroom. I use the term loosely, because the only lunches ever provided there are the ones the employees bring from home and reheat in the mikes, or ones that someone picks up at the nearest drive-by, er, drive-thru area and brings back.

The lunchroom is clean and bright and does have a few food vending machines. One has sammiches, salads, and such. One has frozen things – heavy on the ice cream bars and burritos, throw in a few frozen lunches. And a machine with the inevitable soft drinks, called sodas in the South, pop in the North. I have been here so long that the term pop sounds foreign to me. There’s also an ice-making machine, coffee (you have to pay for it - $1/week for a coffee club), cups, plates, plastic cutlery. If we were stuck in there for a long time, I have a feeling that we would start eating the weakest after cleaning out the machines. But I digress.

One of the fire wardens comes in and announces: There’s been an explosion across the channel. They want us to stay indoors. They will turn off the air conditioning (brings in outside air), and we are free to return to work, but DO NOT, repeat do not go outside.

No fear. It kinda feels like a drill, but they seem so serious about it, so now I wonder. We wander back to our area and discuss the situation. As one of the guys puts it, this is a good reason to bring your lunch. I almost always do – it’s cheaper and I eat healthier that way. About 6 or so other people usually do, too. The a/c turns off. Very still in here, when it is not blowing its wind-tunnel effect. No sooner does the a/c quit, than the announcement is made: The shelter in place has ended. We can leave the building now.

Still can’t find anything on the internet about an explosion. Must not have been such a big deal, after all.

Back to the grind.

Post script at 13:48 - the emergency was a steam release, not fumes. Until it was investigated, the decision was made to err on the side of caution. The Coast Guard is the controller/guardian of the Ship Channel, so they called it, and they called it off.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Not much to blab about lately. We are just doin’ our same-ol’ same-ol’. I do want to comment on some other blogs that I read frequently (or sometimes not so much). This guy writes about corporate communications and I found this recent one funny – He writes about a physical that he had. And seems to prove, again, that men are SUCH sissies. But is amusing to read.

I read a blog about a phrase that I have not heard before. Don’t have any teens around to eavesdrop on lately, nor young adults, otherwise I might have heard it before this. That phrase is whore bath. New one to me. Kinda intriguing. And then, in mentioning this to our department secretary (who has late-teens) she gave me another one: emo – pronounced ee-moh. As in, so-and-so is a total emo. Just a shorthand version of describing an emotional person.

Other than that – just chompin’ at the bit, ready for the weekend. Got a 3-day weekend coming up (due to the fact that I work a 9-80 workweek: in 9 days I put in 80 hours. That’s 5 days in a row, 4 x 9-hr days plus 1 8-hr day; then a 2-day weekend, and 4 days of 9-hr days. Total of 80 hours. So the employees look forward to the 3-day weekends. Trust me, we do.

I am trying, trying, TRYING to get psyched-up for exercising again. I have been way too lax for way too long. So I am doing the Nordic Track again – it simulates cross-country skiing, so it is a cardio exercise, using both arms and legs. And I have been using exercise bands for resistance work plus hand-held weights. Gotta build UP some muscles and tear DOWN some of the fat. Hate myself when I feel so out of shape. We bought this Nordic Track used, years ago, and it periodically gets used, then it only gets dusted, then used again, etc. I just cannot seem to find the time to go to the gym, and I particularly HATE waiting for the machines. I do love me the elliptical machines and some of the resistance machines are so good – but I just hate having to wait. The only time that I can go there is right after work. Packed with people, including teens – hello? They can’t go earlier? And I just love, love LOVE those butts who sit on a machine and chat with a girlfriend – you know who you are, bee-atches. Why should I have to do the dirty work and kick their arses off? I know you see me standing there, waiting. And I also have great affinity for the guys who sit on the ab machines, which coincidentally face the room where the spinning classes are held and where they can ogle the female bottoms. Supposedly these guys are just resting between sets, but I know better. Whoever set that gym layout up, knew what they were doing. I am not sorry that we joined, but at least I learned that I do need to do something (exercise-wise) and I’m the only one who can force me to do that. When my time is limited after work, I do not want to be at the club until 7:15, waiting on some jerks to relinquish their grubby little holds on the in-demand machines. So it's home-gym for this gal.

And so it goes…

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Feeling the chill - no, REALLY!

Readers who are Northerners will find the following comments amusing - or maybe, it will just be like, "Stop your whining, already."

We are having a cold snap. Okay, it's much different in this near-Gulf-Coast area than the area where I was raised - northern Minnesota, home of the below-zero temps. Unlike good ol' Minnesota, this part of the country is NOT as concerned with insulation and other modern ideas such as heat, as it could/should be.

Case in point: the predicted low was around freezing, give or take a few degrees. All the local tv stations were telling us that yesterday, giving the usual tips on insulating/wrapping outside faucets and pipes, protecting plants and pets, etc. And we know the drill, having lived here 23 years plus. So Drummer dragged the hoses into the garage, covered the outside faucets with these dandy little insulated covers made just for this purpose, and moved my herbs from the front of the house onto a shelf in the garage. So the house is as ready as it ever can be.

But does my workplace do anything pro-active, to ensure the comfort of its employees? No-O-O-O! A few years back, in a fit of God-knows-what, the decision was made to replace the existing elderly HVAC system for a super-duper-state-of-the-art system. Which has failed. Miserably. When it was first cranked up, it was cooling season. Now it seems obvious that the salesperson for this HVAC system has sold my employers a bill of goods. At first, the noise behind the cooling, BLOWING air was deafening. We had to call in the installers (and later our own maintenance guys) and have them shut down, shut off, or in some cases re-locatate many of the vents where it was blowing the cold air - it was actually a wind tunnel effect, plus so noisy that you could not hold conversations. Truth. And the converse of this is that it also fails for heating. Because this damned thing can not seem to hover at a lower heating temp overnight, then swing back into a workable (meaning, a temp that we can comfortably work at) temp at a given time. WTF? Even my miserable HVAC system at home responds to a programmed cycle, folks. Not that difficult.

So this a.m. when I walk into my cube, it is 61 miserable degrees. Inside. As usual, the water in the chiller would feel right at home in Lake Superior, based on the COLD blowing air coming out of the system. And as with many days, I am sitting here, many-layered in clothing, knit top under a two-button suit jacket plus pants, knee-high socks, a jacket OVER the suit jacket (this outer jacket is zipped up, by the way) AND a heater at my feet, throwing out as much warmth as its poor little wattage can produce. Plus I have turned on BOTH of my under-shelf lights, in an effort to use anything which may provide/emit heat. My cube is now up to 67 degrees. Outside temp is 35. The fingers on both hands are white and here I am, bundled up and feeling like Nanook of the North. I also have two pairs of gloves within reach, should I need them.

Folks have asked me, "Well, what will you do once you are LIVING up north?" And my response to them is, "They know about insulation and heat up there!" When I'm living there, I can reach for the (programmable) thermostat and alter the settings for MY personal comfort.

Gotta go. I'm gonna drown my sorrows in dried cranberries. Now.