Thursday, December 28, 2006

Our Little Lion

Stripes died this morning. Technically it was of kidney failure and anemia, but generally it was old age. He had had a good life, relatively, and was loved. He died in Laura's arms.

Stripes was the cat equivalent of a mutt. He had long hair that was grey with darker stripes (hence the name). When he was younger he had tufts of fur surrounding his head somewhat like a lion's mane. He was certainly the alpha male of our pride of cats for a long time. He had survived being hit by a car (hip fracture), an infected ear (it grew to the size of a plum), and a few upper respiratory infections. He was a mean young tom up until he got hurt (the hip fracture). Laura dedicated herself to taming him and he became hers. Even when he was outside, he would come when she called. Also, all of our other cats liked him. Some cats will bristle at others and we have had to keep a few separated - but ALL of them would curl up with him for a good grooming. Weird.

I called the vet yesterday morning and got the news that he was dying. I went during my lunch hour and took him home. Laura was home early from work (slow days during the holidays) and she spent the rest of the day with him saying goodbye. He managed go hang on until this morning when it was obvious that he was suffering. We took him in and put him to sleep. He is buried in the back yard in a little alcove between some bushes. My daughter wants to do something - flowers, a stone, something.

If you have a number of pets, you love them all - but there's always a special one. Stripes was the one.

Monday, December 25, 2006

and to all a good night.

We had a good, if quiet anniversary. We did a little last-minute Christmas shopping and then went to dinner. Our kids treated us to our favorite japanese steak house. I could bearly move afterwards. Throughout the day we took our time and I was able to make Laura laugh every now and then.

I find that I have taken to blogging somewhat. the mechanics are difficult for me, my punctuation and grammar skills are atrocious. But I have met some new friends and am learning about life from others' prospective. I am also learning a little about myself. The process of writing these posts forces me to think through what I'm writing about.

In any case, I have enjoyed meeting you all and wish for you happy holidays and a Merry Christmas.

P.S. no call from the vet (surprise!). No news is good news, right?

Friday, December 22, 2006

'Tis The Season.......

First I would like to thank each of you for the sentiments expressed regarding Stripes and Laura. It means a lot to me.

Stripes: according to today's blood work, his numbers are a little better. He's eaten some. They have him on some kind of an I.V. treatment. BUT - he will have to stay over the holiday weekend. They won't be open but have promised to call Sunday to let us know how he is. I took Laura to see him today. He was happy to see her. It was hard to leave him there. I am afraid that this is the beginning of the end for Stripes. They are being extremely careful not to say that he will recover his kidney function or to give us much hope for his future. Right now they are hinting that if he stabilizes he will require some kind of treatment from now on.

Laura got off of work early and I have started my holiday vacation so we were going to try shopping for the kids. But by the time we got up with the vet and got to visit Stripes no one wanted to shop. On top of that tomorrow is our 22nd wedding aniversary and neither of us are acting real exited about it. We aren't doing much special, just going out to dinner at a nice restaurant and maybe a movie. I hope I can bring Laura out of herself and that she can be happy for a little while. I'm gonna try.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Crap, Crap, Crap, Crap, Crap

My wife asked me to take her favorite cat Stripes to the vet this morning 'cause he doesn't want to eat. He's been losing weight recently and been sneezing more than normal. The vet just called and said that blood tests indicate his kidneys aren't working - which is why he isn't eating. He suggested a certain treatment, but didn't sound optimistic about it working.

Stripes is 10-12 years old. (maybe a little more). For a good while he was an unapproachable tom. He ruled the roost for a while and we still have several of his offspring. Several years ago he got an injury and my wife had to win him over so she could treat him. Ever since he's been her baby. He is completely domesticated - he comes to her when she calls him.

I don't know what I'm going to do if he dies. Laura just lost her mother. She doesn't want to celebrate Christmas - we don't have a tree up and haven't bought gifts yet. On top of that she's got the never-ending crud. This will devistate her.

I haven't called her yet, I am dreading it.

update: I called to check on Stripes a few minutes ago, but the vet was in surgery. He did send a brief message: he will do bloodwork tomorrow morning to check the indicators for kidney function. I am waiting to tell Laura when I get home. Thanks for your support. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


We interrupt this program for an important announcement:

It was pointed out to me that, far be it from an IT type to make a mistake, I had turned off comments on my recent posts. Now I am admitting to nothing, but comments have been turned back on.

We now resume the previously scheduled programming.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Hilton Grocery

I was reading a blog post the other day that mentioned an old-fashioned country store. My grandaddy owned a country store, and portions of my younger years were spent there. Maybe I can paint a picture of it (as I have aboslutely no photos of it. I'll have to check with Mom to see if she does.)

It was situated at an intersection of a state road and two county roads on a gravel lot about 10 miles from town. Across the state road was the post office. (or post shack - it was tiny. My uncle ran it until it was closed.) The store was built of wood and had a front shelter where two gas pumps and a kerosene tank were located. You entered through the front screen door (with the Colonial Bread logo painted on it) or the side screen door - there was no air conditioning. I can still hear the slap of the screen doors closing. The wooden floor had worn where years of traffic had worn paths around the store. There were two windows across the front, one on either side of the front screen door behind one of which I would sometimes sit to watch for cars to pull up for gas. (I would race my brother to the pumps to see which of us got to pump the gas).

Just inside the front door in the left front corner were the drink coolers. When I first started going/working there there were no can drinks, you got either 8 or 10 ounce cokes (all soft drinks are coke in the South) and Pepsi had a 16 ounce-er. There was a crate beside one of the coolers to put your empties into. Along the left wall beyond the 2nd drink cooler was the milk cooler (with other dairy products, eggs, etc.) and then the gas heater with chairs around it - my grandmother used to sit by the fire during the winter and crochet (she taught me to crochet there) when there were no customers. This was where people would come to chat during all times of the year. There was almost always someone sitting there. Papa used to hitch one leg on the counter and talk with the current sitter(s). After the heater was the the wall phone (it was on a party line, so to make a call you picked up, listened to make sure folks weren't talking and dialed 4 digits for those on the same party line or 7 digits for town folks.). Next was the side entrance and finally a passageway to the back of the store.

Down the middle of the store from the front was a shelving display unit (bread on one side, odds and ends on the other) and at the end of the shelves was a place where bags of dog food as well as extra bales of sugar were stacked. (sugar came in 100 lb bales - 20 5lb bags or 10 10lb bags) (I used to sit at the top of the stack and pretend to be driving a stage coach.) After the sugar/dog food stacks was an aisleway in front of the meat cooler. Displayed in the cooler were souse meat, sausage meat, pork-chops, balogna, bacon, and a few sundries (now that I think on it, he didn't sell beef). The balogna, souse, and bacon were sliced to order. I can remember on weekday mornings when I would go with Papa to open the store I sliced a ton of balogna for lunch for the crews going to work on the nuclear plant being built nearby. They also bought a lot of potted meat and crackers, or vienna sausages. (both are uniquely southern comestables eaten on crackers with hot sauce). I would catch the bus from there to go to school.

On the right just inside the door was a passageway leading behind the right counters, first of which was the candy counter. Candy bars, bb's (they go together, right?) and a few candy-type items. Inside of a glass display case above the candy bars was where the penny candy was kept (some were 2-fer's). Next to the candy were 3 tall glass jars with heavy glass lids that held cookies. Behind the cookies was the cash register (that didn't work except for the cash drawer) and the hoop cheese cutter. The cutting of this cheese was reserved for Papa as he liked giving the customer ONE slice of cheese exactly the amount requested. The cutter had a flat round table on which the cheese wheel sat, it had a perpendicular handle that you pumped to and fro to move the cheese under the hinged cleaver used to cut the cheese (no jokes, please - this cheese cutting was a serious business!). Next to the hallowed cheese cutter was a brief expanse of counter, a passageway through, and then more counter at the end if which was the adding machine, complete with a handle to pull after each number entered. (I can still remember when it was upgraded to an electric model. Boy, were we in high cotton!) All behind these counters on the right were the shelves lining the wall from floor to ceiling where most of the groceries were. On these shelves also were cigarettes, loose-leaf tobacco (to roll your own) and snuff. (we sold a lot of snuff.) There were also the hanging displays of shoe strings, doan's liver/back/whathaveyou pills, plastic sunglasses, wallets, etc. A customer would come in, stand at the counter and would call out their order setting me or whoever else to fetch it. Their order was added up on the adding machine and bagged. Some folks were allowed to carry a "ticket" that was expected to be settled up at month-end. It was a big deal to me to be allowed to fill out the ticket.

Beyond the adding machine on the right was where the meat counter that ran across the back of the store met the right-side counter. Under the counter at this corner was where the cash box was kept - with a pistol on top. NOT TO BE MESSED WITH. Across the back of the store behind the meat counter was more floor to ceiling shelves. In the middle was a band saw to cut hams into slices, pork loins into chops and chickens in half. I was rarely allowed to do this, but I was always allowed to clean it. ugh.

Behind the store was a old burnham van body (off of the chassis) used for storage (sugar bales that didn't fit in the center, cattle feed and salt licks) and the outhouse. Yep - an outhouse. Although we were modern in that we kept toilet paper in it. During the summer Papa would send me home in his truck to get the tractor to bush hog behind the van body/outhouse to help keep the snakes and vermin away.

I would most often ride the bus down to the store after school and work there until closing at 6:00 PM. Sometimes during the spring and summer he would take me to the house, get out the tractor and start me plowing the field and then leave me to it while he went back to the store. (Papa also farmed corn and peanuts). Sometimes during the summer if I didn't go with him to open the store I would sleep in and then walk the railroad tracks the few miles to the store. Occasionally he would get up an order for someone and ask me to take his truck to deliver it - down a miriad of dirt roads that I knew by heart. Other summer days I would play with my brother and sister on his farm, frequently getting out his hunting jeep to ride around through the woods. Across the state highway beside the post office was a railroad siding. The train would stop there most days after switching and the crew would come over to get a coke & crackers. (I would go over and put coins under the engine's wheels to flatten them.) Empty boxcars would be left there for the papermill. Mr. Y.T. would come from town to clean them out. I would help him (in mid-summer heat) because he would let me drive his truck.

Papa's store is gone now, as is he. There are times I miss the hell out of him - and his store. In retrospect it was idyllic. Excepting those few years living with Papa (and Mama, and Mama & Papa Smith (great-grandparents) and my great-aunts & uncles, cousins, etc. etc. etc.) I was a city boy. My grandaddy was one of seven children all of which (but the one killed in WWII) lived within a few miles of each other. So living with him put me slap in the middle of a huge family. Despite spending most of my life moving from city to city I most often identify with these country roots - much more so than the years spent in suburbia. They are the clearest and most cherished memories I have of growing up.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Goin' to the movies

We were watching slides the evening after the funeral. Every so often one of my sisters-in-law would yell at the screen "look who's goin' to the movies!" and the other sisters would laugh. After hearing this two or three times I noticed that this was shouted out whenever someone in the slide was digging their underwear out of their nether regions. Afterwards my wife and I were talking and I asked her what was up with that. She told me that whenever her father would see one of them doing that he would ask, "Are you going to the movies?" There would be a puzzled look or a "no" and he would follow up with "Then why are you picking your seat?".

I wonder if my kids will remember the lessons I've tried to teach them. I didn't have this in my arsenal.

They do, however, remember about pulling my finger.....

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ellen Mae Woodford

Ellen Mae Woodford was born on October 28th, 1927. She had a difficult childhood, not only because she was raised during the depression, but also because she was from a broken home. I still don't know a lot of the details, but I do know that it fell on her to raise her younger siblings and that her sister Bev lived with her for some time after Ellen married.

I guess that the one thing that was discussed this past week was that she believed in family. In a big way. All told, she had 8 kids of her own (one of which was premature and did not survive beyond a few days).

She is survived by all but 2 of the eight children. They came in 2 batches with almost 10 years in between. There were 7 girls and one boy.

Some would say though that all of the kids in the neighborhood were hers too. She babysat for local families and ran the daycare at several churches. I'm sure you've all met someone who was great with kids, who could get them to behave and someone that they would listen to when all else failed. That was my mother-in-law.

I met Ellen in December 1984 3 days before I married her long-haired daughter. Before the day was out, she knew about my siblings, my parents, their siblings and parents; as well as how and where I was raised, etc. Her appetite for family history was voracious - and she remembered it all. If I mentioned someone was ill, the next time we talked (maybe months later) she would ask specifically about that person, their illness, etc. Her memory was amazing.

She rarely met a stranger. During a trip overseas to see us, she met a lady on the airplane that she had not seen since, but corresponded with for years afterward. When I was working swings and mids she would often get up early and walk on-base to get breakfast and would sit down with people (especially those with babies) and introduce herself and ask about them. For months after she left people would ask after my mother-in-law. Lee Greenwood came to Crete to put on a USO show while she was visiting us there. After the show MIL somehow managed to walk up and introduce herself to him and chatted for a few minutes. She didn't know who he was as she didn't listen to the radio and the only kind of music she professed any interest in was gospel, but she frequently mentioned in later years that she liked him and enjoyed the show. (I was in bed sleeping off a mid-shift at the time. She did this on her own.)

Her trip to visit us was an amazing thing unto itself. Ellen was a homemaker whose only income was her babysitting. But somehow she saved her money and made a trip to Crete to visit us after my daughter was born. She had made earlier trips to England and California, all by herself and all with her babysitting money. She did not have a driver's license as she was afraid to and had to be driven everywhere she went. My wife tells me that the only reason her dad bought her a car when she turned 16 was so that he could make her take Ellen everywhere she wanted to go relieving him of the chore.

Now I don't want to imply that she was a saint. I have mentioned elsewhere that I have had to mediate between my wife and my mother-in-law. Her magic with kids didn't always work with her own kids. Most of her kids have had some emotional problems of some sort and I believe that she did too. She also would often criticize the grandchild in her sight and praise the ones out of sight. (so, sometimes our kids were pariahs and sometimes they were saints!) Also, for many years if my wife complained about me to her mother, her mother would ask my wife what had she done wrong. My wife used to complain bitterly that she wished her mother would take her side in an argument instead of mine.

No one is perfect. I think that it is a mistake to deify someone after they pass away. You love someone despite their failings, knowing it takes all parts to make the whole. The wholeness of spirit that was Ellen lives on in each of us that knew her, and will continue to do so as long as we remember her. The following is quoted from the guestbook on Ellen's obituary in the Kansas City Star:

My family first met Ellen 3 years ago when we moved in next door to the Woodford's. At that time, our little girl was just turning 2 years old. We threw her a big birthday bash in our front yard and Ellen, who was joyfully being pushed over by Woody in her wheelchair, brought over a Fisher Price picnic basket full of magic markers to celebrate her birthday. Lauren was thrilled! To this day, she still talks about it and plays with the picnic basket nearly every day. Through the years, Lauren always got excited when we would see Ellen sitting outside on a pretty day and she would run up to her side and just gobble up the complements that Ellen would give her, telling her how pretty and smart she was. Most recently, Lauren and I dropped by to see Ellen when she came home from the hospital and Lauren didn't really know what to think of Ellen in her hospital bed. She asked me a lot of questions about why she was in bed and why she didn't talk to her like she use to. I did my best to explain to her about the stroke that Ellen had endured. Well, two days ago, after hearing of Ellen's passing, I had to find a way to tell Lauren the sad news. I decided just to tell her that Ellen had gone to heaven. Lauren's eye's lit up and she said, "Great, I'm so glad that she doesn't have to lay down anymore and that God gave her back her voice again!"

My wife broke down and cried for the first time since her mother died after having read that. So did her other sisters to whom she was reading it.

Ellen died on Monday, December 4th at 1:30 PM central. It has to be some comfort knowing she is no longer suffering and that (if you so believe) she is now where she can once more ask you about your kids and tell you about hers.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

now we'll gather at the river...

I am hot and awake at 3 in the morning. I am hot because my wife insists that unless the room is 80 degrees it is cold. (This comes from a woman who just a few years ago would go out in 30 degree weather with short-sleeves on. I think the change must be a-happenin'. I digress). All the way up here she would jack the heater up and down, up and down. I had to take my sweater off and ride in my t-shirt. All I needed was a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve and a hound dog in the back to complete the picture. I am awake because we spent 15 hours on the road and even after 3 hours I can still feel it.

Here is Kansas City, icy and snowy. Here is where my in-laws live. Here is because my mother-in-law passed away yesterday afternoon. Some would say she lost the battle at last. I would prefer to think she finally won one.

I will be in the midst of family, making arrangements, buying a winter coat, listening to everyone tell their favorite stories as one does at a time like this. And as sometimes happens I will be escorting her to her final resting place for I have been honored to be asked to be a pall bearer.

I will try to absorb and maybe relate some of this sometime soon. I am not talented in that way and I don't have the words now anyway. I am tired and sad and....happy that she is no longer trapped in her failed body. I am not a religious person, but I know she was to her core. So I choose to think that she is where her belief promised her she would be. I take comfort in that.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

.....yep, it was just me

I couldn't get anyone to argue with me, so time to move on.

Except for a few twinges here and there I've not had a problem with getting older. I am 44 years old. All it really means to to me is that for the next 11 months I will be able to remember how old I am without having to do the math. (Next year, back to subtraction). And except for when I look at old pictures of myself, as I will have you do just below, I don't really notice day to day the changes that time has wrought. Well - I do have ONE extremely visible sign of the aging process - a receding hairline.

Here is a picture of my family. I am 17 in this picture:

olden days

Notice the full head of almost shoulder length hair, parted down the middle. (For those who don't want to guess, I'm the one who didn't hear the guy say "say cheese".)

And here is a wedding picture from a few years later. I am 21 in this picture:


Notice the full head of hair, despite the military haircut. (for those who don't want to guess, I am the one without a clue. This is a life-long attribute of mine.)

And here is a picture from last Christmas. I am 43 here:

Laura & Bob

(for those who don't want to guess, I am the one thinking "take the damned picture already, I haven't opened my presents yet.")

As you can see, my hair line has moved significantly. The first picture has been in my wallet since it was taken. As you can also see, from that first picture, I come by this follicular impairment honestly. All I've had to do all of my life is look at my dad to see what I was going to look like at any given age in my future. I've had time to get used to it.

I've harbored a secret aspiration for much of my adult life. I think I've the makings of a damned good grumpy old man. The symptoms are starting to appear - I have no patience for some things that kids do (I HATE, with a passion I didn't know I was capable of, flip flops. Who in God's green earth decided it was okay to wear those damned things everywhere? I'm not talking about sandals, I'm talking about what folks a generation back from me called shower shoes. When I was a kid I wore them to the beach once a year and promptly lost them. But, I digress.) and actually I don't have patience for a lot of what anyone else does either. Right now I am tending toward the kind of grumpy old man like Walter Matthau in the movie Grumpy Old Men. When I was younger I thought it'd be kinda neat to be a grumpy old man like Gabby Hayes in almost every B western ever made - but I didn't want to play second fiddle to a cowboy nor do I want to pull all of my teeth. I enjoy chewing.

There is one thing that I wasn't really prepared for. It too is hair related. I have a single eyebrow hair that grows straight out of my face. IT is waaayyyy longer than the others. IT is currently 1 inch long. As my eyebrows aren't particularly thick people can't really see IT. The only other person that knows about IT is my wife. (At least she is the only one that has said anything about it. We won't mention what she said, though.) What the hell am I going to do with just one long eyebrow? I would really love to have Jack Elam's eyebrows. That would at least help me with the Gabby Hayes type of geezer. Thick and bushy, you'd need hedge clippers to cut 'em back.

But that isn't all. My lengthy eyebrow has a cousin. I have another, just like it, on my ring finger. The hair on my hands and fingers isn't thick, it is fair and somewhat sparse. Except for THE hair. IT redeux sticks straight up instead of lying down with the others. IT redeux is currently about 1 inch long.

(We won't even talk about nasal hair. I didn't realize they go grey and get longer too).

On the bright side, maybe this is only the first step on the road to geezerhood. It's a small one, but there's hope. Anyway, these are the only two I know of. I'm afraid to look anywhere else.

P.S. The vest I'm wearing in the Christmas Picture? I made it last year for the season (duh!). I am now going to publish this and go home to work on this year's vest. film at eleven.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

....or is it just me?

I read a blog post the other day which contained the following:

In other news, the OJ book (titled something like IF I KILLED THEM, HERE'S HOW I MADE MONEY OFF IT IN SPITE OF THOSE PESKY OLD SON OF SAM LAWS) was pulled just DAYS before it was due to hit stores and I for one am having a weird little surge of hope for humanity in response. Good for us! YAY for people with souls, HUZZAH to good balky booksellers who just said no. Score one for decency. And maybe even another for good taste and even kindness.

to which I made the following comment:

I can't believe that Fox thought it a good idea in the first place.

But there's a lingering thought - what about the 1st amendment? Everyone has a right to a voice, not just the popular people - and even those with extremely bad taste and no morals. Let the book be published and then languish. (I understand that) the money goes to his kids, so excepting the publicity there wasn't any gain from him exploiting his wife's death anyway. There is a lot of crap out there that's been published. Should we as a people be able to prevent something from being published? Except for special circumstances (yelling fire in a crowed theater) free speech means free speech. let him have his book. In my opinion, it's just like anything else. If you don't like it, don't buy it or don't watch it. And - I am wary of anyone's criticism of a book or a movie if they haven't read it or seen it.

I am sorry if I seem sanctimonious, I try not to be. I wouldn't have read his book but I wouldn't have stopped it from being published either. I complain when preachers tell their congregation to not watch a movie or not read a book when they themselves haven't read or seen it. I try not to "preach" one thing and do another.

to which she replied:

Bob -- I repectfully disagree.

It's November. NaNoWriMo is on, and TENS of if not HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of novels will be completed this month. I predict that less that .001% of them will be purchased for 7 figures by a major New York Press and given a big media push, BUT I don't think NaNo-ers are having their first amendment rights violated.
The first amendment does not guarantee the right to a major publishing deal. No one has "silenced" him. He can EVEN NOW publish his evil pile of exploitative crap using Xlibris or Lulu. Heck, he can print it up on tracts and pass it out at the bus station or put it up on his My Space page. No one will arrest him... long as he GIVES the story away, thank you. He may have legal problems if he DOES make dime one because I think the IF in the title is a BLATANT and ugly end run around the Son of Sam laws...
But my point is, he has the right to say or WRITE anything he likes, but no one has the right to front table space in B and N. And that's all he has lost.

I then followed up with:

point taken. revoking a publishing deal is not violating his 1st amendment right to speech. Spending the money to promote his book thereby preventing other people from being published is a bad thing.

This is obviously a sore point for you and I apologize for having commented in the first place.

(I should point out that this blog is written by published author.)

I was merely trying to stimulate a little discussion about an observation: with some public pressure Fox pulled a publishing deal and that smacked to me of a first amendment issue. The relative worth of his book vs. anyone else's is beside the point. Should the public be able to ban/stop/etc. unpopular speech. To me it is nit-picking to state that he could self-publish and therefore his rights haven't been abrogated. People complained, his book was stopped from being published. It isn't as if his publishing contract was cancelled during the initial phase of the deal, or that he was passed over for being published - the book had been sent to the printers and they had to stop the presses. Anyway, the blogger goes on to mention that O.J. could be in legal trouble with regard to the son of sam laws (the laws that prevent someone from profiting from an illegal act that they committed). Well, like it or not, whether you agree or not, O.J. was not convicted of killing his wife and her lover. (I have to admit that I don't know if his civil conviction counts here or not).

This blogger obviously has strong opinions/feelings about the O.J. case and the general difficulty of getting published. I didn't understand then, and I still do not understand, why people feel so strongly about this particular pair of murders. Whether people view it as a travesty of justice, or of the ability to buy a verdict by hiring top-gun lawyers or what. Or legal system may not be what it should or could be, but it is still the best we have. 12 of his, and our, peers decided that he wasn't guilty. I can also understand why an author would get worked up about the difficulty of getting published and the inequality of him being published over more deserving work - but it happens every day. I was taken aback by the vehemence of her response to my comments more than anything. I hadn't seen that in her blog before.

But - it is her blog and she is allowed to rant when the mood strikes. As you may can tell by my last comment to her, I was sorry I had said anything. I didn't get a discussion as much as I got a diatribe. I won't take as much pleasure reading her blog from this point forward. Maybe it is a bit immature of me, but I don't appreciate being yelled at. (even if she did respectfully disagree before she let me have it with both barrels). So, I am a bit confused. Am I justified in being a little upset about the exchange, or should I just get over it?

I will probably do both.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

We are doing the last few loads of laundry, getting things together for our trip to the gulf shore. My sister lives in Orange Beach. My brother, who lives in San Diego, flew in with his family last weekend. My parents went down ?last weekend - I can't keep up with them half the time? taking their truck and 5th wheel. Thanksgiving on the beach! This will be the first time the three siblings (me, my brother and sister), our families and our parents have been under one roof in 4 - 5 - 6 years? I am really excited about it. And I am really glad it isn't my house.

Actually my family (wife, kids - not brother, sister) have made a tradition of going to the beach over Thanksgiving. We usually leave from wherever we are having Thanksgiving dinner at and head down Thursday evening. It takes about 5 hours to get there, so we get 2 and half days to wander around. It is lovely. No people, no crowded roads, no 100 degree heat, and even though half of the restaurants are closed there are enough open to get some good food. It is quiet and peaceful - no sounds except the surf all day and all night (and the hotels rooms are at off-off-season rates). I have become convinced that anyone who goes to the beach during the summer is a loony. Don't get me wrong, I know from summer at the beach. We lived on a Mediterranean island for two years and the summer/tourist season and I are well acquainted. I don't miss it. Well, okay - maybe just a little. I used to be a sun-worshipper in my youth. I have matured.

So, Lucky is off to the kennel, the cats have clean (and extra) litter boxes and extra food/water (with a check-in from neighbors) and we are almost packed. My son has to work until just after midnight, so we are off tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM (just like any other work day!)

I wish anyone who reads this, and everyone else who doesn't, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 20, 2006

my first meme, and I stole it

in the spirit of one's blog giving others insight into the writer, I am posting this meme, borrowed from urban-urchin. Items in bold are ones I have done. I am amending the exercise to italicise those I really want to do. Those in red are those I am actively avoiding. Those in green I kinda-wanta try but can't make up my mind or haven't conquered that fear yet.

01. bought everyone in the bar a drink

02. swam with wild dolphins

03. climbed a mountain

04. taken a ferrari for a test drive

05. been inside the great pyramid

06. held a tarantula

07. taken a candlelit bath with someone

08. said “i love you” and meant it

09. hugged a tree

10. bungee jumped

11. visited paris

12. watched a lightning storm at sea

13. stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. seen the northern lights

15. gone to a huge sports game

16. walked the stairs to the top of the leaning tower of pisa (is that allowed any more?) substitute the Statue of Liberty and I can highlight.

17. grown and eaten your own vegetables

18. touched an iceberg

19. slept under the stars

20. changed a baby’s diaper

21. taken a trip in a hot air balloon

22. watched a meteor shower

23. gotten drunk on champagne

24. given more than you can afford to charity

25. looked up at the night sky through a telescope

26. had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (I am tempted to italicise this one)

27. had a food fight

28. bet on a winning horse

29. asked out a stranger

30. had a snowball fight

31. screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. held a lamb (lotsa newly born kittens, though)

33. seen a total eclipse

34. ridden a roller coaster (and will continue to do so every opportunity I get)

35. hit a home run

36. danced like a fool and not cared who was looking

37. adopted an accent for an entire day (does total immersive language school count?)

38. actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment

39. had two hard drives for your computer

40. visited all 50 states

41. taken care of someone who was drunk (and I don't mean myself)

42. had amazing friends

43. danced with a stranger in a foreign country

44. watched whales

45. stolen a sign (I thought it was a law that you had to steal any sign that has your name on it)

46. backpacked in europe

47. taken a road-trip

48. gone rock climbing

49. midnight walk on the beach

50. gone sky diving

51. visited ireland

52. been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

53. in a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them

54. visited japan

55. milked a cow

56. alphabetized your cds (actually I should substitute vinyl records here)

57. pretended to be a superhero (when I was a kid we did this all of the time. I am assuming that this meme applies to adulthood - but I don't really know why)

58. sung karaoke

59. lounged around in bed all day

60. played touch football

61. gone scuba diving

62. kissed in the rain

63. played in the mud

64. played in the rain

65. gone to a drive-in theater (this is one of the definitions of summer)

66. visited the great wall of china

67. started a business

68. fallen in love and not had your heart broken (I wish I knew how to do this, seems to me you can't do one without the other - no one is perfect)

69. toured ancient sites

70. taken a martial arts class

71. played d&d for more than 6 hours straight (but not since that summer in college)

72. gotten married

73. been in a movie (I almost was, but I had to work the days they were doing the "cattle call" for extras.)

74. crashed a party

75. gotten divorced

76. gone without food for 5 days

77. made cookies from scratch

78. won first prize in a costume contest

79. ridden a gondola in venice

80. gotten a tattoo

81. rafted the snake river

82. been on television news programs as an “expert”

83. gotten flowers for no reason (I have a sweet wife!)

84. performed on stage (not since I was in the 5th grade when I was Santa)

85. been to las vegas (I've been to Reno - not vegas.)

86. recorded music

87. eaten shark

88. kissed on the first date (I don't remember, the last first date I had was almost 22 years ago. - but back then I would have if I could!)

89. gone to thailand

90. bought a house

91. been in a combat zone

92. buried one/both of your parents

93. been on a cruise ship

94. spoken more than one language fluently

95. performed in rocky horror

96. raised children

97. followed your favorite band/singer on tour

98. passed out cold (I have had an alcoholic black out - again during my college years)

99. taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country

100. picked up and moved to another city to just start over (I could probably write a book....)

101. walked the golden gate bridge

102. sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking

103. had plastic surgery

104. survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

105. wrote articles for a large publication

106. lost over 100 pounds (collectively - then maybe)

107. held someone while they were having a flashback

108. piloted an airplane

109. touched a stingray

110. broken someone’s heart (see comment for #68)

111. helped an animal give birth

112. won money on a t.v. game show

113. broken a bone

114. gone on an african photo safari

115. had a facial part pierced other than your ears

116. fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol

117. eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild

sidenote where is 118?

119. had major surgery

120. had a snake as a pet

121. hiked to the bottom of the grand canyon

122. slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours

123. visited more foreign countries than u.s. states

124. visited all 7 continents

125. taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days

126. eaten kangaroo meat

127. eaten sushi

128. had your picture in the newspaper

129. changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about (I don't know, but I'm so damned opinionated and stubborn I might have just from sheer tenacity.)

130. gone back to school

131. parasailed

132. touched a cockroach (I didn't want to and hadn't planned to, but the roach didn't ask me first)

133. eaten fried green tomatoes

134. read The Iliad

135. selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (I just have to get finished with the list of junk authors I read today first)

136. killed and prepared an animal for eating (technically I have, I used to hunt and fish with my granddaddy when I was in my adolescence - but since I stipulated at the beginning that this list supposes adulthood and adult choices, I have not highlighted it).

137. skipped all your school reunions (There aren't more than one or maybe two people I went to high school with I would care to see)

138. communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language (I need to pee in sign language is fairly easily understood by people in all parts of the world)

139. been elected to public office

140. written your own computer language

141. thought to yourself that you’re living your dream

142. had to put someone you love into hospice care

143. built your own PC from parts (for as many I have taken apart and put back together and for those I rebuilt for work you'd think I'd've done this for myself by now)

144. sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you

145. had a booth at a street fair

146. dyed your hair

147. been a dj

148. shaved your head (they are pretty big on that at basic training)

149. caused a car accident (it was only a fender-bender, but I was at fault.)

150. saved someone’s life

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lucky isn't the half of it.

I get up every day at 5:15 to walk the dog. This is so wrong on sooo many levels, had anyone suggested 3 years ago that I would be doing this I'd've laughed in their face.

I am a night person. I always have been. I can be ragged-out and fall asleep on the couch at 6:00 PM and wake up at 6:30 PM and be wide awake until 2 - 3 in the morning. When I was in the military my favorite shift was swings. Go to work at 2:30 PM and leave at 10:30 PM. Stay up for a few hours with wife and babies and go to bed at 2 -3 AM and STILL get 7-8 hours sleep. I get my body clock from my mom, she's 65 and still stays up till midnight.

2 summers ago we "acquired" a dog. My son, daughter and wife were driving down the interstate one afternoon and noticed that a puppy was poking it's head out of the open trunk lid of the car in front of them. To their horror, within a minute or two the puppy had wriggled out of the trunk and fallen out of the car! At 70 MPH. My son, who was driving, had been honking his horn trying to get the driver ahead's attention but it didn't work. They didn't slow down, nor did they stop when the dog fell out and the car. My son stopped, picked up the dog - who was scraped up but didn't appear to be too hurt, and took off after the other car. They couldn't catch it, gave up and took the dog to the vet. He had some road rash but no broken bones or any other injury. I called the police and let them know about it in case the other people called looking for the puppy. They didn't. So we now have a dog.

We got him a kennel, set him up a run in the back yard and named him Lucky - 'cause he's damned lucky to be alive after falling out of a speeding car. He's a mixed breed, but mostly pit bull. He's black with a few white markings. He's as sweet as he can be (he's @60 lbs of pure muscle!) - until he gets out on his walks. When we first got him, I would take him for a walk after work. But when we would meet other dogs or cars he would go ballistic. It's like he thinks he owns the road and these others hadn't any right to be there. So, in order to walk off of some of his energy and keep these meetings to the absolute minimum - I get up every day at 5:15 to walk the dog. We rarely see anyone else and maybe 1 or 2 cars tops. I've lost 35 lbs walking him about 1.5 miles every day, but I plateaued and haven't lost any in about a year. I've recently doubled that distance and it is kicking my butt something awful. I am sooooo tired. But maybe I'll start losing weight again.

My next door neighbor has a soft spot for dogs, and he loves to watch Lucky play in our yard. He's seen the ballistic act and our attempts to control it with various leashes, including a choke collar. Nothing worked. My wife couldn't control Lucky and I had a hard time. My neighbor couldn't stand the way Lucky would choke himself trying to get at (car or beast). So, last week he gave me a new device to try. It is a head collar that makes him behave. It isn't a muzzle, but it kinda-sorta looks like one. (see above, and here's a link to it) It includes a strap that goes around his snout and another that goes around his neck just behind his ears. I didn't think it would work (I hava a lead for him rated for 250 lb dogs because he's so strong) as the straps were so thin. BUT IT DOES! Believe it or not, when he sees a car, all I have to do is put gentle pressure on the lead and he stops lunging and stays beside me. It's something to do with the strap around his nose that pulls his head down when the leash is *gently* pulled. He can't stand it. It isn't painful, it just bothers and distracts him - makes him shake his head. Anyway, he doesn't take me for walks any longer, I get to take him.

If I can recover from being dog-tired. (sorry - it was so obvious, I had to.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Love and ?hate?

I read a post this morning (here) that started me thinking. The post is about how the writer's parents behave towards each other and how she delt with it. In the comments someone mentioned their in-laws and the writer replied that in-law behaviour was up to the spouse to confront. That isn't always the case - or at least it wasn't in my case.

I can't say that my relationship with my parents has always been great. I started having problems with my dad early on - my parents had me start therapy when I was 11-12 and I wound up spending a year living with my grandparents. I know now, as a parent, how much that had to hurt them. My problems with depression stem from the relationship I had with my dad as I grew up. But - I digress. I have a great relationship with both of my parents now and this isn't about them. This is about my mother-in-law.

My wife has had a troubled relationship with her mom since.... well, all of her life. The stories I heard about MIL were bizarre - and troubling. They were such that when the kids were born and decisions were being made about where to live, we always decided it was better to be close to my parents rather than my wife's. Living apart made their relationship manageble but there were several instances where I had to step in and mediate - sometimes rather forcefully. I had resigned myself to this state of affairs and that it would remain so. But it didn't.

About 6 or 7 years ago MIL went through what we know now were a series of strokes. At the time, no one could figure out what was wrong with her. They were gradually physically debilitating and she wound up in a wheelchair. But the biggest change wasn't physical, it was emotional. All of the hatefulness was gone. She was loving and lovable. Although the past couldn't be forgotten, it could now be relegated to the past without fears of more of it in the future.

This past March she went through another series of strokes and heart problems. She was brought home under hospice care. No one could say how long she had, but no one gave her long. MIL could not move herself nor speak. She responded to yes or no questions with blinks. She's in there, hanging on, not ready to go. My wife took FMLA leave and spent 10 weeks caring for her mother 24 hours a day. Bathing her, turning her every 2 hours, changing her diapers, giving her her meds, reading to her. My wife made the hard decision to come home for mostly financial reasons, but knowing she was stable and needing to have a few weeks of FMLA left of leave for the end. That was in May. We went up in August, spending a week. This past weekend we heard that she's had a series of problems that makes everyone think that her time is coming. We expect the call at any time.

I look at my relationship with my parents and I see how I have been gifted. My wife didn't receive that gift until just a few years ago. When I think of it, it is my gift too. I've known MIL for almost 22 years. I had been seriously thinking for the last few years about trying to find a job closer so we could spend more time with her. What happened in March made it too late. And even though I've had since March, I'm not ready for the gift to be taken away yet. I guess it really can't be, the experience of the last 6 years cannot be un-experienced. The memory of the last 6 years will always be the clearest, even given the rose-tinted glasses of time. If nothing else, I have learned that despite how poorly we can be treated by those closest to us there can be love there. What was tolerance in the past is love now. I love you, MIL. I wish you peace.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I called my daughter today and asked her if she were coming home to vote. She's a sophomore in college and lives about 45 minutes away. She said she was, and then asked where our polling place is. I described to her how to get there. She then asked me for a synopsis on who is on the ballot and what they stood for. I fobbed her off by telling her that there were too many races for me to discuss as I was at work and then told her to look up the paper on-line to see if it had the ballot printed in it. She told me she was coming by the house afterwards and we said our goodbyes.

My first reaction to her questions was the standard parent one - typical. Asking me whom to vote for as she didn't do her homework studying the candidates and the issues. I started to, then bit my tongue. I didn't want to be hypocritical. I voted this morning. As I drove to the polling station I reviewed the candidates and issues. I got my ballot and.......there were races listed I had no idea of, people running I'd never heard of, constitutional amendments I had no clue about, in general - I was almost as unprepared as my daughter was.

I like to think of myself as someone who knows what's going on, up on current events and knowledgeable about the issues. I listen to NPR every day. I read the local paper. But I guess I'm not. At least, not about local & state issues. I read the NY Times on-line. When I lived in Maryland I read the Washington Post (national news) not the Baltimore Sun (local). I listen to NPR where I get exactly 9 minutes of state news every hour.

I've now got to decide if I should expand my horizons and gen up on state issues, or be content with my current world view (see, world - not state or local!). This probably means subscribing to an Atlanta paper. (As if I don't have enough to read already.) As you can see, my inclination is status quo. Sir Isaac Newton is with me on this and who am I to contradict him?

I've also got to decide if I should own up to my daughter. I didn't say anything to her, but I did imply it was her job to find out about the election instead of admitting that I couldn't answer her question. But again - it IS her job to find out about these things and for her to make up her own mind.

Compromise - if she brings it up tonight, I'll fess up. If not, well - there's always other topics for me to not know anything about and admit to (or not) - next time.

Friday, November 03, 2006

promises, promises.

One of the main reasons I'm not a best-selling author (other than the obvious lack of talent) is that I don't have much I want to say. Well, that isn't really true, I read other blogs and often have so much to say that I tend to write essays instead of comments. What I mean to say is that I am terrible at finding subjects to write about. I can't imagine other people being interested in my random thoughts. I have always been a terrific collaborator. Give me a subject, feed me a thought and I am off to the races. Just don't ask me to get the ball rolling.

Despite that, and directly because I have received actual encouragement from several people, I will start posting here again. I will do my best not to bore the internet to death, but I make no promises. We shall see, we shall see.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Didja miss me?

I haven't posted in 3 months. I'm not a writer, nor do I aspire to be. I started this blog to give me a place to talk and maybe to record what was going on in my life. An on-line diary. Not having the impetus of being an aspiring novelist, I gradually lost the motivation to write here. My wife came home and life kinda resumed its normal flow. I obviously didn't have the discipline to keep it up, I'm not sure I'm going to in the future either. I don't really have anything to say to anyone, I'm no one special, why would others want to read my ramblings?
So - do I restart this attempt at an on-line diary?

We will see.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Place all metallic objects in the bin and step through.....

I've been trying to figure out how to make these posts easier to write in terms of referencing the people in my life without always saying "my wife...", "my son....", etc. I want to make the tone more conversational - even if no one else is reading this - without losing the semi-confidentiality of who's exactly who. So, I'm gonna try initials. It may or may not work, but we'll see. I'll maintain a legend somewhere or another providing a key to who the initial applies to. Since no one is reading this - or at least is leaving comments - I have some time to work it out. Here goes.

Howdy, Howdy, Howdy. Been busy here, how 'bout y'all? D is on her way to KC. Last week was finals, her last one being yesterday. We moved her out of her dorm room last night. Today was her exit inspection and then after I got off from work we drove her and a friend of hers to the airport. D's friend's (DF) mother (DFM) had come down a few days ago to move all of her stuff out of her dorm room. DFM came down early because she is in college too and her finals are today and so couldn't make the trip to pick up her daughter. So when DF heard D talking about flying to KC she asked for a ride. So she rode with us and took MARTA from the airport. D was a bit nervous about going through airport security for the first time herself. And the last time she flew it was pre-9/11 and there weren't so many rules. The bit about taking off your shoes kinda threw her for a minute or two. (Maybe she was worried about knocking out the screeners with foot odor. When she was living with my mom - during her first semester in college - my mom approached me gingerly and in a real hesitant way suggested that we get D some foot powder as her shoes stunk up the upstairs!) I explained also about taking her laptop out of her backpack, emptying her pockets of cell phone, change, etc. I watched her disappear into the x-ray machine and left. She called a few minutes later to tell me that she had no problems with security and that she had found her concourse. I don't know if you've been through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, but it's huge! The train is about 3 stories underground, so you ride these never-ending escalators up and down from the concourses & ticketing levels. Also, there's a moving sidewalk between concourses. One time I wasn't going to wait for the train and decided to use the moving sidewalks. I'd done so in other airports and no big deal. I left concourse C heading for baggage claim. Even with moving sidewalks, I'd bet it was half a mile at least! It took forever.

Anyway, D's flight left 50 minutes ago. I'm waiting to hear that she's arrived. W is meeting her there, and WS1 (one of W's 4 sisters) is going to be there too. MCI (KC's major airport) is over an hour from W's folks, so D still has a good bit of trip left.

This past weekend I got to spend some time with my parents - the first time in about 2 months. They've been traveling some and I've been yo-yoing between KC and here since the middle of March. It was great seeing them, it brought a little normalcy back into my life. Dad has a new hobby and is REALLY EXCITED about it - he couldn't wait to tell me about it. He now does geocaching. This is, in it's most simple form, a technological hide and seek. Someone hides a container - sometimes small, sometimes large - and posts it's location using lat/long coordinates on certain web sites dedicated to this hobby. The cache usually contains at least a log and a pencil/pen. The larger ones contain little doo-dads. The seeker (Dad) programs these coordinates into his GPS and then takes off to find it. When the cache is found, the seeker opens it and signs the log. If it is one of the larger caches, then the seeker can take a doo-dad replacing it with one brought along for the purpose. The caches are usually cleverly hid. He took me on a search Sunday. This cache was a small one - a military match case. It is a cylinder of about .5 inches in diameter and 3 inches long. The GPS led us to a mall, in an area with a gazebo, some benches and some greenery. We searched for about 45 minutes - pawing through the bushes, looking all over the gazebo and benches, everywhere! We were about to give up when two guys came out of the store next to this area and asked what we were doing. Dad explained about geocaching and one of the guys said he thought that was what we were doing, he'd seen other people doing the same thing. In addition - he knew where the cache was. So - being hot, sweaty, and ready to give up anyway, we asked for hot/cold clues. Even then it took 10 minutes before Dad found it. It was velcro'd under a slat in the bench. And we had both look over those benches several times! These caches can be anywhere. I think they started out in the woods - like in a state park - somewhere publicly accessible but where the cache wouldn't be accidentally found and/or removed. From what Dad told me about how other caches have been hidden, the CIA should hire these guys. Talk about sneaky.

MIL seems to be holding her own. She isn't any better, but she isn't any worse either. She still isn't speaking but from what W is saying MIL is moving a bit more than she was. Maybe its just taking some time for her brain to sort itself out from the last stroke. In any case, since she's stabilized and since W's FMLA is almost up, W is making plans to come home. She's documenting all of the care she's providing so that FIL and sisters can take up where she will be leaving off. So, barring any negative events, W will be home by the end of the month!!! It will be interesting to see how we will work out subsequent trips. W had to burn all of her vacation/sick time during this time so she won't have any time off for quick trips up. She'll still have a few weeks of FMLA available for emergencies though.

S and I will be going to KC this weekend to visit and bring D back home. I'm looking forward to the visit but I'm damn well not looking forward to the drive. I'm also trying to hook up with BF. I haven't seen him in a few weeks and I'm trying to keep in close touch. With his mom gone now and his dad having passed last December he's had it really rough and I worry about him. I guess one good thing to come out of this, in addition to seeing him much more, is that it seems to be bringing him and his girlfriend back together.

And that is a story for another time. I am going home and going to bed.

Later days.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Home again

Back from KC. MIL is about the same. She did speak a few words last Thursday, but not since. Part of me thinks that maybe she's giving up. But I don't know. Speaking has been so much of a chore for her the past few years, the strokes really affected her ability to speak and swallow. But, before the most recent stroke she had been speaking a little. So I'm back to the conclusion that maybe she's stopped trying. It is discouraging.

Despite the circumstances, the stay in KC was great. I really miss my wife and the time we had together - even if it included activities like helping her clean up MIL's bottom - was much needed. We didn't get out much. I had wanted to take off and spend some time away from the house but with MIL coming home from the hospital and schedules having to be reorganized it just didn't happen. We did eat out once or twice but nothing else.

I got back Sunday night. It is taking a few days for me to get rested and back to normal activities. I'm still tired. I made the mistake of taking a nap yesterday when I got home from work and wound up staying up half the night. So - I'm still tired! Duh. It's showing too. During the day, if I take a break, I kinda shut down and am not much company. I went to lunch yesterday with a few coworkers and pretty much just sat there, or got argumentative during discussions on some current events. Ordinarily I don't push issues, I just let it go. I didn't yesterday. See - I'm tired.

Anyway. It's lunch time, so..... see ya.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Deja Vu, again

Well, here I am in KC - again. I was talking to my wife Sunday about how she's doing, when I should visit, etc. and she told me that she was thinking of me coming up next week. We started talking about her mom and how severely this latest stroke was and how she was handling it. My wife is taking this latest stroke hard. Her mom had been slowly gaining some little strength and things seemed to be progressing - and then this. I asked if she wanted me to come up sooner and she hesitated..... and so here I am. I went in to work on Monday and told my boss I needed to come up and then left. I had had not quite 2 hours sleep Sunday night and wasn't looking forward to a 14 hour drive. Jiminy - I was a caffein junky for a day. I stopped about every 1.5 hours to pee and get a new cup of coffee. I'm still tired. But I'm glad to be here. My wife seems to be happy to see me. I got here about 12:30 AM local and we talked for about 2 hours. We went to the hospital together today. I took her to a japanese steak house for lunch. Arthur Bryant's is on the list for this week, and I want to maybe treat her to a steak dinner sometime too. She's worked so hard taking care of her mother I want to try to do a few special things for her while I'm here. (not only food!) Maybe the Nelson, or the Liberty memorial - something not associated with nursing her mother.

Speaking of, MIL has moved her left arm, so maybe the stroke wasn't permanently disabling. She's coming home tomorrow under home hospice care. Back to square one on the home routine of medicines, turnings, etc. The hospice has their own equipment, so tomorrow morning new stuff arrives and the old stuff - hopefully - will go away. They pay for all medicines (related to her terminal diagnosis) as well as nurse visits, someone to come and bathe her a few times a week, councelling, 24 hour support, etc. Medicare pays for it all. Sounds like a good deal. The medicines that aren't directly related to her diagnosis should be picked up by their insurance.

Switching to hospice brings home the fact that this is really the beginning of the end. Rough times ahead.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bad News

You know, it seems that all I write about here are the bad things that are happening to me - and here's another: It looks like MIL had another stroke. She wasn't acting herself late yesterday and today she cannot move her left arm at all, and she can hardly move her left leg. They're trying to get in touch with her doctor. They haven't taken her to the emergency room - what could they do for her? Just a few weeks ago, hospice was where she was headed.

She had been doing well (as well as could be expected), showing some improvement in being able to move and speak. I guess we had let our guard down and had started to be optimistic about her condition. My wife is really upset, it's been a reminder that her mother could go at any time. I really wish I could be there. I asked if she wanted me to come, she said no. It's frustrating that I cannot help her.

Monday, April 17, 2006

better late than never....

I owe myself an apology. I started this blog to record the events in my life and their effect on me, and then I let it go almost 2 weeks. This is partly due to my dead keyboard at home, restricting me to internet access at work - AFTER HOURS - and with my wife being gone not having much time to spend after hours, home time being more important. This is also due to the fact that, as indicated in my last post, I had prepared this huge post using my son's laptop at home and then losing it when publishing. So here are some odds and ends about the last two weeks.

I took the kids up to KC to see their grandma (and mom) two weekends ago. It takes 14 - 16 hours (depending on bladders and backsides) one way. Friday and Monday were trip days. I was exhausted, having driven the entire distance myself (my son forgot his wallet - and license - at home, my daughter has only her learner's permit and has had little interstate experience).

MIL is now at home, the care center discharged her only 4 days after checking in. There was a huge disagreement within the family about bringing her home, in short some (read one daughter) thought she should be admitted to an in-patient hospice - basically to die. However, since coming home she has gained some strength. She has sat up once or twice and has been able to roll herself onto her side - huge improvements from when she had the heart attacks/stroke last month. She's awake more (my wife thinks the hospital was fairly free with pain meds and tranquilizers) and, according to my wife, is bored. She kicks her pillows off of the bed and refuses tv, being read to, or even pictures - and she loves looking at family pictures. She is in a bed in the living room so she can see and be seen, which may help the boredom. My wife is the primary care giver and I worry about her. She sleeps on the couch to be near MIL and is up several times a night. And she gets VERY cranky when she doesn't get enough sleep! I wish I could be there to help, but someone needs to keep the home fires burning. I can't decide when to go up next. Daughter's college finals are over on May 6th, so maybe I should wait so they can go with me, but by then it'll have been 4 weeks since visiting. I can't really afford to go myself next weekend and then go again with the kids when school is out. If I wait and something happens between now and then......

Nothing much else is going on, work is the same; my car is still in the shop, so still driving the caddy! I'm getting a little too used to driving it, but I still will be glad to get my volvo back. It looks like I'll be about $1000 poorer for it, though.

On a completely different subject, I read a blog post about women raising daughters. In general, it was about how much more difficult it is for women to raise daughters than sons. People write books about this subject, so I can't hope to do more here than a brief comment. I was surprised to hear about this. I would have thought it would have been the opposite - women challenged by sons, men challenged by daughters. I will admit that I do not spend a lot of time thinking about gender roles in our society, in fact I tend to resent predefined roles arbitrarily based on gender. In my own experience, a good many of the difficulties in growing up is living up to society's expectations of you. I don't like being excluded from something because of that damned chromosome. I tried to raise my children as gender neutral as I could - i.e. no pink vs. blue, none of this business that they couldn't do something because only boys/girls can do that, etc. Maybe I made things more difficult for them in that my kids didn't always share the same interests as other kids their age, I don't really know. I've always thought that there should be gender equality in everything. I had an essay I wrote published in the local newspaper when I was in high school regarding women being long overdue for equal rights. As long as someone has the skills necessary for a job, they should be eligible for it and be paid accordingly. I might be taking the wrong tack here, maybe the opinion expressed in the blog wasn't that it was harder for a woman to raise a daughter, maybe it was that it is harder for anyone to raise girls vs. boys. I didn't find it so raising our two, but maybe I should talk to my wife - I certainly didn't do it by myself. I think maybe I should read the book referred to in the blog. It is, I believe, a collection of essays about women raising their daughters. As far as I know, there isn't anything in there from men. I know that many (if not most) women feel that they still do the child rearing in our society, and they pretty much do. But men do too. I know plenty of conscientious fathers who share in the raising of their children and I'm curious what they would have to say. I only know that I had fairly equal trials/tribulations/problems/whatever raising both kids. In fact, my son has been more of the "problem child" - he's had more than his share of emotional issues the past 2 years. All in all, I can't say that one was more difficult than the other, they are individuals and each raised as such.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I wrote a huge post about this weekend, tried to publish, and..... no post. lost the damn thing.

I'm tired of this crap and I'm going to bed.


Saturday, April 08, 2006


Well. Wasn't that fun. Take 12 cd's plus random play. One hail storm. Two wrecks and one rush hour. Mix for 15 hours and you get yesterday. AND I've gotta do it again Monday.

Don't get me wrong. It's worth the difficulties to be here. The kids need to see their grandma, and I need to see my wife. I really miss her. She's got such a load of responsibility here taking care of her mother I wish I could be here for her. But, someone needs to keep things going at home. And she has her sisters here to help, so it isn't like she's going through this alone. But still.....

MIL is coming home Monday. I haven't heard the full scoop, but I expect that her condition is such that they can't (or the insurance won't) help her there. So, home she comes. I don't think this will be home hospice, I believe that she'll get home nursing. I think coming home is probably best. There've been a few episodes at the hospital and also where she's at now in which she hasn't had the best care. In her condition (and with one of her daughters being a nurse) she'll get as good care at home as she would anywhere else. FIL doesn't appear to be fully convinced of this, from what he's mentioned it looks like he's afraid that they'll do something wrong at home, or she'll have a crisis and it'll hasten her end. Personally I think that she won't survive another crisis, even if it happened in a facility. But he's got to do what's best for him as well as her.

I started this blog to give me a place to record my feelings thinking that it would help me when I had no one else to talk to. So far it reads like a series of events instead of how I feel about those events. That isn't really surprising as I've never been good at evaluating my feelings. I will try harder to do this. It's early yet but I am finding that it is forcing me to organize my thoughts somewhat, to think through how I really feel about something to the extent that I can write it down coherently. I can't imagine anyone on the internet is interested in what's happening to MIL - or me - so I might as well use this for what benefit I can get from it.

I've been worried about my wife and how our relationship is right now. She isn't much for expressing her feelings either. She doesn't do PDA very well (public displays of affection), its taken me years to get her to hold my hand or to kiss me in public. Since I left her in KC to help care for her mother, we've talked almost every night but it hasn't been very personal. I know this is an emotionally trying time for her and its selfish of me to expect her to address my emotional needs too, so I deal with it. It was nice when we got here she gave me a big hug and it's if we hadn't just spent two weeks apart. Being married for 21 years means that you pick things up where they left off, I guess, and don't make a big deal of it. We are years past the "I can't get along without you, yada yada yada." But I still think it, in a way. I miss her.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

And Theeeeyyyyy'rrreee off.

6:00 AM comes EARLY. We're leaving for KC tomorrow morning. Oh my.

I'm taking the kids to see their grandma. I'm afraid that this will be their last chance to see her.

I dunno how to follow that.

MIL has been moved from the hospital and into an advanced care facility. From what I understand she will be here for a few weeks and then home. Think positive thoughts.

I'm fried, I can't come up with anything more coherent, so I'm off to bed.

See ya' in KC.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Comin' Home - NOT.

I had this post all ready to go - my mother-in-law was going home. My wife told me this last night. MIL is as stable as they can make her, so no more need for hospital. They were calling around to get a hospital bed for the house and making all of the arrangements.

BUT - my wife called again this morning to tell me her dad had changed his mind. He's putting MIL into a care center for a few weeks, THEN bringing her home. My wife was slack-jawed at the sudden change in plans. All we can figure is that he's scared to have sole care of her at home. He's mentioned in the past few weeks that if he brought her home he's worried that he'd do something wrong and kill her. I'm worried that she'll die in the care center. I don't know this, but i think she'd rather die at home. I don't really know what she wants, but she'll agree to whatever FIL decides.

So, the rollercoaster continues.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fun Fact

I have been told (reliably?) that when a man is embalmed, a rod is inserted into his, uh, thang so that the preservatives can get into ALL of his tissue - preventing it from rotting (before the rest of him) and falling off. I can't really understand why it matters. I mean, who is going to exhume a man and need to find his thang intact?

Maybe that's why the coffin's lid is curved.


I was feeling sorry for myself yesterday. I was sad about my best friend's mother dying, its effect on him and its effect on me too. I realized that I had noone that I can turn to right now to assuage my grief, or just to bitch to. My best friend is out - duh - and my closest bestest friend (my wife) is out too - her mom is dying by degrees. She called last night and after she told me about her day and her mom she was finished with the conversation. I had kinda hoped that I could talk about it a little, but nope. I can't talk to her about how I feel about her mom's condition anyway. I was having a pity party, feeling all put out about how I didn't get my turn. I knew intellectually that she has all she can handle dealing with her mom, but emotionally I was upset that she wasn't there for me. UNFAIR! boo hoo for me. I'm over it today. I fully understand that her needs are so much more than mine right now and she deserves my full support. Just like she would give me if it were my mom or dad. I'll be okay. I hope she will.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Just another day in the life of.....

Well. I've had an exciting weekend. NOT. We buried my best friend's mother Saturday. He is having a tough time (goes without saying, but I did anyway). He and I have been friends since college and the entire time I've known him, with the exception of a brief period, he has lived with his parents. (no, the movie isn't based on his life and no, he doesn't look anything like Matthew McConaughey). I mention this only to emphasize how close he was to his parents. Two years ago his father got pneumonia and never really recovered. My friend nursed his dad all of the time since, visiting him every day that he was in the hospital or in rehab. He took care of him when they took him home, fed him, bathed him, etc. until he died last December. While he loved his dad, was in the family business with him, his mom was his buddy. Her condition gradually worsened over this same time frame and he wound up having to care for both of them. When his dad died I thought that it was a blessing. His dad wasn't really there towards the end and his suffering was at an end. My friend was exhausted and I hoped that he could recoup his strength. We all prayed that his mom would improve, her loss on top of his dad would kill him. Well, she only lasted 3 months. Last Thursday I went to stay with my friend. At first he wasn't sure he wanted the company but when I walked in the door, we hugged and broke up for a few minutes and he said he was glad I came. When he wasn't with his brother and sister making arrangements for the funeral he and I hung out. We had a series of long talks about this and that, sometimes just shooting the breeze, sometimes about his folks. Between his girlfriend and myself we made sure that he got where he needed to be at the right times. Visitation was on Friday and lots of family & friends were there. He said that he felt guilty for enjoying himself getting to see everyone. The funeral was Saturday. (I found out that being the middle pallbearer means not seeing where you're going, small steps and tree limbs in the face. Just like in the cartoons, I swear.) Somehow we got through the afternoon and that evening he and I hosted friends and family at his house. He had a few too many and managed to have a good time. We puttered around the house Sunday and that evening I came home. Last night was the first night he spent alone in the house. Her presence is still strong there, the entire time I was there It felt like she was just in the next room. I'm sure its much more so for him and I'm worried about how he's handling it.

I think I'll give him a call.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mixed Signals

A co-worker (who's cube is outside of my office on the opposite side of a low divider) has an arrangement with me whereby when she gets into an interminable phone conversation she will email me for a rescue. I am to walk over to her cube and "interupt" her with a "work related issue" so she can gracefully get out of the call. Yesterday afternoon I was talking to someone on my cell phone when I look up and see her waving her hand frantically, her head bobbing up and down. I think that I'm speaking too loud (of which I am frequently reminded) and get up and shut the door. I sit back down, still talking, and happen to glance at my screen. Uhoh. I get up, walk around to the office next door and get him to rescue her. I'm still in trouble, though. Maybe a reese cup will help.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


JESUS HELP ME 'cause if'n he don't I'm gonna kill her.

My best friend's sister has turned into the most hateful woman.... I can't believe the way she's been acting lately. Her mother hasn't been dead a day and she's already trying to get her share of the money. The last few days before her mom died, when something bad would happen she practically crowed her delight that she was that much closer to her inheritance. My friend is grieving and she's impatient for the moola.

This is the woman who hasn't held a job for a month or two her entire life. She lives in a trailer in her parent's back yard (since before I met her - 26 years ago) and they have pretty much supported her all of her life. I guess she thinks the world owes her a living 'cause she sure as hell don't earn one. She drives her mother's car and I hear they've been putting gas in it for her. She called herself taking care of her parents but only on her schedule. More than once my friend would come home from work at 8:00 pm and find that his mother hadn't had supper - apparently his sister's shift had ended mid-afternoon and she went out to her trailer.

I'm afraid she is going to take advantage of his grief and get him to agree to something to his disadvantage. I wish I could protect him from her. Maybe I can rally the troops and head her off at the pass.

Where's the indians when you need 'em?

What's Happen'n Now

I'm not really sure yet what I'm going to be doing here, initially I thought I'd setup someplace for me to vent, or "talk" when I don't have a real person to talk to, or do a bit of self-analysis, or all of the above. I guess I'm approaching this as an old-fashioned diary - except everyone has the key to it. Anyway, lets start......

Things are in the shitter right now. To put this into chronological order, here's what is been happening lately.

My mother-in-law has had a series of strokes over the past 5 - 6 years. At first they didn't know what was wrong, her doctors were thinking some unidentified brain disorder. You'd think that a stroke is pretty hard to miss..... Anyway, three weeks ago my father-in-law took her to the doctor because she had a sore on her foot that wasn't healing. (MIL is @79 and has diabetes among other things). Her doctor didn't like the look of it and admitted her to the hospital to treat the dry gangrene (read un-healed sore here). She's wheelchair bound (79, strokes, etc) and her hospital visit weakened her, so after a week she was to be moved to a rehab place. She was literally just inside the door when she had some kind of seizure. So she goes back to the hospital (via ER) and is diagnosed with having had a heart attack as a result of congestive heart failure and pneumonia. So. We pack our bags and head off to KC. (I am really trying to keep this the Reader's Digest condensed version). She stabilizes and after a week they talk the doctor into letting her go home (Friday).

Meanwhile (back at the ranch) I hear from my best friend that his mother is in the hospital, her congestive heart failure is acting up and has pneumonia too. (see a pattern here?)

Anyway, we head back home (16 hour trip over two days starting Saturday). We arrive home Sunday and get a call that MIL is back in the ER - this time for a heart attack AND a stroke. We head back to KC (15 hours in one day). She is much worse (duh), stable, but her prognosis is that she has a limited time left. She is lucid, but very weak. She cannot swallow anything without choking and/or aspirating so what nourishment she gets is intravenous. Liquids are building up around her heart and in her lungs. Not good. Meetings are held with family to discuss what to do. MIL has 5 (surviving) daughters and a son. These discussions were many and varied and, at times, heated. Should life sustaining measures be taken? Should she go into hospice care? etc, etc, etc. (gist: they are putting a feeding tube into her stomach, she'll move to a rehab place for skilled nursing for a week, then go home. To die.). So, I come home on Sunday (bills to pay) (14 hours, one day - I'm getting good at this), my wife having taken FMLA is staying with her mother.

I talked to my best friend on the way home on Sunday, his mom is not doing well, but she's had a good weekend. Monday I start back to work after being gone two weeks (jesus at the emails. maybe this place can't do without me. ha). Tuesday (yesterday) my friend calls, his mom just died.

My best friend and I met as roommates at college 26 years ago. He would invite me home over weekends where I met his mom and dad. She welcomed me into her home and made it mine. She treated me as family from the beginning and over the years told me several times that she thought of me as a son. That was actually the last thing she said to me when I saw her last. I'm having a hard time with this. (especially as her husband died last December. They were my family as much as my parents or my wife's.)

Anyway, I am to be a pallbearer. However, I took my only suit to KC on our second trip up (thinking I might be going to a funeral) and managed to leave it there. So, I had to buy a suit yesterday. The pants are being altered and through much persuasion will be ready this afternoon. I don't know if the funeral will be tomorrow (as I told the alterations staff when begging) or Friday.

What the hell am I going to do?

How does this damn thing work?

As This is my setup entry, it is gonna be short but not sweet.