Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Spectacular in its suckitude!

Come on, Ryan Seacrest and the rest of you New Year’s revelers, let’s send up some balloons, throw bags of confetti, and fill the midnight sky with fireworks. Whatever we need to do to escort 2009 to the exit door, let’s get on with it. Let’s kick this past year to the curb, dust off our hands and heave a big sigh of relief. Goodbye and good riddance!

Okay, I’m forced to admit that a few good things happened in 2009, but if I actually took the time to make lists, my list of good things would be shorter than my list of bad ones. I suspect that’s true for many of you.

On the good side, our family was blessed with two new babies (Jaydon Cole in June and Henley Blake in November), and another baby boy, my much anticipated first great-grandchild, was conceived and is scheduled to arrive in March of 2010. I couldn't be happier about that.

We’ve had a couple of serious illnesses in our human family this year, but we’ve survived them. Illnesses would go on the bad list, but I guess they’d be balanced by survival on the good list.

Definitely on the bad list are the losses of two prominent members of our fur family this year. BeBe, my mother’s dog that was adopted by my daughter Kelli following Mother’s death ten years ago, died this summer. BeBe suffered from epileptic seizures her entire life, nearly 15 years, and almost every time she went to the vet in the last eight years, they predicted her imminent death. Somehow she held on until this year. Then, just days before Christmas, my daughter Kim’s little Yorkie, Winston, whose funny, furry face you’ve seen on these pages before, died suddenly from anaphylactic shock following an injection to relieve a bout of back pain he experienced occasionally. This was a hard loss, one that will sit heavily on our hearts for a long time. It might have been BeBe’s time to go, but I can’t believe it was Winston’s.

On the good list (knock on wood), the rest of our fur-babies, including my beloved Butch and Kadi, are doing well.

A couple of the prior posts I’ve managed to eke out this year referred to my retirement. Retirement has definitely been a good-list thing, though it hasn’t been the smooth sailing I had expected it to be. I never thought I would spend so many hours sitting in doctors‘ offices while they tried to pinpoint the origin of confusing blood test results. First they knew exactly what the problem was; now they’re not so sure. As an unexpected trip to the emergency room yesterday confirmed in my mind, the treatment thus far has been worse than the disease. I was feeling pretty good before all this medical speculation began and still feel very well most days, though I’m now identifying strongly with that poor, maligned creature, the guinea pig. The unexpected medical infringement on my time lies squarely on the bad list.

I’d be neglectful if I didn’t add a couple of other minor items to the good list:
  • We finally got a traffic light at the scary intersection near my house. It feels wonderful to be able to travel the shortest route home without taking my life in my hands.
  • I’ve only bought three tanks of gas since I retired at the end of July and still have more than three-fourths of the third one.
  • The parish is building a brand-new branch of the library about a mile from my house. Since my retirement income won’t support my book-buying habit, this is great news.
  • There’s been a big increase in the number of flocks of ducks and geese flying over my yard this year, and I've loved seeing their V-formations and hearing the wildness of their calls. Despite a couple of avid hunters I still consider friends, these birds in flight symbolize hope and freedom to me, and I cheer them on to safety as they fly.
Back to the bad list, we've had week after week of constant rain. On the good list, I didn't have to get up and go to work in any of it.

2009 got off to a good start, I thought, with the historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States. Even as I put this on my good list, I have to wonder if President Obama is still putting it on his. He may have some doubts by now.

There isn’t enough time left in 2009 to list all the bad stuff I’ve seen on the news this year, and I know from reading your blogs that some of you have struggled fiercely to climb your own mountains. I must say I’ve been impressed with the dignity with which you’ve faced your challenges and the honesty with which you’ve shared them with us, your readers. Your problems go on my bad list, but your courage and humanity go very near the top of the good one.

My blogging productivity (a grand total of nine posts for 2009, counting this one) was so pathetic that I may have to start a third list, a list of bad things that are also embarrassing. Way up on the good list, though, will be the fellow bloggers who kept me on their blog rolls in spite of my poor performance.

I’m thankful that the year is over and hopeful that someday I’ll be able to look back and remember some sort of valuable insight I may have gained in 2009. Right now nothing comes to mind.

I do know I’m happy for the chance to begin again in a new year, a new decade even. I’m ready to pull my head out of the semi-dark place where it’s been hibernating and take a fresh look around.

Next year I’ll tidy up this neglected old blog and tell you what I see, okay?

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I'm not the only one getting older

The granddogs have been staying with me since last Thursday afternoon, when Kim and some of her friends took their Harleys and left for Sturgis, South Dakota. Her little dogs and my big ones are used to being together during the daytime, but it’s been interesting to watch them adjust their nighttime routines to accommodate each other.

My Kadi stopped sleeping with me about six months ago, preferring to sleep on the cool floor of the hall just outside my bedroom. Kim’s Lucy, on the other hand, thinks sleeping in the bed with me is a great idea, and Kadi isn’t willing to let Lucy have the spot that used to be hers. What neither Kadi nor I knew was that things have changed in the last six months.

Kadi can no longer jump up on my bed. She tried twice and failed both times, hanging on with the nails of her front paws while her back feet tried to gain some purchase to help her pull herself up. The expression on her face when she couldn’t do it made me feel sad for her.

So, for as long as Lucy is here, and longer if Kadi wants, our bedtime routine has changed. After the goodnight treats, after the last drinks of water, I climb into bed and Lucy jumps in after me. Butch makes a few circles on his bed, then settles down in the middle of it. Winston searches over the entire bedroom, trying one spot, then another, before finding the perfect Yorkie-sized nook beneath the window. Kadi stands in the hall, watching everybody get comfortable. Only then does she approach my bed and focus intently on my face. That’s my cue to get back out of bed, put Kadi’s front paws on top of the mattress, hook my arms together under her Big-Bertha butt, and boost her up.

She doesn’t stay long, half an hour maybe; the hall is still her favorite place to sleep. She just needs to be in my bed long enough to make her point, and I need to put her there so she’ll know she doesn’t have to handle her infirmities alone.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Retirement: beginning the settling in phase

Retirement feels weird so far. As much as I've looked forward to it, now that it's here I feel like I'm cheating. Playing hooky. Shirking responsibilities. There's just something about the concept of never going to work again that's mind-boggling.

Maybe this is just a transitional phase, a rare period of time in which the final paycheck overlaps the newfound freedom. Right now I'm not experiencing any consequences of walking away from a perfectly good job. Maybe in a couple of weeks, when penny-pinching becomes my full-time occupation, I'll struggle at least enough to feel as if I'm paying a fair price for the privilege of being a woman of leisure.

I have big plans for the month of August. I'll schedule appointments with the dentist for a cleaning, the women's clinic for a mammogram, and the orthopedist to see for sure if I need knee replacement surgery. My family doctor urged me to take care of those last two items way back in March, and I no longer have an excuse not to do it. I'll also drag my reluctant behind to the gym to explore the idea of setting up a series of exercises to strengthen my upper leg muscles in case the knee surgery becomes a reality. I'm not looking forward to any of those things.

One immediate project that does excite me is the plan to clean out and totally restock my pantry so I can start cooking and baking again. Years ago, when I was a stay-at-home mom, I enjoyed the creativity of planning interesting, tasty meals, and I think I'll enjoy it again. Cooking for one won't be the same as cooking for a family, but it's bound to beat the frozen and take-out dinners I've become used to in recent years.

Prolonged grocery shopping (or shopping of any kind) does a number on my knees, so the plan is to break down the grocery list into several parts and string out the shopping over several days. One day I'll buy canned goods, the next day I'll buy spices, the next will be baking ingredients, and so on. My theory is that shopping this way will allow me to go to a single location in the store, gather up the items on my abbreviated list, and check out in the 20-items-and-under aisle. Today was dogfood-and-treats day (because we were out of rawhide strips), which has made me fairly popular with the pups this afternoon. I'll let you know how the rest of this plan works out.

There are some long-term projects that excite me, too, but they'll have to wait until some of the more immediate stuff is out of the way.

And there was one more goal, an important one and a big motivator in my decision to retire, that I hoped would be an easy one to achieve. Since it's after six p.m. and I won't be going out again tonight, I think it's safe to consider it already accomplished: I've made it through this entire day without once feeling the urge to call someone an a$$#ole.

Hmm. Maybe I can get used to this.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sad goodbyes and new beginnings

As of quittin' time today, I am officially retired. It seemed like this day would never come until about two weeks ago, then time started snowballing so fast it was hard to find time to take a breath.

Even in those last two speedy weeks, every time I thought about retiring I was all "Yeeeee-haaaaaw!" That was the way I felt when I arrived at work this morning, but half an hour later everything changed. My head was still excited, but my heart jumped up and demanded to express its own opinion, turning on the tear ducts in the process. I hate saying goodbye.

The people I work with are my good friends, my confidants, the ones who are first on any given day to sense what kind of mood I'm in and help me shake off any cranky ones. I would miss them terribly if I let them slip away, and I'm determined to stay in touch. We've been a good team.

And, speaking of missing friends, I've missed some of you folks in the blogosphere more than you could ever imagine. It's going to be a really busy weekend (lots of loose ends to tie up), but near the very top of my list of Things to Do in the Retirement Years is dusting the cobwebs off this old blog.

I'll be back here Monday to try to shake some life into it. See you then.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Forgive me, Blogger, for I have sinned

It's been three months since my last confession post.

Holy crap! I cannot believe the time has flown by so quickly, but I hope the next 74 days will pass at the same warp speed.

My last post was written on the day I told my boss that I plan to retire at the end of July. I didn't want to be specific when I posted about that decision, because I wanted him to have time to process my unexpected announcement privately, so he could think about how it would affect his own plans. After a few weeks of weighing the pros and cons of each of his options, he has decided to retire at the same time I do.

I had always thought my boss would be ready to retire by this year (he's a couple of years older than I am), and I'd planned to stop working when he did. Instead, he just kept plugging away with no talk of stopping. When the image of the Energizer bunny began popping into my head every time I looked at him, I knew it was time for me to make the first move. My decision wasn't sudden. I'd been having happy thoughts about the idea of retirement for at least three years, as this short post written in January of 2006 demonstrates.

Anyway, even with five and a half months' notice, the process of getting ready to do the actual deed has kept me in some kind of an A.D.D. whirlwind. There are so many lists in my head, things I have to do at work, things I have to do at home, that I can't think straight enough to write a blog post in one sitting. Reading, a favorite activity, takes more concentration than I can muster for more than a few pages at a time. About the only thing I seem to be able to do easily these days is watch TV; then, if I'm distracted by the mental lists, I can just hit the rewind button and try to catch the story line the second time around.

My bad knees have also become a blog deterrent. After sitting at a desk all day with my knees bent, it's hard (and painful) to straighten them out when I want to stand up. Adding a couple of evening hours at the home computer desk makes walking afterward extremely difficult. Obviously, something had to give. Choosing between the job and the blog was almost a no-brainer, but until the job ends, I'll have to put the blog on the back burner.

In the meantime, I'll make a conscience effort to write at least a short post every now and then to let you know I'm still alive and kicking. Except for the knee thing, I'm fine, as are Butch and Kadi, whose status as elder dogs is one more reason why I'm looking forward to staying home.

I miss all of you and try my best to keep up with you by reading your blogs. Thanks to those of you who have reached out to me through comments and e-mail; it means a lot to know you've noticed my absence, and I'll try to make it up to you with better posts somewhere down the line.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Testing, testing, 1, 2

Tonight I feel like the performer who arrives late and steps onto the stage after the show's over, the lights have been dimmed, and everybody's gone home. I'm standing here alone, squinting my eyes to see all the way to the cheap seats. Is there anybody out there?

In the month since I last posted, I've been engaged in an internal struggle, the origin of which I couldn't readily identify at first. Introvert that I am, I had to circle my emotional wagons and mull everything over by a slow-burning mental campfire until I could sort out specifically what was bothering me and figure out what to do about it. It isn't anything I can talk about yet, but I did reach a decision.

My second husband (the good one), told me early in our marriage that his father once told him to remember the following words of wisdom: "Over 35, do; under 35, don't." As much as I distrust generalities, this advice has proved through the years to be reliable. I'm way over 35, and today I did it. Not all the way yet, but at least I set things in motion.

While I was deeply ensconced in the "should-I-or-shouldn't-I" mode, a fellow blogger unwittingly gave me a little nudge. That would be Patsy, who posted this cartoon. Thanks, Patsy, I needed that.

I already feel a hundred pounds lighter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Yes we can -- feel the magic

If I am fortunate enough to be spared the ravages of Alzheimer’s in my last years, I will remember the events of the next few days always. We live in an amazing time. History is being made, and I can sense it in the very air around me.

This morning I watched the first legs of President-elect Obama’s train rally from Pennsylvania to Washington. It was good to see him standing tall and smiling as he and Joe Biden waved from the back of the train to throngs of people who waited at the station, but it wasn’t he who inspired me today. Today I was moved to tears by the faces of all those people, young and old, black and white, bundled up in hats and coats and waiting for hours to share one brief moment of hope and promise.

Journalists on the train reported passing through rural areas, places where there was no obvious sign of habitation, only to spot one person standing by the edge of the woods or two on a barely visible rooftop, waiting for the train to pass. Those people waited for nothing more than to experience this moment today and share it with their children and grandchildren through all their tomorrows.


Near noon, I rode into Baton Rouge with my daughter to take Lucy and Winston to the groomer. At the exit ramp where we left the interstate, a familiar figure sat on the grass to our left. He’s a thirty-something white man, shabby but not desperate looking, who has been somewhere near that underpass nearly every time I’ve been to Baton Rouge in the past year. Whenever I see the man, I also see his big, brown dog, the faithful companion who stays so close beside him that some part of the dog always touches some part of the man.

The man keeps long hours in his open-air workplace, displaying the kind of hard work and dedication that would earn him a good living if he were to apply the same effort in the business world. I don’t know his circumstances. I won’t judge him.

My daughter and I waited in the right-hand lane to make our turn. In the left-hand lane, nearest the man with the dog, a late-model SUV pulled up to the red light and stopped. In the next instant, our attention was diverted by someone running past us.

The driver of the SUV had left her vehicle with the door wide open and was running in high heels back toward the man. We couldn’t see her face, but she seemed to be a young person. She was nicely dressed and had long, straight black hair and skin the shade of brown that made me think she might be of Hispanic or middle-eastern origin.

When she reached the man, she handed him some money, but she didn’t do it in an impersonal way. She stopped and petted the dog, then reached out and hugged the man before she ran back to her car as the light changed.

High as I still was on the passion of all those people on TV who waited for a glimpse of Barack Obama, I burst into tears again. I wish that young woman knew how much she moved us today, not by her donation to the homeless man, but by her acknowledgment of his humanity.


The new administration has requested that Americans consider Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a day of national service. I love to think about how much we can accomplish as a nation when we all work together. There's even a website ( to help us locate agences in our own communities who can use some help.

I checked out what’s available near my own zip code and found a few things even an older lady with bad knees might be able to do, but nothing I’m ready to commit to on a long-term basis. What I can do for this Monday, though, is go through my closet and pull out some of the perfectly good clothes I never wear (too small, mostly), clean them if they need it, pack them in the nice set of luggage I never use, box up a couple dozen hard-cover books that are taking up space, and drop off the whole kit and caboodle at the local Goodwill store. It may not reach the level of personal sacrifice a lot of people will make, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Domestic disturbance

It was the kind of incident that, had they been famous, the paparazzi would have loved to capture on film and sell to the tabloids: a sudden flare-up of violence behind the closed doors of a home where love and peace are the norm. The fact that it may have been born of frustration repressed for years does not excuse the assault.

Those of us in the family have been aware for a long time that she has a tendency to mind his business. We've seen her manipulate him to get what she wants. We've watched her lord it over him occasionally, and even, once in a while, make no attempt whatsoever to hide her embarrassment at his overly friendly interactions with others. We've talked about these things behind their backs, and we pretty much all agree that she doesn't behave this way out of malice. It's just that she has a strong personality, and she's always absolutely certain that she knows better than he does what's right and what's wrong.

Maybe he got tired of it. The thing is, though, he's never given us the slightest indication that her dictatorial nature might get on his nerves. He's an easy-going guy. He's always seemed to tolerate her affectionately, leaving those of us who know them well to admire his "don't-sweat-the-small-stuff" attitude.

There was no sign of tension between them at bedtime, when they passed by one another with scant notice as we all performed our nighttime rituals. Nor did anything seem out of the ordinary when I accidentally woke them at four-thirty in the morning. I got out of bed and tiptoed to the bathroom, hoping not to disturb them, but by the time I was finished, they were wide awake. They answered nature's call, too, then poked around looking for something to eat. I was ready to go back to bed, but instead I gave them cookies.

She got comfortable and nibbled her cookies leisurely. He ate his quickly, standing up all the while, then moved amiably toward her to see if she had anything left that he might eat. I didn't specifically see or hear her reaction, but I'm guessing she expressed her unwillingness to share in a way that pushed him over the edge. All I know is that something I didn't see or hear sent him into a rage.

Instantly, he was standing over her, menacing her, threatening her in his loudest, angriest voice. I can't quote him directly, but the essence of what he screamed at her was, "I am SICK and TIRED of all your CRAP, and you'd better WATCH OUT, B----!"

It was surreal. I screamed at him, "Stop it! STOP it!" and he did stop it, just as quickly as it had started. He walked away to the other side of the room, but I could tell the fight was still in him. He stood tall, shoulders back and head held high. He didn't say it in words, but his body language said quite clearly that he wasn't sorry at all. "She had it coming," his posture seemed to say. "Enough is enough."

As soon as he backed off, I turned my attention to her. She had no physical injuries, but her feelings were hurt, and she was obviously shaken. She sat erect, her body trembling, for several long minutes. As I spoke to her in what I hoped was a soothing voice, her wide, fearful eyes locked onto my own. She looked at me pleadingly, as if to ask silently whether I'd witnessed what had just happened and whether I would have believed it in a million years if I hadn't seen it for myself. I felt really sorry for her. She seemed so shocked, so confused.

I talked to both of them -- to each of them -- trying, I guess, to reassure all three of us that the anger had dissipated enough that we'd be safe to go back to bed. Finally, he headed off to sleep where he always does, and she climbed into my bed, seeking refuge. It took a while for my heart to stop pounding, but once it did, I drifted off to sleep. I imagine they had a hard time getting to sleep, too.

The next morning, before I left for work, there didn't seem to be any major tension or hostility between them, though she did snap at him once. Fortunately, he had the good sense and self-control to leave her alone. I worried about them the whole time I was away, but when I got home from work, they acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened.

Maybe they've mastered the art of living in the moment, but I can assure you that I haven't forgotten the incident. I find myself watching them more closely now, looking for undercurrents of emotion that might erupt in another explosion of violence. I never want to see that again.

I hope they can put the hard feelings behind them. After all the years they've been together, it would be devastating if their relationship broke down at this late stage of their lives. Kadi is 11 now, and Butch is 10. They've always had each other to count on, ever since they were puppies. This was the first time I've ever seen them fight.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2009 and life is fine

The holidays have been wonderful, though I'm not sure I could keep up this pace for another day. Fortunately, as my daughter pointed out earlier, this particular day that feels like a Sunday is actually only Thursday, and we have three days left to recuperate before returning to work.

The time off from work would have been much more restful if it weren't for all the people who celebrate the season with fireworks from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day -- and maybe a few more days if they haven't managed to use up their stash. So far that's nine straight nights of trembling, terror-stricken dogs who have refused to go outside from dusk until sometime in the wee hours of the morning, long after the last pop or boom. The quantity of sleep has been sufficient, but the quality of it has been poor.

There have been several days lately when I haven't even turned my computer on. Though I've checked in a few times to read my favorite blogs on the fly, I haven't stayed long enough to leave comments. I regret not having had the time to tell you individually how much I appreciate you, and I hope to spend more time with all of you in the coming days and weeks.

In the meantime, I hope your Christmas was all you wanted it to be, and I wish you the happiest 2009 possible. I have a feeling it'll be one we'll all remember.

Happy New Year. It's a wonderful world.