Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where's the Snow????

My friend Bernie, has a great photo blog, and he has been posting some very pretty Christmas lights photos. There are a lot of creative displays by people who obviously love to do it.


I have one question - Where's the snow??? Isnt' it supposed to be a white Christmas? Isn't that what the song is all about?

The snow is here, in Wisconsin. It is snowing again today, and tomorrow. We are expecting up to a foot. We just had a foot a week ago. I have been using the snowblower every day. And this was all before winter officially started.

I can't wait to see how much we'll get now that winter IS here. NOT!

This is along the same lines of too much Christmas too early in the season. I like snow in moderate amounts and only just before Christmas. I like a white Christmas, then I want it to go away and spring to come. I much prefer warm temps and green things growing in my back yard.

Oh, well. This is Wisconsin, after all. I just wait 5 minutes, it'll change.

Yeah, any minute now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Give Thanks to Our Military

Remembering Our Military

As of December 1, my husband of just 19 months is on Temporary Duty for 6 months. We will be separated for Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's, his birthday, our 2nd anniversary, Easter and all the other family events in our lives.

I am new to this. There are families who have been coping with separations like this for some time, and it never gets easier. I am in awe of those who can keep things going at home, and keep themselves together, while missing their husbands or wives.

Every day we pray for the men and women who are serving, especially those in harm's way. And for their families who miss them.

We can show them some support, by sending a card (link above) to the men and women who sacrifice much in many ways by thanking them for their service. Let us pray that they will come home to their families safely... and soon!

Thanks Honeybunny, - I love you!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas and all the Trappings?

I love Christmas. I love the lights, the music, the snow - in moderate amounts please. I love Christmas cards. I love Christmas cookies, and all the feasting.

What I don't like is the commercialization of Christmas, a holy season. I was horrified to read the story about the store worker who was trampled by crazed shoppers. WHAT in God's great name was so valuable or necessary to happiness that it should cost an innocent his life? Nothing. NO THING. A thing cannot bring happiness, it is a temporary distraction. It is breakable, expendable, terminal and in one year, who will remember the thing?

Our society (Americans) has become fixated on acquiring things, "he who has the most toys, wins." Wins what? Eternal Peace? Everlasting Joy? Unconditional Love? Of course not.

I'll admit to enjoying getting the perfect gift for people I love. Sometimes it is something they wanted or needed. Sometimes it is something that inspired warm thoughts of them. Most often, it is small and very personal to them. The best gifts I ever got were surprises, a sapphire cross necklace from my mom, I wear it all the time. A set of rubber stamps from my sister, bought before she died this summer. It is one of my hobbies, and she found it while going on rummage sales with her boyfriend. She was watching her budget and yet found a thoughtful gift, months before the holiday. I cried when her boyfriend told me about it.

These are the gifts that move me. I want to weep tears of joy and love for the person who was really considering a gift from their heart. It is, to me, a measure of their love for me, when they take the time or care to pick out a gift for me, not because its on sale or they needed to get a gift. I'd rather get a box of homemade Christmas cookies, or a set of rubber stamps than the latest electronic gadget or another sweatshirt. I want to do the same for those I love, move them and give them some private joy.

When my nephews were small, I always got them savings bonds. I was thinking of their education, wanting to give them what I am still trying to acquire. But in addition to that, I always found something little to give them. A small toy for their little hands. It used to drive my dad nuts, because invariably, the boys would play with the little toy I gave them instead of the big playsets they got for Christmas. Big trucks, big blocks, big "things". Bigger is not always better.

So, you will never find me up at 4am in front of a store on Black Friday. But you will find me at 10pm Mass on Christmas Eve, celebrating the Birth of the One who founded Christmas, being moved by the mystery and holiness of the season. Merry Christmas, God Bless you abundantly!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Change for Whom?

I have been resisting the urge to spout about the upcoming elections and the financial crisis we are experiencing. I cannot address all the things I'd like to simply because there are too many.

Let me do this: if you really want to get a feel for who our government serves, there are a couple books everyone should read.

First, the financial shock we are in the midst of has its roots in the free market. Pick up a book called "Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein. A profound and unbiased look at what a truly free market will mean for us...and it is not the panacea that it is purported to be.

Second, if you thought you were paying more than your fair share of taxes, you are. There are two books by David Cay Johnston that will open your eyes, and drop your jaw. "Free Lunch - How the Wealthiest Americans enrich themselves at Government Expense (and stick you with the bill)" (sounds like bailout to me); and "Perfectly Legal - the covert campaign to rig our tax system to benefit the super rich and cheat everyone else"; were written in 2007 and 2003 respectively.

And if you've managed to get through those, and can still stomach a bit more to make you mad, pick up "Gotcha Capitalism" a book about how you are nailed by fake fees, pretend taxes and how, without even knowing it, you've abdicated your rights away when signing some contracts. It was written in 2007 by Bob Sullivan.

Rather than spend your hard-earned cash, go to your local library and borrow the books. The library is paid for by your taxes, so use it, its one of the things that benefits the people who pay for it.

By the way, none of the above authors know me, or solicited my opinion. Nor am I in any way being compensated. Except by having my eyes opened.

Once you read any or all of these books, you'll know why the candidates slogan about change is really nothing new. And nothing will change.

I don't know who I will vote for, I have no confidence in either candidate. Can I write in a "no confidence" vote?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Love/Hate Relationship - Computers.

Computers are amazing machines, aren't they? Since I can remember when only bigger companies had giant mainframes and only the accountants really used them, we've seen them become a necessary tool, for work, school, and even home monitoring.

Obviously, I use one to write this blog. Send/read email; research products or topics, keep up with my favorite TV shows (LOST) or buy stuff. I love being able to check the radar for weather systems, not only in my area, but to watch the many hurricanes we've had, or just to get the forecast.

My husband and I have two desktops, and two laptops between us. My desktop failed a about 3 month ago. I wasn't concerned, since I have the laptop. Most of my work is done on it, because I can take it with me.

Recently, my husband's laptop DVD drive stopped working. A $140 later, it is working again, we picked it up just before he left on temporary duty (TDY) for the Air Force, which was great, since he needs it with him.

While his laptop was in the shop, he turned to his desktop. Lo and behold, the power source was shot. Well, we can share my laptop, right? No problem.

Right after he left, my laptop started doing strange things. It kept looping the same error messages. I tried everything I know, and even called a friend who is an IT professional. It had to go to the shop. Now I have no computer, and I have a business to run, invoices to print, email to check.

I took both the desktop and my laptop to the shop. I emphasized the need for one or the other to come back before I left to visit my husband on the base. I figured the desktop would come back, since it was a simple power replacement. I was right, I got it back on Thursday afternoon. Too late to run invoices but at least when I came back I could work, right?

At the same time they returned the desktop they informed me that the laptop, which was an older model perfect for my needs, would probably cost in the neighborhood of $300 to repair. With the price of computers coming down, did I still want it repaired when I could probably buy a new one, updated and faster for about $500-600? Needless to say, its still there, and I will be looking for a new one. Thankfully, I had backed up all my work beforehand so I haven't lost data, just time.

Oh, the desktop I'm using? It has no software on it. My husband never got around to loading it, since he uses his laptop more.

What are the odds that all four computers would have problems at the same time?

I hate computers. I have to get a new laptop....SOON!

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Picture without a Thousand Words, or even One?

It's been a month now since my sister's funeral, plus 2 days. I've been going through some old photos that she had. Obviously, this is long before digital so I don't have any to post today, I'll have to scan them first.

We humans have a tendency to accumulate "stuff" for a multitude of reasons. But photos are by far the strangest. My sister has an album that I've gone through today, and only a few of the photos are ones I can identify. They are of family and family events, like Christmas, weddings, birthdays. Many are from parades, the Milwaukee County Zoo and places she visited. Here's the thing, none are labeled. No names; not for the people or the places pictured. What do I do with these unidentified, and unknowable pictures?

Did you ever think about what happens to someone's pictures after they've passed on?

I know I have a few albums from my travels around the country. Most of the albums have an index, albeit a brief one, so that I can remember the sequence of my trips. But when I go, who will look at them again? I like to look at them now and again. It helps me remember the places I've seen. It's a way of capturing a special memory, to visit again and again.

The cool thing about the photos I do know, made me very happy. There are some of my dad, and my grandma on her second wedding day. There are some from my brother's wedding. There is one of my sister, my brother and me on his wedding day; so we are all dressed up, skinny and a lot younger! I pulled those out, I'll frame them so I can see them everyday.

Those pictures brought back some wonderful memories for me, and I'm sure for her. But we were a part of that event. The other pictures may have been wonderful for her, but they are hers alone in eternity now. Unless you've labeled the pictures and the people in them, those memories will disappear the moment you do.

So, I have some labeling to do, catch ya later!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Taking Apart a Life

The funeral was on Sunday, July 6. A good number of people came, including about a dozen of Lora's "kids" from the school that she crossed for, along with their parents. It was heartbreaking to talk with each kid, but I made sure I did. I wanted them to know that this life isn't the end. It seemed to comfort them to think of Lora still at her corner, in spirit, looking out for them. I reminded them that she taught them how to cross a street safely and to remember that, it would keep them safe, just as she did.

Funerals are hard for family. Everyone wants to talk with you, to share a story, or just let you know that they are there. And you have to keep it together. This is not the time to close yourself off from others so you can grieve. But there were a couple times when I lost my composure. A dear friend of my dad's came. He had read the notice in the paper and didn't believe it at first. I happened to be in the lobby when he came through the door. I hadn't seen him in a few years and we had been good "buddies," of the kid and cop sort. He is older by about 15 years, and was just a great pal. I burst into tears when I saw him. He hugged me tight and we just stood there, me bawling my eyes out. Then the switch was flipped. Inside of 3 minutes we shared our news, about the circumstances of my sister's passing, and a complete surprise to him, the fact that I had gotten married. His comment created a little levity and helped lessen the intensity of emotion. That's a true friend, someone who can let you bawl like a baby, and yet make you laugh so to ease your pain.

Now the next hard part comes. Packing up and dismantling a life. First, the pets. To some of you, they are just animals. But to those who have pets, you know that they grieve too. My mom took the two teacup chihuahuas. They have always visited their "grandma" and even my mom's cat likes to play with them. But one of them really had a hard time, he snapped and growled at me whenever I came to the house. He hid in their crate and crawled under the blanket. After about 4 days, he finally came to sit near me as I was going through some papers. Not too close, but on the same loveseat. The black one always came to me, so he crawled in my lap. Later, I mentioned grandma and they both perked up, and seemed ready to ride. So, I took them for a visit. That broke the tension for the tan dog and he finally stopped growling. We visited grandma, then stopped at McDonalds for a hamburger - a treat my sister would give them. The next day, they went back to grandma's permanently. The transition was a bit smoother for them.

The cats are with me, but not without some drama. Cats don't travel as well. And they were just as tramatized as the dogs. She had three; a grey male cat, a very big white and brown male tabby, and a black and white tuxedo female. The two boys are about 9 years old, and the girl is just 6. I know because she is the daughter of my brown spotted girl and sister of my brown & white tabby boy. I'm hoping that they can become friendly so I can keep her. The two boys will have to be adopted out, together because they've been pals for all their lives. I hate to do that, but we can't keep five cats.

I'm worried about the little girl cat. She doesn't come out from under the chair unless I lift it up (to make sure she's okay) and as soon as I put it back down, under she goes. I can't tell if she's eating and drinking. I'm assuming she is, because she does still look good, eyes are clear, her fur is clean. She may just take longer to adjust. I hope so. It's been six days, and the boys came out on the second day.

Right now, we are in the process of sorting through Lora's belongings. Her death is still so recent, that it feels like we are violating her privacy. It breaks my heart to decide who will take what, and what to do with the leftovers. And her garden. She worked in that garden every year and its become a little Eden. Roses, daisys, all kinds of flowers. A vegetable garden that is just beginning to produce tomatoes and peppers. And she isn't here to take care of it. She loved her garden. My mom and I discussed which plants to take come autumn, after the growing season. I found pictures of her house and yard when she first moved in. She continued to take pictures through the years as the garden progressed. And now, someone will buy the house after probate (please consider your Will now!) and change everything to suit their needs.

We can only dig up a few of the plants before we sell, to keep Lora's garden alive in our own, but it isn't the same. Just as there will be holes in her garden, there are holes in our hearts. It just isn't the same........

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Personal Tragedy

My sister, Lora, died yesterday from complications of surgery. The anger and grief is unbelieveable, and overwhelming. I can't go into details about the surgery under the advice of our attorney, but that is a clue in and of itself.

My sister was a bit of an unconventional person too. But not in the same sense I am. She was more of the kind who did things to get attention rather than set a precedent. However, she was a loyal friend to many, a devoted mom to her beloved pets and a wonderful crossing guard for the kids at Fernwood. That was her best quality, her love of kids and animals.

One of the hardest things you have to do in the midst of grief and shock, is plan a funeral for someone who should have been here to help with our parents. Dad died less than 3 years ago. That grief is still working itself out. With a younger person, thinking about your own wishes for your memorial is not a top priority. Nor do you talk about it except in an abstract way, and only in passing. It is hard to decide what to do, what would she like, how does she want to be memorialized? Each of us has different ideas because we have different memories.

Just as important, is how her friends remember her. Family you are stuck with, you are born into a collection of people who share the same blood and you don't get a choice of who they are. But friends; friends are people we choose to be with, for many reasons. People you meet on this life's journey, can come or go without obligation. So when someone becomes a friend, it is a choice made mutally that fills a need for both people. Sometimes they last a lifetime, sometimes just because you work together, sometimes during the duration of a difficult time, sometimes just a few minutes while waiting for a bus. Sometimes friendships are forged in good times and reinforced during hard times, and other times fractured by hard times. Regardless, friends are precious because of the process of becoming, and staying, friends. It's something you both, hopefully, nuture and grow.

My sister has friends who love her, some for a long time, others more recent. All are devastated by her death. There is nothing worse, to me, than to have to tell her friends that she is gone. They don't understand, it is too incomprehensible that someone as full of life as Lora (Lori to her friends) will not be here anymore.

At the same time, her loss reminds me that life is unpredictable, fragile, and shorter than we want. So take this lesson to heart, live like today is the only day you get, love, laugh, and be sure to tell those you care about, that you love them. Don't wait because you think you have all the time in the world, or its hard to say those words. You don't, and everyone wants to know they are loved by someone. You would.

I love my sister. I miss her desperately and I want her back.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Out of the Ordinary

What makes someone unconventional?

Unconventional is defined as "not conventional; not bound by or in accordance with convention; being out of the ordinary." Convention is defined as "generally accepted custom, practice or belief", and conventional as "settled or prescribed by convention, customary, commonplace, ordinary."

Most of us are pretty conventional, we follow trends in fashion, in electronics, and in the milestones of life. And there are elements in our lives, when we choose them, that set us apart from everyone else. They are small elements, for instance, when everyone else in your circle of friends likes hiphop, you like country music. Not too far out and radical for fear of losing the tenuous hold we perceive we have on the comforts of our lives. Instead of following our hearts, we follow our friends. When you're a kid, this can lead to poor judgement in who we follow and where it leads us.

It also takes us on a long and winding road to pursuing our dreams, with far too many detours sometimes.

I can't even remember what I wanted to be when I was a kid. Like most kids, I was pretty directionless. We didn't have much money, so my options of college were pretty limited, as well as not being the thing daughters wanted to do. My achievements in school, in sports, in pretty much anything, were downplayed and dismissed. I was supposed to settle for being a wife, maybe a secretary or store clerk, until I married and then being a housewife.

Now don't get excited, being a mother and wife is a lot of work, and a mostly thankless job, albeit a very important one. It was just something I wanted to postpone, partly because of what I observed as a kid, and partly because I didn't see very many men appreciating their wives. I wanted to "do" things, not observe them from the sidelines. In my young eyes, men had all the fun, all the recognition, all the inside "secrets" and very little responsibility. Remember, I didn't see what my dad did at work, I only saw what my mom had to do, and how much there was. Mom had to take care of the house, the three kids, and my dad. She had to juggle the finances, pay the bills, wash, cook, clean-up, etc. My dad, on the other hand, went to work, came home, was served supper, sometimes did yard work, and watched TV. Us kids were not to disturb him.
What's up with that?

So, I went in a different direction. I moved out at 18, I did not get married, I did not have kids. I went to work. I did things I wanted to do, within my means. I traveled. I did go to college, but I have yet to attain my degree. I became a storm spotter/chaser for the National Weather Service, for 14 years now. I became a wildlife rescue volunteer for the local wildlife department of the animal humane society, for 18 years now. I became a published poet. I started a business after losing my job of 15 years. And at the ripe old age of 47, I married a wonderful man and became a military wife.

I am a lucky woman, because I learned to listen to my heart.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Talk to the Kitty Butt, Mister!

My husband was trying to capture the personality of this 4 week old kitten, Lukaboo, whom we were fostering for a local shelter.
Have you ever seen an angry kitten?
I'm not sure what ticked him off, but I think I'd just get out of the way!
Talk to the kitty butt, mister!

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Launch of Words

A friend encouraged me to start a blog, so here's my inauspicious launch.

I lead what I think is an unconventional life. I chose things to do in my life that make me happy. But it took awhile to find my way. Too often, we make decisions about our direction in life that make others happy. A career path, or education, or even getting married and having kids. And sometimes life just happens, and we either roll with the punches or get rolled over.

For a long time, I knew I didn't want to do what everyone else was doing. I didn't want to get married, until I had made a "name" for myself. I wanted to go to college, the first in my immediate family. I didn't want to have kids until I/we (the elusive "husband") had built a firm foundation of love and respect, and could provide for them an adequate life. Note I said adequate, not comfortable, not luxurious. Adequate, so that we could teach them the value of work and education.

But life happened. My parents didn't think college was necessary for a girl. She was supposed to get married and have kids, run the house for her husband and take care of him. Yeah, my parents grew up in the 50's. The best I could finagle, was a trade school and a fashion design 2-year program. I dislike, intensely, the fashion world that decides what's in and what's not, and what you SHOULD look like. I dislike the industry that banks on people discarding clothes like so much chaff because its out of style this season. What a waste. I do understand that it creates jobs, but who truly benefits? Admit it, most of the people who work hardest are those who are paid the least. Oh well, I can't offer any solutions, except not buy into it. I do buy nice, classic clothing that I can wear season after season, and accessorize. I'm not a complete snob, just not a trendy one.

Anyway, I digress. I dropped out after one semester and went to work. This was in the late 70s. I moved out of the house at 18, into a little duplex with a roommate. Two single girls with their own apartment. Yikes! Not quite a year later, she moved in with her boyfriend and I took another place on my own. I never looked back.

more to come...