But wait, there’s more…

When I wrote last Monday, I was coming to terms with life.  I was looking on the bright side.  I was maintaining a positive attitude.

Everything is going to be fine.  Tough times come and they go.  Life is still good.

By Tuesday, I was even making a gratitude list.  I managed about 20 things on that list without getting too trite.  Good health for my family and reliable(ish) transportation that didn’t require a monthly car payment in our extended budget were on that list.

Have I give away too much information?

Can you guess what the rest of the story might be about?

Tuesday night my husband jumped in his truck and my youngest and I jumped in our car (that really belongs to my sister, but she lets us use) and headed off to clean the offices that provide a bit of extra income.

We got the job done and bid adieu to my husband as he set off for work.  Youngest daughter and I headed home.  Five minutes later, I got a phone call as I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change.

It was my husband.  Turns out that as he was sitting at the intersection of Hero’s Way and Highway 183A waiting for his light to turn from red to green there was a horrible accident.  And he was part of it.

A car coming up to the light on the opposite side of the intersection failed to stop at the red light.  She was going pretty fast.  The truck moving through the intersection at 65 plus mph swerved to miss her.  Hit her anyway, went airborne taking out all the signs at the intersection and bouncing off of the hood of my husband’s truck slamming it against the curb and traveling on.

My husband said all he saw when he looked out the window was a truck flying through the air and then his head hitting the inside frame of the window.

Did I mention that my husband has had a previous broken neck and that his neck is fused solid?

He’s okay except for some neck pain.  We’ve visited the doctor and physical therapy is in the works.

Four or five feet further back and the impact of that truck would have been fully on the passenger cab of our truck.

My husband was lucky and blessed and so are we.  That’s the bright side.

The down side.  There is no doubt that our truck is totaled.   The front passenger side tire is somewhere in the middle of where the engine used to be.  It’s a really big paper weight.

The driver that caused the accident had the least amount of insurance to meet the requirements of Texas law.  Her car is probably totaled from what I saw.  The other (much newer) truck is totaled also.  The truck’s passengers were transported by ambulance.  I doubt that there will be any payouts by the time it comes to our turn.

Luckily, we have underinsured driver insurance.  That will help.  The blue book on our truck isn’t much, but it meant the world to us in terms of financial life.

What next?  It’s up to the lawyers at this point.

And the doctors if my husband’s neck injury turns out to be something more serious.

Time will tell.

Nothing serious went wrong on Wednesday and Thursday.

Let’s all breath a sigh of relief.

Oh, wait…the week isn’t over.

Remember Speedy the basset hound?  The nine year old that (for some crazy reason) I adopted because he was surrendered to the pound because his family didn’t want him anymore?  The one that had surgery for the anal tumor.  The one that is incontinent because of said surgery. The really annoying one that follows me everywhere (and I mean everywhere).  The one that needs so much attention that if I won’t pet him, he will simply stand by my chair and rub his own head against my foot.  Yes, that dog.

This morning he woke up and is having trouble walking and whimpering.  It’s probably a spinal problem.  That’s common among older bassets.  He’s on pain meds for now and will go in to the vet on Monday for x-rays.  Then I get to make that decision.  You know the one I’m talking about.  The how much can we afford to spend decision.  The one where you get to place a value on a life…

Other things are sorting themselves out well enough.  Not ideally, but they involve the situations that caused me to invoke the Serenity prayer on Monday.  All I can do is aim for peace and make the best of whatever happens.

…because it is my circus and they are my monkeys.

And all shall be well.

 

 

Travel well

Monday mornings present an interesting juxtaposition of thought for me.

On on hand they are an opportunity…a new beginning and fresh start.  A chance to write down that to-do list and accomplish…whatever it is that needs doing.

On the other hand, Mondays can just be frustrating.  So much to do and so much undone from the week before.  The feeling that this week might be just as difficult, or more so, than the week before.

The latter thought process is not helpful.  It is self-defeating and starts the week off with negativity.  Nevertheless, the thoughts are a reality and cannot be ignored.  Sometimes life can seem to be an endless loop of beginnings and endings and not much in the middle.

So, today I shall acknowledge that sometimes life is frustrating.  And that sometimes the end of my week does not meet the expectations of the beginning.

And I shall continue to try and live in grace and hope…and be grateful for the opportunity a new week provides.  I’ll make a new list and continue to be optimistic about the possibilities that this week of my life might offer.

I will attempt to live through the ups and downs that these days of my life will certainly serve up.  I know in advance that there will be failure and tears and happiness and beauty.  I will travel through the challenges and dwell in the good.  That is my plan for this week.

And now is the time to share the news that I have been alluding to over the past several weeks.  I can share the part of the story that is mine.

Our son, Jacob, has joined the Army.  He completed the last of the process and was sworn in last Wednesday.  He reports for training the middle of this month.  There is much I could write about this journey.  I shall keep it simple.

I am his Mom.

I love him.

I am proud of him.

I am afraid for him.

This decision has been a long time coming for him.  I have watched him carefully consider it.  Research it.  Carry it in his heart and revisit it from time to time.  This is what he feels called to do.

I believe in him and am in awe of his ability to listen to that “voice” that is guiding him.  I have struggled my whole life with finding my way.

I read a quote the other day.  I can’t remember where.  “To find your purpose, follow your passion.”

He is doing that.

Travel well, my son.

May we all find our passion and our purpose and travel well.

 

Happenstance

I wrote some days ago about realizing that the journey I was on was not progressing as well as I would like

…about coming across some journals from years ago in which I expressed frustration with circumstances that are relatively unchanged today

…that the methods I was using didn’t appear to be very effective

…I’m still decluttering, and trying to find time for things I want to do, and attempting to maintain a simpler and cleaner home

…change has happened, but not as much as I would like

I wrote that there needed to be a new plan, but I had no idea what it might be.

I was frustrated.

I was hopeful.

I was anxious.

 

Then, by happenstance. I downloaded the game, gin rummy, onto my phone.

I’ve never been good at gin.  I just thought it might be a good distraction, and hey…it was free.

Do you play gin?  It’s pretty simple in theory.  You have a limited number of cards and need to form melds (sets) before your opponent goes out or you get stuck with points. I’m not going to try to explain the whole game…the important part to understand as far as this post goes, is to know that getting rid of “deadwood” is the key to winning.

The game I downloaded has a range of opponents for you to challenge.  They are ranked in skill from not very good to pretty much unbeatable.

When I started I couldn’t beat any of them.

I played anyway.

Then, I actually went and read all of the instructions just to make sure I understood what I was supposed to be doing.

I still lost a lot, but not quite as much.  I started beating the worst player every once in a while.

I started watching what the best players were doing.

I realized that I was playing the same way I had always played…trying to put together the same type of hand over and over again.

I kept losing.

Sound familiar?

Sound like the way I’ve been working on my house?

That’s what I started thinking.

I started discarding cards…ruthlessly.

I stopped saving cards that would make melds that I wanted to make

…and started saving cards that could and would actually win the hand.

I discarded long-shots.

I stopped holding onto cards that were no longer useful.

I didn’t keep a card just because I liked it (I’m partial to hearts).

If it wasn’t going to contribute to a winning hand, I discarded it.

I quit picking up cards that “might” be useful.

A hand plays out quickly.

There is no time for a lot of “maybe” and “someday”.

Holding onto deadwood is no way to win.

I can now beat any of the opponents except for “Jane”.  I’m pretty sure that she cheats. She wins a lot.  She seems to be very lucky.  Yep,  I think she’s cheating.  I may quit playing against her.

In any case, by happenstance, this game taught me a lot.

Help can come from the most unlikely places.

Who knew?

Life is short.

A day is even shorter.

I’ve got to play the hand that I’ve been dealt.

I can’t hold onto cards (stuff and emotions) that aren’t helping me to build the hand that I need to win the game.  The game being the life that I’m hoping to live.

The wrong cards or too many cards won’t ever come together to help me achieve my goal of a simpler, tidier, more comfortable home.

I need to ruthlessly discard cards that are keeping me from assembling a winning hand.

If I have something that I used to like but don’t any longer, it should go.

If something was expensive, but I don’t love it, keeping it just takes up space that could be filled with a more important card.

Just because something once held deep meaning, doesn’t mean that it gets to stick around forever. I change and the things that are meaningful can change also.

There are only so many cards allowed in a hand.

Holding onto the wrong card means that there is no room for the right card.

I have to make sure that I have the right cards.

Oh, and it helps to make sure that I fully understand the rules of the game – the direction I am headed and my ultimate goal.

Clothes that don’t fit right or don’t fit at all.  Gone. Even (or especially) if I am holding onto them because I like the idea of wearing them rather than the reality of wearing them.  You know, all those clothes you keep taking out of the closet and dropping onto the floor – never really wearing anywhere.

Beautiful things that fit the image of who I would like to be, but don’t fit into the reality of who I am – a woman who hates to dust and despises clutter.  I’m talking about those beautiful home magazine pages of meticulously displayed collectibles and art.  I love the way that looks.  It just doesn’t translate into my real life.  I need to be realistic about the life I live and the way I live it.

Things that I used to use all the time, but don’t use any longer.  Interests and needs change, but I don’t always adapt the stuff I have to reflect where I am right now.  I don’t have four kiddos at home all the time now.  I don’t cook the same.  Life has changed.  Stuff needs to be reassessed.  Holding onto stuff from when all the kiddos were home and little doesn’t stop the progress of time.  Those days are gone.  It’s time to let go of the “cards” that are no longer serving a purpose in my hand and start building a new hand.

There are no excuses in gin.  There is no justification.  Deadwood goes or you lose.

There comes a time when you have to quit talking about what you want.

A time when you have to quit explaining why you can’t have or do what you want.

You have to do what is necessary to make space or time for what you want.

And you have to do it.

 

 

The New Beginning

Well, here is yesterday’s journal page where I began to work out the details of my New Year slogan that  I wrote about yesterday:

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Yep, that didn’t go so well.

Here’s what happened…

In celebration of the success that was our Christmas Day, I decided to take a short nap.

I define success by reaching the conclusion of a big holiday event without verbal disagreements evolving into a physical altercation.

If there is more than one person present in the house during a major holiday, I feel this is a somewhat hopeful goal, but probably doable.

I don’t like to set the bar too high.

I avoid all possible Christmas advertisements featuring magical Christmas festivities or any sappy Christmas movies that feature perfection as their story-line.  I have found that these are not representative of real life.  I personally like Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation.  I believe it to be a realistic goal to strive for.

Anyway, I decided to reward myself with a nap.  That fit within the parameters of my New Year Plan, right?

Taking a nap in this house yesterday was akin to meditating on the Titanic.  It wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it wasn’t very successful either.  Between the telephone calls, the knock on the door, the barking dogs, the dog fight over the plastic container of leftovers stolen from the counter, and the set of cabinet doors that got knocked down during said fight…it took almost 3 hours to get  30 minutes of sleep.

The journal page did not get done.

I did think about it though.

Points for me!

I woke up this morning in a determined and optimistic mood.  Today was a new day.  The journal page beckoned!

Then there was the bad tire on the truck. Oh yea, and the missing key-lock that allows one to access the spare tire on the truck. No access to the spare. Great for theft protection.  Not so great when husband needs to be at work in an hour…and work is 45 minutes away.

And the missing keys to the other car.  They have since been located…in Houston in my daughter’s car.  Not helpful at all.

Today will be a day to be a taxi service.  Unless I can journal while driving, it is unlikely that the page will get done today either.

It’s a good thing that I started my New Year a week early.

At this rate, I just might get started before 2018 arrives.

 

 

Common Thread

So, here’s some observations from my Saturday morning.  Daughter is away at a sleepover…Hubby is sleeping after working an overtime night shift.  I am enjoying some quiet and thinking and observing life…

  • When making art, the space clearing and tidying up can be just as important as the actual creating part.  Clutter and lost stuff hinders effective art making.
  • It is probably a good idea to clean out the fridge more than once every three months or so – no matter how busy you are.  Avoiding the fridge because you aren’t sure what you might find inside (science experiment wise) complicates life immensely.
  • Clean sheets and a welcoming bed make life so much more pleasant even if you think you haven’t time for the effort.  Sleep is important.
  • If you forget to water your plants over a period of time because of higher activities on the priority list, drenching them to try and make up for it doesn’t work.  A dead plant is still dead after you water it…it’s just really wet. This also seems to apply to relationships that are neglected during said busy times (except for the whole watering and wet part).
  • Your children never really move out.  For months after the big move, you will keep finding stuff and the new guest room becomes a holding area – kind of like the lost luggage area at an airport.

I’m seeing a common thread here…

It involves my less than stellar approach to cleaning up, and housekeeping in general.  It’s a good thing that I’m having a good day and am able to realize that I have other good qualities besides housework.

And that’s why I’m going to go back to making some stuff right now…

…right after I clean up the work table in my studio because I can’t seem to find a single bottle of glue in this entire house.

Walking

If I had to name the top 10 most influential people in my adult life, there is one person who would certainly be at the top of the list.  She was a spiritual mentor, a life coach, an encourager (this word flags as misspelled, but I like it so it stays), and a partner in my creative endeavors.

She was a pastor at a church that I used to attend. As our relationship developed, she learned that I was an artist – although at that time I was just somebody who made stuff.  She started sharing her sermon plans with me and I started to create art that illustrated the sermon.  Some of it was pretty bad, but she hung it on the wall anyway.  Eventually, it got better and she hung that too.

Sometimes she would come to me with a sermon and verse and we would find that I had already started the canvas that went with it.

I would sit and draw her sermons on Sundays.  It’s how I learned that art is my form of worship…a lesson that I still value today.  I did a complete book of sermon drawings for her.  When I visited her a month or so ago, I saw that it sits on her hearth along with some other things that she treasures.

We rarely see each other any more as we live on opposite side of Austin.  Though our lives no longer intersect as they once did something interesting is starting to happen.

I faithfully read her postings on Caring Bridge as she chronicles her experiences with metastatic Stage IV colon cancer.  Lately, her posts are becoming more and more applicable and relative to my life – just as her sermons often seemed to be written just for me.

A couple of days ago she wrote something that inspired my post, “Doors”, which turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever written here.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get a “big head”.  By popular, I mean that more than 10 people read it.  It’s all relative, right.  I favor quality over quantity any day.

Today, she wrote about going through the interview process to try and get selected for a clinical trial of a new treatment.  Although our situations are totally different and I would never try to compare my struggles with hers – when I read the words she had written about being overwhelmed, I could identify with her completely.

First, it put the circumstances of my life right now in perspective.  I’ve reminded myself that the problems that I am facing are manageable and most likely solvable.  The challenges to come are not insurmountable.

Second, her words helped me gain my footing again.  She wrote that “sometimes people who are overwhelmed don’t do anything because they can’t do everything.”

She added that we should “acknowledge it (the situation) , pray, and just do one thing at a time.”

I can do that.  I can acknowledge that while my situation could be worse, it’s still hard and I’m both tired and overwhelmed.  And while I can’t do everything, I can do something.

So here’s what I accomplished today:

  • I went to work
  • I visited my sister in I.C.U and initiated a discussion about what her discharge plan might need to look like
  • I spent time with my husband although I did forget to make his lunch
  • We started planning what needs to be done to fix our second bathroom so that it is easily accessible for my sister as her recovery continues – I did not figure out how to pay for said renovations – that would be too much for today and would lead to feeling overwhelmed again.
  • I am committing to filling one bag with trash as I begin to catch-up on housework. Some (most) of it will just have to wait.
  • I took a short walk in an effort to get back to walking two miles a day so that I can lose the weight I have gained.  A long walk just couldn’t happen.  That’s okay.
  • My daughter and I are going to do one math lesson as we work on getting caught up.  It won’t solve the problem, but it’s something.
  • I am going to sit and prepare the bag of worn out T-shirts into strips for my rug as I watch a stupid T.V. show and allow myself to rest. Oh, and by the way…here’s my efforts so far. Barret, the dork dog seems to like it just fine.

Perhaps most importantly, she reminded me that I’m not alone.  I have friends that are thinking of and praying for me.  I have people that I can call on if I need to (even if I’m too stubborn to admit that I need help).

Just because people are no longer physically present in our lives doesn’t mean that the lessons we learned from them, or the experiences we shared with them aren’t still valuable resources that we can draw from when we need to.  Special people who have once been in our lives never really leave us.  They become a part of us…often the best part.

Short and Sweet

This post shall be short and the day was sweet.

For the first time in a long time we took it easy.

My sister is hanging out at our house for a bit as she recovers from surgery.  In honor of her convalescence we decided to rest with her. We woke up when we woke up.  We didn’t worry about breakfast and therefore, we didn’t have to worry about the undone dishes. Hubby brought donuts home when he came home from the nightshift.  We all ate the donuts and didn’t worry about calories or nutrition or balancing the diet.

We made a Sonic run for lunch because my sister’s appetite is returning and she wanted chili-cheese fries.  We couldn’t let her eat Sonic alone now, could we?

We grabbed a couple of Sunday papers and actually read a real newspaper.  Got black ink all over our fingers and everything!

No computer for me today.  I didn’t check email or facebook or my bank balance…  It will all still be there tomorrow and I will deal with it then.

We watched episodes of Columbo, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Rosemary and Thyme on Netflix.

We still had to go clean the offices we do on Sunday night, but even that didn’t seem as much of a chore as it sometimes does.  The work went faster and it was easier than usual.

Back home, we binged more T.V. and I even did a journal page!

As folks got tired, they wandered off to bed.  I am ready to follow.

Bring it on Monday.  I think I’m ready.

The Riveting Tale of Barret the Dog

For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting the promised tale of the glitter eating dog, the moment has come!

The story begins with a mention of my son who has yearned for a Bernese mountain dog. This is unlikely to happen as they are fabulously expensive.

As luck would have it though, several weeks ago while just happening to drive by a Petsmart on dog adoption day, the next best thing happened.  Or maybe, the next, next best thing.

There, right before his eyes, was the almost dog of his dreams.  It was a mixed breed (mutt), but part of the mix was obviously a Greater Swiss Mountain dog.  I must add that this was mainly obvious to my son.  A “Swissie” for short is closely related to the Bernese Mountain dog and shares many of the same characteristics.

My son still lives at home and he dutifully asked permission to adopt the dog (along with all the earnest declarations pertaining to all future care and feeding of said dog).

And so Barret came home with us.

Upon reading Barret’s history, we found out that he was two years old and had been surrendered to the shelter 3 times.  The first owner became homeless, the second lost their house and had to move into an apartment, and the third returned him because of his aggression toward their cats.

Now is when the story gets interesting.

Within two days of bringing Barret home, he started to get aggressive…towards our dogs and us.  He was unpredictable and moody.  On day three he became lethargic and then started running a fever.  A trip to the vet was in order.

He was diagnosed with a serious ear infection.  He tried to bite the vet and everyone else in the office and had to be muzzled.  He howled when the medicine was put in his ear.

Twenty-four hours later, his fever spiked and he was obviously worse. Back to the vet for an overnight stay for evaluation and I.V. fluids.  He was extremely aggressive and hostile towards everyone.  He had to be sedated to be examined and treated.

I read through all of his paperwork again and found a teeny-tiny reference to a swollen spot on his face that the shelter treated with Benadryl, of all things.  We conferred with the vet who diagnosed Barret with meningitis, probably related to the untreated injury to his face.  Barret was very ill and it wasn’t clear if he would survive.  Since we didn’t have a clear understanding of his previous disposition, we didn’t know if he was a naturally aggressive dog or not.

At this point we were all emotionally invested in Barret, so we gave the vet the go-ahead to treat him.  Several days later, we brought him home provisionally.

As it turns out, he is the sweetest dog ever.  He has an incredible urge to protect everyone in the house, so beware anyone who come to the door, but with a little training we can work through that.

He is a gigantic dork and has a few quirky traits which or may not be related to the 105 degree fever.  We were warned that there could be brain damage.  That could explain why he eats glitter (among other things).

After feeding him humongous amounts of food and stopping him from chewing on anything in the house including furniture and toes, we have determined that he is most definitely not two years old.  Barret is a puppy and not fully grown.   Did I mention how much this dog eats?  He eats a lot.  All the time.  We have no idea how big he is going to get.

Oh yea, here’s the best part (sarcasm).  Shortly after bringing Barret home (along with a pretty hefty vet bill), our son got invited to move into an apartment with some friends.  He has been trying to save up money and work out the logistics of moving out on his own.  We live in an expensive area so moving out of the house is a complicated thing.  It’s all good. We are very happy and excited for him.  He’s moving in with some good guys and they found an affordable apartment.

Just one little catch…

Have you figured it out yet?

He can’t take the dog with him.  0803162117c

So now, I am the proud owner of a gangly, dorky puppy who follows me everywhere, wakes me up in the middle of the night to make sure that I’m okay, and is eating us out of house and home.

But that’s okay because he makes me laugh (sometimes).

 

 

 

 

Alliteration is Good…unless it’s Saturday’s Snake

We’ve had a very wet spring season following an unusually warm winter.  As a result, the news has been full of dire snake warnings and reports of snakes in homes.  Ugh.

Kind of everyone’s worst nightmare unless you are one of those weird people who like snakes.  Some reptiles are okay – even interesting – from a distance.  One or two are even okay up close.  Snakes are horrible.  I’m not going to apologize or try to understand snake lovers, at all.  I understand, intellectually, the necessity of snakes in the whole ecosystem thing.  I don’t want to exist peaceably with them.  I want them to live somewhere else.  If they venture into my world…they will die.  They have their space – somewhere else.  I have mine.  I really, really, really don’t like snakes.

Last night, when my youngest went out to lock the chicken house, she heard a rustling in the leaves and saw a snake.  With relative calm, she came to let me know.  I encouraged her (shrieking) to go tell her Dad.  There are, after all, women’s jobs and men’s jobs.  Snakes – definitely man work.

Husband deftly shot the head right off of that 5+ foot rat snake.  End of story, right?

Tonight, youngest daughter quietly suggested that it might be my turn to shut up the chickens.  Sure, no problem.  Son bravely volunteered to accompany me armed with his sword:  A Dunedain chieftain’s longsword that was used by Aragon.  Not the actual sword, but a replica.  Inwardly I was laughing at him.  As I was locking up the chickens, he asked why we had left the snake in the netting surrounding the chicken yard.

I replied that the snake had been thrown way across the yard to be part of the ecosystem – to be eaten by some kind of predator farther up the food chain.

He replied that this had obviously not happened as the snake was right there in front of him.

Sure enough, there was another snake.

Oldest daughter comes to the rescue with the shotgun.  Son and oldest daughter argue over who will shoot the snake.  I will spare you the ensuing lengthy discussion (argument) between siblings.  Oldest daughter shoots snake with the double barrel shotgun.  Son claims she missed and she claims she winged him.  To be fair, the snake had a very small head.  It was dark.  It is unclear whether she mortally wounded the snake.  Son hacked at the snake’s head with his sword.  Son’s friend removed the snake’s head with a bowie knife.  I’m pretty sure the snake was dead at that point.

During this process, I have called husband at work.  He is listening to the play-by-play commentary by youngest daughter as she sits in the house watching through the window.

He repeatedly asks what kind of snake it is.  It was hard to tell at this point.  Remember, it was dark outside and the snake was not in one piece anymore.  Closer examination of the corpse revealed it to be another rat snake.

A cleansing ceremony with fire has completed the evenings’ events.  The snake has been doused with lighter fluid, cremated and finished off with a fire extinguisher.

Oldest daughter is online looking for ways to discourage snakes from taking up residence around here.  A brainstorming session came up with numerous possible solutions including ordering mongoose urine online.  I’m encouraging further research.

Decluttered today:

  1. a snake
  2. more construction left-overs
  3. a shirt
  4. a pile of cardboard boxes saved for some unknown future use
  5. a bowl