Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Since I moved into my house, I've been grateful for the beauty of the tall and graceful sycamore tree in the neighbor's yard just to the south. Sure, he wasn't the tidiest neighbor, dropping branches and seed balls with regularity, but the shade he willingly provided on hot summer days was well worth the tradeoff.

Or, so thought I.

My new neighbors didn't agree. They bought the house in late summer, and last week, hired a crew to come and take out the tree. It was their tree; I couldn't argue with them. Yes, it was close to the house, yes, if it came down both of us were going to lose a good chunk of roof.

But the tree was healthy, and sycamore trees aren't prone to falling unless they're old - and a good arborist can tell what kind of shape it's in. I even offered to pay for the testing and a good trimming, but my words fell on deaf ears.

She was afraid of it, towering over the house. Fear won and the tree is gone.

I've been disturbed by its absence all week. I walk out of the house and the gaping hole in the sky cries its anguish. I mourn the irreplaceable loss.

And, I'm uncharacteristically petty about it all, sending ill wishes across the fence. I hope their cooling bills shoot through the roof (I'm sure they'll go up by a good 20%). I hope their basement floods with every rain (also a good chance of happening - the house has water problems anyways, and I know the tree drank a lot of the water that drained into the yard from all the houses up the hill).

I'm trying hard to forgive them, but thus far, no go.
I'm tired of fear winning over innocence.

Eventually, I'll grit my teeth, and bring them over some Christmas cookies anyways.
But, this year at least, my heart won't be in it.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


I think I'm going to have to resign myself to a running undercurrent of fear and panic this time of year.

I found my cancer in December.
Kate found her cancer in December.
Libby found her cancer in late November.
Maria's final illness took hold last December.

So part of me waits, with some dread, for more scary news to come this month. I look at the calendar, and fear either my share of blank calendar squares are coming to their end, or some calamity is about to fall on someone else I love.

The fear is further grounded in the thought I'm not using what days I have as well as I could. I look at the places I am spending my time, and a part of me screams, "I'm not doing it right!"

The more rational part of me knows that I'm doing what I can and need to do. Chances are I'm going to live for a good long while, and I can't throw all the cards in the air and still plan for a stable retirement. So, I'm going to work, taking care of my house, exercising some, planning for the holidays, getting enough sleep.  Heck, for the past month and a bit - excepting Thanksgiving, of course - I've even been eating right.

My inner two year-old is NOT consoled. She wants out, she wants free. She doesn't want to work any more, she's tired and cranky and just wants to do whatever it is she wants to do.

I get it. I'm with her. Soon, I tell her, soon.

Until then, I will keep reminding myself that past results are not an indicator of future returns. Into every life, bad things fall - but so do good. This past Thanksgiving celebration is proof of good. Lots of love and food and hugs and more food and happiness. There were zero arguments and no new bad news surfaced. No one got angry, no one got sick, no one hurt themselves. Everyone made it home safely.

Breathing is good.
Life, is good.
and, reserving the right to throw all my cards in the air should bad news strike again is good, too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Back in the day, I used to host some pretty extensive family Thanksgiving parties, and include stray friends in the process.  One of my favorite strays, Dale and her family, have often reciprocated and have invited me to their smaller family dinners on the off years.

Our every-other-year-Thanksgiving-in-Kansas-City tradition has kinda-sorta fallen by the wayside these past few years since I threw all my cards into the air and climbed into the camper van. A few of my family would come down now and then, but just a handful of folks.

This year, Dale offered to host me and whichever of my family members came down for the holiday. I thought it was a wonderful idea, so accepted. Then, one of my sisters voted it was my turn, and a lot of the rest of them agreed. So, I called Dale.

"I know you offered to host everyone, but they voted that it's my turn, and I'll have 15 - 20 people in for the holiday. How about we switch gears, and you all come to my house, instead of us crashing your party?"

She was the next best thing to insulted. I was going to deny her the pleasure of hosting a large party of people she likes?  Really???

So, tomorrow morning, we will all truck on over to Dale's house, bringing pies and a lot of hands to help with food prep. There will be lots of good food and warmth and laughter.

The turmoil of the first six months of my year has begun to settle into manageable blips, and I have much to be thankful for.

And, bonus, I get to host a major slumber party. In the olden days, everyone would stay at my place - but it was a big house, with three showers, so was easily able to sleep the twenty or so people who'd stay each year. My new place is about a third the size of the old. But. Everyone over the age of 25 gets some sort of bed or cot - and if no one gets their own room, well, it's only for two nights.  It'll be great fun with the eleven of us staying here. (There's just one shower, so some careful coordination will be in order, but we've got this!)

I am looking forward to the beautiful chaos.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Shootings?????

Don't write about guns again, I told me after the Las Vegas shootings. You said your piece after Orlando, and you're not going to change anyone's mind. The gun debate in this country is divisive, and you're not going to make any friends by speaking your mind. True and true.

But then, last week, I woke to hear about the Sutherland Springs, TX shootings. Another angry guy. This time, in a church. Angry at his estranged wife's family, so 26 people had to die, another 20 will be dealing with the damage his bullets did to their bodies for a long time, and a small town in Texas will never be the same. And his wife's family wasn't even there.

Why??? WHY???

Why did a frightened toddler have to die, shot execution-style per the news reports?

Give me one good reason these semi-automatic killing machines need to be in the hands of anyone outside the military.

They can't be used to protect your home - with their scattershot quick triggers, your family is as likely to die as any intruder.

Adrenaline thrills?  Please. There are plenty of ways to boost your adrenaline without going to a firing range and pretending to be Rambo.

And if the government goes rogue and comes after you and your gun, it's going to be too little. You might take a few of them down with you, true, but last I checked the news reports, they have way bigger guns than you do. and more of them. and better-trained people to shoot them.

Because there are already a gazillion of these things in homes around the country, and since they're already there, it makes no sense to ban the sale of more? With that attitude, Lake Erie would still be a stagnant mess, without a live fish anywhere to be found.

I am SO angry, and I don't know what to do with my anger.

Along with the rest of the country, I send my prayers to those affected by these senseless murders. Along with a lot of other people, I send money to a gun control lobby. But it's too little.

Since the mass shootings of the last five years haven't been enough for our representatives to pass laws to limit who has access to high powered weapons, I've given up hope.

Sometimes, evil wins.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Extra Time

Though I hear other people tell of things they do with their 'extra time', I rarely seem to run into the commodity myself.

Except today. Courtesy of the U.S. government, today gave me an extra hour.

Now. Time is precious; unlike money, once it's spent, we can't earn any more. So I took my extra hour today seriously. How to spend it?

I don't know about yours, but my extra hour came in the morning. By the time lunch finally managed to roll around, the luxurious feeling of having extra time had evaporated.

The extra hour certainly wasn't the one I spent lolling about in bed this morning, because I do that most every Sunday. And it wasn't the one I spent lingering over coffee and the paper, because I do that almost every Sunday, too.

Nope, it was the one I spent on a rare (these days) morning walk.

I worked hard yesterday, cleaning and mowing and doing all sort of housekeeping stuff. It felt good to get it all done, but by the time I got to bed I was over-tired;my brain and body were stuck in go-mode. I had a hard time falling asleep, and once I got there, I woke often.

So, while I technically had enough sleep by the time I convinced me the sun had decided to take the day off and hide behind the cloud layer, and it never was going to get really light outside, so I'd best get up, and besides, I had to go pee, so I got out of bed, I was still a bit groggy.

My shower didn't help. Breakfast didn't make much of a dent. My coffee didn't work its usual magic.

The leaves outside my window were glowing orange against the gray, and darn if they didn't pull me outside and down the block and around the park. The walk was the magic I'd been looking for.

I came home refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day - definitely an hour well spent, if I do say so myself!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Look Quickly!

I swear I just about missed it. Busy with work, booked on the weekends, tired in the evenings, I just about let fall go past without really seeing it at all.

Fortunately for me, this weekend afforded time for me to slow down just a bit. The weather turned near the end of the week, highs in the seventies giving way to the mid forties. The quick freeze brought out the colors of the trees, and I was able to find the time on Saturday to go for a walk in the golden light of late afternoon.

As I walked, my heart slowed, my shoulders dropped back down where they belong. The noise in my head subsided for just a bit; I was able to stop and breathe in a bit of the day's beauty. Summer's crowds are mostly gone, the park is quieter, getting ready for its winter break.

Maria's birthday was this past week. I didn't think it had affected me, but then, today, I found myself in tears - not so much because she is dead, but because of what could have, should have been, and now will never be.

When I packed up her things, I took a box of her nicer clothes home to clean and sort through; I figured I might like to wear something of hers sometime; we wore the same size. The box has been nagging at me from various corners since I brought it home, but somehow, I haven't been able to find the time to open one smallish box. I finally made myself open it today. The clothes inside smelled to high heaven of smoke and sickness. I almost just closed it up again to put it in the trash, but stopped myself.  Her youngest daughter is growing quickly to be about her mother's size. She might appreciate having a few things to remember her mother by.

So I plugged my nose and stoppered up my heart, and went through the dresses. This one, too old to be wearable, this one, yes, it should do just fine. I remembered seeing her in some of the clothes, from before she hit the bottom of her long slide; she wore them well.

The clothes are all cleaned now, ready to be pressed. If only it were so easy to wash the stains she left on my heart. She was toxic in her worst moments, and those are some of my last memories of her. But I know she still had, somewhere inside, the little girl who dreamed of having her own babies to dote upon. I know because I saw glimpses of her quirky smile even as the alcohol stole her away too soon.

These are the memories I will try to hold this week, as I stop to watch the leaves in their flamboyant farewell, I hope she had a Happy Birthday, where ever she has gone.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Wrong Words

I've finally found a measure of sympathy within myself for Donald Trump.

I am no fan of his, but the dust up this week around his call to Sgt. Johnson's widow brought out the teeniest feeling of sympathy. I know he said the wrong thing in the wrong way, and in typical Trump fashion tried to bluster and attack instead of apologize his way out, thus making the situation worse, but I cannot believe he would intentionally cause trouble during a condolence call.

How many times have I opened my mouth only to find, instead of the flow of words I wished, a stumbling mish-mash of little sense? I know the sentiment I want to express, but can tell by the look on the other's face that I chose the wrong words to express it - and my sentiment just got terminally lost.

I'm more attuned to this after my bout with cancer, and even more so, by Kate's. People meant well when they tried to sympathize with our trials, their words falling splat on the ground instead of conveying the good will their originators had intended. Most times, I was gracious enough to help them pick the words up, clean them off a bit and reshape them to match their intended meaning, but there were a few times I was tired enough, out of sorts enough, that I just let them lie in the dust where they fell.

When it's been my turn to watch my words fail, I am grateful there's not been someone there with a platform and a mic to broadcast my clumsiness to the nation, indeed, the world. It's bad enough to stand there and try to recover the dropped words; to explain what I really meant when it's just been me and one or two others. I can't imagine the embarrassment of having my red-faced stumblings shared gleefully across the airwaves

Just this once, I'm willing to cut the guy a little slack.