I heard someone say once that they had a "lifetime love affair with words" and although I know what they mean, but it's more like I've always been married to them. Not just an affair. There have been lots of times when we argue. When I can't understand what they're saying. And times that they aren't saying what I intend for them to. But, I've always loved them. Writer Wrong. (If lovin' words is wrong, I don't wanna be write. I especially love puns.)
I started to read when I was three, and was reading at a sixth grade level when I started first grade (in fact, the school system wanted to start me in the second grade, and then later I was offered a chance to skip fourth grade, but it was decided that I'd be better off left among people my own age due to the lack of my social education...another blog subject *making a note*). I would have preferred being among old people, but they didn't ask my opinion.
I started writing stories when I was in the second grade to the consternation of my teacher who couldn't understand how I could write a story about a bunny named Joey while she was discussing the Pilgrims and still pass a test on what she'd said. One of the many times I was sent to the office suspected of cheating. Luckily, I could still answer all the questions on the test when not in view of other kid's papers. I've always been able to multi-task, and I really hate that as I grow older it's not as easy as it used to be. I have been known to be singing along to music in my headphones while writing one of my animal books and still be able to tell you what the plot was on the TV show that was playing in the other room. I also hate that my ears are starting to not be as sharp as they used to be. A flea now has to be in the room with me before I can hear it fart. (I can however hear nails being clipped or knuckles popped in the neighbor's yard. *shudder*)
I've always had a weird memory system too. I'm like an old Alzheimer's patient. Some things I can remember as clear as day and can quote situations verbatim including what everyone was wearing, but ask me what I had for breakfast or what was the last book I read and I'll draw a blank. The memory thing worked to my advantage when I was in the first grade for it got that pesky "15 minutes of fame" out of the way early on. I memorized the entire Gettysburg Address and quoted it to a huge audience of friends and family at the annual school program in February 1964 on the stage of what is now the Backstage Theater. My mother, wanting to make me the overachiever she herself always wanted to be, poked and prodded me through the memorization process and then hand-sewed me an Abraham Lincoln costume. Complete with top hat and a beard made from the clippings when I got my finally-grown-out hair cut off to Abraham Lincoln length. I was written up in newspapers near and far, dragged around from school to school as they showed me off like a trained bear. It actually went on so long that I outgrew the costume and they finally had to stop showing me off. I hated every minute of it. I love to make people laugh. And I don't mind being the center of attention if laughter is involved, but showing off any 'talent' is something I absolutely abhor. (I would not so happily dress up and quote Lincoln today, knowing what I have learned in the decades that followed about his white-supremacy opinions and disdain of black people. He was NOT the man I thought him to be. He does not deserve all the accolades.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, I love words. And I love to put them together and move them around to see different effects. Much like an artist who draws and erases and redraws and then stands back to look, I'm very grateful for a backspace and delete key. Sometimes when I get "in the zone" I can turn out words at an almost alarming speed. I recently wrote those author's favorite words, "The End," to a novel that has 18 chapters, most of them in the 5,000 word range. Start to finish in seven weeks. I have heard writer's say "It almost wrote itself," but I think in this case there's no 'almost' to it. I simply had to supply the fingers and keyboard and be willing to sit still for long periods of time. My life is made up of a billion trillion words aching to be put on paper. I really want to find a t-shirt that I saw once that says "I is a writer: Words, they is my life."
It's not just my own words that enthrall me. I cannot imagine living in a house that isn't filled with books. I don't have as many shelves in my current home as I have always insisted on in past ones, but I still have several floor-to-ceiling. And they all groan with my favorite editions. And still my attic is filled with boxes and boxes of books on myriad subjects from the late 1800s to current.
A friend asked me how in the world I came up with not only enough stuff to fill up three novels, but also the several blogs that I try to keep somewhat current (tried, I've now cut it back to just a handful, and sporadically at that...despite my opinion to the contrary, I'm really NOT Superwoman!) I laughed. If they'd put more hours in the day I could write a novel a day with just the ideas floating about in my head at any given moment. My mind is a very scary place to visit. I wouldn't want to live there.
Many many years ago a neighbor referred to me as a "wordy little thing." I'm no longer little, but I'm definitely still wordy. And I've had a lot of life experiences in the last 59 years to use words to describe. And, after all, I didn't expect that any of the blogs or the novels would be Nobel quality... just current and hopefully fun with maybe a twinge here or there to make you think.
So far so good? Either way, I'm still Writing On. And on. I suppose when you're married to words and books, the anniversary gift is always paper...
My grandfather Myron, when someone told him they were depressed, had just one piece of advice. "Think Good Thoughts." He firmly believed that if you're thinking only good thoughts, only good things will happen. I try. I really do.
I woke up a few mornings ago and was actually sort of disappointed. I had gone to sleep thinking that surely, if someone "up there" loved me, I wouldn't wake up. But I did. And, so, I decided to "think a few good thoughts."
These are what I came up with. I was greeting with two laughing little red faces with brown button eyes and long pink tongues. Bailey and Kindle truly are a reason to get out of bed every day. Usually to find "presents" they've left during the night...they REFUSE to totally be housebroken...but at least they're usually "wrapped" (ie: on a pee pad I've learned to leave out for them). I know, I know. I should crate them at night. But, "sometimes when I awaken to the darkness from a dream that made me weep, they snuggle closer to me and we all go back to sleep." (The misquoting of a line from a poem I wrote many years ago, about the joy of having a hand to reach for in the night...ironic, eh?)
It's a good thought to have my yard looking a little more like someone lives here. Other than Redd Foxx in his junk yard. Thanks to the wonderful friends that came three days this week to help me wrestle all the junk and jungle into submission.
I didn't really want a new entrance to my driveway, but a friend bugged me until it stuck and I had to do it. Now it's done. I still have to order gravel, but the bare bones are there. And I like it. A lot. More thanks to a neighbor who offered to do it for me when I said I was planning to rent equipment. Thank you!!!!
Friends are always the best thoughts you can have. If you have good friends. And I do. Thanks to the friend that not only sells me fresh eggs from her beautiful hens ever week, but after a recent fiasco (no thanks or good thoughts to Sand Mountain Propane who sent someone in the early morning hours to hook up to my propane tank and remove it without ANY prior warning or notice...pffffffffft) with my propane tank that left me with no way to cook, she boils a couple dozen.
Another friend lets me cry on her shoulder when yet another "dating prospect" lets me down. Or I let him down. Or whatever happens that ends things. I know she's sick of hearing about it. But, she's a good sport. And I will always love her for it.
I'm blessed to have a wonderful cardiologist who is trying to figure out the electrical issues that suddenly are plaguing me, leaving me with an erratic heartbeat that comes near to sending me to the ER way too often. Thanks to a doctor friend who listens to my complains about aches and pains as well. Love you more!
I love my house. Love my creek. Even love my car now that all the bugs are worked out. I want to add a second car, for emergencies, but I'm afraid to trust myself at the car auction again. I know me.
A very sweet man has become my "auction buddy" and is always up for meeting for supper when I don't want to cook for myself. We met on a dating site, but decided we needed each other as friends. We make good ones.
My grandma Ruth used to say "if all of our problems were hung on a line, you'd keep yours and I'd keep mine." A cute way of saying "there's always someone worse off." And I am well aware of that.
My doldrums come from the season, deathaversaries coming in floods, and an absolute dearth of good news coming out of any source (and no, I don't watch mainstream media blah blah blah, so just don't freakin' start!).
I will survive this season. Again. It's what I do. I survive. I'm not really living. But I'm making "survival" an art form. And the main paint brush for my art is "think good thoughts.
May you all have only good thoughts in the days ahead as summer falls under the spell of winter and the earth goes to sleep for a while. Which reminds me of another poem. For some reason, since I was a child, it touched me. It was read at both my mother and father's funeral. And I ask for it to be read at mine.
Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep...
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
I think of that poem every time I watch the shadows lengthen with the coming of winter. It makes me smile to learn that this was the only poem that the poet ever wrote. Scribbled on a brown paper sack. And it has endured almost 100 years. Surely a few of my words will survive after I am gone.
I'm looking at my Bucket List today and figuring out what I can do of it alone. Or if perhaps it's time to just get a new Bucket List.
I ain't dead yet. I've still got good thoughts left to think.
I find myself saying something these days that I used to hear my grandmother say, when she was probably younger than I am now, but I thought she was surely older than Methuselah. Those pearls of wisdom? "Old age is not for sissies." Usually said after she grimaced with a new pain in a hip or her back or just a twinge of age tweaking some body part that was best left untweaked. Right on, grandma! Just being an adult is bad enough, but when you add the insult of advanced age to the injury of being an adult, things get downright messy.
Adulthood is crowded and loud, dense with confusion and pain from the daily dramas that assault you at every turn. You're faced with moronic rules that have little if anything to do with the attainment of anything even remotely resembling the happiness you were always sure you'd have back when you were a teenager dreaming of the time when you be in that magical land of "on your own." I've been there. I've lived there. I bought the lawn mower for it. It's not all that and only half a bag of chips.
The stench of unfulfilled dreams rotting in the recesses of your mind sometimes seems overwhelming and not even the biggest bottle of Febreeze or Calgon will take it away. The heart that you once offered so casually to those that put a sparkle in your eye is now scarred by time. Perhaps by the shards of innocence that were hurtled against it at some point that now you can barely recall, but is always there to tug at your memory when you hear a particular piece of music or see some inconsequential thing that immediately has great importance...but you're not sure why. There's never enough money, no matter how much you have or how hard you work. Everyone you love dies, is sick, or decides they don't love you any more. The ones that are left are so busy that they might as well be dead for all the good their existence does you. The knees start to go and you have to be careful how you step for fear of breaking a hip.
The hands you used to hold, the ones that got you through a night filled with bad dreams, are either not there, or are so frail that you fear breaking them if you squeeze them in your pain or panic. You still dream, but it's more remembering the past than the dreams you used to have of secret gardens, hidden doorways, mossy pathways to a hidden tryst or standing at the top of a mountain knowing you have once and for all "made it."
There are no bonfires with marshamallows on twigs, no candlelight flickering in a breeze lighting up a lover's face, no Mason jars full of fireflies waiting to be released to dance with their cousins. Sure you could still do those things, if you wanted to, but it just takes so much energy. And, the change in weather has your arthritis kicking up. And besides, there's an old Magnum PI you wanted to catch tonight.
No, being old isn't for sissies. Even though life has made me tougher now than I've ever been in my life. I have lived through things I was sure would kill me. I've done things that should have. But I'm still standing. I've stared at demons that I've feared since I was a young child. The only fear I have left is that of dying alone. And that fear is loud and consistent in my brain, reminding me that the ferryman is waiting to take me to that other shore, sooner rather than later. I've walked a lot of paths with someone I loved. I've walked a lot of hard paths alone. I like together better. I don't like living alone. I'm fairly certain that dying alone would be infinitely easier. Because you'd know there is an end. I wish I knew now that living alone was going to come to an end.
I sit in the darkness of my back porch and I watch the fireflies flitting about and I think of those halcyon days when summer was infinite and Christmas took forever to get here. Birthdays were cause for celebration and even just reaching the half-year mark was worth cheering over. And I wonder at exactly what point I became "an old woman." I never saw it coming. I still don't see it, unless I look in the mirror. On the inside, I'm still young. And I still believe in dreams, even though adulthood has tried its best to crush them out of me. I keep praying for someone who will look at me and see the dreams instead of the grey hair and sagging skin. Someone who will stand beside me as we dream dreams together of whatever future is left and fight the demons of old age together. Old age ain't for sissies, especially when you're fighting that one last demon.
I want a hand to hold as I slip away.
On a recent job application, only one question slowed me down. "What are you most passionate about?" It didn't give me pause because I couldn't think of anything, only because the space allowed was so small. I think the question might have been easily answered in that small spot by "What are you NOT passionate about."
I know almost everyone is passionate about something. Whether it's their grandchildren, the state of the environment, politics, religion, a particular craft (I learned long ago never get between a quilter and a fabric sale!), a sport, or a possession (I dated a guy briefly who could carry on a one-sided conversation for hours...and did...on the merits of his car versus any other on the market).
But me? I'm passionate about almost everything. I'm all in to whatever I do...or I'm all out. No in-between. One of the many character traits that has driven more than one person in my life bat-crap crazy while trying to keep up. I believe if you can't go big, you should go home. Or at least go sit with the little dogs on the porch.
Some of my passions a bit more, well, passionate than others. Animal welfare is close to the top of that list. I have zero patience with anyone who breeds animals strictly for money (and after 25 years in the world of dog breeding and exhibition, I have to add "or ego" to that sentence. If you breed over one or two litters a year you are part of the problem) whether or not you have a waiting list and can justify every dollar you charge for your puppies). I think every single person who decides to have a litter of puppies or kittens for any reason should have to volunteer at an animal shelter, holding healthy happy animals as they spend their last terrified moment on earth before being given their final sleep. They should have to nurse back to health animals that trusted one human too many and almost paid with their life. Even years ago when I was involved in breeding and showing, I thought it was totally justified of cities and states to put a breeding tax on dogs and cats to slow down indiscriminate breeding practices. I still do.
Our environment is another major passion. I won't argue it standing in a picket line, or in a group of angry protesters holding signs and shouting, nor will I discuss it or argue it on social media or in conversation, but here I will state firmly that until we start worrying about our world as a whole, fervent pleas to "Make America Great Again" are nothing more than a clever slogan and marketing campaign. "Make our World Happy and Healthy Again" would be a much better goal. For instance, in my personal opinion, if someone really cared about the plight of coal miners, they would be honest with them and everyone else that coal usage has been in a decline for over a decade as the desire for a cleaner and more efficient product becomes more important for the majority of Americans. Add to that the fact that jobs that miners have traditionally held are being replaced more and more frequently by machines and you see that the decline of numbers of jobs in the coal minining industry hasn't been damaged by "tree huggers" nearly so much as just by the passage of time. Even if someone created a new use for coal and made it profitable again, there still would not be enough jobs to keep miners employed. Instead, desperate miners are used as a chip in a high stakes poker game between politicians who have no problem at all using lives as gambling pawns. So in an attempt to make themselves look compassionate and dedicated to lessening unemployment numbers, environmental laws are revoked that were kept in place to keep the dark side of coal mining from coloring our planet. And the few miners that are rehired join the many tools in the belt of a narcisstic government that uses the little guy as a stepping stone to their own rewards. That's just one small point that I have problems with in discussing our environment. There are many. Passion does that to you...makes you care enough to do actual research and search out unpleasant truths.
I'm also passionate about a dozen other things that affect my daily life. My pets, my garden, my home, my music and my writing. I am passionate about losing weight, even though I have health issues that are making it almost impossible. I'm passionate about swimming and exercising in the water. Just being near water restores my soul and my soothes my mind, so time spent in the pool doing water yoga, dance or aerobics is nirvana for me. I get passionate about creative projects too. My front porch at the moment looks like I'm having a yard sale, piled up with pieces of furniture and bits of junk that will be turned into something beautiful. Soon I hope.
I'm also passionate about finding the person that will share the rest of my life with me. That brings up the passion that I don't put into print. I'll leave it at "he will be a very lucky man".
I think I would have made a very good actress. I'm very good at stepping outside of myself and becoming whatever is needed of me at any given moment. I certainly would have no trouble at all handling the stage demand, "Once more, from the top, with passion!"
Not sure why suddenly it seems that every post topic is on dating. It's not the sole focus of my life, but I guess the things that puzzle me the most have to do with the people I've met in the last few months and how they've impacted my life.
I have always had dogs. Always. I came home from the hospital to a house with a Miniature Pinscher that ruled the place. He was old and cranky and I suffered more than a few dog nips (that breed is aptly named, by the way, minus that "s") before I learned to respect him. I will forever be grateful to my parents that they made ME realize that, rather than just "getting rid" of Tippy. They realized that he was there first and it was his home. I was the interloper. Once I learned to respect his warning growls and not chase him when he ran away from me, we were friends. And I've been friends with almost every dog I've met since.
I can't imagine a life where I woke up absolutely alone. As alone as I am, there is still a warm body to reach out and touch when I awaken in the night with a nightmare or hunger pains or yearnings. Someone who is happy to snuggle closer on cold nights and to lick away my tears if I cry. And dance around me when I laugh. They may be "just dogs" but they are my friends...my best friends...and I will never give them up for someone I've just met no matter how important the new person may be to me.
I never used to feel the need to explain this to someone I'd just started dating. I always said I had two house dogs (I can't imagine having pets that didn't share my life when I'm indoors as well as outside, but I respect the opinions of those that do) and two indoor-outdoor cats. I always assumed it was universal that pets that share your life are "family." If I still had a mom and dad and siblings, I wouldn't be quick to "get rid of them" either for a new man in my life. But a few months ago I dated someone who lived a fairly good distance away (anything under a six hour drive is a day trip for me, over six "a good distance"). We decided we wanted to meet, but were waffling over how to go about that. One of the dangers in dating online and finding someone interesting across the country from you. I could have flown to him, but I'd have to board my dogs. So, explaining that upfront as my reason, I invited him to visit me (stop shaking your head, don't judge me...I did my background searches, I'm not an idiot). He arrived and made himself at home in my guest room upstairs. I kept the dogs locked in my bedroom downstairs since he had been very upfront about the fact that he'd never been around dogs much.
This was a red flag I will never again ignore.
The next morning I was awakened by screams of horror coming down the stairs. I raced up to find my two girls dancing around his bed, excited by the fact that 'we has company, mom!' I laughed. He didn't find it amusing. I tried to be understanding, but good heavens. They weigh 7-10 pounds. Their tails were wagging and they were too short to even jump up on the bed! If they'd been 150 pound snarling beasts, I could have been a little more sympathetic.
I dragged them back downstairs and locked them back in my bedroom. He tentatively came downstairs, scolding me for not having "more control" over my "animals".
Needless to say, the weekend did not go well. Every time the dogs were around he shrunk into himself, not out of fear of being bitten I eventually realized, but the germ aspect. I never let him know that the dogs had probably licked the plates he ate from and drank from the glasses. They'd been through a steamy dishwasher cycle, but I'm pretty sure he would have demanded I take him to the ER, or call Poison Control. We had a lovely time when we were in the car going sightseeing, but his belief that I was an inch away from being condemned by the Health Department because I actually had a 'cat toilet' in my home made me more than a little uncomfortable when we were in my home that I'm sure he saw as some third-world hovel. The visit ended and we kissed goodbye at the airport. A very firm goodbye. He was a lovely man and in another time and place I could have flipped head over heels. But in this time, and in this place, I couldn't get past the overriding thought that he was a germophobic weenie.
I'm pretty much "over" the whole dating thing. I'm tired of bouncing, I'm tired of heart cracks and I'm tired of having to explain myself to men that have no clue how to deal with a woman who doesn't go to church every Sunday, attend various social functions throughout the week and have a three course meal set out every evening by six. Everyone says they want "different" and "unique" and "quirky" but few can deal with it when faced with it in person. I think the majority have some ideal woman at the very back of their subconscious mind that wears pearls and an apron during the day (aka June Cleaver syndrome) and silk teddies and a garter at night. The fact that I prefer to be sans clothes as much as possible sounds good on paper I guess, maybe I should add an apron and pearls and high heels to my birthday suit?
Although my interest has waned and my belief that "he is out there" is weakening, I'm not taking down my online profile. As flexible as I can be in my expectations, I have very few dealbreakers. But, I think I may add the disclaimer. In caps. "Must Love Dogs."
It is tough being single. It's even tougher when you decide you don't want to be alone any more and you open up your heart to the possibility of finding the person that can make your dreams come true and help you dream new ones.
I think it must have been easier back in our parent's and grandparent's day when your world was fairly small. You kept your eye on someone from grade school and when you became an adult, you hoped he came calling and courting. If he didn't, you started down the list of neighbors. Every new person in the community brought anticipation and the thought of possibilities. It wasn't uncommon for brothers to marry women who were sisters (not theirs, despite what you've heard about Southern family trees...the resulting offspring of these brothers-to-sisters marriages were the "double first cousins" that started the whole raised eyebrow thing even though it was totally innocent) that they'd met when the siblings went along as a chaperone and ended up needed chaperoning themselves.
Today, our world is bigger. But the internet brings the far parts of the world closer to us. It makes it seem simple to place an ad online saying you're looking and what you're looking for and sit back and wait for the right person to respond. And therin lies the rub. So many respond that aren't the "right people." They may be fakes, game players (and not the Scrabble and UNO that we all love), scammers or even just miserable folks who really have no idea how much their fears and insecurities end up screwing up life for the rest of us. I don't know. Maybe I'm one of the ones with the fears and insecurities, but I sincerely hope I haven't screwed up anyone's life. I think I've been too busy getting my own screwed with.
I get 20-30 emails a week on my dating profile on OK Cupid. Only one or two are a genuine male person seeking a genuine female person such as myself. A slightly larger number are the fodder of a bathroom wall waiting to happen: "for a good time call BR-549." The rest are scammers of one sort or another. Thankfully, they are pretty easy to sort through. I don't even look at the profiles of anyone who writes only, "Hi there." or "Hello beautiful" in their initial letter. 99.9% of the time if you say hello back you get a cut and pasted response telling you about the wife that died a few years ago leaving them with a small child (or two) to raise. The story goes on that they are tired of living alone, need a good woman to share life with them and be a family. Words created and strung together to appeal to the desperate lonely that want so badly to 'belong' somewhere that they ignore the warning signs of broken English from someone supposedly born and raised in Tennessee or Tupelo and grammar that is so different from standard English that moderators on dating sites have given it the monniker "scammer grammar" as an excuse to delete the perpetrators from the site's membership roster.
I relish the days I get a letter from that first group. I love meeting new people, and although even the most optimistic has to admit that most of the time budding relationships don't survive past the initial giddy rush of "this could be IT," hope springs eternal that just like Sam Beckett, we will close our eyes and jump, and this one will be the leap home. I love learning new things from people who have walked in almost lane of most roads of life. From near-vagrants to multi-millionaire's, I've gotten letters from them all. From the painfully shy to the brazen and the hopefully optimistic to those nearing hopelessness. And a few, a very few, I've let creep into my heart.
With the exception of a couple of men that have become dear friends and I hope will always be in my life, every leap has been disastrous for me. I care too quickly and too deeply and when the inevitable end comes, my heart gets cracked. My niece said to me, when I told her I was a bit in the dumps after being "ghosted" by a guy that I honestly had thought was the nearest thing to Mr. Right that I'd met in 15 years, "Good grief. Your heart must be mostly Super Glue by this time." She's right. Most people have more sense than to open themselves up to this kind of heart ache and their lives to this kind of stress. I've never been anything close to being a "most people."
And the knowledge that I could get hurt isn't going to stop me. The next letter I get that says "Hi there, I think maybe my life needs a little more gypsy-mermaid-hippie in it" I will respond with "Nice to meet you! Tell me more about yourself" and the next few days (weeks, months) will be filled with long talks, online chats and discussions and for a while I can almost forget that I'm in the last quarter of my life. I'm one cat away from being "the crazy cat lady" and because of my character quirks and vagaries, likely to stay that way. Most men don't want to get an idea one day to take a week long road trip and be packed and rolling out the driveway the next day. Most don't like the idea of spending an entire day in bed or on the couch reading books or binge-watching Netflix or wandering back roads just to see what's there. Most men don't want to take off for a weekend at the World's Longest Yard Sale or stay up 'til the wee hours at a wonderful antique auction where treasures are going under the gavel for junk prices. They don't want to take on a two acre jungle as a landscaping project or make plans to turn the barn into a guest house. They don't want to spend their weekends painting old furniture or gutting a little vintage camper trailer to rebuild it as a companion on those roadtrips. Most men don't want to be wanted and needed as much as I do. They don't want the complication of being head over heels in love with someone who feels the same.
Luckily, or maybe unluckily, I'm not looking for most men though. Just one very unique one.
And even though I may need to invest in stock for Super Glue or Gorilla Glue, I'm not going to stop so long as I'm breathing. Where there's life, there's hope. And I refuse to settle for anything less than everything this time. He is going to be the last love of my life. And he's worth waiting, and running out of Super Glue for.
THAT'S MY STORY
I've never been normal. I've never tried to be. I can't imagine anything more boring.
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