Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cowgirl V: Remembering and Still Missing Him

 

Today, (February 17) would have been my dad’s 92nd birthday.  I can hardly believe he’s been gone over 20 years.  Seems like yesterday I last heard his voice, saw his face.  Time assuages grief, but rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of something I would like to talk to him about. 

vickiandjim

 

He was reserved and shy to those he did not know well, but at home there was lots of conversation about so many things.  I suppose that is what I miss most.  Discussing books, politics, religion—so many things he was interested in. 

 

The Source

 

He was born in 1922 to young parents who did not belong together.  His mother was loving and faithful, but his young father (barely 20 years old) was not up to fatherhood and left to seek employment in Utah.  He did not see his son until he was almost three years old.  There little interest shown and the resulting pain of indifference and broken promises.  I’ll never forget my dad telling me of the time when he realized that the dad he had idealized in his childish mind, did not exist.  My grandfather had come to his hometown for a visit from NYC where he was working at the Times.  My dad who was ten years old, admired a boy riding on a fancy English bike.  “So you would like one of those?” his dad asked.  “Just wait until I get back to NYC—I will send you one right away.”  Of course he waited expectantly for the bike that never came. 

 

imagesLQ90B7SX

 

Some folks follow in the footsteps of a negligent or abusive parent, but to my dad’s credit, he determined that he would be a faithful husband and family man—everything his own father was not.  Of course, it’s so easy to gloss over imperfections and as “C” reminds me those who have passed on suddenly become saints.  My dad was beloved, but he had his faults.  There was a simmering rage at being rejected that I have seen in everyone I’ve known who has been rejected by a parent.  Sometimes it spilled over at home—usually directed at me! 

I wrote about my dad a few years ago in a post titled He Was Unwanted.  A reminder to me that every life has a purpose and should be celebrated.  So on February 17, each year my mother would bake  daddy’s favorite cake –Pineapple Refrigerator Cake—a vintage recipe from the fifties that she got from our neighbor, Betty, who was the perfect homemaker.  Her house was immaculate and she made dessert every night!  This cake would be perfect for Easter dessert and I am going to make it this year.  A tender yellow cake split into layers with a luscious lemon pineapple custard filling and frosted with fresh whipped cream!  Yummmmy!

 

Refrigerator cake

 

Here’s the vintage recipe from a Spry shortening booklet  at www. food.com  recipe 41821  pineapple refrigerator cake

Hope you will try it!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

C: In the Ear of the Beholder

ears deceiveI heard a great sermon Sunday.  It was about the story of the rich, young ruler.  The point of the story, my pastor said, was not just about “rich” folks—it applies to us all.  We all have things we prioritize over God…even our “good works,” as the rich, young ruler had always meticulously obeyed the law.

Pastor ramped up, driving home the point that we cannot tell where we stand solely by our actions—that good actions can often mask impure motivations.  It is not the “outward,” he says, that is telling.  It is the “inward.”

And this, folks, is where I was jolted upright because what I heard is: “What is important is the “N” word!  Do you have an ‘N-word’ problem?”

And, through the rest of the sermon about our “inward struggles,” I heard repeatedly: “N word,” although I knew well what he meant.   It was my ears.

My consciences is clear:  I have no “N-word problem,” although it is probably evident that my “inward” regions could use some cleaning up.

Thank goodness there was no “giggle partner” sitting next to me, MIL not being the giggle-in-church type.  It could have been a disaster and it reminds me of another time.

I was sitting next to my BIL years ago, listening to a sermon from Zechariah 5:1, which says:

Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll.  And he said to me, "What do you see?" And I answered, "I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits…”

What I heard was “…behold, there was a flying squirrel…”  On top of that, it was a BIG flying squirrel (a cubit being estimated at 18 inches).  What a sight that must have been—even more impressive thflying squirrelan the flying scroll, which I knew was what Pastor referenced.

I glanced at BIL who, having heard as I did, silently mouthed, “…flying squirrel???”

Oh, it was bad…he and I dissolved, simultaneously bending forward to stifle our laughter.  Again, I say, it was bad—almost uncontrollable; tear-jerkilaughterng, nearly-pants-wetting laughter all while trying to be quiet and inconspicuous.  Our spouses were not pleased.

So funny how our ears can deceive, and what it does to our perception. 

Reminds me of another time.  In our household, there was a tendency for my son and me to sing Christmas carols at any time of the year.  You might hear us in a chorus of “Good King Wenceslas” in July. 

One day, Son made a sing-along request.  “Let’s sing the Christmas carol about the airplanes, Mom.”

For the life of me, I could not imagine what he was talking about.

You know, we sing it all the time.”  No, I did not know.  I requested that he start us out, which he did:

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the planes (er, plains).

Made me consider what my little child had been picturing inangel his head all those times we sang that song. 

On reflection, I decided that we do, indeed, want angels singing over airplanes…

--C

Saturday, January 11, 2014

C: Truth in the AT&T Store

What is it about me that makes random folks just want to tell me their troubles?  Probably I ask for it.  attI am very interested in people.

You’d think, being a divorce lawyer for over thirty years, that I would become bored and jaded by human drama—not so!  I remain interested.  I hope it makes me good at my job.

Anyway, my paralegal/sister and I were in the ATT store today doing some phone switcharooing.  The man helping us was a nice, late fortyish man who noticed my business name on the account.  He asked, “what kind of law?”  I told him.

He had a story.

This guy has an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old from his former marriage and of whom he has custody. 

Then, there is the just-turned-six-year-old by his baby-mama.  He has a concern about the situation she is living in with her mother (he should be concerned,  from his description).  We talked about it just a few minutes.

As he walked us to the door, he quipped, “I really messed up.  I was 44, and she was 20.  I never planned on another baby. I just don’t know what happened.

Before I knew it, out of my mouth came:  “You know you never had any say in that, don’t you?  She planned on a baby, and that’s all that counts.  Once she planned it, the die was cast.” 

He stood looking at me quietly.

I continued.  “Oh, sure, you COULD have practiced protected sex, so I’m not letting you off the hook completely, but she was driving that car.  Men are so stupid when it crazycomes to this.”

He took it like a champ and said, “You speak the truth.  I never had a chance.  She played me.  Yes, we are stupid where sex is concerned.”

There you have it.  An admission.  It is the truth.

Robin Williams:

God gave man a brain and a p****s…and only enough blood supply to run one at a time.

It’s just that the kid reaps the consequences.

too old

--C

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

C: Nomenclature ~ What’s a “Cabin?”

cabinI love words.  As a part of that interest, I love to consider regional differences in language.  In my next life, I think I’ll be a linguist.  This morning brought a discussion/disagreement on this very topic.  Although I doubt it is a “regional” question in this particular usage, I find it interesting.  (Yes, I am easily amused)

Son and I were riding in the car together.  We passed a lovely, two-story, square-log home that is on our regular route.  (V will know immediately the place I am talking about).   He commentedlog house on it, calling it a “log cabin.”  This is NOT an actual picture of the place, but is here for illustrative purposes (such as the size of the structure!)

This is reminiscent of his father, who also made this mistake of nomenclature.    The house in question must be over 3,000 square feet—a “cabin” it’ ain’t.   The second picture on the page ain’t a “cabin,” either.

cabin2I remarked on this, saying I did not think a “cabin” could actually be over two rooms.  He argued.

In fact, Merriam-Webster online defines “cabin” as “a small, simple house made of wood” (disregarding the part about airplanes and ships).  Therefore, I rest my case!

He’s not convinced, however, feeling that the logs are the defining element of a “cabin.” 

Wrong, wrong, wrong again.  Youlumber cabin can have a lumber-sided cabin—but not a brick one (in my mind).

Okay, weigh in—what constitutes a “cabin” for you?  --C

Monday, January 6, 2014

C: True Love (Get a Hankie)

true loveI am a cynic about “true love,” doubting that it exists—at least in the sappy-movie sense.   The only “true love,” I sometimes say, is that of the Creator for His Creation. We humans are too fickle and self-serving to carry it off.

And, yet, something has happened in our neighborhood that makes me re-think whether true love can be found here on this earth.

There is a couple down the road from me (we’re in a rural area).   They are in the latter-half of their eighties and have lived out here all their lives.  We will call them “Mama” and “Daddy,” for that has been their main identity the vast majority of their lives.

These are kind, warm people.  When my mother lived out here, they reached out to her in a kindness that she will never forget.

Their Son was born with severe disabilities over sixty years ago and has never seen nor heard so far as can be told.  He has lived his life in a completely helpless state with no sign of recognition and few, infant-like, responses.  His food must be specially-prepared; baby food, if you like.  His care is total—he must be turned and washed and diapered.

Mama and Daddy were told those decades ago that their baby would never pull out of this state and that he should be institutionalized for the duration of his life.  That lifecaring would not be long, the doctors said. 

Mama and Daddy refused.  This was their child; God had sent him to their charge.  They would care for him.  And care for him they did—for sixty three years now.  His care at home has been impeccable.

Mama’s and Daddy’s “plight” as we outside of their circle see it, is unthinkable to most of us.  I have heard whispers that their chosen path was a “waste,” that their confinement with this man-child was to no avail.  I confess I have had some of these thoughts—hence, I refer you to my opening statements about the dearth of “true love.”

It appears that over the years Mama and Daddy have carved out a routine for themselves.  Daddy worked until retirement twenty years ago, so the daily care of Son fell to Mama.  Daddy was willing help while he was at home; and after his retirement he was able to help her more.  They managed their lives by rarely going anywhere together.  They rotated church attendance, for example.  One would be at church while the other was on duty at home; the next week the roles would reverse.

There are neighbors who would sometimes “sit” with Son while both parents took a brief respite; but this was not often, and Mama would not hear of a “stranger” coming in to watch over her child.

The other night I was invited to some friends’ house for a convivial evening.  During that time I learned some things about this family.  For one thing, I was told that Son was in the process of dying and that a hospice worker was in attendance in the home. 

I confess that across my mind flashed the thought that if Son passed, parents would at last have some time for themselves.  I especially thought of Mama homebound all those years without a real social life.

My friend continued with even more distressing news, however.  Daddy, it seems, had slid considerably into caregive familydementia.  He had become forgetful and anxious, adding to Mama’s workload.  They were coping fairly well within the confinement of their routine, but the hospice worker had warned that if Son passed away, the shock of this to their well-ordered world would most-probably cause Daddy to slip away mentally altogether.

There goes Mama’s chance for a “normal” life.  There is no way she will give his care over to another.  Care-giving is all she has ever known.

As we talked, my friend told me something else I did not know.  Another neighbor—someone in his 50’s who had seemed hale and hearty to me just this past summer—had been hospitalized several weeks, diagnosed with a fatal condition.  He would be leaving this earth within a  month or two.hospital

Then she told me this:  For over ten years now (she is unsure how many years), each Christmas morning Mama and Daddy would find a HUGE, beautifully-wrapped basket left on their front porch.  It was filled with all kinds of gifts that Mama and Daddy could enjoy at gift baskethome: some luxury food items, some gadgets they might like—all kinds of things, especially selected for them.

Each year the basket bore the same message, “Merry Christmas, Mama and Daddy.  Thank you for loving me and taking such good care of me all these years  Love, Son.”

No one knew who had been leaving the baskets…until now.

Hospitalized neighbor was helpless in his hospital bed before Christmas.  Because he had to enlist the assistance of others in the annual task, it became known that he was the basket-leaver all these years.  Even his family did not know.

God had sent this man to serve Son in expressing the gratitude that he could not speak for himself…amazing.

I am a stoic by nature and, yet, I cannot speak or write about this without tears.

Son died later on the night of my learning all of this. 

For me this story has spoken volumes.  It is about the unconditional love of parents for their child.  It is about true love that recognizes a need and fills it with a basket which is the message of love and gratitude—with never a thought for recognition. 

And now Son is gone, with no further need of his messenger of love…and the messenger is leaving earth as well, just as the last basket is delivered and there is no longer that need.

Again, I say: Amazing.  I am humbled.  --C

Saturday, December 28, 2013

C: Rock ‘n’ Roll Wisdom

don't stop believin'I am a baby-boomer/sixties-to-eighties-rock-lovin’ old person.  I am sitting at the computer listening to my Pandora “Dire Straits” Station.  (I have an opera station, too, so don’t judge me too harshly).

Along came the old Journey hit, “Don’t Stop Believing.”  It made me think of a post—inspiration!  You just never know how the Muse will strike, right? Journey said:

She Took the Midnight Train Goin’ Anywhere

Wow.

These lyrics made me think about advice I wish young women everywhere would heed.  It is advice borne of my longish life, tinged with sorrow now softened, and of my very-long work as a divorce lawyer. 

Ahhhhh, if only they would listen to me.

As I age I am learning the importance of living life intentionally…making conscious decisions aboutinttentional 3 what I like, what I want from life, how I want to live it. 

So many of us, women especially (hang with me, here), just drift through days, taking life’s midnight train to anywhere.

We especially need to  be intentional in important decisions—like who we marry or with whom we choose to have a child; and, yes, being wary of listening only to the heart in these matters.

 intention 2

I know I have beaten this drum before, but it pains me that almost weekly I see women in hard situations because they settled.  They did not strive for the best. They did not hold out for all that life has for them. They waited for what came along to claim them and then just climbed aboard.  Big, Big, Big mistake…the train to anywhere can take you to a hard life.

Look at this picture, hand water- colored by non-artist me just for you.

fruit tree

See those luscious fruits on the tree?  (squint and understand they are meant to represent luscious). 

See the stick figure scratching his/her head trying to decide which one he/she will pick? 

Who are you?  Are you the picker, finding just the right fruit to fill your purpose?  Or are you the fruit, just waiting on some random picker to come by and snag you away to whatever fate he/she chooses for you?

And, if you are the fruit, are you placed high, peeking barely through the trees, something worth climbing and searching for?  Or are you the one hanging low, within easy reach for any picker passer-by?

Do you know that you have the right to set your own standards?  That exclusiveyou can be “exclusive?”  It is your life…make pickers understand that you are not within the reach of just anyone.

Living intentionally is good advice for anyone, so why am I addressing women?  For reasons that include:

  1. Pickers are mostly men.  It’s just the truth…change this! You don’t have to accept it.   You be the picker for your own life, and choose your fruit wisely.  Have some standards, some criteria.
  2. Women impact children more.  In our age of divorce, kids stay with moms.  Dads, if they are decent, visit.  Moms are primary shapers.  Even if you are fortunate and never have your family split asunder, you need to consider what influence your partner will bring to your kids.  Women, you owe it to your children to choose wisely who will father them; and you must model for them that they can shape their lives to a great degree.

If you are in the USA reading this, you have won life’s lottery of opportunity.  You are blessed to be able to make choices that many on this globe don’t have—don’t squander this.  Be intentional with your life.  intention 1

If you don’t heed this advice, then you run the risk of being what rocker Tom Petty said in 1991:

“A rebel without a clue…”

Be intentional in the way you live.  Especially be intentional in the most important decisions of your life. 

Don’t be the picked—be the picker.

--C

PS – Preachy, I know…but it’s on my heart.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

C: Legacy of Bitterness; Lessons from the Pages of Real Life.

richer or powerJo and Jim did not have a perfect marriage, but it was a good one, Jo thought. They had been married 26 years and had two beautiful college-student daughters still at home. Each had worked with large companies for over twenty years. They did not make huge salaries and they were not wealthy, but they had no big monetary concerns and had decent retirement funds. They were conservative in their spending, and had enough to make the payments on the home they had lived in for the last 18 years. They lived a bit too much on credit cards. It was hard not to with two college-aged girls, and all four members of the family had cars. Thankfully, two of them were paid off, but they all had to be insured. Monthly payments took planning, but they were able to maintain a good credit score.

Jim's father lived alone about thirty minutes from Jo and Jim. He was a bit emotionally removed from his only child, but Jo did her best to include Ben in the family celebration times and she prodded Jim to visit his father at least monthly. Ben seemed to know this because he was a bit warmer to Jo than even his only child. Ben and Jim's mother had divorced long ago, and she had been deceased for over ten years. Ben just seemed to like his aloofness and, Jo and Jim knew little about Ben's business affairs. He had recently retired.

It was a shock to receive the call that Ben had suffered a heart attack in his front yard. A neighbor had seen him react to the pain and tried to render assistance, calling 911. Ben slipped away.

This was followed by yetmoney love another shock: Ben had amassed quite a hefty bank account. There was almost $600,000 in various assets and life insurance benefits awaiting Jim, his only heir. Their shock at losing a family member was softened a bit by this discovery. They had no idea that Ben was worth so much. They discussed the relief it would give them to be able to pay off their house at last and have no debt as they entered the years when they, too, began to think about retirement. Being cautious, Jo and Jim consulted a financial planner who gave them good advice.

The summer months approached soon after Ben’s funeral, and the family went on a cruise that Jim had purchased as a treat for "his girls" and in celebration of his youngest having graduated from high school. "No more high schoolers--only college girls!" Jim teased. The cruise had been purchased before Ben's death, so it had been a spurge for which Jo had to becruise persuaded over her caution at bending the budget. She knew that it would require a good long time of credit card payments to pay it off, but it seemed important to Jim, so she capitulated. Truthfully, it was the first thing she thought of with relief after their good fortune was revealed.

The cruise came and Jo was puzzled by Jim's lack of interest in her there. Not only was there no romantic move on his part, but it became clear as the week progressed that he was actually seeking time away from her. Jo felt near to tears several times when she particularly felt his coldness. Truthfully, the cruise turned into a nightmare for Jo. She could not wait to get home, thinking that the return to normal routine would return her husband to normal as well.

They got home late on Saturday night. After sleeping in on Sunday, the day was spent with Jim going to gather some groceries for the week and Jo rifling through the ton of laundry that needed washing and put away before both returned to work on Monday morning. There was little to no conversation. Monday dawned, and they parted for the work day.

That evening Jim strolled in after work and joined Jo in the living room where she was relaxing in front of the breaking uptelevision after the hard first day back after vacation. "Jo," Jim said, "I have decided I no longer want to be married. I have rented an apartment and am moving out. Please don’t make a scene--it won't do any good."

Jo could not believe her ears. Jim was leaving? Apartment? When did he make this decision? When did he have the time to rent an apartment? She was stunned, and then she was terrified.

The girls came home together as Jim was still packing. Jo, mercifully, had been able to hold herself together emotionally, later realizing that the shock probably was the reason why. She called Jim in and said, "Girls, your father has an announcement to make…" The girls turn with expectant looks on their faces.

Jim was visibly upset that Jo had commandeered the moment, but he said, "I am sorry but your mother and I have decided to separate. Wbad newse both love you very much and this has nothing to do with you--you won't even have any changes in your life. We know that this is the best."

He scowled when he heard Jo say, "Oh no you don't. I am not taking the blame for this, Jim. " Turning to the girls, she said, "This was not a joint decision, it was his decision. I never saw it coming. I don't want a divorce, but he has told me that there is nothing I can do to change his mind."

Unlike their mother, the girls became hysterical. They clutched at their father, railed at him and screamed that he was ruining their lives and breaking up their home.

It made no difference. "Someday you will understand. I will call you both in a day or two," he said as he went out the door.

The next day Jo was served with divorce papers at work--Jim had filed on his first day back from vacation without a word to her about it. Jo had the presence of mind to hire her own attorney immediately.

Jo learned that until such time as Jim put her name on his father's inheritance (which he had not done) it was not a part of the marital estate. This was strictly Jim's money. The negotiations began. Jo's lawyer asked for alimony and an unequal division of debt based on the huge difference in assets of the parties. The lawyer also advised that the chances for gaining these were "iffy" under Jo's circumstances. Jim instructed his attorney that, not only did he despise the idea of alimony, he wanted Jo to pay half of all credit card debts, notwithstanding the fact that he had so much more money.

As the negotiations went on, Jim nickled-and-dimed Jo to death. It was particularly divisionrankling that Jim insisted she pay a full one-half of the cruise cost since she had cautioned against it to begin with. Jim haggled with her over furniture items, demanding pieces that she knew he both had no use for and did not particularly like. He refused to pick up the rest of his personal belongings, leaving them for Jo to pack and store in the garage. Jo began to make plans to try to replace the living room furniture he seemed hell-bent to take. She worried about the girls having no sofa to sit on in their home.

In the end, Jim did not want to go to Court--Jo's attorney was able to make him feel that he would look like a huge heel under the circumstances, and he did not want to fade that heat. Jo received a settlement that allowed her to live in their home, Jim waiving his interest in the equity, but she would have to refinance it. Out of her share of his retirement,credit cards she "paid Jim back" for her one-half of all the credit card debt.   He wanted to be absolutely sure that Jo paid every cent of “her share” of the “marital debt.”

He let go of the furniture items he had worried Jo about; the haggling was clearly harassment. He refused to agree on paper to continue to help the girls through school, and Jo was told that the law won't make him do so. He indicated to them that he will still help, so long as they meet all his criteria. He has shown little interest in spending time with them. Time will tell.

In short, Jo has exited this marriage with barely enough. She will make it, but it won't be fun.

Jim, on the other hand, has a swank new apartment full ofrich brand-new furniture and a huge television in the living room.

Jo's attorney asked her at what point she realized that Jim was a man of such low character. Her answer: "The day he walked in and told me wanted a divorce. Before that, I never would have believed that Jim would do this to me."  This is a common lament…

Jo and her attorney both theorize that Jim was reasonably happy in his marriage. Until their cruise (after he became rich), Jo never had any other inkling. The money, however, and the freedom it brought made Jim begin to think about a life he could never have had before his inheritance. He simply chose the single life. The money became so very important to him as a symbol of this fantasy life, that he haggled and fought with Jo over any cent of it she might get in the settlement.

it's mine

It was the inheritance.

It's the only explanation Jo can come up with.

In case you doubt it, the story is true.  Learn what you will from Jo’s story.  You just never know.

--C

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