Riding Life!

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

Sunday, December 28, 2008

C: Christmas and Computer Crashes!

Excuses, excuses. Sorry there has been no post! First the holiday bustle, then my home computer crashed. I've always heard of these "crashes" but this is a first experience for me--not good! Anyway, after delay, let me give you the lowdown promised on my "big girl sleepover!"

We had a great time! This is going to be an annual event, I'm certain. We had two "newbies" in the crowd, so the evening meal and activities were a bit surface. Boy, by breakfast time had that ever changed! There's just something about a sleepover and arriving at breakfast table sleepy-eyed and with bed hair that breaks down walls. We sat--and this is quite literally--for three hours, making pot after pot of coffee and listening to the conversation deepening.

Several in our midst were going through "stuff" (including yours truly). There was no contrivance to the conversation, no steering, it just went. What happened was healing and helpful. Those of us who were in distress were able to speak about it and, lo and behold, what we found was that every, single person around the table had some experience that related to what we were discussing and a point of view to help. It was great!

My sleepover was meant to be just a fun get-together with good food and good fun and chick flicks (we watched "Where the Heart Is"), not the therapy session it turned into. But, you know, I just think that's a bonus! And it makes me want to shout out to all you cowgirls out there: "Don't forget your girlfriends--keep 'em close, because they understand!"

Now, for the cheap tricks I used (in addition to those nifty Dollar Tree martini glasses I posted about a couple weeks ago), check out the cheap tricks column on the right. These little items enhanced our little party immensely, although I'm sure those bellinis heightened our appreciation!

Happy Holidays to you all! - C

Monday, December 8, 2008

C: Sharing a "Good Deal!"

V and I have a wonderful group of friends with whom we regularly meet and swap commiseration. The core of this group is five of us who have known each other in excess of twenty years. I cannot tell you what a blessing this group is to me.
About five years ago we decided to meet regularly as a "book club," and we did, in fact, read for a while. Then the bottoms fell out of our lives, one by one. It is uncanny, really, how each of us experienced some pretty wrenching times, kind of all in a row. We abandoned literature in favor of tequila and beer, and we started meeting every couple of weeks at a local Mexican restaurant.
Last year I hosted all these girls, plus a few, in my home for a slumber party. We had such a good time, and it lasted well into the next day, so loathe were we to part company after such a time. We determined to make it a habit and here, a year later, we will meet next weekend for the "Second Annual." I can hardly wait.
No real preparations are required for this group; they just want the chance to be together. Still, I am excited so about it that preparations have been made anyway. You've heard it said that "the devil is in the details." Well, it's true, but it is also true that delight is in the details. This year I am pleased with those, although I can't share them with you just yet--some of my girls may read this and spoil my surprises!
But something that is not a surprise to anyone is that we need "special" glasses for our "special cocktails!" I went in search of martini glasses for my Christmasy table. Oh, my! Do you have any idea how much they want for one stem of these things! And I needed at least ten! I was about to give up when I happened into one of my favorite stores: The Dollar Tree.
How, on earth, I survived without this store is a mystery to me. I go there annually for the trinkets I give out on Christmas Eve (see traditions section in side bar for more on this). It was this purpose that drew me there this week, and what do you think I found? The photo above is one of the martini glasses I bought for a mere $1.00 apiece. It has a stylish, wavy stem in just the right shade of green for my table. I was so excited!
I will keep you posted on how the party goes and, after it is all over, will let you in on some of the fun things that made it "special." In the meantime, just a word to you: If you have a Dollar Tree in your neck of the woods, get over there! You'll be surprised at what you find. C 12/08/2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

C: A Chili Dog and Country Life

When John Denver wrote/sang, "Life in the farm is kinda laid back..." I'm afraid he did not know what he was talking about. Surely the only person who could intone these lyrics is a singer who can hire stuff done and then lie back around his country home, enjoying only the relaxing part. Believe me, there is another side...

In my own country world, there is always something that has been left undone: fences need mending (or the horses lead one on a harrowing chase), grass needs mowing, and electricity is sometimes missed. But it has its many, many moments of beauty. Just look at my horse, Bill, gazing out over our country place. In this picture, he embodies the nobility and serenity and peace of my life in the country.

And then there is Chili, the Belgian Malinois pictured above. He is my constant companion when I am home. Oh, he can be noble, too. Sometimes. But then there is today. See that picture of him? That little item lying just next to his crumpled rug is a freshly-found deer leg, left for him by a hunter, complete with hoof. Mmmmm, good (to canines, anyway).

I'm not real happy with the picture I took--it does not do this beautiful dog justice, but I had to take it through the glass of the laundry room door so that he wouldn't get up and the picture is a bit angled and narrow because I do not want you to see the absolutely total wreck he has made of this back porch! There was a bag of charcoal stored there (bad mistake), and it is now scattered everywhere amongst the shards of cardboard he dragged up and shredded--just so I'd have something to clean up, I suppose.

I don't mean to complain about Chili. You'll see more about his escapades in other writings because, believe me, there are plenty. He's an escapade kind of dog. Our other dog, Scout, the sheltie, rolls her eyes at his antics then fixes them on me as if to say, "Can you see what he is doing?"

I put this escapade-proneness down to Chili's intelligence, because he is one smart cookie. And he's just now a year old, so he has youthful exuberance that Scout has matured out of. He also has the run of the woods--must be heaven for a dog. We have the good fortune to live far off "real" roads and against acres and acres of woodland full of deer, so at night when he goes out or during the day while his mistress is at work, an exuberant, smart dog is bound to find treasures and trouble in the woods.

But back to the real topic: Country life. For all you city slickers who are sucked in by John Denver's classic fraud, let me give you a peek into my life. Just close your eyes and imagine...
  • Coming out your front door during hunting season and finding at your front door an entire bloody haunch of a deer--not this dainty morsel shown above;
  • Going five full days with no electricity;
  • Having to use a small pick axe to break up the grain in the cold winter time so you can scoop it out to feed (not to mention breaking the ice on the water troughs);
  • Knowing that your cats probably will not last long...except for Sasha, who has now lasted three years longer than her litter mates because she has the good sense to stay on the porch and not venture into coyote territory, which is only yards away.
I could go on about snakes, ticks and chiggers, grand-daddy-long legs; and these are the things that worry my city visitors most. Me, my biggest worries center on being a single woman with limited resources! Other women covet diamonds--I covet truck loads of fence posts I see going down the freeway! I haven't named my little farm, but "Constant Work" might be a contender for that title.

But weigh all that against my wide porches looking out at the woodland edge, hearing whippoorwills and watching grazing deer while I sip tea there. Or put it up against warm spring walks through the fields with ponies trailing along, occasionally tugging at my shirt for attention. Or how about finding a fallen log in "just the right shape" and getting your nieces to help you paint it as a "tree dragon," a little sculpture for visitors to your forest trail to come upon and enjoy.

When I first became single, everyone (including me) assumed I'd sell the place and get a postage stamp lot with house in the city--you know, something easy to maintain. As a matter of fact, for a while "easy to maintain" became a mantra among my family and friends for me. And I must admit that it sounds good to me sometimes, too. But when it is all said and done, I am a "country girl," and, now into my sixth month of singleness, I'm adjusting and learning to stand on my feet and, most of all I'm learning that I am, indeed, a country girl and that, man or no man, I can do this.

Besides, how could I subject Chili to subdivision life! Where would he get his fresh venison?--C 12/2/2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

C: Safari Decorating

I love animals; I love all kinds of animals! If you read this blog long enough, you are sure to see a lot of conversation about my cat, my two dogs and the two horses I have remaining from my herd of seven a year ago.
Besides my domestic menagerie, I have a penchant for African animals. My dream trip would be safari in Africa, seeing the great herds scattered across the savannah. Of course, I want the kind where the white-coated servants have the wine chilled when you return from photographing, and where there is turn-down service and hot water for a shower. Truthfully, any safari for me will likely remain a dream.
I love other wildlife, too. I read about grizzlies, I love tigers, and I think the American Bison is truly magnificent. The many times I visited Yellowstone, I never got jaded about Bison. They thrilled me no end every single time I came across them--which is a lot when you're in the park.

Now, this is going to feel like a change of subject to you, but bear with me: I am not a decorator. My house is usually passably clean (passably), but it will not ever make the pages of House Beautiful or the like. This is not because I don't appreciate beautifully-decorated homes; I do. It is because 1) I just, quite simply, don't have the time for the care required to achieve "the look;" and 2) My decorating is displaying things that are meaningful to me. Rarely (maybe never) will you catch me looking for decorative accessories. Those are compiled from things that my family has collected by hand-me-down or on trips and such; or they are just things I love.

So, back to animals. I have discovered two lines of animal figurines (toys) that just attract me like magnets. The brands are Schleich and Safari. I have a hard time passing them by in the toy store and in one big discount chain. In fact, in moments of high stress I have actually made a special trip a time or two to high-end toy stores just to get a "fix" (last fix consisted of a Baboon and an Okapi).

You know, I'm really too old to actually play with these, which made me think about what I do want to do with them. So, I thought, "You love them; display them!" And so I did, right in my hallway for all to see--as you, too, can see from this photo.

The reaction to my decorating idea has been varied. One of my best friends (not V, of course; she understands these things) was transparently put off by the whole thing: "But, they're toys!" She sniffed. "Are they rubber or what?"

My seven-year-old niece, on the other hand, was ecstatic. She gets them down and plays with them every time she comes over. The beauty of this is that I think of them as art, but they're rugged and practically indestructible (except, maybe for my Malinois' jaws, heaven forbid). My niece and I have worked out a system to soothe her covetness. She gets to take one of her choosing home with her each time, bringing it back to exchange for another. She does not yet know that she's getting her very own collection at Christmas. I cannot let that kind of appreciation go unrecognized.
I know my decorating is unorthodox, but you'd be surprised how much pleasure I get from these inexpensive animals! (See the matted and framed picture displayed with them--scissored out of a National Geographic! I fell in love with the picture of these little elephant baby friends). I have "nice" things, too, which usually translates into "expensive."

I guess you could put this article under our little section on "cheap tricks," and I probably will, now that I think about it. But "cheap" is just the wrong word in my opinion. They don't cost much, true; and the picture cost less than $3.00, including the frame. I just think we need to let the cost and orthodoxy things go by the wayside. My advice: display the things you love seeing when you walk into your home! It works for me! --C 11/29/2008 P.S. - If you love to read about animals, as I do, see my suggestions on our book lists. Also, see information on the animals on our "Cheap Tricks" section! Ungawa!

Friday, November 28, 2008

C: The Day After...Thanksgiving and the Power of Tradition

My son (my conscience) has me working out at the "Y" five days a week. Those of you who know me personally know what an accomplishment this is, as I hate physical exercise! I must admit, however, that it is making me feel better and better both physically and from that emotional lift of accomplishment. With the exercise has come a decreased appetite for junk food and overeating ("they" told me this would happen, although for me it is counterintuitive), and that has felt good too.

Why, oh why, then did I stuff myself crazily yesterday? Can't I enjoy Thanksgiving with family, be thankful and not overeat? Apparently not. After eating turkey, ham and all the trimmings plus two kinds of pie yesterday, my son and I climbed into the car bloated and sluggish as we have not been in months and slunk off from my brother's house. By the time I left the feast scene (leaving every scrap of what I had brought, knowing how dangerous leftovers are), I felt like I was fleeing.

Now I'm feeling set back in the self-righteousness I was achieving by my newfound physical consciousness. It has caused me to reflect on why I would do this when I could not claim to have been all that hungry and had been so proud of myself in my weeks-past diet.

I know why I did it. It isn't as simple as being a glutton who just loves food, although that shoe might fit. My real downfall yesterday was tradition. Almost all of us have traditions that include a Thanksgiving one. I have one friend who prides herself in her non-tradition of having chili every year instead of turkey. Sorry, baby, that's a tradition. Very few escape it, and those few are usually those we pity as lonely; and I think it is true that those who have no family to forge those Thanksgiving traditions are, indeed, the lonely among us. And, you know that it's true that part of Thanksgiving is the tradition of overeating. Every single person at the table where I dined yesterday spoke about how full they were getting, whether they were going "back for seconds," or how many of the desserts they might be having. We were consciously stuffing ourselves; it is part of Thanksgiving, a traditional feast day.

Those traditions are very hard to shake, not that many of us want to shake them. Obviously, I did not shake the feasting aspect in favor of healthful living--it would have been almost rude! And on the way home I had another little reminder of the power of traditions and the longing we have for them.

As we drove through the dark, my cell phone "dinged" and lit up. It was a text message from an old friend. This man and his family go back with ours for at least twenty years. He is someone my estranged husband and I see (separately now) maybe twice or three times a year. He and his family are good friends, but not weekly social friends.

This text was a Thanksgiving greeting but, more important to the sender, it was a message that my husband had called him to wish him happy Thanksgiving. Amazing. I think it was amazing to our friend, too, because it called for a communication with me. His text informed me that hubby had simply called to say "Happy Thanksgiving to your family," and that my friend had returned the sentiment to him. End of story.

I thought how odd this appeared on the surface. I don't remember my husband calling this family on Thanksgiving in the past, although it may be that they have joined us for the holiday once or twice, but not in a long, long time. They just have not been part of our Thanksgiving tradition, and I know from a recent conversation that my husband has not talked to this man in months. I also knew from just having hung up from a holiday conversation with my mother-in-law that he had not called to wish anyone on his side of the family a happy holiday, although he has acted badly toward them, as he has toward me, and those relations are currently strained.

Now, this is speculation on my part because I have realized months ago that I no longer understand anything in my husband's brain, but see if this makes sense to you: This is his first Thanksgiving with his half-his-age-live-in girlfriend. He is starting a brand new tradition. But there is that old one tugging at him, a powerful remembrance; at least it would be for me. It seems to me that reaching out to this friend was his way of touching that past tradition in the safest way he knew.

Why would it be this powerful? I believe it goes back to something about which I have written before: community and connection. Breaking bread together, especially in that spiritual context of giving thanks to God, is a unifying ritual and it is something we all need. We look forward to the feast because of that mystical forging of relationship and family, and it is hard to give up. During the emotional travail of my husband's leaving my family's traditions--such as yesterday's--have stood me in good stead. They have given me something grounded in a time when it seemed that life was reeling. So, from that perspective, I am going to have to come full circle and say that the feasting I did yesterday was, indeed, a healthy thing--notwithstanding the two kinds of pie...

So, today I am still thanking God. I am thanking Him for my plenty, and I am thanking Him for my family and our traditions that give us the sense of belonging and see us through awful times. And I am knowing that, now that the feasting day is over, it is back to the grindstone!! - C, 11/29/2008.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


First, the disclaimer: The women pictured to the right are not the "us" to whom I refer in this writing; they are professional models. In fact, they don't even remotely resemble most of us, who are life-worn rather than sleek models. But they appear to be girlfriends, and this is what the story is about. And, if I am going to illustrate while you can't really see me, I may as well plant a pleasant picture in your mind. Now, on to my story...

Last weekend on Sunday afternoon I threw what my mother calls a "hen party." This is rather pejorative-sounding, "hen party," but somehow it seems the right thing to call it. It refers to a gathering sans roosters, I suppose; a girlfriend party.

We had a blast. We rimmed our glasses with pink (!) sugar and made Bellinis out of fresh peach puree and champagne--strawberry puree for those who prefer (or want both! Why not?). We ate fancy, calorie-laden food that men eschew (pomegranate seed garnish, brie and artisan bread) and we dished about our lives, the lives of others, whatever came to our minds. The party started at 3 p.m. and the last guests left at 9:30 p.m. It was warm, comforting and laden with all the elements of community. I figure they all felt the same, or they would not have stayed so late! I loved it!

Predictably, and as the alcohol loosened everyone who started out wary around women they did not yet know, talk turned to the very important issue of men. As they talked, I did a quick poll. There were about 15 of us, and here is who was present around the room:

  • Woman No. 1 was on her second marriage, having come out of a first beaten up physically and beaten down emotionally. She walked out of that abusive marriage into a battle with cancer. She loves her kids unconditonally, and she is happy now--a heroine.
  • Woman No. 2 may be my biggest heroine. She was left with three kids and no heat in her home by her no-good husband . One of her children was stricken with cancer, which she had to face with him largely alone.
  • 3 was an innocent young 15-year old when she was seduced by a man ten years her senior. Her pregnancy brought about an unhappy marriage and tons of guilt to get over.
  • No. 4 just finished with her second divorce from a man who threatened to beat her--just as her first husband did. She had the great good sense to leave. Now alone, she concentrates on saving her two kids from the mess that her first husband is.
  • No. 5 is a woman in her mid-fifties, still married but only tentatively happy.
  • 6 is my mother. She was abandoned by my father after twenty years of maltreatment because of alcohol and a diagnosed narcissistic personality disorder (his).

I am going to stop the listing here--you've gotten the picture. I did not hand-pick these women for their unhappiness in love life. No, I'm afraid these are representative of a large portion of American womanhood. It struck me--as well as it did V, who was also there--that out of fifteen women, there were only three who were still married to the husbands of their youth. Incredible. This is an amazing illustration to me as to where our society is headed, and I don't think it is good for anything except my business as a divorce attorney.

Another thing this gathering illustrated for me is the steadfastness of motherly love--hardly ever do you see mothers abandon their children; far less so than fathers. Every one of these girls would fight tooth and toenail for any of their kids or their kids' education or their kids' advancement of any kind.

And, maybe most important of all, it illustrated for me how important we women are to each other. We somehow understand each other on a level that cannot be explained. It is, I daresay, the shared wisdom of womanhood gleaned down through the ages. We innately know about each other and what each other is going through and what each other feels.

I'm sure men have their parallel to this comraderie, but I'm thinking it just isn't the same. We women don't seem to be in competition with each other the way I imagine men together are; no tooting of one's own horn. Instead, there is the shared suffering of watching kids screw up; the worry of how to afford the yearbook; and--last, but certainly not the least--the woes of relationships with men.

I recently re-watched the movie Steel Magnolias, which so richly depicts that special relationship among women friends. Warning: I may be about to spoil, here, for those who haven't seen the movie, but I'm on a roll and forging right ahead. At the end of the movie, after the funeral, M'Lynn (the mother) is left standing at graveside, and it's her women friends who remain with her. M'Lynn's husband and two sons love her and are grieving for Shelby, but they have walked off, as if they did not know what else to do and, certainly, they did not know what to say to M'Lynn. It becomes clear that there is a part of M'Lynn's grief that they cannot share and, in fact, a part of Shelby that they never reached. They are, after all, male.

But the women who surrounded M'Lynn and Shelby all their lives understood M'Lynn's grief, and they knew Shelby woman-to-woman, which is a different thing from the man-woman relationship. This is one of those movies that women should have to watch annually or so because it so emphasizes the importance that we women are, one to another.

My little gathering included some of my own "Steel Magnolias," and it lifted me up! Ah, the warm glow of a hen party...it just can't be beat~I must say, I love and cling to my girlfriends. GO, HENS!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

C: Poor Me!

I have been plagued with pink eye for about four days now. I've been working through it, explaining to clients that my refusal to shake their hands is out of consideration for their own eyes; trying to convince them that, no, I have not been on a three-day drunk. If that were the case then, surely, both eyes would be equally bloodshot. It's been okay, but certainly I have not been working up to par.

In addition to having a watery, itchy, sore, unsightly left eye, I am also feeling very like flu coming on. It is that achy feeling riding just beneath the surface of the skin. Still, duty calls, and I have gamely persevered through work--until yesterday.
Yesterday morning I had a short hearing in a court two counties away which means a little over an hour's drive. When I arrived, the usual schmoozing lawyers were gathered in the judge's chambers to preview the docket and glad hand and gossip. I walked in and "Whoa!" was the exclamation. Someone said, "Who clobbered you?"

"Pinkeye," I replied, and they all shrank back. (Sissies, every one).

"Aren't you a bit old for this?" one of them said, "I mean, we used to worry about this when my kids were in daycare."

"I quite agree that I am too old," I replied, "But I'm suffering--and I do mean suffering--with it, nevertheless." I reached for a tissue from the box on the judge's desk. "Is it me, or is it cold in here?" I asked. It was true that outside it was chilly--had hit the freezing mark the night below, but I was assured that it was toasty to everyone else. Bad sign.

By the time I waited through the cases scheduled ahead of me and then did the song-and-dance of my own case, I was feeling really, really bad. My client was a dear, and she said, "You need to go to the walk-in clinic down the street." She gave me directions, I called the office to say I would be later than expected, and went in search of medical aid.

Yep, my self-diagnosis was correct. I had pinkeye. I also had a touch of fever and the nurse noticed enough to ask, "Are you having some chills?" Truthfully, I felt like hell and, thanks to my eye, looked like hell as well.

Her advice: "Go home. Warm, wet compresses on the eye. Use these drops. Just relax, get some rest and see if you can ward off the cold that is threatening to come on you."

I called in to cancel my appointments for the afternoon and made a beeline for home. I had sweet visions of warm comforter on the couch, having the illicit enjoyment of watching Oprah for once, and just resting. It was not to be.

When I got to the house, it was like a refrigerator. The heat was off. Heck, it was warmer outside than it was inside. We had had a little stumble with it earlier in the week, but the repairman (a neighbor) had come in and pronounced it fixed. Now what? I put on fuzzy pajamas, socks, fuzzy house shoes, and two robes and began to try to reach my repair man, to no avail.

I sat on the couch pondering my next move, warm enough, okay, but certainly not lolling in recuperative relaxation as I had imagined. Nothing to do but wait on the repairman's return call. I flicked on the television for diversion. MSNBC was giving out their usual election predictions ad nauseum, and I had just about decided to turn the channel in search of something salacious when blink! all went dead. No power. (We're in the country, remember. At the "end of the line").

Well, here I was: red eye, achy body, freezing house, no electricity. And alone. I was feeling very, very, very alone. This is the time when single life sucks. I imagined my husband and his little tart going about their day with the modern conveniences of electricity and a source of heat. It made me mad all over again--these are the dangerous times in domestic travail.

I built a fire in the fireplace (do you know how little that dents a thoroughly-chilled house?). There was not light enough near the fire to read. I had a choice: sit by the window and freeze while I read or be warm by the fire with nothing to do but dwell on my situation and the sorry man who had left me to deal with it alone. It was really boring and really depressing.

Just when I thought about option three, which was redressing and getting into my warm car and going to the office, the lights mysteriously came back on. And with them came the heat! Ah, glorious heat!

The phone rang. It was the repairman. He was just certain that it was working well--maybe I just had not set the thermostat right (insert tap dance here). Anyway, it's working now--I could just call him if I had any more trouble.

What is the point of this little essay? Well, obviously, to moan about the sad state of affairs I was in yesterday and rake up any sympathy I might get from you. It feels good to moan to whomever might read this. But, really, I want to share it because I know, beyond doubt, that there are others out there in cyberspace who feel the kind of aloneness I felt yesterday. Life is so very much easier when you have a life partner at your side. Even if you can't change the circumstances immediately (snap the fingers and the house is warm, for instance), you have someone in it with you. If you, too, are "single again," then you identify, and I want you know that I identify with you. And if you ever feel like moaning to me, well send those comments--I'm all ears and sympathy! And it's really cheap therapy.

My son came home to a warm, inviting house and a mother not-quite-up-to-snuff, but better than she was a couple of hours before. "It's going to hit freezing again, Mom," he said. "Let's have a fire in the fireplace!" He proceeded to lay in the logs and we had a cozy evening at home, early to bed for ailing me.

It is now 5:10 a.m. There is no heat in my home. It stopped again somewhere in the dead of night. It is 35 degrees...think I ought to wait an hour to call my repairman? Nah!! - C 10/29/08 P.S. That hair dryer is going to feel mighty good. It's the little things...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

C: Only Child

When my husband and I married, he was 20 and I was 18. Like almost everyone that age, we were full of dreams and ideas about what life would look like for us in the upcoming years. None of these dreams and ideas looked bad--we had only "good" dreams of success. No one plans to have failures.

One element of our initial plan was that we would have no children. We were wildly in love and very ambitious. We were both in college, working a full-time job. We were busy, mainly with school and carefree fun--unfettered by diaper-changing or trying to arrange babysitting we could not afford. Both of us had our eyes on prizes. I knew graduate school of some kind was in my future (although the law school idea came on me about the time I graduated from college). My husband never finished his degree, but plunged into the entrepreneurship which would become his hallmark. He was successful at it in the sense that his whole adulthood he was able to work at things about which he was momentarily passionate. Unfortunately, the financial success of this lifestyle was not so great. But we were footloose and fancy free for the most part, and it suited us.

And then, along about our late twenties, that old biological urge to reproduce our own came upon us. It especially hit my husband with a near-panic spin, and when we did not get pregnant immediately upon trying (we were kinda used to immediate gratification), he took himself right off to the doctor and had a little minor surgery to correct some things. Bingo! Right at eleven years after we married, our only child was born. He was, and remains, an absolute delight. In fact, he was so delightful that we decided not to take any further precautions so we could have more. It never happened again, and we have an only child who is now a single, wonderful young man. Raising him was great. We took him everywhere with us and, although we would have welcomed other children, we often regaled the benefits of having one child. We were able to make him the center of our universe.

Fast forward twenty-seven years. When I was 55 and he was 57, my husband began an affair with a twenty-nine year old he met on his distant job. She was young, beautiful, and badly in need of the rescuing my husband specializes in--she had two illegitimate children by a man who was married to someone else. My husband decided this was a better deal for him (which was absolutely all that mattered to him--hang the effect on anyone else in the family). He left me high and dry, moving his cutie and the kids right into a home with him before a divorce action was even filed. Mind you, this woman is about three years older than our son, which compounded the pain to him and me. It was a devastating time for me, full of fear and insecurity.

And this is where my family stepped in. I have one brother and one sister, and we all work together every day. We have our squabbles and our tensions. We know each others' foibles and those of their spouses and kids--you know, the eye-rolling things we all whisper about. But, still, I'd say we're pretty close, and in the shock of my husband's midlife crisis, they really, really stepped up to the plate for me. One thing I was not in all of this was alone. I had lots of friends who gathered around me, my in-laws fairly shouted that I would not be allowed to leave their "side" of the family after forty years, and my siblings were always right there.

The other night, midweek, I went by to see my mother, who lives in a senior apartment complex near to my brother. While I was there my son called. He was just finishing up work, and when he found that I was at "Granny's," he said, "Stay there; I'm on my way!" He is such a delight like that.

We stayed and visited with Gran and decided we would all drive the short trip up to my brother's house, where we sat on their patio and sipped margaritas and ate a burger. It turned into a spontaneous family "do," and we had a wonderful time. The family-aura euphoria--that wonderful sense of belonging--was so palpable when we dropped Gran back off that my son said, "Mom, I'd like to just ride home with you and talk if it would not be too much trouble for you to drop me off to get my car at Gran's in the morning." I was glad for it.

All of this made me think about my brother and sister, and the solace I find in them especially now that my husband has taken a powder. And, of course, I think about my son, who has no brothers or sisters. To whom will he turn when I am gone? He maintains a relationship with his father, but it is strained, and the respect element has been a bit tarnished. Besides, his father has his focus on others and we are all betting that there will be a baby sometime soon because using babies to try to solidify relationship is such a strong pattern in this woman's life. Where does that leave my son?

I had always counted on my husband being with me the full range of our lives. Those initial dreams I mentioned at the beginning of this writing did not include abandonment by either of us. It was totally unexpected, even by me, who has practiced divorce law for nearly thirty years, and it made me realize that there is very little one can truly count on in life.

But what has remained for me is that blood family thing (and my in-laws, who feel "blood" after all these decades). They are always, always, always there for me and, when we fight, we know it's temporary.

So, those of you who have siblings, honor that relationship and cultivate it. And, those of you planning your future right now, think about the advantage of having multiples--not singles--as a hedge for your kids against aloneness in their future. Believe me, it is a sobering thought. I am grateful for my family.--C 10/16/08

Sunday, September 28, 2008

V: The Empty Chair: Part l: Paul Newman and my dad

I felt sad when the news anchor broke in to announce that Paul Newman died a few weeks ago. Shortly after, my youngest daughter called to be sure I had heard the sad news. "He reminded me of grandaddy", she said. Yes, he reminds me of my father too. The same coloring, silver hair, blue eyes, handsome features, and athletic grace. My dad was pretty "cool" too. He was a pool player extraordinaire who had played with the best of them - Minnesota Fats and Fast Eddie of The Hustler movie fame. Fast Eddie was the best according to my authority! He loved that movie and even more the Paul Newman/Tom Cruise movie, The Color of Money. When my dad passed away, there were people lined up wanting to buy his custom made pool cue, which of course my mother would never sell! I'm exaggerating just a little! lol

Now it may sound contradictory to say that someone who hung out at the pool hall was a gentlemen. I conjure up imaginations of a smoky, sleazy atmosphere, and it is definitely a man's domain. No question about that! Women do not hang out at real pool halls! My dad started hanging out at the local pool hall after school when he was sixteen, because he worked there. Probably not the best place for a teenage boy to be he later told me. When my dad told my mom with his customary "wink" that he was going to the office, we all knew he meant the pool hall. I recall a few times when mom took my sister and I shopping downtown and needed to get in touch with him. We would walk to the pool hall and she would open the door just a bit and motion to the nearest man to fetch my dad. Hearing a few chuckles of laughter as someone went to get him I remember peering into the dark, smoky, mysterious room, waiting for dad to come to the door. Years later, newly married and working downtown, my car wouldn't start. This was long before cell phones, and I walked to the pool hall to see if my dad's car was there. It was. So, I went into the furniture store across the street. I walked up to the salesmen and said: "My car won't start, and my dad is in that pool hall across the street. Can I use your phone to call him"? They were greatly amused!

There were other "perks" to being the daughter of a pool shark. In the sixties and seventies, dad would often win anything from $40. to $100. on a good day--the days off from his "regular job" at the newspaper. This was tax free money since it was under the table, so although we were never rich by any means, and we took few vacations or trips, there was always eating out money and my mom never had to work. When I was in high school, dad opened up a neighborhood recreation center with pin ball machines and six pool tables. So every guy in town wanted to play pool with my dad! I'll bet you can guess where C and I spent all our free time! My dad owned our hangout place!

When dad died 17 yrs. ago at the age of 69, an old lady in her late eighties accompanied her grandaughter to the funeral home to pay her respects. She had never met my father herself, but she stood with me at the casket and said to me "my your father was a handsome man". In the midst of grief, I had to smile to myself, because although dad was charming in many ways, he was also reserved and just a little vain! He knew he was handsome. Everyone told him he was his entire life, so he just knew it! He had a way of winking when he laughed,so even though he wasn't even conscious of it, he looked like a flirt! Women loved him, though he was shy and always faithful to my mother. You see, although he was gifted in many ways, my father and grandmother had been abandoned by his father before his birth, so he never quite accepted that he was good enough.

When dad was 9 yrs. old, my grandmother remarried to a man she admittedly did not love. Both of her parents had died by the time she was 30 and they were left alone at the family farm. My grandmother's brothers had already moved to town. She told me that she felt she had no choice because she was stuck out on the farm and she thought her son needed a father figure. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith wasn't the best father figure. On one occasion when my grandmother wasn't home, he beat my dad with a chain because he forgot to feed the pigs. My grandmother told him if he ever laid a hand on him again, he was out for good. One afternoon when my dad was 13 yrs. old, my grandmother had gone to town to shop she was contacted by the police to come pick her son up at the station because her husband had shot his business partner and killed him, supposedly in self defense. My father was alone at the house and unaware of anything that had happened, but the police went to the house and found him and did not want to leave him alone out there in the country. My grandmother packed Mr. Smith's bags and that was the end of him in their lives. She moved to town where she bought a small bungalow and got a job with the county as a Home Extension Agent. Mr. Smith never went to trial because his brother-in-law was the Governor of Arkansas and kept delaying the trial until the statute of limitations ran out. Because she was working, she relied on her brother and his family to help out, so my dad spent a lot of time with his three cousins and partners in playing hookey and pool. To nip it in the bud, my grandmother paid a teacher friend to take him to school with her out in the country where they had lived before moving to town. So that squelched the playing hookey routine! My dad once told me that although his cousins were more like brothers, he also felt that they felt sorry for him because he had no father around.
In his early twenties, dad joined the navy during WWII and spent 4 years in the South Pacific on an aircraft carrier. He had pretty much raised himself and never gave my grandmother any real trouble. His letters reveal a good son always concerned for his mother. So it may sound silly, but whenever I see a Paul Newman movie, or catch a glimpse of an older man with silver hair out of the corner of my eye, I always think of my dad. - V

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

C: Power Woman Update

Bear with me, here: FYI, I have learned to bushhog!! It was great fun, although the pasture does not look as good as it did when my wayward husband used to do it. I must say that, while it was fairly easy, I had a moment on a hillside when I thought I was going to tump over and realized I could kill myself in a heartbeat on this thing...must not go on hills horizontally! I am working on my farmer's tan, too.

To be fair to myself about how the job looked, I must say that the grass had grown over my head in places and I am not yet skilled in getting around trees, etc., although I am getting there. I think the next bushhogging will make the place look decent. I was running low on fuel and have to get diesel before continuing. I can't believe I'm buying diesel--this is way out of my bailiwick, but I'm adapting.

I also have learned how to air up the tractor tire with a compressor (!!!) and, when I found the tractor battery was dead, I charged it up all by myself!!! Of course it took almost an hour for me to find the battery and then I just took a freakin' chance on how to hook up the charger. (Did you know if you let the end parts of the charger cords touch, that sparks fly everywhere??! I didn’t—I do now…). I got the charger to work--I guess I didn't go to college for nothing. I am quite pleased with myself. Can you tell? (It's the little things).

For you males reading this, remember that mechanical know-how is transmitted to you genetically--I, being female on the other hand, had to discover it. My son gets credit here for some instruction on bushhogging and trying to talk me through the battery thing over the phone.

I could not resist e mailing my husband and telling him that I had given him way too much credit over the years, while I thought he was out there working his butt off on the tractor (and he worked that angle for all it was worth). Not only is the tractor not rocket science (it was always mysterious to me...the mysterious tractor...) but it has made me realize that there are only two things he can do that I can't: 1) pee standing up and 2) abandon his family responsibilities. Thankfully, I don't wish to do either. (My friend, Dee, points out that he can stand up and pee neatly, which really is the only difference…a valid point).

Was it mean that I said that to him? It is true. And I don't care if it was mean. I got meaner and told him that I realized that my only problem with the tractor was unfamiliarity--that just having a little information made the process easy. That it would be like asking him to take no-good deadbeats to court for failing to live up to their court-ordered obligations--hard for him to do because he doesn't know how; easy for me--a divorce lawyer--and almost as much fun as bushhogging. He will understand the reference: he still owes me money from July and there is a plethora of obligations under our agreement he has totally ignored.

Anyway, tractoring has been rather empowering. Just thought I'd share the moment. When I sent her this little essay, a young newly-divorced friend replied, "Hey! Not that this compares, but I did feel rather like a big girl getting my own car tags yesterday, and updating my insurance, etc.. I am kind of amazed at how scared I have been of doing simple things. Maybe men tell us we can't do things by ourselves because they are afraid we would take the world over if only we knew how capable we really are." Oh, yeah, girlfriend, you are so right.

Amazing what broadening one's horizon's can do for one's spirits and confidence and, to paraphrase Dorothy, "You don't have to look any farther than your own back yard!" - C

PS - I'm thinking of starting a "learn-to-tractor-power-course for women..."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

V: Cowgirls Forever!!

So we fifty-something cowgirls had just turned three-years old when we first met. Alas, I am the older, by exactly one month! My parents had built a new house in a new neighborhood, like so many neighborhoods of the mid-fifties fashioned for World War II veterans with growing young families. Both of our dads were members of that "greatest generation," Navy veterans of the South Pacific theatre.

I remember our parents were visiting at the edge of our adjoining properties as C's house was still in the building phase. Her mom was holding her baby brother and somehow we both ended up on my new swingset. There began a lifelong friendship so unusual today as neighbors move off and lose touch in our fragmented society.

We galloped all over that neighborhood, because it was some years later that people began putting up fences. Red haired Randy lived up the street and we all played together, although I do not recall that the boys in the neighborhood ever rode stick horses. Seems that being horse crazy was a girl thing. Randy's hero was Davy Crocket, king of the wild frontier, and often we would awaken as we heard him singing that song at the top of his lungs in our backyard early in the morning. He even wore a coonskin cap atop his carrot top head! But we cowgirls loved everything western too! We pretended to be Annie Oakley (that's her picture here with this post), toting our pistols, charging around in our cowboy boots (mine were red with spurs), and fringed skirts, vests and hats. Late afternoons brought reruns of Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers on the black and white television. The shows alternated being shown on different days. C's favorite was Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans. My favorite was Gene Autry, the singing cowboy who my dad took me to see at the rodeo when I was five years old. C and I would fight and argue about who was best.

We spent carefree summers running barefoot through the grass, playing outside in the hot afternoons, coming in to eat dinner and running out again to catch fireflies in jars with holes punched through the lid with an ice pick. When we were called in for bathtime, the creases in our necks would be lined with dirty sweatbeads. One summer we found a horned toad in C's front yard, and we took him to the zoo to live! Oh, and I can never forget the time when both our mothers went to the grocery store together. As C and I raced out of the store to see who could get to the larger mechanical horse first with our dimes, my big toe got stuck in the electric door. Really stuck! Bystanders pulled and tugged with no success. A crowd gathered; the manager appeared with our mothers and after much strenuous pulling, my toe was finally released with barely a bruise. Still our moms decided that this warranted a trip to the doctor and an x-ray which revealed no permanent damage.

It was at this same grocery store that a real elephant was brought in for children to ride. Her name was Topper as she was named for Top Value stamps that shoppers collected to redeem for various gifts. C and all the neighborhood kids had been able to ride the elephant, and I wanted to ride her so badly, I threw a fit at the store. My dad said that elephants were dangerous, unpredictable, wild animals and all it would take was for a car to backfire to send that elephant charging through the parking lot trampling everyone, so he refused let me ride and would not relent despite my pleas. Because of the fit, I was promised a spanking when I got home. My dad later said that he would have forgotten all about it, but I begged all the way home to not get the spanking, so he HAD to follow through. So I never got to ride an elephant, but I STILL want to!

Growing up in the fifties, was carefree in a lot of ways, but not perfect. All families have their problems, and ours were no different in that respect, but it was a different time. Most mothers in our neighborhood stayed home and raised their own children - and in some ways it was " like a village". Neighbors looked after each other more and helped supervise each others children. Our mothers took their iced tea out into the backyard and visited as they hung out the daily wash, and we children played under their watchful eye. No, I do NOT want to go back to no dryer or air conditioner, but in many ways it was a simpler time and children benefited from a slower pace and homecooked meals eaten at a table set with real dishes with an entire family sitting around it.

A lifelong friendship is a rare thing today. The good fortune to reap the blessings of a friendship based on trust, shared history and common interests such as reading, history, religion, a good margarita, and a love of animals, especially horses! Forever friends; forever cowgirls!

C: Can I Get You Something for that Headache? (or, Found: "Happy Pills")

This morning was take-out-the-trash day. This is a chore that I have been accustomed to leaving to hubby or my son. Since neither of them is here any longer, it falls to moi! I was determined to do my duty!

Of course, duty can get in the way. I had a 9:30 a.m. appointment—no problem; I had plenty of time. That is, no problem until you factor in my “dutiful” (new) exercise regime. I got out and did a brisk walk. It was invigorating! It ran me late…

I dressed in my lawyer clothes, congratulating myself on remembering the trash, a task I normally manage to repress. I went out with the first bag (yes, there were multiples, being the trashy person that I am) and stowed it in the “way back” of my little SUV. I left the back door open and went in for more. As I returned, my heart warmed; there was my Chili (one of my dogs, a Belgian Malinois), laid up in the back of the car.

“Awwww,” I thought. “Poor Chili wants to go for a ride! How sweet!” Then I noticed the bottle.

Lying on the ground behind the car was the Tylenol bottle that had been rolling around in the “way back.” For weeks I had been meaning to bring it in and take it to V, out of whose purse it had come. I had pitched it to the back from the beverage holder in the front, intending to retrieve it later, so I knew it had been least half full…not any more.

The bottle lay there, chewed to a plastic smithereens. I searched the gravel of the driveway—no Tylenol pills were to be found; not a single one. There could be only one explanation: they now lay in Chili’s stomach.

I was alone. On my on. Late for work. Knowing I had work piled up and a client on the way. There was no husband to call and either help me or lend a listening ear and give advice. No, it was just me.

Now, I know this sounds suspiciously like whining, and that’s probably because whining is just exactly what it is! Nevertheless, let me just say that there is great comfort in at least having someone who is “yours” to call and say things like, “You’re not going to believe what Chili has done…What on earth am I going to do now!?”

The question would have been rhetorical. Of course there was but one thing to do, and I certainly don’t need a husband to help me figure that out. It’s just the connection thing. I could have called my sister or brother or my best friend but, somehow, it’s just not the same. This is one of the aspects of single life I’m not liking.

I eyed the dog. Maybe he would be okay…but what if he was not okay? I love Chili. He had been my emotional salvation. He is beautiful, smart, noble and loyal—much more loyal, in fact, than the scumbag husband who had betrayed me—Chili would never have done that! No, I could not take a chance on my Chili dog! I called the vet and in a few minutes we were on our way to the dog equivalent of the ER.

Chili was elated! He was on a road trip! The elation was not to last.

When we went in, Dr. Peck was ready with a large syringe and a huge bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which he began to force down Chili’s throat. Chili was horrified and begged me with his eyes, with his paws, with his body language to intervene and stop this torture! He was so big and so uncooperative that he had to be sedated, but this only after I had managed to wrench my knee while trying to hold him still.

Finally, and quite without so much as a burped warning, Chili vomited—just what we had been waiting for! Unfortunately, it was projectile and aimed right at the object of his affection and petition for relief—me. My suit was ruined. For the day at least.

Dr. Peck, out of the three of us, was the only one really pleased. Now that Chili had regurgitated, he was finished! I was too, in a sense.

We went home so that I could turn my mischievous dog out to run and change my soiled clothes. In spite of it all, I managed to make it on time to the office…only to be stood up by the new client.

The morals (multiple) of the story for me:

1) I don’t need a man to help me decide to take the damned dog to the ER;

2) Not having a man to whimper to when life gets bumpy is not really such a big deal;

3)And now for the combo epiphany: You can only be where you are; don’t sweat the small stuff. Where I was that morning was running late and encountering unexpected roadblocks. There was nothing I could do about it once in the midst of the situation. What I learned: relax, find the way as best you can and don’t sweat it. My near-tardiness did not matter one whit—the client did not even show.

Maybe, just maybe, I can manage to manage myself without the dishonest betrayer I used to be married to—actually I already knew this. My yearning to reach out to him was mere pattern I had developed in our 38 years of marriage. The real epiphany is that with each little victory, like this one, I realize more and more that he was a habit, not a need for happiness. And this is making me happier and happier! - C

Saturday, September 6, 2008

C Answers the Initial Question: "What's the Stick Horse Thing?"

A few days ago a good friend e mailed me one of those questionnaires. You've seen hundreds of them; I usually pass them by. But this was a good friend sending it to me, and it was one of those days. I "bit" and answered the questions, forwarding it on per the instructions. It turned out to be great fun as all my "forwards" sent their answers right back, and I enjoyed reading them.

One of the questions was, "What was your favorite childhood toy?" I did not even hesitate: mine was my stick horse! From age three to about ten (probably older!) I had a whole stableful of stick horses. I had the luxury models with the plush on the outside, and I had the plastic-headed kind (these "mid-levels" were usually either white or red, as I recall). Those two models had reins: a distinct plus! These were the days before stick horses came with sound capability; all our horses' whinnies and snorts had to come through our lips!

But the stick horse that flashed through my mind as I typed my answer to the questionnaire was just a plain old broomstick with the bristle end sawed off by my dad. V lived right next door to me, and she always had one, too (wouldn't have been any fun, otherwise). The one I recall was a gold color, and his name was "Cimarron"; V's was green and answered to "Gypsy."

I grew up later to be a "real" horsewoman, but that stick horse may have been the most versatile mount I ever rode. V and I would meet in the mornings, saddle up, and ride for hours, stopping for drinks from our water jars in the fridge and for lying on our backs in the cool clover patches, letting our stick horses rest as we looked at the summer clouds above.

Our stick horses were not perfect, mind you. They actually sometimes bucked out of friskiness (never meanness--they were our great friends!), and there were times that an imaginary rattlesnake would cause one or both to snort and shy. These only served to demonstrate our equestrienne skills, and any tumbles V or I took fit neatly into the plot of the play that was spinning out in our yards. There were episodes, for example, where one of us was badly injuried, requiring that the other gallop off for help or throw a rope down the well to pull the other up. The possibilities were endless!

V and I never tired of galloping our stick horses. We would do it day after day, our mothers occasionally calling us in for grilled cheese sandwiches or a mid-afternoon snack of watermelon or an ice cream bar purchased from the melodic ice cream truck that came by each afternoon.

As I look around me now, I realize that for many children those are bygone times. They have fancy-schmancy stuff to occupy them these days: I-pods; electronic game devices; video contraptions--all going wherever they go! How deprived our childhood would look to these techno-kids. We never had these bells and whistles of childhood; my fondest memory was a bare stick! But, on the other hand, sitting on the couch on a fine summer's day would have been a punishment to V and me. Heck, we had horses to exercise!

I cannot help but think that those hours-upon-hours of free-form play with the barest of props were healthy and important. They kept us in tiptop shape (no couch-potato flab on us back then!). Certainly they forged a lifelong friendship for me that is of inestimable value and may have really saved my life in recent months. Many times since our adulthood V has thrown a lasso down to me and pulled me out of a well of despair--just as she practiced doing all those years ago in our heavenly summers together.

So, when that questionnaire basically asked about my fondest childhood memory, what immediately flashed were Cimarron and Gypsy and V. All of us living the magical life of childhood to the fullest.

When V came to me with the blog idea, I knew I wanted to do it. When we considered a name for ourselves, good old Cimarron was fresh on my mind and when I mentioned it to V, she said, "Yes! You and I will always be 'Stick Horse Cowgirls!'" C.
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