Riding Life!

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stickhorse Cowgirl "V": A True Horror Story

I've been meaning to write this story for a long time, but to be truthful, the whole story with all the disturbing memories gives me a major case of the willies, because it involves someone who was a part of our family for several years.

  Sometime in 1956, my paternal grandmother married a 60 yr. old batchelor against my father's wishes.  In fact, my grandmother did not even announce the event until it was over because I'm sure she  knew my dad would object.  He did not "hate" my grandmother's new husband, and there was always a polite, cordial relationship on the surface, but Mr. Cooper was more than just a little strange.  This old newspaper clipping  was the public announcement of this marriage.

Mr. Cooper was dignified and refined in manner with a somewhat austere countenance.  He was also impeccable in dress and I especially remember that he always seemed to be "dressed up" and he wore long silky black socks that seemed a little weird to me.  He also had a penchant for bourbon in expensive crystal decanters.

  I recall him lifting my sister and me up in the air, but neither of us felt comfortable in his presence. We were just a little afraid of him.  He rarely visited our home because we had a pet  who just happened to be a black cat named Marianne and Mr. Cooper was superstituous to the extreme.  Black cats were bad luck and he would turn the car around rather than let one cross his path if he could help it. On the rare occasions he did visit, we locked the cat in my parent's bathroom.  Mr. Cooper was the only child of a prominent family.  His father was a dentist and  he maintained a close relationship with his widowed mother, never marrying while she was still alive. Red flag#1!  Right? 

Mr. Cooper was particular and controlling about everything in their home.  I always loved the beautiful antique carved walnut settee and chair, covered in deep blue velvet upholstery which he had inherited from his mother.  Their modest bungalow on North Taylor St. had a large dining room with a beautiful cherry china cupboard full of Grandmother Elsie's crystal goblets and silver and Mr. Cooper's Haviland china  with which the table was set for all the holiday dinners.  These dinners revealed another peculiar eccentricity of Mr. Cooper.  The food had to be cooked just so--and he preferred it overdone! His favorite summer squash was preferred to be served slightly scorched--and my grandmother told us that on one occasion when it was not cooked to his liking, he jumped up in a rage and tossed it out in the yard.  Although he occasionally revealed his peevish side in our presence, he saved his raging temper tantrums for my grandmother and her housekeeper who once fled the home when he began crashing the crystal goblets and destroyed some of her jewelry with a hammer.  This tirade ended when he pushed my grandmother down the front steps causing deep bruises which I will never forget.  He was livid with jealousy because he had learned that my grandfather who was her first husband was visiting our home.  The crystal goblets he destroyed were a gift from my grandfather's sister.  Some years later when we perused old photos of my grandmother's albums, we discovered to our dismay that he had scratched out her face in the treasured photo of her high school basketball team. 

One of the good memories of visiting my grandmother's home during that period is that Mr. Cooper often went duck hunting in the fall and it is then when I would go to spend the night with her.  Special breakfasts of cinnamon toast made with thick slices of " homemade" bread from Frank's Bakery and served with real cocoa to drink, and dessert of partially frozen raspberries with Lucky Whip topping were special treats I only had on these rare overnight visits.  Mr. Cooper also had a speckled bird dog, Frisco, who was gentle and frisky and I loved to play with him.  Unfortunately, Mr. Cooper showed his true colors, being a overbearing, mean dog owner who had to show his dog who was boss. Red flag #2 Beware of men who are mean to animals!

 Grandmother Elsie had been self sufficient for years, having raised my father mostly by herself, and she was not one to tolerate bad treatment for long.  Soon before the domestic violence incident, she had discovered that Mr. Cooper was consulting a "fortune teller" who had told him about a large sum of money and jewelry buried in a cemetery.  When she discovered that he had actually been probing around that cemetery, she left and moved in with us until she could move  into a rent house she owned.  Except for my dad, we were all afraid of what Mr. Cooper might do.  Mother was certain he was watching our house.  I remember being afraid to go to bed at night because my mother wasn't one to consider that it might frighten children to announce that Mr. Cooper was crazy and might kill us all!!!

 Well, we all survived the domestic drama and it wasn't too many years later that we learned that Mr. Cooper had married again to a wealthy society woman.  Imagine our shock when in the late l960's we read in the paper that Mr. Cooper had been murdered by this new wife in a murder/suicide!!  My grandmother was greatly troubled by the news and even attended the funeral for Mr. Cooper, I suspect mainly due to curiosity rather than respect.  His neighbor commented to her at the service that Mr. Cooper was the most evil man he ever met.  Caveat#3 Run as fast as you can away from anyone consulting fortune tellers and probing around cemeteries!!!

One of the most disturbing aspect of the shocking news was the violent way in which Mr. Cooper met his end.  We knew the charming side, but beneath that cool demeanor, there lurked a dark, disturbed side which apparently drove a woman to commit murder and suicide.  Why did she not just leave like my grandmother did?  She had plenty of money and was an only child herself with an elderly mother dependent on her.  Was it really a suicide and not a double murder?  The fact that there were notes left concerning disposition of personal affairs does seem to support the suicide, but who on earth could smother themself with a plastic bag over their head?!!!  "C" surmised as we discussed it recently that she must have sedated herself.  Obviously all this speculation is a mystery that no one will ever know the answer to.

 I recently decided to drive by the home where this terrible event occurred.  It is a  beautiful home in a lovely older neighborhood where property values have increased greatly through the years.  It is such a gorgeous place, that you would never dream that something so sordid and horrible occured in the upstairs bedrooms.  I do know that I could never cross the threshold of this beautiful house.  Call it silly if you will, because although I am not superstituous,  I do believe in a supernatural realm where evil presences as well as angelic presences dwell among us.  So what do you think?  Could you live in a home where a horrific crime occured?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

C: Crawling Back Out Into the Light.

You'll see from our sidebar that last night V and I had a meet-your-fellow-blogger dinner with Sandra of addhumorandfaith.  It did wonders to lift my spirits and to remind me of the importance of connection.  People are, after all, "herd animals."  I know that being connected is healthy for us.

I haven't posted in a while, but here I am: back and pondering on why I have been away from something I so love to do.  Those of you who have read this blog for very long will see a recurrent theme in my life.  When life gets hard--I mean really hard, because life always has challenges--I tend to go into a cave.  I don't really want to see friends, chat on the phone, and posting just seems impossible.  And life has crashed into me, once again, over the past couple of weeks.  Eventually I'll tell you about some of it, but that's not the point of this post.  And I don't want to always be whining...as easy as it would be for me!

Still, the blog is sitting there.  And you--my friends--are out there.  It nags me that I ignore you for these periods, and the nagging eventually brings me back.  It's like I have a social responsibility to my friends out there. It is why I understand the need for some bloggers who "take a rest" to announce that rather than just disappearing.  By making that announcement, there is acknowledgement of the relationship.  A nod to us that we are there and watching.  An acceptance that to some the "going away" might just matter, whether we actually "know" each other or not.

But dinner with Sandra last night only compounded my understanding that retreat from society is not the thing I should do.  I am, once again, grateful to you all for this outlet, for your friendship in a new and exciting way that is unique to our times, and to Sandra for jolting me out of my stupor!

My hat is off to you, all you bloggers out there!  You may just have a part in making me whole again!  C

PS - Yeaaa!  I got the "link" feature to work!!! (It's the little things...)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cowgirl "V": He' Here!!!

My big announcement!!!   Jack Wyatt H---- is here! He was born at 11:33 Saturday, October 17th, 2009 with anxious, excited extended family mostly present. He weighed in at 7 lbs. 1 oz, 20 1/2" long--and VERY handsome! My computer still has virus on it so posting is a hassle, but hopefully I can share these photographs!


My daughter's labor started shortly after midnight and Jack was born with no complications, healthy and handsome!  We are grateful that family and friends were present to welcome baby Jack! 

New Mother:  Her life will never be the same.  It will be better!

Proud new dad with his newborn son.

I've spent the last week at my daughter's home helping her with laundry, housework and taking care of the new baby.  They are doing very well, although everyone is pretty exhausted--including me!!! Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers.  They are much appreciated!  V.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

C: MIL on the Mend, and the Joy of Neighbors

It's drizzing rain here today, but yesterday was glorious. The weather was just perfect, and we spent the day burning our burn piles of fallen logs and sticks. Slowly, ever so slowly, my little farm is taking the shape I want. It is becoming tidier as my son and I (with help from friend Ryan) work to remove aged fences, tame underbrush, and keep the place mowed. Yesterday's effort was extremely satisfying.

Shifting focus from myself (so hard to do--I have been just a tad self-absorbed!), let me say that my mother-in-law is improving daily! She's able to dress herself and move about the house. She is allowed to put 50% of her weight on her hip until she sees the doctor in two weeks so he can assess if she should put full weight to bear. We are learning about walkers and sliding bath benches, long-arm grabbers and other devices to help people with daily activities when they have had this surgery.

In her home, MIL has physical therapy three times a week, occupational therapy twice a week, and an aide to help her bathe or do anything else she needs three times a week. All of this is paid by Medicare, and this after two weeks in a wonderful rehabilitation facility. I know there are things about our healthcare system that need to be fixed, but surely we have no complaints about the treatment Medicare has provided for my MIL.

We have a new ramp (built by a neighbor) for her, installed a hand-held shower nozzle (purchased and installed by neighbors), arranged for someone to be with her during the day after my sister-in-law leaves (it will be a neighbor, http://www.midlifecountrygirl.blogspot.com/), begun landscaping her yard for her (a neighbor), had dinner brought to her (neighbors)...are you getting the picture, here?

I love our community. It is like our neighbors have galvanized around MIL's need, and my sister-in-law has been so complimentary about their warmth. To her, we live in the wilderness (and she's not completely wrong about that...bear season this week brought a kill just a quarter mile away) but our neighbors respond to each other in time of need. Maybe it's because we are so far out from usual city conveniences and that mutual reliance is a replacement for that. But I like to think it's just the quality of the people. I think I'm right.

Yesterday my mother, sister, brother-in-law and their two youngest came out to visit MIL and SIL before SIL's departure on Tuesday. They partook of my homemade vegetable soup, and we had a high-old family time with both "sides" of my family represented. Here's my youngest niece with Chili:

Also our neighbors from "up the hill" called to see if MIL was well enough to come up for dinner. We declined, being obedient to the physical therapist's orders not to tackle the ramp until the 14th, when we go to the orthopedist. Intent on us all getting together anyway, they came down the hill last night, and we had a take-out-ribs feast on MIL's new porch--a christening, as it were. The weather was balmy--just short of cool--and the company was wonderful. MIL was glad for the relief of monotony and, of course, thinking that someone cares enough about you to make this kind of effort did her worlds of good.

Here's the view from MIL's porch, where our little dinner party was last night:

Blessed? You bet we are! MIL and I have bumps ahead in the road--we can see them them coming up--but I think we're ready for them. With this kind of support, how can we fail? C

Thursday, October 1, 2009

C: Freedom!!

As I fastened these pearls around my neck this morning, I thought about how they are one of my “symbols” of freedom and new life. This new, single life is not one I ever asked for, nor did I want it; it is made necessary by my husband’s betrayal. Having said that, there is definitely an upside to this unfetteredness I feel after decades of being “one” with another.

These pearls are real. The gen-you-wine thing and, therefore, priced higher than I am accustomed to forking over. But their authenticity was part of the allure for me. I am, after all, a Southern Girl (yes, it is capitalized!). And you know what Southern Girls say:

Your smile can be fake; your hair color can be fake; your boobs can be fake; but your pearls must always be real!
And, girlfriends, I subscribe to that.

I purchased these from J C Penney (of all places), having spotted them as I strolled past the mark-down jewelry counter. They were marked down 65%. Why they had not sold before is beyond me, other than to think that God was saving them just for me, and at a price I could swing. I love, love them, and I wear them with my lawyer duds as well as with my khakis and jeans on the weekends. They are the kind of jewelry that just morph into whatever style they need to be. Classic.

And paying “too much” (even on sale) for my budget was something I just did—for me, purely and simply. It is not something I would have done in the past, having to take another into consideration. If I want to overspend on jewelry now and shave a little from other areas of the budget (say, eat grilled cheese instead of real groceries for a while), then it is totally my decision. And this, folks, is good.

I thought about other symbols of change and freedom I have collected since the breakup of my marriage. There’s Chili, my Belgian Malinois.

 This is a breed of dog I have wanted for a long time. My husband was a problem in this. He wanted only Shelties (I love them, too, and have little Sheltie Scout to prove it) or Malamutes (great dogs!). For some reason he was totally resistant to the idea of us having a Mali (because, maybe, it was my idea???). I purchased Chili soon after our initial break up and, boy, were my instincts on this one correct. He is a wonderful dog! He’s genius and loving and completely loyal to me.

When I purchased Chili, I think my need to have something to sort of fill the hole hubby left was obvious to others. One person observed: “Ah, trading one dog for another…” Yes, and I kept the loyal one…

I could go on and on listing, for the symbols are many. You can see some of them on my “Power Accomplishments” list in the sidebar. And, you will note, that not all of these symbols are purely of hedonistic, single life such as buying jewelry and pricey dogs. Some of them bespeak of struggle; but, you know, I’ve come to understand that these are movements to freedom, too.

I guess you can call these the silver linings to the dark clouds of my troubles; or you could say this is the way God is working all things to my good, which I also believe. In any case, as you can tell, I’m feeling really good about these pearls and my dog…and my freedom! -C

PS - Okay, the ogress in me is coming out ...after this dissertation on my new freedoms, I cannot resist observing that my hubby, on the other hand, now has a newborn baby--just months shy of his 60th birthday.  Sound like "freedom symbol" to you?  Not!!

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