Riding Life!

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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

V: Can I Whine?

I'm so glad C has been posting fairly regularly lately, because frankly, I just haven't felt like it. She has been encouraging me to write and I've promised to, but I just haven't wanted to share my downer mood. For the past six weeks, I've suffered from chronic hives. I've had them before, but it's been about 5 years since I've had the misery of itching, burning skin resulting in sleepless nights. Believe me, it takes a toll on one's mental health.

I have researched the causes of hives because I have experienced them due to drug and food preservative allergy and one allergist I consulted believes that they are often an autoimmune disorder. I do believe that stress can induce hives in susceptible individuals. One of the articles I came across in my internet research by Shelly M. Brown-Riddle states that: "When the body stressed for too long, it expresses its imbalance as disease." Dr. Christine Bennen, wellweb.com.

So, what's going on in my life to wreak such havoc on my person? Like many of my boomer sisters, I have adult children who are also experiencing major changes in their personal lives. One child experienced a painful divorce which caused emotional upset for my grandchildren. There have been multiple moves, and a remarriage. This adult child also has some health issues and I found her unconscious on the floor in April and had to call 911 and she spent a week in the hospital. Medicines have been adjusted and she is doing much better, but we helped move her family once again last week.

My youngest daughter is expecting a baby in October. She is not married. My husband and I are supportive of her decision to raise her child, and she plans to marry, but circumstances have not been ideal.

Our middle child and only son, is getting married over Labor Day weekend. We love his fiancee and are happily helping them as we are able to plan their wedding. I thought I was handling things fairly well. I really did. I have dear friends who will lend me a sympathetic ear. I don't keep it all to myself. I do talk to them and vent and listen to their wise advice.

For the past year, in the midst of all the domestic turmoil, I've noticed that my mother, who lives two states away near my sister, doesn't remember things I've told her and often seems confused. My sister, who is a registered nurse, calls me often to report on her concern for our mother's well being. Tests have been made, doctors' have been consulted, and the recommendation has been made that it is time for Mother to move to an assisted living center.

It is believed that she is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and not the dementia that follows the normal aging process. I've seen it coming. Because she sounds much like herself, it's easy to brush off the forgetfulness. But on our visit to her home last Thanksgiving, when I sat in her living room early in the morning, when she awakened and came into the room, she seemed shocked to see me sitting there. I realized that she had forgotten we were there. A year ago Memorial Day weekend, C and her mother and I traveled to visit my mother and sister. Just a few weeks later, my mother did not recall our being there. There are old friends she doesn't remember. And then there have been complaints for two or three years that she doesn't feel right and her head feels strange.

Still, after all these warnings, the official diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks! I must soon face going through my parent's personal belongings. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. So, I am trying to gather myself back together.

My mother is slipping away before our eyes. It is painful. Possessing a prickly personality, she was never an easy person to live with. Dad, who has been gone for almost 18 years now, was easier to love. That still makes me sad. Much of our home life involved tiptoeing around her moods and hostility. This sweeter, kinder, person seems so different from the person we grew up with. Perhaps that is a gift, because our last memories will be of a gentler nature. My sister and I wrestle with all the decisions that must be made. In our mutual angst considering what is best for her, we both grieve that she is facing such a grim diagnosis, and want her to be as safe and happy as possible. Yeah, I hate it when people whine about their terrible childhoods. My mother was difficult, and our home life wasn't perfect, but my growing up years weren't all that bad in retrospect, and I already miss my mother, thorns and all.

C: Since You Asked...My Grandmother Gertie

Several of you were kind enough to say continue with this saga; so, here goes:

Vee of A Haven for Vee (see my blog list to the right for link), said of my last post:
So, pray tell, what kind of woman was your maternal grandmother? She looks as if she's carrying the weight of the world upon her shoulders.
Here is a detail of the picture Vee asked about:

Yes, I think my grandmother, Jenny Gertrude (“Gertie”), was accustomed to the weight of the world. This is not to say that becoming accustomed to that weight made it feel any lighter. Let’s consider just the outline of her life:

She said to me that her earliest memory was of her parents’ move from a northern part of our state to the central location where they settled in the early, early 1900’s (1902, maybe?) The Arkansas River cuts right through our state, and her parents came by boat. Her description fascinated me as a child—in a mildy-horrified type of fascination.

She was just a little girl of three or four years, with one older brother. The “boat” she was on was a big raft (barge?) with a box-like structure built in the middle to give them some shelter. Inside the “box,” there was a big hole in the bottom of the boat that went to the river where waste was thrown. They were on the boat several nights, and her mother did not sleep those nights for fear that the children would fall into the river. This fear was vivid with her, too, as she retold the story to me decades later. And, my, it seemed like a pioneer life apart to me, a child of television and air conditioning.

I can remember chills running down my spine as a child to think of the dark water rushing under the boat, especially at night. (Where was OSHA? Where were Child Protection Services?). Oh, the world is most definitely different today!

Her parents settled and two more girls were born, four in all: Alfred, Gertie, Annis, and Donnie. When Gertie was 12, her mother died, leaving my Great Grandfather with four children. I believe Alfred left home, leaving the girls behind; Gertie became surrogate mother to her two younger sisters. Here is Gertie with her two sisters late in their lives.

My impression of my Great Grandfather is one of stern aloofness. I don’t know much about these times, but I do remember Gertie telling me of being afraid to go out to fetch wood, etc. in the dark at night (they lived deep in the woods). Her father would scold and chide her, making her complete her chores. Again, horror to a young, spoiled baby-boomer kid!

Even as a child, Gertie did work for others (washing, cleaning, picking cotton. She eventually met and married my Grandfather Robert, and they lived on his family’s farm and had five children. My mother was the least and, when she was 13 months old, Robert died. For some reason, my Grandmother felt unwelcome and took her five (!) children and moved from her husband’s family’s farm; alone and impoverished. All I can say is that there was some powerful reason for her to leave with nothing except five children depending on her.

My mother’s childhood was one of raw poverty. The rest of her life, my grandmother wasted NOTHING, and was amazed at our waste. It shames me to think of it now. This family lived in structures where they did not have to pay rent. There was no “homeplace” for them, only moving from one shack to a hopefully better one. My mother recalls being able to peer out through the slats of the side of the house, waking to snow dusting on her bedcovers, and hearing (much to their dismay) jars of canned food popping as they froze in the winter cold and broke—food supply audibly dwindling.

Although it seems that my deceased grandfather’s family had plenty (several went on to be wealthy), they did not seem cognizant of my Grandmother’s plight. I don’t recall her ever talking about interacting with them except for one horrifying story of Christmas.

My grandmother was desperate for something special for her children on Christmas morning (this would be oranges or something like that…no Barbies!). The only thing she could think of that she could spare to trade was a jar of molasses. She walked mile-upon-mile to a store owned by her husband’s brother to try to trade this molasses for some treat. She was spurned; he needed no more molasses in his store, he told her. So she returned home, molasses in hand. She told her children that she guessed they just had not been good enough to warrant any visit from Santa. In our day and age, this sounds harsh and scarring, but I just think it was the only way she knew to handle her pain and the disappointment of her children.

Gertie later married Oscar and, while things were not plush, they were better. So far as I know, my Grandmother never owned any real estate. She never drove a car. She was a deeply-religious woman who drew strength from her relationship with God and had an understanding that the hardships of this life were temporary. There was a visible sign of her devout nature: her hair was never cut. She kept it tightly braided in two braids which were coiled on each side of her head. When she would wash and comb it out, it reached the ground—another fascination for me. She felt that the Bible taught that a woman's hair was "her glory," and it should not be cut. In this portrait, you can kind of see her braid on one side.

The picture above is marked" 1959, 65 years of age."

When I think of her, I think of creativity (her house was decorated floor to ceiling with her handmade art—all of throw-away objects, including braided rugs from plastic bread wrappers and a wreath of purple syringe holders—very symmetrical and pretty once you got past the oddity). I think of Bible reading and of aprons (her poor abode was not fancy, but it was spotlessly clean). And I think of her tin cake box filled with buttons. As a child I used to take this button box and string buttons for hours on thread. My grandmother never, ever threw a button away.

So, yes, the weight she had on her shoulders was unimaginable to me. But she handled it with grace and not one fist-shaking at God that I ever knew about. To all appearances she loved the Lord, dearly and sacrificially loved her children, and accepted her lot in life. What a woman! - C

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

C: Boomerdom

Well, when you sit down to write one of these pieces, you never know where it will lead. Right now what's on my mind is my wonderful family: where we've come from and where we're going. I am thinking about the deaths of my father and father-in-law all in one year (2007), and of the future with my mother and mother-in-law, two remarkable women whom I trust unequivocally. Right now I'm so very happy and optimistic about that future, but I do think about it and find it remarkable at how things have changed and have wondered at the differences in our generations.

I am a baby-boomer—57 (yikes!) years of age. In many ways, I believe we boomers have been a very blessed generation. We were the children of post-war, of back yard barbeques and stay-at-home moms. Think "Donna Reed," and "Father Knows Best," ("Honey, I'm home!"). Look at this picture-perfect Donna Reed family:

Face it, there were no lives as flawless as the ones depicted on the TV shows, but there were elements of that myth in the childhood V and I had.

In my own family, you had to find those mythical elements tucked around a father who regularly came home drunk and around the women calling our home, making my mother cry and eventually leading to their divorce. But, still, there was the "look" of sweet suburbia, with our mothers sitting in lawn chairs, ice cubes tinkling in ice tea glasses while they watched us play on expansive lawns.

Tell me this picture of my family doesn't look "Donna Reed Perfect!" That's me standing next to my Dad. This is before my sister came along (she's twelve years younger than me).

Many of us had parents who were the first in their families to achieve professions and college educations. In my family, my father (an attorney) was the first and only in his family to even think about college. He was from the farm and, come to think of it, not even his nieces and nephews continued their educations after high school, so post-secondary education was a new thing with that family.

My mother came from a poor, rural family and never finished high school. Her own father had died while she was an infant, and her mother and stepfather had a very practical, depression-era, rural approach to life. Frills did not factor into their lives because they had no experience with frills, having come from poverty. To them education beyond the basics was a frill (especially for women). Here is a picture of part of my mother's family in 1939. You can tell that they are hailing from far in the country. My mom is the little girl between her mother and stepfather in the front.

So the postwar boom time, with our new little house in a subdivision and built-in barbeque with patio (!) was really something in my Mom’s life—my Dad’s, too.

I am certain that my grandparents loved their children, but neither of my parents described a childhood that catered to their status as kids. They had responsibility early as members of country families with much to do to eke out a living. Believe me, my parents’ attitudes toward us kids was entirely different than their parents' parenting practices. I am certain that my grandmothers were amazed (but maybe not amused) by the lavish birthday parties (complete with small merry-go-round on one occasion) and piled-up Christmas gifts that my parents provided. My parents did all they could to be sure that their children had plenty (which we did) and that we achieved. All three of us have college degrees. My brother and I practice law together, and our sister is one of our paralegals.

I know this is a broad brush to use and not applicable to all, but I think that generally the rhythm of the white baby-boomer childhood was a departure from earlier generations--maybe easier? I cannot speak to African-American families back then, but cannot imagine that the experience was as pleasant. And, you know, life was not totally idyllic for V and me, either. I've already mentioned the dark side of my own little family. V was next door through all this, and I’ll let her expound on her own skeletons-in-the-closet, but they were there, too.

And, just as the beginning of our baby-boomer lives were unique to our times, we are now facing some challenges unique to our generation, as well, on the tail end. Both V and I are now facing caring for our mothers (and mother-in-law!), both our fathers having passed away. Our siblings (V's sister and my brother and sister, my sisters-in-law) are right there with us, commited to our mothers. I have shared with you my mother-in-law's homecoming to me, and we rejoice in that. I want to honor my mother and my mother-in-law for the care they have given me over the years--all my life from my own mother; for forty years from my mother-in-law.

In coming months I hope to share with you some of my mother's remarkable and courageous story of a young girl on her own at an age that we, in today's world, would not believe possible. And my mother-in-law's story of a young girl in an East-coast immigrant family who lost her mother at age twelve is equally incredible. I feel like I want to pay homage to these women--both strong in their Christian faith--who have been so important to me in my own life, and I want to share lessons I think are important for others, especially women.

So, bear with me. If you indicate interest, remember that you asked for it! I will be talking, from time to time, about these women who are important to me. And it will be between dreams about raising chickens and tooting my own horn for learning about the tractor, and who knows what else I might be ranting about!!

Till next time--C.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

C: Ummmmm!

At Easter my sister-in-law brought a dessert that was a huge success. It was so good that one of my health-conscious friends exclaimed, "You can NEVER bring this again!"

Yesterday two of my friends came over for dinner and an evening of conversation on the porch. We budget-splurged on steaks, which is a treat but simple enough, and had some tasty appetizers out of the usual (you know, to fuel conversation). To end this simple meal, I had dreams of making some gourmet dessert.

But, reality hit. My house was a wreck after a long week of work. It became apparent that my energies had be spent on making it presentable--not necessarily clean, mind you, but presentable. This reality dawned on me Friday afternoon as the day was ending, the weekend approaching and I took stock of all I had to do to get ready. Plans switched. I called my sister-in-law for the "recipe," such as it is.

So, yesterday morning early, I got up and threw this together for the evening meal. It has NO (let me repeat: NO) redeeming nutritional value (well, maybe calcium??), and the ingredients are simple, simple. But you cannot believe how incredibly good this tastes on a hot summer day. Here's the process (bringing yet another dimension to the term "processed food"):


Ingredients list: However many ice cream sandwiches you need for your container (this used about 8); Cool Whip; Oreo cookies.

Smash the Oreos up in a freezer bag.

Cut up your ice cream sandwiches as necessary to cover the bottom of the dish.

Smooth over some Cool Whip. Sprinkle with smashed Oreos.

Then start over with the ice cream sandwiches.

And Voila! You have it! Pop it into the freezer to await dinner time, taking it out early to thaw a bit.

Oh, my. Something happens in that freezer--the Oreos morph into something other than crunch, and you really can't tell it is made of ice cream sandwiches--it is just divine! It was a hit, with hot gourmet coffee. Today at lunch my son went rummaging in the freezer to dig out the leftovers. As he scooped it out with an ice cream scoop, he intoned the familiar sentiment, "Mom, you can never make this again--it is too, too good!"

So, when you are feeling really reckless (or, if you have kids or menfolk-- repetitive, I realize), throw this baby together. It'd be great at Fourth of July celebration!

Try it and see (and just don't think about calories...) - C

Friday, June 19, 2009

C: "Not My Chicken" - Blogging and Chickens and Technology and Kids

First, the disclaimer: I am not the photographer for these pix…they are Word clipart. Sadly, I have no poultry to photograph.

I am fairly new to blogging, but what I am finding is that it is a valuable resource for me in several ways: it gives me a “rant” outlet (you readers have been so kind and tolerant of those), it is informational—I am learning so much as I read what you other bloggers write, and, last but certainly not least, you inspire me to think (maybe overthink) and to share my musings. I have become so very interested in the lives of those I read about in the blogs, and you are kind enough to indicate you care about what I write! The connection is wonderful!

Now, at the risk of revealing how very random my mind can be, I thought I’d share my thought processes from reading blogs this morning (when I should be getting ready for work)! One of my favorite places to visit is 3 Acre Homestead. You can visit, too, by clicking the link in our list of blogs we follow, to the right. One of you guys is going to have to teach this boomer how to put links in text soon…

Anyway, I read it this morning—a post done at 3:46 am! (Gotta love those early-risin’ farmgirls!). The author was speaking of her poultry, ”Khaki Campbells.” A Google search tells me that these are ducks, not chickens, as I had supposed upon reading. I don’t think this is a “Khaki Campbell” (who knows!) but here’s a duck for you:

Any way, speaking of a mama and her ducklings, Barbara said, “It is amazing how much smarter they are than the ones raised by a human.” And off went my mind. Of course, this is the case! The ducks raised in a natural way, apparently, do better than those raised by the artifice of humans.

This touched a nerve with me. As a family law attorney, I am seeing effects daily of raising our young ‘uns by artifice. No longer do kids run out the door for a day filled with fun in the sun. I am seeing young folk dying of boredom, sitting at the television or Wii or other game device (and getting into trouble) during a season which as kids V and I anticipated eagerly as a time of freedom-romping outside. Check out the very first two posts V and I did about stickhorses and outside play—click on the label “stickhorses” to see them. Sitting inside on a day off from school would have been unthinkable to us, television or no…

Am I sounding like an old codger yet? Probably. I’m just thinking that the artifices of technology are just not the best way to raise kids. And, having said that, I realize, too, the challenges of modernity, which include single-parenting and the need for two incomes.

Sigh, what’s the world coming to? Now that’s a codger statement if I ever heard one!

Anyway, let’s take this random-thought thing full-circle back to chickens!!!

The illsutration below is not my chicken, but I wish it was…

Poulty-keeping is one of the projects my mother-in-law and I want to undertake.

This is not my chicken, but I wish it was…

It will be a challenge (yet another!), and I’m sure I’ll be calling on bloggers like 3-acre-farmgirl for advice. What about coops and pens? Do chickens get sick? The questions are endless...

This is not my chicken, but I wish it was…

Anyway, thanks to you bogger/followers who read this. You are a source of inspiration for me (and of chicken information!). And if you’ve made it this far in this winding, twisting post, bless you and thank you so very much for being my ear and my outlet!! - C

PS - There was more random thinking...on "safe nesting"...inspired by that single 3-acre statement but I have restrained myself and will save it for yet another rant...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

C: WOMAN POWER. “We’re TNT friends!”

This morning I awoke to check on some of my "never-met-on-line-friends" in whose lives I have become interested through blogging. I am unsure as to how to "link" here, but the two that got my attention this morning were Four Miles North of Nowhere and What Matters Most. You can get to these by clicking on them in the sidebar to the right (sorry, I will learn to put links in here soon, I hope!).

Anyway, both these posts were about girlfriends, and it made me want to say "Me, too!! Me, too!!" So, here goes:

You've got a friend in me, You've got a friend in me
When the road looks rough ahead and you're miles and miles
From your nice warm bed, just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you've got a friend in me, You've got a friend in me
You've got troubles, well I've got 'em too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together and we see it through
You've got a friend in me
--Randy Newman

Wonderful friends! I’ve got ‘em, and I need them all. But there are five of us who are especially important to one another—my book club. V is a member, too. All of us have been friends for over twenty years. We have many other friends in common. We all know each other’s families inside-out. It’s a tight group.

The term “book club” is a euphemism, really, which is a constant source of humor both for us and the husbands of some who refer to it, instead, as the “booze club!” I will explain.

Some years ago (five maybe? Time certainly gets by me…) we good friends all decided that we would read books together and meet monthly in homes, although one had the particular favorite home for us to attend. (She, of the blonde brownies, the wonderful raisin pie and homemade chicken soup!) We had great times together centered on the books we were reading. Since that time things began to fall apart for some of us, especially with yours truly.

These girls have helped me through betrayal by my husband and are helping me still negotiate the emotional swamps of the divorce. They are one of the “constants” in my life on which I lean heavily.

They, too, have had their troubles. We have talked out kid problems; we have commiserated through ill-treatment of one at her work; serious health issues; financial problems abound. The last couple of years have been a rough patch for us all. We know and trust each other unequivocally, and this is the “council” to whom we turn in our time of need. We have called ourselves the “T-N-T’s,” because we are with each other through Thick ‘N’ Thin. This title is not a euphemism—it is a fact. We are each other’s support group.

When the trouble hit the fan for us all (now that’s a euphemism), we gradually dropped the reading, although we still refer to ourselves as a book club. When I found out about my husband’s affair, I quit doing many things that had been central to my daily life: I quit listening to NPR as I drove, preferring to driving in silence; I quit attending church because it was so connected with my life with my husband; I quit cooking for people, which I love to do; and I quit reading altogether, which was HUGE.

My home is dominated by books and I am, in my authentic self, an avid reader of everything, non-fiction or fiction. The picture below is what you see when you walk into my home--books are everywhere (the photo is not good, but if you look through the doors you see a room full of books on three walls). The books you see in these two rooms may account for maybe half my library, the other volumes stowed in a floor-to-ceiling bookcase-lined hallway upstairs and in shelves in my bedroom (both way too messy to picture here!)

In retrospect, I think that during that initial pain I had some primal need to focus on survival. Everything extraneous went wayside as I concentrated on managing pain.

About the time I quit reading, the others, one-by-one also dropped the book thing, although we still met. But, not only did we drop reading, we picked up another place to meet: a local Mexican restaurant which serves delicious but cheap Margaritas. We have our own booth. The wait staff knows us. Now we meet there as the need arises and have Mexican food and Margaritas or beers with lime. Hence the term “booze club.” It fits.

If you read through the posts from six months ago, you will see some about our book club’s December bunking party—a wacky annual event that I love. V and I are already talking about adding a summer sleepover, making this a biannual tradition. I relish the thought of wine on the back porch in the late evening under citronella candles. The woods are alive with sounds in the summer nights, and it is beyond peaceful. The only addition needed is the company of good friends. (see the woods view off my back porch, below. It's a mess, too, but imagine it with twinkle lights and japanese lanterns and good friends in the evening!)

The posts I read about friendship this morning hit a particular chord with me. Just two weekends ago we all attended the wedding of the son of one of the "T'N'T's." It was a joyous, happy time, and I am reminded yet again of our solidarity. It was good to have each other (at least for me). I was “at home” with them amongst many with whom I was not acquainted. We had a wonderful time celebrating this wonderful milestone for a child all of us have known almost his whole life. We cheered for him and for his mother. And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a group photo of the T'N'Ts.

V is second from left in this picture. I'm the chunky one with glasses, second from right.

I am hoping there is someone out there who will be interested enough to read this little missive, because I want so much to tell women how important their girlfriends are. The relationship is just different from that with husbands or other males…it is, in many ways, deeper and richer with a shared connection that one must be female to have. We need to treasure them, and I thank my blogging friends for their posts this morning reminding me of that treasure!!! - C.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

C: Farm Progress Report (continuing saga)

Here's the newest report, continuing from my post below about my mother-in-law's move back to my home:

Yet again a new experience! I have now overseen the installation of a utility pole! I had NOTHING to do with the technical part, mind you, but just the being around and part of the planning part of this endeavor is life-expanding! (See utility pole in pix below!)

My mother-in-law and I were in contact by telephone a couple of times today to discuss voltage (?) of the pump for the well, placement of outside faucets and electrical outlets and the purchase of her shed.

It is exciting to see the place take shape. We still have to arrange the installation of the underpining and the construction of porches, but it's getting there.

A neighbor on the hill behind us heard today about my mother-in-law's return (I mean, the mobile home is in full view from the road!) Our neighbor offered to come down "when she is settled" and bring plants to help her put in around her place. This neighbor has a real green thumb, and my mother-in-law is as excited about the prospect of a friend to putter with as she is the promised gifts of plantings.

The heat was up today--93 degrees, already, with a heat index of 100! All our major efforts will have to be planned in the cooler part of the evenings. When I spoke to her, I mentioned the heat, reminding her that she is, once again, moving south. She assured me that she is prepared for it--air conditioner through the heat of the day!

All-in-all things are shaping up, and we remain excited. We have many plans which I won't mention now for fear of looking back over these posts and seeing projects we never got to. Better to take our time; a day at a time. Will keep you posted! --C

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

C: Ruth and Naomi Revisited—and Reversed!

My mother-in-law is moving back with me. Some of you have read my post early this year about the cruise I went on with her. To many who knew I was getting a divorce it was odd that I would cruise with her (or she with me), but not to us: we’ve been close over forty decades. We are each a habit to the other that is hard to break.

Five or six years ago, when my father-in-law really began to fail in his Alzheimer’s, my husband and I invited them to move here from about four states over, intending that they would live out their lives on our little farm with us. They bought a fancy double-wide and settled into a peaceful life right down the driveway from us.

Then, two years ago all our lives fell apart. My husband had begun an affair with a woman young enough to be our daughter. Not only was I grief-stricken, but the ripples of this earthquake tore through the whole family—my side and his. He flatly, unblinkingly told his parents and my 77-year-old mother who also lived here that they all had to move from the haven where they had planned to live from here on. He planned to force the sale of the home. I felt powerless at the time, because I was clueless about what was happening in my own life, let alone theirs. My family scattered from my farm.

The picture above is one of their “home place” after their move. It has been a forlorn sight for me to pass each day, with "Grandpop's" flagpole standing alone, some paving bricks where their walkway used to be and the clear outline of the front porch that was, punctuated at the corners by a gardenia bush and callas.

My mother found an apartment near my brother. My in-laws were packed up in a hurry and moved yet again, this time 1,100 miles away to live near my husband’s sister. By this time, my father-in-law’s condition had deteriorated mentally, although we knew of no physical ailments. The trip was horrendous for them, and it must have taken its toll because he lasted another six weeks and was gone.

Since that time, my mother-in-law has kept up with me and I with her. We love each other and, after over 40 years of friendship, would not want to lose each other. Her son made a phone call after his father’s death demanding that she no longer have anything to do with me since he no longer wanted to. She refused, so he doesn’t call. I can’t imagine this estrangement from one’s child, but it is his doing, not hers.

I digress…greatly. I am still on the farm, having now secured its deed (and its mortgage!) from my husband. I am beginning to regain equilibrium, and my mother-in-law has been a constant, though distant, cheering section, as have been my sisters-in-law. I have one sister-in-law who literally has called me when I’ve been down and cheered over the phone: “Rah, rah, rah! You can do this!!”

This April I did what I had long wanted but been hesitant to do: I called and asked her to come for a visit. Although I have visited her in her northern home, I have been diffident about asking her to come here because I was afraid this place held pain for her. Secondarily, my husband and his young tart still live in this city. We are not yet divorced because of business entanglements, but that does not impair him in that relationship, and it causes him to be greatly hostile toward me on the rare occasions we must speak. I knew that he would be upset if he knew his mother came to visit. Still, I wanted her to come, and I felt it would give her a change of scenery.

She jumped at the chance, and we began to pick over dates. The second day after my invitation, she said, with all confidence: “C, I’m not coming to visit—I’ve decided to move back.” I was stunned; one sister-in-law was worried. The other had actually put a hand in this decision.

My mother-in-law was living in a nice senior complex with all the accoutrements and nothing to do. Try as she might, she could not cultivate a circle of friends, missed her church back here, and had no “work” to do around the place, which she dearly loves. She wanted to be back here to have a dog and a cat and to tend her yard. I immediately said “Yes.” It felt right—like she is coming home. After much discussion with her daughters, we are all agreed this is a good thing.

She just left today, having been here two weeks. Her new mobile home (smaller, but all she needs) arrived yesterday, on her 79th birthday. We have the electrician/plumber lined up and have purchased her appliances and all else she needs. At the end of the month I will fly up and drive her back here to meet her movers. We are all excited. One of her daughters has already marked off a week for a visit to which we all look forward.

The photo below is taken from what will soon be her front deck--just down the driveway from me!

My husband has discovered this plan and has called his sister (though not his mother!) and sent me a scathing e mail, bemoaning that I am acting contrary to her best interests. “She’s a brittle diabetic,” he ranted. “You’re moving her to the country away from medical help and have put a nail in her coffin.” This is from a man who has not so much as called to wish her happy birthday or on Mother’s Day; now he shows such concern for her welfare! Go figure. My mother-in-law is philosophical about this; he has nothing to do with this decision.

So, I hope to be reporting to you on and off our own Ruth-and-Naomi story. We are two women on a little farm, working together to forge our own life and, as of now, we are happy in that endeavor. It is true that my mother-in-law is 79 and that she is a diabetic. But she’s been diabetic for over fifty years, and she is not of a mind to let that chart her course.

Pray for us, for we have challenges. But cheer with us as we move ahead! Reports to come….C

Friday, June 12, 2009

C: Power--It's for the Taking...

Warning, this post may need to be a series...

(and, by the way, forgive the clipart, but I can't figure out how to do actual photos on this one and preserve privacy...)
As you may know, I am a lawyer. "Power" needs to be my middle name: I have to persuade judges (and, infrequently, juries), I have to scream at other lawyers. It's just, generally, not a good thing for a lawyer to appear to be powerless.

Here I am, the bringer of justice (just kidding!):

My mind has gone back fifteen years or so ago. There was a "pioneer judge" (we'll call her "PJ," for short) on the bench of a court in which I practiced. I call her a "pioneer" because she was one of the first women lawyers in our area. The rough-and-tumble of being one of few women in this rough-and-tumble profession had given her an edge and tough skin. She was smart, and she was forceful. She was feared by many lawyers and known for a short temper. She and I got along just fine, largely because I knew the value of treating her with deference. Those robes mean something, and I gave her every respect they demanded!

One day I went in for a trial to find her moping in her chambers. Her husband of thirty-plus years had suddenly died. She was understandably distraught. We sat for a while and talked. I recall the shock that went through me when I realized that this woman was afraid!! She was a simpering pile of fear that day about her personal life. She could wield that gavel with might, but at home at night she was afraid. She summed it up like this: "C, I don't even know how to change a light bulb."

For those of you worried about her at this point, be assured that she bounced back. She went on to sit on an appellate Court. I have lost touch with her since her retirement but hear through the legal grapevine that she lives in another state, happily married to another retired judge, and that they have a good life doing whatever retired judges do (don't think too hard on that one...)

I have thought about this woman on several occasions since my husband ditched me for a young chippie. I was hurt and grief-stricken. But the over-riding emotion I felt was "fear." Hell, I did not even know about the lawn mower and I live on a freakin' farm! How was I going to manage?

Now, if this seems illogical to you (as it does now to me), this is because it IS illogical. I hold a juris doctorate. I walk in the halls of power and wield it all the time on behalf of others. But, like PJ above, being snatched from your established role and having to put yourself into new roles is a fearful thing.

Believe me, I've thought a lot about this inconsistency. Why would women such as PJ and myself who are educated, earning a decent income and accustomed to power succumb to fear like this? I can think of a couple of reasons right off:

1. Ooops! "Does this mean I'm not in control after all?" This is a fearful thing, especailly for someone who is used to helping others manage their lives. We're supposed to have it all together. For it to fly apart at the seams through the death of or betrayal by a husband is not only unexpected, it is alarming! The reality of this lack of control is terrifying.

2. And then there is that "role" thing. We all picture ourselves in certain roles. In PJ's mind, and in mine. we were wives in a role that would last a lifetime. To have that rug jerked out from under you requires a shift that is difficult to make. It is disorienting and scary--to the max.

3. And, with that role came divisions of labor. I understand totally PJ's mournful statement that she did not know how to change light bulbs. Of course she knew how to do this, and if she did not care to do it, she actually had the means to hire it done. What she was saying was that now she was having to deal with things that had been once been outside her role. Again, this is scary. Just read my posts lately. You will see all kinds of fear written in them concerning the "little" things of heater scares, lawn troubles, etc., etc., etc. Each little obstacle looks like a mountain when you are in that lost-control-lost-role-disoriented state.

But I have found the antidote: just moving on and tackling each of those obstacles as they have come. And with each challenge I tackle, I find that I am more than equal to it. As you can see I have subdued the lawn mower, the hydraulic hoses, the flat tires, and even the mighty bushhog. Why, this week I have even had gravel delivered for my driveway!

And if you read between the lines that I do a little victory dance with each of these recountings, you are not reading wrong. I know PJ must have also felt these little strengthening victories with every light bult she changed.

So I've added a little side bar to this blog, sort of a rollcall of little accomplishments--to the right under "Rosie the Riveter," who symbolizes the WWII generation of women who were plucked from their accustomed roles and had huge challenges to face.

You won't see my victories in court recounted in our list, although it's things like court appearances that many people would fear most. To me, they are part of my "role," and I'm more than ready for them. It's the tasks that have been out of my role that are challenges to me, so I am recounting them here for you as part of my victory dance.

And if you find yourself outside your accumstomed role, I hope you'll share with me the challenges you face down...I'll gladly add them to our list! C
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