A Moment Of Reflection

As I sat watching the inaugural activities, it was impossible to avoid reflecting on the days when my husband and I lived outside of Washington, DC while he worked at the then Veteran’s Administration.  There were multiple opportunities for activities there and we took advantage of as many as possible.

I remember when our oldest son, Cliff, was a mere babe in arms and our new family made the trek from home to downtown Washington to attend the parade in honor of the newly sworn President Jimmy Carter.  He and his wife, Rosalyn, walked down the street in front of where we were standing.  I remember the mood of the crowd there and their enthusiasm.  It was a joyous moment not just because of the man but because we were of one mind to celebrate a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the President and enjoy the the peaceful turnover of power from one man to another.  Huddled against a building to keep Cliff out of a brisk, chilling wind, I watched as they waved greetings to all of us watching from the sidewalk.

Years later, my husband and I were lucky to receive an invitation to the Veteran’s ball due to his position as Assistant to the Deputy Director, in honor of newly sworn President Ronald Reagan.   It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I loved it. Leo and I were all decked out in our best finery and as we sat at a table near the stage, I was in awe of the pomp and circumstance of the evening.  Secret Service guards stood on each side of the stage with stern, sober miens as we waited for the arrival of the President and Nancy.  President Reagan spoke a few words followed by he and Nancy dancing for a short while.  I don’t care who you are, you can’t be present at such an event without being moved.

As a child, I remember telling my Dad when asked which candidate I preferred, “I like Ike”.  I remember the assassination of President Kennedy and watched all the events that followed including the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.  I remember the impeachment trial of President Nixon and he and Pat waving farewell as they left the White House in disgrace.  I remember all the Presidents of my lifetime, the good, the bad, and the ugly times through which I have lived.  Sometimes, memories are a good thing.

Whether you approve of our current new President or not has no bearing on what will be in place for the next four to eight years.  That is the power of the Constitution, by which we are guided, written so long ago with such wisdom, integrity, and hope for our future.   Each time we elect a new president, we honor our system of government and all of those who participate in an election.  Hope renews for the nation every four years.  What we forget is that there are few countries in the world who have such a momentous opportunity.

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Brain Dead

Before talking with anyone, there were things that had to be decided.  I needed to plan the look of the finished home.  My desired effect is a home that’s light, clean, airy, and modern with splashes of color from furnishings and framed prints.  It has to be comfortable and welcoming to me, my family and friends.  It needs to display my favorite items collected over the years without being cluttered.  That all sounds so simple, but it’s hard to do.

Currently, the kitchen is cut up, dark, and cumbersome. I love open house plans and I’m trying to incorporate that into the kitchen.  We are taking out a couple of cabinets, moving others, and adding a desk area.  Canned lights will go over the sink and a ceiling fan with light kit will hang from the ceiling. A new white counter-top and white appliances will finish it off with a stainless faucet and other stainless accents here and there.

The master bath is small and a wall of cabinets makes it feel cramped.  That room will be taken down to the wallboard and totally remodeled.  Having said that, it doesn’t bother me that it’s smaller.  The huge, monstrous master baths in many large homes just equate, to me, as ego stroking.  They are made to be show places, but, uh, I don’t know about you, but I don’t show my bathroom to a lot of people.  Anyhoo, the goal will be to make the room feel larger than it actually is.  With proper planning, a small bath can be spacious, yet support storage of all the bathroom stuff, and that’s the goal.

Goals and planning are two things that make me happy.  Projects are major fun and I love solving their puzzles.  Whether it’s a jigsaw puzzle or a remodel, the process is the same and, hopefully, the end just as satisfying.  But, right now, my brain is fried.

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Ever Optimistic

I bought a home in a Planned Unit Development in a small, cozy town.  The complex consists of a mix of three and two bedroom single family patio-style homes, duplexes, and townhouses.   The homes are surrounded by water features, gazebos, and a quiet ambiance that soothes the soul.  It will be my retreat, a place for reflection, thought and, hopefully, much writing.  It seems to be a neighborhood for adults, single and married.  There are a lot of people like me, i.e., retired widows and widowers.  I’ve only met a couple of neighbors, but they are active seniors who have a zest for life that I recognize.

My home is a 1600+ square foot two bedroom, two bath with a living room, kitchen and small dining area.  It was built in 1996 and hasn’t been touched since which makes it a needy home right now.  However, I instinctively know that it was a beloved home of the former owner.  She had it set up to her specifications and enjoyed all the nuances she requested.  It suited her and her needs.  Stripped of the owner and her personality, everything looks old and/or dated, at the very least well used.  It sobers me to see something so loved so sad now.

With the turnover in ownership, change will come.  My team and I are deep into the planning and, I must say, I’ve been given the gift of good people to work with.  I knew I would make major changes in the kitchen, the two bathrooms and all lighting fixtures.  Add in paint and new flooring and it all seemed so simple and quick.  In retrospect, allow me to say one thing. HA!HA!HA!HA!

For each change, it seems there are 10 or 20 other items necessary to accommodate that one change.  I am fairly decisive and know well what I like or don’t like.  That’s an advantage since it eliminates a lot of options that could muddle the whole process and seriously delay making final decisions.  Initially, for me, it is important to get a feeling for the house and see the possibilities ignoring the reality.  That works in this case since I’m not making any structural changes.

Right now, it’s a thinking game similar to using strategy in Monopoly.  You’re hoping to hit a good chance card or pass Go and collect $200.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a game with quick payback or unexpected funding.  It’s all about spending while minding the budget.  It’s similar to walking a tightrope over the Grand Canyon with no net.  Sane folk need not apply.


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Another New Beginning

Ever since leaving my childhood home at seventeen to go to college, my life has consisted of moving here, there, and everywhere. At different times through my life, I’ve lived in or in a suburb of Missouri, San Diego, Okinawa, New York City, Washington, DC, San Francisco, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alaska, and, now, am back in Mississippi.

My husband and I had it down pat. Our family would move in and, within a few weeks, the new house would be transferred into our home with everything settled including hung pictures. After his death, I started buying houses that need someone to love them and rehabbing them into updated, much-loved homes. The first one was a two bedroom, two bath duplex built during 1941 which became a single family, four bedroom home with three fireplaces,  two master suites and the remaining two bedrooms had attached baths. It included a library/den, screened-in back porch, and a Japanese soaking tub. I loved that house, still do, but the time came to move once more and once again, I chose a house that was structurally sound but needed a lot of love.

This time the basic structure remained unchanged but the floor in one room was raised,  one fireplace was removed and another installed. The majority of the work was on the exterior with a spacious deck and screened-in porch with fireplace all of which took advantage of the panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains.  This time, my work was cut short by illness and I had to move on. The house recently sold.

Now that I am once again settled, I have chosen a new house to rehab. It has a great location and, once again, is structurally sound with an interior that is dated. So, the adventure begins once more. The closing is in October and the planning and organizing have begun. Needless to say, I’m having a lot of fun. However, this is the final one.  I am determined that this will be my forever home. Hope springs eternal.

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Lovin’ It

Sometimes, a song or book just clicks with me.  This one did when I first heard it.  I quickly looked it up to hear the original version by Leonard Cohen which is my favorite, but Pentatonix comes a very close second.  For those of you who care, here’s his version.  It’s worth watching just for the organ solo if you’re not a Leonard Cohen fan.  After this post was written, it was announced that Leonard Cohen died on November 11.  We will always remember.

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Seeking Compliance

I expected  no problems settling into life upon moving back to Mississippi.  So, with hope in my heart, I toddled over to the local DMV office, passport in hand, ready to do the deed. Ha! That didn’t work.  They couldn’t take my passport and I needed a long list of other paperwork to reach compliance with their requirements.  They needed a social security card, two pieces of mail showing my current address and a long-form birth certificate among other things.  I had none of that.

All my personal papers were locked in a fireproof safe in storage.  Plus, I wasn’t even sure that my Social Security card was in there. And my birth certificate was old enough that there wasn’t the required specific number on it. This completely threw me.  I had no idea what number they were talking about since I hadn’t seen one like that.  Thus, I procrastinated while the months flew by and before long I was sitting in my new apartment and the expiration of my license loomed large.

I sent the North Carolina form overnight with extra funds to expedite it since six to eight weeks is their usual turnaround.  I could finally relax.  Except that within a week, it landed back in my mailbox.  The letter said that I hadn’t completely filled out the form so it was returned.  Once again, because I’m persistent, I overnighted the completed form back to North Carolina.  In a week, I had my new birth certificate, my new Social Security card which I had ordered earlier, two pieces of mail with my new address, and all their other requirements.  It was going to happen.  I would have been excited, but the hour and a half wait left me pretty much numb.

So, I’m there at the window handing over all the docs waiting with bated breath to hear the good news.  However, the guy looked at my two pieces of mail and then, looked up at me and I knew there were more problems.  One item was a bank statement, the other a bill that I grabbed out of the opened mail stack.  The bank document was approved, but the bill was denied.  I was quick to tell him that the online requirements merely said that two pieces of mail with current address were needed which was what I had provided.  He replied that when I came back, I wouldn’t have to wait in line.  I smiled and left.  Once again rejected.

As soon as I got in my car, I called the apartment complex office  asking them to email me a copy of my lease which they did.  I knew that would satisfy DMV needs.  The following Monday was a holiday so, of course, the office was closed.  By Tuesday, I couldn’t care less about DMV and their requirements, but Wednesday brought guilt and the fear of a ticket with an expired license propelled me out the door and to their office.  Back into the uncomfortable plastic seat, back to ignoring all the people around me.

This time, I strode up to the desk, when called, all defensive daring them to turn me down.  I started handing over documents and it’s all going smoothly.  I even passed the vision test. The lady who was helping me was amiable and I had high hopes so we chatted while we worked.  I was sure that all this rigmarole was instigated due to ISIS, or ISIL, depending on whom you talk to, but, according to the lady, it’s due to the prevalence of identity theft.  Adding insult to injury, we are finishing up and their computer system went down.    Back in the uncomfortable chair, I’m thanking all appropriate parties for the Kindle app.  A half hour later, the system came back up and within fifteen minutes I was back in my car.  My advice to both Mississippi and North Carolina is to be come more user-friendly.  I recognize my own failings in this whole process; however, their systems could use a lot of improvement.

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Eleven Eleven

Veteran’s Day always occurs on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  This year brought back memories of attending commemorations at Arlington Cemetery with my husband and sons.  We sat on those marble seats in somber dress listening to speeches and music, attending the wreath laying, later watching the guards in their solemn, measured walk from side to side protecting the Unknown Soldier every hour of every day.  It is a reminder of the many men and women who have died to protect that which we so easily take for granted.

To those days is added the memories of following my father-in-law’s casket to his final resting place in Arlington Cemetery earned through a career in the Air Force.  My husband, too, was buried with military honors due to his Marine Corps service and, in my mind, honoring his years of service at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The Marine Corps gave me a start in life after college, introduced my husband to me, and gave me two life-long friends.  All of us, men and women alike, lost friends and comrades who served with us and we honor them today along with all the fallen.

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So, It’s Been A While

It has been more than a year since I’ve posted anything. Life isn’t always easy; it’s often a challenge just to get through day to day. For me, it all began when my son, Nicholas, killed himself in late April, 2015. Because I had to be, I was strong through talking with the police and making all the arrangements in Missouri. It was on the flight to Mississippi that I started to fall apart lashing out at my brother-in-law who is the best kind of man. Psychologists would say it was because he was my rock, my safe place, but it shames me that I was unkind to him. Stepping off the plane in Jackson, I drew that horrid mantle of responsibility back on and within a few days, my troubled son was laid to rest, finally at peace, next to his Dad.

With my daughter, Alicia, and her own newborn daughter, I flew back home trying to make sense of and regain my own kind of peace with all the events of the previous two weeks. Numbness took over since there are times that the mind can’t cope with all that the eyes have seen and the ears have heard.

There were warm moments such as when my oldest son, Leo, saw his new niece for the first time, cuddling her as she fussed. Or when he held and played with Nick’s two year old daughter, her laughing gleefully and him wearing a bittersweet smile. There were lots of old friends there to hug and bolster my strength.

But, overall, as I sat in my chair back at home, the pall of grief and the cry of why became my new constant companions. It has taken this much time to travel the journey away from the loss and grief to days of acceptance, moments when words of “what else I could, should, would have done” escape before I once again acknowledge that there was nothing, absolutely nothing left that could have been done.

Now, as I approach the fifteenth anniversary of my husband’s death, my thoughts turn from my son and toward my husband. Yet, somewhere inside me, the two of them, who so dominated my life, mingle in my thoughts intertwined in death as they never were in life.

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Violet Isn’t Just A Color

Violet Elizabeth entered our world on March 19th of this year and it was wondrous as always to meet this creature who had already brought such change to our world.  She is myIMG_0238 third granddaughter, along with my grandson, and my daughter’s first child.  At four months old, she has us all charmed with her quick smile and good temperament.  We can easily count the number of days or nights when she has cried with colic or something like it.  She loves music and delights in a song I made up using just her name.

I find it endlessly fascinating that each of my grandchildren (and children) came equipped with so much personality and watching them grow is like having Christmas everyday.  This little one is scary active even at this age and it bodes for a busy, busy future just keeping up with her.  Give me strength!  We read books, play with her toys, feed her when needed, and rock her when she hurts.

It’s warming to hear her Momma soothe with coos and murmurs when Violet frets.  Daddy is her hero already and just his touch quiets her cries.  What will she grow to be?  I’ve not a clue, but Violet, like my other three, will always have her grandma’s support.  So now we wait for all the firsts, sitting up, tooth, steps, and words.  The future will always be bright with this new addition.

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Circadian Mess

This is my first summer to live in Alaska so its a learning experience.  My circadian rhythms have lost their rhythm sadly.  It’s just never dark here.  They have baseball at midnight because they can and that’s with no lights.  It’s that bright.  I’ve been up at 12:30 am and 2:30 am and other odd times over this month and its never dark.  Since it’s encoded into my nature to be awake during daylight hours, this is playing havoc with sleeping.  I find that I have to constantly remind myself that it’s time to get ready for bed despite the fact that it’s nearly eleven  and the sun just recently set.

It’s little comfort to realize that this is what my daughter goes through in December when it’s almost always dark, but even then, we have about four hours of daylight.  I thought it would be the same during the summer.  But, no, no, it’s not.  Dark just doesn’t happen right now.  Add to that, a record-breaking heat wave done without air conditioning and you’ve got a fairly good idea of what my summer is like.  Happily, like all heat waves do, this one moved on and the weather became more reasonable.

Alaska, like California, has been plagued by forest fires this summer with more than 300 fires already and three million acres burning but few structures lost.  Firefighters work at containment for the most part.  The attitude here is let it burn.  The fires are primarily started by lightning and the dryness makes fuel plentiful.  A few people have lost their homes, but the community rallied around them easing the loss as best they can.

There is good news since we have now passed the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  The days will be getting shorter and we’ll follow the countdown of daylight as the measure of hours diminishes until once again darkness will rule.  Here, the circle of days is skewed into an oval.

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