Friday, September 30, 2011

Six months

Maybe things will slow down a little now.

I've mostly cleaned out my old house and gotten it ready to rent out. It's about time; I've been married for six months now!

For two middle-aged people used to living alone and doing things exactly their own way in their own houses, marriage is an adjustment.

I see no reason, for example, to store bath soap in the kitchen cabinet. It's not really very useful there. So, I store it on the bathroom shelf, and my adored tears the kitchen cabinet apart looking for soap.

He has a general policy against rearranging things.

My adored one likes routine. I get bored. When I drive to church, I always take the shortest, most direct route, so we can hopefully get there on time. I take various alternate routes on the way home, however, because I like to see what's going on around town. My adored sees no reason for this.

He thinks he can improve my driving and parking-space selection with various helpful suggestions he freely offers; I think not.

I'm a better driver, anyway.

I think he needs to get rid of more junk; he thinks I need to get rid of more junk. He likes animal fat; I explain why olive oil is better for my health and his.

But, my adored one has a great heart underneath his self-proclaimed "grumpy" old exterior. He makes me coffee in the morning. I even saw him pick up the bottle of olive oil to cook something the other day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chickens across Texas

This column ran in the newspaper lately. Soon, I'll have some more to say on the afterlife, but in the meantime, "Chickens across Texas."
I've lost two of my pets in recent months — my beloved dog, Molly McGuire, and the baby of the family (at age 7), Jack the Brat cat. Some readers saw Molly out and about town. She loved to go places.
Now, I have one pet left, a 13-year-old cat named Shamu, who must take medication twice a day for a hyperthyroid condition.
When my husband and I went on vacation recently, a belated honeymoon at a beachfront condo, we were loath to leave Shamu behind. So, we covered his carrier with a brightly colored beach towel and sneaked him in.
Traveling/sneaking with pets is a tradition that began in childhood. Dogs and cats got special status in planes my father flew across the Atlantic and the Caribbean, getting them to new Navy duty posts.
When I was just a small child, we traveled in a big, old station wagon from Hutchinson, Kan., to Corpus Christi, Texas: my parents, a carsick border collie, two kids and two chickens. The chickens had come into the house as Easter gifts — one dyed bright blue and the other bright pink. Most of the dye had grown out, leaving them strangely mottled.
Dad stopped at a gas station for directions. The attendant looked in the station wagon and saw a border collie foaming at the mouth, two strange-looking birds and two grubby kids. He backed up about six steps before giving directions. That border collie, Lassie, traveled to North Africa and back with us.
I returned through U.S. Customs from Panama with a screaming small parrot inside a covered cage; I had hoped to slide through quietly. Nobody asked any questions about the noise or what was under the towel. I think no one wanted to wait all day with a screaming bird until he was taken to quarantine.
Cats and dogs have stayed with me in hotels and motels too many times to count.
When Molly was about a year old, she traveled with friends and me to West Texas and back. A motel maid in Texas spotted her in the room, but said nothing.
These animals are such great companions. I read recently that because of their long association with humans, pets absorbed the ability to love. I believe that's true. There's no more unconditional love than a dog can give, or a cat.
Molly, who was my Christmas present to myself in 1999, adopted from the Flagler Humane Society, was full of the kind of joy and love that can come only from the Holy Spirit. Jack would jump on the counter and stand on his hind feet to nuzzle my face as I put on makeup in the morning.
I've learned much from living with pets. One lesson is how love can triumph over the misery in this world. Another is, if there's a heaven, Molly and Jack will greet me there.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Goran Koch-Swahne

I just read over at Padre Mickey that our friend Goran Koch-Swahne passed away. I'm so sorry to hear that — Goran seemed like a gentle friend, though so far away in Stockholm.

God bless you, Goran, and may you rest in peace, with angels watching over you.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Watching Emily

Tropical Storm Emily has formed in the Atlantic. It's the first storm this year that's even looked like it might give Florida a hard time. We'll have to watch her progress.

Dear Lord, look after the people in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and others who might be in Emily's path.

Back to the grind

It's been back to work, and the vacation has already worn off. It was great while it lasted, though!

My employer has been faced with the problem most small businesses are having: health insurance. The premiums jumped up again, and a quest started for better rates. Slightly lower rates (lower than the renewal of the old policy — still more than we were paying) were found, with a much higher deductible. Some employees said they couldn't afford the insurance any more. Understandable. Some wanted the employer contribution in cash, instead.

The issue became very emotional. People's health issues became a topic. A finger was pointed at me, because of my diabetes. That was, however, only one issue among a number that led to the higher rate. I verified that through the insurance agency.

I still don't like it that someone tried to play the blame game at my expense.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The vacation continues

The view from our balcony:

Did I mention we brought Shamu to the beach with us? Although he doesn't appear interested in splashing salt water with us down at shore, he seems to be having a good time. He's getting lots of attention with us not dashing away to the office, and rubs and extra tinned cat food - forget the dry rations this week!

Shamu likes sitting in my lap. He doesn't like the camera in his face so much.

He's quite vocal when he inquires about breafast, until I turn the camera on him. Then, he quiets down.

While he's not dashing off to the office, Mr. T, my husband of just about four months now, brought some of the office with him. I expected that — he's on his laptop and the phone, making calls, writing e-mails and drafting briefs.

Mr. T isn't a fatcat attorney. His passion is Sunshine Law — forcing local governments to act in the sunshine, and going after them when they don't. He also defends clients caught in the hooks of foreclosure mills, usurious credit-card holders and other rat bastards.

Mr. T at work.

And he does it with zeal. That's one of the things that drew me to him. I'm glad he's getting out of the office and getting some relaxation this week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Things that make me go {sigh}

I've been phasing into the Presbyterian Church without becoming active in it yet, and I'm pretty happy there. I thought I would miss the Episcopal rituals, but for the most part, not, and I haven't missed the "stuff" in this diocese.

Then bloowie, I was propelled eight years back in time. A couple of months ago, the Presbie Church, y'all may have noted, OK'd gays/lesbians to wear the collar. The world didn't end or anything. Clouds still roll by. The sun sets and rises.

At its June 21, 2011 meeting, the Session followed the lead of the Presbytery of Central Florida and passed essentially the same motion that had been approved by the Presbytery, when it met on June 7.

“We believe that when the Book of Order states in 2.0104b (Amendment 10-A) that ‘standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life’ that this means among other things that officers in the church are required to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to live according to these requirements shall not be received, ordained or installed as ministers of the word and sacrament, elders and deacons in .... FL.”
This motion is to provide guidance to those nominating committees and the Session itself as the ordaining and installing body of this congregation. Rev. Frank Allen, the Stated Clerk of Central Florida Presbytery attended and gave guidance to the Session in its discussion of this motion. The motion passed on a 5-4 vote of the 10 voting members present.


Same old stuff here in Central Florida. Still, the national church's action is encouraging, and the fact the motion narrowly passed here on a 5-4 vote is encouraging, too.

I haven't heard any of the nastiness that was going around here in the Episcopal parishes post Robinson. I hope that's because there isn't any, and not just because I'm not "in" enough to be hearing it. There's certainly been nothing in the sermons.

I think how easy it was for Mr. T and me to get our marriage license and get married. Then I think of some of the people I know who have been in committed relationships for many years, and can't make it legal, even in the civil sense.


How we want to make God subservient to our prejudices and wants.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Second honeymoon

Ah, yes. We're in the second day of a glorious week at the beach. It was a wedding gift from dear friends who own a beachfront condo.

Mr. T and I had a mini-honeymoon in the Keys a few weeks after the wedding. Now, we've got more time to relax. Right now, my warrior is napping, exhausted from working so many hours so he could get away.

Not that Mr. T will get away completely. He never does — the trip to the Keys was tied to a case he handled while we were down there. But it's good to get a break.

Last weekend we spent near Birmingham, Alabama, at the invitation of Mr. T's aunt. It was a great Fourth of July weekend, with a big multi-family bash and a great cookout. I met some distant cousins of mine, so I had some family there, too.

My cousin Jack is from West Virginia, like my father, and from the same little county, though they never knew each other. My father would have been a little older. Jack's wife is named Pat, like me.

Then, away this week. I'm prepared for a nice, relaxing time. Reading, beaching, blogging, sleeping, whatever I feel like doing. The good life.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

And now for the weather

The weather around here just knows no moderation.

We've been dealing with wildfires for the past six weeks or so. The gov declared the state in a state of emergency because of fires burning up the peninsula, and on Thursday, so did the county. It's not really that dramatic; it's mostly to get FEMA funds and such. There's no military law in effect or anything like that.

One of the fires came perilously close to the old saintly household, which I'm still clearing out very slowly — I'm living with my hubby.

A thundershower came through yesterday evening, producing a nice downpour. We could do without the lightning, however -- it just starts more fires.

A few minutes ago, the weather radio squawked at me — a severe thunderstorm warning.



NOTE: The rains started around the end of June. We're in the green!

Thank you Father for seasonable rains to make lush your land, replenish the lakes and streams, and grow crops.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Doing better

The other morning, I found myself singing as I fixed breakfast, and realized this was the first time I'd done that since Jack disappeared. That told me I'm getting better now.

Oh, I can still tear up suddenly. Overcoming grief is a funny thing — one moment you're convinced you're all over it; the next minute you're bawling. And one grief recalls earlier losses.

I watch and fuss over Shamu, my poor loner. He's often fussy and fretful. It usually comes out as begging for food and sometimes for attention, but I wonder if he's reacting to the losses in his own way.

Shamu is 13 years old, and he's never been alone in his whole life. There was always Jack with him, even when I was out of town and Molly was at the kennel. Usually he had the both of them. And when he was a younger cat living with my mother, she was always home.

Now, he's home alone 10-12 hours a day.

I read that the fretfulness can come as the result of his thyroid condition, so who knows exactly what goes on in his mind.

I remember how frightened of Molly Shamu was when he came into the household. He got over that. Molly was playful, but so gentle.

Thinking of how Molly was in those final weeks of her life. She was stiff from arthritis, and getting up and down got more difficult for her. She may have been in more pain than I imagined, but she was so full of grace. She was brave and strong and loving until the end.

I hope I can have even a fraction of that.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The hardest entry

This is probably the hardest entry I've had to write, and it's taken a little while to be able to write it.

Molly and Jack a few Christmases ago, with some of their Christmas loot.

I've lost two members of my little family: Jack the Brat cat, and Molly McGuire, the best dog in the whole wide world (TM), aka Betsy.

Jack was just starting to settle in to the new house. I was too. But the door from the utility room to the back yard doesn't always catch properly. We came home one night, and the door had blown open, and the door from the utility room to the kitchen had blown shut.

Read Jack's story here.

At first we thought Jack was somewhere in the house — there are lots of hidey places where it was hard to find him. But we walked all around the yard and around the house and around the block calling him. Nothing.

We finally went to bed. Jack would hide away until bedtime often, still getting accustomed to things. Then he would get up on the bed with us. He didn't this night, but we heard a commotion a lot over, and a cat screaming. By the time we ran out there, it was all quiet — deathly quiet.

I hoped that was not Jack, and kept looking for him, including running across county to the Humane Society several times, in case he had been trapped. Nothing. He's never shown back up.

That was April 19 that he disappeared, almost two months now.

Then we lost Molly.

She went to the pooch beauty parlor and got a spring haircut in time for the wedding, and we realized she had lost weight. She seemed to be getting more arthritic too, having trouble with her back legs.

Read Molly's story here. She was my Christmas present to me.

I took Molly to the vet, who diagnosed dysplasia, and prescribed super glucosamine and pain medication. I was already cooking for Molly and trying to get some weight on her.

My friend Coe kept Molly while Mr. T and I went on a delayed honeymoon to the Keys. Coe, an old pro at dog care, cooked for her too. Molly gained a few pounds.

She continued to gain some weight, and seemed to be feeling much better. She would clean up her dish and bark for more.

Then, one Wednesday in May, she just quit eating.

I thought perhaps I'd overfed her, and her body just needed a little break. Molly was drinking water, though some of it came back up.

On Friday, I came home and checked on her at lunchtime, and Molly seemed to feel better, and hadn't spit up any. Friday night, though, she threw up every bit of water she drank. She was so thirsty, but couldn't keep it down.

Saturday morning, I called the vet, but there was none on duty. I called another veterinary clinic, and they squeezed her in. The vet took one look at Molly, felt her stomach, and shook his head.

They did some tests. Molly's liver readings were off the scale bad. Her kidneys were in bad shape. The vet suspected she might has some congestive heart failure, too.

He could send off samples for expensive tests to pinpoint the problems, the vet said, but the result would be the same: Molly was filled with cancer inside and was coming to the end of her life.

I was too stunned to accept this right away. The vet gave Molly a subcutaneous IV to get fluids in her, and let us take her home to see how she did over the remainder of the weekend.

The vet was right. Molly kept throwing up every bit of water she drank, and the water that came back up now had the sickly-sweet smell of things gone really sick.

After one really bad bout Sunday afternoon, I thought Molly might die. She lay on the floor, seemingly semi-comatose. After a little while, though, she got up, drank some more water, then wanted out.

Molly went into the back yard, and walked all around. I think she knew, and was saying her goodbyes. She came and leaned against my legs a couple of times, like she used to do when she wanted affection.

I lavished affection on her all weekend, telling her how much I love her, stroking her back and stomach, and rubbing her ears. I hope she knows how much I love her.

The vet had said to bring her water, but Molly wouldn't let me — she insisted on getting up and getting it herself. Once on Monday, she let me bring her water. She was having trouble standing by then.

We loaded her onto the back seat of the car, and went back to the vet. The vet and an assistant came out to the car and gave Molly the inoculation that ended her misery and her life. That was on May 16.

It seemed fitting that Molly died in the car. That was the same car in which she rode home with me from the pound, when she was just a little puppy. The same car in which she loved to go anywhere with me, her whole life. Molly's favorite words were "go" and "ride."

We brought her back home, and my husband, Mr. T, buried her near the front steps.

Losing Molly and Jack was like losing children. I am still grieving them both, and will be.

I will post more later.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A married woman

My new husband and me, with our Pastor Michael B., right after the ceremony.

Here we are, celebrating our third (week) anniversary.

It's been good. Now, we're on a slightly delayed honeymoon trip, on our way to the Florida Keys. We drove down yesterday evening, and stopped in Miramar (near Fort Lauderdale) for the night. We'll get into the Keys and our rental condo in Islamorada this afternoon,

My husband, being the good workaholic lawyer he is, is responding to some correspondence on his laptop, as I type on mine. But he's doing that after going to the hotel breakfast bar and getting us coffee. What a good man.

The wedding was beautiful. I don't think that's just my bias; so many people told me it was the most beautiful wedding they've ever been to. Most of the credit goes to our pastor, the brides-peeps (hate the word "matron") and other friends who decorated the church, our friend Rog Lee who sang for us during the wedding, Roy, who played a trumpet duet with the church organist for the recessional, and all the people.

The church was chock full of friends and family. That was the best part.

The first reading was Song of Solomon 2:10-13 and 8:6-7
10 My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
11 See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy[a] unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.[b]
7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it[c] would be utterly scorned.

Our pastor preached on it, talking about timing — now, the timing is right; the time has come.

The passage is so meaningful on so many levels.

It literally was and is spring in Florida, after a cold winter, with trees budding, wildflowers blooming, and vegetables sprouting.

The orange blossoms in my bouquet, on the altar, and decorating the pews, gave off their intoxicating, sweet fragrance, the classic fragrance of spring in Florida. Friends and I gathered them the day before at a local orange grove, whose owner generously let us cut orange branches, kumquats and ferns.

The weather was perfect on our wedding day: sunny, and with a high in the low 80s, and with a gentle springtime breeze.

I've been through a winter of the soul, and I believe, so has my beloved. After so many years of being alone — for both of us — this is a new spring, a new beginning, a new life.

And, it's good.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Diary of a Mad Bride: the gifts

My sweetie and I told everyone we don't want wedding gifts. We have two houses full of too much stuff as it is, and we're not registered anywhere. Most people are ignoring the "no gift" request.

I'm finding I don't mind. It's kind of nice to get gifts — I haven't gotten a lot of them in the last years, given my paucity of family. Im liking the attention and the fuss.

My sweetie's big family gave a big party/shower for us a couple of weeks ago. Saturday, some of my friends are throwing a shower for me. More gifts!

But I don't want to get carried away. I take exception to those brides who want to tell you exactly what you should give them, and it's often pricey. Some brides are very pushy in gift solicitation, and that's not what it's about.

And, one gift per person or couple. No need to bring a second gift to the wedding! Your presence there is gift enough, and we'll have a great party.

On a related note, I'm now officially a member of the Presbyterian Church. An Episcopresbyterian I am!

Wedding countdown: just a little over two weeks.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Thinking of you, Dad

Tomorrow will be the 32nd anniversary of my father's death. I was just a young woman when he died, terribly, of cancer.

I still miss him.

He would be pleased about my upcoming marriage, I think, and he would like my future husband.

When I was a child, Dad used to talk to me at the kitchen table. He said I'd get married one day and have a family of my own. That would be the most important thing in the world to me.

I think it will be. I feel so blessed to have found someone who is a good and amiable companion, who is honest and true. And, though we will have no children, I will come into a vast network of nieces, nephews, cousins and other family members from his side.

I love it.

I just want to grab the little niece who will be flower girl and hug her tight. And the nephew, who will be ring-bearer, who will even get a haircut, he's so excited about the ceremony. They're all looking forward to getting a new aunt, and I, them.

When my sweetie and I watched the Veteran's Day parade downtown, I looked at all the elderly vets — the ones of my father's generation. I suddenly got a strong sense of my father's presence there, with me. Probably the power of suggestion, but I was happy for that presence, and comforted by it.

I believe that presence will be with me when I walk down the aisle.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Diary of a mad, middle-aged bride

1. The panic sets in

Yes, here I am, about to embark on the course of holy matrimony in just two months.

People ask me if I'm excited. I am, in a contained way. We've had a few months to settle into our engagement, and the wedding was far off enough to not get hyped up about. The true knee-knocking excitement will set in around the first of March, I think.

Yet, a burble of thrill bubbles up through my mind at times. I know that I am truly blessed.

In the meantime, my friends are going into overdrive of hyped-up activity. I'm going to have the mother of all showers, I think, thanks to my dear friend Coe who is in her element and on a mission to create the bridal shower of the century.

Of course, all this means I'm being peppered with all sorts of questions — music, theme, colors and guest list. Do I prefer this or that? Exactly WHAT SHADES of cream, gold and green do I have in mind, my future sister-in-law wants to know. She wants to get to work on the dress for her daughter, who will be flower girl at the wedding (and the most gorgeous one ever — she's a doll).

The only response I can muster to most of these questions is a look of stupidity and an "uhhhh.... I dunno."

I finally got the shower guest list together, mostly. I'm going to have to add a few names of people I didn't think of to put on the original list.

Ah, but all these wonderful people. I'm amazed. My friends, my future family members who are welcoming me with open arms.

I'm truly blessed, if a little unhinged.