Friday, July 21, 2017

Not-Yet's and Not-Ever's

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

My daughter has friends who are raised quite differently than she has been. Many of her friends label us as over protective because they are allowed to do things that our daughter is not. Some things are just not-yet's and others are not-ever's, at least while she lives in our home.

One not-yet is getting her driver's license. Although many of her friends have gotten or are getting their driver's permits at fifteen years old so that they can get their licenses at sixteen, my husband and I decided years ago that we would not rush into getting her license just because she legally could, although our state has a tiered system with three stages depending on age and other provisions. There are several factors that play into this:

  • Local driving is far away from Atlanta traffic, but many people here commute and by the time they drive that distance, they are short on patience and have a whole different idea of what a speed limit is other than what is posted on the signs. 
  • The Atlanta area is one of the worst in the country for teenagers causing accidents and there are several reasons for that, but probably the main reason is that they are teenagers and do not take driving as seriously as they should and easily get distracted thanks to latest in tech. 
  • Another reason is related to illegal immigrants...they are not licensed or insured so there are many stories of accidents when a number of them jump out of the vehicle and ran away from the accident and that the vehicle itself was not registered so there is no way to find them. 
  • Such events have caused steep increases in our vehicle insurance over the past few years and adding a teen driver to the policy is not something we are eager to do. 
  • Lastly, waiting until she is seventeen also means we do not have to pay for a driving course as the tiered laws requires presently. It is enough that our car insurance doubles either way!

Her friends may get the not-yet's better than our not-ever's. A seventeen year old boy with which the Princess has been friends for a few years is leaving for college at the beginning of August. He wanted to spend some time with her so he offered to pick her up to drive her to the skating rink he likes that is about a 45-minute drive away. Now we expect attractions at this age but the Princess will not ever be allowed to date and being alone with a young man in a car...that sounds like a date to me. Of course, that is never going to happen. 

We have strict rules about going out with friends and courting. We have done things with her friends that are boys, like hiked in a park or gone to a movie, but I was there with them. The Princess does not have but one good friend that is a girl and that would be because she finds most girls fickle, boy-crazy, and shallow, except for this one. 

She just does not connect with girls. Even as a young child, she liked playing with boys and doing the stuff boys were into more...and this when she would dress in a fancy dress for church and often for dinner just because! She was a tomboy and a girly-girl, depending on the setting and her mood. For a few years, when she was middle school age, I could barely get her in a dress except for recitals. Now she is swinging back to her former loves, although she does not dress for dinner, but now and then she will wear a dress or skirt to church or just because.

Anyway, when she was younger, I mostly had to worry about what she and the boys were going to dig up in the backyard or injuries from sword fighting and she has always had this fascination with all kinds of knives, like boys tend to do. Although she is aware that some of her friends are attracted to her, she rarely will talk to us about it. The bad experience with J-Void left its mark on us all, so I think that one side of her does not want to like a boy or even been liked by a boy, but the other...well, she is still a teenage girl. We see the conflict she tries to hide.

Our rules have some flexibility depending on the situation and persons involved and we do invite God's say in the matter. However, the Princess is never to get into a car alone with a boy or go off anywhere alone with a boy at any time...period! She is allowed to go with a mixed group of friends as long as there is a responsible chaperone. We, at times, will allow her to do something with a boy as long as one of her parents is with her or we really know and trust the chaperone.

We do not need to know everyone in the group, but when it comes down to a one-on-one situation, we like to meet the boy and his parents if possible, just to be sure we all are on the same page. We did not do this with J-Void because....well, they both were only fourteen at the time. From our point of view, they were too young for courtship.

Now that the Princess is sixteen (and still too young, but it is not unexpected at this age), should a boy profess his interest in her as anything more than a friend and she feel the same, we will treat it as a courting situation. We are not there yet, although we have had some boys expressing their feelings for her, she has been more careful to reciprocate since J-Void. When we think it is a mutual attraction, then we will handle it as a courtship, in that we be more involved with their time together and work on getting to know the parents also.

Although the Princess has been made aware of these rules most of her life, I think it is still difficult for her to see the pictures of the girls from her youth group in their formal dresses with their dates for homecomings and proms. One girl in particular has had the same boyfriend for over a year, yet her mother has said that she is immature for her age to me several times, so I am still wondering why she allows her to date...? Anyway, a few times the Princess has asked why she does not feel anything towards any boy other than friendship, as if she thinks she has something wrong with her. It breaks my heart that she thinks that about herself, but I just tell her it is because she has not yet the one God has chosen for her.

I know that this may be hoping for too much, but I am still hoping that God's chosen mate for my daughter will be a man who recognizes that our strict rules are not against him but for him and that appreciates that we all worked to guard her virtue and her heart for him. That would be ideal, but I will try not to have that expectation. Still, I have heard God tell me that He has selected her husband, the one we have been praying about for all these years, and that we are going to love him. In someways I cannot wait to meet him and in others...well, that it changes so much that I am also not in a hurry to see change. I will trust God's timing.

My Lord, I look forward to my daughter coming into adulthood, but it is a bittersweet feeling. Please give us all patience and help us to really hear You as we all grow through this process.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Downsides of Upgrading Phones

Sooner or later, you will need to make friends with Disappointment. ~Dr. SunWolf

For many years I had a prepay flip phone. I had a plan that is no longer offered, but as long as I paid it the balance so that it was $100 once a year I was grandfathered in to pay 10 cents a minute for calls and 10 cents per text. I did not text and the most I ever paid in one year was around $50, most years between $20-$30. We still had a home land line and I did most of my chats on that. My cell phone was for meeting up with people at the right place and time and emergencies. The phone number was switched over to me from an old work phone number my husband had.

Now I am not particularly sentimental about phones, but phone numbers...well, that is another story. We have tried to keep the first number my daughter memorized when she was turning four years old. My husband was offered to go to the tech conference at Disney World that year. In preparation, my daughter and I began taking long walks to build her stamina and while we walked we worked on her memorizing her address and her daddy's phone number, because even though I could not imagine her getting separated from us by anything, I wanted to be sure that she knew our address, our full names, and how to contact us by phone.

So, we had that number ported to my prepay flip phone, which was no small feat that that time. I used the same phone with the same number for several years.

About three years ago, we decided to let go of the landline and go cellular only. So I got a smart phone, Samsung Galaxy S5, that I loved! The Princess got the prepay flip phone. She was not allowed to text or just chat on it, but it was to be used for meeting up with us at the right place and time.

We replaced the $20 flip phone I previously had for several years because it fell out of her pocket as she was riding her bike and a car ran over it. I keep thinking that one was a replacement of another that got ruined or lost, but she does not remember. Anyway, the last time we needed to replace it, there were no prepay flip phones, instead there was a $30 small touch screen phone that had wi-fi capability and very little storage by today's standards; I think it qualifies as the cheapest "smart phone" possible. She cracked the screen in the first six months, and she could have replaced it with her allowance or gift money, but she decided to just live with it.

A few years ago, my husband and I never had it in our minds that she would be allowed to have a smart phone as a teenager, but that is when we had a land line. Things have changed, tech has changed, and our plans had to change also.

My husband just bought a phone earlier this year to be his personal phone, as he felt his work phone was coming the company way of keeping surveillance on their employees. He is definitely an iPhone guy, but I like Android. He tried to convinced me to get a new phone then also. Now I was still quite happy with my Galaxy s5 except for one thing: not enough internal storage. I use my phone to help me stay on track with my life and chores, save money, and monitor and limit the Princess' online activity so it has several shopping apps, Instagram, a bill pay app (very necessary with all the additional stuff from the Queen Mother), and a few games that give me something to do when I am waiting with nothing to do. The 16 gig internal space was just not enough anymore and what apps I could move to the external card would move back to internal with every update. At least once a week to daily, I was moving over pictures and apps to the external card so all my apps would that my phone would that my life would work.

You may recall that we also had found a senior friendly flip phone for the Queen Mother and she was added to our service plan. That made three on the plan.

I was ready to give in and the prepay was coming due the first week of July, so I decided to just do it. The Princess would get my Galaxy s5 and I would get the Galaxy s8, which has 64 gig internal storage with the ability to add an external card, but I was not as thrilled about it because of the curved edges being harder to protect  You see, I do not go for the pretty phone cases but for ones that will really protect the phone. My s5 did not even have a scratch!

So we added the Princess to unlimited phone and texting.... Hold that thought.

Actually, the guy at the store made an error in the phone number we were trying to have port over from the prepay service...the number we have passed along in the family for over a decade. None of us caught it, so she really could not use the phone. It took some time to track down what went wrong and go back to the store to have it corrected, but since Thursday morning it has been up and running.

Back to that thought....I have access to all of her accounts email, Instagram, and Google Hangouts, so I can see everything, but there are three things that I would not see: texting, calls going in and out, and the actual conversation. However, I found a free app that leashes her phone to mine so I see all her text conversations and who is calling her. That is about the best I can do.

Oh, and I cannot tell you how much I really hated getting the Galaxy s8. I would have preferred getting another s5 with more internal storage. I ordered a cover like the one I had for on my s5, but I did not realize it would take three weeks to get it. (I am assuming it is coming from China.) So, I have tried to be careful with the phone, but for whatever reason, Galaxy made the entire phone with a glass skin. Had I looked more at the reviews I would have probably thought hard about going with an iPhone. The glass at the back of the s8 cracks very easily and the entire phone is quite slippery, but I thought all would be well once I got the case. Well, I still do not have a case and tonight I dropped it on a brick walkway and it hit a corner. The front screen is fine, but the back has one crack from the corner to the fingerprint pad. Not terribly bad and the case will cover most of the damage, but it does make the phone less water resistant. As I wrote, my s5 did not even have a scratch after three years, so I am a bit bummed that I did this after having the new phone for only eight days.

I miss my s5! Yes, I do!

My Lord, help me keep my expectations in perspective, one small crack in a phone should not have so much power over my feelings! I have spent too much thought on something I cannot change. Thank you for making heaven a place that does not have such concerns.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

My Thrift Booty....Boots!

It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. -Charles Spurgeon

I confess that I have a materialistic side. It rarely will overrule my practical side, but it is there. My compromise: I love to shop in thrift stores. I try to go to one of two Goodwill stores between grocery shopping and the Princess' piano lesson every Tuesday, our errand day, because the two best ones I have found around us are not the ones closest to us but on our errand route closer to where her piano teacher lives. When I say the best, I mean that they usually have far more selection and more of the better stuff. At least, they seem to be better than the one nearest us. I also like to go on Tuesdays because ever since I hit "the speed limit mark," what my husband calls being 55, I get a senior discount of 25% off my entire purchase on Tuesdays only. Actually, some cashiers gave the discount to me when I was still 54 because I was honest about being just a few months short...I guess the whitening hair was giving me away. (At times like this my daughter appreciates having an older mama.)

Typically, I thrift shop without a particular idea of what I would like. Having shopped like this for years, I am pretty efficient at not having to look at every single piece of clothing. Goodwill arranges clothes by colors separating solids and patterns so I usually can walk down the aisles to see what jumps out at me. Textures and color have always drawn my attention more than patterns when it comes to tops and dresses and skirts, although I do have a soft spot for leopard prints. Sweaters are the easiest for me because they are all about texture and color, but I have so many bulky textured sweaters and last winter I did not even unpack any of them as it was a warmer winter. I like petite tops that are shorter and harder to find with a glance and longer dresses and skirts which are easier as they hang lower.

In jeans, it is the opposite; I prefer finding the very rare patterns although I currently do not have any since little wild puppy Mishka nipped and ripped the few I had months ago playing as if I was a stubborn two-legged sheep to be chased and herded quite roughly every time he was awake and I was up walking. (Thankfully, he has grown out of that stage.) I have nearly every color of Gloria Vanderbilt's Amanda stretch jeans ever made, except the bright warm colors, that I wear more in the autumn and winter—my favorite of them, though, I like for summer, a lovely sage that looks refreshingly cool with a white eyelet top. When I look for jeans at thrift stores, it is more of a piece-by-piece search because the textures and colors are so similar that is it about cut and size; I am a straight leg, classic cut on the waist, regular or relaxed fit kind of girl, who hates boot cuts or any flare. I like to tuck my jeans in my boots to show them off and flares make my legs look shorter.

For the Princess, it is harder. She has a more slender build and is really petite, not a borderline petite as I am. She likes earthy, more subtle colors like I do, but typically darker. Currently, her most favorite color is black and next red, although she has yet to select any clothing with red for herself, but if she is given a red t-shirt, she would wear it now and then, if it has a good message. I have noticed that she is also drawn to textures, but more open weaves to wear layered (like I did when I was a young adult). She likes her jeans with flare, which is far harder to find in the right length for her.

It is also hard to find longer skirts and dresses for her; most pool around her around her feet. She does not like much of a heel in dress shoes (and I cannot blame her as I wore heels for years when I was in retail clothing and I avoid wearing them now except for rare special occasions), but this week she got a pair of wintry suede-and-furry lace up boots with a built-in heel that not only looked so cute on her, but she said they were comfortable—and she could run in them, which is has been her acid test for a few years with foot wear. (We still laugh about the Jurassic World movie where the lead woman ran in high-heel dress shoes throughout entire the movie. Yeah, right!)

As to foot wear, I lean towards two kinds. One is barely-there, flat, strappy leather sandals or a walking sandal that is not fancy but comfortable and practical—the latter usually has to be brand new because they develop a permanent foot impression. The other kind is a boot, actually all kinds of boots including booties, but I have a particular soft soft for boots with a western flare.

This week Independence Day was on Tuesday so her piano lesson was moved to Monday and I did not get that nice discount, but I also found some practically-new, fringed black boots that I slipped on and were so comfortable that were probably worth the extra $1.75 I had to pay. I have never had this thought in my mind before, but as I looked down at these boots on my feet: Ohhh, Mama LIKE! I caught the Princess involuntarily smiling when I actually said that out loud and I think that is going to be my new saying for extra special things like this. I may not like flashy clothes, but I cannot pass up a fringed western-style boot with a little bling!

The boots looked new, but sadly unloved. The fringe was a scary mess from being left stored with the throats lopped over, but I was pretty sure that I could do something to fix that. And fix that I did!

First things, first. It really would not do to fix the fringe and still have the throats bending, so I got pool noodles for $1 each at a local dollar store. Then I cut them with a sharp knife to size I wanted for the boots and a few others that I have not shown here. The noodles were really easy to cut!

Next I began working on the boot pictured on the right. I saw that many people on the internet suggest using heat, but that really did not work well. However, since I was really fortunate that these boots were made of real leather, I decided to try saddle soap. Now when I say real leather, that did not include the finer fringe at along the top of the boot which I think is a faux leather because the saddle soap did not soak into that fringe as it did on the real leather fringe on the sides of the boot, but even faux leather does well with saddle soap as it straighten itself out without anything else.

Practically, brand new leather boots for under $7 with about 20 minutes of saddle soaping and about 1/3 of a $1 noodle.

Now this is why I love going to thrift stores! 

Thank you, my Lord, for providing not only what I need but also what I do not particularly need but just like. You always make me smile.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wash and Dry

The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God’s love for us does not. -C.S. Lewis

The water pressure was going so low that if someone ran water at the kitchen sink, anyone in the shower immediately experienced a very cold drizzle. I logically know it is such things are temporary inconveniences but in my present emotional state, logic is being over powered by the emotional need for stability. I mentioned that I thought the water filters needed changing before my husband left to work out of state, because I knew he planned to fly from there to Florida. He simply said the water pressure is always lower in the summer, which did not sit well with me. I have lived here for twenty years and am home far more than he, so I think I know the difference, but he came home Monday and had the opportunity to experience a personal shower demonstration—and perhaps there is a reason that "demon" is in that word.

The water filters were replaced on Tuesday.

Speaking of washing, everyone pitches in on laundry here, but mostly everyone does their own unless it is convenient to add similar colors found in the hamper. I was going to do my wash on Wednesday, but I have the bed sheets to change and then Thursday, but my husband started his own load. So I thought later that day or Friday, but as things go here for me lately, the dryer began to make a horrible noise as my husband's laundry was finishing up. He took apart the dryer to find that one of the drum rollers had a bad bearing so I ordered the drum roller online with overnight shipping.

Now I have to say here that I have been under stress for a long while now, second guessing, and triple checking everything, worried about missing something with handling the affairs of two houses and nursing home care that requires two separate bank accounts for the Queen Mother that have to be handled in very specific and different ways. And I was handling it pretty well, was being the operative word. This week I found that I had become pretty frayed at all the seams. My husband too, but his only added to mine becoming more unraveled. I write this so that you might understand that what happened was probably inevitable.

I ordered the right parts but I typed in my zip code wrong, transposing two numbers...something I would never do unless I am in the emotional state I am in (that I tried to convince myself I am not in). So our overnight package did not make it today as it should have...and will not possibly make it this weekend.

Then...I did what any woman frayed at the seams and unraveling would do realizing that she just added more unnecessary stress to her present state, I cried! Yes, I am there at that place, breaking down over things that are just largely the small bumps in the road of life and again taking higher dosages of Valerian.

My Lord, remind me that the shifting sands do not move the solid rock. Be my foundation for everything.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Small Moves

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time." –Abraham Lincoln

Since we began taking over handling everything for the Queen Mother, my husband keeps saying that we are making "small moves," because if we look at all that must be done, it is just too overwhelming. So, we just keep making small moves that will eventually work down the overwhelming, but as I see it, it will never really be done. Some things will be in the short term, like the estate sale and the selling of the house, but that only changes other aspects that are long term. It is always the long term that wears me down.

We all three finally sat down and thought out room-by-room of our own house what we are keeping and what we are taking to Florida to add to the estate sale. To make most of the those decisions, we first had to decide on one in particular: What to do with one room in the house that really is not used, the guest room!

It has been my idea to move the Princess' daybed and trundle into the guest room, after it have been redone in a compromise of her taste and my rules, which include not painting the walls black, but I approve of black accents. That way she would still have the nightstand that she herself bought and her lamp. This would give her the most floor space so that she could use the trundle when one of her girl friends stay over and still be able to walk around the room, because they have to walk on the trundle to get to the door in her present bedroom. However, that would mean that we sell or store the guest room furniture.

My husband's idea was that she just use the guest room furniture and leave it as it is decorated already (although I still need to paint the window and match the faux paint pattern round the window—actually I need to paint all the trim as it is way too white for the decor and so there is that coming up). Right now, my guest room has a light peachy pink faux paint pattern with a wall paper border up by the ceiling. I also have two framed cross stitch artworks that I did some years ago of angels. So, it has a roses and angels kind of theme with a country flavored honey oak four poster bed and matching nightstand and mirrored dresser. (We have a matching wardrobe that will not fit in the room that we used in the nursery because it matched the crib and still have in the Princess' room today, but it may be going downstairs.) When I decorated the room, I wanted it to have a bed and breakfast feel even though the room was too small to really pull that off.

So, our conundrum is that that we now have the Queen Mother's furniture to consider and that means we have an additional queen and full size sleep number mattresses that we would like to keep as they are so expensive and so comfortable—we have a queen one for some years ourselves and we bought the full size to be in the Queen Mother's guest room because the extra firm mattress would have us in terrible pain by the third night. We have thought and talked about several scenarios, because we really do not want to sell our guest room furniture but we don't want to try to store it either.

The guest room is definitely not to the Princess' taste but she did say that it all looks nicely put together, so maybe she can stand it for "just two years," as she puts it, because she has some grand idea that she will not be here soon after she turns 18, but Mama is thinking a bit differently since I am hoping we move. (I am thinking that she is coming back to "being a girl," like when she used to dress for dinner, even though she would not admit it to us yet.) So, we decided that she will get the full size mattress to the replace the double sized pillow top queen mattress presently in there—I mention that it is a double sided pillow top because it is rather high. The full mattress will only give her a few more inches of walk-around-the-bed space, but she is only going to be using it for her bedroom because...

The bedroom she now has is going to be, well I have come to call it her "hide out," because "study" sounds to stuffy for her. I did toy with "phrontistery"—actually I am still toying with that one. We will repaint it. I am thinking it might be messy although I have to say she is rather neat, but when she is doing a project at her desk....she becomes something else. It will have the digital piano that is currently taking up space in my dining room and her desk that is downstairs. She will rearrange her bookshelves so she has a place for all the homeschool books we will are actively using, which are also taking up space in my dining room and downstairs. This room she can use to hang out with her friends also.

It is not ideal, but given the floor plan we have, it is better than it has been. Her bedroom can still be used for guests, but since we have not had any for about ten years...well, what is the point of leaving an empty room for nobody coming?

Since we all compromised on those two rooms, the rest is a matter of moving many things from one place to the other between here and Florida and from one space to another within our home.

My husband decided the open trailer he bought a few years ago mostly to haul his ATV is not what we really need now. He had been toying with the idea to build a large shed, but his time and energy have been a commodities in shorter supply between work and the extra things with the Queen Mother, trips to Florida, and her stuff. He then came up with another small move towards the next big one: to get an enclosed trailer that we could use like a shed for storage of many items in our garage, after we move furniture items between Florida and here, of course. It is not ideal for me because I just see it as a space hog in our driveway, but we are seriously planning to move within the next one to three years, so having something we can use to move our furniture is a plus and, if we will not be needing it later, trailers resell well here—we sold ours for a good price in just two days. In fact, the one we just sold went for more than 2x what we paid for it in two days, although we did fix it up with wood sides. Because we have to move furniture in about two weeks, he ordered one instead of looking for a used one. We just do not have the time and it will cost about the same as a shed...not if he built the shed himself but....time.

It always comes down to time and money. If one is short in time, he usually has to spend more money. One who has time and is short on money, usually spends more time. Time is a what we are shortest on these days. It just is what it is right now.

If found yourself wondering what we are going to do with the extra queen-size sleep number bed, may I introduce my husband's bigger of the small moves and another one of his justifications for buying the big pickup truck, which was not a very small move, in my opinion. He wants to get a camper and it makes some sense with how our lifestyle will be. The Queen Mother will have to remain in Florida for at least five years due to financial reasons, so we will need to continually go down to Florida to check in on her at least once or twice every two months, we are thinking. Yes, my husband has some sky miles and hotel points, but few hotels take big dogs and those things do get used up and there are plenty of camping areas in Florida. Plus, the man seriously wants to hunt and having a camper gives him a better opportunity and more choices. Then there is me...I used to love to travel and camp in tents, but I am the one in this family who has traveled the least in the last twenty years and I am not so fond of tents in rainy weather nor sleeping uncomfortably when I camp, so sleeping on a sleep number bed in our own camper that we can pull along, maybe even have electricity when we like, is far more appealing to me than when I was younger and called such people "city campers." Anyway, we will store the mattress until we get the camper, which will be another exercise in compromise, I would think.

Lots of things are changing and at times, like today, it all just overwhelms me. At times I feel like I am trying to walk on shifting sands, but just when I feel like maybe I cannot do all this, I remember hearing God say He is going to bless me and I realize that it will work for the good.

My Lord, help us to make good decisions with our time and money, particularly now that we are all so stressed out.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Morning Blues

Happiness is breathlessly chasing you. ~Terri Guillemets

I am loving my yogurt with blueberries for breakfast!

We had a rather late freeze that stunted many fruit trees and bushes, but my blueberry bushes still produced pretty well. I planted three some years ago, but the middle one, regardless of what variety I put in that particular place, the bush would last only one season, except for the last one, it lasted two seasons and then died. So, this spring I planted another one with the idea that I would plant two instead of just one so that it is not in that exact spot and since they seem to be slow growing bushes, they are not going to crowd each other very soon.

We have to place bird netting over all of them as the birds go for the berries before they are ripe and are not very considerate about leaving many for us.

Speaking of birds...I am now questioning the term "bluebird of happiness."

I have lived here for 20 years come this September and I have to say that every year is unique with its weather, pests, and animals...and just when I think that I have about seen it all, the Eastern Bluebird comes along to show me something new.

A couple of bluebirds made a nest in our now rarely used basketball hoop stand and so this is the first year that they have been nesting so close to the house. We have enjoyed their beautiful color looking outside of our windows, but then everything changed. For the last three months those seemingly sweet little bluebirds have been terrorizing us! They have been flying into every window of our house and attacking all the chrome and mirrors on our vehicles...and leaving their droppings all around such places.

When it first started, I felt so sorry for them being confused by the reflections. The window that attracted them the most was the one over the kitchen sink, so we placed ribbons on the outside hoping that that would stop trying to fly into it, which could eventually cause themselves brain damage and their own death. They stopped going to that one, but then visited all the others more. I came home from Florida to find my husband's new pickup in the driveway with towels over all the chrome and bags over the mirrors! The next day when I looked at my van, I understood why he did that. Yuk!

I must confess here that I never have been much of a bird lover although I have helped a stunned bird or two in my lifetime. I prefer the birds of prey, humming birds, and birds with lovely melodious songs, especially the mocking bird that has so many different ones. However, for the most part, I am not overly sad when I see my cats come to me with feathers or when I find a dead bird in my front garden in a favorite place where Sharii likes to leave them.

At this point, I think we are running out of easy-to-catch chipmunks living in the ivy so maybe the cats will start back on the harder-to-catch squirrels and birds...and I will not even discuss the rat they did not hunt down that actually made a way into the house and to my pantry earlier this year! I think my tuxedo twins are getting just a bit too comfortable lying around in the shade when they should be alertly on the job.

While the bluebirds are not bringing me happiness, I will be smiling soon as I pick more sweet, ripe blueberries for my yogurt breakfasts with Mishka romping around in the yard!

My Lord, help these poor bluebirds move away to a better place for them and thank you for a bountiful blueberry harvest.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Happy Blessed Day!

God doesn't bless us just to make us happy;
He blesses us to make us a blessing. -Warren W. Wiersbe

When God says He is going to bless you, He means He is going to bless you! I am seeing it in the littlest of things for the last several weeks, but also the big things, those mountains I could not move.

I kind of dreaded Tuesday morning, but it turned out to be a very good day, kind of like spotting my my favorite combination of colors throughout the rest of the day like these lilacs in a old green watering can!

I had an appointment with the periodontist early in the morning before the rest of our weekly errands and the Princess' piano lesson. I have to say that the orthodontist recommends the best people, not only good at what they do and conservative in their approaches, but great personalities also. I am scheduled to have periodontal surgery at the end of July and it will not be as extensive as I thought it might have to be. He confirmed that my gums were in a good enough state for braces, which I think he doubted when he saw my x-rays with the bone loss, but when he examined me I think he found that my gums are in better condition than he expected. He wants to do a deep cleaning of two back teeth, which would be done surgically. I need to have one back tooth removed and bone graphing done to prepare for an implant that will be placed after I am out of braces.

I do have a couple of other teeth with gum recession, but he seem to not be too concerned with them at this time. He said something about looking at everything after my teeth have been moved around and see what I have then. So, it will not be as expensive as I thought it could be! And while God did not yet heal the bone loss—I am still holding on to that possibility—He definitely has healed some of the deep pockets I had!

So, all good news. The braces will be the most expensive part and certainly the longest treatment but I am so very happy about the idea of saving my teeth!

I had realized about three weeks ago that I must have left my black summer cardigan sweater at Goodwill, so it likely was re-donated. When I was in Florida I looked for one in a retail store and a thrift store, because they usually sell them in the summer because of demand from older women who are get sensitive to going into air conditioning after being in the hot outside. Since I came home I have been looking for one at Goodwill stores since. This is actually the best time of the year to look for sweaters because they are not as picked over as in the cooler weather, but finding black cardigans in good shape and my size is an act of patience and perfect timing. It took me nearly a year to find the sweater I lost and it was ideal, but I found two on Tuesday that were not as ideal, but sufficient. Both are snugger on the arms than I like but I am only wearing them with short sleeves or sleeveless tops. Why two? One looks a bit faded and has small pilling, but is very comfortable so I am thinking of using it more at home. The other looks brand new but is a bit thicker, better for air-conditioned stores and restaurants and church.

This is me painted happy!

My Lord, thank you for all the blessings. You are a most awesome God!

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Princess Does a Gig

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
-Ludwig van Beethoven

My husband and I had it in our minds for the past few years that the Princess might play piano at a local family-owned restaurant about five miles from us. It is in a historical downtown of a tiny town and when I say tiny, it was just a a handful of brick store fronts at a passenger train stop that closed down long ago, but this is the only restaurant that has stayed in business in that area for several years. It is has an upscale quality with Italian and Greek cuisine, but not too expensive for the area.

We were hoping to do this last summer, but the Princess was still dealing with some self-esteem issues that, thankfully, seemed resolved now. Since then she has begun to love piano again, especially after winning first place in the Fine Arts competition for Georgia and she was highly motivated to earn some money towards the trip for the national competition. It was estimated to be about $3,000 with one adult and one child, however my husband has sky miles, so the flight may not cost us much or anything at all, and points he could possibly use at a hotel, but they are all booked, so maybe not. Being that it is costly, we began talking about a summer job for the Princess.

Our Youth Pastor hoped to have the Princess work at the YMCA along with her to be a counselor for kids at their summer camps, but the jobs were filled before she was given the information on how to apply. Although she thought it would be better to have an income that was more certain than hoping for tips, it would have been inconvenient because that particular YMCA is a distance from us and coordinating the hours and days with transportation along with the Youth Pastor, who has had her focus more into her new marriage, seemed unlikely to go smoothly.

I was actually relieved when the YMCA door closed, because I felt it was not a good fit for us and I keep hearing my Lord telling me He is going to bless us. So, my husband contacted the restaurant owner and showed him a video of the Princess playing for the Fine Arts competition—on the piano with sticky keys, no less. Still, he was impressed enough to say that he would like to interview her. She was to call him and set up an time for that, so she did and he said he would call her on the following Monday to have her come for an interview, but Monday came and went without a call. Coming back from her piano lesson on Tuesday, I had her call him and take the humble approach that she night have misunderstood him about who was to call on Monday. He did not remember her at all at first, which I took as a bad sign, but then he remembered and just asked her to come on Friday and Saturday night to play from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Now the Princess usually only juggles two to four harder songs at a time so this was going to be a real challenge to prepare several to play for 30 to 40 minutes without repeats. We had already been preparing her by picking out songs she had done over the years, simpler yet quite lovely for background music at a restaurant. She was also coached to play harder songs more current, but at a slower pace and to condition herself to play for a longer time because the longest time she performed for recitals has been less than ten minutes. I knew she could do it, but...well, I am a mother, who felt she was not really prepared, but if she wanted to pull it off, she would because she does have that performer gene.

I had left for Florida on Thursday morning that week and returned home on Monday, so I was not there for her first time. When my husband sent me this picture, I suggested that she use her black music folder to hide the books and look more professional. However, the Princess called me to say that she had been given $64.50 on the first night. I was blown away! I thought she might make something like $20-$40 maybe. This was on a holiday weekend and the first one after school was out, so many people go away or are having cookouts. Previously, I had told her that even though it might not be as predictable as a regular paying job that she might make more money in tips overall, but I did not expect it would be that much!

The next night she called to tell me she was looking at $115 in front of her right then and I first assumed that she meant for both nights together, but then it caught me and I asked, "You mean that is the money you made tonight alone?" Yes, the owner had given her $30 of it but the rest was all from customer tips. When I talked to my husband, I found that he also thought she meant altogether. So for playing relaxing music for six hours she made $179.50 that weekend. That comes to just about $30 an hour!

When I had returned home, the Princess told me how she kind of felt bad, because the busboy had told her how many hours he works and what he makes, but she was wise enough not to say anything about what she had made. I told her what I have always told her: A job that can be done with little training by anyone they pull off the street is never going to pay as well as the job that requires training. She said all she did was sit and play, that it was easy. (This from the girl, who for three years begged to quit and brooded when we would not let her.) I told her it was easy because she has had years of training with thousand of hours and thousands of dollars poured into that training. She brought it up again and her father and I just smiled at each other, and he said, "The best job in the world is the one that does not feel like you are working at a job." The secret meaning is that she loved it, so it does not feel like work.

My husband and I had dinner there on Friday evening. It was rather emotional for me, hearing my own daughter playing the piano as we had a nice dinner together. I knew this was how it could be for her, but I was not sure we would get there. This particular restaurant is in an old building that was sand blasted to expose bare brick inside and out, but the outside was painted when this restaurant moved in. (I actually had met the owner of the several of the buildings in the town when she used to run an antique store there, who told me about all the work she had done to revitalize the buildings.) My point is the bare brick make the acoustics quite good there.

The restaurant owner likes to rotate performers, when others are available, so the Princess will not always be able to play there on weekend nights, when they are the busiest, but her manager (her father assumed that title) found that they did have the following weekend open, which was this past weekend. She earned $65 on Friday and $70 on Saturday. She knew that tips would fluctuate, but still she averaged over $20 an hour. Next weekend is already booked—a boy with a trumpet, which I think would be too loud for the place, but it is not my call. The restaurant owner told her that we can negotiate for other times and I think she is booked for the next weekend. She may not make as much every time, but I think everyone working at the restaurant heard a lot of compliments about the piano music and they will want her to play often.

The Princess is now thinking of continuing to play there throughout the year if they are so inclined and the family owns three of these restaurants in our area although the other two are further away, about 20 to 25 minutes in two different directions. Still, it would be worth it if she does as well at them. Actually, we do not know if the other two do live music yet, but it might be advantageous for her to rotate with them if they do, so the regular customers at the one place do not feel her playing is stale or they see her too often so she earns less.

I feel like we have finally come to that "ah-ha" moment with the Princess and her piano...and Mama is very happy!

My Lord, thank you so very much for getting us past the a very rough time between the Princess and piano. Thank you that she is now seeing what we had envisioned and hoped for. Thank you for standing firm with me as I felt so helpless trying to re-ignite that love she had for piano. I know that it was all in Your plan, but Your plans are not always the easiest paths to take. Thank you for this blessing of seeing the love of music again in the heart of my daughter.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Detaching Attachments

He who cannot rest, cannot work;
he who cannot let go, cannot hold on;
he who cannot find footing, cannot go forward.
-Harry Emerson Fosdick

This is the summer of detaching attachments. These days I am blogging not just because I like it, but because it helps me keep things in perspective and reminds me of the order in which things have happened and have to happen, because my previously sleepy, small life has increased in velocity and has been spread thin out in so many directions that I barely recognize it.

My Grocery Stores
When I first came to live here in this part of Georgia there were few choices for organic foods and they were a distance away but practically across the street from each other. One was called Harry's Farmers Market, a small, chain and the other was a small crowded co-op that did not even have an automatic door. The co-op was doing very well; it doubled in size within a few years and added an automatic door (you never appreciate those as much as when you are trying to open a small door with a cart going in and out). A few years later Whole Foods bought out Harry's, a small chain, although kind of kept the original name at this store.

Harry's was always quite busy even after it became Whole Foods, but for the past few years the parking lot has only been half as full as it used to be even on the weekends. I could easily see the slow change because I had the same piano lesson day and time for ten years in a row, so I shopped there about the same time every week. Since then we have bounced around on days because of the Home Learning Center schedule but it is still quite obvious that Harry's must be losing money. Whole Foods has been trying to move and it finally found a location about six miles northwest on the outer rim of a busy retail area and near a mall. There were construction problems that delayed the move for two years, but now it is official that the store will be there in the fall of this year. It is not terribly out of the way for us, but it will add driving time with lots of traffic lights.

The co-op is the greater concern. It also has been losing money every month for over two years, at least. I know this because I have been a board member for about a year and a half. Whole Foods moving could make things better but more likely things will be worse. Many people shop both places because although Whole Foods has more selection, it does not carry certain items that the co-op does and likewise the co-op does not carry much in meat or dairy. I cannot see the co-op still being in business two years from now if people drawn in by the new unique businesses now revitalizing the area do not begin shopping at the co-op. The only other thing that I believe would save it, would be to move it, before that is not even an financially possible, but to where is now another issue.

The organic market here has changed so much. We have a new chain called Sprouts that has aggressively been planting stores all over the Atlanta area and now there is one on the way into my favorite stores from our house. The problem I have with Sprouts is that they really have few organics, but lots of that shopping experience that appeals to the Millennials with a coffee shop and lots of bulk bins. I just was not that impressed personally, but every time I go passed it, the parking lot is pretty full.

People rave about Trader Joe's, which has that Harry's flavor. There is one about six miles to the east of the co-op but none near our route, as they like to be in the high traffic areas surrounded by high-price real estate. I think that their prices are a bit high, or used to be at least, as I have not been in one for more than ten years. They are not as committed to organics as I would like either.

Since Kroger's is carrying more organics and cheaper, our local one is as well, but organics still do not sell well near my home, that may be in part because many people grow their own foods around here. Often I get items that have been marked down to half because they are within three days of their sell-by dates. I had not been going there because they stopped carrying the butter I liked, which is the main reason I would go. But we ran out of apples so I stopped in and looked everything over as they have expanded their natural market area and ended up buying a few more things, like huge container of organic mushrooms that had been marked down. I used some raw in my salads for a couple of days and sauteed the rest!

The Queen Mother
As you know by now, since I have written about it enough, we are working at getting things settled in Florida with the Queen Mother, who has been less that cooperative on many levels. I am not completely insensitive to how things have changed in her life and her feelings about it; in fact, I have tried not to let it in too much how I would feel if I had fallen, went to the hospital with a life threatening infection, then to a rehab for the 100 days allowed on Medicare, ended up in nursing home, and then realizing that I would not ever again see my home that I lived in for 50 years. If I let all those empathic thoughts in too much, I could barely do what needs to be done with her estate.

I try not to feel the sadness, because all those things, the collectibles, to which she is attached had actually paralyzed her. She said she had thought about going into an assisted living place earlier but what would she have done with all the collectibles? I told her that was going to fall on Alan and me no matter what. All her attachments she bought over the years, they cannot and never really could offer her any comfort or love nor could her house and the people who could, she did not really invest in. I was talking to her next door neighbor about how the Queen Mother would talk, on the phone mostly, to a former neighbor right across the street and then talk about her after hanging up, complaining and often said they were not friends, but the next door neighbor said the Queen Mother told her they were best friends—easy to say now that she has moved away to live with her daughter, I suppose.

I honestly could spend days in tears for the Queen Mother, because she is so lonely and never really got that things are just...things. And yet, when we have tried to get her to talk about what she would like to keep or have with her in the nursing home, she only can think of what she cannot have and will not discuss it. Like when my husband asked about which of the beds she would prefer, she said her own, which is a queen and too large. She also has a full size and a twin or single that would fit better not only in her present room but for her assisted living space, when she is able to be moved. She insisted on the queen and her reason was because she had new sheets for that bed...really! But, decisions of practicality must be made and if she will not participate in making them, then it falls to us...and that is the hard part: we want her to be happy, but the reality is that there is no pleasing her, so no matter what we do or how we do it, she will be upset and blame us.

This is my reality in regards to the Queen Mother. For years, I tried to prepare myself knowing it could be and most probably would be this way, but it is hard for me to accept just the same. She is not willingly going to give up many of her attachments.

My Husband's Daughter
This is an attachment that detached long ago, but your child is always your child. Although I probably have not mentioned it here before, my husband had a daughter from his first marriage. There was a lot of things that happened in the first three years of our marriage I wish had not or that I could forget, including harassment, moving and hiding the child, false police reports, false accusations, the mother losing custody for a year to us, several court hearings each year finding the mother in contempt of court for not allowing visitation, and more. The more the mother refused to let my husband see his daughter, the more he was consumed with trying to see her.

Without going into more details, we finally were given a new judge, who looked at the case that stretched over ten years and stated that he did not even know where to start (I think mostly because the last judge did not follow through with contempt charges against the mother and he could not understand why the other judge had given my husband custody and then taken it away for no reason, especially after we all were assessed and the conclusion was that my husband would be the better parent for her), but by then the judge felt the girl was old enough to be asked if she wanted to see her father and she had been well coached to say "no." We were hopeful that the new judge would enforce contempt of court if the mother refused visitation, but instead, the judge said that he would not take visitation away, but he also would not enforce it. Once the mother knew visitation would solely be on her approval without fear of contempt of court, we did not see that little girl anymore.

After she graduated high school, (just a month after my daughter was born), she contacted my husband. The conversations were courteous and but nothing was discussed about the past, however the damage to their relationship, we assume by design from her mother, seemed to be beyond repair. A few months later she was pregnant and her boyfriend left her. We offered to have her live with us, help her through college, and such, but "no." We offered to come when her first child was born, but she said she was afraid that would upset her mother, who did not know yet that she had contacted us. My husband had the opportunity to just meet her for lunch once when he was working in the state she lives after her first child was born, but she said no to that. There were other opportunities but she always said no. She got back with the father and has had three more children since. In fact, we only got a few phone calls that first year and a few email messages over the years since and Christmas cards with pictures. She has turned down every opportunity to meet with him in person, except once after her second child was born and only in a public restaurant after his parents requested it and they would be there as well. It was as if she wanted him only to be a father-on-paper and not really be involved with him.

However, when the Queen Mother was injured and in rehab, this same woman offered to live in the Queen Mother's house as a "caretaker" with her "little family." When we stated by email we were selling the house, she still persisted and tried to make us feel guilty about the memories that would be lost. You see, she has been trying to move back to Florida for years because her other grandmother lives there. Once she pulled her kids out of school and put them in school in Florida while helping her grandmother after she fell and broke her hip. But, no matter how much she tried to find a job in Florida, it just never worked out. And even though she was close by for those months, she only visited the Queen Mother once. So I was a bit confused about how she just could not understand that her father would possibly refuse her offer of living in the house as a caretaker (and rent free) as a favor to his mother.

Finally, to help her understand, I wrote that what she was requesting required quite a bit of trust and we had not had the opportunity to build that kind of relationship with her. To drive the point further, I asked her if would she be willing to allow any one of her children spend the afternoon alone with us (which I knew she would not since she will not even see her father in person herself)...and explained that kind of mutual trust takes time and effort to build and we really did not have the time when it came to the house and its expenses, that it was to be sold as soon as we could manage it. She went silent for many of the following weeks.

This week, however, my husband received an email with two lines. One said that her uncle told his daughter, her cousin, that the Queen Mother was back home and asking if that was true. (We think he made this assumption because we sent an blanket email to all her email pals that she could be contacted by phone now, but all we did was transfer her home phone number to her new cell phone.) The other was that she was going on a road trip coming this way (meaning she is again seeing her other grandmother) and wondered if we could meet.

I had to think long on this because she lived with us for a time and I loved her, but as an adult she has had so many opportunities to have a closer relationship with her father and everything she did points to she did not want it to be anything more than emails now and then. (Now you may understand why the Queen Mother did not want the contact info of at least one of her three grown grandchildren on her new phone...and the other two have their issues also.) So, my thoughts sadly go to why now?—which matters little, really. The truth is I do not wish to go there or have my daughter dragged into it. I purposely put off having a child until she was nearly an adult so that any child we had would not be affected by all that we had gone through. I also spent years of my life chasing down my family, trying to stay in contact with them, and yet I may get a call from one of my three siblings on the average of once in five years and rarely a Christmas card. Both my sisters were married in the same year and I did not even get an announcement, let alone an invitation; I found out on Facebook a couple of years afterward. So, I am used to dysfunction in my own family and after years of trying I realized that it takes both parties to want to make a relationship better, that I cannot make it work all on my own...I do not make the effort to chase after them anymore. I used to feel guilty about things like that like I could have done more, tried harder, something, but those chains are broken and now I have no regrets, because I know I really tried and they did not. Although I do leave doors open and my arms ready to hug them, I no longer push, pull, or even coax for them to step through it and accept my love.

Likewise, I tried mending things between my husband and his daughter for years also, but I am just...well, I am done with it. I have been concerned that the Princess is naturally curious about her half-sister, but they are 18 years apart—her oldest is just one year younger than the Princess—and the father that she thinks she knows or remembers has been tainted with lies told all her life, while the Princess sees her father as he really is. I think it would only cause problems as the two visions of the same man can not be reconciled unless the older one is willing to recognize she has been thinking of him all wrong. I told my husband that I will support his decision if he wants to see her, but I do not want to be involved until their relationship is in a better state and he had already come to the same conclusion. The sad part is he thinks she only wants to meet to see what she can get from her grandmother's estate, but he is willing to meet with for a meal out with her alone to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Summer Camp
The Princess had saved up all the money she would need for summer camp, but we had told her that we would pay half. She handed her money in early to get the lowest fee, but Wednesday night she found out that only three teens had paid so the church was cancelling it and would be giving the money back. I was torn between feeling relief that one thing was taken off my crazy summer schedule, but sad because this would be the last year the Princess can go unless she goes as a leader. However, she also has friends from another church that planned to go that same week so she may be able to go with their group...although their youth pastor recently quit so we are not sure about that either.

Youth Pastor
Speaking of youth pastors, I was also given the news that ours is stepping down. I so wish I had been wrong, but I knew that it would be coming when she announced her engagement and I expected it shortly after the wedding. One of the reasons we were not in a hurry to move was because of the youth pastor and the relationship she had with the Princess. I knew that her priorities would shift and knowing her, I knew that it would not be a gentle change. However, the Princess is not the emotionally needy child she was a year ago so she is taking the news better than I am, I think. This also means we lose our housesitter and we really need one this summer.

Youth Band
The Princess stepped down from the youth band this week, at least temporarily but likely for the entire summer as last summer they stopped practices all together. We think it is a good idea as she has another gig that I will post about a little later. Actually, my husband was ready to have her quit when he stayed to watch the last practice she attended. The Praise and Worship Pastor was helping, but he only was there for about 20 minutes then he left to prepare for the Wednesday night service. After he left, practice fell apart and all the kids were messing around on their cell phones for 40 minutes. The Princess says that usually does not happen, but they are still practicing the same three songs they have been since before Christmas. One singer acts like a prima donna, stopping in the middle and constantly wanting to change keys back and forth to find the one that makes her sound the best. They have no date for performing the songs. It is just not productive and certainly not what the Princess is used to doing. We always have a performance date that she is working towards. I thought playing with a band would be a good experience but for the most part it, there is no real commitment to making the band work. My husband is even considering changing churches again so that she has a better opportunity with music through the church.

My Aunt
I have been warned by my cousin that my aunt's mind and health are failing fast and if I want to spend some time with her, I should come this summer. This reminds me of the time that my mother's health was failing, while I was taking care of my husband's father after the Queen Mother had her first bout with septicemia and was in rehab for many weeks recovering. Here I am caught up in working on affairs for the Queen Mother's and trying to find time to squeeze in a visit with my aunt, in between the times when her own family will be coming.

In Closing
There are more things going on than I have time to write. As I wrote, the velocity of my life definitely has sped up. Yet, I personally have let go of so many things to which I was chained, but I am living on varying degrees of stress and exhaustion on a daily basis right now. That fast I did, I gained about half the weight right back. Eventually, I will lose it again, when I am up for the effort.

My Lord, life changes are often unwelcome even when expected, but some can prove to be refreshing. I thank you for revealing to me what attachments are worthy and good in my life and of what ones I can and should let go without regret or guilt. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Out of Necessity, Some New Things Done

Everything comes to pass, nothing comes to stay. -Matthew Flickstein

In the past week, I realized that I have done some things I have never done before.

Although we had just been at the Queen Mother's house just three weekends ago, my husband revealed that he was hoping to place the house on the market in July. I called an estate sales broker and made arrangements to meet with her on the last weekend in May, which was meant that one of us had to be at the Queen Mother's house and that "one" was going to be me.

We packed up Dragon Heart with everything we were adding to the sale from our home and then...

I drove to Florida alone, completely and utterly alone. (Well, okay, my Lord was with me and we had a nice conversation). Last Thursday I left my husband, who promised to work in close to home, and my daughter at home to care for themselves and our pets and my gardens, while I drove the eight to nine hour drive to the Queen Mother's house in Florida. My husband actually worked a few hours away, which meant our daughter was home alone during the day Thursday and Friday while neither one of us could get home within 20 minutes, if needed. (Sometimes I have to remind myself that she is sixteen and at sixteen I could run a household if needed.)

My husband usually does the driving when we are together, so for thirty years I really have not driven even a portion of a trip like this (except for when we took two vehicles the last time we went)...and I really enjoyed the drive. The traffic was much lighter than I expected for being the Memorial Day weekend. The worst time for me to drive, even a short time, is in the afternoon when I can tend to get sleepy, if I am not highly engaged in something, and I would be on the most boring straight and flat highway for about two hours at that time of day. I have found, though, that a few sips of a 5-hour energy drink has just enough caffeine and B vitamins to get me through that afternoon drag when I am driving.

I arrived in the evening on Thursday and was not at all tired, so I not only unpacked the van but I began moving furniture, grouping items, and unpacking our things. (The Queen Mother has about 70 pieces of Capodimonte alone!) I had called my husband to let him know I arrived, and then my phone needed charging...but when I plugged it in to be charged, I discovered it would not charge. I called my husband at the time we usually talk when we are apart to say good-night and told him I had 6% left on my phone so whatever he needed to say, to say it fast. We had already turned off the phone, TV, and Internet service at the house three weeks previously, so I felt like I was cut off from the world and it was at that moment I realized...

I had never been alone at night in that house before—and I. did. NOT. like. it!

I finally made myself stop working and went to bed at 3:00 a.m. The next morning I thought I would sleep in but, no, I was wide awake at 7:00 a.m. with that not-enough-sleep hang-over feeling that makes one want to wear sunglasses when they should not be needed. I had yogurt and vitamins for breakfast and started looking at the drawers in the Queen Mother's room that we did not yet go through. I was just trying to fill my time until Best Buy should be open to find out if I needed a new phone, battery, or wire for charging. (Yes, I added that emphasis for a reason.)

Since I could not check the store times on my phone, I left the house at 9:00 a.m. and went down the road a little over a mile to the mall area with Best Buy across the street, but the parking lot was empty. I looked at the sign on the door and they would not open for another fact, nothing around there opens until 10:00. At home, some of our stores open at 7:00 and 8:00, but most are at 9:00, however Best Buy is 10:00 here also. Still, it seems Florida has its own alternate dimensional time zone, everything is slowed down and opens later in the morning but closes not late at night, perfect for the retirement crowd, I suppose.

So, I drove back to the house and then returned an hour later. Thinking that if I had to get another phone, I might not be able to pull off the information from the internal storage and that would mean that I do not even know my husband's phone number to call him, but I did know my daughter's as it used to be his work one, then it was mine when I had a flip-phone, and I passed it on to her. Still, it was going to be a huge hassle to set up a new phone that would take more time than I had to spare on this trip.

After waiting for about twenty minutes in line, I was beckoned up to the Geek Squad counter, probably looking like a woman on the edge with sunken, black, baggy eyes from lack of sleep and slumped shoulders of defeat, as I begged the young man in desperation: "I need you to save my cyber life!" After disappearing with my phone into the back room for a few minutes he returns and gives me the verdict. Later I called my husband to say that I had bad news and good news. The bad is that new phones are very expensive and the good is that I only needed to replace the wire, which was the cheapest of the three possibilities and the most convenient for me!

Once my phone was charging and functioning, I noticed I had a voice mail from the estate sales broker, who said that she was waiting for me to call to set the appointment for that day. As I remember it, I was to call her on Friday (that day) and she would come on Saturday, but I was flexible so she came that day. As she looked around, she said that she had a sale that fell through for next weekend so she could have her ladies start preparing ours next week as we had so many little items, but the sale was scheduled for the first weekend in July...well, it was for a few hours until my husband talked to her and backed it up another week.

My husband asked me to try to come home on Sunday, but with Friday being what it was and I being as tired as I was, I did not think I could unpack everything while kind of categorizing the items to make it easy on the ladies and so I could see everything and find the boxes that the Queen Mother kept from most of the collectibles; pack up all that was left that I needed to take; label the large items, mostly furniture, that we did not want to sell and my husband would be picking up in a month, a week before the sale; and move most of the personal items the Queen Mother might like or need when or if she goes into assisted living into her closet with a label on the door that nothing was to be sold from there; and pack up Dragon Heart all on Saturday...and be able make the drive the next day safely and alert.

I finished everything but packing up the minivan at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday and did the last of it when it was cooler in the evening. Although I went to bed at 11:00 p.m., I usually wake up at around 3:00 a.m. every night and easily go back to sleep, but at 3:20 I decided to just get up and go. I almost left the house exactly at 4:00 a.m., but I could not find my bluetooth, which was turned off so my locator app would not work. My Lord is so good to me...I honestly could have looked for an hour and never have thought to look where it was, but I placed my phone down on the bed I used and I felt something hard next to my fingers under the cover.

Then I was in the van and started to pull away, when I remembered the broker telling me to be sure not to lock the dead bolt on the side garage door as I had only given her the key for the knob and I had the dead bolt key made and left it inside for them as they would be there the next day. So, I stopped and unlocked the dead bolt. Thank you so much for that reminder, my Lord.

Then I was thinking that this could be the last time I ever stay at this house. In a month, my husband will take the few pieces of furniture we wanted and the next week everything will be sold. Then it is just clean the house and put it on the market, although we already have two couples are interested that are looking to move near their families, so we may not need a realtor. Property values have increased $10,000 since the first of the year, a realtor told us, so we are thinking about it all.

As I began my drive, I thought about surprising my family by not letting them know when I left. My husband asked me to call him when I stop for gas and I promised I would. I did that on the way down, so I thought that when I got over the Georgia state line (half way) with cheaper gas prices, I would stop for gas, maybe breakfast, and call him but not tell him that I am stopping for gas. So...I did. I told him I had grabbed breakfast and was on the way, so he was expecting me for dinner.

The really funny thing—and quite possibly proof that we have been married for a very long time—is that he was calling me as I was stepping up onto the front porch. He thought I should be stopping for gas and he wanted to talk to me about ordering pizza for dinner, however he also said that he thought that I would leave early like I did. We unpacked the van and then we joined our daughter, watching Daredevil on Netflix and had pizza for dinner.

Then my husband left to catch his flight for work the next day, but he was bumped twice so he decided to drive to North Carolina and catch up with his luggage which flew there without him. I decided not to try to do errands today and enjoy the summer rains after being in the seriously dry, drought in Florida. Perhaps because it is a dark rainy day, the Princess is still in bed after 10:00 a.m., but she knew I was going to be have a day of rest.

I love being home.

Thank you, my Lord, for being with me when I was so far away from my family, helping me with all the decisions I had to make and work I had to do, and just for loving me. Thank you, also, for reminding me that things are things and of little lasting value especially in comparison to the gift of Your Presence.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Cutting Strings to Sell, Donate, or Trash

Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination. -Christina Scalise, Organize Your Life and More

Now that we have decided on having an estate sale through a broker at the Queen Mother's house, I am gathering things together from my own home to take down to Florida to be sold. Most of those things were gifts I did not really want from the Queen Mother that accumulated over the years, and I kept most of them because...well, the Queen Mother takes it personally when a gift she has given is not on permanent display and, yes, she would look.

Her gifts were gifts with strings attached with expectations. Once she gave a seven-year-old girl in the family a special edition Barbie doll and the girl, of course, immediately began taking it out. The Queen Mother was not happy because she gave it as a collectible. I though was cruel to give a doll to a young girl and expect her to enjoy just looking at it in the box, like she did hers. She did not think to try to explain that it was meant to stay in the box, after she unwrapped it.

So, I learned soon after my marriage that if I did not love any gift she gave me, she seemed to take as I was rejecting her. It really was a stretch for her to get to know what I liked and there were a precious few times that she would surprise me, but for the most part I just saw those attached strings of expectations. I always had it in the back of my mind, even when she stopped coming here to visit, that she may live with us or near us and come here again.

I knew that those strings had me all tied up. I felt like I had to keep that stuff to keep the Queen Mother happy, because her love language to everyone else is gifts. I could have packed them away and only brought them out when she was coming, which was rare, but I just did not. And, I think the thing that bothered me the most—actually, weighed me down the most and paralyzed my thoughts to rid myself of them—was that I did not keep them out of respect for her, but more like fear of her being upset with me. Every time my eyes would rest on something the Queen Mother gave me, a thought of how it came from her and how she was insensitive to what I really like would surface, but in her defense, I do have eclectic tastes that only those who really know me or are attentive would get.

In honesty, I used to appreciate some of her collectibles, like the Boyd's Bears, because before the Princess, we had a children's guest room with a teddy bear theme and my husband likes teddy bears, but over the years even those have lost their appeal to both of us. I have switched from accumulative mode to downsizing back into simplicity and practicality for our lifestyle. I am now rather selective about what I want to look at and dust off every two weeks for the rest of my life and the majority of things the Queen Mother has given me are just dust collectors for the most part, not even my taste.

I am not really like most people from previous generations: for instance, I have always thought (even as a child) that having a formal dining room and another informal dining area is a waste of living space. I like one dining area, so I love the now popular open plans where the kitchen is practically part of the living room. However, I do like a quiet library room.

The Queen Mother has a china cabinet filled with her better dishes, which are quite plain, and hordes of her figurines and glass collections, while my china cabinet is not for fancy dishes we use a few times a year—although I have to say that is perhaps not entirely true, which I will explain in the next paragraph. Instead I have my everyday dishes, which are the Pfaltzgraff Tea Rose pattern. I had loved that country fresh pattern for many years and some of their heart shaped bowls and servers, so when a friend was putting together a good-bye party at our church in Florida before we moved to Georgia, she asked me what I wanted if people were to ask her and they were it. She bought us a set and I was thrilled. Later I found some bowls marked down for clearance at a K-Mart. I thought K-mart was discontinuing them but actually Pfaltzgraff had retired them. Once while shopping at an antique store, I found a large set with about 10 settings and a few other pieces that looked brand new and bought it all for $65. So, every day I see the dishes we actually use and we have to get all our dishes from there. Now Pfaltzgraff has again gone into production with them, but not with all the pieces they used to have.

In the bottom half of my china cabinet, I have another set of dishes that was given to my husband before we met. They are ironstone Colonial White by Homer Laughlin, which is the same company that made Fiestaware that has come back into popularity, so they are producing it again. I am not that fond of the Colonial White, but we have used it for holidays. It looks nice with a red table cloth and colorful Christmas trimmings. However, it is not fine china but was probably meant for everyday use, because it is heavy, which I actually prefer, and feels more like it should be in a restaurant. I have wanted to get rid of them several times, but I decided to again keep them because their high gloss and the angular Dover mold style makes it more up scale looking and appealing—and because ridding myself of the other stuff in the bottom of the china cabinet allowed more space.

Back to my point, I am trying to go through my house gathering items for the sale and carrying items to the two bins marked to sell or donate with the trash can handy. I will be going down to Florida on my own with DragonHeart packed full to meet with the estate sales broker, so she can see everything we have to sell. It is just amazing what I have accumulated through the years. However, I cannot tell you how freeing it is to have space and to think what I really would like to place here and there. I knew that I was feeling overwhelmed by the clutter in my home for years, but since yard sales do so poorly here and some things were worth a little something, I just held on them. Now I finally have an opportunity to really let go of quite a lot, which will be sold and what is left over will be donated and done with.

I probably would have worked through this stuff faster if I was not fasting, but I did not go into a full water-only fast. I have been drinking milk and kefir in very small amounts throughout the day to stimulate losing the fat and because I knew I would need more stamina to do this, although I have to say, it still takes it out of me. I think I was about 10 pounds over the what I like to call my comfortable heavy weight when I officially started on Tuesday—frankly I did not step on a scale until I had been fasting two days because I just knew. I have to start coming off of it today or tomorrow so I am strong for the trip. I am and should hold down to around that comfortable heavy weight and will have to try to fast again later to rid myself of the rest of it.

My Lord, thank you for helping cut these strings that have had me tied to fear and keeping things I did not treasure. I am happy to let them go to people who do find pleasure in them and to have my home reflect only what I finding pleasing. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Slowing into Fast

Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. -Andrew Murray

With all the stress that began before Christmas when the Queen Mother fell on her knee, somewhere along the way I dropped my one-day-a-week fast and I did not get to my January detox fast and that is usually at least one week to three. And I gained some weight, into numbers that usually make me feel sickly and more pain, but I have been heavy on supplements and actually I felt stronger this time, which only confirms how much the stress was zapping my energy and the extra food and nutrition was keeping me going.

There is no good break for fasting within our lives right now, however my husband began his a week ago. My digestive system is a bit more sensitive than his. I usually do better if I work down to fasting over a few days, so I began to eat increasing lighter and mostly raw foods for the last week. I am feeling it. I was mindful that I have a dental cleaning scheduled tomorrow and there is no avoiding the breath issue when fasting regardless of how much mouthwash one uses, so I had it in mind to stop eating completely tomorrow after the appointment for at least a week or a little more.

Usually, my husband and I observe a rule that we made long ago that we do not fast at the same time, but we literally have only short breaks between planned activities. My husband wants to get his mother's house on the market in July. We decided that having an estate sale is the best option, so we are planning for me to go to Florida alone in a couple of weeks and meet with an estate broker. I will be taking some things from my home to be in the sale and bringing some things back that are keepers also. So, this week I am looking through our stuff to pack up and take to Florida to place in the sale—while fasting.

It does not escape me that this activity will take more energy, but there is a correlative aspect of detoxing and clearing out that I find to be appealing on both sides. Most of the dust collectors I have are ones that were given to us by the Queen Mother and we kept because she takes it personally if she did not see them when she used to visit, but we kept them because in the back of our minds, she might have lived closer to us one day. That is over in our minds now.

The Queen Mother had pneumonia and is having serious issues with water retention. We know her immune system is compromised, but now we are pretty sure that she has had damage to her kidneys and possibly her liver and heart due to the septicemia. She is now taking a diuretic, but it is having little effect. She is still border line for going into assisted living, now that the wound on her knee is nearly healed completely, but with the complications that keep showing up, it seems likely that she will remain in the nursing home for longer...perhaps for the rest of her life, which may not be for a year. It seems to us that she is in the early to mid stages of congestive heart failure or multiple organ syndrome, the labels seem interchangeable.

As sad as that makes me, it makes me sadder that she chose to live alone for six years when she could have lived near us, actually attended one of the Princess' recitals, or just went out to dinner with us now and then. Now we are trying to make decisions about whether or not to keep some of her furniture that she would need for assisted living or just sell it all, and if we do not sell it all, do we rent a storage facility? Just things like that. I have been asking my Lord and I feel like He is telling me that we will not need to keep any of the furniture, but a part of me thinks it would be better keep some pieces and not need them, than to sell them all and find out she will...and knowing how it will upset her if they are all gone.

This fast I am hoping that both my husband and I will hear God clearly and we will act on what He is telling us, not what we think is the logical course. 

My Lord, these are hard times with hard decisions to be made. Please guide us heavily.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

4 Nights and 3 Days in Florida

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.
 -C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I was seventeen the first time I flew to Florida from Ohio with a window seat from the flat part of Ohio with patchwork crop and livestock fields to the far more interesting and unpredictable land forms of the Appalachian Mountains with its foothills and then to flat, washed out netting of roads so common in mid Florida. Do not get me wrong, when I was younger I liked it although I never really cozied up to the tropical plants, with the exception of fern trees and oaks. I admit that Florida is a lovely place if you like flat sandy, subtropical places. Been there, done that, and so very done with it! Since moving to the north part of Georgia, every time I visit Florida, I am thankful it is just for a short time. To me, its greens are bleached out and it has so many whole cities of mostly perpendicular north and south roadways crossed by streets spanning east and west that are unimaginative, probably a city planner's dream. I will say that it is senior friendly because everything is easy to find and you can hardly get lost.

We made plans to go to Florida to visit the Queen Mother and to start the process of taking keepsakes and things of worth we wish to keep from her house, in preparation of the ultimate goal to sell the house and everything else of value we would not be keeping. It is no small task to categorize the material residuals of life into piles of keep, sell, donate, or trash. I can only imagine it was harder for my husband, who had lived there from the time he was seven until he left for college at seventeen.

We took both the Dragon Heart, our mini van, and Big Red, our new diesel pick up truck that can haul our trailer completely packed. We were not planning to bring back much, mostly things from the garage and work shed, like a wheelbarrow, the generator, and a rain barrel. We planned to make decisions when we were there about what we would take back with us this time. We left Thursday morning in the rain and rain it did for the entire 550 miles with the exception of the last two hours, turning our 8 to 9 hour drive into nearly 11 hours...and it began raining as we pulled into the driveway! However, Florida has been in a drought with wildfires so it was sorely needed there.

I had purchased a light diffusing box and lights for taking pictures of the Hummel figurines, dolls, and other collectibles. That was the task for the Princess. My husband and I rummaged through taking down pictures from the walls to be boxed up, looking through the hidden places for the silverware, and the jewelry. Memorabilia was high on our list as well and we even found a picture that the Queen Mother had always wanted of her husband that had been in his mother's house but was fought over with his sister...and she had it all along in a very unique desk that we had thought was a sewing machine table.

The morning of the first day, I looked through the Queen Mother's jewelry knowing that she had a serious affection for Black Hills gold jewelry and I honestly had no idea how much of it she had, but I wanted to bring it home to be placed in our safe. Mind you that I cannot wear it. The Queen Mother is a large boned woman, although shorter than I am. I think her rings could quite possibly fit my husband's fingers and her bracelets slip on and off my wrists without bothering with the clasp, as I have rather small hands and wrists. They could be fitted by removing a link or two on some, but I like a daintier bracelet, with the exception of my colorful glass bead bracelets.

My husband and daughter went to visit the Queen Mother that first day in the afternoon. She was in good spirits and handed my husband a list of things she wanted. She could have called and told us so that we were not scrambling to shop for some of them while we were there, but...well, the Queen Mother does not make phone calls unless there is a problem and this did not qualify as a problem for her. While there my husband began to again ease into the conversation of what was of value and should be kept. When the Queen Mother told them where her Black Hills gold jewelry was, the Princess eagerly—maybe too eagerly, given the situation and knowing them both—chimed in that we had found them and how pretty they are. The Queen Mother then looked at her directly and said "You have been into my jewelry!" My daughter realized that she might have made a mistake, but her grandmother then said she was just kidding. I was not there but when they told me, I was thinking she was not kidding that much.

The next day we went to see her, the Queen Mother was upset and weeping because of all the things my husband had talked to her about the day before. We came with almost all the items she wanted including the items I had to buy at the store that morning...which, of course, were not the ones she wanted. She told me she had written down all the information with the numbers (for the style although she did not tell me and assumed I knew what those three numbers mention off to the side meant) and I told her that these were the only ones in the store that were the size she wanted in the brand she wanted, so the style she wanted was not there in her size. Immediately, I began looking online and found it on Amazon to be placed in my cart to finalize the order later.

As I doing that, she said in a very commanding way that she wanted ALL her Black Hills gold jewelry with her "HERE" making a downward motion with her arm while pointing her index finger down. I looked up and asked, "All of it?" (Please understand that she has more rings than fingers and toes AND she is retaining water so she cannot wear any of them and I am not so sure she can wear any of the several bracelets either.) She repeated the words and gesture with a redder face as if how dare I question the Queen Mother. Trying to help her realize that would be putting all her valuable jewelry at risk, I asked her if she thought that was wise because...well, there was no secure place for it there, but she told me that she sees residents with keys on bracelets, so there is way to secure them there, she believed (but did not even really know because she had not asked yet, is what I got from that).

Taking a deep breath in and out, I then began to work on setting up other contacts on her phone that she might like to have. She has had a written list of phones numbers by her wall phone in the kitchen for years so we bought that. Now her phone is not a smart phone but a flip phone so inputting contacts is a bit more work. She was still quite upset, so I was just going to put them all in but the Queen Mother wanted me to give her all the names on the list so she could say who was in and who was not. So I was still trying to figure out how to even get to the contact list to add anyone and she was trying to get me to read down the list. I asked her to have patience with me and gave her a few names, when we got to a "yes" I would put that one in...because to be quite honest, at this point I am pretty rattled with her trying to control everything and everyone to do everything exactly her way. My husband was sitting next to her trying to calm her down and I was slowly getting through the list. She was determined that I would not put any of the grown grandchildren in there. My husband and I both mentioned that just because they are listed does not mean she has to call them or even answer their calls but it was for her benefit so that she would at least know who is calling...nope!

However, she did want one neighbor, who is as controlling as the Queen Mother, on the contact list, which surprised us. This neighbor has helped her, like making sure she went to get checked when she fell on her knee and visiting her and bringing her things from the house, but she is also overkill. The Queen Mother had come to rely on her in some ways, but also complains about how she has been confusing her, telling her what to do and such. There is a strange dependency that concerns us because she complains about the woman yet.... My husband can size people up accurately, his God given gift, and he does not trust her. Since there were two women with the same first name on the list, I did not know which was the one that we would have preferred to mistakenly (on purpose) not put on the phone. However, I have a pretty good idea why the Queen Mother wanted her on it, so she has a neighborhood snitch to tell on us. The woman had come over on the first day, Friday, when my husband was visiting his mother and she began telling me what I should do with this and that in the house as well as asking me what we planned to put in the trailer. I said that depended on the weather, but it did not escape me that she once had keys to the house for a few months and knew what was in it, so she would be watching to see exactly what we were taking and probably tell the Queen Mother.

The third day I did not go with my husband and my desperate-for-Internet child, who is thankful for the free wi-fi at the nursing home. The Queen Mother apologized to my husband for being so rough on me, probably thinking that is why I did not come and that was partially true. Being empathic has its drawbacks. I try to connect with people as my way of understanding and helping them not with just physical healing but emotional, it just happens without conscience imagine, if you can, feeling how helpless and out-of-control now that her things are being prepared to be sold or whatever the Queen Mother feels along with my own feelings of being the brunt of her anger and pain, and just trying to imagine my own feelings if I were in her situation, and trying to deal with my feelings about going through her things to decide if they have worthy sentimental or monetary value. The conflict is completely insolvable and I could not sleep that night.

So, when she finally had all the Black Hills gold jewelry, she reportedly said that she did not know there was so much...but kept it anyway. If it is stolen or "lost,"—well, it is her jewelry, even though legally it is not hers now. She signed everything in and of the house over to her son, which she understood but she still does not completely get. The Queen Mother on that day also asked to see her bank account, which only has her monthly income and it goes to the nursing home. My husband simply said that he did not have it with him. Yeah, I am thinking the snitch neighbor will be happy to tell the Queen Mother everything she can glean from us and the other neighbors.

I am very sad for her though. As I have been looking into the values of all her collectibles, they have lost value. Markets change. I always thought of collectibles as something that only have value because the owner enjoys them and not as an investment. The Queen Mother thought they were both, but she missed selling at the height of the market. Only the very oldest of Hummel figurines are holding their value. (Actually, I am not into all these collectibles but I had to learn about the several different trademarks on Hummel figurines so I could look up their value, even though of the more than eight trademarks, the only ones of real value are TMK 1, 2, and maybe some with 3.) Madame Alexander dolls are now selling for less than half of their purchase price, but there was a spike in the market in the late 1980's when Madam Alexander sold her company. At that time, the Queen Mother's set of First Ladies might have sold for as much as $40,000 and my father-in-law asked her to sell then, but she would not thinking they would continue to go up. There are other collectibles: Capodimonte ceramics, Avon, Shirley Temple, Fenton Glass, pressed glass, carnival glass, and Boyd's Bears.

Why the change in the collectible market? It is not just because we had been in a bad recession, but because of other several factors. One is when things become popular and demand is high, companies tend make more to sell more and it saturates the market so there far too many available; most of the time this is not a big factor because of population growth, items get ruined, and greater demand that drives up the price of the pieces as they become more difficult to obtain. However, another factor is that my generation and younger are not into collectibles; more people see them as cluttering dust collectors than as something precious. Another factor is eBay: instead of throwing away or finding an antique dealer to buy these items, people can easily list them on eBay and sell an item themselves, which has driven the prices down because people are willing to sell them just to get rid of them.

So, I was thinking how sad it is to see everything that the Queen Mother valued in her life become devalued. My husband and I have watched her through the years invest into and place more value on things that do not have true lasting value rather on the things that are worthy, like God and people. Yes, people can let you down and hurt you and even die, but they are eternal. God has invested in people and values people. I think those investments are the ones that really last. I think it is sad that she has only had a couple of visits from two neighbors after being in a nursing home for well over four months and yet I cannot think of a time that she has ever visited anyone in the hospital or in a nursing home other than family.

It is sobering to see what has been sown in life is what we reap.

My Lord, peace is so hard to find right now, so I must rest in You more.