Gift of Ty's 7th Birthday

No flowers  

   But so much joy

       Loves to laugh
           But not into toys

               Always so loving
                   A special little boy

                                         Stands a        part
                                             Steals your heart

                                                      His name   it's Ty
                                                      I know he can fly
                                                           No way his autism will hold him 
                                                           Ty will always stand his ground

            He is wanting more
                                        and seeks and tries opening doors
          Our God watches him from above
          And me, just grandma, wants to always  
                                                                         him with my love. 
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God's greatest gifts are the mysteries in life that we seek to understand and that grow learning from, in the process. 



Compassion for Everyone

Talking to some friends online I learned that many people like to hide their
ailments. Society puts so much pressure on everyone to be perfect that it has
become socially unacceptable to expose your flaws. Any flaws are seen as a weakness. It does not matter whether you are running for the Presidency, head of your neighborhood HOA, coaching a kid’s team or just being an in-law, the expectation is nothing less than perfect in every way.

Unfortunately, some of us are not hardwired that way. We come with not only defects of character but some physical issues as well. These are not by choice, not because of poor health and nutrition but simply it is what it is. We don’t blame our parents, pollution and society, we accept. However, those without health issues, those that profess to have it all together feel they are built without flaws. They see themselves as beautiful beings, infallible to chronic illness, mentally sound at all times and incapable of making blunders. They hold others to a much higher standard in life than they hold themselves.

The end result is a split society, those that endure challenges and those that do not.  Growth occurs to those who learn to deal with life as if they are on a sailboat having to navigate against strong winds not going in their favor.  The other parts of society, those with blinders on, go through life oblivious to others maladies. They are quick to judge, slow to respond, alienate themselves from anyone they see that has shown poor decision-making skills ever because it shows a total lack of character in them, unlike themselves.

So as we chatted yesterday, we learned that we each have survived and are surviving with several things in common. But, in sharing we helped each other grow more. One person in the conversation did not have a medical issue going on, but had a deep compassion for others. Her contribution to the conversation was just as meaningful. She experienced that we all learn from each other, and we learned from her, her heart of gold. There is no such thing as a weak link when we are sharing provided it is with an open heart and mind.

We keep our confidences quiet, mostly.  We we know when people ask how you are they really want to hear a trite answer back. All canned answers will do nicely.  We wonder why folks condemn others when they have never walked in their shoes.  We find a bit of sadness that many that suffer would feel much better if others would show abit more compassion and not use energy either avoiding them or putting them down. But, it is what it is.

At the end of the conversation, we knew it was time well-spent.  4 strangers who became lasting friends.  Caring and sharing creates understanding and bonds, when people let down the walls and truly open up.  That is supposed to be how life plays out. Imperfection is reality, anything else is fabrication.  Some people's flaws may be more obvious because of who they are, what position they have held, how they look, what they are willing to share, etc... But, everyone has these bumps, so to speak.  If you didn't, you aren't human.  Find time to be real, if not with others, with yourself. 

Moments like yesterday, one conversation and the world shines a little bit brighter, not just for the four of us, but possibly, for everyone.  

Tomorrow may you start,
To find it in your heart,
Accept people for who they are,
Quit raising up the bar.
Compassion goes a long long way,
And makes our future brighter every day.


Savor Your Loves

Wistful week, reflective moments. While sitting outside with Charley last night, a neighbor walked by with her little dog. She wanted to greet him and he began barking his head off. As she pulled back on the lead, backing off from him in fear, her doggie lurched forward fearless of the dog outweighing him by well over 90 lbs.  Thus began our conversation and the fears we face in life.

Maria was her name. Her husband was diagnosed with dementia 5 years ago. It was not that gut wrenching to her and the family at first as she had lived a rich full life with him and thought it would be a slow long progression downhill. She was fully committed to taking care of him herself, as so many are.  Over the years, the dementia progressed and went somewhere over the line into Alzheimer’s and many thought she was nuts for taking care of him herself.

Maria had baby gates put up so he would not leave the house in the middle of the night. Living in a gated community surrounded by concerned neighbors helped.  She slept on one side of a barricade to keep a constant vigil on him the last two years incase he awakened and needed her. Those years were full of late night walks when he felt he was called to duty by the police force and needed to patrol the streets again.  When driving her car, to him everyone looked like a potential criminal and should be arrested. She would have to have him sit on his hands so he would not grab the steering wheel and pull over to make an arrest like he had for some 30+ years on the police force.  

The day finally came, when diapers, speech and body functions were making it impossible to care for her beloved husband any longer so she was forced to put him in an assisted living center. Within days, he suffered 3 strokes, and within 2 weeks he was dead. She said, perhaps the way he wanted it. He preferred being at home with her. So now, he is waiting in heaven for her return, this time to greet her with his faculties all back in check.

Bob died May 17th, 18 days ago. Here we were, standing in the street, just beyond my driveway, talking at the sun was going down as if it was any other day. And yet, the conversation was heavy in some ways. I listened as she shared. When she learned I have a great deal of experience being around folks dying of cancer, she asked me questions. We discussed these together as it is more important she come to her own conclusions than mine.

Amazing how, in one conversation, you both can get a renewed faith in God, yourself and human resilience from others you barely know.  Bonds are formed that quickly, by a human connection. We can change each other’s life that quickly and leave an indelible mark on each other in life.  And life is short-lived.  Life is a cycle and there is no denying part of life is dying. And then returning home.

Today, I was in a melancholy mood. As we sat waiting for the vet to see our dog, a man pulled out front with his car, right outside the front door. He came around to the passenger side and gently lifted his dog, a golden retriever mix out of the front seat gently laying her, on her front legs on the pavement. Someone opened the door and he picked his dog back up placing it inside and holding her.

Everyone watched and yet did not watch. The room was silent, the dog was silent, the man was motionless, his face was expressionless yet it was clear what was to come. The dog was in bad shape. No one said a word, not any of the dogs, or the office staff. We all sat there praying he was called back first, praying our dog wouldn’t ever be in that spot and yet knowing surely they all would, one day.

He was called back, and just as gently lifted his dog up and went into the room. You could have heard a pin drop. When he left, the door slowly opened. I caught a glimpse of his beloved pet lying on the soft blanket the vet had laying on a cushion to help make the floor softer. How thoughtful for the last bed the doggie would lay on. I couldn’t bear to give the doggie but a glance because I wanted to think in my mind of that gorgeous dog, jumping, barking, licking kids’ faces and such, as dogs are meant to do. 

The man’s eyes caught mine, just for a split second, and then we both looked away from each other. He had been crying. He quickly wiped away a tear. And walked out of there ever so quickly, back to his car and then just sat there. I know a piece of his heart was breaking just as Maria was at the loss of her husband. 

The cycle of life is hard to comprehend at times but teaches all of us about the mysteries of faith. Why it is important to savor the times we have with loved ones and not take them for granted. He started up his car and pulled away. He will start a new chapter.  Maria said to me she is redoing parts of her house as she must rebuild her life, alone. We are given another day to live. Until we aren’t, embrace your life and those you love, fully and completely. 


Florida Life & Times Continuation, as seen by Northerners

We did not pick one community to live in here in Florida because we learned there were alligators in the waters around it. Seriously, we are from the north and the thought of alligators lurking around is not something we find inviting. Who wants a lab that sometimes gets loose and loves water, diving in water where a gator hangs out in?

Our bubble dream was crushed last week. We learned, at the Wings Party, that there is, in fact an 8 foot alligator in the large pond on our property here where we live!  Oh, our neighbors in this neighborhood told us not to worry; it is not worrisome, so far anyways. It hasn’t bothered anyone, yet. See that little word on the end of the sentence, that word, yet, bothers me. The pond sits along the golf course. The golfers said they are cautious swooping in to get their balls. I suppose so, or they might lose more than their balls!  Suffice it to say, we are not talking Charley, or ourselves on any walks around said pond!

Speaking of creatures, coyotes seem to find this area cozy or something. We have no idea why but we have even been told they visit the doggie park. Given that fact, it seems strange that people with little dogs, knowing that, would let their dogs off their lead but Charley remains on lead regardless.  Between the gator and the coyotes, I see no rule change here for him!

Speaking of unusual sites at the doggie park, imagine our impulse to laugh when we see folks in the golf cart walking their talk there. Yes, adults sitting in a golf cart, riding it, with a dog on a leash walking next to it. Something seems odd with this picture to us, but maybe we have been living in the north too long.

While standing in my backyard the other day, I discovered my ingenious invention for my flower beds I made for my bedroom windows were not so spectacular after all.  There is a ledge on the bedroom window that was causing the baskets to dip forward. Nothing seemed to work to get those darn baskets to stay upright correctly so I kept trying different kind of weighty objects and finally found something that worked!  However, when a neighbor was over talking to me in the backyard, she discovered that I have Campbell Soup cans in the windows of my bedroom!  Yep, that is holding up my plants from behind and are plainly visible!  Now you know my secret, my soup preference and I am going to have to scramble for another solution or just let it go. Jim says at least this way folks know if they need to borrow soup, they know where to go.

You’re supposed to like your neighbors and I try to. But there is one down the road who’s orange tree is voluptuous and seductive and that is annoying the hell out of me! Here I am, watering diligently our abnormally shaped orange tree and her’s has perfectly shaped big balled oranges, colored orange, not miniature pool balls that look like limes.  I want to know the secret!

This past week we learned of the Nazi Yard Inspectors. We had no idea what the heck was going on but saw, all the sudden, a flurry of activity on the street. Half the neighbors we had never met were all outdoors doing yardwork. There was dust flying everywhere, bags of mulch piled so high you couldn’t see who was behind them.  It looked like, driving down our street, half of the Lowe’s Garden Center was bought by our street alone!  Then, drum roll, we were told, Yard Inspection Time is due.

Never having gone through this, and honestly not having been forewarned, we were clueless, like two naked babes in the woods.  We   quickly were filled in and realized our yard had to be in tip top shape, well-manicured and look pristine and stylish or we would be receiving a nasty warning letter from the owners of the community. What the repercussions were, since they were new owners, no one wanted to find out.  

That was enough for us to know that we decided to revamp our plans and switch from painting and inside work to mulching. Thus,  off Jim went to buy bag after bag of mulch and refocus on more yard work as quickly as everyone else was doing theirs.  We quickly learned just how wonderful it is to do yardwork in Florida. Even in Zephyrhills, where there is a breeze, it is as hot as, well you know the rest of that sentence! FYI: to date we are not sure if the Gestapo of Yard Inspections has came through but we have no note to date so that is all good.

Would love to write more but need to go water the orange tree and pray to God it will be fruitful and multiply!


Staples Affordable and Be Your Best

Okay I admit it, I love trying out new make-up, buying jewelry and pampering myself.  But, I hate spending large amounts of money on it. I feel so many companies are a rip-off. So years ago I sold Avon and found out many of their products worked just as good if not better. And many become staples. So let me share just a few I have on hand all the time and why.

First, since my hair is fine and never has enough volume, I learned, post selling, their Advance Techniques Shampoo is very good and not a stripping shampoo. I use
Ultimate Volume but all kinds are excellent. I do not believe in using only one kind of shampoo so alternate it with my favorite beauty salon brand Bamboo but this is my other preferred brand always in stock at my house!

Next, unwanted facial hair is a deterrent for the perfect look, especially on those days when it is sunny or in good light!  Skin So Soft Fresh and Smooth Facial Hair Removal Cream works great for a quick fix. However, this is best used at night as it can make your face momentarily red. Thus I use the kind for Sensitive skin. If you buy it, use it the minimum time stated first. I follow up with either cold cream, moisturizer or face oil. You should love it.  Either way, write a review on their site sharing your experience.

Staying with the face, my favorite newer product is the Brow Kit! Totally does the job better than anything I have used! It comes with a small brush and you can brush on your brows shaping them making brows look natural and it even has a highlighter color to soften and enhance the lines of your browline to finish the look

For cheeks, the best bronzer on the market is Avon Glow Bronzing Powder.  I even use this sometimes simply as a blush when wanting a light summery look.  This is perfect.  You can mix those too with other shades of blush for a different look.

The blush that is perfect for blending that is a mainstay for me is their line called Smooth Minerals Blush. Love the naturalness of the blush and the ability to put on thick or thin. If the blush is put on too thick, it is very
easy with cotton balls or a tissue to blot less dark. This can even be removed and reapplied if you are like me, change your mind and want a different shade on a given day/night.

One item I am never ever without is called Avon Setting Spray!  Theirs I find is the best. No fragrance, no stickiness and it works wonderfully.  Hold slightly away from the face, once make-up is applied and spray with this pump
spray bottle and walla, your make-up should stay in place. This is something I have struggled with for years with my perfect make-up face losing its luster within hours of leaving my house!

I don’t like being inundated with too many ideas at once. The more overwhelmed I am, the less likely I am to try anything so let me leave it at this. Don’t take my word on any of this. Feel free to visit their site at my husband’s link https://jbronold.avonrepresentative.com/  and check out the reviews for any of the products I have mentioned. See what women are saying and you decide if they are worthy of a try!  I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Remember beauty is more than skin deep!


For the Birthday of My Son

It was cloth diapers and tiny toes,
It was pacifiers with yawns so big they would fall out.

It was a wrapped child in toilet paper screaming with pride,

It was a child with hurt feelings with a blanket over his head trying to hide.

It was hands covered with mud that went straight to the mouth,
Pockets with bugs and coffee cans with all sorts of icky things,
It was handmade cards with dinosaurs and cartoon characters with poems
that would melt the heart.

It was birthday parties that brought joy to his face.
It was trips to the park feeding the ducks, watching him learn to kick a ball, ride a bike and chase a dog that ran loose in the neighborhood.

It was cheering him on at a soccer games. Seeing him sad when a girl broke his heart. Seeing him in his room studying and dreaming of a future career. 

It was hearing his yells in the night with growing pains in his legs.  
It was watching him plan his college years.  It was sneaking in his room at night,
even as he aged, to be able to give him the sign of the cross on his forehead like I did when he was young. I wanted God to watch him closely all the days of his life and to tell him I loved him while he lay sleeping, no matter his age.

It was watching him run around a track as hard and fast as he could. It was knowing after he ran, he would come up just to check on me and afterwards
thank me for just being there to support him. It was watching him graduate and become the fine man I knew through all those 2 a.m. feedings he would be.

It was planting a seed and trying to nurture it and standing back, as he became an adult and watching it grow.

It was watching him become a father and seeing new little lives like the one he had once been. It was seeing the things I saw in him in the ones he created. It was watching me leave a part of his life and feeling as if a part of him was gone forever. It was seeing him embrace a new chapter in his life I had raised him to foster.  

It was and is a beautiful ride today, on his birthday, and every day that God blessed me to be a part of. May he always know God intended him to be placed with me and I with him for this sole purpose.  May he age with grace, love and happiness. May he one day be able to write and feel exactly how I feel towards him towards his children. 

Happy Birthday Mike
With all my love,



Update from Zephyrhills FL seen thru Northern Eyes

Time for an update from Zephyrhills FL from a Northern girl who is
wondering how she ever landed up in the Sunshine State. 

Bob across the street has a love, other than the love of his wife. Did I mention he has a part-time job? He brings everyone’s trash cans from the curb to the front of the driveway.  Where else in America can you live and find someone who does this for free? Who else makes James Brown’s Living in America so true?  No tipping allowed!

Well Bob has let it be known to me, since I come from Music City, that he loves Loretta Lynn. To quote him, “The sun rises and sets over Loretta. She is the most talented music artist in the industry ever.”  Consequently anything she has ever done, he has. And Bob likes me so much that he has brought over a steady stream of her CDs for me to tape so that I too can listen to her. Do not ask if I like listening because it would not matter. This guy is too sweet to disappoint.

Johnny Cash is next, so now ask me if I have on my computer his music burned? Yep. Patsy Cline, yes her too. Every time I go outside for any length of time, a pattern has developed. Bob comes over slowly walking with something in his hands, more country CDs that are his prized possessions he wants to share with me.  He does not like any of the newer artists, some he has never even heard of so naturally none of mine he wants. Oh well.

We are finding frogs are as numerous in our lot as salamanders. In fact, they really like us. Now not only was one in the lanai but one, somehow some way landed up clear in our walk-in closet. This is astounding given it would have had to hop through the house, through the bedroom, through the bathroom and then into the closet.  What a hopper! 

Confronted with it staring back at me with those bulging eyes when I walked in there, it was met with my blood curdling screams. Jim, Type B personality, calmly is non-reactive. I run out to where he is in the kitchen saying “Oh my God’ to which he replies “Is something wrong” as if that is part of my normal dialogue. I wanted him to pick up this invader with his bare hands. He looked at me like I was out of my mind and goes looking for something to catch the frog with coming back to the bedroom area with a coffee can. In my hero goes to the bathroom area, calmly talking to a frog.

I wish I had a video of my knight in shining area chasing an itty bitty frog around in the bathroom. I was so proud of him in those few moments, gallantly chasing that frog around coercing him into that can with his seductive voice into that coffee can. Nobody can do it as well as him. With the frog placed outside, I could breathe a sigh of relief. And so could the frog as Charley had not eaten him.

He was placed relatively close to our water logged orange tree. This is the one that I mentioned before was not maintained well and needed to be watered frequently. Well, there has been an issue in this area. Jim and I keep neglecting to turn the hose off when we turn it on. The first time it happened, the 15 minutes was one full hour. We each thought the other had turned the kitchen timer on.  Naturally each of us pointed at the other as to blame. 

The very next day our neighbor next door mentions to us, “Hey I saw your water on for a long time. Do you know how expensive water is around here?” Jim was nice; I wanted to say “Hey, smart ass, why didn’t you turn the water off?”  It happened again only this time it was worse.  I turned it on and decided the kitchen timer, though in theory is an awesome idea, it was going to work for us.  Instead we are more punctual folks that work off clocks so we agreed let’s set a time to turn it off. On it went and it was supposed to be shut off at 1:15 p.m. We remembered 15 minutes after the hour alrighty, after 3 p.m.! On the good side, as Jim pointed out, we should have plenty of oranges, when they come in, and they will be quite juicy!  

It was time to update our driver’s license. In a sense, to make ourselves legal in the state of Florida. Off we go to the courthouse and as we approach the parking lot, some bizarre looking birds are standing in front of the building. They don't move at all, blocking both sides of the road not the least bit intimidated by the people or the government officials inside.  I guess they too realize the government is useless and the birds were protesting.

Very quickly, as I am trying to get good photos, my husband begins protesting for me to get out of the car and get them to move. Now, I am from the North and know nothing about wild birds that are as large as my dog! How do I know if they are going to bite me, fly at me and attack? If he is so brave, why doesn’t he do something?  Well, out of the car I go, clicking my tongue like some idiot who knows what they are doing and saying shoo.

I could swear people around the street were laughing, not at the birds, mind you but me!  I wanted to point at the car window and said “He made me do this!”  I continued as they waddled like two pregnant ladies to the curb as he moved the car towards a parking lot leaving me stranded in the middle of the road now blocking traffic myself. At least I got a close shot of the birds with my phone.

To reward ourselves for all our hard work we have still been doing around
our home, we went to our weekly hang out, the ice cream stand.  It was weekly dollar cone night Wed. that we so enjoyed last time. It was peaceful, quiet and serene.  This week, what the hell happened?  Did someone sound a fire alarm or what?  The place was like a zoo on Family Day!  In the space of 40 minutes, the two girls working must have made over 100 cones!  Gone was the serenity we had enjoyed the week before.  But the ice cream was just as good, the price was right so in the end, all was well and we went home fulfilled and knowing, yes we made the right choice frogs, Loretta and all!


Pins and Needles: Acupuncture for the Lab

What?  Charley has to have acupuncture!  A 99 lb. fur ball of energy that barks non-stop in the vet’s office! Is this vet out of her mind?  Apparently, not because it was scheduled this week and we showed up. 

It went something like this:

 I walk in this week with my canine as eager as ever to greet everyone in the waiting room area with his usual cheery self.  Cheery, in Charley’s case is tag waving so hard it is knocking everything over that is on table tops because he is so abnormally large for a lab. He is so big folks ask us, even though he looks and is a pure bred lab, “What the hell is he?”  Let me not forget that it is usually him pulling and leading me on the lead instead of the other way around though I do my share of grunting as the trainer taught me. My grunts are hard to hear over his exuberant barks!

The vet comes in, pretty quickly actually. I think she was as anxious as us to get this show on the road. This was not going to be an easy feat but she assured me it would go smooth. I noted she avoided eye contact, with me that but not the dog.  Maybe she thought she was the ‘doggie whisperer’ and could somehow spellbind Charley into being something he is not, quiet and passive.

She had a pad lying on the floor for him with a cute Christmas blanket on it, so nice and comfy. He wanted nothing to do with it. I tried to explain Christmas was right around the corner and Santa was watching, get your doggie butt down but Charley was biting.  He continued his panting, pacing, licking her face, then mine, then repeat previous steps.

Finally, she muscled him down, with help from me. She is smaller than me but he is so big that the sight of the two of us doing a takedown move on Charley was similar to the sight of a WWW wrestler being taken down by a toddler. We both were quite out matched. By the time he was down, I dare say, we were panting.

A few minutes to recover and she was ready to work. She got out her tool box of goodies. Needles and peanut butter. She gave me the container of peanut butter and told me it was frozen. I was told it was a diversion tactic. I was to let him lick on that while she stuck the pins in him. 

She said he would not feel the pins and besides, he would be too busy licking the peanut butter. All I could think of was hurry up and get those damn pins in because he is a fast eater lady! He began to lick and luck was not on my side. With the very first pin, he immediately reacted with a look backwards at her that said, that is about enough of that!  She told me I was to start talking to him like she was doing, soft and sorta non-stop chatter. So on we went, constantly talking in hushed tones to Charley who probably thought we were nuts. Heck, we were at that time except we weren’t eating the peanut butter.  

While repeatedly telling him something he has never heard so much in his lifetime, what a good boy he is, he was being inserted with pins down his spine, back legs and head. Only a few times did he budge and attempt to move. And yes, he did inhale the peanut butter abit too quickly even though it was frozen. I was supposed to make it harder to reach by flipping the paper lid down to block it somewhat.  

Determination is a powerful motivator.  My dog is determined and motivated to get peanut butter when it is within nose reach of his tongue. So that trick didn’t work so well.  His tongue is about the length of a hot dog so it was too easy to get around that silly lid.  He whipped that tongue around lickety split and lavishly licked up all that peanut butter left.

When she was done inserting the pins, we both sat there continuing to talk to him. She looked at me and says, very gently, this time we are going to bypass hooking him up to electrical stimulation. My mouth about dropped open! I wanted to say, ah, doc you will need to get the whole waiting room of people in here to hold him for that!  With Charley that just ain’t going to happen! 

She went on to tell me that I would notice he will slow down and eventually get very sleepy from the needles. It was important he not eat any, of the needles. (What, I thought to myself, how much will that cost if he swallows one!) And I also was not to allow him to shake! When he tried and she was in the room, she grabbed him quickly by the handle on his harness and said “No shaking Charley.” He looked very confused. Since when, he said back.

Now the real trauma occurred, she left the room. Yes, she left me in there by myself!  Read closely, I am in a tiny room with a 99 lb. dog that is not getting sedate, has pins down his back, head and legs and she tells me follow him, watch him closely and I will set the timer and be back shortly and was gone! I breathed deeply and stopped just long enough to see my dog begin to try to do one of those huge shakes…I ran over on my knees grabbing his neck to stop him and say no Charley!  And shazam, there went one needle out of his head, right down on the floor just missing my kneecap. 

Oh my, one down, how many more to go?  Charley did not bark for a long time. He did pace but remarkably went quite a while without barking. I had to continue to talk to him till I was practically hoarse to keep him under control. The only time I got away without talking is when he would decide my face needed cleaning or to give me loving and that big ole slobbery tongue did what it does best, nailed my face from one side to the other. And I had to allow it this time, every time. It beat having nails on my knees and him shake! 

Finally, unfortunately, the barking dog came back to life. And whoa, in full force. He decided he had enough and let loose, with a vengeance. I am not sure why she was so sure he would ever sleep because she had seen how lively he was in the office.  He never even laid down. But she was convinced acupuncture takes them to another place. I suppose it is kind-of like a happy place. Well Charley didn’t get there, not this time anyways. And come to think of it, neither did I!

He began head-cutting the sliding door she comes in, from the back of the office area. When she finally slid open the door to walk back in, what does my priced doggie do?  Took off through the door, needles and all! Yep, he slipped out and walked through to the back office area complete with all those needles sticking out of him. She was left having to go after him and retrieve him. Hell, I wasn’t going to help. Why would I, she left me in there all alone with that monster for all that time! 

She brought him back in somewhat reprimanding him for walking out. I could not help but laugh out loud.  I wanted to badly to say Good Boy Charley, you are smarter than the doctor! She turned around and he about tackled her. I think she learned not to lock your knees around Charley or they might buckle if he comes in at you full force.  She bent over I suppose to tell him it was okay he is big and clumsy and was given one of those yummy kisses I had to endure for what seemed like an hour in that bitty room.

I was given instructions to keep talking to him while she removed needles. Honestly, I had run out of things to say. How much conversation can I have with a dog in one day?  He was sick of me and I was sick of him!  When the needles were extracted, she was all smiles and said wow, didn’t they go well!  Now we can do it all over again next week!

Lord will I be ready?  What on earth am I going to be able to talk about next week with him?


Hearing the Sound of Angels

So they played,
They acted as if all was the same,
They ran around in circles,
While neighbors called them names.

They ran to the backyard,
And gathered fruit from the trees,
They bit into their tough skins,
And they laughed with glee.

They danced to their house,
And they quickly looked around,
And were confronted with the memory,
Their parents’ room had not one sound.

It is funny that, as I have aged, my long-term memory has gotten so much better than my short-term memory. Because of that, I remember so much more about my childhood.  I understand this is not altogether uncommon. However, being from a divorced home and in rare circumstances, it caused a lifelong bond between my older sister and I, unlike most siblings. 

In my case, my parents were divorced when I was younger, in the 1960's. At that time, divorces weren't as common but were dramatically increasing. It was hard to process as a child. My parents seem to argue a lot from what I can recall. They seemed in love one minute and shouting at each other the next. Terri and I were left standing in the middle, in a home where the tension could be thick hanging in the air and we sometimes felt forgotten with all the turbulence going on. I can literally remember an old stand up vacuum cleaner and us each standing on one side each and hugging each other around it wanting to disappear out of the room. We wondered if the fighting would ever stop.   I was too young to process what the arguments were about. I was too young to understand also why our mother seemed to be gone frequently.   

Mom one day was gone, just like that. And she didn't come back.   I don’t recall a good-bye. I vaguely remember Dad sitting down and talking to my sister Terri and I about explanations but how does a child process their mom isn't coming home.  It never registered, it never seemed quite plausible. A mom deserting her children, something seemed amiss and the pain stayed, the scars never quite healed, we just tried to hide them from everyone except each other. 

We loved dad something fierce but my big sister, only two and a half years older than me became even more important in my life then. She was hurt as much, if not more than me. But with mom gone, I felt alone and she felt she needed to protect me. I didn't want to add to Dad's pain and my sister said we needed to help Dad so she was my confidante for what I was feeling and going through. 

As time went by, she became, in my mind at times, a sorta surrogate mom, I went to her when I was hurting. And yet we competed for Dad's attention. Having lost Mom we were scared of losing our father too. We knew if Mom had walked away from us, it was possible Dad would fall out of love with us too. We use to talk about this as kids in our rooms and I would bawl and Terri would assure me she would always be there for me regardless and hold me. As a child, it is never quite understood. Dad told us things about our mother's parenting skills but who really gets that or wants to think poorly of a parent. And we internalizes those issues. Part of us even blamed him at times. 

In those days, the 60’s, divorces were rising about 1% every 1-2 years and by the 1970 the rates were about 33%. The percentage, though, of single fathers with custody of their children was 1%.  We were an abnormality. In fact, in today's standards, we would be too as most households have joint custody or custody is given to the mothers.  We were an oddity in society and it was not lost on us or our father.  

Terri and I felt abandoned. Two little girls with a nothing but a male in the house.  A father who was hurt and angry with an ex-wife and two young girls to raise on his own. Our lives, our childhood was never the same. Our feelings, Terri and I's about each other and ourselves was never the same. Terri tried to assure me, and herself, we would be okay but neither of us quite believed it.   

Dad needed a caretaker for us, to replace our mother so he hired an old lady to be our nanny, Mrs. Train. She lived with us except for one
weekend a month when she went and stayed with her son.  And so there we were, living in the same house we lived in as a family, with a mom and a dad except now there was no mom. In its place was a nanny, a sweet old woman we grew very attached too.  Our dad changed right before our eyes.  Divorce does that to adults, as I learned myself going through my own,it's unavoidable. The effect though, on children can be harder to detect.
Neighborhood kids quickly learned we had no mother and our parents were divorced. It would have somehow been easier on us if she were dead. Kids were cruel to us, bullying us both. We were chanted at during bus stopswaits, while riding bikes, you name it as the girls who were so bad that their own mother left them.  They lived with a nanny because their dad couldn't stand to be around them either.  

 We were the joke and the object of curiosity.  It was heart-wrenching. As we were trying to get adjusted to the change, we walked outside and were confronted with mean screams. There were even calls to the house with neighbor kids yelling things at us. We had hang-up calls, with even our house-keeper getting them. She, at times, would take the phone off the hook.  

One family that pretty much dominated the neighborhood, the Coffees, called us two losers and worse. It didn’t matter whether it was true or not. I began to wonder if there was some truth to it, it was hard to process. Through all the tears, my sister Terri kept vigil over me in the
neighborhood.She would seek me out if I was hiding in the woods behind the Coffee's house till the chanting would stop. She would answer the calls and yell bad things back. She would even punch them if they touched me. It became common knowledge, if you mess with me, you mess with my big sister.

Terri would coach me on how to handle these situations, how to stand up for myself. Terri never seemed to care if she got hurt defending me. Her attitude was I was her little sister and I had no mother so she was going to step in and be there for me always.   She would even get tied to trees by them girls and left there. I would have to find her sometimes out there and untie her when they were gone.  She was brave and told me not to let Dad know how bad it was at times. We didn't want to risk Dad leaving us or getting angry with us if we were partly to blame.  

Our nanny was too old to come out and go around the neighborhood to talk to parents or kids so Terri did it. Dad didn’t come home till later and he just seemed to have too much on his mind for us to bother him with it. I am not sure he ever really knew the full extent of what we went through, how bad the teasing actually got.

We worshiped our dad. He loved us enough not to leave us even if we were bad girls. If he had left, we would have had nobody.  It was lonely at times and made us both feel we had to earn his love and not take it for granted. Losing a parent that is still alive is very isolating. We always felt somewhat different, rejected at the core. But Terri always let me know no matter what I did, rejection of me was never going to happen in her lifetime.  That helped me so much back then knowing someone was security. 
We tried to pretend nothing changed in our world but quickly saw we had to do more on our own. We didn't come home to a mom, we came home to an old woman, not our grandmother. We had no one to really confide in but each other and because I was youngest, I used my sister and she had really no one. Dad was a gamble, we didn't want to bend his ear and have him leave us.  I can't remember if, when our mom was living with us, if she was around enough to help us or not. But, at this time in our life, it didn't matter. There was not a mother option at all. 

We wanted our dad to love us more so he wouldn’t leave so we tried to please him even harder. We use to talk about how we needed to not get Dad mad at us so he stayed loving us . Terri was my coach on how to do this and reinforced what I was doing well to please him. Oh yes, we fought, more so to win his attention! I think he knew some of our frustration because when he began dating, he tried to include us on some of his dates, once he was dating a woman for a while.   It made us love our dad even more; our dad was truly our hero.

He told us he was sorry he wasn’t home more but he was looking for a mother for us and a wife so we could be a real family again.  We listened closely and with childlike enthusiasm but we didn't share it really. We did not want to share him with anyone, the little bit of time we had with him. We thought aloud, what was to say a new woman wouldn't hate us if our own mother rejected us? He never assured us that wouldn't happen and we knew it was a possibility.   We met several women during those days. Terri, my big sister, would tell me what would be good about each one as our new prospective mother so I wouldn't be crushed at the prospect. She was the one to assure me all would be okay in the end. I looked up to her as I needed her, that pillar as I had no mom to cling to.

During this time, I would sleep with my sister a lot, especially when I was missing my mom. She would let me lay against her and remind me how much she loved me. Terri, even though young herself, seemed to sense it and stepped in the best she could in that type of role. If there was a storm, I would tip-toe to her room so I wouldn’t be heard and whisper to her I was scared. Terri would understand and play the role my mother use to. She would lift up her covers, like my mom use to on thundery nights, and tell me to come in close and assure me I was safe with her. She was a parent, in some ways to me. It was probably too much of a burden for her in some ways but it was all I had. 

Dad finally found a woman that was the one that made his heart sing. It became increasingly clear; this was the one he would marry.  She seemed to like us but was much younger than him. Looking back now,  it was probably hard to marry someone with a ready-made family, two daughters, both in grade school  and try to fill the step-mother role , never having had children before. Being a step-parent is a tough role to play.  It is so hard to define your position in a child’s life and how it plays out in a new marriage.

When they were married, we had to say good-bye to Mrs. Train. A nanny was no longer needed with a new step-mother in the house. But, the nanny was someone we had been living with for years. We had spent more time with her than our father for several years now. And we had grown to love her and be somewhat nurturing to us. And now, she was leaving. It opened a raw wound in my sister and I reminding us no matter who we loved they would leave. We realized stability of love was never going to be a part of our childhood other than each other. We cried and were quite heart-broken and were assured we'd see her again. Yet, we never did. 

It became clear, pretty quickly, we were indicators of a past relationship to our new step-mother. We were a reflection of our real mother to her in ways. She wanted the relationship to work and we did too.  I am not sure it was anyone’s fault, maybe it was inevitable but it created a rift, undeniably. There was resentment on our part that we lost even more of our father, lost our nanny and then we knew she found things about us distasteful. We had not been parented by a mother so I am sure there were.  

This made us feel like we were the outsiders in our home, particularly when our dad moved us and our newly formed family to a new home.  We called her mom but always felt a sense we were forced on her. If our own mother didn’t love us, why would she? And we rebelled against her too, in ways.  And she quickly became pregnant with a baby. That baby was their child and from then on, it was clear we were second-rate children, not the preferred. 

Terri began on a path of more rebellion than me, being the older of the two of us, particularly when the new son was born.  Dad pulled us aside and told us if troubles continued we would both have to be sent away to a boarding school.  

There it was, the rejection we both knew was coming. It had only been a matter of time. I hated my sister, she had assured me we would not get left again, not by our Dad if we were good. There we sat, after he left the room, his new bedroom, not saying a word for a few minutes. My sister Terri spoke first.  As she spoke, tears rolled down my face. I can't remember a single thing she said because my heart was crushed. I hated her at that moment and a piece of me hated her for years and years. I felt she had lied to me.  I trusted her.  But I still hung on to her, when we weren't fighting. I still shared secrets of my feelings and thoughts with her and let her share hers with me.  No one understood me better, those deep feelings of being rejected better than her or me her feelings than I.  

My older sister continued to let me tag along with her friends.  I was insecure more than ever now.  One minute Terri and I fought like cats and dogs, furiously, taking out all our frustration on each other.   Then, the next minute, she was defending me. In so many ways, back then, and still today, we are as different as day and night. In other ways, the similarities between my sister Terri and I are tenfold as we age. We both took different paths. In other ways, are lives played out not so differently. We both went through divorces, proving the cycle of dysfunctional marriage continues in generations but we never followed our mother's choice of leaving our children no matter how bad things got in our homes.  We have had years of distance in our relationship but have maintained contact with each other of some sort our entire lives. One of us has children that are incredibly close to their mom and one has children that are not, some of the children have had marriages that have also ended in divorce much like ours and none of our children are close to each other or close to either of us, their aunts. But inspite of that, having no real family even now, either of us, we have found a way to hang on to the thread of our relationship. 

I have learned the biggest lesson of my childhood not from Terri or anyone else. That is a deep  gratefulness to God for putting her and I together in life.  In those early days in my life, when there was no mother and we both felt unloved by a mother that deserted us, she stepped up to the plate and made me feel she was there to try to fill the gaps.  My sister was my cushion to cuddle up to as a mother would have when I needed one.  My father was gone a lot. I worried about him leaving and not loving me. Terri was the one who whispered I love you and held me when I was crying. She was the one that told me I was worthy of being loved. Every little girl deserves and needs that. I am not sure I ever put enough weight on God for giving me a sister to share in that horrible sense of loss and frustration but I sure do now. 

And then, into a new marriage, we both felt like outsiders. It may have been our childish perception but perception is one’s reality and to us, it was real. We felt like misfits much as we had felt like living in a neighborhood when peopled shouted at us about our mother not loving us. When our step-mother got so angry, we were reminded of the association we had with a bad woman, our mom and each time, we felt abit more broken inside.  We carried scars of rejection that have been a strong bond through our lives that perhaps no one but us truly understands. 

Terri has loved me through it all, through all the highs and all the lows.  I have seen family, friends and husbands come and go. In trying to do the right thing, I have come to cross roads and made choices, and found people fall by the wayside. They have floated in my life and floated out of my life. they have chosen to not defend me, not to support me and not care about my feelings. But never has Terri wavered. She was that person that I knew would not judge me, not punish me for a bad decision and never desert me. My big sister doesn't test me, she takes time to always say I love you and never ever rejects me. She is my family, most of my life, the only sure one I have is Terri, my older sister. 

After  Mother’s Day, I realized this must be written to share. Don't take vital relationships in your life for granted. That single one that has been always there, it may be a heaven sent one.  My relationship with my sister may not be perfect, but I saw something that served as a reminder I am not a part of a family now either, not included, invited, acknowledged. My life means not much of anything to most loosely related to me. But to my sister, I am everything! What I thought I was searching for was something I have always had, a sister. A family can be as simple as one person, someone who unconditionally loves you and is willing to go the distance with you.   My dream came true, just not like I expected it too, and so did Terri's. 

Instead of feeling sad or lonely, indeed now I feel blessed. I was always whole and just didn't see it, I didn't feel it inside. And our connection, our bond, Terri and I was part of that wholeness, that family feeling. It was, is a love of acceptance, of our differences, our imperfections and our memories, good and bad, our fights, and our dreams, hopes and realities. It is not a thing of sadness to me but a thing of joy, of God’s blessing. My father did give me the greatest gift of all, a sister that loves me through it all with open arms and heart.  

Take time to watch, listen and talk to your children about divorce.  Know that their heart feels pain too at the death of a marriage and it is much worse when a child feels rejection.  Recognize that family is something special and who those people are that truly comprise the qualities of a family, they may or may not even be people that you are related to. I have several I am not blood-related to. 

May those of you that experience divorce realize that when families split apart, no matter whether it is from divorce or other reasons, many will chose sides and alienate you. Do not let that indicate to you that you are less whole. You are still complete, just walking a new journey.  There is usually at least one person who will always remain true to you, gravitate towards them and don't lose touch.  Don’t allow yourself to continue to be hurt, judged or feel like an outcast. You can't garnish internal strength, confidence and self-love if surrounded by doubters of you. 

The Lord is always watching over you, become stronger with hardship.  Know God has better plans. Know it is never really completely quiet…

When the girls listened again,
They detected bells ringing,
They put their heads together,
There, it was angels singing!

God bless the sister that protects those that need a shoulder to cry on. 
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