Monthly Archives: December 2019

Good Riddance Annus Horribilis

I sat down and wrote about the top ten things for 2019. It hasn’t been a great year for us. They say retirement comes in three phases. Phase One you are healthy so you travel and do and see things and have a blast. Phase Two something happens health wise and you slow down and enter a period of peaceful quiet living. Phase three, well that’s when you end up in a home so we won’t go there, I hope. 2019 is the year I think we transitioned from Phase One to Phase Two. I still have some hope 2020 will see us back on the road again, but not that much hope.

Here is my top ten blessings for 2019.

  1. One of my children separated from his wife but they reconciled only a few weeks later, much to my intense relief and many thankful prayers.
  2. My beautiful Misty was attacked by two pitbull dogs but she got away relatively unscathed when they turned on each other instead. She also got to swim with dolphins.

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    Misty had great fun with a friend she made at our second campsite. This little guy was actually faster than her. We don’t meet a lot of dogs who can outrun her but this boy sure could. He was also an important part of helping Misty get over being attacked.

  3. A dear friend’s daughter got married. We feel like she was almost a daughter to us and we saw her grow up so it was lovely to know she is married even though we could not make it to the wedding due to my husband’s health issues. She just recently announced she’s expecting this summer to add to the joy. Can you see me smiling?
  4. I discovered I love curling. I decided to keep active during our first winter out in the country and I joined the local senior curling group. I did it just for the exercise and the social contact so it was a real surprise to discover I really like curling. So living through winter after ten years of missing it is turning out to be not so bad.
  5. We came through the horrible storm of Canadian Thanksgiving 2019 unscathed. We were prepped and we were fine even though we had no power, no cell phone service, no land line, and no internet for nearly three days.IMG_8099
  6. We found a buyer for our precious property we could not longer manage. The buyer is going to continue to care for the property as it should be, including retaining the conservation agreement. Plus he will clean up the horrible mess left from the EF4 tornado of 2018.IMG_8189
  7. I discovered I have a lot more fix it talent than I thought after I designed and installed a new pantry space for our tiny house along with a few other projects to prepare for living here over the winter, like the new garage door opener.
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  8. My health has been great. I was really worried about my asthma acting up again since it always was worse in winter but so far I have not had any trouble at all. I credit that in part to our fresh air intake which has made our indoor air so much better.
  9. We got through the terrible flooding and disastrous storms in the south and midwest without harm and we had a nice time in our travels in spite of it.
  10. The stroke my husband had in June due to a carotid artery dissection after a seat belt accident was very minor and he has made an almost complete recovery. Plus he is finally tackling some risk factors and he’s lost 14 pounds and dropped three pant sizes just by switching to a treadmill desk. We were very fortunate.IMG_1709

 

So I say farewell to 2019 with gratitude for the blessings and thanks that it is over. Here’s hoping 2020 is better. 2019 certainly could have been a lot worse. I hope we all have the best year ever in 2020!

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The view from Riding Mountain National Park to our home some forty kilometres west.

Merry Christmas/Happy Channukah

Many years ago in my past life with a previous husband, I was struggling very hard to cope. It was Christmas Eve and my careful plan was to have a nice Christmas dinner with turkey and all the trimmings at home, open a few presents, and then go to my in-laws for Christmas day. The reason for the two meals was there were certain dishes that were part of my family tradition and they were not served by my mother-in-law. I also loved having leftover turkey to make into a whole variety of special holiday associated dishes such as turkey curry.

At my ex-husband’s workplace they were going to stop work early and then the men would have a couple of drinks and pick up their bonus and come home. My ex-husband promised me he would come home right after work. I hoped he would but I was filled with dread anyway. A few weeks before I had started attending meetings with the friends of Bill W and I had learned a few things there already. Previously I had blamed the bosses at his company for putting out a bottle of Christmas cheer at work. Honestly didn’t they know this was a bad thing to do? With my new friends I learned that the company was not responsible for my ex-husband’s behaviour. He made his choices and he was responsible for his choices.

Inevitably, dinner rolled around and he wasn’t home. There were no cell phones in those days so I couldn’t just call him and ask where he was, not that this would have done any good. I figured I’d wait until 6:30pm and then assume the worse. At 6:25 the wife of one my husband’s workplace buddies, one he often went on long binges with, showed up looking for her husband. I invited her in with her two boys about six and eight years old. She was horribly upset because her husband was missing too. The children were hungry and started crying and the wife stalked about ranting about why oh why was did the company have to ruin every Christmas by getting the men started on drinking.

 

Holiday Depression

I called my sponsor of that time. She told me to go about enjoying the holiday. Feed the children and have a nice evening. Just because my husband was out on a bender didn’t mean I could not enjoy Christmas. And so I did. First I calmed down the poor wife by handing her some eggnog and telling her she and her children were staying for Christmas Eve dinner. I put the food on the table and the hungry crying children soon became the happy stuffed children. With a bit of quick rearranging on my part, I was able to come up with a nice gift for each child. We read the poem “Night Before Christmas” and we watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Special while the children played with their new toys. We then tucked them into bed exhausted and happy. The atmosphere felt happy, wonderful and even a bit holy.

The wife and I sat enjoying a glass of red wine by the Christmas tree and we quietly contemplated the lovely lights and shared some laughs. Shortly after 3:00am our men rolled in, drunk as the skunks they were, loudly singing Christmas carols off key and staggering about. As soon they walked in the door the poor wife went from contented tree light watcher to shrieking harridan. They say you can always tell if someone in the family has a drinking problem by watching how crazy their spouse gets and she proceeded to do a very fine demonstration of that fact. Since I had only recently indulged in the same crazies, I simply watched and made some mental notes about how much my attitude had changed. There but for the grace of God went I. Meanwhile my drunk staggered off to bed and fell asleep. I helped them bundle up their weeping frightened boys and they left over my protests because her drunken husband insisted he was capable of driving. I prayed they would get home safe.

Christmas Day dawned and my ex-husband was sleeping off his drunk so the children and I enjoyed the Santa presents and opened our gifts. The drunk finally staggered out of bed about the time I was dressing the kids to go to their grandparents home. He told me he was not going. Tell them he had flu. With my new attitude about making him take responsibility for himself and not enabling him in his drunkenness, I refused but I did not fight with him about it. I did not give me usual lecture about how disappointed his mother would be or how embarrassed I would be or how much he was letting his children down. When all the assorted relatives asked where he was I simply told them he had been out drinking until 3:00am and was too hung over to join us. When they said things like “Why do you let him do that?” I answered honestly and said I had tried everything to get him to stop and nothing I did made any difference. They were free to try for themselves. I then changed the subject and concentrated on enjoying the company of my in-laws and all my little nieces and nephews. I can’t say I had a lot of fun, but my children did and that made it worth it.

I eventually left my drunk, who never did stop drinking and his family who had never stopped blaming me for it. (They now say I broke his heart and that is why he drinks.) I created a new and happy life with my happy nondrinking Jewish husband. There were so many negative memories of Christmas that it was a great relief to simply give it up. When I lit the first candle on the Menorah last night, I reflected on how many wonderful memories I have over my thirty years of celebrating Channukah with him. Virtually every Channukah has been a trauma free event for the entire eight day stretch. My daughter called to wish me a Hag Semeach. She had just come from a wonderful party with her Jewish mother-in-law and we shared some of our favourite Channukah memories. She is young enough that she does not know anything else.

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Now before you think I detest Christmas because I gave it up, let me assure you that is not the case. My neighbours have dozens of Christmas lights and now those new blow up figures that are all the rage. I love them! I attended a community Christmas party Sunday and I wore a silly blinking Christmas light necklace they gave all attendees. I laughed a lot. I enjoyed the music and the food and the wonderful sense of community real Christmas spirit brings. It’s just not my holiday anymore. One of the things I liked best about Christmas before my retirement was taking double and triple shifts so my Christian coworkers could be with their family. It was my way of sharing my blessings.

Child wearing Christmas hat

About five years ago I was contacted over Facebook by one of those little boys with whom I shared that Christmas Eve long ago. He said it was the best Christmas he ever had as a child. The experience made him determined that no matter what went on in his childhood, he was going to be happy and he and his wife would have a wonderful peaceful Christmas the way I had demonstrated it should be done. He thanked me. This gave me a wonderful warm glow inside. It also showed me yet again how when a child wants to live happy and well, small acts of kindness and good examples from strangers can help overcome a lifetime of abuse and dysfunction. I can not take credit for that evening. My sponsor taught me that lesson.

The Holiday Season is a time for joy and reflection and peace. Family dysfunction can mar that holiday and the season can bring back powerful negative, even evil memories. Even if you have been blessed with mostly good memories, Christmas can also be a time to grieve a lost loved one who will not be at the table. If you are one of those who has such a Christmas issue, my wish for you is that you are able to find your own way to set aside your pain, to create a positive memory and have joy instead this year. May your days be trauma free and may all your bad memories be placed where they can no longer hurt you. May you be blessed to find thirty years of happy holidays as I have. If you are one of those fortunate enough to be born into non dysfunctional families my wish is very simple. I wish you another Merry Christmas, or another Happy Channukah, whichever applies, and my hopes for you to have the finest and best New Year ever.

Joy to the World!

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Death is so Final.

Argo

This is Argo in his prime. He was a good kitty. He had been abandoned in an apartment when his original humans moved out. It was nearly a month before the landlord arrived to clean up and found this poor frantic dehydrated starving cat. He was adopted by my daughter and her significant other. He had a year and a half of being the darling kitty of a childless couple. We got pictures and updates on every aspect of his life. We tenderly joked that he was their practice baby. They sure loved that cat.

Argo got out in the cold. His human went looking for him immediately but on his way home Argo lost an encounter with an orange Kia. His people did everything they could to save him but after a week (and more than $1000 in vet expenses) it became clear he was suffering and would never recover. They made the hard decision to give him mercy. Argo has moved on to wherever it is good cats go when they die.

For reasons I don’t really get, Argo’s death has hit me very hard. Maybe it is because we also got word this week that my mother-in-law finally lost her long hard battle with dementia and mental illness and passed on at the age of ninety seven. One of my friends who is a recent immigrant from China told me that when someone dies at ninety seven that is a cause for celebration not mourning. I kind of see it. My mother-in-law’s brain had been gone for a long time so her finally passing means death is a friend not an enemy. Now that she has passed everyone else is celebrating her life as if she were a perfect saintly mother and wife, which she certainly was not. When I die, no doubt people will celebrate me as if I were a saint too, even though I am far from it.

Our town has many feral cats. Several people in the town put food out for them. Folks try to find good homes for the ones they can catch. Locals take the babies first because if you can catch a feral cat as a baby you can handle it and get it used to people. Older feral cats cannot normally be tamed. Sometimes an adult cat will approach one of us in the cold desperate for help and then you know they are someone’s pet who was lost or abandoned. The truly feral ones just die. Each winter the feral cat population is dramatically reduced by our bitter cold. There is a lone female feral cat who has taken up residence in our neighbour’s gazebo who has resisted every attempt to catch her and get her in where it is warm. We are all afraid she is going to die soon as temperatures are going to -26C each night now. I watch those feral cats with their frozen off ear tips and they scarred faces and I think how few of them had even one single day as good as Argo had for that year and a half. Life is certainly not fair. Why does there have to be pain and suffering in the world? Does the great joy of good times in life really make up for that?

I do hope my daughter and her man take in another cat. There are so many cats that need a loving home and they have big hearts and they gave Argo so much after a really rotten start to his life. Argo is so happy and so fully cat in his memorial picture. They could give another cat the wonderful gift they gave Argo.

I think the real reason Argo’s death has left me awake all this past night is because of how close death came to taking my husband from me last June. I can’t help but think every time he hugs me or I snuggle up for a cuddle in bed “He’s still warm. He’s still with me.” I look in the mirror and I see the wrinkles and the marks of aging. Death is stalking me now too. So perhaps poor Argo’s unfortunate passing has served as a reminder I’d rather not have, the reminder of the mortality that is looking me in the face every single day that remains.

God has much to answer for. I have just enough faith to believe that at some point He will, at some point I will understand why.  In the meantime there is nothing to do but embrace the joy that comes with being alive while I can.

Rest in peace kitty. You actually were a perfect little furry saint. We don’t have to make things up about how truly wonderful you were, for a cat.

Then we cross the Rainbow Bridge together….. – GLOBAL SAFARI