The Beginning of the End

I’m getting scared. I mean, really, really scared. My body is laughing at me, my eyes see things that aren’t there, and my brain plays tricks on me telling me it’s Monday when it’s Sunday or that it’s Monday when it’s Tuesday, making me forget where I put things and if I took one pill or two pills, and if it’s September or October.

Not funny guys!

Hubby and I sit and laugh at each other. Sometimes we cry, too. We’re both frustrated with our decaying bodies and absent-minded brains and wonder what a year from now is going to look like. I fear that some day my son will visit my sunken shell in the nursing home and wonder who that old woman is and what she did with his mother. I fear that his heart will rupture and bleed and I can’t kiss away his pain.

When we enter that brand new world where old people go to die, no one rolls out the red carpet for us to walk on. No one stands at the golden portals handing out pamphlets telling us what to expect. No welcome committee, no happy smiles no pats on the back. Just a big fat royal kick in the butt. A learn as you go, cold and cruel, sink or swim, everyone else’s world keeps spinning but your’s kick in the butt. It’s the beginning of the end and only those of us who are  there can know the grueling struggle it takes to survive in it.

But it’s not all cloudy and rainy. I love not having to get up and go to work every day. I enjoy lounging in my pajamas, cutting up with my husband, and doing nothing all day. I like cleaning when I want to. I like putting things off till tomorrow or the next day or dooms day. I like not having to follow a set of rules that no longer apply to me. I don’t have to dress up, put on a pretty face, paint my nails or even shave my legs if I don’t want to. I’m retired! I’m free! I can still do stuff! I’m happy and well and strong . . . kinda sorta.

So yes, I’ve entered the twilight zone, the beginning of the end of my life here on earth. It’s spooky, it’s scary, it’s clouded with uncertainties. But it is what it is. I can’t do a darned thing to change it. I can either dry up and blow away or I can continue to live until God calls me home. I can be scared to death or I can trust God. I can cry and moan and groan or I can praise God and thank Him for the blessings He has provided and continues providing every single day of my dwindling life.

I can’t do this without Him. I won’t do this without Him. It’s just too freaking dark and lonely and scary.

 

 

 

 

 

How Many More Sundown’s is it Going to Take?!

Five months. One trillion hours of blood, sweat, and tears. Two million nervous breakdowns. And we’re not finished yet!

I WANT A NEW HOUSE! A house that never falls apart, a house that is gentle and kind to old people, a house that doesn’t suck my blood till I’m dead!

Five months ago, we began stripping up carpet and laying vinyl plank flooring. Got three more rooms to go. Hey! We’re retired. We’re not punching a time-clock. Besides, my compulsive madness gets in the way of progress, which, hubby doesn’t mind except for when it involves more work for him. And it always involves more work for him. Sorry, hubby.

Three weeks ago, I stripped and painted my kitchen cabinets. Took me a week to complete. All hubby has to do now is hang the doors.

Piece of cake.

Nope!

Nothing is ever that simple for the man of our house! He’s been working on those doors all week long and ain’t got them hung yet. Who knew that installing new handles and hidden hinges would take longer than building a house?? 

Today. Before the sun goes down and the world goes to sleep, those cabinet doors better be hung!

I posted the above on Facebook three sundown’s ago, and I’m still waiting to see the end results.

The next time, which there will NEVER be a next time, we’ll install new kitchen cabinets. That would be a lot less stressful and a whole lot less time-consuming.

PROBLEM:
1. We’re old
2. Didn’t know what we were doing
3. Bought the wrong type of hidden hinges for our cabinets
4. Exchanged them for a different type
5. They didn’t work, either

SOLUTION:
1. Nailed blocks inside the cabinets
2. Re-aligned the doors. Again. And again
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Today. Before sundown. I WANT THOSE DOORS
HUNG!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Art: Caricatures

Every now and then I let all my people out as long as they promise to behave.

I created my caricatures from photos. I don’t like pictures of myself, but I love distorting them into something humorous.

Using PaintShop Pro 2019 Ultimate, I first erase the backgrounds from the photos. Then, using the Warp Brush I manipulate the facial features. When I’m satisfied with the character I wish to create, I use plugins and other special effects to give it the finishing touch.

Click on any picture to enlarge

Are You Still Looking for the Golden Years?

We lost our jobs. We struggled from month to month on our skimpy Social Security checks. We battled depression, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness. We beat cancer and survived the seemingly worst years of our lives together.

It wasn’t until my husband started receiving disability benefits from the VA that we were finally able to come up for air and break free from the financial monster we faced every waking moment of every single day for three long, stressful years.

We planned many things before reaching retirement, those golden years we looked forward to spending debt free in splendid bliss traveling and cruising and collecting seashells on a sunny beach. But owing a mortgage wasn’t one of them. Nor did we plan on the tiny trees we planted to get so big and messy, and the lawn to get so bare and sparse, and the driveway to start cracking and growing weeds. Sure we occasionally stained the cedar siding and created flower beds bordered with tons of field rock we collected from a neighbor’s farm. But like a nagging shrew, a house is constantly demanding special attention and could care less if you’re old or sick or broke or if it’s too hot or too cold or if you throw up your hands and bawl your eyes out.

In a dream world, our hard-earned golden years would be having a bottomless money pit, hiring professionals to renovate the house and manicure the lawn, Molly Maid and Chief Ramsey to cook and clean and the Dog Whisperer to teach our wannabe, four-legged queens to behave.

But those are someone else’s golden-years, certainly not ours.

So, here we are, a pair of dried up bones, our house falling apart, feeling too hopeless and frustrated to do anything about it.

Still, more than the dead trees in the yard, weeds in the flower beds, and saplings growing in the gutters, we wanted that dirty, stinking, pee-stained carpet gone!

So, with a glimmer of hope, we convinced ourselves that we’re only half as old as we look, and if we want that carpet gone, we’re gonna have to get off the pot and make it happen. So, we watched a few how-to videos, high-fived each other, and with the adrenaline of a pair of goofy teens drunk on energy drinks, we decided to renovate the house.

Easy breezy, like sipping lemonade on a warm summer day by the pool.

NOT!

It’s been more like crawling across a hot desert with our shriveled tongues hanging out and furrowing the sand beneath the blazing sun.

On May 27, 2019, we began moving furniture and pulling up carpet, staples, nails, and carpet strips. Two days later while we were out, a woman ran the red light and plowed into us causing over two thousand dollars in car damages and six weeks in the body shop for repairs. Thankfully, other than being shook up and mad as a hornet, no one was hurt. It did, however, throw us off track for a few weeks dealing with insurance agents, numerous phone calls, and the rental car breaking down.

We have never laid flooring before and will never ever in a trillion years do it again. I’d rather kill a grizzly bear with my bear hands!

Being a perfectionist, having my house torn asunder with nothing in its place for weeks and weeks on end, hubby working an hour and resting four, the dogs acting stupid, and me going stark raving mad conjured up evil that would have made Charles Manson tremble in fear.

I’ve screamed, I’ve yelled, I’ve cried, I’ve threatened divorce, running away, pitching a tent in the woods, signing myself into a nursing home, seeking refuge with the homeless and hearing what they have to say about the golden years.

And as if it couldn’t get any worse, we ran into water damage and huge pee stained circles . . . lots and lots of circles like stepping stones zigzagging across the sub floor. Replacing one of those boards became a crumbled mess of sawdust like a box of Nilla Wafers smashed to smithereens with a sledgehammer.

Several grueling hours later we finally cleaned up the mess and nailed down a new sheet of ply board only to discover it was too thick. By now, we’re threatening to black each others eyes and I’m thinking of sticking a For Sale sign in the yard and moving to another planet where I’m sure the golden years must be hiding.

Then, to my husband’s dismay, I do the unthinkable. I caved in to my impulsive personality and stopped everything in midstream to refinish my grandmother’s cedar chest. I got tired of moving furniture, straining my back, and crawling on my hands and knees snapping vinyl planks together. I needed a change, a creative boost. I wanted to see instant results. After all, these are my golden years, right? I don’t have to abide by a set of rules telling me I’ll drop dead if I don’t finish everything by Christmas.

Besides, it’ll only take a few days.

Ha!

That little project took three long weeks of stripping paint and sanding and re-sanding and sanding again before it was ready to be stained. Then we did the blanket chest. Then I painted hubby’s computer desk. TWICE! I didn’t like the first color choice; it didn’t go with the furniture.

Obviously, we charged into this renovation with our eyes squeezed shut. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we didn’t know it would be like wrestling a thousand pound bull to the ground. And we had no experience or help from anyone other than Almighty God. I’ve fallen, banged my head, bruised my knee, scraped my elbow and bled on our new vinyl floor. I’ve questioned God, fought with my husband, hated the grimacing old woman in the mirror, and feared that I’ve gone totally mad. I’ve crumpled to the floor sobbing and feeling sorry for myself, envying those enjoying the golden years with their manicured homes and lawns and long, luxurious vacations. I’ve cursed myself for not planning ahead for the future and succumbed to feelings of shame and regret, and wishing for someone else’s golden years.

And here we are, at the end of August, celebrating our seventy-third birthday’s still pulling up carpet, counting the weeks when we’ll finally get finished and wondering when the golden years will suddenly appear.

Yet, through it all, God is teaching me more about Him and reminding me that life spent in His love and care and protection are the golden years. We don’t have to wait till a certain age to lounge in His comforting arms, travel the heights of joyful bliss, and sip the nectar of His eternal love, peace and comfort. Life is never gonna be what we expected it would be and many never live to get a mere glimpse of the golden years and those who do often feel cheated and disappointed. So, I’ve decide to paint each precious moment, each precious day, each precious year with gleaming joy and love and happiness and claim them as the golden years.

 

 

 

 

Laugh at Yourself! It Takes the Sting out of Stupid

I needed air in my tire so I searched all over High Point looking for an air pump. You know, the one with a handle on it that gave the pounds and free air. There wasn’t one.

Frustrated, I parked beside a weird-looking air pump and crammed two quarters in the slot. The stupid thing didn’t have a “pound” selection. Now what?! Okay, so I guess it’ll cut off when it reaches 50 cents.

Feeling like a martian, I connected the air hose to the tire and waited for the machine to cut off.

My tire was getting really fat!  Hurriedly, I stooped down to remove the air hose, then, POW!

So much for 50 cents worth of air! And my hubcap? It’s still zooming and clanging somewhere in the next county!

Golden Years, Where are you?

Nope! I haven’t been writing. Haven’t been walking. Haven’t been sipping champagne and loving the golden years. To be honest, the golden years is a highly over-rated, over-used, big fat lie!

Take a giant step into my world and you’ll see what I mean . . .

IMG_0280

Hubby and I decided to take up our nasty, thirty-something carpet and install vinyl plank flooring. Just the two of us. Throughout the entire house. Piece of cake!

But first, we had to move furniture . . .

Then take up the carpet and the padding and staples and nails and carpet strips. Those carpet strips were almost as stubborn as me (I know it’s “I” but “me” sounds better).

Then we saw the horror Bella and Pepper caused. I still get angry thinking about it. Owning pets is not the easiest job in the world. Along with their cuteness comes a truckload of bad-mannered behavior and destruction. Rascal never behaved like these two wannabe queens of the house!

Thankfully, Kilz came to the rescue. Of course, it didn’t jump out of the can and spread itself all over the floor. And hubby got wore out watching me do it. Poor baby. I think he needs a nap.

We’re on day five. Am I frustrated? Have I cried a river of tears? Am I ready to leave the country? Oh, yeah! But, wait! There’s more . . .

Two days into this Mt. Everest project, hubby had an oncology appointment at the VA.  Things are looking good. So far, he is still cancer-free for the second time around.

But . . .

On the way to picking up hubby’s uncle and aunt for a day of fun, a woman ran the red light and plowed into us. No one was hurt, thankfully. The surveillance video and police report were on our side confirming that she ran the light in spite of what she told her insurance agent. Seeing is believing, except for those wearing blindfolds of denial.

So. How did you enjoy your little visit to my world? Would you like to come back and help us install the rest of the flooring?

No?

I don’t blame you!

 

 

Don’t Make Me Come Over There!

Okay, I admit it. I’d rather fight a grizzly bear than run from an argument when my rights are being violated. And the more stressful the situation, the more fiercely I’d fight, from getting my hair washed to having to take a nap when I wasn’t even sleepy.

And speaking of getting my hair washed, It was the worst thing ever! Worse than getting it tangled in the bed springs. Even worse than falling off the high bridge into the rocky creek and getting my new shoes soaking wet.

One night, stripped down to my little white panties, my scrawny half-naked body wet and slippery, I wriggled free from mom’s Hulk-like grip. Out the door I ran, squealing like a terrified pig in the pitch dark, down the wooded, dirt path where bears and tigers and rabid wolves crouched and snarled and growled. Deciding that drowning was better than being eaten alive, I made a frantic U-turn back to the house. To my dismay, mom and daddy were still sitting beside the galvanized washtub, mom holding the shampoo bottle and daddy holding the switch.

And then, there were my brothers, pushing all the wrong buttons, especially when they began taking parts off my bike and putting them on theirs. One day I went to ride it and the handlebars were missing. Another time my light disappeared. Then my bicycle seat. They’d even take off the chain and peddles!

I worked hard to win that bike, in the wind and freezing cold painting a Halloween scene on the grocery store window. I earned it. It was my baby. My pride and joy. They had no right to even look at it without my permission!

One day I caught my brother taking a wheel off my bike. He didn’t know what stop meant so, I picked up a hammer and hit him on the head with it. Not hard. I didn’t kill him for Pete’s sake! But he made such a screaming-bloody-murder commotion that daddy came after me with the switch and I took off running.

Round and round the house we ran, daddy dragging a mile behind me, huffing and puffing like a freight train. Fearing he’d drop dead of a heart attack, I let him catch me. By then he was too weak and out of breath to give me the switching I deserved.

The most frightful event, however, was when I worked at Dunkin Doughnuts. I was having what I thought a playful argument with the baker, a fiery red-haired punk with a zillion freckles splattered all over his face. I knew he was crazy, but I didn’t know he was a blooming idiot.

As I turned to walk away, he grabbed my arm and began dragging me across the floor yelling, “I’m going to put you in the fryer!”

Fearful that I was going to be cooked alive, I punched him in the nose. Dazed, bleeding, and staggering like a drunk on a three-day binge, he loosened his grip and I ran.

Completely deranged now, he ran after me and pushed me on the floor. Before I could figure out what the heck just happened he straddled my back and began choking me. Immediately, several female co-workers attempted to pull him off, but fearing for their own lives, they gave up. Finally, hearing my piercing screams, three burly customers burst through the swinging doors and pulled the psychopath off me.

Then there was that time I got arrested. That was embarrassing, sitting in the back seat of the patrol car with my hair in rollers, wearing short shorts and a little white tank top. I didn’t feel like a tramp till another cop pulled up, rolled down his window and asked with a devilish grin, “Where’d you pick her up?”

I couldn’t believe she had me arrested! I kept telling her to stay away from me. But she insisted on barging into my life, spinning lies, causing trouble, and parking her butt on my doorstep when she pleased. So, she asked for it when I jerked her out of the chair and wrestled her out the door. Not my fault her skimpy dress ripped apart at the seams.

Having to appear in court was no trip to Disneyland, either, standing there listening to her ranting and raving. On the outside, I was a harmless pussy cat. But on the inside, I was a roaring lion ready to leap and rip out her lying tongue.

Maybe the judge possessed a sixth-sense. Maybe that’s why he pointed his finger at her saying, “Stay away from her!” and dismissed the stupid assault and battery charge. I did tell him determinedly, however, that if she ever came to my door again she would suffer the consequences. But I don’t think that had anything to do with his ruling.

For the record, I’ve never killed anyone, never put anyone in the hospital, and never hit my brother again, not with a hammer at least. And when push comes to shove, I always growl before I bite.

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fight-or-flight-response-2795194

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Opens Your Mind

I woke up confused this morning thinking it was Thursday and scolding myself for not walking yesterday. What a relief to discover that it’s Wednesday and I’m not losing my mind.

At the end of the driveway, I turned left instead of right, this time. It’s a little longer and a lot tougher with the hills and all. We live in a pasture. Well, a once-upon-a-time pasture with houses now instead of critters. Some farmers kept their land, though; the ones with the cows, horses, and goats. Pigs, too. But they don’t smell as bad as some of the seeping sewage around here.

See that house on the hill? Hubby and I toured it after it was built. I loved the sunroom, and the basement, and the garage, and the kitchen, and the fireplace in the great room. It even had running water and inside toilets. Not that our house doesn’t have those bare necessities. They just felt more luxurious in a big brand spanking new house.

Trudging up the steep hill, my back whining now, a man with a Santa Clause beard swaying in the wind was unloading a bicycle from the truck parked in the driveway. The kid pacing back and forth excitedly must be his grandson, I mused.

I hollered, “Good morning! I love your beard. My son would be jealous!”

Beaming from ear to ear he chuckled, “Thank you! My grand-kids like it, too. Won’t let me cut it off!”

I’m walking slower by the second, now. Somehow the hill seemed bigger than the last time I walked it; like a Mount Everest kind of bigger.

Taking my mind off my grumbling hips and legs, I spied a tree I wanted to take home with me. It had huge branches perfect for a swing I’ve been pestering hubby to death for years to put up. But none of our trees have branches big enough to hold even my great-grandkids so I guess that leaves me freezing stark naked in a blinding blizzard.

Passing another house, I heard voices drifting from the driveway, a great relief knowing I’m not alone in case I pass out in the middle of the road. Wait. They weren’t just in my head were they?

I’m on the homestretch, now, feeling ecstatic considering the steep hills I just conquered. I wasn’t crawling anyhow. At least I didn’t think I was until a snail passed me, laughing his fool head off. Smart-aleck!

Suddenly, a bug smacked me on the arm. But I didn’t throw a conniption fit. Didn’t want the neighbors peeking out their windows and thinking they have a crazy person living near them.

Trudging up the long, narrow tree-lined driveway now, I didn’t realize it had so many cracks in it; more cracks than we have money to repair them. Then I got this great idea. I’m going to sit at the end of the driveway holding a cardboard sign that reads:

PAVE MY DRIVEWAY AND I WILL FEED YOU

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Do It!

I went for a walk this morning. A big deal since I barely remember the last time I laced up my walking shoes. But, this morning I decided to stop making stupid excuses and just get out there and do it.

I usually walk Pepper, our little black dachshund lab mix. Unlike our greyhound mix, Bella, jerking and pulling me around like a team of wild horses, Pepper’s a joy to walk. But, this morning I just wanted to walk doggie-free.

After feeding the dogs and putting on a pot of coffee I scrambled out the door and down the steps before changing my mind. For a split second, I was tempted to take the car instead. But since my eye surgery eight years ago, I don’t have a license. I don’t have a watch either. Pepper chewed it up. Along with some pens and pencils and probably other stuff I have yet to discover. But I know what twenty minutes looks and feels like, so I don’t need a watch today.

The last time I got serious about walking I was knocked out of commission for weeks. Ruptured disc. Pain that only a sledgehammer to the head would have relieved. Fearing I might end up like that again, I kept it at a turtle’s pace.

It was cooler than I expected; almost too cool for my favorite yellow jersey capris and faded short-sleeved shirt. But, the clean fresh air felt good washing over me, so I continued down the long, tree-lined driveway and across the road.

When we first moved here from the city, I didn’t like living in the country. I thought we had made the biggest mistake of our lives. I cried for weeks. Since we aren’t rich we couldn’t sell and move again. So I was stuck here to tough it out. Eventually, I did stop crying, but it would be years before I surrendered my heart and soul to country living.

Maybe that’s why the grass seemed so much greener today, and the sun beamed down so much brighter from the cloudless Carolina blue sky. I even smiled at the cows grazing on the hillside thinking what lovely, bawling neighbors they’ve become.

Looking down I saw a pulverized frog on the road. Poor thing. I hate when that happens. I wanted to scrape him up and give him a decent burial.

My girlfriend and I held a funeral for a dead bug once. Of course, we were only ten. We even put mercurochrome and a band-aid on a frog’s belly. I had accidentally run over him with the push reel lawnmower. I thought a rock had gotten stuck between the blades. To my horror, it was a frog instead.  After gently doctoring him up we laid him belly up on a clean white napkin in the cool grass praying for his recovery. Sadly, he didn’t make it.

Walking does that to me; takes me to places I haven’t been in a long time. Happy places that only a child can relate to and understand. It clears my head. It helps me to get in touch with my feelings and to see things from a different perspective.

It was a short but invigorating walk. The wind threatened to yank off my orange, smiley face cap a few times, but I didn’t freeze to death. I even came across a critter in the road that wasn’t dead. A black bug the size of an elephant. I hate bugs. But I hate killing them even worse, so I made a wide circle around him and headed home.

The dogs met me at the front door, barking and jumping up and down like a pair of frenzied kangaroos, their tails waving frantically as if I’d been gone a week.

And where was hubby?

Still in bed. Hadn’t even moved. Snoring louder than a locomotive.

Silly man.

 

 

 

 

I Want More of This and Less of That

I got a makeover today. I asked the makeup artist to make my eyes look bigger, my nose to look smaller, and my lips to look fuller.

Yeah, I’m just clowning around. But how many of us are never satisfied with our looks? As a kid, I used to sit for hours drawing before and after pictures of myself because I never liked what I saw in the mirror: freckles splattered all over my face, eyebrows and eyelashes you couldn’t see with the naked eye, and straight, stubborn red hair. And I was skinny. Like, Olive Oyl skinny. My clothes looked better on the coat hanger than they looked on me.

But, I wasn’t alone in my self-loathing world. My best friend was so self-conscious of her weight that it was like coaxing a mule to get her to poke her head out the door. Another friend hated her feet and nose and said they were the two ugliest body parts ever. And then there was the boob thing. They were either too big, too little, or non-existent. Guess where I fit in.

It’s a shame that many of us go through life feeling “less than” for whatever reason. Why do we do that? What is so awful about that body part we don’t like? So awful that we feel we belong in a zoo; or even worse, a freak show. So awful that many have spent thousands of dollars to fix only to end up broke and just as dissatisfied as ever.

Ken and Barbie didn’t help much. And neither did models and movie stars with their dazzling eyes, flawless skin, and perfect bodies. The unspoken message was and still is, what you see is what you should look like. And if you don’t, you might as well wear a bag over your head.

And we believe it!

I fell into that deep dark hole of believing that people didn’t like me because I was ugly. The truth is, I didn’t like myself because I believed I was ugly. I believed that from head to toe something was really wrong with me. I mean, really! Other girls my age had boobs. Why couldn’t I?

According to guys, boobs were way better than brains. I grew up with brothers, I know. They would laugh and tell me I was a pirates dream because I had a sunken chest. And they hid Playboy books under their mattresses and google-eyed every girl who bounced like a pair of basketballs when she walked.

So yeah. I got the message loud and clear. If you don’t have boobs you might as well be dead.

While laying in the sun one day, my bathing suit stuffed with toilet paper, I felt completely hopeless of ever looking like a real girl. But I believed in prayer. I even believed in miracles. So I prayed, “Lord. Please give me some boobs!”

Today, I’m so thankful God didn’t give me what I asked for. And I’m thankful that I learned to love myself as I am. If we can’t love and accept ourselves, how can we possibly love and accept others? If all we see when we look at someone is their physical appearance then we’re not seeing that person at all. There’s so much more to a book than its cover. You have to open it. You have to read it. Only then can you know and appreciate what it’s all about.

So I don’t care what you look like. I don’t care what color your skin is. I don’t care if you walk with a limp, stutter when you talk if you’re gay or straight or have tattoos and piercings from head to toe. I care about your heart. And I judge whether I want you as my friend by what’s in your heart.

It’s been a long, hard journey, this self-discovery thing. A journey that most of us have traveled. And until we can realize that there is no “perfect” in this world we’ll never end that torturous journey. We’ll never be happy with ourselves. We’ll never dig deep inside ourselves to see what really makes us tick. We’ll die wishing we could be like someone else.