21 February …

 

It’s been a quiet week …

Last wednesday, Paul and I were babysitting each other in the early evening.  It had been a chilly day.  Then, when it was time to go out to close the chicken house, it began to snow … corn snow … the kind that falls in tiny hard drops like beads.

 

We went out in it to do our chore and both came in with snow in our hair.

 

Then on sunday we again had snow.

January and February have always been the winteriest of the months here on Cold Comfort.  This February seems to be holding true.  Temperatures have been hovering around freezing.

Monday the well pump failed to work correctly.  Mark thought there might be a problem with a relay, but it turned out to be a bit of ice in the works which melted as the day warmed.  That event resolved easily. There is now a blanket around the pump area.

Tuesday morning there was no water in the hot water lines.  Again, the weather was the problem.  Evidently the water line into the flash heater froze.  It was flowing again by noon.  The entire system will be replumbed this coming summer.

~~~

Radio club meeting is this evening.  What to do with or about the summer events will be the big discussion as will the class at the local middle school.  Report to follow.

~~~

Also last Wednesday … I received two gifts. 

As I was putting my groceries in the truck, a clerk came out to me and handed me a red rose. She said a man had come up to her and asked her to give it to me because my husband was not with me this Valentine’s Day. She either didn’t know who he was or wouldn’t tell me.


It made me cry.

And when I was having trouble getting the gas cap off so I could fill the tank in the pickup, the man at the next pump came over and opened it for me saying “You just need a little more strength.”

Two gifts …

~~~

Some time ago, George and I had taken classes in Tai Chi from a neighbor who has since died.  We kept practicing for a time, but gradually stopped.

Lately I’ve been thinking it might be a good idea to start again.

I found my book on Chi Qong and did my first session thursday morning (it is supposed to be done before you eat).  I was too ambitious.  The directions were to do the knee and shoulder warm-up by doing the rotations thirty times.  I should have stopped between ten and fifteen that first time.  Left knee complained as did the entire body during the standing time.

~~~

Today marks three months and here’s a reminder for us all …

Express appreciation, and be frequent in your praise.

 

So … ‘til next week …

14 February …

 

This could have been a very bad day had George and I been into mushy holidays.  As is, it is centered on cards for those in Paul’s class and the Fat Tuesday dinner at the church which the family attended.

The dinner was last night and reminded me of the Jewish practice of clearing the house of leavening before a special holiday.  The idea of Fat Tuesday is to make sure none of the forbidden foods are within reach during the Lenten days to come.

Fat Tuesday = fat, sweet pancakes.  It was the first time that church had done a pancake dinner.  Mark took the makings for gluten free cakes and they were the hit of the evening.  Seems a lot of folks knew nothing about gf food.

Mark has ideas about adding to the fun of that meal … zydeco music, colours, etc.  It will be interesting to see what it looks like next year.

~~~

The monthly trip to Medford was cancelled.  The scheduled day was yesterday.  I was already booked for pancake dinner at the church and John is doing jury duty.

~~~

The weather had been unseasonably warm … in the mid to high 50s.  Then it dropped a few degrees and we had about an inch of snow over the weekend.  Not enough to really count.

Of course, none of that was as severe a seasonal change as they are having further east and to the north.  When the jet stream is to the south of us, something is very different.

On Tuesday, it was noted in the LA Times … “Up in Northern California most of the region has never recorded such a dry winter. The snowpack in the Sierras is anemic. This storm will help a bit. But it’s too little too late, unless there’s a March miracle.”

Here is what we have …~~~

Still working at rearranging the house.  Guess that will never end.  But I have my spinning/knitting corner and that’s comforting.

~~~

Days are getting noticeably longer.  In a week or two, it will be light when Paul leaves for school.  He already has over an hour of daylight when he gets home around 4. 

It is still dark before bedtime however.

Only four months until dusk at 2300.

~~~

We’ve been watching the Olympics as often as possible.  Mark found a way for us to watch the skating without hearing the commentary (although I do like Johnny Weir).  I enjoy seeing the skaters and hearing the music without the judgments. 

Mark enjoys the cross-country skiing and the speed skating and the sled events.  Kamille is a skating fan.  And Paul can ignore any of it.

~~~

Sometimes during this time of forced change, nothing seems right … no matter what …

so …

 If you cannot find a good companion with whom to walk, walk alone.  (That way no one sees your tears or hears your yowls)

 ‘til next week …

 

7 February …

This morning is clear and crisp.  Temperature is chilly, but not cold, at 42°.

~~~

Paul’s birthday dinner didn’t go quite as planned.  We got home early and went about some chores. 

Mark and Kamille watched the slash fire while Paul and I went for a couple of walks to see what was there to be seen and to start collecting lichen for John’s plant pot surfaces.  This is the best time to collect lichen because snow has broken it loose and there are clusters on the ground.  We already have an ice cream bucket full.

In addition, I found a moss covered stone I’d like to move to the courtyard this spring to be part of the waterfall into the pond.  That should keep it moss-covered.

~~~

The radio class at Sisson middle school seems to be going well.  Before the class started, Mark was told there would be 13 students so he got 15 textbooks.  He has had to order 4 more books. 

He is hoping to have 4 or 5 new hams out of the effort.  I am hoping for a couple more.

~~~

Last Friday was my first foray out shopping by myself.

It was strange (at least it seemed strange to me) that after George’s death I wasn’t sure what I was capable of on my own.  I was fearful over driving.  I was sure I wasn’t able to navigate a store alone (and the experience in the new CostCo didn’t help that).  Most anything outside my safe house and yard was anxiety provoking.  I wasn’t sure I knew who I was so how could I know what I could do?

It seems a bit silly to be proud of doing the household grocery shopping alone, right?  But I was.  The anxiety is improving to the point that I am planning ahead to function on my own again.

Of course it couldn’t go eventless.

As I was putting the groceries in the truck (I was driving the Mitsubishi pickup), I tossed my keys onto the driver’s seat. While loading the grocery bags into the truck cab, I must have hit the door lock with my elbow without noticing, and since locking one door locks them both, as I closed that passenger side door I was locked out of the car.

A young woman stopped and asked what was happening and when I told her she asked if I needed to call someone.  Naturally, the list of phone numbers (family and triple A) were in my purse inside the truck.

But she said “No problem”, crawled up into the bed of the truck, slid the tiny windows in the back of the cab open, crawled nearly completely inside, and lifted the lock.

Now I know not only how to get into the truck if I ever do that again, but that any small to medium sized person can get into the truck even when the doors are locked.

Lesson learned.

~~~

In looking at works by Van Gogh this last month, I found a couple of unexpected pieces.  They both caught me by surprise.

When thinking of Van Gogh, a lot of people instantly think of “Starry Night” and the swirling lights.  But there is also a darker side.  I remember the first time I saw “The Potato Eaters”.  It seemed so heavy and grotesque.

The painting that caught my eye now was “A Pair of Shoes” painted in 1887.

It seems sad … as if the person to whom the boots belonged was having a sad, heavy time.  It will take some contemplating.

And as I was contemplating, I ran across another picture of shoes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

~~~

Another lesson in the grieving process …

Having the kids move back home to live with your family (which by then is probably just you and your spouse) is a whole lot different from losing your spouse and having the kids back with you, except now it is their family and you are living with them. 

There is a whole different set of dynamics … a set of expectations you hadn’t counted on … trying to settle in your place without causing too much disruption.

Some sections of adjustment are easy and smooth. 

Others can be jarring.  The big hurdle is learning to not take it all personally.

Easy to say …

~~~

As a final thought for this week, here’s a prayer for the new month based on a Jewish site I read regularly …

 

“May it be Your will … to make this new month one for goodness and for blessing. Give us a long life, a peaceful life, a good life, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a healthy life, … a life in which there is no embarrassment or humiliation, a life of … honor; … a life in which the requests of our hearts will be fulfilled for the good.”

 

So … ‘til next week …

31 January …

 

Last Wednesday was a snow day.  Buses were late and some schools in Oregon were closed.  Not as bad down here (Why is “south” equivalent to “down”?  Who made that choice? When?).

This was the 25th.  I am convinced we will never again see winters like we had when George and I first moved here.

~~~

Paul recently brought home an art project.  He certainly isn’t a realist, but may have potential as an impressionist.  The blue is the sky.  The orange is the Mountain. 

The spelling is also impressionistic.  It is written phonetically.  Translation … “I like it around my house”.

~~~

The eye doctor said the cataract in my right eye is worse so we scheduled surgery for March when the danger of bad weather is less.

Not so good news is that a new cataract is developing in my left eye.  Decision about that will be made after the first go’round.

~~~

I had started spinning fiber for a sweater for Paul a month or so before George died.  It is finally all spun.

 

Next step is to ply the singles and then make skeins.  Next is to turn the skeins into balls and off we will go … a sweater of many colours … as soon as the Fair Isles vest is done for Tyler.

 

~~~

Yesterday Mark and I went to the VA office up in Yreka to apply for a widow’s pension.  We had been worried we wouldn’t find the necessary papers in time but Mark sat down  and started sorting last weekend.

Going through George’s desk was an adventure.  Among the treasures found were all his Navy papers and several family birth, death, and marriage certificates as well as deeds and other genealogical prizes. 

And it was all accomplished without too many tears.

~~~

Paul Michael’s birthday was two days ago.  He is now officially six.

He has grown taller since they joined us here on Cold Comfort Farm.  Odds are he will top out at over six feet like his father and uncles.

He wore his new ‘spenders and bow tie to school and took fruit cups to share.

~~~

Coincidence??? 

I had not heard Chopin’s Funeral March in quite some time.  George and I enjoyed the interpretation done in the film “Aria” using all those piano players.  Then this past week, it has been on the Sirius “Symphony Hall” four days in a row. 

Is someone trying to tell me something?

~~~

Another week gone and I am thinking of weather as I look out the front door.  In the past, late January and February had always been the stormiest part of winter …

 

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”                       ― A.A. Milne

 

… and so ‘til next week …

24 January …

 

Weather started the week with rain. Then last Friday we had one of those puzzling times when it was snowing and the sun was shining brightly.  An older relative who had been raised in the southeast used to say when there was precipitation and the sun was shining the Devil was beating his wife.  I’m not sure what the connection was supposed to be, but I’ve never forgotten the saying.

Sunday it began to snow.  At first it was just an occasional flake drifting down. 

By dusk we had a skiff of an inch or two.

That night it continued to snow.

Monday morning Mark went out early to clear the road.  It has been years since he went through a winter here and he is having to relearn our snow patterns.  And Kamille has never been here in winter.

Tuesday it settled. 

Today we are on the eastern edge of a storm watch,  We shall see …

~~~

The radio club meeting went well.  It wasn’t as difficult to step back into the Presiding Officer role as I had anticipated.  And the condolences were gentle … especially the one when a longtime friend gave me a hug and handed me a pint of ale saying “When you need this … here it is.”

Plans for activities this coming year have started and I find I am able to do what needs to be done with a minimum of “memory” interruptions.

The class at the middle school began yesterday.  Six club members are involved in teaching the classes. The students who complete the class and pass the ARRL exam to become licensed amateur radio operators will be rewarded with more than a license (ticket).  Can’t say what the reward will be since one of them may see this … but there are rewards planned.   

~~~

Last Saturday, Mark was installed as the Junior Warden in the local Masonic Lodge.  Freemason ritual is impressive with the emphasis on learning to live honestly and honorably.  Neither George nor my Dad were Masons, but my Grandfather Tyler had been an active member.  Membership just seemed to skip a couple of generations … although I am a life member of Job’s Daughters.

The installation was followed by a taco-enchilada luncheon served by the ladies of the Eastern Star.  We had not anticipated a free lunch and at Paul’s request, had planned to go to Burger King (we had coupons).  We will do that later.  The coupons are good through February.

A side activity of my attendance at the Lodge was reconnecting with folks I’d known in the past but hadn’t seen recently.  One had been a Sheriff’s Deputy I used to see in the Emergency Department and once out here on the Ranch when we had a problem. 

I worked with the wife of another. 

Two gentlemen had recently lost wives, so we had a short period of sharing.

 And I had once belonged to an investment club (back when they were all the rage) with one of the Eastern Star ladies.

All in all … a very good day.

~~~

I spent a couple of days last week going through boxes of pictures.  Talk about triggering mixed emotions.

Oodles of wonderful memories of wonderful days doing wonderful things in the company of wonderful people … among them my husband and sons.

Also oodles of tears.

The collection is now down to semi-manageable size.  I’ll be going through again in a few weeks or months and resorting.  Some will be scanned into the computer (with explanatory text) and some will go into the fire or be passed along.  But for now the job is done.

Some interesting contrasts were found such as pictures out the dining room windows …

This is the old view out the north window.  You could see nearly a quarter mile down the road.

This is now.

 

This is the old view to the east toward the Mountain.

And this is now.

My how time changes everything.

~~~

A side discovery of sorting the photos was that my daughter-in-law is interested in genealogy.  I had begun to think I was the last of the family researchers and wondering what to do with all my information.  Now I can continue work with the assurance there is someone interested in the books I am compiling.

Onward …

~~~

Tomorrow I see the ophthalmologist.  I had seen him just last fall, but he wanted to see me again is six months because of the cataract in my right eye.

Report to follow.

~~~

 And finally a bit of advice … don’t wait … do it now … say it now … look now … listen now …

… for one day you will have blinked …

 

So … ‘til next week …

17 January …

 

Another week …

Weather has been all over the place.  Snow, rain, fog, cold, nice … you name it. 

Mark dropped three trees last week so the chicken house gets some winter sun again and there is a bit more sun on the front of the house as well.

~~~

John and I spent last saturday in the local cemetery photographing grave markers.  I have a friend who used to work there and did all the photo requests from genealogists who use the “Find a Grave” site, but he moved to Idaho and the list of requests had gotten rather long.  So, list in hand, John and I went grave tracking.

We were able to find six of the requested ten and I am following up on the others.

But now I find there are requests for at least five other cemeteries in this area.  Guess I’ve better get back to driving myself again. 

This activity gets me out in the fresh air with a purpose and there is a friend from a bit ago who may want to go cemetery hopping with me.

~~~

Yesterday was a Medford day.

As usual, the drive was an adventure.  The scenery is different each time we go.  Yesterday a lot was brown with occasional bursts of red-orange.  And at the rest stop there were raindrops on the trees.  From where we parked the light was just so and there was one tree which appeared to be decorated with wee lights.

We did some shopping.  There is a new, bigger CostCo near the airport.  The layout of the store is very close to that of the older store with just enough variation that when you think you know where you are and which direction to go to get where you want to be next … you find you are lost.

Oh well …

I was surprised that the book section had shrunk and that several grocery items are cheaper at the local Grocery Outlet less than five miles away.

We made a stop at the retinologist office, where George and I had been going once a month, to leave them a gratitude gift of a box of premium See’s chocolates.  I know it is a cliché gift, but I couldn’t think of anything else. 

The staff had always been kind and thoughtful with us and I wanted to let them know I had appreciated it.  It was a bit awkward … it seemed to surprise them and left some in tears. 

I’m glad I did it however.  Those visits could have been awful (after all, who enjoys having a needle stuck in their eye?), but their attitude helped and I wanted them to know.

~~~

I’ve been doing the breakfast and dinner cooking and dishwashing thing for the family for over a week now.  It is more of a challenge than when it was just George and me.  Different people, different tastes … and Kamille has a gluten sensitivity so I’m learning new recipes such as that gluten free flour seems more “glutinous” and requires extra liquid to reach the same consistency for pancakes and waffles.

Another lesson in the-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same … standing at the sink, washing the dishes, just like I’ve done for 40 years or more and crying because nothing is actually the same.

But there are smiles as well such as when Paul ends grace with   “… and make sure Papa is having a good time.”

~~~

Did I tell you I’ve returned to spinning? We have been changing the arrangement of the living room and I abandoned my rocker place beside the wood stove for a more central location on the other side of the room.  It took some rearranging but I think things are now in working order so it feels “normal” (there’s that word again).

I have two sweaters in the works and planning for next winter holiday gifts has begun.

Can anyone say THERAPY?

~~~

Radio club tonight. Several items to discuss.  The club, like so many things in my life, is changing.

~~~

… and a thought related to chocolates …

 

Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.

 

So … ‘til next week …

 

 

10 January …

These past few weeks have been (insert your choice of adjective here and you are probably correct) …

Kamille and Paul were here for Christmas Day and then they flew east to be with the Plociniks in Baltimore.  They got back home last Thursday and normal school/work routine resumed last monday. 

I have etched out a role (however temporary) for myself as cook and bottle washer.  Mark has enough to do and fret about, so I make breakfast and their dinner.  They eat at 1700 and I have my big meal at noon, so I get for my dinner what they have the night before.  I plan it that way and it seems to be working.

Positive side effect is that I once again feel that I have a role, if not yet a purpose.  

Another current step is getting back into the radio club.  It is time for election of officers and I’ve been nominated to run as Presiding Officer again.  I think I will.  Not that my technical knowledge is great, but I do know how to run a meeting.

And I’m working on getting back into genealogy.  The friend who used to fill photo requests for the local cemetery has moved to Idaho and the requests are piling up.  Once the weather clears, I plan to tackle that.  A morning outdoors followed by lunch sounds okay.

~~~

We’ve been having rain on and off.

This morning we have fog and a slight sprinkling of snow. 

This winter is nothing like last year (in oh so many ways) …  at least not so far.

~~~

Late last year the oil painted animation film “Loving Vincent” was released.  George and I were both impressed.  It is a miracle … each frame hand-painted in the style of Van Gogh.

As a result, I decided to explore the lesser know works of Van Gogh as my art project this coming year.  

I begin with a work titled “Self-portrait with Pallette”. 

All in all, Van Gogh painted 36 self-portraits.  This one was painted in 1889 when he was 36, the year before his death.  He painted himself when he was unable to pay someone to sit for him, which was often.  This was painted after he cut off the lower part of his left ear but since he was painting what he saw in a mirror, it is actually his right ear we see in this painting.

The colours are what grabbed me … the many blues, the contrast with the ginger hair and beard, the death-like shadows on the flesh, the eyes, the blue halo …

So … what do you think?

~~~

There are still unexpected knocks-upside-the-jaw which leave me in tears, but there are also glimpses of sun …  

Omni fine initium novum.

So … ‘til next week …

 

3 January  …

 

A milestone was reached last New Year’s Eve.  It has been exactly seventy years since the fateful party I gave which ended with my Daddy sticking his head in my bedroom at 0500 (as George left with a roar in his “Frankenstein” Ford) asking why George didn’t stay for breakfast. 

This is the first New Year’s Eve without him since 1949-50.  My how rapidly that time flew …

~~~

Healing continues at the two forward, one back pace making it difficult to write an upbeat blog.

So  …

For all of you, here is my end-of-the-year prayer …

 

May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.

Apache Prayer

 

… ‘til next week …

 

20 December …

 

Another week gone …  and the sunrise yesterday was spectacular.

~~~

This morning, Mark (using radio club equipment) will make a connection with Santa Claus via ECHO link on the radio club’s repeater and a group of third graders will get to talk with the old boy using what ham radio operators call “third party traffic”. 

Mark also has plans to see that each child will receive a QSL card from Santa whose call sign is “C 1 AUS”.  QSL cards are postcards ham operators send to anyone with whom they make a long distance contact. 

Bet it’s a holiday those third graders won’t forget.

~~~

Some evenings Paul and I are left to babysit each other. 

We are developing a pattern.  I settle in my rocking chair (which is nearly an antique now) with my knitting and he pulls his rocking chair (which is now being used by the fifth or sixth child) next to me and either reads or plays MindCraft (which I don’t understand at all … but I have developed the ability to say “Wow” or “Yea” or “Oh oh” at appropriate times).

We are five and eighty-seven …

~~~

This has been and continues to be a busy day for local ham radio operators. The contact with Santa this morning will be followed by an exam session this evening for a wannabe and an operator looking to upgrade his license.  That will be followed by the annual holiday potluck.

Last year, George and I prepared a game for the holiday get-together this year … a BINGO game using RADIO as the headings.  I won’t be going to the party.  I thought I could, but this morning I realize I’m not ready for condolences in large servings … yet.  Family can take over for me.

For the three door prizes, Mark and I got a large holiday decorated plate with matching bowl and I made up a batch of pimento cheese dip.  Boxes of crackers were included.

~~~

Snow this morning … but nothing like winters past.

This is George on the front loader clearing the road …

and this is looking at the house from the driveway (the window you can see is on the second floor).

I wonder if we will ever see those winters again.

~~~

I had an appointment with the Social Security office last monday.  Tying up leftovers is a chore.  Fortunately, I had Mark for support while facing the bureaucracy.

I will be receiving a lump sum death benefit and a slight increase in my monthly allowance.  Now to work on a new budget.

~~~

Recent big setback was a phone call with the daughter of a friend from 63 years ago.  Her mother died unexpectedly, shortly after George.  We had served in an American Friends Service Committee group composed of college age folks the summer of ‘54.  George and I were the “leaders” since we were the oldest of the group at 26 and 24.

Liz is second from the left in the middle row.

Can you find George and me?

How young we were. I would guess many of the others are also dead now.  After all, we must ALL be in our 80s.

Memories …

~~~

I’m doing much the same as same …

The upside-the-head blows hit when most unexpected.  One evening last week I burst into tears when I came in from closing the chicken coop door because there was no one waiting to ask me how many eggs had been collected.

Two steps forward to every one step back … but those forward steps seem to be accomplished with less fuss and fewer regrets.

It will have been a month tomorrow.

Reassure me again how it gets easier.  

The things we need to learn before we can do them, we learn best by doing them.

… but no one promised us “easy”.

 

So … ‘til next week …

 

13 December …

 

Another week gone.

Life adjustments are never easy, but trying to make as few ripples as possible while adjusting is a real challenge.  Even when doing your best …

If you goof and don’t succeed … try try again.

~~~

Last week John returned “Grandmother” clock to me.  She needed work but it hadn’t gotten done over the years.  John took her and did the work.  Now she is next to my bed singing on the quarter hours and marking the hours !!!

Maybe I should explain her name.  She was given to George’s maternal grandfather in lieu of payment for some work done and he gave it to George’s Grandmother.  Hence the clock is called “Grandmother”.

She seems to be a bit temperature sensitive (after all she is 110 years old), but I don’t care.  Just having her with me is a blessing.  The fine tuning can wait for Spring.

~~~

Weather has been not-Winter … cold but no new snow.  Morning frosts.  Sunny days.  Not at all like last year.

~~~

Short post this week.  I am making headway in whatever, but there are the inevitable set-back days.  I am learning the backstory for “widow” behavior I didn’t understand before such as just sitting and gazing off into nothing and the tea and toast diet and empty morning time between 0300 and 0500. 

As long as the two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back routine continues … I’m okay.

 

After all …   

 

Success is a matter of attitude and appreciation. Every day you look at the grass from the top down, you are a success.

 

So … ‘til next week …