Posts Tagged With: pets

Thursday Thoughts on Balancing Blogging, Other Writing, and Life

I haven’t been writing the blog every day — and was worrying about that.  But then I realized that my worrying was pretty stupid, really.

I mean, the goal of daily writing was my own.  It works out sometimes, but lately it hasn’t.  I’ve been running the road, and then I’ve been cocooning.  Sometimes I don’t have anything to write about, and to push it would be ridiculous.  My schedule, after all, is my own — and so are my goals.  It’s okay, I’ve admitted, to take short breaks from some things, like blogging.

What really is the purpose of the blog?  Communication, mainly.  And my needs to communicate aren’t always the same.  Nor are my days always the same.  Or my ability to get internet service.

I guess I’m saying I am adapting yet once more to myself and my life.

There are so many things to consider, to discuss with friends, to do.  Time to visit and linger.  Time for crafts and hobbies.  Time for family.  For travel. And many things to write about.

But some days, like today, I’m just sort of blank.  This week has been about so many little things.  That’s not bad, not at all.  I have time for all of those “little things” now, time that doesn’t have to be carved from precious spare time, from teaching and grading.  Sometimes, even in retirement, a little break is absolutely necessary.

I’ve been doing a bit of housework.  I’ve had regular doctors’ appointments to keep, meetings to make.  I’ve met my friend Myra to make jewelry (and will again this afternoon).  I’ve been meaning to call and schedule a repairman/service call for my refrigerator because the freezer isn’t working properly, but I’ve put it off until today — when the washer decided to join the “I don’t want to work” list.  The agitator isn’t agitating.  It just jerks.  So I made the call — for the two jobs — and next Thursday I’ll be waiting.  I want to apply for my Social Security benefits, so I looked for my Social Security card, which I’ve had for decades.  Can’t find it.  It’s put up somewhere so safe that it is hiding from me.  But I can’t get a replacement card because of the government shut-down.  However, I can still make an appointment and apply for benefits without it, so I did.  

Some days, I think I spend more time scheduling things or making phone calls than anything else.  Sometimes I can’t even manage that — for example, I’ve been trying to call my pharmacy to order refills for two hours now, but when I try, the line is always busy.  

This is a week where I’ve frantically searched for missing things — like my Social Security card — without any luck.  That list includes two rings that are very precious to me, not for their actual value but for sentimental reasons.  My frustration level has not eased.  I am berating myself pretty regularly for my carelessness. On the other hand, I’ve found the legal papers I was looking for. Guess I’m batting .300 or so, at least this week.  Some weeks it’s better; some it’s worse.

Organizing and straightening always occupy part of my time.  This week has been no different.  I spent some time in the office trying to group together things, trying to label things so that I can easily put my hands on them.  But when you couple that with looking for items you can’t locate . . . doubly frustrating.  I don’t want to destroy the place looking for things, so I try to be methodical and organize as I go.  Mild success, as in Monopoly where I at least Pass Go.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to read a lot.  I’ve worked on jewelry and made some things with the precious metal clay. Last night I went to the first monthly meeting of our new local Silver Clay group.  We hope to share our learning and our new addiction.  Yesterday,  my second kiln firing was both success and failure — thus an opportunity for learning more.  I fired six pieces at the same time yesterday — two pendant and earrings sets.  One pendant broke, as did two earrings — but not a matching set.  I’ve kept the pieces so that I can try to find out what caused this.  I am, after all, a rank newbie at this, and not having a digital kiln is a handicap.  I can see a purchase in the future. . . but for now I’m waiting for a digital pyrometer that I ordered.  In the meantime, I’ll make some more things and use the butane torch.  It’s all part of the learning curve.  Plus I’m keeping a notebook about this so that I can see what I’ve done, what works, and what doesn’t.  Without analysis, how will I know?  My analytical mind at least still functions, trained in decades of teaching and grading.  This afternoon, I’ll meet Myra and take my wires and stones and work on earrings as well as wire-wrapping stones and cabochons. 

Regular domestic chores, playtime, visiting with friends, planning on family weekend and shopping for cooking for that.  That’s this week.  Tonight I’ll have to cook and chop chicken breasts for chicken salad as well as boil potatoes for potato salad — both of which I’ll actually finally put together at the farm after I get there tomorrow.  At least nine of us will show up there tomorrow, so the small kitchen gets crowded fast.  Using the stove and oven gets to be a trick with all of us working.  If I arrive with the cooking part done, then all I have to do is assemble the two salads, which can then be refrigerated.  The potato salad will actually get assembled on Saturday morning, right before the reunion, which is at lunchtime.  

I’ve got to pack for the weekend too, and load that into the truck.  Since I’ll be hauling back a riding lawn mower, I need the truck and tie-downs for this trip — and then on Sunday I’ll drive to Egan to unload the mower.  And switch vehicles.

Not that I’m complaining — I’m just amazed, as I frequently am:  just how, I often ponder, did I manage to work?  Of course then my stress levels were at DANGER WILL ROBINSON level — there isn’t a red color strong enough to label my stress levels.  Those are nearly non-existent now.  It’s funny — I always heard people saying this, and now I’m one of those people.  But it’s true, you know?  Time is now mine — but it fills up so fast!  And the calendar has dates filled in; nearly every week has something to prepare for.

In the end, though, I’m savoring all of it.  That I can wake up, decide to go back to sleep, and just get up when I’m ready still is such a treat.  That I can stay up all night reading — without having to haul myself out of bed the next morning to teach classes and go to the office — is a joy.  If I want to come here to my home office, type or work on papers or bills or make phone calls and notes — fine.  The pets follow me and keep me company.  If I want to wash dishes or put on laundry — I can do that whenever (except now, when the washer’s gone on shutdown along with the government).  Some days the sheer opportunity to live in my house, to go from room to room and chore to chore, with breaks for reading or naps — just a new and wonderful experience.  Before May 2011, I still had chores and personal errands and appointments, but I also had to teach and grade and see students and take care of Dad.  

Now — for the first time ever, I think, other than occasional vacation weeks or weekends — I am simply living in my house.  It isn’t a place where I sleep and crash after work and/or between semesters.  No it is part of my life in a very different and interesting way.  It’s easy to fall into the hibernation mode where I stay home and work and sleep and play.  Sometimes, I think if I didn’t have to get to the grocery store and pet store I might never leave the house.  Sometimes, I joke (sort of), I know that I could be one of those cat-ladies who never leave home.  I’d just have to have dogs with my cats.  

My hibernation mode never lasts more than a week at best, and usually only a few days — but now I can indulge it.  Home is, for the first time, truly the center of my life.  I go out from it to the world, and come back to it, and it’s all new.

I’m sure I’ll write most days, though perhaps not on the blog every day.  The blog is still an important part of my new life.  I have manuscripts I want to revise, too, and submit.  And editing/writing jobs occasionally.  But the blog is a kind of publication, really, one that is welcome.

Balancing all the elements that make up my life is an ever-changing, on-going process.  But without the element of teaching/grading/working for a living — not really stressful.  

I’ve blithered on enough for today about blogging and life. 

Time to gather up my supplies and go outside, get in the truck, and head for McDonald’s to meet Myra.  Then grocery store time so that I can cook tonight while I watch television and pack.

Since the farm seems to exist in a near-black hole as far as cell towers are concerned, I hope to blog from there.  If I can’t manage that, I’ll be back on Monday.

Blog on.




Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Days and Dad

Since today is National Dog Day, I’ve spent a few hours thinking about my two dogs, Gypsy and Zsa Zsa, to be sure, but also about all the dogs in my life.  And about Dad.  Because it’s all his fault, really, my life-long attachment to dogs.

I don’t ever remember life without dogs.  When I was six months old, Dad got transferred from Beaumont to Humble, a small town near Houston.  Before too long, he’d gone hunting with a neighbor of ours who had a young female pointer.  The dog really took to Dad, but when Mr. McIlvoy tried to give her to Dad, Dad refused; he couldn’t afford to buy the dog, and he wasn’t going to take her as a gift.  Sly Mr. McIlvoy got around that by giving the dog to me.  So Kate came to live with us and my love affair with dogs began.

Kate and I bonded, no doubt.  If Dad or Mother wondered where I was, all they had to do was say my name and Kate would take off to find me.  I could sit on her, pelt her with toys — you name it, and she simply stood there with me.  When I was maybe two, my Dad loved to tell friends (anyone who’d listen, really) about the time he found the two of us sitting on the back steps of our house, the dog food bag at my feet.  I’d pick out the nugget for her and then a flake for me.  He figured if it was okay for the dog, it wouldn’t hurt me either.

He loved that dog, and until the end of his life swore that she was the brightest dog, the best pointer, he ever had.  And the best tempered.  Even with a string of dogs that followed, none ever quite matched up with Kate.  

All of the dogs loved Dad, doted on him.  He was a good, patient trainer (and I suspect that was true with us kids as well as dogs).  Dad loved to hunt quail in particular, and that’s why pointers were so common around our house.  He also hunted ducks and teal.  And squirrels.  And deer.  He just didn’t need dogs for everything he hunted.

He had a tender heart and couldn’t stand to see injured animals of any kind. Dad would bring injured animals home and nurse them.  That’s how I got Jimmy the Crow.  

When we had two dogs poisoned a couple of weeks apart, a dachshund and a pointer, both kept penned and not loose, I think that was the first time I’d ever seen Dad so worked up.  That someone (who probably knew us) had chosen to come to our house — in the camp in Egan — two weeks apart and poison two of our dogs was just something without excuse.  I think there were over 10 dogs poisoned in Egan in that period.  One of ours survived.  The other didn’t.  Dad never got over the fact that someone was sick enough to poison a helpless dog.

When I was a freshman in college, we were visiting Dad’s brother and family in Longview, Texas.  On our walk in the neighborhood, my cousin Barbara and I came across a puppy that had been thrown out and abandoned.  It was so young it’s eyes weren’t open.  I picked it up and brought it home, and she swore Dad wouldn’t let me keep it.  He sat down in the floor with me, cuddled it, and showed me how to feed it.  We kept that dog for the few years he was alive.

After Kate, we had other dogs. We had one of Kate’s only two pups, but she got run over by a truck.   There were other pointers.  There were a couple of small non-hunting dogs. Dad’s last hunting dog was really my brother’s dog.  I was living here in Lake Charles when Phil came to pick me up one day.  He’d found a dog to buy, one he wanted for Dad.  A young pointer with a field-dog pedigree.   And so Buck came to live in Egan.  

Buck was sweet.  He just wasn’t the brightest.  Nor did he ever really hunt.  He was shy of loud noises, which didn’t bode well for a hunting dog.  Buck would point — beautifully, really — just perfect form.  But the problem?  He’d go on point for anything.  I watched him go on point for butterflies, for frogs, for almost anything that moved.  Once he actually got the frog, and then didn’t know what to do with it.

Despite the fact that Phil bought Buck for Dad, Dad always called him Phil’s.  Even when Phil moved to Florida, Buck was still “Phil’s dog.”  Yet Buck lived in Dad’s back yard in Egan.  We’d pet him, get in the pen sometimes to play with him.  He didn’t like some strangers, though — and someone we knew apparently hit him once, and when that person would come around, Buck would slink down and his ears would pin back. He really didn’t like that person, who just thought it was funny and would antagonize Buck by rattling noisy things on the fence.  But Buck loved women.  All of us.

It was strange, really. about Buck.  The day that Phil died, Buck (who’d was old by then and very frail) couldn’t walk and was falling over.  Dad had to take him to the vet to be put down.  We cried a lot that day.  

Though Dad didn’t bird hunt for years, he still loved “bird dogs,” short-haired pointers in particular.  Really, though, if it was a dog, and friendly, it headed to Dad.  And he loved to tell stories about dogs and hunting. He loved to watch field trials on television.  He and my cousin Jim (who also hunts, but has had retrievers) could talk about hunting and dogs.  Dad could always talk to someone and pay attention to a dog at the same time, as evidenced in the following photograph I took at Jim’s house in Galveston.  

ImageDad and Dixie


On my own since my 20s, I began acquiring my own dogs, but small ones because I lived in an apartment at first, and also because I had an erratic teaching schedule.  First came Punkin, a poodle-chihuahua mix.  Punkin was a treat — sharp and bright and funny.  Then I had Scarlett, my first Shih Tzu.  Soon after, I got a second dog, Rocky, a Shih Tzu mix.  Rocky was cute and sweet, but not really bright.  After them, I was hooked on Shih Tzus.  It just seemed destined.

After Scarlett and Rocky died, I took in a stray that my cousin’s wife found in Galveston — a black and white Shih Tzu. My niece Rachel announced that this little dog (I named her Zoe) was like Scarlett and Rocky had come back in one dog.  And that was true — she looked like them, even had some shared traits. 

Another stray came home with my from Krogers one day;  I’d stopped her from being run over in the parking lot, and she jumped in my car and claimed me.  So Scruffy added herself to my menagerie.

Hurricane Rita was hard on many animals, even animals that were safe and secure.  The stress was so great that many became ill and died shortly after the storm.  That was the case for Scruffy and Zoe and my cats.  Within six months, I was left with one pet, and that cat died too within a year. 

But I couldn’t live pet-less.  First I got Zsa Zsa from a friend whose dog had had a litter.  Then came Callie, a calico cat.  Soon after, my sister Kay found a stray Shih Tzu in Natchitoches, and when the pup’s owners decided they couldn’t keep her, she came to live with me.  They’d named her Princess Sugar Cokie (I swear), but I could not stand that name.  Gypsy seemed a more appropriate name for her because she was an escape artist and liked to roam.  Now one of the young girls at my vet’s office laughs and tells me that my dogs have stripper names.  Oh well.

So then I was back to three pets, a cat, a Shih Tzu and a Shih Tzu mix.  Before I knew it, I was taking in a male kitten from Dad’s garage, a black and white sweetie I named Romeo.  And finally, on Spetses a few years ago, a tiny kitten adopted me and hitched a ride back to Lake Charles from Greece.  I named her Homer.

I’ve grown to like cats, but I’m really a dog girl at heart.  

If I weren’t careful, I’d be overrun with stray dogs and cats.  I watched Dad take some in and nurse them back to health.  I learned from him that pedigrees weren’t that important in the long run.

Regardless, his favorite dogs remained pointers.  Mine?  Shih Tzus have stolen my heart.  They are bright and sweet, strong-willed, and love to snuggle.  They have distinct personalities.

Dad would joke about my little fur-balls being “worthless,” but he always said that with a grin as he was petting them.  


ImageDad, Scruffy, and Zoe


ImageDad and Zsa Zsa

Dad’s love of animals was evident to everyone.  My friend Tom Fox once heard Dad tell stories about dogs, and Dad was a great storyteller with an amazing sense of timing.  Tom said he’d listen to Dad talk about dogs anytime, and he didn’t really know much about dogs, or like them, or hunt, but it didn’t matter — Dad had him.

Dad let me do things I can’t imagine many other dads would:  when we lived in the camp in Egan, I can remember sneaking out the back door at night when I was maybe 8 and bringing Kate in to sleep with me.  I know he must have heard me opening the door, going outside, and bringing Kate in.  I had to unlock the gate to the dog pen, too, and close it.  I’d bring Kate in, make her get in bed with me, and go to sleep.  He’d let me get away with it.

From watching Dad, I learned about how to care for a pet, how to be a responsible owner.  He didn’t have to tell me much — he showed me, through his own actions.  And dogs always recognized that he cared about them.  They gravitated to him.  His face would soften into a smile and his voice would drop as he talked to them; his hands were stroking their heads, scratching their ears.  They knew a dog person when they saw one.

Treated properly, dogs are wonderful companions.  They have love and loyalty, unconditional love.  They sense their owners’ emotions.  I know mine certainly do — when I’m down they sense it and crowd me as though to reassure me I’m loved.  They lick me.  A lot.  

They’re good for us, too, studies show.  Blood pressures drop when people are petting dogs and cats.  Many nursing homes now allow therapy pets in so that their residents can benefit from petting a dog.  Some dogs, it appears, can even sniff out tumors.  

Yes, they can be trouble to care for.  Pets mean that you have to consider their care before you can simply hit the road for a trip.  

They’ll miss you when you’re gone. They may make you pay when you return, but not for too long.  

Treat them right — and you have companions that lavish love.

The dogs and cats I have now are the last pets I’ll have that Dad knew.  That makes me sad today, to tell the truth.  

But that I love my dogs — that I can’t see living without one — is one of his many legacies to me.  Thanks, Dad, on this National Dog Day.  

Now it’s time to pay some attention to Zsa Zsa and Gypsy, who wait for me.




Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Life with Animals

As far back as I remember, I’ve always had a pet, usually a dog. In my 30s I acquired my first cat. Now I’ve some of each, and can’t imagine life without pets.

My first pet was a short-haired pointer, one that a neighbor gave to me when I wasn’t even a year old — one that my dad hunted for years. She was my best friend. Kate was loving and patient; if I tried to ride her, she stood there. If I fell off, she stood there. If I called, she came. If Dad asked her where I was, she found me. She was, my dad proclaimed until he died, the best dog he ever had. The last day of her life, she managed to get out and run when he took her out in the field. One last good afternoon, and then she died. I was, I think, 11, and I thought my heart would break. I had no memories of life without her.

We had other dogs, almost always pointers. Once we had a dachshund that my grandmother gave us. Maxie had the cutest quizzical face — he’d look up at you, his little forehead wrinkled and his head cocked. Someone poisoned him one weekend, and he was so small — he just didn’t survive. Shortly afterwards, someone poisoned our pointer, who was larger and who did survive. Both dogs were confined, so someone had to search them out. I’ve never understood what drives people to deliberately hurt animals.

By the time I was in college, I had to enjoy the pets only on weekends, whenever I was home. I also began to bring home strays. Though friends thought my parents wouldn’t let me keep them, they were wrong. In fact, with one puppy I found, so young his eyes weren’t open, my dad sat in the floor with me, feeding that puppy with an eyedropper.

On my own in grad school, I got a tiny puppy, a cross between a chihuahua and a poodle — Punkin. Bright, curious, and lively, she was my companion for almost 9 years. From LSU (grad school) to Lamar (teaching) to Texas A&M (grad school) to McNeese, Punkin saw me through my studies, my heartbreaks, my first full-time job, and got me settled in what would be my career job. Her heart murmur finally killed her, And I cried as though my heart would break. Dad came over, picked her body up, and took her back to Egan to bury her.

She died just before I defended my dissertation. The day I defended, I bought a Shih Tzu, my first (but not my last). Scarlett stole my heart. A few months later, she was joined by a stray Shih Tzu mix (Rocky) and my first cat (R.B.) We were a happy menagerie for years. After I bought my house, we were joined by another stray, a cat that simply followed me inside one day. Lil Bit stayed a bit longer than her name might indicate.

Scarlett lived nearly 16 years, Rocky almost 13. RB lived almost 18 years and Lil Bit over 11 years.

Along the way I also acquired Scruffy (a terrier mix, rescued from the 12th Street Kroger parking lot). After only Scruffy and RB were left, my cousin in Galveston (his wife, actually) found a little Shih Tzu wandering the streets in their neighborhood. Black and white, terribly matted, she came to live with me. Zoe cemented the place Shih Tzus have made in my heart.

By the time I evacuated for Hurricane Ike, I only had Scruffy and Zoe and RB. Within months, all of them were dead. Lots of pets didn’t survive long after the hurricane; stress took its toll on many of our little companions.

Gypsy was a Shih Tzu my sister found wandering the streets in Natchitoches. Kay found her owners, but soon her owners decided not to keep her. I took her. Then I took a long-haired calico from a friend — Callie.

Only two, I said. Enough. That didn’t last long. Then I saw a little black and white Shih Tzu mix and fell in love again. Zsa Zsa joined the family. Rocky, a black and white male kitten, came from my dad’s yard in Egan; I couldn’t stand to see him disappear as so many of the yard cats did.

Four. More than enough, I said. That was true until I was in Greece, on the island of Spetses a few years ago. While I was sitting at a cafe near the port, a small calico kitten zeroed in on me, rubbed around my ankles, jumped in my lap, climbed on my shoulder, and went to sleep. Apparently, I have “sucker” written on my forehead not only in English but also in Greek. Getting her home was less trouble than I though. With a nod to what I was reading at the time, I named her Homer. I mean, Homer might have been a woman; we don’t know for sure.

So my house is full. Three cats, two dogs. Most of them are rescue animals. All are loving creatures. Homer thinks she’s a dog, it seems. She hangs with the two dogs. Romeo is meek, peeping up at me, hesitantly sneaking up on the bed if the others let her. Callie sticks to the study, her territory. She’ll wander in to the laundry room and kitchen for food and water, occasionally into the bedroom. Mostly, though, she stays to herself.

It’s not easy to travel with pets, not most of the time. For a few days or a week, I manage with leaving enough food and water, having friends check on them. For longer periods, say for three months when I’m in Greece, I’ve managed to get a house-sitter who lives in the house for free, but cares for the animals. This year, though, I had to cobble together pet-sitters, a friend who cleans my house, other friends, and my sister – because I couldn’t find a live-in sitter. I’ve got to start working on that for thenext long trip.

My pets demand attention, certainly. They also require maintenance. Cat litter. Dog walks and papers. Food and water. Lots of attention.

But they’re so rewarding. Constant companions, they seem to sense when I’m upset or stressed or depressed. They’ll curl around me in bed, barricading me in from what would hurt me. They lick me, reassuring me of their love. They look into my eyes with total trust.

When I’m gone for long periods of time, I miss my sister and niece, my cousins and aunts, my friends. And my pets. When I miss having them with me, I know it’s time to go back to Louisiana and join them.

Without my own children, I guess my pets are my children. They are my support system. They need me as nothing else and no one else does. They love unconditionally.

Studies show that pet therapy has many positive effects. Petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure. Residents in nursing homes respond when therapy pets are brought around — they’re happy, they smile.

The joys are worth the troubles, worth the losses. Their places in my heart are irreplaceable. Yet there’s always room for loving another.

As for me, I know that if possible, I’ll always have a pet. At least one.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

My House is a Very, Very, Very Fine House

Post-retirement, I am discovering that my house is new to me again.  I’ve lived in this house for almost 27 years now, longer than I’ve ever lived in any house.  It’s different now.  In a good way, but different.  Being in a place all the time means that you relate to it in a wholly new and total manner.

My house is a 1920s cottage, on piers.  Its floors aren’t quite even.  Nothing’s exact.  The ceilings are 10 1/2 feet tall.  Some rooms have oak floors.  Some have linoleum or vinyl.  The original clawfoot bathtub is still here.

It’s not just that there’s new siding (three years ago), or a new addition (six years ago), or a new roof.  It’s not just the color (it’s now neutral beige, the color of the siding, but will be painted soon in a color similar to the original).  It’s not the new insulation, or the completely new pipes.  Or the central air/heat (I had that put in sometime in the 1990s). It’s not the new low-e windows that replaced the old windows.

Nor is it the ongoing renovations inside (sometimes I think they’ll never end).  Right now, the kitchen renovation is in a holding pattern.  One of the two new kitchen wall cabinets is sitting in my living room; the other is in a workshop.  At some point in the next month (I hope), these will replace the ones on the wall.  They look similar, but are sturdier and will be fresher.

No, it’s not the physical house itself, not at all.  It’s me.  Or rather, it’s me in the house now, post-retirement, as in no longer working.  The closest I’ve come is when I’ve been home between semesters or in summers.  Those times, though, were mere tastes of what it is like now.

I am in the house now full-time, without having to dress and drive to school, operating out of my office.  Now, I can wake up as I wish, dress when I need to do so, and leave only when I want/need to.  Sometimes, I get up and meet friends for breakfast at McDonald’s, or for coffee at Starbucks.  I can stay home all day if I want.  I don’t leave the animals alone day after day while I teach.  I’m with them a lot.  My life is in this house, with some time spent out to socialize.  But not to work somewhere else.  If I work (on a writing project, on jewelry, on a lecture-discussion series), I am usually here (though not always).

Mostly, I find that I wake up maybe by 7 or 8 a.m. and read CNN and The New York Times and The Times of London online.  I put clothes on to wash and dry.  I sweep and mop the dog room; I deal with kitty litter.  Maybe I wash dishes.  Sometimes I crawl back into bed to read.  Sometimes I watch television.

Today that’s just what I did.  Plus call in refills at the pharmacy.  And then I finished sorting three months’ worth of mail.  Now I just have to haul the garbage bag of mail detritus out to the garbage can, along with other garbage bags from house-cleaning.

At some point, I move to my office (where I am now) and work on my blog, or on other writing projects.  Right now, I’ve started re-organizing my office.  While I was gone, my friend Patty (who watched the house and the cats several times a week) moved some furniture for me (thanks to her son Mark, who added more muscle).  Now I’m re-organizing what I need to fit into the bookcase and wall unit.  And straightening out my lovely new desk (thanks to Adam Williams, my friend who built it).  Once that desk is straight, I’ll move on to the desk I use for jewelry projects. Right now it’s just a landing zone.  Progress is slow, but the office I envision is emerging.  Yesterday I cleared off the shelves in the bookcase and wall unit.  Some boxes and cases are back on the wall unit.  Now there are some boxes on the floor (which was clear), but those are today’s project.

My bedroom will get some attention too — I’ll make the bed up before I leave.  It’s always a treat to come home to a neat bed.  In the past, I often didn’t have the time (or get up early enough) to manage that.  I’ve already started putting up clean clothes.  Today, though, I need to pack for a few days at the beach.

My friend Connie and are were talking about this yesterday, when I dropped over to visit her briefly.  Now that we’re retired, we decided, we actually live in our places.  Full-time.

And I’m discovering that I really like that difference.  I am here, full-on, and enjoying being here, as opposed to in an office at school, or at work.

It’s an indulgence I’ve never had.  Maybe I wouldn’t have liked it if I’d always been a stay-at-home person, but that wasn’t my lot.  Now I appreciate the place and the time and the opportunity to just be here in my own home.

One of the things I’ve always loved about my house is the space and the large windows that let in lots of light.  In my years here, I’ve had many parties and entertained many friends.  That stopped for a long time, when I simply didn’t have the energy.  Those were the years when my mother and brother were ill, and after they died.  Sometimes I’d have a few people over, but not on the regular basis that I once did.

And I don’t really want huge parties here.  I do want to have friends over, with music pouring out and food and laughter.  That’s one of the things this house seems made for.

Years ago, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young recorded “Our House” on their album Deja Vu, and these lyrics have always resonated for me:

“Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy. . . .”

Their lyrics really captured what I always saw as my ideal house — comfortable, eclectic, with pets and friends and food and music.  A place where all my friends felt welcome to drop in.  When I saw this house the first time, viewing it as a prospective buyer, I heard those lines in my head and knew it was my house.  The light hit just right.  I felt at home.

It was my joy to have parties, to entertain.  Friends came over for dinner.  I had barbeques in the backyard.  I had Christmas-tree-trimming parties.  Friends brought their children for Halloween trick-or-treating; adults came for what my friends Pam and Frank call Trick-or-Drinking.  Decorating was fun.  Nothing was too matchy-matchy.  Most of my furniture was hand-me-downs from family.  Occasionally I bought furniture.

When I felt like it, I’d move not only furniture within a room, but sometimes simply move entire rooms of furniture, deciding that I wanted my bedroom in another room, or that I wanted the dining table somewhere else.  I balanced work and living here, finding time to clean when I could.

Somewhere along the way, it became a place where I lived — slept, ate, and existed.  Things piled up.  I didn’t entertain much.  It was always a refuge, though, from the outer world, from some stress and chaos.  But the joy was gone, and for a long time.  However, that joy has been returning for a few years.  It’s been something I’ve had to work at actively, and with some therapy, and with housekeeping help.  The years of neglect have gone.  I am finding order and comfort here once more.  Sorting through so much stuff has freed me.  I’ve tossed a lot.  I’ve got more to toss.  I’ve stored some.  More boxes await sorting and purging.

And I’ve started renovating, finally, now that I have time again, having moved back to Lake Charles full-time from Egan.  I’d like to play the twitch-your-nose-and-it’s-done game (as Samantha did in Bewitched), but that’s not happening.  Instead, it happens in bits, in spurts of time, as I have money and my handyman has time.  And I’m learning to be satisfied with the progress.

As I’ve had the opportunity to renovate, I’ve found even more joy in the opportunity to create my refuge.

Retirement truly has awakened me.  It has awakened this house for me, but it has also made it new for me.

It’s my new life.  In my old house. With three cats and two dogs.  With candles.  With music.   My very very very fine house.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Since I was in Greece for nearly three months, the last 10 days back in Lake Charles have presented me with the usual adjustment issues.  I’m getting there, but still have some challenges.

For the first few days, I found myself awakening (without any clock) between 3 and 4 a.m.  Wide awake, not sleepy.  Of course my still-on-Greek-time body thought it was 8 hours ahead, and that I’d slept until 11 a.m. and noon.  By 5 p.m., I was whipped and ready for bed, sound asleep by 6 p.m. This was awkward when I wanted to meet friends for dinner, or watch television, but I just let my body dictate what it needed.

So from the day I landed (Thursday) until the following Wednesday, I woke up early and went to sleep early.  Each day, though, I found that I woke up just a bit later and went to bed just a little later.  By the Thursday after returning, I was sleeping until 6.  That was fine.  I had no real demands.

Now, ten days after my return, I’m waking up at a more reasonable hour (between 7 and 8 a.m.) and staying up as I’m used to doing.  Right now, it’s almost 11 p.m., and I’m beginning to yawn.

Sleep patterns are only the most obvious and immediate adjustment, though.  Others quickly emerged.

For three months, I’ve gotten around by walking and taking trolleys, buses, and taxis.  Until last Friday, I hadn’t driven at all.  Within 24 hours of my return, it was a different story:  once more if I wanted to do anything, I had to drive.  Driving is something I’ve always loved, so that really isn’t too big an adjustment.

Shopping has also been something that I have to do differently.  In Athens, I walked to the markets, limited to buying what I could carry home to the apartment.  My refrigerator there is American-style, not a small apartment-sized unit, but there I shop frequently.  Here I have a car and can manage to shop less often.  I found myself buying for a day or two, though, and only today did I actually buy enough for several days.

Usually, I’m gone until mid-August, but this year I went to Greece early (I landed in Athens on April 20) and thus returned in mid-July (July 18).  I returned to Louisiana in full summer, with high humidity.  My air conditioner here is always on, while I ran the apartment AC only when I needed it; it wasn’t yet hot enough there to keep it on for hours (unless I was cooking and having guests).  I get outside here, walk to the car, get in, and realize that my sunglasses have fogged with temperature changes and have to take them off and wipe the lenses so that I can see.

In the 10 days I’ve been home, it’s rained almost every day — not necessarily for long, but enough to leave the sidewalks, lawns, and streets damp for a while.  Only on Saturday, while I was driving back from Baton Rouge, did I actually find myself in a full-on thunderstorm, complete with sheeting rain and lightening.  I slowed down and tried to guide by the taillights of the 18-wheeler in front of me.  Luckily, it cleared pretty quickly.  High temperatures, high humidity, possible thermal showers, thunderstorms, and light rain.  Normal summer in Southwest Louisiana.

Oh, and it’s hurricane season, of course.  I keep my eye on the Hurricane Tracker app every day now.  And remind myself that it’s time to begin gathering the usual hurricane supplies.

For the first time in months, I’ve got to deal with the pets.  Dogs need attention.  Cats do too.  Cat litter.  Dog papers.  Water.  Food.

Once more I have a house to keep up, not a small apartment. I need to mop floors.  Mondays are the days I must roll the garbage can out to the curb for pickup (and I have to get up early enough tomorrow to have it out there by 7:30 a.m.).  I think this week will see me re-organizing my office, first of all, and getting ready for the writing projects and some jewelry work.  The office looks nice, and I want to keep it that way, but it definitely needs some work before it’s just right.

My calendar has also begun to fill with appointments and meetings – even in retirement.  In the coming week, I need to schedule an appointment for car maintenance, another for a three-week program I’m going to direct at a local library, and yet a third for a writing project I;m planning.  I realize that I have no idea where my checkbooks are, and I will have to find them.  I still need to finish sorting through the mail that piled up while I was gone.

In a few days it will be August.  I haven’t been in the U.S. at this time in a while, and I’m remembering daily what my summers usually are like.  Hot, steamy, and sticky.  I find myself wearing shorts a lot, even to run errands.

At least I don’t have to worry about getting ready to begin teaching in a couple of weeks.  I now am planning writing projects and road trips to the beach and to Egan.

Re-entry into my Louisiana life isn’t too bad.  The  issues are familiar from almost 13 years of summers away.

Time to get some sleep.  Garbage day is tomorrow.  Pets are ready for some cuddle time.  And the laptop battery needs recharging.  Guess my battery does too.

Ah well.  I am still retired.  That’s the continuing adjustment I face now.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homecoming Week

It’s Friday morning, and Dad came home on Monday.  It’s been a week for homecoming, for adjusting, and for many discoveries.  A long week, but one worth it all.

From last week until Monday I worked to get the house cleaned, organized, and ready for Dad.  My friend Patty came from Moss Bluff a couple of times, and the two of us managed to get a lot done.  By Easter weekend, when I needed to see Dad, I was working still, and exhausted.  Kay came in on Saturday, and I just stayed in my bed and slept.  No visit to Lake Charles.

By Monday morning, things were ready.  By 11, Dad’s hospital bed had been delivered and set up and I put fresh new linens on it, with a blue comforter.  The bed is in what was the living room and is now his bedroom.  I angled it with the head toward the kitchen and the feet toward the front of the house so that he could see the television and look out the front door if he wanted.  I drove to Crowley, signed the discharge papers, loaded his clothes in the truck, then wheeled Dad (holding more stuff on his lap) to the truck and left.  A few minutes down the road, I pulled in at the dialysis clinic and reversed the procedure, getting the wheelchair out of the truck bed, unfolded, and getting Dad out of the truck into the chair.  I sat with him in the waiting room until the dialysis tech came to get him, and talked with her briefly.  Then it was off to run errands.  Medicine first, then a couple of other stops, and then back to Egan.

I unloaded a few things, leaving the rest until later.  I set up Dad’s medicines in his pill box and put some clothes away.  Most were dirty, though, and I left those near the laundry room for later.  Back to Crowley, a quick stop for celery and other things, and then to dialysis.  By the time I picked Dad up and got him home, I was truly tired.  Getting him out of the truck and into the house wasn’t too hard, but learning to get his wheelchair up the ramp and in the house was a bit tricky.  He was really tired, so I put him to bed.  While he slept, I made shrimp etouffee and cooked rice.

He ate some etouffee, enjoyed it, and then after taking his medicine, slept.  I tried to sleep, but gave up — he was restless, I was anxious, and didn’t really sleep steadily. At 3:30 a.m. I looked for him and he wasn’t in bed; he’d managed to get out of bed and into the kitchen– without a walker!  I have no idea how long he’d been there, but his skinny legs were pretty shaky, and I managed to get him back to bed.  He was confused, thought it was suppertime, and had been ready to get something to cook.

Needless to say, I did not sleep any more that night.  Luckily, the recliners in the room are very comfortable.  My iPad kept me company as I watched and worried.

Tuesday morning was a busy one.  Physical therapy came to evaluate and assess his condition; a physical therapist will come twice a week to work with Dad.  While the PT was still there, the home health nurse came to evaluate and assess Dad as well.  Dad was pretty alert by this time, which was good to see.  He interacted with the PT and nurse and held conversations.

He slept; we had visitors on and off that afternoon.  Tuesday night was better — I gave Dad his bedtime meds a bit later, to assure that he slept through the night.  Or I hoped so.  I slept, on and off.

Wednesday morning was pretty uneventful.  I cooked breakfast again; he ate.  He always wants his coffee, though I notice he doesn’t drink as much as he used to do.  Still, it’s something he wants. The home health aide came to help Dad shower. By 11:30, I’d delivered him to dialysis again and headed back to Egan.  My friend Patty had come again to help; she was catching up on Dad’s laundry while I took him to Crowley.  I came back and we worked some more.  Charles came over and visited some; I love friends who bring chocolate cake with them!  That was a perfect snack.

Errands, errands:  this time to Jennings, to find a bed alarm (the home health nurse had told me I could get one at the medical supply pharmacy there), a new shower bench (adjustable, because the one in the shower is too low).  I then headed through Egan to Crowley, stopping for another couple of errands.

Dad had been clear all morning.Wednesday afternoon, though, when I picked Dad up at dialysis, the tech told me he’d become a bit disoriented.  He still was so — and stayed that way through yesterday.  Every day at dialysis seems to tax him a bit harder.  He slept on Wednesday night and wouldn’t eat supper, though he did take his medicine.

Yesterday, I puttered around the plants on the front porch.  Carmichael’s delivered the portable oxygen concentrator that’s been in repair for nearly two months.  Physical therapy and home health came again.  Billie sat with Dad so that I could take Dad’s tax information to his CPA in Iota.  I quickly picked up mail and came home.  After Billie left, I warmed up some lunch and he ate, slowly; he finished his small bowl of etouffee.  Later in the afternoon, he wanted cake, and ate the whole piece. That was good.  He was still a bit confused, though less.  His back has been giving him a good bit of pain, and the pain meds help.  He does sleep a lot, though.  But I have to pay attention: last night while I was working on my taxes on the computer here in the office, I heard him — he’d gotten out of bed and was using the walker to head to the back bathroom, which has always been his.  Only when his walker wouldn’t fit in did he believe that he had to use the front bathroom.  By the time he’d turned around and gotten back to the living room, he was too tired to do anything but go back to bed.

Even confused, he manages to do things that surprise me.  Yesterday he kept talking about cooking peas.  He was dreaming, I kept telling him.  I wasn’t cooking peas, and neither was he.  He kept insisting, though.  It was about 5 when I finally noticed a plastic container out on the kitchen counter.  You guessed it — frozen peas. Just when he got them out, I have no idea.  But believe me, I’m learning that he manages to do things whether he should or no.

By this morning when I got up at 6:45, I’d been awake for awhile.  Dad was awake too, and I started breakfast while I gave him his meds.  In between, I finally started writing this blog again.  It’s 7:45 now.  In the last hour, he has gotten out of bed and used the walker to go to the bathroom by himself. He’s eaten part of his sausage and most of his biscuit and jelly.   He’s resting again now, after taking a pain pill.  I told him I’d let him sleep for a while.  I need to shave him and help him change clothes before I take him to dialysis.  While he’s there, I will run errands.  I also need to put the bed alarm on the bed — it’s a pad that fits under the sheet, wired to an alarm.  When Dad is off the pad completely, the alarm sounds.  I’m sure it will startle both of us if it goes off.  But I don’t want any more 3 a.m. surprise visits to the kitchen.  Nor do I want to find any more containers of frozen peas (or whatever) on the counter and wonder when he got those out of the freezer. I’ll unload the groceries and the shower bench.  I probably ought to load the extra garbage bags and boxes and take them to the dump as well.  By 3:30, I’ll be at the clinic waiting for Dad, and wondering what to expect.  Will he be confused again?

Homecoming Week in high school and college is usually about football games and parades and celebrations.  It’s been Homecoming Week here, just without the football game or parade.  Celebrations?  They’ve gone on all week, every day.  I celebrate that he’s home and asks questions about the house occasionally.  I celebrate when he wants to look outside and I coax him to sit on the front porch bench for a few minutes.  I celebrate when friends drop by and he engages in conversations.

Those celebrations are important — he’s home.  He knows it and is comfortable.  He’s glad to see friends.  Even with the confusion and the weakness, Dad knows he’s home again, and I think he’s relaxed more.  He smiles more than I saw him smile while he was in Southwind.  Sometimes, I think, he wasn’t sure he was going to come home.  Now he’s secure in his home of nearly 46 years.

It’s been a week of adjustments — for both of us.  By today, I know the schedule to expect from home health:  Tuesdays and Thursdays, physical therapy; Wednesdays, aide to bathe Dad; twice a week, home health nurse.  I’ve figured out that my free time to run errands will be on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while Dad is at dialysis.  If I need to make an appointment for me in Lake Charles, it needs to be on Tuesday and Thursday morning, when Billie can sit with Dad; I need to be back by 1 because she works at the library in Crowley on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.   Friday afternoons by the time I get Dad back from dialysis, Kay will be here, and I can have until Sunday afternoon to head to Lake Charles to my house.  I know I’ll have a week to 10 days in June; I’m trying to figure out how to have a longer break — I want to go to Greece to a friend’s niece’s wedding, and to see my apartment in Athens, and to hang out with friends there.  That’s my goal, anyway.

I can tell that every day I will start Dad’s breakfast by 7 — a biscuit, one patty of sausage, and some coffee.  He doesn’t want an egg right now.  I’ll cook.  We eat supper together every night, which is good for both of us.

He sleeps.  While he does that, I do laundry.  I watch television.  I wash dishes and I cook.  I check on him frequently, sometimes talking with him if he’s awake.  Reassuring him if he’s confused.  Today he told me about a trip to town, seeing someone he used to work with.  I guess his dreams take him places he can’t go anymore. I don’t fuss at this; I just accept it and nod and talk.  Frequently, he tries to get out of bed because we “have to go . . .” somewhere; I reassure him that no, we don’t, that he’s at home and we don’t have to go anywhere yet, that he can go back to sleep.  Keeping calm is easy, I find, and if I’m calm, it sets the tone for him.

Now I also I putter around the front porch plants.  They’re all looking healthy and green.  The agapanthus are beautiful and blue; I have some other smaller blue flowers as well.  My friend Carolyn gave me some lovely yellow flowers in a blue pot.  I have two kinds of ivy in hanging baskets.  I’ve planted a lot of herbs.  I have a hibiscus tree in a big pot.  The windchime reminds me often just to close my eyes and listen, to sit and enjoy the moments.  The hummingbird feeder and bird feeder haven’t gotten any action yet, but I’m hopeful — and they’re cute, anyway.  The yellow bench with the blue and tan floral cushion is comfortable and inviting.  It’s lovely to have the small space so handy, so available — and so welcoming to all.

As the week winds up, I now find time to write as well — finally.  It’s as though I’ve been racing for days to get ready to get Dad home, and then to get Dad settled and to figure out what’s going on.  Now, I think I have a handle on the general scheme of things.  I’ve still got chores to do and appointments to set up; I need to set up a follow-up visit with Dad’s primary physician.  Today while he’s in dialysis I’ve got to buy groceries and some cleaning supplies.

Charles reminded me yesterday that I need to spend time here in the office space, too.  I’ll need my own space, he says, and he’s right.  So I’ll start working on clearing up the boxes that are still stacked here.  I’ll figure out where my own craft supplies really are so that next week I can begin working on jewelry again.

In the meantime, I have discovered that when I go to Lake Charles, I have to crate my three cats and set them on the front porch there while I flea-bomb the house.  Yes, that house now has fleas.  Oh well, at least I can bring the laptop and iPad and some cold drinks and sit on the porch there in my rocker.  I don’t have any plants in pots on that porch, but I do have lovely roses that are in bloom.

Two porches to enjoy — and my pets.  Dogs here in Egan, cats in Lake Charles.  Friends in both places.  Dad at home, comfortable and feeling secure.  Kay to relieve me on weekends.

And time to enjoy, to write, to read, to create.

Who needs a parade?  I’ve got porches!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: