Friday, September 9, 2011

It's A Start

I know that to sing will let my spirit free
but three years of constant grieving
have stilled my song
and when I try to let it out
it comes in croaks and squeaks
and frightens the dogs
and makes my throat scratchy and sore.

I know that to dance will lighten my load,
but years of shuffling under the burdens
have left my joints stiff and my muscles shortened
and when I try to shake my bootie
it tries to fall off the side and take me with it
and I want no trips to the hospital today.

It all makes me laugh a little --
Thank goodness.
At least that's a start.
One spiritual muscle that hasn't totally atrophied
or ruptured.

The sabbatical is over.
And now the year of reconditioning begins.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Year of the Sabbatical Ends

It's already the end of August. It is also the end my sabbatical year. I set out to write something everyday and find out who Sharon was after Bill and after all the loss incurred during the past five years. I didn't do so well insofar as writing everyday was concerned. Frequently I had other things to do and just as frequently I didn't but just didn't feel the spirit moving me to write.

I'm pretty sure I have a better sense of Sharon now. Indeed, probably a better understanding than I have ever had. It didn't come without some awkward and even painful moments; however, mostly it has been accompanied by a sense of wonder at the life all around me and at how far I have come and excitement about what is next. I have been surrounded by the love of friends and family, even when I was all alone. I enjoyed trips to Maryland, Texas, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Hawaii this year and look forward to doing some additional travel in the year ahead (maybe Alaska!).

This particular blog has reached its natural end. I will leave it in hopes that it provides some helpful bread crumbs for some other lost traveler through the scape of grief and loss. There is no question that it is a painful journey, but great cost brings great reward.

As for what is next, my preference is that I would like to keep writing, as long as there is someone willing to keep reading.  I started half a dozen articles for this blog that I never finished and would like to revisit as perhaps a starting off point for something else. Additionally, I am working on the electronic version of my grandmother and great aunt's book Hurrah for My New Free Country, currently out of print. I have lists of ideas for other articles, the scope of which almost demands a deeper blog-site and a more complex design.

Over the next few weeks, I will be working with a consultant to design a new blog page that incorporates this vision. Look for an announcement here when that site is ready to go public. In the meantime, thank you. All of you. For your support and your encouragement and for helping me help myself get through this year. On to the next!

(By the way, we still have a few of those chairs, if you're interested...)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 22 July 2011

This is one of the many reasons I love Colorado.

One of my favorite things in the world is watching the sun set behind the Rockies from my front yard. Tonight was especially beautiful, accompanied by birdsong and cooling breezes.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Year Later

For me it is important to take time now and then to reflect back on the growth of this past year. One year ago today our friends from Rusk, Texas drove up to support me and Bill as he faced his second biopsy, the first having been somehow inconclusive. Bill was surprised to see them because we had been at their home only weeks earlier. It was no surprise to me. I asked them to come. It was pretty clear to the three of us that Bill's situation was grave in May, and they had made me promise to call if I needed them, and I needed them. This is a chit you only use once, and this was that one time.

One year ago today I began the grieving process (a word by the way that joins journey -- as in "my journey" or "my weight loss journey" or fill in the blank journey -- among the terms that give me palsied seizures). Grieving is a state of being that continues to today, though with much less intensity at times, and deeper at others. For me, it has been the opening of the shell that encloses my understanding (Gibran). Sometimes those shells are pretty doggone thick and require quite a bit of pain to break them open. Moving through that pain can get tricky. Running away from it is pointless; it will always outlast and outrun you and be waiting for you. Staying or living in it would be like dying a slow and painful death over and over and over. So I have been moving through the pain, and using it to teach me. When I feel the pain, I ask it where it is coming from and why is it here. Sometimes the pain is anger, sometimes guilt, sometimes regret; but always loss. When I've dealt with all the others, there will always be the loss.

When you lose a spouse, you lose that person and grieve that person and who they were in your life. Everyone knows and acknowledges this reality. But you also lose your identity as spouse with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities that come with it. That role is done. For me, as for many, this happened right after my job as mother was done. Arguments to the contrary, my children are grown and are wonderfully competent to take care of themselves and the best part is that they choose to do so! So that's two jobs I've lost, and that doesn't count the career I retired from in 2007 to take care of Bill. So, there I am. What am I? That has been the point of this sabbatical, after all.

I do acknowledge that I have a better sense of wholeness than I did a year ago, or even three months ago. I was pretty broken, and more pieces of me breaking off with every anniversary/birthday/holiday. The camping trip to Cripple Creek brought with it the healing revelation that the bittersweet conjugation of my daughter's birthday with our first Father's Day without Bill could be acknowledged and sweetly honored without falling into the pit and breaking off more pieces. 

I also acknowledge the importance of this breakage in becoming Sharon. Not only has it broken open the shell of my own understanding, allowing me to live anxiety-free for the first time in decades. It is clearly also the work of the Great Sculptor, chiseling away the stone to reveal the glorious sculpture beneath if only the material holds up to the pressure. How am I doing, Boss?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 19 Jun 2011

Today I took a little train ride here in Cripple Creek.

And this is what I saw:

Tripping to Cripple Creek

I have the camper back again and we are away for the weekend. The camper's little boo-boos from the long trip to Texas and Florida and back and then back to Texas again and back again required a little trip to the camper hospital for a short stay and some repairs. But I have her back, almost as good as new (although truthfully, she could use a bath and a coat of wax). She was all ready to go, and then the thunderstorm rolled in. So we waited it out while I put together some groceries for the trip.

My first stop on my way out of town was to Elk Mountain Brewery to refill my Growler. I like a dark beer, so I ordered the Amber Brown. It wasn't until I had reached Cripple Creek, unhitched and set up the camper, and reach for the growler for some liquid refreshment that I realized the bartender had written Amber on the lid. I had to laugh. Sometimes Maxwell is just too damn obvious.

I didn't get out of town without incident. The camper will have to go back to the repairman for a little fix:

In case you don't see it, this side is supposed to look like the other side:

You should see the other guy.

It was actually an inanimate object. One of those heavy reinforced concrete pillars to protect the ATMs from terrorists.  I cut it just a little close. Was really glad I didn't have a passenger in the car giving me hell. I pretty much took care of that myself.

I picked the first RV camp that sounded like it was off the highway and off the beaten track. Cripple Creek Hospitality House & RV Park is all of that, and comes with a story or two. The Hospitality House is the old Teller County Hospital. It is just up B Street from Teller County Junior and Senior High School and was built at the height of the gold rush in this area, 1901.
The RV park is better than some I have been in, but is not for the usual KOA camper. It comes with full hookups and wifi and, fortunately, no cable TV. The wifi allows me to entertain myself when the weather gets a little iffy. For instance, as I write this the wind is howling around outside, and it is nippy.  

There aren’t many other campers here. Perhaps it is because it’s so early in the season. I’m not complaining. I pretty much have a nice little area all to myself with good views all around, and less people is less stimulating for the dogs (we’re working on the whole territorial barking thing – it isn’t going well).

I took them, the dogs that is, out for a long walk this morning. Up and down the hill and back and forth on the grid of streets that go down the mountain from the Hospitality House. At 10,000 plus feet, the exertion got my cardio-respiratory system cranking, but did very little to calm the dogs down. So many smells! So many unfamiliar critters! And, “OMG Jack, do you see THAT! Is that horse shit? OMG it’s my FAVORITE!” Inevitably, the most exciting smells and sites have to occur when I am fighting my way to breathe and keep my feet moving on the uphill portions of the walk.

We came across the Cripple Creek volunteer firefighting and rescue squad doing some training on a Saturday morning. As we stopped to watch, the trainers were emphasizing the need to communicate loudly and clearly that the ladder was going up, coming down, or coming through. Each of the trainees had to be able to handle the ladder independently: carry it to the wall, get it up against the wall, and then get it down and carry it back – all without injuring themselves or others. No wonder firemen are in such good shape!

It was lunch time when we returned to the camper from our walk. Some ground beef seasoned with fresh onion, garlic, basil, oregano, and parsley. Followed by a pint of Amber Brown, a half pint of blue-berries and a nap. The nap was also delicious, by the way.

When this summer thunderstorm passes there will be another long walk up and down the mountain followed by leftover seasoned beef with some rice for dinner and a salad of fresh things from the garden. Not my garden, but somebody’s organic garden.

If I am lucky, and the free wifi internet connection connects, I will be able to post this at some point and then play some word games with my word-game pals in Canada, Omaha, San Francisco, Texas, and Hawaii while I finish the last glass of Amber Brown. Cheers!

Note: It's Sunday and the internet is back up and I have decided to stay another night here on the mountain. It feels like home.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Message From Bill

My dearest friend of a thousand years has been encouraging me to listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash on Pandora. I'm a paying subscriber, because of its flexibility to my moods, so had been planning on getting around to it (really I was). Then I got two more nudges from other places to listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash. It was a quorum, and so today I plugged in CSN and within minutes realized that the music was speaking to me in a very specific way today. And so, with thanks to Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, The Zombies, and the Beatles:

The Message

Just a song before I go.
Carry on.
If you can't be with the one you love,
Honey, love the one you're with.

Never going back again
Running on empty.
Jackson Brown in my dreams.
If I can get you to smile before I leave--
--Can't you see the sunshine?
--Can't you just feel the moonshine?
I'm dying ain't I?
I'm on the dark side of the moon.
It's the time of the season for loving.

To everything, there is a season.
Turn, turn, turn
A time to every purpose under heaven.
You were going your way;
I was going mine.
Can this road be taken at all?

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again.
Get back to where you once belonged.
There is that fine sense of humor when I'm feeling down.
Crazy love.
Nobody left to please.
Bye bye, baby.
Know I love you.
Write if you think of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I just spent the past eight days with a group of 300 or so of my closest friends, my fellow vets. We were Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines -- and there were even a few Coasties in there, as well. Some of us were first-termers-and-out, others gave a few more years, and a good many of us went for the whole Monty and stayed 20-30 or so years. Now, to be clear, I don't know all these folks intimately but in a sense we have intimate knowledge of one another.

We've been there, where-ever there was and were ready to do whatever our leaders required of us. Sometimes our leadership was in synch all the way up the chain of command, and sometimes it wasn't. The American Civil War, whose sesquicentennial we commemorate this year, was such a time when there was schism in our national leadership, and I can only imagine the horrendous torment of facing your former comrade and classmate across the battlefield.

I served from the end of the Viet Nam War through the Cold War and Desert Storm. I served on Okinawa and in the Republic of Korea and in one of the most beautiful little towns in the country, San Angelo, TX. My son served in a forward support position, but behind the lines of battle, during the Iraqi containment and the invasion of Iraq, and has since put boots on the ground in a DoD supportive role. My niece serves still and has only returned to the mainland from her first overseas  assignment. She was on Okinawa for twelve years, excepting some time in training and in the air over hostile territories. My father and my uncles served. My great uncles served. We are Army, Navy, and Air Force (with Air Force leading the pack, by the way). We invested in this country with our lives, and we expect that the promises made to us when we took the oath of enlistment will be kept.

And that's what I meant when I said that I spent the past eight days with 300 of my closest friends. We know that we and our families are at risk. We know this especially because of who we are. We are the County Veterans Service Officers all across the country, and we see the crippled veteran.There are sooo many ways to be crippled -- and these wars we have been involved in have been especially crippling. Our VietNam vets are coming down with diseases tied to Agent Orange (aggressive cancers, Parkinson's Disease, diabetes, and more). If they were there, they were exposed. Our current crop of returning vets have suffered injuries on an astronomical scale. Devastating brain injuries, loss of limb, losses that you cannot imagine. Not to mention the crippling nature of poverty. We also see his widow (or her widower) and his or her orphan. And while the cost of living has increased in the last several years (gas and groceries), recognition of that in VA income tests hasn't changed. So a WWII widow grossing $13,000 a year in Social Security, before taxes and medicare premiums of about $7000, is considered to be too affluent for VA widow's pension. How would you like to pay your rent, utilities, and groceries for a year on $6000. Maybe you'd like cable TV to keep you company since you can't get around much anymore? Or maybe you'd like to travel to see your grandkids? Did I mention that poverty is crippling?

We see the veteran and his widow and orphan, and we see the dangers in this economy. We were at risk on the battlefield and we are at risk at home. I thought we were better than that.

When I sat down to write this piece, I was contemplating the origin of the salute that is shared between comrades in arms. I won't go into the arcane rules the modern day soldier follows. The origin, though somewhat romantic, was very functional. It began in the days when knights, and those rich enough to afford their own army, wore protective helmets with visors. When they would meet one another on the road, if they were not hostile they would lift the visor and make eye contact and exchange a greeting. Perhaps, "Good morning, good sir." To not return the salute would be an insult at best and a hostile act at the worst. These little bands would come to know one another, and when an outside force attempted hostilities, they would band together. Over time, they established protocols so they could tell their side from the hostiles, and the salute evolved as one of those protocols.

The salute has a long and honored history as a recognition of the respect we have for each other. That is why I hope you will join me in a salute to my fellow vets, and to his widow and orphan. Don't let them be forgotten.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Goodbye Maxwell

You may recall a song from the Beatles Abbey Road album called "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." McCartney said in 1994 that the song merely epitomises the downfalls of life:

Maxwell's Silver Hammer is my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don't know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell's hammer. It was needed for scanning. We still use that expression now when something unexpected happens.

Most of us living in those days didn't need an explanation. We got it. And for the past 40 some years, when things would get weird or crazy or awful or all three, I would blame Maxwell and his silver hammer. Today was one of those days.

It started out well enough, another beautiful Colorado day. Barely a cloud in the sky and the promise of a warm spring day. I drove to Castle Rock to do my twice weekly gig at the Veterans Service Office helping vets and their families negotiate the VA system of applications for benefits. My plan was to get caught up on assistance letters: letters to vets who have applied for benefits offering continued assistance. My colleague was busy finishing up the paperwork from his first client of the morning when another vet came in and he asked me to handle it. "Of course," I replied, not realizing that Maxwell was hiding behind the door giggling.

The very tall, very good looking gentleman sat down and I began the interview and that's when the hammer struck. My vet was applying for disability compensation because he had been recently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer probably induced by exposure to Agent Orange in Viet Nam. I'm already working through the stuff around this being one year from the time my husband Bill began showing the signs of his fatal exposure to Agent Orange, and "bang, bang, Maxwell's silver hammer came down on her head."

Professionalism won out over the temptation to make it all about me, but for the hour or so that we sat together completing his application, I fought back tears and the desire to go screaming off into the Tulgey Wood.  I put together the strongest application I have ever worked on. I must have used the word EXPEDITE a dozen times, at least once on each form and on the outside of the envelope I put it in. By the time we shook  hands, and my vet left the office, I was toast. Drained.

It gets better. Maxwell wasn't done with me. I went to my Tuesday night poker game at the Celtic House Pub, and no sooner did I walk in when one of the regulars, whom I hadn't seen in a few months, gets in front of me and demands to know where Bill is. I swear this creature was at his wake! Before I could stop myself, I said "He's dead. He's been dead for nearly a year. How could you not know this?"  I could hear the distant cackling of insane laughter.

The day ended on a good note. A long intimate conversation via Skype with my sister-friend in Hawaii. It seems Maxwell has been busy there as well; however, what he doesn't know is that we're too old and too wily for him to be very effective anymore.  As the two of us laughed together thousands of miles apart, Max left by the back door. Good riddance!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy Feet and Aching Heart

I got a pedicure today. There's no denying that it is an especially hedonistic delight having someone clean, massage, and pamper your feet with decoration. Mine were in critical need, having not been attended to since my trip to Hawaii in March. Now they are beautiful and happy feet again.

The pure pleasure of the experience had a tender side as well. It was not quite a year ago that I sat in this same shop, having learned that my husband was probably terminal, and wept through my pedicure. It was quite alarming to the technician, who thought she had injured me and became even more gentle with her ministrations. Of course, the more gently she touched me, the harder I wept. I could not/would not cry in front of Bill, and the healing touch of another person had opened the floodgates.

One of the things Bill and I had enjoyed as a couple was going for pedicures together, particularly in the summer. He was that comfortable with his masculinity. Additionally, he had some of the nastiest toenails on any human being, and I really didn't like messing with them. We would sit and soak our feet together and chat while one of a dozen or so southeast Asian women trimmed, and filed, and buffed our toes. We worked out more than one or two family problems while our feet were groomed. It was an activity that ended when his left leg was amputated in December 2006. I didn't get pedicures as often after that. I still don't go as often as I should to keep sandal-ready feet. Today was the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, however, and pool-opening is tomorrow. It was a matter of public safety that my feet be tended to.

Besides, I had a gift certificate that I needed to use: Bill's last Christmas gift to me. I'd held on to it since Christmas 2009. Bill was a Scot. He would have hated it if I didn't use it and the money was wasted. And that is why, once again, I found myself weeping while my toes were dancing.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heading West

I've been on the road or camping for 16 days now and it is beginning to show on me. Last evening when we pulled into the All Seasons RV Park in Goddard KS, I was down to my last pair of shorts and I was wearing them. My wild white hair hadn't been washed since Port Aransas and the inside of the camper is beginning to resemble the inside of a hermit's shack. My guess is that the first impression people must get when they see us coming is that maybe they want to avoid contact because something just isn't quite right. But there are a group of carny workers camped here also, so I fit right in. As Josh says, "the smell of cotton candy and fear."

It was very cool traveling yesterday -- as in cold! The temps were in the high 40s when we arrived in the Wichita area and, with the wind, it felt like 41. After I got the camper unhitched and set up, we huddled inside with the heater going and I nearly wept when the dogs would indicate they needed to go outside in the cold and wind.

And talk about tight quarters! These camper spaces are the closest I've ever seen. I share the hookups on one side in the six foot space that separates me from the neighbor and the two picnic tables in the six feet that separate me from the neighbor on the other side. I was afraid I might even be heard talking in my sleep last night!

It's gray and cool again today, but we're staying one more night here. There is a promise of some sunshine later today and I want to do some exploring in Andale and St. Joe (just north of here about 3 miles). Andale was where my grandmother and her twin, my great Aunt Mathilde, were born over a hundred years ago. We lost my grandmother in 2007, and Mathilde passed away only a few months ago, so it is a pilgrimage of sorts to honor my ancestors.

On the day I left on this trip, I found a note from my son attached to a Ford ball cap as a going away gift (it will be the one memento I keep from the Bronco). The note read, in part, "Have a great time and find out something new about you or the world around you." I have followed his instructions. Every day that has passed has brought new things to see, from birds I've never seen outside of an Audubon book, to new insights and understandings about my environment, to a new awareness of who I am in this early autumn of my life. These things happen without leaving home, but travel accelerates the process and the solitude of this trip has increased my sensitivities.

So, now I will be turning west and heading for home. By the time I arrive I will have driven close to 3000 miles in the days I have been gone. At 9.5 miles to the gallon (pulling the camper) and an average cost of $3.89 a gallon, it has not been an inexpensive way to travel, except for the lodging and food costs. I'll have hitched and unhitched a total of 18 times, at least 15 of those times totally unassisted (I take some pride in that as a woman of a certain age). I had only one minor accident, if you could call it that. I clipped one corner of the camper with a tree branch in San Antonio, and it left a boo boo that will have to be looked at when I get home. Oh, and there is the 5" bruise on my right knee from where I walked into the hitch in the middle of the night. But, as Josh says, it hasn't really been fun unless somebody ends up bleeding.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Camping in Port Aransas, Texas

We are camped in a typical southern beach resort RV park, with RV spaces that are too close together, but it is early May and the snowbirds are on their way home to Wisconsin to enjoy spring and their one month of summer before fall when they pack up and head south again, visiting the Grandkids in St. Louis or LA on the way. As a result, we have only one close neighbor to our east (I know this because the sun rises on one side of the camper and sets on the other), and lots of space on our western side to enjoy the sunset, but most especially to enjoy the bird lagoon out our window.

What a beautiful gazing point. Perfect for a sometime bird watcher with a fondness for waterbirds. I watched two herons do the dick dance over the fishing hole for about a half hour before the real owner got totally fed up and chased the interloper away. Here is what we have seen from our window so far: Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Reddish Egret, Cattle Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Brown Pelican, Kildeer, Laughing Gull, Grackle, several types of Sandpiper (I'll have to get the bird book out to begin to distinguish between them), Plover, and Black-Bellied Whistling Duck (no kidding?).

We are also right next to a very nice bathhouse that is delightfully handicapped equipped. It definitely makes life easier with Berinda!  For those who don't know, my oldest daughter probably suffered some kind of brain damage at her birth in Song-tan Si Korea in 1974. She was left with right side weakness (known as hemiparesis), a seizure disorder, and mental disabilities which places her in the lower age groups intellectually on standardized tests. However, I am always surprised at how much she observes around her. She doesn't miss much, and keeps me straight with reminders about where I have put things.

We are eating simply and getting lots of walks, at least the dogs and I are getting lots of walks. I have to coax Berinda out for a walk a couple of times a day. It is uncomfortable with her leg-brace and she resists it. I probably would too. But the beach is so close and with its packed sand makes for a long lovely walk along the gulf.

The internet for the trip has been generally unreliable, and at times impossible for getting an evening email or two out. My thoughts of posting to this blog every day of the trip were dashed with an attempt at poetry that was lost in the cyberspace above Lake Nasworthy. The connection at Lackland allowed us a Skype call with Josh and another quick one with my friend Vali before we lost the signal completely. This wouldn't have been so bad, but it seems there was no T-Mobile service anywhere on Lackland, either. I felt like I was getting a clear message to put the cell phone and the computer away for a while!

We might have to go out and go shopping today just so we have some kind of activity for Berinda. It isn't yet warm enough for a swim in the pool -- perhaps tomorrow if the winds let up a bit and the temperature actually breaks 80. I would be happy just sitting and watching the birds come to the pond and the clouds float by. I'm beginning to remind myself of my grandfather! I guess I could fit right in here with the folks who've built decks up to the door of their travel trailers -- nah, not so much.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lake Nasworthy (aka Lake Nasty Water), San Angelo, TX

I got some momentum going today and made it all the way into San Angelo. Actually, the conditions everywhere else were so poor, I thought it made more sense to go someplace I knew I would be comfortable and safe and pay less for two nights camping than I did for the one night in Santa Rosa. On the roads between Santa Rosa and Big Spring, TX, I drove through headwinds and crosswinds that were brutal. The sky was red and gray from the dirt in the air -- no blue. In places, the dirt was blowing at a 90-degree angle across the road and looked like a swiftly flowing river. It made the driving a very sporting adventure.

Shortly after I drove through Big Spring, in addition to the winds, I ran into the smoke from the fires that have been burning all over West Texas. The smoke persisted the rest of drive to San Angelo from Big Spring. At times the visibility was less than 1/2 mile, and the air was acrid. I saw only a small burned area east of Big Spring, but know there are many square miles burning to produce such smoke. It certainly made for a spectacular sunset this evening. It is not as heavy here as it was west and north.

I'm going to "flake out" on you early tonight. I am showered and, again, one dog walk away from a good night's sleep. Tomorrow is a reunion picnic for a group of Viet Nam era veterans called The Doggers who are commemorating the Fall of Saigon. Perhaps, there will even be pictures to share! Good night!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Remember what I was saying about uncertainty regarding the capability of the Big Bad Blue Bronco to make this trip. Well, I was, as they say, "spot on" on that one. The trip started well. I got off just after 0800 and was just coming over the pass at Monument, Colorado -- about 35 miles into the trip -- when the BBBB began coughing and limping and making all manner of sounds with flashing lights to go with it. I took the nearest exit and coasted to a stop light and prayed it would start again. It did, but with no oil pressure it didn't want to stay that way. I managed to coax a little pressure out of the engine at the red light and by the time it turned green we limped across the intersection and into a little parking lot. The whole time, I swear I could hear the Bronco whimpering, "I'm am not pulling this thing one more mile, much less to Texas!"

I found a safe out-of the-way parking spot and messaged my son, Josh. Pretty soon, he was calling back that he was on his way with my trusty Highlander. I could not ask for a more handsome and reliable hero, especially over this past year. He never lets me down.

My dogs, on the other hand... Because I am such a good dog owner, and kind, and considerate. Before I did anything else, I put the dogs on the leash and was going to take them for a little walk. Within moments, they'd slipped their collars and both took off across a four-lane road. It took two of us, but they were finally corralled and releashed (with tighter collars) and back across the highway and back into the car to reflect on their transgressions.

Within minutes of Josh's arrival, we had the Bronco unloaded and the Highlander hitched up and loaded up and I was ready to go again. The loading and unloading took a little time because along with a chair for a friend in San Antonio (I have to get rid of those chairs somehow), I am carrying over 100 blankets in all sizes from baby to twin size bed for a special drive being conducted by Project Linus for the military dependent families evacuated from the triple tragedies in Japan. I am delivering them to San Antonio and will write more about it later in the trip.

Josh limped back to Parker in the Bronco, and I turned the Highlander onto I-25 heading south. The trip after that was pleasant mostly, except for the sound of gas being sucked through the carburetor at a ridiculous rate. At 8.8-11 miles to the gallon, this will be one of my costlier camping trips. But as I slipped past the Spanish Peaks and over the Raton Pass, the enjoyment of the trip came back in the scenery and the wildlife.

We're camped near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, and one dog walk away from bedding down for the night. Will write more tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the Eve of the Big Adventure

Last night, my adult son looked at me and said, "You know I am so envious of you right now, don't you?"

We'd been talking about the final preparations for my trip to Texas, and the things that remained to be done or checked out on the Big Bad Blue Bronco and the camper. I thought I knew what he was talking about, but I never take such things for granted, and so I asked what he meant.

"This trip," he said. And I knew. I would be envious, too, if I were in his shoes. We are so much alike, he and I. Adventure tugs at both of us, and although his relationship with her has been at times much riskier than mine, both of us have driven our parents crazy with our desire for her. I don't know about Josh, but I enjoy the solitude that the road trip brings. Sometimes I turn off the radio, just listening to the sounds of the car and the road singing that song that I know from so many road trips going back to the Golden Years of Car Travel: the mid 1950s. I enjoy the tableau changing around me as I go, from the geographical to the zoological to the botanical. I enjoy the relative anonymity of travel. I can be my best self without concern as to anyone harmed by my truthfulness. Or I can be someone entirely different; I can try on some new feature, like a hat or a mustache, without concern about embarrassing my children (although I do remind them from time to time that this is one of my primary tasks as a parent).

My excitement and anticipation of Adventure has been balanced by Anxiety. It's the usual stuff: Will the truck make the entire journey without issue; am I up to the task of hitching and unhitching without my partner and life-coach at every stop; how am I going to get the dogs in-and-out of that damned big truck; will my old beat up body get whipped into shape before I am whipped; etc., etc., etc.

My hope is that this conflict between Adventure and Anxiety makes me balanced and prepared for what lies ahead. We all live in hope, eh?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Spring and Road Trips and Other Things

I was able to sit outside on the patio early this morning to have my coffee and meditation in the sunshine accompanied by birdsong. I haven't been able to sit outside like this in the early morning since last fall. If there wasn't snow on the ground, it was too cold, windy and unpleasant. But this morning was perfect. A glorious Palm Sunday morning, and my spirit is ready for spring!

I've changed some since last spring. My hair is longer. In fact, it's longer than it has been in probably close to 30 years. When you're married, working, mothering, and running a household, short hair is just easier. I maintained a wash and wear haircut for most of that 30 years, if not most of my life. My profile picture is pretty much how I have looked forever. Not anymore! I'm enjoying caring for it, brushing it, styling it. Most of all I'm enjoying the way it feels when the breeze lifts it and brushes it against my shoulders. The last time my hair was this long, I was teaching Communicative Skills at the Electronic Security Command NCO Leadership School at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas. I ended up cutting it all off because it created negative critique fodder. Critiques were the feedback forms filled out by students who had just been through the course. Between my long hair and my slipping bra straps, I got some scathing critiques -- not much of substance on my teaching skills, but plenty of criticism on my personal appearance. As a result, I still prefer racer back bras.

This time, last year, Bill and I were only three weeks away from leaving on what would become our last roadtrip together. Spring came late to Colorado last year. We had major heavy wet snows in April. I did a lot of shoveling...I did ALL of the shoveling. Josh was in Korea and Bill was in the wheelchair, so I was chief shoveler. This is when owning a corner lot is a pain in the kazitsa! I was looking forward to the trip, but worried that if we left town too early, we'd come home to find tickets from the HOA for not taking care of the shoveling. Bill, on the other hand, wanted to leave by early April. He was so fed up with the cold, and had even given up poker nights because it was too cold to go out. I think this is when I began to suspect that a little more was going on than discomfort and fatigue from a long winter.

This year, spring seems to have come early to the high plains. Even if it snows while I am on the road to Texas later this month, I will be leaving Josh in charge as chief shoveler. With that problem taken care of, I am still feeling my usual anxiety build as the departure date gets closer. I worry about everything from getting the camper hooked up without breaking anything, to whether or not I will be affected by the fires burning throughout western Kansas and West Texas, to how I am going to get those little dogs in and out of that damn big truck at every rest stop.

It will be our first long trip in the Big Bad Blue Bronco. It's a 1989 truck and the odometer has rolled over at least once -- it currently reads 859 miles. I know the gas bill is going to eat me alive on this trip. It cost $60 to fill my Highlander yesterday! My rough estimate is that the gas for the trip to the gulf coast and back is going to run about $600 (using $3.75 as an average cost and figuring 15 mpg). I'll be pulling my hotel and restaurant along with me, although I will have to pay for camping facilities (anywhere from $15-$40 a night) and groceries. From my current perspective, it doesn't sound like a bad way to live. Let's see how I feel after one or two weeks on the road!

For those of you following the Saga of the Chairs, we have sold eight of the 280; however, I hope to sell at least nine more before this day is over. Taking the house back, one chair at a time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Birthday Presents

I turned 61 this week. It was a birthday I'd intended to skip. I didn't circle it on any calendars or leave notes to remind people. But, we live in a social networking age and all of my friends on Facebook found out it was my birthday when they signed in on Wednesday. Dozens of them festooned my wall with birthday greetings and well wishes. I have to admit, it was really very nice. Having so many people acknowledge that the day is special for me made me feel special and loved. I savored the attention.

Bill always had a hard time remembering my birthday; and I found if I wanted it acknowledged, I had to bring it to his attention. The year I was pregnant with Emily (1986), he forgot it altogether until Josh came bouncing out to breakfast wishing me a "Happy Birthday, Mom!" Bill looked like he'd been slapped upside the head with a cod. He tried, mightily, to remember it in the years after that, but it was a losing battle. I took to buying myself the gift of a season subscription to the Arena Stage every year and planning a dinner out together at Nova Europa in Silver Spring. Last year, the subscription was to Arvada Center, and dinner was at Armando's. Bill even made note of that dinner on his Facebook page.

This year, Josh and I shared Armando's takeout and a bottle of Chianti at home in front of the TV. He and Emily gave me the gift of music: Florence and the Machine and Adele, as well as a memory card for my Blackberry so I can use it as an mp3 player. I also got beautiful irises from one girlfriend and a wonderful book of daily meditations from another. There was a phone message that another gift from another girlfriend is on its way. I am well-gifted this year, showered with gifts, including the gift I bought myself -- a new stereo receiver for the Big Bad Blue Bronco that can play the music from my phone using Bluetooth.

Josh and I are getting the Big Bad Blue Bronco ready to go on the road later this month, with the camper behind it, as I embark on a tender journey (along with Jack and Gidget) from Parker to San Antonio, Texas and back. At times, we will be following the same route that Bill and I took last year in May and June as we took our final road trip together. (And at times, we won't be following that route. I never want to drive through much less camp at Dalhart TX again as long as I live!) We'll visit friends in San Angelo, San Antonio, Rusk, and Midlothian; but mostly we're going down to San Antonio to take my oldest daughter Berinda for a week of camping on the Texas Gulf Coast.

It will be a great adventure, and a great way to begin my 62nd year on the planet! Happy birthday to me!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Somewhat Daily Dose of Wow! 11 Apr 11 Who Are We Lying To?

I remember my father telling me, more than once because I was such an obstinate child, that when you tell a lie you must tell three more to cover that one up, and they just keep growing "until pretty soon, you're caught."  It occurred to me this morning that we've already lied to ourselves several times before we've uttered the first lie out loud. Sure wish I knew why we do that.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Please, Have A Seat...

My house is full of chairs. It's been this way for almost a week now. It took two trips with a 26' rental truck, two grown men, and an old lady (that would be me) to transfer over 250 task and conference chairs from a warehouse in Golden to the garage, two bedrooms, the dining room, two hallways, the living room, and part of the basement. This began with my son, Josh, looking at ads for short sales and talking about flipping a house. The next thing I know, we're flipping office chairs from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). And in case you think I am exaggerating, here is what the garage looks like this morning.

 And here is the front bedroom

The other guest bedroom

The breakfast nook

The dining room

The front hallway

And, finally, the living room

We started out with neat stacks in the garage, but as we cleaned and weeded out the broken and the nasty it came to more resemble the chaos that it really is. Josh bought one of those little upholstery cleaning machines meant for detailing your car, and has been giving it a workout every evening after he gets home from his primary job. My task is wiping down the "arms and legs and backs" to remove any grime left by the previous owners (I'm using Melaleuca's MelaMagic). After a dozen or so chairs, you try not to think too hard about what those hard little specks are that are stuck like bits of glue to the underside of the seat or the insides of the arms.

I have also been tasked with putting the ads up on Craig's List and following up on contacts. So far, we've sold seven chairs, and reserved three for our own use. Some of the chairs are fairly expensive to purchase and in practically new condition; but when the government builds a new building, they buy new furniture for it. I managed to snag a really nice leather one for my office (retails at $999), and Josh found one (retails at $699) to replace the chair he was using at work as well as a great little armless task chair for working in the garage.

We haven't yet broken even on the deal -- it will take another 14 or so chairs to do that -- but we have plenty of seating for company in the meantime!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Vision Boards - Part Two

I had to go and open my big mouth! It happened on Wednesday, at the monthly meeting of the Parker Creative Writers Social Club. This is a group of incredibly talented and fun people who meet once a month at Elk Mountain Brewery to have a beer or three and talk about what's happening with their writing. We were talking about various tools we use to give us focus and track our personal progress, and I mentioned the Vision Boards. Of course this was a little too left-brained for some of the more literal members, and I had to admit that my vision board for 2011 was still as blank and white as fresh snow. The next thing I knew, we were all committing to creating a vision board before our April meeting.

Now, if you'll recall, my vision board for 2011 was blank because I really had no vision for my future -- even my immediate future. Beyond getting up each day and making sure that I fed the animals, including the human ones, and maintaining a household routine, I have been more or less going with the flow. I had a few goals taking shape, but nothing that I wanted to commit to the daily reminder that is the Vision Board.

So I opened my big mouth and forced my own hand. Typical. As a result, I spent the first day of Spring going through magazines tearing out pages, and then trimming and gluing the pictures and words into a collage representing my hopes and dreams for the coming year.

One of the first things I noticed about this year's board is how much of it was affirmations. Instead of grand goals to accomplish great things (except for republishing the book written by my grandmother and great aunt) it was mostly reminders to live in the now, love, laugh, play, and celebrate life and my involvement in it. The following images show some of that detail:

I love the positive messages and encouragement I have provided for myself this year and I look forward to stepping out smartly into this reality and away from the darkness and sadness of the past couple of years. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Vision Boards

For the past couple of years, I've been getting together with my friend and fellow writer, Lissa Forbes, to create our yearly Vision Boards or Dream Boards. We normally do this on January 1 at Lissa's house. There may be two or three of us. We make a day of it: going through magazines and tearing out pictures and phrases that catch our eye and feel like a breadcrumb on the path to the future we are creating for ourselves. We break for homemade soup and bread, that Lissa has ready in the crockpot and breadmaker. By the time of that break, we've been smelling the lovely aromas all afternoon and we are ready!

After we've eaten, we go back to work: sorting through the images and phrases and putting together the vision of those situations, conditions, and opportunities that we are willing into our lives in the coming year(s). We trim and shape the pieces of paper and create a collage on a poster board.  I like to use 1/8-1/4" foamboard and an archival paste.

Now, this may all sound very Woo-Woo to some of you, but I have found that it works better at creating change and movement forward in my life than does writing out new year's resolutions. It doesn't always happen within the first year, and sometimes not even in the second; and it almost always comes in so subtly that you don't realize what has happened.

I missed the Vision Board party this year. Lissa was recovering from a cold on the 1st and none of us wanted to take a chance on being ill. I knew my resistance was really low from the events of the months before, and I was taking extra good care of myself through the holidays. We rescheduled for the 15th. I missed that one because I couldn't get myself out of the house that day. The idea of interacting with other people was actually a little frightening. I only had a few weeks of that, and I am sure the cold and icy weather provided a handy excuse.

As a consequence, my 2-3' foam board for 2011 remains as blank and white as the day I bought it. I was beginning to think of it as a metaphor for the vision I have for my life right now: Blank. As in a blank slate. Begging to be marked up with lines and arrows and doodles, or a game of hangman or tic-tac-toe...

There is another possibility, however. When I looked back at the board I had created for 2010, I realized that perhaps this year is the time for me to catch up a little on all those visions that I created before. A year to recognize those moments and enjoy them with a grateful heart. A year to rest and reflect on all that is good in my life.

Speaking of good in my life, I am getting ready for an exciting adventure on March 1. With the help of my son's frequent flier miles and about $300, I am winging it to Hawaii! I'll be visiting with my lives-long (that is not a spelling error) girlfriend in Honolulu as well as my sister and Bob-in-law on Maui. I'm going to do as many of the touristy things I can do without spending goo-gobs of money, because of course I don't have goo-gobs of money.

The last time I came close to Hawaii was in 1974. I was on my way to Okinawa on my first assignment in the Air Force. I was on a plane full of US Marines, and we stopped to refuel in Honolulu. We were allowed to get off the plane and go into the airport, but I think they actually posted guards to ensure that none of us attempted to leave the airport. Several of us were intent on only one thing, getting to the bar and having a drink with an umbrella in it. Who knew when we would ever have a chance to have a drink in Hawaii again?

Mine was a Mai Tai.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Going Out

First of all, I haven't become a recluse, although I've been staying indoors way too much and my going out has been within pretty safe parameters (still playing poker at the Pub once or twice a week, getting groceries, volunteering at the Douglas County Veterans Services Office a couple days a week, going to church services). Tonight I broke out of that corral and went to a Meetup for writers in my local area which was held at a local brewery (Elk Mountain Brewery). I really wasn't sure what to expect, and was a little nervous about whether I belonged with this group at all. I'm published, but not in any media accessible to the general public, I've made a grand total of $5.39 from AdSense on my blog, and HOLY MOSES I'm OLD!

But the Meetup was at a brewery and ten minutes from my house. I had to go. I even put on makeup, which I hardly ever do; but I didn't want to scare anyone, so I tarted up a bit.

Long story short: I had the best time! I never knew that listening to other people talk about themselves could be so bloody interesting! More than once I was reminded of the Chautauquas and Salons of previous generations and the veritable flood of intelligent writing that came from these groups. I knew I was in a magical place in an important moment in my life and in the lives others present. Of course it could have been the beer -- which was awesome, by the way -- but I kind of think it was the company and the synergy of life experience and sincere devotion to telling the story. At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So look long and hard at this picture. You'll see the Dorothy Parkers, James Thurbers, Hemingways, Micheners, Frosts, Thoreaus, etc. that are out here writing in Colorado. I'm the really really white-haired person in the front. Most of the rest of the group are real writers, with real cred. I'm the pretender, if you will -- but with this kind of catalyst, not for long!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 1985

As you can well imagine, today is one of those days that tweaks a heart that is trying to heal from the loss of a life partner. I wasn't really sure how to commemorate the day or deal with the feelings that were bubbling up. Then I remembered the two boxes of letters I kept from my tour in South Korea. We had been married just short of two years when I left for this unaccompanied assignment, and Bill and I wrote to each other everyday I was gone. One box is filled with the letters I wrote, and the other are letters to me from Bill and the children. I was pretty sure there would be something there to help me fight off the darkness and feel warm and loved.

Here is the letter I wrote to Bill on Valentine's Day, 1985. To set this up a little: We were in the middle of the application process for Berinda to be naturalized as a US citizen, and Bill was working through the courts to adopt Berinda and Josh. We were working on getting the right paperwork to the right people and I was feeling the loss of control. I spent that Valentine's Day on a tour of the DMZ.

Hello Darling,
Before I forget again, as I did yesterday, the address for the Korean  Embassy in Houston is enclosed. I do think we can wait until we find out about the adoption/naturalization before you run out to Houston for a Korean passport.
The pictures you had made for Berinda's naturalization have already been done. They had to go in with the original application. No biggie. I'm glad you were thinking ahead though. I trust you wouldn't make any more mistakes than I would have!
 You know -- I think that's just it isn't it? If I'm making the mistakes, it's no big deal -- it can be handled. But if you make the mistakes, I start getting antsy 'cause I ain't there to ask the questions. Can you forgive me for crawling all over you the other night when you called? I love you so much; and you have taken on the world and more for me. You really are a treasure and I am so sorry for coming off like a shrew with you. I want to come home this minute and show you how much I love you. I do trust you, honey. I'm a little crazy from being away from you, but I'm lucky I'm not institutional. For a short tour, this sure feels long!
 But...we need the time left to do all we need to do. And hopefully, I'll be home to see some of the fruits of your efforts. What do the kids think about the adoption? You said you were going to talk about it with them in our spot next to the flower bed. (I think all of us will always know that spot as someplace where our important times take place.)
 You know, one of the things I worry about is that you feel pressured into this adoption thing. I know and you know that it will make many things easier, but is it what you want to do? Talking about this over the telephone and by mail really doesn't give us the chance to hash out the feelings that you have about all this. It also doesn't give me the chance to look at you -- eyeball to eyeball -- and sob my heart out for the love of you. Are you really mine? Did something as wonderful as you really happen to me?
The trip to Pan Mun Jom was a rather sobering experience. We took a bus ride to Camp Kitty Hawk (about 2 1/2 hours from Osan).
Here I am at Camp Kitty Hawk, Republic of South Korea on Valentine's Day 1985
There we got a briefing and signed release forms and had lunch. Following lunch, we got on a bus and went up to the Joint Services Area (JSA). I was really very surprised to find that we actually came right up to the Military Demarcation Line in the UN area.
The place is really pretty deserted, except for the guards on both sides. In fact, those are the only folks there, except when there's a meeting or a tour going on. And since 1976 -- with few exceptions -- the Reds stay on their side and we stay on ours.
Pan Mun Jom, Korea, 14 Feb 1985
The white building is in North Korea. The two buildings in the foreground are in both North and South Korea. The guards are making sure that the guy on the steps of the white building doesn't get nervous and do something rash. That white "building," by the way, is a facade and is only about two foot deep.
They sure looked at us though! Through binoculars and telephoto lenses we got some stares. Of course, we stared right back!
The tour included a stop at the Military Armistice Conference House, right on the military demarcation line. We were allowed to go into the building and I stood for a while in North Korea -- on the other side of the table. It was a very strange sensation.
 Here I am, standing in North Korea. The wire down the middle of the table represents the Demarcation Line. The guard (American) is making sure I don't touch or otherwise desecrate the DPRK flags and create an international incident.
We also went down to Check Point 3 (CP3) where the tree-trimming incident took place. We didn't get off the bus there; in fact, it didn't even stop but made a circle and went back to the UN village at the demarcation line.
I'm sending a booklet and a couple of souvenirs for the kids in a separate envelope. The booklet explains much of what we saw, but I also took some pictures and once I finish this roll, will send them to you.
I know I'm very glad to be an American tonight. It's not something I take for granted anyway -- but today sure amplified my appreciation for my good fortune. Communism reminds me a bit of the false gods mentioned in the Old Testament: outwardly very attractive, but full of nothing inside. They have a beautiful little city you can see clearly from CP5, above CP3. It has multi-story buildings and looks very attractive from the distance of 1/2-1 mile. No one lives there. It was built for propaganda purposes. The rice fields on the north side of the DMZ are worked by laborers who are brought in by bus from Kaesan and taken home at night.
 I'm glad I went. I wish a lot of other people had the chance to come so close to these places where freedom is more than a word. And the men (and women) who serve at places like Camp Kitty Hawk and the UN Village have my deepest admiration and appreciation. They are sharp; they care! and I'm glad!!
I came home to two of your letters and one from Grandma Davis. I'm saving them for tomorrow when I will have the whole evening to devote to them.  By the way, I've ordered your boots in calfskin, but would really like to get you a pair of eelskin boots. They are gorgeous! And so are you! That's one of the 100+ reasons I love you!
 For all my life and then beyond, you are my dearest love. Sharon
 Bill's letters were always fat with details of his day, the things that Josh and Berinda were doing, and often stuffed with crayola drawings, newspaper articles, and other goodies. He would frequently start the letter in the morning before he left for work, pick it back up after the kids had been fed and bathed, and then write off and on until he went to bed. He would complain a bit when I sent him a "skinny" letter, which was more often than I like to admit, and we were both at the mercy of an overseas postal system that would cause days to go by with no mail and then there would be a bunch of letters all at once. We exchanged a few rather torrid love letters that I will need to redact or weed out before the children see them and are traumatized for life. [Just in case I miss one or two, I'm going to warn them up front: Your Dad and I had sex and we liked it (a lot).]

There has been some discussion about whether or not letter writing will become obsolete in the coming years. Communication has become instantaneous with e-mail and social networking; and telephone calls are much less expensive than they were in 1985. However, when I consider the treasure that these boxes of letters hold for me, and for our children, I hope that we will continue to write letters or at least find a way to archive our messages to each other. Those letters from 1985 were today a warm embrace from my dearest love on a day for celebrating love.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grandma Phoebe

Grandma Phoebe was my Grandpa Jones' last wife. I'm not real sure how many wives he had altogether, more than two I know. One was my father's mother, Minnie, who herself had several marriages; and the last was Phoebe Petty Kinkade. There was at least one wife before Minnie, and he had other children -- aunts and uncles I've never known.

Jim and Phoebe married on November 13, 1947 and stayed together until Grandpa Jones passed away in Cedaredge, Colorado on December 7, 1963 at the age of 76. This was no easy feat. The stories about my grandfather and his temper are legendary. He worked hard, played hard, and drank hard; and he left behind stories of headlights smashed out of cars, ears bitten off of horses, and children wounded by abuse. There was even a shushed mention of a possible homicide in his past.

There were also hundreds of horses broken for riding, multiple "All Around Cowboy" awards, and the mystical trick horse Teddy, his most prized possession. His tombstone reads "His Interest Was Horses," and it was what he was most known for; he was also a cowboy poet who wrote lyrics worthy of Marty Robbins.

His lifestyle and age finally began catching up with him in the early 50s. He was after all nearly 60 by this time. Grandma Phoebe was the lucky recipient of a beat up old cowboy, and she was as good as gold to him. I don't remember much about their time in Mosca, because I was only about two when we got there and little more than three when we left for California. But I do have memories of her in Cedaredge, where they owned a ranch southwest of the center of town and on the side of a mesa, part of the Grand Mesa area.

Phoebe was a typical hardworking rancher's wife, and women like her could be found all over Colorado in those days. She kept the garden, minded the subsistence animals, harvested supper or butchered it, and cooked some grand meals complete with fresh baked bread. She fished and hunted and cleaned her own kill. She opened her heart to the little Jones girls, and was just as much a grandma to us as Grandma Minnie.

In late 1949 or early 1950, Grandpa Jones wrote the following note to my mother, thanking her for addressing her letter to them "Mom and Dad."

Dear kids Don't feel like writing but must Thank You Virginia for starting your letter Dear Mom and Dad and don't know which one of us appreciated it the most. God bless you and I do hope the both of you understand what she means to me especialy(sic) the things she does for me when I cant help myself. Love and best wishes to you both. As ever Dad

My mom used to tell me that in those days Phoebe used the flour bin for time-outs for a mischievous toddler. She told me I used to act up so much that I would just get in the flour bin without being told. I don't remember this. I do remember visiting them in Cedaredge in the late 50s or early 60s when I was 9 or 10. I remember her deftly wringing the neck of a chicken that moments before had been contemplating the gravel in the yard, and tying its legs to the clothesline before she slit its throat.

The last time I heard from Grandma Phoebe was in 1968. I was visiting relatives in the San Luis Valley and couldn't get to Cedaredge to see Phoebe, so I called and talked with her briefly over the phone. It had been many years since we'd had contact; so it was a little strange. Not long after that I got a package in the mail with some books written by Millie Jones Porter who had chronicled the Jones family pioneers of the Texas Panhandle, and dozens of Grandpa's cowboy poems (since lost to another family member), along with a wonderfully sweet note reflecting on their life together. She counted being included in the extended Jones family as one of the richest gifts in her life overall. Me, too.