Planning a Camping Trip

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My little kitty, Gigi, on her little perch.  She’s a funny little thing.

My best friend is in the hospital, for the second time this month.  Her heart is not acting right.  I hope to God they can do something to make it work right again.  I met her on the day I got sober.  She 12 stepped me.  It was the one and only twelve step call she ever made.  I am so grateful because I believe she was the one person in the world who could have talked to me that day and gotten me to go to a meeting with her.  The rest is, as they say, history.  We formed a fast friendship and have been friends since.  I have stayed sober, she has not.  She married a Brit and moved to England 20 years ago, after that she started drinking again.  We write each other every day.  I haven’t heard from her today and I am a bit terrified.

Yesterday I bought a tent!  I am camping at Yellowstone National Park in August.  I am so excited about this trip.  I never thought I would go camping by myself, and certainly not at Yellowstone.  I am so afraid of big wild animals.  Bison are BIG and they are everywhere in YNP.  I will have to stop visualizing one stomping over my tent while I sleep.   I will also have to stop thinking about being a snack for a bear.  I will read everything I can get my hands on about being in that park.  I plan on eating at restaurants so I don’t have to worry about cooking and storing food properly.

You may ask, why do this if you are so afraid of animals?  Well, I am doing this so I can see my two older grandchildren who live very near the park.  Hotel rooms in their town are generally over $300 a night, and that just isn’t in my budget anymore. They live with their grandfather, my ex-husband, and (obviously) I am not invited to stay at their house.  My eldest granddaughter now has a drivers’ license, so they have a bit more freedom to visit me.  Camping at the park, including the purchase of a tent and sleeping bag, will cost less than one night at a hotel.

Earlier this year, I realized they are almost grown and I have not been much a part of their lives since my ex took custody.  It is SO hard to get to see them.  I decided that I would go up there and do whatever I can to see them, if only for a meal in a restaurant.  I will do that.  They will know that I did that.  It’s all I can do.

It is so important that I do all that I can do.  One of the best ways I have found to avoid regrets is to do what I can, and when I think I can’t, re-think and find ways to do whatever little I can.

Frank Sinatra may cavalierly sing:  Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention….  but with the life of an alcoholic, I have a few regrets that are heartbreaking (like not taking proper care of my children when they were little).  So forget about doing it “My Way,” I think I shall try to do it as close to the right way as I possibly can.

By the Grace of God, only by the Grace of God.

Posted in Cat, Friends, Regrets, Travel | 8 Comments

Reflections from 33 years, minus 6 days

Next Monday I will celebrate 33 years of continuous sobriety.  Every year I get a little bit more grateful for this miracle in my life.  It is God’s grace, given in immeasurable quantities.  I am surely not capable of this, but God is.  I thank Him every day.  And I try to put that gratitude into action… to the best of my ability.

I had another blog for years, where I talked about being a member of a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.  After a while, I felt like an apologist for the organization.  In time, I just couldn’t continue to do it.  I received so many comments and e-mails from people who had plenty to share about themselves or others being hurt by other members.  My answer was always that the fellowship is FOR sick people, and run BY sick people.  That it is fool-hardy to expect great behavior from a group of people in various stages of recovery.

As time goes by however, I am beginning to see it differently.

Even the big book says “we are people who normally would not mix,” which I believe is more true today than ever.  Over the years, my perception of the alchemy of the AA group has changed from seeming almost miraculous to seeming almost evil.  Please note the italics… probably no group is absolutely good or absolutely bad.  But there are differences, and they are important to note and take heed of.

We have people who are appropriately coming to the program;  they are dying of a progressive illness, they are vulnerable and desperate.  They are grasping at straws for something that will help them get out of the trouble they are in, whether legal, familial, physical, or mental.  We tell them we can help them.  That is the truth.

But we take it a step further when we tell them “This is a safe place.”  “You can trust us.”  “We all understand.”

We also have people who are predators.  They may be alcoholic, they may not be alcoholic.  We seem to think it is somehow discriminatory to suggest that AA is for alcoholics, so we say “Everyone is welcome here!!!”  “This works for everyone!!!”  I watch out for people who never share their stories.  I find when people say they don’t want to share their “drunkalog” it frequently is because they don’t actually have one.  If we don’t have that common foundation, what do we have?

In an ideal world, both of these groups of people would find a healthy group and healthy sponsorship and proceed to recover from alcoholism.  Warning bells should be ringing when someone suggests otherwise.

I have been around AA long enough to have seen a lot of groups, and a lot of people.  Some of the finest people I know belong to AA.  Some of the worst people I have ever encountered belong to AA.  I have been hurt terribly by a couple of AAs, and helped tremendously by others.

When I look back on the 32 year old vulnerable woman I was when I came to AA, I feel tremendous sorrow for her and what she has and will go through.  I feel a little bit sad that AA was NOT a safe place.  I overlooked that for years because of my love for the fellowship and gratitude for my recovery.  But the older I get, the more compassion I have for that young woman who was once me.  And I have that compassion for other desperate alcoholics who hit our doors.

Over the last 25 years or so, I have been part of two AA groups.  One is close to home and convenient.  There have been times I have felt that it was my home group.

The other group is where I got sober.  It was my original home group and many of the same people are still sitting in that room, 33 years later.  They have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.  I love those people and they love me.  There are also newer people in the group.  They came into the group and were cared for.  They were not coddled and allowed to act like fools, but they were led with sponsorship through the twelve steps into recovery.  In this group, we go to funerals of people who have died of old age after decades of sobriety.  There is an occasional motorcycle or other  accident that kills, but for the most part, these people are living long lives in sobriety.   This, I know in my heart, is where I belong.  I just wish it didn’t require a 37 mile drive to get there.

 

Can I just give some advice here?

  • I’m sorry, but AA is NOT a safe place.
  • You should use discernment, to the best of your ability, and a lot of prayer, to determine which group you should attend, and which people you want to trust.
  • A group with one person who is sponsoring a majority of the group, and people of both genders, should be avoided – at all costs. Go.To.Another.Group.
  • Please do not feel flattered and special when a person who purports to have decades of sobriety is interested in having a sexual relationship with you. This is not healthy.
  • Even the big book tells us we should not allow other alcoholics to live in our homes, at least not for long, please heed this – especially if you have children in your home.
  • If someone is “in love” with you within 15 minutes of meeting you, s/he is either lying to you or has serious issues.

All that said, I am incredibly grateful to and and for the fellowship.  It can be absolutely wonderful.  Nearly every one of my friends is in AA.  They are good people.

But there are bad, ill-intentioned people too.  Please be careful of those.  It doesn’t mean you should judge all of us as bad.  Find another group.  Most of us are in large enough places to find them.

God bless you all.

xxxooo

 

Posted in My Opinion, Sobriety | 3 Comments

Monday Morning

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The photo is actually from Sunday afternoon, making eggplant parmesan. I turned around and saw this sight and just thought it was so pretty. So colorful. So full of hope of a luscious meal and happy people at my table.  My daughter and her boyfriend came over and indeed, they were happy.  The bf was ecstatic at the grilled salmon, and my daughter was pretty happy about the eggplant.  It was nice.

I think I realized why I was so “out of sorts” last week.  Yesterday started with a migraine and got progressively worse from there.  I usually try to persevere with a migraine, so I carried on through my day.  First a hike, then a meeting with a sponsee, then making dinner.  I texted my daughter before she got here to tell her that I wasn’t feeling well and I was not prepared.  I was running about 2 hours behind!  My eyes were burning and my nose was running and I felt generally like I just got hit by a truck.  But they came over and it was fine and great.  The purpose of their visit was to clean my garage!  I could not bear the thought!  But her bf insisted and they went out there, he installed shelves, and they cleaned it up.  “Her” side of the garage anyway.  The side where she left most of her stuff 2 years ago when she moved to Montana.    It is a massive improvement.   Neighbors were popping in and out – to my horror!  Some thought I was having a garage sale.  Some I think were just nosy as to who these heavily tattooed people were who were  moving things in and out of my garage.   My garage is not something I want anyone to see, so I found it embarrassing.  They did give away a few of the things that we were just going to donate, and that is good.

So, I have a cold I guess.  When I woke up this morning, my eyes were so swollen they barely were open.  I look like I am 300 years old.  And I feel like it too!

Whenever I am sick, I think back to the hangover days.  They nearly killed me when I was in my 20s and early 30s… I cannot imagine what a hangover would feel like at 65.  Of course, if I had continued to drink, I don’t think being 65 would ever have been a concern.  I’d be long gone by now.

I was able to get to Sunday mass at my own church for the first time in 3 weeks!  I am so incredibly fortunate to be a part of this parish and be able to attend mass that is reverent and holy.  No crazy folk or honky tonk music, no guitars or drums.  Just sacred music.  Beautiful music.  And quiet.  People walk into my church and go kneel down and pray.  They don’t have “cocktail hour” chatter in the church before and after mass.  They do outside, but not in the church.

For months, I have been wanting to write about the fellowship I belong to.  I sat down to do it this morning, but ended up doing stream of consciousness junk blogging instead.  I think that’s all I have in me this morning.

I am now going to go sit on my sofa – in the daytime – on a weekday!  I’ll probably turn on the TV and maybe do some of this “binge” watching I hear so much about.

Sorry for this nonsense… and I’ll be better next time… promise!

Posted in Family, Food, Health, Junk-blogging, The Church | Leave a comment

A Post from the Weeds

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Actually a photo of my kitty seeking shade on a hot day.

I have deliberately not written about my finances here on the blog for a very long time. I had done it in 2013 and someone had come to my aid and actually paid for me to attend the Dave Ramsey classes, which changed the way I saw money and hence the way I treated money. If not for that class, and adhering to DR’s ideas, I would not have been able to retire at all. I am grateful every day for that.

When I retired in January of this year, I had a budget. I had a plan.  I had a financial equivalent of a jig saw puzzle, the pieces fit, but there was not room for any deviation whatsoever.

On February 5 of this year, my car was totaled.  Honestly, my first thought was that I was having a heart attack, my second thought?  That my jigsaw puzzle would no longer work.  I actually sat at the site of the wreck saying “oh no!  Now I have to go back to work!”  But I got much more from the insurance company than I ever would have dreamed, and I got a deal on a new car that was like a miracle.  So I have a new car.  And six years of payments.  Those were not in my budget.  Then my insurance went up.  That wasn’t in the budget either.  Then the furnace quit and I needed a new one, etc., etc., etc.  It has truly been one thing after another.

The real bomb in the jigsaw puzzle though was Social Security.   I was supposed to receive a check each month.  Not large, but enough for groceries with a little to spare.  My pension covers most everything else.

Warning:  This is where I get into the weeds:   I received a letter in June of 2016 telling me I owed every cent of money they paid me in 2015 when I retired for four months.   It took several months and several phone calls to figure out what happened.  When the state paid me out for my sick and annual leave upon retirement in 2015, the Social Security Administration decided that I wasn’t really retired, and hence, I owed all the money they paid me.  I got the appropriate forms completed and mailed in December of last year.  I thought it would just be a matter of a month or so until it got straightened out. And even if it never got straightened out, they could only take 4 months of my checks to pay back 4 months, right?

Wrong.  It’s been over 6 months now.  I called.  I called again.  And then I called again.  Every person understood what had happened and assured me it would be resolved.  In April, I packed a lunch, my knitting, and a bottle of water and sat in their office until I got a live human being to look in the eye and get to understand what happened.   He said he fixed it and I would get a big check in June.  June came and went, and I got nothing.  I got a letter in late June saying I would get a check for $10. in July, and then my regular payments would commence in August.  I tried to call about that letter, but I was so upset and angry, I believe the Holy Spirit intervened and I didn’t get through to anyone…. and I am grateful for that because it would have been ugly.

On Thursday of this week, I got another letter from Social Security.  I sat on my front porch, I didn’t even feel safe to take it indoors with me!  I prayed.  Not my usual prayers of “thy will, not mine, be done.”  Oh, no.  I prayed that they finally wised up and were going to pay me the money they owe me.  And, there it was, in that letter. I am supposed to have the back payments deposited in my checking account on July 18.  And then I should have my monthly payments after that.   I truly won’t believe it until I see it, but I have hope.

I have used savings to get through the last six months.  I thank God I even HAD a savings account, let alone one with enough money to get me through for a while.  But it is a lot smaller than it used to be.

It is a terrible thing to be afraid about your finances when you are retired.  I have thought I need to get a job, but my heart’s desire is to never work again, so I haven’t even really looked.  I have prayed so much about this.  I feel like the answer I keep getting is to learn to live within my now small means.

On Monday of next week, my job will be to sit down with my budget forms and figure out if I can do that.  It’s a very different budget than my planned budget for retirement.  But I am going to give it my best shot.  I know that I have lived on very little money before and those have actually been happy times in my life.  I have things pretty much down to bare bones now, but if I need to cut more, I am willing.

I just do not want to work again.  I love to wake up in the morning and leisurely get ready for my day.  I am always busy because that is just the way I am.  I go to Mass most days, which is an incredible blessing.  I am now involved in all kinds of church things.

This is the life I want.  Being a “church lady.”  Helping others.  Going to Mass every day.  Going to Adoration once a week, and being available to substitute at other times.  Being someone the church calls when they need help with something.

Being a homemaker.  Canning applesauce (even though it is terrible) on a Wednesday afternoon.  Making delicious nutritious meals for myself so that I can maintain my health (or even improve it).  Working out for 70 minutes, 6 days a week.  Being able to go to the lake for a swim, or take an early morning bike ride.  This is what I want.

I hope this is my future.

I do trust God though that he will show me what I am supposed to be doing.  And then I do trust that he will give me what I need to do that!

Posted in Faith, Hope, Mass, Retirement, The Church | 6 Comments

Apple Sauce

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I bought some apples advertised as being “invisible,” a Colorado apple that is supposed to be the best for apple sauce. I love to have home canned apple sauce in the winter, so I thought I would make some. I think I misunderstood the advertisement. I think it probably said these apples are best used for applesauce – meaning they are ultra sour and not good for much else. Not that they make the best applesauce. I had to add much more sugar than I usually do, and I still think it doesn’t have that luscious sweetness that I love about applesauce. And look at the color! It doesn’t even look good!

As a whole, I am out of sorts today.  I don’t usually get like this.  I have an AA birthday coming up and one would think I am “old” enough to not get a bit crazy as it approaches, but one might be wrong about that too.

First thing this morning I drove to the park to ride my bike, and when I got on it, it didn’t feel or sound right so I stopped right away and realized both the tires are way to low to ride on.  I loaded the bike back in my car and drove home.  Later I went to the gas station and pointed my car at a pump, when another car drove in front of me and parked in front of the pump.  She got out of her car and walked into the convenience store and came back out and drove away.  She didn’t even get gas!  Who parks at a pump just to park?  Oh, the other person who does pulled in front of me at the other pump and blocked me in.   Then HE got in his car and drove away without getting gas.

I drove to the farmers market for the above apples.  While I was sitting in my car, another car parked extremely close to me which was irritating enough, but the child in the back seat just clunked his door into the side of my car.  I got out and the mother looked at me like I was insane.  There was thankfully no mark on my car.

I was speaking with my sponsor on the phone when this happened.  She suggested I go home and stay there for today.  I agree heartily.

Today was my sister’s 72nd birthday.  She died at 70, so this is the 2nd one without her.  So sad.

I made the mistake of looking at my daughter in law’s blog this morning.  Seeing my grandchildren and realizing I am not a part of their lives either.  Not the two older ones, nor the two younger ones.  I have been deliberately excluded from the two older granddaughters lives as they are in the custody of my ex-husband who won’t talk to me… he won’t be in the same zip code with me.  For example, he didn’t go to my son’s wedding because I was going to be there.  It is completely insane.  My son’s kids are not deliberately taken from me except that they live 1,000 miles away and their lives go on and I am not there.

I thought the applesauce would cheer me up.  It didn’t.  Now I shall take a walk and then sit on the sofa and knit for the remainder of the evening.

Some days just kind of need to be over.

I am grateful:

  • I had enough lids at home after I purchased the wrong size at the store
  • My car did not sustain any more damage
  • I am healthy enough to stand on my feet all afternoon
  • I had a sister for 64 years of my life
  • I got to be a real grandmother for a few years of my life
  • Wrinkles don’t hurt.

Seriously, dear Lord, I am grateful today.  I’ll probably be more so tomorrow.

 

Posted in Bicycle, Family, Food, Gratitude, Social Media | 6 Comments

Family Visit

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My niece handed me this photo while visiting my brother at the nursing home. This is us, a little more than 61 years ago.   At the time of the photo, I was 4, my brother was 16, we were visiting him at the seminary, where he was studying to become a priest.  He later changed his mind and left the seminary when he was within a year or two of ordination. He now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and a host of other issues attendant to that particular affliction.  He is in a nursing home.

I also visited my oldest brother, who is another year older.  And his wife of 52 years.  And his daughters who are now in their 50s – well, one won’t be until mid-August.  My oldest brother is still healthy and active and independent.  I stayed at their house for two nights.  We had a lovely North Carolina 4th of July Barbecue.  Lots of family, and tons of fun.  It was so nice to feel that I belonged in this gathering.

My sister-in-law’s brother, who I haven ‘t seen for 50 years, told me I look like my mother.  Amazing to “meet” someone who knew my mother.  Even more amazing to be told I look like her!  Later, my other brother told me I look like my Aunt Bo (short for Marthabelle).  My mother’s sister, the home economics teacher with her black hair pulled into a bun, occasionally the white roots showing, and the ever present red lipstick.   I didn’t really consider any of these comparisons to be compliments, but I probably should.  Both of those women died so long ago, I still think of them as “old ladies.”  My mother didn’t even live long enough to be old!

Yesterday the brother with Parkinson’s  left me a voice mail.  He thanked me for making that long journey to see him.  He said it meant the world to him.  He said it meant a lot to a lot of people.  It meant a lot to me!

It was good to hit the road.  It was good to stay in cabins on my way out (see photo below).  They were an adventure.  But I did stay at hotels on the way back.  It was so good to see my two brothers.  (My third brother was unable to come.)  It was so good to see my sister-in-law.  It was good to see my nieces and great nephews and great nieces.  One of whom is named Mary, born on my birthday.   In a Catholic family, if your name is Mary, you could never be so conceited as to think a child named Mary is named after you, but I find it a happy coincidence.  She does too.

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I am so grateful to be home.  I am so grateful for my little life.  I am so grateful I am retired.  I am so grateful for my little house.  When I walked into my home on Sunday night after a 3,000 mile journey, it looked like it is just where I belong!  It looked neat and tidy and full of so many things I love.  I usually think it is a mess, but I don’t after being gone.  I have renewed appreciation for all that my life is, and that, I think, is the real point of taking a trip!

God has been so very good to me.

Posted in Aging, Family, Gratitude, Retirement, Travel | 4 Comments

Post from the Road

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The photo is from my ridiculously brief visit to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  That side-trip was always a planned feature of the trip.  I had no idea the only way into that park (National Park!) is through an unbelievably congested commercial zone – much like Las Vegas.  It took 4 hours to drive in and out of the park.  I think it is unconscionable to make a trip through Dollywood and Gatlinburg the mandatory route to a National Park.  I guess I am the only one who feels this way…

I stayed in cabins (without bathrooms) on my way to North Carolina.  It was an adventure, but I decided to stay in hotels on the way back. I am on a fluffy bed in one as I write.  I will be home tomorrow.  Thank you Jesus.  I tried to post a photo, but I am close to out of data on my phone and the hotel wifi is dreadful.

i don’t think I can write about my family until I get back to my computer at home.

I cannot wait to get home.  As always, a trip away has made me appreciate how wonderful my life is.  I’ll be home tomorrow.

Its been a good trip, but very hard to drive 3000 miles alone.  Also difficult to see the impact of age on my family

ill write from home.

Posted in Travel | 2 Comments