The year before last, a friend of mine was given this Moravian star for Christmas. He didn’t know what it was or why it had been given to him, and he didn’t have much use for it.
I knew exactly what it was. My mother’s family immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1600s. They were Moravian, and this was the star adopted by the Moravian church as its Advent star. It was important to me – a part of my heritage. Read the WikiPedia entry about The Moravian Star »
Last year my friend was going to hang it, saw that it required an outlet, and decided he didn’t want it. He remembered that I did, so I happily accepted his cast-off star. After much teetering and fastening and numerous extension cords, I hung it over the landing on my staircase. I didn’t want to go through that again, so this year I didn’t hang it…until yesterday.
I had left it on an end table in my spare bedroom. Suddenly I knew exactly where it needed to go. Usually a project like this takes me “a while.” This time I got out my drill, found four brass cup hooks, easily drilled the holes, screwed in the hooks, and had it up, hanging, and lit in 15 minutes.
I love it there. It feels like it belongs.
The best Christmas present ever.
When I moved her last November, my landlord told me I couldn’t have a cat. I loved the place, and I wasn’t comfortable bringing Stripey here. She was getting older and needing frequent trips to the vet. Her Papa Kitty lived closer to the vet, so he kept Stripey until it was time for her to go over the Rainbow Bridge in November. I got liberal visitation rights, and as long as Stripey was alive, I felt like I still had a cat. When she was gone, I felt empty inside.
I knew my landlord liked having me here. I debated several weeks before I decided to ask him if I could get a cat. He had known I had had Stripey, so I figured it wouldn’t come out of the blue. I finally got up my nerve and called him. I explained that Stripey had died, and that I really missed having a cat. I told him that I wouldn’t leave if he said no, but I asked if he’d consider letting me adopt one.
He listened and thought and then replied, “I want you to stay here until I sell the house. Would you be happier if you had a cat?” I said I would. A big smile spread over my face when he replied, “I like the way you keep your house. I know you’ll take care of a cat. Go on and get one.”
Well, he didn’t have to tell me twice. I went to the RVSPCA website, and found just exactly the cat I thought might want to adopt me: Leia – a two year old shiny black girl cat with green eyes – just like my Yoyo and Cammie cats.
I called and explained that my lease didn’t specify that I could have a pet. The guy at the SPCA asked for my landlord’s phone number, called him, got the okay, and told me to come on down.
The screen door didn’t hit my butt on the way out. I got there and asked to see the cats. I found Leia immediately. I stuck my paw into her habitat. She touched it with hers. I opened the door and she crawled into my lap. I petted her for a long time. Other people came and went, but Leia didn’t look at them. She cuddled up to me.
I was so happy. I’d been adopted!
I could tell lots of stories about her, but she has a special Christmas Eve story.
When I met my friend Kim in Gatlinburg in October, she and her cat Herman gave me a stuffed cat. She looked a lot like Herman, so I named her Hermione. She slept on a cat bed at the end of my bed until I put up my Christmas tree. Then she slept under that.
The first time Leia found Hermione under the tree, she shoved Hermione off and took the whole bed for herself. This evening she cuddled up to Hermione and shared the bed with her. She’s still there.
My heart is filled to overflowing with the love I have received this Christmas Eve, and Leia and I want to share it with you.
And to all a good night.
Category: Welcome to My Life
I’ve contributed to Catawba Hospital’s Operation Santa Claus every year since 1990. I’ve written a blog post about it every year since 2011. Several people have told me that my blog posts are the only way they’ve been able to get information about it, so here you go.
They’re also holding a fundraising concert, and all proceeds go to Operation Santa Claus.
Click the image to the right to download the concert information »
If you haven’t followed my blog that long, here are those posts:
- There are some types of people it’s more difficult to give to than others. They’re often the ones who need it most.
November 10, 2011
- Please remember the forgotten at Christmas. You’d be surprised at who they are.
November 19, 2012
- Giving for all the painful reasons….
November 16, 2013
- Catawba Hospital Operation Santa Claus 2014.
November 9, 2014
- Telling the story instead of just writing about it: Aunt Myrtle, her girdle, and Operation Santa Claus.
December 9, 2014
- Would they put me away and forget me if they could? Why I give to Operation Santa Claus at Catawba Hospital.
November 10, 2015
I thank you for any help you can give. Every little bit helps. No, elderly psychiatric patients aren’t as cute as animals or children, but I hope you can find it in your heart to remember them at Christmas, too.
My cousin Tim gave me an Ancestry.com DNA test for my birthday last year. Our mothers were sisters, and when my family moved to Roanoke we moved into the house next door to theirs. Tim is five and half years older than I and has always been like a big brother to me.
We started out following our mutual maternal lineage, but once you get started doing research on Ancestry, it’s hard to stop there – especially if you get the DNA results.
I am 100% European. No big surprise there. But there were surprises:
So far I’ve found ancestors from Germany, France, Ireland, Great Britain, Wales, Scotland, the Netherlands (a whole bunch of them) and Switzerland.
I’ve got a lot more research to do….
Category: Welcome to My Life
After I posted “The last dinner” yesterday, I put a link to it on Facebook. Imagine my chagrin when Jeri reminded me of a number of significant details that had completely escaped my mind while I was writing the post.
What Jeri remembered that I forgot.
“I fried the chicken that night while you were getting annoyingly ‘schooled’ on how to ‘properly’ wash and store kitchen knives. *snort*
“And during dinner, I was trying like a mofo to get some better vibes going with some humor. Didn’t work, but I was just trying to make it a happy night for you to have in your brain’s scrapbook. Being that I’m sentimental as shit, it wrecks me when the potential for others to have sweet memories is ruined. So, I wanted to fix it. Made it worse though.
“And, I clearly remember that meal kicking pure ass. You went rogue on the zest, and it worked perfectly with the cream sauce you made.
“….and I think you washed AND stored the knives how you damn well pleased. Best part.”
I’m grateful to Jeri for reminding me of all she did to try to help make the evening a success. She did a lot of the cooking and she did try like hell to make the evening better. I feel like a shit for not remembering that, but in her Facebook comment she also gave me the explanation for why I didn’t.
PTSD triggers and their effect on memory.
Why did I not remember Jeri cooking the chicken? Because, while she was doing it, I was trying to cook the cream sauce at the same time as I was being told how to care for my kitchen knives.
Not a big deal, right? Well, it was a huge trigger for me. Dan had long before asked me to wash, dry, and store his knives a particular way. I did that. No problem. But this was my kitchen, these were my knives, and Jeri and I were cooking dinner. Who goes into someone else’s kitchen when they’re cooking and offers unsolicited advice?
Two people. Dan wasn’t he first.
The origin of the trigger.
My father made me learn to cook so I could make whatever he wanted for Sunday dinner. In his mind, this would help me be a “good wife” – the way he thought I should be.
Apparently the idea of my having a say in who I wanted to be wasn’t an option.
Long before I got married, I made the decision that I would never be the “family cook.” I’ve been married twice. While both marriages ended in divorce, my unwillingness to cook was not the reason. Having my preferences and feelings ignored and denigrated was.
So while Jeri was making magic with the chicken, I wasn’t just trying to make cream sauce; I was in adrenaline overload from yet again having someone tell me how to do something because I wasn’t doing it the way he thoughI should. My brain was so busy dealing with the triggers, the adrenaline, and the flashbacks, that it didn’t register the details of what Jeri was doing and how much she was trying to make it a nice evening for me.
I’m sorry I didn’t remember, Jeri. Thank you for reminding me.
The right to make my own choices.
On the night of the last dinner, I did, indeed wash, dry and store the knives exactly the way I wanted to. I tossed them in with the rest of the dishes, washed and dried them with the rest of the cutlery, and put them in a drawer. Heck, they might even have touched each other. And I still do it that way on the odd occasion when I have to use a knife to do something.
Treating my knives as sacred objects is not one of my priorities.
I’ll be happy to allow you – without comment – to treat your knives the way you want to. I’m happy to treat your knives the way you want me to treat them. The way I treat my knives is entirely up to me.
The right to be “wrong.”
I’m allowed to have different priorities than other people do. I’m allowed to make different choices than other people would make. I’m even allowed to be wrong and to experience the consequences of my actions.
At the same time, other people are invited to respect my right to make choices they don’t approve of and are invited to keep their unsolicited advice to themselves.
Category: Welcome to My Brain
My father grew up in Kentucky, where lunch was dinner and dinner was supper. I got over that, or this post would have been called “The last supper.”
My story doesn’t have anything to do with da Vinci; it has to do with the fact that I don’t cook. I heat, blend, or eat out of the bag, but I don’t cook. The microwave is my friend.
But earlier this year, after I had settled into my new home with its large kitchen and recovered from the surgery I had in December, I decided I wanted to entertain. I ordered dinner kits from HelloFresh.com and invited people over to have dinner with me. It was the first time in my adult life that I had a kitchen I wanted to cook in and a place where people could sit at a table and eat. I fed more people in two weeks that I had fed in the previous 30 years.
That’s not why I quit cooking.
The danger of what’s in my mind.
Between 2012 and the first part of 2015, Dan fed me any number of homemade meals and prepared any number of doggie bags for me to take home. I could never return the favor in kind, although I could do things – like help fix his computer – that he couldn’t do easily himself. It seemed fair.
But once I started cooking, I wanted to invite Dan to dinner. In my mind, it would be a special occasion: a housewarming party, a chance to prove that I really could cook (which I don’t think he ever believed), and a chance to return in kind what he had so generously shared with me. Maybe he would even offer to wash my dishes – something I did for him 99% of the times I ate dinner at his house.
So one week I ordered two dinners for four instead of three dinners for two. I made sure the meal I chose respected Dan and Margie’s dietary requirements and invited them to join me and Jeri (who was spending the night with me) for dinner.
The danger of expectations.
Apparently my ideas of how things would go weren’t shared by Dan. When he and Margie arrived, Dan – who introduced me to Jeri – greeted Jeri enthusiastically with, “Hello, gorgeous!” He may or may not have said anything to me. Once we sat down to eat, he talked almost exclusively to Jeri, leaving Margie and I to try to talk around him. Or not.
When we had eaten our fill, Dan didn’t offer to help wash the dishes. I did them while Dan and Jeri sat at the table in the kitchen talking and laughing. Margie sat quietly looking miserable.
Yes, the food was appreciated and complimented, but I felt more like a chef in a restaurant than a participant at a dinner party. I’d had other people over, and this hadn’t happened. I had even invited another friend I met through Dan, and she brought dessert and a card and made it feel celebratory. But silly me, I had wanted that on this occasion. I didn’t get it.
PTSD and the destructive thought patterns it leaves behind.
I decided that night that I wasn’t going to cook anymore.
I took the other dinner I had from HelloFresh over to Dan and gave it to him to do with as he wished. I found out later that while he can whip up delicious meals out of seemingly random ingredients, he can’t follow a recipe.
From then on, when Jeri came over I’d feed her delivery pizza or get takeout from Chipotle. While good, it wasn’t the same.
Deciding that I wasn’t going to cook because I didn’t get the reaction I wanted is a great illustration of three of my major distorted patterns of thought. They were developed when I was a child, and they run wide and deep through my psyche.
- I depend on (rather than enjoy) encouragement, feedback, and validation from other people.
- When someone hurts me and blows off my feelings, and I don’t want to let it go. In my mind, if I just “get over it,” I’m letting him “off the hook” – as if what he did wasn’t that bad and didn’t hurt that much. And, of course, it wasn’t that bad to him; just to me.
- When someone hurts my feelings, I deprive myself of events and activities I associate with those occasions. It’s as if I don’t think I deserve to enjoy them and am punishing myself for the last time when i wasn’t “good enough” to be treated well.
I can argue myself out of these thoughts sometimes, but when someone hits a sensitive area, I have what can only be called a PTSD reaction. I fall back into those thought patterns developed and deepened before I was old enough to be aware of them. I’m not able to think my way through the situation logically because I’m in fight or flight mode. Adrenaline is not conducive to rational thought.
Jeri opens a door.
Jeri and I were messaging last night about another topic entirely when we wandered into this one. I told her why I didn’t want to cook anymore and admitted that I had been a little annoyed at her for spending so much time talking with Dan, and how I had wanted it to be a housewarming party. She said, “Then we’ll do it over!”
That was the best possible thing she could have said, and yet my instincts fought it. It wouldn’t be the same. I couldn’t invite Dan and Margie. It wouldn’t be from HelloFresh. It would be a number of months too late. And so on…
Jeri persisted. “You have a crockpot? We can make anything in a crockpot!”
And we can. She and I always have fun together, and now that I have a sleeping spot for her daughter Melody, we make an awesome threesome.
I can cook again and have another housewarming dinner if I allow myself to let go of the disappointment and hurt I felt the first time. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with paying someone back for favors or hoping for recognition. And yet, I’m writing about that “last dinner” because I have to acknowledge that it happened and it hurt. I don’t need anyone else to do that for me, either.
I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to overcome the destructive thoughts patterns I learned as a child, but I’ve overcome a number of them. I don’t intend to quit trying now.
Thanks, Jeri 🙂
Read the rest of the story: The last dinner: The lost and found memories »
Category: Welcome to My Brain
The Universe recently smiled on me in the form of a completely unexpected invitation. My online friend and website client Kimberley invited me to stay with her, her mews, Herman, and her husband Ray at a house in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Kim and I have been Twitter, Facebook, and blog friends for six years or so but had never met in person. I jumped at the chance.
Welcome to Sevierville, Tennessee
The adventures started as I drove through Sevierville, Tennessee – that’s Se-VEER-vile, for the uninitiated – and more traffic than I would have imagined.
But the traffic turned out to be a good thing. It gave me time to take photos of the flying pigs and King Kong out of my car window.
You just don’t see things like that in Roanoke.
Kim & Ray find us a lovely home away from home.
Once I caught up with Kim and Ray at the Food City outside of Gatlinburg, we drove to the house Kim and Ray had rented that afternoon. It was lovely: a two-story, two bedroom “cabin” with a loft, wifi, and a gorgeous mountain view.
I meet the traveling Wonderpurr gang.
Herm is a Turkish Angora with a sweet disposition and a very floofy tail. And he liked me! I felt so honored. And, after not having had an ‘in-home” cat for over a year, it was very nice having him around.
If you ever have the chance to meet him, he’s a cheek and chin petting kitten. And he wears sweaters.
Herm and Kim presented me with a real, not real kitty, who I promptly named “Hermione” because she looked a lot like Herman.
This is cat magnet, writer in-purr-rupted, and anipal wedding planner Kimberley Koz. She and I are soulmates, as only two people who love cats and have ADD can be.
We got to know each other through Twitter when Cammie was sick, got to know each other better on Facebook, and eventually she became my client.
I don’t know about Kim, but I liked her as much in-purrson as I did online. We had a lot to talk about between excursions!
The first day we “drove,” along with everyone else in a 50 mile radius, up through a mountain trail road. I was truly impressed that Ray handled their luxurious “land yacht” going up and down and around the mountain at 2.5 miles per hour.
We finally got to stop by a creek, and Ray presented me with a very special piece of river quartz.
I displayed my usual grace and slipped on a mossy rock, but happily, only my dignity was bruised.
Dollywood & the sisterhood of the wet pants.
The one mistake we made was riding the water ride almost first thing. When they say,”You will get wet,” that translates to, “You will walk around with a wet butt for the rest of the day.” Not ideal.
But even with wet butts, it was a beautiful day. And if you ever go to Dollywood, be sure to check out the eagle exhibit. It takes up the side of a mountain!
I hadn’t realized it until I saw the photos, but I think Kim and I look like we could be sisters. How cool it that? But why am I on her right in both photos? (Inquiring minds want to know.)
Time to say goodbye.
As much as I was enjoying spending time with Kim, Herm, and Ray, after a couple of days I started feeling a hankering to get home. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, and my own mountains were calling me.
Kim and Ray live in Mississippi, just south of Memphis. It’s flat there. Visiting Gatlinburg is their chance to enjoy the mountains. While the Smokies are beautiful in fall, the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains are home to me.
I’m very grateful to the Universe for the opportunity to both meet someone I’ve wanted to meet for a long time and for giving me a vacation that I needed.
And, of course, there is Hermione…. 🙂
You can read Herman’s “tail” about our trip here.
Category: Welcome to My Life
Amidst a family made up largely of Republicans, I am one of the few Democrats. You can imagine how surprised my cousin Tim was when I asked if I could go with him and his family to the Trump rally in Roanoke yesterday.
Three of my good friends are also Republicans. When I told them I was going, they were equally surprised.
Why would I go to a political rally for a candidate I don’t support?
- Fair and balanced reporting, and all that.
I’ve joked for month’s that I can’t listen to anything Trump says because his hair is too distracting. The fact is, I’d never listened to an entire speech of his. Since there are people I respect who support Trump, I thought this would be a good learning experience.
- I like having an open mind…
…as long as my brain doesn’t fall out.
- I figured my cousin and his family would protect me.
I find crowds of any type frightening. My theory is the IQ of the people in a crowd decreases exponentially as the size of the group increases. I feel particularly unsettled in large groups where the attendees avidly support a particular cause. My mental film projector always shows me images from the old Hitler rally newsreels, like these.
- It was free.
“As long as you’re going to be there….”
My friend Jenniffer asked me to get her a Trump button.
I got three – two for her, and another for another friend. (Hey, there were three for $5.00. What can I say?)
She also told me that I had to take a “duck lip selfie”. I asked her what that was. She sent me a sample. I said, “No way!”
But then Ryan said I should. How could I disappoint a 15-year-old boy who actually reads my blog?
So I went. And I learned stuff.
I was asked by several people what my “take-aways” were and if what I heard influenced my perception of Donald Trump. In no particular order:
I learned that all rallies, whether for political candidates, sports teams, or companies – are the same.
- Someone says a prayer that implies that the people on their side are more Christian (we are in the Bible Belt) than the people on the other side. (Frankly, I hope that the Universe thinks this is as ridiculous as I do.)
- There are two many speakers at the beginning. At least one of them will have a tremendously annoying voice.
- Everyone exaggerates their abilities.
- Everyone exaggerates the faults of their opponent.
- Steps three and four are repeated until the crowd is cheering as loudly as possible.
I decided that I’d rather go to a political rally than to a college football game.
Rallies are shorter, there’s less traffic, and it’s easier to find parking.
Don’t take anything to a presidential rally that you don’t want the Secret Service going through.
In addition to the obvious – guns, knives, “professional” cameras, and pepper spray – this includes cups or bottles with lids, straws, and e-cigs.
The Secret Service guys are hot.
They play good music.
I love Lee Greenwood’s song, “God Bless the U.S.A.”, which was played when Trump entered. They also played, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” I like the song, but I had to wonder if that was the message the promoters really wanted to send.
Donald Trump is a better speaker than I thought he would be.
And he’s much better than the forty-leven people that spoke before he got there.
I am now 0.001% more likely to vote for Donald Trump than I was before I went to the rally. My pre-rally score was 0.000%.
My video of Trump entering is below. If you turn up the volume, you can almost hear the Lee Greenwood song. (We were in the nosebleed section.)
You can see a professional video of the entire rally here.
After the rally we went to Mission Barbecue. I have to say that I’m glad I went, and I enjoyed getting to spend time with my family. Watch out for my youngest cousin, though. His sense of humor is at least as quirky as mine 😉
Category: Welcome to My Life
Many people include signature files at the end of their emails. My favorites are the ones with interesting quotes.
Since I use my primary email address for business, I keep my sig file for that account strictly business. But if I could add a more interesting sig file, one (or choices of several) that reflected my philosophy of life, these are my top choices…so far.
My sig file philosophy of life.
– Janeson Keeley
“A loving heart is the truest wisdom.”
– Charles Dickens
Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
Where am I going, and what am I doing in this handbasket?
“Thousands of years ago, cats were worshiped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.”
Veni. Vidi. VISA. I came. I saw. I shopped.
As Eeyore would say, “It’s Just The Sort Of Thing That Would Happen.”
Category: Welcome to My Brain
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
– Carl Bard
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
– Winston Churchill
“Sometimes, it is not good enough to do your best; you have to do what is required.”
– Winston Churchill
What I aspire to.
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”
– Marley’s Ghost to Ebenezer Scrooge
in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
“My hope is that one day I’ll learn how to deal with my feelings without expecting anyone I don’t have to pay to help me. My fondest wish is that one day my childhood traumas will be healed, or at least quiescent, and I won’t have to worry about them popping up like an evil jack-in-the-box, triggered by nothing but a jiggle of the handle.”
On knowing ourselves.
“None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are.”
– Anne Rice
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
– Carl Jung
On the absurdity of life.
“Because there is joy in embracing – rather than running screaming from – the utter absurdity of life.”
– Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess in
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)
“I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.”
– Nadezhda Mandelstam, Hope Against Hope
“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”
– Philip K. Dick, VALIS
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”
– Norman Maclean
“Say not goodnight, but in some brighter place bid me good morning.”
Warren Zevon did an interview on The Late Show with David Letterman following Zevon’s having been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Letterman asked Zevon if there was anything he understood now, facing his own mortality, that he didn’t before. Zevon replied:
“Just how much you’re supposed to enjoy every sandwich.”
– Warren Zevon, January 24, 1947 – September 7, 2003
Just for fun.
“Hang on tight! We’re going around the learning curve!”
– Buffy Lyon
“I’m glad you like adverbs — I adore them; they are the only qualifications I really much respect.”
– Henry James
Category: Welcome to My Brain
I’ve been frustrated no end at the weather this summer. Yes, it can be too hot to kayak. And too humid. And it can certainly be too rainy.
You know how kayaks hate to get wet 😉
I usually wait until the afternoon or evening before I think about going out to the cove, especially on weekdays. But this morning I woke up early, and the weather was nice. No doubt about it; Zippy and I had to take ‘Yak out for some exercise.
We arrived at Carvins Cove about 9 AM. I unloaded ‘Yak at the launch and parked Zippy. Then ‘Yak and I headed out.
Instead of our usual run up to the dam, around the islands, and back to the dock. we went the opposite way to the far end of the cove.
We “docked” about an hour and a half after we launched, both happy and refreshed and just a little tired.
After I fetched Zippy and loaded ‘Yak into the trunk, we headed home with a brief stop at McDonald’s for a vanilla cone.
I haven’t yet mastered the art of taking photos of myself – particularly from a distance – but I think you can see from these pix that (a) it was a lovely day, and (b) ‘Yak looked much happier after his outing.
I did, too. And I got lots of work done this afternoon.
Some days it pays to clear the mind first thing instead of waiting until the end of the day.
Category: The Great Outdoorskeep looking »