Monday, June 29, 2009

Blogging

Lately, I have been wondering if blogging is doing me more harm than good.

When James was alive, there were times I would get frustrated because we were so boring. While we did get out and do things with friends, for the most part, we were such homebodies. I would hear stories and see pictures of my friends' various trips and adventures and I wanted that too, but it seems something always got in the way of us doing that.

I started this blog because I wanted a place I could record my memories so when I am old I can go back and relive them. I could keep a journal, but this is much more legible. Plus if the house should ever burn down, I can log on to any computer and this journal won't be lost.

Reliving these memories has made me realize that you really don't know what you have until it is gone and our life was anything but boring. I have so many stories that make me smile. I have so many stories that remind me how much I was loved.

There is an e-mail that circulates periodically about how you spend your "dash"-the period of time between the dates on your headstone. As I was doing my volunteer project the other morning, I was thinking about whether or not I should continue blogging as the memories make me miss James, which brings me pain and the fear I will never experience that kind of happiness again, which makes me feel very much alone. And then I realized this evolving into more than just my memories as it is starting to incorporate more of my life now.

There are going to be posts of memories. There are going to be posts of my current life. Some will be funny; some will be sad; some will be filled with hope and others with fear; some will be downright boring. But that is how life is. And this is my life. This is my dash.

Our glasses

When James and I got the dogs, we had been together for just under 2 years. We had the account at the vet's office set up as James & Heather R/G. Actually, it was supposed to be James R. and Heather G., but they messed it up and we just left it that way. After he passed away, they removed him from the account, but that upset me, so the boys' "girlfriend" put him back on.

When I took Sammy in on Friday, they were out of the medicine I need for his yeast infection, so the vet wrote a prescription for me to take to the "people pharmacy," as he called it. The prescription was written out for R/G, Sammy (Dog). Earlier today I dropped the prescription off at the pharmacy I usually use. She looked it over and asked if R/G was the last name. I said it was but she could use either name since we were both in the system. She did some typing and asked if I was Heather. I confirmed I was and she asked "Then who's Charlie?"

"That would be the other dog." I replied. "I knew one of them was in the system, but couldn't remember which one it was."

The pharmacy has a clear plastic box for donating used glasses to the Lion's Club. While she finished processing Sammy's prescription, I happened to glance over at it and noticed several pairs of glasses were in there. It's usually empty so I thought "Oh, someone donated glasses." And then it dawned on me. That "someone" was me. About a month ago, I had to pick up a prescription for myself and I took all 3 pairs of James' glasses and a pair of mine and dropped them off.

I wasn't upset to see them there; however, I didn't expect them to still be there so it just caught me off-guard and I felt myself go to my numb place. I know that as we changed prescriptions and got new glasses, I would have donated our old ones anyway and I think that is what kept me from having a strong emotional reaction, although I did have a moment where I was tempted to ask if I could have his newest pair back. If they are still there the next time I go in however, I am going to ask how much longer they will be there so I am not caught off-guard again.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Photography Assignment #1

On Friday evening, I found myself thinking that maybe I should do my homework for photography class. I decided to take Charlie's ball outside and have him chase it for the action shots. After that, we came back inside so I could take some pictures in portrait mode. Saturday afternoon after my volunteer project, I took the still life pictures playing with the different ISO settings. I took several pictures of my Japanese Maple but didn't really notice a difference. I did notice a difference with the tall thing with orange flowers, however. (It came with the house. I only plant things I know the names of). I also took a couple more action shots of Charlie and his ball.

I'm starting with the plants because that was the first part of the assignment:
"Plant" mode-settings "chosen" by camera

Differences in ISO. Notice the bottom one has too much light.

Part 2 of the assignment: pictures taken in "portrait" mode:

Sammy

My favorite

Sammy's bored with this.

Charlie loves his ball!

Part 3: "Action" mode shots:


I love his floppy ears

I absolutely LOVE this picture.

I had fun taking these despite how down I felt after the first class. I also realized that the despair I felt then was about more than not being about to go home and take pictures of my family. In this class, I am Heather-just another student. No one knows my story-I am anonymous. I am not the girl whose fiance died. As much as I still love James, there are times when I need to be more than that. It is part of moving forward. The pictures are going to tell my story. But the story I hope they will tell is not that I am the girl without a family, but that I am the girl who has really cute dogs.



Friday, June 26, 2009

Another mouse story-with a twist

After rocking out for the better part of this afternoon, I was in a pretty good mood when I was getting ready to leave for the day. I went to use the restroom, and as I opened the door, I saw something white scurry past me out of the corner of my eye. We have been having mouse issues at work-the last sighting was yesterday in the warehouse; I have been having issues with them at home too. I did the stupid girl thing-I screamed bloody murder.

My boss was in his office down the hall. "Mouse?" he called out, sounding a little hopeful.

I looked down. "No," I called back sheepishly, "paper towel."

The garbage can is near the door and being that it is Friday, it was full. When I opened the door, it caused one of the paper towels to fly out into the hallway.

On my way out, I passed the owner. He just looked at me and laughed.

I really hope the day comes that I no longer think every slight movement I see is a mouse-and I hope that day comes quickly.

Rocking out on a Friday afternoon

When I first started my current job, I was in an office upstairs. My boss and another co-worker were the only ones upstairs with me. If I was upstairs alone, or if my boss was gone and my co-worker was annoying me, I would rock out. If she was really annoying me, I would only play hip-hop because she could only hear the beat and that annoyed her.

In February, I was moved to an office downstairs. I actually like it much better because being upstairs, and the "new" girl (I have now been there for 2 1/2 years), I didn't really feel like I was part of the gang. I wasn't in on any of the jokes or most of the typical office stories. I spent a lot of time downstairs getting information to do my job, but it wasn't the same. So, I was getting to know my co-workers, but not as well as I would have if I was downstairs with them.

Now that I have been downstairs for a few months, I feel much more a part of the company and I am a lot happier, although I wasn't unhappy to begin with, if that makes sense. The only downside, however, is that with an office in the main hallway, I don't get to rock out anymore. And some days are just better when you can crank the tunes.

Today was a rare day. Two co-workers took the day off. One had to leave early to go home and wait for a repairman and the other one with an office in the hallway leaves at 2:00. So, this afternoon, I rocked out. A couple of years ago, James set up an external hard drive that we transferred our cruise pictures and music to. Last January, I was afraid something would happen to it and we would lose all our cruise pictures so he copied the pictures and the music to CDs. Before I went to Mexico in March, I took the CDs to work so they would be off-site if the house burned down while I was away.

For some reason, I never brought them back home. There are several hundred songs on the CD, and the artists run the gamut from Air Supply to ZZ Top. I have the combination of two people's different tastes in music. I have pop. I have country. I have metal. I have hip-hop. I have soft rock. I have a little something for everyone. I do not, however, have the "Macarena."

I started off with Alan Jackson's "Chatahoochie," and moved on to Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy with it." One of the warehouse guys walked by and got his groove on in the hallway. I heard him tell another co-worker what I was listening to. Another co-worker came to chat before she left for the day-I played "Rock Me Amadeus" and "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" for her. She left before I could bust out the Milli Vanilli. Actually, that seemed to scare everyone off. I introduced one of the guys to Ra's "Do You Know My Name?" He was excited that I had Lords of Acids-that was from James' side of the collection. That is also not appropriate for the workplace so that was not played. The owner was present after all.

Other songs played throughout the afternoon included "Vogue," "Who Let the Dogs Out?," "Rock Star," "All Star," "Buttermilk Biscuits," "Cracklin' Rosie," "You Can't Touch This," "Keep on Rockin' Me Baby," "I'm Too Sexy," 'Whoomp! There it is," "Rumpshaker" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Some were played for co-workers; some were just for my benefit. I think at first my co-workers were surprised by my vast selection and in some cases embarassed for me. Although at the end of the day, a few of us were in there rocking out and I was taking requests. I think deep down they were secretly impressed and hoping I really would play New Kids on the Block.

Check-up

Sammy had his post-op checkup today. The good news is he is healing nicely from his surgery and I can stop giving him the pain pills. The stitches come out a week from Sunday.

The bad news is he has a yeast infection between his toes and now has to have a new medicine for that which they were out of but I can pick it up at the people pharmacy tomorrow. I guess allergy season is really bad for dogs this year too! Hopefully, this medicine will work and he will get some relief.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Congratulations! You're Caller #8 (and Ichiro trumps Bridget Jones)

When I was in junior high, the classic rock station my dad listened to had a nightly contest. They would play clips from 10 songs and the goal was to name all 10 songs by title and artist. It did not take long for me to realize that Dad almost always got them right. I decided we should try to call in to the radio station. I didn't really care about the prize; I just wanted everyone to know how smart my dad was. As soon as Dad would ID the last song, I would start dialing. It was a long distance call and I never did get through. Eventually they stopped doing the contest but I was determined that one day I would win a radio contest.

I won my first radio contest in the spring of 1996. It was the end of my senior year of college and my friend and I were up late one night studying. The local radio station was having a contest in which they were giving away a gift certificate for Branigan's, a locally owned restaurant with really good pizza. All you had to do was be the right caller. My friend said I would never win. This just made me more determined to win-I hate to be told I can't do something. (I blame my parents and their "you can do anything you set your mind to" speeches for this). I not only got through but was the right caller. And, after rubbing it in-a lot-I took my friend with me to enjoy the pizza.

The next contest I won was within the first year I lived in Portland. I don't remember the specifics, but I was working for the glass company so it had to be between July 1996 and July 1997. I won lunch for the office. I remember talking to the DJ about "The Love Boat," and going to pick up the certificate with my good friend and then boss, but I don't remember the contest specifics or ever actually having the lunch party.

The third contest I won was a couple of years later. I won a spot in the ladies' golf clinic that was held during the Fred Meyer Golf Classic. I had to name 10 golf related items in 15 seconds. I know I said "tees" at least 3 times. In addition to the lesson, I won a bag of golf goodies and a putter. A couple of years later, my grandmother bought a new set of clubs for herself and as the only left-handed granddaughter (out of two granddaughters), I inherited her old clubs-that had everything but the putter so that worked out well. After that, I thought maybe I should take up golf-but that's another story.

After that, I pretty much stopped trying to win contests, going on the "quit while you're ahead" theory. But for some reason, one day in October 2001, I decided to try again. Again, I don't remember all the specifics of the contest but it seems like there was a trivia question involved. Whatever it was, I was the right caller or had the right answer and I won a copy of "Bridget Jones' Diary."

I was so excited and I couldn't wait to tell James. But he was at an MV-90 conference in Seattle. All afternoon and evening, I impatiently waited for him to call. When he FINALLY did, I exictedly told him all about the contest and winning the DVD.

And then he told me that he and a few others had decided to skip the conference that day when they were able to score tickets for the Mariners game and they had seats right behind Ichiro. This was game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees. This was my boyfriend who hated baseball. And this so totally took the wind out of my sails. Because really, even with as straight-laced and by the rules as I am, I totally would have done the same thing. This was not the first time he trumped me with a better story and it would not be the last. I told him he was lucky the Mariners weren't playing the Braves because if that had been the case, there would have been no point in him coming home. (I'm still waiting for my dream matchup of a Braves-Mariners World Series. Pretty sure it isn't going to happen this year).

When he got home, I forced him to watch the movie with me. He thought the punishment was far worse than the crime. Silly, silly boy. I haven't won another contest since, although the only one I have even tried to win was last year when they were giving away Beach Boys tickets. Maybe some day I'll try again, but I don't know how much fun it will be without him here to top my story.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I would much rather be a golf widow

Earlier today, a member of the widowed young message board I belong to posted a link to an article written by a woman who was lamenting being a "golf widow." She started out her article by saying her husband had not died in a freak golf accident, but maybe it would be better if he had because then people would bring her casseroles, give her looks of pity and set her up with hot young guys to help her through her "transition" period.

This did not exactly go over well with the widowed community. But I understand the author's point of view as I thought it was that simple too-and then James died and I realized it is only that simple if you are the main character in a TV movie or cheesy romance novel where everyone lives happily ever after in the end.

Normally, I would not have read the article. It's kind of long and truth be told, these days I just don't have that much of an attention span (another "side effect" of grief). And I normally don't respond to online articles either, mainly because I hate that every website wants you to register first so they can send you spam even though they assure you that will never happen.

Today however, I am incredibly exhausted from several nights of negative, aggressive dreams, and the recent ordeal with Sammy's tumors and the photography class homework assignment have brought back to the forefront my fear that I am going to grow old alone-something I have always been afraid of that James assured me was not going to happen because he was not going anywhere. In other words, I am not having a Suzy Sunshine kind of day.

There are other responses that are much better written and certainly a lot more eloquent than mine, but I never claimed to be a good writer or eloquent. I had to drastically edit my response as it exceeded the maximum word limit by 93 words. Here is my response, pre-edit:

"Last year I was widowed at the age of 34. My experience over the last 16 months has been that widowhood does not actually play out like the Lifetime Movie of the Week.

No one brought me casseroles. They sent flowers and plants, which was great since I threw up everything I ate for the first 3 weeks anyway. The pitying looks serve as a reminder that I am no longer half of James and Heather. I am now the "poor girl whose husband died." I have learned who my friends really are and believe me, there have been some surprises. I have lost long time friends because they now see me as a reminder of their own mortality. I have learned which friends are okay with me talking about James; however, I have learned that most people would prefer I just act like he didn't exist since that eases their discomfort.

I am not going to wake up one day magically cured-I don't have the flu. I am moving forward with my life the best I can. I am getting out and meeting new people, but they aren't hot young guys my friends set me up with. They don't know hot young guys; they know happily married ones. I am meeting fellow widowed guys and divorced guys up to their eyeballs in baby mama drama.

Prior to James' death, I was a "WoW widow" and a "Pittsbugh Steelers widow." Being a "WoW widow" allowed me to work on my own time-consuming hobbies. I thought I didn't care about the Steelers until the day I realized that in a few seasons, I probably won't even recognize the team I was surprised to learn that I could actually carry on an intelligent conversation about a year ago. What I wouldn't give to have those days back.

I sincerely hope that you never have to experience this. And if you do, maybe you'll be lucky and it will play out like it does on TV, but I wouldn't count on it.
"

Word on the street is that due to all the responses she has received from young widows, she has asked her editor to remove the article.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The results are in

THE TUMORS ARE BENIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I got the call when I was at PetCo getting food and a new poop bag holder for the little darlings. At first I thought I misheard as there was a bit of static on the phone when she said "so, no cancer." I thought she said "so, it's cancer." I hesitantly asked if she said cancer or no cancer and she said "no cancer. Benign." I am so relieved and also numb at the same time. Sammy and I did a happy dance when I got home while Charlie just bounced around us.

Thank you all so much for the warm thoughts and prayers!!

You never know where the hits are going to come from

On a message board I post on for young widowed and essentially widowed people like myself, one of the recurring subjects is grief is triggered by the most unlikely things.

James had an interest in photography. In 2006, he bought himself a nice digital SLR camera on my birthday. Funny, I can remember that and that dinner was cancelled because our best friends' dog fell in the river (he was rescued and my friend got her picture on the front page of the paper with the dog and some very cute firemen), but I can't remember what James got me that year. I'm sure I liked it though.

Naturally, I inherited the camera which I have always been a little afraid of. I had used it a few times here and there but was afraid of breaking it, but James always assured me it was just a camera and if I broke it, he would replace it. I think he may have secretly been hoping I would break it so he could get the new improved model. After looking at it for several months, I decided that I would take up photography to honor James.

I joined a group through meetup.com for women learning photography. At the first meeting I went to, I learned I was in over my head. So, I decided to take a class and signed up for one through the community education program hosted by one of the local school districts.

My first (of 6) classes was last night. It went well. He covered a lot of material and I pretty much understood most of it. I will definitely have to review my notes before next week though! And my friend is going to have to find something new to tease me about because I now know what "aperture" and "ISO" are all about. That shouldn't be too hard-Lord knows I give him enough material just by being myself.

I was feeling pretty good about the first class. And then we were assigned homework: put the camera on the auto setting and take a picture. Then, fiugre out how to adjust the ISO (or ASA, depending on the camera) setting and take the same picture using different ISO settings. Okay, piece of cake. And then he said to experiment using the program settings for portrait and sports/kids at play. And then the little voice taunted me: "You live alone. Who're you gonna take pictures of?" I almost started to cry. The little old couple to my left have each other and grandchildren. The little old man to the right of me has his wife and grandchildren. The three ladies across from me have their spouses and their children. Who do I have? I felt like I had been punched in the gut.

I am going to a BBQ on Saturday and am thinking about asking if they would be my subjects. I have only met them a couple of times though-he was a co-worker of James I met for the first time at the funeral. If I chicken out, I can throw the ball in the backyard and get some shots of Charlie. (Someday some poor person is going to get stuck with 50 bazillion pictures of my dogs). My boss will pose for the portrait shot. He already volunteered, as I figured he would. So, I am lucky-I do have options. I just wish I had my own family to come home to and take pictures of.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Accept or Ignore?

I have been debating about whether or not to blog about this. This is something I would have talked over with James and I have decided to write about it in hopes of gaining some clarity.

My family moved to Idaho near the end of my freshman year of high school. I was painfully shy, and I had just left a school in which I had known most of my classmates since kindergarten. The "newcomer" to our class had joined us in the 5th grade. I went from a high school of 102 students, where I knew everyone at least by name, to a class of 230. It was quite a change and a terrifying one at that.

There was a girl in a couple of my classes that seemed pretty nice and it was a relief to walk into class and see her familiar face. One of the classes we shared was history; her best friend was in that class as well. It turns out the best friend didn't like me all that much as she thought I was trying to steal her friend. We all ended up working on a project together and the best friend realized I was no threat-just a new girl that was actually pretty nice and just trying to get to know people.

She and I became friends and by our senior year, we were pretty close. During the summers, I would often ride my bike the 5 miles to her house to spend the night and would end up spending a couple of days or the weekend. Her family took me in after my then step-mother kicked me out two weeks before we were to leave for college.

Even though either of us could have gone anywhere for school (well, maybe not Ivy League in my case!), we stayed close to home, enrolling at the University of Idaho, as did a lot of our classmates. We went on a campus visit together. She talked me into going through sorority rush, something I never would have considered. We were in different rush groups but ended up pledging the same sorority-how cool was that-sharing this experience with my best friend?

It was during the first semester of our freshman year that our friendship started to fall apart. We were drifting apart and I started to confide in another sister more and more not realizing what this was doing to my friend. I met a frat boy who I took an interest in; she had a boyfriend back home. The night before Thanksgiving break, I spent the night at his apartment. Nothing happened-we were watching a movie and it got late and we just fell asleep. She tracked me down the next morning and was livid and refused to believe either one of us that nothing had happened. I was supposed to go home with her for break but was able to convince my dad to let me come home even though I wanted nothing to do with my step-mom. When we got back from break, out of "concern," my friend told the frat boy's best friend that I was psychotic. And that was the end of the frat boy and our friendship. She ultimately ended up leaving the sorority. Ironically, joining the sorority was actually one of the best things I could have done since it really helped with my self-esteem issues and with my shyness.

I have not been in contact with her since she left the house which was about 16 years ago. The other day, I got a friend request from her on Facebook, which I have yet to respond to. I truly wish her the best in life; I just don't know if I want to reintroduce her into mine. I have a couple of pictures of James posted, but my relationship status is not on there. Since James died before our wedding, I am listed with my maiden name. When I signed up for Facebook, I just wanted to be Heather, not the girl to pity because her fiance died so for the most part, I have left him out of that aspect of my life. I can't help but wonder if I accept her friendship request, will she take smug satisfcation in "knowing" that I turned out to be the pathetic loser that she predicted I would become, or has enough time passed that maybe she does want to see if our friendship can be renewed? I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but ever since I got the request, I have been plagued with feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness. If she sees male friends commenting on my status, will she feel compelled to "warn" them about me, or will she genuinely feel bad if she finds out about James? Of course, I am not completely blameless for the deterioration of our friendship. I had my fair share of problems and I know I hurt her too.

I guess I could add her and if it doesn't work out, I could just remove her. And if it does work out, I will have regained a friendship that was once very valuable to me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dad

Dad
December 5, 1950 - November 11, 2004
(this is my favorite picture of him)

Yesterday when I was talking to my mom, she was telling me about the cake and potato salad she was making my brother for Father's Day. I told her that I tend to block out Father's Day now that I no longer have a dad.

My dad and I didn't always see eye-to-eye. I didn't agree with some of his choices; he thought I was too straight and narrow. But underneath it all, I was always Daddy's little girl and I know he was always very proud of me.

(Daddy's girl since Day 1)

It's been hard for me to have him gone. There have definitely been times I could have used his advice. There have been times I have wanted to call him and share the latest corny joke I heard because I knew he would love it. After James proposed, it broke my heart he wouldn't be there to walk me down the aisle-I could picture him bursting with pride, grinning ear-to-ear, but also with a hint of sadness in his eyes as he gave me away. Even now, I can't think about that without tearing up. And after James died, I definitely could have used my daddy to help pick up the pieces and tell me what the Hell it is I am supposed to do now.

From my father I inherited my stubborn streak and refusal to ask for help. My dry-wit and my aptitude for numbers come from him too. He could do math in his head like no one I have ever met. Growing up, we used to give Dad a hard time for making enough spaghetti to last a week-now I do the same thing. Dad taught me how to check my oil and my tire pressure. He would bring home large pieces of plywood so I had a surface big enough for my jigsaw puzzles. He would let me grow "science experiments" in the fridge. He pushed me to get good grades because he wanted me to go to college-he wanted me to be able to stand on my own and be able to have a good life for myself. He convinced me that I could do anything I set my mind too if I just tried hard enough. He was a man that would stand outside barbecuing in the middle of January because I wanted BBQ hamburgers for my birthday dinner. He would hate that I put mustard in my Deviled eggs.

(The source of my silliness-and my squinty eyes)

He was a strong, hard-working, proud man and I know I get my strength from him. I am proud to have been his little girl and I miss him dearly.



Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sammy's home

I called this morning around 10:15 and was told that Sammy was doing great and could go home after noon. I verified that meant after 12:00 and not some time this afternoon. I have had that happen before where I have gone to pick them up and have had to come back later-usually it is with the groomer.

My volunteer project was supposed to go until noon; it ended early so I arrived at the vet's office at 12:08. I had a moment of panic when I looked over the invoice and under the quantity of mass removals, it says 20. My heart dropped but it was explained that was a measure of time for billing purposes, not the number of masses that were removed.

When the vet tech brought Sammy out she said he knew I was there-that as soon as she went back to get him, he started going nuts. He certainly is not acting like a dog that has recently been under anesthesia! Ii suspect that once we get settled in on the couch, he will crash. Right now, he and Charlie are barricaded downstairs since they don't want Sammy to go racing up and down the stairs like he is in the Indy 500.

I definitely feel a lot better now that he is home and I can see for myself he is doing fine. The biopsy results should be in mid-week so in a few days, I will be able to put this whole incident behind me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The long night begins

I have dropped Sammy off at the vet and now the wait begins. He has had surgery before. He was neutered and micro-chipped as a puppy; he has had his teeth cleaned a few times. And each time he has made it through the procedure just fine. There is no reason to believe this one will be any different. But, it is surgery so there is always risk involved. I will breathe much easier tomorrow morning around 10:00 after I am able to call and check on him and even better tomorrow afternoon after I have brought him home.

Charlie keeps going back and forth between me and the door looking for his buddy. I keep telling him that Sammy's not here but he just gives me that look he gets when Sammy is in trouble and has to have a timeout outside. The look that says "um, Mom, you forgot to let Sammy in." I hope he will settle down by bedtime.

I was invited to go hang out with a friend tonight but I am going to be gone all morning for a volunteer project and I didn't want to leave Charlie home alone all night too. Now I just need to figure out what to do for the next couple of hours until it is time for bed.

Why settle for 1, when you can have 12?

When the alarm clock went off yesterday morning, I was nowhere near ready to get out of bed. As I tried to maneuver around the dogs to turn off the alarm clock, I wished I had a servant that I could just send to work in my place so I could go back to sleep. At lunchtime, as I was getting ready to go run a couple of errands, I told my co-workers that I had woken up wishing I had a servant to go to work for me and that could also run my errands while they were at it.

I came home today at lunch and found this flyer on my front door:

I just wanted one servant to go to work for me and run a couple of measly errands. Imagine how much could get done with 12 servants!

Servant 1 goes to work.
Servant 2 does laundry.
Servant 3 does dishes and cleans the kitchen.
Servant 4 cleans the bathrooms.
Servant 5 vacuums and dusts.
Servant 6 mows the lawn.
Servant 7 pulls the weeds.
Servant 8 goes grocery shopping.
Servant 9 organizes the computer room and back bedroom.
Servant 10 paints the hallway.
Servants 11 and 12 paint the bedroom.

And while the servants are doing all the boring responsible stuff, I will happily spend time on my hobbies, all of which are time-consuming, without feeling guilty that I am not doing all the boring responsible stuff. Ah, that would be nice, wouldn't it?

When the alarm clock goes off tomorrow, I am going to wish for someone tall, dark and handsome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Talk about a price increase!

The other day I went to the post office to mail a copy of my grandfather's military records and a recipe to my mom along with a couple of bills. I knew the price of stamps had gone up but couldn't remember what it is now and couldn't find my stamps. Granted, I didn't really look that hard and found them with little effort later.

The clerk got out a book of stamps and ran the scanner over the bar code twice. Total price for two first class stamps: $36,900.14. I looked at the display, cocked my head and said to her "I knew the price went up, but that's quite an increase!"

She corrected it, but I should probably check my bank account just in case. I'd be facing some serious overdraft fees if they tried to take $36k out of my account!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Say Cheese!

This is the last picture James ever took of me. It was taken 1/31/08, 6 days before he died:


I was so excited that night. My favorite non-profit organization operates a free school supply store for area teachers. Every year on the last Thursday in January, they hold their annual fundraiser, which is a spelling bee in which local "celebrities" are the contestants. There is also a silent auction prior to the main event. For the past few years, I have volunteered for the registration portion of this event.

As a registration volunteer, I have to be there early so I am in place when the guests start arriving. However, there is always plenty of time to scope out the auction items, which we are allowed to bid on once the auction starts. This is a fundraiser after all. The more bids the better.

I collect cows. I have for years, so when I saw this basket, I wanted the 5 little cows that were in it. Plus Tillamook cheese is the best. When we moved to Arizona and I saw Tillamook cheese at the store, I literally started to cry, mostly because it was the only brand in the store I recognized, and partly because I was homesick. So, when the auction started, I briefly stepped away from the registration table and put down a bid. And then the bidding war began. I was outbid, but as I have previously mentioned, I am stubborn. So, when it came down to the final two minutes of the auction, I raced down and saw that I was not the high bidder. The next amount was more than what I had set my limit at, but I really wanted the cows and it was for a good cause. So, I went for it and then hovered to make sure I was not outbid in the final seconds.

I ended up staying to help enter the winning bids. When we got to the cheese basket, I jumped up and down with delight as I read off my bid number and winning amount. The (then) Executive Director looked at me like I was nuts, so I just shrugged and said I really wanted the cows.

I could not wait to get home and show James my prize. I called him on the way and told him I had won something that I was really excited about and couldn't wait to show him, but didn't tell him what it was. He was watching a movie when I got home, but being the good guy that he was, he paused it so he could come see what I was so excited about. Of course, it was just one more thing that solidified to him what I dork I am. He really wasn't that impressed. And then we opened it and just kept pulling out cheese block after cheese block after cheese block, ice cream coupons (after a year of the best, the Safeway brand just isn't cutting it), fudge, a cutting board, etc.-there was a lot more in there than met the eye. He was much more impressed after that. The value of the ice cream coupons alone was only $21 less than what I paid for the entire basket.

I don't normally like to have my picture taken, but I was so happy that night. (It really doesn't take much which made life pretty easy for James!) And because this is the last picture James took of me, it will always have an extra special meaning in my life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hide and Seek Charlie Style

Charlie is such a little goofball. I like to think he gets it from me, but in actuality it probably comes from him being a runt.

The other day I was folding a load of linens and noticed he had stuck his head in the corner of a sheet and was looking around with it stuck on his head. I was on the phone at the time and I was laughing so hard my friend thought I had stopped breathing. It is for moments like these that I bought the "little" digital camera.

Today's trip to the vet

I have actually managed to get just one dog out of the house twice in a row. That has to be some sort of record.

As I mentioned in my comment on yesterday's post, I found two more lumps on Sammy last night. I took him to the vet today after work and on Friday they are going to remove all 3 and any others they find during surgery or that I find between now and then. Fingers crossed there will be no more.

I had a chat with Sammy this morning and informed him he is going to be fine and that is his only option. I told him that I know he misses James and that I do too and I promised him that James will still be there waiting for him 6 1/2, 7 or even 8 years from now. Now I just need to find a way to keep myself busy for the next several days so I am not constantly thinking about and stressing myself out over this.

Tracy and Rick-thank you for the prayers. You rock!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

I need to post something happy today as well.

James was a fountain of pop culture trivia. It truly was amazing. You could name a line from a movie or lyrics from a song and he knew exactly what you were talking about. We used to joke it was his "gift."

This gift came in handy since I have a habit of getting a line or two from a song stuck in my head and not being able to figure out what song it is. I would often tell him "I have a song stuck in my head. I know it's by so and so but I can't think of what it is," or "I have a song stuck in my head and part of it goes like ....." I couldn't just sing it for him because I really can't carry a tune and in some instances that just made it worse. The other instance was I knew the song, but not the artist. Those were the easy ones. There was only one song he couldn't figure out, and that was "Bring Me to Life," by Evanescence, a song it turns out he was actually not familiar with. At least not when I was trying to figure it out. Once I figured it out, he became quite familiar with it.

The best was when I would tell him that I had a song stuck in my head and I didn't know the title or artist. I was always amazed that he knew exactly what I was talking about, which I do think is a testament as to how in tune he was to my crazy little head. My favorite though had him stumped for about a half an hour. All I could remember was it had the line "who's your daddy?," was from the 60's or 70's and was played at the end of an episode of "Friends." I couldn't even remember the tune for this one and wanted to download it. He was actually exasperated that I expected him to just tell me what it was based on that information. However, he was also not one to back down from a challenge and threw out a few songs. They weren't it and he gave up and we went back to doing our own thing.

A while later, he asked me incredulously if I was talking about "Time of the Season" by the Zombies. As a matter of fact, yes I was. I knew he'd figure it out. Of course a couple of days later, he wished he hadn't and finally asked if I wouldn't play it again for at least a week. A request with which I happily complied since I now knew the song and could play it whenever I wanted, which is what I am doing right now.

Update on Sammy

First of all, a HUGE thank you to Sara and Rick for your kind words and thoughts. I truly appreciate it.

My boys are the most important thing in my life and as they are most likely the only "kids" I am going to have, I do overcompensate where they are concerned, for which I make no apologies. These are my babies. These were OUR babies that we picked out together, that we raised together for the first 5+ years of their lives (they are now 6 1/2). They are a link to my life with James.

The vet's office called when I was on my way to the counselor. Surprisingly, it did not alarm me that it was one of the vets and not a technician. She told me that as can be the case with fine needle aspirations due to the smaller amount of cells that are taken out, the results were inconclusive. They are, however, concerned about the mix of red and white blood cells found in the sample. Their recommendation is to have it removed and analyzed further in case it is something malignant and for the peace of mind if it is due to an infection of some sort caused by some unknown trauma, like say a puncture wound. When I first found the lump, my gut instinct was to have it removed so on Friday night, Sammy will be undergoing surgery to have this done. I am not thrilled about having to wait so long to know something definitive, but I chose to have the surgery done Friday so I will have all weekend to keep an eye on him. Right now, I am eerily calm. I am sure I will do a lot of freaking out between now and Friday. Of course it helped I was on the way to the counselor and I had someone to talk to right after I got off the phone.

On the plus side, they actually called my cell phone for once.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

You Are the Woman

I met James at work. A few months after we started dating, he told me the first time he had seen me was several months before we actually met. He was up at our main building and I was at the front desk talking to the receptionist. He said he figured there was no way someone as cute as me could possibly be single, but he asked around anyway. Unfortunately, he asked the wrong people because no one he asked knew, but it all worked out eventually. This is one of my most special memories.

Yesterday while I was at my volunteer project, the song "You Are the Woman" came on the radio and I almost started to cry, especially when it got to the line that goes "I saw your face and that's the last I've seen of my heart." I like to think this song is how James felt about me.

"You Are the Woman," by Firefall

You are the woman that I've always dreamed of
I knew it from the start
I saw your face and that's the last I've seen of my heart

It's not so much the things you say to me
It's not the things you do
It's how I feel each time you're close to me
That keeps me close to you

You are the woman that I've always dreamed of
I knew it from the start
I saw your face and that's the last I've seen of my heart

It's not so much your pretty face I see
It's not the clothes you wear
It's more that special way you look at me
That always keeps me there, woh-oh

You are the woman that I've always dreamed of
I knew it from the start
I saw your face and that's the last I've seen of my heart

It's hard to tell you all the love I'm feelin'

That's just not my style
You got a way to set my senses reelin'
Every time you smile, woh

You are the woman that I've always dreamed of
I knew it from the start
I saw your face and that's the last I've seen of my heart

Of my heart, ooh, woh my heart

There are water patterns on the fence! Yes!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was having a crappy day and part of that was due to the discovery my sprinklers weren't working. I just felt so helpless. The sprinkler system was a boy chore. Last spring, I had a moment of panic when I realized I was going to have to turn the system on at some point and didn't know how. It turns out the control panel is pretty self-explanatory and all I had to do was bring up the schedule and hit the on button. Last fall, I brought up the schedule and hit the off button, satisfied I mastered the sprinkler system.

So, a few weeks ago, when we went through our mini-drought (two weeks without rain in May), I brought up the schedule and hit the on button. A couple days later, I was coherent enough one morning to realize there weren't water patterns on the fence. It is set up to water every other day so I decided to wait and see the next morning. Sure enough, no water patterns.

That afternoon when I got home, I reset it to go off 5 minutes after the time it was when I reset it. About 10 minutes later, I went down and saw the control box was counting down the time remaining for Zone 1. Ten minutes after that, it was counting down Zone 2. But the lawn was not being watered. So, I went and checked the valve 6-pack thingy (I am pretty sure that IS the technical term for it). It was humming, so it was getting power. I tried adjusting all the knobs, but still no water.

I finally broke down and called the landscaping service I had been using. He came over the other night and told me I had a broken sprinkler head. My first thought was "great, I am going to have a huge ass water bill." I also thought a broken sprinkler head would not prevent the system from watering-it would just make a huge mess. He showed me where the head was leaking and it took me a minute to realize that 1/2 the sprinklers in the back yard (Zone 3, I do believe) were all on.

"Wait, how did you get water to come out?" I asked. I explained that I knew the system was working but I wasn't getting any water. He then showed me where the master valve is that he had turned off to winterize the system.

I knew it had to be something simple. I also wonder if I stop going to Starbucks if I can afford to have my landscaper back.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sammy's fine, Sammy's fine, Sammy's fine

Maybe if I repeat it enough times, I will actually believe it. Sammy's fine. Don't freak out over nothing-Sammy is fine.

Thursday afternoon, right before my brother got here, I discovered a lump near Sammy's right shoulder. It's about the size of a dime, but I have never felt it before. Charlie has a squishy lump that the vets are not overly concerned about-they are at an age where fatty tumors are not uncommon-but Sammy's isn't as squishy. So, yesterday, I called the vet's office and made an appointment for this afternoon.

As I was arriving, the vet who owns the clinic was just leaving, but since he has known Sammy literally since birth, he took a look at it. He recommended a fine needle aspiration (biopsy), but he tends to be aggressive and performed the exam in the parking lot so I thanked him for looking Sam over and headed inside.

The vet that performed the inside exam assured me that it is most likely a fatty tissue but recommended the biopsy as well, not knowing that I had received the same advice already. This is the vet that always tells me to just keep an eye on things and whose attitude towards me has told me on more than one occasion that in his opinion, I am an overly paranoid puppy mom. Although I do think highly of his vet skills, I still try to avoid seeing him since I don't think so highly of his human skills.

So, I had the biopsy done. The results should be back Monday or Tuesday. I am trying really hard to listen to the little voice that is telling me to relax, that everything will be okay, it always is. But the "but what if it's not?" voice is much louder. They have seen Charlie several times and have always been dismissive about his lump which only adds to my concerns about Sammy.

Sammy's fine. Sammy's fine. Sammy's fine. He has to be. I can't lose him too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The silly things you forget after 16 months

My brother asked me a simple question this morning: "Do you have any coffee?"

"Um, yes, but it's a year old." I replied. (Yeah, I know. I don't know why I have year old coffee either).

My brother said that it was probably still okay. Trying to be helpful, I said it had been in the freezer the whole time. He repeated it was probably okay, but not to make it if it was going to be a hassle; he would just wait until we got to the restaurant. This is where I should have taken the out and made him wait. But, no. I decided to be a good big sister and hostess and make him coffee.

I drink coffee in the form of mocha frappucinos at Starbucks. I drink these because I can't stand the taste of coffee and the wonderful barista at the Starbucks by my work knows this and has perfected making them for me so they don't taste like coffee. I would try other coffeeshops, but I am afraid they would (understandably) taste like coffee. So, while I have a coffeemaker, I don't actually use it. In 2007, I bought James one of the Cuisinart coffeemakers that grinds the beans right before it brews the coffee for Christmas. It only got used for a little over a month before he died. So, it's still pretty new which is a big reason why I still have it.

I got the coffee beans out of the freezer and realized that at this point, I don't even know what flavor they are. The flavor James really liked, the Kahlua Vanilla, was discontinued at my little ghetto Safeway right after the holidays so I had to buy him a new flavor. I do know it isn't hazelnut because he didn't like that. I put the filter in the basket, dumped the water in and realized I couldn't remember where the beans go. So, I went to the recipe book shelf to get the instruction manual. I found the manuals for every kitchen appliance except the coffeemaker. Greatly annoyed, I started to put the books back and found the maunal on top of the pile. I hate when that happens. I thumbed through it and found where the beans go.

Satifsfied that the coffee brewing was underway, I started to make a grocery list. I turned around and saw coffee and the grounds were flooding the counter. When the coffeemaker finally finished, I had quite a mess, which Charlie was "helping" me clean off the floor. Because who doesn't need a hyper-active dog with a caffeine buzz?

It took about 10 minutes to clean up the mess. The basket where the filter and grounds go was filled with coffee; the pot had about a cup's worth of sludge. So, not only did my brother still end up having to wait for coffee, he had to spend about 3o minutes smelling it. I guess I wasn't supposed to leave the lid off the pot. I probably should have refreshed my memory on that part too. (It's the iced tea maker I am supposed to leave the lid off of). I think I'll just throw out the coffee beans and the next time I have an overnight guest, I'll just run to Starbucks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Forever 41

Happy birthday Honey.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Life's mysterious way of working out

Lately, I have been hearing a commercial for a new home liquidation sale in which 160 new homes constructed by 3 area home builders are being sold. Whenever I hear this commercial I can't help but think about the way things tend to work out in the end and how the disappointments lead to something better.

When we moved back to Washington in October 2005, James asked me to take at least a month off before I even started to look for a job. I was burnt out and one of us needed to be here to wait for the phone guy, the cable guy, and all the other various guys that are required upon moving in. As an added bonus, I could actually unpack and get us moved in in a timely fashion, which had not been the case when we moved from our apartment in Arizona to our house.

I started sending out resumes at the end of November and in December got interviews with the local newspaper and a small publishing company. I didn't have experience in either of these fields, but as an accountant that didn't matter as much as my grasp of basic accounting principles. After my interviews, I really, really wanted the job at the newspaper, but deep-down knew I was going to get the job at the publishing company. In the end, I did not get the job at the newspaper, and accepted the job at the publishing company. It is the only job I have taken that I wasn't excited about but I was starting to get a little too comfortable staying at home.

I started working there in January 2006. By March, I was incredibly bored and spent most of my time e-mailing my friends since I had nothing to do. I would ask for more work, but was only given menial tasks that didn't take very long and the promise I would be taking over more of the workload "soon." In April, the company filed for bankruptcy, which was great for me because with all the paperwork that was required, I was suddenly swamped. And then in June, when that died down, a new controller was hired so the CFO could focus solely on the bankruptcy and I knew all this work I was promised just was not going to materialize with a 3rd body. So, I was back to about an hour or so of work each day, if that, and decided I needed to look elsewhere. I know people think I left because of the bankruptcy but the truth is I left to go to a company where I actually had work to do. Novel concept, I know.

I met with a recruiter who put me in touch with an area home builder located less than a mile from my house. That was definitely a perk. Taking a $5,000 year pay cut for a salaried position that had a minimum requirement of 45 hours a week was ultimately not worth it. I had spent so long focusing on my job and career advancement and I had gotten to the point where I wanted a position where James and the dogs could be my focus-as they should have been all along.

While interviewing with the home builder, I also interviewed with a company that was preparing to open a new bowling alley and fun center and had expansion plans including a couple of hotels. I was so excited about this job and I am sure I would have loved it, but it was only part time. We sat down and crunched the numbers. We would have been able to cover all our bills, but I would have had to cut out all my "extracurricular" activities. There was talk the position could possibly grow into a full-time position at some point down the road, but I needed a sure thing so I sadly turned down the job.

I was getting tired of all the interviewing and was starting to think that I was destined to stay at the publishing company. Then an auditor friend of mine told me one of her clients was looking for an assistant controller. Two months later, I started my current job.

Two and a half years later, I am still at that job and happy to be there. I work with a great group of people, who have been so incredibly wonderful since James died. The emotional support they give me is invaluable. Given that we are a manufacturer of discretionary audio equipment, we have been hit by the economic downturn, but we are still trucking along. The local newspaper filed for bankruptcy. They built a new building that now sits empty and I read a significant portion of their staff has been laid off. The home builder is one of the 3 companies participating in the liquidation sale (36% of the houses belong to them) and they too have filed bankruptcy and have let go most of their staff. The bowling alley is doing fine, but after losing James' income, there is no way I could survive on a part-time paycheck. Had I taken a different path, I would most likely be unemployed or looking for a second job to make ends meet. Things really do have a way of working out for the best and right now, on the job front, I am incredibly grateful.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My latest dream (very long, may be sensitive)

Saturday was 16th months since James died. It was one of the few times that I have felt good on the 6th in a long time. I had positive things to look forward with a volunteer project in the afternoon and bunco that night and it did turn out to be a fun day, even if I did lose both roll-offs at bunco. Not surprising-I always lose the roll-offs.

I had been shaky leading up to the 6th as I always am. I had an interesting dream a couple of days before that I was trying to interpret. I should start by saying that I tend to have weird dreams as it is. In February, I dreamt I gave birth to quadruplets. I had their names picked out but decided to change one of them, but no one knew that but me. Someone was telling the doctors what to call each baby, but got them mixed up and I was too tired to say anything. At the end of the dream, my quads looked an awful lot like cocker spaniel puppies. More recently, I dreamt that my friend and I were being held hostage by female gangsters. After the Feds came and released us, I ended up in a parking lot where a nudist parade was being staged. I didn't actually see naked people, I just knew they were there. This was the dream in which James left me a message on a computer screen that said "JAMES. I am here Astra Bear." I woke up wondering why James would call me Astra Bear. So, I Googled it and found that Astra is the name of the Beanie Baby that was the Beanie Baby of the Month in November 2004-which is when my dad died. The bear is also my favorite color.

Last Wednesday (6/3), I dreamt that I was walking down the street with one of my friends from grade school and her significant other and two of their male friends. The two friends were both vying for my attention (that has so never happened for reals). One was about my age and I felt he was trying too hard to let on that he had money. The other was young. So after we apparently got food for the second time, I was very insistent that I had to get to the dry cleaners but couldn't remember where it was. I was told by My Age Suitor that it was a block up and a block over, so we headed off in that direction.

There was a big building blocking the way. So we went inside. It contained a huge empty room and when I peeked out the door I could see a Farmer's Market and carnival type setting. Then, I was in another empty room and the two would-be suitors came in with James walking between them. I told him he couldn't be there because he was dead. He said he knew that and that I had to choose one of the other guys. I told him that if he was there presenting himself as an option, then I still choose him-that he is the only one I want to be with. He said "I know that Honey, but you can't choose me. I am no longer an option for you." He then said the older guy was kind of a jerk, but okay and that the other one was really young. By this time his best friend, who was female, had joined us and they were laughing about something. I realized he was only 18 and that there was a difference between being a cougar and just plain ick. I told James "He is really young. He will get bored and leave me." And James said "yes, he will leave." I knew it wasn't because of me though-he would leave because he was so young and still had so much to experience. And then James was gone.

I was in the first room again, only now it had a bunch of stuff in it-like it was a storage room. I was crying so my friend was tucking me into a sleeping bag so I could take a nap. But then Police Rescue came and said we had to evacuate the building so we got on a huge raft and floated across a little channel to the embankment on the other side. The Police Rescue lady didn't seem to know what she was doing, so I asked if it was a real drill. She said it was and I decided to curl up and take a nap in the raft because I couldn't watch them bumbling around.

Then, I was being pushed towards another guy and I was very resistant. I knew this was the guy the universe picked for me and could tell the universe was very happy about this. But I was not at all happy-there was something about him that was off and I knew deep down that he was not going to treat me right (take me for granted and give nothing in return) and that he was going to make me miserable. I don't remember his face-just his puffy dark hair and thick hands and that he was a little taller than me. Granted, I am only 5'4" so most men are taller than me. This is when I woke up.

I have been in a place lately where if I can't have James, I don't want anyone. I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life, but right now I don't have it in me to deal with the dating game. I felt like this dream was James' way of letting me go and that upset me because I don't want him to let me go any more than I want to let go of him. Of course, I only have them lining up in my dreams so at the moment, this really is a non-issue.

Gotta love Tuesdays that feel like Mondays.

Today was not a bad day per se, but it definitely had it's frustrating moments. Yesterday, at the end of the day, our IT guy came in and set up my new computer. This morning, I learned it has Vista. So far, I am not really liking Vista and am very grateful my boss in college made us use shortcut keys instead of the mouse.

Because my priorities are oh so straight, the first thing I did was transfer my music from the server to my hard drive. Then I discovered that my speakers were not working. After informing my boss I was not about to work all day with no music, he came and fixed my speakers. Granted, we both knew that I would indeed work all day with no music, but I am not exactly motivated when I am sulking.

Then I discovered that I did not have Adobe. While I was waiting for my boss to come fix that problem, I decided to call and make a doctor's appointment. Here is the conversation I had with the receptionist, with a few minor identifying details left out:

Receptionist: "Good morning. Local Clinic OB/GYN. How may I help you?"
Me: "Hi. I would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. M. please."
Her (slightly confused): "Would you like to make an appointment or see if you have one already scheduled?"
Me: "I would like to make one."
Her: "What is your date of birth?"
Me: "1-15-74."
Her: "What is your name?"
Me: "Heather G."
Momentary silence while she brings up my account.
Her: "You don't have an appointment scheduled. Would you like to make one?"
Momentary silence while I wonder if I am seriously having this conversation.
Me: "Yes, I would," I managed to say politely.
Her: "You are scheduled to come in after August 8th. How about August 11th-that's a Tuesday-at 3:30? Would that work for you?"
Me: "Yes, thank you. That would be perfect."

I got off the phone and verified with my co-workers, that yes, I do indeed speak clear, concise English. Although I suppose it is possible I really don't and after 2 1/2 years, they just understand Heatherese.

This afternoon was much better, thanks in large part to 25-cent cookie Tuesday at Subway. I took the brunt of my frustrations out on the Tae Kwan Do bag when I got home. Well-placed round kicks are very therapeutic, although I do need to work on the left side.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Another piece of the puzzle and another puzzling piece

Earlier today I remembered I never got around to checking the mail yesterday. I decided the mail would still be there tomorrow and then thought that maybe the genealogy records I was waiting for came and decided to go out and check. I don't know what made me think this. I ordered my grandmother's application for her social security number and my great-grandparent's marriage certificate on 5/21/09. Both were expected to be here in 6-8 weeks, which it clearly has not been.

The first thing I pulled out of the mailbox was an envelope from the Social Security Administration. Then came some junk mail followed by an envelope from the New York State Archivist. (After predicting the Brewer's manager was about to make a double switch in the bottom of the 6th, I should have run out and bought a lottery ticket since I was clearly on a roll!)

After sorting through and disposing of the junk mail, I decided to open the letter from the Social Security Administration first. Since I provided my grandma's social security number when I requested the application, I was confident a copy of her application would be in the envelope. I was not disappointed. This didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. I wanted the application to see what she listed as her place of birth. According to her social security application, her marriage license and her death certificate, she was born in New York City. I am hoping that having three legal documents stating her place of birth as New York City will finally be enough to convince my mother that Grandma was not born in Schenectady. I still need her birth certificate, but at this point I am pretty sure that no matter what documentation I produce, Mom is still going to believe her mother was born in Schenectady.

I was hesitant to open the envelope from the New York State Archivist. My luck with receiving vital records from New York has been hit and miss and the envelope was pretty thin. Much to my delight, my great-grandparent's marriage certificate was enclosed. This is exciting because I know virtually nothing about my great-grandmother, Teresa Codignotto Fromia. I now know that she married my great-grandfather, John (aka Giovanni) Fromia at the age of 22 and Codignotto is in fact her maiden name. They married in February 1912, so I can estimate her birth year as 1889 or 1890, given I don't know what month she was born in.

The biggest piece of my genealogical puzzle this solves is I now know her father was Antonio Codignotto. The new puzzling piece is that her mother's first name was Caterina but her mother's maiden name is illegible. Grr!!! It starts with a "C" and ends with "ssi" and is not a long name. I now suspect my great-aunt Catherine was named for Caterina, and my great-uncle Angelo (aka Andrew) was named for my great-grandfather's mother, Angela.

Not to be deterred, I decided to search a couple of genealogy sites. My favorite Italian Genealogy site, italiangen.org, was down so I tried familysearch.org. A search for Codignotto returned a marriage record for Francesco Codignotto and Maria Niedda in 1908. Francesco's parents are listed as Antonio Codignotto and Caterina Casso. I have found spelling errors with Family Search before, so it is possible this should be Caterina Cassi. According to my mother, Teresa had a brother named Frank (aka Franky Cody). Frank and John worked together which is how he met Teresa and the Codignotto family was against them getting married. The way she told me the story implied there was another Codignotto brother as well. Mom also said Teresa was raised in a convent in Italy "for some reason." Unfortunately, most of what Mom has told me I have proven to be false.

I know more than I did when I woke up this morning, which is always a good thing. Now I need to try to find death certificates for John and Teresa and a birth certificate for my grandmother. I also need to find a passenger list showing Teresa arriving in New York. After that, my search moves from New York to Italy, and I have no idea how to go about requesting records from Italy. My next vacation may just have to be in Sardinia, with a layover in Suffolk County, NY.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why ask for my number if you aren't going to call it?

If you think this is a post about dating, its not. The last time a guy asked me for my phone number because he was interested in getting to know me better was in December of 1999. Yeah, that sounds like a long dry spell, but up until 16 months ago, I planned to spend the rest of my life with him so there was no need to give anyone else my number.

No, this is a silly rant about my vet's office that I am using my blog to get out of my system since I can't whine about it to James and I need to not let things that annoy me just fester. Given the number of blemishes that are lined up along my jawline, I am already stressed out enough about something I have yet to figure out.

This morning I dropped my dogs off to be groomed, or to "get naked" as I like to call it. I filled out the little form they always have me fill out and knowing I was going to be at a volunteer project most of the afternoon, put my cell phone number for them to call when the boys were done. The project was scheduled to end at 2:30; I left at 3:45. The vet's office had not called. So, I went to Costco, got the two things I needed for bunco tonight and called the vet's office. I was cheerily informed the boys had been ready to go home for "awhile."

This wouldn't be so annoying if this was the first or only time this has happened. It's annoying because it happens every single time. If I drop them off on the way to work, I leave my work number. If I have something going on like I did today, I leave my cell number. Usually, they call the house and then get snippy when I call to see if they are ready because they left me a message. I was surprised I didn't have a message when I got home; I won't be surprised if there is one waiting for me when I get to work on Monday.

Yes, this is silly and stupid. But what's the point of them having a protocol if they aren't going to follow it? I have found that since James died, my tolerance is much lower and my expectations are much higher than ever before. I think the real reason I am annoyed is because every time I drop the dogs off, I actually think they are going to call the number I have given them. At least she got the haircuts right-Sammy looks angry and Charlie looks like a chihuahua. So at least she read the really important part of the form. And I feel better for having whined about it, even though I am tempted to just delete this whole thing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

40,000 Miles

On my way to work this morning, I hit 40,000 miles on my car. That's not too bad considering I have had it since January 2005. It made me a little sad I couldn't share this with James and I thought that was a bit silly. It's just a car and it's not even really that major of a milestone. The more I thought about it, I realized the sadness comes from knowing that with every mile I put on the car, I am one mile closer to someday needing a new car and having to go buy it for the first time in my adult life alone. That is not something I am looking forward to.

When I met James, I had a 1993 Toyota Tercel and he had a little "death trap," also known as the 1989 Honda CRX. Neither car was in pristine shape so whoever got home first got to park in the carport.

In November 2000, we found out my Tercel needed a new engine. I was devastated. I loved my little car. I knew I wanted it the first time I saw it the night one of my best guy friends and I went out for ice cream and there it was in the lot next to Baskin-Robbins. He came with me to help with the negotiations, and the test drive and to ask all the questions guys just know to ask. It was the first non-junker I owned. It was my first car loan, and I paid the entire loan myself. I bought it shortly before I graduated from college; to me, it represented my first real "grown-up" purchase and I hated to see it go. But at this point the service department knew me quite well and James asked even if I got a new engine if I would feel safe driving the car across the bridge everyday. I said "no," and we began the search for a new car.

My plan had been to graduate from the Tercel to the Corolla and eventually to the Camry. I test drove the Corolla and hated it. I ended up buying a 2001 Honda Civic, which meant we were both driving Hondas. This was Thanksgiving weekend and I was so sick. The finance guy was not very nice to me and I ended up in tears. We almost walked out at this point, but we finalized the deal. When I went to the doctor the following Tuesday, I had bronchitis so bad my doctor said if I didn't show improvement in 24 hours, she was admitting me to the hospital, that's how sick I was. Because I now had a brand new car, I got to park in the carport. I also ended up with a very nice pair of pearl earrings to help ease the trauma of this experience.

In February 2001, around Valentine's Day, James decided to trade-in the CRX and ended up with a 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse. I remember this because they called on Valentine's Day to say the financing hadn't gone through (this dealership is notorious for this) and James happened to be home sick. So, after I got off work, I took a feverish James to get his CRX back. In the end, James kept the Eclipse and they worked out a new loan with a payment that was $100/month less than the loan they "couldn't" finance. Even though his car was used, we went back to whoever got home first got the carport, which usually was not me. (It was not my idea to go back to this way of doing things). A few months later, we bought the house and both parked in the garage, which solved that once and for all.

At the end of 2004, James decided he was tired of driving a stick shift. The freeways in the Phoenix area get congested quickly, and he was tired of the constant shifting on his way home. Plus, I forgot how to drive a stick ages ago, so if there was an emergency and we were in his car, he was pretty much screwed. So, one weekend we set out to find a new car for him and I swear we went to every dealership in the Phoenix area. He test drove 17 cars. Some he had no intention of buying; he drove them simply because he could. And he didn't buy a car.

One of the cars he test drove was the 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. It wasn't what he wanted, but he thought I would like it, so I gave it a spin and I loved it. I wasn't in the market for a car at the time, but I kept feeling like the Civic wasn't going to stop when I hit the brakes. I did need new brakes, but after a couple of weeks, the feeling came back. So, in January 2005, I traded it in for the Lancer. And once again, we were driving cars by the same manufacturer until James traded in the Eclipse for an Acura. It turns out that wasn't really what he wanted either and about a year later, he finally found the car that had everything he wanted: a 2006 BMW 325, which was actually a lot more affordable than we thought it would be.

So now I have a car I absolutely love even though it has no bells and whistles, and a car he absolutely loved with all the bells and whistles and I drive the Lancer. People think I am nuts for driving a Lancer when I have a BMW, but I love my little car. For me, a car has always been nothing more than a means to get from point A to point B, but this one is so fun to drive. And I love that in a way, James picked it out for me. I am also a little afraid to drive the BMW (which currently has a dead battery anyway)-I don't want to "hurt" it. Plus, James died in that car. I can't seem to part with it though and I know I need to get it running and drive it around. I think he would really like it if I did.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I've created a monster!

Okay, so maybe I haven't exactly created a monster yet, but I could be getting close. I definitely have a new obsession with painting the house. Now that the bathroom is done, and I absolutely love it, I have decided the upstairs hallway looks shabby and needs to be painted as well. Project purple bedroom is still in the works as well. The paint samples have now made it too the dining table. I am tentatively thinking 4th of July weekend for that project.

There is a catch to painting the hallway. Due to the layout of my entryway, I cannot safely paint it without a scaffold and even with all my harebrained ideas, I am smart enough to not even attempt to go there. Luckily, the entryway is not a bad color:

Looking down from the half wall at the top of the stairs
The windows are above and to the right of the front door

I didn't feel like taking new pictures but these should suffice to get the gist of it. The challenge is that the color I decide to paint the hallway has to look good with both the yellow of the entryway and the newly painted green bathroom. I am thinking along the lines of tan or sand-something in the light brown family. My friend suggested orange-I think she was kidding. Hard to tell with text messages. So, today at lunch I headed up to Lowe's and picked up a bazillion more paint samples in both browns and oranges.

A lot of the house was painted just before we moved in so this should be all that I feel an obsessive need to paint, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe after this I will be content to go back to birdhouses. I have a bunch of those that need to be painted too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Irrational Fear: Disappearing Picture

This picture of James sits on my mantle:


It was taken on the morning of January 8, 2007 on the balcony of our stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's "Navigator of the Seas." Our first port of call, Labadee, Haiti is in the background. It was taken the morning after James proposed. It is the last picture on his memorial slide show.

I love this picture and often find my eyes gravitating towards it before I leave in the morning or when I am watching TV. Every so often though, I panic as I glance over. I am afraid that I am going to look over and find that it is fading away, like Marty McFly's family did in the picture he had during the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance scene in "Back to the Future."

I know this is irrational and that every time I look, the picture is still going to be there just as it is now. However, when you lose someone and go through their things, and take them off the accounts, and finalize everything, it tends to feel like their existence is being erased and I know that is where my fear is coming from. Deep down, I know that I will carry him with me for as long as I live and he will never truly be erased. And if time does fade the picture, I'll just print off another one.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Last Comic Standing

I am not a reality show junkie. I get enough reality out of life and the news. I watch TV to escape and of course, to see my beloved Braves. That being said, however, I am a fan of The Apprentice/"Celebrity" Apprentice and Last Comic Standing.

Now that all the regular programming is finished for the season and the summer shows are about to start, I decided to look and see when Last Comic Standing was coming back on the air. James and I both enjoyed/enjoy a good stand up routine, so this is a show we watched together. We went to the local comedy club here a few times and while living in Arizona, went to a few shows at The Improv in Tempe, the best being the time he surprised me with tickets to see Kevin Pollak. I actually ruined the surprise, but I did it on purpose so he would see what it felt like since he managed to ruin pretty much every surprise I tried to plan for him. We still had fun though and after that he did make an effort to stop ruining my surprises.

We started to watch Last Comic Standing at the beginning of season 2. All season long, I was torn between John Heffron and Alonzo Boden and James would just shake his head as I debated who to vote for. I was happy that John won, but was torn down to the very last vote. When season 3 aired as the "Battle of the Best" between the stars of seasons 1 and 2, we were glad we didn't watch season 1 because we felt the season 2 comics were a lot better. We actually saw several of the season 2 comics at The Improv. Unfortunately, their acts were pretty much the same as what was on TV, so we had already heard most of the material, but Alonzo Boden is much funnier in person. I was glad he won season 3, and to this day think it is totally unfair NBC refused to air the final episode.

When season 4 aired in the summer of 2006, we were back up here. The Tempe Improv is one of the places they hold auditions. After the auditions there were finished I turned to James and told him that everytime they panned the audience, I was searching for people I knew. He started laughing and I thought he thought I was just being my silly self until he admitted he had been doing the same thing. Neither of us saw anyone we knew.

James lost interest with season 5 but I stuck it out despite not thinking any of the comics were really that funny. (I was hoping they'd get better. Sadly, they did not). Last year was the first season I had to watch it alone and there were several times I found myself turning towards James' empty spot on the couch to make comments about the jokes.

According to Wikipedia, the show has been cancelled. I'm okay with that for a couple of reasons: first, it wasn't a true amateur contest and I felt it should have been and it just isn't the same without James laughing (or not) on the couch next to me still scanning for people we know when the auditions are held in Tempe.

Monday, June 1, 2009

People Magazine: the Widowed Issue

Today after work I came home, rounded up the dogs and headed over to the vet's office. Charlie had an appointment and I have found that it is easier to just take them both than it is to try to just get one of them out of the house. Plus, it is an ego boost when all the other animal parents tell me how cute my boys are.

While I was waiting for the vet to come back with the results of the ear cytology, I picked up the 5/25 issue of People Magazine. After reading the story on missing former child actor Joe Pilcher, who vanished without a trace in 2006, I randomly flipped to an article on Jai Pausch, widow of Randy Pausch of "The Last Lecture" fame. The article discussed how she is coping with her husband's death which was not quite a year ago.

After that, I randomly flipped to a piece about Nate Berkus, Oprah's designer that lost his longtime partner to the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. The article was about how he has found love again so that was inspiring.

Then, I flipped to a blurb on American Idol contestant and widower Danny Gokey. This was just a snippet about his recent homecoming, but it did mention his widower status and that his late wife died during surgery for congestive heart failure.

Finally, I flipped to a review for the movie "Taken," starring Liam Neeson, which mentioned the recent passing of Natasha Richardson.

After this, I decided to try the 3/23 issue and opened it to an article on British reality star Jane Goody, who recently lost her battle with cancer. I was about to try Entertainment Weekly when the vet assistant brought back my double ear-infected dog, which is not at all uncommon for a cocker spaniel but actually pretty rare for Charlie. I seriously don't think he realizes he is a cocker spaniel. I am pretty sure he thinks he is a cross between a Jack Russell and a human.

After we left the vet's office to "go bye-bye in the car," I decided I Fruitista Freeze would go great with my leftover quesadilla and pulled into Taco Bell, which is a block away from the vet's office. As I was sitting in the drive thru, after reading all those articles, I found it fitting that the song on the radio was Tom Cochrane's version of "Life is a Highway"-one of the two songs on James' memorial DVD.