This time I mean it. Really.

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There will be more time for this, I guess. Maybe that’s a good thing. We’ll see, won’t we?

Well, I tried.

I retired in late November last year. I couldn’t handle the physical or emotional pain, though I made a huge effort. Suddenly cast into this new life, there were few things I knew and one of those was I had to keep working. Right?

Most folks told me that even if I was working because I needed the money, I also needed to get out and see people. I never did really get that. Still, when I am with others it makes the day go by faster and gives me something to think about besides, “What’s for lunch/supper?”

Yesterday was supposed to be my “easy” day on the job. Turned out to not be the case because the pain was horrendous. As hard as it was to admit it, I knew the time had come.

I retired this morning. Again, and for good.

I won’t look past today if I can help it. I think I would have ended up having to do my job from a wheelchair. I was that close.

During the months I was first retired, I noticed a slight improvement in the pain. I’ll take that any day. I do know I can’t continue to aggravate the situation.

So, I’m right in there with all of you who don’t have to dread Mondays. Although from what I remember from the first retirement, we can tend to forget what day it is anyway. Fine by me – there are worse things.

We’re heading into fall, my favorite time of year. I’m retired, having a birthday, and looking forward to finishing one novel and starting another in November. Life, as they say, is good.

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Sad? Yup. Happy? Yup. At the same time? Yup.

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Sometimes, you just need somebody – or something – to snuggle. A gift from my sweetheart.

I had the weirdest question to ask a sweet, widowed friend the other day. I thought, if she calls, I’ll ask her.

I didn’t get to ask her, but the answer came to my unasked question. It came through my morning devotional.

I wondered, “Can you be deeply saddened and joyful at the same time?” I didn’t know about anyone else, I only knew it was happening to me and it felt weird.

I’ll try to explain. I can be busy doing something (okay, sometimes it’s reading or playing video games or watching television or listening to music), when all of a sudden one thought will lead to another and before I know it I’m back to the night my sweetheart passed away. The trip back to that time took a huge number of turns inside my head, and the result was a torrential tear episode. Just like that.

At the same time, seriously, I felt such joy inside that he is safe now. He is well now. He is deliriously happy now. Even if I’m not any of those things, he is, and that gives me so much joy. So very much.

I loved him so much that I wouldn’t want him to suffer one more second. Sure, there are lots of times when I wish I had one more day, one more hour, one more anything. I would never agree to it, though, if he had to suffer.

So, yeah, I didn’t need to ask anyone if it’s possible to cry your eyes out while having joy and thankfulness inside. I know it is. Thank God for that.

A special supper, maybe a candy bar with a candle in it

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I don’t remember which birthday this was for, but wow. Chocolate and cherries! Yes, please.

Okay, I’m not ancient but I am getting older. Next week I’ll be celebrating a birthday.

Well, not really celebrating. Acknowledging, maybe. Probably with chocolate of some sort.

I have to work that day, and the courthouse has a vending machine. I’m not going to sneak in a candle and light it in a Milky Way candy bar. I’d rather report the news than be the news.

I’ve had lots of fun birthdays. On one, I got an orange kitty I named Lintball. That’s probably the weirdest name I’ve ever given a pet.

Most of those times we went out to a meal, maybe more than one. In the beginning I’d start celebrating a week before, then I began reminding him a month ahead of time. He’d just smile, and shake his head.

On his birthday, he didn’t want any special attention. He preferred to stay home, so I thought it would be neat to make his favorite meal for supper. He liked that, a lot.

I do remember the one time we had a party for him at the house. He knew about it, but he didn’t have a clue what we were up to. He’d complained a few days earlier about his socks – not enough of them, and what he had were pretty much worn out.

I spread the word, and it was wonderful. Everyone who showed (and there were quite a few) brought gifts. And every gift, except one, was socks. At first he was just puzzled, then a little embarrassed, but when all was said and done he was happy to have all the socks he’d need for a while.

Whether we have those we love around us on our birthday, or we’re alone, I think we should do something special. None of us know how many birthdays we’ll get, or how many we’ll remember.

Maybe I’ll bring the candy bar home and stick a candle in it here. If I do, I’ll show you all a picture.

Oooh, but I was tempted

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The look on my face when I read criticism of something I’ve written.

It seems like I’ve been editing or writing for newspapers almost my whole life. It’s not true, it just feels that way sometimes.

The picture above was taken years ago when I edited a small freebie published in Toulon. I attended the pet thingy sponsored by our local radio station. It was held during Hog Days, and I was thrilled to do it. Give me something to cover that involves animals or writers and I’m there. (Provided there are no stairs to climb.)

I made this photo black-and-white. I can’t find the original for some dumb reason. The horns are actually a deep red and it was so cool. But I digress.

As you know, I cover felony cases at the county courthouse. I attend, listen, observe, then write the piece up and send it in. Most times it will get edited (as it should), and sometimes the edit will include something I did not put in the original piece. If that info isn’t correct, guess who gets criticized for “getting it wrong?” Yup.

So I got “that look” on my face as I read the posts, and my fingers got itchy to respond. The only problem at the beginning seemed to be that I got an age wrong. Well, no, *I* didn’t. But then I got to thinking – so what if they think it’s my fault? Is that really a battle I want to fight? Nope.

Then, though, someone wrote that what I reported isn’t what happened in court. Look, I love to read fiction. I really do. So trust me when I tell you that I don’t write “fiction” for the paper. I write ONLY what I see and hear. I don’t make things up. I don’t copy the work of others. If I have a question, I will do my best to get an answer from the source or I won’t include a “guess”.

It didn’t take too long for my face to return to its normal self. It wasn’t worth responding and starting a whole new conversation and possible insults.

So, why am I writing about it now? I guess it’s because I’m hoping that if some small thing is upsetting you and making your fingers itchy to respond, or your mouth ready to fire back – maybe, just maybe, you’ll think twice or even three times.

Pick your battles. And try to listen to that still, small voice that you know is right.

Let. It. Go.

See that? Oh, and this, and that, too

So many reminders. Thank God I have them here. All I have to do is look around me.

I see one over there. And just above it is another. Next to that, another.

They’re everywhere.

The dark spot in the brown photo is a ding in the kitchen counter. That is one tough counter, but I managed to mess it up.

It was a bright, sunny day when Gary decided it was time to put in a new kitchen window. We’d decided that with a huge house full of old, old windows, we’d buy one at a time and he would install them. He could do so many things.

The original window was the kind that had a handle on each side. You would turn it clockwise to open the window, and counter-clockwise to close them. Sometimes something would go wrong and the window would get stuck open.

Gary and almost everyone else we knew were aware of how terrified I am of flying, stinging things. So when he ripped out the old window, and went back down the ladder to bring up the new one, I stood at the too-large opening holding bug spray and a fly-swatter. Terrified.

For some reason I don’t remember, Gary handed me the really heavy window through the opening and told me to hold it for a minute. It slipped in my hand and a corner dinged the counter. As far as I know, it’s the biggest flaw we have in it, and it goes on for a long way in my kitchen.

Every now and then throughout the years I’ve been tempted to color the hole in. I have oodles of colored markers, pencils and such but I never did it. I won’t now. No, I want to keep it like it is because it’s a reminder of my sweetheart and the day we spent together “improving” our home.

The photo of the curtain-covered window reminds me of three things: the sink and faucets he bought at an auction, and the cupboards he labored over for weeks. He was so proud of all three. The sink has stains, the faucet probably should be replaced, and the cupboards could use some cleaning and a touch-up or two.

Still. I can look at these things, just like I look at his favorite place on the couch, or where he used to sit at the kitchen table, or, well, just about anywhere here.

In my home. In our home.

Wanna go to Branson with us? Okay!

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Oh, how I miss them! Gary’s mom is still here, but the other three? I can only imagine the Place they are now calling Home.

Almost every night before I go to bed I ask God to say Hi to my sweetheart. Then I tear up a little, and try to sleep. Seeing him in the photo reminds of why.

The picture above was taken in Branson, Missouri. We had a blast.

The traffic was a nightmare. The places we went to were unforgettable.

We saw some shows, ate out, shopped. We laughed our heads off. I had to hold onto Gary’s mom’s jacket most every time she stepped out of the car because it was so hilly.

We got to bunk with her, and usually when we were out and about, Vonnie, Mom and I would break off from the guys to peruse bookstores and such. The guys weren’t much interested in what we were doing and that was fine. They had their fun and we had ours.

We’d heard there was a million-dollar bathroom in one show venue. Turns out, that’s true. I asked someone who worked there if it was okay to take pictures and she assured me that most people did. I got some great shots that day. The guys were impressed with their facilities too, but we had to listen to a description ┬ásince we couldn’t, you know, go in and check it out for ourselves.

The shows amazed us. The restaurants were fantastic. Some of the wait staff went “over the top” in their service, and Tom told us it was because they were hoping to move on into show biz.

For Gary and me, this was our first and last trip to Branson. Vonnie and Tom had been many times. It was such a blessing to have them invite us and show us how to have a great time. We all grew closer over those few days, and boy, am I ever thankful I snapped some photos. You can see how much they enjoyed themselves, can’t you? And I assure you, I was smiling on the other side of the camera.

Walking, a dog, and a mad man

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Where do these dreams come from? I have no clue.

Well, that was high up there on the weird scale.

The dream I had last night was way, way out there. Gary has been in my dreams a lot lately, but I still don’t fully see his face. There’s no doubt it’s him, just kind of in a passing sort of way.

Last night’s adventure involved us walking up and down Third Street. I could actually walk, and it was totally amazing and believable. I went down the stairs just like I used to be able to and it felt great. Actually, there was no feeling at all – no pain – and I loved it.

The dream did eventually turn weird and it involved taking in an injured dog. He was brown, had dark spots and floppy ears. He also had something stuck in his teeth, like those bands you see holding boxes together. And there was an open injury on his shoulder that I couldn’t bear to look at.

There was also the “bad man” who drove me (I couldn’t find the car keys) to the wrong places and who was actually quite insane. Once I figured that part out, I tried and succeeded in waking up, then fell asleep and right back into the dream, then woke up again, and repeated.

I didn’t mind going back into the dream if I could see the dog. After all, in that “other world”, it was Gary who insisted we take the dog in. (I didn’t mention the kittens – they were there too, especially a tiny, cute, gray one. I can still here his tiny “meow”.)

Thing is, I kept coming back to the deranged guy. He wore grimy overalls, and once I realized he was quite mad it made me wonder why I would get into a van with him in the first place.

I’m not sorry I got myself up, even if it was just after 4:30. I foresee a nap today, and though I can hope, I’m sure it won’t be dreamless. If I see that guy, though, it’ll be a short one. And, it’ll be a really long, long night.

Safety at home. At work, too.

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View from my back deck. Blacki was watching for “friends” to walk by.

The other day I listened to someone asking what has happened to our world. I didn’t know how to answer.

I don’t go out in the world much anymore. I’m perfectly okay with that. From what I read and hear, you can get a mosquito bite that could kill you. Or, you could go to a store and get shot. I see no argument that staying home is bad for you.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I feel really safe when inside the courthouse with armed officers.

As I sat in one of the courtrooms the other day, one of the defendants passed by the sitting officers, raised his right hand, and flipped them off. I just shook my head.

I make no judgments on those who appear before the judge. I’ve had too much experience, through bench and jury trials, to assume anyone is guilty until proven so. But flipping off police officers doesn’t do a lot for one’s defense, in my humble opinion.

Please don’t think I’ve become a recluse. Gary and I didn’t go out all that much. Not having a car has probably curtailed a lot of my “running around”, and that’s okay, too. I don’t miss it. (Although now that I know you can pop into the theater and buy a popcorn without attending the movie, I may have to rethink that. I love their popcorn. Oh, and there’s the farmer’s market….)

If there’s anything I’d love to do, eventually, and after mosquito season has passed, is to sit out on my back deck. I’ll take music with me, a good book, and my phone to take pictures. It’s beautiful back there. My neighbor takes such awesome care of the yard, and Gary would be so proud.

Until then, I’ll sit in front of an open window, enjoying the breeze, the music, a good book. I’ll take my happiness (and safety) where I can get it.