Wednesday, April 29, 2009

23 and more

April 29th, 2007 and Jim was still alive. He was putting in a transfer to try and get a job in PA and maybe we could move. I had started a new job in January. His brother had passed a way from cancer just a few weeks earlier and he was struggling with that. It was all just 23 months ago.

I have been so busy at work that I didn't even realize the date till about 3 p.m. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks and my brain froze. I was in almost a meltdown stage when I got home, let the dogs out and looked at the mail. There, in the mail, a card. I wasn't expecting a card, it's not my birthday or any holiday. I opened the card and found a note and a couple of photos of a bush with some pink flowers (forsythia?). The card was from my Uncle Ed and Aunt Audena. It was a thank you card but really it was a note to tell me that they were thinking of me and more, they were thinking of Jim. The bush in the photos had been planted in memory of Jim. I didn't even know they had done this. They said they think of him when they look at it. It made me realize, once again, how many people he had touched.

Visiting my Aunt and Uncle on some of the holidays after my Mom passed away was something Jim and I did and enjoyed. Maybe once or twice a year we would go up and hang out with the cousins and have some fun. Great Halloween and NYE parties were found there. The fun really came in the family togetherness and the way they adopted Jim into the family so easily. They live about an 90 minutes away so we would drive up and make it a day trip.

I really miss driving with Jim. Or rather, riding with Jim on the day trips we would take. It was like we would get in the truck and just shoot in different directions. One time it may be due north and we would stop and see the cemetary where my Mom and grandparents are buried. Or maybe head west and stop in Gettysburg for the weekend, or East and just travel till we found someplace good to have dinner and then head home.
The fun was in the traveling together, the talking and sharing our favorite music with each other. Until I played some Toby Keith for him, you wouldn't have guessed that Jim was a country music fan. Well, he wasn't. Just Toby Keith fan I guess. He loved singing those songs. I learned Beatles music from him. Oh, and a lot of Beatles trivia also. I wasn't a Beatles music lover till I was in the truck with Jim singing it. He would look over and sing it right to me. Those were special moments.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Unwilling Tourist

One of the things left to me from my Dad is a 30 page memoir of the time he spent in the Army during World War 2.
My father never spoke about this time while we were growing up. That is common for the soldiers of that time and for the ones of today. He was a civilian soldier. That was what they were in WW2. Not drafted, didn't join to make it a career, they joined because their country needed them. The photo to the right is Dad just out of boot camp. On leave before going overseas.
My father was in Company A, 301 Regiment, 94th infantry, Third Army. He volunteered to join the Special 1st Battalion Recon. The 94th infantry was under General George Patton. Something my father was very proud of, and yet as children it was not spoken about (though I remember him taking all of us to see the movie Patton when it came out, I was 9). Dad fought in France and was in several battles and then captured and was a POW for 9 months.
The memoir gave a lot of information about not only the battles but what his state of mind was during that time. It was fascinating for me as a daughter to read this and get this insight into my father. To read of his bravery and his fear and his hunger and his hope. Well, it was amazing.
I have attended several of the 94th infantry reunions that were held. They have had one a year for the past 59 years. My dad found out about them in 1986 and went to them every year since then. The photo on the right is him and my stepmom at the reunion in 2008. He died about a month and a half later. He seemed to know this and told us at the reunion that it would be his last one. He had all his children and several of Betty's kids and he paid the bill for all of us and our rooms. He wanted us all there.
The hat he is wearing is now on mantel in a shadow box with a couple of his other 94th items. I have it next to Jim's flag given to me for his service in the Navy.
At the reunions in the past I found myself listening to the men as they spoke of their time during the war. Some told stories about fallen comrades and some argued points of strategy from a battle 60 years ago. A few years ago I was at one of the reunions and Jim was not there. He came to most of them, so I am not sure why he missed this one. Work most likely.
Anyway, as it got into the night, the men at our table seemed to forget I was there and they shared stories of a particularly bad battle that at least 3 of them were in. My dad was not. I started taking notes in dim light on paper napkin. One man was telling how he and his buddy went in to the battle and his buddy fell, dead, two shots in his chest. The man scooped him up and tried to carry him out of range. More shots rained down around him and he said, almost in tears, that he used his friends body as a shield so that he could get to safety.
Dad was captured along with others on January 16. 1945. His memories of his time as a POW were both interesting and sad. He wrote about the hunger when they were prisoners and the red cross boxes that never made it to them. There was one potato a day for 12 men and how they would have to stretch that to make it thru till the next day. He was an artist and to do something while the days dragged on, he would draw using charcoal from the fire. He started doing this on walls of barns where they stayed and he wrote that many of the other POW's would ask him to draw on their jackets. He said the things most often requested were pictures of food. One interesting observation that my dad made was the division of black and white in the army. And yet, how that dissolved when they became prisoners.
The 94th Infantry has a monument for their service down in Fort Benning, Geogia. My father designed it. He was very proud of this and worked on it for months. All four of his children attended the dedication ceremony in Georgia. This is a photo taken of him (on the left). The ceremony was wonderful and afterwards we visited a room just filled with war memorabilia - jackets, maps, guns, lots of photos and many more things that members had donated for the museum.
I am going to create a pdf of his memoir and send it to my siblings. I would like them to share it with their children. I am very honored and proud of my dad and what he did for our country.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Big and Red

I am getting a Fire Truck!!!

The fax from the Fire Department came today and they said they will have a Fire Truck coming to the Health Fair for 2 hours. The Health Fair is an event that I am organizing and 98% has been with no help. That wasn't how it was supposed to be, but since I am the one committed to it, I am the one doing the work. I am feeling good about what I have gotten done and who is lined up to come. It has been a couple months of sending emails, calling offices and getting confirmations. I don't think I will ever do anything like this again, but this once taught me a lot.

Just doing the happy dance about the fire truck. Now, if I could get somebody to walk my dogs down there, I could get pics of them with the truck!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Sunny day and the Dark Knight

Yesterday was a simply gorgeous day. Bright sun, no humidity and warm temperatures. I decided to make it a backyard day.

First was to spend a couple hours helping my fellow neighbors to clean up our streets and alleys. There is a 'clean up day' twice a year when we go out in small groups and attack various parts of our neighborhood. We had both young and old helping and it was nice to see them together. Granted, the young male teens all gravitated towards the slightly older but still young pretty young grad students that were there, but no matter, because it got the job done.

I came home and took in the view from my bathroom of our yard. Yes, the bathroom has a huge window, much larger than is normal for a bathroom. It overlooks the backyard. I looked out there and thought of how things have been the same for 6 years. So I closed my eyes and thought of how to rearrange the yard and more specifically the things in the yard. I came up with a plan and started in on it.

First thing was to go get some color. It was off to Home Depot, Walmart and a local nursery. I got some hanging baskets of pansies, some tiger lily's and some pretty purple plants I am not sure what they are called.

Then it was move everything out of the yard, hose all the cement down and put things back the way I wanted. There are still modifications to be made, but I think it will work rather well. My table won't be sinking in the dirt (it's on the cement area) and the dogs space will be easier to clean. An encouraging note was when I found the small japanese maple that I put in a pot last year actually survived and seems to be growing. When I say small, I mean small. It's height is about 8 inches and it has some very miniature leaves. It did persevere the winter and I gave it some fresh dirt and some plant food. I got that as a freebie last year from our community garden. They advertised free trees. I went expecting something a couple feet tall and got a small sprout. I wanted to plant this in honor of Jim. Well, I guess I did, and hopefully it will keep on going.

Speaking of planting in honor of Jim. While visiting my brother I was able to see what a great garden and landscape area he had. They went out to the nursery as a family afternoon event and I went along. I just wandered the back area of the nursery looking at plants and trees and bushes. While there I stumbled across a bush/shrub called the caryopteris Dark Knight. It is a small shrub that has a very pretty blue/purple bloom and is said to attract butterflies. I knew as soon as I saw it, I had to have one. I talked with my brother and he agreed that I could plant them in his yard. I bought two. One in remembrance of my father and one in remembrance of Jim.

Now, here is what you must understand. Jim is a Batman fan. I mean, he has the comics, the model Batmobile, he can quote lines from the movie, he has Adam Wests autograph on a dvd of the Batman movie from the 60's. Hanging in a closet is the Batman costume that he made himself and wore for halloween one year. That is special because I helped, after seeing him struggle with the mask part, I found in a Halloween shop a latex mask at half price. It was the perfect touch to the costume.

Batman is even a part of what brought us together. I went to his store to apply for a job and had the Batman button on my coat, he noticed and mentioned it when I got the job application from him. I pinned it to the application so he would remember me. He did.

Finding this bush was a sign. I mean, Batman is the Dark Knight. Jim is Batman. This was the perfect choice for something to plant for him. Which amusing me because I struggled last year to have a tree planted at the one year mark and didn't make it (well, except for the small japanese maple in the pot out back). I knew that nothing I had seen to plant was right. Yet.

I asked my brother to plant these in his yard because he has the space and he will be in that house for many more years. I left a rock with "I love you" on it at the base of the plant.

At the nursery yesterday I learned that these plants can be kept in a large pot for the deck and will last a few years before they may outgrow it. I am going to pick one up next week and have it in the yard. A Dark Knight to watch over me.

Sunday and photos

A friend of mine was talking about memories of her lost one. Her daughter. It started me thinking this morning, early this morning about memories of my Jim.
I started the blog to try and remember all the things I could about Jim and I and what we had together and to do this so he wouldn't be forgotten. So I wouldn't forget.
I was reviewing my photo files in a hope to get them organized. I have tons of photos stored on my pc and external hard drive. Many are duplicates that have been put into two or three files - the same photo under "Jim" and "Family pics" and "Jim and Betsy". I am not sure of a good method to get them sorted out.
However, I did pull up one of the last photos taken of Jim. We were visiting his brother and wife in Georgia and there is a great shot of Jim and I on a bench at the local market. I magnifyed the shot of Jim's head and sat here staring at it.
I started to think about all the things I really loved about this man.
The eyebrows, and the feel of them under my fingertips. He had bushy eyebrows that reminded me very much of my father's. Jim kept his trimmed and neat, my Dad let his grow wild. From there my eyes strayed to his eyes and looking at this picture I could almost feel myself touching his warm smooth skin. He was a good looking man for his age and though life had not been easy for him, his face didn't show it. .
I smile as I look at the mole above the right eye on his forehead, just because it was a part of him. I smile more when I look at the small scar above the left eye. That's where he said his first wife hit him with an iron. Oh he was a charmer, he was. I smile and shake my head at the goatee he has in this picture. I wasn't crazy about it, and so when asked, I told the funeral home to shave it off. He would grow a goatee every few years and this last time was when he got his new job - he wanted a new look. He was very proud of his 1/16th or so American Indian blood he had in him. He claimed that was why he was not able to grow a full beard. He really had no facial hair along the side of his face and it was an interesting quirk.
I look at his face overall and I see the love of life that he had. It is projected even though he isn't really smiling in the photo, there is a hint of one. But rather in the whole way he looks and how he is on the edge of a grin with the eyes twinkling and the slightly cocked head. Yep that was Jim. He really loved his laughter and to have others laughing.
You can't see me in this cropped version, but beside him in this photo is me. I am sitting there and smiling. I have this look on my face which you see in many photos of Jim and I. It is a look of pride to be next to him. A friend said it is a look of happiness to be a part of this duo.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dog food meatballs

Today was the first low stress day in a few. Getting in the groove with taking care of Mercury has been a strain but adding another dog that is jealous of the attention and shows me she is jealous by peeing as soon as I walk out the door or if I go upstairs. Yes, that is Tigger I am talking about.

Mercury's diet consists of dog food meatballs. I haven't gotten them perfected yet, but if I can make them small and sort of toss them at him they go deep down his throat and he doesn't have to struggle. They vet says that eventually he will learn a new way to eat, but for now this gets him his food. There is a bucket of water out back now with water for him. It is easier for him to drink that way then with the regular bowl. He sort of slurps it up.

I suggest to anyone who has a dog that has had 60% of his tongue removed to never ever look inside the mouth. I did it yesterday and I totally freaked. There was just this hole/space/nothingness where there used to be a big lappy drooly tongue. I sat and cried.

Dogs aside, I realized last night that I am catching myself forgetting things. Jim things. The feel of his hands on my hips or his kiss is more a memory of a memory. I long to hear his voice and may run the one where he is in a play. He is saying lines like a character (Clark Kent) but it will still be his voice.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dog days

I picked up Mercury from the vet yesterday. He is off of pain meds and seems pretty chirpy. The vet said he is eating, but we have a special method to get around him having to chew too much and thus use the tongue. He is drinking a lot of water and I am not sure if that is because he is dehydrated from the kennel or if it eases his tongue. He snuggled on the couch with me last night and it was wonderful to have both dogs near me.

I know there is a limited time with him, but am unsure how limited. I guess the trick is one day at a time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Painting the bunny

Jack is hunting for Easter eggs.

This Easter was spent at my older brothers home and with his family. It was a good weekend and a lot of fun. He has a couple of great daughters and his wife and he open the home up to extended family every weekend. I loved their tradition of Friday night/family night dinner and the big Sunday evening family dinner. It shows a wonderful spirit of what we had when we were growing up with my parents.

My great nephew is a little guy named Jack. In the photo below he is helping Nona (grandmom) to 'paint the bunny'. Painting is what he called it when they were putting the icing on the cake. After done icing it they put some jellybeans in for the ears. Well Jack decided that two jellybeans was not enough and proceeded to stick jellybeans wherever he could on that poor bunny.
He is a very intelligent and quick learning two year old. He remembered me from my Thanksgiving visit and wasn't shy about interacting with me. He is also the first grandchild so he is surrounded by 7 adults ranging in age from 21- 81. Oh, yes, he has his melt downs but then what two year old doesn't?

One thing that was interesting - my brother and I talked about what I wanted to do in the future. I told him I never really felt like Baltimore was 'home' even after 20 years here. And I would like to be closer to family. It was okay when Jim was around and my Dad was nearby, but now, there is no family to lean on or visit with. He told me that even after 20 years where he is, it didn't feel like 'home'. We even briefly talked of my moving closer to them. I was happy that he didn't dissuade the idea. He even told me of a place to apply for a job. I left feeling good about life at the moment and it was definately a good visit.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I will be in and out most of the weekend, so posting will be spotty (ha ha).

Mercury update - I went to the vets today and they want to keep him a little longer. They did let me sit in an exam room and see him. I talked to him for a bit, rubbed his ears and gave him hugs. He rubbed his slobber and bits of blood on me and then lay down and put his head on my lap while I lavished love on him. I talked to him about how his daddy was watching over him and making sure that things were okay. I told him the cancer sucks but maybe daddy is lonely and needs to have Merc because they were buddies. Gryphon our first Dal is hanging out with Jim but Gryph was more my dog than Jim's. Mercury bonded to Jim a lot more. So I told him that we would have a great summer together and we would see how things went along. There was a lot of wet food in his future and I know how much he enjoys that. At the word "food" he perked his head up and looked at me with those adorable brown eyes. I had to stop talking for a bit. I think in the end though, we both felt calmer afterwards.

The vet tech said she was happy to see how calm he was because sometimes seeing an owner gets them all riled up. But he has always been a pretty calm guy and I am sure the drugs he is on helped too. Well, and besides my calming personality (again, ha ha). I tried anyway. At one point when I was noticing how dusty it was and my eyes were getting leaky, I stopped and told myself that he shouldn't feel my agitation and I calmed down.

On another note, shopping for an Easter outfit is really tough. I couldn't find any pretty pastel colors to wear and I am not sure what I will do. All the suits with pants or skirts are for the fall and winter, so they are dark. I hate fashion. I am happy in a polo shirt and jeans and some crocs.


So my last newsflash was a bit premature. I mean, it was good in that Mercury made it thru the surgery, but not good in that the report the vet gave me afterwards was bad.

The vet was able to remove only 60% of the tumor on his tongue. And he said it was extensive, more than he thought, and that being so, it will come back aggressively.

I may have the summer with Mercury. We are not sure what timeline to give it. 4, 6 or 8 months.

I will enjoy the time and let him know that he is loved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Out in the field

Mercury is okay at the moment. He had the surgery on his tongue to hopefully remove all or most of the cancerous cells. I called the vets and they said he is groggy and they may want to keep him overnight, and I should call back at 6pm to actually talk to the vet about it. I am happy because his coming out of the anathesia was a worry. What is next is a bigger worry.

So now, you will get treated to a few more Mercury and Tigger pictures. These were taken just Saturday at my Dad's.
They started the day off running -

And they end the day in utter bliss and exhaustion!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


It was a very pretty Sunday. That sort of spring on the edge of summer day. I spent the morning making a list of all the things I needed to do around the house. Then, when it came to do them I opted for a couple hours in the backyard on the bench with a dog and a book. The time spent outside was calming and enjoyable in that I could rub Mercury's ears with one hand and hold my book with the other. I am reading a series known as the "southern vampires" that is about a southern woman and her vampire boyfriend. It came out before Twilight and there is a series of the books now. It is a murder mystery series that has the twist of vampire in it.

Sometimes you just need a day like that. It doesn't happen often, but that makes it all the more appreciated.

I went out this afternoon to get my hair trimmed. I am horrible at keeping it under control or 'in style'. When it grows out to a certain point I whack at it myself till I can't stand what I do to it and then I stalk off to the stylist. Today's stylist took a bit too much off. I guess it is good for the summer and it will grow back, but really it was at a length that I was liking and I only wanted a trim for god's sake. Sigh.

The search for what to wear on Easter Sunday to church is on. I am horrible at picking things like this out and am even worse at finding stuff that fits. In my mind, I think of myself about 4 sizes smaller than I really am. This makes it tough. I would love to go on one of those extreme makeover shows. Get the lipo for my belly and arms, the teeth reconstruction and a nose job. I guess I have to start trying on skirts and shoes to see which ones still fit. Another sigh there.

Today was an awakening more than ever before that the warm months are coming. I had windows and door open and was airing the house to get the winter smell out of the place. Out with the old, in with the new.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dad's on a Saturday

These shots were taken in the previous years at my Dad's farm. I don't think any words can add to the photos. The last pic was taken on the dock where my Dad's ashes will be released in the pond on Easter. This is as per his wishes and I think very appropriate.

The dogs and I are going out to my Dad's today. The weather is going to be nice, the sky sunny and they can run around and have some fun. I am going to take some photos and capture some memories.
Technically the farm isn't Dad's but my stepmom's. She has always encouraged us to come out and it is a great escape from the city. A country place that is not really farmed, it is more a house on a hill with a yard - a huge yard - and a hill leading down to a picnic area and a pond.
Readers will have to suffer through pics of the dynamic duo at Dad's. I know it will be painful to see unbashed cuteness, but people show off their children so I will show of my babies. : )

Friday, April 3, 2009


This was taken at my desk and Jim is reading his emails. It was taken in 12/06 and he had gotten home from work just a few minutes earlier. I was making dinner and I am not sure why I snuck upstairs to take his picture. But I am glad I did.

Jim and I went to Disney and we found the Dalmatian Hotel. This was in the courtyard.

This is one I hadn't seen in a long time, and it is perfect for how I am feeling right now.

One of my very favorites - Jim and I visiting a friend (and her children) and Jim got up to watch saturday morning tv with them. I love his 'bed head' hair. And that Iain was wearing the Superman pj's.