Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winter Pictures

In my attempt to appreciate winter more, I took pictures in my yard on December 29th. The next day I took a short trip to Cedarburg, WI and brought along my camera.

Cedarburg is a small, charming German town about 25 miles north of Milwaukee. My grandparents lived in this town in a house built by my Grandmother's grandparents. I have wonderful memories of Cedarburg and my grandparents (Oma and Opa). Cedarburg is a great place to shop and is host to many festivals throughout the year. It has grown, but has kept its old world charm.

Anyway, here are the pictures I took. The first few are from my garden, the rest are from Cedarburg.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Long Winter Nights

I don't do well in winter.

I have SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) to some extent. So did my Mom, so I guess I inherited it.

I try to be aware of it. I try not to let it affect me, but these long dark nights and cold days really do a number on me - my health, my emotions, my attitude - just everything.

I want to live in a climate where in winter I grab a light coat to go out - not a heavy coat, scarf, hat, mittens, warm socks and ugly shoe-like boot things to keep my feet dry.

I dislike getting up in the dark and coming home in the semi-dark. I dislike not being able to walk my dogs because of the cold (and salt on the sidewalks) and I don't feel safe walking them in the dark during the winter. Where are my flowers? Buried deep beneath the soil. I start to doubt if I will ever see them again!

I get so anxious. I get easily frustrated. My emotions run high and then low - I bounce all over the place. I shut down-figuratively and literally. I'm tired. Where's my cave? I put on (even more) weight. I cry a lot and am overly sensitive. Did I mention that I am so very tired? It is like my emotions are on a tight rope and I'm not doing a very good balancing act.

I want the sun. I've sick of snow and it's only the first month of winter. I'm sick of my shovel.

Although I get a lot of reading done, I lose energy and interest in other things. I have great plans for projects to do each winter and each winter I fail miserably at them - I rarely even start them.

I want to be left alone, yet I feel clingy.

I try to see the beauty in the season, and I do to a point. I enjoy the beautiful sunsets in winter, the fresh, crisp air, fresh snow on the trees. I like seeing kids playing, building snowmen, sledding. I love watching the birds at my feeder - stocking up before a storm.

Then the snow gets dirty and ugly. The streets are filthly, garbage piles up, my car is dirty all of the time. I hate it.

UGH! It is so frustrating.

I need sun. I need warmth. I need a long walk with Phil, with my dogs.

After this winter, only 2 more before I can retire. It can't come soon enough. After I retire I only want to see snow on calendar pictures.

More Books

As I mentioned in my last post, there were 19 books that were not chosen to be read by my book group in 2008. Of the 19 I have read 4 (Time Traveler's Wife, Anywhere But Here, Daughter of Fortune and The Thirteenth Tale) and have 1000 Splendid Suns (audio version) on the waiting list to get from the library.

Will I read the other 14? Don't know. I'm only familiar with a couple of them and I might read those. So unless I get any input on any others, I probably won't. The book I recommended, The Thirteenth Tale, didn't make the cut. It is a great book, unusual, somewhat Gothic. Sally recommended it to me and I loved it. Oh, well . . . it has a great website - - check it out!

Here is a list of the books not chosen:

Evil Genes by Barb Oakley
Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Almost Moon by Alice Seybold
1000 Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Dante Club by M. Perle
The Most Wanted by J. Michard
Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson
Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beach
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
Bethlehem Road by Ann Perry
Farmboys by William Felloews
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Daughter of Fortune by Isabelle Allende
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Vegetable, Animal, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate
Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch


Book Club

I belong to a Women's Book Group through my church

The group recently selected the books to be read in 2008. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend that night, but am happy with the books chosen. I've read 3 of them already so it should be an easy year.

I have either read or listened to: Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tam (excellent, I enjoy her books); Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (grabbed at the airport on the way home from Costa Rica and glad I did!) and Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (listened on CD - very funny and highly informative book about the Appalachian Trail).

I find the list includes one classic and a host of fantastic authors.

So, here is what I will be reading for sure the next year. Plus, all the books on CD and other recommendations. My next post will be of the books not chosen for 2008 - there are 19 of them. These women LOVE to read!

Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
Plain Truth by Jodi Picout
Come Along with Me by Shirley Jackson
Lolita by Nabakov
Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan
Pushing the Bear by Diane Glancy
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
1000 White Women by Jim Fergus
Walk in the Wood by Bill Bryson
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wrapping Gifts (A Lesson in Frustration!)

I'm wrapping presents tonight.

Unfortunately, I'm terrible at it.

Luckily, I don't have too many to wrap!

Thank goodness for gift bags!!!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Still of the Night

Winter Solstice

Of all of the Earth-based holidays/celebrations, winter solstice is my favorite. Not only because of its closeness to the Christian celebration of Christmas, but because it means the return of the light. The end of the year, the birth of a new year. A time of hope, joy and peace.

The midwinter sun stays a little longer each day. The return of the sun light brings forth the moment of new beginnings.

For me it is a time of reflection, a time of hope, a fresh start to the new year. A time of knowing that the days are longer and having the sun light kiss my face.

Tonight it is snowing like crazy. I've just returned from Terri's house where I brought her a Middle Eastern birthday dinner (Happy Birthday, Terri - December 17th). The drive home was slippery and I am happy to be in my snug house, flannel pj's and drinking hot chocolate. The dogs are curled up on my lap and at my feet and I'm looking at the Christmas lights in my living room. My bird feeders are full so the birds won't be hungry in the morning. A new shovel is waiting for me on the front porch. Phil is with his daughter this weekend, but I know he is with me in spirit, as always.

I feel peaceful. I feel content. Solstice will be here in a few days. I will light candles and know that all is well, that all is well, that all is well.

May the circle open, but never be broken. Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again. Happy Solstice every one.
For a cool website on Winter Solstice see

Monday, December 10, 2007

They Don't Get Much Cuter

It's an auntie's right to brag - similar to that of a grandmother. So, here are 2 pictures of my youngest great-niece, Shannon Erin. One was taken in June and the other on December 1st.

I have another adorable great-niece, Cadyn, who lives in Atlanta and is equally as cute. I don't see her much, but here is one from last March, along with her, extremely handsome brother, Coggan.

Then there is Aaron, Shannon's 15 year old big brother, who avoid cameras like they are the plague. Here is one from last March with me.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas

A few years ago my church lady friend, Nikki, turned me on to this song by Dar Williams. I really like it and it helps to create a bridge between the Pagans and Christians during this holiday season. Enjoy! (Thank you Earth-Bound Spirit for walking me through the uploading video experience. Not quite sure how I did it after a dozen attempts, but this try worked!)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Flu Blues

I've had the flu.

It started on Tuesday when I woke up with a headache that just wouldn't go away. I felt fine otherwise, but no matter what I tried, the headache lingered.

That night I had the chills and a fever. The night was full of nightmares, groans, aches and pains. I worried about getting up to let the dogs out, I couldn't get warm, I was too hot. Horrible monsters chased me in dreams (so much for the "thriller" book I am reading - it came to life that night). Wednesday was spent in my jammies, thick socks, slippers, a bathrobe, blankets and since no matter what I did I couldn't get my hands warm, gloves. I was never up for more than an hour. I piled blankets on the bed, drink lots of liquids (mostly warm) and waited it out. I must admit, I have never slept in gloves before. I hope I never feel the necessity to do so again.

Phil was out of town and couldn't be with me. I knew he was worried. He had the same bugga bugga a few days before, so he had a pretty good idea of how miserable I was.

This morning was better. A shower is a wonderful thing! All of my bedding got washed and I felt a little more human. Phil came up for a few hours and gave me some much needed TLC. Tonight I am almost back to normal (whatever that is!).

Back to work tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Let Me Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is here and I am filled with gratitude for so many things in my life. I am blessed with so much. When I think of all I am grateful for, my heart swells. So, I decided to count my blessings. And, although there are many more then listed below, here are a few.

  • Philip. What can I say about this wonderful man? I've waited a lifetime and he is well worth the wait. He makes my heart sing. He is my greatest blessing.

  • My family. Parents who truly loved me and did their best, which was pretty darn good. Two sisters who are loving and supportive. A small extended family that I try to keep up with. My "greats:" Aaron, Coggan, Cadyn and Shannon. How wonderful are they?
  • My home. After 8 years it is still my place of safety and security and love. Every single day when I leave it or come home to it, I look at it with pride. I own a home.

  • My dogs. They have taught me unconditional love and to take responsibility for a life other than mine. They make me laugh every day. Some people say dogs don't have souls. I beg to differ. Not only do they have souls, but they have helped me find mine.
  • Friends. From Vicki, Beth and Shelley whom I have known since grade school to new friends I've made over the years. My church ladies, who are always an email away. Over the years I truly don't know what I would have done with them. Anne-Marie, who lives in another country yet we remain close. Friends I've made through my various work locations, like Nancy and Terri. Sally, my traveling gal pal and one of the few people I can talk to about anything and everything. Thank all of you for being there and hanging in there with me.

  • Books. I love books. One of the greatest things about the United States is the library system. My life would be so empty without books. I can't remember not reading and appreciate the gifts of all the writers of every book in the world.

  • A job I love. I can't say all of my almost 30-year career with the City of Milwaukee has been great, but I have never had to ask for a raise, I've had great health care and have had a very wide and varied amount of experiences. I've learned a lot. And, right now I have the best job I've ever had. I work with great, hard working dedicated people. All of whom I really appreciate.

  • The ability to enjoy nature and all of Her beauty. I love my flowers and the birds at my feeders. I love seeing the sun rise over the roof tops and bell tower of St. Augustine's. I have seen and experienced Natures beauty from different parts of the world. The Earth's beauty is a great blessing for all of us, if we would just open our eyes and look.

I'm sure I will be adding to this list over the next few days. Some blessings I will keep to myself, though and continue to say a quiet prayer of thanks.

May all of you have the opportunity to sit down, be still, and count your blessings. I think you'll be surprised at how many you have.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blessings and Chocolate Shakes

Every other Sunday I go to visit my Dad, who resides in a nursing home. Dad has Alzheimer's. Sometimes he remembers me, sometimes he doesn't. But, that's OK - he is well cared for, the home is outstanding and he is happy and cheerful. He is always glad to see me, and on a good day remembers who I am after a few minutes.

Dad's roommate is Don. I don't know much about Don. He has Parkinson's and has great difficulty talking. I know from the pictures on his wall that he has kids, but I have never seen him with a visitor.

Don, as well as all the other residents, love it when I bring my dog, Gracie, to see Dad. He also enjoys children and was thrilled when my nephew brought Dad's great-granddaughter, Shannon, to visit as a baby a year ago. I took Shannon, just a few weeks old, to Don and he gently touched her and smiled and laughed. He could not take his eye's off of her.

My sister, Sue, discovered last summer that Don loves chocolate and sweets in general. She had stopped at LeDucs (in Wales, WI) frozen custard stand and brought both Dad and Don a shake. Don was thrilled.

I go see Dad on Sundays in the morning, right before he goes to lunch. I plan it so that we have 45-60 minutes together before his lunch. When I go to see Dad I try to make the time to stop first at LeDucs. Sometimes I am pushing to get there before lunch and don't make the time to stop. Sometimes I forget. But today I remembered, gave myself enough time, and got a chocolate shake for Don and a strawberry shake for Dad.

Dad was sitting in his wheelchair in the hall when I arrived. Obviously, he didn't know who I was, but he smiled and agreed to sit in the sun room with me. I left him for a minute, walked down the hall and found Don nodding off in their room.

I lightly touched Don's shoulder and he looked up. I told him who I was and that I had a surprise for him. He smiled a little. I held up the white LeDuc's bag.

For a split second, for a tiny moment in time, I didn't see Don as an elderly man, in a wheel chair, ravished by Parkinson's, but as a 7 year old Don on Christmas morning or maybe seeing the best birthday present a 7 year old could imagine. His whole face changed, he smiled and beamed.

I pulled out the shake and he reached out for it before I had time to put the straw in it. I added the straw and I teased him by saying, "Don, the nurse might not like you having a shake before lunch - you'll ruin your lunch. He frowned a little and I continued, "But, I won't tell if you don't tell!" He beamed and I left him to enjoy it. He whispered a faint, "Thank you!"

I wheeled Dad to the sun room and give him his shake. After a couple of sips he said it was wonderful, but made him cold, so I went back to the room for a sweater. Don was totally enjoying his shake, his eyes shining.

Dad and I had a nice visit and I think that if he could, he would have happily licked the plastic cup the shake came in! He remembered who I was - at least for a few minutes. I wheeled him into the dining room for lunch and kissed him good bye. As I looked over, there was Don at another table struggling to eat jello. I went over to him and gave him a little hug and asked which flavor I should bring next time. He whispered, "strawberry."

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes in our busy lives, it is hard to see them. But, they are always there, probably more then we realize. Today for a blink in time I saw a 80+ year frial old man turn back into a 7 year old boy. All it took was a chocolate shake. Now that was a true blessing.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Phil and I are looking for houses.

Not a house to share immediately, but a house we will retire to and live in for years and years to come.

Since I live in Milwaukee and he lives outside of Chicago and we are looking in the southeastern states, this can get confusing!

We have some specific criteria about the area we want to live in. It has to be in a golf community. It needs be on or near water. We need to be close to a major airport. The community at large should be progressive. There should be a mixture of "mature adults" and young families. We want things to do besides look at the water and golf, so we want it to be located close to a college or university and it should be a community that offers activities, clubs, events, etc.
We have some specific criteria regarding the type of house we want. Phil wants a large home, big enough for entertaining, something we both enjoy. I want everything I need all on one floor - with other bedrooms and guest areas away from the master bedroom. We won't be "downsizing" that's for sure! We want it to have a casual feel, with open space, windows that let lots of light in and a feeling that our guests can walk in, sit down and put their feet up. A large kitchen that we can both work in (since we enjoy cooking together) as well as others who want to help and a formal dining area in which to share these meals. A designated office space for Phil, an area of quiet space for me. Plenty of bathrooms and a large, social area for guests to enjoy on their own, away from the public area of the house. Whoosh! That's a lot, and not all. The lot has to be large enough for the dogs and for me to do serious gardening. Phil would like a pool (a pool on lake property?), and not too close to neighbors.

So far we have seriously considered the Asheville, NC area. While I love this area, Asheville and the mountains, Phil would like to be near water. His concern is that it might get too cold for me in the winter months (one more criteria - not months and months of cold, but a 4 season area).

I have just returned from Hilton Head with my friends Terri and Sally. It is a beautiful area. I looked at houses in the Hilton Head area including Wexford , Palmetta Dunes and Spanish Wells. While an ocean view would be great (saw 2 we could afford with beautiful views that would include dolphins swimming by), I worry about hurricanes and alligators (more inland). I fear that in the peak tourist months, Hilton Head would be like living in Wisconsin Dells or Door County. Too many people and too much traffic.

We seem to be gravitating towards southeast Georgia. We have found a large golf community, on a lake, within 75 minutes of the Atlanta airport. The people are very friendly, there is a lot to do within the plantation (a name these communities are called down south, which I really dislike). There are restaurants and stores all nearby. There are books clubs, golf clubs, discussion groups - a million different things to become involved with and the community promotes participation in several volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity. There is ample shopping and medical centers close, a movie theater and it is close to several great small towns as well as Atlanta, Athens and Macon. Hilton Head is a drivable 3 1/2 hours away. Most important for Phil is that there are 5 golf courses within the plantation and more coming, as well as many more courses in the general area.

This is a big decision for us. With retirement just over 2 years away for Phil and just under 3 years for me, maintaining yet a 3rd house (at last for the next year or so) seems a little nuts. And, this is a HUGE commitment for both of us.

Yet, the closer we get to narrowing down the exact house we want, the more excited we become. We were down exploring this community over Labor Day Weekend and looked at a 6 or 7 houses. I went down during a visit to my sister's in Atlanta in October and looked at a 6 or 7 more homes, returning to one in particular.

Phil and I just returned from "President's Weekend" where potential buyers are invited down for a fully comped weekend. This was a very low key sales pitch event and we were treated extremely well, including 2 nights at the Ritz-Carleton. We enjoyed ourselves immensely. We looked at a few houses, 2 of which we have both seen before and seem to be zeroing in on one in particular. We met some great people and seemed to have developed a very good friendship with our real estate agent and his wife, as well as a couple of their friends. It seems like it will be a good fit. I will be in Atlanta with family over Thanksgiving and will return to the house we like once again to check out the some of the furnishing included with the house.
And despite finding one house we both like, I have plans spread out on my dining room table, just in case we decide to build!

What will we decide? Well, time will tell. The important thing is is that Phil and I are continuing to grow in our relationship and to building a life together. We are planning a home that is welcoming and a good space to be in. It will be filled with love and laughter and it will be a place we can turn to in times of need. It won't be my home in Milwaukee or his home in Chicago, but our home. How wonderful is that?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I got squished tonight.

In other words, I went in for my annual mammogram.

This to me is a no brainer. It takes a few minutes, is very uncomfortable while it is being done, but once it is done, you are good to go.

Breast cancer runs in my family. My mother had it, my cousin, Lavetta, died from it and my cousin, Peg, is a breast cancer survivor. My grandmother (on my Dad's side) also had breast cancer. When I was 25 I had a benign tumor removed from my right breast. From then on, I haven't missed an annual exam.

Funny thing is that my little dog, Gracie, just had surgery for breast cancer a week ago. Now you may think, "A dog?" But, yes, it's possible. One of her nipples was red and swollen. It was removed and the pathology report was Stage I breast cancer. Fortunately, the tissue that was removed around the cancerous tissue was clear. And, in 24 hours Gracie was back to normal. Both the vet and I will watch her carefully, but she should be just fine.

Men can also have breast cancer. Tonight, I asked the technician who performed my mammogram about it. She said she has done several mammograms on men. They are very embarrassed about it, but it is more common than people realize.

I have several women friends who are breast cancer survivors. They are all strong women - as anyone is who survives cancer. I'm proud of them as I am of my cousin, Peg.

My sister recently had her mammogram as well has the new ultrasound test for breast cancer detection. I asked the technician about the possibility of the ultrasound for me as well, since I am considered a high breast cancer risk (due to family history). She stated I should talk to my doctor, but it would probably be a good idea. When I go in for my yearly physical in a couple of weeks, that will be discussed and I will push to have it done.

All is this being pro-active when it comes to my health and well-being. A mammogram is quick and easy and bring me peace of mind.
If you are a woman and you are reading this, I hope you, too, have been "squished" this year! If not, you still have time! And, don't forget the monthly self exams!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Just Breathe

I have sleep apnea. What this means is that periodically during the night I stop breathing. For more information check out:

I noticed the problem myself, as well as Phil. So, last July I went in for a sleep study. After being hooked up to wires on over 20 different places on my body from my head, arms, chest, legs and neck, I was expected to fall asleep while being monitored by a sleep technician. Funny as it may seem, I did fall asleep and slept pretty well. The technician told me that if I exhibited signs of sleep apnea, she would come in during the night and hook me up to a CPAP device. And, sure enough, I was woke up in the middle of the night and a CPAP was placed over my mouth and nose.

CPAP's come in different sizes and shapes. Most cover your nose and mouth and force air into you. This air forces the breathing passages to stay open while you sleep and you don't stop breathing.

Two weeks later I returned to the doctor for the results. According to the sleep study results, I stopped breathing while sleeping an average of 24 times per hour for more than 10 seconds at a time. I have a mild to moderate form of sleep apnea. The doctor told me of one patient that stopped breathing while sleeping over 84 times in an hour.

So, I now have a CPAP or breathing machine. It sits next to the bed and I hook myself up every night. It doesn't cover my mouth, as it fits into my nostrils. It's been an adjustment, but if I can keep in on all night, I do wake up feeling better, more refreshed and awake.

I was pretty shy about letting Phil see me wearing it for the first time. But, being the loving and supportive man that he is, he suggested I fall asleep with it on alone and he would come to bed later. It worked. We were still able to snuggle and he said it hardly makes any noise - a lot quieter than my gasping for breath during the night! He also teases me about sleeping with a scuba diver. Between my CPAP machine and my restless leg syndrome (for which I am on medication,, I must be a real "joy" to sleep with!

Oh, well . . .

I'll see how this works, how difficult it is to haul on trips, etc. But, if it puts an end to my constant tiredness then it will be worth the long adjustment period.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall is in the Air

Autumn is officially here. The official fall equinox was in September, but more than that I can feel it in the air. Despite the warm temperatures of the last few weeks, there is a coolness there, too. I can also hear fall in the wind in the trees, the leaves making a more brittle sound. And, it just smells like fall. My flowers are fading and pumpkins are appearing in the stores.

And, today the cold weather really has set in. I yanked the window air conditioner out of my bedroom window and added another blanket to my bed. My heat is on and I'm in my flannel jammies.

But, you know how I tell autumn is arriving? It's the geese.

Late August/early September the geese start to flock together. While outside or walking the dogs, I hear them honking and look up to see their V formation. Even though most of the geese around here don't fly south, they still follow their instincts to form the V formation and call out to each other

I happen to be a fan of geese. They have a lot of great attributes. To me the best is that they mate for life. It's seems to me that if geese can mate for life, we should be able to do the same. They also assist each other with the raising of their young. What a concept!

According to Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small by Ted Andrews the "goose epitomizes the mystery of migration. They constantly shift formation, creating wind drafts and easier flights for those behind them in the formation. This reminds us that as any one individual makes his or her quest, it becomes easier for others to do so as well."

Andrews also points out that by not flying directly behind each other the "goose's view is unobstructed, reminding us that we should not undertake any quest in life without having a full view of what it entails. In this way the journey is facilitated for others."

There is also symbolic meaning in the V formation as it "reflects by its shape an opening to new possibilities."

And while I'm not happy about the amount of goose poop in local parks and other areas, I still enjoy watching them fly and hearing them honk. I love watching them swim with their young in the spring.

There are other signs of autumn, too. But for me, the flight of the geese is the surest sign of all.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Rain, rain go away

OK - I realize we needed rain. My grass was brown, my flowers
drooping. But, enough already!

I hate getting up on dreary days. Can't wear sandals as my feet get wet and cold. The a/c is on at work and it is FREEZING. Can't walk the dogs as it is RAINING and they HATE being out in the rain so they are restless. When the dogs do go out to go potty, they come in wet and track it in my kitchen. My house smells like wet dog. My basement gets wet. Driving is bad in the rain. Everyone has bad hair days when it rains. Everyone gets crabby when it rains. It's Monday and it's raining. I can't get out to check out my yard, flowers, tomatoes, etc. I can't find my umbrella or I leave it someplace when I need it. There are people losing their homes and businesses to the rain and flooding. Worms are on the sidewalk when it rains and they are gross. My grass will be 2 feet high by the time the rain finally stops and it will be difficut to mow.


No sun equals depressed Julie Ann.

It is suppose to rain all week.

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Quiet Time

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at work this week!
It is a very busy time for us and I know that I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed and terribly busy.

To top it off I've been experiencing eye strain while looking at the computer all day. Time to check out the drug store reading glasses. Jeez.
I have lived alone most of my adult life. Now, in a committed relationship, I truly enjoy the time I spend with Phil. Since he lives over 70 miles from me, we are not together 24/7, but do spend considerable time with each other. I love it, because I love him. I truly enjoy his company. He is my best friend, confidant, and lover. I am looking forward to spending a lifetime with him.
Phil will be out of town this weekend. While I will miss him terribly, I am looking forward to a weekend by myself. I have books to read for my book club, HGTV to watch, dogs to walk, flower beds to tend, a massage scheduled - my days will be full and my evenings quiet. Sunday I'm planning a "bumming" afternoon with a gal pal in a small town filled with quaint stores and antique shops.
So my weekend will be busy, but also quiet and I will be able to do as much as I want or absolutely nothing. I will have "alone" time, which I need every few months.
Sounds wonderful.
(But, don't be gone too long, Gotti)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Church Ladies

About 15 years ago, while attending my UU church, I took a curriculum entitled, "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven." It was approximately 10 weeks of exploring the aspect of the feminine in the divine. Afterwards, I really wanted this same type of connection with other UU women, so I started a Women's Spirituality Group at church.

This was a great group of women. We met monthly and shared our stories and each seeked out her own individual spirituality. Two of our members decided to facilitate the next curriculum which sprang from "Cakes", entitled "Rise Up and Call Her Name." And, it is from this group, that my wonderful "church ladies" sprang. And, while the Women's Spiritually Group ended 10 years ago, the church ladies are still going strong.

Saturday night we met at my house for Lammas. We try to meet 5 or 6 times a year, loosely following the Earth-based holidays. From the original Rise Up group of 6 or so "core" members. We meet at each other's houses and share ritual, stories and food. We ebb and flow together.

Held together by an internet group, most of our communication is done via email. While most of us live in the greater Milwaukee area, Nikki has moved back home to California, Miki to the Detroit area, Sally to western Michigan. Shannon lives in Missouri and has never attended our gatherings, but still is a part of us. We have been joined by several new woman lately and they are welcomed into the circle.

We have seen each other through births, deaths, moves, divorces, commitments, grandchildren, child rearing, returning to school, additions, and everything in between.

Personally, I cannot even begin to express what this group of women mean to me. They have loved me and supported me, cared and nurtured me and kept me afloat during the worst moments of my life. They share my secrets, joys, loves, dreams and hopes. They laugh with me and cry with me.

What made this weekend even more special is that Sunday night I was able to meet up with Amy and Shannon. They could not attend our recent gathering as they were at a retreat. I drove down to Illinois and shared a quick dinner with them, along with Amy's lovely daughter, Lexie and her son, Nathaniel. I haven't seen Shannon in 2 years and it was great to see her. And, it is fun to see Lexie grow into a beautiful young woman.
So, here's to my church ladies! I love each and every one of you. Ya'll are one of the best blessings of my life.
Merry meet, merry part and merry meet again. The circle is open, but never broken. Blessed be.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gracie Speaks

Dear Friends, family and world-wide fans and admirers:

Julie Ann (Momma to me) wrote a very touching blog entry where she spoke of dogs and printed a story about the life of a dog. Because I am so pretty (well, I am down right beautiful), she inserted pictures of me and of my sister, Lucy Lou. Momma included pictures of Lucy Lou in fairness because as we all know one must not show favorites between siblings even though I know Momma loves me best.

My dear Phil responded with some very unfair comments about me.

I am a very misunderstood dog. Sigh. This comes with being beautiful, a diva and the most kind and loving of all dogs. While the good Lord knows I do my best to remain humble at all times, it is difficult being in my position of rapture. Believe me, sitting pretty on a pedestal all day isn't easy!
But, one does as one must. I take my job of diva of all dogs very seriously!

Let me address a few of Phil's issues:

First, let me say that I have a full time job. My job has several important functions. First, and most important, I must keep up my appearances of queen of the diva dogs. This is very easy for me to do as just taking one look at me everyone knows that I am THE DOG. And even though being petted and adored all day long is the first point on my job description, it can be tiring. Belly rubs are very soothing and tend to put me into a snooze. But, it is a price I must pay.

Second, I must protect Momma 24/7. As you might be aware, I have a very prestigious pedigree. Being half Lhasa Apsa and half poodle is the very best of the dog world. Lhasa's were originally bred to be imperial guard dogs in China. It is in my genes to take care of those I love and since the two people I love the most are myself and Momma, this is a very serious issue. Also, as we all know , poodles are the smartest of all dogs. This trait is very apparent in me and goes without saying. However, I will admit to being a genius, but only this once. So, there!

I do not nap all day. However, I need my beauty rest! Plus, it take a lot of energy to protect Momma and Lucy Lou from all of the squirrels in the world. Lucy Lou, being much, much older, sleeps far more than I do. Plus, the poor old girl snores. While I know it is not kind to speak ill of others, Lucy Lou is rather hard of hearing (can't hear a damn thing to be exact). During the day while she snores away, it is I who bark at passing cars, loud noises from the street and other sounds that might bring evil to Momma's house. This is part of my job. Pretending to be sleeping all the time is just a ploy to keep people and squirrels out of Momma's house while she is not there.

I might also point out that treats are a part of life. Momma likes her chocolate (which dogs can't have), I love my treats. Phil happens to bring the best treats in town. He brings Momma her chocolate, he brings me my treats. Being the thoughtful dog that I am, I share them equally with Lucy Lou.

I'm tired now. All this thinking has made me sleepy. I hope I brought enlightenment and joy to my admirers. Maybe the world would be a better place if humans lived like dogs. I know I have a great life!

Gracie, the diva dog

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Live like a dog

I hate receiving chain emails about the supposed plight of a sick child, urban myths, pleas for help, cutesy pictures or stupid jokes. I beg my friends NOT to send them to me. However, Terri, knowing my love of dogs and how much I love my own two doggie girls, sent me this. Yes, it's sappy and the story is probably not true, but the traits listed at the end are something we "two legged creatures" need to think about.

Gracie and Lucy Lou enjoyed posing for the pictures although Lucy Lou is a very shy girl. They are beautiful and bring me joy, love and laughter every day. Even when Lucy Lou snores, Gracie yips and they both fight for my attention. I just can't imagine my life without them (they will be the only dogs to live forever) or without a dog in my house.

Here's the story. Don't know the author.

Dog's Purpose, (from a 6-year-old)

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

* When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

* Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
* Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

*Take naps

* Stretch before rising.
* Run, romp, and play daily.
* Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
* Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
* On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
* On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
* When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
* Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
* Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
* Stop when you have had enough.
* Be loyal.
* Never pretend to be something you're not.
* If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

* When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
* Be always grateful for each new day.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007


You can pick your friends, but not your family!

Or so the saying goes. Fortunately, I love and have been blessed by a great family and wouldn't want to change them (well . . . maybe a little!). I am lucky to have 2 great sisters.

I have also been blessed with wonderful women friends, many of whom I consider my "chosen sisters." Beth is one of them.

When I was six, new people moved into the house next door. Mom told me she thought they had a little girl about my age. I went over, knocked on the door and Beth's dad answered. I asked, "Can the little girl who lives here come out and play?" The rest is history and a beautiful friendship.

Beth is one year older than me and we went to different grade and middle schools. However, we ended up in the same high school. We share a lot of fun memories from childhood through the present time - kick and can, red light, green light, swimming (and swimming and more swimming), dances, prom, parties weddings, births and deaths. I introduced Beth to her first husband, Jim. I was with her when she found she was pregnant with her first son, Jamie (now almost 30) and was with her shortly after she learned Jim had died. She stuck by me through my wild 20's. We have cried together over broken relationships. We share a love of the water, of beaches, of laughter, and good food. Now we talk about our elderly parents always looking for laughter in the sometimes grim subject. In fact, there isn't much I can't talk to Beth about, or haven't! We are chosen sisters.

Beth has lived in Florida for many years. I haven't been down there in a couple years, but today she stopped over for a little while during a yearly visit to Wisconsin. We talked about meeting in Florida this winter. Sit on the beach, talk away all of our problems and watch the young guys prance by. Sounds good to me.

Beth is the woman who sent one of my dogs to me, Lucy Lou. Today Bethy arrived with Jamie (she also has another son, Tim, currently in the Air Force) and her new dog, Sally. We got a kick out of Gracie and Sally and the contrast between the two dogs. We think Lucy Lou remembers her. Beth laughed at the 3 of them together and said, "Yours, mine and ours!"

Even through we don't live close to each other and can go months without talking, I am not quite sure what I would do without Bethy in my life. I hope I don't have to find out for a long time. There is just too much fun to have and laughter to share.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Summer sang in me

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Not knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, June 25, 2007

For the Beauty of the Earth

For the beauty of the earth, for the splendor of the skies,
for the the love which from our birth
over and around us lies:
Source of all, too thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind's delight,
for the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight:
Source of all, too thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night,
hill and dale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light:
Source of all, too thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human care, sister, brother, parent, child,
for the kinship we all share, for all gentle thoughts and mild:
Source of all, too thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

Text: Folliot S. Pierpoint Music: Conrad Kocher; Adapted

All pictures taken in my garden with the exception of the moon rising, which was taken in Kilnaboy, County Clare, Ireland & of my sisters , my father & me, which was taken in Dousman, WI. All taken in May or June, 2007.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Locket

While traveling in Scotland, Anne and I stopped at an antique store in a little village. It was here that I purchased a Victorian locket. Although I know nothing about its previous owner, the locket called to me since I first saw it.

I have always enjoyed antiques and have collected them since I was a teenager. Many of my antiques have family history behind them. I have a spinning wheel that has been passed down on my grandma's side of the family for generations, a clock that was in my uncle's family, dishes from my grandmother, quilts made by my mother and her mother. Recently my aunt sent me two antiques plates - one hand painted and signed and dated. It turns out it was painted the same year my home was built. I love it! My 1930s kitchen set was refinished by my mom.

I remember my first antique purchase. My mom and I went to the home of my grandmother's "egg man" - a farmer who sold her fresh eggs on a weekly basis. He was selling his farm and invited us over to purchase any items we liked. I bought a rocking chair that now sits in my guest bedroom. I was 14 and I paid $10 for it.

I treasure these items. They are like old friends to me. I am a sentimental person and I like the history that surrounds them, even if I don't know all of it. I often wonder why people let antiques be sold out of families. I have a difficult time understanding how family history could be sold.

However, now my house is filled to the brim. So, I have started looking at antique jewelry. I have some antique jewelry that has been passed on to me. I have my grandma's wedding band, my mother's engagement ring. I have a few great pieces of my grandma's old costume jewelry. My mom had a beautiful locket with my dad's picture in it. My sister now has it and I have seen her wear it with pride. And, I have a very small little locket that was my mom's. However, she never put pictures in it, probably due to its size.

When I first saw this locket in Scotland I asked the price. Quickly converting English pounds to dollars, I didn't think I could afford it. Anne and I walked out of the store and wandered around the village a bit and sat by the sea. Finally I said I wanted to go back to the store and look at the locket again. While examining it I asked again what the price was. The lady quoted me a price of 20 pounds less then she originally stated. I felt it was an omen (although obviously a mistake on her part). I bought the locket.

The locket is heart shaped. The area when the chain would go is shaped like a ribbon tied into a bow. Both the front and back are finely etched with vines and flowers. In the middle of the front are the initials "EL." Inside are two pictures. From what I can tell the pictures were probably taken in the 1930s or 1940s. The are both of men, one in a military uniform. I have determined (with the help of several other people) that they are not the same man, but quite possibly related, maybe brothers.

Who was "EL"? Who are the men? Was EL their mother, their sister, aunt? Where they her brothers, her lovers, father or uncles? How did this locket end up in an antique store in a little village in Scotland? Was EL Scottish? Was she German and the locket spoils of WWII? When did she live and die? When did the men live and die?

While driving, Anne and I decided to give her a name. Anne suggested Ellen, which I immediately agreed to (I have a cousin named Ellen). We tossed around a few last names beginning with L. I looked up to see a sign post pointing towards the village of Logie. Hence, Ellen Logie was born. But, still, so many questions remain that will never be answered.

I think of the jewelry I have. The first year we were together, Gotti gave me a beautiful dragonfly necklace for my birthday. I was speechless when I saw it, it is so lovely. I commented that it was the most beautiful dragonfly I had ever seen. He looked at me and said, "Honey, that's a butterfly, not a dragonfly!" I looked at it again. Most definately a dragonfly! I pointed out the differences to him. We laughed about it and still do. And, every single time I wear the necklace I smile at the thought of "Gotti's butterfly." And I wear it with the love with which it was given to me.

Yet, in 50 or 60 years will this dragonfly treasure of mine end up in an antique store? Will some woman ponder over it? Will she wonder where it came from? Gotti, upon hearing these questions, sweetly suggested that it would be passed on to our grandchildren. I hope so. I also hope the tender story that is part of it, is also passed along.

In the meantime, I intend to take good care of EL's locket. I plan to find the appropriate antique chain for it. I will wear it in her honor and also for the men whose pictures are kept tucked away inside. And as I do with all of my "old" things, I will preserve it and keep it safe.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I recently returned from a trip to both Ireland and Scotland. I went to Ireland to meet up with my gal pal, Anne. I spent 3 days at her home in County Clare and then the 2 of us flew into Edinburgh for over a week of touring the country side of Scotland. I had a fabulous time!

I love Anne's house. She remodeled in 2004, adding a lot of space to her 80+ year old house. It has the traditional deep windows and peet fire place of the cottage it once was. She has a great kitchen and I love sitting there, sipping tea and talking.

Highlights of my time in Ireland include meeting Anne's beau, Michael (great guy), visiting with her mom and sister, Helen. A short visit to Ned, now in his late 80s, and dinner with Anne's daughter, Melissa. I also helped Anne and Michael move a small herd of her cattle from one field to another, down about a mile of roads. Thanks, Michael, for putting me BEHIND the cattle! I also enjoyed a 3-mile walk where I had my own epiphany about life and love.

I really didn't know what to expect in Scotland. We had no real set plan until we got there and sat in the rented car and said, "Now what?"

The first night we made it to right outside St. Andrews. For most of the trip we stayed in B&Bs, always trying to get one of the outskirts of a little town or village so that we could walk to a pub or restaurant for dinner. This really worked out well, although we should have stopped earlier a couple of times as it was difficult to find a good B&B as it got later in the day.

Truthfully, Scotland wasn't high on my list of places to visit, but I have completely changed my mind. It is a beautiful country with much diversity in its landscape. The roads are very easy to follow (if you can figure out the roundabouts!) and the sign posts are very frequent. Plus, the people are awesome.

We drove up the coastal highway towards Inverness. This isn't a "highway" by American standards. It is a well-marked, 2 lane road. We made several stops along the way. At one point we got off the highway and took a small road through 2 villages until we reached the sea. Both villages were charming. We walked along the road by the sea and watched a woman riding her horse on the beach. At the next village we went into a lovely antique store where I purchased an antique locket. More about the locket in another post. It was a delightful way to spend some time and a beautiful day - the sea was lovely.

Also, while on this road we had to stop as a farmer was moving his cows from the field to the barn. He had a working sheep dog helping him - in fact doing all of the work. I got a real kick out of this and stood outside the car so I could watch the dog at work. That dog was having a great time.

Every day we stopped for tea and, of course, a little something to go with it! Near the end of our trip I did find a place that made plain old coffee. Yipee! It is easy to find latte's and the like, but not basic coffee.

One of the most beautiful sights was the green fields against the setting of another crop that was in full bloom. The blooms were a bright yellow - just beautiful. I can't remember the name of the crop, but they use it to make oil that they use for cooking. The yellow against the green was something I will always remember.

We stayed in Inverness one night and then drove up a little further north to visit a castle. However, we got there just as it closed and back tracked, staying again near Inverness. We spend the next day shopping and looking around Inverness before heading down through the middle of the country.
We spent a couple of days traveling down the "loch highway." Now, I had heard of Loch Ness and the Loch Ness monster. I didn't realized (not really studying Scotland before I went) that the lochs run down basically the center of the country and are surrounded by mountains. Some of the mountains were high enough to have snow on the tops and a tree line. This made for more beautiful sightseeing.

We drove to the other side of Scotland to the port town of Oban. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain. After a nice lunch and a couple of quick stops, we drove on towards Stirling. Anne had agreed to tour the castle there with me. Let me point out that Anne really doesn't enjoy touring castles or old houses/buildings, which is something I just love.
We weren't able to find a B&B in Stirling so we drove north to another little village where we stayed in a lovely old house. Again, we walked into town for our evening meal. There we met a man who is married to an American. He was also thrilled and actually knew where Milwaukee was because he owns a Harley! He and his wife moved back to his hometown and opened a coffee shop. So, of course, the next morning we stopped in for a latte.

We returned to Stirling and toured the castle. By this time I had come down with a terrible cold, so even though I enjoyed myself, I was pretty miserable the whole day. When we were done we drove into Edinbourgh.

More to come . . . .

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Life Moves On

Two years ago today my ex-husband, Bill, died.

His official date of death is tomorrow, June 1st, since that is when we found him. But he had been dead for over 24 hours.

A two tours of duty in Viet Nam vet with 10 years in the Marine's, it seems fitting that he died on Memorial Day. He loved the Marines. I am glad I gave him a simple military funeral, which is what he wanted. Maybe his death wasn't dignified, but his funeral was.

Some people can fight life long demons and are able to overcome them, surviving to live long and happy lives. Bill just couldn't fight his demons and they chased him all of his life. One time he told me he thought of committing suicide most of his adult life, but was too afraid to take action. But there are many ways of commiting suicide. Alcohol abuse and heavy smoking caused poor health, which in a way, was Bill's way of suicide.

The last years of Bill's life were not happy. He sank further and further down into depression. Even though he bounced back from several health scares, the booze and smoking increased. Two DWI's and a short stint in jail didn't help to change his ways. He stopped trying to cover it up. He stopped fighting. He stopped running.

Here are some things that I remember about Billy and why he will always be in my heart:

  • Kindness

  • A yard full of beautiful roses

  • Great gourmet meals including outstanding Christmas Eve dinners (well, except the Virigina Ham Christmas!)

  • Fun, inexpensive trips together where we really had great times

  • Gentleness

  • Disney World (3 times)

  • Twin Peaks

  • Tenderness

  • He loved my Gracie

  • Sitting with me at my Mom's memorial service, while we both wiped away our tears (this was years after our divorce)

  • Annual pig roasts

  • New Years Day chili parties (he made the hottest chili)

  • He loved me

For a long time after his death I use to feel Bill around me. A gentle pressure on my shoulder and a slight pat. I don't feel him much any more. That's OK. I hope he has gone on to a better place. A place where he no longer suffers from the memory of child abuse, needs to partake in substance abuse, the horrors of war are forgotten and all his other demons can't reach him.

Rest in peace, Billy. I will never forget you.

Semper Fi.