Archive for the "Life in General" Category

My Achy Heart

Posted by: courtin Life in General

The last couple of days, for no particular reason, I found myself in a foul mood. On the surface, all was going well. In fact, many things seemed to be going my way.

Just little things, such as:

  • My car unexpectedly getting killer gas mileage. It was like the never ending tank. I scored over 409 miles on one fill-up. (And she could’ve squeezed out maybe 10 or so more.) I usually get just under 400, but this time, WOW! Nissy was a lean, mean fuel using machine!
  • When I did have to fill up I had a 10 cents off per gallon discount I got to cash in on.
  • My online shopping snagged me a new necklace I’ve been eyeing for months and 2 sets of the style of earrings I’ve been wanting and imagining for GREAT prices.
  • A perfect stranger gave me her 20 percent off coupon at Steinmart last night that I was able to use on 3 pairs of sheet sets that were already a steal at $14.99. (YES! Complete sheet sets of good quality for less than $15 each! I was tickled pink!)

So why was my heart so heavy? And why did I bawl like a baby after I stopped and treated myself to some of my favorite Chinese comfort food? And why could I not stop thinking about my mom?

It finally dawned on me that it was around this time three years ago when my mom went into the hospital for the first time in what was was the beginning of her end. Was it March 18 or 19 that I finally flew out there after my sister threw one of her tantrums?

I’m sure I could look it up in my journal. I know it’s there. But I don’t want to. I’m still not strong enough to go back and remember that awful time.

It’s funny how I can both hate and love my mom. When I moved her out here I was reminded just how hard life with her had been growing up. How much she’d hated me. How sharp her tongue could be. Not to mention how often she’d slice me with it.

And when it came time to “reward” her daughters with her final offerings (as my mom viewed it), she’d given the lion’s share to the one she’d always worried most about: my sister –even though their relationship had almost been more contentious than the one I knew with her.

Story of my life. Here’s an example:

My sister, who was 23 and on her own when my parents divorced (I was 9), stopped talking to my mom for about six months. (Not the first time nor the last, or the longest, that she pulled such a stunt. A tactic usually employed to get her way.)

Anyway, that first Easter my mom and I were shopping. She pointed out this huge stuffed rabbit with a satiny bow around its neck sitting so pretty on a shelf.

“What do you think of that?”

I loved stuffed animals but didn’t have one as big as that in my collection. My mom was going to get it for me? Wow!

“Oh, it’s wonderful.”

“I think so too. But I wonder if your sister will like it. I’m just so upset she’s in one of her moods and won’t have anything to do with me.”

Huh? What the hell did she need a big bunny for? To make matters worse, my mom bought me a smaller bunny as an afterthought.

“Oh, and I suppose you’ll want something too now that you’ve seen me get this for her,” she said grabbing a dinky bunny from a bin near the register.

That’s just one example of a life with my mom. That was actually a pretty tame incident. Usually they involved some sort of violence (basically of the verbal variety, but if I pissed my mom off enough she wasn’t afraid to level me with a good smack) or, my favorite, public humiliation (oh, how I loved the uncomfortable stares from strangers as she’d go on one of her “If you hadn’t come out of me I’d swear you’re not my daughter. How can you be so stupid?” tirades. Ah, fun times.).

But when my sister played on my mom’s failing mind to finagle it so my mom left her the most…that did me in. I keep trying to forgive them both for being just bad, selfish people, because I know it’s better for my health to do that.

It’s a lot easier said than done. Sometimes, in fact, it’s remarkably easy. I don’t think about them at all.

Then there’s other times where my heart remembers, even if my brain keeps trying to forget. Like when the beginning of the end with both my mom and sister happened. Suffice it to say, it was pretty achy yesterday.

Today is better. Writing this helps. Time helps too. Three years is long in one respect, but I had 38 years worth of pain from those two. It’s not just going to fade immediately.

On Today this morning they were asking experts just how bad it really is in Japan. They also asked reporters covering the story from there if the survivors had access to the latest information and if they knew what all was going on, such as the nuclear reactors potentially failing.

The experts said the situation was grim. Especially where the nuclear reactors were concerned. Some people who had been working inside the plants trying to get them operational and stabilized again were now being treated for radiation sickness. Also, they’re expecting a shift in the winds. Winds had been blowing out to sea, but a front will change them and begin blowing back towards land. If radiation levels increase, or, worse, one of the nuclear plants fail, it could amount to an even bigger tragedy for Japan.

Also, I read a report about how thousands of bodies that were swept out to sea when the tsunami struck have now washed ashore. That’s only added to an ever-increasing clean-up mess.

I bet it’s much worse over there then the news is letting on. As one expert pointed out, they need to be careful what information they convey. They don’t want to freak people out and cause widespread panic. They have to buffer it so people will “keep calm and carry on.”


However, even if there was nothing I could do about, no way to protect myself or get out, I’d still like to know I was about to be zonked out by a nuclear meltdown.

Also, I don’t mean to impune Japan’s government in any way, shape or form, but you can’t trust so called authorities. Look at the BP disaster. They didn’t let on just how bad it was until they couldn’t cover up the severity of the situation any longer.

I know they’re not a government, but they were in a position of power. Basically, I don’t trust governments or companies when bad shit does down. Historically, disasters are almost always worse than what they first lead people to believe.

I hope I’m wrong and stories don’t later start surfacing about just how bad things were, but…the pessimist in me fears it will.

I also hope the reactors hold until they can be fixed. (And are not actually leaking more than they say they are.) Good grief, they really don’t need a triple whammy. And especially one like a nuclear plant explosion. They already had to deal with that sort of crap in their history. (Well, those were bombs, but still…they were nuclear and devastated many.)

The upside is, time and again people keep saying that for such a disaster there was no place more well prepared than Japan. Still, as prepared as you might be, you hate to ever have to put it to the test.

Sure wish I had more than prayers to offer to all those affected by this tragedy. And sure hoping I’m wrong that it’s not much worse than they’re letting on that it is.

I’m not really either a Republican or a Democrat, but I probably lean more to the Democratic side in politics. However, I have certain Republicans that I like.

I really loved Bob Dole’s wife, Elizabeth. I was sort of hoping she’d make a run for the presidency a couple of elections back. I’d like to have seen someone like her become the first woman president.

I also thought Mike Huckabee was okay. He seemed very even keel and fair-minded. I would’ve been okay with him getting the presidential nomination when he ran for it in 2008.

However, this week I was very disappointed in him when he decided to single out Natalie Portman (of all people!) as an example of a celebrity sending a bad message.

“One of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children,’ and they’re doing just fine,'” Huckabee told radio host Michael Medved on Monday. “But there aren’t really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie.” (Excerpted from “Mike Huckabee criticizes Natalie Portman for being pregnant and unwed)

Natalie Portman? Really? That’s who you decided to go with, Mr. Huckabee?

When I first heard about it yesterday I just shook my head. Many were speculating he had made the comment in an attempt to start making a bid for the 2012 presidential nomination by winning over social conservatives.

All I could think was, “That’s not a very smart move. Natalie Portman is an accomplished, brilliant, extremely likable celebrity who’s not gotten into any of the trouble half her contemporaries have. Even social conservatives might be put off about him singling her out.”

But then this morning I listened to a clip where Rachel Maddow said he didn’t do it out of some political maneuver. Her theory is he’s got his sales hat on. He’s on the book trail. This was all about PR.

Which almost makes it worse in my mind. Bristol Palin is not any kind of celebrity of the magnitude Natalie Portman is. She certainly hasn’t contributed to society in a meaningful way like Portman.

Yet, thanks to her mother and her own efforts (like her appearance on Dancing with the Stars), she’s become a pseudo celebrity. Why not single her out? She’s an unwed mother, too.

Especially if you’re looking to create controversy. Imagine what kind that would stir up blasting one of your own party member’s daughters?

But if he did that, he’d jeopardize pissing off Palin supporters I guess.  So better to pick on a Hollywood “starlet” who does make millions and is financially capable of supporting her own child, rather than the daughter of a former Republican governor who’s relying on mommy and daddy to support both her and her child.

Which is exactly the point he was trying to make, isn’t it? How often so many unwed mothers are poor and can’t support themselves?

And I disagree that Portman’s intent was to “glamourize” having children out of wedlock. MTV does that way more than Portman ever could. Their “16 and Pregnant” tries to show the unglamourous side of having kids out of wedlock at a young age, but guess what? I think it has exactly the opposite effect because it shows girls on TV who are the focus of attention. Just the very thing most teen girls desire most.

At the end of the day, whether he was trying to make a point or sell books, I don’t think Huckabee used very good judgment singling Natalie Portman out. There are far better bad role models he could’ve chosen from.

Yesterday I tuned into Today right when Willard Scott was doing his Smuckers birthday segment. I always get a kick out of watching it. I can remember back to when he used to do babies, but then they switched it and now you have to be at least 100 to try and get your birthday featured.

I always get a kick out of what they credit their secret to long life to. Some say things you might expect to help you live a long life. Such as, trying to be a good person, going to/serving in church, eating right, etc. Others say things like laughing a lot, gardening, eating what they want.

Some note that they’re still living independently. Others note that they lived independently until a certain age. Willard even mentions that for some over 100 they tried to get on the show before and he congratulates them for sticking around to do it this time.

But yesterday he featured a woman who was either 103 or 104 (sad, I’ve already forgotten) who was a three time cancer survivor. I was floored. And so inspired.

I want to say Willard has noted other cancer survivors who lived to 100 also, and some who even got it very late in life (like their 80s), but a multiple time cancer survivor?

I mean to tell you, that’s one tough cookie. Having watched my mom go through it twice, and finally succumbing to the lung cancer the second time, then just five months later dealing with my own lymphoma, mentally it’s taken its toll. Not every day, but definitely every week, I still have to deal with my emotional scars from it all.

I know if the cancer does come back, or shows up in one of the other forms I’ve been warned I’m at an increased risk of getting now due to my treatments, I’ll buckle down and deal with. But it would be hard. I think even harder than the first time because I’d know what to expect to some extent.

I think it was sort of a blessing not to know just how sick chemo was going to make me or the toll it would take on my body even after it was done. You can read all you want about other people’s experiences and know you’re going to feel “sick” but experiencing it…whew. Different story.

But then if you need surgery, or get sick during treatments and need to be hospitalized…there are so many things that can go wrong during treatment to delay your healing progress. Again, if it does all you can do is deal with it, but it weighs on your mind.

Yet, this woman survived Life, including three bouts with cancer, to live past 100. Wow.

That someone did gives me a hope and way of looking at the future I hadn’t had but have been desperately needing. So glad I happened to catch her birthday of all of them. I sure hope she had a happy one yesterday. She might not know it, but she ended up giving a gift while she was celebrating.

We’re heading to New Orleans soon to take our fifth cruise. I’m very excited not because it is yet another cruise and four more ports to add to our list, but New Orleans is the home of my ancestors.

But as I think about my beloved grandma who grew up there, I’m reminded of the grandma I knew from Phoenix. That’s where she lived when I knew her. However, she always spoke of New Orleans when she shared memories of her youth with me.

As I wish she was alive now so I could ask her exactly where it was she lived there, or where it was that Aunt Pearl was murdered, or where it was she met my grandfather, I think about visiting her in Phoenix.

Ah, that humble and modest, yet marvelous two-bedroom apartment she and my grandpa shared. I loved going there. I loved picking figs off her tree and eating them fresh. I loved walking around the side of the house and plucking off oranges and grapefruit and having them on hand for snacks. (Well, the oranges. I hated grapefruit back then.)

I remember how we’d always hit the same places on our visit: Christown Mall, Cave Creek, and sometimes Tlaquepaque if time permitted for a drive up to Sedona.

Before my parents divorced my dad would always insist on driving us everywhere. Grandpa would inevitably fall asleep in the back of the car. Gram would tease him to wake up and he’d say, “I’m not sleeping. I’m just looking inside of myself.”

At dinner she’d serve Grandpa his obligatory shot of tequila, which every stinking time she set it down in front of him she’d say, “Here’s your Ta Kill Ya, Ferdinand.”

And every stinking time he’d nod appreciatively, raise the glass at her, and down it.

Which made me laugh every stinking time.

As I’m recalling my fond memories of my grandparents, I remember how I thought nothing would change. We’d always go visit them. They’d always live in that apartment off Meadowbrook Road. We’d always build such great memories.

But those times feel like a lifetime ago now. My grandpa passed in 1986. Gram died in 1999. I’ve since established new traditions. Life has moved on.

But the heart still remembers. And it wishes my grandmother, the consumate navigator, could guide me to the magical places she remembered from growing up in New Orleans. The places that when she recalled them made her lips curve into a smile and her eyes twinkle with happiness. I’d like to see them.

I wonder if she ever felt this way. That the traditions and routines she’d had in New Orleans would never change. Did she ever look back on her life and wonder that she’d lived in Mexico, Indiana, and then wound up in Arizona?

I think she missed New Orleans sometimes. Or, maybe like I’m doing now, it was more a matter of being overcome by the nostalgia of life as it once was. The minutes tick by, the days pass, and before you know it you’re carried forward to new traditions.

All I know is I’m certain she’ll be on my mind as we explore her hometown. Which I’m also certain has changed a lot since she lived there.

I now know that’s how Life works. It’s ever-evolving.

I’m already a winner

Posted by: courtin Life in General

I’ll never have a big ego. All my life the Universe has had a funny way of putting me back in my place before I can get too high on myself.

Last week I was so hyped up about being nominated for an award and being singled out at tennis for doing something right. I wouldn’t say I was getting a big ego from it, but there was a little extra strut and swagger in my walk.

And there was that little voice in my head thinking, ” ‘Bought time I get some recognition around here!”

Uh huh. Riiiiight.

That’s always about the time Life slaps me upside the head and reminds me to simmer down now. That’s what happened last Friday when I lost control on a patch of ice and slammed into a rocky bluff.

Poor Nissy bore the brunt of my vanity

Poor Nissy bore the brunt of my vanity

As I sat waiting for another officer (there was one on the scene, but he had to wait for another unit) to come do the accident report and give me an incident report number for my insurance, all I could think was how silly I’d been earlier in the week.

Even that very day. My feathers were pretty perked up at being noticed.

But the accident was a humbling reminder that that sort of stuff just doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. It’s nice, sure, and it’s appreciated, but I can’t get caught up in it.

Also, a reader’s comment on one of my Haunt Jaunts posts reminded me if I ever feel in need of validation, I need look no further than my family. No one is ever going to be more impressed by me or love me more or think me a big winner than Wayne, Murphy, Mr. Meow and Tabby.

Nominations, awards, or any other kind of recognition? Extra icing. Tastes nice and looks pretty but in the end its unnecessary superficial finery. It doesn’t define me or keep me warm at night.

But my family? Their love is award enough. As long as I have that, I have everything.

Tuesday I watched one of Joel Osteen’s sermons I had recorded. I think it was a rerun. The story he shared about Frank Lloyd Wright sounded familiar. (He shared how one day FLW was out walking in the field with his uncle. FLW veered all over. To see the barn, to look at the field, etc. When he met back up with his uncle his uncle said, “Frank, look at our footsteps. Yours zigzagged all over and you took forever to meet me here, whereas I got here fast and didn’t waste any time.”

FLW related how his uncle’s message backfired. FLW had enjoyed the sights along the journey. He’d taken time to stop and smell the proverbial roses.

Osteen’s message was all about that. Finding balance and enjoying the journey. Not getting so caught up in accomplishing our goals, but to appreciate all we experience along the way.

I had been trying to live that principal prior to 2008. It sort of got lost in the Black Cloud that engulfed me that year.


Last year I was so focused on Haunt Jaunts. I don’t know why. It’s just a blog. And I don’t really know what I’m accomplishing writing it every day anyway. Sure, I’ve met a lot of neat people, but in the end what’s it all for?

This year I want to bring some magic back in my life. I want to find the balance. I want to remember to allot X amount of time to HJ and not obsess about writing one more blog, or researching one more place, or posting one more Tweet or FB post.

I want to write again. I want to get back to my books and short stories. I have umpteen in-progress books started. This year I’m finishing one!

I even want to finally write my first non-fiction book. Granted, it’ll be my Haunt Jaunts: A Travel Guide for Restless Spirits that I’d envisioned in the first place and which the blog was born out of. But I have an idea for how to turn it into a series and make it different from the other haunted places books already out there. I’m curious to see if I can sell it.


But I also want to start a new blog. I already have the groundwork sort of laid out. It’s also going to hopefully evolve into a non-fiction book: The Stay-at-Home Wife Experiment. I think the tag line will be something to the effect “Can a modern woman live a life fulfilled as a devoted wife and kept woman?” And then I’ll share the lessons I’ve learned about faith, friendship, self and love over the past 11 plus years.

It’s been on my mind because my friend Jade Walker, who I think is a brilliant, accomplished, fiercely independent woman who I respect very much, took a shine to me when I wrote for After I left she suggested a couple of times I re-consider writing a marriage blog somewhere.

But that was back when I was just recovering from the cancer. All I could think about was Haunt Jaunts, which seemed to be the thing Spirit put in my heart to motivate me and inspire me to get moving and focus on the future so I could get better.

But I can’t tell you how many people still seek me out after reading articles I wrote on to say how much my words meant to them. For any writer that is a huge compliment, but for me it affirmed something Jade had once said to me. It was just a random comment about how she liked my words and they spoke to her. But she’s extremely well-read. She’s world-smart and intellectually savvy.

I’m just me. I did graduate from the University of Arizona, but I wouldn’t my Communications B.A. a fancy degree. I don’t have any formal training in writing. Not like Jade. She’s worked for major publications. Heck, she still does. She’s a true journalist. For her to find anything I have to say interesting still blows my mind.

Yet, maybe there really is something there. Maybe when I channel Spirit and flesh out the ideas the Muse sings into my heart it is something interesting. Others seem to like it.

So I’m going to launch the SAHW Experiment and put together a book proposal and see what happens.


I also want to try and not only be on time for meetings, classes, and what have you, but early. (I’ve become notorious for being late anymore and I hate it.)

And I want to get even better at tennis. I want to remember to run to the net when I lob over people’s heads. I want to remember to talk more on the court and warn my partner if I’ve accidentally lobbed short and given the other side a chance to smash her with an overhead. And I want to remember to turn my shoulders, reach for the ball and position myself to smash away any overheads the opposing side gifts me with. And I’m hoping I can remember to keep my left hand raised instead of dropping it during the serve so I get better stability and more accuracy on my serve.

Phew. I guess I’ve once again developed an ambitious list of things I’d like to accomplish in 2011. Mostly I just want to take chances and see what comes of them.

What kinds of things do you hope to do in the year ahead?

Do you make resolutions at the beginning of every year? I used to set goals at the end of every year. I used to call them resolutions, but ultimately I’d set too many, or ones that were absurdly ambitious, and I’d never accomplish them. Then I’d review them near the end of the year and feel so bad that I’d set my sights too high.

Then I started doing “Letters to Spirit” based on something I’d read in one of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s books. (Likely Simple Abundance, but it could’ve been Something More.)

At any rate, she explained how she wrote letters to Spirit at the end of every year giving thanks and relating what happened. But then she’d write another such letter, except dated for the same time next year. It detailed all the things she’d done –or, rather, saw herself doing and accomplishing in the coming year.

She marveled how close they’d match each other when she compared what really happened to her future letter.

I gave it a go and continued the tradition until 2007, when things started to get too chaotic and my heart wasn’t in it. However, until that point those letters were my favorite End the Year/Welcome the New Year tradition. It was almost eerie how many of my end of the year letters would end up matching the year before’s future letter.  

I think I’m ready to reinstate that tradition this year. My soul feels more settled and ready to think about the future again. Last year I was just so grateful and amazed to be alive. I had dodged a bullet with the cancer and was still dealing with feelings of “What if it comes back? How much future do I really have?”

But this year, even though thoughts of “Will it come back?” still cross my mind, I don’t dwell on it as much. What’s gonna happen is gonna happen.

Until whatever happens that’s gonna happens happens though, I have to live my life. And having goals to look forward to is part of what helped me get into remission.

But I didn’t set any very clear ones last year. Well, I did. I made a list of things I’d like to do, but lists aren’t magical like End of Year Letters to Spirit are.

I’m ready to bring back some magic and sail forth into a wondrous 2011 rather than look at another list full of very few things crossed out.

What about you? What do you hope to accomplish in 2011? And did you accomplish all you’d set out to in 2010?

I broke my engagement ring two years back. It was during my Black Cloud time. The day before the oncologist told us there was nothing more he could do for my mom and he referred us to hospice I lost the diamond in my ring.

I was devastated. I had always thought I’d die with that ring and that stone on my hand. I was never one of those who thought I should upgrade to a bigger stone as the years of my marriage passed. That ring meant an awful lot to me because it took Wayne forever to finally decide to marry me.

Anyway, last year I got a “replacement” ring. But it came with strife. Wayne had picked out a very beautiful Sapphire solitaire ring with a diamond band, but I decided it was too fancy for me.

I had in mind a sapphire and diamond band. So I went back and traded the fancy ring in for a more modest one. That caused some friction between Wayne and me. Understandably he felt hurt. I’d made such a big deal that I wanted him to surprise me and take the time to pick out a ring and when he did I decided it wasn’t right for me. I’d be mad too.

But the band I picked out didn’t make me happy either. I missed my diamond. The new ring was just a constant reminder I hadn’t taken better care of my original ring. It also reminded me I’d hurt Wayne’s feelings rejecting the other one.

I also realized I wanted a diamond ring with a separate wedding band. I wanted to look like I was married. Or my view of what married looked like. Which, until all this broken ring nonsense happened, I didn’t even know I had an opinion of.

I’m really not much of a jewelry wearer, and I don’t really feel comfortable paying thousands for it. But my heart longed for a diamond.

So when I saw Stauer’s DiamondAura Dearly Beloved set, I knew what I wanted for Christmas.


Totally flashier than my original ring. And silver, not gold. And much larger. (I had a 1/2 carat diamond. This one’s 2 carats.)

But it came with a band and I’d look married again. All for just under $100, plus shipping and any applicable taxes. ($150 if you got the matching earrings, which I aksed for. I’d also been wanting diamond earrings.)

To my delight, after sending the link to Wayne he ordered it for me. (Earrings too!) The package arrived Friday. I pestered him all evening to let me open the package before Christmas. When the first thing I did Saturday morning was start in again, he relented.

As I expected, it’s much prettier in the picture. Less fake looking.

But if you don’t study it very closely in person, it’s pretty impressive. It made  my neighbor’s eyes bug out when I showed it to her, and then quickly followed up with, “It’s fake!” so she’d catch her breath and not pass out. I don’t think she could believe it at first that Wayne had bought me something that looked so fancy! Which still has me cracking up on a number of levels.

Anyway, I’m happy. It may not be real, but it’s pretty. I also like the design. It’s just perfect for me.

Best of all, I’m not fretting about busting it like I would if I got a real diamond. (I still baby my hands when I’m wearing the diamond and sapphire band. I’m just so afraid of busting another piece of jewelry.)

And I love the fit. It feels and looks so right on my hand. Pretty good for a fake!

Now watch, I’ll probably get mugged and someone will steal it. As long as I’m not hurt in the process, so be it. Joke’ll be on them!

Where did this girl go?

Posted by: courtin Life in General


I was going through photos the other day looking for old Halloween costumes of my youth when I stumbled across this picture. I cracked up laughing.

If ever oh ever there was a picture capturing my essence (or the one I imagine of myself), this one is it. God, I loved that slide whistle!

But beyond me marching down the trail to what I’m sure was the sound of my own off-beat tune, that’s what I see: me marching merrily and obliviously back to my dad’s truck and whatever our next adventure was going to be.

That’s how I spent my childhood. I think that’s how I survived my childhood. Just me in my own oblivious world. Just give me something to focus on, and I was one happy camper. (Which is what I’m sure we were doing in this picture. Coming from or going to a camp ground.)

In this picture it’s a slide whistle, but a book or some paper and crayons or my beloved Barbies were my other “keep me happy by focusing on something else” tools. It didn’t take much to distract or amuse me.

But, man, this picture of me and my slide whistle really brought back some memories…and also reminded me of the girl I once used to be. Where did she go? Is she still there hidden in the depths of this grown-up version?

Hell yeah. I just forget to let her march along Life’s path to her own off-beat tune with oblivious abandon like I used to. Gotta change that.

Get Adobe Flash player