Category Archives: family

So Long, Maxine

Maxine1                                     Saying good bye to Maxine is one of the hardest things I am having to do. For those of you who followed me in the beginning, Maxine lived across the street from me. Of course that is not her real name, but she acts so much and looks so much like the Maxine cartoon that I started calling her that.

She and her husband moved to a retirement community in early January. It is only about eleven miles down the road, but it may as well have been 100. I was feeling my worst and not doing much other than keeping doctors’ appointments and shopping for groceries. Driving that far if not medically necessary was too much of an effort.

Maxine is in her early 80s. Her husband is 93. He has been having health difficulties with his blood for many years. It affects his energy and his cognitive abilities. For a while he was doing quite well, but for the past couple of months he is once again going down hill. Maxine dotes on him like a mother hen. Such dedication among married couples is not exactly common.

They invited me to lunch about a week ago. It will probably be the last time I see them. They are now living in a lovely retirement community. Their’s is a two bedroom apartment on the first floor. I’m not sure what the age range is, but the diners all looked approximately the same age. I had looked into such communities within the last year, but I think I’ll wait about at least ten more years before I make that move.

Alice has intentionally lost about twenty pounds and is looking quite healthy. She seems more filled with energy now that she is not taking care of her big house. Of course with the energy she has, she has met and knows the name of almost everyone in the building. She introduced me to about twenty diners as her neighbor while I was there.

After lunch we went back to their apartment. Her husband was very tired so he excused himself to take a nap. She and I talked about ten minutes more before I headed down the road again. I never have felt at ease to talk in person. It is much easier for me to write.

I love Maxine and will miss her greatly. I never learned that to tell Maxine was to tell the entire neighborhood. She would just mention my affairs to a couple of her friends but she just knew they wouldn’t tell a soul!

I don’t remember being especially that much taller than she, but when I hugged her good bye, her head came to my breast. I have no idea when she started shrinking. She certainly hasn’t stopped talking.

I will always think God put me in this neighborhood for a reason. My son was six when my ex left. Next door we had Grandma Annie and Grandpa John. John died when my son was in the first grade. Grandma Annie passed away when he was in middle school. The couple across the street from them and their daughter all died in the following years. Maxine was always there whenever I needed some help. She’d cook too much and bring over supper pretty frequently. Now Maxine and her husband have moved. I once stayed in this house because I didn’t want to leave the village that was helping to raise my son. Now my son has no desire to return and the village people who meant everything to me has gone.

I wish a Maxine on everyone at some point in their lives. She says she wants to get an IPad but that hasn’t happened yet. She refuses to touch her husband’s computer. I will probably not handwrite letters and she will probably not handwrite answers even if I do. I’m hoping the IPad, if she gets it, will keep us in contact. She always asked me questions that were very personal, she gave me advice I didn’t want, she was able to get more information out of my son than I ever was. She was special. She is the sister I wish I had rather than the one I got. She gave me a gift that few have given to me. She cared. Namaste. Attic Annie

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The Day After Christmas

Christmas Love

My bed was warm and cozy this morning. I managed to sleep until almost 8 a.m. I have made an executive decision that most of the day will be spent in my flannel pajamas and thick fluffy robe, tube socks, and slippers that are faux fleece lined. They look ridiculous because several years ago I covered them with green felt when I went to a Red Hat sleep over. I wore a huge sleep shirt with a picture of a gigantic frog perched on a lily pad. The slippers were converted to frog feet. There were toes at one time but I had made them too long. I kept stepping on them and almost falling so they now have a toe-ectomy. Since no one will see them, I continue to wear them because they are the most comfortable and warmest in my closet.

I’m staying in this attire because it is the warmest and coziest outfit I can think of. I have given up trying to stay warm in my house when the thermostat is set on 68. As the years go by, I have made staying warm more of a priority. It is now set on 70 and the furnace is running almost constantly since it is in single digits outside. My home is as insulated as I can make it, but there is still a slight chill. I give thanks for warmth on cold winter days.

Every once in a while I am given the gift of realizing that I feel really well…not just physically but also spiritually. Today is one of those days. Even though Christmases are a little hard for me, I found comfort in this one.

A birthday buddy I found about seven years ago has included me as part of her family. She has reunited with her estranged father and so she hosts a dinner for him and his wife. After so many years there seems to be a bond forming between them again. I kind of envy that since there was never enough time for me to experience that with my own father.

After the dinner the two of us went to the candlelight service at church. It is the same every year, but this year I felt a solace that I don’t usually sense. Ill feelings about Christmas go all the way back to childhood. It was a little sad when she confided to me on the way home that she is thinking of changing churches. There has been much conflict the last couple of years in our congregation and we split almost in half. She stayed as I did but she is thinking of moving on.

Yesterday I was invited to the gathering at another friend’s home across the street. She cooks a huge pot of tortilla soup, tamales, beans, and makes wonderful chip dip. They buy a honey baked ham which gives me my pork fix for the year. Her family and friends arrive whenever. I walked across the street around one and had a nice visit while all was calm. It was very nice visiting with her and watching huge snow flakes fall outside. As the day went on, her two daughters and their families appeared, and a short while later two more relatives and their families arrived. The house was getting crowded so I decided to come home, full of her delicious food.

Her home is a little more drafty than mine so I had wisely chosen to put on another layer of underwear. By the time all those people had gathered, I was getting a little toasty. My introversion kicked in and I realized it was time to move on. I weary after four hours with any group.

Before I went to bed, another friend called to share her success about hosting her family for Christmas. She has so many best friends I can’t count them all, but she has chosen to add me to her “club”. It is one of those rare honors one is given in life to find a friend like her.

Back in 1968 I was dating a young Marine. He surprised me at Christmas and came home on leave. It was during that time we got engaged. Since he was in officer’s school and knew he would be heading to Viet Nam, I had no idea what to give him as a present. I decided to borrow a negligee gown and wrap from my aunt, (which had remained unworn in her drawer for several years), wrap a ribbon sash around me and sit under the tree with a gift of a big smile. It was a wonderful Christmas. I believed I had been given the gift of love. Things didn’t work out with him, but if I concentrate, I can connect with the good feelings of those few days.

I woke up this morning realizing I had been dreaming about him. I realized that the dream was probably because of “King of the Hill”. John reminds me very much of Hank Hill.  If I wake during the early morning around 4, that show is usually on. I guess I was hearing it in my sleep and started thinking of my love. After all these years I accepted the fact after fighting it for almost fifty years that for a number of reasons there will always be a part of me that loves him, but I realized today that I am setting myself free. Maybe the memories will now fade and I will recognize that that relationship also had its toxic moments that I have too long suppressed and all worked out for the greater good.

Whatever the cause of my feelings of joy today, I am grateful and will relish every minute. It is a new feeling to associate with Christmas and I will hold onto it as long as possible. I hope your days were as blessed as mine. Namaste. Attic Annie

holly

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What to Wear on Christmas Eve

sue's sweater

…and there it was, hanging right in front of me.

Once again it is Christmas Eve. I have been invited this evening to a friend’s home for tamales before going to the Candlelight Service. I have known this friend for about six years. I think this is the fourth year of invitations. I have been trying all day to figure out what I want to wear. It makes little difference at our church. There will be many in jeans and several in new outfits with every style in between. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like going to this place. I have never felt any sense of pretension. It really isn’t a matter of what one wears.

I have not bought any new clothes for Christmas in more years than I can count. Actually after twenty years of being unchurched, it has only been eight years that I have attempted to attend. My memory of Christmas Eves does not extend much beyond that.

I have a black long sleeve tee that is decorated with an embroidered cardinal and sequined white poinsettia  flowers. The cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, my home state, so it is a little connection with home, even though I haven’t lived there in thirty five years. The cardinal is a beautiful symbol for Christmas and winter I think.

“The cardinal makes a fantastic animal totem. It reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility”. I tend to hold back in crowds. I thought perhaps if I wear the cardinal I can be a little more joyous.

“As we observe the cardinal – particularly against the backdrop of the stark winter months, we are reminded that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope, and love”. The tee was a gift from my cousin’s family. She transitioned two years ago. The top still had its tags on. I had been with her when she bought it. The cardinal was her favorite totem. I wanted to feel close to her tonight.

I mentally went through other things in my closet. It’s not supposed to get really colder until tomorrow when it might snow. I don’t think it will, however. I think any snow will stop about forty five miles north of us around Denton.

I washed a couple of loads of clothes and hung them on my rack in the laundry room. And there was my answer hanging right in front of me. The very last time I saw my cousin she was wearing a new sweater. When we hugged, I was amazed by the softness of the weave. It felt so like her. Her husband asked me to take whatever I wanted when I left because by that time it was a matter of weeks. I couldn’t get myself to take anything without feeling very uncomfortable. I kind of felt I would be in the deathbed scene of Scrooge when the chambermaids were stealing the curtains before he was even dead.  I did ask him to mail me a couple of things when he was able to get around to it. That sweater was one of the few things I felt I truly wanted.

So tonight I am wearing that sweater. It will be warm enough to wear without a coat as opposed to the thinner tee. It will be soft and cuddly and I will be sharing  the service with Sue once again feeling her loving arms wrapped around me. The number of people I share this holiday with has almost entirely dwindled away but the spirit of my gentle, talented cousin will be with me to the end…at least until the sweater and the tee become too tattered to wear. Merry Christmas, y’all. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Continuing My Family’s Gluten Story

loaves of bread

Three years ago I wrote about my son and his battle with products that contain gluten. He has celiac disease as does his paternal aunt.   It is known that celiac disease clusters in families but not much more is known yet about the genetic inheritance.

Two years ago, my son moved to China and found a  young Chinese woman who became his bride. She is totally amazing when it comes to his diet. She reads every label before she buys anything for him. At home she cooks vegetable laden meals. She has found a non-wheat flour so its not like he’s being deprived of an occasional pizza. As a result, he is getting much healthier and is down to his high school trim weight. He has lost the puffiness from water retention as well as several pounds.

It is amazing how many products contain gluten from soy sauce (can we say living in China?) to vitamins. It is a very pervasive product. He has problems buying products in China, but people with sensitivity or the disease have as many problems in the United States. Our “health conscious” national government allows manufacturers to hide the fact that their products contain gluten.

“Gluten-Free” Labeling  

 

“Surprise, surprise! The FDA allows companies to lie about gluten labeling…nothing new there, they haven’t exactly endorsed honesty with anything else, right? Gluten is on the FDA’s list of “Generally Recognized As Safe” ingredients, meaning food manufacturers aren’t required to list gluten as an ingredient”.

This makes avoiding gluten even more difficult, obviously. One thing you should know is that foods labeled as “gluten-free” are not 100% without gluten. The reason for this is simple: it just isn’t possible to remove all of the proteins from wheat and the other grain sources of gluten.

 Due to my son being diagnosed with celiac disease, I asked my allergist to test me also. The tests came back that I am gluten sensitive. What does that mean? It means that when I eat gluten, it sets off an immune response. Symptoms  can be very vague and since I have had a myriad of other problems, it was not quick to be diagnosed since symptoms often overlap. Not everyone has the same symptoms. The response to those with celiac disease is much more evident.

There is a long and growing list of foods that contain gluten. It’s everywhere and like the above quote says, its impossible to eliminate 100% of the gluten.

We are not unique with our gluten problems. It is estimated that 1/133 people in America or 1% have been diagnosed with celiac disease. It is also estimated that 1/18- 1/20 Americans are now gluten sensitive.

I found a chart that explains the difference between gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and celiac disease.

[GRAIN-0314]

It’s that “occasional use” under the gluten sensitive that is my Achille’s heel. I’ll continue this topic tomorrow. Namaste Attic Annie

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Fort Worth = Spring Break, Seriously?

When I first saw the blog from the Fort Worth Convention and Visitor’s  Bureau inviting people to Fort Worth for spring break, I laughed. Seriously? Really?

Don’t get me wrong. When my ex said we would be moving to Texas, I was devastated. All I knew about Texas was cowboys, pickup trucks, gun racks, dust, tumbleweeds, and dirt. Miles of dirt. Actually, I was almost half right. The phrase “Where the West Begins” is a reality when describing this town. Drive west only a few miles and that’s exactly what you have. Beyond Weatherford, trees get mighty scarce. The dust however, is constantly present. It sometimes arrives in storms.

We had one week to find a house. On our first day of driving around the city, it was comforting to experience the many gently rolling hills and the actual trees and grass and flowers. Lots of flowers around town. I fell in love with this place. Even after my ex left in the  ’80s, I made the conscious decision to stay here. I’ve been here since 1977 and I don’t really have any plans to relocate anywhere else.

When I hear the term “spring break” however, I think in terms of college kids. Beer. Sun. Motels booked for two and holding ten. Swim suits. Beaches. Numerous activities that pay homage to a variety of physical pleasures. That does not connect with the image of Fort Worth.

Take a look at what the FWCVB lists as great activities for spring break.

Spring Break

Looking for the perfect Spring Break destination?

With exciting events and activities, Fort Worth has everything to keep your entire herd happy.

Top 10 Things to Do and See this Spring Break

1.  See the Fort Worth Herd, the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive, and have an up-close encounter with a Texas longhorn. 
2. Enjoy a variety of art activities during Family Fun Week at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Admission is FREE.
3. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Cowtown Goes Green in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District.
4. Learn all about money and how its made at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
 5. Experience Grossology: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body that uses high-tech, interactive exhibits to explain the good, the bad and the ugly about why our body works the way it does to keep us healthy.
 6. Get outside and explore the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge through hayrides, canoeing, hiking and more.
 7. Cheer on rodeo professionals as they compete in the Stockyards Championship Rodeo, home of the first indoor rodeo.
 8. Take some “you” time by enrolling your little one in the Fort Worth Zoo’s 2012 Spring Break Camp.
 9. View demonstrations of woodworking, blacksmithing, coopering, and more at Log Cabin Village.
 10. At Spring Break Wonders at the Modern, children can create their own works of art after recieving inspiration from docent-guided tours of the museum.

Once I stopped laughing at the idea of FW being a final destination for spring break for college kids, I realized that the FWCVB was not targeting them. The spring break they are advertising is for families. Now I’m not sure how many families are able to take a trip in March all together at one time, but they may be on to an untapped market.

All of the items listed above are actually fun places to visit. They eliminated Six Flags but that’s because it is not in Fort Worth. It’s actually in Arlington, fifteen miles to the east. Glen Rose, about fifty miles to the southwest, has a few days of attractions as well at the Dinosaur State Park and the Fossil Rim Nature Center where you stay in the car and the animals roam free.

I’ve been trying for years to get my nieces to bring their families down here but so far I’ve been unsuccessful. I think they view Texas the same way I did back in the 70s. They were here for a few days a very long time ago as children but I doubt they remember much of anything about it. I’m not a good salesperson.

Of course you would have to rent a car if you didn’t have friends or relatives with a spare one to borrow. Texas is still bent on building tollways rather than mass transit. Fort Worth is definitely in that catagory. Dallas is on its way, but FW is still stuck in the 50s only with limited bus transportation.

The more I think about it, the more I think Fort Worth, for adults or families, is a great destination point for spring break. The weather is still not too hot. You can skip the cowboy scene after one day when you realize there’s more to FW than cowboys. A lot more. Just don’t bother to bring a bikini.


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Get off our bodies and out of our bedrooms!

I am totally upset by the trend I see happening in the United States concerning the control of women’s bodies by the men (and more than a few of the women) in our governments. I’m sure there are a godzillion posts by now about yesterday’s news concerning the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood.

Since the 1960s, men have been losing control of women, en masse. It had been happening gradually since before women started wearing bloomers. It has been in the last fifty years that women in the United States have really asserted their rights to the control of their own bodies and their own lives.

It has not been a surprise that the men in power want to reclaim and hold on to that power. They see their position as “head of the household” as one ordained by God as the natural order. They have resisted the lessening of the women’s bonds for so many years that they now view themselves as “less than” a man when it comes to relationships with the women in their lives due to the freedom women have achieved.

This power struggle has now come to a head with the withdrawal of funds by the Susan G. Komen Foundation to Planned Parenthood. Their excuse is that they will not fund organizations that are under investigation by the U. S. Congress. Although they deny it, from what I have heard in the past twenty four hours, it is a flagrant attempt to disband Planned Parenthood because part of their services are for abortions. To do that, they are willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of women every year who would no longer be screened for breast cancer. Life of the unborn is more valuable than life of the mother. They are making that perfectly clear. The irony is that Planned Parenthood is one of the few “crisis pregnancy” groups that do counsel the women in their three choices: parenting, adoption, or abortion.

I am not in favor of abortions. I feel that should be the very last option a woman should choose. That being said, I believe that women should still have that choice and be treated in a sterile environment. Outlawing abortions would not stop abortions. History has clearly shown that. Women have chosen abortion since at least before 1500 BCE according to written Egyptian records. It probably started happening as soon as the first prehistoric woman realized the pregnancy could be ended.

Not every child is a wanted child. Not every child can be afforded. The reason for abortions vary with every single woman who seeks out that service. Ending legal abortions would simply drive women back to the back alleys into deplorable conditions. They would seek out powerful herb concoctions. They would implement coat hangers to attempt to do the job themselves. They would desperately seek an end to their unwanted condition regardless of whether it cost them their own lives or not.

The irony of government seeking to end abortions is that throughout history, men in power, or the sons of men in power who outwardly oppose abortion, are the first ones to pay for and drive or fly their girlfriends or wives to the abortionist in the first place.

The government that is opposing abortions is the same government that is complaining about the safety nets that are in place (as fragile as they are) to keep the unwanted children that are born from starving or dying from disease once they are born. They are the ones to continue to cut funding for their education, health, and housing.They are the ones who forbid the woman from having the abortion yet punish her for the rest of her life for the sin of getting pregnant.

They are also the ones who condemn the growing number of women who choose to keep their children when they have limited sources of income to do so. They gripe at having to provide food stamps, health care, and housing, wishing always to cut funding in those areas. They speak out of both sides of their mouths. To me, that signals multiple personality disorders.

One thing governments can not do is legislate morality. In a fairy tale land, according to them, all children would be planned for and wanted and well cared for by a mother and father who have the financial means to do so. There would never be any “accidents” even if the couple did not practice contraception as some religious groups advocate. Both the mother and the father would be loving and faithful to each other until death does them part. But, alas, that is not the real world. It never has been.

In the meantime, until that fairy tale land exists, governments should get out of the business of trying to control women. It may work for a while but, as evidenced throughout the world today, there will again come a point when women will have the courage to resist such control. The backlash from the Komen decision is a good indication that that time is now. Namaste. Attic Annie

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We Have Only Today

I was watching TV last week and came across an episode of 8 Simple Rules. I never watched it when it was on the first time. I soon realized what was happening. The wife played by Katey Sagal was deciding she couldn’t sleep in her bed because it was the first night after the funeral of her husband, played by John Ritter. Since that was the only episode I have seen, I realized the series was using the death of Ritter as part of the script. I remember how quickly he had died. On the series, they took the attitude that life goes on.

Last week a member of the choir sang two solos during church. He has been through some very rough spots in his life but as he sang, it was obvious that he was in a very good place. Things were coming together for him. One of the songs he sang was Carolyn Arends song “New Year’s Day.”

I buy a lot of diaries 
Fill them full of good intentions 
Each and every New Year’s Eve 
I make myself a list 
All the things I’m gonna change 
Until January 2nd 
So this time I’m making one promise 

CHORUS: 
This will be my resolution 
Every day is New Year’s Day 
This will be my resolution 
Every day is New Year’s Day 

I believe it’s possible 
I believe in new beginnings 
‘Cause I believe in Christmas Day 
And Easter morning too 
And I’m convinced it’s doable 
‘Cause I believe in second chances 
Just the way that I believe in you 

This will be my resolution 
Every day is New Year’s Day 
This could start a revolution 
Every day is… 

One more chance to start all over 
One more chance to change and grow 
One more chance to grab a hold of grace 
And never let it go 

He’s the type of guy who can really make others feel good. We believed him when he sang of changing and growing and grabbing grace. He made  us all feel good. He made us believe that every day we should resolve that this is our best day. That was Sunday.

Yesterday morning he posted on FB for his friends to pray for his daughter. She had stopped breathing and was rushed to intensive care in Tennessee where he had spent days at Christmas. She was on a ventilator. He updated last night that neurological signs were not good. An hour ago he posted that his daughter was with her mom among the angels in heaven.

The 8 Simple Rules script had the teenage children talking about the last things they said to their father. They were deep in grief for suddenly losing him.

I’m sure my friend is in deep mourning for the loss of his daughter. As far as I know she never regained consciousness. I wonder if he remembers his last conversation with her.

Our lives can be as normal as ever and then suddenly without warning everything can come to a screeching halt. Both the show and my friend’s loss brought that home to me. We are not able to always have that last moment to say good bye.

My father and I were not on the best of terms. He was in the hospital and I should have gone to see him even if it would have been out of a sense of filial duty. However, I really didn’t feel like it. I remember exactly where I was when I decided I would wait until the next day. After all, the doctor had said he was doing OK.

About six hours later we got the call from the hospital that he was dead. I did not take the time to say good bye. I can’t remember my last conversation with him. Those times during my senior year in college were few and far between.

I had that one day. Only one day. To tell my father I really did love him…to ask him if he really did love me. I let that opportunity slide by.

I talk with my son a couple times a month and email him a few more. If you have adult male sons you know this is very normal. He is living his own life. But one thing I have realized that we do more often is end up writing or speaking “I love you.” He often initiates it. He is able to do something I had great difficulty in doing. He is teaching me the importance of letting him know and his letting me know that we love each other. It is then that I realize we have only today. If I die suddenly he will remember that the last time we communicated he ended the conversation with love. Namaste. Attic Annie

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