The Grateful Book

September 21, 2015

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For several years I was mired in grief as I struggled to come to terms with those feelings of loss we all have when someone close to us dies and we either ignored the signs or felt helpless through the process that, in many cases, lasts for years.

As my grief cycle lost some of its hold on me I started reading again in my search for stepping stones to help me rise from a serious depression to a brighter life. I also turned to friends and relatives and my new boyfriend and they have all stood by my side as I slowly beat back the viny tendrils of my own mind that were trying to hold me back.

One of the suggestions I came across was called The Grateful Book. That’s not the name of a book, but is an exercise to help turn the tables on the mind and it has been of immense help to me.

The premise is simple

  1. Buy a brand new spiral notebook and a pen that you can keep by your bed.
  2. Each day, either before turning out the light at night or before rising in the morning, write down 10 things you are truly grateful for. (For me, this usually takes up most of a page so I just use a new page for each day.)

The page of my book from this morning follows as an example. However, to give you a better understanding of WHY I write what I do let me tell you where I live and what I saw yesterday.

I live in an apartment in a barn. The apartment was converted from a farm manager office with the horse stall next to it remodelled into a bedroom and the storage room behind converted to a bath room.

There are three other 12′ x 12′ ‘apartments’ in this facility that do not have bathrooms or windows, but there is a common kitchen and a toilet in the office in the second barn. The people in the other apartments bathe late at night, with a hose, outside in the dark. There is no hot water.

In comparison, my 700 sq.ft. apartment is the Taj Mahal. I have two window air conditioners, a small window, a real stove and refrigerator, and a full bathroom with hot water as well as my bedroom.

Yesterday, the woman who lives with her husband in one of the rooms proudly showed me their home. It was spotless, smelled of cleaning products, and had a dresser, a mattress on the floor, and storage bins stacked in one corner. There was a coffee pot on the dresser and it must have been over 100 degrees in the windowless room. She had a big smile and was so happy to show it to me.

So, here is this morning’s page from my Grateful Book:

  • I am grateful every day that I have a boyfriend who is a good man and cares about me.
  • I am grateful every day that I have a kitchen with all the appliances I need and extra ones that are convenient.
  • I am grateful every day that I have running water and a functional indoor bathroom where I can privately bathe.
  • I am grateful every day that I have lots of clothes for any weather condition.
  • I am grateful every day that I have boxes and shelves of books to read about a variety of subjects from humor to self improvement and education to science fiction.
  • I am grateful every day that I wake up each morning to the sounds of life all around me.
  • I am grateful every day that I can watch the sunset from my front door.
  • I am grateful every day for the incredible beauty I see in clouds, water, trees, flowers, animals and the faces around me.
  • I am grateful every day for my functioning brain and the creative thoughts I have as well as all the memories of my life.
  • I am grateful every day for the taste of clean water, the smell of coffee, the sounds of birds, the sight of growing things and the touch of others.
  • I am grateful every day for the lifetime of hugs I have received and for each one I will get in the future.

Sometimes I have a particular person or event on my mind and what comes to mind is all the things related to that. Many themes repeat, like my boyfriend, my sister, my friends, adventures and travel I have enjoyed, moments I remember, my animals, vehicles that are old but functional, my job, educational grants I’ve recieved…

At first it was hard to think of a single good thing to be grateful for. Then, as I got into the thought patterns of actually seeing what is around me, it became easier and easier to be grateful for everything.

IMG_2056It’s hard to believe, as I sit here inside a solid building and type on my computer that is connected to the rest of the world through the internet while a cool breeze from the air conditioner wafts the warm scent of toasting cinnamon English muffin through the air and a little black and white cat stretches in contentment and companionship next to me, that there are places in the world where bombs are falling, homes are being invaded, women are not allowed education or employment. And that my very neighbors don’t have bathrooms.

How can I NOT be grateful for what I have and where I live?

Who Am I?

January 5, 2014

IMG_0500Long months have come and gone since the last time I posted on this blog.

I apologize to those who have chosen to follow me, I feel I have let you down. But there are times in everyone’s life when they have to stop, work through internal issues, and decide on a direction. Sometimes the choice is to stay on the same path, and sometimes the choice is to move in a new direction.

My problem was that I lost track of myself. Not an easy thing to do, considering that I’m pretty tightly stuck to me, but Me wasn’t communicating for a while so I was blindly staggering along the path without direction.

When I finally woke from my sleep walking journey it took a while for me to figure out where I was and, more important, how I could get from where I was to where I want to be. I sat on a rock for a long time, musing and watching the time go by.

Then a thought came to me …. how can I choose a new track when I don’t even know who I am? When I fell asleep I was a woman in a daze, but now I find myself awake and wondering what happened to get me from where i was to where I am while I was asleep …. and how do I repair all the damage done by time, weather, and vandals while I was sleeping?

So, I decided to start my journey of the discovery of self by figuring out what I am.

What Am I?

  • Writer: teller of stories, creator of tales, weaver of alternate realities;
  • Videographer: capturer of happenings, recorder of events, chronographer;
  • Photographer: freezer of timely moments, stopper of time, moment saver;
  • Friend: sharer, carer, secret holder;
  • Pet Owner: petter, caretaker, midwife, nurse, vet, petter, walker, claw clipper;
  • Businesswoman: accountant, organizer, record keeper, strategist, worrier;
  • Girlfriend: partner, lover, sharer, bedfellow, stroker, sexy, exciting, bitch;
  • Lover: giver, taker, participator, caresser, stroker, stoker, compliant, demanding;
  • Owner: breeder, feeder, trainer, mommy, disciplinarian, teacher, rewarder;
  • Student: researcher, learner, reader, practicer, test taker, striver, thinker;
  • Woman: moody, exciting, loving, needy, fat, bitchy, short, cute, thin, beautiful, succulent, slim, untouchable, free, nest builder, easy, longing, empty satiated, unhappy, ecstatic, joyful, unhappy, energetic, satisfied, tired, energetic, happy, lazy, disconnected, sensitive, lazy, telepathic, anxious, lonely, content, therapist.

Perhaps there is no answer.

You can find previous episodes at:

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 1)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 2)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 3)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 4)

VinHospitalThe next thing I remember I was back in my room having brilliant conversations with my visitors and the nurse… one word at a time… between naps. I didn’t realize how little time I was staying awake until I asked the nurse for a muffin. Next time I opened my eyes there was a blueberry muffin sitting on the bedside table with my name on it. The nurse stepped back into the room to make sure I didn’t choke. How silly was that? I’ve been eating by myself for well over 50 years! I took a fork full of muffin and before I could finish chewing was falling asleep. I barely had time to swallow before drifting off again. So, I wolfed down about four tiny bites of that muffin… one bite at a time… between naps. Then I had to pee.

I groped around and found the call button and, like a genie from a bottle, it seemed that instantly there was a nurse with a smile awaiting my demands. “I have to pee”, I said, and the nurse disappeared to get a big, strong, handsome guy to carry me to the bathroom…or a wheelchair, I didn’t much care at this point as long as it was fast. Meantime, Dad and Carolyn mysteriously vacated the room and the nurse returned WITH A BEDPAN and sat it on the table then, began to flip up the covers in prepparation for sliding that THING under my backside.

ARP! Alternate plan! No sooner had my genie-nurse placed the bedpan on the little table than a wave of surprise nausea overwhelmed me. And, oh, the extreme gratitude of having a clean bedpan at your side when the post-anesthesia digestive rejection hits out of the blue. What a wonderful serendipity of timing! I totally understand now why they don’t want you to eat the night before surgery, and I will never complain about it again.

7photo 3Once the bedpan was cleaned and sterilized (don’t look at me, I don’t make the rules), I had the pleasure of actually using it as a bedpan. By the way, have you seen the new bedpans? They are a marvel of modern engineering! No more the big, oddly-shaped stainless steel bowls of the past that we perched on as they wobbled under us like a drunk donkey, the new ones are flat on one end so they slide under you easily. Of course, they’re also one-size-fits-all so at my size I felt like I was falling in; and it didn’t help that there was a very nice and awesomely chatty nurse keeping an eye on me the whole time. As you can imagine, it took a few minutes. Oh, and after my original use of the bedpan they made sure there was one of those little plastic kidney-shaped bowls handy at all times.

So…the hour of allotted recovery time passed and I was still asleep—more than less.   Since you can’t be hopping around on crutches dragging a leg around behind you in the dirt when you leave, the rule of knee surgery is that if you can lift your injured leg off the bed you’re ready to go home. And I was still asleep. Did I mention that I react very strongly to medications? It’s one of the big reasons that I would rather have a headache than take them.

Lifting the leg off the bed usually happens around the end of the first hour. Four hours and a nurse shift-change later, almost entirly spent in a drugged sleep, I finally managed to lift my leg off the bed….sort of. Good enough! It was declared that I could go home. WooHoo!

Now came the forty-five minutes of drive time strategically interspersed with stops to empty the little plastic kidney-shaped bowl they were kind enough to give me for the trip. After what was undoubtedly three days, we made it to my apartment.

photo 03Once there everyone hussled and bustled about, getting me in and settled, getting Rally Dog out of her stall prison, filling her water and food bowls, making sure I had water and plastic hospital bowl and crackers at bedside, and that my bubble-wrap water cooler thingy was hooked up and running, and I had taken my pain medication—as per doctor’s orders. We were all exhausted so Dad and Carolyn tucked me in and headed for home.

I was alone….the curtains blocked the late-afternoon light…it was quiet…I had just taken a Happy Pill…I drifted off into a deeply drug-induced sleep. Just for the record, I’m not a doctor person and I don’t take pills. If I have a cold, I use a box of tissues and get on with my life, if I get a cut, I put some cream and a bandage on it and get on with my life, so every pill I take has an affect almost twice as strong as anyone else the same size would get. Oh, I did mention this? Blame my repetitiveness on the drugs.

6photo 2When I woke the bedroom was dark, but the lights were on in the living room and, of course, how could I sleep with the lights on? Also, I had to pee again. So, I disentangled myself from the bed, remembered to disconnect the ice machine, grasped my crutches, slipped, and promptly fell down…Right Smack In The Middle…. of my freshly repaired knee onto the linoleum-over-concrete floor yelling, “Oh SHIT!” all the way down. I may have used the F word.

Even in a drug-induced stupor I knew nothing good was likely to come of any of this. I lay there attempting to assess the situation and the only thought that would form was, ‘How am I going to get up?’ so I rolled to the side, wondering if it mattered now whether I used that leg or not. After laying there for a few minutes and thinking (ok, not so much ‘thinking’ as rolling random thoughts around in my empty, echoing head), I grabbed the door handle and a book shelf and managed to regain my foot. As I was struggling to stand I realized that it didn’t matter if I tried to use the repaired leg or not, the nerve block was still in force and nothing this side of a cattle prod was going to get any use out of it.

Now I was afraid to trust my balance on the crutches so I re-connected the ice machine, packed myself back into bed, took another pain pill—more to kill my, ‘Will I ever walk again?’ thoughts than any imagined pain–and went back to sleep.

My thought, as I was being pulled to unconsciousness by the overload of drugs:

‘Please don’t let my kneecap be shattered!’

To be continued….

You can find the first and second episodes at:

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horse (Part 1)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horse (Part 2)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 3)

Great! I was a widow living alone with six cats, a blind and deaf dog, and four horses. The aftermath of the surgery would leave me unable to touch my toe to the ground for almost two weeks. How many favors was I going to have to call in to get all this done? For a minimum of two weeks?

Vickie's Camera 006 (2)I was an active person! I rode horses, walked my dog, wandered around flea markets,  blogged (OK, so I can blog while laid up, but I only sleep about six hours a night because my back hurts if I lay in bed longer than that.) How on earth was I going to make it two whole weeks without moving faster than …….I couldn’t even think of anything slower than what I would be. AND he scheduled the surgery less than two weeks away….ARGH!!

OK….I took a deep breath, at that moment ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ popped into my head, and I whispered, “Don’t panic….!”

Then I put my thinking hat on (yes I do, too, have one!): boyfriend had just flown to California and from there heading off to Connecticut for three weeks, brother was at sea for two weeks, sister was in South Carolina with too short notice for her to get time off…..I called Dad.

The invitation was from the heart, Dad and my very sweet new step-mother, Carolyn, wanted me to stay with them, but lived on a busy corner and didn’t want my deaf/blind dog (that smells like an old dog) in the house. I wasn’t willing to put the Rally Dog in a kennel because the last time I did she panicked and tried to eat her way out resulting in a broken tooth and twisted jaw.

Thinking hat on again…No one with a farm was willing to take the responsibility for having her because she couldn’t hear, could barely see, and they were afraid she would get stepped on by a horse, or run over. Some had other dogs that were territorial, some lived on busy streets and worked through the day… well, it looked like I would just have to stay home and take care of myself. What’s the big deal? After all, I AM SUPERWOMAN, damn it!

So, the race was on and I made my lists:

  • get big hay bale for field horses (so helpers will not have to take hay to them every day)

  • buy enough feed to last until I can walk (had to guess at this)

  • stock up on dog food

  • stock up on cat food

  • clean my apartment (I know it won’t last, but I really like living in a clean space)

  • set up the computer and printer in the bed

  • box of food in the bed (all the best stuff, cookies, granola bars, water, peanuts)

  • phone charger in the bed

  • (too bad I couldn’t put the toilet in the bed—more about that later)

  • clean the fridge and throw out everything that will go bad

  • buy groceries that I can prepare easily or that are ready-to-eat

  • gas up the car to drive myself to the hospital

  • make arrangements for a pick-up

Wow! So much to do, so little time, but I managed to get it all done, and off to the hospital I went.

Normal procedure is to be at the hospital two hours before surgery for all the prep work, the surgery lasts about 30 minutes, then an hour in recovery and away we go….NOT!

photo 2I was there only a few minutes late and everyone—nurses, doctors, anesthesiologist, and hospital staff—were wonderful. They were all pleasant, efficient and helpful, and I spent the extra time working on my small laptop in between interruptions for divesting street clothes and donning the excuse for a garment you wear for surgery, being stuck and fitted with a port, and meeting with surgeon, anesthesiologist and surgery nurse. Each of them checked my name on the cute bracelet they gave me, asked me which surgery I was having done and where, and what my name was. The doctor even wrote YES! in large letters on my leg just above my left knee. By the time they came with the roller bed to take me to surgery I felt pretty confident that they all knew who I was, how old I was, and that they were doing surgery on my left knee.

Since there was a surgery planned ahead of me, and day surgery started at 9:00, I did end up delayed by about 45 minutes, not too much in the general scheme of things. This actually worked well because Dad and Carolyn arrived to sit with me for a while and take me home after the surgery. I thought they would have been better arriving around 1:00 in the afternoon, but in my heart I have to admit that I was happy to see them both before going into surgery. As soon as they sat down the nurse, (how sadistic!) brought a coffee for Dad, who appeased me somewhat by making faces and telling me how bad it was as he slurpped it up. Eventually the nurse put something in the IV and the transporter came to get me. I barely remember getting rolled out the door.

To Be Continued….


Ode to Monster Kitty
Something has happened to my soft gray buddy,
he’s been missing in action for quite a while.
I’ve looked and called to no avail,
no answer is found, no sign of his long tail.

Found alone and crying in the middle of a field,
wet and cold after an especially heavy rain,
Monster Kitty was about the size of a mouse-
a soft, gray ball of wet fur yelling in hunger-
tiny, vulnerable, and screaming his outrage.

Light as a feather and barely able to see,
already he was a miniature fighter with fists waving,
ready to take on the world and size be damned,
Hissing at my approach, warning my dark shadow
that he was tough and would fight to the death.

He grew from finger-sized to super-sized,
with a tail that he carried high in the air
a long gray monkey tail of defiance,
at once a challenge and an announcement
that Monster Kitty had arrived on the scene.

As he grew from tiny kitten to gangly catten,
he murdered scarves, attacked shiny dust motes,
and annoyed the hell out of older Ezaroo cat.
A fearless king of the house from the beginning,
he was not above stealing Rally’s dog food.

In his Catten years he was a quality entertainer,
dragging hair ties and pillows around the house,
laying in wait around every corner to attack,
climbing the tree to the sunny apartment roof,
then leaping to a cushion held over my head.

Monster Kitty was an extraordinary cat,
curious about everything and always learning.
He learned to open drawers while I was at work
and reclaimed all his toys from their hiding places,
then brought them to drop on my keyboard with glee.

His energy seemed unlimited–especially at night,
when I was combination trampoline and launch pad.
Never especially affectionate, but still my friend,
he was often opinionated and quick with claws,
but when he allowed a cuddle I felt blessed.

Monster Kitty, your loss is a shadow on my heart.
I miss hearing you run on the roof like an elephant
as you blasted around chasing mice for hours.
I wonder where you are, and what you’re doing now.
You’re such a handsome boy, did you find safety?
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Failing Dog

My dog loves me well,

this even strangers can tell.

but she is not well.

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Dog Healer

God made dogs so kind

’cause people have broken minds;

their souls dogs will find.

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Dog Love

Love shines from dogs’ eyes

while family ignores them.

And hearts are hungry.

Real Beauty Sketches is an amazing video and it is proof positive that most of us have no idea how beautiful and special we are.

As I watched it I wondered how many unthinking comments I have made about the appearance of another. How have my words shaped the filter through which another views himself/herself? I sincerely hope that the balance is on the positive side.

Self Perception
Self perception is a strange thing.
It is a camera’s eye through which we see the world;
filtered by a lens of accumulated experiences
and the comments of others we love and respect.

Why do we only hear and remember the negative?
I wonder if we surprised each other by commenting on the beauty we see,
I wonder if this could change our perception of ourselves,
could change others’ perceptions of themselves.
Would we be more comfortable in our own skins?

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
In my eyes you are beautiful.

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Eight and a Half Months

Once upon a summer day
with another in embrace
I spied my sweetling current lover
with one—not me—but with another.
I, whose stomach rounder grows,
once rosy face with anger glows,
who waited nights for warm embrace
now wonder how I lost the race.

Was it me, or was it him,
or is it more than us and them?
Is she prettier than I?
Please don’t let me start to cry!
The carpet from beneath my feet
is pulled, but there is no defeat.
I lift my chin and look ahead,
no need to cry, for I’m not dead.

A few more months and there’ll be two,
I’ve plans to make and things to do!
Move on! Move on! And cut his strings,
My thoughts turn to important things;
like baby beds and nursery chimes,
and memories of better times.
But then he smiles at me with pride….
his sister standing at his side.

time
Perspective of Time

When I was child time moved in slow motion
while I raced about at the speed of light–
one moment a cowgirl, the next a ballerina,
a week as an astronaut, another as mother–
living entire careers in moments.

A trip to the sun was a journey of seconds.

School started and the days overflowed
with alphabet soup, blackboards and chalk,
evenings bulged with chase and hopscotch.
There were trees to climb, races to run;
the exciting days were never-ending.

The bus ride to school lasted a lifetime.

Weeks were long, then Boys were discovered.
Would I go on a date, or wash my hair?
Mood swings ruled unpredictable time–
one day a lifetime, the next just seconds,
energy and pimples linked with time.

Time darted forward then dragged its feet.

Studies ended, family life began.
Jobs, shopping, car pool, house cleaning;
time was scheduled, measured and metered,
a day was a day, a week was a week,
but weekends were still surprisingly short.

Time moved on, predictably irregular.

Children were born, raced about and grew,
the years grew shorter, too soon they moved on.
Bodies ache and movement slows down,
but fickle time races forth, gaining speed.
One day it’s spring, the next leaves fall.

In the blink of an eye months have passed.

Time, now odd, resides in my head,
on wings of memory it sometimes reverses.
I open my eyes and wonder, “When am I?”
Past, present, future, what does it matter?
Time is finally in my control.

It lives in memories, lives in my mind.

Pistol Tote’n Cowgirl

March 2, 2011

  My history with horses…

Photo cowgirl on pony

Biggest smile this side of the moon!

My all time favorite photo of myself as a child is of me on a shaggy pinto pony. I’m wearing a red cowboy hat, a matching vest, a gun belt with a pair of cap pistols, and the biggest smile this side of the moon.

This simply marvelous event occurred because a traveling photographer was cruising down the street one hot, lazy summer day in my rural Florida neighborhood, saw all the kids playing in the yard, and knew there were bucks to be made. He stopped his pickup truck at the edge of our yard, unloaded the pony – complete with saddle and bridle – from the back, and asked who wanted their photo taken on the pony.

DUHH!! Every kid there would have traded a year’s allowance to have their picture taken on that pony! We all broke the sound barrier as we took off in separate directions for our respective parents.

When we returned the photographer pulled a hat, a vest, and pistols from the front of the truck. We stood there with mouths hanging open! Not only were we going to have our pictures taken on a PONY!! We were going to get to wear full cowboy outfits with fringe and everything!

The pony was a real sweetheart and had obviously been doing this for most of its life. His name was Shorty, and he was black and white with big eyes and a gentle disposition. He had a thick shaggy mane and was all dolled up in cowpony gear completel with a heart-shaped breastplate and naturally every parent wanted a photo of the littlest kids on it. Of course, I was one of the oldest and the biggest so I had to wait for what seemed hours for my turn.

Finally, after every other kid in the neighborhood had their turn, I was allowed to dress in the paraphernalia of a cowboy. When I was ready to get on the pony the photographer smiled, reached into the truck, and handed me a pair of leather chaps with fringes on them. I was absolutely ecstatic! I was no girl! I was SPECIAL. I was a COWGIRL.

I had never been on a pony before, but I watched Little Joe Cartwright and Matt Dillon mount all the time and I knew exactly how to do it. So when the photographer reached out to pick me up and put me on the pony I had a fit and told him in no uncertain terms, “I know how to get on!” Up I climbed, onto the pony.

When I poked my toe into the side of the pony and the stirrup surprised me by swinging forward as I mounted (that never happened to Little Joe or Matt), he helped by just putting his hand on my back to keep me from ending up flat on my back on the ground under the pony. My embarassment evaporated in my excitement at being on a real live pony!

He took five photos of me on the pony. Waving the gun around, hat forward, hat back, guns in holsters, and the last one with a gun in each hand.

After the photos were taken Mom made my whole summer when she paid him extra to lead the pony around with me on it. I was probably on the pony for all of ten minutes, but during that time I managed to convince him that I knew how to ride a horse from watching it on TV. He let me take the reins for the last circle and ‘steer’ the pony myself. I must have bored everyone to death bragging about that for at least a year.

About a week later the photographer returned with five proofs and I was allowed to choose the photo I liked best. I still have a copy of that photo.

What an awesome summer that was! It’s my first memory of actually sitting on a ‘horse’.

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