Companion on the journey

Bob and I celebrated our 4th year of marriage on the 12/21/2017. For a woman whose marriages can be measured in cat years, that’s equal to 20 years of  marriage. And I still like him.  Better yet, he still likes me.

I am not sure why the marriage commitment has eluded me.  Perhaps, my life as an alcoholic woman for whom commitments and morals were better written in the water than on paper made it more difficult than it should have been.  In sobriety, I’ve learned the value of faithfulness and honesty.  Those are all handy values to have in a marriage.  Patience, kindness, and tolerance are great values, too, but I am still practicing them.  Literally.  Haven’t been able to stick a landing more than a few times a day.

It helps that Bob loves more unconditionally than any creature I’ve known.  He gets mad at me, we argue, we have gone to bed angry.  Inevitably, in the dark of the night, I feel his hand squeeze my hand.  Yeah.  We still like one another and we’ll live to argue another day.

We did a grand tour over T’giving week, joining GE and her family extended with Jonathan’s mom and step-dad on a trip to Disney World.  Bob’s not traveled along the Gulf coast so we decided to drive. The trip was typical of Travels with Bob.  We did our 20 hour trip over 2-1/2 days, both coming and going, eating good food and finding out-of-the-way places to explore.

In Louisiana, we visited alligator farms and an Arcadian museum to check out my genealogy.  In Mississippi and Alabama, we tramped through old cemeteries, Civil War battlefields, and  the USS Alabama.  In Florida, beside time with the Mouse, we visited the Pensacola Naval Museum, Atlantic and Gulf beaches.

Bob’s never in too much of a hurry to stop and smell the roses. It can drive destination minded me nuts.  Bob would make a good coach.  We’ll stop here and then head on.  You don’t want to miss this.  Come on.  I have never yet regretted setting the time-table aside and saying yes to the stop.

You know those bumper stickers that say: “I brake at garage sales” or “This vehicle stops at RR X-ings?” We need one that warns drivers that we stop at historical markers, every single one, as well as cemeteries, interesting looking trees, old houses and churches.

We picked hotels using when we got too tired to drive, falling into bed and rolling out early in the AM.  One of my favorite days was the day that Bob and I broke off from the group and went to visit his aunt.  “Let’s see the sun rise over the Atlantic before we go see Aunt Kay.” Off to Cocoa Beach and a brilliant sunrise we went.

Atlantic beach shell with some of our heart rocks and JD Dragon

Bob knows how much I love rocks and shells. I fell in love with him because he caught a sand dollar with his toes while we were wading in the Gulf of Mexico.   A local jogging down Cocoa Beach spotted us as non-local yokels and gave us a shell she had collected on her run.  Her gift joins some of our finds as a special memory of our trip.

I am not sure how many more miles I will journey on this earth.  I have been blessed to have Bob for this part of my journey.  Would I have picked him out of a catalog?  Nope.  I’d have thought he was too young, too conservative, too Baptist, not Texan.  Lucky for me,  Bob didn’t know my specifications.  And God just smiled and gave me Bob.

Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours. Vera Nazarian



Posted in Life after 60, Marriage, Sober Life, Vacation | Leave a comment

What are the odds?

I was born left-handed. No matter how many times my parents tried to get me to reach for a toy with my right hand, I put out my left hand. Early crayon experiences were with my left hand. I might have had a choice, but I doubt it.  Raised in a family of righties, I learned to do most sports right-handed, am ambi when it comes to sewing and scissors, and decidedly left when it comes to writing and eating.  I’d have to use voice to text and hog trough my food if I couldn’t use my left hand.

The odds average 10% that I’d have exactly the right enzyme bonding to my DNA to cause my hand preference.  Dutch and South African biopsychologists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have found that hand preference shows up at 8 weeks gestation and originates in the spinal cord, not the brain.  The probability of being left handed is influenced by parents’ handedness.  I have two right-handed parents so the odds of my being left-handed are 9%.

  • Two right-handed parents, 9%
  • Left handed father, 12%
  • Left handed mother, 16%
  • Two left-handed parents, 20%

a396345abdf9cadef732e0e40be1656ec318d07413ad7d7346ba8c76fc90b5deLeft-handers are taking over the world.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly.  My favorite source for left-handed supplies,, has an article on its site that says we lefties have gone from 10% of the population to 11.2% of the population over the past 100 years.  Can’t wait for you righties to have to use right-sided spiral notebooks.

I am not sure what the probability of my being an alcoholic is.  In AA we say 10% of the population is alcoholic.  The CDC says it’s closer to 7%.  National Institute of Health (NIH) doesn’t even call it alcoholism, preferring to designate it as “alcohol use disorder.”  It nearly disordered me out of a job and family but, thankfully, didn’t shove me through the gates of insanity and death.

According to multiple sources, lefties are 3 times more likely than righties to be an alcoholic.  I’d call that fake news, but only 1 out of 30 articles I read suggested otherwise. So the odds of me being both an alcoholic and a lefty were pretty good.

My dad died from Alzheimer’s disease on May 3, 1986.  Little was known about the disease besides the frightening progression of it.  We mourned the loss of him long before his death.  Although he never lost the spark of love that brightened his blue eyes when we walked into his room, he wasn’t sure who we were or why we’d come to see him.

274809The fear of Alzheimer’s disease clung to me.  For years, I wouldn’t dump the 3 pack a day cig habit and affinity for drinking whatever would get me to oblivion.  Hell.  Better to get lung cancer or have a heart attack than ALZHEIMER’S.  Ahh.  The joys of self-destructive living.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.  It is not normal senility.

The origin of the term Alzheimer’s disease dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, presented a case history before a medical meeting of a 51-year-old woman who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A brain autopsy identified the plaques and tangles that today characterize Alzheimer’s disease.

That’s the only way it can be diagnosed.  Autopsy.  There is no test that can accurately diagnose the disease.  There’s also no cure.  There are drugs that may delay the inevitable, but the prognosis for suspected Alzheimer’s is death.

What are the odds that I’ll get Alzheimer’s disease? At my age, it’s about 5%.  That’s according to a recent report prepared by the Government Accounting Office and the National Center for Health Statistics.  The risk goes up as I get older until I have about a 50/50 chance of developing it by 95.  Of course, if I live that long, I’ll have 100% chance of outliving my retirement funds.

211483258.1I still have twinges of fear about Alzheimer’s disease and do a memory check every time I forget a name, but today my sisters and I participate in the annual Travis County Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  We started a team 3 years ago and named it Dave’s Girls.

They have memory walks to raise funds all over the country, but more of my family is near Austin than Corpus Christi so we celebrate there.  It’s also the week of my belly button birthday so it’s a cheesy way to get presents and birthday cake.

Better than that, it’s a great way to connect with my sisters, nieces, and grandchildren.  Sometimes we talk about old times, sometimes we don’t talk at all.  There’s a feeling of victory when we are together.  We raise a little money and  we raise much less hell than we used to.

Our parents didn’t have much to bequeath us, but one thing that I have from them and that I treasure the most is friendship with my older and younger sisters.  What are the odds of that?


Want to join us? We walk at Camp Mabry in Austin on October 7. Want to donate to the cause? Go to our Team Dave’s Girls web page at

Posted in Aging, Alzheimer's disease, Family, fundraising, Hmmmm, left handed living, Relationships, Sisters, Sober Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Working the night shift

We just finished Week 2 of Bob’s 12 week stint on the night shift at work. Every couple of years his crew gets a turn to work nights. He missed his last rotation a few years ago because he was out for knee surgery.  It had been so long since he worked the  night shift that I thought-hoped that the policy had changed.

carpe diem

Carpe your own diem. I worked the night shift.

When he announced that he was “going to nights” a couple of weeks ago, the silence that ensued was burdensome.  Although I was raised in an 8-5ish household, it isn’t that foreign to Bob.  His dad worked the “third shift” at the local GM plant and Bob’s  sister works the ER night shift at a hospital in Flint.  It seems like that part of MI is set up for night shifts.  Pam belongs to a midnight bowling league.  When we go to an early morning AA meeting up there, there are usually some folks who just got off work.

South Texas isn’t like MI.  My granddaughter is permanently on the night shift at HEB’s.  Her main complaint is that it’s hard to plan things to do after work since we are all at work when she gets home.   I worry that my grandson in law will be a vampire.

Bob and I approached Week 1 with the sadness of a parting which in a sense it is.  His night shift starts at 5:30PM and ends at 4AM which is my awake/asleep cycle at home.  Don’t worry.  I’ll just be up when you get home and we can visit then.  It will be fine. 

Day 1, I went to bed before 10 and was awake at 4, bouncing into the living room when I heard him drive up.  We visited, talked about our days/nights while I drank my morning coffee and he drank his Vernor’s ginger ale.  At 7 when I got ready for work, he mowed the front yard.  We cheerily waved at one another.  We can do this.  We are adaptable. 

morning afterThat night, I watched a show on TV and didn’t make it to bed until almost 11.  I still made it up at 4, though, and we sat in companionable silence.  I left for work at 7:30 and Bob slipped off to bed.  Day 3, I overslept the 4AM alarm and woke when Bob crawled into bed murmuring, “I love you.  Let’s just go to sleep.”

I was nudged with the great white shark of reality that brushes against me when I try to make my FitBit goal of 12,000 steps after realizing I only have 3,200 steps registered at 8PM:  I am not a kid anymore.   I can still see 30 year old Margaret when I look in the mirror, but the body isn’t buying it.

night owl

I went to bed and it was Tuesday. Got up and it’s still Tuesday. I am so confused.

For his part, Bob kept adding alarms to make sure he didn’t over sleep.  On Saturday, he forgot to turn them off and we were jumping to 6 different ring tones.  Luckily, he has weekends off so by Sunday we are feeling invincible again.  Maybe not quite that good, but not so battered.

Bob sleep trained last night, staying up until 3:30 and sleeping until 9.  I trained by staying up with him but couldn’t make it past 1.  The days of staying up until dawn and sleeping all day ended about the same time as my drinking career.

10 more weeks until this cycle is over.  I resisted the urge to make a countdown calendar.  Bob’s employer invariably changes plans so he might have 10 weeks, 3 weeks, or 16 weeks on this night shift.  I won’t call this my “new normal.”   It’s just life. I’ve already whined about the bad part.  The good part is that I can watch Steven Colbert, Samantha Bee, and CNN-aka “fake news”- without Bob deep sighing disapproval.  The better part is that weekends are truly joyful.  I appreciate Bob’s presence in a fresh light.

The good news is that everything changes.  The bad news is that everything changes. 


Bathroom mirror text messaging

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January 15

Bob and I watched Sully last weekend. I knew less about the crash and the investigation that followed it than I thought I did. I couldn’t figure out why until the full date was stated: January 15, 2009. For the 155 folks on Flight 1549, that was the best day ever. It was a great day.

For me, it was the day my son died. The worst day I could have imagined.  And if it all ended at that point, there would be nothing to write about.  Of course it did feel like the world should stop.  When I first got sober, I thought I could endure any loss except the death of one of my children.   That, I believed, would be the day I would need to blot away reality, numb the pain, stop thinking.

That didn’t happen.  Life kept rolling on and I kept rolling with it.  The love of family, friends, and God sustained me.  I think it’s like having an artificial knee; it isn’t natural and there’s always a reminder of that fact.  It isn’t natural for a parent to lose their child and it will never feel normal.  Can I keep walking through life, laugh and love and celebrate?  Of course I can.  But there is always a little sliver of pain that festers and reminds me that something isn’t right.

I stumbled onto this poem yesterday and it reminded me of that time and the days,  years that followed.  It is by Rainer Marie Rilke, from Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God.

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”

IMG_2367Sometimes just breathing is a prayer.


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March for Science 2017

IMG_1345I missed the January Women’s March in Austin, but I net stalked marches around the nation, feelings of pride mixed with a little envy.  They inspired me and I wanted to be there.  The recent election has spurred me to activism.  I had been lulled into complacency by the previous 8 years.  As a single mom working in construction, women’s issues of equal pay, protection against violence, fair treatment are paramount.  The previous administration was better than most about women’s issues.  Even when I didn’t agree, I didn’t complain.  I reasoned that good results mitigated questionable actions: the end justified the means.

Since January, I have called my members of Congress and the White House so often that I put their phone numbers on speed dial.  Dammit, they are my representatives whether I voted for them or not.  I believe in communicating with my elected representatives.  My son Jack laughed when he listened to a call to the Bush White House.  (Mom!  I’m going to come home to Secret Service agents in our driveway.) (I don’t threaten violence.  I just want them to know I don’t agree.)  (Oh, I am sure they know YOU don’t agree with him. But saying you don’t think he’s stupid, you just think he’s  having bad luck thinking is kind of mean.)  (But not unconstitutional.)

IMG_1340Bob and I have different political opinions so it’s been a revelation to me that I can disagree with someone and still love them.  And vice versa.  I considered not telling him that I was going to attend the March for Science here in Corpus  Christi.  I didn’t want him to challenge my opinions and say something silly like, “I don’t think you should go.”  It wouldn’t have stopped me, but it would have been contentious.

I underestimated him as usual.  When I asked him to trim down the 36″ survey lathe I’d brought from the shop, he asked why.  I said, a little louder than I intended, “I am going to carry a sign at the March for Science on the bayfront.”  He only asked how long I wanted it.  He didn’t want to cut off the pointed end since he thought I’d need it to fight my way out.  I told him it wasn’t that kind of march.

IMG_1406I expected that there would be fewer than 50 people at the March for Science.  I generally believe everyone believes what I believe; I am often disappointed and underwhelmed by public response.  The march started at 10 so I left early just in case I had a hard time finding parking.  I was excited when I saw a crowd gathered at the Selena Memorial where the march was scheduled to start and had to drive 3 blocks down Ocean Drive to find parking.

I proudly carried my sign and walked to the starting point with 15-20 people like me, lofting their signs high.  The crowd accumulated over the next 30 minutes, a mixture of kids and IMG_1388adults.  There was a fair share of college students and retirees.  By the time we took off, walking toward the C. C. Museum of Science and History, I would guess we had 300 folks walking.  People waved, cars honked, and tourists along the seawall fell in with us.  By the time we rounded the water garden and made it to the shade trees behind the museum, we’d picked up another 100 walkers.

We had several speakers, leaders in the community and students who were promoting STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Math) programs, encouraging young people at the march to consider science careers.  It was as far removed from 1970’s anti-war marches as the Catholic Church of my youth was from snake wielding Pentecostal religions.  It was a toned down rally, not much jeering, no alt-right assailants, no police called.  Like many of the adults there, I could have brought grandchildren.

IMG_1404I walked back to my car feeling energized, chatting with a group of college kids who walked in the same direction.  A few were Bernie fans, a few had voted for Trump.  I asked one Trump voter why he’d supported Trump but participated in the March for Science.  Secretly, I suspected he was there for extra credit.  His reply: “I don’t have to be 100% for him.  I want to have kids and have a clean earth, but I thought he’d bring good changes.  And maybe he will.”  The most vocal Bernie supporter growled, rolled his eyes, and quickened his step to catch up with walkers ahead of us.  My Trump friend muttered an expletive and glared at his friend’s departing back.

Oh well.  Being friends with Bob, whose politics are 150 degrees away from mine, could be hard.  Being married to one of them could be even harder.  What I’ve learned is that there is truth to both sides.  There’s also plenty deception to spread around.  Loving Bob makes me research some of the claims he states as truth;  loving him permits me to share what I’ve learned to extent he wants to hear it.  As GE told me when she was a high school CX debater, “Not everyone is a bleeding heart liberal like you.  Everyone doesn’t HAVE to agree with you.”

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Yucca baskets

I got on the email list for Earth Native Wilderness because they offer classes in flint napping and knife building which Bob is particularly interested in learning.  The idea was that I’d register him for one of their classes as a gift.  I also have this hypocritical desire to go back to the old and simple ways of my ancestors.

That’s not two-faced; it’s more like three or four faced.  I would be sad to lose the easy communication tools of a smart phone and the internet.  I have a refrigerator that, despite my efforts at clean eating, is more than 40% stocked with processed foods.  My 4-year-old car has more than 100,000 miles on the odometer.  I want a simpler life as long as I have grocery stores, sewer treatment, internet, gas-powered vehicles, wifi.  Oh, heck.  The list goes on and on.  If the revolution ever comes, I’ll be stuffing snack bags with peanut filled pretzels and chips as I post to Facebook.


Your standard yucca baskets–not available in most stores

ENW sent an email offering a class in making coiled yucca baskets.  Since I have a crafty family, I sent out  email invitations to my daughter, sisters, and nieces to join me in the class.  Nobody else could go.  When I told Bob that I was going to the class alone, he offered to go with me.

This is one of the things I like about Bob.  He wants me to sit in a deer blind with him at 5 AM and join him kayaking across the Aransas Pass ship channel.  And his excitement is endearing and inspires me to go even when I hesitate.  On the flip side, he’s made baby sock rosebuds and cut out pineapple hearts and watermelon stars to help me get ready for showers. We are a team.  A weird team, but a team nonetheless.

The class was in the country outside of Bastrop, down a red dirt road.  Because we’d had rain the night before, the road was slickery.  It was easy going for Bob’s big truck, but it would have been more exciting in my little Cruze.

Our instructor was a young man, energetic and enthusiastic.  Of the fourteen folks who were in the class with us, most were women.  I was saved from being the oldest in the class by a retired elementary school teacher.  That’s a guess.  I often describe people as older and find out they are years younger than me.  I still see a 45-year-old woman when I look in the mirror.

More than half the class had been to a class with Chris before since he teaches clay pot and bow making as well as brain tanning of hides.  That is as gross as it sounds.

baskets3As instructed, we brought knives, chairs, and snacks along with notebooks and pencils.  Chris handed out awls while conveying a safety lesson about the tools.  I mentally scoffed at the warnings until Bob reminded me that I’ve sliced my thumb when I was cutting glass while texting.  Mindfulness is elusive.

Chris gave us a brief history of the baskets which originated with the Anasazi tribe and described the challenges of maintaining the tradition.  He passed yucca leaves to us, warning us that we were entering the frustrating phase of basket construction.


Bob starting Phase 1 of basket construction.

As we endeavored to make the center basket ring without a tantrum, Chris checked on our progress, helping where needed, complimenting when appropriate.

Historically, yucca baskets were fashioned with needles made of bone.  We used the awl to stab into the yucca and push the pointed yucca end through the hole to bind together rows.  The puncture sealed quickly so I had to be focused.  I also found that calmly guiding the end through the hole worked better than jamming or forcing the end.  That could be a guiding motto for my life.

While we worked on our baskets, a norther blew in with rain.  Chris hauled over logs and impressed us by starting a roaring fire without matches.  In peaceful companionship we built our baskets around the campfire.


My basket could be a hummingbird nest.  Bob’s would make a fine cat hat.

Bob was one of the star students since he got it right away and proceeded to help those of us around him.  There were a couple of students who completed rock star baskets.  I managed to hold back the eye rolls when one of them held up her perfect basket and said, “Does this look ok?”


Our baskets were less than adequate but the class was such fun that we left with the desire to build another.  Bob’s already planning to gather yucca leaves on our next trip to Montell.   And if we need to carry water in a survival situation, we can make a yucca basket.  After we learn how to make a bone needle.


Cat in a yucca hat after she looks in the mirror.






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Stay. Really. STAY. STAY!!

Bob and I have an extended family of 3 dogs and 1 cat. I am not counting the 3 cats who are 5/8’s feral and live in the front yard since they think we run a bed and breakfast and flinch when I try to pet them.  The dogs and cat who live under our roof qualify as extended family since the definition states, “An extended family is a family that extends beyond the nuclear family, consisting of parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all living nearby or in the same household.”


Murphey with his nephew

If I had to give them familial titles, Murphey would be a brother-in-law while Papa’s Kitty would be an adopted daughter whose wealthy family died in a plane crash.  She has the attitude of one who has lived through better times and is just settling.  Halo and Scooter are cousins, not from the same parents.  Scooter is paraplegic as a result of a skiing accident.   Halo fell on hard times after getting drunk and sleeping with one of the judges at the Miss Canine Texas pageant.

We usually have a happy family of mammals, the three dogs lying in close proximity with the cat anywhere she wants to be.  Murphey never gets ruffled, but there are  times when Scooter and Halo get cross with one another, growling their displeasure.  Last week, the growling got nuclear.  It was after dark and I shrieked for Bob to help me separate them.  Between the two of us, we got the animals separated into opposite corners of the house.  Scooter inflicted the most damage and was largely unscathed.  Halo looked like she’d lost a knife fight.  The kitchen looked like a MASH surgery.


Horrified…by these dumb reindeer horns

I was horrified.  Bob, who had a nip wound on his left arm, was furious with both canines.  Neither one was seriously hurt, but it was a mess.  I kept Scooter and Halo separated for the night, shuffling them outside in shifts.  The next morning, after Bob had gone to work, I brought the dogs together.  When they snarled and lunged at one another, I grabbed the sink sprayer and doused them with water.  That gave them pause and I parted the dogs, putting one in the backyard and the other in the back bedroom.

I drove to work in silence, worrying about our civil war.  What had happened to our happy home?  What were we going to do?  I Googled “multi dog families,” “when dogs fight,” “what causes dogs who haven’t fought to fight one another.”  I didn’t get a solution, but one of the sites encouraged dog training.  I called a local franchise called Sit Means Sit.  They offer free consultations and were able to come to our house within 24 hours.  After another night of shuffling dogs between bedrooms and the backyard, I was ready for help.

Wes, the dog trainer, was at our house when I got home.  Bob had introduced him to the creatures.  Wes took time to get to know Halo; after 10-15 minutes of talking to us, he let Scooter approach.  The dogs were a little tense but settled down quickly.  In time, we were talking about the dog routine and looking at the 3 dogs who were happily sitting together.  Just like old times.


I was just minding my own business when Scooter’s ear was in my mouth.

“What happened?  Why are they getting along now?  What did you do?”  (There’s nothing wrong with your dogs.  They don’t really need training.  To be honest with you, it’s  you.  If you don’t mind my saying, you are a little co-dependent with your dogs.)

We spent the next 30 minutes going over some suggestions.

  1.  Dogs are animals.  They don’t have human emotions.  Subscribing human emotions and motivations to dogs confuses everybody.
  2.  Dogs don’t fight unless they are under stress.  Some dogs are more sensitive than others.  Loud voices and inconsistent treatment can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause fighting.  Routine changes can throw dogs off.
  3. When the dogs do fight, which is a possibility in multi-dog families, it doesn’t help to scream, “THE DOGS ARE KILLING ONE ANOTHER.   DO SOMETHING. DO SOMETHING, BOB!”
  4. Don’t grab fighting dogs by the collar.  If there are 2 people, each can grab a dog, pulling them apart.  He suggests seizing them from their hindquarters.  No teeth at that end.
  5. Once separated, the dogs need to have some time to lose the adrenalin rush and have time to calm down in one another’s presence.  Separating them while they are still agitated can result in another fight.
  6. Dogs love logical behavior and don’t appreciate hypocrisy.

When Wes left, he gave me some homework:  Be an effective communicator.  Be aware what you are communicating.  Self discipline, self-awareness, and self-control comes from you.  

The dogs got off with an ear scratch.


What are you looking at?  I’m not the one who lacks self-control

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