Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Healing, Holidays, Homesteading, Memories, Nostalgia

Hindsight is Always 2020

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

I don’t believe I am alone in saying this has been one of the most challenging years we have ever faced: A contentious election; conspiracy theories of wide-spread voter fraud; a deadly pandemic; the worst economy since The Great Depression of the 1930s, and a whole new meaning to the phrases “2020 vision” and, to reiterate the title of this post, “Hindsight is always 2020.”

As midnight creeps ever closer on this December 31, 2020, the only place I ever want to see 2020 again is through hindsight!

Of course, my inner-Pollyanna still looks for the silver lining: many of us have also renewed our appreciation for what matters most. As we sheltered in place, we got to rest, to read a few good books, enjoy the company of immediate family, pets, and find creative ways to occupy our minds and bodies.

I pray that everyone reading this is hale and hearty, and that somehow, some way, you are still standing strong. We WILL get through this challenging time.

And, as the tradition I started last year for New Year’s Eve, this last post of the year also remembers in a very special way those faces that will no longer grace The Herbal Hare Homestead…except in our hearts and the memories we keep deep inside.

My uncle, James Kimble, passed away in January. Sadly, by his own hand. He was 58 years old.

My Auntie Anne Marie Heon passed away due to complications from Covid-19, as did a family friend’s boyfriend, Richard.

A childhood friend, Paul Shelton, passed a couple of weeks’ ago due to a heart attack.

Technically speaking, none of these people ever physically visited The Herbal Hare Homestead; all of them lived in other states. However, they were loved and, again, will live on in our memories.

As for residents here, we lost quite a few beloved furry family members: chickens Goldie, a Buff Orppington, and Crow, a Black Austrolop; my first goat to be lost, Domino, who succumbed to heat stroke, and two beloved felines: my Pearlina Wilhelmina, who suffered cardiac arrest while being given sub-Q fluids by our vet, and Priscilla, who was found a couple of weeks ago on the floor of the rabbit room, also a stroke. And, though she was only here for a little over a week, Dolly. Dolly was a stray cat that showed up just before winter. I finally trapped her and took her to the vet for shots and testing to make sure she was healthy and, sadly, the vet found that she was having trouble breathing, there was an irregular heartbeat, and she was ancient. All of her teeth had fallen out, she was well beyond motherhood, and she had been lucky to have been carried as long as she had on the heart issues he detected. The kindest thing was to put her down. Still broke my heart.

I hate saying “Goodbye!”

Somehow, I believe this time next year will see me saying “Goodbye!” to the current location of The Herbal Hare Homestead as we search for new digs. That breaks my heart, too, as all of the aforementioned pets, and more, are buried here. But the fixer-upper house needs far too much TLC–more than I can give it, and it has become unsafe. I can no longer afford the mortgage payments. And, with the new neighbors raising Cain and Abel about zoning regulations, there’s no reason to fight in the first place. It is time to move on. Maybe we’ll bloom better where next we are planted.

In the meantime, may auld acquaintance be forgot, etc.

May 2021 be a better year for everyone…Happy New Year, my friends! May God bless you & keep you!

Pearlina Wilhelmina (white cat with black patches); Priscilla (tortoisehell laying across back of chair, her daughter, Emmylou, is the Russian blue tuxedo on the right)

Domino

Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Love, Memories, Nostalgia

The Cycles of Life

“And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

My heart is heavy yet again.

Snow is drifting and blowing about outside my window. There’s at least 10-12 inches on the ground, more still falling, and a prediction of up to 20 inches before it is done. Usually my heart delights like a little kid over a big snowfall like this. Instead, I keep thinking of a childhood friend: Paul “Peewee” Shelton.

Paul’s family rented the apartment above my family’s in St. Louis, Missouri about a year after we moved there in 1979. We were neighbors and friends for a number of years afterwards; have remained friends forever since. I went to school with his older brothers. His niece, Amy, played with my baby brother, Shaun. Our families went to Six Flags together and I saw my first concert–Johnny and June Carter Cash–with them at Six Flags. Our mothers became the best of friends, their birthdays a day apart, and every night (weather permitting, of course) like clockwork, the two of them would sit outside together on the stoop and chat about everything under the sun. They were like family.

They were family.

And always will be in my heart.

So that heart broke a little last night to learn that the youngest passed away yesterday. He’s younger than me. That just seems off balance for some reason. It’s hard for me to credit him as being 50-something (I’m 54; he was 2-3 years’ younger). I still see the gangly string bean of a boy who teased me throughout my teen years. I’m also reminded of a time–I’m not even sure how old we all were–but Peewee, as he was known then, had broken a window. It was an accident but, he was sure he was going to catch hell for it. He ran off and hid. When his mother got home I went looking for him. I found him sitting on the retainer wall by the basement door. He was still working off the mad, or fear, and told me to get out of there. I braved the mad to let him know she had said he wasn’t in trouble; she knew it was an accident. My heart went out to him in that moment of time. I’m guessing he was maybe 12 or 13. Later, he dumped the “Peewee” nickname, but I had to translate for Mom when I told her last night; she never knew his first name was Paul. He was always Peewee to her. She also caught herself thinking of him as that youngster, too; long distance will do that.

It sucks having loved ones scattered all over the country. One of the drawbacks of homesteading, or farming, is not being able to travel as readily as others; your animals always need care. I don’t begrudge it; they are God’s gift to me on this earth and they keep me going. But, when something like this happens, I wish I lived closer to hold a hand, to cook a meal for his siblings, to help them in whatever way I can to get through this hardship. They were always there for us when we were neighbors; it would be nice to return the love.

The best thing I can do from this distance is pray: for Paul, for his family, for everyone who loved and knew him…and at least offer my ear if they need to talk to someone who shares at least a little of their pain.

Rest in Peace, Paul Shelton…we will meet again. May God bless you & keep you! Love you always, my old friend!

Books, Christianity, Creativity, Enlightenment, Faith, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Memories, Music, Nostalgia, Open-mindedness, Rock & Roll, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Social Media, YouTube

Another Chapter

“A merry doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick” (Proverbs 17:22)

I turned 54 the Friday before Thanksgiving. I started my day with a cuppa tea and a steady stream of Weird Al Yankovic videos from YouTube.

Odd.

No, I wasn’t jonesing because, as I grow ever deeper into my 50s, I cannot help but grow more aware of things like aging and mortality………

Okay.

Maybe just a little.

But who couldn’t use a little humor on their birthday?

And, if I’m really being honest, I’ve always had a “thing” for Weird Al. He’s my brand of sexy. And, as he was a bachelor for quite a number of years, well, he’s not now, but hope bloomed steady in this heart for those numbers of years (chuckle). As if…

Sigh.

No, I’m not jonesing that he’s been a seemingly happily married man for some time now. I wish he and the Mrs. many more happy years. If I had to analyze my musical choices on the birthday, I would say, if any jonesing, it was the trip down memory lane that many of his videos evoked: Donny Osmond, Florence Henderson, Michael Jackson…so many of the icons of my youth grace his videos, or inspired them. So much so that the real jonesing flourished alongside the chuckles over his cleverly written, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Damn. I’m getting old.

Eventually I turned off the TV and headed upstairs to spend some much-needed time with my characters. And there I stayed, hacking out another chapter in the literary desert, praying that with God’s grace, this book will be one of many. Perhaps someday another individual will read a few chapters on their 54th birthday and feel some of the same emotions as I did watching Weird Al’s videos: hope, humor, awe, humility, nostalgia, and yes, even some low-key depression.

In the meantime, I have continued to ponder life. I’ve been looking back over the years. Seeing all that I’ve done, all that I’ve accomplished…at least in terms of academics. It’s time to put to use the college degree, the myriad certifications, and live the life of my dreams. There is no room in the heart of the faithful for fear. And I’ve allowed it to take root and stay.

Time to clean house.

Looks like my birthday spent with Weird Al had a bit of a cathartic effect, too. Here’s to another 54 years, give or take, and a merry heart finally ready to follow the path that God has been nudging me towards before it’s too late.

What dreams are you holding in your heart but too afraid to follow? Time to clean house and give the adversary the boot.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Which Way Do We Go, Which Way Do We Go?

Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper. (Psalms 37:7)

Scatter Syndrome (skah’ ter sin drohm) 1. The inability to focus on that one thing owing to the over-eagerness of having so many options. 2. When the mind leaps from one option or opportunity to the next like a squirrel leaping from branch to branch in a tree. 3. The anxiety and subsequent exhaustion that results from considering too many of those options at once to the point of being overwhelmed and then getting absolutely NOTHING done so you crawl off feeling like a failure again. 4. All of the above.

No, I don’t believe that’s really a term. And I can’t claim I just made it up either because I got it from a friend. However, I’d like to think I’m at least one of the first to formally give it a potential dictionary meaning.

Now that I’ve graduated college with a Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Fictional Writing, the world, supposedly, is at my feet. At least that’s what all the recruiters tell you as you sign the agreement at said university. In addition to a multitude of creative writing workshops, grammar and composition, literature, poetry and linguistics, I studied grant writing, business writing, entrepreneurship, art, advertising, and, of course, environmental science. This last encompassed the bulk of my electives.

So, where do I go now?

Of course, my main objective is to finish my book. But, in the meantime, I’m thinking I need to focus on some other aspects of writing, such as short stories, articles, etc. that I can finish quickly and send off to a potential editor for publication. I’m trying to focus on my writing as a business as much as an art. Though I’m leaning more towards self-publishing where my book is concerned, I would like to get my name out there. And, who knows? Maybe, in time, I’ll land a publishing deal after all.

Get an agent.

That was a steady stream of advise from nearly every college professor. But, as someone who is staring down the road to foreclosure right now (I’m behind more than the amount for which the Go Fund Me campaign was created), paying said agent would be next to impossible.

Then there is the zoning issue that I’ve recently come up against so that even if I could get right-side up on the mortgage, I would have to forfeit the heart of this homestead (the animals who share it with me) in order to stay. The attorney I consulted with over a decade ago–before I brought home my first dozen chicks and ducklings–either gave me some bad advise, or this new neighbor is throwing his weight around at the town hall. The attorney costs money, too. As does relocation. So, some of that scatter syndrome probably stems from the pressure to produce and succeed in a hurry. And it doesn’t help that his wife hides in the bushes bordering our two properties, craning her neck for…something? Gladys Kravitz has reincarnated. Maybe it’s time to twitch my nose and find my inner Samantha Stevens.

Financial challenges aside, yes, I do want to focus on my book, on my writing, first and foremost. But there’s also the homesteading and prepping that started years ago and all the myriad directions that I’d love to take it. There’s the original premise for The Herbal Hare: a business producing herbal, apian, and hand-spun/woven fiber products. There’s a second-hand spinning wheel downstairs that needs some TLC to get it moving again. It’s not the Walking/Great Wheel that I learned on and dream of owning, but it has potential…even if I do not have the fiber-producing animals yet. A loom and loom tool (smaller spinning wheel used for filling bobbins for the shuttle) are beyond me right now, but definitely hovering on the radar. There’s a shed full of bee equipment gathering dust. And dozens of seed packets and catalogs to plant that extensive herb garden for making those herbal products, selling plants and seeds, and teaching workshops on herbs. I’m even considering a YouTube channel for the same. I’d like to add some microgreens and sprouts to the list in time. There are visions of a market garden down the road. And a small garden patch planted with rye for drying and braiding the straw for making hats–a skill I never would have guessed at, a gift from my time in living history. As is the interest in lace making, which I have also tried and proven to have some proficiency in producing.

There’s an easel gathering dust. And a stack of books checked out from the library, where I currently work part-time, focused on drawing and art. There’s a guitar, amp, and Appalachian dulcimer equally dusty. Can I do something with either of those? I have a good voice. I spent over a decade fronting metal bands and I’ve served as both a member of our church choir and Lector for many years. (And, damn, if I don’t regret not taking a public speaking class during my tenure at SNHU…if it was even offered via online learning). I’m thinking voiceovers…albeit, that would require equipment I can’t afford at present, another agent, and it would take away much of the energy that I should be focusing on writing.

See? Scatter Syndrome. Twenty different directions to take and continuing to circle back to my true passion: writing, and the very real need to secure home and hearth before too much more time elapses. If this keeps up, I may find myself 90 years old and still circling.

Sigh.

Despite all of this circling, I rearranged the upstairs of my house. I used to have my office in the center bedroom where I painted a mural on the wall depicting a homestead with those fiber-producing animals, an extensive herb garden, lots of bee hives, and me standing triumphant in front of a PC whose screen shouts “BEST SELLER”. As the holistic woo-woo guru, I thought it might aid in manifesting my dreams but, I feel like it has kept me stagnant. The original intent when I painted it was to paint a house that resembled my paternal grandparents’ house, as it will forever be my happy place. I remember my irritation that I couldn’t quite get the roof line correct and, not wanting to wreck something that would forever be displayed on the wall of my house, I left it slightly “off” and continued on. Over the last couple of years since I painted it, I’ve realized that despite the white with black trim color scheme, and the dormer windows, that skewered roof line is this roof line…as is the positioning of the barn with my current barn. If it wasn’t for the new neighbor, I could have this dream here. There’s room enough. But alas…

Another sigh.

So, I’ve moved the office. And there’s a white board awaiting it’s first assignment in getting that much closer to my dreams…once I kick ol’ Scatter Syndrome to the curb and discipline that focus in its place.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animal Rights, Animals, Bereavement, Birthday Wishes, Christianity, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, gardening, God/Jesus, Grief, Herbs, Homesteading, Love, Memories, Reflexology

A Weary Heart

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, You will keep me safe” (Psalms 4:8)

I turned 54 yesterday.

I woke up this morning to find another beloved feline had passed away overnight. No sign of illness or injury, but her son, Alice Cooper, died of a heart defect when he was a little over a year old–on November 22, 2016; his mama left either late November 20, or early November 21, 2020, almost 4 years to the day. Perhaps Mama Priscilla had a heart defect, too.

Priscilla was a very pregnant stray dropped off here 5 years’ ago. Mom and I kept all three surviving kittens, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris, got everyone spayed/neutered and they have all been a joy. It broke my heart to find Priscilla lying on the floor of the rabbit room. I wondered where she was last night when I went to bed. Usually she gets up on the bed for her nightly cuddle, rubbing her cheek as tightly against mine as she can possibly get it. I assumed there was a mouse brave enough to visit a home with 9 resident felines. Now I wonder if she was already gone by the time I went to bed. Not the most auspicious way to begin your 55th year of life.

Caught the next door neighbor–the same one who challenged zoning back in June and July–hiding in the bushes bordering our properties last week, craning her neck over the stone wall looking for…something. When we pulled up in front of the house to turn into the drive, she had the startled-deer-in-the-headlights look when she realized we were home and had seen her. She left rather quickly.

Mom smokes. When she goes outside at night for a cigarette, if the outside light pops on because she’s walked in front of the motion sensor, someone in this neighbor’s house walks over to the upstairs window and stands there, watching. What are they hoping to see? What is it about us that they find so fascinating? It’s a fixer-upper home. It didn’t have curb appeal when it was up on the market in 2004. It’s definitely gotten worse over the last 16 years. And, though my Mom is an attractive 74 year old, she’s still 74 years old. What do they care if their elderly neighbor sits outside at night?

It’s going to be hard leaving here…well, it would be if not for these neighbors. Perhaps that is His plan to break the sentimental hold this home has on me. 5 dogs, 11 cats, 1 goat, 3 guinea pigs, 1 pet rat, 3 parakeets, 20 rabbits, 4 ducks and 29 chickens have their final resting place in the pet cemetery out back. I kept a reflexology practice here; have planted trees and shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs; learned how to can food, bake bread from scratch and a host of other homesteading skills here. More importantly, I’ve shared a lot of laughter and tears, both good memories and bad, and a whole lot of loving within these four walls…even if the roof does leak and a host of other updates need attending.

But I’m leaving.

The remaining goats, chickens and ducks probably qualify for contraband these days since the nosy neighbors raised a stink. I’ve had some acquaintances suggest contacting Legal Aid to see if there’s help with the zoning issues–help that I engaged long before any farm animals arrived–but I’m thinking, while I may inquire, the biggest part of me is tired of the struggle. The mortgage is high, the repairs many and costly, and the job market in this area is one of the worst. The zoning issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It won’t be easy. I’m looking to homestead, as I had been doing here, but I’m looking to do it on a larger scale. Not necessarily a larger property but a greater attention to self-sufficiency and environmental protection. So that will mean unrestricted use. Land only…to start with.

Even that little bit is daunting to this weary heart. But to give up is inconceivable. I’m getting too old for nosy neighbors and their drama, or living a life that barely scrabbles by rather than living a life that will bring me joy and a sense of security that will be the first I have ever known since I was a very wee child. A life lived with intention and a sense of purpose. It is too short, as Priscilla’s minute time on this earth has reinforced yet again, to waste it on drama and stress.

May God bless you & keep you!

Appreciation, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Compassion, Culture, Diversity, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, Friendship, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, Homesteading, Human rights, Humanity First, Memories, Open-mindedness, Politics, Prayer, Religion, Self-improvement, Understanding

Inner City Memories

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted; blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth; blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied; blessed are the merciful for they shall be shown mercy; blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God; blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God and blessed are they who persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:3-10)

I spent the first twelve years of my life growing up in a predominantly white community. I had one neighbor, a little girl a few years’ younger than me, who was biracial…and, in the first grade, one Asian classmate. That was it. Then, in December of 1978, my family moved to downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

To say I had a bit of a culture shock would be an understatement. However, the culture “shock” quickly proved to be a positive one.

I remember walking into that 7th grade classroom at Clay Elementary School shaking in my shoes. More because I was an inherently shy kid and being assertive, or outgoing, while being singled out as the “new kid” yet again, was not something I was looking forward to. But, yes, there was likely a dialogue of racist rhetoric running in the background, too. Though I loved all of my grandparents very, very much, one of my grandfathers loved to say that “we don’t mix colors.” He would’ve had a coronary to find out he had Hispanic and Portuguese blood in his veins (an aunt of mine only recently found this out).

But, you know what?

The moment I walked into that classroom, my classmates put me at ease.

Okay…maybe not the first moment. I will confess, for a split second, the culture-shocked introvert started hyperventilating just a little as several black students popped up out of their seats and came over to me: Who are you? Are you a new student? Where are you from? Welcome! Though this was not my first time being a “new” kid, this was the first time anyone had ever made any immediate overtures to talk with me and get to know me. Most of the time I just got stared at like maybe I was a python thrown into a cage of rabbits…or, being as I was the shy one, maybe I was the rabbit thrown into a den of pythons. However, it was Chandra and Rita and Janice who found me an empty desk (our teacher was out on sick leave and they were waiting for the substitute for that day), and then plied me with all of the necessary textbooks and school supplies I would need for this next phase of my academic life. Though my initial reaction was to draw inward (again, introvert!), there was so much warmth and kindness coming from each of my new classmates, both black and white, that I quickly relaxed. That same day I also started rejecting the notion of “not mixing colors” or seeing people whose skin tone may be different than mine as being different as people. I’ve realized that the only difference is our experiences.

Over the next 6 years, I shared classrooms with both black and white students, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Indian (both from India and Native American), as well as being taught by men and women of each of these. My life has been the richer for it. And, when my immediate family moved back East a year after high school graduation, I came back with a very different attitude about life, about people. I’ve become something of an anomaly to my extended family. It makes for some heated discussions sometimes but, while I’ve shied away from too much political or social discussions here on this blog, I don’t usually shy away from it in a setting where I know everyone and feel relatively safe. The only thing I may be guilty of is silently telling myself to back off at times when the conversation becomes too heated and continuing to argue will only make matters worse. I have to remind myself that not everyone has had the experiences that I have had. Not everyone has had the chance to get to know people from all walks of life, from diverse neighborhoods and school districts, from diverse cultures, religions, and backgrounds.

In light of everything that has happened in the last month or so, I can’t help thinking that we need to cross those cultural barriers. We need to pop up out of our collective seats, no matter where those seats are, and extend the hand of friendship to everyone we meet. We need to have those difficult conversations and expect that from time to time they may become heated. The only way that we will ever end the systemic racism that plagues this country is to listen to the voices of those protesting it. What are they saying? What is it really like to be black or brown in America? And, on the flip side, are there any negative experiences that white friends and relatives may have had that have brought them to a place of fear and distrust? That last may be hard to swallow but we all have something to bring to this discussion. The only way to put an end to this plague once and for all is to be honest with ourselves, and with each other, and to openly share what’s in our hearts and minds. We can do this without name-calling, or judgement, and respect each other’s truths.

I have been blessed. From the moment I walked into Mrs. Borden’s 7th grade classroom, to each and every time that I have met someone who is “different” and found, as I got to know them, that we weren’t so very different after all. We all want love and acceptance and the right to live as free and equal citizens of this nation. We all want to walk down the street, or browse in a store, without being molested…or worse. We all want to feel safe in our schools, our places of worship, and in our homes. When one of us hurts, we all hurt.

It didn’t offend my God to paint such a vivid palette of people…and how boring would it be if we were all exactly alike, carbon copies of each other? Instead, each of us brings something beautiful and special to this tapestry of life. Just as we all hurt when even one of us hurts, we also all have something to rejoice about when we allow love and compassion and respect for each other win out.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Faith, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, illness, Love, Memories, Prayer, Yoga & Fitness

An Answered Prayer

“Lord, you know the hopes of humble people. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort their hearts by helping them.” (Psalms 10:17)

I know I said in a much earlier post that I would save “those” kind of posts for New Year’s Eve only. “Those” being the posts that mention a loss here on The Herbal Hare Homestead. For the most part, I’ve stuck to it. The reason being there was a particularly dark period of time here where it felt like I was making one of “those” posts every other week. In sooth, there were 8 losses that year. Still a lot…and I could just hear all of my friends remarking how lately every time they read it, they get depressed. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But, I confess, I started to feel depressed every time I sat down at the keyboard.

However, every once in a while, though homesteading conditions you to expect the occasional loss, there’s that “one” that truly clubs you off at the knee.

That happened Friday.

About a week earlier, Pearl went off her feed and started looking a little lethargic. This went on for almost a day with me deciding that, if she was still looking “droopy” and not eating the next morning, I would call the vet (she had had similar situations over the years and within a few hours, maybe a day, she’d bounce right back; we even visited the vet once in regard and he had reassured me that if it was only a missed meal or two, not to worry too much but simply keep an eye on her. He did a thorough check, took blood tests then, and could find nothing “wrong”.) Anyway, the next day she was eating again and seemed fine. In retrospect, I wonder if I should’ve taken her in anyway…even without any specific symptoms showing. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Last Thursday afternoon, I came in from dropping my car off at the garage and saw Pearl sleeping on the sofa. When I went over to cuddle her, she responded but something seemed “off” about her. I made a comment to Mom in that regard. As I told her, “she’s not showing any symptoms of anything but she doesn’t ‘look’ well”. I recalled that Pearl had eaten that morning, not as vigorously as usual, but it was also not one of her favorite flavors so I hadn’t been too alarmed then; perhaps I should have been. I sat down beside her on the sofa and she curled up in my lap…until Ozzy did his usual horn in on the action and she moved over to the afghan she’d been sleeping on when I came in. Then, maybe 15-20 minutes later, she got down and went into the bathroom where we have a water bowl sitting under the drippy tub faucet. Again, nothing too unusual except, over the course of the next couple of hours, she made multiple returns. I suspected she probably had a kidney infection coming in but, by then, it was evening, after hours for the vet, and the closest emergency facility is in another state (not to mention, I was without transportation) and I’m not overly trusting of this emergency facility in the first place. I brewed an infusion of parsley as a first aid and fed her some in an eyedropper, only as much as she would willingly take, knowing parsley’s gentle healing properties for anything kidney/bladder related. I also kept checking for dehydration. As the night wore on, she had started showing symptoms of the latter. By early morning, she was actually sleeping in the tub by that water bowl and there was no doubt about it: she needed to go to the vet immediately.

Of course, the car was still in the shop and, to be honest, the vet wasn’t open yet. I ran through the usual morning feeding routine, texted a friend to see if she was available to drive us up to the vet hospital, and then called the mechanic. Low and behold, the car was done so I walked over and, by the time I got home (1/2 hour later), the vet hospital was open. I called, got their answering service, and told them I was bringing her in; I wasn’t arguing about it. A few minutes’ later, we were waiting in the parking lot for one of the techs to bring her in for examination. They took her in almost immediately and confirmed what I had suspected: a kidney infection. They asked permission to keep her overnight. They were starting her on subcutaneous fluids, as she was dehydrated by then, and antibiotics to kill the infection.

I got a call a few hours later to give them a call back as Pearl was not responding to treatment. For some reason, the call had gone straight to my voicemail so I called them immediately back.

Dr. Lambert apologized the moment the receptionist put the call through to him: Pearl was gone. They had given her the sub-Q fluids but they discovered when they went to administer the antibiotics that she was still dehydrated. When they went to give her more sub-Q fluids, she started convulsing. They tried to save her but her heart just stopped.

And my world just stopped.

I am devastated. This was my little shadow. I haven’t been at the keyboard any more than necessary (homework only) because I know I won’t have her chirping at me to get in my lap…and then getting all indignant when my fingers are banging away at the keyboard instead of scratching under her chin indefinitely. I haven’t been on the yoga mat because little Miss Pearl would lay on the floor and stretch with me. I’m expecting a little white kitty with black patches to get in my lap when I’m eating my breakfast cereal, waiting for me to finish and leave her the last few drops of milk. Going to sleep at night has been a challenge. I no longer have 9 lbs. of kitty sprawled across my belly and chest, front paws encircling my neck, head tucked under my chin.

So where does the answered prayer come in? Because you know I was praying right along for Him to heal her, to bring her home safe, sound, healthy, etc–ALIVE!!

Four years’ ago, I came home from work, Pearl came running to greet me at the door, lost her balance, and flopped over. I took her to the vet. They treated her for an inner ear infection but Dr. Blakesley (other vet at same hospital) had cautioned that, if she didn’t respond, they would have to do a biopsy as they suspected Pearl might have a brain tumor. However, Pearl responded. When I was burying her beside her sister, Megan, I remembered praying that night that Pearl was too young. She was only 12 (then). Please, would He give me just a few more years with her? Let her at least make it to 16, which is a very great age for a cat, but Ariel had made it that far; please, could He let Pearl make it till at least 16, too?

She did.

Of course, I also remember telling Him that I knew when that day came at age 16, I would probably beg for a few more years with her…and I did…but that I would accept it, knowing that 16 is quite elderly for a cat and that I couldn’t expect too many more years with her.

Heavy sigh.

No matter how many years we have with each other, there is NEVER enough time. As I posted briefly on Facebook last week, who would’ve thought one little cat could have this big of an impact on my life? I feel so lost without her; I look for her everywhere…and even feel a twinge of guilt every time I cuddle one of the other 6 felines that share my world. I also apologize that, even though I love them all dearly, well, no, they aren’t Pearl. They’re Kirby and Ozzy and Emmy Lou and Priscilla and Whitney and Rosco, this last one actually traveled cross country with Mom 6 years’ ago, and they are each special in their own way. I wouldn’t trade them, would mourn them just as fiercely, but I’m still looking for a little sassy white cat with black patches and a black tail, leading me upstairs for some one-on-one cuddle time together, and listening for that sweet little voice talking to me at every opportunity.

But despite this empty, aching hole in my heart, I would do it all again, Miss Pearl. Maybe I would’ve adopted you the very first time I saw you and Megan in the cage at the vet hospital awaiting a forever home (I had visited the vet hospital a few times before finally deciding to take them home). Maybe I would’ve taken you to the vet the week before when you went off your feed that first day last week. Would it have made a difference? Would you still be here with me? Or would I have lost you a week sooner because your little heart was simply done and would’ve given out that much sooner with the stress of being in the vet hospital? I’ll never know. But I do know that Celine Dion was right: the heart does go on.

And, ironically, there is a mixed blessing in this stupid pandemic. Though I had to wait out in the parking lot while the doc examined Pearl, I got to spend these last 1 and 1/2 months with my girl almost non-stop because being a librarian is not an essential worker and we have been home since mid-March. I’m actually grateful for that today.

R.I.P. my little Pearlina Wilhelmina…I love you, Sweetie, and I’d do it all again.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Spreading Hope

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (Proverbs 17:22)

We are overwhelmed.

As a nation.

As a people.

As a world.

It’s like we took the flu epidemic of 1918 and The Great Depression of the 1930’s, mixed them in a bowl, tossed it into a microwave, and let it explode out. It’s all too easy to imagine martial law, and even the outbreak of another civil war, as fear and worry and, sadly, blame takes hold…and fights to stay.

There is no one person to blame for this. It simply is. We can charge that maybe this elected official, or that one, didn’t act swiftly enough, didn’t take things seriously enough, etc. I understand. How many times in the past has our media hyped up a flu virus only to have the hype be so much larger than the reality?

This time is different however.

We’ve never shutdown our whole nation over a pandemic before…at least not since 1918. Businesses are closing. People are out of work. We don’t know when we might safely return. And we have bills to pay. I get it. We all do…at least I hope so, even if we would rather deny it.

We also have loved ones who could easily be listed among the most vulnerable. Maybe they’re elderly. Maybe they have asthma. Or emphysema. Or COPD. Maybe they’re on dialysis or chemotherapy. Maybe they’ve had a spleen removed. Or struggle with diabetes or an autoimmune disease. Now is not the time to get overly optimistic. Such optimism, taking the stance that we can go out again in a couple of weeks, could put those loved ones at risk. Again, I get it. We still have those bills to pay, a roof to keep overhead, etc.

Please…breathe, just breathe. Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to “do” but it doesn’t get you anywhere…even during a pandemic.

Despite this grim outlook, we really are all in this together. Though Congress seems intent on making this a political thing…no matter which side of the aisle we stand on…still, Congress members, our president, the White House, our local officials, etc. have all been risking their own safety to work round the clock to find a solution to these challenges. Have they succeeded? It may be too early to tell. I believe the efforts have probably fallen short of the mark. Do I trust that all of them have our best interest at heart? No. However, we haven’t seen either a health pandemic, or the risk of an economic depression, this strong in over 90 years. I’d wager our elected officials are as overwhelmed and frightened as we are.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive and, hopefully, still well. I’m going to also hope that, at least for the moment, you have enough to eat, a roof overhead, etc. If all of this is true, give thanks…to God, to Allah, to Buddha, Goddess, etc. It’s one day at a time, one step at a time. If you’re reading this, you also probably know someone who is taking this pretty hard. Pray for them and, if they’ll allow it, with them. Now is not the time to argue religious doctrine anymore than it’s the time to further political agendas. Do you have extra canned goods/non-perishables? We can safely put together care packages by washing our hands carefully first and then washing/wiping those cans and packages before packing them into a box, a tote, a bag and leaving them anonymously on the doorstep of a friend or neighbor in need. Make sure to include a note stating the precautions you took to keep everything clean. If you’re one of the people hoarding toilet paper, you might also include a couple of rolls of that (chuckle). By such selfless acts, we can inspire hope in those who are beyond scared.

Including ourselves.

Such acts of kindness make us feel better…which can actually boost our immunity. It also breaks the cycle of scarcity and want in our communities. It lets others know that their neighbors are watching, seeing their added struggles, their fear, and reaching out to help in the best way possible right now. It chases away the loneliness in our isolation, inspires hope for a new day tomorrow.

If nothing else, I am offering up a challenge to everyone reading this. If you are spending a lot of time on social media, you know that there is a lot of negativity being shared throughout. Instead of sharing the negativity, lets look for the news’ stories of the heroes in our communities. They may be few and far between, because coronavirus is getting the bulk of the coverage, but keep looking. If your mayor, your governor, etc. has stepped up to the plate in a way that is above and beyond the call of duty, share it. If you know of any programs in your state, or community, that might help those in need, share that information. Start a prayer chain via email, text message, etc. with those in your worship community, and share that. If your neighbor left that box of groceries on your doorstep, share it. And keep sharing it. It may not do anything to heal coronavirus, but it may be enough to heal anxious hearts and get them focusing on the positive. We will get through this! We’ve got to believe. Do you believe? Are you up to the challenge? I have faith that you are. Again, we’re all in this together…and together, we can be unstoppable.

May God bless you & keep you!

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It’s Definitely NOT Like the Movies

“A man that strays from home is like a bird that wanders from its nest.” (Proverbs 27:8)

In my last post, I mentioned how seasonal allergies had left me feeling blehck! Well, over the last couple of days, seasonal allergies morphed into a little something more than just feeling blehck!. Tuesday evening post-nasal drip, headache and plugged ears added fever and chills to the mix. No, I don’t have coronovirus (don’t get me started on that one!). However, I do have some kind of virus. I went to bed early Tuesday evening, around 9 p.m., and slept through until 8 a.m with only one bathroom break around 2 a.m. I got up, took care of the farm, sank exhaustedly into the easy chair in the living room afterwards, and dozed some more. Needless to say, when I went back to bed Wednesday evening, I became the insomniac. And I did exactly what sleep experts say you shouldn’t do:

I picked up my cellphone and web surfed (blue light is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and actually wakes you up, making it harder to fall asleep).

I was good. I stayed away from Facebook, one of my Lenten vows. Instead, I opted to do some genealogical searching. In times’ past, I’ve typed in the names of grandparents and great-grandparents and found some pretty cool stuff. Like, I always knew my maternal grandfather was one of 18 children (yes, 18…) but I never knew all of their names. I once found a census record that listed the names of all my great-aunts and uncles. I found a great-aunt Doris (now one of three great-aunt Dorises) who died in infancy. I knew my maternal grandfather had a sister named Viola (I also knew her; she died when I was in my early-20’s), but there had also been a Violet who died when she was just a little girl. In fact, later scrolling had led to a confusion of these two great-aunties, though two very separate dates of birth existed. Another time, I googled my paternal grandfather’s father’s name and found this really cool article on The Outlet Co. in Providence, Rhode Island that talked about Mortimer Burbank’s history with their radio station…and the elephants he arranged for a parade through the streets of Providence. My great-grandfather eventually became owner of The Outlet Co., which in turn, passed to my grandfather. Before his passing, my Poppop (my nickname for my grandfather) liquidated everything to put into a trust for my Aunt Marjorie, who was a lot like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie, Rainman. It served her well until her passing several years’ ago.

I’m not sure what made me google my father’s name Wednesday evening but I did.

His obituary came up. He died a year ago, March 6, 2019.

Now, before everyone starts scratching their head in confusion, I have not seen my father since my paternal grandmother’s passing in 1976. He pretty much severed all contact with his family after her passing, except for a brief visit to his sister, my Aunt Nancy, down in Mississippi that ended with that tie also severed shortly thereafter.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, after more searching to ascertain that this obituary really was my father’s, and not another man by the same name, I called his one surviving sister, my Aunt Sandy, to tell her the news. Like so many other times, I wished we lived closer. I wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. Words can be awkward things at times like these. We expressed regret that every attempt at reconciliation had been rebuffed over the years. And acknowledged that what were the chances of finding out about his passing in such a way. Then we moved on to other topics (my new job as librarian; my cousin’s successful kidney transplant–praise the Lord!) before circling back to the original intent of the call.

Again, I really wanted to hug my aunt.

I’ve been grappling with telling this story ever since.

My father was a late child for my grandparents. He was the youngest of 5 children and the only boy. He was also 10 years’ younger than the youngest of the girls–my Aunt Sandy–and, by everyone’s admission, terribly spoiled. My grandfather, sadly, was already an alcoholic by the time he was born and didn’t have a lot of time for my father. My grandmother overcompensated by often giving my father what he wanted. And, of course, he had 4 older sisters doting on him.

He was also an extraordinary guitarist.

I don’t consider my own playing ability “extraordinary” but I get my love of music from him. One of the few childhood memories I have of my father was creeping into his room to listen and watch him play. A few times he put the guitar in my hand and tried to teach me. The first time, I was still too small and my arms wouldn’t even go all the way around the guitar. Later, tender, young fingers protested the necessary pressure needed on the strings to make a clear, ringing sound (Ouch!). Such quality father-daughter moments were few and far between however.

My parents were wed in August of 1966; I was born in November of the same year. My mother had been in an accident as a young girl. She had been riding in the back of a pick-up truck when it collided with another vehicle. She flew. The doctors said she’d never have children (she should’ve sued). Doubtless, she told my father this, and so, he was unprepared when he found out that she was carrying me. From Mom, from both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, he turned abusive, obviously resenting this forced responsibility (in those days, folks didn’t have a couple of kids and then get married…). In his defense, he may have felt “trapped”. But it does not excuse the many horror stories I have heard throughout the years of my mother being knocked down flights of stairs, having her stomach burned with a Zippo lighter, etc. all with the intent of forcing a miscarriage.

Before I go further, if my Aunt Sandy, or any other family member is reading this, I don’t write these things to hurt, or embarrass, anyone. And I apologize here and now, with a full heart, for any pain that reading this causes. It’s just that the hurt from someone does not stop with the grave and I need to acknowledge it to let it finally go. And, I promise, there are also some good memories and anecdotes as well. Nobody is all good or all bad; we each have a little of both in us.

I don’t remember my father living in the same house with me at all. He and my mother legally separated 4 months’ after I was born, though their divorce would not be final until 1974. There were a few attempts at reconciliation but they never took. I saw my father in passing on the weekends I spent at my paternal grandparents’ house, which were loving, magical times because of the love I received from them, my Aunt Marjorie, and from my other aunts, uncles, cousins who came visiting. “In passing” because, though he lived with his parents again after he and my mother separated, and though I ran shrieking “Daddy!” joyfully every time he came in the door, I usually received a non-committal acknowledgement of my greeting. If I was lucky, a pat on the head as he quickly ran upstairs to his room and shut the door.

Obviously, by one of the earlier paragraphs, the door didn’t always stay closed. He never chased me out when I came to listen to him play and he even talked to me sometimes…albeit in the same monosyllables as his greetings. He did put together a dollhouse for me once.

By far, my fondest memory comes from a weekend afternoon when I was about 6 years’ old. My father, grandmother and I squeezed into his little MG convertible sports’car and traveled to a farm up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts where my father boarded a couple of horses. Bourbon was magnificent. To the perception of a tiny, 6 year-old girl, I would wager he was a Percheron. But, again, I was a lot smaller than him. He may have just been a large, white horse of some other breed. But, to my young eyes, he appeared much larger than my Uncle Ernie’s Palomino, Sundance, so I’m going with the draft horse. My father picked me up so I could pat his nose, which was beyond my reach (Sundance’s was not). Travis was smaller, dappled gray in color, and incredibly fast. My grandmother stayed in the MG because she was deathly afraid of horses. My father knew this but it didn’t stop him from riding Travis right up alongside the MG, Nanny (my nickname for my grandmother) shrieking my father’s name in terror as the horse drew closer and closer. I remember laughing because I knew he was teasing her (and now, looking back, acknowledge the maneuver as rather cruel; she was terrified). Then my father did an incredible thing. He reached down a hand for me and pulled me up in front of him. He held on as we galloped all over the barnyard for quite a length of time. Nanny said afterwards I looked ready to burst my buttons with joy.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got for truly happy memories of my father.

My mother remarried in 1974. We moved to Missouri, then Oklahoma, and came back to Rhode Island less than 6 months’ later in early-1975. It was just in time for me to see my Poppop one last time in the nursing home where he was being cared for when his alcoholism finally took its toll. He smiled for me. Nanny said it was the first smile she’d seen from him since he’d been admitted. Unlike my father, I have loads of happy memories of my Poppop. And then, a year later, Nanny was gone, too.

My family moved to Missouri again in 1978 some months after my brother, Shaun, was born. I found a new family in my stepfather’s parents, brothers, sisters, etc. but I still missed my Nanny and Poppop, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, with whom I had lost contact after my grandmother’s passing. When we returned to Rhode Island in 1985, I looked up my Aunt Marjorie, knowing that she had become a ward of the state through The Trudeau Center in Warwick. Through her, I was able to get mailing addresses for Aunt Sandy and Aunt Nancy (the 4th aunt, Janet, had died before I was born).

My father, however, continued to elude all of us. None of his sisters had heard from him since that unfortunate visit to Mississippi some years’ earlier. Eventually, I would meet friends of his, people he had worked with, etc. who would tell me about what a wonderful sense of humor he had–great guy–and I would find out where he worked. Ironically, it was at a manufacturing facility on Jefferson Boulevard that an inexperienced teenager had applied to some years’ earlier and gotten the position…only to have to turn it down as my friend, who applied with me, was also my transportation and she did not get the position (they were hiring for several). I sent a letter. No reply. I saw him once when I was dating my first husband. We were driving down Route 1, just passing through Apponaug and into East Greenwich, when I saw him getting into a car. My boyfriend turned around as quickly as late-afternoon traffic would allow but, by the time we reached the house where we’d seen him, he was gone. I found out later that he lived on the second floor–almost across the street from The Trudeau Center, though he never attempted to see my Aunt Marjorie. I sent more letters and cards. Still no reply…until, in the late-90’s, my Aunt Nancy passed away. I sent a letter through the manufacturing company, hoping he still worked there, and told them who I was, that my father’s sister had passed and I didn’t know how else to tell him. He responded. Not to me, of course, but my Uncle Lou in Mississippi received a sympathy card.

My father moved. I don’t remember how I found the new address but I sent another letter, inviting him for coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from his apartment house, my treat. Though he didn’t reply, I went to Dunkin Donuts anyway and waited for over an hour. A car pulled into the apartment complex across the street. A man got out. This was years later. The hair was longer, grayer, and there was a definite paunch but I wasn’t entirely sure…until he took a step in the direction of Dunkin, searched the windows, zeroed in on me and then turned away and went into the house. I waited a bit longer, still not 100% sure it was he…except the shaking hands that fumbled with the keys as I attempted to drive home afterwards. I wonder now if I should’ve walked across the street and knocked.

Some more years’ later, I actually paid a search company to find him. The apartment complex where he had lived had been torn down and I didn’t know where he had gone. The company provided an address. My Aunt Sandy and Uncle George (her husband) came up to visit. Along with my Aunt Marjorie, we all drove to the mobile home park and found his unit on the organization’s map on the wall in the office. We drove to his unit and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but the house was dark, and there wasn’t any car in front of it, so we assumed he was still at work; it was in the afternoon. However, the ashtray on the porch was full of butts…and the little matchstick figures he used to make…and, through the window, we saw a couple of guitars in stands. We left a note with all of our contact information. And, nearly every year since, I have sent a Christmas card, sometimes a birthday card, too. Always the same, inviting him to call, to visit, giving my address and telephone number. I think I even left an email address once, though I was never sure if he used email. I randomly searched his name on social media, too. I never found him there.

This past Christmas, however, I didn’t send any card. It came as almost an afterthought after I had already filled out the cards I would send to other family and friends. I was out of cards in the box that I had bought but considered buying a more personal one the next time I went to Walmart. And, unusual for me, I rejected it with an angry little voice saying he never answers anyway.

Little did I know he wasn’t there anymore to answer…even if he had been so inclined. I guess some part of my heart knew…even without the obituary found three months’ later.

I’ve grappled with writing this but I’m still not sure how I feel right now. All these years I’ve held onto that afternoon with Travis and Bourbon, and wondered if my stepfather hadn’t been right: that it only happened because my grandmother had poked and prodded him into it when I wasn’t there to see it. Had riding Travis up to her side of the car been a challenge? Or have I read too many novels? Could he have been capable of such? And how do I justify such thinking…especially now when I can acknowledge that I never really knew my father.

And I never will.

It’s hard to truly mourn the loss of someone that you’ve never really had in your life, never really known. It’s like that movie star, or rock star, that you’ve always admired from afar. And, like the movies, I’ve always held this little spark of hope that one day my father would knock on my door–or at least call–and say, let’s not waste anymore time; I want to know you, see you. Like on the Hallmark Channel. And now that hope is gone.

And, yet, I can’t even mourn that. It was false hope. If his sisters, with whom he had had relationships with, who doted on him throughout his childhood and cared for him, no longer existed in his world for him, how could the daughter he hadn’t wanted in the first place rank any higher?

It’s his loss. It truly is. Like all people, I have my faults. I’ve been spoiled at times, too. I can be selfish, the veritable loner. I tend to be a control freak at times. I’m impatient. I procrastinate…horribly! I’m also willing to lend a helping hand if you need it, an ear to listen and keep your secrets without ever sharing. I have a hope chest filled with family pictures (even two of my father from my maternal grandfather of when he and my mother were dating) and keepsakes that I would risk life and limb to rescue if there was ever a fire or flood…because they all matter. I’m smart and talented and I share my father’s love for horses and guitars. And I acknowledge this unwitting gift to me from him…that, and the grandparents who gave a lonely little girl a safe place to spend her weekends, and the aunts, uncles and cousins, who have been such an important part of this 53+ years of life. We could’ve had fun jamming together in impromptu music regales. We could’ve gone horseback riding…or simply chatted on the front porch, or over a table in Dunkin Donuts together. As someone who wanted a house full of children and didn’t get even one, I struggle to understand how someone can refuse such a blessing as family. Period. But, again, it’s his loss.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not bitter or angry at my father. The only emotion I can pinpoint right now is a sadness, a sadness for what could’ve been. I know he lived with a woman in common law marriage. Did she know about me? Is she the jealous sort who didn’t want him to have contact with his family? Some of the cards sent were returned “addressee unknown”. Others never came back. Did he throw them away? If he saved them, why? Did he always intend to respond at some later date that never arrived? Or is there a chance he never got them at this last address? Even the note we tacked to the door…despite verifying it at the main office of the park that it was his? He died without any other family there by his side. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. Seems like most people I know want their loved ones near when they pass. Did he die suddenly? Or had there been a long illness involved that maybe, for genetic reasons at least, I should know about? I’ve considered contacting his widow; I’m not sure if it’s the right course of action. If she doesn’t know about me, how much hurt might I do to her memories of my father? And yet, if she does know about me, maybe she thinks we’re all a bunch of insensitive clods who didn’t give a damn about him. It is something I will be weighing carefully over the next few days.

I wish my father well, as I always have. I pray that his spirit is finally at peace. I pray that he’s happy; I pray that he was happy in life all these years…even if he couldn’t share that happiness with his sisters and their families, or with me. I pray, if there was an illness, that he didn’t suffer over-long with it. He had been suicidal in the past; it runs in the family. I pray he was not driven to such despair and that his passing was a natural one. In short, I would like to say “I love you” to him…even though I never heard those three words from him…and I forgive him for whatever it was in him that could never reach out to me, to my aunts, to family in general. I pray he’s finally the rock star he always dreamed of being…and that Bourbon and Travis were waiting over that Rainbow Bridge for him to ride another day.

May God bless you & keep you!