A Love Story . . .

Rescued Christmas Trees – Courtesy of Anne

LOVE! I love everything about it and then some. I am a very emotional person and I cry at tear-jerker movies, or basically anything that has the least possibility of an emotional response. So when I went to Lowe’s Hardware in Redlands, CA, and saw two forlorn Christmas trees lying in the parking lot alone, I went straight to the plant section and asked the manager about the two Christmas trees lying there. He told me they were left over from the sale and would soon become mulch. Under normal circumstances, I would appreciate knowing that a tree was going to help give life to another potential plant, but this was just too much. “How much would it cost to buy them?” I asked. “Nothing,” he replied. I told him I would take them, and went right out and began tugging and pulling the one tree and managed to get it to my 22-year old Honda Civic Hatchback, but the other one was not going to be so easy; it was just too heavy. I went back to the manager and asked if he could help me get the other one, and soon as he was able, he came out with a helper and got it next to the other one in the back of the little car.

After thanking him profusely, I drove home as quick as I could and set up two buckets that I filled partly with water. In went the first one, and it quickly looked better. These two trees would get to serve the purpose for which they gave their lives, or so I believed. But the second tree, thirsty as it was to get into that water, could not help me to get it out of the car.

There was only one person who might help me, and I instinctively headed toward Richard’s mobile home. He had been the maintenance man for many years. He was a good person and he had done a lot of wonderful work for me on my home, never giving me a quote for his work. He painted it so nicely, and then using recycled materials, took the way-too-small front stoop, and changed it into a wonderful front porch with a nice side set of steps instead of having them heading into the street. He made me a wonderful bench that he painted a sunshiny yellow out of the part of the stairs he cut off to make them fit properly on the side. Of course I had paid him and had taken him out to a good hot dinner to go with, but I felt more than appreciative. This was a genuine good man.

I knocked on his door, and though it was cold outside, he came right over with me, and without making fun of me or giving me excuses, he got right to the job and I helped him drag the tree to the water, where it practically jumped in happily. Once the trees were settled, we headed off to get some money and a hot meal for him, and once again we enjoyed just sitting together quietly eating our meal at the counter. He was so modest, sitting there in his torn jeans with the bottoms ragged, an old t-shirt, and some well-used shoes. He thanked me very much and I could see his eyes light up when I told him I would like to mend his jeans for him. This would be the beginning of a love that has lasted and will continue through the day when one of us dies. And on that day, I will celebrate life for such a wonderful gift.

Richard had a pretty tough life,with he and his brothers and sisters going into a foster home after his stepmother died. I think his father died shortly afterward. Between age seven through eleven, he was in nine different foster homes; somehow he and an older sister managed to keep what was left of their family together. Their last foster parent was a mother who already had some older daughters;and she took care of them all without a husband. She got cancer while they were with her, and she used to have the boys go out and gather Creosote, which she boiled and drank, and made the boys drink some too, believing it would prevent cancer. She would die later despite her attempts to heal herself. Before that happened, Richard left for the Army when he was 17, and got in shortly after as he reached 18. It was near the end of the Vietnam War, and though he did not serve there, he spent time in a number of countries, including Granada during the Cold War, and he also spent a total of nine years between the Army, and supporting services of Army Reserves and National Guard.

Later, he worked in construction, and he eventually got together with a divorced woman who already had several older children. One day when their little boy was just a toddler, she left with her own children, leaving the toddler behind with a stranger. When Richard got home from work, he looked until he found his little boy. Most men might have left the child to welfare or to a foster home, but Richard took his little boy and raised him alone for a long time, taking him to his work with him; luckily he worked at the time in an indoor swapmeet, so he was able to do that.

Eventually Richard found another lady with children; she was in a wheelchair from multiple physical challenges. He and she were married for 20 years before she passed on. Richard took excellent care of her and her children along with his son, and they even started a ministry for juvenile delinquents that they ran for years with only the money they could put into it.

After she passed on, eventually he connected with an old friend of hers that she had willed Richard to, along with her grown children. She too had developed severe physical challenges including seizures, and was in a wheelchair; after eight more years, she passed on, leaving Richard alone once more. His son is now an adult with a young daughter, and a failed relationship. He moved to Texas and is working steadily as a mechanic. Like his dad, he too is taking good care of his daughter.

I have been through a lot of failed relationships in my life. Some people are never meant to be together for one reason or the other, and they aren’t always the reasons we tend to think.

All I know is that when Richard and I met, all the things that bring people together in a lasting relationship have been there from the beginning. We are able to be who we are with each other and we actually LOVE spending our time together. We were both seniors when we met, and we are both simple people who care about little things in life. We never have to be anyone but who we actually are. We sit happily together at our desks as we work through our days. I am generally writing books, articles, or taking care of other business, while he shares the news of the world and our local weather, or plays Mahjong or other relaxing things. We throw each other kisses, or laugh over funny things our pets do. I will always remember in my heart those little Christmas trees, and how it was when they got loving care. They lasted a lot longer outside than we could have imagined, and the little bare fruit trees next to them honestly leaned inward as if to support them and keep them standing up. I put a few ornaments on them; at least they got to live their lives for what was intended. We have not had more Christmas trees since, but those I think neither of us will ever forget that.

I graduated from my second degree (this one Criminal Justice) in 2016, the same year I got breast cancer and had surgery to take care of it. Richard was there with me as we had been in a relationship for more than a year. He was with me through all the decisions I had to make and the changes I went through. I did my research carefully, and I am still cancer free with no radiation or chemo. I will likely not use my degree except as a volunteer, I am already trained and have graduated from CASA.org (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for foster children. I do not have an assignment currently.

In 2017, the tables turned and Richard had to have a critical surgery on his cervix, followed by two more involving his trachea and his nose to help him breathe. I have been there ever since as his caregiver and his advocate through all the decisions we have had to make. He had another surgery this year in May following the failure of the first surgery; it looks as though he could have another failure causing something called Radiculopathy (damage to a nerve in the neck). But here we are together and we love each other more than ever.

Anne and Richard Last Year

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

Standing Tall

“Strength”by Anne Copeland

Life doesn’t always give us strength when we need it most. We may be ill ourselves and still have to take care of our significant other. Or perhaps we have to deal with legal issues that we are ill equipped financially or otherwise to deal with. Or a child has run away, or gone missing. There are as many things as we have to deal with as we could come up with, sometimes multiple issues at the same time.

When my significant other came home from a major cervical surgery, I was ill and had been for months with chronic bronchitis. He was not ready to be released without some form of nursing care or rehab; he could not lift his own body up from bed as his right arm was paralyzed, and he could not cut up his own food to prevent choking, or to even bathe himself or use the bathroom by himself. I am sure there are others who have been in the same situation with loved ones.

Each day I dragged myself out of bed, and did whatever was necessary to help him. During this time, I also had to get him to multiple medical appointments and back to the spinal clinic in another town about an hour away. As we were about to enter the clinic one day, I suddenly remember the lights going out and falling on my face in the dirt. Luckily some good folks came and helped me back up; my significant other could not possibly help me and he was clearly upset and terrified. My nose still feels as though it was broken and I hit my head pretty hard, and hurt my knees as well. Other than going to emergency and waiting for perhaps 10 – 12 hours, I chose to just try to make the best of it all. I cannot leave my significant other at this time.

The fault is not that of his doctors or mine. It is the Medicare and MediCal insurance that is not giving us what we need. When I had a bad infection, even though the medication was prescribed by a specialist, I could not get it for two weeks because the Pharmaceutical Department of the insurance had to approve it as it was not covered. In my younger years, I was a Regulatory Compliance Specialist for a major pharmaceutical company that made plasma derivative products, so I guess I know a little bit about that issue. During the two weeks that I was ill, the infection got worse, resulting in my still being ill after a couple of months. I file grievances on both issues, and I will follow through on it even though I am still having a difficult time as is my significant other.

The point is not to tell my own story for others to feel sorry for me. The point is that sometimes we have to stand tall when we are feeling weak. We need to remember that even though it is not easy, we have to stand up for our rights, and for those of others. No one said this life would be a bowl of cherries; there are challenges every single day of one type or another. And we don’t need to lose our love of life and the world. We need to remember that when we have our worst challenges, there are always others who are far worse off. Try to help someone else who is worse off than you are, at least giving them words of hope if nothing else. And try to stay strong in the face of many barriers to everyday life. Remember that no challenge lasts forever. STRENGTH is our friend.

Something’s Gotta Give . . .

Fiber art piece by Anne Copeland.

Ah, that first bloom of love, when everyone is on their best and each of us seems like the perfect person that we have been looking for. They are, at this point in fact, exactly how we have imagined a lover.

That bloom can last a day, a week, a month, and sometimes even a year or so. But it seems that all of a sudden we are looking at them with different ways. We could not have seen that the male perhaps needed a mother and caregiver more than he needed a girlfriend, or that the female was such a horrible person to deal with – never giving a fellow a break, and expecting too much of him related to sharing responsibilities around the house, and in bringing in money to help with shared expenses.

Relationships are seldom equal on both sides 100% of the time. The scales are often unbalanced for one side or the other part of the time, but it works out fine if the unbalance seems to equal out.

And sometimes unforeseen things happen to all of us – an illness, a heart attack, an accident or some sort of disaster. It can happen to both people at the same time, or one can suddenly have the issue, and the other one has to make a choice to become a caregiver or be in charge of one.

There are people who give the rest of their lives gladly to their mate, taking are of them and helping to advocate for and to protect them from others who might take advantage of them during that time.

Others, the minute the mate becomes ill or has some sort of catastrophic event that is going to require being a caregiver, find it necessary to withdraw their support for whatever reason. Many women who have been dealt the cancer card encounter this situation, but I am sure as many men also have similar experiences with other physical or mental issues.

Those of us who try to follow through and take care of our significant others often run into problems. Sometimes the other person doesn’t really want to get better. For whatever reasons, that person may keep trying to remain an invalid even when in reality he or she could get better with a little effort. Perhaps that person had to take responsibility for others most of his or her life; or perhaps the person just wants to have a form of control over his or her mate. At any rate, this is when one of the other person has to make a decision whether to stay or to walk away. It is never en easy decision in either event; the longer the two have been together the more difficult it can become.

How long should a person stay and try to work things out before walking away? At some point in our lives, many of us will encounter a similar situation. There is no easy answer. But we have to respect and honor our own selves first and foremost. If we allow ourselves to keep doing something that provides no nourishment of any kind for our souls, pretty soon we will not have any soul nor any energy left to support our own selves. And the other person will not be benefiting from this either. Something’s gotta give . . .

My Shoe’s Got Soul . . .

By Yours Truly

This is who I am. I love to recycle things that have meant something to me. I found these shoes in a thrift store years ago. I fell in love with them because the shoe brand was something like Sam and Jane and they were about the most comfortable shoes I ever had with a soft sole and leather that seemed to breathe. The original shoes were brown, not gold. But one day as I went to get my shoes to go someplace, the sole of one was literally falling off of it. Of course I was heartbroken, but then I had this idea to make a play on words and to give one of the shoes a whole new life, so I came up with this idea.

The “wings” are on a base which is made from the sole of one shoe, and I found the most wonderful colored organiza with a nice stiffness to it that allowed me to cut out the little leaves. The leaves seemed appropriate to me because shoes wouldn’t tend to go up in the air (except for the kids who throw them over the telephone lines). And I remembered in the compass of my soul how much fun it was as a kid (and ok, I confess, as a grownup too) to jump in a pile of leaves). And I had to make her a happy and bright color full of life, for that is how I remembered those old comfy shoes.

It’s so many years later since I made her, “My Shoe’s Got Soul.” She’s still with me, and I imagine that she will still be when I take my last jump into those leaves. And it’s funny because she led me to write a story called “Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot” about ten orphan shoes who live in a trash dump, and every Saturday, the animals up in the meadow above hear “sootspeak” because the dump is putting out ugly smoke and it is mixed with the angry and sad words from the ten orphans arguing because they were just thrown away like they never mattered after living lives with adventure. They were never appreciated for who and what they were, and the dump is a horrible place to live.

The Skittyfoot is a little boy with red (really red) hair who comes to visit the creatures in the meadow every day, and the little boy can talk to them and they to him. They tell him about the Tenshoes, and that they want him to go and rescue the Tenshoes from the ugly dump and bring them up to the meadow where they can live safely. But before they can come up to the meadow, they have to find things and fix themselves up as best as they can. Just because they are orphans doesn’t mean they cannot have pride in themselves.

So the Skittyfoot goes down to the dump, and ultimately gets the tenshoes to clean and fix themselves up, and help each other, which they do. Ultimately they go to the meadow with the Skittyfoot, and the little creatures in the meadow all make them welcome and they will have a forever home where they are loved and treasured.

No, I never published Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot though I guess I could have. Some things just live on in our hearts and in the compass of our souls. I’ve been a sort of orphan too, and it took me awhile, for I didn’t have a Skittyfoot or other orphans like me to help, but I fixed myself up nice and clean (there is not and never has been anything related to drugs or other similar things but a transformation from being a childhood orphan), and now I can make things like “My Shoe’s Got Soul” to help others to feel good about themselves too.

Isn’t it strange how life brings little things into our consciousness to help us learn to grow and to care for ourselves, even if we were a kind of orphan in our younger lives? And using art to fix up an old shoe that brought happiness to a life can be a symbol of that. We don’t have to find fancy things or to do anything special to make it up to the meadow from the dump. The recognition of value in little things is what brings a true transformation to us in our lives. Your life, no matter how small you may think it is, is a miracle. Live it like the true gift it is.

Mending the World One Stitch at a Time

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Life seems ponderous at times, and definitely overwhelming with so many negative things happening in the world. But doing one little thing CAN help make a difference. Find one small thing you can do to change things for one person or for a few and do it. There is no lack of choices to help you find something that fits your skills, knowledge and abilities. Do it today.

Heroes

When I saw the photo of this beautiful and diminutive lady in the newspaper, I was inspired to create her likeness in a quilt which is still not finished. There is something about finishing it that reminds me of her life, for her goal is unfinished, and her country of Myanmar is still unfinished in the sense of gaining freedom for her people, so in a way it seems appropriate to be unfinished. I will finish it I am certain, but I have to make some adjustments to it in the direction she is facing and the overall size, etc. of the quilt. Giving it texture will enhance the quilt greatly just as giving texture to life enhances it as well.

I love people who make a commitment in life that they will pursue despite whatever challenges or dangers they face in the process. Called “The Father of Democracy” by the people of the country, her father was assassinated when Aung San Suu Kyi was just two years old. Despite such heart-breaking challenges, she steadfastly stuck by her beliefs even though she was under house arrest for years and has faced unbelievable circumstances. Her husband and two sons had to move outside the country. When her husband was stricken with cancer, she was told that she could go to be with him in his time of need, but that if she did, she could never come back. What a heart-rending decision had to be made and what incredible sacrifices the whole family made.

Yes, she is one of my heroes. No matter how much I might believe in something, I am not sure I could ever have given so much to such an immense cause.

It is good to have heroes in this life as I have noted before. We all need to know that when we are called to do something difficult, there are others who have made a path for us to follow. Perhaps those in her country who are against her are just waiting out the time when she too will pass on. Although she won the Nobel prize during the time she lived under house arrest not much has changed in Myanmar to this day.

If the time comes that I have to stand up and fight for a cause in my lifetime that I too will have the courage to stay strong and be brave until my last moments on this earth. I long for the all of earth’s people to learn to work together for our mutual benefit, and to realize and respect that we are all sacred and here on this earth by some great design.