Posted by: Marie | October 28, 2014

(956) Deep conversations

Post #956
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, September 6, 2012]

So, first off . . . an update on the ant situation . . .

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, the ants had moved their superhighway over a couple feet to avoid the cinnamon. So, it didn’t stop them, it just caused them to have to travel a bit further.

After some pondering, I decided that I needed to apply more cinnamon . . . my hope was to make it such a pain for them to walk all the way around the cinnamon that they would decide it was not worth the few crumbs they might find.

First, I moved the microwave and carefully cleaned the area all around it, then I put the microwave back in its place. Then, I sprayed a huge section of the wall around the window with water mist and sprinkled all of the cinnamon that was remaining in the bottle onto the wall – the bottle had been almost full when I started – so I ended up with a whole lot on the wall.

When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I could see that they had moved their superhighway over a few more feet, but they were still committed to the job of hauling microscopic crumbs back to their nest. Apparently, cinnamon is not the answer.

So, going against my preference, I bought poison ant traps and put them out. I was worried about the cat eating the traps, but he wasn’t at all interested in them – that’s good. I’ve decided that spraying poison is not an option since the cat would surely get into the spray . . . and I don’t want to be breathing it . . . so traps seemed the best solution.

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Photo by Martin Chen

This evening (Thursday), I can see that there are many, many ants walking in and out of the traps. It seems they really like the poison. The idea is that they will carry the poison back to their colony, which should kill off the entire colony within a few days. I’ll believe it when I see it . . . it’s been more than 24 hours since I put out the traps and I swear there are more ants than before . . . I’m thinking the entire colony has invaded my room . . . and they all look very alive and very healthy. I guess we’ll see what happens . . .

Fortunately, they haven’t ventured much beyond that one area. There’ve been only a few times that I’ve woken up to a solitary ant walking across my face or on my arm.

————–

Today, I had a lesson with Jeff, the psychiatrist. We always take a bit of time before his lesson for general chit-chat. So, today, I told him a bit about my frustrations around my relationship with Melodie. I told him that I do value her, and that I value the history we have together. I told him about how much I struggled to be around her this weekend and how disconnected from her I feel . . . how little in common we seem to have now.

I told him about the times I’ve tried sharing meaningful experiences with her . . . she listens, she seems to understand what I’m saying, and she empathizes . . . but she has nothing from that level of meaningfulness to share about her own life experiences. I think she simply doesn’t operate at that level.

I told him about the conversation I had with her concerning suicide and how she had asked me if I would call her if I ever got to that point . . . and how my answer had been that I wouldn’t since calling someone for support would derail my intended plans. Jeff said he totally could see how it is most likely I would not ask for help or tell anyone, that I would just go do it.

I’m sure he was listening carefully to my words to determine if I was at risk for suicide right now . . . and I assume it is obvious to him that I’m not at serious risk of that right now.

Anyway, I told him about the trip Melodie and I are planning for two years from now (Labor Day 2014) and how I cannot imagine not making these trips with her . . . I think it is good for me to take vacation time, and I’m not sure I would take it otherwise. And, I can’t imagine her not being a part of my life. That led to a discussion of what he and I value in friends and partners . . .

So, this evening, I’ve been reflecting on my conversation with Jeff. I am struck by how much I enjoy talking with him about meaningful topics – deep topics. I truly cherish those conversations and I cherish what he contributes. He often says things that give me fuel for later pondering. We’ve talked politics, religion, music, how each of us has recently begun to identify as musicians and writers, how we’ve both worked towards emotional healing . . . lots of different meaningful topics . . .

I’ve had similar conversations with other people, including James and Cindy, and other adult students . . . with my friends from the conscious business networking group . . .

And yet I don’t have that with Melodie.

I’m vacillating between wanting to totally bail and wanting to preserve the relationship but in a limited way . . . it’s not like I spend much time on our friendship . . . I talk to her for an hour on the phone every six or eight weeks, and then we do this trip every two years. It’s not a big time investment . . . I think what I do have with her is worth that much of my time and energy. And, I can’t imagine I’ll ever get to the point where I’d just cut her off and tell her I want nothing more to do with her . . . she doesn’t deserve that.

I think I’m okay with the level it is right now. I think I’ll just continue status quo.

But, all of this is causing me to realize how much I value deeper connections. I think it would be prudent of me, going forward, to be careful about with whom I cultivate friendships. I can afford to be selective. And, I think that would apply to a romantic partnership, as well . . . I can afford to be selective there, too . . . actually, I can’t afford NOT to be selective there.

Anyway, on a related side note, I called Ardis in Red Cloud on Tuesday and reserved their rental house for two years from now. Ardis laughed and said she would be sure to tell her daughter since there is no guarantee that she will be alive in two years from now . . . at least her daughter will know our plans, either way . . .

I passed along that bit of news to Melodie via email and she responded that she is on-board with that plan. So, I guess we’ll return to Red Cloud in 2014!

————–

On Tuesday, I had a lesson with Renee. Since she came straight from school, she didn’t have an adult with her. I hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with her in weeks, so I felt it was appropriate to allow her to “just talk” for the first half of her 45-minute lesson. It seemed she needed to talk, and I felt a need to check in with her to see how she is doing, in general. And, I think doing so will help develop her trust in me.

She started off by telling me she suspects that her step-dad is having an affair and she thinks it is her fault. Now, I’ve watched a lot of Dr. Phil over the years . . . he always says that kids have the unique ability to make everything their fault even when it clearly is not. So, with Dr. Phil’s words in the back of my mind, I asked her how it would be her fault . . .

Renee: I don’t know . . . maybe because I’m not really part of the family . . .

Me: What do you mean when you say you aren’t part of the family . . . ??

Renee: Well, I isolate and I don’t try to be part of the family . . . I just stay in my room when I’m at my mom’s house . . . maybe if I tried to be part of the family, then he might want to be part of the family.

Me: Renee, let me be really, really clear with you . . . adults make their own choices . . . how they choose to behave has nothing to do with you . . . they have the choice to respond to any situation in a healthy way or in an unhealthy way . . . we all have to decide how we are going to respond to life situations, and how we respond is our own responsibility.

It’s not okay for him to have an affair. If he is having an affair, that is his choice. Nothing you could do could make it your fault. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. He has a choice of responding to whatever you do in a responsible way or an irresponsible way, but that choice is his own.

And, furthermore, you are the kid here. They are the adults. So, if there is an issue around how the family is operating, it is their job to figure out how to fix it and to talk to you about it. It’s not your job. And his behavior is not your fault. You cannot cause him to have an affair and you can’t prevent it. It is not something you can control.

(Pause)

Me: So, what do you hear me saying?

Renee: That I’m not responsible for what he does . . . and that me isolating is not the reason he’s having an affair . . . or might be having an affair . . .

Me: That’s right . . . it’s not your fault.

She thought about all of that for a moment, and she nodded . . . and then, she sat up a little straighter and her eyes lit up . . . and she took the conversation onto a new topic . . .

She told me that she is proud of her mom for staying sober for a whole month . . . and she is proud of her 12-year-old guy friend at school for staying clean for two months. She told me about how she met this guy over the summer through Facebook, and how he had had a really rough life. I asked if he was talking to the therapist at school and she said he was . . . it sounds like he is getting some much needed help.

I asked Renee if she was seeing the school therapist now that school is back in session. (She hadn’t been seeing a therapist over the summer.) She said no. When I pressed for a reason why not, she just shrugged . . . I asked if she was seeing a therapist outside of school . . . again, she said no. So, that concerns me . . .

Anyway, after talking for about 25 minutes, I stated that we should turn our focus to the matter of music. She laughed and agreed . . .

She jumped right into the lesson material . . . I didn’t see hide nor hair of her helpless act. And that is a big deal. I’m so tickled.

We worked on a piece of pop music that she really likes. I showed her how to do the chording for it and she caught on quite quickly. I told her that it would be easier to sing the melody line rather than trying to play the melody line while also playing chords . . . and I invited her to try it . . .

She giggled . . . and she told me that she is capable of singing . . . and that she thinks she sings quite well . . . but that she didn’t want to sing in front of me, at least not this time. She giggled again and told me that she would sing to herself inside her head. I assured her that was fine . . . and I let her know that I would be tickled to hear her sing, should she ever be willing to allow me to experience that . . . she giggled again . . . she seemed pleased that I was interested in her singing . . .

We ended on a playful, fun, lighthearted note. It was a good lesson and a good exchange . . . I’m really proud of her progress!

Quotes 027

Posted by: Marie | July 14, 2014

(955) Alone and loving it

Post #955
[Private journal entry written on Monday, September 3, 2012]

Well, I’m back home.

First thing this morning, we took Melodie’s car to the car wash and scrubbed it clean . . . so her husband wouldn’t have a fit about how dirty it was, and so we could check for damage from the mishap with the deer . . .

We couldn’t find any damage, even with a very close inspection on our hands and knees in bright sunlight . . . and so Melodie thought she might not mention the incident to her husband . . .

I told her that I didn’t see how he could be justifiably upset with us if she did tell him . . . it’s not like we were out tearing around at high speeds and being reckless . . . in fact, I told her that I had been going five under the speed limit . . . and I was watching closely for the deer . . . had that not been the case, it would have been much worse! I would think he would just be glad that we are okay and that I was able to avoid damage. But, she told me he might not see it that way.

I didn’t know what to tell her . . . I mean, stuff happens . . . it’s a waste of energy to get unnecessarily bent out of shape over it . . .

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Photo by Martin Chen

Anyway, while we were out and about, we put gas in both cars, then we returned to the cottage where we packed the cars and cleaned the cottage . . . then we walked up to the main house to say our good-byes to Ardis and her husband . . .

And we fired up the toaster oven to broil the steaks for our last meal together . . . it was only 9:00am, but we decided that big juicy steaks were fine for breakfast, LOL . . .

We didn’t have any seasonings for the steaks other than salt and pepper, but the steaks were so good that they didn’t need more than that . . .

As we were cleaning up from the meal and packing the last of the last supplies into our cars, the topic of our next trip came up . . .

Despite the misgivings I’ve been having, I decided I would go ahead and plan another trip with her. I want to believe that things will get better . . . that we will find a way to relate better to each other . . . I can’t imagine not having her in my life . . .

We debated about who would plan the next trip. She planned the first two trips and I planned this one . . . so, technically, I owe her one . . . but she said she didn’t care who planned it . . . she is happy to do it . . .

I wondered to myself if we would both be happier if she planned it . . .

We finally decided to settle the matter with a coin toss . . . and the coin decided that I shall be the one to plan the next trip . . .

Then, we hugged . . . and cried a little . . . and climbed into our cars . . .

We were on the road by 10:00am, so that was a good start . . . and we drove one behind the other for 45 miles until Hastings . . . and there we waved again at each other as we headed in opposite directions on the interstate highway . . . and I allowed a few tears to run down my face . . . and then I sighed a big sigh of relief . . . I finally had my blessed personal space again . . . I felt like I could breath . . .

The trip home was uneventful . . .

As I was driving home, I gave some thought to our next trip. I wondered if Melodie would be willing to go back to Red Cloud . . . we could go back to Franklin and try again to find the graves of my ancestors . . . and Melodie had mentioned that she would like to spend more time in her mother’s birthplace of Sylvan Grove . . . and my dad was born about 30 miles from Sylvan Grove, so maybe we could stop there . . . and maybe we could do more of the Willa Cather stuff . . . or at least maybe I could do more of the Willa Cather stuff while she does something else . . .

I think it would be neat to go back to Red Cloud . . . it almost feels like I have unfinished business there.

Anyway, when I got home, Erik and Susan were home . . . Erik was sitting in his recliner, watching TV . . . Susan was sitting close by him, working on her computer and watching TV . . . I brought the first two loads in from my car . . . I struggled to keep the screen door from hitting me in the back as I came through the front door, not 10 feet from where they were sitting . . . and I had to balance on one foot while, with the other foot, I held the dog back from escaping out the door . . . Erik and Susan didn’t make a move to help me . . .

I quickly realized they were not going to offer to help me unload . . . which ticked me off a bit . . . and I decided I wasn’t going to ask for help . . . if they didn’t want to offer, they probably really didn’t want to help . . . and I sure don’t want to ask them to do anything they don’t want to do . . . I don’t want anyone helping me when they don’t want to be helping me . . . (Or, for that matter, helping me when I don’t want to be helped . . . LOL.)

I brought the remaining eight or so loads up to the front porch (keeping the front door closed), then I stood in the open doorway and moved the stuff from just outside the door to just inside the door . . . by standing in the doorway, I was able to keep the dog in . . .

Then, I shut the door and carried each of the remaining eight loads down the stairs and stacked them in the common area just outside my bedroom suite . . .

And the entire time, Erik and Susan kept right on doing what they were doing. They never once even acknowledged that I was unloading my car or that I could use some help despite the fact I literally had to step around them as I walked past with each load . . .

I was going to write here in my journal that I would have helped them if our places were switched . . . but, to tell the truth, I’ve started not helping them just because they very rarely help me . . . and I’m feeling a bit stinky and mean-spirited about that.

I’m also realizing, as I’m journaling, that it is very possible that I’m short-tempered and that I have a bad attitude about interacting with people right now because I’ve been deprived of my personal space for the last four days . . . and I’m used to having lots and lots of personal space and lots of peace and quiet and solace . . . and I need lots and lots of personal space and alone time . . .

Chances are that I’ll have a better attitude in a day or two . . .

But, anyway . . . once I got everything from my car to the basement, I picked up my suitcase and carried it into my bedroom . . . as soon as I flipped on the light, I noticed a very strange mark on the far wall, underneath one of the windows . . . it was a wiggly gray line that extended from the corner of the window at an angle towards what used to be my desk (I now have a microwave sitting on that table).

As soon as I set down my suitcase on my bed, my cat leapt into my arms . . . I took a minute to love on him . . . then, still holding and loving on the cat, I walked over to get a closer look at the gray line . . .

It only took me a few seconds to figured out what it was . . .

It was ants! Hundreds and hundreds of them, all packed into a single-file line going up the wall and a single-file line going down the wall . . . a super highway of ant transportation . . . and they were transporting the crumbs that have gathered underneath my microwave . . .

Oh, my . . .

I took a deep breath . . . I decided they could wait until I got settled in and unpacked a bit . . .

So, I unpacked a bit . . . and loved on the cat some more . . . got a bite to eat . . . and then I turned my attention to the ant super highway . . .

I searched the internet for a more natural remedy . . . and many sites recommended cinnamon . . . fortunately, I had a bottle of cinnamon in my kitchenette . . .

I got the bottle of cinnamon . . . and stood in front of the wall with it . . .

Hmmm . . . how exactly does one go about sprinkling cinnamon on a wall? Maybe by flinging it in small, controlled flicks of the wrist . . . ??

Hmmmm . . .

I tried it . . . and despite the wall being heavily textured, the cinnamon quickly slid down the wall to the floor, leaving only a faint trace of spice on the wall. The ants paused a bit to sniff at it, and then they neatly stepped over it.

I formulated a Plan B . . .

I got a spray bottle . . . and I put a light mist of water on the wall . . . and I flung some more cinnamon at the ants . . .

It stuck on the wall! Eureka!

I sprayed some more water, and sprinkled some more cinnamon . . .

The ants started paying attention . . . they acted confused . . . and turned around and went back in the opposite direction . . . they started looking for a non-cinnamon-covered route . . .

Okay . . . this might just work! I guess we’ll see in the morning how many ants are still around . . .

So, anyway . . . after dealing with the ant situation, I looked up the cemetery in which my ancestors are buried . . . it turns out that Google Maps has two different cemeteries in the same vicinity labeled with the same name. Upon further investigation on other websites, I discovered that they are really two different cemeteries with two different names . . . and we went to the wrong one. Of course, we couldn’t know that when we were looking it up on Melodie’s phone.

I shot off an email to Melodie yet this evening proposing the idea of returning to Red Cloud. I’ll see if maybe she’d be interested in that now that she knows what is around there. I made a point of saying that I’d really like to stay close to Red Cloud and not drive all over the place . . . I really emphasized that point.

If I make a big deal about the not driving all over the place right from the start, maybe her thinking will be more in alignment with that on the next trip. If nothing else, I can be better prepared to set limits beforehand, which will put me in a better position to enforce those limits in the moment. I guess I feel like I didn’t make a big enough deal of it beforehand this time . . . like maybe she didn’t understand what a big deal it was for me. So, I’ll make sure she knows next time.

At any rate, I’m going to bed now . . . I’m exhausted and I have a full workday tomorrow. It’s time for me to relax and enjoy my alone-ness . . . well, I’m not totally alone since the cat is cuddled up with me . . . oh, and, not to mention we are sharing space with hundreds and hundreds of ants . . . but, other than that, I’m so very alone . . . and loving it.

(026)

Posted by: Marie | July 12, 2014

(954) Zigs and zags – Part 3 of 3

Post #954
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, September 2, 2012 – continued from previous post]

Thump!

That was all . . . just a thump . . . well, a thud really . . . we caught his hind legs with the corner of the bumper as he slipped past us . . . and he continued running off the road, across the ditch and into a thick stand of trees . . . apparently he was no worse for wear . . . he seemed okay from what we could tell . . .

Melodie flung open her door and started to jump out to check on the damage . . .

I hollered at her to get back in the car because we were stopped in the middle of a hilly highway at dusk . . . granted, there weren’t many cars on the road; nevertheless, we really didn’t want to get run over by the one or two cars that were in the area . . .

We pulled over and got out to look . . . we got down on our hands and knees and looked very carefully . . . neither of us could see any damage, not even a little bit. The only evidence of the mishap was two deer hairs embedded in the bug guts on the bumper . . . there was a ton of bug guts plastered on the bumper resulting from driving many, many miles . . . we wondered if we might see damage if we cleaned off the bug guts and were in better light . . . but, in the moment, there was nothing more we could do. So, we got back in the car and resumed our travel plans . . .

It took us an hour to travel from Amboy to Randall (including the time needed to examine the car bumper). By the time we reached Randall, the sun was on the horizon and it was getting pretty dark. Melodie really couldn’t take worthwhile photos, although she did try to take some of an old gas station . . .

In the gas station’s bay, the shop floor had collapsed into the work pit. Tools and tires and other supplies were still in there like someone had just walked away a few decades back. There was a side garage that had an old car in there, covered with a ton of dust . . . it looks like someone was working on the car 40 years ago and then just walked away.

The town only has about 65 people living in it now . . . it has declined from about 100 people ten years ago . . . it is a town that is continuing to fade away. Apparently, it was a livelier town 100 years ago . . .

My experience of Randall was that it was not as impressive of a ghost town as some of the other ghost towns we’ve seen over the years. But, it could have been because it was too dark to really appreciate what was there . . . or maybe I was just tired of chasing ghost towns. However, Melodie seemed to have the same impression . . .

At any rate, we headed back to Red Cloud . . . maybe I was extra tired from a long, hot day . . . but Melodie was really getting on my nerves on the way back . . .

For the 14th time this weekend, she “helped” me adjust the temperature on my side of the car . . . and for the 14th time, I explained that I didn’t need her help . . . and then I said . . .

“Please do not touch the temperature button for my side of the car. Just don’t do it. I’m done being nice about it . . . now I’m going to be blunt . . . don’t touch it again!”

“Well, alrighty then! I won’t touch it again!”

“Thank you.”

We sat in silence for a few moments. Then, I asked her where the dimmer switch was for the headlights . . . and she told me where it was . . . I thanked her for the information . . .

We drove in silence for a few more moments . . .

As an oncoming car approached us, she reminded me to dim my headlights . . . I didn’t need to be reminded, I just hadn’t dimmed them at that point because the car wasn’t very close yet . . . I gritted my teeth but let it slide . . .

A few miles later, as another oncoming car approached us, she again reminded me that I needed to dim my lights . . . again, I let her annoying behavior slide by without a comment . . .

The third time it happened, I told her as gently and as patiently as I could that I didn’t need her to tell me when to dim the lights . . . I had it under control . . .

She didn’t say anything as we met the next several oncoming cars . . .

Then, about 20 minutes later, as we met a car, I forgot to dim the headlights until we were fairly close to them. As soon as I realized my mistake, I dimmed the lights and said, “Whoops! Sorry!” out loud. Of course, Melodie grabbed the opportunity to give me a hard time . . .

“I saw it happening, but I didn’t say anything . . . you said you didn’t want me to help you . . . so I didn’t say anything. I didn’t help you. You don’t want my help, so I’m not going to help you!”

“It’s not that I don’t ever want your help, it’s that you seem to think I need help with EVERYTHING, even little things that I’m fully capable of handling. I get tired of you trying to help me do things when I don’t want or need help. But, there are times that I do need help . . . and in those moments, I will ask for help. I just need for you to allow me the opportunity to ask for help and not just automatically give it to me whether I want or need it.”

“No problem. I won’t help you anymore.”

“I’m not trying to take it to that extreme . . . “

“It’s okay. I won’t help you anymore.”

So, there is a price I have to pay when I enforce boundaries with Melodie. Instead of working with me to find a reasonable middle ground, she “punishes” me by taking it to the opposite extreme.

I’ve never enforced boundaries before with her . . . in fact, enforcing boundaries is something that is fairly new to me. I was not aware of my preferences and needs and boundaries until the last couple of years. I didn’t know that I even had the right to honor them. So, of course Melodie is reacting strongly to the new way I’m showing up . . . it probably is threatening to her. But, I’m not going to not establish boundaries with her . . . and she doesn’t have her own sense of boundaries around what is generally respectful and what is not.

I still love her, and we have a long history together . . . and she has been a good friend in the past. But, I am questioning the viability of the friendship in the present. That doesn’t invalidate the value of our friendship before now . . . she has been very important to me in the past. It’s just that I’m growing and changing, and that is uncomfortable for her. And the way she is showing up does not support who I am becoming.

I guess the bottom line for me is that I would struggle to justify investing this much time and money in a weekend that is not enjoyable for me . . . a weekend that I have to spend defending my boundaries . . .

But, I can’t imagine her not being my best friend . . . I can’t imagine removing her from that position . . . but that’s fodder for another day . . .

So, anyway . . . it was pitch dark when we got back to Red Cloud. We tried to find a car wash so we could clean the bug guts off the bumper and get a better look at it for possible damage . . . we knew there was one on the north end of town . . . we finally found it . . . but it was locked up tight. We decided we would come back to it in the morning.

Then, we finally returned to the cottage . . . and now we are heading towards bed . . .

Whew, it’s been a long day.

(025)

Posted by: Marie | July 11, 2014

(953) Zigs and zags – Part 2 of 3

Post #953
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, September 2, 2012 – continued from previous post]

We ate a mini-lunch as we drove back (we had a cooler full of easy-to-eat food). We got back to the cottage at 1:40pm. Then we cleaned up a bit and changed clothes, and were back in the car by 1:45. (Low maintenance chicks, ya’ know!) We made it to the Opera House by 1:50pm. Ardis and her husband had seats reserved for us . . . the chairs were arranged around circular tables instead of rows, which made it nice . . . we were able to spread out as much as we cared to . . .

The artist was Sarah Arneson and she was accompanied by George Kern, who just happens to be her husband. Now, I’m not fond of operatic music where the vocalists sound like . . . well . . . when their voices are anything but sweet. I’m not sure how else to explain it. I was really hoping that this soprano’s voice would be more on the sweet side . . . as opposed to the harsh or shrill side . . .

Opera House

Opera House

Thank goodness, her voice was reasonably close to the timbre I appreciate . . . close enough that I found the performance very enjoyable . . .

She performed opera pieces composed by Mozart, Schubert, Wagner, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Cilea, Charpentier and Massenet. It was an awesome concert . . . or, well, it could have been . . . would have been . . . except . . .

Melodie did not enjoy the concert . . . not at all. In between every single piece, she would loudly whisper some comment like, “It sounds like she is dying” or “It’s just like fingernails on a chalkboard” or “Her voice gives me the willies . . . “

I invited her to go do something else . . . go walk around town and take photos . . . go shopping . . . I assured her it would not offend me. But, no, it was too hot, she would prefer to stay in the air conditioned auditorium. I then invited her to go back to the cottage and sit in front of the air conditioner. I promised her that I would call her when the concert was over and then she could come and get me. Or I could ride home with Ardis and her husband.

But, no, Melodie said she would rather just stay . . . because that is what people do for the people they love . . . they do things they don’t want to do for the people they love . . .

I then asked her to not comment negatively on the music because it was bothering me and the people around us. So, instead, she put her elbow on the table and propped her head up as a physical demonstration of how bored she was. Then she would sigh dramatically . . . and roll her eyes . . . and slump over like she was going to pass out . . . like she almost couldn’t keep herself upright . . .

It was embarrassing for me. And I was embarrassed for Ardis and her husband who were sitting with us . . . and with some of their friends . . .

About halfway through the concert, Ardis and her husband suddenly exited the auditorium. They didn’t come back. So, Melodie decided to go check on them, and she didn’t come back for about ten minutes. I had my fingers crossed . . .

But, no, she came back. She whispered that Ardis had felt a little ill and they were listening from the lobby . . .

And then Melodie again launched into her drama . . . I just turned my back to her and did my best to ignore her.

We suffered through the concert and then we headed back to the cottage to eat the lunch we had prepared this morning . . . and to sit in front of the air conditioner while we waited for the heat of the day to pass a bit. As we ate, I spoke to Melodie about her behavior at the concert. As kindly as I knew how, I explained to her that I really, truly wished she had not been there because her behavior embarrassed me and sucked the enjoyment out of the experience for me. I told her that what she did is absolutely NOT what people do for the people they love.

True to form, she tried to mock me and crack jokes about it, but I stayed serious and she finally backed away from her deflective position. She finally listened . . . and she got it, I think . . . and she apologized . . . I mean, she authentically apologized.

Wow. That was big.

So, anyway, as we were chilling in front of the air conditioner, we discussed what to do with our last few hours of our weekend together. Melodie had two more ghost towns on her wish list . . . and we would only have to travel 110 miles (177 km) roundtrip to visit both of them. I looked at the map . . . it looked like there would be about 2½ hours of travel time involved . . . if we left around 6:30, we could spend about 45 minutes at each place and still be back to the cottage by 9:30pm. And, the fuel would cost each of us about $8 . . . and I decided I could live with that.

RandallMap

So, at 6:30, we took off again . . . and she let me drive . . .

The first place was Amboy, and it was only four miles outside of Red Cloud. It was a milling and railroad town that grew to its highest population of about 100 people in the early 1900’s. The remaining structures included a huge abandoned mill, an abandoned schoolhouse, and about five houses, some of which are occupied.

The railroad track runs right along side the mill, and a train happened to come by as we were at the mill. It made for a really cool photo opportunity . . .

Mill at Amboy

Mill at Amboy

We stayed in Amboy about an hour. Then, we started zig-zagging another 50 miles to the southeast en route to the second ghost town: Randall, Kansas.

As soon as we left Amboy, I got a strong premonition that we were going to hit a deer . . . and that there was nothing I could do to prevent it . . . it was destined to happen and it was going to happen. (Yes, what a lovely feeling to experience . . . not!)

The possibility of hitting a deer was actually pretty strong, especially since it was dusk. When we were driving the last miles of our trip yesterday, we saw several deer along the road. And, we had seen several just in the first few miles of this trip.

About 20 minutes after leaving Amboy, as we crossed the Nebraska-Kansas state line, the feeling intensified. I knew it was going to happen very soon . . . I even knew from which side of the road the deer would be coming . . .

Given normal conditions, I typically drive five miles an hour over the speed limit. But, once this feeling intensified, I dropped my speed to five miles an hour below the speed limit. The level of anxiety I was feeling was very intense. I didn’t want to say anything to Melodie because I didn’t want to freak her out . . . I just kept my thoughts to myself . . . but I did slow down . . .

Sure enough, here came the deer . . . he wasn’t a full grown one . . . maybe half-grown . . . and he jumped into the road right in front of us, and then he jumped side-to-side, back and forth . . . you know how they do . . . like they can’t quite decide if they are coming or going . . .

I hit the brakes hard . . . and the deer changed his direction and zagged straight towards us . . . I heard Melodie gasp . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

(Yes, of course I’m going to make you wait until tomorrow to find out what happened with the deer . . . would you expect anything else??? LOL)

(024)

Posted by: Marie | July 10, 2014

(952) Zigs and zags – Part 1 of 3

Post #952
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, September 2, 2012]

It’s been another full day . . . but not as full as yesterday, thank goodness!

Melodie is again talking on the phone with her husband . . . and I’m again decompressing through journaling . . .

Last night, before we turned out the lights, we decided that we would first tour the schoolhouse at 8:30am, then we would drive over to Franklin to find the other two cemeteries that house my ancestors’ gravesites. The drive from Red Cloud to Franklin is less than 30 minutes each way. We figured we could go there, visit the cemeteries and be back within a couple of hours . . . maybe 2½ hours at the most. Our only time constraint was that we needed to be back to the cottage by around 1:00pm to eat lunch and get ready to go to the concert at 2:00pm

We had a more relaxing morning this morning. We again cooked our supper in the morning and then put it in the frig . . . and we immediately took the packing to the dumpster . . . we prefer to not be greeted by that rotting meat smell . . . it really kills the appetite . . .

School House

School House

As planned, Ardis met us at the schoolhouse at 8:30am (it is located maybe 100 feet from the cottage). She told us that she had started teaching school in a nearby one-room schoolhouse in 1949, and that she had taught for quite a few years. I think she said she was maybe 18 when she started teaching . . .

She told us that they had moved the school from Cowles, Nebraska. It was built in 1887 and was in use as a school until 1959. They moved it onto their farm in 1989. The floor had been caved in, but the exterior tin siding was still intact (and still is in place). The original wainscoting is also still there. They kept as much original material as they could when they restored it.

The front door and the flag pole are from the school in which Ardis first taught in 1949. She has collected desks, wall hangings and an original pot-bellied stove from other schools. It looks like you could start up a school without notice . . . it’s all ready to go! There is even a very beautiful antique piano in there . . . I played it a little bit . . .

She told us how the schoolhouse was used in a movie and how the movie crew created a full movie set right there on their property . . . trucks and lights and trailers and people galore . . . what an adventure! And she has had many groups of school children come through and have the experience of going to school for a day in a one-room schoolhouse . . .

Oh, my . . . she told us story after story . . . and she talked and talked . . . and it was interesting . . . but I had one eye on the clock . . . and it was very hot in the schoolhouse . . . Melodie and I kept trying to move the conversation back outside . . .

Finally, after an hour, Melodie finally said something along the lines that the heat was getting to her and that she was feeling a bit ill . . . and that did the trick. We finally were able to bring the tour to an end. I’m so glad we did the tour, and I’m also glad we were able to end it. I do appreciate that she took the time to show it to us! It was a treat!

While we were in the schoolhouse, we mentioned that we were going to the concert in the afternoon. Ardis said she and her husband were also going to be there, and she invited us to sit with them. Neat!

So, we finally got on the road by 10:00am and arrived in Franklin around 10:30. The first cemetery we went to was in town, so it was easy to find. It was well mapped, so it was super easy to find the gravesites of my great-great grandparents (Mary Jane, the sister of Joseph) – they lived 1840’s to 1920’s – and their daughter who died in infancy.

The second cemetery was a bit of a mystery. I had only a map that showed road names with a dot showing where approximately where the cemetery would be located. There was no guarantee that the map was accurate . . . but it’s all I had. However, I figured I knew within a square mile where it was located . . . we could drive around until we found it . . . right?? How hard could it be?

Yeah, no. That didn’t work. Melodie got the idea to look it up on her phone . . . sure enough, she found it! We were only a few miles away from it . . . on gravel roads, of course . . .

We invited the GPS to tell us how to get there . . . which may not have been the best idea . . .

The GPS took us along one well-maintained county road, then it instructed us to turn onto this little road – correction: two tire-tracks cutting across an open pasture – and those two tire-tracks took us across a couple of bridges that were nothing more than a handful of railroad ties laid across some support planks . . . just wide enough for a car . . . and that’s when I started hoping with all my might that Melodie’s husband wouldn’t call until we got back on the highway . . . I know for sure he wouldn’t appreciate us taking the car across open pasture and through an occasional cow patty . . .

Then the GPS told us to turn onto another well-maintained county road . . . which I think we would have come to had we just stayed on the first well-maintained county road . . . I’m not sure why we had to cut across someone’s pasture . . .

Anyway, the well-maintained county road turned into a not-so-well-maintained no-man’s road . . . and then we finally saw the sign for the cemetery tucked underneath a cluster of overgrown trees. We turned onto the driveway of the cemetery, which led us up a steep, potholed so-called “road” to the main gate of the cemetery.

The cemetery was in rough shape. It hadn’t been maintained in a few decades, at least. It looked like there was space for about 400-500 graves, but we could see only about 100 headstones. Who knows if the remaining gravesites are empty, or if the headstones used to be there but are gone now . . .

We walked around and read each of the headstones that were present. We never did find my family members’ gravesites, and the latest burial date we could find was around 1940. I wonder if we even had the correct cemetery . . . there are so many little, old and forgotten cemeteries, it would be easy for us to have ended up at the wrong one.

However, we didn’t have time to look for another cemetery . . . it was 1:00pm. We still needed to drive back to Red Cloud and get ready for the concert . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

(023)

Posted by: Marie | July 8, 2014

(951) Lessons in renegotiation – Part 7 of 7

Post #951
[Private journal entry written near bedtime on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – continued from previous post]

As we were driving the last mile or two to the cemetery, Melodie’s husband called her cell phone. The bluetooth kicked the call into hands-free mode, which allowed both of us to talk with him. He asked how we were doing . . . and what we were doing . . .

When Melodie told him we were closing in on the cemetery, he said, “Oh, you’re out in the country? On gravel roads?” Melodie answered affirmatively. He responded, “I hope you are going slow!” I assured him I was, and that I was being very careful . . .

Anyway, we finally made it to the cemetery at 8:30pm, just as the sun was setting. We were easily able to find the graves of my great-great-great grandparents (lived early 1800’s to late 1800’s), and their son (my great-great-uncle). The headstones showed that their son, Joseph, was married to Mary J. That confused me . . . I thought Mary Jane was his sister – and she is my great-great grandmother. Surely he wasn’t married to his sister . . . ??

We dug through the notes that my mom had made, but I couldn’t find anything that explained the mystery . . . oh, well.

So, we got back in the car, successfully found our way back to the highway despite the near-darkness, and started the hour-plus leg of the trip that would take us back to Red Cloud.

The temperature began dropping once the sun disappeared, so I didn’t need the air conditioning on so high. I reached down to set the temperature for my side of the car to a couple degrees warmer. For the twentieth time, Melodie asked me what I needed . . . what I was looking for. I told her that I was just adjusting my temperature . . .

For the eighth time, she explained that each side had its own temperature control and that I could adjust my temperature by adjusting this particular knob . . . and she adjusted the temperature on my side to a warmer temperature . . .

Without saying anything, I reached down and put the temperature back to the temperature I had selected just a minute earlier . . .

“Why are you putting it back?”

“I had already adjusted it to where I wanted it, and then you adjusted it more, so then I put it back to where I would like it to be.”

“But you said you wanted it warmer!”

“Yeah, but I had already moved it warmer. I didn’t need for you to move it warmer still. I had already done it.”

“Well, I was just trying to help you.”

“I know, but I didn’t need help.”

“Well, I figured that you aren’t familiar with this car, so I’m just trying to help you with the controls.”

“You’ve already explained it to me several times today . . . I got it . . . I don’t need you to help me with it any more.”

(Sarcastically) “Well, Miss Independent! I can do it myself! Leave me alone! I can do it myself!”

Patience . . . patience . . . praying for patience . . .

It had been such a good day on the road . . . we were having an enjoyable time together . . . but it had been a long, hot day and I was tired . . . I didn’t want to have to fight battles around my personal space . . . please . . .

As we got into town, I mentioned that I needed to check my email . . . I hadn’t checked it in 48 hours. As we passed by the coffee shop on Main Street (it has free wifi), we looked to see if it might be open . . . of course not . . . not at 10:00pm on a Saturday night on a holiday weekend . . .

But, on a whim, we decided to see if we could get a wifi signal from the parking spots in front of the coffee shop . . . and, yes! We could! But, surely the connection would be password protected . . . but, no! Melodie was able to get on the internet with her laptop.

But . . . the battery on my laptop is so old that it doesn’t hold a charge. So, I’m not able to use my laptop unless it’s plugged in . . . and the only outlets were inside the coffee shop . . .

Except . . . Melodie showed me that her fancy new car has a fancy electrical outlet in the console . . . I was able to plug in my laptop and I was able to check my email . . . Yippeeeee!! I was very happy! I told Melodie that we’d better stop by the coffee shop in the morning and buy something so that we couldn’t be accused of stealing the signal . . . she laughed . . .

I had quite a few emails and it took me awhile to get through them. While I was doing that, Melodie was looking up my family tree on Ancestry.com to find an answer to the Mary Jane mystery.

I kept saying how nice it was to have access to the internet . . . she took it as an opportunity to give me a hard time . . .

“Well, look at you, all addicted to the internet! Gotta have your fix!”

(Making a face) “What do you mean? I haven’t been on the internet for two days . . . how am I addicted to the internet?

(Mimicking me) “Gotta check my email! Oh! Gotta see who sent me an email!”

(Becoming indignant) “I’m running a business, and Friday was a business day, so I have a responsibility to check my email . . . so I hardly think that is an addiction.”

(Laughing) “Yeah, you’re addicted to it and you know it!”

(Getting pissy) “I don’t think you have any room to talk . . . you are on the internet with your phone every hour or two . . . every time you get a text or an email, your phone dings and you have to go check it immediately . . . so just get off my back!”

(A bit taken aback) “I was just giving you a hard time . . . “

“I know . . . but I get tired of it sometimes.”

She dropped it . . . we both went back to our respective internet activities . . .

About the time I was finishing up the last email, she announced she had figured out the Mary Jane mystery . . . Joseph had a wife named Mary Jane and a sister named Mary Jane. So, there you go! Mystery solved!

Anyway, we then headed back towards the cottage. As we passed the farm owners’ house, we noticed they were sitting outside on their patio. We were surprised to see them sitting outside at 10:30pm as they are around 80 years old . . . but they are quite spry and active for their age . . . I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised . . .

They waved for us to stop . . . so we did . . . they said they had been getting worried about us . . . we assured them we were fine.

Their son was with them and so we got to meet him. We sat and visited with the two men for a few minutes . . . then we talked to Ardis about touring the schoolhouse. She asked us why we hadn’t shown up for the tour this morning at 8:30. We told her about calling her and leaving a voice mail . . . she told us that their phone had been down most of the day so she didn’t get the voicemail. She said that wasn’t our fault . . . no big deal . . . and we again made plans to meet her at 8:30am . . . and then we got back in the car and headed up the driveway to the cottage . . .

It had gotten up to 103 degrees (39°C) today and the air conditioner in the cottage had been off all day . . . the windows had been closed up tight . . . and it was still 97 degrees (36°C) outside when we finally walked into the cabin (it still is that hot, right now, at 11:00pm as I’m writing this) . . . and it was about 85 degrees (29°C ) inside the cottage when we walked in (it’s a few degrees cooler than that inside now) . . .

It’s just stinkin’ hot.

Oh, and . . . when we got back to the cottage and opened the door, we got hit with the most disgusting smell . . .

The chicken we cooked last night and this morning came packaged in those styrofoam trays with the paper-towel-looking stuff on the bottom to absorb the excess juices . . . I had thrown those away in the trash . . . and the trash had been sitting in the very warm cottage all day . . . need I say more . . . ?? Oooo, yulk!!!!

So, anyway, we are relaxing and trying to cool down . . . trying not to sweat all over the furniture . . . trying to not smell the chicken smell (we took the trash to the dumpster, but the smell is still hanging around).

Melodie is on the phone with her husband (since we had to cut his last call short because we were approaching the cemetery), and I’m decompressing by journaling . . . I’m amazed we survived the road trip . . .

I’m beginning to think that she gives me (and other people) a hard time about things as a way to be funny . . . to live up to her big, jolly personality. I think she doesn’t know any other way to connect with people, so that’s how she does it all the time . . . and that gets old fast. I wonder if she knows that about herself. I wonder if it is my place to tell her.

I don’t know.

Okay . . . time to go to bed . . .

(022)

Posted by: Marie | July 7, 2014

(950) Lessons in renegotiation – Part 6 of 7

Post #950
[Private journal entry written near bedtime on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – continued from previous post]

We backtracked one exit on the Interstate and then we headed north on Highway 283. We were both lost in our thoughts as we meandered across the open plains . . . neither of us said much.

I decided it was a good time to move the conversation towards topics that would allow me to feel more connected with Melodie . . . I mean, we were both in thoughtful moods and she had tired of the comedy radio station . . .

I started by updating her on some the more significant events that have occurred in my healing journey during the past two years. I really don’t share much of that stuff on the phone because the phone connection is usually not good . . . either because I’m in my bedroom suite in the basement or because she is in someplace where the phone signal is weak . . . and a sensitive conversation does not fair well when one or the other of us is always saying, “Wait, say that again, you faded out for a minute . . . “

And, often one of us is in a public forum or around other people where a sensitive and personal conversation would not be appropriate . . .

And, I don’t share much over the phone because every time I start to tell her something meaningful, if the story takes more than a minute or two to tell, she will interrupt me with her own story. I’m not willing to fight for her attention . . . just like I’m not willing to fight for the attention of my biological siblings.

I think the fact that we were in the same physical location made today’s conversation easier . . . she didn’t interrupt. In fact, she listened carefully and she asked thoughtful questions. She empathized.

I told her that I’m doing better than I was two years ago (which is when I last gave her a meaningful update), but that I still fight depression periodically . . . I still sometimes wish I weren’t alive. She responded that she knows that I struggle with depression and with wanting to live, but she wanted to make sure that I knew she loves me regardless. I told her I did know that.

I told her that I am doing MUCH better now than I was a decade ago when I lost my career and my financial assets . . . back then, I was fairly certain I was not going to survive those hard times.

She asked me if I remembered telling her about my depressive and suicidal tendencies on one of our trips 20 years ago, in the early 1990’s. I didn’t remember . . .

She said that, because of my telling her that 20 years ago, she had been extremely concerned about me during the very dark time a decade ago. She said that she fully expected to get a phone call telling her that I had committed suicide. She had pretty much accepted the fact that that was going to happen, and she felt helpless to stop it.

I was not aware that she had been carrying that weight . . . I tried to not let on how difficult that time was for me because I didn’t want people to worry more than absolutely necessary. I guess she knows me too well to fall for that.

She then asked a question . . .

“If you ever get to the point where you really are planning to kill yourself, you’d call me, right?”

“Well, no. If I’m going to kill myself, I’m not going to announce it, and I’m not going for help, I’ll just do it. I hope you know that there would be nothing you could do to help me in that case. If I’m in so much emotional pain that I’m planning to kill myself, then it means that I’m done fighting. I already have help . . . and I have great resources. If they can’t help me, I can’t be helped.

“It’s fully possible that, at some point, I won’t be able to tolerate it anymore and I may actually kill myself. That’s a very real possibility. If that ever happens, please know that there was nothing you could have done . . . if there were anything that could be done, it would have already happened . . . I already have the resources to make it happen. If they can’t help me, no one can.”

“Yeah, I know that. I just felt like I needed to put that out there . . . I needed to make sure that you know you could call me.”

“Yes, I know I could call you . . . and I appreciate that very much.”

“I know you wouldn’t call me, though, if you were really serious about killing yourself.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

And that was about the extent of the conversation. But, it was enough for me to feel a bit more connected with her. I really needed that conversation.

I’m still very aware of the fact we are in very different places in our person development and growth. But, I at least found a way to connect with her in a meaningful way.

Our conversation then switched to lighter topics . . . it was light and friendly . . .

Kansas

Along about this point in time (a little after 7:35pm), I started looking for Highway 136 . . . I thought that was the highway I needed to turn east onto in order to get to Stamford . . .

Both Melodie and I saw the signs for Highway 89, but I insisted it was Highway 136 we needed . . . Melodie looked at the map and then decided she didn’t know for sure where we were . . . I insisted we needed to just go a little further . . . I was very sure Highway 136 would be coming along any minute . . . she believed me . . .

Well, I was wrong. My mental map failed me. I should have turned onto Highway 89, which would have merged with Highway 136. So, we ended up detouring north a bit, which added 22 miles (35 km) and 25 minutes to the drive . . .

Bless her heart, Melodie didn’t rub it in.

We got to the little town of Stamford at 8:15pm, 15 minutes before sunset. The brightness of the landscape was just beginning to dim. We knew we had to keep moving . . . we still had to find the cemetery, which was out in the country . . . there are no street lights out there . . . and street signs are either very tiny or are missing all together . . .

Fortunately, when we dropped south onto Highway 89 just outside of Stamford, we discovered that the country road we needed was the road on which we were already traveling south. We simply had to cross Highway 89 and continue southward. Of course, once we crossed Highway 89, the road was no longer a paved highway, it became a gravel country road . . .

We turned on the GPS unit and trusted it to lead us to the cemetery . . . it appeared we were about 5 miles (8 km) away from the cemetery . . . I was driving about 20 mph (32 kmph) because I didn’t want the gravel to kick up and pit their car’s paint . . . they’ve only had this car for two months and it is in pristine condition . . . and Melodie’s husband is VERY particular about their cars . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

(021)

Posted by: Marie | July 6, 2014

(949) Lessons in renegotiation – Part 5 of 7

Post #949
[Private journal entry written near bedtime on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – continued from previous post]

We made it to Collyer a few minutes before 3:00pm. The town currently has about 100 people living in it, although, from around 1880 to 1930, the population was maybe a couple of thousand. So, much of the town is abandoned now. I’ll have to admit, it was an impressive ghost town . . . I’m not sure if it was worth driving so many miles to see, but I will say it was worth a decent level of appreciation as far as history goes.

We meandered around the town, stopping to take pictures here and there . . .

St. Michael's

St. Michael’s

The most visually outstanding feature of the town is St. Michael’s Catholic School building, built in 1916-1917. It was used as a school until the late 1960’s. It is currently being restored and is a registered historic site.

We also found the oldest still-standing house in town. It is a sod house that was later covered in wood siding. The walls are starting to bow outward and starting to crumble, but the house appears to be in the process of being restored, or at least preserved.

We then found a commercial building that appeared currently occupied, but it had no signage to indicate what might be inside. It had half of a car (cut length-wise) attached to the front of the building, above the doors. We laughed and laughed . . . what a creative idea! Of course, we parked the car and started taking pictures . . . and Melodie noticed that a side door was propped open . . . she cautiously walked over to the door and peeked in . . . and hollered . . .

Oldest house

Oldest house

It turns out that it was someone’s living quarters . . . and the “someone” was a guy who came to the door in response to Melodie’s voice. He came outside and visited with us . . . told us that he closed in one corner of the building as his living quarters and then the remaining space is a bar that he operates.

Melodie asked if there was anyway we could use the bar’s restroom . . . he said, “Oh, sure! No problem!” So, he led us through his living quarters (a sunny and comfortable one-bedroom suite) and into the bar. After the restroom break, he invited us to take a tour of the building . . . we accepted . . .

He offered us something to drink (we declined as neither of us drinks and it was too hot to drink anything but water – which we had plenty of in our water bottles). He told us that he is originally from Denver, but that a number of years back, he and his wife moved to Collyer. Then, they split up, she went back to Denver and he stayed in Collyer.

Pontiac Bar

Pontiac Bar

He had no place to live and no job. So, he bought this old building that was all but falling down – it had been a Pontiac dealership in its heyday. He stabilized the structure. Then he created the living quarters. Then he started creating the bar, piece by piece. He opened for business as soon as he could, even though the bar wasn’t finished (it still isn’t) . . . he needed the income.

For the back wall of the main bar, he got one of the main support arches from a very old local railroad bridge that was being replaced. He said it was a bit tough to get it cut down enough to fit inside . . . he commented that cutting down and transporting an iron bridge support is a bigger challenge than one might think . . . LOL . . .

In the corner of the bar, he had an old fireplace he had rescued from a house in town that was being destroyed. He uses it for heat in the winter.

He said he put the half-car – a Pontiac – on the front of the building in honor of the building’s history. When I asked him if he had cut the car in half, he said he did . . . he said he doesn’t always know how to do everything he does, but he always gets it figured out. He said the other half of the car was on the backside of the building, on the patio seating area. Of course, we had to go back there and see it . . .

On the way to the back patio, he pointed out an elevated seating area in the back . . . the ceilings are high enough he was able to create an indoor balcony situated above the main seating area. The staircase going up to the balcony was rescued from a very old house in town that was going to be burned down. The stairs were a half-circle and they had ornately hand-carved railings and banisters. It was a gorgeous staircase! I love how he is capturing and protecting the local history by folding it into his own historical story . . .

He showed us the bar’s kitchen . . . it is still under construction, but it looks like it will be very nice when it is finished – all stainless steel commercial equipment . . . I don’t know much about restaurant and bar kitchens, but it looked very nice to me!

Anyway, he was the nicest guy and he visited with us for quite a while. I think he enjoyed having the company and showing off his building. We thanked him for his hospitality and for the tour and the stories . . . he walked us back out through his living quarters and out the same side door through which we entered . . . and when we got outside, he said, “Oh, wait, let me show you something!”

He called us over to his garden area located a few yards away from the side door we had just come through. He had raised planters with vegetables and herbs . . . and flowers to attract butterflies . . . many of the plants were climbing up the lattice board he used to visually close in the garden to create the sense of sanctuary . . . he had zen statues and water fountains and a coy fish pond . . . it was such a wonderfully creative and lovely space . . . I loved it!

We thanked him again as we climbed into the car . . .

So, that was the ghost town we drove more than 150 miles to get to . . . actually, by that point of the trip, we had traveled just shy of 180 miles (290 km) . . . so, I’m guessing we took the long route . . .

And, we still had a two-hour drive to get the cemetery . . . and it was 6:00pm . . . the sun would be setting in just 2½ hours . . .

As we left Collyer, I wondered to myself if Melodie felt the experience in Collyer was worth the travel. For me, the history captured in the buildings was interesting, but not worth the drive . . . however, the experiences with the people made the trip worthwhile . . . I truly do enjoy going out and meeting people in their natural element . . .

We may have been able to find interesting buildings around Red Cloud, but I’m not sure that we would have found anyone in Red Cloud who would match the Pontiac guy for character!

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | July 5, 2014

(948) Lessons in renegotiation – Part 4 of 7

Post #948
[Private journal entry written near bedtime on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – continued from previous post]

Once we got inside, we could see that there was also a gun display case set into the bank of drawers. Of course, it was being used for general storage of stuff other than guns . . . but that caused me to think that maybe the store had been more of a general store rather than just a hardware store. I guess, given its being a large building located in a tiny town, it likely was used as a venue for selling way more than just hardware.

As we walked further back into the store, we could see a good bit of plumbing hardware stacked here and there – the plumbing hardware appeared to be from an era more recent than the hardware drawers, but the heavy layers of dust laying on top of it indicated it wasn’t from the current decade.

Towards the back we discovered a hand-hewn wooden canoe . . . and a large dumb waiter next to the back sliding bay door. I imagine the dumb waiter allowed large items to be moved between the main floor and the basement. The old tin ceiling was falling down in several places . . .

The town was established in 1915, so I’m guessing the building – and the drawers – were build in the years immediately after that. It was so neat! We spent maybe 20 minutes in the building, exploring . . . and Melodie took a bunch of cool photos . . .

We then walked the short distance back to the community center . . . the two firefighters were sitting on a bench in the lobby. We talked with the older one a bit more. He mentioned that the funeral dinner was going to be held at the community center – again, the whole town was expected to attend the dinner . . .

He walked with us to our car, talking the entire way . . . he gave us some suggestions about scenic routes and other neat things to explore . . . we all leaned over the hood of our car and studied the map . . . he suggested that we head south on Highway 181, west on Highway 18 and then south on Highway 232 so we could travel the scenic route around the east end dam of Wilson Lake.

We thanked him for the advice . . . as we were packing our stuff in the car, we heard communication over the fire truck’s radio that the funeral procession to the grave site was going to be leaving in another minute or two. After responding to the communication, the firefighter hollered at us that we would be meeting the procession a few miles out of town. Melodie assured him she would pull over . . . and we thanked him for all the information he had given us.

We were back on the road by 11:00am . . .

Sure enough, a few miles south of town, we met the procession. Of course, we pulled over. It took about 10 minutes for all the cars to pass . . . we counted about 100 cars in it.

Kansas

A half hour or so later, we were at the intersection of Highways 181 and 18, which is where we were planning to turn west. However, Melodie saw a sign that indicated the town of Sylvan Grove was located just a mile south of the intersection. She got very excited when she saw the town’s name . . . it’s the town in which her mom had been born. Melodie had not realized we were going to be so close to Sylvan Grove.

Her mom is no longer alive . . . and she really wanted to stop there so she could see her mom’s birthplace. Sylvan Grove is another tiny town perched on the plains of Kansas . . . although it is almost five times the size of Hunter . . . it has 275 people living in it!

We found a little cafe on Main Street that was open. Since it was pushing noon, we were ready for lunch . . . so, we stopped in for a bite . . .

There were maybe 15 customers in the cafe, and three people running it. One employee was cooking, one was waiting tables and third was running around, picking up slack wherever she could. We waited near the door for a few minutes to be acknowledged (as instructed by a sign), but to no avail. That’s when a local family came in. They told us that we might as well seat ourselves . . . that’s what people do when the restaurant gets busy. So, we found a table and seated ourselves . . .

Then, we waited . . . and we waited . . .

Finally, about 20 minutes after we had walked in the door, we got some water and menus . . .

Then, we waited . . . and we waited . . . I placed a call to Ardis to make sure she had gotten my voicemail this morning . . . she didn’t answer and I didn’t see the value of leaving a second message . . . if she didn’t get the first one, she won’t get the second one . . .

It was 10 or 15 minutes before the waitress came back around to take our order . . .

Then, we waited . . . and we waited some more . . .

As we were waiting, we asked the people at the table next to us if there was something we needed to do differently . . . like, for example, were we supposed to go pick up our own order from to the kitchen . . . ?? Nope . . . we just needed to sit tight. They laughed as they acknowledged the service was not so great . . . but, it was the only restaurant open this weekend for miles and miles around . . .

Anyway, it was another 20 minutes before our food showed up . . . and both of our orders were wrong. For example, I had ordered a hamburger with mayo, lettuce and tomato. I got a hamburger with nothing but onion on it. We discussed the situation a bit and decided that we could be happy with the food we had been given . . . we didn’t want to spend anymore time trying to get what we ordered . . .

I put a little ketchup and mustard on mine, and that made it taste like a fancy McDonald’s hamburger. I could live with that. Melodie doctored up her food a bit to make it align a little closer to her preferences, and then we chowed down and got out of there as quickly as we could . . . we managed to pay our bill and head out the door by around 1:30pm.

As we walked back to the car, Melodie told me that she had had enough of driving and that I could drive the rest of the weekend . . . she simply had needed to do a little bit of the driving . . . it was something she just had to do. But now, she had done it and she could turn the driving over to me with a happy attitude.

I was very happy, too, LOL!

We drove around the town a bit . . . and then decided to get back on the road. After a short discussion, we decided to not drive the mile back north to catch Highway 18 westbound because it would take less time to take more direct route, which would still involve part of the scenic route, just not all of it . . . and we were getting worried about time . . . the sun would be setting in seven hours and we still had a lot of ground to cover . . . so, we decided to stay on Hwy 181 over to Highway 232, then south to the Interstate Highway. Of course, we still drove around much of Wilson Lake’s shoreline, so we still got to see a lot of pretty scenery. I don’t think we missed much.

Melodie pulled up an internet radio station of comedy shows. We listened to some dumb routine about farting and burping . . . not my favorite thing to listen to, but I didn’t care . . . I was the one driving, so I was happy . . . I was so happy that I was even able to find a few things to chuckle about in the comedy routine.

By 1:45pm, we were pulling onto the Interstate. I welcomed the high speeds and Melodie welcomed that we were just over an hour away from the ghost town . . . yippee!!

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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Posted by: Marie | July 4, 2014

(947) Lessons in renegotiation – Part 3 of 7

Post #947
[Private journal entry written near bedtime on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – continued from previous post]

As I was packing the cooler with drinks and food for myself (Melodie had already packed hers), I was standing in the kitchen area, thinking about what all I would like to take. Melodie asked me what I needed. I told her I was thinking about what drinks I should pack. She opened the frig and started telling me what I should pack. When I told her, “I got it, I really don’t need help with that . . . ,” she acted offended.

When I was packing my bag with stuff like sunscreen, a comb and hair band, etc., she did the same thing . . . she tried to help me pack. Again, I declined her help and she again acted offended.

And she announced that she was going to drive the first leg of the trip . . .

It is her car . . . I can’t really argue with her decision . . .

I just took some more deep breaths . . . patience . . . patience . . .

And then . . . well, first, a tangent story . . .

About five or six months ago, I developed a mild rash on one of my calves. I’d get it almost healed up and then it would come back a little worse . . .

As of about two weeks ago, I thought I had it conquered for sure. But then, a few days ago, it came back with a vengeance.

I hate going to doctors. I have to be about dead before I’ll go to one. I don’t trust most of them to be holistically responsible with the application of their medicinal efforts, and I usually don’t have enough spare money to afford to even walk in the door of a doctor’s office, and I don’t have health insurance.

Now back to the present-day story . . . I was trying to hide the rash from Melodie because I knew she would preach to me to no end for not going to a doctor about it yet. I didn’t want to deal with her preaching. I did my best to keep it hidden. But, of course, she noticed the rash this morning when I was in the bathroom changing the dressing.

She started asking me a million questions and she chewed me out up one side and down the other . . . she told me that I HAD to go to the doctor as soon as I got home and she told me what kind of doctor I should go to and exactly what I should say to him . . . I told her I’ll decide for myself how I handle it . . . and that set her off again . . . I finally got her off the topic by keeping my responses to a minimum.

But, I’m aggravated that she cannot respect the choices I make around health care . . . I am my own person and I do things differently than she does them . . . but she is not willing to allow me the autonomy to make choices that are right for me . . . if I don’t handle things as she would have handled them, then, in her mind, my choices are obviously wrong.

So, anyway . . . all of that occurred within a couple of hours this morning . . . yikes . . . it was a tough start to the day . . .

The good news is that it did get better . . .

We were nearly ready to go by 8:00am. Since we were concerned about time, we thought we’d call Ardis and see if we could visit the schoolhouse at 8:00 rather than 8:30. She didn’t answer her phone, so I left a message saying that, if we didn’t hear from her by 8:10, we’d just do the tour later. We didn’t hear from her.

So, we managed to get on the road by 8:15am (an hour ahead of schedule). We headed south on Highway 181 through a lot of wide open country and a few small towns . . .

Kansas

Around 9:45am, we came upon a tiny town named Hunter (population 57). As we passed through the single city block and five or six buildings that defined “downtown”, we noticed there were a couple of really cool old, abandoned commercial buildings. We decided to stop and check them out. We pulled into one of the diagonal parking spots in front of one of the few in-use buildings.

There was a newer, large metal building across the street from where we parked. Its sign announced that it housed the library and community center. Since we were in need of a restroom, we decided to see if there was one in the building we could use.

The main double doors opened up into a small lobby. The restrooms were straight in from the main door, and there was a secondary door on the left that led into the library. The secondary door on the right led into the community center.

While Melodie was using the facilities, I wandered around the lobby and read the signs on both secondary doors . . . both the library and the community center were closed due to a funeral.

As we headed back outside, a fire truck pulled up and parallel parked, straddling a handful of the diagonal spots near our car. Two men got out of the fire truck – the driver, who was maybe 55 or 60 years old, and a passenger, who was maybe in his 20’s. We exchanged greetings . . . and then we visited a bit . . .

They said that they were from a different fire station – one in a nearby town – and that they were covering for the firefighters in Hunter because the funeral was for one of the Hunter firefighters. These two guys were covering the fire station so all of the Hunter firefighters could be involved in the funeral.

They went on to say that the Saturday prior – a week ago – one of the younger fire fighters had died. They thought he was around 30 years old. He was a passenger in a boat. The driver of the boat tossed a bottle of liquor back to him. He didn’t catch it and it landed in the water. He dove in after it. Because he was intoxicated, he drowned. The guy had four kids. So, it was a tragic event, and the whole town had turned out for the funeral.

They continued visiting with us and told us a bit about town’s history. Then, we told them we probably should get going since we had a lot of ground to cover before sunset – that we needed to be to my ancestors’ gravesites by 8:15pm since the sun would be setting at 8:30 . . .

The firefighters headed over to the community center, and Melodie and I started walking along the front of the abandoned buildings . . .

Through the plate glass windows, we could see that one building looked like it had been a hardware store at some point. We could see a bank of drawers running from the floor all the way to the high ceilings. The drawers were the old fashioned wooden drawers. Then, there were ladders on rollers that could be moved along the front of the bank of drawers (like what you see in the library in upscale homes). Each drawer had a card mounted on the front with a hand-written description of the drawer’s contents (like 2″ brass nails, ¼” washers, etc.) and the unit price.

We tried the door to see if it was unlocked . . . it was . . . we opened the door and cautiously stepped inside . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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