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ENTRY #708
DATE: 06/16/19 (Sunday)
SUBJECT: Father's Day (without my father)...

     Well... this is the first Father's Day to come and go since my Dad passed away. It was strange not mailing him a card. It was strange not calling him. It's strange knowing that I'll never see him again or hear his voice. And, still, there's this strange feeling of "lack of grief" looming over me, around me, that I just don't understand. It's not that I don't care, or that I don't miss him, because I do, very much so, in fact. But when I compare my feelings of loss surrounding Marcel's death to those of losing my own father, the difference is staggering. Part of me thinks I should be traumatized and part of me thinks it's a blessing in disguise that I'm not. I don't know. It's just... weird, for lack of a better word. Although, now that I'm thinking about it, "numb" seems to be more appropriate.
     I've been "numb" for months now. I go to work, I go to Gate of Heaven Cemetery, I come home, I feed the cat, I eat dinner, I watch YouTube videos until it's time to go to bed... and then the next day is an exact repeat. That's it. That's my life now. There's no joy, there's no sadness. There's no excitement, there's no boredom. There's no anxiety, there's no contentment. There's no laughter, there's no tears. There's nothing to look forward too and, for the last six months, there's been nothing to look back on but pain.
     I don't care about anything anymore. I have absolutely no enthusiasm, or interest, in anything at all. I can't concentrate on much of anything, except for work. I can't even manage to read a book to the very end -- I get half way through a novel but then I get bored with it and start something different. And the thrill I used to get out of photography is nothing but a distant memory. Now that Marcel and my Dad are gone, I just don't have the heart to go exploring with my camera anymore. They were [both] my photography Mentors and, without them, there's no one to share my photos with so the enthusiasm I used to have for it has been ripped away. I basically trudge through each day, going through the motions, just waiting for the day to end, knowing all the while that tomorrow will come and I'll have to do it all again. My whole attitude towards life is, "Whatever, it's just another day, who cares."
     Even this website -- I have very little interest in sitting here maintaining it anymore. For the last couple of months, I've actually been considering just deleting the entire thing. The only thing that keeps me from doing that is the fact that Marcel (if he was still alive) would be heartbroken to learn that I've deleted "The Blog." He enjoyed reading it so much and he's always loved my writing and my photography... and knowing that it would make him sad to see it all vanish stills my hand from clicking that ever-ready DELETE key. Which, in itself, is a kind of "Catch 22" type thing. I mean, honestly, for the last three years or so, I've basically been writing this blog either about him, to him, or for him... and now that he's gone, no longer on the receiving end reading any of this, there's not much point in continuing; but if I decide to abandon it, I feel like I'll be letting him down. Sooooo... I'm not sure what I'm gonna do or how I'm going to move forward from this point in time. I started this blog back in September of 2005 so it's been almost fifteen years. In describing why I decided to start blogging back then, in my first entry I wrote, "Well, in a nut-shell, this is the place I've created for myself to Rant & Rave and/or Piss & Moan about stuff." I suppose, when the day comes when I start giving a shit about something again, I can continue chronicling my ranting, raving, pissing and moaning whether there's anyone reading it or not. My original intent was to give myself a place to "vent" in order to maintain a level of sanity in my life so maybe, once this funk manages to pass (if it ever will), I can get back into it again. We'll see, I guess.
     Hrmm, not sure how I went from Father's Day to this shit but, for now, I really don't have anything else to say.
     Oh, wait, I just thought of a few things. I'll list them here for my own memory-recall if for nothing else...
     1.  Back in March, I purchased a Garmin GPS unit so, whenever I'm emotionally stable enough, I can actually find my way back to St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY where Marcel is buried. I've used it a few times just to experiment with it and it's extremely accurate so I'm confident it'll get me there and back with no glitches.
     2.  Also back in March, on the 16th, my Uncle Merle and I met in Auburn, MA for lunch so he could give me the urn containing my father's ashes. It sat in my living-room awaiting burial until May 11th. The three of us (Merle, my Mom and myself) met at the cemetery and finally laid him to rest.
     3.  While I'm on that subject, I just received my father's Military plaque from the Veterans Administration Offices three days ago (June 13th) so we're now planning to meet at the cemetery again during the first week of July to install that at his grave.
     4.  On March 21rst, my boss handed me a check for $2,500.00 to take care of that whole "HealthCare Tax Credit payback" crisis that went down at H&R Block. Two days later, I mailed my payment off to the IRS so, thank God, that's been wrapped up.
     5.  On Wednesday, April 3rd, Uncle Merle and I met with my father's Estate lawyer in Rochester, NH to begin the Probate process. I'm hoping everything will be settled by the end of the year but you never can tell with the Court system these days. The lawyer wasn't really able to predict how long it'll take. He said "approximately six to eight months," but it all depends on how back-logged the Court docket is.
     6.  On April 12th, I received payment from one of two life insurance policies my Dad had. I paid off two credit card bills and put the rest in my savings account for a "rainy day."
     7.  And, yesterday, I finally received the paperwork from my Dad's other life insurance policy through OPM. Now that I have that, I can mail off another copy of his death certificate in order to receive that payment. That's a Government policy, though, so I have a feeling it'll take quite awhile before I get it, we'll see.
     I've rambled on long enough, now I'm done - for real - this time. If there is anyone out there actually reading this drivel of mine, it may be awhile before I post another entry here. Again, I'm just not sure how I'm going to continue (or not) with this website... so, ciao for now.

ENTRY #707
DATE: 03/10/19 (Sunday)
SUBJECT: A Memorial for Dad & Reggie...

     This is how I'm always going to remember them both from now on: all dolled up, ready to celebrate a holiday or a special occasion by listening to some live Jazz at the Rockingham Ball Room, and having drinks and sharing laughs with their friends! When I think of them, I'm going to picture them in my mind Fox-Trotting their way around the ball-room dance floor, without a care in the world, just losing themselves in the music and smiling at each other as they sway to the tunes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Doc Severinsen and Glenn Miller...
     Rest in Peace. I love you both...

ENTRY #706
DATE: 03/09/19 (Saturday)
SUBJECT: More bad news...

     Well, shit... I just found out that Reggie, my Dad's girlfriend, passed away today, early this morning. Her daughter, Lucy, called me about an hour ago. No services are going to be held for her at all. She's going to be cremated and then interred in a niche at Northern Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery, way the hell up in Caribou, Maine... which, from here, is approximately a 9-hour drive, maybe a little less. As of right now, they just plan on having a very small family gathering at the cemetery the day she's interred (not sure when yet) and that's it. Since I live so far away, and since I'm not technically "family," I don't plan on attending. Although, at some point in the future, I would like to find that cemetery so I can pay my respects and say goodbye...
     I can't believe this. My Dad just died 14 days ago and now Reggie is gone too. I can't believe they both died within two weeks of each other. She was 85 years old; she would've been 86 this August (on the 4th). They were an "item" for the last 40 years... and now they're both gone. This blows.
     Y'know what? So far, 2019 is sucking some major dick. I just want it over already and it's only March. I can't take it anymore. Fuck this year, and fuck this life. I'm going back to bed...

ENTRY #705
DATE: 02/24/19 (Sunday)
SUBJECT: For my Dad...

     The verse included above isn't in my own words. I took it from the last Father's Day card I mailed to him back in June. Seven months later, as I was cleaning out his apartment with Uncle Merle and my cousin Billy, that card was still standing on top of his entertainment-center next to his television. It was one of the things I brought home that day.
     Rest in peace, Daddy. I hope you're happier now, wherever you are.
     I wish I could've done more... with my life and with yours; you deserved better. I'm sorry I was such a disappointment...

ENTRY #704
DATE: 02/23/19 (Saturday)
SUBJECT: Another extremely SHITTY day...

     I left my house, this morning, carrying my four Bachman paperbacks and drove over to Steve's apartment. He had the box, some bubble-wrap, and a shipping label all ready and waiting to go. We wrapped them all, got them packaged, and he said he'd take them to UPS on Monday. Wonderful. So, yup, that's that, I guess. They're gone. I now have a gaping hole on my bookshelf where those books have lived for the last three decades, almost. I know they're just books, and having to part with them is nothing more than a First-World problem but, regardless, it still sucks. I spent hard-earned money to collect all of them and now all I've got is that damn gaping hole. Oh well... life goes on, right? Or so they say, anyways...
     We ordered some food from Capotorto's for dinner and settled in front of the TV and watched a few episodes of Downton Abbey on DVD while we ate. It was a few minutes before 7:00pm when my cell phone started ringing, which is extremely unusual 'cause the only person who ever calls my cell is The Friar. And, of course, he's gone now so I was like, "Why's my phone ringing; who the hell's calling me?"
     It was a woman from the Riverside Rest Home in Dover, New Hampshire.
     At approximately 6:30pm this evening... my father died.
     She said he was fine at 4:30. He ordered his meal for dinner, he ate at 5:00, they collected his serving tray and dishes at 5:45 and the next time they checked on him, 40 minutes later (at 6:30ish) was when they found him slumped over in bed. There was nothing they could do for him; he was already gone.
     She informed me the Caretakers from the Funeral Home/Crematory were already on their way to collect him... and she wanted to know if there was anybody else she could call for me. I told her, "Yes, you should have his brother's contact information in his file. His name is Merle, my Uncle. I'm the Executrix of the Estate but Merle is his Power Of Attorney and he lives in Rochester. Since I'm in Connecticut, Merle will be the one handling just about everything, I guess." I thanked her for calling and hung up.
     I called my Mom immediately to let her know... and she took the news harder than I did, even though they'd been divorced since 1977. Through the years following their divorce, I think their relationship as "friends" became closer than when they were actually married. It's odd to say that but, somehow, it's true... but that's a whole other story and there's really no need to go into it now, I 'spose. All that's worth saying right now is that, even though their marriage disintegrated, they still loved each other in their own ways... and that's all that matters.
     When I hung up with my Mom, Steve and I went right back to watching Downton Abbey. Two hours later, I asked him, "Should I be doing something?" He muted the TV, turned to me and said, "What do you mean? Like what?"
     "Well, I dunno... I just got a phone call telling me my father's dead... and I'm just sitting here, watching television, as if nothing happened. Shouldn't I be doing something? Shouldn't I be feeling something? I don't even feel anything. My father just died and I'm, like, sitting here, chillin' on the couch."
     We talked about it for awhile and basically figured out that it's more of a relief than anything, that he's gone. He wasn't happy at the Rest Home; his quality of life wasn't that great; and all of his Final Arrangements - the funeral home, the cremation, and even his headstone in the cemetery has already been taken care of and paid for - so there really isn't anything for me to do, physically, other than collecting his ashes and taking them to the cemetery for burial; and that won't happen until early Spring when the weather warms up and the ground thaws.
     As far as feeling something... I'm still at a loss, really. I'm home now, sitting here writing this. It's almost midnight. It's been almost five hours since I got the call from the Rest Home and I'm still not feeling much of anything. Between the traumatic loss of Rigby, my cat, back in December and the devastation I'm still reeling from surrounding Marcel's death, is it possible I'm just numb from it all? It is possible I just don't have enough room left, emotionally, for any more grief even though it's my father? Is it possible that cleaning out his apartment last month was a pre-coping method for a death that hadn't even occurred yet? I mean, as I stood there looking at his empty apartment, and then later - when I brought some of his belongings home and placed them around my own apartment - there was a part of me that felt as though he had already died, even though I knew I'd be talking to him in a few days. Is it possible I've gone through the process of grieving for him, without even knowing it? Am I better off now, because of that - if that's truly the case - or is it "not healthy" to feel this way? Is it possible my brain has temporarily shut down in order to protect me from more pain? I have absolutely no idea. Um... I'm grateful that I feel nothing because, honestly, I don't think I could handle much more emotional stress right now; but I'm also experiencing a little guilt because I feel nothing... if that makes any sense at all. I mean... it's my Dad; I loved him... I should be upset, I should be crying, I should be, I dunno, driving to New Hampshire right now so I can say goodbye or see him one last time or...something, shouldn't I??? But there's nothing in my heart, or mind, that's actually compelling me to do any of those things. Instead, I'm just fucking around on this computer, writing all this stuff, in utter confusion because of my lack of emotions...
     And, yeah, now I'm just rambling... so I guess I'm done. I'm going to bed...

ENTRY #703
DATE: 02/20/19 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  The "Marcel & Me" bracelet...

     I figured since I'm already sitting here, I might as well upload the photo of the bracelet now before I forget... so... here it is...

     The RED letters in the list are the brand new beads/charms I just purchased. All the others are the ones I took off existing bracelets to add to this one. I'm not gonna bother going into what each individual bead represents 'cause I've been sitting here long enough as it is. I will say, though, that each bead has a significant meaning and stands for some thing, or some shared event, during our 35-year-long friendship.

ENTRY #702
DATE: 02/20/19 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  This year, so far, totally SUCKS ASS...

     So, um, yeah... this year, so far, has been pretty shitty for me. I haven't been online that much, at all, because I really have no interest in sitting at my computer now that Marcel is gone. Actually, to be honest, I have little interest in anything now that Marcel is gone. I go to work, I visit Gate of Heaven Cemetery after work every day to talk to Marcel, I come home, I may - or may not - eat dinner, I fall asleep on the couch watching television, then I get up and go to bed. That's about it, really. I've found that life is much easier to deal with when I'm asleep so I've been forcing myself to sleep as much as possible for the last five weeks (give or take).
     Since my last blog entry back in January, immediately following Marcel's funeral, here's a recap of everything else that's happened...

Tuesday, January 15th:  My father's health has been declining drastically for the last couple of months to the point where he can no longer live by himself. So, today, with his brother's help (my Uncle Merle), he's moved into Riverside Rest Home in Dover, NH as a permanent resident.
     During his first visit there to take a tour of their facility and the grounds he really liked it; he said it seemed like a real nice place to live and he thought he'd be quite comfortable there. However, now that he's moved in, every week when I talk to him, all he does is complain about how miserable he is. He complains about the food; he complains about the Staff; he complains about the size of his room; he complains about his room-mate; he complains about the noise; he complains about his lack of freedom; he complains about his loss of independence; he complains about the television and the lack of channels he can get; he complains about the phone; he complains about the size of the bathroom; he complains about how there's nothing for him to do...
     So, obviously, hearing about how miserable he is now, it totally makes me feel like a complete shit of a daughter because he can't live with me; it's just not an option. I'm in Connecticut and he wasn't willing to move here. Even if he was willing to move, he couldn't live HERE with me because my apartment is on the third floor and there's no way he could make it up and down the stairs. Even if he could, my apartment is only three-and-a-half rooms; I just don't have enough space for another person. Plus, I have no medical training so I'm not equipped to take care of him properly. Regardless of all that, though, I still feel like a failure and that I've totally let him down. I know, deep down, he's always wanted me to move back to New Hampshire. He's felt that way for years; I know he has because we've talked about it and I've always told him, "That's never gonna happen so don't get your hopes up!" I regret saying that to him now but there's nothing I can do about my financial/living situation. It'd be different if I had millions of dollars in the bank. I'd gladly buy a house big enough to accommodate us both AND pay for 24-hour live-in care for him. I'd do it in a heartbeat but, unfortunately, that's not the case. So, yeah, now I feel like I'm nothing but a major disappointment to him.

Wednesday, January 16th:  Today would've been Marcel's Name Day. It's the anniversary of when he officially gave up his birth name for his Priest/Friar/Saint name. There's usually a big celebration every year at the Rectory/Church for him in honor of that. I used to call him every year on this day... and now that he's gone, it was hard for me to come home after work knowing that I couldn't hear his voice. So, instead, I went to Gate of Heaven Cemetery and stood at his mother's grave and talked to him for almost two hours. (Mind you, it's January so it was pitch dark out and I froze my ass off. By the time I left, I had frozen tears and snot all over my face.) I really miss him...

Saturday, January 26th:  Spent the entire day in New Hampshire cleaning out my father's apartment with Uncle Merle and my cousin Billy. That was awful. It's one thing to go through and get rid of belongings of someone who's deceased... but it's totally different to do that when the person is still living. It felt like a complete invasion of my father's privacy. And it was emotionally draining as well because it means I'll never see that apartment again, I'll never see or sit on my father's furniture again, I'll never cook meals with him again, I'll never hang out in his living-room listening to his Jazz CDs again, and I'll never go anywhere in his car again, either, because it's already gone - his landlord bought it a couple days after he moved into the Rest Home.
     I went through his collection of CDs and picked out the music I wanted. Uncle Merle took the rest of them. Actually, Uncle Merle took everything. He hauled ALL my father's stuff away in a huge trailer, back to his own house, where he can sort through everything and decide what items he's going to either bring to Good Will or donate to his Church for the needy.
     I also brought home my father's jewelry box and its contents, some knick-knacks he used to keep on his shelves in the living-room, some framed photos, a small photo-album, two plaques he was awarded during his time working at the Portsmouth Shipyard, his camera-bag with two old digital cameras in it, and his framed HAM Radio Operator's certificate that used to sit on his entertainment-center right above his TV. And, oddly, I came home with a bunch of food and paper-goods, too, since we also had to empty all the kitchen cabinets and, of course, the refrigerator.
     The whole experience was very... unsettling, for lack of a better word. Coming home with some of my father's belongings, and then placing them around my own apartment, sadly, made me feel as if he's already died.

Saturday & Sunday, February 2nd & 3rd:  Trying to deal with the overwhelming feelings of grief/loss I've been experiencing since Marcel's death, I spent most of this weekend shopping at jewelry stores for Pandora beads/charms for a new bracelet I decided to put together that represents our lifetime friendship. I hit Michael's Jewelers on Saturday and AJ Klein's Jewelers on Sunday... and I hit them HARD!!! I came home with TWELVE beads, a safety chain, and the actual bracelet itself to put the beads on. I have no idea how much money I actually spent 'cause I kind'a lost track and, honestly, I don't even care; whatever it was, it was worth every penny as far as I'm concerned.
     After the shopping spree, I gathered together my other Pandora bracelets and took them all apart to remove some of the beads I wanted to incorporate into the new bracelet. Once those were collected, along with the new ones I had just purchased, I began assembling the "Marcel & Me" friendship-bracelet. I think it's a lovely collection of memories and I'm very happy with it. Granted, I know it won't bring him back or make the grieving any easier but, whenever I wear it, I'll think of him and remember all the wonderful times we shared together. (Note:  I took some pictures of it. I'll try to remember to upload one of the photos once I'm done writing all this "recapping" stuff.)

Sunday, February 10th:  I spent three hours at Gate of Heaven Cemetery today, talking to Marcel at his mother's grave. I wore my "Marcel & Me" bracelet and, as strange as it may sound, I described the entire thing to him, bead by bead. I also told him about my father moving into the Rest Home and all about cleaning out his apartment. And then, of course, I told him how much I miss him and how I hope and pray that he went peacefully, with no pain, no fear, and no suffering. I told him I miss his smile, his voice, his laughter, and especially his hugs. I told him he left me way too soon, that we were supposed to have much more time together because we had already made plans for "our" vacation in July...
     After three hours, I couldn't take it anymore; I was sobbing by the time I left. I always go there hoping that talking to him for awhile will make me feel better; that it'll make me miss him less, but it never seems to work out that way. Maybe someday it will but, as of right now, I think it's just too soon to expect that.

Wednesday, February 13th:  Marcel's website was taken down today at 8:08 AM, Eastern Standard Time. This was a devastating blow when I discovered it. He created that website back in the mid-90s. I wish I could remember exactly what year it was... but all I can remember, for sure, is that I finally got "online" in 1998 and, at that time, his website was already up and running [and had been] for quite awhile, judging by the amount of work he had put into it. For almost 25 years, give or take, that website of his was a direct portal, for me, into his life when we were unable to see each other. He had pages and pages of beautiful photographs and wonderful narratives he had written about his childhood, his family, his friends, and his vacations. He had pages dedicated to his favorite baking/cooking recipes, and pages that displayed his beautiful paintings, while other pages covered his favorite fishing spots, and his favorite books and films and music and poetry...
     It's all gone now. Every last word or it, just... gone. Over. Deleted. All that's left, in its place, is a small photo of him with his date of birth and date of death and one line of text saying, "Rest in Peace." This totally sucks...

Saturday, February 16th:  I had an absolutely HORRIBLE appointment at H&R Block today. I owe $2,289.00 which was a major shock since that's the amount I usually GET BACK every year [between Federal and State]. I was there for almost two hours as Linda (my agent) tried to figure out why. As it turns out, it's because of the ObamaCare Tax Credits. Apparently, I made too much money and didn't qualify for the health-care tax credits I had received during the year so I have to pay them all back. I was so upset, I actually thought I was going to vomit, right there, in her office. I have no idea how I'm going to come up with that kind of money before April 15th. I think I'll have to resort to selling my First Editions of all four Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King) paperbacks. It will totally suck having to part with them but, as of right now, that's all I can come up with.

Wednesday, February 20th:  Well, thanks to Steve making some quick phone calls, we've managed to find a buyer for my four Bachman paperbacks (Rage, The Long Walk, Road Work, and The Running Man) in my King collection. The Gerald Winters & Son bookstore in Bangor, Maine made the best offer of $1,250.00 for the set so... that's that, I guess. I'm taking the books over to Steve's apartment this Saturday (the 23rd) and we're going to package them up, then Steve is going to take them to UPS for me some time during the week. At least that gives me HALF the money I owe. Where the other half is going to come from, I have no idea. But I ain't selling any more of my books, dammit, that's for sure! It was hard enough parting with these. SHIT!!!

     Ummm, I think that's pretty much everything I wanted to cover. Can't think of anything else so I guess I'm all caught up. Hopefully, from this point on, the year will get better. Wish me luck...

ENTRY #701
DATE: 01/13/19 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  My Beautiful Friar - Gone but Not Forgotten....

ENTRY #700
DATE: 01/12/19 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Continued from New Year's Day...

     I didn't want to keep him on the phone much longer because I knew he had a cold so we said our goodbyes and I wrapped everything up with, "All right, you take care, get some rest so you can get rid of that cold. We'll talk again soon. I'll call you next week to see how you're doing, OK? I love you."
     "OK, sounds good. I love you," Marcel said, "I love you too."
     We hung up.....

     If I had known what was coming, I would've kept that man on the phone for hours that night...

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019: - Fr. Ross called me at 6:25pm. Fr. Ross is the Pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Hamburg, New York. He's also the Guardian of all the retired Friars that live at The Rosary Hour/Friar's Retirement Home. It took some time for Fr. Ross to find Marcel's password that would unlock his cell phone, granting him access to Marcel's CONTACT LIST.
     As soon as I heard Ross' voice I knew Marcel was gone.
     Fr. Marcel Sokalski, "The Friar," my Friar, one of the best friends I've ever had, passed away yesterday morning, January 2nd, somewhere between 3:00-5:00am, they believe. They found him on the floor [of his room] that morning and, at that point, there was no need to call 911; they could tell Marcel had passed a couple hours before they discovered him. The exact cause is unknown and, apparently, it's going to remain a mystery. Did God decide it was simply time to take him? Did he die, peacefully, in his sleep, his body then falling to the floor out of his chair? Did he stumble and fall, while walking around, perhaps hitting his head on something on the way down? Did the new aortic-valve fail, causing a massive heart attack? His Cardiologist had just lifted all restrictions, and told him he was now "healthy as a horse." What the hell happened between then and now? We'll never know. I'll never know. But, whatever it was, I pray to God that he was gone before he hit the floor. I have this horrible image, in my head, of him lying there, suffering, trying to call out for help and going unheard. I can NOT live with that image in my mind but I can't seem to get rid of it. I hope it was instant. I hope there was no pain. I hope there was no fear. I hope there was no suffering. I hope he wasn't lying there for hours before he passed. I pray that God took him peacefully, instantly, with no pain, with no suffering. I want to believe that Marcel closed his eyes for a short snooze in his chair and the next time he opened them, he found himself already in Heaven, surrounded by his Mom and Dad, his sister, his brother, his grandparents (which he never met in life), all the Friars that had gone before him that he worked with and loved like true brothers, and Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi!!! I want to believe that. I have to believe that.
     So... that conversation we just had the other night, New Year's day, when he called me at 8:07pm and sang Auld Lang Syne to me, when we said our goodbyes, and our I love yous, those were our final goodbyes, our final I love yous. Nine hours after that phone call he passed away. Life as I know it has, literally, been shattered. My world has been forever altered. I want to rejoice, knowing he's in Heaven but, right now, it's way too soon, I just can't, there's too much fucking pain. My heart is broken, my head is spinning, my ears are ringing with the memory of his voice as we made plans for my next visit out to see him, my entire body is trembling with loss, and I just want to scream until I have no voice left.

Friday, January 4th, 2019: - I planned on leaving for Hamburg after work this evening but when my boss found out what happened he said, "Go! Don't worry about this place, just go! Go NOW so you don't have to drive all night long!" I left work at 1:00pm, came home, packed, called the hotel to make reservations, left out extra food and water for the cat, loaded up the Jeep... and then stalled for an hour, not wanting to go at all. Knowing that I was going to Hamburg to say goodbye to The Friar, a friend I've grown up with, a person I've loved dearly for over 35 years, was too much for me; just the thought of it was making me nauseous.
     I left at 3 o'clock. I checked into my room in Hamburg at 10:00pm. I talked (prayed?) to The Friar all the way out there.

Saturday, January 5th, 2019: - The schedule for today was a Private Viewing from 9 to 9:45am followed by the Service/Transitus Mass at 10am, all held at St. Francis of Assisi Church. A short luncheon next door at the Rectory, followed by the funeral procession to St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY for another short Franciscan Mass in the cemetery's Chapel, then a second procession to the burial plot.
     I was at the Church by 8:00am, just sitting in the Jeep all by myself 'cause I had nothing else to do. From where I sat, I could see the inside of the Church's "lobby" area. It was full of Marcel's life -- hundreds of photos he took, all of his beautiful paintings displayed on easels, photos of him with friends and family, certificates and plaques he had been awarded throughout his Priesthood, all surrounded by the many plants and flowers he loved. Since I was so early, there were only two other vehicles in the parking lot - one belonged to Fr. Ross and the other one was the long, jet-black hearse from Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home.
     As soon as I stepped foot into the lobby, I totally broke down and had to leave immediately to compose myself. Once I got a grip, I toured the lobby and took in all the photos, plants, paintings, flowers, and plaques. Looking at all the photos he took was really nice but, when I got to the photos of friends and family, I broke down again when I spotted the framed photo of the two of us I had just sent to him for Christmas. There was another weak-in-the-knees moment when I spotted a wallet-sized picture of me. It was a portrait taken for the yearbook during my Sophomore year in high school that he's held onto all these years. That tore me up inside but, after a few deep breaths, I moved on to other photos.
     A woman eventually approached me and asked if I was family. "No, I'm not blood," I said, "but he's always been family to me. I've known him since I was a kid; He was my Latin teacher my Freshman year of high school. After I graduated, we stayed in touch and became really close. He was one of my best friends. This is all such a shock, I just spoke to him New Year's Day, that evening he called me, and he was fine. He had a cold but he said he felt good and he even sang Auld Lang Syne to me. I can't believe I'm here today for this, I just can't believe he's gone." And the tears were flowing again...
     She smiled at me and said, "I know who you are! You're his friend from Connecticut, aren't you? You're Valerie, right?"
     I stared at her for a few seconds, in shock, trying to remember if I had ever met this woman before. I came up blank, no recollection of her at all. "I'm sorry, have we met before? Yeah, I'm Valerie," I stammered, "but how do you know that?"
     She started to laugh and said, "My Lord, child, you're all he's talked about the last two years! We all know who Valerie is! I'm the Health Coordinator for all the Friars in this province. I work out of Ellicott City. You've been to visit him down there too, haven't you? He's shown me all the pictures on his computer!" The whole time she was speaking to me, I had to keep dabbing away tears with a tissue. I was so choked up I really couldn't respond to her verbally but I nodded my head to all she was saying. But when she said, "You are very special to him, he loved you and, don't worry, he still does, and he always will," I threw my arms around this perfect stranger and gave her a hug. "Oh my god," I said, "thank you for saying that, thank you so much!"
     "He's right in there, through those doors. I'm sure he's waiting for you," she said, "why don't you go in and be with him for a while. No one's here yet, you can have some time with him alone, if you want. Take all the time you need."
     "OK, um, yeah, I will, for a while. Thank you." She nodded at me, while giving my hand a gentle squeeze for comfort. I let go of her hand and walked through the doors.
     The Church was gorgeous. It was still decorated for Christmas. And there he was, elevated in the casket for the Private Viewing, way up at the front of the church, right before the main Alter. It was a long, shaky walk to get to him. He looked beautiful; different but beautiful. He wasn't wearing his glasses; they were tucked inside the casket right next to him, along with his Bible. He was wearing the formal Franciscan burial clothing (I forget the proper name for it but that doesn't really matter), and a black, jeweled Rosary was wrapped loosely around his hands that were clasped together, resting peacefully on his stomach. The mortician did a wonderful job with the make-up, he looked just like himself, natural and at peace - looking at him, you'd think he was just sleeping. The only thing missing was his infectious smile... and my heart ached knowing that I'd have to live the rest of my life never seeing it again.
     I prayed over him. I said the Our Father, a Hail, Mary, and I tried The Prayer of St. Francis too but I couldn't remember all of it; I think I was just too upset and the words just vanished from my memory. I reached out and held his hand for awhile, just talking to him, telling him how much he meant to me and how much I'm going to miss him. And I think I must've told him about fifty times that I love him. I asked him to visit me in my dreams and to be my Guardian Angel for the rest of my life. I also asked him to bring dandelions into my life so I'd know he was still with me, that he could still hear me. Dandelions, for the last couple of years, had become "a thing" for us, like a private joke that only close friends can "get" and appreciate. I thanked him for being such a great friend, a great teacher, a great mentor, a great inspiration. I thanked him for his patience, his kindness, his love of nature and animals, and for all the joy he brought into my life. I thanked him for loving me and for always being there when I needed him.
     I don't know how long I actually stood there with him but I stayed right there until people started trickling in for the Viewing and the Mass. At that point, I reluctantly let go of his hand and took a seat.
     Marcel's eulogy was given by Fr. James McCurry and it was an extraordinary tribute. I had my camera with me but I thought, at the time, that it was inappropriate to take a video... and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't. After the eulogy, they lowered Marcel into the casket, closed it up, and draped a holy cloth over the top of it. Then the ritual of the Franciscan Blessing began, which involved placing three Franciscan items on top of the casket, each accompanied with a special prayer of remembrance -- the first item was a replica of the San Damiano Cross, which is the cross that Jesus first spoke to St. Francis through. The second item was a white cincture that the Friars wear as part of their habit. (For those of you that don't know, the cincture is a white rope, worn around the waist like a belt, and it includes three knots that stand for the three vows they profess, Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.) And the third item was a small, leather-bound book which is the Laws (or Rules) of St. Francis that all Franciscan Friars live by. Those three items I was already prepared for, I knew all about them beforehand. However, Fr. James surprised me when he announced that in Fr. Marcel's case, there was a fourth item to be placed on his casket. He then went on to say that if we knew him well, or even if we had just met him, we would've seen this item hanging around his neck because he never went anywhere without it... and I completely fell apart because I knew exactly what he was talking about. It was his camera! When it was carried out and placed gently with the other items, I actually began sobbing uncontrollably and then that made me start to cough so I had to run out to the lobby as quietly and as quickly as possible so I wouldn't disrupt the rest of the Service. It was awful. Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful, loving gesture and a great tribute to Marcel. He loved photography and that camera was his most-prized possession! I just wish that I had known ahead of time that they were going to do that. I was so shocked, so caught off guard, my emotions hit a DEFCON level and when I saw that camera on top of the casket, the finality of it all, it tore me to shreds. All self-control went right out the window and the sobs literally exploded out of me. My god, by the time I made it to the damn lobby, I was so embarrassed. And I was immediately surrounded by strangers [from the Funeral Home] asking me if I was OK, if I thought I was going to feint, if I needed something to drink, if they could bring me some water, or a cold compress, if I needed to sit down... I was mortified. I remember asking one of them how loud I was, or something like that, and one of them said it wasn't bad at all. She actually saw my whole melt-down happen as I was sitting in the pew and she said, "Don't worry, it wasn't bad, you were OK until you reached the doors, I don't think anyone even turned around to see what was going on. You did real good, don't worry about it, but you gotta calm down before you go back in there. Here, drink some water. Are you OK, you're a little pale?"
     "Yeah, I think I'm OK. Well, no, I'm not really. I'm upset. And I've been sick, that's why I started to cough. I have cough-drops out in my Jeep. I could use some air. I'm gonna go outside for a few minutes but, yeah, I could use that water I think. I also haven't eaten anything since Thursday evening so that's not helping either." And we both noticed how badly my hands were shaking as I took the small bottle of water she offered me.
     "I'm coming with you, just in case you feint. I don't want you to collapse out in the parking lot all alone, OK? My name's Linda, by the way. I work for Lakeside, the funeral home, that's why I'm out here, not in there. I'm so sorry for your loss." And as we walked through the lobby, she pointed to the framed photo of Marcel and I and asked, "That's you, isn't it?"
     "Yup, that's me. That was taken back in March at Uncle Joe's Diner. I just sent that to him two weeks ago... for Christmas," I explained as I tried to choke down more sobs. Finally outside, we walked over to my Jeep so I could grab a couple cough-drops, one for now and a few for later that I stuffed into a pocket along with a handful of tissues. I blew my nose, took a few deep breaths to calm down, gulped some water, and then we walked around the parking lot for a few minutes, making small talk. Even though she was a stranger, it was still comforting to have her there with me. I thanked her, told her I was OK now, and we headed back inside. She returned to the lobby and I snuck back into the Church, but this time, I sat in the back row just in case I had to leave again. Thankfully, I was fine throughout the rest of the Mass, no more crying, no more coughing.
     When it was over, out in the lobby, I met Dean, Marcel's nephew, and Dean's wife, Shirley, and their daughter Jenna. We spent a few emotional minutes together, as I explained who I was and how I had watched Jenna grow up through all the photos Marcel used to post on his web site. Dean grabbed a framed photo off one of the tables of Marcel and Jean, Marcel's sister. He pointed to it and said, "That's Friar and that's my Mom with him." I laughed and said, "I know, he emailed me that photo about 25 years ago. I kept everything he sent to me through the years and, once I learned he lost most of the photos stored on his computer, I printed out that photo, scanned it at 1200 dpi so I could print it out as a 5x7. I made two copies of it, had them both framed, gave one to him to keep, and gave him the second one to give to you."
     Dean was amazed at the story. I told him I wished I could've met his mom, Jean. Marcel spoke about her often and she sounded like a great lady! I also mentioned I wish I could've known his grandmother too, Marcel's mother, Balbina... and I told them about how I've been taking care of both the plots in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, since Marcel lived so far away and couldn't do it anymore himself. Dean was speechless at that point but his eyes watered up and he gave me a big hug. Then a lady came over to us, holding the framed picture of Marcel and I at Uncle Joe's Diner and said, "This is a great photo of Fr. Marcel. And that's you with him, isn't it? You're Valerie!"
     So, for the second time that day I said, "Yup, that's me, I'm Valerie. Who are you?"
     "I'm _______," (I've forgotten her name, sorry) "I was one of the Visiting Nurses taking care of him. He told us the whole story about the day this picture was taken. How you just showed up that day to surprise him, right? And that's the same day you two went over to Goat Island, in search of the Tesla statue! You're the one that comes all the way from Connecticut! You're the one that came for Labor Day and you guys worked on that jig-saw puzzle all weekend long!"
     Dean, Shirley and Jenna all spoke up then with, "Oh my god, that was you?!?!" the three of them saying it all at the same time. Then Dean added, "He spoke about my friend Valerie in Connecticut quite often. It's so nice to finally meet you. Thank you for spending all that time with him," he said while giving me another hug, "that made him so happy! Thank you so much."
     I was crying again and just couldn't take much more of it so I told them it was great to finally meet them all but I had to get some air. Dean nodded his understanding and I stepped outside and headed towards my Jeep. I was half-way across the parking lot when Dean called my name. I turned to find him walking my way, carrying something. He held it out to me and said, "Would you like to keep this? It was the only photo on his desk, all the others were up on his shelves. This one must've been very special because he kept it close to him. I'm sure my Uncle would want you to have it." And, of course, it was the Uncle Joe's Diner photograph. I almost said, "No, that's OK, I already have one," but I immediately changed my mind. Even though it was only in Marcel's possession for a couple weeks, it was still something of his and I knew it meant something to him, it made him smile when he looked at it, so, yes, I DID want to keep it. I thanked Dean for thinking of me and with another nod of understanding he turned and went back inside to greet more visiting mourners and thank them all for coming. My heart went out to him and I was thankful, for his sake, that there weren't many people there.
     When I got to my Jeep, I noticed it already had a bright green "FUNERAL" flag attached to the roof, held in place by a big magnet, for the procession to the cemetery. I got in, had a cigarette, and listened to Whitney Houston as she sang I Look to You from my MP3 player. A few minutes later, the doors to the lobby opened wide and Fr. James and Fr. Ross came out, leading a bunch of other Friars [the pall bearers] carrying the casket, then the family followed. The Funeral Director opened the rear door of the hearse and they slowly slid the casket inside as Fr. James sprinkled Holy Water all over it. My whole body flinched at the sound of the hearse's door being slammed shut.
     A few people wandered over to the Rectory where the luncheon would soon begin but most of the people headed back into the lobby for one last look at Marcel's artwork, photography and his favorite memories; and to offer their final condolences to the family. Besides Dean, Shirley and Jenna, there were only two other family members there. I'm not positive who they were... I think it was Dean's sister and her husband (???) but I never got the opportunity to meet them, or even to speak to them, so I'm not sure.
     There were already a couple cars parked in line for the procession so I pulled around and got in line too. Eventually, people started coming outside and they all walked over to the Rectory for the luncheon. I wasn't feeling up to it, so I just stayed in the Jeep. As is turned out, there was only one car between my Jeep and Dean's vehicle. His was some kind of large SUV... and once all the other people left for lunch, Dean, Shirley, Jenna and the crew from the Funeral Home started bringing out all of Marcel's things from the lobby and loading them into the back end of Dean's truck. I sat and watched, crying, and hugging the photo of us. It broke my heart when I saw them carry out Marcel's paintings. I always loved the one he did of Renoir's Two Girls in the Meadow. I remember when he painted that one. He was living in Brooklyn at the time and, every day, he'd email me a "progress report" photo so I could see what it looked like as he was working on it. That painting was the last item they carried out of the church. I couldn't stand to watch them as they loaded it into Dean's vehicle so I turned my face away and just closed my eyes. Once again, I flinched as that door was slammed shut too.
     They headed over the to Rectory but when Shirley spotted me sitting there all by myself, she came over and I rolled down my window. She asked if I was going to eat something but I told her I just wasn't up for it and needed some time alone. She saw that I was holding the photo Dean had given to me so she said, "Well, we'll see you at the cemetery then, OK?"
     I nodded and she walked away to catch up with Dean and Jenna. I sat there, staring at the hearse, thinking about Marcel and already missing him. I've never really experienced true loneliness before but, being in Hamburg without him, sitting there in that parking lot staring at his hearse, knowing that I'd have to spend the rest of my life without him in it, I'm now very familiar with what it's like to feel lonely. Thank God I had that picture of the two of us with me. I kept looking at it, at Marcel's beautiful smiling face, and that made me feel a little better. Once I got the photo home, though, I wondered how I'd be able to tell the two of them apart since both the photos and frames are identical. I thought to myself, "I have to mark this somehow so I know this one is his." I dug around in my glove-box and pulled out the utility-knife I keep in there. I chose the smallest blade and used that to carve a small "FM" into the paint on the back of the frame. And for the next half-hour, as they all ate and drank together, I sat in my Jeep, Marcel laid in his hearse, and I talked to him the whole time. That's the real reason I didn't want to eat, I think... I didn't want to leave him all alone out in the parking lot.
     At noon, everyone filed out of the Rectory and went to their vehicles, most of them driving away immediately. The only ones that straggled through the parking lot were the ones going to the cemetery. They were all Friars, except for the five family members and me. We received our "Procession Orders" from the Funeral Director -- head-lights on, hazard-lights on, stay in line, in one lane, keep up with the car in front of you, don't worry about other traffic, no stopping along the way at red lights or stop signs because all intersections would be blocked off by Police barricades. And off we went, to St. Stanislaus RC Cemetery in Cheektowaga.
     The drive to the cemetery, for me, was horrendous. It only took about 30 minutes to get there but, five minutes in, I was totally lost, I had no idea where I was. Getting there didn't matter, since I was just following the car in front of me, but how the hell was I going to find my way back to the hotel? I had never been to Cheektowaga before, I had no idea which route numbers would lead me back to Hamburg, I had no bearings whatsoever, I didn't even know what direction we were heading, if Cheektowaga was North, South, East or West of Hamburg. I'm in a Funeral Procession on my way to bury my life-long friend, I'm crying, I'm alone, surrounded by strangers, trying to watch road signs and keep track of route numbers, completely lost, and basically tail-gating the car in front of me because, God forbid, if I was to get separated from the group, I'd never find my way to the cemetery! I'd hardly slept at all since Thursday, I hadn't eaten anything since then either, my nerves were fried, and my emotions were off-the-charts. It was brutal!
     When we finally got off the exit from the highway, or "Skyway," or whatever the hell it's called, I could finally see the cemetery and I felt much better. The Procession pulled into the cemetery and parked at the Chapel. The casket was unloaded and brought in and we all sat in silent prayer for a few minutes. The Friars all sang Amazing Grace, followed by The Prayer of St. Francis, as they circled the casket, sprinkling Holy Water all over it, each of them stopping to Bless the casket as well. I had never seen any of this before and, again, I wish I had taken a video. It was gut-wrenching and I was miserable - trying not to cry through the whole thing - but it really was a beautiful thing to see and to be a part of and I'm really glad I was there for it, for him. Fr. Ross said a few words, Fr. James said a few words, and after another Moment-of-Silence for our personal prayers, they sang another Hymn - in Latin - while they loaded the casket back into the hearse and we continued on to the Franciscan Burial Plot.
     It was a huge circular area where, literally, hundreds of Friars had been laid to rest through the years. Most of the headstones were identical but there were a few odd-balls here and there that stuck out - a couple were bigger, a couple were different shapes, and a couple were decorated with elaborate statuary, but they were all lined up, though, in a circular pattern. The outside row being the largest, while the inside rows became smaller and smaller as they drew nearer to the center. If you were to see it from an aerial view, I imagine it would look like some kind of Franciscan "crop circle," for lack of a better description.
     The casket was unloaded, for the last time, and placed on the stand above his eternal resting place. A beautiful white cloth was draped over it, embroidered with gold in the shape of the San Damiano Cross. We all gathered around and Fr. James took his position at the head of the casket where he delivered Marcel's soul home, up to the Lord. Once the "formalities" were done, James began to speak to us freely, all about Marcel's special gifts, his painting, his gardening, his cooking and baking, his photography, his love and appreciation of the beauty in nature, his joy of fishing and reeling in "that big catch," his enthusiasm for hiking, how he enjoyed watching and feeding all the birds that gathered at his many feeders outside his windows, his love for reading, and for music - especially the Polish Polkas - and of course his love for God and for all his family and friends, for all the people that Marcel encountered throughout his lifetime. He spoke to us about Marcel's 70 years as a Priest, many of them spent as a Teacher, a Guidance Counselor, and a Yearbook Staff moderator. He told us about Marcel's so called "retirement" years that he spent WORKING diligently as the Archivist for Fr. Justin's Rosary Hour, translating hundreds upon hundreds of Fr. Justin's sermons for the Polish community to either read on the web site or to hear broadcast on the radio. Fr. James did a wonderful job, his entire sermon was heart-felt and personable. He addressed the casket, giving it a final Blessing, then he Blessed us all, and thanked us for coming.
     The Funeral Director then made the announcement that the casket was going to be lowered momentarily. He invited us all to stay if we wished, but, if any of us wanted to leave, to please do so now so the sounds of their vehicles starting up and driving off wouldn't disturb the ones remaining. No one moved at all. We all stayed, huddled together, and watched in silence as Marcel was lowered into the ground.
     There's really no words to describe how I felt at that moment other than... I have never experienced that kind of overwhelming, enveloping, life-sucking grief - ever - in my life. It felt like my soul died, I felt alone and empty and abandoned, I felt like I had just been gutted and left to die... and all I kept thinking was that I wanted to crawl into that damn hole and be buried with him.
     Shirley must've seen how I was struggling because she came over and put her arm around me. She said, "We were wondering if any of his friends were going to be here. We didn't know how to contact any of them. We're so glad you're here, that you came for this. Friar loved everyone, you know that, but he really loved you. He always lit up when he'd tell us about your visits. You were a good friend for a long time, that means a lot to us, but it meant much more to him, especially these last few years. He knows you love him."
     I stood there, trembling and crying and sniffling, listening to her but I couldn't speak, I just nodded my head. I didn't even look at her; I couldn't tear my eyes away from that hole in the ground. I finally whispered "Thank you," that's all I could manage.
     I watched as a couple people tossed handfuls of dirt onto the casket; a few people chose to throw in a flower. I couldn't do either one. I didn't want to get any closer to that hole than where I stood. I didn't want to see the casket actually in the ground, watching it being lowered was hard enough. I started to feel a little nauseous and a bit light-headed, at that point, and all I could think about was leaving, getting back to my hotel, where I could curl up with the photo of Marcel and I and just sleep. I had to get out of there but I had no idea where I was or how to get back to Hamburg. I found Fr. Ross and asked if I could follow him back to the Friar's Residence but he said he wasn't heading that direction. I looked for Brother Ken, the one who lived right across the hallway from Marcel's room, but he was already in his car pulling away. Thankfully, I spotted Friar Charlie as he was heading to his car so I caught up to him and asked if he was going home. He said he was so I asked if I could follow him because I was totally lost and didn't have GPS. He slung his arm around my shoulder and said, "Of course you can, B-Doll, where are you parked?"
     I froze at the words B-Doll and stared up at his face, in shock. "My god, Charlie, Marcel used to call me that years ago. It's from one of his favorite songs, Baby Doll; but how did you..."
     He cut me off with a chuckle, "Know that?" he finished for me, "I know because he told me. I came here from St. Paul's in Kensington, Connecticut. Whenever I mentioned anything about Connecticut, Marcel would start talking about you." He chuckled again and then added, "I highly doubt there's a Friar here today that doesn't know who you are."
     "Wow!" I whispered, "one of his nurses knew me, even the health-care lady from Ellicott City knew who I was. I had no idea he talked about me so much to everyone..."
     "Why wouldn't he?" Charlie asked, "you were his best friend!"
     "Wow! Thanks for telling me. I really - really - needed to hear that, especially now. I feel so lost without him. I... I... don't even know what to do now, now that he's gone..."
     "You're not without him," he smiled, "you'll never be without him. You don't feel him now, you won't see him now. You have to get over the shock, the loss, get passed the mourning. Once you're through with that process, he will come to you, he'll find a way to reveal himself to you, don't you worry about that."
     "I hope so," I said, "I really hope you're right."
     "I've been a Friar for over fifty years," he laughed, "I would never lie!"
     We got into our vehicles and off we went, back to Hamburg. As he slowed down to pull into the The Residence's driveway, Fr. Charlie threw me a wave and I beeped my horn in response. I continued on to my hotel and basically collapsed onto the bed.

Sunday, January 6th, 2019: - After an extremely restless night, I gave up trying to sleep and got out of bed at 6:00am. I watched the news for awhile then started flipping through channels looking for a weather report for my trip home. Being in Hamburg, without The Friar around, was actually making me sick to my stomach. I had to leave, I had to get home to Sabrina. Poor Sabrina. This was the first time I had left her for an entire weekend away and, now that Rigby's gone, Sabrina was totally ALONE for the first time in her life. I had to get out of Hamburg and home to my cat. I had to put this horrible weekend behind me, somehow, and just be with my cat so we could mourn our losses together.
     I washed up, got dressed, packed, loaded up JEEP ROMULUS and checked out. I was on I-90 EAST cruising through Buffalo by 8:00am when it started to snow. It was a long, slow trip. I talked to Marcel all the way home.
     I stopped at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull before I went home. I talked to Balbina, Jean, and Marcel for a little over an hour before I finally cried myself out of tears. I told them all about the weekend, my trip to and from Hamburg, the Private Viewing, the Service, the horrible drive to St. Stanislaus Cemetery, the Chapel, the Franciscan Burial Plot, and the lowering of the casket into the ground...
     I don't know why I told them about it, really. I'm sure they've already found each other up in Heaven and they already know all the details. That's what I want to believe, anyways. It's what I have to believe. I have to convince myself they're really in Heaven, all together again, after all these years, just one big happy family.

     And now... today is the 12th. It's my birthday. It's been six days since I buried my friend... I'm miserable. I miss him terribly. I can't stop crying. I've been to Gate of Heaven Cemetery every day since I've been back from Hamburg. I stand at Balbina's grave and talk to Marcel, sometimes for hours. Years ago, I knew it would be hard when the time came to face his death, but I had no idea it would be this hard. The grief is unbearable; it's all-consuming; it's suffocating. I hope Marcel can hear me. I hope he knows how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. I hope he knows how much I miss him. And I hope Fr. Charlie is right -- I hope, in time, Marcel will find a way to reveal himself to me, to show me he's still with me.
     I hope...

ENTRY #699
DATE: 01/01/19 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT: Happy New Year!

     Um, I'm not all that happy, myself, right now since I'm still dealing with the loss of Rigby but I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year and give you an update on what's been going on lately, so... I guess I'll start where I left off...

Saturday, December 8th, 2018: - Rigby was put to sleep. The folks at Shoreline Emergency Veterinary Hospital did all they could for her. I refused an autopsy so we're not 100% positive what it was that took her away from me so soon but the many doctors that made up her "Medical Team" all seemed to agree that it was liver failure.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018: - I took the day off from work so I could spend the day at Baystate Medical Hospital with my Mom while she underwent a brain biopsy. The surgery, itself, was successful... however, it didn't solve anything. We're still not sure what's going on in her head.

Thursday, December 13th, 2018: - I picked up Rigby's ashes from the Vet's office. She's in a beautiful Cherry-wood urn with my favorite photo of her displayed on the front. It also has a brass nameplate on the top of it with RIGBY engraved on it. I took some photos of it which I may, or may not, post here, we'll see.

Friday, December 14th, 2018: - Mom finally came home from Baystate Medical after being there since December 5th. She's very glad to be home but still experiencing a lot of head pain from the surgery.

Sunday, December 16th, 2018: - Had a good day today! Went shopping for The Friar's "Christmas Package." The man LOVES puzzles so I got him a Sudoku puzzle book, a Rubik's Cube and a Hard-As-Nails metal puzzle. It's one of those puzzles where you have to figure out how to separate the two nails that are tied in a knot. I also picked up a really nice "BIRDS Page-A-Day" desk calendar by the Audubon Society, a copy of Stephen King's new novel Elevation, and some various candies/mints for that Sweet-Tooth of his (some Tic-Tacs, some Werther's Orginals, some Cinnamon Drops, some Wint-O-Green Life Savers, and three tins of the Strawberry Arctic Cool Altoids which he loves). All those things were just little Stocking Stuffers though... the real gift was the photo of us from Uncle Joe's Diner that we took back in March, during my visit that included our outing to the Tesla Memorial Statue on Goat Island. I found a beautiful frame at The Paper Store that says Friends in pewter at the bottom. I actually bought TWO of them so we'll each have one! Once I got home from all my shopping, I dug out all my Christmas wrapping supplies and got to work. As I was decorating the box that I was shipping it all in, my phone rang. It was The Friar! We had a lovely conversation and he's already VERY excited about receiving the mysterious Christmas Package, LOL.

Monday, December 17th, 2018: - Went to UPS and shipped out The Friar's package during my lunch hour! WOOHOOO! Can't wait for him to get it!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018: - The package was delivered today! I searched the tracking number on the UPS website when I got home from work and it arrived at 10:17am this morning. Haven't heard from him yet but I'm sure I will soon!
     I also found out, today, that my father is in the hospital. My uncle, Merle, called me with the news. He wasn't feeling well and was having some trouble breathing so he called an ambulance. His legs are also dangerously swollen with fluid so they're giving him high doses of Lasix (furosemide) to help drain all the fluid. That's all I know at the moment.

Friday, December 21st, 2018:: - Still haven't heard anything from The Friar about receiving the package. Two emails and a couple of text messages have gone unanswered. I got worried so I called Mercy Hospital in Buffalo to see if he was there. They told me he was DISCHARGED today but they wouldn't tell me WHY he was there in the first place or WHEN he was admitted.
     (Note: - I found out, later, he was only there to have a catheter removed, related to the aortic-valve surgery he had previously undergone back in November. So it was actually a good visit to the hospital, for positive reasons, as opposed to another problem, thank God. He's got a little bit of a head-cold right now but, other than that, I'm pleased to report he's doing very well -- his Cardiologist is thrilled with his progress and has given him a clean bill of health! Woohoooooo!!!)

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018: - Busy day today! Had an 8am appointment for an oil change in JEEP ROMULUS. From there, I hit Barnes & Noble to buy some puzzle books and magazines for my father. From there, I hit the road and went to Auburn, MA to refill the EZ-Pass transponder on my windshield, then continued north from there to Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire to spend the rest of the day with my father at the hospital. The swelling in his legs is still pretty bad, even with the high doses of Lasix. He's having a really hard time walking around and he, basically, feels like shit. He gets winded easily but as long as he's sitting or laying down his breathing is normal. He didn't know I was coming so when I walked in he was really surprised to see me, LOL. My Aunt Ferne and my cousin Marie showed up at the exact same time so I'm sure that added to the surprise. Uncle Merle showed up, too, a little bit later so it was like a Family Reunion right there in the hospital. It ended up being a pretty nice day after all.

Monday, Christmas Eve day, December 24th, 2018: - My father came home from the hospital today which is a little alarming. I'm actually shocked the hospital thought it was a good idea to send him home. After seeing the condition he was in the other day, I have a feeling he'll be back in the hospital by the end of next week but we'll see how it goes. Knock on wood!!!
     The Friar called me this evening as I was wrapping some last-minute Christmas gifts. We were on the phone for over an hour which was fantastic! He absolutely LOVED all the little presents in his Christmas package. And the photo of us, he said, is "proudly displayed" on his desk, right next to his computer where he can see it from no matter where he is in the room! By the end of our conversation he had me in tears saying what a wonderful friend I've always been, how important and special and loved I've made him feel throughout his "many years," and how blessed he's been to have me in his life. It was really amazing, for me, to hear all these heartfelt sentiments just pour out of him like that. It really was quite overwhelming.

Tuesday, Christmas day, December 25th, 2018: - Wasn't feeling very "jovial" today so I decided to just stay home alone with the cat (Sabrina) all day. I had been invited - as always - to have Christmas dinner with Steve and his family but, honestly, after the loss of Rigby only two weeks ago, worrying about my Mom's health, and my father being in and out of the hospital, I really didn't want to spend the entire afternoon talking about all that stuff. So, instead, I stayed home in my pajamas watching the Travel Channel all day long, LOL, and actually had a very nice, quiet, peaceful day.
     The Friar, bless his little heart, called me AGAIN this evening to wish me a Merry Christmas. We spent almost an hour on the phone this time, too, which was an awesome treat - a true Christmas gift!!! He's very tired of all the snow they've been getting lately and extremely anxious for Spring to arrive so he can get outside and begin a new garden! Ever since the valve-replacement, his breathing is MUCH easier so he's very excited about "getting back out there" with his camera and exploring nature. He asked how soon I'd be able to come for a visit in the Spring! He's hoping for sometime in March which then prompted us to start planning our "Things To Do" list, LOL, even though it's only Christmas day. He's already mentioned going back to Niagara Falls when I visit, and he also said he's "very much looking forward to our trip to the Vineyard" (in Naples, NY) where they make that LOVE wine we like. He brought up my plans to travel to Jamestown, NY, also, to visit the Lucy & Desi Museum and Lucy's grave in Lake View Cemetery. He said he's never been there before and he wants to come, too, which is awesome! And then he totally blew my mind when he asked me about my next vacation in July. He said, "You're coming here, right?" And when I said, "You betcha!" he told me that he had so much fun the last time, he asked if I could stay longer than four days this time!!! OMG, I gotta tell ya, hearing him talk about how much fun he has when we're together and how much he's looking forward to seeing me again, and how much joy, he said, I bring to his life, it really makes my heart soar!!! By the time I got off the phone, my cheeks actually hurt from smiling so much!

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018: - After work, I went to Adrienne's house so we could "DO Christmas." Had a great meal, gave and got some gifts, and had a really nice time just hangin' out with all of them as we digested the Christmas feast!

     And that's pretty much everything, for now. I spent my New Year's Day today just relaxing at home. Didn't do anything at all; just hung out with Sabrina watching TV and browsing videos on YouTube.
     I sent The Friar a "Happy New Year" text message at 8:30am this morning... and at 8:07pm this evening he surprised me, yet again, with another phone call. He's still dealing with the same "head cold" he's had since before Christmas but, "other than that," he said, "I feel great!" We didn't talk very long this time because of his head/chest congestion but it was long enough for him to have me in tears again, talking about how much he enjoys our time together, what a blessing I am to him, and how he's already marked his calendar for the ENTIRE week of July 4th for "our vacation," he called it. And then he sang a few lines from Auld Lang Syne to me which made us both laugh! Then, all of a sudden, just out of the blue he said, "I remember you, in Latin class, the day we met. I've always remembered you, I've always prayed for you, I've always loved you. All these years, your friendship has been such a gift." Yup, he had me in tears... almost to the point where I couldn't speak but I managed to say, "Oh, Friar, I love you too. I love you so much. You've always meant the world to me, you know that, and I've always prayed for you too; always! Your friendship has always been special to me too, ever since I was a kid. I'm so happy you're still in my life. You've brought me so much joy, you have no idea!" At that he kind'a chuckled and said, "Now we're both crying; tears of joy on New Year's Day, tears of JOY!"
     I didn't want to keep him on the phone much longer because I knew he had a cold so we said our goodbyes and I wrapped everything up with, "All right, you take care, get some rest so you can get rid of that cold. We'll talk again soon. I'll call you next week to see how you're doing, OK? I love you."
     "OK, sounds good. I love you," he said, "I love you too."
     We hung up. It was the perfect end to my New Year's Day!
     I hope you all had a great day too!!!

ENTRY #698
DATE: 12/08/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT: Update #4 on Rigby...

     The last three days have been absolutely horrible... and I can't write about it, at least not right now. I just got home from the Vet's office.... Rigby is gone. I am totally distraught but I wanted to let everyone know the news.

ENTRY #697
DATE: 12/05/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT: Update #3 on Rigby...

     I woke up an hour earlier than usual to make sure I had plenty of time to give Rigby her food and medications. As soon as the alarm clock went off, I already knew she wasn't in bed with me so I went out into the kitchen and checked the kitty-carrier. She wasn't there either. I checked the living room and the computer room, eyeballing her normal sleeping areas and I still couldn't find her. As anxiety slowly crept its way into my heart - sure at this point - that she'd hid somewhere to die in the middle of the night, I headed back to the bedroom to check under the bed. Still, nothing. When I circled back to the kitchen there she was, just sitting there, wondering what all the fuss was about.
     With a huge sigh of relief, I asked her if she was hungry and she immediately went to her food bowl, though it was a very wobbly trip across the kitchen floor for her. I opened a can of food, scraped some into her dish and stepped back to watch her. She sniffed it a little but quickly lost interest and walked away. I opened a second can (a different flavor and texture) and offered her that one instead. Her reaction was the same, just a sniff and nothing more. She drank a few sips from her water bowl which, in itself, was an unusual act for her since she drinks from the kitchen faucet. As I watched her drink, my heart sank, because it told me she wasn't feeling strong enough to even attempt a leap onto the kitchen counter.
     When she refused the third can of food, I picked her up - along with her dish - and placed her on the kitchen table. I tried spoon-feeding her first which was a complete fail -- she wouldn't accept the spoon into her mouth at all, no matter which angle I tried. So, for the next fifteen minutes, I hand-fed her small portions, one mouthful at a time, having to force her mouth open with one hand, as I placed food directly onto the back of her tongue with my other.
     She bit me again but, this time, it wasn't just a warning bite like last night. This time, she was serious about it and really chomped down, hard, on the tip of my index finger. I think she actually hit bone, because it hurt like hell and the puncture wound bled like crazy, but I kept on feeding her, the food in her dish now red with my blood. The pain, the throbbing, and all the blood didn't phase me at all -- the only thing that mattered to me was that she ate something. In order to give her the medication she HAD to have something in her stomach... and, actually, my mind-set at that moment was, "Well, maybe my blood will help her; at least it's a little more protein getting into her system!" I have no idea if that's even true, really, but I was so desperate to get some kind of nourishment into her, I could only hope my blood would act as a supplement.
     When I felt her chest start to rumble I knew her patience was running thin and, sure enough, I heard a low growl deep in her throat. At that point, I knew I only had a few more seconds before she started to wiggle around and fight for escape so I grabbed the first syringe of antibiotics, wedged it into the corner of her mouth and down her throat it went! Syringe #2, the steroids, was a little more challenging because she absolutely HATES the scent and the taste of it... and I can't say that I blame her -- the damn stuff is bright pink and it's Cherry flavored! What the hell?!?!?
     Excuse me a moment, here, as I insert a "Side Note" in order to VENT a little steam about this horrendous product! First of all, this stuff literally reeks of cherries... and not real cherries either, it's that fake, artificial cherry scent that every parent on this planet would recognize immediately from a bottle of "Children's Tylenol" cold medicine! Second of all, it tastes just as bad as it smells! And, yes, I am speaking with first hand experience from my own personal taste test. In a failed attempt to stop the blood still gushing from my index finger, I shoved the oozing digit into my mouth for a few seconds to suck the wound dry, not realizing my finger was also partially covered with a smear of these rotgut steroids!
     Now I ask you... if the scent and taste is that overwhelming to me, a mere human, exactly how horrid must it be to an animal, whose olfactory senses are thousands of times greater than mine??? OMG, I just can't imagine poor Rigby's state of mind as I was trying to force this stuff into her mouth!
     And, third of all - last but not least - I wanna know what IDIOT had the bright idea to add a cherry scent/flavor in the first place! Right on the label, in black and white - clear as day - on the front of the bottle, in big CAPITAL letters, the very first line states, "FOR VETERINARY USE ONLY/KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN." This medication is intended for cats and dogs. Now, I don't know, maybe it's just me - so please forgive my apparent mind-numbing ignorance in this matter - but I know of NO cats and/or dogs, out in the wild or kept as pets, that actually seek out and enjoy grazing on cherries! They are carnivores! Where's the logic? WHY the hell is this stuff cherry flavored??? It should be beef flavored, or chicken flavored, or tuna flavored, or hell, let's get really creative -- how 'bout venison, some good ol' natural deer meat!!! What the fuck were they thinking???
     After subjecting my poor cat, who is already weak and not feeling well, to an inordinate amount of stress caused by force-medicating, as far as I'm concerned, the guy who invented this rancid stuff ought to be shot! NO! Y'know what, a bullet would be to quick, to painless. I'd prefer to go Medieval on his ass... Tar and Feathering would be a good start, I think, perhaps followed by QUARTERING - provided, of course, by my own cracking of the whip!!!
     So, yeah, as you can tell, I'm a little heated about this whole thing. This product, though it MIGHT be helpful, should be taken off the market until someone has the decency to rethink an appropriate scent/flavor that's adequate to a carnivore's palate! I mean, really, how difficult could it be? Or, at the VERY least, just leave it unscented/unflavored altogether and let us, the pet owners, decide if we want to administer it plain or mixed into a gravy-type substance that can still flow freely through a syringe. It makes perfect sense to me! Anyway, enough of my rant. I didn't mean to go on so long about this but, once the flood-gates opened, well, you know how that goes. Plus, my frustration/stress levels have been escalated by lack of sleep and food -- today is Wednesday and I haven't slept since I got out of bed Sunday morning, nor have I eaten anything since Sunday afternoon; I've lost ten pounds in three days. I know that's not good but, for now, I can't think about anything other than Rigby. She is my only priority right now. I have to take care of her, I'm all she's got. I have to make her feel better. I have to make her strong again. She's all I care about -- I'll eat and sleep later.
     OK, so... (scrolling back to see where I left off) ...where the hell was I? Oh, right, the syringe of steroids. Once Rigby finally managed to choke down that nasty stuff, I immediately followed it with the third syringe full of water to rinse her throat. By now she was thoroughly pissed off, scared, stressed out, and not to mention exhausted, so I kept her on the kitchen table for a few minutes - just petting her and whispering to her, over and over again, telling her what a good girl she is - waiting for her to calm down a little before I dared to pick her up to put her back down on the floor. Since she was so agitated I was afraid that as soon as I put her down she'd throw up everything and that would be devastating - for both of us - since it would mean I'd have to start the process all over again from the beginning. It was a good fifteen minutes of constant whispering and stroking before she calmed down. Once I heard her begin to purr, I gently put her on the floor directly in front of her water bowl. She drank a little on her own - not a whole lot but it was better than nothing - then crawled into the kitty-carrier and settled down for a nap. I hovered around the kitchen, staying close by, making sure she didn't throw up. When I saw she was sleeping peacefully I started getting ready for work.
     At 9:00am I received a phone call at work from my landlord informing me that the "Delivery Guys" were on their way to my house with the new refrigerator. A few days ago I had told her to call me when she knew they were coming and that I'd try to come home to take delivery myself. However, since my boss wasn't in yet, I wasn't able to leave the shop so she'd have to be there instead. I also explained to her about Rigby's condition and that she was sleeping in the kitty-carrier in the kitchen. I told her if Rigby was still in the carrier when she arrived at my apartment to just close the door on the carrier to keep Rigby safe and out of harm's way... but that she'd also have to remember to open it again before she left so the cat could still get to her water, food, and the litter-box. She was fine with all of that and told me not to worry about anything at all, that she'd take care of everything, no problem! Regardless, I told her to call me if there were any problems and, somehow, I'd find a way to rush home if needed. She never did call me back so I was left to assume that all had gone well.
     I called my boss at noon, who still hadn't made an appearance at the shop yet, to let him know I had to drive all the way to Newtown on my lunch to pick up Rigby's prescription (for the antibiotics she'd be on for the next 28 days). I was concerned about the commute taking longer than an hour but, thankfully, he's a very understanding, compassionate human being and he told me not to worry about it, to just go do what I had to do, it didn't matter to him how long it took. His family has three cats of their own so he's already extremely familiar with the "Trials & Tribulations" of having a sick pet! I punched out and left at 12:05 and never got back to work and punched in again until 1:20. It took an hour and fifteen minutes for the round trip... and, actually, I'm still a bit shocked that it didn't take closer to two hours, considering the route I had to take (route 25 all the way) in lunch-hour traffic no less, LOL.
     As I ran my time-card through the punch machine, I happened to notice that I had bled through the band-aid on my finger. When I got a fresh bandage applied a constant, dull throb began since this new bandage wasn't as tight as the first band-aid I had just removed. I knew the first thing I had to do when I got home from work was going to be feeding Rigby again... and, not knowing how many days to come I'd be force-feeding her, I wondered how many fingers would be wrapped up by the end of the week. There's got to be an easier way, I thought, one that will save my fingers and one that will be less stressful on her. Eventually I realized adding one more syringe to our new morning/evening routine probably wouldn't make that much difference to her and it would keep my fingers out of her mouth so it was worth a shot!
     When I left work for the day, I went next door to Stop & Shop and grabbed a case of Fancy Feast's Gravy Lovers line which contains eight cans each of chicken, turkey and beef. Then I headed straight for the "Baby Products" aisle where the diapers, wipes, baby food, formula and baby medical supplies are located. I was hoping to find a "baby medicine" syringe that had a hole big enough that would allow a thick, pasty substance to pass through without clogging up. I found one that looked promising so I grabbed if off the shelf, got in line, checked out and went straight home, anxious to see if it would work.
     When I cracked opened my apartment door, Rigby's sweet little face was peeking out at me, waiting for me to come inside. As soon as I saw her face I got all choked up because I thought I'd never see her do that again. As soon as I asked her if she was hungry, she wobbled her way directly into the kitchen and laid down right next to her bowl. However, the first thing I had to deal with was the new refrigerator. I had beverages of all kinds covering the kitchen table and the counter top so I got all of those put away. And that was kind'a cool, too, 'cause as soon as I opened the refrigerator door, Rigby got up and checked out the inside of it just like she always does... although, this time, I think she was a little shocked to see that it was completely empty (and not mention clean, LOL!). She sniffed the shelving on the door and then actually stood up on her hind legs for a few moments to sniff the interior of it also! I was thrilled to see her do that since that's the most active she's been for the last four days. She's still very weak, and couldn't explore for very long, but I'm praying it means she's on the mend!
     My next chore was getting rid of the damn cooler that's been sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor for the last week! Thankfully there wasn't much in it, just milk, butter, a jar of jelly, some cheese, and a couple containers of Mandarin oranges so it didn't take very long. The pain in the ass part was hoisting the damn thing up to the sink in order to drain out five gallons of ice-water! Good grief, my aching back!
     Rigby's food and meds preparation was next! I got the syringes of steroids and water ready and set them aside... then I grabbed a can of chicken, turkey and beef "Gravy Lovers" (one of each flavor) and opened all three. I found a small strainer and dug out my food processor. I pressed all three cans through the strainer to collect the gravy in one bowl, then scraped the solid food that was left over into the processor and pureed all of it into a thick gruel-type substance. I dumped the gruel into the bowl of gravy and mixed it all up. By the time I was done, it had a consistency similar to toothpaste but a little lumpier. It was thin enough to go through the "baby medicine" syringe but still thick enough to give her something substantial in her tummy. It was basically "Fancy Food Porridge" and since I used three cans I now have enough to last a few days.
     Before attempting to force feed her, I opened a fourth can of cat food and divided it evenly for both of them (Rigby AND Sabrina) like I usually do. I was hoping Rigby would actually eat something on her own instead of having to syringe feed her but, unfortunately, she only took a few licks out of her dish and then walked away from it. Even though it wasn't as much as I was hoping for, it was still better than this morning. This morning she didn't even lick at her breakfast dish so, I guess, some progress is being made, I really can't tell. Like the doctors keep telling me, I'm trying to stay positive!
     I filled the syringe with the porridge and got Rigby situated on the kitchen table. And, WOOHOOO!, the food-syringe worked like a charm, thank God! With one slow-and-steady motion of my thumb on the plunger, the entire contents of the syringe went straight into her mouth and she swallowed all of it! It didn't seem to phase her one bit AND my fingers stayed clear of her teeth! AMEN!!! Although, as soon as she got a whiff of those damn CHERRY FLAVORED steroids it all went to shit. She clamped her mouth tightly shut and the fight was on! Fifteen minutes later, most of the steroids were chased down her throat (minus a few dribbles down her chin) by the syringe of water and she was released, finally, back onto the kitchen floor. She went to her water dish and drank a little more, I'm guessing, to rinse more of that Cherry crap out of her mouth... then peed in the litter-box... and then wobbled her way back to the kitty-carrier for a nap. That was four hours ago and she's still there, sound asleep.
     This poor cat. It's been a rough couple of days for her and she's really worn out. It's impossible, really, for me tell if there's been any improvement at all. I know she's still very weak and lethargic. She still has no real appetite but at least her interest in food seems to be a little better. It's definitely a good thing that she's peeing but, from what I can tell, it doesn't appear that she's pooped at all since she's been home from Shoreline. And, I gotta tell ya, when she met me at the door tonight I was genuinely shocked. I highly doubt she made the trip from the kitty-carrier in the kitchen all the way to the front door just to greet me. I suspect she spent the day sleeping under the bed because of the Delivery Guys bringing in the new refrigerator. My front door is only a couple feet from the bed so that's probably how she ended up at the door since she didn't have far to go. I don't know...
     I'm still blaming myself for all of this. If I had noticed her weight loss sooner, if I had insisted on blood-work back in September, maybe none of this would be happening now. And I keep wondering about the "Fur Ball Remedy" stuff I've been giving her... is that what made her sick? And what about the slime I've been making? Could that have poisoned her somehow? How is it possible I didn't notice that her ears were yellow with jaundice? How is it possible I didn't notice how much lighter she is? Has she not been eating for, like, weeks and I didn't notice? Has Sabrina been eating all of Rigby's food all this time and I wasn't aware? My God, what the fuck is wrong with me? How could I not know my Baby Girl was this sick? I've always doted on my animals. How did it ever get this far without it coming to my attention??? She's only seven and a half years old! How could this be happening? WHY is this happening? What did I do? What did I not do? She's always been a "bug eater" ever since she was a kitten. Did she eat a poisonous bug? Maybe a spider, like the one that bit me back in June? Did I bring a tick into the house on my clothes that might have bitten her? There's always birds nesting outside underneath our air-conditioners... could it be that mites, or some other parasites, made their way into the house from the birds? How is it possible she went from being "in perfect condition" (according to Dr. Eisen back in September) to her now "death bed" condition in only three months time? Has she been sick, not feeling well, and suffering for THREE MONTHS and I didn't notice? I am responsible for her well being. I'm the one she depends on to take care of her. And now she's sick. Very sick! No matter what the cause is, I have totally let her down. I SHOULD HAVE NOTICED SOONER THAT SOMETHING WAS WRONG! It's all my fault. I've failed her...
     I know, I know! I have to have hope! I have to stay positive! I have to have hope! I have to stay positive!

ENTRY #696
DATE: 12/04/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT: Update #2 on Rigby...

     Sunday night to Monday morning it was Dr. Harpin. Monday, during the day shift, it was Dr. D'Addario... and now, today, it's Dr. Emmel. He called me this morning at 10:00 to give me an update. Rigby's red blood cell count is up to 14 so it seems the blood transfusion is working, though very slowly. We are still waiting for the test results to find out if it's the FHM infection -- hopefully by the end of the day today we'll hear something from the Lab. He also said he had "extremely high hopes" because, according to her chart and what the night shift staff had told him, there has been some improvement. He said she seems a little more alert and she's eaten a little bit... so, ultimately, he felt that I could bring her home tonight.
     I told Dr. Emmel that I'd prefer to wait to bring her home until we had the FHM test results back. Since she's still on the IV antibiotics for that infection, and since she's safe and they are able to keep her much more comfortable than I can at home, I thought it would be best if Rigby remain in their care for one more night. Again, my gut was telling me we weren't out of the dark just yet and I didn't want to act prematurely. I explained that I thought it was best if she stay on the IV antibiotics for as long as possible in order to fight that FHM just in case the test does come back positive. He agreed but, at the same time, I sensed he thought I was a little crazy since it meant I'd have to pay for an additional day's stay in the hospital. Whatever, I thought, I just want what's best for her.
     I didn't visit her on my lunch hour. I know how busy that place is during the middle of the day and I knew a visit on my lunch would mean we wouldn't have the benefit of an exam room, and I didn't want to disturb her in the kennel so I figured I'd just visit on my home from work instead.
     As soon as I left work, just like last night, I arrived at Shoreline at 5:03pm. Thank goodness they are right across the street so it takes no time at all to get there! As soon as I walked in the door, the woman at the front desk greeted me by name and brought me immediately into an exam room for the visit. A Vet Tech brought Rigby in a few moments later and I was happy to see that she was actually walking around. However, even though her legs were definitely supporting her weight, she was very wobbly and I could tell she was extremely tired and weak. I sat on the floor with her as we waited for Dr. Emmel to come in.
     The first question I had was if he was SURE she had eaten something since she's been there. He looked at her chart and said, "Yes, we fed her at noon," but - to me - that wasn't really an answer to my question. All that statement really meant was that they put food in her kennel but when I asked if she actually ATE it or not he wasn't exactly sure. After talking to him for about twenty minutes, he convinced me that it was totally fine to take her home today. Again, he was very positive about her reaction to the treatment so far and he was confident that I'd be able to manage things at home. And, of course, if there are any problems at all I could always call them or bring her back in. I have to bring her back to Shoreline Thursday evening after work for a follow-up blood test to see if her red blood count is still climbing or if her system is destroying them. Depending on what the count is, that will determine if another blood transfusion is needed or if some other treatment plan might work. We'll see...
     Once I agreed to bring her home, the doctor went in back to fetch her kitty-carrier... and then we had a lengthy conversation about her medication(s) - the antibiotics and the steroids. They are both in liquid form and administered by syringe. She has to have the antibiotics once a day followed by a syringe full of water to rinse them out of her throat. She already had the antibiotics this morning so all I had to worry about tonight was the steroids. The steroids she has to have twice a day, every twelve hours. Both medications have to be taken after a meal so it means I'll have to force feed her if she doesn't eat on her own. She has to be on the antibiotics for 28 days... and the steroids she might need for the rest of her life (however long that turns out to be). Thankfully, I can get the steroids directly from Shoreline -- but the antibiotics I have to go to some place called Compounded Solutions in Monroe, way up near the Newtown line. The doctor gave me a three day supply of the antibiotics since I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get to this place in Monroe. He gave me their address and I've already googled it and I plan on going there tomorrow on my lunch hour.
     As soon as the doctor opened the door on the kitty-carrier Rigby scooted right in. She was definitely ready, mentally, to go home, but I'm still not sure if she was ready physically to come home. Regardless, she IS here with me now, currently asleep in the kitty-carrier in a warm, quiet corner in the kitchen. I've removed the door from the kitty-carrier so she can choose for herself if she wants to sleep there or not. As soon as we got home, she came out immediately and walked around a little bit. She also hopped into the litter box and peed so that's a good sign, at least.
     Dinner, this evening, was a problem. After opening and offering her THREE different cans of food, all of which she refused, I did have to force feed her so I could give her the steroids. She wasn't happy about that at all and she actually bit my thumb. It was just a WARNING bite though, nothing serious. The bite didn't even break the skin. It was just her way of saying, "Nope, I don't want it, I don't feel good, get your fingers out of my mouth, dammit, and leave me alone!" I managed to get about a tablespoon of food into her, finally, then followed it with the syringe of steroids AND a syringe of water because I haven't seen her drink anything yet since she's been home. And, again, like I said before, she's now fast asleep in the kitty-carrier.
     I'm already dreading tomorrow morning. I've reset my alarm clock for an hour earlier than usual to make sure I have enough time to feed her and to give her the three syringes back-to-back (the antibiotics, the steroids, and the water to clear her throat). I've got my fingers crossed that she'll eat on her own... because, y'know, I'm already worried enough. I'm a nervous wreck and I've been peeking into the kitchen every 15 minutes to check on her.
     I'm totally stressed out about this and I'm scared to death that this is the end of our time together. I haven't slept, or eaten, since Saturday because I'm so worked up about losing her. I'm trying to stay positive but I'm also trying to prepare myself for the worst. I want to pet her and cuddle her constantly but I force myself not to because I know she HAS to rest so her body can heal, so her blood count can climb, so she can get strong again, get better again. I love her so much... and I keep remembering the promise I made to never let her suffer. The doctor assured me she's in no pain at all but pain isn't the only form of suffering. In preparing for the worst, I'm also trying to figure out what's the best way for her to go when the time comes -- if I should keep her here and let her pass naturally in the comfort of her own home or if I should take her back to Shoreline and have them put her to sleep. These are terrible thoughts to have and I'm struggling with the answer. Even if she's "comfortable," like the doctor said, I also have to keep in mind the QUALITY of her life...
     I can't write any more right now. Thinking about this stuff is just too upsetting and I NEED to focus on being there for her and spending as much time as I can with her. Please keep Rigby, my baby girl, in your prayers!

ENTRY #695
DATE: 12/03/18(Monday)
SUBJECT: Update on Rigby...

     Things have gone severely downhill with Rigby. I spent the evening, last night, on the floor with her trying to comfort her. By 10:30pm I finally decided to take her to Shoreline, the Emergency Vet Clinic that's nearby. We arrived at 11:00pm and got checked in. A Vet Technician came out and took her in back right away to take her vitals and to get a sample of her blood to start testing. While they were doing that, I went outside and called Steve to let him know what was going on and I totally broke down crying while explaining everything. He showed up an hour later (all the way from New Haven) for moral support.
     An hour and a half later, we were in an exam room with a Doctor as she gave Rigby an exam. She said she couldn't feel any obstructions or masses in any of her organs so that was good. However, she suspected that there could be a problem with her liver since Rigby was a little jaundiced -- the insides of her ears were pale yellow, and her mucus membranes were yellow (around her eyes, her tongue, and her gums). She was obviously concerned about the weight loss as well... she had lost approximately two pounds and, even though that doesn't sound like much, in cats that's a substantial amount. Then she started talking about the blood work. Rigby's red blood cells were at 10 and, in a healthy cat, the red blood cell count is usually between 30 and 40 so that was highly alarming. She also informed us that Rigby's blood is Type B, which is extremely rare in cats -- most have Type A. The low red blood count could also be a sign of some kind of liver problem (failure/diseased/fatty/cancerous) she said. But it could also be from an infection called FHM (Feline Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis) which is an uncommon disease they can sometimes get from fleas. Well, Rigby has NEVER had fleas. Ever! She's an indoor cat, she's not around other animals, and she's only left the house for Vet visits and one trip to PetCo about five years ago... so I was already positive it wasn't FHM. Dr. Harpin also explained two other possibilities as well... it could be either some kind of autoimmune disease/disorder or cancer (possibly in the kidneys, or the pancreas, or the gall bladder, and, of course, the liver). In order to find out, for sure, they'd have to take more blood and send it out to another Lab since their on-site Lab wasn't equipped for those particular tests. But, since her red blood cell count was already so low, taking more blood from her little body wasn't really the greatest option at the time. Not to mention it was going to add another $650.00 to the bill (which was already creeping up to $2,000.00).
     We (the Doctor included) decided the best way to treat her current condition was to act as if it was the infection (the FHM) and get her on antibiotics immediately just in case... as well as steroids in case it was an autoimmune disease. However, her red blood cell count was the most critical issue and she needed to have a blood transfusion STAT... but, of course, her blood being Type B (the rare one), it meant the Doctor had to call around to other Vet offices to track some down. She said if she couldn't find any, we could try Type B dog blood... but there was a downside to that as well -- she said some cats can be highly allergic to canine blood which could also put Rigby's life at risk but it would be better than no blood at all. At that point, she took Rigby into the back room to get her on an IV for the antibiotics and steroids, and Steve and I went back to the waiting room while the Doctor made some phone calls to track down Type B blood.
     A half hour later, Dr. Harpin came out to speak to us. She said she found one vial of blood at a Vet's office in Manhattan but, since it's so rare, they wouldn't part with it. They were willing to take Rigby on as a patient but that would mean driving all the way there in the middle of the night... and then they also said we wouldn't leave their office without a bill for anything less than $4,000.00. That definitely wasn't an option. Between the travel, the cost, and the stress it would put on Rigby there was NO WAY we were going to Manhattan in the middle of the night. The Doctor agreed and went back to her office to make more phone calls.
     Another forty minutes went by and she came out to get us again. She said she finally located another vial of blood that had been sent to South Carolina. That kitty didn't make it so the blood was then sent to Alaska for another desperate patient. By the time the blood got there, that kitty had also died so the blood was still out there somewhere and she was trying to track it down, with the hopes of intercepting it before it went to someone else. Again, though, there was another downside -- she said that even IF she was able to find it, by the time it got here to us it would be expired. She said using expired blood wasn't the best option but, since things were looking so bleak, it would be better than no blood at all. As we took in that information, she asked if we had any idea where any of Rigby's litter-mates were located. If we could find one of them, and the owner was willing, we could take blood from the litter-mate who, most likely, would also be Type B since the mother/father were the same. I had no idea where any of Rigby's brothers and sisters ended up, and her mother was also adopted out to her "Forever Home" back in September, however, I knew that Rigby's father was still located at my regular Vet's facility because Sharon (my Vet and breeder of Rigby) was still using him for stud -- he was still siring new litters! But we faced yet another road block... since Sharon is in Mexico, her office is closed until December 10th so there was no way to gain access to her father's blood.
     Then, for some reason which escapes me right now, I happened to mention that I have another one at home, named Sabrina. The Doctor spoke up right away with, "What do you mean another one? She's the same breed?"
     "Yeah," I said, "she's a British Shorthair too. But her parents are different. Rigby's parents are Foxie Roxie and Sir Paul McCartney. Sabrina's parents are Prada and A-Rod. There's no direct blood li--"
     "Wait," the Doctor interrupted, "Wait a minute. How do you know the parents' names? Did you get your other cat from the same place?" she asked.
     "Yeah, I adopted her from the same breeder... but they don't share the same parents... and she's four years older than Rigby. I don't think there's any relation at all..." I trailed off.
     "Doesn't matter, can you get her here? We can test her right now. There's a chance. Same breed of cat; same breeder! Even though their parents aren't the same, there's a possibility that their parents, Rigby and Sabrina's grandparents, are related to each other. There's a chance Sabrina could be Type B too!"
     I was already on my feet before the Doctor even finished her sentence. "Holy fuck balls!" I exclaimed, "I've gotta get home! I've gotta get Sabrina! Oh my god, I live twelve minutes away, I'll be back in half an hour!" And then I turned to Steve and said, "And you've gotta come with me! There's no way in hell I can get her into the kitty-carrier by myself. You're gonna have to help me! We'll be back!!!" and off we went, flying down Route 8 to my house.
     And then the wrangling began! We managed to get Sabrina barricaded in the bedroom with the door shut but, even still, it was like chasing a squirrel around the yard! All I can say is, "Thank God for Animal Planet!" because I became so frustrated, so flustered, so panicky chasing her around the bedroom, at some point I think I channeled Steve Irwin, the late, great Crocodile Hunter, and I must've morphed into him for a few moments. Calm, rational thought finally kicked in and I grabbed my bathrobe off the hook and flung it over her for two reasons -- 1., to ensnare her and 2., to blind her. I then leapt onto the bathrobe and wrapped her up real quick and shoved her into the kitty-carrier, robe and all, then pulled the robe out, and we clasped the little door shut as fast as we could. The whole fiasco felt like it took about an hour but, in actuality, it only took about six minutes, thankfully, and we were off again, back to the Emergency Clinic!
     At 3:40am, as we stormed back through their doors, I was already shouting. "We're back! She's here! SABRINA'S HERE!!!" They paged Triage over the intercom and a Vet-Tech came out immediately and swept her off, into the back room to get a sample of her blood. An hour later, Dr. Harpin came out to speak to us once more. She was shaking her head no but, at the same time, she was also smiling! She said, "Well, the bad news is that Sabrina is Type A," and she must've seen me slump down in my seat, totally defeated, because she then said, "No, no, it's OK! I found some blood. As soon as we took the sample from Sabrina, I found some blood in Middletown. Two vials, Type B!!!"
     "Oh my God! Thank God, thank God! Now what? How do we get it here? How far is Middletown? Do we need to go get it? Is someone bringing it???"
     "It's 45 minutes away. One of our Techs has already left to pick it up. He should be back in about an hour and a half and we'll start the transfusion as soon as he gets here."
     "Oh my God. Thank you, thank you so much! This will definitely help her, right? I mean, it has to help, right?"
     "I'm definitely hopeful... but we won't know anything, for sure, until after the transfusion and we run another blood test on her to see if she's producing new blood cells on her own, or if her system is destroying them. For now, all I can say is that you need to go home now, get some rest, and we'll call you sometime tomorrow between 9 and 11 to give you an update... but, yes, this is a good thing. Finding the blood she needs is definitely a good thing. You have to have hope. Stay positive, OK?"
     "I'm trying but... it's hard. So, if she responds well to the new blood, does that mean it's the infection or... we still won't know yet?"
     "We won't really know yet. Right now, though, we have to take one step at a time. We're going to continue, as if it is the infection, and see how she responds to the treatment. We'll know a little more tomorrow, once we test her blood again. Go home. She's here. She's comfortable, she's safe. But you can always call, at any time, if you want to check on her. You can visit her whenever you want, as often as you want also. You've got to get some rest, though, so try not to worry. Stay positive!"
     "OK, thank you. Thank you so much, for everything! Are you here tomorrow? Who should I ask for when I call?"
     "I won't be here, I'm a night doctor. I think Dr. D'Addario is on tomorrow, for the day shift. Doesn't matter though, every doctor in here will be familiar with her case. That's part of our daily, morning routine, going over all the notes, diagnostics, test results, diet and treatment plans for each patient. Any one of us will be able to answer any questions you might have, don't worry about that."
     "OK, thank you. Thank you so much!"
     As Steve and I were checking out at the Front Desk, we were informed that a gentleman, who had been sitting in the waiting room with us earlier, made an anonymous donation of $200.00 to my account for Rigby's care. Steve turned to me and said, "Did you just hear that?"
     "No, I'm sorry, I wasn't paying attention, what was that?"
     "That couple, the ones sitting across from us, you remember? The guy donated $200.00 to Rigby's account. He made an anonymous donation! He gave you two hundred dollars!"
     "What? Really?" I asked, looking at the woman behind the counter, "Is that really true?" When she nodded her head yes, I burst into tears.
     "Oh my God, I can't believe that," I sobbed, "why would he do that? He doesn't know me. I've never seen him in my life. He doesn't know my cat. I can't believe someone actually did that for me. Oh my God. Who is he? Do you know his name? I can't believe he did that. I have to thank him. Can you give me his address? Are you allowed to do that? I mean, did he specify he wanted to remain anonymous? I have to send him a card, an email, something. Are you allowed to give out personal information like that?"
     "We'll have to check to see if it's OK. I'll go talk to the Doctor. I'll be right back but, yeah, I imagine under these circumstances it'll be fine."
     "OK, great! Thanks!"
     A few moments later, she returned with a last name and address and handed the slip of paper to Steve. He put it in his pocket, we thanked them again for everything, and we finally left. It was 5:00am (this morning). Out in the parking lot, we continued to talk about how incredibly generous it was for a perfect stranger to help out like that. Steve made a comment about the guy being some sort of Saint and as soon as I heard that word it stopped me in my tracks. "Oh my God," I said, "Oh my God, I can't believe it!"
     "What? What's the matter?" he asked.
     "Yesterday afternoon I spent about an hour praying to Saint Francis... asking him to help, begging him to save Rigby, to make her better again! I can't believe it. I forgot I had done that... but when you said saint just now, I remembered..."
     "Wow! Yesterday you asked a Saint for help and today a Good Samaritan suddenly comes out of nowhere? That means something! That's not a coincidence!"
     "Yeah, I wrote about it on the blog... I even mentioned something like I don't know if miracles like that exist, but I'll take all the help I can get. I can't believe it. Maybe that was Francis trying to help, or his way of letting me know he heard me? I don't know..."
     In our state of Wonder, not wanting to sour the possibility that some kind of Spiritual Intervention had just occurred, we left it at that. I loaded Sabrina into the front seat of JEEP ROMULUS and buckled up her carrier safe and sound for the trip. I took a longer route home so Steve could follow me back to I-95 North towards New Haven. As I swung off the first exit, I waved goodbye, and Sabrina and I came home. I was home at 5:20... poor Steve didn't get home until almost 6:00am.
     Knowing I'd never wake up when the alarm clock went off, I just stayed awake watching the Weather Channel until it was time to get ready for work. The whole time, my eyes kept drifting to all of Rigby's usual sleeping areas -- the foot of the bed, the back of the couch, the top bunk of the cat tree in the living room -- wondering if she'd ever come home again. I've had many, many animals through the years which, sadly, means I've also had to put a number of them down. I am trying to stay hopeful and positive, like the Doctor said, but I also have to be realistic... and, honestly, right now my gut is telling me that the end is near.
     Anyway... moving on!
     Luckily, Shoreline is right across the street from where I work. I never received a phone call between 9:00 - 11:00am like the Doctor said I would so, on my lunch hour, I went over to visit her for a while. She was still hooked up to the transfusion equipment, receiving blood, so they couldn't bring her out to me but they brought me to her instead, into the Triage/Operating/ER area of their office where all the sick, injured, and dying pets are receiving Emergency care. She looked so tiny, so helpless, in that big metal kennel, with IV tubes sticking out of her little front leg. She never flinched when Dr. D'Addario opened her kennel door but as soon as she heard my voice she picked her head up and looked right at me and meowed. I didn't stay very long, only a couple of minutes, but I stroked her and talked to her the entire time. I think I told her I loved her about 50 times in those few, short minutes. I knew I'd be visiting her again on my way home so I told her I'd see her later, I thanked the Doctor, and then went back to work.
     I get out at 5:00pm so I was back at Shoreline at 5:03 this evening. This visit was much nicer since the transfusion was complete. They only had to disconnect her from the IV bag that was feeding her the antibiotics so we were able to visit each other in an actual exam room. This time I stayed for about an hour, sitting and laying on the floor with her. Dr. D'Addario came in after a while to see if I had any questions and she plopped right down on the floor with Rigby and I. I asked her more about the infection we were hoping it was... and about the other two possibilities (the autoimmune disease and/or cancer) to see what the next treatment options would be once we found out it is/isn't the infection. And it was then when I realized how dire the situation really was.
     If it turns out to be cancer the best treatment would obviously be radiation/chemotherapy which I immediately refused. I've made a promise to ALL my animals that I'd never allow them to suffer... and once she's on chemo and/or getting radiation treatments, her quality of life would be pretty shitty and I'll be damned if I'm going to subject Rigby to that! The second [possible] treatment for cancer would be surgery IF it was located in an organ/area in her body that was operable and the chances of a full recovery from that would be very slim, and - once again - the quality of the remainder of her life would suck. The third cancer treatment would be steroids and those would only prolong her life for "a couple of months," with no guarantee that it would even be that long.
     If it turns out to be an autoimmune disease/disorder, the only treatment is steroids... which could go either way, or make no difference at all. The steroids could work for a couple of months OR they could work for years, allowing Rigby to live out the rest of her natural life, there's no way to tell. The Doctor also said there's a possibility they could work great for a year or two and then Rigby could experience a complete relapse and we'd be in the same situation we're in now.
     So... we're ALL hoping that it IS this FHM infection from fleas (or some other unknown parasite that could have infiltrated her system somehow) that is 100% curable with antibiotics. Of course I'm HOPING that's what it is but, even still, I remain adamant that my cats have NEVER had fleas. If they had fleas, I'd know it. They would be itchy, scratching endlessly, and constantly biting at themselves, and rolling around on the floor in discomfort, and verbally complaining about it -- and I would be getting bitten as well and NONE OF THAT has EVER occurred with ANY of my animals, PERIOD. At that point the Doctor, sighing with hope, offered me this line, "Well, y'know, it would only take one to bite her."
     I kind'a chuckled at the thought of that. I know she was doing and saying everything she could to help me stay positive but that logic was so absurd I couldn't even believe she said it. I said, "Look, I don't mean any disrespect here, I know you're way more knowledgeable in matters like this than I am but, c'mon, who do you know that's ever had just ONE flea? That's like saying you have A mouse, or A roach. You might see only one which alerts you to a problem... but if you reach the point of actually seeing one, the problem has already escalated and you know there's more! You never have just one."
     She nodded in agreement. "Yeah," she said, "I know. But until that test comes back, we have to hope. If not fleas, it could be some other parasite that could've infected her, we just don't know yet. Until then, we're going to treat her as if it is FHM in order to get a head start on her recovery if the test does come back positive. One step at a time, OK? We'll deal with the next hurdle later, if it comes to that, all right?"
     "Yeah, what other choice do I have, right? It's just really hard trying to stay optimistic when I see her like this. Just the expression on her face tells me she's miserable and that she feels like shit. I've never seen that look on her before... and it's... it's consuming me. I told her I'd never let her suffer."
     "Well, just keep in mind that she's not in any pain at all -- she's not suffering. Right now she just doesn't feel good, OK?"
     "OK, yeah, that's a plus, thank God for that, at least."
     "Good. OK, I'll leave you alone with her now. We're not that busy so stay as long as you want. This room is yours for as long as you need it," she said.
     I layed back down on the floor with Rigby for another 45 minutes or so. She got up and walked around a little bit, taking only a few steps at a time before resting again. She eventually settled down right up against my body and we stayed like that for the duration of the visit. I stroked her and talked to her the whole time, telling her how much I loved her. She purred as she listened to my voice. I'm not actually sure who was comforting who.
     I got home shortly after 6:30 and just sort've paced around my apartment, not knowing what to do with myself. I gave Sabrina fresh water and her dinner. I tried to read but couldn't concentrate. I tried to watch some stuff on YouTube but, again, I just couldn't focus on anything. I kept hearing words like liver failure, infection, FHM, autoimmune disease, cancer, antibiotics, steroids, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, fleas, parasites, jaundice, Type B, quality of life, suffering, transfusion, euthanasia....
     I called Steve... I called my Mom... I called Adrienne... to let them all know the latest news. Once I finally got off the phone, sitting alone with Sabrina, I cried quite a bit too. This is the first time Rigby has ever spent the night away from me. I miss her.

ENTRY #694
DATE: 12/02/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  What's been going on lately...

     I know it's been a while since I've written... and, in all honesty, I really don't feel like writing now either but I thought I should mention some stuff to fill you all in on what's been going on around here lately. It's 6:00am Sunday morning and I've been tossing and turning for the last two hours so I figured I'd just get up and do this now since I can't sleep anyway.

  1.  Rigby, my cat, went to the Vet back on September 8th because she had been throwing up for four days. At that time, the Vet thought it was fur balls upsetting her tummy so we came home with a tube of some "hair-ball remedy" gloopy-type stuff (with a consistency very similar to toothpaste) I was supposed to smear on one of her paws for her to lick off. She hated the stuff and wouldn't lick it off. I then tried mixing it into her food and that didn't work either. She went two days without eating at all because she could smell the "yucky medicine" in her dish. I purchased a different brand/flavor from the pet store and that was a little better. She still wasn't crazy about the stuff but she did lick it off her paws at least... and that seemed to work. She stopped throwing up, finally, and her regular food/water consumption went back to normal.
     Now, almost three months later, she's sick again. I noticed, the other day, that she's lost some weight --- she feels lighter when I pick her up and I can also feel the vertebrates in her spine and the joints of her should blades when I stroke my hand down her back. She IS eating and drinking but only tiny bits here and there which means she's also not going to the bathroom very much. Her breath smells normal (there's no ammonia odor) so I'm hoping that means it's NOT her kidneys. She's alert but doesn't feel well enough to play and she's a bit lethargic which seems to be getting worse -- yesterday afternoon she was walking around and willing to try a little food and water but, all last night, she stayed in bed and slept; and, this morning, she wouldn't even get off the bed to have a little breakfast. I carried her dish into the bedroom and she took a few licks out of it but that's it... and she's already sleeping again. My regular Vet is currently vacationing in Mexico and won't be back to work until December 10th. My friend Steve sent her a "direct message" on Facebook explaining what's going on and asked if we could wait for her to get back or if she thought we should take Rigby to another Vet in the meantime to get some blood work/tests started. She replied immediately saying that she didn't think it was "serious" but, yes, it would be a good idea to see a Vet now instead of waiting. So, tomorrow morning, as soon as I get to work I'm gonna call the old Vet I used to go to with Sweety Face and, hopefully, get an appointment for as soon as possible.
     And, to top it all off, when I woke up on the couch a couple hours ago, I found a pile of vomit on the living-room carpet and that's not good! I'm getting more and more strung out about this as the hours tick by. "Unexplained weight loss" and "vomiting," with cats, can mean many different things -- kidney problems, liver disease, thyroid issues, parasites, cancer, etc., etc., so, yeah, I'm more than a little worried. Now I'm starting to think that her initial vomiting back in September was the beginning of this problem and the hair-ball remedy stuff has only been masking it for the last three months. If that's the case, by now, my cat could be deathly ill and, basically, it's all my fault since I didn't insist on blood work/tests back then. She's only seven years old (she'll be eight in April) so I'm hoping she's still young enough, and strong enough, to bounce back from whatever this is. I can't lose her this soon. Seven years just isn't enough time with her!!!

     2.  My Mom is sick. There's something wrong in her brain and we don't know what it is. She's been to three different hospitals (Cooley Dickinson in Northampton, Baystate Medical in Springfield, and MASS-General in Boston). She's had an ultrasound to check for blockages in her carotid artery, three MRIs of her brain, and a spinal tap to check the fluid surrounding her brain and, so far, no one has any answers.
     Our trip to Boston (to MASS General to meet with a Neurological Specialist on November 9th) was absolutely horrible. Three hundred feet off the exit (from the Mass Pike) we were instantly lost. It was as if we drove directly into a Black Hole. I mean, seriously, the streets of Boston sucked us in and would not let us go! Just like that, BOOM!, we were lost! Utterly, instantly, totally, uselessly, completely LOST!!! I couldn't get UN-lost no matter how hard I tried. The more we drove, the more lost we got. We pulled over FOUR TIMES and asked for directions and each set of directions just got worse and worse, forcing us deeper and deeper into the Black Hole! Even the directions we got from a group of policemen were useless since NONE of them could give us actual street names. What the hell?!?!? How is it possible that Boston cops didn't know street names???
     According to googlemaps.com the trip to Boston, from my Mom's house in Worthington, is only 115 miles. It should have taken only 2 hours and 12 minutes to get there. It took us FIVE HOURS. It was horrible. Her appointment was for 2:30... we left her house at 9:15am and never got to the hospital until 2:00pm, with only a half-hour to spare. We finally got into the waiting room at 2:15 and checked in... and then sat there, waiting, until 3:30. The consultation lasted a little over an hour and by the time we made it out to the parking garage back to my Jeep it was 5:00pm. In Boston. On a week-day. At rush hour. After dark. In the pouring rain. So... it took us another FOUR HOURS to get home. Dreadful. The entire day was simply dreadful.
     Now it's three weeks later and, unfortunately, she has to go back to Boston to meet with him again (or, possibly, some other doctor, we're not sure yet) but we're waiting for the paperwork from her last MRI at Baystate to be forwarded to MASS General for review. My cousin Sheri has offered to take her into Boston for that appointment which we are both insanely grateful for since Sheri is much more familiar with the Boston area than we are. As long as the paperwork makes it to MASS General, and depending on the very unpredictable weather in the Berkshires, her appointment is scheduled for Wednesday, January 9th, at 2:00pm.

     3.  On November 8th my dear friar friend, Marcel -- after two long months of extensive testing to ensure he was a valid candidate for Aortic Valve surgery -- finally had the procedure done to replace/repair his Aortic valve. If you all remember, this is the procedure he put off having done until after my visit over the Labor Day weekend. He called me the day after the procedure, on November 9th, to let me know it was a success and that he'd be going home the next day (Saturday)... but I wasn't able to speak with him at the time since I was currently LOST in Boston trying to get my Mom to MASS General. I called him Saturday afternoon, once I was home from Massachusetts, to get the full report and, yes, it was a success, he was home safe and sound, and under strict Doctor's Orders for some much-needed "rest and relaxation" so his body could heal. He said he felt "pretty good" but was still a little tired so I didn't keep him on the phone very long.
     I called him again on November 18th to check up on him and he sounded wonderful! His voice was nice and strong and his spirits were way up! When I asked if he felt any different, or better, in comparison to before the procedure he said, "Oh, yes, there's a big difference; I can move around much easier now without getting as winded as I used to," so that was awesome to hear! He's going to be busy for a while, though, going back n' forth to various doctors appointments for follow-up exams and check-ups but, other than that, he's doing well! In fact, he was already busy with baking hundreds of Christmas cookies for the upcoming holiday season and looking forward to decorating them all. Wooohoooooooo!!!
     We played a round of "Phone Tag" on Thanksgiving day. I called and left him a voice-mail wishing him a Happy Thanksgiving... then he called me back and had to leave me a voice-mail in response because I forgot my phone at home when I went to Adrienne's house for dinner. We haven't spoken since so I'm going to try calling later this afternoon, or this evening, to see how he's feeling and what he's been up to lately. I've seen on the Weather Channel that the Buffalo area has already been blanketed with a thick covering of snow... and I'm a little surprised that no "White Wonderland" photos have appeared on his web site yet. Hopefully he's still feeling OK... because the lack of photos has me a bit concerned right now.

     4.  Thanksgiving day was very nice, until all hell broke loose. I headed over to Adrienne's house at 2:30 for dinner (at 3:30) and, as always, it was delicious. Great wine, a huge turkey, tons of fixings, and four pies to choose from for dessert... along with Whoopie Pie-flavored coffee to top it all off. We sat around the table, just chatting away, 'til about 5:45, all of us relaxing and digesting the feast.
     As Kimmy, Adrienne and I were clearing the dining-room table, bringing everything into the kitchen, all of a sudden we heard a DELUGE of water gushing behind one of the kitchen walls. The bathroom is right above the kitchen so, initially, we thought the toilet had overflowed... however, the amount of water we were hearing was WAY more than your normal toilet-overflow. It sounded like a pipe might have burst but, at the time, we really had no idea. Elwood (Adrienne's father) managed to get the water turned off behind the toilet but about 15 minutes later, water started pouring from the doorway between the kitchen and dining-room. We scrambled around for towels and buckets to catch all the water... and while we were doing that, Elwood yelled from the basement that there was water all over the basement floor and that it was still pouring down from the ceiling all over the washer and dryer and a bunch of clothes that had been piled on and around both units. Another scramble out to the garage for more buckets to catch that water... and then Elwood fired up his wet-vac to clean up the water all over the floor. Kimmy and Adrienne moved all the laundry and I gathered up all the trash in the kitchen and took that outside for them, along with a full bucket of water to dump out in the yard.
     I went around the rest of the rooms on the first floor, checking for water leaks. Kimmy continued clearing the dining room table and cleaning up dishes. Elwood got on the phone with Roto-Rooter only to discover they couldn't send anyone out until the next day, between 8am and noon. Adrienne got online to find a different plumber that would be willing to make a house call on a holiday. With water still dripping, now from the kitchen ceiling as well, I dug through my purse and gave Adrienne the phone number for my plumber which didn't pan out either because he was 800 miles away for Thanksgiving; and his business partner was also away in Long Island for the holiday weekend. Good grief!!! Adrienne eventually found a company called Mr. Rooter that said they'd be out "later tonight" but they couldn't give us a definite ETA. Two hours later, when they still hadn't arrived, she called them back. At that point they said they only had one guy "On Call" and he was currently tied up for the next 4 to 5 hours with a hot-water heater installation so she cancelled the call, deciding to just wait for Roto-Rooter to come in the morning. The water eventually stopped dripping, and the basement floor was cleaned up, so the situation wasn't dire but it still meant they wouldn't have a toilet until the next day.
     I eventually had to leave at 9:00pm 'cause I had to pee, LOL. Virginia (Adrienne's Mom) called me the next day to give me an update. Apparently, something beneath the toilet, or in the toilet, actually broke which caused the water to flow freely from under the toilet directly into the crawlspace between the 2nd and 1rst floors. They had a brand new toilet put in and, as of right now, that seems to have fixed everything. Although, the Home-Insurance Damage Assessor recommends they have the kitchen ceiling replaced... which totally sucks 'cause they just had that ceiling replaced back in January (also due to water damage).

     5.  My refrigerator died on Tuesday (the 27th) in the middle of the night. Which meant, at 3:30 in the morning, I was forced to clean the damn thing out because my weekly "trash collection" crew was due to arrive in three hours. If I didn't get all the food out of the house right then, it would be sitting out in the rubbish barrels rotting until next week's trash collection, luring skunks, possums, rats, and raccoons. For the next half hour or so, in my pajamas, I made numerous trips up and down the stairs getting rid of all the food. Goody, goody!
     First thing Wednesday morning I was on the phone with my landlord at 7:00am -- a phone call, I'm sure, she was just thrilled to receive. She said she'd get the refrigerator replaced ASAP but not to count on it getting delivered that same day. I didn't expect it to be delivered that same day but I was hoping for the next day at least. She called me at work Wednesday afternoon to let me know she found one the right size and that it was already paid for... BUT... the bad news is that it's not going to be delivered until Wednesday, December 5th. So... from last Wednesday to this coming Wednesday I have been, and will be, living out of a cooler in the middle of my kitchen. Every night, on my way home from work, I pick up a bag of ice, lug it up the stairs, drain the melted ice-water from the cooler, and pour in the new bag of ice. Super...
     Granted, this is a "First World" problem, I know that. I mean, I know there's people in this world who have never heard of a refrigerator. Hell, I know there's people in this world that don't even have FOOD, let alone a way to keep it cold. But still, I gotta tell ya, this whole bag-of-ice-a-day thing is a royal pain in my ass. I really don't need this trivial bullshit right now, on top of everything else that's going on!

     6.  My step-father isn't doing well. He is, LITERALLY, a heart-beat away from having "a massive stroke," according to his doctor. He's got a major blockage in his carotid artery that needs to be dealt with very soon. We just found this out on Thursday (three days ago). He's got an appointment at Baystate Medical (in Springfield) on January 11th for a consultation with the surgeon to go over that upcoming surgery. That's two days after my Mom's appointment in Boston so, hopefully, all this is going to work out OK. If MASS General decides that my Mom should stay there for a couple days, I don't know what's going to happen to my step-father's appointment... we might have to post-pone it, I have no idea. Maybe his son and daughter-in-law (Joe & Chris) can take him IF my Mom is still in Boston?????

     7.  For the last three weeks I've been trying to sit down with my boss [after hours] to go over my health insurance. My current policy is about to expire, since it's the end of the year, and the enrollment dead-line for a new policy is December 15th. I'm hoping that we can deal with this sometime this week to get it over with. Dealing with insurance companies directly is never fun but, as an added bonus, I'm actually enrolled with my insurance company through AccessHealth (a middle man), which makes matters even worse. I've got my fingers crossed that this year will go more smoothly than last year. Last year it took THREE MONTHS for AccessHealth to get their shit together and I never got enrolled into that policy until March 1rst... but, of course, I still had to pay for January and February, even though I wasn't technically covered.
     Again, another "First World" problem... but it's still a pain in the ass having to worry about this crap.

     8.  My father, in New Hampshire, isn't doing that great either, health wise. I talked to him on Thursday (immediately after finding out the news about my step-father's carotid artery blockage) and he informed me that he's made an appointment with his [PCP] doctor on Tuesday, December 4th, to discuss the steps needed to get himself into a nursing home as a full-time, live-in resident.
     He's having a hard time breathing, even on the oxygen, to the point where he's having occasional dizzy spells. And he also mentioned he's having some problems urinating. Well, the problem isn't the urination itself -- it's that he can no longer feel when he needs to urinate and it just starts flowing out of him. He doesn't realize he's peeing until he feels it running down his legs and then he makes a mad dash to the bathroom... which, obviously, isn't helping the breathing/dizzy spells at all. Also, for the last couple of months, he's been complaining about his short-term memory. One incident, in particular, scared him and I think it's what really started him thinking about a nursing home -- he totally forgot he had something in the oven until he smelled something burning. He caught it in plenty of time so there was no actual fire in the stove but, still, it could have turned into something tragic.
     Getting back to him going into a nursing home --- I highly doubt anything will happen immediately since there's a ton of "red tape" type stuff that has to be worked out but, I'm guessing, this is going to involve a multitude of trips back n' forth to New Hampshire to help get his apartment cleaned out some time in the near future. I can think of no possible way to avoid that. And there's no way to plan anything yet since there are a number of steps that have to be done first. We can't start getting rid of stuff until we know what he can take with him. We won't know that until we know which home he'll end up in and how big his room will be. And, of course, we won't know that until the application process is over... which we can't even begin until his doctor sees him. My head is spinning just thinking about what's to come so, for now, I'm trying not going to think about it at all.

     For now, that's all I can write. I can't concentrate on much else right now because I'm too concerned about my cat. As it is, this has taken me forever to get through because I keep going into the bedroom every 15 or 20 minutes to check on her. It's 2:00pm and Rigby is now awake. I didn't even hear her get out of bed. I turned in my chair and was surprised to see her laying right outside the door to this room. This is the first time she's moved from the foot of the bed since she was sick sometime during the night. I just tried giving her a little saucer of water since she's had nothing all day, other than a few licks of food early this morning. She drank about a tablespoon full and that's all. She's now laying in the kitchen and she looks very unhappy, very uncomfortable, and very tired. The poor thing can barely hold her head up. I'm trying to keep my eye on her in order to watch her walk a little bit 'cause I wanna see if her hind legs are starting to give out or not. If they start to go, that'll be a major sign that it's [possible] renal failure. I have a feeling I'm going to be up all night long with her, watching her sleep.
     And I just posted this entire thing to my web site and I see those funny characters are back again, mixed throughout all the text because of the double-spacing at the end of each sentence. I totally forgot all about that problem while I was typing all this and, you know what?!?!? Screw it. It's just gonna have to stay that way until I can spare enough brain cells to actually give a shit. Wish me luck. And please pray for Rigby if you wouldn't mind. She's all I care about right now...

Later: 4:00pm - I just got off the phone with The Friar. As I suspected, all is NOT well. He fell on Thanksgiving during a celebration at St. Francis Church. He's now nursing a cut on his arm AND a sprained ankle. I had a feeling something must've happened since he usually posts photos of the first snow fall. He sounds good though, and he was actually doing some light cleaning at the Rosary Hour when I called... so he IS getting around a little, trying to stay active, even though he should be resting that ankle. He chuckled when I asked him about all the Christmas cookies. He's got only about half of them done so far but he's not worried, he said, because there's still plenty of time. How he manages to stay so positive all the time, after all he's been through, is truly amazing! We didn't talk very long but, even still, just hearing his voice lifted my spirits a little. I'm still extremely worried about Rigby but I'm trying to focus on the fact that Sharon (my Vet) said that she didn't think it was serious. Although, that's difficult to do... since every time I look at her I can tell she doesn't feel good. Again, please pray for the kitty! I need all the help she can get!

Added Note: It's 7:00pm. I tried to take a nap but still can't sleep. It's so damn quiet now in this apartment without that old refrigerator rattling, humming, knocking, and cycling on and off --- it's TOOOO quiet and the silence is actually keeping me awake. So here I am, sitting at this computer again, trying to keep my mind occupied. In doing so, I decided to edit out all those weird characters from this text that I mentioned earlier this afternoon. I think I got them all but if you happen to spot any let me know so I can get rid of them. Thanks!

2nd Added Note: Rigby wouldn't take any food or water AT ALL when it was time for her dinner. This is tearing me apart! There is absolutely no way I'll be able to sleep tonight. I've been praying to St. Francis for the last hour, asking him to watch over her and to help make her well again. I don't know if a miracle like that is even possible but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. He's the "Patron Saint of Animals" so, I imagine, if anyone can do it, he can!

ENTRY #693
DATE:  09/05/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT: A problem with my website!

     There's a major problem with this web site. I have no idea what happened but all my punctuation and some of the spacing throughout all my text(s) is all messed up on the pages I've recently made changes on. The pages I haven't changed seem to be fine. I have no idea what's caused this problem. I'm on the phone right now with Tech Support trying to figure this out. So far, they have NO IDEA.
     Whatever the problem is, it's making the text almost impossible to read. I'm so sorry! Please be patient. It might mean I have to go in and edit everything line by line. I have no idea yet. If that's the case, it's going to take months for me to do that. It's gonna be a tedious job!!!
     I hope I can get this fixed! Wish me luck!

     ADDED NOTE: It appears that if I type directly into my HTML/text editor - instead of copying and pasting from another document, which is what I usually do - it works fine. That's why THIS entry looks OK. That leads me to believe it's a font problem. I'm guessing my web-hosting company no longer accepts all fonts so when certain characters are copied/pasted in they are automatically translated to the "garbled" stuff you're currently seeing down below. From what I can tell, just at a glance, it looks like it's happening to ALL the quotation marks, apostrophes, and where there are double spaces at the end of sentences. So, yeah, I have a feeling it's going to be a line-by-line edit. Wonderful. :-( Apparently this means that I can no longer make changes on any of my pages without this happening. So... I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to handle that at this point. I guess I won't be making any changes to any of the old pages, LOL. That kind'a sucks but it is what it is.

10/06/2018 - ENTRY UPDATE: After a couple weeks of line-by-line editing, I think I've corrected all the font issues on this page. If you happen to find any more weird looking characters throughout the text please let me know so I can fix them! Thanks!!!

ENTRY #692
DATE:  09/04/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT: "Labor Day Weekend with The Friar" - ENTRY COMING SOON!

Stay Tuned

ENTRY #691
DATE: 08/30/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT: Early confirmation, LOL!!!

     Good lord. The Friar just scared the hell out of me! It's ten o'clock at night and my phone just rang. When I glanced over at my cell, I saw his picture displayed in the little window and I felt my heart stop for a moment. It's only THURSDAY so I thought he was calling to tell me he was back in the hospital 'cause something bad happened!
     Nope, not the case, thank goodness! He was just calling to make sure I was still coming for the weekend, LOL.
     "Ayuh, I'm packed and the Jeep is already loaded up but it's not up to me, Honey. Are you SURE you're feeling up to having company all weekend long?"
     "Well, I can't do too much but, YES, I am sure! What time do you think you'll be arriving?"
     "I'm aiming for around noon but I have no idea what the traffic is going to be like. I plan on leaving my house at 4:00am... so... I'm hoping for noon. If I get tied up in holiday traffic I'll call to let you know."
     "OK, sounds good! I'm looking forward to seeing you!"
     "Same here! Can't wait! And I'm bringing plenty for us to do so no worries about not being able to do much. We'll still have fun, I promise!"
     "OK, Luv, see you on Saturday!"
     "'K. See you then!!!"
     So, it's official. I'm definitely heading to Hamburg early Saturday morning. WOW! He sounded great too! His voice was nice and strong and I could actually hear him smiling!!! That is awesome! NOW I'm getting excited! Big time!
     And I'm not the only one who thinks he put off the procedure because of this weekend. I told everyone at work the whole story and they ALL agree with me. Every single one of them said the same thing, "Oh yeah, he's definitely waiting 'til after so he can see you! He doesn't want you to cancel this trip."
     Hmmm. I'm debating if I should bring this up once I get there. We'll see...

ENTRY #690
DATE: 08/28/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT: Friar Update #2...

     I have no idea what's going on right now. I'm currently sitting ON HOLD with the hospital waiting for them to FIND The Friar as I write this. This is absolutely ridiculous. I'm getting a little annoyed...
     I called his room-extension at 6:30 this evening and the phone rang and rang and rang, no answer at all. Then I called his cell and it went straight to voicemail so I hung up. Next, I called the Main number for the hospital and asked for him under both names. Since he's a priest, sometimes he's admitted under the name Marcel, sometimes he's admitted under the name Walter. The "operator" couldn't find either name so she transferred me to someone in Admissions. The person at the Admission Desk found him and transferred me back to his room where, again, the phone just rang and rang and rang. I called again and spoke to a different person, this time using the INFO number listed on the hospital's web site. That person said, "Oh, he's in MIU," (whatever that is) and transferred me to that department where I was promptly disconnected. I called the INFO number again and asked for the phone number for MIU so I could call them directly. Hung up and called that number. The person I spoke to there said they had no patient under either of those names.
     "Look," I said in a huff, "he's in that hospital somewhere. He was admitted on Friday, the 24th, and I talked to him Sunday and yesterday... He's supposed to have a stent put in and, to my knowledge, that was scheduled for today. I've called his room, there's no answer. I've called his cell, there's no answer. I've called the Main number, the INFO number twice, and the Admissions number. The last person I just spoke to said he's in MIU. Are you in MIU? What's MIU anyway? I don't know what that stands for."
     "It's part of our Cardiac unit and, yes, I am in MIU. Are you a relative?" she asked.
     "I'm sorry, but I think that's irrelevant, isn't it, since you can't even find him," I said. "What IS relevant is it seems your hospital has lost a patient. How is it possible that none of you know where this man is?"
     "Hold on," she said, "I'll try to find someone who can help you," and she put me ON HOLD. A few moments later she came back and said, "OK, I'm going to transfer you to the IN-PATIENT COORDINATOR, just a moment please."
     "OK, thank you!"
     That was sixteen minutes ago. I'm STILL sitting on hold. What the hell??? So, yeah, I'm a little annoyed right now, dammit! It's now 7:04. I can't believe this. I've been sitting here, on the phone, since 6:30 - it's been half an hour - and I haven't even found him yet.


     OK, I've finally made some progress. I just spoke to the Coordinator and explained everything. Again, even she said there was no one there under either name. However, while I was explaining the "birth name/priest name" issue, she finally realized who I was talking about.
     "Oh," she said, "Father Marcel! Yes, I know who he is now. He was discharged. Another Father was just here about twenty minutes ago to pick him up! That's why his name isn't showing in our computer. Our system hasn't been updated yet since he just left a few minutes ago. That's why we couldn't find him. I'm so sorry."
     With a sigh of relief I said, "That's OK... my god... I didn't know what to think! So... he's been discharged? I guess that means everything went well?"
     "I'm not sure, I don't have access to that information yet. What was he here for?"
     "He had a stent put in for a partial blockage in his aorta. They went in through his groin..."
     "Well, I'm sorry, but he'd still be here if that was the case. They must not have done it."
     "Wait... what? The procedure wasn't done? They didn't do it? Why not?"
     "I don't know, but the Doctor never would've discharged him this late in the day if it was performed today. We would've kept him over night."
     "OK... um... it wasn't done. But... you're sure he left?"
     "Yes, I'm sure. There was another Father here with him, I saw them both, and they left together."
     "All right, well, I'll try reaching him at home later, I guess. Thank you for all your help."
     When I hung up, I was going to try his cell again but when I glanced at the clock I thought better of it. It's 7:26 right now. The Coordinator said he was picked up "twenty minutes ago," that means he left the hospital shortly before 7:00pm. Mercy Hospital is in Buffalo, about fifteen/twenty minutes away from the Residence in Hamburg depending on traffic and red lights. And I wanted to give him some time to settle in and have dinner since he had to fast all day long. I decided to wait 'til about 8:30 before I tried calling again.

LATER -- 9:00pm:

     Well... I FINALLY got to talk to him! It was an interesting conversation, to say the least. And he's always full of surprises! The first thing out of his mouth was, "What do you like to drink?"
     "What? To drink?"
     "Yes. When you get home from work, what do you drink? Vodka?"
     I laughed! "Vodka?!?! No, I don't drink vodka after work!"
     "What about wine? I know you like wine. I want to have something here that you like," he explained.
     "Yeah, I do like wine, but don't worry about it. I'm bringing a bottle of that wine we had last summer at Letchworth Park. But I usually just drink water most of the time."
     "Oh, OK," he said.
     "And anyway, wait a minute, wait a minute! Before we get ahead of ourselves here, and start talking about the weekend, you have to tell me about today. I called the hospital earlier and they said you didn't have the procedure done. What happened?"
     "It was put off. They said it does need to be done soon but it's not critical so I decided to wait."
     "Wait, hold on... YOU put it off, not the doctor? Why? You were already IN the hospital, why didn't you just have it done and get it over with? I don't get it..." I stammered.
     "No, I don't want to have it now, I want to wait until after the holiday."
     "And the Cardiologist is OK with that? I mean, really? He actually said it was OK to put it off? The hospital said you were in MIU when I called, in the Cardiac ward... why'd they move you there if you didn't have it done?"
     "I'll be seeing my Cardiologist again soon. They went in and looked at it today, that's all. I need to have a few more tests done first. They're putting in a new valve."
     "OH! I thought they were just putting in a stent. I didn't realize you needed a new valve..."
     "I just found that out today, after they looked at it," he said.
     "And they can do that through the groin, still, or is it a whole different procedure now, do you know?"
     "No, it'll be through my groin, I think. I'll know more once I see the Cardiologist. You're still coming this weekend?"
     "Yeah, I guess. I mean, I'm still gonna call you Friday night first, to make sure you're feeling up for company but, yeah, that's the plan as of right now."
     "OK, good. I'm looking forward to the visit!"
     "Me too," I said, "All right, I'll let you go... I'll talk to you Friday, around 7:00, is that OK?"
     "AM???" he asked.
     "No, no! PM, after I get home from work. Is that a good time?"
     "Ah, PM, yes, 7:00pm is fine. We'll talk more then."
     "You take it easy, OK? I love you. Nighty-night," I said.
     "Love you too. Night."
     I'm still not exactly sure why they didn't do anything to him while he was there. I mean, he was already in the Cardiac Ward and they went in to look at it... couldn't they have run whatever tests he needs to have done right then and there??? I don't get it. Something just doesn't make sense.
     I didn't catch it, at the time, when he said it but now I keep hearing his voice in my head... him saying, "No, I don't want to have it now, I want to wait until after the holiday." That's making me a little suspicious. I have a feeling he put this whole thing off because he doesn't want it to interfere with our weekend. Granted, he didn't come right out and say that but, the more I think about it, the more I'm thinkin' that's what the real deal is.
     What's done is done. I can't change it now. It's not like I can force him back into the hospital. He did make this decision himself and I'm sure if the doctors felt strongly enough about it they would've made him stay if they felt it was an absolute, life-or-death situation. But I gotta tell ya, I'm not thrilled right now. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love - I absolutely love - that he wants to spend time with me this weekend, I really do! But his health is WAY more important. His health should definitely come first, not me!

ENTRY #689
DATE:  08/27/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Update on The Friar...

     As promised, I called The Friar as soon as I got home from work. Well, actually, I wanted to make sure I didn't interrupt his dinner so I put off calling 'til about seven o'clock (but you know what I mean)...
     Let's see... he did have the endoscopy today. No results yet, of course. At this point, the doctor probably won't be in to see him this evening since it's already after 7:00pm.
     The Friar said everything's a "Go" for tomorrow as far as having the stent put in... and he's still under the impression that he's going home tomorrow after the procedure. I'm not exactly sure where that information is coming from, since it seems rather unlikely to me but, then again, I'm no doctor so I guess it is possible. He has to fast, starting at 6:00am tomorrow morning, so no breakfast or lunch for him. The poor guy... he'll be starving by the time the procedure is over!
     He sounds great - his spirits are up - and he says he feels absolutely fine so that's awesome! His appetite is normal, too, and when I inquired about the food he kind'a chuckled.
     "It's hospital food," he said, "but it's not too bad!" Clearly, his sense of humor is still intact, LOL.
     And he's still thinking about this weekend. Out of the blue he says, "I'll have to take it easy for a while. If I need to rest, there's plenty for you to do here, y'know -- the Basilica, the Father Baker Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Falls..."
     He's definitely got his heart set on me coming this weekend, LOL. Right now, I'm kind'a on the fence about it. I honestly don't know if it's a good idea to go this weekend or not. I'm gonna wait and see how the rest of this week plays out and how he feels. Granted, I am dying to see him since I haven't since my surprise visit back in March... and, of course, I'm packed and ready to go. In fact, I actually re-packed my overnight bag last night in order to include some "taking-it-easy" activities. I'm now carrying three jigsaw puzzles and my puzzle caddy in the back of the Jeep, along with my chess board. I'm bringing some crossword puzzle books, my little "20 Questions" hand-held electronic game, a "Brain Teaser" game to test our minds, and a cute package of small cards called "Chat Pack" to inspire interesting conversation topics (not that we've ever had a problem in that area), so we'll definitely have enough stuff to keep us occupied for three days if I do go.
     What I'm worried about most is the, um, "stubborn gene" (for lack of a better term) that I know he possesses. I'm afraid that once I get there, he's going to insist on "going here and going there, and doing this and doing that" - in order to keep me entertained - regardless of the fact that he should be taking it easy. I don't want that to happen... and I also don't want to put him in the kind of position where he feels it should happen because he wants to be a "good host." I don't know. I don't know what I'm gonna do yet. And I won't know, for sure, until Friday evening once I talk to him.
     For now, though, I'm moving forward as if I AM going. I still plan on picking up flowers of some kind to bring to him; I've got a package of more note pads I made for him out in the Jeep already; I've just put fresh batteries in my camera; I still plan on gassing up JEEP ROMULUS on my way home from work Friday evening, etc., etc., etc..
     Anyway... for now, that's pretty much everything I know at this point. The Friar feels good; he's itchin' to get out of the hospital; he's definitely looking forward to this weekend; and I'm trying to stay calm, LOL. I don't want to get too excited about seeing him, yet, in case I don't go. The thing is, he's been in the hospital for four days already and even though he feels fine now, the fact remains that they haven't touched him yet. He has no idea how he'll feel after the stent goes in. We don't know, yet, how long they'll keep him there after the procedure. Until it actually happens, everything is up in the air...
     Stay tuned for more!

ENTRY #688
DATE:  08/26/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  The Friar is in the hospital!!!

     It's 4:30pm right now and I just grabbed my cell phone out of my purse and saw that I missed a call that came in at 9:30am this morning. When I flipped it open (yes, I still use an old flip-phone, LOL!) to check the incoming number I was surprised to see it was from The Friar.
     Hmmm, 9:30 on a Sunday morning, I thought to myself, this can't be good. Knowing that Mass is usually around 9:00am at the Rosary Hour Chapel I figured something must be up so I immediately dialed into my voicemail to hear his message. It wasn't very long but it was a bit startling just the same. All he said was he's in the hospital, he'd been there since Friday. He said he thought he was going home on Tuesday but he'd keep me posted if anything changed. Then he said, "I'm looking forward to seeing you this weekend. I probably won't be able to do much so I hope you still want to come. I'll talk to you soon. I love you," and he hung up.
     Whoa! I hope you still want to come??? OF COURSE I still want to come! I probably won't be able to do much. Oh my, that didn't sound good at all. As I listened to his message the second time I found the phone number for Mercy Hospital and called right away to find out what happened.
     Here's the story...
     Some of his medication has changed. His OLD medication didn't need to be taken with food. This NEW medication does need to be taken with food but he didn't realize that so he took it on an empty stomach. Shortly after that, he became violently ill with constant vomiting so they brought him to the Emergency Room and admitted him for observation. During the standard hospital procedures and tests, they discovered he has a partial blockage in his aortic artery/valve.
     They told him he'd need to be "opened up" to correct it which he promptly declined. He said, flat out, "No, I'm not doing that," which, I think, is a good decision. He's going to be 86 years old next month... and open-heart surgery is a BIG deal. It puts the body through tremendous "traumatic stress" and the recovery/rehab afterward isn't much better. It's a very lengthy, strenuous healing process which might prove to be a little too much for his body to bounce back from. So, yeah, I agree with his decision to avoid surgery.
     The next option for him is to have a stent put in that will open the artery enough to allow proper blood-flow. After the procedure was explained to him he agreed to have that done. It's basically a "quick fix" that will take about an hour (if that long) and it requires very little recovery time. Most people who have it done are back to work the next day as if nothing happened at all. Sounds good to me! Considering his age, I can't imagine why this wasn't the FIRST option to begin with!
     Tomorrow, Monday, he's having an endoscopy done so they can get better images of the blockage and then, he thinks, on Tuesday they'll put the stent in, and then send him home that same day. However, they plan on going in through his groin for the stent, for some reason (which is unclear to me), instead of through his neck or chest... so I highly doubt he'll be home that same day. I'm sure they'll keep him for a day or two for observation just to monitor his vitals and whatnot before they send him on his merry way. We'll see.
     So... that's where we are now.
     And, oddly, the thing that seems to be most prominent in his mind right now is this weekend - my visit. This man is currently laying in a hospital bed, telling me about how much he missed seeing me back in July (because of the whole spider bite ordeal) and how he hopes I still want to come this weekend. Then he actually starts apologizing to me about the fact that he'll have to "take it easy for a while," so he won't be able to go gallivanting across the state of New York like we've done prior; and how he's also not sure if he'll even be able to go out to eat.
     Oh my! As I'm sitting here - partly in shock, partly in disbelief - listening to these worries pour out of him, all I could do was shake my head.
     Enough! I can't!
     "Friar," I said, interrupting him, "Stop! Just stop. It's OK. Don't worry about any of that. YOU are the priority right now. All that matters, right now, is your health and how you're feeling."
     "I know, I know," he agreed with a chuckle.
     "Look, let's do this... we'll just take it day-by-day for now and see how everything goes, OK? We'll re-group in a couple days. I'll call you Friday evening and we'll assess the situation. If you're feeling up for company, I'll come as planned. If not, there's always another weekend. If Labor Day weekend doesn't work out, I can always come next weekend instead, OK?"
     "OK," he said, sounding a little reluctant. "I really missed you in July... and I've been looking forward to this weekend!"
     "I know, me too, and I'm still sorry I couldn't make it last time. I've missed you too. But, right now, all I care about is you getting better. That's all that matters..."
     At that point I heard a woman's voice in the background. It was either a Nurse or the delivery of his dinner. "Alrighty then, I can hear someone just came in so I'll let you go for now. Get some rest! No running up and down the halls, OK? No flirting with any of the nurses either! I'll call again tomorrow, when I get home from work, for an update, OK?"
     "OK, Luv. Tomorrow, tomorrow. Thank you for calling. I love you."
      "I love you too, Honey, I love you too... and I'll see you soon!"
     When I hung up the phone, I glanced down into my lap. At some point, during the conversation, I grabbed my little statue of St. Francis that stands next to the monitor on my desk. It was still clasped tightly in my hand, my thumb massaging the area over his heart. I have no memory, at all, of ever picking it up. The mantra began immediately...
     Keep him happy, keep him healthy, keep him safe, keep him strong...

ENTRY #687
DATE:  08/24/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  The Crunchy, Fluffy, Creamy, Ooey-Gooey World of SLIME...

LOL... Even though I am slowly approaching the age of FIFTY, I have recently discovered the World of SLIME -- thanks, of course, to YouTube -- and I've become obsessed with it as if I'm a TEN-year-old. There are thousands of ASMR videos using slime as a way to unwind and relax. I've watched a ton of them. Those videos led me to other videos about how to make your own DIY slime. I've watched a TON of those as well. Um... as it turns out, watching them just wasn't good enough. I'm sure, by now, you can imagine where this is going...
     Ayuh, I've been to Hobby Lobby, AC Moore's, and Michael's Crafts and my kitchen table is now covered with SLIME-making ingredients! So, LOL, here's what I've been up to for the last two weeks.....

.....Dove's SLIME Creations.....

10/06/2018 - ENTRY UPDATE: Due to my growing collection of slime, the photos that were shown below have been moved to a page all their own. Click here to visit the new Slime Babies page to see photos of ALL the slimes I've made... so far!
     Hey, what can I say?!?!? I never made slime as a child. I have a lot of catching up to do! (Um, er, yep... that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

ENTRY #686
DATE:  08/12/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  "The MEG" movie...

     OK, so... I read Steve Alten's "MEG" books -- at the time there were only three of them -- approximately 15(?) years ago and I've been waiting for "MEG: The Movie" ever since.
     I happened to catch the first preview for the movie two months ago and I was dying to see it 'cause the books were AWESOME!!! However, when I finally saw that preview for the film, I found I had mixed emotions -- I was excited but also a little apprehensive. I had two concerns...
        #1.  I didn't want it to be "stupid" like those ridiculous Sharknado movies.
        #2.  I didn't want it to be a "JAWS-point-10" kind of movie either.
     And obviously, being a movie about a 75-foot prehistoric shark, it had great potential for being both of those things. Whatever! Be that as it may, I decided to take my chances, and when Adrienne called yesterday and asked if I wanted to go see MEG, I was all over that like white on rice!
     I wasn't disappointed! Granted, it wasn't the best movie I've ever seen... but it was the best SHARK movie I've ever seen! This MEG movie blew the entire JAWS franchise right out'a the water (pun intended)! The special effects were cool; the shark actually looked real; Jason Statham nailed the role of Jonas Taylor [the protagonist of the MEG series]; the supporting cast members were believable and quite endearing; and there were more than a few scenes that made the audience jump in their seats. It was a fun flick! It was entertaining; it was educational (to a point), offering up many scientific facts about the megalodon; it was definitely worth the price of admission; and, most importantly, it made me extremely grateful that I live on dry land, LOL!
     When a movie is based on a book, in my opinion, the book is always better and that remains true in this case. Steve Alten is a magnificent writer. A movie just can't compete with that level of excellence. With that being said, though, I think this particular movie adaptation is one that should make Alten proud. Was is exactly like the book? No, of course not. Were the changes significant? Not really. Was it true to the author's story? Um... pretty much. I'll put it this way -- it was as true to the story as it could be considering it was crammed into 113 minutes. On a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), I'd give this book-to-film translation a 7 -- definitely better than average but, as every "MEG Head" out there knows, it could've been a LOT better if, say, it was an hour longer.
     If any of this has piqued your interest, please visit Steve's web site at
SteveAlten.com. You'll find book info, movie info, writing tips, and his monthly newsletters! He also responds to ALL fan mail, just so ya know. He's one cool dude!!!

ENTRY #685
DATE:  08/11/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Remembering Robin...

     So that's my collection of Robin's work. It's not ALL of his work but it's a lot of it, LOL. There are 69 DVDs in the above image. I also own the box-set of Mork & Mindy (not shown here 'cause I can't find it for some reason) and Barbra Streisand's One Voice concert which was hosted by Robin (not shown here 'cause I keep it as part of my Streisand collection). Today, in memory of Robin, I watched Mrs. Doubtfire and Patch Adams, two of my favorite Robin films.
     It's been four years since he left us and I still can't believe he's gone. I still miss him. And I still struggle with the fact that he took his own life. Since it's the anniversary of his death, I set aside some time so I could write a little something about him today as a tribute... however, now that I'm sitting here, I can't find the words; they just won't come. It's too hard. It's too damn sad. Instead, I've decided to share some of my favorite "Robin Tributes" and memories/moments that I've compiled from YouTube. So... here they are (in no particular order). I hope you enjoy them...

Jimmy Fallon Pays Tribute to Robin Williams

Conan Shares News of The Death of Robin Williams

David Letterman - Robin Williams Tribute - 08/18/2014

Oprah Pays Tribute to Robin Williams

Billy Crystal's Emmy Awards 2014 Tribute to Robin Williams

Robin Williams Oscars Tribute 2015

Ellen - Remembering Robin Williams

Billy Crystal Remembers His Friend, Robin Williams

James Lipton - Remembering Robin Williams - MSNBC

Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg talk on Robin Williams

Robin Williams receives the Cecil B. DeMille Award

*Robin Williams Finest Interview (1987) - Part 1 of 2 - Johnny Carson

*Robin Williams Finest Interview (1987) - Part 2 of 2 - Johnny Carson
*This two-part interview is a MUST WATCH! I've never seen Johnny Carson laugh so hard!

The Best Interview In The History Of Television [The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson]

Robin Williams Stand Up Comedy Special - Full Show (HD) - LIVE ON BROADWAY

ENTRY #684
DATE:  08/06/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Hot, hot, hot!!!

     Oh. My. God. I have been miserable for weeks now! This Summer totally sucks! I can't take these extreme temperatures -- they're killing me! It was 91 degrees today at 10:30 in the morning! By 3:00pm this afternoon it was over 100 out there! And the humidity has been outrageous which makes it even worse!
     Seriously... this Summer SUCKS BALLS! Big, fat, sweaty, donkey balls!!!
       My feet and ankles keep swelling up...
       I can't get my rings on in the morning because my fingers are swollen too...
       I'm tired of constantly sweating -- it's almost impossible to get dressed in the morning 'cause all my clothes insist on sticking to my body...
       Hell, my watch is sticking to me too 'cause even my wrists are covered with perspiration!
       All the furniture in this apartment feels "sticky" because of the humidity...
       My electric bill has sky-rocketed because both the air conditions have been running non-stop, along with FOUR fans...
       And gasoline has been flowing through JEEP ROMULUS quicker than shit through a goose 'cause I'm running that air conditioner constantly too!
     Honestly, I can't take much more of this -- I don't do well in weather like this at all. My body is just too old [and too damn fat!!!] to tolerate this kind of heat! I mean, damn, look at my poor feet....

     You can't even see my ankles anymore 'cause the swelling is so bad. This is absolutely ridiculous!
     Oh, and I gotta tell ya, this weather isn't helping my mood either, LOL, can ya tell?!?!? I've been a cranky, grouchy, irritable bitch for the last three weeks. I am not enjoying any of this at all. I am DONE with Summer; I'm tired of it and I just want it over with and gone!
     I need a breeze...
     I need cold...
     I need snow...
     I need ice...
     I need a blizzard...
     I can not wait for Winter --- BRING IT ON, DAMMIT!!!

ENTRY #683
DATE:  07/24/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Tweet... Tweet-Tweet... TWEET... TWEET-TWEET-TWEET...

ENTRY #682
DATE:  07/20/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  A RARE rendition of Get Happy by Judy Garland...

     This is amazing! The video quality isn't that great but the audio is pretty cool; you'll just need to turn up your volume to appreciate it. Judy totally ROCKS this rare, up-tempo version of Get Happy, one of my all-time favorite songs!
     Sad, though; she was dead only four years later at the age of 47. What a shame! But, thanks to YouTube, great moments like this live on. ENJOY!!!!!

ENTRY #681
DATE:  07/18/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  New Kellogg's Cereal...

Two quick facts about me...

     - I love Raisin Bran.
     - I love bananas.

So when I found THIS today, it took about 1.3 seconds for me to snatch one off the shelf and toss it into my grocery cart! Happy, happy, happy!!! :-)


ENTRY #680
DATE:  07/13/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Hippos LOVE watermelon!

     OK, so here's something you don't see everyday...

     What's funny is that it kind'a reminds me of myself at our Family Reunion when we used to have the "Seed Spitting" contests, LOL!

ENTRY #679
DATE:  07/08/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day NINE...

     So I'm almost half-way through Kevin Hart's book. It's really good but, temporarily, I've put it aside to read YOU by Caroline Kepnes. Stephen King's blurb on the front cover made it impossible for me to resist the urge to crack it open... so I did... and that's been my day today. I'm 150 pages into it and now I understand King's blurb/review, especially the part when he said, "Never read anything quite like it." Ayuh, I get it now. Same here. It's "different," but it's pretty good so far.
     This is the last day of my vacation. Between the spider bite, having to cancel my trip to Hamburg, the antibiotics, the heat wave, and the cough, I can honestly say this was far from the greatest vacation, LOL but.... I enjoyed it enough to the point where I can still groan and say, "I really don't wanna go back to work tomorrow!"
     Wish me luck!

ENTRY #678
DATE:  07/07/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day EIGHT...

     Spent the entire day, once again, sitting in front of my computer. Ayuh, you guessed it, on YouTube!
     I've just become an instant fan of Mark Smith! He's a professional photographer and his work is absolutely incredible! His channel on YouTube blew my mind. I just "binge" watched ALL his videos, LOL. I couldn't help myself, they're THAT good!
     Primarily a bird photographer, he also captures other wildlife and nature surrounding him when he's out with his gear! His narration of each video is also cool -- it's interesting, fun, and very informative!

Mark Smith Photography / Blog

Photo Work-Shops & Tours - Mark Smith

Mark Smith - YouTube

     He's on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too, but I'm not so I don't know those links. You can get'em from his YouTube channel though. You gotta check out his work! He's awesome!!!

ENTRY #677
DATE:  07/06/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day SEVEN...

     Not a whole lot to write about today...
     I read for most of the morning, then jumped online to explore more YouTube videos. I did a few more Jigsaw Puzzles too but I didn't bother saving them this time. One was a bouquet of flowers; one was a pile of Crayola Crayons; and the third one was a herd of Zebras.
     I met Adrienne at the Riverdale Diner for dinner. I ordered breakfast instead... two banana/chocolate-chip pancakes topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream; with sausage on the side and a bottomless cup of coffee. It hit the spot!
     From the Diner we headed out to Barnes & Noble in Milford. I came home with four books... as if I don't have enough to read around here as it is, LOL.
       The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. And, YES, Clinton got top billing on the cover!
       Shoot First by Stuart Woods -- book #45 in his "Stone Barrington" series.
       Turbulence by Stuart Woods -- book #46 in his "Stone Barrington" series.
       ...and You by Caroline Kepnes. I'm not sure about this one. I've never heard of this author before and it's also her very first novel... but the title YOU on the spine caught my eye so I grabbed it off the shelf to take a closer look. It's blurbed by Stephen King and he says, "Hypnotic and scary. Totally original." The rest of his review [which I just looked up] continues with, "Never read anything quite like it. A little Ira Levin, a little Patricia Highsmith, and plenty of serious snark."
     All-righty, Steve, if you say so! I'm gonna take your word for it and give it a shot!
     I have no idea when I'll actually get to it but my interest has definitely been piqued! It's 424 pages. If I'm going to commit to that I sure hope it'll be good.
     That's about it for today, I think...
     Oh, one more thing -- I just took my LAST dose of the antibiotics for that darn spider bite! Hallelujah!

ENTRY #676
DATE:  07/05/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day SIX...

     OK, so this is weird...

     I'm coughing - A LOT - so I'm still in my pajamas. I started taking the Mucinex-DM this morning and it seems to be helping a little so that's good. And, again - just like yesterday - I've been sitting in front of my computer all day long. I haven't been doing Jigsaw Puzzles though. Nope, not today! Instead, today was YouTube Day!
     OMG, there is some really strange stuff on YouTube, man! I've found dancing aliens, farting iguanas, talking dogs, featherless birds, plane crashes, people making gigantic balls out of aluminum foil, PingPong-Ball trick shots, soap carving, gravestone washing, and.... good grief.... the list goes on and on!
     Throughout my HOURS of random clicking today, I happened to think of something so I did a search for "large green moth" and, BINGO!, I found exactly what I was looking for!
     When I was fifteen years old, I found - and caught - a huge green moth out in the woods when we were building the house my Mom lives in now. Everyone there that day had never seen one of these moths before so, until today, I never knew what it was, other than a "really big moth," LOL! Thankfully, I managed to take some pictures of it that day before releasing it back into the woods.
     Three years later, when I was still in high school, I drew a pencil-sketch of it for Mrs. Brunye (the Art teacher at the time), and included it in my art portfolio along with one of the photographs I took. Now flash-forward to 2016...
     Two years ago, as I was putting together a scrap-book of all the pets I've had through the years, I actually included those moth photos in that book since I didn't know what else to do with them. Here's a picture of the page from my art portfolio AND the page from the scrap-book...

     Now, what's weird is this..... check out the date on the photo under the pencil-sketch... it says 7-5-85. Those photos were taken exactly 33 years ago today! And it was today when I "just happened" to think of it and looked it up on YouTube. How bizarre is that??? I mean, what are the chances?
     Anyway... it's actually called a Luna Moth and here's one of the videos I found...

LUNA MOTH life cycle - YouTube

     Considering they only live about a week and they're active mostly at night, I'm now a bit amazed at the fact that I was actually lucky enough to find and photograph one of these creatures. Pretty cool, eh?
     So, yeah, that's what I did today -- YouTube, YouTube, and more YouTube, LOL. But, hey, at least I learned something! :-)

ENTRY #675
DATE:  07/04/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day FIVE...

     Happy 4th of July!
     So... what I thought was just my sinuses/allergies acting up [from the Air Quality Alert], turned out to be a head-cold that has now migrated into my chest. I now have a hacking cough that has been getting progressively worse since Monday. I'm still taking the Alka Seltzer Plus but I'm also eating HALLS Cough Drops like M&Ms, LOL. If it doesn't improve by tomorrow, I'm gonna break out the Mucinex-DM and see what that does!
     Since I'm officially "sick" now, I've been in my pajamas all day long, just taking it easy, sitting in front of my computer. I found a really cool Jigsaw Puzzle web site and I've been playing all day! I LOVE Jigsaw Puzzles and this site is totally addicting, LOL. I've lost count of how many I've done so far but here's a display of "Screen Caps" of the last NINE I've completed...

Images are not shown at 100%. I reduced them quite a bit so I could fit them all onto one page for this jpg file.

     Like I said, I'm totally addicted to this web site, LOL!!! Click HERE if you wanna check it out. They have THOUSANDS of puzzles of choose from, just do a SEARCH for whatever you're interested in. You can choose the quantity of pieces, the shape of the pieces and the size of the pieces (depending on your monitor's screen). It's pretty awesome.... but, again, as I've previously stated, I'm a big nerd! ;-)
     And that's what I've been doing all day today, LOL. Just sitting here, listening to my "Chanting Monks" playlist, drinking coffee, and putting puzzles together. I'm sure that probably sounds a little boring to some of you but I've been having the time of my life! This is what VACATION is all about. Rest, relaxation, and letting the mind chill out.
     No more puzzles for today though.... I've been sitting here so long my feet are actually swollen, LOL.
     Ciao for now!

ENTRY #674
DATE:  07/03/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day FOUR...

     Oy! I'm totally fed up with this heat wave! Today's high was 91 with a Feels Like temperature of 98. I feel like the Wicked Witch in Oz --- "I'm melting, I'm melting!"
     Because of the heat and humidity, I spent my morning on the couch [again!] working my way through Kevin Hart's book. I'm enjoying it very much but I don't want to rush myself with this one. I want to ration it so I'll be entertained a little while longer, LOL.
     It turns out my prediction was correct.... it's only Tuesday and I'm starting to climb the walls. Definitely gettin' tired of sitting on the couch! So... out of desperation, I decided to brave the elements and I headed out with the camera and two bottles of water to stay hydrated! Since I'm still dealing with occasional bouts of diarrhea from the antibiotics I made sure to stay close to home. That wasn't a problem though because I already knew where I was headed...
     I hung out with another Great Egret Heron today for about an hour. I actually met him at his favorite fishin' hole. I drive by this place a couple times a day when I'm out making deliveries for work and he shows up every day at about the same time so I knew he'd be there. It was cool... I had a good time... but after an hour I was covered in sweat so I trudged back to the heaven-sent air conditioning of JEEP ROMULUS. I took over 200 photographs, LOL, but I only kept about 30 of them. This batch of Egret photos came out much better than the ones I took last September [in Milford]. Here's a few from today...

     It was so nice being out! Even though the heat was staggering, I decided to drive around for a while to see if I could find anything else to point the camera at. I cruised up to Gate of Heaven Cemetery in search of some deer but had no luck. As I worked my way through Trumbull, I found myself on White Plains Road so I pulled into Twin Brooks Park. It's the same Park where I found the Daisies a few weeks ago (scroll back to entry #665 to see a few pics!). The place was nearly deserted due to the weather, I'm sure. I only saw one other person walking her dog. Other than her, the entire Park was mine! It's not very big -- you can drive from one end of it to the other in approximately four minutes.... but it's very scenic.
     Most of the Daisies were gone but, as I was driving along, I happened to spot a lone Black-eyed Susan on the edge of the road. I usually find them growing together in large clusters. When I came upon this single flower I thought it was so striking, against the green background, I just had to pull over to capture it. And that's all I did... I just pulled over; I didn't even get out of my Jeep, LOL. I rolled down the passenger-side window, leaned over, zoomed in, and let the camera do all the work. It came out pretty darn good (considering how lazy I was about it)...

     From Twin Brooks Park, I found the closest Dunkin Donuts and purchased a large FROZEN COFFEE for my trip home. It was yummy... and the perfect treat on a hot, summer day!
     The rest of my evening was spent sitting in front of this computer sorting through the 200+ Egret photos, trying to decide which ones to keep. For the first time this week, I've actually felt good... and I enjoyed the day OFF MY COUCH immensely! It's finally starting to feel like a vacation. WOOHOOOOO!!!

ENTRY #673
DATE:  07/02/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day THREE...

     I did start Kevin Hart's autobiography yesterday. Haven't gotten too far into though, only 66 pages or so.
     I did eat the left-overs from Bella Napoli's today, LOL. Had some cold pizza for breakfast, and the chicken bites for lunch.
     The HEAT WAVE continues. The high today was 94, I believe, but the Feels Like temperature was 102 according to my local weather channel. There has also been an AIR QUALITY ALERT in effect for the last three days because of New England's famous three Hs -- hazy, hot, & humid. And now my sinuses/allergies have exploded in my head leaving me with a headache, runny/stuffy nose, sneezing, and a lovely cough from the post-nasal drip.
     The spider bite is looking good. There's no more discoloration on my leg at all and the itch is finally gone, thank God, but I'm still on the antibiotics until Friday. The side-effects from the antibiotics seem to be clearing up as well. The nausea is pretty much gone now but the diarrhea still manages to surprise me every now and then.
     Because I've been planted on my couch for the last three days, the small of my back is killing me. Good grief... I was so stiff this morning when I woke up I could barely reach my own ass to wipe, LOL!
     So... let me break it down for ya...
     I'm taking antibiotics for the spider bite. I'm taking Alka-Seltzer Plus for the sinuses. I'm taking Aleve for the back pain. All of this on top of the daily vitamin(s) I take AND a cranberry supplement for urinary-tract health. This vacation has blossomed into a Pill-Popping Extravaganza!
     My biggest problem is this sweltering heat though. Even with BOTH air-conditioners running constantly, my apartment isn't as comfortable as I'd like it to be. I'm fine as long as I sit directly across from the AC in the living room. But, as soon as I step out of that direct path of cool, I am immediately engulfed by hot-humid air. It's stifling.
     I'm doing what I can to keep the cats cool too. Along with the air-conditioners running 24-7, there are also two fans blowing in the living room, the ceiling-fan in the kitchen is on, and I'm feeding a steady flow of ice cubes into their water bowls. That's about all I can do, really.
     Sabrina has taken refuge under the bed where, I'm guessing, the darkness is cooler for her. Rigby is usually lying on the coffee table right in front of the AC in the living room. However, I just walked into the bed room and found a cat-shaped lump in the middle of my bed. LOL, I guess I have nothing to worry about....

ENTRY #672
DATE:  07/01/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day TWO...

     I can't decide what I'm going to read next. I've got too many books piled around here to choose from, LOL. I think it might be Kevin Hart's book, I Can't Make This Up, but I'm not sure yet.
     I attempted to go out today to do some exploring with the camera but today's temperature of 96 degrees (combined with the outrageous humidity) quickly changed my mind. I made it as far as the gas station up the street where I stopped for beverages and snacks for on the road... and since I have no interest in HEAT STROKE I turned around and came right back home.
     So, all I have to offer for today's "Vacation Report" is this, my latest discovery...

     If you can find either of these products at your local grocery store, or neighborhood Corner Store, I highly recommend them both! They're yummy!
     And I splurged on dinner this evening by ordering take-out from Bella Napoli Pizza -- I got their "Breakfast Pizza" and an order of their Chicken Bites with Ranch Dressing dipping sauce. Good stuff! The left-overs of both will probably be my meals tomorrow as well to avoid going out in this damn heat. It's BRUTAL out there!

ENTRY #671
DATE:  06/30/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Vacation: Day ONE...

     Spent the entire day reading. At 7:30 this morning, I blew the dust off my hardcover copy of The Secrets of My Life by Caitlyn Jenner, made a cup of coffee, got comfortable on the couch and began to read.
     Now, I don't consider myself a fast reader. Depending on the font size, I usually average about 15 to 20 pages per hour. This book, however, was a very quick read... even for me. I read the whole thing - all 320 pages of it - in one sitting of 10 hours. That's a whopping 32 pages per hour; definitely a record for me.
     A couple years ago, when the "famous" issue of Vanity Fair hit the stands with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover, I was completely transfixed by her. I re-read that article three or four times; I watched Diane Sawyer's interview with "Bruce" every time it aired; I watched the ESPY Awards to see/hear Caitlyn's speech; I was a huge fan of her show I AM CAIT; I spent hours on her web site reading all her blog posts and the thousands of replies from her fans; and I even started watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians for more coverage on Cait's life. Then, once her show was cancelled, she basically disappeared from the spot-light and my interest in her began to fade as well.
     When I heard the news about Caitlyn writing a book about her life I was excited! It was released in mid-April of 2017 and I bought my copy two weeks later when I was in Hamburg visiting The Friar. I thought it was going to be an in-depth recap of her transition where she'd share personal details of her life before and after... and, in a way, it was exactly that... but, overall, I think she spent way to much time talking about her Decathlon days during the 1976 Olympics. I mean, c'mon, this is 2018; does anyone actually care about the Olympic Games that happened 42 years ago?
     I'm not saying that winning the Olympics isn't a big deal. It is; it's HUGE... and it made "Bruce Jenner" a household name -- BACK THEN. However, in a book by Caitlyn and about Caitlyn, even though their pasts are one in the same, I don't think the 1976 Olympics holds much interest for her fans of today. I think ONE chapter devoted to that would have been plenty... but she kept harping on it throughout the entire book.
     I'm 48 years old now... so I was only SIX in 1976 when Bruce was named the "Greatest Athlete In the World." I was too young to care about it then; and it was too long ago for me to care about it now. I didn't dish out thirty bucks to read about the Olympics, LOL. So, in that respect, I was kind'a disappointed with this book. I'm glad I finally read it, yes, but I don't feel as if I actually gained anything from reading it. It was well written and it was interesting enough to keep me turning the pages... but everything she covered in the book was already covered [in greater detail] in her reality show I AM CAIT so, basically, other than Cait "cashing in" from a rather large advance from the publishing company to write it, the book is pointless.
     Also, one more thing -- now that I've finally read it -- I've gotta mention that I found absolutely NOTHING in this book that was negative, or derogatory, about any of the Kardashians. Ever since the book was released, the Kardashian family has had nothing good to say about it. They've all claimed it's full of lies, secrets, and hurtful things about them..... and they're all full of shit. There's not one line in this book where Caitlyn talks about them with anything less than love and respect. There's obviously two sides to every story, sure, but if the Kardashian's are so worried about how they're perceived in Cait's book, then perhaps they should rethink their own reality show and just keep their mouths shut!

ENTRY #670
DATE:  06/29/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Nine days off...

     At 5:00pm this evening, the sound of the time-clock at work as we all punched out was music to my ears. It's official... I am on vacation! I don't go back to work until July 9th. I have nine full days of leisure ahead of me and I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with myself.
     As I've already mentioned, my trip to Hamburg, NY has been postponed until Labor Day because of the whole spider bite fiasco...
     I'm still experiencing some side-effects from the antibiotics so I don't dare venture too far from home...
     The weather forecast for the upcoming week sounds dreadful. Starting tomorrow, the majority of the Northeast is under the threat of dangerous HEAT WAVE conditions, with temperatures climbing into the mid-to-high nineties...
     So, as of right now, it appears my entire vacation will be spent on my couch in front of the air-conditioner either reading, watching TV or movies, exploring YouTube, and napping. I'm kind'a disappointed. Granted, a "Couch Vacation" is a great opportunity for rest and relaxation... but I was hoping to do a little more than just lying around my apartment. I suspect that, by Tuesday, boredom will set in and I'll be climbing the walls with Cabin Fever. I dunno. We'll see...

ENTRY #669
DATE:  06/26/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Spider Bite Update...

     When I got home from work this evening, there was a message on my answering machine from MED-NOW with my test results. The Doctor was correct -- it WAS a "Sac Spider" that bit me! And I tested negative for Lyme Disease; and negative for Powassan (which I've never even heard of before but, apparently, it's a new tick-related disease). I didn't know they were going to test me for Lyme but, I guess, since I told them about all the deer ticks I had gotten into a couple weeks ago, they took it upon themselves to be sure. That's cool! Better to be safe than sorry, right?
     I also heard back from The Friar. He said that Labor Day weekend is fine! WOOHOOO! I just booked my new reservations. I'll be arriving on Saturday, September 1rst, and leaving on Monday, September 3rd to come home -- only three days, two nights -- which is a day shorter than the visit would have been this weekend but that's OK; at least I'll be able to see him so I'm happy, happy, happy!!!
     Had another run-in with an insect this morning! One of those gigantic misquitos got tangled in my hair as I was opening the door to my shop. Good grief!
     What is it with all these bugs lately? Back in May I got bit on each arm by an unidentified bug (or bugs) as I was taking pictures of the white, fluffy dandelions. Two weeks ago I was covered with ticks in that old cemetery in Trumbull. Then the spider-bite fiasco last week; and now the giant misquito today...
     Hmmm. Instead of using my scented body-sprays or perfume when I'm getting ready for work, I think I'm just going to spray myself head-to-toe with DEET Bug Repellent from now on!

ENTRY #668
DATE:  06/24/18 (Sunday)

     Yes, I know the above subject is a line from the movie Forrest Gump but in this case I am NOT quoting the movie; something actually DID bite me --- something I have since dubbed "The Little Bastard!!!"
     I am currently living in this house alone. The first and second floors are vacant, waiting for the new tenants to move in some time in August. The first floor apartment has been thoroughly cleaned and painted and is, basically, ready to accept new tenants now. However, the second floor apartment is a mess. It's still being renovated/repaired from the last tenants that moved out.
     Thursday evening, when I got home from work, I took a tour of the second floor apartment to see what kind of progress has been made. It's a disaster. The kitchen has been gutted; the walls are covered with spackle; numerous windows have to be replaced; all the moulding and base-boards have been ripped out; a ceiling-fan is hanging precariously from its wires jutting out of the ceiling in one of the bedrooms; there are new light fixtures laying around that need to be put in; doors are off their hinges; there's a brand new refrigerator standing [temporarily] in the middle of the living room waiting to be installed, and there are paint cans, brushes and paint-rollers everywhere. The place is a wreck, LOL.
     Once my self-guided tour was over, I climbed the stairs to my own apartment. Half way up to my door, I let out a loud YELP!. Below my knee, on my right leg, there was an extremely sharp pain all of a sudden and I dropped everything and began swatting at my leg. I thought I had just been stung by a bee or a wasp of some kind. I didn't see anything on me and, after all the swatting and flailing about, I didn't see anything flying around in the hallway so I figured I probably killed whatever it was -- either that or it was still trapped INSIDE my pant-leg. I flew up the stairs into my apartment and tore off my clothes. All I found was a small red welt just below my knee. I shook out my pants and turned them inside-out and shook them again. Still nothing. Whatever "it" was, it had somehow vanished in a matter of seconds... OR it was still on me somewhere. Just in case, I took a quick shower to rinse "it" away. By the time I dried myself, the sharp pain was gone, replaced by a throbbing, stinging/burning sensation and the welt was a little bigger. It felt just like a "bee sting" but I found no "stinger" left behind; and I also couldn't see a prick-mark that stingers sometimes leave in your skin. By the time I went to bed that night, the stinging/burning sensation was almost gone but it was still throbbing.
     Friday morning, as I was getting ready for work, there was still a dull throb and the welt hadn't changed. It was still red but it wasn't any bigger so I figured that was a good sign...
     Um, WRONG!!!
     By Friday evening, when I got home from work and changed into my pajamas, I was kind'a surprised by how it looked -- the center was BRIGHT pink (almost a neon shade but not quite), surrounded by a hideous brownish-yellow color, which was then surrounded by a very pale gray/green color. The throbbing was completely gone but it was itchy, a little swollen, and quite painful when I touched it. When I saw the "rings" of color I kind'a freaked out a little bit. I kept thinking about all the deer ticks I got into a couple weeks ago in that little cemetery where I found Nero Hawley's grave and I went into FULL-PANIC mode, LOL. I was, like, OMG, I'VE GOT LYME DISEASE!
     I dug around in my medicine cabinet and found a tube of Bacitraycin Plus and a tube of Maximum Strength Cortaid. Since the Cortaid is an anti-itch cream I picked that one and rubbed in a generous dose. Knowing that I was definitely bitten by some kind of creepy-crawly, I decided if it didn't look any better by morning, I'd head over to MED-NOW (the walk-in clinic around the corner from my house) and have them take a look at it. Until then, there was really nothing else I could do but keep an eye on it. Before I went to bed, I rubbed in another dose of cream and actually broke out a ruler to measure it -- the diameter (at that time) was almost an inch-and-a-half.
     Yesterday morning (Saturday), it looked even worse -- the colors were darker and it was a little bigger, now measuring a smidgen over two inches across. I called MED-NOW to get their weekend hours and, thankfully, they open at 9:00am on Saturdays... so at 8:45 I was already sitting in the parking lot waiting for their doors to open!
     When I told them, "Something bit me, but I don't know what," I was ushered into EXAM ROOM #1 immediately. Five minutes later the PA came in and I told her the entire story. When she finally saw the "bite mark" the first thing out of her mouth was, "Yeah, that doesn't look good at all. It's not Lyme Disease, so don't worry about that. The rings from Lyme don't appear this soon; it usually takes a week or two for that to occur. This looks more like a spider bite to me. The Doctor will be in shortly," and she left me all alone to fret over the words SPIDER BITE.
     Granted, I was definitely relieved to hear it wasn't Lyme but totally grossed out by the spider bite part. I absolutely HATE spiders and the thought of a spider actually crawling up into my pant-leg, ON MY BARE SKIN, was appalling to me! Oh my god, the horror!!! Twenty minutes later, when the Doctor finally came in and asked me how I was doing, I was so worked up I gave him full consent to amputate! I announced, "She just said 'spider bite' and then left me alone in here! I hate spiders! I am so grossed out right now. Take the leg, Doc, just take it!" Not expecting that kind of answer to his How are you today? question, he broke out in laughter -- which was cool; it lightened the mood somewhat -- but I was thinking to myself, Um, I'm not really kidding, Doc, but I'm glad YOU find it amusing!
     Anyway... I told him the whole story -- my tour of the vacant apartment, about the sharp pain, how I thought I had been stung by a bee, the red welt immediately following the pain, the change in color(s) and size, and about the Cortaid cream. As I was explaining everything, he poked and prodded it, swabbed it with alcohol, then scraped off some skin cells with a scalpel and put them in a little jar. He measured it (just like I did), then he took two vials of my blood to send out for tests along with the skin cells. Then he strapped on a pair of Space Man-looking magnifying glasses to take a closer look. He stared at it for what seemed like an eternity and finally said, "I'm going to extract a sample for positive identification, but the signature of this bite looks like a Sac Spider."
     "A Sack Spider? What's that? Is it actually poisonous? Like, dangerous?"
     "Dangerous to a point, yes, but not deadly, don't worry, you'll be fine. Some people don't react at all, some people do. This isn't severe but it does appear to be slightly infected. You'll need antibiotics..."
     "I've never heard of a Sack Spider. What's it look like? Is it common? Do you see this a lot? This is so gross. I hate spiders."
     As he unwrapped a hypodermic needle he explained. "It's sac, spelled S-A-C, no K. Broad-Faced Sac Spider. Or Wide-Faced, same thing. They're a common ground-dwelling spider, meaning they don't spin webs; they live in dark places - usually outside but, like all spiders, they do get into people's homes. They've got a gray body, usually have a dark brown or black head, with red and yellow legs. I'm sure you've probably seen, and killed, quite a few of them without even thinking about it. This might pinch a little," he said as he stuck the needle into the middle of the bite-radius.
     "How can you tell what kind of spider did this just by looking at my leg?" I asked. "I thought, with spider bites, you'd either need the spider itself or the actual venom to tell. You said 'signature' before. Does that mean every spider's bite is unique, like fingerprints?"
     "Unique to its species, but not unique to individual spiders. Sac Spiders are very common around here, they're all over the place. I've seen bites like this before. I'll show you," and he grabbed a magnifying glass. "See, right here, these three tiny red dots," and he pointed to them with the tip of the hypodermic needle. "Each time I've seen these, the results have all come back the same."
     "Yeah, I don't need the magnifying glass. I saw those last night when I was taking pictures of it," I said.
     "You took pictures," he chuckled, "that was a really good idea! If they're any good, I'd like copies if you wouldn't mind. I'll put'em on the wall in here, up there with the tick, flea, misquito and fly-bite charts."
     "They're not that good, I don't think. The dots don't really show up that well. But... um... these dots are unique to this Sac Spider?"
     "Unique to the species, yes. All these samples I've just taken will still be sent to the Lab for proper analysis but since I already know the Sac Spider thrives around here, and because I've seen this before, I'm confident that's what we're dealing with."
     "How long 'til we know for sure? Do you use a local Lab or am I gonna have to wait weeks to hear back from the CDC?"
     "No, no... it's local. They'll go out today and you'll hear from me on Tuesday. Since this is a reported insect bite that needed treatment a report, along with the Lab results, will be filed with the CDC for statistic charting but, other than that, they won't need to be involved. Don't worry, you'll be fine, you get to keep your leg," he laughed.
     "Cool! I've grown rather attached to it through the years so that's good to know! What do I do now? You mentioned antibiotics... is that it? No smelly ointments or topical creams for the itch?"
     "You can continue using the Cortaid for the itch; or Benadryl if you'd prefer. I'm giving you a prescription for Amoxicillin - for the infection and inflammation - 500 milligrams every twelve hours for fourteen days. Take the first dose right away and the second one before bed tonight. Starting tomorrow morning, keep them as close to twelve hours apart as you can."
     "OK. I use Walgreens. Can you call it in? It's always faster that way. I don't want to sit there for two hours waiting."
     "No problem, I'll do that right now. You're all set, unless you have any more questions...."
     "Nope, I'm good. Thanks!"
     Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in Walgreens... and I was home by 11:00am. Just like the Doctor said, I took the first pill as soon as I got home. I took the second one around 10 o'clock last night. And, this morning, I took the third one at 7am. So... for the next 12 days it'll be a 7am-7pm regimen until July 6th. That's fine... I'm cool with that.
     What I'm NOT cool with is the diarrhea I've had ALL DAY from the damn antibiotics. At first, I thought it was from my dinner last night (I picked up a tuna fish sandwich from the so-called "deli" at the gas station up the street) and it began about an hour after I ate. This morning, I also woke up feeling a bit nauseous but that went away once I had my coffee. Again, I thought it was probably the "gas station tuna" causing it. However, I've just looked up Amoxicillin on the drugs.com web site and, sure enough, diarrhea AND nausea are both listed as side effects (among many other things).
     I called MED-NOW to ask about these side effects. My greatest concern is this -- I have to take this stuff for twelve more days. Does that mean I'm gonna have diarrhea/nausea the entire time, or is it going to go away once my system adjusts to the drugs? The only answer they could offer me was, "Some people experience the side effects, some people don't. Sometimes the side effects go away, sometimes they don't. Sometimes the side effects are mild, sometimes they're severe. Everyone is different. You'll just have to ride it out and wait and see what happens." That was definitely NOT the answer I was hoping for.
     I'm actually quite upset right now!
     ...I was OK with the stinging pain.
     ...I was OK with the red welt.
     ...I was OK with the throbbing.
     ...I'm OK with the itch. (The Cortaid is helping some, but the itch is constant!)
     ...I'm OK with the pink/yellow/brown/green/gray coloration on my leg.
     ...I'm OK with the mild nausea, since it seems to disappear as soon as I eat or drink something.
     ...I'm OK with the diarrhea because, y'know, as they say, shit happens. (ha-ha!)
     ...Hell, at this point, I'm even OK with the fact that it was a SPIDER that bit me. I'm over it...
     But I am NOT OK with the fact that I just cancelled my trip to Hamburg to see The Friar. Since there is no way to know, for certain, if I'm going to be struck down with diarrhea and/or nausea for the next twelve days, I'm just not willing to travel. I don't want to risk driving all the way out there and feeling sick the entire time. I don't want to spend four days worrying about where the closest bathroom is. Under those circumstances, I wouldn't be the best company to be around and I don't want to subject The Friar to my dismal antibiotic-induced state. That wouldn't be fun for him at all... which is the whole point of my going out there in the first place, to have fun! So... I've called and cancelled my reservations at the hotel and I've emailed The Friar requesting a Rain-Check for Labor Day weekend instead. I haven't heard back from him yet so I'm praying that weekend will be OK with him.
     I'm NOT happy... at all. I was so excited about seeing him! I've been counting down the days for the last two months. I've been packed and ready to go since last Sunday. I was due to hit Hamburg on June 30th, only six days from today; now I'm forced to wait another, what(?), ten weeks??? And, who knows, he could already have plans that weekend so it might be even longer. I was so looking forward to spending a couple days with him. I am crushed. This totally sucks!!!
     And here's "The Little Bastard" that caused this whole thing -- or, at least, one of its gazillion relatives. (I chose this picture since the penny will give you a good idea of the spider's size)...

     Ewww! Gross! Just looking at the photograph, I shudder with repulsion at the thought of that nasty, little S-O-B crawling up my leg and sinking its fangs into my flesh! Oh! My! God!!! It's SOOOOOO disgusting!!! And, in all honesty, I don't even know - for sure - how or where the spider got on me in the first place. I'm just assuming it was during my tour of the second floor apartment since the bite occurred immediately after that. It could have hitched a ride on my shoe from outside; it could have crawled onto me from somewhere inside JEEP ROMULUS. Hell, it could've been on me all day at work for all I know... but all those possibilities are just too horrifying to wrap my mind around, LOL.
     Anyway... here's the damage "The Little Bastard" did to my leg...

     It's already starting to look better thanks to the Amoxicillin... and the white arrows are pointing to the three tiny red dots that the Doctor referred to as the "signature" bite mark.
     Dammit! Why did it have to bite my leg? And why did it have to be now, six days before my vacation?!?!?
     ...No visit with The Friar.
     ...No meals at Uncle Joe's Diner.
     ...No coming home with a camera full of photographs.
     ...No cemetery-hopping to visit the graves of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Fr. Baker, and Lucille Ball.
     ...No hotel.
     ...No luxurious king-sized bed.
     My vacation has been reduced to a "stay-cation," where I'll be stuck at home wiping my butt all week. Wonderful. I can hardly wait...
     Yep.... I AM NOT HAPPY!!!
     Asshole spider!

ENTRY #667
DATE:  06/16/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  A visit with Mama Jane...

     Had a fun day today with Adrienne! I picked her up at 7:00am and off we went to Worthington, MA to visit my Mom (aka "Mama Jane"). We arrived at 9:30 this morning and stayed until 6:00pm. Most of the day was spent sitting around the kitchen table talking (and laughing!).... but we also took Bailey for a walk up the road which was nice. I brought along the camera (as always) and managed to get a few cool pictures of some road-side flowers. My favorite shot, though, was of my Mom, Bailey, and Adrienne walking up the middle of the dirt road -- tranquility at its best!
     Lunch consisted of toasted Meat-Ball Grinders and potato chips.... and then dessert was a surprise birthday cake for Adrienne that my Mom made; it was triple chocolate! Chocolate cake with a chocolate pudding filling and iced with chocolate whipped cream! It was awesome!!!
     On the way home, we stopped at the diner for dinner and I ordered the California Cobb salad. When it was placed in front of me I had to take a picture of it 'cause it was just so darn pretty!
     It was a good day! :-)

ENTRY #666
DATE:  06/11/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  "Yo, Adrienne!"

     WOOHOOOOOOO!!! Just a quick shout-out to wish my best friend, Adrienne, a very...

     ...and many, many more!!!

     Hmm, I just noticed that entry number - "666" - it's funny how things work out, ain't it?

     Somebody remind me... what was the name of "Rosemary's Baby" again??? LOL!

     All kidding aside -- Adrienne, you have been the greatest friend for as long as I can remember! I don't know what I'd ever do without you, girl! I can't imagine my life without you in it! You're like a sister to me and I love you very much! I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

ENTRY #665
DATE:  06/07/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  In full bloom!

ENTRY #664
DATE:  06/03/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Hero Nero & Deer Ticks!!!

ENTRY #663
DATE:  05/29/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Famous neighbors??? (LOL!)

ENTRY #662
DATE:  05/19/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  New photo album!!!

ENTRY #661
DATE:  05/17/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Words of Wisdom...

ENTRY #660
DATE:  05/14/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  Quick! Make a wish!

     Beautiful day today! Great weather! As soon as I got home from work this evening, I changed my clothes, grabbed my camera and back out I went! Today's mission??? Fluffy, white dandelions!
     Found some good ones.... and ended up taking about fifty photographs before I was satisfied. Here's a couple of them. I've never been a huge fan of "Sepia Tone" images but, when I converted the photo in the center, I was impressed with the result. The sepia gives it a softer appearance and a warm glow...

     And, YES, I stole that line from the 1945 Bogie & Bacall movie To Have and Have Not. Even though there's no whistling involved, it seemed appropriate for the subject matter, LOL!

ENTRY #659
DATE:  05/13/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Barred Owl photos...

ENTRY #658
DATE:  05/12/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Spent the day at home...

     Well... my travel plans changed. Originally, I was going to make the trip up to Worthington, MA to visit my Mom and step-father today. However, my dinner last night didn't agree with me and I woke up this morning with a rather severe case of diarrhea! Under those circumstances, a road-trip was out of the question so I called my Mom this morning at 7:00am and told her I'd be there tomorrow.
     I spent my day, instead, planted in front of this computer for about nine hours converting YouTube music videos into MP3 files for my player! Had a blast doin' it too! Found lots of great songs... over 50 of them, in fact. I just finished loading them all onto the MP3 player so my trip tomorrow should be lots of fun!
     My father called me today around 2 o'clock. He was pretty surprised to find me at home since he knew I was planning to head to Massachusetts. Once I explained the situation he kind'a chuckled and said, "Yeah, I don't blame you for staying home! Better for the seat-cushions in that new Jeep too, I imagine!" Ha, ha, ha, very funny, Dad. ;-)
     Anyway, he called to let me know he was home from the hospital... again. Hopefully it'll be FOR GOOD this time. I've got my fingers crossed!
     Oh, another thing I did today.... I've recently read two fantastic books! One was The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead; and the other one was Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by, well, Frederick Douglass obviously, LOL.
     From the research I've already completed for my "Famous Graves" scrapbook, I've learned that both Harriet Tubman AND Frederick Douglass are buried in the state of New York somewhere. So I did that today too. I got on GoogleMaps and checked out the cemeteries they're in and where they're located. Turns out Harriet Tubman is in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, NY (off I-90w, exit 40) and Frederick Douglass is in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY (off I-90w, exit 45) -- and I pass both those exits when I travel to Hamburg to visit The Friar. Very cool!!!
     Sooooo.... I think when I head out that way in July, I'm gonna leave my house a little earlier than I usually do so I can hit both those cemeteries. It'll add a few extra hours to the trip but that's OK. I just have to figure out the travel-time math so I know when to leave my house. If I find it's going to cut into my day in Hamburg too much, I might plan a separate day-trip to do the cemeteries only but, for now, the plan is to do it all during one trip. We'll see.

ENTRY #657
DATE:  05/09/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  My Dad is back in the hospital...

     Well, let's see, where to begin...
     On Sunday, when my Dad woke up and got out of bed, he noticed some blood on his T-shirt. When he wrestled himself out of it to take a closer look at his chest in the mirror, blood started trickling down his torso from the new incision the Cardiologist made two weeks ago when he was performing the "exploratory surgery" (trying to find what caused the lump around the pace-maker). Dad couldn't get it to stop bleeding so he called 9-1-1 for an ambulance. They brought him to the Emergency Room and he's been at the hospital ever since.
     On Monday, a Nurse happened to mention to my Dad that he tested positive [back in April] for Hepatitis C.... which shocked my Dad 'cause that's the first he'd heard of it! That's obviously a concern too, however, the internal bleeding - right now - is the main focus. My Dad and I, both, are assuming - at this point - that the "Hep C" result is an error since neither one of us can figure out how he could have contracted Hepatitis. He's had no blood transfusions, he's received no donor organs, he has no tattoos, he doesn't use needles of any kind, etc., etc., etc. Once he's out of the hospital for good, he plans on having more blood tests to find out for sure.
     Earlier this morning, the Cardiologist performed a "dye" test on him. They injected some dye into my Dad's arm, hoping that when the dye reached my Dad's chest, they'd be able to see where he's bleeding internally so they could go in and repair it. However, before they performed the procedure, they warned my Dad that it might not work. If the bleeding is located somewhere behind the pace-maker, they said, that area wouldn't show up on their monitors.
     And, of course, once the test was over, they saw no bleeding anywhere... which means it's either stopped or it is behind the pace-maker and they just couldn't see it. So, we know no more now than we did yesterday. For now, they've got another "pressure bandage" on his chest and we have no idea, yet, what the next step is or how long he's going to be there. This is very discouraging! He's bleeding internally but they have no idea where or what's causing it!
     I'm going to western Massachusetts on Saturday to visit my Mom and step-father for the day and, after that, I have three choices...
     1. I can drive to New Hampshire when I leave my Mom's house to visit my Dad for a couple hours in the hospital Saturday evening. That's a five-hour drive. Then, drive home Saturday night. That would be approximately ten hours of driving in ONE day.
     2. I can spend Saturday in MA and come home. Then drive up to NH (and back) on Sunday.... which totals 11 hours of driving in two days.
     3. I stick to my original plan of just going to MA on Saturday... and put off the trip to NH to visit my Dad until we actually know something.
     I have absolutely NO IDEA what I'm gonna do...
     I spoke to my Mom earlier this evening and she said she'd totally understand if I went to New Hampshire INSTEAD of visiting them. That is an option, I suppose, but it's a lousy one. I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving -- that was six months ago! And with my step-father not doing well, I think it's important that I get there and spend some time with them. But... I know my Dad would love to have some company in the hospital........
     It's times like this when I wish I had siblings... because, I gotta tell ya, having aging parents who live in two different states is a royal pain in the ass for ONE person to deal with. I could really use a "support system" of siblings right now but, until I manage to figure out a way to clone myself, I'm all I've got. Super!

ENTRY #656
DATE:  05/04/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Have trouble relaxing or falling asleep???

Give ASMR a try! It's "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response" and it's pretty cool. Here's a brief description I just swiped from Wiki...

     ASMR signifies the subjective experience of "low-grade euphoria" characterized by "a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin." It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic or visual stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attention control.

     Have you ever noticed that the sound of pattering rain relaxes you? How 'bout the rhythmic sound of the ocean? Or thunder? Or the crackling of a fire? Maybe it's the sound of someone writing? Or someone tapping their nails on the table? Do they calm you and/or make you sleepy? If they do, those are your "trigger" sounds and that's ASMR at work!
     There's thousands of ASMR videos on YouTube but here are three that work exceptionally well for me. All are by the same guy, ASMRSurge, and he's awesome! His sounds are creative, soothing, and very "tingly." I've found that after I watch one of these, I fall asleep MUCH faster than usual; and I haven't been tossing n' turning as much, either!

ASMR Hidden Gold - ASMRSurge - YouTube

ASMR Head-Mic Tapping & Scratching - ASMRSurge - YouTube

ASMR Rolling You Straight to Sleep - ASMRSurge - YouTube

Nighty 'night... and sweet dreams! :-)

ENTRY #655
DATE:  05/02/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Dove's Daily Dish DISCLAIMER...

     Dove wishes it to be known that no pigs were harmed, abused, or mistreated in any way, shape, or form in that last blog entry! ;-)
     Colloquialisms are cool.... even though a great deal of them don't make much sense when you actually think about them. Take "Happier than a pig in shit!" for instance. Personally, I have never known a pig who garners any joy at all from rolling around in its own fecal matter. Mud??? Yes! Shit??? No!
     Pigs are actually very clean animals and also highly intelligent. And, believe it or not, some pigs are so finicky about their food they'll actually wash it off before eating it! Taking those three things into account, the phrase "Happier than a pig in shit!" makes no sense whatsoever.... and I'm sure most pigs would be highly offended by it!
     I have no idea where the phrase originated but I suspect it was borne out of pure human ignorance/misunderstanding.
     Pig manure is one of the most foul smells out there! It's very different from horse manure and/or cow manure. And, yes, I am speaking from experience in this matter! The stench generated from a pig farm can be smelled for miles, even years after the farm has been closed and abandoned. If you ever happen to visit a working pig farm the stench will be so strong, so enveloping, you'll think you're tasting it - not just smelling it - and it will also permeate your clothing, forcing you to suffer the pungent aroma for hours after leaving, LOL.
     I think the STENCH is the root of the "Happier than a pig in shit" colloquialism. When people see a pig rolling around in the mud to cool off, I think they just assume it's "shit" the pig is wallowing in. They see a pig covered in a thick, brown, lumpy substance - and the surrounding stench is so overwhelming - the correlation between the senses (sight & smell, combined) generates a reflexive thought process which, simply put, is "BROWN = SHIT."
     Animals aren't that stupid, though. There's another phrase that many of us have used (or have, at least, heard) before and that is, "Don't shit where you eat/sleep." Granted, to us humans, that phrase usually alludes to something else entirely but, in the animal kingdom, it's taken quite literally...
     Unless an animal is sick or injured, they will never shit where they eat or where they sleep. Whether it's livestock, cats, dogs, rodents, birds, elephants, deer, even fish and snakes (just to name a few), they ALL designate a specified "toilet area" within their living space. Pigs are no different. In most cases, the pigs' "shit hole" is located at one end of the sty, while their cooling/healing "mud hole" is located at the opposite end of the sty. It's just the logical, "natural order" of things, even in an animal's mind.
     And let's not forget the fact that their sense of smell is thousands of times greater than ours. With one quick snort, a pig (or any animal) can easily determine, "Hey, that's poop, don't eat that! Hey, that's poop, not bedding!" If we find the smell of poop (or even just a fart) offensive, can you imagine how offensive it is to them?!?! Again, they're not stupid and, under normal circumstances, they will avoid their own waste.
     Why would an animal's bathroom habits be any different than ours? Unless WE are sick or injured, humans - ever since the "beginning of time" - have adhered to that same rule, THANK GOODNESS! And, trust me, if the day ever comes where I've taken a shit in my microwave or in my bed, and I'm caught rolling around in it gleefully, I DEMAND that someone out there either has me "committed" or, at the very least, takes me to the Emergency Room!!!
     Pigs are smart. Pigs are clean. They don't roll around in their own feces! They just got stuck with a bum rap... and now we have the phrase "Happier than a pig in shit!"
     Even though I know it makes no sense, it remains one of my favorite colloquialisms. Another favorite is, "Tighter than a bull's ass in fly time." Although, if you've ever spent any time on a cattle ranch, you know exactly how literal that one is!
     For more information about our BOARishly fascinating friends, please visit
BBC- Earth - The Truth About Pigs.

ENTRY #654
DATE:  05/01/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Happy, Happy, Happy!!!


And this is why......
     My step-father hasn't fallen since April 11th. So... that's almost three solid weeks of him remaining on his feet!
     My [biological] father came home from the hospital on Saturday and, so far (knock on wood), is doing pretty good. He has to visit the Infusion Center once a day for the next two weeks for an injection of antibiotics to fight off any possible infections, which is a little inconvenient for him, but he's thrilled to be OUT of the hospital. He sounds good and he says he feels good so things are looking up in that neck of the woods.
     Met Adrienne for dinner at the Riverdale Diner in Shelton last Friday evening after work. She does NOT need surgery so that's awesome!
     I called the Jeep dealership on my lunch-hour today and scheduled an appointment for an oil change. They're also going to take a look at that tire with the slow leak in it. I had my fingers crossed, hoping for an appointment for THIS Saturday (the 5th) and, oddly, they actually had an open slot for 1:30pm! Woohoooo!
     I managed to get both my air-conditioners put in the windows on Sunday so I'm ready for summer!
     Today is May 1rst and it appears that Spring has finally sprung! It was 74 degrees today with lovely breezes from Long Island Sound. I left my windows open all day long and the cats are very happy, lounging on the window-sills!
     I've just made plans to visit my Mom and step-father on Saturday, May 12th. Mother's Day is the 13th and my step-father's birthday is the 20th so this visit is to celebrate both. I'm excited --- I haven't seen them since Thanksgiving!
     I'm sitting here sipping on a large FROZEN COFFEE with Whipped Cream from Dunkin' Donuts! Yummy, yummy!
     And, as soon as I post this, I'm hitting the couch to read for the rest of the evening. I'm in the middle of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and it's awesome!
     Life is good!!!

ENTRY #653
DATE:  04/27/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  Fabulous Fred...

     :::sigh:::  I can watch this guy dance all day long.....

Fred Astaire's Best Scene - A Damsel in Distress - YouTube

Fred Astaire Cuts Loose: 1970 Oscars - YouTube

Fred Astaire Amazing Solo - The Hollywood Palace Dance Durector Hermes Pan - YouTube

Fred & Ginger - Tap Dance Routine from the film "Roberta" - YouTube

Fred & Ginger (Tap Dance) - YouTube

Swing Time - Rogers and Astaire - YouTube

They Can't Take That Away From Me - Fred & Ginger - YouTube

Fred Astaire & Eleanor Powell - Jukebox Dance - YouTube

Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell - 'Begin the Beguine' Tap Dance Duet - YouTube

Fred Astaire & Rita Hayworth - The Shorty George - YouTube


ENTRY #652
DATE:  04/24/18 (Tuesday)

     The slow-leak in my tire is temporarily fixed. I stopped on my way home from work yesterday and added a few pounds of air. I'll keep my eye on it for the next couple of weeks and if the problem persists, I'll just bring JEEP ROMULUS to Town Fair Tire and have them deal with it.
     The plumber was here Sunday morning, right on schedule, to unclog my kitchen/bathroom sinks. He fixed'em both in about an hour. It's so much easier now getting ready for work without having the bathroom sink backing up. NICE!
     Talked to my Mom on Sunday evening.... my step-father still looks terrible with his two black eyes, she said, but he's doing a little better. She was also in a better mood because she had just gotten home from taking Bailey swimming. She had fun.... and Bailey had the time of her life playing, splashing, and swimming with the other dogs that were there. It's too bad my Mom didn't get any pictures. I would've liked to have seen that!
     Talked to Adrienne last night too. She's doing OK; not great, but OK. The pain meds and the antibiotics seem to be helping but.... she might need surgery, they're not sure yet. She's got some more healing to do before they can make that decision. It's just too soon to tell at this point. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her!!!
     My father is still in the hospital. They've got a large pressure-bandage on his chest to help drain the remaining blood out of the lump that had formed.... and his blood platelets are low... and one vial of blood (out of four drawn) came back "contaminated" (with what they don't know), so they've got him on an IV-drip of antibiotics to make sure there's no infection... so they want to keep him a while longer. Not sure when he'll be discharged but, as far as I'm concerned, the longer they keep him there, the better off he'll be!
     I did NOT make the trip to New Hampshire to visit him after all... and it's a good thing I didn't because I had another mild EMS attack on Sunday. Actually, I don't think it was another one; I think it was just "lingering effects" from the attack I had on Friday. As soon as I felt that achy sensation in my chest, I took a couple Aleve Gel-Tabs right away and stayed VERY STILL on the couch and that seemed to do the trick. If I had made the trip to New Hampshire, I have no idea what I would've done if the pain hit while I was driving. That would've been terrible so, thank goodness, I had decided against it!
     On a cheerier note, when I got home from work this evening, I made my hotel reservations for my trip to Hamburg during the first week of July. I figured I'd stay the same length of time I did last year (4 days, 3 nights) since that seemed to work out pretty well for both The Friar and myself. I'll be arriving on Saturday, June 30th; and leaving on Tuesday, July 3rd. I'm very happy with the rates I got too. Last year the hotel cost me almost 550 bucks, LOL. This time it's only $317.32. Wooohooooo!!!
     The count-down has already begun --- 67 days 'til I hit Hamburg --- and I can't wait!

ENTRY #651
DATE:  04/20/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  It's amazing how STRESS affects the body!

     This has been an absolute horror of a week...
     I've got a slow leak in one of the tires on JEEP ROMULUS that I have to take care of...
     I also have to schedule an appointment soon to have his oil changed...
     I've got piles of laundry accumulating around here that I've got to deal with...
     I haven't done any house-cleaning in months so that has to be dealt with at some point...
     My kitchen sink and bathroom sink have both been backing up so I've got a plumber coming at 9:00am tomorrow morning...
     The weather still sucks -- yesterday morning, when I went to work, it was only 31 degrees. Good grief! I usually turn my heat OFF for the season in mid-March but I've been unable to do that yet 'cause it's been so cold...
     The bills have to get paid; errands have to be made; I have to get my grocery shopping done, etc., etc., etc...
     All this stuff is no big deal. They're all part of the normal "Daily Grind" that are unavoidable. That's life. However, there have been some other things going on this week that aren't so normal.
     Last Saturday, the 14th, the weather was actually "fair" enough for me to have all the windows open in this apartment. It was a little chilly but it was so nice to get some fresh air in here it was worth it. And all day long my cats were acting funny but I couldn't figure out why. They'd sit in the windows for a bit, then they'd both go hide for a while. Then, back to the windows for a few minutes, then they'd both come and circle around me as if they were trying to tell me something. I got up numerous times and checked out the windows but I couldn't figure out what their problem was. I figured it was probably just the road construction going on out there that was upsetting them....
     Sunday, the weather was terrible (cold, wet, windy) so my windows were closed up tight once again and the cats were fine, acting like their normal selves. Sunday evening, I called Bella Napoli's and ordered pizza for dinner. As I was waiting for it to be delivered, I happened to look out the window at an unusual angle because I thought I saw the Bella's delivery vehicle coming down the street and I wanted to see if it was pulling over in front of my house. In doing so, something caught my eye on the sidewalk. Someone had spread out a newspaper on the ground... and there was a cat laying right in the middle of the newspaper. At first, my mind couldn't even register the sight. I was, like, "What the hell am I looking at? Is that a cat? Why is there a cat laying on a newspaper? And why is it in front of my house?"
     Apparently, it was hit by a car as it was crossing the street and either the person who hit it, or perhaps a witness, felt sorry for the little cat and didn't want it to die in the middle of the street... so they spread out some newspapers and gently placed its broken body on the newspapers -- in front of MY house -- where it suffered in agonizing pain and fear, went into shock, and then died.
     What REALLY pisses me off is the fact that there is a VETERINARY CLINIC diagonally across the street from my house!!! The son-of-a-bitch who hit the cat (or the witness) COULD HAVE taken the poor thing to the Vet's office and either saved its life, or - at the very least - ended its suffering. But, no, they left it on the sidewalk instead. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH SOME PEOPLE?!?!? God only knows HOW LONG that poor creature suffered before it finally died.
     And then I realized that's - most likely - the reason MY cats were acting so funny the day before when I had all the windows open. They could either hear it crying in pain, or they could smell its fear, and they were trying to tell me that someone was hurt out there and needed help!
     Not knowing what else to do, in a state of FURY and HEART-BREAK, I bundled up and went outside with a Hefty-bag and gloves - in the wind and pouring rain, no less - and managed to get the poor cat wrapped up in the garbage bag. Since the Vet's office was closed, I didn't know what else to do with it so I loaded it into the back of the Jeep and drove to my shop where I deposited it into the dumpster. And during the entire drive, I kept talking to it, actually apologizing to it, as if I was the one who killed it! I just CAN'T BELIEVE how cruel and heartless some people can be!
     Thankfully, I recognized the cat as soon as I got close enough. It was a neighborhood stray that was born last Spring so, at least, I didn't have the added worry about an OWNER wondering what ever happened to his/her cat. That was a blessing in disguise, I guess.
     So... that was Sunday....
     Then, on Wednesday, I realized I hadn't spoken to my Mom since Easter so I gave her a call to say "Hi!" and to get caught up. As soon as I heard her voice I knew something was wrong. My step-father is not doing well at all. He's getting weaker and weaker and can no longer walk with just his cane. He has to use the walker now but he absolutely hates it and refuses to do so. Since the beginning of this month, he's fallen THREE times. The last time he fell, which was on Wednesday of last week, he came down on the wooden arm of their couch and, we think, either fractured a cheek-bone or broke his nose because he's got two massive black eyes now.
     His "quality of life" is declining to the point where it's beyond what my Mom can handle. She doesn't have medical training... and she's getting older too... there's only so much she can do! She even told me that it's gotten to the point where she keeps checking on him in the middle of the night to make sure he's still breathing. Which means SHE'S not sleeping well either.
     He's only got the use of one good leg and one good arm (ever since he had a stroke years ago) so he's basically "dead weight." So, each time he falls, it takes my Mom almost an hour - by herself - to get him up off the floor. It's way too much for her. Caring for him, after all these years, is wearing her out and she's exhausted all the time. And I finally asked her if they've talked about the fact that he shouldn't live there anymore. I really think the time has come to put him into a Nursing Home where he can have around-the-clock care with PROFESSIONALS looking after him. She said they haven't talked about it yet but that she's been thinking about it for a while now. Then she really shocked me! She said she's already called a funeral home and has begun the financial arrangements for when the time comes. That's how dire his state of health is... she's basically adopted the it's-just-a-matter-of-time attitude. That threw me for a loop! I mean, I knew things were getting bad but I had no idea the situation had become that bad. She also told me there's going to be no Services at all -- no Church, no wake, no funeral, nothing. She's tired..... and just wants him cremated and buried and that's it. Damn. It's clear that she's reached her wit's end...
     By the time we said goodbye and hung up, I was reeling with all this new information. And now - two days after talking to her - I'm struggling with inner-turmoil over this. I feel like such a terrible person, and this is a horrible thing to admit, but.... I've reached the point where I just want him gone. It's not that I want him to die; what I want is for him to be well again... I wouldn't wish death on anyone. I mean, he's been my step-father since I was seven... I love him..... but I feel my Mom deserves some peace, some rest, some order, some joy restored to HER life before it's too late for her. She's been taking care of him for the last decade, day in and day out, and it's taking a toll on her, emotionally and physically. I'm not blaming him, I know none of this is his fault, but HE IS KILLING MY MOTHER. This is a woman who has battled cancer four times -- she's suffered enough. I want her to ENJOY however many years she has left... and being forced to watch the life slowly draining from her husband is sucking the life out of her as well! I just want it to stop, enough is enough, and... I can't help feeling that if he was gone my Mom would have her life back.
     My hands are tied. I have no control. There is nothing I can do. I can't make it better. I am nothing but a helpless observer......... and this whole situation sucks. I feel guilty about wanting him gone; but I feel justified about wanting my Mom to have peace. When I get into bed at night my head is spinning, my heart is racing.... and I don't know what to do.
     So that was Wednesday...
     Then, on Thursday (last night), five-minutes-before-seven, my phone rings. Every Thursday evening, at 7:00pm, I talk to my father (this one being my biological father) -- we've been doing this for about 15 years. It's basically our "Date Night" where we hang out on the phone for a while, just filling each other in on what's been going on in our lives. So I thought it was a little odd that the phone rang five minutes earlier than usual. When I picked up the phone and heard my Uncle Merle's voice, my father's brother, I was immediately on my feet, knowing that something was wrong!
     My father is currently in the hospital. He's been there since Wednesday evening. He discovered a lump forming on his chest around the area where his pace-maker is located so he went to his cardiologist's office to have them look at it. The doctor wasn't in but, when he showed it to the nurse, she took some photos of it and sent them to the doctor immediately. After viewing the photos, he called and instructed my Dad to go straight to the Emergency Room.
     He had "exploratory surgery" performed to figure out what the lump was and, since he was already opened up, the cardiologist also decided to put in a brand new pace-maker even though the old one tested fine. The lump was caused by some kind of internal bleeding around the existing pace-maker but they're unsure what caused the bleeding. As of right now, they think it was caused by the blood-thinner (Plavix) he's been on [for years] but they have no idea why.
     And, of course, last night when I called the hospital they didn't know anything at all yet. When I talked to my Dad, he had only been out of surgery for about twenty minutes so he was still pretty groggy. (I didn't learn the bleeding/Plavix info 'til this evening when I called the second time.)
     Oh, and another thing, during the conversation I had with my Uncle, I made the mistake of offering my condolences. My Aunt Barbara (his wife) died almost a year ago... and I haven't seen or spoken to my Uncle since before then so when I said, "I was real sorry to hear about Barbara," he broke down crying. They were married for sixty years so it's been a huge adjustment for him. I spent the next fifteen minutes talking him down off the ledge. Once I got him calmed down, everything was fine after that. I know she's buried down here, in Connecticut somewhere, so I got the cemetery information from him and told him I'd be sure to visit her. He was thrilled to hear that so at least we hung up on a positive note.
     Anyway.... where was I? Oh, right, the hospital...
     As soon as I hung up with my post-op, heavily-sedated Dad last night, the phone rings again. This time it was Adrienne. She had just gotten home from the hospital herself after being treated for a major infection/abscess. By the time we spoke, she was feeling OK and was already properly medicated for pain and on antibiotics as well.... so, physically, other than healing, she's fine. However, the bigger problem is the relationship(s) she has with her father and her sister. They don't get along very well and, lately, things have been pretty bad. Her father has been down-right mean to her for the last few months and her sister, being the instigator she is, only adds to the fire. It's not cool. There have been many nights when Adrienne doesn't even want to go home after work. She'll drive around for hours instead, or just sit and read in her car in a parking lot somewhere, because she knows as soon as she walks in her door there'll be another argument over something. She's a strong person and I know she'll be fine but, still, she's my best friend and I worry about her. I don't want her sitting in her car at night because she feels that's better than going home. That totally sucks! I wish my apartment was big enough 'cause I'd have her move in with me to get her away from her dad and sister! If only I had another bedroom for her!!! So, again, I feel helpless and not in control. I wish there was something I could do to help her.....
     So.... it's been one helluva week; The stress is debilitating! My body, now, is starting to rebel against me, trying to tell me to take it easy and to calm down! My stomach has been in knots so my meals were knocked off schedule. Because my eating habits changed, my bowels are now all screwed up; I'll spare you the details of how much fun that's been. I will say I now have a much deeper appreciation for REGULARITY! But the icing on the cake hit me around midnight. It's been almost six months since my last EMS (esophageal muscle spasm) attack... but last night made up for it. It started somewhere between 12 and 12:30am and by 2:30 this morning I was in agony.
     It's funny how the body and the mind react to pain differently. When I'm in that much pain, my mind tells me, "Calm down, be still. Find a comfortable position, stay there, and don't move!" However, the pain is so severe there IS NO comfortable position and my body says, "Try sitting up! Try laying down! Try rolling over! Sit up! Stand! Get up, try walking it off!" And that's what I ended up doing all night long -- for eight hours. Up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down! By 5:30 this morning, still in pain AND exhausted, I sent my boss a text message to tell him I wouldn't be in today. Twenty minutes later he texted back saying, "OK, got it, feel better!"
     By 9:00am I was curled up in the fetal position, covered in sweat, and totally wrung out from the pain. I eventually nodded off and managed to sleep for almost two hours..... and by the time I woke up, most of the pain was gone but I didn't dare move -- I didn't want the pain to come flaring back -- so I just stayed there, in that same position, for another hour. I would've stayed put even longer but I had to pee so bad I HAD to get up.
     As I write this, it's 4:30pm and I feel perfectly fine, all the pain is gone now and I can move around freely. I haven't eaten all day so I'll have to figure out something "light" for dinner at some point.
     The cats have been right by my side, both of them staring at me, since 2:00am 'cause they know something's not right. It's like they want to help but can't figure out what to do. Bless their little hearts; they love their Mommy!
     My weekend is now shot. After the plumber comes in the morning, I had planned on sorting all the laundry and lugging it all to the laundromat. Then I wanted to take JEEP ROMULUS over to the SPLASH! car-wash for detailing (inside and out). And depending on my Dad's condition, I was going to drive up to New Hampshire on Sunday to visit him in the hospital. Now, though, I think it's better if I do nothing at all and try to get some stress-free rest. The hell with it, the laundry, the detailing, the grocery shopping, the errands can all wait, there's always another weekend. And as for my Dad, he's in the hospital surrounded by people who can take care of him. I don't think my body can handle a six-hour road trip right now.... it's just too much. I dunno. We'll see...
     Stress! Ain't it grand?!?!?

ENTRY #650
DATE:  04/17/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  My outlook on this crazy weather...

     We've received so much rain during the last few days, I'm really surprised the state of Connecticut hasn't been washed away completely. Jeesh!
     Y'know... they say "April showers bring May flowers." Well, if that's the case, then I'm expecting nine-foot tall tulips next month!

     AND, we're still freezing our buns off here! Went to bed last night, it was 42 degrees. Woke up this morning, it was only 39 degrees. Good grief!
     Today is not really the 17th day of April. It can't be! I'm convinced it's really the 107th day of January!!!

ENTRY #649
DATE:  04/13/18 (Friday)
SUBJECT:  "97 cans of cat food on the wall, 97 cans of cat food..."

     "...You take one down and pass it around, 96 cans of cat food on the wall! 96 cans of cat food on the wall, 96 cans of cat food....!!!"

ENTRY #648
DATE:  04/12/18 (Thursday)

ENTRY #647
DATE:  04/09/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  A Very Jealous Kitty...

     OK, so here's the deal (there's some back-story involved, so bear with me)...
     A couple weeks ago I heard on the news that the entire chain of TOYS R US stores is going out of business. I've been wanting a new Rubik's Cube lately so, the next day, I went to TOYS R US in Milford to hunt one down. I grabbed one off the shelf and proceeded to roam around the store.
     Eventually, I found myself in the STUFFED ANIMAL aisle... and there I "met" an adorable stuffed elephant. The bin she was in was marked CLEARANCE and she was the last one. The poor little thing, all alone, in that big, wire-mesh bin with no one to keep her company. She had no friends to talk to and nobody to play with........
     Um, now is probably a good time for me to explain --- When I was little, I had a very active imagination. I believed that my stuffed animals were real. I believed they all had personalities and feelings, and that if I wasn't playing with them, they became sad; and when I went off to school all day, they missed me. Then I'd feel guilty about leaving them behind because I didn't want them to feel neglected and unloved; I didn't want them to be scared because they were all alone; I didn't want them to be sad.
     I know it sounds crazy but, apparently, there's still a little bit of that child-mentality left in me because I could not leave the store without that stuffed elephant. I tried, but I just couldn't do it. Once I touched her (and felt how plush her fur was and how cuddly her little body was), I lifted her out of the bin and added her to my shopping-basket. Fifteen minutes later, still browsing around, I looked into the basket and thought, "Really? I'm almost 50 years old. I'm buying a stuffed animal? No, I don't think so," and I tossed her back into the bin where I found her and walked away.
     When I reached the end of that aisle, I looked back over my shoulder at the now-abandoned elephant. Big mistake! When I tossed her back in, she happened to land in a position that made her look as if she was trying to climb out again because she wanted to come with me to her "forever home." As soon as I saw that, my INNER-CHILD awoke and I was immediately distraught, worrying about the FATE of that lonely, little elephant. What's gonna happen to her when the store closes down? What if nobody buys her? Will she be thrown away? Shredded? Left to rot in a smelly, rat-infested dumpster somewhere? What if she's scared of the dark? What if it rains? She'll be cold, wet, shivering and all alone.........
     Good grief! I hung my head, sighed deeply in disbelief at what I was about to do, then stomped down the aisle - very much like the five-year-old I heard in my head - and gently scooped the elephant out of the bin. "What the hell," I said, "you're only thirteen dollars. You wanna come home with me, don't you?" And, of course, I saw that little stuffed elephant nod her head eagerly in agreement as I placed her back into my shopping-basket.
     When I arrived home, Rigby (my cat) was sleeping on the couch. She woke up when I opened the door and groggily raised her head in greeting. As soon as she saw the shopping bag, curiosity got the better of her and she hopped off the couch and followed me into the kitchen to investigate the contents of the bag. With one sniff she determined the bag didn't come from the pet store so she quickly lost interest. She returned to her still-warm spot on the couch, curled up and went back to sleep.
     Rigby, ever since she was a kitten, has been affectionately referred to as "The Baby." She's very familiar with this term and she responds to it as if it's her name. If I say, "Where's the baby?" she comes running. If I say, "Are you the baby?" she purrs at me. If I say, "Who's a good baby, are you a good baby?" she circles me, waiting for a treat. This has been an on-going thing for the last seven years so, clearly, she KNOWS she's "The Baby."
     After I emptied the bag from TOYS R US, I decided to introduce the new elephant to Rigby. I cradled the elephant in my arms and poked Rigby awake. "Look who I've got! It's a new baby! See? Isn't she cute? Do you like the new baby? What a cute, little baby she is!" And as I spoke, I was petting the elephant like it was a real animal.
     Rigby was not amused by this... at all. She was pissed! With her ears laid back against her head, she growled, swatted at the elephant in distaste and hid under the bed. She was obviously offended that I was using that term, her term, of endearment towards someone other than her! I thought it was funny and just laughed it off. I figured it was a temporary thing and that she'd get over it pretty quick. However, two hours later, she was still under the bed.
     Trying to coax her out of the bedroom I cooed, "Where's the baby?"
     No Rigby.
     "Where's the baby? Who's a good baby?"
     Still, no Rigby.
     Hmmm. Knowing only one other phrase that was sure to work, I gave it a try --- "Who wants a cookie?!?!" and I rattled the cookie jar.
     That did the trick! Rigby did come out, rather reluctantly, and she did eat a few cookies off the table -- but as soon as she spotted the elephant lying on the couch, her ears went back and she slunk from the room, returning to her "sulking spot" under the bed.
     Wow! I think I really hurt her feelings with all that "baby" stuff. If I had known she was going to take it so personally, I never would've done it!
     The next morning, Rigby was back to normal, the whole elephant thing from the night before was forgotten (or so I thought). She woke me up right on time, demanded her breakfast, and then jumped up on the kitchen counter and climbed into the sink. She rubbed her head against the faucet, just like usual, which is her signal to me that she's thirsty and wants some "drippy-drips." She drank her fill then left me alone so I could get ready for work.
     As I was making the bed an idea came to me. I shuffled off in my slippers to grab the camera - and the elephant - and went back to the bedroom. Without saying a word, I finished making the bed but, in doing so, I "tucked in" the elephant just to see what Rigby would do. I made sure not to say ONE word, so there was no use of Baby at all. Rigby watched every move I made from her usual perch on the bed-side table. With the elephant now lying in one of Rigby's regular sleeping areas, I grabbed the camera and took a quick picture.
     As soon as I got home from work that night and walked into the bedroom, I laughed at what I saw. "Yep," I said, "that's about what I figured!" and I grabbed the camera again to take another shot.
     Here's both the pictures I took...

     The elephant, who has been named TOPSY (after the famous elephant that Thomas Edison electrocuted while trying to prove that Tesla's "AC electricity" was dangerous), now lives on top of my dirty-clothes hamper with Barnsie and Noble (the two stuffed animals from the bookstore). Rigby is no longer jealous. In fact, now that her point has been made, she appears quite pleased knowing that Topsy is forced to sleep on the bin where Mommy keeps her stinky socks and dirty underwear!
     And just think.... there's actually people out there that believe animals don't have feelings or experience emotions, LOL! Let me assure you -- nothing is farther from the truth!

ENTRY #646
DATE:  04/04/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Rigby poses for her birthday portrait!

ENTRY #645
DATE:  04/01/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Happy Easter!

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday!

ENTRY #644
DATE:  03/29/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  How the girls keep their claws razor sharp...

With the old one now in tatters, Rigby proudly shows off their brand new scratching post!
(Hopefully, she'll let Sabrina use it too!)

ENTRY #643
DATE:  03/25/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  The Saga of a "Sigh!"

     If you look up the word sigh in Webster's Dictionary it is defined as, "1 to take in and let out a long, deep, audible breath, as sorrow, relief, etc. 2 to feel longing or grief (for)."
     Usually, when you hear someone sigh you can interpret its meaning somewhat easily based on the surrounding circumstances. But imagine my perplexed state when I checked my cell phone the other day (Thursday) and found a text message from The Friar that said, "Sigh!" and nothing more. That's all it said, just that one word, "Sigh!" My brain had no idea what to do with that since there was no other input for me to work with, LOL. Was it a sigh of content, as if following a satisfying meal? Was it a sigh of frustration? Boredom? Loneliness? Anxiety? Remorse? I also wondered if it was caused by a slight case of Cabin Fever due to all the snow we've had lately; or if he was just having a bad day and sighing in relief that it was finally over.
     He sent me this sighing text at 8:13pm but I never actually saw it until after midnight so I didn't want to call or text him back since I knew I'd probably wake him up. Instead, I sent him an email asking him the same thing(s) I just wrote in the above paragraph. Assuming I wouldn't hear from him until the next day, I signed off and went to bed.
     Friday, at work, I kept thinking about that text message and how odd it seemed for him to send only that one word -- "Sigh!" -- and, by the way, what's up with that added exclamation point(?), I wondered. It also occurred to me that he could've been conversing with someone else entirely and the text came to me by mistake. All I could do was hope that by the time I got home from work there'd be an email from him replying to the one I'd sent him the night before that would clear all this up.
     On my way home from work Friday evening, I drove past Langanke's Florist Shop as I do every night on the way home. For some reason - which I can't explain - I felt compelled to stop in so I made a quick U-turn and pulled into their parking lot. When I walked in, the first thing that caught my attention was a stunning pale-yellow Orchid and I knew, instantly, it was coming home with me. I don't usually buy flowers for myself, mostly because of the cats, but it was as if that Orchid was calling my name. Sounds weird, I know, but it's the only way I can describe the compulsion... it was like I was being guided toward it.
     Once I arrived home, I had to feed the cats, scoop out their litter, change my clothes real quick, then head back out to meet Adrienne at Texas Roadhouse in West Haven for dinner at 6:30. The color scheme of my kitchen is green and yellow so I decided the yellow Orchid would live on top of my microwave... plus, that's one of the few places in my apartment that's an entirely CAT-FREE ZONE.
     When I showed up at Texas Roadhouse I found Adrienne already there waiting for me in the parking lot. As soon as we walked in the door and saw how many people were waiting to be seated we asked how long our wait would be. When the Hostess said "approximately 40 minutes" we decided to go to Applebee's instead. It was a good choice! We were seated right away and had food and drinks in front of us shortly after 7:00pm.
     From Applebee's we headed over to Barnes & Noble to browse for a while. Adrienne needed to get some books for her Mom and I ended up buying a new John Grisham novel called "Camino Island." As we were roaming the aisles, my eyes landed on the cover of "The Shack." It's a book I've already read and I've also seen the movie twice. As soon as I saw the cover of that book, it reminded me that I had given a copy of it to The Friar back in July... and all of a sudden I had a mild panic attack in the middle of Barnes & Noble. It wasn't major enough to make my heart race but it was enough to bring on a hot flash! As I was standing there, sweating, all I kept seeing in my mind's eye was that yellow Orchid and the word "Sigh!" as it appeared on my phone. At that moment all I could think was, "I have to get home! I have to check my email!"
     It was almost 10:00pm by the time I got home and into my pajamas. Two minutes after that I was sitting in front of my computer reading, then rereading, his email. It wasn't very long, which was typical because he tends to keep things short and sweet, but it didn't sound right. He sounded very down-in-the-dumps which isn't like him. He mentioned not having the energy to bake his annual batch of Soda Bread to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and that he's waiting for Spring to come so he can finally do some gardening. He also mentioned a couple health issues he's been battling with for some time... but the line that bothered me the most was, "I plunk a pic or two on my web page; that's the total sum of my activity." That, in no way, sounded like the man I've known for the last 35 years. I was so bothered by that comment, I couldn't even reply to his email. I pushed my chair away from the computer and began to pace around my apartment.
     That's the total sum of my activity.... that's the total sum of my activity... that's the total sum of my activity. As I paced from room to room, I couldn't get those words out of my head. All the years I've known him he's always been the "on the go" type, whether it was riding his bike, or gardening, or fishing, or painting, or hiking, or travelling on vacation(s) to visit friends and family. My god, I remember - years ago - I'd get an Instant Message from him on one day telling me he's in Cape May, New Jersey, then two days later I'd receive another IM saying he's now in Florida and heading to Canada next... and he was driving, not flying! So now, to hear him say that plunking a pic or two on his web page is the sum of his activity caused my heart to sink.
     The Friar is feeling down. The Friar is not himself. I think The Friar is stuck in a rut and needs to get out and do something fun. He needs a new face to look at; he needs someone new to talk to. I don't know if it's actually Cabin Fever that's got him down or not but, whatever it is, The Friar needs a boost! His mind needs to be engaged! His spirits need lifting! He needs to smile and laugh! In a nutshell, it sounds like The Friar needs somebody to play with!!!
     As all this was rattling around in my head, I think it was during my 15th or 16th lap around this apartment, my eyes fell - once again - on those yellow Orchids. I eventually dug out the camera to take a few shots of them and, in doing so, my attention was drawn to what was behind the Orchids, hanging on the wall -- my St. Francis Tau cross -- and, right then, something clicked in my mind. I heard one word, and one word only -- "Go!"
     For a few moments I just stood there - stunned - in the middle of my kitchen as that idea took shape. Go, Dove! Just pack a bag and GO! NOW!!!
     And then total chaos erupted for the next five hours! I threw an overnight-bag together, grabbed my toiletry-bag, and my camera case! I grabbed a package of note pads I made for him [at work] a couple weeks ago and a bottle of the LOVE wine we like! I found my passport, then put together a small bag of snacks and drinks for on the road! I remembered he had mentioned a while back that his legs were bothering him so I crawled around in my closet to dig out my step-bench in case he needed a little help getting in and out of JEEP ROMULUS. Better to be safe than sorry, right? Then I jumped online again and looked up weather forecasts for all the major cities between here and there! I called the hotel and made reservations! I charged up the cell phone and the MP3 player! I grabbed my boots and a snow-shovel (just in case I got caught in a rogue snow storm along the way) and made a trip down to the Jeep with an armload of stuff. Since I was already at the Jeep, I jumped in and headed to the bank to get some cash, then over to the gas station to fill the tank, then flew back home! I took a quick shower, dried the hair, got dressed, then gave the cats extra food and water...... and at 4:35, Saturday morning, I grabbed the Orchids and off I went! To Hamburg! To surprise The Friar! To remind him that he's very special and that he's very much loved! To boost his spirits! To make him smile!
     The first two hours of the trip were driven in total darkness -- I had to fight to keep my eyes open! Around 6:20 the sky finally changed from solid black to a shade of dark blue that allowed the trees' silhouettes to take shape! At 6:40 I could actually see a few clouds high in the sky ahead of me and the golden hues of the rising sun reflecting in my rear-view mirror! By 7:00am I was travelling in broad daylight and, thankfully, it was much easier to stay awake at that point!
     My first stop along the way to stretch the legs was the Lee Service Area on the Mass Pike. I found a great place to park, hit the Ladies Room, bought a coffee and headed back out to JEEP ROMULUS to top off his tank. As I stood there, gas-nozzle in hand, I felt the butterflies in my stomach jolt awake and suddenly take flight!
     Oh my god. What am I doing? Am I crazy? I'm actually driving all the way to Hamburg to surprise The Friar? He has NO IDEA I'm coming! This unplanned, spur-of-the-moment, 14-hour round trip, I knew, had great potential for turning around and biting me on the ass. What if I get there and he's not feeling well? What if he's busy? What if he's not even home when I arrive?What if his afternoon is already filled with scheduled doctors appointments? What if I show up and there's 200 friars gathered together at the Rosary Hour to kick off Holy Week?
     Oh my! Perhaps I should've thought this through before leaping into action!
     No! Stop thinking like that! I'm going with my GUT on this one! Just shut-up and drive, Dove! Just get there, surprise him, and MAKE HIM SMILE!
     Five hours later, as I pulled into the Clarence Service Area on the outskirts of Buffalo to top off the tank one last time, I had managed to put the butterflies back to bed! The nervous jitters were gone, replaced only by the excitement of seeing him again. It had been six months since my last visit in September [for his birthday] and I was missing him. And even though this visit would be brief, possibly only long enough for a quick bite at the Diner (hopefully!), in my heart I knew that every mile driven, and every minute with him, would be time well spent!!!
     I backed into my usual spot in the Rosary Hour's parking lot at 12:30pm and dug out my cell. His phone rang and rang and rang until his voice-mail picked up. Not wanting to spoil the surprise, I left him a very general message saying that I just wanted to hear his voice and that I hoped he was well. I left my phone number and asked him to call me whenever he was able and I disconnected the call.
     I climbed out of the Jeep and walked around the side of the building to the little court-yard where he grows and tends his garden. No Friar there! Then I walked down to the second court-yard where the patio is located. No Friar there either! When I made my way back out to the parking lot, I peeked through one of the garage-door windows. No car there! That I took as a good sign. At least he was feeling well enough to be out driving around!
     Well, now what? I thought. I couldn't check into my hotel for another half hour so that was out. I decided to sit in the Jeep and read as I waited for him to come home. As it turned out, I didn't have to wait long at all! His timing was impeccable! As I was crossing the driveway from the garage to my parking spot, I caught a glimpse of his little blue car coming down the street. When he pulled into the driveway and saw me standing there, arms opened wide welcoming him home, the look on his face was priceless! He was shocked! Even through the sun-glare reflecting back at me off his windshield I could still make out his smile, from ear to ear it was, as he began waving at me! The garage door went up, he pulled in and parked. In the blink of an eye, he was out of that car and heading straight at me looking for a hug!
     "I can't believe it! What are you doing here? What a surprise!!!" he exclaimed as we hugged our hellos.
     Already a little misty-eyed from seeing his radiant smile, I struggled a bit to explain, trying my hardest not to get all choked up. "Oh, Friar, that email you sent me yesterday, I never got a chance to read it 'til last night. You didn't sound like yourself, you sounded so down, so glum.... so here I am! I wanted to surprise you! I just had to come! I wanted to cheer you up! But look at you now," I said as I reached up and touched his cheek, "look at that beautiful smile! I'm so glad I came! It's so good to see you!"
     "I can't believe this!" he said (as I hugged him a second time), "this is a wonderful surprise! I couldn't believe it when I saw you standing there!"
     "What did you see first? Did you recognize the Jeep when you saw it parked in its usual spot? Did you know it was me right away or did it take a few seconds to sink in?"
     "I saw you first! I knew it was you! Because of your hair; it's very recognizable," he chuckled.
     "Yeah, I know, all this gray sticks out like a sore thumb, doesn't it!"
     "Yes! What a surprise! This is great! Just wonderful! Come in, come in!"
     "OK... I just have to grab something first, I'll be right there! I brought you a little something..." and I went around to my passenger-side to collect the Orchids and the package of note pads while he headed back to his car.
     When he popped open the trunk, I took a quick peek inside then fired off a barrage of questions -- "What am I interrupting? Anything? Where are you coming from? Are you busy today? Any plans? Any doctors appointments? Have you eaten yet? I was hoping I could treat you to lunch. Are you hungry?"
     "You are not interrupting at all; nothing planned today; no appointments. I just came from the store. I needed to pick up the ingredients for a Soda Bread recipe..."
     "Ohhhh, that's wonderful! You're gonna make it after all?!?!?"
     "Yes, yes! I'm feeling better! Lunch? No, I haven't eaten yet. You're going to treat me to lunch? Yeah, I could eat!"
     "Excellent! I'm so glad! Here, let me help you with those!" I grabbed the remaining grocery bags, he closed the trunk, locked up the car and inside we went. We dumped the grocery sacks on a small table and he immediately turned towards me to get a better look at the plant I was holding.
     "Orchids! These are beautiful! Thank you! What kind are they?"
     "Oh, Honey, you're the flower person, not me, I have no idea," I laughed, "all I know is that they're yellow and when I saw them I thought they were gorgeous!"
     He took them from me and placed them in the middle of the dining-room table. "We can leave them here for all to enjoy; they'll pretty-up the place!"
     "Cool! That sounds good," I agreed. "I also brought these for you.... I saw, on your website, when Dean, Shirley and Jenna came to visit, you guys were playing cards or something, and I noticed that Shirley had a pad of these in front of her to keep score on.... I figured you might need some more of them." He grinned again when he looked down and saw what I was holding out to him.
     "Yes, those pads are great! They're very handy, I use them for everything, grocery lists, notes, things to remember! Thank you, thank you!"
     "Now, what about those groceries," I asked, "should we put everything away? Does anything need to be refrigerated, before we forget all about them?"
     "Right, good idea. Most of it can wait but a few things should stay cold."
     He sorted through the bags, chose a few items and stuck them in the fridge. "OK, where do you want to go for lunch?" he asked.
     "Anywhere you would like, anywhere at all, you pick!"
     "All right. Peg's," he suggested, "let's go to Peg's!"
     "Cool, Peg's it is then!"
     And this is when I made a grave mistake. It was one of those foot-in-mouth type of moments that I immediately regretted. As we were crossing the parking lot, heading towards the Jeep, I mentioned that I had brought along a step-bench just in case he might have trouble climbing in and out of the truck. (I mean, let's face it, my Jeep IS quite a bit higher than the sedan he's used to driving around in... and I didn't want my Jeep being a burden to him.) I figured the four inches of additional height the bench offered would make it much easier on his muscles and joints.
     Well, let me tell you, as he pulled open the passenger-side door and proceeded to climb in, he made his opinion of that step-bench quite clear when he grumbled, "I'm not crippled, you know!"
     Wow! As soon as he said that I felt myself shrink away from him. Honestly, I don't know if it was something I was even meant to hear, or if it was just something he said "under his breath," not realizing I was close enough to hear it. And 10 seconds later, as we were sitting side-by-side buckling our seat belts, it was as if it was never said at all. But, the fact remains, he was bothered enough to say it and I heard it. Now, he didn't say it snappishly, and it wasn't even his choice of words that shocked me into a momentary silence; it was the tone in which they were delivered. Part of my brain heard an annoyed 8-year-old boy exclaiming STOP IT, MOMMY! I DON'T NEED HELP! I CAN DO IT BY MYSELF!, while the other part of my brain heard a very stern, authoritative tone that would come from an agitated teacher disciplining a student who had just stepped way out of line.
     Yikes! Once my mind combined and digested the duality of those tones, I realized how my mentioning that step-bench to him must have come across. I felt like such an ass when it hit me how degraded, or embarrassed, my words must've made him feel. That, of course, was never - NEVER! - my intention. There is no way I'd ever say anything, knowingly, that would or could hurt his feelings; the mere thought of that is appalling but, no matter...... I think I offended him. I think I bruised his ego. I think I insulted his masculinity -- quite possibly all three -- and, Marcel, if you are reading this, please know that I am so, so sorry. I didn't mean to imply, in any way, that I think of you as crippled. I promise, from now on, I'll work on not being such a "Mother Hen." I promise!
     OK... I just couldn't go any further with this story without acknowledging, and apologizing for, that whole foot-in-mouth thing and now that I have -- moving on...
     Once we settled down at Peg's with steaming-hot plates of yumminess placed before us , our conversation - as always - covered many various topics; from Holy Week and Easter plans to stories about family; from Kolbe Cathedral news to health and wellness; from gardening to black & white photography; from various books to the Erie Canal; from Niagara Falls to Nikola Tesla and from YouTube to both our websites! You name it, I think we covered it, LOL! And, of course, during the meal he mentioned (more than once) what a great surprise it was when he pulled in and saw me standing there! (Gloat, gloat! Excuse me for a moment, here, as I do my Happy Dance!)
     It was a little after two o'clock by the time we left Peg's Place. As we were leaving he asked how long I was staying. "Just overnight," I said, "I have to be back at work on Monday, so I'll probably hit the road sometime in the morning; no definite time though, I'll just play it by ear whenever I wake up."
     "Good, good! It's a nice day. Where would you like to go? We should do something, go somewhere! Let's go back, I have a book you can look through about New York, let's see if we can find something to do in that," he suggested.
     "Great! Sounds like a plan!"
     When we arrived back home, instead of heading directly to his room, we took a short detour through the Rosary Hour's Office. He asked if he had ever shown me "The Archives." He actually had, in fact, but I'd never deny myself another tour of the hundreds of scrapbooks and CDs that line the walls! It's fascinating stuff! The amount of history contained in those archives is mind-boggling... everything you'd ever need to know about the establishment of the Rosary Hour and Fr. Justin's life, work, and ministry is stored there!
     He allowed me to pull a few scrapbooks off the shelves and thumb through the fragile, yellowed pages. Unfortunately, everything is written in Polish so I wasn't able to read any of it... but that didn't matter. The vast amount of photographs that accompanied the text(s) brought the words to life in my imagination. And every single article, photograph, sermon, correspondence, scrapbook, box, filing cabinet, Compact Disk and shelf has been meticulously labeled. Each and every label has been added to a "Master Archive List" (which, basically, works the same as the Card Catalog at your local Library). No matter what you're looking for, all it takes is a quick glance at "The List" and you know exactly where it's located! It's astounding! And The Friar has done it all!
     For the last 15(?) years, he's been translating everything from Polish to English and vice-versa and archiving every word of it. He's painstakingly transferring all the paper (hard-copy) files - in all those scrapbooks - to electronic, digital files and storing them safely on CDs. It's a staggering amount of work... and it's a bit overwhelming to stand in the middle of it all, especially once you realize how time consuming a project of this magnitude actually is. It's exhausting just thinking about it.
     And then, as an added bonus, he walked over to his desk and pulled out two chairs. "Oh, wow!" I exclaimed, "you're gonna show me?!?! Excellent!!!" and I took a seat right next to him as he fired up his computer system.
     With a few clicks of the mouse, he opened the sermon he was currently translating and he showed me the entire process of how he enters all the information, saves it, and then adds it to the Master List, including it's specified file-number. Amazing!!! He also showed me a bunch of photographs (that he took) of the reconstruction of the Rosary Hour and how he then uploaded the photo-chronology to the website. Again, the meticulous detail totally blew my socks off!
     I now find it highly amusing that, during the last year or two, I've been listening to him worry about how he thinks his memory is starting to fail him due to his age. He's mentioned things like "I can't remember where I put my keys; I can't find my sunglasses; I can't remember why I walked into this room; Sometimes I can't remember where I parked the car; I can't remember the particular word I'm searching for," and, in reality, those are all very generic, very common memory lapses we ALL suffer from. I mean, hell, that stuff happens to me all the time! I can remember the words to a song from 1983, yet I can't remember why I just walked into my kitchen! It happens to everyone, PERIOD, end of discussion.
     After experiencing the Magnum Opus of the Rosary Hour's archival process, I have come to the educated conclusion that The Friar's mind and or memory is perfectly fine! I mean, come on.... he spends HOURS every single day exercising that brain of his with all that translation work, all that reading, all that filing, all that labeling! The attention to detail(s), the concentration, the focus his brain has to maintain in order to accomplish all that (?) -- there is no way a person suffering from "failing faculties" could pull it off! I would be willing to bet that the synapses in his brain fire more rapidly than my own! He is the same man I remember from my childhood -- he was, and remains, as sharp as a tack! He has absolutely nothing to worry about...
     Hey, Friar, what's the matter, you can't find your keys? Guess what?!?! As I sit here writing this right now, I can't remember what I ordered for dinner a little while ago, LOL!!! Don't worry about it -- it happens!  ;-)
     When we got to his room, he pulled the "About Western New York" book off the shelf and we thumbed through it for a few minutes. "You know what... um... I have an idea but, I dunno. You've been to Goat Island before, right? How far is that from here?" I asked.
     "Not too far. I've been there, yes. What are you thinking?"
     "Well, there's a Tesla monument there, somewhere, that I'd love to see, but I can't remember exactly where it is. I can't find anything about it in this book; there's no mention of Tesla, at all, in the Index. All I can remember from the map of the island I have at home is Luna Falls, and, um, something about Three Sisters...." I rambled.
     "Yes, Three Sisters Islands, I've been there, I know where those are," he offered, "but I've never seen this statue you're talking about. Are you sure?"
     "Yep, I'm positive, there's hundreds of photos of it online. It used to be right in front of the big archway but they've moved it, about two years ago.... and that's what I can't remember, where it is now. I mean, I know it's still on Goat Island but... I wanna say it's somewhere around Luna Falls, or Luna Island, or something like that. You think we could go check it out, try to find it?"
     "Yes, of course! Let's! Do you have GPS?" he asked.
     "That's OK, I do," he chuckled, "I have a couple of them, I keep upgrading!"
     "Yeah, I remember! You're Mr. Gadget! Just make sure it's not the same one that got us lost when we were trying to find Letchworth Park," I laughed, "Do you remember that? How it kept telling us to TURN RIGHT onto a road that didn't even exist? We went in circles for, like, an hour!"
     "Ah, yes, I do. I remember that! But I don't remember ever seeing this Tesla statue on Goat Island."
     "Trust me, I know it's there, Friar... um, somewhere. But it's pretty big, I can't imagine it'll be hard to spot once we get there."
     "Really?" he asked, sounding rather baffled, "I can't imagine how I've never seen it before. I don't recall ever hearing about it..."
     "Well, if we're lucky, you'll see it today then, won't you? That's cool!"
     On that note, we armed ourselves with multiple GPS units, LOL. He plugged one of them into my cigarette lighter but he had two other back-up units tucked away in his jacket pockets as well, presumably for "just in case" purposes. We sat in the Jeep for a few minutes and I watched as he tried to get "Goat Island, Niagara Falls, NY" programmed into the GPS. His fingers are just too big to manipulate those tiny, little keys on the screen. Turns out my fingers didn't work much better, but we finally managed it after a while.... and then we were off, cruising up I-190!
     Since it's "off season," there was very little traffic around the Niagara Falls (NY) area and, once we hit the Island, we found a great place to park too! In fact, while we were unbuckling our seat-belts, I happened to spot one of those "YOU ARE HERE" maps of Goat Island as I glanced through the windshield. "Cool," I said, "look at that, there's a map right there! The Tesla statue is marked on the map I have at home so it must be on that one too!"
     Um... wrong! No mention of the statue anywhere on the map! That left us with only one option -- roam around aimlessly until we find it! Under normal circumstances, that would've been a lovely way to spend the afternoon. However, every ounce of our body heat was swept away instantly by the wind! Even though it was a beautiful, sunny day, the wind was bitter cold! Add to that the light mist from The Falls swirling across the Island and we were soon both shivering in the frigid, damp conditions.
     We roamed for about 15 minutes without any luck. I knew the statue was overlooking The Falls somewhere, but I just couldn't spot it anywhere while we walked. We finally started asking people, as they came towards us, if they knew where the Tesla monument was. None of the folks we came upon were locals, they were all tourists, so like us, they had no idea, LOL. Ten minutes later, our luck changed! A young couple strolling along said, "Yes, we're pretty sure it's over by the entrance for The Cave of the Winds. Follow the signs, that way, and you should see it!"
     Ten minutes later, still no statue in sight, we'd already been walking around in the cold for 35 minutes! "I'm so sorry, Friar, I know it's cold. How ya doin'?" I asked.
     "I'm OK, this coat is warm! But... my ears are cold!!!"
     "OK... um... this is crazy... I feel like we're going in circles. Maybe if we drive around the perimeter of the Island we'll see it. You're gonna end up with pneumonia and it's gonna be all my fault! Let's find the Jeep. I'll put the heat on!" He grinned and nodded in agreement.
     Leaving the parking lot was interesting! At first, I thought we were trapped because there was no one in the booth to take my ticket and money. Apparently, when it's "off season," the parking lot is fully automated and the only way to pay to get out is with a credit card. You'd think they'd put up a sign somewhere letting people know this on the way in. Thank goodness I had my credit card with me! I can't imagine what we would've done if I only had cash. LOL, I guess I'd have to put it in four-wheel-drive and pull out over the curb, I don't know! Anyway.... at least we were out of the cold for a little while! AMEN to that!
     With the heat on full blast, we cruised around Goat Island for about twenty minutes. It was a beautiful ride... and I would like to go back, someday, when it's warmer so we can walk around, at our leisure, taking pictures without freezing our cojones off! The scenery is really beautiful and the photo-ops are fantastic considering you can view the American Falls AND the Canadian Falls from one spot! That'd be awesome! My next trip to Hamburg isn't until my vacation for the Fourth of July but, that week, I imagine the Island will be swarming with thousands of people so that's probably not a good time to go back. Maybe sometime in the Fall, we'll see!
     We circled the Island twice and still couldn't find the darn statue. I was beginning to wonder if it was even worth the trouble. But, dammit, we were there, I just HAD to find it! We pulled into the same parking lot we were in before and started at square one. Now that we were toasty warm, climbing out into the cold this time was even worse! Within moments my nose was frozen and my hands began stiffening up. I looked over at The Friar and his eyes were tearing, his nose was running, and his poor ears were bright red! Thankfully, the young couple we spoke to earlier came running over to us.
     "We found it, we found it," they exclaimed, "we're so sorry! We sent you in the wrong direction before! We tried to find you guys but you were gone! The statue is that way, right between those buildings. You can actually see it if you stand right here! See, look! Right behind that green awning, you can just make out the top of his head. Someone put an Easter hat on him!"
     "Excellent!" I whooped, "thank you so much! We're both freezing and I was about ready to give up! Oh my god, thank you, thank you!!!" We headed off in that direction immediately. Turns out it was a three-minute walk from where we had parked the first time! We walked right by it twice and never saw it tucked down between those buildings!
     With our pace quickened, heading in the right direction this time, The Friar turned to me and asked, "What is it with this statue? Tesla? Why's it so important to you?"
     "Oh! He's a relative! Not to me personally but my step-father is a Tes..."
     "REALLY?!?! Wow! I should've brought my camera!"
     "Yeah, my step-father is a Tesla. His father, my step-grandfather, is Nikola Tesla's, um, third or fourth cousin, or something like that. I'm not positive about the exact blood-line, but my step-father is definitely related somehow. It's just, now that Grandpa is gone, he died in 1997, there's nobody left who remembers the exact genealogy," I explained.
     "That's really something! Now I understand this," he chuckled. "I'll have to get pictures of you standing in front of it!"
     "Yes, please, that would be awesome! And I want some of you too. Oh, WOW! I can see it! Awww, man, they were right... someone put a stupid looking hat on his head! What the hell? It's a multi-colored, knitted, Rastafarian cap! I'm gonna get pictures of it wearing that stupid thing? That's too bad. Oh well," I shrugged, "it is what it is! I'm not turning back now!"
     I snapped a few pictures but it was difficult since people (kids!) were climbing all over it. I managed to get a couple half-way decent shots, then handed my camera to The Friar. I climbed up on the pedestal and he snapped a couple of me, then I hopped down.
     "Get one of me too, would you? I'll put it on my web site," he said.
     "Yes, yes, absolutely!" I laughed, and I took two shots of him with Tesla looming over his shoulder in the background! I wish it hadn't been so cold. I really would've liked to have spent more time getting better photographs but we were both freezing and I was rushing... but, hey, we came, we saw, we conquered, now it was time to get the heck out'a there, back into the warmth of JEEP ROMULUS!

     We made it back to the sidewalk but still had to cross the parking lot -- a very large, open, wind-swept space! Not wanting The Friar to suffer the elements any longer than he already had I said, "Look, you stay here, out'a the wind. I'll go get the Jeep and bring it to you! I'll be right back!"
     With no hesitation at all, LOL, he agreed with a teeth-chattering "OK!" and away I trotted. I jumped in, got the heater going, and groped around in the back seat while I drove, looking for the box of tissues I keep stored back there. As soon as The Friar got buckled in, I handed him the tissues. He gave me a quick "Thanks!" and immediately wiped the tears from his eyes and blew his nose.
     The poor guy, he was SOOO cold... and, yet, not once did he utter one syllable of complaint! That's remarkable. He's so gallant; so selfless! He truly overwhelms me. Chivalrous? Indeed!!! Y'know, most friars wear ordinary, civilian clothing beneath their Franciscan habits. My friar, though? LOL, it's been 25 years since I've seen Marcel wear a habit but I suspect he dons a suit of shining armor under his!
     "That was awesome, thank you so much!" I gushed. "I've wanted to see that statue for a long time. Thanks for being so patient, so willing to put up with me and my crazy ideas! I can't believe that wind! Look at you... your poor ears are still red, I'm so sorry!"
     "I'm OK, I'm fine. The heat is on, I'll be fine," he insisted. "You'll have to send me the pictures when you get back. I'll add some to my website!"
     "Excellent! Don't worry, I'll send them as soon as I get home. That was so cool! Even with the ridiculous hat it was wearing, it was still cool!"
     As Jimmy Sturr's Polka music poured from the speakers, we navigated our way back to Buffalo, chatting about this and that. When we approached the McKinley Mall area, he asked if I was hungry and where I'd like to go for dinner. "I'm not picky," I said, "anywhere is fine with me. What are you in the mood for?"
     "How about Outback?"
     "Ayuh, OK, that sounds good! We're close to one, aren't we? Isn't there an Outback around the Mall somewhere?"
     "Yuppers, that's why I suggested it!"
     "Aha, I see! Well, just point the way."
     We circled the Mall and pulled into the parking lot. We found a great spot to park, right in front of Outback's door. When we got out of the Jeep, a woman waved at us to get our attention. "If you're heading to Outback, don't bother," she yelled, "they're closed. Maintenance difficulties!"
     "Oh, OK, thanks! No wonder we found such a great place to park, no one's here. Where to now?" I asked.
     "How about that seafood place? What's the name of that place? We drove by it a moment ago..."
     "Um, dunno, I wasn't paying attention. Was it a Red Lobster?"
     "Yeah, Red Lobster!"
     "Sure, we can go there. I didn't see it, though, so I don't know where it is. Which way?"
     "Out, then left."
     "All-righty then! Out, then left... and away we go!"
     We drove in circles looking for that Red Lobster for about ten minutes. "Um, is it actually here, at the Mall, or is it on McKinley Parkway somewhere?"
     "I can't remember now," he chuckled, "I know it's nearby."
     "Umm... I see an Olive Garden right over there... how 'bout that?"
     "Yes, Olive Garden is good, let's eat there!"
     LOL, well, as you can imagine, since Outback was closed, everyone else headed to Olive Garden too! The parking lot was mobbed but we managed to find a half-way decent spot that wasn't too far away. As soon as we set foot in the lobby, though, it was obvious we'd be waiting a while for a table. I flagged the Hostess down with a wave. "There's just the two of us. How long," I asked. When she said "a little over an hour," I looked over at The Friar. "Whaddayathink? You wanna wait that long? An hour wait, just for a table... who knows how long it'll take to actually get the food. I'm game if you are, but... we might not get served 'til around seven."
     The Friar shook his head and sighed. "Where do you want to go?"
     "Why don't we just go to Uncle Joe's," I asked, "the food's good and it's close to home. The Diner OK with you?"
     "Yes, I'm gettin' hungry, let's go!"
     Good ol' Uncle Joe's! They never disappoint! Every time we've eaten there I try something different. This time I ordered their Chicken Parmesan & Spaghetti and, as always, it was delicious. The Friar ordered New England Clam Chowder and the Broiled Scallops Platter. I'm not sure about the scallops but he seemed quite pleased with that chowder. I grabbed my camera and took a couple quick shots to remember the intent expression on his face as he sunk his spoon into the creamy bisque. After all, enjoying Clam Chow-dah is serious business!  ;-)
     "So," he began, "now you can go home and tell everyone you know about how you fulfilled your life's dream of seeing Nikola Tesla!"
     "OK, um," I laughed, "my life's dream? I don't know if I'd go that far but, yeah, it was pretty cool, that's for sure! And it's all because of you. I probably wouldn't have done that if I was by myself. But... I like coming here and finding stuff to do that you've never done. Like the butterfly exhibit we saw last time; and the Albright Art Gallery we toured... I want my visits to be fun and interesting for you too!"
     "They have been, I've enjoyed the time. I'm hoping you can come again in the Summer. You have a week in July, don't you?"
     "Yep! My shop usually closes down for the week of July 4th... and, yes, I would LOVE to come! Absolutely! And, actually, I was thinking..."
     "You're always thinking," he chimed in.
     "Yesssss," I laughed, "I sure am. I was thinking that, maybe, if you're up for it.... how would you feel about a road-trip? It would be about five hours, give or take, round trip."
     "Where would we go?" His eyebrows raised with intrigue.
     "Well, I was thinking we could head to Naples, to the Inspire Moore Winery where that LOVE wine comes from. I thought we could make a day of it. Visit the Winery, maybe hit their bar and do a wine tasting, see if they make anything else we really like. Then, we could explore the vineyard with our cameras, maybe even sample the different varieties of grapes they grow! We can find a place for lunch, a quaint little cafe or something on one of the Finger Lakes... and then, at our leisure, we can hit the road again and head back to Hamburg. Whaddayathink?"
     "It sounds very nice. But I haven't traveled that far for quite some time..."
     "Of course," I nodded, "it's just an idea, for now. We'll wait and see how you feel when the time comes."
     We sat in silence for a few minutes, enjoying our meals... but my mind was secretly churning with ideas for the Summer visit! If we decide the trip to Naples is a bit too much, there's a place right in Buffalo called 10,000 Vines. Judging by their website alone, the place looks pretty cool. We could always do a wine tasting there instead! And I've noticed, during our travels, he always points out homes and buildings that were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There's an estate called Graycliff located in Derby (?), about twenty minutes south of Buffalo, and they offer guided tours. I wondered if that's something he'd be interested in. Again, after visiting their website, it looks like a wonderful place to explore with our cameras! And, of course, we could always visit the Albright Art Gallery again. The first time we were there, we only toured the inside. But they also have an outside Sculpture Garden that, I think, would be a delightful setting for an afternoon stroll. And then I thought about Jamestown! Wow! That'd be cool! I've been wanting to visit Lakeview Cemetery out there to find Lucille Ball's grave... and when I'm in town, I planned on also checking out the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnez Museum. Maybe, instead of doing that by myself, we could do it together! He might enjoy the nostalgia the Museum has to offer! And a trip to Jamestown isn't that far -- it's only an hour and a half away!
     The possibilities are endless, really. Honestly, I don't care what we do or where we go! I'd be just as happy sitting on the patio at the Friar's Residence for three days, as long as we're spending the time together. We could kick off our shoes, put our feet up, sit back in the shade, sip on a couple cold beers, and just relax over a game of Chess, or a jig-saw puzzle, or even a cross-word puzzle... and that would be extraordinary!
     With our dinner plates cleared away, I reached for my camera again. "Yep," I said, "I love playing with this camera. I've had lots of fun with it. The only thing I'm not happy about is that I've recently discovered it won't shoot in black and white. But that's OK," I added, "'cause it does mighty fine in color," and I pointed it at him and he flashed that winning smile..... CLICK, got it! "And it also has a timer, which I'm going to set for 10 seconds, then I'm gonna jump over there next to you for a selfie!"
     "Oh! Let me scoot over," he said.
     "Cool! Ready?"
     "OK. Set? GO!" and I slid in next to him for a quick snuggle. CLICK, got that one too! Excellent!!! As I scooted back over to my side of the table he reached for the camera, "Here, let me get one of you too!"
     "Oh boy," I laughed, "I haven't slept in 36 hours, the bags under my eyes will look just lovely, I'm sure, but wait, I can at least try to hide my double chin!"
     When he handed the camera back, I immediately hit the PREVIEW button to check them out. "Awwww, the selfie is adorable, look!" and I held it out to him so he could take a peek. "That one is going in a frame," I added, "I love it! Very nice! Very, very nice, thank you!"

     With bellies full, and photos taken, we shrugged into our jackets and hit the road to head home. While I was parking, and in mid-yawn, I said, "Well, my dear Friar, I can't tell you how much I've enjoyed this day! I'm so glad I came. Thank you, so much, for everything, it was fantastic! I'm exhausted, so I won't come in, I've gotta get some sleep, so we'll have to say our goodbyes here."
     "Thank you," he said, "I enjoyed it too. I still can't believe it. It really was a wonderful surprise!"
     "Oh, wait! I just thought of something else. The last time I was here, I left you two bottles of that wine..."
     "Yes! Those are gone," he chuckled.
     I rummaged around in the back seat for a moment. "I thought they might be so I brought you another one! Cheers!"
     "All righty, then! I need a hug, then I'm off," and I snuggled in deep to squeeze him tight. "You smiled a lot today, I'm so glad. I love you, I love you, I love you!"
     "I love you too," he said, "Have a safe trip home! And let me know about July, when you're coming back!"
     I climbed back into JEEP ROMULUS and buckled up. "I will! And I'll send all the pictures as soon as I get home, I won't forget!"
     I waited as he unlocked the door to the Residence and stepped inside. He turned, gave me another smile and threw me a quick wave. When I saw the door close behind him, I pulled out onto St. Francis Drive to head to my hotel. "God," I whispered, "I love that man with all my heart. You better watch over him! Keep him safe, keep him healthy and strong, keep him happy!"
     It was quarter to eight by the time I checked in and made it up to my room. I washed up, got into my pajamas, and collapsed onto the bed, grinning from ear to ear, as I viewed the photos of the both of us at the Tesla monument and at Uncle Joe's. "What a day," I uttered to no one but the camera, "Very awesome! I'm so glad I did this!"
     I clicked on the TV to catch a little news and, hopefully, a weather forecast. At 8:30 my cell phone rang. The Friar was just checking in to wish me good night and a safe trip.
     "Oh yes, I'm already in my pajamas; I was just looking at the photos. What about you? Are you in bed yet, safe and sound, and all tucked in?"
     "I will be very, very soon," he chuckled, "I am tired."
     "Ayuh, must be all that fresh air we got today; cold but fresh!"
     "Yes!" he agreed.
     "OK, well, you have a good night's sleep and sweet dreams."
     "Thanks, again, for the great surprise! I enjoyed it. I love you and drive careful, good night!
     "I will... and I love you too. Nighty-night!"
     I shut off the lights, climbed into bed, and clicked off the television. When my eyes fluttered opened a few hours later, I glanced over at the clock. "Oh, hell no! It's only 2:30 in the morning," I announced, "I am NOT done sleepin' yet!" I grabbed the book I brought with me, A Deadly Tail, by Dixie Lyle and read for a little over an hour. When I felt my eyes begin to droop I clicked off the light again and went back to sleep, THANK GOD!
     At 7:30 this morning, my eyes popped open once again and, this time, I was awake for good. Feeling rested and refreshed, I clicked on the TV, then made myself a cup of coffee, thanks to the Red Roof Inn's miniature Mr. Coffee machine bolted securely to a counter-top in the room. What the hell, I thought, do people actually steal these? Good grief!
     I lounged, in no hurry at all to leave, 'til about 9:00am. At that point I figured it was about time to head on down the road. If I was on I-90 by ten, that would put me back home around 5pm, give or take. That would give me plenty of time to unload the Jeep and to play around with the photos we'd taken. So.... I got dressed, packed up, and checked out.
     As I traveled east, I kept my eye on the thermometer on the dash board. As the numbers continued to climb, considering the near arctic conditions on Goat Island yesterday afternoon, I chuckled to myself. At 1:43pm, I sent The Friar a text message as I cruised through the Hudson Valley, letting him know my location and the current weather conditions from the road. I thought he'd get a kick out'a the fact that it was approaching 50 degrees!
     I pulled into my driveway at 5:20 this evening. Since I've been home, I've already fed the cats, scooped out their litter boxes, unloaded JEEP ROMULUS and I've resized and emailed the photos to The Friar. I also included a photo I found online of the Tesla statue without it wearing that ridiculous Rastafarian hat, LOL. It's now 9:30pm and I've just received an email from The Friar informing me he's already uploaded three of the photos to his website! Wooohoooooooo!!!
     I've phoned in my dinner order to Bella Napoli's, right around the corner from my apartment, and I'm waiting anxiously for it to arrive since I haven't eaten all day and I'm starving. It's no Uncle Joe's but, hey, it'll silence the rumbling in my tummy.
     I went to Hamburg. I surprised The Friar. We ate good food, went on an adventure and shared some laughs. I've hugged him and I've told him I love him...
     I am happy. My heart is filled with JOY. I made him smile.
     Life is good.
     I am content!

ENTRY #642
DATE:  03/21/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  A new photo-album has been created...

     So... it's 1:30pm, Wednesday afternoon, and I've been home from work for about an hour. My shop closed early today because we are in the middle of "Storm Toby" right now and it's snowing like crazy out there! This is the fourth NOR'EASTER to hit us this month -- we've had one every week since March 2nd and, I gotta tell ya, I'm getting tired of it. I've definitely had enough of all this snow! I'm ready for Spring!!! Granted, I do love all the time off from work but this crappy weather is starting to get a little depressing!
     Since I'm kind'a snowed in right now with nothing else better to do, I just created [and uploaded] a brand new photo-album page! It's a "gallery" of black & white photographs. So far, it includes two collections -- one is from my trip to Ellicott City, Maryland back in 2002; and the second collection consists of miscellaneous photos I've taken during the last year that I've converted to gray-scale manually (since this camera doesn't shoot in B&W). I have more photos that I definitely want to include but I have to sit here and search through fifty CDs to find them. I'll be adding more as I come across them but, so far, there's sixty-six photos on the page for y'all to check out.
     You can click the "Dove's Photos" button that appears on the bottom of this page, then just look for the album entitled "Dove's Black & White Gallery." Or you can just click
HERE and you'll be taken directly to it. I hope you stop by! If you do, let me know what you think!

ENTRY #641
DATE:  03/18/18 (Sunday)

     I did manage to revisit Union Cemetery (as mentioned in a previous entry) and I'm happy to report that there was no creepy BOOGA-BOOGA feel to it this time, LOL! I enjoyed walking around all the headstones in foot-deep snow and got some interesting photographs too! It was time well spent.
     The one and only gripe I have [about the new camera] is that I can't shoot in black & white. I really miss that. My old Olympus model used to take gorgeous B&W photos. I can't imagine why that feature wasn't included on the Nikon I'm currently using. I 'spose with all the photo-editing software that's on the market, the manufacturers just assumed it was no longer necessary. Oh well...
     I've always been a fan of B&W prints. Even before I "went digital," when I was still using my old 35mm Minolta X-700, I'd splurge now and then on B&W film and experiment with it. I used to have a couple photo-albums that were nothing but B&W prints I'd taken but, unfortunately, they were all destroyed years ago when my basement flooded. :-( What a shame that was!
     I've converted a few of the pictures I took in the cemetery from color to GrayScale and now I can't decide which ones I like best. There's just something about B&W photography... sometimes the detail is more enhanced; sometimes the contrast is more vivid; and, to me, a good B&W photo just has a certain flair (or "dramatic expression") that's lacking in color photos.
     Anyway, here's four shots in color AND black & white. Granted, I'm no Ansel Adams, but they're not half bad. These have not been altered in any way. I didn't mess with the contrast, brightness, saturation or any of the histogram settings. I simply clicked on CONVERT TO GRAY SCALE and then saved them "as is." What do you guys think? Any preference between the two?

ENTRY #640
DATE:  03/17/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  An Irish Blessing...

May love and laughter light your days
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours.

ENTRY #639
DATE:  03/13/18 (Tuesday)
SUBJECT:  Storm Skylar hits Connecticut...

Another SNOW DAY!!!
(...and that's all I have to say about that...)

ENTRY #638
DATE:  03/10/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  Random Ramblings...

     Item #1:  112 people (so far), in Connecticut alone, have died this year due to the flu. Damn! I find it mind-boggling that in this day and age there's no actual "cure" for the flu. You'd think, by now, there'd be a simple pill you could take and after a day or two you'd be fine. It's just a virus, not the Plague! I don't get it. I know there's different strains that evolve from year to year but, still... with today's "modern/advanced medicine," I am amazed there's not something that can save people from dying of the flu.

     Item #2:  The Florida School Shooting??? Enough, already!!! I'm tired of hearing about it! And now Jackass Trump is actually thinking that "arming the teachers" is a good idea??? He's an idiot, plain and simple. First of all, this will never fly and here's at least two reasons why...
  A.  If you're a parent of a school-student, are you really going to feel safe knowing your kid's teacher is armed? What's to keep the teacher from "going postal" and opening fire on their classroom? Are we to believe that a teacher can't SNAP just like anyone else? I can't imagine any PTA group(s) in this country going along with this. It's crazy!
  B.  Who's gonna pay for this? I mean, think about it, folks -- every teacher, in every classroom, in every school throughout the country would be provided a firearm? Guns aren't free, people! They cost money and they're not exactly cheap.
     And not for nothing but.... you can't just hand a gun to a teacher and say, "OK, here ya go, protect your class!" There's a legal process involved that Jackass Trump is blatantly overlooking. An individual has to apply for a gun permit in order to become "licensed to carry [a firearm]." That involves back-ground checks, finger printing, safety courses, and actual classes to learn how to use said firearm. Again, for EVERY teacher in this country? It would, literally, cost billions of dollars to make this happen. It's a bullshit idea that's gonna go nowhere. It's just Jackass Trump flapping his gums, trying to look like he's actually capable of solving a problem. (Ha-Ha!!!)
     It's 2018. Gun Control, today, is a joke. I think it's a phrase that shouldn't even exist. It's basically a "too little, too late" situation. With the hundreds of thousands of guns already in households across the country, we just have to face the facts -- the Florida School Shooting is NOT going to be the last one. "Random Shootings," whether they take place at a school or not, WILL continue to happen. I'm sorry, I know that sounds like a very pessimistic viewpoint to have but........
     I'm not a pessimist, I'm not an optimist. I don't go for that "glass half empty, glass half full" way of thinking. I'm a realist (my glass is dirty and in the sink), I call it as I see it. And from what I can "see," I look at the Shooting Crisis like this -- there's always gonna be guns; there's always gonna be crazy people. Until we can eradicate BOTH, from the entire planet, this shit is going to continue. Period. End of story. Oh, wait, did I mention that Trump's a jackass??? OK, that's my rant, moving on....

     Item #3:   I am now totally addicted to YouTube, LOL. I honestly don't know how I ever managed to live without it all this time. I'm interested in so many different things, once I sit down in front of YouTube, I just can't pull myself away from the computer!
     In one evening's time I'll manage to watch stuff about cats, dogs, and horses. Then, all of a sudden, I'm watching stuff about great-white shark attacks and encounters with humpback and orca whales. And then, somehow, I'm watching stuff about Nikola Tesla and Edison, which leads me to videos about Niagara Falls and the construction of the Erie Canal. Then, BANG!, I'm watching guided tours of cemeteries on the West coast, and stuff about hot-air balloons, and UFOs and crop circles. Then, don't ask me how, but somehow I end up watching old, rare footage from, like, fifty years ago of Judy Garland on The Andy Williams Show... and that leads me to videos about Vincent Minnelli's abandoned mansion.... and, from there, I might click on something that's about coin collecting, or about the Titanic, or about Stephen King, or about scrap-booking ideas! And then there's the "TEST-YOUR-IQ" videos. Good grief!
     I blame the weather! The weather here, in Connecticut, has been pretty crappy for the last couple of weeks so I haven't been out exploring with the camera. So, instead, I've taken to exploring the world on YouTube. I come home from work, I eat my dinner in front of the computer and then, all of a sudden, it's 3:30 in the morning and I haven't moved, my dirty dishes still sitting next to me on my desk!
     Last night I sat here almost six hours laughing so hard I was crying... between Fanny Brice as "Baby Snooks," Red Skelton, Victor Borge, Johnny Carson, Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann," bloopers from the Carol Burnett Show of Tim Conway and Harvey Korman, and "The Drunk" (played by Foster Brooks) on the Dean Martin Show, I was roaring with laughter! OMG, Foster Brooks as the drunk Airline Pilot and the drunk Brain Surgeon kills me every time!!!
      IT's INSANE! The content is staggering and I just can't stop! I think I need a "YouTube Intervention!"

     Item #4:  My 25-year-old microwave finally shit the bed a couple weeks ago. It went out with a bang, too! Scared the hell out of me AND the cats! In mid-nuke it started to make a whining/screaming sound that I can only compare to a turbine engine on a jet airplane! As a Grand Finale, it made several various POPPING noises, followed by an agonizing groan [as if in pain], then - finally - it sputtered and died. It was very dramatic! I unplugged it and off I went to work, wondering how I was going to defend myself against the rest of the morning without my trusty Shield Of Caffeine.
     Needless to say, I managed...
     On the way home from work that day I stopped at Target and bought a brand new one! It's a nice one, too, made by Oster. It set me back about 90 bucks but, hey, if this one lasts 25 years like the old one did, it comes out to $3.60 a year. That's cool, I can live with that, LOL.
     Lugging it up the stairs to my 3rd-floor apartment was, um, challenging, to say the least. I'm still baffled by the weight of the damn thing! I mean, seriously, it's basically HOLLOW, why is it 65 pounds? It's a microwave not an air-conditioner! WTF?!?!?
     Anyway, as far as microwaves go, I was happy with it as soon as I plugged it in and started experimenting with all the new features it has. Rigby (my cat), on the other hand, not so much! The thing is, this new Oster machine beeps differently than the old one. And, being the creatures of habit that cats are, every time Rigby heard this new beeping sequence, she would flee the kitchen in terror to take refuge under the bed.
     It took her FOUR DAYS before she was brave enough to "take on" the Beeping-Beast-of-the-Kitchen. Being the observant pet-owner that I am, I knew things were looking up when I discovered my cat INSIDE the microwave...
     As I was preparing my morning coffee, I opened the microwave door then turned my back for three seconds to grab the cup of water from the kitchen table that needed to be heated. During those three seconds, Rigby seized the opportunity and decided to face her fears head on and hopped right in! I was floored! Since she had never done this before with the old one, I figured it was something she deemed important so I didn't disturb her. I just leaned back against the kitchen counter, without saying a word, and watched her do what she needed to do. Cats learn by exploration and who am I to interfere with that process? She sniffed around for about 45 seconds, apparently came to the conclusion that it was not a threat after all, and hopped back out. And now it doesn't bother her at all; she's been fine with it ever since. So, mission accomplished, I guess. All is right again in her little world. Cool!

     Item #5:  I've been intrigued with Union Cemetery ever since my first visit a few weeks ago. I've driven by it numerous times but, since the weather hasn't been very cooperative lately, I've been unable to spend any time inside the place. I'm curious to see if that whole "feels-like-I'm-being-watched" experience was just a fluke, one-time thing or if it's something I'll feel each time I enter the grounds. The weather forecast for later today sounds pretty good. Once the sky lightens enough (as I write this, it's only 4am and still dark out), I think I'll head over there with the camera to check it out.

     Item #6:  I now own ELEVEN fidget-spinners... and I have no idea why, LOL. I have ten of them in a desk drawer right next to me and there's one out in JEEP ROMULUS that I play with, usually, when I'm sitting in traffic. I honestly don't know why I keep buying them but I do. Weird.

     Item #7:  So, yeah, the weather has been pretty lousy lately. On the first of March (or maybe it was the 2nd, I can't remember now), we got hit with a storm that almost blew Connecticut off the map! The wind was also accompanied by torrential rain so everything that wasn't nailed down either blew away or floated away. I had to roam the neighborhood TWICE to hunt down my rubbish barrels. That was rather annoying so, the next time I'm in Walmart or Lowes, I'm gonna buy a couple bungee-cords so I can secure all the barrels to one of the porch railings.
     Then, on March 7th (Wednesday), we got hit with Storm Quinn which deposited 9 inches of what us New Englanders like to call "Heart-Attack Snow" because it's so damn heavy to shovel! Oh, joy!!! However, I'm not gonna bitch about it all that much because there was a plus side -- my boss decided to close the shop that day for a SNOW DAY which I thoroughly enjoyed, spending it on the couch, in my pajamas, reading a book! NICE!!!
     And the next storm is already brewing - I think they're calling it Storm Skylar, I'm not sure - and it's supposed to hit on Tuesday or Wednesday. I've got my fingers crossed for another SNOW DAY, LOL!

     Item #8:  If you're a regular visitor here, you may have noticed that this page is a wee bit shorter than it used to be, LOL. That's because I've archived 75 entries to pages of their own. As always, you can still find them at the bottom of this page under their designated links. So, if you think you might've missed something, fear not, all the entries, links, and photos are still available to peruse at your leisure!

     Item #9:  ENTRY #577, entitled "My 2nd Trip to Hamburg!" (from last July), is STILL under construction and this is why..... The first time I sat down to write it, I got about 5,000 words in, and I just wasn't happy with it at all. As I went back to read what was finished, it sounded a bit forced, creating a very choppy, fragmented feel so I deleted the entire thing. I'm a firm believer that writing is a process that only flows naturally when the story itself is ready to be told. Apparently it just wasn't "ready" yet so I left it alone for a while, allowing it to simmer on a back-burner in my mind.
     The second attempt was much better. The first 6 or 7 thousand (+/-) words materialized in my mind so quickly, so clearly, so naturally, my fingers could barely keep up! And then, POOF!, the damn power went out and I lost every single word! I was furious!!! And I've got no one to blame but myself. That definitely taught me to hit SAVE much more frequently than I usually do!
     And my third attempt was foiled (totally lost again) when I took my computer to Staples for a "system restore" after my machine was compromised by a malware/spyware "virus."
     So, here it is, already EIGHT MONTHS after my "2nd visit to Hamburg," and I'm still at square one, LOL. And now I'm questioning the format I want to use. Instead of a long narrative piece, I'm actually thinking about the possibility of a bullet-point format, using photographs as the "bullets." Considering I've got over a thousand photos to choose from, though, I don't know how I'd go about selecting which photos to use. I have to mull this over for a while longer, it seems. But... it will get done eventually, I promise!

     Item #10:  I think that's all, for today, that I wanted to ramble about but, before I go, let me leave you with this --- a video from Britain's Got Talent of Marc Metral, a very clever ventriloquist (from Paris, France) and his dog, Wendy, who stole the show! I just love the look(s) of "SHOCK & AWE" on the Judges faces, especially Simon's!
     I've seen a similar act many, many years ago but Marc's presentation is so masterfully crafted you really believe the dog is talking! Well done! Enjoy...

Marc Metral and Wendy - Britain's Got Talent

ENTRY #637
DATE:  02/25/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Former address of Pennywise the Clown???

     LOL, I found the above street sign as I was driving through Old Saybrook last weekend while heading to Riverside Cemetery to photograph Art Carney's grave. Of course, as soon as I saw it, I pulled over to take a few snap-shots.
     For those of you who don't know who "Pennywise the Clown" is... he's one of King's creepiest characters, best known for terrorizing the children of "Derry, Maine" in the 1,090-page novel, IT.
     The made-for-TV mini-series IT aired on ABC (in two parts) back in 1990 with Tim Curry taking on the part of Pennywise. The movie has recently been given new life (in 2017) as a major motion picture (also filmed in two parts) with Bill Skarsgard bringing the child-killing Pennywise to life.
     I haven't seen [Part One of] the remake yet but I'll be adding the DVD to my King collection soon, I'm sure. It's received mixed reviews -- some folks saying it's the scariest movie they've ever seen, while others say it was a total flop. The previews looked pretty cool, to me, so I'm looking forward to it!
     Here's the original Pennywise versus the new Pennywise. Since I'm an old-school King fan, I'm leaning towards the original. I mean, c'mon, Tim Curry did an OUTSTANDING job in that role! I'm really curious to see how Skarsgard's performance will compare!

ENTRY #636
DATE:  02/17/18 (Saturday)
SUBJECT:  A Visit to Union Cemetery in Easton, CT...

     OK, so here's the deal.... this morning, when I woke up, it was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, the sky was bright blue - not one cloud in sight - and it was already 38 degrees out there, according to the folks on the Weather Channel. Wanting to take full advantage of this shining opportunity - quite literally the calm before the storm - I got dressed, grabbed my camera and the Famous Graves Research Book I've created and hit the road. I had three cemeteries in mind that I wanted to conquer, the first being Union Cemetery in Easton (for Johnny Winter's grave - the legendary guitarist); Roxbury Center Cemetery in Roxbury (to find the graves of Arthur Miller, Frank McCourt and Richard Widmark); and, lastly, Riverside Cemetery in Old Saybrook (to find Art Carney's final resting place).
     I went to Union Cemetery in Easton first because it's the closest one and I managed to find Johnny Winter's grave within moments upon entering the place..... but I'll come back to that later.
     Roxbury Center Cemetery was a total wash. I had great directions, or so I thought, but I was unable to find the place. After turning around three or four times, travelling up and down the same street looking for it, I eventually gave up. Plus, I was kind'a racing the clock.... the snow storm was supposed to hit around 7:00pm and I didn't want to waste any more precious time searching endlessly. I'll have to Google it again to get some satellite images of the neighborhood. I'm positive I was in the right area but, I have a feeling, there's probably an unmarked entrance and I just kept missing it. Oh well. Life goes on...
     Riverside Cemetery was successful though. I already knew Carney's grave was located on the perimeter, up against the fencing that surrounds the place, so it only took about three minutes for me to locate it. I didn't get to spend much time there, unfortunately, because it was already 4:30pm and the sky wasn't looking as pleasant as it was earlier. The clouds were rolling in and the temperature was dropping significantly so I high-tailed it out'a there to ensure I'd make it home before the storm.
     The photos of both graves (Winter and Carney) have already been uploaded to my Famous Graves page. Click
here to check them out!
     Now, getting back to Union Cemetery, my first stop this morning... Like I said, I found Johnny Winter's grave shortly after I arrived. Since I had never been to that cemetery before, I roamed around for about an hour and a half reading names and taking tons of photographs. The cemetery isn't that big but it's picturesque, quiet, and somewhat tidy. The grass is mowed regularly but the bushes and shrubs could use some trimming. The graves are maintained to a point but, unfortunately, since it dates back to the late 1600s, many of the headstones have toppled over due to either erosion, lightning strikes, fallen trees, or vandalism. Repairs to many of the stones were evident but the Historical Society (or whoever is in charge of that stuff) definitely has enough work on their hands to keep busy for years to come.
     Since it's approximately three and a half centuries old, there are quite a few Urban Legends surrounding this particular cemetery. The most popular one is, of course, the famous "White Lady" who [supposedly] haunts the area between Union Cemetery (in Easton) and Stepney Cemetery (in Monroe), a distance of approximately four miles. She's been spotted in both cemeteries by numerous witnesses through the years, and she's also been seen roaming the length of Route 59 that connects the two burial grounds.
     The "White Lady's" identity has never been verified, as far as I know... and her story varies, as well, depending on the source. Some say she was brutally bludgeoned to death behind the Church on the premises; others say she was murdered on her wedding night by her husband, the wedding taking place at that same Church; others say she slipped and drowned in the brook that runs behind the property; and some say she lost a daughter during child-birth and simply refuses to leave the grave of her little girl. No matter what the story is, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is her existence. [Note: There's also an apparition of some kind which is referred to as "Red Eyes" that makes an occasional appearance bobbing above the headstones in the dark of night, however, that Legend doesn't seem to be quite as popular.]
     If you Google "Union Cemetery in Easton, CT" your search browser will undoubtedly offer you a plethora of matching results.... and if you take the time to peruse many of them, as I have, you'll learn that this cemetery is repeatedly referred to as "one of the most haunted places," not only in Connecticut, but in the entire United States. The fact that this little cemetery, a mere 15 minutes away from my house, located in the middle of Nowhere-Easton-Connecticut, has that kind of reputation, clout, stigma, curse, legend (call it whatever you want) attributed to it, I find impressive, for lack of a better word.
     I honestly can't say if I believe in ghosts or not. I can say that I've never seen a ghost. I've never dealt with a poltergeist. I've never been in a room where the temperature suddenly plummets 25 degrees because of the presence of a so-called spirit. I've never peered up into a window of an abandoned house and seen a white, translucent figure staring back at me. I've never heard giggling children or footsteps in the middle of the night that can't be explained. I've never experienced ANY of that stuff. BUT.... just because I've never experienced it, doesn't mean it couldn't happen. Anything is possible, right? I mean, there's millions of people around the globe that have reported some kind(s) of paranormal activity. Whether it's actually all true or not, who's to say? I believe that THEY believe their experiences happened but that's about as far as I can go. I guess I'm "on the fence" about the whole thing. I'd need some serious, hard-core evidence, I think, before I'd be willing to say, "Yes, this shit is definitely real!"
     And you all know [by now] how I feel about cemeteries. I love them! Ever since I was a kid, I've always enjoyed spending time in cemeteries. Whether I was walking around in them, roller-skating around them, riding my bike through them, or just sitting up against a sturdy tree-trunk with a good book reading, whether I was with others or completely alone, I've never had a problem being in a cemetery. They're interesting. They're tranquil. They're historic. And most of them are down-right gorgeous which is why I love photographing them! If I had to guess, I'd say I've probably been in a couple thousand cemeteries throughout my lifetime and I've never been scared, I've never been freaked out or startled by anything, I've never felt an evil presence, or heard spooky noises. NEVER!!!
     However.... today, at Union Cemetery, I experienced a little something I never - in a million years - would have expected. It was nothing major, really. I didn't see anything; I didn't hear anything; I didn't smell anything; and I didn't feel anything, physically, touch me. But, the entire time I was there, I couldn't shake the feeling that someone, or something, was behind me, watching me. I felt like I wasn't "by myself" but I know I was the only person there.
     The way this cemetery is laid out you can stand, pretty much, anywhere in that place and turn a 360-degree-circle and you can see, clearly, if another vehicle is parked somewhere. You can see, clearly, if there are other folks walking around in there. There was no one else in there, just me and my Jeep, that's it. But I can't tell you how many times I actually turned around to see if someone was following me. The longer I stayed, the stronger the feeling became. It got to the point where I wasn't just casually glancing over my shoulder to check.... I would actually turn around completely and stand there staring, for minutes at a time, waiting to catch some kind of movement between the headstones. I thought, maybe, I'd catch a glimpse of a kid ducking behind a headstone playing games trying to scare me, or maybe even an animal searching for food, perhaps a fox chasing a rabbit or something like that. There was nothing, though. No movement at all caught my eye. I will admit, it was kind'a creepy.
     Do I believe that Union Cemetery is actually haunted, after this strange [personal] experience while exploring the grounds? No, not really. Again, I would need some hard-core evidence. So... how do I explain this then? Honestly, I have no idea. This was the first cemetery, though, that I've never felt 100% at ease in, that's for sure. Was it an evil, or sinister, feeling? No, far from it. Was I actually scared? No, not at all, but I was aware that something was causing me to feel a tad uncomfortable when I was there.
     Since I've lived in Connecticut the majority of my life, I've heard the stories about the "White Lady" for years. Was it, simply, the power of suggestion messing with my mind? I suppose that's possible, however, I've visited other cemeteries in the area that are supposedly haunted (i.e. Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven has the legend of Midnight Mary; while the Baptist Cemetery in Burlington has their own legend of the Green Lady) and I've never felt as if I was being watched, or followed, when I was in either of those places. Why would the "power of suggestion" only effect me at Union Cemetery? I have absolutely no answer to offer. Do I think it was the infamous White Lady trying to reach out to me? LOL, I can't imagine why she would but, again, anything is possible, right?
     All I can say, honestly, is that I do believe there's something different about Union Cemetery, in comparison to other cemeteries I've visited through the years. Exactly what it is I haven't a clue but, after a while, it did have a strong enough BOOGA-BOOGA feel to it to creep me out a little. After an hour and a half, the feeling of being watched did get under my skin far enough to where I finally said, "Yeah, I've been here long enough, I need to go, like, NOW!" And, yes, I will admit that my pace heading towards the Jeep was a little more hurried than usual. Hey, better to be safe than sorry, right? ;-)
     As I was heading to the safety of JEEP ROMULUS, one last glance over my shoulder stopped me in my tracks. I just couldn't believe what I was lookin' at! I got the lens-cap off the camera and took one picture as I stood there gawking at it; and I managed to fire off three more shots as I continued walking before the wind swept the image away. Here's all four photos. I don't know what YOU'LL see when you look at these but, to me, it looks like a gigantic set of angel wings hovering right over that cemetery! The image only lasted a few moments; by the time I climbed into the truck, it was completely gone. I wonder if that's the reason I felt like I was being watched. A Guardian Angel, maybe? Just a coincidence? Don't know, but it was pretty cool to witness it either way...

ENTRY #635
DATE:  02/15/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  9-year-old Angelica Hale on America's Got Talent...

     Oh. My. God. I just found this on YouTube and I've watched it FOUR times in a row... and I'm practically in tears. This child has GOT TO BE some kind of prodigy. Her name is Angelica Hale, she's only NINE years old and she's SOOOOO cute I just wanna eat her right up! She's a tiny little thing but she's got a POWER-HOUSE voice!!! Every song - every single NOTE - is flawless!
     I am totally amazed by this little girl! In her first audition she said she wants to be "the next Whitney Houston"..... and I am confident she'll be even bigger than Whitney Houston! She blew the Judges away and the audience went CRAZY as soon as she opened her mouth!
     Seriously, I am amazed. This child is gonna be a SUPER STAR. Honestly, it doesn't even matter that she didn't win the competition. I'm sure that, during her first audition, Simon Cowell already planned on offering her a recording contract.
     She's brilliant.... absolutely brilliant!!! Click the link below to see what I'm talking about. You will not be disappointed! WOW! Wow, wow, wow!!!

Angelica Hale - America's Got Talent - All Auditions

ENTRY #634
DATE:  02/14/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  Happy Valentine's Day!

     Since it's Valentine's Day, I thought the following link was appropriate. The song "My Funny Valentine" - from the Broadway Show Babes In Arms, circa 1935(?), I think - has been covered by, literally, hundreds of artists through the years -- Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Linda Ronstadt, Chaka Khan and Anita Baker, just to name a few....
     Here is an absolutely CAPTIVATING rendition sung by Alice Fredenham on Britain's Got Talent, during their first week of auditions in 2013. I agree with Simon Cowell -- her voice is liquid gold.

Alice Fredenham - Britain's Got Talent - My Funny Valentine

ENTRY #633
DATE:  02/07/18 (Wednesday)
SUBJECT:  A name to remember...

     He's a Stand-Up Comedian from Malawi, Africa and he is hilarious! His material is fresh, highly entertaining, and good, clean fun. He's charming, he's got a great personality, and an infectious smile -- he's an all around lovable guy! I think he's definitely a rising star!!! Here's three clips of his performances on Britain's Got Talent. Enjoy...

Daliso Chaponda - Britain's Got Talent

ENTRY #632
DATE:  02/01/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Happy Feet!!!!!

ENTRY #631
DATE:  01/25/18 (Thursday)
SUBJECT:  Latest Photo: Blazing Clouds, taken yesterday morning...

ENTRY #630
DATE:  01/21/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  More "Carpool Karaoke" Videos...

     I'm back! It's not often when I post twice in one day but...
     In light of sharing that Kelly Clarkson "Carpool Karaoke" video, I thought I'd collect some of my other favorite folks enjoying themselves as well with James Corden...

Michelle Obama


Jennifer Lopez

Lady Gaga



Selena Gomez

     I'd have to say the episode with Michelle Obama is the best one to date. When Missy Elliot jumped in and they rapped GET YOUR FREAK ON, that was definitely a moment to remember! Loved every second of it!
     After a year of Jackass Trump in the White House, I really - REALLY - miss the Obama family!!!

ENTRY #629
DATE:  01/21/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  "I'm a strong, bad-ass chick with classic confidence!"

     So I'm still recovering from this damn cold. It's a lot better than it was but I can't seem to get rid of the cough. Oh well....
     What brings me out of hibernation is the above subject line -- I'm a strong, bad-ass chick with classic confidence!
     Now, for those of you who actually know me, and for those of you who are regular visitors to this blog, you've either heard me singing "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson, OR you've seen me proclaim - here - that "Redneck Woman" is sort've my personal theme/anthem. It has been for years.
     But, y'know, as you go through life, things tend to change - and thanks to Kelly Clarkson - so has my anthem. A couple months ago, I was watching The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Kelly was one of his guests and she performed a song called "Whole Lotta Woman" from her latest album (Meaning of Life). It was awesome -- great song, great lyrics, and, overall, it was a great LIVE performance. Shortly after that Tonight Show episode, I also happened to catch an episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden and Kelly was his "Carpool Karaoke" guest. Towards the end of that Karaoke segment, they sang a portion of Whole Lotta Woman and it rocked!!! Kelly was having a blast car-dancing (just like I do!) throughout the entire segment... and she sang it with such conviction, bad-ass attitude, and SOUL I was up on my feet dancin' in my living room. I think at one point I even shouted at my TV something like, "You go, girl! Lay it down! Woohooo, that's what I'm talking about!!!" And then, on New Year's Eve, during the Rockin' Eve Ball, she performed this same song and she brought the house down with it!
     I don't know what's up with this song though. She's performing it LIVE on just about every show she's been on lately, but I haven't heard it on the radio yet, so I don't know if it's gonna be released as a single or not. I haven't heard it - at all - since New Year's Eve and it was kind'a bumming me out so I finally searched for it on YouTube. LOL, I am now totally addicted to this song!!! I can't stop watching the videos of her performing it. I actually bought the CD yesterday and I've listened to the entire thing twice already. As of right now, it's loaded on the computer and it WILL BE added to the MP3 player very soon!!!
     Here's the link to James Corden's Carpool Karaoke:   
Kelly Clarkson Carpool Karaoke. The entire segment is awesome! I love how much fun they're both having belting out her songs!

     Here's a link to Kelly performing the entire song LIVE in Nashville: Kelly Clarkson Whole Lotta Woman - Nashville Session.

     And last, but not least, here's another link for a LYRICS-only version of the same song: Whole Lotta Woman (Lyrics).

     Ayuh, it's definitely my new anthem! I'm a whole lotta woman with bad-ass, classic confidence! Amen!!!

ENTRY #628
DATE:  01/07/18 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  Starting the New Year with a Cold...

     I'm officially "sick." For the last couple weeks, I've been battling the sniffles, trying to keep them from developing into a full-fledged cold.... and, apparently, I've lost that battle. I'm sneezing constantly, and my nose is either completely stuffed up and I can't breathe at all, or it's constantly running. It's one extreme or the other -- there is no in between. It's extremely annoying... and it also makes sleeping nearly impossible. And, yes, I am aware that I've - most likely - brought this upon myself.
     Not turning on the heat in this apartment until the end of December is a factor, I'm sure. As shown in a previous entry, the thermometers in each room displayed they were all below 50 degrees. Traipsing around in a couple cemeteries in 11 degree weather for a few hours, of course, didn't help either. And, the other night (Thursday), I was also outside shoveling 14 inches of snow that we received earlier that day. I did dress in layers to make sure I was warm enough but I think I might've been OVER dressed because by the time I came inside and changed into my pajamas I was covered in sweat.
     So, yup, I am now officially sick. As of yesterday, I thought it was just a head cold but, when I woke up this morning, there is now a rather disturbing sensation in my throat -- along with the beginnings of a slight yet persistent cough, so I believe it's slowly migrating into my chest. Wonderful.
     Yesterday, I spent the day planted in front of YouTube for almost 10 hours straight... then I eventually moved into the living room and watched Mysteries at the Museum for the rest of the day, surrounded by a box of tissues, Halls cough drops, nasal spray, beverages of all sorts to stay hydrated, and crossword puzzle books. I've been taking Day/Night Alka-Seltzer Plus but I can't really tell if it's making a difference or not.
    And today is basically a repeat of yesterday, minus the YouTube videos. I've been on the couch in my pajamas and bathrobe, buried under a couple blankets and two cats, watching TV and occasionally snoozing when the stuffed up/running nose allows. At some point, I will be forced to venture out for food 'cause there's nothing in the house to eat right now. I thought about having something delivered but I have no cash on me to tip the Delivery Guy, LOL. Oh well...
     I'm currently reading Heaven's Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal by Jack Kelly. I'm only 75 pages into it but - so far - it's pretty good. Although, the sneezing and constant nose-blowing makes it difficult to concentrate on the words - I find myself rereading the same sentence over and over - so I've put the book aside for now.
     Same thing with the puzzle books. I can't figure out any of the answers... I've been stumped for days on the same puzzle. One of the clues is "Contaminate." The answer is seven letters... and with the surrounding answers that I've already filled in, there is no word that I can think of that means contaminate. I finally gave up and looked at the answers in the back of the book (which I HATE to do). And get this -- the answer is VITIATE [which I should have known]. I was so disgusted after reading the answer I flung the book on the floor and just gave up. I'm blaming the BRAIN FART on lack of sleep, congestion, and the cold medicine. I'm not exactly sure if that's the cause or not but that's my story, dammit, and I'm sticking to it!
     Good grief -- I just sneezed six times in a row!!! This is ridiculous! I'm hopeful though... so far, there's no headache, no body aches or muscle pain, no nausea, no diarrhea and no fever so at least it's not the flu! Thank God for that! Regardless, I'm headin' back to the couch. Ciao for now...

ENTRY #627
DATE:  01/01/18 (Monday)
SUBJECT:  2018!!!

ENTRY #626
DATE:  12/31/17 (Sunday)
SUBJECT:  More Famous Graves added...

     So today is the last day of the year -- Happy New Year, by the way -- and I think it's also one of the coldest days of 2017 (but I'll get to that later).
     It snowed yesterday and, here in Stratford, we ended up with about two inches on the ground. With a quick glance out the window this morning, I saw that most of that snow had melted away over night. It also looked like a beautiful day -- bright and sunny, a nice blue sky with white puffy clouds, and it didn't appear to be very windy. Not having much else to do today, I decided to hit a couple cemeteries in search of some Famous Graves to photograph.
     I threw on some clothes, making sure to bundle up in layers to fight off the cold, gassed up JEEP ROMULUS, and headed north to Hartford, eating breakfast as I drove; a buttered Portuguese Roll and a banana, both washed down with coffee.
     During the first stop of the day, Cedar Hill Cemetery, I was after four graves -- Katharine Hepburn, Samuel Colt, JP Morgan, and Isabella Beecher Hooker. I assume everyone knows who Katharine Hepburn is (the actress, of course) so I won't bother going into who she is and what she's famous for. However, the other three might have some people stumped so here's a little info on who they are...
     Samuel Colt - Inventor/Industrialist - In 1848 he founded the Hartford-based Colt's Manufacturing Company (the largest private arms manufacturing facility in the world at the time) which is famous for developing the Colt .45 caliber Peacemaker six-shot revolver (which became a "symbol of the American Frontier West"). In 2006 Samuel Colt was, finally, inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
     John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. - Financier/Businessman - One of the richest men in the world during his time (b. 1837 - d. 1913). He created companies such as General Electric and US Steel (among others). One of his many companies, International Mercantile Marine Company (also known as IMMC), owned a Brittish company called White Star Line (owner of the grand threesome Titanic/Brittanic/Olympic), making JP Morgan owner of the RMS Titanic that sank tragically on her maiden voyage in 1912. JP Morgan was supposed to be a passenger on that maiden voyage but he became ill and postponed his trip for a later date. Lucky, eh?
     Isabella Beecher Hooker - The half-sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe and a prominent women's rights advocate. Her husband, John Hooker, is a descendant of Thomas Hooker, Hartford's founder.
     Thanks to the Cedar Hill Cemetery map I acquired at the Office, it only took me about an hour to track down all four graves. That's a good thing, too, 'cause by the time I made it back to the Jeep, my fingers and toes were completely numb from the cold.
     On the way home from Hartford, I stopped in New Haven at Evergreen Cemetery to track down two other Famous Graves -- Oliver Winchester and Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester. Same family but different plots...
     Oliver Fisher Winchester - founder/President of Winchester Repeating Arms Company, in 1866, located in New Haven, famous for the production of the Winchester rifle. (The company has since changed hands/names/locations numerous times, and was shut down permanently in 2006, under the name of U.S. Repeating Arms in the state of Illinois .)
     Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester - became daughter-in-law of Oliver Winchester when she married his son, William Wirt Winchester. She became heir to the Winchester fortune after her husband's death (due to Tuberculosis) in 1881. (However, she's most famous for the construction of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.) Sarah and William had one child, a little girl named Annie (born in 1866), who only lived six weeks. Following Annie's death, Sarah suffered with deep depression from which she never fully recovered. After her husband's death in 1881, Sarah believed her family was "cursed" or "haunted" (due to the amount of deaths caused by the Winchester rifles manufactured by her family) and sought out a Psychic for guidance. According to legend, the Psychic instructed her to "move West and build a house for herself and the spirits haunting her." The Psychic is claimed to have told her that if construction on the house ever stopped, she would join her husband and daughter. In 1886 she purchased a house and immediately began construction. For the next 36+ years, construction continued 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until her death (in September 1922). Today, the house is considered a California landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's privately owned and serves as a tourist attraction. In February 2018, a movie - WINCHESTER: The House that Ghosts Built - hits the theaters nationwide, starring Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester.
     And this, Boys and Girls, concludes your History Lesson for today, LOL.
     When I finally began hiking back to the Jeep, my nose was frozen, the eyelashes on my right eye were stuck together with frozen tears, my toes were so numb I was limping, my fingers were stiff and throbbing, and - I swear to God - I was so cold at one point I think I could've cut glass with my nipples! I dread to think how much worse it would've been if I hadn't "layered up." As I pulled out of the cemetery's parking area, the temperature on my dashboard read 11 degrees. I don't know how accurate that is, or if it includes Wind-Chill or not but, I gotta tell ya, it was brutal!!!
     By the time I pulled into my own driveway I was completely thawed out and back to normal. Once I changed into my pajamas and fed the cats, I began work on the photos right away so I could get them uploaded. There's now a total of 21 famous/notable graves for you to check out. Click
here to see them all. After dealing with the cold today, though, I'm pretty sure this new hobby will be put on hold 'til sometime in March, LOL.

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