BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

The wedding

It was a hot summer day, smoke was floating in on the balmy breeze creating a haze over the beautiful backdrop.  The tents were up, the tablecloths were flapping in the wind – flowers were gorgeous, you could smell the barbecue roasting.  Just before the ceremony began, the wind settled – the smoke cleared just a bit and the sun beamed down through the haze.

My youngest son’s wedding day.  It was a lovely day – a romantic ceremony, great food and drink, lots of good friends and family, and some fun dancing.  Absolute success.

My daughter wrote and performed the ceremony – it was a good combination of romance, charm and fun.  The couple gave their promises with tears of sincerity and it was very touching.  Both families participated in the ceremony – with small children stealing the show, of course.  The bride was beautiful and the groom handsome – a stunning couple.  I was so very proud of my brood.

Everything came off without a hitch – as far as I know.  Music was great, speeches were heartfelt and fun, had a great dance-off (well-done Gabe!) and I think it was a day Ethan and Adelle will remember as perfect.

I’m anxious to see the photos since I neglected to take a single one myself!  There was too much going on, too many people and it wasn’t my focus of the moment.

Today, I will clean all the remnants of the day.  Luckily, the brides family helped clean up all of the outside wedding area, I just have to house to put back into order.  It will take the better part of the day but I may have previously mentioned that cleaning is therapy for me (sick, I know).

Months of prep for one special day.  It was worth it.

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Getting “wedding ready”

Another quiet summer morning.  The hummingbirds are having breakfast.   It is early, the sun is not up yet.  My favorite time of the morning.  So peaceful.

July is almost over.  It is my favorite month of the year – usually very hot with clear skies almost every day.  I love it.

In 13 days, my youngest son will be getting married on our front lawn.  My husband has spent his summer weed-whacking, mowing, irrigating, repeat.  The yard looks great.  I have cleaned the porches, will be doing a very deep clean in the house in the coming days and we’ve been doing touch up maintenance around the outside of the house.  (Nothing like a little motivation to get these things done!)

I was on the hunt for the perfect “mother of the groom” dress.  Thought I found one but then I put it on to model for my husband and his comment was, “Going to a funeral?”  On to dress #2.  But I found one that is a wee bit more cheerful.  I’ll save the first dress for a funeral (could be his)…  Ha ha

We have had two weddings here – both of our daughters.  They were lovely affairs and my girls are both very organized.  They planned everything, I just had to help implement things.  This time, it will be different because the bride and her family are planning the actual decorations and the event so even though I will be helping implement things, I am not as familiar with the “plan”.  What better way to get to know our new “in-laws”, right?

We are hoping for good, clear, warm (but not too hot) weather.  Also hoping that we won’t have any forest fires — smoke can really put the kabosh on these beautiful views.  See below, the top photo was last summer during the fire season, the other photo is from a couple of weeks ago.

So we are hoping for a quiet fire season, at least until after August 11!

I am beginning to feel the anxiety and pressure of wedding week; making sure everything looks good and wanting the day to be a raving success.  In the end, they’ll be married no matter the weather, the ceremony, the music, the dancing, my dress, my hair.  All will be well.

 

Aging – we all do it

Sixty.  I will be 60 years old next month.  It is so strange because in my mind I’m still in my 20’s.  How is that possible?  One quick glance in the mirror will remind me that I’m NOT in my 20’s — and watching my age spotted hands on the keyboard is another grim reminder.  Still, being young in my mind helps me to not really feel old.  I still like to “play” and laugh.  That’s the best part of having grandkids, you get to play with them and be silly.  My husband hasn’t been prone to silliness since 1965.

Of course, when I try to do things a 20 year old might, it results in sore muscles and a possible injury or two.  I spent this weekend cleaning windows and floors on my back porch.  It was exhausting work.  As a 20 year old, I could have done the whole thing in a day AND vacuumed the house afterward but as an almost 60 year old, it took me two days with a multitude of rest breaks.  As an aging generation, these are the things we can accept.  We can’t do EVERYTHING that we used to do but we can slow down, take breaks and continue to roll.

For the most part, I feel pretty good about aging.  I am in fair shape, although I know I could do more walking, stretching and SHOULD be eating more vegetables (yecch).  I have pockets of fat in new places — but they can be covered with a flouncy shirt.   My breasts went south for the winter and stayed — so an extra supportive bra was in order.  Let’s just “pretend” they are perky.  I have the “turkey neck” skin and LOTS of wrinkles on my face.  Lots of new skin blemishes throughout.  I won’t even go into the more intimate aging markers — suffice it to say there is plenty of positive proof that I am no longer in my 20’s!

As part of aging, my husband and I are participating in the usual old-age indicators.  Reading obituaries and announcing who has passed.  (“Oh geez, I thought he was already dead?”)!  My husband is falling into the “old codger” role quite comfortably.  I have to remind him it is NOT a necessity — but he fades in an out.  He complains about the government, other drivers, the weather.  (Again, with the WEATHER!  What is the obsession?).  I obsess over having to look my age – should I continue to dye my hair?  What makeup can I use to cover the wrinkles and LOOK like I’m only 50?  (Answer? NONE – putting make-up over an older face just makes you look like you have a lot of make-up on an older face…)  I can still fit skinny jeans but should I wear them?  Every time I go shopping for clothes I resist shopping in my own department – “women”, it just sounds so prehistoric.  For my “age” group there are the sequins, lots of bold decorative stitching and elastic waist bands!

Even more than the physical losses and changes are the mental changes.  Sure, we are getting forgetful.  We walk into a room and forget why we came.  We go to bed early and get up well before the sun.  We can be content to sit on the porch with a summer drink – for hours.  And we are fading into the background, slowly but surely.  It happens.  In the beginning, we are the center, the parents – we make things happen.  As everyone matures into their own lives, we become the outer circle and, eventually, the afterthought.  No wonder old people get cranky!

My husband and I made a pact when our kids started to leave the nest.  We would live our lives, learn to do things together and try to keep growing, learning, having fun even as we got old.  The hardest lesson was in knowing that FUN at 60 is different than fun at 20, 30 or even 40 — and that’s okay.  To each their own.  (And try not to become cranky…)

Rewinding

I dreamed about my mother again last night.  It is like my subconscious is on rewind – from her death, back through the grief of dementia and back to her younger years.   By younger, I mean in her 50’s.  As time passes, the guilt and anguish seem to be releasing their grip.  We lost her over the course of several years, little by little.  So much time for regret.

It has been so long since she drove up my drive in her white Taurus but I’m starting to remember those times again.   And she LOVED driving and gallivanting.  It was her favorite thing in this world, her only hobby.  She was a “drop-in” visitor – she would come to see what was going on and then leave.  It was rare for her to stay much longer than 15 or 20 minutes.  But then she didn’t ever have much to say – she would share a little gossip and be off to her next stop.

Even though she died two months ago, we have felt the loss a lot longer.  Her passing was just a formality and we can finally grieve properly.  As I sit and remember her, there is a mix of sadness, regret and resentment.  Not unusual, given our relationship when she was living.  Eventually, I hope to feel less resentment and regret.

Grieving is a strange process.  There are a lot of flashback memories.  You begin to forgive the transgressions, real and perceived.  I have begun to acquire a better understanding of my mother – of her personality and her character.  I’m grateful for her sacrifice.  While I will always regret never truly knowing her, I can finally accept that it just wasn’t meant to be.  She wasn’t built that way.  I will continue to strive to do things differently in my own life and remember that she was the best mom she could be.

 

A little flash fiction

I am looking for a topic….searching, searching.  Anxiety levels are high.  Stomach is churning, mind is flashing — hands on the keyboard barely resisting the urge to close this window and open pinterest instead….

I began writing a blog to try to keep myself writing – I figured if I were writing something that someone may actually read, it would keep me motivated.  Not necessarily true, though at times it is a good motivator.  Just not today.

Here is a bit of flash fiction – just for fun.

THE TRAIN

I have had enough.  This is the 5th day of trying to find a place to live.  My uncle, Charlie, was kind enough but he told me I couldn’t just sleep in his barn without permission.  And then, he wouldn’t even give me his permission! It’s a BARN!  There are barn cats and lots of mice, a little bit of hay — but that’s it.  What would I be disturbing if I stayed?  Besides, he has a huge house, with several empty rooms!  He told me he loved me but he just couldn’t have me staying there.  Liar.  You don’t love someone but turn them away in their hour of need.  Bastard.  I tried to steal his truck again, (that would sure show him), but he was one step ahead of me.  Locked up tight.  Not like the last time.

It was a few months ago and I don’t really consider it stealing – I borrowed it to get into town.  As all farmers do, he left the keys in it and doors unlocked.  House was unlocked too – but he’s a pretty light sleeper so I didn’t go in this time.  His dog, Rascal, never barks – he loves me.  Truly loves me.  (Shouldn’t that tell him something about my character?).  I considered selling the truck, but it would have taken too long so I just sold the tools in the back.  I left the truck by the river – not far from downtown.  Not by choice, I ran out of gas.  I should have used the money to leave town, but I couldn’t have gone very far.  Spent the money “recreationally” instead.

I suppose he thinks he’s kind by not pressing charges.  What about a place to live, Uncle Charlie?  What about that?

I’ve walked these tracks more times than I care to remember.  Some of those times, I DON’T remember.  I used to walk the highway and hitch a ride but haven’t since that last bad excursion.  I woke up in the hospital with a concussion and road rash after being thrown out of the car.  Of course, I don’t remember that part.  The cops told me — asked me for a description of the car or the guys, as if I would rat them out!  As if I could remember.

I’ve been walking these tracks ever since.  But I’m tired.  Tired of these tracks and tired of walking.  I have thought about this day for a long time.  I knew it would come eventually.  People will talk about it later.  They will wonder if I was hard of hearing.  They will wonder if I was drunk or high.  Didn’t I hear the train whistle – the very LOUD train whistle.  If you’ve never walked on the tracks you may not know, you can FEEL the rumble when a train is coming.  You can feel the air being pushed ahead by the train.

I can hear just fine and I can feel it coming.  I can hear that distress signal.  I can almost feel the panic of the engineer.  But I’m tired and I’ve had enough.

Sunshine and camping

I love the summer.  Warm sun, warm breezes, clear blue sky, total comfort.  It. Is. Glorious.  I wonder if I lived in a warm place, like Phoenix, if I would feel this good all the time?  Who knows.

To my memory, summer has always meant freedom.  No school, vacation, fun outdoor activities.  When you are an adult, it doesn’t have quite the same connotation (unless you are a school teacher) but you still seem to squeeze more fun things into the summer than you do any other season.

When our children were little, we used to go camping as often as we could.  First we had a pop-up tent trailer, then we bought a used camper trailer with a bathroom!  Several years later, we splurged and bought a brand new camper with microwave, air conditioning and a slide out! (For me the most IMPORTANT luxury was the bathroom!)

We used to go up into the Jocko Canyon, to a nice quiet place we aptly named, “Paraiso” (paradise).  It took about a half hour to get the camper setup and the kids could ride their bikes and play – running wild and free.  We would go for walks and bike rides, fishing, hiking, or just sitting and visiting while the kids play. My mom and dad had a camper also and we would camp together.

Everything was planned around the meals we would make – dad would call me the day before we left and tell me what he was bringing for food, and I would know what I needed to bring to subsidize his menu.  When we arrived in the early evening we would have chili flavored fritos with chili, sour cream and nacho cheese.  For breakfast, pancakes, eggs and bacon.  Lunch was sandwiches, dinner was steak or burgers, depending on what my dad decided to bring.  I would usually bring either apple crisp or rhubarb crisp for dessert.

We always spent part of the day at the river or at Twin Lakes – so the kids could play in the water.  When it started to cool off and get dark, we would sit by the campfire, the kids in their pajamas, and watch the stars light up the sky.

I have wonderful memories of those camping trips.  Wonderful times spent with my mom and dad – and the kids always had so much fun.  I hope they have good memories too.

As the kids grew up and moved out, we camped less and less.  Our camper sat on the pad and started to deteriorate with exposure to weather and time.  We finally sold it a few years ago and were sad to see it go.  A young family bought it with big plans for repairs and lots of camping trips to come.  I hope they enjoy it as much as we did.

(**Side bar — just trying to get back into the routine of writing…..)

Run, Forrest, Run

I’ve always hated running.  So many people find it therapeutic and say it is a wonderful way to stay fit.  But I’ve never gotten into running — I can think of no more torturous activity!

When I was a young girl, I was very sickly, small, weak, anemic.  I could never keep up with my siblings or cousins.  They were always running, jumping, climbing, wrestling.  I was always coming from behind begging them to wait for me or to help me.  It was annoying to them and, eventually, they just ran off, leaving me with the younger cousins who also could not keep up.  As I got older, I continued to TRY to keep up – to compete with everyone else;  jump higher, ride faster, climb farther.  I developed a very competitive nature but, sadly, was never quite as athletic as I wanted to be.

However, I am the champion of running on the inside.  As I’ve grown into adulthood, and now as I grow into “senior” adulthood, I have learned much from different counselors, self-help books and articles about facing your fears, allowing yourself to feel, confronting things head on, etc. etc.  But when you know how to run, its so much easier to run.

Running on the inside is not physically strenuous, you don’t have to monitor your heart rate, it isn’t hard on your knees or back.  Although, after a long period of running from emotions – your body will begin to show signs of fatigue and depletion.  Emotional running is automatic.  It is part of our “fight or flight” hormonal response.  When in the midst of some emotional upheaval that we know we cannot “fight”, we take flight.  We’re off and out of the blocks; running INSIDE our heads.  We start searching for something tangible to DO with our hands, our minds.  We busy ourselves with something, anything.  Eating, cooking, cleaning, drinking, Pinterest, Facebook, and most of us will find someone or something that needs our attention MORE than whatever we are trying to avoid.  We will throw ourselves headlong into something ELSE and give it 110%.

Conversely, running may involve isolating ourselves, sleeping a lot, “zombie-ing” our way through our daily lives.  Laughter and enjoyment are a distant memory.  We trudge along and think only about the fact that we are trudging along.

For some of us, running is second nature.  Even if we have learned the skills needed to stop or slow that internal fleeing – it is our first and most dominant response. I understand meditation is a good method to overcome the need/desire to run.  I have yet to accomplish this particular method of countering that predominant need to flee.  Frankly, I can’t sit still long enough to meditate!  Just like the character in “Eat, Pray, Love”, I watch the clock and my mind is racing from topic to topic, coming back to the fact that I can’t stand just sitting there!

At some point in running that suppression marathon, perhaps when there is a need for hydration or to catch your breath, you can begin to intercede with some of your “learned” coping skills — begin to process WHY you are running, where does it HURT, how can you slow this race and begin to slowly FEEL, let yourself touch the surface of the fear.

This is the point at which I have finally arrived.  Writing about it is the first step.  Next up – breathing, slowing my internal pace.  If only I felt this much like actually running on the OUTSIDE….

Just ruminating…..

Guilt.  Pure Catholic?  OR Female based?  Or, heaven forbid, a combination of the two!!!  I’ve always wished that, for just one day, I could be a man and think like they do, make decisions based solely on my own notion without considering the feelings and judgments of others or the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” I carry with me or any of the usual worries I have in making most of my decisions!

I have always wondered – is it nature or nurture?  Were we born with this innate desire to please, to mold ourselves into whatever is needed by the situation?  Or did the situation mold us into this caretaking creature?  I suppose it is a combination of both — exacerbated by a lifelong history of male domination, female submissiveness.

Here is my take: in the beginning, it WAS nature.  Women had the gift of reproduction – they needed to be protected, fed, valued for their contribution of keeping the species going.  Somehow as life transpired, instead of being valued they suddenly became demeaned as weak, helpless, useful only as a sexual gratifier and child “rearer” as if they had no other contribution, no intelligence or strength.  Women became a commodity, like breeders.  They were bargaining pieces, for sale or trade.  In turn, women became reliant on men out of necessity.  They had to modify their behavior constantly, to maintain the status quo or to be desirable on the open market.  They had little choice or liberty.  Sometimes, they were given for marriage to a far-older man – the highest bidder with the best offer.  Often times, they were given over into cruelty and abuse.  Bear in mind, these were women of intelligence.  They had to use their wits to survive in the worst of conditions.

Conversely, there were women during the same period who lived easier lives.  Those who were given over to more comfortable surroundings and significantly better financial means.  However, they were under a different lock and key – limited to “female” pursuits; child bearing, sewing, taking tea and dressing for dinner.

Gratefully, through time, women have evolved.  Women began to take a stand, to exert their will.  It was a long hard climb and it was fraught with much difficulty.  To this day, there is no clear path for most women.  True, we are now more likely to be educated, strong, intelligent and many have specific and fulfilling careers.  But we are still the breeders.  We still WANT and LOVE our children.  In most cases, what has happened is that women have merely taken on an additional role – breeder and bread winner.  And despite our best efforts – we can’t do it all.  Who would want to?

Women evolved and took on whatever we were given.  Men sat back and let us do it, waiting for us to fail.  In other words, the men DIDN’T EVOLVE.  (Side bar: I must qualify that statement. Some men did evolve.  Some only partially.  There are men who DO fully support their partners, who are present and focused on making an equal contribution to a familial relationship.  Some men “try” but are still men, after all…).  There were men who didn’t believe that women could ever be capable or “equal”.  They were perfectly happy to sit back and let them roll in, work hard and sometimes surpass them because they knew they were in control of the purse strings and that is all that mattered.  The glass ceiling is their secret weapon and secures their dominance for eternity.  This is their way of thinking.

Even in the best of times, as women, we continue to modify our behavior to accommodate our situation.  As a gender, we will always be encumbered by our traditional roles.  Motherhood, caretaking, teaching, guiding…these are our strong suits.  It isn’t that men are not capable or can’t excel in those suits, if the need arises. But to their way of thinking, the need never arises.  SOMEONE has to step up, 9 times out of 10 it will be the woman.

As an example, I will site my own case.  My husband is a good man.  He is strong and loving.  He loves children and is good with babies.  When our children were little, he fed them, changed them and took care of them while I worked or had other pursuits.  When we met, we were both working at jobs that we enjoyed, our dream “career” jobs.  As our family grew, it became more and more difficult to work these jobs because we were both working shifts.  Finding babysitters became difficult and we were struggling to keep a decent schedule.  We decided that I should get a “day” job so that at least one of us had a steady, reasonable schedule.  The truth is, I had no choice in the matter because he was making twice as much money as I was and it made more sense for me to take a cut in pay and work as a secretary.  This also meant that I would now take on 85% of all household duties, and childrearing responsibilities because he continued to work shifts and was either working or sleeping during regular family “living” hours.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t willing to help and participate, he did what most men do in that situation — he figured if I needed his help I would ask him.  I did what most women do — I figured, if he were paying attention, he would see that I needed help without request or instruction.  Therein lies the rub.

If you are in a partner relationship – married or no — you know that there are definite differences in the thought processes of the gender roles.  (I wonder what it is like in gay relationships?  Is it the role or the gender that defines the process?)  Men don’t worry.  They don’t watch, listen or ruminate.  Women wear down the carpet of worry.  We read body language like a romantic novel, absorbing every detail.  Not only do we listen, we rehash every sound, word, inflection.  The focus for each gender and the means of dealing with each circumstance is, by nature, very different.  It becomes far more obvious in a relationship when childbearing and childrearing begins.

“It’s not right for a woman to read.  Soon she starts getting ideas and thinking….” Gaston, Beauty and the Beast   Women think so much.  Too much really, because we are ruminating over the SHOULDS, feeling judged, judging ourselves (far too harshly), anticipating a need….frankly, it is exhausting.  At any given moment, you can ask any man, “What are you thinking?”  He will never respond with a worry or any thought in connection with an emotion.  It will be a thought about a mechanical process or about the weather (what is their obsession with the weather?) or a physical process — calculating or building something inside their head.

Logically, we have to be different.  In any relationship, there is never a 50/50 split of duties and responsibilities.  We each have different strengths and weaknesses.  Generally, one partner provides more income.  One partner is responsible for keeping the finances.  One partner vacuums, the other one mows. One partner remembers to send birthday greetings.  So on and so forth.  Each partnership will execute the dance of compromise, deciding who will undertake which duties.  As the partnership evolves and transitions into various stages of growth, the dance changes as well.  It is the responsibility of each partner to clearly state their needs and desires AND they must be willing to compromise or there will be resentment and balance will be lost.

Awareness is key.  It is too easy to fall back into traditional roles — men will pull back and wait to be “told” what to do and women will let them, feeling angry that they still aren’t mindreaders even after all this time….  While there are times that I do wish I could think like a man, cast aside all of this guilt and insecurity; most of the time I am glad that I don’t.  Who would take care of all those little details, feelings, and sustain life as we know it?

Dreaming

This morning, I dreamed about dying.  In the dream, I was crossing over an ice-filled river and fell in.  There were several of us in the water (for some reason) and we were all floating toward the falls (of course, there was a waterfall).  We were all trying to climb on to the larger ice chunks toward the side of the river.  Interestingly enough, the water was not cold.  Also, there were people along the banks of the river watching us struggle.  Just as I was making my way to the edge of the river to climb out onto dry land, one of the onlookers said, “It doesn’t matter, you’re going over” and I went over the falls.  In the dream, I said to myself — this is a dream and you never hit bottom in dreams.  Sure enough, I didn’t but as I transitioned into the next scene of the dream, I began to realize that I had, indeed, died.  People could see me but didn’t know me as me.  They were talking about my passing.  I began to wonder how long I would walk on the earth as this other being, watching my finale as an observer.  Probably the most striking occurrence in the dream is that I KNEW it was a dream and kept a running voiceover in my mind, something like, “It’s OKAY, this is just a dream”.

Many parts of the dream were obvious rationalization of things going on in my head.  My mother’s death, floating in the current – trying to get back on land, realizing others are struggling in the water and in life, as well.  Feeling as though I am watching the world go by without my participation.  Keeping my head above water.  And of course, the most obvious, thinking of my own mortality.

When I was about ten years old, I went through a phase of fearing death.  Each night, as I went to bed, I would begin to panic that I was going to die in my sleep.  I would experience shortness of breath and it would escalate into a full-on panic attack.  At some point, either my mom or dad (I honestly can’t remember which) told me that none of us ever know when we will die so we can’t look for it or try to hide from it.  When the shortness of breath comes, relax and slow your breathing.  Say the Lord’s prayer and it will help calm you.  Naturally, I’m paraphrasing, I don’t remember exactly how they told me I just know that when I am really worried or afraid, I automatically start saying the Lord’s prayer and breathing very slowly.

I don’t FEEL as though I am upset about my mother’s passing.  I’ve already been grieving for the last few years.  But even though it isn’t in the forefront, it is like a program running in the background.  Every now and then, the little “throbber” (an animated graphical element used to show that a computer program is running in the background) comes up and spins to remind me.

Funco

In 2014 when I retired, a gaggle of old friends (strike that — we aren’t old just long-time friends) decided we should meet monthly and have a few drinks, dinner and visit.  We agreed to meeting on the second Thursday of the month, at 4pm at a “happy hour” of our choosing.  We have been faithfully meeting ever since.

There are four of us, we met and worked together at 911 dispatch in the 80’s.  This was back in the glory days when the quality of our service to the public was job 1.  Working as a 911 dispatcher was stressful, but we were proficient, intelligent, sensible and dedicated.  We could hear and talk at the same time – something that is important when you need to remain aware of what is going on around you.  We worked together like a well-oiled machine – most of the time.

Of course, there were more than four of us working at the 911 center at the time, and the majority of dispatchers were of the same mind and skills.  We rotated shifts so you learned to work with a wide variety of personality types but, in many ways, we were like a family.  We spent countless hours talking and sharing details of our lives.  We celebrated and mourned together.  We grew up together – even though we were all well into adulthood when we began.  And there was always that one crazy aunt, bitter cousin, ditzy sister and cranky grandmother that we had to contend with in our dispatcher family.

We have great memories of those working days and this week we reminisced about quite a few of them.  One of our Funco gals has retired and we took a mini-vacay to Leavenworth, WA to celebrate.  We stayed in a lovely Air BnB near the center of town within walking distance to everything.  The weather was perfect, sunny and warm – with clear skies and gorgeous views.  We ate out, did a little shopping (didn’t buy much?) and enjoyed several happy hours.  We also watched Frozen and threw grapes at patrons of a brewery across the street from the deck of our rental (how old are we?).   **No injuries were reported….

This has been a year of change for all of us.  We’ve had health issues to deal with, either our own or that of a family member.  One of us has moved.  One of us has retired.  One lost the family dog but eventually got a new puppy.  One of us recently lost her mother.  One of us has a sister who is gravely ill.  One of us is expecting her first grandchild.  Time marches on.  It is lovely to share it with these friends.  Even though we may not see each other as often as we used to – we still share a common bond.  To the Funco Gals – many happy returns.