Fear of Tomorrow

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....So I Will Ruin My Public Servant's Life Instead...

Today was my first day in the office this week.  I returned from my conference late yesterday afternoon.  I’m a little worse for the wear.  It wasn’t a great trip or a great conference.  My head and my heart were not into it.  My health didn’t help at all.  I’m still recovering from this nasty illness, and it wasn’t until the final day of the conference that I even felt a little bit human.  I should have stayed home, but I couldn’t.  Or I should say, I wouldn’t allow myself to stay home.  I had already paid the registration fee.  I had SAID that I would be there, so I went.  Stupid.

While it’s good to be home, last night was not relaxing.  The house was a mess.  I had laundry to do (for six people!) Finally once I was able to relax for a moment, the flash floods began.  Our little down was practically under water for a couple of hours.  All the roads in and out-of-town were closed.  T, the girls, and I hopped in The Trooper and drove all over town exclaiming at all of the water.  It lifted my heart.  It made me remember why I love this little, goofy town.  There were about 200 pickup trucks and SUV’s driving around to see , all the excitement.  It was a great deal of fun, and we were all soaking wet by the time we got back home.

Unfortunately, the lighthearted moment didn’t last long.  We soon discovered that our basement was flooding…and fast.  We swept and pushed the water toward the floor drain, but it was coming in much faster than it was going down the drain.  Luckily, we were somewhat prepared.  Twenty years of living in this house has taught us to keep things up on shelves and off of the floor.  The house is over a hundred years old, and while we use the basement for laundry and storage, there really isn’t anything that can be damaged by a little water.  We were just careful to make sure that the drain didn’t clog, or heave forbid, back up.

It feels like I jump from one IMPORTANT thing to the next IMPORTANT thing.  The only thing that doesn’t seem to be important in my life is downtime and relaxation.  I’m not sure how to change that.  I’m not even sure that it is possible at this point in my life.

I wasn’t dreading my return to the office, but experience has taught me that chaos usually awaits me when I return from a trip.  Well, I wasn’t let down.  Chaos was right there crouched behind my office door.  I could sense it the moment I walk in.  My plants were all wilted.  I had forgotten to water them before I left town….too sick to care at that time.  My coffee cup was dirty.  Yuck, cold coffee from six days ago with a nice, little gnat floating on top.  Not the greatest welcome back.

I took care of the mess in my office and sat down to begin trudging through my emails.  Just I began, my phone rang.  It was the City Administrator’s secretary telling me he would like to see me in his office.  ***OMG****  WHY???  Yeah, I was a little freaked out.

Thankfully, the City Administrator and I have a very good working relationship.  He and I have faced some sticky situations in the past, and he was always been a great ally.  As I walked upstairs, I wondered what I had waiting for me.  Ah….it was the same old issue in one of its many forms.  The Good Ol’ Boys Club had gotten their feathers ruffled.  Seems that I don’t follow the unwritten rules of this tight-knit city.  I don’t give a shit what the GOB Club thinks about me or my organization.  It’s not my job to kowtow to the elite of the community.  I certainly don’t disrespect them, but I also don’t give them undo respect simply because of who they know or who their father (or grandfather) might have been.  It is my job to represent the little guy – – the small business owners.

I was asked to join a meeting at 10:00 where the City Administrator would be addressing some of their concerns.   Everything went well.  The word “Control” was thrown around a lot.  Control?  I believe that these pillars of the community were feeling their control slip a little bit.  Interesting.  I said it.  “Control?  Hmmmm….  That’s something that I hadn’t really thought about.  Who controls downtown?  Well, I don’t have any interest in controlling a darn thing,” I assured them.  “My only interest is creating events and promotions that bring people through the doors of these businesses.”

By the time the meeting was over, we were all smiling and spewing (false) niceties.  I was asked to sit on one of their planning committees.  Yes, we should all be working toward a common goal.  Yes, we should all work together.

BLEH….and BLECH.

And it gets even better, my friends.  A letter of complaint ABOUT ME had been circulated to City Administration.  Yep, that’s one of the beauties of being a public servant.  People are so rude and proprietary about our position and our jobs.  They “Pay our Checks.”  They “Have a Right” to this or to that.  You fill in the blank.  I have been in jobs in the private sector.  I have worked as the director of two different non-profit organizations.  Working as a municipal employee is simply the most thankless, humbling, often hateful job.  There is not a day that goes by that myself or one of my co-workers is not verbally abused either by telephone, email, written letter, or in person by the general public.  Yeah…then there is the press.  That’s another story altogether.

Today was MY TURN.  I read the letter.  It was from a well-known crazy.  Everyone shrugged it off.  Some even laughed.  Had I read that letter, if it had been written about someone else, I would have laughed, too.  It was about me, though, and it stung.  It HURT like hell.  God…why are people so cruel to each other?

I thought about it all day.  I consider myself to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  I can’t imagine that ANYONE would really care enough about ME to even have an opinion.  I don’t even really know this woman!  I have met her a couple of times.  She is on my mass email list.  I do many promotional  E-blasts, and she receives those.  As I said, she is crazy.  The letter made little sense.  Still, it was mean.  I really don’t “get” mean.  It hurts me to see people being mean to others.  It hurts like heck to be the one singled out.

Tonight I am worn out.  I am still not feeling well.  Being this sick has freaked me out.  I don’t trust my normally healthy body.  Lola said to me, “Mom, you always say that you NEVER get sick.”  Yeah…that’s what I thought, too.  I’m afraid that I am run down.  When will I get caught up?  What if I get sick again?

I am afraid, dreading, reluctant to go to work tomorrow.  What in the heck waits in store for me tomorrow?  I don’t even want to think about it….


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5 a.m.

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Here I am writing at 5 a.m.  It feels good to be sitting here drinking coffee and writing.  This past week has been a blur.  I’ve been so sick that I haven’t been able to do much of anything that wasn’t absolutely required of me.  It started last Sunday.  At first I thought it was allergies, and I continued to work as usual.  I couldn’t miss work on Monday, because I had my monthly board meeting.  On Tuesday, I had a committee meeting that could not be missed. 

By Wednesday, there was no denying that this was not allergies.  I woke up around 5 a.m. on Wednesday morning thinking that I was having a heart attack.  I was laying on my back and gasping for air.  Turns out, the cat was sleeping on my very congested chest.  I pitched him off and wandered out of bed.  Oh, boy…was I ever sick now.  I grabbed my phone, sent a quick email to work to let everyone know that I would not be in that day, and climbed back in bed to sleep until I could call the doctor. 

My doctor was not impressed with my work ethic.  He told me that I was exhausted.  Yeah…I knew that!  (Sometimes I wonder if I even remember what rested feels like anymore.)  Yes, I agreed.  I am exhausted — now I had pneumonia, too.  He prescribed some fantastic medications.  The pharmacist said, “Wow, when you get sick, you really do it right!”  My doctor told me to stay home from work for the rest of the week.  REST.  I was supposed to rest.

Days later now, and I am getting better.  I’m not sure if I have ever felt this level of exhaustion before.  While I did not take the rest of the week off, I have been resting.  I compromised.  I worked half-days and slept away the afternoon, early evening, and all night long.  I’ve spent the past few days in and out of sleep.  I have been so out of it that the weekend snuck up on me.

Ah…the weekend.  This isn’t a normal weekend.  I was leaving to attend a five-day conference on Saturday afternoon.  T wanted me to stay home.  My mom told me to “Tell Them” that I couldn’t go.  I’m not sure who she thinks “They” are!  I am THEY, and I said I had to go.  Why am I here then if I am sick?  Oh, that’s easy.  I’m looking at this as a mini hospital stay.  🙂  I have a lovely room.  I don’t have to cook or clean up after anyone.  On Monday, I will not have to go to the office.  Yes, I will attend conference sessions, but there will be plenty of downtime, too. 

My assistant and I drove to the conference together.  We took a cute, little company fleet car, a hybrid that runs almost soundlessly.  She drove, because I am still half-looped on medication.  It was a lovely three-hour drive.  The countryside was beautiful.  It was sunny.  The conversation was good.  We had dinner with friends also attending the conference, and I was in bed by midnight.  There will be no partying for me on this trip!

I woke up a little before 5:00, and laid there in the quiet.  Coffee!  I really wanted a cup of coffee, so here I am drinking my coffee while I write.  I have a relaxing day stretched out before me.  I don’t have to attend a session until 2:30 this afternoon.  We came early, because my assistant is going to attend a basic training session beginning first thing in the morning.  I plan on getting a little more rest and then taking a nice leisurely walk around town. 

This is the National conference for the organization that I am affiliated with.  It’s always a good time seeing old friends, and the host communities highlight the best their area has to offer.  This year, we are in Iowa, and tonight’s festivities are going to be at the State Fairgrounds.  We will be eating carnival food, milking cows, and throwing cow patties.  I can’t think of anything that I’d rather do than hang out with cows! 

I’m still fighting off the tail end of this illness.  My energy level is not back to normal.  I feel delicate and breakable.  For some reason, I feel a bit tearful at times.  (I’m feeling sorry for myself!)  This has been such a difficult past year, and this illness is the end result.  Oh yes, and I blame myself for that, too.  I have not been very kind to me…and it’s time to change that.  I have spent too much time, effort, and energy this past year on things that produced nothing but heartache…and eventually illness. 

This illness has given me a chance to take a step back.  I have lived the past few days drifting in and out of sleep in a dreamlike state.  Now that I am finally waking up and feeling better, I feel cautious.  I don’t want to jump back onto the exhaustion track.  There has to be a better, kinder way to live my life.  I’m not sure what changes I need to make yet, but changes need to be made.  A year and a half of unhappiness has ended up with pneumonia and exhaustion.  I am mentally and physically wiped out.  Being wiped out isn’t a good or fun thing, but I’m trying to look at it a little bit like wiping the slate clean.  It’s my choice not to allow this stressful lifestyle and behavior to continue.  Call this my wake-up call.

Visualization, Part II

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As I felt that Negative Loop begin playing itself over and over again in my head, I was angry.  My weekend had been good.  I was able to recognize the blessings in my life, but I was (ME!!!) sabotaging my own happiness.  Allowing the negativity to loop over and over in my mind was preventing me from enjoying what was REAL and GOOD in my life.

Visualization.  I knew that was the answer.  I went to a quiet place in the house.  In MY house, that means the upstairs bathroom.  I closed the door and sat down in the chair.  Wow, I have sure spent a great deal of time in that chair this past year!  I sat there and remembered how I once was able to pull myself outside of my body through visualization.  I was able to control my own pain.  I was even able to control hiccups within moments by using visualization.  I tried to remember how, but I failed.  My mind was stuck in the Negative Loop.  I tried to remember how.  Where did I used to go? 

Year ago, I had this technique where I imagined a meadow with a lone tree.  The tree was sheltering and immense.  It represented peace.  I walked toward the tree and went into another realm within my mind.  (kinda strange, I know…)  I tried it again, but the tree was elusive.  All I was able to envision was myself….and all I saw were flaws. 

I tried a beach.  I imagined a beach, wind, surf, the sunset, but still it did not work.  What was I wearing?  OK…all white.  Was there wind?  Yes, and it made my clothes cling.   You could see my pouchy tummy.  The wind made my hair look stringy.  I looked like hell.  I looked worthless.  I looked like I did not deserve peace.

So, that’s how bad this has become.  I could no longer find peace, because I have no self-worth.  Even I did not believe that I deserved peace.  It made me sad as I sat there in my bathroom….in a chair alone, unable to find peace.  I looked in the mirror.  Is THIS it?  Is this face and this body all that I am worth?  What is inside of all that?  What is under the flesh?  My spirit.

Instead of imagining my body, I began to imagine my spirit.  At first, it wasn’t easy.  It’s a difficult thing to get past the outside and dig way down to what is beneath the surface of who we are.  What is under there?  It was there when I was a little girl.  It will be there when I am a very old woman.  The essence of who I am is always there.  I tried to imagine that spirit inside of me.  Warmth.  That is what I began to see.  A rose-colored warmth began to emerge in my mind.  I imagined that warm, rose-glow floating along beside the ocean.  The calm sand, the soothing blue of the waves.  All of it became a part of the spirit of me.  As I began to visualize the “ME” underneath all of the clothes and skin and bones, I could feel other spirits by my side.  They were golden.  I felt their love.  My dad was there.  My grandmas and my grandpa were there, too.  All of them wanted to help me.  They wanted me to feel their peace, and they surrounded my rose glow with their warm golden auras.  I felt filled up in a way that I have not felt in so very long.  I felt real hope for the first time.  They were there waiting for me.  They were there to catch me and carry me above and beyond the pain.  All I had to do was seek them out.  Ah…now I knew.  I knew that I would be OK.  I can do this, because I am not alone after all.

I know….this is a most unusual post.  I don’t always consider myself to be “in touch” with my spiritual side.  The strange thing is, I once considered myself to be very spiritual.  I lost that somewhere along the way.  At the same time that my life spiraled out of control, I lost touch with my spirituality.  I don’t think that is insignificant.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence.  It will take some time to cultivate this awareness within myself once more, but I am ready.  Finally, I have found something within myself of value, and I don’t intend to let it go again.

Yes, I know.  These past two posts have been strange.  I’m not sure that I have done a very good job of conveying my thoughts, feelings, or experience the other night.  It’s difficult to explain something that is other-worldly.  It’s practically impossible to explain something that seems to go beyond words.

Visualization, Part I

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This will probably be one of the strangest blog posts I’ve ever written, both in this current blog and in my previous (more soul-searching) blog.  Whatever happened, and it was strange, had a fairly significant impact on me, and I wanted to share the experience.

Do you know the feeling of having your mind circle back to the same thought or idea over and over?  That can be either good or bad.  I’ve had it work both ways.  If a productive, creative idea is forming, the process of revisiting, replaying, and turning the newly shaping idea over a few (or many) times can be part of the process of growth or success.  On the other hand, an idea or thought process that is purely detrimental circling around and around in your head can keep you stuck in one place for too long.  Sometime we can truly be our own worst enemy. 

I have been stuck in this negative replaying process for a very, very long time.  I have revisited and replayed these negative thoughts out to the point where I can barely even remember that I’m doing it.  This negative “loop” running through my mind has become such a part of my life this past year that it has become me.  Realizing that, the fact that this negative loop-playing is controlling me, has been a major breakthrough in the healing and repair process.

Other than having a slightly sick child last weekend, the result of which was a major change in my plans, I had a very relaxing weekend.  By relaxing, I should say that I accomplished a great deal.  My June Cleaver side was shining through.  I organized drawers, shampooed carpet.  I bought new curtains for the girls room.  I baked brownies. 

I enjoyed my life.  I loved my family.  I had moments of pure happiness.  Until…the blasted loop would rewind and begin its cycle once again in my mind.  It feels like I have brain damage!  This isn’t the kind of brain damage caused by a blow to the head.  It feels more like I need a swift kick to my head. 

I had a crash on Sunday night.  I had been so busy for most of the weekend.  I hadn’t had much time to think, but Sunday night while I was alone, listening to music, and ironing in a quiet room, the loop began again.  I was thinking about the weekend.  It is so lovely to have all of the kids home for the summer. T and I had enjoyed a dinner with only our sons.  Both girls had other plans.  It was so amazingly enjoyable to be at the dinner table with all of my men.  I had smiled from ear to ear even as the tears were near to the surface.  Later as I ironed, I allowed myself to get  a bit melancholy and sentimental. 

Instead of allowing myself to grow sad, I did something different.  T was downstairs at the computer.  I went to him and climbed on his lap.  I wrapped my arms around him and laid my head against his neck.  As I sat there squeezing him, he calmly put his arms around me.  I sat there on his lap, just squeezing him and breathing fast as I fought back the tears.  Why was I crying?  I had been happy!  WTH??  (Is this menopause???)  Finally, I was able to take a deep, deep breath just as the tears began to flow.  T said, “Do you feel better now?”  That’s when I began to laugh even as I cried. 

We sat there for a moment as I wiped the tears that were now streaming down my face.  I was so happy to have the boys both home together.  I am so proud of Luke.  Andrew is so happy to have him home, too, and I think having his brother around will be good for him.   The time I had spent cleaning and working with the girls this weekend had been so wonderful, too.  I didn’t have sisters, so I feel like I am finally experiencing something that I’ve missed my entire life.  I felt so full of love and so blessed.  I was overwhelmed with emotion. 

T understood.  Without words, he understood what I was thinking and feeling.  He didn’t judge.  In fact, he didn’t react much at all.  He accepted.  He wrapped his arms around me and held me.  As I took that deep, cleansing breath, he knew I was “feeling better.”  Ah…longterm marriages are so complicated.  There is no flash or romance, but there is such comfort and strength and knowing.  Why isn’t that knowing what we adulate instead of sex and romance?  I think it’s because it is so subtle.  It’s almost hidden.  You have to look for it.  You have to be able to recognize it to be able to place value on it.  I’m learning. 

This is what I want.  I want this happiness to last.  I want to be able to value the subtle goodness in my life.  I want to remember this goodness during the times of stress and downright WORK of raising four kids and being in a marriage of 27 years.  The loop of bad thoughts needs to end in order for these pure and good things to take center stage in my life.

Here is where the visualization and auras come into the picture.  I was (am?) a firm believer in visualization.  I used it each time I gave birth to my children.  No stitches.  No medication.  No pain?  HA!  Yes, there was pain, but I was in charge of how the pain controlled the situation. 

When my son, Luke, broke his femur at age three, I taught him to use visualization. The doctors had put him on Demerol, but each time he fell asleep, he had muscle spasms that jolted his entire body.  He went from tense pain to sleep, then was jolted back to excruciating pain with each muscle spasm.  I spent an afternoon watching my little boy suffer while under medical care until I intervened.  I knew there was a better way.  I refused to let the doctors medicate him with anything stronger than Ibuprofen.  Instead of narcotics, I taught my three-year-old son to use visualization and breathing techniques.  It worked.  I laid next to him for hours helping him breath through the pain and find a relaxed place in his mind.  Yes, there was still pain, but there were no more of the jarring muscle spasms. 

How have I forgotten these lessons?  How have I forgotten that we have more control over our minds, our lives, and our thought processes than most even realize?

Meg Minus Makeup

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Well, we’re all getting older.  Sometimes I look in the mirror, and it doesn’t compute.  Who in the hell is that old woman staring back at me?  I bet Meg Ryan thought the same thing when/if she ever saw the picture on the right.  I feel her pain.  

I ran a few errands during my lunch hour.  As I stood in the checkout line, I saw that horrible picture of Meg on a magazine cover.  Sheesh…thank God no one puts my non-makeup pictures anywhere for the entire world to study.  At least I have that one small thing to be thankful for.  

There were other makeup-less celebrities on the cover, too.  Kirstie Ally, but everyone knows she’s a train wreck.  J Lo, who in my opinion looked good, healthy, and natural without makeup.  But Meg?  Well, that one almost broke my heart.  I’ve always loved Meg Ryan.  She and I are close the same age.  Now look at us!  Oh, Meg….what has happened to us???  

It has been a long, exhausting week.  There has barely been time to catch my breath.  I worked last weekend, and headed to a conference in Springfield on Monday.  I was happily greeted when I returned home.  In fact, everyone was so happy to see me that I had to make dinner for 8 people that evening.  🙂  Actually, that was OK.  I was happy to have the house and table full, but I’m wearing out now. 

Luke is home from Marquette for the summer.  T drove up to Milwaukee yesterday, bringing back our son and piles of laundry.  Last night there were 10 of us for dinner.  Thankfully, it was a lovely evening, and T and I took our plates of food out to the patio. 

After everyone headed off in different directions, T and I cleaned up the kitchen and retired with drinks in hand to the patio once again.  Before long, Emily had joined us.  Then Lola had something “important” that brought her outside from her bed.  Just as the girls wandered back inside, Luke and Shannon returned from their walk.  They sat talking with us for a while, then headed in to watch a movie.  As we sat there “relaxing” for almost an hour, we were able to be alone for approximately five minutes. 

Thank God It’s Friday.  Just in time for the grade school carnival tonight….

High Horse

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What an odd day.  I had an appointment with a wine distributer first thing this morning.  I am organizing a wine tasting next month as a kick-off to our latest promotion.   As much as I like wine, I’m not sure if it’s something I necessarily like to think about first thing in the morning.  It ended up being fun, though.  We’re going to have special give-away wine glasses and eight different selections of wine.  I’m really looking forward to the kick-off party.  I have had such a good time planning this event. 

My favorite selection for the wine tasting is Bitch Bubbly.  It has the cutest name, cutest label, and it actually tastes pretty good, too.  I bought a bottle last winter when my daughter was making pink champagne cupcakes.  She only needed one cup for the recipe, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the bottle. 

When I got back to the office, I walked down to the conference room to get a cup of much-needed coffee.  I was standing there kind of gazing out the window, when I realized that I wasn’t alone.  Three people had followed me into the conference room.  They had been waiting for me.  They had a question for me.  “So, who IS Dilbert.?”  Uh oh…  Yeah, I had posted a picture of Dilbert on my Facebook page with a caption that read something like, “Really ticked off at someone who looks exactly like Dilbert.  There is no shame in being a team player, Dilbert.”  They wanted to know who is “Dilbert ?”  They were laughing, because they already knew.  The said as soon as they saw my post, they knew just who I was talking about.  Truthfully, I felt a bit ashamed to have put that out there.  It was petty and immature of me.  But hell….this guy really ticked me off! 

I did end up going into his office to discuss the matter.  I told him that while I did take ownership of missing the meeting, it had shocked me that he had not been considerate enough to take a moment to come back downstairs to give me a head’s up.  For goodness sakes, he could have used his cell phone and called me.   I would have done that (and have!!) for anyone in the building. 

Turns out, there was a NEW employee in the Planning Department who also missed the meeting.  She felt horrible.  She was really shaken up, took it personally, and worried that it would be viewed as shoddy work.  Apparently, this poor woman was a wreck when she found out that she had missed this same meeting.  We both felt much better once we realized that we weren’t alone.  This jerk, Dilbert, had not sent either of us a meeting request to schedule on our calendars.  He hadn’t even bothered to send us agendas.  So, in the end, Dilbert may have learned a lesson.  We all live by our calendars and the friendly beeping meeting reminders on our phones. 

I stopped by the woman’s office to try to cheer her up.  I told her to please not take it as a personal affront or to worry about it being viewed as unprofessional.  We are all busy as hell and juggling numerous projects simultaneously.  Mistakes happen.  All we can hope is that we have all learned a lesson and that we’ll do a better job of communication and organizing our time in the future. 

As I said, it was an odd day.  I felt unbalanced, and it seemed like those around me were also out of sorts.  I met T for lunch, and he was grouchy.  We argued as we made our way into the building.  We hadn’t even taken our seats, and there we were arguing.  He thought I was running late.  He was pressed for time.  He had things to do besides wait for me to get there.  He almost left.  Grrr….  As we waited for our food, we sat silently and breathed deeply without talking.  Tentatively, we readjusted our attitudes and had our usual mundane conversation.  As we got up to leave, I told him that I didn’t know if I really enjoyed meeting him for lunch today.  He just laughed.  I think he felt the same way.

Hillbilly Heaven

Tonight was our usual Thursday night dinner at the local tavern.  We take the kids and whoever else happens to be around.  Tonight it was just the girls and one friend.  The place was packed.  We ordered our food at the counter and then realized that there was nowhere for all of us to sit.  The kids all took a high bar table while T and I sat down with a couple of guys we knew from high school.  Well, I guess we’ve known them forever.  They were happy enough to have us join them and sat drinking beer while T and I ate our dinner.

It’s funny to go from a high-stress day to an evening at a local bar with a couple of beer drinking rednecks.  I laughed all night as they told their stories.  One of them is a carpenter and the other (toothless, I might add) installs hot tubs for a living.  As we sat there, I felt the stress drain away.  I looked around at the people.  I knew almost everyone.  It was unusual to see any man who was not wearing a baseball hat of some kind.  (Thank God, T does NOT wear a hat!)  There were John Deere caps, lots of hats supporting our high school, and plenty of  folks displaying their Nascar preferences.  There were a lot of flannel shirts, plenty black t-shirts, and not one necktie to be seen. 

I love my life in Hillbilly Heaven.  I told this to  T when we were sitting at the table alone.  He asked me why.  Remember the phase, “She needs to get off her high horse?”  Well, it’s tough to stay on that high horse too long in Redneck Country.