Tag Archive | family

Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge: Week 2 ~

Thought I’d participate in Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge this week, after missing it last week.

My husband and I only have two non-human residents that allow us to live with them.  One dog and one cat.  First, I’ll introduce our beloved Golden Retriever.

Jammer at Lake Wallenpaupack

Jammer at Lake Wallenpaupack

Jammer is 9 years old this year, and he’s a gorgeous pedigree Golden.  He’s not a “pet”, he’s part of our family and treated as such (see the leash?).  I often joke about him being a “big dope” because he’s just such a lumbering ox around the house.  But we love him just the same.  TOTALLY afraid of thunder, lightning and wind (the forbearer of thunder & lightning), also fireworks.

Jammer takes a snooze in the family room.

Jammer takes a snooze in the family room.

His face wasn’t always this white (see above).  He’s getting to be an old man.  He gets up a little bit slower each day, can ‘t run quite as fast or as long when we take him along on bicycle rides, and doesn’t fetch quite as many times as he has in the past.  But he has his moments.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a peek.  Hope to see you again soon.  Feel free to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you.  Great challenge!   TTFN ~ Tamara Eckstadt



Mugwump ~

My "interpretation" of a Mugwump.

My “interpretation” of a Mugwump.

My Dad often called me “mugwump”, and just as often I’d ask him, “Daddy, what’s a “mugwump”?  He’d tell me that it was a little bird that sat on a fence with its mug on one side and its wump on the other.  The answer always made me giggle.  To date, I still remember it and it still makes me smile and giggle just a bit.  I think it’s the memory of the cheerful, mischievous tone in his voice when he answered my question that gets to me.

I adored my father when I was little.  I was the “baby” of my four siblings ~ the “baby of the family”.  But I can remember following my dad around wherever he went just to “see what he was doing”.  “Daddy, whatcha doin’?” I’d ask.  He’d say “Something to make little girls like you ask questions.” (with a grin)  From my father I learned the intricacies of gardening, what certain tools were and how to use them (like the lawn mower and grass clippers!), how to make peanut brittle from scratch and how to make the secret family recipe of “punch” ~ reserved mostly for weddings and such gatherings.  He also taught me, through his actions, how to respect and love my mother… which he did on a daily basis.  He adored my mother until, after 50 years of marriage, she passed away in 1994.  He followed her in 1998.

I think of him often, my mother too.  I remember all the ways he showed me he loved me without ever saying it, really.  Too many things to put into words ~ but they’re memories etched into my mind forever.  I’m glad I have them!  Love you, Daddy.


My Mom & Dad.

My Mom & Dad.

In Memoriam: Doug the Slug ~

Doug enjoys the pool.

Doug enjoys the pool.


I never thought I would have to put one of my pets “down”, let alone be writing in the aftermath of seeing him euthanized.  I mean, it’s just a cat after all, right?  C’mon, it’s just a cat.

 We had two cats:  a black cat, Phoebe, that my husband had prior to our marriage.  Then in 1999, one year after our marriage, he got me the Siamese cat, Sumi, that I had wanted.  However, I wanted a “lap cat”.  Phoebe made it well known that she hated me.  I was a usurper of the man she had to herself since she was a kitten.  Sumi, being the persnickety Siamese breed that she is, was too proud and nonchalant to be wasting her time on someone’s lap.  So, we decided to visit the local SPCA to see what they might have to offer in the way of a lap cat.

 The SPCA was quite full with cats who wanted/needed to be adopted.  I had been around cats all my life, but particularly liked Siamese, or other “unusual” breeds (Persian, Burmese, Himalayan, or even calico).  A white, long hair cat immediately caught my eye, but the husband saw this grey tabby that was just sitting quietly amidst all these meowing, milling felines.  We both pleaded our case to each other for the cat we wanted, but the grey tabby won out in the end.

 Going through the adoption process, we found the cat’s name is “Doug”, and that his previous owner was an elderly man in an apartment who said that Doug meowed too much and was too loud for his neighbors.  As calm and unassuming as he looked, we figured Doug would be a good, honest lap cat, so we finished up the paperwork for the adoption.

 That was about 9 years ago.  Doug turned out to be not such a great lap cat for me, as he fell in love with the husband’s lap instead.  When the husband did not want to host Doug on his lap, I got sloppy seconds.  When we brought Doug home, we were concerned and waited to hear this awful meowing that his previous owner gave him up for.  It never happened.  In fact, Doug would look at you when he wanted to be fed, and he’d open his mouth and nothing would come out!  Sometimes he just made a squeak.  He was the quietest cat I think I ever knew!

 He was the most loving cat.  He especially took a liking to our Golden Retriever, Jammer, and would habitually cuddle up with the dog in the dog’s bed and rub himself all over the dog’s face and lick him up and down.  They often slept all night together.  His relationship with our two other cats, however, was less amiable.  However, this low-maintenance feline was endearing, and although I tried not to show it, he had captured my heart.

 When we brought Doug home, he was “hefty”… his belly almost reaching the floor as he walked.  And he was less than ambitious, to put it kindly.  So we nicknamed him “Doug the Slug”, but he seemed happy with it.  Just a year or two ago, Doug started losing weight and having trouble with repeated ear infections, so off to the vet at the Purr-fectPlaceAnimalHospital.  Dr. Fine had been our vet since 1998, and the husband took Phoebe there since she was a kitten.  We trusted him.  He discovered that Doug was obviously unable to eat the hard cat food we’d been feeding our cats because he no longer had any teeth!  At the same visit, Dr. Fine confirmed that Doug was approximately 15-16 years old ~ quite an elderly feline.  The ear infection was treated and we were advised to feed Doug canned food from now on.

 He seemed to regain his weight, but continued to have recurring ear infections that were quite nasty.  Again I took him to Dr. Fine just a couple of months ago, and the diagnosis was a tumor in his ear canal.  The prognosis was not so good, and Dr. Fine said to take him home and make him comfortable for whatever time he has left.  He said we could “talk euthanasia” at some point in the future, if we wanted to.

 Doug’s health began a downward spiral.  He ate canned food, but his weight fell off and he became less and less active.  Finally, he stopped eating and no longer used the litter box (he just didn’t go).  He spent most of his days sleeping in what appeared to be a semi-conscious state, and when he went from room to room to find the warmest spots, he staggered rather than walked.  The past couple of days he just teetered.  It was a hard decision to take him to Dr. Fine for the last time, but I knew he would never recover, and his quality of life was so diminished.  I finally convinced the husband that this was the appropriate route, and made the appointment to take him this afternoon at 4:45 p.m.  I stayed with him while he received the injection, and Doug passed away quietly and peacefully in just a minute or so.  I brought him home, and the husband just buried him outside under a tree ~ even in the hard winter ground.

 Now it hits me just how much a part of our family was Doug.  He will be terribly missed, but at least I know he’s no longer in pain and discomfort waiting for the end to come.  “Just a cat”?  I think not, but so much more.

Revealed Chapter 9: Faith ~

We’ve taken up residence, the kids and I, in two separate battered women’s shelters in Onondaga and Cayuga Counties between 1990-1998.  On more than one occasion, we had to move out of our home while BB was away (he was an over-the-road trucker this time) and enlist the help of friends, relatives and people with trucks to do it.  Our moves were always clandestine.  While we lived in Cayuga County, it was difficult for me to get any “action” from law enforcement there, because BB’s family were all “buddy-buddy” with sheriffs, judges etc. ~ it seems everyone was a farmer out there!  If I called the sheriff for domestic violence, if they did manage to come, they always poo-poo’d the circumstances, even the time BB assaulted me in public in the Sears store in Fingerlakes Mall, then went and slashed my car tires afterwards so I “couldn’t leave him”.  Law enforcement assured me things would eventually “calm down”, and that I shouldn’t do anything rash.  Feeling thwarted by those who were supposed to help protect me and my children, I always wound up going back to him and reconciling just to keep a roof over our heads and some continuity in our lifestyle.  Does that even make sense?

 The stress of living in this fashion, never knowing where you’re going to be from one day to the next, was not without it’s humorous and even memorable times.  Once, my eldest was on a class trip for the weekend, and returned home to find to her surprise that we had (yet again) moved.

 We spent an entire summer at Vera House in Onondaga County.  Kristen was on her own by then, so it was me, Karalyn, Brian and Katie staying in their suburban accommodations.  Karalyn got a job at the nearby Burger King, Brian joined a summer soccer camp and we all spent time at the nearby town pool.  Additionally, Vera House provided for miniature golf and other activities.  We took walks (it was in a nice village), and watched the fireworks on July 4th over the river.  I was able to retain my car for the time being, so we had transportation, and yes, I looked for a job.

 But, in the end, I always caved in and ended up back with BB ~ usually I would get an apartment and he would eventually moved back in with us.  I was weak… what can I say?  you don’t know it until you’ve lived it.  Yes, I would time and again put myself and my children in danger by my actions… I am absolutely guilty.  It is a domestic violence “mentality” that I can’t even begin to reason.

 I remember those last few years (before I was finally able to get up the backbone to be on our own) by incidents rather than a time frame.  Most memorable was the fight that BB and I had that turned very physical and could’ve been tragic.  I was throwing him out of our house this time, rather than me taking the kids and running.  But he wasn’t going to go without a fight, and without whatever money he could steal out of my purse before he took off.  Once I realized what he was really after ($$), I made it my business to defend what little money I had from working with which I had to support my children.  I wasn’t going to let him get it.  Somehow, we wound up in the kitchen, both of us tearing at my purse and he was about to gain control when I decided it was time to put this to an end.  I grabbed the nearest butcher knife within reach and I sliced at him with it.  I didn’t connect, but it must’ve been enough to make him realize how serious I was, as he let go and bolted out the door.

 Another “memorable” event that still makes me cringe to this day was when we were driving in rural Cayuga County on our way to “somewhere” that I just didn’t want to go, but he was making me.  We were about a mile from our current residence on Blanchard Road, and he was driving his pickup truck with me in the passenger seat.  The truck’s brakes needed considerable work, and I was afraid to ride in it, but he insisted we had to go.  As we proceeded up the road towards Montezuma, I continued to protest and complain that I didn’t want to go etc.  He finally became so furious that he suddenly slammed the transmission of the truck into reverse (without stopping!) and the truck jerked to a halt then went into reverse as BB had his size 13 boot on the accelerator all the way to the floor.  The truck bolted backwards and BB floored it until we were headed backwards at about 50-55 mph on a rural (but not untraveled) road back to our house.  It all happened so fast that I was in a panic and utterly terrified.  As we crested the hill that led DOWN to our home, still going backwards, he tried to brake to slow us down but the truck’s brakes failed miserably.  We must’ve been going around 55-60 down that hill backwards when he shifted the truck down into a lower gear and threw on the emergency brake as we approached the house.  We slowed somewhat, but he eventually decided we would have to go off the road in order to stop, so he passed our driveway and hit one of the trees in our yard at about 30 mph.  It demolished the rear of the truck, needless to day.  Too scared to be furious, and too furious to be scared, we went at it with each other with an intensity that wouldn’t be rivaled.  Finally he left, in that battered piece of crap of a truck, and left me shaking and crying and marveling at the fact that I made it out of that escapade alive.  It was one of those many, many moments that I wished he was dead.

 There were so many other “incidents” where violence played a part in the lives of my children and me.  Far too many to list here in detail.  There were many court dates, orders of protection, move here, move there.  One of my biggest humiliations, oddly enough, was having to go to work, my place of employment, with a black eye on numerous occasions.  I was always nursing bruises, cuts, abrasions.  And the non-profit that I worked for sponsored one of the domestic violence shelters that took us in!

 The start of 1997 was really the beginning of the end of this chaotic fiasco that had been a relationship with BB.  I was finally able to secure a decent apartment for me and my family, without him.  I had a decent job at a local manufacturing company in Auburn, and was determined to rid myself of the lifestyle that had kept us all hostage for 13 years.  I must admit, it was miserable trying to break free of it.  Even though we were at peace, for the most part, I was lonely and depressed.  Over the summer of ’97, BB finally found someone else to prey on.  And, although he and I were still dealing with issues like child support and visitation, at least we didn’t have the “in-house” violence and stress that we’d had for the decade prior.  It was oddly difficult for me to adjust to the independence, even though I welcomed it!  Me and three of my children were now living in an apartment “alone”, and I was solely responsible for it all… first time in my life.  What a scary prospect!  But this is what I had wanted, and now it was mine.  I did finally feel safety was at hand for me and the kids, well, as long as BB was preoccupied with the new love of his life… he wasn’t bothering us.  Brian and Katie went to visit with him on some weekends, during which time I was guarded.  But things were starting to become a new normal for us, with only my temper to have to deal with, and that was more than enough for all.

 I’m not sure what led to it, but over the months until around early August 1997 I became more and more depressed and lonely.  It’s a self esteem thing.  But I was sure that I was never again going to find happiness, and I was still wallowing in that “all about me” phase that seemed to go on for years!  I was occasionally “seeing” some of my FWB (friends w/benefits) that I’d accumulated over the past 7-8 years ~ I haven’t mentioned much about that phase, but I had a “collection” of FWB, some that I had been seeing short term and some longer term to fill the various voids in my life starting around 1990 or so.  But something was missing, something was tugging at me and I was looking for that white picket fence yet again.  I simply refused to let that dream die.  But now it seemed like an impossibility, and the thought made me despondent. 

 One night, after the kids were in bed or watching t.v. downstairs (I really didn’t keep track), I was in my room and pretty much headed for the end of my rope.  I’d never been one to be “spiritual”, and I surely didn’t believe in the Bible or God or any of that “crap”, but I was at my lowest point and decided what the heck?  It couldn’t hurt… so I got down on my hands and knees, more of a slump on the bedroom floor, and I prayed to “God”, saying “If you’re there, if you’re real, I need you right now ~ I don’t know what else to do.”  I begged Him to come into my life and take control because I couldn’t do it alone anymore, I couldn’t do it at all.  My life and my kid’s lives were in a train wreck, God, and I wanted out.  I must’ve been on that floor for about 30 minutes, in tears and in prayer, before I finished what I had to say to this imaginary God and got up and climbed back into bed.  The despondency waned and I began to feel tired and eventually fell asleep.

It must’ve been about a week later that I was perusing the Personal section of the Classified ads of the local newspaper (yes, they had those back then).  Seeing nothing promising, I decided to place and ad, myself.  Couldn’t hurt.  It was free, and I had total control of the situation, which was perfect for me.  I place an ad, and people call this 800 number and leave a message, then I check the messages 1-2 times a day and return phone calls to those of my choosing.  Fascinating concept.  I wrote up what I thought to be an interesting and intriguing advertisement (which I still have!), and I placed my ad.  Well, maybe after about 3 days of listening to “gentlemen” leave me messages of every sort, I came across a possible “date-able” person, and I returned his call.  His was the only call that I would return from around 20+ messages left.

We ended up talking on the phone to each other 2-3 times a week for a few weeks, but really didn’t meet until November (I think).  It turned out that this gentleman was a customer of the place where I worked as a receptionist!  During the course of our conversations, he said he remembered me, and sounded quite excited at the prospect ~ guess I made an impression on him.  I, however, did not remember who he was in relation to my employment… so our meeting would be a surprise for me.  He showed up at my door with a huge bouquet of flowers, in a snowstorm.  He was taking me to dinner at a nice restaurant in Weedsport, NY, and we were going there in a snowstorm.  I was game for adventure.  We chatted extensively during the dinner, and I was beginning to realize that, although he was good looking, polite and nice and everything, we just had nothing in common.  He was a “Christian”, believed in God and all that crap; he was politically conservative (are you kidding me with this?!), and it seemed a lot of our evening discussion revolved around these two areas ~ religion and politics ~ neither of which I was interested in.  When he dropped me off home later, with a kiss on the cheek, I was sure I would not be seeing him again lest I be bored to death with uninteresting conversation about subjects I didn’t care about.

 However, he did continue to call me, and I called him.  Second date, third date… things were going well.  What?  He wanted to read the Bible with me?  Seriously?!  Well, ok, I’ll give it a try, even though I thought the Bible was a book of simple “hearsay” passed down over hundreds of years by people who didn’t even know or see Jesus Christ.  How accurate could it possibly be?  I’ll humor this guy who had begun to find his way into my heart with his humor, manners and he was obviously infatuated with me ~ that was the most important part.  So we read the Bible together… or he read it to me.  I asked questions, a lot of questions.  He always had seemingly good answers.  I was beginning to understand this “faith” thing of his.  Maybe, just maybe this was something we could share.

 Well, to make a long story short, we cultivated our relationship and were married in less than a year.  Yes, the kids liked him too.  It looked like I was going to get my white picket fence after all!  Well, sort of… it would’ve cost a small fortune to install one on our new yard in Jordan, NY, so I was happy with just imagining it surrounded our property.  I had faith that it was there, even if I couldn’t see it!

Revealed Chapter 8: Control Freak ~

As painful and embarrassing as it is for me to admit, I don’t remember thinking a whole lot about the welfare of my children from the mid-80’s to late-90’s.  I guess it’s because I was in this awful, never ending relationship with someone I’d grown to detest, and I was in this “zone” where I just wanted to be happy… even for a little while.  Happiness, to me, at the time, was either being drunk, or shopping for something new for myself or sometimes for my kids, but mostly just being away from BB.  Our relationship was so sporadically volatile, but there were still times when I hadn’t given up on that white picket fence fantasy, and we’d try to make things work and act like a real family.  It wasn’t all bad, but when it was bad, it was really bad.  But there was the summer we went camping at Lake Eaton in the Adirondacks… well, except it rained.  And occasionally we’d go to Fair Haven Beach on Lake Ontario and spend the day trying to be a “normal” family.  The kids “joined” things:  soccer, band, Girl Scouts ~ I was even a GS Leader for several years, and took the troop camping and such. 

 So, it’s not like I didn’t care about the kids, I just wasn’t as attentive and loving as I should’ve/could’ve been.  I never told them I loved them enough, if at all.  I was recently asked by my marriage counselor “‘how did I know my parents loved me”?  That was a really tough question, as looking back, I don’t remember them ever saying so.  But I knew.  Somehow.  I’m sure that they did.  I was sure that, when my dad brought out his leather Army belt to whip my and my brother’s behind for something, it was with love.  And when I was forced to eat the most God-awful fried liver for dinner, even when my mom knew I hated it and it made me gag, I knew there was love and my well-being uppermost on her agenda.  So, that’s how I knew to show my children that I loved them.  But now I wonder if they could’ve ever known that I loved them back then.  Doesn’t seem possible.

 Being the control freak that I was (see Forgiven and Set Free), I became an abusive disciplinarian.  And I was the only “real” disciplinarian for my children.  BB was not a parent to them ~ not even to his own Brian and Katie.  In truth, he was an agitator in our family.  I think I over-disciplined because of two things:  my control freak attitude, and the frustration of being in an abusive relationship myself.  I did not see it for the abuse that it was, I saw it as “making my kids mind”.  I wanted well-behaved children, who would do what I wanted, when I wanted without question or hesitation.  WTH?  Just reading what I just wrote sent my brain into a tailspin!  I did not “spare the rod”, but seriously overused it.  I have since felt overwhelming guilt, apologized to each of them, acknowledged my sin to God and begged everyone for forgiveness. 

 Today, I see my children with my grandchildren, and they’re loving, caring and completely the opposite of how I brought them up… praise the Lord!  They do not appear to harbor any ill-will toward me for my errant way of thinking hitting them and screaming at them (including obscenities)  was the way to get them to happily obey my wishes/commands.  Ok, well most of them.  And sometimes my adult daughters (Kristen and Karalyn especially) and I will “joke” about the mental issues that I caused them growing up, the OCD problems and self esteem issues that they acquired due to my Hitler-way of discipline.  Although we can laugh weakly about it, it’s not so funny.  Maybe that’s our adult way of coping with the issue.  But, admittedly, I see parents with their small children now and I think to myself, “why couldn’t I have been so much better to my children than I was?”  And I hate most of the memories I have of their upbringing, knowing that I caused them so much pain and they must’ve thought I hated them.  I marvel now at how absolutely wonderful they’ve turned out as adults, and wonder at just how that happened!  I’m sure I didn’t have anything to do with it!


*This post was a little off topic, but Chapter 9 will surprise and enlighten.