Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve 2012

It has been a pretty good year for me, all things considered. I mean, a whole year of being retired! Wow has it been nice!

It has had its ups and downs but the latter are mostly troughs self-imposed, in a way. I fight depression daily - not suicidal depression, just what you'd call The Whumps, which keep me inert and in my evil nest, over-eating and feeling useless. They're kind of cyclical and I've learned that when I'm feeling OK, like a grown-up, tending to my home and pets and friends and family, staying active (for me), I need to really double-down and get things done, because when The Whumps arrive, and they do, I have visible accomplishments to look at and think about, and that seems to both enshallow the trough, and shorten its duration.

I can tell I've succeeded to a measureable degree in resisting the allure of the evil nest because in the past 365 days, I have reduced my BMI by 3.1 units, having lost 8% of what my weight was on this day last year. I still have a long way to go but my approach seems to be working so I will continue to work on that. The less I weigh, the more I feel like moving around, so it's all good.

This spring and summer I also got out and just walked around my neighborhood a lot. I really enjoy that, and walking certainly shows you a LOT of interesting, amusing, and beautiful sights you don't notice when you drive past!

I got out and joined several local organizations: The Henry Doorly Zoo, Fontenelle Forest, Joslyn Art Museum, Lauritzen Gardens. All of these give me privileges that include hiking and walking, seeing wonderful things, and being with people, terrific places for practicing my own amateur art work and photography. They've certainly made it more fun for me to write blog posts here! And they've got me out of the house, which is the point. I also joined the neighborhood library's Mystery Book Club, which has been great fun.

In 2013 I will apply to volunteer for The Literacy Council of Omaha, hoping to be trained and then practice helping adults learn to read.

I am looking into what it would take to get into an Intro to Carpentry course at Omaha Metro Tech CC; there are several factors, not the least of which is the cost. But I have a chaotic garage full of tools from three generations of Hickman men:

(My son, looking put-out about it all. He helped me organize *some* of it, bless him. That's going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty!)

And it's high time I found out what all that stuff is, and figure out what I want to sell and what I want to keep. Because I could definitely see the use of knowing how to build simple wood projects and make simple repairs myself.

I've made strides in Getting Rid of Extra Stuff around here. There's a long way to go but the place is much nicer to inhabit already. Seeing the corners and spots where I've cleared away and cleaned out is inspirational. The Secret Project (the one hinted at in the picture with all those tools a few days ago) is kind of at a standstill until I get some additional advice from a friend who knows how to do that stuff, but once it's done, that will eliminate a hindrance to rapid progress in this realm. Also it will help in a different realm. Isn't that mysterious though? Don't be too impressed or you'll be disappointed when I report success, lol.

I've enjoyed honing my baking skills by 1) baking cookies once a month to send to my grand-daughter! She seems to appreciate them (she's just 4 so isn't terribly articulate about it yet) and her folks *definitely* do. and 2) Switching to baking almost all of my own bread. I really love bread-baking and it's a great way to boost the nutrients of what I eat.

Somewhere around April I seem to have emerged from a long dark cave I entered when Bob died. It took more than 5 years, five years during which I thought I was doing OK the whole time, but sometime early this year I stopped looking back and started looking forward. I don't make resolutions, but I can say, I like the view forward better.

And here is one of my favorite things about 2012:

That's a billion-dollar piece of machinery that humans sent up into space and actually landed on the surface of another planet, and that is now sending back incredible amounts of data about that planet, all remotely-controlled. I am so glad I stayed up late the night they landed Curiosity during the famous 8 Minutes of Terror! That was a lifetime high point, just watching it. Wow wow wow wow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I bit off more than I can chew, again. Only got halfway through the cookie-baking plan. This is what halfway looks like:

I'll finish up tomorrow, and then start making the packages. Once they're in the mail Friday, I might just go celebrate with my second viewing of The Hobbit...

Another ! Mystery !

Like any good story-teller, I've left you hanging after that last post, haven't I? I bet you're dying of curiosity. Well, sorry 'bout that, but you're going to have to wait a day or two for the mystery to be revealed. Because - tada! - I've got another project to do today! Here's a hint:

And speaking of KitchenAid (R) mixers, I just found a *wonderful* video showing what to do if your mixer leaks oil! (Mine doesn't but I understand it can be a problem if it sits around a lot without being used. Plus, mine is probably 20 years old so I bet it wouldn't hurt to do this procedure anyway. AND I have all the tools!) 

Anyway - the video is here.  And I sure hope that guy gets ALL the presents his heart desires. WHAT a huge help this video is!

Must run - my kitchen is calling to me...

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Be afraid. 

Be very afraid.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Goodbye, dear little friend.

Tonight I'm watching Doctor Who DVDs and eating KFC, just me and my two kitties.

This morning I had three kitties.

The Empress, Prolix P. Hickman (aka Lixie), age 17 years, who has been dwindling for a year or more, presented symptoms this weekend that told me it was time to help her bring her life to a painless, peaceful ending. She went to sleep in my arms this afternoon, with my words of love and thanks in her ear. The veterinarian and his helper were wonderfully kind and understanding.

My other two kitties, Adams (the boy) and O'Keefe (the girl), are siblings. They're Maine Coon cats, fluffy and ten years old; just in the past year O'Keefe has blossomed into a beautiful cat with resplendent ruff and glossy black overcoat. It was almost like she was getting ready to become the new Empress. She didn't get any smarter. Adams isn't very bright, either. They're both as smart as they need to be, though. They're my sweet little cats.

I didn't think having just two would feel so different than having three.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

It's really Autumn

What with the wacky weather we've had this fall, I was able to deny it longer than usual. But, now the nights are cold enough that I've turned on the furnace, and my going-to-sleep thoughts have been on where I stashed the leftover interior window-sealing plastic (drat it, I don't have enough so I'll have to go to the hardware store), and today shortly before noon I looked out the back window and saw this:

and if that's not Autumn light, nothing is. It drew me outside with my camera. 

My neighbor's garage, I hope he never "smartens" it up

My happy Buddha in his Clematis arbor

My brush pile in the back corner, home to garter snakes, rabbits, squirrels and birds. And, it appears, poison ivy, but that's all over the yard.

And I put together a squash-apple bake yesterday; chunks of tart apples and butternut squash baked with walnuts, raisins, and a drizzle of maple (flavored) syrup. 

I changed my bathroom theme from Paris to Autumn.

And I (foolishly, no doubt) got all enthused about knitting myself a sweater so I found a free downloadable pattern on Ravelry, and ordered the wool to knit it.

Something that's been bugging me for, oh, over a year, was that the new doors I put on my back yard shed had a gap between them, and suddenly today I found myself out there with my cordless drill, a trio of mismatched screws, a strip of board, my skinny little manual band saw (if that's what it is), and a pitiful assortment of clamps, most of which didn't fit the project. However, in an hour, I had the gap closed and a nice job of it I did, if I do say so myself. Felt like freaking Wonder Woman, I did, and came inside to brag about it in my journal and as I wrote the date, I remembered. 

It took me until 5:15 pm to remember that six years ago tonight my husband died in my arms.

Going to Paris in 2007 was my attempt to put something so spectacularly great in October that it wouldn't be a miserable month for me forever after.  Going last week was just because I love Paris so much, but it seems my strategy of using Paris to re-color October has worked. Since I returned last Saturday, all my time has been taken up with talking about, thinking about, writing about, and messing with my photos of, Paris, or dealing with the crappy head cold I got Monday, or doing housework, or sleeping. Until 5:15 this evening, I didn't remember October 21, 2006. 

That's a good thing. His absence is a daily ache, a constant hole in my heart. I don't need to ruin our favorite month of the year with additional pain. 

I've changed my mind. I *am* going to buy candy and go get as many second-hand kids' spooky books to hand out on Hallowe'en as I can find and afford. I am going to do a little fall decorating. I love Autumn.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

In light of the NINE HOUR LAYOVER I have at O'Hare before my plane leaves for Paris, I've bought a scarf kit to knit to help while away the wait. It is NOT a cheap deal, neither the kit nor the circular needles I got (didn't think I'd want to be crawling around on the plane floor chasing escaping double-pointed needles - they do, occasionally cast off the something-something bonds of knitting and fling themselves onto the floor), so I am gambling some money that TSA will let me take it on board. I have heard from many knitters all over the country that MOST of the time there is not the slightest bit of trouble - particularly if you've got a project ON the needles - so I shall cross my fingers and give it a go.

I *love* the colors. The kit's got five one-ounce skeins of different colors that you work into gradually. It's ribbon yarn, which I haven't used before, but it's no different knitting than wool.  The pattern says to cast on 241 stitches; it's meant to be way long, and 5 inches wide, with the pattern looking "sideways," which *is* a cool look, but I do not do well with so many stitches to cast on. I tried that with the shawl and the first knitting class I ever took, not too many months ago, and I only lasted 2 lessons. I got fed up with the pattern, disgusted with my knitting, and grew to loathe the yarn, so I just dumped the project and frogged the work and am waiting for the right pattern for that yarn. It is nice yarn, in a color I like, so it will get used.

Here's what the Mountain Colors scarf looks like so far:

I put down the Hedgerow sock a couple weeks ago. I'm not discouraged, I just got bored with it. I'll pick it up when I get back from my trip. I've made a right hash of the stitch pattern, LOL. It's supposed to look like this:

See the nice neat lines down the sock? Where'd my lines go? Hahahaha! I *think* I might have mis-counted a time or two - whaddya think?

Maybe it won't look that bad once they've been gently washed and blocked. Blocking solves a multitude of seeming problems, they say.

I've found someone who's willing to work with me to dye some wool in exactly the colorway I've had in my head for years, but have never been able to find anywhere. If we can do it, I'll get enough to make a whole sweater! But that'll be later in the year, too.

Other creative things...I baked peanut butter chip chocolate cookies tonight for my September dozen I'll send to my granddaughter. Yes, I know, it's past September, but I'm hoping she won't notice.

I'm starting to see references to NaNoWriMo crop up in peoples' blogs and Live Journal posts. I'm resisting...resisting...I never did anything with last year's novel because once it had sat for a few months, I realized it really WAS crapola and had too many problems of ALL sorts to make it worth trying to get it into shape. I'm glad I did it, though. That was the breakthrough NaNoWriMo novel for me, it proved I could do it. But I'm resisting the pull...what is that strange attraction about, anyway, I wonder?

On yet the other hand, B & N tells me Gwen Hernandez's Scrivener for Dummies is in the mail wending its way toward me, finally.  I'll have some days after Paris to study it before November 1...I believe Scrivener is what enabled me to finish the novel last year, and it's got so many powerful tools I've not even scratched the surface...maybe...and last year, I was still working! This year, I'm retired! It should be a piece of cake!

See what I do to myself, every October?  Damn you, NaNoWriMo!  Every year your siren song turns my empty head...I have a LOT of time in airports and airplanes coming up. Maybe I could spend some of that time rooting around in the attic for novel ideas...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I've been getting ready for another week in Paris, coming up really soon now. These days I get a lot of enjoyment just out of the planning and packing. But I've about settled on everything I'm taking -- though this morning I've yet again pared a few pounds off the weight -- so now it's getting the house ready for my absence (really, I guess, for my return! Like, having a frozen pizza in the oven to eat when I get home that late night, and making the bed up with fresh linens the morning I leave town), making arrangements for having someone come visit the cats and having all their stuff set up and ready.

I have my black leather coat, that I love, that I wore to Paris the first time I visited, and until just a few minutes ago that was a Given, for wearing it over there. But then I downloaded the extended forecast for Paris, and I don't need it! The temps are supposed to be low 70s to mid-60s during the days, and the coldest at night will be 45 - and I won't be out & about at night. Those are my *perfect* temperatures for comfort. So I just jettisoned about 5 lbs of weight - and untold hassle of keeping track of it - right there. Yay! If there's some kind of drastic surprise and the weather does get cold, I've heard some places in Paris *might* have coats that one could buy. So, yay. Life just got a whole lot more comfortable and easier.


Just spent 45 minutes online, reading up on the various pickpocketing methods employed by the enterprising thieves of the world. *sigh*  Another reason not to have much luggage. I can keep my two bags in front of me all the time. Now if I can just avoid looking exhausted and confused (shouldn't be too confused; I know precisely where my apartment is from the airport).

Anticipation is one-quarter of the fun!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Baking bread

Tried an old rye bread recipe today, that I hadn't made since (according to the note in my loose leaf bread recipe notebook) April 11, 1971.  I refuse to do the math on that one.

I made an unholy mess creating the dough, but it's all washable so *meh*.  The first "resting" period is only 20 minutes, so that's a perfect amount of time to clean up after myself. Then, it's punch it down and shape the loaves, cover and let it rise for an hour. Once I got the two loaves shaped and ready to sit and rise, it was looking pret-ty darned good, so I took some pictures.

My dear, late husband Bob had decided to get into bread-baking not long before his last illness. Being a true cooking hobbyist, that meant he bought *everything*. I had made bread for decades with just a bowl, some measuring utensils, a spoon, and a board to knead on, not even a bread pan (though I had a couple I'd inherited). He needed all that plus parchment paper, a big oven stone, and a big pizza peel,

 not to mention every kind of flour and additive known to man: lecithin, gluten, and several other things I threw out a couple years ago when I realized I'd never be using them. Corn meal, arrowroot flour, sugar cane (?)...the list goes on. The pizza peel and oven stone are right handy items. So is the parchment paper - those risen loaves slid right onto the stone atop the parchment paper and didn't even *think* about deflating. 

An hour later I had fresh bread.

And now I have to stop eating it so I have bread for the rest of the week!

I've been making bread by hand for a month or so; my breadmaker paddle has welded itself to its post at the bottom of the pan, and it has to come out to get cleaned, so it's no longer sanitary to use it. I think I'll toss the pan & paddle into the trash, and give the breadmaker to Goodwill or something; they can order replacement pans and paddles but I never have particularly liked using the breadmaker and I'm trying to reduce the amount of Stuff, especially unnecessarily electrical Stuff, so it needs to go and leave me some more space on the counter.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Catching up a bit

Well, let's see. The second time I went to Neale Woods to hike, I very foolishly dilly-dallied around until it was almost noon before starting out. It got very hot, and I chose my trails unwisely, and suffered the heat and extra-long length of the hike quite a bit before I finally made it back to the car. I don't know how long the hike was because their maps are rubbish. But that 6th, I guess. For various reasons, I haven't made it back, though this last Monday failing to go, I made up for it by walking to Benson and back Tuesday; that was a 2.3 mile round trip, and wore me out, but I was pleased I made it with a minimum of heat problems and little foot and hip discomfort. I AM acclimating to walking! Yay! Paris looms barely [some number of] weeks away, I must keep at it!

At Joslyn last Wednesday I finally worked up the courage to get out my sketchbook. The only thing I found that inspired me to attempt to copy it was the tailor's sign hanging outside the shop in a story about the emperor's new clothes, in a book illustrated by Fred Marcellino.  I was charmed by its elegance and simplicity. Of course, I soon found out it's not as simple as it looks - but that's the point of copying fine works of art: you learn!


The image isn't the greatest, but I think you get the idea. If I tried this about  ten  100 more times, I MIGHT approach a hint of how lovely this is in the book.

I've been quite the social butterfly recently; dinner out with my sister in law for her birthday Thursday evening; a cheese & sausage feast with the Omaha Beach Party crew Friday; and attending a reading and books signing at A Mystery Book Store/A Stitch in Crime here in Omaha Saturday. That was the second reading/signing in as many Saturdays!

The one on August 18th was William Kent Krueger's launch of his tour for his newest novel, which is upstairs, and I can't remember the title and I can't FIND it online! Has he not mentioned it on his web site? Why can't I find it? This is frustrating. Well, you'll love all his books so go see his web site and buy his books. They're each stand-alones but the Cork O'Connor series is *excellent.*

Last Saturday Sean Doolittle, one of Omaha's pride and joy people, read from his new novel, Lake Country. I love Sean's books, particularly the one set in Omaha, but they're all really good. TOO good; Lake Country kept me up until 4 this morning.  Yeah, I know, saying that just encourages him. Well, dig into his books and you'll see why I think that's just fine.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

In my new agenda, Tuesdays are Home days - except that today I HAVE to get to the grocery store and pet store for food - after Mondays being Neale Woods days. Tomorrow is Joslyn Art Museum day, then Thursday's another footloose/home/whatever day. This Friday I'm not going to let anything stop me from getting to the zoo.

This frenzy of activity (that's a mild joke) is a result of some slow-cooking thoughts and feelings I've been evolving through over the past few months. I think from the moment I realized I'd been nesting, things have been shifting around in the back of my head, or the pit of my stomach, or wherever, and slowly I've been coming back into the world and away from the profound isolation and physical inertia I enjoyed for all those months. And I really DID enjoy them. I'm an introvert, which to me means that prolonged contact with other people, no matter how beloved and no matter how much fun we're having, is an energy drain. Extroverts, in this definition, are people who are energized by human company. It has been tremendously enjoyable, my solitude, all these months. And now I'm more or less recharged, and looking forward to gettin' out amongst 'em a little more.

My years in AA taught me that self-isolation is a dangerous thing for an alcoholic, and so I have been trying to pay attention to whether my inner life feels OK, not afraid, not unwell, or unhealthy in some way. I think I've avoided that, with a little help from my friends and family. I've be re-learning to trust my own instincts, particularly about when the time is right to do certain things, such as, getting rid of a memory-packed object around the house that I really have no other use for. I've found that in such cases when I turn my thought to selling it or giving it away, if resistance rises up in me (I feel it like a wall going up in the pit of my stomach), if I drop the idea and get on with life, eventually - maybe after months and months - the time comes when it's OK to get rid of the thing. To say good-bye to the object knowing the memory will stay with me (and not take up any room in the house!).

This means my house and my life progress very slowly sometimes, but after a lifetime of following other people's rules and commands and requests, I'm learning to follow my own lead now. It seems to be taking me good places so I'll continue. It is taking me a long time to get used to this life of truly being independent. It's a good process, and now I'm enjoying it. I am so very lucky.

Doll picture from
©2000 Denise Van Patten - 

Monday, August 06, 2012

My second hike at Neale Woods this morning wasn’t really morning, for one thing. I dilly-dallied around home so much that I don’t think I got there until - well, I got there then:

(Click on the pictures to see a bigger version.)

…And I think I was looking at this sundial upside down but it doesn’t matter because I don’t know what time it was. We’ll come back to it; I decided I’ll take a picture of it at the beginning and at the end of every hike. Some days will be overcast and I won’t.

Anyway, It was nice and sunny, with a light breeze. Weatherspark tells me it was about 86 degrees around the time I got there, and about 92 when I left. Warmer than I’d like, actually.

I spoke with a couple of consultant guys at the start, who were there scoping the visitor’s center out preparatory to submitting a plan to FFNA for replacing the building. Nice guys. I’ll be interested in what FFNA finally does with the place. I’m kind of surprised they’re considering replacing the old Dr. Neale A-frame; I’d have thought the old-timers on the Board might object on the grounds it’s holy, or something, but apparently not. Nice to know they have the means to do such a project, though.

Their trail maps are worthless for estimating how long your hike is, I have figured that out already. I’m guessing I hiked about 2 miles, which is a mighty long hike for me, and oh momma there are some hills in there. Ye gods.

The stairs of Cirith Ungol.

I did surprisingly well, for how out of shape and overweight I am. I didn’t start to suffer until maybe 3/4ths of the way through. Saw some neat stuff:

Two deer - one is on the right and all you can really see is deer-color beyond the thick dark trunk.

I’ll have to try to find out who this belonged to. It's about 8 inches long, and I don't think you can see the beautiful iridescence up toward the tip of the feather. I first saw just this one feather on a nettle bush. Later on I saw several in one place and it didn’t look like a happy ending to this bird’s story…

On my hike today I developed Terry’s Rule of Hiking Photography: No matter what cool things you see on the first 3/4th of your hike, they are NOTHING compared to the coolness of what you will see on the last 1/4th when you are exhausted, shaking, overheated, needing a bathroom NOW, and your camera battery is almost dead. I don't want to talk about it.

The last 1/4th of mine was Frodo’s climb up Mount Doom. I swear, at one point I was actually stumbling along swatting at imaginary gnats and mumbling about “the Eye…”  But at last, I saw this:

Downtown Omaha from Neale Woods

And I knew my long ordeal was almost over. I made it to the sundial, where it was this time (When I got to my car a few minutes later the clock said 2 p.m. Exactly):

It looks like only maybe an hour had passed, but I'm sure that was just Sauron messin' with me. And I swallowed the last mouthful of water in Sam’s my canteen BPA-free sippy flask, cracked open my store of lembas nuts and raisins, and headed the car towards home.

Neale Woods had kicked my ass again, but I have a secret those old hills don’t know: I’m getting stronger.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Took my first lone foray into Joslyn Art Museum today. My lofty goal was to walk into every room on every floor, not focus on any particular pieces, just learn the map. HAH! I headed for the oldest works in the permanent collection first (being somewhat of a linear completist) and I didn't even get to the first room. No, I was stopped by the ancient Greek, Etruscan, and general Mediterranean pottery (and some coins) in the *hallway* leading into the first room. What a feast! What a delight to have all the time in the world to look at each piece from as many sides as possible, to read the explanations, and take notes on the words strange to me. I guess I had a *Greek geek-out*!

THEN I moved into the first room. Medieval and Renaissance paintings. I'm trying to remember if *any* of them weren't religious in nature. Ah well, I admired their talent anyway. From there you can look through a succession of rooms that take you chronologically clear into the Impressionist and post-impressionist periods. These are familiar to me. Yet I still spent a good 45 minutes in the very first room before moving on. Maybe 30 minutes in the next room...THEN I picked up the pace because it was obvious I wasn't going to even get to the other side of that floor before fatigue and hunger would drive me home.

I *did* go downstairs to see the exhibit of the works of Fred Marcellino. WHAT a delight! Unfortunately, the gift shop didn't have the only book of his that I wanted right now, "Ouch!" I'll get it someday.

When I left, I took a tour of the sculpture gardens. Very nice, but will be more enjoyable when it's not 98 degrees outside. 

I'm looking forward to Wednesdays at the Joslyn! The do allow photos without flash, and I'll eventually try to do some sketching but I have nothing to post that's of any visual interest today. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Been so long since I was here...

I went for a little hike at Neale Woods Nature Center north of downtown Omaha (way north) this forenoon. I'd forgotten how *hilly* it is! Came home knackered. But I'll be returning often. I need the exercise and the change of scenery.

My two best photos of the hike:

That's about as sunny as it got while I was hiking. It was warm and muggy, and overcast. Every time a tiny shaft of sunshine would pierce the clouds and illuminate a charming bottlebrush or sweet cicely, by the time I had the camera on it, it had gone away again. There will be other days.

This is at the end of the hike. The gnomon points directly at 12, but it was after 12 when I took this so I'm not sure how to read it! Isn't that dumb? You'd think it would be hard-wired into our genes by now, how to read a sundial. I like the random rusty metal and the just-discernible etchings.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A change in plans

The three months of self-imposed inactivity and antisocialness ended April 1. Well, I wasn't *entirely* inert, and I *did* maintain a social life, as much of one as I usually have. However, whenever I found myself thinking "I should do this," or "I ought to go there," I clamped firmly down on the lid and held real still until the urge passed. My pattern has always been to kind of dart around from project to project, creating massively convoluted plans and schemes and setting up impossible deadlines for myself. For the first time since my infancy, I had the opportunity to Do Absolutely Nothing, and I worked real hard at trying to achieve that. To just sit, more often than sitting and thinking.

Thinking was done, however. A lot of things gradually became clearer to me. I have learned quite a bit about myself the past four months, most of it not worth posting here, or none of my blog's business anyway.

I did, however, continue with my researches into what I need to do to move to Paris. I dug deeper into the web, and finally found a couple of people's web sites, or organization's web sites, that had some small amount of actual data - I'm talking money here. How much it would actually cost me to live in Paris.  The answers were discouraging. In fact, eventually the "Cost" column passed up my Budget column and the sad, cold fact became clear: I cannot afford to live in Paris for extended periods. It simply cannot be. That dream died.

The first thing I felt was humiliation. I have told EVERYBODY I was going to do this. Everyone was so supportive, and happy for me. Many said they'd come visit me there; many signed up for postcards, lol.  I felt like an idiot.

That phase didn't last long. I didn't sign any contracts. I just blew off my big mouth. No harm done, really. And - after examining the budget and stuff further, it appears that I *will* be able to afford trips to Paris. So there is that consolation.

Thing is, I don't need much consolation. Yes this was a huge dream I've had. Yes it was beyond cool and awesome, it was breathtaking and delightful and exciting - and it gave shape to my actions and thoughts and dreams. It got me through the emotionally tough months leading up to my retirement. It got me to reading lots of books, on the history of Paris, the history of science (which I've always loved) and the history of Europe. My view of the world expanded enormously. So that dream had tremendous value to me regardless whether I got to do it or not. I also don't need much consolation because to be brutal, after my husband died, there hasn't been much of anything that could hurt me very much. That loss has put everything else in my life into a different perspective. Not getting to go live in Paris for two, three years, is a survivable disappointment, believe me.

So very quickly I turned to "So what do I do instead?"

Dear Reader, I created a matrix. It measures all possible options and permutations of what I could do (out of all those things I'd *like* to do), includes economics, emotions, hobbies, interests, plusses and minuses. And what fell out at the bottom as the best move for me at this stage of life, is no move at all. Just stay put in this house as long as I can physically do it. It *is* too big for me; the yard *is* bigger than I can comfortably handle. But I CAN do it (by "it" I mean, maintain the house and yard in a responsible manner) if I apply effort to the project.

This frees me up financially - not only do I already have this place paid off, I won't have the expenses involved in moving elsewhere, either within Omaha or elsewhere.  It frees me up in other ways, too. I can resume a couple of magazine subscriptions that I like, that I allowed to lapse because I thought I'd be leaving the country in early 2013. A miniscule thing, but a real thing, and akin to that are several memberships locally I've been denying myself for the same reason.  The zoo, the historical museum, the nature center, the botanical center, the art gallery, a mystery reading book club at the library, knitting lessons. Because when I realized I wasn't going to live in Paris, the biggest disappointment was that I wouldn't have galleries, museums and libraries to spend my days in for years at a time. Paris is such an incredible repository of art and science, and I was hoping to spend most of my time in those places, drinking it all up. Faced with staying in Omaha, I had to confront my own prejudice and close-mindedness about my home town.

With my sights set on Paris, I was deliberately mentally dissing Omaha. I see that now; and it was deliberate. My apologies, Omaha. Because once I started thinking about it, there were all of the above-listed things that I know and love about this city, and I can do them all. I added up all their annual subscriptions, and they *easily* fit into my budget. And I'm retired now (have I mentioned that yet?) and I can go to any of them, any day. I can just go and look, listen, stroll, I can take pictures, I can practice drawing & painting...

It was at this point that I think I really started coming out of the long, dark tunnel I've been in since Bob died six years ago. The past four months I've felt like I've been slowly emerging from darkness into a place of light and freedom from grief.  The timing, right at the start of Spring, probably helped. I've always had mood problems in the winter.

So my motto now is "Bloom where I'm planted."

I'm done being a hermit. I'm ready to live, and to do it, mostly, in Omaha, and I'm glad.