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Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's been a long time coming

Where have I been, you ask? Right here, but disengaged from the blogging world for a while. Needing time to come to terms with the circumstances of our lives here in the Swamp and beyond. It's been a very hard year, and I just didn't have the heart to write, but our lives have mostly resumed their hectic everyday struggles and the most welcome joys that lighten our hearts.

I was reading a few of my past posts and remembering the satisfaction that came from knowing that I got it right sometimes, that there is a writer lurking in me that needs nurturing occasionally, and that I miss the interaction of my talented fellow blogger friends. I realize that some of you will have given up on me and will have gone elsewhere, and that's okay, but I thought that some would like to know what has transpired since you last heard from me.

There is a lot of catching up to do.

Starting with Lauren, about whom I'm sure you are most interested, we finally had a smidgen of justice  in the case against Ms. Gough. She was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular manslaughter, and failure of assured clear distance. She finally, after many months, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of vehicular manslaughter; the other two charges were dropped. After many more months, she was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 60 suspended; two years probation; two year license suspension; 200 hours of community service in a relevant capacity; $600 court costs; and, $7100 restitution to the family for funeral expenses. The judge read over 100 letters written to him by family, friends, and concerned citizens. Kelly also read a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking victim impact statement in front of the judge and Ms. Gough on the day of sentencing. We, of course, thought the sentence was very lenient, but felt that the judge probably did all that he could, considering what he had to work with. I hope that during her time in jail, Ms. Gough reflected on the damage she did to our family.

That damage is reflected in another direction. Jaye and Kelly separated in February and are now in the process of divorcing. The statistics for divorce in these kinds of tragedies are very high, and they didn't escape. There were underlying factors that had caused fractures in the marriage, and the tragedy of losing Lauren completely broke it. Nonetheless, it is a very sad situation, especially now that a new child is involved.



Matthew welcomed his baby brother Nicholas on June 1. Nicholas Ethan was born with Down Syndrome, although he doesn't seem to have any of the physical health problems that a large percentage of Down's babies have. He has no heart defects and his hearing is good, even though the ear canals are very small, and he will have to be monitored closely for wax buildup to prevent hearing loss. His eyesight seems to be good; he follows movement well. He is smiling a little and his muscle tone is quite good. He pushes himself forward when he is lying on his tummy. He is a darling little boy and such a joy to be around already. I know he will be our special little guy. Kelly is worried that because she is older, she won't be around to take care of him when he is an adult. I told her that's why he has such a loving and attentive big brother...Matthew will take care of him.



Aimee is still in the process of obtaining her divorce. It has been a messy and ugly situation. I won't go into the details here, but I will just say that we have had to call the police on two occasions and her ex (almost) has a no contact order against him. One reason the divorce is taking so long to process is that Aimee became pregnant. No, it isn't her husband's child. She met up with an old crush from high school, and another new grandchild will be born in December. She thought she was protected and that turned out to be not the case. The father will not be in the picture, as Aimee learned that one cannot go back in time and expect good results, at least most of the time. Life happens, whether we are ready for it or not.



Back on our little farm in the woods things are going very well. David's hip surgery in May had him down for about a month. And then he was back on his feet slowly conditioning, rebuilding lost muscle tone, and working on his endurance and stamina by walking a little farther every day. All the pain was gone, and the doctor said his hip was better than new! By the middle of August, he was up to 3 1/2 miles, which prepared him for his annual bowhunting trip to Colorado at the end of August. This time I went with him! We drove to Nebraska to pick up his friend Bob (his hunting buddy for 30 years), and then they dropped me off in Denver to stay with our friends, Judy and Paul, whom we have known since our days in Baton Rouge. I had a wonderful visit with them in their beautiful southwestern style home in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

The view from the golf club restaurant at our friends' house.


Once we both got back home, and after catching up with stuff that doesn't get done while you're on vacation, we had a wonderful visit from Ruth and Don Mowry. (She, of synchronizing.) We had spent a few days with them in Michigan to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in July. They got to see our piled-up mess in the dining room; preparations for ripping out the nasty living room carpet and installing bamboo flooring. That project will have been completed at the end of today, and it only took us nine days! Well, that included my prepping and painting the room, so really just seven. Not too bad for old people! David says that he is done with floor laying for a while. I told him it's just like giving birth; you'll forget all the pain when you look at that wonderful finished project. I only have four more rooms for us to do. :)

Next on the agenda is a camping trip to the Hocking Hills with the oldest grandkids. We look forward to this one every year. They are so much fun. They're getting so big now; I'm not sure how long Nathan and Kaitlyn will be able to fit into those bunks.

Then we will have our annual couples weekend with David's cousin and his wife (one of my best friends) in the Hocking Hills, a greatly anticipated getaway for both couples. No kids, no animals...just shopping, walking in the woods and trails, eating (a lot!), and relaxing in the hot tub under the stars. It just doesn't get better than that.

It was a busy summer, and fall is shaping up to be just as jam-packed, with Scout activities, holidays, cutting wood for the woodburning stove, and planning for our new ventures come spring. I hope you are enjoying your autumn cool weather, after the extreme heat and drought of the summer. We certainly are.

See you later.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

and life goes on

It's busy at our house these days. Our daughter Aimee and grandchildren Gaige, Nathan, and Kaitlyn are living with us temporarily (since Christmas) while she is going through a divorce. It's been a rough ten+ years for her, and sometimes for the kids. She married very young, one month before Gaige was born. She was headstrong and was drawn to the bad boy persona in young men. Unfortunately, what age and wisdom and actually living with a person day in and day out brings is the knowledge that bad boys don't treat women with respect. They don't hold down jobs. They care more about themselves than they do the people whom they claim to love. They don't accept responsibility for their own actions, always blaming someone else for their mistakes and wrongdoing. They possess, rather than love. They have violent tempers.

I love having my daughter back. She's her old self again...the person she had suppressed for many years...the wickedly funny, extremely intelligent girl she used to be. The woman who for so long was allowed only the friends chosen by her husband, ones he could control. She has reconnected with so many of her childhood and teenage friends, friends whom SHE chose. She's back in school, getting a degree in nuclear medicine technology and doing great...getting all A's. I can have lunch or go shopping with my daughter whenever I want, something that hasn't happened in all those years. She is a part of our family once again. She is finally getting her life together. I have my daughter back!

Christmas was hard. We went through the motions and even enjoyed parts of it, but it was so different. I didn't send Christmas cards for the first time in forty years. A friend to whom I hadn't spoken since before Christmas pinpointed the reason for me yesterday...it was because I couldn't take the annual grandkids family portrait. There were no raucous and crazy portrait sessions as in years past. I know it wasn't fair to the other kids, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. There would have been too big a hole.

That space will be filled just a little come June. Jaye and Kelly are expecting a son! We are all so happy for them. They hurried just a little, because of Kelly's age (she's 42), and because they don't want Matthew to grow up an only child. He is so lonely. He clings to Kaitlyn when she visits. Aimee let her spend the weekend with them last week and she and Matt had a great time. But when it came time for her to come home, it was devastating for Matthew. He cried and cried, begging her not to leave. We're hoping this new baby will bring some solace and comfort to them...to all of us. We will celebrate his birth with joy.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting on justice to prevail. The driver who killed Lauren was charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter, but after the arraignment, the prosecutor received the records from her cell phone company and they confirmed that she was texting at the time of the crash. Also, the crime scene investigators finally determined her speed...70 mph on impact. Jaye had started moving his vehicle, but was going only 10 mph. The prosecutor is hoping to use the new evidence to bump the charge up to aggravated vehicular homicide, which is a felony in Ohio, and carries a much more commensurate sentence. We have hope that the judge will actually apply the sentence, instead of giving her a slap on the wrist. There have been two similar cases in Ohio recently where the judges have cracked down on this kind of behavior and given the maximum sentence. I know that no amount of time in jail will bring our Lauren back, but maybe it will prevent someone else from being killed. Maybe our state legislature will pull their heads out of their collective ass and get a bill passed that prohibits texting while driving; indeed, prohibits all cell phone use while driving. It's not that hard to do. I've given it up, and so has my entire family. I was never a texter while I was driving, but I did do a lot of catch-up phoning to family and friends. I don't even miss it. It is actually rather freeing.

Our winter has been fairly mild so far. Kind of a crazy December and January with lots of rain. In fact, Ohio's all-time precipitation record was broken in 2011. I wish we could have sent some of that rain to the drought-stricken states. Of course, we still have two months of winter to look forward to, and our February is usually much worse than January, so I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to scrape the driveway and shovel the sidewalks. We had a wood-burning fireplace insert installed in October, and we've been enjoying the wonderful heat, which is sometimes a little too wonderful. Thanksgiving Day I spent cooking in shorts and a t-shirt with the kitchen window wide open, while my  in-laws huddled around the wood-burner with three layers of clothes. And it was 65 degrees outside. Lordy!

David retired in September after 37 years with the same company. They gave him a wonderful send-off. He loves being home, and I love having him at home. The only bad thing is that he started falling apart nearly as soon as the ink dried on his severance papers. He has been having severe pain in his right hip and pain in his back. After trying his primary doctor, and then an osteopath, who weren't able to help him, he finally saw an orthopedic specialist last week. The cartilage in his right hip joint is completely gone. He will be having a total hip replacement this spring. He's also seeing a neurologist/spine specialist tomorrow to rule out any spinal problems. He's very upbeat about the hip surgery. Everyone we've talked to who has had it done or knows someone who has, says it improves their lives about 99%. David has been so used to being active and doing whatever he wants, that this has been a real setback for him, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to get back to his normal self. He has been looking forward to his retirement for several years, and we have a lot of travel plans, and he wants to be able to do all those things and enjoy life. I guess I will get to polish up my nursing skills.  It will make up for the times when I rolled my eyes behind his back after listening to him go on and on about it. No, really. Endlessly. All. Day. Long.  I feel bad about it. Don't tell him.

I feel terrible that I haven't visited my wonderful bloggy friends nearly as much as I wanted. I've popped in on a few of you, and I've read more than I've commented. I'm hoping to return full-force to blogging after the dust settles around here. It's a little hard for the elderly to concentrate with three kids in the house, and then there's the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning, etc. It feels good to write this though, so I know I'm not finished with my story. Not yet.


ADDENDUM:  I found out yesterday that the county prosecutor will NOT be adding an aggravated vehicular homicide charge. Quoting from an email from my daughter-in-law to the texting ban bill advocate with whom I've been working.

"The county prosecutor's office believes that the text being the
same minute as the crash leaves it open for the assailant to say she
made the text after the crash. This would not be believable given her
statement there were no texts made before of after the crash. Also the
1st 911 call was at 1:48 and 37 seconds by a passerby on a bicycle. He
could dispute this as well.
"Also we see that H.B. 99 has opponents claiming that our
current "reckless laws" cover it and there is no need for another law.
Our case reflects that this simply is not the case. I don't think you
could get any closer than a 1:47 text with a 1:47 crash and for county
prosecutors to refuse it as a "recklessness" case based on "evidentiary
issues" is a disgrace."


 
 




Saturday, October 15, 2011

There is a ladder up from the abyss

Dear friends,

I know all of you have been very concerned about our family, and especially our son Jaye. I'm here to update you. Since my last post, there has been tremendous improvement. Jaye (and Kelly, too) has been responding to therapy in a positive way. He is laughing a little when he talks about Lauren, remembering good times with her, and is able to think about her in a way that he wasn't before. Of course, the sadness and heartache will never completely go away, but that he is able to talk about her without breaking down is a huge step in his healing. I'm not naive; I know there are times when he is alone that he relapses, but now he is able to pull himself out of it relatively quickly. I also believe that he has become more accepting of the fact that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he had no control over that.

We felt confident enough in his recovery, that we were able to take our planned camping trip to northern Michigan to see the beautiful fall color, and it has been spectacular. This is our first trip here, but I know it won't be our last. We've fallen in love with the Lake Leelanau region and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We made our plans months ago, but we were right on in the timing for peak color.

I want to apologize for my lack of attention to your blogs, especially considering how wonderful you all have been to me. You are good and loyal friends. I will get back to them someday. I hope it won't be long. I will have a lot more time as the cold weather sets in and keeps me indoors. I will leave you with a little of the beauty of northern Michigan in autumn.

Love, Susan

The view from our campsite at Lake Leelanau RV Park.

Young turkeys crossing the road. They joined a huge flock of thirty or more.

One of the many vineyards in the area...Crooked Maple Vineyard.


The birch trees are everywhere, and the bark is outstanding against the fall color.

From atop Sleeping Bear Dunes, looking out to Big Glen Lake.

And, of course, you know this is a milkweed pod. It's hard to believe this sand could support the diverse vegetation.

From atop Sleeping Bear Dunes, looking toward Betsie Point in Lake Michigan. It is a 450-ft. drop to the water.

No explanation needed.

An inlet in Omena, on Grand Traverse Bay.

A funky little airport/park, where the airstrip is grass, and there is no hangar, only tie-downs.

At Grand Traverse Lighthouse...the wind was 50 mph, and the waves were fast and furious.

Nearly big enough for surfing, but kinda scary.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse. The flag was flying half-mast to honor National Fallen Firefighters.

Historic Fishtown in Leland, Michigan

Again, Historic Fishtown

Waves breaking on the seawall in Leland, Michigan