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Most of the changes have been good ones. I've taken a new job, with a more hopeful outlook. I've taken some positive steps to mend my health, which had become severely broken over the past nine years. I'm not quite out of the woods yet, but I can see the meadow in the distance, and the snow is melting from it, day by day. By the time I get there, spring flowers should be starting to bloom.

I am deeply grateful to my family and my friends, both here and in RL, and very grateful to my new colleagues, who have been more supportive in the few months I've been among them than I could have imagined. I know the future will hold many difficulties, but for the first time in quite a long time, I know it will also hold many joys, and much love and laughter.

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On Saturday night, DH and I went out with two other couples to a local Chinese restaurant. I'm not going to mention their name, because it's possible this whole evening was just a series of unfortunate events and I don't want to slag them, but really, I don't think we'll be going back.

By way of background, this place has a reputation for superb food and some of the nastiest staff in the world, so honestly, we weren't expecting to be welcomed with open arms. DH and I eat there about once a month, and go there with a larger group about five or six times a year, and we've learned to toe the mark: you go in with a reservation, you have precisely the number of people you reserved for, and if you don't use the chopsticks, you should be prepared to have a fork thrown at you. We made a reservation the previous evening, and were there bang on time for it, only to discover that whoever took our reservation apparently didn't write it down, because we weren't on the list. With a great deal of muttering and grumbling on the part of the maitre d', we were seated practically in the kitchen, as a punishment for not having a reservation. We accepted this meekly.

After 25 minutes with two menus among the six of us, someone came to take our order for drinks, and grudgingly agreed to take our food order as well. We settled in to converse and wait for our food.

Two hours later, our conversation was beginning to be dominated by the sound of growling tummies. The restaurant was not full, though they were doing a brisk business, and we noticed (once we started noticing) that tables near us had turned over twice in the time that we had been waiting for our food. Finally, because my husband and one of our friends are diabetic and need to eat on a bit of a schedule, we called the manager over and asked when we might expect our dinner. He said he would arrange to get it out for us right away, and we settled back again.

Forty minutes later, we had just decided we were going to go and take our chances at a local pizzeria when the first of our dishes arrived. The remainder arrived over the next half hour, and I have to say, the food was, as it always is at this restaurant, superb. But no-one came by to apologize for the long wait, though the manager did stop at our table to ask if everything was all right.

We left a $25 tip for the wait staff; that was just shy of 20%. I know; I was thinking something along the lines of $0.25 would be more appropriate, but we just can't bring ourselves to stiff the waiters.

I love the food at this place, but there's a limit to how much abuse even a cordon bleu chef could dole out, and these people are definitely not cordon bleu. As it turned out we had a lovely evening, but there was an element of shared adversity to it, and when we moved on for coffee and dessert somewhere else (because we're not completely passive), there was a significant amount of wry humour related to that experience in our conversation. I can't say I'd never eat their food again (I guess I could always get take-out), but we'll certainly never be taking that group back there again.

Sigh. Farewell, prawns with peaches.
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So. Most of another year older, and at least not a whole lot deeper in debt, though it does keep rocking along. The corporate issues are still issues, though we are doing our best to find solutions. My health is better, my husband's is worse but we're working on it, and he has a terrible cold, which is so not helping him deal with a couple of unpleasant things he has to do this week. My office is crazy, but some of the challenges have been exhilarating, and I have some fond hopes that Christmas this year will be okay in that everyone will get along and there won't be any lingering angst. I am so done with angst, it's not even funny.

Blessings of the season to all of you out there in the ether. May you have a wonderful festive season, and a safe, happy and hopeful New Year.

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A complete stranger said something so incredibly hurtful to me yesterday that I was shocked and nauseated, and his wife and several other complete strangers started haranguing him. I won't repeat it, both because I don't want to give it greater voice than it's already had, and because it's irrelevant to my point, which is that manners, courtesy, compassion -- all those things that make civilized life rock along fairly well -- seem to be getting in shorter and shorter supply all the time. At least in the city in which I live. And that, in a nutshell, is why my husband and I are planning to retire to a smaller community.

I don't doubt that there are rude people there, too, but the difference is that they're not anonymous there, the way they are here. I have no idea who that man was. I walked away after he spoke to me. He was about my age, and I know he's with a woman with much better manners than he has, and I know he probably isn't going to get any TLC at home for at least a couple of days.

In the seaside community where we've bought property, we already know all our neighbours, and had more conversations with them in the ten days we were there last fall than we've had with our next-door neighbours here in the four years they've lived beside us. Once, when my very elderly and handicapped father asked the neighbours here if they'd mind backing up their car a couple of feet so he could park in front of our house, they asked him how he'd like to go **** himself. I know; I was in the car with my father at the time. My father's query was very polite, and since the fellow was getting out of his car at the time, it would have taken very little trouble for him to have backed up the car. These are not outlaws or rebellious children; they're yuppies in their thirties. Given their manners, I'm not sorry to have had so little conversation with them.

When did it get to be okay to talk to people like that? When did respect for elderly people become passe? When did the kind of people who would say something indelibly hateful to a complete stranger take over the world?

We bought our first property in the seaside place two years ago, and the little place has had my heart from hello. No-one has much money there, but everyone takes care of everyone else. Everyone in the community has a garden, and at the end of the growing season, everyone who has produce they can't use contributes it to the local senior citizens' lodge. There's a visually-impaired gentleman in that community, and although he lives alone, everyone looks after him -- they help him with his yard work, have him over for dinners, and drive him into town to do his marketing. We've done it ourselves, and we don't even live there yet. the man who lives next door to our seaside town property has been mowing the lawn there for three years. We offered him money to continue to care for it, but he wouldn't accept it, saying, simply, "You'd do it for me." And we would, too.

The city has a lot to offer, and I've lived here all my life, so you'd think I'd be used to the mean-spirited character that's arisen here. But I'm not, and I can't wait to retire to my little seaside home. And if I could wreak vengeance on all the rude people here, I would make each and every one of them a good, kind person. Because I'm pretty sure they'd never forgive their former selves for the hateful things they've said and done.
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What food would you never put in your mouth for any reason, and why?

Witchetty grubs (or however they're spelled). Why? Dude -- witchetty grubs.
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We are horrendously busy at work (and some of you may recall I work in child welfare), and it sounds like it's only going to get wilder. On the one hand: yay, job security. On the other hand -- well.

Really, I think I could just use a hug right about now (and I'm giggling because my fingers tried to say I need a hog; lord knows, there are enough hogs in my life, thanks very much). I could also use a little Christmas spirit. When I went to lunch today, the waitress (who appeared to be young enough to be one of my case reports) kept calling me "dear". I realize there are many less flattering things she could have called me, but still, "dear" didn't endear her to me.

On the upside, I went to a store this afternoon that sells high-end tools and hobby equipment, and fell head-over-heels in love with a salesman named Joseph. It was his Maine accent that did me in; that, and his dry sense of humour. I expect to go back next week to find him running the place; he charmed me into buying quite a bit more than I'd intended to.

I appear to be a sucker for guys who make me laugh. That's how my husband beguiled me, forty-one years ago. Amazingly, he's still making me laugh -- and with some of the same jokes, too! That's talent for you.
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We just came back last night from a very nice break at the west coast with friends. It was only five days, but we had a lovely rest and hit every antiquarian bookstore in the place (we came home with a suitcase full of books -- a BIG suitcase. I didn't think they were going to let it on the plane, but they didn't even blink at the weight). I came into work this morning feeling quite cheerful.

Reality is breaking in, though; my mother is having some kind of meltdown and since she and my father live with us, there's no escape from it, really. I'm sitting here at my desk, wishing I didn't have to go home tonight. My father, who is in very poor health, went out this afternoon so he wouldn't have to deal with her, and since she can't recall my husband's cell number, I was the only target she could get at. I'm trying not to react, but honestly, it's not working.

She's over eighty; my father is three years older than she is, and neither of them is exactly robust, but she's in much better shape than he is. They seem to be taking turns being angry at the world (represented by the family) and I just want to have one single day when everybody is happy and everyone is getting along. Just for a little while. I'm no spring chicken myself, and while I get that they're not feeling well, being angry isn't going to help.

Before I can even get home and get into my little dark cellar (we live in the basement, because they're too fragile to do the stairs) I have to run the gauntlet of a litany of complaints. Lord save me from being the kind of elderly person who blames everyone else for how lousy I feel.
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I was looking back over my last few posts, and they're all so blue and depressing, I thought I'd send some good thoughts out there into the ether.

Although the issues with my husband's company are still issues, we're rocking along alright for the moment, and I have no doubt a resolution will present itself in the fullness of time. In the interim, my husband has very sensibly been occupying himself with projects and new interests -- he's taken up the violin, built me a greenhouse, and discovered horticulture in a big way. And (as if that wasn't enough) he's also been working on plans for our retirement home (not that it's likely we can retire anytime soon).

A few years ago, we lucked into a little house on the east coast at a very affordable price, and although we thought at the time that the house itself would be a teardown, it proved to be about 140 years old, quite a snug little place, built with 12 x 12 timbers pegged together, so we couldn't bear to part with it. It was too small a house to retire in, though, so we have been scratching our heads, trying to decide how to make it larger without sacrificing its charm and character (and incidentally without mortgaging ourselves into oblivion). My sweetie sat down with a sketchpad and has restored the wing of the house that was sacrificed when it was moved to its present location 50 years ago (dragged there by heavy horses, we're told), added a Queen Anne wraparound porch and tower, and made it the perfect place to spend our retirement. An architect friend looked over the sketch plan and pronounced it good, and the local authorities have expressed enthusiasm for the plan. More to the point, my husband has been calculating the costs of building, and it looks like significantly less than I would have expected, though we're being very conservative in our estimates, and doubling and tripling our costs, so any surprises we get will be pleasant ones. One obvious saving is that half the house is already built, though of course there will be exterior and interior work to be done there.

And we're spending our long weekend planting things and doing home improvements, so life is good. And I hope it's good for anyone reading this, as well.
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...we went to a memorial service for an old friend of ours, and my husband got a piece of fairly bad news about his business. So we're a little bummed out.

Our friend died of a rapid, aggressive and particularly awful form of cancer, and I honestly believe that her death was a blessed release for her. But that doesn't make it easier for her friends, or her family. We've known her more than forty years, and although she had her problems over the years, we still remember her as she was when we were all young, and the world was filled with possibilities. And so it has been -- we just didn't realize that some of them would be so unpleasant. I've written about it, and perhaps that will make me feel better when I read what I wrote in a few days' time -- and perhaps I'll share what I wrote with her brother, and her ex-husband. At the moment, I think we're all too emotional to deal with that.

As for the business matter, one way or another that will work itself out. In the fourteen years we've had this company, we've had what we thought was bad news in the past -- and always, without fail, the path we've taken as a result of the bad news led us to a better place than we would have gone without it. I just know that, much as my husband is putting a brave face on it, he's a little too emotionally fragile right now to deal with it. I really want to help him, and I don't know how, other than to say that I'm confident things will work out, and that there's a blessing waiting over the horizon. I'm just concerned that getting to the blessing is going to be painful and difficult.
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I should really chart these things and see if I'm on some kind of cycle. Just feeling blue and sad. I want someone to hug me and tell me everything's going to be all right.
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