Horses and me…retiring my mount

There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful for having the ability again to be as active as I am. After the years of terrible chronic pain where I was very incapacitated as a result of cancer treatments – and after four surgeries – and finally PT with amazing therapists to help ease that pain – I am not without pain or flares of intense pain – but I am doing life where pain isn’t the first and only thing on my mind. I’m am lucky. I am blessed. I am grateful.

Every time I ride a horse I say a prayer for my safety and also a prayer of thanks for the ability to ride. Beyond riding I’m thankful for the time I can spend with horses just caring for them. There is nothing better for me than smelling a horse each day!

Having a bond with a horse is a privilege. I love dogs and have four of them. But unlike dogs who love you no matter what – horses are more discerning – you have to earn their respect and trust . It is when you gain that respect and trust that an amazing bond occurs.

Me on one of my favorite schooling horses.

Sometimes the respect and trust takes time and other times it happens faster. That doesn’t mean you can’t jump on a horses back and ride it. I have been doing that weekly at a local riding school. Under strict Covid guidelines I groom an assigned horse and I saddle him or her up and I can mount up and ride and learn the buttons to push to get the horse to do what I’m asking. I can improve my strength and riding skills and confidence. This is all good. And if I’m lucky I might get the same horse each week and it’s with the repetition that the bond can build.  Each horse has a different temperament and personality. It is fun and a challenge to learn a new horse each week. 

Having horses on my property requires me to spend time daily with them.  This allows me to really experience my horses differing personalities and witness the way they communicate together.  It is amazing-  and the way they try to communicate with us is a gift. I learn so much about my horses by watching their body language. Ears pricked forward, ears flat back, one ear turned back, the laxity of their back when I am on them, again the ears help us know if the horse is paying attention to us or to something else, they will nod their heads to communicate something. Just yesterday Yukon, our bossy chestnut, tossed his head repeatedly toward the field that he was telling he wanted to graze on- it was the opposite of the one I was offering him- and when he didn’t get his way he trotted off indignantly into the offered field and went to bite and chase my new horse Umay. This is when Yukon is “hangry”. He gets grumpy and more bossy and the horses know to leave him be.

Harley and me

All of this wordless communication is a privledge to be a part of. Horses will play games with us. Knock over their water bucket just after you fill it. Poop in their feed bins. Yes they do this! I think it is deliberate – lol. They will nudge you and sniff you up and down to see if you have a treat on you. My favorite is human nose to horse nose. We each breath in each others breaths. I think there is some spiritual connection in that. And for me it relaxes my being.

To sit among horses and watch them eat hay, graze, mill about each other is comforting for me but also helps me to see how my horses respond to each other. Who is the boss. How the boss acts. How the lower horse is dealing with the bossier one. Sometimes they come up and nuzzle with me. I am part of their world for a time.

Then there were three… Umay, Yukon, Harley

We have recently gotten third horse and I will write about her soon. I am in the process of retiring my horse Harley. He’s a 20ish Tennessee Walker and I have shared many pictures of him over the years. He has been an incredible horse. He isn’t a show horse. He’s just my buddy and a pleasure ride for me. He sat -barely ridden- over the years that I dealt with the worst of my pain issues- and when I would get on him bc I so wanted to be on a horse despite how bad I hurt – Harley never acted up. It was as if no time went by between rides. He kept me safe as I sat on his back. He has been my friend.

It has been with a heavy heart I have had to realize that as I have eased back into riding much more often that he has aged. He has gotten less fit and he has developed PPID- which is basically Cushings Disease in horses. This takes a toll on a horse even with medications.

Harley’s Chiropractor

It is a bummer. He and I click so well. But when I ride I have felt his back leg go out a bit. He is stiff. I see how low he keeps his head. He is so willing but I know he is off.  I have now enlisted an equine chiropractor and a body work therapist to help him at least be more comfortable in general. If he improves under saddle then that is icing on the cake. If he remains as he is under saddle he is safe for pony rides and my husband could walk him around on him. But I feel as if I have missed out with him. It is again one of the things that from my time dealing with my pain issues. Now I will help him deal with his.

I want to get back years I have missed because of the cancer issues but I can’t so I have to move forward. Lamenting won’t do anything. So forward we move. When I do ride Harley the moment I mount it is like I am in a familiar car. With my new horse I don’t have that familiarity yet. That will take time. We are trust building now. Harley already knows me. He knows which way I want to go almost before I do. It is a dance – a communication between horse and rider- it is what makes little girls fall in love with that big pony.

I am so lucky I have that in my life.

I am a grown girl who still loves ponies.

Harley and Me…

voices

I am writing from the heart here. So its going to come out in a stream of consciousness that I will try to go back and edit as best as I can but it wont’ be the best editing.

I am so sad to see a country so divided. Every issue seems to become a Dem vs Republican issue. A virus that has no political leanings has become the most politicized topic of this decade.  If you think the president and government didn’t handle things in a timely fashion then you must be a “Dem” and therefore bad. If you agree with the president then you are bad because you are a “right winger”. 

I am not one for labels and I will not be pigeon -holed into being a Dem or a right winger. I have always tried to look at things from a middle perspective and it has gotten me criticized many times. I have voted republican and democrat. I have changed my party affiliation back and forth on my voter registration so I can vote in primaries.

So today I am speaking as a middle of the roader. I have my opinions but I won’t be pigeon-holed to one side or the other.

But I write because my heart hurts. I am sad. I see the protests in this country over the hideous death of George Floyd  and I wonder why so many white people don’t get it- they think the protests are about this one thing- it is not this one thing. It is about something white people cannot relate to. We can never really understand because we are white. We do not face the day to day discrimination and prejudice and racism that people of color do in this country. That is a fact.

Many people know that I raised three Asian children, We adopted them in the early part of this century. When my husband Kevin and I brought them to this very white but sublime area in MD we live in I didn’t think about racism and the fact my children would encounter that as they grew. But they did. I think I was shocked when my daughter retold me a racist joke she had heard at school when she was about 8 or 9 and I had to explain to her why that was not so funny. That it degraded people of color and she was in that group. Maybe up until then she didn’t realize she was different -she knew she was Asian – not white but I had never had to tell her that people were judged by their skin color and ethnicity and that sometime she might encounter hate..it was not a topic I wanted to open up. It hurt me to think that my kids would ever have to deal with the hatred or racism but they did.

In high school many words were said to my kids. I found out about most of it much later. My daughter wanted to be white- change her eyes. For a time she wore makeup so white she looked like one of those pretty Japanese Geishas who powder their faces white.  But in high school none of us wanted to be the different one – but she was. In time she has learned to embrace her ethnicity and her exotic beauty. But there are scars where the unkind words cut her.

Once I had to contact the school after someone told my kid -in the middle of class while my kid was reading aloud- something that was not easy for her to do – to go back to where she came from. It wasn’t the first time she had been called out for being Asian (she told me later) but she was embarrassed  because it was in class in front of everyone and she couldn’t walk away and the teacher did not do anything. So my child called me up very upset to tell me what happened .

I am sure the teacher ignored a teachable moment because she was uncomfortable – racism is a hard topic to discuss – but we can’t allow that in a class- we have call it out. And eventually we got a some resolution. A detention- a letter of apology. But I wonder if it changed the students heart who said the words.  Did they understand the words hurt? 

One of my kids was being bullied at school for being Asian and he finally cracked one day- not because the bully was bullying him but because he began to pick on a friend and my son went to his friends defense. I would like to say he spoke out to the bully  in defense but instead he squashed a donut on the bully. Then this led to a challenge to a fight off school grounds. My kid showed up for that fight and got pummeled. Lost the fight but gained some street cred. And made amends with that bully.

I didn’t condone the violence when I found out later and had I known about this before this entire story would be different. But my kid cracked. The pin popped his balloon. When I finally found out about this event , I asked my kid if it might have been better to use his words to stop the bully  and my son said yes – but he just lost it and thus the donut incident. Then he had to show up to a fight to save face and get beat up. And the bully apologized. Who knows if this was a learning moment for him. But it was for my son- he is not a violent kid- and he wasn’t proud of his actions – but he was glad in s sense he stood up to hate. 

There were times I actually felt bad for living in such a white area. That perhaps we should have moved to a more diverse area. But that would not change anything. In fact living here may have shielded them from worse racism. In order to keep them safe I told my kids they would need to turn the other cheek – to ignore nasty comments about their race and ethnicity – that those hateful words were a show of ignorance. As humans we all have to learn to have a thick skin but it doesn’t make the barbs that bounce off us ok just because we deflect them. My childhood “Fat Albert”  label still stings when I think of it. 

I am a white mom raising Asian kids…I can sympathize, protect and defend but I will never really get it – I am white- and just by being white I automatically at privilege in this country.  I tell them to turn their cheeks because I want them to be safe. But in essence I am really shutting down their voices. I have always encouraged them to use their voices and why should they have to take abuse for their color? Their ethnicity? They are beautiful people – they are humans with souls and feelings.

How can people not see how awful it is for a black man to be out jogging and when he stops to looks at a new home under construction – something I have done many times- and then he is chased down by a two white men and then shot and killed? I am pretty sure had that had been a white jogger that would not have happened. Its sickening.

I have seen on the internet white people say “white people get killed by police and we don’t protest.” The fact is true white people do get killed by police. But the protests over the death of George Floyd are not about just Mr Floyd. This horrible death is the pin that popped the balloon and the hurt and sadness and the anger flowed out and people of color said- “we must speak out. We need to be heard…we have had enough”. This is not one event for people of color this is their every single day.

I agree with protest. I think protests are a way of people to speak their mind. To get attention for their issues and to emote. It is one of the best freedoms we have in this country. I am not surprised at the enormity of the protests that are occurring. I am not surprised some have become violent.  I don’t agree with that.  I don’t like anyone getting hurt. But tensions are high. And looting? That is someone who is using the events as an excuse to steal. They aren’t about the cause. Many of the protests have been peaceful. Police officers kneeling down with protesters. What a sight to see.

I think this is escalating because we need better leadership. There is nobody at the top saying – we care – we want to help – we see you. The president can’t change the hearts of all the people – he can’t make a culture of hate change overnight. But he can help bring justice where wrongs have been done. And he can lead with compassion and not divide the people more and more with every tweet.  He can send out the military to protect but he must see the people who are screaming to be heard.

There is a logical balance to help protect people and property during a protest that becomes violent. But we have to see that the protests are the symptom of a much larger issue. The hate is the cancer and the reactions are the symptoms. Somehow we have to make changes to kill that cancer of hate.

I don’t blame all this on President Trump. He didn’t cause this to happen. These issues are pervasive and go back years and many administrations have faced these same issues and haven’t done much to initiate change.  There has been ongoing police brutality against people of color. The divisions  in this country and in the administration have existed for years before President Trump was in office. But this is his moment and thus far he hasn’t been the type of president that brings people together. He lives in a divide and conquer world.

I have read that his advisors are split on how he should deal with this. Be more compassionate which would help his black vote or be more militant which would appease his base. Again politics at play and because of this the right response will never be found. When one is looking at his own gain there is no compassion for others there is only action for the gain of reelection. This is a situation I am sure he hopes will just go away it is not good in a campaign year. Maybe a presidential term should only be 6 years – you get one go- – maybe it would be easier to react more honestly to events when reelection is off the table. Just a thought.

People of color are trying to be heard. They are hurting. They are angry because nobody is hearing their voices. My daughter is a young adult now living in a city where there have been protests. It is upsetting to her and scary.  She knows the injustice…she has been poked with nasty words and judged for her Asian-ness. She gets it. She sees people calling out for help for compassion for love. And she wonders -as I do -who at the top is going to hear them? Is anyone really listening? 

Funk

Upgraded tank.

The other day Kevin and I went on a bagel trek to Frederick, MD- its about 18 miles from us.  For some reason the local Panera has closed. I have not been able to find real bagels other than Panera. I am not sure of the details of their closure but I wanted “real” bagels and I wanted to get out of this house for a bit- so off we went.

I know this probably was not an essential trip – though it was tied in with getting chicken feed and meal worms- and I really wasn’t keen on going so far for bagels but we did.  Wanting real bagels is not a real problem – i can hold out and eat toast or english muffins..but for me the bagels are just a way to feel some normalcy again. Get in the car, stop at Starbucks—get a coffee — grab some bagels from Panera– grab other essentials.  On Saturday AM when I realized the Panera closest to us was closed I was bummed because in my head when I woke I had that task in my head. We get to go get bagels. I needed to feel “normal”—so we went a bit further to Frederick to get them.

What is not normal is that when you leave your house you now carry a face mask, maybe protective gloves, you probably have hand sanitizer in your car and some lysol wipes or something like that.

Sometimes it can almost feel normal on the way to run an errand. .Kevin and I can chat and listen to music. We notice the lack of traffic but we can be in a bubble for a while that feels almost normal.  I love that feeling! But then we pull up to the shopping center and there is a line at the Aldi’s grocers. People stand six feet apart, donning masks (some gloved) all waiting their turn to get in because now we cannot just walk in to a store – there are limits to how many can go in- if you can go in at all.

At Panera a few doors down from Aldi- they are doing curbside pick-up.  It is convenient- but so impersonal. And it has to be for everyone’s safety. It sucks but needed. I thanked the young woman who handed over the bag of bagels to me. I had my mask on because she came to my side of the car. I tried to look grateful with my eyes as I told her to stay safe. I then complimented her on her mask fabric choice. It was cute…. but then I said “I can’t believe I am complimenting you on a mask”.  She said ” I know crazy , right?”  and we went on our way.

I am not sure if my funk began then because this is crazy-  or maybe it had been festering over these last couple weeks.  Things feel off for me.  Maybe it is because I am so over this whole thing – but I know this virus will not be over us for a good while.  We also found out my son in the Navy has been quarantined with his division because someone got Covid-19. My other two kids are out of work because of the shutdowns. Also, my horse is acting a bit off.  And I setup a new bigger fish tank and transferred our current fish- which were Navy son’s- and two didn’t live- too much shock. Such a small thing – I know. But flushing those two fish just made me feel crummy. Who knows what pushes us into the funk. I mean the virus is enough. Seeing the suffering is enough.  There is nothing I can do to stop this thing. Lack of control is scary.

I think maybe it is really dawning on me that the world as we knew it is now gone – and life has changed for good.  Like my life before and after my cancer – there is a definite division.  At least for a while things will be quite different for the world  in how we interact in public.

It is hard to watch the suffering every day. It is hard to feel at the mercy of something you can’t even see.  What will the toll to human life be?  There are so many ways  this virus can devastate us including death.  We see the toll rise each day.  And there will be a balance on how things progress to reopening – so we can hopefully live life again- on the other side of the divide.

So today I am in a funk. Some days it is just really hard….its normal to feel these feelings. This isolation takes it’s toll. The financial worries take their tolls. If you are feeling badly never be afraid to reach out to someone for help.  Even a chat with a friend can be comforting.

I do understand that this has happened before over and over throughout history – we have many before’s and after’s, the Spanish flu, world wars, natural disasters , 9-11…. We are human- and we adapt.  But it is jarring and a change – a new shift in what we knew as reality. So it is stressful and scary. And on some days very overwhelming- I just want to pull the covers over my head and sleep- so I can forget for a while.

Instead, I write.

 

 

 

 

Navy Son- Phone calls

 

Recce Dog

Reece wonders how you all are doing….

HI. How is everyone? Are you holding up during this pandemic?  I can tell you that I am trying to do many things to keep myself from getting too stressed or scared. I have tasked myself with building a new website for our business. I think that will give me sufficient time to not be thinking about this virus. I am exercising, and riding my horse. These things balance me. If I read too much news I am become overwhelmed. I have tried to limit myself to certain times of day to watch or read any news on the pandemic.  If I spend too much time thinking about things my mind go bonkers.

I have been spending some of my time on Facebook pages dedicated to support the loved ones of the Navy recruits that go through the training center in Great Lakes Il. They train over 32.000 navy sailors yearly. Thats amazing.  I am sorry I won’t get to see the place. Covid-19 wrecked graduations for these sailors – and so many other 2020 grads in the world.

The RTC is a well-oiled machine. At the moment they are trying to battle outbreaks of the virus by quarantining new recruits before they begin training and they have had to quarantine divisions if an outbreak occurs. This significantly slows the process of getting new minted sailors out the door to get them to their career training which can take up to 15 months in some cases- and  there have been delays for those waiting to go to training. The Navy has had to make changes on the fly to deal with this unknown enemy.

I have depended on these FB pages to provide me with updated info but also to give me support during a very stressful time. One day we are talking about getting mail and then another about PIR (grad) gifts. Some days wives or husbands need support as they struggle with the separation of their spouse or moms just need a virtual hug.  We share photos and joys of our SR (Seaman Recruit), we celebrate when a family gets the “I am a Sailor” phone call- as that’s the only real celebration these sailors get right now.  And we get rumors about this and that and the admins help navigate those.  And sometimes we get wind of the best rumor of all – phone calls.

The SRs don’t get calls very often. In normal bootcamp (aka no virus around) that SRs get to call a loved one four times. Once when they get to bootcamp- a quick scripted call- I got that one at 3am; then at around three weeks- that one can be longer; and again at five weeks; then the “I am a Sailor” call. Of course if there is an illness or injury they are able to call home as well.

During this pandemic the protocol has changed a bit. We have had three calls already. The I am here call, then the one we had on my 21st anniversary with my hubby- that call was a shock – I wasn’t expecting it .  Luke had no idea it was our anniversary but I told him he gave us the best gift. We spoke for over 30 minutes and it was emotional. Luke had just gotten out of quarantine and was working through P days – aka processing days. There you do just that- get processed- medicals, banking, payroll, etc. He was facing some fitness tests that were making him a little nervous. When we hung up I cried happy and sad tears. I had no idea when I would hear from him again. But I had the relief of knowing he was doing ok for the most part.

The relief is short-lived.  Some worry and stress begin to build up as time marches on. I wrote him a number of letters and hoped we would get one from him.  There were messages on the FB pages that reported some new cases of the virus. If your SR is ill they will call -and you so want a call- but not that call. But with each scheduled (non-emergency) call comes a celebration on the pages. When our SR calls we usually see many reports of the calls from the division. It is a nice place to be because we all know the feelings we are having.

This past Saturday Kevin and I were sitting on the back deck and my phone rang and I saw the Illinois exchange and I grabbed the phone. There had been a rumor on the pages that calls were going to come over this weekend.  I was not counting on it because we had heard from him only two weeks ago. But the call came!

I put the phone on speaker and set it on the table.  Since we had just gotten a letter the day before I knew he had passed the fitness and swim tests.  I knew he was so proud when he received his uniforms with his name on them. But we talked about it all and more. He is still coming to the realization that he is really doing this. In this call he sounded like a different person. I hear the confidence in his voice. The happiness that he is making friends and the pride of his accomplishments.  This is assurance that he is where he needs to be.

I look forward to meeting this new person sometime soon I hope. I had been told that the Navy will transform my kid. He will come into his own. I believed that but didn’t think I would see it this fast. He has always had a good heart. But he was lost as lost could be. Now I think he is found and is developing a sense of self and is now on the life journey of learning more about himself through experiences. I am amazed.

The lifelines for families of loved ones serving in the military are letters and calls – more letters and more calls.  When will we get the next call? I am thinking maybe the weekend of May 17- Kevin’s birthday weekend. That would be great – but we cannot count on it. There is rumor they may graduate early if there are no setbacks, so perhaps the next call will be the “I am a Sailor” call?

All we can do is get ready and wait.

 

Bob Cat (aka Kiwi)

You know it is never a dull moment here. And with the stay-at-home  orders because of the Covid-19 virus  you just want things to be dull.  But it seems for us it just never is. I wrote in a blog post a while back that we were missing  one of our cats. He is our sweet barn cat Kiwi- a black tuxedo male. We have had assorted cats over the years here and I love the tuxedos! And now Kiwi – Bob – has the label most expensive of all barns cats here at Glory View Farm!

If you hadn’t guessed as yet – Kiwi- came back after being lost for about 4 -5 days. About 5 weeks ago I was in the barn and feeling sad that he still wasn’t back – it feels empty when an animal dies or goes missing – they each fill a space.  All of a sudden I had this feeling I should to go outside and look for  Kiwi. I didn’t understand that niggle but I know when I get it to give it a listen.  So I went out of the rear of the barn to the fence line and I was looking in the field at nothing but emptiness when I heard a faint meow. I didn’t see anything where I was looking but the little sound was coming from my left which is the dry lot where the horses loaf when not out in a pasture-  I assumed it was our other cat Pearl calling for dinner. I looked around and didn’t see Pearl. I heard it again- so it must have been real. But where was it coming from?

Kevin stepped out of the barn and I asked him if he heard a meow – and just as he was going to answer I spotted Kiwi by the right side of the shed in our dry lot. I told Kevin I saw him and ran through the barn and walked around behind him just as Kevin- who by then had also spotted him -walked to the front of him. Something was off.  Kiwi was having trouble walking forward. He seemed very stiff. I was afraid to lift him but had to take the chance he might bite me if he was in enough distress. I thought his backend was injured but I was able to pick him up without him biting or getting upset. I might add here that I am allergic to cats- it is a pretty good allergy too- but I won’t let that stop me from helping one if needed. I just have to careful not to touch my face after I touch him. And I can’t put my face to close to their bodies.

We got him in our gym which is part of the barn and we got him some food and water and I looked him over. I suspected he had an abscess.  He had a nasty looking area on his back hip and his tail seemed wonky and there was an area that looked like it may have been injured. He had a back claw that looked bad and his front ears were lightly scratched up.  He ate just a bit but drank well – but I knew he needed attending to.  He needed a trip to the vet- but is was Sunday – so it was the emergency vet for him.

The vet visits during Covid-19 are different now. We called ahead and Kevin took him in. Kevin called the desk when he arrived masked assistants fetched Kiwi from the car and they took him to be  examined by the vet. The would call Kevin on his cell with their assessment.

Basically they took the conservative approach and treated him for abscesses.  They didn’t feel like he had any breaks – like his pelvis or ribs. But they warned us about the tail. He could have more going on.  He came home and was left crated in the gym so he could recover for a day or so. But he didn’t really perk up. He wasn’t eating much and when I let him out of the crate he just seemed that he could not walk forward. And he wasn’t moving the tail. I had the feeling we had more going on there.

I was worried so Kevin took Kiwi to our regular vet a couple days after his initial emergency visit. They had the same routine of them coming out to the car to grab Kiwi but Kevin could come right home as our little farm is only a couple miles away from the vets office.  Soon after Kevin got home they called and asked to x-ray Kiwi and we said of course. We waited anxiously for news. Not long after the first call, the vet called with some grim news. His tail was completely broken. She said it had to come off.  What a bummer- not bc I felt bad for him losing his tail but for the fact he must have been feeling so crummy for a while. We ok’ed the surgery for the next day. Kiwi spent the night at the Vet’s office.

The good news is that Kiwi did great in the surgery. They removed the tail and fixed up the wound on his back hip. The bad news was he needed to be confined for a couple weeks and wear a cone of shame- an e-collar. He would be fine in the gym in the crate.  He was be given exercise time in the gym (he was not allowed to do any heavy lifting- ok that was a joke) and he began within days to get very tired of the e-collar and sick of being indoors! This was a good sign.

He became his playful self quickly, he was eating and drinking.  I let sister Pearl visit him – she was not into the e-collar and would hiss at him. I worried maybe she would not understand it was her brother because his tail was missing. I worried that he might not get along with our feral cat Jet anymore bc he had been gone so long. One day when Jet was in the center aisle of the barn I opened the gym door hoping Jet could see or smell his buddy. I don’t know if he could Jet does not let humans too close and there was no way to coax him closer.

The vets at our regular practice said that they had two differing opinions on what may have happened to Kiwi. One thought it was a fan belt injury- where he may have gotten caught up in the engine of a car. He had a classic break that is indicative of that event the vet said. There was the hip cut too and that made the other vet think it was a larger animal that may have gotten him. I wondered if he had run off and then been attacked (he had not been one to run off though) or if something had grabbed him on our property. We definitely have cars around a lot – though I had never seen him get close to them. Kevin had seen some blood on the fence near the driveway so I think whatever happened it was right here at home.

I have had my own thoughts on what happened. I think maybe a horse stepped on  his tail but I can’t figure out the cut on his side. A horse could crush him. So I am not sure the horse makes sense. But whatever happened it had been a few days before the day we found him- his wounds weren’t fresh. Perhaps he went into hiding after he was injured. He could have been under that shed – there is room under there for a cat to hide. I had that experience years ago when I found our sick cat Momma under there.  Kevin had looked for Kiwi there when he first went missing but it is pretty deep so he may have been there. I won’t ever know. But that was where is was standing when we found him. I am so glad he was able to be found!

The best news is that Kiwi is out and about again and playing with his friends. He has stayed put and seems to not notice he is missing a tail. He looks cute too. Our friend Mike suggested we rename him Bob-Cat! Hilarious. So now I call him Kiwi and Bob (sometimes Bobby and sometimes Manx- I think they are the cats with no tails right?  I need to google that.)

In addition to the cat injury  and along with my kid leaving for the Navy, our cooktop was fried in a brownout- which required a repairman to come into the house tell us we needed a new one- this requires him to come back to install it. And at about the same time we had a large clog in the main pipe to our septic – not good– which also required a plumber to come out. This all during a time we would rather not have anyone come into our home. I really am wishing for dull days!

Navy Son – Letters —

LettersOn Monday I had the nicest surprise – quite unexpected actually. I had two letters from my son, SR Sweeney (Seaman Recruit), from bootcamp. He should be about completed his two week quarantine- we think – we don’t know for sure. The letters I got from him were written April 1 and one before that.  I think his bootcamp training will begin soon but there is also the virus to contend with and there was a case or two at the center so I have no idea how things are progressing there.

I must say I didn’t expect him to write us much at all.  I was so doubtful that I sent him  with cards and  pre-addressed envelopes. I was making it so easy for him to send us a word or two. I had no idea he would be writing us in quarantine – I wasn’t sure what was allowed.

My son’s letters to us were not on the pre-addressed cards I gave him but instead on Navy RTC stationary. I think I marveled at them like he was five and in kindergarten and brought home his first handwriting assignment.  He actually wrote a whole letter- no two letters!  And yes I am saving every one we get! Just like his those kindergarten assignments.  Once a mom always a mom.

His letters were basic really. But he expressed his desire to get going to work. I also could tell the virus situation had finally become real to him. He wanted us to know the Red Cross could get him a message fast if anything serious went down with us here.  He had been out once or twice to get some medical checks. He got glasses. He’s making some friends. For that I was glad as he is shy. The food was not great. I found out from my Facebook group that they are getting bagged food until they mainstream.

He updated me on some business items they had gone over with him once he was there.  He asked that we write him back. He said he didn’t know what was going on in the outside world.  I struggle with how much to share with him. I know it won’t be anything that I feel would stress him while he is in bootcamp.

But the kicker for me were these words:I miss you both so much…I love you both so much… Definitely not words I would expect from my son. He is shy. He holds back feelings. And those words are what broke me open…tears flowed.  It felt so nice to read the words but also they made me worry about him a little more too.

I know it will be ok. Well I pray it will be.  I know he’s in a bit of a shock now. If he is homesick it should pass- especially after he gets going in bootcamp.  He won’t have as much time to think. He will be exhausted by the end of each day. He will wish he was in quarantine again-  I am told.

Letters are like gold. They connect us when we don’t have the luxury of text or email. Oh how I miss those at your fingers tools! But the separation is needed. It takes that civilian and makes them into a soldier -part of unit. United together for one cause. I get it but I hate the silence.

I am not a true Navy parent yet. We are just at the beginning. But I already know this worry about your child is not the same as leaving them at two-week camp in the summer or dropping them off at college. This is something that is bigger…and I don’t mean to downplay those other worries. I have been through those too, so I speak only from how I am feeling now compared to those other times that we let the thread that ties us together out longer than it had been before.  It was scary and exciting and hopeful.  That worry ebbed a bit as time wore on. But now this thread will be a long unending spool let out further and further. It is so much bigger – this worry- than what I have felt before. Parenthood is the never-ending roller coaster ride of emotion.

I am sensing that this worry is like a knot that lodges itself somewhere inside.  Because this is only the beginning. There will be deployments to far away lands. Missions we won’t know about in detail but know they exist in theory. We won’t ever feel  he is truly safe unless  he is real standing in front of us – and when  he is near us it is only for a short time and there will be a parting again…and the worry cycle continues. I am not there yet but I have a sense that this worry is a different beast. I am very unsettled.

And the letters come and there is an exhale…not a release of all the worry but some. They are a gift. Something I didn’t know I would cherish until they sat in front of me waiting to be opened.

I have written my letters to him as has his dad but they have to wait until we are given his correct division information. He won’t get letters addressed to the quarantine area which I am told by thanks to the Training Center Facebook group admins is the address he gave me. So as the Navy motto reminds us – I will hurry up and wait for his division info to get to us. And I hope the letters that he eventually gets from us give him some peace- and he feels the love behind them.

I had forgotten the special feel of a real letter. We have so much connectivity available all the time but when you don’t have it – the letter for me is a lifeline.  I hope I get more from him- but knowing the rigors of their schedule when doing actual P days ( processing days – first week of real  bootcamp where they process the recruit) I won’t get my hopes up.  But if I do I will appreciate the lift of some of the worry – that exhale -even if it lasts only for a little while.

 

 

 

Zoom Trivia Night- during a Pandemic

Zoom meetingZOOM- whenever I hear that name  I think of the song from the long ago show by the same name. “We’re gonna Zoom , Zoom, Ah Zoom. We’re gonna Zoom ah, Zoom ah, Zoom. Come on give it a try…We’re gonna tell you just how…” I think that is how it went anyway.  Anyone remember that? Clearly Zoom was named by a much younger generation who did not know this show ever existed. Oh the limits we had on TV in the olden days!

Well , we Zoomed the other night! Yes we did. AND we did it with friends! We had a Zoom Trivia night. I have been seeing many Zoom gatherings lately posted on social media. My husband went to a work happy hour on Zoom. He said it was pretty cool.

Last week we took a Zoom stretching class with a trainer (who is also my sister-in-law).  It was fun! Well as fun as stretching can be when you have become rather inflexible! I have also gone to church services on Zoom. I think during this time this is a much needed outlet for people.  I am grateful to my friend Pastor Tom Atkins for having these intimate sessions.

I had been missing game nights that we had begun to have with our family and friends over the last six months or so and I was missing connecting with humans. Texting is one thing but seeing people and talking to them is another.  I  was also hoping to feel semi-normal for a bit- everything is so off kilter now. But I suppose there is nothing normal about Zoom parties – or maybe a few weeks ago it was not a regular thing to do- but the world has changed in a short time. I just wanted a distraction for a bit from the pandemic.

So I decided it might be fun to host a Zoom game night.  I was and am a novice to Zoom but decided to tackle it and create a meeting. It is not too hard. But a couple things I didn’t know cropped up. One thing I learned was that it we were limited to 40 minutes per meeting only so I had to upgrade to a plan that can be cancelled any time. The cost is $14.99 a month. This way I could have unlimited time for my meeting and up too 100 friends. Which was not the number we would have for the game night!

Once the meeting was created I needed to decide what games to play. I also welcomed input from those invited.   I googled the phrase “Zoom game night ideas” and got a lot of hits.  There are a lot of drinking games- sounded fun – but I was not looking for that.  There was a form of bingo and Pictionary and much more.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed I decided to keep it simple. Trivia. All invitees agreed.

Trivia it was but then we had to decide how to play it. I found a phone app that all attendees  could have logged on to and played together while we were on Zoom – but I wanted to try it out first because I didn’t want it to be like we would be on our phones more than we were interacting via the video app. The idea was to socialize- I can play Words With Friends whenever.

In the end I just asked everyone to bring some form of trivia questions to the meeting. And it was BYOB – haha.  Everyone was able to access the meeting pretty easily. We made introductions as we had a mix of friends and family playing. Then we decided how to play because I wasn’t sure of a proper format. Should it be teams or individuals.

We decided one person would read the questions and we would be teams and would have mini-games.  One person would read out the questions for that game. Each game consisted of ten questions.  Teams could discuss questions privately after each question was read as there is a mute feature. We made a 30 second time limit to get answers written down but really never needed that. Then we would score our answers and I kept tally. We played about 5-6 games.

It was great fun! We shared our guesses before we were told the answers.  We had a lot of laughs. We had 9 people total (our teen niece did opt out after a bit- understandably!). I did learn some things-

  1. Zoom meetings gives one a reason to shower, blow-dry and put on makeup for the occasion.  One sister-in-law thanked me for having the game night as it made her shower. I put on make-up – this was  because it was a rare social event and it made me feel normal getting ready -like I was going out. Except I wore Pjs to the event! My girlfriend that came posted that she was primping for  the event!  Oh what our world has become!
  2. As people had their adult beverages the talking got louder and it was a bit harder to communicate. But it was a lot of laughs!
  3. Live music is an added bonus. My very talented BIL Pat played a couple songs on his guitar.
  4. Zoom has the option of changing your background and honestly you could have a whole party dedicated to adding funny backgrounds behind you!
  5. It is something I definitely needed.

We plan to host another Zoom game night soon.  I really needed to feel connection with others (as many can relate to this) and maybe for a couple hours forget the stress and sadness that all the news from the virus brings. This is an unprecedented  and scary time but we are lucky to have the ability to connect in this way.  It doesn’t replace real human connection but it was very uplifting for me and my mom and husband.  For a while it was just fun and laughs –  and I got tidied up. So that’s something!

 

Grocery Delivery…during a pandemic….my sanitizing protocol

Mr Clean

My homes Mr. Clean – going to retrieve an RX.

Up until the Covid-19 pandemic I had only used grocery delivery one time- and that was when Kevin and I became ill at the same time when we were at our home in Delaware. There was NO way either of us could get out and buy the clear soup, graham crackers, gingerale , and tummy meds we needed to combat the bug that ailed us.

At that time I automatically used what we now call social distancing – I asked the driver to drop off the groceries at the front door – and run! Well I may not have explained it exactly that way but I did explain the need to drop and leave.  The driver had no problem with that request!

In the midst of this pandemic we have begun to use the InstaCart grocery service again in hopes that this and the Hello Fresh we have delivered each week will keep us from needing to go out to the grocery store.   I like InstaCart thus far. The driver/shopper is very good at finding replacements for my items and checking with me if they are ok.  I can even add something on while they are still shopping.  As they shop you can see each item in the list being checked off in the app. Each time they have shopped for me they have been on-time or early with the delivery.

But what to do when you get the items delivered? How do I safely bring them all inside? Could the virus be lurking on my food?

Well I can’t take any chances  because my mother – who has underlying health conditions  -lives here with us. So I began to read up on suggestions on the safe handling of groceries and also carryout or delivered meals. I read many many suggestions and I decided I had to figure out which things made the most sense to me.  Everyone is going to have different needs and some may think what I do is too much or maybe not enough. But let me tell you it’s a job doing the protocol I have decided on.

Here it is-

First I had the delivery person(s) leave the groceries by my garage -the first time it was on the front porch -but the garage makes it easier for me to sanitize and offload items that go into our garage fridge.  I donned disposable gloves, took the Clorox wipes out with me to the garage. I then took out items in the bags that could go in the garage fridge and I wiped them with the wipes. Then placed in the fridge. Just to note – all produce went into the house to be cleaned in the sink with water. I tossed away the bags – which bums me out because we normally save many of them for other uses but not now.  I Clorox wiped the handles of the fridge.

Next I took in the bags of items that needed to go inside and I decided to have a designated landing area in the kitchen where the bags would go. I chose next to my fridge near the garbage drawer to make access to both easier. I unloaded the bags and all items were wiped with Clorox wipes -and put away. I then tossed away all the bags – Clorox wiped the floors, fridge handles and anywhere inside the fridge that I touched. I then tossed gloves away.

All produce was cleaned in the sink. I scrubbed the banana’s too – we will see how they turn out – lol. Then I washed my hands and then put away all the produce. Then wiped the counters with a Clorox wipe, and the fridge door handle again and inside the fridge, and the garbage handle and wiped the floors where the bags were (ok prob overkill), I wiped all doorknobs I touched between kitchen and the garage. Washed hands again.

Then I had five shots of vodka. No just kidding I had six…not really –  I did sit down with some ice water and lamented to my mom that it was at least a pert – time job just to put away groceries. If I had shopped for them too I  would have used even more precautions. I was tired! I just wanted chocolate.

I am sure many of you can relate to this new scenario. If this isn’t new to you then I bow to your sanitizing expertise.  In the new world  – after this pandemic is over – Ebbed? – I know I will take some of this new found sanitizing with me and continue being mindful of germs. I hope the stores allow shoppers to use their own bags again because I felt terrible tossing the bags in the trash. I did recycle some the first time we got delivery but then I thought maybe that wasn’t good for those workers that sort the recycle stuff. I guess I need to google about that. Google will have opinions en masse.

Then I read a whole thing about takeout/delivery food. What I have done is like with the groceries – had a landing area, removed food container from the bags. Tossed bags. Removed the food from the containers and put on clean plates and tossed containers. Then cleaned landing area and garbage drawer handle.  Washed my hands. Then ate my meal.  I also have been ordering hot food. I love sushi and salads but worry getting those in takeout. Might they harbor germs?

We have been getting boxes delivered too – and we are doing the landing spot and sanitizing those items as well. The boxes get broken down and put in the garage for disposal. As for the Hello Fresh- we put the boxes in the garage and then we put the meals which are bagged in the garage fridge. When we bring this in to cook we wash produce (as normal) and fix the meal and toss away the bag. Sanitize the area where we prepped. Wash hands and eat.  I have less worry about the HF because by the time it gets to us and we get to preparing it any virus has likely dies.

It is all so scary really.  I try to stop my mind being 24/7 virus. But it is so hard when so many things we have to do have the extra layer sanitizing.  Today I went out in the car to a drive-thru pharmacy. I wore disposable gloves. We brought masks in case we had to go into the store for some reason.

I wash my hands so much! I thought I was a hand washer before!  I know you all can relate. I might be doing too much or not enough…how am I to know. There are no guarantees we will not get this thing. I hope there is some promise to the medication protocols they have been mentioning and hopefully a vaccine as soon as they can have one.

In the meantime I will be Mrs. Clean and hubs Mr. Clean and my mom is already Grandma Clean which is why we have lots of hand sanitizer- before this pandemic she was a germaphobe and I don’t blame her, she does have underlying health issues.

I will say I soooo appreciate the grocery delivery service and the people who are doing the shopping. The tips are large on Instacart- you can change the suggested tip- but I think any shopper who will do this for strangers in a pandemic deserves the tip. God Bless them and all who are out the working and caring for others.

Much luck as you discover your sanitizing protocols!

Stay safe – ❤

 

 

Navy Son- Part 2- How we got here…

My son has been at the Navy training center for about a week now.  He is in quarantine as is the protocol at the moment for new recruits.  We did get word yesterday that a recruit in training tested positive for Covid-19 and had been placed in isolation.  I can’t imagine getting that call as a parent – but it is a reality we have to consider.  The Navy is making changes daily to it’s normal procedures and it can be frustrating but it is understandable that they are dealing with something never conceived of (a world crisis of this magnitude) and they are trying to adjust as best as they can.

As a parent of a Seaman Recruit  (SR) it is not easy when there is so much in flux and all I can do is remind myself that my kid is in good and capable hands. They will care for him if gets ill, they are caring for him now.  Over time I have come to an acceptance of my son’s decision to join the Navy- it didn’t happen overnight. But I have gotten there.

When my son first said he wanted to join the Navy he was a senior in high school that was in 2018.  I was not a fan. Kevin and I both encouraged him to apply to college and maybe do ROTC or apply to the Navy after he graduated.  I think at the time I thought it was an idea that came with not much thought or it was a fantasy of an immature kid. Like when he was little and wanted to be superman. Though he did wear out two pair of superman sneakers over the years! But still I felt that he wasn’t mature enough to make a decision as big as joining  the military.  He also mentioned  that he wanted to be a police officer- which again we suggested he wait on. I think in our parent point of view we thought getting a college degree would be best. 

He did a year in a university  – and never pursued ROTC- but then at the end of his freshman year decided to change to a major (criminal justice) they didn’t have at the university he was attending so he withdrew from there and decided to live at home with us and he began local community college last fall. 

I could tell he was not thrilled going to those classes. And I could tell by the amount of gaming he did that he wasn’t studying. His heart was not into it. I was beginning to realize it was a waste of money if he didn’t have a desire to be in college. That’s when during yet another discussion about drive and motivation and his future he brought up the Navy again. And again I admit I wasn’t a fan. He wondered out loud why I was so against  him joining the military since my stepfather was a career Navy pilot and made it to captain. My son had heard some stories about my stepfathers career – teaching young Navy pilots to fly on and off the carriers at night, fought in two wars.  To me that didn’t extrapolate into my kid enlisting. I wasn’t a Navy kid or considered myself part of a Navy family.  My mom married into one when I was a young adult. So I didn’t feel a pull to have my kids join. Do not get me wrong. I was thankful for my stepfathers service andI am so thankful for all military service men and women. I just wasn’t sure I wanted MY kid to be part of the military. I was scared. And I still am. 

I told him that if he wanted to join the Navy he needed to do all the work himself – because normally he needed my help to figure most things out for him, jobs, banking , school admin issues etc.   I decided that if he was really serious about the Navy he had to do it on his own. I was not going to facilitate it. If he went and hated it later  he only had himself to blame. And I figured since I left it up to him he would not do anything about it.

I was wrong. Within a day he had a meeting with the local recruiter in nearby Frederick, MD. And that morphed into more meetings and once he was told he was eligible he went to officially sign-up. I have to admit I was not a fan still. My anxiety about it ramped up. But since he seemed so excited- and he rarely gets excited by much – I wanted to be excited for him. We looked over the jobs he could choose from based on his testing scores. 

He chose cryptology- but then when he went to our local MEPS (the place where you they do recruit processing) the job wasn’t available. Kind of a bait and switch? But I realized later he could have waited for that job to come open but he wanted to leave sooner than later…so he chose a job in a Sub. Missile tech to be exact. Holy cow this freaked me out because  just the week before he said he didn’t want subs and I was happy with that. Then he picked subs!  He told my husband he did exactly the opposite of what he had said he wasn’t going to do. But he had had options and he could have waited. So I guess this is something he wanted to do. Or he thought he did. Or he was being a teen.  I really lost my cool when I found out he chose subs- first I was mad …then I sobbed- I am sure this was me letting out all the anxiety I had been having over his decision to go to the Navy- I will say I was going through some seasonal effective depression when this all occurred so I think my reaction was more dramatic because of this. But a Sub- 800 ft underwater….why?

I could not speak to him for like two days. I hated myself for this. I read up on subs and saw he could be under the ocean for ten weeks…with no contact. I felt claustrophobic for him. A projection onto him of my issues of enclosed spaces. But I also began reading about subs. I do tend to research things – probably more than my child did.  I am sure I do this as a way to come to terms with things. The more knowledge the better I am able to process things.

In my research I read about some of the scary tests they have to perform in sub school (where he will go after he passes bootcamp).  My kid doesn’t swim well ( I am told they will teach him to be a better swimmer in bootcamp) and they have a test where four of them have to go through a sub hatch in a simulation of a sub escape. They wear air filled plastic bags (I am sure it is more technical than this) over their heads and float to the surface. They have a room flood while they fix equipment, they have fire simulation. Oh Lord!  But the more I read the more I saw that the testing is obviously important  and they want them to pass so they help them to get there. And if there are issue like severe claustrophobia then they will help them move to another job not in a sub.  But most important I read about the camaraderie that builds among the soldiers in subs and on ships, and the sense of pride these seamen have for their Navy, and their country, and themselves. He needed this. 

My son needed a direction, he needed to find something that could build his confidence, and he needs friends.  If he feels that this is the vehicle to him finding himself who cares if it comes before , after or instead of college -and there are many benefits to being in the military as far as schooling goes.  It has taken time for me to wrap my mind around all this. The positives and the negatives, the risks and rewards.  It was never a case of me letting him join the military. If this is what he truly wanted then I wasn’t going to stand in his way. But I know he wanted and needed my approval. He wanted to know I was proud of him.  I have settled into the fact that my kid wants this and he needs it.  I am very proud of him and I have told him that many times.  But it doesn’t mean I am not scared too.  It is very hard not to be during this pandemic. 

My son once told me he rather live a shorter life helping others than a longer life not doing so. That is sobering coming from such a young person.  It may have been a thought of an immature young man not realizing his mortality but it was one of the most authentic and honest things he has ever said to me.  It makes me sad too- because of course I want him to have long beautiful life so his discussing his mortality at all is not easy. But I believe he feels a call to service of others. And if that calling was to join the Navy than I now call myself a proud mom of a Navy recruit. And will try to navigate my own fears as I root him on  -and – I let him go on his life’s journey.

I just miss him.

Navy Son – Part 1

No description needed right?

As my husband brought yet another bag of trash up from my son’s now empty bedroom I realized what made me so mad before he left…his messiness …no his piggyness ..his inability to pick up when asked…his incessant gaming and leaving soda cans in a circle around his chair like the fallen avatars in his games…these annoying things became things I was missing already. Of course I wasn’t the one cleaning them up. So I can wax sad here.

My son is now a Navy Recruit and he left for bootcamp Monday, March 23,

We got the call the at 3:16AM to be precise on Tuesday morning.  I was fumbling for the phone – but was awake anyway just groggy. When I answered I heard my 19 year old son’s voice – telling me in a very scripted tone that he was at Navy boot camp and he was ok, and he would talk to me in two weeks. I am told not to count on that call- it may be more weeks than that. It was a quick call. I got my I love you’s in and  I wasn’t sure I was allowed to say more -and he didn’t offer more-so we hung up. Now moving forward -no contact- (unless I get a that call  he mentioned)-for about ten weeks. This is going to be a tough one on this mom. Well at least I know he is safe.

We dropped him off at a hotel near Fort Meade Sunday night – he would be with other recruits most likley but it still felt so odd leaving him there. I didn’t want to go into the hotel because of the social distancing rules. I didn’t want to make a scene when I said goodbye which means any tear falling from my eyes because it would upset my son. I was sad that we couldn’t go to the base the next day to see him off. It was closed to civilians because of the virus restrictions.

I stood by our truck and hugged him tight. That last hug – watching as he fades into the hotel lobby- my heart falls a bit.

It is hard enough to send your child off to the military – but to do so during  this pandemic is so hard. I haven’t slept well in the days preceding his departure and the insomnia is still hanging on. I have had loads of tears. Tears because I miss him, tears because we can’t talk for a while and tears because I am afraid.

I have so many fears-  some rational and some irrational. I worry he might become ill? They are on a two week quarantine -and my son was very happy because he could bring a handheld gaming device and game for the time he was in isolation. It won’t get old for him – he’s a gamer and its one of the habits he has that I hope the military breaks. But if he gets ill do they even call us? He belongs to the military now so I don’t know what information we can get.

I fear that he won’t make it through bootcamp- he needs this in his life. He has lacked direction and goals – he needs this for his confidence and to mature.  I am so proud of him- yet so sad because he is gone.

I fear he will get hurt during some of the exercises- he has to breath in tear gas! That freaks me out.  He laughs about it!  I fear for him in general because he is not worldly and he is immature. I am told the Navy will change that.

I fear he will have the WTF did I do moment where he may regret signing up.  Who am I kidding he will have that…I just hate to know that he will be at a breaking point like that…but I want him to get past it. I know he can do this…but he has to know that too. I want the successes of boot camp to build up this shy, quiet, introverted, sweet, kind young man.  Also I fear he will change too much- will he become hardened – more closed up? None of this is in my control and I know it..it’s just the feelings I feel now. However dumb- I just have to allow myself the time to adjust.

But I am a mom and I know I won’t stop worrying.

I also fear this pandemic as a whole – what will it mean for my son once out of bootcamp? How do they keep them safe – one military man down can mean many down because of the ease of spread in such close quarters.  What if  -God forbid -someone in our family becomes ill enough we would want to contact him- can we?  I have a mild sore throat and stuffy nose and today and I am filled with worry about what it could be.  These aren’t easy times.

These are my own feelings and I never projected these on to my son as he prepared to leave. he deserves a mom who can keep it together while he got ready for the biggest thing in his life thus far. And before he left I kept it together mostly by being in denial that he was going.  I helped him get his new bank account set up and I pestered him about getting his room clean and clothing put away before he left…he made a feeble attempt…I am told the Navy can change the slovenly into much neater humans! Let’s hope for that!

I just never let myself get too close to the feelings of him going until we had that last hug and the string that ties together got longer and longer.

The best thing is that Kevin and I are not alone in all these feelings – we have the experience of others near and far. Last week before my son left, I was told by my son’s Chief at the recruiters that there were facebook pages to join that could be a source of support during this time.  We joined a couple and these pages are already a source of comfort. It is comforting to be among those that are feeling some of what I have felt – and also it is nice to talk to those that have been there done that.

I honestly struggled with my feelings about him joining the military and I will write more on that later. But I am so very proud of my child.  The timing of it all is hard. With so much uncertainty now I feel like I want to have instant contact with my adult children  – just to make sure they are ok. But that isn’t what I have with this son. That will take adjustment —and letting go some.  Not easy for parents. Especially now.

….To be Continued….