So what? It’s only a New Year. 

I remember the New Years Eve when we sent 2013 out with a big kick in the butt from my home.   2013 marked a turning point in my life. That was the year I got diagnosed with breast cancer. Nothing after that year has been the same. 

I’m sure there are many other years before that that I would mark as turning points in my life. There are sad ones like when I lost my grandmother. She was a very important person in my life. There are happy ones like the year I got married and when we adopted our kids. But 2013 was a whopper for me. Not a good year. 

So we decided to kick it to the curb and we welcomed 2014 in with hopes that it would be an awesome year. I’d recover and life would be peachy. Well that didn’t happen. I had chronic pain issues from my breast cancer surgery that I could get no help for. We had big financial issues. Then last May my pain got worse, I was bed-ridden, i finally found a surgeon,  I had surgery, my dad died suddenly and my mother had a medical emergency weeks later. She’s now living with us. That’s a lot of tough stuff to happen in three years. So you can imagine why I might just be a bit cynical about Ringing in a new year with high expectations and hopes.  

Kevin and I aren’t very into celebrating New Year’s Eve mostly because we can’t stay awake until midnight. I personally never liked the holiday it’s always seems too forced to me. I recall a few years where I went out on New Years and the next day didn’t feel like the new year was beginning in a great way. Hangovers are a waste! I don’t do resolutions anymore – I’ve lost too much money to the cuss jar.  

This year Kevin wants to go out to dinner BC our son works as a busboy in a local restaurant and will be getting off at about ten and will need a ride home- so kevin thought it might be nice and convenient to have dinner out and then pick him up. We’d be home by 10:30. I’m not so sure about the plan. It makes me a bit anxious. Scenes of packed restaurants haunt me. But I don’t want to be a buzzkill so maybe I’ll go along with the plan. It’s only dinner. 

I’m not going to put so much pressure on a simple change of date to hope that I have a better days ahead. It’s fine to toss the old year away I suppose. It’s fine to wish in a better new year.  It’s good to be filled with hope of better things. But I have discovered that we just have to take what we get and learn how to deal with it -or not. 

I’ve learned some things over the years: 

Those crap years -they had a lot of good memories for me mixed in with the all the bad stuff. For me I will always be thankful for the time we spent with my dad in Florida last March. Though I could toss out my mother becoming so ill in 2016 -I’m very glad she’s now living with us. And what about all those talks and visits with my mother-in-law? Those are all part of this past year as much as the bad stuff is. If had to do this year over again – I wouldn’t avoid the pain I had if it meant all those other good things wouldn’t have happened. The pain sucked but the good stuff didn’t suck and I can’t give away those memories. Of course I’d love to not have lost my dad. That goes without saying. 

The other thing that’s a certainty is that bad stuff is going to happen in the future No matter how many Toasts we make to the new year. We all know it. But lots of good stuff is going to happen too. It is how we handle the bad stuff that is important and how we embrace and appreciate the good stuff -even the smallest nugget of good –is important too. 

Sometimes the good stuff seems overshadowed by the bad stuff. Because bad stuff sticks with us like slime. It tries to let us forget the beauty in our lives. I’ve said it before- some days you got to dig for the good stuff. 

I just read a great message from the president of my husbands company on optimism. He noted that optimism is infectious. That optimists out perform realists “any day of the week.”  My husband is an optimist. He has talked me out of some bad situations with his optimism. For that I’m truly blessed. I’m not sure where I’d be without him after these last few years. 

 I prefer to mix my optimism with realism. I’m a mixer. I’m liberal and conservative. Born on a cusp –I’m a mix of Sagittarius and Capricorn. Right now I have to dig deep for optimism. I’m a bit (ok very) worn and tentative after the last few years and especially after the last six months. I’m not at all sad to see 2016 get out of dodge. I’ve heard and read this from so many people. They are ready to see 2016 leave the building. I just don’t want to get all excited about 2017. It’s just another year. There will be ups and there will be downs. 

But  I’m going to pray for better times for next year and the future and I will pray that I have more good times in between the tough ones. I am slowly trying to get back into living life. I am still very off kilter but I’m trying to navigate my way. I don’t always understand why things happen. But I have a strong faith that God does know. 

And that is what keep me going.

I may not be much into New Years Eve as a holiday but I do want to wish a very Happy New Year to you all. I wish you much joy and love in 2017 and beyond. (Gee – How optimistic of me). 


Thank you’s and angels. 

This past week I had my 53rd birthday.  I think back over the last three years and all my family has been through and along the way I am reminded of all the love that has been given. 

This past summer I ended up in bed in pain and I was in misery. I had days where I didn’t want to keep going. It seems on those days that Kevin would bring the mail in and there would be a card from someone that would encourage me     – Or I’d get a text or Facebook pm from someone checking on me just when I needed an encouraging and caring word. We received meals twice a week for a couple months. I don’t even know who many of the senders were as it was all coordinated by a close friend of mine. The meals were a lifesaver. I couldn’t cook at all and there are only so many things Kevin can cook though he got more creative under pressure:)

 It is said that God puts Angels on earth to help us and to encourage us. These notes , messages, texts and meals were my little gifts of love and encouragement from those angels.  

Love surpasses all things. We don’t have to agree on everything, not one of us is the same and none of us is right all the time or nice all the time. But acts of love and encouragement transcend all that is different about each of us. It’s what brings us together. We are all on this earth trying to survive and learn what the heck this place is all about. 

We can survive without love -I suppose -but it’s a lonely existence. We need eachother.  We humans should take the cue from other animals. Most species need to be around others of their species to survive. 

We humans have more things alike than we have different. Just when we might feel we’ve lost faith in the human race something will pop up on our Facebook feed that makes us change our minds. There is hope for us. 

The notes and texts and messages and meals and calls and little gifts I have received over the last three years -and especially in the last six months have meant the world to me.  They kept me going during some very low and sad times. There aren’t enough ways to say thank you. My words can’t convey what they’ve meant to me. 

I haven’t quite figured this human experience out yet. I have a strong faith in God and I suspect many of my questions will be answered when my time here is completed.  I have faith that God that knows what he’s doing even when I don’t understand it. In the meantime I want to live my life to the fullest that I can and I want make people feel loved and cared for especially when they are down. Just like what was done for me. 

Maybe the best way I can say thank you to all those who have reached out to me is to simply pay all the kindness and love forward.  We can all be angels on earth -it just takes a little effort to make this world a better place. And it feels pretty good to be an angel too. 

God Bless to all of my angels near and far. I won’t forget your love to me.  I love you all. 

photo credit : Realm of Kindness on Facebook

The little ceramic tree

mom’s tree in the window of her assisted-living apartment

I don’t know how long ago my mother in law (now 91) and I got talking about how much I liked her little green ceramic Christmas tree that lit up. It reminded me of the ceramic trees my dad had and that his mother (my nana) had. I always loved those trees. 

When I think of them I think of so many christmas’s in the deep past of my life.  My Nana had the ceramic tree but it was white and she placed in one of her condo front windows and I also recall she  had the little Swedish angel carousel that would spin around and around when you lit the candles under them. I loved when she had them out over the holidays and she would light them for me. We’d turn out the lights and light the candles. I can still feel the warmth and the tinkling sound of the bells. 

angel tree like my nanas. photo cred:

My dad’s ceramic tree came to him well after he married my stepmother Jean. It too was white and would sit in our living room on a table -(the living room was the forbidden room unless we had company). I’d admire it from afar. 

Then it followed them to a new home and I was allowed to admire it close up BC by then I was an adult and a guest in the house by then too so I was allowed in the living room. It may have followed my dad to Florida after my stepmother died – and perhaps it will surface as my brother goes through some of my dads items. Maybe my nanas is there too. I can’t remember where that tree went after she died. Perhaps the one my dad had was hers.  That’s a thought that just came to me. This is where the memories blur for me. 

As a young adult years ago -before my marriage – I got to thinking about those trees and I really wanted one of my own.  I did ask my dad if he used his and he said he did.  It was his only tree as he had given up tree decorating some years prior when he sent me a huge box of Christmas decorations from my childhood. I still have many but they are beat  up. 

I couldn’t find a ceramic tree anywhere. They must have gone out of style. I may have even looked on eBay for them a time or two over the years but I never bit the bullet and got one. I’m not sure why. Maybe cost. Maybe I never found one there. Again memory blur. 

But sometime over the last 18 years that I’ve been part of the Sweeney family Christmas I must have begun the dialogue about my love of my mother in laws( mom sweeney)  little green ceramic tree. I would tell mom Sweeney about my family memories with the ceramic trees. One year a while back she mentioned to me that she was going to leave me that tree. I just laughed uncomfortably because to think I’d lose her wasn’t anything I could consider. She’s been such a friend to me – it’s hard to think of her not being here. 

Last Christmas Eve my Father in law died. How we all got through Christmas is beyond me. Not long after that mom sweeney began to get rid of things in her house. And when I say rid I don’t mean that in a bad sense. She carefully chose recipients of her most important items and she began giving them away to each of us. I wrote back last spring that she gave me my father in laws camera. A beautiful old Zeis. It meant so much to me that she would gift me that. It’s a beautiful piece and she knows what photography means to me. 

I think on that same day she also wanted me to take her little green  ceramic Christmas tree.   She said she wouldn’t be around to use it next Christmas – I declined. I wasn’t ready to take that yet. But eventually not long after that things were going at a fast pace out of the house – now some was even going to goodwill.  So my husband and I were over to her home for a visit and I asked her if I could take it but my taking came with a condition proposed by me ” if you are alive next Christmas I am bringing you the tree back.”  

She agreed but I think she was sure she’d be gone by her next Christmas. Then spring became summer and she moved to assisted living. She didn’t think she’d be in there very long- and it’s been a hard transition. And as this holiday has loomed she’s been feeling worse physically -and mentally she’s sad. She misses her husband of almost 70 years. She’s not living in the place she had Christmas for well over 50 years – her home not far down the road from her assisted living. A house mostly empty now and set to go on the market in January. She’s lonely. 

So one day a couple weeks ago Kevin and I made a surprise visit to see Mom Sweeney and we brought her that little tree and placed it on her window ledge.  

“You are still here ” I said. ” I told you I’d bring it back. ” 

She smiled. Her voice is so soft now we can’t always here her. She reminded me that it was my tree now.  I’ll take stewardship of it but it will always be hers. 

I told her , “If you are still here next Christmas I’m bringing it back.” 

We smiled at eachother.

That’s a promise I intend to keep. Oh how I love that lady. 

Not quite catching the spirit. 

the box on the porch

It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. It just feels like December. Or some other cold month. I have an old Walmart tree set up in our dining room. It’s lights that came on it only half working. They stay lit all the time and I’m still not motivated to get the ornaments out of the basement to decorate the poor thing. And sadly neither are  my kids or my husband.  My mom has offered to decorate it. I think I’ll take her up on it. Maybe when the boxes come up they’ll be a bit more interest. 

I bought a cheap Home Depot wreath. It looks kind of crappy but our front door looks crappy as it’s in need of painting inside and out. It really needs replacing but that’s another thing I don’t care about much now.  

I’m not doing cards. I’ve told myself maybe I’ll do New Years cards. I’ve sent cards out for years not missing a year since we married in 1999. Even in my cancer year I got New Years cards out. But was it BC I wanted to or because I felt guilty if I didn’t? Will I feel the same pressure this year? So far the answer is nope. Imagine the newsletter I would be writing this year if I actually opted to write those things?! It’s better for people to read my blog so you get my news in doses. It’s better for the heart. 

I figure I feel what I feel. I can’t make myself feel Christmas. I’ve bought gifts and I even wrapped a gift. One that was delivered to the front porch unwrapped. It was for my husband ,kevin, and since it was too big for me to lift post surgery, I decided to somehow wrap it as it sat on the front porch. I did just that- wrestling with the heavy rectangular box. It was not the easiest of endeavors and I cussed a few times-Frustrated that I can’t move heavy stuff but then Realizing there was no place to hide the thing anyway so the wrapping would have been needed if I wanted it to be a surprise. 

Before kevin got home I texted him alerting him to the wrapped gift on the porch and why it was this way. He said he’d ignore it and the boys could move it into the garage when they got home from school. I guess I should be glad it arrived when he was out at a meeting. Much of the time he’s home working so that was lucky he was out that day. 

The wrapping didn’t put me in the spirit. I may have forgone the wrapping opting just to give him the gift early but this man deserves a couple fun surprises. He’s literally a saint in my eyes. It’s been a tough few years on me but we can’t leave kevin out of the mix. He’s been the glue that kept me from breaking. This year is a hard holiday for him. He lost his dad last Christmas Eve and got through the holiday in that post loss shock.  He says this year is much harder. And the house he grew up in will no longer be part of the Christmas holiday as it’s being readied for sale as my mother in law is now living in assisted living.  So the man needs a few wrapped gifts to open. 

I’m just going with this lack of spirit. I’m not going to force myself to be anything but what I am. I am not depressed. I just don’t have that thing I usually feel around this time. Maybe it’s anticipation – a little excitement. That spark is missing.  And I’m ok with it. It’s been a helluva time in tha last few months. I miss my dad. Im healing from surgery and my mom just moved in.  I’m going to take each day and let it be what it needs to be. Today I feel pain because I overdid yesterday and I feel a little irritated by that but today I’ll have to take some pain meds and chill. No doctors appointments for my mom so I’m free to relax. 

My kids are the ones I feel bummed for. But they are teens now and I don’t feel like I need to be the driver of their feelings over the holidays but sometimes I feel that my moods are then litmus tests of how others feel in this house or at least for the overall feel of the house. When I was in pain all summer and stuck in bed  the house had a sad din to it. And it looked it. And we are still trying it catch up on all the cleaning that didn’t get done. I am the driver of this home I guess.  I just don’t want the pressure of having to make other people feel the Christmas spirit. Sorry but I just need to opt out this year. 

I did order our dinner from Wegmans. I went off tradition getting fried chicken and BBQ pork sliders. I can’t cook a giant meal anymore. My body can’t do it. And so I’ve come to love the simple heating up of food on holidays for the last couple years. Anyone can help. That’s the plus. 

I’ve bought a few small gifts for my kids but I alerted the teens that they would be left to their own devices because we were giving them money this year. Maybe it will be fun to see what they pick for themselves. Or frustrating. It’s all in the attitude.  

This weekend kevin and I are going to a nearby resort to have dinner for my birthday. Maybe that will give me some seasonal spirit. If not it’s ok. I’ll be ok. The family will be ok. Lack of spirit doesn’t mean lack of love. 

And we have plenty of that. 

Goodbyes and hellos

It’s a process. This healing. The healing of the physical body from my surgery back in October (it seems years ago so much has happened since then)and the healing of the emotional. I am learning that you will never be able to rush these things.  

Last summer I could have never imagined that laying in bed in chronic pain would have the calm before the storm. I never could fathom my father would be gone just a few months later.  

He would call me during the summer unable to really understand why I was suffering so. He wanted someone to fix me.  Sometimes he would seem confused about things I had told him. Maybe that was a clue that something was wrong. I knew he seemed much more forgetful but I thought his wife would have alerted me if things were wrong.  

Most of the time dad was on it.  When he would forget some details I told him on one call he was right on in the next one. In fact he planned to be here in early November to be present for his high school football teams induction into their Hall of Fame. When he was in town he said he’d get the doctors to listen to me and he’d get them to help me. It was sweet and unlike my dad. But he could surprise you sometimes. 

He was glad that I found a nerve surgeon to help fix me. He didn’t quite understand what they do nor did he fully grasp what surgical clips were. I actually sent him an email to help clarify it. I’m not sure he read it but I know he was happy someone had finally listened to me. 

Five days before surgery spit hit the fan. His wife left him suddenly. She had her reasons. I even understand them.  I have my feelings of how things could have been handled so much better. But had they been maybe the end results would have been different maybe my dad wouldn’t have died just two weeks after her departure. But maybe he stilll would have died later. I don’t know. I’ll never know. But I have faith that God has a plan and I think He was saving my dad from a harder life here which looked like it would have included assisted living and maybe even memory care. And my dad liked to drink. Had he been able to live alone he may have be unable to control his drinking. Maybe he was drinking more because he noticed his forgetfulness was getting worse. Maybe he was afraid. But he would not have shared that with anyone. 

About a week after his death after a few signs from him that let me know he was ok -I was waking from sleep and his voice was in my head and he said “I held a lot of things inside.”  That wasn’t a shock but hearing his voice admit that was quite a surprise. I often wonder what his demons were. We all have them and we alll deal with them in different ways. 

Living in a care facility would have taken away my dads freedom to come and go as he pleased. My dad loved his freedom.  Loved his local restaurants where he went to watch games with fellow sports lovers. He’d often call me from such places noise blasting behind him.  He loved that part of his life. He would have been like a crazed beast had that been taken away. 

But I miss him. He wasn’t perfect but he was my dad. 

So this grief thing takes time. I know it -but it hurts deeply – Physically and mentally.  I don’t need  more physical pain but it doesn’t matter what I want- it’s what I have to deal with.  It’s a process that I have no control over. The tears just come when they want washing me with sadness but then leaving me with a calm I find soothing after the attacks of sadness. I’ve come to know that I’ll find relief if I just let it wash over me. 

My dad would not want me to feel this sad. He was a master at not showing his feelings. But he was also good at not letting life bulldoze him over. He kept going. And I know it wasn’t always easy for him.  

We laid my dad to rest a little over a week ago.  It was a busy week. My mom -who had a health scare just two weeks after I lost my dad that landed her in the IICU and intubated -was thankfully recovering and was going to rehab here in Maryland (she had been  living in PA) with the plan that she would come to live with us after rehab.  So she was dropped at rehab on Monday and on Tuesday we had a mass for my dad at the church we attended as a family years ago in Potomac, Md. 

The day was chilly, the church filled with a small crowd of old friends. The majority of friends he had were back in Florida where he had lived for 20 years. The mass was beautiful. The next day we laid him to rest in a cemetary here in Maryland. It was sad but also there was some closure.

So I said goodbye to my dad and in the meantime my mom moved in with us. Hello mom! We are now the blended family of 3 teens , 2 middle aged parents and one Grammy. Let’s not forget the six dogs in the house as well and the farm animal in the barn. 

We are adjusting well to my mom living here. But I know this is a huge adjustment for her as well.  She’s a trooper. 

We have a lot ahead of us. Selling her home and getting her things down here and some will need to be stored. Renovating an old bathroom to accommodate her.  Figuring out if we want to convert our garage into a suite for her. Getting her new doctors and having her medical records sent. It’s a process and we will get through. I’d surely rather be doing this than be mourning her. There was a point when she became ill that I thought we might lose her. So I’m grateful that’s she is here with us. 

When I look back at the last six months I can’t believe what has transpired. It’s hard to fathom. But I life as a series of ups and downs. We have no idea what hardship or sadness will come next so we have to grab the joys and cherish them when they come. I’m not sure I’ll ever relax enough to stop waiting for the next shoe to drop. The last three years have been full of tough stuff. But they have also been full of good stuff. It’s easy to get beat down by the bad stuff. But it’s the good stuff that has kept me afloat. 

My dad always said to me “keep the nose of the plane up. ”  sometimes that platitude annoyed me. How was I supposed to do that when life was being so crappy to me? But sometimes it’s a choice to just keep going. There were times this last six months where I didn’t think I could keep going but I did. By Gods grace I have been able to grab onto hope and to the love and care of others and I kept going. 

So here I am. I am healing. I said goodbye to the huge presence  that was my dad and hello to my mother living with us. I’m moving forward. Life’s not waiting for me so I best go live it. And like I wrote in the eulogy to my dad:

“I’ll try to keep the nose of the plane up dad.” 

Or at least level.