Have we had enough?

The other day I sent my son to school without his cell phone.  This was as a result of some low grades and I had taken the phone away in hopes his grades would come back up so he could get the phone back. He had come into my room that morning and asked if he could take the phone to school and I refused him. Later I saw a text on my phone that he had sent me the day before “did you see the news about the school shooting?”  I had missed that text-and now I know why he came in to ask for his phone-it was the day after the Florida school shooting where 17 students and faculty lost their lives. Only when I saw that text did it occur to me that perhaps he had asked for the phone because maybe he was feeling anxious about attending school and having his phone would have made him feel safer to have a connection to me. Then I realized that it would make me feel better having a connection to him. Who would have thought we would be here as parents – fearful to send our kids to school. Wondering could it happen at our school?

I don’t always write about things that are controversial- but sometimes you just have to speak out.  And to be honest there doesn’t seem to be a need to make this topic controversial because I think we can all agree on the premise – that we are all sick of  kids and adults being shot dead in schools. This problem has become prolific.

Here is a list of recent school shootings in case you missed it.

Aren’t you frustrated at seeing the heartbroken faces of the families who lost a loved one? The faces of the murdered flow past our screens in rapid succession – maybe strangers to us but to someone they were the world.  And don’t we feel the pain? and don’t we become angry? I think most of us agree enough is enough.

But then what? It doesn’t seem our politicians can agree on what to do about the issue. They don’t want to become unpopular to their constituents or perhaps to the lobbies that fund them. So what happens? Nothing. They let  enough time go by and the masses demanding change thin out because they have life to get back to and the pressure on the politicians lessens and they go on without having done anything – then there is a next time and another.

And lets face it- nothing that is done will completely stop these horrible tragedies from happening but does that mean there shouldn’t be change?

And by this time you might be reading Gun Ban into my writing and if you are doing that you have read wrong. I don’t hate guns. I live in the country where many people own and use guns. I think guns are tools that need to be respected. But I do feel not everyone should have one.

The answer to this national epidemic doesn’t fall into one category. In my opinion, there needs to be a multifaceted approach to maybe begin to see the number of these school shootings and hopefully other mass shootings significantly decline. But we have to compromise and we have to admit the truth about a few key issues.

While I find that there is a need for gun reforms there is another pressing and urgent issue that must be addressed in this country and that is the failure of our mental health system. This especially applies to children and teens and young adults.  I keep hearing from politicians that it’s not a gun issue it is a mental health issue. Well politicians here’s the truth our crappy mental health system is the issue – it not hard to find story after story online of our fractured mental health system in the United States. The system is broken and must be fixed. The truth of this situation must be admitted by our national and state governments – only they can facilitate a fix to this crisis.  If it’s not a gun issue and is a mental health issue something better happen to begin improvements to a system that isn’t doing much to help the most broken among us. 

I say this with some experience circumventing the mental health system can be a nightmare.  Our family has been lucky – our needs weren’t huge. I wasn’t looking for a bed for a psychotic or homicidal child. I didn’t need to sit for hours and sometimes days in an ER only to be told  that there just weren’t any beds to admit their child.  Or told that their child didn’t meet the “criteria” for admittance to a residential facility or that the hospital that could take the teen that was suicidalcould only keep them for a few days -the family would need to find other facilities for their child- leaving them to step into the sea of beauracracy and limitation that is our mental health system .  We were lucky, We only had to try to find a psychiatrist and an therapist for my child. This seems easy enough but finding Psychiatrists wanting to treat adolescents under 18 are not easy to find and often the ones I found didn’t take our insurance. We paid the full hourly fee out-ot-pocket for years because we found someone very caring and open to working with our child. He left to go teach and we found another doc only to have him leave the practice shortly after we began to see him and  nobody stepped in to replace him.  I could go on with the stories but you get my drift – I think- i hope.  We are lucky that we could afford it- and we are blessed we haven’t been in the situations I mentioned above but I know of people who have been. Friends it’s a mess. 

The other day President Trump said that when people see dangerous behavior or strange behavior that they must report it. I know of families that did report that their children were becoming a danger to themselves or others only to be turned away. And worse –  At the ER the staff will often look at cases like these and if the parents ask for the child to be admitted- and refuse to take the child home – begging for someone to help – the staff at the hospital might call Child Protective Services or they might spell out what CPS might tell the family…you must take your child home – we have no bed- we cannot help – they don’t meet the criteria- they are too dangerous for XYZ facility – if you don’t take your child home then you will be charged with child abandonment and neglect. The very parents who are trying to get help for their child – the very ones who might feel fear of their raging teen but who still want ot help this child will be charged with neglect if they refuse to take this raging child home. Who is be neglectful really? It is our system.

So the very system that the President is asking people to depend on and report things to is broken and has turned away many people young and old that need attention.  I know the health care providers don’t want this but their hands are tied. This has to stop because those kids or adults who have ben turned away time after time will not be helped and we can expect to see more violence because of this. 

With the closing of many longer term intensive mental health care facilities in the latter half of the last century we see less beds and more doors closed for the mentally ill especially our youth.  Hospitals simply cannot meet the demands that are now placed upon them to handle severe mental health cases. And that leaves so many with no means of help.  What a tragedy.

So with the failure of our mental health system to meet the needs of the mentally ill population the people who need to be in a mental hospital will not be in one. So our gun laws will fail because the only way to fail the mental health part of a gun check to acquire a gun is to have been committed to a mental hospital.

Right now, under federal law, a person can be tallied in a database and barred from purchasing or possessing a firearm due to a mental illness under two conditions: if he is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or if a court or government body declares him mentally incompetent (ref 1). So if you have a mental health issue but have not been committed or found incompetent you won’t be in that database that is searched for that red flag.  
So how does all this get fixed?  I venture to say it will never ever be full proof. But still things need to improve. Admitting to and then addressing the issues that plague our mental health system is a start. In the meantime let’s get some rational gun laws on the books. Personally, I do not like the high powered rifles and feel they should be banned but that is just my opinion and not a popular one- so in spirit compromise I thought of the following that could be put into place-

–Don’t sell guns of any type to anyone under the age of 21. Many states have a legal drinking age of 21 for a reason. Why not enforce the age 21 for gun purchases too?

–Don’t sell high powered weapons to anyone under the age of 30. Ok I know people are like What? That is not fair! Well if we take into consideration the maturation process of the brain – it has been studied a lot- and it’s proven that as we reach our latter 20’s our impulsivity declines. So perhaps by the latter 20’s a person may have better control over reactivity, better control over feelings and reasoning.  A more mature person might be inclined to use it for the right purposes. 

Maybe a young person with mental illness will be stopped from acting out in such a devestating way if we just make some effort to tighten up the laws to help protect the most precious among us.  

Now I am sure I will hear the argument  that if someone wants a gun they can find one…this might be true. But I think it might be safe to say that not all of these people who committed mass shootings would have obtained their guns illegally- some may have maybe all would have-but I doubt it  – but something has to give. If the gun laws change and nothing improves well then we know we are paddling up the wrong creek. And I won’t pontificate more on the other huge issue – our failing mental health system. Ive said enough here. 

One of the things that was spouted after this last shooting was that Cruz got his gun legally- but there are clearly gaps in the system that are causing problems. Lets be reasonable. I mentioned above I don’t want a gun ban. I dont hate guns. But I certainly do not feel that any of my children (I have two teen minors and one adult teen)should own a high powered rifle-they have no need for one -and I would venture to guess if you are reading this and you have kids you probably feel the same – ok so I know there are the outliers but I’m sure most of us don’t feel we need our 16 year old running around with an AR15. I am only trying to plead for some reasonable change in laws so we can better protect our schools and other public places – but especially our schools.

I have truly had enough. I read an article the other day about this last shooting in Florida and in the article a woman was interviewed while she and her husband were looking for their daughter. They had been reunited with their son but their daughter hadn’t turned up and wasn’t answering her cell phone. The mother knew the police often ask the kids in a lockdown situation to leave their backpacks in the school and to leave on foot. So she figured her daughter left the cellphone in her backpack. There was another rendevous point that was hard to get to – it was at a mall near the school I believe and her husband borrowed a bike to go to that mall to try to find her – but to no avail. That mom was fairly sure they would find her – she thought she must be with a friend or another parent…

…At the end of that piece was the news. The family confirmed later their daughter was among the 17 killed.

That shook me – my stomach fell- my heart jumped. I felt her hope in that interview. The hope only a parent can have when the alternative is too unthinkable. I can only imagine the horror and grief she felt when she found out her daughter was dead.

I have had enough. Haven’t you?

All you need is love -?


I was filling out a Valentines Day card today for one of my kids and it said on the front: “All we really need is love”— inside it said “but a little now and then chocolate doesn’t hurt.”  The chocolate part is true and I’ve found if I eat six small Dove chocolate candies everyday I am happier in those moments of chocolate bliss but maybe my waistline isn’t. And the truth is the happiness is short lived. But as for the first part of the card “all we really need is love” I am not so sure that’s true. 

All we really need is love….really? Is it?

Then what? The world for us is better ?  All our problems melt away? Sadly I’ve found this isn’t so. Receiving love is a gift and it can lift us up but I’ve found sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you love someone it doesn’t fix all their problems. A person may not want to receive our love and sometimes if they do it just isn’t enough. 

I was told for years if I just loved my son more he would snap out of his issues. He just needed more understanding, more hugs, more of me – and a magic wand would wave and unicorns would fly from the sky and his attachment issues would go away, and he would stop wanting to destroy our home or himself, he wouldn’t want to steal from his family, or ignore us and our rules. 

Kevin and I gave of ourselves and we tried so hard and we loved and still love and still it isn’t enough. We have exhausted ourselves trying to love someone so much that they will change. Life isn’t that easy I have come to find. Sometimes love just isn’t enough- but here’s the truth about love – even when it’s hard – even when it might not be received- even when it might not make unicorns fall from the sky – in the end love is a choice. And we the love giver must choose to keep loving even when it doesn’t seem to matter. That so hard sometimes-believe me- I know. 

Love is a choice – these words were spoken as part of a sermon I heard once. The pastor reminded us that love can be a feeling and a very strong one but sometimes it’s hard to feel love for that prickly person, that defiant child, that homeless person on the corner, or our neighbor -and when that feeling isn’t there we should choose to love anyway. Thank you Pastor Steve.  

One time a number of years back when I was in a very bad place of despair,  at one point I may have been praying or maybe just crying and a voice spoke to me or maybe it was a thought that came into my head that clearly was not mine and it said “Love is all that matters”.  In that bad moment I saw that so clearly. Like that was so easy -like why didn’t it appear this clear to me before? And simply yes that is so true -love is all that matters. Love here on earth is kind of like fuel and kryptonite all in one thing. It can bring us up and tear us down.  That’s because we muddle up love in it’s purest form and we always will. 

 The kind of love that we are called upon to give is one that’s unconditional that we choose to give no matter if we feel it or not. It’s not easy to live up to that pure of a love. But on this earth love is important and it’s easy to get frustrated when all the love you give someone doesn’t seem to help them or even matter. But what matters is we love anyway. 

Sometimes we have to let go of someone because their choices are hurting us. We can set boundaries and still choose to love that person. And I’ve done that. But here’s why love on earth can’t be as pure as love in heaven – or if you don’t believe in heaven or an after life just skip the heaven part- we are imperfect people. Face it – who wants to love let’s just say as an example Larry Nassar- the doctor that sexually abused all those woman and just received 175 years in jail? We are called to love him and God knows someone out there does and some out there pray for him and his soul. But most of us can’t be that loving -all I can think about is what he did to the young women he hurt. I can’t love him. 

And let’s take it further…he probably was loved by at least someone in his life and he is still a broken person..has no remorse and obviously has terrible mental issues. Sadly love wasn’t all he needed. But someone chose and probably still chooses to love him even if they themselves are disgusted by his actions.  In a way that is the magic of love. The capacity in which we are able to love if we make that choice – this amazes me. Still I can’t love Larry Nassar..feelings aside or lack thereof -I can’t even make myself choose to…I’m not Mother Theresa. 

In the purest sense those words that popped into my head in that moment of despair are so so true. I’d like to say that all that clarity made me better at loving but I am still human. I became more aware but I am flawed like anyone else and I am not that good at loving that unconditionally. I could spend pages and many words on the semantics of love because as true as those words-love is all that matters -are,  love is complicated here on earth because we complicate it with our humanness.  

But the point is when we choose to love we have to accept that we may not feel like doing it, and even if we do we feel strong loving feelings we have to accept we may not receive anything in return, and further we have to accept that we may try to love up a person all we can but that might not make a difference for them at all.

But we keep on loving. As Pastor Steve said:”because we choose too.”  

Happy Valentines Day 
The Beatles always inspiring music here All you need is love…..

When I’m 54 

Five four

Fifty four. Today I’m 54. 

19710 days alive on this earth. This beautiful, wonderful, terrible, scary, joyful, glorious, sad, happy earth.

That seems like so many days. That number is big. That’s 2808 mondays, tuesdays etc. that I’ve been around for.  I was thinking today that I missed a few of those days or most of one or two or so – but that was during college and I needed a recovery day. Wink wink.

So many days. Each one different. Each one with surprises and joys. Some with hardship and pain. 

But then I was thinking I’ve had 54 (almost Christmases) , that doesn’t seem like that many. And only 54 birthdays. That doesn’t seem like that many right? 

If we are lucky we could get 100 birthdays. That 36,500 sunrises/sunsets. But we don’t know how many days we have so I don’t want to take any for granted but I will. I’ll waste some. Some days I might not feel good. Some I’ll just be so crammed with things that I won’t take time to even register it. It’s life it’s what we do. But some days I will turn to face the wonder of this world. It’s easy to focus on the bad stuff but there is such wonder. 

Did you know that otters sleep holding hands? So stinking sweet? 

Or caterpillars completely liquefy as they transform into moths? What? 

Or two-thirds of the people on earth have never seen snow! Wow they need to see it, feel it, it amazing ( and cold!)

Or hummingbird weighs less than a penny? I knew this only because I saved one once and I’ll never forget it. It was a moment I didn’t take for granted. A magical moment. 

Thank you 54. Thank you 19710 I’ve learned so much….

And your welcome for the fun facts ….

Have an awesome day -I’m going to eat cake…:) 

——

Fun facts credit: all-that-is-interesting.com 

Buying a Farm(and recovery update)

Well I haven’t written in a few weeks. I have been recovering from my surgery which I will update on in a minute. I have good news on that. But the biggest news is WE Bought the FARM…as in really we purchased our little farm we have been living on and renting for the last seven years…finally it happened! It’s a little surreal.

Ok so I am bouncing around on topics but a quick update on my recovery from surgery. Oddly my abdomen still hurts. That is where the donor fat was taken from. The area where my pain was -and where they put the donor fat- feels pretty good! The abdomen is manageable and will heal up. Its just achy some- I am just being a baby!

But the best news is that my area of pain that has rendered me pretty disabled not only because of pain but also because I lost range of motion in my arm because I have radiation damage is very much improved! I am a bit afraid to get too excited. I still have some pain but its dialed back quite a bit.

I haven’t taken any opiate pain meds in weeks. Which is huge. I have begun to decrease my nerve pain med slowly – which is protocol- and I have done very well with the decrease.  Today I went to see my surgeon and realized when I got home I hadn’t taken the nerve med this AM! If I had done that before this last surgery I would have known on the way to the surgeons office. I would have been in terrible pain! So heres hoping. My surgeon was quite pleased with the progress. I am certainly doing more so that is my litmus test.

Back to the farm news…

Seven years ago when we moved here we rented with the intention to buy the home after one year. There are so many reasons that that didn’t happen. Financial, health… And after being here seven years in an old house not being able to make many updates we were thinking maybe we would move next summer to the beach full time. We have the house there, we love the beach but….

every time I walked along the lane I thought about the last seven years. The last four have been tough after the cancer and the financial struggles and I have had many moments of thinking of boarding the horses again and living on a small lot…so much less work. But…

I would look around at the land – its beauty. The space. I felt like I wasn’t ready to give that up. We certainly didn’t choose this place based on the house – it was old and it shows it. It might be easier to move to the beach full time. But to not see the horses out the back window and to not have any chickens in the yard… I would miss that.

Our beach cottage is in a neighborhood and I am not ready to do a neighborhood again full time right now. Sometime- but not now.  Plus I want the beach to be a special place not an every day place just yet. I still like to get that excited feeling when we cross the bridge. When I am there I don’t want to leave. I like that feeling- knowing its that special every time I go there.

So there I was not ready to go. My teens are not quite ready to be on their own and they are possibly going to Maryland State schools for college- being a resident would help the tuition.  My mom lives with us now and she has health care needs and we have established doctors nearby and it is easier to keep that care here for now. And at the right price this farm could be a good investment. It seemed reasonable to want to stay here. So was Kevin in? Turns out he was. He’s like me – he loves the beach but also loves the country.

So we began to talk about the possibility and feasibility of buying this place. Could we even get a loan after a bankruptcy and foreclosure only a few years ago? Could we even work out a price with our landlord? Did he even want to sell after all this time? The house needed a lot of work, could we afford renovations? There was quite a lot to think about.

We took each question one at a time and got the answer. The landlord did want to sell, we were able to come to a fair purchase price, we could get a loan at a higher rate for now but a loan we could get and we can refinance in a couple years- even at the higher rate we still save money over continuing to rent – and we would have some money to launch a rather large renovation – which we would enjoy now and hopefully would help increase the value when we went to sell it. So we set off to buy the farm!

The loan process was very painful. It took over two months. I have filed some paperwork in my lifetime having adopted three kids from oversees and we have purchased homes before  and sadly we had to file bankruptcy…all tons of paperwork. This loan was unreal. So many papers needed. And I was asked to resend things many times. After almost bagging the entire thing we finally got approval to close. One good thing in all of the crazy loan process was the house appraised for more than we paid.  Two weeks ago we closed our loan! What a relief. It still seems surreal. Even as renovations have begun I am still getting my mind wrapped around the fact that we now own this place.

There is a lot to do. I am overwhelmed by the cost of it all. I am overwhelmed at the mess and the dust. And it is stressful. But what I remind myself of is that just over a year ago i was in the midst of terrible chronic pain that left me in bed most of the time. Now that was stress. This is really the good stuff of life. Making paint and cabinet choices. Making something old new again. How fun!

I walk along the lane and look at the farm anew. It is ours, the barn, the falling down shed and the little yellow rancher.  Best of all the views, the smell of horses and hay…say welcome home. For me in many ways it is a rebirth….

and what a blessing…..

——

Periodically I will share some of the renovations on the blog….

Here is our front porch before (crumbling) and after- and we also created a back patio. This is stamped concrete by Royal Construction/ArtisticConcrete

 

A New Fear

I have been a swimmer for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories that I have is of me taking swimming lessons in the baby pool at our swim club. Following that I spent years on swim team and also just playing in the pool. Many times you couldn’t get me out. I’d swim all day.

I had a respect for the water of course but I was never hesitant to be in or on the water. I spent hours riding waves with my dad and friends.

In the last ten years I stopped going into the ocean as much -the fear then was stepping on icky things. I was more wary of the currents and undertow. Probably because I had little Kids and even if they had ease in the water the fear of your child getting pulled out into the deep looms large for most parents I imagine.

I still had a love of pools if they weren’t too crowded (that’s a germ thing-yes I got more leery of the humanity in a pool as I’ve aged and well it grosses me out if there are tons of people swimming in a small enclosed body I water no matter how much chlorine is dumped in).

I love the water and I really love being near or in the water. We have a cottage just steps from a Bay. But I now have a fear of deeper water.

I was out on the bay the other day on my kayak. Kevin was along on his kayak. It was a chilly day. About 55 degrees. I’m a new kayaker. I got a boat with pedals as I can’t use my arm to paddle because Of my issues with nerve damage and pain. I was thrilled when I got the kayak. I motored around last summer and if the bay was a little choppy I found myself feeling somewhat nervous. I am no longer sure of myself as a swimmer. I can’t really swim which because of my limited use of my arms but it really didn’t seem to be a huge issue last summer because the Bay isn’t really deep and the water was warm. But the other day the water was cold and seemed deeper and it was choppy. I had wetsuit bottoms on but just a jacket and hat on. And I was wearing boots. Wellington’s. Maybe not the best choice.

While on the water as I was traversing some choppy conditions I felt myself panicking. A full out freak out was just on the edge of my brain. I kept picturing myself falling off the kayak. Or it tipping. Me sinking as my boots filled and my coat became heavy. I feel the fear now as I write this.

I had a flotation device but not on me – it was secured on the back of the kayak. I tried to reach behind me to grab but my limited range of motion and the rocking of the kayak made it impossible for me to reach it. That was a rookie mistake not to have put it in.

I told my husband I was feeling very scared. Kevin told me to take deep breaths and as I did I felt myself regain control of my thoughts. The choppy water wasn’t really that bad. The boat wasn’t really in severe danger of tipping. I tried to enjoy what I was doing and concentrate on the beauty. I’ve lost the ability of being able to do a number of things since my nerve damage became so bad and kayaking gave me the sense of freedom that I’d been craving. I didn’t want to lose that to fear.

We ended the journey on a good note. I was calmer but I had a wake up call. I’ve definitely lost my confidence that I could save myself if I got into trouble. I’ve never felt this way before. It made me mad. Just one more thing that had been taken away because of my limitation and because my body is weaker because of being mostly bedridden this last year.

But anger won’t solve anything. I’m a problem solver by nature. So moving forward I need to figure out how I can feel less fearful in and on the water.

Over last summer when I first went out to sit on the beach at the ocean I walked up to the waters edge and watched the waves roll in and I realized even then that I was very leery about even attempting to wade in to my knees and not for fear of stepping on something icky –it was fear I couldn’t even get up if I fell into the shallow but wavy water. As a result of this I decided to head to the neighborhood pool and allow myself to ease into a better comfort with the water. During the first visit to the pool I ended up in the deep end with a swim noodle and I was able to ditch that after a time and then proceeded to tread the water and I practiced floating. It isn’t easy to tread water with one arm but it’s doable. But this pool visit gave me confidence to venture into the ocean at least up to my knees or hips. And subsequent visits continued to help my confidence. I also worked on leg strength in the gym when I felt ok.

So why the panic the other day?

Well I’ve had another surgery since summer. Just four weeks ago. I haven’t been allowed to do much and maybe kayaking wasn’t a good idea. Maybe I felt vulnerable. I’m definitely weaker. It doesn’t take long to weaken when your on restrictions to not work out or do too much physically. And I think the cold water scared me. Cold water can be paralyzing. But most of all my biggest obstacle that day was my own mind getting the best of me.

I am not an “I can’t” person but over the last few years I’ve said that more times than I care to admit. I want to be strong again! Mind and body. It’s so frustrating to try to get stronger only to be met with Pain as a result. But I’m going to try to figure this out. I’m not likely to kayak anymore this year. It’s getting too cold. I plan to be in some type of workout program. We have a gym in our barn so I have no excuse to at least try. And somehow I have to get into a pool. We have some indoor pools nearby. (Maybe they won’t be too crowded!).

I just want to feel strong again. I still deal with pain and that’s limiting -I have had three surgeries in the last year to try to get rid of it and it’s much better -but there may always be some pain I have to figure this out despite that. It can be done. I know it.

Next spring when I break out the kayak again I want to feel I could cross the bay (it’s a mile). I may not ever try it but I want to feel like I could. I want to no be afraid. I want to be strong.

New Traditions

For the last too long to recall years I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday of tradition. When I was a kid we did the same thing every year on turkey day. We did a family thing. Whether it was a large gathering or small it was always with family.

My family changed over the years a lot. My parents divorced and there were step-parents and step family. There were some years I didn’t even see my mom. That’s for another post . And some years I had boyfriends and chose to spend my holiday with them.

Some years were fun and comforting other years the celebrations somber or even angry. But the permeating theme for me was family and friends gathering. And also food food food.

When my dad was married to his second wife we ate chicken as he hated turkey. But we still got out the good China and sat down and thanked God and got down to some good eating.

When I was in college the holidays became a game of driving from one parents gathering to another with a hopeful stop at some friends in between. But I actually liked this musical chairs and of course the multiple meals.

After I was married a few years we took over the hosting of Thanksgiving from my in laws. My husbands family is large. With six sons and their families often we had 25 or more at our home. We shared food duty. Everyone bringing something but it was a huge amount of work but for me it was pure joy. I had always wanted to be part of a large family.

So as luck would have it I married into this big family and as I said I took over hosting the family. And I loved it. About five years ago things changed as my in laws began their decline. My father in law had dementia and my mother in law suffered a fall she never really recovered from and neither of them could travel to my home to celebrate. So things changed.

Some years we brought the feast to them. Their house filled with family and food was eaten with my mother in law acquiescing control to others in her home and my father in law tidying up as we finished as his need to keep order was calming to him as his Dementia worsened and he eventually didn’t know who he was tidying up after.

And as those years progressed we began to take turns and go over separately. Each family visiting them alone for a bit but trying to overlap so we could see some of the others in the family. Sometimes a big bunch of us would still end up there and my in laws seemed to fare ok. I have so many pictures of us sitting on their sofa with them. I miss that.

Kevin’s big family was growing more with grandkids marrying and great grandkids being born. And those expanding families began new traditions of having their holidays with their new brood. It’s just what happens. But I miss them. Today I’ll miss all that chaos.

We lost Kevin’s parents recently and my dad as well though I didn’t see him on Thanksgiving typically but we always spoke. My mom now lives with us. With all the changes – especially with the loss of my mother in law – we are all figuring out what the holidays will look like now.

My family – my three teen kids- my mom – and Kevin and I – talked about what would be a fun new tradition for us. We decided we wanted to do the holidays at our new beach house.

We invited the extended family as our doors are always open but this year they are all trying on their new traditions as the beacons that brought us together are now gone.

Though I’m sad for all the losses -I’m really excited for this new way of celebrating. Since my last surgery I’ve been feeling better. I still have some pain that will hopefully improve but I’m able to cook again. I’m not cooking the meal! No. Bethany Blues – a great restaurant nearby- made the dinner. We began to order our holiday meals not long after I got cancer. Making the entire meal is too overwhelming – so I made desserts with my mom. We have one more pie to bake today. Then all I have to do is heat the meal up later. I actually like to cook and I’m thankful that I’m now able to do so but I just can’t physically make such a big feast -and frankly I like the ability to relax with family on the holiday. My kitchen duties are much less this way.

I will miss the big family gathering and we are now trying to make sure we all find some way at least once a year to try to get Kevin’s brothers and families together at some point. I suspect it’s going to be hard especially as the families expand but it’s important to try I think. I have one brother and it’s infinitely hard for us to get together. Getting six families together will be challenging.

I’ll miss seeing my mother in law. If she was still here we’d be going to see her today at her assisted living facility. But I know she was in pain and unhappy living there. She tried to make the best of it but I’m glad the Lord called her home to be at peace. But she won’t be out of my head today.

So here I am writing this at the beach house. Kevin and my daughter have left and are off to run in a Turkey Trot together. I don’t trot except for on a horse -and I think this is a nice father daughter tradition.

I think I’ll honor my dad today by spreading more of his ashes in my garden. I feel he’s a part of this house – a place he never has been but a place I would have never had if it weren’t for him.

I’ve found things can change so fast and we have to learn to ride the waves. I have had many changes in my life and seem to have managed to morph as needed. It’s not always easy. Many times I’ve dragged myself into the next iteration of life kicking and screaming. But this new way of being together over the holidays is exciting to me.

Tomorrow we will go to Lowe’s to pick up our new fake tree that we will set up here at the beach house and will decorate this weekend in preparation to have Christmas here. We will have a tree at home in Maryland too Just in case the weather strands us there. It’s all about being flexible.

So today I will be thankful for many things. Family and food and improving health. And I’ll be thankful for new traditions. It’s change that makes us grow. As my dad would have said “it will put hair on your chest” (for years I didn’t get that but I do now. My dad’s sayings – Lord I miss those!).

Happy Thanksgiving – with love from me.

Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?