Seasons

This morning was a beautiful – fall is in the air. Shorter days – which I don’t love but the cooler weather I do love – great for doing more outside like riding my horse. I won’t lie riding in the hot humid din of August was not my thing nor my horse’s thing either.

Another new season is around the corner. Seasons… how many do we go through in life? If we are lucky we could get many. Not just seasons of winter, spring , summer , and fall but also seasons of change in our lives. New chapters that we have to navigate – some good and some bad – some sad and some happy. 

A year ago Kevin and I were empty nesters – well kind of – my mom lives with us but the kids were all gone. They – the kids  – are all over the place. One was in the sunny south, one is in the midwest and has moved from place to place out there, and one has been traveling where the Navy tells him to go – so far Illinois, Connecticut, Georgia and Washington state. 

The Navy kid just went on deployment – his first one. I can’t write about that yet – my heart is so raw. Suffice it to say being a Navy mom is not easy. 

My son who was living in the south has just recently moved home to Maryland to make a restart. He has a new job that he really is enjoying – and could lead to a career for him – and maybe he also will take some college courses. He is currently living in our bedroom in the basement.I was worried about him living down there for many reasons. One being the mess one young male human can make, the other that he will like it too much being home.

 We even bought a travel trailer thinking he might live in there for a few months and that would be enough for him to want to move on. But the mom guilt got to me so he’s in the house. 

So now we have a young adult “child” living back at home. We are trying to navigate it. Come up with expectations that work for us all. It is nice having him here (for now) and maybe when he is ready to find a place of his own it won’t be too far away.  I know our kids have to do their own thing and find their way but I guess I always hoped my kids might land not too far from us. We will see. They are young yet.

We have a pretty full house now. Sometimes I wish I had a bigger home! My mom lives with us so we have a number of generations under one roof and finding the balance of expectations that are comfortable for all of us is a challenge. We will get there I hope.

 There was a time I thought I could never live with this kid again. But in his journey south he matured and grew to appreciate his family more. And I matured and grew some too. So it is better. I feel good that he is here. We are getting along pretty well. I hope that continues. 

I have been unmoored some over the last couple years and maybe having a kid living at home that needs some help and guidance is a good thing for me.  But I don’t want to enable him – he needs to grow -and it is easy to come back to your childhood home and regress some. It is easy for this mom to fall into the problem solver and the appt maker and the food fixer. 

And to be honest I can’t do it all anymore.  I had a lot on my plate before he came home.  Helping my mom, caring for this little farm and the animals and working part-time takes a lot of me. And I physically can’t do what I did in the past either. So we will have to make sure we are all participants

I am trying navigate these seasons and meet them with gratitude and be thankful now for a full home. It is a strange time of life. I sometimes have big plans and ideas and other times I want to slow down.  I go between wanting to get a new job or going back to school and even sometimes moving to another farm or even state – to just being so overwhelmed by it all. 

Sometimes I wonder how I would ever find the time to try something new. I never make the time to write either. Sometimes I feel like I am just getting old so what is the point. Am I even relevant now? 

I suppose I am not alone in much of what I write here. We all face the time marching on, changes in family dynamics, aging.  All I can hope as the seasons change I am able to weather the storms and delight in the sunshine –  and grow from the experiences. 

to loath or not to loath thyself?

I think I am surprised to find myself writing again. I really thought I would stop- I could not fathom sitting down to try. I thought over the last few months that- well it began before that really but came to a head over the winter – I had lost my way. I felt I was lost and was not sure of my purpose. I just felt stagnant and blocked. What little creative blood that was a trickle much of the time this last a couple years had become a drip drip drip. I know it is there as I feel it light up sometimes. Today I felt it when I received a notice of a local photo contest. And yesterday when some uncanny thing happened involving the IRS – maybe uncanny is the wrong word when using it with IRS – I heard the thought in my head- “you should write about this”. But as with so many of those same thoughts, with that spark that comes with those thoughts the light quickly flickers out.

This past couple years has been hard for me and my family. I guess I would venture to say since my cancer in 2013 things have been tough. There is nothing like a serious illness to change the dynamic of the family. I think I have been harboring a lot of guilt over my getting ill. I had no idea that my cancer treatments would lead to years of chronic pain and my just being unable to be the mom my teen kids probably needed. Sometimes I was someone I did not recognize. And this all during their neediest years. Forget toddlerhood – teens need us more than they ever let on.

I became an official empty nester in March 2020. Just as Covid began my youngest child went off to the Navy. That left me unmoored. I never thought I would be effected by my empty nest. I have my mother living with us, and we have lots to do around the farm. I have my job- even though it pays little. I have various hobbies (of course on hold in early covid). Anyway I was effected by his leaving. I know it was that he was going to the military and to bootcamp that made it worse. In bootcamp they can’t talk with you much if at all. You feel very disconnected and that is hard in a time when we can text our kids at any moment and hopefully hear back from them. As sure as I was that I would not have a life crisis I found myself crying – missing him, my two other kids, and something else… Could it be my identity?

I was shocked about this. And what followed has been months of my getting used to my kids being gone, the military owning one, the other two in various stages of finding themselves, and me doing some deep personal looking at myself. And up came so much guilt of every failing I had as a parent. And they keep stacking up! My daughter got pissed at me last winter. So pissed she didn’t want to talk to me. For like a couple months. This hurt. And also during that time a long friendship ended. That hurt too. There is nothing like the sting of rejection – especially by your kids-to get you to look into the mirror and try and see how things happened and if you can do better.

Learning how to parent young adults is an art. I will think that I am helping my kid- no I am overstepping. I think I say something constructive – no I hurt their feelings. And since they too are learning how to adult they themselves lack the expertise on how to communicate constructively. It is easier to just not answer the texts. Or to curtly say they need space. SPACE? If anyone should need space it should be ME – the mom! I get to say I need space before you do!

I went from anger to sheer sadness to anger and back during the time my daughter didn’t want to talk with me. I sent emails apologizing. And then I realized at some point this issue of my feeling so awful about her need for space was not about her need for space. It was somewhere inside me. The lost me. The me that feared rejection – this fear goes back to my childhood- dysfunctional family -blah blah- we all have some baggage! Just when you think you have dealt with your issues…and believe me I had spent years trying to deal with issues in many a therapists office- on a soft couch or chair -only to have these feelings of rejection pop-up when my young adult daughter got mad at me. Son of a gun.

Once I got down to the issue(s) I knew I needed to jump back into therapy. First working on how to be the parent an adult kid needs and also to look at these rejection feelings…this lost feeling…finding my purpose…maybe even what color my next vehicle should be…ok thats a joke. But here I am trying to figure out what this next chapter of my life will look at. Deal with the sadness over losing some years to illness and pain and to try to not live in fear… but most of all self loathing over the many many mistakes I have made in my life. For not being the “greatest mom ever”.

My therapist told me she has had no mother come in touting how great a mom they were. Most moms beat themselves up over their parenting at some point. And when your kids are young adults and out making their own choices and trying to become independent persons and inevitably making mistakes- (inhale Anne)-you want to help them to not fall down! And when they do it is so easy to blame ourselves for the fall. And when they tell you they want to figure it out on their own it hurts bc we know so much more than they do, right? So much more that we want to instill all our wisdom on them – and yet they would rather hear from an earthworm than from us…it hurts. Then you ask yourself what did I do wrong that they would rather take the advice from the earthworm over me?

And if you keep hanging on to all that stuff it will just drown you. Well it was drowning me anyway. I needed to get off the drama triangle- its a thing -I can come back to this in another post. I needed to step away. Let them live their lives. Let them fall and not feel blame.

I had a kid who two years ago had to go to a rehab for severe drinking issues. He went to Florida to a rehab and a half way house, then another rehab out-patient, and another half way, and during covid another rehab out-patient for depression. I felt terrible for him and for months I didn’t know how to navigate this world of addiction. I still don’t really. As we went along I did realize that I was enabling my son. Not to drink–no no. The drinking was a shock to me (I always thought I would know if my kids were drinking too much being a child of an alcoholic – turns out that is false). Turns out I was helping him too much in rehab and in his making his way in his half way. So I backed way off. We had to. He needed to figure out things for himself. But crap that was so hard for me. But it was a good thing we did it. I am happy to say he found an apartment this winter with a sober friend. Got it on their own. He is working in a steady job – and prayer after prayer -hopefully staying sober.

Just as these accomplishments are not my accomplishments neither was his drinking my fault. Why would I take credit for either?….but I would easily blame myself for my fails as a mom for his drinking. Logically I know it isn’t my fault but I beat myself up when I found out he had a problem.

The things I accomplish in therapy this time may be better for my kids as I learn to parent adult kids. But for me it will be granting myself forgiveness for real and perceived failures. I hope this will help me open up again creatively. But most importantly – maybe I won’t feel so lost and I can begin to navigate where I fit in. What I want for the next chapter. Anne 3.0 haha!

Small to Huge Overnight

Years ago we raised chicks and ducks in our basement bathroom. It was a large bathroom – laughingly so- it was large and ugly. Very outdated but warm and quiet- perfect for a couple of brooders (bird nursery). When we first decided to raise ducks we got three ducklings on a whim from tractor supply. They were so tiny and SO cute. They get you with their cuteness. These ducks were Pekin ducks. They get to be quite large. At the time I knew nothing about these ducks except I had seen them on the menu at most Chinese food restaurants!

I set up their brooder in the bathroom one February weekend. We oohed and ahh’ed at their cuteness and took lots of photos and videos. Three days in I could not believe how much they had already grown. Kevin- who at the time had an office in the basement- would go in to check on them (and maybe to use the facilities)and he swore they grew from hour to hour. And I think it was true. By the time I let them out to the real world I was done with ducks (not ducklings anymore) in the bathroom (though I did it again a few years after this! short memory!)

This growth is uncanny – it happens in real time – you feel like you can see it. The same has happened with my Golden Doodle Del. He is hardly the tiny puppy that he was when he came here. And we expect that right? But I hardly feel like he was a little pup at all. Like I cannot recall what he looked like – I look at photos and think he was never that small. But he was – but for like one day! He has grown so fast that I can honestly say that he would go in his crate one size at night and leap out of it the next morning – and he does leap out- as a bigger version of the dog who went in. That kind of growth has to hurt!

Del is now a huge, leggy, 6.5 month old joyful and boisterous puppy. He is 63 lbs. For reference Rudy – my golden- was probably less then 50 lbs at the same age. Del is not a giant breed. But his mix can get large. At his growth rate he could be over 90 pounds! I am hoping not. He is already a lot to handle.

We joke it was some type of gamma radiation that has caused this growth rate. When he came home he was as large as my mother’s Corgi mix who weighs in at 18 lbs. Within a week he was much bigger than she and now he towers over all my other dogs. All of whom are not small dogs. Del doesn’t weight more than the adult dogs yet but in height he towers over them by 2-3 inches! A couple of our dogs took their merry time in accepting the likes of this new puppy. I kept telling them that he was going to get big and then what? And now they look up to him maybe not in admiration but definitely in stature. They have also decided that he isn’t too bad. They are adjusting still. They do play together now but there is posturing and this will continue probably forever because they are male.

Del will need to be neutered. There are so many varying opinions on when to do this. Some say for males to wait at least a year – some even say 2 years. Rudy was neutered at age 2. I waited with him because he was not dominate – though he was mounting our lab a lot and never stopped after neutering- which is why I am not waiting two years again! So I am less inclined to wait two years. I know there is a chance if we do it before his growth plates seal that he could become taller. It can increase the issues for other health problems if done too soon and lower risks for others!

I think our vet will recommend to wait until he is a year but only if he doesn’t exhibit behavioral issues such as mounting humans, or aggressive behavior towards humans and dogs. I will be honest -I am leaning towards sooner. Like in May. I have many reasons for it. But my main one is that I don’t want him to become too high on his horse and try to rule all the dogs here because he is intact. If he is the leader of the pack eventually thats fine. I just don’t want a bully situation. I think neutering mellows them some. Thats also can’t hurt with training and maybe his ability to walk on the lead better.

Del can be a handful on lead. I have been working with him on many things. He can sit, lay down, shake, twirl, sit for getting his lead on, wait and not bolt out the door when we are going out with him, he can stay pretty well if I am carrying his food bowl around and inside if I have a treat. We are working on the stay- inside is better than outside. But he is terribly exuberant outside. So this has been a the challenge. I have begun to try to manage and train away some of the behavior issues. Pulling – I am using a head lead now which is the manage part of the issue. I was using a Gentle Leader type device but I found a very neat regular leash that makes into a head lead. I got it on Etsy and I haven’t tried it on a long walk yet because the weather has been hideous here. But on a short walk he did well with it. I will post videos of it on IG and FB. The head lead is an adjustment for dogs and they will try to get them off – not because they hurt but because they work! It is the same idea as with a horse with a halter on. I have not used it enough yet to have a full verdict on it. I feel like I have his attention more with leads like this and I can train him better.

For me this head lead is like night and day walking him. I need to be safe walking him. I need to have control. Since I have nerve damage I can’t have him yanking my arms. I feel with this type of lead and consistent training there will be a time when he won’t need this. But he needs it now. I have tried a number of no-pull harnesses and he walks with one on so I can switch between then when we go on long walks. But the head lead seems to be the better one for me at the moment. We will see how we progress.

Barking! I think Del gets his barking gene from the poodle part of him! He is more wary of people and maybe because he hasn’t been as well socialized with humans because of covid – so on walks he will bark at approaching people and other dogs. So I began to use a product called Pet Corrector. It is a a can of air that makes an annoying hiss sound. It is annoying I will say that. So when we approach others we ask Del to sit and not to bark. If he does this he gets a treat but if he barks we use the spray. I hold it behind me so he doesn’t see it. But it does get his attention. He was barking at the door in the house along with our higher strung collie mix. I used this spray and it has curbed the worst of the barking. On walks it is going to take time and just having him become more socialized. He is never aggressive once a person wants to pet him. But he looks scary when he barks and carries on because he is so large. He has been good with new dogs as well on the few occasions he has met one.

I will admit I thought for some reason getting a puppy during COVID would be better for his socialization. I am not sure why. I mean everyone has to stay six feet away from us. I think I just got sucked into the COVID puppy vortex! I really have no regrets. Having five dogs again (my moms makes 6) in the house is a challenge especially because of his size but after Ridley died last January it seemed like we lost this big personality. And Del is a sassy and funny guy. He is not hyper and is really pretty calm for a puppy. I keep telling people we will get down to three dogs and not go back up to this many. But nobody believes me. It is true I have a thing about dogs but I know we aren’t getting younger and having less dogs will make sense in the not so distant future. So that is the plan. Who knows if we (I) will stick to it.

Having a puppy was challenging in the first month but it just went too fast! I can say that there have been moments where I have been down during the pandemic and Del has made me laugh – belly laugh- every single day since he has been with us. He is loving to all of us and already very dedicated to me. I know this because so often I turn around in the bathroom and I see that he has nosed his way in and is just sitting there watching me brush my teeth. Thats dedication! We will see where he ends up on the size chart only time will tell. And of course it doesn’t matter how big he gets. It is just fun speculating.

Having a puppy does make you feel joyful and hopeful – these are things I think the world needs now. Thats probably why there have been so many dog and cat adoptions during COVID. Animals give us a break from the human world. They can look into your eyes and make you feel loved – then they try to nip your nose or breath their foul breath in your face and you laugh. They are likely saving many lives during COVID just for the company they give. I have said before- a life for me would not be a life without a dog in it. I stand by that- and I am sure many others join me in that feeling (dog/cat/bird/horse etc) especially during COVID. I owe my pets a debt of thanks. Truly grateful for them.

input-data crunch-output

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

I have had dogs for many years and I am always amazed at how they learn. They are sponges the way they take in the world around them and form their behaviors as a result of that environment. 

Dogs learn from other dogs from the very start of their lives. Their mother teaches them about food and water and then that feeds their instinct to survive. She teaches them bite inhibition and they learn how to play by interacting with their littermates. 

Dogs learn from other dogs too if they have them in their homes and at the dog park. I am raising a puppy now and I am amazed at he mirrors the behaviors of our other dogs. Dogs of course form some of their behaviors because of instinct but they do learn from observation. He has learned proper etiquette in a pack of dogs by being corrected by them. My puppy has learned the art of calming down by watching my other dogs settle down for an afternoon snooze.  

He also has learned form watching humans and from training . He learns how to live as a dog in a human world. Dogs learn what is expected of them and because they for the most part like to please humans they modify there behavior to be able to live with us and I think they do so with happiness. 

Or if they don’t have positive modeling a dog can become what we would call a “bad dog”.  It is uncanny how what the dog sees and learns – the inputs- can create the type of dog he will be – output. 

I was a programmer and software engineer in my past. And I sometimes look at things in that logical vain. A program gives us information after we have given it input and it thinks about what it was given and then gives us output…its view of the info we sent it. 

 Input- crunch data – output

I was thinking about this today as I watch my dogs interact. And I thought about this is terms of how humans learn from birth – it is different than dogs of course  – our minds are complex but the way we form as humans  – the information we get (the input) -from our very first breath- is coming at us and we begin to develop (crunch data in our immature brains) our worldview and sense of self(output). 

It is in this early time that we are given most of our input from our family. We had schools and friends and Tv and now there is social media as well. But what we saw at home mostly influenced what developed our worldview – our truth based mostly on our families inputs. Positive and negative.

As we become teens we begin to see the outer world in a more real way. We may then begin to question our parents worldview if we see things that stand in opposition to what we have been taught in our homes. -We begin to form our own worldview – our own truth. 

What is truth? If we each have our own idea of it is any of it real? Truth only exists in the mind. We can get input like – the sky is blue and we can decide if that is true or not. 

Some of the input we receive help us to develop our values and morals. 

It is amazing how two people can receive the same input and have a vastly different opinion or learning experience from It (output). And our worldview can change at any time based on more input. 

One person may see a racially unjust society while another thinks there is opportunity for everyone. 

We are fed so much information in this day and age from many sources. I have Apple News and Facebook and Twitter, Tv news, podcasts, and family. There is so much. So much to influence how we can see the world. How do we decide what is right? What we hear at any given minute can form or reform our truth. It kind of freaks me out. We each can see one thing in such a different way. Like the witnesses of a car accident or a robbery all giving conflicting stories. 

We are all living with differing version of reality. 

Wow-

How do we coexist with each other when we each have a version of truth that differs values that may conflict? 

Well we see recently that it can be very hard to do.  

I think we all need the willingness to step outside of ourselves. I try so hard to step back from my views and look at the big picture so I can be sure I am not  being sucked in by some false observation – or maybe I will have an input that I misread or decide that it means something else entirely than I first thought.  I need to be willing to take all the input and reprocess it and to see if my output changes. Many times discussion between humans can help change our perspective and view on a topic…maybe seeing something else through another persons eyes may not change your view but can invoke compassion and care for the other person.

New real life experience can change us too. I know cancer changed mine.

As I have matured I try to choose the truth that sides with compassion, love, giving, respect and tolerance. A view that doesn’t stew in anger and one that can be helpful.  It is easy to tear things down. Harder to build them back up. I have failed myself and rebooted many times. But I am glad I am open to do that. We will always be part of our past. If we shed beliefs they kind of follow us around…like they are still attached – and we can pick them back up again but we want to be sure they are worth taking back.

I am always working on my worldview. But great writers and seers and philosophers leaned on love as truth. So I try to process my inputs using that algorithm. I can’t say that it’s the absolute right way but it’s is the right way for me. My reality.  I am a work in progress and will always be. Ask me next week- I might have a different worldview. 

But we all have adapt to a world of people who live different truths.

It is hard to get along in this world with so many different truths lolling about. We all think we are right. But in order to get along we have to look outside ourselves and as my husband says “model the behaviors we want from others”.

Acts of Kindness- my Virginia story

I found out today that a very special person who touched my life passed away. I had lost touch with her over the last couple years and I missed the announcement of her passing last September. I just saw it today- I don’t know how I missed it on her Facebook page. Her name was Virginia. She was 88. She was a vibrant and active lady up until a year or two ago when she fell and hurt herself and went into assisted living. Her daughter wrote that was very hard for her to go there and then Covid hit and that was very hard for her in her decline.

Her husband, love of her life, had passed a number of before we met. She often posted about him on Facebook – it was clear she missed him very much. I picture her with him now. She loved milkshakes – a particular orange one from McDonalds I think I recall. I picture her sipping one as she sits with her beloved on a bench in heaven.

Virginia and I met not by chance. It was an act of divine intervention- and that meeting made a huge difference when I was going through a very hard time.

Two days before we met I had just discovered that I had breast cancer. I was 49. I had three young teenagers. And a wonderful husband- who from the moment we got that news and sat shellshocked on our bedroom floor as I was babbling and crying all at once- was nothing but a firm rock for me to hang on to. I had so much to live for and I was so scared. I didn’t know how to face this thing. I sunk into quite a pit of despair.

On the Sunday after that diagnosis I felt I needed to go to church to pray. I could not face the service that was going on so I went into the chapel. I wept and I prayed for help…I prayed that God put the people in my path that could help me out of despair. Many things happened as a result of this and as I recall them now I am still shocked at how the Divine listens.

After I was done praying in the chapel I felt like I could slip into the service if we went into the upper loft. As we made our way into the loft area above the crowds I heard my name called over the loud speaker. That was random I thought – how odd that I walked in as my name was being mentioned. Well maybe not so random. When I heard my name, I looked up and I saw many faces looking up towards our seats (we sat in the loft most Sunday’s- people get to know your seat patterns!)they were in the midst of prayer requests- someone had put one in for me. I still to this day don’t know who it was and it was so kind. I had posted of my diagnosis on Facebook just before we left for church that day. I really didn’t want to post anything but in my despair I honestly felt like I was being compelled to do so. I am sure the prayer request came from a friend in church who saw my post. And the Facebook posting led to so many other amazing connections that ended up helping me so much in such a bad time.

We stayed to the end of the service and we were walking to the exit of the building I saw a very tall, well dressed older woman coming in. We had never met but I had seen her in the church building before. I looked at her just to nod and say a friendly hello but she stopped and said “are you Anne Sweeney?”. I was taken aback she knew me by name and I said “yes” and she then introduced herself as Virginia N. I knew her name as she was a long time member of the church and her name came up often. She was a very well loved and admired person. I could tell that from the way people spoke about her. I was glad to be meeting her but I was in no mental shape to chat.

She began to compliment me on my writing. At the time I was writing a column for the church newsletter. I was very appreciative of her words. I had only recently put my words out into the world and I was always unsure if I was doing a decent job. Later I would find out she had been a media specialist for 41 years in the county school system and so that compliment was even more special!

I thanked her for her kind words and told her I might be taking some time off on my column as I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She just looked straight into my eyes and said she had fought breast cancer 7 years before (I think that was the number of years). I can’t remember all the words she said after that because I was in such a bad place. But I do remember not feeling so alone and connection was made. As we ended the conversation she asked if she could give me a hug. I thought that sounded like a nice thing – so we hugged. What a sweet and kind a comforting thing to do for someone you just met. That meeting was no accident!

I left the church feeling like maybe there was a way back to the light. Back to the fight I was going to face.

Virginia and I became Facebook friends and we would message each other and she would check in on me as I went through my surgery and recovery. When I was going to be facing radiation she left me a message to go to the church office where she regularly volunteered and pick up something she left for me. I was so surprised to see a basket that contained lots of wrapped goodies each numbered up to 35- the number of days of radiation. The card on front said ‘Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful…” and a note said I was to open one per day after each treatment. What a special thing to do for someone.

Gifts from Virginia

The gifts were sweet and simple. A comb, a magazine, a gift card, something to eat. Each day I was so happy to be able to look forward to opening one of those gifts. It lifted me during a very hard time. It let me know someone out there loved me…she didn’t know me well…but she loved her neighbor enough to just want to make a difference in their very hard day. The love is what you feel in the gift. The contents are secondary to the love. That love is what we can pass on- and pay forward.

I completed my cancer treatments and my life went on. Virginia would keep in touch with me. Messaging me asking about my kids and husband. She kept in touch when I was dealing with more surgeries for chronic pain I developed from the cancer treatments.. She always had an encouraging word for me.

By then I wasn’t attending church. My pain issues were just too severe. And I must confess to not having been a church goer these last last few years even as my pain has been dialed back from surgeries. That is something I struggling with still- not my faith but with religion- but that is for another post. So because of this I didn’t see Virginia – I only connected with her via Facebook. We messaged less and less- and I knew she was having a hard time with pain herself. I knew something happened to her and she went to assisted living to rehab and I guess she never got back to her beloved home. But she went home to be with her God who she loved so and was so faithful to – and to be with her husband and the many friends who went before her.

My heart is heavy- she passed in September but I only just found out so for me it just happened today . Virginia was a very special lady. Those who knew her- and there are many- will tell you many stories about her. She had quick wit and a great kindness. She was strong. And she reached out to help a lady she didn’t know – God had our paths cross that day- we could have just nodded to each other and exchanged a pleasant hello as I walked out of the church. And had I left the chapel and not spent the last few minutes in the church service we may have never met. But I am so very glad we did meet.

My writing -which I have struggled with in this last year or two -was a catalyst to our connecting. How she knew my face I will never know. But I am glad we spoke that day. I will never forget her kindness to me and I hope I have paid it forward – I have tried – and will continue to- though I don’t think I will ever be quite as good at it as Miss Virginia was. I wish her a peaceful rest and I thank her for the gift of love and hope she gave me during one of the biggest challenges in my life. I will never forget you Virginia.

I wish for everyone to have Virginia story.

better new year?

I feel like I slid into 2021 rather quietly. I have never liked the celebrations of New Years Eve. Thats not to say I have never gone out to celebrate. I have…and some story’s are best left in the past!  So now I find a quiet NYE to be the best thing for me. Kevin agrees too. Though I think he has more interesting memories of his past New Years celebrations than I do. This year we shared carry-out Chinese food with my mom and had ice cream for dessert. Simple. 

This year I found myself awake at midnight- sitting in bed shopping on Amazon. I was aware of my watch creeping over to the new year but I didn’t have any other fanfare than that. We had decided to go to bed early. I fully expected to be asleep at the turn of the clock to midnight. But at 11:59 I was still awake and I watched for my watch to tell me it was midnight. 11:59, then 00:00 – that is what my watch says for midnight. Happy 2021 (I thought with trepidation) and see ya 2020 – you dazzling train wreck of a year. 

I had been texting some with my Navy son so I knew he was awake and I texted him a simple “happy new year- miss u” after the clock said midnight – and then I leaned over to lightly kiss my snoring husbands arm (didn’t want to wake him) and I finished my Amazon purchase and I opened my Kindle book- Joan Didion’s “Play It As It Lays”. Which for some reason has been a quick way to slide me into slumber. I can’t rate the book as yet- I just haven’t been able to get into it- snore snore – but I have read the reviews and know it was a movie. 

This year’s Christmas was different for us. I really wasn’t feeling in the spirit. It is just too hard with all that has been going on. We didn’t put up a tree. We have a new puppy-Del- who has been hit by Gamma radiation and is growing at and unprecedented rate- no tree would survive him- so that was my excuse for avoiding a tree this year. But really I just wasn’t feeling it. It seemed to be such a chore. And what goes up has to be taken down. That is more of a drag! So we have a couple of ceramic trees sitting on different side tables, and I had a simple but pretty centerpiece on my table, and a wreath on the door. That was fine for 2020. Enough for me anyway.

I think of all of those decorations that sat in their storage bins this year. Ornaments with years of history behind them. A collection of Santa’s that are normally displayed all over this small home. I was turning my back on them all…and still I have no regrets. Nobody was coming to see us. No kids. No family. And festive was not in my heart this year. 

We chose to FaceTime with our three young but now adult kids on Christmas morning- each live in different states from us and each other. We mailed them some gifts to open during the call. Kevin and I wore holiday Pjs for the call. They opened gifts as we watched and we had some laughs. It was fun. All I really wanted at that moment for them to be happy. To feel some connection to the day and to us because being home for Christmas was all they had ever known. But it was also a time for them to be flying off on their own journeys and things were going to change pandemic or not. It is just what happens as you let them go to forge their own paths.

I felt blessed to have this way to connect. Video calling is an amazing gift during this time. I am not sure I am fully comfortable to be seen on video calls but I am getting used to it. Not being able to see my kids in the flesh was disappointing but I know it could be much worse. I know there are many families who were missing someone they lost this year from Covid or other illnesses or accidents. There was no holiday for them only grief. 

I think I have been trying to traverse this very hard year as best as I can. I have been creatively clogged. Something I am working on. I like to write about dog’s and my horses. I like to share bits of my thoughts on different topics.  But the topics of this past year leave me speechless. What does one say as the world suffers? 

I have realized I am not going to solve the worlds problems. It isn’t my job. I write because I like doing it. The best things I have read this year have included things that divert me from the reality that was 2020 and now 2021. And if I have something to say about difficult topics the words may not be enough or be agreed with but they are my words and they will come from my heart. 

I have zero idea what to expect for 2021. I know what I hope and pray for. I also know other chaos will trot down the road. It is life. after all. I do wish for you to find joy and peace in each day. I do wish peace for the hearts that are hurting and grieving. 

I will say happy New Year- but maybe it should be happier new year. Better new year? Safe new year? 

Lets go 2021. Show us your stuff.

Blessings……

Raising Del

I had forgotten that the last time we raised a puppy(Rudy)- in the late spring/summer of 2012 – that we had kids here- they were off from school in late May- those were the private school days. We had a long stretch of summer ahead of us and we had time to raise a puppy. That was such a huge help to have them help me raise Rudy.

I had forgotten what a puppy can be like! They are busy and have to be watched when they aren’t confined. In the two weeks since Del came home we have become a sleep deprived pair- reminding us of the days when we had little kids. Del began with waking every two hours and and that has now morphed into going 4-6 hours without needing a bathroom break. That has made for some wonderous stretches of sleep.

I am used to waking at night. Nature calling. A middle age “benefit”. So I am no stranger to being up in the night – and can usually fall back to sleep in a few minutes. I think the difference is now I am lugging a 15lb puppy through the house and then down the deck stairs and after the puppy does his biz and is corralled (and reminded that 2am was not play time no matter how much fun it is trying to steal that boot and drag it through the yard )- we head back up the deck stairs and he goes back in the crate and I try to fall back to sleep.

I have been able to settle him sometimes when he whines in the night – his crate is next to the bed- but other times it is necessary to take him out. And of course I have the option to tap out and tap in Kevin who sleeps with wireless ear buds in. We have been taking turns with the nightly puppy relief breaks. That has helped both of us. I also need to thank Alexa – of Amazon fame- for providing soothing music all night.

It isn’t so bad as some nights are just so pretty. The moon and stars and cool air. The horses mill about or snort. It is so quiet- no cars -no other humans. Standing in the rain- on the other hand- nah- not so great.

Del has done well with the house training. Though not as well as I thought. I have caught and corrected him a few times when he has peed right in front of me – it was all good timing – took him right out to show him the correct place to go. But I found he must. have gone in his play area when i stepped away for too long and even though I had floor cover over the rug – the rug got peed on. My bad planning.

My attempts to clean the carpet resulted in the room smelling like dirty feet. So out the carpet went. We planned on replacing it anyway but not until after the puppy was fully housebroken. If you get really miffed about your stuff when it gets dirty, stinky, torn up, barfed on…etc DON’T get a puppy and maybe not even a dog.

We have six dogs here. We have flooring that can handle a pool of water on it for 24 hours. It is made for pets. We have only inexpensive rugs in the house. I don’t spend much on quilts or blankets. The dogs get on the beds and couches. I have never been too strict on that unless it becomes a dominance issue within the pack and causes bad behaviors.

This pup found shoes one day and loves them. I have to admit I find it hilarious to watch him dragging giant shoes all over the place. I am definitely more relaxed – or sleep deprived – as I let a lot of things go that I may not have with past pups. But I admit it may not be funny when Del as a grown dog decides to eat all of our shoes. So the ‘leave it” and “drop it” commands are being taught now even if I am laughing as I say them. Hey you got to enjoy your pup. They grow fast.

And he is growing – in his first week he gained a pound and a half. He was a whopping 15 lbs at 8 weeks and 17.4 at 9 weeks- And Kevin just weighed him today and he is 19 lbs – which Kevin said is his floof (fluff) haha. He is fluffy! The size of his paws promises he won’t be a small dog. The trajectory of his weight at this point points to a VERY large boy. I do expect that to level off though and I am noting the weight changes each week. So we will see!

As far as his making buddies of the current dogs here at home- it is slow. Someone asked me if the other dogs were pulling their weight in that they could help me tire the puppy out. So far they are not into playing with him. Rudy has a couple times but both very brief. And Del loves Rudy. He follows him all over the yard. Del loves to take walks up the lane with him, and generally thinks he is the best thing ever. Rudy says “meh”. He is feeling jealous I think. I do think that is an emotion dogs have!

Trying to make friends

In my experience these friendships – or even- basic putting up with takes time. Two of our other dogs Reece and Pierce are very playful but I don’t trust the puppies safety with them yet. I am fearful they will get carried away and over excited. Del is too small for them yet. But all co-exist fine when he’s on the leash around them. Lemon -our old Lab- was one of my puppies 11 short years ago. She can be a terror. But in her old age has done some mellowing. She has more patience and I can let the puppy around her in the yard and house – that doesn’t mean she won’t give him a correction if he needs one- but I watch her. I am happy she seems to like him. She ignored Rudy for weeks when he came!

One day last week I woke up to a different puppy. He was crazed- hyped up! I was like holy cow – who is this dog? It was like he was possessed from the beast within. I think I recall this stage from past puppies. I found the worse they got the more likely they needed a nap! And so that seemed to hold true. Today I woke to a calmer pup – though he does have a sassy side. He has the sit command down. And when in the crate or play area he is learning to self calm. All good things for future training. I know we are in store for many different phases as he ages!

The shoe thief

I haven’t done too much socialization with him except for visitors here at home as I don’t want to expose him to too many germs with just one set of shots.. He did go to Southern States and we carried him in. He and Rudy were a hit there.

I am really thrilled to have this dog. As this is my first Goldendoodle I am new to the breed and I look forward to seeing how he will grow. He is a smart bugger- so I see some antics in his future!

Now I need a nap…..

Delta Dog – YOLO

This happened recently.

I know….so cute! His name is Del – he a goldendoodle- and all it took was one look at him and I became a pandemic puppy owner. I failed all my promises to myself. I wasn’t going to get another dog until at least one of our current dogs passed. I failed my attempts to stop from getting puppy fever.

But you devils on social media that posted your new puppy pics every day – I tried to ignore you! With coffee in hand every morning I would try to surf on by the sweet pics of fifi, foofoo, and fifi. And curse you Tucker Budzyn – cutest Golden Retriever (sorry to my Rudy) – I could not stop myself from watching his YouTube videos and his Facebook stories. I became obsessed with his sweet crunched up face when he was confused.

I began researching dogs. For the future. I missed my Old English Sheepdog- there was a void. So just for giggles I began looking online for OES puppies, I then began looking at golden puppies, I then saw a doodle of some sort somewhere – probably on Facebook. And I began to look into doodles, Sheepydoodles, Berniedoodles, Goldendoodles. Site after site I subjected myself to sweet puppy faces. This for me is a torture. I LOVE dogs. I was born with a connection to dogs. I can’t remember ever not wanting a dog – not being drawn to dogs. (I was the kid who always wanted to pet every dog she saw. Even the ones you are supposed to let work like service dogs…I would reach out and touch them as they walked by- i know! ).But I do think that Dog people get this.

I think my husband saw the trajectory of what was happening before I did. I was looking for dogs online. He knows the signs – we had just gone through this with horses- I got a new one in late June- but thats another post. But Kevin knew before i did that we would be getting a new dog not in a couple years but this year. I just didn’t know it yet.

Many breeders had waiting lists – up to a year long. So I felt safe bc there was a wait. I knew this time around I wanted to get a puppy and from a breeder. We have rescued many many dogs over the years and have 3 rescues here now if you include my moms dog. And a friend even told me that she was having trouble finding a rescue as the rescues were so busy with applications.

Covid really created a pet craze. Makes sense -more people at home sheltering from a scary virus. They have more time for a dog. And isn’t a dog a nice distraction from all of the craziness and scariness going on? I can tell you I have tried daily to make my life feel normal. These are scary times.

I had a kid leave for the Navy during the pandemic. It threw me for a loop. He was our last to leave home- and it hit me hard. The military had my son. There was another void in the house. A huge one. One that can’t really be filled with pets and stuff. But I think part of my adding a new horse and a new puppy (oh and fish tanks) was to help me heal some from my empty nest.

What Kevin saw coming did come to a head one day when I saw a post about labradoodles locally. I contacted the friend who posted about their upcoming addition and asked her about the breeder. Turns out I knew the breeder – we had gotten our lab Lemon – our 11 year old gal- and our Golden Rudy from her. And when I contacted her she told me she had a 3 week old Goldendoodle male that was a distant cousin to Rudy. So the stars aligned for me and all the reasons I wanted to wait for a dog went out the window and all the excuses to get one now sounded flat. I just wanted this puppy. So Kevin and I said YOLO and and here is Del, (Delta, Delbert, Delinquent…).

Yolo is maybe what I should have named Del. It certainly is a mantra of mine. I have to decide often if I am being impulsive or just living a YOLO life. Maybe it is both sometimes. But after having had cancer and having chronic pain after the cancer treatments and then being blessed with getting that pain dialed back – I just sometimes have to say oh well WTF YOLO. And this little dog- who is growing by the minute has been a wonderful, tiring, PITA, cute, loving, destructive addition to this little place known as Glory View Farm. I hope to be posting more about him.

So I have no excuses to give. Just sometimes you have to say YOLO.

Navy Son – moving through training

I think I have written before about my trepidation about my kid joining the Navy. I have nothing against the military. I soooo appreciate our armed forces. I just never saw this son as a military man. He is sensitive and quiet and shy. I was also worried what may happen in this political climate. But I soon realized that anything can happen at any time -and he signed up to serve his country. He wants to be doing this.

Boot camp seemed to go so fast and was also so long at the same time. For me it was waiting for letters and phone calls. For my son it was waiting for letters and being able to make phone calls home and waiting through three two-week quarantines because of Covid! But at the end of June he made it! He became a sailor in the US Navy.

We are so very proud of him. And as a mom I am nervous still and I think I will continue to be. It is just a different thing to have a kid in the military. And if you don’t have one you just don’t know. Thats why there are loads of Facebook groups for mom of military kids. Its a great help I can tell you. And the groups are not only a comfort but a great source if info for this newbie military mom.

My son will be on subs. He will study to be a MT (missile tech). Right now he is completing sub school in Connecticut. Then he moves to Kings Bay Georgia to A school. This is where the MT training begins.

The Navy moves on its own time. I am getting adjusted to that. I get frustrated because patience is not my best trait. I was asked to send an important document to my son at his base – and it is now lost there somewhere! I can replace that one – but another document is now needed and I don’t want to send it! There is no replacing it as it pertains to my son’s international adoption and many items cannot be replaced if lost. I said I would drive it there! But you know Covid and no visitors- no leave – etc. I just have to chill. This is the military way. I am a parent but I don’t hold any authority. If the Navy says I need to send something I have to do it. So not I am trying to find the safest way to send this document.

I don’t know when I will be able to see my son. We haven’t seen him since March. Some families have gone a couple years without seeing their Sailors. At first the time went slowly and I was really missing my kid now it is better. I have moments of really missing him but mostly I am dealing with it. It is nice to be able to FaceTime some. But when he is on the sub there will be that time of no contact – except by email I think- but that is sporadic. That will be tough – an adjustment. I am learning to be more flexible I suppose – maybe…sort of.

It is hard- and I write about this as a mom and about my feelings. I deal with these feelings and accept my worries and fears because I know this choice for him to be in the military was his and it was something he really wanted. I also know it is a good thing. However fearful I am for him at times and however much I miss him – I still think this was a good path for him to take. He was lost- college wasn’t his thing, working and doing community college wasn’t his thing. Serving his country and getting education, a salary, and great benefits it a great choice- and it will have to be his thing for at least 6 years!

I see his growth in this short time. He is still the same sweet kid- but he’s is building confidence and learning skills. He’s been to new places and met new people. He has been pushed out of his comfort zone. And he has done it with great courage. I am very proud of him.

The Sailor

In May of 2001- eight months after my son was born in a far away place called Kazakstan – this little boy was placed into my arms in front of the airport terminal from where he had just arrived. My first child – my son. You have dreams for your kids when they are that age- you lay out a path in your head of what their life can be. I will tell you none of my three kids took a path that I envisioned for them! But they are making their own way – taking their own paths.

It is not always easy as a parent to let them make their choices. You want to help steer the boat- but in the end you realize you can’t. You can help at the dock to set them a-sail – you can be their anchor when they need reassurance – – but they have to decide their course. It has not been easy for me to let go and let live – I am not that easy going. But I am doing it- trying to keep myself from trying to steer the boat. Basically I am learning to shut up! Each of my kids is on a different path and I am learning you just love them right where they are.

Maybe this Navy mom is learning.

Tanks

Dear Navy Son,

Thanks for that Tanks. Well one tank I should say. You know the one -that fish tank that looked like a swamp that you left me to take care when you went off to the Navy? Yes that one- the one that has two angelfish and two whatever they are called fish swimming in muck. Yeah- you knew mom would not let that tank stay that way. You know when any live animal becomes my responsibility it becomes imperative that they live in the best conditions possible.

By the way-do you recall the amount of money we spent all those many years ago on a crab-itat for a beach hermit crab (Crabitat -google it) ? No you had no idea because you were like eight. A $4 hermit crab required a $150 home because that is what I do! I provide luxury! I am nuts. And wasn’t the man at the beach super impressed when we told him -when we saw him at his store at the beach years later -that your hermit crab lived over two years in that palace we built him? He was super impressed he laughed- tried to sell us another. No thanks!

Yes so back to the fish you left me. Thanks again! I bought a new tank – what a great thing to do during a pandemic! All the rescue dogs are gone and most of the breeders have years long waiting lists so for me it was a new fish tank!

Yep you knew it. Twenty gallons. New filter, airstone, heater, etc. My previous fishkeeping skills began to come back and I began to get interested in the chemical balances that are needed to keep a tank healthy. I got the tank through its first nitrogen cycle (look it up) and finally transferred your fish to the new tank. Sadly the no-name fish died. Yeah they took one for the team I am afraid. We gave them a proper sailor burial in the toilet. Oh sorry you are a sailor now so that might not sit well. We flushed them…lets not glorify it. Truly I was sorry they didn’t make it but the change from the swill they were living in to the pristine tank was too much. I did learn along the way. So their demise was not in vain.

I will tell you- angelfish are pretty and pretty boring. I have not added more fish to the tank bc I hear angelfish aren’t always nice despite being – well – angels and I was having chemical issues with the tank as it adjusted to the fish. So we watched the fish basically float inert in water. I mean they don’t even care about food. I have not once seen them eat but they must because they are alive. I have learned less is more when it comes to feeding – and for them seriously – like no food seems like it would be ok- but I jest because they are living under my care and I will care for them so well! Not feeding is not in the vocab. But I have read I can limit feeding to every few days and they will eat algae in the tank – they will be fine. Who knew!?

I found this out only after I put a 7 day feeder (seemed excessive for two fish) in the tank when we went away. Came back to algae!! And a dirty tank. Turns our those feeders are considered crap by fish keeping experts. _ like my fishlady in Petco. Lesson learned fishlady- lesson learned. I now feed them limited amounts and my house sitter fed them twice over our last getaway and the fish and the tank were great.

Why then did I do this next thing?

Once I had the biology in the tank looking pretty good despite the algae -I decided to get snails as they are algae eaters and we had a bit of alage growing – and snails are kind of cool. So I read up on snails and their reproduction habits (don’t want 1000 snails like happened to me as a kid in my guppy tank- nightmare) and found out that Nerite snails won’t reproduce in fresh water. Fishlady told me they can reproduce but the baby snails won’t live. That depressed me. But I decided to take a chance on the snails because I thought maybe snails would be more exciting than the angelfish! Snails- more fun – really?

The fishlady bagged up the snails for me. I decided on a whim to add live plants to the tank. Well why not. I read they provide oxygen (under water too!- who knew?) and are just generally good in tanks. So she bagged up the plants and then funny enough she noticed a little hanger on in the bag. A tiny crab. A fiddler crab. She was going to take it out. But it was so cute! How much is it I ask? I can see dads brain chugging – another freaking thing to care for! He is not in love with the fish. And I can’t bring him to the fish tank loving side when he has to help me clean it by lugging buckets of water to and fro and he gets no enjoyment out of the tank because the angelfish are BORING! But this was a CUTE CRAB! Maybe it would be fun!

So yep it is home living here. In the tank. I learned I needed to make the water salty- not sea salty- just had to add aquarium salt and make sure the PH was right and the alkalinity was good. Yep biology! Fun for mom!

Anyway the tiny crab is cute. As heck. Dad likes! And I read they need friends – not dad – the crab (but dad too). It does some dance ritual all the time so I thought it might need a buddy. Well I read that so I know it to be the case. Well the dance ritual can be a mating thing to attract the gals with his big claw – and also as a defense to scare other big clawed male crabbies away!

So fishlady ordered me some gal pals for crabby. His name is Paddy. Yes original (thanks Spongebob). They arrived yesterday!. I am not sure the girls have noticed Paddy- he has been working away with his dancing. But they are adjusting to the new digs. And if I am honest one lady is missing and I am hoping she didn’t jump out of the tank. Like the eel – the one whose whereabouts we have never figured out!? I think she is just hiding someplace and will show up when she is more used to the tank. Fingers crossed.

Paddy – the crab -doing his dance!

The crabs are way more exciting than the angelfish and Dad is finally getting some enjoyment from the tank. Oh and also the fishlady told me that two angels in a 20 gallon is too crowded for them. I can’t add any more fish safely. What? They may kick other fish butts if I put them in with them. How did your four fish live in that ten gallon crud hole? I was skeptical about this 20 gallon being too small. But began to wonder should I get them a bigger tank? I had read that angels need bigger tanks but they stay in like 1/3 of the tank most of the time…remember they are boring. But then fishlady said the right words…

…sale on tanks…big sale… huge sale….so we are now the owners of a 40 gallon tank. New filter too – a good one- cost more than the tank. Need other accessories and a stand and then we will have a real bargain tank on our hands. Yeah- it will be a palace for the angels…. and I will have to get the tank all in balance again- biology! Truthfully I am going to have to get the verve to begin this again (and you know I will keep the 20 gallon too- so more work for dad!) so in the meantime I am loving the crabs….they kind of look like spiders with all their legs – a little ick but the rest is cool.

Oh and thanks again son for the tank… it been an unwanted endeavor but yes fun for me – and now for dad.

love you …

mom….(and dad – most of the time- jk 3/4 of the time)

XXXOOO