When the kids left…

Kevin and Zach in front of his dorm on move-in day.

When the kids left for other places…boys to college..daughter to Ohio…I thought I would be fine. I didn’t think I would have tears or that empty nest feeling. I was sooooooo wanting the boys out of the house. I cannot lie. I was so done with the mess, the not helping with chores, the living like mole people only emerging for food and then taking food that was earmarked for others in the house. Be gone – be gone!

I will be honest I was not prepared to parent teens. It was harder than I thought it was going to be. Maybe because of the health issues I encountered just as they were entering their teens. One thing parenting will do is teach you a lot about yourself. Many times I felt like i was in over my head. I think we realize as parents that we really don’t know what we are doing. At least thats how I felt much of the time. With three very special kids who were adopted perhaps we did have some more challenges than some and I am very sure less than others. As my teens approached teendom (new word) I realized I wasn’t the cool mom I hoped I would be. But I was always championing for their success. I may not have been their best friend and perhaps sometimes I was their worst enemy but I never stopped trying my best help them succeed.

Motherhood will bring out the very best in us and sometimes the very worst. Over the years I was challenged with learning how to best deal with kids who had their own challenges. I didn’t always like how I behaved and I feel now like I was in a never-ending cycle of trying to improve who I was. I never really got where I wanted to be but I am always a work in progress.  And I loved my kids so much- I wanted to help them as best as I could. Thank God they have the dad they do as we balance each other out well and he picked up the pieces when I wasn’t able to.

I had my health challenges that basically covered  the span of my kids high school years and that effected all of us.  I didn’t want that to happen but it did. I often missed events and I didn’t feel well enough to become too involved in my kids school. I spent over six months mostly in bed. That is hard on your kids – and my were teens by then and not really able to process it all.

Where did the time go?  I was dealing with so much and I feel like I never got anything quite right. I sort of feel I got ripped off. What would it have been like had I not been sick? I will never know and maybe thats some of what I am feeling now. Sadness over what I wanted the years to be and what they really were.

And I miss the kids. As we dropped off kid 1 last week then kid 2 the next day I had this growing heavy feeling in my heart. Why I thought I would not feel this is beyond me. I guess it is because i prided myself on always having my own interests separate from being a mom.. I figured that these interests would still be part of me when the kids left home so I would not be sad because I had my own life. I am realizing this other stuff doesn’t protect your heart from the sadness of this new transition of your kids beginning to navigate on their own and you feeling that loss.

We aren’t a perfect family. We laughed, we cried and we yelled. But this is my family—warts and all  ..and now its changed. I will adjust.

But for now I am in transition. And I am a little lost.

I don’t hear from the boys much so far from college- and I laugh at myself for feeling sad about that bc we hardly ever had real communication when they lived here like moles. But the thing is they were here. And now its empty – and darn it – I have that dreaded empty nest sadness.

Kevin and I have things planned and intend on enjoying our new freedom- and I am excited about that. Thats one good part about the kids leaving. This empty sad feeling is just another part of it. And sadly I have to go through it.

So one in Ohio, two in college – my family has spread it’s wings. I know how blessed I am to have these transitions.

Pretty soon we will have the boys rooms cleaned up, their bathroom neater, and I will learn to cook for three (kevin, mom, and myself)instead of 8 (teen boys eat ALOT.). Soon we will fall into a routine and things will feel normal again. For now I am a little off kilter. My tears are a closer to the surface.

It’s all part of life…and I’ll be ok….

Meet Yukon

Yukon

Update – ok so after many attempts Yukon wouldn’t get in the trailer. A storm was coming in and I’m sure he sensed that before the humans did. So he is now scheduled to be brought to us her on the 28th – after we drop the human boys at college.

Stay tuned!

——–

Today we pick up Yukon. (Rescheduled for aug 28). He’s a 19 year old quarter horse from Days End Farm Horse Rescue. Days End is a well know rescue in Maryland and probably in the Mid -Atlantic and now they will become nationally known because of a partnership they have with a non-profit whose job it is to spread the word about horses in need of homes -esp companion horses -which are horses that can no longer be ridden. There are many places for companion horses – like in our case we need a buddy for Harley.

Days End (DEFHR) has made national news from time to time for their rescue efforts after natural disaster like Katrina. When I go to their farms (they have two now bc of the sheer number of horses they are helping ) I always am amazed at the dedication of the staff there and the care they give the horses.

When we set out to meet Yukon last weekend we headed west towards WV into the beautiful hills just East of the Catoctins. We landed at the farm in Maryland which is shy of the WV line. It was pretty and clean and the horses – most of them companion horses- were well kept.

We walked back with Kelly who is a caretaker for these horses. It’s a big job and she does it well and with a smile on her face. She was thrilled to introduce us to Yukon who is a big chestnut gelding. He is immediately friendly and reminded me a lot of Harley. I love gelding because of their puppy dog like demeanor.

Yukon is a bit nudgy for treats as is Harley. Nothing we can’t handle. I’m told he likes to get in and out of gates first. Airy was like that- except she was last to come in off pasture. Grass was king to her. She loved that more than anything.

Yukon led well and was happy to stand in a grassy area and eat grass as we swatted away bugs.

Yukon has navicular issues which is a bone in the hoof of the horse. I won’t go into details as I’m still learning about it. But let’s just say he has sore feet and is on medication for it. I’m looking for supplements that can alleviate inflammation as well. He won’t be stalled like he is now. He will be free to walk around which is better for his foot pain. I think we will have to rake up rocks in the paddock as well. But the pasture will be a nice comfortable place for him.

So back out to Rohersville Maryland later today. He seems like he will be a great fit.

I’ll write more about him soon. I’m nervous and excited both.

Harley by the way is doing well. We keep telling him Yukon is coming ! More later….

Harley – who is Yukon?

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…..

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?

Happy Birthday Dad


Today would have been my dad’s 82nd birthday. I still can’t believe he isn’t alive. He planned on living a long time. He never would have been ready to go I don’t think. In a way I’m glad his death was fast and he didn’t see it coming. Here then gone. 

I miss my dad and have grieved him plenty over this last tough year. I sometimes felt that I didn’t know how to navigate with him gone. It’s that loss of connection that leaves a hole.  That person I have never not known isn’t existent on this planet anymore. It’s still sometimes throws me for a loop. 

I think I’m to a point where I can sort through some of the boxes I was sent by my brother who went through his effects (aka stuff) and sent me things he thought I might want. That includes many photos. I have purchased albums for them and may sort through them in the fall. Some of his clothing was used to cushion the boxes and that was the hardest thing for me to deal with when I first opened the boxes. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. 

Grief needs to be felt in order to move on I think. I don’t enjoy it. I lost three people who were very important to me in a short time. It’s been rocky. But I see that the only healthy way is to trudge through it. But we all deal with grief in our own way. We let a little in at a time. Otherwise it’s like a landslide that can knock us over and cover us and keep us from moving at all. 

I think when we lose someone we feel like we are the only ones who feel that loss. It’s because grief is a personal thing. It’s lonely.  We can talk out our feelings some and sit with others feeling the loss as welll but -for me at least -grief is deeply personal. Some days it’s lonely. But with my dad’s loss I’m processing it and I’m moving forward. 

In a tough year I have been blessed as well. I went from needing to be in bed bc of severe chronic pain to being able to move again. That thanks to a surgeon who listened and cared. I’ve been able to buy a beach house for my family. That thanks to my brother who agreed to buy me out of my dads Florida condo (and it is on Marco Island and it did survive Hurricane Irma ). My kids are doing pretty well. All working and one in community college and the other two getting ready to apply. Things are good. 

Amidst grief and loss there is so much sadness but there is joy. Lately I’ve struggled some with my feelings about many things and I’ve gone to see a threpist that I really like. This a safe place where I can open up about conflicted feelings and just vent about the last four years and get it all out. It’s a process. 

I’m sitting on the beach as I wrote this.  Something my dad would have done today I’m sure. I’m looking at the Atlantic and he likely would have been looking at the Gulf of Mexico. But we both shared a huge love of the beach. 

I think about the up and downs of our relationship and the hurts. It was quite a ride. You always want your dad to get you and if doesn’t get you then he supports your dreams. My dad didn’t always get me. I think it was easier with him to relate to guys. He was a guys guy. 

When I began my love of baseball we had lots of conversations about our teams. It was a way to bond more with him. I’m glad for that added bonus of baseball becoming my go to sport. It helped when conversations became awkward or tense. 

I began the process of forgiving my dad years ago. We were always waxing and waning. I always wanted him to just see me for me. And maybe finally he did. 

He became enamored with my photography a couple years ago after I gave him a canvas of a little mountain called Sugarloaf that was near our home in Maryland. We hiked there a few times. I think he even went there alone sometimes. I’m so glad he thought I had talent. No matter your age most of us want our parents to be proud of us. 

There are many things about my dad I don’t know. He struggled with alcohol use and it seemed he was happiest when he was buzzed. Well maybe we all are. But he loved his alcohol too much and he would never admit that it had a hold on him and as he got older I decided maybe it didn’t really matter. Let him just have fun. 

And he did have fun. He had friends and he travelled. I’m so glad for that. He even married his long time love a few years ago. That didn’t end well and it’s not a story I choose to tell now. 

My dad is buried about 45 minutes from my home. In a Catholic cemetery- next to his second wife Jean.   She passed away from Cancer in 1994 at the age of 51. His first wife is my mom. She lives with me now. He definitely wanted to have a partner. I’m not sure he ever mastered being a great husband but I know he loved all of his spouses. I’ve found my dad loved people the best way he knew how. Don’t we all try to love the best way we know how? I think it’s never perfect because we aren’t God. 

Everyone has a story. I know my dads story is deeper than I’ll ever know here on earth. But as conflicted as our relationship could be at times I am so glad he was part of my life.  He was funny and charming. He cared and I know he loved me.

 Since he has been gone I come to see how much alike we really are. My impatience and tendcies toward moodiness and my quick temper are all him.  Though I don’t often show my temper like he could. 

My dad was as big as life itself. A huge precense when he was in a room not only in stature (he was 6’4″) but also in personality.  He was more outgoing than I am and he kept up with friends better than i did. Though I am trying to be better at that.

 Stan Wilson was something. And he was my dad. 

So I’m sitting here in the beach on a beautiful day on Sept 23 remembering my dad on his birthday. I thought I could get through this without tears. But I am not. And that is ok. I cry because I loved. 

Later today I will take some of his ashes and scatter them in the bay just near our beach cottage. I want to release him into the water which he so loved. Later when the gardens are done being put in at our cottage I will scatter some of his ashes there- so he is part of Cool Breeze Cottage. I can just hear him saying “Cool Breeze! Here comes Cool Breeze!”  My high school nickname -he loved nicknames. I hated that name then but now I have three teens and I so get it! 

So happy Birthday Dad. I’d like to think you are with loved ones -your dad, Nana, Jean , keenie. And Ernie , the haleys,and mr Deveraux, mr Vogelsinger and many more. 

Happy Birthday. Your daughter here on  earth misses you so much and will love you always. 

Little signs 

I have been so sad about the flooding in Texas. My brother lives in Austin. He had lots of rain and wind but no flooding. He is safe. His family is safe. But so many others are not. It’s really so sad we can’t put words to it. 

I’ve wanted to write this week but I wanted it so be something that might bring joy or a smile or warmth. So many people are suffering and don’t we suffer just a little when we see our fellow man in such peril? So I have a little story that will maybe bring you some joy -or you might shake your head and laugh. 

Because I got a sign. Not a sign but a SIGN!

The other day I was talking to my mother in law. She’s in heaven -or the great beyond. Whatever you want to call it. To me it’s heaven. We lost her just over a month ago. My heart still hurts and it will for a while -she was my good good friend for almost 20 years. 

Anyway I talk to her. I feel her so near to me. I can’t explain it. But maybe it’s the way she felt her husband near her after he passed away in 2015. She felt him in bed on his side next to her every night.  Oh and he made visits to us too. I’ve written about the time he was sitting watching kevin build our chicken coop. Kevin saw him out of the corner of his eye -twice. Dad would have loved being part of building that coop!  

So she’s gone and the hours long conversations on the phone are gone too. Often I’d talk to her then hang up and dial my mother. Those days are gone. But my mom lives here so the chats can continue in person.  But there is a hole left where mom sweeney once was. I feel her close but it’s not the same. 

So I talk. She’d want that.  The other day while I was talking to her I asked her to send me a sign she was ok. 

I said ” maybe you could put a white rose on my pink rose bush or put flowers where they wouldn’t really grow.”

I went on with my day and didn’t think about it again until a day or two later I saw this. 


This was a pot of weeds on my deck. I hadn’t planted in there in two or three years because my dogs would tear up the pot and eat the flowers. Last spring I pulled weeds out but weeds kept growing. This year a big stalk grew out of it and the boys removed that a month ago or more – and the pot was supposed to go into the big dumpster we have out front now as we clean things out from a basement flood and the junk that accumulates when three generations are living in a house. 

But now there are flowers in the pot! There weren’t any all summer. Just weeds. 

I take this as a sign. 

I’m not sure what others think but all I know is it brought me joy in a week with a lot of sad stuff going on. 

I’ll take it. 

Hope this made you smile or laugh – it’s all good.