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. 

Faces on Paper 

The thing about feelings are they ebb and flow like the tides. One moment I’m ok. Having a good day. Doing fun things. The next I’m just something else. 

I wrote the post below in one sitting. After the purge I felt better went out had a great day with my family. We are down on the shore at our new cottage. I Sat on the calm bay during an eclipse that was anti-climatic here on our longitude and latitude but the serenity in the bay was medicinal as always. 

I’m trying to piece my way through these shift that I am experiencing. During the “normal” times where things feel more I balance I wonder if I am being over sensitive to the feelings I’m having.  But that’s the point my senses feel what they feel when they feel it. Body and soul. We have to honor what we are feeling. It’s so easy to push it away. I want to. But I’m also aware that this is a season of change and I will have to navigate it and face it   .  

So below is what I wrote two days ago and there has been an ebb and a flow again and again.  At some point maybe I will feel on a more even keel again. It been a long four years.

……

I sat crying in the shower -it’s a good place to cry. Hopefully nobody hears you. 

My sense of a numbness and a loneliness began about four weeks ago. It had be creeping up before that but it reared its ugly head in mid-July. A sense I wasn’t living my life, like I am living outside it it sometimes – a sense things have changed. I felt everything  is off kilter. Would it right itself? Will it? 

In the shower I felt the need to write. My words always form in the shower. Then I have to jump out dripping wet and run to type it all out. My words are never as eloquent as they are in the shower. The shower breaks me open sometimes. A cleaning of the body and opening up the soul. 

I think I am having a battle of body and soul. My body is trying to push my feelings down and my soul which usually wins is trying to push them up. The soul is protective and honest at the same time. 

I have experienced huge losses in the last two years. My father-in-law, then my dad -which was very sudden- and four weeks ago my mother-in-law. Add in the four years of dealing with the aftermaths of cancer and two major surgeries for that aftermath in six months and more to come and three teens that keep being -well , teens – my mom moving in – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I feel the way I do.

I stood in the shower and drew a big heart on the wall and put my hand in it as I cried. Maybe I wanted to feel something familiar as I touched that wet or maybe I wanted it to heat up as a sign from someone who I loved that has crossed into the realm. I just wanted to feel something. And I felt sad so maybe that was ok. 

 I wanted something bc so many things seem shifted. 

Am I depressed? Shell shocked? Is it the meds I have to take?  Or am I just feeling the pangs of so much grief that I am holding in? 

My mother-in- law -Doris Sweeney- whom I called mom was one of my very best friends. She died July 18. She deserves a blog of her own and I will write about her when I can. I’m not ready but  I do miss her terribly. Sometimes I think maybe it’s wrong for me to grieve this loss so much bc this wasn’t my mom this was Kevin’s mom. Doesn’t he deserve to have this huge chasm of loss to himself? I feel like I am stealing his mom or the loss of her somehow. I know that’s not rational. But bc I must feel that way somewhere deep in my brain -my body is like a dam only letting bits of grief sink in. 

I think this and the fact that three people that I considered parents to me – even if two weren’t – have left this world. And crap do I miss them. 

My soul will win and require me to feel what I need to feel. It’s pushing me to deal with it all. I hope that it will get me off this rocking boat and help me to feel like I’m on dry sound land again. 

It’s lonely here. I have felt this loneliness before many years ago before I married Kevin. The alone feeling even when in a room of people. 

Kevin and his family brought so much light and balance  into my life. They have no idea. 

The other day at the memorial lunch I think I hoped it would feel like a reunion of family. That i would feel that warm feeling – like the room gets a bit warmer bc people love eachother and are happy to be together. But I just felt lonely. Nobody did anything wrong. It’s just that each of us was so sad and the part of our soul that touches each other was curled up hugging our own selves – protecting us. Or maybe it was just my soul was curled up and I couldn’t reach out. But everything was off. Sadness prevailed and was visible under the laughter and greeting of friends. Because the humans whose lives we were celebrating should have been there. 

It was a beautiful place and so many words of love were shared.  The gathering of friends was beautiful and I wanted to see my inlaws faces but all I had to look at were the many family photos we shared in collages that we all put together. 

Faces on paper were all that was left. 

I know I looked at the collages but I hardly recall any of the pictures. I even made three of the collages myself. Pinning the photos onto the framed boards one by one. I cried some. But I stealed away the feelings as best I could because other wise I couldn’t have done it. 

Faces on paper. And love and memories. I know this. But I’m not there yet. I know this is what life should be. Parents going before their children. 

Rationally I get all that. But I’m not there yet.  I’m off kilter, I feel this hole, too much has happened. 

I will begin counseling again but right now it seems too exhausting to tell someone everything that has happened.  Maybe I should give the therapist this blog post:) 

I just need a little time to see how this all processes. Writing helps. It does. It’s something that is familiar and balances me. Thank God for it. 

And God. I have written many times about my faith. I would admit  my faith has been tested sometimes in the last year especially. But in the last four I have had so many questions and some have been answered as best as they can be answered and others still flutter waiting for understanding that I might not get. But I think sitting in a church of any sort could help bc I feel a connection to God – but definitely not to a religion. I like bits and pieces of many but dislike bits and pieces too. But sometimes just sitting in a church worshipping and singing can help the soul heal. 

I sat on my horse yesterday. I longed for it. Needed it. For those few moments working with my horse some balance was in my life and that post horse buzz haloed around me for a good while.  But today that sense of unbalance of doing life but it really being part of it is back. 

I’m going out to paint some shutters for our cottage I’m hoping brush to wood will lighten this load o me at least for a while. 

There is a path that I must walk to get to a place of balance even if it is a new familiarity of my life. It’s changed the patriarchy and matriarchy that was once there is now mostly gone. What a gaping hole -albeit wound – it leaves. 

Lonely souls that have to learn to ride the rivers without a beacon ship. 

So much has happened my body and soul are trying to protect me I guess. Trying to keep the dam from breaking. In the meantime I’m floating down the river without a beacon ship  to lead me. Because now I -we- kevin and I and all my sweeney family -we- we are the new beacons  and I’m not ready to lead quite yet. 


Cool Breeze Cottage

My dad called me “Cool Breeze” when I was a teen. I hated it. It implied that I was trying so hard to be cool.  Which in fact I was trying to be cool but he needn’t point it out on a daily basis. 

My dad called a spade a spade(I kind of inherited that trait from him but I think I’m a little softer in my approach but my teens might not agree.) . And he was half joking. It was his way of taking out his frequent frustration with his teen daughter in a comical way. But I was an all about drama teen and I did not like the name at all. 

He would sometimes make it all drawn out. “Here comes Coooool BReeeze , Cooooool Breeze”. It probably didn’t help I carried a large comb in my back pocket and a big attitude on my shoulder.

I tried to ignore it. Sometimes it almost made me laugh when he said it. My dad liked when people were in on the joke but I would not give him the satisfaction. We weren’t buds. And I was trying so hard to be cool. Forget that I was majorly insecure. I would play the part of cool teen. But sometimes my facade cracked.  That’s why the name stung. I was so far from cool. 

But I get it now. And I miss my dad and would love to talk to him again and say “remember when you used to call me Cool Breeze?”  And we’d laugh. 

Over the years we’ve talked about  old Cool Breeze. And I even gave him the satisfaction of a laugh. And the name became a memory –any sting I had from it is long gone. It became a story between a daughter and a dad who sometimes struggled to find things to chat about.  I tear up writing this because I can chat up the best of them -why was it so hard to find things to say to my dad?  And he me?  

I sure can think of lots of things to say now. We weren’t perfect but I miss that man. I tell him that everyday when I wake up. Sometimes I hear him in my head. 

And recently  I was searching for a name for our newly purchased beach cottage. A dream that came true only because my dad isn’t here and my brother bought me out of my dad’s Florida condo thst we both inherited. But our beach cottage is a true dream that became real on April 10, 2017.  It’s still sinking in – and I thought we have to name it something to remind me of my dad. I went through a bunch of ideas. I didn’t like any. Then one day I began pondering name possibilities and Cool Breeze just popped into my head. 

Of course- so I sent Kevin a text “how does Cool Breeze Cottage sound?”

“Perfect”. He wrote back. 

And so I want to introduce you to Cool Breeze Cottage in Delaware. It’s six miles to the beach but a couple minute walk to the Indian River Bay.  Far enough to get away from the crazy summer crowds  of Bethany Beach but close enough to join in when we want. 

We are one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood but when I first saw it online I didn’t know that. And something about the place drew me in. I wasn’t going to look at it because it was out of the price range. But on one sunny day in February we drove out to the shore to look at a few places. I was in pain and traveling for me involved laying in the back of our conversion van with my dog and  popping pain meds and streaming shows on my iPad while Kevin drove. My goal was to get out of the van look over each house on our list and get back in the van and go home. 

We finished our tour of four places and we had two good possibilities and I told Kevin to drive up to the neighborhood where we had looked on one previous trip where we lost out on a house because we weren’t quick enough to make an offer. I loved that area and as we drove I opened realtor.com on my iPad and checked my saved listings and that cottage popped up and had dropped 17k!  I did a double take then told Kevin -we were looking at the cottage at least from the outside. 

We pulled up in front of the gray blue cottage and called our agent right away. She came right over and let us in and the rest is history.  

It wasn’t until we made the next trip over (again me in the back of the van on pain meds) for the inspection that I noticed what the neighborhood was like.  And how close it was to the bay. Kevin and I walked over to the little walkway that led to the bay beach and we just grinned at eachother. It’s a dream come true. We are excited and humbled at the same time.  

I’m determined to enjoy it despite pain issues. In spite of pain issues 🙂 We hope to make some good memories there. 

My dad and  I had talked about maybe buying something together at the Delaware shore not long before he died. He loved that area. We spent many summer vacation weeks there. My love for the area continued and we began to go with our kids when they were pretty young. 

My dad will be missed but somehow I think he’ll be around. And I think he’d be proud. And I’m pretty sure he put that name in my head. 

Cool Breeze . A name I hated, then laughed about and now love. 

Miss ya dad. 

Cool Breeze Cottage

The Little House that Did. 

I’ve long said that your home is where your people are. I’ve moved enough times to know this to be true. That’s not to say I haven’t had some sentimental attachments to a house. I have. I have driven past homes that I’ve lived in and felt the little heart pulls. It’s not really for the bricks and mortar of the place – though I can remember the worn carpet places on the steps of my childhood home – it’s the memories the house represents.

I remember the green counters in Kevin and my’s first home we built together – a cute townhome in Germantown, MD. It was there we brought our first child home from Kazakhstan. It was there I became a mom at age 37. It was there where my life went from being so me oriented to being family oriented. Other people mattered. I began to grow up there.

It’s the memories these brick and mortar places hold. We can take the memories with us in our minds, hearts and photo books but there’s something so sweet when we drive by the old places.

I have some sad memories from some of my old childhood homes too but they represent places that shaped me in some way. So good memories flow with some not great ones. For me I see the swift passage of time when I see old photos of these homes or I drive by them.

For some reason lately that realization of the fast path that life takes has been weighing on me. So it’s not surprising that I have become overwhelmed by sentiment at the sale of my dear inlaws home.

My inlaws have owned that home for nearly 60 years. The little Aspen Hill neighborhood known as Harmony Hills has turned over and and over and over family after family-Kevin’s parents were among the few original owners left in the neighborhood- now one sees many little children running about as young families have moved in. It’s a working class neighborhood now. It’s close enough to the city to be in demand and their house sold quickly. I wasn’t surprised. .

But I was surprised at how sad I am about it.

The sale had to happen. My mother- in- law is in assisted living and we lost my father- in-law a little over a year ago. But their home – not house- their home is one place I have only good memories of. The many dinners with everyone crowded in the living room chatting after a good meal. Lots and lots of laughs. My kids playing with old metal cars or Legos in the basement. The “picnics” in the back yard, Easter egg hunts , gift exchanges and lots of love. It all existed in this house.


It’s hard to believe this little house raised six boys. My husband tells stories of knee football games on the lower level. Sometimes an adult voice would yell down to be quiet. There were sibling arguments too. Much expected with six boys.

That house held many diaper changes and bottles , then much sports gear, many class photos, then graduation pictures, then wedding photos, then grandkids and great grandkids. Those people in those photos have all stepped foot in that home. Thousands of meals were prepared by one of the most kind woman I have ever met. I can see how my mother-in-law might have had the patience to raise six boys. She was a mom to all who came through that home. She’s been a blessing to me and words cannot express how thankful I am for her. She got me through some hard days. She may not even know it. Sometimes  my phone would ring when I would be at my wits end with work or tired from being with my little kids all day and she would be on the line just checking in- and it was just what I needed at that moment. She never intruded, she never judged. She became my friend.

Once I asked if she ever got mad. I’ve never really seen her mad in the 20 years I’ve known her. Kevin -my husband-told me that a few times when he was young his mom got up from the dinner table while they were eating -said nothing – and went quietly into the bedroom and shut the door. I nod my head in understanding. She was overwhelmed with men. I picture the small flask being pulled out from under the mattress! Six boys. One husband. She had to have her moments. No wonder she made so much banana bread.  Baking was her solace. Her banana bread is talked about in many circles. It was that good.

.

Six boys raised by good people. Extremely good people. My father-in-law was maybe the fairest person I’ve ever met. He never told anyone what they should do. If you asked him his opinion on something he would tell you what he might do in a given situation but he never pushed anything on anyone else. He believed his sons needed to make their own way and learn from their mistakes. He was also generous. If someone needed a little help he would freely give what he could. This wasn’t a wealthy man but he was rich. He had so much more than money. He had wisdom and love.

Dad was quiet but I’m told that when friends of his sons came over they feared him! Apparently he had a look that made any kid snap to in an instant. Once he told a friend of the boys to move his car out of the driveway and the kid not only moved the car- he left entirely! He was gentle yet firm. I knew only the gentle man and gentleman.

The living room home to many gatherings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each person who has been in that home had a different memory and perspective of life there. What I know is that my life changed there. I became part of big family. Something I always dreamed of. And that family welcomed and accepted and loved me for who I am warts and all. I watched my children who came to us through adoption be loved and accepted without question. I saw them thrive in that love.

We laughed and we cried there.

That little house holds so many memories. And new memories will be built there by a new family.

Family visiting the house before closing.

If it’s walls could talk the stories it would tell. The one thing that that little house did was hold six boys that were raised to be wonderful men. Gentle men and gentlemen. Men that today make sure their almost 92 year old mom gets the best care possible.

Love full circle.

That’s what that little house did.

I will miss that little house.

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Surgery journal …it keeps on going 

So the last I left off – I think- is that I was slowly healing from my surgery. 

Recap – I had breast cancer surgery which led to pain for three years that was ignored by my breast surgeon. It exacerbated last May 2016. I was bed ridden. I had to begin a journey that would lead mye to a nerve surgeon that agreed that I may have a problem with surgical clips. This clip issue had been suggested to me by a physiatrist I saw over the summer.  Surgical clips are made of metals and are used often in surgeries to close of vessels. They have caused issues In patients but it’s not common or maybe not admitted by doctors that they are an -in fact- an issue. 

The nerve surgeon operated. Removed clips in my axilla (armpit) And he found some clipped onto nerves. Not the right thing to clip.  The nerve surgeon also cut some nerves and buried them into muscle. He removed a neuroma (bundles of scar tissue ). He was optimistic that he had cleared the area of clips and that these were likely the cause of much of my pain. He Closed me up and here I am just over three months later. 

Now I will say that I’m still in the process of healing. But I have had pain in the back of my armpit -it’s not new pain- I think my surgeon thought it was pain that would subside as he treated all that other stuff I mentioned to you above. That pain in the back of my armpit is becoming worse. And the symptom that bothered me the most -the nerve pain that made me cough -is still around and seems to flare when that armpit pain flares. Nobody gets the cough symptom. That is very frustrating.

Is it worse BC I’m more active and doing more things?  Well I’m not bed ridden anymore and I am doing more and the more I use my arm the more it hurts. I can’t work on my range of motion exercises much because it causes pain. And it hurts as a passenger in the car and when I drive. I tried a long ride to the beach a little over a week ago as a passenger and that about crushed me. I am not big on opiates so I’m only willing to take so much medication. It was a stressful trip to say the least. 

I went to see the nerve surgeon this week and he took a long time with me. He pondered my continued pain. He had some ideas of the nerves it could be. He hopes it can calm down and become a non-issue the longer I heal. 

So the plan is to get a series injections right in the areas of my pain. The injections contain lidocaine -a numbing agent -which is short acting and some steroid which we hope will calm the pain down. I get the next injections four weeks apart. I won’t know if this injection will help even for the short term for up to a week.  Then if  I still continue with pain a few months from now I will have to have more surgery. 

Yes I know. It bites. 

But I need to get this pain level under control so it doesn’t limit me so much. I’m limited socially and physically. I’m up and around which I’m so grateful for. But it’s not enough yet. My mom moved in with us at the end of November. I want to be there for her.  I don’t want to be dealing with my own pain issues that it limits me from helping her. 

I’m 75% better than last summer. Being bed ridden and now being up and around is a huge deal. A lot of the pain is gone. But what’s left is bad. If it weren’t for the pills for nerve pain I’d been in bad shape. I hardly ever tolerate any RX meds. I failed all the cancer hormone blocking drugs I’ve tried. I was very pessimistic about the drug neurontin also known as Gabapentin. It’s used to treat seizures but is very effective on nerve pain. Which is a hideous burning pain that can go from light burn to a blaze if left to smolder.  The drug has been great for me. I have little side effects. A few twitches here and there and memory loss. The memory loss is the worst of it for me. I put up with it because the pain control is that good. And the drug isn’t like an opiate. I’m just writing everything down and when I forget something at least I have something to blame it on. I have read coming off the drug is  tough. Not like coming off opiates but it can be hard. But I’ve read how to counteract any unpleasant side effects with natural products like magnesium – which can make the taper off the drug much better. But I’m not even there yet. I still need the drug -so in an unlike fashion for me I’m not going to worry about when I go off it. 

Nobody said that this healing would be easy. I think I just got in my head that it would be a done deal when all those clips came out.  I’m disappointed. But I’m so determined to get to a point where I won’t have so much pain. I don’t know if I’ll actually ever be pain free on my cancer side -but I’d like it to be much better.  And I’m not pain free elsewhere. It’s just that the level of pain that sets us back from true living can be different for each of us. And I met my match. 

The one good – well maybe great thing- that has happened is that from my experience I have been able to help other woman in the same pain situation as I am in ( post breast therapy pain syndrome). A couple woman have even gone to my surgeon after I mentioned him on the Facebook page that I belong to for ladies with post breast cancer therapy pain. 

It feels good that my hardships haven’t gone in vain and that my experience and what I’ve learned and shared could actually be help to others.  

I have a lot of things I want to do. I am so grateful for how far I’ve come. And I call upon God each day to help me to be more patient. I am doing the best I can.

I miss riding my horse. I miss farm chores. I don’t miss doing laundry though -I can do a bit of it but I try not to. This week we hired a cleaning service to come in and clean. It was much needed. We will probably hire them on a regular schedule. I just can’t keep up and my teens aren’t the best cleaners. And I’m kind of done with the eye rolling from them especially when I can’t pull my own weight doing chores. And frankly I don’t want it to be a fight. In the scheme of life it’s just not worth being mad at messy kids. Life’s too short. 

The road to recovery isn’t always a straight line. I’m learning to be more accepting of that. Right now I am better than last summer. I’m so grateful. 

I really am learning to live one day at a time. I don’t know how I’ll feel from day to day. So just focusing on today is the easiest for me. It’s forcing me to live more in the present. The theme to my last blog. 

I’m carried by the thank you’s I’ve gotten for sharing my experiences and hearing that what I’ve written has been empowering them has really be a saving grace. I’ve been carried by the good wishes of friends from all over. 

It’s not a road I’d wish on anyone. During my worst days I sometimes can’t find a thing to be joyful about. But I see that life happens no matter where I am or what I feel – and I want to live life. 

I orten  think of the Apostle Paul in the Bible and his unending optimism and want to call people to Christianity despite his circumstances. His letters never waivered in his goal and he never lamented on his circumstances though he was jailed when he wrote many of the letters that now are books in the New Testament. He found contentment in any circumstance. This was because of his love of other things outside of this earthly place and his faith of what lay ahead for him. 

Sometimes you have to try to enjoy life even when you aren’t where you want to be- whether that be physically or emotionally. I’m no Paul. But I can learn from him. 

This cancer journey has been such an incredible challenge in my life. It’s not easy for me to stop along the way and consider I need to be learning from my discomforts . I just want out of it. But in the moments where I can just stop and breathe and  just live in the present despite my discomfort I see how truly blessed I am. 

I don’t know where the road will lead but I’m on it – better to make the best of it when I can. 

Thank you’s and angels. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo credit : Realm of Kindness on Facebook

The little ceramic tree

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

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

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

angel tree like my nanas. photo cred: angelcimes.com


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We smiled at eachother.

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