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. 

The day after..life goes on. 

I woke up today not knowing the results of the election and Kevin had to give me the news. I begged him not to but he felt I better hear it from him than on social media. He knows I’ve been through a lot lately. 

This is certainly not how I thought the election would go. I didn’t vote. I firmly felt I could not vote when so much hate was being spewed around this election. And in the end my state went blue. That was expected 

But this election outcome is not the outcome I expected. 

And I will say neither candidate floated my boat but one worried me much more and he won.  But lets see – looking at my life the last three years and all that’s happened just in my own personal space – I shouldn’t be shocked. If something I think should be right side up turns upside down it shouldn’t shock me anymore. But this election outcome kind of does. 

Well what do I do with this? 

Live.  I’ll live.  

And yes I’ll allow myself to think of the fastest way across the boarder if things get really crazy. I will try to will myself not to worry over the stock markets and housing markets as they react to this news. 

People wanted change – I guess – and they got it. And I’ll hope that the ranting Trump realizes as he awoke today (if he slept) what a freaking important job he just got. Maybe he can put the ego aside some( I would have said this about Clinton too) and keep his hands to himself (I would not have said this about mrs C -but well yes I would said this about her hubby) and get down to doing a great job of being President. Maybe dial the personality back some  (Some people would insert -the crazy -here but I won’t.) and remember the entire world is watching -the places we like and the ones we don’t. He needs to know that he now represents more than himself. He represents us. He needs to keep his head about him and learn to think before he acts. 

I want to stay away from social media today but I’m sure I won’t.  Kevin told me people have posted all kinds of things. “Racism won” was one thing he told me before I asked him to not tell me that stuff right at that moment BC I hadn’t even had breakfast. Because I’m not even going to engage in any of that. Why feed into it the frenzy -it will die down.  I hope. 

I have my worries. I would’ve said this about Clinton too. Its just that my set of worries for Trump are little more scary than my worries were for Clinton . 

And I am bummed we didn’t get our first woman President -but we will. The fact that Hilary Clinton was possibly going to be the first woman prez and it wasn’t part of the in your face marketing campaign during the election says to me that we don’t think it’s a big deal anymore we just expect it to be something that will happen. Just like now we will never be shocked if a person of color runs and wins. Our younger generation has high expectations for woman –they don’t seem to see boundaries where other generations of woman did- and I hope in this next election in four years that we will see more woman seek the nomination.  

I chatted  with a friend on the phone this morning and she was not a Trump supporter and when I saw her name pop up on my phone  I thought she was calling to lament about it -we never really have talked politics -we have been friends for almost 50 years our connection transcends that of politics – but I thought she must be calling to lament bc I assumed she must be so upset. But she didn’t jump into that topic until well into the conversation when I mentioned it and she just said “ugh”.  She had other things of concern to chat with me about – she had already gotten on with her life. 

So there’s no point for me to lament or get upset about the gloating or feed into the negativity that I’m sure to see on social media.  I have so many other fish to fry. (Now I’m hungry for fish and chips).  I just need to live my life.  

That not to say the Presidency isn’t a big deal. It is-but all I can do is pray that Trump will cool his jets some and listen to his advisors who I also hope are really really really good. Maybe he will put his daughter Ivanka in some position. She carries so much class I can hardly believe she his kid. And BC she is, I hope that maybe he has a better side than we have seen. And I am praying that this is the side that will be brought out when he realizes that this is for real -that he’s the freaking President of the United States. He needs to act Presidential. He needs to make decisions for all of us not just the choices he likes at the moment. And I certainly will pray that he leads from place of care and love and not a place of hate. (And I would also have said the same if Clinton had won. )

I realized after chatting with my friend that the sun doesn’t rise and set focusing on this one thing. In a few days this news will be old news. If anything we Americans have short attention spans. And we have lives to live. We have so many shows to binge watch. 

I’m praying for a lot of good things to come out of this very hateful election. Maybe that’s crazy but that what I do. 

 But ultimately I’m going to just go live my life. And I’ll definitely keep my sense of humor because I’ve found that it comes in handy when under duress. And I’ve still got my eyes on the fastest way to the borders – the ones without the potential walls -and I’ll make sure one of the big cars has a full gas tank at all times. 

Life goes on. 

Recovery and getting help. 

My wonderful husband Kevin has been worried about my surgical recovery in the aftermath of my fathers death.  It takes a long time to recover from nerve surgery and I haven’t been sure how I’m supposed to be feeling. I notice small improvements but then I’ll have a bad day. Physically and emotionally. 

I’ve been a wreck about my dads passing and we are planning his funeral and when you are trying to get family in from out of state and kids in from colleges and high school teens schedules it gets a bit crazy.  So Kevin has taken over some of the calling to funeral homes and to the reception place. I’m sure passing some of this off is a good thing.  Giving up control to others is not easy for me. I’m a good planner but I’m just not up to doing all that I’ve been assigned. My brother and I have been splitting tasks and he already planned the memorial for dad in Florida. I feel I need to really help plan the funeral up here in DC. But I’m going to have to give up some control. I need to heal. 

Since Kevin was worried about my recovery so was I. I encouraged him to write my surgeon. Which he did. And yesterday on a Saturday he wrote kevin -twice-back asking some questions and concerned about how this death and the grief I’m carrying is effecting my recovery. He is a great man. I’m lucky we found him. He asked if I was moving enough. He also wants to see me next week. He thinks I need to get into PT. In a pool. If it’s warm I’m cool with that! 

Kevin told me what my surgeon said so I thought about it. I’m not moving enough I’m stuck. I feel like when I get up I can’t do much and I often end up hurting. I’ve been walking but not enough. I’m not trying. I’m down. 

So I decided to get my butt up. I popped a little more percoset. (I take less than 1/2 a pill a day. I’m so weird about meds.) but the amount I take helps so that’s good. I got my shoes on and I went outside with my phone and just walked around. I took pictures and I took a walk. Then I came back in the house a couple hours later and I didn’t go back to bed until bedtime. I hurt some but I was ok. I felt kind of normal though. Like a person living in my home. Not a patient. 

It’s been easy to just stay in bed BC it hurts to get out but once I do I realize it’s what I need to do. I need to recover physically and mentally. 

I’ve had calls from caring friends. A couple encouraging me to seek therapy BC I have been through so much. My friend Jon told me that he knew I was strong but I had been through more stuff in a short period of time and I needed to seek professional help. I think he worried I might be upset but I so appreciate that he cared. It has been a horrible time and he reached out. I’ve been to lots of therapy so I fully agreed I needed to go. But getting my butt there might be hard. But I decide not to listen to all my buts..  I knew I wanted a person older than I am so I found Polly and she sounds nice and caring and I am hoping to meet her next week. I will be downloading on her (a new term I’ve seen streaming tv shows). She may be on the floor after I finish! 

I’m thankful to Jon for saying point blank “get some help”.  I was in a bad place for a long time even before my dad passed.  Jon ignited a spark in me to get myself together again. I need help to do it. Therapy will be a gift to me. 

So yesterday I took some photos on a gorgeous fall day. I wanted to share them with you. I love fall the the season changing and it reminds me that I am in a tough season of my life but my season will change. But I need to have my mindset right and push my body some to get there. 

Love Dad…..

Mornings are the hardest. It’s like when I awoke on Sept 12, 2001 and for just a minute I’d forgotten the world was changed forever and then the realization and horror hit me like a ton of bricks recalling the horrible terrorist events of the day before. It’s much like that now –  I wake in a haze -sometimes it’s 3am ,sometimes 4 am sometimes I even wake at those hours and somehow will myself not to let myself think or feel anything -and if I’m lucky it waits a little longer in the morning to pound me. That wonderful moment of haze and  then I feel the tug or shot of pain from my surgical scar but then the pounding realization that I lost my dad overwhelms me. I hurt all over. Grief emulates from the inside out.  

I know it will ebb someday but the loss of a parent  is so life changing – more painful than I could ever conceive.  

Sleep has been an elixir. But my body hasn’t wanted to do that much. Pain medication has been helpful and I have some because of the surgery -but I take it so sparingly for fear of addiction. I have hunger sometimes but no appetite. The wonderful meals people have brought over – smell so good-yet I try to eat but I’m not able to get much down. 

On days where I can’t eat much I go for the bad stuff-cake or ice cream – cookies (except my dogs ate most of those when they found them near my bed). Even then I can’t eat in much quantity. I know this is the grief diet -the lack of appetite and the white sugar carb only foods that keep me fueled. We’ve met before. It will subside in time. 

Losing a parent is -at least for me -so profound. I realized in the wake of all that the last weeks have brought that I’ve always been a child. And thankfully because I still have my dear mom I still am.  But as soon as I learned that my dads situation was dire I yelled in my room “daddy don’t leave me” over and over.  I hadn’t called my dad daddy in years. The grief that hit me was paralyzingly. A couple of my kids were home and i heard them shuffling outside my door and I tried to calm myself – I’m not sure I heard myself yelling. My daughter came in and asked if she could do anything and asked if she should stay home from work. I know for her that work was the best place for her to be.  I told her it was ok to go. As it turned out she was able to say goodbye to my dad over the phone when she got home later that night. We held a prayer circle around my dad with family on the phone and my brother and his friend by my dads side in Florida. 

We didn’t have time to get down to Florida to be there. I didn’t go down to help my brother navigate my dads medical issues that led to this last trip to the hospital bc I was recovering from surgery.  It’s that suddenness that’s is so hard. You wonder what your last words were that he was conscious to hear. You wonder what things you wish you said when the person was living. 

My last words to my dad when he was conscious in the Physical in-patient rehab facility were “I Love You”.  My last words to him as he left the world were the same. 

I’m still not sure I can bring myself to write about the last weeks of my dads life.  I’m still getting my mind wrapped around the fact he’s gone. But I would be remiss in not talking about my dad. I spent a lot of time not writing about him when he was living. And I did so because my dad had his flaws. I guess I didn’t want to hurt him if he read anything unflattering  about himself.  We all have flaws but I didn’t want to hurt anyone I loved. We had a roller coaster ride of a relationship. Not often understanding each other. My teen years with him were hard. My dad liked to drink and back then he could be an angry person when he had too much. I also am sure my teenage antics caused him a lot of reasons to get angry with me. There are so much that goes into the dynamics of a relationship. And through the years I sometimes felt like my dad didn’t like me and often I didn’t like him. But man did I love him. And I always will. And I know that though we could have so many differences from politics to how we chose to live our lives that my dad may not have always liked me but I know he loved me. 

His ways of showing love were different than obvious affection. He didn’t like goodbyes at all. So it was fitting that he never regained consciousness in his last hours. If he knew he was leaving us he’d have preferred to slip away. But he had a fierce sense of responsibility to my brother and I.  His desire was to leave us each some money. And he succeeded. Though I’d prefer to having my dad around still to drive me nuts than to have the money he left me. But I know he’s happy that he was able to leave us this final  gift.  

My dad had grown up less than wealthy and had been fortunate to receive a great education with the help of a wealthy and wonderful Uncle named Jim. And that education enabled him to become a successful businessman. He was always careful with his spending. I often thought he was a miser.  Sometimes it was so hard for him to spend a dime. He loved money too much sometimes but I think there was great fear in somehow losing it.

 In my youth I began seeing money as a means of control and I saw that money didn’t always buy happiness. So I went the opposite  direction and mismanaged my money and then my families and that infuriated my dad when I mistakenly told him about out issues a couple years ago. It was fear that drove that anger but it hurt me. One never gets over wanting to please their parents.  Eventually we filed bankruptcy and I don’t know if my dad ever knew this fact. But from that I learned so much we are back on our financial feet – doing better – making better choices on spending and saving – and I don’t plan on mismanaging the money I inherit.  In fact the last time I saw my dad he introduced me to his financial advisor- hoping that when he died I would use him.(and I will).  As it turns out the advisor is also the administrator of my dads trust. I had no idea six months ago when I met him we would be meeting again so soon.  Making sure he could leave us some money was a final gift of love that my dad left us. I want to be smart about it for my families benefit and out of respect to my dad. 

My dad and I had an argument about a year or two ago. He had a hard time listening to me and I suppose I became loud and frustrated as I had many times over the years but I had tried to quell in recent years preferring to just try listening to him bc I loved him and maybe it didn’t matter if he actually heard me. (I began writing when I was a kid solely so I could express myself because I felt my words went unheard so often – even with my peers – maybe all kids feel that way but it’s in this frustration of needing to be heard that my writing need and desire were born -so in many ways I’m grateful). Anyway that day I yelled back and the argument didn’t end well. We were on the phone which complicated things more I think. My dad used his speaker when he chatted and that made me nuts – though I use speaker now often- is it an age thing or a tech thing but it can be so annoying causing disjointed conversations. Maybe we were both on speaker that day booming voices being heard talking over each other. Nobody listening. So the call ended not well and now I can’t recall if someone hung up on the other but it was a bad ending. Which led me to promise myself I wasn’t going to call him ever again ( so teenager-esque –we are children always with our parents and our immaturity can really come out when dealing with them). 

About a week after that argument I got an envelope from him from his home on Marco Island, Fl. It was kind of bulging.   I opened it to find two pretty, white sand dollars wrapped in tissue. One had broken a bit but the other – the big one- remained intact. – and a small note was included that simply said “I thought you might like these . There are many here on the Island. – Love Dad.”  There was no I’m sorry -but he had raised the white flag with the gift of those beautiful white sand dollars. And I called him to thank him- we never mentioned the fight. But that act by a sometimes impossible man was how he best showed his love.  Those sand dollars will forever be in my shell collection vase. They aren’t just stuff from the sea – which he and I both loved- they are a gift of love. 

Dad and I were on a good run in the last year or more. We were in a good place. We talked often on the phone and had a nice visit in Florida last March. I’m so very grateful for that. I laugh as I recall some of those conversations. Ones which often ended with a speech about the candidate for President he very much disliked. I just listened and laughed bc he was very funny.  He wasn’t looking for a conversation or my opinion -he just wanted to be heard and an ear I gave.

 I suppose I held on to some sadness and anger over the differences we had over the years even when I thought I had let them go. But I know I’ve let much of it go now.  Everything he was became so clear to me in the moments he was dying. Not the flaws or disagreements, not just my daddy, but the whole man. All I felt was love for this big personality that was part of my life.  It was as if God gave me that gift of seeing him as a human -exactly like me. A soul trying to figure out how to get through this thing called life – and trying to love in the best way he could.  

 

Why I won’t vote this year -thank you Dad. 

Last Sunday I lost my dad suddenly and the pain is profound. I can’t even write much about it all yet. I still feel as if this is all just a horrible dream. 

I’m really worn out. I’ve had chronic pain issues over the last few years after breast cancer treatment. It hit high levels this summer and I had surgery on Oct 12 – on that day we hadn’t been able my to reach my dad and not the day before either- which was very unusual. Eventually he was found on the floor of his condo the next day Oct 13. He was rushed to ER which began a journey of ups and downs that ended in his unexpected death ten days later. 

It’s all been too much for me. The last there years – the cancer – the pain – financial trouble- the loss of my father in law – trying to find doctors to help me – moving my frail mother in law to assisted living – worrying about newly widowed mom living alone and in pain in PA. – finally having some complex nerve  surgery that seems to have helped some of my problems but maybe not all  (BC I’m still healing) -but then the icing on the cake is the loss of my father. Sometimes I just think I can’t face another second of this life. I’m so tired and beaten down. I’ve yet to figure out what I’m supposed to learn from all this. Maybe it’s resiliency but now it feels like shit. 

My Heart is cracked open. And if you’ve had that happen and most of us have – sometimes there are no words to really express what we feel. And sometimes we just don’t want to share those raw bits and pieces. But I’m a writer and I eventually will need to get out the things I feel. Now there are too many questions. Too much sadness and anger.  Just too much. 

I am as close to my breaking point as I’ve ever been. Sometimes I just want to follow my daddy to the other side. But my dad was not one to give up and neither am I. But lord I’m so tired in so many ways. 

In these last few days I’ve yet again been reminded that the very most imperically important thing is In this world is love. LOVE.  

And that’s why I’m not voting.  All I’ve seen in the last few months as I’ve layed in bed in pain -is anger and hate. And I’ll admit I’ve had a lot  of anger on my own I didnt need to feed off of more of it from other sources.  

 Anger and hate have lashed out over this crazy dance we call running for president -and it’s really not the election and really not politics. These forums just bring out the anger and hurt that’s in our world. It magnifies it. It’s shows the opposite of love.  Its just one of the focal Hate cancers that permeate our society. And I can’t bring myself to vote In a system that magnifies hate from it. It might just be too soul crushing for me. And I need things to enlighten my soul right now. Not things that poison it. 

When my dad lay dying in the hospital we formed a circle of love around him.  Most family unable to get there because it all happened so fast. My brother at his side in the ICU of a hospital in Florida along with his friend Jeff by his side – I was here in Maryland on the phone with Jeff which he held next to my fathers ear  -and Kevin and my kids were in the room with me and my brother had his family on his phone. We surrounded my dad with love as we said goodbye and prayed and told him how much he was loved. Later my brother sat with just me on the phone in that quiet ICU while we waited for my dad to take his last breath. I was holding my brother’s hand metaphorically as he held that phone -and in the opposite hand held my dads hand in his.  I spoke prayers and verses I found on the internet. The nurse removed his breathing tube -We prayed that God would lift him up – We cried – and my brother and I waited for our dads soul to rise into eternity – our hearts breaking.

 My friends this is love. 

And this is where I belong. In the realms of love  Not in the hatred of this world. My fragile soul was born into a world of such love but where there are cancers of hatred. I can no longer bring myself to be part of that sickness.

My soul seeks so much of a different path.  

My dad who loved politics and who loved to tell me often and in detail of his dislike of the candidate he planned on not voting for -would be appalled at me for not voting. I think I told him that one year many years ago  I wrote in my dog as my choice for president. Now thinking back I may never have told him that. He may have stopped speaking to me. Well dad- if you can read in heaven – I voted for Gator my greyhound and I chose Jay Jay Star his greyhound friend as be his Vice President. Sorry. But it’s what I had to do. 

And this year I won’t be voting and  I am not voting ever again if all that permeates from an election is hatred. I don’t expect profound love coming from any competitive race but what I expect is respect and decency.  Not venom from candidates which lathers people who watch with that venom and then It begins to spread. Friends hate friends for opposing views. Slinging barbs to someone they once would have never considered saying those things to. It’s a cancer. 

I know my dad would have given me many reasons why my vote matters and what a priveledge it is that we have such a system in our country.  But sadly his death made me drive my stake in the sand even more.  “Not gonna do it.” If I can paraphrase  Dana Carvey who used to parody former President Bush. 

I wish people would remember  that the nucleus of humanity is love. We see it come out sometimes when we least expect it.  We humans can really rally when shit hits the fan. And love really does win.  But it’s our human condition that seems to so easily allow us to gravitate to the cancers of hate. Why do we forget we are all worthy of compassion and respect? 

I don’t feel strong enough anymore to spend my time among hate. I’m not sure it’s from my wisdom where this comes – I think it’s just a worn spirit that knows from where it needs to get its water – the clean spring bringing waters of love. Not the dirty one bringing waters from sewage of hate. 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m supposed to be here on this earth. Like maybe there is another planet I was supposed to be on. Like my soul got delivered to the wrong place. Maybe the only such place I dream of only exists in heaven -on the other side of this place called earth.    

 In my own humanness I’ve had anger issues of my own. I’ve lashed out at my kids when they’ve hurt me or frustrated me. I held some anger for my own dad for years. Most of my anger comes from hurt or fear. Once you can see where it comes from you can try to work on it. And I’ve found as I’ve aged that I just need to try to step away from my fear and move very far away from hatred machines as best I can. 

In that moment when I knew I was saying goodbye to my daddy for a final time until I will -God Willing- see him again – all that I felt was love for this man. And in that sterile ICU –that I could only see in my imagination – all that exuded was love. And then it’s so obvious to me – in that moment of pain and sorrow that it’s all that matters in this world is Love. Why is that so hard  for humans to live each day by?  The answer is because we are human. 

If I only get to go through this journey of life on earth once I’m going to stand away from things that permeate hate.  And this includes this thing we know as an election – -it can unfold all on its own.

 I’m out.  

And I don’t even care anymore. My heart is ripped open and all I want to put into it now is love and as best as I can I want the output to be love – for as long as I live. 

My vote is for LOVE. 

“Love one another” –Jesus Christ. 

“I hope you Dance “-Lee Ann Womack 

Surrounded by Dogs


It’s not often that I don’t have a dog or two -or 5- near me. One could say they must follow me because I have food -and I sometimes do but I often don’t and I don’t share all the time. I also am not the person who feeds them most of the time.  My husband and my kids do that job. But our dogs (my dogs) are my comrades. Lemon our yellow Lab prefers the company of my son -Luke- and I am her second choice when he’s not home -I love their love for eachother.  The other pups -my boys-are my shadows much of the time. One might move to a cooler place on the floor in the hallway outside my office or bedroom- but they are always near me. Is it because I’m their leader? Am I their leader? I don’t know what they think. I’ve always had a comfort being around animals especially dogs.  But my husband always is amazed that they follow me around like the I am the Pied Piper. 

It’s something that I don’t take for granted -this affection – but it is something that I’ve come to be used to in my daily life that I don’t always notice it. They are just there. And I need them to be there.  Dogs have been a calming force much of my life. When I felt alone or scared at times in my life there was a dog there to comfort me. They were my PTSD dogs long before there were such a thing. 

We usually are all quiet as we sit in our spaces either in my office or in my bedroom –  Unless the UPS man comes. Then it gets a little wild. 

In the last couple of months I’ve been out of sorts. My spirit is down and my physical body is in pain. I’ve waxed cranky and sad and sometimes downright angry. There have been days where I felt like there was just too much dog near me. I felt crowded impatient and claustrophobic. I’d shoo them out of my space.  It really wasn’t them at all – but yet in my angst I’d push them away.  

 I’d shoo them away -but they never went very far from me. They might lay in the hall or go sit by my husband or ask to be let out. 

 My old English sheepy -Ridley just doesn’t understand cranky or mad. Or the word shoo or off. He doesn’t leave when asked and in fact comes closer to offer his head for pats. Rudy is like glue to me. He doesn’t shoo he just curls himself a little further away to give me space. 


When I’d get back to my work or stop wallowing in my crankiness I’d notice later the dogs had moved back in closer. And I realized that I didn’t feel claustrophobic any longer. I’d feel a sense of calmness and I felt cared for.  Loved. 

This pattern has continued and as I looked around me today I realized that they may know what I need better than I do myself sometimes. 

It’s what comrades do for eachother…..

UPS?

Bee stings and love

I got stung by a bee today on my foot.  It wasn’t the bee’s fault – it just got caught up in my flip flop. I felt awful for the bee. I should have had boots on but maybe I would have squished it anyway but I would have avoided the sting. 

As I was jumping around freaking out about the sting – and calling to my sons and husband  for some help – I began to cry.  

I was scared. I’ve alway been afraid of bee stings. I have a fear that I will get allergy to the sting. I don’t have one I’m just afraid I will become allergic. 

I was so afraid of bees as a kid I would put myself in perilous situations just to flee from them. Once I nearly made our bus driver crash as I ran up the aisle of the bus screaming BC a bee was buzzing somewhere in the back. The driver slammed on the brakes of the bus and I went down flying head first into the seat. She was steamed at me. She didn’t care that I hit my head. She just yelled at me to sit down. So I did trying to hide my tears and my shame.

 I remember getting out of the bus and holding a little terrarium that I had made in art. We used layers of colored sand and placed a little succulent inside and put a top on. I was so excited about that terrarium and when I got off the bus I was finally able to compose  myself BC I was away from the bee and the embarrassment. I began to take inventory of the damage to myself and my belongings. My head throbbed but I was ok. I held up the terrarium and all the insides lay in ruin. The layers of sand were mostly blended together and the little succulent was unrooted from the sand. 

The tears began again. I cried a lot when I was a kid. I think some people became immune to my tears. But not my mom.  I took myself and my broken artwork into the house and tried to explain in choked words to my mother what happened. I can’t recall exactly what she did but I know she cured the tears that fell and the terrarium was fixed enough so the little plant was rerooted. I remember that terrarium sitting with all its imperfection in our kitchen.  My mother hated to see me sad. 

These days I’m not so scared of bees that I run from them. I even will catch them if they get into the house so I can free them into the wild.  If I find a bee in the house it’s their lucky day. 

We did have some of those bees that burrow into the siding of the house and somehow they began making their way inside. They didn’t meet as kind an end. They were nasty and they came in by the dozens. It took an exterminator and my husband a number of attempts to get rid of them.  We still have blobs of spray foam  bulging from holes in the siding of the house. We haven’t had a swarm in two years. I hope they don’t return- they deliver a nasty sting.  I don’t know what the purpose of those bees are but I know they aren’t good like honeybees. 

Speaking of stings – the one I got yesterday hurt! I began crying out of fear and pain and as I sat wimpering on my porch waiting for my kids to grab some ice and baking soda I wondered if today was the day I’d be allergic to bees and have to be rushed away to the hospital. It would be bad timing BC my husband had to take one son to an encampment that was over an hour away. If I had to go to the hospital I would ruin that. 

It turns out that my sting didn’t even swell much. Maybe she didn’t get much venom in as I pulled my foot up fast when I felt the bite. I saw her in the grass and felt badly for  her.  My fear of bees has grown into a respect of nature ( unless nature is living in the walls if my home). 

But I wonder where those tears come from. Well the tears I think I get. They are from frustration and fear. The frustration BC I haven’t been able to catch a break lately. I am dealing with chronic nerve pain from the cancer surgery and though it’s been two and a half years since surgery I am still dealing with this issue. It’s been worse in the cancer aftermath than the actual treatments were. My life quality of late has been less than subpar and I know those tears wait on the edge to come. All it takes is a little bee sting and a dose of frustration and fear and the dam breaks. 

It’s funny or odd how an old fear can take hold of us and wash over us in an instant. I knew in my brain I was most likely not allergic to bees but the fear was seperate from the rational thought. I just had to let it wash over me. It would pass in time. 

I was a fearful kid – every week I had a new fear. Fear of germs , fear of touching boys ( my parents must have loved that -but it definitely was gone by the time I hit puberty), fear of ticks. So many fears. 

Some of the fear followed me into adulthood and I developed a pretty major anxiety disorder in my 30s that I try hard to stomp on as best as I can. Some new fears arose that I learned had a fancy name called phobias. The phobias that remain aren’t life altering. I don’t eat shellfish BC I’m scarred of allergic reactions. Though I ate shellfish to the gills (pun intended) when I lived in Boston. But one day somewhere back in my 30s -maybe- I just cut off the shellfish eating out of fear. It’s not a big deal and I actually don’t miss not eating it except once in a while I’ll see my hubby eating shrimp or a crab cake and want a bite. Hubby always is willing to share and I am sure often wonders why I have this fear. But he loves me warts and all. 

I am warty. But we all are aren’t we? Or is that a delusion I convince myself of?  It’s taken years for me to love myself for the whole person that I am. And some days I fail at that. 

As I sat on that porch with my husband who was trying to comfort me as my mom did so many years ago – he made me feel safe. I knew I was being a little silly but I found the tears cleansing and maybe I just needed that cry. For an instant the child in me took over- the one who had so many fears. She may have been fearful but she was a good girl and had a loving  heart. She still does. 

After a bit I told my husband he could get back to the million things that he was working on. I picked  myself up and went inside to wash my face off and put on some socks and boots. 

I saw my kids who had seen me crying and had tended to me as I sat  on the porch and I wondered had I been comforting enough to them when they got stung? I probably tried not to show my fear to them when they were the ones hurt. I never wanted my kids to be fearful the way I was. I knew that the fear can hold you back and can stigmatize a kid. But was I too stoic with them? Did I make them feel safe? I hope I have. 

Even now as teens they act like they don’t need me but they do. I’m the tough one – the strong one. I get stuff done. But over the last couple years they’ve seen me at my worst – on my knees asking for Gods mercy. Do they think less of me? 

I hope not. I hope they see a human. One that stands tall for them but one that can fail and one that can cry in the face of fear. We are all a combination of feelings. We have to let them out and embrace each one because that is the essence of who we are and we need to love ourselves. 

As I saw each teen in the aftermath of the bee incident I said “I just get scared that I’m allergic to bees for some reason.  I know it’s silly”.  Each one in there own way said they knew and it was ok. Each one said they hated bee stings too.  Each one asked me if I was ok. Some sweetness from often seemingly uncaring teens. It’s in there. 

I went back to the chicken area to finish what I was doing before I got stung. The sting was still a bit painful but I had myself fairly convinced that I would be ok. I turned to see my husband looking at me. 

“What’s up?”

” I’m just making sure you are ok.” 

“I’m ok I think. I just hope I’m not allergic. ”

” If you were allergic you’d know by now” 

“I know it’s silly to be scared like that.” 

“It’s how you feel and that’s ok.”  

He gets me and he loves me. My kids try to get me but they love me as only a teen can love. That’s comfort, love,and safety all rolled up into the messy thing called family. 

And I’m ok. I’ll wear boots next time. Sorry bees.