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.

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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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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. 

Nanas Desk 

 

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Before

I tackled another piece of furniture this past couple weeks. My grandmother’s (aka Nana) desk is one of my heart pieces of furniture. It sat in my Nana’s apartment for years- I recall when she bought it- from Sloane’s furniture in Bethesda, MD.

She placed it on the wall in the living room that contained the kitchen on the other side. When you opened the door into her apartment the desk was one of the first pieces you would see. I often saw her sitting there writing checks to pay the bills. I remember her stuffing the envelopes and licking both the envelope closed and the stamp to place on the envelope. This was before the days where we had self adhesive stamps. I can picture this as if it was just yesterday.

I loved that desk. I marveled over it. A small secretary desk that didn’t take up much space but seemed to hold so much.  When my Nana passed away in 1987 I was 23 and living with her at the time. I was dealing with a chronic illness and I was not working.   I was profoundly sad at losing her. She was my best friend. I had never lost anyone I loved before to death. It was on the whole a very hard time in my life.

A couple months after she passed I found out her condo was being sold by the relative that had bought it for Nana to live in years before. I asked my dad to buy it and rent it to me after the relative said they only wanted to sell it.  My dad didn’t want to buy it – and that may have been the biggest blessing for me- bc to live there was living in memories so thick that I was drowning in sorrow. So I had to move. I needed to live my life.

My dad decided to sell and give away some of her furniture. He offered a bedroom set to me knowing i didn’t have one. I had just rented a room in a house from a friend and had just found a job that would actually lead me in an odd route to my career as a software engineer. I didn’t take him up on the old ornate dresser he offered – in hindsight I wish I had. I told him I wanted my nana’s buffet, her gate leg table and her desk.

Well, he knew I didn’t have room for any of that where I was going.  So he took the pieces and placed them in his own home. They would follow him through a couple moves. After the loss of his wife a few years later he moved to an interim apartment while he built a home in Florida. When that move happened I was finally settled in an condo that I owned and the gate leg table and hutch came to me. Dad must have loved that desk too because it mades its way to Florida with him. That was ok, I knew I would have it someday.

Someday came sooner than I thought. My dad became tired of living in a big Floridian house and he decided to downsize into a condo. He asked me if I wanted some furniture and part of that booty was my Nana’s desk. Finally it would become mine.

By this time I was married and living in a a home in Mount Airy, MD. My Nana had been gone almost 15 years. I remember the desk was delivered in a box with its legs detached. It survived a long trip from Florida well.

We unpacked it and placed it upstairs on our open landing. You could see it when you opened the door if you looked up. I could see it from my bed if our door was open as it often was because we had little kids. I would sometimes look at that desk and I would see Nana sitting there on the old chair reading over something- and I would smile.

That desk survived the move to our farm and was placed again right where you could see it when the front door opened. When we moved in the owner of the home had an old grandfather clock in the space where Nana’s desk was going to go.  He asked if I would like to keep the clock. I said “No I already have plans for that space.”  I had placed that desk there in my mind before we even moved in.

We have been here over five years and that desk has sat majestically in that spot- but it was getting a bit worn. I never thought I would take paint to that desk but the desk wasn’t an antique really – but the wood top had finish that was splitting – and it was saying boring to me – it never had before but now it was. I waited a while on painting this piece – but once I tackled my Nana’s side board I knew it was only a matter of time before I painted the desk.

So a couple weeks ago I walked up to the desk with a paintbrush full of white chalk paint. And I looked at the desk and I swiped it with paint. I felt ok. I removed the jade lamp (also from my Nana) and the other odds and ends that sat on the top- we pulled it from the wall and the painting commenced.

I changed my mind on the color and then wanted to add patina. I added too much..the desk and I fought for a while. I was scaring myself that I had really messed this one up and to a piece that I loved. I  panicked a little – but in the end I think the struggles were worth it. I love the end result. And yet again I learned much.

I did not paint the inside yet. I wanted to leave some of the original finish uncovered for now- I didn’t want to cover up all the surfaces that Nana had touched just yet. I might paint the inside gray later and add a chalkboard finish on the desk when its it open.

I plan on this piece following me to my next home and there it will have a prominent spot- maybe even a place where you it can be seen right when you walk in the front door.

Painting Process-

All Paints Maison Blanche

  • Began with white paint on one side and changed my mind
  • Began again with Jolie Blonde – 3 coats.
  • Tried a glaze on the back and nope not good.
  • Used Organza Creme (leaves a metallic sheen kind of) in Pewter and I used too much and hated the effect.
  • Panicked!
  • So I went back over the piece with some of the yellow paint and kept working with it (painting it on and wiping off if needed) until I got the effect I wanted.
  • I painted the drawer hurricane grey and I added a stencil in the Organza Pewter
  • I distressed desk and drawer as needed
  • Used three coats of light brown wax (2 coats on legs) and when dry I buffed with a #0000 steel wool.
  • I “antiqued” the hardware by painting over it and then painting with a glaze in coal tar color.

Here is the gallery- :

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Back in time – memories of life

Sometimes when I least expect it a memory from my past will pop into my head like a little bubble. Sometimes the memory is fleeting and it’s gone in a second. More flashback than memory. But other times there are the memories that come front and center into my thought. They wind their way into my brain slowly unfolding a story from my past.

Some are bittersweet and some sad some make me cringe wishing I could go back in time and change them.  Change what I did or said. I wonder if I did the opposite if I would be where I am now – married to Kevin, mom of three adopted kids, living on a little farm in Maryland…would I have had breast cancer if I had done something in my past differently. Would that small change have sent me on a separate life trajectory than I am now on?

It’s interesting to think about I suppose but we can’t change the past. And if changing one thing back then would change who I am married to or who my kids are or would mean I wouldn’t have the sweet dog that sits by me while I write -well then I guess I don’t want to change a thing even the regrets -except if there was anything I could change to not have had cancer maybe I would have done that. And there we go again- to change that one thing might have changed many things not just the cancer avoidance.

But some memories I would never change and when they pop into my head I run through them as best as I can trying to pull all the moments into my brain -trying to feel like I felt in that moment.

…I am in Cape May NJ with my Nana -I’m 5 or 6. We are out for our evening fun after having dinner in the hotel dining room. She puts me on a little ride in a tiny amusement park that we frequent most nights. The ride is a set of little boats that float in a little pool. They go around and around. I love that ride.  Nana smiles and when the ride is over she takes my hand and walks me across the street to the boardwalk and we get ice cream or candy. The smells of Morrows Nut House permeate the air. I love that smell to this day. The beeps and blips of the nearby arcade call to me. She takes me in to play a couple games of Skee Ball. She plays Joker Poker and I watch -trying to understand the game. We walk back to the hotel along the boardwalk that front the ocean and I smell the salty air, I am tired. We cross the road back to our hotel -she helps me get ready for bed, tucks me in,  and kisses me goodnight. I feel loved and safe.

Those beach memories with Nana go on for years. As I got older my younger brother joined us as well as childhood friends, Nana would sit outside the arcade and patiently wait while we played for hours. Sometimes she would come in and play a bit and then retreat for then retreat to sit back outside. In later years, she would stay at the hotel and sit with friends she knew from 30 years of staying at the same hotel – and let us go out alone with a curfew that we never broke.

Even as a teen when my girlfriend and I would head out to the arcade but would instead meet up with some boys we had met at the beach earlier and the would proceeded to spend a little quiet time on the beach we got back in time so as not to make nana upset. I can remember that beach night so well..hiding behind an overturned light boat on the dark beach lit up by the moon – kissing a boy who smelled like mint gum.

Nana taught me manners she told me her rules on life and she would sometimes gossip to me about people. She was a huge part of my life until I was 23 -the year she passed -1987.. There isn’t a day that has gone by since that I haven’t thought of her. There is not one memory I have of my time spent with her that I would ever change-even the times she got mad at me- which was rare but you don’t get an Irish woman mad..it can be brutal -especially the silent treatment – that could go on for days. But I can pull those memories in and live them again with her. I still miss her.

…Then there is the first time I rode a horse -I was 11- I fell in love. I can’t remember the horses name but I spent years going to that farm – I rode a bus out to a big farm in the country every Saturday with my best friend -Eileen- and we would spend much of the day learning to ride and we also took a barn class where we learned about the care of horses. We would buy candy for the bus ride home. That was back when I didn’t care about my weight yet – I was a chubby girl but could ignore the comments of mean peers- it was before my battle with my body image began. I loved that candy on that bus.

One Saturday Eileen got to bring home a young dog that had been found on the farm. Her parents said yes to letting her have the dog – they named her Duchess. I was jealous- I remember- but we had a dog -I just wanted more. A feeling I’ve had all my life and a dream I have made come true in my adulthood.

I remember sitting on the bus with Duchess up front and Eileen petting her head in assurance. I remember getting off the bus and Duchess jumped into the blue station wagin to begin her new life in the suburbs. Duchess was part of our backdrop until she became old and gray and her job was done. What a memory. Eileen is still my friend – the longest friendship  i have had -of about 48 years- more like a sisterhood. There are so many memories with her in them.

…A Tom Petty song came on the other day and the memories washed over me.. I was back in high school. I was in a Ford pickup truck four-wheeling with one boyfriend in the fields that surrounded our town that are now giant homes or shopping centers. Then I am with first real love in high school in his Datsun, then we are sitting on the beach after prom with our close friends Debbi and Chris – we are drinking some beer and fighting about something. I liked fighting with boyfriends back then.

Then another memory…  I’m in the car coming home from a REO speed wagon concert with four girlfriends and we flash our bras at some truck driving by. I remember closing my eyes and laughing in embarrassment and I recall the crazy freeing feeling of it.

…I remember meeting Kevin – my now husband- in 1981 when I was a freshman in college.  We wouldn’t date or marry until 17 years later but I remember that first meeting and thinking he was kind of annoying. Never would I have given him a chance in 1981. So I am glad life to us on different paths until we both matured and I was ready to let a nice and solid human into my life.

…There is my wedding day where my hair looked awful. Surely if I could go back and make myself look better on that day I wouldn’t change the trajectory of my future too much would it?  I was such a wreck that day. Kevin and I both not loving being the center of attention even in the small crowd that we had gather for the event.  I woke in the middle after the wedding and ate some of,our wedding cake that  the staff left in our room. I  was really wishing I had said yes to some sandwiches that were offered in addition to the cake. In all my nervous anxiety I didn’t eat much during the reception. No wonder so many brides and sometimes grooms pass out on their wedding day. I was 35 and I couldn’t believe I was actually a Mrs. I never thought I would marry but always wanted to if the right person came along- and there was my new husband sitting up with me munching on cake at 3 am – a match made in heaven.

…Then there are the memories of adopting my kids. The first time I met them. There starting school, their soccer games , and school presentations. The years at the beach just being a family – the beach as an elixir for so much. We’ve marched so quickly to present day. There are so many  mom do-overs I wish I could  do. Parenting is hard and you do your best but I definitely have moments I’d like to take back and get another take.

For many years I went to therapy for my anxIety disorder.  Early on I lived by my bad memories. I was so negative and I lamented about the hurts of my past. Things I wished I could change but couldn’t. I don’t like to say it but I did had a bit of a victim mentality back then. One day my therapist did some regression therapy on me. Kind of a hypnosis and we went back to grab some memories out of my past and as we went along memories of my Nana would pop up. All good memories that would leave me with a lifted heart when I came up from the hypnosis. I realized the that I actually had great memories from my past and I could pull those up as easily as the bad ones.  As I practiced this over the years – on focusing on the good memories that came up and skimming over the bad ones I find I can’t recall as many bad memories anymore -especially the ones I held onto as a victim-the ones that held me back – the ones that even if I could go back in time and try to change them,  it would be very hard to do bc it was the work of others that caused the pain.

I still have my plenty of cringeworthy memories where I made the bad choice -dating someone bad for me- saying something mean to someone – the ones that I wish I could change. But I’ve learned that it’s better to focus on the memories that lift the heart. Even the sad ones. …The day I said goodbye to Nana, the day we filed bankruptcy , the day my son was cut from baseball with only one other kid (that happened yesterday). Those memories are sad but they are peppered with love and learning . I am so blessed to have had a grandmother that meant so much to me to this day, I learned a lot from the bankruptcy and how strong my marriage is, and well maybe holding my teen sons hand while we both wept about his being cut from the team -maybe that moment is sad and sweet at the same time.

So when Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” or ACDC’s “Dirty Deeds” comes on the radio I am sure to have memory pop into my head that I will grab onto and try to feel that moment just for a minute.  …I am with my friends at the pool where one friend is working as a lifeguard for the summer- we are laughing and smoking cigarettes and basking in the sun and the freedom of the summer -playing the radio too loud and annoying people around us. The radio echoing against the building that surround the pool. … Im singing at the top of my lungs with my husband and kids in the car as we drive somewhere. The kids used to bop along, then later they just cringed at our antics ..now they have earbuds in their ears listening to their own tunes.

I love living in the present but I admit that I am sentimental about my past because my memories hold so much joy along with some pain. It’s all in what you let in I suppose.

Not long ago we found a music toy that was given to us 15 years ago by a woman who cared for our son Luke when he was a baby -it hung on the crib so he could push the button and make the music play. I picked up the toy and it began to play (amazing batteries) and I was almost 15 year back in Luke’s nursery rubbing his leg as he was trying to get to sleep, then I was in our bedroom listening on the monitor as he talked to himself in his baby babble and hit the buttons on that toy and giggled as the music played and played.  Nope – not a memory I would ever want to change and I am so grateful for the moment of being pulled back into those moments again to hug the feeling close again. The smell of baby and the memory of the simpleness of that time even with the fatigue and cluelessness of being a new mom to an 8 month old baby.

To me many of memories are a gift. Even the ones I’d like to change. They are the part of the threads that makes up my life. It is My story good parts and bad.  I think I’m going to put on some Madonna or some Foreigner– or maybe some Kansas – oh those memories that the song “Dust in the wind” can conjure up.

tpetty

 

Just wake me when the ball starts dropping…..

celebration-horn-300x243I love the week between Christmas and New Years; the world just seems to slow down. I think I am going to spend the last few days of this year chilling out – maybe read some. Maybe sleep. One day we will visit family from out of town who came to see all of us after my father-in-law passed away last week at the age of 91. I am emotionally exhausted and I need to take a breather.

I want to wind the year down quietly. We were supposed to go skiing in Western Maryland this week and those plans have been put on hold. Not only because of my father-in-laws death – we still may have gone for a night or two- but also because there is only one slope open at the resort – and it is supposed to rain for the entire time we booked our place. If it happens to look more promising in the next couple days we can make the two-hour trek up to the resort and stay a night. I don’t ski anyway – I was hoping for snow tubing – which isn’t open. It is almost like the universe is saying, “just take a breather Anne”.

I have never been a big New Years Eve celebrator. That is not to say I haven’t tried to celebrate it but it always turned out flat- I never felt the elation when that clocked clicked into the New Year.

Maybe going from 1999-2000 was kind of exciting as my mom, my husband, and I sat up waiting for the some catastrophic event to happen because someone forgot to re-program the clock in some important computer somewhere. Nothing happened- which was reason to celebrate- I suppose.

I can recall yet another New Years Eve memory – one of me puking out the passenger side window of my boyfriends car… it was one of the rare times my parents allowed me to go out on New Years Eve in high school. That didn’t end well.

New years Eve is too forced a night for me – and there are too many nuts out drinking and getting behind the wheel. These days, Kevin and I don’t go out – the entire family falls asleep watching TV -after eating some yummy but not good for us food and I normally wake to the countdown of the new year and then wake whoever is piled on the couch and we sleepily cheer and hug and then we head to our respective beds and sleep away the first hours of the new year. It is lovely.

A couple years ago I awoke at 12:02 am and jumped up. I missed the turn of the new year! I always wake up. And as I woke from my haze of dismay I looked over to see my son, Luke, staring at the TV.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” I asked.

“Oh sorry.” He said “I didn’t want to wake you.”

“I told you to wake me before the ball dropped!”

“Oh – but your were really asleep…”

Gah! You can’t win with teens. I woke Kevin up and we went to bed – maybe just a little off kilter – amazing how our night of not celebrating still had a small iota of celebration in it such that if we missed that ball drop it was still a bit disappointing.

I hope someone wakes me this year if I am asleep. Wake me when the ball drops peeps!

As for resolutions, I stopped making them a long while ago. They never stick with me. I have resolved to quit cussing many times – well that didn’t work at all – my world loses a little color if I cant use salty language from time to time- ok it is more often than time to time but I like a lot of color in my world.

One year we had a cussing jar. We set it in our family room if Kevin(who rarely cusses) or I cussed we would have to put fifty cents in the jar. I think we collected a few dollars – not because I didn’t cuss- I just got plain irritated at the jar and the kids telling me I cussed- so they stopped telling me. Cuss jar forgotten – resolution forgotten.

Then there is the eating better resolution. I already eat pretty well and the things I eat that aren’t great for me I really enjoy eating. Like bagels.. I love them. I eat gluten free bagels most of the time and usually I only eat a half at breakfast. So on the days I want to eat one really super-good gluten filled bagel I am going to do it – and I am going to like it- ok maybe I have a bit of guilt but it’s short-lived. This same thing applies to cookies, ice cream and chocolate.

Do not deny me chocolate when I need it (I am feeling the urge now as I write…I think there is a piece of Ghirardelli in my freezer- Kevin is checking – God love that man. Yes – score – a hidden treat has been found.).

In the past I have resolved to pray more, read the Bible more, meditate more, better serve my fellowman, love more. More, more, better, better – those words just cause too much pressure and undo stress I think. So now I don’t make resolutions.

Eating better or praying more or being more loving aren’t bad things in themselves. They are all good things but there is something about these things when they come as a resolution in the new year that makes it seem required and for me that is too much pressure – what if I eat badly, what if I don’t pray for a few days, what if I am in a really crummy mood and not very loving for a day or two? Have I failed because I didn’t live up to my resolution?

Face it – most of folks who don’t make a resolution don’t live up to them. We are only human after all. I have realized that there are areas where I could strive to improve but if I don’t -I haven’t failed…I have just been human.

So this week I am going to be thankful for the year I am leaving behind. It was a tough year in many ways but it was also a year I learned much, and it was a year where I had much joy and many blessings.

I will look toward the next year with hope. Hope for a good year financially, and a good year for my teens -that they face their own challenges with strength and fortitude because being a teen these days is really hard.

I will pray for health and safety for my family. I will pray for my friends and for this world that seems riddled with anger and hate. I will hope that-though quieter- that love will win over loud nasty hate. I will always hope for peace…maybe it is lofty and a pie in the sky dream but I hope for it anyway.

In 2016, I hope I have more joy than hardship. I hope that when I am faced with the tough times I have the strength to get through them in one piece – and I pray that I will have my eyes wide open enough to see and cherish the many joys that will surely be part of my days. I hope that I will end the year a bit wiser then when it began. For that I will be grateful.

And I will always be grateful for chocolate.

Happy New Year!

 

 

Some dates you don’t forget

As much as I don’t desire to celebrate cancerversaries or many other dates that mark my cancer journey, today is a date I will never forget. It was two years ago on this day that I had my lumpectomy to remove the nasty cancer from my body.

I remember the entire long day as my surgery was scheduled for 2pm. I was nervous because not eating for that many hours was going to be hard for me. There was also the issue with my frequent potty breaks. For some reason I had to go so many times while waiting for the surgery and I trotted across the hall to the restroom dragging iv lines while trying to hold closed my gown. There was also the wire that had to be placed in my breast and then a radioactive substance was injected there as well. The nurse came in carrying the stuff with large gloves. It was out of a sci-fi flick and I kept thinking “they’re going to put that in my body?”  Yes they were. The things we endure to try to become well again.

The last thing I remember before going into surgery was begging for something to take the edge off. The nurses kept putting that off and it wasn’t until the anesthesiologist came in and saw that I was in a state (from nerves and not eating ) that I got a shot of some very nice stuff. I recall happily babbling all the way down the hall into the operating room and saying something to Dr Bahl my rockstar surgeon. She laughed and then I was waking up in recovery. Cancer gone.

Two years later. I’m ever so grateful for this time I’ve had. I’m was so thankful for the clear mammo I had in August. The intense pain of  the 3D mammogram-where smashing the boobs down as far as they can crank the Machine is mandatory- was worth the “normal/benign” finding that came ten minutes later.  Note to anyone facing 3D for the first time:Take Advil or something before and after. It helps some with the discomfort.

So two years later. Life hasn’t been the same. It’s so much better in the most important ways and harder in others. And the funny thing is some of the hard things have actually blossomed into good things.

Case in point. My brain. Somehow my brain was affected by this whole thing. I’m not able to multi-task like before. I get overwhelmed easily and my brain is foggy a lot. There are so many things that play a role in this. The cancer treatments themselves. Radiation and the anti-cancer meds I take now can play a part in the change to my brain. I’ve also been in peri-menopause and now full blown menopause (well I hope but can’t say for sure until May 7,2016). This can wreak havoc on the brain. I take piles of natural things to combat this fog and to keep my body as healthy as possible. But the brain thing is still there. It is frustrating. It makes working at my job hard. I can’t keep focus. But I’ve come to realize that it’s ok. I had to finally admit to myself that I really dislike the job anyway. It’s a business that has been struggling and I’m tired of it and the stress of it. It took a lot to admit this but my new brain made me realize that sometimes you have to let go before you can move on. And I really want to move from that to something else. I’d like to continue to work from home so I suppose I’ll see what happens as I think in those turns. Karma (or God) has a way of bringing things to light. So I imagine one day the next thing for me will become clear.

There have been been frustrations with my new brain but there have been huge blessings too. As I mentioned above I realized I didn’t want to work in my job anymore and that is big but there is more. When I had my old brain I could multi-task and I was always bouncing from one thing to another. I had little down time. Now I find I can stop and chill.  At first I didn’t like it – I could sit and do nothing and 45 minutes would just be gone…so not a thing I would have ever let happen when I had my old brain. But now I see the good things about this change. I hate cleaning the house now and am not bothered like I was before with clutter and mess. Before I couldn’t fathom letting the house get too unkempt- I would vacuum and swiffer daily…now once a week works for me. Its freeing and maybe a bit embarrassing if someone pops over and we have some dust bunnies and crap piled up on tables- but only mildly. And there is more! For years I liked the idea of baseball but I couldn’t settle my mind to watch a the long game. I even went to local games and would drink a beer and eat some food and chat with people never paying much attention to the game. I had a hard time waiting for the pitch -yawn yawn- just throw the ball. Now- I love baseball. It just happened one night while sitting and watching a game with my husband I became all things baseball. I now have the MLB app on my phone and get my team line up sent to me daily. I know all the names of the guys on the team and understand lots of the radio chatter on the sports stations. I love the stats and the all the strategy and nuances that go into the game . I will talk baseball on and on with my husband and I must say he considers this blip in my brain a great coup for him!  And because we have a business partner that works with the my the team I love, we have gotten to go to a game and sit in some awesome seats. I saw one of the best games of the season with Bryce Harper scoring three homers. And we are going to see the Baseball Hall of Fame very soon. I like this part of my new brain. Who would have thought I would love baseball?

My new brain has also brought out a new creative side. I’m taking more chances and trying new creative things. My most recent endeavor is furniture painting. I am new at it but it is fun and I am learning a lot. And many of our crappy pieces have been reborn. I think my entire family is shocked that I have the patience (I still deal with impatience but in some areas it is better) for this – my old brain would not have been. I would not have taken my time to get it just right- I would have just wanted it finished. Finding this new outlet has been good for me. I can see that even though my new brain had impediments – it had gifts as well.

Physically I still suffer. Before the cancer – physically I was more whole than I am now. Now I am in some ways- broken. I have pain each day and since it is not extreme pain I am able to deal with this pretty well. I have lymphedema which is uncomfortable some days- I have gotten a pump to deal help manage it. It is a condition that will not go away but it can be well managed so it is not a daily bother. I have frozen shoulder and this has been a bigger issue for me. Not know which way to go with treatment has been a challenge. I have some type of nerve damage that has the doctors puzzled and this damage is exacerbated by the shoulder. I am not sure if I have this damage from surgery or lymphedema or what. I do know that from the first day after surgery I had a stiff shoulder and I also know radiation made that worse and I know that I made it worse by shoveling ice and muck during the winter following treatment.

No doctor understands why I feel the way I do and that is frustrating. I have gotten to a point where the symptoms are tolerable and I am not sure having shoulder surgery to release the capsule is a good choice when the doctors who don’t know why you get the painful sensations (that lead to chronic coughing) in your upper body – and who cannot assure you that you would be cured from said discomfort- nor can they guarantee it would not be worse. So here I sit. I have my own stretching regime and I have seen some thawing in the shoulder but I still have the nerve discomfort.  For a long time this really got me down.

I have to admit the after the cancer has been worse for me physically than the during. Before the cancer I had some back issues but physically I was strong.  I worked out daily and I was in good shape and I need these workouts for my sanity. Before the cancer I could get up on my horse and ride without thinking. Now there is more planning involved…but hey I can still do it. I can still work out – again I am limited and there are more things to consider – but I do it. Before the cancer I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t feel sick on the day I was told I had cancer. The after is different. The battle leaves you with scars. For a good while after i suffered with depression and issues with fear. That eventually ebbed. I have had to come to terms with the fact that I may never be without some issues – thats a hard pill to swallow sometimes. But so many people walk around each day and live their lives with issues. Before cancer I dealt with anxiety and issues with an auto-immune disease. We all deal with stuff. I know I am not alone in that and I don’t want to wallow in a pity party for myself. So instead of putting off doing things until I felt a certain way I vowed that I would get busy living my life. You never know, the way I feel today might be what I long to feel at some point in the future -we don’t know what the future holds for us-and we only have today to really live. So living is what I have been doing. When I flip through the pictures on my phone over the last ten months or so I see a life well lived. I have done more than I ever could have imagined. No I haven’t scaled a mountain or been on a safari but I have done things that I may have never done before the cancer because my anxiety would hold me back. I still battle with it but I battled cancer and that was harder so I push anxiety aside and try to live the life I have now the best I possibly can.

Some days are hard…my nerve issues have been bugging me lately and the shoulder is bothersome- but we all have good days and bad days. The old me could not accept this about myself. Even then when I would not do something bc the beast anxiety had a hold over me I would beat myself up for having a bad day. Now I love myself more and though I don’t like having a bad day where I am not feeling up to snuff I try to allow it to just be and accept it.  It is hard bc sometimes I have found that living life after cancer makes you want to speed life up. In that you want to check every item on your bucket list off for fear that you will never get to do it. Two years out from cancer that has subsided some and my new brain in its inability to deal with too much input shuts down – so I have slowed down the manic “I better do this before it is too late” mantra. Because when you are living manic you aren’t really enjoying the moment.

Two years later. I find that my life is sweeter and better than ever before. There are challenges. We all have them. I have found that we will never be without them and it is how we face them and deal with them that makes a difference in our lives, Each day I try to live a good life. I try to find joy. I try to learn something new. I try to laugh. I try to be better to my people. I try to love well. I am not exactly where I would like to be in some aspects of my life but I am happy and blessed to be right where I am.

Thanks for reading…..