New Traditions

For the last too long to recall years I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday of tradition. When I was a kid we did the same thing every year on turkey day. We did a family thing. Whether it was a large gathering or small it was always with family.

My family changed over the years a lot. My parents divorced and there were step-parents and step family. There were some years I didn’t even see my mom. That’s for another post . And some years I had boyfriends and chose to spend my holiday with them.

Some years were fun and comforting other years the celebrations somber or even angry. But the permeating theme for me was family and friends gathering. And also food food food.

When my dad was married to his second wife we ate chicken as he hated turkey. But we still got out the good China and sat down and thanked God and got down to some good eating.

When I was in college the holidays became a game of driving from one parents gathering to another with a hopeful stop at some friends in between. But I actually liked this musical chairs and of course the multiple meals.

After I was married a few years we took over the hosting of Thanksgiving from my in laws. My husbands family is large. With six sons and their families often we had 25 or more at our home. We shared food duty. Everyone bringing something but it was a huge amount of work but for me it was pure joy. I had always wanted to be part of a large family.

So as luck would have it I married into this big family and as I said I took over hosting the family. And I loved it. About five years ago things changed as my in laws began their decline. My father in law had dementia and my mother in law suffered a fall she never really recovered from and neither of them could travel to my home to celebrate. So things changed.

Some years we brought the feast to them. Their house filled with family and food was eaten with my mother in law acquiescing control to others in her home and my father in law tidying up as we finished as his need to keep order was calming to him as his Dementia worsened and he eventually didn’t know who he was tidying up after.

And as those years progressed we began to take turns and go over separately. Each family visiting them alone for a bit but trying to overlap so we could see some of the others in the family. Sometimes a big bunch of us would still end up there and my in laws seemed to fare ok. I have so many pictures of us sitting on their sofa with them. I miss that.

Kevin’s big family was growing more with grandkids marrying and great grandkids being born. And those expanding families began new traditions of having their holidays with their new brood. It’s just what happens. But I miss them. Today I’ll miss all that chaos.

We lost Kevin’s parents recently and my dad as well though I didn’t see him on Thanksgiving typically but we always spoke. My mom now lives with us. With all the changes – especially with the loss of my mother in law – we are all figuring out what the holidays will look like now.

My family – my three teen kids- my mom – and Kevin and I – talked about what would be a fun new tradition for us. We decided we wanted to do the holidays at our new beach house.

We invited the extended family as our doors are always open but this year they are all trying on their new traditions as the beacons that brought us together are now gone.

Though I’m sad for all the losses -I’m really excited for this new way of celebrating. Since my last surgery I’ve been feeling better. I still have some pain that will hopefully improve but I’m able to cook again. I’m not cooking the meal! No. Bethany Blues – a great restaurant nearby- made the dinner. We began to order our holiday meals not long after I got cancer. Making the entire meal is too overwhelming – so I made desserts with my mom. We have one more pie to bake today. Then all I have to do is heat the meal up later. I actually like to cook and I’m thankful that I’m now able to do so but I just can’t physically make such a big feast -and frankly I like the ability to relax with family on the holiday. My kitchen duties are much less this way.

I will miss the big family gathering and we are now trying to make sure we all find some way at least once a year to try to get Kevin’s brothers and families together at some point. I suspect it’s going to be hard especially as the families expand but it’s important to try I think. I have one brother and it’s infinitely hard for us to get together. Getting six families together will be challenging.

I’ll miss seeing my mother in law. If she was still here we’d be going to see her today at her assisted living facility. But I know she was in pain and unhappy living there. She tried to make the best of it but I’m glad the Lord called her home to be at peace. But she won’t be out of my head today.

So here I am writing this at the beach house. Kevin and my daughter have left and are off to run in a Turkey Trot together. I don’t trot except for on a horse -and I think this is a nice father daughter tradition.

I think I’ll honor my dad today by spreading more of his ashes in my garden. I feel he’s a part of this house – a place he never has been but a place I would have never had if it weren’t for him.

I’ve found things can change so fast and we have to learn to ride the waves. I have had many changes in my life and seem to have managed to morph as needed. It’s not always easy. Many times I’ve dragged myself into the next iteration of life kicking and screaming. But this new way of being together over the holidays is exciting to me.

Tomorrow we will go to Lowe’s to pick up our new fake tree that we will set up here at the beach house and will decorate this weekend in preparation to have Christmas here. We will have a tree at home in Maryland too Just in case the weather strands us there. It’s all about being flexible.

So today I will be thankful for many things. Family and food and improving health. And I’ll be thankful for new traditions. It’s change that makes us grow. As my dad would have said “it will put hair on your chest” (for years I didn’t get that but I do now. My dad’s sayings – Lord I miss those!).

Happy Thanksgiving – with love from me.

Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?

Finding new roads or currents 

The thought I might never ride a horse again had crossed my mind from time to time this last year. I am pretty sure my own horses don’t really mind that-but it has been hard for me to concede to that fact that my riding days are over. So I’m not really going there yet. But right now I am not supposed to ride a horse. Not only my horse – any horse – no can ride.  This has to do with the fact I have had two major nerve surgeries on my arm and chest wall and a fall off a horse would definitely not be good for me.  

Had I known my riding days were limited I would have ridden more when I had the chance.  There really isn’t any sense in those regrets but that is how I feel much of the time. 

I am a very active person or I was. Since laying in bed with chronic pain for many months I am basically starting all over trying to get myself back into shape. It’s not easy when you have physical limitations and chronic pain. 

I have a whole list of can’t do’s:

  • Can’t ride a horse. 
  • Can’t lift weights with upper body. 
  • Can’t bear weight on my right side using arm. 
  • Can’t paddle anything. Like a kayak or stand-up paddle board. 
  • And you get my drift. 

So I’ve been trying to figure out what I can physically do because focusing on what I can’t do is just depressing and not productive.  And there are many more things I can do than can’t. 

So far I can

  • Walk. 
  • Ride a bike 
  • Ride in the front seat of car again. 
  • Drive a car
  • I can lift weights with my lower body 
  • I can feed animals 
  • I can brush animals with my good arm. 
  • You get the picture. 

The fact I want to ride a horse again is a good sign anyway. The fact that I can’t -for now – is just a hinderance. 

With our traveling back and forth to our beach cottage I’ve been trying to figure out what I could do for activity on the water. Kevin and the kids got stand up paddleboards and they are so cool! I can sit on one while Kevin paddles and that’s fun. We got a two man inflatable kayak and that’s fun too – but I have been just a passenger bc I can’t paddle it. Passengering is ok. It’s fun sometimes – but I don’t want to be the passenger all the time. 

I thought there must be a water device that has pedals.  So I looked up kayaks with pedals and they exist! I found out fisherman use them as it makes it easier to maneuver while fishing.  

So we found a kayak outfitter in Lewes ,DE about 40 minutes from our cottage. We worked with one of the salesmen and he gave us the lowdown on different types of pedal kayaks. We selected a Hobie kayak. The price was fairly high (I may have gasped) but I really wanted independence. I wanted an “I Can” that I could do with my family on the water and I wanted something that gave me independence like the bike did. The price was worth it. 

The feeling of being on the water is amazing. I love the serenity and the exercise. 

I love the freedom and independence. 

I’m glad I found another “I can”

——

Link to the paddle sport shop Facebook page where they posted our picture. 

Here’s some info about the Hobie Mirage kayak I got. 

Goals. What you picture. What is real. And lollipops.

Almost 6 weeks since surgery. I had forgotten from my first surgery what recovery was like. It’s a roller coaster. I’m doing more at six weeks post surgery than I did last time. The surgery is a tough one.  But I think I pictured a more pain free existence. I know I’m not going to have no pain there’s sooo much damage from radiation. But It’s better -don’t get me wrong – and maybe it’s because I’ve had a couple of rough days this last few days that maybe I’m feeling a little down.

 I was down at our new beach house a couple days ago and I was walking my dog Rudy. I must have been walking him with my right arm -the recently operated side- it was an unconscious thing- he must have pulled my arm which for me is like a big no no. Thankfully it wasn’t a hard enough pull that I really remember exactly when it happened. I remember mostly walking him with my left hand but we did come upon another dog and maybe it was then that I grabbed the leash with both hands and got pulled. I didn’t have the leash put in in its anti-pull setup. I bought it just for that but I was only taking him for a quick pee that turned into a walk to the bay and on the way back is when we met with John our neightbor and his dog Abby. So my bad. And later after a nice nap on the couch in Cool Breeze Cottage family room I woke up with lots of pain.  The burning pain and  radiating pain that makes me cough. The thing that I’ve wanted to be rid of but doesn’t seem to want to leave. It’s deflating. But likely due to radiation damage. 

I saw my surgeon last Thursday and he’s pleased with my recovery. I think he’s surprised that I don’t take more pain medication but I do take enough just so I can get out an about. I have been hoping that the need to use it will abate as I heal more. I’m to begin working on more range of motion exercises which I fear will bring me the pain I’ve had since the pulling incident a couple days ago.  But I can’t be afraid because there is the thought that more range of motion might alleviate some of the pain-eventually. Much of my pain since the first surgery that removed surgical clips is related to scarring and to nerve damage from radiation treatments. The damage tightens skin and tissue and causes entrapment of the nerves….and the nerves get damaged from radiation as well.  

Why I have such a severe case is unknown. But the long term painful effects of cancer treatments are really just being studied.  In many ways I’m a guinea pig every time I go under the knife and entrust myself to the skills of my nerve surgeon. My surgeon continues to suggest things we can try in the future. Fat grafting is one. It shows much promise. But it’s hard for me to picture my life like this. As a person with chronic pain.  Overall I’m much better than I was but I am afraid to get too optimistic. I am also bummed that we can’t solve the issue that makes me cough but I think we are getting closer to the cause- but fixing it may not be possible. Managing it may be my only option. 

Last Thursday I was feeling good. Then The dog pulled me and I feel like I went backwards. This has happened before- a few weeks ago when I overdid range of motion exercises. I recovered and continued healing. I got down then, and I felt the same fear then that I have now. That fear that I’ve done some damage to myself and it won’t get better. I don’t want to feel so negatively but it’s so hard not to be sometimes. The last four years have not been easy and the last year has taken me from someone who could walk out the door and not think a thing but whether I had my sunglasses to someone who has to worry about whether I have my pillow -which I need because I can’t sit without pain if I don’t have it-, whether I have pain meds with me, or if I have an ice pack or heating pad. It’s not what I pictured my life would be. 

I picture my life much differently. I see myself more free and more pain free. Then there is the reality of the now. I still feel sidelined much of the time.  I have to meld what I picture for myself to the realities. I know that we can have plans for ourselves and life will often take us on a different path. I will keep the pictures I have in my head as eventual realities. They are goals. They keep me going. Maybe they will be but not exactly as I picture. Coming to grips with the realities of what life is is very hard for me. On days like this I feel sorry for myself. I cry. On days like this I know I need to get my butt up and do something. Even if it takes medication to get me moving I need to do it. 

The other day at the nerve surgeons office I saw a young girl. She was from Israel. She was beautiful, maybe 25. She was with her translator. I was standing at the snack counter grabbing a lollipop – my surgeon always has lollipops-the good kind-Tootsie Pops. I offered her the container she shook her head no and smiled. She stood up to leave. She did well standing on her two prosthetics, happy, bc whatever procedure she had that day made her pain free. It wouldn’t last it was just a diagnostic procedure, but her smile was beautiful. I knew from chatter in the back office that she had been the victim of an IED explosion as she was traveling  in a bus- lost the lower part of both her legs. Seeing her was real life smacking you in the face. I wanted to hug her but offering her the lollipop was all I could do. You could see she was a girl who didn’t want pity -she just wanted to be rid of her pain. 

 Perspective. 

I thought of her today as I was writing this post. We all have to wake up with our realities. I think I’ll get myself up and go live my life and deal with mine.

It’s all in your perspective.  Sometimes my day sucks but I have a choice what I’m going to do with my day.

I’m going to try to go to the garden center and buy a perennial for my cleaned out garden bed….

I’m pretty sure that I’ll think of that girl often.