voices

I am writing from the heart here. So its going to come out in a stream of consciousness that I will try to go back and edit as best as I can but it wont’ be the best editing.

I am so sad to see a country so divided. Every issue seems to become a Dem vs Republican issue. A virus that has no political leanings has become the most politicized topic of this decade.  If you think the president and government didn’t handle things in a timely fashion then you must be a “Dem” and therefore bad. If you agree with the president then you are bad because you are a “right winger”. 

I am not one for labels and I will not be pigeon -holed into being a Dem or a right winger. I have always tried to look at things from a middle perspective and it has gotten me criticized many times. I have voted republican and democrat. I have changed my party affiliation back and forth on my voter registration so I can vote in primaries.

So today I am speaking as a middle of the roader. I have my opinions but I won’t be pigeon-holed to one side or the other.

But I write because my heart hurts. I am sad. I see the protests in this country over the hideous death of George Floyd  and I wonder why so many white people don’t get it- they think the protests are about this one thing- it is not this one thing. It is about something white people cannot relate to. We can never really understand because we are white. We do not face the day to day discrimination and prejudice and racism that people of color do in this country. That is a fact.

Many people know that I raised three Asian children, We adopted them in the early part of this century. When my husband Kevin and I brought them to this very white but sublime area in MD we live in I didn’t think about racism and the fact my children would encounter that as they grew. But they did. I think I was shocked when my daughter retold me a racist joke she had heard at school when she was about 8 or 9 and I had to explain to her why that was not so funny. That it degraded people of color and she was in that group. Maybe up until then she didn’t realize she was different -she knew she was Asian – not white but I had never had to tell her that people were judged by their skin color and ethnicity and that sometime she might encounter hate..it was not a topic I wanted to open up. It hurt me to think that my kids would ever have to deal with the hatred or racism but they did.

In high school many words were said to my kids. I found out about most of it much later. My daughter wanted to be white- change her eyes. For a time she wore makeup so white she looked like one of those pretty Japanese Geishas who powder their faces white.  But in high school none of us wanted to be the different one – but she was. In time she has learned to embrace her ethnicity and her exotic beauty. But there are scars where the unkind words cut her.

Once I had to contact the school after someone told my kid -in the middle of class while my kid was reading aloud- something that was not easy for her to do – to go back to where she came from. It wasn’t the first time she had been called out for being Asian (she told me later) but she was embarrassed  because it was in class in front of everyone and she couldn’t walk away and the teacher did not do anything. So my child called me up very upset to tell me what happened .

I am sure the teacher ignored a teachable moment because she was uncomfortable – racism is a hard topic to discuss – but we can’t allow that in a class- we have call it out. And eventually we got a some resolution. A detention- a letter of apology. But I wonder if it changed the students heart who said the words.  Did they understand the words hurt? 

One of my kids was being bullied at school for being Asian and he finally cracked one day- not because the bully was bullying him but because he began to pick on a friend and my son went to his friends defense. I would like to say he spoke out to the bully  in defense but instead he squashed a donut on the bully. Then this led to a challenge to a fight off school grounds. My kid showed up for that fight and got pummeled. Lost the fight but gained some street cred. And made amends with that bully.

I didn’t condone the violence when I found out later and had I known about this before this entire story would be different. But my kid cracked. The pin popped his balloon. When I finally found out about this event , I asked my kid if it might have been better to use his words to stop the bully  and my son said yes – but he just lost it and thus the donut incident. Then he had to show up to a fight to save face and get beat up. And the bully apologized. Who knows if this was a learning moment for him. But it was for my son- he is not a violent kid- and he wasn’t proud of his actions – but he was glad in s sense he stood up to hate. 

There were times I actually felt bad for living in such a white area. That perhaps we should have moved to a more diverse area. But that would not change anything. In fact living here may have shielded them from worse racism. In order to keep them safe I told my kids they would need to turn the other cheek – to ignore nasty comments about their race and ethnicity – that those hateful words were a show of ignorance. As humans we all have to learn to have a thick skin but it doesn’t make the barbs that bounce off us ok just because we deflect them. My childhood “Fat Albert”  label still stings when I think of it. 

I am a white mom raising Asian kids…I can sympathize, protect and defend but I will never really get it – I am white- and just by being white I automatically at privilege in this country.  I tell them to turn their cheeks because I want them to be safe. But in essence I am really shutting down their voices. I have always encouraged them to use their voices and why should they have to take abuse for their color? Their ethnicity? They are beautiful people – they are humans with souls and feelings.

How can people not see how awful it is for a black man to be out jogging and when he stops to looks at a new home under construction – something I have done many times- and then he is chased down by a two white men and then shot and killed? I am pretty sure had that had been a white jogger that would not have happened. Its sickening.

I have seen on the internet white people say “white people get killed by police and we don’t protest.” The fact is true white people do get killed by police. But the protests over the death of George Floyd are not about just Mr Floyd. This horrible death is the pin that popped the balloon and the hurt and sadness and the anger flowed out and people of color said- “we must speak out. We need to be heard…we have had enough”. This is not one event for people of color this is their every single day.

I agree with protest. I think protests are a way of people to speak their mind. To get attention for their issues and to emote. It is one of the best freedoms we have in this country. I am not surprised at the enormity of the protests that are occurring. I am not surprised some have become violent.  I don’t agree with that.  I don’t like anyone getting hurt. But tensions are high. And looting? That is someone who is using the events as an excuse to steal. They aren’t about the cause. Many of the protests have been peaceful. Police officers kneeling down with protesters. What a sight to see.

I think this is escalating because we need better leadership. There is nobody at the top saying – we care – we want to help – we see you. The president can’t change the hearts of all the people – he can’t make a culture of hate change overnight. But he can help bring justice where wrongs have been done. And he can lead with compassion and not divide the people more and more with every tweet.  He can send out the military to protect but he must see the people who are screaming to be heard.

There is a logical balance to help protect people and property during a protest that becomes violent. But we have to see that the protests are the symptom of a much larger issue. The hate is the cancer and the reactions are the symptoms. Somehow we have to make changes to kill that cancer of hate.

I don’t blame all this on President Trump. He didn’t cause this to happen. These issues are pervasive and go back years and many administrations have faced these same issues and haven’t done much to initiate change.  There has been ongoing police brutality against people of color. The divisions  in this country and in the administration have existed for years before President Trump was in office. But this is his moment and thus far he hasn’t been the type of president that brings people together. He lives in a divide and conquer world.

I have read that his advisors are split on how he should deal with this. Be more compassionate which would help his black vote or be more militant which would appease his base. Again politics at play and because of this the right response will never be found. When one is looking at his own gain there is no compassion for others there is only action for the gain of reelection. This is a situation I am sure he hopes will just go away it is not good in a campaign year. Maybe a presidential term should only be 6 years – you get one go- – maybe it would be easier to react more honestly to events when reelection is off the table. Just a thought.

People of color are trying to be heard. They are hurting. They are angry because nobody is hearing their voices. My daughter is a young adult now living in a city where there have been protests. It is upsetting to her and scary.  She knows the injustice…she has been poked with nasty words and judged for her Asian-ness. She gets it. She sees people calling out for help for compassion for love. And she wonders -as I do -who at the top is going to hear them? Is anyone really listening? 

Funk

Upgraded tank.

The other day Kevin and I went on a bagel trek to Frederick, MD- its about 18 miles from us.  For some reason the local Panera has closed. I have not been able to find real bagels other than Panera. I am not sure of the details of their closure but I wanted “real” bagels and I wanted to get out of this house for a bit- so off we went.

I know this probably was not an essential trip – though it was tied in with getting chicken feed and meal worms- and I really wasn’t keen on going so far for bagels but we did.  Wanting real bagels is not a real problem – i can hold out and eat toast or english muffins..but for me the bagels are just a way to feel some normalcy again. Get in the car, stop at Starbucks—get a coffee — grab some bagels from Panera– grab other essentials.  On Saturday AM when I realized the Panera closest to us was closed I was bummed because in my head when I woke I had that task in my head. We get to go get bagels. I needed to feel “normal”—so we went a bit further to Frederick to get them.

What is not normal is that when you leave your house you now carry a face mask, maybe protective gloves, you probably have hand sanitizer in your car and some lysol wipes or something like that.

Sometimes it can almost feel normal on the way to run an errand. .Kevin and I can chat and listen to music. We notice the lack of traffic but we can be in a bubble for a while that feels almost normal.  I love that feeling! But then we pull up to the shopping center and there is a line at the Aldi’s grocers. People stand six feet apart, donning masks (some gloved) all waiting their turn to get in because now we cannot just walk in to a store – there are limits to how many can go in- if you can go in at all.

At Panera a few doors down from Aldi- they are doing curbside pick-up.  It is convenient- but so impersonal. And it has to be for everyone’s safety. It sucks but needed. I thanked the young woman who handed over the bag of bagels to me. I had my mask on because she came to my side of the car. I tried to look grateful with my eyes as I told her to stay safe. I then complimented her on her mask fabric choice. It was cute…. but then I said “I can’t believe I am complimenting you on a mask”.  She said ” I know crazy , right?”  and we went on our way.

I am not sure if my funk began then because this is crazy-  or maybe it had been festering over these last couple weeks.  Things feel off for me.  Maybe it is because I am so over this whole thing – but I know this virus will not be over us for a good while.  We also found out my son in the Navy has been quarantined with his division because someone got Covid-19. My other two kids are out of work because of the shutdowns. Also, my horse is acting a bit off.  And I setup a new bigger fish tank and transferred our current fish- which were Navy son’s- and two didn’t live- too much shock. Such a small thing – I know. But flushing those two fish just made me feel crummy. Who knows what pushes us into the funk. I mean the virus is enough. Seeing the suffering is enough.  There is nothing I can do to stop this thing. Lack of control is scary.

I think maybe it is really dawning on me that the world as we knew it is now gone – and life has changed for good.  Like my life before and after my cancer – there is a definite division.  At least for a while things will be quite different for the world  in how we interact in public.

It is hard to watch the suffering every day. It is hard to feel at the mercy of something you can’t even see.  What will the toll to human life be?  There are so many ways  this virus can devastate us including death.  We see the toll rise each day.  And there will be a balance on how things progress to reopening – so we can hopefully live life again- on the other side of the divide.

So today I am in a funk. Some days it is just really hard….its normal to feel these feelings. This isolation takes it’s toll. The financial worries take their tolls. If you are feeling badly never be afraid to reach out to someone for help.  Even a chat with a friend can be comforting.

I do understand that this has happened before over and over throughout history – we have many before’s and after’s, the Spanish flu, world wars, natural disasters , 9-11…. We are human- and we adapt.  But it is jarring and a change – a new shift in what we knew as reality. So it is stressful and scary. And on some days very overwhelming- I just want to pull the covers over my head and sleep- so I can forget for a while.

Instead, I write.

 

 

 

 

Navy Son – Letters —

LettersOn Monday I had the nicest surprise – quite unexpected actually. I had two letters from my son, SR Sweeney (Seaman Recruit), from bootcamp. He should be about completed his two week quarantine- we think – we don’t know for sure. The letters I got from him were written April 1 and one before that.  I think his bootcamp training will begin soon but there is also the virus to contend with and there was a case or two at the center so I have no idea how things are progressing there.

I must say I didn’t expect him to write us much at all.  I was so doubtful that I sent him  with cards and  pre-addressed envelopes. I was making it so easy for him to send us a word or two. I had no idea he would be writing us in quarantine – I wasn’t sure what was allowed.

My son’s letters to us were not on the pre-addressed cards I gave him but instead on Navy RTC stationary. I think I marveled at them like he was five and in kindergarten and brought home his first handwriting assignment.  He actually wrote a whole letter- no two letters!  And yes I am saving every one we get! Just like his those kindergarten assignments.  Once a mom always a mom.

His letters were basic really. But he expressed his desire to get going to work. I also could tell the virus situation had finally become real to him. He wanted us to know the Red Cross could get him a message fast if anything serious went down with us here.  He had been out once or twice to get some medical checks. He got glasses. He’s making some friends. For that I was glad as he is shy. The food was not great. I found out from my Facebook group that they are getting bagged food until they mainstream.

He updated me on some business items they had gone over with him once he was there.  He asked that we write him back. He said he didn’t know what was going on in the outside world.  I struggle with how much to share with him. I know it won’t be anything that I feel would stress him while he is in bootcamp.

But the kicker for me were these words:I miss you both so much…I love you both so much… Definitely not words I would expect from my son. He is shy. He holds back feelings. And those words are what broke me open…tears flowed.  It felt so nice to read the words but also they made me worry about him a little more too.

I know it will be ok. Well I pray it will be.  I know he’s in a bit of a shock now. If he is homesick it should pass- especially after he gets going in bootcamp.  He won’t have as much time to think. He will be exhausted by the end of each day. He will wish he was in quarantine again-  I am told.

Letters are like gold. They connect us when we don’t have the luxury of text or email. Oh how I miss those at your fingers tools! But the separation is needed. It takes that civilian and makes them into a soldier -part of unit. United together for one cause. I get it but I hate the silence.

I am not a true Navy parent yet. We are just at the beginning. But I already know this worry about your child is not the same as leaving them at two-week camp in the summer or dropping them off at college. This is something that is bigger…and I don’t mean to downplay those other worries. I have been through those too, so I speak only from how I am feeling now compared to those other times that we let the thread that ties us together out longer than it had been before.  It was scary and exciting and hopeful.  That worry ebbed a bit as time wore on. But now this thread will be a long unending spool let out further and further. It is so much bigger – this worry- than what I have felt before. Parenthood is the never-ending roller coaster ride of emotion.

I am sensing that this worry is like a knot that lodges itself somewhere inside.  Because this is only the beginning. There will be deployments to far away lands. Missions we won’t know about in detail but know they exist in theory. We won’t ever feel  he is truly safe unless  he is real standing in front of us – and when  he is near us it is only for a short time and there will be a parting again…and the worry cycle continues. I am not there yet but I have a sense that this worry is a different beast. I am very unsettled.

And the letters come and there is an exhale…not a release of all the worry but some. They are a gift. Something I didn’t know I would cherish until they sat in front of me waiting to be opened.

I have written my letters to him as has his dad but they have to wait until we are given his correct division information. He won’t get letters addressed to the quarantine area which I am told by thanks to the Training Center Facebook group admins is the address he gave me. So as the Navy motto reminds us – I will hurry up and wait for his division info to get to us. And I hope the letters that he eventually gets from us give him some peace- and he feels the love behind them.

I had forgotten the special feel of a real letter. We have so much connectivity available all the time but when you don’t have it – the letter for me is a lifeline.  I hope I get more from him- but knowing the rigors of their schedule when doing actual P days ( processing days – first week of real  bootcamp where they process the recruit) I won’t get my hopes up.  But if I do I will appreciate the lift of some of the worry – that exhale -even if it lasts only for a little while.

 

 

 

Vacation Bonus!

We are on Sweeney South East Tour 2020. (SSET 2020) We headed south for a 14 day action packed work/vacation. Hubby gets to work and I get to vacay!

After driving 7 hours from Maryland to South Carolina we walked into our AirBNB in Myrtle Beach SC  around 7pm and I was hit with the overwhelming smell of plug-in air fresheners.  In my head I was saying oh crap, crap – this could be a problem.  I have an issue with perfumes, strong cleaners, smoke etc. It is a definite chemical sensitivity but it has improved over the last few years. Before I would have done an immediate about face once I smelled the air freshener- but I thought I would give the place a try.

It was a small place- very small. One tiny bedroom, tiny sitting area and bath.  It had three plug-ins (that seemed like too much for such a tiny place- what smells that bad they need to cover it up?) that I could find- I unplugged them all. I opened the windows. We went for a walk around the block. I kept thinking it will be ok- I can do two nights here. But when we got back inside and settled to watch TV , I was trying so hard to be a good sport but I was mouth breathing and I was tasting the smell…I could not get away from it.

I did not want to spend the extra money- airbnb was a no refund deal -but I was not going to be able to deal with the smell. I began to covertly look for a hotel –  on my phones Booking.com app- that might take us and our dog Rudy.  I found a few possibilities.and then I turned to Kevin and told him that this place was a fail and we needed to try to find another place.  He agreed – love him. He then walked to nearby hotels  to check if they would take us because the move would be so easy -no luck – some places are just too picky about the dogs size – discrimination.  Others just did not take dogs at all. But I was able to book a room online not too far away – just not as near the ocean. I just wanted to get there and get settled.

I packed up what little we had unpacked. Rudy – my dog- was probably confused.  What were these humans doing? But he’s a Golden Retriever so he’s always game for anything. We got back in the car and headed to the hotel. We were very tired at this point and probably trying not to snap at each other – so it probably didn’t help my snappy mood when we pulled into the hotels parking lot – Kevin got out of the car and went to check-in- and right then a police car pulls in to the lot with lights flashing and they approached some guy in a red winter coat with his hood on  -and then they frisked him and then began questioning him and another cop was talking to some other person in another part of l the lot.  I began to sing “bad boys bad boys, whatchya gonna do if they come for you” –  (and it turns out this wouldn’t be my last front row seat to police altercations –  we would witness a search and seizure at a GA rest stop days later- the excitement of this trip abounds!).

So as I said Kevin had gone in to check us in as I watched the drama with the cops unfold. I even unrolled my window to try to hear what was going on-  I know- I am so nosey! I really wanted to sing “Bad boys”  out the window but that wan’t in good form so I refrained.  Then Kevin came out and I thought he would hand me the key to the room we reserved ten minutes before (by this time I was not feeling super great about the hotel – but the choices were limited.) Instead Kevin said they are booked up. What? I booked it online…but the hotel blamed it on booking.com glitch and well we had no room, and their sister hotel  nearby had a poundage limit on dogs so no go. Geez. I just want to say that little dogs can do some damage too and they tend to be more barky, D – for dog discrimination!

Oh I was getting pretty freaking pissy. I decided to call the hotel chain 800 number bc I had called them when I was booking the trip – as we are booked to stay in one of these hotels in Florida – and I had been told they had no dog weight limits. So I was complaining. 

But I needn’t have worried….

The nice lady on the other end of the 800 number got us a room- it took her like way too long to arrange it and we did have to drive a bit more north of where we began – but she booked it. I was so happy that I agreed to be transferred to someone after the call so I could get $100 off my next stay….I agreed to be transferred but promptly hung when she did so…I was in NO mood for a sales pitch. But super thankful for the room.

So we finally get to THE ROOM. I am tired. Rudy is stoked bc he’s Rudy and always is stoked and Kevin is stoked because he knows my bitchy self can relax and go to bed —and we opened the door and in I walked and there was the bed -yay! and then as I walked further into the room this little bonus is sitting right in the middle of the room….

Need I say more……

 

Just do it…

I entered this year by walking a 5K with Rudy (Kevin ran)  and then Kevin and I  went plunging into the cold depths of the Atlantic for their New Years Day plunge. It was a 45 degree day in Delaware and the ocean the same temp..surely that would equal out the discomfort and I would feel no cold.  Not true, the water was shockingly cold – it took my breath involuntarily and it seized my stomach and I almost succumbed to a wave- but knew if it took me down I may not be able to use my legs to get up and back out. But I made it. It was intense as I had hoped. Exhilarating as I had hoped but it didn’t shake my funk as I had hoped.

I was in a funk. It was more than a funk truthfully.  The funk was full blown seasonal effective disorder (SAD) and it had begun in early November. Just about the time the cold hit.

A funk for me isn’t unusual and I have had SAD but it usually doesn’t hit me so early. I am fairly certain that the impending loss of my dog Ridley was looming and that and the cold, trying political climate we live in, and my mother coming off a six week illness that had her in the hospital 4 times and PT rehab for three weeks all played a part in this mood.

We lost Ridley about three weeks ago. I have been wanting write about it. But I just couldn’t – I wasn’t ready.  It hit me hard. It was time for that old dog but he didn’t know it. I miss him. I will write about it. Getting the words out usually helps me.

The words…why hasn’t there been more words on paper- the thing that could very well help me shed this mood? I have loads of excuses. I have been so busy! Really that is true. I have my part-time work running our little company which has been struggling and which needs extra massaging to keep it going. My last surgery and months of PT have allowed me to become active once again. I am taking full advantage of this blessing and have begun to get back to some old activities and enjoy learning new ones. I am not pain free and flare but I manage the discomfort with meds and trigger point injections.

Much of this deserves to be written about but I have fallen creatively flat. I can’t seem to make time for much of my creative endeavors. I find it hard to get my words out in the way I want to convey them and I find myself thinking I have no talent for it now – and that makes me sad.  I get overwhelmed.

These old negative feelings are creeping up trying to tell me that I am not good enough. I don’t fit in, I can’t write, I can’t take a good photo – and doesn’t every person in the world take photos now? Why are mine anything special? 

Then there is the self loathing too. That self deprecation is an old friend that really never goes away. This is tied to my body image and I can quell it sometimes but lately that voice sits in my ear. I can stare in the mirror and hate what I see. It saddens me. I am 56 now. Shouldn’t I have shed such negative feelings?  Again another thing perhaps getting out on paper whether anyone reads about it or not might help. But then there is that issue I noted above keeping me from putting words down.

But here I am today. I have gotten up early-ish and am setting words to page.  I am making myself write these feelings. There are so many times during a day that I think about writing. I might be doing something “exciting” or something mundane and I think about how I would frame the piece what photo I might use. So the spark is still in there. But it takes work now to get the words out.

Recently, I found out that a friend I met through my creative group some years ago is gravely ill and she is going to pass away soon. This has shaken me. She is young. Too young to die.

I was not a close friend but friend nonetheless and I know she could isolate herself from others. Even when she was present you didn’t always see her. I think she didn’t really want to ask for help from others. Many of us can be the same. It is hard to be vulnerable. Yet she shared herself in her writing…she allowed herself to be vulnerable because putting yourself out there- sending the words into the universe- makes one very vulnerable. 

She wrote (https://susanpopper.wordpress.com/author/slp711/) about many things and did it so well and took lovely photos yet always questioned her talent. I was truly touched by her writing about her childhood and her recent move to upstate New York.

When we were together she made me laugh and I loved her New York directness. She was also kind to me. So supportive during some tough times. I will miss knowing she is here in this world.

So I am sitting here today – writing – in honor of my friend Susan who would probably tell me just to get over it and just write – just do it.  She would tell me I am a good writer and she would make me laugh and I would have felt better for sharing my insecurities and my SAD mood may have lifted some. I wish I had shared this with her and my other creative group friends. So I share this now with anyone reading this. I share this with my creative group. I will write because I am able. Maybe not well but the spark is in there and I should get off my butt and just write- and we only have today. I have words I want to get out of me and into the world.

…..Kevin and I love you Susan….

Horse Dentals – it’s a thing…

Today as I stood  helping to steady each of 1000LB horse’s the vet floated both their teeth I thought “I have to write about this”.   That is the millionth time probably in my life that I have thought this thought. Can you imagine if I could just follow through on those thoughts how many blogs or books I would have written by now? Too bad most of the time I think this thought I later forget the topic I thought I wanted to write about – though I do sometimes write the idea down. Still doesn’t mean I actually write about it. But teeth floating made the grade!

I think I am lucky any time I can make time to sit down and write.  I have had many things lately that have had to come before my need to write -such as animal care and family issues. Like the fact my mother has been in one medical facility another for the last 6 weeks became a priority. But man did I have a lot of  “I need to write about this” moments in those 6 weeks!  But priority and sheer fatigue after spending days in hospital rooms and consulting with this nurse and that doc just kept me from feeling like extending my brain further to form the words that form the stories I want to write. I just couldn’t.

Today was a good day because mom is home now (yay!) and I had the vet coming early this AM and I was ready and excited to spend time with the equines and also to see how teeth floating works.  I put this procedure off for my horse Harley for years. He had been checked regularly and it was never a hard you need to get floating done now – it was more like he’s got a few areas that might need attention (a few years ago) to maybe we should do it next visit(said during last July vaccines). Yukon our guardian horse was on a more regular schedule that I must keep up on as part of my agreement with the rescue. So I scheduled for both of them to be done along with the fall vaccines.

The procedure to me was very interesting. Maybe because in my younger years I worked in a dental office! I am not sure but after feeling the before sharp edges in the horses mouth (they are sharp!) and feeling the much less sharp tooth after- and holding my horses tongue out of the way for part of the time (they have large tongues!) I was further interested and I knew I wanted to know more about floating.

So what is teeth floating? My mother jokingly asked today if they were going to take the teeth out and float them in a glass of liquid or on a cloud.  It is an odd word for sure – and after watching it be done today I wanted to learn more. What I did know was that horses develop sharp points on their teeth that need to be filed down. Upon looking it up online I found that the definition is that basic.

Here is a slideshow of some of the photos I took today:

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From Cowboyway.com “Floating a horse’s teeth means to file or rasp their teeth to make the chewing surfaces relatively flat or smooth.” A flat surface is required to allow the horse to properly and fully chew their food. If they can’t chew their food properly this can lead to poor digestion. Our vet Dr. Juress said that digestion in a horse really begins in the mouth. They need to be able to chew well to aid in the best digestion.

Horses chew in a circular like motion so that can get the food thourougly ground up. So with this motion, sharp edged teeth can rub the cheeks and create sores and ulcerations. This can make the horse try to chew more quickly and to drop feed – and not grind the food up correctly.   In the case of my horse Harley , I was told today that he did have some ulceration in his mouth.  I knew he needed floating done as lately he was fussing with the bit when I rode him – this and his occasional dropping feed from his mouth – let me know it was time for sure.

Of course we had to have a cold snowy day in which to have this procedure performed. I was not looking forward to just standing in the cold barn, but what I quickly learned was that it is a pretty physical procedure.  I warmed up pretty fast- shedding my jacket early on. Since my husband was going out of town I enlisted the help of my son who is a strong 19 year old. I was pretty sure that with my nerve damage issues my assistance alone would not be enough for the vet and I was right. It is quite a workout- and even more for the vet performing the floating!

The vet first lightly sedates the horses. This makes them just list a bit back and forth. My horse Harley listed more than Yukon.  My job was to steady him if he seemed to be listing too far one way. We try to back them into the stall corner where they can get more stability. My son helped by keeping the head on the stand that she uses to hold their head up. She inserts a speculum which keeps the mouth open and then takes the motorized file and begins the tasks of etching of the hooks and sharp edges. This doesn’t hurt the horse and sometimes no sedation is used. But with unpredictable animals that weigh 1000 Lbs I can see why the safer bet is to use it.

The vet or practitioner (floating can be done by a non-vet) will not make the surface smooth- that makes chewing harder actually – the surface still needs to be rough so they can properly grind feed and forage. This is definitely a procedure you want done by someone who has studied it and is skilled at it. Our vet became an expert in it because she loves doing it. Some vet practices don’t have this option and refer you out to equine dentists ( there are those) or some people use their farriers for floating.  Just make sure your practitioner comes with good references.

So what about horses in the wild?  What happens to their teeth?  I was curious and of course when you google that and also “teeth floating” their are tons of websites where one can find varying opinions on the topic. But I read that the horses in the wild will develop the areas with sharp edges and hooks – but the horses in the wild are in grassy and wooded areas 24/7. They use their jaws 24/7 to chew.  They are chewing not only grass – which likely will have silica in it which can help grind down teeth, they also eat woody plants that can further help their tooth surfaces stay relatively flat.  So in essence they are their own dentists.

Of course there are jaws of deceased wild horses that do show the hooks and sharp edges – I am sure each horse will be have their own specific biology and some will have worse teeth than others – same as in humans.  Sadly in the wild horse world bad teeth could lead to malnutrition and weakness and even death- but again that is in the wild where there is natural selection and survival of the fittest and all that. In general horses in the wild will chew more times a day – because of their access to 24/7 forage -than our companion horses. All we can is is try to navigate the right health procedures for our own horses – and even then the topic of teeth floating can become more complicated.

There are many opinions on whether a horses teeth need to be floated at all, or as often as recommended by the practitioners that perform the procedures, under sedation or wide awake, with manual files or motorized. I read an interesting article (here) that discusses whether in our modern world whether we interfere too much with a horses teeth. I think this is an opinion to consider. I think there is always a balance. In our horses situation maybe Yukon could have gone more time before he had it done. But in Harley’s case he had some ulcerations in his mouth which Dr. Juress could see once she was able to get a good look with a light inside Harley’s mouth – he really needed it done.  I think he will be more comfortable now for sure.

If we will do this yearly for Harley – I can’t say as yet. He went a good while without it. But he is older and has other health issues that can effect his weight. So I think making sure his teeth are in good working order is important. As for sedation…I am not against it..because I know that the amount given is very small- and for me safety for the human is key when working with horses. They are big animals. I know my horse Harley would not tolerate this procedure fully awake even with manual tools, no speculum and head down. Or he wouldn’t have today anyway because it took longer because he had more issues. Maybe if he had only a few areas that needed to be done he could have tolerated it without sedation. Not sure.

I do intend on reading more about the subject and looking at all the opinions. I think the best way each horse owner can approach the choices when it comes to equine teeth floating is to read as much as you can. Ask your vet, your farrier, other horse experts and then garner your own opinion.

There is so much to learn about equines and there care- I have been back into the horse world now for 15 plus years and I will never ever run out of things to learn. It is amazing and overwhelming. I am pretty sure that most horse owners want to do what we think is best for our companion horses to keep them comfortable and healthy. Today for us it was learning more about floating teeth. Next week it will be something else I am sure- and I will probably want to write about it- hopefully I will!

Recovering kind of….bites

Well I am into my second weekend post surgery. I am healing. If the itching is any clue then I am healing well! I have gone from pain drug nirvana to non-pain drug – well lets say discomfort – as well.  I am not a fan of pain meds. Well…not true… I am a fan…they work and make you feel ever so spacey and dreamy. I slept so well on them. I take 1/6 the prescribed dose as well but I still felt if I am not in a lot of pain I would not take them. Still the discomfort makes me less mobile and well maybe that warrants a reason to take some. But I don’t- too much fear I suppose.

I get the drain out on Tuesday and I will take some for that procedure. It isn’t fun. But worse is having the thing in. It has been a – I really want to write shit show here- but instead I will say a tad of a pain – literally and figuratively to have this drain. If you don’t know what a surgical drain is you are lucky and look it up bc I don’t want to explain it more than needed. But my lovely husband tends to the drain upkeep – God love him- bc if I had to I would puke I think – I think this is because it is all happening in my body and I would like to ignore it as much as possible.

The drain is a pain. You are carrying it all the time- this appendage. Showering is tough. I shower in a tank top so I can keep the bulb pinned to something so it doesn’t hang down. Then I get out of the shower with a soggy ,dripping tank top on. It’s fun!

The drain also sprung a leak twice this week. The first time in the middle of the night. I woke Kevin but I really don’t like to do that since he is caring for everything (Me, my mom, and household and farm stuff ) all day. I want to grant him some decent sleep. Though I think almost nightly this past week a dog has also woken up in the middle of the night and either needed to go out, puked or pooped somewhere in the house. Which got Kevin up. Anyway I woke Kevin to fix the drain – I said sorry with my nicest voice. It wasn’t anything I could do alone.

Calling the surgeons office about the drain problem rendered an answer that this was all normal. Really?  I have had them before and never had anything like that happened. I will say it is  not a fun event and the second time it happened it ruined a new shirt – I should not have put it on I know…I take full blame but still grrrr.. and ick. The drain remains painful as the incisions heal and there is less drainage…so think a couple chopsticks lodged up inside your armpit..right… feels great!

I hear you saying – why won’t she just take a pain pill…I know, I know.

I have come to realize that five days is my limit after surgery. Five days to keep a good attitude – like I got this! attitude (and I am normally still drugged at this point), and its five days that I think I should be feeling well and start to feel guilty that I am not up and around feeling good. I have walked once, done squats and lunges – all probably too soon. The walking was ok but the second drain issue occurred just after that. So now I am waiting two more days until this drain comes out to do anything physical. But five days is my limit and then I get cranky and frustrated.. not the best look on me.

I have no idea how the surgery has worked. It is a 4-6 week recovery and 2 of those are supposed to be off work. So it’s going to be a while. I am supposed to start PT around week 4 – but I am hoping I can do some lower body stuff next week.. I dread PT. Thus far PT has been so crummy for my arm.  Maybe this time will be different! It all starts with ATTITUDE! Rah Rah! Haha…

I have found this time around that there are some items that I have come to rely on during this recovery. I know I am bored if I am keeping tabs on this stuff! Sorry for my ramblings…just needed to write.

First and foremost – a back scratcher. With 12 plus inches of scar and a dumb drain -things get itchy. For some reason this time they sutured up the skin – maybe because it is a graft and then they put this clear large adhesive covering over the entire graft and same for the donor site on my back. And this covering is tight! But it allows me to be able to shower normally so I guess thats good. But as I recover the itching is soooo intense…so the light touch of a back scratcher is wonderful.

Next is medicated chapstick – well this is a must have always but for some reason I am very needy of my chapstick as I recover. And at this minute I just looked for it and can’t find it- so now a search will need to be set forth. Note to self- get more than one medicated chapstick at a time. I picture it chewed up in some corner…dogs…nope FOUND it! yes!

Gauze and bandaging- I go nuts sometimes at the drug store on first aid items. Having kids and also having a small farm where we get splinters, blisters, step on stuff etc I am super paranoid about first aid.  I now am so happy I did over-buy because gauze and tape have been needed for this stupid drain.

Pill cutter-this is awesome- I got it as a parting gift after my one night stay in the hospital – where they were very good to me and to Kevin who also stayed the night. Yes I got parting gifts I was so excited! The pill cutter is the bomb and will go into my newly organized linen closet. I got bored the other day and had the fixings to redo the closet later in my recovery but I found I could sort items that were in the old crammed bins easily sitting on the bed – so new organized closet done. Anyway a pill cutter that cuts like butter is a must for your medicine cabinets.

I thought the the exhaling thing the hospital gives out so you don’t get pneumonia was cool but I got bored of it after two days home. So though helpful,  I don’t see it as a long term medical item that I will keep.

Oh and of course I got to keep the hospital socks. I have tossed out too many of these things over the years but they are great as a no slip alternative to slippers. Why are slippers called such? I know bc you slip them on- but they aren’t the most safe shoe!

Ice water has been another must have and so the trips to the bathroom are frequent…which is annoying!  I am one of those people that have to have liquids with them where ever they go.  And I mean I even carry bottled water into restaurants. Once I was even told by a very stern server at one restaurant we go to I could not have my own bottled water that I brought in because some people bring vodka inside the water bottle and get a glass of ice and drink their own alcohol. Is this really a thing?  I know teens do that stuff but I am not a teen!  I seriously just laughed as I was typing this! Crazy!

Last is magazine, puzzle books, and laptop. No explanation needed here.

Oh gosh and finally- my adjustable table – that allows me to reach all this stuff I listed – and my meds, and books and laptop etc! The thing is the bomb. Such a nice item when recovering from surgery or even the flu.

Recovery is just a process. And I am so impatient. I know with a surgery like this the benefits will hopefully show as time goes forward. Now I just have to take it a day at a time. I have just had more than my share of surgeries. I am sort of done. I hope this is it for this problem.

Well I brightened my day just by writing this. Nobody even has to read it. I just feel somewhat better. I think I will walk to the barn.

Think of me Tuesday at about 11:30 as they remove this drain. (But probably nobody is reading this by this point. I likely lost them at chapstick.) Oh well! I’ll be brave!

 

Today’s shakeup

Photo cred : mycdi.com

Nope didn’t vote today. That’s not what this is about. I voted last week. I didn’t want to deal with the crowds when I am in pain.

Today was MRI day for me. Every year I get an MRI now instead of a mammogram because I have such bad nerve damage my surgeon is afraid more will be inflicted if they squeeze my breast into a patty in that machine of torture known as a 3D mammo.

Listen 3D mammos are great if you aren’t damaged in the way I am. I just can’t tolerate it. At all. So every year I have to get my MRI approved by insurance -last year there was a big POW WOW of doctors over the request and after weeks of debate it was approved. This year the process went much smoother.

Today was the day. I really didn’t want to go. I woke up in horrendous pain. This flare that began in early October has been relentless. I’ll have a decent day which means I can maybe go for a walk or to the store. Not a whole lot. But then I have a flare of the flareup!

Today I felt crummy and I was going to cancel this MRI but I decided no I’m going to go. I skipped the Valium this time and opted for some medical MJ and some CBD. I had my cold friend with me. Mr. Ice Bag.

Kevin and I drove in awful rain to the building where the wide MRI is. I like wide. But it still feels like a skinny tube with lots of noise.

I got checked in and changed into scrubs and a gown that opened in front. Kevin got changed into scrubs. He’s my wingman on these excursions. Hand holder extraordinaire.

They gave me great news. The test is only 15 minutes now. Some change in software. Blah blah. They put my IV in. They had me on the table. For breast MRI you lay on your stomach. They pushed me in. I had the emergency call button in hand. Earplugs in. I felt that encased feeling like being shut off from the world. And then…

Nope nothing. You thought I was going to say I freaked out. No I did not. But I was very uncomfortable but thought I could last 15 minutes. But the place was quiet. I was waiting for the banging. Nothing.

Then the techs come back in and roll me out of the machine. There is an issue machine won’t go on. We will try to reposition you.

Back in the tube I go. Ok so here we go. Let the banging begin. Nope. Nada. Nothing.

So by now I’m getting a tad impatient sitting in a wide tube that seems skinny to me and we don’t have anything going. I would never on purpose lay in a tube face down one arm up above my head with an IV needle stuck in my arm with a blanket on! So I wanted to get the show on the road.

Then techs come in again. They roll me out again. Machine isn’t starting – we have to call the company and you need to get up and go sit in the waiting area. They said they may need to restart the computer. As past software engineer I agreed. Reboot.

Kevin the most patient person and I -not the most patient but I was acting like a very patient patient because the techs were very nice -sat in the waiting area in our little scrub outfits. We looked kind of doctor like. Or as Kevin said later- escapees from a mental hospital. That would be more like it.

The techs came back and said the cooling system on the roof broke and they can’t use the machine at all. They said we could head up the road to another of their locations in the same town where there was another wide machine. And the test would be fast. But I had to decide fast because they only had one opening and that was in twenty minutes.

I with Mr. Ice Bag pondered this. I could bag it and reschedule because I felt like crud. Or I could try to go get it over with. Hmmm. In my head I heard “Bag it Bag it Bag it” but I said “ok let’s do it.” I just wanted it over with.

So Kevin -saint that he is- grabbed all of our clothes and we left in the scrubs. Me with the surgical gown tied as best we could get it so it would not open and scare others and the IV needle jammed into my arm.

What a morning this was turning out to be. I took a little more medical MJ. Clearly it wasn’t enough because I was as aware of all that was going on once I finally got into yet another “wide ” machine. But I felt somewhat calm – so maybe the medical MJ helped.

The tech from the first radiology office I was in came to this location with all my paperwork And performed the MRI. She was great and professional through this major blip in her day. Not only did it effect me but also many other patients who may have needed that broken machine now had to be rescheduled.

So crap happens -let’s just get this MRI done. And finally as I lay face down yet again – earplugs in – arm up – IV ready – I hear the sweet sounds of banging metal. Ok let’s start thinking about fun Pinterest things. Bang , whomp, whaa whaa. Contrast in. I always feel a bit weird when that happens. Don’t think about how skinny this machine is. Is fifteen minutes up soon?

And finally it’s over. Done.

I powered through and have had terrible pain the rest of the day. But it’s done and this pain flare will hopefully pass and now I’m counting down the days until I see my surgeon.

23 to be exact. 23.

Imperfect

Today I turned on an episode of “This is Us” to binge watch. I promised myself only one (so not a binge) because they make me emotional every time. I thought I could handle one today before I went off and did things on my to do list.

As the episode began to run I realized it was going to be a tough one. It was the one after the fire where we see how Jack (the father of the triplets) dies. I actually forwarded it through the first few minutes because I was afraid to watch -and it went on to some commercial and that commercial made me think about something and I went to check today’s date.

Oct 23- my dad died two years ago today. His death was sudden -as was Jacks who made it out of the fire only to die later in the episode.

So by now you know I watched the episode. I cried almost through the entire thing. A snotty nosed cry- not pretty.

It’s ok. I kept going because I think it helped me emote and sometimes as hard as that is it’s cathartic.

I miss my dad. A lot. And I often wonder why I miss him so. After all he was imperfect and he had his demons and he and I struggled in our relationship together. I guess I thought because of all of these issues I wouldn’t feel so much grief – that I would have missed him less.

But maybe it is because of these things I miss him more. There were things I lost with my dad. I didn’t have his adoration. Nor did he ever seem to get me -though he and I are so much alike but I only saw it after he died. I can’t blame him for not seeing me as being like him if I didn’t see it either. I spent years not wanting to be like him. And yet… here I am.

We fought a lot. I spent too much time being mad at him. Much less as I aged but I was mad sometimes. I didn’t understand his drinking problem. I didn’t see why he thought he was fine. I worried it would kill him. And in a way I guess it did. He lived to 81 but maybe with less drinking he’d still be here. But that we will never know.

I wanted him to get me. Be proud of me. Later I would realize he was but didn’t show it to me very often. I heard it from others later.

I wondered why he held back praise to me. But as a parent I’ve done the same sometimes to my kids and I have no idea why. See I told you I am like my dad. But I’m trying to praise my kids more. When I see things I want to change I own them and try to do better.

Sometimes my dad seemed mad at me. I didn’t always know why and sometimes I did. We danced all over with each-other never getting the right rhythm. But I’d gladly take one more off kilter dance with him.

Relationships have so many facets and that’s what I had with my dad. I have so many quick snips of memories. Some sad, some not great, some funny as hell, and some so wonderful.

My dad walking me down the aisle at my wedding. I see him looking up the staircase at me (I had a long one to traverse on high heels. On wooden steps). I was praying I’d make it down alive -and I see my dad watching me he’s smiling brightly (at me!) -and his arm is outstretched and his hand wide open ready to take my hand. Step by step I made my way down each step feeling stronger when I finally had his hand. Hand in hand we made our way to Kevin. I got that memory. Some people never get that.

I remember him taking me homecoming dress shopping in 9th grade. I’d been grounded for four weeks — I deserved it. But he shortened it so I could go to the dance with a boy who had asked me. He took me to the mall. (My mom and he were separated at the time and I lived with my dad and my brother.) We went to David’s Village Shop. I knew I had a short period of time before he got impatient but oddly he let me get through a few dresses as he stood awkwardly in the shop. And I only needed to try a few as I found “the one” in that bunch. I got that memory and some people never get that.

I miss hearing him say “How’s Annie today?” I even miss hearing him joke “picked up any horse shit today Annie? “.

I just miss him.

My imperfect father. One thing for sure was that he was always there. Call him and miss him. He’d call you back not long after. I didn’t always confide in him but sometimes I just needed to hear his voice. I’d listen to his rant of the day or a bad joke. Just to listen.

You don’t have to be the perfect human for people to miss you when you leave. God knows I have too many things I’d like to do over. It’s part of life. It’s the hindsight’s 20/20 cruel joke.

My dad could sometimes take imperfect to a perfect level. But we are all trying to figure this freakish world out. My dad was my dad and he meant the world to me.

Two imperfect people just trying to get the dance right.

Miss and love you Dad….always.

Dad and I in 1964

Over planning – my claim to fame

I always have the best of intentions. I always think I can accomplish what I plan. Sometimes I get more done than I planned but often now with my physical limitations I can’t meet my goals.

Case in point. I planned a trip up north for Columbus Day weekend. I was headed to upstate New York with Kevin to visit friends and attend my friend Jon Katz’s open house he has each fall on his famous Bedlam Farm.

I was so happy I was feeling well enough to go on this trek. We were going to drive..and it is long- 7 hours plus. This was to be my first long drive and furthest vacation from home since all my pain trouble began back in May 2016. We have a new large truck that is very comfortable to drive in so I thought the drive would be fine.

I got an AirBnB not far from Bedlam Farm. We planned two nights there. Then I decided to tack on to the trip. I wanted to go see Kevin’s brother and sister-in-law in Maine. It was less than 4 hours to their place from Cambridge NY (the home of Bedlam Farm). So we added two more nights – one in Maine and another in Connecticut. The latter a place as a rest stop to break up the ride home from Maine to Maryland. Oh and we were bringing two dogs. That adds to the planning but I like to have them along.

In my head I was going to be fine for this trip. I planned ahead trying not to do too much the week before we left. I didn’t want to initiate a flare up of pain. I didn’t ride my horse. I didn’t do barn chores except feed the horses and add water to chicken waterers. I didn’t do much walking and I went into the gym once and did a few leg exercises. But I really tried to keep it light.

The big day came. Kevin packed the car and loaded the pups and we were off. I was very excited to see friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Then it happened – just a short time into the drive I began to feel the twinge of pain that often comes at the beginning of a flare. I didn’t want to say anything to Kevin. I wanted to power through it. But my heart sank just a bit.

By the time we got to New York I was having definite pain issues. We got to our house – which was awesome by the way- and we got the dogs settled. I had taken some medical marijuana which I use only when I really need some extra pain relief. I also had a glass of wine. Normally I am not a big mixer of these items but drastic times….

I did all this in the hopes that I would make the flare go away. I know better they normally last 3 days – more even. I woke on Saturday feeling just so so- and we went over to a local restaurant in Cambridge NY to meet friends for breakfast. But by the end of the meal I was feeling badly again. I was determined to go to the open house though. I came all that way and I was freaking going. So I took some medical MJ again and I had a couple sips of wine- God I sound like a wino druggy! I can assure you this isn’t the case – but this is what I needed to do at that moment to get through the day with less pain. I carry opiates with me. But I don’t want to take those again unless it was absolutely needed. Medical marijuana is much safer. I will write on that topic a bit more sometime.

I attended the open house which was really nice. I think the best one so far for me. We enjoyed sheep herding and sheep shearing as well as poetry readings and lots of  wonderful art for sale. When we left that afternoon I fully intended on attending it on Sunday as well. Though I was feeling pretty rough I was able to enjoy a nice dinner out on Saturday night with friends. It meant so much to be there among these really nice humans. I hope they know how much I appreciate them.

Sadly the meal didn’t sit well with me later that night. Probably too rich for me and I was a bit ill all night. So I sat much of the night awake and fretting about how bad I was feeling and how I really should pack it in and go back home. But that felt like such loss to me. I didn’t want to give up. In the morning Kevin and I talked it over and it didn’t take long for me to see that it would be better if we went home.

I was sad and depressed.  I had my cry. I worried about disappointing people. Would my New York friends think I was rude for not saying goodbye before I left?  I was feeling so crummy and was so down I just could not bring myself to make formal goodbyes in person. But a couple friends ended up driving behind us on the road 30 miles from the farm.  what are the odds? So we pulled over and I got my formal goodbye with both of them – that did make my heart hurt less for sure.

I also worried I would be disappointing family in Maine because we were cancelling. I have wanted to get up to see them for so long. It wasn’t to be. I think many of these friends and family know my heart and that I would not skirt out without saying a formal goodbye if I wasn’t feeling crummy.

I feel like pain won and I really hate that. I really really do. I am trying to navigate this life and have some semblance of life despite this pain. I don’t like IT to win. And often it is an adversary that wins some of the battles.

It took me this long since I have been home to write this because I have been so disappointed in myself. I am still dealing with pain. I was dumb and went to get a laser treatment this week which caused more pain. Which it shouldn’t but did because we did too big an area. So frustrating.

I just want to live my life and although I have come to accept that pain will likely be part of my life forever ( I sigh when I think this) I hate when it makes me unable to do something I set out to do.

My heart hurts over this. But I need to look at the bright side- and there is one. I had a great time seeing people on Saturday. I got to talk with many people – though there is always more to talk about. And there are people I wished I could have spoken with longer. But overall the experience and being with some people who share my creative spark was just what I needed.  It was enough.  I wanted more but it was enough.

This is what I am trying to take away from last weekend. The good time, the good people, friendships. So I think I won. Screw pain – the visit might have been cut short but it was enough. What was accomplished made me happy and that lifts my spirits.

And I just have to learn not to over plan.

–side note – I have discussed my pain concerns with my surgeon – and the laser debacle-and we are have an initial plan of attack for this flare up.  He is a great doctor to have on my side. Lets hope we get this under control.

_____

Here are some unedited photos from my phone that I took over the weekend – my DSLR camera was too heavy for me to use – bummer.

Red keeping the sheep in on place

Jon Katz- Author and friend and owner of bedlam Farm (along with Maria)

Maria Wulf with an amazing sheep shearer! 

Just shorn

Fate 

Mary Kellogg reading her poetry- she’s a wonderful person

Our next guest home?

On the way home

Somewhere in PA

Taken through a filthy windshield!