I skipped Labor Day because Orion and I spent last week visiting with my parents. It was fun, Dad and Orion were in a parade and we all went to the Labor Day picnic. It was hard, my uncle died the day we arrived and the grief and memories meant Mom was never quite “all there”. It was helpful, my Dad made a point to thank me for cooking and for taking care of Mom so he could do the parade and attend a DFL meeting.
On the way back home Orion and I stopped to pick up our new glasses. His match his wheelchair (the spokes on his wheels are that same color blue). I’m pretty happy with being able to see without straining.
I dropped Orion off at his father’s and my “weekend off” experience included a couple of books, streaming Netflix, and arts and crafts.
I’m not generally excited about arts and crafts but I signed up because it has been awhile since I’ve had the chance to spend any time with the friend who was hosting. We made fairy houses, like for a fairy garden. I figured I might send mine off to live at the fairy garden at Gilda’s Club.
I got there early and fell in love with a design that hadn’t been on the original list of options. So I ended up doing 2 houses instead of just one.
The group was all people I knew, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years.
The artist who set up the workshop, Lori, was very helpful and delightful to talk with while we worked. She taught us some painting techniques to layer colors. She kept our rinse water refreshed and encouraged us as we went along. She spray coated our finished products so that we could keep them outside in the summers.
I’ve now got a couple of fairy houses, new glasses, and parents that appreciate what support I can give. Maybe arts and crafts is more fun than I’d like to admit.
I had a busy week this week doing a lot of socializing and catching up. Once upon a time, a long time ago I was involved in High School theater. We had a foreign exchange student from Amsterdam who joined us backstage.
The theater bunch in high school was pretty tight. We all spent whatever spare time we had hiding out in the theater shop. We were also, many of us, involved with band and/or choir – which meant pep rallies and marching band. There were days when I would get to school before 6am and not leave again until after midnight.
Many of us have stayed in the area and stayed in touch. This week we had the honor of being visited by our dear Dutch friend! The opportunity for a reunion was enough to get a few of our out of state friends to fly in as well.
I didn’t participate in all of the activities, but we did have a lovely get together and reminiscence on Monday evening. Many of us also got dolled up to go swing dancing at the Wabasha Caves on Thursday.
In addition to all of the walking down memory lane I managed to acquire the grandpuppy for the weekend. She needed some walking as well!
Another friend (this one more recent) remembered she’d bought tickets to a water lantern festival. She was going to be out of town and offered the tickets up. Different group this time, but still connecting with friends and being out and about.
I’m really grateful for the opportunities this week. Besides the public transitions of John McCain and Neil Simon there are also several others happening both in my family circle and for other close friends and their families. It’s nice to have a distraction, and to be able to share memories.
One of the hardest things with loss is that the person who dies takes your shared memories with them. That’s true with divorce, with breaking up a friendship, and especially true when a good friend or close relative dies. Getting together with my high school bunch helped me to remember, and also made me appreciate how we share those memories.
The water lantern festival (in it’s non-culturally appropriated form) is also an opportunity for remembrances. Both of the friends I attended with took the opportunity to acknowledge the people they have lost on their lanterns. I am grateful as well for the opportunity to make new memories and cultivate new friends.
The air quality is pretty bad here, I can’t imagine what it is like in California. This time of year the air here tends to be thick with humidity and still so the particulates from the Canadian wildfires hang in the haze. The weather forecasters keep predicting rain, which would wash some of the particulate out of the air, but we’ve been dry for quite a stretch.
Why is this relevant? Well, last week I missed posting because I was outside breathing the “fresh” air. I was camping north of the Twin Cities. Spent the first couple of days in a tent and then the next several in a trailer. The advantages of trailer camping include air conditioning and last week that made a world of difference.
I’ve never really trailer camped before so I don’t understand the ins and outs of hook-ups and reserve tanks. I do have a friend who, having just purchased a trailer, asked for my help getting it parked and set up. In return I’ll have access to a retreat in the summer – air conditioning included. Seems like a win-win to me!
The last time I was tent camping I ended up in the ER. I threw my back out, badly. This time I had enough help and support (and I didn’t have Orion with me) that I did fine. I even managed to be a real help to the people I was camping with. I also took care to go to bed when I was tired (much earlier than I would at home) instead of staying up half the night around the campfire. I made sure to stay hydrated. I didn’t “settle in” and stop moving.
Even so I had a nasty allergy episode. Someone decided to spread an allergen (they had been specifically asked not to use) around the ritual circle. This is a particulate that contains a volatile oil. In this environment, especially with the heavy, still air, the allergen doesn’t dissipate and instead continues to be reactivated and spread. It meant I had to miss out on much of the community activities and stay close to our campsite. It actually could have been life-threatening if I was less careful or less well equipped to handle my reaction.
The thing about accessibility is that accommodations were made and someone chose to ignore them. I see that a lot. People block aisles, drop into parking spots “for just a minute”, use public accessible bathrooms as employee changing rooms or (as in this case) think their experiences with disability are equal to everyone else so if it works for them that means it’s accessible. This behavior is nasty when done in ignorance and down right evil when it is done with self-righteous intention.
I have spent 50 years of my life with an awareness of access and disability. My sister had sever enough allergies growing up that we had to leave the city at this time of year because the air quality was too bad. That was before the advent of central air commonly available in housing. I’ve cooked around food issues (for friends and family, conference style events and as a personal chef). I’ve been pushing Orion around in a wheelchair for 25 years. I have had my own experiences with access issues as well.
If I’ve learned anything it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all. I know my son’s wheelchair is not as wide as standard and just because he can get somewhere does not mean it is “accessible”. I know that what we need in a parking spot is different than what a driver with a disability might need, or someone with a scooter. I know that distance isn’t the same issue for someone pushing Orion as it is for someone dealing with Fibromyalgia or a breathing disorder.
Many people, myself included, who deal with asthma will joke that “breathing is over rated”. It’s actually not, and that’s why people die of asthma. That’s why environmental controls on air quality are not just an inconvenience. That’s why setting off fires, that become forest fires, that impact air quality across states is criminal. That’s why I run my air conditioner all summer long, it filters the air. It makes it possible to breathe.
Everywhere Orion and I went this week it was busy. Maybe it was my timing, but busier than what I usually find all the same.
I took Orion to get his haircut and we waited a good 1/2 hour on a walk in appointment. Now, I could have “checked in on-line”. I could have gone earlier in the afternoon. I could have gone during the week and not on a weekend. Sometimes I do. Often I don’t. This week, things were busy.
We went to the movies, afternoon matinee. I was hoping for Christopher Robin thinking we might be hitting the “naptime” show. Things never bode well when ALL the accessibility spots are filled. When that happens I’ll often say, “forget it.” But I really wanted to be out and about with Orion. (Dinner at the theater rather than cooking was also a bonus feature.)
I didn’t get into the movie I wanted. All the accessible seats were filled. In a matinee for Christopher Robin! I guess nostalgia goes a long way. There was another movie on my list screening at the same time. We snagged the some of the last seats for Mama Mia 2.
Because we stood in line for food and read the tickets wrong about which theater we were going to, we missed some of the previews. Not only that, there were people in our seats! An elderly couple, who needed accessible seating and were hoping to sit together. Guys…..
It all worked out, kindly and peaceably. Minnesota nice does occasionally help. The movie was not as much fun as the first, but still a summer romp. We went home and listened to ABBA for the rest of the evening.
Even the grocery store (co-op) was busy. There it wasn’t so much the volume of customers in the store. It was more the staff desperately trying to restock from what looked like hoards of shoppers we’d just missed. Still managed to find what I was looking for, pretty fresh vegetables!
I guess I just wanted to be a grasshopper this week and everyone else decided to be ants. busy busy.
I got a notice from Word Press congratulating me on my blogging anniversary. Go figure. I can’t imagine going into this with any hope of writing for 7 years, this is my 338th post. Funny how time flies when you’re having fun.
To celebrate, I had coffee and scones with a friend rather than actually posting this. Hoping when I do get around to it it’s still Monday. Lol
I’ve been doing quite a bit of out and about in the last week. Karina had me over for breakfast. I spent the weekend with my parents. Did some cooking and shopping with them. The cooler weather has made a difference. They get the new furnace/air conditioner in later this week.
It’s felt a little like fall in the air. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about Lammas. I’ll refer you to past posts and take a little anniversary vacation. Thanks for reading!
I’ve been writing this blog in my head all week. I just can’t seem to find a theme I can stick with for more than a paragraph or two. Or, if I’m honest with myself, a sentence or two.
Regular readers will know a friend of mine passed away and her memorial service was this last weekend. I’m in the second or third tier of mourners. Tier one – the decision makers and those truly being overwhelmed with waves of grief. Tier two – the organizers. The ones asking the decision makers what they want and striving to make it happen. The people whose grief makes them prickly, rude, short-tempered, unclear and perfectly sure they have everything in line because keeping things in line is how they cope. Tier three – the support system for the first two tiers. The listeners. The worker bees. The one’s who are distant enough to put off their mourning until it’s convenient (at least a little more effectively).
Having the memorial made it real. That’s part of the point of course. Being gifted some mementos makes it real and personal (which it has always been, but denial is so convenient). Having nothing left to “get done” means there is no longer an excuse to put off the emotional response.
I’m sure the death certificate doesn’t say my friend died of cancer. But it is certainly the undiagnosed and untreated cancer that caused the heart failure.
I’m grateful my friend didn’t die alone at home, but had people around her who cared about her.
I’m grateful my friend went quickly, all at once, rather than having to slowly and painfully waste away.
I’m grateful her very elderly mother dared to get on a plane and put herself in the hands of a community of her daughter’s friends whom she had never met.
I’m grateful for the presence of people who spoke about areas of my friend’s life that I wasn’t privy to.
I’m angry that a cancer that large and impactful goes undiagnosed for so long. I’m angry that the complaints of a large woman (both exceptionally tall and not willowy) are dismissed by our medical community as always being about weight. I’m upset that no matter how good the insurance you’ve got, unless you know what to ask for medicine is practiced according to the insurance company guidelines rather than actual medical need.
I had breakfast today at Gilda’s Club. It’s a sort of monthly social event. At Gilda’s I am surrounded by people living with cancer, many of whom know they have no hope of a cure. I am always buoyed up by the spirit of care and acceptance. I am reminded that there is pain and sorrow, but also hope and joy.
I’m putting one foot in front of the other. Step by step.
The only thing that is certain is that things will change. When I was up at my parents (see last week’s blog) one of the things I did was help my Mother send sympathy cards. Her brother’s father-in-law passed, not unexpectedly. Thing is my parents actually had a relationship with the in-laws and my Mom still hasn’t quite reconciled with being unable to physically show up when these things happen. And of course, given the age group, they happen with some regularity.
The other passing that warranted a response from her was the second husband and truly life partner of an old friend. Again, this was not an unexpected death. All the same it’s the first time I’ve ever heard my Mother admit, “I don’t know what to say.” The reason she doesn’t know is because she’s not there. My Mother always made a point to BE THERE for the people she cares about.
Last week another friend, my age, died suddenly and unexpectedly. This has left many people in my community reeling. I’m doing what I can to show up.
There have been plenty of times in my life when I couldn’t show up. Sometimes I’ve been physically unable to. I have lost friends because I didn’t show up when they needed me. My physical limitations (up to and including being in the hospital) apparently were not an adequate salve for the feeling of betrayal.
Occasionally I haven’t been able to show up because some obligations trump others. I’ve always been proactive about trying to make sure that there is either notice or some kind of substitute in place. I’m sorry, sick kids and other family needs have to come first. Everyone who knows me well has heard me bemoan being unable to hold a “real job” because I am on call to Orion’s medical needs. Still they are surprised and hurt when that same issue comes up and impacts “sure I’ll help you with that project”.
The thing about showing up for other people is that when you do what you can, when you can sometimes you get lucky. Grief is an odd thing, and it doesn’t just stop. Sometimes that card that gets sent months later comes in at exactly the right time. Sometimes the phone call, “I can’t be there because my own life is falling apart.” provides some distance, or perspective or just an opportunity for a friend to get out of their own head. Sometimes not being there in the moment has made me available for the long haul.
Last week my women’s group did an honoring of Frieda Kahlo on the anniversary of her death. That was 64 years ago and people are still being impacted. People still show up when they can. I believe it still makes a difference.
We spent all of the 4th of July week (and both weekends) up at my folks house. It was quite the event. Small resort towns around the Brainerd Area do big celebrations. We didn’t watch any fireworks, but we could hear them. Every evening!
Because we came up, Dad got to get several things checked off his “to do” list. He went to a meeting, got his snow blower tuned up, and put new tires on the car. He also had his buddy Orion along for 3 parades and a trip up to International Day at Concordia Language Villages
Orion attended Waldsee, the German village, with his Opa as his aid for 10 years starting 20 years ago. It was fun for the two of them to return to their old stomping grounds. There were even several people there who remembered them from years gone by. The old Dean, Karl, noticed them across the way and stopped what he was doing so he and his wife could catch up with Jager and Opa.
I kept Mom occupied while the boys were out and about. Ordinarily we’d be taking things easy at home, but the air conditioning died the day I arrived. So we had our own “out and about” adventures. We decided it was too hot to be home and went out for a drive and pizza.
We collected my sister, Andrea, and ran errands in Brainerd. (That really meant lunch at Prairie Bay and Mom sitting in the air conditioned car while one or the other of us ran into the store.)
We ate pretty well at home too. When I’m there I do a lot of the cooking, or at least the meal planning. When I can stand it, I’ll enlist Dad’s help.
That’s especially true for grilling. I’m more than happy to let him set up the coals and carry things back and forth, at least most of the time. We’re still in mourning about that beautifully cooked salmon.
Dad did have a chance to redeem himself. At my request he made mussels and a fresh focaccia to go with them. Even Orion thought they were really tasty!
It was a great trip. We had a great time. It was also pretty physically demanding. The drive took at least an hour longer than usual – in both directions. The heat and humidity was draining, and it wasn’t always easy to breathe. General household chores (which I do more of up there than at home) take their toll, as do extra transfers with Orion and massage work on Mom.
Now I’m glad to be home, laying on my back on an ice pack.
Sorry about not being able to get the photos aligned properly.
Exercise is a “bad” word in my book. I won’t say it’s a “trigger”. I don’t have a dramatic response to it. But there is definitely a knee-jerk temper-tantrum, “NO!” that happens deep in my soul.
I certainly have the trauma. Years and years of everything from embarrassment, failure, and humiliation in PE classes take a toll. I have more PE injuries (some of them quite dramatic) than success stories in my background.
Even trying to keep up physically with my friends has always been a challenge. There’s the bike trip where the athletes were riding 12 speeds and I had everything I could do to get my 3 speed up the hills. There were the tree forts I couldn’t play in because I have NEVER been able to climb a rope. There was the ski trip where I finally told my boyfriend to go ahead I’d be in the hot tub when he got off the slopes.
Then there have been rounds and rounds of physical therapy. Insurance is happy to pay for 6 visits of PT if you’ve got a joint issue, but they won’t pay for any kind of accountable follow-up program. I’m good for about 3 months (including the actual time in PT). Then I feel better and stop.
Unfortunately I’ve come to recognize that my sedentary habits are not helping me maintain all the gains I made from having the bariatric surgery. My surgeon and my chiropractor agree. Just because I would rather sit at home with a good book than do anything that might be slightly physically demanding doesn’t mean I should. Of course recognizing an issue and actually dealing with it are two entirely different problems!
So this week I’ve parked a little farther out (except when Orion is in the car.) This week I’ve made myself step out into the neighborhood for a short walk or two. This weekend I scheduled “out and about” events for myself just to be a little more active.
We’ll see how long I can keep it up. As long as it’s not “exercise”.