Dad is home and doing well. Thank you for all the support and good wishes.
I have allergies. I’ve been doing allergy shots for 5 years or so. Things are definitely better, but there are still a few weeks each year where I have to pull out all the stops. This is one of those weeks. Because of that, sitting in an air-conditioned hospital was not the most horrible thing for me to be doing.
I’ve missed some pretty dramatic thunderstorms these past weeks. Either I’ve slept so hard I didn’t hear them or, like the night the tornado sirens went off, the worst has passed me by. I’ve been grateful not to need to water the garden as I run out the door in the morning.
The lawn hasn’t been mowed, but the truth of the matter is that given the allergy conditions I probably wouldn’t be able to do it anyway. I often quip that breathing is over-rated, but the truth is I’m kind of attached to it.
I’ve been watching Dad work the spirometer post surgery. He’s a champ. So the other day I got out mine, “just to check”. When your 79-year-old father whose just had open heart surgery literally blows harder it’s definitely time to hit the inhaler. I had to work hard to get my numbers above the “you should really consider taking yourself to the emergency room” line.
Despite the allergies, being back to our “normal” routine feels like taking a deep breath. The list of things I’ve “put off tending to” is long, but doable. Orion and I went to the movies this weekend (so I could avoid making dinner as this theater comes with a menu.) which was fun for both of us.
Now it’s Monday. Rather than grumble I’ll be grateful for a new week to start. I’ll be grateful for the summer weather and flowers that are pretty even through the window. I’ll be grateful that my family is all where they belong and doing well. And I’ll remember to breathe.
Those of you who are also friends on Facebook are aware that my Dad had a heart attack last week. (Drove himself and my Mom to the hospital!) Monday’s blog is coming our early because tomorrow at 11am he is scheduled for open heart surgery. They are going to replace a valve in his heart with a pig valve. (We’ve already started the teasing.)
It’s been almost 20 years since my Dad’s last heart attack. He walks 45 min every day. He watches his diet carefully. The angiogram report was better this time than it was 20 years ago! No one saw this coming.
He’s in good spirits, cracking jokes with the staff and generally causing trouble. When they met the cardiologist asked about my Dad’s medical background. Dad told him he’d worked as a psychiatric social worker years ago. The cardiologist quipped maybe they’d met back then. Dad, always quick with a straight line responded, “I don’t like to discuss my failures.”
We’re all looking to get through this crisis but there’s still a ways to go. Dad’s already planning to use this as his excuse to finally get an ultra-light canoe. Thoughts and prayers are welcome, not only for Monday’s surgery but for the typically lengthy recovery. (And for the sanity of those of us who are going to have to find ways around the lifting, driving and (as Dad is very pleased to tell you) vacuuming that he won’t be doing for awhile.)
I was thinking this month was my 3 year blogging anniversary. I actually started blogging in 2011! Typical of me.
My “history” has never been strong on the numbers. I often don’t even know how old I am. (I’m not willing to do the math.) My children keep track, and I’ll ask them if I need a number. Orion is happy to tell anybody how old I am. Not sure I appreciate that as much as I could.
I was 23 for 3 years. Really, it was a number I could remember and an age I believed in. I even had an argument with my ex about it. I was filling out a form, or he was, and needed my age – 23. We went back and forth at some volume in public. He finally turned to me calmly and said, “Which one of us knows how old we are?” ooops.
Blogging is getting harder to do. I am not looking forward to writing the way I was at the beginning. I often find myself struggling for a topic. I don’t think I’m ready to give it up, but in this next year I may be more willing to take an occasional break. Maybe not. I’ve been surprised before.
Readers have come and gone. Not many of you comment, and so sometimes I wonder if I’m making sense. On the other hand I continue to get more likes and followers. I’m really grateful for my readers. It’s been delightful getting to know those of you who take the time to write little notes. It’s been encouraging to see small shifts in readership.
Blogging has been part of my daily practice routine. Writing it requires being aware of what is happening in my life. It requires being willing to step back and refine those moments, magical and mundane, into words. It requires being challenged to open up and share my actual thoughts and feelings. It requires being vulnerable and present.
I hope that I have, at least occasionally, succeeded.
Thank you for reading!
It’s easy to idealize the simple small town life most of us only know from books and old TV shows. 4th of July in Mayberry RFD, or with the Gilmore Girls isn’t really a fair expectation. Still, this year visiting “up north” with my parents it seemed very much like that kind of holiday.
My parents don’t have an internet connection, which limits the amount of media available. We still have the smart phones, and Orion listens to his playlist on his computer, but it’s less appealing to be plugged in. They’ve lived up here in these small towns for almost 20 years and so everywhere they go someone stops to say hi! There are things to do and people to meet that also discourage electronic connection.
The complaints of the weekend have been, “The ice cream cone was too big.” “The fish (fresh out of the fryer) is too hot.” “There’s too much sunshine and fresh air.” We found ourselves taking daily naps, not typical for me, just because the weather was so perfect.
We did all the things, but it never felt like we packed too much into a day. We went to one of the small town parades. Homemade floats and the high school marching band had all the nostalgia of one of those TV shows. We went to see fireworks in the “big city”, Brainerd. They do a fabulous job and the location is set up so you feel like you are surrounded by the lights and they are right there in front of you.
We also took an afternoon to go down to the lake. We all got into canoes – even Orion. It’s been years since I’ve done that, but the muscle memory is still there. Karina and I took Minnie out with us. The dog was not sure about that and her roaming around in the canoe was a little unsettling but eventually we worked it out. The lake was calm, the breeze was cool, another perfect day.
We went swimming in the lake. Karina and my Dad caught the fish that came out of the fryer “too hot”. The ice cream cones may have been too big, but that didn’t stop us from going back another day. There is a haze up here from the Canadian wildfires. It makes the sunset bloody and the moon rise red. I may have taken more regular hits off my inhaler than I would have at home, but with the air moving even that wasn’t problematic.
It’s definitely time to be back home, back in the normal routine. There can be too much of a good thing. With a little distance and a little nostalgia of my own I’ll appreciate having this weekend vacation even more.
What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time I was just starting out as a volunteer at the newly opened Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. I was blogging about my to-do list as I prepared for surgery.
Gilda’s Club, dedicated to the memory of Gilda Radner, is a welcoming community of support for anyone living with cancer, along with their families and friends. It’s a place where everyone is welcome, where no one faces cancer alone.
This year when we went to the Gilda’s Club Friends and Family Birthday celebration I participated in most of the events. Orion and I met some new friends, visited with old friends and enjoyed the Clubhouse atmosphere. I spent much of the day on my feet, and didn’t think anything of it.
The Clubhouse is really settling into itself. The gardens continue to expand, making lovely healing and meditative spots to just sit and enjoy the sunshine. There is the fairy garden, the new waterfall and picnic area (the first photo was taken there) and the healing fountain and gardens.
Last year the healing fountain was dedicated and Orion and I made stones for people we knew who had dealt with cancer. He made one for my Mom and I made some for friends I’ve lost to this pervasive disease. This year, unfortunately, there were more stones. Orion made one for me!
Inside the kitchen is often in use for classes or just the staff throwing something together for anyone who drops in. I decorated cupcakes and made Orion eat one, poor thing. I’ve attended several events in the kitchen this past year. (What can I say, if there’s food I’m more likely to show up – even now!)
The Expressive Arts Studio often displays projects members have created. That’s where we colored our stones for this year. It’s a great place to work out feelings through art. I’ve taken the Homemade Card Making class and had a lot of fun.
There was a lot of vibrational healing going on. We got to do a gong meditation in the Mind Body Studio. Orion and I also did some drumming in the Community Room. He’s pretty excited to show off his new rhythms the next time he gets to a drumming circle.
We participated in some short improvisation workshops put on by the folks from Brave New Workshop. Jenni Lilledahl, one of the owners of Brave New Workshop is also one of the founders of Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. It’s great to have their support. The workshops were a lot of fun.
The biggest change though is when I compare the family portrait Orion and I took last year to the one we took this year. My daughter was talking to old friends, catching up. When they asked about me she told them I was genuinely happy. Maybe I am. I’m certainly grateful that so much has changed.
I could choose to write about Father’s Day. I’m not worried about my father getting shot just going through his day. That’s Privilege. I could choose to write about the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year when the sun shines, illuminating things. Maybe I’ll just shine my light on a Difficult Topic, #BlackLivesMatter.
We are taught a very highly Edited version of history. I had no idea how important the AME church was, historically, until Obama started talking about it. I believe it is our personal responsibility to educate our selves on the things going on around us that the System would rather we ignore. This is not an easy task. It first requires an understanding that what we are taught isn’t the whole story.
The reason people who are educated in this area talk about systemic racism is because it is invisible and perpetuated by the system. This is not a new thing. I remember Kent State. The first time the National Guard opened fire on campus? No. The first time a white upper middle class student was killed. Yes.
I hear white people ask, “Why is it always about race?” Because when you have to live with it every day, you begin to realize it is inescapable. There is a reason that #BlackLivesMatter is not #AllLivesMatter. It is not because all lives shouldn’t matter, but because it’s clear that Black lives don’t.
There is a difference between not actively perpetuating the problem and helping to solve it. That difference starts with awareness. The things that are so common it’s easy not to even notice are often referred to as microaggressions.
Learning to recognize these in ourselves,
in the media, and in others is a big step towards simply validating the problem. Then the next step is to Speak Up.
I end where I started, encouraging self education. Each of these links takes you to places where you can hear different voices, and perhaps learn more. Additionally I recommend checking out my friend Crystal Blanton’s 30 Day Real Black History Challenge. She’s been doing this for several years so check out her archives as well.
Crystal was instrumental in the editing of the anthology Bringing Race to the Table:Exploring Racism in the Pagan Community. I have a small essay in that book, and I’m very proud to be a contributor. I recommend it to non-Pagans as well. The book is structured with a section on People of Color’s experiences, a section on History, and a section where ally’s speak. I think the material is widely applicable and sometimes it’s easier to hear if you have a little distance.
Thank you for reading.
Photos from Huffington Post
Those who are regular readers know that I have Karina staying with me unexpectedly this month. With Karina comes her dog, Minnie. There is a difference between “babysitting” for a weekend and having the dog come to live with you. I’m learning a lot.
One of the things I find interesting is how much I struggle with Mom vs Grandma. When I talk to Minnie about Karina, it’s Mom. When I talk to Minnie about me I stumble. I’ve still got Orion and I don’t have grandchildren (beyond the dog). I think I’m ready to be a grandma. (I’m not sure I’m ready for Karina to be a mom, and with Orion all bets are off.) But I clearly don’t think of myself that way. I wonder how many other people struggle with the words during that transition?
The other part of that is “Whose the Boss?”. Karina is gone, a lot. I’m home, in my house. On their own, Minnie would spend that time in her kennel. Here, since I’m moving about, that’s just not fair. So I have Minnie for much of the day, but she’s not my “responsibility”. That might be fine if she was a plant.
As it is, Minnie and I are constantly interacting. She wants to go out, her food bowl is empty, it’s hot and she needs water. She wants to play, she wants to cuddle, she wants to jump into my lap and jump out and jump back in. When I’m in the kitchen, or doing anything else, she’s under-foot. Even when she’s quiet, her presence napping on the couch while I type makes the atmosphere different than when she’s not around.
This weekend Karina spent some time in her room binging on The Lord of the Rings movies. Minnie, of course was with her. It occurred to me more than once to look up and wonder about where the dog was, and what she was getting into. I think I’ll miss them both when they go.
This morning I took Minnie for a walk. She’d spent a lot of the time in the kennel this weekend. She was really hyper and needed some exercise. It’s not my job to take the dog for a walk. I spent a lot of time not doing anything productive this weekend. I needed some exercise enough to notice that I hadn’t been getting any. The fact of the matter is that the walk was for me, but I wouldn’t have taken it without the dog.
It’s probably good to be doing this transition with a puppy rather than a baby. The “stepping on toes” doesn’t hurt quite as much this way. If Minnie was a baby, Karina would want to know when, what and how much she was eating (and what was coming out the other end.) Do I really have to tell her that I sneak Minnie bacon at breakfast?
Every year on their birthdays I write my kids a letter. I don’t think either of them have ever seen them. I’m not sure any of them are legible to a generation accustomed to typeface rather than sloppy cursive. They are tucked away in baby books and old photo albums and who knows where around the house.
Since today is Karina’s birthday it seemed appropriate to write this year’s letter here. The “photo essay” is for you guys, but the letter is for her.
Wow! This has been a year of unexpected changes and challenges for you. You continue to impress and amaze me with your ability to maintain a level head and make good decisions in the face of adversity.
I started your year out with the challenge of my bariatric surgery. Growing up with your brother, I know you have issues with spending time in the hospital. Even so, you stepped up for me. Your calm (eye rolling) reminders kept the surgeon from canceling the procedure all together. You celebrated the outcome and assured me you knew it was going to be fine all along.
Only you would have found the best way to manage your time while I was in the hospital was to include walking the puppy with your visits. You arranged to work through the system and get permission to bring Minnie in to visit. It was a treat to see her (and you) and I’m sure it got me released faster.
You were so stressed you quit a job, which was a good decision. It was definitely time to move on. But I know it was hard for you to regroup and decide what you wanted to do next. The ups and downs of early 20’s relationships didn’t make it easier. I’m not sure I did either, but I always believed you’d figure it out.
Then you took on the family dynamic and held Christmas at your house. Family holiday dinners are a huge undertaking for anyone. Given your family, and all its extensions, the potential for disaster was huge. You were determined. Everyone would show up, feel welcomed, and have good food that suited their dietary needs. It was impressive. I know that post party feeling of exhaustion and wondering if it was worth it. Now you know you really can do anything you set your mind to!
My having cancer and a second surgery threw you for a loop. It didn’t help that you were just starting a new job, that looks like a perfect career move. Again you managed to juggle all the pieces and perform above expectation. Karina’s Korner was launched to rave reviews and I managed to attend my birthday dinner with very reasonable portion accommodations.
This last month has been yet another challenge with moving, and then having the apartment you were moving to fall through. Most of the people I know would have spent a week crying under the covers. You picked up, kept packing, arranged for a storage space and have already found a new, new apartment. Chances are you’ll like this one better in the end.
This year begins for you with a fresh start. You and Minnie will be settled into your new place before the end of the month. You’ve left your 2nd job behind and moved to a full-time position in your career field. Your creativity and management skills are being utilized and challenged in productive ways. You are ready to shine.
I can’t tell you how proud and impressed I am by you this year. You have an astounding resiliency. You have learned a lot about yourself through these trials and have a new appreciation for your own independence. Even when you’re hurting you are kind, and generous, and dependable.
I love you so much! I only wish you the best for the coming year. May all the hard work you’ve done bloom into joy and fulfillment.
I skipped last week’s post. I’d like to say it was because I was in the garden. I was, some. Memorial Day weekend for us is typically cool and rainy, and this was no exception. It’s also a big gardening weekend. The tomatoes go in, now that we’re “safely” past the frost. We’ve got such a short season that delaying past Memorial Day means possibly no harvest.
This year Memorial Day was early and the season late. I order my plants from a company in Oregon. (Hoping that they’ll be climate ready when they arrive, which isn’t true if I order from a company in New Mexico!) I finally called them, seeing no sign of the plants “shipping date May 15th” I was wondering if they’d received my order! Apparently they are having unseasonable weather along with the rest of the country. The plants aren’t ready to be shipped.
Part of me appreciates the extra time. I’ve made comments about recovering my gardens from years of neglect. I won’t get it done this year, but I am making slow progress. One of my Facebook friends commented that she wanted to see photos – so that’s what this post is really about.
Hopefully my plants will arrive soon and I’ll have tomatoes before September!
I am incredibly fortunate to still have both of my parents within a days drive. With Mother’s Day just past I’ve watched many of my friends struggle with the grief of no longer having their Mom a phone call away. My folks aren’t as active as they once were. The three-hour drive means my Mom spends the next week “recovering”. Given my health ups and downs this last year, we haven’t seen as much of each other as we’d like.
When my Dad called and asked if Orion would be interested in participating in challenging a Guinness World Book record it seemed like a good opportunity to get in the car. My Dad and Orion have a history of doing interesting things together. Orion spent many summers attending Waldsee, a German language immersion village. Dad went along as his aide, his Opa. They still march together in the community parades when we visit in the summer. Being in the longest moving wheelchair line sounded like fun.
Orion and I went up on Friday. The “North woods” are pretty in the spring as the leaves come out on the birches. We had the afternoon to visit and dinner, but early to bed knowing Saturday was going to be a busy day. We sent Orion and Dad off to Grand Rapids, MN and Mom and I went to Brainerd. It’s a treat for me to spend the day alone with Mom, a treat for Orion to have a day with Opa, a treat for Mom to be able to run errands at her own pace, and Dad is always happy with an adventure.
We had a lovely, leisurely day. We did a little shopping. We went out for lunch. We picked up some ice cream to have with the rhubarb pie I made. We talked and reminisced and I got Mom looking for some old photos of her grandparents. She was still worn out by the end of the day, but in a good way.
Opa and Orion and some 349 other wheelchair users beat the record. Of course there’s a review process by the Guinness World Book people before it’s official, but Orion knows he’s a champion! I made Dad take photos of the event and I posted Orion’s number (101) on his wall.
A weekend isn’t a long enough visit, but it’s enough to touch base. I’m also grateful again that my parents are still here, and close enough to do just a weekend. We may meet for lunch again before Orion and I get back up to the “North woods”. That’s how we’ve managed these last 6 months when “I need to SEE how you are doing.” has been the theme.
Knowing how fragile these opportunities can be I am more motivated, more committed, to make sure they happen. If you still have your Mom or Dad, be sure to call them just to check-in and say “I love you.”