Category Archives: kindness
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.
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.
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.
So many wars, so many lives. Some were fought over an ideology, and won, and yet we still contest that ideology. Some were fought over resources, because a desperate enough people will do anything to try and survive. Most were fought because someone was afraid of losing something, and many who fought lost everything.
I have mixed feelings about this day. I appreciate the sacrifice of those who have fought for my freedoms. But I grew up during Vietnam. I understand war to be instigated by the wealthy and powerful in order to protect their wealth and power and fought by the poor and less fortunate. Give us your life, we’ll give you an education doesn’t sit well with me.
I know we did not do well by those who fought in Vietnam. We, as a country, had yet to learn how to hate a war and still honor those who served.
Is it an honor to serve in a war that was lost? I don’t believe might makes right. Just because you win doesn’t mean you are more just, or moral, or worthy. But, for example, I struggle to honor those who lost their lives fighting on the losing side in our civil war. Their families, though, certainly believe them to be honorable and do not want them forgotten.
Is any war really won? WWII, a war that had a clear moral victory, the war fought by “the greatest generation” we won. Today we can have Nazi’s marching in the streets and our president insisting they are good people. Is that what those lives were sacrificed to achieve?
As a Wiccan I do work with ancestors. When they talk about fighting the good fight they are not encouraging fisticuffs. They generally have a broader view in death than they did in life and would like to broaden my view as well. They encourage me to understand better and more fully. They want me to speak and educate and ask for what I desire. Sometimes that’s scary for me. It’s rarely easy.
That fear, of finding out that we are wrong, of learning that there is more to a situation than we thought, of admitting we don’t know everything, that is, ultimately, why we have wars. If it wasn’t so scary to find a better solution, we probably would. If a better solution than giving up your life was available, wouldn’t you take it?
So honor the ancestors this Memorial Day. Honor those who have given up their lives in service to this country. Honor them by demanding we find a better way, a real win.
Many of you know that I do regular volunteer work for Gilda’s Club Twin Cities. Gilda’s is a place where support, education, classes in healthy living, social support and community resources are made available to anyone impacted by cancer – for free. That’s not just people with a cancer diagnosis, but their families and support systems. It’s an incredible organization and a beautiful and healing environment.
Because Gilda’s does not demand anything of its members, it is supported entirely by community donations. Our clubhouse is a gift of time, talent, and resources of many volunteers, community members and business organizations. The position I occupy, Gilda Greeter, is a volunteer position that many of the group of Gilda greeters have been doing for years. There is a lot of love at Gilda’s.
Last week was our big annual fundraiser. The “Imagine a Place” Breakfast started to raise funds to create a clubhouse in our area. Imagine a Place, our founders said, where people could go to get help and support. We continue to imagine and to grow. That takes a lot of time, a lot of hands, and honestly a lot of money. I put in some extra hours last week to help out.
The Aliveness Project has been around in the Twin Cities for a lot longer. They are an organization that supports people who are living with HIV and AIDs. They were one of the first groups that offered free testing. They also provide education and support to their members.
I’ve not been as active with the Aliveness Project, although many of my friends have. One of the best fundraisers they do is called Dining Out for Life. Essentially, restaurants who participate donate a percentage of the days take to the Project. It’s fun to make a date for a night out and know that because of the timing you are also supporting a good cause.
In all honesty, we didn’t plan our night out to happen along with Dining Out for Life. (In spite of the fact that we were all aware it’s a thing.) We didn’t pick the restaurant Northbound Smokehouse because it was one of the biggest supporters of the event (a platinum level participant). We just got lucky.
We ordered big, ate really well, tipped generously and all threw a little something extra in the envelope the Dining Out volunteers provided. We were happy, and grateful, to be enthusiastic participants. It was fun, it was easy, and most especially it was a good cause.
Minnesota has one of the most active non-profit communities in the nation. We have a council that reviews non-profits and provides information about how their money is distributed. We have community events, generous business owners and an understanding that if those in need do better, we all do better.
How do you support your community?
Have you missed me? I’ve noticed that when I’m dealing with big events in my life I stop writing. My journals all have gapping holes during the times when I would be most interested in going back and reading about what I was thinking in the moment. I’ve blank spaces from when Orion was a baby, and each of his hospitalizations. I have holes in the record immediately after recording that I had cancer. I stopped journaling when the cupboards came off the walls.
My parents are aging and it’s hard. It’s hard on them and it’s hard on us. I’ve missed the last two blogs. The first I skipped because my folks don’t have internet, the second because I’d just gotten home. I have been slammed with emotional content and I shut down.
When I was a kid I was “sensitive”. I cried in empathy, wore my emotions on my shirtsleeve and was generally harassed about it. I made an active decision to stop.
The first trick was pretty easy, typical in my family. That is to put emotion aside while you deal with a crisis. The idea is to stay clear headed and available, and not add to the chaos while it is occurring. The aftermath, when everything is safe, comes like a tidal wave and can be very confusing as it appears to have no source.
Having that kind of emotional catharsis in public is a great opportunity for gaslighting. There IS nothing to be so upset about (anymore). It IS overreacting (because it’s all the reaction at once). Even the part about “just looking for attention” isn’t entirely false. If I’ve just spent hours offering sympathy and emotional support to others, yes I may be looking for a little sympathy and emotional support for myself.
So I learned to allow myself to be distracted. Eventually I learned never to “get around” to dealing with my emotional content. There are lots of distractions! I’ve been trying to unlearn that.
I’ve found that I’m a better writer when I can be open to emotion. I’ve found that there is strength in vulnerability. I’ve found that it’s really hard to make myself do the work and that I need to create a time and space for it. I still can’t do it in public, at least not until I have a good handle on it myself. The support would be nice, but the gaslighting I can’t deal with.
So I shut down, a little. I look for distractions (I don’t have to look hard). I pick and choose my confidants. I try to carve out some space. Please be patient with me.
I’ve spent the past two weeks babysitting my grandpuppy Minnie. She’s actually 4 years old now and much easier to have around. I was sick one of those weeks and she was warm and comforting. She’s not nearly as hyper or demanding, although she still knows Grandma is a sucker when it comes to treats.
Minnie has been through a lot this past year. My daughter has moved many times, and I had Minnie because she was moving again. All the stress and upheaval has taken a toll on the dog. She’s a lot more volatile, less trusting, quicker to say “enough”. That’s problematic.
Of course to my daughter Minnie is perfect. There is discipline, but not a lot of acknowledgement of an underlying problem. Mostly, I suspect, that’s because my daughter also feels like there’s nothing she can do about it. So I take the dog, and establish a routine. It’s easier for me. I’m home a lot more than my daughter is and just that is a reassurance.
Minnie and Orion have a love/hate relationship. Minnie is scared to death of the wheelchair and looses her mind any time Orion moves. On the other hand he often drops food while he’s eating. Orion adores Minnie, except he doesn’t actually want to touch her and hates all the noise. That’s a dynamic that scares me so I keep an eagle eye on the two of them anytime they interact. I also do a lot to make sure there isn’t much interaction, like putting Minnie outside while Orion comes to the table. It won’t solve anything, but Minnie isn’t my dog.
Karina has a few days off so she’s taken Minnie back. It’s nice to have quiet. No one barks every time a neighbor walks by or comes out of their house next door. It’s easier to have a morning where I’m not running back and forth letting Minnie in and out while Orion gets dressed and ready for his day. It’s nice to jump into the car for a quick trip to the library before the blizzard snow starts to accumulate without having to worry about getting Minnie settled or arguing about who might want to come with.
They say the best part about having grandchildren is that you get to give them back. This is true. Still, I find I’m Missing Miss Minnie. I catch myself looking for her, or thinking about her next treat. It’s definitely easier and quieter having her gone. It’s also just a little more lonely.