A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘gratitude’

The Draft

It’s hard to believe it was forty –five years ago. It was so different from now. I was 18, innocent and trusting. The world was in turmoil as we were involved in Viet Nam. All the guys who I graduated with had registered with the draft. We all knew someone who went over and did not come back. It was an unjust situation. You had to register and you had to take your chances.

There were tons of stories on how to get out of being drafted but it was very hard to be 4F. My hubby was one of the lucky ones who was exempt for a medical reason. His number was 35 in 1968.

My sister had many friends who went over. My brothers all went to college and were exempt. My first close experience was in 1972 with a Vet who had returned. His name was John. I was going to college with my best friend from high school. We had sung as a duo since the time we met. Music was our lives. There was a big presence of returning Vets who went back to school at the college. She ended up marrying one. She and I joined the Jazz group on campus and went on tour to other colleges on the East Coast. John was in the group and played guitar like a dream. We eventually formed a group with another guitarist named John, also an older Vet, and the four of us called ourselves Synapse. We were good.

I had it for John really bad. He really was not that good looking. He was older and I think that had appeal. He also had his own apartment which for us who still lived at home was a super plus. He was also pretty messed up and did drugs. No one could wake him up or startle him. He would go bat shit if you did. There was a lot more, but let it suffice that although there were many firsts with him, it was not a stable relationship. But oh, could he play a 12 string.

Then I met my ex. He was also 19 and in a band. He was on the draft at a precarious 200 number. He would be called up eventually. He was not going to go to college and was working as a machinist. But at that time, his love was music too. He was in a band called Jaspur who played country rock and was very popular. He had long hair and a beard. He did not do drugs. We met, fell in love and made plans to go to Canada. It was my dream to have a farm and he was prepared, city boy that he was, to live in the woods instead of Nam. The draft ended in 1973 and the need to escape ended.

Later in our lives, he became a cop and fell in with a group of right wing supremist who were all ex marines. He blamed me for not going into the service. That is just another reason why he is my ex.

My family did have members who served. My sister-in-law is a lieutenant and actually served oversees during the Nam war. My Uncle and his son were/are both commissioned officers in the Navy. My oldest nephew had one foot out the door of high school and the other in the Navy. He served for over 20 years and just recently retired as a Master Chief. I won’t say he isn’t messed up because he is. He feels like life sort of passed him by and wished he had a family. My mother’s father served also. WWII was the cause of the death of my grandfather. He was really messed up when he came back and they thought he might have been gassed. He died in a sanitarium.

I think the fear of being sent to war made my generation hateful of the government and we do not trust it. Returning soldiers were not greeted at the airport with banners and flags. They were spit on. Nam ruined lives in many ways and this was before they had treatments for PTSD like they do now.  The generations after us have no idea what it was like to know that graduating from high school could be a death sentence. It is not like my parents’ generation where going to war was glory and honor. There was honor in my grandparent’s generation too.

I am not against the people who serve. I am against war. I abhor violence. I think we are still involved in places we should not be. I think it is crazy to sacrifice our young. But I know I would rally for a real cause if need be. I thank the people who served whether they had to or choose to. It is a true sacrifice. I mourn those who did not return. And I grieve for the lives ever changed by the horrors they saw.

I pray every day that the blond idiot in the White House does not get us into a conflict with his mouth.

 

 

Everyday hero

Cubid

There are few instances of people nowadays that are in my life that I would say are heroes or at least the bravest people I know. But I have been blessed to have someone in my life right now who I would call a hero. She works with me and at first; we did not hit it off. But as time has gone on, we have become work friends.

This woman does not see herself as anything but just getting along in life. Many years ago, when her three boys were little, her husband made a left turn into an intersection on his motorcycle. He died because someone did not see him. She rarely talks about it. I did not find out the whole story until recently when she was telling me it would have been her 40th wedding anniversary. She never remarried. She dated rarely and only after her boys were grown and on their own.

She is our recruiter for professional staff. I was not hired by her. She was out having surgery on her leg. A few years back she had been trying to open her garage door manually when the power was out and the rope gave way and sent her flying. She shattered her leg and hip. She was out having the pins redone as they had worked loose and were hurting her. When she came back, she was a bit cold to me. I did not realize that she feels possessive over her hires like a mother but I was not part of her flock. It took a while to break down the wall.

I found out that she also has ovarian cancer. I took great effort to make time every day to see how she was doing. As we got to know each other, she would inquire about my health. Turns out one of her sons has rheumatoid arthritis as did her husband. She was very concerned about the drugs I was on and the reactions I was having. She listened authentically to my concerns. She would always say, “Well, hang in there.”

I am not sure what or when, but we became pretty close. She would come to me when work was getting to her. Not much really got to her, but the pettiness of work really did. She does not like everyone in the HR department and shares her feelings about the inequities she sees. She has been doing her job for many years and is very good at what she does.

But then she would tell me of her journey with her cancer. She bravely faced infusions of chemo last year every four and then two weeks. It was killing her. She never wavered though and other than sharing with me and two other girls who were cancer survivors, she kept it to herself. Her doctor wanted her out of work but she persevered and kept working. There were days when she would walk all the way downstairs, back and forth with candidates who she was interviewing. She told me her bones hurt her so bad from the chemo that the first thing she did when she got home was take an oxycodone. She lives alone with her dog Jethro who she cherishes.

Every day she could make it in, she was as pleasant and helpful to new people as she always is. To look at her, you would never know the severe pain and misery she was going through. She would always ask how I was and I stopped complaining about anything. What I face is nothing in comparison to her journey.

About a month ago, they stopped the chemo. Her doctor told her it is going to kill her faster than the cancer. They also discover new cancer cells in her chest. The doctor feels he can surgically remove what they see. From then, they will start a new program with her of less aggressive chemo. She goes under the knife next week. We took her out for lunch this Friday as a treat and to bolster her. I think it was more for us.

There are very few people I know who are as brave as she is. She always is concerned for others. She asks little of her family and of us. But we all are there for her. So if you read this, I am asking that you take a moment and send my friend some healing energy. And then be grateful for your wellbeing.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

4- 2016 garden   It’s the most wonderful time of the year for me. I love the Yule/Christmas season for its beauty. I love the crisp air and color of early fall. But my heart longs for early spring right into June. It is definitely my favorite time.

street in park    Right now the garden is still shrouded in snow and mud. There are sticks and debris and a plethora of doggie deposits. But last night, after work when I got home, I sat outside and could smell the harbingers of spring in the air. It is very hard to describe the smell. It is part sweet, mixed with earth and in my yard a bit of dog. It is the sweet that is the noticeable change.

spring ice

Even though we get notoriously serious storms in March, the weather slowly improves. I actually love a good snow storm if I don’t have to drive. I decided this year I would not put myself in a dangerous situation and call off. We have not had a storm yet that I have had to do that. Matter of fact it has been very mild.

Louie 1  There was a cardinal sitting in my honeysuckle. I have them all year but they hang out when the weather changes. But in the distance, I could hear another bird singing. I think it may have been a robin. This morning there is a cacophony of birdsong. It is no longer so quiet that you can actually hear snow fall.

dove nest  My already elevated spirit was treated this morning to the best surprise of all. The doves are back. We had sat out last night and just talked about how beat up the nest was and that we were wondering if they would be back. This morning, when I let the dogs out, she flew right by me from the old nest.

Dot and Dudley   It had been “spruced up”.. I was elated. We had several baby chicks born in that nest last year. I felt very protective.

CHUCK     I think it is time to put away the outside Christmas decorations and put up what my hubby refers to as the birthing centers. We have a bunch of bird houses that we put out and every year. We have a chick-a dee family that comes and has a family. We call them Chuck and Rita.

vhuck1 Last summer I bought a new big house to put out to see what I could entice. The rent is cheap and there are diners everywhere in the yard. (I have several bird/SQUIRREL feeders)

squirrel 2

I will spend as much of the day outside as I can. It amazes me how I connect with the change. I feel like there are possibilities and fortuitous changes on the horizon. The bleakness of winter will return for a while, but soon, the days will be warm and my garden will be alive again.

 praying bunny

 

Making it count

shipwreck

Every year we live is a good year and I am grateful for it. My parents both had short lives, especially my mother who passed at 57.  I have lived longer than she did. I often think of how scared she must have been at the end when she knew there was no future. She was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer and there was nothing they could do for her. She died six months after being diagnosed.

My father had Factor V Leiden which he inherited from his mother’s side of the family. She too had issues with phlebitis but was never diagnosed. I remember by the time my father was 45, having to have his legs wrapped in warm washcloths to help with what was probably a DVT ( blood clot). I remember as a teen borrowing his compression socks to wear as knee socks. I had no understanding of what he was going through. When he was 53 he had to have his leg amputated. I thought he was so old. He spent his remaining years in and out of the hospitals with bypass surgeries and other complications and passed with a heart failure at 71. In reflection, I am amazed at how he managed to get through it all. He made my life hell with his demands after my mother passed, which made it hard to have compassion for him at the time.

Both my grandmothers lived healthy way into their 90’s. My Nana never worked a day in her life. She was a gracious woman from a bygone era. Her husband was a very young man when he died. He never heard the train that he drove in front of. My uncle, who was three, also perished in the accident. It was never spoken of other than that bit of information. My Gram was well taken care of by my aunt and she too had lost two husbands. The first one, my mother’s father, was so changed from fighting in WWII that he returned to the states a broken man. He died in a sanitarium several years later after leaving my Gram when my mother was 15. Again, we never spoke of this. I found letters and clippings in my mother’s trunk of stuff after she passed.

My father’s remaining sister lived very well. My uncle, her husband, however died of ALS. I cannot imagine how terrible that had to have been. Uncle Bob was a vibrant man. My Aunt Louise also did not work in the sense of a  9-5 job. However, when she was in her fifties, she became the Mayor of her town on Long Island. She remarried and traveled with her second husband until she was stricken with bone cancer.

My other aunt lived also into her nineties. She died of a broken heart. Her beloved husband literally fell over in their living room of their vacation condo after driving from Michigan to Texas. He was 90. They were devoted to each other and my aunt never recovered from his death. She just gave up living. She could have done anything as they were multimillionaires. But for her, life without my Uncle Larry was not worth living.

Why the morbid litany of my family history? Because the last year has been the unhealthiest one I have ever had. Truth be told, I am not sure of what the outcome is going to be for me. None of us really do. I have been very scared. I finally went to my PCP, who blew off my symptoms as just being fat, even though lab worked showed some major changes. I went to my rheumatologist who thought completely otherwise. Last week I went to see a Cardiologist. They did an EKG but then refused to give me much of an explanation of what they saw. I am scheduled for a series of tests next week to see what is going on with me.

I had to fight for anyone to listen to me. I know something is not right. It is not that I am wishing for there to be something wrong. Oh no, just the opposite. But I know how I feel and it is not right. I do not have a lot of faith in the cardiologist who actually never saw me until the end of the visit. He had another very young impatient MD do the exam. She said something about my T waves being inverted, when I questioned her and that was it. The head cardiologist never looked at anything because he recommended I take a statin. My cholesterol is below 100 consistently.

I have been taken off of everything. I cannot even take Advil, which really was messing me up, but dampening the pain. OTC drugs can be very dangerous. I had taken 1800mg of Advil for months back thirteen years ago before they put me on a biologic and I was diagnosed with PsA. I was taking under 1000 for the last couple of months just to be able to move and sleep. It was making me very sick.

I will admit that I have had thoughts this past month that I was going to croak. I have never felt so consistently awful. This made me think of what my relatives must have gone through when they knew they were facing horrible futures racked with disease without hope. I am afraid of dying. No lie there. But more important, I do not feel I am done with whatever I am supposed to do with my life. There is something so profoundly sad as thinking you have wasted your life. Not that I think my life is a total waste….but that I want to do something more with whatever time I have left.

I just do not know what that is or how to accomplish it. I hope I will figure it out.

I wish everyone a blessed New Year.

 

 

Thanksgiving

writing spot 2014

It is Thanksgiving week. Many people travel at this time back to their family homes to gather to give thanks. I am sitting at my spot at the kitchen table thinking how wonderful and blessed I am and grateful. Many times I will sit here or in my chair and look around my home and think how lucky I am and how much I love this place. I did from the moment I moved in.

I saw the house in a whirlwind of viewings of places when I needed to move and get out of the house I was in. I was in the process of a crappy divorce and did not want to remain in that house. I had sold it and already successfully secure a mortgage loan. I actually do not remember much of the visit other than I liked it, it was in the village  where I wanted to live and it had a garden and a pool.

Heron Hill 2012  house after renovations and painting

The interior was very dark. They had covered all the windows with heavy drapes. It was early spring and the garden had not quite come to life but I saw potential. I bought it, had it inspected and moved in. Little did I know that the  inspection was a fraud and I discovered many things that needed to be redone, including a very leaky roof.

At that time, my one basset had seizures every so often. She would circle and her face wound cave and her tongue would hand out. She would be like that for hours and sometimes, she would whimper or cry. They were awful. I had her tested and they feel that she had been so abused that there was traumatic brain injury. My friend took her and Bishop for the day. They came over with them after the move was done. She walked into the house like she owned it. She pranced around the back yard. At night, she walked down to our bedroom, pulled the blanket on her bed over her as she always did and slept. She did not have another seizure until four years later, which was actually a stroke and she lost her life to it.

side after

There is an old style enclosed back porch with large screened windows that was my spot in the summer. I would sit out there for hours. In the winter, the downstairs room became the TV room and I filled it with overstuffed comfortable furniture. That was the only new thing I bought for years as I have too much furniture and need to get rid of some. There are many hand-me-downs and antiques and furniture I got in my first marriage. There is one room I call the museum which has a lot of crystal and fine things that were given to me by relatives. I wish I had a relative to pass it on, but sadly, there is no one who wants or even gets what they mean.

I have made improvement through the years. The interior has been redone with bright paint and papers. I had the bathroom and kitchen refurbished and the lower level area redone to include a man cave for my husband.  The exterior was painted the colors of the blue heron. We call the house now Heron Hill as there are over a dozen heron garden features all over. I had the old pool removed and the garden completely re-landscaped. I had the driveway widened and redone along with some new retaining walls.

The house was built in the same year I was born. We have aged and have creaks and groans but are still functioning. People comment on how comfortable the house is and often say it has a warm special feel to it. No one will ever say it is glamourous or worry about spilling something. It is a place to relax and recoup. I have one person who stays here to watch the dogs while we are away who absolutely loves the place and calls it her vacation spot.

Waiting for Santa Paws

I am sitting here this morning gazing at the snow falling. The house has an abundance of windows including a bank of almost  floor to ceiling ones in the front. They are old and drafty and I will soon cover them to keep the warmth in. But that’s ok because I have many plants inside and they have white lights in them to keep a festive feel even after I take down the Christmas stuff sometime in MARCH!!!! ( wish I was kidding)

Christmas 2014 1

On Thursday, my husband and his daughter will sit down to a meal which we all helped to prepare. I insist we say at least one thing we are grateful for. I practice every night thinking of things I am grateful for before I sleep. Even when the pain of my Psoriatic arthritis is pulsing through me, I find peace and solitude in my humble abode.

 

 

Autumn Challenges

pumpkins

This has been an amazing week.

I used to love autumn. It was my favorite season. So much so I chose to be married the first time in October. I love the cooler temperatures and the colors of the trees and the crispness of the air. I loved going back to school as a kid. I have always thought of fall as the season of change.

But as things in my life happened, I noticed a pattern of not so nice things happening in the fall. It changed my favorite season to be late spring and early summer, with June being my favorite month.

I started the process of my divorce in November, I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis in October, I went through several seasons of terrible medical issues, including the possibility of Ovarian Cancer discovered in September but by January the next year was dismissed as just a dermoid tumor. The list goes on includes thyroid issues, severe kidney problems and pituitary tumors.

I dread fall now for those reasons. But I also hate the dying of all the plants. One morning, I will wake up and my garden will have been killed by a frost. It devastates me. All that work all summer to have it gone in one night. I fight it by covering things for a while but then I know I have to sacrifice all the flowering plants. I do bring in many and host them for the winter, but the impatiens won’t make it. Even the large maples will shed their canopy and the garden will be barren. The animals will disappear for the most part, even though I continue to feed them.

bear-display

Well true to form, I had an issue. Two weeks ago, I went for my annual mammogram. I am faithful about that test. My mother’s sister, my favorite aunt, had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy at a very early age.

I had a new kind of imaging done that I have never had before. They found something. I got a call back requesting I return for another diagnostic test and then would be required to wait for a consult with a doctor. I knew I had a crazy week and so I waited until the following Friday to return.

The week was worrisome. I finally convinced myself it was just an issue with the imaging as she said she had trouble and needed to take two of the right breast. I did not know that was not the reason, but I clung to the idea she messed up through the week. But true to someone who has PTSD, my body reacted with terrible flares of pain. By Friday, I could hardly walk.

The Elizabeth Wende Breast Center is a fabulous facility here in my town. They have satellite offices and I usually go to one of those. But for this recall, I had to go back to the main center. It was mobbed. You waited in line just to check in. I was told I was going to the other side of the facility and to wait in a separate area. It was smaller and calmer. Once you are in the actual  facility, it is run like a spa. There is soft music and no sound is emitted from the TVs in the waiting rooms. They have couches and soft colors and you feel like you are in someone’s living room. They offer chair messages and paraffin treatments, and you can shop for jewelry while you wait. It is so soothing that the lady next to me wrapped herself up in a blanket and fell asleep.

The technicians are very kind. She allowed me to see the images she took along with the ones from the previous test. Sure enough, there was a mass and there was no denying it. I was sent back to the waiting room and fought back tears. It was a long wait, it seemed.

After a hour and half wait, they brought me back to the doctor’s office and I had to have an ultrasound done. I walked around the room in anticipation of what was next and I noticed the doctor’s multiple diplomas. The doctor’s name was Posy Jane. How could someone with that name give me bad news? She was crisp yet nice and allowed me to watch as she honed in on the darkened spot. She declared it a cyst and said not to worry. I love Dr. Posy Jane S. It was the best news.

I have a real empathy for the women I know who have gone through breast cancer. It was terrifying even though I had a great outcome. And what if it was something? I was glad I had the opportunity to have such state of the art facilities. They have such great new technology out there that must be saving many women’s lives. Early detection is critical.

I am hoping this was my crisis for the year. The garden is still going great and I plan on sitting out there today and read. We will go to the farmer’s market and then I will create a fall dinner with many vegetables and celebrate the beauty of the season. I know I am blessed and dodged a bullet. I am grateful.

The Gift of Listening

blue-ball     There are a few things that humans can give and they mean so much and cost so little. One is a smile. Another is to just listen to someone. The act of being quiet and still being present to hear someone’s story is a compassionate gift. This Friday, under a fool moon, my friend and I sat out in the garden and spent the evening just talking. I so desperately needed to just vent all the frustrations that have been building in my heart

I do not share much at work with anyone. I have learned the hard way that what may be said in personal conversation can come back to bite you. However, many people come to me to talk about their issues. I have been told it is because they trust me to keep what is said confidential. But I think it is because I listen with a compassionate ear and fully pay attention to them when they are speaking. I listen. One young girl will sit at my desk and blurt out things and then will pick up her phone and text when she is done speaking.  She just wants to dump and run. I find her rude and self-centered, but I still listen to her.  I absolutely hate people who look at their phone or text when you are talking together.

Most nights, I come home and go out to the garden to ground and relax. I will often recount the day to my husband and try to explain the nuances of issues that have popped up. I know he is not listening. He often is looking everywhere else. He does not comment at all while I am speaking. He is too busy thinking about something else, which he will say once I pause. I can be going on about something as serious as fraud that had been discovered at work and he will reply with “The Yankees won today.” As much as I should not waste my voice, I do need to vent and if nothing else, it gets it out of me and I can relax. Sometimes, however, I just get more frustrated.

Talking with my girlfriend was also difficult. She likes to fix. And as much as I appreciate her thoughts and ideas, I am not asking her to fix my life. I just want someone to listen. I heard her sometimes cruel yet honest replies and felt wounded at times. I listened to her discourse of issues in her life and tied to validate her feelings. We sat out there until the moon was high in the sky and the next day had come.

I was sad because I realized through the conversation that my friendship had been strained and I had not realized how she had felt about me in certain areas. I have known her for over thirty years. But I also had a sense of relief within myself. Like a rock that was in the pit of my gut had left. I realized though venting, I had released much of the angst that has been building in me. I was not looking for a solution; I just needed to be heard.

But I also realized I had listened to myself and had a chance to “soak in” what I had said. I used to journal and I used to blog much more and I realized that was where I went to be heard. I need to go back to writing more. Putting words down on paper is a great method of release. It is why there are so many blogs out there. We love to see those “like” icons piling up because it shows we have been heard.

I feel like I am being taken on a different path in my journey. It is quite bumpy right now and steep and there are lots of rocks to navigate. I also sense a change happening in my life. I do not like change…. I am struggling against it. Part of it is knowing that I am in the sunset of my career and the other part is I have to accept the lower level of energy and pain I am constantly in. It’s not the fear of getting older that is worrying me, either. I am looking forward to not HAVING to work and to live my life on my own schedule when I retire. For right now though, I need to change how I live my life through this transition and be ok with it. I need to let go and just see what happens.