Another Ride Around The Sun

My 38th birthday is approaching this week. One of my favorite phrases is that “a birthday is the start of another 365 day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride!” After everything that happened at age 37, I am very much looking forward to this birthday and getting another year.

I love birthdays more than any other holiday, because every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Life threw me some doozies this past year.

I am not normally one for resolutions, but I do usually have goals. My three goals for 2017 are:

To resume my normal running schedule (completely shot to hell by health problems)
To plank every day
To read the entire Bible (again) this year

So far, I am on track for 2 of the 3. I have planked every day since January 1, with the exception of 1 day. So, given that this is now March, the fact that I have missed only 1 day of the past 2-3 months is impressive to me. I had the goal of planking every day back in 2016. I wasn’t even close last year.

I have this reading schedule that is helping me break up the Bible into manageable portions. Have you ever read the Bible? I’ve actually read it many times, but not in the past decade or so. Getting through some of those Old Testament books like Numbers can be really hard. I found a great schedule that breaks it down into manageable daily chunks. It fits well into my morning routine and helps me to ease calmly into my day.

My running schedule is something else. I had medical clearance to run back in January and was successful for a few weeks. I have been sidelined by debilitating fatigue the past few weeks. The health concerns that have been dragging me down since the fall have been a huge curve ball in my life. I am hoping that with my birthday this week and (hopefully) warmer weather that I can put the priority back on my running schedule. I think part of the reason why I feel like I want to curl up and die sometimes is that my health problems have made it impossible for me to run for about 6 months now.

I have a half marathon on my calendar this September and am looking forward to spending the next 6 months preparing for my race. I have the motivation and the mindset; if only my body would cooperate.

Note to self: 38 is the year we need to get it together again.

Years ago, I had read a British study on happiness that said that the happiest age was typically age 33 and the most miserable age was typically 37. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I still say that age 33 was the best year of my life. This was closely followed by age 36 as being a great year. The two worst years of my life have been ages 34 and 37.

That’s a lot of up and down for one decade. Although my 30s have been way better than my 20s, I did not expect things to be so tumultuous. I’m not sure what the predictions are for your 40s, but at this point, I’m hoping that age 38 is just a nice, evenly keeled year that allows me to get back on track and meet all my goals.

I honestly can’t complain too much. I am getting this huge gift this week of being blessed with another year of life in which to ride around the sun. It truly is a wonderful life. I have friends and people who love me, the best job of my life, and my retirement is going great. All I need is my health to cooperate and get with the program. Once that is in place, I would have to say that life is pretty great.

After being in the hospital last fall, I feel that I am truly lucky to be alive and looking forward to another birthday.

So here’s to another ride around the sun. I’ve been able to survive another year of what life threw at me.

A Year Without Facebook

It’s been a year since I completely deleted my facebook account, and I have no regrets. None. Aside from my medical challenges, the past year without facebook has been one of the best years of my life since before facebook was invented. My stress levels are significantly reduced, and I am actually enjoying life again.

It’s a great feeling to be able to spend time with someone and not constantly be thinking about taking a photo of something or a witty quip to make as a post. When you are not constantly documenting your life for the facebook world, you get to actually participate in and enjoy each moment. When I was on facebook, I felt like an observer to my own life. “Oh, I have to post …” Like everyone needed to know what I was doing every moment of my life. They don’t.

I do training classes where I work, and we have a no cell phone policy. When I train people about the no cell phone policy, I tell them that I believe they can do it. In a world where cell phones are practically an appendage, you can survive for 90 minutes without your phone. The internet will go on, facebook will survive, and your friendships will not end. It will be okay. Constantly checking your cell phone is a compulsion for most people. Not only have I broken my facebook habit, but my cell phone habit also.

I still have a cell phone. However, without a facebook, I use the phone for its intended use – mostly texting and *gasp talking on the phone. Yes, there are still people in this world who pick up a phone and dial numbers to make it ring to physically talk to a person on the other end instead of typing a text message. Plus, the people with whom I talk know I have a job and a life, and may not instantly reply.

In a world of instant gratification, I’m doing it old school. Sometimes people don’t answer the phone because they actually have a life. I’m too busy living mine to have a facebook or to respond right away. I will respond, but if I’m enjoying someone’s company, I’m not going to ruin the moment by being a slave to a chirping, palm-sized piece of technology.

I do not feel as though I have missed out on anything in the past year without a facebook. The only news I get is from the radio, so I managed to miss a large portion of election coverage. Even the political news I hear on the radio has been getting too much for me. I’ve been listening to my CDs and vinyl records more so that I don’t have to hear newscasts. But I’m pretty sure that if I had not deleted my facebook account last year and was online for the duration of the election season, that I would have lost my sanity by now and be in an asylum.

Most people have gotten the clue that I am no longer online and make the effort to either see me in person, write a letter (that’s when you use a pen to write on paper and put this little square on it called a stamp), call me, or text. My time now with family and friends is that much richer and precious to me. I actually have time to spend quality time with people and give them my full attention without the “ping” of social media constantly distracting me from the people who are right in front of me.

I have used my time without facebook to focus on what’s important to me. Mainly, the people in my life and the relationships I neglected not only from being online but also all the years I spent as a professional college student who was working multiple jobs. I may be paycheck to paycheck, but my year without facebook has made me richer in so many ways.

Now, I have the time to pay attention to my body and my health as I still struggle to recover from being in the hospital last fall. The past year without facebook has shown me that I need to pay attention to what is truly important, and one of those items is my health. Deleting my facebook has helped me retain my sanity in a tumultuous election year, and is now affording me the time to focus on my physical health as well.

I’m looking forward to entering year two without a facebook account. I can only imagine that life will continue to move in a positive direction, as I am able to spend more time with people I love and focus on things like health. So here is to a year without facebook, and looking forward to many more.

Slow Down does not mean Stop

A few months ago, before the shit hit the fan both literally and figuratively, and my life turned into a Dickens tale, I remember sitting in church listening to that day’s sermon, and the phrase “slow down does not mean stop” stuck with me. I honestly don’t remember what the sermon was actually supposed to be about, but that one phrase stuck. I’m pretty sure it was sometime in mid-September that I heard it.

Since hearing that phrase in mid-September, I have successfully survived a bout of the flu that completely flattened me for a week, and took a total of almost three weeks to fully recover; I survived being rear-ended on my way to work by an impaired driver while I was sitting completely stopped at a red light; and I survived being in the hospital for a possible stroke, and all the cardiologist and other doctor visits that ensued trying to figure out why I was suddenly blacking out all the time. If bad luck comes in threes, then I have had my share for this year.

Slow down does not mean stop stuck with me because in addition to my recent challenges, I passed my one-year retirement anniversary. For the first time since I started kindergarten at age five, I have been out of school for an entire year from Nov 2015-Nov 2016. After spending twenty years of my life as a college student working multiple jobs, I have spent the past year working one job trying to slow down my life.

Slow down does not mean stop.

Whether a warning or a premonition, that phrase has come to apply to my life more than you can possibly imagine.

In some ways, my life has stopped.

No one talks to me now that I’m not in school. When I was in school, life was a flurry of activity, and with that came emails, text messages, and a slew of things on facebook. I deleted my facebook account almost nine months ago now, and I can still say it was the best thing I have ever done. I have no regrets on that one. What I would like to know is, where did all the people go now that I am not in school? I’m lucky if I get four text messages a month now.

I have no goals and no purpose. I have been mindlessly wafting. When I was in school, I was in constant action working toward a goal of finishing a degree and building a better life. I do not know what the definition of “a better life” is, but since I have been retired, I am simply working, reading, and hanging around home.

Probably the scariest, worst, and most significant way in which my life has stopped was that I stopped running. This is a problem on multiple levels.

Last spring, I was training for a full marathon and had to stop training when my work schedule became so overwhelming that I literally could only work and sleep. My work schedule was messing with my autoimmune disease, which means I was not sleeping, and was too tired to run. When I finally got my work schedule and sleep schedule around so I could run, I got the flu. Life has been a downward spiral. It quite literally took being in the hospital going through stroke protocol that gave me a very alarming wake up call.

I had a cardiologist years ago who had told me to try running to strengthen my heart and to overcome problems with a faulty valve I have. It worked. Fourteen marathon medals later, my echocardiogram is showing improvement in that compromised heart valve. However, the fact that I stopped running for five months, the longest amount of time in almost ten years that I have not ran, is a problem.

Stop running is what caused this “I almost had a stroke” mess.

Slowing down my life does not mean to stop doing what I love. Slowing down my life is supposed to give me more time to do more of what I love.

Instead, I have spent the past year in a dazed haze because I feel as though I no longer have an identity now that I am not in school.

Slow down does not mean stop. I learned that if I stop, it could kill me.

Since my hospital scare a few weeks ago, I have started walking every day (this came highly recommended by the cardiologist). I am working on getting myself back up to a point where I am running again on a regular basis. I do have a race picked out for September 2017, and plan on training for the 2017 season. These are all things that the cardiologist is excited about as well. Hopefully as I get to more running than walking, my “I’m going to pass out” symptoms will be gone.

I still don’t have a goal or a direction for my life. Honestly, I am very much lost now that I am no longer in school. What I do know is that while I want to slow down my life, I need to enjoy my life also. I haven’t been doing that. I just kind of slowed down and stopped.

Somehow I have to figure out how to keep myself going without school. That has been the hardest lesson to learn this past year. I am not doing very well with that.

We always say we want more time; we want more hours in a day. I believe that to be true. We will always want more time. It is easy for people who are on the outside looking in to say to someone “you need to slow down.” That may or may not be true. Only you know what’s best for you. Even if you do decide to slow down your life, be sure to remember: Slow down does not mean stop.

Adult Snow Days

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We have a snow day today. My work is closed. We got over a foot of snow overnight, and are currently experiencing inch an hour accumulation. It’s supposed to top out at 20 inches total today with 40 mph winds blowing all the fluff around. The Sheriff just closed all the roads were I live less than 10 minutes ago.

I have had snow days before. I spent eleven years teaching pre-school and have had snow days when the school district closed. Somehow, snow days as an adult have not been nearly as exciting as snow days as a child. That is, until today.

In my adult experience, snow days have primarily been announced at the last possible minute. There have been many times when I was on the road driving to the school, and then they finally announced the school closure on the radio so that I could turn around and go home. There were days when I hemmed and hawed over whether I thought it safe to try to get to the school when a snow day was not called, but the roads still treacherous, and I had to travel through two different counties to get to the school.

Today was the first time in my life that I experienced a snow day with the day delight as I did as a child. I had not even gotten up to look outside yet. In fact, my alarm had not even gone off yet. I was just kind of waking up and groggy when I received the alert announcing the snow day.

I don’t remember a snow day being called this early since I was a child. It was a wonderful experience to have the stress and pressure of trying to ascertain driving safety taken off my shoulders. My snow tires are not on my car yet (they were actually scheduled to be put on today), and after looking outside, I am not even going to be able to drive anyplace to have them put on. I have not been confident driving lately.

I was in the hospital last week. For the past two weeks or so, I have been having blackouts and these feelings of “I’m going to pass out.” The hospital put me through stroke protocol. When I first entered the hospital, they thought either I had a stroke or was about to have a stroke. I spent last week on a heart monitor. I honestly do not think that the cardiologist or any of the other physicians know what is happening. I also do not think that they care.

If I am in one place, I can deal with the passing out feeling. The worst that will happen is that I hit the floor. The problem is that I have been blacking out, and it happened once when I was driving. That is a concern.

Trying to drive the past week has been challenging. I either have to try to get a ride places or drive to the park and ride to get the bus to work. Even the bus cramps my style; the bus schedule does not accommodate my work hours.

Having a snow day today was a huge weight off my shoulders. In addition to trying to judge weather conditions, I have been trying to figure out on a day-to-day basis whether or not I am physically well enough to drive. It is very frustrating when the doctors have basically done nothing to help. The only thing I have been told is that blood is not reaching my brain, so I need to lay down with my legs in the air. That does very little to help me to function on a day-to-day basis.

For the first time since I was a child, I am purely delighted to have a snow day. Not only was it announced early, before I even looked outside and say all the snow, but also it allows me to stay home and focus on listening to my body and trying to figure out what is going on with me.

I know that this week of Thanksgiving I am not only thankful for snow days, but also for good friends, that I am physically safe despite all the challenges I am facing (in the face of incompetent medical care in addressing the issues), and that I have a job I love. I have so many things to be thankful for this week that a heart condition, or whatever is going on is not going to get my spirits down. I’m going to keep going until I pass out or get better. But for today, I am going to enjoy my adult snow day. Cheers to hot mugs of tea, good books, and naps.

Baby, it’s hockey season

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Hockey is hockey is hockey. Baseball is what happens when its not hockey season. I am a huge sports fan, and favor hockey, baseball, and football, in that order. For years I would go to the Thanksgiving Day hockey game. The arena personnel were like family. There are no more Thanksgiving Day hockey games, so last year I cooked Thanksgiving at home.

I have had the privilege of attending a NHL game and a MLB game for my favorite teams. My favorite national teams will not ever change no matter where I live. I consider the fact that I have been able to see my favorite national teams to be a great privilege, as it is not something that the everyday person has the opportunity to do. First, tickets are expensive, and second, geography and work schedules are not conducive to attending national games.

People typically root for the home team. Attending national games is for the people with means to do so. Many people will not have the opportunity to see their national teams live in person. Hometown teams are in our backyards. These are the regional teams, the college teams, the high schools teams, and sometimes simply the frozen corner lot with a bunch of kids from the block running around on ice in sneakers, hitting a puck with a broomstick.

This past weekend, I spent $4 to see the local college hockey team play on Saturday afternoon. There are 4 colleges and universities within a 30-mile radius around me. I knew about the university team (whose tickets cost as much as an AHL game). I did not even know that the local college had a hockey team. Apparently, it’s been there since the 2000-2001 season.

After being pampered by heated stadiums at AHL games, it was shockingly refreshing to watch a game in an unheated arena, wearing full winter outerwear trying to keep warm through three periods of play. Next time, I will bring a blanket. Of course, I am also the fool that sits in row three in an 18-degree ice rink.

While my home team lost, the play was great. The passes were crisp, the checks were hard, the skating graceful, and most of all, you could tell they played their hearts out and enjoyed every minute of the game. This is what hockey is all about.

Not only was the game well played, but it was the most relaxed I have ever been at a game. I was not worried about taking photos to post online, I had no need to constantly check my phone to text someone, I was not preoccupied with thoughts of homework or other things I had to do with my day once the game was done. I was able to sit and enjoy that hockey game more than I have typically enjoyed hockey games. There was no stress of going through security like the have at AHL and NHL games. I always travel light, and carry the smallest purse possible that is large enough to hold the epi pens, but just having the more relaxed atmosphere that did not include pat downs and metal detectors was refreshing. There were concessions that had coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and snacks. There was no pressure over beer or wine and no worrying about rowdy fans around me because they were continually fueled by booze.

This was the first hockey game I attended since I slowed down my life, and it was amazing. I am able to enjoy the things I love so much more now that life has slowed down. What’s more, it’s affordable. I can attend the entire season of college hockey games for what it would cost me to attend one AHL game. While I have seen my NHL team play on home ice once, to do so again would require almost a full month’s pay between the cost of the ticket and travel.

I think I enjoyed this hockey game more than I have enjoyed any other hockey game in recent memory.

To think that this team has been here for the past 15 years, and I had no idea what was in my own back yard. It is good, fun, affordable entertainment. What other activities are in my own back yard that I had no idea exists? Now that life has slowed down, I have the opportunity to open my eyes to what is around me. I no longer have tunnel vision focused on work and school, punctuated by brief periods of “relaxation” that involved some big, expensive trip just for the sake of “getting away.” I am very fortunate that there are so many sports teams around me to support and that ticket prices are reasonable.

What events are in your back yard? I have heard the concept of being a tourist in your own town before, but when I think tourist, I think of museums and plays. I did not initially think about attending college sports events.

So while it may be 27 degrees out this morning, I willingly spent a part of Saturday afternoon in an 18-degree hockey rink watching some college kids on skates hit a once-inch thick piece of rubber with a stick. Baby, it’s cold outside; baby, it’s also hockey season. It does not get much better than this.

All That Jazz

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Last year, I had written about letting go of our fantasy selves. If you have table service for 12 with visions of hosting grand soirees, yet in reality value solitude, then letting go of the extra table service and allowing your self to live authentically is going to do more to bring happiness than constantly planning for a house party that probably will not happen.

In my quest to slow down my life and to pare down my belongings so that I am only surrounded by that which I love, letting go of my various fantasy selves has been quite helpful. This is not to say that we should abandon or tear down all of our hopes and dreams. To the contrary, I am actually living the dream now that I have given up the fantasies.

One of the dreams I have always had is one of leisurely weekend mornings spent with good music, good coffee, and quiet peacefulness with those I love. I’ve finally made it happen. This weekend, I had Frank, Duke, and all that jazz. I was at home with the ones I love, good coffee, and nothing pressing on my agenda.

My work schedule changed recently, and for the first time ever, I am working Monday through Friday with weekends off. While I have traditionally shied away from working on Sundays sue to my running schedule, I have worked Saturdays for quite probably, with no exaggeration, 20 years. Now that I have Saturdays off, my life is slowing becoming that of the setting on the washing machine – “normal.”

We have had frost at least 5 times now, with the first time being at the end of September right before I had caught the flu. With the weather driving me inside, I am focusing more on home and being sure that I am surrounded by only by those things that I love. I recently went through my CDs. While I have been adamant that my music collection is the only thing that I will allow to be wholly untamed and off-limits to my minimalist tendencies, I decided to see what life would be like if I stored about 150 items from my collection.

I have found that not only am I more likely to listen to my music collection again compared to the drone of the radio, but that I am enjoying listening to entire albums without skipping around. It’s very soothing to sit at night with vinyl on the record player and relax. It’s equally restorative to push play on the CD player in the morning and be able to melt into the music without automatically being all keyed up with the events of the day.

Being able to listen to jazz in the morning helps to set the tone for the day. It helps me to appreciate and be thankful for all of my blessings instead of going straight into the stress of news and politics that are happening in the world.

I had tried having a morning routine to deal with stress. My thought was that if I had a morning routine, it would help to center and prepare me to meet the demands of the day. Instead, my morning routine only served to stress me out more. If I did not have time to do it all, or if I did not feel like going through the entire process, then it made my morning routine more of a chore than a point of relaxation.

I have decided to do away with the morning routine, and instead listen to my body and do what is best for me for my mind, body, and soul for the moment. Lately, what is best for those three things have been jazz, coffee, and a good book.

Almost a year into retirement, I am still not sure what to do with myself. I feel like I’m still trying to find my footing and figure out how to navigate the world without the identity of “student.” Changing my mornings have helped to ground me in peace. I’m hoping that somehow out of that peace will come direction.

So this morning as Duke Ellington spun in the CD player, I did more than just listen. I felt the music with mind, body, and soul. I felt it in my bones. I may not know where I‘m going from here, but all that jazz is a pretty good place to rest.

 

 

Grow Where You’re Planted

I’ve had a hard time finding my groove in retirement. It’s been 9 months since my 20 year career as a college student has ended. I feel sort of like a recluse. No one talks to me now that I’m no longer in school. It’s almost as if I’ve lost my voice and nothing I say or do matters.

So I’ve been struggling to fill the large, gaping hole left in my life now that I’m not in school. I had joined a book club. I had joined a writing club. I’m not one for bars. Running is a solitary sport, and I have no interest in group sports. What is there to do?

To the seemingly surprise of many, I returned to church about 6 months ago after a significant hiatus. I was raised very strict Baptist, and even married to a minister – until he got his girlfriend pregnant. I tend to be extremely liberal in my views with a laid back personality, so many people did not see me as any sort of Jesus freak.

In these past few months of drifting, I have gone back to old habits and old coping skills in my quest to find both an anchor and my next direction in life.

After the numerous negative experiences I have had as a Baptist, I was cautious to go back to church. I was basically just looking for some peace without the politics. I knew I could not return to the Baptist church after everything that has happened, and decided I needed to convert. On recommendation of a very good friend, I tried a Methodist church.

In June, I went through my official confirmation ceremony to join the church. Good bye, Baptist. Hello, Methodist.

I mostly keep to myself at church. It’s a traditional service that provides familiarity, and brings fond memories of services attended with my grandparents in my youth. Plus, most of the congregation is older than me. I really haven’t met anyone my age, and there’s only about 40 people that go.

The friends I’ve made at church are slightly younger than my grandparents would be if they were alive and well. So, it fulfills that sense of safety & joy I had attending church with my grandparents growing up.

There is one gentleman who stopped me dead in his tracks. When he sings, he sounds just like my grandfather, and it brings me to tears. My grandfather was the one person in my family who was ever supportive of me. He was such a role model. This gentleman at church is the exact age my grandfather was when he passed away.

While book club and writing club did not work for me (mostly, my work schedule changed), I had been thinking of getting involved at church. I have such a sense of peace there. But, I don’t want to be involved in the politics like I was as a pastor’s wife. Plus, while I long for a sense of belonging, I am not looking for a huge commitment. I don’t want to replace the rigors of school, but I need something to do.

I had been thinking about volunteering for the food pantry, but with multiple food allergies that react by touch, that doesn’t seem like a good idea. At one point, out of frustration, I actually asked God what I should be doing with myself. I’ve been out of school for almost a year. I’ve spent the entire time drifting, and have at times been in a bad place.

Well, today, out of the blue, the woman in charge of the food pantry asked if I could help with the August food pantry, as the usual person is on vacation. They know how severe my food allergies are, so I will be doing the people and paperwork part – checking people in, and being sure they get enough to get by – like inventory, without having to interact with any of my allergens.

Also, the woman who is the church gardener is moving south to be closer to her children and grandchildren, and today she stood up in church and asked if anyone would be willing to take over the gardens both to serve God and to keep them up for the enjoyment of all the people.

Before I knew what was happening, I was volunteering.

I know nothing about gardening. I can’t keep a plant in the house. The only plant I ever had that I didn’t kill was a spider plant, and Kitty ate the entire thing until it was gone (this was years ago).

So, I know nothing about plants, but now I’m the new church gardener.

I had the lady walk out with me after service to explain everything that needed to be done. She even told me the plant names. I didn’t know them.

Right now, it will be mostly weeding and getting the plant beds in shape. I can spend a few hours a week doing that before work. Maybe growing plants in soil outside will be easier than having a house plant inside with two cats.

Lets hope so.

I’m looking forward to some quiet time weeding, reflecting, thinking. If I wanted to serve the church without being involved in the politics of church life, then maybe the garden is it.

Apparently, somehow in this transaction, I’m also now doing the flower arrangements for the alter. I don’t think they know what they are getting into. I don’t know names of flowers. I’m just like, this is pretty, put it here.

I mostly went back to church in my quest to peace. I’ve been trying to unwind and relax. That’s the entire purpose of rewind real slow. You can’t enjoy the good things in life if you are frantically going from one thing to another and trying to keep pace.

Lets hope that church gardening is my groove. When they say grow where you’re planted, they weren’t kidding. Hopefully the gardens keep growing under my care

This is what I signed up for

Being a parent is hard. No matter how much you try to prepare, how many books you read, or how many people you talk to for advice, you truly don’t know what you are getting into until you are there, elbows deep, unable to escape, back track, or change your situation.

When you adopt, you take on all these responsibilities knowingly. In fact, you even have to go out of your way and try harder to become a parent compared to those who are just blessed with the ability to have their own children naturally. No matter how much you plan, and no matter how much you think you know what you’re getting into, you really have no idea until you are in the middle of it.

Kitty had a doctor appointment today, and the news was surprisingly good. He is responding well to the medication, and even though he has a tumor in his intestines, he managed to gain back one of the four pounds he had lost. Two months ago, we were unsure if he would make it to 18. Not only did he make it to 18 last week, but we are also now expecting that he will be around for Christmas. His next check up is not until December.

In addition to the horrifying camping trip I had in July, I remember what terrified me the most was the thought that if something happened to me, there would be no one to take care of Kitty and Jude. Although I had a very good friend who is completely capable administering his medication while I was gone, I was still unable to relax because I was worries about how he was doing.

Kip passed away at 14. He lived with kidney disease for half his life, and I administered his medication daily for 7 years. His original prognosis was that he would have maybe 3 years with kidney disease. He had an additional 7. So being used to giving Kip his medicine for such a long period of time, you would think I would be more relaxed with Kitty’s meds and not so high strung about it. I’m not sure if its due to the medication schedule itself – precise doses at exact times, or if dealing with cancer is emotionally different than dealing with chronic kidney disease, but I feel more stress dealing with Kitty’s meds than I did with Kip’s meds.

So today, his appointment went well, and his dosage is being decreased, but it is still a daily dose. Then I thought about my vacation coming up in a few weeks.

I have 9 days off in the middle of August. This is going to be the first time in 23 years of working that I am getting a week long paid vacation. For the first time in my life, I have time and money to do something. I had made reservations back in March to be out of town for 4 of the 9 days.

I hemmed and hawed about boarding the cats at the vet office, taking them with me, or trying to find a babysitter so I could go on vacation. I normally wouldn’t worry about leaving them alone for a few days, but Kitty’s meds need to be on an exact schedule (or it could literally kill him if I screw it up).

I decided not to board them. They have never boarded before, and with Kitty’s anxiety over a 30-minute office visit, I don’t think I could leave him there for 4 days. I don’t think he can handle it. I think he would die of a panic attack. I can’t take them with me. While Kitty is leash trained and would do fine, Jude is not. It’s not fair for him to spend 4 days in a box. Finding a babysitter for that length of time is challenging, and I would not want to put that responsibility on anyone for that length of time. One or two days is fine, but not four days.

I canceled my vacation.

I’m going to have 8 days of day trips instead.

For the first time since 1999, I am not taking my Adirondack camping trip.

It’s probably a little ridiculous. I could probably work something out to get Kitty’s med schedule covered. Except, I don’t think I would be able to relax and enjoy my.vacation because I would feel guilty and I would feel bad about someone else shouldering my responsibility.

I signed up for this.

When I signed the dotted line 18 years ago, I knew it was for life. Through sickness and in health. I can’t just go and leave the one person who has stood by me every single day for the past 18 years and drop them off someplace where they are terrified just so I can go play in the woods for 4 days.

When Kip was on medication, I would get a babysitter. As long as he got his meds once a day, it didn’t matter when. Of course, it was preferable to have consistency. But 3 days of random doses once a year, were okay. With Kitty’s medication, a missed dose or a dose at the wrong time could mean death.

I think I need to stay home until either he improves enough to be without meds (I doubt it) or passes away (more likely).

He has been here for me every single day for 18 years. This is the least I can do. Like I said, I signed up for this.

So now I’m looking forward to 8 beach days coming up. Hopefully the weather cooperates. We are technically aging a drought. Of course, every time I have a day off is when it decides to storm severely or just plain rain all day. With my luck, the drought will probably break with 9 straight days of rain during my vacation. It would suck to get stuck inside like that, especially after enduring a very harsh winter this past year.

In the meantime, on the scant beach days I have had, I have had the opportunity to do some beach reading. Those books with the stickers that say “beach read” finally got read on a beach. Hopefully my day trips will be just as relaxing and rejuvenating as my usual camping trip typically is for me.

This is what I signed up for, and this is what life is made of – spending time with those yo love while you still can. Life is so very short.

Happy 18th Birthday, Kitty

Kitty has been with me longer than any human being, including my parents. In 18 years, the longest amount of time we have ever been separated is a time span of 3 nights.

I’m not sure how much longer we have together. It’s hard watching his decline. Although his health is currently stable on medication, I will honestly be surprised if he makes it to 19. It’s possible this is his last birthday.

Kitty has literally been by my side through everything, even when no one else was. When we didn’t have anyplace to live and were living in the car, Kitty always kept a look out & would alert me to anything weird going on while I was sleeping.

When they were little both Kitty and Kip (deceased a few years ago) would go camping with me. They are leash trained, and were perfectly fine outside at the campsite and walking the trail.

I was thinking that if Kitty had been with me on that camping trip from hell, that he would have protected me. Kitty has spunk. He will walk right up to a dog and start a fight. Then, I think, Kitty 10 or 15 or maybe even 5 years ago would have done that. But Kitty today is so old and frail that although his fighting spirit is still alive and well, there is absolutely nothing he could do physically to intimidate or protect like he used to do.

Kitty snuggles my head as we sleep each night. The past few months have been hard. As his health has declined, he has not been able to control his hind nails like he used to, and his back claws are almost always out. I notice it because now when he snuggles me, I’m constantly getting scratched. I guess I took for granted for 17 years that when he slept with me, he kept his hind claws retracted out of courtesy.

He has a hard time getting comfortable. I notice this in the way he plops himself down now. He has to lay on a side and cannot just lay straight on, which I’m sure is due to the tumor in his intestines.

It’s hard watching my best friend go downhill. I don’t know what I’m going to do without him, but I don’t want him to hang on just for me.

We had the discussion a few weeks ago, in which I told him that if he needs to go (pass a way), I understand. He’s given me the very best of himself his entire life, and he deserves to rest free from pain.

But, he’s a fighter. Kitty is still fighting. I can tell he’s not ready to go yet. As long, as he’s not in pain, that’s okay. I know I’m going to lose it when the time comes.

Kitty and I grew up together. He picked me out at the animal shelter when he was 4 months old. We’ve been together for half of my life, and pretty much all of his.

Losing Kitty is going to be harder on me than losing anyone else in my life.

But for today, he is stable. He looks happy, and he is definitely still showing that fighting spirit that says, “I’m here. I love you, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Happy 18th Birthday to my son, my best friend, the one who grew up with me, who taught me to adult, and through it all, made me a better person. I wouldn’t be who I am without you in my life.

I love you, Kitty. It’s wishful thinking, but here’s hoping for a few more birthdays.

No More Matching

People who know me well know that I have a small obsession with lingerie, particularly Victoria’s Secret. It’s an indulgence where no matter what I am wearing clothing-wise, only I know what I am wearing underneath and it gives me a sense of empowerment.

For example, when I was finishing my bachelors degree, my “advisor”, whom I called the Dragon Lady on the 4th Floor, called me white trash and said I would never do as well at my 4-year school as I did at community college. For the record, I was valedictorian at my community college, and # 6 of 2,000+ at my 4-year university graduating Summa Cum Laude. But while she was berating me about how much of a lowly scum I am, I knew that underneath my $9 outfit I had gotten from Salvo, that I was wearing a $5 pair of Victoria’s Secret panties with a bunch of apples on them that also said “Bite me.” My underwear was appropriate to the situation.

My underclothes almost regularly cost more than my outfit. About 95% of my wardrobe is second hand, but I truly believe (for sanitary reasons) that my underclothes should be new. If I’m going to buy something new, then I want the good stuff, or if not good, then I at least need to be having fun as I kiss my money goodbye.

So generally, my bra and panties are matching, even of I’m having trouble getting my outfit to match. My excuse is that I’m legally color-blind (which is true, according to my paperwork from when I tried to join the Navy back in the 90s). So, gosh darn it, my socks may not match, but my underwear does. You gotta take what you can get sometimes.

Now, it is well known by anyone and everyone who has a hankering for horror movies that the girl being terrorized, hurt, maimed, or killed in such flicks is most usually wearing a matching bra and panty set.

I have never understood why this is the case. I just figured it to be a costuming snafu or some sort of elaborate Hollywood joke. Maybe its some well-placed, subliminal advertising. At any rate, I’ve always thought horror movies were pretend.

That is, at least, until I took the vacation that made Freddie and Jason look like a daydream.

I took my worst vacation in 20 years this week. It was the first time that I have ever come home early from someplace. I came home a day and a half early. In fact, I was gone less than 24 hours.

Things went to hell in a hand basket fast, and now I am starting to think there just may be something to this matching bra & panty gig that Hollywood perpetuates.

I refuse to end up in a body bag, so from now on, I will not be matching my bra and panty sets. From now on, when I get dressed in the mornings, I will do so with an abandon that makes a 3-year old dressing themselves look like executive level material.

Why have I decided to stop matching and have this linked to matching panty sets? Let me set the scene ….

So Monday left to go camping in an area of the Adirondacks that was brand-new to me. The spot I had chosen was about an hour to the north and east of my usual haunt. The place I go camping in August, I’ve been going to for 15 years. This trip this week was a new experience.

The drive was gorgeous, the directions easy. I arrived with high expectations for some relaxation. The first maybe 6 hours were great, and then everything changed into a horror flick. Damn Hollywood and matching panties.

Hindsight is 20/20, and now after the event, I realized what happened was this: I went hiking through the campsite to locate showers, garbage, bear prevention accommodations, etc. when I passed some guy on a bicycle. I said hello, as I normally do to other campers. Later, I passed this same individual on foot. So, he parked his bike, right? I thought nothing of it.

That night as I was tending the fire, I noticed the wood truck went by several times. I do mean several. It slowed down next to me quite a few. The guy was wearing a hat. In retrospect, it was the same guy from earlier. When I left the campground, I found out that this location does not offer wood service. It was NOT in fact, a wood truck, but some creep-o stalker dude.

At the time, I thought it was the wood truck.

After properly distinguishing my camp fire at about 10 pm, I was in my tent by 10:30. The purpose of staying in a tent is to reset circadian rhythms.

At about 11:30, I woke up due to some rustling in the brush. I have seen chipmunks, squirrels, ducks, deer, and even a bear once while camping. I am quite familiar with woodland animal sounds. The interesting part is that at this camp site, I had not seen any animals earlier, and the sound was not entirely familiar. Also note that I was told at check-in that the ranger station closed at about 11-11:30 pm.

I looked outside the tent and saw nothing. I went back to sleep.

I was once again awakened, this time at 1:30 am. It was a human sound. Directly outside my tent. I have spent enough time running trails when I train for my marathons, that I know the sound of sneaker on dirt. Especially when the sound is close to my head. I have been camping enough over the past 20 years to know it was not an animal sound. I have been homeless before and know from living on the streets what it sounds like to be laying down with people walking by you.

This was a human sound, and suddenly I was scared as hell. Now, most normal people know better than to walk through other peoples camp sites. They most certainly do not do this at 1:30 am.

Not knowing the intentions of the person, who said nothing and ran off, I then spent a very uncomfortable night in half of the backseat of my car. The other half was taken up by the cooler.

I finally got to sleep at 4 am, only to be awakened at 6 am by some extremely loud children 4 sites away (4 sites!) screaming their heads off. I taught preschool for 11 years, and I have no problem with groups of children being loud when having fun. But these kids were screaming to be assholes.

I left the camp site and reported my experience to the ranger station. They seemed to know the exact person I was referencing, but were not concerned, as that person is “harmless.” When its someone you don’t know standing right outside your tent at 1:30 am, it does not seem harmless.

I came home from vacation less than 24 hours after I left. Needless to say, I won’t be going back to that location again.

When I returned home, I ended up sleeping 15 hours recovering from my ordeal. I also set the tent up in the yard to be sure it was dry and swept before putting it away again. The “harmless” individual had left a bodily fluid on the side of my tent. I’m glad I came home when I did.

I spent the last day of my vacation having a beach day at Lake Ontario. Some vacation. It was not the relaxing reset I had been envisioning.

So now I am just continuing to trudge on until my week off in August. Lets hope that trip goes off without a hitch. If I have another experience like this one, I’m pretty sure I will lose my mind. I have had plenty of experiences like this pretty much every time I had ever visited New York City, but this was the first time I ever had anything like this happen to me upstate.

I can tell you right now, I won’t be wearing matching bra and panty sets anymore. Freddie and Jason can just keep their Hollywood starlets, thank you very much.

I’m just going to keep hoping I get the break I need in August. And I’m never going to match my clothes again.