Predicting the Weather

Feb 2018

Fact: bitter cold can be Bracing! Energizing! but by Groundhog day it gets kinda hard to take. Hang in there everybody. Most of my energy seems to be going into the basic need categories, 1. food  2. washing 3. finding sweaters 4. watching old Downton Abbey episodes.  Not so much writing. So, today I offer you a wander down memory lane. A re-post.  (Here:  Drained)

Attempting to prepare to write this week, I read back through the blog. It was encouraging, which is far better than the alternative!  Have you ever done that? Looked through old journals or letters, and been surprised to see growth in yourself? When I discovered a post from August 2015, I was amazed at how much my attitude and life have changed from that soggy moment. What I wrote there still has the zing of truth for me, but I could not have imagined in August 2015 how happy and content I would be in my life as it is now in 2018 — with all our other kids moved out leaving Edward, Owen, and me to make a go of it.  I couldn’t see . I could not have known.  Frankly, I love being reminded how little I know.  This limitation is a huge relief.  Wow, I am not In Charge of All Things? I love being smacked gently on the head with remembrance that people have ideas, situations arise, and things happen that I could not have dreamed up. It isn’t my responsibility to run your life! (Aren’t you glad I remembered?) 

Every year I seem to learn greater appreciation of life with an Owen to care for in it.

I don’t want to sugarcoat this. Regular readers have seen enough of our adventures-with-Owen to know how hot and gritty things can be around here. I simply could not be Owen’s caregiver without the support that we get, without regular breaks, without respite for each of us apart, and together. We are grateful for every bit of it. Human beings are meant to grow up, and when they do not, extra supports are required for caregivers to maintain that kind of high intensity care.  I am acutely aware that many who need it do not get it.

Owen is enriched by breaks from us too, I think. The outings with his wonderful sitter Kathie — the wanderings, the parks, the please-touch display at the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge, the turtle at the Nature Center — are stimulating to his brain and hisimagination. He is still growing and evolving. His parents are still growing and evolving.

I take comfort in not knowing, but the well-known cycles are comforting, too. Winter can be bitter, but underground roots are growing slowly in winter, too. Time moves forward, never back. And spring is always coming.

I hope you enjoy a peek back into 2015, when I was feeling Drained…

Photo by Kathie Constable, January 2018



A lot to digest…

Much like the snake I photographed in the chicken run a few weeks ago, (find Part 1 at  the human folks at our house have been working our way through a big meal this fall. Speaking only for myself, in September I wasn’t able to write or do much else of real meat (haha), besides eat, breathe, sleep, and process. Me and the snake. Thank goodness the surgery date is moved up into October, and so we can get through quicker.  It’s “really just a blip on the way to the rest of your life” as my mother-in-law put it, bless her, I hope so. The footage of snake working its jaws around bird is a graphic if gory presentation of the job at hand. Feathers and all. Feet last. Once you get all the information downloaded, which is worth taking your time about, you still need to come to terms with it, and that also takes time. The correspondence is complete, even to the fact that this experience of having cancer is a kind of a meal, something I will grow from going through, and be enriched by. Although I guess that’s up to me.

Owen may be affected by the vibes, or just doing an unusually busy stage of his own development. Lately, he’s been showing affiliation with his Nordic ancestry and leaving warm bed or hot bath for the cool of the brick patio backyard, where he will stand chopping plastic at the table until he feels sufficiently chilled.  Or until I go look for him. He has figured out how to operate the deadbolt on the back door to  achieve early morning freedom. But since there are plenty of shrubs around the property lines to screen him, this seems like a decision he should be allowed to make.

Owen appears fed up with being “directed” these days. And given that most of his hours he is being directed, or pushed or hurried, a little early morning nudity may be just what he needs. If only all his problem behaviors were so easy to deal with. Thank goodness for our homeopathic doctor. I really don’t care if it’s voodoo or what, but the remedy (three little pills of a dilute substance in a sugar pellet) he gave to Owen seems to be calming down his prickly irritability and mulishness.

The night-time care of Owen is another matter, and Edward and I are reaching our limit. Trying to imagine what Stage 2 of Caring for Owen might look like has been keeping me awake at night as much as Owen himself.  How can I make space for Owen to be Owen, and have a life and keep a sense of humor, as I go forward toward 60 and Edward toward 70?  How will we find the care we need for him? And if we do find it, how will I let him go from our house into the care of strangers? How do I send my son away? What kind of life will he have? The need for help is a palpable as the sadness that threatens to choke me. This is a meal to manage in tiny bites. Thank goodness for Owen’s county resources coordinator Nicole Chittams, a woman of great heart and also great practicality and many resources, who has some answers to some of those questions.

My surgery is set up for October 18th. Family and friends have rallied to help out. It turns out things are not going to be as difficult as I thought at first. Where I thought twin mastectomies were called for, it turns out that lumpectomies will do just as well, and maybe better.   I have leaned that for many women Radiation is not the problem for every woman it can be for some (I heard a bad story).  It is possible that I may not need chemo. The best news of all is my own realization that I will come out of this cranky, stiff, and sore true, but still feeling like me. And since mostly I like my me this is a relief. After a September of digesting, on to an October of adaptation.

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Our black caps – fruit from prickles









New Year’s Acknowledgements


Many friends and relatives have been very kind in supporting of my writing endeavors. But unknown to all, it is really the woman at the cash register of my health food store who keeps me writing. When in a slump, or distracted from my writing by life’s madness, sooner or later I know I will have to face her, as I send my groceries down the conveyor belt to be rung up and bagged.

“I haven’t heard anything from you for a while,” Sherrie admonished once.

Oh the shame. Keeping to schedules has never been a strength of mine.

The next time we met over the heads of kale and vitamin bottles, I mumbled something about it being pretty hard to find anything anything positive to write about Owen lately, he’s been difficult.

“Oh but you always do,” Sherrie smiled, warm, unapologetic.  Sherrie is a big fan of Owen’s adventures.

I left fortified with better things than vitamin pills.

Surely every artist must have a Sherrie.  That first person whom they know in no other way but through their art, the stranger who says those bolstering words, “I just love the way you write!”

Caring for Owen is a profound experience. As the last of his siblings returned to college this week, and Edward left for the west coast for the week on business, leaving Owen and me eyeball to eyeball, I am more conscious of the sweetness that Owen brings to my life than usual. And by that I do not mean the juice he splattered all over the floors yesterday cramming oranges into his mouth as fast as he could before I got downstairs to catch him. No, I mean something a tad more lofty. It has to do with seeing, with focus. Have you noticed that spiritual teachers seem to show up, disguised as the difficult people and the painful experiences of life?  Then there seem to be other people, wonderful mentors who show up to help one digest it all, and prod us to do something useful with all we have learned.  Owen has had his turn at both, though he seems to prefer the first role.

But today I want to acknowledge the woman behind the cash register. Without that prodding, the writing I do might never reach the light of day.  Thank you, Sherrie, for holding my feet to the fire. And yes, I will get back to work.