Monday, September 1, 2014

The First Day of School


I woke up this morning remembering all the days that I waited with my daughter for the big yellow bus at the end of our driveway on the first day of school.  Today, she starts classes at her college, and I wonder what she is wearing. It was always a big deal for her to decide what to wear on the first day of school. 

While I drank my coffee, I found these photos of us with our dear sweet old dog, Pepper, waiting for the bus at the beginning of fourth grade and emailed them to her.  I’m feeling very nostalgic these days but I’m glad that I knew enough to appreciate, as each year went by, how special it was and how fast the time would go.  It’s strange to hear the sound of the school bus lumbering past our house each morning while I’m still in bed.  The horses have learned that breakfast is served an hour later now that I don’t have to get up at 5 am to rouse the sleeping child, make her breakfast and lunch and be sure that she troops out to the end of the driveway on time.

Last Friday, my daughter registered for classes at her school for the first time, and it was an unexpected drama. She had written to two professors and secured her spot in their classes, was automatically assigned a place in the mandatory Freshman Year Seminar, and had only one more class to fill.  Armed with a list of many possibilities that she wanted to take, she charged into the battleground of hundreds of students rushing from table to table and line to line to sign up.  At each very long line that she waited in, just as she approached the table, they would announce, “This class is now closed!” So, along with everyone else, she’d rush to another line.  It was insane and frustrating.

I was worrying about her and texting back and forth as I ran my errands to get pine shavings for the barn and something to cook for dinner.  In the grocery store, my phone rang, and I heard my child repeat the line that I have often wailed when I reach the end of my rope: “I just feel like I’m going to cry!”  She had been told that she should wait until the list of open classes was compiled over the weekend and then pick from what was left on it.  Not acceptable.

I gave her a big pep talk about going back in and grabbing a professor in one of the areas that she needed for her major and charming him.  And I’m proud to tell you that’s what she did.  She found a political studies teacher, explained to him what her problem was, and it just so happened that some kid had moments before suddenly dropped one of his classes and a spot had opened up, so he offered it to her. It was a really good fit, a subject that was perfect for her.  She stuck to it and learned that this don’t-give-up attitude pays off.  “You are my hero!” she told him, the phrase that her grandmother was famous for saying.  I’ve been known to use it myself on occasion. 

That’s my girl, following the mother line.


Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Guilty Party


Anyone brave enough to look inside my refrigerator is likely to discover not just one but two open containers of certain items. Like mayonnaise or pesto. It drives my husband nuts. He can't understand why I would dive into a new jar when there is still some left in the almost all used up one that had been there for several weeks.

There is a convoluted logic to my bad habit. When I go to all the effort to make some magnificent, incredibly delicious meal for him, I would hate to ruin it by not using the most flavored, fresh ingredients. Especially if I can't remember how long they have lingered in the fridge. My former mother-in-law was notorious for saving every last bit of every last thing so as not to waste anything ever. On a regular basis, she accidentally food poisoned my former father-in-law with science projects that she resurrected from her refrigerator and served for dinner. It got to the point where he would pick up his plate when she put it down in front of him, raise it to his nose and sniff loudly to be sure that it didn't smell "odd".

This would never have happened in my parents' house since my mom hated to cook and dispatched the dreaded task of making dinner with the fastest speed every seen in a kitchen. It usually involved reaching in the freezer and plopping a bag into boiling water. Once I left home, and she learned that I loved to cook, she refused to ever go near the stove again. Needless to say, her greatest delight was going out to restaurants.

I do have a trick though to be more thrifty. When I open the new container of pesto, I try to mix in a couple of spoons of the old container's contents just so I don't feel too bad about wasting food. And just about the time that the old container is done, I go out and buy another new one. So my husband can open the refrigerator and go nuts, shouting, "Okay! Who's the guilty party?"  He knows, believe me, he knows.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Deja Vu



Siete and I are taking a trip through Abscess Hell this week, There’s something wrong with my little horse’s front left foot, and she’s limping. Two weeks ago, when Johnny, our farrier, came to trim the horses, I thought he would find an abscess in her front left, but he didn’t .  There were some tiny abscesses in all of her three other feet.  So, he released those, and for about five days, she was fine.  Then, last week, she started limping on that front foot, so I began the process of soaking in Epsom salts, poulticing with Animalintex and booting her foot.

The lameness got better, but didn’t go away. Then, it got worse. Dramatically worse.  I called Johnny on Tuesday, and he said he wouldn’t be able to come until this Sunday.  Yesterday, Siete was really hurting and quite lame.  I admit it. I panicked. I was worried that it was something worse than an abscess, like laminitis or a fracture or Lyme Disease again. I didn’t think that waiting five days to find out was a smart idea.  So, I called the vet.

It’s always very expensive when I call the vet. Plus, this is a new doctor at the practice I’ve been using for the last ten years, so I was wracked with anxiety.  Once you start to go down the road with one vet, if you disagree, it gets into a whole awkward thing where the colleagues often don’t like to step in, potentially go against the diagnosis and help figure out what’s best. As I was agonizing over the wisdom of my decision, the vet arrived with two assistants. Too late to turn back the page.

She gave Siete a little shot in her foot to numb a part of the hoof. If the horse walked normally, that would be a sign of where the abscess was located. Nope, Siete was still lame. So, she tried again, and again and again. Finally, the whole foot was numb, and my little horse was in a frantic state, sweating and fighting. It didn’t help that it was the hottest point of the day, and we were all in the sun, just getting fried.  I insisted that they give Siete a sedative to make it easier on her and all of us, and we moved into her stall. Then, the vet decided to draw blood and test for Cushings, which made me want to cry while I mentally beat myself up for being inadequate and so full of self-doubt.  This can happen to me when my animals are hurting, and the vet bill starts sky-rocketing.

The vet began digging around in Siete’s hoof to find the abscess. There were two possible pockets, but neither drained. Just as she mentioned taking x-rays, her phone rang. There was a colic emergency, and they had to go. Nothing had been resolved. She said I should just soak the hoof and use the Animalintex and give her Banamine.  Which is exactly what I was doing before I called the vet. And then, she gave me the bill. I almost passed out.  There goes the money that I had finally saved to fix the drainage ditch and the corral so it won’t flood. And I was right back where I started with the hoof drama. So, she offered that, for no charge, she’d come back on Friday to try to dig on Siete’s hoof some more. Okay, then.

Not knowing what else to do, I did one of the things I do best – worry. I didn’t sleep much last night, but was relieved to see that Siete was a bit improved this morning. She put more weight on the hoof and limped less, so I decided to go against the vet’s orders to soak her foot again. The farrier doesn’t like to soak the hoof because it softens it too much. He thinks walking on it can often make the abscess drain faster. I trust Johnny.  I just gave Siete some Banamine and let her go out in the pasture like she normally would do. I kept feeling strong deja vu.  So, I went back in my records, and sure enough, six years ago, Siete went through the same thing with the same foot.  It was crazy expensive, involving special shoes and Thyroid medicine and a severe diet, but it worked and she was fine.  I resigned myself to letting the vet do the x-rays on Friday.

While I was walking out to check on the horses a few minutes ago, I thought about how sometimes when I don’t want to worry about certain big problems in my life, I transfer that worry onto my girls.  Sort of like sponging up all that worry so it doesn’t drown me.  I was so wrapped up in the worrying that it took me a minute to notice as Siete walked towards me.

 Miracle of miracles, she seems to not be limping. Please, dear Lord, let it be true!

Monday, August 18, 2014

As Long At It Takes



Yesterday would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. Since last winter, I had been planning what we would do to celebrate it, trying to figure out what my mom would really like to do most to commemorate this remarkable accomplishment. How amazing to have witnessed all the changes in our world for so many decades and be able to tell young people about things that they never would read in the history books. 

But my mother did not live to be here with us on the big day. She died exactly one month before it.  So, instead of eagerly looking forward to August 17th, I’ve been dreading it.

We made the decision to celebrate yesterday with our daughter in a way that my mom would have enjoyed if she had been with us.  One of my mother’s best friends, who shares the same birthday and was turning 90 yesterday, unexpectedly sent me a check and asked me to use it for something that my mom would have liked to do with it. So, we loaded the dog in the car and drove up to the college where my daughter is in “boot camp” for freshmen, and picked up our “precious girl” (as my mom always called her). 

In a charming country town nearby, I found a restaurant in an old coach house that was started by a World War II fighter pilot after he returned home in 1948, the year my mom arrived in this country.  It was full of horsey stuff, including a tack room. My strong horse spirit guides sent me to just the right place. Yesterday was a gorgeous blue sky summer day, the food was great, we told funny stories about Nana and listened to my daughter happily describe her new friends and professors. There is no doubt that the “precious girl” is having the time of her life in her new school.  I almost thought I should ask for another chair to be placed at the table because I felt so vividly that my mother was sitting between me and my child.

After we dropped the happy camper off, we head over a few miles east to one of my best, closest friends from the blogging community to visit her farm and her horses. We wandered through the serene and fabulous green fields and her elegant barn, stopping to give treats to one of her big, contented geldings.  It was very relaxing, and I felt like my mom was right there with us, enjoying the scenery and the warm friendship.

I called my mom’s best friend when we got home to wish her a happy birthday and tell her what a lovely time we had with her gift, celebrating my mom. She said that she had lost two of her best friends, my mom and her friend Helen, this year, but that Helen’s son and I had both called her on her birthday, and it meant so much to know that the friendship had been handed down to continue to be with her.

Before I went to bed, I thought about how fortunate it was that my mom and my dad were no longer trapped in those falling apart human bodies that had caused them so much fear and pain in their last years.  I can imagine so clearly that they are together now, proudly watching me live my life and observe my daughter blossoming into a confident young woman. 

I realized that the process of grief for me in the past month, that occurs as I miss my mom with these small, unexpected stabs of pain and randomly start to cry or lose track of what I am doing or feel frustrated for no good reason, is actually familiar to me.  I went through exactly the same emotions when I lost my dad. I went adrift in L.A. for many months before I adjusted to not being able to pick up the phone and call him.
   
I don’t know how long it will take this time because there are no emotional deadlines.  I do know that it would be a big mistake to try to brush it off and plow ahead, believing that only one month is long enough and I must get back to my regularly scheduled programming. It takes as long as it takes, and so be it.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Of Pink Booties and Tarot Cards


Tonight, my husband comes home.  I have made it through what I had expected would be a difficult week.  I have learned something important.  It began with my horse’s front feet. And culminated with a Tarot card reading.

In all the stress and turmoil of my daughter going off to college and my husband leaving the next day on a business trip, I kind of ignored that somewhere along the way, I had developed pneumonia. Anti-biotics were consumed, and I charged on, pretending that I was just fine.  Wisely, my daughter insisted that I bring in the lady who takes care of our horses when we go away to help me with the chores and mucking in the barn for a few days. My guardian angel, Marybeth, showed up right in time since Siete came up lame on both her front feet Monday morning.  I was trying not to panic, feeling weak and exhausted,  and Marybeth’s many years of experience helped me get through the soaking of feet, poultices and bandaging of hooves with no drama and plenty of laughter. 

Even the three inches of rain and the flooded corral was not a big deal since I knew that this angel in a dirty t-shirt and old rubber boots would stand by me, and together we would figure out the best way to cope with all that mud. My favorite part of it was the hot pink vet-wrap that she brought to wrap Siete’s hoof boots so the water wouldn’t loosen the Velcro straps and the boots wouldn’t fall off. Watching my little horse sporting her pink booties as she delicately stepped over the puddles to get to the pasture made me smile and know that everything was under control.

I had a sleepover here Tuesday night with a beloved girl pal that I’ve known for almost 30 years. She’s going through a challenging time, facing some big decisions.  I told her about this woman who did amazing Tarot card readings for my daughter’s 16th birthday party, and how everything that she had predicted and recommended for my child had helped to guide her to where she is now, two years later.  “Let’s do it! I want to go see her right now!” My friend convinced me to pick up the phone and call Laura, who was, kind of appropriately, out in her barn taking care of her goats.  Less than an hour later, I found myself sitting across from this gifted healer as she threw down her cards and advised me.

“Your creative well is empty. You need to spend lots of time alone and in silence to replenish yourself.  Don’t expect to bounce back overnight, give yourself the gift of time before you push to make something new happen.”  I have been saying I feel hollow. She told me that I should let go of my daughter because she will do well in school. She said that my mother was a difficult, a troubled woman who was now at peace, but she had drained me for years. Several burdens of mine have been lifted. She kept coming back to how my well was dry, so I must stop, be still and alone and take care of myself.

“The incredible lightness of being” kept flashing in my head as she spoke.  I remembered reading Milan Kundera’s novel many years ago, but I couldn’t recall what the story was. Then, I realized the title of the book is “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.  “Unbearable” is a very different word than “incredible”.  But I’m sure that my hollowness is connected to a lightness of being, I can feel it.  So, I dug out my old copy of the book that has sat dusty on my shelf since college. I began to read, curious to see what the message might be. Sure enough, there it was:

“The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful we become.  Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.”

Okay. I’m going to sit here, alone and in silence, and think about that for a while.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Life Part 2


Life Part 2 begins today.  I’m sitting home alone, my trusty sidekick Stella at my feet, Silk and Siete eating hay in the pasture and Velcro curled up on the ledge of the kitchen window.  This is how it’s going to be for a while until I figure out what to do next.  We loaded up the car yesterday, drove an hour and a half to take our daughter to college, settled her into a cozy dorm room and came home to a very quiet house. Then, very early this morning, I dropped my husband off, and he went to work out of town on a gig for the rest of the week.   I have a plan, with friends and a good support system of neighbors to keep me company, but it still feels really weird.

My daughter and my mother have been the bookends and focus of my life for so many years, and suddenly they are both gone.  I’m at peace with my mom’s death. After all the early tumultuous years, we had a wonderful time in the end of her life full of appreciation and loving, and she died without a moment of pain or suffering. She experienced the joy with me and my husband of guiding her only grandchild into being a delightful, confident young woman. And this daughter of mine is everything and more that we ever hoped she would be.  So, even though I feel a bit hollow right now, I have not one ounce of regret, and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that.

For now, I will turn my attention to teaching the dog to walk calmly on a leash, grooming the horses so they don’t look so shaggy and picking up a paintbrush to see what comes out next.  I feel like for now,  I’m standing in perfect balance at the center of a teeter-totter. I’m going to concentrate on enjoying life in my little safe haven because I know that at any moment, something might come hurtling in to disrupt this delicate equilibrium. I intend to take this twinkling of grace and savor it while I can.