Fifteen Days

In only fifteen days, we’ll be headed West to visit our airman. I’m absolutely so excited to see my boy. It will also be nice to have time off and spend it with all four of my boys. Moreover, my parents and Melly will be joining us, which is great. Since Covid started, we’ve been unable to see my parents in person.

I booked an amazing AirBnB, a cabin, at the base of a mountain. It’s a gorgeous property with a great hot tub and a trail access in the backyard. I can’t wait to hike the mountains again. Naturally, it’s going to be tough since I haven’t been able to run since July. However, the weather should be a lot nicer than the last time we were there.

We’re all adjusting to Maya’s absence and it hasn’t been easy. So far we’ve left her crate set up as it was before we lost her. Since Maya passed, we decided to try keeping Athena at night. Previously, we crated both Athena and Maya because they tended to have accidents at night. Although Goalielocks tried it one night to see how they would fair. It went well until Maya peed right next to his head just after dawn.

Night one with Athena sleeping out ended with me stepping on a piece of poop. Now that was fun. Last night I discovered Athena peed on the carpet in our bedroom hallway while walking to the bathroom. Fortunately, we got a new carpet cleaner, which made it easy to clean up Athena’s mess.

The bigger mystery, however, is what happened to my pink hoody. I left it next to the bed last night before I fell asleep. This morning when I awoke it was missing. In fact, I have yet to find said hoody. To make matters worse, my new hoody now has a hole in it. Interestingly enough the size of the hole corresponds perfectly with the size of our puppies’ mouths. Apparently, they were quite naughty last night.

I really miss my sweet Maya girl. It still doesn’t feel real. One of the best parts of working from home is getting to spend everyday with my puppies. They truly are the best co-workers. Anakin and Maya would always lay near me in my office, while Athena would sit on the couch. Now both Anakin and Athena lay near me while I work. At any rate, the countdown is on! Fifteen Days until I see my boy!

Here’s a list of our day’s activities:

*I’m reading Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel.

*I still can’t run because my toe. I’ll be unable to run for at least four weeks. It’s now been two weeks since I broke it. Honestly, I’m going to try running on it on Sunday.

*We’re tracking the Tropics here in Florida. Fortunately, it looks like none of these waves will be impacting Florida.

*Uber Eats delivered my coffee for me today and will do so until we get another vehicle. 

*For dinner, I made chicken, black beans and rice for the Mayor and I. Goalielocks and Coach Hubby are in Miami for hockey practice tonight.

*The word of the day is ping pong. Maya’s passing has my emotions ping ponging all over the place.

*I took my puppies including sweet Anakin for a. I put on his harness every morning. Otherwise, I have difficulty controlling him on the leash. He’s incredible strong and can pull me off balance, which is why I’m now wearing a boot to protect my poor broken toe.

Goodnight and Goodbye

Early Tuesday morning we said goodnight and goodbye to our sweet Maya. Over the last two years, she had been on a roller coaster of health issues. Since June, however, she had rallied and was doing great until she wasn’t. On the drive up to Orlando, I told my hubby I didn’t think she had much time left. Recently, she had developed a new cough and incontinence.

On September 6, 2009 we brought home the most expensive fish I ever bought. We adopted her from the Humane Society after meeting her at the Petco in Boca. Their were several cute puppies, but she was by far the calmest of the bunch. Her calmness, patience and sweetness were remarkable traits that defined the her. In fact, she was incredibly patient with the boys, who could be quite annoying. Naturally, Anakin (her little bro) could arouse anger and some grimaces out of her,

Maya will always be the fog that changed me completely. Before we adopted Maya, I was absolutely terrified of dogs especially big dogs. I’ll never forget my older brother, upon learning we adopted her, asking me if i forgot that i was afraid of dogs. Nevertheless, my sweet Maya quickly won me over completely. Incredibly, I went from being afraid of dogs to being obsessed with them.

We dropped off her remains late Tuesday morning at a pet mortuary for cremation. Initially, the Hubby was going to dig a hole out near the mango tree. However, we ultimately decided against it. Honestly, I want to be able to take her with us when we sell the house. The mortuary will take a paw print for us as well as out some of her hair in vial. They’ll put her ashes in a beautiful wooden box that we can display. Meanwhile, we’ll continue grieving as we say goodbye and goodnight to our Sweet Maya.

Loss

Loss seems to be the overwhelming theme of 2020 and 2021. Life naturally brings us life as we age and the people we love age with us. It sucks but it’s reality. The past eighteen months, however, has presented us with loss on a scale we’re not accustomed to. Just this week, we have lost two hockey dads to COVID. Men that were far too young to leave this earth.

It’s, of course, a lot easier for us as adults to process these losses. Which is to say it’s not easy, but we’re better equipped than our kids to handle and process the grief. For our kids, it’s not just the loss of their friend’s parent they’re trying to process, but the possibility that they could lose their parents to Covid. To a kid of any age, this is terrifying.

The sense of loss, the fear of loss remains omni present even as we’re eighteen months into this thing. Honestly, it’s exhausting. Nonetheless, you have to live your life and move forward. The boys being back in school is an important step in moving forward. Moreover, hockey has been an integral part of keeping them socially engaged and active. During this difficult time, exercise be it hockey, running or lifting weights is an easy way to help cope during this period.

In other news, it’s only Tuesday. Truly, it feels like it should be Saturday already. This week is dragging. Fortunately, I had a much better day at work today. Thank God. They say laughter is the best medicine and I wholeheartedly agree, so I’ll leave you with this.

Here’s a list of our day’s activities:

*I’m reading Far From the Madding Crowdby Thomas Hardy. At first I wasn’t sure about the book, but now I like it. Albeit some of the plot twists have left me aghast.

*I ran a mile and a half. It in many ways sucked. Especially since it’s my first run post leg day in over two months. Leg day yesterday killed me!

*We’re tracking the Tropics here in Florida. The tropics are heating up again with three areas of concern. Fortunately, all the tropical weather is moving away from us! Unfortunately, the heat has really cranked up due to the Saharan dust cloud overhead.

*Since Goalielocks is home sick, I drove to pick up my coffee this morning. Fortunately, Goalielocks’ Covid test came back negative! Thank God!

* Every day I watch the live Safaris on YouTube, I’m inspired. I never thought I’d be one for a safari, but the views and the animals are incredible. It’s now on my bucket list. Today was a banner day. I always love watching the young elephants or lions playing. They’re so cute!

*For dinner, I made home made meatballs and spaghetti. Tonight we tried Michael’s from Brooklyn’s tomato basil sauce. It was super yummy. As a family, we’re trying all the top jarred spaghetti sauce. The Mayor and I love spaghetti, so I thought it would be a fun activity for us.

*The word of the day and it is kakorrhaphiophobia, which means and abnormal fear of failure. I think a lot of have a fear of failure, but for most it’s not a paralyzing fear.

*I took my puppies including sweet Anakin for a. I put on his harness every morning. Otherwise, I have difficulty controlling him on the leash. He’s incredible strong and can pull me off balance.

A Life Well-Lived

“A life well-lived is the most exquisite form of art,” wrote Erwin McManus. This weekend my family lost our matriarch, my great Grandmother. As I contemplated her passing, I kept coming back to a life well-lived. Her life, while never easy, exemplified this axiom. My great grandmother Nellie Brown (nee Reynolds) and her twin sister Zella (Caroyln) were born on May 16, 1916, in Long Prairie to Florence and Andrew Reynolds. At this point, there were only 3.3 million cars registered in the entire US while only 11% of the population had a telephone. When she was just a toddler, the Great War was winding down, but the Spanish Flu epidemic was in full swing. She began her life as the Spanish flu pandemic took hold and her life ended as we continue to contend with COVID. Can you imagine how different the world is now compared to 1916?

Great Grandma Brown, her sister Zella and her mom circa 1920

Shortly after my grandmother’s birth, her father headed to Europe to fight in the Great War. After the war, her father left and her mother remarried. She grew up in Long Prairie, where she met her husband. In fact, she was telling Jake and me tales of watching Lindy practice while tending to the fields. In fact, they would wave as he flew over and he would tip his wings to them. Of course, Lindy was Charles Lindbergh and this was long before his famous flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis. As we drove back to my folks that day, Jake and I were trying to wrap our heads around the massive changes she witnessed in her 104 years. I would give anything to be able to sit with her again and listen to her stories.

One thing that was clear about my Grandmother is that change didn’t challenge her. Her generation was no stranger to loss having experienced both World Wars, the Spanish flu, the great depression, polio, the Korean and Vietnam wars. Perhaps that is why she was so adaptable and resilient. In fact, as the age of the internet broke, she didn’t run from it. She had an old computer that she used until she lost her eyesight. How many people can say they got emails and forwards from their Great Grandma? Not many, but I can. Undoubtedly, her adaptability and great genes played a role in her longevity, but it was more than that.

My Great Grandma lived her life according to three pillars: love, family, and God. As she held Jake’s hand that blustery October day, she shared the importance of rooting himself in love, family and God. I was struck at the moment by the power of her words, influence, and the moment. I was blessed to witness that moment. On that trip, she and Jake formed a deep bond that he’ll carry with him forever. We spent many weekends at my Great Grandmother’s house with our extended family. Our extended family is huge! Yet, she delighted in hosting all of us. Family really was everything to her. After my grandfather lost his mother to cancer in the mid 50’s, my great-grandma treated him as if he was her own child. She loved my Grandpa dearly.

She lived independently in her own house until the very end. After she suffered a stroke two weeks ago, my grandma and aunt stayed by her side. My heart aches for my Grandma, who just lost her mom. I took a picture of them together during our last visit. When I look at that picture, I realize no matter how old we get, we always want and need our mother. My Great Grandma was a woman, who lived according to her own terms. It is no wonder that she left this world exactly as she lived in it surrounded by love and family. Until we meet again Great Great Grandma, godspeed.

Nellie Brown 5/16/1916-1/30/2021

Difficult Day

It was a difficult day.  Sadly, today marks the year anniversary of Debbie’s passing.  I’ve written before about how grief alters how we experience time.  Truly, time is on a weird continuum when you’re dealing with grief and loss.  It feels like both a day ago and a decade ago since Debbie left us.  I remember waking up the morning after she had passed and thinking how cruel it was that the world kept going as if nothing had happened.  Meanwhile, for all of us that loved Debbie and held her dear, our world was completely devastated.  I sat in my car lamenting this fact when a beautiful cardinal flew next to my car window, stayed there for a bit and then quickly flew off.  It was an amazing moment.

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Grief is an interesting animal itself.  Its sneaks up on you and catches you unexpectedly.   Today brought back a flood of memories both good and bad.  I was at work when I first heard she was going into hospice.  My amazing friends and co-workers comforted and supported me.  Moreover, I was reminded of how much we all miss her.  Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy day.

As I ruminated over my day (typical Monday) and our dear friend Debbie, I quickly realized how lucky I am to be aggravated by inane emails or missed meetings.  At the end of the day, life is a gift that some times includes more than your average dose of aggravation.  The truth is without life’s lows or aggravations we wouldn’t fully appreciate life’s highs and truly happy moments.  So today, in the face of aggravation and insipidness, I chose to live like Debbie.  In fact, I even got in a nice run tonight.  She’d definitely be quite proud of me for continuing to run and not giving it up after the ankle injury.   Life may give us lemons, but that’s nothing some ice cubes, Grey Goose and sugar can’t solve.  #carpediem

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Debbie was diagnosed in 2015 with Stage IV pancreatic cancer after ending up in an ER with severe back pain.  The 5 year survival rate for this diagnosis is 1%, which is unacceptable.  Even in the midst of her battle against this disease, Debbie stood as a beacon of hope.  In fact, she served as the key note speaker at the 2016 Purple Stride Event in Boca Raton.  In her honor, please consider donating to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  No family should have to endure the pain of losing their loved one to this insidious disease.  You can donate here: Pancreatic Action Network

Gut Punch

Today was one of those days that was akin to a gut punch.  The kind of day that brings you sorrow, angst, sadness, and grief. As if we haven’t already been here enough in 2017… Ugh.  This year has been tough and the last 24 hours indicative of its toughness. Unfortunately, my SIL lost her mother last night.  This is one of those times its tough to be here because we’re not able, as a family, to be there for her, my bro and their kids.  Right now all of us wish we were there with them.

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Meanwhile, in another corner, a mother’s worst nightmare is playing out in a horrific way and we’re all powerless to help.  If anything today has reinforced, the delicate nature of life and its unpredictability.  Life, our days on this earth, are not promised. We can choose to exist, which most do, or we can choose to live.  We can choose to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us regardless of our circumstances.

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Nonetheless, today left me wanting to do nothing, but gorge on Neuhaus chocolate tonight.  I’m proud to say that instead I went to aerial yoga.  This was definitely the healthier way to work through today’s sadness and grief.  Tonight’s class was a bit difficult as I hurt my hip some how, so I had to be careful with my left side.  Incidentally, the inversions are getting much easier with each class.  Additionally, my alignment in handstand/headstand is much better in my mat classes now.  Aerial yoga is definitely improving my practice.

Tonight’s song is “How Great Thou Art” performed by The Pentatonix.

Time Heals

They say time heals all wounds, but I’m not quite sure I agree with that.  Tonight marks the 6th anniversary of losing my mother-in-law Sandy to Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  Her illness was quick, horrible, painful and for those that love her excruciatingly short.  In the turn of mere months, my mother in law went from living a normal life to hospice.

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Cancer is such an insidious, deceptive, merciless disease.  By the time, doctors discovered my mother in laws cancer, it had already metastasized to her lymph notes, arms, and spine.  In reality, her entire abdomen was riddled with cancer.  It wasn’t until she suffered from debilitating back pain that her cancer was discovered.  Unfortunately, as is the case with many people, her cancer was discovered in an advanced stage.

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Cruelly, until the onset of the back pain, there was nothing that suggest that something was severely awry.   Coincidentally, this is where I plug genetic counseling, mammograms, MRIs and pro-active preventative medicine.  Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that these tests – mammograms, colonoscopy, PSA tests, breast and testicular self-exams are essential for your health.  Do not skip them!

Late into Grandma Sandy’s illness, my hubby spent most of his time in Minny with her while I stayed back in Florida with the kids.  During that time though, the kids were in school, so going to Minny for long periods of time wasn’t in our wheelhouse.  Honestly, it was one of the few moments, since moving to Florida, that I really wanted to be back home in Minny.  Truly, it killed us not to be there with her or with my hubby.

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Since the moment I started dating my hubby, Grandma Sandy was always in my corner.  Admittedly, she spoiled me and wholeheartedly welcomed me into their family.  The feeling was mutual.   She never doubted us or our relationship even when we got pregnant with Jake.   She supported us through the hardest moments from beginning to the end.  I remember going over to my Hubby’s house and she had gone shopping.  She probably bought Jake the entire store that day.  I loved everything she bought and in fact still have a lot of it.

Grandma Sandy was fiercely proud of her family and her Finnish heritage.  Both of her parents were of Finnish descent with both sides of her family immigrating to the US in the around the turn of the 20th Century.   If you ask me, Goalielocks definitely looks like the Ketola side.  Of course, my family is mostly Norwegian.  I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that everyone in Norway and on the SAS flight thought we were Norwegian.  My Mother-in-Law had a big, loving Finnish family that was and is an incredible support to her and to us.  We’re forever grateful for the great care they took of Grandma Sandy when we couldn’t be in Minny with her.

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I can’t speak for everyone, but I miss her love of Bingo, Barbies, all things Finnish, the Twins, the Wild, the Vikings and of course Dan Marino.  I’ll never forget watching the Vikings lose to Atlanta in 1998.  As the game clock winded down, her, the hubby and I found ourselves pacing nervously in the garage.  Of course, Gary Anderson would pick the most inopportune time to miss a field goal in a perfect season, but at the time our nerves were shot and full of hope.  (As an aside, it seems the Vikes can’t escape their kicker issues.)

Even though it has been six years, in some ways it feels like yesterday.   I think she’d bit surprised that I’ve allowed a veritable zoo in my house, but she probably saw it coming.  I certainly didn’t.  Additionally, I think she’d be super nervous about Jake driving, but also so proud of him.  She’d be proud of all the boys.  Certainly as we start to hit more milestones like Jake’s graduation, her absence is punctuated.   The truth of the matter is that she’ll never truly leave us.  She’ll always be with us in spirit, in the mannerisms my hubby and kids have inherited from her and in our hearts.

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Sometimes, she even shows up in my yoga class.  One Saturday morning, my favorite sub Kaye was teaching the vinyasa class, when her iPod randomly switched to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which was my mother-in-law’s favorite song.  My teacher couldn’t for the life of her figured out how it happened.  When we spoke after class, we figured it out.  So tonight in honor of Grandma Sandy,  hold your loved ones extra tight, forgive and forget because at the end of the day life is far too short.

Tonight’s song, in honor of Grandma Sandy, is Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”  I love this song as it reminds me of her.

 

 

Lose Yourself

Is it my or when you see the phrase lose yourself do you start singing Eminem’s driving anthem.  The song is just as current today as when it was released 15 years ago.  I wrote last night about trademark, which goes hand in hand with our identity.  In Eminem’s song he talks about losing yourself in a music and giving it all you got.  In life, we must give it all we got – we owe ourselves that-, but we can’t lose ourselves in the craziness.

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Life’s circumstances can make it hard to stay true to ourselves, but we have to persevere through the challenges.  If you’re like me, life has thrown you more than a couple of curve balls. In fact, if your 2017 has been like mine, I’m sure your wondering why the hell the curve balls won’t stop!?!?!  Am I right?  I think we’ve all been gifted more lemons this year than available vodka resulting in an unfavorable lemon to lemon drop ratio.  It’s a sad state of affairs when that happens and it needs to change. 2018 do you hear me?

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As we march towards 2018, 2017 has shaken many of us to our core – myself included.  Grief, stress and disappointment are not the most fun combination in the world.  Yes, I know captain obvious here…  Grief, as I’ve found, can surprise you and completely envelop you if you let it.  It creeps up when you least expect it amplifying other negative emotions.

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Consequently, I was writing my blog last night when it dawned on me.  I’ve drifted away from who I am as a person.  I had to started to give in to the bulls%#t allowing others to define how I feel about myself and the world.  Fuck that shit (sorry mom!)  It was a liberating experiencing last night and left me feeling empowered.  Truly, sometimes knowing is half the balance.  When I realized that I had started to let the trials of life and people in it impact my trademark and my identity, I knew exactly how it fix it.  You gotta love those Eureka moments!

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Undoubtedly, writing is cathartic for the soul.  While this blog started as a means of coping with grief after losing Debbie in March, I’ve learned a lot more about myself than I had ever anticipated.  Meanwhile, here we are seven months later and I sill cannot bring myself to write about the experience of losing her.  Unquestionably, it is a gradual journey and someday I’ll be able to share those experiences here.  Nonetheless, here is what I do know.  Life is too short to wallow in the weeds letting life or others impact our positive outlook.  At the end of the day, we own our mindset as much as we own our identity.  Don’t let anyone take that away from you ever no matter how tired you may be.   Only you can protect your identity (and prevent forest fires.)

Life’s Storms

Life is fickle.  Life is funny.   It seems to go one of two ways.  Either nothing is happening or everything is happening and our world is collapsing around us all at once.  Both the boredom and chaos associated with either scenario can be all encompassing and destructive.  In the calm, it is easy to become complacent.  In the storm, it is easy to give up, but don’t.   You are much stronger than you ever imagined.   As Victor Hugo so eloquently said, “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”  And remember, as you weather the storm, you are not alone.

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Survive

This year has been an extremely difficult year full of pain and loss, which I had discussed in a previous post.  In these periods of difficulty, it is sometimes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there.  Suffering is part of the human experience.  Learning to thrive and find meaning in the suffering is to survive.   While I’ve lost a lost this year, I have also learned a lot.

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Living in S. Florida, it is easy to get caught up in material things and a hedonistic lifestyle.    In doing so, however, material goods can take the place of experiences and people.  While some people’s budget can support both, mine can’t, but that’s really not the point.  The point is that learning to appreciate experiences with the people you love will help carry you through difficult times.  The shared memories you create will never leave you and are priceless.

Life is seldom stable with changes both positive and negative coming rapid fire. In addition to coping with the suffering, you have to be adept at adapting to change.  If you cannot adapt to the changes in your life, you cannot survive and thrive.  This isn’t something that happens real time or overnight.  It can be gradual or after weeks of nothing it happens all at once.  The goal is to learn to how to roll with the punches and be nimble.   Just like Darwin’s finches, you must adapt if you are to survive.

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Surrounding yourself with people who are your champions is an absolute must. Each and every one of us needs that person that can pull us up when we’re down.  A person that can remind us how fantastically awesome we are when we’re not feeling that spectacular.   Of course, it is just as important to return the favor and be that champion for your friends and family.