My Pleasure

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
To turn and wait,
as you amble along
stopping to rest here and there
pretending to sniff
when we both know you’re quite tired.
I remember well how you used
to turn and wait
cocking your head
as I tried in vain to keep up
with your racing paws.

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
to forgo the kibble you have eaten all your life (17 years!)
but do not eat anymore
with your old dog teeth.
You may have the
tastiest morsels of meat
from our table
you have earned them.

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
to clean up without fussing
when outside is too far
for old hips and thin cartilage
between well-loved joints
that have carried you so many miles.
I wish we could do them all again.

It is my pleasure (if also my pain)
to curl up in your bed with you at night
to rub your ears and scratch all around and over
the tumor that grows and grows
on your fine neck.
And to wipe your crusting eyes
and to remember old stories
of wonderful things we have done.

My sweet Why?lee,
what wonderful things we have done!
The places we’ve gone,
the people and animals we’ve met and loved . . .
how lucky we are to have enjoyed so much together.

It is my honor (if also my near to unbearable pain)
to know that this must be our last adventure–
your growing old, and my trying (if failing)
to let you go.

Your Daddy

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He is a strong hand to hold when you’re nervous.

A flip in the air that makes mama nervous.

He is crooked diapers and all the best snacks,

adventures at the hardware store,

and getting to swing a real hammer instead of  just your plastic one.

He is books read in the funniest voices

and silly sounds whenever you touch his face.

He is your rescuer when you cry in the middle of the night

and tucks you back in when all is well again.

He is tall towers made of just about anything that will stack,

broad shoulders that never seem to tire,

and big bounces on your little trampoline.

He is safety, confidence, fun, and big love.

He is yours forever:

your daddy.

 

 

 

The Cancer Files: Who Are You if Not What You Can Do?

One of the more insidious effects of cancer in my life, was the slow degradation of my ability to be what I had firmly placed in the column “Things I Just Am.”  I thought those qualities were an integral and unchanging part of me, but from the moment I was told I likely had cancer, they began to slip away.

For instance, when they shuffled me from one room to the next after giving me the news, scheduled me for a surgery I knew nothing about with a surgeon I had never met, and then sent me out the door: the me I was so sure I was would have never smiled, signed paperwork I didn’t read, and then left.

The me I thought I was would have asked ten thousand questions and insisted on coming back later to discuss surgery with the actual surgeon before agreeing on a date and a plan to move forward.  The me I thought I was would have advocated for myself, refused to sign papers until I was sure I understood them fully, and made sure I had researched all of my options on my own before just accepting what I was told.  Not only did I not do any of that, I didn’t even notice or care that I wasn’t doing any of that.

When I got home and handed Carl the blue folder with my surgery information inside, he was furious.  If you know him at all, you know that fury is an uncommon emotion in his life and it certainly wasn’t what I expected.  I’m not sure I knew what to expect, but I remember being surprised when right before my eyes, my happy go lucky man, grew three feet taller, put on about fifty pounds of muscle, and developed the ability to fly.

Within a few hours, he knew everything the internet knew about thyroid cancer and the surgeon I was scheduled with, he had developed a list of 23 questions for said surgeon, and scheduled us for an appointment prior to my surgery date to ask them.   He was incredible and would maintain his role as my fierce and shameless advocate throughout my treatment and recovery and, well, our married life, as it would happen.  : )

When all was said and done, we cancelled that surgery, found another ear, nose, and throat specialist in the valley who we were much more comfortable with and I went forward with a biopsy (that the original office recommended we skip) to see if any of my thyroid could be saved.  And when I say “we,” I mean my superhero husband who swooped in and saved the day, while I wandered around bemused and generally useless to myself.  I don’t like talking about my time as a damsel in distress (so much so that I never even brought it up in my original Cancer Files).

I wouldn’t realize until much later, after years of wrestling with the question, “Who are you if not what you can do?” that those feelings of helplessness and uselessness and the knowledge that I could not take care of myself (much less be there in the lives of my family, friends, and animals as I was used to being) had devastated me more than the illness itself.

I Love my Husband Because . . .

this was the lower-level, back, right section of our barn two and a half months ago:

And this is that same section of our barn now:

That first set of pictures is not how the barn looked when we bought this place.  Back then it had a sloped cement floor, but Carl busted it all up with a jack hammer and piled it outside the barn so he could make the stalls big enough.  He has spent every spare moment since mid-September putting this together so my horses could safely ride out the harsh, New England winter.

Did Carl always dream of a farm life, you ask? . . . No.  Has Carl ever built anything bigger than a cabinet before? . . . No.  Did Carl always want to renovate a 1930’s dairy barn to safely and happily accommodate three horses? . . . shockingly . . . No.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s more than true love.  That is dedication, discipline, research, sleep deprivation, hours and hours of hard work in the freezing cold after already working a full day in the office . . . AND true love.

I’m a lucky girl and I know it.  : )

 

My Prayer

Before you read this post, I’d like to make it clear that in no way am I saying adoptive parents cannot love their children as much as biological parents or that fathers cannot love their children as much as mothers can.  This post is about the depth and breadth of the connection between a parent and their child.  How you come into that connection is of no consequence to me.  I just happen to be writing it from a mother’s perspective, because, well, that’s what I am and so that’s what I know.  Enjoy!  : )

.  .  .

My connection to you was instant.  When you were born and they placed you on my belly, I could only say “oh, honey” over and over again.  I had one hand on your sticky back and another around your tiny bottom and no moment in my life has ever felt so precious as that one.  I carry that crystal clear memory in my heart, another copy in my soul, and yet another copy in my mind, to ensure it’s never lost.

My understanding of that sweet, unbearably strong connection has taken more time.  I have slowly come to realize the true magnitude of the job on my shoulders and instead of feeling overwhelmed or terrified, I see that no one on this earth could possibly do it better than me.

This feeling–this lovely, silent secret known only to us, enables me to show you unconditional love so you will recognize it and can give it yourself one day.  It makes me the one you trust first and most and gives me the patience and determination to take care of that trust so you will know how it feels and be trustworthy yourself one day.   It fills me with a grace unlike anything I’ve felt before (since I was a child myself and felt it from my own mother and father, that is)–a grace I give you every day with soft eyes and gentle hands so that you will understand how to both give and receive forgiveness one day.  That is the terrible beauty of parenthood–beautiful because there is no bond stronger, that can accomplish so much and terrible because I have never experienced such awful fear as my fear at the thought of losing or being lost to you.

That is my only prayer, my only wish these days–that you and I get to keep each other.  It happens all the time, just watch the news–mothers who have lost their children and children who have lost their mothers.  We are fortunate to have such an amazing, loving, and dependable village.  I know that if anything were to happen to me you would know love, you would be treasured, and raised well . . . but it wouldn’t be the same.  And I cannot even contemplate losing you in words.  There’s a great, black hole in my mind where that horror lives and I never look directly at it for fear of giving it substance.

When they strike, these fears, I imagine all of the adventures we have yet to go on, all of the memories we’re going to make, all of things I’m going to tell you, and all of the things you’re going to tell me.  And then I send it up, the same prayer every time:

Please, God, let us keep each other . . .

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My Heart is Full . . .

and so is my dirty laundry basket, but I’m going to continue ignoring it for just one more nap time so I can get a post written.  : )

My parents were here for two, magical weeks and after saying goodbye and safe travels I walked through the airport ugly crying while strangers politely looked away.  We are making a home here in Massachusetts and have been luckier than I could have imagined in finding the most wonderful neighbors and friends, but there’s just something about having your mom and dad around that takes home to a different level.
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While they were here, my mom cleaned everything (meaning everything is now cleaner than I will ever be able to make anything in my entire life), my dad sanded the crib (a project I desperately wanted done, but was likely never going to actually do in time for my sweet Sunshine to sleep in it again), I got the pantry table primed and painted (there are many mistakes but I am ridiculously proud of my handiwork!), and I got the changing table/dresser primed.  We also ate a lot of food, talked until our voices went hoarse, laughed like hyenas, and drank a number of mimosas (what number, I’m not exactly sure, our counting got a bit iffy.)  Needless to say, I was not ready to see them go and I cannot wait to see them again.

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In the midst of that visit, my little love and I jetted down to Pensacola and spent a couple (literally two) days on the beach with a few of her namesakes.  That little stretch of the Gulf is, without question, my favorite slice of water on this earth.  My dad grew up in that area and we’ve been going back to spend time with family in beach houses there since I can remember.   I have no accurate description for how good it felt to watch her love and be loved by the people I love most or how happy it made me when she grabbed my finger and walked straight into the Gulf like they were old friends.  So I’ll just leave it at that.  : )
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Now, we are facing the monumental task (which is actually what feels like 10,000 smaller tasks that equal the one, big one) of getting my horses from Idaho to Massachusetts.  I’m worried about everything.  I’m worried about getting the barn ready.  I’m worried about putting them in a barn when two of the three of them have never really had that experience.  I’m worried about the trip and how they’ll handle it physically.  I’m worried about getting a good enough fence up.  I’m worried about getting water to the barn in a way that it won’t burst pipes during the long, cold winters and I’m worried about what will happen when (not if, mind you, but when) Tristan somehow escapes (as he has from EVERY SINGLE ENCLOSURE we have ever put him in).  I’m just plain worried.

Yet again, in the midst of all my fears, we are surrounded by incredible people.  The neighbors have all offered to help and rustled up people they know to help us as well.  Our friend Doug flew in from Oregon this week to help us out.  And, I’ve recruited two of my closest horse-girl posse to help me figure out how in the heck I’m going to get them from point A to point B as safely, happily, and inexpensively as possible.  Bottom line: I could not do this alone and I count myself beyond blessed that I don’t even have to try.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love my friends and family?  Probably not, because I don’t have words for that either.  <3<3<3
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So that’s what July-September are all about: horses, horses, horses!  I’ll do my best to keep sharing updates about what we find in the barn and how progress is going.  As always, wish us luck!  We have a long way to go and a short time to get there.  : )

My Mama Bear

Today is my very first Mother’s Day.  My loves have run to the store while I laze about in pajamas drinking coffee and writing on our couch (Yes! Our couch is in the house!!  But that’s a post for another day).  In other words, I think Mother’s Day is a day I’m going to like.  I had planned to write about how much I love being a mother, but all the words swirling around in my soul at present moment are about my own mama, so here goes.

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(Me eating cookie dough while Mama Bear is attempting to make actual cookies)

I have always loved you, mama.  Yes, even that time I called you a butthole (mere moments before dad put a bar of soap in my mouth) for grounding me when I was sure it was completely the brothers’ fault.  Yes, even when you used to use the Vulcan death pinch on my shoulder to get me to leave church quietly when I was misbehaving.  And yes, even that time in high school when you told me you believed me that I wasn’t doing drugs but I was going to be at the wrong place at the wrong time one day and I was so angry I called a friend and spent twenty minutes reciting everything I didn’t like about you, not knowing you could hear.  Only to be picked up by the police two weeks later.  At least I really wasn’t lying about the drugs, right?

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And I have never doubted your love for me.  After all, I remember you singing songs with me in the car while we went to the hot springs and everyone else was at school and work.   I remember your hugs (always and still the best) smelled like your violet perfume when I was growing up.  I remember you cheering me on at basketball games–a sport neither of us particularly understood or cared for.  I remember you taking me to every mall on the I-5 corridor looking for the perfect prom dress and shoes.  I remember you crying when I tried to sing in church a few months after surgery to remove my thyroid cancer and I couldn’t.  I remember you buying me a blanket that felt like my dogs’ fur when I was in radioactive iodine isolation.  I remember declaring I was going on a spirit quest and while everyone else looked at me oddly and said nothing, you sewed me a medicine bag.  I remember too many memories of you showing your love to list them here.

It’s strange to think that no matter how much we love someone or how well we know them, there are always parts and pieces we never get to see.  Having a daughter of my own, has given me new eyes and, with them, I see a facet of you I haven’t before.  You are incredible.  And not just for keeping four, adventuresome but not always wise, children alive into adulthood.

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How you managed to create so much love, fun, and happiness with so little under such difficult conditions over the years is nothing short of magic.  How you did all that while working and going to school, I will never understand.  I already admired your strength.  I already thought you were warm and giving.  I already thought I knew you.  But this one baby has broken my heart with love and fear and when I think of you now, with all of us and all we’ve been through, I am in awe of your warmth, humor, resilience, and grace.

So, on my first Mother’s Day, I want to tell you again that I love you and to tell you again that I thank you for everything because I truly do.  But I also want to tell you, that this year, I see you a little better, I understand a little more about how much of yourself you have given to us, and I am humbled by all you have accomplished and all that you are.  You are a blessing to our family, Mama Bear, Happy Mother’s Day.  : )

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