Just Be There

We’ve had a rough couple of weeks in our household, and things are just now returning to normal.  Once again, my husband had a surgery that went well and a recovery that didn’t.  Honestly, he’s spent so much time in a hospital lately that I seriously considered hauling in his favorite recliner chair and repainting the walls of the room his favorite color.  I figured if he had to be stuck for so long in a hospital room, we may as well make it nice.  Luckily, he was released before I gave in to the urge to redecorate his surroundings and now he’s back home where he belongs.

I’ve always found that when difficult times arrive, I spend all my time and energy just coping, and don’t really “process” what’s happened until later. But now that things have finally calmed down, I find myself looking back over the past few weeks and realizing one very important thing:  there is no way in the world I would have managed without the amazing support of so many caring people.

Hospitals have always been scary places for me (I tend to faint at the sight of blood), but I found out they’re even scarier when the patient is your loved one and and they aren’t doing so well.  And you know what helped me deal with that fear?  The nursing staff who were unfailingly cheerful and attentive, and who always took the time to reassure me when I needed it.  Being an advocate for a patient in a hospital is exhausting, both physically and emotionally, but seeing how good the nurses were at caring for my husband made it so much easier to bear.

I’m also incredibly thankful for the many friends and relatives who took the time to call and text, keeping track of my husband’s progress and offering nonstop encouragement and support.  There were times when those texts were the lifeline I needed to stay (or at least try to appear) calm and strong, and other times when they  provided relief from the boredom of sitting in a hospital room day after day, or gave me a much-needed laugh.  Friends and family are gifts, and you never realize just how much of a gift until you’re in a tough spot and they’re right there with you every step of the way.

It was also a gift to see so many people reaching out to my husband in his time of need.  He had more people praying for him than I could possibly count.  Cards arrived almost daily, some from college friends he hasn’t seen in decades, and all of them helped raise his spirits.  One of his old friends sent him personalized copies of the books he’d written about his own battle with cancer, and the tips for staying positive helped enormously.  Frankly, my husband isn’t usually much for reading, but he not only read those books, he took one of them with him when he was readmitted to the hospital and read from it daily.

This post is more personal than what I usually write, and I hope I haven’t overdone the detail.  But the reason I’m sharing it is simple.  The next time someone you know is going through a tough time, please reach out and offer them your support.  Don’t let fear of intruding or “being a pest” stop you.  Because even if they don’t have time to acknowledge it or respond to you, your care and concern will mean the world to them.  Trust me, it really will.

Sound Advice

IMG_7716If there’s one thing we dogs know, it’s that loud noises ALWAYS mean danger.  And even though my parents adopted me from an animal shelter in Missouri, I’m originally from Louisiana, where flooding is common.  That means I know rain can also spell big trouble, and the only sensible thing to do when the rains come is to move to higher ground.  (It’s not my fault that the best “higher ground” in my house is the dining room table, but try telling Mom that.  She has a hissy fit every time I try to climb up there.  Luckily, she’s not always home when I feel the need to heighten.)

Anyway, it goes without saying that when you combine rain with thunder and lightening from a storm, what you get is a situation that strikes pure terror in the heart of your average dog.  Yes, I know that some dogs aren’t fazed by nasty weather, but all I can say to that is obviously, some dogs aren’t all that smart.  I don’t mean to speak ill of my own, but I think we all know that every species has a few members who were obviously not present when brains were being handed out, and why should dogs be any different?  Those of us who know better have a very healthy respect for the horrors that bad weather can bring.  And if you don’t believe me, just listen to the weather forecasters when they think a hurricane, tornado, or some other weather disaster is approaching.  They may not pant and try to hide, but they sure do panic and urge everyone else to do the same.

Which is why I, and every other sensible creature on this planet, hate rain and storms.  Unfortunately, here in the Midwest, they are very common in late Spring and early Summer and basically impossible to avoid.  In other words, this time of year is bad enough all by itself without adding anything else to the mix.  So what do humans do?  They have a little celebration called “The Fourth of July” every year on, you guessed it, July 4th.  And do you know how they celebrate it?  With fireworks, that’s how.  Loud, terrifying, relentless fireworks that begin sometime around July 1st and keep going until the people setting them off run out.

First of all, the only appropriate way to celebrate any holiday is with food.  And I mean lots of food, generously shared with the four-footed, furry members of the family.  There is no need for anything else, much less something as terrifying as fireworks.  I mean seriously, why would anyone deliberately try to make a noise that sounds like the loudest thunderbolt ever, and looks like the whole sky is lit up by deadly lightening?  And see what I mean about every species having a few members who come up a bit short in the brain department?  Fireworks are proof positive of that.

Thankfully, the fireworks are over for another year and the storm season should be winding down shortly.  That means I can get back to enjoying my life with my family and stop being so scared.  And who knows?  Maybe sometime in the coming months people will wise up and ban not only all fireworks, but rain and thunderstorms too.  A dog can hope…..

Love, Finn   

 

Opting Out

I’ve hit the wall, and I’m done.  I know we’ve all been through a lot in the past year and a half, and that most of our nerves are truly shot.  I know it’s human nature to want to divide the world into “them and us,” and that isn’t going to change.  I know the easiest way to feel better about ourselves is to look down on someone else, and how tempting it is to do that.  Most of all, I know I’ve been guilty of all of this myself, far too often.  But it seems to me that the ugliness has reached new heights these days, and I have gotten to the point where I just can’t take it anymore. 

I don’t want to live my life in fear and anger, or even in a state of “justified” outrage.  I don’t want to believe that people who are different from me are necessarily bad people.  I don’t want to spend precious time ridiculing those whose behavior and choices I don’t understand, and I most definitely don’t want to indulge in pointless online arguments with those who dare to express an opinion I don’t happen to agree with. 

Life can be tough, and it’s normal to want to find someone, or a group of people, to single out as the cause of all our problems.  But a quick look at history shows us that bad things happen, to all of us, when we begin to believe that our aggression towards someone else is justified and deserved.  (Because isn’t that what every single abuser says about his or her victim?  That they “deserved” it?)  So I have made the conscious choice to back away from that kind of thinking, and instead to look very hard for the common ground that binds all of us together.  Because I truly believe that it’s so much more productive to look for what unites us than to concentrate quite so much on what divides us.

I realize that my choices go against the grain in a world where we are constantly being pitted against each other, and where we seem to dream up new divisions each day.  We’ve always been conditioned to divide ourselves along political, national, and religious lines, and sadly, most of us do just that.  But now we’re also dividing along the lines of vaccinated verses unvaccinated, rural verses urban, vegans verses omnivores, and even battling over our choices about education, gender definitions and about everything else you can possibly imagine.  If we keep going at this rate, I’ll only be allowed to like people who are exactly like me.  Which would mean I’ll only like…. me.

So the time has come for me to say “enough is enough” and I don’t want to do this anymore.  We all get to make choices in how we spend the precious time we have on this earth, and I’ve made mine.  I want to be done with the fighting, the squabbling, the superior outrage and all the rest of it, and I’m going to do my very best to turn my back on it, both literally and figuratively.  Sometimes, if only for the sake of our sanity, we need to choose to simply “opt out.”

 

Sensible Shoes

fullsizeoutput_6477It’s been three weeks since I broke my foot, and since the break was really just a “hair-line fracture” of only one bone, I am now allowed to walk around without my big bulky boot.  And while I’m absolutely thrilled that I’m no longer clomping around like the Frankenstein monster, there is a catch:  I have to wear supportive footwear for at least the next four weeks.  Apparently, it takes a long time for bones in our feet to completely heal, and until they do, they’re still fragile and at risk for a serious break that would require surgery.  And obviously, foot surgery is something I want to avoid.

The upshot is that I spent yesterday shopping for shoes and sandals (it’s too hot in July to wear shoes all day) that will adequately support my foot for the next month or so.  I quickly realized that footwear falls into two distinct categories:  shoes and sandals that are cute and offer no support at all, and shoes and sandals that are supportive, but were designed for maximum ugliness.  And I say this as someone who has never been particularly obsessed with shoes.  I don’t have a closet full of shoes, and the shoes and sandals I do own were selected more for their comfort level than for their style.  I don’t own anything with more than a one-inch heel.  So if I call a shoe ugly, you can bet that it truly is ugly and not simply unfashionable.

I finally found a pair of sandals that fit perfectly, support my feet completely and are pretty darned comfortable.  They also look like the something my ninety-year old mother would wear, and she buys her shoes custom-made via a prescription from her podiatrist.  (She has fallen arches, bunions, and hammer toes.)  I’m ashamed to say that I was actually feeling a little sorry for myself when I left the shoe store.  Partly because I had just spent a whole lot of money for a pair of sandals I didn’t even like, and partly because, despite my actual age, I still think of myself as far too young to be wearing “sensible shoes.”

But then, thank goodness, I finally began to get a bit of perspective.  I may have spent several hours searching for supportive footwear that actually looked good and come up empty-handed, but I did find a pair of sandals that would protect my foot while it’s healing.  And they not only look better than the boot I’ve been wearing for the past few weeks, they’re a whole lot more comfortable.  Plus, I don’t have to keep a big plastic bag stashed in my purse to cover my boot in case I get caught out in the rain, and I can drive without having to change my footwear.   Those are all good things.

As the old saying goes, “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.”  Sometimes it takes me a little while to remember that, and to stop wasting quite so much time fretting about the things I can’t control (like breaking my foot) and to work a bit harder on how I cope with the things life throws my way.  So I’ve decided I’ll wear my new sandals without complaint, and when my foot is fully healed, I’ll store them away for use in my old age.   And if that day does come, I hope that I’ll remember to be grateful that I actually lived long enough need, and maybe even appreciate, sensible shoes.

For All To See

TheVogtFamily-72I love spending time with my three-year old grandson, and whenever I do, I know I’m going to hear “Watch me!” or “Watch this!” a lot.  And I’m perfectly okay with that, because that’s what little children do.  They are very focused on getting the attention and the approval of the people around them, and few things make them happier than our praise and affirmations.  Besides, I really do enjoy watching my grandson as he masters a new skill, or simply witnessing the joy he brings to his everyday experiences.

Sometimes I think we would all do well to act more like a child now and then, but the key is to make sure that we’re being childlike only in appropriate ways….finding joy in simple things, being honest with our emotions and living in the moment as children tend to do.  Sadly, the childlike trait most adults seem to be embracing these day is the need for the constant attention and approval of others.  And that’s not a healthy way to live our lives at all.

Yes, I know that social media makes it so very easy to document and share almost every aspect of our days, but just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.  Of course it’s fun to post a few photos of our recent vacation, or to share our favorite pictures from our recent photo sessions, etc., and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But I think the trouble begins when we find ourselves somewhere fun, having a great time, and our first instinct is to whip our our phones and photograph it, so we can post it where others and see it and validate our experience with their responses.  Or when we try to process our emotions by sharing every single aspect of our trauma through daily photos, posts, and even videos.

There’s a fine line between healthy sharing and over-sharing, I think.  And one of the ways to know when we’ve crossed it is when we find ourselves worrying too much about the responses our social media posts generate.  If you had a great time at the neighborhood block party, then it really was a positive experience, even if your photos of it were largely ignored on social media.  And if you’ve thought long and hard about your stance on a particular issue and are comfortable with the conclusions you drawn, your opinion isn’t any less valid just because no one in your comment section agrees with you.  We don’t really need other people to approve our emotions, thoughts, or actions, no matter how much we’re encouraged to believe we do.

90tuq7S5RiKvHbPFH0wSo my advice, to myself and everyone else, is remember that not everything needs to be shared, and how much more we can enjoy ourselves when we’re not trying to document something and experience it at the same time.  Maybe the next time we see a beautiful sunset we should just sit quietly and look at it, drinking in nature’s beauty.  Or the next time we’re feeling emotional, we should just call someone we trust to empathize and help us feel better.  Because often, the most important moments in our lives happen when no one is looking at all….

My Choice

I did a guest post on “Navigating the Change, ” which is a blog about menopause. It’s a departure what what I usually write about, but I was so happy to be asked to contribute!

Navigating the Change

Like most women, I always knew the day was coming when I’d have to deal with menopause.I wasn’t especially worried about it, as I didn’t want to conceive any more children and considered menstrual periods to be an annoyance I would gladly do without. I’d heard about hot flashes, night sweats, and all the rest of the possible symptoms, but I also knew that not all women had to deal with those and blithely assumed I’d manage to just sail through it all.

But then I had my first hot flash.

It seemed that one minute I was riding in the car with my husband, heading home from a trip to the shopping mall, and the next minute I felt a sensation I could only describe as being cooked from the inside out. I actually panicked a little before I realized just what was happening. And then I ordered my…

View original post 850 more words

Enough is Enough

I’m not sure who’s in charge of handing out luck, but whoever it is, he or she should be fired.  Immediately.  Because the string of bad luck I’ve been on for the past year or so has worn out it’s welcome and needs to go away right now.  Yes, I know adversity makes us stronger and that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” but there comes a time when even the toughest of us just want things to lighten up a little.

photo-3I handled it when my dog  came down with heart worm, even after being on heart worm preventative pills for a year.  I adjusted to the pandemic and all the grief and hardship it brought.  I handled the fear of my granddaughter’s premature birth and my husband’s cancer diagnosis, and when I started seeing flashing lights in my right eye, I was just grateful to be able to get a quick appointment with my eye doctor.  Even when my beloved “grand-dog” Frank died unexpectedly on the very day of my husband’s major surgery, I focused on what a good life he had led and and was thankful that he had died at home, with my son and daughter-in-law with him.

I’m not saying that I didn’t complain through it all, or have my moments of self pity and anxiety.  Of course I did, and it would be silly to say otherwise, especially since some of the people who read my blog know me personally and they’d spot the lie. I’m just saying that during what has been a very turbulent period, I tried really hard to keep a positive attitude and to focus just as much on the things that were going right as the things that were going wrong.  And I also figured that sooner or later, our luck had to improve.

Yet just one day after my husband finally got his port removed (which is a very good sign and certainly cause for celebration), I managed to break a bone in my foot.  I wasn’t even doing anything risky or athletic when it happened.  I simply tried to turn around, and while my foot turned, the flip-flop sandal I was wearing didn’t, and down I went.  And of course it is my right foot, which means that I can’t drive when I’m wearing the big “walking boot” the doctor said I’d need to keep on for the next four to six weeks.  (Note to self:  next time I decide to break a foot, break the left one.  It’s so much more convenient.)

It’s not a bad break and it doesn’t even hurt very much.  But it was the last straw, as far as I’m concerned.  Someone has messed up, somewhere, and given me an extra helping of bad luck, I’m just sure of it.  And they need to make it right, and start sending more good luck my way to make up for it.  I’ve spent some time thinking about this and I have my arguments all clear in my mind, complete with supporting data to prove my case. Now all I need to do is figure out just exactly who I have to make my case to, and I’ll be all set.  If only life came with a good customer service department……

The Most Wonderful Time

May has always been one of my favorite months.  When I was a child, I loved it because May started with my birthday celebration and ended with the last day of school.  (I know some children actually liked going to school, but I was never one of them.  I can still remember the pure joy of walking home on that last day of the school year, knowing that I had almost three months of glorious freedom before I had to go back.)  These days, I don’t greet my birthdays with quite the same enthusiasm and it’s been decades since I graduated from school, but I still think May has an awful lot going for it.

In May, it’s usually warm enough to enjoy being outside, even if I sometimes need a sweater or light  jacket.  It’s when I plant the flowers that brighten my yard, and almost always the month when my azalea bushes bloom.   I love eating dinner outside, either at a restaurant or on our own patio, because this time of year the insect population hasn’t yet exploded and it’s possible to enjoy a good meal with out fending off hungry flies or blood-thirsty mosquitoes.  (And if you’re ever making the argument that even Mother Nature makes the occasional mistake, just bring up mosquitoes.)

Early May also brings Mother’s Day gatherings and, for racing fans, the  Kentucky Derby, which I traditionally celebrate with a small party and home-made mint juleps.  I didn’t really intend to start an annual Derby party tradition when I threw the first one all those years ago for some church friends, but the following year the church secretary called and wanted to know the start time of this year’s Derby party so she could include it in the church newsletter.  And let’s face it, once an event is in the church newsletter, it’s going to happen, so you may as well just go along with it.

o+cRJw0HQJOhXYdVsqWIMgThis year May was a little different, since I was on my beloved Sanibel Island for both my birthday and the Kentucky Derby, spending a quiet week with family.  But it was still a very good month.  My granddaughter turned one, and few things are better than celebrating your very first granddaughter’s very first birthday.   I was also able to host a small backyard family gathering in honor of my sister-in-law’s recent marriage, and to attend a barbeque with good friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since the pandemic started.  One way or another, this year’s May brought many happy moments, which were all the sweeter because last year’s was basically a washout.

But now May is drawing to a close, and that means one thing and one thing only:  Summer has arrived.  Yes, I know that the calendar says Summer doesn’t arrive until late June, and that those who live in the southern hemisphere are actually approaching Winter.   But I firmly believe that when Memorial Day ends, Summer begins.  And I’m ready for it:  bring on the picnics, the open swimming pools, the temperatures that allow me to go barefoot outdoors, the long days and short nights. Bring it all!  All of it, that is, except for the mosquitoes.  Those nasty little things can stay far, far away…..

Common Ground

IySCob9WT3ulxRSEZimmIAMy dog Finn takes his sleep very seriously.  When he’s awake, he has endless energy, and spends his days tearing around the house or persistently trying to convince us that’s it’s time for another walk or even more food.  But by early evening, he’s always curled up in his dog bed, fast asleep.  And that’s just fine, right up until the moment when we want him to go outside for his last potty break before we put him in his crate for the night.

Our late-night routine is always the same.  When we’re ready to go to bed, my husband and I call Finn to go outside.  We always begin on a cheerful note, holding the back door open hopefully and calling, “Come on, Finn! Time to go outside!”  And Finn always ignores us, even when my husband adds, “I’ve got treats!”  (I refuse to resort to bribery.)  So then we approach his bed, a little less cheerfully, and tell him that he needs to go outside RIGHT NOW.  At this point Finn opens his eyes and fixes us with a glare that makes it clear he has no intention of budging an inch.

Eventually, Finn leaves his bed, either by choice when he sees we’re not backing down and we begin to use our really stern voices, or because I lose patience and simply lift up one side of his bed and gently tip him out.  And then he’ll go outside and potty (occasionally getting his revenge by peeing on my flowers), come back in, get his treat and trot willingly into his crate.  And yes, we go through this routine every single night.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Finn persists in his belief that one night he’ll win the battle and not have a bathroom break before he goes to bed (which we’d allow if we thought his bladder could hold out that long).  And my husband and I keep right on believing that one of these nights Finn will cheerfully spring out of his dog bed and go outside the first time we call him.

It’s funny how often we persist in thinking we can change the way others behave, and how we naively believe that if we just try hard enough and long enough, we can convince other people that our way of thinking is the only right way.  Social media provides ample proof of that, with all those posts pointing out all the faults of those who happen to believe and act in ways that are different from us.  And we’ve all witnessed, and probably participated in, those futile arguments where we try so very hard to show someone just how flawed their thinking really is, and then end up frustrated when we’re not able to change their minds.

The truth is, Finn is probably never going to want to go outside for his late-night potty break, and we are never going to feel comfortable putting him to bed without it.  But maybe if we try getting him out a little earlier in the evening, he won’t mind it so very much, and he’ll still be able to “hold it” through the night.  Compromise, after all, is so often the key to solving problems.  It’s never quite as satisfying as winning an argument or actually getting our own way, but there comes a time when we realize that it’s better to “give a little in order to get a little.”  And that’s true for all of us, human and otherwise……

Recharged

Sometimes we all just need to take a little break, and I have to admit that I was more than ready for mine.  My husband and I had planned a trip to Florida for early May before we knew that he would be having major surgery this past Spring.  For a little while we both believed that the trip would have to be cancelled, so you can imagine our relief when the surgeon gave his permission to go, pointing out that my husband could recover at a beachfront condo just as well as he could at home.

But when my husband’s hospital stay extended a week longer than it should have, we still thought that our much-anticipated vacation wasn’t going to happen.  I told myself that it didn’t matter, and that as soon as my husband was better we’d go on a trip somewhere fun, but deep down I was very disappointed.  It’s been a very tough year for my family, and I really wanted to spend a week relaxing at on my beloved Sanibel Island.  I actually felt foolish for looking forward to this trip so much, because the past few months had me almost conditioned to be afraid to look forward to much of anything at all.

I know adversity can make us stronger and more focused on what’s important in our lives, and that’s a very good thing. But sometimes, it can also train us to believe that not only is “the glass half empty,” but that it’s bone dry and will remain that way forever.  When disappointments and bad news come at us too quickly, or when difficult circumstances last for too long, it can become very hard to hang on to our optimistic attitudes and to allow ourselves to really believe that things will ever improve.  Or at least that’s been my experience.

But you know what?  Despite the need for a major surgery we thought he had avoided, and despite the complications that kept my husband in the hospital much longer than we had anticipated, we were able to go on our trip.  My daughter and her family joined us, and we had a wonderful family time just hanging out together, walking the beach, swimming, and (in my husband’s case) taking LOTS of much-needed naps.

I can honestly say that my husband made great strides in his recovery during our trip, which was a real blessing.  But he wasn’t the only one who benefited from our week away from it all.  With each passing day, I felt my spirits lifting just a little bit more.  My heart began to feel lighter, and I felt calmer and more at peace than I had in a long, long time.  The experience was healing for both of us, just in different ways.

ZWZqbuKtTFOCLFbCPIs2oAI know that I was very lucky to be able to go on vacation recently, and that many people are still living under restrictions that don’t allow any travel at all.  But my point is that all of us, no matter what our circumstances, would benefit from finding a way to take a break from our problems and spending even a little time doing whatever we can to recharge our bodies and refresh our souls.  Keeping hope alive and finding those moments of happiness isn’t always easy, but it is always worth the effort.