Last evening Elsie and I had a visitor. Well, I had the visitor, Elsie ran in fear for her life. Cats.

I was walking the beach at sunset when I happened upon an odd scene. There was a sandpiper kind of swimming and kind of drowning in the waves. I noticed that there was a bird of prey stalking it from the air. It would dive down and the piper would duck under the water. It was pretty drowned. I stood near it so whoever thought it might be his dinner would leave. But that bird was determined. It tried picking it up once and dropped it. When that happened I waded out into the cold Pacific and picked that poor drowned rat of a sandpiper up and took it onto the dry sand. I wrapped it in my extra shirt and sat with it for a while. Then I brought it home.

What does one do with a rescued bird? I researched the Project Wildlife web site. They said to wrap it and keep it dry and toasty with the room temperature between 70 and 80 degrees. It wasn’t quite that warm in my studio yet warmer than outside. Interestingly enough they also said not to give it water or food. I converted the bathroom into the nursery. I made sure it was warm and dry and bundled. I turned off the lights, checked on it when I used the bathroom and left it alone.

This morning I unwrapped the poor shell shocked bird. It was really cute. I put a towel down on the floor of the bathtub and decided it was time to check for injuries. That little bird stood up immediately, went to the bathroom and started walking around. I checked his wings and everything looked in tact.

Next stop was my enclosed patio. I unwrapped him. The sandpiper stood up, hopped to the edge of the box and flew. Bye Bye Birdie.

I have some issues regarding what I did. I mean, that hawk needed to eat too. My interference did not allow for the survival of the fittest. As a human being it is hard to stand by and see this whole scene play out. It is even harder when the food source for the hawk is struggling so hard to survive. it easily could have had internal injuries that I could not assess. Did I do the right thing? Maybe and then again maybe not. This morning, however, I felt good to see this little bird recovered and ready to meet another day.

Elsie

is

once again,

glad

to be a

solo pet.

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PTSD and Life Experiences

In mid-December I had my annual checkup with my surgeon and oncologist.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My initial reaction to this news was anger, furious anger. I was mad about having my life interrupted by a tiny, small lump in my breast. I believe that the anger masked the fear that this diagnosis instantly creates in most people who receive this diagnosis.

The good news is, that I am now eight years out and going well and strong. Some things changed due to this diagnosis. I watch what I eat, I am not perfect but I manage to pay a bit more attention to my diet. I exercise regularly. And each day I am thankful for one more day on this planet.

Then Jim got diagnosed with cancer. It was different this time. I was not angry. I was strong. Yet when he got diagnosed with the metastasis from the original cancer, I had a different reaction. Even when he was well, I found I was enacting, in my head, how to live without him. It was at this point, feeling guilty for creating this alternate life, that I decided to go into therapy. I still see my counselor for a check up a few times a year. It is good to check in.

When I had my appointment with my surgeon in December, I told him that there are just some months I cannot do my self breast exam. It is fear that stops me. What if I find something? What do I do? How can I do this again? He was the first person to mention that I had a little bit of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). He also informed me that most people, after any major life altering situations, have a bit of PTSD. Wow, I had never heard this before. It makes sense. He told me that it is OK to miss months. It is OK.

It is OK to acknowledge that I am human. It is OK to have PTSD. Giving this unknown stress a name has been helpful for me. Ah, here comes my ally, “fear”. Now I understand a bit more about my ally. The more that I can learn about fear the less of hold it has on me. I refuse to allow fear to take over. I don’t have time for it. As I learn more about fear,  the less it surfaces in my life. Maybe this knowledge will let me be kinder to myself. Hopefully,  I can let go of the guilt when I miss that important exam. Now there is one less hold fear has on me.

I really like my team of doctors. That is important. I love that my surgeon comes in the exam room, sits down and talks with me as if we are old friends. We catch up. We share pictures and stories. He is professional and kind. My oncologist is also a delight. She is smart and wise and she understands that fear. Why? She has had cancer. All my visits end with a hug and I find myself relax and feel like I am being loved and supported. I am ready to face another year.

PTSD is a diagnosis. I have often thought we all are walking wounded. We are wounded from life experiences. It is normal, it is life. We have good wounds and bad wounds. I think the good ones way outnumber the bad ones. Hopefully this knowledge will help me be kinder to myself, and to others, a little more patient and forgiving.

 

A Winter in San Diego

Crystal Pier Sunset

A month passes fast. I have been in San Diego for just over a month. Elsie and I moved into a rental near the beach for three months. It is nice to be able to walk the two blocks to the bay and then in a few miles be at the Pacific Ocean. I have missed “Big Blue”. I walk or ride my bike every day, in between appointments.

 

One of the reasons I moved back to SD was to get “stuff” done. Important stuff but still stuff.

  • Dental appointments, galore -I am on the finishing side of my tooth implant. My close relationship with the periodontist is at an end. He is a nice man yet I will be glad to put this chapter behind me.
  • All my doctor appointments are complete (many appointments in December) and I am good to go for another year. I know this sounds light yet, this is just the sign of relief I feel after being anxious about these annual visits.  I begin to fuss  about two months in advance. After having breast cancer, the trauma does not seem to totally go away.
  • I completed by new web site. It went live about three weeks ago. Go check it out. I am proud of it and if you want to purchase any of my photos it is all on the web site. Your comments are always welcome jarnoldarts.com
  • My storage locker is still there. I am starting to acknowledge that it may be time to get rid of some of the things that are in the unit. I am discovering that absence really does not make the heart grow fonder. I am beginning to realize that many things I kept because of sentimental value. After a year and a half away, the sentiment is growing less with each passing day.
  • I spent several days cleaning and sorting and fixing my Roadtrek RV. I enjoy doing this.
  • My rig is at the RV hospital getting repairs done and getting her physical check-up.

I could go on but you get the idea. The first month has been very busy. I am now finding more days that have nothing on the calendar. I am glad to see that because it means it is time to visit more of my local friends. I will enjoy catching up with everyone.

Another reason I moved into a “sticks & bricks” studio was to test the waters. Is San Diego a contender on the potential list of places to live? I figured that maybe moving in and staying put for a few months might answer that question. The jury is still out.

I have a good core base of friends in San Diego. I now realize that peoples lives move on, even my friends. They are caught up in their own lives, as it should be. I knew this was a possibility when I chose this current lifestyle, yet I miss seeing some of them and being more involved in their lives. You could say the same thing about me. I have changed and grown too. We are all caught up in our own lives. I do know that I need to reach out more and contact my local friends.

I really enjoy everything a large metropolitan area has to offer. I don’t like the traffic. San Diego is huge, the 8th largest city in the United States. It is spread out and rush hour traffic is a major hassle. Try driving it in a larger vehicle. People are impatient, and I get honked at and sometimes the middle finger is raised in salute. I don’t particularly like the hurriedness of it all. Being at the beach has helped. It has a different vibe.

And then there is the cost of living. I have spent some time on the weekends strolling the neighborhoods and stopping into open houses. Wow, the price of homes is amazing, really amazing. There is one that sold across the street from my studio that sold for $1.3 million. Jaw dropping, to say the least. Rentals are not much better. It is a landlords market currently and they can ask whatever they want. Thank goodness for my little rig.

Another reason to even consider this area is the weather. Many of you are currently in a deep freeze. It has been in the high 60’s and low 70’s in San Diego. Every day I spend time outside. I walk, I bike ride and hike and more. I love being able to access the outdoors every day.

Walking the Beach

The diversity of nature here is really a plus. For being such a big city, there is so much to do outside. Yesterday I walked the beach. I can go to the desert and to the mountains and many environs in between. I love this diversity. There are over 52 microclimates in San Diego county. This lends to some great exploring.

So here I am still in the “what do I want to do with this next phase of my life” issue. Who knows, maybe I am already doing it. I love to travel, the RV is certainly a good way to travel in comfort. Yet, I do know in my heart of heart’s that I want to settle into one place again. I am still exploring the where.

And, the jury is still out.

A New Adventure in Art

watercolor painting-The Morning Run

In 1991 I began a study of watercolor art. I loved painting and expanding my horizons in a new direction. It was a totally unexpected exploration. One day I mentioned to Jim, my husband, that it would be fun to take a few watercolor lessons from a mutual friend and dancer, Hannah. Jim bought me my first lessons. I continued to study with Hannah for a year. It took me to places within myself that I never expected to go. Jim, it appears was my muse.

watercolor painting-Exploring Summer

watercolor painting-An Evening Stroll

Although I think about my brushes often, and I carry them with me wherever I wander, since Jim’s death I have very rarely picked up my paint brushes.  I don’t know what makes me hesitate to pick them up. I wonder at times if it is grief or lost of interest or the fact that I know the first several attempts will be feeble at best. It may just have performance anxiety.

My artistic flare has turned to a new direction. I love to take photos. As with my watercolors my photos seem to be eclectic, although my main focus is on nature and those wild places I love to explore. Over the past five years, I have shared several in the posts on this blog.

 

With the encouragement of some of my professional photographer friends I have been putting together a website featuring my photos. I like the line of it. It is clean and simple and easy to navigate. It will be a changing site as I add more photos, delete others and explore how to improve the site and make it better. All the photos are for sale and I am willing to work with special requests.

 

Click on the link below and it will take you to my website

www.jarnoldarts.com

This is the official announcement of my new photographic website, going live. As with this blog, come and explore. The slideshow on the home page is slow to start, be patient and wait. It is worth it.

 

 

Share the site with your friends and family. Offer me your feedback and suggestions. I will consider wisely, all comments.

If you like what you see come back often and explore photography through an artist’s eye.

Why Us?-Why Not Us?

Last week my great nephew, Ward, was diagnosed with a Wilms Tumor. He is one and a half years old and the picture of health, except that this malignant mass is growing in and around his right kidney. Instead of celebrating Christmas at home he will be recovering from surgery. The whole right kidney will be removed. He will be given time to recover and then proceed to the chemotherapy part of this treatment plan.

As part of the extended family I am devastated by this news. This little sweet lion will face challenges that most of us never have to face, especially at this young age. This young and thriving family will face many challenges that they never expected to have to face. This is their baby and their love.

When I first spoke with my niece, we had a long and struggling talk. Why us?, was the question that she and her husband asked when presented with the diagnosis. The next question they asked was, Why not us? It is a question to ask, even in the most difficult of times. When things are going wonderfully in our lives we don’t ask the “why us” question. When the proverbial “*#*” hits the fan, often this question is the one that gets asked. Why Us?

Why not us? This is life and none of us are immune to the bad stuff that comes down. What we do with this question can reflect who we are. For my niece and her husband, they have answered the question and they are coming up fighting. More than anything else, they understand that they need to be the strong advocates for their baby. He is too young to take this on himself and this is what parents do. They also know that it is time to call in favors. Forget the stoicism.

Mom and Dad are already setting boundaries. They have asked that no one give them their worse cancer story. Why we humans do this, I am not sure. I heard many when I was going through treatment for breast cancer. Below I have posted a link to the Caring Bridge website that has been set up for Ward. If you contact them there, give them all the positive stuff you can.

The extended family is asking this same question. Why Us? Well, Why Not Us? How we confront adversity, shows our mettle. This large extended family is rounding up the wagons. My sister (Ward’s grandmother) has already made the two day drive to be with them through surgery and beyond. The rest of us, no matter the distance, are supporting, loving and doing what we can to let this family know they are loved and supported and will never be in need.

They have a large, strong community behind them. Trip is a pastor and Brittany is a Youth Minister. Wow, two whole churches of people who will love them and support them. If only the rest of us could have that many behind us. They are loved by their church communities. If you ever met them, you would understand why. They are two delightful and engaged pastors, loving friends, who share a great joy in life, even when the worse happens. And during doubt and uncertainty this background will hold them together and make them stronger, as individuals, as a couple and as parents.

If you want to follow this child in the months ahead, the parents have set up a Caring Bridge site for Ward. The following link will take you to the web site. Ward Porch-Caring Bridge  You do need to sign up to receive updates. The site will not sell your email address. This site is set up, so that one can communicate with the well wishers and supporters without having to tell the story again and again.

I have also added a Caring Bridge Link to the left side of this blog. It is easy to click on that link, whenever you are visiting this page.

Please send prayers to this family. Love them and hold them close, whatever that means to you. All those good thoughts will give more love to them as they walk through this hard time.

We’re Just Walking Each Other Home.

 

 

 

 

 

It Is All About the Journey

A little over four years ago I began a journey in a little white Roadtrek, Rv. Little did I know it would become my permanent home, for now. It has been quite a journey for me and Miss Elsie the Cat.

As I reflect back on the beginning of this blog, yes I do go back and read entries, I recognize how far I have come. Some of those first entries were pretty raw. That is how it was during that time. Today I may still not be sure where I am going or what I am doing with the “rest of my life” yet I am out there experimenting and trying out my new wings that had to sprout after Jim’s death.

I don’t know if any answers have arrived to the many questions I had and still have today, yet I do recognize that I have grown and matured, well maybe a little. Grief is not easy. Some get through it in less time than others. I thought that three months after Jim’s death I would be done with it. I was wrong. I am able to recognize the steps I have taken. Most have been so small I don’t recognize them as they happen. I have to ponder on it and then there is this little tiny aha moment where I can see the change.

I have been traveling, this time, since early September. I have been exploring the southwestern United States. I have seen some beautiful places and amazing natural things. Nature has been at my beck and call or really, I have been at natures beck and call. I have wandered through Utah, sleeping in a tent, again, for part of the trip. I enjoyed the ruggedness and beauty of the back country. I enjoyed the company of two good friends, Mary Z and Linda, who willingly tolerated my sensitivity and stumbling. It was a good trip and one I am glad I took on.

I spent about two and a half weeks on my property in southern Colorado. The biggest decision of this trip took place while camped on the land. I have decided that 45 acres of property was more than I could take on. I was able to camp on the land and mourn the passing of this part of my life that was really Jim’s and mine.

Remember to click on the pics. It will enlarge them.

When I get back to San Diego and get the paperwork together, the land will go on the market. I am glad I spent the time I did on the property. When I made the decision to sell it, I felt relief and a sense of rightness. It makes me sad to see it go. I hope that someone else will care for it and love it as much as Jim and I did.

After Utah and Colorado, I started to visit places I had never been to before. Even more than the amazing places I have seen, the second part of this trip has been about friendships, new and old. I have met some really fun and interesting people since my arrival at Big Bend National Park. In other posts,  I have told you about a few of them.

Amazing 

&

Beautiful

                                        Places

Since Jim’s death I have withdrawn from people to a certain degree. I have learned that being around people can be exhausting. Even more than that is the fact many feel that it is time I leave my love and caring for Jim behind. But I have learned something – I can move forward in my life and bring my memories and love of Jim forward with me as I establish myself in my world as it is today. I can meet someone new if I want and the memories and love will only enrich any type of relationship I have from this moment forward. I have been forming new friendships with depth and meaning and fun. I am thankful that I am a more whole person for those memories. Will I continue to carry memories of Jim with me as I move forward? You bet. Will this stop me from forming all kinds of wonderful relationships? Nope.

Since my arrival at Big Bend I have been having fun. It is an easy and wonderful kind of fun. I thank the women and couples,  I have been meeting for helping to bring that part of myself forward. Peggy, Mary and I are all living full time in our rigs. Each of us is doing it in our own style. One designed her rig so she could sleep on the streets and no-one would suspect that it was an RV. Another travels with her dog and cat. She stays in one place for longer. I have been learning from these ladies and am very glad to have met them and the menagerie of animals that accompanies all of us. I have laughed more. I have enjoyed the easy company of these women. We all meander and we have been having fun.

Mary, Janet & Peggy * Roxie the Dog*

There are all kinds of relationships in this life. I really don’t mind having to work hard at relationships. If the relationship is good then it is worth the effort. I have been discovering the joy of easy relationships. I like the pure joy of discovering that people like me just for who I am. I can laugh easier and talk more profound with easy acceptance. I am rediscover joy. How cool is that?

Now I am getting ready to return to San Diego, for a little over two months. Elsie and I are going to move out of the RV and into a studio rental for this time period. I am looking forward to it. Although it is only a studio it will seem a bit large to the two of us. We have been living in a very small space. I am looking forward to this with excitement and a bit of fear. Ah, there it is, my friend and ally, fear. I feel that it is time to see how this feels. Is San Diego suppose to be my home? I don’t know. Staying in one place for a little while may help that knowledge to become clearer. Or, it may help me to acknowledge that I really like this lifestyle for now. I am preparing for a new part of the continuing adventure of life. It is going to be so nice to visit with my friends who have been such a major support in my life, before and since Jim’s death.

And so the journey continues. I look forward to it with anticipation and just a wee bit of trepidation. I am human. I am glad for my side kick Elsie. She is getting braver too. We reflect each other. I will continue to take you on my journey as it unfolds. Today the desert, in a few days, San Diego.

COME ON ALONG.

Oh The Places I Have Been-a post by Elsie the Cat

Elsie the Cat here. I have been one traveling kitty. I have seen big mountains and lots of sand and met up with some more dogs. I am one traveling kind of kitty.

It is hard for a little six pound kitty to see the big wide world. I am so glad for my tiny house on wheels. When things get to overwhelming I run for the rig. I know this is my safe place. Every kitty needs one. It becomes a bit hard for it to be safe when Janet, says, “Oh bring that dog in, Elsie is used to them”. Hmmm, I wonder how she got that idea. Being used to them and having them inside are two totally different stories.

Sonny

While we were staying at City of Rocks State Park, I met up with Sonny. He came in my house but only stayed a little bit. He was skittish and so was I. What is that dog doing in my house? He didn’t stay long, so it was OK. Sonny belongs to a new friend of Janet’s, Connie. She rides the same kind of RV as Janet.

Roxie

Then I met Roxie. She belongs to Mary. Another Roadtreking fool. Roxie was a different story. Roxie and I got to hang out for the greater part of an afternoon, while the people went off somewhere. This was not our choice. I even had to give her a hiss a swipe, just to let her know who was in charge. I couldn’t even get a decent afternoon nap. I had to keep one eye on Roxie all the time. I let Roxie have the back bed and I laid on the counter top so I could keep watch. I slept really good that night.

Roxie travels with her own kitty, Frank. I think Frank is a bit nuts to tolerate a dog. Janet better not try getting a dog while I am around. Whew, I was glad when that day was over.

Roxie & Frank

Now Janet and I are back on our own. I  like that. It has been a while since I have had her all to myself, although most of the time it doesn’t matter because I like to sleep a lot. Sleeping is really important to me. I love it. I really love it when I am undisturbed.

I am braver now. For the past month or more I no longer sleep under the sheepskin. I now sleep on the passenger seat. I think it is important to keep an eye on Janet. She tends to take the road less traveled.

For the last three weeks we have been way more social than what I am used to. I am not sure I like this social stuff, yet I am getting used to it. Although everyone has their own rig, Janet has been hanging out with other travelers. I have had to get used to the fact that Peggy often took my seat in the evening. She said that it was actually Janet who took my seat but I know better. I protested a little and then went to sleep on the front dashboard.

Where have we been since we finished up riding with another Mary, in September? With Janet’s help, here is a list.

  • Our land in Colorado-near Durango
  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
  • Fort Davis, McDonald Observatory, Davis Mountains State Park (I really liked it there), and Marfa
  • Big Bend National Park-lots of mountains and a big giant river. I saw my first Javalina-a strange and interesting looking thing.
  • Silver City, NM
  • Gila National Monument
  • Guadalupe National Park-we camped in a parking lot.
  • Carlsbad Caverns
  • City of Rocks State Park-there were a lot of coyotes there and owls.
  • Oliver Lee State Park
  • White Sands National Monument. This one was just one huge giant sand box. Janet took me out and I did not like it one bit. The wind was blowing and sand was everywhere. I like my litter box-thank you very much.
  • Aguirre Springs National Recreation Area and Campgrounds
  • We stayed at the St Clair Winery in Demming, NM for two nights. We could here owls right outside our house at night.

Now Janet says we are on our way to San Diego. I know I have been there before but I am not sure why we are going there. Janet says we are staying put for a few months. Hmm, that should be interesting. I will wait for this to unfold as I am sure it will. Until then I believe it is time for me to get some sleep. Nap time!!!