Anniversary Time

Today is my Birthday. Tomorrow Jim died seven years ago. My October tends to be action packed with events of significance in my life. One more is coming up in another week, when I have thyroid surgery for cancer.

Every year at this time I give myself some time to reflect, on my year, on past events, on events yet to be and I try to place where I want to be in my life at this moment in time.

Grief and the loss of someone dear, is an interesting event. Sometimes it feels like it happened many years ago and it did. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. I can relive the events of the last two weeks of Jim’s life like it was yesterday. It was certainly a significant event in his life, in mine and those who were close and dear to him. Yet the significant memories change when they arrive, usually unexpectedly in my life.

The other day I saw a Tesla (a dream car of mine) and there was an instant recall of the time when I left the hospital to get in my car, and a Tesla was following me. I didn’t even know it was there. The darn things are so quiet it scared me and made me jump.

That memory drew me back into the hospital and being with Jim each day in his room. A few days before he died my sister, Ginny was flying to San Diego to help out. I knew how much she liked our hot tub and it had not been cleaned. I went home to clean the hot tub with Jim on the phone giving me instructions on how to drain it. It gave us something to focus on, but really???? the hot tub??? It reminds me of how we were a team until the very end.

I remember his good and long time friend, Doug, showing up at the hospital and staying until after Jim’s death. He didn’t leave San Diego until he knew I was OK. And then there were his long time running buddies who showed up the afternoon he died to let him know they were there for him.

And the memories go on.

I have been listening to an audio book while driving titled Resilient Grieving. It has been reaffirming for me to hear someone else who is more of an expert than I am, speak of taking hold of your grief and helping it to shape your existence, at the moment and what to do to help, as time moves on. One of the things she mentions is that these moments of memory are helpful as they may remind me that during that time of my life I lived in the moment. Each moment was precious and valuable and I was right there and nowhere else. It didn’t matter about the past and it didn’t matter about the future and I was alive and so was Jim in that moment of time.

I find those moments to be extremely positive in shaping my life since his death. Some people have told me “it is time to move on” with the implication that I need to put this behind me and live today. All our memories and experience continue to shape who we are today. So why not this one? Why should I forget it or put it behind me. If it was a good experience, although painful and heart rending, then I believe I can bring it forward with me and shape who I am today.

I hope it has made me more understanding and kind and present. It certainly has made me thankful. I have been given gifts by the Universe or God or whoever you believe in, over the course of my lifetime. Learning the “in the moment” presence is one that has shaped me more than any other. Being married to a life partner for twenty one years has certainly shaped who I am today. I hope never to forget the laughter, adventure, deep and loving conversation and more that the two of us shared. And now I want to begin to reach out more and share this with others.

I tend to get lonely out here on the road and that is my own doing. I don’t reach out to people often and I think that has to change. I find when I take Lyft or Uber I relish the conversations with the drivers. I learn and share and find it fun. I want to do this more with other’s in my life. So maybe that is a goal for this year to come.

I do know that I have been loved and cherished in my partnership with Jim. I want to do that for others. I am feeling extremely blessed to have good friends wherever I go. I hope I have carried this forward in my life with friends near and far.

Today I am thankful for my memories and for experiencing “in the moment” points of time. Today and every day I remain thankful for those twenty-one years I had Jim in my life. I miss him and I will carry him forward for the rest of my life, even as I make new friends and experience new things.

Driving West, The Cancer Word, Moving On

Sunset over Lake Erie

In mid-September I left New Jersey and my sister’s home and began heading west. Elsie the cat and I moved back into our little home on wheels and took off. I have been slowly making my way west, exploring Pennsylvania, stopping to visit family in Ohio and taking time to bird watch along the south shore of Lake Erie.

I spent three lovely days visiting good friends, Helen and Norb, in Chicago before once again heading west. I am now in Lincoln, NE visiting with good friends, waiting out a cold front that is coming through before once again heading west.

For all of my friends that are experiencing very cold conditions at night, I am afraid I am going to bypass you this time. Why? 10 degrees F. is just a bit too cold for my rig. I am going to be driving south and then west so I don’t have to winterize my little home on wheels.

I will arrive in San Diego on October 20. I am scheduled for surgery to remove the other half of my thyroid on October 25. With the support of my doctors I put off this surgery until after my grand summer vacation in Africa. Now I have to move ahead. I guess the vacation is over.

I have been contemplating, otherwise known as thinking, about my life coming up. I am nervous about this surgery. I am apprehensive about the outcome. A few days ago I woke in the morning with the realization that I am experiencing the “C” word for the second time in my life and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, a bit nervous, and a bit scared, and a bit emotional. Ah life continues to hand out the surprises.

There is another feeling I have been experiencing this time with cancer and that is the sense of feeling very alone in this big wide world. When I had breast cancer, Jim was alive and was my major every day support. This time I am having to create my support team. And, honestly?, I am missing Jim.

After seeing Jim go through head and neck cancer I swore that was the one type of cancer I did not want to tackle. Now here I am. I am trying very hard to separate the two experiences yet that is hard to do. I know they are different kinds of cancer but seriously who cares? Cancer is cancer and it is a hard thing to handle.

I know I have heard all the words; “I have a friend (aunt, sister…) who had thyroid cancer and they had their thyroid removed and are fine”, “If you are going to have cancer, this is the a good cancer to have” (that is a horrible thing to say to someone, there is no good cancer to have), “you will be just fine” (how do you know?), “God never gives you more than you can handle” (bull on this one-don’t ever, ever, ever say this to anyone-ever), “It is a simple surgery” (What? there is not simple surgery). And the words go on.

On the positive side of this is that my friends are stepping forward.

  • During the weekend of surgery, Nancy is taking care of Miss Elsie.
  • Cynthia and Ward are taking me into their home to love me pre and post op.
  • Phyllis, I know, will be waiting in the wings to help however I will let her.
  • Helen and Dave, my friends in Lincoln told me to let them know if I need them and they will get into their tiny home on wheels and head west. (this was enough to bring tears to my eyes)
  • My friend Sharon, in southern Utah wants to be contacted post surgery so she can, from a distance love and support me.
  • My immediate family are too far away to physically help out, but I know they will be supporting me from a distance.

I am more than a bit overwhelmed by my friends near and far who will be loving me as I face this newest challenge in my life.

And in the midst of all this “C” stuff well here I am, once again in another October. Today would have been Jim’s birthday. Yesterday he went into the hospital for the last time. Six days from now I have a birthday. The day after my birthday Jim died. Now I have surgery on the 25th. Well isn’t that an actioned packed month. October seems to be more and more a month I struggle to get through. I appreciated when November 1 comes around.

Isn’t this an uplifting post? I have always tried to be honest with who I am in the moment and what I am going through. From the moment I posted my first post I told myself to write from the heart and I hope that I have succeeded in doing this.

Today this is who I am and tomorrow, well, I may be different. Tomorrow I will be moving south and west. Just like the other snowbirds I am heading to the sun and warmth. To my friends in San Diego, I will see you in about ten days and I look forward to reuniting with you.

In the meantime I will drive and explore and be amazed at the places I see. I will remember to breath, deeply and long and relax. And yes the camera will be coming out and join me for the ride. Miss Elsie is as always is my sidekick. I am looking west toward the rest of my life.

Another Year-Reflections

Tomorrow is my birthday.

The day after tomorrow will mark the sixth anniversary of Jim’s death. Time stands still. Time flies. It is amazing that it is six years since I last saw him. It is amazing that it has been six years since I last heard his voice. Well this whole process is pretty amazing and not always much fun.

I grieved when my mom died. I grieved when my dad died. I have grieved over the loss of friends and over the loss of others in tragedy, which we have seen so much of this year. The loss of Jim was different. I lost my life partner, my friend and my companion in mischief and dance. I describe the three and a half years leading to his departure, like a deck of cards thrown in the air. Just as they started to come down and I was picking them up, something else happened and the cards were thrown back up in the air again.

I am still picking up cards from six years ago. I didn’t know there were so many cards. Yet I have accomplished a bit along the way and each day I attempt to live life to its fullest. Some days it is a wee, tiny bit and other days are big a luscious and overflowing with awe and beauty.

I am beginning to realize that I may never have an answer to the question “What’s Next?” At my best I look for the large and small around me and find some marvel in it all. At my worst, I still find I can treasure my current surroundings and who I am.

  • I am not homeless.
  • I have this lovely little Roadtrek to call home.
  • My home is heated, which feels good on these chilly fall nights.
  • Elsie is always my faithful companion, in adventure and silence.
  • I know, oh how I know, I have many out there that support me daily, mostly in thought and prayer. Yet I know you are out there.
  • There are many books to read. On days where I don’t have much energy, I sit and read.
  • When I was younger I went through a short, period where everything was gray. I appreciate that I have never gone back to that place. I still can see and marvel at the loveliness of the places I visit and the people I meet. Color is a wonderful medium.
  • I have a family, sisters and nieces, that though not often heard from love me and support me.
  • And there is always my camera-I love taking pics even at my lowest.

There is always hope. In this coming year I am going to attempt to not be so hard on myself. I really don’t need to make far reaching decisions about anything. I want to focus on what is best for me at this moment in time, in this day and in this year. I want to experience a little more joy, wherever I can find it. And, although I am not sure I may want to settle down. I shall see on that statement.

I now understand a bit more of the statement from others that “you can move forward, while treasuring the moments Jim and you had”. I know that I can do both. And, ever since Jim’s passing he has been very good at helping me find my car keys. I have called on him more than once. This is one of the important reasons to keep him nearby as I adventure forth into life.

If you look on this site you will see a Go Fund Me tag. I have been raising money for the Jim Fenningham Memorial Scholarship for 6 years. I am close to my goal of $25,ooo to make this a perpetual scholarship. I have about $8,000 more to go. I have been constant and steady in trying to raise this amount. If you would like to donate, small or large, some student out there at Grossmont Community College will thank you for your efforts.  I treasure each donation because I know about the thought and caring behind it. If you would prefer to donate directly to the college, here is their information.

Mail your donation to:

Scholarship Specialist
Financial Aid Office
8800 Grossmont College Dr
El Cajon, CA 92020-1799
Contributions are tax deductible

On to another year of discovery. Who knows what it will bring. I will continue to follow my own path, carrying the memories of my time with Jim forward. This year I pray that it will be just a wee bit easier. Each year seems to be getting that way. I am thankful for this.

I am thankful for 21 years of love, caring and relationship. I am thankful for being able to have those memories to help me move forward with my life, no matter what direction it takes.

Today I am thankful.

 

 

 

My Inner Child, The Dentist & Jim

images-1I have been in San Diego for a little over a month. All scans, x-rays, and doctors appointments have been completed and the news is good. Well, almost all of the appointments have been completed. The only outstanding appointments at this time is the dentist. Yep, I arrived in San Diego with pain in my jaw (which of course I was sure was head & neck cancer). Day one was an appointment with my dentist, day two was an appointment with the periodontist, and day three was surgery to remove one of my back teeth and have a bone graft completed. Since then I have been through another gum surgery. I have one more to complete after I return from Christmas.

Have I told you that I really, really dread going to the dentist? All these dentists are very nice people but I have had very few good experiences with the dentist. It started when I was in fifth grade and continues to this day. Just in case you are not aware yet, dentists make me very uncomfortable.

No matter how hard I try to be adult and rational about all this, my little girl pops to the foreground and once again I am a mass of little girl feelings. I try to be an adult but often when I get to the dentist office and the news is not the best, I have found myself crying in the dental chair. I know I am not alone in these feelings. All I have to do is bring up the subject of the dentist and the person I am speaking with shares their own feelings of fear and dental dread.

13285233_143979346015699_1388150816_nAll of us have an inner child. I have read books about this. I have gone to workshops about this. I have, through meditation had conversations with my inner child. I think I acknowledge her existence but then, well, just mention the dentist and here she is again, taking over my present day existence.

It is bad enough I become a small girl at the mention of the dentist. This time, when I arrived for my first appointment with the periodontist, I discovered the office was in the same medical building that I took Jim to, three times a week for the last four months of his life. He received IV nutritional therapy to help him better tolerate his chemotherapy. People with head and neck cancer often receive feeding tubes because they cannot tolerate eating. This therapy also helped him live without the feeding tube.

Not only did I have to deal with all my dental fears, I also had to confront some issues around grief. Boy does that subject continue to pop up at interesting times. Once again I sat down in the dental chair, the tech came in and I started crying. Was this fear, was this grief, was this everything all mixed together? I will never know completely. It was hard to walk to elevator and return, once again to this building.

As I review these last several weeks and my visit to this dentist and building, in some ways I find this has been a bit healing for me. I have had time to reflect the moments Jim and I shared in our visits to the doctor who treated him. Jim and I always functioned well as a team. We shared everything. Some of those visits were fraught with anxiousness but we always were very good at supporting each other through our lives together. Sometimes he would sleep and I would go for a walk. Other times we sat and read. Yet other times we shared our thoughts and feelings with each other. It has made me miss him more. It has made me recognize how important those moments were in our relationship. It has made me realize how important all moments are in my relationship to all others.

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It is OK to acknowledge and accept my inner child. That little girl gives me the opportunity to laugh and play and look at the world with excitement and wonder. It is a little harder to acknowledge her when I am sobbing in the dental chair. I guess that is the time to acknowledge her most of all. At times like this I need to tell all of my selves “it’s OK”. If I need to cry, then cry. Usually after my sob session is over I can handle my time at the dentist better and I feel more adult.

Later this morning all of me is off to the dentist for a follow-up.

House For Sale, Adventure Awaits

 

imagesA while ago I mentioned in one of my posts that my goal for 2016 was to fix up the house and get it on the market.

Guess what I am in the middle of? Yes, you guessed it. I am in the middle of completing  some major interior and exterior projects on my house. Last week I had a cracked slab repaired, a new sidewalk with drainage on both sides installed, and a new driveway put in. It looks snazzy.

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Driveway drying

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My new sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is more to come. I have to get some drywall work done and then the interior will be painted. I am hoping to complete this by the middle of March and then if all things go according to plan the house will go  on the market.

Here is what I know about this process so far. It is stressful. It can be very stressful, at times. I feel that I have done pretty well dealing with the stress of it all. Oh wait I almost forgot I am getting over a cold but that is not stress related (who am I kidding). Every once in a while my not so favorite friend, anxiety, rears it’s ugly head. I try to remind myself that I am halfway through the repair and fixing up thing. It helps that Barbara, my friend and realtor is willing to listen to me. She asks the right questions too.

Once the house sells I head straight into the unknown. I am not planning to buy or rent another place immediately. I am going to sell most of my belongings, put the rest in storage and Elsie and I will live in my Roadtrek RV for the next year. If I really like it I may stay in it longer. If I don’t like it I may not stay a year. This is my plan at present.

stress-article-2015Moving into my Roadtrek is way more challenging to my stress level than getting the house ready for sale. When I was younger, I would pick up on a whim, pack and move. Sometimes I had no idea where I would end up. I am sure there was stress and anxiety with those moves too. I have found, as I have gotten older, moving has become harder and harder. Now I am want to move out of traditional housing entirely. What????

Since Jim’s death selling the house has always been in the back of my mind. It has nothing to do with our life together in our home. If it did I would stay here forever. This is what occurs when one finds oneself in a good and filling relationship. Creating a fresh start is important to me. I find that if I have to start over, I want to start somewhere fresh and in a place that is mine to create.

My problem with finding a home and space that is just mine is, I don’t where it is. I have been on two long trips and I thought each one would help me define where I want to live. I have learned some important things by traveling, yet where I want to live is still a mystery. Here is what I know:

  • I will not live east of the Rocky Mountains again-unless my family needed me. I love the wide open spaces of the west. I love all the mountains and the broad forever vistas. When I first moved to the Rocky Mountains in the 1970’s I never looked east again.
  • I have ruled out two thirds of the country. That’s good.
  • The Pacific Coast is amazing. I love camping and traveling it. I have found that I have been inexplicably drawn to the Pacific since Jim’s ashes went to sea.
  • I don’t mind some humidity. The humidity back east and in the south is overwhelming.
  • I love the lack of bugs in the west. I will put up with mosquitos and those pesky ants. But I don’t have to clean the front end off my vehicles after I drive them once.
  • There is something amazing to me regarding the fact that on any given day, year round, I can walk out of my house and go exploring. I don’t usually have to wait until the weather clears.
  • My car stays in good shape forever.
  • I have good friends all over the country and beyond. I have very good, loving and supportive friends in San Diego. Their support, caring and love would make it very hard for me to leave. All my friends have gone above the call in helping me during the last 3+ years.

Here is what I don’t know:

  • Where Do I Want to Live??????

Until I know more of what I want,  I don’t think I will buy. I may rent, after the year in my RV. I plan to keep an open mind and let in all possibilities.

Miss Elsie and I are going to become the traveling duo. Where do I travel to first? Maybe the photo below will shed some light on this question.IMG_2569

Yep that is right. I am pondering the Alcan Highway later in the spring, depending on the sale of the house. I have a lovely friend, Cat, who has a fifth wheel who wants to caravan with me. I am feeling the slight undertones of excitement. We would make a good team, me and Miss Elsie, Cat and her two dogs, Dory and Bodhi.

2016 continues to be an interesting year. I promise I will keep you up to date as the mystery of this year unfolds.

And the Adventure Continues.