Wedding Woes

I recently listened to Kelly Clarkson interview Sam Smith about writing songs and that how their best song writing came when their feelings were fresh and raw.  I can totally see how that relates to writing of any kind.  My best stories have come from highly emotional situations.  But in stressful situations, how do you do write your story without calling out your perpetrators or reveling information others would prefer remain private?  Putting your thoughts out there, then wishing you could retract them but they are permanently written in the cloud; no take-backs.   

As many of you have noticed, I haven’t written in a few days.  I hard as I tried, I wasn’t able to put into words the pain and frustration I was feeling.  I’m set on keeping it real; so, I’ll fill you in.  Thankfully, now that it’s in the rear-view I can say that everything worked out for the best but it sure didn’t feel that way when it was unfolding.   

From the minute that we found out that Scott needed a stem cell transplant, I have been counting days and trying to anticipate how he would be feeling by the time my daughter’s wedding day got here.  As a blended family, our kids were already college age when we met.  They never had to live together but since we’ve been together, we’ve done holidays, vacations and other activities as one family.  They all get along and have a great time together.  We were a fairly new couple when his daughter married but we were married ourselves by the time each of our boys married; within a month of each other.  Having rented a large Airbnb for a family hangout for all the “kids” I was really looking for a great wedding weekend getaway for our last child’s wedding.  A blended family outing.    

Right after the transplant, Scott seemed to do really well and the dream was in focus.  Sure, we would be stretching the 100-mile rule but we would be within 20 miles of Cleveland Clinic.  COVID is still a concern but I have a plan.  The house is huge and we can cordon him off in the bedroom with the adjoining sitting room with fireplace.   Position him in the back row at the wedding and whisk him off as soon as the ceremony is over.  Back to a hotel to avoid the busy-ness of the Airbnb.  Bases covered.  He’s present; but protected. 

October approaches and he comes down with a cold; and tests show it’s not only a cold, he has mono too.  Looking back, we think he’s probably had mono since he was in the hospital.  It explains his extreme tiredness, but inability to sleep.  It could be part of the rash and lack of appetite. 

In the days leading up to the wedding, I was constantly being asked what I planned to do about Scott.  Everyone had their opinion and felt the need to tell me what they thought was best.  As if I’ve been caring for him all this time and now, I suddenly don’t know what’s best for him and need to be told what to do.  I was a mess.

What ultimately led me to concede; to say he shouldn’t go, was seeing that he wasn’t engaging in the discussion about whether he should go or not.  Maybe he was scared; not wanting to have people looking at him and wonder what was wrong with him.  Whether he could get around without the help of a wheelchair that we didn’t have, and how he would stay warm with temperatures predicted in the fifties; when he was already freezing when it was eighty degrees out. 

Friends Tal & Cindy – critical links in my support system

I phoned my friend and trusted advisor Tal (that went with us to Mayo Clinic), and he convinced me that I needed to let his family take the reins for a few days and try to enjoy the days that were about my daughter.  Something that wouldn’t happen if he was with me and I was constantly worried about him.  It was her big day and the last thing we wanted was for Scott to become the center of attention.  It was time for me to take a break.  He and his wife would be with me and everything was going to be alright. 

Brother-in-law Dennis took over the IV duties

Once I changed my attitude; the first hurdle was breaking down and asking for help.  Letting go of control. Daunting.  I needed to find someone to stay with him for three days. Sure everyone always says they will help but when the time comes; will they? I needed someone that I trusted; that would also need to be confident enough to manage the magnesium IV and manage his medications and hound him to eat and take a shower.  Then get them comfortable with the process in a couple of days. Scott’s sister and her husband were quick to step up to the challenge. Still, I felt like I was walking off the job when he still needed me.  I couldn’t see how I was going to enjoy any of it while leaving him behind.     

It also meant telling my daughter, who had told me so many times how important it was for Scott to be part of her wedding, that he wasn’t well enough to attend.   I had to stop worrying that people might ask me where my husband was, causing me to fall apart.  Ultimately, I put on my big girl panties and dealt with the fact that I was not going to be able to share this once in a life-time event with my best friend by my side. 

Headed to the venue on wedding day

Things fell into place throughout the week and Thursday night my friends picked me up for the four-hour drive to the Airbnb.  I had committed to providing breakfast and lunch for our guests and the wedding party for Saturday so I was able to be in my comfort zone cooking on Friday morning.  We followed that up with a little retail therapy and finally the rehearsal and dinner.  It was a sleepless night; I think I just fell asleep and the girls started arriving to get their hair and make-up done at 7:00 a.m.  Like her mother, the bride planned to single-handedly manage the tasks of the day.  Complete with her own spreadsheets, typed out instructions for all and an hour-by-hour schedule that all wedding party members have on their phones.  I would expect no less. 

It was a storybook wedding that went off without a hitch. It seemed that by the evening she was allowing herself to be present and enjoy the day she had meticulously planned; one that marked the official beginning of her journey as a committed life partner.  A group of us were able to do a video chat with Scott and his sister and husband before the night was over so that was nice.

Having divorced parents is not easy or desirable; but I think it’s allowed her to see what life with the right person can and should be like.  That commitment is not always full of the joy and excitement that we hope it will be.  That even fairy tale relationships have sadness and frustration.  That when you really love someone, you do what you have to do.  One day at a time, with some days being more difficult than you ever imagined.             

Aging My Way

Last week my husband turned 62 years old; a day later a good friend turned 73.  That leaves me shaking my head and going “WTH” – how is that even possible?  I may be a little bias but I think we are pretty fun for old people!  We lost my grandparents on my father’s side early; grandpa while I was still in high school and then grandma when I was in my early 20’s.   Yet I remember thinking “well, they were old; they lived a good life.”  Looking back, that was crazy!  My grandfather had just turned 70 and grama lived to be 71.  But at the time, they had been spending winters in Florida for several years and weekends in the summer at their cottage on the lake.  Which thankfully they had because they really didn’t live long at all.  Is my change in perspective all part of aging; or is 80 the new 60?  I definitely think that 60 is the new 40!

Enjoying the water slides on vacation this past February. What a blast!

I’m sure it helps that we spend time with couples that are younger than us.  At the same time, we have a lot of friends in their late 60’s and they can party with the best of them.  It probably doesn’t hurt that they were 70’s teens; former band members and they’ve always known how to have a good time.  I’ve made a point of showing my kids that adults still want to have fun too.   Probably one of my greatest fears is that people stop including me because I’m too old.  You know “no sense in inviting Grama and Grampa to the party; they’re no fun.”  I guess I always thought that somehow; your thoughts, wants and needs totally changed when you got “old”.  In reality I’m learning that for the most part, I feel the same inside today as I have for my whole life.  I just look different on the outside and move a lot slower.  

When Scott & I starting seeing each other, I quickly learned that if I were to become an Oswalt I would need to be able to drink coffee; all day.  Come on in; have a cup of coffee at 4:30 p.m.  It was also going to be much easier if I liked to drink beer.  If you arrived at his parent’s house after that 4:30 p.m. coffee hour then it was probably time for a beer or glass of wine.  Scott and his dad both like(d) beer.  Not several but just a beer after a long hard day at work.   We had a lot of fun playing cards with his parents and having a beer or two.  Those were times we all enjoyed and gave us a lot of great memories.    

Growing up on home-made wines and hard cider I never had an interest in beer.  At the same time, I’ve found the beer market has totally changed since the days of my youth.  It’s a challenge to stock the store with traditional beers and have room to bring in the next new thing. Up until Scott got sick, we enjoyed going to the local brew pub.  It was fun supporting the local young entrepreneurs by being part of the mug club.  Let’s face it, not all of them live up to the hype but there are a lot of really good ones out there.  So many interesting flavor combinations to try out.  The other bonus is that they typically pack a punch and who can complain about a good bang for your buck. 

Not to say that partaking in alcohol will guarantee that you stay fun, I’m just saying it was part of our relaxation routine.  Dinner out and a drink.  Drinks with friends.  A drink together after work.  Scotts had to step away from that altogether, and I’ve found myself almost eliminating it.  I might have a drink but for the most part it I feel like I am on duty most of the time and I can’t risk not being fully alert.  As the years go by, I find my stomach is less tolerant than before but I still enjoy the buzz that a few drinks will bring.  We will see if it finds it’s way back into our lives after his recovery. 

I’m blaming the language barrier for the size of these drinks at Senior Frogs in Mexico!

Moving to the farm meant some other changes for me.  Not only did it mean relocating after 50 years of living in the same small community, it meant adjusting to working from home.  No more dress clothes.  Fashion was never my strong suit so I was glad to close that door.  No more make-up.  Then we bought the store.  My hair has to be long enough to pull up.  Getting ready for work means brushing my teeth and hair and a quick scrub of my face with a cool washcloth.  Pull my hair up in a pony tail and maybe a fun headband.  Ready to go in fifteen.  I’ve never been one to have an extensive beauty regiment; wash my face with water, follow up with Avon Nurtura.  Now with the store, between the moisture and the grease, I’m pretty naturally moisturized.   Going out means showering so I don’t smell like fried chicken and I’m good to go.  It never fails; if I wear any make-up, I end up rubbing my eyes or laughing until tears ruin my eye make-up.  Why bother.   

In a world where young people are coming up with all kinds of things to get noticed, I’m at a point in my life where I would prefer to just blend in.  I don’t need buzzed hair, colored hair or a shocking wardrobe.  The other day I saw a young person wearing plastic elf ear extensions.  I’m hearing stories of kids wanting special accommodations at school because they identify with being cats.  To only be young again – I say hell no!  I’ve earned my badges and I wouldn’t trade them for the world and certainly not for a second chance to be young again.   

I think getting older doesn’t mean turning into old people; it means you have earned the right to exercise your wants and needs.  We don’t need to party until we puke any more.  We still might do that occasionally but now it’s nothing to brag about.  Been there, done that.  Now “partying” means wanting to achieve maximum relaxation.  Finding balance.  Go where I want to go, be with who I want to be with.  Dress for comfort and spend time with people who like me for who I am.  I feel like I’ve spent a lifetime working my way to the people I want to spend my wonder years with. 

Our wisdom helps us to better navigate situations when we are older.  Let’s face it, by then, we’ve had so much “stuff” happen to us that we can draw on the experiences of our mistakes and mishaps.  We are nearing the end of experimenting and focusing on what we enjoy.    I don’t need to try on plastic elf ears or wear my pants half-way down my ass to get people to notice me.  I’m pretty comfortable going about my business with my out of style clothes with grease stains, no make-up and hair in a pony tail.  That’s my fashion statement. 

Humor me.  Invite your parents or grandparents to your next party.  You might be surprised how much they can add.  And next time you think your grandmother is going to Florida to sit around and knit you an afghan and drink orange juice, think again.  Don’t let her fool you into thinking she missed a stitch or two because she’s getting old and isn’t as sharp as she used to be; she might have just had one too many cocktails with her friends!

Salute! Living the dream life on our annual sunny vacation with friends.

To Hug or Not to Hug

I can’t lie; I’ve been really excited with the progress I’ve made on my blog.  In three months, I’m up to 2554 views, 1447 visitors and 19 followers.  What really blows my mind is people have found it and read it in 10 countries.  I’m not sure if it’s part of a marketing ploy or what but I even have a beer maker from Scotland signed up for my ramblings. Talk about pressure! It certainly has been a rewarding distraction in the face of this crazy life I’m slip sliding through.  I would love to know why people have read it; and if they have returned for more or not.  Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear from you all. I really hope that it’s helped someone better navigate their own stresses. 

I’m not sure who is more amazed at how emotional my writing has been; myself or the people that know me well.  I’m admittedly a little guarded and I’m sure some people would even consider me a little aloof.  Scott is more likely to cry during a movie than I am.  Perhaps this whole mess has left me a little softer.  Don’t get that confused with passion.  While I have never been a real publicly “mushy” person, I am very passionate; but that’s an article for another day.

One of the few older photos I have on my computer Me and my mom on Mother’s Day 1967

Growing up with my grandparents next door, I spent a lot of time with them.  Making cookies with my grandmother.  Hanging out in the shop with my dad and grandpa.  In those days, I was living the tomboy life watching them make things, break and fix things and work with the animals.  Grampa was a former dairy farmer, turned stockyards worker and still had a handful of sheep.  When I met Scott and learned he had sheep I felt like that was a sign. Too bad I can’t share with my Grampa the things I’ve learned about handling sheep. At least in my memories it always felt like watching someone herd cats.

He cussed a lot; so I think some people probably found him a little scary. I don’t think he could speak an entire sentence without swearing but that didn’t bother me. I did, however, pick up a potty mouth from him that I never really recovered from.  When you are raised around it, they are just words.  No reason to get all bothered by it; pretty sure my mother wouldn’t agree with that logic though.  Growing up, we would go roller skating with the youth group at church. My dad worked nights, so Grampa often took us. He worked at the roller rink at the park when they wintered in Florida so he skated a lot. I honestly have never given it a whole lot of thought but in retrospect that was pretty cool.

Maybe because we saw my grandparents every day, it wasn’t like we hugged them every time we left. Honestly, I don’t remember our family members ever hugging and that was just fine with me.  I never realized there would come a day when it was required.  I met my first husband and his family was a bunch of huggers.  If that wasn’t enough, I turned around and did it a second time.  Married into a bunch of huggers; again.      

Somehow, I managed what I felt was a pretty decent childhood despite the lack of hugs.  Then you add the next generation.  My kids are the blended generation.  Dad’s a hugger and mom’s not.  I believe in most cases; hugging is the dominant trait; children of a mixed background will become huggers by default.  Next thing you know the kids are hugging and telling everyone they love them.  Makes for interesting family gatherings.    

Apparently this is a thing!

I remember the first Christmas with Scott.  Christmas Eve is at my parents.  Meals at 6 p.m.  followed by gifts opened one at a time.  There’s usually a short break for sweet and savory treats and the must have red Christmas punch – not spiked.  All was going well; he was fitting in nicely.  After a lovely evening, he did what all normal, loving people would do; give my dad a firm handshake and thank you and yup – you guessed it – went in for the hug with my mom.  So now what?  Do I have to hug my parents now too?  Is that what they want; we have been doing just fine all these years without it.  After 50 some years; that night advanced us into the hugging my parents at Christmas mode; once a year won’t kill you will it? And the walls come crumbling down. 

Christmas at my parents; mom and dad with their grands in 2016

I’m not really sure why I feel a pressure to explain my lack of comfort with the whole hugging thing.  Probably all the years of having people comment; “Oh, that’s right, you’re not a hugger, are you?”, like I’m the weird one.  I still see nothing wrong with saving hugs for times you feel the over-whelming urge to embrace someone.  Do we really need to hug people every time we see them?  What about only when you haven’t seen them in a long time?  I like to think I’m just keeping it real.  I guess it’s probably at the forefront for me as we have started to allow family to allow visitors. With COVID still a concern, Scott and I keep having the discussion; if we could just skip the hugs for a little longer I would feel better, but for him the hug is worth the risk. I get it.

This year has been both exhausting and emotional.  Everyone wants a hug; and I’m ok with that.  Since my marriage and move to his farm over an hour away, we see my family less often. We’ve actually moved into the “haven’t seen you in a long time” so let’s hug it out zone.  New tricks for old dogs.  Who’d a thought!   

COVID sure did change the way we operate

Jumping In with Both Feet

The Motto for 2022 that I didn’t choose

I love the water but I’m not a great swimmer.  Take me to the middle of the calm lake and I’ll be one of the first ones to jump off the boat.  Feet first with toes pointed down with the intention of heading all the way to the bottom, only to bounce back up to the surface.  Experiencing the changing temperatures as I go; sometimes with eyes wide open and always with my nose plugged.  What I consider the perfect balance of courage, adventure and self-preservation.  I can free float with the best of them, but don’t expect me to swim to save myself.  These analogies pretty much sum up my personality and skill-set; things I take with me as I head into the scariest adventure of my life.  Realizing that the trials and tribulations that got me to where I am today were the life events that didn’t kill me; but made me strong enough to tackle the task at hand.  Pausing daily life to tackle cancer.  As my husband prepares for a stem cell transplant, I hope to share what I have learned on our journey in hopes of making someone else’s experience just a little more manageable.