DEEP BREATH

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Loss is like breathing underwater.  I try and take a deep deep gulp, but it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel good.  So I went to Florida to be with mid sis.  My grieving brother in law (BIL) accompanied me, so I was a bit apprehensive.  I wanted to be with my sister so that we could reconnect and rejoin all the stitches we need to keep us together.  Adding BIL would certainly change the dynamics, make our journey to healing second in the grand scheme of things.

It turns out, that while our visit wasn’t what it could have been if it was just two sisters, I still accomplished what I needed to.  I gulped in the south Florida air, basked in the warmth of the sun searing my skin and started the healing process.  I have come to realize a few things…my older sister is gone.  In her wake is grief and longing to have her a part of my life; the connection on the phone to family on a daily basis.  But, life goes on and I will not wither without her input.  As a matter of fact, forging a new relationship with mid sis is probably the most positive step I can take.  I also realized that in my grief, I had pushed my immediate family to the side, not taking in their healing powers.  Only gone for a few days, I missed them tremendously.  My husbands quiet manner and softness is as essential to my life as the air I breath.

I fly out in a few hours.  Winging my way north into a colder clime still in the throws of winter.  I will leave behind my mid sis and her healing warmth, but know that I will return here to a haven that is always available to me.  But home I go so I can take a deep breath of the life and love that I have and find the peace my farm has always given me.

 

mvb

And So It Goes

I picked up my sock knitting this weekend.  Not at all excited to work on it.  I have gotten to the point where I have turned the heel and am now just knitting, and knitting, and knitting until I have the required amount of foot.  Around and around I go.  But I keep at it because at some point I know it will be time for more excitement when I knit the toe and finish the sock.

I guess that is what I have been doing.  I’ve been going through my daily routine. With an injured horse on stall rest,  that now includes cleaning stalls and changing bandages daily.  She isn’t very pleased to be in the stall and will clack her teeth at me.  CLACK, CLACK, CLACK!  It is her way of conveying her displeasure with her circumstances.  Much like the scowl or raised eyebrow of an unhappy parent.  Yet, in she stays, and on I scoop.  But today, today felt different.

I threw open the barn doors and breathed in that lovely horsey smell.  My mid sis, by the way, claims it to be the most disgusting smell she has ever encounted.  I can think of way smellier smells.  To mucking I went.  Pick and toss, scrape and spread until I had two clean stalls.  I let my gelding in at night so she can have some company.  The price I pay for being a softy.  Pleased with my labor, I brought my gelding in from the field and fed them both.  Barn kitty got her food too and off I went to the chicken coop.

I haven’t been very pleased with my chickens lately.  They don’t mind eating, but they sure aren’t laying much.  I am only getting two eggs a day where last year I was getting six this time of year.  I gave them a stern talking to.  Freshened up their nesting boxes, food and water and closed them in for the night.

I was walking away from the coop with my two eggs and glanced up towards the house.  And that was when I saw it; my grand ol Camelia (I call her Camy for short) has started to bloom.  She came with the house and stands about 9 feet tall.  Hubby keeps threatening to chop her down because she is too close to the foundation.  But I stand in his way and champion her right to be there.  Looking at her, I realized that while the boring stuff was happening, life was moving on, changing and evolving.  I have been so caught up in the drama of my grief, I was missing what was happening literally in my own back yard.  And so today, I put aside my daily thoughts, and bask in the knowledge that it won’t always feel so bad.  I know it may turn dark  again tomorrow, but I’ll take the sun where I can find it.

mvbimage

One of the Guys!

Being the youngest of the family had its challenges as well as advantages.  I really do think that the birth order determines personality traits to some extent.  Having two older sisters to plow a path through our family was a definite advantage.  Mom got all her ya yas out on my older sisters.

Big sis was the guinea pig.  She truly bore the brunt of my Mom’s attempt at orchestrating our lives.  Boy were there fireworks!  Mom was a product of her generation.  She married young; right after my Dad came back from WWII, and lived in my Grandparents home until after my big sis was born.  Mom had very definite ideas about who we should be and how we should present ourselves to the outside world.  Mid sis was the pleaser.  She did all she could to make my parents happy and proud.  And she did it with style and confidence.  If truth be told, she is my Superhero, I really admire what she has done in her life.superwoman

Following my high achieving mid sis was a challenge.  I decided early that I was not going to play because I couldn’t live up to the parental expectations.  Notice I did not say overachieving.  This is because my wonderful mid sis just lived up to her potential.  How many of us actually do that?  Not me.  While I was busy being social and playing with horses and more importantly boys, she was busy building a foundation for a life time of successes.  At 4 years older than me, I started high school as she finished…Salutatorian I might add.  Don’t get me wrong, I was not a bad student, but I had better things to do than study.  I remember my English teacher, who called me by an unattractive ethnic name, asked me why I wasn’t more like my sister.  What an ass.  But I have gotten off track.

I will never forget the day she took me to walk the school.  I missed orientation because the family went to the beach for vacation.  Boy was I scared, but she made the time to introduce me to my teachers, make sure I knew where my locker was, how to get lunch; all the important things.  I felt really important walking around with her.  This wasn’t the first time she made me feel really special.

My parents went out of town one weekend.  Mid sis was a senior, or recently graduated, high school and I was the pain in the neck little sister.  Except that weekend she didn’t treat me like one.  Late Saturday evening her boyfriend wanted to go out. So I got to go with them.  I don’t remember all the detail but I do remember driving around our little town in the back of his MG as we stopped to pick up other classmates of theirs.  THEN the group, me included, went back to boyfriend’s house and made pancakes.  We didn’t get home until after one in the morning.  It is an evening I will never forget.  Instead of making me feel like an unwanted wart, she made me part of the group.  And you know, to this day, more than 40 years later, she still does that.  She is without a doubt, the nicest person in our family.

Mid sis has always been the one I turned to for really gut wrenching advice.  She can be objective and I know she is only thinking of what will be best for me or my family.  I wonder how things would have gone differently if she had stayed physically closer.  She moved away from home early in her marriage.  First to the West Coast and then down to South Florida.  It is just the two of us now.  We aren’t the same, but we will cling to each other with the fierceness of two women that have a relationship grounded in love and admiration.

mvb

Purple Cow

I had a great childhood.  I blissfully played through life for the first 10 years.  I was born in Philadelphia, Pa.  I think my entire clan got off the boat at Ellis Island and said “We gotta go to Philly!”.   My Dad got a job in Florida working in the Space Industry, so to pre-Disney Winter Park we went.  My Uncle and his family were already there.  I don’t remember much of that move, I was not yet 3, but my Mom said I wanted to go on a Pirate Ship, not a plane.  Knowing how poorly I travel, I probably threw up the entire trip.pirate ship

I thought my oldest sister was the bomb!  At eight years older than me, surely she knew all and any attention I got from her was cherished. She was the director of our fun.  With an extremely creative streak, we did all kinds of fun things.

One night, when my parents went out, older sis created a game called “Purple Cow”.  It was great fun.  What she did was blind fold mid sis and I one at a time, put our hands into some household item she found in the kitchen and described a body part of a cow.  For example, I had to put my hand into something that she told me were eyeballs.  Turns out they were olives, but they felt like eyeballs to a 4 year old!  When it came time to do mid sis, she got really creative and put her hand into a bowl of something she told her was cow poop.  Well my mid sis screamed and flung peanut butter all over the kitchen!  We spent the rest of the night trying to clean up before mom and dad came home.

You never knew what would come out of her mouth.  She is the reason I took a maxi pad to Show and Tell in the first grade.  I found a box of them in her closet.  Not knowing what they were, I asked her about them and she told me they were blankets for Barbie Dolls.  Seemed reasonable to me, and absolutely something I had to share with my friends, so to school it went.  I don’t really remember getting punished, but I’m sure there were consequences.

Older sis taught me all the important things.  When I got older, and we moved to Virginia, she was in college.  She would come home every now and then and we would go out riding around the town.  That was when she taught me to smoke cigarettes, what sex was all about, and what music I should listen to.  She was very opinionated, and if you didn’t agree, she would make this face, turn up her nose, and make a sound that came from her throat.

The night before she died, in her drug induced state she said she wanted to get off the bus.  She was taking a trip without me, having a new adventure.  And in the morning left me behind.  I don’t like being left behind.

Love Child 🎼🎤

Like I have said, I have (had) two sisters.  I am the youngest.  The child mom was not supposed to have.  On a regular basis she reminded me that she almost died giving birth to me.   Talk about Jewish guilt (yep I am one of the tribe).   My sisters resemble each other and they resemble my mom.  Me not so much.  They are/were fair skinned, with blondish hair and very blue eyes.  Physically their facial features are the same…same nose, shape of the face etc.  again, me not so much.  I look like my dad.  I have his facial features; his straight nose, clef in my chin and my favorite feature the uni-brow.  In addition, I have dark brown hair, hazel to grey eyes and very dark skin.  I tan something fierce!

From a very young age, I was told that I was adopted.   Born in Philadelphia, we moved to Florida when I was 3, so the teasing was that I was a Seminole Indian child.   But even more disturbing is the story that I was left, in my stroller, in front of the monkey cage at the Philadelphia Zoo.   Evidently mom and the entire family forgot I was with them!   Again, another reason for my trust issues….🐒.  As a teen, my oldest sister told me I was Dad’s love child.  The Diana Ross song was popular in our house for a while.

Physical feature aside, I am just different from my siblings.  Maybe it is because I am the youngest, I don’t know.  I have different interests.  For one thing I was the athlete (what a hoot!) in the family.  I rode a bike at the age of four, ran around with the boys in my neighborhood and was constantly dirty.  I showed up so dirty one evening that my mom turned the hose on me before letting me in the house.  I was on a swim team, learned to snow ski first and aspired to be part of the “in crowd” at school.  But the biggest difference was my attraction to horses.  Where does something like that come from?   Nobody in my very clean family ever exposed me to them, took me to see them or wanted anything to do with them.  But I came out into the world craving that horsey smell…you know the sweet smell of their breath.
This is Cisco and Gina.  My resident equines.  I took me a long time to become a horse owner.  When I was in first grade my mom and grandmom picked me up from school on my birthday and said we were going to a farm.  Surely I was getting a horse!  We drove and drove and I got so excited I may have wet my pants.  When we got there, it turned out to be a dog breeder.  I got a beagle that year.  Loved her to death, but she was NOT a horse.

I did the lesson route starting at age 10.  By then we lived in Virginia where everyone rode English.  So English it was.  I took lessons off and on until high school where I discovered that I really like boys too.  I put my riding on hold, but still craved their touch and smell.  It wasn’t until after I was divorced that I went back to riding.  When I met my husband, he encouraged me to own my first.  Now he has built me a lovely paddock and barn and I have these two beauties.  My barn is my happy place, my solace.  I have spent hours in there since my sister died.  Trying to understand how life happens.  All I know is that for me, life is better with these magnificent animals in it.  I don’t think I will ever be without them again.

My family never did understand me.  My middle sis, the only remaining member of my immediate family is trying hard.  I love her dearly for trying.  In my last conversation with my mother, she asked if I had gotten tired of my horses yet, and when was I going to sell my farm; move back to the city.  She never did get it, or me for that matter.  I spent my life trying to be what she wanted, but now I just want to be me.  Dirty, with hay in my hair and horsey drool on my shoulder!

mvb

Trust your gut

 

image I was working on my sock last night. I have done the heel flap and am working on the gusset.  That’s where you pick up stitches and turn the direction of your knitting, making a cute little ridge.  But after knitting oh, like twenty rows, I discovered that I have a hole in my gusset.  The horror!  I know I can rip it back and fix the problem, but I don’t have the skill level for ripping out that much and not dropping a stitch.  So, I have decided to do what I always do and play the Miss Scarlet (you know, from Gone With the Wind)…..I’ll think about that another day.  Seems like doing that is a life long pattern of mine and it doesn’t always work out that well.  For example:

Shortly after I got divorced at 35, I met a man.  Turns out I met a creep, but I digress.  I met him at work in the smoking area.  Nasty habit but that was the place to be to learn all the corporate gossip.  Anyway, he was a contractor and we struck up a relationship.  We went out several times, he met my boys, and I was infatuated.  It was nice to have someone pay attention to me after being dumped for a woman 10 years my junior.  I thought he was a really nice guy.

One Saturday we were supposed to go to a friends party.  I waited for him to come and get me, and I waited and waited.  I called every second for about 3 hours and then I gave up.  I told myself that something must really be wrong if he couldn’t call.  When he did get in touch with me there was a story about how his car broke down out in the country and he couldn’t get to a phone etc…I really wanted to believe him, but something in the back of my head wasn’t really buying it.  But I pushed it down and we continued dating like nothing had happened.  Turns out, this disappearing act was not an isolated instance.  But still, even though my friends and gut were telling me dump this guy, I stuck with it.  Poor self esteem will make you do stupid things.

Before I knew it, he had taken up residence in my house, pretended to go to work daily, and turned my life inside out.  I came home early one day and found him doing something on the new computer I had just got.  I didn’t know anything about the internet at that time so I couldn’t figure out what was going on.  I told him I wanted him to leave. He said he would, he never did.  Finally, I had had enough and called a lawyer who said I had to give him written notice of eviction with 30 days to leave.  I did so.  He did so.  However, on the day he left, he evidently stole my gas credit card.  Ok, I called the company, reported it stolen, gave them his name and let them duke it out.

Boy was I in for a surprise.  About two weeks later, I got a phone bill for $34,000!  Holy shmoly.  Turns out he was looking at porn etc on the internet.  (Those were the days when they charged your phone)  Again to the lawyer I went.  After several letters, the phone company dropped the charges and the lawyer set out to sue the guy.  Big surprise, I didn’t know his real name.  He had changed my cable account so that he could watch porn and several other unsavory things hit me over time.  What ever possessed me to ignore my gut.  I kept thinking that I was wrong and if there was something squirrely I could fix it later.

Later was a disaster that could have ruined me financially for life.  I made a good living, but not that good.  Thank goodness for my parents.  They came to my rescue and this time there wasn’t any I told you so etc.  They were all about helping me repair a terrible situation and move on.  I do have to say, it took me a really long time to trust anyone again.  And even 20 years later, I still have trust issues.

This is a much abbreviated rendition of what happened.  The “relationship” I had with this man negatively impacted every aspect of my life; from my interaction with my friends and family to my children.  Even my ex husband was effected by this situation.  I don’t really understand how someone could be so callus as to take advantage of someone else.  I hope Karma really is the Bitch I think she is and has rained her wrath on this man.  mvb

 

The Heel or Heal To Matey! Arrgh…

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I made a heel!  It is lovely and I am so excited.  I wasn’t having a very good day yesterday, so instead of wallowing in my sorrow, I picked up my knitting needles (all 4 of them) and started to knit.  And before I knew it, my first heel appeared.  Isn’t it cute!  While I knit, I usually have the TV on.  Since I can’t ride I generally watch some training video.  Yesterday it was Ken McNabb.  Very interesting lesson.

Maybe I should give you some info about me.  I am 57 years old and live at Flamingo Farms (yes that is the name of our farm) with my husband, two horses, two English Setters, 6 hens, a non-feral Kitty, and a partridge in a pear tree.  I love my farm, and if I could stay there all day and never leave I think I would be a happy camper.  Right now I am having knee issues and can’t ride.  I had meniscus surgery two months ago and while in there, the Doc found a tremendous amount of damage under my knee cap caused by arthritis.  Ugh!  I WILL ride by Spring.

Anyway, how we got to Flamingo Farms is mildly interesting.  My husband and I are boaters.  Actually, he was always a boater, I have always been a water person.  So now we are boaters.  We started out as sailors.  Right before we got married, he bought a little sail boat and learned to sail from reading instructional books.  He claims to have been attracted to sail boats because of my Dad, but who knows.  (Dad loved to sail even though he never owned a boat) That is another story.

We had a little 18 foot day sailor and thought we were the bomb.  We put it in a marina in the Northern Neck of VA and sailed around the Potomac.  Now I need to tell you we are not your typical boating couple. He cannot swim.  Let me say that again….HE CANNOT SWIM!  Not only can’t he swim, he can’t float.  He sinks as soon as his body hits the water unless he has on a life jacket.  Ok, so that sucks!  I had to learn to sail the boat and do a man overboard  pick up almost from the first day.  I am pretty good at it if I must say so myself.  Hopefully all I will ever need to pick up out of the water is a flotation device.

Now I, on the other hand, am a wonderful swimmer.  Swim team, various strokes, can float all day long.  However, I get sea sick.  I am not talking just a little queasy, I mean full on sick, complete with projectile spewing.  I can even get sea sick floating on a raft in a pool. Evidently I have gotten motion sick all my life.  My sisters told me that every car rider we took ended in me throwing up in Daddy’s hands.  I have this image in my head of my puke being thrown out the window so we could proceed through a stop light.  But I digress.  Still not good for sailing.  But I take medicine, sleep in the sun and enjoy the experience.  Boy are we a pair.

Anyway, a month after my Dad passed away, we got married by a Justice of the Peace, and spent out honeymoon weekend on a new to us 27′ boat that had a galley (kitchen), head (toilet) and berth (bed).  We were in heaven and spent every weekend we could sailing, puking, and doing man over board drills.  LOVE IT!  Loved it so much we decided to buy a place to retire to when we got old.  Hence the farm.  See I did get there eventually.

The farm is ten miles from the Marina.  It was built in 1908 and we have spent every cent we have restoring it to something beautiful.  We had to.  You see one month after we closed on the farm, our way in the future residence, I lost my job.  That meant that I had two homes and no job.  So we decided to pack up our stuff, and move to the farm before it was all restored and sell the nice modern home I had in Richmond.  I have never regretted the move except when I can ‘t get my clothes in the closet.  I guess people didn’t have multiple outfits back in the early 1900’s

Knitting a Metaphor for Life?

Yesterday I completed the body of my first sock and started working on the heel flap!  Progress is being made.  They say (whoever they are) that knitting is very calming and therapeutic.  I have to say that I do agree.  As I was knitting and watching the first season of Madam Secretary I was focused completely on my work as the TV played on in the background.  I felt my spirits lift.

Why would my spirits need lifting you may ask.  Well like I said earlier, my sister, my oldest sister passed away.  It happened quite suddenly although had I been paying attention I probably would not have been so surprised to watch her die in a weeks time.  You see she had been battling breast cancer for over seven years.  They found cancer in one breast at first.  She had the breast removed, went through chemo  and after so many years was pronounced “CANCER FREE” Yea!  We all rejoiced, but she remained reserved.  Not long after that proclamation, they found a different cancer in the other breast.  Again, she had the breast removed, went through chemo, and again after so many years was declared “CANCER FREE”.  Again we were thrilled and hopeful.   Then they found a spot under her arm.  It was biopsied, removed, chemo, radiation etc.  Again the proclamation was “CANCER FREE”.  That was in July (2015).  Then if she was so friggin cancer free, why in the world did she die of cancer on September 4th of 2015.  It seems the cancer went to her liver and her bones.  By the time she felt bad she only had a week left to live.

It has occurred to me that knitting is much like life.  Each stitch you knit, each purl you do, each twist of the thread changes the outcome and look of what you are working on.  Sometimes good and sometimes bad, but regardless each addition has an impact on the piece.  Where knitting does not imitate life is that you do not get to undo what you have done without some lasting impact.  If you make a mistake in your sock, you can rip out the last few stitches and start over.  In life, you can start over but you are forever changed by the last few events.  

Boy would I like a do over of the past six months.  In retrospect I would make some very different choices.  I sure would have gone on that beach vacation with my sister.  But I didn’t know it would be her last.  I would have been more understanding or forgiving when she got snappy and snarky that Sister’s Weekend in the Keys in May.  I would have called more often when I didn’t hear from her instead of getting annoyed that I always had to do the calling.  In the end what difference did it matter.  She is gone and now I can’t rip the stitch out and change the outcome.  

My sister, My Oldest Sister is gone.  She is gone forever, and I am not sure that I will ever be the same.  I miss her everyday.  I reach for the phone, but she isn’t there to call.  I see her husband on a regular basis, but that to is so very painful.  When you think of death and dying, you think of older people.  Not your 65 year old sister.  So the hole in my heart where she used to be is like a dropped stitch in an otherwise finely knitted garment.  There is something missing in my life that will never be replaced.  I am no longer have two older sisters.  I have one.  One who I will cherish and hold on to with all my might.  She is the only person left on this earth that I share a common memory with.

“Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found”

For a Dancer by Jackson Browne