Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Tie it off

When I was in 7th grade home economics I struggled with the hand stitching.  I used to bring my "homework" to my Mimi (my grandmother), who had been a seamstress, and ask her for help.  She'd show me the stiches and tell me that while I could do them fine, if I didn't learn some patience, I would never be good at sewing.

Sewing?  Who wanted to sew?  I was 12 and didn't care about sewing.  It's an "if I only knew then what I know now" moment here.  What I did not know then was that Mimi, who could knit, crochet, sew, and cook anything, had to drop out of high school and get a job to help support her family when her dad died.  She could sew, so she did that.  She sewed sugar/flour sacks.  She sewed to help put food on the table.  (I blogged about her in 2014 here).  I could sew for fun, learn from the master, and spend extra time with my grandmother -- none of which I appreciated then.  She passed away in January 2005 and I miss her still so much.

Fast forward to the pandemic we've all lived with for nearly a year.  My Pastor, Rachel, shared that she picked up an old hobby her mom taught her - cross stitch.  She got going again and is teaching her daughters.  Her work is so pretty and so cool and I love that her girls are sharing that with her.

Seeing one of her finished projects inspired me to find a hobby for me.  So I ordered a couple of beginner embroidery kits and hit the hoops (so to speak).  I heard Mimi in my head reminding me to be patient or it wouldn't work.  I don't have her to help me with the stiches, but I have YouTube.  I have completed two projects (below) and am about to begin another.  My stitching is OK - not perfect - but I'm trying really hard to be patient while I do it and to channel my grandmother and imagine us working those pesky French knots together.

I also think about how I missed the chance to learn this from her 45 years ago and I wonder if any of my three nieces would want to learn - it would be a super cool way to connect each of them to her (and connect us).  I will have to force it on mention it to them soon.

If you think you're too old or it is too late to learn something new - I say to you - BS.  Learn it.  Extra points if you can learn it from someone who lives it rather than from YouTube.

xoxo


   

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Your wings were ready ... my heart was not

It's not always easy to say good-bye, and today my husband and I helped my best girl, Camille, cross the rainbow bridge.  My heart is broken at losing her, but also filled with joy for the blessing of having known her and been loved by her for 13.5 years.

💖
Camille Bellofatto Keimach
July 10, 2004 - January 16, 2020
North Reading, Massachusetts

Camille, the best girl and most beautiful house panther, crossed the rainbow bridge today.  She fought the good fight against kidney disease, but ultimately she decided enough was enough.

She leaves behind her mom and best friend, De, her dad Brad, sisters Jill and Kayla, and her fur sister Winnie.  She is also survived by her grands, Pat and Nick, both of whom she loved to kiss, and her governess, Sarah, whom she loved like another mom.

Camille's early years are a mystery, but she rescued De in June 2006.  She was a guest of the Melrose (MA) Humane Society and her foster mom, Claire, knew these two were meant for each other.  From the day they formed a new family, Camille was worshipped, as she should have been.

Camille loved to take the night shift on security - moving through the house and keeping watch.  Sometimes her movements involved chasing noisy toys or charging up and down the basement stairs so she could slam through the cat door.  She always made it a point to report what she observed to her mom, often around 2 a.m., and figured they might as well have a snack while they were up.

She loved to eat, and mealtime was her favorite.  She was affectionately known as Big Ben, due to her ability to begin shouting for dinner at the exact same time every night.  Next to eating, Camille loved to nap in a number of favorite spots.  She had special blankets all around the house so that she would always be comfy to her specifications.

She was very generous with kisses and with chatter.  She most especially loved telling her mom stories.  She could keep a secret and love to gift you her toys.  You never knew if you'd find a gift in your bed, or your shoes, or your gym bag.  Her family realizes that keeping her an indoor cat spared them "gifts" from the outdoors.

De most especially wishes to thank the veterinarians, Dr. Kastner and Dr. Hascall as well as everyone at Park Street Veterinary Clinic in North Reading for taking such excellent care of Camille (and of her).  They made Camille's last moments peaceful, and warm, and respectful.  They are all angels and De and Brad are so grateful.

Her passing leaves a hole in her family, but they were blessed to have known her and to have been chosen by her to love.  In her memory, her family asks for friends to make a donation to the shelter or rescue of their choice to give other cats the chance to live a good life, and also asks that friends remember to adopt and not shop - shelters are filled with cats waiting for moms and dads.

Rest in peace sweet girl 💖💖💖

Monday, December 30, 2019

Limping into the new year

It is that time of year when many are gearing up to make resolutions, and lists, and plan to become different or better versions of themselves.  It's what we do.  I've done it some years, other years I have created the list on my new year, my birthday, and other years I've just limped along into the new year knowing that I was not well-positioned to make major changes.  This is one of those years … I've got no extra energy.

Those who know me, know how much I love cats and how much I worship my two, Camille and Winnie.  Camille, my little old lady at 15.5, has been fighting the good fight against kidney disease for a while, and recently went into kidney failure.  Her downhill seemed really fast to me.  I work with her vets to ensure she's comfortable and do what I can for her, which includes a couple of meds, special food, and twice weekly SQ fluid injections (which is not as easy as it looks). 

Camille rescued me back in June of 2006 and has rescued me every day since.  It is breaking my heart bit by bit to watch her go from the fighting machine she was to this frail little panther.  I am ready to ensure she does not suffer and will know when that time is here, but that time is not now.

Because I've had so much energy invested in her, I haven't had as much to spread around.  There are no holiday decorations up this year (save for the white lights around the mantle, but I leave those up all year).  I have not sent cards.  I purchased every gift on line and didn't enter a store if I didn't have to.  For some reason known only to her, Camille can't seem to sleep much.  So I'm up with her pretty much every two hours every night.  Most often she just wants to snuggle, which I do.  Sometimes she wants a snack.  Whatever she needs, I'm awake with her, but I am also absurdly exhausted.

I also hurt my IT band in November, which makes moving in certain ways painful or impossible and it has kept me from the gym.  :(

As I'm reading all the helpful new year-new you lists, I see some nice ideas but am not really recording them.  Until I looked closely at some yesterday and realized they aren't about "new" but about "you" and self care (here).  Many thanks to my friend Shirley for posting it.

Maybe resolutions really do need to be about self care and not a complete makeover.  I'm not going to wake up a different person on Wednesday, but I can be sure to get some time in each day for me - it's not selfish - it is necessary.  Caring for the caregiver should be as important as taking care of everyone else.

While I can't do much at the gym, I can walk on the treadmill, so that works.  While I can't force or help Camille to sleep, I can make sure to fit in short naps if possible, or at least set aside a little quiet time to recharge.  While I can't slow down her disease, I can make sure I let her know every chance I get how loved she is, which will help me come to terms with this.

If you think you have to go big or go home, or that you aren't important enough - I say to you - step back and resolve to give yourself what you need.  It's enough.  You are enough.  And you are worth the effort. 

Happy New Year friends
xoxo




Sunday, April 7, 2019

I thought I was going right home...

Two weeks ago, I woke up with an ear infection.  The post is about the ear infection, but largely about how fast things change and how much that shook me.

I took myself to urgent care first thing Saturday morning, learned I had a pretty standard infection, received a prescription for some heavy duty ear drops, was told to take Tylenol for the pain, and went about my business.  The provider advised that I would not feel better until late Sunday or early Monday, but that it seemed pretty run of the mill.  It would appear that I am anything but run of the mill, and if something whacky can go wrong, it will.

Saturday night was not good.  I was not compliant regarding the medication, and took Excedrin instead of Tylenol.  My jaw became so sore that it hurt to chew - hello scrambled eggs for dinner.  I slept little and figured that Sunday would bring improvement.  On Sunday, Brad went up to Maine to see our girls for the day, but I felt too crappy to go.  I went to church then came home.  As the day wore on, I felt myself deteriorating.  The pain became so much worse, that I was taking 2 Excedrin every 3 hours.  I couldn't chew anything and my ear was completely blocked.  I hesitated to bring myself back to urgent care, in part because the idea of the drive was beyond what I could manage, but also because Brad was not home and I did not want him making the 2 hour drive home worried about me.  When he arrived home, we went right to urgent care.  I figured they'd give me some antibiotics and I'd go home.

Because at this point I was not able to completely close my jaw due to swelling around my ear, the provider was planning to send me to the emergency room of the closest hospital (Winchester Hospital, in Winchester MA).  As she and I were speaking, a wave of dark dizziness washed over me - I told her it was happening then out I went.  I opened my eyes to see a stranger standing over me telling me that I had just had a seizure and asked if I had a history of seizures.

What?  Of course I do not have a history of seizures.  WHAT?  A seizure?  What the BLEEP just happened?  I was immediately alert and able to answer all questions.  I had not lost control of my motor skills or any parts/functions in my body.  The provider advised that she had called 911 as per their protocol and that I would be going to Winchester in first class style.  I told her to go get my husband before any fire engines and the ambulance pulled in.  Poor Brad.  We had literally been texting 5 minutes before and now two people are running to him and bringing him to me.

I went to Winchester for a CT scan to ensure the swelling around my ear had not morphed into something bad.  They were going to admit me, so I sent Brad home.  Our plan was that he would go to work for a while Monday, then come get me when I was discharged.  Not long after he left, the ER doctor came in and advised that he and the ENT doctor determined that my ear wasn't as much of a concern as the seizure was.  They wanted me to go another hospital for an MRI.  I told him that, despite having zero medical training, the passing out was due to too much Excedrin, no sleep and very little to eat.  He advised that, due to his medical training, that sounded good, but it would not have caused that reaction.  He said that the seizure was low on the scale, but they wanted to ensure they covered all bases.  He wouldn't send me if I refused to go, but he thought it seemed like the right thing to do, so I went.

I was on the midnight express to Lahey Hospital (Burlington MA) and there I remained until 1 p.m. on Monday.  I had an MRI (thank you Diazepam!!) and it was clear.  They fed me, medicated me, and helped me feel better.  I went home, and today, two weeks later, am nearly better.  It was a pretty good infection and it's in no hurry to go, but it is going and I am getting better.

Throughout the entire ordeal, I wasn't worried or afraid.  What I was most focused on was how fast it all happened.  One second I'm speaking and looking forward to going home and the next I'm in an ambulance hooked up to an EKG and going in the opposite direction from home.

When I got home Monday, everything was exactly as I'd left it.  The sofa blanket I pushed aside when Brad got home was right there - I always put the blankets away at night when I go to bed, but this was right on the sofa where I had been sitting.  My water glass was on the end table and not in the sink, where I'd have left it.  I thought I was coming right back.  And I left everything as if I was.  How many people who went to an ER that night didn't come home?  How often do we imagine "later" and delude ourselves into thinking there automatically will be a "later".  Just because there always has been doesn't guarantee anything.  Is my life in order enough so that if I have no more "laters" everything makes sense?  The answer is no and Brad and I added that to our immediate list of things to do.

I also spent lots of time thinking of what I take for granted.  Do I appreciate the people around me enough?  I like to think I do.  I cull the weeds and step away from people who are not bringing positive energy into my days and who do nothing to try to be positive.  I remove people from my life who are hurtful and who aren't deserving of my energy.  I do not abide by the "but you HAVE to speak to this person or you HAVE to speak to that person".  No - I don't.  I keep my tribe limited to those people I care for and who care back.  Two way street or nothing.  Appreciating myself is on the list - if I don't care about me and for me, no one else will.  It's my job and the responsibility belongs to no one else.

The experience shook me up and I can't stop thinking about how fast everything can change.  I'll be working on ensuring things are ready for when there is no more "later" for me.  I challenge you to do the same.  It's not easy or pleasant to think about, but that's life.  If you feel like you can't, I say to you - if not you, then who?  Run your life - own your life.  Cherish the "nows" and look forward to whatever "laters" you get.  Fill your life with people who matter to you.  If there's someone you miss, reach out to them and let them know.  If there is something you want to do - do it.  Live the best life you can and enjoy every second of it.

xo



Sunday, January 28, 2018

I hereby resolve_January

Turns out, 2018 is looking like one of those years when I make resolutions, and that's been a great decision so far.

During 2017, I allowed myself to become a little lost.  Family issues, work stress, losses....it was too  much, and although I tried to keep myself moving forward, I began to feel as if I were operating under water with no way to reach the surface.  Enforced time off in late December (use it or lose it) made all the difference.  I took the last three business days of the year and stayed home to regroup.  I needed to purge and head for the surface.

Anyone who has ever completely dumped a closet knows what I mean when I say that it is one of those tasks put off until necessary, but so very helpful and so awesome when completed.  It is also one of those tasks where you can relax your mind and let it roam.  During the first closet purge, my "De 2.18" plan was born.  It will be all about making a number of areas of my life easier to navigate.

I decided to focus on a number of areas with changes to be made in small increments.  I know me and if I'm overwhelmed, I'm out.  Bite-sized works.  

Home
We have lived in our house since late 2009 and it's amazing how many things we have accumulated that we really don't need.  It is time to go room-by-room and clean out, shape up, scale back.  

Work
I love my job and I work with the best team on the planet.  I will keep my work tasks fresh and focused - for me this will mean a new list each week and no more "multi-tasking", which isn't really effective.  Trying to do too many things results in nothing actually being accomplished which piles on the stress.  Over that!

Soul
Since joining a new church last year, my soul has been fed and charged and renewed - my church family is a wonderful blessing to me.  My sweet friend Maryellen gifted me with a journaling Bible this past Christmas and an offer to help me study.  She found an app for us to use as our guide.  Soul food coming up.

Self
I belong to a small gym in my office complex and was very diligent about going before work before I stopped being in any way attentive to it.  I must take care of me if I hope to have success in anything.

January
Home: the purge continues!  Closets completed and kitchen cabinets in process.  Every cleaning requires a 100% empty and careful re-stocking.  Man does this feel good.  No one else may know when they walk past a cabinet how awesome it is inside, but I know and I'm loving being so organized.
Work: The lists are really helping.  I'm focused and far more productive than I had been.  I also feel more relaxed and better able to manage my time.
Soul: Working through 1 Kings and studying the Bible for the first time ever.  This is just awesome for my soul and for my relationship with Maryellen - it's so special to share like this.
Self: My goal was to start back at the gym on the 16th and I did that.  I'm aiming for 3-4 mornings each week, but won't beat myself up if I don't always make it.  What's more important to me is how much I'm enjoying it.  My husband is my greatest cheerleader, and it's fun to send him updates each morning after a workout (and it keeps me accountable).

So far so good this month.  Small changes with great results.  For me, all of the underlying reorganization is helping me to feel more focused and more patient and more productive.  I need order and now that I have begun to restore it, I know I'm going to be able to keep moving forward.

February ideas (to be added onto January items): Celebrate my heart during the AHA's Go Red month; add in 2 1-minute planks every day; dust off my flute and see about finding a teacher - I miss it; spend time with friends and family; and, get back to regular blog posting.  Perhaps a monthly journal of De 2.18 to keep me on task.   Watch this space next month!

If you feel as if you have too many things to do and do not know where to begin - I say to you - break it down and make one change at a time.  You will be amazed at what you can do so long as you remember you are always a work in progress.

xo


Friday, August 4, 2017

Cattoo

I've always thought I'd like to have a tattoo.  I never felt strongly about getting one, largely because I never found the right image.  I also never really searched for the right image, and decided to just leave it all up to fate.

While this is a pretty personal decision, it did matter to me what Brad thought.  He has no desire to have one, but he's been super supportive, which really made it easier for me.

It might have been a year ago or so when I saw an image I knew would be my tattoo.  There was something about it that just spoke to me.  Anyone who knows me knows I am a cat lover.  It would only stand to reason that I would choose a cat image - a "cattoo" if you will.

Between the day I found the image and this week, I never got my cattoo.  I wasn't sure where to go.  I wasn't sure what to do.  Maybe I was afraid of the pain or knowing that I was making a  super long-term decision.  After not doing much of anything, I finally found a shop, made an appointment and went for it.

Finding the right place isn't easy.  I had a couple recommendations that didn't work for me.  One shop that came highly recommended wanted me to come in for a consultation because it was my first art.  What?  I'm 53, not 20 and drunk and doing it on a dare.  Pass.  Let's not make this harder than it needs to be.

I eventually chose The Ink Club in Billerica MA.  I was planning to have work done on my car and looked for shops near the dealership.  I figured, if I have the afternoon off, why not make it productive.  This shop had some great reviews and I knew that if I didn't get a good vibe I could walk out.

My artist, Ryan, is a young guy.  Half my age.  So...I felt like grandma who walked in the wrong door sitting there with him.  But he knows his stuff and he's a very talented artist.  And he made sure my experience was a great one.  The entire ordeal took just under 10 minutes.

Did it hurt?  Yes it did.  Honestly though, it wasn't like any other kind of pain.  I get migraines and the pain from those can render me useless.  This was more like Ryan was pushing a sunburn into my skin with a little machine.  And when he was finished, it no longer hurt.  And I had a cattoo.  My nephew called me a badass for choosing the inside of my wrist as the spot, but I really want to be able to look at it, so hiding it didn't make sense.

It has only been a couple days and so far so good.  I have been very compliant about using the healing cream and following healing instructions.  And I love my cattoo.  It's perfect for me and this just seemed like the right time.  

If any of my local friends take the plunge, call Ryan and tell him I sent you.  I'll even go with you if you're nervous.

If you have a dream or a goal or something to check from your bucket list but you're afraid - I say to you - we're all afraid.  Just do it.  Regret hurts far more than a tattoo.

xo


Saturday, July 15, 2017

If church had black flies....

Last summer while on vacation, we introduced ourselves to the world of fly fishing.  We were in the Rangeley region of Maine, which has an incredibly rich fly fishing history, so we certainly chose the right place to learn.

We visited the Rangeley Region Sport Shop to get outfitted and schedule time with our guide (and shop owner), Brett.  Bright and early on our last day of vacation we headed deep into the woods and learned to fly fish.  What a fantastic experience it was.  From Brett's firm yet gentle tutoring to the peace and beauty of the deep woods - it was awesome.  And, for anyone who thought I'd never do something like this.... here you go.


This year, we went to the shop as soon as we arrived in the area - before we even checked into our cabin - to set our time with Brett.  We both had shiny new fly rods to use and we were looking forward to getting out.  Again, we chose the last day of vacation - what better way to end our time in this wonderful place?

Jill came with us and we had another awesome day.  Weather - location - company ... could not have been better.  And...we all caught (& released) fish!  Just a note - when you head out to enjoy nature, make sure you're with someone who has a deep love and respect for it, because it will make all the difference.  Brett clearly loves nature and the woods and what he's doing.  Each of us caught fish and he carefully showed us how to remove the hooks and release the fish without harming them.  I'm not sure if he's aware of this, but each time he released a fish, he gave it a couple of gentle pats....it is a kind and beautiful and respectful gesture.

While we were fishing, I found myself almost in a trance (disturbed only by the black flies and mosquitos).  I wasn't thinking about anything or speaking to anyone or focused on anything other than my task and was completely present in the miracle of the moment - something that doesn't happen often enough.  The other time it does often happen is when I'm at church.  I'm just there...enjoying the miracle of the moment.

When we finished up, I commented to Brett that it was so peaceful, it felt like church.  His response, "yeah - if church had black flies".  It was the perfect response because, for me, it was a combination of elements - fly fishing, peace, my family, the miracles all around me, black flies and salmon and brook trout - that made it perfect.

The woods and getting close to nature and fly fishing aren't for everyone, but they work for me.  If you think that you can't find peace - I say to you - sure you can, you just have to be willing to look for it.

xo