Gratitude for a Magical, Manic Month

 weddingThis has been a memorable, yet exhausting month that began with a landmark family event and ended with a huge event of global proportion that was shared, coincidentally, with the very person involved in the beginning of the month event – and what a month it’s been!

My eldest son married his longtime girlfriend-then-fiancé on September 2nd, and the rehearsal and dinner were the evening before. While for most, Labor Day weekend is often greeted with sadness, signifying the end of beloved summer, for us it was a weekend to look forward and the primary focus of our summer months. In fact, summer fun seemed secondary this year as we busily prepared for this momentous family event. In a flash, that wonderful weekend was over and we plunged into the next things on the docket as the happy honeymooners made their way to Jamaica. Within a day or so, my youngest son left for his second year of college and all of a sudden, I was alone – living alone for the first time in my entire life; well, as alone as one can be with 3 grown cats, one frisky kitten and two insubordinate dachshunds.

We had greatly enjoyed seeing so many relatives and friends at the wedding, sad that there seems to be just special big events giving us all occasion to see each other. Little would we know that just a couple of days later, we’d receive word that a cousin’s husband who was battling cancer had taken a turn for the worse and would learn by week’s end that he had, tragically, passed away. The newly married couple would return the following Monday night from Jamaica and see so many of the guests at their wedding at a different type of family gathering – a wake.

In the meantime, though, we were all regaled midweek with comical stories from the newlyweds via Facebook messaging about jellyfish the size of dinner plates, the gorgeous beach and pools, the great culture there and the sheer relief that my son felt in not plunging to his death via zip line on the island. Initially hesitant about the island of Jamaica, he quickly fell in love with it. As we continued with the ho-hum, ho-hum, they readied for swimming with dolphins later in the week. Given that I was about to embark on my first (oh, boy) routine colonoscopy at week’s end, I couldn’t help but be envious of their anticipated activity. But one day perhaps I’ll swim with dolphins and well, one day. . .they will most definitely engage in a colonoscopy, so we will all have our share of similar adventures.

College son was at the ready to come home to act as chauffeur/escort for this big adventure. Having gone through many ‘prep’ activities for testing and treatment for cancer, I pretty much dreaded this whole colonoscopy deal more than perhaps the average person. Lest I be too graphic here, I’ll just say that it’s not a big deal at all. In fact, a day of Jell-O and clear beverages is not the worst thing in the world for anyone and I decided to consider this whole effort as a spa treatment (once I pissed and moaned about doing it for a few days).

512px-Chocolate_muffin_with_chocolate_chipsFortunately, the staff at the medical facility was up for that premise and even gave me extra heated blankets. It was amazingly nice and who can complain about being anesthetized to the strains of Foo Fighters on Pandora? My doctor reported that I happily went out with a giggle, saying “This is great.” And I got to wake up and have a chocolate-chocolate muffin and ginger ale. Hey, what day is bad when it goes down like that? I also kept thinking that this was a terrific opportunity to ensure that at least one part of my body is functioning well and in no immediate danger of serious disease. We don’t get many opportunities like that, do we? So for anyone dreading that whole, yep, I’m at a certain age and should have this test thing – don’t. It’s not a big deal at all. In fact, other than an upset stomach the next day which I put down to drinking coffee that was really strong, I felt fantastic for days after. Maybe there is something to that whole cleansing thing.

Meanwhile, work (the full-time job) and freelance stuff was off the charts in terms of busy and stringent deadlines. I had also started a new business course. Couple that with the start of a new season for nonprofit stuff I was involved in and a large-scale fundraiser at the end of the month for one of them. Big projects launched and completed, some lingered but kept me busy enough that I’d come home from work each day, maybe grab a quick bite, maybe not and soon get to work on freelance stuff. So how was life so far living on my own? I didn’t have time to even consider that no one was here. I pretty much like myself anyway so it wasn’t like the company was too bad.

One night, however, I decided that this might not be a healthy routine, so I decided to take the dogs for a walk so all three of us would get some exercise. I debated on changing out of work clothes, but opted to stay in the same shoes, a bit of a platform but totally comfortable and well-made for support, and clothes and be on my way. I ran into an old friend out on the bike path near my house and enjoyed catching up. So much so that I decided to lengthen my walk and go out onto the main road for my route home. Gorgeous night. Nice walk. Who could ask for more? I’d feel refreshed and ready to get cracking on the next things on the agenda.

Kula_inwalidzWell, the main road near my house had been recently resurfaced and the road itself is a bit higher than the side of the road. Those comfortable, supportive shoes caught the edge of the road and I rolled right off of those lovely high shoes, hurting my ankle and foot quite a bit as I toppled into an almost graceful curtsy with one left firmly under me and one in a weird kneel with my ankle and foot under it. I stayed in place for a moment. The dogs looked quizzically at me, wondering no doubt why I was sitting on the side of the road. This clearly was not part of the usual walk routine. Of course, I quickly looked around, surveying if anyone was driving nearby or had seen this ridiculous move. No one! Phew! As I considered how painful things were feeling, I also realized that should I not be able to stand well or walk, I had no phone with me. As part of my ‘let’s disconnect and go for a nice walk’ idea, I decided to leave my phone at home. No interruptions. Just me and nature. And the dogs. Great idea. Since no one was at home anyway to call, I figured I better stand up and get on with it. Ouch. That hurt like a son of a gun. Ooh, the palm of my hand was all scraped and so was a large portion of the leg that had gone under me. I tend to turn six at times like that and wish I had a mom with a cool cloth to comfort me. Fortunately, I wasn’t too far from home so I limped back and plunged my food/ankle in my foot bath with cold water and plenty of ice. I had work to do, so I elevated with ice packs after that.

The next day, it hurt like hell but I didn’t think anything was broken. I put on flat open sandals and went to work. I have a high top desk and sit on a stool. Knowing it wasn’t good to keep that leg/foot dangling all day, I kept it up on a tall stool under my desk most of the day. Took Advil. Ignored the pain. I had dinner plans with friends who I don’t see often and one in particular, who is not around much due to work travel. By day’s end, I had a pretty big foot and ankle, and a lot of pain. I called urgent care, but being me, asked for an immediate appointment or one later in the evening (I had dinner plans!). Thankfully they were able to provide a later appointment. I had dinner out and left in haste for the appointment, leaving my wallet on the table. One of my friends hustled it up to the medical office. X-rays and exam later, I made my way home with an air cast and crutches. It was most likely a bad sprain, which surprised me to learn could take up to six weeks to heal. WHAT? No time for that nonsense but I kept the air cast on for well over a week and also used the crutches faithfully for a week or so, too. My concern mostly was that I was volunteering at a large festival the next week and needed to be good shape for it and then was attending a huge concert the week after that in which I’d be standing, too, for a lengthy duration.

Life is GoodI was able to volunteer no problem at the Life is Good festival, which is a fantastic annual event to raise money for children’s charities. This was my third year doing it, and I grow more in love what it is all about each year. I kept my air cast on as I worked in the frozen beverage booth and used my crutches as I navigated the festival. It all worked out just fine. This weekend began with a big fundraiser for a nonprofit I work with and lead a volunteer group for and it was a dressy event. I managed to wear my favorite comfy shoes (yes, the ones I fell off of) without too much discomfort and be on my feet a great deal – success once again. This is an event that is always truly inspirational and gratifying and I’m also proud to be associated with it and the nonprofit itself, which is a transitional housing and supportive services program for homeless women in crisis and their children.

Dave grohlYesterday was a massive outdoor concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park, the site of many historic and legendary musical events. I had won tickets for the Global Festival as a result of sharing information about many associated global projects to help end poverty and other societal issues. I was more than excited to go, and especially with my oldest son who I had been to NYC with many times but never just the two of us together. I knew I’d be walking a lot and standing for many, many hours in a big crowd, so I prepped my ankle/foot with the air cast and took one crutch for support. It was well-needed. As a result, we were invited to view the show from an area with others that were having mobility issues, much to my surprise actually. We had gotten to the city a bit later than anticipated, hadn’t even had time to grab a bite to eat on the way or when we got there and were envisioning being at the tail end of the Great Lawn, rounding out the group of 60,000 guests. Instead, we wound up in a small area about 200 feet or so from the stage with many others in wheelchairs or on crutches and enjoyed an amazing view and show. I was extremely grateful to have this opportunity, especially since there were adjoining porta-potties without lines at all unlike the general area. While I did stand the whole time, the crutch and air cast made it possible and I iced my foot and ankle as soon as I got home and have elevated it most of today.

And now the month is over, and October yet to begin. It’s been an exhausting, exciting and exhilarating month in so many ways and one that leaves me with such gratitude. First and foremost, I am so thankful for my family. I think of the months prior to the wedding of my oldest son and how our family pulled together to do whatever we could to make this as special as can be, much of which was without anyone asking a thing because we all wanted my son and new daughter-in-law to have as little stress as possible as the event moved closer and a wedding day that was exactly what they wanted it to be and so deserved. I think of the official addition of yet another family member, one who has been a true part of our family for many years and how natural it now seems for her to share our last name.

I think about my youngest son just settling in at college and not minding that I needed him to come home just 3 days later to act as my chauffeur for a medical procedure. Of course, he’d do it but the attitude he had about it is what makes me truly appreciative. Then there’s my middle son and my daughter, who I went with to pick up my son and daughter-in-law at the airport late on a Monday night. As the flight continued to get delayed, no one was upset about the hour in which we’d get home again, even though everyone was up for work bright and early. They were just excited to see the honeymooners return and hear about their trip.

When I klutzed out and ended up on crutches, everyone was quick to see what they could do and how they could help, even guiding a gimpy crutch-laden mom through a busy Saturday afternoon grocery store (although I suspect somewhat amused by lack of mobility skills and misuse of said crutches). I think about how quickly they all rallied and made arrangements jobwise to ensure they could get to the wake with me, even though they didn’t know the man who passed really other than by name and a few casual meetings. Then there’s how often my middle son came over and took my dogs out and fed them when I had meetings directly after work or other activities keeping me away from home for a long time and my daughter and son-in-law as well. They are all quick to meet needs, offer assistance and pick up the slack, not just for me but for each other, too.

When my youngest son and his girlfriend came home with me the other night, they ended up spending the day here while I was at work and instead of sleeping all day or just watching movies, they cleaned the house. When it came to the big fundraiser on Friday evening, both my daughter and daughter-in-law readily agree to create homemade offerings for its silent auction, even in the midst of their own busy lives and my oldest son agreed to act as the event photographer even though it meant making arrangements to leave work a bit early at a time when he is really busy. My middle son stayed here throughout the weekend while I was busy and tended to all the pets, neatened up the house and kept things going in my absence. Who can ask for anything more than that from family?

images-1I’m grateful for the work opportunities, which often keep my head swimming and make me crazy at times but provide me with the chance to grow; to realize sometimes that I’ve bitten off far more than I can comfortably chew but still act as the impetus to push myself and get it done. Through sheer fear, stubbornness and a weird need for challenge, I have managed to learn a heck of a lot over the years and it’s served me well. And I am truly appreciative for the volunteer opportunities I have had this past month and the events I’ve been to as a result. I have been given a glimpse of the humility of others, the desire for more and to do more for one’s children and oneself, to observe selfless acts and brave people who do much and ask little for themselves, only for others, on a local level and globally. I have seen families with such love, such care and such enjoyment in each other’s company, dancing wildly to children’s music, sharing laughter and picnic lunches. I have seen selfless people give large, large amounts of money to help others and those with little money to give, give extraordinary amounts of time and resources instead.

And in the end, at the tail end of a magical, manic month, in spite of how busy I thought I was – and whatever obstacles I encountered or success I thought I achieved – I have seen how little I have really done and how much more I honestly could do. I am a fortunate, fortunate woman, who has been blessed with many, many wonderful things. At times, I am tired and cranky, feeling like I’m overwhelmed with too much to do. But the truth is that I invite all of these things into my life and it’s up to me to properly address each with the time, enthusiasm and respect each deserves. The rewards are so plentiful and I am immensely humbled to have had the privilege of each experience.

 But I have also learned that sometimes when one is traveling through life at a breakneck speed, lamenting how little time there is in a day, that the universe will sometimes provide an opportunity to slow down, to walk a little slower, sometimes with the aid of crutches. It certainly offers a new perspective and allows one to realign everything in the works and move forward in a way that might just be a little bit better.

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