Monday, August 25, 2014

Goodbye 58 - Hello 59!

Heartwood - Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway
Abingdon, VA - July 30, 2014

Giving a thumbs up to the naming of this blog four years ago, I’ll have to say that my 58th year was most definitely one of “gains and losses.”  At times, it seemed the losses were far outnumbering the gains.  The year began on a high note as we closed on our new condo the day before my 58th birthday.  We were astounded at how quickly and smoothly the process had fallen into place.  We moved on August 6 and even that went flawlessly. 

July 29, 2013
Then things started going downhill….not going into every detail because that isn’t the point of this post, but it all culminated with Bill’s cancer diagnosis in late September.  And no need to rehash that nightmare! 

I cannot even so much as imply that I’d like to forget my 58th year because it has taught me so many things about life, love, perseverance, friendship, patience and compassion.  And that’s just for starters.  But neither can I tell you that I wasn’t excited about celebrating my 59th birthday and looking forward to the final year of this decade for me. 

We celebrated all week long!  But we did it with a great deal of spontaneity, which you might recall, is not one of my strongest qualities.  I prefer things to be planned and organized!  But with Bill still struggling to eat and never quite knowing if it was going to be a good day or a difficult day with respect to his strength/stamina, we just had to take it a day at a time.  We visited several local restaurants that were new to us, found and sauntered along a few new greenways/walking paths in our city that we hadn’t previously discovered, spent some time with family and enjoyed some fun scenic driving to places we hadn’t visited in awhile. 

On my actual birthday (July 30) I asked to drive up to Abingdon, VA, one of our favorite getaway spots.  It’s a couple of hours north of Knoxville and best known for being the starting or ending point of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a much loved former railroad converted to bike path which you’ve read about many times on this blog. (See Note at bottom of post) But Abingdon is also a wonderful town with a beautiful historic district and a very pleasant destination with something for everyone.  Obviously we are not biking right now (plus wouldn’t be doing that in July anyway), but we did enjoy a walk along the Creeper Trail, a visit to the absolutely beautiful Abingdon Winery and our first visit to Heartwood, Virginia’s new Artisan Craft Center. 

All of today’s pictures were taken on that birthday trip to Abingdon and most of them along the Creeper Trail.

I have big plans for my 59th year and they all involve forward progress for me in every aspect of my life.  My 58th year brought a lot of change and it is my desire for 59 to be a year in which I learn from those challenges and become a stronger person because of them.

 Not bad for one old broad and one amazing cancer survivor!
July 30, 2014 - My 59th Birthday!

NOTE:  When searching previous posts to link you to one with more pictures of Abingdon and the Creeper Trail, I had forgotten about our Fall Break, 2011 adventure which also included a visit to Mountain Lake Resort in Pemborke, VA where most of the film Dirty Dancing was shot.  I didn't remember writing that tribute to Patrick Swayze, one of my all time favorite actors, and his very public battle with pancreatic cancer.  Little did I know that exactly two years later, my own husband would be fighting his own battle with cancer.  While Patrick ultimately lost his battle, we are forever grateful that Bill has won his!  Thanks be to God!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Be Patient With Me Please!

My Favorite Place To Walk - Knoxville, TN
July 28, 2014

Perhaps I jumped the gun by a week or two, but it my excitement to begin writing again, I just wanted to start immediately.  In retrospect, I should’ve remembered that the days between my birthday (July 30) and Bill returning to school are always hectic and busy.  NOT a good time to work on re-establishing a habit!  Those who have been reading for awhile know that the days after he returns to school each year are always a struggle for me as I miss him and the time we are able to spend together each summer.  This summer has been particularly poignant as we’ve worked hard to get him as strong as we can before he begins the long days of a rigorous teaching schedule.  He is much better, but still has difficulty with extreme fatigue and although eating better, eating ENOUGH is the challenge he faces. 

I’m learning to let go and realize that I’ve really done all for him that I can.  I’ve cared for him for most of an entire year and now need to focus on my health and my mental well being while continuing to support him on tough days.  I have turned my eyes toward getting back into hiking shape and hitting the trails both in my much loved Smoky Mountains and tentatively planning some solo travel with hiking friends between now and Christmas. 

So please be patient with me as I work on finding the best time to sit down and write.  I’ve made some additional commitments for this year at my church and have mentally committed to some other activities that I think are important, but will take time.  Time that was once spent reading and writing blogs.  But I am excited about it all and think there is room – I just have to get it all worked out!

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from my favorite new walking place near our condo.  I am very grateful that our condo complex is small and quiet with a wonderful horseshoe shaped road for walking.  It even has some hills!  It’s  a great place to get some exercise!  But within a mile or two in several directions is an extensive greenway system along with quite a few miles of mountain biking trails.  These pics are all taken at a greenway attached to what is now my closest branch of our public library system.

At the start - Public Library branch is to the left just out of sight!

Hard to see, but this is really quite an incline!

And this is quite a decline thankfully via switchbacks!

 Two of several statues placed throughout the park.  These are my favorites!
Both remind me of ME!  I only wish there was a hiker!

Where have YOU been walking lately?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Week

Quiet Secluded Spot Along Middle Prong - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
July 22, 2014

It is a stifling hot Sunday afternoon in East Tennessee as I write this, but once the predicted severe weather rolls through, we are anticipating an absolutely delightful week.  And don’t you think it was special of Bill to order this perfect weather for my birthday which just happens to fall on Wednesday?  We have some really cool things planned for the week, but I’m getting ahead of myself because last week involved some really cool things and lots of variety!

We spent one entire afternoon perched by the side of Middle Prong up in the mountains.  There was lots of reading, plenty of talking and much coffee consumed.  It was quiet, peaceful and a perfect respite.  It was one year ago this week that we signed the papers and found ourselves condo owners, something we knew we’d do eventually, but certainly never anticipated it happening when it did.  We have no regrets and had we known then what we know now about the directions our lives were about to take, we’d have surely been even more awed at the way the pattern of our circumstances can be guided behind the scenes if we just stay out of the way!  Putting Bill 3 ½ miles from work as opposed to 21 ½ seemed like a “convenience” move at the time.  Little did we know, it was what would keep him able to work throughout his illness because it allowed him to come and go as needed.

But the afternoon by the river wasn’t a time for reflecting on the past as we have turned our eyes toward the future.  Bill returns to school in 2 ½ weeks.  To say he is somewhat apprehensive is accurate.  As well as he is doing, we still have to constantly remind ourselves that he is less than five months past a grueling chemo/radiation treatment regimen and he cannot expect his energy level to be at full capacity for several more months.  He tires easily and on some days, he feels ok one minute and the next has trouble putting one foot in front of the other.  This radiation induced fatigue is something unlike we've ever seen and so odd in the way it effects individuals. We talked about how we might work together to get him through the first few weeks and into a rhythm as he begins to get a picture of how he is going to feel. 

 Monday was “my” day and I was so excited to spend the morning with my hiking friend, Judi!  You may remember that I met Judi and her husband, Gene, through this blog and they have become dear friends.  At the time we met, they were living and traveling full-time throughout the USA in their RV, but have since purchased a condo in a community close by and I am thrilled.  We hiked regularly until Bill became ill and hope to resume that when the weather breaks, but in the meantime, just needed some catch-up time.  It was therapeutic for me to just sit with her and talk about my mountains and get excited once again about hiking! 

I was fortunate to be able to spend time with both my parents and Bill’s mom this week.  We are so blessed to have them still with us and grateful that time with all of them is still fun!  My dad is beginning to have some significant health issues so I particularly treasure every moment we are able to laugh together.

On Friday morning, we had some friends over for a light brunch.  They’ve just returned from an Alaskan Cruise and we wanted to hear every little detail of their adventures.  They had not seen Bill since Super Bowl Sunday (when he was bald as he could be), so wanted to hear all about his China trip.  As silly as it sounds, they just wanted to see him EAT!!  They are good friends and conversation flowed freely!  

It was a full week because I haven’t even mentioned the trip to lunch on Saturday which ended up being a 110 mile road trip!  Or the friends who visited so we could spend some time with their niece whom we’ve known since she was born, but hadn’t seen her in several years as she lives in Texas now. 

Our lives are very full right now.  Our hearts are even more full of gratitude that Bill, although still far from 100%, is able to enjoy life, enjoy our friends and family, enjoy the taste of most foods and most importantly, recognize that now it’s time to give back.  We are thankful for opportunities this week do have done just that!  I hope you have!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lighten Up!

Middle Prong - Great Smoky Mountain National Park
April, 2014

To get the background for my 2014 Mantra, you’ll have to go way back to January and read THIS post!  Funny thing though – I thought I had it all together and so many things about which to write based on just what I’d learned during 2013.  Little did I know what hurdles there were to cross, pain there was to bear, compassion to be learned and love to be shared during the first six months of 2014. 

I honestly believe that I could fill each Thursday through year end with a post about a single subject or aspect of my life in which I’ve learned to, been forced to or voluntarily chosen to LIGHTEN UP!  But when I wrote the original post in January, I had in mind about six areas to talk about.  Boy, has that list ever grown!  Over the next several Thursdays, my life is going to become painfully open on every subject from weight, diet, finances, retirement, travel, time management, faith and religion (bet that got some raised eyebrows), blogging, happiness, leisure time, generosity, illness, friendship, spouses (better be careful with that one!), relationships in general, materialism, elder care, etc.  And that’s just for starters! 

The coolest part about that is I will so look forward to your thoughts and feedback about changes you may or may not be making in your own life.  Maybe we can even come up with some congenial controversy.   So hang on and prepare to LIGHTEN UP!