Just a little bike ride?

5FFC9C53-E95E-4D63-95BE-1056B4ADCB46Sunday I went for a little bike ride on the greenway. It has been years since I had been out there. What an amazing place, practically in our back yard. People come from all over the country to ride the mountain bike trails there. I went with a few friends, we didn’t go far, but I was thrilled! I am starting to trust myself again, and it feels good!

I think that sometimes when things happen to you and you feel out of control and/or overwhelmed your mind kinda shuts things off. Like I can’t deal with all of this right now, check back later. Last year was kind of a blur for me. People would say things like “Oh you are so strong, what a fighter.” I never understood what they really meant by that? I didn’t have a choice. I had to deal with it. I had to leave it to professionals that, hopefully, knew what they were doing. Uncomfortable tests and needles and poisons (chemo). Bone marrow tests, and the constant blood transfusions. Crazy steroids and medication with terrible side effects. Feeling so weak and almost passing out in the beauty salon, embarrassing and scary! I never thought I would or could ever imagine myself here, doing any of this! At the time it was either do it or die! Not much of a choice! So you just accept it and deal with it. Your hair falls out, you don’t feel like yourself, you don’t look like yourself. It seems you become a shell of who you were. Your thoughts and dreams are put aside, you are just hoping to survive. It is all pretty overwhelming. Not to mention, regular life is still going on with all its own trials and tribulations.

Of course, I tried to stay positive, but I’m not gonna lie, things got tough sometimes. Its also hard on your family and friends who don’t know how to help you or deal with you. The hair comes back, your face becomes familiar again, the constant doctor visits subside, you start to feel reminders of who you were before. I think I am beginning to understand the whole,” you are a fighter” thing now. As I mentioned before, my recent test results have been coming back good. Now is the time you have to be brave, brave enough to fight and take your life back! For some reason, actually many good reasons, my mental fog has lifted! I am alive and I am going to be stronger than before. I have new perspectives, I have a new appreciation for life. I didn’t want this article to be about my cancer, I wanted to share with you how a small shift in my attitude, my mental state, made a huge, HUGE difference! This happened last week and I can tell you for the first time in a very long time I feel like I can breathe! Now I have choices and I choose to take my life back into my own hands. I am pushing myself, working out harder, hiking, being disciplined, eating healthy again. I bought myself a new pair of hiking shoes instead of some slippers! Taking care of MYSELF the way I know how! My aches and pains have almost miraculously diminished!

I went for a little bike ride on the greenway, what a marvelous day!

My Place

 

A dream of mine has always been to own a bed and breakfast. I love cooking, baking, entertaining, and meeting new people. I live on, what I think, is a pretty amazing piece of property. But I certainly don’t have the house to do anything like that. Idle Wild Farm has always been a special place to me. It has been in my family for over thirty years. It is covered with beautiful old oaks. There are wild untamed spots and thoughtfully designed spots. We live down an old dirt road which makes it seem like we are in the middle of nowhere but we are actually pretty close to everything. We live only minutes away from the greenway which offers hiking, biking, and trail riding all the way across the state. It still gets dark enough here that you can see the stars at night. We have horses, a wonderful little barn, and a nature covered (trees) arena. We have chickens for fresh eggs, our beloved dogs, and a pet rabbit. Oh, and I can’t forget our crazy little barn cat, Twyla.

We have lots of fruit trees, peach, plum, nectarine, orange, tangerine, grapefruit, persimmon, loquat, meyer lemon and lime. We have raspberry and blueberry bushes. I grow fresh organic herbs and vegetables on my deck. We have tons of wildlife here, butterflies and honey bees, raccoons, armadillos, hawks, woodpeckers. Gopher tortoises and every once in a while a snapping turtle comes through, heading to the neighbors pond. We have lots of squirrels and we once had a white tailed squirrel come to visit. We have bats, flying squirrels, and owls. Believe it or not, Jerry can actually call the owls in at night! We have our very own, resident, sandhill cranes that on some years grace us with their babies.

As you can see, we are blessed with an enchanted, special place that I gratefully get to call home. I have tried to create a peaceful little hideaway. Being here, surrounded by nature, makes me feel grounded and allows me to relax and unwind from the outside worlds hustle and bustle. I get to travel this path called life with the animals that call this place home, they are  gentle reminders to stay in the present and just be. I think there is a special energy here, a healing energy. I love to mindfully walk barefoot through the grass and find a lovely place to sit and contemplate the next garden or adventure…

Speaking of my next adventure! I want to share a little bit of this with others who would like a little shelter from the storms of this modern life. People that want to come out and reconnect with nature. We are almost done restoring our first little vintage camper, it is looking amazing! We are doing a total, down to the frame restoration. I am faux painting the walls and ceiling. I am decorating it to be cozy and comfortable. When it is all finished, I want to park it in a strategic place on my property and with landscaping, my goal is that you will feel privacy and peace. I want to rent this as a place to camp and relax for the weekend.

This will be a work in progress. My goal is to have 3 little spots to camp out on the peace and privacy my property. I want to have the camper and 2 tiny cabins, which we are building out of reclaimed materials. I want to do lots of landscaping to enhance whats already here. I want to build an outdoor kitchen to cook amazing, locally crafted meals in. I want to have paths for walking and benches for meditating or bird watching. I would love to make a zen garden or a labyrinth.  Of course, everything must fit in seamlessly with the nature that surrounds it.

Eventually, I would like to offer artists retreats, cooking or cake decorating weekends, horse back riding lessons, organic gardening classes, etc. of course on different weekends of the year. This is giving me the opportunity to to use my creativity and resources to their fullest potential! And also to have a way to make a living doing and sharing the things that I love! In the pictures above, the two cabins are what I want to build. If you have any old building materials, wood, metal, garden furniture, plants or resources that you think I could use, and you live relatively close to me, please let me know, it would be greatly appreciated!  Also, with this beautiful weather, if any one feels like coming out and giving us a hand with building, gardening, or painting please let us know. We can use all the help we can get, as we are doing this all by ourselves!

 

 

 

I Am a Dreamer

Autumn, this has always been my favorite time of year. I absolutely love it! Last year I kinda missed it, so I am enjoying it even more this year. It is still unreasonably hot and humid here. The horses are already getting their winter coats. The grass is growing much slower, everything seems to be slowing down and getting ready for winter. This time of year there is so much to do, harvest festivals, haunted houses, Oktoberfest, art shows, pumpkin carving foods and drinks! But it is also a time to slow down a little, and get cozy. I hope I can pull out a few sweaters and a warm fuzzy blanket or two this year. I don’t care for super cold but I love a little chill in the air. A lovely cool evening listening to the owls and watching the bats fly overhead. A crisp morning of hiking, drinking hot chocolate and not sweating. Sitting around a fire and telling scary stories! It is all just so enchanting to me, ahh!

Now on to real business! As a reader of my blog you know I had some really bad health issues last year. Actually November is the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. It is something I would love to forget! But I’m not sure that is possible, I have daily reminders (aches and pains) and lots and lots of bills! My health insurance alone costs me a small fortune. This is not good because I am not working right now, yikes! I want to work but some days it is all I can do to take care of all the farm chores. I still don’t have all my strength and stamina back. I have neuropathy in my thigh which prevents me from standing for any length of time, very annoying! I am going to physical therapy 3 times a week. So…I’m trying to figure out what to do. I want to do something meaningful and fulfilling. I want to be creative. I have lots of skills to use and I want to share with other people. You know, be useful in some way!  They say, “Do what you love and the rest will follow.” I have been struggling with this.

Then one day it hit me!!! Something I have always dreamed about was owning a bed and breakfast. I love to cook and bake, I love entertaining, I love sharing my talents with others. But I live in a small house and there was no way for me to do that. There’s hardly enough room for us, let alone any guests, we would be tripping over each other at every turn! I had this idea about ten years ago, it has evolved, but what I want to do is offer camping at my farm! I am so excited! It is going to be great! And I want to invite you to be involved. Details to follow!

What A Year

This has certainly been an interesting year. Some of it is still a blur. I have definitely had some interesting, although not always wanted, adventures. It was right around this time last year that my health was really declining at an alarming rate. I am VERY grateful to still be alive. Every morning I wake up and take a deep breath and offer thanks that I am still here, breathing. Every day is truly a gift! Not that I want to sound morbid or whiney but when you have a scare, like stage 4 breast cancer, it really drives home the fact that you really don’t know how much longer you will be around, not that any of us do. I don’t plan on going anywhere very soon but, I am going to live whatever life I have left!

I am trying to really notice and appreciate everything I have, friends, love, laughter. Lots of things have changed. Things that used to seem so important to me are not quite as meaningful as they once were. I had given most of my life to horses, something that I will never regret, I lived and breathed horses as far back as I can remember, but right now they are just my companions. No more rigorous training and wishful ambitions of fame and fortune. I have spent decades in the saddle and I cherish every moment. The sounds and smells at the barn are intoxicating and fill me with joy. Horses softly nickering or munching on hay. The sound of hoofbeats and snorting. The sweet smell of fresh feed, new shavings, and leather. The barn has always been a place where I find solace, my happy place. Riding, training, the discipline and physical labor involved in horsemanship is a form of meditation. I have spent many years in my boots and breeches. It is something I will never leave but it is different now.

Art. I am an artist. Everything I do is with an artists touch. I can’t help it, it is who I am. I have struggled for many years trying to make a living as an artist. It is not for the faint of heart! I love creating art, however I do not enjoy trying to market and sell my art. I have been wildly successful at times and I have failed miserably at other times. There is never any steadiness to it. You often end up feeling like a ship tossed about on the sea! “Oh we absolutely love your art, but no we don’t want to actually pay you for it!” UGH! Or “We would love to have you pay us to hang it in our shop.” REALLY? Part of creating art is wanting to share it with others, but at what cost? It is not fulfilling to me to create art and store it in my closet. I enjoy the creative process but I would still like to share it with others and have people care or appreciate what I do enough that I could make a living doing it, but alas this alludes me! Art is sometimes like speaking without words. It can also be like working without pay.

So, after a year of pain and struggling with my health I have no desire, at this time, to continue to struggle with these things, or much else for that matter. I just want to enjoy them. However the bills keep coming and I am not making any money right now. So, whats a girl to do?

Just a little update

Yesterday I had to go to get my blood work done and have my port flushed. It is always a yucky reminder of my illness, this cancer thing hanging over my head, ugh! I really try to focus on the positive and how lucky I am. My blood work looked great! Gets better every time I have it checked. But every month there is a little apprehension leading up to my appointment. I am feeling better but, I hope everything is ok, I hope the tumor markers are staying low, etc. I think this will all get easier as time goes by. Everything was good yesterday!

I am feeling stronger all the time, mentally as well as physically. Sometimes I am amazed at how far I have come and other times I am disappointed that I am not 100% yet. I know these things take time. Cancer is rough. Chemotherapy is tough. It is all very hard on your body. I am having trouble with entire body aches and pains in my muscles and bones. And the hot flashes and night sweats SUCK, especially in this heat of Florida that I live in. These are side effects from the medication I have to take. I could go on and on about how all this sucks. I could sit back and whine and complain all the time. I could accept this as my new normal. I could get on disability. NOPE!!! Not me! I will never give in. I think you create your own reality and I am not going down without a fight!

Somedays its hard to get out of bed, but I find that I get better with movement. As always I am taking it upon myself to make the best of my situation. So I am trying to exercise every day. I am back to my mile long walks with the dogs, yay! And on days I don’t get to do that, I am practicing Tai Chi. I can go a little further all the time! Soon I think I will be adding some weight lifting back in to regain some muscle that I have lost. And I am hoping that by the fall, when it cools down a little outside,  to get back in the saddle again. So I know I am getting better. I am trying to support my body in any way that I can to help with my healing process. First and foremost I try to have a good positive attitude. Somedays this is easier said than done! Second I try to eat healthy nutritious food. Don’t get me wrong I indulge sometimes, thats just part of enjoying life, which is very important! I do take supplements.  A good whole food multivitamin, just because. Iron to help support my blood, I still can’t believe how anemic I was. Vitamin K

to help support calcium absorption. Calcium to counteract the Xgeeva injections. Vitamin E to help with this painful burning neuropathy in my thigh. I am also taking Turkey Tail mushroom, there are lots of studies being done on this right now for fighting cancer. And I just found out about Lions Mane mushroom for nerve pain, I just ordered some! I will let you know how it works out.

Here’s to a healing journey! Listen to your body, support it and help it heal!

Underground to Outerspace

This morning I wake up pretty sore and achey but after yesterdays adventures I am feeling confident. Yesterday was quiet a challenge! Today we are headed for more. Our first stop is the Camuy Caves. A huge limestone cave system carved out by the Rio Camuy, the worlds third largest subterranean river. As we head through the park gates a few people give us some flyers for a couple of nearby restaurants, interesting but effective marketing! Since I’m sure we will be hungry when we are finished exploring these caves.

Thankfully, a tram takes us down to the opening of the cave. It’s huge! Again we are walking on a very slippery damp cement path. There are some rails which you really don’t want to touch because they have guano (bat poo) on them. Just as our guide says, “Be very careful, the path can be slippery.” Jerry goes down, oh no! He was my support, the person I grab onto if I feel unsteady! Apparently the sneakers he wore do not like the cave floor at all, he is slipping and sliding everywhere! My boots seem to be ok. When it gets steep I grab Scott for a little support. We navigate pretty well. Although Jerry is slipping, he doesn’t go down again. The caves are beautiful. Large stalactites (hang down from the ceiling) and stalagmites (grow up from the floor) they are everywhere. There is a gigantic stalagmite 17 feet tall and 27 feet in diameter. Strange shapes and shadows are around every corner, an indian, a witch. Looking ahead out of one of the cave openings I see what looks like gold shimmering or maybe fireflies floating to the ground. It is beautiful, mesmerizing. Our guide says it is leaves falling from the top of a sinkhole and the sunlight is catching them just right. It is amazing. I wonder what life for the Taino Indians, the first Puerto Rican inhabitants, must have been like? We see bats, there are thirteen species of bats in this cave. They are much larger than our Florida bats, about a 12″ wingspan. They are sleeping now. I can’t imagine what this place looks like when they are all flying out for the evening!

We finish our tour and I am feeling strong. I had no problems with the slippery, treacherous walk. As I anticipated, we are hungry. I grab the restaurant flyers and we start driving. We pass on the first one and pull into the next, El Taino Restaurante. A handsome white haired gentleman greets us at the door. “Hello, welcome!” he warmly shakes our hands. He introduces himself as Juan B. Santiago. He shows us his biceps and we realize he is in very good shape for a 77 year old man. He tells us he goes to the gym everyday and he only eats when he is hungry. He reminds me of Jack La Lane. He owns the restaurant, his family works there. He is quiet a character, he seats us and sits down with us. He tells us all about his life and shows us pictures of him at all different ages, that are hung around the restaurant. We order our food. I have a seafood salad with fried plantains, Jerry had a crusted grouper, and Scott had a shrimp stew or something. It was all delicious but the entertainment was better! Mr. Santiago was a pleasure. He sang us old american classics from the 1950’s. He was very well spoken and said he loved words. We enjoyed talking with him very much. As we were about to leave he gave us a warm embrace and a lovely napkin holder portraying a scene from Old Puerto Rico. It was pouring down rain outside, he grabbed an umbrella and walked Scott to the car so he could drive around and pick Jerry and I up from the door. What a lovely gentleman! To be continued…

Finally!

More waiting! Our flight keeps getting delayed. The 10:30pm flight turns into an almost midnight flight. If that would have happened this morning we wouldn’t have missed our first plane! There’s nothing we can do but wait. We board the plane and off we go!

We started Wednesday, it is now Thursday. It’s almost 3:00 am when we finally get to our hotel. We have been awake for almost 24 hours. I am beyond tired. The hotel is beautiful, clean, comfortable, a Hyatt House Hotel in San Juan. I notice lots of tropical vegetation and hear the little Ko-Kee frogs singing as we walk to the hotel, they sound like birds. I hit the bed and pass out. When we finally wake up we realize…we are finally here, we are in Puerto Rico! I am still really tired. We go hang out by the pool for a while. I do a little swimming, it feels good. I decide to try and swim every day while I am here to try and help work out the pain that I have been dealing with in my shoulder. I think it’s a damaged nerve. I dry off and soak up a little sun for awhile, it feels so comforting. Nothing to do but pamper myself!

We take a little walk and soak in some of the Puerto Rican flavor. Everyone is so friendly and eager to offer directions or advice. I am amazed that almost everyone here speaks english easily and fluently. They can switch back and forth from spanish to english effortlessly. We head to the Metro and have some amazing local cuisine. I had the Montuno Cubano, which has diced pork which is boiled then fried and sautéed in onions, a tamale, congri rice, and casava. Scott had a wonderful dish, Lomillo A Caballo,  beef steak and eggs. It was delicious and there was so much, we took some home for later.

Late afternoon we drove to La Torre, a cool little town, where we got to watch some filming of the movie that Jerry has been working on. A colorful patchwork of little buildings and restaurants lined the streets. All the sights and sounds were intoxicating. Pigs on spits, pallets for firewood, fried foods, hanging coconuts and plantains. Stray dogs, cats, and wandering chickens everywhere! We went to the Waterfront restaurant to pick up some food for the actors, it was on the Loiza boardwalk. The ocean was beautiful!

We had dinner with the filming crew. The caterers were set up in the middle of a field under a tent. The food was delicious. I was still kinda full from our late lunch, so I ate light. Scott had what he thought was a pile of mashed potatoes, turns out it was mashed plantains and they were delicious, way better than potatoes! We met some interesting people and had some good conversations. As night fell we started to get bitten by no see ums, it was time to go. We were still pretty tired.

Today was a day to relax, unwind, and depressurize from the last few weeks. I am amazed, we are finally here, in Puerto Rico!

Let’s get outta here!

Ok we are as prepared as we can be. Our flight leaves from Tampa at 7:30am. We will get up at 4:00am to catch our plane. We are packed, the alarm is set. We should be in Puerto Rico by noon! It is starting to sink in, we are going to Puerto Rico! 4:00am comes early. We put the dogs in their lovely kennel. I hope they appreciate all the time and attention we put into it. We put our suitcases in the truck. As we pull away from the house, I feel a sense of relief, we got it all done. I am starting to get excited about our trip!

It was a nice drive contemplating all we might do in Puerto Rico. Anticipating seeing Jerry for the first time in 6 weeks. We check the clock in the truck, all is well, we have plenty of time. We run into a little traffic in Tampa but it’s not a big deal. We have some trouble finding a long term parking spot. After searching 3 levels we go to the roof and park. We find our way to the terminal, it looks empty, but it is early in the morning. We get to the check in…our plane left 10 minutes ago…WHAT? WHAT did you say? Our plane left? We missed our flight? You must be wrong, check again!

Ok regroup. What the heck just happened? And what do we do now? The next flight to Puerto Rico is at 10:30, no not in three hours, it’s at 10:30 tonight. So…it is 7:30 am. I certainly don’t want to drive all the way back home just to turn around and drive back. What should we do? Where did the time go? How did we lose so much time? On further inspection we realized we were watching the clock in the truck which was almost exactly an hour behind! I fixed that right away. We are tired and maybe a little grumpy from the crazy busy week we had leading up to this. What are we gonna do now. Maybe we should just go home and forget about this trip. I call Jerry and he finds us a hotel close to the airport that we can check into. Maybe we can just relax, catch some TV, doze awhile until this evening when we go back to the airport. Sounds good.

Turns out it is a Super 8 Motel. Omg, it is really nasty! It looks rundown, the walls are dirty, it looks old. There are burn holes in the bed sheets, in a non smoking room! I am too tired to care. I have to lay down. At least the sheets smell clean. I don’t want to touch anything. I lay perfectly still and don’t let the sheets touch my face. I hope I don’t catch anything! I think I may have fallen asleep for a few minutes. The remote for the TV is nowhere to be found. Lets go find something to eat. I find a little Peruvian restaurant that has 5 stars. So we try it. Scott doesn’t like anything. I think it tastes pretty good. I have never eaten Peruvian food before. Apparently something did not agree with my stomach. So back to the motel we go.

Ok well what else can go wrong? So I use the bathroom…go to flush the toilet and…well…it overflows!

 

First Adventure

IMG_2422So…last Wednesday I set off on my first adventure in quite awhile and the first adventure since my diagnosis and all that. I wasn’t even sure it was going to happen. There was so much preparation to do at the farm. I knew that I traveled often, when I got my puppy, Tallulah, I just figured that I would “man up” and board her at a local kennel while I was away. Well at least until she became a little more manageable! Right now she is still kind of a maniac and can’t be left unsupervised. And precisely two weeks after I brought her home I hear about all this terrible dog flu thing spreading across the nation. What? I never heard of such a thing?! Dogs are dying. Keep your dogs at home. Dog parks are closing. Dog shows are on hold. You’ve got to be kidding me? I had planned all these great socializing doggie outings for her. I was going to take my dogs everywhere with me. What about puppy kindergarten? Showing her off at PetSmart. Hiking in the forest. Great!

So…there is no way I want to expose her or any of my other dogs to that, so I try to find a baby sitter, or someone to stay at my house while I’m away. Not much luck. Maybe I will just have to stay home until she has some manners. Dang it! I have the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico. I don’t know if I will ever have this opportunity again. Right now my life is all about living life to the fullest, taking risks, and not passing up opportunities. But my critters are my family and they come first. I don’t want to endanger them in any way.

So…about 10 days before I would be trying to leave for Puerto Rico we come up with this great idea. How about we build an outdoor kennel for the dogs? Make it comfortable for them to stay in while we are out of town. Like a little doggie playhouse. Wow what a great idea. It will pay for itself, boarding is very costly, and our dogs will be safe, and close to home!

So…I get right to work designing this doggie playhouse! And off to gather supplies we go! So now we add dog house shopping and building to the already crazy task of getting ready to go away. Line up the pet sitter, get all the horse feed and dog food, and small animal supplies. Line up back up help just in case. Organizing and cleaning bowls and cages and coops and the barn. Make sure the grass is mowed and the place is at least halfway in order so it looks like someone actually lives here! This is way more than I feel like I can handle…maybe I should just stay home?

Balance

I wonder why balance is so hard to find? I am guessing its because just when you think you’ve found your balance and everything is moving along just swell, life comes along and decides to change everything up.  I am beginning to think life has a strange/dark sense of humor! I feel like we are jugglers just trying to keep everything going and life strolls in and gives you a good push, BOOM, you fall on your ass again! All you can do is pick up the pieces and try again. Sometimes we just start over where we left off and other times we start anew, a fresh start, a new beginning. I hope I can move forward with a new awareness.

Now that I am feeling a bit better I have soo many things I want to do! Can’t quiet get the hang of not over doing it. Feel like I am a caged animal and someone forgot to shut the gate! This week I have been cleaning and organizing closets and cabinets. I know, your thinking, ” Doesn’t she have something better to do? Of course! But I think this is kind of a spiritual thing, clearing the clutter, so I can move forward. And believe it or not I am actually enjoying it. I am finding things I no longer need or want and I am finding things I love and had forgotten.

When you have been laid up for awhile, everything seems wonderful. Just walking to the barn in the morning to feed the horses is a pleasure, I love to hear the contented sounds of them munching on their hay. The smell of just cut grass. Listening to the birds, watching the dogs rolling in the field. Eating raspberries right off the bush. Shopping for and preparing a wonderful meal, enjoying the people I am around. These things are seemingly insignificant little things, some people may even think bothersome chores, until there is a period of time that you can’t do them, and you realize how precious they are. So right now I am doing some spring cleaning and organizing. Trying to stay mindful, taking the time to enjoy what I am doing. Yes, some days I over do it and end up back on the couch but I think that is happening less and less! I can’t wait to get back to painting and creating, I have some really cool projects coming up. I am also gearing up for some more work/travel, next month we may be spending some time in Puerto Rico. I am looking forward to living my life to the fullest and enjoying every moment. Just trying to remember to not rush through life, to slow down and enjoy the journey. And maybe, just maybe, give Life a little chuckle now and then.