Honesty & Keeping Watch

Mike and I have been together for eighteen months now. As with any couples we bring our own issues and quirks to the relationship. We have been very open and honest with each other from the beginning. I shared with Mike my struggles with depression and bipolar depression that I have had since I was a youngster. Mike shared with me some of his stress, trials and tribulations that can come from being a perfectionist in the military. Mike worked on jet engines and tends to obsess on details others would overlook. He is retired from the military now and has taken that attention to detail and put it into the planning and building of the house we live in. Before I met Mike he lived a quiet life and stayed to himself for the most part. At first he was not too crazy about getting up early to care for animals. He did not enjoy being in public or doing things many of us would take for granted. He did not want to sit by windows or have his back to the door. Now we travel up and down the east coast and locally. Mike smiles, laughs and engages others in conversation. We keep an eye on each other for signs we may be getting a bit blue. He is very aware of my moods as I am his. Still he sometimes gets the thousand yard stare and leaves me behind lost in his thoughts. Today was one of those days. It breaks my heart to see him struggle with the past as many of us do. I feel I have a good insight on his moods based upon my own struggles with depression. He talks of our future and present quite often, which makes me happy, We are about six months from our wedding. We are determined to keep it as stress free as possible. We both are committed to a life of peace, joy, love and adventure. 
I took the first photo at the farm today and in spite of having a tough day we both managed a smile. The second photo I took last week at the farm at sunset.

Fall Colors in the Yard

Demons Arise & Seeking the Light

I felt the demons arise in me yesterday. The familiar feeling I have been dealing with and constantly battling since I was ten years old. The darkness of depression fell hard and fast. I felt the anger, frustration and despair fill me while hoping against hope it would not last long. Sometimes the episodes are short lasting only a day or so and others last for many months or even years. Thankfully this one only lasted a day. 

I have worked hard over the years to battle the depression and know it can be hard to be around me when I’m in a funk. 

To help I write, I photograph, I cry and I look to things that make me happy. I love chasing the light with photography, writing helps me get things out, Mike is tirelessly supportive and then there is nature and the universe. As we head into winter I love the night sky. It is my favorite time of year. When I drive home from work at night the Big Dipper is on my left and Orion is on my right. The moon depending on its phase keeps me company. 

I don’t always know what triggers my depression but this time seems to be filled with change all around me, not being heard and frustration with things I want to get done but get tripped up on doing. 

Today the demons were quieter and I am working a little every day to accomplish what I want to get done. I really have a lot to be grateful and thankful for and I try to keep that in mind but sometimes the depression creeps up and all the sudden the black hole is opened. Mental illness while discussed more is still stigmatized both in society and elsewhere. I wish I could get off work a night or two to work on my mental health as one can get off for a cold or the flu but alas most places don’t want to hear you are depressed. 

As I continue the climb out of the black hole I continue to look to the light of the world and Mike’s undying love for me. He loves me even when I am unlovable. 

The first photo is the view out of our side window looking into the front yard. The moon photos are from the weekend at the farm. I feel at home when the moon is in the sky.

Facing the Unkown & Feeling Worthy

I have been telling myself and Mike that I would finish unpacking and downsizing for about eight months now. Mike has never complained or griped that I have boxes filled with things in two rooms. For the past year I have been struggling with an hectic work schedule, almost constant fatigue and stress. I always had big plans of getting things done in a day or weekend but I am horrible at figuring out how long things should take to complete. To my credit and Mike’s also all three bathrooms, the kitchen, dining room, living room and our bedroom is unpacked and tidy. The two rooms I need to finish is a second bedroom and Mike’s office. The second bedroom will be a creative place for me. Mike as I have said never complains or pushes me to get the rest of the boxes done. He tells me to take my time. 
I realized tonight as I drove home from ups that a part of myself and soul is waiting for things to get difficult with our relationship. I was mortified I felt that way as Mike and I get along great, rarely fight or argue and sincerely enjoy each other’s company. We don’t complete each other as we were already complete but we instead complement each other. Mike gives me strength and unconditional love something I never had with anyone else. Others instead brought out the side of me that felt the need to fight to be heard and a feeling of inadequacy. Mike makes me feel loved and at times I don’t feel worthy of his love but he has been making me realize I am worthy and I return his love. Both of us have come so very far in over a year. Some day I will write more on it. But needless to say there is a sense of peace and comfort we have with each other. 

Tonight I told Mike my underlying fear and what I thought was preventing me finishing unpacking. He was shocked and told me again how he felt. Mike has been wonderful in telling me that his home is now our home. I started tonight after Mike went to sleep to start to slowly unpack. I sometimes hold onto things out of fear but I finally think I am ready to really downsize and enjoy what I decide to keep. I am still amazed by the depth of Mike’s love for me and feel grateful to have him by my side. 

When I moved into Mike’s home he was living like a monk very minimalist. I have a need to have some things about me. Sometimes I have too much and my style is like a crowded English cottage but I’m trying hard to meld Mike and my things and lifestyles together. I will let you know how it goes.

Mike & His Military Life

When I first met Mike I did not know he had served in the military until we met in person. A little know fact is that many men state in their profiles in online dating sites that they are either current or past military. Nine times out of ten it is not true. Mike told me on the phone once that he had served and I was skeptical based on my past experience. When we met I asked more questions and he went into great detail about his service. He served eighteen years in the Air Force as a jet engine mechanic for the B-52 bomber. He was very good at what he did and was an instructor for two years to teach others skills to work on the engines. Recently he showed me his commendations, medals and awards. He is not one to brag or speak much of his service but he has slowly been sharing details of it with me. He lights up when he speaks of working on the engines and throttles of the jet. I am very proud of his years of service despite not knowing him at that time. I have learned much about the VA and navigating it since I met Mike. I wonder at times how I would have been as a military spouse had I know Mike when he served but I’m looking forward to our marriage next year and living out the rest of our lives together.

Machines, Art & Creativity

When Mike and I visited Jon and Maria recently we were excited to see Maria’s studio. Mike is a life long tinkerer of many things starting as a young boy taking things apart and putting them back together again to see how they work. He loved working on cars as a teenager and that led to a long career in the Air Force working on jet engines on the B-52 bombers. Mike is usually calm cool and collected but he lights up talking about and observing machines and engines. When Maria took us into her studio I was struck by the beauty of the wooden floors and walls as well as the incredible view out of her window. Mike, however, was awe struck with Maria’s sewing machine. He said it looked like something futuristic almost out of Star Trek. Maria graciously explained how it worked and how she creates some of her work. I was not the best sewer and the machine looked intimidating to me but Mike and Maria engaged in quite the conversation about it. Mike talked almost as much about Maria’s sewing machine on the ride home as he did about enjoying Red’s company. We were both inspired to write more with Jon’s encouragement and to create a place to pursue our passions. Mike has his shed he just finished cleaning up in preparation for whatever car he purchased. He takes pride in working on his own vehicles. I am hoping to finish up unpacking and organizing my office space at home. I have the best views outside of my window though not the beautiful rolling hills with farm animals outside as Maria has but trees and an open field. The trip we made to New England and New York brought Mike and I closer together. 
Perhaps one day I will be more confident to try working with a sewing machine again. Maria’s machine was truly impressive.

Pet sitting Joys & Pitfalls

Part of pet sitting involves the death of pets one cares for. It is not something people discuss or mention when you decide to pursue a career in pet sitting. Most people assume that pet sitting is all puppy kisses, kitten love and hugging horses. Sometimes pet sitting is dirty disgusting and messy, both physically and emotionally. 

I am a little unusual in my area in that I care for farm animals as well as household pets. Most pet sitters in my area only care for dogs and cats. I care for dogs and cats of course but also horses, sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, iguanas and the occasional bird. 

The dirty and disgusting parts include cleaning up chicken carcasses after a fox finds the flock or a hawk tries to take them. The chickens are free range so you have to expect some death there. Lambing season is cute and fun but also bloody, nasty and just all around yuck until the lambs are cleaned up. Most years all the lambs survive and thrive but at times sometimes goes wrong and they have to be euthanized or one finds them dead from unknown causes-usually worms or an infection. I’ve cleaned up more dog and cat puke than I care to remember. In spite of the yuck I love it. I share amazing connections with the animals I care for. Which brings me to death. 

I am always grateful when pet owners contact me to let me know their pet has died. Sometimes the person is crying so hard that they get the news out in a rushing emotionally sentence prior to hanging up. Other times I don’t hear from people for a while to watch their pets and the next thing I know I get a call asking to come meet their new pet. Some people do not want me to have to handle the animals end of life care and I respect that but am capable of doing it. I’ve been witness to lambs, ewes and a ram dying, horses dogs and cats. While never easy I find I remain fairly strong and in control until I am in private to grieve the loss. 

Tonight I received a call to let me know a dog named Piper who I have cared for eleven years had died. She had been slowly declining and I wasn’t sure how long she would be around. I have cried most of the. night. It hit me hard tonight for two reasons. Piper and her owners were one of my first and definitely my longest client outside of the farm. The other reason was Piper and her daily walks was one of the things that kept me eating and having gas money every week when I was struggling to make ends meet after my divorce. Quite a few times I only had pipers check to buy groceries for the week. I realized that she had helped me survive single life in so many ways. I had to walk her every day Monday through Friday so I had to go out of my apartment even when the depths of depression told me to stay home. I am in such a different place now-emotionally mentally and spiritually and I thank Piper and her family for keeping me going when I am sure they had no idea that is what they were doing. So I bid Piper goodbye and will remember her fondly for years to come. 

A Vacation Round Up and Some Thoughts

I took over one thousand photos while Mike and I were on vacation. I picked these photos to share as I think they show our sense of adventure and trying new things, we are relaxed and enjoying each other’s company. The last photo shown I took as we headed through the beautiful fall foliage of Vermont and New York. I like the photo as you can’t really tell where the road will lead. We definitely took the road less traveled as we were the only car on the road for many miles. 

The fifth photo I took on the footbridge in Ogunquit Maine. Mike was game and ventured up on the bridge with me. This trip had the potential to bring much stress as it was a little outside of Mike’s comfort zone. But he handled it like a champ. We met my family in Maine and enjoyed two days with them. Mike and I stayed an extra day in Maine. We went to Freeport and visited LL Bean. Mike loved the history displays at bean as well as buying some slippers for himself for the winter. It was great to see Mike enjoying himself and spending money on himself too. He does not do that often. The third photo is Mike at a restaurant we found in Freeport.  

The second and third photos are special to me. My family, Mike and me walked down a portion of the Marginal Way and sat on the benches just watching the ocean. The waves crashed against the rocks and we could hear the smaller rocks get tumbled together as the waves went back out to sea. We sat there for about half an hour. 

The photo of the bench I took as a tribute to my Dad. He introduced our family to Ogunquit over thirty years ago. My dad was not able to walk far with some health issues but he was always able to make it to these benches. I miss him and so wish he could have met Mike. My brother in law shared some stories about my dad with Mike. 

The first photo  is Mike with Red at Jon and Maria’s. Mike at times has some social anxiety but you would hardly know it based upon this trip. It gave me much hope and to see the change in Mike over the past eighteen months has been amazing. We both have changed for better. With Mike I am finally free to be myself.

A Budding Relationship & Opposite George 

Mike and I communicated via email for the first two weeks on the dating site. Mike then did what no other man had done for me before…he gave me his phone number and put the ball in my court for me to decide if I wished to pursue our budding relationship further. Most men on the dating websites tended to be aggressive and wanted x-rated photos and my phone number far earlier than I was comfortable with. Mike never asked for anything untoward and was always kind. We had exchanged hundreds of emails prior to Mike giving me his number. I panicked and called a close friend and asked what to do. My friend had seen me through many ups and downs of the dating scene. She said to me call him for heavens sake.

In my past I would shut down completely when someone would ask for my number or stop talking to someone when I felt they were too pushy. Mike was different as I have said. He was very kind, gentle, asked questions about me and was not put off that I work at night part time. I had men in my past who were alarmed that I work at night and with men in a warehouse. As Mike put the ball in my court I decided for once in my life to go against my fears and apprehensions and channel the Seinfeld character George Castanza when he channeled opposite George and became wildly successful. So I picked up the phone and called Mike. It went surprisingly well and was not too stressful. We continued talking for another two weeks prior to meeting in person. 

Prior to taking a chance in Mike I lived a quiet life working, staying to myself and enjoying a life I built with a small circle of friends. Mike too lived a quiet rather isolated life. I don’t believe either one of us realized how much our first date was a huge step for us personally. Mike was slightly more nervous than I our first date which strangely put me at ease. We met at Panera Bread. He told me he was waiting in a dark car in the corner of the parking lot. I very confidently pulled up next to a dark car and couldn’t figure out why the person in the car would not make eye contact with me. I got out of my car only to realize I pulled up next to the wrong car as across the parking lot Mike was waving hello to me. We ended up talking for two hours and after we parted ways we talked more on the phone that night. 

The photos I’ve chosen for this post are from our recent vacation. I love Mike’s smile and his family told me how much he has smiled and opened up in the past year but what they sometimes forget is he has provided me the same comfort level to smile freely and be open too. 

All Because of a Lamb

One of the first questions Jon asked Mike and I was how did we meet. I explained we met on an online dating site. I had been on five different sites in as many years while Mike had been on three or four. We met on Plenty of Fish. Mike and I emailed back and forth for about two weeks prior to exchanging phone numbers. Mike gave me his number first which forced me to decide whether or not I wanted to pursue things further. Honestly I hemmed and hawed for a day or so before gathering up the courage to text him. He hated texting and I hate talking on the phone. It was a little bit of an adjustment on both of our parts and I’m happy to say I gladly talk to Mike on the phone today while he has become a gold medalist in texting. 

Mike recently shared with me that what drew him to my profile was the fact I was holding a lamb. I admit I was sneaky and had my face kind of hidden in the background. He thought it was neat I was holding a lamb and that I was country. He has since told me he may have passed by my profile had it not been for the lamb. I was happy to see Mike had a dog in his profile. Mike did most of the pursuing and understood when I told him I could not meet him near where he lived for the first month of dating due to my work schedule. God bless him he met me every single time twice a week in the town I lived in at the time. I did not realize what a huge thing that was for him at the time. 

Mike is retired from the Air Force and for a long time did not interact much with others or leave his comfort zone. He likewise did not know I had to challenge myself to continue to be open and communicate. Over the past year and a half we have made tremendous strides in our life and together. If you had asked me 19 months ago if I would be living and loving someone I would tell you that you are crazy. I was happy alone and was going to stay that way. But something inside of me said keep trying you will find someone. And had you asked Mike is he would be traveling up and down the east coast and working with me on a farm job all the while interacting with others he probably would have laughed. But here we are planning a life together and continuing to support and challenge each other.

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