What a year this has been for my family and me. What with a brain tumor, two craniotomies and one massive stroke and a host of other life challenges, it's been some helluva year of circling the wagons, damage control and half-assed attemps at self-care. When the opportunity arose, thanks to my wonderful husband, Allen, to retreat to a 100-acre organic farm called Ballymaloe in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland and enroll in their 12-week course in chef certification, well, my jaw hit the floor.
But, I'm here to tell you, that's where I'm off to. Though, not alone. Arden is coming with me. It was she who had this brilliant idea in the first place. Freshly papered with her grad degree in publishing and writing, she felt she should at least take a semester's course at a cooking school, since food is what she intends to write about. She brought the idea of Ballymaloe to Allen as a pie-in-the-sky dream and he told her to look into it. When she reported back with the details, he told her she could go and asked if she'd mind if I came too.
He said it was my reward for "putting up with" him this year. Isn't that outrageous?! It has been my life's privilege to "put up with" him. He's my super hero. Though I'm about to walk out the door, I'm still in shock at the thought of stepping out of my life for what will be nearly four months.
Because of the afore-mentioned health calamaties, I've hardly dipped my brush in paint all year and that's bad. Making art is the air I breathe and the water I drink. I've felt so cut off from my true self, like I've been just sleepwalking through it all. I guess that's self-preservation.
So, here I sit on the morning of this incredible journey knowing I am on the verge of new self-discovery and a life makeover. I'm starting at the bottom again and seeing what I can grow into, this time. I've even cut my hair for the occasion. Because pruned things grow better, right? There's one thing I know: I thrive when I'm stretching myself. It takes time for anything to flower and I've been given four months.
I'm happy to report Allen is in excellent form and recovering more and more each day from the Great Hurdle that was his brain tumor of July 2016 and I can leave him in good conscience. Plus, he'll be coming to see us once a month. The harder person to leave would be my beloved mom, Ooma, who suffered a massive stroke on December 6th, 2016 which left her unable to do anything. Not even feed herself.
In March, she was put on Hospice with everyone's outlook for her grim. Yet, like the fighter and beater of odds she's always been, she hung on. About a month ago, I told her about this upcoming journey and she was very excited for Arden and me. I told her it broke my heart to leave her and she said, "Don't worry about me. I'll be just fine."
Just over a week ago on Wednesday, I'll be damned if she didn't have another devastating stroke. Arden and I watched it play out for over two hours. It was just horrible. We never thought she'd wake up from it. But, she did. Two days later, with a voice that was whisper-thin, she opened her eyes and told me she loved me. True to form, over the next couple of days, she became more alert and better able to speak and as all her beloveds gathered around, each got to hear her tell them she loved them too. Finally, on Labor Day, Ooma took her last breaths with her dear Damian, Arden, Kincaid and me there, hearts breaking but wishing her Godspeed. Just five days before our departure. She did always say it was better to be the leaver, rather than the leavee.
Ooma lived life 90 miles an hour, lit up every room she walked into with her star shine and was, as her best devotee, Kelly, described her, "a relentless chaser of happiness. She knew not to waste time on anything else. Now it's up to us all to carry forth her fabulocity, her lust for life, her humor, love and laughter." And so we will.
So, I hope you'll stay tuned and check in to see what we're up to. I also hope for lots of time to make both pencil and watercolor sketches when I'm not plucking chickens, trussing ducks, or learning to milk a cow.
When I'm on my deathbed, one of the things I'm determined to say is, "I really explored myself." I don't want to go through life doing only what's easy. Nooo, that would never do. As the old saying goes, becoming is better than being so here we go, on our way to becoming. And, to the relentless pursuit of happiness.
Also, please check out Arden's blog, it's sure to be insightful and good reading. https://ardenstringer.wordpress.com