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I haven’t been completely forthright about something.

In my defense, very few blogs are fully transparent about the reality of life behind the writing and photos. We don’t read blogs to experience the mundane. I am super fortunate to live in the part of the country that has always called to me. I get to live among trees and deer and my neighbor is not within eyesight. I like to show the awesome parts.

But there is a less-than-awesome part that has been my undesired companion for over two years now. Chronic pain. It has adversely affected my experience of life, even in this wonder-filled spot. I had a spinal fusion in the summer of 2020 to address a disc problem. I think the problem was that my disc had gone beyond herniation and had just moved out. The pain was like being electrocuted; a 10 on the pain scale (natural childbirth, of which I’ve done thrice, is a 4). That pain was untenable and so I had surgery to fix it. As soon as I woke up from surgery, I could tell the “10” pain was gone but there was still a “7” pain.

I did physical therapy several times. I followed the doctor’s orders to a “T” and gave up several of my favorite activities to protect my spine. Still, this 7 pain has stayed with me. It is made worse by sitting, to the degree that I avoid sitting whenever possible. And if I do have to sit for over an hour, I pay a price. In increased pain which interrupts sleep and also my gut. When I hit the higher pain, it adversely affects my colon for a few days and nothing moves. TMI, right?

My surgeon confirmed that everything healed properly. We don’t know what is causing this pain and we cannot figure out how to stop it. After this much time, I am coming to grips with the idea that I will have to live with it.

As some of you may know, chronic pain hurts not only your body but also your mental state. There has been some depression, a lot of worry because I am not able to find a job that can accommodate what I need to do to minimize my back pain. And then there is the aspect of my identity. Who am I if I can’t run, can’t do many of my yoga poses, can’t hike uphill or do anything other than walk slowly on flat surfaces?

Okay, not “some” depression, severe depression. I am on medication now and the depression has lifted somewhat. It is bizarre how one’s mind can become an enemy. I can see it now but at the time I believed the horrible things I thought about myself. Lack of sleep definitely plays its part of the depression since I cannot sleep more than two hours without waking up in pain and then flopping around to find a position less uncomfortable. It does make me remember the nights I sleep well, like the night of December 14, 2022. That is the last time I slept more than two hours straight without having severe pain wake me up. It was glorious!

This pain has slowed me down considerably on finishing the house, too. I can do light things like install trim but it has to be done slowly and with several breaks to stand straight and stretch, to use inversion chair, to lie on floor and do my physical therapy exercises.

So, there. I’ve come clean and honest. I’m not who I used to be nor am I who I want to be now. I’m going to have to figure out how to proceed with life within these new parameters.

Enough of that, though. There have been many good moments, it hasn’t all been a horror.

One good thing that came out of a bad thing; Chris and I adopted a dog. Chris had a fishing buddy who passed away. No one wanted his black lab, Riffle. When I learned about this, I knew we had to give Riff a home.

That is the short version. But if you know me at all, you know there is always a long version!

Chris had been looking for his buddy, Don, during the fall. They would talk or text throughout the year and meet up in fall to fish along the Snake River. But suddenly, Don’s number wasn’t working and Chris couldn’t find him in the usual spots. After about a month, Chris finally learned that Don had passed away. Tragically, Don had drowned while fishing. The real tragedy is that Riffle was locked in Don’s car on the road above the river. Someone finally noticed the car had been parked along the road for two or three days and called the police. That is when they found Riffle in the car and began the search and subsequently found Don’s body. I didn’t know if Riff was found alive or not. My heart broke thinking of what it must have been like for him locked in a vehicle for days.

About a week or so after I learned about Don’s passing, an idea came to me to connect with all the animal control and shelters in the area where Don drowned. Maybe, just maybe I could find out what happened to Riff. And would you believe, Riffle was at one of the animal shelters! He’d been there for six weeks before I found him. How this sweet black lab had been at the shelter without going to a home was beyond my comprehension. Two days later, Riff was part of our pack. I fully believe that Don’s spirit came to me and whispered for me to get his sweet Riff out of the shelter.

Riffle is an inspiration to me to roll with life as it comes. I am reminded that strength comes when needed, that angels exist, that I must be quiet to hear the whispers of those angels, and that there are few things in life better than snuggling.

Below are some pictures of Riffle:

Driving home from the shelter with Riffle’s head on my lap

Riffle’s sweet brown eyes and his “I’m a lab…” look which is how he gets away with a lot of indiscretions.

Riffle hogging the backseat and squishing Monty into the corner.


3 Replies to “2023”

  1. I am so sorry about your constant pain. I understand how that changes and messes with your whole life because of my own issues with it. You are a good person deserving of better. I pray for you that maybe nerves that perhaps were damaged before and during surgery and are notoriously slow healing WILL heal with time, and you will be pain free. Riffle’s story is precious. Thank you for sharing your personal journey. I love you very much.

  2. Dear Susan,
    I also deal a lot with loss of mobility as you know. It sucks, but I am grateful I only have pain due to overuse of my right arm, which is less affected than the left.
    I don’t focus on what I used to be able to do. I think I “crossed over” that bridge when I gave Camille my beloved Lowa hiking boots several yrs back. I still miss traveling though. I still think at times that maybe I could pull off a trip but recently I’ve cancelled a cruise and a less ambitious trip with Casey to go to the Philadelphia Flower Show, which is a big favorite for me. I’m thankful that your Mom made me some photo books of my photos of prior flower shows.
    I try to focus on adapting to what I can do now, today, not even yesterday. If I can get one thing done a day, it’s a good day physically. Take a shower. Make a batch of soup. Organize something. Throw the toys around for the one dog that likes to retrieve.
    Other days I read (I just joined an online book club) or spend time conversing online w your Mom, who finds forensics and true crime as Interesting as I do (we were raised by a Mom who religiously watched Perry Mason and Murder She Wrote, we got the genes). And always, I am surrounded by love and help from Joe.
    One thing that really helps me is to focus on beauty, in whatever form it presents itself. As you know, I find a lot of beauty in jewelry, esp. the vintage good stuff. And we are now living with a beautiful view on a bay on Cape Cod, with a lot of fantastic birdlife. Each day here is like living with an ever-changing canvas with incredible light and life, framed by windows.
    I’ve learned to try to let go of what I thought life would be like in my 60s. Life is what it is, right now, today. Sometimes the losses are bigger than the gains. But I’m still here, and there are still people I love here, and there are still gains to be had.
    That’s my life. I appreciate that you are sharing your struggles and your life as it really is. I love you very much and I really wish you were not in pain or could find a way to better manage it. That is my hope and prayer for you, my sweet niece.
    XX Aunt Honey

    1. Geezle peezle, what’s with all the caps and horrid spacing in the replies? For a grammar and punctuation buff like me, it’s not good, lol.

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I am an artist and entrepreneur. Here I hope to encourage you to find joy and contentment in the miracle that is every moment of life.