Saturday, October 09, 2010

One Week More

We are moving on Friday. Athena is completely stressed out. And you can imagine that if the six-year-old is freaking, Mommy ain't doin' much better.

We've packed maybe 1/8th of the house. I'm pretty sure at this point that the movers will just be moving our furniture and we'll have to carry all the boxes over. Chris was very helpful today while I was working and he packed several boxes. Unfortunately, he doesn't look at the size of the box vs. what he is packing, so I am going to have to repack some stuff. He put Marcus' books in one HUGE box that is not even full yet and is practically impossible to move. But I'm still grateful, as repacking a box is fairly simple.

To make things worse, I can't get myself motivated to do anything at all. I feel completely out of it and exhausted. I think this is a side-effect of chaos. There is no order to anything we do right now. The houses are both in total disarray. Thank goodness we have people doing the work on the new house or we wouldn't be able to move in until NEXT fall.

I keep telling myself this is all temporary. Once we move into the new house (which is HUGE) we will have plenty of room for everything and it will be easier to stay organized. We also have some money now, which will also help in that regard. Overall, the changes we are making should have a very positive effect on our lives. It's just that right now I feel we've only done worse by ourselves by layering even more stressors onto an already dire situation.

Athena keeps scratching her head. I checked, and I didn't see any bugs, but there are some places on her head that seem raw. I'm hoping that it's just summer sweaty head making her itch, but I am of course very worried that it's yet another visit from the lice. If it is, I'm taking a week off work and I'm just dealing with that only. Nothing else. Obviously, they are not happy with the attention I've already given them, so I will do away with them once and for all.

And of course, the only reason I am paranoid that it's lice again is because we are about to move and I have no time to deal with this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Year That Needs to Die

So I have been away from blogging for a while. There have been several factors involved in my separation... many of which involve personal introspection that even journaling would not help with. But I must admit that I feel guilty that these last couple of years are completely now outside the scope of this blog and therefore they will be non-years in effect when I read back over my writing or when my children read back over it. The reason I've never felt that I'd abandon blogging forever, in truth, is my children.

This has been reinforced as I now troll through my mother's things and find lots and lots of junk with little tiny treasures sprinkled in. There is a picture of my grandmother while she was on vacation at a place that inspired one of the Disney resorts I have patronized. There is the furniture that my father made for my mother to display her shadowboxes in. And there is the typed up collection of letters that my grandmother sent to my grandfather daily when he was away during World War II and she was home with my mother and her infant brother. These remind me how important it will be for my children to have my writing in order to get to know me better and to learn more about themselves as well.

Most of the time I've been away from blogging has been simply due to writer's block brought on by several different factors. During that time, I was reexamining my life and my priorities. I still haven't quite got it figured out, but a path seems to be emerging for me to take.

But since November of 2009, when we took our 10th anniversary vacation, life has simply been too extreme to really keep up with it in writing. We had a one month battle with lice that we seem to have picked up on the cruise. That was followed by Christmas, which was then closely followed by my mother's diagnosis with cancer. She died a month later and I feel very fortunate that my job allowed me to spend so much time with her. Not just my job, really, but my immediate family too. Chris was exactly the support I needed through that time, and I had some very good friends who also propped me up and carried me through it.

One month after my mother's death, one of the members of my staff died suddenly of a stroke. One cannot really appreciate the loss this coworker's death brought to me and the people I work with. She was an extraordinary human being, and I don't say that lightly.

On the heels of that, Chris was furloughed indefinitely, slashing our income by more than half, just as we happened to begin receiving inheritance from my mother. To say that the timing was extremely important devalues how lucky we really are. As Chris looked for work, I learned that the libraries were restructuring. This restructure resulted in an intense interview process in which I was successful and earned a promotion of sorts. This promotion moved me to a new library, but one I am very happy to be a part of. Soon after I learned I got the job, Chris also got a job, and we began to look for a house. The market is good for buying and we figured we would see what was out there.

In July, we found a house in distress and made an offer. We had knowledge of a mold problem in the home, which is not unusual in foreclosures, so we made an offer that was contigent on the mold being remediated. Two months later (one month after the original close date) we have just learned that the mold is absolutely remediated and on top of that, we got a beautiful new bathroom out of the deal. The bank has been very generous in fixing this house to make it safe for my family and we are so grateful to be moving into a beautiful home within two miles of my work and significantly closer to Chris' job as well.

Over the summer, we also battled lice again and this time, the fight was drawn out because of policies at our day care that I was unaware of. Suffice it to say, the lice are gone and I don't expect them to be back. But we are checking regularly now. Not taking any chances.

We should be moving by mid-October, although the process will begin almost as soon as we close on the house. We then need to sell this house and although we have a buffer in place, I am very nervous about selling in this market.

Still, that said, I am giving myself until the end of the year to expect the stress level to be high, and then 2010 needs to go away and never be heard from again. I have no idea if anyone is even really reading blogs anymore with Facebook and so many other venues available to them, but for me, I hope to really return to saving our lives in writing for my children. I now know how much they will value it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What I Said Today About Mom

Describing mom is no easy task. She is unique. One of a kind. Truly, in a word, indescribable. My husband plays hockey, and at his game this past week, his teammates offered condolences. When he relayed that to me, I asked him if he told them anything about her and he replied quite honestly, “I would have no idea where to start.”

And this is my challenge today. To tell you something about this woman who defies description. To reminisce over a life that was incredibly full, incredibly busy, and incredibly generous.

So when attempting to meet a challenge like this, it’s best to break it into smaller pieces. Maybe I could speak to you about one or two aspects of her life. But what do I pick? Over her life she has accomplished so much and her talents are so numerous, it is difficult to choose one area to talk about. However, anyone who knows her knows that of all the roles she has had – Garden Council President, DAR Regent, Forest Oaks Community Association newsletter editor – (the list is really too huge), the one she valued most… and the one that is dearest to me, is the role she played as “mom.”

As a child, I had no idea how impressive mom’s juggling act was. After all, she was mom, and that’s what moms do, right? So the fact that over the first 18 years of our lives she managed the household, dealt with our school work and associated activites, got us to music lessons, swim team practice, Girl Scout meetings and activities, art lessons, dance lessons, and theater practice while still managing to feed us, get our hair cut, and get us to the doctor and the dentist just seemed effortless to me. Let’s then throw in that during that time she painted hundreds of ceramic pieces, made dozens of beaded Christmas trees, designed, created and furnished over 25 shadow boxes, played tennis regularly, and stayed active in garden clubs and the DAR (among other things), it’s enough to set any reasonable adult’s head spinning. And she did all of this without mobile phones and computers to keep her organized. She kept it all in her head and on a little paper calendar.

But she didn’t just shuffle us from activity to activity either. She took on important roles in our activities. She became a Girl Scout leader despite the fact that she really had never had any previous interest in the Girl Scouts or the activities associated with it. She freely admitted that her idea of roughing it was a Holiday Inn with no room service and a b/w television. But she was a good Girl Scout leader. She was an instant hit with the troop. She didn’t do it only halfway either. We earned dozens of merit badges under her leadership, and I picked up skills and hobbies I carry with me to this day. And she did take us camping. I am not making this up. She forded the stream to get to the campground in her Cadillac DeVille and she wore her mink coat to keep warm.

When I was a younger child, mom would hint at those upcoming “teenage” years. Every now and then, she’d express that fear that I now understand all mothers have… that once their children hit the magic age of 13 (or maybe 12 or 11, realistically), they will suddenly hate their mothers and turn into rebellious little demons. I actually became anxious about my 13th birthday. What sort of evil monster would I become? Would I get ugly and hunched over? More importantly, would it hurt?

But the weirdest thing happened. I woke up on my thirteenth birthday, and lo and behold, I thought mom was just as cool as I always did. Maybe even a little bit cooler. Other kids could go hate their moms if they wanted (and in fact, some of my friends did choose to go that route.) I, on the other hand, got to bond with my mom during my most emotionally turbulent and physically awkward years. And I wasn’t the only one…

My friends loved my mom too. Even the ones that didn’t like their own moms so much. They loved to hang out at my house and chat with her. They loved to eat her magically amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. They loved to admire her dollhouse and shadow boxes. And they loved to just chat with her. My mom was, dare I say it… HIP! And again, I’m not making this up… one of our neighbors sent me a note this week that said ever since he met her in 1976, he always thought of her and my dad as “hipsters of the day.” Who knew?!

She supported me through every difficult time in my life. Even when I made choices she wasn’t so sure were best for me, she would support me. She would offer me her opinion and advice, of course, but there was never any pressure from her to change my mind or behave differently. She let me learn my own lessons. And to her surprise and delight, once or twice it turned out that I was actually right.

I must say that when I was 27 and I announced to mom and Linda that I was planning to get married, they were shocked. And had good reason to be. After all, up until then, I had not been great at maintaining a meaningful relationship more than a few months, and my intended was a man whom I had known for about two months and had only been dating for about two weeks. I put myself in her shoes and imagine she must have been, for lack of a better word, completely freaking out inside.

But she remained outwardly calm, asked me some questions (including the ever-reasonable, “Can I perhaps MEET this young man?”) and expressed her nervousness over the short courtship. However, by the end of the conversation (and assurances that she COULD meet him, absolutely), she told me that she supported any decision I made and that her main interest is that I should be happy.

She remained cautious and nervous through the whole engagement and wedding planning, although she never really shared that with me. Linda got an earful, as I understand it, but she was sure to always show me strong support and love. It wasn’t until my wedding reception eight months later that mom pulled me aside and said, “I wasn’t sure about this whole thing… it was all terribly fast, but it is clear to me that Chris loves you very much and he is a wonderful match for you.”

And then, over the last ten years, she frequently took his side in any disagreement he and I would have. When I would call her on it, she would say, “What? He is right!”

Now I’m a mom. And I hold myself up to the “mom” standard constantly. When I talk to my children, I am almost always simultaneously thinking “Is this how mom would handle this situation?” She has set the bar very high. But she raised me to get it right.

When my father passed away, I read a passage from a children’s book that spoke quite eloquently about the circle of life and how death works into it. For mom, I felt it more appropriate to simply read you the lines of one of her favorite songs. It was sung at her high school graduation, and it remained special to her throughout her life. I believe it also speaks well about her death:

When you walk through a storm

Hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Tho your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's The Little Things

As I have been sitting by mom's hospital bed these last two weeks, I've been frustrated that while she is still living and breathing and here with me, the morphine has either had her knocked out or unable to work her mouth well enough to speak. My mother is a talker. And a listener. And she's funny. And she's smart.

And I miss that.

Or rather, I missed it. Today, out of the blue, she woke up from a good night's sleep and started talking. Really talking. Full sentences. The works. Of course, I wasn't here... it was my sister's night to be with her and I was at work. But they called me and Linda put Mom on the speaker phone.

I cannot describe the joy I felt in hearing her voice again. Really hearing it. I was truly afraid that I wouldn't get to have another real conversation with her. And although her facial expressions are very communicative, it's not the same.

She's asleep now. She had a really big day and has managed to stay off the PRN morphine all day. A very low dose of extended release morphine has kept her pain under control and her mind sharp. We are hoping it is a positive sign of what is to come.

But tomorrow, once she is rested again, I sincerely hope she talks my ear off. I cannot wait.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Cure For Writer's Blcok

So I'm in the hospital watching over my mother. Her diagnosis has changed several times over the last 24 hours, and we will have a more definitive answer tomorrow after a biopsy. But it's not looking good. She is very uncomfortable and practically immobile with pain.

The hospital has wifi "for our convenience," but I am finding that most sites I use on a daily basis are blocked. I would not really be updating my Facebook status with the icky and highly personal aspects of her stay here, but I would like to be able to watch my friends live their lives on the outside. I can't clear out my Google reader because half of the blogs I follow are blocked here in the hospital and I can't even finish setting up my Goodreads account because it is also blocked. (Oddly, LibraryThing is NOT blocked here, so if I had just been willing to pay them their blood money, I could be finishing that task up easily).

And so, I blog.

Mom is just shy of turning 68. She has never really been the healthiest person I know... she has been a smoker since the ripe old age of 12 and although she knew they weren't good for her, she has clung to cigarettes as her main vice. Her other is chocolate, and we all know that chocolate is healthy, so I don't begrudge her that at all.

So we knew this day would arrive. All we've been able to do is hope that it isn't too painful and difficult for her. It looks like those hopes will not come true. She is in for a painful ordeal that may or may not yield positive results.

Watching her, I am reminded of all she has been to me and to all of her friends and family. She is loving and stern, funny and truthful, and conservative and generous. She has been a role model and a rock of support to me and has spoiled me in ways I will never be able to spoil my own daughter. She has ensured I live a full, open and happy life and has guaranteed my comfort and safety, even when I didn't really deserve it.

She is being well taken care of here at the hospital, and yet I find it almost impossible to leave her side. I take pleasure in watching her simply breathe and I enjoy joking with her and making her smile. Work, hobbies, and life's mundane tasks have taken a back seat and at this point, I have a hard time even acknowledging they exist. My sister will be here tomorrow from Hong Kong and Mom is very excited to see her again. It has been almost a year since we last saw her, and just the prospect of her showing up lights up my mother's eyes.

And I suddenly understand yet another aspect of motherhood. I see in her what it means to raise children and set them out in the world. I see the joy she takes simply in knowing that her children "are." And I want my children near me now with a passion I have never before felt.

But right now is her time. She needs to have her girls back just as her girls right now. And she shall have that. For she is why and what we "are."