Thursday, December 22, 2011

and it's the holidays

I haven't been around these parts much lately.  Work, the holidays, work.  I'm sure you all can relate.

Have no fear though.  I hope to use some of these days off to catch up on my reading and commenting.

In the meantime ...Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

life is how you look at it

I'm sitting here working my way through the muck of it all.  I'm trying to take each day, day-by-day or even minute-by-minute.  It's a good way to survive.  Maybe the only way.   I think I'm pretty good at trying to balance and keep things in perspective.  I've written about it before - always maintain perspective.  A search on my site will show a quite few entries all going back to perspective.

It's good.  How do you know if things are good if you don't experience the bad?

So my resolve through this muck is to keep things in perspective.  This week I received an email from the room parent of my son's class.  My 2nd grader's classmate's father was just diagnosed with a brain tumor.  In short order he went from "something is not quite right" to a hastily scheduled biopsy of a brain tumor. 

My problems are not of that magnitude.  And I just have to keep that perspective.  There is a part of me that feels guilty to look at other people's tragedies as something good for me - but it is.  It keeps my perspective.  Now, more than anything, I need that.

I have my health.  My kids have theirs. 

I have a good job.  It pays well.  My boss is great.  The work is stimulating.  The work can be overwhelming but a great distraction.

I have friends.  Lots and lots and lots of supportive friends.

Look at that list.  I really shouldn't complain.  And I will try not to.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

giggles and chuckles

Last night, as per my usual routine at Henry's bedtime I went in to lie down with him.  I plied his book out of his hands ("It's way past your bedtime buddy..."), put the CD player on (a playlist of some favorite pop tunes given as a party favor from one of his friends) and hit the lights.

After he finally settled in and scooted over, I tucked his big, blue blankie all over him and lay down for snuggle time.  Often I am conflicted during this time.  Usually it's a long day and I still have things to do, or I just need my down time.  But not last night.  Last night I was keenly aware how short-lived this time will be.  Part of this is simply a function of his age.  Of course, the other part is knowing that there soon will be many nights when he will not be in my house and I won't be able.

We knocked heads as I laid down, my glasses cracking against my nose.  We both agreed that I should take them off which, of course, I did.  And then the conversation ensued.

Henry: So can you not see without your glasses?

Me:  No, I can see, just everything is a little bit fuzzy.

Henry:  Can you see my hand?

Me:  Yes, I can see your hand?

Henry:  What am I touching?

Me:  You're touching the wall.

Henry:  Okay what am I touching now?

Me:  You're still touching the wall.

Henry:  Okay what am I touching now?

Me:  You're not touching anything.

Henry:  Okay, what about now? 

Me:  Ssshhhhhh sweetie.  I can see okay - it's things like, see the clock on your wall?  I can't read the time.

Henry:  What am I touching now?

Me: Ssshhhhh.  You should be looking at the back of your eyelids. 

Henry:  What am I looking at now?

Me:  The back of your eyelids.

There is a pause.  No response - I must have got it right.

Henry:  What am I looking at now?

Me:  Ssshhhhh.  Come on now - you need to settle down.  You should be looking at the back of your eyelids.

He laughs and tries to talk more.  Slowly I start scratching his back, still my baby I'm trying to soothe with the essence of touch. 

Henry:   Giggle, giggle...

I continue scratching - and the giggles continue.  At some point there's a nice hearty chuckle.  Then two.  Then more.

Henry:  Giggle, giggle, chuckle, chuckle...

Henry:  Giggle, giggle, chuckle, chuckle...

Henry:  Okay now mama can you give me a ma-sausage? 

Me:  A what?

Henry:  A ma-sausage.

Me:  Oh, you mean massage?

Henry:  Yeah, a massage.

Me:  Okay.

And so I do.  First the shoulders, then the neck, across the arms.  Gently trying to coax him into relaxation.

Henry:  Did you get trained on how to give a massage?

Me:  Oh - nope.  Sure didn't.

Henry:  Then how do you know how to do it?

Me:  Um, I don't know.  I just do.

Henry:  Well, you're good at it.  Now, can you go back to doing what you were doing before when you were dragging your nails on my back?

Me:   Sure sweetie pie.

And I do for a few minutes more but it's clear that this could go on forever and he needs to get to sleep.  He senses my departure and wraps his arms tightly around my neck.

Henry:  No mama - don't leave!

Increasing his grip tighter and tighter he starts cackling with laughter.  The challenge is on.

I wiggle and squirm managing to get my legs over the edge of the bed.  I struggle trying to break free of the long limbs and sharp elbows but he is holding on strong.  Like a game of chicken, as I'm pulling free, away from the bed dragging him with me, he finally releases knowing that if he doesn't, he might just land on the floor.  Of course I wouldn't let that happen but he doesn't need to know that.

I turn and give a quick kiss goodnight and a final tuck-in careful to not become ensnared again.  Until the next night.

Friday, December 2, 2011

minute by minute

One of my biggest problems is that I think too much.  I just can’t turn my brain off.  It is especially challenging when there are a bunch of unknowns.  I dwell and imagine, usually the worst case scenario.  I try to predict and plan.  I try to understand what to expect.  I can’t do that right now.  All I can do is live minute by minute.

One minute I’m incredibly sad, crushed under the blanket of sorrow in my loss.  The next minute I can’t get out of this relationship fast enough.

One minute I can’t believe I’m here.  The next minute I feel okay.

One minute I’m searching the local listings wondering if there is anything I might possibly be able to afford.   The next minute I’m accepting the reality that we need to sell our house before I can do anything.

One minute I’m stubborn and determined to make him “own” this and make it happen – this is his choice.  The next minute I’m the one calling the realtor and scratching out a draft of a settlement agreement.

But there is no minute where I envision anything ever returning to some semblance of my old normal.  And these are the minutes where my thoughts spin wildly out of control.  These are the minutes that produce so much anxiety I can’t eat or sleep. 

The outpouring of kindness and support has buoyed me up.  I feel lighter with the weight of the secret no longer occupying my thoughts.  I no longer have any minutes of shame.  For that I am most grateful.  Reminders that I am strong, that I will be okay help boost my confidence, even if it is only for a minute.  It keeps me moving forward.  And that’s what I need most – to move forward – minute by minute.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

independently verified

Coming out on my blog last week was a really big deal for me.  I'm sure you all realize that without the statement, but the extent to which I've hidden and tried to deny the reality is significant.


First and foremost was my holdout in the hope that things would change back to normal.  Keeping things on the down low would have made it easier to reconcile.  The fewer people who knew we were having problems, that he wanted out, would mean fewer people to explain how the break-up never materialized.

Another is that this stuff is hard to talk about.  Hard to talk without triggering a quiver in my lips, or a crack in my voice, or tears puddling in the bottom of my lids only to stream freely as I lose control.

Then there is the shame of being dumped.  Of being a failure.  Of knowing that this is going to cause irreparable damage to my children.  There will be scars.

Of course there is also the obvious, I didn't want it to get back to the kids.  People talk.  That's what they do.

It was much more preferable to pretend.

I did it well.  Only my closest, most trusted friends knew - some real, some virtual.  I needed some people for support, advice and to help maintain my sanity.  But the majority - co-workers, pool league friends I've known for years, friends in town - remained in the dark.

I often wondered though, could people see through the facade?  I would stare in the mirror wondering if people could see the fake-ness of my smile or the dark sadness in my eyes.  On the surface everything seemed normal.  I would engage in conversation, laugh at jokes, go to lunch.  But underneath it all I was hurting, am hurting, the worst pain imaginable. 

Coming out in some ways has been a huge relief.  I no longer have to pretend, but it hasn't changed my underlying emotion of wanting to keep quiet.  I haven't posted any blog posts on Facebook since I revealed the truth.  To do so will open the flood gates and I'm not sure I'm ready.  Maybe this post will make it there.  Maybe it won't.

Slowly I'm letting people in.  I'm trying to get comfortable and move forward, understand the life that is in front of me is what I have to accept whether I want to or not.  And telling people makes it real. But it is oh so hard.

As it happens, in chatting online with a co-worker, I mentioned my blog.  He asked for the link and I hesitated knowing what was out there.  I stalled but then finally said fuck it.  People are going to know sooner or later and it might as well start now.  Later, his comment to me, he could tell something was wrong by my eyes and the laugh that wasn't really a laugh.  He saw.

It seems pretending didn't work.  The light has gone out of my eyes and is for all to see, independently verified.  I know in my head it will return.  Hopefully.  Someday.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

this seems appropriate

I find it amazing that in the midst of all this devastation and pain there remains some semblance of normal.  It gives me hope that eventually I'll be okay. And that is good.

Monday, November 14, 2011

i'm coming out

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
Joseph Campbell

 Today is the fourth day I haven't worn my wedding ring.  I am painfully aware.  My husband hasn't worn his since February.  He wants a divorce.

I am very much a person who wears her heart on her sleeve and to keep this secret has been intentional.  Maybe if I don't say it, it won't be true.  But it is and I cannot believe I am in this place now.  At some point every day, usually in tears I cry to myself and wonder how did I get here?  Almost 19 years of marriage and more than that of him being my best friend and he has shut the door - just like that.  It takes two to make a relationship but only one to break it apart.

I know this because I was the one who broke us 10 years ago.  I was the one who left.  I was fortunate enough to realize my mistake and most fortunate for my husband to forgive me - except he never really did and that is the crux of the issue.  I thought that because we made it through that mess we would always be solid.  We were really good for many years.  A fight was just a fight; a disagreement just that - not the end of the world and, for sure, nothing to end our our marriage  They were opportunities to practice arguing, practice saying I'm sorry and, well, just arguments.

Clearly I am wrong.

I spend my commute days wiping away tears and choking back the vomit I feel in the pit of my stomach.  Anytime I have too much time is bad for me but the weekends are the worst.  These are the days when I have no idea what to expect.  No idea if we are going to pretend to be a family under strained circumstances.  No idea if or when he's going to come home.

Oh right!  He actually hasn't left yet.  Not only is he still here but we are still sleeping in the same bed.  We are still pretending.  Or more accurately, I am still pretending.  Still pretending but still knowing.  Trying to figure out what this will mean for my sons - one a junior in high school, one in 8th grade and one in 2nd grade.   Trying to figure out how I can best manage this situation. 

The practical questions keep flowing.  How am I going to be able to afford to live in this same affluent town to keep my kids in the only school district they've ever known?  How are we going to manage "together" things like the Back-To-School Nights?  Who do I have to turn to when every_single_person is married and with family.  No more couples gatherings.  No more family BBQs with other families.  People will feel awkward and unintentionally, quite naturally, choose "sides".  It reminds me of a post I read from BigLittleWolf's Daily Plate of Crazy titled "Which is Worse - Death or Divorce".  I quote from her post:

Bruce, of Privilege of Parenting, was kind enough to point me to the Washington Post, a particular piece of writing describing divorce as a sort of death.

Read it.

Or should I say – read it and weep.

Citing from Rabbi David Wolpe’s post, from his own former wife Eileen’s words to a friend:

Divorce is a hard path, a long, circuitous journey that is not something you can control…and your married friends look at you like you have leprosy. It threatens their world view for you to divorce.  It threatens their marriage… everything changes.  In ways you can’t imagine or anticipate. Everything. Everything. Everything.

Eileen Ansel Wolpe goes on to say that divorce is:

… the destruction of together-dreams, forever-dreams, family-dreams, love-dreams. You cannot leave a marriage without doing violence to all those things, no matter how amicable the divorce.
 And the truth in that has broken my heart into a million pieces - destruction of together-dreams, forever-dreams, family-dreams, love-dreams...
I am grieving and it is the worst grief I've ever experienced.  I remember the feeling well from the death of my mother and, more recently, the death of my Uncle.  My friends are supportive.  My sister is awesome.  Unfortunately, as anyone who has dealt with grief understands, it's just a hole in your heart that no one can help heal.  It is incredibly lonely.  No matter how many people I have around me, this is mine to deal with alone. 

I feel so, so sorry for my children.  I've let them down.  I feel like a failure.  I feel like an ass for writing posts like this and this.  What a fucking joke.  I am 41 and I've been with this man for 20 years - half my life.  I have no idea what to do.  I have no idea what's going to happen.  Maybe we will recover, although I doubt it.  I know my husband and when he sets his mind to do something, he typically follows through - and he is determined to leave me.  I've hoped before, only to be crushed.  I don't think I have it in me.  I can no longer pretend that my life isn't total shit.  And so I am coming out.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I'm sitting in the TV room, feet up on the coffee table.  The TV is on, Henry is playing Civilization on the XBOX.  Danny is back in his bedroom with a friend studying for their science test.  Sam is here on the couch impatiently waiting for 7:00pm so he can have the TV.

And I am sitting here thinking.  I have this time, precious time that I know will not be here forever.  Time to engage.  Time to visit.  Time to talk.  Time to understand.  And all I do is think.  I watch from the periphery.  I do what needs to be done but I live in my head.

And I'm irritated.  My thinking time is being disrupted with Sam yelling at Henry - ordering him around.  Henry has non-stop babble.  He is a kid who can carry on a conversation with no one but himself - and he does all the time.  It is never quiet.

But I shouldn't be thinking.  I shouldn't be wondering how I got to this place.  I shouldn't be arguing with Sam, but I am.


All.  The.  Time.


The angst around here.  Boys fighting with boys.

"Go away."

"Get out of my room."

"Put my video games away."

"Wash your hands before you use the controller - it's all greasy now."

And I think, how did I get here?

"Mom."  Interrupted again.

But I should be here.  The problem is that I'm not.

**Post inspired by Just Write.**

Thursday, October 27, 2011

come visit me!

Today I'm posting over at Momalom!  Jen and Sarah have quite the site and following.  It was their Five for Ten series that motivated me into this blogging world.  Now I have the honor of posting for their MomMamaMommy! series.  I owe them lots for this wonderful community I've discovered.

Head on over and see what I have to say about the dynamics of three.  While you're there, check out their writing in the archives, subscribe to their feed and add them to your Twitter list.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 24, 2011


My heart is here but my head isn't.  Words and ideas swirl in my head like the dead leaves outside on a brisk fall day.  They click as they rustle never seeming to settle down.

I am disconnected, outside looking in.  Lurking.  I sit on the periphery engaging only sporadically.  Unfortunately in both the real and virtual worlds.

I am not living up to the title of this blog.  I am not saying all I want to say.  I've written before about how I cannot wear a veil.  I can make excuses but mostly I am stifled.  It appears that if I cannot write with honesty about things that matter, then I cannot write at all.  It feels false and unworthy of my time.

I need to find a balance though because I miss the community.  I miss the engagement at a time when I need it the most.   Of course my real-world friends are here for me but there's something to be said for the online world.  It is always "on" with no need to coordinate schedules, drive anywhere or find babysitters.  You can reach out and find people to connect with regardless of, maybe even because of, your idiosyncrasies.  At any given time you can find someone.  And it's good to have someone even if there are words left unspoken.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Pink Network

Christine over at Coffees and Commutes wrote about her Pink Network and inspired me to write about mine.  

I've always considered myself to be "one of the guys" and valued that classification.   It was difficult for me to make friends with girls.  Their interests were not my own; their games repulsive at times.  But I've always had a few girl friends - and a few good ones at that.  So few that I can recount everyone of them since elementary school. 

Of course my first girl friend was my sister.  Growing up we had this love-hate relationship but if either of us was in trouble, we had each other's back - no questions asked. 

And then there was Laura.  We played Barbie dolls forever, took rides around the block, got stung by bees and swam all summer long.  Brenda and I stole cigarettes from our mothers' packs and hid out by the barn, coughing and hacking away.  Iris was there as we hung out and did science projects together.  We fell out of touch but as weird things go, we ended up renting rooms in the same house our senior year in college.  Freaky. 

High school was such a miserable time in my life.  I hated it.  I hated the girls.  I hated the popularity contest.  I didn't fit in with any click even though it was a school of 1,600+.  But there were a few shiny pinks in the midst - Ellen with her gorgeous hair - dark auburn with this natural curl you could never fake with a bottle of perming solution.  Michelle, Kathy, Heather - those were my girls - and thanks to Facebook we had a bit of a reunion a few summers ago.  I don't keep in touch as much as I'd like, but I still feel close to them.

College was a small but awesome pink experience.  There were really only two friends for me - Rebecca and Kim.  All three of us RAs.  You know, Resident Assistants, those pesky annoying people who made you follow the rules in your dorm.  We were all very different then, and yet not so much.  We shared less than ideal childhoods and we all took that damn job because we needed it to get through school.  Interestingly enough, we all got degrees in education.  I've lost touch with Rebecca even though we still exchange Christmas cards.  But, I know if I picked up the phone and we both (miraculously) had a spare minute to talk, we'd be right back in the thick of it.

Kim I'm a little more connected with courtesy of Facebook.  Here is another freaky story.  Kim is still back in Connecticut and she married her high school sweetheart, Tim.  Tim has a brother Jonathan.  Jonathan lives in California.  One day I got a note from Kim saying that her brother-in-law moved to my town.  Not only did he move to my town, but he moved to about a mile away and now Kim's sister-in-law is one of my trusted friends, and part of my pink network.  Small world, huh?  Kim also was my first real pink experience.  She is a survivor - going on 10 years now.

And my pink network - we are a grounded set of girls.  I have friends like Cheryl (who married my ex-boyfriend - I know another freaky), LouAnne, Dee and Kim who have been friends for life - at least my life in California.   They have seen me at my worst and they have seen me at my best.   I have Leslie, Shawn and Erin - pool teammates I'm out with every Wednesday.  It's my one night out a week whether I need it or not.  Then there are Andrea, Jules, Brooke, Sonia, Larra and Barbara - the local girls always ready for a cosmo and a conversation.  And last I mention are the women who have bumped me up professionally.  Lucy, Susan (also a survivor) and Alisa, Valerie, Hope and Megan, most recently Barb.   These are the girls in my life and I would like them to stay here.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Do something.  For me, I support Susan G. Komen For The Cure.  Be aware.  Be generous.  Be true to your pink. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

today i am

Today I am the mother of two teenagers.  TWO.  Oh my gosh.  Help me now.  Question of the day:  how many gray hairs will I have when I'm done with this batch of three?

Many bloggers write notes either to or about their children on their birthdays.  My first was just this summer - one about my oldest.  It seemed to go okay so I thought I'd do another for my boy who just entered teenage wasteland.

I want to start this post with the story of how he was so, so close to not reaching this milestone.  It is categorized as the worst parenting experience of my life.  It was the day he almost died.  For real.


I went back to work about three months after he was born.  I used the same childcare provider that watched my older boy as a baby.  She is loving and kind; a nice Persian woman who cooked the best food.  Her house was only two blocks from my office and she had no issues with me popping over at lunch to go nurse my sweet boys.  Sometimes she even fed me. Bonus!

My childcare provider was, however, a bit dramatic about illness.  Or maybe I was too cavalier.  Or too worried about keeping my job.  Or doing my job well.  Whatever it was, it always seemed like she was calling me telling me my child was sick and I needed to come pick him up.  My definition of sick and her definition didn't match and it was often a source of irritation with me. 

So one January day, when Danny was about four months old, she called.  She has a thick accent and was talking very quickly telling me I had to take my child to the doctor.   Slightly irritated with yet another call, I found it difficult to make sense of what she was saying.  Between her accent and English as a second language, she was talking too quickly for me to understand her.  She just kept repeating that I had to come now and take my son to the doctor.   I asked her what was wrong and she said that she had to do CPR.  That didn't make sense, or perhaps I didn't want to believe. She again repeated that she had to do CPR and I had to come right away.

My heart started racing.  From this point forward, everything is a blur.  I told her I'd be right there, hung up the phone, babbled something to someone on the way out of the office that I had to go because my childcare provider had to do CPR.  I didn't know what to think.  Clearly she must be mistaken or exaggerating.  But I flew like the wind anyway.

I ran up to her door and knocked furiously.  I will never forget the sight when that door swung open.  There, in my childcare provider's arms, was my dear sweet baby boy.  Purple hands, purple feet, purple lips.  He kept trying to pick his head up off her shoulder but it kept flopping right back down.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I grabbed him out of her arms and into mine and started asking questions.  Question number one - did you call 9-1-1?  She had not.  I think I yelled at her, asked her why not and yelled at her to do it NOW!  Call 9-1-1 NOW!  And she did.

Waiting that interminable wait for the ambulance, my sweet baby's head flopping up and down on my shoulder, only then did I see how distressed was my childcare provider.  Yet another knock that this is real.  We talked.  I got more of the story - my baby had been napping and she just felt like checking on him.  She opened the door to find him blue and unresponsive.  She did what she was trained to do and called me. 

First the fire truck arrived, then shortly thereafter the ambulance.  I could tell by how the paramedics were acting that they knew the situation was serious.  More reality check - this is real.  We went off by ambulance to the hospital - well I know he went.  I honestly cannot recall if I was in the ambulance or not.  I have no idea.

I know I called my husband at some point but he was all the way in San Francisco and it would take him some time to arrive.  I was alone and scared and then I remembered.  One of my first friends after moving to California is a trauma nurse - she works in the ER.  I inquired and she was working that day.   She came to me. She held my hand and would not leave me alone.  She gave me real information.  Information that helped me think logically.  Information that calmed me down. 

We made it past the crisis and spent the next five days in the hospital.  They ran every test imaginable with no conclusive results.  Finally the pediatrician said the only thing they would say was that if Danny had died it would be classified as a SIDS death.

There is so much more to this story - the following months, monitors, nursing gone awry, relationships with childcare providers - for now, though, this is enough.

This is enough for me to know every single day that I am so damn lucky to have Danny here.  How things could have turned out so differently if not for the happenstance check my childcare provider did at that critical moment.


He is my boy, who at the age of four, cried many nights because he didn't want to grow up. He is easy-going with a (more) quiet nature than my other two, but at times will flash with anger.  He is affectionate, loving and curious. He is so different than either of my other boys, but of course that is to be expected, I think.

I've always described him as my boy who skips through life. Happy birthday Danny.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

one long weekend

You'd think with a title like that something good will follow.  Well, that is not the case.  My husband is out of town to meet up with friends and watch a college football game back in Tennessee.  This means that I have three children and all their activities to coordinate.  It means relying on help from neighbors which I hate.  I like to be self-sufficient.

But my weekend was long not because of the endless tasks needing to be accomplished (which I did by the way!).  It was long because of the seemingly endless sadness.  I think it's a conspiracy.

Saturday, after the soccer game and crew practice, but before the birthday party, I was catching up on some blog reading and watching tweets as they popped up.  One from Kristen at Motherese caught my eye.  It was a link to a post on Listen To Your Mother.  A post for Anna See.  A beautiful post, exquisite really, about the journey of grief and the idea that no one is alone and yet there are times when we are.  I've walked the path of grief and I know this to be true. 

I've found myself to be quite emotional over the past few weeks and finally made the connection.  I am a sensitive soul.  I feel what others feel and can sense it even if they don't speak it.  All the chatter and stories about 9/11 were affecting me.  Are affecting me.  I personally knew no one affected on that terrible day but it doesn't matter for me.  Even without television in my home, just the few catches of conversations on the radio, the town sign about the remembrance on Sunday, the brief glimpses while catching up on the news on the internet - all of it was bringing back those feelings.  Feelings of uncertainty.  Feelings of insecurity.  Feelings of fear.  Feeling that something had changed forever.

Saturday when I got home from the birthday party, my teen came out to tell me that Aunt Amy called - his aunt, my husband's sister.  She called to let us know that my husband's uncle passed away that morning, suddenly from a heart attack.  This is the second uncle in less than a year.

And this evening, just as I was sitting down with my three lovely boys for dinner, my phone rang.  It was a friend and former co-worker.  In tears.  She called to let me know that another friend and former co-worker passed away yesterday morning.  He was 38 years old and went out for a run.  A cyclist found him collapsed on the side of the road, the paramedics came, but he didn't make it.  A friend, a co-worker, a husband and father to two beautiful young children.  To think about these beautiful children, children we talked about throughout the day.  Children whose pictures I saw regularly on Facebook.  Children who no longer have a dad.  It breaks my heart.

And what I am going to take from all of this is perspective.  After dinner I went into my son's room on my way to give him a bath and saw the bright blue marker all over the cream-colored carpet and it didn't matter.  It's just carpet. 

Monday, September 5, 2011


How much do you pretend?

Life is good - that's an easy out.

I pretend that tears are not streaming down my face.

I pretend that my life isn't falling apart in one piece.

I pretend that my life isn't falling apart at all.

I pretend there is nothing wrong.

I pretend life is normal.

I pretend that the the decaying and leaking gutters don't have any symbolism in my life;
nor chipped paint on the exterior of my house;
nor the drip, drip, drip of the kitchen faucet;
nor the flaky television in the bedroom;
nor the mattress that doesn't provide support;
nor the towels that are thread-bare and thin.

The symbolism is disturbing. 

I pretend.  Do you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

should i let them sleep (revisited)?

It's back-to-school time again and I've been thinking about this topic I wrote and shared last year.  It is appropriate for me again so here it is re-posted, with a few edits.

 These past seven days or so have been busy with all those back-to-school tasks. Go through clothing and toss that which no longer fits or simply is not presentable, throw out old markers run dry through use or time and, of course, get new stuff for the new year.

These tasks and to-do's as a parent are so easy and clear. There's no questioning, no debate. However, there's been this one back-to-school item that's been nagging at me for a few weeks now and that's the schedule and being on a schedule.

As an aside, any parent out there can tell you all the advice they rain down on you about getting your kid on a schedule. I am a very scheduled person. I like schedules. I like knowing what to expect and when to expect it. The concept, while appealing, doesn't necessarily hold true for all kids, but there was a time in my kids' lives where we were pretty darned scheduled. While it was good when they complied, it was nerve-racking when they didn't. No one ever told you what to do when your kid wouldn't stick to the schedule.

Anyway, now that my kids are getting older, they are naturally staying up later. No more 8:00 pm bedtimes. Even the six-seven-year-old has been staying up late, well past 10:00 11:00 pm almost regularly. That's what you get with the third kid. And who cares? He can sleep as late as he wants. I like that. I like that a lot because that means on weekends, I get to sleep late. Win-win if you ask me.

But that all needs to change, starting tonight. And hence my dilemma for the past week. I kept saying, the kids need to go to bed earlier and get up earlier so the start of school is not a shock. My husband and I agreed, but secretly I struggled. I mean, hey, it's their summer vacation. Shouldn't they be allowed to stay up late and sleep in late, especially the teenager? It is particularly difficult for me because I remember being that age and I remember sleeping until noon, until my mom came in and made some wisecrack about sleeping the day away. It was wonderful and I still enjoy long mornings snuggled under the covers.

And so I've waffled and been indecisive. And husband was no help. He doesn't care. And guess what? The kids really haven't been going to be earlier. Well, I've had them shutdown the computers and stop the TV and get in bed. But the sleep-time is still basically the same - way late, especially when I think that school starts tomorrow.

So last night, as I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep, I convinced myself that I needed to wake the boys up before I left for work. Wake them up at roughly the same time they need to be up tomorrow, so it isn't such a shock. But then as I was going through my motions in the morning, I somehow convinced myself that they didn't need to wake up. That depriving them of sleep for an additional day in the week would only make them more tired tomorrow. After all, the adrenaline of the first day of school will take care of any residual tiredness, right? And I let them sleep.  Nah, I made them get their butts out of bed!  And now you know they call me mean old mom.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

it was an onsgulstraf

It all began many years ago when a teenager was just a little boy child afraid to learn how to ride his bike.  As much as his mother and father tried to convince him of the fun it could be, the little boy child was as stubborn as they come.  The more the parents tried to convince the little boy child, the further entrenched the little boy child became which eventually led to tears and frustration and a stand off. 

Now the Mama and the Papa were no ordinary parents.  Before their married years, the Mama often found herself associating with the boys and learning their love of childish, crude and wicked humor.  The Papa, well, he is a boy and that's all the explanation required.   Together they formed a perfect pair.  They called their house "the Jerky Hut" and even hung up a sign to proclaim it so. 

Bathroom humor, of course, is a favorite of boys.  It is no surprise that the Papa carried into their married years funny jokes and odd quirks established during his youth.  One such quirk is the tradition of "slugging" a fellow if he breaks wind and fails to call "no slugs".  There were times when the winds were silent and the offender could attempt to go unnoticed.  However, in the event the winds were silent but deadly and the offender discovered, he best be quick-lipped or endure the penalty at hand.

The Mama, often considering herself to be one of the guys, took to this game heartily.  And so it came to be that the Jerky Hut played the No Slugs Rule.  No longer was there a requirement to be demure and polite or even say "excuse me" upon releasing gas.  The "No Slugs" response was expected and, in fact, needed or there would be consequences - namely a sore arm.

The Mama and the Papa upon having children, and being the stellar parents they are, necessarily indoctrinated the baby boys with the No Slugs Rule at a very young age.  Perhaps things would have turned out differently had a child of the female persuasion been born unto this family, but they will never know.  And so it came to be that this family of all boys regularly entertained themselves slugging away every chance they could, which is a lot with four boys (Papa included of course).

Dear reader you might be wondering how this applies to a little boy child learning to ride his bike so here is the connection.  Given that these parents were stellar, stubborn and had this wicked sense of humor, they concocted the word "onsgulstraf".  They explained to the little boy child that riding the bike was an onsgulstraf.  When the curious little boy child inquired about the meaning of said word, the stellar parents explained that it means something that at first appears scary and intimidating but once learned becomes a great source of enjoyment.  The stellar parents went on further to explain that the word onsgulstraf is "no slugs fart" spelled backwards and with that, the fear of bike riding washed away amid uproarious laughter resulting in the little boy child hopping back on and mastering the two-wheeled creature.

The Mama and the Papa continue to use this word, each little child boy having his own onsgulstrafs to overcome every now and again.  The Mama may have even used it for herself.

Monday, August 1, 2011

expressions that get on my nerves

Amy's latest edition to The Correctionists got me thinking.  If you don't know the Correctionists, get a brief history and then come right back.  I encourage you to visit these ladies who know their grammar and are pointing out mistakes that will make you cringe (but probably only if you like grammar).  Amy posted on the misuse of quotes and for some reason I immediately thought of the use of air quotes and how they bug me. 

For reference:  Air Quotes is a gesture - two fingers, typically index and middle, bending in the air while the person speaks.   According to Wikipedia:  "Air quotes are often used to express satire, sarcasm, irony or euphemism, and are analogous to scare quotes in print."  I don't know why but they annoy me.

I started thinking about other speech habits and irksome terms.

1.) "At the end of the day..."   Overused by my former manager, this expression immediately triggers a shudder.  I remember being in meetings and literally counting the number of times he spoke that expression.  I don't recall the actual number but it definitely was double digits.  "At the end of the day" is not at the end of the day.  It's at the end of the project, when we are done, when it is supposed to be completed, etc...  It never is at the end of the day.

2.) "The bottom line..." Also another overused expression by the same former manager.  Maybe he should read a thesaurus or learn some new vocabulary.   We are not talking about accounting and balancing the books.

3.)  "Honestly..."  Honestly, if you have to say honestly, does that mean you typically lie to me?

4.)  "I'm not going to lie..."  See number 4 above.

5.) "I have to say..." (alt. "I must admit...").  Actually there are very few circumstances that require you say or admit.  Less is more.

And those are just a few.  I hope the Correctionists don't find this an overuse of quotes.  If so, they can quote me and put me to shame.

How about you?  Are there certain terms that make you shudder like when hearing fingernails on a chalkboard?  Do tell.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

i've never done this before

Oh my gosh.  I am getting weepy.  My oldest turned 16 today.  What does that mean?  Holy crap I am old.  Hah!  Just kidding.  Seriously though.  Wow.  Just wow. 

It's still an experiment in process.  But it's soon to be over. F*ck.  Did I figure it out?  I only have two years left.  He's a good boy and he's irritating as hell.  Anyone that tells you boys are easier than girls at the teenage years, well, I dunno.  Maybe they are right, maybe not.  I don't have a girl so I'll never know.

What I do know is there is a lot of drama.  A LOT of drama.  Even with a boy.

And he has a girlfriend.  A real girlfriend.  What does that mean anyway?  What are they doing?  Do I really want to know what they are doing?  "Un"fortunately she moved to LA this summer.   He's attached.  Technology helps ease the heartache I think.  Unlimited texting is a good thing, at least for my wallet.

And the mouth.  Always had the mouth.  Since he was a newborn.  He knew what he wanted and don't even.  No.  I am serious.  100% serious.  It's how I describe him time and again.  And he is this day... as stubborn as he was a newborn.  Of course now he can speak.  And back to the mouth.  It never stops.

But he's awesome.  He may be a pill for the family but I never EVER hear a bad report on him.  [Okay that's a lie.  I've heard plenty of complaints for cryin' out loud!  Boy scout camp. Reports of "impulse control".]  Let's focus on reality.  

Something recent.  For the first time he went away with another family for a ski vacation.  An entire week with another family.  I wasn't worried.  I knew he'd behave himself.  What I didn't know was how well he'd been taking those lessons.  He was a model guest.  From the mom and dad I received nothing but over-the-top complimentary texts and emails, almost daily.  Further conversations months after the vacation, the parents specifically recalled with detail his acts of kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity.  His ability to be "in tune" (their words not mine) with what other people might need or think.  I was speechless.  I am proud.

He is was an avid reader.  At a parent-teacher conference when he was in 5th grade I remember his teacher telling me that his reading level was at grade 11 and his vocabulary was at college level.  But he doesn't read anymore.  I tried and tried and tried to find books that interest him but I've been unsuccessful.  I know he would continue to read but he needs something to grab his attention. Ugh!  The frustration of it all!

And he can be so frustrating!  He is just like me - always has to have the last word - argumentative to a fault.  He should be a lawyer.  [That's actually a running joke in my family.]  He argues.  He beats me down with his words.  [Should I expect anything less?]  He is comfortable with adults, even preferring their company over boys.  He is wise beyond his years - and yet not.

I want to believe that he is still a child.  I want to believe that he is mature and grown up.  Neither is the case.  Such is teenage wasteland.

I am churning out random thoughts on this special day.  I've never done this for one of my boy's birthdays.   I see it all the time - letters from bloggers to their children.  They are beautiful to read but I've never done one.  But now I have.   This isn't a tribute - it's just who he is.  And, this is my life with him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

i was in the picture mood

I snapped off a few photos this weekend with my trusty iPhone - photos of things that I like and make me happy.

First up:
I mean really, who cannot melt at the sight of this?  A little note for no apparent reason, except of course to tell me he loves me.

This is the fog coming over the hills, darkening the sky and bringing in a chill.  Some folks might not like that, but I love the wind whipping and seeing the mist materialize before my eyes bringing sweet relief on warm summer days.

And then the fruit from our plum tree this year!  Holy cow that's a lot of plums.  Help?

A little preparation for my annual backpacking trip with the boy scouts.  Always be prepared which means set the tent up once before you go!

And last, a little bit of creativity from the 7yo.  Introducing "The Shield Generator".

Saturday, July 16, 2011

the grades game

Last weekend we attended a gathering at a friend's house here in town.   Although the family has two boys the same age, the parents are a bit older than my husband and me.   I find this often with other parents with teenagers.  I had my first child at age 25 but it seems most women in my town held off until 35 or 40 to start having kids.  Realize that this puts 10-15 years of an age gap between myself and the moms of other teens.  I don't really care but I think it is one of the reasons I don't hang out with many mothers in town.  There is a big difference between 41 and 56.

When it was time to eat I ended up sitting at the patio table with the "girls".  All of the women were in the upper 50's and all had children who recently graduated from the local high school and were on their way to college.  Naturally the conversation surrounded the kids.  We talked about the differences between boys and girls, the colleges their kids were going to and the "grades game".

In talking about the high school, I mentioned that my son received a D in his AP European History class but passed the AP exam.  I was questioning if the teacher might have been a little harsh on the grading.  All four women, almost in unison, said to me "he has to get that D off his transcript".  Failure to do so would result in him not being able to get into a 4-year college.

The conversation continued on with further detail about the grades game.  Apparently to get into college the number one factor is GPA, with SAT scores taking second.  Further, and this is what is most disturbing to me, these women - these experienced having just been there, done that - all agreed that my son should drop his honors classes and take the simplest classes possible just to get the higher GPA.  That unless he can guarantee he is going to get an A in an honors class, he'd be better served taking some bullshit class like Foods.  My son liked chemistry this year and has signed up for AP Chemistry.  Now I think he should drop it.  That is sad and it disgusts me.

These women all agreed that colleges don't look at the classes the kids took - they only look at the GPA.  The fact that my son passed his AP exam is irrelevant - that D is all that matters.  These women must have said to me twenty times that we have to do something to get that D off his transcript, even if it means taking a follow up class at some private academy to the tune of $3,000!

How can this be?  How can course content not matter?  I sit here and I am still slightly skeptical although I think I would be a fool to dismiss advice from four women who all said the same exact thing.  Women who have just lived through this experience.  I am so disappointed if this is true, but can I risk it? 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

top ten summertime favorites

The 4th of July festivities this past weekend spurred all sorts of random nostalgic thoughts. It started with the party we attended on Sunday. Kids were running around with water guns and using the slip-and-slide. Then we went across the street to the middle school's field and did old school games. There were the sack and wheelbarrow races, the water balloon and egg tosses. The only thing missing was the grease pole. These were activities I did as a kid at my own small town 4th of July celebrations.

On the 4th we went to the center of town for the parade. Hubs and the middle boy played in the All Orinda Pick-Up Band and the little one marched with the cub scouts in full uniform. The teenager and I sat and smiled and cheered on the sidelines as the floats passed by. It all struck me as so similar to my own youth even though I live so close to the big city.

Growing up in a small town meant summers were simple and slow. I hated it then but it feels appealing now. Here are my top ten favorites on summertime and what it means to me.

1.) Letting them sleep
2.) Backpacking with the boy scouts
3.) Quiet mornings smelling the fresh cut grass and listening to the birds chirp and gentle breeze float through the trees
4.) Lazy days, lazy schedules
5.) Ice cold Bud Light and freshly shaken cosmos with my girlfriends on the patio
6.) Smoked ribs, potato salad, fresh cut fruit
7.) Garden tomatoes and caprese salad
8.) Hot days and cold, foggy nights
9.) Little brown bodies with sun-bleached hair
10.) Painted toes with the sandals to show them off

What are your favorites of summer?

Friday, July 1, 2011

i am not a bad parent - or am i?

Something has been bothering me lately. It was recently brought to my attention that perhaps my suck-it-up style of parenting could actually be bad. I thought I was providing them a sense of real world and independence but apparently there is something to be said for compassion. Now, I think I can be compassionate. I just don't think that it does my kids any favors to shelter them from the real world.

What do I mean by this? Well, for example, if one of the boys wakes up with a cold (and I mean really just a cold), I assess and will often send him to school. There are many days when a person might not feel well but life has to continue. Please know though that I am not heartless. The primary gauge of stay home or not is if he is running a fever. Fever means no school. There are also times when it is plainly obvious that, fever or not, he's just too sick to go and I will keep him home on those days too. But in general, my philosophy is life will be full of aches and pains and you just have to learn to deal with them.

This brings me to Henry's toe. Henry is seven and last Fall he complained that his big toe hurt. I took a peek at it and, sure enough, it was red and swollen and looked like he broke it. Now I've had about five or six broken toes, even played the second half of a soccer game with my big toe broken. I know from past experience there's really nothing you or a doctor can do about it. It will heal and might be slightly more crooked, but that's about it. Knowing this, I did not bother taking him to see the doctor. He never really complained about it. He went all through ski season with no issues. I figured it was history.

Fast forward to Spring. And buying new shoes. And measuring his feet for new shoes. Much to my surprise and dismay Henry's broken toe foot measured a full half inch shorter than his other. My guilt rose to my cheeks, my face flush with regret. I am well known for thinking the worst possible scenario and started obsessing that my neglect has somehow caused him to be permanently damaged. Maybe it was a break on the growth plate. Would he need surgery to re-break it?

So I did what every normal mother would do - I avoided. I didn't call the doctor. I didn't do anything except dwell in my guilt. But, as luck would have it, I had to take in Danny for his physical before camp and Henry was with me. Luckily I remembered the toe when I was in her office and asked her to take a look. She did and more importantly, she didn't judge. She simply wrote me a referral to the ortho guy.

So today we went and got an x-ray and saw the orthopedic surgeon and the verdict is in. He does not have a broken toe but the interesting thing is he never did! What he has is an extra bone in his foot. I saw it right on the screen (x-rays are all digital nowadays). The surgeon laughed. I sighed with relief although there is still a nagging in my head that maybe I should have done better.

Am I too harsh with the kids with the suck-it-up style parenting? Am I too harsh on myself or should I receive failing marks for my avoidance here?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

trust - the lighter side

A few days ago I wrote about trust in a very serious way. Today is trust, the lighter side.

I trust as soon as the floor is mopped one of my kids will spill something sugary sticky on it.
I trust as soon as I finish that last load of laundry the dirty clothes baskets will be full.
I trust as soon as I figure out a parenting method, my kids will change on me and render said method obsolete and ineffective.
I trust that if I go out for "just one drink", I'll always have too many!
I trust there to always be another roll of TP under the cabinet.
I trust in jinxing myself.
I trust I must look at the toilet seat to 1.) ensure that it's down and 2.) doesn't have pee all over the seat before I sit.
I trust as soon as I put on the sprinklers, water the garden or wash my car, it will rain.
I trust I will always forget one thing at the grocery store, even if it's on my list.

So how about it? What's the lighter side of your trust?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

what do you trust?

Lindsey has made this her year of trust. Until recently I haven't thought too deeply although her last guest post by Pam on how to navigate a life resonated with me. It made me recall so vividly the intense emotions following my mother's death. I realize those are lot of links, but they sure are worth the read.

I started thinking about trust. What do I trust?

I trust the sun will rise tomorrow.
I trust there will be events that shake your core.
I trust life will go on, whether you want it to or not.
I trust I am being the best wife and mother I can be, even with my failures.
I trust I will make mistakes.
I trust everyone makes mistakes.
I trust there will be love and loss.

In the end, all will work out as it was meant to be. There is so much we try to attain yet it is difficult to realize how much is out of our control. In this we must trust. We must trust that we will rise to see another day. We must trust that it is not without value to try, and try our best.

But what do you do when your trust is broken?
Do you really believe that things are out of your control?
How do you recover when your trust is shattered?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

the surprise of it all

Time flies so quickly - first with the holidays, then the busy winter ski season to end it all with end-of-school-year mayhem.  Add to that a new job in the middle of it all and it's a wonder I post here at all.   I enjoy it though.  I enjoy the camaraderie and friendships made along the way.  I enjoy the perspective.   I enjoy taking the time to collect my thoughts and put them down on screen.

It's hard to believe it's been over seven months and I had yet to make good on my promise to my Uncle's wife Karen.  This weekend I finally made good.  I kept my promise to a great woman; a woman so generous of her spirit I know if no other that can compare. Here you can read about how she gave the most precious gift of time when it was needed most.

I trekked up to my Uncle's house in the the Sierra foothills to begin the process of going through his house and clearing out his things.  And, boy, he sure has a lot of things.  A history lover by nature, his collections ranged from valuable pre-Colonial to Civil War coins and bills to beat up old Mason jars and Altoids tins, antique washboards and jars, books on the Sierra Nevada, baseball and the Civil War.  He was an avid Clamper with all the paraphernalia - pins, placards, t-shirts from events and fliers from everything he ever attended.  I'm sure.

I went up there packed with my working clothes - throw-away shorts and t-shrts, old sneakers that I could toss if needed.  I was prepared for the long, heavy lifting exercise of sorting and tossing but, much to my surprise,we didn't do much of that.  Instead we looked at pictures.  Boxes and boxes and boxes of pictures because, after all, he also was a photography buff and collected those too.

I saw pictures that I'd never seen before.  Pictures I don't even remember being taken.

Little nuggets like this:

And how about this one? Holy cow - who is this family?!  (What's with the cowboy hats?  Fashion I suppose.)


And then I stumbled upon some more.  Like the infamous bug:

And reminders of all the great times we've had.  Unc, me, my sister, my husband - good, good times.

And some unexpected reminiscing too; pictures of my mom poking through.

But what's that you say?  There's that hair again - don't judge.  It was the 80's.

Saving the best for last, here's my favorite:

This weekend was so intense. Wow. Just wow. What a fantastic surprise.

Friday, June 10, 2011

half-way through

Yesterday I realized that this year marks my half-way point for parenting.  I've been doing it for the past 15+ years and have another 15 to go.  Another 15 years will put my littlest one at 22, hopefully a college graduate.  It'll put me at 56, hopefully just shy of retirement. 

I don't know if I'm depressed or happy about this.  When you signed up for parenting, did you ever think about how long you'd be doing it?  I didn't.  I thought 18 years, which seemed like an eternity when I had my first at the ripe age of 25. 

There have been several instances where I've repeated my calculations to unsuspecting parents at the elementary school, part bragging, part lamenting the fact that I will be at my elementary school for 16 consecutive years.  16.  I think it's pretty close to a record.  I know others that have had more years, but not consecutively.

Knowing I've spent the last 12 years tied to this school, it was uncomfortable to realize that I knew not a single face in the crowd on the playground.  There were plenty of parents and plenty of children, I'm sure there would have been names I recognized had I been told, but no one I know.   The discomfort stems from a few different things. 

One is the knowledge that part of my disconnect is my own doing.  I work full-time and chose to protect some sense of sanity by eliminating volunteer efforts around the schools.  Between the time commitment and the catty women entrenched, I had enough - 12 years' worth of enough.

I also am tremendously guilty at times.  Those jokes people make about the differences between the first, second and then third - they've rang mostly true for me.  Henry is getting less attention than the first two but I'm not sure how to do it differently.

Another piece of the discomfort is that I've never been part of the Cool Kids Club.  (See note above about catty women.)  I wasn't in high school.  In college it was only with the guys and only because I could drink my weight in beer.  I haven't been in the working world either.  I can be political to a point and then I call it like I see it.  And catty women don't like that.  While I'm fine with that, I have my true friends, it still sometimes stings when I think about it.

Sometimes I see the CKC here in the blogosphere.  I've connected with a few people but one look at my stats and Twitter followers and it's plain to see that I've not risen to the CKC status.  I'm okay with this even if it is slightly painful.  Again, I have a few good friends.  That's what I need and that's what matters.

Here's to the next 15 years.  I hope my youngest isn't disappointed about my lack of involvement.  I think I will try to volunteer somewhere.  You really have to do it in the elementary years.  Middle school affords very little opportunity and there's virtually none in high school.  Maybe I'll make a friend or two.  He needs it.  Maybe I do too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

a random post

I'm doing a "random thoughts" post because I haven't been inspired to do much more.  Life is getting in the way, in a good way.

Change is the word of the month for me.  I left my old job and am onto a new one with no time off in between.  I had no major problems with the last gig.  The people were great fun to work with but the position itself left me feeling a bit under-utilized.  I wasn't looking but when something good falls in your lap, sometimes you need to seize the moment and I did.  It gives me a bump in pay which is always welcome.  More importantly though, it's setting me up to launch my career more fully.  I've always felt that I've never reached for (hence never achieved) my full potential as a working woman.  I've struggled with being a working mother and yet not the primary breadwinner.  The kids always came first and so I've been hesitant to put myself out there.  It's time for that to change. 

Another bonus to this new gig is that shortly it'll be a work from home job.  This prospect both delights and scares me.  I am a social person and not having friends at the office to mix and mingle with is something I hope I can manage.  On the other hand, the money I'll save and the headaches I'll be spared caused by flaky babysitters is almost priceless.  For now though, I'm commuting quite a bit and haven't been around these parts lately.

Feeling content.  My last message was about my visit.  I continue to experience a strong sense of comfort and peace from this dream and I'm just going to roll with it.  Since then I've had numerous instances of feeling my mother's presence.  Maybe it's just my frame of mind but I don't care.  I am finally experiencing some peace.


Being present.  I haven't been around these parts much because I've been present in my life.  It's been busy and I have to make my priorities right.  I miss reading everyone regularly but I'm not done and I'm not gone forever.  I just need to ride out this busy time in my life.  End of school, commuting to a new job, end of team social activities - all multiplied by three - it simply eats up a lot of time.


Playing pool.  I also wasn't around last week.  I was in Vegas.  I was playing pool with my team.  We finished first in our league and went to play in the national pool tourney.  We usually finish in the money every year but this year was different.  It was much, much better.  Out of a field of 126 teams, we finished tied 9-12th place.   That's my best team finish ever and I can't wait for next year.


Anniversary.  I realized somewhat belatedly that I just passed my one year blog anniversary.  I am surprised that I didn't make a big deal about it.  I've paid a lot of attention to this site even if it is not obvious to those who read.  I check my stats.  I read up on how to attract new readers.  I try to write.  The fact that the anniversary passed and I didn't make a big deal about it just means that I am pretty content to be where I am.  I'll write when I have something I feel like saying.  After all, this is why I called it "All I Want To Say" and I am being true to my word.

Here are a couple of my favorites:
The Toy Soldier
Lessons Learned From Reality TV
Dear Dad - A New Note
For My Sister

I hope you check out a few older posts.  Let me know if I'm improving at all.  Or not.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

the visit

I would not call myself religious by any stretch of the imagination, although there was a time in my life where the church was a big part.  Circumstances beyond my control left me jaded, angry almost, for the god that was never there for me and I have yet to recover.  Maybe someday I'll share but for now this story is about spiritual things I cannot explain.

When I was in college I worked in the restaurant business.   Waiting tables and tending bar was both flexible and good money.  Shortly before finals one year a co-worker at the restaurant, Tall Paul, died in a car accident when he fell asleep at the wheel driving home from work one night.  It wasn't the first peer death I had experienced but his hit me hard.  I went to the services alone and was not truly able to process my grief because I had to focus on finals.  Once I moved back home for the summer, perhaps because of the slower pace of life, the sadness of it all started setting in.   I didn't really talk about it because I'm not even sure I was aware of it consciously.

One night early in summer I had a dream about him.  In this dream a few co-workers and I were sitting in a booth making light conversation while counting our tips and enjoying the quiet of the closed restaurant.  The front door swung open and in walked Tall Paul with his brown leather bomber jacket.  He had a big smile on his face and, although no words were spoken, we had a conversation between us.  I looked at him and asked what he was doing here.  I knew he was dead.  He looked back at me and indicated that he knew he was dead but he wanted to stop by and let me know he was okay.  And then he turned around and left. 

I woke the next morning and told my mom of my dream.  I don't recall now the timing of events but at some point thereafter my mom asked me if my sister knew him and I said that I didn't think so.  The three of us got to talking and it turned out that my sister actually did know him through a different sphere of friends.  And, interestingly enough, she too had received a visit from him in one of her dreams.  The similarities were eerie, almost identical in fact.  Since then I've come to believe that when a person dies, they have the ability to come back and "visit".

I don't know why Paul chose to visit me.  Maybe he sensed the difficulties I was having with processing my grief.  But one thing I know is that he absolutely did visit me, and my sister.

When my mom passed away I kept waiting for her to visit. Months went by with nothing and I felt alone and abandoned by her because she never materialized in my dreams.  I desperately needed her to give me the reassurance and comfort I felt from Paul's visit.  Instead all I felt was a big, vacant hole.  Eventually one night she paid me a visit but her visit was not comforting like Paul's.   In my dream we were having a party and there was a knock at the door.  I opened it to find my mom standing there and I invited her in.  Again no words were spoken but I could tell she was sad.  She just stood there and looked at me with deep, sad eyes and then she was gone.  I've always felt she was sad because she was dead and not able to be with her family anymore.  But maybe she was sad because I was having such a hard time with losing her.

It's been years since I thought of those dreams, of that visit from my mother and Paul.  In fact, when my Uncle passed away in November, the idea of a visit from him never crossed my mind.  But he came two nights ago.

I woke on Friday morning feeling incredibly drained and sporting nice puffy eyes.  As I stared at myself in the mirror I kept questioning why my eyes looked like I had been crying all night.  And then the memory of that night's dream flooded me.  The pieces of the puzzle came together and formed a picture of my dream that went something like this:

There was some major phenomenon coming, an event that people were preparing for and it had to do with ghosts.  People were excited to see if they could see any ghosts and I was too.  At one point I saw one, some famous actor from the Brat Pack days and I reached out to shake his hand.  Fully expecting my hand to pass right through the vision in front of me, I was shocked when I felt the ring on his finger.   I could not believe I actually touched a ghost. 

The next piece of my dream is a vision of my Uncle.  He looks good, like he looked before he got sick.  Mostly bald with graying hair.  A nice pot belly.   And he was wearing his black and white plaid quilted coat that I gave him for Christmas the previous year.  His favorite coat that he wore all the time.   We didn't speak but we hugged.  It felt so comforting and I felt so happy.  In the next instant I am walking by an outdoor table, past two men sitting in the sunshine just enjoying the warmth.  I look down to realize it's a much younger version of my Uncle.  He had a full head of hair and no glasses.  He looked youthful and the only way I knew it was him was looking at his eyes.  They were his eyes.  And he was happy.  It was his way of showing me all was well.

Another part of this dream was me expecting, waiting for my mom to visit, but she didn't come.  My husband and another man kept pointing to a mountain in the distance.  My husband pointed out a white spot and told me to look there for my mom.  In my dream I was expecting her to come through this "portal".  Now I think it was telling me that she is watching from above.

I cannot tell you the intensity of the emotion as I pieced together this dream.  I was sobbing so hard it was difficult to breathe.  I know now that I must have cried in my dream as well and that is why I woke to puffy eyes.  I've done that before so I know it's possible.

I also realize that I've yet to fully process the grief over the loss of my Uncle, but that dream was a good start.  I feel happier knowing that he is happy.  And I feel happier knowing that my mother is watching down on me.  Two for one, not bad.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

the person I am

I've been spending some time thinking about the person I am compared with the person who I thought I'd be.  What were my visions of myself as an adult when I was a young kid?  How do the imaginations of my younger self compare with the person I am? 

In some ways I am very much the person I imagined, or rather the timing of major events have lined up.  I always thought I'd go on to graduate college, find the love of my life and get married.  After being married a few years, I thought we'd settle down and have some kids.  I never thought much about my career but always knew I'd work.  I dreamed of going to law school in California, an idea no doubt inspired by my admiration for my Uncle. And I did most of those things.

I married my husband merely a few months after graduating college and, after a few years of marriage, we had our first child.  I was 22 when I walked down the aisle and took my vows and the ripe old age of 25 when our first son was born. 

My path to a career, however, has been a bit divergent.  My degree is in secondary education, social studies (read glorified history major with the sudden realization that would not translate into a real job).  But oh my word, teaching high school was not my thing.  With my husband trying to finish up his PhD I didn't feel I had the option to go to graduate school right at that time.  Someone had to make the money, right?  So instead I did a stint as a paralegal with the idea that it would be good experience to see if law school was worth the time and effort.  Aside from learning that there are way too many lawyers in the world, we had our second son and my husband was working hard building up his career.  Graduate school seemed out of the question.  In a bizarre and most fortunate twist I ended up in technology and have been working on figuring out what I want to do when I grow up.  It's been slow progress thus far but I'm kicking it up a notch now.

But what am I, the me that I never thought I'd be?
  • I've turned into one of those people who checks the train schedule to arrive just before boarding time, even though trains come at least every 15 minutes, sometimes every 6.  I used to slightly smirk at folks like that, but now I'm one of them.
  • It stresses me out to have dirty dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter even though I cursed my mother for being obsessed with those things.
  • I'm a person that cannot live without my morning coffee.  It is the most important part of my daily routine. It might be the only thing that is routine about my day now that I think about it.
  • I'm a mother that doesn't mind sending her kids off to school slightly dirty and in ripped jeans.  Okay, I do mind a little but not enough to do anything about it.
  • I love football and playing fantasy football.  Still can't believe how that happened.
  • I have kids that are not excelling in school.  Hubby and I are both smart. We work hard and stress the importance of working hard and education. - how can this be when our motto to our kids is that their number one job in life is to get good grades?
  • I frequently serve dinner right from the pots and pans.  I never thought I would do this - it's not how I was raised.  My mother would be so ashamed.
  • I am the type of person that cares about the car I drive.  I know, shallow huh?

How about you?  Did you have visions of your life and how you would live it when you were young?  Do you measure up?  In what ways are you different?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

for my sister

Hey Chris,

I've been thinking a lot about how much you mean to me and our lives together.  I remember hot, humid summers playing out back, running and hiding in the woods (you hiding on me, you from me).  I remember picking sweet peas and green beans and bright, cherry tomatoes, stuffing ourselves full before dinner thinking that we were getting one up on Mom.  Now as a mother I laugh at the thought.  I remember how much the bees loved your colorful barrettes and how much you hated them and would run and scream with your arms flailing about in your attempt to elude the painful bee sting.

I remember endless days of bike-riding and kick-the-can with Cindy and Kim.  I remember playing hide-and-seek, the surprise of being found and the resulting fall that broke my arm.  I remember knocking icicles down from the roof when we were supposed to be bringing in wood.  Your toss accidentally nailed me in the forehead (at least I think it was an accident).  I remember Mom opening the door to find me screaming, covered in blood.  You were screaming too and it took her a few minutes to realize there was actually nothing wrong with you.

I remember climbing trees and driving the old pickup around the nursery.  One of us on the pedals and the other steering because we were too short to do both.  I remember raking leaves, a chore we made fun by piling them up under the old maple and then jumping into them from the branches above.  I remember the igloos built into the banks of snow.  I remember countless winters of shoveling the driveway, one particularly sad time when our dog died.  Mom, you and me all shoveling in the quiet of the dark snowy night, tears freezing our cheeks.  Nothing but the sound of scraping plastic on pavement and our muffled sobs.

I remember us helping Mom bake cookies, every year baking batch after batch for Christmas.  I remember family dinners and your hatred and disgust for beef tongue and mine to peas and spinach,  basically anything you liked.

I remember roller skating every Friday night.  Well, at first we were roller skating, then we were up to no good.  I remember Billy Squire and Whitesnake.   I remember a lot of partying and doing bad things.  Things teenagers have no business doing.  I remember your nickname of "Little" and mine of "Little Little" and so proud of it.  I remember Blue House and our fake IDs.   I remember how you took me to my first concert, Judas Priest and Dokken, having to convince Mom and Dad that it was okay.  I remember other concerts too like Van Halen and, of course, Bon Jovi all the way down in New Haven having to drive through a blizzard. 

I remember our fights too.  "She stepped on MY side of the room!"  "She looked in MY side of the mirror!"  "She wore My white alligator shirt and spilled mustard on it and now it's ruined!"  You always kicked the crap out of me.  Smaller but stronger.  I remember you knocking my tooth out, lost in the grass denying me a visit from the tooth fairy.  But I also remember you kicking the crap out of Cheryl when she came to school to beat me up.  When I called scared out of my mind, you drove all the way down from college just to protect me.  And protect me you did.  It was okay for you to beat me up but no one else was allowed.  I'll never forget that kick to her crotch that made her fly up a full six inches.  You were my hero that day.  

I remember the visits to the hospital to visit Mom.  A bond we shared.  A bond no one else could understand.  A bond forever sealed with her death.

I remember our weddings.  You stood up for me and I for you.  I remember my first boy's birth and you and Mom doing night duty.  I'd feed the baby and then you and Mom would take turns if he wouldn't settle back down.  I remember Sam's one and only Snoopy, given to him by you.  The Snoopy that he still sleeps with today and has every day since.

I remember vacations together, our families bonding.  Cousins playing with cousins.  I remember Christmases in Connecticut at Mom and Dad's and summer fun in California.  Wine trips to Napa, summer bashes at our house, skiing in Lake Tahoe and, of course, numerous trips to Disney World.

You know how hard these past few months have been.  Of course you know.  You've answered my calls.  You've given me your love, counsel and support.  You've been my rock.  You've been my lifeline.  The depth goes far beyond that which I could measure.  But I don't need to measure my love for you - it is infinite.  Thank you for being there, for being here for me, always.

Love, Cathy