Mere Intention

be vulnerable

Granny Love

This woman is everywhere. I can’t shake her. She’s been gone for two years.

On the drive to Oklahoma to visit Dad before the brain surgery, I made a few phone calls to some friends. I really, really just wanted to call my Granny and talk to her about the horrible, terrible fucking situation. I knew she would listen and have real, true sympathy and empathy for me and for him and just listen and get it. She never spoke ill of my father to me. Never ever. She often asked me to tell him hello for her. Granny is my dad’s ex-mother-in-law, my mother’s mom. She and Dad hadn’t seen or spoken to one another in a number of years before she passed.

In the hospital, the day before the surgery, I could not for the life of me shake the sense that Granny was there. Anytime I would walk out of his room to go grab another cup of coffee or to explore the hospital for a little bit, her presence was strong. When I was in his room, it’s like she was sitting quietly on the couch with us. This made me feel good – but strange.

The day Dad had surgery, I almost went crazy with how real I could feel Granny. I didn’t say anything to anyone.

A week or so ago, I finally got the courage to ask Dad if he felt her or saw her while at the hospital or during surgery. He thought about it for a minute and said, “No, I don’t recall anything like that. Why?” So I told him about what I had felt while at the hospital. How whenever I left his room it was like she was walking down the hall just behind me, over my shoulder. I actually giggled out loud a couple of times as I would peek over my shoulder.

This was the same hospital that Granny had had radiation treatments and where her doctors were.

I was not in Oklahoma when Granny died. I didn’t feel it necessary to be. I didn’t experience what the rest of my family did in the situation. I don’t know the last time she was at the hospital before she passed from this world, but I can tell you this:
Granny left a huge part of herself at the hospital. A good part of her healthy self. The part that was ready to take care of me and was waiting for me. To perfectly hang out with me. To sit with me. I wasn’t alone even when I was walking the halls by myself.

Cancer – Radiation Treatments – Stuart Scott – Life

Monday will be the tenth of thirty treatments of radiation for my dad. One third of the way through this piece of the journey. He’ll probably have another MRI this week to get a look at the tumor…and whatever else is going on.

No side effects from the treatments – the radiation and a chemo pill that he’s taking every day. The anti-nausia pill before the chemo pill helps the one-in-two people not get sick…he doesn’t want to know which of the one-in-two he is.

He’s working every day on his new building, getting panels installed on the walls and my step-mom is right there by his side lifting and painting…and supervising. They installed a nice pellet stove and are enjoying the challenge of regulating the temp in the building while they work.

Over the holiday break I took few days off from work and have slept in – finally. It’s been well over a year since I’ve been able to do this successfully. Dad being diagnosed shook up my system internally and externally. The things that have dominated my brain and given me chest pains and a burning throat don’t seem to really matter any more.  And on the mornings I’ve been able to lay in my bed a few extra minutes, I’ve been thinking about my kids and husband and my dad.

This life gig is short. Too short for many.

I look forward to the changes that Philip and I will make in the coming months to get our family calibrated in a direction to enjoying the life we do have as best we can and do so in a manner that is fulfilling to each of us.

When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.

~Stuart Scott, ESPN anchor, died today at age 49 after a seven year battle with cancer

I am Kind

A mantra to my kids, regularly, is ‘be kind.’

I honestly believe that if we start with a posture of kindness, everything else will be pretty smooth. Not always, but generally. And when the process isn’t as smooth as we’d prefer, it’s likely related to the individual responding.

Over the last couple of days, I completely cleaned out our storage room, which for the last four years, has contained boxes that have moved with us over and over the last 15 years…and I’ve not gone through. Done. Check. Finished.

Two boxes to Goodwill, two large boxes of recycling, some things paired down and re-stored with better labeling, a couple of great hand-me-downs (read: Frankoma from Granny) washed and ready to be used in the kitchen.

I also combed through piles and piles of old cards and letters, including notes my mom collected from family and friends for my graduation from high school in 1998 – notes from people who have known me since I was a small child through my [at the time] teen years.

This is what I read – I am a kind person. I am a caring person. I am someone who makes people feel at ease. I am a hard worker. I have a comforting smile and eyes.

This is who I am, deep down, when all of the shit experiences of life are stripped away. When all of the crappy jobs and frustrating micro-managing bosses and people who create drama for the sake of drama are taken out of the equation. When all of the stresses of being a mother and wife and sibling and daughter and friend are gone. I am, at the core of who I am and how I operate in and contribute to the world, a kind, gentle, caring listener.

There are changes that need to be made. I need to recalibrate to being this person in daily practice, not just when I can fit it in. I know this, and I believe I can get there. This needs to b a primary forces in my daily routine.

12.13.14

Over a year since I’ve posted. What a shit storm it’s been. For the most part it’s just because of too many other things going on. Well, that’s not true; it’s been because of my job. I hate admitting that. But I’m writing now, so, there…right?

Titus turned ten this week. It was his golden birthday. Today was his party, which involved taking him and his two best friends and about $25 worth of quarters at PinBall Jones, a fantastic pinball arcade in Old Town. He asked me to make lasagna for dinner, so when we came home from the arcade the kids played outside and I got everything put together and into the oven. After dinner we watched Home Alone. One friend went home, as we don’t do mixed gender sleepovers, and now the boys (including Philip) are playing video games. Soon they will crash in sleeping bags in the basement and wake up earlier than they should. My last post was  the day after his birthday last year. That writing healed of parts of me. This year was not traumatic or stressful or emotional…maybe because I have nothing available in those departments right now.

My dad has brain cancer. He will start radiation and chemo this week. He had brain surgery almost four weeks ago.  He lives in Oklahoma. My step-mom is amazing. The cancer is terminal. Saying this to my kids has been the hardest. This is their grandpa who visits for days on end, multiple times a year.  Glioblastoma/GBM/lifefuck.

I’m laying here on the couch under a quilt that my grandma made and gave to me over Thanksgiving when we were back in Oklahoma to visit Dad. I’d stayed with her and Grandpa the week prior when I made the flash drive down to be there for Dad’s surgery. It was amazing and life giving to stay with them. We stayed up late ever night drinking wine and just talking and sharing stories. How lucky am I?

The neurosurgeon removed about 50% of the mass. Radiation and chemo will slow down the growth . That’s all we/he get(s). But, because the neurosurgeon wasn’t crazy aggressive on something that can’t be cured/killed/fully-resected/removed, my dad woke up able to talk and do everything he could do before he had the craniotomy. Everything was the same. Brain surgery. This is not what I expected to happen. What a gift.

What a gift to have a brain surgeon who didn’t try to be Superman. Didn’t go for a statistic of resection percentage, but steal my dad without notice, as the cost of the badge.

I don’t know how long we’re going to have with Dad.  That’s okay.

It’s okay.

Okay.

 I’m naming this bitch Ker. As in the Greek mythological spirit of cruel death and ravaging disease.

IMG_2638

just because I wasn’t scared doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t traumatic

For the last three years, on December 10, I have found myself overcome with emotional-ness. It’s my son’s birthday. The anniversary of my becoming a mother. The celebration of becoming a family of three.

The emotions I feel are not a sadness related to him getting older. I love that fact – I welcome it and am excited by it. I don’t want him to stay little or rush to grow up, I truly love watching him grow and have no sad emotions about it.

Nine years ago he entered our lives on his own crazy schedule – two months before he was supposed to.

At twenty-seven weeks pregnant, I found out I was dilated to one centimeter at a routine doctor’s appointment (this is a negative thing). It was a 2:30pm appointment, and we left the doctor’s office at 5:30pm. Three hours of checks and monitors and medication and being sent straight home and told not to be up out of bed except to use the restroom until the next week when I had to return for another appointment. Diagnosis – pre-term labor. Bed rest.

For six weeks I took drugs and went back and forth to the doctor. They would wonder why I was having contractions and would give me more meds. I had to put a stop to that and tell the nurse to get her hands off of me until I spoke to the doctor – when I was at home, laying down like I was supposed to, I wasn’t having too many contractions, but get me sitting in a car for thirty minutes each way, then sitting in the waiting room, then sitting in the check-up room….yeah my body would start freaking out a little.

There were multiple trips to the emergency room for tests to see if I was leaking amniotic fluid (all negative) and a three day stay over my husband’s (and dad’s) birthday when they threatened to keep me until  thirty-six weeks – I could have had my husband, my dad and my son all sharing the same birthday!

That short hospital stay was the worst experience of my life – I‘ve had meningitis and kidney stones and both the spinal tap and the stones were extremely painful, but they don’t top the experience of magnesium sulfate. It is the devil. Pure nasty. They gave me the highest dose possible for 36 hours straight to get my labor to stop. I’ve never felt so sick in my life. Horrible, so sick, catheter. Apparently when your body becomes tolerant of the anti-labor medication, you just go into labor…and it’s really hard to stop it. Two days later I was able to go home, at thirty-one weeks, because my doctor trusted that I was doing what they asked when I was at home – meds every three hours around the clock and staying down.

One week later around 3:30pm my water broke.

When your water breaks you can’t stop labor. You have to have a baby. On a Friday. Driving East toward the D.C. beltway to get to the hospital. In 5pm traffic. While you’re slowly going into labor. At thirty-two weeks and four days pregnant (that’s seven weeks and three days early).

We got checked-in to the hospital and were immediately given a room – the same one I was in exactly a week earlier getting pumped full of drugs. There was a medical staff of at least twelve – a small team for me and a larger NICU team for the baby. The Neonatologist talked to me between my contractions about words I may hear him say to his staff upon delivery and what they meant, letting me know they may all rush out with the baby, that I won’t hear the baby cry, that I may not get to see the baby for hours, that I may not get to touch or hold the baby for days.

Titus was born at 9:55pm. Perfectly healthy. Breathing on his own. 4 pounds and 4 ounces. He and his team stayed in the delivery room for about fifteen minutes, he looked at his daddy when he said his name, I got to hold him.

He was taken to the NICU and was in an incubator for a few days to stay warm and then was moved to a crib. He spent seventeen days there with those amazing doctors and nurses. Growing, eating, sleeping with no medical issues. Then he came home, on December 27th.

Through the entire experience of the pre-term labor, the bedrest, the hospital stays and meds, I was never once scared. Never. Not even a bit. I didn’t worry, I didn’t freak out. I did what the doctors told me to do. I read books and watched TV and my friends brought me Coke and M&M’s and hung out. We even had my birthday party in the basement while I lay on the couch.

Seven years later, eight years later, and now nine years later, I am overwhelmed with emotions on his birth day. I could hardly make it out of the house yesterday without bursting into tears. I just kept hugging him, I wanted to lay with him and snuggle all day.

Today driving home I realized that just because I wasn’t scared doesn’t mean the experience wasn’t traumatic.

Trauma is different than drama – I avoid making things into drama. I don’t want to draw attention to situations or myself. There’s no reason to share a sob story for the sake of attention – so don’t share at all, it’s safer that way. I don’t want pity.

I’m just beginning to understand that this experience was significant. It changed me. It made me. It was traumatic. I’m starting to feel the pain, letting the tears flow, fathoming the fact that this was not normal. My experience was not a normal one.

Babies are supposed to go home with their mama. Mamas are supposed to cry and be sad when they have to leave their babies – I didn’t shed a tear, and my mom was losing it, now I understand why. Getting on the elevator to go home without our son should have been earth shattering. I should have been crying at his bed side. I should have been sitting in his empty room at home, depressed for two and a half weeks. I should have been at the NICU all.day.long, not just a chunk of time each day. FUCK.

These are the emotions I am feeling now, nine years later.

Not feelings of guilt – just emotions that I have never processed or let happen. Emotions that can’t be kept in any longer. Sobbing, snot dripping emotions. I’m letting them flow, it’s time. And it hurts.

I have a nine year old son. We are attached. He is mine and I am his. He makes my heart burst daily. His name means giant.

Ramblings

This time last year was tough.

Things are pretty good now.

Life just keeps going. A day at a time, a week at a time, a month or more at a time. The sun keeps coming up and I’m expected to keep participating. I’ve been doing better at that.

I’m working almost-full-time, my husband was recently laid-off from his job, the kids are beginning to have their own schedules (piano/birthday parties/dance/swimming), it’s holiday season, I’m dipping my toe back into some leadership-y stuff at church, I want to spend time with my friends.

My kids have been very vocal about their frustrations with seeing decorations and advertisements for Xmas when Thanksgiving hasn’t happened yet.  It makes me proud. As far as I know we haven’t said anything specifically over the years about this lack of respect for Thanksgiving and blatant consumeristic promotion of Xmas, but they’re getting it from somewhere, and that’s okay by me.

I think part of what my kids are observing is the rush of the season. In our house, beginning in late November, we have my birthday, Thanksgiving, dad’s birthday, brother’s birthday, THEN Xmas. Not to mention a gaggle of family and close friend birthdays over November and December. We celebrate one thing at a time. That’s it. Xmas season does not start until after Thanksgiving – maybe even the week after. I love that my kids in their almost-nine and almost-six years are already recognizing that taking things one day and one person at a time is what we value as a family.

We want our children to see us living life in a way that reflects our family values. This means looking at one another when we speak, turning off the tv/phone/computer and playing Legos or reading books, caring for our animals, taking care of our bodies by eating healthfully and responsibly, working at work and being home at home, crying when things are funny, laughing when things are scary, tending to our house and yard and garden together because we all live here, visiting our neighbors.

The coming year is sure to bring things that we aren’t expecting, and we’re fine with that. We’ll recalibrate when we need to, do a little freaking out when needed, and give one another plenty of hugs. That’s how we’re trying to do life.

Rewards.

A large project is off my plate at work, after way too many hours spent on it.

I’m holding myself to the schedule agreed to when I started working again – this extra 45 minutes a day in the office adds up, but not worth the sanity I’m losing over the rush to get home.

I bought two bottles of wine on the way home this afternoon – one already chilled, and it was all I could do to not pop it open in the driveway and drink from the bottle.

The husband goes out of town tomorrow for a few days and I don’t feel like cooking tonight, so we’re taking the kids out somewhere where they get to eat free. And there won’t be any dishes to load or wash. And we need some time out of the house together.

Then I’m coming home and drinking wine with my husband. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

and. aaaand, vacation is only TWO weeks away!!!

I’m exhausted.

back on the bus…(warning: f-bomb)

“fuck yeah. blood on the walls. cash deals only. fuck yeah. dead on the floor. blood on the walls. cash deals, i said cash deals only. fuck yeah. fuck yeah. everybody’s dead. cash deals only. blood on the walls fuck yeah. got some cash? cash deals only. blood on the walls. yeah. fuck yeah…”

~spoken out loud to no one in particular by the middle aged man with ice blue eyes sitting right behind me on the bus who’s body odor was so bad it made my eyes water

Hipster

Mom, do you know what a hipster is?

I don’t. Do you?

Well, [neighbor boy] said it was…well, I can’t say.

Oh, honey, yes you can. You can always tell me what other kids say.

(tears welling up in eyes) Well, he said it’s someone who is Silly…and something else. It starts with an S but I can’t say it because it’s an adult word.

Okay, well, you can tell me anything and just let me know if you want to talk about it later.

(tugging on my shirt sleeve) Can we go talk about it?

Of course. (leave the dinner table to go sit on my bed)

I just can’t say it! I’ll get in trouble. (bawling with face buried in hands)

You will not get in trouble for what you’re going to say, I promise. You’re telling me about something that someone else said and it apparently bothered you quite a bit. Go ahead. (hugs all around)

He called me and [neighbor boy’s sister] hipsters and I asked him what a hipster is and he said it’s someone who’s Silly and…Stupid. (more crying and burying of face)

Oh, honey. Did those words hurt your feelings?

Yes.

Did you tell him that?

No.

Do you want to?

Yes. Can we go to his house so I can tell him?

Absolutely.

So we proceed down the street to the boy’s house and ask to speak with him. His mother brings him to the door and we talk about the fact that his words hurt Harper’s feelings and he apologized very sincerely. Then…then.

The mother looked at me and giggled and said, “You know, boys will be boys and they are going to say hurtful things to people. We’ll talk to him about it though.”

(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I responded by pointing out that coming over to have the kids talk to one another was about me taking the opportunity to teach my daughter how to use her word and communicate with someone when they’ve said something that hurts her, and while the words used may not be a big deal in their house, they are in ours. And this was not about her son getting into trouble. (or that it’s okay because he’s a boy!!!)

I walked home feeling dumb and raw from her flippant reaction. I took her making light of her sons actions as a direct stab at my mothering of my daughter.

Then I decided that in the long run, my kid is better because of my actions. Removing anyone else’s opinions, what I did was stand up for my daughter and showed her that her feelings are valid. And how to use her voice and speak for herself. How to hold her head high when she wants to burst into tears because of feeling intimidated and inadequate.

She is my daughter, dammit. Don’t mess with us.

Why This was the Best Mother’s Day

This one’s going down in the books (er, blog-world) my friends.

So, here’s the thing. I’m not a big celebrator of me. I just don’t get very excited about things that are supposed to focus on me whether it be planning a special birthday party or Mother’s Day.

My friends and family have honored me well over the years with parties and baby showers and special gifts, and I’ve really appreciated the gestures and have had a grand time with all of them, but I’m tempted to lump Mother’s Day in with Valentine’s Day.

One more obligation to smile. It just feels weird.

But something happened yesterday – I felt alive and loved and honored in a way I haven’t ever before.

This could be because my kids are older and were totally involved and anticipating the day, this may be because I was communicative about things that I’d like to have as gifts (and received), this could be simply because the sun was shining and I slept in.

But I don’t think that cuts it.

I think what happened is that I’m alive and awake for maybe the first time in my mothering.

Now, I’ve always loved my kids. But, I’ve not always been present. I’ve not always liked them. I’ve not always wanted to be near them. I’ve often chosen to not hear them, to not let then climb on me, to not engage.

I’ve been working hard. Working on myself.

So on Mother’s Day this year, I woke up on my own, had a clear head, and was excited to see my kids. The day just seemed bright and clear and I was okay with all eyes being on me.

When I walked down the stairs and gifts were piled high on the table, homemade cards overflowing, I couldn’t help but smile and let myself feel the love of my family. Homemade and thoughtful store-bought gifts abounded. Things that were just.for.me.

My hubby had bought exactly what I wanted for lunch and cooked it perfectly – big, fat, pink salmon steak.

The hubby took the kids to the library for about an hour and I worked on my Mother’s Day gift – our new picnic table that I built last weekend, staining it. When they returned, they played all around me in the yard, laughing and enjoying one another, playing catch, riding bikes, teaching my daughter how to throw a baseball and catch it in her mitt.

As I was under the table, trying not to get my hair stuck in the stain I’d just applied, it hit me. This is the best day.

The best day. Because I chose to let myself be loved. I chose to open my heart to my family and listen to them be present in my life. I heard what they were saying to me – Mom, we know you and love you! – and I am humbled.

In the midst of all the goodness, there was a crazy five-year-old melt down and the washing machine broke – like broken-with-parts-on-the-floor-underneath-it broke. But I blinked at these things and they disappeared. No residual stress.

I am thankful. I am blessed. I am loved.

The best day.

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