Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

It's been three months. Three long, crazy months. I miss you like mad but I guess that goes without saying. Everything here has changed so much without you. Not just bad changes either, lots of good things too, but I'd trade it all to have you back. One of the hardest things is not being able to tell you how excited I am about this new stuff. Every time something new happens I catch myself thinking, I CAN'T WAIT TO TELL... and then my heart breaks all over again because I can't. So I'll have to settle for telling you here and hope it helps to ease the ache of not having you with me.

I think you would be proud of me, of all of us really. The kids miss you, but have handled themselves like real champs. Every one's behavior has been tip top since school let out, not perfect, but not all that craziness we had for so long. R got all caught up in school and has been so polite and kind these last weeks. K doesn't argue so much anymore and Z is still, well, Z--smart and scary and awesome.

I'm starting back to school in the fall. It's time to finally get that degree you always wanted me to have. It turns out I only have ten classes to take to finish up, so I'll be a college graduate by next spring. It seems crazy to me that losing you was the only thing that made it possible for me to do the things you dreamed of me doing. I hate that-- that you won't be there to see me finally succeed after screwing up so much, even so it feels good to be going back. Next fall I'll start nursing school and with a little luck in a few years I'll have my RN and my masters. I figure why do it halfway--this is my big chance and I want to do what would have made you proud of me. Don't get me wrong, I know you were proud of me, but I know I gave you a lot of reasons to worry too. I'm glad you knew about B and I before you got sick. I know it meant a lot to you to know we had each other and that the kids and I had someone who would take good care of us. he's one of the best things ever to happen to the bunch of us. he has us acting like a family again. We've been doing a lot of fun stuff with the kids and we'll be spending Labor Day weekend in our favorite spot again this year ( my only regret is that you won't make it there with us.)

B and I have been heading out camping almost every weekend the kids have spent with their Dad. It's been good to have the freedom to travel so much and so cheaply this summer. It makes me feel young again and less like I missed something by starting a family right after high school. You were right about a lot of things, but it all seems to have turned out for the best anyway. I've been scattering your ashes with Dad's, a little bit in every beautiful place we go. We even rented a boat a few weeks ago and the boy's helped scatter some out in the middle of the lake. P will be helping out by taking you to Ireland when they go next week.

I guess the biggest news is about the house. We just can't stay here. It's far too empty without you and every detail of every room is yours. I think you'd like the house we found though. It's in the neighborhood you chose to raise me in. There are memories of you and Dad there, but not such painful ones. It's just big enough, with good sized rooms and lots of light...It will be so hard to leave here in September, but I think it's what will be best for us all. I will carry all the best parts of you with me--in my heart of course. It will be good for B and I to have a fresh start in a house that is ours together with no memories in it of anyone but us.  I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep in my own bed again, because it seems like lately the only time I sleep straight through is if we are bedded down in our little tent in some state park far away from the place where I lost you. When we are at home and everyone finally settles in for the night it seems my thoughts always drift to those last moments with you and with Dad. They haunt me, make my heart ache for all that I have lost in this house. It will be good to move on.

Well, it's late and it's my turn in the shower, but I'm sure I'll write again--there just so much I wish I could tell you....

Love,
me

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Longest Week of My LIfe...

The last time I wrote here I was so happy that Mom had been transferred from ICU to the step-down unit. Unfortunately the move was not the good news we anticipated. When I arrived at the hospital Sunday afternoon to visit her condition had declined significantly, and in keeping with her wishes we opted not to return to ICU. Instead I began working with Hospice to arrange to have my mother brought home to spend her final days here in the home she enjoyed with my father and her family, surrounded by the people who loved her the most. It took all of Sunday evening and most of the day Monday to get everything in order, but by six o'clock Monday evening my Mom was back in her own bad talking clearly with myself and her twin sister for the first time in four days. What follows is a collection of thoughts I had and wrote in bits and pieces over the past week and a half. They are not continuous or all inclusive, but they are significant and it is important to me to record them here. My mother didn't have many clear moments after Monday and after Thursday morning she didn't regain consciousness again. She passed away at 12:35 AM on Friday, April 24,  2009, lying peacefully in her own bed, with her sister and I holding her hands and my fifteen year old daughter lying beside her. My husband rubbed my back as she took her last slow breaths and my middle son lay sound asleep on the floor of her room in the corner. Strange though it may seem, it was tragic in it's enormity and beautiful in it's simplicity all at the same time. Our house feels empty without her and my heart aches for my amazing mother...but there is peace in knowing that I made her last moments on this earth as free of pain and and fear as I possibly could.

Monday, April 20, 2009--12:30 am

I can't believe this day. Bart and I are here waiting with Mom to be transferred upstairs to the palliative care floor in anticipation of her discharge to home hospice care later today. Just twelve hours ago I was thinking we had turned the corner, that we might have bought some time at least. When we got here about one o'clock yesterday afternoon though it was obvious that things were in decline again. Mom's mental status was unclear and confused again, indicating a worsening of the pressure and damage in her head. Now she has a fever they can't find the source of and bleeding in several places due to her low platelet counts. The problems she is fighting are many and seem to be multiplying by the hour. It is apparent now that they are simply too numerous for her to overcome, and when she is conscious it is only to say that she has had enough and wants to go home with me. I'm terrified--of losing her at all, but also of not getting her home in time, being unable to give her that most simple of things-- the comfort of her own home.

I am amazed by the quiet of this tiny corner of the hospital, with it's hardwood floors and flat-screen TV's, devoted only to the care required for maximum comfort, no efforts made to cure or treat. I have stood here at the dark window for more than an hour now watching the street lights blink yellow all the way down Main Street and Liberty Avenue. Here I sit in the silence watching over the sleep of the man I have always loved and the woman who has always loved me. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders and in only a few more hours, with no sleep in more than twenty four, I will spend hours on end in a frantic flurry to accomplish everything necessary to get her home again, because I promised.

11:50 pm

It's done. She is home and resting quietly next to my aunt. Her meds have been picked up from the hospital and supplies have been ordered. We talked a bit before she faded off to sleep. She knows she is home and in my hands now (as precarious a situation as that seems to me, it seems to comfort her knowing that I am now in charge, not the doctors who don't know her or nurses with other patients to care for.) We have said a preponderance of "I love yous." I am overwhelmed but calmer than I have been at any other point today because at least I know my promise has been kept. I brought her home and now whatever happens I will know that I have done all that I could. I have done all that she taught me by example when she did it for my father just five short years ago. So now I will sleep, restlessly I'm sure, but finally, just sleep.

Thursday, April 24, 2009

There have been no good moments today as there have been the past few days. No moments of awakeness, no requests for food or chapstick, no complaints of thirst or discomfort, not even any restless turning in the bed, despite a bath and my efforts to let her know I am close by. Her breathing is growing more labored and ragged as the evening stretches on, and I know from experience that the end is close by, that she will not likely see the dawn of another day. Under the instruction of the hospice nurse on call her doses of liquid oxycodone and ativan are given closer together to alleviate the anxiety of being unable to catch her breath, if she is able to feel any anxiety at all now. I spend most of the evening brushing her thinning hair from her face and whispering my love close to her ear.  The oxygen concentrator thumps steadily in the background of everything we do this evening. My two oldest children have fallen asleep on either side of her in the big queen-size bed. As the night stretches on we move my ten-year old son to a pile of blankets in the corner and my daughter awakens to spend these last few hours with her beloved Nunny. I am restless myself but the last moments come just after the birth of the new day and are anti climatic, quiet. My mother's dear friend of forty years ( and a nurse for hospice) comes and performs all of the necessary tasks-- the pronunciation, and the phone calls, gently wiping her friends face and later telling me it was an honor to perform for my mother those final necessary tasks and to know that there was great dignity in her passing.

I stay with her body while the funeral home wraps and carries it from the house. I could escape to the upstairs but I feel I need to see her out, to assure that I have followed everything through to its endpoint, to know that my job is done a thoroughly as I know how....

But now I am lost, completely lost, an orphan of sorts.....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

GOOD NEWS!

Mom made it out of ICU and was transferred to the step-down unit!!!!! YAY!!!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Afternoon

Thanks to everyone who left their good news in comments on my last post. It's good to hear good news. I had been hoping to come across good news of my own soon, but so far, not so good. They moved my Mom to ICU this afternoon to monitor a bleed in the right side of her brain (caused by her plummeting blood values.) Wish I knew more. Really wish I could get off this roller coaster already.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The sh#t-storm can stop any minute now....

Mom finished up her first round of chemo today and then we found out that a stem-cell transplant is on the agenda after two rounds of consolidation chemo. Then my ex-husband called to tell me my dog died. He was only three, but German Shepherds often have fatal troubles with bloat. My kids all came home crying today because of the dog. I hate to see my kids hurting like that. I would really like some good news now. Anything. Anyone????

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

At the End of the Day...

It has been so crazy here these last few months; so much chaos and all of the extremes of emotion. Like I mentioned yesterday, my Mom started her chemo last night. My heart is aching and my brain spends the day searching mental statistics and looking for a way out of this current health crisis, though it is obvious to me that there is no way out, only a possible way through it. We will just have to wait and see for now. I do know that my Mom is tough as nails. She worked her full-time night job right up until four days before she was diagnosed. Her platelet count was only 9000 instead of the 150,000-300,000 it should have been but still she went work and struggled through every single night. So now I am trying to concentrate on the idea that it is not the odds that matter so much right now, but the fact that as a family we often find a way to beat the worst odds that will make a difference here.

Still there are good things happening too. On Sunday I can take a pregnancy test to see if my intermittent stomach troubles are from stress or an early sign of the new addition we are hoping for. And even more than that right now, every night I cuddled up in the crook of B's arm with my head against his chest and the steady rhythmic pounding of his heart in my ear and I do my best to dream about babies and summer days at the pool with my family. In that spot, that moment I know that the only thing I can afford to focus on is how very loved I am and at the end of the day that is all that really matters.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One step at a time...

Diagnosis for my mom-- AML. Prognosis uncertain pending genetic studies. Starting chemo at 9pm tonight. More later.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Really? You've got to be Kidding Me...

After a brief day of reflecting on all the great things going on in my life reality struck again with a vengeance. Yesterday was my baby's sixth birthday. I spent it away from him though, in yet another hospital, getting more bad news. My Mom has Leukemia.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just Plain Old Angry

There have been a lot of reasons I haven't been writing here lately.

1. Tire blowouts. I had one last Friday, at a most inconvenient time and place and when B and I changed it: the spare was flat too. Total cost $83.90.

2. Drain Clogs. Yes, plural. Clogs. And other plumbing disasters. First my laundry tub drain clogged while my wonderful husband was pounding through our giant backlog of the children's laundry. Then while plunging the drain--the pipes underneath sprung some major leaks due to age. Bad enough right? Then we discovered that the mainline drain for the house had backed up raw sewage all over the basement floor. On a Saturday. On this one I got lucky. Instead of roto-rooters standard $300, I found an awesome Electric Eel service that cleared the sewer drain for $80. and gave me advice on fixing the rest ourselves.

3. Migraines. Again, plural. As it turns out my Mirena IUD was causing me some fairly frequent, totally rotten migraines. As a result we decided to have it removed.

4. Unemployment. Fired pretty much. Both of us. B and I were both working lots of hours ( for minimum money) and doing it gladly. When I say lots of hours I mean 3-4 hours daily plus between 4 and 7 twelve-hour overnights every week. We were taking care of his Grandma who I mentioned before has Alzheimer's disease. It was making ends meet for us, saving his mother an absolute fortune in caregiver salaries and giving us both a lot of joy to spend time with her every day. (his Grandma, not his mother!) So like I mentioned before his mother has not been overjoyed that we got married, and when we told her that we wanted to continue helping to take care of Grandma but needed to be able to spend Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday overnights at home with the kids from now on, she got angry. Very angry. The angrier she got, the more tense things over there became the more we realized that we not only wanted those overnights off, but we also wanted at least two days a week completely off, without having to go over at all. Suffice it to say that this did not make her any happier and after many tense days of thinly veiled accusations about inadequate care on our part( completely untrue.) she decided that we should keep doing what we were doing for no pay at all. While we would have loved to be able to do that for his grandma, necessity dictates that when you have three children to support someone must work for actual money to pay bills. Go figure. This resulted in us not returning. (after a scene in which she said she didn't understand why he was acting this way that everything had worked just fine until I came along---OMG. It worked fine because he was at her beck and call for six g%^D%&m years. Then she insisted that we leave because she was afraid of me because I told her pointedly and in a very unfriendly tone of voice that she was no longer dealing with a single man with limited options, but instead with a man who now has a wife and three-step children as well as unlimited other choices for earning an income.) That was around the third of March and we haven't been back since. No money and she has upset the hell out of my husband.

5. Life really sucks sometimes. B's Dad was scheduled last Monday, after months of chemo and radiation and waiting, for surgery to treat his pancreatic cancer. After only an hour in the OR they postponed surgery for now to do more chemo as they found at least one additional tumor site. This breaks my heart.

6. Finally the real reason I temporarily deserted my blog ( and even deleted it for a few desperate days--although I am so glad blogger added that undelete feature.) I am angry. Not a little bit angry or even run of the mill angry, but searing-red-hot-over-the-top-want-to-scream-out-loud ANGRY. Livid. I have been angry since the middle of February. I have been seething since the first week of March. I have barely mentioned(except for earlier in this post) the reasons for my anger here for two reasons. One I am so angry that I have little control over what I say about it once I get started on the topic and two I love my husband so very very much. You see, It's my mother-in-law. It turns out that the sweetest, most gentle, caring man I have ever met was somehow raised by the most self-centered, inconsiderate and controlling women I have ever met. And did I mention how much she hates me for occupying her son's time and attention.

So really my absence is all about how angry I am at her. I have tried to avoid coming here to rant about this. But now here I am. Let me tell you why it makes me so angry. She acted like an ass and in the process hurt my husband directly and my children indirectly (with all of the new financial problems) and I love them more than anything in this world. So now I am Mamma-bear type angry. In addition, B and I have been forced into making a round of very important decisions very quickly and completely unnecessarily. In short order we have had to decided if we really want to have another baby or not, and when might be a good time, if one or both of us should head back to school, and when would be a good time and what kind of work we should settle into in the meantime. So now I've said. Spilled the reasons for my absence. Time to move on. (although I reserve the right to revisit this topic from time to time as my anger comes and goes....)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Some things My Dad Taught Me About Love

1. Love isn't really about your feelings, it's about the other person's feelings.

2. Some days love isn't even a feeling at all; It's a decision you make.

3. Pick your battles. Lose as often as you can stand it. Only fight for things you can't live without. In the end everyone wins this way. There is a lot of joy in letting the one you love have things their way.

4. Keep quiet when you're angry because mean things can't be unsaid. It's way easier to forgive than it is to forget.

5. Always say your sorry, because even when you're right you should be sorry that you fought.

6. Don't wait until you make up to be affectionate or make love-- let your physical connection carry you when words just don't help.

I know they aren't everything, but I'm really counting on them to get me through. So far so good...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Things I've Been Up To Lately

So it has been ages since I've posted anything substantial, and I've mentioned briefly that a lot has been going on here, and it has. Finally this morning a few minutes to myself to fill you in a little bit and vent about how ridiculous some of it has been. I want to tread carefully here though, because I am angry and don't want to say things I might later wish to take back. That said--I've never been good at holding my tongue.

B's Mom started chemo about three weeks ago and since the three of us together are the primary care-takers for his ninety six year old Grandma, (she has Alzheimer's.) that means that responsibilities and scheduling conflicts have been running high for a while now. Add to that the fact that his mother ( in my opinion) never really liked me and that she definitely hates sharing his attention with anyone else and things have been quite the nasty little mess here. We finally set down some guidelines making it so that he and I would stay the overnights with Grandma on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays (because this meshes well with my custody agreement.) and that we would come over every morning and night to help with getting out of and back into bed again. In exchange, we wanted a guarantee that on the other three nights of the week we wouldn't be asked to stay at all so that we can spend the time at home with the kids. His Mom doesn't like this idea-- and thinks we should rotate nights through the week like he did when he was single and that he should still be available for any nights that she doesn't feel like staying or hiring someone else to stay. On top of that, she has been really nasty. Mean. Rude to him in ways that just tie my stomach in knots. During the week of her chemo we spent every night here with Grandma and did all of the morning and evening routines AND ran over here more than once to do things she said she was too sick to do herself. We have tried to explain that he needs someone to help divide the responsibilities for while she is sick, maybe have friends help her out around the house when she doesn't feel well, but she insists that he should want to do it for her and that it has to be him. I 'm angry because he just can't be everything for everyone all the time and has finally made some choices about what HE wants to do with his life. ( we got married--yay!!!!!) For selfish reasons I want him at home sometimes. For unselfish reasons I want him to have time to relax and enjoy the kids and get used to being a part of a family. So I'm angry. Well, angry doesn't really cover it-- I'm pissed off, but I'm also in love with him and not wanting to make things harder by driving up the conflict with his mom. So except for right here-- I'm trying to keep my mouth shut. wish me luck.

In the middle of all of that disaster, my little one Z had a febrile seizure last week while he was at his Dad's house. It's the third one he's had, so we did know what it was, which made it a little less scary, but only a little, and his Dad had never seen one before so he panicked and we got to enjoy and ambulance trip to the ER as a result. All is well with Z now though, stomach bug gone, fever no more, business as usual.

Did I mention the best part? WE GOT MARRIED ON MONDAY!!!We took a break from the merry go round Monday and went to the district justice just the two of us and finally, after all these years, got married. I couldn't be any happier about it. Every time I hold his hand now I think of those few quick moments in front of the judge when we held each other's hands and promised each other that we would love each other for always. A great day in the middle of a bunch of borderline and not so great days.

Lastly, we got the stomach flu. It started with Grandma, got B and I, little Z and then back to B again for a second round. It has been hell and I will be glad when it is finally over. I am warily watching K and R to see who will get it next....stay tuned....

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear B (Just Because)

Dear B,

I am only writing to you here because this afternoon you alluded to the fact that you sometimes come here to read and look for clues about what is on my mind and maybe why. Of course I told you that I would never share more of myself with strangers(sorry everybody) than I do with you. That is true, or at least as true as it can possibly be. You're right to look for me here. There might be pieces of me that sneak out in this quiet place that don't show up anywhere else. You may never know how grateful I am that you suggested this blog to me. It is not something I would have come up with on my own, and it has given me a much needed outlet for the words that swim around in my head everyday, for the overflow of feelings that are just to much to foist on one person day after day. Although, you have been an absolute prince, my prince, when it comes to being there for me and comforting me and making me feel so very loved every day. It makes me feel good to be writing again; it had been almost twelve years since I wrote anything for myself let alone anyone else. It is like having a part of myself back again after a decade long hiatus. It feels good, and I have you to thank. I have you to thank for a lot of things. So always remember these things:

1. I will love you every single second of my life--as I have loved you near and far for the last twenty plus years.

2. Every day I love you more...even when my heart is so full that I don't believe it is possible.

3. Like you told me so many months ago, my love---Words fail.

I love you,
A

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spin Cycle: What is Love?

This is my first week participating in The Spin Cycle created by Sprite's Keeper. Every week she gives out a new topic and lets everyone spin their own magic... This week's topic is love. After you read here, drop by her blog and give us your own spin on love.

It's no secret to you guys that read here regularly that I am in love, or that he is in love with me back. This last year, it seems like my life has just been overflowing with love. I seem to have finally figured it out. I think I may be starting to understand what love is, why it's so important, and how to keep it going. Since B and I reunited last June it seems like I haven't stopped falling in love for a minute. Every day I find myself falling all over again, for reasons different and the same as yesterday.

I am not an easy woman to live with by any stretch of the imagination. I make no secret of the fact that I like to get my own way (pretty much always if I can) and that I can be, well.......controlling. There. I said it. I like to run the show. I am calmest when I am in control of every little detail of the way things are supposed to go.  (THIS HAS NOT BEEN HELPFUL TO ME IN PAST RELATIONSHIPS. ) So, because this particular relationship is so very important to me, and because B is so wonderfully smart and capable, (yes, without my help) I know that I have to give up control. I need to let him do his own thing, and start making decisions a team effort. That said, this is not easy for me. And I am not necessarily good at it. yet. I am determined that I will master this though. I want to spend the rest of my life with this absolutely amazing man, and I don't want to screw it up by parenting him like one of the kids.

So back to the topic at hand--"What is Love?" To me, love is the fact that even though I have been controlling in the past, and even though I am not always successful in my attempts to curve that self destructive behavior now, B still loves me with all his heart and with only gentle reminders and a lot of hugs he is helping me to figure this equal partnership thing out. Wish me luck!




Monday, February 9, 2009

Not -Me Monday

Last week I missed out on participating in the Not Me Monday Blog Carnival started by MckMamma. This week I intend to do a little better. It has been another busy, busy week, and there are plenty of things I am really glad I didn't do. mmmm. Not ME!


1. I did not almost cause an accident in the car the other day by talking over the gps voice and screwing up the directions.

2. I did not avoid answering the phone call I knew was from the school nurse involving my son's third (fake) illness this month.

3. I did not buy my sweetie a 500 gb portable hard drive for Valentine's Day because that just might make us both dorks.

4. I did not forget to pay my cable bill until I was unable to log on to post Thursday mornings blog post. (but since it wasn't me they were kind enough to have it back on in about ten minutes after I made the payment by phone.)

5. I did not make my son retrieve, from the top of the newly changed garbage bag, a sandwich he had claimed to have eaten a few minutes before and make him finish it before running out to play.

6. I did not instruct my children at seven o'clock tonight that I didn't want them to speak or even look at each other again tonight because their bickering all day had driven me crazy.


Not me. No WAY. UH-UN.



Friday, February 6, 2009

Dear B, (A letter From The Kids Composed Piecemeal As We Get To Know You Better)

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Dear B,

You have been living with us a little over a month now, and making our mother happy for much longer. It has been interesting for us to watch. For starters, as we just said, she is a lot happier. She still yells, but a lot less than she used to, and she smiles much MORE now too. (She also walks around with a slightly vacant, yet pleasant, love-sick look that is a little gross.) You should know that we watch you. Almost constantly, especially when you don't realize that we are watching. In fact, most of the time that we are watching, we aren't even looking at you, just taking in everything you do. We have paid especially close attention to how you treat our Mom. Us Boys have decided that when we get older, we are going to treat the girls in our lives the same way you treat Mom. (instead of the way Dad used to)It seems to us that we will have way better luck with girls if we do it your way—the way you always smile at her when you catch her looking at you, telling her all the time that she is beautiful and that you love her and don't know what you would do without her. You hug her and kiss her a lot too. (not to mention how much time you guys spend holding hands—gross.) Those are all good things, and every time you do them-- we learn something. (Oh, and it's not just the boys—I've learned that guys should be kind and gentle an complimentary to the women in their lives-- when I grow up, thanks to you, I'm going to expect that.--Love, C) We have also noticed that you never yell at Mom or call her names or try to make her feel dumb or less than good about herself. Those are important lessons too.

You've taught us some other things too. Everyday we watch you go over to your Mom's and your Grandma's to help out. Even though you are busy here with us, you always make time to take good care of the other people in your life who are important to you. When we watch you do that, morning and evening, day after day, we are learning about the importance of commitments, and being reliable. We are seeing someone besides our mother practice the idea that the elderly are not disposable, that family takes care of family and home is the best place for everyone. Thank you for making our home such a great place to be lately. It's nice to have the attention of two adults who so obviously care about what happens to us. We really appreciate the fact that you take time out to talk to each one of us; you listen to what we have to say, and your interest in us goes beyond the fact that you are interested in our mother. You make us feel like you would like us even if she weren't around. That's a nice feeling.

It's been good with you here these last few weeks. We are all kind of hoping that you and Mom will get married. (some of us might even be hoping for a new sibling sometime later....) But either way we will keep on watching, learning from you. You are for sure one of the good guys.


Love,
The Kids

You're Gonna Miss This...Moment


This Week's You're Gonna Miss This Moment, the blog carnival brought to us by Pam over at the blog by the same name...




If you have been reading along, you know that I have given a lot of thought to whether or not I want to have another baby someday. (and I mean a few years out, not necessarily someday soon) I remember being so sad then that my youngest would not get to know and enjoy my Dad the way my first three kids did, and vice versa. My Dad absolutely lived for his grandkids. They were best buddies. So now it is at the front of my mind that if we do decide to add another little one to the family, it will be a child that my father will never get hold. I ALREADY miss those moments. I remember when my daughter was small and we all lived with my parents, (yes, all of us...)my Dad used to rock K to sleep every night on the porch swing when the weather was nice and in his recliner when it wasn't. Then when R was small, a few years later, he and my Dad would eat breakfast sitting side by side in that same recliner every morning. Finally when Z was born, though my Dad was already on oxygen around the clock and sleeping most of the hours of the day, he would nestle Z in the crook of his arm and off the would drift together in dreamland. Z will never remember that, but I will never forget, and with this future baby (maybe), I'm definitely gonna miss those moments.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

For Real...

It must be the real thing if I get out of my warm bed at 9:30 after everyone else is settled and asleep for the night, and go out into the freezing cold night, ( leaving them under the watchful eye of my mother) to drive 10 minutes across town just to spend part of the night nestled in the crook of his arm on a couch. And it is some of the best rest I have ever gotten. And I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Questions (The End) OR A Love Story


"Once More"

This post will answer my last two questions from readers:

“I want to hear the story of how you were reunited with your high school sweetheart! I love happily-ever-after stories! I am a hopeFUL (not hopeLESS) romantic. :-) “

AND

“I'm trying to figure out how you have 4 children of various (spread out) ages yet (I thought) you said you were only about 34? Is there a story there? did you have your first very young?
sorry if that's snooping, you don't have to answer. “


I saved this question for last, because it is my favorite. If you hadn't already guessed from reading back through my blog, it is my favorite thing to talk about. Our love story, my fairy tale.

B was my very first boyfriend. I was thirteen, and still reeling form my father's first heart attack when we first met. He was nine months older, but similarly intelligent and every bit as driven as I was back then, if not more so. Most of our time together was spent sharing academic pursuits, attending movies which his other was kind enough o drive us to, and later, making out on the bean bag chair in my bedroom. (we weren't allowed to sit anywhere near the bed...) We shared our first kiss, and provided each other with our first sexual experiences. (even though we didn't have sex.)For a teenage boy he was surprisingly gentle and kind. He was a terribly difficult act to follow, I think. We went our separate ways after two years, due simply to the pressures of growing up and parents who worried that we were too serious about each other, that it might interfere with plans for college and the future if we didn't see other people. Even our breaking up was quiet and free of drama. (Although I remember a great deal of crying on my part afterward, there was no animosity, no angry words or typical teenage acts of retribution.) We remained friendly, but drifted apart slowly, moving in very different direction for a long time. Throughout high school we made several attempts to recapture what we had before, but our efforts always missed in one way or another, leaving us both frustrated and longing for the easy closeness we had known in the past. It was something neither of us seemed able to find with anyone else, despite trying. I suppose it is fair to say that we both moved on, but never really got over each other. I never really stopped paying attention to what he was up to, (I think they call it stalking now...) and he sort of just forgot I existed for a while as he threw himself into school projects and getting ready for college.

Just before my sixteenth birthday I met a guy at the local skating rink and started dating him. The guy was alright, but it was his two year old son, J, that I really fell in love with. It was a volatile relationship to say the least. He was eight years older than me, with a quick temper and a big mouth, nothing at all like my gentle introduction to love a few years before, but the love for a child is a powerful thing and J had completely stolen my heart. (J is my step-son, who will turn twenty-one this coming June, and I count him as the first of my four children. Because of the age difference between my ex-husband and I, J was born when I was only 14.) Not important to this story, but I stayed in this poorly matched relationship for fifteen years. We married, had three more children of our own and finally divorced back in 2005. (incidentally, my daughter, age 14 was born when I was eighteen, my sons, ages 10 and 5, when I was 24 and 28.)

Now back to the real story. During the fifteen years I was with my ex-husband, B and I bumped into each other here and there. He helped me t pass a computer course in college back in 1996, and I called him a bit later just to talk in 1997. We kept having these near misses. Times when I was trying to make my marriage work or he was in another relationship. One of the most pivotal moments was back in 2003 when I lost my Dad a few days before Thanksgiving. After six years of absolutely no contact, B showed up at the funeral home the night before Thanksgiving at the end of the funeral service. I had spent the last 9 weeks caring for my father as his heart slowly gave out. I was under more stress than I thought it possible for one person to bear. November alone has seen my youngest with pneumonia and the chicken pox, my step-son barely making passing grades in school and the start of my middle son's wild mood swings and behavioral problems. I was working full-time, my marriage was already circling the drain and by the time I saw B there in the back of the room, I was coming completely unglued. I can't even begin to describe that moment, the way my face flushed and my heart started to race. I would like to say that our love story got its second chance right at that moment, that he was the antidote to my breaking heart. But. I could barely make my feet move to cross the room. I wanted, more than anything to fall right into his arms, bury my face in his neck and breath in that sweet, sweet smell that had always belonged to him alone. I was unable to do any of that. I know I smiled at him, that he smiled back nervously and stumbled through some of those things that are said at funerals. I know I told him I was glad to see him, glad to know that he was doing alright. I know he handed me a letter that I would later read, again and again. I know that when I leaned in to give him half of a hug I could smell the beer on his breath. I know that I spent months replaying those moments again and again in my mind, sleeping and awake and that, always, afterward my heart was left aching for him.

Fast forward four and a half years. Years filled with a dozen different kinds of losing and letting go for us both. Long years. I lost my brother-in-law, and my aunt. I started over again. I ended my marriage and tumbled through another disastrous relationship. (this time with a woman.) I lost touch with my step-son and all of my half-siblings from my father's first marriage. My older two kid's emotional problems had spiraled out of control several times over. They were diagnosed as bipolar and I mourned the loss of what I had dreamed would be an easier ride through their school and teenage years. I struggled with depression, my mother's deepening depression, her successful (so far) battle with breast cancer and the complicated world of child psychiatry. I know they were long years for B too, as he struggled with his problems with alcohol, helped his mother through her own heart attack, and dove headlong into the daily care of his grandmother as she continued the steady decline brought about her Alzheimer's disease. In the same town, maybe ten minutes apart most of the time, he and I struggled, and hurt separately, but in so many of the same ways.

Now, I am going to take a minute to shamelessly plug Facebook. I am aware of all of the evils and irritants of online social networking. But. Without Facebook, I might never have gotten my fairy tale. It was that search feature. I had been Googling B on and off for years with nothing new. But when I plugged his name into that facebook friend search---THERE HE WAS!!! SO in June of 2008 we finally got back in touch with each other, and this time our timing was perfect. I was divorced and he was living alone. I was long since ready to move on from the relationship that I had been dragging behind me for more than a year. We talked and emailed and walked together in the park, we chatted for long hours late into the nights getting to know each other again. Then, finally, after almost twenty years, we got to experience the comfort of sleeping a night nestled in each other's arms. It was, hands down, the best night of my life.

It's been seven full months now since we started dating again. It has not been an easy seven months by any stretch of the imagination. My kids have had their good and bad days. November alone was back-breaking. B stopped drinking. (for the most part) Both of his parents were diagnosed with cancer. (pancreatic and breast) My mother's friend, who has been like a member of our family for years is losing her battle with colon cancer. We have, in the last few months, tackled more big problems than most marriages survive. And we have done it well. So the way I see it, all we have to do now is to keep getting through the small, everyday moments. We just have to remember how important it is to fall in love with each other, over and over and over again.....I think we'll make it just fine.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

For Services Rendered: (To My Children)


For the nine months or so that I carried you inside of me, many times uncomfortable-nauseous morning, noon and night, eating what was good for you and finally suffering through labor and delivery to give birth to you--Approximately nine months (around 270 days) @$4.00 per day. A bargain by anyone's standards.

$1080.00

The cost of having you--pre and post natal-nursery -delivery room etc. Expenses above and beyond that of most budgets.

$25,000.00

The infant care your father and I provided you with those first couple of years; changed diapers, formula, bathing, feeding, burping, rocking, through sickness and teething and shots, skinned knees and childhood illnesses, braces, bumped heads, cut fingers, etc...

$5000.00

For the worry and sleep lost over your little problems, with playmates, starting school, nights sleeping over with friends, strange stuff you ate or drank ( a couple of calls to poison control), all the dumb things you did while learning to grow up.

$3000.00

For teaching you not to play with knives, matches, guns, strangers or in the middle of the street, near water or wells, constructions site, abandoned houses or cars....

$1000.00

For the time and effort spent in sincere prayer that you would associate with the right kind of people, develop decent morals, be honest, trustworthy, truthful, dependable, tolerant, charitable, patient, ambitious, etc...(and all the good things we want for you to be)

$2000.00

For the Aggravation of teaching you to drive a car, hoping we weren't giving you the way to kill or maim or cripple yourself or anyone else-hoping you have the common sense to use moderation in your coming adulthood so that your life and ours, and others would not be ruined by thoughtless deeds.

$2000.00

Twelve years of education and all that goes with it--taxes, books, shots, transportation, time, clothing, spending money, trips, fads, records, entertainment, vacations, meetings, homework, projects, etc...

$20,000.00

Eighteen years of medical attention given with all the love and care possible, sleepless nights, band aids, allergies, cavities, ear infections, antibiotics, broken bones, etc...

$18,000.00

Eighteen years of feeding you 20,700 meals and snacks, add to this preparation time and clean-up afterward and $2.00 per meal is cheap.

$41,400.00

For the goodwill created by us for you to be enjoyed or destroyed as you see fit.

$5000.00



Total: $123,480.00


This is a low estimate. Supplies not necessarily included, not counting holidays or extreme disasters. However, this invoice was not created for the purpose of receiving payment, but to put into terms you can understand that a lot of time and money, love and care was invested in raising you. Please don't waste it, but enjoy it, put it to good use for both yourself and others. That will render this account "PAID IN FULL."

Love,
Mom

Friday, January 30, 2009

You're Gonna Miss This...Moment

Just for something different, I decided to make this week's "You're Gonna Miss This Moment" about something about the family member I haven't yet mentioned. Our dog, Jude. These days he is a fairly peaceful and sedate, though still playful, three-year old German Shepherd. He weighs in at just under 140 lbs. He is one big dog. He looks like this:


But when we first brought him home, and this is the part I miss, he was only seven weeks old, and he looked a lot more like this:



He was tiny and adorable and, well, needy. He needed to go out every night at 3am to do his business. Luckily said business was much tinier then, but I DON'T miss the late night rendezvous in the front yard. I do miss the tiny cuddly little pup who used to be able to sleep in my bed while still allowing room for the humans. Things change, and this is just one more of those moments that I really miss. Thanks to Pam over at You're Gonna Miss This Moment for taking me on my weekly trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some Time to Myself

Thank you to the old man in the hat who spoke to me in Foodland almost twenty years ago. I was the express lane cashier and so frustrated by the customer who could not stop talking as my line wound its way back into frozen foods. When she finally moved on I made some off-hand teenage remark to you and your reply has stayed with me ever since, ”Everyone has a story to tell, and there is something for you to learn from every single one of them...” After you I listened more often and more carefully, and that listening taught me things that have made all the difference.

Thank you to the first client I ever cared for as a home health aide. You passed away on my second day on the job, right there in front of me, but quietly, peacefully. You taught me that death doesn't have to be feared; that it is a moment in life just like all of the other moments and that it is possible to meet it with grace and acceptance. So many times over that lesson has served me.

Thank you to the cashier at Giant Eagle who watched me struggle with my misbehaving children (only two at the time) and told me not to worry, that everyone's kids act up and anyone who tells you differently is a liar. She made me feel like less of a spectacle, more a part of the world called motherhood .

Thank you to the guy at the auto parts store, who in the four years since my divorce, has helped me to install batteries and put on new wiper blades, to change light bulbs and check oil, even though I know much of that is beyond your job description. You helped me save face with my ex-husband, made it possible for me to appear more independent than I felt ready to be. Just so you know that imagined independence finally stuck; last week when it seven degrees outside I changed my own wiper blades right there in the street and it only took a few minutes. I learned from watching you.

Thank you to the nuclear engineer I cared for for almost a year. You were my client, but you also managed to be my friend. We never talked much about my personal life, but all through the time that my marriage was falling apart and my divorce was in process you kept me focused on myself and my children. Without ever giving me overt advice you showed me the right way to make it through the hard times. I would have fallen apart without you. I miss you so now that you are gone. I miss our scrabble games, the nights we used to watch Lost together. At seventy two and thirty we were unlikely friends but I'm so glad we managed anyway.

Thank you to my Senior Writing teacher in college. You were an amazing and well published author, but you were still human enough to be kind to me when I came to your office crying to ask for a late withdrawl from your class. I was struggling with depression,  trying so hard to keep my despair a secret as I tried to get my degree and raise my small daughter. You were wise enough to see through me. You told me you couldn't allow a talented writer to withdraw for no good reason. You told me at life happens but that you make your own destiny too. You gave me an incomplete and told me that you had faith in my ability to solve my problems and return to my writing. You believed in me long before I was able to believe in myself. But the lesson stuck anyway, and when I was ready for it, it served me well. And I will never get over the boost you gave me when you called me a talented writer.

Last but most definitely not least—and maybe this one doesn't count because even though his influence on my life was barely a shadow for so many years, now he is my life, my future, my happiness. I thank you B. For loving me first when we were so young and for doing it so gently and so perfectly that I have never forgotten. Thank you for helping me pass my computer class in college that I would have otherwise failed. Thank you for being nearby the night of my father's funeral if only for a few minutes. Those minutes meant the world to me. You mean the world to me. And thanks for encouraging me a few weeks ago to start a blog, to put myself out there and try something new.

All those people, all those tiny little moments that added up to so much. I am feeling grateful tonight that I had the time to consider them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New life, Old love, New baby???

"New Father"
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My "You're Gonna Miss This Moment" post the other day really got me thinking. I hate to over-do the topic, but quite frankly, the question of whether or not to have just one more child someday has been on my mind ( and the topic of conversations between B and I ) quite a bit lately. In addition to that, thinking it out in my head doesn't seem to be lending itself to the kinds of answers I'm looking for, so I figure I'll have a go at writing it out once and for all and then I'll leave the subject alone until our decision is finalized one way or another.

Months ago when B and I were looking through an old photo album one night, catching up on the babyhood of my oldest, I mentioned hat wonderful smell that babies have. I'm sure you know what I mean. (Some say it is the smell that keeps us from chucking them out in the snow when we realize how hard they are to care for...) But I prefer to think of it is the best smell in the world smell. Just holding someone else's baby and breathing in that indescribable sweetness is enough to leave me longing for another little one to call my own. But anyway, B was not familiar with THE SMELL. We talked about it for a bit, or rather I raved about it and tried unsuccessfully to describe it to him, all to no avail. B is not your usual kind of man. Most guys would just file this conversation away as girl stuff and forget about it. Not him. He asked his sister about it. Despite the fact that she has no children, she confirmed the existence and the wonder of THE SMELL. He Googled it. Yes--Google. I love this man. He is undeniably dorky, but I could not possibly love him more. The best part—Google confirmed everything I had told him. His response—“I believe you, I have always believed you, but I just really want to know what it smells like.” For this, Google was no help.

My youngest son, Z, is already fast approaching six years old. He is well past the age when the smell of babyhood passed us by. But I have noticed, with all of my children, that even after that age has passed, on rare and wondrous occasions, the smell will put in an appearance. This past Saturday was one of those precious days. Z got his bath early in the day Saturday and sometime around three he came running into my room and snuggled up against me as I was packing up to leave for work. I leaned in to kiss his head as I almost always do and BAM! It hit me. THE SMELL! It's part baby shampoo and soap, but equal parts brand new skin and magic...and there it was. I almost jumped out of my skin. I squealed--”That's it! Quick come here and smell this...” ( I know a total loon, Right?)

Good sport that he is, B came over and smelled. And sniffed again-- deeply this time. “Wow, you're right. I remember that smell a little now from when my brothers and sister were small. I can't believe I had forgotten.  That IS a great smell.” I was tickled to hear him say that. It surprised me how happy I was to hear him agree. I imagined just for a moment what it might be like to have that smell around all the time for a year or two again, and to be able to watch him cuddle some tiny little person against his chest and breath in deeply with that totally mystified expression on his face. That expression I had just seen for the first time. I can't help myself. I want to see it again. I want to do it all again. The sleepless nights, the worry, the magic of waiting to see just who this new little one turns out to be. Now I worry that he might change his mind, decide that three kids, especially three kids with sometime big issues, might just be enough for us to deal with. I'm hoping not though. He has no idea what wonderful things he would be saying no to if he decides against us adding our own contribution to the family we already share. I do. More and more lately I find myself thinking that if I never have another child, I might regret it later, but I can't ever imagine regretting the decision to have another child.

I can't say it any better than Dale Hanson Bourke already has—see her article here:

PS—When starting to read my blog a few days ago, B giggled that I only refer to him as B. He may regret that giggle because I have decided from here on out to call him The Brain instead, respectfully of course. But what else could I do-- I mean who Googles “the smell of newborn babies?” No worries though, I still love The Brain just as much as ever.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What if



After writing yesterday about all of the moments I know that I'm gonna miss when they are gone, I gotta major case of the what ifs this morning. I hate the what ifs. There is always some nagging possibility that might have turned out better, or the idea that changing one thing could have changed everything. But anyway, it was a what if kind of morning for me. So here goes:

What if I hadn't missed three birth control pills right after high school graduation? or what if I did, but I didn't get pregnant with my sweet daughter K?

What if I had finished college instead of dropping out to get married and have my little R? Would that degree in English Writing have made any difference? Could I have done both?

What if I hadn't moved back home in 2002 to help take care of my father while he was sick and dying? (I can't imagine any other option here, but sometimes I do wonder if I hadn't what would be different now


What if B hadn't shown up at my father's funeral in 2003? Would I still have had the courage to contact him last summer after twenty years apart? What if I hadn'tfought my own battles with self-destruction, would I have had the courage or knowledge about how to stick it out with him during those rough early months before he stopped drinking(for the most part?)

What if I had been the one caring for our elderly friend Norma the night that she and her caregiver were murdered in cold blood by a druggie trying to find money? That was almost me.

What if I wasn't so anxious about everything all the time, wondering, worrying about what things might go wrong just around the corner?

What if my older two children weren't bipolar? What if most of our evenings were peaceful and quiet and my fears for their future were fewer?

What if I hadn't spent two years not talking to my dearest friend? What sort of things might we have enjoyed during that time or helped each other through, but instead had to struggle through alone?

What if I hadn't gotten pregnant unintentionally when R was only three months old? What if I had given birth to that baby, started a more permanent relationship with the baby's father? Would I still have had my sweet baby Z to cherish and love?

What if my siblings had kept in closer contact while my dad was dying and afterward? Would I feel less alone, less deserted, less disconnected from the father I miss so very much?

So those are most of my bigger what ifs. Not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination. But the important ones. Or maybe not so important after all. Maybe the really important ones are these....


What if I love B with everything that I am and everything that I have to give and it is enough because he loves me back the same way? What if happiness like this really does exist and it can be mine just because?

What if I love my kids every day good behavior and bad and I do my best to help teach them the right way? What if that too is enough and my kids grow up strong and wise and happy?

What if everything that I have done up until now was essential to this moment that I am living in? What if I love this moment so much for everything that it contains, that I couldn't dream of changing a thing?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

You're Gonna Miss This...Moment



With four kids, all of them about five years apart, I've always got a lot of moments going on at once. When my oldest J was graduating from high school, my daughter was just starting junior high, and my littlest was getting his start in preschool. All at once it was a cap and gown and no more diapers. It has made me startlingly aware of how precious all of those little moments are. As each of my children passes a milestone in succession I realize how fleeting those times are and how with each child I am closer to never experiencing them again.

This year has brought a lot of changes to my life. I am in a wonderful new relationship with my high school sweetheart, and I find myself pondering once again a question I had already thought answered. When my divorce was finalized back in 2005, I came to the conclusion that I really was done having babies. I was lucky enough to have four healthy children in my life, and it seemed no great hardship to decide that my days as a new mom were over for good this time. I had been parenting for almost fifteen years then, more than half my life, and it seemed a good time to focus on my kiddos and start thinking about creating a life of my own, for that time, not really so far off, that they would start to go off to live lives of their own choosing. B has changed my perspective a bit.

During our years apart he never married, had no children of his own. (It's almost as though I had enough for both of us some days...) When we first started seeing each other again last summer I stated up front that I had no intention of ever marrying again, and that I was for sure not having any more babies. he nodded affably enough at my pronouncements and said nothing further. I remember thinking,"well, good, at least that won't be an issue."

It didn't take him two months to capture my heart and start me dreaming of the possibility of being his wife someday. We have talked and talked about what being married would mean for us, to us. I have explained my understanding of what a marriage ought to be, and we have agreed. We have agreed that a marriage is not created in a few moments in a church or a courtroom, but in the thousands of little moments spent together beforehand piecing together a life that pleases and nurtures you both. We have also agreed that that courtroom formality is a nice thing to have when you love each other the way we do and when you are trying to raise three children together. So at some point (later this year he says) we will marry. I will after all of these years, finally take as my own the last name that I used to scribble across my notebooks back in eighth grade. It will make me, I believe, the happiest woman I know.


That leaves only the question of children. Day by day he is learning to love my kids, and they are certainly growing ever closer to him. We have talked more than once about the possibility of one more. A child of his own, some little person we have created together. Despite my past reservations I cannot help but grow excited by all of the possibility that idea contains. I don't think I am capable of denying him the opportunity, especially when the moments it calls to mind are all so very precious in my mind.

I know now about the impending end of those baby days; How much it is possible to miss the sweet smells of baby formula and shampoo. I already miss those days when I could watch my older kids play while tiny little Z laid bunched asleep on my chest with his feet tucked under him like a frog. I know how much I miss being able to bury my nose in that sweet and heavenly space at the crown of a babies head. Almost every day I careen past another moment that I know I'm gonna miss. This week it is pinewood derby races and high school dances, but I know from experience that in the blink of an eye it will be graduations and college days and weddings...I have long missed the days I spent pregnant with the three of them, moving through my days with them tumbling about inside me. In a few shorts years there will be so many more moments to miss.

So I suspect that I will take B up on his idea. That we will someday in the not terribly distant future start the trail of moments all over again, just one last time, our first time together. I suspect as well that it will be wonderful all over again, even more so with this man I love so very much, but that it will also be bittersweet this time, knowing for sure that it will be the last time. So many moments that I know I'm gonna miss when they've gone by for good.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Recommended Reading!

Is There Any Mommy Out There?: Stop Thief


An absolutely beautiful, not to mention meaningful piece of writing. Makes me aware that though the hard times have been so hard, my life is exactly what I want it to be and I wouldn't change a thing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Love and Fear

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Love and fear have always been very closely intertwined in my mind, at least for as far back as I can remember.

I always loved my father beyond reason, but from the year I was twelve on, I carried with me a deep and abiding fear that he would die and leave me behind. So I loved, and I worried, always the two hand in hand, and in the end, of course, he did die.

I love my mother too, and it has always been my fear that if I do not share the dreams and goals she has wanted for me, that her love might be in some way conditional. It seems that this may have been true as well, although I don't proclaim to know my mother's true feelings. She wanted me to go to college and be a doctor, to delay having a family, to have an only child like I was, to marry a smart man with a big career and a bigger paycheck. I tried college, but as a writing major, and I flunked out. I got pregnant at the age of eighteen, just a few short weeks after my high school graduation. My daughter's father was older than me by almost a decade, he drove truck, earned little more than minimum wage, and was going nowhere fast. In short, she hated him, disapproved of my choices, and has never stopped letting me know about the ways and reasons she feels that I have failed. She cries on the phone to her friends about my lost potential and how many years she spent with me when I was young trying to teach me the right things, and how I have always had a mind of my own, no regard for her feelings. Another fear realized.

When I was twenty-three I married that boy my mother hated. I thought I loved him then. We had a three year old daughter together and we both loved her. We lived together and managed to get through the days. But again there was fear.  I was afraid he was still in love with my step-son's mother (he was.) I was afraid he was the kind of man who would hurt my feelings often and horribly and that he would take for granted how desperate I was to have a family and be proud of my part in it. (he did and he did. ) I don't mean to imply that he was a horrible man. We were horrible for each other though, and my fear of that was present right from the very beginning. The first time we fought and he called me a whore in front of our sons I knew that I was so right to have been afraid.

I love my half siblings from my father's first marriage. They are all more than a decade older than me, but I spent years looking up to them, chasing their affections and enjoying their company. I have always been afraid, though, that without ,my father there to link us, they would move on and forget about their youngest sister. And so they did, although they didn't wait for Dad's passing. When he got sick in 2002 I found myself pregnant with my third child and alone with my mother trying to provide round the clock care for my(very nearly) dying father while the five of them clipping along in their everyday lives, enjoying their grown children and sleeping full nights without our father's weakened voice to waken them. I watched him waste away alone for the most part. And since he's been gone they have left me farther behind than I had ever dreamed possible. They have all but disappeared from my life. It makes me sad, because they are the closest physical link I have to the father I loved so much and lost.

I have four children of my own now. My step-son and my own three little monkeys. I love them in a way I hadn't thought possible before becoming a mother so many years ago. It's the kind of love that dwarfs every other feeling I have ever had. And the fear that goes with it is almost insurmountable. I am afraid that I will make a mistake, hundreds of mistakes, really. I don't want to pressure them too much like my mother pressured me. I want to show them unconditional love and acceptance. I want to live for as long as they need me. I don't ever want to find that any of my children think that love and fear must be synonymous. Everyday I am afraid that they are the most important job I will ever have, and I am afraid that I will fail. Some days I do fail , but either way, the fear never leaves me.

All of a sudden, things are different. If you've been with me up until now, you know that I am in love again, or perhaps still is a better word to use. I still love B as much as I did twenty years ago when I was only thirteen years old, except I love him more. And every day I love him even more. I don't believe that I have ever stopped loving him. In all those years we spent apart, there was never an important moment in my life that he didn't grace my thoughts. The day I married my ex, it was B's face I saw every time I closed my eyes.  On the days I gave birth to my children, I always stopped at least once to consider what those moments would have been like with B at my side instead. I have loved him above and beyond as a part of every moment of every day we have spent, together or apart. I would like to say that this one overriding love of my life has never held within it a moment of fear; but if I did I would be lying. There are days that I am still very much afraid, but it is no longer every day. I am sometimes afraid that he will look at my complicated chaotic life and decide that it's not worth it, that these kids are too hard to deal with or that I am too riddled with anxiety for him to rely on. I am afraid that he will someday decide to start drinking again, or that I might slip back into my old habits of self destruction. But with B, all that fear has a different quality to it. It no longer consumes me as it once did. Most moments of most days I am at ease in a way that I hadn't ever thought possible. I am no longer ever afraid of another person hurting me. I feel his love and protection and concern every second these days. The fears are fading away, and I have no reason not to think that someday soon I will wake up and feel no fear, just the comfort that is fast becoming my new norm. I hope with all f my heart that he can help me teach this new feeling to my kids. The glimpses I've gotten of love without fear have really been something to behold.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My Bucket List

I finally got around to watching "The Bucket List." It has been on my dvd shelf for weeks now, but I finally found time. I enjoyed it. It was funny, but it also made me think. I have lost a lot of people that I care about these last few years and it's left me thinking about how I want to live my life, and about being able to let go at the end with no regrets. So, MY Bucket List:

1. Write a best-seller.
2. See all of my children grown up and successful, and by successful I mean happy with themselves and their accomplishments.
3. Live in the country.
4. Stand in grove of Giant Sequoias.
5. Drive an 18 wheeler, flat-out on the interstate.
6. Exceed the expectations of the people I love.
7. Learn to adapt to change with ease instead of anxiety.
8. Marry the man I have loved since we were only fourteen. (DONE!!!)
9. Go back to school and get my RN.
10. Be able to look back on my Dad's life and death with only laughter, not tears.
11. See the rodeo in Cheyenne.
12. Spend a week horseback-riding at a dude ranch.
13. Take a two day canoe trip down the Clarion River with B.
14. See all three of my children graduate from high school and pursue their dreams with open hearts.
15. Make a difference in the way elderly people spend their last days--better health care, better facilities, more ways for older people to stay in their own homes even after they can't do it alone...
16. Watch all of the episodes of MASH in order.
17. Learn from my own mistakes, ( and maybe from the mistakes of those around me too...)
18. Take road trips to thoroughly photograph both the east and west coasts of the United States.
19. Visit the Vietnam Memorial at night again.
20. Find ways to bridge the gaps between myself and my five siblings.
21. Spend a weekend at a dude ranch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Walk Down Memory Lane

My posts have been lazy these last few days. I can't help it. I've been super busy doing the living that gives me things to write about. Yet I really should tell you about Saturday night, because Saturday night was a blast. We were expecting a few inches of snow here, and K was willing to sit for the boys, so B and I decided on a date night at home (sort of.) We got everyone settled in here with K and my Mom for the night, and then we headed over to his Grandma's to help his Mom get her off to bed. By nine o'clock everyone was tucked in and nearly asleep for the night, leaving us free to enjoy an evening alone at B's Mom's house, (She lives next door to Grandma and so we just swapped houses for the night. We had a fire in the fireplace, PB and J sandwiches, and a couple of old home movies a piece to watch together.

So we watched. It was so good to cuddle against him on the couch and check out how we spent some of our years apart back in the early nineties. It was strange to see how different our lives were then. He spent '93 and '94 getting settled into the routines of college and fraternity life, while I spent them being pregnant and settling into the routines being a new mom. It's funny, but the only thing we really had in common then were our budding problems with alcohol. I got a chance to see once more his sweet face in it's younger version, before his chin took on the solid look of a man's that it has now, before his shoulders broadened and when his voice still had the slightest squeak of youth. He got to see some of daughter's earliest years and some evidence that my son R has had his awesome temper since birth, but he also got to see me mothering them then, when everything was still new to me. We both got to see my Dad in action once more, and I realized just how quickly the sound of his voice had receded into my memory. It reminded me how precious those videos really are and how very much I still miss him. It was good to visit again with our younger selves for a while. We laughed and snuggled and enjoyed the fire and each other. It made me realize again just how lucky I am to have this second chance with him, how lucky we are to have this second chance together. It makes me grateful for all those little things we are able to share now.

Some of my favorites:

1. When he rolls over next to me in bed, and takes a second to brush my hair back form my face and say "I love you" before he fades off to sleep again.

2. When we sit in bed together after a night at work clacking away at our laptops and just enjoying each other's silent company.

3. When he wraps his arms around me in the kitchen (or the living room, or the...) and stops whatever he's doing to make sure that I know how much he loves me.


and so much more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Me in Six Words: (Or Maybe More...)

For something different, I decided to ask a couple of people close to me to give me six words that describe me and see what i could do with them. I had originally planned to ask four or five people, but almost no one wanted to cooperate (apparently afraid of offending me because scary was a word that came up often enough.)The results were as follows:



My fourteen year old daughter K:



funny

You can tell time....

Scary

Loving

Clumsy

Cactus

I'm not sure about cactus, but she explained that I am beautiful and resilient, but, well, prickly....


My ten year old son R:

mean

picky

soft

brave

R ran out of steam after just four words, but I have to agree with all four so...



Finally I asked my sweetheart B. He had the most interesting answers. Granted, he was clicking through his online thesaurus for inspiration, but he well exceeded six words. When I asked him about this he said six words just weren't enough.



B:

inquisitive

intelligent

bitchy

socially adept??

Intense

Non-traditional

Simple

Sophisticated

Qualified

Analytical

Determined

Studious

Excruciating

Proficient

Excitable

Warm

Quick

Astute

Stingy

Generous-i didn't mean stingy

abrasive

prickly

goofy

Wacky

Giddy

Ridiculous

Exhausting

Romantic

Sexy

Lovable

Horny

kind


At first I thought some of those words he gave me were questionable (honest? yes. smart to disclose? not sure.) But as we talked afterward, he explained that without any of the more difficult words, I would be just like any other woman...instead of the woman he loves. So he said he loves me for all the words that describe me, not just the good ones. I'm glad I asked...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Not Me Monday

I have decided to participate in "Not Me Mondays" because it has been so fun to read these last few weeks.

I particularly enjoyed this week's gps pic showing MckMama driving over the lake and claiming she was "Not" (me) nervous about it here at My Charming Kids.


So here goes:

I did not hide in my bedroom from my kids on Wednesday after school because I simply could not bear their fighting and their noise.

I did not label my mom's number in my phonebook as "bitchy" instead of "Becky".

I did not torture B with my anxiety early in the week because I had PMS and unruly children.


Stay tuned until next week--I plan to give Not Me Monday a try again!

Making Things A Little More Right in My World

I once had a good friend, a best friend, really. More than a best friend. The kind of friend that will drop everything to be by your side when the rest of the world has walked away; the kind of friend that can be counted on to know what you need before you are even sure yourself. I think, that for the most part, I was this sort of friend to her too. Until I screwed up. I won't get into how I screwed up exactly, because it no longer matters. (And because it will make me look terrible, and let's face it, this is MY blog) But I definitely screwed up big time. I hurt her feelings deeply and I turned my back on ten or so years of the best friendship I have ever known. My reasons for doing this were stupid and inexcusable. I let others sway my opinion of my good friend in ways I should have known were ridiculous. I said horrible, hurtful things and I let my pride get in the way of apologizing. Until now.

Last week I found her profile on Facebook, this long lost friend of mine. (It has been more than two years since we've spoken.) It was good to see her face, and her children and that she and her husband seem to be doing well. It wrung out my heart to think about how much I miss her presence in my life. I got to thinking about all of the things in my life that have changed and gone better or worse in the last two years and how much easier the hardships would have been to bear if she had still been a part of my life. I thought about how much more fun the good times would have been with her easy laughter and our matching sense of humor. I remembered for just a moment how many times in the last two years I'd had a thought or a joke that I wanted to share just with her, and no way to reach out and do so. I thought about my children missing her children and how big a waste it really all had been for us to be missing out on so much just because I was too proud to apologize. So I did. I sat down and wrote her an apology and sent it facebook style to her inbox. It wasn't near the apology she deserved, but it was heartfelt and I was in a hurry to try to heal things between us. So I sent my apology. And I waited, and waited.

Today, she called me. It made my day. I got to hear her four beautiful children talking and playing the background and I got to apologize for real. (the kind of apology she deserved.) It was easier than I expected, having her there on the other end of the line, just to tell her how wrong I was , and how sorry I was and how very much I wanted to make things right between us again. She is a good person (she always was) and she has a gracious heart. She accepted my apology and in keeping with her heart of gold she told me that everyone makes mistakes, and that she missed me too. We are going to work to heal this thing that happened, the two of us, our families too. Tonight I will go to sleep knowing that things are just a little more right in my little world. If you owe somebody an apology, make it--you'll feel better.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Think I should Mention the Good Days

Reading back over my posts, I think I need to take some extra time out to tell you a little more about the good parts. Sure, the bad parts are interesting and overwhelming and noisier than the good parts, but the good parts are really what it's all about, and there are plenty of them.

Today was another quiet day. (so far anyway) My five year old, Z, has been playing his heart out at Playstation and Guitar Hero since the wee hours of the morning. He has been calm and mostly compliant and easy to please today. He has also been in an electronic trance. Now I have never been one to let the TV or Game system babysit for me. I have played many hours of Candyland and Lucky Ducks in my day. But. It has been difficult here lately, and I must admit that today's gaming obsession came as something of a relief.

The best part, though, have been his brief breaks from the tube. The ones where he runs into my room as I hack away at the computer and throws his arms around my neck for hugs and scams a piece of gum from my nightstand on the way back out. In the midst of the chaos, I love these moments.

R is having a good day too. He has been in and out all afternoon with his friends, (despite the frigid weather) happy enough to torment his siblings only intermittently today and without his usual fervor. He too has been particularly lovey and easy to get along with today. I am grateful.

All of this uncharacteristically quiet behavior has left me able to do some of the things I like best on a Friday snow day. I have had time to catch up on all of my favorite blogs, to read a little and write a little and to do some virtual window shopping on Amazon. I have also had time to snuggle quietly in bed beside B and talk; not heavy problem solving kind of talk, but easy, smiling, still falling in love talk. I was able to spend the noon hour nestled in the crook of his arm, with my head on his chest and the soft stubble of his cheek against my forehead and nose, listening to the beat of my favorite song. (his heartbeat) This might sound cliche, I know, but how can I lay so near to someone I love so much and not feel like the luckiest woman in the world?

Father of the Year? Not Quite Yet.

My ex-husband, for almost four years now, cannot make up his mind. He is not sure if he wants to enjoy the new found civility in our relationship since the divorce, or if he wants to nit pick and argue and continue to lose. (and I don't mean lose the argument either.) I don't have a laundry list of complaints about him like some ex-wives I know. I know that he loves our kids, is genuinely sorry (on most days) that our relationship went so badly wrong, and tries to be more accommodating than most ex-husbands I know. That said, sometimes he fails; in an epic fashion.

The Darling Three spend every Sunday night thru Tuesday evening with their Dad and his fiance. They often bristle about going, but just as often seem to have a good time while they are gone. I enjoy the quiet. It is often the only quiet I get. This week, when I picked up The Three on Tuesday evening, they entered my house as though they had been shot from a cannon. My two with mood disorders were mood-swinging like monkeys at the zoo and my youngest was along for the ride. As I cringed from the noise I unpacked their clothes and made sure everyone's meds had returned only to discover that R had missed four doses of Seroquel while he was with his Dad. That is four doses out of six, and not the preamble to a nice quiet evening at home for any of us. Things were becoming clearer. So while he raged in the background, and his sister sobbed at the kitchen table because her father said, "Why would you do that to your hair? You look like a boy." I called the ex to get his side. That was my first mistake. Thinking that if a mistake had been made, he would admit it was his. To make a long story short, we fought, loudly, on the phone for an hour. I do not need anyone to tell me how bad this is, for me, for my kids, and even for the big bad ex. By the time I hung up, and by hung up, I mean hung up on him, everyone was crying or angry or both and it took until nearly 10:00 to get the boys settled and asleep so that I could console my inconsolable daughter, trying to convince her that her father does indeed love her despite her haircut.

So I let some time go by before I talk to the ex again. Two days to be exact. And then I try a different approach. Hopefully it works. The initial feedback was encouraging. We talked for almost an hour. I explained to him some things I know from personal experience. Things lots of women know, but lots of men forget about. I tried to explain to him that the way a father treats his daughter sets the gold standard for how other men will be expected to treat her for the rest of her life. I reminded him, not for the first time, that criticism from him is almost impossible to erase from her mind, that he is THE man in her life right now. I told him that I wasn't trying to blame him for anything or make it all his fault, but that the way he deals with K is not helping her depression at all. I told him that I didn't want to see him lose a daughter in the same way we have both already lost a son. He told me that he understood, and I am hoping that this time he does.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

All is Quiet

So it's not even nine o'clock this morning, and B isn't even home from work yet, but I have noticed that despite the two hour delay for all three kiddos, it has been quiet here this morning. Exceptionally quiet. No yelling, no throwing or banging around...just the quiet hum of cartoons from the living room and the click of computer keys from the kids desktop in the hallway. It has not yet occurred to R to yank Z's chair out from underneath him, or to slap him in the back of the head on the way down the hall to the bathroom, and Z hasn't noticed that the cartoons aren't his favorite either. There is relative peace here for the moment. I am almost afraid....but keeping my fingers crossed that it lasts until the final school bus pulls away.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Missing My Son


My step-son J has been on my mind a lot lately. I started dating his father eighteen years ago when J was 2 and I was only sixteen. For sixteen years I loved him like I have loved my own children, worried when he was sick, been proud of his accomplishments and felt the joys of seeing him accomplish his goals, both large and small. From the time he was 12, he loved with my ex-husband and I and was an everyday joy to me. J's father and I divorced four years ago, and even after that J and I stayed in touch, talked on the phone each week, visited regularly. He is twenty now. I was lucky enough to get to attend his high school graduation, which was a hard-won achievement for him. About two years ago, though, he just disconnected. One day we were talking and laughing and then I never heard from him again. He stopped returning phone calls, broke off contact with my three children. (brothers and a sister he had always been so close to.) I'm at a total loss. I miss him terribly. I want him back in our lives. I wrote him the following letter but haven't sent it yet. I'm not sure if I should. I don't want to push him; I just want to understand.
Dear J,
I’ve been thinking about you almost constantly for a long while now, wondering if you are alright mostly, wanting so much for you to be happy. I wish I knew what happened to separate us, if only so that I could find some way to repair the rift, and close the space between us again. I watch the photos you flick up onto your web pages with my heart full of questions I wish I could ask you myself. I wonder if the girl in the picture has captured your heart, if your smile is genuine, if you remember how very much I love you. I wonder if there will ever be a place for me to go back to being your stepmother, or at the very least your friend. The hole your absence has left in my life is unbearable.
I was looking at K’s baby pictures last night, and there you were, always the proud big brother. I worry that I never got the chance to tell you how wonderful I always thought you were. Even when you were small and K was brand new, you showered her with love, never pushed away her affection or said so much as one word to hurt her feelings. She adored you then, and does even now, though you not being around really crushes her. I don’t know what to tell her to make it any better either. Hell, I’m still not sure what to tell myself. I message you as often as I think I can without you pushing me completely away. I never want you to forget how very loved you are here, and how desperately we want you to come back to us when you are ready. I will wait forever if that is what it takes. And if your worry is about what to say or how I will react then have no worries, id welcome you back if all you wanted to do was cuss me out. And I don’t have a harsh word to say about the time you’ve been away, except maybe that I’d be thrilled to find it over. I worry that the more time that passes; the harder it will be for you to feel comfortable about coming back at all. Just know that you don’t have to worry, you’re a welcome addition to my life anytime—no questions asked. You still have a home here with us if you ever need it, no matter what.

I remember with crystal clarity the last time I saw you. I was in the car outside of Z’s preschool waiting for the time to come to pick him up and you stopped in the church drive and got out to talk to me for a moment or two. It was the week before thanksgiving, just a few days off of the anniversary of us losing Dad and you stopping meant the world to me. I remember your smile that day prominent as always, no glitch in your mood, nothing at all to indicate that years would pass before I would see you or hear your voice again. I sometimes wonder if that day will ever come or if the every growing time between us will keep you away forever. I have no way of knowing, just as I have no way of knowing why, though I question myself daily trying to find all the answers or the missing piece that will bring you back into my life again.

It has been a full eighteen years now since the day you came into my life, making me, over time, a parent for the very first time. I remember your little face as well as I do your last smile and I wonder what could have gone wrong for our relationship in between. I have always been so proud of you, your accomplishments, but really just who you are. I have never met anyone as even tempered as you were growing up—no teenage angst, or rebellion against me for any reason. Never once in all of those years did you ever say “you’re not my Mom” or any other word to hurt my feelings or question my authority. In return I tried to keep the authority to a minimum. I'm sure it didn’t seem that way you at times, but I did my best to temper your father’s rash anger and impulsive decisions and to give you as much stability and love as I could despite my inexperience and my young age. I know there are dozens of ways in which I’ve failed you though. Not the least of which is that things between your Dad and I dissolved, leaving you alone with his bad temper in that damn apartment. Never does a day go by that I don’t wish I had pushed harder for you to stay here with us when your dad moved out with J. Looking back there are an endless number of decisions I would make differently if only it would mean I could get you back somehow.
I think a lot about my decisions, especially the ones I made those last few years, how hard I was on you when you failed English in eleventh grade or didn’t complete some damn homework assignment on time. I wonder if those were the things that pushed you away, but then I remember the day you came home and gave me a ticket to your graduation—so totally unexpected-and told me that without me you wouldn’t be graduating. I remember how I cried when you crossed the field to get your diploma—I knew perhaps better than anyone how hard you worked to get it and I have never felt that kind of pride in anyone before or since.  In my heart I carry all of these moments—your first date with S—the night I picked you guys up at Kennywood and drove you home-- your first job, the day you came to show me your new car. That day was something—I was able to watch you move further forward in life than I had ever been able to. I relaxed into the idea that you would settle into adulthood without the mistakes your mom and dad and I had made trying to get there ourselves. I let myself relax and breathe a little easier thinking that you would be just fine. That every step away would lead you closer to happiness and back to us again in the end. I don’t know what went wrong or how I can ever begin to fix it without some clue from you as to how. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do, you know, to get you back in some small way, an email or a phone call, just some tiny corner of your world from which I can watch you move into adulthood. Those are the things I wish for these days.
That said, things here change almost every day. The kids get bigger and Z seems to get smarter and R more devious…things I want you to see for yourself sometime soon. Your brothers and sister are slowly turning into different people, and I hate the idea that you won’t be here to help shape that, to give them someone worth looking up to. I would love for them to have the traits I have always admired in you. Some I think they will come across on their own, because even after two year it is stunning how clearly they remember you, even Z who was only three and is now chasing down kindergarten in just a few short weeks. But I wish you were here for them to learn from (even the mischievous stuff that big brothers are good for, like when you taught R to say hot babes and he got us both in trouble repeating it in Kindergarten. His teacher was so mad that all I could do was laugh, but it was so typical of the two of you—that brother stuff.) I want those moments for Z too. For him to realize how lucky he is to have been born your brother.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the time when Dad was sick. You stand out in my memory for all the things little and big that you did to make my life easier then. You helped with the kids like they were your own, never complained, helped us take care of Dad, and watched over him a few times when Mom and I needed to be somewhere else. I remember how proud I was at the funeral home when the vets presented you with his flag. I still have it for you. It’s not mine you know, but yours, and you deserve it every bit as much today as you did back then. Even though Holly had RJ and Kevin had Brian, you were, in many ways, my Dad’s first grandson of 14 grandchildren; the first he really got to know and enjoy. So many times he told me that if all of his grandchildren turned out as well as you he would be the luckiest man in the world. I know better than almost anyone that it must not have been easy for you to live there with us and my mom and dad, almost like having two extra parents every time you turned around, but you were a pleasure to live with. I can’t even begin to tell you how much emptier the house seems without you. I cant even begin to accept the idea that you are lost to us for good.

I’m sure you're more than sick of reading this by now, though there are a million more things I can think of to say. So I guess I’ll leave it for now. Just know that I miss you more than any letter will ever express, and there isn’t one thing in this world that I wouldn’t do have you back in our lives, even in just some small and simple way. Please know that you will always be welcome, and there is no such thing as too much time passed or too late to come back home.
Love,
Still your Mom