Sunday, May 31, 2015

Love Her

A simple list can be so crucial these days. A reminder of what to do, where she's been, what needs to be done next week. Much like her, I've always used lists. I gain joy from marking off each item as I accomplish it. But my lists and her lists are so vastly different, so far from one another, it pains me to think about those differences.

List 1: pasta, mushrooms

A seemingly innocuous list, unless you know that it serves as a reminder of what she currently has on the stove for dinner that night.

List 2:
Granite City, Belleville, Troy, Bloomfield

A list of cities but also a way of remembering where she's lived since having been married.

List 3: M, Feb 8, 70 years old; T, Aug 20, 80 years old

The most powerful list of all...the one that speaks volumes and brings tears to my eyes...the one that indicates she isn't sure when her birthday is or how many years she's had on this earth.

I look at her, washing dishes at the sink for the sixth time that day. I watch as she goes to check the mailbox for the second time in 30 minutes. As she lingers at the counter, eyes fixed on the calendar, perhaps hoping the date and time of a single appointment will sink into her brain. As she struggles to comprehend Dad's medication log or the concept of a donation receipt. I see her try to help Dad to the bathroom and reach for his breakfast. Over and over, she repeats the same actions, and in her head, she thinks she accomplishes something. But the reality is, she doesn't.

List 4:
Care for her, be patient with her, find a way to get her some help, love her



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Dear Future Self

With that title, I've forced the Meghan Trainor song into my head. But by the time the kids make you read this post, that song will be considered ancient and the link might not work. So trust me, the song (Dear Future Husband) is pretty catchy, but it's not your favorite. What is your favorite song? You don't have one, but you lean toward 80s pop (I know, I know. I can't believe it, either.) and you love Pachelbel's Canon (good choice, by the way). Ask the kids anything else about you, or go back and read your blog posts. You're pretty much an open book. Especially these days.

And that's because you've got a lot going on in your life right now. You teach, you write, you edit, you mom, you read, you're trying to get back into running after that seemingly harmless injury (in which you really have no idea what you did wrong), and most recently, you're trying to take care of your folks. From your home four hours south of them. In fact, Zoe said today, "You're always on the phone these days, Mom." And she's right. Thank goodness for unlimited long distance. (Who knows what they'll have in the future. I'm curious about all of that. You just switched to a phone that allows you to text, but you still have to buy the minutes. Just thought I'd tell you.)

Anyway, back to the task at hand. I'm here to tell you that Dad's diabetes is causing problems and he's also been diagnosed with ocular shingles. Add to that mix the worries you have for your mother, and the summer of 2015 will go down as one of the most-traveled summers you've had in a while (you got back here yesterday from a quick trip to help your parents and you're headed up for the weekend tomorrow). I'm not writing to you to tell you what a great daughter you are (you could be better). I'm writing this post so that someday, you can help out your kids by not doing what your folks are doing.

And what are they doing? Nothing. They're hiding their heads in the sand, so to speak. They refuse to acknowledge their health, and they're making life harder than it should be. They are, in your opinion, at the point that they need help with some daily activities. With cooking, cleaning, bills, and healthcare. Making sure the filing gets done properly and that Dad is eating a healthy, diabetic friendly meal. Dad can't drive right now, and Mom has trouble writing checks. Both are confused and Mom's memory loss is quite pronounced. They are behaving like Dorothy and Guido (remember them?), afraid to change, fearful of embracing a new life.

Yes, you and I both know that change is difficult. I know you're set in your ways. That you will most likely like the life you lead (and least I hope you're happy with the life you're leading there, future self). But you must remember (or trust what I'm telling you now if you don't remember) that life is a cycle (cue the Lion King music). Parents take care of kids and after many years, kids take care of parents. You want, right now, to take care of your parents, but they refuse. Life would be easier on everyone if they would accept your help (or your that of your sisters, as they are also willing), and move on. The bottom line? If the kids are asking you to read this, you're doing exactly what your parents are doing. All the things you said you'd never do.

Don't do that. Don't make the situation harder on everyone. Trust your kids. Trust your younger self. Learn again to accept the things you cannot change. Learn to look at new chapters in your life as an adventure. And in case you're too confused to understand what all of that means, I'll just say this: MOVE IN OR MOVE CLOSER TO YOUR CHILDREN. EVERYONE WILL THANK YOU FOR IT.

By the way (and yes, I am leaping from a very heavy topic to something a little lighter, without a good segue), no matter what happened with your writing, right now, you're making yourself and your kids happy (they like to read your stories). And you're having fun editing. As of this moment, you've only published a few profiles and short stories, but you've finished several manuscripts, and that accomplishment is more than some people can say. Plus, your kids are fantastic (you aren't one to brag about your children, but what I'm saying is that you all have a great relationship, I think). All four of them are very much the sort who go with the flow far more that you did at that age. And that Timmy is a dirty old man and always has been. So if he's sitting next to you right now and trying to get fresh, his behavior hasn't changed. You should thank him for his consistency.

That's all for now. If I need to write more to you, I will. Hope you are well.

C.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wordles

Have you ever seen a wordle? It's a group of related words that form what's called a word cloud. That word cloud can be used to convey a message. Right now, my mind is experiencing an overload, and if I could take a picture of what's inhabiting my brain, the thoughts inside would form a wordle. No kidding. But since I don't have time to make my own wordle (and my computer needs another plugin to make it so), I thought I'd see what's out there in terms of good wordles that describe my week.

I found a not-so-positive example when I Googled aging wordles:



And then, because I didn't want to focus on the negative, I searched for happy wordles and found this:




In order to get to the happy wordle place in my brain, however, I will need to do this:


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Letter to Dad

Dear Dad,

It's been quite the month for you, hasn't it? A little spill. A bit of shingles. Some weakness and blurry vision. Your diabetes seems under control most of the time, but other things about your body seem to speak that not all is right with your world. And so here you are, sitting in rehab, and I'm hoping to keep you there.

I have to be honest and say that I am not worried about you. You've proven that you are relatively healthy and strong and I truly believe that you will recover, if you give yourself enough time. If you work with the physical therapists. If you don't push yourself to go home before your body is ready.

I also have to be honest and tell you that the reason I don't want you to push yourself to go home is that you can't go home. Okay, well, really--you can go home. You can get there, you can sit at home, you can convalesce there, even though I think it will take you longer to do so. But if you go home, you will be doing Mom an enormous disservice. Because unlike you and your physical ailments, she is suffering from something far more dangerous. She is losing her memory. She lost much of it already. And in the state she is in now, she cannot possibly take care of you in the proper manner.

There, I said the secret out loud. I'm no clinician, but I know Mom well enough to see the changes that have occurred. The signs have been there for ages. She searches far too long for the correct word and usually doesn't come up with it. She substitutes phrases for simple words, such as "the road leading to the garage" instead of "driveway." She repeats herself three times within the span of five minutes. And she can't remember how long it takes to get to different places. Furthermore, people have called her recently and reported that they do not understand what she is saying. And I had a conversation with her last week where she asked me, "Do you know what I mean?" and I had to reply, "No." Because I really didn't. Her language wasn't garbled per se, but she couldn't string together the sentence properly.

I know this is going to be a very difficult time for both of you. You want to be home, probably so you can have your own bed, your own food, and so you can see your wife. But Mom is fighting this issue of hers tooth and nail. She refuses to give in to the mess that's tangling her brain, and I admire her tenacity. But in refusing to give in, she's refusing any possible treatment. And because of that refusal, her decline from this point out could be swift and painful.

So Dad, here's my suggestion. Stay in rehab for a little longer, for Mom's sake, not yours. Sure, you should get stronger during the time you're at the facility, but you're also giving Mom a little break. She can no longer keep house, do cooking, manage laundry, and take care of you. Her physical strength and mental capabilities are waning. She needs you to be as strong as you can be because in my mind, its her time. Her time to have you take care of her.

The tides have changed, Dad. I hope you can see that. And we're all here to support you.

Love,
C

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bad Potty Habits

WARNING: I use some not-so-savory language in this post.

I woke up this morning to find one little puddle of urine behind the chair in the girls' room, one medium-sized puddle of urine on Aaron's comforter, and one very large puddle of urine in the basement. Now, I know that none of the people in this house urinated in a place that wasn't the toilet, and I know that Shadow did not have the problem (he doesn't climb stairs). But as for the other four mammals...I'm not completely certain of which animal might be pissing all over the place. (Excuse my slang. I don't usually use that word, but somehow, it feels right. Probably because their pissing causes me to get pissed off.)

I've seen Arnold urinate outside the litter box, but the puddle in the basement was so large, I can't possibly imagine his bladder could hold that much urine. At least not in one sitting. (Plus,  I added another litter box, in the event that he didn't like the other boxes at his disposal.) Same goes for Benedict--his bladder can't hold much. Which means Heathcliff and Lucy are the only questionable animals left. Heathcliff seems happy. So does Lucy. But Lucy is certainly advancing in age. Perhaps he has a kidney issue or is diabetic.

So who's the pisser? I have no idea. And I'm so busy these days, I won't really have time to sit around and track the potty habits of our domestic cats (insert Ze Frank's voice here). So I'm hoping that the new litter boxes in the basement (we now have five) will help our cause until I can get the vet to check these little mammals out.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reasons 131-140

131. Raspberry lemonade sangria.
132. Fireflies.
133. Closed doors. (You might wonder why I once said open doors was a reason to be happy and now we have closed doors. I mean that sometimes, a closed door means you can't hear the whining.)
134. The Tree Tower at Cox Arboretum.
135. Rain drops on roses.
136. Whiskers on kittens.
137. Cooling fans on warm late spring days.
138. Corn on the cob.
139. Shallow puddles on driveways.
140. Warm Timmy hugs.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Lamp, II

With the onset of spring and summer comes a manic impulse to clean house. After moving things around in the girls' room and Melina's room, I've started on the basement. So far, we've taken out loads of recycling to the garage, moved out two interior doors we've never used, and thrown away old and dusty alcoholic beverages (believe me, these were the kind that do not get better with age). None of what I discarded held any sentimental value to me. Until I reached the Noah's Ark lamp.

The lamp was the first one I bought the girls, while they were still in utero. We didn't know the twins were two girls and their bedroom was so small, we opted for the simple lamp I found at Meijer. Religion had nothing to do with my choice; I simply liked the animals carved into it. Aaron also used the lamp, and so did Melina, until we bought her a taller more Melina-like lamp. But much like Melina is wont to do, she couldn't part with the lamp, and neither could I. So she used it in her make-believe office until last April, when I moved it to the basement.

At the time, I thought I could hold onto that lamp. I even said, "It is clear that the lamp actually does have a place in our home. Forever." But I realize now that the lamp is just a thing, and that while it brought us great joy for many years, it still has so many lives yet to lead. Somewhere else. I'm confident it can find a place to live that is much more suitable than our dark and dusty basement. I'm also confident that it will bring great joy to other little girls and boys.

So the walk up from the basement with the lamp in my hands was not filled with remorse. I gently placed the lamp into a bag, and then took it out again, thinking that I should take a picture of our friend. I wanted to make sure that even though the lamp would not have a physical space in our home, it would still be here, in our hearts. Sappy thought, isn't it?




Friday, May 22, 2015

Reasons 121-130

It's been a long time (March 6, 2014 actually) since I posted any reasons to be happy. And after this long week with my dad's health issues, I could stand to concentrate on why I should be happy rather than why I should be not-so-happy. Even though I posted previous reasons in increments of ten, #121 was given that day in 2014, so I'll start again there.

121. Open doors.
122. Family, no matter who much aggravation they can cause.
123. The scamper of kitten feet across wood floors.
124. The feeling you get when you know you're doing something amazing.
125. Elementary teacher hugs.
126. The memories that are evoked when you stare at photographs you've taken long ago.
127. Mo Willems and his delightful pigeon.
128. Fleece bathrobes.
129. Texting. (Yes, I just wrote that. It saved me this week.)
130. The feeling you get on the first day of summer vacation that you have an entire adventure in front of you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Let It Go

Sometimes you must let go of your fears in order to help someone you love.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 20

I called my parents yesterday. I asked how Dad was feeling, how Mom was handling the multiple doctor appointments that Dad had to get to, and whether or not they both were holding up. My sister, Tara, had offered to take the day off to usher Dad to those appointments. Tara's presence helped my parents, but it also helped Gina and me. We all needed to understand what was going on with Dad's health. On the phone, Mom seemed grateful for Tara's help, but I could tell that the day had overwhelmed her.

"You need to learn to ask for help, Mom. We can help, but I have to be honest, it would be better if you lived closer to one of us."

"We did ask for help," she said. "I couldn't get your dad back into bed. We called Jim."

Jim is a neighbor of theirs, but my parents live in a neighborhood whose residents are predominantly on the older side. "He's as old as you are," I reminded her.

"No, he's only 66."

I sighed. Sixty-six and seventy aren't all that far apart, are they? My mother takes everything so literally. Her ability to grasp the abstract concept no longer exists. My parents' ability to understand that they need help might never have existed. And they don't want to admit what is right in front of their faces: it's time to move, to possibly enlist some extra help. Before a real accident happens.

I understand their hesitation. Who wants to admit they are getting older? I understand that change is tough and the unknown is scary. I know that my parents live their lives in the comfort zone and would prefer to stay there. (We all do at times.) I can appreciate wanting to stick with the status quo. But if Dad falls, Mom said herself that she can't help him. And if she would fall, Dad doesn't have the strength and flexibility to help her. (By the way, I explained that fact to her yesterday. "I don't fall," she said, as if falling would never be an option, despite the fact that her age is advancing. I've slipped down the stairs Mom, and I was only 33 years old.) Furthermore, my parents live in a tri-level home, with no bathroom on the main floor. Should Dad be taking that many steps on a daily basis? They're choosing to live within a death trap, not a comfort zone.

The bottom line is that my parents need to move to another house, as I suggested to Mom on the phone. And what better thing to move toward than one of your daughters, right? Or, they could add on a master bedroom suite with bathroom and laundry on the first floor and possibly have someone come in once a week to help. But parents (mine in particular) can be stubborn. Mom says she has no plans to move. That she's happy in a place she's always told me she's hated.

She's happy all right. Happy in her denial. I know I might get this way, years down the road…

After I got off the phone with Mom, I yelled out to my children--not at them, for I wasn't mad at them--that they had to try their best to not let me do the same thing. I told them to do anything and everything to my future self to make me see reason. I told them I'd keep writing about this experience with my folks and that I had written anecdotes down already. "If I keep writing," I said to four wide-eyed children, "then maybe 35 years from now you'll pull up my pages and force me to read what I wrote today." Maybe I'll be pushed to realize that what I might be doing to my kids is exactly what my parents did to me. Or maybe I'll tell them that I don't remember writing the words, and so therefore, what they say can't be true. (I feel this way when I speak to my mom. "I don't remember saying that," she says, and trails off, giving me the impression that because she doesn't remember what I told her, it didn't happen. But that's like saying because I don't remember being born, it couldn't possibly have happened.)

So how do I feel and what do I want? I feel angry, frustrated, and most of all sad. I feel like my parents are being selfish and can't see our side of the story. I feel like they are walking down a dead-end road that only has one ending: a dismal one. And I'm not trying to be negative or pessimistic, although that's a character trait that lives in my genes. My parents have given us evidence to be worried, and I'd like for them to look at that evidence and believe in us. I'd like for them to meet us half-way, compromise, so to speak. I'll drop everything for them, in a heartbeat, but if they'd get themselves to safer ground, everyone's lives will be much better off.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, III

It's been a really long week around here. So long that I need some kitty love. So here's our new installment of cute kitty photos. I'm stopping at two because I have places to be. Happy Tuesday! (It is Tuesday, right?)



Monday, May 18, 2015

Authenticity

Knowing someone via Facebook isn't really knowing that person.

I know that statement is so profound for a Monday morning. I know I didn't need to say those words. But when I signed up for Facebook back in 2008 and started building my friend list, there were a few people who friended me and I thought, "Cool. They seemed so nice back then. Maybe I'll get to see how they really are."

And over the last seven years, I've learned that yes, those people might be pretty cool, but there was a reason I wasn't good friends with them in the first place. (In all fairness, they could very well be saying this about me, too.)

Now don't be hard on me. I realize that I just said it's hard to know people via Facebook. So each day, when I check on these people, I only get a two-dimensional glimpse into snippets of their lives. But you and I both know that you can tell a lot about a person by what they post.

What I've found out most recently is just how superficial and artificial people can be in the virtual arena. I don't do well with artificial; I prefer authentic. I hope you do, too.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Damn Desserts

Four years ago, almost to the day, I experienced a few wake-up calls, one of them with respect to sugar. I vowed on that day to limit my sugar intake, and four years into that vow, I can tell you I've failed miserably.

But today is a new day. And it's the day after I saw some of what diabetes might be doing to my dad. And if he can cut out the sugar, so can I. So I have made (yet) another vow to cut out sugar.

Which means I need a plan of attack and here it is: to increase my level of exercise as much as I can (considering I'm still nursing that injury) and cut out sugar. I'll keep my treat in the morning with my coffee only so long as I stop eating ice cream or cookies at night. If I can't manage taking out the sugar after dinner, if I go back to consuming more sugar than I should, I'm cutting good old glucose out entirely, just like Dad, just like FRN.

By the way, I consider my self pretty reliable, the sort of person who follows through with what she tries to do. But I could stand some help from my friends. So if you see me refusing sugar, nod your head in solidarity. If you see me eating it, slap the damn dessert out of my hand! I'll thank you for it.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

We Are Family

In the end, it wasn't really their fault that they missed the recital.

They had changed their plans: instead of meeting up with the Bs, they decided to come down and see the girls sing. They arrived Friday afternoon. On Saturday morning, they were showered and ready to go well ahead of time.

And then their plans changed. Again.

"My eye still hurts," he said. "It's not a sharp pain, but it kept me awake. I feel pressure behind it."

"Well," she said, "I think you should call your doctor. We have time. And they should have a physician on call, I would think."

He thought about her words, considered them, probably tossed them out before they'd even settled into his brain. But her sister called, the clinician, and she told her about what he'd said--about the pain, the pressure. The sister ran through a battery of simple tests over the phone, all of which he cleared, but she suggested as well that he call his doctor.

And so he did.

After explaining to the nurse on call what he'd experienced (this included double vision on the morning they drove down), the nurse suggested he be seen at an urgent care or ER in the area.

She took the phone from him to ask the nurse a question. "What's the window of time we have? We're supposed to go to a recital in about 45 minutes. Can it wait, or should he go now?" She knew in her heart he wanted to see the recital--she wanted to see it, too--but his health might depend on seeing a doctor at the right time.

"Oh, you've got about a four-hour window, hon. Get him there before then, and you'll be good."

She thanked the nurse on call for her time, and reported back to him.

"You have a four-hour window. We'll ask the teacher to have the girls go first and then we'll leave early and head over to the ER after we hear them. Is that okay with you?"

"Sure," he said. "I feel okay."

But then he ambled to the bathroom, and declared that he was going to vomit. Vomit always makes everything just a little bit worse. What if the pressure in his eye was also pressuring something else? What if the vomiting indicated something far more severe than she could see? Too many questions without answers.

Those plans they had? They'd changed again.

"We're going  now. We're going to the ER now," she said.

"Okay," he said. No fight, no squabble.

She smooched the kids on their foreheads, apologized for not seeing them sing, and herded him and his wife to the car. The five minute trip to the ER was without incident, and the empty ER welcomed them quickly. He apologized at least a couple of times for missing the recital. But what was she to do?

Despite the pain, despite the disappointment, despite everything that had happened in the past, he was family. And family takes care of family.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer Hopes

I've been a day ahead of myself all week. Yesterday's post was originally entitled, Friday Thought, and it wasn't until about four o'clock this morning that I realized my error. I've changed the title now, to the just as mundane and seriously uncatchy, Thursday Thought, but I guess at least I'm using some alliteration, you know? (Why was I up that early? I was lying in bed, under attack by at least one cat. I can't be sure which one. I did go back to sleep.)

My ability to forget what day it is goes hand in hand with the end of the semester. When I have a set schedule of teaching, I rarely forget what day it is. When I'm momming and volunteering, it could be any day of the week. I'm afraid for what is to come, because as of next Thursday, my children will all be home. Yes, our summer break starts on the afternoon of May 21.

A couple of weeks ago, I admitted that I'm ready for the summer. We've been sick all school year long, so I'm hoping that we have a germ-free block of sunny days. But I never am really ready for the summer break. Who can be ready for hour upon hour of complaints about the sun, the heat, the being bored that happen so often when you have hours to fill? And who can be ready to start back up as short order cook? And the laundry? I'm never ready for the enormous piles of laundry that stack up around here in the summer.

But this year, I'm armed. The girls are 13, Aaron is 10, and Melina will turn 7 in July. Not only do they have the maturity to be more helpful, but they have the strength. Which means five people getting things done around here should give us more time to do the fun things, like visiting metroparks, pools, and museums, or perhaps just sitting outside having a picnic. Our hours can be filled with more things to stimulate the mind than to make us bored, or at least that is the hope. And of course, I'm being selfish, too. I hope that I have a little more time to sit and write.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Teacher Quotes

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week (although we're celebrating it this week in the elementary school with breakfast, lunch, and treats for the teachers), so teachers have been in the news  as of late, or at least in the news feed. I ran across this link for the top quotes about teaching, culled together in case any of the teachers out there need a pat on the back, I guess. If you're like me, you spend a lot of time feeling under appreciated (sort of like parenting, no?) and the list is supposed to make you feel better perhaps.

But the quotes given do not make me think, Oh yes, that's why I went into teaching! Not at all. I think it's because I felt luke-warm about the list. I mean, I like the choices (they provide nine quotes), but all of them are lofty, so unlike what a student would say to you. I didn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling from most of the quotes (although I like the words of Albert Einstein), so I went searching for some quotes that spoke to me (even though none of these would ever be spoken by a real student). By the way, these quotes might not speak to you, but you can make your own list, you know?

Every child should have a caring adult in their lives. And that's not always a biological parent or family member. It may be a friend or neighbor. Often times it is a teacher.
~Joe Manchin 

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.
~C. S. Lewis 

None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody - a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns - bent down and helped us pick up our boots.
~Thurgood Marshall 

 A mind when stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions.
~Anonymous

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
~Robert Frost

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
~Nelson Mandela

What is a teacher? I'll tell you: it isn't someone who teaches something, but someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows.
~Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello 

In order to be a teacher you've got to be a student first.
~Gary L. Francione

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.
~Lily Tomlin, as "Edith Ann"

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Kitty Cuteness, II

I think Tuesdays are going to become "post your best kitty photo" day. These littles just keep giving us some great photo ops. And since it's already almost 2 p.m. and the human littles will be heading home soon, I don't have much time to write.

So ruminate on this face or use it as a writing prompt. I know I will.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Through Melina's Eyes

One of my Mother's Day gifts came from Melina. You've seen the picture she drew of me already, but I'd like to share the rest of the project. Which is a paper purse that tells all about me, the mom. I have thoughts about making a purse for mothers--how trite it might be, or how stereotypical--but I'll tell you honestly that I didn't carry a purse until I became a mother. So stereotypical or not, the purse is mighty apropos. At least in my case.

Anyway, back to the purse. I think the pictures can tell the story.

Love the front of this purse. The swirls and rainbow are my favorite parts.

Again, Melina added the swirls. And she chose green because, as you'll find out, green is my favorite color.

She is spot-on about all of this, but I have to say there are other things I like to do more than rest. However, Melina probably hears me say that I need to rest more often than she hears that I need to read, or write, or run. (I really do forget to brush her hair!)

She loves my hair! And she loves to read. Woo-hoo!

She described me pretty well, although I'm actually taller than one grandma and shorter than the other. Surprisingly, Melina says I look best in a T-shirt and jeans. Doesn't that go against the princess code or something?

And of course, he's the picture of how she sees me. (Sorry, but I had to repost so the integrity of the project could shine through).

Melina pays attention (or she rifles through my purse too often). She included the most important items in my purse (from left to right): my phone, my wallet, and my bag of lipstick. Quite fitting. I wonder what Aaron would have thought to include had he made me something similar.

And now, if I lose this purse over the years, I've got a reminder of how first grade Melina sees me. Homemade gifts are the best.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

I didn't get to sleep in. Or have breakfast in bed. I didn't have anyone come up to me and hand me a gift (I'd gotten two homemade gifts the day before). In fact, today started like every other day.

Melina woke me up, I made coffee, I ate toasted oats with milk. Once the older children were awake, I took all four of them with me to the grocery store. Tim slept in.

Later, I threw some food together and vacuumed the floors before our friends arrived for a late lunch. We had a casual afternoon, in an air-conditioned home. I finished up my Dairy Queen treat from yesterday and by evening, gave Melina a bath. I worked on a critique that's hanging over my head, and I'm heading up now, for a hot shower.

An ordinary day. An extraordinary day. A mother's day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Proof

Melina brought home a Mother's Day project yesterday that included a portrait she drew of me. I'm thrilled with her depiction. She managed to capture the colors in my hair and the essence of one of my favorite T-shirts (although the shirt looks like it could be my famous fleece, too). The picture can serve as proof one day, when I'll tell my grand kids that, despite the bifocals, I didn't always have gray hair. 



Friday, May 8, 2015

New View

Getting old smacks you in the face sometimes.

Like today, when the optometrist said to me, "Those readings mean you're ready for bifocals."

I knew the day was coming. I often lift my glasses when I'm trying to adjust the radio station in the car, and I've been known to thread a needle with my glasses off. Yes, Dr. B's proclamation was no surprise.

"It isn't going to get any better, you know," he added. The sympathetic look on his face sent me into a fit of laughter.

"I know, I know," I said, nodding my head as I shook his hand.

I packed up my purse, checked out with the receptionist, and placed an order for bifocals with the optical shop.

Bifocals. 

My grandma used to wear bifocals. My dad wears them now. Somehow it doesn't seem right that a body that can still get pregnant must rely on bifocal lenses to see. I'm hoping that my view is a good one.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Abstinence Only Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Warning: I'm expressing an opinion in this post. It might not be your opinion, but this is my blog. Just giving you that warning so you can leave now if you want.

I'm not the sort of person who reads People every day. (And it's okay if you are...no judgment here. I read it every other day, probably.) But sometimes, on the days I have no plans to cruise to that site, a link will catch my eye and I click on over to read all about the pretty people. Most of those pretty people probably aren't any better looking than us. They just have better makeup and photographers, you know?

The link that caught my eye today floored me. In bold letters, the title says: Chlamydia Outbreak at Texas High School with Abstinence-Only Sex-Ed Program. Yes, you read that right. Chlamydia at a high school. And it's an outbreak. If you read the article, you'll understand that 20 cases of chlamydia have been confirmed at Crane High School in west Texas. What's 20 cases? When you only have 300 students in the school, that's a lot of chlamydia.

Let me educate you for a minute on chlamydia, in case you aren't aware of this sexually transmitted infection (yeah, some people still call them venereal diseases or STDs but a wonderful clinician I know and love told me that I should call them STIs.) Chlamydia is a bacterial infection spread via sexual contact. It is quite common and sadly, can be present without symptoms. It can become a threat to good health: a woman's reproductive organs can be permanently damaged, and men's reproductive organs can also be affected. The silver lining of this infection? It can also be prevented with regular condom use. (For more accurate information, please go to the CDC.)

Notice what I said there. Regular condom use. I probably should also have said appropriate condom use. As in, using the condom each and every time in the manner it is supposed to be used, before the expiration date, yada, yada, yada.

So why did this outbreak happen then? My readers are astute. You KNOW why the outbreak occurred, but in case you haven't had your coffee yet, the title says it all: Abstinence-Only Sex Ed. Apparently, the program isn't working, and the superintendent, Jim Rumage, acknowledges that fact. He is quoted as saying, "We do have an abstinence curriculum, and that evidently ain't working."

Ya think, Jim? Were you ever a high school student?

The People article goes on to say that "Rumage defended the school's sex-ed program – three days of abstinence-only advocacy each fall – in a separate interview with the San Antonio Express-News. 'If kids are not having any sexual activity, they can't get this disease … That's not a bad program,' he said."

Yes, yes it is, because clearly, the kids are having sexual activity! You've just proven that to be the case! And, you've contradicted yourself because you took note of the fact that the program isn't working. Doesn't that imply then, that the program is bad?

If I polled a group of high school kids around here and asked them how many have had sex or were having sex regularly, I'm sure I'd shudder at the number. But that's reality and trying to tell them to just say no is not effective. Arm the kids with the right information. Show them the data, show them the pictures, give them what they need to make an informed choice. I'm not naive: I know that kids will have sex. But if they're going to have sex, they need to know how to keep themselves safe.
is an infection caused by a kind of bacteria that is passed during sexual contact - See more at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/chlamydia#sthash.19hwcAT9.dpuf
is an infection caused by a kind of bacteria that is passed during sexual contact - See more at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/chlamydia#sthash.19hwcAT9.dpuf

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Something Different, Something Better

Don't judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins. 
~Sharon Creech, Walk Two Moons

My dad used to wear a pair of moccasins around the house when I was a kid. They kept his feet warm during cold Michigan winters. To this day, he calls most of his house shoes moccasins, whether they are or not. It's memories like these that make me smile, make me want something more...

When I look back at many of the posts I've written, I realize that some of you readers might think I come from a dysfunctional family. So this will not be news to you when I say that yes, yes, I do. But don't we all have some dysfunction in the family? I can only imagine what my children will say years from now, maybe when they're writing their own blog about their lives, their journeys, their children. Actually, I'm a little bit afraid of what they'll say. Because even though I'm busy, my kids and their relationship with me is the most important thing in my life (along with my relationship with Tim). Yes, I'm saying that running (or lack thereof), writing, teaching, reading--all of those come second, third, etc., behind the kids. And of course, I want to cultivate a relationship where my children will be writing good things about me, not bad.

However, I'm not so naive to think that our relationships will never suffer through rough patches. Right now, for example, I find myself having to speak to the kids in a sharper tone than I'd like to, in order to get them to listen. Their teenage and tweenage brains aren't focused on me and what I have to say. But at the end of the day (and even throughout the day) we voice a quick I love you or share a warm hug. I try to hone in on those positive feelings, make sure they come to the surface, so to speak, so that when bedtime comes, my kids go to sleep with smiles on their faces and warm fuzzies wrapped around them.

I don't always feel those positive feelings for my family. My sisters, yes. My parents? No. And yes, I just divulged that dirty little secret, out loud, in this public forum. I can't say exactly what happened along the way to this point in my life. Was something lacking in my childhood? Did I not have enough affection or time from my parents? Is there something they did or neglected to do such that here, in 2015, I find myself more detached from my parents than I ever thought possible? Was there something I did or neglected to do?

I don't have the answer to those questions and I'm not going to spend the time trying to figure out the wouldas, couldas, or shouldas of things that happened decades ago. I'm also not going to blame my folks for those feelings of detachment. I am, after all, an adult and I know that each relationship is a two-way street. But I do have to say that I think my life could be different, here in 2015, had my parents not decided to close up shop. Because as of the last decade or so of their lives, they've found the need to keep their little world intact, at the expense of personal relationships--including those relationships with their daughters.

I hate the thought that I just wrote that sentence above. It pains me to think that what I'm saying is true, but it is. I want to be clear here, though. What I wrote is not a complaint, it is an observation. Yes, I've been hurt by them in the past (distant and not-so distant). My relationship with my parents seems, from my perspective, not to be all that important to them. We repeat the same cycle of miscommunication and pain too often for me to believe that they understand what they're doing to me and my kids. But even if they don't truly understand what they are doing, I have to wonder why the cycle keeps happening. Why do I keep getting hurt when I communicate to them that they have hurt me? If you hurt someone and that someone tells you that you hurt him or her, don't you try to avoid hurting that person again? Any sane person would, right?

But again, I must go back to their drive to stay within the comfort zone of their own world, within the confines of the walls they've built. That need to stay where they are must be a survival need for them, something based within the most vestigial part of their brain, something that wipes out all logic. For I'd like to think that if they truly understood what they are doing, they wouldn't be doing it.

Which means I must take the higher road. I only have one family, after all. Yes, I've been hurt, and yes, I'll survive. And I won't like it if my parents hurt me again. But when I think about friends of mine who would give anything to have a parent back in their lives, I am reminded to be grateful. I'm reminded to forgive but not forget. I'm reminded to try and make my life, and my kids' lives, something different, something better, something worthy of writing about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Kitty Cuteness

Because who couldn't stand some kitty cuteness on a Tuesday morning?





Clearly, these cats lead a charmed life. No trouble adjusting here, I tell you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Disappointment

A month ago, she called to tell them about the girls' spring recital.

"It won't be a very big bunch of kids, but you'll be able to hear the girls sing." They always loved the girls' voices. They'd been begging, for years, to have the girls sing for them.

"That sounds nice," the man said. "We'd like to come. Just let me know the date."

"I can even come drive you down, if you want me to," she said. "I'll let you know when I find out which day. It's in May, probably early on."

"Sounds good," he said. "Say hi to the kids."

 As soon as she hung up the phone, she emailed the singing teacher and asked about the date of the recital. A Saturday would be better for us, she wrote, because I might have to drive and go get them. And Saturdays are easier on everyone's schedule. Including their schedule.

The next time she called, she was happy the man picked up the phone, since she preferred to give him the date of the recital. Truth be told, despite his many years, he might be considered the more responsible of the two parties that live at that house. His memory loss is simply due to old age; the woman's, well, no one's sure, but the guesses are plenty.

"Hey, I wanted to let you know that the recital is going to be Saturday, May 16th. I'll let you know more later." She didn't think to tell him to write the date down on the calendar.

"Great. It will be good to see the kids. I miss seeing them." His voice sounded wistful.

She got off the phone, feeling slightly guilty that it had been months since the pair had seen the kids. But she realized that it had been a long, cold, germ-infested winter for their family and each time they'd prepared to go for a visit, someone had been waylaid by sickness. It would be good for everyone to have a visit mid-May. Fewer germs to pass around and springtime in the air.

So there it was, May 2, and she figured that the man might want the details of the recital, so the trip could be planned. The gig would start at 10:30 a.m., so coming in on Friday night might be best, but as usual, she'd welcome them for as long as they'd like to stay. She needed to find out what they would prefer to do.

And so she called them again. But before she could tell the man about the recital details, he gave his partner the phone. She went ahead and started to give the woman the information: "I want to let you know that on the 16th, the recital for the girls...you can come down whenever you want..."

"Oh," the woman interrupted. "We can't come then. I think we have something that day. Let me check." The ruffle of calendar pages echoed over the receiver and then a faint, "Yes. We're meeting with the Bs that day."

She gulped. A million thoughts tumbled through her mind at once, none of which she voiced. Tears welled in her eyes. She thought perhaps that she'd misheard the woman, but she knew she hadn't.

"Okay. Well. I have marshmallows to take care of...we're dipping marshmallows. I'll talk to you later."

"Marshmallows, huh? Okay we'll talk to you soon."

She clicked the end button of the phone, tossed the chocolate-covered marshmallows onto the wax paper, and rushed up the stairs. Before she hit the top step, the flood gates opened.

As she sat on the trunk in her room, she tried to rub the hurt away from her chest. While their actions were not surprising, they still hurt. How, how could they do this to her again? More importantly, how could they do this to the kids? What in the hell was their problem? Could they not see what they were doing? Placing themselves above everyone else? The Bs lived in the same state they did. Couldn't they cancel and reschedule those plans so they could attend the recital? Shouldn't they cancel those plans?

As soon as she had her emotions under control, she called them back.

"Hi. It's me. Put him on the phone, please," she said.

"Oh, okay. He's right here." She didn't know if the woman knew what she wanted. She didn't care. She just needed to feel peace.

"Hello?"

"Can you tell me why you scheduled to go out with the Bs the same date as the recital? I told you about the recital date."

The man didn't hesitate. "I don't have an answer for that."

"Well you hurt me," she said. "And I'm calling to tell you that."

She can't remember what else she said before hanging up a second time. She fixates now on the fact that he didn't have an answer. An answer that a simple, I forgot to write it on the calendar would have fixed. Or, I got confused. Or, Oops. I guess we can reschedule with the Bs. All of the answers that normal people would have at the ready. But the point is, they are not normal and they might never have been. What they value and what she values are not the same. She should not have even bothered to ask them to come to the recital.

And that's her new rule. Don't ask. For if she doesn't, she will not be disappointed.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Guest Post by FRN

FRN isn't really here today. She was last weekend, though, so I should have had her write a little something then. But I didn't. However, she posted something to my Facebook wall today that bears repeating. And since it's Sunday and I have editing to do, her helpful little post will make my Sunday post easy. Hence, it's a guest post by FRN.


I didn't realize it until FRN posted this quote today that I'm doing an all right job at living my life this way. We sometimes eat pizza on my wedding China plates and I let Melina wear my fancy dresses to the grocery store. The yummy chocolate I'm given as a gift? We might as well eat it now. I'm grateful and happy each day I wake up because yes, each day is a special occasion. There are worse ways to live a life, that's for sure.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Strange Thing

Early Saturday morning. Melina and I are the only people awake (of course). Except for the kitties, who are running around the living room.

Melina watches them with a gleeful look on her face. I'm watching her, with what feels like the same expression on my own face.
Melina: Huh, huh. What is that strange thing on the window?
Me: What honey? What are you talking about?
Melina: Oh, I was talking from the point of view of Benedict. See that strange thing on the window? It's the reflection of your computer.
Me: Oh, okay.
Budding writer as well as budding actress? I guess we'll have to see. There are worse occupations she could aspire to than screenplay writer or actress, right?

P.S. I just keyed in a title, but the writing child decided that I needed to change that title, hence the current Strange Thing.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dear Student III

Dear Student,

This is the third letter I will be writing to random students. When I started writing the first letter, I never thought I could make a series out of these letters, but here we are, months later, and I'm rethinking my tune. Maybe if I keep going, my Dear Student letters can be compiled and published. Stranger things have happened, you know. (In case you missed my second letter, you can find it here.)

But I'm not here to talk about my writing and publishing journey. I'm here to give you some tips for a successful semester. Now don't balk. I realize that our semester is actually over. Yes, you read that right. Maybe you aren't aware of it, but we took the last exam on Monday and I offered the comprehensive final on Wednesday, so in short, we're done. But since you contacted me last night about an exam you never made up--the one the rest of the students took on April 6--I wanted to make sure you knew that the class has indeed, come to a close.

Now that I've gotten that major fact out of the way, I have another big idea that needs to be talked about. Class attendance. Student, you NEED to attend class. I'm not sure what your life is like or why you signed up for a class and decided not to attend, but most people cannot enroll in an Anatomy and Physiology course and teach it to themselves. Yes, I'm sure somewhere along the way, the feat has been accomplished, but I think that circumstance has been pretty rare. So when I said, "Come to class regularly," at the beginning of the semester, I meant it.

Why would you want to come to class? Well, let's think about that question for a moment. Probably because much of the information I'm presenting requires that you understand physiological mechanisms. Yes, you can look at a picture of the body and memorize the muscles on your own, but you probably cannot understand the sliding filament theory and how a sarcomere contracts without at least a little guidance. And understanding how thyroid hormone is actually produced by yourself. Forget about it, student. Just don't even try it.

Furthermore--you'll really want to hear this, just wait--when you come to class, I give you clues. Yes, clues! Many times I will say, Don't worry about this slide, or Concentrate on this picture here. So when you go back home to study, you know what you should be studying. Holy crap, I actually help you! Had you been attending class, you'd have known this all along. And I'm guessing that maybe your lowest exam score would have been in the mid-C range instead of the F range.

So what else can I tell you? Besides attending class regularly, it is also important to pay attention to emails. Yes, you've shown up for most exams and contacted me about missing Exam 4. But after that one email, letting me know you'd need to make up Exam 4, I never heard a word from you. I went ahead and placed the exam in the testing center for you and gave you TWO WEEKS to make it up. Your excuse for not taking the exam? I'll quote you:
Hi, I had went to the testing center on Wednesday, April 7th to take my test you had sent there for me to make up, but all they had there for me was a math test from that week. I had emailed you but never heard back so maybe you didn't get it. Anyway, I went back today to see if maybe you hadn't sent it up there yet, but now they say it has expired.
A few things about that email concern me (besides the grammar issues). First off, the exam was in the testing center on April 7. If there is a problem, such as no test, the testing center usually calls me at home. I heard nothing from them. Secondly, you didn't go back to take the exam until "today," which was yesterday, April 30. I believe you went back when you saw the online gradebook, which placed you at an F. Finally--and this is the most aggravating to me (as you should be able to tell because this is the second time I am mentioning this fact)--YOU NEVER CONTACTED ME! No contact between April 6 and April 30. No word. Remember the beginning of the semester, on those few days you attended? I do. I marked you present and made sure to give my spiel. I said, "I correspond via email. Please check your email regularly. If you try to contact me via email and do not hear back in 24 hours, then please resend the email or call the Biology office. They will get me a message." If you had, indeed, not heard back when you emailed me, why didn't you try something else?

I'm disheartened and discouraged by you, Student. And your behavior is just the tip of the ice berg. I've been complaining about student behavior for years, which I guess means you aren't the only one who gets my goat.  

But as with everything I do in my life these days, I plan on learning from this semester  and moving forward when I teach again in the fall. My rules and regulations will have changed and I will no longer make exceptions to those rules and regulations. Do me a favor though, will you? Don't sign up for my class. Because if you didn't realize it from the scores in the gradebook, as well as what I've implied over the course of this letter, you're getting an F. Which means you need to take this class again. Good luck with that one.

Sincerely,

Your teacher