Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happiness Is...

Clean linens on my bed
Finding the right tiles for my bathroom floor
Being OK with getting a "B" on my science lab midterm
Planting fall flowers in my hanging baskets
Skyping with those I love
After falling off the wagon with giving up smoking, back to not smoking again - Day #7
Not being crazed because of not smoking
A good cup of coffee
Planting purple, yellow and red potatoes for Emma
Wearing my "traveling gnome" pjs with my sock monkey slippers
Having a "good hair" day
Having a massage
Watching the little trick-or-treater's eyes light up when they get their candy! (I actually had one little one try to give me some of their candy....awww!)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Never Give Up!

Three little words.....that have such a powerful meaning.  I am reminded of this over and over.....One day, Emma was put down for her nap - she wasn't having anything to do with it.....after several returns to her bed, all was quiet.  Elizabeth went in to check on her and found Emma lying in her bed, eyes wide open, softly chanting "Never give up.....never give up.....never give up!

Jan is my very best friend in the whole world.  We first became friends when our daughters met in the sandbox in preschool.  We've been through lots together - good times and not-so-good times.  Our daughters grew up together.  Jan and I (along with her husband Paul) were Girl Scout leaders together. The picture above is from the 80's (Jan's sitting on my lap)- we'd just arrived home after surviving a weekend camping trip with our Scout troop - gotta love the glasses...and the hair? ! We've always been there for each other through it all, and have had so many crazy adventures that it would take a book to chronicle them all!  We've stood together through the loss of her grandson to leukemia, the loss of my parents, the births of our grandchildren, trips to Target and trips to Europe. We're each other's biggest cheerleaders.     Jan has Parkinsons disease.  She doesn't allow her disease to define who she is.  She refuses to let it beat her.  When she started falling, she strapped on kneepads and wears them everywhere.....skirts, dresses, pants - it doesn't matter; she's not going to stop living because she falls down alot.  She can't tie her shoes, so she wears slip-ons.  Jan has figured out how to keep on keeping on!  She;s just now becoming willing to "think about" using my Mom's old walker, which is sitting in the corner of her living room (complete with an old-fashioned bike horn, I might add!). I'm her "doctor visit buddy" - we go to all appointments together because two heads are better than one.  We've been blessed to finally find a neurologist who doesn't just give her a prescription and shove her out the door.  Because of this fabulous doctor, Jan has speech, physical and occupational therapy.  She also goes to Curves. We figure out how she can continue to do things - like travel - there's nothing like a wheelchair in the airport (and lots of times, you get to go to the HEAD of the line)!  We like the perks of disability when they include a handicapped parking card - I could go on and on!

These are just two examples of the women who surround my life, young and old, whose mantra is "Never give up."  I don't stand a chance - I either have to jump on board with them, or get out of their way!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Love You So Much.....

........that I could just eat you with a spoon! This is what my grandmother used to tell me when I got to spend time with be honest, it gave me the shivers - imagining my Nannie eating me up, a spoonful at a time.

Now I understand what she meant!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I'm Baaaaack!

Yep, I found the perfect antidote to chasing those blues demons away....after a rough week, my birthday celebration was just awesome. It was "just one of those days", but perfect in its own way!

Emma and I headed off in the morning for Disneyland. I think she used up all of her energy during the 1 1/2 hour drive....we talked, sang songs, and made silly noises at each other. And, made a potty stop at a gas station - the highlight of our journey, as far as she was concerned!

We navigated the parking situation and "Grammy" figured out how to collapse the folding stroller (they are sure different these days - almost had to call Elizabeth for some coaching) for the tram ride, and endured the entrance line. By the time we entered the Magic Kingdom, Emma was ready for a nap....not that she thought so! Potty break time again.....We headed over to Small World and sang the song as we floated through the ride....Afterwards, I figured I'd feed her and then push her through the park until she fell such luck! We spent a good 45 minutes eating and watching the people......then walked awhile, but no luck with the nap! Potty break time.....So, as Emma is "princess mad", we went to the Disney Princess area and found that the wait time was 1 1/2 hours.....not even the offer of a ride on Dumbo or a re-ride on Small World could dissuade Emma from her quest......after an hour in line, all signs were pointing toward a melt down!

It was time to head more potty break (she LOVES to wash her hands!), purchased the promised (big) lollypop, and headed back to the tram and our car. As we arrived at the car, Emma announced that she wanted her Mom to pick her up - she didn't want to ride home with me. Melt down had commenced. By the time we left the parking lot, Emma was asleep in her car seat, tears drying on her cheeks, and I had managed to extricate the lollypop that was stuck in my hair!

Elizabeth greeted us when we arrived home, a little frazzled herself. The purchase of their first home has not been moving smoothly.....they have to be out of their apartment by the end of the month....and at this point, there were lots of bumps in the road toward closing escrow. She has been trying to pack and organize, not knowing exactly when they would be able to move. But, my dear daughter had cooked dinner and baked cupcakes for the birthday celebration! No matter that the chicken was a little "off" so we decided that we shouldn't eat it.....or that she had no eggs for the cupcakes but baked them anyway.....or no butter for the frosting, but used sour cream instead......or that she couldn't find the birthday candles, so we substituted a tea light.....the takeout burritos were wonderful, as were the cupcakes!

The girls had both taken late naps, so schedules went out the window. By the time the little ones were in bed for the night, we were incoherent.....could hardly keep our eyes open for Grey's Anatomy....David and I got the giggles and couldn't stop.....

Two tanks of gas $50
Disneyland: FREE for Emma & me!
Lollypop $3
Memories: PRICELESS!

Through other's eyes, it was not a perfect day, by any means. I had never made the trip to Disneyland and gone on only one ride! But through my eyes, it was a beautiful day that I will never forget.....Rather than focusing on my recent losses, I saw all that I had to be grateful was good and heart-filling for me. My cup is full....balance has been restored....and I had a blast!

P.S. Emma wants to know when we can go to Disneyland again.......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Look Out, Mickey!

I took today off from school - just stayed home and listened to the music of the raindrops falling on my rooftop. It's on days like today that I miss having a fireplace......but I did light my pumpkin candles! I missed having Spencer at my feet, but I am at peace with my decision.

Spent lots of time studying for a midterm tomorrow in my science lab....I really don't care to know how to calculate the magnitude of an earthquake by reading a seismograph, to plot the latitude and longitude of a location, or calculate how many miles are in 4.2 lightyears, the diameter of sun and the earth, or to recognize various rocks, minerals and fossils, etc. etc. etc.... but I need to know this stuff to pass the exam. So, with raindrops falling and candles burning, I think I've crammed enough useless information into my brain to make my way through it tomorrow.

After the exam is when the GOOD TIMES start to roll! I'm headed back down to San Diego tomorrow after classes to be with the family. Did you know that Disneyland gives you a free admission ticket for your birthday? (2009 only....). And since Emma is only 2 3/4, she gets free admission too. On Thursday (my birthday), just the two of us will head up to the happiest place on Earth! Emma is already a Disneyland veteran, and has mapped out our entire itinerary: 1st stop: Disney Princesses (she's princess-mad, and hasn't gotten to do this yet) 2nd stop: Small World (I think twice through listening to that song will be my limit) 3rd stop: Matterhorn ....and the list goes on and on! Oh, and she's in the middle of potty training. I know already that this will be a birthday that I will never forget, and I wouldn't have it any other way - I'm excited!

Monday, October 12, 2009

And the hits just keep on coming....

Charles Dickens quote: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times" characterizes this past week for me perfectly.

Earlier on, I learned that I had lost any hope of a relationship with one of my brothers. I've written before about my pets, and the joy that they bring me, in spite of their health challenges. I had to let go of my dog, Spencer, tonight. He had injured his tongue (we think by biting it accidently while catching tennis balls, his main obsession in life. I found him in my kitchen, covered in blood, which continued to flow and flood the kitchen. After finally determing the nature of his injury and trying to stop the bleeding on my own, I had to take him to the vet for treatment. He needed to have his tongue stitched, but the cost was prohibitive, due the need for anesthesia, the testing for his ability to withstand the the anesthesia and overnight observation - when all was said and done, it would have cost over $1000. I have always provided my animals with the best care possible; this was a moment of truth for me. I could have charged the surgey, but cannot afford to incur more debt, as I am an unemployed full-time college student. I had to make the decision to have Spencer euthanized. Tough sailing, to say the least. I am eternally grateful to have had my nephew with me - I could not have done this alone. At first, I was not going to be with Spencer for the procedure, but later changed my mind. I needed to be with my dear pet and to say goodbye. I was glad that I could be there to hold him and to say my good-byes and to thank him for all the joy that he had brought to my life. It was a peaceful passing for Spencer. And now he is in the big dog park in heaven, chasing his tennis balls to his heart's content. I will miss my beloved Spencer terribly.

This week has been one of keen losses for me; the loss of any contact with my brother, coupled with the loss of my beloved dog. What keeps me going is my belief that God's timing is perfect, and that these losses will only confirm my need to move closer in my relationship with Him, the source of all things good and holy. He knows what is best for me, and I draw great comfort from that, even though today I don't understand what lessons he intends for me to learn, I have my suspicions.

So I am going to continue to be kind and gentle to myself; to treat myself with love and take care of me. This, too, shall pass. I will be open to finding out what the lessons will be, and patient while they are revealed.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Brother's Keeper.......

WARNING: This is NOT a happy, feel-good post. While I admire those who have the gift of being able to write humorously about their lives, I am not in a place today to find any humor in my situation. I started this blog to keep me accountable to myself; to put who I am and what is going on in my life down in print; it works for me to take out the things that are whirling through my mind and expose them to the light of day.

I am the oldest of four children. We are all the survivors of a nightmarish childhood, replete with alcoholism, mental illness, abuse and violence. Beginning at the age of eight, I gradually took over the majority of the responsibilities involved with raising my siblings. In spite of our childhoods, we all have managed to become productive adults. Some of us carry our own personal, unique scars; others still have open wounds.

Three of us were able to reconcile our differences and to have a relationship with our mother - the other, one of my brothers, decided to cut her out of his life over 30 years ago. This didn't fit with my idea of how a family should be, and I tried to fix it. It didn't work, and damaged the fragile tie between my brother and me. In order to keep a tight hold of my image, I bought my car and property insurance from him for years in order to keep some sort, or any sort of relationship between us intact.

As the years went by, we established a tentative truce and sporadically intersected with each other. A little over four years ago, we four children were reunited at my daughter's wedding; I can't tell you how many years it had been since we had all seen each other face to face. It was a beautiful, emotional time for us all. A couple of years later, we all reunited again for his son's wedding. My brother and I continued to communicate, and we began to share about what was happening in our lives with each other. I was able to talk about our Mom within the context of the challenges that I was facing with her and her health. He was very supportive of my struggle, which meant the world to me. To me, it also meant that we were connected - at last. My ideal of what family should be was coming true.

Our Mom passed away last August -I had kept my brother informed all along, and gave him updates while she was in hospice care at the hospital. My other brother and sister had flown in from out of state and stayed with me when she was placed in hospice. After Mom passed away, we three, along with our children and grandchildren, sat around the firepit one evening in my back yard and planned Mom's funeral together. While looking at each other across the flames that evening, during moments of tears and laughter, we drew comfort and solace from each other and the families that we had created. But we were painfully aware of the absence of one of us around that firepit - our brother was missing. We weren't even certain that he would attend the funeral.

My brother did attend her funeral - but it was obvious that it was very difficult for him. My heart just hurt for him, but he would not talk. I can't even imagine the emotions that he may have been feeling. But it was good to have him there - I'm so very glad that he came.

For six months after that day, I called him on a regular basis - on his cell phone; not wanting to invade his privacy at home or disturb his work. I never received a return call. Neither did my other brother or my sister. Last April, I called and left a message regarding a business matter; I needed to cancel my car insurance with him because I could no longer afford his rates. No response; I recently received a notice that an unpaid balance had been sent to collection.

I really struggled with what to do; just pay it or address it? I chose to address it, and the repercussions of my choice really hurt. I sent an email to his wife with an attached note, asking her to forward it to him. I have about five million email addresses for him, and could never keep them straight. It was not a mean email, just a "Hey, I called you and then I got this in the mail, it's hurting my credit, could you please check it out and let me know?' email.

The response that I received back from him made me feel as if I had been kicked repeatedly in the stomach. It dealt me a blow that has shaken me to my core, and ripped the veil of denial and illusion from my eyes. Not only am I a strong woman, I am also a strong-willed woman. For most of my life, I have willed the four of us to be a family, irregardless of how any of the other members felt. Being told that, as a professional, I should know that my termination notice had to be in writing; that I ignored additional notices from the insurance company; that I had access to his business phone number; that his cell phone was for personal calls only - not for clients, and as such, all calls from any of his siblings had been erased without being listened to. Further, I had "stirred the pot" by emailing his wife and caused him great angst. I got his message loud and clear. I just didn't want to hear it before. I hear it now.

But what do I do with all of this? Therein lies the question. I have choices; right now, I am hurting so deeply, but at the same time, I am working through it. I can't fix this. I'm not even sure what I did to cause him to feel so strongly. If I knew, I would make amends from my heart. But I don't have that choice.

So, I'm just feeling the feelings. The tears fall, and I let them. I am getting on with my life; one portion of my life will not dictate how the rest of my life will go. I am learning - mostly about myself. I am humbled, but not broken by the realization that what I think I need and want is not necessarily what is right for others. How I see things is not always as others see them. I may never have the opportunity to spend time on the phone, or in person, with my brother again. I most likely will never know why this happened. It feels like another death in the family to me. In actuality it is; the death of my illusions and denial, and I am grieving. I am also looking at the family that I have created over the years, which is comprised not only of blood relatives, but also of dear, dear friends. The truth is, that my real family looks nothing like my ideal family. I have much to be grateful for. Conflicting emotions, but that's just where I am these days.

At the same time, my life continues. It has not stopped in its tracks. I am not curled up in a ball in the corner, shielding myself from the pain. I am out there, living my life - going to school, doing homework, chores, and spending time with people who I cherish. At the same time, I am still loving my brother. And I always will.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I'm A Rock Star!

My first math test....Thanks, everyone, for your encouraging words!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Once a Mother.......

I thought that my life would become simpler once my daughter moved out of the house to go to college and then got married, but it seems that I was wrong....

Perfect example: While I was raising Elizabeth, "we" collected animals. By the time she married and started her own family, I was left with three dogs and two cats. The kids lived on a sailboat at first, and adopted "Tucker" the cat from the animal shelter........he's half feral and half Siamese - believe me, it's quite a combination!

When Elizabeth became pregnant, they moved from their boat into an apartment that didn't allow pets. Tucker came to live with me "temporarily". He's still here.

Old age and illness took care of two cats and two dogs. Doing the math, this leaves me with one dog and one cat. Simple? NOT!!! Spencer the dog weighs 65 lbs. and is highly allergic, so he has to have special food that costs $60+ for a 15-lb bag that lasts him about 2 -3 weeks. He has to have special shampoo, and pills to maintain his no-itch status. He's not allowed to have ANY other food.....try to explain that to a dog with a passion for people food!

Then there's Tucker......NOT the sharpest knife in the drawer......he constantly overestimates his abilities, and has:

1. Been on the losing end of a fight with a possum when he was younger.......
2. Lost almost ALL of his claws another time (I don't even want to know)....but they grew back.....
3. Gotten in the way of an angry dog with BIG teeth...
4. Alienated the dog since he loves Spencer's special fish & potato food....I have to put the cat out when I feed the dog; otherwise, chaos ensues....

Did I mention that he also has asthma? When I look at him, I just see dollar bills (make that $100 dollar bills) with wings on them, flying out of my bank account......Tucker's latest: One eye was swollen shut and obviously painful, so we went to see our vet. Outcome: He had a 3/4" piece of wood lodged in the side of his eye - Ouch! So now I get to administer eye drops every two hours........

But, just like when Elizabeth was little, there was always AT LEAST one time during each day when I was filled with happiness to have her in my life......same with the animals, although these days, it's quite often when they're asleep! I wouldn't have it any other way........