Archive for ◊ April, 2007 ◊

30 Apr 2007 Perfection
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I know I’m not alone. I know out there, along side of me, millions of mothers across the United States are working towards one thing. Being totally perfect. At all things. At all times. It’s an unbelievable amount of pressure, but we all buy into it. Some of us buy into it long term and fight a valiant battle against being all things to all people. Some of us buy into to for a short time, become nearly criminally insane, cut back and find happiness.

I’d be the latter group.

A few years ago I realized I was making myself CRAZY for perfections sake. Giving up was NOT an option, even if I was miserable and making the rest of the house miserable. So, for the most part, I stopped. I don’t do things anymore unless 1) It makes me happy or 2) directly impacts my family in a positive way.

Which means, sometimes I don’t make Christmas cookies from scratch because I’ve found that some people only like cookies and don’t care if I’ve slaved away or mixed up some pillsbury.

But, I’m digressing. Perfection is still possible, but it’s not really a state you can be in all the time. Perfect moments are rare and fleeting and beautiful and trying to have one all the time takes away from the goodness of that one moment where everything feels right with the world.

I had one of those moments today.

With my Mom’s illness and current condition, we’ve been making trips to visit. Three in the past four weeks. My baby girl doesn’t care for being in the car. Yes, I’m aware that most children like the car and are lulled to sleep by the car. My baby is not one of these children. Our last two weekends have been spent with 12 out of 36 hours in the car. Yesterday on our way home from MI Cadence hit her boiling point. She couldn’t be consoled. She screamed and cried and coughed and gagged. She was done. Not only do the times in the car bother Cadence, but visiting messes up what she likes to do. SHe likes to play and when she’s tired she likes to lay on the boppy and nurse until she passes out. This makes her happy. It comforts her. But, when we’re visiting she’s stuffed under a hot blanket and nursed in short snatches that never seen to do the job she hopes it would do, leaving her a sad mess by the end of the weekend.

When we get home from these trips, on Mondays, I have one goal. To make sure Cadence’s little world is resettled again. It means lots of time on the couch with the boppy and even more time in the rocking chair, but usually by Monday evening or Tuesday morning, Cadence is herself again.

This afternoon, I nursed Cadence to sleep and took her upstairs to put her to bed so I could shower. She woke up on the trip up, so I laid down in bed with her. It took a little bit, but before long, she was on her tummy, snoozing happily.

And this is where the perfect comes in.

The birds were singing and Cadence was laying in a little patch of sunshine. When I rubbed her back, her little butt would push up into the air as she scooted her knees up towards her chest. There was a slight breeze coming in through the cracked window, ruffling her sweet stick’em up hair. She was snuggled up against, her arm resting against my elbow.

And right there. Right then. Everything was right with the world. I rubbed her back and watched her breathe. Everything that was wrong or stressful or difficult melted away. In just those few minutes.

And that’s the perfection we should be questing for. Not whether or not our kids are wearing the most expensive or elaborate Halloween costume or whether or not we have the most beautiful Christmas tree with the most presents underneath. If once, every day, I could have a perfect minute I’d be a happy person for the rest of my life. It really doesn’t take any more than that.

30 Apr 2007 Words
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Let it be said, that I love words. I do. I love them. I love to read them. I love to say them. I love to collect new ones. Human communication through language-written and spoken–is an amazing thing.

If I were to say the word “home” to you, it would immediately conjure images and memories. Thoughts and feelings about what home means to you. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I agree, but sometimes a word is worth a thousand pictures. A word can be an instant link to your past, to a loved one and to yourself.

Sometimes, though, the limitations of words fail us. There is, for instance, no word to describe the breathless feeling of being in love. I mean, those words are inadequate to describe the suite of feelings and emotions you have.

There aren’t words to describe the feeling of gazing at your own child. You can’t describe that beauty or that feeling in a million words. As I hold Cadence right now and I see her little feet crossed neatly at her ankles and my heart actually hurts from the fullness of just that image. I can’t use my words to tell why I feel that way, I just do.

Events take place in your life where words will fail you and you’re left inadequate and unable to actually express what you felt or saw. You throw out a collection of words as a consolation for something you’ll never be able to actually voice or describe.

And it’s often those things, where words fail, that you most want to share with other people. How much do I love you? More than i can say, How beautiful is this moment with this child? There are no words. How horrible is this? I can’t begin to explain. Words fail.

27 Apr 2007 When *I* die…
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It’s not about being morbid. It’s just truth. It’s what happens. I don’t expect to die for a really long time. Odds are, I won’t. I know it’s hard for people to talk about their wishes, to make them known. I think having that honest conversation, even just telling the people closest to you where you have it written down will make things easier on them.

So, here it is….

When I die, don’t worry about finding a “good” picture of just me to put on the casket. Chances are good, I was happier with my husband or children or, God willing, my Grandchildren. I don’t care about etiquette. Pick the best picture of me. I don’t care. But as an aside to myself, make sure to get into more pictures.

Don’t worry about what to dress me in. Don’t put me in some fancy, itchy dress I would have never worn by choice. Don’t put me in JEANS. Khakis and a sweater is fine. Make sure my shoes are fabulous and my socks hand knitted. By me, preferably.

If I live to be an old woman, I will have already made gifts of the jewelry I want to give away. I want to wear all my sentimental jewelry. You’ll know what that is. It’ll be the stuff that’s left that you actually saw me wearing.

Don’t worry about writing a eulogy. Pick a poem or even some song lyrics. I like Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. Pick something that reminds you of me. That’s enough. Don’t try to sum up my life or your life with me in a few lines that won’t drag things out or make people into basket cases. A poem is fine.

Toast me. With that cheap, kool-aid wine I like. You could buy better wine, but you know I don’t like that stuff. Buy a barrel of the cheap crap and drink plenty. Tell funny stories.

If I go first, (and you know who this directed to), please be happy. At least a little every single day. Your happiness is sunshine. If you can’t find the ability to be happy on your accord, be happy because I want you to be. I love your smile. Do whatever you need to do to be happy. I’m telling you right now that it’s what I want. You don’t have to guess. No one will have to pat you on the back and say it’s what I would have wanted. You’ll know it’s true. Because I’m telling you now.

Close the casket, but make sure to put in pictures of the people I love and a very good book. I don’t know that I’ll need it, but I hate to be anywhere without a good book.

Have flowers. Plenty, but no roses. Carnations and daisies and sunflowers and lilies. Tulips if you can find them and lavender of course, but I only like roses growing on plants. Avoid stinky mums. I only like them on the plant too.

Play good music.

Don’t forget the book. Protestants don’t really “do” Purgatory, but I’m thinking a book would be REALLY handy if I DO end up having to wait there. ;o) Just in case, you know.

25 Apr 2007 Depth
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Overall, I’m not a deep person.

I’m not dumb or dim. I just realized somewhere along the way, that life is in the details. Really. That and, it’s hard to be deep while you’re changing diapers, musing over the damn ants in the kitchen and packing lunches (sandwich, fruit and tootie fruits, please)

But somehow, I find that my perception, that my depth of focus has increased over these last few weeks.

First, I admit I’m shocked, really, that life outside of my immediate family and my head goes on as normal. The bus still comes. People still want dinner. Clothes still get dirty. The dog still tracks in mud. The sun still rises. The baby still cries at 2 a.m. The bills still need paid. We still run out of bread or milk. We still have Brownies and soccer and spelling tests and end of year projects due. Nothing has stopped, except for the fact that I feel as though time moves exceptionally slowly as I run to pick up the phone and check the caller i.d. and exceptionally fast as I struggle to keep everything together.

Somehow, even with this list of things to do, I find myself slowing down. I hug on the girls just a little more. I spend a little more time examining my thoughts and feelings instead of just allowing myself to muscle through what’s happening in my head, filing away things in the “deal with that later” pile. I leave the windows open to hear the birds and smell the fresh air, even if it makes my feet cold. I have a little more patience for the dog and traffic. I’m more grateful for my husband and for the way it feels to snuggle up against his chest and let nothing but the beating of his heart echo in my head. I am so entirely grateful for the wonderful people who are our friends , who e-mail and call to check on me and my family with offers of “anything you need at any time.” Their kindness makes me weep, to be surrounded by so much love is so wonderful. Really. Nothing I’ll ever do will begin to touch the surface of how much I want to thank them.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking. Normally, I allow things to be as they appear on the surface. That’s fine with me. I don’t see a need to over analyze. If something is, than it is. Why? It doesn’t matter. It just is. But ordinary things suddenly become so meaningful.

Cadence and I were running errands last Friday before we left for Michigan. I needed diapers and a baby sweater and a soccer ball. necessities, you know, and we stopped at Culvers for lunch because I needed to grocery shop, but somehow couldn’t find the strength or motivation to actually DO it. As we were waiting for our order (Culver’s isn’t fast food, btw) a man walked in who had the same hair cut as my Dad and I got teary eyed. That connection and the memories and emotion were suddenly so overwhelming that I had to focus on something out so the order runner wouldn’t find me sobbing over my cherry pepsi.

I hate this waiting time. I hate my Mom teetering between us and after. I hate this part of the death process. I hate the heavy ball in the pit of my stomach and I hate, even worse, that odd, dizzying feeling I get in my head as I try to take in everything that’s happening right now. As I try to consider what, exactly, life will be like without my Mom (and I can’t imagine it, honestly, what it will be like to not call her or see her again), but through it all, I don’t want to lose the depth and connections I’ve been making. I want to see my Mom everywhere, in all the details. I want to keep those connections, forever.

I’m sorry I missed so many connections up to now, so many chances to be reminded of the great things and people in my life in my haste and over inflated sense of self importance. I hope that my lesson from my Mom is that I don’t do that again. That in 50 years, I’m smiling through the tears at someone who reminds me of my Dad when he was a young man or my girls when they were young.

24 Apr 2007 Death lessons….
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One thing that is true is that the process of dying teaches you things. There’s just no way it can’t. Maybe it’s just a lesson about your own mortality. Maybe it reminds you, every day, to do something just a little bit better.

I’ve you’re closely involved with the dying, it teaches you things about your self. Things maybe you’d have rather not known, but things that are there just the same. You think about what you could do or couldn’t do, what you would want to happen or not want to happen.

I have asked Eric if he would please just drop dead. He told me he’d try.

Some things I’ve learned have been painful. I think before now, I romanticized death. That you could have this intense, revealing conversation where you and your loved one summed up your thoughts and feelings and wishes and fears. I’ve realized now that death doesn’t always work that way.

Some deaths are fast and there is no opportunity to say things you wish you had.

Some deaths are lingering and you do get the chance, if you choose, to tie up your loose ends. To make sure you’ve said the things that are important. To ask the questions you need answers to.

And, some deaths are lingering, but you don’t get the chance because the disease and the dying have rendered the person incapable.

I spoke to my Mom a few days before she went into the hospital and we got the news that her terminal illness had become truly terminal and she was incoherent. I mourned, I weeped for our last conversation. It wasn’t profound. I didn’t thank her for being my Mom. For all she had done. I didn’t reiterate strongly that I loved her and that I’d do all I could to carry on who she was and to be there for my Dad and the sibs.

Instead, we talked about the weather and Cadence’s winter jacket. Mundane things. Ever since her illness my Mom and I have talked on the phone every other day for a minimum of an hour. The conversation we had is exactly the sort of conversation we always had.

I was still distraught, but Eric put it into perspective. He said he believed my Mom knew exactly how I felt about her, that I had worked hard to maintain a good relationship between not only she and myself, but she and the kids and that a normal conversation was exactly the right one to have.

But, my illusions of how a lingering illness would be, have been shattered. Because of my mom’s condition, there isn’t an ability to share things with her, to thank her for things I couldn’t say or didn’t say. To thank her for her years of support, her much needed advice and her belief in me. There’s really only an ability to show her love through your actions, because she has trouble understanding, processing and responding to your words.

And you know, people who have dealt with or are dealing with death, always urge people to not wait. To show and say what they need to be shown and have said right now, because you have no guarantees. I think most people tend to just float along, aware of death, but unconcerned about it. I think it hurts too much to consider it in too much detail. So, even though we SHOULD be making sure every day ends with our loose ends neatly contained and cared for, most of us don’t. We soldier on believing we’ll have the time we need. SOmetimes we will and sometimes we won’t, but that’s a big risk to take, you know?

19 Apr 2007 Balance, always
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A few days ago I was reading at an on-line forum I visit. The topic was “Worst Days of your life” or something to that effect. Many people referred to these ad days as defining moments, times that, after which, life becomes different. When you are thirty, you expect to have defining moments, lines of demarcation drawn across the expanse of your life, but those lines seem to mark positive things, growths, beginnings. Marriage and births. At thirty you may expect, vaguely, to bury grandparents or distant relatives, maybe an acquaintance or two, that will leave you feeling breathlessly mortal for while before your life begins to chug along again. But most of us don’t think about something bigger touching our lives, creating a line we must step over, never to have things return to the way they were before.

My new line draws near. I’ve had my share; graduation, marriage, the birth of my girls, all accepted and expected, but the new line is something I’m reluctant to cross, though I know the choice of if and when I cross it isn’t mine.

So, I’m out of control. For me, this is most unwelcome. While those who know me would speak about my emotions, at the core I crave cool, rational, logical order. To outsiders, my days may seemed calm and random, but that’s not true either.

At this point, I’m desperate to remain in control of not only myself, but my life as I barrel on towards and unwelcome defining moment.. I do what any generally compulsive person does to soothe myself; I make lists. Really, really detailed lists. I am the first to admit that the things weighing on my mind cause me to be in a state of near permanent disorder. Everyone I speak to understands, but my compulsion suggests that plugging along as usual is important. And it is, I agree. But it’s more than retaining order. It’s about hope.

Hope.

Hope that after the funeral autopilot and order will help me cope with my sadness.

Hope that staying busy will distract me from the ringing phone.

Hope that my defining time, my line of demarcation won’t change me too completely because after a lot of years and some therapy, I LIKE who I have become.

When we got the news two weeks ago, I got on-line looking for a support group. My need for order was taking over again. I found a group for motherless daughters, I joined their group and began to read their message, sometimes with my breakfast and sometimes with Cadence in my lap. I’ve very little save I don’t want to be THOSE people.

I know my defining line will be tall and jagged and that I’ll leave part of myself on it and behind it, but unlike these people, I don’t want to grate myself across the rocks time and again. My pain tolerance is low and besides, how many times can you grate yourself across the rocks of grief before there is nothing left of you at all.

I’ve already decided I can’t do that and that I won’t do that. I won’t slide myself constantly over that divide, wincing in pain as I do.

I told Eric tonight that I refuse to let cancer take my life in a metaphorical way. I won’t let any of us succumb to that. I can’t. Cancer won’t win this war.

16 Apr 2007 I struggle…
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…with quieting the warring factions in mind in regards to what’s best for whom and what’s better for others. Is wishing for quick ends giving up? And if it IS giving up, is that wrong?

I don’t do well when I’m mentally conflicted. I know probably no one does. It causes me to be spacey, I can’t remember things, days, times, words. The best way for me to combat this is to focus in on something, but that just causes me more grief because then I don’t get done things I feel like i need to be doing

And, in turn, all of it makes me feel kind of spastic. Out of touch and out of focus.

I think I’m going to have to resort to some serious, hard core list making to make sure I stay on track. Even writing things down on the calendar isn’t helping me at this point, because I’m so over-extended mentally that I can’t remember the date anyhow.

In other news, I continue to work on Cadence’s octopus. I knitted this one following the pattern for the crocheted one. I’m in the process of sewing on the legs and then I’ll seam the two parts together, put on eyes and a bow and see what I think. I’m thinking if I decide to keep knitting I’m going to have to make somoe adjustments as knitting isn’t creating as tight of a fabric as crocheting did and the body is shorter than my crocheted model.

11 Apr 2007 Almost the End.
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On Sunday morning, my Dad called us just after the girls had finished finding their easter baskets to say he felt that if we wanted to see my Mom, we should come. We made a couple of phone calls and threw some stuff in the car for the six hour drive, that Eric made in five hours. Cadence decided to only need to eat once and we made it to the hospital by early evening.

At the time, my Mom was rather lucid. She was surprised to see me and recognized Cadence and talked to her. Not long after that, she was giving fast release morphine for pain and the meaningful conversation ceased. We stayed for a while longer while my Aunt and Cousin arrived and my brother and his girlfriend and we all went back to my parent’s house.

During that time my Mom suffered a bleed during the changing of her dressings that seemed to be more scary than it actually was. My Dad and Aunt had plans to meet with the doctors and what not on Monday.

And so, on Monday my Mom was moved into hospice care and given three weeks, maximum, to live.

We stopped at the hospital for a quick visit this time leaving the girls out of the room. My Mom was in a lot of pain so she was semi-lucid. I was able to get a ltitle bit of response out of her as was my Dad and brother.

And then, we came home. I’m not able to be gone for three weeks. Emily needs to go to school and Eric needs to go to work. The house was destroyed. Cadence was (and is) sick. We had to come home and reset and prepare.

And now, we’re playing a waiting game. My Aunt, who is a nurse, doesn’t seem to think my Mom will last a week. Oddly enough, that’s what I’m hoping for now. And end to the pain and confusion, of course, but also the beginning of healing.

If you believe in a higher power, and I do, you believe that when you die your body is healed. You don’t hurt anymore. You become whole again. I can’t say that I’m not hoping for my Mom to be given that gift. SHe was always a very active person.–walking, camping, gardening. She worked at a job that had it’s own set of physical demands that she always met (and actually liked to do). A few years ago I was helping her fill out her paperwork for disability and to be told she couldn’t walk, sit or stand for any measurable time was difficult to hear. T

And also, I look forward to the healing of our family. That we need. Badly.

06 Apr 2007 Long day with more to come. I think.
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Just about three years ago my Mom started suffering from back pain. This was never a new development for her. She had back issues most of my life that I could remember.

My Dad started getting antsy about the amount of pain she was having and asked us to all start urging her to see the doctor. Mom was reluctant. 20 some odd years earlier she had been treated for Melanoma and had a “thing” for doctors. I couldn’t blame her, but her back pain was getting to be an issue and after enough prodding and poking, she went to the doctor who took some scans and suggested some physical therapy.

And I believed that it was something “simple”. A bulging disc. A ruptured something or other. Something easy. Fixable. Treatable.

Eric went to Mexico for business and Mom and Dad had me over for dinner on a weeknight. They cooked something I liked and dropped the bomb. The easy little fixable thing was actually a tumor. They didn’t know WHAT kind of a tumor, but a tumor it was. I remember my sister continuing to eat dinner, but she’s that kind of person. Much more adaptable and accepting than myself or Jake. My appetite was ruined. Eric came home from his business trip early and we sat about preparing for the next step.

The tumor was and is aggressive and by the time Halloween rolled around Mom was so doped up on pain meds. that she could hardly talk or walk. A gloom, a pallor had settled over us as we awaited the surgery date. We assumed the worst and hoped for the best. I worried about her mortality. I worried about paralysis. Eric, being the logical thinker he is, says if we get to keep her and she’s paralyzed, we still won.

And he was right because that’s how he is.

But the operation went okay and minus some morphine induced confusion, Mom seemed okay. Oh, she had a wound vac. that she didn’t like and dressings to change that she didn’t like, but she ws getting around and feeling okay. The margins weren’t clear, but people seemed hopeful. We had a nice Thanksgiving and a good Christmas. My family came over to see Emily get up for Santa and we had breakfast.

But by January the tumor was growing back and my Mom was back in surgery and this time given Chemo and Radiation to go with it. The Melanoma that had started out in her shoulder when my brother was a newborn had somehow gone under ground and laid dormant for 20 years and showed up in her back with a vengeance.

During the early part of 2005 she switched Oncologists. I really believed he was an answer to a prayer. She started on different and more chemo and we waited, but the tumor was, again, resilient and strong and while it didn’t grow, it didn’t shrink either.

So, Mom participated in a cutting edge Cryogenic study and the tumor was frozen. I can’t tell you how many times. I guess I don’t have to say that it didn’t work. We were hopeful, but it didn’t. Mom was having nerve issues from the Cryo. They put her back on Chemo. Two different kinds.

During this time she’s had on again/off again issues with high calcium that make her incoherent and confused. It’s a simple enough treatment, but the high levels seem to mean that tumor is taking off again.

This week, Mom went to have more chemo. Her calcium levels were taking off again so they decded to admit her. On Wednesday my Dad called me upset. He felt we were at a critical point and was upset that the doctors were dragging their feet.

Today he mentioned that if the trail doctors don’t have anything for her, that her oncologist mentioned Hospice.

I don’t have words to explain how that made me feel. I won’t even use levity. It didn’t feel like i had been punched in the stomach or that the rug had been pulled out from under me. No cliches. It felt surreal and wrong and I felt confused.

And I still am.

We’ve asked for permission to speak with the Oncologist, and my Dad doesn’t have an issue with that. I need answers and Eric, who is my greatest champion, is getting them for me. I love him for that (well, that and a million things_) We’re having trouble figuring out the true nature of the situation through my Dad’s emotion. He’s upset (and rightfully so, God, who could fault him) and I’m not sure if this is his FEAR or if this is TRUTH.

And so, we seem to be playing some creul waiting game. Waiting for a phone call. A hospital release. A team of doctors to decide fate. An estimation. A diagnosis.

And hope is slipping through our fingers.

It’s hard for me to say the things I’m thinking. I can say them to Eric because I know to him that I can say anything and that he understands me and my fear and my motives.

My deepest wish is for my Mom to be healed. I pray for that. I do. But I understand, logically, that true healing is unlikely anymore. So, what do you pray for then? A miracle? Of course, but what else? Peace? Time? When I choose one, the other conflicts. I pray for Time and then Peace wonders if I’ve forgotten it. When I pray for Peace, Time chimes in. I cannot decide who is more important and they seem to be at crossed purposes.

03 Apr 2007 Square Foot Gardening….
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If you aren’t using the Stumble Upon plug in for Firefox, you’re missing out. I reccomend it because you Stumble Upon gems like this.. Square Foot Gardening.

I love the idea of a garden, but all of the work involved in weeding, planting, tilling, etc? I don’t love that idea so much. But I’m thinking I could adapt this idea to go along the back of our deck were Creepy Eyes planted rabid Home Shopping tomatoes and peppers. It would allow us to keep the weeds down without too much effort, give us a large amount of easy to maintain growing space and cut down on our weeding.

But, can Eric build boxes? That is the question.