Second Mom Love

My husband is playing loud, peppy, music on the Amazon Echo, the 12-year old is trying to comfort me with talking, but what I need is silence. Today has taken a sharp turn for the worse. That day has come. It’s the day I knew was coming for a very long time, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. The day I have to prepare to say goodbye to someone I love. I guess I am lucky, at least I get to say goodbye.

She did not give birth to me, I did not live in her home, I did not give her snarky, teenage lip, but she is still my mother. She’s had more influence on my life than she’ll ever know. She gave me plenty of advice when I was younger, a reprimanding when necessary, a hug when needed. Without saying a word she has taught me to be carefree whenever possible, and that worrying wasn’t something to waste time on. She taught me that kids running in and out of your house are a blessing, and the more the merrier. That if your best friend’s six-year old daughter shows up at your door looking for one of those yummy yellow apples you always have in your refrigerator, invite her in for one. She’s taught me so much that it’s hard to separate it from what I learned from my other second mom, or my actual mother.

There were three of us. Families that lived on the same street in a time when kids were outside playing until dusk.  Between all three families there was someone for everyone to play with. Mrs.Ps kids were my brother and sister’s age. My other second mom, Mrs. E., had kids that were my sister and my age. The youngest, Lynn, has been my best friend since she was born the year after me.

They called themselves The Three Musketeers. They did everything together. Every week they would go bowling. They would throw all nine kids into the back of an old “Woody” station wagon and head to the local alley. We would go to the in-building daycare while they played a few games. They only left a kid once, and only for a few minutes, but lesson learned to count before leaving.

Along with the other neighborhood kids, we could always be heard and seen hanging out on the block after school, on the weekend, or on a hot summer day. I remember once when we had  a massive rain storm,  Mrs. P’s kids pulled out the fishing boat, and we rowed around in the flooded ditch. It was the highlight of the year on our street, at least for us kids.

Eventually all three families moved, and we had to stay in touch from afar. Same state, same county, different cities. We visited plenty, but no more walking down the street for a yellow apple for me. Even later still, my family was the only one left in the state, but no matter how far apart or how busy our lives got as we grew older, the bonds have remained strong. They are my family. They always will be.

One of my mommies is leaving this Earth soon and I’m not ready. I never will be. I thank God that He put her in my life though. She will always be a part of me, and always have a piece of my heart.

 

Guilty Pleasure

I am a rule follower. I have not taken, sniffed, snorted, or smoked any illegal or dangerous substances. Ever. I have never even smoked a cigarette. I DID hold a lit cigarette once, but I didn’t inhale. I didn’t even hold it to my lips. I do drink alcoholic beverages, but not everyday, nor to the point of being all out drunk. The few times I have, I have hated it. I don’t like feeling that loss of control.  I could never be an addict.  I do, however, have one guilty pleasure.  I LOVE getting anesthesia.

In the last few years I have had a few surgeries and procedures that required sedation. While this makes many, maybe even MOST people apprehensive, it makes me giddy. I love the feeling of the medication when it starts running through my  blood. The seconds before I am out like a light. When I go from all the medical personnel and commotion in the room to waking up in  recovery. It’s like Christmas morning for a kid, and then the disappointment that it is over.

I have known about this strange attraction of mine for many years, but have not needed to have any procedures requiring it again until recently. I hope I don’t have any more soon because I’d rather have unquestionable health, but if I do there will be no fear from me.  Bring it on, but only if it’s legal. I am a rule follower, but with a very strange guilty pleasure.

“How Fast Are You Going?”

Yesterday my parents and I were on our way home from the hospital after my mom’s major back surgery two weeks ago, and a subsequent rehab stint.  She was sitting in the front passenger seat, and due to restrictions from the surgeon, could not lean over to see the speedometer. My mom likes to have control of every situation. She is a worrier. As we were heading down the expressway towards their home she patted my leg and asked me, for the second time in 5 minutes, “How fast are you going?”  I was not speeding and there was no clear reason why she was asking, but she is my mother, and I have known her all my life.

After spending two weeks sitting in hospital rooms for long hours, making special meals due to her restricted diet and incessant worrying, and more time with my strong-willed mother than I am used to, I was reaching my limit.  In the end, that comment in the car was a reminder for me. I have seen how stress affects her and promised myself years ago that I would not do that to myself. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Appreciate what you have. Look for the positive side of everything. Find  beauty in the world.

My parents are only in their seventies, but at some point in the last few years I realized that my time with them is limited. Many of my friends have already lost their parents, so last night when I tucked them into bed, and I mean that literally, I felt pretty lucky. My dad was already laying down, and I finished helping my mom into the bed, covered her up, and turned off the lights. Oh, and I offered to read them a bedtime story, sadly they declined. For me, it was a moment I won’t forget. Coming full circle.  Role reversal at its finest.

In the wee hours of the night she called from the bedroom in a small voice….”help!” I stumbled out of bed to assist her in the journey to the bathroom, reminiscent of the kids’ younger years,  but for her I am a spotter of sorts. As I walked behind her to make sure her legs didn’t go out on her and held  on to a safety belt wrapped around her chest, she pushed her walker across the carpet while comparing the pile to a field of corn. Her arms were weak and it was tough work. We had to take breaks along the 30 foot trip for her to catch her breath, yet she was also impatient to get to the destination. In her rush, she was a terrible driver. Banging the walker into everything, she failed in her mission to allow my dad to sleep and she giggled all the way. She’s pretty cute in the middle of the night, making me laugh, and unknowingly saving herself just like a child does. When she starts giving me step-by-step instructions for a menial task today, I will remember those late night antics.

I will not let the little things get to me.  Instead, I will pick the moments  I never want to forget. These  are the memories I will treasure when they are gone.

Will you do the same?  “How fast are you going?”

 

 

I am a Teenager Stuck in a Middle-Aged Body

I am 16 years old at heart, but I am stuck in a middle-aged body.  I may not wear bootie shorts and crop tops, every calorie I eat goes right to my hips, and can’t dance to save my life, but in my heart and soul I am still a teenager.

There is nothing more satisfying than sleeping in on a Saturday morning, and a weekday sleep in makes me giddy. I prefer to stay up late at night, and even if I didn’t, I have a hard time going to sleep at all, much less early. My body, however, prefers not to hang out at a movie, restaurant, bar, or party into the wee hours. It would rather plant itself firmly on my bed in the comfort of home, with my husband next to me, and the dog curled up under a blanket at the bottom of the bed.  I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I will never fill my closet with black and beige, and I refuse to wear “mom jeans.” There are certain styles of tops I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and I was once told (by a slightly older friend) that the cute brown and pink hoodie I was buying looked like it was for someone younger. Recently, I was at a shoe store and the sales associate took me over to the clunky, white, walking shoes. My body was suddenly (and horrifyingly) taken over by a rude teenager who shouted out, ” I’m not wearing those ugly things!” I spent the next 10 minutes apologizing for my alter-ego. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

When my husband goes out-of-town for work I sleep with a stuffed animal  that we got while on a date night. We were at Build-a-Bear and he pulled all the cloth hearts out of a large tube and put them back in the top until he got to the only one we could find that said “I Love You” on it.  I won’t change the sheets on the bed until he gets back, and before he leaves I change my jammies every night for a few days so I have several pairs to wear while he’s gone that I have worn with him by my side. If those get dirty, I resort to his t-shirts. He is my movie star. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

A few years back, I was driving my son and a friend’s daughter to school, we were talking about a specific person and I said, “She’s OUR age.” I was a 40ish year old woman talking to a 16-year-old girl. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

Although I appreciate many genres of music spanning over a number of decades, I will also listen to (and enjoy at a frightening level) the music my pre-teen and teen listen to. Some songs I will play over and over, never tiring of them. I will sing along, and may even dance. If only the dance moves matched the age of my heart and soul. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I would rather feel young at heart, with the knowledge and experience of a seasoned adult than be 16 again. Being a 40-something kid has plenty of advantages. The most important being an appreciation of and love for life.  I’ll take being trapped in this middle-aged body any day of the week. It has been through many trials and tribulations, and it has made me who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Darkness for Dinner…….Memories of Shanghai

Original post: Saturday, October 25th, 2008, on a blog that no longer exists.

Last night we ate at a restaurant called “The Black Cafe” with our friends Andrea and Patrick. It is a restaurant geared towards allowing its patrons to step into the shoes of someone who is blind.

The first level is a bar called “The Visual Zone.” It has dim lighting, and is a comfy area to have a few drinks. It is also where you look at the menu, make your dinner selections, and stow your belongings in a locker, in anticipation of the mess you’re going to make eating in the dark. Once you have prepared yourself, you are led up a narrow and winding staircase to “The Dark Zone.”

When you arrive at the top of the stairs, you are introduced to your blind waiter or waitress, who leads you and your party choo-choo train style, through a dark curtain to your table. Each person is directed to their chair, and once all parties are seated, the waitress will tell you where each and every item on the table sits. Silverware, cups, water bottles, napkin. The meal is served as in every other restaurant, bread and drinks, salad, soup, main course, then dessert. Bill and Andrea had chosen the beef filet, Patrick and I, “the mystery meal.” Each course would be a surprise, but we were assured it consisted of items we had seen on the menu.

The evening consisted of plenty of feeling around the table and your plate. There was a water bottle and bread basket for Patrick and Andrea, and one for Bill and I. ” Is this our breadbasket?” “Where’s my beer?” “Oops, there wasn’t actually anything on my fork that time.” ” I’m trying to figure out if there is anything left on my plate.” “What are you handing me, Bill? Oh, another tomato…..I see that you can even sniff them out. No fooling you.”

The food was extremely tasty, and for those of you who are wondering, the mystery meal was the same as the others for the salad and soup, and the main course was a very pleasant surprise. Chicken, smoked ham, shrimp, beef filet with a convenient bone handle, veggies, and a potato. The only thing I couldn’t identify was in my salad, and may have been a mild piece of fish…….but I don’t want to know, nor think about it.

We adjusted to being in the dark, and even stayed around to chat after we finished our meal. Nothing was spilled, and they kindly supplied napkins that were much bigger than your average China napkin, which is usually a cocktail glass size, or tissue (literally). It was a great night, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. All in all, a great life experience!

Author’s note: Unfortunately, this restaurant has since closed for business.

 

Hiding in the Bathroom

Let’s face it. We’ve all done it at one time or another. You just can’t handle it anymore, and you head into the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. It’s one of the few rooms in the house where you can lock the door, and convince all but the smallest of children, that it’s best to give you your privacy.   If your lucky, you can sneak in with a glass of wine and a good book. Turn on  the shower, and  up the music, to block out noise (and claim you couldn’t hear, if called), and you never know, you could get mommy-alone-time for…..and I may be overestimating……….10 minutes?!

For whatever reason, men do not have the same problem as us. No one follows them and sits outside the door. No one screams from another room, begging for their attention.  If this does happen, they ignore it, and it goes away. The persistence just isn’t there if it’s not the mom.  In my house, the men use this to their advantage.

Bill goes into the bathroom every morning to get ready for work. He takes his iPad with him, and listens to music, and reads his book. I’m pretty sure he has no intention of spending a long time in there, but he gets distracted. “I’ll just finish this chapter.” “Listen to _______ song.” “Hey! That reminds me of _______song.”    I have to strategically plan my bathroom usage around this habit. Do I go in before him? After him? Or do I just go in once I hear the shower water go on, and screw the privacy rule?!

When Brennan was little, if a situation came up where he was asked a question that made him feel uncomfortable, he would say “I have to go to the bathroom, ” and sprint away from said conversation. As he’s grown, it has continued in some form or another, and although he doesn’t actually leave conversations anymore, he won’t hesitate to avoid them before they begin. He uses this method to escape unwanted tasks, as well. When it comes time to unload the groceries, or put them away……nature calls. Time to vacuum……going into the bathroom may result in parents forgetting for a few more hours, and due to the fact that I can be absent -minded…it works!

Ethan doesn’t even try to hide the desire to flee. If I am going into his room to ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer, and he feels he can’t escape the conversation with half-hearted responses, he will push past me to relocate to the bathroom, and  will hide for as long as it takes, reading, or watching videos, until he feels the coast is clear. He is a stubborn kid, and can outlast the best of us, so this tactic works amazingly well.

After years of finding safe haven in this room, the boys have found that they LIKE hanging out in there, even when not avoiding the wrath of mom. Overall, I don’t mind, but even though we are lucky to have two bathrooms, we do not have an endless supply of hot water. There are nights I hear the boys’ bathroom door close, and I make a beeline for the upstairs bathroom, so I can take a HOT shower. Who would have thought that I would have to worry about my teenage BOYS  bathroom time more than my daughter’s?! No one warned me!

As I sit here writing this post, Brennan is in the bathroom, sucking every ounce of deliciously toasty water out of the hot water heater. He should be out in an hour or so. I will eventually go bang on the door and ask him to save me some hot water, and later I will take a less-than-satisfying lukewarm shower, while the family finds ways to need me, immediately……..if not sooner.

 

The January Vacuum

It pulls everything out of me, and I feel like a deflated balloon. I struggle to function. Hiding in a corner like that lone dust bunny, just trying to make it through the storm. Closer to March, closer to spring. January sucks. It sucks everything out of me.

In Michigan, it is a cold, wet, gray, month.  Long gone are the sounds of college football blaring from the TV, and fall breezes wafting through the open windows. The trees are bare, and the neighborhood children have moved their play inside, away from the winter chill. The holidays are over, and it is too far to the next. There are more overcast days than blue sky days, and warm weather is too many months, or too many miles away. Going out to do errands, on wet and sloppy, or slick and icy roads, is unappealing. Crawling into bed with a good book, or a movie, and a hot cup of coffee, is much more so. Then again, being cooped up brings me down too. I waffle between the safety and comfort of home, and raging cabin fever. I have often felt that there is no way to win the battle of January, at least not in my world.

For years, I let January swallow me whole, but recently I have tried to find ways to overcome the vacuum. We have bought light therapy lamps, and when we consistency turn them on while waking up, they do help. On those days I manage to drag my body out of the warm bed, early morning workouts go a long way to making me feel better, as well. Vitamins. Music. Essential oil aromatherapy. I’ll get there. I’ll find the right mix, and eventually, we’ll move to a sunnier state. For now, I continue to fight for good, for light, and hope for the renewal of life outside my window.

Mama

I’m one lucky girl. My mom has always been there for me, through thick and thin, good times and bad. I don’t remember ever having to question whether I could count on her when I was in need. I just knew. Considering she didn’t have much of a role model (her alcoholic mother died when she was 13, and her dad, of a stroke, when she was 18), she has done a phenomenal job.

When I was a baby, I was allergic to almost every food, as well as mold, dust, pollen, and animal dander, and had severe asthma, as well. Although I eventually outgrew them, they were a daily obstacle throughout my infant, toddler, and young childhood years. My diet required that she co-ordinate my food not only at home, but also at school, friend’s houses, and even the occasional restaurant. She spent many weekends fishing with a family friend for blue gill, to add to my limited diet of lamb, rice and apples. She bought soy baby formula for me until I was 10, as regular soy milk was not on the market yet, and ordered special rice bread which was delivered to our local Sander’s freezer. She didn’t even have to ask for it, she went right into the “employees only” door and got it out herself. She has always been a friend to everyone, and they trusted her. That’s just the kind of person she is.

As the mother of a special needs child, she was ever vigilant of my food, and surroundings, and I was in a never-ending state of testing her skills. I was constantly finding ways to sneak the food I wasn’t suppose to have, and hiding under tables, or outside, to relish it. She was continuously in fear of me dropping dead of an allergic reaction or asthma attack. The poor woman could never let her guard down.

My mom and I had a rocky relationship in my latter childhood years. We fought frequently. We are very much alike, and we were constantly butting heads. We both felt we needed to win any given argument. When I was a teen, and young adult, our conversations were confrontational and loud. She worried about so many things, and I was constantly defensive. She had a difficult childhood, and between that and my stressful younger years, she spent her days in protection mode. She was always trying to help, and I  resisted. In my defense, if I had followed every bit of advise she’d given, there are many things I would have never done, a number of which helped me to become the outgoing, semi-adventurous, person that I am. I have always been headstrong, and prefer to do things my way. I have never really felt comfortable accepting others help, even when it was obvious I needed it.

In the worst of my Crohn’s years, when 105 degree fevers were a daily occurrence, and my husband had to travel often for work, I would tell her I was fine, and she didn’t need to come stay with me. She has had serious back problems since an injury when she was in her mid-thirties, and I knew it would be rough for her to take on my daily chores, and spend the night in a bed that was not adjusted for her back. I had a very active 1 year old, and a 4 year old, and thought that it would be better to do it on my own, than risk her further problems. I was feeding the kids wrapped in a blanket, shaking with fever-induced chills. I concentrated on tiny increments of time, just trying to make it from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, to bedtime, but would not take her up on her offer for help.

My mama is not one to take “no” for an answer, so she came anyway.  She took over the household, and caring for the boys, so I could rest. She drove me to doctor’s appointments, did the grocery shopping, made meals, and doled out medication. She may have even tucked me into bed. Following my abdominal surgery, she came again, and even though Bill was no longer traveling as much, she stayed for several weeks to help him with the kids and me. We spent more time together during those years, than we had since I was very young, and I started to realize she was not only a loving and attentive mother, but fun, and I actually enjoyed being with her.

When Bill, the kids, and I packed up and moved to Shanghai, we only saw my parents when we returned in the summer, and not many times at that. We’ve all heard the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and it proved to be true. It was while in China, that my mom and I had some of our best telephone conversations. At least up until the line went staticky and we realized we had said something that the Chinese monitors didn’t like, and we had to end it for the day.

My mother was never comfortable with us moving to China, as I’ve said, she has always been a worrier. She would much rather have her children tucked safely under her wing . It was while living abroad, that I started trying to calm some of her fears and worries, instead of taking offense or fighting them. It was then, that I started being an adult on the phone with my mom, when I finally stopped arguing and started listening, and discussing, that my mom and I finally fell into step together.

In 2013, and again in 2014, I went down to my parents’ winter home to help care for my mom after back and neck surgery. It felt good to return the favor, and spend some time with my parents by myself.  We had the best time together, especially our 5 AM mother/daughter coffee talks….. and it takes something pretty special for me to enjoy anything at that time of morning. She shared stories from her childhood, and her young adult life, and we reminisced about our early family memories. Of course, one of my favorite things to talk about with her as an adult, has always been the things my siblings and I did that she never knew about. And, hey! We lived to talk about it! There was never any time of day better than those crack-of-dawn mornings, in the rocking recliner chairs, in their tiny TV room.  I will always cherish those moments.

My mama is a giving and compassionate woman. She will go out of her way to help a friend or family member. If you are good to her, you are a friend for life. She doesn’t take friends or family lightly, and she will not let you down. She is as good as it gets, and more than you could ever hope for in a friend or relative. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am forever grateful for the gift from Heaven that is, my mom.

 

The People of Paris, and the World, Unite

The people of France woke up on Friday morning expecting a day like any other. They went to work, shopped for groceries, cared for children. Maybe there was a wedding, a birth, a milestone; an event that made it a little more special than the average. They could not have predicted the day would end with a vicious attack on their country. Monsters who abhor freedom, peace, Christianity, and the West as a whole, terrorizing Paris. Invaders, shaking it to its core.

We all know what happen, so I am not going to rehash it. The attackers are not worth my time, nor do they deserve attention. The people of Paris, and the compassionate world, are what this is about. People who came together in a time of need, a time of tragedy, as one big family.  Supporting France, and its citizens. Just as the world responded to the attacks of 9-11-2001, they have united.

As the events transpired in Paris, its citizens helped others in need, opening their doors to victims, offering safety and comforting one another.  Taxis turned their meters off and offered free rides home,  strangers drove stranded pedestrians home, sometimes all the way across town. Things we would not do in times of peace, change during events like this, times when the frailty of life is all too apparent. When everyone becomes a friend to another. When the world around us is, suddenly, a much smaller place.

Around the world, social media lit up with photographs, and drawings, condolences, and prayers. The lights on the Pearl Tower in Shanghai changed to the colors of the flag of France, as did Sydney’s iconic Opera House. One World Trade Center in New York lit its spire in support as well, the epitome of proof that we survived, and Paris will as well. They won’t beat us. The monsters say we are their enemys, but we are bigger and stronger, and we have united.

As tragic as times like this are, I am encouraged by the way the citizens of the world not only unite, but remember their manners, and spread a little more love. People take notice of the humanity around them. They step out of their own routines, out of their stresses or troubles, and help others. Courtesy and thoughtfulness, which often lack in peaceful times, suddenly return. People smile, and acknowledge one another when passing on the street. They hold doors for others, or wave a hand to thank the driver behind them for letting them in. They donate money or items, to help those in need. Things that still happen on a daily basis, but much less often than they used to.

As I have grown older, I have taken notice, and adjusted my behavior to make sure that I don’t disappear into the problems of my own little world. I have taught my children to be constantly vigilant of others. Always be kind, and never take it for granted. Nothing is guaranteed in this life. You never know when you are going to need the help of a stranger, and you should give as much as you would like to receive in return. If it is not returned, you have still given your all to the world around you. You’ve been the best version of you. These are the little things in life, that are really quite large. They unite us. If light can come out of the darkness of tragedy, I hope it comes in the form of human kindness and love in everyone’s everyday life.

Please pray for the people of Paris. For safety, comfort, and healing. For those who died, and their families. For the spirit and hope of a brighter future, free of monsters who seek to destroy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am JUST a Homemaker

I recently read a post from a friend who was belittled for what she does for a living. She has many, many talents, and is constantly looking for ways to impact the world around her with the use of those talents. Her biggest passion, one of her finest  talents, is loving and caring for dogs. She has three of her own, and she walks many others for a living, for people who trust her with their precious pets while they are away at work. She is always happy and smiling, and has a peace within her that most do not. She works hard. She has found a way to make a living doing something she loves. It’s unfortunate that some do not find that to be a worthy job. That one would diminish another, who is making the world a better place for others.

I am JUST a homemaker. I have been so since the birth of my second child. I do not work for a paycheck. I DO work outside of the home, though. I have a job that requires travel. I spend hours traveling to, and waiting outside of my children’s schools, going to doctor’s offices, guitar lessons, rock climbing gyms, volleyball, baseball, and swim practices, meets, and games. Driving children to and from work, and friend’s houses. I don’t get paid for gas or mileage in the typical way. My payment comes in the form of happy, healthy, well-rounded children. We don’t force them to play sports or take lessons, they only do what they want to. We let them explore their talents, and find their passion. It is worth every penny I  ” lose”  by not working for a paycheck.

My life involves daily professional development seminars. I am constantly learning FROM my children, and FOR my children. They share with me. They talk about subjects that they are excited about learning, goals for their future, and  what they are worried about. They ask advice. They look for reassurances, and guidance. I am always there, doing the best I can to provide it, and constantly looking for, and refining, ways to help them meet their goals.

I have odd hours, and I am constantly working overtime. My busiest times of the day during the “work week”  are between 6:30am and  9am, and 2pm and 11pm, but that varies day-to-day, and I am by no means “off” during the time in between, I am merely working independently. I don’t have weekends or holidays off. I am constantly on call, and I can’t leave my “work” at work, at the end of the day. Vacations are severely limited. The pay raises and bonuses are not traditional, and may not be fully realized until years  later. They come in the form of growth in my children. Kindness, gratitude, honesty, empathy, courtesy, morality, love. My bonus comes in ensuring that  my children are raised to be decent, thoughtful, giving, caring, happy adults who don’t diminish others for what they choose to do.

This is NOT a thankless job.  I know I can never be replaced. Job security is never an issue. There is no possibility of a lay off in my future. The health benefits are variable, but the retirement benefits are countless. I have never regretted this job. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I have been given.