Sunday, February 21, 2010
Our storage room is filled with boxes and boxes of things from Bob's Mom's house. She passed away 8 1/2 years ago and most of the boxes have never been sorted through. Do you need paper flannel board figures from the early 60s? I've got them! Cleaning supplies from the 70s? They're here, too. How about boxes full of Kindergarten worksheets? Come on over! Bob's mom saved everything. Bob was an only child so when it came to cleaning out his Mom's house there wasn't a lot of help. Fortunately, several ladies from church helped me out - but I still ended up with a lot of things that have just gone to the recycling bin - or the dump.
I remember going through her kitchen. One drawer was filled with twist ties and yogurt cups, another had re-used aluminum foil, and another had rinsed out plastic produce bags. She couldn't stand to throw anything away. She would clean out her fridge and then give us a "bag of groceries" that I would take home and throw away. She was incredibly frugal and saved every last dime that she could - but there was one thing she was willing to spend money on and that was her son. She didn't think she would ever have kids and didn't even realize she was pregnant until she was over 6 months along! Just think, nowadays she would be on reality TV for that one!
Having a miracle child is tough in one respect....no woman is ever going to be good enough for him. To say that she was thrilled when Bob and I got engaged would be...well, an outright lie. She was very unhappy and she had no problem sharing her feelings with me. Of course the way she found out we were engaged was not ideal. Bob had come to visit me in Oregon after Christmas and had ended up proposing - not exactly planned - but once he met my parents, he fell in love with them and realized the only way to have them was to marry me. So he had talked to my parents - but had yet to inform his Mom. He said once he had the ring and it was "official" he would tell her. (I think he sensed the impending doom.) So you can imagine her surprise when my Mom called, looking for me, and said how happy she was that we were engaged. Analu did not share her sentiments. She felt that the only reason we were getting married was because I was.....well...how do I put it nicely? Because Bob wanted to sleep with me....she felt I was a bit trampy. You can imagine how that warmed the cockles of my heart.
Unbeknownst to me I was just beginning to feel the pangs of food poisoning. Not just any food poisoning - Salmonella poisoning. I ended up deathly ill and was grateful that my landlady at the time found me passed out on the bathroom floor. She took me to the hospital where they hooked me up to 3 I.V.s - one in each arm and one in my foot - to try and rehydrate me. Bob had gone out of town for work and had no idea that I was so ill. I spent a few days with my grandparents before I was strong enough to go back to my basement apartment. When I returned home I had a call from Analu. She wanted to know how I was feeling and wondered if she could come over. I mistakenly thought she had wanted to come and apologize. Instead she came to bring me a list she had compiled of all of the reasons I would make a poor wife and mother. She had written it down so that I could refer to as often as needed. She went over the list with me and left. I was stunned. I shared the list with Bob who was embarrassed and mortified - but still out of town.
After giving it a great deal of thought I created my own list full of scriptures on the importance of not judging, of loving one another and on the beauty of marriage. When I presented this to her she was surprised. She had felt so much better after sharing her list with me - she couldn't understand why I was sharing this with her. I told her that she had never given me the opportunity to respond to her list. This concept was also surprising to her - she had never thought I would have the need or desire to respond.
To say the first several years were challenging would be an understatement. But as time went on I learned more about her and the difficult past she had. Bob's father had been brutally emotionally abusive to her - which led her to divorce him and raise Bob on her own. She never felt good enough about herself to date again and simply became focused on raising her son in the best way she knew how. For years she took care of her Aunt, who lived in their home, in addition to being a full-time kindergarten teacher. Learning these things did not excuse the way she treated me - but helped me gain a better understanding of her. Years of depression and self-neglect took their toll and her diabetes took a turn for the worse. There were several occasions where I would be out running errands with the kids and suddenly feel like I needed to go to her house and check on her. I would find her in a diabetic stupor and quickly give her some juice or a candy. As the diabetes worsened I would sometimes find her completely disoriented having been unable to make it to the bathroom and confused about the time of day.
I did my best to help her in any way I could. When she entered a rest home Bob visited her every single day. I would go with him most of the time - and of course the girls - her new pride and joy - would come along as well. In spite of all of our difficulties, I hated seeing her go down hill so quickly. She was a doting grandmother and I often think how great it would be for the girls to have her here, cheering for them.
Her diabetes progressed to the point that amputation of her legs would be necessary for her to live. She was going to dialysis 3 times a week and her dementia had grown worse. When she learned of the possibility of amputation she decided she wanted to stop the dialysis - which would mean she would die within a week or so. Bob did not like this decision and spent a great deal of time trying to talk her out of it. One day she called me and asked me to come and see her alone. I went to the nursing home and found her in the "sun room" waiting for me. For the first time in a year her mind was sharp and crystal clear. She told me that she was sorry for how she had treated me. She knew I was a good wife for Bob and a good mother to the girls. She told me that she had thought and prayed and was ready to return to Heavenly Father- it was her time. She wanted me to help Bob understand that this was the best thing for her...that she was ready.
That was the last day she was able to communicate. I sat by her bedside holding her hand for 2 days as she lay in a coma. At 10:00pm on the second day she passed away. I had already come home when we got the call. I was so sad that when she passed we weren't there. She had spent so much of her life feeling alone that I hated the idea that she would die without someone with her. When Bob and I went to see her I was surprised at how peaceful she looked and hoped and prayed that her spirit felt peace. I like to believe that she is in heaven watching over us all. I hope she can see the wonderful people her grandchildren are and the good man that her son has become. I'd like to think that someday she and I can have the friendship we missed out on here on earth.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
So I have battled with the idea of this post for quite some time. Although I do believe this is my story to tell - it's a question of should I tell this story. But, clearly, I have decided that, yes I will tell it.
My parents were separated briefly when I was around 6 months and after some attempts at reconciling were divorced when I was 3. The reasons and issues surrounding their divorce are NOT my story - so I won't go into it here.
My Father moved to France for a couple of years just as they were getting divorced so I did not see him again until the age of about 5...maybe 6 I'm not sure. Since he left when I was so young I did not really have many memories of him. I still remember going to his apartment that first time. I was nervous. I remember Lisa holding my hand as we walked up to the apartment building and buzzed to be let in - she seemed nervous, too. As the three of us were welcomed in I remember Lisa and Marc hugging him - but when he went to hug me I stiffened up and felt scared. Although I knew he was my Father - I had no memory of him - so, unfortunately, it felt like a stranger. He was not at all pleased with my reaction- and thus the reasons for my fear were confirmed. As an adult I can imagine how painful it must have been to have that kind of response from one of your kids...but I was not an adult then and could not filter my feelings as I can now.
Through the years there were many misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I think we were both looking for something from the other person that neither of us was capable of providing. There are some things I still don't understand. Why don't I remember him at any of my piano recitals? Why do I remember my Mom's friends visiting after I was hit by a car, but I don't remember him? My sister would say I should ask him these questions - but I don't see the point. Having children of my own I have realized how much he missed out on. I love all of the parenting moments - the good, the bad and the ugly. Each moment teaches me so much about who I am and how I can help my children become who they want to be. I was lucky that I had a wonderful Stepfather who filled the huge "daddy" void in my life.
There is a picture of my Father with the three of us kids when I was just a baby. He is holding me and Lisa and Marc are on either side of him. It looks like we were on a picnic of some kind. Growing up I spent a lot of time looking at that photo - trying to imagine that moment. Was I excited to have him pick me up? Did he sing me songs? Did he read me books? What would he do that would always make me giggle? I would invent the answers based on what Lisa and Marc would tell me about the games he used to play with them. He clearly loved us, but maybe it was just too painful to be the "limbo" parent. Maybe it was easier to distance himself.
I saved every letter and postcard from him. There was one letter, in particular, that I have cherished for years. It was a letter for my eighth birthday - with a fabulous poem about turning 8....it was only recently that I realized the letter was dated a month after my actual birthday.
In spite of many difficult times - I made a decision one day that I wanted to be at peace with the relationship I had with him. I wanted to let go of insecurities, hurt feelings and misunderstandings. I spent a lot of time praying for the peace I was seeking.
Then one day I remembered something or dreamed something. I believe it to be true...but to this day I am not completely sure. I remembered going out with him to the Mill Race - a stream in Eugene where you could rent canoes. We climbed into our wobbly canoe and began to paddle down the stream. The banks of the stream were lined with enormous blackberry bushes. We would get just close enough to fill our hands with the delicious berries with out getting caught in its brambles. As we coasted along the stream my fingers and lips became stained a deep shade of purple and soon I could hear the rushing of the water where it went through a grate and under the street. Soon we would have to turn around and go back.
As we got to the end of the rushing stream we saw piles of grass and debris trapped at the grate. On top of this enormous pile was a broken stop sign...on which were several small ducklings. The mother duck was on the stream bank making quite a racket - desperate to save her babies. My Father carefully climbed out of the canoe and into the water, where he moved the stop sign and saved the baby ducks.
I don't know if this is a memory or if this is a dream. Maybe it is some bizarre dream interpretation of him reading me Make Way for Ducklings - but I do know that something about that story softened my heart and helped me let go of most of my hurt feelings. I asked my Father one time how you know if something is a dream or a memory. He said that if you were watching yourself - could see your face - it was probably a dream - but if everything you saw was from your view point than it could be a memory. In this dream I only remember looking down and seeing my blackberry stained fingers, hearing that loud water and seeing him save those ducklings.
I'm sure there are many psychological interpretations that could be made from our relationship and many fingers that could be pointed in many different directions. All I know is my relationship with him is part of the reason I have arrived at this point in life...and that is a pretty great place to be.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Now things like that are funny when it is not your child - mortifying when it is your child. I have a few of those moments myself. One great moment was when Nicole was about 2. I was standing in line at the pharmacy, waiting to pick up my pre-natal vitamins....Nicole was standing quietly next to me, when I started to hear some of the other line dwellers snickering. I looked around, the snickering was getting louder - they were all watching Nicole. Nicole was playing with a long "ribbon" of condoms that were hanging from her coat pocket. I was slightly horrified - but more so when she looked up at me and said "Look, Momma, they're shiny." at which point everyone burst out laughing.
Another moment is one that is truly mixed with pride and just a sprinkling of embarrassment. Kristen has always been a girl with some attitude. She was constantly asking questions and if you replied, "I don't know" she would say "Well, think about it." (It was the way she would say it that was funny.) One day, after dropping Nicole off at preschool, Kristen and I went to the post office. There is always a line at the post office. If you don't have children let me fill you in on a little child development tidbit: children are not built to wait in lines. It is a physical impossibility. So, while I was waiting in line Kristen kept running back and forth between me and the display of postcards and stationery hanging on the slat wall. Several of the packages of postcards had fallen onto the shelf below - just at her height - so she would pick them up, show them to me, then put them back on the shelf.During Kristen's show and tell activity an elderly lady and her adult son came in. The son began watching Kristen running the postcards back and forth. He came over and tapped me on the shoulder, "She shouldn't be doing that." he said. His voice was very deep and garbled. It was clear he had some mental/physical disabilities. I told him, "It's okay - she always puts them back." He watched for a few minutes, clearly not pleased with my answer. He then went over to Kristen and told her she should go back to her mommy. I was afraid she would cry - his voice was very deep and unusual. Instead she put her hands on her hips leaned forward and screamed "STOP TOUCHING ME." The man took a step back, looked at his mother, looked back at Kristen's angry face and then he started to cry. Although I felt badly for this disabled man, I was quite proud of Kristen. No one was going to mess with her!! My Mom always says girls need to be feisty...Kristen has that covered!
One of the most memorable moments is certainly not one of my most stellar parenting moments - but the girls and I still laugh about it.
When Kristen was 2 she became quite a hitter. Her target - there was only one - Nicole. Kristen would tell us that she wasn't hitting...they were smaps. Love smaps. She just like to give Nicole very firm love smaps - as if changing the name made it ok. Nicole did not like the love smaps and neither did I. In an attempt to end the "smapping" I would follow all of the parenting rules - I was consistent, calm and quick to respond. I tried taking away privileges...for weeks...no effect. We turned to time-outs.....again weeks of no success. One particularly bad day I resorted to... brace yourself...spanking. Now I didn't do it in anger - but I didn't know what else to try. So, very calmly, I said to Kristen, "If you hit your sister again I am going to have to give you a spanking. Do you know what a spanking is? It's when you get hit on your bum. I don't want to give you a spanking. Do you want to get a spanking?" "No," she replied "I don't. I won't hit anymore." But of course 2 minutes later she "smapped" Nicole. "Uh oh, Kristen...do you remember what was going to happen if you hit Nicole again?" "Don't do it Mom. I'll be nice." she said. "I'm sorry, sweetie - but you knew what would happen."
I then told her to come over to me and I laid her across my lap. I spanked her very, VERY gently at which point Nicole burst into tears and yelled, "Don't hurt my sister!!" This caused Kristen to start to cry and I quickly followed suit. The three of us sat on the couch crying and hugging each other. We decided hitting was a bad idea and none of us was ever going to do it again. She never hit again after that....and neither did I.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Second - I have been so crazy busy lately!! I want to blog more, but work and an upcoming home remodel are completely sapping any sort of creativity that I can muster, let alone time. So be patient! I will get more consistent again soon! In order to post this I am happily neglecting completing my 2010 budget for work. (Yes, I do realize it is the middle of February. But this way it's really easy to figure out January's budget.)
Third - Last night I went to a spa party and won a gift certificate....a one hundred dollar gift certificate to....(drum roll please)....slumber parties....a sex accessory type catalog. So anyone need a whip? I had no idea how naive I was about certain things....definitely an ignorance is bliss kind of thing. I probably shouldn't put that in my blog - I already get a lot of weird spam - but I just think it is so funny! It could not be more wasted then giving it to me. (Sorry, Bob.) So expect some really unusual gifts this year! Michelle O. - anything you want for your birthday?
Anyway, on to the much requested "good kiss" story...Maybe not the best story to follow the last announcement. WARNING: The cheesiness factor is bordering on a "Velveeta" rating...so proceed with caution.
The summer before my senior year in high school I went to spend some time with my Aunt and Uncle in New York. We were going to be heading to Europe to pick up my brother from his mission and my parents thought I would enjoy spending some time with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins before we left. They lived outside of Rochester in a small community call Honeyoye Falls. It was a gorgeous area with a mixture of mansions and slightly smaller homes. I have always had a great relationship with my cousins and my Aunt and Uncle - so I was thrilled to be there.
Down the lane, in a beautiful house (you should have seen the library), complete with a 3 hole golf course and a large pond (large enough to row around in a small boat), lived a young man whom I will call....um.....Fabio...no just kidding....I'll just use his real name - Kevin. Kevin was just getting ready to leave on a mission and had a lot of spare time on his hands. Over the course of several days, Warren (my cousin) and I spent a lot of time with Kevin. We played cards, went to dinner, watched movies and took some walks. He had a beautiful smile, great sense of humor and was so easy to talk to. I was crushing in a big way. Never in a million years did I think someone this cute would be interested in me - but lo, and behold, he was interested.
Do you remember what it feels like to feel the flutter of butterfly wings when a certain someone brushes their hand against yours? Or gently guides you through the door by placing their hand in the small of your back? The way your breath would catch in your throat and you would have moments where you could swear you were floating? That was how every moment was that summer. We had an incredible time together. It didn't take long before Warren wasn't joining us on our evening strolls. I couldn't get enough of anything he had to say and he seemed to feel the same way. Too soon, our trip to Europe came. Now don't get me wrong - going to Europe was an incredible feeling and I loved seeing Marc again after 2 long years - but my mind was back in Honeyoye Falls. Everywhere we went I would wish that I was there with Kevin. I had fallen and fallen HARD!
After 3 weeks we returned to Honeyoye Falls for just a few days. I couldn't wait to see Kevin and was slightly distressed upon our return to discover that he was out of town for a few days. By the time he returned we would have 2 days together, then I would return to Oregon and he would go to Argentina for 2 years.
The highlight of this summer romance was definitely the last night together. He invited me over that evening for a picnic. When we arrived at his house, he walked me down to the pond in the vast backyard. It was a beautiful evening, complete with fireflies, candles, soft music and a warm breeze. We sat on the blanket talking, laughing and barely eating. "I wish we had more time together." he said, "I wish you weren't flying back to Oregon tomorrow." "Me, too." I replied. He stood up and brushed off his pants. He turned up the music and said, "I have been trying to find a way to ask you to dance, without it seeming silly." (Insert sigh here.) I stood up and he wrapped me in his arms and we danced. I know it sounds over the top corny, but I am telling you it was foot sweeping on the level of a zamboni.
Soon a light sprinkle of rain began to fall, we both looked up, started to laugh and hurried into the house. He took me into the library. An enormous room lined with mahogany book shelves and great big leather arm chairs. He guided me over to the sofa where we started to talk....YES, TALK...for hours. Around 4 a.m. he started to rub my shoulders. He ran his fingers through my hair then traced my jawline and the outline of my lips with his fingertips. His fingers ran along the edge of my ear and across the back of my neck as he gently turned me around and gave me a long, soft, gentle kiss.
There was no long make-out session, no groping hands, just one tender, heart-felt, passionate kiss. As he pulled away I had to remind myself to breathe. We both looked at each other - slightly teary - wondering what would have happened if we had met at a different time - when the toll of the grandfather clock began.
The sound of the clock suddenly brought me to the awareness that I had been out ALL night and might have hell to pay when my parents discovered my perfectly made bed. We both agreed it was time to go. We walked down the dirt lane to my Aunt and Uncle's house as the sun was starting to rise. The closer the house got the slower we walked. We embraced one last time and I crept into the house, forcing myself not to look back.
It was the kind of summer romance that every teenage girl deserves to experience. No regrets, just sweet memories of a first love.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I come from a very musical family. Music has just always been and continues to be a part of our lives. The fact that I have a semi-grand harp and a baby grand piano on 40 year old carpet should let you know where our priorities lie. I am very happy that my talented daughters are continuing the musical tradition!
I started to play the piano around the age of 8. My mom never had to tell me to practice because I was always competing for piano time with my brother and sister. When something seems unattainable, it becomes more enticing! (Now you are all trying to figure out how to get that situation going with your kids, right?) I liked piano right off the bat. My first teacher's name was Lori and Marc and I both took lessons from her. Lisa didn't enjoy lessons - I think she maybe took a year? But, of course she was the one that could and still does, just listen to a song and sit down and play it. No fair.
Anyway, we took from Lori for some time and then stopped for awhile. I went through one more teacher before I started taking from Beverly Smurthwaite. I loved taking lessons from her. It wasn't long before I found that playing the piano was a great emotional outlet. I didn't always feel like I could let my true feelings out at home - but the piano was always a great source for releasing joy, anger, depression, and happiness. Mrs. Smurthwaite seemed to sense what an emotional release the piano was for me and we spent a lot of time exploring different composers for the types of emotions they elicited. Because of this I felt a very deep connection with her. Our lessons each week felt like some kind of musical therapy and in those teen years you need that!
The problem was I suffered from performance anxiety. I thought "Why do I become so incredibly terrified to play in front of other people?" My siblings would frequently seem quiet and shy - but then - put a mic in front of them and they would come to life! I wanted the piano equivalent of that...maybe if I had been shy that would have happened. But when your older siblings make you go up to the clerk in a store to ask questions - or to be the one to ask where the restrooms are - you get over the shy thing rather quickly.
I soon became the designated accompanist for family performances - that wasn't so bad. I knew I wasn't the main event...I just had to try and make the singer look good - but to play a solo? Terrifying! My hands would shake so much that I could barely get the keys to press down. Of course, the more anxious I became about the shaking, the more I would begin to forget what I was playing....leading to one horrid performance after the other. Since I had this pathological desire to live up to Lisa and Marc's ability to perform I continued in a cycle of self-induced piano panic.
In my junior year of high school I had spent months working on Mozart's Fantasia in D minor. I loved this piece!! (I still do.) It had these amazing runs that made me feel like I could play anything. Mrs. Smurthwaite, knowing of my tendency to panic, spent many lessons helping me get comfortable performing the piece. I thought maybe, just maybe, this piece would be my break through moment. I would conquer my fears! At the recital I walked bravely up to the piano. My heart beat was calm, I felt almost relaxed, until I pressed the first key. The piano I was playing on had incredibly stiff keys. The recital took place at a local church and it became clear that the organ was the instrument of choice. To get any tone out of the piano took immense finger strength.....I felt doomed. There was no way I was going to be able to perform the runs at the necessary lightning speed. I stumbled through the performance, on the verge of tears the entire time. As I finished, instead of walking back to sit with my parents, I immaturely ran out to the car. I was so embarrassed.
At the end of the recital one of the other students, an adult woman, came to the car and told me she loved my performance. I looked at her like she was crazy. She said, "I know it didn't come out the way you wanted it to, but the emotions you were able to convey through the music touched my heart. I just wanted you to know." Hmm.
As years went by, I couldn't seem to shake my inability to perform a piano solo or accompany someone, without making error after error, until about 10 years ago. A neighbor of mine asked me to accompany her while she sang to a group of retired folks who met at church every Monday night. I practiced hard. It was a challenging accompaniment and I didn't want to do anything that would distract from her singing. As I took my place at the piano I said a small prayer and began to play. As I played I began to realize that these people weren't listening for mistakes, but simply grateful for the performance. I felt this wonderful sense of love and appreciation as I played for my friend Kathy. I had never played so well. I didn't make one mistake - I think Kathy was as shocked as I was. But instead of feeling proud, I simply felt grateful for the experience. I realized that playing was not a way to bring positive or negative attention to myself, but a gift that I could give to the kind souls who would listen to me play. I can still picture the faces of the people in that room - and I try to remember that feeling whenever I have the opportunity to play.
Monday, February 1, 2010
A conversation between a few 4 & 5 year old boys:
Boy 1: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Boy 2: I'm gonna be Santa Clause!
Boy 1: You can't be Santa Clause! That's not a real job!
Boy 2: Yes it is!!! I give away toys. That's my job.
Boy 3: That's not a real job, 'cause you don't make any money, you just give it all away!
Boy 2: GRRRRRR!
I tend to be slightly delusional in many areas of my life. I frequently get shocked when I look in the mirror..."Who is that fat woman?" since when I peer down at myself it doesn't seem that bad. (Rosie O'Donnell called it the opposite of anorexia - thinking you are thinner than you really are.) Although the dieting is progressing...
When it comes to cars I didn't realize how delusional I was until my birthday party. I always think of myself as a good driver, after all I didn't get my first ticket until last year, and I really haven't been in any accidents......have I?
It turns out I have - but fortunately I was usually the only driver. So I am a great driver out on the street where there are other cars and drivers - but put me in a parking lot full of driver-less cars and watch out!!
Case #1: The summer after my freshman year in college, my church was putting on a big musical which both of my parents and myself were participating in. It just so happens that shortly after the rehearsals began I broke my right ankle. I was lucky enough - after a few days of crutches - to be put in a walking cast. (You should have seen me dancing!) The walking cast was cumbersome and heavy, but far better then spending the whole summer on crutches!
After rehearsal, one Saturday, I climbed in my mighty Pinto to drive home. As I slowly backed out of the parking space, my heavy right foot slipped off of the brake onto the gas pedal and WHAM! I hit something hard. I pulled on the emergency brake and stepped out of the car. I had managed to back into my parent's Camaro - which then rolled back and hit the family van. Did I mention that the 3 of us drove separately? In one fail swoop I managed to ding up all three of the family cars! Fortunately, the damage wasn't bad, but my normally mild mannered StepDad was less than thrilled.
Case #2- Shortly after Bob and I got married I drove his car to work. We always referred to it as "the mighty Jimmy," and it was a nice companion to the pinto - "Fred the Ford.") Well, I was driving the mighty Jimmy and went to workout after I finished work for the day. Still to this day I am not quite sure what happened.....I decided to take a short cut through a bank drive-thru and somehow lost control of the car - slamming into one of the concrete pylons. Don't worry - the concrete was okay - the Jimmy not so much. I was so scared to tell Bob! I found a pay phone (remember those?) and called him at work. I was sobbing on the phone. He waited patiently to find out what was going on - as I calmed myself down enough to tell him I was suddenly struck by how funny it was that I tried to drive through a drive-thru...get it? I know - but maybe I was in shock. So, as I told him I started to laugh hysterically (it's neat to be crazy) until I was almost in tears again. Just like my Dad in case #1 he was less than thrilled.
There happens to be one other story, but it's not very interesting. Suffice it to say - the mini-van ended up with the passenger side all scraped up. Sharp concrete corner in a parking garage drive way....I choose to blame the concrete.
If you are ever in a car with me you have absolutely nothing to fear! I save all my fender benders for my alone time. Need a ride?