The search for normal

We drive our grandkids to the boardwalk.  Lights and rides and cheap stuffed animals surround us — then a young man runs out of a storefront — “Stay the F— out of my store, you hear?”

We search for normal.

We sit poolside, toucan floats and cheesy pizza at our side.  I check twitter, only to learn of another shooting in our home town.

We reach for normal.

We run to the ocean edge, scooping shells and searching for sand crabs for bait.  I hear an elderly couple speaking of the newest health care changes being considered.

We yearn for normal.

I can not help but worry that my grandchildren, aged 8 to 2, will never really understand this normal that I look for.  They are growing up without peaches with a quarter inch of fuzz, without open doors and barbecues.  They hear of shootings and presidential “tweets”.  Will they be able to sit on their front step, a half hour before sunrise and smell that sweet morning nectar, see the golden rays jump up behind the neighbors house?  More and more I doubt it.  And more and more I search for pieces of light to share with them, pictures and memories of days gone by when the ocean was clean, the rivers and creeks safe to swim in, woods were for exploring and friends spent the night.

I cry for normal.

hell week…

I should not complain.

Seriously should not. But, whatever, here it comes.  A couple weeks ago our daughter confirmed that she needed to have minor surgery.  Now, “minor” is a relative  term.  My.Daughter.Surgery.  Those words do not blend well, so I had to go into mom mode, reminding myself that it was NOT about me, that I needed to be a resource and a source of strength.  That I had to pray and accept the healing even before I saw it manifested.  That I had to eat and sleep and not hover.  That 3 phone calls a day with “how are you feeling?” is not appropriate or acceptable. I bought her new pajamas and slippers, made a casserole, took the day off work.  “Why mom?  Why are you taking off work?”  Oh, I don’t know…..maybe because MY DAUGHTER IS HAVING SURGERY.  “Just in case you need me for something that day”.  “No, I’ll be fine”.  Turns out her husband couldn’t get off that day and I was needed to do transport, sit in the waiting room drinking nasty coffee == but I was also afforded the wonderful sight of the doctor telling me that everything went well, everything looked great.  Score!

Which would have been enough to make it a rough week, right? Wait for it, it gets better…

3 days before surgery we had our first snow storm of the season.  Husband and son in law decided it was a good day to chop wood.  (You can imagine what is coming, right?).  Off they went.  I did the grocery store run, stocked up on soup and chili ingredients, came home and cuddled up on the couch with coffee and my knitting.  It occurred to me around noon, when there were 3 inches of snow on the  ground and wicked cold, that I hadn’t heard anything.  So I called.  Husband assured me that they were loading the last truck and he would be home for lunch……. 2 hours later I tried his phone and the son in law….no answer… another hour passed, I finished knitting the mittens, and I tried him again.  “Yeah, Im getting some xrays done”.  WTF?  “I fell, I think I broke a rib”.  Truth is, he broke  two, and had been in the ER for 3 hours, I mean, why call me?  Why should I know my husband of 38 years and one day ( don’t even ask about the missed steak dinner reservations for that evening ) was in the ER?

And so began hell week. A week of cooking, shifting blankets, propping pillows, buying coffee, hugging babies, heating casseroles, handing out medicines….worrying.  Scolding.  Threatening to call an ambulance on Wednesday when he had decided he could sleep in the bed and then we couldn’t get him out of it.  45 hour work week…

So, last night I fell asleep at 7:00 pm.  exhausted.  And, of course I awoke at 3 am.  I’m gonna need a nap.

Christmas true

When you parent you always wonder….will IT matter…?  IT can be anything from using the time out chair to a trip to the beach to an extra story at night… to any of a multitude of moments that wrap themselves into the bundle that is parenting.  Will IT matter?

This Christmas has been  a mix of memories and precursors,  misplaced Christmas dishes and a house too small to decorate the way I like to … which got me to thinking, will it matter?

Last week, I took my oldest grandchild ( 7 years old ) Christmas shopping.  We’ve done it every year since she was born.  Our son raised her alone the first 3 1/2 years of her life, mom walked out when she was 5 months old and left him with a mortgage, a dog she had to “rescue” and this precious little girl.  So when Christmas came that first year, she was 10 months old and her daddy had done everything he could to make it a Christmas like he had always imagined he would have when he became a father.  But, there was no one to buy him gifts so baby Ava and I went shopping.  Everything she touched or smiled at I bought.  He got a lego set, a pink polo shirt and, if I remember correctly , a gazing ball for the back yard.  And so it began, the yearly Christmas shopping trip with our girl.  When we went back  to her house last week to wrap the presents she wrapped and bagged and wrote the tags. She looked at me and said, “so which of these are you taking to your house?” and I explained that they were staying at her house for her to give to family.  Her face broke a bit when she looked at me and said “wait, we’re not going to your house this year , you know to open all the presents and eat and everything??  the whole family?”  As I explained to her that “Yes, of course you will all come to my house, you will bring your presents then, everyone will be there” — she smiled and continued her task.  And I knew, without a doubt, that IT mattered, the yearly Christmas traditions that are so much work and go way too fast, that result in huge piles of paper and misplaced pieces — that I always wonder if the kids are coming to just to appease me — they matter to Ava, and probably to all of them.

This morning my son came to pick up a gift for Ava that had been delivered here.He walked in and surveyed the piles of gifts under the tree.  He smiled and said, “All red and white paper this year!  It looks like a giant candy cane, awesome.”  And, again, IT mattered.  The buying and wrapping, the clutter and  ribbons, matter.  A candy cane.  35 years old and he sees the Candy cane in a pile of Christmas gifts.  It matters.

Two weeks ago the youngest, 30 years old, called to ask me what I was doing on Christmas Eve.  Our Christmas celebrations depend on when Ava is in town and what years the oldest daughter has to go to New Jersey to celebrate with inlaws….so it was a fair question.  I said “not sure, hanging out, maybe church.”  She immediately suggested a “7 fishes” celebration at her house — just us and my mom , everyone else had plans.  She and her husband could have planned any number of parties or events for them and their kids, but they chose to spend Christmas Eve with us, her parents.  It matters.  All the years of gathering the family together at our house to play Christmas carols and open gifts, to eat and sometimes drink too much…matter.  And, when it came to be her turn and she finally had a house big enough to feel comfortable entertaining in — It mattered. Then when her brother called to tell us what time his Christmas Eve celebration was starting, we all adjusted times so we could do both.  and the traditions will continue.   IT matters.

On the 18th.  all the kids and all the spouses and all 7 grandchildren gathered at oldest daughter’s house to bake cookies.  They do it every year, sometimes not everyone can make it, but this year it was full out everyone.  Sprinkles and dough, ovens dinging and me and George just standing there grinning.  It matters.  All the years of gathering them in the kitchen and baking cookies and breads matter.  And now, they continue it with their children, and since they are lucky enough to have siblings that they love, they do it together, bringing those cousins together to build memories.

I wonder sometimes if their dad and I are burdens, or insignificant in their lives, but this season has reminded me that it matters.  We matter.

Merry Christmas everyone.

 

thanks wordpress

WordPress sent me a note today.  I registered to blog with them 4 years ago….not sure how that feels, like yesterday or several lifetimes ago….

I write less lately.  Please don’t mistake that for a lack of opinions :).  It is the result of spending too many hours at a computer screen during the day.  this job of mine has turned into its own sort of monster.  My eyes, and brain, are tired at the end of the day.

This retirement thing seems to have taken a leave of absence.

I promised myself that the job would be “fun”. that i would not slip into old habits of caring too much, working too much, worrying too much.  Right.  There are great moments of joy in my work, but the push is palpable:  do more, bring in more funding, bring in more schools, up your numbers, be the best supervisor ever, understand millennials, don’t let people walk on you, check on this and  this and this.  I’m exhausted.

But, this too shall pass.  In the scheme of things I have nothing to complain about.  Life is full, the beach house is awesome, you know the drill.

However, I am going to do some serious thinking after the first of the year.  Maybe it’s time for some changes….

Oh, and Happy Anniversary WordPress.  Glad you stuck around.

 

 

 

It would be easier if…

my kids lived far apart.  If it took a plane ride or a road trip to get them together it would be easier to see them apart.  but it is not space, but choice, that is tearing our family down.  My kids grew up incredibly close.  less than 5 years separated the three of them, and our house was full of laughter and noise and tears and hugs….

They grew up and became adults.  Life got in the way and we had some ups and downs — but they had each other.  we had barbecues and family dinners.  Family vacations when all of us — 12 of us — stayed in one house for a week or more.  Boat trips and impromptu beerpong in the back yard.

But then it changed.  one of them has become joined to someone who has a power trip like non other.  And it has torn my kids apart.  Rarely do I get to see the 7 grandchildren together, to plan a party or a dinner and know they will all be here.  I miss it.  And, maybe it was inevitable, but it makes me sadder than I can say.

chillin with Ava

Tonight I went to my son’s house and spent some time, just talking with my granddaughter.  We have seven grandchildren, blessings all, and I am fortunate that I get to see them each week, they have grown up surrounded by grammy and pop’s arms.

Tonight I needed some time with Ava.  It was a horrible day.  The air hung heavy with the killings of two black men, a friend of mine was arrested for a horrendous crime…..I felt dizzy and dark and so so sad.

But Ava and I went out and played with the fairy garden for a bit.  and then we went up to her room and looked in her treasure box and talked about life, and disney world and summer camp.  and nothing.  just talked about nothing.  And I was so happy that her world is still full of enough light that she can just do that.  Spin in her chair, make fun of my singing, and hug me with those wonderful little arms when I have to leave.

Thanking God tonight for my babies.  Praying that we can find a way to change this path our society seems to be running down.

 

Not my mother’s daughter

I am SO not my mother’s daughter.  I tell myself this regularly.  I pray at night that my wish will come true and that I can hold on to the precious few memories of bonding with my mom and let loose of the pain and the wound tight persona she embodies.

And, today I am reminded of just how much I am not my mothers daughter.  Packing one more box for the dual moves we are making over the next month,  I came across two poems written to us by our daughters.  the first, from our oldest, musing about her memories of car rides and long talks, full of joy and melancholy and family.  The second, a sort of apology and gratitude piece from our youngest, who often feels she has to apology for her past.  This is not true, she does not have to apologize.  She is the most caring, involved, loving person I know.  her passion has led her astray a few times when she was young , but she has nothing to apologize for.  her experiences have made her the amazing woman she is today.

But, anyway.  As I picked up these two poems and read them, I remembered the last notes I had found tucked away in drawers and boxes.  The hate filled notes my mother had written for me to find when, she assumed, she was dead and I was organizing her life’s clutter.  I found them early, but their bite was just as strong.

And I am happy that the notes I have chosen to save are filled with hope, and joy and love.  With good memories and praise.  Notes that will make everyone who reads them, now or in years to come, know that this family faced things together, and loved each other through every heartache.  I am SO not my mother’s daughter….

you just never know…

I had a meeting today with a VERY IMPORTANT LADY. I say that in caps. because it is true.  She is amazing, in her 60’s, spends her days volunteering, donating, supporting women’s causes.  She speaks her mind and swears at meetings.  I admire her more than I can say.

So today she came to my office to help me with a project.  we sat at the table together, and she said,  ” So, tell me about the kids….” I shared the ups and downs of my three, starting with the  oldest, working down to our youngest.  Shared that our youngest child’s battle with and victory over, bulimia had shaped the last 9 years of my life, had given me renewed purpose.  When I finished, she looked me dead in the eye and said ” I had that”.  She went on to share her own battle with binging and purging, and how, for a time, she felt she had discovered the greatest thing — eating without calorie increase.   We discussed how, and why, she had stopped.  How she had committed herself to healthy eating, but still, over 40 years later, struggles with binging and then being disgusted with her lack of “control”.  We spent almost 2 hours sharing viewpoints, research, ideas and dreams  about the importance and impact of this disease.

Damn.

I look at her and am, once again, incensed at the ability of this disease to work its way into a life full of promise.  And at how, though she is successful, a strong woman,  wonderful parent and giver — she still has to fight with self hate.  And, once again, my passion is renewed.  We have to fight this.  We have to beat this.  We have to provide support for sufferers and families….

And then, as we finished our project and sat back, proud of what we had accomplished, nursing  a cup of tea — she said “you know I never told anyone about this. My husband doesn’t know this about me, my parents didn’t know…

Damn.

I thanked her for trusting me.  For opening her heart and her mind and for believing in herself enough to know that she can say the words out loud and still be safe.

unraveled

I’m not sure if I have shared this on this blog, but I am a knitter…I spend more hours than anyone knows spinning wool, knitting blankets, hats, gloves, sweaters, scarfs…and socks.  My kids love my socks.  My husband has a pair that he wears every time he shovels snow or goes hunting.  The grandbabies  have left a trail of socks in every car, house or store they have ever visited.

This morning I was one toe away from finishing a pair of beautiful eyelet pattern pink socks for my oldest.  Score.  Finished by Valentines Day.  Fire in the woodstove, steaming mug of coffee on the table, handspun and knit blanket on my lap, all snug in my pride that these were going to be finished on the day I had promised myself they would be.  And then I saw it. Or should I say, them.  What were these holes next to the twist?  Where did they come from.  A little digging and I figured out that  somewhere around the bottom of the leg, where it hits the beginning of the heel and instep, I had become all dyslexic and yarned over before the knit one, instead of between two knit ones.  Hence, several inches of misplaced eyelets, RIGHT ON THE FRONT OF THE SOCK.  I may have been able to convince myself to “let it go” had it been over the heel, maybe she would never look at the back of her foot and notice….Or, had I been newer in my knitting obsession and afraid that if I ripped it out I’d never actually make it again, I might have told myself that it looked deliberate, funky and was an artistic statement 🙂 .

But, not today. Today I sighed once and began to “ribbit”.  pulled stitch after stitch out, smiled a little when I hit the spot where the pink sock ran into the blue top cuff — and they disassociated themselves beautifully — and cast on 40 stitches, joined, careful not to twist, and began the 4 row eyelet pattern.  Again.

And because knitting is always about more than, well, just knitting, I thought a bit about the metaphor of this experience…An eye for perfection, a desire to let things slide, knowing full well that I can’t, the ability to back up, rip out and begin again.  Yup, pretty much describes me…

So what is the next holiday that would warrant a pair of nice pink socks for my oldest???? Mother’s Day!  oh, that means I have to knit a pair for the youngest too…..IMG_20160129_223138202 (1)