Snapshot

I forget sometimes that other people read what I write on this blog. Or maybe I underestimate the impact of my words.

My cousin lives in Minneapolis. We’re not particularly close, although we care about each other. We talk a few times a year. I talk to his mother, my aunt, more often and she keeps us up-to-date on each other.

He texted my husband recently to find out if I was okay. He and my aunt saw my last blog post about being depressed and isolated (see it here) and were worried about me.

I called him back the next day and assured him I was okay, though still somewhat depressed. I think I sounded kind of perky. I tried to. Was that dishonest? I don’t think so. I am okay and also depressed.

Or maybe my therapist is right–I’m grieving. My brother died July 12, 2013. Since he died two years ago, I’ve had one medical issue after another, barely healing from one surgery before needing the next. I told my therapist it feels like emotional PTSD. My friend, Kim, a grief counselor, tells me the symptoms of grief are the same as depression symptoms. Oh. How do I know the difference? Does it matter?

My grief is bigger than my brother dying. I miss having a body that I don’t have to think about. I miss being able to chase after my grandchildren. Adaline asked me to jump with her the other day. I told her I couldn’t really jump. “Oh, you can’t do that anymore, Amma?” she said. I wanted to cry. I was angry because I had to add jumping to my list of things I can’t do. I felt old.

I started this blog when I had one grandchild, Adaline. I wanted her to know me as a person with feelings and fears and hopes and problems. Now I have 2 more grandchildren–Maggie and Atticus. And I still write so they will have a way to know me when I’m not around anymore. I’m getting to know me better, too.

I’m sorry that I worried my aunt and my cousin. I write these posts as the spirit moves me and they reflect the moment that I’m in. Two hours after I finish, I might be far beyond those particular concerns and feelings. But my written words stay in that moment.

Each blog post is just a snapshot, a captured moment in my life.

I think I should write more on days I feel good!

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Published in: on July 9, 2015 at 3:56 pm  Comments (9)  
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Bring It On! Here I Am. Let It Be. I Accept!

While I was procrastinating this morning about writing a blog post, I called one of my grown daughters. I thought I accepted a decision she and her husband made last week. I listened to myself, once again, begin to manipulate her into changing her mind.

I tried to stop.

Eventually I did.

I’m not proud of myself.

And she didn’t change her mind.

After that phone call, I got down to business. I looked back through some quotes/ideas I saved for non-inspired writing mornings. I found one after another about “acceptance.”

Halfway through copying and pasting them into this post, I made the connection between all these quotes and my earlier conversation with my daughter.

Oh.

Guess I’m the one who needs these. How humbling.

I thought I was doing this for you!

My friend, Lisa, picks a word for the year each January. Her word for last year was “accept”. She wrote this on her blog:

“Accept is one of those words that often gets a bad rap.  Sometimes it’s confused with giving-up.  On the contrary, accepting is about choice and power. It’s about recognizing what you can and can’t control and taking the next.right.step for yourself.

When life isn’t going as you’d prefer, accept that you can handle it.  You really can. Accept that you can simply say,”Bring it on! Here I am.  Let it be. I accept!”

One of Lisa’s heroes is Michael J Fox.  Here’s what he says about acceptance:

“I don’t look at life as a battle or as a fight. I don’t think I’m scrappy. I’m accepting. I say ‘living with’ or ‘working through’ Parkinson’s. Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it. I look at it like I’m a fluid that’s finding the fissures and cracks and flowing through.”

Acceptance, for me, requires a gut-level faith that something bigger than me is watching over this world and that it all makes sense on some level above my pay-grade.

The Serenity Prayer

God,

Grant me

The serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Amen.

This next one is a challenge!

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.

Amen.

(For an explanation and some instruction in using The Welcoming Prayer, click here.)

Sometimes I forget that things can get better. I need to remember hope can be part of acceptance.

“Grounded hope is hope with acceptance. Acceptance is a tricky concept. Accepting your circumstances can sometimes be perceived as though you have resigned to your situation. Some see it as giving up. Submission. But on the contrary; acceptance is an active and dynamic process.

Acceptance is about moving forward despite your circumstances. It is moving forward and bringing your circumstances along with you. When your hope is grounded by accepting your reality, then you are able to transcend your past and begin to build your future…Pairing acceptance with hope…frees you to move forward through your situation and to a point where true healing can begin.”  (Danny Burgess, Ph.D.)

“Instead of making the world around us or our own selves into the image of what we think is good, we enter the lifelong process of no longer arranging the world and the people on our terms (my italics).  We embrace what is given to us–people, spouse, children, forests, weather, city–just as they are given to us, and sit and stare, look and listen until we begin to see and hear the God-dimensions in each gift, and engage with what God has given, with what God is doing.”  (Eugene H. Peterson)

We enter the lifelong process of no longer arranging the world and the people on our terms.”

You mean this process is never going to end?

I’m never going to get it once and for all?

Bummer.

So, to my daughter–I’m sorry I pressured you again. It wasn’t fair and I will now re-read all these quotes on acceptance and hope that they will come to mind the next time I need them.

PS: Just as I finished this, hours after our conversation, my daughter called to say she and her husband changed their minds about doing what I hoped they would do. (But not because of anything I said.)

My God has a sense of humor!

Published in: on April 28, 2015 at 4:44 pm  Comments (9)  
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Homer

My friend, Mark Cassity, is a good man who should share his writing more. He wrote this for the Triad Health Project (THP link) newsletter. He is the Director of Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.And, yes, he said I could put this on my blog.

Years ago, we were minding my neighbor’s dog, Homer, when he had what amounted to a stroke during the night. Homer was about 140 years old so no big surprises, and I carried him out to the yard so he could use the facilities before I took him to the vet. He made no complaint. He didn’t show signs of pain or even surprise; he simply stumbled about in ever-tightening circles, diving his head under one leg and then falling over before I would right him and he could try it again. Homer did not cry out that anything had gone terribly wrong with the world but rather simply carried on with what the world gave him that day. His eyes suggested, I suppose this is what today is like. At least every time I fall over I get to see the sky. And the grass smells so sweet. It was one of the noblest things I’ve ever seen.

Homer held up to me the times I’ve caught the flu or my car wouldn’t start or I got a crick in my neck or bleach spilled onto my favorite sweater and I’ve wanted the world to stop. I somehow think this just isn’t right, it’s not correct, something must be done to set the universe back in proper order because this-won’t-do! With Homer’s help, I hear God reminding me that nothing’s gone wrong in the least. Tuck and roll. Why not smell the good grass I made for you? What if you needed help to use the facilities one day? Growing old, getting sick, these are merely parts of life, too; and when you finally fall down, perhaps you will notice the sky like you used to. Perhaps someone will come by and pick you up and carry you home.

Published in: on March 17, 2015 at 12:01 pm  Comments (4)  
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Turtle Pokes Her Head Out

I am an introvert, a Turtle (see “Turtle or Gazelle“), and I’ve been really sad.  This line from the Turtle post sums up where I’ve been:

    Turtle naturally withdraws and goes within

when in turmoil.

It does not need to learn

the importance of this focusing inward,

it naturally knows.

In cancer survivor circles, they talk about Finding Your New Normal.  New Normal comes after a scary diagnosis, falling in love, a death, a birth, a letting go, a child leaving home, a graduation–any life-altering event or moment.

My New Normal includes:

1.  I am the only surviving member of my family of origin.  I used to have a mom and a dad and 2 siblings. (my sister died in 1972).  That’s a lot of memory gone missing.  I still have some questions.

2.  I am really up in my brother’s business and it feels wrong because he was VERY private.  (I’m the executor for his estate.)

3.  I tell people “You better have a will or your family will hate you.”  Yes, my brother had a will and it’s still a pain in the a** to sort out what to do when.  Someone should teach us this stuff at some point.  Thank God for the internet.  And a nice paralegal in Ned Barnes’s office in Carolina Beach..

4.  I am truly grateful for the retired man I live with and am married to, my daughters and sons-in-law, and above all (sorry guys!) my 3 grandchildren.  They stop the sad, at least for a while, and they help me smile and reconnect with what’s real.

5.  I’m not young anymore.  I’m not old yet, but more of my life is behind me than ahead of me.  I want to be aware of every minute I have left–happy, sad, blah, exciting, boring, rainy, sunny, hot, cold or perfect.  Each moment matters.  I guess it always has, but maybe more now.

6.  I read and watch Dr. Oz, the American Ninja competition and Entertainment Tonight instead of drinking, binge-eating, and shopping to temporarily stop my feelings.  Well, sometimes online shopping still acts like it helps, but I’m getting better.  Progress, not perfection, huh?

7.  I think about my brother, Jim, every day.  Partly because there’s stuff I need to do for the estate, partly because his ashes are on the fireplace mantle in the (finished) basement of our house, and partly because I keep remembering I can’t call him because he died.  We probably talked once or twice a month, at best, while he was alive.  I wish it had been more.  So now I feel closer to him than I have for years.  That is sort of confusing.  And why I keep remembering he’s not down at the beach like he’s supposed to be.

8.  Thanksgiving will be hard.  We saw Jim 3-4 times a year.  But he always came for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He’d drink his Coke Zeros one after the other (he and I both stopped drinking alcohol years ago–bad gene pool.).  He had an amazing caffeine tolerance.  He’d kind of stand back out of the chaos–we were a noisy bunch even before grandchildren–and watch and smile.  We knew he loved us.  And that he liked his not-chaotic, solitary, hardworking life at the beach.  And that was okay.

9.  Jim’s best friend since high school football, Barry, is now my friend, too.  He says Jim was always his quarterback.  Barry was a lineman and his job was to protect Jim.  He is sad, too. We talked on the phone yesterday for an hour and a half.  He told me things I didn’t know about Jim’s past and I told Barry some things, too.  I know my brother better now, thanks to his friends, than I did before he died.  I still love him and I like him even more.

10.  I want to get back to writing amusing or provocative or silly blog posts.  I just had to do this one first.  Thanks for waiting.

(And thank you to the people who have been checking my blog for something new since August 15.  I don’t know who you are, but you are special!)

Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 9:44 am  Comments (8)  
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So, I Was Thinking…

Of dirty, musky-smelling potatoes

and greasy, hot, salty french fries.

Of magical carrots pulled out of the dirt

and carrot-colored Cheetos.

Of oat-bread french toast with real butter churned a few miles away at Homeland Creamery

and Yo’ Drops from Plum Organics (click here).

Of bits of scrambled eggs from chickens raised by Milton and Bill

and pediatrician-sanctioned Goldfish crackers for an almost one-year-old still reluctant to eat solid food.

Of a trip to a Farmer’s Market

and a neighborhood a few miles away labeled a “food desert.”

Of Wheat Belly (click here)

and my 91-year-old Aunt Nadine from Iowa who has always eaten “meat and potatoes” meals and makes her own yogurt and can out-walk me.

Of the joy in watching a 3-year-old playing and running in the backyard with a new dog

and the impotent stupor induced by Brian Williams describing whatever new disaster or threat NBC has pictures of.

Of sturdy yellow daffodils poking up while I wear my red wool coat

and the shriveling blooms on the magnolia tree outside my office window because it’s not supposed to be below freezing in NC at the beginning of April.

Of the total unpredictability of weather

and our need to know what to expect about something.

Of triple-pane energy-efficient windows

and the smell of fresh spring air bringing tree pollen to my sinuses through the open window.

Of the fun of shopping with Kristin (with no kids) for Atticus’s 1-year-birthday-party outfit

and the helplessness of not knowing how my spinning head of vertigo ended up lying on the floor of Gymboree at Friendly Shopping Center.

Of how each moment of each day is precious

and how much that is worthy of wonder we choose not to notice.

Best Birthday Ever!

Follow your bliss!

Pursue that which gives you joy!

I struggled with the bliss thing for years after I heard Oprah’s advice.  “Look back at your childhood–what did you most enjoy?”  I liked reading a book up in a tree, alone.  I can’t climb a tree anymore, but I still love to read and be alone.  I think I’m supposed to give more to the world than that.

I found a new joy several years ago at my first writing workshop.  (Thank you Resource Center for Women in Ministry in the South–rcwms.com.)  I started this blog after a couple of workshops and I journal whenever the urge hits.  Maybe one day all the bits and pieces will evolve into a memoir.  I just know it’s fun.

A few weeks go my older daughter found a Groupon Getaway deal for 3 nights in a 2-bedroom condo at Atlantic Beach, NC.  I suggested that she, her sister, their 3 kids and I go for a couple of days in March for my birthday.  Both girls loved the idea and soon we had a reservation.

We had a plan. My younger daughter, her daughter Adaline (who is 3 now) and her son Atticus (who is almost 1), and I would drive in one car.  Maggie (14 months) and her mom would take their car and we would caravan.

The closer the time came for the trip, the more ways I imagined that it could go bad.  I started with the 4.5 hour drive (at best!) from Greensboro.  What if one of the babies wouldn’t stop crying?  And the bed situation in the condo would require cooperation and compromise from two moms who often debate who gets less sleep.  I wondered if either of them would back out.  I wondered if I’d be sane afterward.  Would we still like each other?

We were not able to caravan.  Work demands and leaving from two different cities, one closer to the beach than the other, killed that plan.  Each car could stop as needed.  “Never wake a sleeping baby.”  Even if you really, really need to go to the bathroom.

Adaline and Atticus both slept the first 2 hours of our drive!  I thanked God and our travel angels and just kept driving.  We stopped at a Hardees, used the facilities, sat inside and ate and pacified the kids with french fries.  We did what we had to do.  Forgive me, nutrtion-conscious friends.

On we drove.  We figured out we could put a pillowcase in the window to block the sun so Adaline rode content in her car seat, playing with an electronic kid-size computer-like thing and listening to our music.  Atticus sucked on french fries (forgive me, again) and played with toys and his electronic baby-size computer-like thing. Thank you whoever bought them these electronic toys!  We made it in 5 hours with some fussing from Atticus for the last 30 minutes or so.

Maggie and her mom had a 3-hour drive.  Maggie fussed and cried for the first half of the trip and then fell asleep.  Her mom did not have fun.  Maybe Maggie needed french fries and a baby-size computer-like thing.

The moms worked out the bed situation, we got everyone fed as needed, including lunch in a restaurant where they took our order at our table and brought us our food–no counters or paper wrapped sandwiches!.

After we played on the beach Saturday afternoon, all 3 kids (naked) and both daughters (in swimming suits) go into the big jacuzzi bathtub.  I sat on the toilet lid and took pictures.  We laughed and laughed and soaked up the joy amid the bubbles.

The trip home was easier for Maggie and her mom and the group in my car rode well, too.  The kids were all exhausted so, once again, “Never wake a sleeping baby” was our motto.

Now I know what “bliss’ means.  And where I can find joy.

I am so grateful.

Published in: on March 13, 2013 at 8:16 pm  Comments (14)  
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Movin’ On

I don’t do resolutions anymore.  They’re always the same anyway.  Eat better.  Move my body more.  Take time for myself.  Stand up straight and do right.  Don’t lie.  Don’t cheat.  Don’t be afraid.

I do reflect on the year just past, though.

January 11, 2012:  Our 2nd grandchild (Margaret Jane–Maggie) was born.

February 25, 2012 (and all year long!):  Our first grandchild (Adaline) was 2.

April 2, 2012:  Our 3rd grandchild (Atticus), Adaline’s little brother, was born.

March and September, 2012:  Maggie had 2 heart surgeries and is all fixed and just like any other delightful almost-one-year-old.  (Thank you, Dr. Mill, at UNC Children’s Hospital!)

April-December 31, 2012 (and forever):  Adaline and Atticus pushed their parents to new levels of love, patience, and sleep deprivation.

January 1-December 31, 2012 (and as long as we live):  We loved them all.

2012 stretched and challenged me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So what were the gifts in this full year?

I have 3 healthy, happy, amazing grandchildren!  Christmas 2011 we had one.  Now we have 3.  Mind boggling and tiring and such fun, all at the same time.

I finally forgave myself for not being a “good enough” mother.  My daughters showed me that I WAS a good enough mom and that each day with two  little ones was hard.  A wound I carried in my heart for a long time starting healing.

I have 2 amazing, strong, loving daughters who are much better mothers than I was.  Luckily, we all mostly agree on how to parent.  My younger daughter, mother of 2, coaches her older sister and tells her, “It will get better.”

My husband and I learned to be more gentle with each other.  He is a good father and the best grandfather.  We are aware of time passing and our bodies changing and a drive to miss nothing!  We take care of each other.

I watch how we help our girls (both are close by) and I am painfully aware that my parents were never able to give me the same support and presence.  Now I know how much they missed and I am sad for all of us.

I value friends (and a therapist) who let me be honest and vulnerable.  I cannot do the hard stuff alone.  I tried that this year…again…and it didn’t work…again.

In 2012, I lost a sense of balance between my needs and my family’s needs.  In 2013, I want to do better.  I want to take care of myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I want to be alive for a long time!

I want to keep learning and growing and stretching and trying new things.  I want to play with my grandchildren.  Their laughs make everything else in the world go away and I am in the moment.  That’s the best gift of all.

I am very grateful.  Many times I had the sense that all of us were held in God’s (roomy) lap.  We were surrounded by prayers and we felt the strength and support and love of our community.

I’m not the same person I was on January 1, 2012.  Are you?  Is anyone?

Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe.

(Here is why I haven’t written much lately for this blog.  And why it may be a while before I post again.)

My younger daughter (with her husband, 2 1/2-year-old daughter and 5 month old son) has been moving from our town to the next town over, 30 minutes away, for the last 2 weeks.  Their leases overlap so everything didn’t go at once.  Maybe not a good thing for a couple who are organization-challenged and procrastination-inclined.  (She didn’t get those traits from her daddy.)

The retired man I live with has helped A LOT.  My job has been to watch and care for and amuse the children.  The toddler still takes a good nap.  That helps.  The 5-month-old is still totally nursing, will take a bottle of pumped milk and can go about an hour or 2 before Mommy-withdrawal sets in.  One day we drove to the new house to get his mom–we couldn’t settle him down.  After that, my child care and his mom stayed together.

My older daughter’s 8-month-old baby is having heart surgery on Thursday, 9/27.  Her abnormality was diagnosed the day after she was born and she has grown and developed well since then.  The surgery is necessary to guarantee a normal life as she grows into adolescence and adulthood.

We know a couple of grown women who had the surgery 30-40 years ago.  Each has lived with no restrictions ever since.  We have confidence that all will go well for the baby.  Our concern is mostly for our daughter and son-in-law.  When one of our children hurts, we hurt.

Our mantra these days is right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. (Thank you Anne Lamott.)  We know that love and prayer and support always help.  We are surrounded by many friends who are praying.  We feel it.  And we are all grateful.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

“Her eyes are homes of silent prayers.”

(Alfred Tennyson)

Margaret Jane was born January 11, 2012.  Maggie and her mom (Stephanie) and dad (Will),  are all doing well, except for that newborn-exhaustion-that-can’t-be-described.

…everyone is a hero at birth, where (one) undergoes a tremendous transformation, from the condition of a little water creature living in the realm of amniotic fluid, into an air-breathing mammal which ultimately will be standing.                 Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Stephanie read recently about “The 4th Trimester”–the 1st 3 months after a baby is born.  Human babies are born immature and dependent because otherwise the head (brain) would be too big to slide out.  Swaddling by the dad and cuddling with the mom, being able to hear her heartbeat and smell her unique odor, all mimic being in the womb.  And make for a content baby.  (A full stomach and a dry diaper help, too, of course.)

I choose to welcome the daily ups and downs of my daughters’ lives.  I treasure the conversations we share.  And I am often surprised and touched when they want my opinions and suggestions.  (I never thought my mom really cared.  What if I was wrong?)

I am thankful for the nurturing my daughters and their husbands are giving my grandchildren.  Love and joy and wonder are being written on their little souls.

Those words were written on our souls once.

Our lives are defined by what we pay attention to.  “Days pass, years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.”  (Hebrew prayer)

Thank you, Adaline and Maggie, for opening my eyes and my heart to the wOws.

Published in: on February 5, 2012 at 9:21 am  Comments (5)  
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