“Where’re you from?”

That question always make me sigh. You see, I lived in 5 towns and 4 states by the time I was 15. My dad kept getting better jobs in new places so off we’d go. As I read recently in a book by Tracy K. Smith, we’d “throw ourselves into new schools with blind hope.”

I usually answer that question with “We moved a lot, all over the Midwest.” Sometimes that just confuses people. If I’m feeling a bit ornery, I’ll give them the line about “4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, and 2 high schools.” That usually gets a pitying “Wow.”  I find a weird satisfaction in that.

When I had kids of my own, I wanted them to have a Home to come home to. I wanted for them what the retired man I live with had growing up in Munhall, right outside Pittburgh. We couldn’t recreate the huge extended family nearby (my parents were in Ohio and my mother-in-law was in Munhall), but we could give them Home right here in NC.

For part of their childhood, their dad traveled all of NC and SC as a salesman of surgical instruments. He was gone at least a couple of nights a week for most of their elementary years. He spent so much time in Columbia, SC, that I joked about his other family in SC. (The girls still don’t think that’s funny.) It would have made sense for us to move to Columbia or Greenville, SC, but I said no. I didn’t want to uproot our kids and make them leave Home. We all paid the price for staying Home.

He made up for being gone with “quests” and many outings like the Science Center zoo on the weekends. He gave them unconditional love and doting attention. I appreciated him taking them away on Saturdays! Maybe he tried harder to be a good dad because he was gone so much.

Now the girls are gone, married with kids of their own. The retired man I live with and I have started having the The Conversation about downsizing. We moved across town into this big house when our kids were 11 and 13, 25 years ago. It has served us well, but it’s more house than we need now.

Just in the last few days, I’ve realized our house is Home to only two of us. Our kids each have a Home of their own. Our house is Mom and Dad’s house or Amma and Grandpa’s house for our daughters.

It’s okay for us to give up this house, our Home, and find a smaller, all-on-level, less-expensive-to-maintain Home. Do I look forward to the sorting and purging process? Of course not. But I do like the idea of having less stuff. It’s time.

The main challenge of aging, it seems, is to feel and accept all the change and losses along the way. Leaving Home will be a challenge and a loss for all of us.

Maybe it can be an adventure, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on June 23, 2016 at 11:13 am  Comments (3)  
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Then and Now?

THEN

I chose not to go back to work as a special ed teacher after my first daughter was born in November, 1977.

At the height of the women’s lib movement, that choice felt sort of radical. Also, old-fashioned and embarrassing. No young woman (I was 25) wanted to turn into her mother.

I was breastfeeding and co-sleeping. A hippie mom, my kids say now. A good and trusted friend offered to keep my baby (for pay) while I worked. My husband was running a delivery route for Dolley Madison cakes (remember Zingers?), so we were far from rich.

In the end, we made the right choice for us, with the understanding we could change our minds if necessary. We didn’t.

My daughters went to school with and were friends with kids who were the first generation to grow up in daycare. I remember thinking, “It will be interesting to watch these kids grow up.”

NOW

This summer an article appeared in our local newspaper titled, “Need a Hug? It’ll Cost You” about a young woman who opened a busness called NC Cuddles (nccuddles.com). She offers platonic cuddling services–

Hugs, Cuddles, Snuggles and Handholding. We want you to feel loved, accepted, and that you matter to someone without feeling guilty, obligated or ashamed. (quote from their website)

The frequently asked questions section describes services for children–

We offer fully clothed, mothering cuddle sessions. We will hold, nurture, work with your child or children to give the physical contact that they need to become well rounded, happy adults. We will gladly work with children with disabilities to include autism. If you are not a touchy, feely, parent but want your child to feel that warmth, we will gladly love, cuddle, snuggle and hold them till their hearts content! (quote from website)

A connection between then and now? Maybe.

My knee-jerk reaction to NC Cuddles was “You’ve got to be kidding.” Then compassion kicked in. I thought about how appealing this might be to a lonely man or woman.

The walls around my physical space are too high to consider a stranger hugging me or even holding my hands. A woman I know says some of us were raised by and turned into “The Frozen People.” I learned to hug non-family people in my 30’s in 12-step rooms.

The kid services at NC Cuddles feel especially icky to me. We worked so hard to teach our kids about not letting strangers touch them. We talked about good touch and bad touch and the uh-oh feeling in your tummy that lets you know something is wrong. How do you explain to kids that these strangers are ok, but others are not?

New on the NC Cuddles website–

Sadly, NCCUDDLES, LLC will be closed indefinitely. Effective 10-14-15

It is unfortunate and we recommend that if you have family that need someone to visit with them, please consider http://www.visitingangels.com

If you are single, alone, or lonely seek out others!

There are local events placed on meetup.com regularly.

I guess I wasn’t the only one to get the uh-oh feeling.

Published in: on October 16, 2015 at 9:09 am  Comments (7)  
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Tapestry

On her mother’s  last day (though no one knew it was her last day), Terry got some help and pushed her mother’s bed out a door and into a garden.  Her mother lived through a decade of dementia and had been actively dying for 2 1/2 weeks with Terry by her side.  It was a beautiful early spring day and a comfortable breeze ruffled through the new blooms.  A robin sang  for them.  A bee buzzed around her mother’s head for a long time.  Terry thinks it was her dead brother, Jimmy.  Betty died outside in the spring garden air that afternoon.

I don’t believe in a God that manipulates us like marionettes.  I do believe God offers us situations and opportunities that can move us in one direction or another and that our choices have consequences, both immediate and long-term.

I like the idea of life as a tapestry.  These words are from “Tapestry,” a Carole King song you can easily find on youtube:

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold

On the back side of a tapestry, strings of many colors go every-which-way, knots sit in unexpected places, blank places look bare, strings overlap, and some just hang loose.  On the front side, a beautiful picture emerges.

I was assigned a project, maybe in 6th or 7th grade, to learn about two professions.  I picked teaching and foreign service.  I researched foreign service requirements and options like working in an embassy or for the State Dept in DC.  The work fascinated me, but I remember no encouragement at school or at home for such an ambition.

I expected to be a teacher most of my life.  I enjoyed school and good grades had value in my family.  My parents both taught after college.  I never really knew I had other choices.  What did other girls  who became attorneys or ministers or scientists hear that I did not?

I started taking French in 7th grade and took it all through high school and even took a French literature class (in French) in college.  It came easily for me. I loved the sound of it and all I learned about French culture and way of life.

My college choices came down to UNC and Duke.  UNC=Special Education.  Duke=French.  I was the oldest of 3 kids close together in age.  Our college costs would overlap for years.  I chose UNC, a state school with much lower tuition. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and found a husband.

In the mid-1970’s, in my 20’s, I taught at the Tammy Lynn Center, a private residential and educational facility for the mentally handicapped in Raleigh, NC.  Terry’s brother, Jimmy, who she thinks came to their mother as a bee as she was dying, lived at the Center while I was there and attended the school during the day.  Terry’s parents were among the founders of Tammy Lynn Center and I remember talking with them.  We discovered this surprising connection during a get-to-know-each-other lunch a few years ago.

After our children left home, my husband and I took my dream trip–a week in Paris.  Though I hadn’t spoken French for over 20 years, much came back to me. I bought a necklace from a woman who spoke no English using my memory and my French-English dictionary.  I was fearless!  I fell in love with everything French.  I think I was French in another life.  I went back with my daughters a year later.

I am grateful for each day I have.  Since a cancer diagnosis 9 years ago followed quickly by remission, I danced at both my daughter’s weddings, am blessed with 3 grandchildren nearby and am still happily married to the husband I found at Carolina, though I call him “the-retired-man-I-live-with” now.  I even went back to Paris–alone!

I love and treasure the life I live these days.  My daughters like to spend time with us and willingly share their children with us.  I volunteer at church and with a non-profit that serves those touched by HIV/AIDS.  I’ve been sober for almost 27 years.  I have friends from all parts of this community where we have deep roots. My tapestry is knotty and messy on the back.  The front is beautiful.

But sometimes I wonder…what if I’d taken another path?  Why did no one encourage me to take a different piece of string for my tapestry?  What would it have looked like?

 

Published in: on April 18, 2014 at 8:47 am  Comments (15)  
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From My Slightly ADD Brain

1.  My new antidepressant and my not-quite-as-new drug for rheumatoid arthritis are working together to get me back to “ME.”  I feel like Robin again and I’m very grateful.  A friend told me yesterday she was glad I was back.  I said, “Me, too.”  I told my therapist I thought I might be on a “pink cloud” and she asked if I meant euphoria.  I said, “Yes!” and that I was afraid it wouldn’t last.  She said she thought maybe I just felt good and I said, “Oh, you mean I’ve reached a level like normal?” She said, “Yes” and we both laughed really hard.  I look back now at how I felt in December and January and recognize I have an illness that, untreated, depresses my spirit and takes away all joy.  I choose today to do all I can not to live that way.  I choose to step fully into each unique day..

2.  My current book is “This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett.  It’s a collection of essays by a novelist.  She writes some about writing and a lot about her life.  I love to read how she puts words together.  In the essay that gave the book its title, she describes the deterioration of one of her marriages.  A friend asked her, “Does your husband make you a better person?  Are you smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Does he make you better?”

3.  As I get some older–I’m 62 today–I have less physical and emotional energy.  I treasure my energy on any given day.  I had none when my depression was at its worst.  It varies now from day to day.   I think I will use the questions below when I need to choose how to use my time and energy:

Will _____ make you a better person?  Will you be smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Will ______ make you better?

4.  A week ago we had an ice storm.  Actually, we had a sleet-snow-freezing rain storm that took away the power of 143,000 in our county alone.  The retired man I live with and I lost our electricity for 34 hours, but we have gas logs and a small generator to power tv and lights and the microwave.  Our daughter, son-in-law and their chatty 4-year-old and their constantly moving almost-two year old endured 4 days.  My daughter sounded worse each day in the very brief conversations we had because she had to turn on the car to charge the phone.  She got excited about doing laundry when it finally came back on.

5.  Afterward, we talked about those days without tv, internet, iPad and readily available phone.  Besides the quiet, she noticed her kids playing together more.  She read.  And they all cuddled a lot because the house was colder inside than it was outside some of those days.  Maybe we should have national No Electricity Weekend each spring and fall, with a guarantee of a high temperature between 63 and 78 and no rain so we can go outside.  I bet we’d all read more, play together more, and cuddle more.

6.  I googled “how to be a friend” recently because I’ve been thinking about how I would like to be a better friend to some people I really like, like Kim and Lisa.  My google choices included: how to be friends with a guy, with a girl, with a friend who is sick, with a friend who is depressed and how to be a friend with benefits.  (Google that yourself if you’re not sure what that means, Aunt Nadine.)  I looked at the friends with benefits one, of course.  It was a slide show format that wouldn’t go past #4 (of 10) for me.  I’m not sure what that meant.  The 1st 5 links for “how to be a friend” were from wikihow.com, amazon, selfstairway.com (?), tinybuddha.com, and realsimple.com.  I clicked on tinybuddha.com (here’s the link) and got a list of 25 suggestions that were actually quite good, though not really anything I didn’t already know.

7.  I noticed a behavior pattern of mine while on my “how to be a friend” internet journey.  I’m quite good at finding sources of information about how and why to do stuff (meditate, exercise, pray, write, be a friend/parent/grandparent, eat more fruits and vegetables, not eat sugar) and I enjoy learning, but there is a disconnect in my brain between learning and doing.

8.  I’m going to read about motivation and procrastination.  I’ll get back to you.

Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Comments (13)  
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