Baby Bad Ass

I started calling her that shortly after she was born.  It still fits.

Last week I wrote about my granddaughter having heart surgery on September 27.  She did and after a rough first 24 hours, she improves each day.  Today, Sunday, she moved out of ICU, her parents could finally hold her and she is able to nurse on demand.  Last I heard, she was sleeping in her mama’s arms.

Once again, I am amazed at the toll emotional stress takes on my body.  So I rested and napped and read the paper today.  Tomorrow I hope to hold my brave and strong granddaughter.  And her mom and dad.

We are so very grateful for family, friends, medical professionals and medical insurance.  We feel surrounded by all that is good.  Thank God.

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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.

Living Beyond the Warranty

Last week I wrote about my ailing computer.  It ran really slow and I was afraid it had early-onset dementia and would lose its memory.  Which contains a lot of my memory.

My computer and I are reunited.  It has a new hard drive.  Its memory is intact.  Now I can’t connect to iTunes. I need to connect to sync my iPhone calendar to my iCal (calendar) on my computer.  (That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?)

I see a pattern.  I increasingly rely on my tech-toys to back up my memory.  I’m okay with that. Really, it’s kind of cool.

Now I need a new hard drive for my body.  I celebrated my 60th birthday in March.  And, as a cancer survivor, I am grateful for every day.  However.  My parts are wearing out and beyond the warranty.  I don’t think I have enough time left to replace them one by one.

After 25 years of rheumatoid arthritis, I have artificial joints in my knuckles on one hand and a left knee replacement.  I set off the metal detector the last time I flew.  No one cared about my official card from DePuy describing my titanium knee.  I had to go into the total-body scanner.  On the inside I giggled about the poor guy in some little room who had to look at my body unfiltered by clothes.

I miss being independent.  My damaged hands frustrate me daily.  Now I’m anemic and so I have limited energy each day.  I choose my activities carefully.  I drive myself around town and go most anyplace I want, but I get tired and I feel very vulnerable in parking lots.

I want to replace everything at once.  A new hard drive rejuvenated my computer without losing any memory.  A rejuvenated Robin with intact memories and no loss of hard-won wisdom?  Perfect.

What would I do?

I’d pick up each grandchild with no fear of dropping or hurting them.

I’d swim laps without hanging on the wall to catch my breath.

I’d get on an airplane and fly to NYC or Paris.  Alone.

I’d clean my house all by myself.  (maybe!)

Or I could just accept the body I have and be grateful for medical science and my own determination and resilience.

I could find joy in each day and learn to ask for the help I need when I need it.

And pray.

The Retired Man I Live With

He retired 3 years ago.  I knew it would be an adjustment for both of us.

We worked together for the first year or so of his business.  I learned he has ADD.  He learned I don’t like to be ordered around.  We are both oldest children and both like to be in charge.  It did not go well.

The retired man I live with is always “doing.” His retirement hobby is puttering.  He loads and unloads the dishwasher, vacuums up the clumps of dog hair Sydney drops this time of year, and often fixes dinner.  Our yard is beautiful.  He painted the upstairs bathroom and put in new stick-on tile flooring.  He does his own laundry.

He takes care of me on days when my rheumatoid arthritis acts up or zaps my energy.  He has patience I never expected.  I feel loved.

His busy energy permeates my house and makes me crazy.

I am an introvert who requires solitude and quiet.  I never had long-term sadness about the “empty nest.”  They didn’t go far and I enjoyed the empty house while Mike worked.

I miss my empty house.  I miss my solitude and quiet.

I am spoiled rotten by the retired man I live with and I complain that he is always around.

Okay.  I know.  The only thing I have control over is myself.  And I’m better than I used to be at having the wisdom to know what I can change and what I cannot.

I’ve known the retired man I live with for 40 (!!) years.  He is not going to change.

I’ve never liked those little iPod ear-bud things.  But I think I’ll try being like a teenager and play some mellow music I like and tune out the active energy seeping up the stairs to my office.  I might even stuff a towel in the space between the door bottom and the floor, like you’re supposed to do if there’s a fire.

Got any other suggestions?

What about me?

Before grandchildren, I created a business:  Spirit…Rest.  (www.spiritrest.org)

I offer spiritual and 12-step retreats (1- 3 days), spiritual companionship/guidance for individuals and groups, and labyrinth walks using a 24-foot portable labyrinth.

Spirit..Rest has been on sabbatical for a while.

My daughters each had a baby this year.  Maggie was born January 11 with a heart abnormality that will be repaired later this year.  Atticus was born April 2 with a penis.  That’s new for us.  He has a 2-year-old sister, Adaline.

Our girls are terrific moms, but they are both still trying to figure out when to shower.  And eat.  And breathe.

Sometimes they need to express their emotions.  Historically I’ve been the one to listen.  They are just beginning to learn that their father will listen, for a bit, if he has to.

The emotional energy in my house stunned me last week.  Maggie and her mom were here while we had Adaline for 3 days.   So were the three dogs we all own.  Atticus was born by planned C-section that took longer than we expected.  And I had the worst back pain I’ve ever had (why??).

I know that all I can really do for my family is to be present and emotionally available, love them, and pray for them.  That can still feel, at times, like a full-time job.

“What about me?”

I feel weird asking that question out loud.

Grandmother  and mother heresy–that’s what that question feels like–“a belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.” (according to dictionary.com).

Wife and mother/grandmother is a comfortable, familiar role for me and I’m good at it.

Spiritual guide, retreat leader, writer–those challenge me.

And complete me.

“Only a well-fed soul can offer sustenance to others.” (Peggy Tabor Millin)

Balance.  Forever a challenge.

Published in: on April 10, 2012 at 3:45 pm  Comments (6)  
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Life Is Good?

My daughter had a baby–Margaret Jane–on January 11.  We call her Maggie.  The day after she was born, her parents were told she has a (fixable) heart problem.

We were stunned into stupidity.

And then prayer.

Maggie had surgery at 7 weeks and will need another surgery sometime this year.

I call her Baby Badass (sorry, Aunt Nadine).  She is a champion nurser and is growing well.  She sleeps as well as any other baby (so her parents are just starting to come out of the no-sleep fog).

I call my daughter Mommy Badass.  She has handled the fear and stress of the last few months beautifully.  Her husband is a magnificent dad.

Maggie is our 2nd grandchild.  Another is due April 2.  My daughters are good mothers and very different from each other.  They need different things from me each day right now.  My challenge is to listen more than I talk and not offer advice unless asked.

My mother was never really available emotionally.  I don’t think her mother was, either.  And Mom was 500 miles away when my girls were small.

I was determined to mother a different way.  Today it is called “attachment parenting” (click here for more about that).  We just did what felt right.  We ended up with independent, compassionate citizens of the world.

I will be 60 years old on March 15.  Sometime in the next few months, I want to have a party.  I have much to celebrate.

As I look back over the years I am grateful.  I have learned lessons, some the hard way, and known interesting, fun people.  I have some regrets (of course).  I am proud of the family we have created and I delight in watching my grandchildren.

Life can be hard.

Life is good.

Baby Whisperer

My first blog post, in June, 2010, a few months after my 1st granddaughter was born, was an explanation of “Amma”–

It’s my grandmothering name.

According to Mary Earle, author of The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness, “these women lived in the fourth and fifth centuries, C.E. The ammas, as they were called, help us to find ways to gently pay attention to God’s presence with us…The word means mother. It came to refer to those women who were spiritual mothers to many. Their insistence on practicing silence, solitude and stillness provides a kind of medicine for our over-heated, frenetic culture.”

That’s what I want to be for Adaline. Her Amma. I don’t think I’ll be running through parks with her or climbing jungle gyms. But I can be a quiet, restful, peaceful presence in her busy and stimulating world. I’m already good at getting her to sleep, so I think I’m on the right track.

My older daughter and I have had a tempestuous relationship over the years.  When it was good it was really good, but when it was bad, it was pretty bad.  Normal stuff, but unpredictable and inconsistent.

Last week I got to be Amma for Maggie–“a quiet, restful presence in her busy and stimulating world.”  I was able to give Stephanie several breaks (long enough to take a shower) over the three days I was in Raleigh.  Maggie was content when I held her.

Stephanie called me “the Baby Whisperer” and told me she was grateful for my presence.

I asked her to tell me again.  She laughed and repeated her sweet words.

Parenting is hard work from the 1st day.  And, if we’re lucky, it doesn’t ever really end.  The rewards and thank you’s, however,  can be rare.  (My girls did thank me a few years ago for teaching them manners.)

I was not the mother I wanted to be when my girls were small.  Almost 25 years ago, I made a tough choice to work hard to change myself and my behavior.

With God’s grace I became a better mother.  My daughters think my guidance is worth listening to.  They trust me with their daughters.  I am so grateful for their respect and love.

Now, with God’s help, I’m learning how to be Amma.  I (try to) wait until I’m asked to give advice.  I listen a lot and say, “That’s normal.”

I’m taking better care of myself–eating healthy, exercising, washing hands, getting enough sleep.  I am determined to live long enough to see my daughters parent teenage girls!

And I will pray for all of them.  (And then giggle from the sidelines.)

Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 8:34 pm  Comments (7)  
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“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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Stop, Look, and Listen

Last year I wrote a post about Christmas titled “Whimsy and Wonder.” (click here to read).  Recently, I read in The Sun magazine this quote from a Rachel Carson excerpt titled “The Sense of Wonder”:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement.  It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength…

I am a besotted grandmother of an almost-2-year-old.  She lives her life mindfully, in the moment.  She is thrilled to find sticks in the backyard.  She is stopped in her tracks by airplane noise and then says “We’re ok, we’re ok.”  Going to Earth Fare or Costco is always an adventure (and an opportunity to flirt, especially with men).  I learn so much from her.

I like to people-watch sitting on a bench surrounded by plants and flowers at Bicentennial Garden.  Christmas decorations delight me as much as they do little kids.  I’m learning to savor a cookie rather than gobble up as many as I can.  And to really taste the first tomatoes of summer.

I walk around the Natural Science Center with my zookeeper daughter.  She tells me about Bear, the coati, her first mammal love, who is aging.  We watch the lemur moms and dads;  she says they are her parenting models.   (She could do worse.)  And we check out Ruby the multi-colored parrot who isn’t responding the way she used to.  It might be my daughter’s pregnancy, but more likely the male parrot who moved in with her a while back.

My holiday hope and New Year’s wish is that we all slow down enough to feel wonder and awe, to sigh and relax and say “Thank you.”  It’s good for our souls. Maybe we can change the world.

Skin of an Elephant

We are creatures who live in a single skin throughout our lives.  Our own consciousness is embodied in a skin that grows wrinkly over time.  Our aging is obvious, no matter how much we try to resist it.

Our nearest cousins in terms of mammalian skin are elephants.

Can we be at home in our own skins, our own bodies, adjusting to the changes the various seasons of life bring to us?                                      Dwight Judy

Elephant skin?  Really??

Remember playing with the loose skin on your grandmother’s hand?  Or her floppy, un-toned triceps?

I have the hand skin thing.  I say it’s due to medication but it’s probably age-related.  And the triceps?  My trainer keeps trying different ways to work on them.

I can’t hold onto hand weights because my arthritis has damaged my wrists and fingers.  She talked me into buying black suede weight-lifting gloves.  Do they go with grey hair and black crop pants?

I sat at the bank drive-through today watching a young woman’s hand go back and forth.  It was all smooth and tan.  I looked at my own hands.

I remembered.

How many cloth diapers did they dunk?  How many sticky faces and hands and dirty feet did they bathe? How many tears did they wipe?

My hands don’t care what they look like.  They just try to do what I ask.  And I’m grateful.