It’s the first year for my daughter, a brand new blogger. It’s also a first for my Goddaughter, visiting for the summer.
I’d say we started off our first BlogHer with the right attitudes, don’t you think?
It’s the first year for my daughter, a brand new blogger. It’s also a first for my Goddaughter, visiting for the summer.
I’d say we started off our first BlogHer with the right attitudes, don’t you think?
Motherhood, in a word, to me… means survival. Every day I celebrate the survival of both of my children and myself. And the survival of having simply made it through another day of this amazing journey… teaching them about life, cleaning up after their spills, making sure they eat right and behave properly and learn all of the things necessary so they can eventually leave our home and become productive members of society. Of course my kids leaving will mean another type of survival for this Mom ;). In one word, what does motherhood mean to you? Now that you know not everyone has the easiest of times even safely carrying and giving birth to a child, does motherhood mean the same as it did? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Tell me your story in the comments below and explain to me what word you would choose to express what motherhood means to you. You can also learn more about Merck for Mothers on their website and follow them via Facebook and Twitter.
Caregiving isn’t easy.
I watched my parents take in my Grandfather years ago. Things changed dramatically.
I watched my Mom care for my father. Things changed dramatically.
I watched my cousins and uncle care for my aunt. Things changed dramatically.
I watch my husband care for me. Things continue to change dramatically.
Chronic illness has many different side effects. But I swear the very worst may be what it does to everyone around the person who is chronically ill. It’s not just the sick person who’s life changes. It is everyone in their family. It is everyone they know. And it’s not a ripple effect…it’s a tidal wave. The kind that pulls everyone put to sea and everyone has to work hard to paddle back to shore.
Sadly, not all make it to the sand.
Of course this adds to the stress of illness.I worry less about my own health and worry more about my family. You don’t want to be a burden and you don’t want their lives to changes, however everyone’s lives change dramatically.
My therapist calls it the ‘new’ normal. I loathe the term. Mainly because I don’t want a ‘new’ normal. I want my old normal back. I want everything the way it was before. Of course that’s impossible, however my goal is to at least get as close as I can to what life used to be like. Becoming healthy enough to return to work, to walk a theme park, to be able to take the kids wherever they need to go and actually participate in any activity a normal parent could engage in- from a walking field trip to just helping in a classroom, filled with all those kid germs.
I want to meet my husband for drinks after work, go out on the town. Attend a concert.
So many things that I could go ahead and do now but would require a ton of planning and accommodations for the ‘just in case’ scenarios that come with chronic illness.
In fact, later this week I’ll be attending BlogHer ’14 in San Jose- but I will have to very carefully plan my days and evenings. The drive alone will be tiring, and I won’t be able to medicate myself until we arrive. Then I will be attending an event at 3pm- which means I will most likely be exhausted and absolutely need rest- rendering any evening actives null and void. Then depending on how tired I am when I awake, we’ll see what we can do. But odds are it won’t be much.
When I think about this ‘new’ normal I do get a bit upset for all those times I never considered how lucky I truly was to not have to be able to worry about a thing- to travel at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about making sure I was rested, making sure all of my medications were packed and ready…making sure I hadn’t just been released from the hospital for the 4th time this year. However I’ve learned over the years to not get angry.
I’m not in control of this disease, all I can control are my habits. So my new normal has meant pool exercise. Eating well. And making sure I’m on top of all my medication.
Of course just when I can see a difference and FEEL a difference, I get thrown a curve by ball an urgent care doctor who is adamant I be sent to the hospital for migraine symptoms that could be a mini stroke. It’s times like these I feel like I’ve failed my family and myself. What did I do wrong? What should I have done after getting a classic migraine, like I’ve been getting since puberty…especially headed to treatment where I knew I might get a little queasy?
Apparently spend the night in the hospital just to be sure all was well.
Every test came back fine…minus my cholesterol which is now high, apparently. Oh, and my potassium which was low, apparently. But the MRI, the CT, the PT, OT, Speech Therapist…all fine fine fine.
So with nothing you can do, you sit in a hospital bed and try not to worry or be upset and accept the ‘new’ normal that disrupts everyone’s lives. The husband that once again has to take off time from work to help you. The kids who will once again act out in some way because Mom was back in the hospital.
If I could make a deal with the devil to rid my life of this…I would. But not for me, all I did was lay in a bed and injected with good drugs. I would, however, take this away from all those around me.
Now I know full well I would go to the ends of the earth for my husband and kids. For my entire family. I’d let them disrupt every day if they had a ‘new’ normal we couldn’t control. It is a no brainer. I just want to acknowledge everything they go through for me…I love them beyond words.
And I hope we settle into this NOW normal and eventually just think of it as normal, with or without Satan.
Digital parenting can #suckit.
As many of you know, both of my kids are rather plugged in. I mean…PLUGGED IN. They game, they blog, they game, they do their homework online, they game, they watch tv online, they do EVERYTHING on their iPads or computers. So it should come as zero surprise that any discipline in this house tends to be a direct ‘take away’ of said plugged-in-ed-ness.
My 9-year old plays Animal Jam. She chats. She makes videos. She trades. All of these things are done under my watchful eye-I check her chats, I watch her videos, she tells me about her trades. I hear all the drama when someone makes a bad trade. I hear all the drama when someone wants to make a video and records her and her friends. Up until now we haven’t had a single issue.
Notice I said… until now.
The other day said 9-year old came down the stairs in tears and hysterical. She made a friend on Animal Jam she thought she could trust. He asked if he could borrow her rare spike collar to make a video. She agreed. He took the spike and bolted. She reported him, drama ensued. She asked if I could ask for help from Animal Jam support.
I dutifully sent my Motherly email and asked them to check out her story and his and hopefully get her item back. If not, lesson learned. In the meantime he was blocked from her den and her chats so he couldn’t bother her any longer.
Or so I thought.
She unblocked him without me knowing and attempted to retrieve her spike herself. Continuing the drama with him calling names and her demanding her item. Yup. This is what goes on in the digital 9-year old world. HIGH DRAMA.
I found out by accident, as she casually mentioned in a Skype chat with her girlfriend that he was calling her names. Busted. So I wrote another email to Animal Jam support apologizing for my daughter having unblocked the alleged thief and taking matters into her own hands, when we had clearly handed it over to their authority. And then grounded her from the game for a week.
You’d think I’d have killed a gazillion kittens and bunnies. There was door slamming and tears. There was moping. There is currently, next to me, many sighs of boredom.
We’ve been very careful about allowing the kids their own digital spaces without invading their privacy, but also making sure they are in safe places online and are only exposed to what we feel they can handle. But I have to admit, the kids are both playing in worlds that are essentially Second Life or online playdates. With that comes real life disputes and real life hurt feelings and real life everything.
Of course we had a very long talk about her online habits. Trusting someone she had only met the day before (believe me, I worked the Frozen angle on that one into the ground) and making videos about other players, respecting privacy, and informing parents of any activity that isn’t right.
I suppose something like this could just as easily happen in the bike-riding, come home when the street lights turn on, childhoods of our past. The boy down the street might have asked to borrow her shiny, rare, Garbage Pail Kid card to make a video and promise to give it back after. Then runs off into his house and shuts the doors and pulls the window shades. I mean…I suppose that could happen. And I suppose this Mom would have then gotten on the phone with his Mom where she needed to investigate if he committed the accusations. Then I suppose my daughter could have snuck out to go see said boy and fight with him again to get her card back. That’s all very childhood and kid-like….right? Right?
Ugh. All I know is I’m exhausted from having moderated her first digital feud and our first digital foul. And her first digital grounding.
Who knew grounding a kid from an online world could be just as devastating as grounding them from real life?
As you ready your house flags, don your sunscreen and set up your BBQ’s, I would love if we all reflected a bit on what it means to be an American.
For a long awhile, I admit to having never given much thought to what it means to be an American. I’ve always been one and have enjoyed all of it’s privileges and rights. After all, we are the envy of many other countries. So much so, that people will risk their lives to come here.
Think about that for a minute. How bad would it have to be for you, in your own life, to risk everything in order to get yourself to another country?
I don’t live far from Murrieta, California. For those not following the news, there are refugees from places like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, most of them children and young mothers with babies, who have risked their lives and their children’s lives because it is so very bad where they come from they seek a better life in the United States.
They’ve walked miles with only as much as they could carry. They’ve dangerously jumped on trains to hitch a ride some of the way. They’ve crossed hot and barren deserts, climbed mountains, and many have died.
One of these mothers was interviewed on our local news. She said her two children had no future in her village. It was nothing but poverty and crime with no way out. So she made the heart wrenching decision to attempt to make it to the United State’s border. She said she heard if they made it, they might be allowed to stay, or they might be sent back. She understood the odds. She also didn’t feel as though she was doing anything illegal as she knew, if her plan worked, she would at some point meet up with American Border Patrol.
Despite what she did know, she had no idea some Americans would be so very unwelcoming once she arrived. Screaming at her and her children as their bus approached the Murrieta processing center. Causing such havoc, the bus turned away due to security concerns.
I wonder what my ancestors thought as they made the voyage over the Atlantic to get here. They knew, once they reached the process center at the other end, they was also a chance they would be sent back. Illnesses from a sniffle to lice, could mean the difference between life and death for the family. It could also mean children separated from their parents.
My Polish ancestors were called stupid and given menial jobs upon their immigration. My Romanian ancestors had an even tougher time, called gypsies and not even trusted enough to be employed. Yet, through hard work and that ever present American dream that made them roll the dice, my Polish great-grandparents found themselves a Polish speaking area in Detroit and set up a corner store. Never learning English. My Romanian ancestors doing just as well, with my grandfather owning his own travel and insurance company after starting off, shall we say, a bit less ‘legal’ in order to make ends meet. Before his death he told us all stories of his first job…running alcohol between Windsor, Canada and Detroit, MI for none other than Al Capone.
Both were discriminated against, but I don’t remember my history class teaching us of throngs of anti-immigrant Americans attempting to block the ships and send them all back. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if they had, in fact, tried.
So as I watch these children look out the windows of federal buses, seeing screaming (predominately) white folk waving the Red, White, and Blue…I wonder what they must be thinking. How scared they must be. How very, very scared their parents must be…willing to, perhaps, change their last names to sound more American or even deny their homeland in the hopes it will help them get through the processing center. Desperately willing their families be allowed to stay together, and desperately hoping what they have heard is true…that this truly is the land of opportunity.
I have yet to hear one of them say, when interviewed, they ‘heard’ they could get ‘free stuff’ if they made it. All of them talk of hoping to find work, any kind of work, immediately.
Hear that? They want to work. They aren’t asking for hand outs.
This morning I’m listening to another of these mothers…this one from Honduras, speak of how she nearly lost her children as they crossed a river trying to get to our land of liberty. She was in tears speaking of their journey, the entire time saying if only they could get to America, everything would be ok. She would find work and no matter what, it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the dirt floor of their shanty that was left behind.
I am sickened these refugees were ‘welcomed’ by residents (and non-residents) of Murrieta demanding they ‘go back to Mexico’ and ‘get their diseases out of our city.’
Sound familiar? It should. It wasn’t long ago Americans of a certain kind believed Black Americans should use different toilets for fear their imagined diseases. As if scabies (the disease most often seen by border agents) was some odd, untreatable malady and only brown people carried it.
So this 4th of July I find myself wondering what it truly means to be American. For the majority of us, it means to be an immigrant. Unless you are of Native American decent. There are tales of Native American blood in my family tree, although none confirmed. So really, just like most of us, my family risked a great deal to journey to a foreign land that held nothing but promises. That they heard offered opportunities where if you worked hard, you could become anything you wanted to be. I don’t ever remember that promise being ‘if you did nothing, you got free stuff…so come on over!’
No, just like my ancestors and just like these scared mothers I’m watching on the news, the tale remains the same. They heard if you came to America and worked hard you could be anything. And your children, your precious children, had a chance at a better life.
I want to take this 4th to thank my ancestors for believing in that dream and I want to tell those refugees those of us who are Americans still believe in that dream and I hope they still can too. We don’t all hate you or want you to be turned away.
This 4th of July I hope this new wave of immigration is welcomed-regardless of how they got here. I hope they are processed and given a chance. The same chance my ancestors were given. Some choosing to walk the straight and narrow to make ends meet and others bending the rules a bit, but all believing in hard work.
This 4th of July I also hope those of us citizens think hard about what it means to be an American, because I now think that definition includes offering that same chance to those who journey here under horrifying and harrowing circumstances we can’t even imagine and give some chance to these families. Not to mention respect, not hate and anger.
Shame on you, Murrieta.
*Update 8:24am July 3rd, 2014 – this is a link to the fliers they are passing out in Murrieta, CA. I ask you: How healthy are these families that have walked thousands of miles, hiking over mountains, and crossing rivers? Give me a break. Perhaps if we all VACCINATE and treat these families (if they do have any of these diseases, as I said before scabies has been the only reported one thus far) during processing (that’s what happens when the buses arrive, they are PROCESSED AND TREATED) we really won’t have any sort of health criss on our hands here, now will we? Unless you mean to tell me these people are different somehow? Cue scene from The Help where new bathrooms are build just for those diseased black folk….
I’m back at the place I started.
My Aunt and Uncle live closest to the airport and have plenty of room…and the kids and I are again occupying the downstairs, but this time my Mom is upstairs in the room I was meant to sleep in when we arrived over ten days ago. Two weeks? Twelve days? I’ve lost count.
The nights ran into days, the days into nights and too many things happened to even write about.
I came here to allow my kids a chance to run around the family mountain in West Virginia while I helped my Mom help the rest of my family deal with my ailing Aunt. I knew she rushed here quickly to be by her side, but I think for those first 24 hours or so we all had some hope.
I moved from relative to relative’s home, while the kids spent time with their grandparents, and just did as I was told. Mostly what I was told entailed being near my Mom, or cousins. Running errands that seemed like half an errand to keep me busy and half an errand to keep me out of the way and mostly just giving all of us something to do while we waited and watched and wondered.
The kids and I left California on June 16th. I handed them off to their grandmother at the airport we flew into on June 17th. On June 20th, after telling my Aunt I was really enjoying spending time with my God-daughter, and then going about feeling useless near the kitchen as we tried to keep things tidy…I watched as my Mom forcefully asked family friends to leave quickly out the back door and my Uncle rushed to his wife’s side. Her daughters already next to her, her grandchildren having just left moments before, as if she knew they were too young and it would be too much to see her pass. There was so much movement, yet…barely any. A controlled chaos where all you could hear were hearts breaking and tears falling.
The rest is a blur. I know it’s June 27th and this morning we entered my grandfather’s nursing home, not far from where I’m typing this, and my son said hello and then wanted to leave the room. My Mom took him out in the hall and they sat on a couch. My daughter, loud and brave, sang “Let it Go” to my 96-year-old grandfather and he smiled and attempted to conduct her with his frail hand. He clapped when she finished. I held her and thanked her and escorted her out to my Mom waiting in the hall.
My brother and I talked to our grandfather and he proudly showed one of the aid’s my photo with President Obama that he has displayed in what seems like poster type size on his bulletin board, next to which is a photo of my two kids, the ones still a bit uncomfortable in the hallway. I dug through my purse as I wanted to show him I carry the locket he gave my grandmother everywhere I go…always in my purse.
At first he didn’t recognize it, then you could see the lightbulb go off.
She brings you luck, doesn’t she?
Yes, Grandpa, she does.
Earlier, I had given all I could emotionally after one night at the funeral home, then had to spend a day in bed from pure stress induced exhaustion/migraine, and then came the day that included the funeral mass and wake. On this day I broke my grandfather’s rule of no kisses (he’s afraid he’ll give me germs) and kissed him goodbye and told him I loved him and went into the hall while my brother talked to him a bit more.
Knowing what it took to get my body healthy enough to handle this trip to be there for my Mom and my brother and my family and for myself, and seeing the way my grandfather looked as we entered the room, sleeping. I knew I had said my goodbye for the last time.
I put on my sunglasses in the front of the car, kids playing with each other in the way back of the car and paying no attention to me. Again the tears streaming down my face as they had for a straight week. My Mom somehow always with tissue in her purse. No matter how good of a mother I think I am, and how prepared I think I may be, there’s my Mom with even more tissue because no matter how much I searched through my own purse I couldn’t find the pack I knew I had in there.
Somewhere in there we had driven to Toledo to pick up the kids after sitting in traffic dazed, unmoving, phones constantly buzzing and ringing with arrangements to be made and my Mom’s help needed. Somewhere in there I offered to take communion at mass so my cousin didn’t have to worry which row would walk up first. Somewhere in there I hugged childhood friends and college friends and family friends I’ve known since I was born. Somewhere in there I had to remind the kids not to worry if they saw Nana or their Uncle cry every once in awhile. Somewhere in there I called my husband wishing he were closer so I could just collapse in his arms. Somewhere in there I called my doctor and explained that unless he thought it was detrimental to my health I needed to stay where I was to be with my family. Somewhere in there I felt as though I was entirely useless, as no one wanted to worry about my health in the midst of all this, so I was never given a job or anything to do, I was just simply there. Somewhere in there I stood on a dock and watched fireworks, both kids in my arms, as we “ooooh’d” and “aaaaaah’d” while they boomed overhead and over the river. Somewhere in there we managed to get the kids Red Wings, Michigan State, and Tigers t-shirts and Coney Island loose hamburgers and Vernor’s floats. Somewhere in there I told them it really was fish fly season, the mythical time of summer I had told them about their entire lives, yet we still haven’t seen one so they may never believe me. Somewhere in there my entire childhood and adolescence flashed before me and my heart broke over and over again because nothing will ever be the same for anyone I love.
Now we will get back on a plane and go back to our lives. I’ll resume treatment and the kids will continue their summer vacation. However things will need to change.
I said goodbye to two people I love this week and I can’t do it again. I am tired of so many of those thoughts where we think of someone yet don’t pick up the phone. Where we are reminded of a fun time yet fail to email those involved just to re-live the good times had by all. I refuse to be a slave to these tears and everything I want to say, I’m saying it. Everyone who I love will know it and hopefully feel my love.
My eyes swollen, my heart heavy, I leave with suitcases full, my mind still jumbled, and my thoughts all over this state in which I no longer live, but provides me with memories and heartache and family. A combination you can not take for granted and you must remember to honor or it will sneak up on you and steal your most precious memories and leaving you wanting, wishing for just one more.
I’m in Michigan but not on vacation.
All the memories keep flooding back in waves and then are gone as quick as they came.
I feel fragmented. Pieces of me in California and West Virginia and at 9 Mile and Harper and in a living room on Yankee Rd.
All the reasons I left. All the reasons I love. All the reasons to come back. All the reasons to not look back. All the reasons a chunk of me will never feel at home anywhere else. All the reasons ‘…where the heart is…’ truly IS.
I must have spent 20 minutes staring at these puffy, pale pink peonies wondering why they made my stomach do flip-flops. Thinking it was because I heard my cousin say they are one of my Aunt’s favorites. But knowing in my gut that wasn’t exactly right. Picturing them somewhere, but unable to place the ‘where.’
…and they had those huge ants on them, remember?
Just like that I was 10 and I could see them, with a huge, black carpenter ant crawling out from one of the petals. I could hear the slam of the back, screen door. They grew against my childhood home with that color and those ants visible even more against the red brick.
I wanted to be there again. To close the top of the sliver gate so the dog wouldn’t get out and to move my hand just so to avoid getting my fingers smashed as metal hit metal. I can hear the back door open and slam behind me and can see the back of my Mom’s head as she washes dishes and I fly past her and into my room.
The rainbow border looking down on me as I hit play on my favorite, totally worn out cassette and flopped on my stomach as the water in my bed sloshed around. The accordion door shut behind me, letting in just enough light and all of the noise of the house.
The phone ringing and not seconds later hearing the door slam shut again and listening to my Mom talk to my Aunt on the phone while listening to my cousin fill-in-the-blanks of the conversation simultaneously in person. She didn’t get her whole story out as quickly as my Aunt could call it in…my Mom mediating as always. The door slams shut again and I hear … yes, she’s on her way back…ok call me later or I’ll be over after dinner.
It would take only a minute to walk across the street to my Aunt’s house but you could make it in 14 seconds if you were running fast enough. Her side door was harder to open. Heavier. So it wouldn’t slam shut but almost slowly close and click itself locked behind you. Both of those doors had screens so you could easily yell inside instead of actually going inside.
But ours had the peonies with the big black ants.
My Dad is one of the reasons I am the way I am. Everyone says we’re a lot alike, and I can’t disagree.
From the earliest memories I have he would tell me ‘You do not need a man, you don’t need to get married, and you should always be independent’- in fact he said it so much when I made my Confirmation in 8th grade my special trait on my rock that we painted said ‘INDEPENDENT’ …
Then I met Aaron and thought for sure they wouldn’t want me to live with a boy – at least not yet, after a very violent and horrible relationship they helped me get out of. My Mom was skeptical… a story Aaron loves telling because she was so mean to him the first time they met. (Imagine my Mom being mean to anyone…it’s sort of funny) and I met my Dad on Amelia Island while he was away on business and stayed with him …with the intention of telling him I wanted to live with this boy and we were going to move in together and I really hoped he wouldn’t be mad.
Not only was he not mad, he told me I would marry him one day. And that he knew this was the right man for me. I was stunned. I had my Dad’s blessing and Aaron had his respect. When Aaron moved to California to take his first VFX job we broke up for a bit and I was devastated. I knew this was the man I was supposed to spend my life with and if this wasn’t ‘it’ then I have no idea what was. My Dad, as I cried and cried, said ‘stop being so upset, he’s going to marry you- mark my words’ … and sure enough he was right.
Then, year later, after the wedding and after life…we welcomed a son and Aaron went from being the guy who never wanted kids to being the most amazing father ever. Seriously. He’s the guy who should have had 20 kids because he’s just THAT GOOD with kids. A few more years later and we welcomed a daughter. Which scared the hell out of him, but he took it in stride, knowing full well he’d protect her and teach her how to handle boys like the teenageHIM.
I am so thankful every single day that I have a husband who isn’t just a father, he’s a damn good father. He might have to work his ass off daily to make sure we can eat and have a place to live and can afford nice things, but the moments and time he has with his children he’s like SuperDad. He makes them feel like they can do and be anything, while teaching them all he knows. Even if it’s something as simple as grilling a good piece of meat. He isn’t afraid to snuggle them and tell them stories of his childhood and all the things they should try and do and all the things they CAN do. They look at him with wonder and awe and they should. He’s their play friend, their disciplinarian when need be (but luckily not often) and their #1 hero.
He may not think he is, but I know two kids who find him to be the most amazing man on earth. They talk about him to their friends, they brag about THEIR Dad. And when other kids come over to play they giggle and laugh because he’s even awesome with their friends.
He adores his nieces and nephew. In fact, I remember him holding his newborn niece and thinking what a great Dad he was going to be someday…he was so natural.
I was right. If he does nothing else in this world, he will be forever known as one helluva a father. It is his most important job and role ever, and he’s knocking it out of the park.
I’m so thankful to have such great men in my life.