Just One More

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.

 

 

 

When Faced With Memories

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.

Pink peonies

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.

Father’s Day 2014

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.

Hala's gift to Dad
Our daughter’s gift to Aaron today…a snuggle blanket for the two of them

Jack's gift to Dad
Our son’s gift…a video game controller organizer so they can have even MORE game time together

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.

Team

I think most of us dreamt what our relationships with our children would be like before they actually came along…

I thought I would have a hockey playing son who was also a drummer in a rock band. He would be sensitive and respectful and love sports and animals.

I thought my daughter would be just like me. She would LOVE PINK, anything with a tutu, but also be able to debate fiercely about politics and current events and play every sport out there, preferably on the same hockey team as her brother. She too would be in a rock band, when she wasn’t at roller derby practice or campaigning for class President.

And then my two children were born, grew up a bit, and became their own, amazing, people.

Still holding hands

Everything I thought I wanted them to be was blown away by everything they are. I’ve never been more thankful to be entirely wrong about what I wanted.

My daughter loves to sing. And she’s good at it- really good. She is very independent and she is only nine. She pretends she’s a kitten instead of chases boys. She watches ‘Too Cute’ instead of listening to ‘One Direction.’ And she refuses to follow the crowd. If her friends like Minecraft, she will play Animal Jam. She wants to be different. She wants to be a leader. Today she’s asked if she can dye her hair turquoise … I said ‘sure!’ She makes sure everyone is included in the games she plays and won’t have it when others say ‘oh that girl can’t play with us.’ I’ve also shown up to school unannounced and found her having lunch with the ‘new kid’ … a boy… showing him around and hanging out with him because no one else would and she wanted to make sure he wasn’t alone and knew he would have a friend. She didn’t care that others were ‘oh, you’re talking to a boy’ teasing. I’m so proud of her.

My son is a self-proclaimed geek. He loves science more than anything and already has several ideas for companies. He wants to learn to be a pilot and has already taken his first flight lesson. He’s tested video games for Disney to earn money for additional flight lessons and can’t wait to get up in the air again. He has zero interest in sports and I don’t mind at all. He’s also found his voice this year…the one where he stands up to other kids at school for calling someone ‘gay’ as a slur. I couldn’t be more proud. I also couldn’t be more proud when others tell me how amazingly mature he is…he’s got a very old soul.

Both of them are nothing like I imagined they would be but so much more. SO SO much more.

My daughter has been finding new music lately and recently discovered Lorde. She loves the song ‘Team’ and I think it’s perfect for her…and us. There is nothing I love more than belting it out with her in the car, together. With her brother rolling his eyes at us. But we don’t care…so there.

We’re a team. We’re all learning to live with everyone’s characteristics and appreciate them. My son is learning his sister doesn’t want to play the same things he does…and he doesn’t want to play the same things she does. For the first time, that’s ok. Instead they hang out and play what they want, while sitting next to each other.

Still close.

Still near in case one wants to tell the other something.

All while I watch in awe at the amazing young people they are becoming. Half their father, half me..but so much different than I could have ever have imagined. But that’s fine…Because at the end of the day…we’re on each other’s team.

 

For My Kids

Sometimes you just have to tell your doctor some things are more important than staying away from germs, despite your immune system being entirely compromised.

You can't hear Happy Birthday on the morning of your #9th b-day without a brother squeeze #allhailhala

Sometimes you just have to sit down with your husband and discuss the ramifications for your family if you open your  mouth on an important issue, knowing full well it’s brought death threats and hate to your door before.

Sometimes you just have to say BECAUSE EQUALITY MATTERS – and say it standing up, not in a wheelchair, without your cane, and hope they are paying attention when it is your turn to speak. Because you are standing up in tremendous pain so they can see your face, and you do not want their pity or their prayers. You want them to LISTEN. You spent the day having lifesaving drugs pumped into your body, and you know some of those starting down from their place on high think are a ‘taker’ unworthy of  life because God is certainly punishing you for your wicked ways.

Sometimes you have to cry because any of it is necessary in 2014, two years after a law has gone into effect, that you’re not treated like a second class citizen, that LGBT friends and family are not treated like second class citizens, that STUDENTS are not treated like second class citizens and that your children’s peers are not taught disabled or LGBT American heroes simply do.not.matter. by your local school district.

Sometimes you need to go to a school board meeting and speak your mind.

To be continued… 

 

A New Generation: From Breastfeeding at BlogHer to Blogging at BlogHer ’14

I’m always proud of our kids. Always. But I think that is typical of most parents.

I mean, we’re the type of people who jump up and down clapping when they pee in a toilet.

So imagine my pride when my son thought he might start a blog. I immediately began to give him ideas for posts, got him started on wordpress, asked him if he wanted to make a custom design… you know, the usual.

Flash forward about 24 hours and he was already bored with his blog.

It was then I heard ‘Hey Mom, can I start a blog?’

It was my daughter. The one who would rather not sit and read the hilarious blog post I had found just for her. The one who would rather get a shot at the pediatrician than write.

But flash forward another 24 hours and not only was she blogging, but she was loving every second of it.

Begging me to check and see if she had any new comments to approve while she was at school-  you know that darn school, always getting in the way of her blogging ‘No Mom, I don’t need any ideas for a post, I have like….a million’ she would say, typing furiously. ‘And can you make sure to tweet this to everyone, oh and show Facebook?’

I did my best to show her the basics, but she is a bit like her mother and rather determined to learn all on her very own.

During one of her lectures to me about how important it was she learn how to blog without my help, I remembered her on my hip at the BlogHer conference in 2006 in San Jose.

It seems like yesterday, but not.

Now she has her own blog. Now she has her ow ideas about what a nine-year old should talk about. And now she has her own pass to BlogHer.

Yes, Princess Peanut has a student pass for BlogHer ’14 in San Jose and her and I are going to have a girls weekend writing, learning about all the wonderful things and issues that come with being part of a community, and with me re-introducing her to all the women who met her so many years ago.

#AllHailHala indeed. See you all in San Jose.

Why Do You Blog? The Answer is Magical

So why are you still blogging? 

Are you hoping to make money? Become famous? Gain followers? Fans? A book deal?

Are you blogging because you want to share your family with relatives scattered across the world? Are you blogging because you found a community with which you relate? Are you blogging because you need to vent about life, family, friends, kids, partners, exes, bosses, or other bloggers?

WHY are you blogging?

It was a question posed by former-NFL receiver Donald Driver at Disney’s Social Media Moms Conference this past weekend-and it sort of knocked me off my chair.


(The kids enjoying family time at the conference on Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland)

I haven’t thought about WHY I blog in such a very long time and it has changed over and over again.

At first I was blogging for something to do, to connect with other parents, to find my ‘tribe.’

Then I was blogging as an activist. Political posts ruled the day.

Then it was a smattering of parenting and politics and life.

Then I got sick…and everything changed. 

I didn’t know what to blog for a long time. So I just kept people up to date on my health. Until I broke down and began blogging about just how hard it all can be, about just how affected the kids and my husband were by my illness. I began blogging for myself, to just get it out.

Driver spoke to the crowd this past weekend about the motivation behind our blog posts, our tweets, our Facebook posts, our photos. His message was so simple, yet one I fear I have forgotten in the past 10-years as the industry has grown. Are you using your voice for good? 

Those of us who have been around the social media block have watched the metamorphosis. We started out as just hobbiest looking for community. Sharing our ups and downs like friends do. As our voices became more powerful some of us just kept doing what we’ve been doing all along, others took the $$$ path to try and cash in on their new found attention. Starting new sites, trying to bring in the big traffic numbers. ‘Monetizing’ was the word everyone loved.

Sure I put ads up on this blog, but I lost out on a lot of opportunities because I wouldn’t write sponsored posts on this site. For me, it just didn’t fit. It still doesn’t. This is my space to share and talk about my kids, my life…not products.

However, with Driver’s words still ringing in my ears, I am wondering where Queen of Spain blog goes from here. I want to make a difference. I want to help people. I want to continue to share the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness.

I am inspired to DO MORE with this space I’ve been given and have cultivated over the years. I’m inspired to make the most of what I’ve been given-and just asking myself the question this big ‘ol football player so easily stated really changed my mindset. WHY am I blogging?

I know the answer:

I’m blogging for myself. I’m blogging for you. I’m blogging to change the world we live in and hoping to bring others along for the ride.

I’m determined to bring back the magic in blogging and the honesty, the transparency, the REAL stories of life and love and loss. Not the ones conjured up for traffic, products, brands, or sponsors.

This space is where my soul and my heart connect with others and I give you all of me- the good and the bad. And I still believe there is a place for that in the industry.

Let’s get back to basics. Let’s get back to storytelling. Let’s get back to connecting with one another just for the sake of connecting, not because it’s required to fulfill a contract by a pr company.

Let’s get back to blogging.

 

*I was invited to attend the DSMM Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.

As the Song Says…

Yeah…that whole thing about giving them roots and wings to fly and what not???? I’m failing at it terribly right now. Failing. Failing. FAILING.

My son is currently at his first ever sleep-away camp and I’m in bed thinking about driving there to either spy on him, or the more likely scenario of nabbing him and bringing him home. HOME. Where he belongs.

NOT out in some totally perfect world for him where there are scientists and ecosystems and OCEANS and MOUNTAINS….which leads my mind to rip currents and bobcats and bears and wildfires and his hating socks but being cold and DO YOU UNDERSTAND I’m not there to MAKE HIM put the socks on which would also then lead to his feet getting dirty and him probably NOT showering even though he has all the stuff needed in his suitcase to shower with. Not to mention the book and book light he brought in case he couldn’t fall asleep (no electronics allowed) and I should have packed him an extra battery for that tiny book-light and OMG I CAN NOT DO THIS SOMEONE TALK ME DOWN PLEASE.

Whew. Ok. Sorry about that.

Which is why it’s best I stay in this bed, right here, and try to breathe for the next few days.

With my phone currently tucked in my bra in case they call and he needs me.

But that is just it, right? It’s the reality he doesn’t need me. I’ve done my job, so he does not need me. My husband has done his job, so he does not need him. We’re doing what we set out to do when we created life. Created this awesome kid that we truly do not deserve because he and his sister are EVERYTHING good in the world.

They are pure joy.

This is such a fantastic opportunity for him and he was SO EXCITED getting on the bus and already geeking out over the organisms he was hoping to find and study. It was contagious. I was excited WITH him, FOR him. To just watch him go on this journey.

Now it’s dark. I’m wondering if he’s asleep. I’m wondering if the boys in his cabin are loud. I’m wondering if he’s laying there, like I’m laying here…wondering if we’re all thinking about each other.

His sister even asked ‘Do you think Jack is in bed thinking about us like we’re thinking about him?’

I am such a wuss. He’s off having the time of his life and I AM A BIG OL BASKET CASE. But it’s not because he’s ill prepared or that I’m worried something will actually happen. No. That’s not really what is going on deep down.

Deep down it’s all about letting go. Letting him go. Letting him go so he can become the amazing person he already is and is destined to improve upon.

But my god does it hurt.