Friday, May 29, 2009
Update on my mother: She has some minor issues from the stroke; she can't lift her toes, has limited vision in both eyes, and some difficulty with remembering words and short term memory overall. Also, her balance isn't great. She is hoping to go home on heparin and with therapy set up for home visits in the next couple of days.
I really wish that she would consider assisted living, or senior apartments; each issue that arises makes it more difficult for her to stay in her own home.
Our friend with leukemia is upbeat and starts chemo today. She is taking votes on what color wig to get if her hair falls out ;). We helped make a poster for her room yesterday, which was nice for the kids. I'm keeping up with her updates on Facebook and sending encouraging words. Having little kids makes me limited in visiting, as they are little germ factories, but maybe I can drop the oldest off for a visit for an hour one day.
Things for school prep are starting to roll in. It's about time to make my plane reservations and schedule my career assessment. That will be a whole lot more paperwork and deep thought.
Yesterday I saw black and white warblers all over the place, and a sharp shinned hawk hunting a field near our house. Chipmunks are everywhere, as are bunnies, deer and fox. Our chickens are growing apace and will be ready to come to our house soon I think!
I have my mentor training for Empowered Girls Alliance this weekend; that will be great.
Today I plan to rest and let the antibiotics do their work; maybe organize Lucy's room a bit; one of her dresser drawers is broken and needs to be repaired. Just a nice day at home with the littles!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I know I have some faithful, thoughtful, perhaps even prayerful, readers :).
My mom had a stroke this weekend and is doing OK, but still undergoing tests. I'm waiting to see if this means some changes in her living conditions (like living alone).
Also, one of our homeschooling families just found out that their daughter Nadine (16) has leukemia, and she starts chemo tomorrow. She will be in the Children's Hospital for the next month and so good thoughts going out to her are appreciated! She is a very talented young musician and a lovely person, as is her mother, and I am holding them in the light.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The Good: I had a lovely time with my hosts, Erica and Keith, who put up with me and my brood of sometimes good, sometimes bad, children. We left the house mostly intact, although I don't know about their future desire for children! We also got to attend a wonderful BBQ party that they held.
We got to visit my hometown and "do" the carnival and Memorial Day festivities. Jude didn't like the cannons going off, which surprised me but he was an awesome traveler for the first two days (see The Bad for an udpate). My mom bought the kids some carnival ride tickets and so did I, and we splurged on junky carnival food one night, but brought our own food the rest of the time. Thank God for the fact that there's a Wegman's in State College now. I am so spoiled.
We got my mom's shed cleaned out and came home with some nice garden stuff, a flag, and a bunch of clothes that are too big for me ;).
We had three nice visits with my dad.
Central PA is as beautiful as ever.
My meditation before I left was patience and compassion. That was enough. And it held me in good stead. I was patient and compassionate. I didn't kill anyone (even though I wanted to), and I didn't even get in an argument with my mom in 4 days, which has to be a record.
The Bad: The first day of my visit with my mom went well, but as expected, it went to hell in a handbasket from there. We didn't end up visiting at all on Sunday or Monday, as she wasn't feeling well,, but then I got a huge guilt trip for not coming over on Monday, even though she was supposed to spend the day with us and wasn't well enough. I figured since she wasn't well enough to go out, she wasn't up for visitors with energetic small children, and that she would call me if that changed, which she didn't but I was wrong ;). As usual.
We stopped there this morning before leaving, and she was worse - the "not feeling good" that precluded visits the previous two days had turned into more headache and flashing lights in her left eye. She was supposed to have Mohs surgery on a skin cancer this morning, followed by surgery to remove a small tumor in her tear duct, but she had to cancel this morning.
She called to get a ride from the Helpmates organization and they were a huge pain in the ass, so she ended up getting a ride from her new Office of the Aging caseworker. I have to say that although my mother is impossible, judgmental, bigoted and classist, and doesn't deal with the agencies gracefully, they are also a pain in the ass, and made her feel like shit for needing a ride. I saw her get teared up and frustrated and know that she deals with this all the time. Guilt, guilt, guilt.
Anyway, she canceled her surgeries because she couldn't safely drive with her vision problems, and made an appointment with her eye surgeon for a visit today to see what was going on. Turns out that she ended up sent to the ER, she has something going on in her occipatal lobe - bleeding, stroke, vessel spasm...who knows. I'm waiting for her to call with MRI results. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I feel like I should have stayed.
She was off the oxygen a lot on Saturday - I wonder if that stressed her, or if she's having a reaction to the chemo, or if her brain just can't take anymore. In any event, I'm waiting for news of the tests. She's being admitted to the hospital for sure.
The Ugly: I can't really think of much besides my son's behavior the last 36 hours. I am sleep deprived, still hungry, and I to pull over three times and eventually move his carseat on the way home. He tortured my 10 yo daughter to distraction and woke his 2 yo sister from her nap twice. He is without TV privileges until Thursday, and is lucky not to have had to ride on the roof for the last part of the trip.
It's good to be home; I was homesick for my house and husband, but i was also homesick for PA the whole time I was there. I wish there was a way to move back that wasn't purely selfish. It would only be good for me and my parents; everyone else would have to give up everything they love.
Oh, and I missed my dogs like crazy.
My question for Mr. Bolton is, "Is there a way to WIN the arms race?"
How are we supposed to achieve peace without disarmament?
Which reminds me, has anyone read The Sun this month? I'm still working my way through it, but there are some interesting articles on peace activism and religion.
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This is so very depressing on many levels. I guess the upside is that civil unions are still permitted, but how can we continue to be so backwards?
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Friday, May 22, 2009
First off, the kids were freaking awesome. It's about a 3.5 to 4 hour drive and there was not on complaint, not one argument; snacks and toys were doled out, music and books on tape were listened to (Dr. Seuss was a big hit), and we stopped for ice cream.
My 4 yo. son is someone who loves to travel. He is always up for an adventure and talks about our trips here as if they are of mythic proportion. He loves staying with my friend Erica (and her "green juice" which is some kind of healthy juice that she got him hooked on), and he talks about visiting my dad at least once a week. He had a blast with my dad today, as always and totally made my mom's day when we got to her house, by leaping out of the car and running at her, arms outstretched, like a romantic character in a novel and hugging her leg to death. I think he's met her just a handful of times, but the magic label grandparent surpasses any possible shyness he might otherwise exhibit.
Lucy (2) was also pretty friendly with the gparental units, and was just a delightful traveler. Emma was like having a wife along - she got all the luggage out of the car while I got the kids in and settled, unpacked their sleeping bags, and then was sociable and talkative with our hosts. Like who is this kid, and how did I end up with the coolest 13 yo ever? Soren just was easy and along for the ride, cooperative and chatty on the ride here. I'm still amazed at how easy this trip has become; it used to be a thing of dread and despair.
My mom, after 3 weeks of oral chemo, looks amazingly better. She was off the O2 quite a bit while we were there; cooked us dinner (oh my god, I haven't had a decent crabcake since I moved to NY almost 6 years ago - I was in heaven!) and we did dishes together. It was such a huge relief to see her so much better! She was pretty good with the kids for the most part and I think we had the nicest visit we've had, or maybe second nicest....um....ever. Even Emma couldn't believe how great it was.
Mom did lose some of her eyebrows but it wasn't very noticeable, since they're almost invisible anyway. Her hair looks fine, and the puffy predisone face is almost gone.
I got to visit with our hosts briefly but had to wrestle Lucy to sleep; the sleeping bag didn't really float her boat and she's in my bed now. We're doing shed cleaning at mom's tomorrow, visit with dad, and carnival in the evening! Then Sunday...maybe church, and visit with my childhood friend that I just got back in touch with via Facebook? Monday, more carnival, craft fair, good food all day, probably run into old friend...I can't wait!
I was totally not into coming here, but so far so good. I prayed this morning for compassion and patience, and so far it seems like that inner reminder about what to focus on was a good choice.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
For instance, yesterday was one of the most perfect days I can remember. I went to work an hour early, got most of the classrooms cleaned up, with no interruptions. Then I met with Rev. Jen, and she approved of my ideas for a youth soul matters group, and is going to get me started with organizing an informal "ministry" group of locals who are in seminary, thinking about it, preparing for MFC, are interning, or are seeking. We also talked a bit about my changing relationships with the church, the staff, my ministers and my friends and she had some helpful things to share about her experience with integration.
It's a fine line between integration and enmeshment, my friends. But I'm parsing it out - I am reducing the number of "hats" that I wear and picking ones that make the most sense - leadership and development; community partnership for school; homeschooling/friends/church.
We also had a nice chat about school and she was very encouraging about me doing it full time. It's nice to have people in my life who see my ability, and also remind me to take care of myself while I'm forging ahead.
After all that, I came home to find that, not only had my oldest daughter done all her chores, kept the littles happy and alive, but had also done a serious boatload of laundry, freeing me up to take my 10 year old for a long bike ride while the littles napped. We had a deliciously light dinner of BBQ sandwiches and salad, and then drove up to Seneca Falls State Park and visited the beach, and one of the coolest playgrounds I've ever seen. They also have a cool sprayground that will be open soon; best of all, it's only 15 minutes from our door. There's miles of paths and fishing.
We had an easy bedtime, I got to watch Benny & Joon, and hang out with my husband for a couple of hours.
Two other funny things to be grateful for:
When Lucy sneezes, she says, "I had a bless you!"
And as Tom was going to work this morning, he kissed the kids goodbye and Jude asked him, "Aren't you going to kiss the girl you love?" (meaning me, of course!)
It looks to be another day to enjoy.
Monday, May 18, 2009
If you're not a Neil Gaiman fan (and if you're not, you should be), just read the first part of this post, and then go share your opinion.
I think this is an important topic.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009
Move along if whinging isn't your thing.
Thursday night: Lucy woke crying at midnight. Little sleep ensued the rest of the night. She awoke with a head cold.
Friday night: Homeschool prom. Waited up for all the news. Then hubby and I watched the season finale (I think?) of Heroes.
Saturday night: Jude woke crying at 11:00 p.m. The aforementioned head cold appears to have been passed on to him. He couldn't breathe all night despite Mucinex and being in our bed...hubby and I are sleep deprived.
Sunday morning: RE Sunday. An exercise in frustration for me. The 3s and 4s did the chalice lighting and did it well; however they acted like...well, like 3 and 4 year olds after that, climbing on the stage, talking, dancing. I was not really in the mood and ended up escorting a group of them back to the classroom midway through the service, missing my oldest daughter's class. One of the kids' parents could have been a little more helpful.
There was to be a teacher appreciation reception in the lounge, but it was mobbed by kids and adults of every size and shape; most of them not teachers at all. Last year it was more of a luncheon in a private room. Maybe the budget constraints were the reason, but frankly, I didn't feel appreciated, just lost in the shuffle of a typical post-service coffee hour.
I don't usually complain about such things, but I am tired and cranky. The kids are fitfully napping next to me; coughing, sneezing and sniffling.
I would like to nap, but still need a real lunch, and then I need to mow the front lawn and run the weed whacker around the yard. The parts for our mower should be here tomorrow, but it won't be fixed till Wednesday probably; I'll most likely have to hire someone again for the third week in a row. Doesn't anyone want to donate a brand new riding mower to my household? This whole lawn thing is way too stressful. I just want the damn thing to work for more than one mowing.
Man, do I ever want a nap. And yet, I still have an hour and a half of driving to do this evening to get the girls home tonight. I think I'll be asleep by 9:30 tomorrow; better be, as it's an early rising Monday so I can get to work by 8.
On the upside, the sun's out, and hubster is working on the chicken tractor. My vegetables are thriving in pots, preparing to be planted. My kids are cool and wonderful (and my 2 yo was better behaved in church than the older kids she was thrown in with). And I've got a lot to be thankful for (even though I have stress about mowing the thing, I do have a fabulous yard that I occasionally get to enjoy).
Off to the races.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This article made me lose my appetite.
"The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.
“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”
I hope that my kids don't have to learn how to use guns and deal with fake or real blood and militant action in order to be true-blooded Americans. What about those who show their patriotism in other, peaceful ways?
Membership in the Explorers has been overseen since 1998 by an affiliate of the Boy Scouts called Learning for Life, which offers 12 career-related programs, including those focused on aviation, medicine and the sciences.
One more reason to avoid the Boy Scouts, as if their stance on sexual orientation wasn't enough.
So we should encourage our kids to act like the police, or carry weapons, and maybe get hurt or killed getting the way of actual professionals who we pay to deal with people who are dangerous? If the training is not intended to be applied, why do it? Sounds like marketing to me.
Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.
“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”
Attracted by the guns eh? What about all that pap about teaching these kids to protect our country? Seems like they need a bit better of a screening program.
In a competition in Arizona that he did not oversee, Deputy Lowenthal said, one role-player wore traditional Arab dress. “If we’re looking at 9/11 and what a Middle Eastern terrorist would be like,” he said, “then maybe your role-player would look like that. I don’t know, would you call that politically incorrect?”
Yes, because all terrorists are from the Middle East and wear traditional Arab dress. Profiling is such a great skill for adolescents to have during their formative years when they're already struggling with inclusiveness, tolerance and making good choices.
I'm glad I wasn't the journalist assigned to cover this story.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Our friend Anne died yesterday afternoon. I'm sure her daughter's Mother's Days will be bittersweet from here on out. I think it's true though, what we say. To live in hearts that love is not to die.
My children made Mother's Day hectic and wonderful. I'm so grateful for them. Emma (13) saw me ogling a pair of earrings at the Lilac Festival yesterday and presented them in an adorable box. Soren (10) made a really cool box and made matching earrings and a bracelet for me from silver and beads. Jude and Lucy were just themselves and wonderful. My husband sent Emma and I shopping for several hours; Emma needed summer clothes and he insisted I buy myself something.
We went to Plato's closet and found fun stuff and had a wonderfully mother/daughter afternoon. It was fabulous and Emma had a blast. Sadly, her day ended badly when she found a worm in her steamed artichoke at dinner. Thankfully she didn't eat it, but ... ewwww. She must have been saved by the karma of saving an inchworm that blew onto my windshield yesterday while I was driving; Soren hopped out at a stop sign and rescued him so he didn't get squished by my wipers.
My friend Karen is on her way here and I have a box of chocolates for her; she's lucky I haven't raided it yet ;).
P.S. Hubby and I both got a chance to see Emma's performance in Ulysses: A Unitarian Odyssey. It was funny and sweet and fabulous! I hope they video taped it. It was great fun! I was so grateful we each got to a performance of it. Things will start to wind down in the next couple of weeks and I can't wait!
Friday, May 8, 2009
But my husband called me today and informed me "I have some mild ministerial work for you." Now this is a first. I think my husband has been in denial about me going to seminary for about two years now. Turns out his mom had to have her dog put down this morning and he wanted me to call her and talk to her.
Now, this dog is not a beloved dog by anyone except my mother-in-law. I despise this dog. As a matter of fact, I have privately said that if my mother-in-law died before that dog, I'd take to the pound before I took it into my home. He was spoiled rotten, and as result was overweight and an aggressive table beggar. He would actually sharply yelp at my MIL's feet at each meal and she would even feed him off her fork. He got all the plates to clean, and he was fed a king's diet of rice and cooked ground or chicken. He was snippy and unpredictable and snapped at my kids more than once (quitely honestly, he's lucky to have lived this long - my husband once chased him around the table and threw him outside one time he almost bit my son for walking too close to him).
He had a horrifying bark - we thought he was part basenji, and anytime the mailman came, or any type of animal was outside, he would let loose with the most ear piercing shrieks. He startled me out of my chair on numerous occasions.
In the last couple of years he developed a seizure disorder, and the meds and the seizures finally conspired to fry his brains and his liver. He went into unending seizures this morning with a fever of 108+ and couldn't be brought back.
My MIL adored this dog. Since his first seizure, he has been incontinent and the rug in her living room is so disgusting that I scrub my kids after they sit on it. We are going to bring her a replacement this weekend and throw it out and vacuum all the white hair that is everywhere.
So, obviously, I am not going to miss this dog one iota, but she will. We talked for a long time and she talked about how much she loved him and how he had a good life and loved all of us, and I listened and sent her phone hugs, and offered her love and condolences and agreed with everything she had to say about her dog. And I feel terrible for her; at her age, she should not have to outlive her dog. She will be very lonely.
So RIP Sparky. I won't miss you, but I'll miss the joy you brought to Mom. Hopefully our doggy visits with Jake and Basil will help fill the canine void in her life.
I had an appointment with my school advisor, talked to admissions about financial aid, and spoke with registration about classes for September.
I have a tentative schedule planned out, and need to look at modifying it just a hair for fall. Then I need to prepare to do my career assessment - a huge project, and an expensive one. I know it will be useful, but it seems fairly daunting in a variety of ways. That's a UU track issue, not a school issue, but the beauty of attending ML is that things are consolidated to some degree so that things will hopefully mesh better.
I am still mulling over work. What to do. We desperately need the money...unless I get a substantial school loan or a scholarship. But how to work 24 hours but 8 hours of community partnership work plus commute time plus homeschool plus 3 credits of school work? Hmmm... sleep is not an option apparently. I am considering applying to work part time at a local grocery store or something. That might be more doable, and cut out the commute time.
I wish that money were not a problem. I wish, I wish, I wish. But reality strikes ;). The good news is that I almost have enough money to take a class locally at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in the fall. So many "almosts," but I have faith that it will come together as it's meant to.
I'm looking forward to June. Things will slow down. I'll have some time to prepare for next year, which will be busy, wonderful, stressful, peaceful, and transformative (I hope).
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I had the opportunity to help her out by watching her kids and then driving them (and mine) to the calling hours, and to speak with her throughout the week. She is one of five sisters, and it was wonderful to see them support each other, love each other and be together. No doubt they irritate each other quite a bit at times, but the love was evident, and the support practical and palpable.
My daughter's teacher, Anne, is on the last few days/weeks of her journey with spinal cancer. The program that she taught at has been organizing parents to go and sit with her for two 2-hour shifts each day to just sit, to help with light housework, or to give her husband some time to himself. I was able to clear Saturday evening to go and do just that, and it was such an incredible gift to me. Her family and friends were in and out, it was busy and cheerful and loving, and she has been able to stay at home.
When I told Anne that my daughter sent her love, her eyes opened wide, and she gave me a huge smile. She was too weak to even speak above a whisper, but gave me that same joyous smile when I showed her the garden flowers that someone had brought, when I asked her if I should open the front door wide to let the afternoon sun pour in to the room, and when I rubbed her feet and covered them to warm them up.
These two experiences are a wonderful gift to me, because before I went to Anne's, I spoke to my mother, who is on oral chemotherapy as of two weeks ago, and who is definitely in decline, though not in immediate danger unless her diabetes can't be kept under control. She was annoying, unreasonable, and focused on anything but spending what time is left to her in loving, joyful ways that make the best of what's left. I feel such grief for her, and for my sister and I, that this will not be a journey that is full of gratitude and joy for her. The contrast between her and Anne is stark.
We have been exploring joy for Wellspring the last two weeks and it was good to see that it has become more natural for me. I carry a lot of intense energy, but when I went to Anne's one of the women called me after she left and commented that I brought such an aura of joy with me into the house. Not something I've ever been accused of before, but a wonderful new thing to try to carry with me.
Joy. The sun pouring in the window. A foot rub. Fresh flowers. Love.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
One sad thing is that I lost all my scholarship essays that I slaved over last month, but I will have to do them all over again next year anyway. No news yet - I didn't get one that I applied for, but I did get some backend assistance in lieu...which was lovely and a real gift to hear that my application was so highly regarded, as I seem to be as well. It made my day of laundry drudgery much better yesterday!
Our Wellspring topic on Monday is Joy.
I haven't been journaling lately. At this stage in my journey, I am feeling much more introspective and have been thinking about how enmeshed all my different roles are: RE Administrator, homeschooler, parent, congregant, student. I had a wonderful meeting with my spiritual advisor last week, and we talked a lot about this, and about ministerial formation. I am having some bumps in the road in some of my friendships as I transform, but the joy is that these people are loving and beloved, and we will work through it.
A simple joy is that everytime I return from a dog walk, or work, or an errand, my 2 yo daughter throws her arms wide open and shouts, "You came back!!" when I walk in the door. Unadulterated love and happiness to be welcomed in such a way!
Walking the dog each morning lately, the sun is behind me as I walk east, and I can feel the warmth increasing by the time I walk back with my face into the sun. The combination of mental fuzziness dispersing with my meditative walk, coffee injection and sun is fabulous.
Watching the dog bound with joy in the spring air each time I take him out. He embodies joy every day.
The text messages and snippets of paper with love notes on them from my 10 yo daughter throughout each day. That she still thinks I'm the best mom in the world, despite all my failings, is both joyful and humbling.
The gift of homeschooling and togetherness that we have the privilege to enjoy.
My marriage is a joy. It just keeps getting better; not something I expected 5 years ago. To miss my husband each day while he's at work is a joy, because I know that being reunited in the evening will be so fulfilling.
Simple joys, gifts of grace.