I’m Living!

I had this surreal dream once while my mom was dying.  In the dream she was healthy, and pink in the cheeks. The yellow tones of jaundice were nowhere to be found on her face and she was dressed in her everyday clothes, not pajamas.  She was sitting at her kitchen table with one of her brothers, her sister, and one of her sons and they were doing something she absolutely loved to do at family get-togethers:  they were playing a board game.  She was happily laughing, her loud chuckle filling the room, and they were all acting as if there wasn’t a care in the world.  All the while, as they played their game, every wall in the house was engulfed in flames.  Chaos had erupted all around them, stray flames were licking at her feet, but she played on.  As she noticed the flames, she would stamp them out and continue laughing and playing.  With her back to the walls and the others across the table, it felt like the walls were closing in around her, and yet she still chose to play that silly board game.  The dream really spoke to me, and from then on I resolved to be a much more active participant in her living than her dying.

To live while you are dying must feel something like the scene in my dream.  There are only moments left, only so many more times you can extinguish those insistent flames, before the fire will win out.  In my dream my mom was intent on living despite knowing she was unable to defeat the death that had come for her.  It was time for me to help her make that happen.  For weeks she had been talking about her desire to live past Christmas, the problem was, none of us were quite sure how to accomplish the ‘living’ part.  We had gone so quickly from ‘no cancer’ to ‘dying of cancer,’ that we completely skipped the ‘living with cancer’ chapter of the story, and it was clear that if there was going to be anything to write in that chapter, the time was now.   We needed to get on with the living part.

My sister, sister-in-law, mom’s best friend Joy, and I arrived to my parent’s house with a plan involving some of mom’s favorite things:  her grandchildren and Christmas shopping!  In her prime, mom practically elevated Christmas shopping to an Olympic level!  She was an avid Black Friday shopper and would go to the ends of the earth for that perfect something she knew her loved one wanted.  When I was in high school I asked for a pair of navy blue penny loafers for Christmas and she delivered, driving some 60 miles to get the only pair left in my size in the region of Nordstrom stores!  She loved to spoil us on Christmas morning, and she was good at it!  Sometimes she even knew what we wanted or needed before we did.

Mom was pretty excited about the shopping excursion.  Her only request was that we not tire her out, so we set a time limit of 3 hours.  My dad was much less excited.  He reminded me of when I was a new mother, preparing to leave my newborn baby with a babysitter for the first time.  He hovered over her and recited every detail of her care, “Did you pack all of her medications?  Do you have The Notebook?  Make sure you put the break on the wheel chair before you set her down into it.  Don’t tire her out, she gets tired real easy.”  He checked and double-checked that all of her necessities had been loaded before he gently and reluctantly placed her in the front seat of my van.  With a firm, “3 hours,” he shut the door.  We were on our way to do what living grandmas do; we were on our way to Christmas shop for the grandkids!

At the shopping mall, I carefully I loaded my precious cargo into the wheel chair, all the while my dad’s voice echoing in my ear, “Make sure you put the break on the wheel chair before you set her down into it.”  It was no small feat, talking him in to this scheme and I wanted it to come off flawlessly.  The only damage done on this day was going to be to dad’s credit card, so with her safely installed in the wheel chair we were off on our Christmas shopping spree.

She was very thoughtful about what she bought each of her 9 grandchildren.  She decided on clothing for each of them, wanting to buy nothing to sentimental.   Gifts of clothing were a grandma specialty of hers, and with glee she had flooded her grandchildren’s closets over the years.  With a smile spread wide on her face she directed each of her ‘elves’ to help her reach the clothing racks.  This time she wanted to choose things that she could see them wear right away.   Cautiously, I wove the wheelchair through the maze of hanging clothes.  It was a bittersweet moment for both of us.  We were finally enjoying something we had loved doing for years and yet trying not to think about how this would be the last year we would Christmas shop together.

After mom finished making her selections, she and I headed to the parking lot while the rest of the group waited in the long checkout line.  We were approaching the 3-hour time limit, and I was determined to follow my dad’s instructions to a ‘T’.  The others would rendezvous with us at the van once the purchases were made.

Outside the air was misty and cold, but neither of us seemed to care as I maneuvered the wheelchair to the outer parking spaces.  The pavement was a little slick and I could feel the wheelchair pick up speed on the gentle slope of the parking lot.   Evidently mom could feel it too, because I heard her say under her breath, “Faster!”  It took me by surprise, and I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly, but then she left me with no question, “Faster!” she commanded in a louder voice.  It reminded me of being a backseat driver as a child!

“Mom, No!  I can’t…” she wouldn’t hear of it, “Faster!” mom insisted, and with excitement my feet picked up the pace.  Soon I was running through the dark and misty parking lot and we were both giggling like children absconding with the forbidden!  The more she commanded, the quicker my steps, the gentle slope almost carrying her away, and then she began again, “Let go!” she urged.

“No,” I said trying to keep the little wheelchair under my control.  “If something happens to you,” I panted as I slowed down, “Dad will be so mad!”

“Faster!” she prodded me, and I picked up the pace!

“Let GO!” she begged.  “Mom, this is dangerous…” I said, my voice trailing off.  “I don’t want…” sensing where I was headed, she cut me off.  “What the worst that can happen?” she appealed, “It could kill me?  I’ll take my chances!”  Excitedly she pleaded, “Let go!

And so I did it.  I gave in to her relentless requests and I let go.   As the rented wheelchair wobbled on the pavement, she arose her tired hands in the air, and with pure delight she exclaimed, “I’M LIVING!”

Coming Undone

“Honey, what do you think I should do?”  The beautiful blue eyes that I had looked to thousands of times for support were now turned to me.  She was asking me to answer the impossible and I felt like I was failing her.  I sat quietly for a moment, my insides shivering as if I were outside in the chill of that November Monday morning just outside the hospital doors.  I was so weary.  Cancer.  Cancer, Cancer, Cancer!  A merciless and cruel killer it is.  Already pushed to a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, I could not imagine why anyone would voluntarily draw out this torture?  Watching her die so painfully, it seemed senseless to want to prolong the inevitable, and yet that was exactly what she was proposing.

Earlier that morning her doctor came to her room with a new plan.  Chemotherapy turned out to be an absolute catastrophe, resulting in the complete shut down of my mom’s colon.  This meant that everything that made it past her lips and into her stomach now had nowhere to go.  Because of this massive shut down, she was unable to eat or drink anything.   A tube attached to a pump had been fed up her nose and then down to her stomach in an attempt to keep her gut vacuumed out.   Maintaining pain was a nearly futile effort even though narcotic pain patches covered her back like a quilt.  Her body was failing quickly and prior to this meeting with her doctor we had been prepared by other hospital staff that we would be taking her home to die.  Hospice had been contacted, and it was evident that they did not expect her to live beyond the week.

I had arrived to the hospital that morning with my ‘game-face’ on and was ready.  Well, as ready as one can be…  Hearing the doctor propose a new course of action was completely unexpected.  The suggestion was for my mom to undergo a surgical procedure called a Jejunostomy.   Please pardon my very inadequate description, but essentially a Jejunostomy is when an opening is made and a bag is surgically placed at the place at the end of the stomach and before the colon so that when food or drink enters the body, it can only go as far as the stomach before it exits into the bag.  The function of food would now mostly be for pleasure since it would not enter the colon anymore and not be delivering any significant nutrition.  To solve the problem of not receiving enough nutrition, my mom would be administered a 12 hour round of TPN once every 24 hours.  TPN, which stands for Total Parenteral Nutrition, is basically a specialized liquid concoction of everything a person needs nutritionally that can be ‘fed’ to that person intravenously.   The TPN I.V. bag is inserted into a dispensing machine that is small enough to fit into a backpack.  Cancer is a little bit like that game on the midway at the fair called “Wack-A-Mole.”   As soon as you hit one of the moles, another pesky mole is popping up across the field!

This proposal fanned a flicker of hope in my mom that had been all but extinguished over the previous weekend.  She really hated that she was dying during the holidays and longed to be able to spend one last Christmas with her family.  While the doctor laid out the plan, which included the prospect of living for “many months” with the treatment that was no more inconvenient than “carrying a small backpack with you 12 hours on and 12 hours off” the room fell silent.  I could see there were visions dancing in my mom’s head and the cynic in me wasn’t buying it.  Not even for a minute.  I could feel the shaking inside me intensify as this doctor continued to pitch her proposal.  I looked to my dad and could see that he was buying the hope this doctor was selling.  As I looked around the room at the faces of her loved ones, I felt alone in my pessimism.

I felt guilty for not buying in to this doctor’s latest plan, and I tried to avoid looking at my mother’s hopeful face.  To my relief, she turned to my dad, “Sweetheart, what do you think?” she asked quietly.  My dad nodded his head with a supportive, “Yes.”

That is when her gaze came to rest upon me. “Honey, what do you think I should do?”

To say I cracked is an understatement.  I completely came undone! Weeks of raw emotion were so close to the surface my own breath was all that was covering them. Out of the pain of watching the vicious beast ravage her body, out of the turmoil of knowing she was leaving, out of the pure agony of it being powerless to stop it, I spoke.

“Why?”  I said in a not so subtle tone and immediately stared at the floor.   My heart felt as hard as the tile floor.  “Why do you want to prolong this?”  My breaking voice was nearing a hiss.  It was difficult to contain the pain and anger shuddering through me.  Would she understand I was saying this out of love for her?  Her merciless suffering!  As much as I tried, I could not soften my voice as I spoke.  I continued to shudder and felt my adrenaline pulsing through me.  I could not look up for fear that in the moment that I looked at her, watching her live would be worse than watching her die.  I knew my reaction was a brutal blow.  Desperately trying to escape the pain, I ran from her hospital room.

How could I?  What kind of worthless daughter was I?  How could I say that to my dying mother?  I could hardly stand to be in my own skin!  My mental state was deteriorating quickly.  I was on the verge of a total breakdown.  In my emotionally impaired state I could only think of one thing that would repair it.   As I climbed into the driver’s seat of my minivan, I knew I had to escape.  With an irrational plan to walk up to the ticket counter at the nearest airport, credit card in hand, to buy a ticket to get me as far away from ‘real’ life as possible, I started the engine of the car.  If she was going to prolong the agony I wasn’t going to stick around to watch.  Turning to look for traffic behind me as I prepared to back out of my parking space, I saw the little navy blue base to my infant son’s car seat, and knew I needed help.

For a split second the chaos inside me relented.  Somewhere deep inside me I knew.  It was what that little navy blue car seat base was telling me.  I could no sooner leave my little newborn son or my two daughters behind and run from the pain of grief than my mom could leave me behind and run from the pain of cancer.  That was why she was willing to prolong the agony!  That was why when given the opportunity to live for even a few more weeks she was willing to do it.  She would do it for me, for her child and for the others she so intensely loved.  I pulled back into the parking space and turned the engine off.  My shaking hand searched the inside of my purse for the cell phone that was the lifeline to my husband.

I wish I could say that with that revelation I jumped out of the car and ran back to her room and buried my sorry face in her lap.  I guess I am a lot harder headed than that.  It took me a while to really be able to articulate that moment in the car and in the meantime I continued to act out in my anguish.  By the days end, it was my patient and loving husband who put it to me this way, “Honey, one of us needs an antidepressant.  So, if you aren’t going to take one, I am.”

The next day I went to her, to my momma, who had always loved me no matter what.  I did bury my head in her lap.  She stroked my hair with the same hand that had comforted, guided, disciplined, and loved me for my whole life.  In that most intimate unspoken language between a mother and her child I told her how I loved her and begged her forgiveness through my tears, and she forgave me and said, “I love you, too.”

My mom with me, her first born.

Excuse Me While I Rant! On Being and Doing

Last night Parent-Teacher Conferences were held at the Junior High where my daughters both attend school.  Both of my girls earned great grades, all A’s and one B for both, and are reportedly “a joy to have in class, helpful, ask great questions, and are dependable and hard working.”  Both of my girls were also lightly teased by their teachers for talking “just a little” too much.  Hmmmm… imagine that?  It was one of those nights where I was so proud to be their mom!   All in all it was a great night, but despite their glowing reports I didn’t leave the school without heavy concern.

The order of the night was to meet each teacher and discuss the progress and concerns of our students.  Teachers were seated at their own tables and in typical arena style parents took turns having their individual meetings.  Since there are few concerns about the girls’ academic progress, I decided to take the time to ask each teacher for more specifics about the content of the classes that my daughters take from them.  It was an interesting view into the world of today’s 7th and 8th graders.

It was at one of these tables, with a teacher that was new to our school this year, and seemingly new to her teaching career, that all of my internal sirens started wailing.  It wasn’t her fault.  The phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger” comes to mind here.  She teaches my oldest in a class called Framework for 21st Century Learning.  This class title has intrigued me and I have been curious about what content the teacher is going cover.  As I learned last night, the class covers a lot of basic life skills like balancing a budget, how to manage debt, and write a resume.  It was when she began talking about writing resumes with 8th graders that my “lizard brain” began twitching.  The earnest young teacher began explaining about the variety of aptitude tests that my daughter was taking in class and how after taking all of these tests my 14 year old daughter would be prepared to enter high school with a very good sense of what classes she should be taking to prepare her for her future career or further education.  It was all I could do to keep my emotions from totally popping on this well-intentioned teacher.  Ahhh, she had no idea who she was talking to!  Let me give you a little back-story…

I grew up in a very traditional (even though it was “blended”) family in an age where the times for women, well, they were a-changin’.    My mom went to a year of community college until she married my father, whom she had met the first week of school.  I was born literally 9 months after their wedding, and my brother almost 2 years after that.  On occasion she took jobs to supplement the family income, but they were certainly not considered a career.  My parents divorced, and for the brief time mom was single she worked a J-O-B to put food on the table.  After she married my dad she was a full time stay at home mom until I was a senior in high school.  My dad was a 3rd generation paper mill worker.  He was a faithful and reliable union employee who put in a very respectable 40 sum years.  He once corrected me when I referred to his job as a career.   It was a job, and nothing more.

I was a young girl coming of age in the 1980s, an era when women were entering the work force in record number.  The opportunities that a college education could afford me were exciting and I had dreams of  ‘having it all’.   Title 9, Rowe Vs Wade, the Feminist Movement, like it or not ladies, we were the children born of that labor.   Despite this, it wasn’t all ‘Woman Power’ on the home front.  Now, I want to be clear that the home I grew up in was not an oppressive environment for women, there were just not a lot of opportunities for exposure to what was really out there.  As I prepared to enter college I was excited to one day pursue a career and I think my parents, particularly my mom, were excited too.  Although they never said such a thing, it felt like the acceptable career choices were for a woman to be either a nurse or a teacher.

Since I was the weak stomach type, I was forever being encouraged to become a teacher.  I have great respect and admiration for teachers.  In many ways I see myself as a teacher.   I loved the coursework for my Human Development degree, but being a teacher of little children in the formal sense of the word was a career I quickly ruled out once I became a student at Warner Pacific College.  It took me at least a year to divulge that information to my parents.  They handled it well, but I was constantly being asked what I was going to “do” with my Human Development degree, and honestly I didn’t have a clue.

I was discovering that College was a perplexing environment!  On the one hand I was attending a Liberal Arts College exploring Human Development through the lens of an institution that heavily engaged the Humanities.  This was an environment where I was discovering and exploring all sorts of things about people and life in general, the Human Condition and the correlations between all disciplines.  On the other hand I was learning that College is not Vocational School.   I was learning to be a thinker and not do a specific skill.  This was confusing to me.   I had come to College with the preconceived notion that much more of the latter would be happening. The focus was about who I would be, not what I would do.   I have come to understand and believe this is so much more important.   I am forever grateful for that experience because it has irrevocably changed who I am.  It now really bothers me on a guttural level that as a society we place such a high value on doing and not being.

So this is the place I was coming from when I met my daughter’s fresh-faced teacher across that table.  As we spoke I could see the chasm of differing opinion opening up between us.  She began to explain to me that after each student had taken all 6 of these aptitude tests they would have a direction on which to plan their high school career.  Seriously.  From the tests of 13 to 14 year old 8th graders.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think aptitude testing can be a valuable tool for identifying interests and talents in specific areas for people who have had a wide exposure to various experiences.  When I was the same age as my daughter I was certainly not prepared to take tests that would gage talent and ability, and future success in specific areas.   These test that are being taken while she is still in Junior High could affect the trajectory of her educational career!  Furthermore, I would have to say that I don’t think aptitude testing should be the focus of educating kids this age anyway!  Shouldn’t they be allowed to explore, discover, and (dare I say) mature a little bit before they are shoved into the press that will sieve out any creativity, or desires to experiment with something new?

I guess this is what happens when society has a system in place where it is of utmost importance for each one of us to become the sharpest cogs in the wheel, when it is most important to be very knowledgeable and smart about one certain thing in a very quantifiable way.  Science is like that, math is like that, philosophy, character, and thoughtfulness are not, but it does not make their discipline any less valuable.  I shudder to think of our community, our nation, and our world without all of those things.  All of those things work together to bring out the best in all of us.

Somewhere along the way I once heard someone described as being “An inch wide and a mile deep.”   When we become so focused on only the things that we are good at or have a natural aptitude for we loose creative problem solving skills, we loose patience for those who don’t think the same way we do, and we become myopic and ego centric in our views.  We become an inch wide and a mile deep. That’s not the hope I have for my children’s education.  Quite frankly it isn’t the hope I have for anyone’s child.  When we put kids into a funnel that drains into a specific bottle we limit their exposure to so many things and we change who they can become.  I see this as such a colossal tragedy.  It’s a big world out there, shouldn’t they have more than a short 14 or so years to find their place in it?  Shouldn’t we be more concerned about who they will be than what they will do?  I sure think so.

The Goalie

Sunday was my son’s first soccer game, not just first of the season, but first game ever.  He’s five so I anticipated it would be pretty cute to see him out on the field in his “you’ll grow in to it” jersey and matching socks so long that they were only inches from the hem of his shorts.  It was an exciting day and we were all petty pumped to see the game.  When we arrived to the field we found his coach and left him with his teammates.  The team warmed, up while the rest of my family and I took our places on the sidelines.   It wasn’t long when we noticed that the coach was preparing our son for the position of Goalie, which he played for the first part of the game.

The players took their positions on the soccer field and the game began.  That’s when for me the unexpected anxiety began!  I watched as player after player came toward him dribbling the soccer ball between their feet.  What I wish I could say is that as each different player approached the goal area I watched as my son swiftly and deftly defended his turf, but this was not the case.   The opposing team quickly scored a few goals.   As the wild little band of soccer players traversed the field, my son remained in his designated spot and appeared to have no interest in the action happening just feet from him.  He mostly ignored it and instead preferred to scratch his leg… wave at his dad, sisters, and me… look at the goal net…   Soccer game?  What soccer game?

I was beside myself!  Keeping things in perspective was getting harder and harder.  I restrained myself from shouting, “Get the ball!!!”  I didn’t want to make a scene and be one of ‘those’ parents who constantly coaches from the sidelines.  I didn’t want him to be embarrassed and I didn’t want to embarrass my husband and daughters.  I didn’t want him to miss the ball because he wasn’t paying attention.  I didn’t want to see him fail…  Ouch!  Did I really say that?  Did I just say that about a 5 year olds soccer game?  Boy have I got a lot to learn!

I couldn’t believe how watching the ball coming toward him gave me such a feeling of panic and as I watched the game, it began to dawn on me how much this little ball game was like parenting.  I found myself remembering the times that my mother would try to reason with me about all the typical teenage subjects.  Dating of course was a favorite concern of hers.  I remember the dread every time I had to ride alone in the car with my mom, for fear she would use the car for what I viewed as a mobile torture chamber!  If I think back to those days I can easily remember the pitch of her voice and the way her lips would thin as she spoke with determination and authority with just the slightest hint of desperation.  During the soccer game I began to realize how I was that parent now.

Watching my kids struggle is something I have done a few times over the last 14 years.  I have seen my daughters each take blows from life that would take the breath of even the greatest athlete.  I have seen them struggle with issues far more adult than their own years.  I have felt protective, but mostly for them the things they face are not things they have brought upon themselves.  This little game was just a tiny taste of what I’m sure my mother was swallowing whole on those car rides.  She could see her player in the game of life.  She had been to many a ‘soccer’ game and knew a bit about how it was played.  Seeing me in charge of guarding the goal, it was hard for her to stay on the sidelines and let me experience defeat.  It wasn’t that she didn’t have confidence in me, it was that she knew that at some point everybody misses, everybody looses focus, everybody… looses.   She knew these things because she had lost a few times too.  And I have.  And he will.   Somehow we all make it!

Preparing My Goalie

Preparing My Goalie

The Moment Anxiety Set In...

The Moment Anxiety Set In...

Maybe we should explore the Martial Arts?

Maybe we should explore the Martial Arts?

Defending the Goal!

Defending the Goal!

My Mom Likes to Sleep In!

Last night I stayed up way to late!  It was just one of those nights that I couldn’t sleep, but this morning I was so tired.  As I was trying to schlep my body down the stairs, my brain was desperate for an excuse to crawl back to my bed.  Despite the pleading from my body, it was time to get up.  Mornings are not my favorite…

For all of my parenting years this not being a ‘morning person’ has been a problem.  You see, I have been blessed with 3 curious and energetic morning children.  You might even be able to call them night owls, because frequently they were up before the sun, only for them it was morning because they had already slept enough to no longer be tired!  From my bedroom I could often hear them as they opened the cupboards looking for snacks and rummaged through the house by the light of the TVs blue screen.  My husband would refer to this a being “on patrol”.

When my daughters were going through their morning patrol phase I was single parenting.  In an effort to keep them corralled for a precious few more moments of valuable sleep I would confine them to my bedroom.  During that time, which was usually not longer than an hour, I would remind them that mommy likes to “sleep in” and they would watch a movie.  At the foot of my bed they would sit, their bare little feet dangling over the edge of the bed, while I came to terms with the fact that morning had indeed broken.   I must have really stressed to them how important these few extra minutes were to me, because they were very good at not disturbing me as long as their video played.

It is now officially Autumn, so thinking of that today as I was helping my son get ready for his day at preschool, I remembered a little story about his older sister when she was around his age.  She was a pm kindergartener at a private school where I also worked at the time.  One day upon my arrival to work her teacher caught up with me in the school hallway.  She said I had to hear what my daughter had said in class the day before in school.  Now those are words every parent wants to hear out of the mouth of their child’s teacher!  I waited with a fair amount of anxiety as she began to tell me her story.

Mrs. D was preparing the pm class for the upcoming annual field trip to the pumpkin patch.  The class was getting very excited as she told them to make sure and wear their grubby clothes, to bring their lunches, and most importantly to make sure to come to the am kindergarten class time.  She stressed to her students how important this last instruction was because if they did not arrive on time in the morning with the am class they would miss out on the field trip.  Upon realizing that this would require her to come to school early, my daughter began to cry.

In a concerned tone Mrs. D told me of how she noticed my daughter’s tears as they sat in circle time the previous afternoon and she asked her why she was crying.   She said my daughter told her that she was very sad that she was not going to be able to go to the pumpkin patch with her class.  Mrs. D was concerned because my daughter was quite broken up about this and asked her why?   A wide smile broadened across Mrs. D’s face as she told me what my daughter’s explanation was.  My daughter said, “Mrs. D, I can’t go to the pumpkin patch, because MY MOM LIKES TO SLEEP IN!”

As they say, out of the mouths of babes!

My Girl, Sports, and Life Long Fitness…

I wrote this last week, but I’m posting it here today…

Today I was inspired and proud.  I watched my little girl, and by little girl I really mean very quickly growing up youngest daughter, in action at her first ever Volleyball game.  She was fantastic!

Earlier this summer my girl and I were in the car driving somewhere when she asked me why when I was a kid I was never in sports?  This is a subject I have never been very comfortable with.   In my family of origin I was the “artsy” one while all of my siblings pursued athletics.   Most of what I told her she already had heard before…like how my brothers were both natural athletes who were gifted with physical talent, and I felt like I was clumsy and awkward, like how my sister went out for the volleyball team and the track team (She’s now a PE teacher), and a favorite family story where a 7th grade me decided to join the Pacific Junior High basketball team and when after a week when the coach announced that we were going to practice our “lay-ups” I looked at him utterly puzzled and asked the question that ended my WNBA career, “What’s a lay-up?”

That day in the car, I told her how I had always wished that I started doing something sports or fitness oriented when I was young, because maybe some kind of sports activity would have helped me establish a love for lifelong fitness.  I told her about entering the Gold’s Gym for the first time and how it took me 2 ½ years, yes years, to even step on the weight room floor!  I told her about how a few years ago I began to realize that God gave me this body to serve me!  It’s not the other way around and in order for my body to serve the needs I have it needs to be healthy and able.  Fitness is the key to that.  (We talked about food too of course, but I’m trying to stick to the exercise part of the “diet and exercise” balance.)  We talked about how physical health, for better or worse, is a lifelong journey.

My girl is a lot like me.   If I had and get a nickel for every time someone tells me how much she looks like me, I’ll be able to retire to Paris!  When she was little, her grandpa called her my little magpie.  As a parent it’s hard to watch when your child struggles with the same things you do, especially when you feel like they are some of you own personal failures.  In the car that day, I told her that I’m not looking for a “Gym Barbie” body, but a body that functions better.  Perfection isn’t what this is about, and I don’t expect that from her either.   Some days are good and some are not so good, just keep going.  Keep at it and even make friends with it.  As a tank top I work out in reads, I told her to be “a force 2B reckoned with!”  Neither of us are runners, but we made a pact that day to run in a race someday together.  I don’t know when or where that will be, but I’m still in!

Since that day in the car I have had many ups and down on my journey towards physical fitness.  Some days I feel like a triumphant warrior, and others like a fragile egg.  I hired a trainer to teach me and mentor me and that has helped.  You know what they say about putting your money where your mouth is!  I am seeing the benefits, and new challenges are ever present, but most of all I have begun to set the example I want to set for my girl.  The example that you are never to old, out of shape, inexperienced, unskilled, and that you CAN muster the confidence to try something new to make your life better.   So today I sat on the bleachers

and clapped for the Spartans, and for her, but in a way I guess, I also clapped for me and for the changes I have made that are a turning point for both of us.

That's my girl!

That's my girl!

My Son, Nemo, and Growing Up

Today I watched Finding Nemo with my 5 year old son. Well, to be more accurate, I was trying to get some “stuff” done and the movie was a vain attempt to keep him occupied! As the movie played along, I found myself getting drawn in to the little fish story once again, only this time I couldn’t help but think about how we are in the last of my little boy’s preschool years. I know… how sentimental of me! I can’t even say that ordinarily I wouldn’t be that way, but truth be told I am! But I have to say, for excuses sake ;), that I find myself surrounded by lots of other friend mommies who are sending their babes off into the big, big world for the first time, and I find myself holding on to him just a little more closely.

It’s funny this time around with my son.  Our oldest daughter is now 14, our second oldest daughter is 12 and both are completely submerged in the world of teenagers. Make-up, Cell Phone, Sports, Recreational Shopping, Dances (and the other dreaded ‘D’ word isn’t too far off)…. With the girls we are there. Sending them to Kindergarten seems like forever ago and sending them to College still seems very far off. (Surely I can live in denial for a couple more years right?) When I sent my oldest to Kindergarten I was a mess and when her sister went a year later, I was pathetic! At the time that my second daughter boarded her first big yellow school bus I was pretty certain that my “baby days” were over.  My little boy has been my bonus, the child I desperately wanted but believed I would never have, and the notion that he has been something of a second chance is not lost on me.

So today, as I joined him on the couch to enjoy the way that his little body fits just right next to mine, I swallowed hard at the lump in my throat as I listened to the little fish story. There were 2 parts of the story that really resonated with me today. The first was when Crush (the turtle) and Marlin (Nemo’s dad) are swimming the EAC (East Australian Current) and the dialogue goes like this…

Crush: Curl away, my son. Awe, it’s awesome, Jellyman.

The little dudes are just eggs. We leave ‘em on a beach

to hatch… and then coo-coo-cachoo… they find their way

back to the big ol’ blue!

Marlin: All by themselves?

Crush: (Sh)yeah.

Marlin: Bbbbbutbutbut, dude, how do you know when they’re ready?

Crush: Well, you never really know. But when they know, you’ll know, you know?

The second part takes place at the end of the movie when Mr. Ray (the Stingray) comes to pick Nemo up for the first day of school…

Mr. Ray: Hold on! Here we go! Next stop—Knowledge!

Marlin: Bye, Son! Have fun!

Nemo: Bye, Dad!

Mr. Ray swims away with Nemo on board.

Nemo: Oh! Mr. Ray, wait! I forgot something.

Nemo swims back to his Dad, panting, and quickly snuggles hard into his side for a hug.

Nemo: Love you, Dad.

Marlin: I love you, too, Son.

Marlin hugs Nemo even closer.

Nemo: Dad? You can let go now.

Marlin: (letting go quickly) Sorry…

Marlin: Now, go have an adventure!

I know my time is coming. I know soon enough we won’t be spending our days together watching movies in the afternoon, or playing on the swing set, or pretending to be spies. I will walk him to his classroom as he excitedly runs ahead of me toward his grown up little self. And when we get there I hope I can be like Marlin and with love and confidence say, “Now, go have an adventure!”

First Day of Pre School!

First Day of Pre School!

Why Blog?

So you might be wondering why I decided to start blogging?  Well, I’m kind of wondering that to…  I guess when it comes down to it, I have 3 reasons, two of them are girls, and one is a boy, all of them are amazing!  They, along with my own relationship with my mom are the inspiration for why I write.

When I think about the kind of relationship I want to have with my kids when they are grown, what I hope things will “be like”, one of the things that I often hope for is to be able to sit down to a nice meal with them, at a restaurant or in one of our homes, and be able to talk.  I mean really talk, like the kind of conversation that you have that is still going long after the plates have been cleared and the waiter is just dropping in occasionally for refills of your cup.  To talk about anything, religion, politics, their loves and losses, and have the safety and understanding that it is OK to disagree.  To have that kind of relationship with them would be a gift and it is the type of relationship that I look forward to and miss all at the same time.

I was blessed with some amazing parents!   The whole story will unfold over time, but in order to know where I’m coming from you need to know that my beautiful mom died of cancer in January 2005.  She was a truly great woman.  I can’t even adequately express how much I adored her!  I was so blessed to have such a relationship as I described with my own mom, and it is only since her passing that I have come to see just how rare that is.  I’m not saying that when she was alive I didn’t know we had a something unique, I really did, and I’m not saying that we didn’t have our disagreements, because we sure had those too, but after my loss many people have told me how their own experiences are so different.

It was in a Grief Recovery group that I began really examining this sort of parent/child relationship.  When someone you love dies there’s a lot of stuff to make sense of, and it was really important to me to keep my mom’s memory real.  I didn’t want my memory of  her to turn into some super hero-angel-princess-perfect who never really existed.  (Although sometimes that does creep in just a little.)  Someone in our group began to talk about regrets and our group facilitator invited us all to talk about the subject.  I was remembering back to some of the more unpleasant moments between my mom and I and the feeling of regret came crashing in.  That’s when the light came on.  The best way I know how to describe it is like this… a diamond.

Like the diamond I wear in my wedding ring, our relationship was beautiful.  It was full of color, it was vibrant, and it was multi-faceted, and like even the most precious diamond it had some flaws.  Did those flaws mean I didn’t love the rest of it?  Of course not!  Sometimes the easiest way for a jeweler to know if a diamond is real or a fake is by looking for the characteristics of the real thing, and that includes the  flaws.  I began to look at those regrets as part of the beautiful markings of what made our relationship real.  I don’t want this to sound like we were always at each other, because we weren’t, but in thinking about the journey ahead of me with my own children, I think it was an important thing to think about.   It won’t always be perfect, but it will be real!

Along with keeping it real, I’ve been feeling a need to keep a journal for my kids.  I’m sure you’ve heard the idea before, and most likely from an tragic story about a parent who is leaving a journal for their children after their eminent death.  What a courageous and beautiful thing to do.  This is NOT why I am doing it, but quite the opposite.  I want to share myself with them while I am here and this is just one more way to do it!

Sometimes when they are at school or when they are asleep and I’m still up, these thoughts come to me that I wish I could tell them.  Sometimes I write them down, sometimes I don’t , but in my mind they keep coming up, and always it is because I love them, and I want them to know that I love them!   Some of the most beautiful things my mom ever said to me were words that she had written, of course she followed them up with her actions, but I treasure her written words, which were usually signed “With Love, Mom”.   I want them to know, like I knew, that they will never be adored by anyone like they  are adored by their mom.  Yes, others will love them as well, but it will be different than my love for them.

So, thanks for joining me, and let the blogging begin!

My Mom and I on my Wedding Day.

My Mom and I on my Wedding Day.