Not Knowing You Hit the Lottery Until You Lose the Ticket

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One of the things I’ve learned as a writer in this social media world is that the title of your blog should always tell the reader what they’re in for.  Y’all, you have no idea.  But I so truly feel today that I hit the biggest lottery in the world and was totally ignorant about the victory until I lost the ticket.

My dad was sick for a long time, and when the end came, he was in hospice.  People came in and out to see him, and through much of it, I waited in the small waiting room across the hall from his room.  I wanted all of the people that knew him had a chance to say their goodbyes, but it gave me the unique opportunity to hear their conversations as they went in and out of his room.  People loved my dad.  He was well respected, would be desperately missed by more than just us, and I heard time and again as friends and family drifted in and out of that room what a great man my dad was.

My dad the day I got married

My dad the day I got married

The same types of conversations were had at his funeral.  People approached me and talked about what a great man my dad was.  When you’re a kid, you always think you’re dad is a great man, but hearing how much he impacted the lives of others gave me a whole new perspective on just what an incredible guy he was.

My mom’s passing was much more unexpected than my dad’s.  Because she was on life support, there really wasn’t an opportunity for anyone to go in and tell her goodbye.  On her last day, when they roused her enough for us to talk to her, we were able to tell her how much we loved her, but the same opportunity wasn’t afforded to any of her friends.

My amazing mom

My amazing mom

She didn’t want a funeral.  My mom felt like she would be saving us the pain of having to greet people at a time I think she believed should be private.  But this afternoon, I had a chance to be around people my mom worked with.  “She was good people.” “You’re mom was awesome.” “Anna was the best.”  They couldn’t say enough good things about her.  My mom was loved, respected by the people she supervised, and as one of her coworkers told me through his tears, she was an amazing and incredible friend.

I loved my parents.  I knew we were lucky to have them, but I didn’t know how lucky we were.  It was both a moment of tremendous pride and incredible sadness to hear how beloved my mom and dad were to those people I didn’t know very well.

I wish I’d found that lottery ticket.  I had a treasure way greater than I ever imagined.

First Mother’s Day Without A Mom

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I haven’t written specifically about my mom since December 13th – nine days before she died.  It was the day after her surgery for a bowel obstruction, and it was the first time in all the years my mom bounced between being really sick and just sick enough to function that we heard words you never want to hear.  “Grim”.  “Very serious”.  “Brutally honest”.

Dram and Grace POR Christmas Tree

Those are the words that enter my head as I approach the first Mother’s Day I’ll live through without my mom.  No flowers to send that she’ll bitch about because they cost too much.  No potted gardenia that she’ll bitch about because she’ll kill it.  No perfume, no jewelry, no pajamas (which, I think, was the only real gift she ever “let” us give her without complaining about how much it cost or how much she didn’t need them).  No mom.

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No mom.  My father referred to himself as an orphan after the last of his two parents died, and it used to hurt my heart to hear him say it – but my heart is hurt.  It was hard enough to lose my dad, but without my mom, I do feel like an orphan – even as a grown woman.  There is no one to call when my kids do something amazing.  Or amazingly awful.  There are no more calls from someone asking me for a recipe for a dish that she taught ME to cook years ago.  When work is tough or life feels hard, things only a mom can make seem better, I have to figure out how to get through it without her.

Grace and Dram

I am celebrating my mom and Mother’s Day by surrounding myself with her favorite people (her grandchildren – she absolutely adored them) and the person who used to refer to himself as her favorite (my husband – she barely tolerated him).  I doubt we’ll talk too much about her, because barely five months after she died, it still makes me cry.  But on Monday, I’ll know that I survived another first without her.  My first Mother’s Day without my Mom.  May they get easier from here on out.

Anna and Mom

In the Blink of an Eye

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That’s how fast life happens.  It’s how quickly life changes.  When we are least expecting it, in the blink of an eye, the things we thought we were sure of are gone.

Grace and Dram

My mother has had some very significant health problems these past five years.  She has been through multiple surgeries, and she has seen the inside of too many hospital rooms.  There are days when I think she might be telling me stories of old childhood friends and the fun times they’ve had, when really, if I actually pay attention, she’s recounting tales of the nurses on various floors, in various wings, at various hospitals, and how they helped her get through some of the roughest roads.

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I sat silently this afternoon while the nurse in ICU tended to my mom.  She emptied containers of fluids that were too full, measuring each with deft precision, taking notes on her gloved hands that could be later transferred to the medical records she was keeping on my mom.  I watched as she drew blood for more lab work through the port in my mom’s neck, talking to her the whole time, patting her hand, wiping hair that wasn’t there out of my mom’s eyes.  She put a thermometer in my mom’s mouth, letting her know she was doing it ahead of time, gleefully announcing a normal temperature reading.  Vitals were checked, IV bags replaced, blankets straightened.

Dram and Grace POR Christmas Tree

In the blink of an eye, the nurse was gone.  We were left sitting, watching my mom’s chest heave up and down with each breath of forced air from the ventilator.  Life support.  Without it, she would be gone.  She appeared every now and again to shiver, but in the blink of an eye, that movement ended, leaving us to wonder if maybe she was expressing some discomfort or if her reaction was purely involuntary.

After 8 hours of surgery on Friday, my mom is gravely ill, with words like, “grim”, “brutally honest”, “seriously ill”, and “advance directive” being tossed in our direction.  I last spoke with her on Thursday.  It was a quick, blink of an eye conversation, one that ended with “I’ll call you later.”  She was in pain, a doctor was coming in, I was taking a kid somewhere.  There wasn’t time for much to actually be said.

Now, I wish I had been able to say it all.

Because in the blink of an eye, life changes.  And the things left unsaid remain unsaid.

I can do nothing now but pray I get to say them.

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B is for Borrowers

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A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775c B

I was an avid reader as a kid – anything and everything I could get my hands on, I read.  Thousands of books have crossed these eyes, but some “stuck”. They haven’t stuck necessarily because they were my favorite, but because their stories seem to have come to life in my adulthood.  None has rung more true than The Borrowers.

I’m convinced.  They live in my home, prowl room to room as I sleep, and mess up all of my best laid plans for a smooth morning departure.

Socks? Fuggedaboudit. There has not been a matched pair of socks in my house since 1997.  Why the Borrowers can’t borrow in pairs is beyond me, but as they say, variety is the spice of life and the bane of my laundry doing existence.

Signed permission slips? I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to reprint a permission slip I KNOW I signed, I KNOW I put into a folder, which I KNOW a kid put into a backpack. The Borrowers walls must be papered with my signature and my children’s emergency contact information.

Need a hairbrush in my house? Good luck. You would think an item we use every day at least once a day would be off limits for a Borrower.  You would think they’d be afraid to pinch something we could readily have our hands on because of the frequent need.  Not so.  If I had a dime for every hairbrush that goes missing in this house, I could probably keep us in stock with hairbrushes for a week. Maybe two.

Borrowers3

It’s always the books you least expect that come back and haunt you. I never would have thought as a young girl, mesmerized by the prospect of tiny people living under my floors, that they would eventually become the nightmares that disturb my sleep.

Now where is that yellow sock?

30 Days of Thanks – Day 19 – Thankful for Potato Salad

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I asked my mother one day for her potato salad recipe.  It was the one she used, which was the one my grandmother used, and as far as I know, it could be a recipe that has spanned even more generations in my family.

One of the ingredients used in the recipe, according to my mother, was one capful of white vinegar.  This was for five pounds of potato salad.

Every time I made the salad, following precisely what my mother had told me to do, she would tell me there was something wrong.  I could never figure it out.  I used the same brands of mayonnaise and bacon she did.  I used the potatoes she recommended and sliced my celery so thin, it only had one side.  I sprinkled with celery seed.  What was I missing?

One holiday, my sister Bean was at my house, and yet again, I was giving my mother’s potato salad recipe a go.  I cooked, I peeled, I chopped, I assembled.  Then it was time for the cap of vinegar.  I carefully measured, not one drop more or less than exactly one capful.

Bean looked at me.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m putting the vinegar in the potato salad.”

“That’s not enough.”

“Yes it is.  Mommy said she uses one cap of vinegar.”

“Well, yeah, she uses the cap, but she pours the vinegar into the cap and lets it drizzle over the sides of the cap onto the whole potato salad.  She probably puts a good quarter of a cup in there.”

……….

You can see now why I will never be a good cook.

But aside from my failing to understand that “one cap” meant “one quarter of a cup”, I love the fact that I now know how to make this potato salad.  I hope one day, one of my kids will want to learn how to make it.

Food is one of the ways we stay connected to previous generations.  I consistently put onto my family’s table food that came from my mom, one of my grandmoms, or even an aunt or uncle.  And as I prepare it, I feel the connection.  I watch my hands chop onions for clam sauce, and I can almost see my mom’s hand, when I was a kid, doing it for her sauce.  As I mix my crab cakes, I can remember my Aunt Annie making her’s, and it sends a flood of memories of her over me, wrapping me up like a warm blanket.

Today, I am thankful for potato salad.  And for the women in my life who have shared this connections with me.

My mom, my cousin Dolly, my sister, and my daughters - along with my stepdad

 

Mother Knows Best – 30 Days of Thanks, Day 3

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When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality.  It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no.  You’re going to get it anyway. – Erma Bombeck

Today, my husband posted a picture of me on Facebook that I hate.  It was taken last Christmas, up 40 pounds from my lowest post gastric bypass weight.  I wore all black, as you do when you’re trying to conceal rolls of flab, and when the pictures came back from the photographer, I realized I discovered what Jabba the Hutt would look like had they bothered to clothe him.

My husband looked for people to tell him how awesome the photo was.  He loves the picture.  But my husband, who spends 23.7 hours of his day thinking of ways to “get lucky”, isn’t the most impartial judge of how good I look.  He’s quite certain – as am I – that telling me I look like a clothed Jabba the Hutt would mean that 23.7 hours of that particular day would have been a complete waste.  But he got several people to say that yes, I did indeed look good in that picture.

Then he asked my mom.  I believe this is her exact quote, “No, it’s not a good picture!  It shows how fat she is again!  I don’t know why you would spend all that money to have surgery only to get fat.  Is it time for birthday cake?”

I kid you not.

So as we enter the 3rd day of thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mom.  What? you ask.  Someone says something like that and you are thankful?  Yeah.  I am.  Because it’s always my mom who will be honest with me.  If I ask her opinion or her advice, I’m going to get it, followed by, “But you’re going to do what you want to do anyway.”  But she is honest, and even if the words sting, they are the words I need to hear.

My mother is also an awesome grandmother.  She is so generous with my kids, she treats them all the same (although I suspect she may have a favorite), and even at their worst, she loves them as if they are at their best.

My mom has bounced back from some awful stuff.  She’s suffered tragic losses and battled life threatening illness.  But she pulls no punches, loves us with everything she is, and honestly, she’s just bad ass.

I am thankful today for my mom.  We were very lucky to get the mom we did.

Are YOU Mom Enough? Time Magazine Puts Themselves Back on the Map at Mom’s Expense

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If you haven’t seen the Time Magazine cover yet, you’ve probably been on a remote desert island, with your head in the sand, in a cave, where you never see the light of day.  With one picture, Time Magazine has brought print media back in the public eye, after years of dwindling readership and lackluster subscription.  But who is the butt of this joke?

The article, which I won’t go into, regards attachment parenting, where extended breastfeeding is more common than among other “sects” of moms.  There are qualities of attachment parenting that I completely embrace, and my own children benefitted from co-sleeping and some of the other tenets subscribed to by parents who practice this type of parenting.

But I feel bashed.  Am I Mom enough?  I feel like this cover – and this article – is telling me that if my three year old was getting milk the old fashioned way (in a cup, with an Oreo), I was somehow failing as a Mom.

Let’s for a moment disregard the fact that I bathed my daughters, dressed them, held their hair back when they puked, wiped hinies on floors of places I was afraid to step on because potty emergencies  know no hygiene.  I’ve nursed them back to health from ear infections, strep throat, UTI, URI, and a whole slew of other medically disgusting initials.  I’ve sewed patches on a girl scout vest, stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to put finishing touches on a poster or a diorama, attended school plays, sat through dance recitals where my kid was the last class dancing, and driven hours to dance competitions.

But.

My oldest daughter was fed exclusively formula for her entire life.  My middle daughter was given breastmilk until she was only six months old.  My youngest daughter was only about three months old when she switched to formula.

And I feel like this article is trying to make me feel like I’m not Mom enough.

Well, damn.  I’m not sure I feel compelled to buy Time Magazine.  Now or later.

Getting Back To School Over a Mountain of Paperwork

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Remember the good old days?  We were all out to save the planet – remember that?  We were recycling, conserving energy, having our bills and bank statements sent electronically to save paper, and stopping the junk mail to save trees.  Remember back then?

I have just printed out nearly 50 sheets of back to school paperwork – between Eilis, Granuaile, and myself.  My printer has waved a white flag, and the guy selling toner down at the office supply store just ordered a brand new BMW.  Oh, and there’s a group of conservation enthusiasts chained to my dogwood tree out front with signs that say, “You Won’t Take This One Without a Fight”.

Let’s not even talk about the writer’s cramp I’m about to get while I fill out all this paperwork!

Is there no way to order a Seat Sack online for Granuaile?  She goes to Catholic school, for pete’s sake, they have my bank account number on file in case I skip out on the $11 bucks because the school doesn’t take PayPal or credit cards for this particular item.  And while I’m at it, what IS this particular item?

There are lunch order forms, emergency contact forms, parent volunteer forms, school supplies which can only be purchased from school order forms (Really?  Just tack that extra $10 on my tuition and give my kid the supplies on the first day.  You already know they need them – you typed it out on a form to tell me!), and even a form from the PE teacher that I have to sign that says my child will be exercising in PE class.

Where is the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor in support of fewer back to school forms?  They could call it “Mom’s Gone Nutty” – vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with nuts, spiked with tequila.  That should keep me unconscious until next year’s school forms have to be filled out.

The Days That It Sucks Being a Mom

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Remember when you held your brand new baby in your arms for the first visit to the pediatrician’s office, and the friendly, kind, and gentle doctor you so carefully selected after dozens of interviews with other qualified doctors turns into some sadistic maniac who wants to pierce the tender flesh of your infant to get a blood sample?  And then he wants to shoot her up with some sort of vaccine that you know, despite more than 40 years of FDA scrutiny, could still cause children’s ears to fall off or something equally as awful.  And you held it in as long as you could, but there you are, at the front desk, checking out, with tears quietly smudging the ink that lets the secretary know when you need to come back.

Those are the kinds of days when it sucks to be a Mom.  The days where, despite your best efforts and intentions, someone hurts your child.

Unfortunately, the sucky days don’t end when the vaccines are done.  The boo-boos get bigger, and based on my experience, they aren’t as quick to heal as they are when your kids are small.

So even though I could jump for joy over the fact that my daughter’s version of Prince Charming (who from this point forward shall be referred to by the name I called him – Prince Are You Freakin’ Kidding Me?), seeing her hurt puts a damper on my celebration.  Let the air out of the balloons; put the noise makers away; throw the cake in the freezer.  I’m actually not sure who cried harder over the break up – Brighid, because she broke up with Prince Are You Freakin’ Kidding Me; or me, hurt to the core at seeing her cry.

As much as I love the job, there are just days that it sucks to be a mom.  When you realize you can’t protect them from every bump, bruise, and broken heart, it breaks YOUR heart.

Thank goodness for Ben and Jerry.

 

 

Sometimes, It’s in the Minutiae

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And sometimes, it’s not.

I’m freaking out studying hard for this semester’s A&P II class – in case you haven’t followed my blog or my Tweets to know how messed up this is making me.  One of the things that I’m finding is that I focus way too much on the small stuff – and that’s not really all there is.  If the professor gives us a test, he doesn’t necessarily want to know a cell’s mother’s maiden name, or what the cell’s friends called her when she was a bitty, baby cell.  Sometimes, he wants an answer like “the foot”.

But I sometimes have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.

I went to pick Granuaile up today so she could look at her new haircut in the mirror (the above photo is not of the new haircut, because her mother is a slacker who couldn’t be bothered to whip the camera out).  She squirmed and struggled and begged me not to pick her up.  At one point, she did that jelly body thing – you know, where they just dissolve in a pool of jelly, so that you can’t get a good grip on them?

What the hell?

I get online.  I research fear of heights.  What causes it?  At what age does it manifest itself?  What trauma could have occurred without my knowledge or without me realizing it was trauma?

And after a good long time researching, I went to Granuaile.  The conversation went something like this.

Mother of the Year Me: Granuaile, stand up on the sofa.

Granuaile: She doesn’t say anything, she just stands up on the sofa.

Me: I don’t say anything, I just pick her up.

Granuaile: She still doesn’t say anything, but wraps her arms around me and lets me carry her to see her hair in the bathroom mirror.

Me: Granuaile, how come you didn’t let me pick you up earlier?

Granuaile: Because if you dropped me, I’d get hurt.

Me: But I didn’t drop you this time.

Granuaile: No, you didn’t.  But before, I thought you might.

Oh.  So there was no major trauma.  There was no horrifying memory she has from infancy that torments the child.  She didn’t witness someone fall to their death from a height of – how tall am I? – 5’8″, and it scarred her for life.

I only looked irresponsible for that minute.

Good to know.