Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stepping Out

This morning I achieved one of the main goals I had at the beginning of summer.  I planned to be healed enough from knee replacement to walk today with my niece, Kelli,  in honor of her husband, Adam, who died  a little over two years ago from a diabetic seizure.  He was 30 years old, and his unexpected and tragic death hit the entire family pretty hard.  We all adored Adam, as he loved Kelli with a passion that is rarely witnessed in "kids" these days.  They were a darling couple, who sadly had only 5 years of marriage, after several years of being best friends.  Adam was close to our hearts today as we walked in his honor, and gathered pledges and donations to aid further research to help others with diabetes.

I picked up my sister, Pam, a little after 7:30 and we drove to Battle Ground for the walk.  There was a pretty good crowd and our little group, "Adam's Wolf Pack", enjoyed visiting with each other and got our team photo taken just before the walk began.  (I've attempted to copy and paste it from Kelli's Facebook photos, but I can't manage it. ) I had been given permission to walk one mile from my physical therapist and my surgeon, and I warned Pam I would be slow.  But,  she was willing to "step out" with me, and it wasn't long before we were bringing up the rear of the crowd!  Kelli walked the first half with us, but when we turned around to head back to the starting line, she continued on for the rest of the walk. (She finished the  2 1/2 mile route about the time we were pulling out of the parking area!)

There were a million other things I could have been doing this morning.  I have my usual roller cart of school stuff to deal with.  Our semi annual infestation of tiny ants welcomed me yesterday morning when I got up, and after scouring all the counters in the kitchen, and putting out ant poison (sorry to any who think ill of me to kill creatures, but ants in my house I refuse to live with!) I still have to return stuff to the counters, and do some rearranging.

I thought about my post last Saturday, about doing the next thing, and knew that the walk this morning was my next thing. One of the organizers of the walk thanked everyone for choosing to spend their time helping to support diabetes research, and his talk reminded me of the "doing the next thing" concept.  Each moment we have is finite and non-returnable.  We can't take them back.  We make choices all day long on how we will use the moments we have before us.  It was right that I "Stepped Out for Diabetes" today, not only in memory of Adam, but in support of so many folks who live with the uncertainty of diabetes each day.

It was a slow walk, just as my recovery has been slow (to me!).  Because we stood around for over an hour before the walk started, I was already feeling fatigued when the walk began.  Before we arrived at the half mile turning point, I was ready to be done.  But, I kept my eyes on the finish line (when it came into view) and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  Pam asked me several times if I was ok, (I guess I was slowing down!) and I told her I was.  Because I was.  My eyes filled with tears, not because I was tired, but because I was able to walk, and I was alive, and I probably would not have thought to participate in this walk prior to Adam's death.  And I was glad I had asked co-workers, neighbors and friends to support this cause, and grateful that I was able to be present today, to "Step Out for Diabetes". It was the right "next thing" for me to do.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Saturday Surprise

It's been a really good day.  We woke to drizzle, but it didn't dampen my spirits.  I kept thinking about a blog I read last night, and the message was, "Do the next thing."  Don't get bogged down by the piles of stuff to worry about, the never ending list of things to do.  Just, do the next thing.  So that's what this drizzling Saturday has been, one step in front of the other, no sense of urgency, just, do the next thing.  Thank you Sally, (I STILL don't know how to do a link correctly!) But, I have kept this thought uppermost all day, and it's been a peaceful, and surprisingly productive, day.

Probably the highlight of the day was a surprise "skype" with our daughter, Kailyn, who is in Caen, France for the year.  Our last conversation was tearful, as she was achingly homesick and hadn't made any friends yet who had similar interests.  She is an unusual college girl who doesn't drink, loves history, museums, antiques, and exploring.  So far, the exchange students she had met were friendly, but only wanted to party!  She hung out with them at first, but was longing for a more interesting (to her) scene than a noisy pub! As we chatted, she told us of some new friends she has made, and some of the places they have visited and are planning to visit soon. It was wonderful to see her animated face, and the backdrop of her laundry hanging on a line strung across her dorm room! She is pinching her euros, and doesn't want to waste them on such mundane things such as laundry!

Today Kailyn went exploring with a few of her new friends and wrote about it on her blog, which I hope is linked correctly, here:

She is new to blogging (only three posts so far!) but seems to get the idea.  Write about what you know, what you're thinking and feeling, and post pictures!  (she's much better at picture posting than I am!)

After we "hung up" (it was bedtime for her as they are nine hours later than we are!) I scalded a big basket of tomatoes, and made a heavenly stew with lots of fresh vegetables.  While it simmered and "stewed" I read a little, caught up on email, and rested.  It was "the next thing to do" for me today.

We enjoyed the stew with freshly baked cornbread, and my "next thing to do" will be to head out for our evening walk.  David bought me a nice pedometer (which is amazingly accurate - we checked it with the car odometer) and I'm excited to say that we are up to 0.7 miles . . . without my cane!  I have exactly one week to get myself to one mile, and as I've been adding about a tenth each day, I believe I will achieve my goal.

Next Saturday I will be "Stepping Out for Diabetes", and walking with my niece and sister in honor of my niece's husband, who died of complications with diabetes a little over two years ago. This walk has been my goal over the past month or so, and I am thrilled that I'm going to accomplish it! My physical therapist has limited me to just one mile, and made me promise to bring my cane (just in case).

It's been a lovely Saturday, due to my encounter last night with those simple little words, "Do the next thing".  I haven't fretted over stuff that didn't get done, I've calmly put one foot in front of the other, and just concentrated on one thing at a time.  This is new for me, and it made for a day filled with peace. What a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gone, But Not Forgotten

1951 ~ When I was the apple of my parent's eye(s)!

I had a mother who read to me.

Sandi, David, Pam (1957)

I walked in the front door and immediately felt the echoing emptiness.  Where was everyone?  My dad was on vacation, and had been working on the rock wall he was building in front of the house.  It wasn't so unusual for him to be gone, as he might have been at the quarry, getting more rocks.  I loved going with him to pick them out, and wished he had waited until I got home from school, if that's where he was. We, my dad and I, had made many trips to the rock quarry, loading the trunk of our 1956 Chevy. It was September 15, school had been in session for a few days.  I remember it was warm and sunny.  My parents were planning a short "second honeymoon" for later in the week.

But, wait, Where's Momma? David?  Pam? I'd never come home from school to an empty house before.  My mom was always there, and so was my little brother, David.  And while I should have been walking home with my little sister, Pam, even then, as a 4th grader, I felt put upon to "take care" of her, and I usually dawdled along with my friends and let her get home ahead of me. After all, I had been walking home alone since I was in kindergarten, and it was 1960.  Kids walked home alone all the time.

We lived in a dinky little house, and it didn't take me long to check the kitchen, garage, backyard, and three bedrooms.  Strange . . . where was everyone? I went into Pam's and my bedroom and looked around for clues.  (I was voraciously into Nancy Drew!)

After a few minutes, Pat, our neighbor across the street, came in the house and told me that she had my brother and sister. She didn't tell me where my dad and mom were, and I started feeling a sense of panic, but followed her back across the street.  Something was wrong, terribly, terribly wrong, and I heard the tightness in Pat's voice.

I don't remember what happened next.  I don't remember if my dad came home that night.  I don't remember where we slept, or what we ate, or who we were with.  I don't remember much of 4th grade, who my teacher was, or who was in my class.  I don't have a class picture of that year.  My dad probably forgot to pay for them.

What I do remember is the morning my dad finally told me that my mom had died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage.  It was a couple days later and I remember every detail of our conversation.  He asked me to go back in their bedroom, and while he talked to me, I stared at my mom's high school graduation picture that was on her dresser.  I willed myself not to cry.  After all, I could hear my dad telling me that he was counting on me to be brave and help him with my little sister and brother.  He needed me to be strong.  Even at nine, almost ten years old, I could tell that he was falling apart.  He didn't know what to do.  He really needed my help.

He told me that he was taking us kids over to Kay's house for the day.  Kay was our babysitter, and I couldn't figure out why we were going to Kay's house, because it was a school day, and she was in high school.  Dad said we would be staying with Kay's mom.

I'm not totally sure if I understood at the time that my mom's funeral was that day, or I learned about it later.  My dad and grandma (my mom's mom) had felt that because we were so young, it would be better for us to not be traumatized by going to the funeral.  Of course, after years of therapy and talking with my dad and grandma, we all know that wasn't the best choice, at least for me, and probably my sister.  Anyway, there was never any closure, and I don't really remember anyone talking about my mom after she died.

The day after the funeral, we packed up the car and drove out to see my parents best friends.  Their kids were our best friends too, but it was a sad day.  I remember swinging on the swings, and talking but I don't remember what we said.  Later, Daddy and we three kids all drove to the beach house in Seaview, where we had spent most of our family vacations.  Now I realize, it was supposed to be just my dad and mom, for their second honeymoon trip.  My heart still breaks for the loss my dad must have felt.

I have some memories of that year.  I remember going back to school, and no one mentioning that my mom had died.  I remember we had three different live in housekeepers.  I'm not sure why they didn't last, but I have a pretty good idea.  My dad worked long hours, and left the house around 4:30 am to drive to Portland, load his bread truck, then drive his route, which was a long one.  He didn't get home until about 5:30 each evening.  At least I think he came home.  I'm not really sure.  A few years ago he told me that he felt so awful about that year, because he couldn't stand to be home with us kids, because seeing us made him miss my mom so much.  To this day, my dad will tear up when we talk about her.  My mom and dad had been avid square dancers, and I think my dad still went dancing because their friends were his support.

What I remember most about that year is my dad waking me up every morning before he left for work, so I could comfort my little brother, who cried whenever my dad would leave.  He was almost four when our mom died, and poor little guy, he didn't know what to think.  When my dad started getting ready for work, David would wake up and sob for him not to go.  I would cuddle with him in my parents bed, and we'd both fall back asleep for awhile. (My brother's crib was moved into my dad's bedroom, because our series of "housekeepers" were given his bedroom.) My sister, Pam, and I had already shared a bedroom, so that didn't change.

It's funny how something so dramatic can leave so little in the form of images.  I have such a hard time recalling events of that year.  I don't remember my birthday, or Christmas.  I have vague memories of spending time with various relatives, in particular my aunt Annie Lee.  I think it was after Christmas, maybe during the vacation time, and while we were at her house she "found" a Barbie doll for each of us (Pam and I) in a dresser.  I associate Barbie with the year my mom died, even though I think the doll came out the year before.
This is the last photo I could find with my mom in it.
It appears to be my brother's 2nd birthday, which would make it September, 1958. 

I wish I had more recent photos, but I guess my dad didn't take a lot of photos in those days.  Every year about this time, I remember that sad time when I went from beloved daughter to abandoned child.  Losing my mom has colored my life, and for a long, long time, I was a bitter, angry person.  

Sometimes I feel that my healing truly began one day while I held my baby daughter, Jessica, just a few days after she was born, and sobbed my grief out to the mom I didn't have.  I wanted to share this miracle baby with my mom.  I wanted a four generation picture with my grandma.  I wanted, wanted, wanted . . . that which I couldn't have.  

As I wept, I vowed to record my love for Jessica, so if (and when) I was gone, she would have something tangible to hang onto.  She would have my words, and know that she was loved and cherished.  

I have a shelf full of journals, kept from before Jess was born, and I've written before about when she read them last February.  (I'd link that post, but I don't have a clue how to do it!) 

I've been blessed with two daughters, more than I ever expected, and I've written my love for them both, in those journals on the shelf.  I've loved them and raised them from day one, with the knowledge that we never know when our last moment will be.  

I never had a fight with my mom, or got mad at her for butting into my teenage life, or yelled at her to leave me alone.  I never told her I hated her, and I'm not sure if I ever told her that I loved her.  But I did, and I still do. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wipe Out

Finally tonight I have found the time to catch up on reading blogs.  I have felt literally wiped out, used up, worn to a frazzle, oh, and exhausted!  I want to write a thoughtful, coherent, connecting post, but I'm not sure I've got it in me.

It seems that the past three weeks have gone by in a blur.  Preparing for the new school year, cramming nine more desks into my classroom (and the bodies to go with them!) new faces, new names to learn, getting to know 27 kids and what makes them tick.  Planning lessons, new procedures (new principal) different expectations . . . What about me? I whimper pathetically to myself.

Oh, and now that summer finally arrived in our neck of the woods, my side of the building has no air conditioning at work.  It's been 80-85 degrees in the classroom all week, and it isn't pretty. We received the news today that maintenance has discovered what is wrong with it, but they must call a contractor.  It should be fixed in two weeks.  By then, we'll have our usual fall weather and we won't need the air until next June, maybe.

My exercise routine has flown out the window.  Every day I bring home a rolling cart full of school stuff, and between getting Kailyn off to France, and worrying about her arrival, I have mostly been rolling that cart back and forth and only occasionally finding the bottom of it.

It wasn't until yesterday afternoon that I found Kailyn online and we connected.  I saw her name and one word, "Mommy?" And I wept with relief.  I had been so worried, because it wasn't like her to not attempt to contact me when she arrived at the university.  It turns out that she had borrowed a friends phone and texted me on Wednesday, but my new "smart" phone had turned itself off (although it looked like it was on to me!) and I couldn't receive or send calls and/or messages.  By the time I figured out something was seriously wrong with it, I had at least discovered she was alive! I cried at the phone store when the gal got it working and I was able to read Kailyn's text (sent a day and a half before!).

We've set up a time to skype tomorrow, and Kailyn found time to write a post on her first ever blog.  Luckily I called Jessica tonight to ask a computer question and she said, "Did you read Kailyn's blog yet?"  Nope, I didn't even think to see if there was one! I don't think Kailyn meant it to be funny, but as I read it aloud to David, we had to laugh about her "getting on the right train, going the wrong direction" but eventually finding her way from Paris to Caen!

She is making friends and now that she has internet, (it took two days for her connection to work) I think we will all be able to cope with the distance easier.  I slept for the first time since she left for about four hours last night and that felt pretty good.  Probably helped my disposition a little, too.

As for school, despite the fact that I have more desks and bodies than my room comfortably holds, it's been a good start, maybe the best in years.  Amazingly, there haven't been any behavior issues, yet.  The kids are genuinely nice to each other and helpful to me. (I'm still hobbling more than I'd like to be, and even had to resort to using the cane again on the long treks down the hall.) I truly like all my students, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful year.

Tonight, I can barely keep my fingers moving on the keyboard.  I am bone tired, and ready for sleep. Remember the song, "Wipe Out" by the Beach Boys? (I think?) I've been going at this crazy, can't keep up with life pace for what seems like ages, and tonight, I have wiped out.  The rolling cart full of writing journals, and reading inventories, and math tests and science lesson plans will have to wait for tomorrow.  I'm dragging my weary body down the hall to bed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Long Good Bye

Kailyn, my baby, left for France this afternoon.  She will be in an immersion program at Universite' de Caen, in Normandy. She's very excited, as she should be.  We plan to join her as a family in June 2012, as soon as school is out.  That part is pretty exciting.  But, it's going to be a long nine months for this momma! We had a wonderful long weekend with the four of us, something that happens rarely around here.  Today, within the hour after we left Kailyn at the airport, Jessica also left.  We won't see her until Thanksgiving.  It's just David, Nikki (the dog) and I, once again.

Kailyn has been in the air for almost two hours now, due to arrive about the middle of the night, our time.  There were a few tears at the airport, but they've been flowing with regularity from my eyes for days.  When we got home, Jessica brought from Kailyn's bedroom an envelope for each of us.  Kailyn had written us letters sometime before she left, and told Jess where to find them.  As we each silently read our own, all three of us were wiping our eyes.  I wish I had thought to write a letter to Kailyn and tuck it in her suitcase, but I didn't.  I texted her to tell her thanks and that I loved her one more time before her plane left.

We started saying "good-bye" to Grandpa on Saturday morning. Friday night, the four of us drove to Newport to visit him one last time before the girls left for their perspective colleges and Grandpa left for Arizona.                                                                                     
Jessica & Grandpa
Kailyn & Grandpa

(Right about now I am really frustrated because I can't get these two photos on the same line!)  Anyway, Grandpa was very happy to see his granddaughters, and probably David and I, too.  We had a wonderful day seeing the sights and hanging out together.  We left Newport about 3:00, then drove home, via Tillamook, (not the quickest route!) as Jess had a burning desire to visit the Cheese Factory, and we all felt like we needed an ice cream cone!
Kailyn snoozing on Jessica's shoulder!
The girls in the car, after stopping for ice cream!

We had a "Au Revoir & Hasta Luego" party for Kailyn Monday afternoon.  We had a ton of food, and a steady stream of friends and family came to hang out and send her off with good wishes.  We laughed a lot, and her boyfriend's French dad helped her with determining the correct adapter for her "plug ins" and the right train to take from the airport to the university.  Our neighbor loaned her a money belt type thing to keep her passport, visa and money in safely.  Her uncle brought over some euro's he had left over from a previous trip. She was all set to go!
Kailyn's best friend, Becca, and boyfriend, Nick, sharing a laugh!
The Three Amigos

Tearful good bye to Becca, close friend since first grade.

Today Nick came over for our last family breakfast, Kailyn's choice, turkey bacon and french toast.  We took more pictures, then headed for the airport around 11:00.  (As I am having fits getting photos uploaded, I am not adding anymore.  It's taken me over an hour to manage to get the ones I've got!)

Everyone forgot to bring a camera to the airport (well, I didn't forget, I accidentally left it in the car, but didn't know that until we got back to the car and it was too late!)  We took numerous photos with our phones, but I spent about an hour trying to load them onto my laptop and while I can see the photos, when I try to insert them there are just words.  I've given up!  

There were more tears, repeated hugs, and finally we let her go through security.  Nick received a text from Kailyn after she was clear, which he relayed to us as we were still in the car driving home!

Now, I wait, pray, and wait some more until I hear from her, hopefully when I get up tomorrow morning for work.  She has set up a blog, and it will be fun to follow her as she experiences this wonderful year of discovery in France. 

My blogging friends will likely hear about my worries and anxieties with my girl about a billion miles from home!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Ok ~ Seven Things You Don't Know About Me . . . maybe

Well, I have been graciously given the "Versatile Blogger Award" by Dee, at "coming home to myself".  As you can see, the first thing you may not know about me is that I don't know how to create a link! When I attempted to click on the "link" button, this is what I got:

So, here are seven things you don't know about me, and probably wish you didn't know!  I hope I don't lose all my new blogger friends. (This would be a sad face, but I can't seem to make one.  Why doesn't :( work like it does in Word??)

1.  I am hopelessly technologically challenged.  Even when I finally figure something out, I usually forget how before I attempt to do it again.  I've been trying for 10 years to create my grading sheets in Excel.  Still haven't figured it out.  People have shown me how, but I forget by the time I sit back down at my computer.  Hopeless, I am.  I took a class about eight years ago, but it obviously was little help.

2.  While I love to hike, I am deathly afraid of heights.  I absolutely can't be on the edge of anything.  I don't trust railings above about four feet.  I was a constantly panicked mom whenever my children climbed on things.  My youngest is a rock climber, but I've only seen her in pictures.  That's enough to freak me out. She showed me a video of her bungee jumping.  She wisely didn't tell me ahead of time.

3.  I am a manic collector of sewing memorabilia.  I have about ten toy sewing machines, (various models and brands . . . all old) boxes and containers full of old sewing notions, two treadle sewing machines, and two regular machines (both old).  I have floor to ceiling shelves on two full walls in my sewing room full of fabric and patterns and notions.  There's more in the garage and in the attic.

4.  Sometimes I'm fearful that I'm a hoarder.  I can't throw away anything my children drew or wrote or created in any medium.  I have two trunks full of pictures of people I don't know (but I think they're relatives!) Some are slides my grandparents had . . . can't throw them away . . . don't know what's on them.  (They died over 25 years ago, you'd think I'd have looked at them by now!)  I have boxes of old, molding, falling apart books that belonged to my great-grandparents.  One book shelf is all old books that are in decent shape that belonged to the same great-grandparents.  (I think I read one of them once) Every card my children or my husband (and most from friends, too) is in my house . . . somewhere. Sadly, not all in the same place.  Some are under my bed in bins, some in boxes in the garage, I found a few in my sock drawer when I sorted it out last Monday from longer ago than I care to admit.

5.  I hardly ever listen to music.  I love all kinds of music, but I also like quiet.  I would listen to music in my car, but one of the speakers makes a very disturbing noise and it makes it hard to enjoy.  We took the van in to the Toyota dealer not long after we purchased it (eleven years ago, used) and they said they fixed the speaker, but they didn't.  I just never got around to taking it back.  We talk about it often, especially when we're driving to the beach or something and gee, we'd really like to hear some tunes.  The girls and I have ipods, but that isn't very nice for my husband.

6.  I kill houseplants.   I usually forget about them, and then they get all dried out, so I over water them, which usually kills them over time.  My husband takes care of our houseplants.  Oh, I'm doing alright with a bamboo that was given to me this summer.  Well, we'll see.

7.  Ok, last one.  I gained 10 pounds this summer while I was sitting and laying around waiting for my knee to heal.  This is on top of many more pounds that I shouldn't be dragging around with me.  Anyway, I bought a dress I just loved for the first day of school.  I went to put it on Wednesday morning and I couldn't button the front.  Talk about setting my day off!

Now I can't remember the other part of what I was supposed to do in order to accept my Versatile Blogger Award.  I think I was supposed to link other blogs, but I don't know how to do it correctly.

Dee, I hope you forgive me for not being able to complete my mission.  I also hope you don't regret passing this award on to me!