Thursday, December 31, 2009


EG just called me a nerd. Can a mom be a nerd? Is there a discrepancy between the two--kind of a never-the-twain-shall-meet thing? If you parent, can you be a nerd? Do nerds marry?

Which led me to my next quest--I went to and checked the definition of "nerd."

A person who is extremely smart. Most have an obession with some sort of sci-fi saga but some don't. Often rediculed (sic) for being to (sic) dad gom smart. NOT obessed with computers (those are geeks). That one kid who's in your innercircle that all ways (sic) makes the best grades and feels out of wack if they miss an airing of Firefly.

Okay, so what's Firefly? And should I believe an online dictionary which improperly spells "ridicule" or doesn't use the adverbial form of "too?" And "all ways?" Ack.

Which led me to Merriam-Webster online. The definition there is "an unstylish, unattractive, or socially inept person, especially: one slavishy devoted to academic or intellectual pursuits."

Um--no, thank you. And I won't even mention the colon misuse.

Wikipedia, which a true nerd would view with some derision, says, "Nerd is a term often bearing a derogatory connotation or stereotype, that refers to a person who passionately pursues intellectual activities, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests that are age-inappropriate rather than engaging in more social or popular activities. Therefore, a nerd is often excluded from physical activity and considered a loner by peers, or will tend to associate with like-minded people." Wikipedia goes on to suggest that being a nerd is being "hyperwhite."

Guess not.

So, since I am trying to occupy my brain while Rocky reads The Picture of Dorian Gray, a book which he told me he was reading last night at eleven o'clock when his lights were supposed to be out and when in reality he was playing with Matchbox cars, and which I am now lovingly giving him PLENTY of opportunity to pursue since he was so "dad gom" interested in it (HA), I noodled around a bit on Wikipedia (I know, I have fallen so far), and I found this definition: A Public Intellectual can be defined as somebody who uses his or her intellect to work, study, reflect, speculate on or ask and answer questions about a wide variety of ideas. Though the term 'public intellectual' has traditionally remained non gender specific it continues historically to be a role predominantly occupied by men.

Supposedly, the female public intellectuals were strongly involved in feminism, which lessened their respect for being intellectuals.

I guess am a feminist--I had a subscription to Ms. Magazine when I was in high school, for crying out loud. However, I don't dislike men, nor do I loudly proclaim the injustices which I perceive in the roles of women--I just IGNORE them and do what's right for me. I think if all women did the same, there would be no question that we are all equal.

So, I guess I am not a nerd. I am not a public intellectual, nor am I a feminist. I am a woman. And a mom. And a human being. And if you look up "human being" on Wikipedia, you will see that there is a richness and depth of information on humans.

Works for me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Last year, at the end of season clearance sales, the kids and I bought some Christmas ornaments. One reads "peace" in a nice script, and the other "HOPE" in all capitals. Peace was hung on the tree early, along with the rest of the decorations. We had peace this year.

However, I found HOPE in my bedroom, in a box of odds and ends, and hung it on the tree Christmas evening. It is on a branch which I can see from my place at the kitchen table, now canting slightly downhill to the left. However, I know now that we can get through the holidays.

My friend Wendy, a woman I greatly admire because of her faith and wisdom, lost both her parents this year--a double whammy, if you forgive the vernacular. Yesterday, she discussed navigating a new course through the holidays. It makes a good analogy, as we are all on this journey, looking back at the memories, and not sure where we are going.

I remember telling the kids for the past three Christmases, "I don't know if we'll have Grandma next year." What we could not possibly foresee last Christmas was that my brother-in-law would leave us after a short but extremely painful battle with cancer. We didn't see the rocks in the water until we were nearly on top of them. However, they didn't capsize us--not yet at least.

I read recently that an optimist stays up to see the new year in, and a pessimist stays up to see the old year out.

I guess I am a pessimist this year, as I would like to put this year behind me. However, I may just keep that Christmas ornament out where I can see it in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Eight-eyed Freak

Yesterday was quiet and restful. We watched a movie about the Danish resistance to Nazi occupation and ate homemade pizza. We talked and laughed and rested.

This morning, I am cleaning the basement in installments and listening to the girls, who need something to do, squabble. I just told Kiki, "Stay out of her room unless you want her to go in your room."

I just told Nita, "Stop calling each other 'eight eyed freak.'"

Things are back to normal.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day after

This was a lovely, peace-filled, quiet holiday celebration this year, the kids refraining from fighting (perhaps because Nita slept a good part of the day), with a visit from our friend Nora, a person who brings out the best in the kids.

After Nora left, my sister stopped in, and we ate pancakes and sausage, our postponed breakfast, and then we took Harry out with us in the car and looked at the Christmas lights, voting for the best and worst, giving titles such as "festive," "bought the various pieces on sale over the years," "Snoopy's doghouse," "Tasteful Suburban," "Well, at least they tried," and the clear winner of the lack of design award, "Would have to be firebombed if we lived across the street." This particular display consisted of the multilevel roof outlined in six different light colors and types, the garage in three different colors and types, all asynchronously flashing on and off with different timers, and various inflatibles, plastic figurines, and light displays below, including a manger with disproprotionately large lighted animated reindeer flanking the sides, a Burl Ives Snowman presiding benevolently over the scene.

We came home, the kids went off to bed and went to sleep almost immediately, and EG and I followed soon after.

It was a nice day, abundant with peace.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The gift of peace

Rocky has taken up lying and stealing again in his annual traditional celebration of the holiday--this year he was a "last minute shopper" and waited until the week before to pull out those old behaviors and share them with us. However, the steal/lie/steal/lie cycle is as strong as it ever was despite the late arrival, so I had him under my supervision for the day yesterday, and since I am such an awesome mom, I used his powers for good and had him do housecleaning, including the freezer and baseboards. It helped re-energize me, of course, and we got so much accomplished. Plus, he went to bed about eight last night because he was so tired.

Today the kids are in the living room, entertaining themselves. One of them will say "1-2-3, be quiet," and then they will sit silently for 15 to 20 minutes until someone breaks and speaks. Then the other two hang on for another 20 minutes or so, and I sit and blissfully breathe in and out in the silence.

This has been a long year, one which was filled with stress and sadness, and today, the day before the holiday, we are having peace finally. I got my gift already, and I wish the same for all of you who read this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Strange peace

This last hour has been so peaceful, a word which we don't use much to describe the climate around here. After a morning of us all pitching in to clean for Christmas, I have been fussing around on the internet, Rocky is playing a hand-held game, Kiki is writing in her journal, and Nita is conked out on the sofa, waiting for yet another doctor's appointment. All the symptoms from nearly two weeks ago are back. Maybe it really is a bladder infection. The pets are all napping after a big morning of ball play, and even the bunnies are resting.

We won't be going to our regular doctor, as he is out sick as well, so we have to educate yet another MD about her symptoms. I may scream.

I haven't been sleeping well this week, knowing I was going to have my annual review at work, and knowing that my distractedness this year was not going to reflect well on said review. Then, even though the review wasn't as bad as I had dreaded, I didn't sleep Monday night, and then Nita woke me this morning early, telling me she had gotten sick in her bed. I tucked her in with us, and then couldn't get back to sleep. We were going to have EG's birthday celebration today, but instead we are having CORD, standing for Clean Out Refrigerator Day, a fancy name for leftovers.

So this peace today is doubly welcome--I can feel my blood pressure dropping, and my breathing deepen, and while I am enjoying it, I am also wondering just how to get more of it as well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mitch Miller

Here EG and the kids view music as an essential background to their day, much like the Muzak played in Kmart stores. What is interesting is what they choose to play, as that is what varies. One night Transiberian Orchestra, the next night oldies (Mom, how do you know this stuff?), and the next night Carrie Underwood with a little classical sprinkled throughout. As Rocky prefers classic rock, like Queen and Pink Floyd, and he is henpecked by his sisters, he rarely gets to vote on what they play.

The past few nights Kiki has been at voice lessons and then at girl scout camp, so Nita has been the disc jockey. It has been The Jonas Brothers two nights in a row so far. And Billy Joel's Piano Man, but none of his other hits.

Yesterday, I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed the entire kitchen and hall. The floor, which was put in by my parents, is white on white textured, perfect for a guest bathroom or a kitchen owned by two eighty somethings, but not so perfect for three kids, three labs, and two cats. I used a toothbrush, scrub brush and magic eraser, getting into all the crevices and taking off the ground in discoloration. It took nearly four hours. I then put acrylic seal down and let it dry.

The floor looks brand new.

However, during that time, the house was quiet, and I was remembering my mother. She, too, didn't play music that often, but when we were getting close to Christmas, she would pull out her Mitch Miller Christmas Albums, her Perry Como and Andy Williams, and we would hear the same music we had heard every year during our childhood. I scrubbed the floor and "heard" some of the old songs, and felt at peace. Somehow I knew my mother was close to me, in her kitchen, in the quiet of a weekday afternoon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To sleep, perchance to dream

When I was an undergraduate, I was an English major. I wasn't a distinguished English major, as I did not embrace a lot of the writing which we studied, as I found it less than profound or beautiful or moving or relevant or any one of a number of things, including that I just didn't like what I read.

Shakespeare was the most challenging, as I had to read his entire works in a semester along with my other coursework. Mind you, this was before video/dvd availability of the works, so the only recourse I had to supplement what I was reading was 33 1/3 rpm recordings of the plays. I heard and read so much Shakespeare during that 12 weeks that I started to speak oddly.

Much of Shakespeare is a blur. I am uncertain how he could have written so much in his life as I had enough difficulty reading it all; I do suspect that he may have been bipolar and spent much time in a manic phase where he could accomplish so much. I do know that there is some discussion that Shakespeare was really a group of individuals--as a mom who works and is going to grad school, I know that it would not have been impossible for one individual to do that much work in so little time.

But I digress. During the time I was in the course, I was having a rough time, working two jobs and going to school, every spare moment spent in coursework. I was struck by the character of Caliban, who was described as a "freckled monster," but who was the only human inhabitant of an island. In the play, Caliban said:

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

I thought that summed up so much of what we all have felt at one time or another.

I went to a hospice workshop on grief on Sunday--the topic was getting through the holidays. Not enjoying them, just getting through them. And since then, I have slept deeply and well each night, fully giving myself to the process, resting in the fullest sense of the word. I haven't slept like this in three or four years now, and I feel like Caliban--I have waked after a long sleep, and yet I can sleep again. However, I don't need to dream, as the reality of this peace is riches enough right now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Magnum Pretty Irritating

Today it is cold, in the thirties, and rainy and gray. EG and Kiki went to church early to sing at the early Mass, and Nita and Rocky and I are joining them at noon, when EG cants. We had a quiet morning, as quiet as it ever gets around here, with dogs yapping and cats galloping, and constant water use monitoring, to prevent An Unfortunat Septic Issue.

Just now, I sent Rocky to get dressed for church. He came back in a short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt, a la Tom Selleck, only tucked into his tightly belted pants, with the shirt buttoned up to the neck. All he needed was a pocket protector and calculator in his belt--Magnum meets the Big Bang Theory.

"Ack!" I said. "Do you ever look in a mirror?" Nita went out of the room, giggling hysterically.

"Yessss," he said hesitantly, completely missing that I was being rhetorical, as I know he looks in the mirror, practicing for that highly anticipated day when he gets to kiss a particular girl in his class, who according to Kiki is a real doll and most likely has no idea he has designs on her.

"Go change," I said for the umpteenth thousandth time in his life. "Wear something long sleeved; it's thirty-some degrees." He has numerous sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, which he is apparently saving for a day when it is eighty degrees.

So he comes back in his oldest long-sleeved shirt because I didn't specify exactly that it should be long sleeved AND church appropriate. "Um, what happened to all the good long-sleeved shirts I gave you?"

"They're in my closet," he said reasonably. "I like to trade off." With what, the Hawaiian shirt? Alternating between the people of WalMart and a luau?

I give up. At least this one has all its buttons.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dr. Mom

Nita has asthma. Whenever she gets a cold, she will get a stuffy nose and drainage. Then she coughs, and then she gets sick to her stomach from the coughing. Plus, we always have our annual holiday season sinus infection.

Normally I can keep things under control by pushing fluids, but Thursday she couldn't keep anything down no matter what I did. Plus, she slept all day. I finally called the doctor, of course right before five o'clock, as we were dealing with dehydration. And the nurse referred me to the emergency room, which I suspected.

What bugged me was that, when I tried to explain our situation to the admitting clerk, she said, "You can tell all that to the nurse." The nurse didn't ask any questions other than, "She's vomiting?" When I then tried to describe the symptoms to the ER physician, he cut me off. I didn't back down, and continued explaining. He tried interrupting me, and I talked over him. That probably sealed my fate as being labeled An Irritating Person. Since my medical training is nil, my opinion and experience, as the mom, obviously meant little. ER doctor said Nita had gastroenteritis and a possible kidney or bladder infection. Wrong end, dude. However, getting fluids into her was my main concern, so I encouraged the nausea medicine. Nita was so sick that the nurse thought she was severely delayed and asked me, "Can she drink from a cup?" Um, yes.

The meds for the stomach did the job. Within minutes, Nita had a popsicle and then another and then a cup of Gatorade, which she nursed through Hannah Montana, a rare treat, as we don't have cable TV at home. She perked right up once the show was over, and we came home.

Yesterday, at our follow up visit at the regular doctor's, he found an ear infection.

I realize that medicine is an iffy proposition, as sometimes it is more of a puzzle than a clear diagnosis, but to me, why not listen to the mom. I said it all started in her sinuses, why not at least look in her nose and ears and not diagnose it was likely her bladder?

There is an old saying that the only difference between God and a doctor is God doesn't think he's a doctor. And He most likely has a better grasp on anatomy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

She can be bought

Amber the Elusive Kitty will come downstairs only out of necessity, to get water. She will also come down to nag EG about the cat food bowl being empty and to complain if the litter box is getting disgusting. She does most of her complaining somewhere near the stairs, as the baby gate and radio fence prevent the dogs from getting to her.

Amber doesn't like me, as I am the dog wrangler. Plus, if I pick her up, it is to administer a flea treatment, cut her nails, or take her to the vet. In her kitty brain, I am not a Nice Person.

However, I have discovered that even Amber has a price. So, every couple days, when the kids and EG are gone and we are alone except for Dirty Harry, I put a tablespoon of milk in a saucer and put it down for Amber here in the kitchen. Then I hold Harry while she drinks her milk. She is skittish, jumping if the rabbits move in their cages or the furnace kicks on, but I notice that she also has taken to sitting across the living room and staring at me, apparently sending powerful suggestions to me to "give Amber some milk", suggestions which I am too dense to get. Or not. Maybe I am just channeling cat and refusing to acknowledge what she is saying. Two can play at that game.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, I took the rabbit to do his hospice visits. While I was there, the aide asked me to visit another resident. This lady was so sweet, so excited to see the bunny, and when she reached out to him, I realized that she was extremely spastic, her arms flailing around uncontrollably.

She realized it, too, and stopped extending her hand. I paused. However, Bob didn't hesitate. He stood on his hind legs, extending his head to her hand. Following his lead, I extended the basket closer. When her hand touched the rabbit, the lady's arm tremored, ruffling his fur, but Bob didn't move. Within seconds, all involuntary movement had stopped, and the lady's hand rested quietly on the rabbit's back.

Once again, I was humbled by his ability to discern what I could not.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Periodic Table

Yesterday, Kiki was helping Nita with her homework, which consists of Kiki pompously lecturing everyone within earshot about the "realities" of eighth grade.

Initially, she was regaling Nita with tales of painful torture devices and mind-numbing acts of cruelty, but now she mostly talks about the more mundane (and less frightening) activities of the day. Nita eats it up, obviously storing these nuggets of wisdom so she can be the maven of middle school.

In a rare moment of generosity, Kiki asked Nita what she had covered in school that day. Nita replied, "We learned about the periodic table of the elephants."

Kiki was, for once, speechless. In the moments of silence which followed, I was picturing a huge poster with Dumbo, Jumbo, Babar, and Horton. Snorky from the Banana Splits. And what about those Heffalumps from the Pooh cartoons? Would they qualify? And wooly mammoths, of course. After all, they started the whole thing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cracked pots

An old, dear friend of mine died last week.

He had been drafted at eighteen and had served as a medic in Vietnam, seeing the worst imaginable injuries and wounds, a witness of what people do to one another with the excuse of "peace-making."

He and I could spend hours talking about something as serious as this or nothing at all.

I hadn't seen him in a while, as we had moved away, and he and I no longer worked together. However, we had shared acquaintances yet, and it was through a friend of a friend that I heard.

At the funeral, a minister who didn't know him well despite my friend's devotion to his faith delivered the eulogy. He told us that my friend, like all of us, was broken and that caused him to take his own life.

My friend was not broken; however, like all of us, he was flawed, cracked if you will. My sister said, "We are all cracked pots--that is how The Light gets inside." I don't care for the term "cracked pots," as it sounds too much like "crackpots."

However, I do agree with the sentiment. Flawed is not broken, it allows access to what is inside us.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Missing a C

Today Rocky presented his agenda to be signed before he went to school.

On Monday of last week, the teacher had written "Rocky got a B on his science test."

How nice, I thought. On closer inspection, I found that the B was written in pencil and the page under the B was apparently erased numerous times. Okay, so one of three things had happened: Rocky's teacher had issues with remembering his real grade; Rocky retook the test five or six times, obviously getting a better grade each time; or Rocky changed the teacher's note.


I said, "Rocky, what was the real grade on the test?"

"A C?" he asked me.

"I doubt your teacher would write me a note about a C," I told him.

"A C minus?"

"Nice try." So I wrote a note to the teachers, describing my discovery and asking for the "real" grade. I put the note in a bright orange envelope and handed it to Rocky. "I told your teachers to email me later," I said. "If I don't get an email, I will be in the school tomorrow morning to follow up."

"You'd go to the office?" he asked, aghast.

"For a start," I assured him. "And then I'll come to your class..." His eye started to twitch.

I am somewhat relieved that he's so poor at forging--it makes it easy for me to catch on to him. This reminds me of the time in first grade when his teacher took me into the classroom to show me the toothbrush he decorated for the class's dental hygiene project. His two-foot-long toothbrush was inscribed with the mother of all cuss words, now three letters long because he spelled it without a C. I was aghast.

"Should I take some comfort in the fact that he misspelled it?" I finally managed to ask her.

Same thing with the forgery. Is this a sign of things to come, or is it something which he tried and will now forego because he is so unskilled at it?

Time will tell.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Duck, Duck, Goose

Yesterday we took Dirty Harry and Penny the Impetuous to the park for a walk. The main path is paved and makes a lovely 1/3 mile loop around a little lake which is populated with fish and waterfowl as well as transients who stop by. Once we saw a great blue heron wading in the reeds on the shore, and every year we are treated to a new batch of ducklings, whose progress we follow carefully, noting how the moms care for the babies, which makes a wonderful learning situation for kids who have attachment issues.

People feed the ducks, which makes them unafraid of people and most likely unhealthy little beggars.

Anyway, when we got to the bridge which spans the spillway to the outgoing stream, I let Penny wade in the water. A lone mallard duck approached us, hoping for a snack of Froot Loops or Cheezits. Penny suddenly reverted to instinct and attempted to go after the duck, who obviously needed to be retrieved despite being hale and hearty.

"Leave it," I said. However, Labs are bred to make judgement calls about their human's lack of sense about retrieving, so she scrabbled on the concrete spillway and got one foot in the lake.

"Leave it!" I told her. She maneuvered herself, putting both back feet on the vertical ledge of the spillway and shoving with all her strength. I braced myself, and we pushed/pulled against one another for a few seconds. The duck, thinking Doritos might me in order, cruised closer.

Penny started to yap. "LEAVE IT!" I said. Some woman, walking with a little girl with an annoying voice obviously sharpened by a few years of use, as she never shut up, came racing over to see the show. The child started to laugh hysterically. "Gaaahk!" Penny said.

"LEAVE IT!" I repeated, feeling a little desperate that I was going to join the duck.

"What's the dog's name?" The child asked, still laughing in an eardrum piercing manner. I didn't respond, as all my energy was now devoted to keeping myself out of the drink. The duck, apparently reassessing the situation, had decided that he might be the snack and started to paddle furiously away. "GWAHRK!" Penny gagged, lunging after the departing vessel as if she was missing a trip to the new world.

"What's the doggie's name? What's the doggie's name? Lady! What's the doggie's name. WHAT IS THE DOGGIE'S NAME?" the annoying child kept asking, coming closer each time. If I had experienced any slack in the leash whatsoever, I would have whipped it around her body a few times and let go. No such luck.

Finally the duck sailed behind some reeds, and Penny, whose oxygen level was at an all time low, allowed me to reel her back in. "Sit!" She did. "Wait!" I said. She did, obviously thinking I had Plan B for bird recovery in mind so still scanning the lake. The annoying child kept up a running commentary which neither Penny nor I acknowledged, as she had no oxygen going to her brain and I had too much.

Today it is in the fifties and sunny. Perhaps we will do it again.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The party you have reached...

My father died three years ago, and yet we still receive mail for him. The most annoying offender was a hearing aid company which repeatedly sent mailings, despite me calling them and telling them he was deceased. After the fourth time around the mulberry bush with this company apologizing for their error, yet another mailing came. "Are you hard of hearing?" it said. I called and told them that Dad was, indeed, hard of hearing, and there was NOTHING they could do to help him at this point. A fifth apology and promise to remove him from "the list." Yeah, right.

Within three weeks, guess what, another mailing. "Are you hard of hearing?" it asked. Kiki took a pen and wrote, "No, are you? We have told you five times he is dead." She put the mailing into the postage-paid return envelope and sent it back to the company.

The mailings stopped.

Mom died this summer. A month after her death, a mailing came which read, "Here's the second chance you've been waiting for!" Remarkable. And here I thought that resurrection was pretty close to the time of death and was done by God, not Mutual of Omaha. I sent the mailing back with a note telling them Mom was dead. Last week, another second chance came. I was irritated and sent the mailing back with a forwarding address for mom: Eastlawn Memory Gardens.

So, last week, when the phone rang on Sunday afternoon, and the person on the other end said, "Mrs. P?", the kids alerted. I replied, "She died last summer."

"Oh," he said, thinking fast on his feet, "the name I really have here is Mr. P."

"He died three years ago." The kids went off into gales of laughter in the background. Flustered, the caller hung up.

And I was just about to give him the phone number for the cemetery.


Yesterday was hard. It was the first year we did not have my parents, so EG made arrangements with the partner of my sister's brother-in-law to have a big family Thanksgiving at one of the houses. F, the partner, then invited his mother, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew, as well as my sister and her two adult children.

Then F called my sister and said so many guests might be too overwhelming for the brother-in-law, B, whose mother was in rehab for a broken hip and whose father was now obviously declining from dementia. He asked my sister if she thought we would mind if he backed out of the invitation. She said we would most likely understand, and when I heard, I called and said, "We get it--we will back out of the invitation."

However, when my sister tried to back out, she was told her invitation still stood, as did the invites for the rest of the guest list. When my sister called and refused my invitation, saying she was still going to F and B's, I expressed to her that we didn't understand why we weren't included and everyone else still was; my sister said, "You aren't family."

Ouch. Apparently not. Imagine my reaction when I found out that niece's boyfried of two months was added to the guest list at the last minute.

So we stayed home. We watched the dog show, as we always do, stared out at the clouds, and we ate our turkey and stuffing and tamales and rice and beans. And I was sad all day. My sister called later, telling me how hard the day was, and never once asking how we were doing. Kiki started crying and wanted to go to bed at six o'clock. Finally, Nita marched into the room, bearing my yellowed deck of Uno cards, and started playing with Rocky, of course making up rules which suited her plan of whipping his behind at the game. I refereed, and eventually she said, "We all should play." I faked enthusiasm, convinced EG (another enthusiasm faker) to join us, and rather forcefully made Kiki participate as well. Pretty soon we were all hitting EG with "draw four" and "draw two" cards, laughing at his exaggerated reaction of dismay, and I realized that we weren't faking the fun anymore. We were sad, yes, but we were enjoying what we had.

And we were hopeful that things might be better.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I once took an online quiz which told me that, deep down inside me somewhere in the sub-basement, lived a Buddhist. So I started reading about Buddhism, as I would like to acknowledge my neighbors.

One aspect of Buddhism which I find fascinating is mindfulness, being fully aware of the moment and relishing simple tasks like cutting vegetables, sweeping the floor, looking at a sunset, or showering.

Unfortunately, I tend to be more mindless than mindful. First, much of what happens in my life requires ignoring, not embracing. This morning, I decided to have a cup of coffee and some toast. Of course, since I love homemade bread, I put a slice in the toaster, and part of the crust fell off and ignited in the heating elements, which in turn caused the smoke detector to do its job and jolt us into awareness. Then Kiki decided to get up and make toast as well, followed by Rocky, who blundered around in the refrigerator, knocking items off the shelves onto the floor, and then rather ineffectually wrangling the enthusiastic dogs away from the butter. He then sat and shoveled cereal into his mouth, taking huge bites, much of which fell back out into the bowl. Meanwhile, Kiki read the sports pages out loud, complete with commentary, and rubbed the jam on her toast with her fingertips, wiping them on her sweatpants.

I have difficulty with the concept that I should relish these moments. If I were mindful, I would most likely end up in the happy home.

Second, I need to live in the future, or unpleasant things would happen, like no supper on the table, bills wouldn't get paid, or we would run out of toilet paper. Then I would be relishing in my family's whining, collection calls, and other unpleasant things I would rather not think about.

Plus, in my rare times of solitude, which are in the car for my 45 minute commute, I am mindful, but it is more in the interest of self-preservation than self-reflection.

However, there may be something to this mindfulness--yesterday I left work and walked to a neighboring business, operating at my normal rate one level above warp speed. When I arrived at my destination, my heart was racing. I thought, "Am I having a heart attack?" No, I just got there at a fast rate of speed, scuttled across the street like a game of Frogger, and zoomed up the sidewalk despite being so out of shape. Of course I was out of breath. As I said, mindless.

So, on the way back to work, I strolled, aware that this was the end of November and the weather was so mild there was no need for a coat, admiring the red bushes in the parking lot, and breathing in the fresh air. It was a few minutes of peace.

I think this would be more effective if everyone in the house would be more mindful. But since I live with the uninformed, perhaps the more mindless the better.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I didn't grieve for my dad because I immediately started caring for my mother, moving her out of her house and into an apartment, then moving us from our house to her house, then moving her from the assisted living apartment to the nursing home. I then visited almost every day, except for days when I Just Couldn't Handle It. I did grieve her progression through Alzheimer's, though, thinking at each phase, "Well, at least she doesn't . . . chant, flail, babble, need to be fed, wet herself, whatever" only to have "whatever" be the next phase we went through.

I didn't grieve for my brother-in-law because my mother was at the end of life. I didn't grieve my mother because by then I was overwhelmed caring for the kids and in graduate school, and by then, it was easier to stay really, really busy and not face this elephant in the room, an elephant which had procreated to be an entire, rampaging herd.

So, I started having panic attacks. When I would sit in a chair, I was really aware of my heart beating. I was anxious. And, on Sunday, someone said something about forgiveness, and I started to cry. I realized that I needed to forgive myself. Despite all that I did for my mom, at the end, what I did was not enough to prevent her suffering, her agitation, and the poor care or lack of care which she received at times. I was upset with myself for not being able to do enough to make the end of life peaceful for her. And I realized that I had done all that I could, given the circumstances, and I needed to let go of the guilt.

It was like there was a big knot just below my lungs, and it started to unravel. I have been sleeping well, and the anxiety I felt all the time was greatly reduced. Then I found out that "being aware of your heartbeat" was "normal" in people who were experiencing anxiety, and I found out that anxiety was a "normal" part of grieving for some people.

Wow. The vicious cycle of anxiety breeding more anxiety, breeding even more anxiety was broken.

I work with hospice, and I had no idea what some symptoms of grief were--priests are too busy anymore to counself parishioners, and people who think that they are dying may not necessarily think the symptoms are from grief.

Death is a natural part of life, and yet we as a society sterilize it and make it something which happens in a vacuum. We need to celebrate the person's life, and yet make space for their loss to be acknowledged and accepted. Then we can get on with our own living.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who is this?

I got a call the other day while I was sitting at the kitchen table.

"Hello?" I said.

There was a pause with some breathing. "I didn't get my agenda signed."

"Excuse me?"

Another pause. "I didn't get my agenda signed."

"Who is this? Is this Rocky?"

Pause. I was beginning to suspect this was a trans-Atlantic call. "Um, yes."

"And you forgot to get your agenda signed?" Which I knew.

Pause. More pause. "Yes."

"And what am I suppposed to do about this?"

Long pause. "Nothing."

"So why are you calling me?"

Dead air for fifteen seconds. The phone is set down. Then I hear him ask, "Why am I calling her?" I hear the teacher say something in the background. "Because I didn't get my agenda signed."

"Okay, so whose responsibility is it?"

Breathing. "Mine."

"So why are you calling ME? If it is your responsibility to get your agenda signed, and you don't, why are you calling me? What's next? Detention?"

Immediate reply, "Yes."

"So, you know the rule: you get detention, it is 25 dollars to pay me back for my time and gas money at 25 cents a mile. Your choice."

I hear classroom noises in the background. "Okay. Goodbye."

Two days later, I am out in the yard raking leaves, when I happen upon a smile pile of shredded yellow carbonless copy paper directly under Rocky's bedroom window. "Rocky!" I shriek.

"Uh-oh," the girls say, recognizing that tone of voice.

"What is this?"

"I don't know..."

"Before I spend an hour assembling this, and before I get really crabby when I figure out that I wasted an hour on something which you can identify, do you want to tell me what this is?"

"Oh, now I remember." Remarkable how his memory kicked in. "It's a detention which I got for not having my agenda signed after I called you and I didn't have to have it signed so I threw it away." Right. Out the bedroom window.

So I had him pick up all the pieces, bring it into the house, and put the pieces into a pretty pastel pink envelope. The next day I wrote a note which said:

Dear Ms. R

I found this torn into tiny pieces outside Rocky's bedroom window. Rocky reported it was a demerit which did not need to be signed. However, being a fabulous mom, I don't want to be remiss in any responsibilities which I may have for signing any paperwork. Will you please email me and let me know if I need to sign this form?

I then handed Rocky the embarrassingly pink envelope and said, "This goes to your teacher. There is a note in there asking her to email me back TODAY, to make sure she gets it."

Rocky's teacher emailed back, amused that I sent her the pieces, complete with the dead grass Rocky picked up, and assured me that I didn't need to sign the form. Rocky reported to me at supper that evening, "All my teachers say you are funny." Then after a few seconds, he said, "Are you going to tell them everything I do?"

No, I assured him, just the ones which relate to school.

That will be enough.

All I see is trees

Years ago, I worked for a campus bus service, a full fleet of transit vehicles driven only by college students.

We had hired a driver, one who wasn't overly bright, who ended up lost on a route that ran a straight line on a main road, from the stadium to the campus student center and back. She called in and reported she was lost. We asked where she was. "I don't KNOW," she wailed.

Okay, so what do you SEE? "All I see is TREES," came the reply. Okay, then.

Eventually, since she was in a fairly urban area, she happened upon some landmark which we recognized, about four miles off her regular two-mile loop route. To this day, I have no idea how many turns and reversals she must have made on a non-turn route to get to where she was.

So, when I get overwhelmed and exhausted, I say to myself, "All I see is TREES" a nod to the old forest/trees analogy as well as the young lady who made a series of unwise and not thought out choices to get where she was.

The other day, I was on a website which had an advertisement for the on-line university where I am working on my Ph.D. (Notice the semantics here--I used to say "getting" my Ph.D., but right now all I see is trees, so I am working on it.) "Education for the working adult!" it proclaimed in cheerful, bright lettering. Okay, how about the working adult who is overwhelmed with her job right now, has three kids, two with special needs, and a house to take care of? Or is "working adult" a euphemism for all that? If so, you need to choose someone other than that well-groomed, well-rested, fashionably dressed, manicured, smiling model to picture on the web page--someone who doesn't use a crockpot at least three times a week, forget where she put her cell phone, run out of peanut butter, receive sign up sheets for school conferences after the date, and apply makeup at the school bus stop, finishing only one eye and not realizing it until three in the afternoon when in the rest room at work.

No wonder people were squinching up their face like Popeye when they talked to me.

Anyway, I finish the coursework in June, do the competencies this summer, and start the dissertation in the fall. By this time next year, I might be applying eye makeup to my chin.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Panic attacks

I was talking to my sister today, and I told her I couldn't figure out why I have panic attacks.

Then, while I was finishing a paper, EG came into the room and said, "Do we have lunch meat?"

"In the freezer," I replied. He went downstairs and came back up, reporting we had none.

"There is too lunchmeat in the freezer. It is in a blue bag on the right side. I know it is there because I bought it Tuesday and froze it."

He went back downstairs. "There is no lunchmeat. I can't find it, so we don't have any."

I sent Nita downstairs for lunchmeat. She was back in less than a minute with two packages.

Then he got into the refrigerator. "Nita, where's the mayonnaise? Where's the mustard. We're out of mustard."

"No, we have two kinds of mustard in there. I just bought some."

"We don't have any, or I would have found it."


Just now, Kiki started shrieking that someone stole her twenty dollar bill. This is highly unlikely, as no one would be able to find anything much in her room, which I refuse to enter without a hazmat suit. Her dad went upstairs (I am not certain if he thought he would find the twenty--perhaps he has more luck with non-food items). Shortly afterward, Kiki was bawling, her dad was yelling in Spanish, and Rocky was sent for trash bags. Plural.

So then Rocky, who is the trash removal coordinator, went into the kitchen and bumbled around in the cupboard. Kiki joined him, and started shrieking that there were no more trash bags. Rocky finally said, "We may be out." Drama ensued for about three minutes. Finally, when I could be heard, I said, "Why didn't you TELL me we were out of trash bags."


"Okay," I said, "go out to the kitchen and find the grocery list and add trash bags." Off he went.

Meanwhile, Nita came to me and reported that she had mildew growing on the walls of her room. This is quite common this time of year, as the furnace doesn't run much, and we forget to turn the dehumidifier on. I said, "Is it a little bit or a lot?" Nita says, "It is a LOT." EG retorts, "No, it's not." Nita screams, "No one ever believes me. And I didn't take the twenty dollar bill!" I ask, "Is the mildew spot bigger than a piece of paper?" They both tell me no. I send Nita up with some cleaner and a rag and locate the extension cord for EG to start the dehumifier.

I sit back down and try to focus on my conclusion. For five minutes, Rocky is rustling around in the kitchen. "What are you DOING in there?" I ask. "Looking for the grocery list," he replies reasonably.

"In the DARK?"

"Well, I can see a little." I direct him to turn ON the light, find a clean piece of paper, write "trash bags, soy milk, light bulbs" on it, and hang it on the refrigerator. When I go out there, I see he has inscribed the shopping list on a two inch wide post-it note in wide magic marker.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

The dog ate my dissertation

When I got home from colloquium, I left my briefcase on the living room floor. Harry chewed through the side and ate my dissertation notes.

I wonder if he was trying to tell me something...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bird Dog of Alcatraz

Harry came from the pound, where he ended up after what was apparently a long time running loose.

He has food issues. If we don't give him a Kong toy stuffed with a biscuit, his little doggy brain will tell him that he is going to perish here from lack of sustenance, and he will obsess and raid the cupboards while we are gone, tasting and consuming everything from cereal to teabags to a tube of toothpaste which was on the kitchen table.

The other issue is that, when his stomach is upset, which is regularly due to his tendency to eat something first and ask questions later, he thinks he is hungry and will fuss about looking for something, anything to eat.

The other night, Harry was moving about the kitchen, his little doggy toenails click click clicking on the floor. I woke up and said, "What is he into?" EG muttered and walked out to the kitchen without his glasses and told Harry, "Go to bed." Harry complied. I wondered at the time, as Harry usually goes to bed about nine and sleeps all night, waking about five to lie down outside our bedroom door and wait for bathroom and breakfast.

Shortly afterward, I woke up to a tink-tink-tink sound of metal on glass and said, "What is that light?" EG, by now annoyed, headed back out to the kitchen. There was some doggy toenail scrambling noise, followed by some serious fast gulping, and EG scolding in Spanish. The refrigerator slammed shut, and a chair scraped across the kitchen floor to block access to the appliances.

I was reading this blog post from Ministry and Parenting about anniversary dates in adopted kids, and I realized that this was the time of year when Harry was loose and hungry. And I wonder if he is having his own memories of that time.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I'm off--in more ways than one

This morning I leave for five days, going to a colloquium attached to graduate school. For nearly a week, I will be immersed in research: qualitative, quantitative, statistics, means, t-tests, blah blah blah.

What I am finding is that I am horribly humbled by trying to do this online, from home. I schedule time for each of the kids so they can talk, but when I sit down to research, they fight or, their latest thing, scuffle and wrestle. Since they know it gets on my nerves, they do it secretly, not saying a word, which is even more irritating and distracting. Plus, there is no real separation of work and home anymore, one down side to this telecommuting a few days a week.

I feel overwhelmed, trying to get it all done and trying to get it all in my head to stay. Hopefully, five days of focusing only on this stuff will help considerably. If not, I may have to go spend hours at the library. Or get a brain transplant.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I have a truly ugly confession.

I don't like my child.

Rocky came to us at two, and he is like the black hole of kid-dom, sucking every ounce of energy I have.

He has attention deficit disorder. I swear, if I hear, "Oh, I forgot" ONE MORE TIME, I will lose my mind and run screaming through WalMart's parking lot. Most likely having forgotten my clothes. A small vacation with basketry might be just what I need.

He "forgets" to untie and tie his shoes. He forgets to wring out his washcloth and then forgets to hang it up. When I remind him, he hangs it directly over the toilet paper where it drips, of course. He forgets that laundry baskets are not permitted in his room and has five in there at any given time. He forgets and dons the same Ohio State hoodie three days in a row, each morning having it pried off his body by his mom; he forgets to put it in the dirty laundry and forgets that for two days prior he and I have had an unpleasant discussion about same hoodie. He forgets that the spoon moves when one eats, bobbing his head up and down like some manic chicken. He forgets that he had sugar cereal, albeit organic, for two days already and will forget that he had it today and forget that he needs to eat plain cereal every other day. He forgets his homework, his planner, his lunchbag, his coat, his books, his permission slips. He forgets to latch the dog crate, and Nash gets out and runs rampant through the house, trying to rid it of the pesky cat invasion we appear to have this year. He forgets Nash does that.

He forgets that it is winter and puts on a tank top when getting dressed for school. He forgets to put the seat up in the bathroom and forgets to clean up after himself. He forgets to flush. He forgets to wash in the shower, or he forgets to use soap. He forgets that hole-filled shirts shouldn't be worn for school. He forgets which is his play jacket and which is his church jacket. He forgets a belt. He sees me pull in the driveway and jumps off his scooter, leaving it in the middle of my my path but saving himself.

He forgets to sweep both halves of the room, and then he forgets to sweep up the dirt and throw it away. He forgets to scrape and rinse the dishes and then forgets that he had the pork chop that evening so he denies that is his food in the bottom of the machine, and he forgets to wipe the table after eating. He forgets to put his clean clothes away and then forgets which are clean, so he shoves everything under the bed and forgets he has them. He forgets to return things he borrows at school and forgets to give me the note asking to have them returned. He forgets to put the cereal away, and * when he rescues it back from the dog, he forgets what the problem was and puts it right back where the dog got it in the first place. He repeats from * until one or both parents shriek at him, and then he grabs the box so strongly that raisin bran flies all around the room.

When he does his homework, he reads the question, then looks at the cat or the dog or out the window for a deer sighting or at the wall, and then he forgets what he read. He will guess what the question was, write part of the answer, look around, stare into space, and then guess what the rest of his answer was. So, for the question, "What is special about Europe's physical environment?" he will write, "Europe is a country are things which are use for producting other things like food."

However, he remembers what is important to him. His hair is a priority, so he will remember to lotion and pick it each morning, but forget to put on deodorant or brush his teeth or change his underwear. He remembers when his favorite TV show is on, but he will forget to listen during church. He remembers the exact longitude and latitude of every piece of chocolate hidden in this house, but he can't remember where he left his clarinet. He remembers what page he is reading in his latest fiction book, but he can't remember what was covered in social studies class that afternoon.

It all sounds small, but given the fact that it is a relentless day-long thing, and I have two other kids with attentional issues, I get Fed Up. And if one more person says to me, "Oh, that's just being a kid" or "Well, God doesn't give you more than you can handle", I am going to view that as in invitation for Rocky to visit them for a week. They can take over the attempt to jump start the thought processes, the reminding, the tooth grinding, and the tight stomach.

And maybe, just maybe, I will forget to pick him up for an extra day or so.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I have been shut down for three weeks, in survival mode if you will. I started to feel better, to step away from my grief, and I found that my family wasn't used to this mom.

Rocky has been on full lockdown lately. He has started the "if my mouth is moving I am lying" mode again. I stripped his room--Kiki said it looks "monastic," and that we should get him a little brown robe with a rope belt and shave his head. Now Rocky has pulled out the passive-aggressive behavior and has to stay close to mom and dad because he is not complying. Next stop, full blackout.

Kiki has been dramatic, shrieking at everything. The other night she was screaming at Amber the Elusive Cat for shredding a Jonas Brothers poster. (Let me add here that I find no fault with Amber's attitude.) Amber sat very upright and stared coldly at Kiki, not blinking or moving. EG said, "Is her middle claw extended or am I seeing things?" I tend to agree with Amber's attitude.

As for Nita, she is the biggest challenge. Backtalking, obstinate, and hard to manage. In other words, herself, only more so. Like to the Nth degree--distilled Nita. At least once a day she tells me she doesn't want to see my face anymore.

I have refrained from showing her any other parts of my anatomy, despite the overwhelming temptation to do so.

I realize that this is a period of adjustment. These kids have been holding it together for six years, and not only are they adjusting to a new way of living, free of that sadness, but also a new mom who is fully there for them and even happy at times. It must be like getting a stepmom and liking her a lot but feeling guilty about not liking that previous mom so well. I try to understand it, but I am ready to move on.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Braces, braces, everywhere

Today I took the younger two to the dentist.

I wrote a note for each of their schools and put them in fluorescent orange envelopes, reminding each kid that the envelope needed to be turned in that morning and reinforcing the time by thorough cross examination.

Rocky turned in his pass first thing. The office gave him a pass stating what time, and the secretary actually backed it up by five minutes so he would have extra time to get his things, but Rocky waited for his last period teacher to somehow, by teacher superpowers I guess, to discern not only that Rocky needed to leave, but the actual time. Finally, he told his teacher, "I have to leave." He did not show her the pass. She said, "Well, go make sure." So he did.

Meanwhile, I showed up ten minutes early for Rocky. The school secretary and I made our customary wager about what part of this process Rocky would mess up. The five-minutes-before time came and went. She and I nodded knowingly at each other. The real pickup time came and went. I laughed, as she thought he would get this part. Finally Rocky came down the hall, five minutes past his pickup time and looked into the office at me. "Should I go get my stuff?" he asked.

I blinked at him, dumbfounded. "Oh," he said, and left. Five minutes after that, he was at the office, personal belongings hanging off various parts of his body. I said to the secretary, "Do you suppose he'll get it by the end of the year?"

"Nah." I rolled my eyes and fussed at Rocky, as the high school students had by then been dismissed and we had to participate in the back driveway demolition derby on the way to get Nita.

I liked the dentist--he got it that I bought dental floss which got used up but was most likely used to make parachute strings for army guys. Not everyone understands that--they seem to think that my mom superpowers can control the inventory around here.

If only.

Anyway, Rocky went in first. The dentist came out and announced that Rocky needed braces. "I was afraid of that," I said.

Then Nita went in. The dentist came out and said, "I think you're going to need a family plan." Not only that, but even though Nita is three years younger, she needs "early intervention," which means all three kids are going to be in braces at the same time. Kiki thought this was great--misery loves company and all that, you know.

Goody. Three kids with attentional issues and increased dental care. I may join the army guy in throwing myself out of a plane.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

4:40 a.m.

It is in the wee hours of the morning. I went to bed at eleven but could not unwind, and then when I dozed off, EG was awakened by Rocky playing with a light in his room. Once we reassured Rocky that we would definitely get him up earlier in the morning as he apparently is getting too much sleep, Penny started panting.

Penny has a delicate digestive system, and she does not work well with it. About three or four times a year, her proclivity for eating plastic bags, paper, rocks, and various other detritus causes her to become sleepless. Not to mention that the rest of us become sleepless as well. So she woke me up in the time of night in which it is difficult to discern if it is early or late, and I have been up since. After listening to her pant for an hour, I got up and sat with her in the living room. I put her back in her crate and crawled back into bed. Nice try. She started panting and whining. I got her out again, and sat with her some more, and put her back once she seemed better. Not happening. Realizing sleep was over for me (did it ever even get started?), I finally took her outside, where she got tangled around the cleanout for the septic system and tracked and tried to eat some bug, which was not what we needed. So I brought her in, tied her to my kitchen chair after she tried chasing the cat around the house and making Nash bark and tried killing the moths which were at the window and, incidentally, on the outside of the screen, which now has holes from her nails, of course.

And here I sit. I have a full day of work, an orthodontist appointment, a drum lesson, a girl scout meeting, two loads of laundry, and supper to cook, and I have had two hours sleep at the most.

But I also sit here and listen to the crickets and enjoy the breeze coming in the window, and look at the back of Penny's red head, her ears fuzzy and puppy-like, alert on the creatures of the night, and I realize that maybe sleep is over-rated.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Whole lotta nothin'

I finished the term at school this week, the house needs just a light cleaning, and I am trying to relax today for the first time in weeks.

EG said the other night, "You and I are type A personalities, but not really."

So does that mean I am an A minus? A B plus? I don't get it. I am high drive, but I do like to shut down at times. I need to shut down at times.

I could be painting the bathroom. Maybe later this week.

I could be scrubbing and sealing the kitchen floor. I think I'll save that for Thursday, when no one is home.

I need to weed the flower bed one last time.

I need to order textbooks for next term.

I need to sweep the basement floor.

But right now, I need to sit and do nothing for a bit. My brain is full.

Monday, September 14, 2009


After my brother-in-law and my mother died within seven weeks of each other, and only one person from church so much as acknowledged the losses, including the priests, we decided the church was too big for what our family needed and started shopping. One thing we all agreed about was that there should be energy and something for the kids to keep them involved.

The first church we attended, we walked in the door and past the ushers and greeters, who were greeting one another and ignoring us. Then we committed the major faux pas of sitting in someone else's pew, making the seating off for the entire middle section. Of course we got the "now who are those people" stare. Me, being the person I am, smiled and greeted the stare-ers, but they simply turned away. No one so much as spoke to us except one lady who said, "Come back." Fat chance of that. When you are a racially diverse family, you tend to be a bit over-sensitive of not being made to feel welcome, and at Our Lady of Stepford, that did not happen.

Then we got online and started looking, and EG made some calls. He found a church in the Next Big City which had a strong teen program, a strong youth ministry, and an active music program. We went to Mass, and the two music ministers greeted us enthusiastically and chatted with us after church. We got follow up emails, too. Plus, during the Mass, the young man who got up to read was about 18, stinking cute, with dark hair and eyes and long eyelashes, and wearing a blazer and khakis. Something for Kiki, too. She couldn't tell us about the homily, but she sure could recite the reading.

So we decided to attend this church, at least for a while. Last night, we went to the teen Mass with the kids, and Nita was thrilled: the rock band had a drummer. Rocky was interested: the rock band had electric guitars. I was pleased, as the young people were singing and even dancing enthusiastically, truly celebrating the Mass. But Kiki was the most delighted--guess who was active in this service, wearing his blazer and khakis. My mom-dar went off, as he appears to be truly a nice young man, but I refrained from mentioning that, as I know that mom approval is the total kiss of death despite the hordes of teen girls who apparently agreed with me, judging by their preening behaviors when he sat down. At eucharist, he held the wine right in front of our seats. Kiki kept her head bowed demurely, although I doubt she was deep in spiritual reflection.

After Mass, I looked at Kiki. "Don't say a word, Mom," she said. I didn't, except to mention that I noticed that she had partaken of the wine this week and that I was surprised she didn't loop around the pews for a second pass. And this morning, when I was researching chalices for more ammunition with which to tease her, I stumbled across this quote by St. Chrysostum, ""The table was not of silver, the chalice was not of gold in which Christ gave His blood to His disciples to drink, and yet everything there was precious and truly fit to inspire awe."

I guess I wouldn't dare.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


My neighbor has decided that fencing her back yard will prevent people from stealing their things.

This is after her son left his bike out in the side yard for three days and three nights and it got stolen. Part of the time, it was laying in the ditch out by the road. Let's face it--you might as well have put a sign on it that said, "Take me."

Of course my kids were questioned by the police, as they are black, and my neighbor knows about black people. Yes, I didn't see them with a strange bike, as I pointed out, but maybe they hid it in the woods; besides, we all want to believe our children, so maybe they said their friend gave it to them. First, no one knows better than I do that kids lie (for some of mine, it is when their mouths are moving), and second, I would question immediately why there was a strange bike here, and third, my kids don't go in the woods without supervision; besides, ever since the marijuana got planted back there, their father the ex-miltary guerilla travels through regularly to make sure everything is on the up and up, and although he, too, is a minority, he did not secrete the bike back there either. Not to mention that not even my impulse challenged kids would take a bike from the neighbor's yard fifty feet away and think the original owners wouldn't notice. DUH.

Hey, instead of spending your hard earned cash and time to install a fence so you don't get robbed by one of those minorities who are encroaching on your safe little life, I have a revolutionary and money-saving idea: put your stuff away at night.

Anyway, she, or rather her husband and his father and brother, ignored my sage advice and put up a six foot tall stockade fence, down the east side of their property about ten feet, with a little picket fence across the front (that should keep out any miscreants if they are under two feet tall and/or very dense) and down our side about fifty feet. Of course, she faced the ugly side toward us, and there is nothing we can do about it, as the township doesn't have zoning about ugly sides of fences. However, the township clerk did say, "Common courtesy would tell them to put the nice side toward you." Uh--whatever. I just pretend that it is OUR fence, which is why we are looking at the inside, although I would have installed it a whole lot better. I am, however, thinking about asking if we can paint the thing and then, instead of doing a nice, sedate white, putting up a huge, tasteful mural, a la East L. A., with the Virgin of Guadalupe and Che Guevara and lots of militant Latino stuff. Or maybe some Black Panther propaganda.

Anyway, back to the fence. For those of you who are NOT math challenged and think I AM, yes, the one side is ten feet and our side is fifty feet, which means that the two sides do not connect across the back. Geometry is not my strong suit, and even I got that this fence will do little to deter even the dumbest crook, including those who can't get over that picket part. I think the whole purpose (excuse) for the fence was to screen their house and lives from us, a fact which does not offend me at all, as the previous person who lived here was an eighty-something lady who rarely went outside, and never went into the back. We are noisy, messy, and obviously there even if there isn't a low rider with dingle balls parked in the driveway and rap music blaring from inside. Actually, we are not bad neighbors, but I guess by comparison we are a bit of a culture shock and hard to ignore. Anyway, since the deck on the back of the neighbor's house is raised, they can still see directly into our yard as they exit their house or have a barbecue or enjoy the evening light.

Which makes me wonder: Did this occur to them at all before they got started? Are they now thinking, "Oh, no. Why did we even bother" or is it more like "Now for phase two"? Are they going to put an auxiliary fence of corrugated fiberglass panels across the top like at some of those junkyards you see along the highway? And is their kid still leaving his bike in the front yard at night because it is even more difficult to put it away now that he has to go around the fence to get to the back? Maybe he could just sling it over that picket section.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Federal Unreserved

For the duration of my mother's illness, we have had a check cut from the trust each month; I then deposited that check into a bank account at US Bank, which is practically in our back yard but also has a branch in the grocery store where I shop in the City. I have several accounts at US Bank, including an account with my sister, mother, and me on it, which was used to pay Mom's nursing home bills, and a savings account with only my name on it. My parents had banked at US Bank, and the tellers and manager know my sister and me by sight. In fact, we got a sympathy card from the bank employees when my mom passed away.

EG and I have our joint accounts at FM Bank, which is down at the center of the township. He does all our banking there, as all my stuff is direct deposited. FM Bank has a branch in the City, too, in its own building across the street from the grocery store and US Bank.

Anyway, having errands to run, I drove over to the City and stopped to deposit two of the checks from the trust into the US Bank account. I turned into FM Bank, and pulled into the drive thru line. I stuck a pen under the flap of one of the envelopes to open it, pressing the envelope onto the steering wheel, and pushing down for leverage. HONK! I beeped the horn.

This startled me, and I jumped, whipping the pen up, and slinging the envelope with the check somewhere into the back of the van. Oops. I jumped out and ran around the back of the van to the other side of the car. Of course I hadn't unlocked the doors, so I continued around the front of the car, stuck my hand through the window, and unlocked the doors, continuing around the car for a second lap. I zipped open the sliding door, finally locating the envelope wedged into a cup holder (one of at least 62 in that van), finished my second lap, and hopped back into the driver's seat. After assembling my paperwork, I pulled up to the window. The teller greeted me warily.

"May I please have a deposit slip," I asked the teller. He told me to send the pneumatic tube carrier back, and I did so with no problems, eyeing the FM Bank posters of their mascot, which is inexplicably a stuffed moose, albeit a cute stuffed moose. I filled out the FM deposit slip with my US Bank account information, signed the back of the checks, and sent the whole thing back to the teller. Next to the drive thru was another poster of the moose, shot from behind, showing his stuffed moose backside with a little stuffed moose tail. "Furry back," it said. It took me a minute. Which was okay, as the teller was having difficulties.

He fussed around quite a bit longer. I wasn't too alarmed, as I generally have a hold on part of the deposit since it is made out to two people, but I am the only one who is depositing it. Tellers new to our transaction struggle with this. Finally, the teller said, "Do you have an account with us?"

Well, this was a new one. "I have a joint account with my sister," I told him. He typed frantically for a few minutes. "And you want this in your checking account?" Yes. "What is your sister's name?" I told him. More typing. Then I elaborated, which totally confused him. "And my mother is on the account, but she is dead."

"She's not showing on the account," he said. "Only two people are on the account. You might have to bring her in and add her."

Now, that would be a trick. "She's dead," I repeated. He blinked at me.

Then he told me, "This number you put on the deposit slip isn't for any account at our bank."

Uh-oh. Light was slowly dawning. I looked again at the moose. "Oh. My. Gosh." I told him. "I AM AT THE WRONG BANK! That's my US Bank account number! Would you please send that all back, and I'll go over to the grocery store?" By now, all the tellers had stopped their transactions and were watching the show. I grabbed the tube with the paperwork, flustered, and drove off.

With the tube still in the car.

Noticing my goof, I drove around the building and back up to the window. Again everyone stopped and stared. I waved the plastic tube, placed it in the holder and tooled off, this time for good.

Next time, I'll go to the corner to do my banking. It is safer to stay in my own neighborhood.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Murr Kitty

We adopted Pancho last year because we "needed" another cat, according to EG. I can see "needing" a root canal or "needing" a new transmission, but not "needing" a new cat. If you say "need", I think expensive and/or painful.

As a joke, EG had started calling Amber the So Elusive and Horribly Paranoid That People Think We Made Her Up, "Miss Kitty," kind of a takeoff on Gunsmoke, I guess. So, it followed logically (or at least as logically as things get around here) that Pancho became Mr. Kitty. The kids, of course, pronounced the Mr. phonetically, and he became known as Murr Kitty or Murr-Murr.

Mr. Kitty gets up with me each morning and accompanies me into the bathroom, where he aids in my waking up attempts by chomping on my big toes. If you have trouble rising in the morning, I do recommend this technique--nothing like sharp little canines covered with cat saliva to thrust one into reality in the darkness of a weekday.

Then he "murr"?s at us all until someone (EG) fills his bowl. I do not understand why Mr. Kitty doesn't take the more expedient route and bite EG's toes, but who am I to discern the finer workings of the feline brain. Upon dining, Mr. Kitty zooms hysterically around the house until Amber hisses at him and the dogs bark frantically, and then, having accomplished his work for the day (saliva on toes, check; get bowl filled, check; make sure Amber is awake, check; exercise, check; frustrate large stupid non-feline creatures, check, check, check), he will loudly state "Murr-OW," flick his tail at us, and vanish over the baby gate to the upstairs to sleep with the dust bunnies under Nita's bed until she gets home from school.

Periodically, we will do something different and throw off his routine. For example, Saturday mornings are a bit challenging for him, as EG will wake up earlier than I do on those days. Let me digress and add here that "earlier" is a relative term, as I get up at 5:45 on weekdays and sleep in to the decadent hour of 6:30 on Saturday. Anyway, Murr Kitty will forego the formalities on the weekend and focus on the important stuff: getting himself locked in the basement, where he can cry loudly and rattle the door and make all three dogs bark at once. This getting locked in the basement technique requires great precision, so he times his approach with impeccable finesse, sitting on one of the kitchen chairs under the table, behind the veil of the tablecloth, and waiting for one of the kids to go downstairs for bread, cereal, or something from the freezer. Then he launches himself off the chair and swoops into the stairwell. This is the dangerous part, as the girls like to slam the door if they are in a snit, so more than once Murr Kitty has had a close call with his tail.

While down there, he uses our auxiliary litter box, as it is cleaner than the one upstairs, and doing his thing there prevents anyone from grabbing him and hauling him back up. Generally, I will sweetly ask, "WHAT on EARTH is KEEPING you so long?" in a shrill tone of voice, and the kid who had the unfortunate job of retrieving whatever will announce, "Murr Kitty is down her, and he's going to the bathroom." Then I utter those magic words he is waiting for, "Just leave him down there and GET BACK UP HERE."

Every great once in a while, Mr. Kitty will decide he needs a day off, so we waste an inordinate amount of time looking for him, as we are afraid the dogs have gotten him or he is locked in the attic, another of his great pleasures. Of course, the dogs are then dysregulated and barking, we are all awake, and Amber has filled in and complained until the bowl is full, so he managed to get it all done while lying someplace secluded, squeezing his eyes shut in satisfaction, and undoubtedly pleased with his delegation abilities.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

One thing about having children is that you re-learn much of what you have forgotten in life.

For example, in the car yesterday I listened to a politically-slanted dissertation from EG to the kids about the origins of Labor Day. It lasted four and a half miles.

So, today, we are watching the re-enactment of the labor strikes and the U. S. Marshalls intervening while waiting for the pumpkin cake and brownies to finish baking.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bathing dogs

Today the kids played at the farmer's market. While there, I met a woman with a black lab who had a gorgeous coat. I asked how she did it, and she said he swam in the fish pond quite a bit.

I thought, "Oh, that could be messy." Little did I realize.

We came home to find that Harry had gotten the ten pound container of flour off the counter and opened it--on the sofa. He looked like a polar bear. The sofa looked like his iceberg.

I took off the slipcover and threw it in the washer, and EG scraped and washed the floor.

Then I bathed Harry. When the water hit him, he became kind of pasty, but I refrained from trying to stick things to him and scrubbed him with Dawn dish soap, and he eventually came clean. Then I bathed Nash outside. He hates baths, but he simply stands and whines when they happen to him.

Then I decided to bathe Penny. First thing, she saw a butterfly in the yard and lunged for it, dragging me with her. I tied her to the porch railing. Then the boys started barking at the female beagle behind us and took off running. Penny tried to follow, yanking the railing out of its fittings. I held on to the leash, and she dragged me, across the yard. I looked as if I was water skiing. Eventually discovering that she had some kind of ballast behind her and/or the blood flow to her head was cut off by her collar, she slowed down enough for me to wrangle her back to the area of the hose. I thoroughly wet her, and she shook all the water back on me. I wet her again. She started to shake, and I grabbed her shoulders, so she leaned on my thighs. When I jumped back, she shook again. Finally, standing on her leash, I managed to suds her up and rinse her. She saw a rock she wanted and lunged for it, making my feet spin in a circle and me to sit down on the wet driveway. I finally got her rinsed, adding only about four gallons to my own clothes and thoroughly flooding my shoes in the process, and tied her to my chair. She alerted to a bit of fluff in the air, and I sat down fast as she careened by, only to be dragged halfway up the driveway, a journey which was interrupted because she saw "her" rock again and detoured after it, attempting to swallow it once she got it. I pried it from her jaws. It was covered with dog slime, some of which remained in her mouth, and she wiped on my legs.

I tied her to the garage, thinking that there was little chance (but still some of a possibility) that she would take it halfway up the drive as well. One time we tied her to the conduit, and she tore that off the building, but I felt pretty sure that a two by four would hold her unless a big herd of cats, some shifty looking people, and the ice cream truck came all at once. Of course, in order to repair the railing, I had to take the whole thing off the porch and disassemble it, starting with putting WD 40 on all the rusted together parts. In the process of trying to pursuade the reluctant bolts, I pinched my finger with the pliers, giving myself a gigantic blood blister. I sent Nita for the first aid kit, which she decided to pursue through the house in her skates. I heard her fall five times in the kitchen, which averaged to once every two feet or so, on her way to the hall closet. Before I resorted to amputating my have a nice day finger with the pruning sheers, Dorothy Hammill swooped back up, dropping the first aid kit as she arrived, and spreading the contents across a ten foot by ten foot area of dish soap suds and dog hair. I picked up what I needed and tended to the wound as the talented Dorothy fell flat on her behind, reclined dramatically on the concrete, and announced that her leg was broken, but a pizza might be an incredibly fast cure.

Now the house smells like wet dog, the porch rail wobbles dramatically, my middle finger hurts like crazy, and Nita is walking like John Wayne.

I think I'll take them to the lake in the future.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Abyss

Here we are, at the last day of August.

In early May, brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and declined rapidly. In June, he died. July is a blur, as my mother was declining. She died in early August. Today I got word that a family friend had died, two weeks shy of his fiftieth anniversary, after he had announced that he intended to stay around long enough to dance with his wife to celebrate that milestone.

I have a hole in my life now that I don't go to the nursing home every day and worry worry worry about my mother's care. I don't have the constant preoccupation to distract me. I grieved so much during her illness that I find I feel more of a sense of relief than anything else, but sadness that we all got gypped when it came to quality time.

Now that I haven't got the preoccupations, I spend more time with my kids, maybe just give them more of my attention, more time on the house, more time on homework, more time on reading. I find my mind is clearer when I do my schoolwork. Maybe "a hole" isn't the best way to describe it. Maybe it is not a void in a negative sense, but a big, open space: my life is no longer so compressed. I have parts that I can fill up however I wish.

And I want to choose things which give me joy.

After six years, I'm not used to that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Drama mama

I love back to school weather. I love hearing the night bugs and frogs in the still air. I love the morning light, so perfectly time with my drive to work. I love the temperature in the mornings.

And I love having my kids back in school. However, Kiki is at that age where girls appear to make everything into a drama. For example, the school put the names of the students and their groups on the front door of the school today. Of course, her name wasn't there when we went there after I got off work. Kiki became hysterical, inferring from this apparent oversight that she had been retained in the seventh grade and didn't get the memo. Nita, of course, was far from sympathetic--let's say annoying--and the two girls escalated into a huge squabble in front of the yams in the produce department at the grocery store.

I finally got her calmed down enough to listen to me, but she went to bed early so tomorrow morning and its attendant doom will come faster.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


I am sitting here in the quiet, again starting the day with the peace of the early morning. I have never been one to sleep in, and the dogs now ensure that I get up and have the part of the day I need the most before the kids and responsibilities start lining up.

Penny, our female lab is with me. We have described her as a toddler with fur, or rather, since she has four legs, it would be more appropriate to describe her as two toddlers with fur. And hyperactivity. Because she is so large, she can cruise the counters without jumping up, she sticks her long nose in my purse or any bags in the room, and she can open cupboards and closets and refrigerators.

Penny, aka Penelope Pitstop, is a large, reddish dog with a tremendous amount of drive. She feels no pain that we've been able to discern, or perhaps she just bulldogs through it. When we got her, she had been surrendured to the dog pound--her owners said, "We didn't think she'd get this big, and boy, is she hyper."

Major understatement. We thought Marley and Me was rather dull compared to some of our adventures.

The sound most commonly associated with Penny, boo-WAH, is included in a narrative of her escapades and is always accompanied by a demonstration of how she jumped, front feet up in the air, like two high fives, before pummeling someone or something she is overjoyed to see. "How did this happen," I will ask, looking at a combination of cat food, oregano, Legos, pencil shavings, and shredded cabbage on the kitchen floor. "Well," one of the kids will tell me, "we were going outside to play with the Legos on the porch when Nita was feeding the cats, and Penny saw the kitty, and boo-WAH (hands up), she went after the kitty, who went on the counter and Penny knocked down the cole slaw and spices and the newspapers and the phone and answering machine and the kitty ran into the closet, climbing the coats and knocking the pencil sharpener off the wall. Penny grabbed the pencil sharpener and took it, and we chased her."

Why do I even ask.

Or, "Some guy came to read the meter, and Penny was outside and saw him, and boo-WAH, she went to say Hi and he said for you to fill in this card and mail it back."

Or my favorites was the lady who pulled in to pick up something I had for her. She said, "I forgot you said to park behind the basketball hoop, and boo-WAH, that dog was in my car."

So, in the quiet of the mornings, I put Penny on a leash and tie her to my chair while I read the paper and drink my coffee. Now that she is four or five, she has moments, albeit very brief, of stillness, and she will lie next to me while I rub her with one bare foot. She honestly does not have one mean bone in her body and loves all humans and cats (dogs are okay if they don't sniff her tail, and I see her point here). Like Will Rogers, she never met anyone she didn't like. Boo-WAH.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Hole

My sister said recently that her grief is like a hole.

Sometimes she can't help but fall into it. However, she is learning when she is getting close to it, and now, sometimes, she can choose to fall into the hole or not. Plus, the edges are no longer a sharp dropoff but are getting rather boggy, so she can tell when she is getting close to that edge.

Yesterday, I took the rabbit to the nursing home for his picture session for his article, then met up with my sister to make the funeral arrangements, then to the florist to choose the flowers, then to the nursing home to pack my mother's things, then to lunch, then to meet with the minister to plan the funeral, then to the grocery store, then home to make supper. I realized at seven, when Nita was needy of attention from Mama while EG had the other two at music lessons, that I was so exhausted I was shaking. I did some homework and then went to bed with EG, where we talked for the first time that day. All that activity kept me away from the hole.

This morning, just before dawn, I woke and realized I was right on the edge of that hole. Two cardinals, my mother's favorite birds, were calling, competing if you will, with how loudly and beautifully they could sing. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, they said, sounding as if they were throwing back their heads and just letting loose with all they had in pure joy at the sun coming up one more day.

I got up and went into the bathroom, and Harry thought that was a good idea, so he announced he had to go outside RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I went out with him, and stood and looked at the early sunrise, pink and orange and purple with a big thundercloud in the middle of it, and remembered a verse I had found tucked into one of my mother's dresser drawers, written in her handwriting. It said,

I took an hour
To look at a flower,
A day to look at a shell.
A week went by
As I looked at the sky.
Oh, time has treated me well.

So I stopped to fully appreciate the sight. The cardinals flew off to begin their day, leaving me to carry on their appreciation for them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Seven weeks

My mother passed away quietly and peacefully this afternoon. After a long, and at the end, agonizing battle with Alzheimer's, post-polio syndrome, congestive heart failure, and a myriad of other age-related illnesses, her last 45 minutes here with us were so amazing to me in that her body relaxed and she eased gently into another place. I was blessed to be there, holding her hand, in that most intimate of moments.

It was seven weeks from the time my brother-in-law received his diagnosis until his death, and another seven weeks until my mother's death. I hate to see what the next seven weeks brings.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day Three

It has been three days since my mother has had anything to eat or drink. When I try to feed her, she clamps her mouth shut. Not only is that her choice, but from what I understand, people who are dying feel better not taking input.

The changes are gradual and yet apparent. I went in before seven this morning and met her MD, who said, "It won't be long." We discussed turning off the pacemaker, and the doctor delegated that duty to the hospice nurse, who showed up an hour or two later. She spent a good part of two hours chasing around to figure out how to get the pacemaker turned off/discontinued.

First, we started with the pacemaker company. They said they needed the serial number of the transmitter we used to check the pacemaker over the phone lines. Since we had discontinued the checks months ago, no one knew where the transmitter was. We finally found it in a closet near the nurse's station.

Then we didn't need that number, but Mom's patient number. When we gave them that number (keep in mind that she has three binders stuffed full with her patient records), they said we had to call the cardiologist. The nurse called the cardiologist, whose assistant said, "We don't keep any records before 2006, so I don't have her here." Okay, so what has been happening to the pacemaker checks we had sent from 2006 to 2008? The office had to send to Iron Mountain (imagine my mental image), which I guess is a document storage facility, for her records.

Oh, and when was that pacemaker inserted? Like we'd remember?

So we wait. Meanwhile, Mom declines a little more hour by hour. If the pacemaker is what is keeping her alive, then we'll have to wait until the records are retrieved and sent to the MD and then he reads them and gives us permission to turn off the pacemaker, which most likely just needs a magnet to discontinue its use.

However, Mom seems peaceful and is resting, so we can be patient.

But I do have magnets on my fridge...

Sunday, August 2, 2009


My sister finally got in contact with my mother's doctor, who listened (what a wonderful skill in a physician) and thanked my sister for calling and telling her about my mother's distress. My sister told her, "We realize that by keeping mom calm through the medication, she will most likely not eat or drink, and she will become dehydrated and die. We are okay with that. There is no quality of life, and she should be comfortable. She would be so distressed to know that she is upsetting the children who are visiting their family members."

The doctor wrote the orders. The hospice case manager talked to the nurses at the facility. The nurses at the facility figured out how to get the medication into my mother when she is groggy. And she rests.

I told the kids they were permitted to make the choice to see Grandma or not. Yesterday, when I went to the nursing home with Kiki, who asked to go, Mom was in the dining room. She was moaning gently on each exhale, and she was cold to the touch. Kiki and I rubbed her arms, rearranging them (it was lovely to see them relaxed), and tried to feed Mom. Her swallow reflex was very, very slow, but we managed to get two ounces or so of thickened milk into her. That was the most she had all day, and she was exhausted by the time that was done. She went to sleep, and Kiki and I took her to the nurse's station and asked to have mouth care and have her put in bed.

I called my sister and told her that we didn't have much time left. or, rather, Mom didn't have much time left.

Last night, I crawled into bed and fully expected to be tortured by this ghastly decision we had to make. Did we do the right thing? Intellectually, I know we did. And I don't care what the staff thinks, as they tend to roll their eyes warily at me anyway, much like someone would a stray dog, and this is my mother, not theirs. And I was pretty sure Mom would approve of not prolonging this. However, I wasn't bothered at all--in fact, I had lovely gentle dreams of my mother the way she used to be. When I woke up, I was flooded with warm memories and funny scenes of when I was a child. It was almost like Mom had visited me in the night, on some different realm, to reassure me that this is what she wanted, and she wished for us to be at peace like she would soon be.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The lower half of the face

I recently attended an in-service for hospice. I was due to get my in-service hours in, and it was a good time, being held on a Thursday evening when the kids' dad takes them to music lessons.

The topic was Pediatric Palliative Care. Hospice for kids. Okay, I thought, this will be so uplifting.


So I signed up anyway, and I am so glad I did. What a wonderful presentation--the speaker was a retired nurse and retired teacher who was doing chaplain work with the dying on a volunteer basis. Someone mentioned how draining the work must be, but she replied that it was something which energized her. Aha, I thought. She gets it--hospice is about empowering people to live.

I came away with a quote which it took me until the second half of my life to learn--Rabbi Kushner, in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, said, and I am paraphrasing here, "When you don't know what to say, say I'm sorry and shut up." I am going to try to adopt that as my mantra. We live in a society of too much noise--television, radio, cell phones, constant verbal attack. I want to listen aggressively to the silence.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Margery Williams--The Velveteen Rabbit

Monday, July 27, 2009

I want what I want when I want it

My mother is in the advanced stages of dementia.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the disease, or at least have only a passing acquaintance with it, this means for my mom that she is agitated almost constantly. When she gets agitated, her arms flail, and she chants. "Aiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiai," she'll say for hours on end. If we ask a questions, she will reply, over and over. "Mom, are you ready for bed?" "Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes" until the next distraction. It is bothering the other residents and their families.

We have been working with hospice on getting the meds balanced so Mom is calm. Unfortunately, the nurses at the facility think Mom should be alert, not realizing that for her, alert equals agitated. I spoke at length with the hospice case manager on Friday, and I told her, "If Mom sleeps the rest of her life away, so be it. However, having her risk being in that agitated state for hours because she should be awake is just cruel."

She agreed. We talked to the nurses on duty, and they began giving the medications on a preventive basis. So, Mom was sleepy, but she was calm. There was peace. Yesterday, the Mom's doctor came in and visited Mom. "She is too out of it. I don't like this at all," she said, and cut way back on Mom's medications. When my sister went in yesterday at suppertime, Mom was charged up, chanting, and had been parked in her room, as she was again disrupting the facility and making a great commotion.

So this morning I have a call in to the hospice case manager and a fax to the doctor. There is no quality of life left for my mother. Let's let her be comfortable, and let's let those around her have some peace. I know I will rest better knowing she is not alone and shouting over and over again.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hare-y Houdini

My sister called me one day two summers ago. It seems she and her husband were driving to the Earth Day celebration. The day was uncommonly sunny and very hot, and they drove past a house which had a cage out by the road, with a sign on the cage reading, "Free." As they passed, my sister saw two ears.

"That's a rabbit," she said. "In the sun with no shade. I have to call my sister."

Her husband said, "I'm turning around."

She called me. "There's a bunny," she said, "on the side of the road, in the sun. Its cage is filthy, and it has bird seed in its dish, and it has no water."

"Get it," I said.

"And there's a sign which says free, and it stinks."

"Get it," I said, "and we'll find it a good home."

So they went to the house and got the rabbit, which the people said they had gotten for their daughter who had just gotten tired of it. Since my sister had guinea pigs and had heard that rabbits and guinea pigs should not be kept together, I took the rabbit and put him on the porch. He was a darling little mini-rex, tan in color, and very sweet. His coat was that wonderful plush which the mini-rex buns are known for. The kids named him Willie. The next day, when I came home from work, EG had moved the bunny into our bedroom. "Huh," I told him. "Looks like Bunny found a new home."

Will eventually got moved to the bottom half of the rabbit condo in the living room, and eventually Harry discovered that he could move the latch to the cage and open the door, and then stick his head in and snack on the treats intended for the rabbit. Unfortunately, Willie is an adventurer, and he gets out and travels through the house. We have had to use a lock on the cage.

Today we came back to find the cage open and the bunny nowhere to be found. Finally, we located him, up inside the sofa, where he was quite comfortable, thank you very much, and had no intention of coming out. Eventually, I persuaded him with the broom to head for his cage, but he ran in the corner instead. When I crawled up to him, he came to me and buried his head in my chest.

Now he is in his cage, inside his box, with only his ears sticking out, "hiding" from the world. And we will be buying a second lock for the cage.