Emery doesn’t live here anymore…

The one thing I haven’t done since my return to Kansas a week ago, is to go see my daughter, Emery, and simply hang with her and catch up, face to face.  I know.  She doesn’t live here anymore.  I should know that.  I helped box up belongings and distributed them to Good Will, my basement, and a moving truck parked in their driveway on I swear the hottest, most humid day that Kansas has ever seen in May.  The remaining items were then stuffed into my car and driven to Ft. Collins, CO, where I then helped unload, unpack and empty the contents into cupboards, shelves and closets.  I know which drawer her orange-handled carrot peeler is in, but keep forgetting that she and her husband, Miles have moved.

On the Colorado side of the 657 mile journey…

In order to understand where I am now, I feel like I have to back up several years to when I first was divorced.  My son, Grant, was a senior year in high school and my daughter, Emery, a freshman. My oldest son, Thomas, was already in college.  Although Grant was a part of my transition,  it was after that first year when I was no longer coasting on the affects of adrenalin and making up my life a day at a time, when the real work began.  It was with Emery that I truly cut my teeth of independence and began to figure out exactly who I was and what I was supposed to be doing.  I had already done what I thought was the hardest part, but would later learn that it wasn’t the jumping off the proverbial cliff that was the hardest part, but rather, my anticipation of growing the wings I would need for a safe landing. That’s what kept me up at night.  Selfishly, I was grateful to not have to be alone when I had to go through the crises that seemed to come with regularity, including an exploding water pump in the basement and the bird’s nest in the porch light that caught fire from the heat of the bulb on a windy night, ending in a 911 call.  Although we were both treading in new waters and had no idea what we were doing, we had each other and not knowing feels a whole lot better when you have someone sitting next to you. Emery showed me what grace under fire looked like and unbeknownst to her, I’m sure, became my teacher….she and Lorelei Gilmore, that is, the leading role from the TV show “The Gilmore Girls”.

Emery and I loved the Gilmore Girls and would tune in whenever it was on.  It was entertainment for Emery, but far more for me.  I tuned in to learn how to be a divorced Mom to a teen-aged girl.  Lorelei Gilmore helped me find the confidence I needed to maneuver my way in this new role and as odd as it may sound to put such stock in a TV character, also made me feel not so alone in this new place. We (my television mom friend, Lorelei, and I) were on the same time schedule, with daughters who would be flying the nest at the same time.  I watched with anticipation, excitement and a deep seated sadness as we both seemed to be marking days at the same time and with the same speed.  I’ve got to think that Emery knew this as we sat next to each other on the couch every Sunday night and tuned in.  Even now, several years later, I am often touched to tears when I hear Carol King’s song, “Where You Lead” (the show’s lead in song) because of the many memories it conjures up.  I knew what was going to happen in the show because it was inevitable.  The daughter goes to college.  She leaves.

In the spring of Emery’s junior year, we got to enjoy several weeks of actually watching the process of  “flying the nest,” when a pair of cardinals nested in a tree right outside our kitchen window. Not even the Gilmore girls witnessed the incredible course of events that unfolded in the weeks to come (that we knew of…), although we both agreed it would have been a great story line for the show.  We went from watching mom sitting on the eggs, to seeing the babies peck their way out of the tiny shells then watched as dad would forage for food and bring it back to the mom, who would then feed her babies.  We were both awed by the beauty of watching the two birds turn into a family and the roles that all seemed so familiar to us. We watched from our own perch on the kitchen floor, all hunched down below the window sill and barely breathing, so as not to frighten them.  It became our TV and for me,  another role model to learn from.

We followed them, felt connected to them and I learned from them.  It wasn’t long before we watched the papa bird begin to teach the babies how to fly by flying to a nearby branch then would look back to the nest of baby birds and whistle.  We translated the whistle to,  “watch me and then do what I do.”  And eventually, they did.  Emery and I both beamed with maternal joy as we watched what were only eggs in a nest a few weeks ago, grow up, find their independence and make their maiden flight over to a nearby branch.  We witnessed as they practiced the short flight over and over again, always with a safe return to the comforts of the nest and mom.  A few days later, the babies had all flown the nest and we assumed were filled with the excitement of having their own places.  Emery and I had a high school graduation to attend and made one last look at the nest before leaving the house, now empty of its babies. Something seemed very poignant about the sequence of events given the timing of our leaving for a high school graduation.  I had been witnessing my own reality of a soon to be empty nest in the truest sense of the word.  Could a metaphor ever again be this spot on? If she hadn’t been a bird, I would have enjoyed a coffee and a chat with her, about that empty nest and all.  Did it feel too big now?  Is it lonely?  When we got home a few hours later, we were surprised by our discovery.  Lo and behold, all the babies had returned home from their various homes on branches in nearby trees.  I couldn’t help but smile, and felt a huge sense of relief for their mama.

It’s not a very clear photo, but we were being very thoughtful with our presence while watching from the kitchen window as we didn’t want to scare the protective mother.

I couldn’t help but think about that series of events with the family of cardinals while on the road to Ft. Collins in my overly loaded car.  Whether it was 657 miles down I-70 or from one tree to the next in my back yard, it was all the very same thing from the viewpoint of a mom….leaving the nest, the town, the state.  While I followed Emery’s car for every one of those 657 miles, I thought about the last time I had followed her on the highway, both of us with overloaded cars, when I moved her into her dorm at the University of Kansas.  I worried about her and how she’d do with this next big transition.  Or so I told myself… I was really worried about me and how I would handle this next big transition.  There was comfort, both times, in being able to take refuge in the comfort of being alone in my car.  I could cry.

Again, I followed my daughter down the highway as she tested her wings – this time with Miles

I’m certainly not expecting Emery to land back in my nest, but I know I’ve given her an internal compass that will always point her home.  Actually, I gave all 3 of my kids a small box for their graduation from high school that contained among other symbolic items, a compass that would always point them home.  When I was typing the letter that went into the box for Emery, just as I had done for her brothers, I envisioned her home as always being where I was and where she had come from, as that was the only reference I knew at the time.  Now I realize that the compass, although orientated to “home,” was now pointing her to the mountains of Colorado, where she has found her next home with her husband, Miles.  Still, she will always carry with her the internal compass that will always point her home – whether that’s to an actual physical location or to a feeling she carries in her heart.

My heart has stretched, yet again, across the 657 mile stretch of I-70 from Leawood, Kansas to Ft. Collins, Colorado, and although I can’t say I don’t feel sad at times, I’m with a very full heart that knows that although as parents we strive to give our children both wings and roots, it is in their flying that they will truly learn about life. As you fly, Emery, I learn, and in the process, we both grow.

Wings that took us to Perú…wings that would later take you there again…without me.

 

No matter where you are physically, you’re sitting right here next to me in my heart, Emery…

And to you,  Emery, you will not have an easier house guest.  I know where everything in your kitchen is as I put it there.  Second drawer to the right of the stove for the orange-handled carrot peeler…

Holding onto my shirt, letting go of my ego and a mustard stain embarrassment

Today is day 7 of my broken shoulder, which without doing any math, adds up to 7 days of wearing the black tee shirt.  My daughter, Emery, is worried about separation anxiety when the two of us eventually will go our separate ways, and my sister, Robin, insists that I will never want to see, let alone wear, the shirt again and will likely lay it to rest in the garbage can.  The truth, I’m guessing,  lays somewhere in between.  Out of pure exasperation, on around day 4, I did take scissors to my sports bra that had been along for the ride since day one,  and was able to make enough one-handed cuts to pull it out my right sleeve.  If this is too much information, I’m sorry.  My life kind of feels like a too much information situation these days.  I need to vent.

Before any judgements are made, and I would hardly blame you, I have been washing my shirt right along side all my other parts, as I’m still wearing it as much as I’m wearing my left arm, which I now wish I could have dropped off at the emergency room and picked up when it was healed.  I guess you could say my shirt has become a part of me.  Would it help if I added that it is a quick dry shirt and people who backpack, the Colorado Trail for example, would wear the same shirt for a whole lot longer?  Isn’t that right, Lexi Schmidt??  In truth, my justifications here are much more directed to myself than they are to my audience.  I came to that realization while sitting in a bank lobby yesterday morning.  It was there, while seated on the other side of of a highly polished, mahogany desk, that I realized I had mustard on my four times bathed shirt and it’s possible that I did not smell petal fresh.  OK, it’s more than possible.  An odor that might be similar to day 4 or 5 on the trail comes to mind, but I’ve not gotten confirmation on that.  Robin did lean in pretty closely though and assured me that I didn’t stink, but that was 3 days ago.  She did, however, tell me that the fingernails on my left hand still looked kind of muddy, which sadly is true.  Thank goodness for sisters, who will tell you what you need to hear and will wipe your tears afterwards. She must not have noticed the mustard.

How is it that the mustard stain didn’t show up in the mountains of CO, which is where the consumption took place, but did show up in the lobby of Commerce Bank two days post consumption?  Did the two storied windows, high ceilings, large commercial art installations and hushed tones bring an awareness that simply went unnoticed while in the more rugged, rough and tumble mountain environment?  Of course once you notice something then try to ignore it, not look at it, pretend it’s not there, it seems to explode, right before your very eyes.  I wanted the neatly, unstained banker to ask about my injury, so I could give some credibility to the contraption that seemed to be wearing me, but he didn’t and I didn’t want to be THAT girl who couldn’t wait to share my tale of woe.  I was asked by everyone I passed in CO, or so it seemed, what had happened to my arm, or more specifically, which sport played a role in the injury?  A slinged arm, a braced knee or a supportive crutch are common sight in my neck of the mountains and the curious asking is as much about gleaning information on trail conditions as it is to offer empathy.  Given the bruised visual aide, perhaps the banker was simply being professional and even thoughtful to avoid the subject, which could have just as easily been the result of an angry boyfriend, drunk brother-in-law or any anger-fueled ruckus as far as he was concerned..

I’m feeling vulnerable.  I can’t tie my shoes, button or zip my jeans (at least donning yoga pants makes me feel a little post-workout”ish”) and I can’t pull my hair back into a ponytail by myself.  My long, curly hair in this current KS post rain humidity is …well it’s not pretty, or small and although asking for help is not an easy task for me, asking someone to tie back my hair is such a necessity right now.  It’s been a day at a time situation that I’ve lucked out on so far with friends or family who have dropped by (thank you, Rhonda…).  But if/when luck doesn’t show up, I’m all in for waiting for my mailman (who is a woman) and will ask her.  My pride is waning.  So is my ego.

Still…

As far as the black tee shirt goes, frankly, I’m afraid to take it off.  My physical therapist friends have given me the instructions on removal, which is bad arm through the sleeve first…or was it good arm first?  Whichever way, I’m obviously not ready for the task.  Besides, the immobilizing sling would have to come off first, which scares me even more.  I’m a good patient to the point of flirting with being a bit neurotic, and if the ER doc told me to keep it immobilized, well then that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  He didn’t tell me to shower daily, change out of that black tee and quit eating stuff with mustard on it, or that’s exactly what I would be doing.

I know this could have been a lot worse and I did declare on my last post that I only needed another 24 hours or so of complaining, which was at least 4 days ago.  I think compromised hygiene in the burbs simply isn’t as acceptable as it is in the mountains, when assumptions of “just off the trail” could be made, and will therefore blame my current rants to hygiene issues, or lack thereof. A little shirt scrubbing in the shower and a tie back on this unruly hair and I’ll be as good as new.  Well… kind of.

This is probably a creepy addition to my post, but my friend, Rhonda thought the colors were beautiful and snapped this photo.  Sadly, the lighting hardly does it justice,  An unexpected silver, I mean purplish black, lining.

 

Resiliency, patience and a broken wing…

I bought a necklace a few summers ago while visiting in Frisco – a silver disc with tree branches on it.  I liked the simple lines.  The paperwork inside the box said the charm represented resiliency.  It could have stood for a whole lot of other things – love, courage or hope, but I was glad it was resiliency as that seemed to resonate with me.  It reminded me of the swaying tree branches in the strong Kansas winds and how it’s the winds that develop the tree’s strong lateral root system. The following summer, I found a charm of similar size with a small piece of turquoise in the center and the words “protect this woman”  encircling it.  I figured that given  the amount of time I was spending alone on the trails,  the silver talisman couldn’t hurt. For the last year these two charms have dangled around my neck, offering me both protection and resilience, or so I like to think.

 

My resiliency has been challenged after a bad fall I took while hiking a few days ago.   I fell in the mud.  Just typing that makes me want to laugh for some reason.  I mean really…  falling in the mud?  I broke the fall with my shoulder and am now wishing my wrist would have done the breaking,  as I’d be in less pain, but I really had no say in the matter.  A week earlier, a friend had told me that being able to get up without using your arms was a good indicator of overall strength and progression of aging.  I thought about that while laying in the mud and contemplating my transition to vertical.  Either my core strength with the possible help of one arm was going to get the job done or I was going to be the woman “who had fallen and couldn’t get up.”  I didn’t linger long on that decision and drug myself out of the mud and onto upright via my core, a small victory that was desperately needed.

the calm before the storm…
the “storm”

I also pulled my phone and sunglasses out of the mud and cleaned them off best as I could with my hands as my clothes were covered in mud.  To my children who make fun of my phone because it has not one but TWO protective coverings on it, this is why.  I did make myself sit down on a nearby log to collect my wits, survey the damage and take a few minutes to put my head in my muddy lap and cry before making the two mile journey home.  I’m not sure what concerned me more….what I had done to my shoulder?  or how quickly my plans for the rest of the day, the rest of the week and possibly the rest of the summer had changed in one quick slip of the foot. I was a walking mud mess that couldn’t make eye contact out of my mud smeared sunglasses with the couple of people who passed me on bikes.  I just hoped they had make the assumption that I had just participated in a Tough Mudder Run.  Probably not, but it made me feel better.

By the time I got home, I was in quite a bit of pain, and the only way I could hold my arm was across my chest,  with my hand on my heart, as if I was pledging allegiance.  And I did.  To never hike in mud again.

My fear was as great as my pain…what had I done to my shoulder?  Was my summer ruined?  How was I going to manage? I thought about a woman who I was standing behind in line at the Gap a few weeks earlier who was wearing a heavy duty sling on her arm and was sharing her horror stories of pain with the man who was ringing her up who had experienced the same injury and had worn the same sling.   I remember more of their shared words of pain than what I purchased that day.  Certainly ice and a couple of Tylenol would put me back together again, wouldn’t it?

Webster online dictionary defines resilient as:

“Being able to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens; being able to return to original form after being pulled, stretched or compressed”

I know, because for some odd reason, looking up that definition was the second thing I did when I got home. The first thing I did was take a bath,  leaving my shirt on, as I had no idea how it was going to come off without scissors, which I was not going to attempt one handed.  Besides, just thinking about maneuvering my arm out of the sleeve was painful.  It got washed right along side my muddy legs and arms.  The sports bra, I figured I’d just wear for the rest of my life or until this, whatever this was, was healed.

To Webster’s definition of pulled, stretched or compressed, I’m going to take liberties and add broken, because that’s what the doctor in the ER later told me.  I fell in the mud and broke my humerus, or my funny bone. As soon as this stops hurting, I’m really going to laugh about that.

This experience has tested my patience, exposed my vulnerability and has pushed me to do things that I’m very uncomfortable with, mainly asking for help (thank you, Karen and Lisa for stepping in before I had to ask ).  It has also given me appreciation for the very simplest of tasks that I clearly took for granted before.  Who would have thought to be grateful for being able to put deodorant on or file fingernails on both hands and not just the injured hand?  I miss being able to perform the simple task of changing my shirt  (yep, still donning my accident shirt and of course the sports bra that I will wear forever. )  I’m pushing the boundaries here with my camping hygene, less the tent or campfire, but have no immediate plans to venture out in public at this point so feel justified.   I miss typing with two hands and am finding that this solo-handed hunt and peck method feels like a foot on the brakes to my stream of consciousness, not to mention the whole two-step capitalization process.  I miss being able to tie my hair back…a few more days and I’m going to look like the dark-haired version of Emery and Miles dog, Olive, who is about as close to a dog with dreads as I’ve ever seen.  I’m tired of wearing yoga pants because I can’t get my jeans on and if I could, I wouldn’t be able to zip them.  Oh yea, and I miss yoga.

My necklace with the resilient and protection charms, is in my purse where the nurse put it before my x-rays,  no doubt with a new tangle or two,  which I wouldn’t be able to untangle anyway and if I could, I wouldn’t be able to fasten the clasp, so in my bag it will stay.   One thing that a broken shoulder doesn’t seem to have affected is my ability to whine.  Sorry, but I feel like I’ve got at least another 24 hours of stomping my feet and saying,

“Dammit I want to climb a mountain, zip up jeans, ride my bike, tie my hair back and carve out a piece of watermelon to eat.”

I cried this morning when I realized that I had to add putting on deodorant to my growing list of “no can do’s.”  Sometimes you’ve just gotta cry.

Just 24 hours… then I will be ready to back up and look at the big picture, think about the lesson and move on with the healing.

One of my friends compared me to a bird with a broken wing, which is exactly how I feel while perched in my bed with a blue-skyed mountain vista that seems to be beckoning.   Now is my “lay me in a shoebox with a Kleenex blanket to heal my broken wing” time.

just like the woman at the Gap was wearing…

Resilient?  I’m not sure.  I think I’ll have to wait and see what my return to original form after being fractured looks like for my answer.

Hands…The Dangling Strength That Hangs From Our Arms…

Hands.  Although hardly pretty, I’ve really come to love my hands.  They’re the outward representation of my spirit and in their lined palms, they have held all that I’ve loved, lost, hated, feared, created and comforted. They even hold the scar from a mishap with a tomato can lid while I was pregnant with Emery and trying to precook meals in anticipation of her arrival.  I was told, after my 10 stitches to the palm, that I’d never be able to get an accurate palm reading on that hand as there’s an extra line.  Maybe that tomato can lid added something to my life by adding the line – at least that’s the theory I’m going with.

My sister, Susan, told me that she had a yoga teacher once ask the class to look at their hands deeply enough that they almost seemed separate from the rest of their body and think about what they’ve done in your lifetime.  I had never really done that before and became rather obsessed with the idea of my hands.  Sure, the other parts of my body have also been along for the ride,  but it is the hands, the very visible hands,  that have created,  destroyed, cradled, protected and applauded their way through this life.

Susan told me that during the process of thinking about her hands, she thought about other hands and which pairs she would recognize.  She told me she would recognize my hands easily and wondered, would I be able recognize my own children’s hands out of a group of several?

“Of course I would!!!”  (this definitive YES is in no way trying to neutralize my confession in an early post of not recognizing my own new born in the hospital…)

But I later wondered…. would I?

Somehow hearing that Susan would recognize my hands gave me a deep sense of comfort.  She said they were hard working hands.  She’s right. My hands have always felt right at home digging in the dirt.  I know there are tools for that, and they do help me get the job started, but when it comes to placing a new plant into the earth I want to have full on skin to dirt contact.  That being said, I’ve entered into the season of perpetually dirty nails that do not know their way around a nail salon and quite honestly, kind of feel like they don’t belong.  With garden centers, on the other hand,  I’m full in.

While thinking about hands, I couldn’t help but think back to a few years ago and the volunteer work I did in Perú at a center for the poor elderly.  One of the activities I chose one day was to give manicures to any of the women who wanted them. Much to my surprise, almost all of them did, creating a bit of a frenzy at the small “station” I had set up.  I had danced with these women, chatted with them in their homes,  played games with them, but my favorite, by far, were the manicures.  There was a real intimacy in holding their hand, while painting their nails and like little girls, they were in awe of the process, watching carefully and boldly pointing out to me when my little brush painted outside of the nail line.

These hands made my hands look pampered and delicate.  THESE were working hands and just like Madge on the Palmolive commercial, I had all the waiting hands soaking in soapy water.  I told them it was to soften the nail so I could cut them, but in reality it was simply to clean them up a bit as most were filthy. Again, these were working hands.

One of my favorites, Maria Rivera, waited patiently in line and finally took her spot as my last customer.  She had the hands that needed the most work.  Her fingers were bent with arthritis and her nails thick and dirty and terribly ignored.  She had definite ideas as to how she wanted them to look – cut short, painted bright pink and made to look pretty.

“Bonita y rosada por favor.”

I did the best I could to make them not only bright pink, but well manicured and far cleaner than what she started with.  She seemed pleased.  As I held her hand in mine and tried  to file the nails down to a respectable length (they were far too hard to cut), I couldn’t help but think about what Susan had told me about hands.  As I worked my way across the nail of each of her short, thick fingers, I thought about the history I had been told about her, specifically how her own son had tried to strangle her.  Were these  hands that I was holding the same ones that pulled her own son’s hands off of her neck while trying to save her own life?  What else had these very strong hands done to protect the body that they dangled from?  No doubt there were many stories and I wanted to sit back and hear all of them while I held her fight, her strength and her integrity in my own hands.  These same hands, that were her protectors, still honored her vanity and drew perfectly arched brows over sad brown eyes, and placed a gold hat that looked like a half-popped jiffy pop container on top of her neatly coiffed hair every morning before coming to Los Martincitos.

Me and Maria Rivera

I felt honored to feel such intimacy with these women while working on their nails and making them pretty and pink.  The task at hand was the manicure, but I felt like I gained far more than what I gave.  The simple pleasure of being with these beautiful hard-working women who had experienced so much hardship in their lives, one at a time, while holding their hands and letting its energy mingle with my own was a gift.

Amelia… far prouder than she’d let on…
Petronila de Leon’s nails… pretty in pink!

 

These hands looked a whole lot different 24 hours later…

Besides the fact that the polish was old and sticky and the women insisted on sitting right next to me rather than across from me, which made for awkward angles, plus having to work under the frustration of swarms of flies (I later discovered that directly on the other side of the wall we were sitting in front of was a garbage dump), it has become one of my most treasured memories of my time in Perú.

My own hands, the same that so often had been told to put it down, leave it alone and stop picking at it, followed the rest of myself into a nail salon for a manicure the day before my son, Thomas’ wedding last year.  After the nail tech brought out the third wrong shade of pink,  I had to leave because I started crying.  Yes, crying. That’s not a typo.  When I got home my other son, Grant, asked me if I got my hands all fixed up (boy speak for manicure) and I told him no that I had to leave because I started crying.  He said nothing for a few seconds then responded with:

“You’re not ready for him to get married, are you?”

“No.  He’s still 9 years old… or so it seems.”

Clearly this was not about the wedding, but rather was about my having to face, full on, the passage of time, which felt a whole lot faster than was comfortable.

It’s easier for me to be more accepting of my stubby fingers with rough cuticles and often less than perfectly manicured nails when I think of what these hands have done for me.  The small hands they’ve held while crossing the street, the plants they’ve placed with hope into the dirt and the weeds they’ve pulled out in frustration,  the family dog that they held while he was being put to sleep and the tears they wiped away for so many days that followed, the babies they’ve held, the stories they’ve typed.  I love them in all of their flawed imperfection as they represent my history, my life and my spirit in full view.   How can that not evoke a crazy sense of pride of ownership…dirty nails and all?

The End.

 

My 365 day project…

Everyday, since January 1, 2014, I have been taking a photo and digitally putting it into a self-publish book.  Some days I’ve had a plethora of photos to choose from and other days I’ve struggled to come up with the one photo that will represent the day, more or less.   I’ve given each photo a date, the number of days into the year it represents and a caption.  By the way, today is day #146…

It’s been an interesting journey that has brought on challenges that I had not expected, which surprisingly has NOT been to remember to take a photo and digitally upload it into the book on a daily basis.  Initially, I tried to outdo myself daily, each photo upping the last, most of them scenic, none of them boring, but 146 days into the project, I know now that the days that I think I’ve got nothing, are the days that I find myself slowing down, listening and simply observing and I’m always surprised with what I end up with.  They are usually the days with the photos I’m most proud of.

The process has given me a different lens to view my day through (pun intended)… and through that lens, I’m finding the beauty in places and situations that I never noticed before….
Unexpected bonuses.
Open eyes.

Here are a few of my favorites…

Day #1

 

Day #36

 

Day #37
Day #71

 

Day #77
Day #91
Day #114
Day #146

 

From birthing to adulthood, there’s one thing I’ve learned, marvel in your creations, Moms, this day you’ve earned! Happy Mom’s Day!

Being a Mom was something I always knew I wanted in my life, although I never thought of myself as maternal before having kids. I was the one when playing house that wanted to play teenagers on dates with guys in convertibles, not mommies holding their crying babies.  When my first was born, anxious to show him off to one of my sisters when she came to the hospital, it took me three tries of pointing through the nursery window before I located the baby who I had actually birthed.  I was devastated.  Maternal, in what I thought maternal was, hadn’t magically appeared with childbirth for me.  I didn’t even know which baby in the rows of pink and blue swaddles was even mine.  I was post C-section, pumped up on morphine, so will blame the drugs.  But still….

It didn’t take me long, once home, to begin to understand what maternal instincts were and feel their presence in everything I did.  A couple became a family and a me became a we and it felt like it had been like that forever.  During the first few nights at home, I woke up far more than the baby did, simply to check to see if he was still breathing.  I know I’m not the only Mom who has stood over a bassinet in the middle of the night with her hand hovering a few inches over her baby’s mouth for the reassurance of the small warm puffs of life.

I wanted to be the best mom I could and between reading books about my child’s emotions, self-esteem, health, creativity and happiness, I sanitized, scrutinized, organized and sterilized every morsel of our 6 pound bundle of joy.  I wasn’t ready to believe that a dropped pacifier doesn’t have to be sterilized every time it hits the ground or that schedules don’t necessarily have to be adhered to.  I relied on the educated advice of others to get me through infancy (Dr. Spock included), as I didn’t yet have the confidence to veer off the path and do what felt right to me.

A short 18 months after my first was brought home from the hospital, we had a second son.  With two you get reality.  Parenting books, sanitized pacifiers (or sanitized anything for that matter) and rigid schedules all went out the window, along with expectations and sadly,  a few elements of my own personal hygiene.   Getting though the day with babies fed, no blood and some semblance of a dinner on the table at night was enough of a goal for me.  Thankfully, I had sisters who weren’t afraid to question me on my personal hygiene, reminding me that showering, shaving, and getting out of my jamies by dinner time would serve me well in the long run.  Still, in all the chaos of the non-perfection, non-scheduled, non-sterilized and very tired life, I felt gloriously maternal and totally in my element.

My oldest son, Thomas, in his brilliant curiosity, reminded me to slow down and simply look at things.  He questioned everything and when really pensive about something, he’d say:

“Let’s think about this till Saturday night, OK, Mom?”

We spent a lot of time stretched out on a blanket watching clouds drift by.  He called it our afternoon television.  I called it wonderful.

Slow down.  Look at things.  What’s the rush?

Thanks, Thomas.

This child, who was not even 2, during a frustrated moment I was feeling with his baby brother who had been crying nonstop for days it seemed, tapped me on the shoulder and with the innocence that can only come from a child, said:

“Just love him, Mama… just love him….”

Out of the mouths of babes…

Our second son, Grant, was my free-spirited, creative child from the get go. He taught me how to play again and through him, I tapped into my own magical and creative spirit.  Grant lived his life at full tilt and as a little boy, it shows in most of the photographs as he was usually sporting some sort of wound on his face from something that he never could exactly remember the how’s or the where’s behind it.

Grant was my kid who needed to be free… and as a toddler, hated wearing diapers in the summer while playing outside.  After a few rounds of trying to fix the situation with duct tape, I gave up and let him be free –  of diapers and tan lines.

I let go of the “supposed tos” and “shoulds” with Grant and when he decided that he wanted to wear plaid pants that were too little, swim shoes and a navy blue blazer to his preschool graduation, when all the other kids would be in shorts and tee shirts, how could I say no?

He took things apart, put things together, created from nothing and imagined everything.  He was observant to a tee and would comment on a new outfit, new recipe or if I had changed something in the house and with his observations came honesty….

“This doesn’t taste very good, Mom…”

Or the one that really caught me off guard was this, spoken at age 4:

“You’re pretty, Mom, but not a babe.”

“What do you mean by that, Grant?”

“Babes wear fancy dresses made of leopard.”

Was this from the Flintstones or a Victoria Secret catalog?  I opted on the former.

Have fun.  Make stuff and make stuff up.  Quit worrying about what anyone thinks.

Thanks, Grant.

When Emery was born, I wanted to  ride the brakes for as long as I could as I knew she was the last.  I dismissed the rules, threw out what little was left of the schedule and simply enjoyed being a mom.  For 5 years, short of taking her brothers to where they needed to be and keeping the family fed, I accomplished nothing while achieving everything.  I acted on whims and my gut and flew by the seat of my pants with her, which more than once had me calling her in sick to her mother’s day out/preschool program because we wanted to have an adventure instead, which always started with buying cinnamon rolls as big as our heads (we measured… kind of….)

Emery reminded me of the beauty of spontaneity and impulse decisions and that every once and a while cake for dinner and pizza for breakfast is A-OK and if you need to call popcorn a vegetable, then so be it. I broke all rules with her, including letting her sleep with me as an infant, but if that’s how I was going to get a good night’s sleep, then that’s how we were going to do it.

I slowed down to an almost stop with Emery… and it was deliciously wonderful to live life at the pace and the viewpoint of a little girl who twirled her way through life with a smile on her face and a song in her heart.  Her deep routed compassion for others, both of the 2-legged and 4-legged variety, touched me deeply… still does.

When we first took our new puppy to the veterinarian and he made an initial examination then left the room, she asked me why the vet was a man and I started to explain that it might have been the “woman vet’s” day off when she interrupted me with this:

“Why isn’t the Dr. a dog?  Wouldn’t a dog be able to understand our puppy better than we people could?”

I couldn’t do anything but smile.

Compassion.  Spontaneity.  Wear twirly skirts and dance.

Thank you, Emery.

Slowing down, having fun, finding our spontaneity… March, 1991

A mom once told me years ago that she wanted to be the kind of happy with her two boys that I was with my kids.  When I questioned her on it, she told me that she always watched me walking with my kids from the door of Thomas’ school to the car.  She said we looked so happy – a holding hands kind of happy.  I’ve thought about that a lot over the years.  Even though the hands were held tightly with an under my breath threat if they let go due to traffic, she was right.  I felt very happy all linked together with my kids.  I still do (although I’ve let go of my need to hold their hands in traffic, but still will stretch my arm out a la seat belt mode in a sudden car stop to protect my passenger, which more than likely is my purse or a bag of groceries these days…)

To all three of my kids, who as a new mom, I rubbed my hands in anticipation of being your teacher,  your guide, your mentor, your inspiration – you were the ones in the teacher role.  I’ve learned far more from the three of you than my maternal self ever thought possible.  Thank you from the bottom of my very full heart.

It’s been a banner year for this mom as I also got to claim the role of Mom in Law times two this year, a role that I hold dear to my heart, Brooke and Miles.  I get to gloss right over the sit up straight and eat your vegetables part and go straight to the simply enjoying part.  I love you both like my very own.

I once read that the decision to have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body (Elizabeth Stone).  To all of the moms out there who have hearts walking around outside of them,  this is your day.  Wishing you all a very happy Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day, 1992

 

Up and Running…(part 2 of “Letting Go”…)

Thanks to the help of my good friend, Lawson Barlow, my toilet is now up and running.  While he toiled away at the mess I had made (I’m learning the importance of using the right tool… you called it, LaMonte), his wife, Terri, and I enjoyed mint juleps on the screened in porch.  Who says that letting go and letting someone else step in and help you can’t be all that and a sprig of mint?

Although I can’t discount the importance to my own sense of confidence and self worth that comes from doing things myself, I think that asking good friends for help sometimes, hard as it is, can do far more for me than three days of a closed bathroom door with a heap of wrong tools filling the sink,  including a newly purchased hack saw.  Today, the feeling of knowing I’ve got great friends who will come to my rescue trumps the feelings of pride that comes from doing it myself.

In the event that this happens again, and it likely will given that I have 3 toilets in my house, Lawson gave me my very own pipe wrench, guaranteed not to strip the threads like my over-used pliers did.  With the addition of a new, never used hack saw and a pipe wrench,  my tool box it starting to look legit!

Up and running again!  Thanks, Lawson!

 

Learning to let go….

Along the same lines of my giving readers a heads up not to scroll down for the naked photos that did not exist in my “Skiing Naked” post, I need to be up front about the content to follow which is not about past relationships, disappointments, unmet expectations, or worse, but rather is about fixing toilets.  I had hoped this post would have a happier ending, or an ending, but it doesn’t and for those who want to continue to read this, I’m going to ruin the ending that doesn’t exist and tell you that the toilet is still not fixed nor have I let go of the issue.  The best I can do right now is to focus on the silver lining, which at this very moment means stuff to write about; stuff that may sound kind of funny now but had me in tears two nights ago.

The toilet fill valve on my guest bath toilet decided to quit, or kind of quit, but it was making noise, which is never a good thing… that much I do know.  When I took the video of what was going on post flush in the back of my toilet to the hardware store, the kind gentleman who was helping me knew exactly how to fix it and showed me what to buy and what to do with it, step by step.  I am not mechanical.  I struggle with reading instructions and then having to figure out how to follow them.  Although he was only a toddler at the time, it was my son, Grant, who put together the Little Tykes toys and equipment that seemed to flow into our house non stop for several years.  Even without the ability to read at age 3, he seemed to know intuitively how the brightly colored plastic pieces fit together to make something.  I marveled.  I had mechanical envy.

As the kind hardware store man is wrapping up the explanation with me on step 7 or 8 or whatever step has you giving the final check with a flush, I asked him,

“Which way does the shut off valve go to turn the water off at the toilet?”

Sometimes it’s best to humble yourself and come clean.  He knew, at that point, who he was dealing with and backed up slowly to the beginning.

“A slow clockwise turn… that would be to your right.”

At one point he mentioned “youtube videos,” and that information, coupled with my new knowledge of knowing how to shut off the water to the toilet, was all the information I needed.  I thanked him profusely, bought the $18 part and was on my way.  I’ve got to admit that there was a tool belt that caught my eye on the way out of the store, something I’ve always wanted, but I feel like it needs to be earned and I’m not there yet.  Maybe this was the home improvement project that I’d earn my belt on…

The idea that this was something I’d be able to do myself gave me a great deal of satisfaction and pride and not having to shell out a hundred dollars (I’m guessing?) to have a plumber walk through my front door, even happier.  I’d love to be able to add fixing my toilet to my list of accomplishments.  Really.

With feelings of confidence, I lined up the pieces that came out of the box, including the instructions, on the countertop, watched a youtube video three times, turned the water off, drained the back tank, disconnected the water hose from the toilet then got stuck.  I could not even BEGIN to budge the plastic lug nut on the outside of the toilet (I don’t even know if that’s what it’s called, but that’s what I’m going to call it from here on…) and surprising to me, the me who throughout my 20’s used a clog to hammer a nail into the wall, was even using the right tool.  After about 45 minutes of struggling and torquing myself in half to get to the side of the toilet in the first place, I gave up, which came in the form of me sitting on my bathroom floor in tears.  I know it may not sound tear-worthy for most, but those emotions were coming from a place far deeper than the back of my now drained toilet.  This was about doing something so small yet so big BY MYSELF, without having to ask for any help (I’m not counting the gentleman at Ace because that’s his job).  The flip side of wanting to feel that sense of accomplishment is that for the past 9 years,  broken toilets, flat tires,  sump pumps, birds nests in porch lights on fire and beeping house alarms have become my chore to deal with by myself, whether I wanted to or not (and that “by myself” includes calling the repairman, AAA man or handyman).  Although it’s taught me a lot, asking for help to begin with, it’s not something I’ve gotten the least bit comfortable with, even after 9 years.

I’ve done a whole lot of scary things in those 9 years without giving much thought to them, but a beeping alarm, a running toilet and a flat tire requires immediate attention, whether you want to give it or not.  This is the emotional spot that when I work from I start breaking things, on accident AND on purpose so when I texted Robin to see if Jim had a hacksaw, it was more a cry for help than anything else (although I still think sawing the stuck lug nut off may be the answer).  He didn’t.  And so I turned out the light, closed the door and drove to Baskin Robbins where I ate the better part of a double scoop of jamocha almond fudge ice cream on the 5 minute drive home.  Enough.

The next night ended in a similar way… frustrated… with a lug nut that still won’t move, but this time I made a 1/2 recipe of chocolate oatmeal no bake cookies simply because a whole recipe scared me as I knew I’d likely make my way through all of them.  1/2 recipe was a good idea and yes, I did.

The project is still looming behind the closed door and I fear that one more night with the same results are going to end with my head in a bag of Crispy Cremes, but I’m still not quite ready to let go and call a handy man.

Still with hope…

 

Hope fading…

I’m not sure how many days of walking by the closed bathroom door it will take before I call for help, but right now, I’m standing strong in the face of the challenge and am merely giving myself a break before going back in with a different attitude or maybe different equipment… such as a hacksaw…

To be continued…

Wedding dresses and the Leawood Police Department

I’ve been helping Emery and Miles clean, weed out, organize and redistribute their things (i.e. take stuff out of their basement and put it in mine…) in preparation to sell their house and move to Colorado. At one point, I asked Emery what she wanted me to do with her wedding dress, which looks like a white tent perched up against the wall of my upstairs cedar closet.

“Oh I don’t know.  I should probably have it cleaned but really don’t really care…  Just leave it.”

I asked too late.  My girl who says she doesn’t have one sentimental bone in her body has moved on.  No doubt the day will come when she’ll be grateful for what I will likely go ahead and do, which is have the dress professionally cleaned and boxed for proper storage.  She may say she doesn’t have a sentimental bone in her body,  but I’d rephrase that to say, “she’s selective with her sentimentality and the pieces she decides to let in, she’ll carry forever…”  She just wasn’t ready to to file this piece away as sentimentality.  It’s too soon, or maybe too late, but years down the road she will feel a flutter in her heart when she sees the big box wrapped in brown paper on the closet shelf… most likely MY closet shelf.

I can remember going through similar feelings regarding my own wedding dress, but made myself take care of it the day after returning home from our honeymoon because I knew if I didn’t do it then, I never would and my white satin gown would quickly yellow, and not in a cool tea-stained vintage sort of way, or so I was told.  I did the research and ended up taking it to a cleaners on Troost Avenue that had been recommended to me, and for $50 I had it cleaned, wrapped in blue tissue to keep it white, boxed and for that price, I assumed hermetically sealed.  It was a huge investment at the time, exactly one tenth of what the dress cost me, but everyone I spoke with insisted I shell out the money as  I’d regret it if I didn’t.

For 28 years,  that large box wrapped in brown paper sat in the back of the cedar closet in the home Charlie and I raised our kids in, until one day when my then future daughter in law, Brooke,  was in town and wanted to see what my wedding dress looked like.  And just like Pandora’s box, when the box that had been sealed for the past 28 years was opened up, I never could have predicted that the most astonishing thing would  NOT be that I could get it zipped half the way up, but that it would be on file at the Leawood Police Department.

The promises the dry cleaners told me were upheld and the dress looked as good as the day when I handed it over to them, except it was a bit of a wrinkled mess, but I expected that.  I’m so glad Brooke asked to see it as I never would have been inclined to open the box for even a peek, let alone a try on.  Afterwards, I brought the dress back to my house, box and all, but before doing my best to box it up again, Emery wanted to have a look and a try on.  Both she and Brooke were getting married in the coming year and although they both already had their dresses,  it was fun to be able to share this moment of my history with them.

After Emery tried on the dress and oohed and ahhhed (OK, I’m kind of exaggerating on that one… she did mention something about Renaissance Festivals though…), I left the dress at the bottom of the stairs to be taken up to the cedar closet and folded back into its box when I had time.

Two days later, an unfortunate series of events unfolded, beginning with my impulsive move to set the alarm system when I left the house (something I rarely do) and not realizing that the front door wasn’t completely latched. The wind blew the door open, the alarm went off, the police were called and my sister was called because she’s my “call her first when there’s trouble..” person.  While I’m enjoying a challenging but fun workout with friends, Robin is at my front door discussing the possible “incident” with the Leawood police.

By no means is what I’m about to say minimizing the work that the policemen do in my neighborhood or the respect I have for them, but it is a bit like Mayberry around here and an alarm going off was noteworthy enough that 2 cars and 4 officers showed up at the scene.  Of course Robin could not enter the house once she arrived,  as it was still considered a possible crime scene (thank goodness no tape had been stretched across the front door) although they said it didn’t look like there had been a break in as my computer was still on my bed as well as some jewelry on the night stand.

However…. there was one thing that they found that was very odd that they couldn’t make sense of…

There was a wedding gown on the floor at the bottom of the stairs….  Did she know anything about a wedding gown?

At that moment, as Robin is relating this story to me, I realized that just a few paces away from that wedding gown heap was something else they saw but chose not to mention and that was a half a dozen empty wine bottles next to my sink.  I had gathered them up to recycle and although right next to the gown on the floor, the two had absolutely,  no way no how,  anything to do with each other.  Robin of course knew nothing of the dress but told the officers she was sure it was nothing.  It was, however, her first question to me, which went something like this:

“Please tell me that you don’t put your wedding dress on at night and drink wine…”

I know there’s a big ole moral of the story in here somewhere … maybe something to do with following through with projects, being mindful when doing important things such as setting the house alarm or maybe it’s taking care of the 2nd wedding dress in my upstairs closet so it, also, doesn’t end up in a photo in my file down at the station.  But the moral I like to think about is that maybe my string of carelessness offered a bit of comic relief to a few of  Leawood’s police officers, and a good story to take back to the station.

I continue to be hopeful that the officers on duty that day don’t sigh in pity when they drive by the house on High Drive where circumstantial evidence would have me traipsing around in a wrinkled mess of a wedding dress, most likely stained with wine… the Miss Havisham of Leawood, if you will.  Or maybe I should covet the incident that gave an otherwise quiet police department an unexpected laugh that morning.

Hours after the “incident,”  the wrinkled mess of a dress was mashed right back into its box and put it on the shelf in the cedar closet, with plenty of room next to it for Emery’s eventually cleaned and boxed-up dress. Years down the road, it will be her adventure, not mine, if and when she decides to break the seal to see what’s inside, hopefully without police intervention.

Police files are confidential… this is the best I could do…

The screened-in porch I bought with the attached house…

I bought a condo in Frisco, Colorado instead of the book I went into the book store for last summer (reference “How’d I Get Here?” post) and as I’m sitting here on my screened in porch in Kansas, I realized that although I had never bought a house instead of a book,  the behavior is not new for me.  Actually, I bought the house I’m in now in Kansas because as soon as I stepped into the front room (yep, when your house was built in the 1930’s, that’s what you get to call the room at the front of the house…), my eyes were immediately drawn to the stone and windowed screened in porch that french doors in the living room led out to.  Literally, I bought a screened in porch that luckily for me, had a house attached to it.

Upon stepping into the front room and at first glance into the porch, I looked at my daughter, Emery, and it’s possible we both said it at the same time…

“You/I LIVE here!”

I have to add here that I wasn’t actively looking for a house at the time, as the house I was currently in was fine, but this house was in a very charming, treed neighborhood with a strong sense of history and appreciation for local merchants.   It was a neighborhood I had wanted to live in before I got married (in 1985), but hopes were set aside when it didn’t have the appeal to my then husband that it did for me.

How ironic that when I walked up the stairs of the condo in Frisco and saw it for the first time, Brooke said the same words to me, “You LIVE here!” yet I don’t recall making the connection… or maybe I did but didn’t dwell on it as I had already fast forwarded myself right out onto the deck and what I’d look like living there while I looked out at my view of Mt. Royal.  Both my daughter and my daughter in law seem to have an uncanny knack of of seeing me live in places that aren’t quite mine.

After Emery and I had both declared our intentions for the house, I told my real estate agent, Nina, that I wanted to buy it.  I’ve got to add that Nina and I have been friends for decades (over 4 to be accurate… geez we sound old…) and she knows me and knows that my default position leans more towards impulsive than methodical.  Obviously she thought looking at the rest of the house would be a wise idea before we started writing up a contract, which we did, both of us knowing full well that it mattered little what was behind that front room and screened in porch because short of dirt floors and plywood walls, I was going to make it work for the sake of the beautiful porch (the treed lot that the porch looked out onto was also a big plus for me).  After a relatively quick walk through, I told her once again that I wanted it and was ready to write up an offer.

“But it’s the first house you’ve looked at…you can’t just buy the first house you look at!”

“OK… then show me another one, THEN we’ll make an offer…”

And so she did. There was a house nearby for sale and as lovely as the garden was driving up to the front door,  I knew it wasn’t going to be the right house, regardless.  After a quick walk through the main level (I didn’t even bother to go upstairs), I told her Nina that I had seen enough and was ready to make and offer.

I had an extended trip to Peru coming up in a matter of weeks and fortunately Nina was able to convince the sellers to delay the closing until my return, a few months later.  The whole process from contract negotiations to the inspection went off without a hitch.  I truly believe, and experience has confirmed this for me, that when something IS meant to be things seem to fall into place nicely.  It’s when you’re met with obstacle after obstacle that I think the decision should be questioned.  Besides, I was meant to live in that house and sit on that porch.

About a month later, and from an internet cafe in Villa el Salvador, Peru, I sold the house I was currently living in (when I impulsively bought the screened in porch house).  So, while sitting at a computer in a dimly lit, hot, small room with a handful of teen-aged boys enjoying computer games, I muddled my way through the process of signing a contract, then faxing it and waiting for confirmation of receipt, with a very limited Spanish business vocabulary and a growing line of impatient school boys waiting their turn for the computer I was using.  Short of earning my pilot’s license,  graduating from college (finally) and birthing my three amazing children , I do believe that this was one of my prouder accomplishments, especially given that short of email and some photo and music storage, I really wasn’t all that computer savvy.

By the way, the house I sold to buy the screened in porch house, was the first and only house I looked at shortly after filing for divorce.  Maybe it was beginners luck (that continued?), but I knew right off that it was the right house for me.  My real estate agent at the time  did the same thing that Nina had done and showed me several similar houses, after my proclimation of wanting to buy the first one I saw because “you simply can’t but the first one!”  I ended up returning to the original house, as I knew I would,  made an offer and was signing contracts by the end of the day.   I’m just now realizing that there’s a pattern here and now understand why my sister wouldn’t let me go house hunting in the Adirondacks with her husband, John, “just to look…”

But when it’s right it’s right and you know it in your heart of hearts and your gut of guts.  Seriously, I’ve given more thought to a pair of jeans while sitting in the dressing room at the GAP, a situation that rarely seems to be spot on right or has me saying “you LIVE in these jeans!”

And in the time it took me to type this, I would still be deciding on the jeans.  I’ve bought houses in a shorter amount of time…

 

The porch that I bought and was lucky that a house was attached to it…