Saturday, March 25, 2017

Onyx Colored Memories

I was in a weird funk yesterday.  Understandable, as the black cloud that enveloped us earlier in the month remains hovering, a sort of constant hum of impending crisis and drama in the background of absolutely everything we do.  But then Facebook reminded me that it was seven years ago to the day that my mom died, and I realized that the heavy workload and the weird personal crap had pushed that fact to the background, but not quite let it get buried, and that was why I was intermittently weepy and felt like a wrung out dish rag.  Odd, however, I thought to myself, that it was impacting me so heavily.  It just is what it is and it was almost a lifetime ago it seems like now.  Maybe because it is just time to say something to her that I didn't get the chance to say with the sincerity I needed to say it at the time.

Despite the time that's passed, I do remember that strange start to the day like it was yesterday.  I had just gotten in to work when the nurse who found her called my cellphone and tried as hard as she could to tell me without saying it (much like the trooper who had to deliver the news about Kelsey, you could tell it was absolutely the last thing on the planet she wanted to do - I had to literally ask her, "What are you trying to tell me?").  But as soon as she got the words out, I lost it.   Fun times at the office.

And of course then there was the absolutely surreal experience of going to her room with her lying there, the smell of death already hovering, as we waited for the funeral home (at least I knew who to call, since we'd done business with them just a few months ago) to come pick her up.  Trying to clean out your parent's belongings with the shell of your mother in the room is just something that you never grow up thinking about doing.  But, besides all of that, and then the complicated arrangements to get her to Arlington to be buried with Dad, her actual passing was extraordinarily anticlimactic for the mercurial relationship we had shared over the years.  She was there, a worrisome presence in my life when I went to bed the night before.  And then, at some point, all alone in the early morning hours, her heart gave out and she was not there anymore.  All of the anxiety and stress of trying to care for her in her last days (Alzheimer's is a bitch - let me just simply sum it up that way) was just gone.  Poof.

It would be a lie that no one who knew me in those last months would believe if I told you there wasn't a large measure of relief mixed in with the grief, but there was a large helping of grief as well.  Despite everything, she was my mother.  And we had shared some good, loving times as well.

Therefore, with all of that said, how does one, seven years removed from the end of the most complicated relationship of one's life, think of one's mother?  We each will have to answer that for ourselves in the end, but for me, what I try to dwell on is the mother who, I now know, chose me to be hers.  The mom who made me milk toast or cooked rice with warm milk and sugar when I was sick.  The mother who always baked me a little bit of extra pie crust with cinnamon sugar on it.  (You'll notice there is a theme with food here - probably why I tend to eat my way through grief.) The woman who bought me my first Subaru for Christmas one year and sent all of us to Hawaii on a lavish vacation.

I would see that same woman in my mother's eyes every so often in the last months in the nursing home.  Ruth would break through occasionally and she would look at me and you could just see her.  The real her.  It was actually sort of painful, because in those moments, you could tell that she knew.  She knew that her mind had betrayed her.  But in those moments, she was sane and grateful and she loved me.  I clung to those moments like a life raft those last months, although a piece of me also wanted them not to ever surface again.  What must it be like to know you're not you anymore? I didn't want her to know that pain.

She snuck money out of her account and bought me a necklace during one of those moments.  It came to the nursing home, and they called me because they knew she'd been doing crazy things with money, and I was worried she'd drain us.  Not knowing it was a gift at the time, I called the company and had them put a block on any more ordering, then had a meeting with the director of the nursing home trying to decide what to do with it.  I decided to give it to her.  I'd stopped the bleeding with that company anyway.  So they did.  The next day, she gave it to me as a present for taking such good care of her.  I felt like such a schmuck - I had almost sent it back and demanded her money back.

I'll have that necklace until my dying day, even though I rarely get the occasion to wear it, because it symbolizes to me the complexity of the relationship.  It's heart shaped out of polished black onyx.  Sort of perfect - there was love there between us, but it was sometimes a bit toxic and black.

For anyone else who struggles to reconcile potent and complex parental relationships like I always have, I would say this:  it does no good to hang on to the resentments of the past.  They poison your present.  It does, however, help, I find anyway, to hold close the warmer memories.  My parents were such flawed individuals.  I carried the baggage they left me around for years.  But, you know what, they tried as best they knew how.  They gave me the love they knew how to give me.  I'd rather dwell on that in the end.

Love you mom.  I really, truly deeply do.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Fear Factor (Explicit)

Well, I haven't been totally honest with you over the last couple of weeks.  And I cannot be now.  What I will say is there is a lot of stress in our little home - not internal, but from an external source - that has brought us to a crisis point we have not seen, just in my personal estimation, since 2009; the year that culminated in my daughter's death (and before those of you who know us freak - it's not like a health issue or anything like that).  As a side observation, the Penguins were reigning Stanley Cup Champions then as well - I don't know if there is something I should make of that.  But anyway, I am sure in time I can come clean as to what is causing our angst, but for now I'm risking a lot to say even this.  But here is what I will say freely:  in all lives there will be moments that threaten to overwhelm you.  In all lives there will be moments that you will feel so completely unfair and unwarranted that surely God must hate you, if you are of that ilk.  Or perhaps circumstances will make it seem that you are being tested beyond what any human since Job could possibly withstand.

And yet, the bills will still come due, the groceries will still need to be purchased, the laundry will still need to be washed, and the job still needs to be gone to.  And maybe above and beyond the crisis itself, the very fact that life will not pause one. fucking. minute. so you can catch your breath will be the unkindest cut of all.

Yet it won't pause, so don't expect it to.  I can tell you this because I have now had the unhappy duty of living through this before.  Shit.  I lived like this for a decade.  So, how do you continue on in the face of great adversity?  How do you not only do that but remember to take the trash out on Thursday evenings while you're at it?

I think I pose the question now because I need to answer it for myself again in all honesty.  I figured I needed some sort of proverbial slap in the face to snap me out of the malaise I was finding myself in when at one point during the week I suddenly noticed that the sweater I was wearing had a large amount of spit up on it left over from the last time I pulled it on - meaning it probably smelled lovely too, but I wouldn't be able to tell because it had been a bit since I took the time to shower.  And I ended up eating Goldfish crackers for dinner that night.  And we didn't get the trash out, thank you very much.  I knew at that point I was sliding into a pretty dysfunctional place that did nothing for anybody.

So, like I tend to have to do, I had to think about everything and take some time to sort it out in my head.  And if I know why I'm behaving the way I am, I can figure out a solution to it.  What I've come up with so far is first to answer the question: what is it that keeps us paralyzed when something traumatic is going on?  Is it resistance to wanting to do the work it takes to try and work the problem?   I decided it's not for me.  I can carry the weight of a problem forward, but it's the fear factor that makes me hesitate.  When the stakes are particularly high, like they were with Kelsey's illness, making wrong moves can have dramatic consequences.  This carries some similarities.  Things,  once done or said, cannot be undone or said so you don't want to do anything for fear of making even a teensy mistake.   Yet, sitting paralyzed can be just as dangerous.  Therefore, when weighing the two options:  move forward with the knowledge that you're no expert at navigating the shark filled waters you're entering, or sit on the beach and let the tide carry you away.  Either way the water is going to suck you in, so might as well have some control.

Which, for me, I realized, is another huge hurdle to overcome, as it was when battling the eating disorder.  I have a strong need to be in control.  This is so out of my control that it's terrifying.  We're deluded if we think all things will always be in our control.  But what I can control is how I react to the situation.  Sitting unwashed in a spit up ridden sweater was letting this crazy ass situation to control me.  I need to control me first, and then maybe I can find a way to take a hold of things and help my family begin to tackle the problem.

I also have to let go of the notion that it's unfair.  It is.  It's horribly unfair.  So are children in Africa dying of starvation.  So are six million dead as a result of the Holocaust.  So are a million things that happen to a million other people every single day.  No one ever said we should have a corner on fairness.  Fair is the stuff of fairy tales.

That said, it takes a bit to wrap your head around a situation when something earth shattering comes at you, because it often comes with no warning and with stunning speed.  One day your biggest concern is that everyone in the house has colds.  The next, that seems like a day at DisneyWorld.  I think it's fair that it takes a bit to let something that is so dizzying truly sink in.  But after a day or two of wearing filthy clothes and eating crackers for meals, enough is enough because the problem isn't going away during your pity party.

That said, one definite lesson I learned during the last decade is that when navigating a crisis, self care must be taken.  Tax oneself to an extreme and you will lack what it takes to take care of the family who needs you.  Days will be long, hard and emotionally draining.  Therefore, do not feel guilty if you sneak a few hours for a movie, a massage, or, like me, a hockey game now and again.  I'm not kidding.  You have to recharge every so often.  It's truly not optional.

And of course, I know too well that not all things have happy endings, so steel yourself for what all might happen because I believe sincerely that's the best way to battle the problem with the appropriate level of zeal it will take.  Happy endings are another thing for fairy tales.  But, and here's the thing not to lose sight of, not all things have unhappy endings either.  And the best endings of all are the ones where the journey was hard.  It makes it that much sweeter.

Therefore, here I go.  One foot in front of another.  Let's see where this yellow brick road will lead.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Family Values

Pittsburgh is an amazing town.  I love it with every fiber of my being.  But sometimes you have to realize that Pittsburghers come along with it.  For the most part, I find that part of the wonderful part of living here:  their kindly meant, if not always kindly delivered, bluntness.  Their hard working sincerity.  Their love for all things Black and Gold.  But the large population of Old World Catholics sometimes means that not only are they stuck in place geographically, but in mindset as well.  And sometimes that means they don't understand anything that is outside the "traditional" family structure.  We are not traditional.

And we are not unusual in that.  Wikipedia, for what its worth, states, "The percentage of married-couple households with children under 18 has declined to 23.5% of all households in 2000 from 25.6 in 1990, and from 45% in 1960."

Yet I'll challenge anyone who might look at us and think something is missing because there is a single parent and two grandparents.  The only thing missing in my house is Ripley, who was supposed to be here with us to be a gentle companion and protector to Harrison as he grew.  Rooney and Geddy are doing their best to fill the void.

What does the word family mean in today's world?  I know what the dictionary says.  I think we exceed that.  I think the fact that there is all of us working together - pulling together through sickness (unfortunately, a little too much of that just lately) and health, in bad times and good times, to make sure that Harrison has not only what he needs, but more than he could think to want.  But, most of all, that there is never a moment of any day when he is not showered with love.

So, that's us - maybe we're more of a "bit" untraditional.  But what about other "non-traditional" families?  Same-sex couples, true single mothers, mixed-race relationships?  I worry in today's political climate there will be a backlash against "non-traditional" family structures, even though it would seem that we are the sizable majority.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say there is one thing we all have in common - social conservatives, wild eyed liberals and everyone in between:  we want to strengthen the family.  How we see that happening is where we differ.

I worry, and hope it's an irrational fear, and that I'm wrong: that the current administration will take steps that undermine the true American family in whatever guise it comes.  Same sex couples should not be worried about their parental rights by sweating out whether marriage equality will be struck down by a conservative court.  Why would the Supreme Court strike down basic human rights?

Why would a government whose forefathers came here to be able to practice religious freedom make any child feel persecuted or "less than" for practicing their faith?   Why would a government based on the basic presumption that "...all men are created equal..." knowingly discriminate based on color or nationality?

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
My family may not look exactly like Ozzie and Harriet.  But I want them same thing all families do:  good education for my grandson, for him to be safe, for him to have affordable and quality healthcare, for him to have clean air to breathe, and for him to be seen as equal in the eyes of the law to all other individuals.  So do all families for their children.  We should join together to work toward those things.

My family on a Sunday morning

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Bringing Up Baby

Well, this isn't supposed to be a mommy blog, or I guess in my case, that would be a grandmommy blog, but, hey, with an infant in the house, there's not much else to talk about.  Add to just the general all encompassing care required for this one tiny human, ever since he entered daycare, it's been one illness after another to sweep through and devastate the household.  This go round is upper respiratory junk.  Since the first week we took him in, I can count the days when I wasn't sick with something or other on one hand, and I'm not sure my daughter can even do that.  She's been sick, and I mean really sick, consistently.  This cycle, the baby, who managed to slide through at first as just a carrier, got ill along with us.  So, that's fun.  Some of you reading this remember those days.  Some of you are probably living those days now from time-to-time.  Now try imagining being my age and living through it.  And working.

Lethal Weapon

I keep telling myself I'll look back on this period of our lives and, well, maybe not laugh, but appreciate that we survived it.  But for now, it's hard.  And everything's hard.  It's hard to do the job.  It's hard to make sure you're staying patient with the baby in the middle of the night when your head is pounding and you've had no sleep.  It's hard not to take every damn thing a person says the exact wrong way and react with Wolverine-esque claws drawn, ready for blood.  And it's really, really hard not to overreact when the person is actually being a jerk on purpose.  I never need that shit, but I simply cannot rise above it and react graciously right now.  (Remember the days when Office Politics was a fun game to play?)

Now the weekend is here and it's time to face housework and laundry and dog poop scooping, and that'll be hard.  I haven't been able to face the prospect of it yet, so I'm in bed watching Law and Order re-runs while my daughter and grandson nap.  But there's no fairies or little gnomes who will magically appear while we sleep to do all of it, so at some point I'll run out of re-runs and time to laze, and it'll all still be there.

And the point of all this?  It's not to make you feel sorry for us or send chicken soup, it's to remind all of us - parents of adult children anxious to add "grand" to their title and young adults who are itching to start a family - that this will be, beyond a doubt, the hardest thing you'll ever do.  So be ready for it.  And, even if you think you are, you won't be, so be prepared mentally to deal with that as well.  But maybe most of all to caution my generation to leave their kids alone and don't pressure them into taking this step until they can get to that place mentally on their own and are truly in a position to face the job.  A friend of mine pointed out to me that we do all forget over time the rough early parenting days, and she postulates it's a biological imperative that we do or the species would die out.  But I'm going to remind you how it really is.

Babies are messy.  They're hard.  They're expensive.  They don't cure relationships; they strain them.  To the breaking point in some cases.  Men have to know going in that they aren't the Number One thing in a woman's life anymore.  Far from it.  It's all about Baby.  And, you know what, I'm here to tell you, that's the way it should be.   And all the things that attracted you to one another will be tested.  If you can still love a woman who has spit up in her hair, then awesome, because that's likely what you'll get.  A shower is a rare and lovely thing in those early months.

Everything that was once ordered and routine becomes chaos.  I have baby bottles all over my kitchen in various states of cleanliness.  My living room is a riot of toys, books, blankets and baby rockers.  My office looks not all that different.    The only room untouched by this small little being is the dining room.  Sometimes I'll just look into it and think, "Wow", it looks so weird and out of place with the rest of the house, like it belongs to another family.  Maybe I should just toss some toys in there to keep the balance.

Careers will be tested.  And that's a big one.  And a complicated one.   But the work-life balance is a whole other beast with kids in the equation.  The irony is you work to support your kids, but your kids make the work a challenge so much of the time.

So, when you tease you daughter or son about making you a grandparent, that's what you're asking them to face - are they ready for it?  Are you ready to back them up on the days it becomes overwhelming for them?  It was just past a year ago when my daughter and her boyfriend broke the news to us.  I was immediately filled with all these fantasies of all the things I would do with my grandchild.  Taking him or her to the zoo, reading books with them, introducing them to Star Wars, taking them to their first Penguins and Steelers games.  Spend afternoons at the park.  Running the bases after a Pirates game.  And we will do all of that.  In time.  But then there are the days like the past few weeks where it's far less romantic.  And you have to know that and be ready for it as a parent, or a grandparent who lends, like us, a helping hand.

Is it worth it?  Everyone has to answer that for themselves.  But I got my answer this morning as Harrison sat propped in his carrier watching us put away groceries.

Yeah, it's worth everything for that face to be one that I see every day. (But I'm still not going to pressure her to have any more any time soon!)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Battle Scars

Beginning today Eating Disorder Awareness Week will commence, which as I've probably mentioned before, is sort of an ironic week in our house:  there's never a moment we're unaware of it.   It has become as much a part of us now forever as a scar we wear as a reminder of a past injury that never quite healed.   And, for those of you are truly dedicated readers, I can't blame you if you're sick to bloody death of it.  But, I'm also very well aware its still a misunderstood disease for much of the population, and, added to its extreme complexity (a mental disease that manifests itself in a very physical way), getting the recognition and validation it should have as a legitimate illness so families who are not Rockefeller rich have a fair shot at dealing with it without breaking the bank, I feel, Dear Reader, we should trot it out once more and take a look at it and what it is and what it does.

The challenge is discussing an aspect of it that I have not previously bludgeoned to death.  I've covered the costs of it, explaining how it drained us to the point of digging through change to afford groceries.  I've talked about the difficulty of accepting what was happening as a parent, and then what we did right or - more often - didn't do right once we did.  And of course, you know the big one:  how after all of that, living with the disease was just too much for our oldest daughter and how, after nine solid years in its grasp, she gave up the fight.  It's a story that will never make it into the statistical evidence of eating disorder studies - her official cause of death is not directly related to it, which is not an uncommon occurrence with this disease.  But, it does not, and will never, diminish the impact the disease has on us and what it cost us, which we all know is, ultimately, the life of our daughter and sister.  But you know all that.

What don't you know; that was the question.  Well, what it has left us in its terrible wake is one thing.  Maybe you're not aware that we're never truly free of it.  Much like once an alcoholic, you're always an alcoholic, even if you are in long term recovery.  I mean, I think it's fair to say that my youngest daughter, the now very healthy mother of my grandson, is truly recovered. With an empathic period on the end of that sentence.  But, it's there sort of lurking constantly, and it taints all of us, even those of us who never directly suffered with it.  As one example, there's a commercial running now a lot during hockey where I swear one of the actors has, or has had, an eating disorder.  Completely unbidden, I fixate on her every time I see it, and I watch A LOT of hockey, so I see it a lot.  It's a reaction that I can't seem to help.  Kelsey was like that too - she lumped individuals into two camps:  those of us who have "food issues" and those of us who didn't.  It's as though your brain cannot simply see people as people anymore.  It sets to assessing them in that disordered vein.

And, speaking of food issues - I must confess, the absolute irony of living in a home with someone with an eating disorder is that, if you didn't have "food issues" of your own before, you probably will come away with some.  You just become so overly aware of food, which makes it in some ways become an enemy.  I think there was once upon a time where I could just enjoy a meal for its own sake, but that's a bit of a rarity for me these days.  I don't stop eating because of it, but the best way I can describe it is that I'm not sure I'm friends with food like I once was.  It's almost as though I hate it for what it did to this family - talk about projecting your angst onto some other object!

But, speaking strictly for me, I was struck somewhat recently, on a highly rare snowy day, that I've never stopped running, which is exactly what some people - maybe some of you - accused me, not unkindly, of doing when I moved to Pittsburgh.

Snow was falling outside my office window in big, fluffy flakes, almost as though someone high in the clouds had spilled cotton balls and they were drifting down onto my lawn.  As I watched, transfixed, as winter worked hard to finally make an appearance in the region (it sadly didn't last), it reminded me of the first day, almost the first moment, I arrived here as a permanent occupant and looked out the kitchen window at our little house and watched the snow fall and just took it all in.  And then, after just a moment of reflection, I was off and running.  My husband and I had a little to-do the other day when he accused me of never sitting still, of always being in motion.  I know he was feeling a bit guilty because he's taken a different path, but he's right, I am.  And I considered that as I watched those lovely white flakes floating through the air - I never stop to smell the flowers, as they say.  I'm an Agent of Chaos.  I was cognizant of the silence that immediately fell over the house back in Round Rock as soon as Kelsey died.  I avoided it whenever I could.  Then I came here and, after the house was unpacked and pretty much settled, Cheyenne and I fell into a little routine and there was time for reflection and it was then that I truly processed my grief, but it was hard and painful - necessary, but painful - so, without even realizing I'd done it, I picked back up the pace and have made life hectic ever since.  I've not left myself reflection time since.

Why?  Well, the obvious reason I can come up with is I don't want to run the risk of having that pain come back.  Would it?  I'm not sure.  But, I was struck, in that quiet moment, how drastically we change, even if we work diligently not to, after something like an eating disorder comes sweeping through your lives.

The moral to this story is that an eating disorder doesn't just impact the individual who suffers from it.  The whole family shares in it and suffers.  I'm not blaming the patient for this - I blame the thing we call "The Beast", but I think it is myopic to count the cost only with the patient.  Siblings suffer in particular, but families are destroyed both emotionally and financially.  And it's a killer.  Don't forget that.  It's a murderer that gets away with it in many cases because people, like my daughter, are determined to have died from other causes that miss the underlying reality that the disease caused the pneumonia, heart attack, suicide, or whatever else that makes it on the death certificate.

We'll wear our battle scars from our fight with The Beast forever.  Why we tell you this is because we don't want other families to be scarred from it like we were.  We don't want to read about any other young, bright, talented, but haunted person losing the ultimate battle.  We don't want this disease to exist, and the only way that might ever happen is if people are aware of it and how serious it really is.

Be aware of eating disorders this and every week.  Please.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Toy Story

"No woman ever ages beyond eighteen in her heart."

- Robert A. Heinlein

So, within weeks of watching my mother's side of the family say goodbye to my last uncle, my last aunt passed away at the tender age of 99.  My father's sister, she had married a Wisconsin farm boy during the war, and they had settled in Madison, WI and lived out their lives there.  I had always assumed I would be there for her funeral when the time came, but still contagious from the norovirus, and definitely not in the comfort zone to spend what the airlines wanted to get me there, I made the decision to stay here.  But it was odd not being there.  In addition to being a wonderful, warm woman with all the sense of humor my father often lacked (one of my favorite memories of my aunt and uncle was when they regaled us one night with tales of their wedding night - the more embarrassed my mother became, the more ribald their story became, and the more I loved it), she was the very last of my parents' brothers, sisters and their spouses.  Now there is only my frail mother-in-law standing between me and - well - I'm not sure what:  Matriarchy maybe, but that seems an odd term for such a tiny little family as mine.  But I am definitely having to face the fact that I am now the "older" generation.  One of my cousins said something similar at my uncle's memorial, so I know I'm not the only one who has thought about it.  It's odd, even though you know it's the way of things, and even though you know intellectually you're no spring chicken.

But, I never cease to be amazed at how fast time has flown.  I can never wrap my head around the fact that I'm not the starry eyed teenager that saw Star Wars in the theatre 17 times one summer (or some obscene number of times - it might have been more).  So, if I was a teenager yesterday, how can I be the old lady of the family now?!  Well, I don't know exactly, but here I am.  Guilty as charged.

So, it kind of begged the question:  who the hell am I exactly?  I guess it's about time to figure that one out.  But, more to the point, is it time to accept my station in life as an "elder", and what does that mean?

I took Harrison to visit his other grandmother yesterday.  It was the first time I had been in her house, but the house did nothing to dispel my impression of her as more a "traditional" grandmother.  You know what I mean - like the kind I had.  While she didn't have a couch covered in plastic, that was about all that was lacking to complete the picture of a woman who lives a neat, but small and concise life that stopped progressing some time ago.  Her television looks new, turned on to Steve Harvey when I walked in, and there is a perfectly huge photo of Harrison on her family photo wall, but other than that, time stopped at some point.   Everything is highly tidy, not disturbed by cats or dogs or an active lifestyle, but it could exist equally well 20 or 30 years ago.  Not there is anything wrong with that, but it's not even close to the crazy, chaotic life we lead, where I can't keep a couch longer than a few years because dogs live on them and wear them down.  I marched in wearing a Rush t-shirt (the band, not the blowhard) and matching ball cap and handed him off to a woman in her practical cotton shirt and polyester slacks and thought to myself, "Should I be more staid and dignified like this?"

Keep in mind that for Valentine's day I got a toy.  That I really, really wanted.  A remote controlled BB-8 droid.  He sits on my desk and talks to me during the day.  Occasionally we take a break and I run him around on the floor.   I am pretty confident my grandmotherly counterpart does not have a remote controlled BB-8.  I'm pretty sure that if she knew I did, she'd have something rude to say about it.

I think, without any empirical evidence to back this up whatsoever, my generation - the men and women who came of age in the freewheeling, disco dancing 70's - have retained a sense of the "Me Generation" we lived through as teens.   But, Harrison's paternal grandmother, while a bit older, was young in the headier days of the 60's, yet, like the fictional staid mother in Field of Dreams, I would suspect she took two fifties and moved right on to the 70's, and not the same 70's I lived through.   Again, nothing wrong with that, but we are a highly interesting counterpoint to one another, and I pondered which of us is the better role model, given that we're likely to both have a strong impact in his life?  The stable, quiet stereotypical grandmother or the scatterbrained, overly busy, dog-loving, Star Wars obsessed, sports loving woman-child who has not ever quite grown up.

It was a brief inner discussion.  I'm not young any longer, I have to concede that because I was certainly reminded of that painfully this past week when I was so sick and still having to trudge somehow through the days and nights with a baby in the house.  But, I like being young at heart - even to the point of silliness or what some might say is immaturity.  I've decided there is nothing wrong with it.  And, as for Harrison, I think he'll be well served by being exposed to different types of personalities.  I look forward to introducing him to experiences and opportunities, while I know she'll do the same in her own, different way, and she'll be a stable, quiet influence.  Together, we'll be a whole and he'll be the better for it.  At the end of the day, it's all about love and what's in our hearts.  As long as we both love him without reservation, then what we do - or what toys we have - don't matter.

I like to think my Aunt Eleanor would approve of that.  She taught me well to keep a sense of whimsy in the face of great hardship.  I like to think I got an A in that life lesson.

Love you, Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Jim.

"The happiest adults are those who never buried old toys nor abandoned imaginary friends."

- Richelle E. Goodrich

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Women Who Really Work

I had this well on its way to written when I decided it was a massive pity party. Maybe one that needed to be said, but it was so self-pitying, you would need a perfectly HOOUUGGGEE piece of cheese to serve with that whine. So, I thought better of it and am trying again.

The problem is, the entire household was struck, and struck hard, with the norovirus. If you don't know what that is, pray you never find out first hand. It is wicked. Yet, we're a house with an infant, so as much as you want to just roll over and sleep non-stop for 4-6 days until it passes, you can't. And that's if you can miss that much work. We can't do that either. And, while I knew a time like this would inevitably come, once it got here, that foreknowledge didn't make it easier. So, I'll admit it, I was looking for a place to put my angst. Along come Ivanka Trump, perfectly dressed in stiletto heels, just begging for me to get furious over the whole #WomenWhoWork thing. So I obliged.

So, in my gastrointestinal distress, I'd rather focus on women who actually struggle to work and raise their family, not have photo opportunities with their kids while the nanny waits in the next room. Not to say I wouldn't have a nanny at the ready for my grandson if I could - you better believe I would. But, even though I don't fall into nanny hiring bracket, I recognize we're pretty well off compared to most. We're firmly middle class. If we weren't too sick to eat, our bellies would be full, and Harrison has all he could want for and more. Yet that's not the case for so many young children in this country, and I think we as a community and our current President needs to keep all working women in mind.  Because, as I mentioned last week, for better or worse, they are raising the future of this country.  And of the world.

I try so hard not to make this a political blog, nor do I want it to be a pseudo-mommy blog, but it's so damn hard with so much material rife for the picking. And I know so many people just cooed and awed over that photo with the pretty blond and her adorable toddler and you, Dear Reader, may have been one of them. But, you know what, I'd be all aboard with her - finding a speck of common ground if you will - if I logged into her Twitter account and saw her relate stories of women who work hard to make ends meet, women who do without so their kids don't have to, women who scrub her father's hotel toilets so their kids don't have to. I was disappointed, but not surprised, to report that scrolling down a ways, I saw nothing like that.  Having Daddy use his bully pulpit to scold Nordstrom's didn't help her cause in my eye.

I came across an article by Jacueline Kirby, M. S. for The OhioState University that states, "Approximately 60 percent of U.S. children living in mother-only families are impoverished, compared with only 11 percent of two-parent families. The rate of poverty is even higher in African-American single-parent families, in which two out of every three children are poor." explains, "This is not to say that these children are in any way disadvantaged because their mothers are bad parents, on the contrary, they face the Herculean task of trying to juggle all the jobs two people normally would share."  And here was the line from that article that really struck me, "...these mothers often do not have adequate health care."  

I don't want to forget about any woman who works.  It's hard to compete as a woman in what is still very much a man's world.  But I want the administration not to forget about the single working women who struggle to make it through each and every day, and I think about those women now as we juggle caring for Harrison - it's literally down to whichever of is the least sick at the moment.  But, we're so lucky - at least there's more than one of us to choose from.  Lots of moms don't have that.  I'm going to raise a glass of watered down Ginger Ale in their honor.