Wednesday, August 03, 2016

List Posts

I signed up to do a 7 day blog challenge with Problogger. The first post was assigned yesterday and the assignment was "Do a list post". Let me detour briefly to tell you I write "How-To's" at work for a variety of tasks and functions. They may include steps 1., 2., 3., with screen shots or bullet points. They are technical and I'm always looking for inventive ways to make sure the items further down the  process don't get missed. I'm not a trained technical writer but over 20 years, I've become good at writing instructions and training documents. So... no big deal for doing blog challenge,... right? Wrong! I'm on day 2 and still stuck on day 1's challenge because I hate lists.

Types of lists I utterly fail at:

1. To-Do:  I start with good intentions but delete various to-do lists months or years after they were written.

2. Grocery list: I invariably lose the list in the parking lot or store. When I find someone's list in a shopping cart I smile and feel a kinship with that unknown shopper.  Sometimes I get good ideas or tips from the found list!

3. Packing list: Fail! I just pack the night before or morning of the trip always saying , I can buy what I forget. This leads to adventure with toothpaste in foreign countries.

Lists are just not for me unless you need a how-to. Now I can work on today's challenge.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A Long Six Years

By now you may have discovered my mom died in 2009, then my guinea pig, then my dog. But my grief didn't end there. My biological father died April 5, 2010. But first the beginning. 

My mom divorced my dad in 1968. At the age of 4, I stood on the stoop screaming "daddy don't go, daddy, don't go" until she dragged me into the house.  She quickly remarried and shortly after sold the home we had lived in. Visits with my dad were sporadic and always ended in bitter fights. One day, he didn't show up. That day turned into many more days. Then mom read me a letter from my dad that told me he was leaving forever and had written to say good-bye. Even today, I can remember and feel the disbelief. I was inconsolable. In response to my demand for answers, I was told he had moved to Colorado. That was the last communication I had with him. His name was Allen. 

I was legally adopted by my step-dad when I was 12. I remember the court room, raising my right hand and saying yes as instructed by my mother. My whole existence was wiped out that day. My birth records archived. A new name to begin middle school. Who would know me? I didn't know me. Middle and High School were horrible times in my life. I spent my high school years searching for him to no avail. 

It was the internet in the mid 1990's that gave me the means of finding him. In 1995 I sent him a letter. And so began a new relationship that lived the next 15 years through a few short visits and many long phone calls. I talked of my kids. He talked of his kids... the ones I didn't know. The half brother wanted nothing to do with me. My half-sister was sweet and friendly. Distance was a factor - they lived in Colorado; I in Illinois. As I fought illness after illness, it became hard to manage all the things in my life. But we stayed in contact. 

Then mom died. While mom was dying, Allen was going through heart surgery. He developed serious illnesses after the surgery. We always talked of getting together; both knowing it was just talk. That last year, he hid the fact that he was dying from me.  In March 2010, his wife called and said he was asking for me; could I come. He probably would not live through the night. I was on a plane that Monday night. When I came into the room, he opened his eyes and tried to speak to me. He could not talk coherently. Tears ran down my face and tears came to his eyes.  He couldn't talk, so I talked.  I stayed until Saturday. Leaving was hard. This was the final good-bye.  He passed away on April 5, 2010. He was 69. 

The mild depression that I had been fighting spiraled into a deep depression from the grief. My health continued to decline as the shunt in my brain fought to handle the fluid adequately. A new brain surgery in 2011 opened the promise of better days. But the recovery was rough and gave the depression a new friend called flashbacks.  Depression is a serious topic and after living a life with the glass half-full no matter my circumstances, I found the glass chronically empty. My brain forced me to relive the worst memories of my life over and over as the swelling decreased at a snail's pace. 

It took years and years to climb out of that hole. My husband helped by never giving in to my depression; by demanding i get out of bed ... right now!  I would go to work as I was taught the value and responsibility of work. Then I would come home and climb into bed. My bed was my safe place. If I wasn't at work or the doctor, I was in bed with my dogs. On weekends, I would stay in bed hour after hour.

My daschund, Noodles, still tries to lead me to bed when I get home from work. On my bad sleepless nights, Noodles went with me to the darkest places a spirit can go. As I paced the house with her, she would lick my arm over and over until I set her down.  Then gently, she led me back to bed, to my husband, to life.  

I knew I had to find a way to deal with my grief. Nothing was working. And so I got a tattoo. Then I got a second one. Then I added to the first one. And grief ebbed and flowed with the tides but no longer pulled me under. My doctor's assurances that I would, one day get better, began to reveal itself through small pleasures I found. The light returned to my eyes.  

I am emotionally healthy and whole. I can talk about my anguish, about my joy, about my faith without tears. I can find pleasure in the big and little things in life. I'm back. 

I'm grateful for you, Dear Reader, as you are my new muse and my reason to write. 


 


Sunday, May 08, 2016

The monumental importance of small everyday events in life

Mother's Day 2016

I came from a typical blue collar family upbringing. My relatives were miners in Minnesota. My dad was a postman then a cop. My mom worked office jobs and then part-time store positions. Life was "normal". We woke up, went to work, and went about business. Our focus was on the future goals. Where would we retire. Where and when would we finally do the things that our working to live had slowed down? Everything I wanted to do at 18 to accelerate that pace was shot down. The Navy was too scary for my mom to contemplate. They sighed with relief when my eyesight made me ineligible to be a police officer. And police work being something I knew, I went into the civilian side. It has been a rewarding 28 years serving the public. But that's not what this post is about. 

Through working at times 7 days a week, and no reserves for the luxuries in life, I learned to take pleasure in the little things. Sunrise and sunset would rock me with their boundless beauty. A quiet day to play outside, in perfect temperatures, was a good day. A bicycle seat for my toddler to sit in while we rode up and down the street was joyful. His giggles reaching my ears with the word "faster, faster mommy!" Wow, I wish I had a digital camera back then - pictures were expensive and many moments were not photographed. But they live on in my memory. 

The kids are now 29 and soon to be 31. My step-son is 33. My grandchildren are 3 and 11 months old.  I want them to remember and learn about the pleasure of documenting the little moments in life and how monumentally important those little moments are to building who we become. 

People who know me personally know I quit writing because my mom died. She was my muse. She was the reason I found the "little things" in life each day - both good and bad. and why I wrote about them for her.  The day-to day events share a lot more about us as a person, than that "once in a lifetime trip" memory. Don't take me wrong, those big events are important to share or celebrate; it is our daily actions that define who we are to the world - to the people we call family, as friends and how we are the parent we are to our children. 

Many of my early memories settle around playing hide and seek, laying on the green grass and watching the clouds move, imaging each angel that was lying on it as it made it's way across the earth. The jump rope games we played over and over. 

When mom moved to Minnesota and suffered from acute and unexpected homesickness for the family home in Illinois, we concentrated on the "little things" each day.

Mom taught me about the feel of fabric, the needle in my hand for cross stitching, the early love of computers and video games. I learned about tactile sensations long before i knew what that meant. My maternal grandmother taught me Finnish and about cooking, canning and how to drink coffee at age 4 (milk with a dash of coffee). My maternal grandfather taught me about always putting family first. Family comes before you, before anything material or selfish. 

So take the time to sit down with your children and build a memory. Play patty-cake. Go buy a long jump rope or just buy a buy a long rope. In our day we tied on end to garage door handles. Now so many door today have glossy fronts. So find a tree, a porch or deck rail. Teach your child how to jump so eventually you can sing songs to it. http://www.gameskidsplay.net/jump_rope_ryhmes/ 
My favorite was Miss Mary Mack:


Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephant, elephant, elephant
Jump the fence, fence fence
They jumped so high, high, high 
They touched the sky, sky, sky 
And didn't come back, back, back 
Till the fourth of July, July, July
Contributed by Angela Martin and Heidi Wallis

Or, add to the end the following lines:

He jumped so high, high, high
He touched the sky, sky, sky
And he never came back, back, back
Till the fourth of July, July, July!

So in remembrance of my mom, I ask that you celebrate your children. That you take the time to find one little thing to appreciate in each day. Write them down as time allows. Buy a smart watch and put day one journal on it. You can dictate your brief journal entry. 

Happy Mother's Day in Heaven mom. Thank you for teaching me about the importance of small things each day. I miss having you to read the newspaper to. I miss laughing about inconsequential things. I miss the essence of you. The wonder you showed at all the small events in life. The wonder of love. The ability to throw back my head and laugh. 







Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Coats on the bed


Sometimes i think it's weird the memories what come to us in those early morning hours. I did not sleep well and was thinking about what color I wanted the bedroom painted. This led me to thinking about the bedrooms in my grandparents homes. At every holiday or birthday party, we'd all drop our coats and purses on the bed in the master bedroom. I actually don't do that in our house. If we needed to use a bed, I'd use a guest room. Usually I hang up guests coats. 

I don't like people in my bedroom. It is the one room I feel I don't have to straighten for company. Maybe it will change when I'm retired, but I doubt it. The bedroom is my sanctuary. 

Noodles feels the same. She chases away any guests who enter uninvited. 






Saturday, December 05, 2015

Christmas Is Coming

The Holidays are sneaking up on me. Last year AJ, Emily and Finley  spent Christmas with us. It was the first time sine 2008 I felt it was a real celebration. This year they won't be with us so we will fly out to see them the week before Christmas.

Tonight I'm filled with reflection - ghosts of Christmas Past and wonders about Christmas' future and all that lies in between.

My parents divorced in 1968/1969 and remarried in 1970 so Christmas was always busy. We visited every side of the family over two days. Once I was married with kids we had a holiday schedule that fit in 3 or more visits. We all lived nearby so driving house to house, meal to desert as accomplished. Now the families are spread so far apart that it requires scheduling family time, plane flights or 15 hour car trips. Who knows what will happen when the other children start families!

And as the night draws to a close, my thoughts turn to my childhood. My mom loved Christmas. She bought a white artificial tree and it went up every Thanksgiving weekend. It was decorated with golden lights and I remember spending many a night watching the twinkling lights in the darkened room. My tree is not up yet ... But I close my eyes and I feel like I'm back home, even for a minute. So despite the melancholy that settles over me this holiday, I'm thankful for the old memories and for the prospect of new memories.
December 5, 2015 at 12:00 AM




Sunday, August 23, 2015

Letting Go

 I am still shocked it has been over 5 years since I posted. After mom died in March 2009, I struggled to find meaning in everyday life. I experienced grief that took away every good part of my life for a very long time. Each day was an effort at finding who I was without my mom, my muse, my biggest supporter and largest critic.  This uncompromising grief has hijacked my life, my husband and children's time with me. It has hijacked my joy. So in the effort of letting go of the grief, I start talking of the good, the funny, the weird things in life again. Letting go doesn't mean I'm not still grieving. I still miss mom every minute of every day. Sometimes I think she is one of the few people in life who "got me" ... who understood the way my mind works.  No one understands like a mom. But she would want me to move on. To let go of the horrible grief and fully embrace each day. For my husband,  my children and grandchildren (2!) I have already started that process. Now I am writing again.



Saturday, March 20, 2010

One Year

Alan remarked that I have not written since September. Somehow, I find it hard to explain how I lost my muse, my audience, my reason for writing. Losing mom continues to impact me each day. Missing her is constant. It has been a year and I have promised to write again. And so here is the one and only personal recap.

Q dying in June was just another nail driven into our hearts. But we were lucky, a mastiff puppy was born July 1st and Sweep joined us in September.
Xindi's joy at having a dog to watch over was overwhelming. She took him under her wing and decided he was her puppy - and as her puppy, she would decide who could touch him. We quickly corrected her thinking. Today, when Sweep (Sweepers to me) runs to greet anyone or any dog, we just tell her it is okay. He is friendly and social. He loves daily walks and car rides - demanding attention from Alan. He does not cuddle like Q did - and unlike Q he loves people, dogs, and children.
Very little scares him now that he is 8 months old and "coming into his own". Well, okay, neutering him on St. Patty's day has traumatized him and us. After ripping out every single stitch he is a current cone-head. Alan called it the cone of shame. Sweep calls it the cone of torture. I call it sleepless nights.

I continue to drive 150 miles a day round trip for work. Who would have thought the economy would tank like it did... the Illinois house sold on August 30, 2009 after almost 2 years on the market. I am surprised by how much I miss it and Lindenhurst. I had a full life there with the kids, schools, community work and friends. It will take me a little more time to settle in WIsconsin. I am pleased to say, each day is better. Alan loves it in Wisconsin and that makes each day worthwhile.

Alyssa is still in London. At some point she will graduate and come home, but for now, she is working hard on her studies. I continue to miss her desperately. Us mom's cling to our children - take pride in their accomplishments and miss them when they are away. I am your typical mom.
Richard is working full-time and going to school part-time while living with us. I hope he stays awhile, with the economy the way it is, he is better off here than struggling in a small apartment.
AJ is in Ranger School and we'll go to his graduation April 1st. Then he is off to South Korea, while Emily sells the house and begins Law School on the East Coast.

So today, I make the promise to start writing again. Stay tuned for dog stories, psycho cat stories and mishmash of travelogues.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sweep Settling In

Despite not liking his crate at night, Sweep had no problem running into the crate with various objects to chew on - like Richard's work boot! His first 5 days were a little rough. He really missed his old family and spent a few days hiding from everything and everyone. We would go find him and pet him slowly - with some massaging - telling him we were ok.

I could hear his answer in my head - but there were no yappy dogs at the other place - why - WHY, did I get the yappy dog? However, she was quite fun when she wasn't stealing the toys away from him. She led him around the yard and taught him that barking is her normal mode of conversation.

Finally, he stuck to his guns. There would be no crate for him. But as he became more comfortable, he started looking for things to chew at night (the mattress, the dirty clothes we put down for him along with the blankets) and anything else he could think of. We knew he had to become comfortable with the crate. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Who are you? Where am I?

On September 4th we welcomed Blackmagic's Chimney Sweep (Aka Sweep) into our hearts and lives. We picked him up in Gurnee where we met his breeder as she was attending weekend shows (two back to back wins for her Yay!). We spent the week getting ready for him - and Friday morning set up his crate. Mazie loved the crate. She couldn't wait to get into it. We even set it up for later with sheets, and a cat bed on top! We stood back and said "Wow, it is big!" We know he will fully fill it in 9 months - but initially, Wow, it is BIG.

So off we went to pick up our puppy. He was 9 week old. He was not happy leaving his sister and brothers. We brought him home where he got to meet the yappy daschund and the house. He was quite upset at being without his support system. Alan picked him up and cuddled him in the chair. This look says it all:



WHO ARE YOU AND WHERE IN THE HELL AM I?


He hated his crate. He cried all night - for 2 nights - even with Alan sleeping with him. So we put him on a leash tethered to the bed and he finally slept all night long. I finally get some sleep today.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Xindi Completes Puppy Kindergarten

Xindi did a 7 week class of puppy kindergarten. The topics covered housebreaking (she did great), chewing and mouthing (well we can see how well that worked); House manners (jumping, barking, stealing items, etc.); basic obedience, puppy confidence building and the like.

At the beginning of class we were doing great only 1 or 2 accidents in the house, crated all night and sleeping most of it, and generally doing well.

At the end of class; we have no accidents in the house, Xindi has perfected the art of sleeping with mom in the big bed (crate, what crate?) walks herself with growly sounds on the leash and basically laughs at us each time we rein her in. The private trainer has confirmed - yes it is all my fault. She has to be at least 6 months for obedience but there is a class in between for her to try. I will be learning along the way. The question remains, what else she has to teach me?

She will start Puppy Foundation Agility in mid September. The possibilities are endless!