Uncategorized

I Hate This Thing

I haven’t been able to write. I haven’t been able to do much of anything but survive and survival has taken on a completely different meaning from this time last week.

What can I say? The word that I have most dreaded in my entire life is now inside of my son, my three-year old son. CANCER. All the BS that I have been going through in the last six months has been nothing compared to this… NOTHING. Cancer took my mother. It took my grandmother, my grandfather. It even took my fur-baby, Lucy. It has threatened my father for the last ten years. Now it wants to take my son. The audacity. The nerve of this disease. I’m pissed. I’m beyond pissed. I’m so angry that the only thing I can do is survive every day to fight back. To hold my four other kids up so they don’t lose their way. Walk my baby through this horrific journey of needles and procedures so that he can find the strength to fight back. We all have no choice but to win.

It’s a beautiful day out, one where I can sit by a window and feel the sun, but that is all we can do. Bro hasn’t been outside in almost three weeks. He won’t feel the air until after the Fourth of July.   We watch the birds soar from our window at Children’s Hospital. We watch the pedestrians below who walk with no other purpose but to stroll and enjoy the weather. I can almost smell the hamburgers on the grills this afternoon. When he is too tired or sick, I open the shades and he gazes out the window. This isn’t a life for anyone. I took so much for granted. We were so go, go, go.  Where was the life?! Where was that family?! You never really see what you had, wasted, forgot about when life doesn’t threaten it.

What started out as strep throat for a month, ended up with a diagnosis of B-ALL for Brody. It is a form of leukemia. I casually went to the pediatrician’s office on that Friday to ask if maybe there was another med that we could try. (I keep strep test kits at home, so I knew it was still present…) He was listless and really wasn’t my vibrant boy. The strep test came back positive and the doctor suggested giving the antibiotic more time, but that fluids would be a good idea. Off to the hospital we went for some IV… thought just an IV and I dreaded the idea of sitting in the ER for hours to give him what I thought I might be able to get into him with a straw and cup at home. They ushered us in and did the basic mandatory blood work. I should have recognized a problem when they came back and asked to do the draw again. The lab didn’t think that the results were correct, the blood counts were so low across the board. He had barely any red blood cells (making his heart have to work harder just to keep oxygen going through his body). He had barely any white blood cells making it impossible for his body to fight off the strep. He didn’t have any platelets.   Cut him and he would bleed uncontrollably. His heart could simply give out from all the work it was doing. The lab couldn’t believe that the results were correct so they ran them again. Something was up. They were sure it was nothing… right?! Or was I just hoping that?

We raced to Children’s in an ambulance and they quickly moved us to a room for intense antibiotics to kill infection and meds to bring down the fever. I should have known from the faces. I was still convinced it was still an abscess on this tonsil from the strep. The fevers wouldn’t abate and we were on the edge of just keeping him comfortable. His bone marrow wasn’t making ANY white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets. It couldn’t. This wasn’t strep throat. It was something else. We needed someone else’s blood to keep him going. This was another animal all together.

Two bone marrow biopsies and one spinal tap later and we were looking at leukemia or aplastic anemia. What happened to strep? We rolled the dice, and in a consult room alone, I got the results… leukemia.   Now we are in this nightmare that lies before me.

There are countless people who are helping us. My heart swells when I find out the small and big things that they are doing: meals, heartfelt donations to make our time easier, anonymously taking out the trash, cleaning my car, making shoes appear in the hospital room… Amazing aid. It has come from adults and children, strangers and friends. The love has been incredible and I don’t think I could have made it this far. My kids wouldn’t. My family wouldn’t.

But when the truth comes down to it, I’m still fiercely angry at this disease.

I think that I lived in a bubble. I thought that cancer couldn’t get my family anymore. That maybe I had paid my deductible and we were no longer going to have to fight it.  It had taken enough members. I was wrong.

Anger is a word that doesn’t even really begin to cover it. I hate this disease. I want to take it by the throat and throw it down a flight of stairs. I’m pissed. It affects too many people. It takes children and adults without any reasoning. It is ugly. It strikes unannounced and throws everything upside down. The worst is that it takes kids and makes them fight fights that should have never have to be fought when they are still young and innocent. It makes them sick. It is just so wrong on so many counts.

So, yes. I am feeling so much but beyond the numbness to just get through, there is deep anger that swells. Maybe that is how things change. When people become angry enough, they force awareness of these evils. They donate. They bring about more change through research. Maybe some day, that anger will all bring about a cure.  I can only hope for that, because there isn’t Teflon sprayed on families deeply effected.

 

 

cancer, death, finding myself, kids, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, mother, mother loss, Mother's Day, pain, Uncategorized

A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day

People always say… you can put this behind you and you can move on to something better. Well, what happens when you just can’t? I mean, what happens when you slowly stop thinking about it and then you can’t remember when the last time you heard it… but it then comes back full on haunting you, at least for one day. There is a legacy to these things that stays with you for a long time, maybe forever… It bubbles up. It revisits you like a dream that continually reoccurs until it is just knit into who you are. You expect it and embrace it.

Whether I can put “all this” behind me remains to be seen, what is fact is that “all that” from the past keeps haunting me. I mean, days like Mother’s Day come and draw me into the past. It is without fail that I am thrown back to so many things. No matter how many breakfasts in bed or smudgy Mother’s Day cards I get, will never push it out of front and center on Mother’s Day. It makes me realize that there is so much that I have never dealt with. Never dealt with feels of loss and abandonment that sting and hurt and seriously won’t go away. I hope that at some point they can meld into just who I am, become just a stitch, and not be the entire fabric of my life.

I have never made it a secret with you all how tough things have been lately. I have made it no secret that life before “all this” was sometimes very difficult. Maybe today, the day that always haunts me, is the day that I put it out on the table and make it more real than it ever has been. By sharing it, maybe I can finally accept and let all the good memories back in, instead of those that haunt. In getting ready to write this, I can feel my mother wrapping her arms around my shoulders from behind. A bear hug that I always “know” as her being there, that she is pushing me forward into this thing… so here I go.

I have so many memories of my mother. So many wonderful memories, that always get over shadowed by the others. I am going to give you “another” in hopes that it will truly fade away, so that I can love other Mother’s Days and not dread them like I do.

My mother valiantly fought cancer for just over ten months. I remember strength from her. I remember her beauty and who she was, but what I most remember are moments from the last days of her life. Quite sad if you really think about it. She had her whole lifetime, almost half of mine, at that point, and I remember the sad and terrible parts.

In my Mother’s last few days, she was in the hospital under the direction of doctor’s to mediate her pain with morphine. It was no secret that she was not going to leave the hospital. Perhaps at the time, I didn’t totally believe it. I was living in hospital scrubs because there was no going back to the house. I guess it never truly sunk in that it was because there was a moment that was coming that I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t miss.

My mom had been lying in bed for days. Days of quiet that was not like her. She talked. She laughed. She lit up the room. Now she was the center, but really just an accessory around all of us. It is in these moments that my memory always drifts on Mother’s Day.

My Mom’s face was ashen and her mouth hung open. She didn’t look like herself. I couldn’t stand another minute looking at her. I needed her makeup. When I had packed a bag for her… I packed her makeup bag. She would have never have left the house without lipstick or blush.

It wasn’t even an option of whether I would make up her face. She would have wanted it that way.  I carefully applied her makeup as she would have wanted it. To give her the dignity that she deserved.

She was less ashen after, but the pallid color of her skin still came through. It was a mask of what was going on. It wasn’t until days later when the makeup had started to fade that the mask would come off.

She hadn’t responded to talk for days. No squeeze of the hand, no blinks, nothing. Her body was giving out.

I had taken to calling her “Mama” which was odd. I had never used that name for her. I had talked and talked to her with no response, but with Mama at the beginning of each sentence. Maybe it was because the mask was starting to slip off and to me, she was started to look and act like another person.

Her lips were so dry. They were cracked. They looked so sore. We had been directed by the hospital staff to use these sponges on long sticks to wet her lips, to wet her mouth that had long since dried out from breathing for days straight like that.

I dipped the swab into the small paper cup full of water. When I pulled it out the sponge at the tip was soaked through and dripped back into the cup with the excess. I squeezed a bit out with my fingertips. No worry about germs. It wouldn’t matter. Every time I squeeze the suds from my sponge in my own sink while doing dishes, I remember this moment.

There were others around us, but for me, it was like I was in a vortex and nothing else existed but me and that instant. I wiped around her lips and started for the inside of her mouth. In that moment she closed her mouth and swallowed. The struggle of it was so painful to see. No! She was strong! She was a rock! She couldn’t be working so hard to do something so small as to swallow.

To see her lifeless body perform a basic task made me know she was still in there.   The sadness I felt wasn’t from the fact that it was so hard for her to do such a thing though. It was because she was still in there. She was holding on. She hadn’t totally given up. In her last days, she was holding on because we hadn’t asked her to let go. I hadn’t asked her.

That’s what moms do. They never give up. They never stop until their kids ask them to stop. They do what’s best even if it is excruciatingly hard.

I did finally ask her to let go. “Mama, it’s ok. You can go. Please just let go. We will be ok. I will be ok.” She did. She let go in the early hours of the next morning.

That’s why Mother’s Day is so hard for me. I see that moment all day every Mother’s Day, every day. I don’t think back to her last moments on this Earth, but I do remember that moment.

It doesn’t matter if I am a good mom. It doesn’t matter that I won’t let go until they ask me to. All that matters for me on Mother’s Day, is that she wouldn’t. I had that. What I still need to remember though is that the bear hugs that I feel mean that she still won’t ever totally let go. Ever. She will always be here. Holding me. Loving me. Pushing me forward through every moment. Supporting me in those really tough ones and enjoying the really good ones. There will be really good ones. She will be there.

Maybe that moment is meant to stick to me. Maybe I need to look at it in a new light to move on from it. I will always be there for my children and she will always be there for me. That is what I need to celebrate on this day. The reality of that. Maybe then I can enjoy the runny eggs and wilted flowers..

 

 

finding myself, home, kids, mindfulness, moving on, self worth, sticky floors, Uncategorized

Moms Have Messy Floors and Messy Lives

My house is a constantly evolving mess. It’s everywhere. My kids have numerous chores that they begrudgingly do, but it is still a hot mess.

Class papers threaten to multiply and take over every flat surface in my house (I attempt to combine them so that there is only one large stack every couple of hours). There are dirty socks that coat my floors, stripped off in sock balls and thrown down wherever they are taken off. Cups half full of water sit everywhere in my house, making me wonder how many each child uses a day. Toilet seats always sport sprinkles and there is never a day where gloops of toothpaste aren’t cemented to each sink throughout the house. Dirty dishes? I’ve got them ten fold, even after we have mostly switched to paper plates!

Some days, I tackle the clutter but then the underlying dirtiness shines through. There is insidious dirt that lives at my sliding door, dragged in from the outside, deposited on the hardwoods and then spread by stocking feet throughout the house. One minute vacuumed, the next a hopeless of mess of backyard debris. The slider is our link to the backyard, even though I had another door installed off the mudroom with the intention of it being the outside egress, the slider gets all the attention.

It’s a constant battle with nature, the tendency for things to go towards chaos. The threatening of nature always trying to return to its primitive state.

Maybe this is why I watch so many home improvement shows with there updated and serene spaces. I understand that they are “made for TV” houses. That fact is not lost on me. They are completely staged. Once the show is over, the furniture and nick nacks are removed and the families move in, their mismatched possessions take over and from there disorder ensues. There is something about those houses, though, that is so clean and stripped of mess, with so much promise for an ordered life. I can just imagine what it would be like to live in those spaces, anxiety and stress lowered.

My house is a tragic mess lately. Two months ago, I switched our house cleaners from every other week to once a month. Last month, I stopped the cleaners all together. Quite honestly, cleaners are expensive and they were just too much for my budget. Imagine cleaning your house but then multiply the number of people in your house by two to three, add one shedding dog and any number of child playmates. At any time, our small house could be harboring 5-9 kids, all with their own appropriate age toy mess and food crumbs. The sheer number of kids and friends is something that I would never want to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I love their craziness. Cleaning up after kids though, is a full time job. Cleaning up after all of my kids is a high paced marathon with absolutely no finish line. Someone once said that cleaning with kids is like trying to “brush your teeth while eating an Oreo.” So true.

Lately, it seems like I am trying even harder, but still getting nowhere in the battle.   My home reflects my state of mind. Right now, my house is out of control and a mess, just like my life. It’s like a tornado and it sucks to live in it. I can fix it up with the illusion of “put away-ness”, but if you look closely, stuff is hidden in dark closets here, always ready to spill out.

This morning as I was cleaning up my umpteenth dirty dock I got to thinking about the sayings “Excuse the mess. My children are making memories” and my other favorite, “Good moms have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, dirty ovens and happy kids”. I think that I use these sayings as a scapegoat for my inability to keep a tidy house. First and foremost though, let me get this straight with all of you… I have never had a clean oven. Let’s get that out of the way before I continue. That would be a monumental effort that I am certain I will never get too. My oven regularly sets off the fire alarm with the amount of burn off smoke. True, I have sticky floors because I have so many kids and I just can’t get it all done. Kids spill and in my case, stick stickers to the floor. My kitchen is always messy because I am constantly cycling through meals so that breakfast dishes always get pushed to lunch meal cleanup and then often stretching out until dinner pickup.  It makes me wonder why the open floor plan was such a great… It’s open and people can see the dirty dishes! The piles of laundry are a consequence of at least twelve outfits a day being stripped off onto the floor. Sometimes, I feel like I have become the Old Lady Who Lived In a Shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

I hope that I am really not the only one who hides piles of stuff and that we all have sticky floors because we are just really messy. If not, I am pulling out a skeleton in the closet that I am just dirty. I’m guessing, although I can’t be sure, that we are all in the same boat. So why do we stress about getting it clean??!! Why does an unexpected ringing of the door bell strike fear in my heart?

June Cleaver always seemed to have such a clean house. She found time, when not preparing the perfect meal, to sit and enjoy a book (not a trashy tabloid) in a nice armchair with her ankles crossed. She always had on her adorable dress, neatly pressed, and heals, swathed in a lovely apron. The door bell would ring and she would strip out of that apron, poof her perfectly done hair and answer the door with a smile, always ready to bring out a hospitable tray with refreshments. If there was such a thing as a messy bun and yoga pants, do you think that she really would have worn them?!

Ready for this statement though? It might shatter your reality.  Is it possible that it’s all an illusion.  An illusion we (women), buy into even if it’s at an unconscious level? Is it even possible to attain that picturesque life? Maybe I am perpetuating the myth to my children that women can keep a clean house and teach my kids to read before they are two. Can I really always look perfectly put together and never get frazzled? Will my children feel the same when they are grown?

I can get over the not-so perfect clothing I choose or the dust bunnies that are getting bigger each day. My biggest issue is whether my kids are actually happy and if we are making any memories other than them watching TV and doing homework. I wield TV like a treat, an expert babysitter. When not cleaning, I am driving them to their seventeen activities each afternoon and evening? What happened to family board game night and playing pass in the yard? Sometimes, we get outside and they ride bikes or draw with chalk. More likely than not, if I am “participating” in any of these activities, it is in a chair with a glass of wine in my hands, pretending to watch them.  True, I had five kids and this is what I signed up for, but does that mean that I am still working towards making them happy or providing a clean organized house?

I feel guilty that I am not making those great memories with them. Their lives are not easy these days. Try as I might, to shield them from high emotions and changes, they are just as scared of the unknown as I am. I want to give them the order of a tidy house that I/they need to lower their anxiety levels. I want them to feel like even though the world is spinning out of control, at least they have a clean place to live and a pair of beloved pants in the drawer.  Is this what they really need, now or ever? I am wondering if providing this life for them is coming at the cost of not making memories that involve great times with mom.

Maybe cleaning has become just a scapegoat for not spending time, too. There are days when I am so sad or angry that I just don’t want to play. I want to hide at the kitchen sink and wash endless amounts of dishes so that I don’t have to have to play another round of imaginary doctor. “Please play with me?” “Not now, Brody, I have to finish the laundry.” Isn’t this selfish? A big chunk of me feels it is.

I think it really all comes back to the fact that I am beating myself up for not living up to all that I feel like I should be, something I have always done but now in increasing levels since my separation. Weighing on my mind… my marriage is a big fail, so I am a big fail. Not only am I not keeping up in the marriage department, but I am failing on the mom and house cleaning level. I am just failing.

Somebody let me off the hook! Give me the magic pill to take the guilt away and let me realize that, just maybe, I am good enough just the way that I am. Tell me that I am doing the best that I can with the circumstances being what they are. Tell me that someday it will get better, easier. Would hearing it all from you make me feel any better? Probably not.  Sorry.

In reality, all that really needs to happen, is that I need to let myself off the hook.  The biggest problem in this situation is that I am searching for the validation from a place that I really shouldn’t be looking for it, everyone else. Validation needs to lie in me, a belief about myself. It’s all about self worth. Well, there it is. Maybe that is why I am finding peace and relief in this blog. It is making me feel like I can share and be okay with who I am and how I think. I’m out there and people aren’t judging me harshly (at least not to my face) for what I am writing. It’s helping me gain that worth in myself that I really feel like I have always been missing.

In the end, I need to realize that I am doing the best that I can, in this moment. That maybe tomorrow, things will be cleaner and I will find that time to fit in that board game… and just maybe, I need to find a way to get a larger junk closet to hide all the mess!

distraction, finding myself, kids, lists, moving on, self love, self worth, Uncategorized

The Push Me List – 50 Things in 534 Days

I am a list maker. I make copious lists. It has served as a running joke in my house for as long as I can remember doing it. “Better get out the list or you will never remember!” We are leaving for a trip. “Mom, when are you going to make you big list… ha ha ha!” I just shrug and laugh along with them. Secretly thinking, “How about you try packing for 6 people!” Truth is, my family would be lost without them.

There are some things that you should know about my lists. They are as follows:

Ink color is very important. I have to write them in blue pen. I am not comfortable with any other color and my house is flooded with blue pens. Seeing writing in black pen is like hearing nails scraping on a chalkboard for me. I will throw out any color pens that don’t hold the proper color.

Currently, I also have to write my lists on white printer paper. I cannot write on just one. They have to be stacked to provide the perfect cushion for the writing implement. If I can write on the back of a used printer paper, all the better. In the past, I had a composition notebook to keep my lists on. Composition was perfect, no perforated pages that could, by accident, tear out or wire bindings that could get bent. I have to be able to fold the covers over at some point because I don’t like to have a notebook open with two pages showing at a time. If you really break in a composition notebook, you can do that. My lists could run on forever, as long as there was a page to turn, but after years, I found my lists too overwhelming in a notebook. I had endless space and the lists became too long. White printer paper is finite and with a used back, I can’t turn it over and keep writing. Ah, self regulation. I am so smart!

Font, well, with the composition notebook, it was all bubbly cursive quickly scribbled onto the lines. Oh, and the lines had to be WIDE RULED. Printer paper is different… it has to be neat large handwriting, spaced large enough so that if I have to squeeze something in, I can write smaller between the lines. Oh, and each list item must be written parallel to each other… Slanting lines of text drives me nuts.

Now that I have revealed one of my biggest neuroses, I should explore the bigger question… Why do I do it? Why do I write lists? First and foremost, I swear that I have lost more than my fair share of brain cells to Mommy Brain. I am not pregnant, though I have been for a large portion of my life. Like during pregnancy, I forget words during a conversation, put the milk in the pantry and yes… I misplace my lists. I talked with my doctor because I was concerned! Something is wrong with me!!! My daughter laughed and said, “You have five kids. That’s a lot.” Quite honestly, making sure that teeth are brushed, stomachs are full and underwear is changed can be a challenge in the morning… I’ll let you figure out if I’m talking about the kids or myself. I think the act of writing it on paper is putting order into an otherwise very chaotic life. The ship won’t run smoothly unless there is a list.

So, the point of this blog post… (“Get to it, you’re saying!) I am going to push myself with a list, a different type of list. I am writing it on the computer so there isn’t white printer paper. WAY out of my comfort zone. I am not writing it with, dare I say it, blue pen in my straight round print. I have to type it. GOOD GOLLY. I can’t scribble in the margins or watch it every moment to make sure I have gotten done what needs to get done and then crossing off the completed! I am really pushing myself. I am going to look at it each week and decide what is doable for that time period or what I can start working on.

What is this list, you ask??? I want to come up with a to-do list that asks me to do the things that seem impossible or things that I feel like I will never get to in my lifetime. I have learned from my Mom, that life is very short and some things shouldn’t be put off until a diagnosis. I have put myself off for a long time.

I have been busy focusing on other people: kids, my husband, and even fundraising. I have lost all of my own dreams and wishes. My to-do lists are the only things that bring me satisfaction, but it is the satisfaction of getting things done. To keep finding some source of happiness, I have to add more and more things to the to-do list. I could come up with endless amounts of things to put on it.

Wow… that is what it has come to. That’s what makes me happy, to get things done. What does that say about my feelings of self-worth? I have put changing light bulbs in front of myself. Where did I go? What is even sadder is that I don’t find happiness in my own interests. In fact, when I have “alone” time, I’ll pass on it, in order to fold laundry or do returns. I just don’t know what to do with myself.

The list. In order to find myself again, my list asks me to do things that I loved in the past. Maybe I’ll discover myself in there. She must still exist! Some of the items on my list are mundane things but some are far larger and will take some serious effort and planning to accomplish. I am going to sit down each week and schedule myself and the list in. I deserve to be on that to-do list. I am giving myself a time limit, 534 days or a year in a half, to accomplish it. I am asking you to keep me accountable. Don’t let me down here!

MY LIST

  1. Keep a house plant alive for a month (I can grow anything outside but indoors is another story… which is why I love fake houseplants so much!)
  2. Write my blog post six times in a row, every Monday. (If I skip, I have to start over.)
  3. Shower EVERY DAY for a month. Shocking, I know but a girl has to have goals.
  4. Visit the cemetery and towns where my family originated in Canada, preferably with my children.
  5. Run a 5K.
  6. Go to a movie alone. Eat popcorn and sip on wine in a travel coffee mug.
  7. Go for a drive (alone) with the windows wide open (gasp… no AC for the kids) and my hair down. I must sing songs, in appropriate songs of my choosing, at the top of my lungs.
  8. Learn to make merengue cookies.
  9. Go on a horse drawn sleigh ride in the snow with warm blankets and hot cocoa. I haven’t figured out how to carry that cocoa warm and contained… I only like mugs for warm drinks.
  10. Go for a day hike, alone.
  11. Learn to use my DSLR camera on a setting other than automatic.
  12. Put all of my 2012 photos in an album. (I have put all the previous printed years in albums already! Please note… The last 4 plus years are not included in this item.  They were never printed and I have given up them.  Best to start with 2018!)
  13. Go to bed at 9:00 pm every night for a week, leaving 30 minutes for reading… OK, 45 minutes. I can’t go to bed without reading afterall!
  14. Make donuts.
  15. Do a 1500 piece puzzle (used to love doing puzzles).
  16. Take myself on a date to a restaurant and eat alone at the bar. I can talk to strangers near me. I love to strike up conversations with complete strangers…
  17. Go on a girl’s weekend.
  18. Learn how to make homemade buffalo mozzarella and do it.
  19. Try foot reflexology.
  20. Have mole mapping done by a dermatologist.
  21. Become proficient with the sewing machine and make a valance for my downstairs bathroom.
  22. Build a sofa table.
  23. Send a care package to a college baby sitter.
  24. Send a letter to someone and tell him or her how important they are to me.
  25. Make gnocchi.
  26. See a concert.
  27. Read 15 books in 6 months, 2 of which have to be classics I have never read before.
  28. Hike Mt. Washington.
  29. Order pan seared scallops at a seafood restaurant. I normally opt for chicken or burgers (not cooked on the same grill as the fish because the “fishy” taste can be transferred. I inherited a seafood aversion from my mother and my grandmother before her…
  30. Say the rosary.
  31. Use ancestry.com to map the Polish side of my family, all the way back to their immigration from Poland.
  32. Go away for 2 nights to a place I have never been, alone.
  33. Have genetic testing done.
  34. Go to the Brimfield Fair and buy myself some Fireking and Lu Ray.  My Mom and I used to go to flea markets to buy these things when I was a kid.
  35. Make a cheesecake.
  36. Do not use my phone in the car for 2 days.
  37. Play Scrabble, even if it’s by myself.
  38. Actually start the event business that I have wanted to do for years and have one paying client.
  39. Eat lunch, seated on a placemat with a napkin, for a week. The couch does not count as a seat and the TV must not be on.
  40. Go two weeks without ordering take out.
  41. Take a roadtrip with the kids to Charleston, SC.
  42. Research the lost family recipe for “wapshi” (a made up family recipe) and make it…
  43. Have a yard sale.
  44. Grow a cut flower garden.
  45. Visit a salt therapy room.
  46. Go camping… in a tent.
  47. Find and research a new recipe each week.
  48. Drive to Big G’s in Winslow, ME and have a Cindy Blodgett sandwich.
  49. Walk the Freedom Trail.
  50. Play a round of golf (I used to play all the time but stopped after Conor was born… yes, 12 years ago…)
  51. Oh, and one more… finish this list for myself!!!

Off I go on this journey! Putting myself at the top of the list, or for that matter, even on it, is going to be tough, especially since the “writing” portion has already been torture. I’ll let you know how it goes!

betrayal, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, pain, Uncategorized

People Always Ask

People always ask,

“How are you doing?”

It’s a tough one for me to answer.

People want to hear how you are doing, but the real answer is often too awkward to hear. They care. I get it. They want to know how to help. I get that too. People feel helpless when they can’t help someone through a difficult time. But the true answers would make both of us uncomfortable. Me admitting that things aren’t great and that moment, well… what do they say…

It puts me in a strange position. I want to answer people with what they want to hear. I want to take away their discomfort with the situation. “I’m great”. Or, my new favorite, because it shows forward progress, “I’m getting better”.   I want to tell people, that I am immensely better. That my world has rightened itself. That the sun came out and I ran through a field of daisies and spun around in the sun.   In fact, a big part of me wishes that those words were true, that they were my reality. But they are not.

The real answer would be, “Sh*tty” but does anyone really want to hear that answer?

Truthfully, every day is an extreme struggle to perform the most basic tasks. The bottom of the pain seems endless. It claws at me at all the wrong times and hides when I have the moments to succumb to it. It feels like I am steadily drowning in murky water and I can’t see the surface. How would everyone feel if I told them that terrible truth. I feel like I need to sneak away to have these tough feelings because of other people’s discomfort.

I am fearful to proceed with this, but I am reminded that when you feel fear, it is a sign that you are about to do something brave. I am about to be brave, but it is truly a façade because I know fewer people will read this week. Marathon Monday. Easter. April vacation. I am banking that people aren’t on facebook, aren’t trolling blog sites.

How can I describe it? I want to tell people how I am feeling. After all, isn’t that what this blog is supposed to help me do? To open up? So here we go. People ask and if they want to know, this is the best answer I can give. It is like this…

 

I am deep in an ocean. So very deep.

It’s a hot day at the beach where soda cans, once cold, hold condensation that drips down then wets the sand where they are embedded. The noonday sun beats down on my skin as I sit in the beach chair, eyes trained on child movements in five different locations across the beach. Watching for the strangers. Watching for extra pink skin and the need for the sunblock reapplication. Watching the swimmers. Making sure no one is being pulled under, stung by a jelly fish, hit with a boogie board. Unofficial lifeguard that I am at the beach, but really no matter where I am, I always guard. I watch them. I protect them. Mother bears watch their cubs.

The sun burns my skin. It is first warm, but then burning. knees are first hot. Hotter. Blazing hot. Then the sting. I can feel the burn. I should have put on that protective blanket of sunblock but it’s now too late. The burn is there. I have to dunk in the waves. I hate the idea of swimming in the ocean.  The ocean, is full of the unknown. I much prefer the predictability of the pool.  There is no choice though. I have to find some relief in the cold water. It is calling to me.

I feel the splash of water from the kids who play around me. It is freezing and almost unbearable. I shrink from it, taking a couple of steps back up the beach. It is hot on the beach though. Too hot and I know I have no choice but to head in the water. The water rushes over my feet and it is shocking but after it rolls over me a couple of times, it is painful but cooling. I have to explore it. I know that no matter how bad it is, I have to go into it. I tentatively take steps in. The waves become rougher and I can feel the undercurrent pulling on my legs as the water recedes back home. I resist the pull, but it is strong. Stuck in my dug in spot in the sand, yet being yanked towards the darkness. The water swirls around me and the waves fall on my legs, pushing me back as much as the tide is pulling me out. It is a fight to stay standing. I want to run back out. I want to get out of this situation. I want to sit on the beach even though the sun is blistering my shoulders, my knees are flaming red from the heat. The peace that I feel in my chair isn’t real. My body rages a war against the sun.   It is a quiet pain though. Sure I will feel the sting later but for now, I can handle it. One that I can endure. The water is pulling me today. I have to be in it. I have to release it all even though it is threatening to consume me, body, mind and soul. I have to give up my guarding and pray for someone else to watch my kids while I go out. The memories full of laughter are back on the beach. The fun times of sand castles and play. The memories shared and cherished. The ones in front of me are dark and swirling like the water. Tempting me to forget all the others. The tears, the broken promises. The dreams that were destroyed with only a couple of words and a lifetime of lies. Why are they so enticing? Why do I want to dwell in them? I want to drown in them. The sweet memories pull and call to me but the darkness is too much. Engulfing. I walk forward. I step deeper. I am drawn into the silky darkness.  I can feel the stones under my feet and know that the crabs will nip at my toes. I will feel pain from it all. It will hurt. I will yelp and pull my feet up, but there will always be more underneath that I can never see. More pain. It will come. It is inevitable.

The water is making goose bumps on my flesh and they rise all over my body. Splashing the water on my legs and wiping down my arms eases the cold sting. I slide deeper into the depths. It becomes darker. It pulls more on my legs. Up to my waist, up to my chest. I slip deeper into the water and the pull on my legs increases. The seeping cold on my skin starts to numb all feeling. I can no longer feel the cold. I can no longer feel the stinging heat. The relief is now everywhere. I am baffled by how the dark and the fear have slipped away and all my concern is faced towards the numbing. I no longer fear the crab pinches. I no longer fear the stones tearing at the skin on my feet. I want to dunk my head in it. I want to numb it all over. I want to not feel. I want to not hear the past and all that was special. I want to be engulfed by the dark, the pain, and not feel for a while. I hope that each time that I swim into it, I can come back up and tread water. That is the only way to survive it. I hope that I will always remember to walk back out.

That is my pain, my daily pain. It is a decision each and every day to dip my toes in the well of heart wrenching pain. It overcomes me every time I walk in it. I can choose to ignore it and sit on that beach, but the stings and burns of turning my back on it will be worse later. If I walk deep enough into it, I numb out. It is that consuming.

 

It is a daily struggle that is, for a lack of a better word, sh*tty.

So when you ask how I’m doing out of concern or pleasantry, know that I am going to smile and say “doing better”, but in reality, I’m just a girl at the beach trying to pick between two discomforts, both destined to hurt.

 

bathroom, hygge, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, self love, Uncategorized, woodworking

Bathroom Hygge

I have been on overdrive lately nesting my house… I HAVE to have a hygge feeling when I am in it.  My biggest obsession is creating a complete sanctuary in my bedroom and bathroom.  I need a space to isolate and think about who I am, where I am and where I want to go with my life and my kids.  It is my space, to journal, to read, to binge on inappropriate kid shows (You know the ones… utterly and completely inappropriate for the kids and can only be watched after they head to bed, in the half hour before you pass out!) and, of course, blogging.  I want this space to be so much of a sanctuary, that I have banned jumping on my bed and I have a door knocker on the door.

Three years ago, we added a master bedroom and bathroom. Brody was living in a closet, albeit a small closet with a window, but a closet none the less.  Steve Comolli helped us through it.  He was great and we loved all his subs.  I loved the my new bedroom space.  It was a blank slate for my favorite colors, especially Benjamin Moore, Beach Glass, which I have managed to paint most of the rooms in my house. I had fun picking the tiles and vanity, marble and shower surround.  Being on a budget, I didn’t even look for any upgrades, which was fine.  I am good with tight money.

Now that I am no longer sharing this space, it feels empty and I’m not just talking physically.  I feel like there is no soul in the space.  It feels cold to me and the colors I love no longer make me happy and serene.  I now need a place that literally wraps itself around me when I get into it.  There are no “details” that make my space cozy, just the basics of the basics.  They are utilitarian rooms, places to get stuff done and a place to collapse in bed.  I saved using all those details (and built ins) for the spaces where they would be seen, namely the downstairs.  It is amazing how when it is so quiet in a room, the lack starts to stand out.

Many people in my life are fully aware of me being independent and thinking that I can do many projects myself, even if I tend to imagine things far ahead of my skills.  I have done some.  I built my own patio.  I built Conor’s headboard.  I built a desk out of a salvaged door… I replaced my computer screen…  Truthfully, none of these things came out perfectly… but I did them.  It is a frustrating to me to have someone do the work for me.  I want to learn how to do it all.  Most of the time, I also have confidence in the “pros” at Lowe’s who, as a last ditch effort, can help me through a project.  I always want to try and do the creating, not just the dreaming.  It’s my vision and I want to see it through from beginning to end.  I guess it is a bit of a metaphor for my own life.

My bathroom is the first step in the creation of a sanctuary for me.  I sit on the floor of the shower until the water turns cold, snuggled in a ball in the corner with the water beating down on me.  Sometimes, I forget to wash my hair until the water is icy and then I have to endure the cold, but it’s worth it.  I love to even shower with the lights completely off, although I can’t see and have to feel around for the soap.  I can think there.  I can reflect.  I can melt away into my heart beat and stillness.  The kids know that when mom is taking a shower… back off! It helps that there is a lock on my bedroom and one on the bathroom door.  The banging on the bedroom door is almost imperceptible.  I often play soft new age music, which the kids joke about when it comes on in the car thanks to Bluetooth.  My Mom used to put it on after her most strenuous treatments.  David Lanz was her favorite and I can always see why.  I can float away to it, to another space and time, adding my own fantasized love stories… I am a romantic at heart… Aren’t we all girls, even though we won’t totally admit it because we are sooooo strong…

Stepping out of the shower is a smack in the face.  My bathroom is blank and it feels so cold.  I used to love it, but now I hate it.

I have had my heart set on a board and batten treatment on my bathroom wall since I saw it on Pinterest (the most dangerous place in the whole wide world).  Please see the glorious inspiration below.  Wow!  It looked so simple.  My first thought was “I got this!”.   With only a couple of steps I would have completed an amazing project that would add so much character to my space.

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Bathroom inspiration from LovelyCraftyHome

Looks easy enough, right?

Aaron Deletti , who works for our contractor, was over working on another project in my house that I would never have been able to do myself… I was so excited to share what I was going to do… all by myself…  What did he do?  He laughed.  Yup.  I decided to pursue on.  Aaron, being the good sport that he is, said he would help me lay it out on the wall and give me a list of lumber that I would need.  He would put up the first piece, the horizontal piece, so that he could make sure it was level and then I would be good to go, he said with a laugh.

Fast forward, I bought the lumber and found a time for Aaron to come over and put up that first simple piece of wood.  I think Aaron knew that I was way over my head but he humored me.  Once the first piece was up, I realized that I was WAY over my head.  This was not a small project.  Aaron  was a good sport and showed me, step by step, how to do the project and truthfully, the bathroom would have been a complete disaster if he hadn’t stepped in and pretty much done all the work.  His number is 774-573-8524 if you want him to actually do the project… I don’t think he will ever do another side-by-side with anyone again!

Check out what we/he did… Success, my space is my retreat to melt into when I need it.

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The Yucky Before – Pretty Boring
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The bathroom after – Glorious

Success.  It looks much more comforting and less cold, but I needed to add some touches to increase the hygge.  Remember the tenants of hygge: living things, things that bring back special memories, candles and items that bring comfort and warmth.

I set out on my journey, which wasn’t hard since I had those special memories locked up in boxes in the basement.  The beach is one of my most favorite places in the whole wide world… even more so than my shower.  Maybe because I spent so much time with my Mom there.  It feels like home and the ocean sounds always make me feel happy.  Happiness is what I need in my life right now.  So any memories that I can conjure up help!  Thus the star fish that I have had stashed in the basement for so many years, waiting for another project that never materialized.

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Next stop, the toilet… why are toilets so ugly, huh?  This one particularly bugs me because it is so off centered.  But I had to spiff it up and soften the edges.  I know, we are all chuckling here.  Succulents are something that my Dad loves.  His house is full of them and every time I see a succulent at Lowe’s I think of him.

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Jen Trendel made these fabulous treatments for me.  I love everything about them.  They are a little bit girly, which I love in my space!

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Finally the vanity… I needed to dress it up.  It has always been so utilitarian and dull.  A place to get the “stuff” done: flossing, brushing, makeup.  The place to transform and put on my happy face, that shell that I am so good at wearing.  I don’t want my spaces to be about covering up anymore.  They need to be about comforting me as I make my transformation into, well… myself, my authentic self.  I have always loved orchids.  This one got a great place and the color makes me think of sunny weather.  (Truthfully, all the plants in this space are fake… I CANNOT keep a houseplant to save my life…)

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My mother always smelled the same.  She smelled of Obsession perfume.  It was part of my earliest memories.  I can remember her coming home from work, late at night, and smelling her.  In the morning, I could never remember her kisses or her pulling up the covers, but I can remember her smell.  It lingered in the room long after I woke up.  This crystal tray was something she found at a flea market.  I had always tucked it away because I thought it was too frilly!  Last but not least, the sand and shells.  I think that they speak for themselves.  My extra addition was a heart shape rock that I found while walking with my kids.  I thought it was a good omen and now I look at it and think about the love that, someday, I hope to feel from another, as well as the special love that my kids gave me that day and all days.

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Voila! I am in love with my new space.  It is everything that I dreamed of and more.  I think that I have found a spot where I can feel comfort and sanctuary as I work on all the hard things in my life.  It isn’t just utilitarian and it is a symbol of me finding a dream and seeing it through to completion.  I am on a big mission, to identify my own dreams and see them through to fruition and finding an area where I can decompress is a glorious thing for me.  Aaah!  On to the next room.

cancer, death, Ed Sheeran, mother, Uncategorized

My Mom and Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran is one of my favorite artists.  His performances are a boggling display of talent.  So, of course, I had to buy his newest album ÷, not a typo… it’s called ÷.

Lot’s of the songs touch my heart, but Supermarket Flowers has been on repeat for days now.  I have already memorized every word.  If you haven’t heard it, it is about losing one’s mother and coming to terms with the loss.

This one hits home and though I don’t blog more than once a week, due to time restrictions, I had to share today because my soul is so full of so much and the pain is excruciating.  I don’t talk about her often, but I think about her almost every moment of the day.  Some days are just like that.

Well, those that know me, know that I lost my mother, quickly from liver cancer when she was 50 and I was just 9 days passed my 18th birthday.  The tumors were the size of baseballs.  My mother was my best friend.  She was my everything.  She was the one that held my hand and let me cry on her shoulder when things got rough.  She would lay on my bed and just listen to my music.  She devoted time to the American Cancer Society, planning events and raising money to help with cancer research.  Little did she know that she would need to be the recipient of that money for experimental therapies.  She was such a special woman.

Two days after I started my senior year, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, something that is terminal but she vowed to fight.  She was given but 3 months.  That would have taken us to Christmas.  How can one die at Christmas?  How can you just leave your family at that time of year?  That was just her.  She wanted to keep living her life.  She didn’t want to leave us all.  She threw herself into whatever treatment they thought might extend her life.  She was a fighter.

It is amazing that she did the things that they asked her to.  Chemotherapy was still archiac at the time.  They pounded her body for days with a combination of horrendous drugs that they thought “might work”.  She was willing to try it all, no matter what happened to her, and what she needed to endure.  Her strength and determination was like none other.

She was deeply religious and a strong Catholic.  Church gave her more strength than I could imagine.  I have realized in the last couple of months what religion can do.  Doctrine is one thing, but believing that you will be taken care of by God is the main tenant that I know she devoted herself to.  No matter what was thrown at her, she could endure it because, “God would never give her more than she could handle.”

She was never vain but always proud of her appearance, in short, she would have never left the house in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, no matter what.  The same was true for her sick time.  My Aunt Jane went with her to find clothes that were comfortable but not sore around her waist.  At this time, even to touch her belly was uncomfortable.  She always put on makeup and lipstick.  I walked in on her one day in the bathroom as she sat crouched in the corner.  Her hair brush full of her hair.  I rarely saw her break down during this time, but this was a blow.  Maybe it was because it was a sign to the world that she was struggling and sick now.  We went to the salon and one of her best friends, Karen Yetten, washed her hair as it fell out in the sink.  She fashioned a wig for her.  My mother ended up opting to just cut it all off and wear a scarf.

She survived through Christmas, even showing a reduction in her tumor size.  It gave her hope.  It gave us all hope.

It didn’t last and chemo was given up.  In April, she went to Long Island where they installed an experimental pump to directly send a new form of chemo to her tumors.  It was barbaric.  It was huge, at least 3×5 inches and stuck out from her skin another 2 inches.  She said she felt so ugly with it.  She felt like a monster. It hurt her.  But again, she was willing to try anything to extend her life.  She wanted to see me graduate from high school and see my cousin, Cheryl, get married.  She had goals.

It didn’t work and we finally excepted that she was going to die.  We were going to lose her.  Her fight was gone and she gave in to dying in the most beautiful ways.  She embraced it.  She wanted to see her friends and be with family.  In May, she turned 50 and spent time with her friends at the Cape, her favorite place.  We had cake and it was so bittersweet.  It would be her last birthday with us.  She loved the beach and it spoke to me too.  That weekend, we borrowed a golf cart from the golf course and rode out the first hole to the beach.  There she sang to me and a video camera the songs that she sang to me as a baby.  It was a video so that my children would some day be able to hear her voice and know that she had been on this Earth.  That she would think of them always.  They were her legacy.  She loved those babies who hadn’t even been brought into the world.

In secret, she had shopped in secret with my Aunt, buying gifts for me for the moments she wanted to be present for.  They were wrapped and I didn’t know of their existence.  A wedding gift, a handmade garter she wore, a penny for my shoe and a hankie.  A card.  A wedding card. I opened it shortly after I was engaged.  Another present came when I was about to give birth to Conor.  A baby card, a quilted bib that she sewed herself.  That was the person that she was.

She saw Cheryl’s wedding.  She saw me graduate and then she went down hill quickly.

I came home from work to her completely out of it in her bed.  In that moment, I knew I was losing her.  I had just turned 18.  My uncle carried her to the car as my father followed and prepped the car.  She was so frail and small.  My uncle’s face spoke of so much love.  So much despair.  She was a shell and a testament of all that she had gone through.  And then they were all gone.  She was never to return.

She slowly died in Boston for 9 days while we tried to make her comfortable.  She was in and out of it for the first two and then it was time to start morphine.  At day 8, I asked her to let go.  It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  It was time for her to stop fighting for me, for my father, for her family, for her friends, for her life.  She passed so peacefully, with us standing around her early in the morning light.  Holding her hand.

Ed Sheeran’s song says that “a heart that has been broken is a heart that has been loved.”  It couldn’t have been more true.  My heart was and still is broken for her.  She loved me.

She was truly an angel on Earth.  She was one of the best.  “You were an angel in the shape of my Mom. You got to see the person I have become. When I fell down, she was there holding me up.  Spread your wings as you go. When God took you back he’ll say, “Hallelujah. You am home.”  She is home.

home, kids, lice, Uncategorized

The Dreaded Letter…

Boom!  I got the letter, the dreaded letter.  It is the letter that instills complete dread in every mother out there… the lice letter from the school nurse.

It always starts the same,

“A student in your child’s class has lice.”

They then proceed to tell you “not to worry”.  OK, I never did worry until… we got lice.  Worry is an understatement of what I go through when we get that letter, which by the way, they send home in a sealed envelope.  It’s as if they know that if any other parent with a child in another class might have seen that letter leave the school with your child, sheer panic would ensue the town.  Every mother of a previous lice infected head would quarantine there child, because, quite honestly, missing weeks of school would be preferable to getting lice!

When I get “the letter” I break out in sweats and I start to pace and panic.  If I had been told ebola was present in the class, I would feel better.  I get a little hysterical.

My first act after the bomb hits, is to immediately question my child.  Who was the infected kid?  This often takes some investigative work.  Very often, they don’t know.  This normally gives me a sense of relief because it means it wasn’t an immediate friend who they could have easily picked it up from.  The threat remains though… it could be a kid they sat next to in class.  Who was absent?  When were they absent?  How long were they out?  They could have shared a hat or some other item that would allow that louse to transfer to my child, who may, within 8 hours, have it crawling through their hair, feeding.  Within 8 hours, that bug or its babies could have transferred themselves to another child in the house and Boom! again, the whole house is infected.

The protection phase then begins:

First, hair washing STOPS IMMEDIATELY.  I don’t care if they have just sweated for two hours and the hair is wet… it stays.  Besides, extra dirty hair means extra protection.  Grease slick or not, they are going to school looking filthy but with a major protective shield from infection.  Major embarrassment is again, preferable to getting lice.  We avoid infection at any cost here.

You better believe that hair is TIGHTLY pulled back when returning to school.  I mean the type of pulled back where their eyebrows threaten to reach up into their hair line.  A pony followed by a tight braid is key.  No loose hairs can be out there, as they are a port of call for the bugs.

Finally, the MOST IMPORTANT step, hair spray and gel are thickly applied.  Now I know that most people swear by the pretty lice spray that you can get at the store with witch hazel in it.  Let me tell you… its definitely not 100% effective.  The special lice experts have informed me, that a huge barrier is the only protection that keeps those bad guys away.  We go big here.  Not only does it provide protection, but it keeps the flyaways from flying away during the day.

Once the threat has passed, we can go back to washing hair and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Why the intense reaction?  Let me go back in time to one of the worst weeks of my life…

School got out.  Aah!  No more rides to sports and activities.  First week of vacation and its time to relax and hit the couch for a week in pajamas and unwind.  The kids don’t want to go anywhere and I am on board with that idea.

Maddy had been complaining about an itchy head for a week but naively, as a mom who had never dealt with infection, I failed to look for the bugs.  I wasn’t even quite sure I would recognize them but I had decided that we wouldn’t ever get lice.  Lice was for other families.  I assumed, again… wrongly… that it was just a dry scalp.  See, my kids take after me and suffer from dry flaky scalp.

My head was itchy at the time as well… but again… dry scalp.  Time to break out the tar shampoo and rid myself of the itch.  Funny thing was it wasn’t really working very well. Oh, well! Must be really dry or something!

Enter knowledgeable babysitter.  I was happily browsing the aisles of Target when she calls.

“Maddy has lice…”

“No, babysitter, that is impossible.  Are you sure?”

“Yes, they are crawling. Oh, and Piper looks like she has them too, but I couldn’t be sure.”

I gagged.  Gagged right there in Target and my own scalp kicked up the itch.  (In fact, my scalp is getting itchy right now just thinking about it.) It was like the flashbacks in movies where the character puts all the signs together that the murderer was actually their husband… they had ignored the signs, not believing the truth… it wasn’t fathomable.  Well, I had ignored the signs, but they all had pointed to lice.

I actually pushed the cart as fast as I could, running behind it, to the lice aisle.  There was a woman there who was very helpful, from a distance.  She clearly had suffered the dreaded lice infestation and wasn’t gonna get too close.  I literally grabbed every shampoo and comb available on the market and threw them in the cart, hoping to stop the spread to the rest of the kids.  Let me tell you that these products are NOT cheap.  Thank God that it was only two kids and maybe me.  Wrong again.

I immediately buzzed Brody and Conor, IMMEDIATELY.  Obviously not down to the skin.  I really didn’t trust my use of the clipper.  Phew, buzzing meant nothing could get into their hair.

After hearing horror stories from friends who had gone down this road, I decided to just call in the experts.  We hired a nit picker.  She showed up at our house, a beautiful girl.  I had pictured her in my head as this gross Nanny McPhee type of woman.  My first thought was why? Why would anyone want to do this?  She explained that, first, she needed the money and second, she liked picking them.  Apparently, it was like popping a zit for her.  She loved it.

 

Maddy and Piper were confirmed cases.  I sat down and sure enough, I had it.  The kids started getting competitive over who had it worse… fighting to be the worst case!  Maddy took first prize, with visible bites, and I came a close second.  Piper was in third.  It took 2.5 hours to pick our heads, one strand at a time.  We were covered in olive oil, which she swore suffocated the bugs.

The nit picker thought it was wise to just check the rest of the kids.  Sure, why not.  They didn’t have it.

2.5 hours later, all kids and myself were confirmed, even the boys.  Well, our regular weekend sitter, Kelly, should probably be checked… She drove up and I died of guilt when she was confirmed.  Dan came home, and yes, even with a short buzz cut, he had lice.  8 cases of lice and a HUGE bill to have the initial lice picked.

What you don’t realize, if you are a newbie, is that after the first picking, eggs are still left in the hair and then they can hatch and release the next wave of lice.  She explained that we would need to put a large amount of olive oil in the hair each night and comb each strand again, then we would need to cover their heads with bags to sleep in.  In the morning, we would need to use large, and I mean large, amounts of Dawn dish soap, comb it through each strand with the lice comb again and then let them shower and shampoo.  We would need to do this for a week.  Now, the upside to this method, she said, was that we wouldn’t have to wash sheets etc, because the lice wouldn’t jump (oh, yeah, did I mention that they can jump) from the sheets to our hair.  They wouldn’t go near the olive oil and our hair was encased in bags anyway.  Bedsides, there was a large re-infestation rate with those chemicals that other people put on their heads.  We only had to do this for a week, every night and morning.  OK, doable.

NO, NOT DOABLE.  When you have 5 kids, 4 with super thick hair, this takes HOURS both morning and night.  I would start combing at night while some kids were eating.  45 minutes a head… times 5 kids.  That is almost 4 hours of PICKING LICE.  My arms ached and we quickly finished bottles of olive oil.  After everyone had been put to bed, it was finally my turn.  I would start on my head at 10:00 and finish around 11.  Talk about exhaustion.

The next morning, the process would begin again… Each kid was covered in Dawn dish soap and scrubbed followed by a thorough combing.  Another 45 minutes per child.  Then it was my turn.  See you later morning.  By lunch time, I fed them and we were given 3 hours of blissful relaxation… while I continued to try to do the rest of the house duties.

Then it was back to the drawing board.  I realized that out of my 24 hour days, I was spending almost 10 hours picking lice.  I am not joking.  10 hours. By day 3, I was in tears morning and night.  It was horrible.  We resorted to nothing but pizza delivery for those three days.  We ate it for dinner, then for lunch the next day.  I knew I would never be able to keep this up.

I ended up breaking down completely in a pile of utter dismay.

The buck stopped there.  I would agree to wash all the sheets, all the towels, all the blankets, all the couch cushions, all the pillows, all the stuffed animals… all of it, if I didn’t have to pick anymore bugs or spend anymore time oiling and dish soaping anyone’s hair.  I broke out the big guns… give me the f*ing chemicals.

Two days later and two treatments later, we were free.  I would pull back the blankets and there were dead lice on the sheets.

It took 3 weeks to wash all the piles of stuff that needed to get washed, putting the two loads of wash a day that I normally do, on the back burner.  The clothes were now piling up.  Then I needed to run the sheets again to be free of lice, eggs, whatever…

It didn’t matter.  We were in the clear.  The lice was gone.  I swore… I WOULD DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO NEVER, EVER HAVE LICE IN THE HOUSE EVER AGAIN!

So, do I freak out about the lice letter? … Heck, yeah!  I will have a child in the school system for the next 20 years.  Short of a vaccine… they will always be out there, ready to infect my kids, my house and take over my life.

Who’s head’s itchy now???!!!

Uncategorized

Beauty and the Beast

When I was young, I was never a “Princess”  girl.  I’m not sure if there was such a thing thirty years ago.  (Ugh… I think I might have dated myself!) I wasn’t a tomboy by any stretch.  I was a girl. I loved dress up and make up, my Mom’s high heeled shoes and her perfume. But I also loved playing in the mud and collecting caterpillars.  I loved working in the yard with my Dad and cooking with my Mom.  I loved common place things.  The wind in my hair as I rolled down a hill on my bike with no hands.  The scratch of tree bark as I climbed it.  I was all of those things but I wasn’t a princess girl.   I don’t think anyone in the 80s was.

Disney marketing hadn’t snatched us from our childhoods and shoved the princess party down our throats.  There wasn’t an overload of Princess marketing everywhere we went.  We didn’t have to have princess T-shirts and lunch boxes (although, I did have a Strawberry Shortcake lunch box that I was in love with…) and constantly singing the latest movie theme song.  Luckily for our parents, they didn’t have to listen to Let It Go until they wanted to scratch their eyes out.  Maybe I was just weird but I really don’t think so.  I loved the princesses who were out on video tape (Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora), but I loved their stories and not their dresses.  I loved the magical idea that they were just beleaguered girls who were nice that overcame all odds, found their princes and lived happily ever.  Quite honestly, there were lots of other books that provided that same storyline, albeit not with princes and princesses, but love and the fairytale was attainable for girls on the pages of a book.

I was a book lover.  My earliest dream was not to be a ballerina or a teacher, but a book store owner.  I wanted to share books with people.  I wanted to have a bookstore that had a roaring fire and chairs to sit and read in, cookies and coffee and always someone who could recommend the perfect book for you.  I still am a book lover and I still love to share books with people, I just never got the bookstore.  I would devour books at an astonishing speed and my nose always seemed to be inside of them.  I think it was because my mother would take me to the local library and every week, we would bring home 10 books.  Libraries are so important for early literacy.  Kids need to be immersed in literature and language (…read… if you haven’t donated to the Hopkinton Library Foundation 1000 Homes fundraising initiative… you better get your butt on it…) I would listen to the stories that would come alive through friendly and lovable librarians.  My mother read to me all the time and she was a “voice” person.  Every character sounded different and the stories came alive through her.  I was also an only child, so the characters were my friends when I was lonely.  My kids think that is the saddest thing, but for me, it was wonderful.  I wasn’t always the most “normal” type of girl.  The preteen years were downright excruciating.  I felt my difference and felt less than the rest.  Reading was an escape.  Reading wasn’t something you had to do for 15 minutes every night and log it for school.  It was enjoyment.  Somehow, reading for our kids has been pushed back in the list of important things behind copious amounts of homework and activities.  For me, it was life.  It was my way of interacting in a world that I didn’t think wanted to always interact with me.

When Beauty and the Beast came out in the theaters when I was young, it was magic.  At first it was because of the incredible animation that none of us had ever seen before.  We were dying to get to the theaters and see this new feet of animation genius.  I was no different.  I rarely went to the movies.  They were expensive and only for special occasions.  You knew a movie was important when you went to see it.  My mother brought me.  We had to sit near the front because it was so packed.  I remember our seats clear as the day we sat in them.  We were three rows back, right side, and we had to strain and look up at the screen.  It didn’t matter.  By the time Belle and the Beast took their swing around the dance floor and we swept around and into the magic and air, I was done.  Hook line and sinker.  Here was my girl.  Her head was always in a book. Check!  People thought she was a bit different.  Check! She wanted to be understood and loved for who she was.  Check!  Instant love.bb

My Mom held my hand through the whole movie and I think she was drawn in, squeezing me during the scary scenes.  Who wouldn’t.  Belle was a relatable girl to everyone who became a princess.  Her face was in awe of what was before her on the screen as I watched the colors flash on her skin.  Tears stained her face when Belle thought she had lost the Beast before he was transformed.

Back in the car, we couldn’t stop talking about it.  The colors, the way the characters moved across the screen, the story. It was all amazing.

After all this Disney business, my girls have never been enamored with Belle as much as the other “pretty” princesses.  She got pushed aside with Mulan and Pocahontas.  What is so exciting about a girl who reads books when there is a hidden princess who’s hair has magical properties or a princess who can create castles out of ice and snow??!! Needless to say, the live motion picture of Beauty and the Beast excited them, possibly because I had talked it up so much.

We waited in line for seats outside of the theater and I noticed the line was full of girls.  Lots of girls… no men or boys to speak of.  Why were all of them so taken with the idea of Beauty and the Beast.  The beautiful part was there were a lot of women there alone, about my age.  Clearly, ready to relive that awe inspiring moment from their childhoods.  Maybe they needed a refresher in relatable girls can get the prince and live happily ever after.

The live action Beauty and the Beast was all I dreamed it would be. The clothes, the songs, the everything.  I loved it.

But it wasn’t necessarily what was on the screen that moved me.  It was my kids.  It was that surreal moment of experiencing their joy and, watching as an outsider, as their world was opened.  See, they weren’t blown away by all the excess.  They loved the story.  It wasn’t lost on them.

I have always firmly believed that my mother is with me at all times.  I know she’s there from the butterflies that swarm my kids as they dance in the spring air.  I know she’s there kicking sand at the beach.  I feel her in the wind and in the warmth of the sun.  She is all encompassing in my world.  I have never lost the feeling of her by my side.  When I particularly need her and ask for her, I can feel the weight of her arms wrapping around my shoulders from behind.  I know she’s there.  Call me cuckoo.  Call me whatever, but I can physically feel her.  She is there on the other side of a thin curtain that wraps around my life.

Sitting in that theater, she was there.  I didn’t ask for her.  She arrived.  I know she was with us in that movie.  She sat with me and took it in, just as we had done together before, but now, we were sharing it with her beloved granddaughters.  The colors danced on their faces.

The warmth that I felt while watching that movie was indescribable.  Time seemed to slow down.  Breath and life took a moment as I took it all in.  There is a feeling that always accompanies doing something with your children that was momentous for you as a child with your own parent.  It is a continuation of history but most importantly, of love.  To share something that you loved with your legacy is awe inspiring.   I grasped both of their hands in that crowded moment, never wanting it to end, squeezing a little bit during the scary parts.

We talked about it non-stop in the car.  We talked about the costumes and the characters and we talked about the fact that Belle was not a princess.  She was who she was.  She didn’t make any excuses for herself being different.  She owned it.  Girls are all so different yet we still continue to group them all into categories.  We do the same with adults.  My girls are no different.  I am no different.  I am a mom of five… can’t get much different from that in the real big world. Sometimes, even I need a reminder that ordinary girls who are all slightly different can and will find love when it is time.  There will always be someone out there who loves and appreciates them.  They/I am enough and deserving of love.

I hope that my girls will remember my awe at seeing Beauty and the Beast, just as I noticed when my mother watched it with me 30 years before.  I hope that they will want to continue on the love affair with the idea that real girls can do extraordinary things, being loved for who they are and not what society wants them to be.

I hope that one day, they will feel me with them, as they share that love with their own children.  That is the legacy I want to leave to them.  We are enough, just the way that we are and we can share that with our girls through our own experiences in space and time.

home, hygge, Living in the Moment, mindfulness, moving on, self love, Uncategorized

Time to Hygge

I’m a nester.  I am constantly updating what’s around me to make it feel more like a home.  Now, before you make that joke about how I have been pregnant for most of my life… so of course, I nest a lot…hear me out.  Nesting is something I love to do, but also something I feel compelled to do.  If I don’t do it, I feel off somehow.  My space feels uncomfortable. Turns out, the Danish have a word not only for the action of nesting, but also the feeling, in a moment of mindfulness, that nesting gives you… Hygge.  Yup, its a word… How do you pronounce it? Good question.  I was completely wrong.  Take a guess… You’re gonna be wrong too… so I will just tell you…It’s Hoo-gah.

What on Earth is hygge you ask yourself?! Well, it is the feeling that one gets from being surrounded by people and things that bring a warm cozy feeling to your heart.  I love that the Danish have a word for all of that.  There are countless articles on how to increase the hygge in your home.  Apparently, hygge is the new feng shui of the house world.

Being alone makes you want to nest.  It makes you want to feel, well, not so alone.  Rooms that once felt crowded now feel tired, cold and… very lifeless.  I find myself wandering through rooms that feel indescribably empty that are filled with special memories that are gone or changed in my mind now.  My home doesn’t feel like home anymore.  Of course, I’m not really “alone” in these rooms.  Gosh, with five kids between the ages of 11 and 3, I AM NEVER ALONE!! I go to the bathroom sometimes, locking the door and pretending I’m “busy”, but instead reading a magazine while sitting on the floor… I digress… Back on track now… Being alone makes you want to surround yourself with beautiful wonderful things that bring warmth to a heart that doesn’t always feel warm and loved.  I want my house to feel like my home.  I NEED SOME HYGGE!!

People ask how I am doing on a pretty regular basis now.  I’m hanging in there is my best answer.  It’s factually true.  I function during the day, but the big secret is that I dread the nights.  There are times where I can’t fall asleep because my mind is so busy working through scenarios for my future or things that have happened in the past.  It is as though movies play through my head and I can’t push the pause button.  I am forced to watch them over and over.  I get frustrated because I can’t sleep, which makes my mind race.  It’s an ugly spiral. There are other nights where sleep overtakes me and I collapse into bed, physically and emotionally exhausted.  I am ready on those nights to feel restored, only to wake four, five, six times for no apparent reason.  My heart is racing and I cannot find sleep again, no matter how hard I try.  When any of this happens and I find myself staring at the walls or the ceiling, the room feels so cold and empty.  That is when I want to feel a little hygge, enough so that I can wrap that hygge around me and fall into a tranquil sleep again.  I think you probably get what I am talking about even if I have used the word hygge too many times and probably at least half of those were incorrect in usage.   I need extra throw blankets and plush down pillows to feel like that warm hug that can sooth even the most broken heart.  I want my space to feel like a winter evening on a couch in Vermont, snow falling outside, large fire in the hand built field stone fireplace as I wear long johns and a Nordic sweater from LLBean, sipping hot cocoa while my old trusty dog sleeps by my feet… OK, that’s a little over the top, but you get the drift.  I want a soothing, calming, warm and inviting place to be.

I have always been a nester.  As a kid, my mother would patiently let me put out the boxes and boxes of Christmas decor.  I can’t say that I would ever let my kids do this… I think my mother was a saint…  I loved doing it and living with all of the Christmas clutter but when it all came down after Christmas, I would cry because the house felt so empty.  What I didn’t know then (because I didn’t know this amazing little word) is that I no longer got that cozy, comfy feeling that my body and soul needed, in short… the hygge was gone.

I would continue to nest all through college and the first years of marriage but pregnancy, well, I became a full blown disaster.  Sonia Cleven, I’m sure, remembers me being in full blown labor, ready to push and planting coral bells in my yard. No joke shovel in hand and dirt smeared all over me.  It was followed by lots of cursing and a mad dash to Boston for delivery.  I ended up delivering Taylor five minutes before I was “technically” admitted to the hospital… all because I HAD TO NEST.  I learned a valuable lesson as they cut my pants off that day… if you take too long to nest and don’t get to the hospital on time, they won’t give you an epidural…

Nesting has turned into a full blown obsession, in part, thanks to my neighbor, Amber Blanchard, who has seduced me into the creation of styling seasons… If you didn’t know, decor has five seasons, Spring, Summer, Fall, Christmas and Winter. Who knew?! You also need to jazz things up for smaller holidays (Valentine’s Day, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, birthdays of all sorts…).  I am not joking.  Sounds silly, right, but man, it’s got me hook line and sinker.  Once I did one season, all the others felt just depressing and dull.  I had to continue! Each season has a concept and theme that fits with the weather.  Thank you so much to Pinterest and Homegoods for helping to make this a full blown addiction.  My wet basement is loaded with throw pillows in every shape and color for every season, hanging in trash bags to keep them safe from the wet floors.  If you didn’t know, you would think that I have body bags hanging from my ceiling!

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The pillow “graveyard” in my basement where I store the many seasons of throw pillows.  This is but half of the pillow collection.

I’ve got the buying and decorating thing down.  I can create cozy, fashionable spaces.  Truthfully, it does help with some of the feelings of loneliness.  I have added some cushy stuff to most of my spaces, but somehow things still do not feel hygge enough for me.  See, I am only nesting.  Every room still feels very empty of feeling but stuffed with stuff.  I need more.  See, hygge isn’t just about putting throw blankets and pillows in every space… if it was, I would have more hygge than I would know what to do with…

One of the biggest tenants of hygge is that your spaces need to contain things that you love, and only things that you love.  Anything that isn’t useful or carrying warm sentiment should be removed from your space.  Everyone has that crap in their spaces, that was maybe given to them but they really don’t like.  You don’t want to throw it out because A)Your great aunt Dorothy would be so sad it wasn’t on the shelf when she visits every five years or B)It’s good stuff and you can’t part with it… It is time to purge, people! I have been purging lot’s lately.  The VVA could open an entire store with the amount of stuff they have picked up.  I don’t need it.  Someone else does.  All that clutter was taking up too much space in my crazy life.  The reward has been two fold! Someone who needs my stuff is getting it and this makes my heart feel full from giving it away. But the biggest benefit, there are now spaces to put the things that really do matter to me.  I can dig deep in the basement water logged boxes and pull out the mementos that I have saved and never put out because I never had the space.  The ever growing collection of sea glass and shells.  The birth announcements for each of my children.  There are places for candles to create soft glow and spaces for house plants.  Basically, the hygge model says that if it doesn’t invoke joy, it has to go!

It seems completely absurd, but when I am at my darkest, I hide.  I hibernate.  I isolate.  It’s probably one of the worst things that I can do for myself and my state of mind, but there it is.  I have to block it all out and spend some days in my pajamas and pray for the sun to come up.  If you don’t get a return call or only a one or two word text… I’m in isolate mode.  (Check on me in a couple of days, just to make sure I’m alive and most likely, I am up and about again.) Here is where hygge can help me again.  Hygge isn’t just about surrounding ourselves with comfortable sentimental things, its also about adding some special people to your life that can create memories with you.  I need to invite in those people that want to share a cup of tea and a plate of cookies with me.  I want to talk about the weather and the mundane.  I want to listen and be heard.  I want to get rid of the technology (except for Pinterest because I might lose my mind) and play board games and bake with my kids.  I want to draw silly pictures and tape them to the walls.  I want to have friends over for some soup and homemade bread.  I want to make memories, warm ones that I can go back to in my mind when things feel bleak.

So now I am on a quest.  I am going to bring this hygge thing into my life in as many ways as possible.  To me, it sounds like a pretty good roadmap towards living a life full of mindfulness.  Maybe there was a reason that I couldn’t sleep a week ago and had to get up and give in to browsing on Pinterest at 3 in the morning.  God has a reason for everything, right?! Stumbling upon this silly word, this amazing word that I couldn’t pronounce without looking it up, this amazing idea for a feeling that I want to enjoy every moment of my day, is quite possibly the greatest gift that I can do for myself.  Not only does it mean being mindful in all of the special moments, but also taking an active part in providing a setting for those moments.  I want to set the stage for those memories to come and fill me with joy.  I need a little joy in my life.

My life has been about surviving up until now.  It has been nothing but tough work.  But as I put back the pieces back together, I want it to be about more than the work.  I want it to be about exploring, searching and studying what is around me and what it means to be me.  To put these pieces all back together, I need a space that will embrace me at the end of the day and that will provide me with a theater for all the new and wonderful things to come, whatever they might be.  I need that space to be shared with friends and family so that I can create some new and fantastic memories to fill up these empty rooms.

So I’m gonna hygge… sounds like some crazy dance, doesn’t it!?  But seriously, I want to share with you some of the changes that I am making to my home and life over the next couple of weeks and months and well, as long as it takes for me to become a whole person again.  I’m gonna hygge ’til it hurts.  LOL.  I love this word.