Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lessons from my Mom

      I have been feeling really down the last couple of weeks. I finally figured out that I miss my Mom. The Mom I knew many years ago before time and illness took its toll. This week is not a milestone week, no birthdays or anniversaries, just a regular week. I did realize that I never really got to have a “grieving process”. I literally went from one crisis to another. Even at the funeral we were having to worry about getting to the next pressing nonmovable issue. So I hope you will allow me a few minutes to tell you what I learned from my mother.

First, is a love of reading. Not just a casual picking up a book, but a crawl in to the pages, have the characters become friends, live in their town, stay up until three in the morning because you don’t want to put it down type of passion. Thanks to my Mom this seed has grown in to a beautiful garden. Full of English poetry, wizarding worlds, mysteries, lords and ladies, as well as hungry caterpillars and hopping on pop. I cried when we lost Charlie Gordon, overthrew governments with Katniss Everdeen, ministered in small towns with Tim Cavanaugh, rooted for Elinor Dashwood to finally get her man, and went on incredible journeys with Frodo to destroy an evil ring. I have had the wonderful opportunity to dive in to worlds that I never knew existed, or really don’t except in someone’s way too fertile mind.

Never miss the opportunity to put a bucket on your head. I think I have forgotten this lately. When Christian was little, he toddled over to my Mom and put a bucket on her head. It stayed there the whole time they were outside. Never said anything about it, seemed as normal as playing in the dirt. It never occurred to her not to do it. How much easier would life be if we didn’t think about the little things and let life see where it takes us? Put a bucket on your head, play in the dirt and listen to what little ones are saying. Makes life much easier that way.

Accept people for who they are. All of us have our idiosyncrasies, vices, issues, good qualities, bad qualities and that all rolled up makes us the person we are. It is not my job to change people or judge them for what they do. If it offends me or makes me uncomfortable that is my problem, not theirs. I am free to choose who my friends are and so are they. But if I get to know the people that I may perceive as “different” I will learn that we are not really that different, may even become great friends, or maybe not. Either way, I have learned more about them and myself. Who knows, they may be just as offended that I have a bucket on my head.

Women are just as capable as men. While that may seem like a “duh” statement but a lot of times it is not. Through my Mom and grandmother, I learned that women can be fiercely independent and hardworking. It never crossed their minds that they couldn’t do whatever they set their mind to. When my Mom wanted a higher education, she worked it out while teaching and raising a family. She had an entire High School library built from scratch because she didn’t listen to the people who told her it couldn’t be done. When she was finished, she went down to the elementary school and did it all again. It was never a case of showing up men or being a movement. She was a brilliant person and expected everyone to see her that way.

Always be willing to help, but don’t become a nuisance. My Mom never really volunteered to do things for other people. She always felt she was being intrusive. She would tell people to let her know if there was anything she could do and she expected you to tell her, but she would not just dive in to other people’s business. If you needed a ride somewhere, help with a bake sale or even a glass of water from the kitchen she would gladly jump up and get it for you. But she never told you what glass you needed or what you needed to bake at the sale. She just served quietly, behind the scenes. No thanks needed, but definitely appreciated. Everyone needs a helping hand every now and again, be there when needed, and know when you are not.

Remember to tell people that you love them and know that you will miss them when they are gone. Thankfully the last time I saw my Mom while she was still coherent I was able to kiss her on the forehead and tell her I loved her. A few days later she was gone. She is now with my Dad. Quietly watching her grandchildren, maybe reading a book, assuredly with a bucket on her head.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Risk of Family

This summer my family decided to play the board game Risk.  Not just any Risk game, but the Star Wars version.  Instead of countries and continents to overthrow it is planets and star systems.  As with any long term board game, the best place to play is smack dab in the middle of the kitchen table.  We even took a leaf out so that the board pretty much covers the entire table.  Not to be outdone is the dining room table, which is covered by another long term project that I am beginning to think needs to drop the “long term” and become the permanent project.  So my family is now relegated to eating in the living room.  They don’t seem to mind as much as I do.  The roll their eyes and relent to my demands of towels on the floor and in their laps.  The dogs seem to think that this is their opportunity to resume the begging/salivating pose at my feet. 

Back to the game that began all this.  When we started several weeks ago, everyone carefully placed their pieces, thought of their strategies, where they were the most vulnerable, etc.  It started to be very clear that wherever Mom (me) placed a piece, the kids would instantly gravitate to this area of the board to try to block me in.  I have wonderful kids, but their ability to work together up till now has been severely lacking.  Trying to out strategize seems to be bringing them closer together, at least in the “get Mom” category. 

We began the game and it became apparent that this was indeed everyone’s strategy to “get Mom”.  I don’t know why I was chosen as the biggest threat (or the easiest to get rid of), but I seem to be on the losing end of wave after wave of invasions.  I have tried all sorts of pleadings.  With my daughter I tried to institute “Girl power!”  Nope, she was not buying it.  With my son I tried to remind him of the hours of labor, all the times I have shuttled him from place to place and have never missed a game.  That just seemed to egg him on with more vengeance.  Last, I tried to remind my husband that we have to be a united front against the tyranny of the children.  All that got was a laugh and a new invasion. 

So now I sit with just three planets!  Every time someone tries to invade me I either lose, or become even more vulnerable, just in time for the next person to take advantage of a wounded planet.  When it is finally my turn they seem to revel in the lack of planets to be counted and my meager reinforcement troops.  Oh well, soon my “race” will be annihilated and they will have to find another victim.  I’m guessing my husband.  Then it will be all out war when just the kids are left.  Or who knows, maybe my luck will change, doubt it, and I will come back stronger than ever.  Whatever the outcome I am taking in the moments to get to spend time with my family, until they start laughing at my demise again.  Just another day in my sometimes exciting, sometimes dull, but always interesting life.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Never too old for the Sandbox

Last night my daughter, Emmy, asked me to come outside and play with her.  My first thought was that I was overly tired, still had to clean up from dinner and had to pick up my son in a few hours.  I didn’t want to go outside.  I wanted a clean house.  But then I thought of the pledge I made myself last year.  We spent so much time with my mother before she passed away, that we really didn’t get to enjoy the leisure of summer.  There was no going to the pool, no chasing fireflies, no going for snow cones.  I vowed that this summer would be different.  So with that pledge, I went outside.  I found her in the sandbox.  I have no real creativity in the make believe department, so I was a little apprehensive about what would happen over the next couple of hours.  My daughter, who is eleven, has always loved playing in the sandbox.  I think it is therapy for her to manipulate the sand, make things, just dig around.  I am beginning to think I can learn a lot from her.  At first we tried to make sand castles.  The sand was not moist enough so our cups never really did set up well.  She did not see this as a problem.  The broken parts became walls around a moat, fallen mountain sides, or anything else she could think of.  What I saw as not working, she saw the beauty of the situation. 
Then we moved on to opening a restaurant.  We went in to the house and took all the old plastic containers, spoons, spatulas, more cups out to the sandbox.  Much laughing ensued when she started putting stuff in different containers.  “This one is eggs, it goes in the refrigerator”, “this one is sugar it goes on the shelf”.  By the time she had finished getting ready we had about twelve tubs full of sand.  Thankfully I was able to remember that the “eggs” were in the margarine container on the ledge and the “sugar” was in a glad container behind me.  She was a mean cook and made every meal perfectly.  Then as I “ate” it I would dump sand on her and she would laugh so hard she would get hiccups.  Charlie, our little dog, decided to get in to the action.  He hated the feel of sand on his feet so he hopped in to my lap and stayed.  Boomer, my German Shepherd mix, would poke his head in on occasion, but was more interested in chasing birds and lying under a tree.  After Charlie got settled, Emmy asked him what he would like.  We decided he would like dog chow with a side of bow wow.  He was a good sport and stayed until his “food” was ready.  That may have had something to do with the fact I was petting him, though. 

Too soon, the sun began to set and the mosquitos started coming out.  We had to go in.  Together we gathered up all our stuff, dumped out the sand and took it to the kitchen.  As I was putting stuff in the dishwasher she gave me a big hug and said in her best proper voice, “Thank you Mrs. Williams for coming to my restaurant and bringing your friend”. 


No, Em, thank you for reminding me of the precious gift of being able to spend Mom/girl time.  Not just another day in my sometimes exciting, sometimes dull, always interesting life.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I'm back!

Okay, so I am starting my blog again after a two year hiatus. Why? Because my office mate told me to. Okay, that’s the simple answer. The long answer is the last year, especially, has been overly horrible and I just couldn’t see myself talking about it. The lows, the occasional highs, and the all-encompassing feeling of just drowning in a mud pit. That is what life is about I guess. Even my tag line says it all. My sometimes exciting, sometimes dull, but always interesting life. I guess it’s been more interesting lately than anything. So Laura told me to write about it, so I will. Hopefully with poignancy, humor and a good look on life. Last year at this time my mother had just been diagnosed with stage four cancer, expected only to live for a few weeks. At the same time I was gearing up to climb Pike’s Peak a trip I was really looking forward to, but now had trepidations as to whether I should go. The trip was good and bad and skewed my perspective a great many ways. But it also helped me process my mother’s impending death. Being exhausted on a mountain can be very freeing. The last trip around the sun also included broken bones, trips to emergency rooms in two different states, Kevin’s dad’s own cancer surgery, three other close relative’s funerals, and my own brush with serious illness. There were also ice storms, tornadoes, the threat of sequestration, and drought if you really want to get down to it. But there were also wonderful moments. Watching someone pass from this world to the next is a beautiful experience, though heart wrenching. Making it to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain is an accomplishment that I am fully proud of. Christian’s football team made it to the state finals; Emily’s soccer team made it one game more at the end of season tournament. Kevin’s job is taking off like never before and the kids are doing wonderfully at school. My family seems closer than ever. I, on the other hand, just keep churning it out. One day at a time. But isn’t that what life is all about? You take the good with the bad. You write them down and see if anyone is interested in reading about them. So I guess I will take the cathartic approach of writing and say whatever happens to be on my mind. Which right now is the busyness of schedules. Wasn’t summer supposed to slow everything down? I guess that’s what makes it sometimes exciting, sometimes dull, but always interesting. I’m back writing world. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Friday, August 26, 2011

School starts!

This week our school district finally went back to school. The three month long hiatus is finally over! My daughter is now a fourth grader. Wow, she gets to go to the "big kid" wing of her school. We also found out they get real desks as opposed to tables. All of this has heightened the excitement of starting a new year. Time to reconnect with friends not seen over the summer, meet new friends and finally having structure during the day! This year they have added Spanish to their 4th grade curriculum.
My son starts high school this year. We have been up at the high school every day all summer long for football, so going to the area very early is not the issue. We have just never been really in to the school except for the commons area. He was having all sorts of apprehensions before the big day. Will I be able to find my classes in such a big school? Since there are no more assigned tables at lunch will anyone want to sit with me? Will I get stuffed in a locker? Will I just look like idiot freshman all day? Turns out that none of his worries came to fruition. He was able to find all of his classes and figure out the school layout. His friends from middle school did wave him over to eat with them at lunch. Being 6’2” and a football player, no, there was no stuffing in a locker. As for the idiot freshman, he realized that he has kids from all grades in his classes and he actually has some idea of what he is talking about on most days. In other words, he is just like every other student in high school. Which when you are 14 is a big issue.
On my part, I have vowed to make this as less of a stress-fest as possible. We are going to try the backpacks by the door, clothes laid out type of mentality. I let you know how it goes, but after three days, it seems pretty good so far. We still have 185 more to go.
Here’s to a new school year! May it be sometimes exciting, never dull but always interesting.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

25 Things I Learned at the Grand Canyon

This summer my husband talked my family in to camping in a tent at the Grand Canyon. Here is what I learned from such an experience.

1. I am definitely not the camping type (Does this make me “not a happy camper”?)
2. Trying to set up a tent in the dark is rather a challenge
3. Triple A is readily available in the park to jump your car when the battery dies from using the lights to set up said tent.
4. We are not the only ones who need Triple A when trying to set up a tent in the dark.
5. The average low at the Grand Canyon rim at night is a balmy 35 degrees.
6. Tents do nothing to keep out the 35 degrees.
7. Air mattresses tend to lose their air quicker when it is 35 degrees.
8. People who like to sleep in tents are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.
9. When you look up at the night sky in the middle of nowhere, it is a wondrous site indeed.
10. Walking up to the Grand Canyon from the Visitor’s Center and watching it unfold before your eyes takes your breath away.

11. While in the main visiting areas you will be surrounded by hundreds of people, most don’t speak English.
12. Meeting a great many people from other countries is a pleasure even if they ask thought provoking questions such as, “What does Floyd mean in Pink Floyd?” um…
13. If you walk half a mile on the trail out of the main visiting area, there are no people. The only sounds are the rush of the wind in the trees, the Colorado River below and the call of birds.

14. Never miss the opportunity to hear a Ranger talk. You will be surprised at how funny, informative, or both they may be.

15. Just because you go to the Ranger talk on the California Condor, does not mean that you will actually see one.
16. When one does appear right below the lookout where the Ranger is talking even the Ranger gets excited.
17. California Condors are the most beautiful majestic birds in flight.
18. California Condors are really ugly buzzards when close up.

19. When the Rangers tell you that the temperatures climb at least 40 degrees from the rim to the halfway down point and warn you not to go all the way down, one should listen.
20. When you don’t listen to the Ranger and think coming up is probably just as easy as going down, half the trip is miserably hot and you wonder if the buzzards will start circling soon. Cue Western music
21. When you finally make it up to the top, there is an equal amount of thinking “wow, that was stupid” and “wow, I can’t believe that I just did that.”
22. There are people who hike rim to rim in one day. I am in awe of them and wonder how off their rocker they must be, but mainly in awe.
23. In the evenings people flock to the rim for sunset, like waiting for the 4th of July fireworks.
24. Watching the sun set and the ever changing colors is a site to be seen. No words can explain.

25. Spending time with my family, even if we are sleeping in a tent, is awesome.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I hate being sick!

I hate being sick. For the past month I have been battling horrible respiratory sinus stuff. From the top of my head to my stomach, I felt like if someone just ran me over with a bus I would feel better. And yes, when I get sick I turn in to a big baby. I want to lie on the couch and have people take care of me. I want people to feel sorry for me. I want people to go “awe poor baby you’re sick.” But to be honest, nobody really cares when you’re just sick, not in the hospital horrible sick, but just feeling cruddy sick. Your close friends and family take a more than mild interest in the fact that you are sick, asking you how you are doing, telling you to go o the doctor, but overall the world does not care.
I took a few days off to stay home and be sick. Also, I think that my coworkers were beginning to be afraid that I was another Typhoid Mary. Although, well intentioned
for my welfare, I received comments like, “wow, I could hear you coughing all the way down in my office”, or “man, you look horrible, should you really be here today?” So that brings me to why people don’t care that you are sick.

So there I was laden down with wonderful drugs, my head no longer feels like it is going to explode, I can actually take a breath without thinking my lungs were going to rip out of my chest and I can finally get some rest. I lie down in my nice soft bed taking Nyquil during the day and am finally dozing off into dreamland, when… the
phone rings. No, I don’t have any donations to put out on my porch, thank you for calling. Okay, eyes closing again and… the phone rings, yes I am happy with my phone service, except right now I plan to just rip it out of the wall. Thank you so much, but as of right now, please cancel my phone service so I can get some rest!! Back asleep, doorbell rings. Ignore it. Dogs bark, doorbell rings again, dog barks. Sigh. Get up and go to the door taking my ferocious looking but quite the teddy bear dog with me. A nice looking gentleman was at the door asking if I needed lawn service. He was doing several lawns in the neighborhood and would like to do mine as well. No, thank you I tell him, I have a son and a husband who keep up with all that. At that point I give up and decide to watch a movie. Funny, the phone never rings again. Is it really this busy when no one is home?

Then there are my dogs. They are spoiled rotten, indoor, lay on the bed, have to be petted constantly dogs. The big one, Boomer, tends to be a bit more skittish. I’m guessing since he is somewhat of a German Shepherd that he has that guard dog
mentality. The small one, Charlie, doesn’t care what is going on. Most of the time when I am home, he is laying on his back completely passed out on the couch, he couldn’t care less what was going on. So Boomer is watching for everything that is going on. He looks out the front window, and growls at whatever is out there. He jumps up on the bed so he can look out. He growls at the birds, rabbits, wind, dust, I have no idea, he just doesn’t like whatever has come in to his backyard. So now, he wants to go out. I tried to reason with him (if you haven’t noticed in my blogs, but I am always trying to reason with Boomer, he just doesn’t listen) and tell him that I am sick, but he doesn’t care. He goes to the backdoor, then back to my bedroom, then back to the door. I finally get up and let him out and he goes tearing towards the back fence barking his fool head off. I go back to bed. Then I hear him barking at the door. He wants to come back in so he can take care of me. I ignore him. He continues to whine. Then he goes to my bedroom window, and stares at me. If I continue to ignore him, he barks and stares. All the while he has this stupid grin on his face saying, “hey look mom, I’m keeping you safe! I’m a happy dog!”. So I get up and let him back in, just so he can go on guard duty again.

Then there is my awesome family. They try so hard when I am sick. My wonderful husband tells me not to worry about anything, that he and kids will “hold down the fort”. I settle back down in to my bed trying to get some sleep, when I hear a light little knock at my door. “Mommy? I am so sorry to bother you when you’re sick.” Followed by shoulder patting by young girl. “Mommy? Do you know where my other soccer sock is? I don’t remember where I left it. No, don’t get up, I just need to know where it is.” Get up, help young child search for lost sock so she can get to soccer practice. Lay back down to go back to sleep. Light knocking on the door. “Hon? Where is soccer practice today? Are they at the usual place? Sorry to bother you, go back to sleep.” At this point, I’m thinking what’s the point. So let’s try this again. Young daughter and husband have left for soccer practice, going to sleep now. No knock, just door coming open with bright light behind it and older child coming in. “Hey mom? You asleep? Mom? Uh yeah, when’s dinner? Can I get a snack and play on the computer until dad gets home?” I’m thinking, “If you go away, I will let you eat all the junk food you want and juggle knives.” My family tries hard and they do care that I am sick, but life must continue on. I have come to realize that moms, while they get sick, have an internal thing going on that says, the world will not rotate unless I am up taking care of my family.

I finally get better enough to drag myself back to work. I work with a great group of people who came in to say they are so glad that I am back. They are genuine people and I know that they are really glad that I am feeling better. But I walk in to my office and my desk is covered with all sorts of stuff. My boss comes in and says he is glad I feel better, but he didn’t know what to do with some stuff so he put in on my desk. I look through my pile of junk and realize that I don’t think it is worth getting sick. I put in a half a day and decide it was really not worth coming in and looking at the piles and getting depressed. So I tell my boss that I am going to go home and take a nap. He says he was glad that I got to come in for a little while (actually he is probably thinking, wow I’m glad I didn’t have to start digging in to that stuff) and not to worry about anything (because we will just leave it sitting there until you get back). I go back home to the barking dog, the ringing phone and soon the needy children.

But when I think about it, maybe that is there way of saying that I am missed and cared for. I am beginning to realize that people do care (except for maybe the ringing phone people). The dog is all agitated because he knows he has to keep me safe in my weakened state. The family needs me and loves me and they do feel sorry for me. Just another month in my never dull always something life.