Posts Tagged ‘family’

This isn’t everything you are.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 21. I never went.
The boy I thought I loved asked me to marry him and he wasn’t sure where we’d be in two years if I was away in the Peace Corps… so, I never went.

This story isn’t everything I am.

I got pregnant with my oldest at the beginning of my last year in grad school. She was born a month early and quickly whisked away to the NICU at another hospital while I recovered from the emergency c-section. It was 4 days later that I finally got to touch her, to hold her next to my chest. There were tubes and alarms and organized chaos surrounding her at all times those first two weeks. When she came home… I sat next to her bassinet and watched her chest inflate and deflate, inflate and deflate — for several weeks that was my only concern.

This story isn’t everything I am.

One October, I rented a cabin in the mountains for my mothers birthday. We were all excited to spend a few days going to amusement parks and looking at the smoke on the top of the mountains and breathing the air. The morning we were to leave, my mother called me early and said to go without her and my father, he was sick and she needed to get him to the doctor. When I got home from the serendipity of the mountain cabin, feeling refreshed and calm and at peace… I learned my father had lung cancer.
Nothing was the same after that.

This story isn’t everything I am.

Two days after Christmas, my mother was sick enough to need a trip to the ER. I came to talk to her and the doctor. When I walked through the hospital door, my mother said she had cancer. I said she was over-reacting. The doctor came in and he said she had cancer. I told him that was impossible — it had only been about 4 weeks since we buried my father after he died from lung cancer. That’s actually what I told the doctor, it had only been 4 weeks, as if to say my dad had already died from cancer… our odds are over, the rest of us should be okay. It was impossible for my mother to now also have cancer, that’s not how cancer works is it?

This story isn’t everything I am.

For 18 years, I was a wife and a mother and a taxi and a nurse and a chef and a maid and… I had a career.
I lost myself.
Maybe that’s what we’re all destined to do for a certain number of years — the finding yourself part certainly makes for some amazing memoirs and blog posts and stories late at night on a warm summer evening surrounded by your friends and many empty bottles of wine.

This story isn’t everything I am.

I think, possibly, someone who looks around at the memories of their life and says, “I have no regrets”, must not have risked too much. I think, possibly, those who look around at the pieces of their life and can say, “I wouldn’t change a single mistake”, “I wouldn’t pass up a single regret”, have lived a life full of love and meaning.
Life isn’t lived in the memories of “do-overs”, life is lived in the fringes of decision.

This isn’t everything you are.


“Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.” ~~ Ram Dass

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I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and sleep outside for weeks… alone.

I want to join the Peace Corps and end up in some far off land for a couple of years… alone.

I want to camp underneath the redwoods in California and not take a bath and not wash my hair and walk around in dirty clothes and eat cold beans out of a can… alone.

I want to sit on a blanket in the middle of nowhere until a light bulb of recognition turns on in my head and I jump to my feet and howl with the wolves and right then, in that moment, I know… it becomes clear.

I want to do all those things so I can discover who I should be, what I believe, who I can be… who I am.

But I can’t.

I can’t because I have kids and a career and a mortgage and a car payment and I have people who would think I was crazy. But, I’m not — I’m just 43 and finding myself.

So… what are my options?

How do we, as mothers and business leaders and teachers and people with our sanity, ensure that we keep our sanity in the quest to sort it all out?

A weekend excursion without the kids?

A five-mile run everyday while you listen to your favorite audio book?

A blog?

The options for those of us who have passed the point of doing all of our soul-searching before we “settle down and have kids” aren’t as limited as they seem.  We just have to be more creative with our time, more willing to parcel out our existential outings into shortened day trips or weekends away — or even a few hours locked away in our room to sweat it out with yoga.

To be stuck in a reality where you believe you are out of options is the most important battle you need to fight — stop believing, “this is it”.

A gray hair pops up and we panic, the pair of shorts that seemed loose last summer seems a bit snug now — I drive a Kia instead of a Land Rover. One glass of wine works like sodium pentathol. The waiter calls me ma’am. I can barely stay awake for the 10 o’clock news. Life has happened. But, I’m searching.

Searching for the me that I know I am. The me that tries to hide behind all the bullshit of life. The me that we all are, the business leaders and teachers and bus drivers and hair stylists and doctors and lawyers — the mothers. My searching is constant… my trying to be a better person is constant… my looking at myself is constant. Those times when I need to find myself somewhere at the edge of the ocean in California take a bit more planning these days — but, they still take place.

I can go on life-altering soul-searching journeys and still have my kids to school on Monday morning… as long as I set my alarm. I can sleep in the middle of the woods eating nothing but granola under the stars at night… I just have to stop at the vegan deli on my way out of town.

Possibly, my soul-searching might need to take place in Vegas… a different kind of wild lives there.

I can even post pictures on Facebook to prove it’s possible to find yourself… one weekend at a time. I can tweet my run-ins with wolves and coyotes and snakes and poison ivy. I can blog about all the possibilities and where I know they will take me — take us all who are still searching, still unraveling the mystery.

My life is just beginning to unfold. My self-actualizing-soul-searching is at its height. I am poised and ready to live among the creatures of the night… for a weekend at least.

My life is just beginning… this is going to be fun.

I’m 43 and finding myself.

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I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m pissed off.

Cancer is so strange. I don’t understand it. I don’t know why it exists or why is chooses the people it chooses or why it goes away or why it leaves families broken or why it leaves — I don’t understand it.

I’ve never had cancer. I don’t intend on getting cancer — does anyone? But cancer crawled silently into my life a few years ago when it took up residence in my fathers lung. We decided to give the lung to cancer but the selfish bastard decided to creep in to other organs and then decided to invite some friends over to wreak havoc on the remaining lung so my father was gone — just gone.

In the meantime, cancer decided to sneak in to the colon of my brother-in-law and force a surgery to save his life that went horrible wrong and left him a paraplegic. Then my brother-in-law was gone… 6 weeks after my father left — just gone, both of them.

The day after my brother-in-laws funeral, we took my mother to the emergency room where cancer was waiting like a spineless mugger… waiting in the shadows for a weak target. We kicked its ass for a bit then it decided to infiltrate her body at such a rate that all we could do was — nothing, we could do nothing. And then she too was gone — just gone.

It won’t leave us alone — it won’t leave me alone.

I hate watching those idiotic movies were that babbling whiner always asks what she did to deserve so many bad things, what she did to deserve to have the people she cared about leave, what she did… like cancer was targeting her — like she was the one being poked and prodded.

I don’t know what I did.

I don’t know why the people I care about leave.

I don’t understand cancer.

So for now, I wait… patiently. Maybe understanding will come. I’m battle weary. But I will put the armor back on if that’s what is needed, I will grab the facade and place it back in place if that’s what is needed, I will fight… if that’s what is needed. But until that time, I will assume the best, I will pretend cancer is a word that I’ve never heard — I like pretending.

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The Joy Of A Hotel

The day of departure came and went — the day we headed out to our first real vacation of the year. Ok, so technically part of the first vacation of this year will also be the first vacation for next year. Which makes me think — this is my husbands way of not doing a vacation next year. Anyway, I have to say real vacation to clarify the difference (in case you aren’t aware).

We have gone away this year, twice so far. The first time was an impromptu two-day trip to a place called Holiday World (yes, the Griswold’s came to my mind as well). It was fun because we surprised the kids — we woke them up, told them to get in the car, then listened to the squeals as we drove — (Yes, all three hours. We will plan that better next time). The hotel we stayed at was… well, let’s just say it had a distinct odor that made me think the reindeer had frequented it. This, is my mind, can not be categorized as a real vacation (this is where my husband and I don’t see eye to eye). My reasoning is that a real vacation has to be planned. This was merely a whim. Whims with smelly hotels are not vacations.

The other trip we took this year was to visit relatives in Texas. We did actually plan this one. It was really fun (I have the best cousins). This, in my mind, can not be categorized as a vacation because we did not stay in a hotel. Therefore, visiting relatives without staying in a hotel is not a real vacation.

Which brings us to — a real vacation. The first real vacation in over a year and three months (yea, I was keeping track). This vacation a) was planned b) will make my financial life creepy for a few months c) will involve several nights at (hopefully) an awesome hotel d) Ok, I’m not sure what d is but I’m sure it will come to me. Therefore… real vacation.

Here is one great thing about this first day, I’m awake and everyone else is asleep. These moments on vacation are few so I am really taking this in. Especially since we are all crowded in to this one last remaining hotel room we found at midnight.

You know, when I was a child and we would go on family vacations, I never remember the joy of a hotel room being involved. I distinctly remember being in the sixth grade the first time I ever stayed at a hotel. It had a courtyard in the middle of it loaded with fake vegetation and a swimming pool right in the center of everything so that it was surrounded by all the rooms. I was in high school before I stayed in a hotel again — it was in Hawaii (rumor had it Elvis stayed there). After that, my memory gets a little shaky — but, the adventure of a hotel still brings a smile to my face.

When we first got in the car yesterday, my youngest immediately asked when we were going to get to the hotel (umm, yea… we’re going to Disney — could she at least be excited by the final destination). By last night, all of my children were asking where the hotel was. The relief on their faces when we found a room was priceless — the long day, the cramped car ride, the lack of a good meal all vanished.

Hotels are magical places for kids. I think because there’s this whole big slumber party feel to it — and who doesn’t love a slumber party.

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For The Love Of My Dogs

I am a dog person — no doubt about it. Oh, I’ve had cats before… two to be exact. A beautiful black and white cat — Miss Kitty — that walked through my front door one day when I was in high school and never left. The other cat was her daughter. Miss Kitty ran away during a little get-together I was having and returned three days later, pregnant. So, for a while I had two cats. But, after I had been away at college for a couple of years, my mom was tired of sneezing — she was highly allergic to cats. Miss Kitty and her kitty spawn went to live on a farm — never to be heard from again. But, this story is about the dogs.

Growing up, our family dog was a beautiful Collie named Honey. Honey was extremely smart, to us anyway. She would come when we called her. She would sit when we told her. She would play with us when we wanted — and she would leave us alone when we wanted. My parents got her when I was just under a year old. We grew up together. Honey was an outside dog. Some of my favorite memories about Honey are from when it was cold outside — when it got too cold, my mom would let her come inside. We would spread a towel in front of the fireplace and Honey would go straight to that towel. Never even attempting to move off of it until we told her. On many of those cold nights, we would sneak the towel to our rooms and place it on the floor next to our beds so Honey would sleep there, with us.

Honey got hit by a car — and survived. She got hit by a motorcycle — and survived. She stopped chasing cars and motorcycles. But, it was too late. Her reckless ways led to arthritis and eventually, I awoke one morning to discover that her back legs were paralyzed. The vet said there was nothing to be done — she was fifteen and that was very old for a dog. I said my good-byes and Dad took her to her final journey to the vet.

Now, when you have a dog as good as Honey, it really puts all other dogs at a disadvantage. I vowed then to never have a dog unless it could be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the new dog was as great as Honey.

My husband and I had rented a cabin on the lake to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary — I was twenty-four. Honey had passed away nine years earlier and still no dog had entered my life (pause for jokes about my husband being a dog and entering my life). We were eating lunch at the marina before heading out to fish and enjoy the boat on such a glorious summer day. Staring through the door into the restaurant was the cutest dog we had ever seen — she looked just like a Golden Retriever. But, she was tiny, only seventeen pounds. We commented to each other about how lucky someone was to have that dog, waiting for them to finish their meal. But, patron after patron left the marina, and the little dog stayed… staring through the door. When we were leaving, we asked the waitress if that dog belonged to anyone. She laughed and told us that it had been hanging out around the lake for a couple of weeks.

As soon as we heard that, we knew — this would be our dog. But still, we were on vacation and we had plans to enjoy the week at the lake. We left the marina, got in the car, drove around the lake back to our cabin — I watched in the side view mirror as the little dog trotted along behind us… the whole way. We got back to the cabin and ran inside, quickly closing the door. When we finally opened the door to exit, there was the dog — sitting there, staring at the door. From that moment on, she was ours. We spent the rest of our vacation taking her to the vet, bathing her (we counted 37 ticks on her little body), and running to the store to buy a collar and dog food. That was our lake vacation, taking care of our new little puppy.

We named her Lucy after Lucille Ball (her coat was strawberry blond). This was the dog who could help me get over the loss of Honey. The vet estimated her age at about two years when we found her. She was brilliant. Everyone loved Lucy. Every night we tucked her into bed with us. Everyday when we returned from work, there she was…waiting for us. She could spell — we had to spell words that would get her excited — g-o, o-u-t, w-a-l-k. But, she still knew what we were talking about. Every time we brought one of our children home after their birth, she was waiting for us at the door . She knew with each new human addition, that her role as a dog became more prevalent.

When Lucy was around eight years old, we felt bad about continuing to have real children, so we decided to get her a dog of her own. My son was just a few months old when we got Scout — who herself was only a few weeks old. A lady at work had a Husky who inadvertently had relations with the neighbors Yellow Lab — we took one of the dogs off her hands. Scout was adorable as a puppy — and just what Lucy needed to fill the void of our growing absence from her life. Scout immediately bonded with us and our kids. And, although Scout weighed about eighty pounds more than Lucy, Lucy was always in charge. Scout would wait for the “OK” from Lucy before she ate or drank. If she ran off, Lucy would bark a couple of times and back Scout would bound. Lucy had a baby of her own.

When Lucy died, we were all deeply affected. Her death came just months after my father had passed away. We cried for days… still cry now at the memories we didn’t get to experience. We buried her in our back yard. The kids all placed an item in her grave to ease her journey. I said a prayer. And Scout stood there, bewildered — the loss could be seen in her eyes, straight to her soul. For weeks, we couldn’t get Scout to eat. She paced the house at night, scared to settle down. She wouldn’t walk outside unless we walked beside her. Lucy had taken care of her all those years. Lucy was the one who woke us up in the middle of the night when Scout suffered a stroke. Lucy was the one who came and got us when Scout hurt her leg and couldn’t walk. The loss for Scout was beyond measure.

So, once again, we decided that Scout needed a dog of her own. To hopefully get her out of her depression. Just a few months after Lucy had passed, we went to the shelter — just to look. If you’ve ever been to a shelter with your children, you know that just looking is not an option. There he was, the most adorable ball of fur we had ever seen. He was shaking with fear, so timid. We spent about thirty minutes with him before I filled out the paper work to make him our own. The workers told me he was a cross between a Blue-Heeler and an Australian Shepard and would be about forty-five pounds — we had struck gold. Boo would be his name (yes, there’s a To Kill A Mockingbird theme in our house). Boo passed the forty-five pound mark when he was about four months old. Turns out the shelter worker was a little off on his breed combination theory — the vet says Great Pyrenees is more likely in his blood. Our adorable ball of fur now weighs about 120 pounds.

But, he did his job. He brought Scout out of her depression. He gave her a reason to be the adult. Scout lets Boo know when he is allowed to eat and when he should come in. Boo exercises his free will a little more than Scout ever did. And, he definitely is having trouble learning the leave us alone when we want trick. We’re still hoping the smart gene kicks in on him, soon — he’s a little over a year old now — we’re tired of waiting.

Scout is getting older, she is twelve now and not in very good condition. The stroke left her with some lingering problems. The torn ACL in her knee requires that she use the wheelchair ramp in the back of our house to get in and out. But she smiles… still, and she loves Boo — so we try to follow her prompts and love him too. We will miss Scout when she’s gone… we try to prepare ourselves for that time — we weren’t prepared for Lucy’s death.

But for now, we love our dogs. They keep us safe. They keep us entertained. They help us understand unconditional love — lessons they don’t even realize they’re teaching us. I am a dog person — no doubt about it.

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