Thursday, February 26, 2015

On a happier note

My daughter, first born child, turned 37 yesterday, February 25th.    I have been working on making a blanket for Courtney for months.  In fact, I thought it was going to be her Christmas gift.  But I didn't get it done fast enough.

When I first finished the blanket, I only posted it on Facebook groups that I didn't think she would be looking at.  Now it is out in the open.

When I first finished the blanket, a week or so ago, I put in outside and lay it on top of the white snow where it looked really nice.

Today, when Courtney got the package, she sent me these pictures.

She also posted a picture of the pillows I made for her a few years ago 

Courtney and Ben's taste in furniture, form what I have seen, runs in the red. black and white pallet.   I find this interesting because Nick (Courtney's dad, my husband of 43 years) had an apartment all furnished in red and black.  I never saw that place. It was from before I know him.   But maybe there is some sort of gene memory?   Or maybe they just happen to like similar tings.

I have doctors appointments tomorrow to get my thyroid poked and prodded and talked about.  What fun!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

through tired eyes

I wrote this on Monday February  23, 2015.  Somehow I saved it as a draft instead of publishing it.  I must have been tired.

yes, I am tired. Just need to brush my teeth and I will fall asleep

I got a phone message.  My caller called and missed me by just a few minutes before I walked in the door,

"Hi" the sweet, familiar voice said. " I'm no longer having people over in a group."  Her immune condition dictates who can visit and stay away.

At the end of her phone message she said "I will miss miss you, all of you"  I know she is is leaving us.  I think that she was trying to say "goodbye".   

I sat down and cried after I heard the massage and her talking.

There were 4 of us at the meeting this evening. We were so sad.

I am sad and tired and about to fall out of my chair.

Good night.

feeling blue

Sunday we had the nicest weather in a while.  There was slush plowed up at the curbs and navigating from car to sidewalk and back was not easy.  But, it got up to about 50 degrees and the sun was shining.

Even so, I just felt like telling everyone "fuck you".  I felt mad at the world.    The night before, I had not slept very well or very much.  I lie in bed and think of all of the "what if's". 

I went on a lactation call and on the way there I was grumpy.  Then, I passed a school- possibly an art place.  There was a whole lot of yarn bombed stuff in the front, and suddenly I just had to smile.   That whimsical bit of yarn placed so deliberately in an unexpected place in an unexpected way, made me feel lighter.

I am sad.  I was going to say "just sad", but that "just" somehow makes me feel like I am saying my feelings are not big and not important.  We do it all the time.  When a two year old stomps his feet and yells, we say "oh, he's just mad".  As if it doesn't matter.

I don't know where  am in the universe right now.  I cannot decide what it is that is important enough for me to put effort into.

I feel defeated.   Often by my own self.  I want things a certain way and I find that it is impossible.   My sewing room is only occupied by me and my things.   I worked so hard the last few weeks to get it straightened out and more usable.  And I have come to realize that, while it is better  than it was, it is still not arranged in such a way that I can feel able to be productive.  In the ways I want to be. 

I have my scrap-booking area.  But I have books about breastfeeding on a shelf I could have paper and cutters and pens on.  I have drawers full of fabric that should be used for the scrap-booking, or moved somewhere else- with sewing things.  I have things shoved away in boxes an closets because I have not figured out yet how to make them accessible so I can be more productive.

I am not 100% sure why this is important to me.  I think it is because I feel like I have so much chaos and lack of control over my life, that I need it in my room.  I need my own sanctuary.    And solitude.

I have more doctors appointments, which will invariably lead to more appointments.   I feel like a spinning top.

I could cancel all of the appointments. I could just resign myself to not feeling well.  Ultimately, after all, we all die.   I am just not quite done yet.  I may not be as bright a star as I have been, but I still shine.  It is just so much easier when I feel better.

And I got a message on my phone yesterday from a friend.  She is very sick.   She has stopped all treatment.  I think that her message was her goodbye.  I don't know if I will see her again.  I don't know what I can do for her, or what would even make a difference. 

I guess the older you get the more losses along the way.  If I had faith and some sort of belief in a higher power or something, maybe it would be easier to be at peace.   But all I have at the moment is sadness and a sense of loss.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

More snow

Today it has been snowing all day.  But, the temperatures are above zero, probably in the 20s.  Better than last week.

So, Nick and I went for a nice walk.  Went to Starbucks and  back, on foot.  On the way home we helped some kids (young people in their 20s) get their car unstuck.    Don't turn the wheel!   

It felt good to get out for a while.   Up until today I have been afraid of falling or freezing to death it's been so unbearable.  But, today was great!

Pictures to prove it

I forgot to mention how much fun I had sewing with my sister's granddaughter yesterday.  I took my mother's Featherweight sewing machine to my sister's house and let eight year old Jessica have some fun.  We made a doll dress!

Here's the doll dress we made together

Jessica channeling her great-grandmother

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


We have snow.  Everything is closed.  At least as far as schools and government and stuff like that.  Stores most likely are open but I have not really been out so I don't know.

I love the snow.  It is so beautiful when it is fresh and white and untouched.  After a very short while it will be mucky and dirty and will melt.  But right this minute is is pristine and sparkly.    The snow we got yesterday and into the night, was very light and fluffy.  When I went outside, it looked like it truly had sparkles in it the way it glistened.

I was reminded of the first Christmas after my brother, Dale, died.  We were heading to my mother's apartment in Silver Spring.   The cemetery, Gate of Heaven, is on the way.   I wanted to stop and visit Dale's grave.   As the kids and I stood there, at Dale's grave, it started to snow.  Just a flurry.  It was not in the forecast.   As far as I know, it didn't snow anywhere else.  It did not stick to the ground.  It was just that one flurry, right there, right then.

~    ~      ~    ~    ~

I think I have probably taken more pictures of snow than just about anything else.   It is just so amazing and photogenic.   I never get bored, but do become self conscious sometimes.

I do not honestly know what my earliest memories of snow are.  I recall sledding on a hill behind our house when we lived in Alexandria and I was three years old.   I remember the snow in the yard in Afghanistan, and I remember my mom and brother and I going skiing there.   An Afghan man carried my on his back to the place we went to ski.   There was no lift, just a rope being pulled by a motor at the top of the skiing hill.   My mom and Dale loved it and were very good at it.   I probably fell a lot.  I don't remember.  I do remember that I had real skis with real bindings and ski boots from Germany, that had fur lining.  They were red.

I tried skiing again in high school, but ended up hurting my knee.

When we moved to Norway, I looked forward to learning to cross country ski.  I was disappointed that it was difficult to ski in the winter, at least in Tromsø.  It was dark 'round the clock in the winter.  There was a lighted down hill run, but I was not in the least interested, and the kids were too young for that.

When the sun came back, we bought a pulk for Darcy, who was under a year old, and skis for the rest of us, and away we went.  A pulk is a type of toboggan that the baby is put into and the parents pull it.  Click the link under where I wrote pulk the first time for more information.

Here I am skiing on top of what we later learned was a frozen lake!

I was a few months out from having my third baby and I thought I was fat.  Oh silly me.

Anyway, it was beautiful and we really did love the skiing.   I have more pictures that I hope to load on the computer one day.  Right now my computer is being really slow and I think I should take a break for a while.

This robin enjoyed my heated bird bath this morning!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wondering why I am doing all this stuff

Okay, so in June, almost eight months ago, I had brain surgery.  I know why I did that.  I had a brain tumor.  I had it out.   And now, it's gone.

I keep finding myself in doctor's offices.   Pulmonologist to make sure my lungs are still healthy.  Also to have a sleep study to see how my sleep apnea is.  Apparently, it's worse.  The setting on my c-pap was changed to a higher setting.  Check.  That's taken care of.

I go to an endocrinologist to check how my thyroid is doing.   And to address my large goiter  Medication adjustments put me on a higher dose and a different medication.   I have trouble swallowing due to my enlarged thyroid.   So, next I go to the gastroenterologist.

The gastroenterologist sent me to have a swallow study.  This involves fasting for about a thousand hours.  I took a lunch with me so I could eat after the tests.  The tests were made up of my swallowing a "milkshake" with barium.   The motion of me chewing and swallowing are recorded by x-ray and ultrasound.   Then I get to take another swig and eat some mashed banana.    The conclusion to the study was, hard time swallowing due to goiter.  Yup.  After drinking about a gallon of liquid chalk, I discovered that there was no need to bring my lunch.  I was full.  Of chalk!

Next step, an endoscopy done by my gastroenterologist.  At the hospital. I have done this many times before.  An IV is inserted and some nice sedating medication sends you off to a nice little nap.  But, not this time.  Anesthesiologist reads my swallow study and declines to medicate me because if my large goiter.   Spray numbing stuff down my throat.  And, go ahead and have the endoscopy wide awake!  Not painful, but creepy.  Lots of terrible noises emanated from my mouth.  There was a puddle of my saliva on the bed when I got up.

I guess I am tough.  I can do anything.  Right?

Next doctor visit is to my internal medicine doc.  He orders an ultrasound.  It shows a large thyroid/ goiter with "nodules".  Advice;get it out.  (I have known about this since 1995 and have seen doctors about it.   The main advice is "lose weight".  Yes, I need to lose weight.  But that will not make a goiter go away.

Today I saw a new endocrinologist.   This guy came highly recommended by a colleague.  The doctor is not taking new patients, so my friend,  is a patient of this doc, as well as a nurse practitioner with a doctorate.   She got me in to this doctor.  One of the things he said to me was "why hasn't anyone taken this out before now?"  I wish I knew.   The appointment was in D.C.  at the Washington Hospital Center.  I think we could have gotten to New York City faster and easier than we got there!

Next step?  Today I had blood work done.   I have appointments for 4 different things in a couple of weeks.  CT scan, fine needle biopsy, ultrasound, and meet with a thyroid surgeon.

Meanwhile, I was supposed to have oral surgery.  My four front bottom teeth are very loose.  I am going to have them extracted (will the tooth fairy come?). I will have a sort of retainer with faux teeth for a couple of months while my gums heal.  Then the next step;  implants.  I will be getting four new teeth and will lose my big gap.

And to think, a year ago I was just worried about turning 60!   In May I will be 61 and you know what?  So what!

My sweet, four year old grand niece, Miri, has something called sanfilippo, for which there is no cure.  Yet.

This is Miri.  I have words, but they are so sad I will leave then unwritten.

Miri wearing a hat I made for her

I have a dear friend who has pancreatic cancer.   She has lost her hair.  She has lost so much weight.  She is frail and tired and cannot eat.   She has always been one of those people who is a "doer".  Always organizing activities.  Making sure people get food when they are ill, rides to the doctor when they cannot drive.   And now I am watching her fade away.   So so sad.

Somehow I keep going.  I've even started going to the gym again.

And I wonder and wonder, what's the answer?  And I realize, I am not even sure what the question is.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My sweet grand-niece, Miri

Sweet Miri

My niece, Kathy's sweet little girl, Miri,  has a dreadful diagnosis.  We in the family have known about it for a few weeks, but have been quiet out of respect for Kathy and her husband Josh.

Miri had her tonsils and adenoids out last week, which Kathy wrote about on Facebook.   On Monday, Kathy wrote this on Facebook:

So besides the tonsil issue, since the immediate family knows now and I finally feel comfortable saying it, Miriam was diagnosed in 12/29/2014 with a rare recessive genetic disorder. It is a lysosomal storage disorder with a really long name, abbreviated MPS IIIB or Sanfilippo B. I do not suggest googling it, let's just say it's attacking her brain and CNS (central nervous system) and there's no cure. But, we've just started a clinical drug trial two weeks ago and she's had no adverse reactions!! And there is promise for gene therapy with trials starting this year too. We'll hopefully know if the drugs are helping any at a 6 month follow up in July. But for now, keep praying. And be hopeful that she finally drinks and eats soon so we can get out of the hospital again.

Miri's 17 month old brother has been tested and does not have the disorder.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Is it nostalgia?

I often talk and write about missing my kids.   Even the ones I see on a regular basis.   I guess if you can have perimenopause , you can have peri-empty nestism.  I like making up words.   

I get these wistful feelings, especially around the holidays and birthdays.   Birth days.  BIRTH days.  The day anticipated by everyone in the family.  "Do you hope it's a girl or a boy"  "as long as it's healthy".   That is what we wish for more than any other thing.  Our as yet unborn child to be healthy.   

And that day comes.  And you fall in love with a little, pink faced, cross-eyed little one.  You nuzzle the head and remember that scent, for each child, for the rest of your life.  It is us at our most vulnerable and primal.  
We nurse and bathe and talk to these little people and they grow before our eyes.
It is so sweet to remember the "good old days", but no matter how many times you hear it, you don't believe it.   Up to your elbows in soapy dish water.   Folding diapers.  Begging the little one to nap so you can get something, anything done.

When all five kids were still at home, we had quite an age range,  Courtney in high school.  Chance in diapers and still nursing.  It seemed impossible to to get anyone where they needed to be without taking the whole gang.

All the stacks of diapers I folded, fresh out of the dryer.  That was one chore I liked.  It gave me something tangible to show some product of an otherwise tornado of a day.  Socks.  and sock and socks.  Seven people in one house.  All wearing socks.  All dropping them "somewhere".  One girl and four little boys, and all those socks.  Wash, dry, match, roll up and put away.
Most of the time when we were in this house at least, we didn't have pets.  So we didn't have cat hair in the rugs.  The floors were kept relatively clean.  I would dump all of the clean and dry laundry out onto the family room floor.  And I made seven piles- I'll try to illustrate here: (In the "proof" version, all of these names are lined up perfectly as are the lists under them.  No idea why they look different in the published version)
Nick           Nancy                    Courtney         Morgan          Darcy           Austin        Chance       
Shirts           shirts                        shirts                shirts                shirts            shirts            shirts
Pants           pants/ jeans              pants/ skirts      pants/ shorts     pants            pants            pants/ overalls
underpants    underwear/bras       underwear         underwear       underwear    underwear    diapers
socks            socks                     socks                socks               socks           socks            socks
pajamas        nightgown               pajamas            pajamas            pajamas       pajamas        pajamas

Now lets add to this list the various sports uniforms, shoes, socks hats etc. 

The socks killed me.  All four boys wore similar socks for the most part.  White socks with the blue or red stripes.  The boys went through 56 socks a week.  And that's only the ones we could find  The boys wore different sized socks.  So I marked them on the bottom with each boys' initials. For a short period of time I was writing their names in their underwear, but they grew out of that. (choosing different styles)

Now, can you see what I did with each pile?    I would go to each pile, by person, and stack.  Pants on bottom (because they are a big base), next shirts, underwear, socks and pajamas.   I made the same neat pile for each person in the family- in order of age; hence, Nick, then me and so on.

I took everyone's clothes upstairs and put them away.  That was on Monday.   I also washed diapers on Monday.  Then Wednesday, the whole thing started up again.  By Friday, I did double time.  I changed all of the beds and washed all of the sheets and all of the towels.  That made me feel, that, by getting done on Friday, I would have a weekend off.  Sort of.  And of course in the summer we had beach towels and in the winter, snow boots, mittens, hats and cold feet needing another pair of socks.
This is a picture I took a few years ago.  A large copy if it hangs in my sister's laundry room.

 Ok, so now I get to the question of the day.  What is nostalgia?   Am I pining for the days when I had to work so hard just to keep things running as smoothly as possible?  

No, even though it took a lot of my time, I do not miss doing laundry for 7 people.  It was nice as each kid turned 13 and they started doing their own laundry.  It gave them the gift of learning how to take care of themselves, and it gave them a life skill.  

Do I miss the messes in the family room?  The kids bedrooms- that could almost qualify to be on "Hoarders" on TV.  Do I miss the fighting, arguing, hitting, crying?  The trips to the ER needing stitches, or to have a bone mended.   No.

No.  But maybe yes too.  It was a busy crazy time.  I got angry and frustrated way more than I should have.  I regret my behavior and the things I did and said.   

But in my mind.  In my memory, the adults, babies I bore, are still my little ones.  They need me.  I need them.  I need direction and  purpose.

I was looking at some pictures Courtney put on Facebook the other day.  They are taken in her living room.  I see things, books, pictures, maybe sculpture, in her home.  I feel incredibly sad, and distanced and removed.  I know that's how it is supposed to be.  We have done our job right.  We have self sufficient adult children.   I don't start up play groups any more.  I feel superfluous sometimes.

This is what grand-parenting is about I think.   It is about seeing a new generation that you are connected to.  I think you get some of that feeling of usefulness back in a different capacity.  An affirmation both of life, but of love.   

I don't know yet, but I imagine one of the reasons grandparents feel proud is because they were good enough parents in some way or another and their own children want what they had.

I am so glad and grateful that I was able to have children/ adults.  Not just for the sake of having kids.  But so I could grow.  So I could see their excitement at petting a sheep and riding a merry go round.   Learning to ride a bike.  I helped with that,  Teaching all five kids how to drive a car!
There should be a book on the secret life of adult children/ formerly baby children in diapers.

The love and the longing for what has slipped through my fingers is what I feel.   All the time.  I guess that's what nostalgia is.

noun: nostalgia; plural noun: nostalgias
  1. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.
    "I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my days in college"
    synonyms:reminiscence, remembrance, recollection; More
    wistfulness, regret, sentimentality;
    "a nostalgia for traditional values"
    • something done or presented in order to evoke feelings of nostalgia.
      "an evening of TV nostalgia"

What was that?!

I ache all over.  What hit me?   Oh yeah, it was me, trying to get fit.  Going to the gym.

I have been going to the gym for what seems like forever.  But last year, after signing up for a fitness challenge, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  I didn't feel very good, and I pretty much stopped everything for a while.

I have started going back to the gym and working with a trainer.  It has been jumps and starts.  Having medical stuff, getting sick, whatever.

I have attended a couple of classes called "Silver Sneakers" for us lovely older citizens of the world.   As I have always done, I go to the front of the class.  During my first class, in a while last week, I watched myself.   I was trying to do all the moves and follow the teacher's directions.  I did alright.  not great, but not too terrible.   But, the thing that I did notice was that I am the biggest (fattest) one in the class.  I watch myself in the mirror and, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how I am able to carry so much humanness around.  My chins, my belly. 

I think that the gym should pay me to represent what happens if you aren't careful.  

Ok, enough self pity/ absorption or whatever.  I just want to feel better.  Looking better would be a bonus. 

I had an ultrasound of my neck.  I have nodules in my thyroid.  I don't think they are larger or have changed, but I think that combined with everything else, they are getting in the way of my swallowing.

What that means is, more doctor's appointments.  More stuff to figure out and try to make better.

Meanwhile, I will continue with my silver sneakers classes and get more fit every day.

Monday, February 2, 2015

What is a friend?

That is a tough question.  I have lots of "friends".  People I have known all over the world, who I have stayed in touch with.   People I would love to see and talk to and visit with again in my life.

My sister is my best friend.  I guess.  I mean, she's my sister and we are very close.  I know that we are friends.  But a sibling bond, at least the ones I have known are on a different plane than non-related friends.  We are friends on a cellular level.  It is part of our whole life and experience and being.  With siblings you share parents and aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents.  Not all siblings are friends.  I am not saying that.  I am saying that, when siblings are friends, like my sister and I, there is a deep bond that is deep in ways that other friendships cannot be.

As I said, I have tons of friends.  I correspond and keep in touch. These days, mostly once a year- through Christmas cards.  Before the internet and emails and such, I wrote letters.  By hand.  In my own handwriting.  And, my friends wrote back to me.  I have boxes and boxes of letters from friends and family from when we were living overseas.  Many of these people, I met through La Leche League, or through play groups with the kids, or through the kids' schools.

I think my longest and deepest friendships are the ones I have made in La Leche League.  (besides my sister & my husband).  We met through mutual interest and cause or care about breastfeeding and parenting.   Even if we do not share the same religion or political party, we parent the same, we are about attachment parenting, natural weaning.  the family bed - most of us.   And, as our children have grown up, we are going through many of the same stages together again.  menopause.  Health problems.  Instead of being exhausted by cleaning up toys and doing laundry and wiping buts and noses, we are tired out with caring so deeply about our children.  We are learning new things about parenting. We have adult children- an oxymoron unless you are the parent of one!

I had lunch today with one of my dearest friends in the world .  We met almost 30 years ago.  Her first baby was just a few months old.  I had a 2 year old and was pregnant with my fourth baby, who is now 27.

In those early years, we were either together doing things, or talking on the phone about everything and nothing.  I think we were lifelines for each other.

I remember this friend being at my house helping me fold laundry while the kids played.  Stopping for nursing breaks and snack breaks.   We went to conferences together- with our babies.  We went to the park and the pool.  Often, if she wasn't at my house, I was at hers.

And so, years have passed, as they do.  A couple of my kids are married, and living too far away to just drop in.  The others are working on being or becoming independent.  They are all adults.

Her kids are grown up, and  independent adults too.

Nick and the kids and I lived overseas, separating my friend and I, and our families.  But that bond has always remained and, I think, remained strong.

And so, today, we sat down to talk and eat.  We didn't have to look for a high chair or chase down and catch a toddler.  We didn't have to break up fights or negotiate who would get the blue crayon and who would get the red one.

And we talked.  About our children.  Our lives.  Our hopes and plans and maybe dreams.  And we realized something that I suspect we knew all along but couldn't imagine in our diapering days.  We both still think about and worry about our children.  A lot.

When they are little, there are days when you cannot wait for them to grow up.  To become independent.  To leave you alone!  To be able to go to the bathroom alone was just a fantasy then .  Now, we don't have to distract the kids by tossing miniature marshmallows to them so we can finish a phone call without too much screaming and chaos in the background.

We have, in our own ways, become our mothers.  If not in lifestyle, in commitment to our grown babies.   We carried  them  in our wombs and in our arms.  Now and forever,  we will carry them in our hearts. 

Lest you think I have forgotten my husband, I have not.  Without him these children would not exist.   I would not have seen the world in the ways I have.  And, he has shared in my life for longer than the kids.  We are a unit.  Two separate people, made into a unit that makes into one.