Monday, May 4, 2015

Waxing Poetic While Waxing the Floor

I scrubbed and waxed my kitchen floor yesterday. This isn't something I generally write about, because let's be honest...chores suck.

For whatever reason, though, yesterday I had a moment while I was in between coats of wax. I sat down on the carpet and took a break. Snapped this picture and pondered the meaning of it all.


When we moved to Colorado, we moved here for a few reasons, one of which was that we were able to buy a new house. But we weren't supposed to have this house....we were supposed to have the one directly behind us. We built that one, planned it all out. It has a beautiful kitchen and whole house vacuum cleaner and all kinds of fancy things that you can add when you are eager to check off custom boxes. Then this house was done first and it had a bigger garage and a bonus room.

So we bought this one instead.

In the intervening years, I came to loathe this house for a few reasons. I wanted nothing more in the universe than to sell it and move far, far away for a long time. We didn't do that, obviously. We're still here, and I got over my issues. Mostly.

As I was waiting for coats to dry yesterday, I got to thinking about this floor and all the things it has seen.

I do that, by the way, think of the experiences of objects. (because I'm strange that way)

This floor, it's beat up, and pretty soundly. The finish has been stripped off of it in many areas, mostly around the kitchen table. There are scratches and dents and stains and drops of paint on it. It still looks okay when I spend all day scrubbing and waxing it, but it's to the point now that it looks good from a distance....just don't look too closely at it.

It definitely looks like 7 people live here.

Because 7 people do.

The finish is rubbed off around the table because we eat together, as a family, almost every night. We have done that since we moved in almost ten years ago. We've gone through entire sets of kitchen chairs, but the floor underneath them is still there.

This floor has had just about anything you could think of spilled on it, including blood, sweat and tears. It has had babies crawl on it. It has been the base of an enormous train track, it has had countless forts built upon it. There have been tea parties and birthday parties and pancake breakfasts and Christmas dinners. There have been Halloween pumpkin guts and craft projects and pinewood derby cars built here. It's been decorated with nail polish and at least 5 shades of paint and glitter.

So much glitter.

This floor has seen all the pets that have come and gone in our home, had kibble spilled on it and been splashed by babies playing in the dog water. It has caught a few glass milk bottles just right so they shattered, and one time it even caught an entire box of cereal along with the milk.

It's been sprayed with the backyard hose (on accident, uh huh) on more than one occasion. It's had sand and mud traipsed across it. It's had entire bottles of syrup spilled on it, whole bags of flour.

This floor is where I landed when I realized my father had lung cancer. This floor is where I paced with worry over my mother, frantically trying to find out where she was and what was happening. More than once.

This floor caught me a few times.

This floor has been host to crutches and scooters and wheelchairs. It's seen bicycles, rollerskates and even a Powerwheels Jeep (the fridge still has the dent from that one...)

This floor has been the place where friends and family have gathered, where I've poured out my soul to others, where I've kept myself busy and tried to keep my mouth shut at times. It's seen macaroni and cheese and four course dinners. It's seen a lot of birthday cakes.

This floor is where arguments almost tore apart our family and where my husband and I found our way back to one another. It's where we dance and sneak in a kiss before dinner just to make the kids say "ewwwww".

The floor is where little girls in ballerina shoes twirled and cleats scuffed up the wood.

It's where the backpacks and the lunchboxes still land every afternoon.

It's holding a highchair again, something for which I am eternally grateful, something that reminds me of how much we almost lost.

It was clean and shiny and perfect for less than an hour yesterday before it was spilled on again.

That's okay, though.

I let go of clean a long time ago.

This floor, more than anything else, it taught me how to do that.

It taught me to embrace the chaos. 

To do what I had to do to take care of my family and let the rest of it go.

It's not perfect. It's not new.  It's not even the floor I thought I'd have. It's changed over the years.

But if it catches the light just right, when you can see all the dings and the dents and the scratches, though, this floor?

This floor?

It looks just like home. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Deja vu. Sorta.

This has been one of those weeks, the kind filled with reminders that aren't exactly comforting ones. I wish that either my relationship with my parents had been one that left me with only positive memories or that I had the ability to just forget the bad stuff or that I was in a place to only remember the good.

But then I remember that would be bullshit revisionist stuff and that it pisses me off when history books do it, so I can't go on and do something like that in my personal life.

It's the first of May which means that Mother's Day is rapidly approaching and that day always kind of makes me want to throw things then cry then ask a lot of questions. Then I'll cry because of something awesome that my kids do and try and get over all my abundant issues long enough to live in the moment for a hot second.

Anyway.

This week. Goddamn.

Little Boy fell off of the couch weird and hurt his foot about two weeks ago, which is ridiculous when you realize that he is the child I have found ten feet up the tree, on top of the fridge and climbing the banister. He's my daredevil and the fact that he hurt his foot falling off of a couch that is less than 18 inches from the ground is preposterous. But it is what it is.

Having the extensive background in orthopedic injuries and the hours in the emergency room to go along with it, I've learned that with injuries like this one, if we go to the ER, they will take an xray which will be inconclusive. They'll splint whatever the injury is and tell us to call ortho. So, these days unless blood flow is impeded or a bone is sticking out, I just save myself the trip to ER, the $1,000 bill (and accompanying annoying as shit phone calls from hospital collections) and call ortho.

I took him in and the xrays were indeed inconclusive, so they put him in a cast. We went back yesterday for a re-check.

As I was sitting in the waiting room, Little Boy had to go to the bathroom because my kids are bathroom tourists and they must see all the bathrooms. I could see the door from where I was, so I sent him on his sightseeing tour. As he hobbled off, a man in a wheelchair rolled up beside me, rotated the chair and backed in. He was a below the knee amputee, and judging by how healed his stump was I knew that he was probably at least six months out. (because when someone you love goes through this stuff, you learn)

He was friendly and kind, struck up a conversation. He was filling out paperwork again, and while he could have been annoyed about that (or lots of things about his situation), he wasn't.

The digging in the pit of my stomach started. The wondering. Why couldn't she have been like him? Why couldn't she have understood that there were other people out there who knew what she was going through? We tried to set her up with a network of other amputees, people who were further along in the process than she was, but (as with everything), she refused to interact with them in any way.

As the conversation switched from the weather to him asking my son, who'd since returned from his sightseeing trip, about his injury, the tech came out and called Little Boy's name. I wished him a good day. Silently in my heart, I wished him a lot more than that.

The tech cut off his cast.  The original injury wasn't any better, plus he had a ton of bruising from the cast itself, which isn't a good thing. More xrays, none of which were showing a break still. Doc came in, assessed him, decided it probably was just a severe sprain and ordered a walking boot for him.

Then he told us we'd have to go downstairs to get it. They didn't carry his size in the office.

His sister had to get one too this week, for a different reason.
She strained her Achilles. And they had her size. 
More stabbing in the pit of my stomach, because I knew where he was sending us.

He was sending us to the office downstairs for the company that specializes in orthotics and prosthetics. The office that I spent so very much time at with my Mom getting her fitted and adjusted, helping her through the initial adjustment to life with a false limb. The first time she stood on her "new leg", though there wouldn't be many times after that.

We had to go in there.

Dammit.

I sucked it up and took the referral paperwork, knowing that this doctor had no idea that sending me here was an emotional kick in the gut. I smiled. Said thank you. Sighed. Scooped up my son and headed downstairs.

Took a deep breath and opened that damn door.

The office still smelled the same. I can't explain it really, it just always had a certain smell hanging in the air. I grabbed the clipboards I'd come to know so well, answered the questions for another patient this time. This time we were just here for a boot and that was all, I told myself on repeat.

It's not like last time.

It's not like last time.

It's not like last time.

The staff recognized me vaguely, looked at me with a cautious familiarity. I confirmed their suspicions. I'd been here before, for something else entirely.

As I was filling out the paperwork, there was a whole section on whether the patient being seen is diabetic, because the reality is that most of their patients are older Type 2 amputees, not 6 year olds.

This particular 6 year old just happens to actually have an endocrinologist because this particular 6 year old is pre type 1, and even though his blood sugar had absolutely nothing to do with this injury, I had to fill out the paperwork anyway. And find the numbers of all the people involved in that.

So, I did what I do and checked my phone for the contact info. It's all in there. I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled through my contacts.

Never could find his endocrinologist for some reason (though I know it is in there, I just wasn't seeing it at the time). But I found all the numbers for the other offices, the other doctors, the other people.

They're all still in there, the doctors and hospitals and social workers and nursing homes and therapists and oncologists and hospice nurses. All of them. All the people who earned a space in my phone and in my life because they were helping my parents.

On that list of contacts, the very orthotics and prosthetics office I was sitting in, filling out paperwork for.

Even though I hadn't been in there in almost three years.

Even though my mother had left the state over two and a half years prior.

Even though she's been dead over a year and a half.

They were still in there.

I did that thing where you pretend that you aren't tearing up so you stare at the ceiling willing the tears back into your head, then after one sneaks out you catch it real quick, sniffle and pretend that it's just allergies.

I hadn't noticed they were still in there until yesterday. I hadn't had a reason to.

I'm thinking maybe it's time to go through that list and delete some of these contacts. I don't need them anymore. I haven't in years. Seeing them just brings it all back.

I had the best intentions yesterday to do just that. To clean out my contacts.

I still haven't done it.

I know it sounds crazy and it doesn't make sense, but these are the reminders I carry around every day, the reminders not just of my parents but of the fact that I did all that I could to try and help them, the confirmation that I tried when the guilt and the doubt and the shame sneak in and I start to question myself.

Grief is such an asshole sometimes.

And it never really goes away, I don't think. It just hides in places you've forgotten about until you find yourself there again, suddenly, for an entirely different reason.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the so many things edition

I tried to write yesterday. I needed to write yesterday. I opened the computer once, only to be called away again by the things that are more important than this.

So I waited. And it all festered.

It festered because that is how my brain operates. If I don't have an opportunity to let the things bothering me out, it doesn't fade away with time. It gets bigger and louder and angrier.

So when Mr. Hive came home from work and I had to blurt out a bunch of stuff with hand gestures and high kicks he was a little overwhelmed. Thankfully, he's used to me. And I'm writing today, so there's that.

Anyway, there is a lot going on in this head of mine, so let's go do that.

Done pretending to be fine with what happened because it might offend someone else...
You know...

You guys know how much I work here to be a voice of compassion, to have patience for the stories of other people, to be sensitive to the realities others face. And I try very hard to be all those things.

What happens sometimes, though, is that my stories get lost in the process because I'm working so hard to be that safe place for other people. Here's the thing, though...each of us have our own stories and those stories have nothing to do with anyone else. We can honor ourselves and others at the same time. We can tell our stories and communicate how we feel about them without denigrating others.

So, I'm just going to come out and say it, because this isn't about anyone else. Just me.

I hated my c-section. Hated it. Hate it still. I hate, hate, hate that the last baby I will ever have came into the world that way. I hate that I feel like I missed out so much of what I had with my other children with him. I hate the way the medical profession has taken birth and screwed with it. I hate that I tried everything to get the baby to turn and it all failed. I hate that the doctors are afraid to to do breech deliveries, that they are not skilled in them, that they labor under this delusion that surgery is safer. I hate that people tell me that as long as they baby was healthy that is all that matters because it isn't. I hate that I don't get a do-over because he was my last baby. I hate that I missed out on so much of the immediate bonding because of the circumstances of his birth. I hate it. I hate it all. 

I'm done pretending that I'm okay with it because someone else might take something I say about my experiences personally and assume that I'm implying that however they feel is unwarranted or unjustified. This is how I feel and I get to feel this way.

So there.

Tragedies and How We Respond
The earthquake in Nepal is a vast tragedy, made no greater simply because some of the people killed happen to be Americans. It says a lot about how selfish our society has become when the coverage of the earthquake was almost immediately dominated by the news that there had been an avalanche on Everest as a result. The only reason the avalanche was deemed more important news? American climbers.

Now, don't go thinking that I'm trying to make light of the avalanche or minimize the deaths that happened on the mountain because I'm not. The point I am making here is that thousands of people died in their homes and their places of work just doing whatever they were doing in their daily lives. Thousands.

Certainly that should be tragic and newsworthy on its own.

Instead the media switched gears and focused on the fate of a handful of people engaged in an activity already well known to be dangerous just because the ratio of Americans was substantially higher.

A tragedy is a tragedy is a tragedy. It doesn't become one simply because of where those who die called home.

The Trial
The trial of James Holmes began this week. I've made no secret here as to what my opinions are. I believe that the entire trial is a vast waste of time and resources. Holmes offered a guilty plea in exchange for life in prison. The prosecution didn't offer it, the defense did...and the prosecution refused it flatly, instead opting to go to trial and press for the death penalty. Holmes, in turn, is claiming insanity.

The first witness to take the stand was Katie Medley. 9 months pregnant the night of the shooting, she nearly lost her husband Caleb that night. At the hospital for a dear friend in the same unit, I spent days sitting with Caleb's family. I was there when Katie was in labor with Hugo. My friends, Caleb's friends and family, all shared the same space for days on end, waiting and wondering if the people we loved would make it, if they'd ever be made whole again.

My love and support to the Medley family, to the survivors, to the families of all the victims.

An apology is good, but WTF were you thinking???
Oh, Anheuser Busch.

What in the actual fuck were you thinking?

On Reddit.
And the rest of the internet.

Oh, you apologized and said this was a bad idea after the internet called you on it. Not good enough.

You cannot honestly tell me that no one in your offices stopped and thought...hmmm....maaaaaybe this isn't a good idea.

Nah.

Let's just totally ignore the implication about drunkenness and the inability to say no and date rape and all those things.

When One Dude Gets to Decide All the Things...
The Supreme Court is set to rule on the issue of gay marriage. Again. Due to the nature of the way the system works, the court doesn't just make blanket rulings about entire subjects. They only rule on the case before them, generally with the narrowest possible holding.

Which is fine. I suppose. Whatever. It just pieces out subjects like this one and drags the situation out for years and years and years, muddying the waters in the process. Marriages in one state aren't being recognized in another. Whether that issue is even resolved, we won't know until the decision comes down.

Oral argument was heard in the case yesterday, and there are so many issues involved that make me want to throw things. So many things. Ultimately, though, whatever the court decides is essentially going to come down to what one dude thinks.

Yep. One guy. Kennedy.

We know where everyone else stands.

He's the swing vote.

I want to be optimistic. I try to be optimistic.

Gay rights aren't gay rights. They are human rights. Equality. Period.

Baltimore.
I'm sick over everything that is going on, why it is happening, how we got here, what the vast majority of people seem to believe about it, the assumptions being made, the way that it is all being misconstrued in the media.

We aren't living in a post-racial society. Racism is alive. End of story.

Not everything is related to race, because it just isn't...but a hell of a lot still has to do with it. We can't just declare that racism is over because we wish it was or want it to be or believe that it should be or because we haven't personally experienced it. It's not.

No one person's experiences in the world mean anything when compared to someone else.

There are systemic, institutional issues in this country. There are biases that exist. There is a police state mentality in this nation that is working against some communities more than others. There is rampant hypocrisy.

Pretending that these things don't exist is what got us here today.

And people are angry. So angry.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The things I learned in my first year as a band mom...

More than anything else, parenting has taught me that I really don't know much. I might be pretty good by this point at dealing with newborns and toddlers, with handling the general things facing parents of elementary school aged kids. I can help friends navigate all kinds of conditions and situations with their younger kids, sure.

This is my first time around as the parent of a teenager, though, and it's a whole different ballgame.

Sort of.

In a lot of ways, more than I realized until I was here, parenting teenagers isn't actually all that different than dealing with much younger kids.

They get whiny when they are tired.
They will eat you out of house and home.
They have wicked growth spurts.
They absolutely still play with their friends.
They need naps and snacks.
They aren't always able to tell you what they need.
Communication can be difficult.
There are tantrums.

Sometimes they want you to go away, but most of the time they want you around. Just not right there. Like, over there. Far enough away that you aren't harshing their vibe, but close enough that they can holler and you'll come.

The Oldest just wrapped up his first year as a member of the drumline. He's not even in high school yet, but joined this year, mostly because he's wanted to be on the drumline since he could walk. Some kids dream of the day they'll run out onto a field under the lights. Some kids can't wait to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Some just want to make music and wave jazz hands.

It was a steep learning curve for us all this year. I know that I wasn't really sure what we signed on for back in the Fall when we walked into that first meeting. For anyone out there who has kids approaching high school, particularly those who will be participating in band (or, really, any activity for that matter), I wanted to share the things I learned this year.


- Someone always needs money. Every time you turn around, someone needs money. Whether it is for uniforms or fees or practice time or instruments or shoes or travel or lunch...someone always needs money. There is likely going to be some dollar figure attached to the activity that they are open about, the amount that you will inevitably panic about, then go home and run the numbers and try to figure out how you'll make it work. You'll set up payment plans and cringe a little bit every time you write a check...but then you'll realize it isn't just that money you'll need to come up with. There are always other things. Always. I can't emphasize this one enough. Don't sign up for this stuff without realizing it, trust me.

- There are likely ways to help offset at least some of those expenses. There might be scholarships or used uniforms or shoes you can borrow or open practices. There might be discounts for siblings or costs waived in exchange for volunteer commitments. One thing I can guarantee...if you don't ask and aren't looking for these opportunities, you won't find them. Ask. The scholarships especially exist to help make sure that all the kids who want to participate can do so. It's hard to ask for help, but if you need it, ask.

- Your life will revolve around this for weeks or months. You will feel like this is all you are doing, because it likely is. You'll give up sleep and weekends and lazy afternoons to sit on bleachers, to sit out in the sun for hours. You'll show up even if it is raining or snowing. You will.

- If they love it, they probably won't be complaining about all the time they are putting in. Unless they are. And they might. A lot of these activities are so intense, so time consuming, that it becomes quickly overwhelming. All those hours of practice aren't for nothing, though, and the benefits show up. They do.

- Pack chairs and snacks for yourself. You're going to be doing so much sitting around and waiting. Bring a book. Bring things for your other kids to stay busy. Just about any activity brings with it a whole lot of down time. Just leave sunscreen and water in the car all the time. Trust.

- You will meet so many new parents. Almost all of them will be amazing. Most of them will raise their hands and volunteer to help out. You're going to spend a lot of time together. You'll get to talking to some of them and realize that there really are other people out there who understand the madness you live with for the things your kids love. You will trust them. They will become like another family to you, because they are.

- You will cry. You're going to cry a lot. Those tears will be big sloppy crocodile tears of joy when you see your kid falling in love with this thing that they do. You will be so proud of them, more because of how proud they are of themselves than anything else.

- They will blossom. They will find a connection with people, likely in a way they haven't ever had before. They will fit in with a group, maybe for the first time ever. They will have nicknames for each other and speak in a bizarre language you hardly understand.

- When it ends, and it will do it abruptly, you will feel relief initially. You will get your evenings and weekends back. Your budget will loosen up a little bit. You will regain lazy afternoons. And then you will miss it. You will absolutely miss it. They will miss it a whole lot more, and there will be a period of withdrawal they go through when it ends.

- Next year will be here before you know it. 

- For band parents, there are a few things in particular I need to warn you about. 

  • The songs they perform will create permanent earworms in your brain. You will hear them almost constantly. 
  • They will likely switch instruments, pick up new ones, and do it faster and faster. 
  • Every surface in your home/car/life will become a drum. 
  • You'll never look at parades the same way again.
  • They'll all look the same, but you'll know which one is yours immediately.
  • They will tap their feet constantly.
  • They will walk in step even when not doing anything related to band.
  • Their taste in music will likely change and they'll constantly ask you to listen to something. When they play Pink Floyd for you, your heart will swell with pride. Stay cool. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Springtime and the living's easy....sort of. sometimes. okay not really.

It's so weird how cyclical I am. It's as though the individual cells in my body can anticipate things before my brain starts to figure it all out.

I get edgy this time of year.

There are reasons, so goddamn many of them.

Yeah, so this post will likely have a lot of the swears. You've been warned.

I was reminded of one of them this morning by my Timehop app. I think I may need to seriously delete that thing. As fun as it is to see old pictures of the kids and all that, it's hell on someone with PTSD because I get transported back in time.

Today it was this one.


2012 was rough. I mean, it wasn't as bad as 2011 because holy shit that year sucked from beginning to end, but 2012 was rough.

This day, three years ago. I can't honestly even remember who the second person in the hospital was that day, but I know for sure that one of them was my Mom. She had been flown to a hospital almost an hour away from here because they were trying to save her remaining leg. I was leaving my kids here with my inlaws, then driving back and forth from that hospital almost every day so that I could sit in a chair and watch her sleep, hoping to catch some doctor that never showed up, trying to ask questions that never had answers. Until one day when the conversations all stopped because she decided they couldn't talk to me anymore. HIPAA is a law with good intentions that makes life hell for families.

She told me that afternoon that I hadn't been there for her, then told me that she was leaving as soon as she could get out of the hospital and that there was nothing I could do to stop her.

She told me this after I'd left my children for her, drove almost an hour to be there and sat beside her for hours before she woke up.

I was stuck firmly in the middle of the generational sandwich, trying my hardest to take care of her and my kids and my marriage, failing at all of it miserably. I was never enough to anyone, for anyone and my health was suffering as a result. I ended up in therapy. My kid ended up in therapy.

It was awful. Truly.

I start to think that maybe it's finally time that I write about some of these things that happened and then my throat feels like it's going to start closing up and my heart races and I shut that right fucking down because I don't need to be throwing myself into a panic attack.

I'm in a good place most of the time, and I need to stay here.

Sorry, Timehop...I know you're a cool app for most people, but I just can't right now.

I was telling a friend, one who is struggling in some of the same ways I do, that most of the time I am good. Upright and functional, I even shower and go outside sometimes on purpose.

Then there are the other times.

Thankfully they don't happen all that often, thankfully the kids are so busy and needy and demanding that they force me out of my funk almost all the time. Thankfully.

Thankfully this time of year brings longer days and brighter sunshine and abundant vitamin D to go along with the unsettling it does deep in my psyche.

Thankfully I'm to the point where I force myself to go outside and soak up the rays of the sun because I know that it helps.

And thankfully I have been doing this long enough that I recognize when I'm having a bad day. So I let it happen. I feel all the feelings, wallow in the mud a little bit, binge watch something on Netflix, cry in the shower and get it over with.

So, like I told my friend, if you need to talk to someone who understands, I'm your gal.

And if you want company down there in the hole, scoot over. I'll join ya.

Just know that I'm dragging you out of the hole with me tomorrow.

Because it's spring.

And spring is fucking beautiful.

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