Sunday, March 3

Time and Again

Time. Really, basically, it is just an idea, not something tangible… Yet how powerful it is! Like the wind or fire, it can be soothing,  destructive, beneficial, distressing… It has a definition known to all and is yet an enigma. Maybe all this is why time is so fundamental, so significant in our society. Maybe our very mortality is the cause for the constant discussion and perusal, vilifying and worshiping of time. 

I think most of us move along our path of life looking forward. Likely, this is why milestones stir up feelings of nostalgia; they are a huge mile marker that has us pause to consider, which so often includes at the least, a glance back to see how far we’ve come. When your path has been joyful and interesting, it is more likely than not that the traveler will be quite surprised at the distance, the time that has become “the past” imperceptibly.

I didn’t start out this blog with the intention of so many of my words referring to that passage, those benchmarks, the looking back… and yet, it seems that has more impact in my psyche than I’d expected – and I knew how sentimental I was long before there was such a thing as “blog”.

Our youngest, Storm, is nearing 7½. Dave and I have recently begun starting quite a few sentences with, “I remember when… “ :~) Today was another bittersweet look back in surprise of where the time has gone; far, far more sweet with just a taste of sadness at what will never be again (though as I write this, more and more of those “never again” moments pop into my brain… ).

Storm has had quite a variety of sleeping arrangements. Far more than Wyl, though Wyl’s were much more like “leaps” than small adjustments. Wyl slept *hard* through the night from birth. I was a new mama and still feeling my way and when the well-meaning doctor told me that he needed to eat every 4 hours (me, being the people-pleaser/Good Patient I was), set my alarm and attempted to schedule breastfeeding. We tried *everything* we could think of: putting the nipple in his mouth while he slept, trying a bottle, making silly voices, taking off his onesie in a cool room and making him cold, jiggling him upright, talking with him loudly, tipping him upside down, sticking his hand in lukewarm water; in cold water, wiping his face with a wet washcloth… We’d spend an hour, sometimes, trying to wake that boy – never worked *once*. We still had some old-fashioned ideas that we were trying to meld with our new ones we were picking up with attachment parenting ideals we were reading & hearing about. Dave and I are both big people – both frame-size and weight – and though we were willing to accept co-sleeping, the possibility of the 2 of us or one of us smashing our baby in the night was too scary to attempt. So, he slept in his crib in his room during the night and we co-napped in the afternoon. At 2, he was climbing over the rail of his crib and falling on the hardwood floor below. He wasn’t getting hurt, but I was worried he would. Again, I still had in-the-box thinking and though I scolded him, the only solution I could think of was to put him in his own bed, since the distance was closer to the floor and had a pieced-together rug under it. Around 4 years old, he began to fear the dark and kept turning on the light after I’d tucked him into bed. I again scolded, taped the lightswitch down, and finally removed the lightbulb from the overhead light. Why I couldn’t think of the dozens of alternatives I can *now*, I don’t know, but it wasn’t a happy solution.

About that time, I started learning about unschooling and partnership-parenting and hearing “wild”, out-of-the-box ideas and my thinking started shifting. For quite a while, Wyl slept downstairs on the couch. Or, on the floor in a nest next to the couch. Sometimes, we’d take him up when one of us went to bed, but for the most part, he slept downstairs where parents & light were. The next sleeping spot was in a bed next to ours. That kept on for several years, working fairly well (though sometimes problematic, with Wyl having trouble keeping calm and quiet enough to keep from waking other family members up) with a few guidelines coming up as they were needed to keep it a win-win situation.

Around 11-12 years old, he began moving toward puberty and somewhere in his 12th year, he decided he wanted to sleep in his own room, again. I left space for  him in our room, should he feel a need (briefly for a night here & there or for several nights, a week, whatever he needed) to come back or need reassurance. Though, once his decision was made, it seems he knew he was ready for it, because he hasn’t slept there, since – and he’s just a few weeks from 14, now.

Storm, on the other hand… I smile warmly at the thoughts… First, he slept on my chest under my hospital gown in the NICU. I was ever so thankful that the nurses either “allowed” me to hang out in the nursing room off the NICU nursery or that they “forgot” that I was there with a baby out of the crib. Sometimes, I’d get a couple hours in, dozing lightly while he slept peacefully right under my chin on my bare skin, all curled up in a tight little ball. They’d come in and take him and say they needed to get stats and I’d go lie in my room and nap for a bit until I could pump again or visit again. (Maybe some day, they’ll bring the NICU to the mama’s room, so the baby and mama can actually be together all the time… I hope…! )

When we finally got to bring him home, 5½ years of learning after the first baby, we’d come much further in our understanding of co-sleeping, but we still opted for a bassinette right beside me, pushed up against the bed. He seemed *so* frail! Wyl was a big, robust baby, but Storm, being a preemie, was so thin and different than Wyl had been at that age. He curled up in there in his “signature pose”, a tight little ball on his belly, just as he had on my chest.

The bassinette worked for about 2 weeks. Then, I could lower him into it all the way to the mattress, awake or asleep, but the moment my hands started to move away from him or he touched or sensed that mattress in there, he burst out crying! A few times I attempted to make it work, thinking it was an isolated incident, but it was quickly clear that the bassinette would not do, so into our bed he came – curled up in that tight little tummy-ball. The crib was in our room, too, along with our queen-sized bed and Wyl’s double bed (plus 3 dressers!), but I don’t remember if we tried to move him from the bassinette to the crib before he came to our bed, or if that was just a standby. (There was a lot of missing sleep and my memory isn’t the best, anyway… :~)  ) Many nights, we’d move him to the crib after he fell asleep in our bed, and on the rare occasion he couldn’t be calmed in the night, we’d bring him back.

I’ll digress at this point to mention that I don’t really know what the definition of “sleeping through the night” *really* means. Clearly, Wyl did that, by any definition of the phrase, never waking – even now, he’s probably only woken in the middle of the night less than 10 times in his life. Getting him to sleep was sometimes rough, but once he was asleep, he was down for the count. Storm, however, would fuss a bit and/or cry out, though not usually coming full awake and could be back-rubbed or cuddled (or moved to the bed) back to sleep, usually in moments. I could probably count the times my sleep was actually disturbed by his night “adjustments” on both hands. I never really counted that as being outside “sleeping through the night”, though recently, sometimes I wonder what it truly means.

When Storm was somewhere around a year old, he preferred the crib. He was happy to snuggle in the bed with someone until he got sleepy, but then he’d fuss and toss and grouch until he was in the crib and then he’d sigh, turn over and go right to sleep. After a while, he figured out to gesture & point to the crib when he was ready to fall asleep! I was so astounded at first – from all I’d read, babies didn’t *ask* to be put in a crib alone!! But, that’s what he wanted.

It didn’t last *too* long, though I’m not sure how long it was. He started coming & crawling into the bed when he stirred in the night, then he decided he wanted to sleep with us again. Occasionally, he’d want to sleep in the crib again, but most of the time it was in “the big bed”.

At one point, we got a loft bed, trying to make a separate space for everybody, since Storm was always tall for his age and *I* felt the crib was too small for him. Yet, even after the loft was there, after Wyl moved into his own room leaving even more empty space, Storm wanted his crib. It was draped with dark blankets in a tent-style (top & sides) to keep out the cats & block the light, so maybe it was the “coziness” of it, I don’t know.

Eventually, he left the crib behind (he was quite a ways into his 6th year), unsure, yet firmly deciding to put it away – he enjoyed helping me take it down! :~) He moved into the double bed & we draped it all over like the crib had been, put in a string of dark purple lights, used the sheets he wanted… basically made it *his* space to his specifications. Yet, every once in a while, he will mention wistfully that he misses his crib…

A couple months ago, he decided he wanted to try to sleep in his (single) bed in his room. Dave hung out in there with him, but after a short while, he decided it was too noisy (our room is in the back of the house, Storm’s is right in the front, just feet from the street), with all the cars going by.

A week/week and a half ago, he decided to try sleeping in his own bed in his own room again. He hasn’t said anything specifically, but I get the feeling he has the idea that he is getting “too big” to sleep in our room. Plus, he’s really wanting to have friends sleep over, and I pointed out recently that he probably didn’t want to leave a friend alone in his room while he, Storm, came & slept with me. :~)

We made things all cozy to his delight, me giving him ideas to help make him comfortable in there (like having a small fan running to help block the noise) and when my back started hurting from hunching over there, I reminded him he could stay all night or come sleep with me whenever he needed, then went to wait in bed. I only waited a few minutes. :~) He was back and disappointed and complaining the fan was too loud. I reassured him and was happy to snuggle him a while.

Tonight, he wanted to try again. I needed a nap & went up early, so Dave stayed with him while I was sleeping. I fully expected to wake with him in the next bed, but when I did wake, I was alone.

I thought about parents I’d seen on t.v. shows, struggling to get their kids to stay in their own beds or their own rooms through the night and how they’d likely cheer, but I was a little sad. Just a tiny little bit, for the time passing too quickly for my liking. I am too comforted by the ideas that this is how it is supposed to be: children growing up smoothly, making transitions from stage to stage seamlessly, happily without struggle. This is what is *supposed* to happen – they grow up with our guidance with as little stress as possible; that is my job as their mama: to make it a journey that is tackled with me, as their partner and guide.

And yet…

As Storm snuggled with me, a bit sadly (he feels these milestones, too – all too much his mother’s child in that department! :~)  ), it cheered him as I talked about all the ways he’d slept over the years. I smiled softly as I told him how much I’ve enjoyed snuggling with him and we discussed all the different ways we could *still* snuggle, even if he slept in his own bed.

And, 6 hours after he was asleep in his own bed, he’s still there. Another milestone I wasn’t ready for. It *may* not be completely past, yet, but we’re there. I am awfully pleased with the people my children are growing to be… I am ever so grateful to have them in my life and to have a good relationship with both of them… Yet, I sure would love to nurse that baby again… bathe a wiggling little chubby boy again… discover a soap bubble blown from a wand with him for the first time again… hold a tiny little newborn baby and feel the weight of importance of responsibility and the awesomeness of new life in my arms again…


As my time as a closely nurturing mama coming to a close (and new times open), benchmarks like these, replete with the inevitable wanderings through the past, spurs me to grab the moment, do my best, to make the most of *this* moment… It will be gone in a flash, with nary a chance to “do it right” again.

Now is the time. 

Friday, February 15

“Friends” - Catching Up on the Past Half Year - Part 3

I am going to go a little outside my usual post “flavor” to address some things that have really been bothering me the past few months. I’ll preface all the entries with this disclaimer & that way it will be easy to differentiate for those who would rather not read negative things. Seriously, this post/entry has nothing to do with unschooling: it is part of a hashing-out on my part, a venting of my feelings on recent happenings, a “getting it out in full view” to avoid secret whisperings and wonderings about recent events. Ive gone back-and-forth over whether to actually post these words or not, and usually when I do that, I get a definite feel for it (after sleeping on it) if it is certainly a bad idea. I haven't gotten that feel in over a month of pondering, so if it turns out to be a bad idea I figure I've a lesson to learn from it.

Part 3

Well, I’ve been working my butt off at the shop, this last month & a half I’ve been avoiding Facebook. I’ve gotten on to take care of shop business & keeping up with the occasional business contact, but I’ve avoided reading friends’ personal posts & comments. There’s been an item or two I would have liked to share with everyone, but I just wasn’t ready to dive back in. I’m still not positive I’m totally there, but it is getting to be more difficult to work around Facebook (because of the shop’s Facebook page), and tough to keep up with homeschool events.

I knew this would be a three part series before I began writing it, but after I finished up part two, I couldn’t seem to find a thread in my brain for part three. Maybe (I don’t remember what the slant of it was going to be) it was resolved. Maybe it wasn’t and it will resurface later – no problem. I can always blog it then. At any rate, I do have one more thing I wanted to write:

I believe most people would agree with me on this one: It is never anyone's place (with the possible exception of a spouse/partner) - to demand that someone else live their life to their expectations. At least when we’re talking about adults; if we’re talking about kids, I’d surely get some arguments, but the situation I’m talking about was 2 unrelated adults, so we’ll leave it at “adults”.

Sure, there are people out there who are always ready and willing to judge, jump to conclusions, find something negative. I understand that – I don’t have to accept it as the norm (because I know better, now), but I understand. You (that general “you”, again) are well within your rights to have your thoughts & feelings and I’m well within my rights not to like them (or to like them, as the case may be). However, I believe it is a serious line to cross when you try to enforce those thoughts/beliefs/way of acting onto someone else. In any friendship/relationship, there are factors each person is going to have that are acceptable and those that aren’t; if the non-acceptable factors outweigh the benefits of the relationship, that is the time to decide to walk away from the relationship. It is not normal or healthy to believe that you can control the other person, their beliefs, thoughts, actions to suit your parameters. It is the epitome of unhealthiness to try to threaten someone into abiding by your misguided attempts to change them into your ideal.

Along those same lines: respect cannot be commanded. Sometimes, you can command and get results that look like respect, but if it is not genuinely earned, it isn’t really respect.

I'm putting this out in the blogosphere, in hopes that it might help someone. I thought it would be cathartic for me, but it turned out not to be needed so much as was righting my world and putting all the craziness of the last half year in order (where I could) and behind me (for the most part). Now, hopefully, back to "normal"... whatever *that* is! :~)

Thursday, January 31

“Friends” - Catching Up on the Past Half Year - Part 2

I am going to go a little outside my usual post “flavor” to address some things that have really been bothering me the past few months. I’ll preface all the entries with this disclaimer & that way it will be easy to differentiate for those who would rather not read negative things. Seriously, this post/entry has nothing to do with unschooling: it is part of a hashing-out on my part, a venting of my feelings on recent happenings, a “getting it out in full view” to avoid secret whisperings and wonderings about recent events. I've gone back-and-forth over whether to actually post these words or not, and usually when I do that, I get a definite feel for it (after sleeping on it) if it is certainly a bad idea. I haven't gotten that feel in over a month of pondering, so if it turns out to be a bad idea I figure I've a lesson to learn from it.

Part 2

There are a few things I’d like to address in this post.

I think part of the reason why meanness bothers me (it always has, but even moreso, now – with a bit of shock/surprise that it still happens) is because of the people who have intersected in our lives the past 10-11 years. As I began researching homeschooling seriously and then even *more* as I delved into the principles of unschooling, I found kindness and generosity of spirit and love and gentleness. At first, it seemed “fake”. Surely, people weren’t *really* this cheery, this nice, this all-accepting… ?, I thought. As time passed and I got to know them more deeply, I realized that they were, indeed, “real”.

It seemed like a homecoming, like things I’d hardened my heart to long ago, *were* actually *right*! Some things were hard to accept or reassimilate, but I found new life in myself for these ideals. Accepting people for who they are, where they are. Understanding/accepting that people do the best they can with what they have. Relearning how to trust and love people freely – without grudgingness or a need to “earn” it – was tough, at first. But, it got easier. And with it came peace – a deep, soul-soothing peace. And quiet happiness. And a love of self I don’t think I ever had.

It has always bothered me far more to see others hurt than to be hurt, myself – I think that’s true for so many people. Maybe even most people. Injustice bothers me, deliberate meanness bothers me and enjoyment at another’s expense bothers me. I am a firm believer in people gravitating toward decency: if you are kind to people when others are around, they’ll pick up on that, and echo it, reflect it, absorb it into their own being. That is why I am so bewildered and shocked when, every once in a while, some piece of hidden meanness surfaces & is flung into the midst of the kindness.

Twice, within friends & acquaintances, I’ve had nastiness forced upon me. Maybe I should edit that to say “two people”. At any rate, one was more in the realm of acquaintance. The other was someone I’d thought was a dear & caring friend. One who, last time I’d been in contact, had said, “If you need help, just let me know! Whatever you need, whenever – I’ll be there for you!” and then the next, within a bunch of nastiness, “I can’t continue to be your friend”. Now, what, exactly happened in those 2 months I didn’t hear from her, I don’t know. My only communications were to ask if she was going to be at local homeschool events, as our kids were friends and an offer (from her) of a skirt for my mother’s celebration of life memorial. There was a mention of a public venting I’d put up on Facebook, but it was about how I was feeling, not about anyone else. The biggest part was that it was an unexpected attack and rather surprising, because it came from someone I’d considered an ally, even if it was not a “best friend” kind of situation.

Most people reading this will know, but for those who don’t: I am not a judgmental person. I have friends & acquaintances with quite varied beliefs & ideas – I believe uniqueness makes the world interesting & contributes to growth and learning; as long as you (general “you”) are not trying to force anyone to adopt your beliefs and/or ideals, we’ll get along just fine, most likely. Different religious beliefs? Different political stance/ideas? Different ideas on how to parent? No problem – as long as you’re not forcing them on others. Because our ideas on parenting aren’t the same do not mean one of us is “right” and the other is “wrong”, it only means they’re different, as are our families, as are our children. It is quite possible that my parenting ideals would not mesh with your children, anyhow; quite likely yours wouldn’t mesh with my own kids – in fact, I’ve tried out one or two I *know* do not suit my children at *all*!

At least as far back as jr. high school, I have said I wasn’t really a “girl”. The things I enjoy tend to be things that are correlated with “guys”, added with my body structure (for those who don’t know, I’ve shrunk to 5’ 10” and I have a body-frame structure like an American football linebacker), tends to make me feel out of place in especially “girly” situations/places/events. (Or did when I was younger.) I think a lot of that has to do with the different ways guys & gals interact – especially in school. I don’t think I was ever indoctrinated (or at least not “properly”, if I was) in “girl behavior”. I don’t understand the twisting and misrepresentation of words. I don’t “get” the two-faced thing. I don’t understand the point of, or how to “gossip”. I *really* don’t understand the “code”/game kind of thing: if you are upset with someone, why can’t you just say so? Why the need for posturing or symbolic representation rather than words? I don’t get it. There are a *lot* of gals who don’t get it – we share our bafflement with each other: not only do we not understand it, we don’t understand the point of it, nor the attraction. Just because someone doesn’t share gossip with you or react to *your* gossip in an appropriate way is not necessarily within that “girl code” of symbolism: sometimes, it’s just that it is a foreign language to some of us and we neither understand nor speak it. Seriously – I’d have a better chance of understanding you if you were a mime or spoke to me in Latin (and I’ve never studied Latin).

Another thing, along those lines is the sharing of intimate details. Just because my status updates don’t include the details & recipes of every meal I ate today, the tiny details of how I spent my day by the hour, what my kids studied (or didn’t study), how my family interacted with each other, several cute pictures of my pets & kids, the fight I had with my relative and/or the funny noise the van made today (not that anything is wrong with sharing those things, mind you!) does not mean I’m “lying” or “hiding something”. From as far back as at least jr. high, I have been rather close-to-the-vest about the details of my life (perhaps I was burned by gossip – I don’t remember). I would no more share intimate details of my life than I would ever have flashed my breasts at a rock concert (not that flashing some boob is *bad* - it just isn’t who I am) or dig a booger out of my nose and share it ‘round for all to see the shape of (again, not that I’d condemn anyone who does that… ). There are a tiny handful of people who mysteriously have the key to my reticence and I just spew loads at them – not sure why or how, but I know the number can be counted on one hand. Nor would I expect anyone who likes to share those details to clam up and act more reticent, because that isn’t who *they* are. I love to listen to people talk about themselves & their day & how they process things – I’m just more of a listener than a talker… at least when it comes to stuff I consider personal to me. I can talk like crazy about general stuff and unschooling and games and… ! :~)

Why can’t folks just be more accepting of others? Of differences? I can remember being very young and having a “better than you” attitude and judging people and it didn’t feel very nice. I know that people often gravitate to things that feel good (like acceptance and love and joy), but there’s also a lot of fear around over change and “standing out” from the crowd… It just seems the world would be a better place *and* the people in it would be happier, if there was just more acceptance of others & their ideas & ways… “Different” isn’t “wrong”, it just isn’t the same.

Ahh… One last thing before I quit for the day: a bit I’d written in my notes, but I’m rather tired to search through today’s post and make a place for it. It can stand on its own within this post, I think, so:

*just because I’m not gossiping about something or blaming someone behind their back doesn’t mean I’m clueless or damaged by it or too stupid to comprehend: it usually means I simply don’t care. Honestly, I rarely care what others think or say about me: I’ve said it to most of you. As long as someone I care about isn’t being hurt, I really don’t care what you say about *me*. I don’t care if you don’t like me. If you don’t have the fortitude to talk something out with me or ask me my side of something, I don’t care what kind of twisted/untrue opinion you have of me or what you say about me behind my back. That kind of behavior certainly doesn’t reflect badly on *me*. I and the people I love & who love me know who I am and that’s all that matters to me.

I’m wrapping up for the day. I’m still not ready to jump fully back into FB – probably most of what I’ll be doing is business-related. I’ll be on, sporadically, if folks want to message me there again, though.

Tuesday, January 15

“Friends” - Catching Up on the Past Half Year - Part I

I am going to go a little outside my usual post “flavor” to address some things that have really been bothering me the past few months. I’ll preface all the entries with this disclaimer & that way it will be easy to differentiate for those who would rather not read negative things. Seriously, this post/entry has nothing to do with unschooling: it is part of a hashing-out on my part, a venting of my feelings on recent happenings, a “getting it out in full view” to avoid secret whisperings and wonderings about recent events. I've gone back-and-forth over whether to actually post these words or not, and usually when I do that, I get a definite feel for it (after sleeping on it) if it is certainly a bad idea. I haven't gotten that feel in over a month of pondering, so if it turns out to be a bad idea I figure I've a lesson to learn from it. 

Part I

First off, let me begin by going back… :~) Things have been less-than-stellar since Dave got laid off a few years back. The job market around here isn't the best and to top that off, employers are actively avoiding unemployed people – very weird, IMO, but that’s how things are. We made do, looking for work, fully expecting Dave to get another on-the-road job where he’d be away 5 days a week at the least, scrambling to make ends meet when the unemployment income made us ineligible for most programs & help… We figured it was a great time to try to work for ourselves, so we started Dave’s handyman business. Unfortunately, the economy made it tough for folks to hire a handyman, so we kept working at it, hoping things would pick up and continuing to look for work.

In January 2011, we attended our first anime convention, as guests of friends, and discovered Steampunk, which excited us and started our creative processes going. Dave dabbled around with creating necklaces & odds n’ ends, giving what he made to friends. Folks exclaimed over how “great” they were.

The third week in December, two years ago, Dave’s unemployment ran out. Fortunately, that meant we qualified for help and programs. *Un*fortunately, that meant no income to pay for utilities, toilet paper, soap, fuel for the van, clothes, etc. “Where are all the jobs?” we wondered, “Why are we getting so few interviews & no replies from the few we’re getting?” and we marched on. 
 Thankfully, all the jobs we'd worked 2 & 3 at a time over the years had us paying a whole lot into the system of benefits & help programs and we'd donated loads of time & "stuff" to charities over the years. Not really with this result in mind, but we're thankful, nonetheless.

Snow was scarce that winter, making the snow-removal aspect of the handyman business a flop. We started thinking more and more about Steampunk jewelry and how Etsy had been a jumping-off point for my mother & her jean purses. I researched. So, at the end of February 2012, we took the plunge and added to the job-hunt, handyman-business grind with our Steampunk jewelry (and other mish-mash) store, Smithfits Bazaare Emporium . Friends raved about how incredible Dave’s work was. Sales started happening. Then, as our customer/fan base grew, new people raved. Folks seem to think this was really going to go somewhere and so did we. It hasn't  yet, but we’re thinking it just hasn't been our time to take off, yet. And still, the handyman & job hunting continues. :~D

In April, Dave had some sort of injury to his neck that caused him great pain, numbness and tingling in his neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. He started marching his parade of doctors and specialists after a couple visits to the ER couldn't resolve the problem.

In the last few days of September, Dave got a diagnosis for his injury - a devastating diagnosis: along with carpal tunnel syndrome, he has degenerative disc disease in his neck and osteoarthritis in vertebrae 5 - 7. This will worsen over time and eventually completely paralyze him.

We were trying to cope with this horrifying diagnosis, October 4th a huge family crisis hit us. I’m still not ready to talk about details in public, but it involved city government and issues with housing code violations (stirred up by our persnickety neighbor) along with other things. Over the last few years, things have piled up inside our house with 2 – 3 packrats and I’ve always been forthright with people about how piled with clutter our house was. I’ve been honest with people that it was out of control. I asked for help a few times, early on, and got some kid-occupying help while cleaning got done without interference. As time went on, I asked for help from a few select, trusted folks and asked and it didn’t come. I got offers of help from a few more people that I didn’t know as well and considered, but had yet to bring myself to accept help from those people who *hadn’t* seen the inside of my house. I was getting close, though…

This situation in October had officials in our house and things came to a head. I explained the situation to a huge chunk of my extended friends and help was forthcoming. Dave looked over the list of folks who’d offered to help and said, “I don’t really want” and he named several names, “in here… “ with firmness threaded with dread in his voice. “*Why*?!?” I asked him. He said that he didn’t want those listed/named people to see our house because they would judge us and probably not have anything to do with us after. I knew that was a likely possibility, but told him that the kids were paramount in this situation and if they were going to react like that, then they weren’t really the best kind of friends to have, anyway. After a bit of thought, he agreed.

It was a very stressful time. There was a *lot* to be done, a lot to decide and where it was overwhelming me before, having people “invade” my private embarrassment and be fully aware of it added all that more stress. Dave and I both got very little sleep, ate very little and marshaled on, coping as well as we could – many people said we dealt with everything with dignity and strength and surprisingly well – that they wouldn’t have done as well if they were in our shoes. I disagree, as I think any one of our friends would power through just as well, but I hope they never have to find out.

At any rate, throughout the 2 weeks of in-depth, deep-clean, hard work, we kept having to deal with officials, spurred on to verify and check tiny details daily by the neighbor who kept calling repeatedly. It was quite clear that something was getting taken care of here and whatever his problem was with it, he was calling the city building department, city council, the mayor and on the weekends when they weren’t in, he’d repeatedly call the police until they got the head of the building department to come out here. The constant harassment made coping even more difficult. Our amazing crew of willing friends (Thank You again!! <3 font="" nbsp="">got an incredible amount of stuff done within those two weeks. We took another couple weeks regrouping and taking care of detail work & dealing with the final points the officials asked us to take care of. Somewhere in all this autumn stuff, we lost a very dear pet cat, Zack (, we’d raised from birth. As we settled into November, things started to settle into place and by the end of November, we were starting to feel like maybe we could start to relax and get into a flow of “normal”, again – even if it was a new normal.

As November drew to a close, my dad started having troubles with his stomach. For a couple days, my parents thought it was probably the flu, but as it didn't improve and the pain got very bad, they started thinking it might be something else. Gallbladder was mentioned. On the 26th, it got really painful and late on the 27th, my mother got him to agree to go to the emergency room the next day if it wasn't better. Now, my dad has a very high tolerance for pain and isn't one to go to the doctor unless it is dire. The man even refuses Novocain for fillings! So, on the 28th, my mother ran an errand and then took my dad to a "stat care" place nearby. 

I’d been having issues sleeping (probably caused by all the upheaval & stress) and was trying to work my way around the clock by staying up to beyond tired, so I could get back to a semi-normal bedtime. On the 28th, I’d figured on about
5pm to head to bed. At about 4:45, my phone rang. It was my dad; the man known for his pranks & jokes. He told me that my mother was having a heart attack and headed to City Hospital and could I go meet her there, since they wouldn’t release him to go. I asked if he was serious, because with *my* dad, you just never know. He sounded serious and I doubted he would joke about something like that, but it was so unexpected & unreal, I *had* to ask. 

Apparently, my mother had pulled up to the doors to drop Dad off so that he could start his paperwork and went to park the car. She started having chest pains and called inside the stat care place and an emergency team came right out to the car. They did an EKG & some tests and found she was having a heart attack and sent her via ambulance to City. Dad had some tests run, but the results hadn’t come back, yet, so they wouldn’t release him. I headed to the hospital.

I explained to the staff at the waiting room desk what was going on and they were stunned and surprised: both parents at the same time?! Apparently, even in a big hospital like City, that is pretty rare. I made some cursory calls to family, the staff having told me that she’d had surgery & we were waiting for her to come out of recovery & the doctors to come talk with me. Dad called. He told me he was going to be at City in a bit. I was going to argue that he should go home and rest and I could keep him updated, but he said they were bringing him in an ambulance to have emergency surgery because his appendix had burst. I haven’t had a lot of stress in my life the last 6 or 7 years – apparently, my life wants to get it all over with in spaced-out, intense doses.

So, my brother is disabled and not able to step in while I take a break, my grandparents have all passed away years ago, all of my parents’ siblings are dead but my dad’s younger brother, who is in West Virginia and has a wife with dementia/Alzheimer’s  in a home that needs looked after.

I got to go into the cardio ICU when my mom came out of recovery. She seemed to be good color and tired, and worried, of course. I talked with her and gave her cards the boys made for her as I was getting dressed to come to the hospital and talked with her about dad & his situation. She was throwing up a lot and I helped her clean up, since she was required to lay perfectly flat. She gave me a list of things to get for her and bring to the hospital and we talked a bit about her "living will" wishes. She understood that the doctors wanted to wait 3 days to do further surgery (bypass), to allow the blood thinners to leave her system. Just around midnight, test results came back & the doctor decided it was too risky to hold off surgery & that she would go in at 6 am. She had a moment of stark fear & worry as they were pre-prepping her for surgery... I decided to go home and get a few hours of sleep after I checked on Dad, but he wasn't out of recovery, yet, and by the time I got home, it was almost 3 am. I had to get up at 5:30 to make it to the hospital by 6... I got to hold her hand and tell her I would take care of dad as they wheeled her out of the room...

At that point, I spent most of a week running back and forth between 2 hospital rooms on opposite ends of a massive hospital complex, trying to do all I could for everyone. (Which suited me just fine, keeping me very busy with no time for "what if"s.) Thankfully, the staff allowed me to doze in a chair beside my dad’s hospital bed (the appendix had apparently burst long before the operation, spreading bacteria all over the inside of his abdomen & internal organs and had compromised some of his small intestine, which had to have a section removed). It was a very, very uncomfortable chair and I don’t think I got 8 hours of sleep the whole week (and I hadn’t even gone in with any rest to begin with… !). I am stunned I didn’t get sick, myself.

It was a very emotionally stressful time, not only for all the responsibilities that I had, but to see my strong, independent dad so weak physically and feeling so weak & helpless to *do* anything to help the love of his life was devastating. Dozens of times a day, he’d look into my eyes with that helpless, hopeless look of fear… Dozens of times a day, he’d desperately reach or grope for my hand and hold on like it was a lifeline… It kind of scared me a little and it broke my heart. Each and every time it broke my heart. It still does – tears run down my face as I remember and write this…

My dad was very sick and very weak – even weaker than both times he had cancer treatments. The man who won’t even take an aspirin or pain meds for surgery asked not only for pain meds but for morphine – which he made me *promise* I would not allow them to give to him. Later in the week, he also asked for a medication to help him cope with anxiety… I think he had more medication in those 7 days than he’d had in his entire previous 75 years. 

After one surgery to find a blocked artery, another surgery scheduled to do a single by-pass, then during the surgery finding out her aorta burst, things were very much in the air for my mother – a long waiting period after her second surgery, waiting for the drugs to clear out of her system to see if there was brain activity. This heart attack came as such a surprise – no symptoms, nothing to indicate it was coming, and my mother being such a Strong person, we really felt it was only a matter of time before she started the long road to recovery. On December 4th, a huge amount of staff came in to talk to us and basically told us that she had likely never mentally survived the second surgery. We all went in to say our goodbyes. The most heart-wrenching thing I have ever experienced in my life was witnessing my dad say goodbye to his other half – the love of his life. *That* made me sob more and broke my heart more than any other thing I can ever remember.

After they gave us news that she had passed away, they released my dad from the hospital. He needed someone to help him physically, and I was sure he needed someone emotionally, too. So, I just moved the place I sleep from the hospital to his house. That was a rough time, because at first, he was too weak to do much of anything but sleep. Though they said he was on the road to recovery, in the face of all that happened, it was tough to believe. Especially since his partner of 50 years just died unexpectedly and who knows how anyone is going to react to that... ?

A few days after Dad settled in, my brother was due for what Mom had told us was hernia surgery. Two days after that, Dave's thrice-postponed shoulder surgery (rotator cuff) was scheduled. It turned out that my brother's appointment was a consult appointment to determine if surgery was necessary, so that was a bit of a relief, but it was very, very hard to have to leave my dad, who still needed lots of help (and who, frankly, I was scared to leave alone with his thoughts & funeral home plans & sympathy cards flooding in), to help Dave through his routine (3rd time) shoulder surgery. He'd *wanted* me to stay with Dad, but I couldn't do that, either. I hadn't been sure if I was going to stay at home that night or go back to Dad's, but Dave had a bad reaction with his asthma & the anesthetic and was having awful trouble breathing. He wouldn't go to the ER, and I didn't get much sleep again that night, but he was better in the morning, so I felt comfortable going back to my dad's house.

Being the person I am, I would not force my opinions on him and left so much of the decisions about the memorial service for my mother to him. I truly felt that it was mostly his choice, being her life partner, more than anyone else’s. I think he probably would have been more comfortable with me just taking charge, but I did not feel it was my place, nor is it who I am to tell someone else what they should think or how they should live. I’ve grown too accustomed to accepting people where they are and for who they are in the moment.

Things being what they were, I was quite prepared to stay there with dad for months, but a few days before December 25th, he firmly asked me to go home. He felt guilty “taking” me “away from the boys” and no amount of explanation on my part would make him understand that he wasn’t “taking” me, so reluctantly I went. I *wish* I had the money to drive over there every day – or even every other day!! But, we do not. So, I rely on the phone. That’s also another source of stress, because I really want to be there for him…

And so, life was starting to balance again (even though I was still feeling terribly out of balance, stressed, confused, sad, badly imperfect, lonely for emotional care for my own self, one of our 2 remaining cats having died a few days before, still not quite caught up on sleep… ), not quite a full month since my mother had died unexpectedly, under 2 weeks since I’d moved out of my dad’s house & back into my own, about a week since a very emotional Christmas for my entire family, on January 3rd, someone who’d I’d thought was a caring and supportive friend wrote me to unfriend me with a very negative, character-assassinating letter (privately on Facebook), leaving me feeling as if I’d been horribly verbally attacked. Even abused. Not only on behalf of herself, but on behalf of that list of folks Dave and I had talked about (in October, whom we’d likely never see again after coming to help us) plus one other person. All throughout this attack, claiming that I was very dear to them and that they cared about me so very much that it hurt. All I could think of, as I read through this handful of messages, was “kicking me while I’m down”… it truly felt as though I’d been punched – full force – in the gut. Why this person couldn’t just unfriend me, I don’t know… Why they felt the need to write something in such a way as to leave the recipient feeling attacked, I’m clueless… Why they chose such a horrible time to do so leaves me utterly baffled. Unless you (general you – not this person, specifically) purposely *trying* to hurt the recipient, what other reason would you have to say such hurtful things at such a critical time?

That final bit was that proverbial straw on the camel’s back that led to my avoiding Facebook for the past few weeks. I felt the need to curl up and heal for a while and getting “kicked while I’m down” would definitely not further my healing. With my Facebook friends, most of what I experience there are positive, uplifting, funny, fun, interesting, etc. – very little negativity. There *are* negative things to be found floating around Facebook in general without having to have mass amounts of negativity aimed at me directly, so I removed myself from that venue. And that wraps up the “getting the blog up to date.