Tag Archives: Motherhood

Stuff: My Head Was Getting Full

Greg Allman died. That made me cry. I’ve been a fan for most of my adult life (translation: since Mark and I have been together as adults because he’s a HUGE fan) and that’s part of why I cried. I knew how it would affect Mark. And Matthew. Matt sent Mark a note on FB saying, “This isn’t real, is it?” Of course, it was.

The Day The Music Died played in my head – when Sweet Melissa and I’m No Angel weren’t. The music didn’t really die. Just the musician. Taken down by the same insidiousness that took many others. Others with names like Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix, Cobain, Cornell, Jennings.

Waite.

What do I hate about addiction? Is it that it’s selfish? That it is a form of entitlement that doesn’t just destroy the one addicted but entire families, communities even? Yes. Of course. I hate that it disguises itself as pleasure and peace. I hate that I love that pleasure and peace.

Am I an addict?

Probably not but maybe so. I have the genetic predilection certainly, on both sides. I remember being at an Al Anon meeting once and voicing my frustration.

“Isn’t there someplace I can go where this shit doesn’t exist?”

To a person, those in the meeting with me either shook their heads or simply said no. Take away the alcohol, the drugs and what is left to be addicted to? Food, sex, work, shopping, money. Obviously it’s not the substance at fault. It’s the behavior patterns. And we all have them.

Am I an addict?

I have been, yes. I have displayed addictive behavior driven by everything from hormones to the lack of them. All the kids at home to the kids all moving away. Euphoria to depression. Not enough work to too much work. Not enough choice to everything laid out before me like a banquet. No ice-cream in the house to an actual banquet.

My latest dilemma is stress at work and sleepless nights, both of which, of course, feed on each other. In my first half-century I could count the nights I was unable to sleep on one hand. This does not include infant/child induced lack of sleep. Those were a given and had nothing to do with not being physically and psychologically able to let go of wakefulness. No, the latter is something that was saved for me until I was lulled into a false hey, this getting older thing might be okay, state of mind. Kids are grown, hot flashes are easing, I see freedom calling up ahead sort of thoughts were roaming playfully in my brain.

Then the next section in the manual opened itself up to me and revealed that those hormones I used to have do more than just all those other things I thought they did. They also helped me to sleep.

Apparently they’re gone just like said slumber.

I, literally, lay awake all night long.

It happened once. And again. Then again. And more regularly. I started taking half a Benadryl at night get to sleep but it didn’t always work, so I’d take a whole one. Sleep was deep and as long as I took it fairly early I could drink enough coffee in the morning to wake up for the day. Which became a problem in itself because I really don’t have a large coffee capacity. One or two cups are the maximum and it always took a third to shake the antihistamine blues, which, in turn made me shaky and a little dizzy. Then the antihistamine stopped working and I became pretty frantic. I cut down on coffee, upped my water intake and spent a couple of days and nights trying to get my shit together so I could sleep when I was supposed to sleep and be awake, you know, when I was driving and working and stuff. I went to my doctor who offered me Ambien or something like it. Non-habit forming, of course. Such an ironic, bullshit claim. Perhaps the drug itself is non-addictive but if you, like – everybody – are a fan of sleeping, the drug becomes your habit. There’s no way around that. Also, there are some pretty severe side effects with Ambien.  My two favorite, upon reflection are hallucinations and sleeplessness.

I’ll just let you mull that one over.

I took a pass.

My doctor was okay with the half dose of antihistamine but concerned that I took it within an hour of having a night-cap consisting of a shot (and probably a half) of tequila. I told her my liver wasn’t completely happy with me either, but the tequila helped me fall asleep and the antihistamine kept me asleep all night.

That’s important – the all night thing. Some of my worst times have been when I wake up from a sound (sober) sleep in a full on panic because – for no reason at all. Anxiety is in full swing with no warning and no solution and by the time I’ve reached a state of I’m actually not going to die horribly at this very moment I’m wide awake and pissed. And still anxious as I go over every single thing that is/could be/was yesterday/might be tomorrow – wrong in my life, Mark’s life and the lives of my children, grandchild, mother and brother. I have, at times, scooted over to cuddle with Mark but that wakes him up because he knows, even in his deepest slumber, that I do not like to be touched in my sleep. We have lines of demarcation in our bed that may not be breached once I’m in lala land. When the kids were little it was this way because one or more of them were there nightly and there was barely room to breathe. Then it was hot flashes. If I cuddle up to my poor hubby, he knows somethin’ aint right and will wake up ready to take on the world in a way only certified morning people are able to do but it’s the middle of the night so we’re both screwed.

……….Or so I told my doc.

She said, again, that perhaps the Ambien would be a better choice. I said, again, no thank-you.

I have an aversion to relying on medication. I mean, if I had to take something because I was diabetic or had epilepsy it would be different – and I have taken meds for PTSD (long story there……well, really not so long, but for another time) and depression. There was a start date and an end date in sight with both, so I wasn’t quite as concerned. I became addicted to nose spray once. Started taking it when I had a cold and didn’t get off it for two years. The thing about nose spray with a decongestant/antihistamine is that, besides making one look sexy and attractive when shoving it in one nostril then the other and taking a deep huff each time, it makes your nasal passages more open than they would ever be naturally. When you try to stop taking it cold turkey you don’t just get a stuffy nose. Your nasal passages slam shut like there’s actual gold in there to be protected and you can’t breathe through your nose, nor can you swallow because you can’t breathe through your nose. Try it. Plug your nose and try to swallow.

My father was addicted to nose spray. He became ill and was in the hospital where an idiot doctor overdosed him (that one is a long story) with a medication his body basically had a bad reaction to. He was in a state of unconsciousness for such a period of time that we truly thought he would not make it. During that time he could, of course, not take his nose spray. We watched as he struggled to breathe. His suffering was incredibly difficult to witness and inspired the aversion I spoke of earlier.  After Dad recovered I went to my doctor for help in ridding myself of the nose spray. She said, simply, to use it in one side or the other as often as I needed until the side that wasn’t getting any assistance unplugged, then stop using it on the other side. She said it could take about three weeks. I was off it in less than two and felt so free and, well, stupid for not figuring this out much, much sooner.

Now, to get back on medication and have to depend on it for something that should come as naturally as sleep? No. I couldn’t see it. Still, if I was honest with myself, it was six of one and half dozen of the other in the drugs vs. alcohol category.

Am I an addict?

Probably. But I’m an extremely particular one, if so.

I stopped taking the antihistamine a few weeks ago. The long term effects started to rear their ugly heads. Moodiness, increased day-time anxiety, depression – they came on fast and were difficult to control. I cut out sugar at night, back on coffee in the morning, cranked up my water intake and am gradually settling into a more restful pattern leading up to bed time. Basically I’m a three-year-old again. Who gets a jigger of tequila and a Coronita nightly if she wants.

I’m not giving up all my fun.

I sleep better, for the most part. Electronics are banished to drawers and other rooms. TV is off and the temperature is cool. I’m dreaming again which means I’m not taking myself to an oblivious place and when I wake up it’s just slow and cranky like it’s been from the time I was a child. Not groggy and “why did I take the stupid antihistamine again,” the way it had been for a few months.

Am I an addict? I have addictive tendencies – just like most people, I suppose. I’m on guard, though. I mean, everybody has to die from something but I won’t go because I drank/smoked/shot up/snorted my internal organs to death. That hurts like hell. That hurts everybody like hell and it’s hard to get over. Some people tend to obsess, even.

Can one be addicted to making sure they’re not addicted?

These and other insane questions will be covered on the next edition of “Shit I write down so my head won’t explode.”

<Insert eye roll here>

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#iamhappy

I didn’t know the little boy, only of him, through his grandma and pictures on Facebook. He was the most photogenic child I swear I’d ever seen and that’s going some, coming from a mother as captivated by the beauty of her own children as I’ve always been, though I know I’m quiet about it……..

Sam Lee’s grandmother was my mother’s first cousin. Mom’s favorite on her mother’s side. Marlys, Sam’s great-grandma, actually, was one of the happiest, kindest women I ever knew. One of the strong women who’ve touched my life. She was unfailingly glad to see us when she visited, as if we were something special, and to her, we were simply a very blessed, happy fact of life. I suppose it’s no wonder, then, that her great-grandson would inherit her amazing outlook and carry it further.

Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma or DIPG is an aggressive, terminal form of brain cancer and before we go any further I’m going to tell you that Sam Lee died from it.

Yeah.

I thought I might lose a few of you right there.

But those of you who stayed must know I have a moral of the story, so thanks.

It’s brave of you.

Honestly, in my own life I’ve had way too many of those, “I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me,” scenarios actually happen to me or someone in my immediate family. Therefore, reading about the heartbreak of letting go of and losing a small child would be hard to bear. I wasn’t going to. I “liked” one post about him on Facebook and offered up prayers and love for his family and intended to move on.

But – there was Marlys. She just kept smiling and going on with her life in faith and in love – with her daughter, her granddaughter and her Sam.

I was kind of captivated.

So I stayed connected a little by liking the page We Love Sam Lee. On the page I learned about Sam’s mom, Erin, his dad, Michael and his twin sisters, Mae and Ada. About their journey.

Erin writes their story beautifully so I won’t paraphrase. I’m going to copy and paste:

“The reality

On July 26, 2013, our two-year old son, Sam was diagnosed with an aggressive, terminal brain cancer called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It didn’t take long for us to learn that funding for the research and treatment of childhood cancers is bad. Really bad. For every dollar raised by the American Cancer Society, only a penny goes toward battling childhood cancer. Pharmaceutical companies fund about 60% of new drugs to treat adult cancers, but they rarely fund drugs for childhood cancers because they are not profitable. The lack of funding means there are few drugs being developed or approved for children. In the last 20 years, only one drug has been approved by the FDA to treat childhood cancer.

The best medical treatment doctors could offer would only give us a short amount of time with Sam: typically 9-12 months. We decided to spend it making memories with him and his twin sisters, Ada and Mae.

The turning point

Soon after the diagnosis, a friend started an online fundraising campaign to help our family take some special trips with Sam. The average gift was about $25, but these small acts of kindness added up in a big way. Through the generosity of family, friends, acquaintances and perfect strangers we were able to take 16 priceless trips with Sam and our girls, traveling more than 30,000 miles together.

We were so grateful and inspired to see this outpouring of support. And we were even more surprised to see the big impact even small donations could make. So we decided to use this discovery to make our mark in the fight against childhood cancer by creating With Purpose.”
Just to be clear, I am not stumping for funding for childhood cancer or anything else at this time. I simply wanted to give you a snapshot of a family who decided to say yes to Life and truly live and enjoy and be happy in the moment. This little boy, from the age of two, travelled with his parents and his baby sisters, on trips of a lifetime.

His lifetime.

They went on 16 trips and inspired countless people to give not just of their time and money but their hearts and souls as well. Their strength and joy was always – and still is – evident in the photos and stories posted on Facebook. Their pain and sorrow I didn’t know because I was a spectator and allowed to keep a distance.

Sam died earlier this year. He was five.

I did cry then because I am a mom and a grandmother and weeping and praying were all I could do to begin my own healing process and send love to Sam’s parents and sisters.

Erin shared a moment – one of the last she had with her little boy – in which she asked him what she could do, right then and there, to make him happy. He looked at her, “surprised (she) had asked and said, ‘I am happy, Mom.’”

Which is, of course, that Moral Of The Story I was talking about.

It’s what I aspire to. What I wish for all of us.

To live in the moment, loving ourselves and those around us. This is how Sam (and Erin and Michael and Marlys and Ada and Mae) inspired me.

So, yes. I say yes. I am.

Happy.

#I am happy. Sam Lee

I am happy.

If you are so inspired, I invite you to check out the With Purpose Facebook page.

 

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There Were Moments

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I have, over the years, written about the women, my own mother in particular, who have inspired me. This time, as I contemplate the stages of life my children occupy presently, I’d like to write about the people who made me a mom.

Pure indulgence, maybe – well, I guess a little. Fine. Total and complete indulgence because they’re growing up and if I don’t discuss it a little I might cry…..  I’ll get emotional…..  I will break down and throw a sobbing fit requiring valium and time in an ashram – or a padded room – whichever is easier to reach.

Kimmy and Loran are graduating from college.

Nothing to cry about there.

Kimmy “retired” last Saturday night, after 11 and a half years working as hostess/expo/server/bartender/manager at the Taco Shack. Through the money she earned there she supported herself, bought cars, travelled to some magnificent places and put herself through school, up to and including a Master’s program at one of the best universities in the country.

Loran, likewise, has occupied space in all of the above categories and has put herself through school – she graduates next week with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education – and supports herself and the light of all our lives, Kache Monkey Head. She will soon move on from the Taco Shack, leaving space and memories behind the bar where I’m not sure I’ll be able to sit for a Margarita or Corona again, because in spite of all the country songs about it, I don’t think crying in your beer is something anyone wants to see.

Maybe when Olivia (she’s a server now) becomes a bartender I’ll be able to drink publicly again. Until said time, I’ll do my drinking out of a vat with a straw at home because I’m old, shriveled up and my kids have all left me…….. Well, except for Liv and Bran. But damned if they’re not on their way.

I figure I’ve got another couple of years till the bookends are on their own. What then?

Mark and I are looking at mini motor homes. More on that later……..

People have asked me, over the years, questions about what it’s like to have a lot of kids.

First, let’s establish that we are not 19 Kids and Counting. I won’t begin to fathom what the hell is in the minds of the parents in that family. It’s not my business, which doesn’t always matter, of course, but I’m not here to judge anyone…….. Don’t you wonder, however, if those two people even know all their children on more than a Hey, how’s it goin’ basis? I mean, kids are such individuals. And I don’t know if it’s only my little tribe, but they each have several, separate and distinct personalities. You know, just like their father. As a parent, it’s a challenge to know and be open to more than one child. Five was definitely pushing the envelope. 19? The very idea makes me want to lay down and take a nap. If I was Mrs. Duggar, I’m sure I’d be pregnant by the time I got up.

I don’t feel too bad slinging big family jokes. I was certainly on the receiving end of many. For the record (pretty sure I’ve said this before), yes, I know what causes it, yes, I know how to prevent it (or we would be the Duggars) and yes, we meant to have this many kids.

Kimberly asked me not too long ago if I was ever overwhelmed by her and her siblings while they were growing up. In the moment I said no, but it made me think.

The answer is still no.

There were certainly moments. Do I really have to make macaroni and cheese again, moments. Oh my God, school is out for the summer next week, moments. The health scares. Matthew’s near drowning. Brandon’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. The letting go moments. Everything from watching them walk away on their first day of Kindergarten to knowing I couldn’t save them from disappointment and the deepest kinds of pain – to Matthew’s move to Colorado earlier this year and Kimmy’s impending move to California.

The only thing that ever overwhelmed me, honestly, was and is joyous gratitude to whatever Divine Universal Spirit exists that allows me to be the mother of five such unique and amazing individuals.

My father used to bore his friends and really, anyone who would listen, talking about the love and pride he had in my brother Micah and me. My friends (children of his friends) would tell me how it drove them nuts to be privy to any of these conversations. They always said it with a smile – not because they thought my dad was so right about us – but that Dad said it and meant it. It was that he loved us so much and couldn’t help but express that love.

I totally understand how Dad felt. I would extol the virtues of my children to the moon and back – discussing it with anyone who would sit still long enough – because I am captivated by them and have been from the moment I met each one. There are not enough gig-a-whatevers in the world to contain the only thing that ever truly overwhelms me – my love for the family my darling Mark and I were blessed to have created.

I’m contemplating a very different kind of motherhood this Mother’s Day, as my children grow and move on. I’m here for them. I pray for them. I support them in all aspects of their lives. Just like always. It’s from the stands now, though. More of a spectator sport – not that I am afraid to be vocal if the need arrives – but I’m no longer the driver for them. The change was gradual and it started, literally, the moment each was born.

Moments.

Yes, Kimmy…. and Brandon and Loran and Matthew and Olivia……. you have each given me so many amazing moments. I would not trade a single one.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Happy Senior Year, Munchkin-Honey-Bear

Olivia starts her Senior year on Wednesday.  I don’t know how to handle that as I’m not yet over the fact that she left me to go to Kindergarten.

As my youngest child enters her last year as an official schoolgirl, I want to mark the occasion by attempting to make everyone else cry as hard as, 1.) I did on her first day of school, 2.) I will when she leaves the house Wednesday morning and, 3.) I will on God only knows how many subsequent mornings/afternoons/evenings/sleepless nights in the coming year.

I wrote the following poem for an assignment in a writing class I was taking when my five-year-old abandoned me.  I showed it to her a year or so ago, thinking it would, you know, like, really move her.

Yeah, no.

It was something like, “awww, sweet Mom.”

First she deserts me, then she learns the art of condescension…….

My throat tightens after the first line.  I remember all the first days of each kid vividly.  Half way through, tears are streaming and by the time I hit the part about how short a time I had when my children were really mine, it’s full on heart wrenching sobs.

I wish the same for all three of you who read this.

I wish the same for my Olivia, for all my children, someday.

To my darling girl, Happy Senior Year, Munchkin!

In Livi’s Eyes

 In Livi’s eyes I see them all

as they took their Kindergarten steps away from me.

Brandon laughed his excitement, that first day.

Kimmy bounced hers.

Loran’s solemn little face, the only one to cry

when I left, tore my heart.

Matty, “Mr. Cool.”

Charmed the faculty

before first bell.

Now Olivia.

We take the last few steps

toward the end of her baby years,

and I cling.

Like a drowning woman to a life preserver

am I

To her hand.

I feel her smile, but stare straight ahead,

lest I dissolve,

folding in upon myself.

Freedom calls me outside the classroom door.

The many things I long to accomplish still,

whisper my name.

Choked by a grieving loneliness,

I am deaf.

My eyes hold fast to my youngest child.

She runs to join new friends,

while around her dance the shadows

of her sisters and brothers.

Of my memories.

She turns to blow me a kiss

and it floats on the wind, filling the space between us

with a sweetness only a mother knows.

They were mine for such a short while.

I swallow hard and meet my daughter’s gaze

locking this moment forever in my heart.

It’s safely kept.

I’ve seen Heaven.

In Livi’s eyes.

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