Saturday, July 25, 2009

I took this past week "off" to rest. This meant that I did zero non-essential business items, did no thinking about business or homeschooling (except a teeny bit that came up at the end of the week), took naps liberally, and in general just chilled out around the house. Started reading A Breath of Snow and Ashes for perhaps the 3rd or 4th time, because the NEXT book in the Outlander series is coming in September, and I wanted to get caught up and reminded about where the story left off.

Today my husband and I were supposed to go out on a date, but honestly I was so tired and was also feeling a fresh wave of sadness and loss about my Gram, that I just didn't have it in me. Thankfully my hubby was ok with that. Instead of going out I took a fat nap, and then woke up to discover that we had plenty of garden items available to make a mighty nice dinner. We had corn, zucchini, green beans, and mashed potatoes all from our back yard, plus our own sunflowers in a vase on the table. I used my Gram's tablecloth, cloth napkins, and beautiful plates and serving pieces for the entire thing. It all looked gorgeous, and although I burst into tears no less than 4 times while making everything and setting things up, I also felt happy that I could be using and enjoying these things and sharing them with my family and a few guests that were with us tonite.

Now we're getting kids settled into bed and then my husband and I will be playing Racko and watching Life, season 1. (new series I discovered recently)

Interestingly, although cutting back on business doin's this week, there has been just a small amount of stuff to leave. I may take an hour or two on Monday to tackle loose ends, and then proceed to take another "week off" next week as well. I don't feel completely rested yet, and think that less work and more family time is just the thing for me these days. We'll be back to homeschooling soon, so I better get my snooze on while I have the chance.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Control is not the goal

Happily, Saturday brought a peaceful resolution to the schooling decisions for our oldest child's upcoming school year. It was important to me that my husband, son, and I, could all find a way to be unified in the choices being made. I was very happy to see that happen quite easily.

Today I got my Brave Writer newsletter and in it she had written about not needing to have "control" over family members, and I identified strongly with what she had to say, since I've been living it out for quite some time now.

Although it may take more work or be less convenient than families that run their homes like boot camp or with "benevolent dictatorships," I'm quite happy to continue to maintain a family where each person is respected, and their opinions about their own life get the appropriate weight. Family is forever, after all. Keeping the big picture in mind helps me stay focused on the right stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Very Tired

So I went to New York for my grandmother's funeral. It was a long drive there and back, and it was a tiring trip in just about every aspect of the word. I did enjoy a fun stop at a dear old friend's house where I attended my first-ever wine tasting party (still don't like wine....) and got to do some socializing and talking about the old days. )We have been friends for 26 years! How could I be old enough for that?!)

At my gram's former home I spent hours with other family members going through boxes and bags full of her things. The dust, mold, mildew, and moth balls were rather unpleasant, to say the least. But it was fun to come across treasures and memories every here and there, and to laugh and say "I remember when...."

I was blessed to be able to carry home just about every item that held sentimental value and particularly distinctive memories (for me) of my grandmother's house, and that is already a joy. Just about everything already has a place where it can be seen, used, and enjoyed often. We have already eaten off the plates, I wore a piece of my gram's jewelry tonite, a special blanket is wrapped around two of my little boys tonite, and several other items are on display and in use. (It was interesting to see how different items meant "Gram" to each of us. It seemed like everybody got the things that were important and meaningful to them, and somehow those things didn't really overlap, which was really cool. I have such a great extended family. Everybody was so sweet and kind to each other.)

It doesn't seem real that my gram is no longer with us. She has been such a strong presence in my life. I still know just how she looks and feels and smells, and she is very present with me in my mind. That is a wonderful thing, but also seems very sad and at odds with the loss of her.

I was able to speak at the funeral service, which was not easy, but I'm glad I did. As I've already shared here several times, knowing how many of the greatest loves of my gram's life came to her in her 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s is pretty inspiring to me. That's one of the main things I spoke about.

I've rarely known anyone as loved as my grandmother. She really did bring out the best in others. She was the best. I wish I could have done even more for her. But I know she knew she was loved and cherished, and that is worth a lot.

Since getting home I've been on the run. Orders to fill, customer service issues to deal with, interviews to conduct, and other business needs have been beckoning to me, while my children need me to lifeguard them at the pool and make some food and give them hugs and reassure them that Mommy is not going on any more trips anytime soon. I have had stuff I had to do every day since returning, and tomorrow am supposed to go to a wedding that I feel almost too tired to attend. I have a little boy with a birthday coming up Monday and I need to plan a party for him, which will probably be this Sunday. Nothing like planning a party 24 hours in advance, right? (sigh) My brother and sister also have birthdays this coming week, and I have no idea what to do for those. Once again the birthday curse befalls me! I wonder if a Lego set would do the trick for either of them, because that is what I still have to get for my 8 year old birthday boy. And don't forget groceries! We need those too, and I'm just the person to go out and hunt them down. (my husband would be happy to do it, but I don't know that my brain would even allow me to think through everything that I need to get in order to make a list for him. Staggering through the store, dropping things into the cart seems more likely...)

We are also having some upheaval about this year's homeschooling plans for one of the children, so there is all of THAT to wade through, trying to evaluate and consider all of the angles even though the timing doesn't seem good for it. There is a time-sensitive issue that is forcing this on us, but the good news is that if I can get through it this weekend, it should (hopefully) be put to rest by Monday. Please, Lord, let it be so. It would be helpful if all parties involved could be in agreement about the best decision. (prayers appreciated)

A close family friend of ours that was with my sister and the rest of us for the funeral and days before and after has had a tragedy in her family. Her sister was in a terrible car accident just the other day. This 18 year old girl was merely slowing to turn into her own driveway when rear-ended by an SUV. She is now in very serious condition and it is quite concerning all the way around. If you think of it, please pray for Kayla and her family.

So many things both big and small, important and urgent to fill my mind and my time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Maternal Guilt: Inevitable

I've never had trouble feeling guilty when doing things that I felt were important to do for my children, but taking care of myself even when they want me not to sure does cause me some difficulty.

Today my 11 year old came to me tearfully to ask if he could accompany me to my grandmother's funeral. My husband and I had already made the decision for me to go alone for several reasons which include an out of state trip, not very good accommodations for our size family, my husband's work schedule, finances, my daughter's pet sitting gig which is ongoing during the time we'd need to be gone, and so on. In addition, in nearly 17 year of parenthood I've never gotten to visit with my mom, siblings, or extended family without my children around. Not that having my children around is a bad thing, but I have been looking forward to doing some visiting that is all adults and without me having to constantly be doing or thinking about doing for my children. Meals, clothing, sleeping arrangements, entertainment, supervision, etc. all take a lot of energy. I was already low on that, and grieving for my grandmother doesn't exactly energize me. Nor will a 13 hour drive to New York.

So it all makes sense. I'm going alone. The kids are staying home.

Except that I have a tearful little boy that loved his great grandmother and feels that he would like to attend the funeral.

And then I feel guilty. Perhaps I should be willing to do the extra work to give my kids this opportunity. Perhaps nothing should stand in the way of every family member making the journey to the funeral and participating. Perhaps I am too selfish to not want to have to play whack-a-mole at bedtime while trying to stay in my uncle's smallish home with 6 other people.

I could say yes to this one child. Except that there is no way that would be the end of it. Other children would want to come as well, and next thing you know I'd be on the road with the back seats full of squabbling children asking how long til we stop at Cracker Barrel. (ask me how I know. I took three kids with me to visit my grandmother in May. I'm glad they got to see her one last time, but it was an experience that left me saying, "Next time, No Way. I'm going alone."


In trying to explain to my husband that I just need a break, he says he understands, yet doesn't really seem to accept it. Once again I find myself wondering why it is that it is not automatically taken for granted that normal, healthy, decent, good, loving mothers and wives would also like some time off. When a single person or pair of childless yuppies wants to get away from their normal life that is seen as normal. When a mother wants to get away from her normal life, she is seen as "wanting to leave" her family. What the heck is up with that?

My husband actually said to me, "I'll try to figure out how to help you get some more breaks so you can get away from us."

Don't you just love the passive aggressive message embedded in there?!

(I will give credit where it is due: He called to apologize and said that he really did understand. I will try to believe him.)

It is crap like this that causes me to remember that it is no wonder that mothers suffer from depression, exhaustion, and similar ailments. So many messages tell us that once we are mothers we are on lock-down, no longer free to care for ourselves without a hefty price tag of guilt. It makes sense to me that I, like so many others, have gotten to the end of my rope at times. The whole thing turns into a warped scene where you can't get a break unless your life literally depends on it. (Hopefully your break won't need to be at Shady Acres. But it might.)

I have been thinking a lot over the past couple months about being a warrior as a mother. Fighting for what is best for my children, even when it is costly, frightening, and exhausting. I've done it. I do it. I will continue it.

For the past several days I have been looking toward my grandmother's funeral and have been thinking of needing to be a warrior to speak up and offer a tribute worthy of this amazing woman who has meant so much to me and our entire extended family. I may stand up there and cry like crazy, but I'm unwilling to let the opportunity go by.

Today I am thinking that at some point I have to be able to stand up with confidence and be a warrior on behalf of my own needs. Yes, it always has to be couched with wisdom and the realization that once you are married and a parent your life is never really your own any more. But I know that there have got to be ways for me to care for myself without having to get to the end of my rope. It will help me be a better version of myself, and better for everyone that is in my life.

And still I feel conflicted about saying no and driving away solo...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Great Love Still To Come!

Today as I was remembering so many things about my Gram, I had the thought that it is amazing to me to think that I have not yet have met some of the people that could love me the most in my life. Grandchildren are still a long way off for me, and I found it very exciting to think that more great loves will come my way in life.

Friday, July 03, 2009

My Mother, My Hero

My mom is an incredible woman for many more reasons that I am going to recount tonite. What I do want to say is that she has done an amazing job of caring for Gram in her home for the past several years.

It isn't easy to have other people in your home for an extended period of time. My mom has not only had her elderly mother's care to consider, but helpers to hire, fire, and deal with constantly, while running her own business and working full time besides, and then coming home at night to take over the care herself.

Elder care is a tough gig no matter what. Add in varied health problems, and a large side dish of dementia, and you've got a real challenge. My mom has handled a really tough situation so well. I am very proud of her.

It isn't always easy to do what we think is right or best. My mom has been committed to keeping Gram at home with her unless it became impossible. There has been a large cost financially, emotionally, physically, time-wise, personal-comfort-wise, and probably every other category you can think of. It has been a tough tour of duty. I understand it, though, because I would do the same for my mom or other loved ones as well. Some things in life require the warrior in us to show up and stay fighting for a long time.

I have been concerned about my mom for awhile now. Her schedule is beyond busy, and her stress load has been very high for a long time. I am praying that things will soon settle down for her and allow her to experience more peace and rest.

(photo of my mom and gram from a few years ago)

Tears, Memories, and Blessings

My Gram passed on during the night.

Thankfully my brother, who had been in China for a year, returned this week and was able to get to see her last night and be with her right to the end. He told me about it this morning when we talked on the phone. His care with her pain management, peaceful music, and his comforting presence make me certain that he did a wonderful job seeing her through to the other side.

My Gram was sick for a long time. There have been many times that I thought she would not live long. Every time I have spent time with my grandmother for the past many years I have been mindful that it could be the last time. I have been thankful for every visit, every phone call, every hug and kiss.

Several years ago Gram was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and we never knew if she would really know us any more when we could visit or call next. Yet she always did, which felt like a double blessing every single time. One more Christmas! One more birthday! Always a bonus to have a real visit with her.

My grandmother has been a constant presence in my life and has been very important to me and my family. Every one of my children has gotten to know her and have memories of her, which I think is really wonderful.

My grandmother's circle of love didn't have limits. If we had a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, or anyone else around they were embraced by her kindness. And if it was at our family Christmas Eve dinner, she would quickly stick some money in someone's hand and send them out to the closest store to get some gifts for our special guest to open, because she never wanted anyone to not be included in the festivities. :)

It is hard to imagine life without my grandmother. She has been a constant. And constantly loved.