Category Archives: compassion

Heaven Sent

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Heaven Sent

I used to visit her on Tuesday mornings. I would make a cup of tea and fill up the pan with warm soapy water. Kelly would soak her feet a few minutes and we would chat about whatever caught our interest that day. Sipping tea, chatting like old friends though we didn’t know each other that long.

She created a Facebook page for people with cancer so they could pass along items they no longer needed – wigs, walkers, canes, commodes, anything. Kelly wanted to help anyone in need, she was keenly aware that there were many people in need. We also talked about her children – a daughter and two sons. The daughter was married, her youngest son was in middle school, the same age as my boy.

After about 10 minutes I would take one foot out and pat it dry. Then I would give her a pedicure, she always liked a good pedi. It isn’t something I excel at but that’s what she wanted, so I fumbled my way through. She was always grateful for my attempt, a genuine smile on her face. We did this for months before I left for vacation.

That summer my family spent 3 glorious weeks in Italy. Exploring as much as we could – Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Lucca, Orvieto and Rome. My husband speaks fluent Italian and he got us some great rental properties to stay in. It was my all time favorite vacation. It was magical, the four of us in a place of beauty, enriched in history and the food, my God what a time we had.

When I got back home I was preparing to jump back into my schedule when I heard the news. Kelly had passed away just a few weeks after her 48th birthday. Today her birthday came up in my Facebook feed, she would have been 51 today. I turn 51 next week.

I think of her youngest son often. I didn’t know her that well, I was just a hospice volunteer that would visit once a week, make her tea and paint her toes. Sometimes I wonder why life is so hard for some people and seemingly so easy for others. Why did I get to go to Italy while she perished?

Life doesn’t make sense, there is nothing fair about it. So today Kelly reminded me how precious life is and how fleeting and unpredictable it can be…I feel like she would have wanted me to share that message, so I am. Happy Birthday in heaven Kelly.

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White Tower View

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White Tower View

When I was a teenager I spent several months living in an all female group home. The ages ranged from 15 to 65 and anyone that was within childbearing age was taken to the gynecologist and put on birth control. It was explained as a way to keep everyone on a regular cycle and minimize mood swings. I didn’t fight it and went on the pill like most of the other residents.

For the next fifteen years I took birth control pills, the lowest dose at the time (ON777). My menstrual cycle was consistent, nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Not painful like some of my friends and the pills didn’t seem to cause any side effects. When I became sexually active, I was grateful for their effectiveness. I went to Planned Parenthood for my annual exam and purchased my birth control pills through them at a discount until my late 20s.

I never had a bad experience. The place was clean, staff was professional and no one shouted “whore” as I made my way into the clinic. Never once did anyone try to sell me on an abortion, I never needed one thanks to those little pills. I had access to effective healthcare, physical and financial accessibility, without which, I could have had a different outcome.

When I got to my early 30s I was starting to get concerned about the long term effects of birth control pills. I decided to give my body a break and go off of them. I discussed this with my long term boyfriend. By this time I had a good job and I owned my own home. My guy was doing well and we were in love, 5 years into our relationship. We were pretty relaxed about the possibility of becoming pregnant and let the universe guide us. We eventually got pregnant….I say we because I don’t know any female that has gotten pregnant on her own (an immaculate conception is pretty rare). We decided it would be a good time to get married and have a kid.

We got married and the pregnancy was going well until 39 weeks in. I felt a dull ache behind my left knee. Turns out I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which can become fatal if a blood clot breaks away and goes to your heart/lungs/brain, scary stuff. I was fortunate to be within 3 miles of a trauma center hospital. A retractable filter was inserted through my jugular vein and was placed below my heart and lungs to break up any potential killer clots. The fact that I’m typing this lets you know it worked.

It turned into a fairly dramatic birth including me being induced, 5 hours of pushing and a sideways baby that wasn’t budging (I’m happy to say he’s become much more compliant since then). Eventually it was determined that I needed to have a cesarean section. Two weeks later, the retractable filter was removed and I was put on blood thinners for 6 months. I had all kinds of terrible reactions to the medication which caused me to have numerous tests for Lupus, MS and enough blood draws to satiate an army of vampires. It was rough and we didn’t plan to have another child.

Because of the blood clot issue I could not go on BC pills or have any kind of hormone based birth control. IUDs freaked me out, I heard too many horror stories. So our options were a diaphragm, condoms or pull out. We failed at those options and I got pregnant soon after our son’s first birthday. When I told my husband I was pregnant he said – “congratulations, are you sure you want to go through with this?”

It was a fair question given the unexpected complications of my first pregnancy. My husband was traveling internationally on a frequent basis. Most of my pregnancy would be spent with a toddler and no local family, just a handful of friends that I made in the 6 months since we moved. I didn’t hesitate though, I wanted to go through with the pregnancy.

My gyno had become very close with me since the birth of my son. The kind of closeness that comes from a near death experience. I could see the concern on her sweet face when I went in to see her to have the pregnancy confirmed. She contacted the hematologist and gave me the name of a good perinatologist, I was going to be closely monitored.

I did the best I could to not focus on what could happen. My biggest fear was driving or being alone in the house with my son and having a pulmonary embolism or a brain aneurysm, these were not far fetched concerns. I kept thinking of Steel Magnolias when  Shelby dies while making dinner with her young son crying next to her body. The possibility was a shadow throughout my pregnancy.

Six and a half months into the pregnancy I felt that familiar dull ache behind my knee again. I called my gyno she asked me to meet her at the hospital.  Sure enough I had a clot, not a monster DVT like the first time, but a clot which could have been fatal to me or my baby girl. I was put on a heparin drip and remained inpatient for a week. When I was sent home I was given medicine that I needed to inject into my pregnant belly twice a day for the remainder of my pregnancy.

My gyno and my hematologist were getting twitchy. I could see fear in their eyes with every interaction, I was a ticking time bomb. I told my gyno that I wanted a tubal ligation after the baby was born and I could hear her exhale as she expressed gratitude over my choice. To be clear, my husband was also onboard with that and he respected the fact that ultimately it was my decision.

This time I had a planned cesarean and the now familiar retractable filter was inserted just prior to that. They decided to do a c-section at 35w6d and I got my tubal ligation immediately after. Two weeks later the retractable filter was removed followed by a year of blood thinners and more blood draws, so many blood draws. I went to a blood clinic at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey to see if there was a genetic reason for my issue. After more tests and many more blood samples it was determined to be pregnancy related and having no plans for further pregnancies, I was released from care.

I was fortunate to have two healthy babies, now teenagers. I had a caring partner with both pregnancies. I had assistance with child care when I had to go to the hospital. I had good health insurance. I had a vehicle to get myself to the necessary appointments. I had money to pay for gas, pay for a sitter, pay co-payments, I had a network of support. I also lived within reasonable proximity to excellent reproductive healthcare.

What if I couldn’t get birth control as a young woman? What if there was no clinic, no sliding-scale fee, no access? What if I was a woman of color? Would my seemingly minor medical complaints have been taken seriously? Would that dull ache get the attention it deserved? Or would I just be another sad anonymous number in a case study?

I understand how the pro-life movement can seem like the high moral ground when you are looking down from an ivory tower. You can’t see deep enough into the brush to see what is happening there so it simply blends into the background, it’s just scenery. I would ask you to take those long steps down and see what is happening outside of your limited view.

Have you ever gone with a 15 year old girl who was getting an abortion? I have, it was devastating. She made a mistake, she was so scared, just 15. I held her and cared for her and listened to her when she told me about the recurring nightmares of her unborn child. This was not an easy decision, she was gutted.

Have you ever seen the bruises of domestic violence on a pregnant woman? I have and I wanted to kill the guy. I threw a baby shower for a dear friend when we were both 20. She married her long term asshole of a boyfriend when she got pregnant. Fun fact – domestic violence often escalates during pregnancy. She got changed in front of me and her chest was covered in bruises. She and her baby eventually got out of that situation, it took a long time.

Have you known anyone who had a late term abortion? I knew someone who had a late term abortion. It was heartbreaking. A co-worker of mine found out that her fetus died in utero in her third trimester. She was given the choice to abort or wait for her body to naturally go into labor and deliver a stillborn baby. Can you imagine living with that trauma?

Do you know any females that have been raped in a manner which could have resulted in an unwanted pregnancy? I expect every hand to be raised at this one. Has the #MeToo movement taught us anything? Sexual violence and molestation is rampant – at work, in the military, college campuses, church, school, pretty much everywhere including home for some unfortunate victims. These women should go to jail if they abort an unwanted zygote? Should they be denied a morning after pill? What if the trauma has them so horrified that it takes them a few weeks to come to terms with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy? What if the victim is also beaten badly during the rape and is in a coma – does she get a f*cking pass then?

We all have strong feelings about this topic and I’m not trying to isolate anyone, truly I am not. I’ve seen some horrible stuff up close and in person. My own personal experiences and those of people close to me have helped to form my opinions and I’m sure the same is true for you. There is a lot of gray area for me and in the end I always circle back to individual choice. I can’t know the fine print details of each individual situation. I’m not a medical professional, psychologist or social worker. I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-choice.

 

 

 

Friend of the Family

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Friend of the Family

The other day I was assisting clients at the grocery store. We are a slow moving parade when we navigate the aisles. The shopping cart transforms into a makeshift walker for Rob while Laura has her permanent downward head tilt and a cane. This does not go unnoticed by the fellow shoppers or staff. Rob greets each store employee by name with a genuine smile, he’s the real deal. I reach for the items that are too high, too low or too far away. Then I get out the way so they can do what they can, I am mindful of their need to participate as much as possible.

Shopper: It’s so nice that you help them. Are they your parents?

Me: No, I’m a friend of the family.

Laura will refer to me as their driver or nurse depending on who asks (psst…I’m not their nurse or a nurse of any kind, this has been mentioned). Rob refers to me by my name.

That’s really how I see myself. Yes, I get paid to help but I am so much more than paid help. I am an advocate at doctor appointments, a reminder to take medication and I bring yummy meals. I represent freedom with the prolonged ability to live home independently.  I am contact with the outside world when the walls feel like they are closing in. I am a listener, a friend, a caregiver. I am the triage between family members. It is so much more than errands and tasks around the house, it is mutual respect, genuine concern and affection. I am indeed, a friend of the family.

Winter View

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Winter View

I can just barely make out her house from the window above my kitchen sink. Once the trees fill out for spring, I may just see a splash of color or a bit of rooftop. It’s a beautiful house, old and charming, lovingly decorated with authentic treasures and keepsakes. It isn’t large or small and there is nothing cookie cutter about it. Little nooks and crannies are filled with art and memories, photos line the hall going up to the main level. The kitchen is open with modern appliances that somehow work in this older space. There is an air of authenticity about the place. Ginger and Amber are two tiger striped cats and they fit right in.

I went to visit my neighbor today. It was the first time I had ever been inside her house. Years ago my kids and I stood in her driveway getting bags and reflective vests for a neighborhood roadside cleanup. Neighborhood sounds misleading, these houses are all independent of each other in construction and in life. This area is upscale and spread out sadly, I can only name a handful of my neighbors and we’ve lived here for ten years. This is not unusual as most people have busy lives that are headed in different directions.

Today’s visit was as a hospice volunteer, I relieved the caregiver so she could go food shopping. I’ve often wondered what that particular house looked like on the inside and now I know. Once again, I am reminded a lot of people have something difficult going on in their lives right now. Sometimes it’s an inconvenience or a wounded ego, other times it is facing an imminent final goodbye. I’m not sure if I will see my neighbor again. I am sure that I will think of her whenever I drive by her house and I’ll be reminded of what is truly important.

 

Grief Fog

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Grief Fog

Apparently there is a Mercury Retrograde phase right now which means we are all ripe for disaster my friends. Mercury is a bit of an asshole whilst in retrograde and this year March, July and November are on track to be awful. Here’s a link if you want your head to explode with all the retrogradey stuff….OHSHITMERCURYRETROGRADE

Mercury aside, I have been feeling all the feels today. You ever find yourself driving and suddenly realize you can’t remember the past 15 minutes? You’ve been on the road so many times that you slip into autopilot and you aren’t really aware of your surroundings. The past 10 months have felt like this for me. First my Father in-law got sick and passed away, then four months later I lost my own father. I’ve been in a grief fog ever since. Sure I do all the things that need to be done but I’m a muted version of myself.

During this process I haven’t been fully aware and in tune with the world including my small community. I know I’ve missed some important stuff and I haven’t been present in my usual capacity. Last night I found out that a local parent has been having chemo treatments for several months, I had no idea. Year ago me would have set up a Sign Up Genius and initiated a meal train, the current version of myself found out haphazardly in a group text. I’ve clearly been out of the loop bogged down in my own muck. I’d beat myself up about it a little more if I had the energy, I don’t.

Grief is a process, it isn’t a stage or a series of milestones that you pass and then it’s behind you. It becomes a part of you…sometimes it’s a tiny speck and sometimes it envelops you. If you are grieving, I hope you are patient with yourself…you deserve that.

 

 

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I Get To…

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I Get To…

Every so often the Gods of social media send a pearl of wisdom my way. This morning I was browsing Facebook when I saw a photo that caught my eye. The original post was from Kristen Hampton of WBTV Good News, it featured a handwritten sign which stated: I get to…

According to the original post, Kristen saw that note at a friend’s house. A friend who is currently undergoing chemo for what is described as an awful cancer. Kristen’s friend explained that “I get to” is a substitute for “I have to” and the simplicity and sheer gratitude of that suggestion is inspiring.

I get to is a gentle reminder that all of this is temporary. Whatever problems we have individually and collectively, it’s all so transient.  The kids we wait on will leave the nest (eventually), the aging parents we care for, they’ll also move on to a more permanent place, that boss you can’t stand likely won’t be in your life in five years and on it goes. The list of daily chores and obstacles can seem impossibly long and arduous. I get to is a beautiful, gentle reminder that this is all temporary, so enjoy the ride.

I get to recognizes that it is a gift to be able to tick off the list of things to do for ourselves and others. A reminder that we can control the narrative of our own inner voice.  It reminds us that we are fortunate to have the physical and mental capacity to do the things that need to be done. A suggestion that we have the ability to choose a more positive frame of mind, one grounded in gratitude.

Teacher Appreciation

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Teacher Appreciation

Hi Friends,

I submitted this essay for consideration for an anthology. It got rejected 😦 in the nicest possible way. To be fair, they did request that actual teachers submit so there’s that. Names have been changed to protect the guilty, hope you like it.

Bryce

Teacher Appreciation

I’m not a teacher nor do I play one on TV. I’m a parent of two humans, one dog, a crested gecko and carnival goldfish. Raising humans has caused me to interact with the people that are brave and kind enough to become teachers.

My first introduction to teachers as a parent was preschool which both of my kids entered at age 2 ½. I was a sleep deprived, mentally exhausted stay at home mom and I couldn’t wait to get my kids out of the house for three hours, four days a week. It felt like time off for good behavior (not that I’m personally familiar with that). I practically ran across the parking lot in my haste to get to the gym and unload the dishwasher undisturbed, (inhales deep) aaaaah, the sweet scent of freedom.

I have so much fondness for those early days of learning and structured play. Miss Colleen, Miss Cheryl, two Miss Beths and Ms. Tami, they saved my sanity and laid down the first layer of bricks, which began the educational foundation for my children. Before you can say, “pass the Capri Sun” that phase is over and you register your kid for Kindergarten.

When my oldest started Kindergarten I entered the “Zealot Phase” of parenting. I took everything way too seriously and thought that the school would improve greatly if they just followed some of my suggestions. The fact that I have no experience as a public educator did not deter me from speaking my mind (often & to anyone that would listen, mostly other neurotic moms).

My first issue was class size. There were 25 kids assigned to my son’s Kindergarten class. I lost my ever lovin’ mind. I spoke out about it at school board meetings and wrote letters, so many letters. Then I found out my son’s teacher was pregnant and would go on maternity leave mid year (Oh FFS are you kidding). At one point there were rumors of the beloved elementary school shutting down and I went full on crazy and started a petition on Change.org (Oh yes I did). I may or may not have been interviewed by the local press.

When my daughter went to Kindergarten the following year, I was panicked when I received a call from her teacher. My first thought was, well here’s where it all goes of the rails, what did she do, turns out I was selected to be Class Mom. I got to spend a good amount of time in the classroom and on school trips. Mrs. G was a tough teacher but she was also kind.

There is something so beautiful and miraculous about watching children learn to read. Some of my daughter’s classmates were ESL students; their parents couldn’t read English. By the end of that school year, each one of those kids was ready to enter first grade as a proficient reader. Mrs. G did that for thousands of kids over the course of her teaching career. What a positive impact to have on the world.

There was another standout teacher in elementary school, Mr. M, he taught first grade. He was the rock star teacher that parents prayed their kids would get. My friend Tina’s son had him and the following year my daughter landed in his class. He was worth the hype and then some. Unfortunately, Tina had cancer and the prognosis was grim. She hired Mr. M to tutor her son, Rob, who did not need any extra help. It was clear she wanted to continue the bond between Mr. M and Rob. It worked, after she passed away, Mr. M remained a close friend to the family.

I feel that I must pause here a moment to reflect on Tina’s passing. She had two children, a daughter, Cathy, who was in high school and Rob, who was in 5th grade when she died. It was of course excruciating for everyone. There was a memorial gathering for Tina in her family’s home. Half the district teachers were there as well as some of the school principals.

Mr. O was Rob’s teacher that year and my son was in the same class. He honored the family’s request to not approach the subject of death unless Rob brought it up. Instead, Mr. O hosted small lunches with Rob and a few of his close friends. He kept tabs on Rob to make sure he was OK while respecting his space. A year and a half after Tina passed, her daughter graduated high school as Valedictorian. No doubt the teachers and staff that were within their orbit helped to get the family through the most difficult of times.

My son always did well academically in school. Socially things started to get tricky in middle school. He took a lot of heat for being a JETS fan in EAGLES territory. One time he made a bet with his 6th grade science teacher. Whichever team lost, the losing fan would have to wear the opposing team jersey. The JETS managed to pull off a win and Mrs. H wore the JETS jersey as promised. She texted me a picture of herself wearing it standing next to my son, who had a huge grin on his face. It was an act of kindness that meant the world to me. I knew then that my son had someone looking out for him. She saw beyond the honor roll student, she saw a quiet kid who needed to be a part of the social fabric.

After my brief zealot phase when the kids started public school, I decided to show my appreciation and volunteer. I became the parent that signed up for every volunteer post known to mankind. Several years ago the State of Pennsylvania made it a total pain in the ass to donate your time. Here’s a checklist for people that volunteer in PA schools:

  • Criminal History Request
  • Child Abuse Clearance
  • FBI Fingerprints
  • School Personnel Health Record – TB test & physical for those volunteering 10 or more hours a week
  • Arrest/Conviction Report & Certification
  • Blood of a Unicorn

Only one of those is false. Those that go through the trouble to get their clearances are rewarded with being able to plan class parties, facilitate school clubs, attend field trips and chaperone dances. I had a pretty good run of it up through middle school, which is when your kids start to get embarrassed and don’t want to see you anymore (sigh).

Field trips are the best way to acquire some teacher appreciation. I’ve been on quite a few; apple orchard, pumpkin farm, minor league baseball games, museums, a walking tour of Philadelphia and the Renaissance Faire. I’ve done many of the trips two consecutive years because my kids are one grade apart.

Nothing puts fear in you like being responsible for five kids off the leash in Philly. I chaperoned my daughter and four of her friends a couple of years ago on a scavenger hunt of historical artifacts. Participants were encouraged to use their cellphones to take selfies in front of historical landmarks. We were on track the first hour until they saw a Starbucks then thoughts of Betsy Ross were replaced by cravings for Butterbeer Frappuccino.

The Renaissance Faire makes the Philly field trip seem like kittens and rainbows. You have to meet at the school and get on the bus at 6:50am for a two-hour drive to CrAzY Town. Once we arrived, chaperones were told that students weren’t allowed to purchase weapons, that’s a clue that you may be in for a rough day.

Once again you get a group of students to chaperone basically, someone else’s kids that you have to keep alive and not lose for several hours. Not an easy task when you have to mind five 13 year old boys in a place which is overrun with sharp objects; hatchet throwing, knife throwing, archery and the obligatory joust. I had to pry one kid away from a stand that let you throw glass bottles against a wall for an exorbitant amount of money. I plan to open a booth like that in my basement, college tuition is just around the corner.

This is one place where you definitely want to pack a lunch or you will spend a small fortune on a dried out turkey leg which, you will need to wash down with some bee-magnet cider. Everyone that works at the faire is in character and they make the Philly Revolutionary War reenactors seem mainstream. This is a 14-hour day and it is intense.

I’m physically and mentally exhausted after these trips and it makes me truly appreciate teachers. I get to go home after these events, maybe warm up some leftovers and call it a day. The teachers go home to their own family situations and whatever work they need to catch up on because they were out of the classroom all day.

I don’t interact with teachers as much as I used to, my kids are in high school. I see them from time to time at back to school night or the occasional school event. I do see the groundskeeper, Mr. D, monitoring car line which, is a hot mess every morning.

Last year after the Parkland shooting, I paused when I saw Mr. D standing by the cones at his post. It was the first day back at school after that dreadful day and like most parents in America, I was nervous about sending my kids to school. I wondered if Mr. D would take a bullet for my kids, notice a threat, sound the alarm in time. The next instant I felt guilty because he didn’t sign up for combat duty and he has two kids of his own.

America, we are asking too much of our teachers and giving far too little in return. Teachers went into their profession with a curious mind and a full heart, excited to share their passion and help our children learn. Now they are confined to teaching to standardized tests and worrying if they will cross paths with an active shooter and become a human shield.

I have a deep appreciation for everything educators do for our children. Thank you teachers everywhere for being on the front lines of learning, for noticing the shy kids, for quietly purchasing a book for the broke kid at the book fair, for knowing when to apply pressure and when to back off for each student. I know there are times when you sacrifice being there for your own children so you can care of mine. I see you and I appreciate you.

Welcome Aboard!

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Welcome Aboard!

Hey there blogging friends, there has been a recent uptick in followers here lately and I have no idea why. The newbies could be Russian bots, marketing peeps or spies for Jeff Bezos, complete mystery. For the authentic, in the flesh real people, hello and welcome aboard. Thanks for joining this weird ride of mine. Here’s a snapshot into my life via a description of yesterday’s events so you have an idea of what you’re in for, buckle up.

Nut Butter Log – Thursday

OH FFS there is another school delay! The sleeping in bit is great until it derails the remainder of your day. I needed to be in three places at 9:30am – 1) Work 2) Shoveling my mother’s driveway 3)Driving kids to school. The kids still come first around here followed by mom and then the clients. Calls were made and expectations were appropriately lowered, what I refer to as adjusting the sails.

Getting middle school and high school kids to school on time has a set of variables that I didn’t really anticipate when they were little. I thought preschoolers were a tough bunch – lack of focus, poor bowel movement control and a struggle to tie shoes, sometimes I long for those days. I can’t get into specifics because teens have very intense rules about what can and can’t be posted…let’s just say that some mornings it feels like I am walking a tight rope over lava…in a wind storm.

I dropped my son off first then offered to take my daughter to Wawa for some snacks because she had ski club after school. She was very happy about that (parents of littles – food bribes still work in middle school). We were driving out of the busy parking lot with no expletives and zero honking which, is a minor miracle because that place is the stuff of nightmares. Then it happened, a massive hot chocolate spill directly into my daughter’s crotch.

DD: Mom! Oh no, look!! I look like I peed myself.

Me: You smell good though…you went with the S’mores variety didn’t you (exaggerated sniff)…now that is the smell of summer in February.

DD: Oh My God! I can’t go to school like this.

Me: Nope, you can’t. I’ll take you home (smirking). You can go to work with me. Rob & Laura would love you. (They’re in their 90s)

DD: MOOOOOOOOM.

Me: Relax honey, just think about which pants you will change into and be super fast when we get home. Sometimes the universe sends us a sign to not take ourselves too seriously. We will now refer to this as “The Great Hot Cocoa Incident of 2019”.

DD: I’m sorry you’ll be even later for work. (Side eye and a smirk, she has perfected both)

After I got my daughter to school, I was on my way to my mother’s house to drop off the milk which, I forgot to drop off at 8:30 when I shoveled out her car and walkways. I got to my clients house an hour later then scheduled and then shoveled out their car, driveway and walkway. Lots of shoveling which was good since the gym got sidelined with the delayed opening.

I have a small business which fills in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. Many of my clients are elderly and need assistance with errands, household chores and rides to the doctor. Rob and Laura are clients that I visit twice a week and I adore them. They’re both in their 90s and have some mobility issues. Yesterday our errands included two grocery stores, a diner, the butcher and the post office.

The first grocery store was a hive of activity. Our slow moving somewhat decrepit parade was getting passed by like fighter jets buzzing the tower. I had to suppress the urge to stand in the center of each aisle and assume the starfish stance in an effort to create a safe zone for my clients. Shopping with them is always interesting, they bring a list which is organized by aisle. Things were going well until we got to the beans. Butter beans and Lima beans were both MIA. I can’t really tell the difference between the two but Rob can and he has a recipe that doesn’t allow for bean substitutes. This necessitated a trip to a second food store.

I offered to do the bean run into the second store and have my clients wait in the car. They obliged and I soon found myself in another aisle of beans stumped by the options. There were Butter beans (yes!)..then there were two types Lima beans. One can advertised “Butter Beans, Lima Beans in Sauce” they were white and looked suspiciously like the plain butter beans. The other can of Lima beans were the familiar detested green Limas of my youth. This was a bit of a dilemma, which Limas should I get? When I was putting myself through college, working full time busting my ass, I never imagined this would be my breaking point. In my mind I could hear the overhead store announcement,  “Existential life crisis brought on by beans, aisle 15”.

I could not consult my nonagenarian friends (I went to college so I could use that word), they don’t text so, I made an executive decision and put those nasty green Limas back on the shelf. I found out later that I made the wrong choice because of course I did! I was blinded by my longstanding hatred of green Lima beans. You never know when a food you hated in your childhood will come back and bite you on the ass. Yesterday the green Lima beans did just that, the bastards.

After the beans were tucked into the car I asked my clients where to next – those party animals wanted to go to the diner. I guess they rested up while I was having a mental breakdown over beans and they were hungry. I was hungry too in fact, I treated myself to an Almond Joy while I was checking out with the beans. I had to cleanse the putrid memory of green Lima beans with something equally powerful from my childhood palate.

The diner we went to is their version of Cheers, everyone knows their name here. I walked in the middle of our slow moving parade with Rob in front and Laura behind me. This is a typical conversation:

Me: Rob we have the table in the back corner. Remember if you fall, fall backwards, I’ll catch you.

Rob: (Grunts) It’s crowded.

Me: Yup, we’re threading the needle here, threading the needle, almost there.

When we get to the table I ask them each where they want to sit. Then I sit, taking a mental note of where the canes are resting so, they don’t become tripping hazards for the waitress.

Laura: I love Ann (the waitress), she seems like an interesting person. I wish I knew her better. Check out her feet when you get a chance.

Sure enough Ann is sporting some bold striped socks. Laura knows this because at 92, her head is in a permanent downward tilt. At the first grocery store I saw a dime on the floor which I quickly stepped on to hide from her view. I didn’t want her to bend down and pick it up. Not on my watch Laura, the activity of bending down to pick something up can be a game changer at her age.

After lunch Rob wanted me to stop at the butcher to buy bacon. The store is a throwback to what I can only assume would be 1957. This is one of Rob’s happy places and I marveled at the number of deer heads on the wall (7 and one was wearing an Eagles hat). One more stop at the post office to clear their box and we were back at their house. I helped put groceries away and noticed that there was another pound of bacon in the meat drawer. I informed Rob that he has a significant bacon supply and then remind him we are going to see his Cardiologist next week, we both chuckle at that.

When I get in my car to leave my clients, I get a text from my husband that a family friend is sick and we may need to watch their twins (6 years old). I text the twins mom and offer to help.  She takes me up on it because I’m the friend you call when sh*t goes sideways. I won’t hold your hair back if you’re drunk in a club vomiting into a public toilet but I will drive you home, my friends know this.

Once again I found myself in the position of needing to be in two places at once – picking up my son who stayed after school for robotics and fetching the twins off the bus. I texted my son to hasten his pace and broke several traffic laws to get to the bus on time. For the next 5 1/2 hours I had twins who are equal parts adorable and exhausting. At 9pm I took them home and at 9:30 I picked my daughter up from ski club. Within an hour, I was falling asleep in bed sitting up not watching the news.

Like so many of us, child-rearing competes with caring for aging parents, self-care, and running a household while managing a job.  I’d say this is what it’s like to be the meat in the middle of a generation sandwich but nut butter seems more appropriate. Thanks for visiting :).

 

Making Space for Forgiveness

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Making Space for Forgiveness

I told her it was OK as my mother sobbed on my shoulder. I turned out fine, my life is far better than anything I could have dreamed. I told her that I forgave her and I understood that she just did what she had been taught, modeled patriarchal behavior. The same shit that her parents did that tore her down. Now she feels regret for repeating those awful behaviors.

Women are so eager to take on the blame. She’s crying over the bad wiring in her brain. The structure and synapses which were created by her own traumas, one by one, they formed a new way of thinking; alcoholism, rationalization, self-preservation, victim-hood, depression and decades of regret, at 73 the guilt is smacking her in the face, hard.

It’s sad and predictable, I remain calm and reassuring, while simultaneously hoping I can get home before the ice cream melts in my car. I know that sounds callous but I’ve been living with this drama my ENTIRE life. My head wanders in several directions: my recently deceased father and the damage he inflicted on all of us, groceries in the car, company coming over and being a witness to my mother dissolving in front of me, again. It’s almost too much to take but I’ve taken so much more than this when I was little.

She laments about her mental illness and the limitations it has caused. Her brilliant mind is her best worst enemy. She talks about her long ago marriage to my father and how brutal he was…he’s been dead less than 5 months. She begins to tell me about the rapes, the beatings, how awful he was and I don’t want the details. She holds the worst of it back and I am grateful for that. I already know too many terrible things about my parents, I don’t need more. I do ask for clarification on a few things, the answers surprise me.

I asked her why she left me in Florida when I was 9 while she and my brother went back to New Jersey for a visit. She has a puzzled look on her face and says that I wanted to stay. I was 9 and calling the shots apparently, I stayed with friends that we barely knew for those two weeks. She asked me if anything bad happened during my weeks with Kay and her family. I tell her no, remembering that is when I started smoking and I kissed a boy for the first time. I don’t mention these things, she has enough on her mind. She didn’t want me to stay with Frank, her then live-in boyfriend. She asks me if Frank ever made a pass at me. He didn’t, I was never assaulted by any of her boyfriends which, in retrospect, is sadly miraculous.

Then she confessed one of her biggest regrets as I stood there. She regrets how she handled it when she found out that 16 year old me was in a relationship with a 32 year old man. A man who 6 months prior, had been my counselor. So predictable, the textbook definition of a vulnerable girl and a predatory male. She’s mad at herself for not lashing out at this man 34 years ago. Instead she gave me the anger and disgust because that is what she was taught. It’s the females fault, it always is, men are the way they are. It’s OK mom, you reacted the way you were taught, I forgive you. She seemed to calm down a bit and I told her I loved her and left to go home.

A few hours later, I’m in my kitchen making a damn good tomato sauce with sausage, eggplant and roasted garlic. I have the echo blasting 70’s music, I’m in my happy place. Then I have one of those ah-ha moments. My mother doesn’t hate me, she hates herself for all the ways she’s failed me. Somehow this awareness removes a burden and I have more space for forgiveness.

Pam

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Pam

Pam was one of my first clients, she reached out to me because she was recovering from an injury and needed some help. She was young somewhere around 60 and had a Chihuahua named Short Sale (Pam used to be in real estate and she had an incredible sense of humor). Short Sale needed to be walked twice a day along with other odds and ends like shopping, opening jars, rides to the doctor and anything else she needed. One time she wanted advice on a mouse infestation issue, I had to refer her to an exterminator. I have limits.

We became friends and the lines between work and friendship blurred. Pam had the charm of a Southern Belle and the wit of a seasoned New Yorker, she was one-of-a-kind. One day I came over to help out and she insisted that we watch The Devil Wears Prada. I am a fashion misfit so it made me realize how much she liked me to watch that with her. Perhaps she was trying to nudge some fashion sense into me, it didn’t take. Sorry Pam.

She really appreciated everything I did for her. In a generous act, she gifted me with 4 tickets to a football game. It was an Eagles game and they were playing the Carolina Panthers. Pam’s brother had an executive level job with the Panthers so the seats were in the visiting team box and included passes to get on the field.

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Short Sale sporting his love for the Carolina Panthers. The Jersey was a gift I got him that Christmas.

Pam was a little upset when I told her that I wasn’t going. My daughter and I weren’t into football so we wanted to pass our spots on to someone who would appreciate them. My husband and son went with another father/son duo who are close family friends.

Tragically the mother of my son’s friend passed away the prior year. I told Pam because I knew she wouldn’t be mad at me for giving my spot away to a kid who had been through so much. On the night of the game, I took Pam out to dinner along with my daughter. We had a great time.

A couple of days after the game, Pam was getting physical therapy at a local facility. Physical therapy takes place in an open room with other patients at different stations. Pam liked to talk (a lot) and she was telling Bill, her Physical Therapist, about the game. She went on to tell him how two of the tickets went to a boy and his father and how the mother passed away the prior year. She went through the whole sad tale. Wouldn’t you know it, Bob, the widower was also getting physical therapy and heard the entire conversation. He introduced himself to Pam, thanking her for the tickets. See I’m not the only one who does cringe-worthy things (I wonder if my cringe is contagious…).

Pam and I remained friends after my services were no longer needed and I was heartbroken when she died unexpectedly in 2017. I couldn’t make the memorial service because I was out of town on a family vacation. A dear friend went on my behalf. She said the crowds were spilling out of the local funeral parlor, every seat taken with many people standing.

The place was filled with equal parts tears and laughter. Funny Pam stories and heartbroken friends mingling with family. Her family and closest friends decided to give Pam’s costume jewelry away to the mourners. There were trays and trays of her prized collection on display for friends to take as a remembrance of Pam. My friend picked out a spectacular bracelet for my keepsake. We take it with us when we go on adventures together.

In July of 2017, my friend and I went to see PINK in concert on the beach in Atlantic City. Pam was supposed to join us. We made plans to attend the concert at prior outing (the one where Jam Man donated $3. of Pam’s change). Pam reserved the room because as she said, “I got the senior rate ‘cause I’m so old”. I purchased the concert tickets. The three of us were so excited for our girls road trip. Sadly Pam died 6 weeks before the show.

When it was time to go, the two of us packed up and went. We thought about giving the ticket away but decided to keep it. We took her bracelet everywhere on our adventure and turned Pam’s ticket in with our own.

Ticket taker: “3 tickets, there’s only two of you.”

SC: “Pam’s here, you just can’t see her.”

Now when I go somewhere I think Pam would enjoy, I take her bracelet with me.