Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Specifically Them

I sat on Ev's bed talking with her today and the talk was of everyday stuff really. How her day was, how she enjoyed her school's production of The Nutcracker, what songs she likes right now, what kid is irritating her on the bus, what homework she has due, if she is going to try out for the school soccer team....Her radio was on and as we talked she would bop around dancing a bit, singing along a bit, giggling and smiling big. As we talked, Liam would wander in and out of her room, bits of his after school chocolate muffin still smeared on his face and he would climb briefly on my lap to remind me not to forget that he needed help with his homework, or to tell me some little thing about his day.

I watched the both of them and it hit me. She is 12. He is 8. Time is flying by. It is slipping out of my hands like warm sands at the seaside. They are charging full speed ahead into the bright horizon and I am standing breathless in their wake. Sometimes when I look at them the babies and small children they were are merged seamlessly in my mind but, other times when I look at them, a divergence takes place and there is just the person they are now in front of me with the memory of the younger version tucked safely away in my heart.

I tell them both, all of the time, that when we went to China to bring them home, we didn't just go for any child. We went to China to get THEM. Specifically them. Yi Fu Mei and Dang Ao Zhuang. No other babies would have done. Those were the ones for us. I knew the minute I saw their faces.

                                                                    Ev's Referral Picture
                                                                 Liam's Referral Picture

As the years have passed, each day has proved that I was right. They were so right for us. I am so thankful to get the chance to be their Mama to watch them grow up, to have my heart broken a thousand times by that growing up and maturing. They are fabulous little people. They are both so kind and tenderhearted, bright and fun, they smile and sing, they laugh and tease, they just talk and talk and brighten up my days. They are all of the good in my life.

I watched them today and I realized how very lucky I am to have these two in my life. Each day I hope that I am the mother that they deserve. I want so very badly to stop time and keep them right where they are, to just have them all to myself for as long as I can, it seems so unfair that I had to miss so much at the start of their lives and now its all going so fast. However, I don't want to miss out on who they are becoming because if 12 and 8 are any indication, the rest is going to be pretty fabulous.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


And so we begin the difficult process of trying to figure out how to go about living on this Earth without this lady that we loved so much. I have written about her before, about how I grew up knowing that she was one of best friends, how she was my secret keeper, how close we were and through out my entire life, that never changed. How many people can say that about a Grandmother? I had two Grandmothers alive and well during my childhood and they were as different from each other in their care and attitudes for me as night is from day, so I know a little of what I speak. I know that it is rare to find a Grandmother who is so loving and caring and willing to love you body and soul, year after year through all of your mistakes and changes. 

Growing up, she lived right next door or just three doors down. I could always get to her. As I was older she lived for vast swaths of time right in my parent's home so she was just an intrinsic part of what I knew as "home". I can only recall one time in my whole life when she raised her voice to me and I can tell you this; I really deserved it. I had been misbehaving all day, intentionally and to drastic levels and the snapping point was when I his in a closet with my cousin Frankie and we broke open a container of Cottage Cheese and ate the whole thing with our bare hands, hands that were covered in filth and God only knows what from the yard we had been playing in. Then we had the crazy notion we were going to flounce out of the closet and show Grandma and my mom what we had done in a bratty fashion. That went over like a lead ballon. Other than that time, she usually guided me with a gentle voice and a soft touch or a word of wisdom placed at just the right time. 

She taught me many things in life. She taught me that cooking is the best way to show people that you love them, that pink is one of the best colors around, that a woman must never have rough elbows, that you must always out lotion on your hands to keep them soft, that a cast iron skillet is the best thing to cook on, that buttered crackers are high cuisine, and that it's always okay to laugh at yourself. She also taught me to be kind and to love God. She taught me to forgive. She taught me that life can be hard but it doesn't have to harden you. 

I was talking with my friend Teri earlier this week, she is one of my friends who is making sure to call and text to see if I'm okay and making it through this first week. (Jodi is another)And we were talking about how, if there are people out there who aren't close with their Grandparents there is just no way they could comprehend the amount of grief and suffering a Grandchild can feel at the loss of a beloved Grandma of Grandpa. I have worked as a nurse for a decade and witnessed many people shuffle off this mortal coil, it wasn't her actual death that has me bereaved. It is the absence of her presence in my days and all my days after that. I am not sure how to reconcile my heart to the idea that she is gone. 

I am very lucky in that, over the years I have been able to maintain my relationship with her. I am lucky that no one has ever tried to come between us. I am lucky that in her last days I was able to be there and I was able to help care for her. I feel incredibly privileged that my training as a nurse paid off and helped me ease some of her pain and suffering. She smiled at her loved ones up until her last moments. How many people do you know that you can say that about? That they will be or were smiling and laughing with loved ones and passing out love like it was a two for one special? But that is who she was. She never stopped loving or caring, not for a second for her entire life. That last week at my mom's house was busy and tiring and very surreal. I really did not have time to process much until I came back home. Then my grief settled in. Like a two ton stone sitting on my chest. The sadness comes in waves and washes over me. The dis-belief.  The frustration. But then I remember her smile. Her sweet voice. All of the love we shared and I can breathe a bit easier for a little while. 

So I say that she was my Grandma but there needs to be a new word invented for what she actually was to me. A bigger word, stuffed full of more love and meaning and friendship. She was practically my everything. I loved her so. One morning before she got very, very sick I was able to sit quietly talking with her over breakfast and tell her that I loved her and that she had been the best friend and Grandma that I could have ever hoped for. And we looked at each other and we smiled and we held hands. That was about the last private moment we had together. It was a great one. I loved you Imogene. You were my best Grandma.

Monday, July 4, 2016


Today my parents have been married for 44 years. I have been around for most of those years and I am here to tell you that they set the bar on marriage high, very high. It has been an absolute joy and blessing to grow up in a home where two people love and respect each other as these two do. I have never met two people more fitting to be together. She can ask where the "slanty edger" is, having never uttered that phrase in her entire life and he will immediately know that she is referring to the vacuum attachment that is slanted to vacuum along walls and know right where it is.  He can crack some eye rolling Jack Joke and she will giggle at it like it's the funniest thing she has ever heard (it probably is).  I remember being a little girl and never wanting to grow up and get married and leave them because the world they created around them for my sister and I was filled with so much love and understanding, I just could not imagine anything ever being as happy and wonderful but the nature of their love was to teach me how to recreate it in my adult life.  That has been the biggest blessing of being their child, the things they have taught me: the boundless love- how you can take a seed of that and spread it wherever you go, the respect you show to your children and how that makes them feel like they matter and how that is almost the absolute most important thing you will ever do for them, and the joy that comes from being able to be yourself with the people you love.
Here's to Nellie and Jake! 
44 and many more!!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

T-minus 18 Days

As many of you know, my husband is in the Coast Guard. Yes, the CG is a real branch of the military. Yes, it is just like all of the other branches except that we are mostly a domestic service, though there are still parts of the CG that can and do serve overseas. We get the same shitty pay, the same medical insurance, we get to get our lives interrupted by what the military lovingly terms "permanent changes of station"(meaning that we get to move every three to four years), my husband will sometimes have to leave us for weeks at a time for training or assignments.

While we are living here in Florida, my husband's duty is on an 87 Foot Patrol Boat. The guys have an area of responsibility that reaches from Fort Myers Beach, out into the Gulf and down into the Keys. The Boat goes out on Patrols that can take up to 24-48 hours or a week. While they are out, they are performing various jobs; checking for fishing violations, possible drug interdictions, they can be called on for search and rescue operations, and they search for illegal immigrants. I am very proud of my husband and the fact that we are a military family, don't ever doubt that, but it comes with a set of challenges, that's for sure.

Right now, my husband is gone with the boat. He will be home in 18 days. By the time he gets home, he will have been gone for 30 (this trip is a sort of one off and we don't expect there will be another trip this long again- while we are stationed here). Now, I know that he isn't in the Middle East. I know that some families have it much worse- trust me, I get that. At least I know he isn't being shot at and I only have to worry about that fickle mistress, the ocean, but its hard. HARD.

We had a rough night tonight, the kids and I. Some nights are just harder than others. It's about the halfway point of this long trip of Les' and my Dad just left today, so it was our first night alone again. Bedtime rolled around and Ev got her worried, tense look on her face but she refuses to talk or let me in right now. Liam came out of his bedroom with his Kindle, scrolling through his pictures of him and his Papa being silly together, telling me how much he missed his Papa. I have to tell you, I just sat there and cried. Then we all talked a bit and I had to tell them that it was okay that we all felt pretty sad and lonely and heartsick. Of course they wanted to know what "heartsick" meant and we talked about that for a bit, I think that helped. We ended up goofing off for a bit and talking and laughing and going to bed on a much lighter note because I just couldn't send everyone off to bed all sad and lonely.

So, we will hold on for those 18 days and keep each other laughing and keep talking and keep ripping the links off of our paper chain, counting down the days until the boat moors up and Papa comes back home.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Living with Hypothyroidism: What It's Like For Me Anyway

First, let me say that I am not writing this post so anyone feels sorry for me. I know plenty of people who have much more to bear than I do, I know many people who are actively sick and struggle with things much bigger, badder and scarier than the things that I face. Having said that, I am a strong believer in the idea that we all have our baggage to carry, and your baggage can become quite a burden to you, if you don't talk about it and let people in.

I have Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism. This is a form of hypothyroidism that is actually an autoimmune disorder. In a sense, my own body is attacking my thyroid gland and thus, killing it. The thing is though, it doesn't happen in a nice, slow, measurable decline like regular hypothyroidism, this kind happens in undulating waves of ups and downs of the thyroid hormones in my bloodstream. A person suffering from Hashimoto's though, gets the same regulated dose of medication daily. This means that when I have a bad day, the medication dose I have may just not be enough to help boost my body up to the levels I need. On a medium day, I can maybe squeak by. On a good day- I'm good. At least this is how I have come to understand how this thing is playing around in my body.

What this looks like in my daily life is this: I am fatigued, almost every day of my life, in almost every minute. Things that I used to be able to do with no effort take a Herculean amount of effort at this point in my life. Going to the grocery store can wipe me out completely to the point where I need a complete day to recover. On a really bad day, I can't even manage a shower. On a bad day I feel like I am slogging through wet cement or quick sand to get every single task completed. I nap -a lot, yet I never feel quite rested enough. My personality has suffered for this because when you are this fatigued this much, you just can't be your best, you are not afforded the luxury of being yourself. You are a prisoner to that one small, butterfly shaped gland in your neck and what havoc it is wreaking inside your body. Let me explain here, fatigue is different from being tired. When you are tired, you can sleep and feel better, not so with fatigue, it just goes on and on and on, but you still need the sleep.

I sometimes can't concentrate or finish my sentences anymore. This is the brain fog that comes along with hypothyroidism. This is no laughing matter. I used to think it was just the meds I was on for my migraines but I have since learned that it is related to my thyroid. I can just phase out in the middle of a sentence and not even care that I don't remember. To say that this is frustrating is an understatement. Multi-tasking is a thing of the past. I rely heavily on lists and my 11 year old daughter's brain now.

I have lost the outer ⅔ of my eyebrows. I have thin patches of hair on my scalp. My skin on my legs is dry. My feet swell. I have high cholesterol that is NOT related to my diet, thank you very much.

The biggest issues of all though is that I struggle with depression. The lack of thyroid hormones circulating in the bloodstream directly affect the human brain and one of those affects? Depression. This is something else I feel that takes me away from my family, that makes me something less than I used to be, that stops me from showing them how much I love them, how precious they are. It is so hard to fight this day in and day out. When you are fatigued to the point of tears and also feeling depressed, every problem becomes bigger and every victory becomes smaller.

As you all know, I also suffer from migraines and as my thyroid hormones get lowered, That sets off migraines. I came to this realization myself, thought I was nuts, then came across several medical articles that backed up my guy feelings on this. My migraine maintenance meds also enhance some of these issues: feelings of fatigue, mental slowness, weight gain, fatigue. Then, I get shit hammered by the migraines themselves- that's fun.

I am just writing this because I have read several articles and blog entries written by people who suffer from these things and they help me to understand that I am not alone. They help to educate people who may not have these diseases but know someone who does, so they might be able to be a more understanding friend or spouse or sibling or parent. I am writing this also, to let myself know that it's ok to nap because...damn.
I struggled with whether to post this or not because I really don't want pity. I want the people in my life to just know what it's like to be me so they get it when I say, "I just can't do that today" or when I lay down for yet another nap. I went for three years with my thyroid being under-treated and I am feeling better month by month now but I think it will be awhile before I can say that I am where I need to be.

It is very difficult to find a Doc that truly gets how to treat thyroid disfunction, they all think it's as easy as going by a few simple lab results but we are learning that it is actually so much more than that. There is a Doc in Europe that is doing complete thyroidectomies for Hashimoto's as a trial right now but this is what I have been wanting for myself for years. I take other supplements to help boost my thyroid function. I see all of my doctors when I should. I take my meds as prescribed. I am holding up my end of things.

I am trying. I have a family that loves me and supports me. My husband is my rock. Without that man, I would be lost. He is there every single time I need him. He fills in for me, he is a wonderful father, a husband that surpasses my wildest dreams as a partner in crime. I can't even begin to list the times he has saved my bacon. How he is with the kids just turns me to goo- he is absolutely a wonderful person. He gives this little family everything he has.

And finally, my children. There is nothing in this world as precious and wonderful as they are. I have talked to them about why things with me are like they are. They get it. They understand and while, sometimes it makes them sad, they don't judge me. They still cuddle me and tell me I'm the best Mama ever. They laugh and sing and bring light into every moment of every single day.

So, my thyroid may suck. I may be tired and my head might hurt. But my life is wonderful and full of love and joy and light and for those things I will take the horrible thyroid and the migraines because in the end, the joke is on the Universe. I got the deal of the century. And in the words of Bruce Springsteen, I want all the time that heaven will allow.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The More Things Change...

This picture of Evelyn was taken in her Kindergarten year. That was back when her father and I foolishly thought we could decide things like having her memorize poems and recite them back to us. Now, the issue wasn't with being able to find poems that she could memorize, it was't that she didn't want to do it, it wasn't that she couldn't do it.The issue was that she didn't want to do it when I said she should do it. And that up there? That is what I dealt with for an hour and a half. The poem was: Fee Fi Foo Fum I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread. Yes, I know-grim and weird, but she picked it and I knew that she was strong willed to begin with so I just let her choose. She learned the thing on Monday, knowing that st sometime on Friday I was going to ask her to stand before me and recite it. Through the week, she recited that little ditty so many times standing in front of me, at her request, that I thought I would run mad through the streets. Then, come Friday, when I asked her to do it?!?! That up there was the response. She eventually did it because, well, I don't negotiate with terrorist after all but my point is this, even though she has mellowed some and even though I have learned how to not set us up for this sort of thing (for the most part), sometimes we still end up here and she is A HAND FULL.

I have no clear idea how the best child on earth can simultaneously be the most difficult child on earth but my daughter manages it. She is cheerful, easy going, sweet, thoughtful, helpful, good natured, basically disciplines herself (and has since she was 3), looks out for all of us, does her chores, is no trouble for school (except for when she is), loves with no boundaries and no limits, has a smile that lights up the world but when she breaks bad-I'm in for it. She is about as stubborn as they come, she can nag at you and wear you down like the Colorado River carving the Grand Canyon. She's a force of nature. It's respectable. Her father and I do our best not to quash this in her, those warriors in her helped her survive her time in China without us, she needs them. She needs that inner iron. She is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and I think she needs that inner strength to balance out all of her other qualities. Having said all of that however, some days...it can be a little rough when she turns it on and I'm not quite ready to deal with it.

Yesterday she decided that she didn't want to have a Spelling test on her Review Unit. Now her Review Unit has 100 words in it because it's 5 lessons of 20 words a piece. We have never, ever made her test 100 words- who would do that to a kid? She got it into her head though that that was what we were going to do with her this week, despite the fact that I told her repeatedly that was not the case, despite the fact that we have never done that. So she launched a campaign. She was in my ear ALL DAY about this test. Blah blah this and Blah blah that but not ever really saying what she had to say. Finally, I just looked at her and asked her what was chapping her ass. I got the 11 year old version of the look above and she really laid into me about how awful it was to have to be tested on 100 words and why should she have to do that and how could she even write that much at one time and how was she supposed to keep it all straight and what if she failed and ...... so I grabbed her book and gave her the verbal test of what we usually do a written form of- a random selection of 25-30 words of the list of the 100 words. She got every one correct. I told her she had just had her test, to leave me alone and go do her Math.

Today she came to me and said, "Mama, that Spelling test was so fun yesterday! Can you test me on ALL of the other words today?!?!"

I died a little inside.