Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Weird Abyss in Between

In case you haven't read my blog, here's a quick background to catch you up.

Me = 30something-ish mom, wife, two young kids, full time job, dad in nursing home with dementia

Okay. Now onto the topic: the weird abyss. The abyss I'm referring to is my role at this very moment in time. I'm caught in that weird abyss of being a mother to my kids, and being the daughter taking care of a dad on hospice care and in the nursing home when what I'd most like to do is watch him sitting on a dock, showing the kids the proper way to bait a hook.



The abyss is not an ideal place to be, as I constantly battle the struggle of managing time between the most important people in my life. If you don't know what it's like to have a loved one with dementia, please read this. It will help give you a little insight into why it is extremely difficult to bring young kids around a grandparent - a grandparent they love very, very much - when that grandparent begins turning into someone very different. Hence, the dilemma - I find myself short on days we can all be spending time together because life schedules and dad's mood and behavior match up. Thus, the need to choose who I'm spending time with has become a situation I'm far too familiar with.

On one side is my dad: the man who raised me, took the fam on cross-country trips to see the grand canyon, made my dream of performing dance in Europe a possibility, helped me pay for my college education, took me fishing, never missed a recital, taught my kids how to fish. You get it - and the list goes on and on. Now his days are in a nursing home because he needs quite a bit of help and it is the safest and best place for him, but he's lonely. While he's never been a really emotional guy, he makes it very known that he's lonely. I've seen him cry in the last year more than I have in my past 30something-ish years, and it breaks my heart. Some days he is barely awake and other days he'll talk about this or that. And while we try and be there as much as we humanly can (meaning, every single day when possible), he is still lonely in those times we are not, and I can't help but want to be there with him for whatever time he has left, trying to cheer him up. I know his days are growing shorter, and I just want to hear his stories and make him as happy and peaceful as possible.

On the other side are my beautiful babies, who really aren't babies anymore (but they still look at me with those big, baby doe eyes), who ask me when I'll be home or are we going to go somewhere together. The past year I've missed more school events and homework checks than I care to admit, because there just isn't time in the day for everything to get done for everyone. As I sit on the edge of the bed every night I can't help but remember that the time with them is also very precious. They're never going to be this age again. They're never going to have the same ideas for made up games and they're never going to make a baseball catch quite like the one I miss, and I don't want to miss a moment of it.

But I have to miss something. And here I am in the weird abyss where, no matter what choice I make, no matter who I choose, someone I love very much gets hurt and I miss something. I feel a tremendous guilt over not being there with him like I was with mom's battle against brain cancer, but here's the thing: I was single then and working full time, but no kids. I had nothing but time to give her. It's a lot different - and a lot harder this time around - because I have other obligations that also need - and deserve - my time and attention.

I don't write this because I'm looking for an answer - there isn't one. I write this because somewhere out there, someone is feeling like the knot in the middle of the tug-of-war rope too, and perhaps just knowing they aren't alone might help them from spilling tears in their mint chocolate chip ice cream for just one night. To that person: you're doing the best you can. Keep your chin up and keep chugging along. You're not alone, and you've got this.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Making it Fun

I love hearing your responses about the stories!! :) My Twitter DM and email were so much fun to look at this week!

And, because it brought such good memories, I'm doing something fun again! So, I've been writing some new blog posts over the last month, about high school, college, married life, etc. since in the poll I put up, people wanted me to write about parenting and love. (Like I'm an expert in either - ha!) So anyway, to make it interesting, I've hidden them throughout the blog, and I'm talking hidden - some might be amongst things I wrote six years ago! So, search for a term you like, or search for something about you - first and last name, where we knew each other, something we did together, etc. - and you might just find a new post about you! (Not all have names, but I've added names to all of them in the meta-tags so that if you search, it will show up but not everyone will see the names publicly).

Plus, doing it this way, you might find another post you relate to that you might not have seen otherwise!

And send me a message if you'd like - I'd love to hear more stories -- they always make me smile! 

Have a great day! :)

~Allie

Monday, June 19, 2017

Third time's a charm

Okay, lets try this one more time.  For those having trouble with searching, I did try and make a fix - if nothing shows up with your name, try your whole name, and try first and last name. I added all of those in as tags so that should help! I will leave names up through Thursday! 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Names

So, one of the questions I get asked most about writing is if I shape my characters after people I know. The answer is, yes and no. Another question is, on the blog, who are the mysterious people I write about (ha!). I've gone through on some posts and added names, which I will leave only for the next 48 hours, at which time I'll revert them back. If you're curious if you're one of the people I've written about, go take a peek. You can use the search box up top or just peruse ;) 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dreams

The mind works in mysterious ways. Like dreams. The other day my best friend Nancy from college texted me in a panic: was I okay?

Ummmmm, yes, why? That sort of creeped me out.

She said she had a terrible dream that I was hurt and she was worried about me, wanted to make sure I was okay. Ironically, her text came the same day we got the crushing blow that Dad probably needed to begin hospice care. She and I have ALWAYS been like that - we just know when the other one is having a really bad time because of a dream or a feeling. I filled her in and of course, then the reason for her dream seemed a little clearer.

I've always remembered my dreams and honestly, hardly have a night where I haven't had a dream about something. Some of them have led to my ideas for novels, some make me wake up in a panic, and some make me laugh when I'm retelling it to someone. Most of the time I don't give them a second thought - since I'm a writer and a daydreamer, my dreams often reflect a story I've been thinking about recently or a fantastically crazy plot line. But lately, I've had one particular dream scenario that keeps repeating itself and has really made me, well, uncomfortable.

This theme has focused around someone from a long (long, long) time ago, and trying to find a way back to being in each other's lives in some capacity. Not romantically (sorry, no hot and bothered dreams here, I'm pretty happy in my romantic status with hubs), but as friends. The entire length of the dream is spending time mixed among other friends doing something (it always differs - last night, it was escaping a mall which let me tell you, I have NO translation for because I LOVE to shop and find it hard to believe I'd be willingly trying to leave), and then we can never seem to get to the crux where we're like, yeah, we can move forward as friends. It's like a movie that drags on far past the part where it should have been resolved - we just can't seem to get to the end. So there is no end. Every time. Then I wake up, and I'm wondering what the heck my dream is about.

This isn't the first time I've had this dream. It's been a recurring dream with a recurring star for nearly two decades. It's not all the time - it pops up randomly here and there, but I've never given it too much thought. Though now, it's like a non-stop midnight movie I can't turn off and so I really stopped to think about it this morning and focused on why it is recurring more now. Other than yes, I would have liked to stay friends with this person, but that path in life just wasn't meant to happen.

I searched a dozen dream decoding blogs (oh boy, if you haven't done that for one of your dreams, do it - some of it is fascinating, some hilarious!). I think when I look at life today and why that dream may be happening, it comes down to the chaos that seems to be daily life right now. We're going non-stop: running kids to activities, working full-time, spending as much time with Dad as we can while he's still talking and laughing. And when I look at the dreams, the people in them, and the story behind them, they start to become a little easier to decipher.

The dreams are always amidst chaos - people are walking around everywhere, getting from here to there. There's always a sense of rushing in the dream - getting from one place to another or doing something that needs to happen quickly. Sometimes it's trying to escape somewhere, or trying to fix something that needs to be fixed ASAP. Just like life today.

Then there's this person. Someone I knew a long time ago and cared about very much. Someone who knew me during a much less chaotic time in my life, when I had less responsibility and more time to just have fun. Someone who knew me well and who I knew well. So perhaps my mind is saying maybe I sometimes wish I was back in a time where there was less adulting to do; when I was around someone who represented everything calm and collected.

And then, in every dream, we just can't connect. We both know we want to talk, but we just can't seem to make that happen. Sometimes, even others (including our close friends) are telling us we need to make time and we just can't seem to get to that point. Which to me, sounds like the giant disconnect between the calmer life I'd like right now and the current chaos, which keeps me just out of reach of finding that calm.

I was worried for awhile about the "who" that was infiltrating my dreams. It's not someone I think about during the day, and someone who so rarely comes up in convo (like, maybe once a year if that). So why were they in my dream? But if I look less at the "who" and more at the "why", it makes sense. Somehow my subconscious is seeking some reprieve from the day-to-day of now, and reminding me of times when life was a little bit easier.

Now what to do about that, well, that's another problem for another day! :)

~Allie

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Eb and Flow of Friendship

It's always fascinating how we move through life and connect with other people: friendships, colleagues, family. The way people drift into one's life, make some memories, drift out... and sometimes, if you're lucky, drift back in. Like a friend I'll refer to as Mr. D.

Mr. D and I were friends back in high school. We hung out in the same crowd, but I don't know that we ever got to know each other very well. He dated a couple of my friends, I dated a couple of his, and we had a mutual best friend in common. He was what I considered a bit of a wild child, always fun and outgoing. He dyed his hair blond at times and always had this big, goofy grin. 

We didn't spend much time together, or at least talking. We did, however, share a birthday.

Once we left for college, we didn't really have the type of friendship where we would have kept in touch. Somehow, though, every year on our birthday, I received a text or email from Mr. D with a birthday message. Every year! And after the first couple years, it became one of the things I looked forward to most on my birthday. We didn't talk the other 364 days in the year... we didn't really know much about each other, although we still share that same best friend... but despite anything else happening in our lives, those messages still came through on that one day. And I'd wait, each year, as the clock ticked just past midnight and that little "ding" popped through on the phone.

In 2005, my mother passed, and in 2006, his. And that somehow became another life event that drew us together as friends. On Mother's Day, we both understood what the other was feeling. On Christmas, how hard it was to be without them. Suddenly the birthday messages weren't the lone exchanges; now a couple more days a year were added on. And Mr. D was decidedly better than me at reaching out; he is a genuine person who really cares about his friends.

Somewhere in the last year, he's become someone I consider to be a close friend. We haven't seen each other in person in probably close to 15 years and we live halfway across the country from each other, but he's one of the people I know will answer when I need a friend. He will understand the topic whether it's missing mom, crazy high school shenanigans, or trying to figure out something in life. The past year and a half, as Dad's been battling his illness, Mr. D has been there for my random texts and worries because he understands the pain in a sick parent, and he's done more than his fair share in trying to keep my chin up. 

It's pretty incredible how you can not see someone for so long and still feel like they make an impact in your life more than most can. Mr. D has made an indelible mark on my life since the time we were 16 years old, even if I didn't realize it until I was older. And if you'd told me at 16 that Mr. D would be someone I talk to more than most, I'd have probably thought you were crazy.

When my kids worry that a friend is leaving their school and they're scared they'll never see them again, I remind them of my friends like Mr. D. Sometimes people go on different paths in life. Sometimes people move far away, and sometimes we don't see them for a very long time. But sometimes, the people who are physically the farthest away, are some of the closest people in our lives.

~Allie





Monday, June 12, 2017

Getting Social

I'm a writer and a pretty social person. Expressing myself through written words is my norm, and I often find I do better typing my feelings out than saying them in person. And I don't mind sharing those feelings because my hope is that if there is someone out there feeling the same way, they can find comfort in knowing they aren't alone.

Which is part of why I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I dislike how easy it is for people to be bullies behind the comfort of a computer screen, but I do enjoy seeing photos and updates from my friends and family about what they are doing. As a child, I loved opening our Christmas cards because I thoroughly enjoyed the updates; with Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, it's like a constant flow of Christmas cards year round and I love it!

The other aspect I love about it is reconnecting with old friends or family I never would have met otherwise. Whereas we used to have to wait for reunions or family gatherings or, oddly enough, things like funerals to catch up with people we had lost contact with. Now, with just one of those tools I mentioned early, we can reconnect - or connect for the first time - with the people we want to know more about. I've connected with distant cousins and been able to catch up with high school friends. And one of my absolute favorite things happened last week:

I received an email from someone I'd lost touch with.

I absolutely adore emails and letters from people I cared so much for once upon a time. There's thousands of reasons we lose touch with someone: different paths, distance, arguments, life in general. This particular person and I had just taken different paths because we had different views, and while we weren't angry with each other, we each remember being agitated by the other. It's sort of interesting to look back at someone you were upset with years and years ago and the reason why; so often, it's simply a lack of communication. 

I look back at myself a decade or two decades ago and realize how much I read into things, and how I didn't always act appropriately to say the least. If I was angry with someone, I was angry. Today, I find that even when I don't agree with others or don't get along with them, I still hope that they have an incredible life and find whatever happiness they are looking for. There's really not much room - or time - in life for hate and anger, because we don't have enough seconds and minutes and hours as it is.

And so I was overjoyed to get this email and message back and forth about how they are doing, some old memories, and so on. Sometimes, it is a beautiful thing to have that re-connection and forgiveness of the past, whether that relationship will move forward with more correspondence or not. As a writer, those letters - those written words - are just about the best gifts I can receive. ;)

~ Allie


Friday, June 9, 2017

Broken Hearted

Twelve years ago when mom was in her final months of life, we called on hospice to keep her comfortable. They were amazing, but as wonderful as they are, you pray it's a service you will never need again. 

Unfortunately, today, we began hospice for my dad. After the last year and half with dad battling dementia, I thought I was prepared for this moment. I thought I would be okay. And when the nurses pulled me out into the hall today to tell me what I already knew - that Dad's time is running short, they believe - I burst into tears.

I've seen him wage a war against this disease since late 2015. We've seen the ups and downs and ins and outs of what it does to him and what it did to us. And after watching it wreak havoc on his mind for so long you start to think, him finding peace will be a good thing. Until that peace grows so close you can see it waving in the distance. Then you want to freeze time and savor every moment you have together.

Dad's been pretty out of it for quite a few days now. He mostly sleeps, and when he isn't sleeping, he's pretty groggy and out of it. Today, when I arrived, he could barely open his eyes. He'd turn his head towards my voice but it was almost as if he couldn't remember how to actually raise his eyelids. After a nap of about 40 minutes or so he woke up, and for the first time in months, he was clear. There was no confusion. No asking me why we were "riding the rail cars" or where he was, no asking me if I'd gotten married or what my name was (on the bad days). There was just Dad. The man I grew up with, for the next 50 minutes, was there next to me - albeit with a weaker body.

So we talked. Real conversation for the first time in months. We talked about some good memories. We talked about my kids. We talked about how he knows his time is getting shorter and he isn't scared; how he's had a good life and he hopes we have, too. I was blessed to hear him say that he was grateful that I was there to take care of him, that I have been a great daughter - words I needed to hear after the chaos that has been this disease. He talked about how my younger brother was a good dad, and how he knew he'd be okay. Then I called my husband and asked him to bring my kids up while my dad was doing better. They were there within 15 minutes, and Dad talked to them, watched his granddaughter perform her recital dance, and listened to his grandson talk about his latest feats in baseball. There was no anger, no agitation, no anxiety, no curse words. It was just Dad/Grandpa, and it was magnificent. 

It was strange, honestly, to talk so candidly about the fact that he knows his time is short. But it was also such a blessing. I mean, we said things we never would have said. I reminded him that he was free to go, because we would take care of everyone and everything, and he just said he knew we'd be okay. I can't imagine anything about this is easy for him, but today, he showed a wisdom and dignity and calm I don't know that I could possess if I were in his shoes.

I'm not sure what the next few days or weeks or months will hold. That 50 or so minutes of clarity today were an anomaly of sorts. However I know that no matter what, we've said all we need to say and there are no more words needed to share how we feel. Which makes a difficult situation just a little easier to bear.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Six Foot Four



Today I found myself in a familiar place, walking the same path I've walked for what feels like a million times, though I know it's much less. The tiled floor with it's soothing blue and tan marbled pattern leads me 167 steps towards the ancient elevators that will lower me down to his floor. This isn't his home; I refuse to call it that. The nursing home, while fantastic, will never be his home. It's not filled with precious memories of Christmas stockings and antiquing finds. It holds a few photos and some other decor but we all know the truth; the sterile room could never be much of a home. I wish there were a different way to give him the best care, but as a big guy, this is the safest place for him. But it's not home.

Tonight was not a good night. He was so groggy when I arrived and sat down on that ugly couch in the main room next to him, sitting in the wheelchair that's now become a necessity. "Hi Allie," he mumbles, hardly understandable, without even looking. His eyes are pointed in another direction and he tries to shift towards me, though he cannot seem to refocus his eyes in my direction. Yet he knows it is me simply by the sound of my voice. I can't help but smile because some days, he's not able to remember me much. 

Some days, he's not the Dad I remember. Dementia robs people of who they really are. When he gets agitated and angry at times, I pray that somehow, the people around him know that it isn't the real him; it isn't the man I grew up with. Sure, he was a pain in the butt sometimes, but we all are. We all have qualities that are less than enjoyable. But like all of us, he has always had a really good side. I hope that that side is the one people can eventually see.

I try talking a little bit but he has so much trouble responding - the words are barely a whisper on his lips, and even then, only one or two at a time. He does manage to say "I love you," and blow me a kiss. That's the Dad I remember from before this dementia. 

I help him get a bib on for dinner and it strikes me again just how demeaning this disease is. This man once stood six feet four inches tall while waiting for my dates; now, on his best days, he's a little bit smaller as his back and knees force him to lean over. He was a policeman, a salesman, Charming Charlie. He was the best fishing buddy to my kiddos, who dearly miss their time at the creek with Grandpa. Each time they ask if he'll be able to go soon, it breaks my heart. That vibrancy has been replaced by this disease, and now I'm putting a bib on him so we can minimize the spills at dinner. 

Tonight he wasn't hungry, and chewing was a chore. We carried on, both his hands holding one of mine as I scooped each bite so he could eat. Each bite fed to him by the hand of another is yet one more blow to his ego; another reminder that he is no longer the man he was one year ago, five years ago, a lifetime ago.

He let me rub his arm tonight, which he normally never does. Usually once we get the lotion on, he's good, but tonight, he would look until I'd rub his arm again, and then smile. And as he got into bed and drifted off to sleep I listened as he took some deep breaths, then quiet until the deep breaths started again. Sitting next to him, his hand in mine, I couldn't stop from thinking back to how the nights were just like this during Mom's last months. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel the same: torn between wanting him to fight and keep truckin' as long as he can, and wishing for him to find peace, even if that means leaving us. 

This disease sucks, plain and simple. I wish there were more thoughtful words to express it, but that's the truth. Tonight, my heart is just broken and I wish there was more I could do for him.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Parenting: Advice Needed

One of the hardest questions I face right now, having a dad with dementia and two little kids, is how to help them maintain a relationship that doesn't negatively impact them or the other.

Here's what I mean: my kids want to spend time with their Grandpa, but sometimes Dad will say inappropriate things or change moods in a heartbeat. As an adult, it's extremely hard to not take personally what he says sometimes; imagine an 11 and 8 year old attempting to chalk it up to the disease, which they don't fully understand. 

And when the kids don't come, Dad notices, and it of course makes him sad. Then other days he'll say, no, don't bring them up because I don't know what I'll say. So he knows - which sometimes just makes him sadder.

I am trying my best to balance it, but I haven't figured out that perfect solution yet. They exchange cards and video messages, and we take them up in the early mornings when he's a bit less confused and agitated. And the kids seem okay now that he is stable in a nursing home instead of the constant roller coaster of home, hospital, nursing home, repeat. But it's difficult on everyone. The kids don't understand the dementia; they want their Grandpa back; the one who used to take them fishing and regale them with far-fetched stories (think the movie "Big Fish"). They already feel robbed, particularly my daughter, of not having met my mom.

And then there is me, hardly holding it together lately, because after 13 months of watching Mom battle brain cancer and ultimately lose (12 years ago this past week, actually), I'm now having to watch Dad slowly disappear and become a stranger while I try and provide him the best care possible. We've been going back and forth with the memory loss for a couple years now, and now we're at the dementia diagnosis, so needless to say it's been a long train ride of unfamiliar stops and reevaluating the route to take.

I think the biggest fear I have, as a parent, is what my kids are going to have to go through one day. Are they going to watch me wage a war against cancer? Or are they going to be helping me to eat dinner at 73 because I can't remember how to use a fork? Seems stupid to think about, I know, and my parents' illnesses do not mean I automatically will end up with the same fate - I get that. But I can't help but wonder and worry. I can't predict the future, so for now all I can do is make every minute I have with the people I love count. That's all any of us can do.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

15 Years Ago, Watching ER

Fifteen years ago today, I sat with my mother on an ugly, blue floral-patterned couch and stared at a bulky television set and watched one of our favorite television shows to watch together: ER. (Previous favorites included Golden Girls and Sisters, of course).

That particular night, my favorite character was set to meet his demise. For two seasons, we'd watched him struggle with a brain cancer diagnosis. The stroke-like symptoms, the difficulty speaking, the seizures - each moment of his (television) pain broke our hearts a little more. And of course, in true television-viewer fashion, we were SURE that they could never kill off a character so beloved to the audience. But. They. Did. (Do you see where my concern over the fictitious life of Daryl Dixon is valid? No one is safe on TV.)

And in two of the saddest scenes (seriously, if you choose to click this link or click this link and watch, get your tissues ready), mom and I sobbed over his death. Like, legit sobbed. Part of it was the loss of a character on a show I loved, and part was because you can't help but imagine what life would be like if that happened to you or someone you know. We had already watched mom battle and defeat breast cancer. I distinctly remember saying to her that night, on that ugly couch, that I could not imagine how horrible life would be if that ever happened to her. That only made me cry harder.

Exactly 3 years and 8 days later, it did.

Ironic, a bit, that mom died during brain cancer awareness month. Really, she'd only been given a few months to a year after that initial brain cancer diagnosis in early April 2014, but she was always big in supporting breast cancer and the Relay for Life and all that. Part of me wonders if she held on as long as she did, and died when she did, to serve as a reminder to keep pushing on for a cure.

If you read my blog, you know all about my mom's story so I don't need to rehash it. But what I do want to say is this:

Life is short (Hello, cliche! Yes, I said it.) It really is. Mom didn't imagine going to bed on April 9 that on April 10, she'd be diagnosed with brain cancer. Life can change in an instant, just like that.

Every moment you spend not truly living is a moment wasted. Whether it's on fear or anger or jealousy or stewing or whatever it is, the clock keeps ticking and those are moments you will never have back. You have to learn to let go of that stuff and let it dissipate into nonexistence; when you can move forward with the good in life and let go of the bad (easier said than done sometimes), you won't be wasting those important moments anymore.

I try and explain to the kids that life is like a tree. Your path starts out like the roots, growing for nine months until your debut. From there, you set out on a path and while it might seem scary, you'll start taking many different routes in life. Some of them aren't great; we all make mistakes. That's when you find a new path and follow that one for awhile. You'll make new friends and lose some; some you'll find again. You'll love and lose and learn. Eventually, your history looks like a tree in winter - lots of branches going in all different directions but hopefully, you still find yourself growing and moving upwards towards a sky full of opportunity. And while the branches look sad and bare when it's coldest out - or when times are hard in life - even your mistakes turn into something beautiful down the road.



Tuesday, May 2, 2017

They Grow So Fast

This morning, after my alarm had gone off, I laid in bed and checked out the “On This Day” feature of Facebook that shows you what you posted in the past for each day. Of course, there were plenty of pictures of the kiddos doing this or that. I happened upon a photo of my now-11 year old in kindergarten. I smiled at the cuteness and then bounced off to the next morning task without another thought.

Well, until I caught site of him all ready for school. He's so tall now, such a little man. When we first moved into this house and he first moved into that bedroom, he was tiny. Toddler-bed tiny. His room was filled with action figures and toy trucks. Now it's filled with Legos and sports posters.

This morning, he was bounding down the hallway with his backpack. I caught a glimpse of him as he rounded the corner, singing the lyrics to a Chance the Rapper song. A sweeping realization washed over me as I picked up on the subtle change in his voice: he’s not going to be a little boy for very long.

His regular voice doesn’t seem different to me, but I hear it every day and it probably won’t be as big a shock to me when it gets deeper because it will happen so gradually. But his singing voice; there was a deeper tone to it this morning. Yet another piece of proof that life travels far faster than we can ever imagine.

Just yesterday he was a baby, waking me up at 5 a.m. and only willing to go back to sleep in my arms as we sat on the couch and watched the morning news; now, I typically have to drag him out of bed in the morning.

Just yesterday he was two, picking up a baseball bat for the first time and using it like a golf club; now he made the travel team again and is playing on a bigger field.

Just yesterday he was five, frustrated that he couldn’t read a page in the book; now he’s writing full reports, song lyrics, and texting his buddies.

Just yesterday he was eight, scared to go into the pool because he couldn’t swim; now he’s swimming laps underwater and jumping in like he fears nothing.

“Mom,” he said, snapping me out of my little daydream. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I reply, trying to find something for breakfast in the cabinets. "Why?"

"You look like you're sad."

"Nope. Just thinking about how fast you grow up."

"I might grow up, but I'll always be your baby boy."

How very, very true.


 

 





Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What Is Family?

I've always loved baseball. I played softball from a young age through my senior year of high school, and then on recreation leagues. So when my oldest wanted to play at three years old, I was excited. Oh, I have to admit, those first few years were not my favorite. The first few games were adorable - little, tiny boys and girls swinging a bat the same size as them, running the bases the wrong way. But they were soooooo long with no real action.

Then around eight years old, something changed. The kids had learned the necessary skills. They'd learned when to cover what bag, how to turn a double play, how to steal and slide into second. Games became exciting.

And that year, baseball became a family.

Tonight, that point is especially important to me because tonight, I have an 11-year-old upset because he and his friends are being picked on at school. (It happens at every school, I know. Our school is not a bad one, that's for sure. And it's only a couple kids - the vast majority of kids in class and at school he adores being around, especially his two best buddies.) 

I love my babies, but I know they're not perfect. His room is never really clean and he has missing assignments like they are going out of style, but the one thing my kid isn't is mean. In fact, what he's most upset about tonight isn't how he feels about being called names, but how much he dislikes anyone calling his friends names. We talked about true friends vs. just people in class, we talked about how you have to be kind to everyone but you don't have to like everyone. 

And then we talked about baseball.

This past weekend marked that glorious return to the field - not just for the players, but for the parents. It was the beginning of four month baseball family reunion, with parents trekking from car to bleachers. Our arms are loaded with bags filled with blankets, sweatshirts, Under Armour, sunglasses, sunscreen, snacks (okay, we forgot those, because we usually depend on Michelle for that!), seeds, gum, extra equipment, Gatorades, extra Gatorades, scorebooks, toys for siblings, and more. We talk like we just saw each other yesterday, and it feels like we're back among family.

Baseball is four months where we get to watch our boys find success and grow from failure; where they pick each other up on the bad plays and celebrate the good ones. Four months where they help take care of their field, talk to each other about the latest Cubs game or video game or snack at the concession stand, and horse around. It doesn't matter if you're tall or short, if you wear glasses, how tan your skin is, if you have orange shoes or like to read Harry Potter. Everyone is just a baseball player, no other tags or names needed. It's four months where I never have to see my kid come home sad because someone has picked on him. He never leaves that field - or another player's home - with anything but smiles and great stories of the shenanigans they had.

And so last night, we talked about baseball. We talked about true friends, we talked about who you surround yourself with and how you react to people. We talked about how even though baseball friends change teams, it's just like baseball season - you might not see someone all the time, but, once you do see them, it's like you saw them yesterday. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trying Not to Forget

Vascular dementia. We finally have a name for it. The monster slowly stealing Dad''s memory away.

It started small. Little lapses in short term memory. And about two years later, I'm sitting in the nursing home with dad watching him use a fork to push all the food off his plate because it's a bad day and he can't remember how to eat. He'll get it, eventually, but with a little help. 

This man - the big, strong 6' 4" Superman who could fix anything - now alla me for the sixth time in an hour where my kids are. And I find myself happy, because tonight, he remembers his grandkids. Sometimes he gets confused and he doesn't realize it's me until halfway through our visit when he says, "Allie, when did you get here?" 

I hate that dementia has done this to him. I hate that he forgets how to do things he's done his whole life. I hate that it took him a while at his neuro appointment to comprehend how to fold a piece of paper in half. And I hate that he is now dependent on others and has lost not only pieces of his freedom, but also parts of his dignity.

Tonight is one of those nights when I'm searching for some inspiration.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

No Time For Looking Back

Sitting with Dad in the nursing home yesterday, I had one of those moments where I just looked at him and my heart ached. Despite the stroke he's doing pretty well, thankfully, and we still have the opportunity to make some more memories. However, I couldn't help but think about all the opportunities I haven't made time for over the past year, five years, ten years. Though to be fair, I think no matter how much time you spend with the people you love, it's never enough.

Of course, I had lots of thoughts on my mind as I struggled to fall asleep last night. Luckily, I'd had a nice convo via text message with an old friend (old as in high school, not old as in old. We're not old. Nope.). We don't talk often enough but he always manages to cheer me up when I need it.

And any time I speak with a high school buddy, I can't help but think about Katie and of course all the opportunities we missed to make memories before she died. In her case, it wasn't a matter of enough time (although, passing away at 33 is far too early), but rather priorities; and that's what I regret the most - that I didn't make our friendship a priority. I figured we were in our early 30s and had lots of time to catch up after having drifted apart because of work and life.

I really miss having her here, and I wish I would have told her that a long time ago. I hope that everyone has a friend like Katie. Someone who will eat an entire bag of cheesy popcorn and watch Dumb and Dumber with you over and over. Someone who goes on a date with a strange individual so that you can go on a date with his cute friend. Someone who answers the phone no matter what time, because she is always there for you no questions asked.

I think about her all the time. Her smile, her laugh, her insane ideas. They all remind me that life is too short even if we live to be one-hundred years old. So take the time to tell people how you feel; what they meant to you; what you wish for them. Pen a note, type an email, drop a Facebook message - whether you spoke to them yesterday or ten years ago. Take the time to say what you need to say, because if you ever lose the opportunity, it will weigh on your heart forever.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Love? Parenting? Crafting? Past Lessons Learned?

I'm working on some blog posts, but to be honest, time is pretty limited between work, kids, their activities, and caring for my dad. So while my brain is at a loss for new material, I'd love some thoughts on what you'd like to see more of. It may help me spur some creativity, and it's anonymous! :) Just fill out the survey below!


What topics would you like to see more of?

Parenting
Love and Relationships
Lessons Learned
Crafting
Authors/Stories
Other
Please Specify:
QuizMaker

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Is Enough?

There are days when the word enough slips into my mind ever so sneakily. Then there are days - like today - when it roars into my reality like a 21-year-old-me who's had one sip too many of the Sailor Jerry. You know, like trying to be oh-so-quiet but really loudly yelling "SHHHHHH!" at everyone. That's the way enough slipped karate-chopped into my mind today.

Like this morning, when everyone's getting ready in the morning and we're in a hurry because I wanted just five more minutes of sleep and hit the wrong side of the alarm. Am I packing enough in their lunch? Have they eaten enough for breakfast? Do I have enough time to get them to school by eight a.m.? (And did everyone have enough time to brush their hair? No? Alrighty then.)

Or at work, when we have one more thing to get done. Am I doing enough for my team (if not, can I bribe with Twix and Swedish Fish)? Do we have enough time to get the projects not just done, but done right? Am I planning ahead enough to give us the best opportunity at success?

Or like tonight, as I raced to get Boston Market (yum!) so that Dad and I can have dinner together at the nursing home. Did we pick the right place and does the nursing home do enough to care for him? Did I get enough for him to eat? Did it take too long for me to get dinner and if so, will I have enough time to have a really good visit with him before needing to get home? Does he have enough clothes for the week before I bring laundry back up? Does he have enough movies to watch, or books to read, or did I spend enough time with him so that he doesn't feel so alone today? (The answer on that last one is no, because I think no matter how much you visit, anyone in a nursing home is pretty lonely.)

And then that word skips over just as I walk in the door to a little girl who is sad because I wasn't home right after work, and now I won't have enough time to play dolls with her (Or bake. Or color. Or read.). It creeps in as I review my son's homework and realize I haven't spent enough time working on it with him this week (Seriously, he considers these things to be useable sentences?). And it's there again as my husband heads into the office to handle a shift after we've had literally eight minutes to talk about life, or rather who needs to be where after school tomorrow (Romance=no dirty dishes in the sink nowadays). 

Sometimes it's at volleyball practice where I'm so grateful we have three coaches for the team, because I definitely don't know enough about volleyball to have volunteered to coach (Hello 1994 eighth grade season, or as I like to call it, "The Last Time I Played Volleyball." Fun fact: I went to freshman year volleyball tryouts IN JEAN SHORTS.) And other times it's realizing I haven't sent in papers to school because I haven't spent enough time sifting through the giant pile that has accumulated on the dining room table.

Or it's when I avoid Facebook messenger because I know somewhere in there lurks a message from a friend who I've already postponed a night out with twice because I have something to take care of and I can't handle the embarrassment of not making enough time to even spend a night with her. (Love you ladies, you know who you are.)

I think that's one of our greatest concerns as mothers, as parents, as children, as friends. What makes enough enough? And what exactly is enough?

Lately, I feel like perhaps the word enough has been just beyond my vocabulary, and I wonder when he next time will be that I feel like I'm not afraid of hearing that particular word. Because right now, I'm staring at this computer wondering if I'll get enough sleep to handle enough of tomorrow.

Then I realize that somewhere in all the enough I think I'm lacking, there really is enough. Life isn't always perfect, but it's perfectly chaotic and amidst all of it, no matter how much you think you're lacking in the enough department, someone else feels differently. Like when I come to my room after my shower to find a note on my bed.

"Mommy, I love you! I know you are busy but it's because everyone needs a little bit of your love. Thank you for loving me and giving birth to me." (I love those last words - ha! You are so welcome, little one!)

Sigh. Even if I don't always have enough to give, I definitely get more than enough in return.

Happy end of the week, everyone! Here's some of her cute notes that keep people smiling ;)





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This mom does NOT have it all together...

Someone said to me yesterday, "You really have it together with the photos and the crafting and the working." A very sweet compliment, but I hope no one takes Facebook to be a true reflection of the daily life of a person. Facebook - and all social media - are fun little avenues to express sentiments about daily life, but they are by no means all-inclusive. Because honestly - who is gonna want to hear me (or anyone) rant and rave about the 87 moments of crap and frustration that happen to a person daily between their few sweet and peppy Facebook posts?!

Let me tell you about my true day, the one you won't see on social media. 

I typically wake-up around 6:30 a.m. and proceed to the daily argument with Peyton about her uniform. The socks are too itchy or the skirt is too long or the shirt is too big. Same uniform argument every. single. morning. Same explanation every. single. morning. I don't make the uniforms. I don't make the rules. Just put the darn thing on! Then I drop the kids off - usually without remembering to make sure Peyton brushed her hair or Alex actually packed a snack but hey, the fact that they get to school on time every day counts for something, right?

On to work (where I love what I do!), and it's a full eight hours and sometimes lunch of working to get my to-do list and the "this just popped up" list done. Or started. Or re-prioritized, lol.

Rush home after work to visit dad in the nursing home, profusely thanking whoever was kind enough to drive kid 1 to an activity while hubs drives kid 2 to their activity, and maybe run an errand or two because it's two weeks later and I still haven't managed to get kid 2's sweet friend the rest of their birthday present. Yes, you read that right. Two. Weeks. Later. Sorry CarGar, it's coming. Chit chat with the nurses about how he was that day, because I want to know the people taking care of him - and I want them to know I'm paying attention.

Manage to forget one of your best friend's birthdays. Check. Sorry Linds.

Pick kid 1 up and take them home where, if they're lucky, there is food in the fridge because between everything else, we haven't gotten to the store in like, a week and a half. I seriously sent my kid to school with three different kinds of crackers for snack because I didn't have enough of any one to make a full snack.

Then it's bath time for the kiddos while hubs and I spend the 15 minutes we have before he leaves for his shift talking about what we need to get done tomorrow, usually interrupted by a kid with wet hair standing in a towel in the kitchen and crying because it's bed time and yet again, I haven't been able to play dolls with her like I promised. 

This is usually followed by a continuous stream from the kids of "Did you fill out this school form?" No. "Did you send in this check?" Forgot. "Can you help me answer this question on my homework?" Um, say what now? What kind of math is that, anyway?! "Did you remember to send the scooter to school that you've been promising the drama club teacher for the past two months?" Oh boy, no. 

On some nights during the times Dad is in the nursing home or hospital instead of home, bedtime is followed by a phone call from Dad who, unfortunately during the not-so-good days, calls because he can't remember where he is and he's scared and lonely. I remind him he's at the nursing home, and tell him if he really needs some company I can try and find someone to sit with the kids (because my step-mom's already been there for hours and same with my brother). Or, on the particularly frustrating days, I realize I'm arguing with him and shouldn't be because he can't help what he said. Yelling at your dad on his worst day? Oh, yeah, I've been there. Daughter of the year. Dad and I don't always get along or see eye to eye, but despite everything, he's still my dad and I HATE to see him suffering the way he has and I truly hate to see him in the nursing home, no matter how good the people there are. Sometimes, he's okay and he calms down with just some stories of the good old days. And on rare occasions, he just really needs someone to come back and sit there and hold his hand and watch Barney Fife tell lame jokes alongside Andy Griffith, so it's time to see if someone can just come sit with the kids for a little while.

Then to wrap up the night, I post a video on Facebook of a cute puppy or my kid's play or some inspirational quote that probably wasn't even said by the person it's attributed to, just so I have some happy sanity to the end of my day. It definitely doesn't mean I have it all together; it just means that's the only part you see. And that's okay, because no one needs more drama! I'm willing to bet a lot of people have days just like this, and they post the happy moments because isn't that what everyone on social media does? Being a mom and a wife and a daughter and a friend isn't 24/7 flowers and puppies and sunshine. But damn if we don't need all those frustrating little parts of our day to remind us to share the good moments, because those good moments seem just a little bit sweeter than usual.

Sending hugs to all the moms out there who don't have it all together - you've got this!

The Reality of Parenthood

I don't know if you watch This Is Us, but I do. Every week. Like clockwork. Maybe I relate to it because like Randall, I have anxiety. Maybe I relate to it because I'm 36 and still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Maybe it's because it reminds me that we are all full of happiness and regret. It's probably a mix of all three of those reasons. Regardless, this scene had me a little more emotional:


It's no secret Dad's been in and out of the hospital and nursing home the past year and a half, and luckily, it's not cancer and there's no timeline looming. But it's sure made me think about a lot of things because after losing Mom, Dad's battle has reminded me of just how valuable time with your parents really is, whether the time you have left is hours or years. It will just never be long enough.

I have a new appreciation for my parents since I've had my own children. Perhaps the most important thing I've learned is that parents are not perfect. They make good choices and bad choices; they have answers and sometimes they don't; sometimes they do their best and sometimes they're just trying to get by. 

I remember being upset when Dad missed a major tournament we were in for softball in high school. As a parent, I know that sometimes we don't get to see those games not because we don't want to, but because a job or a sibling or an ailing parent takes precedence over attendance, as unwanted and unfair as that might be. And I remember the time I was angry with mom for forgetting to pick me up at ballet class; as a parent, I know that sometimes we are juggling so many balls that something falls through the cracks, and sometimes that thing is the most important part of our lives. It happens. 

As a parent, I've also learned:
  • That my own views don't always mesh with my parents, just as my views don't always mesh with my kiddos (and probably will continue that trend long into the future). That doesn't always mean they're wrong or I'm wrong; it means they were raised and then raised me to have my own thoughts and opinions. And despite our differences and our frustrations with each other, I can rest assured that they love me no matter what and vice versa.
  • Disappointment can and will happen - on both ends. There are certainly times my parents have disappointed me, and I know there have been times I've disappointed them. How we react to those times and grow and move forward is key.
  • You cherish the good times, because they are what will get you through the bad. When Dad is having tough days and nothing is going right and we're both frustrated beyond comprehension, we fall back on talking about fishing escapades and card games, funny stories or family ancestry. Those are the things that, no matter how awful we're feeling, can bring that sliver of silver lining back to the moment at hand.
  • Parents don't always do everything right. Parents are human, they (we) make mistakes. And we don't see those mistakes until years later, when we're able to look back and see how we might have done something differently. And we can only hope that we raise our children to be better than we were so that in our older years, we might be able to make memories that usurp the ones we aren't so fond of.
Perhaps this is all part of why I really enjoy This Is Us. Seeing Randall and his father put the past aside and learn to thrive in the present is a reminder that we cannot move on and find peace if we cannot let go of the past. There's always room for more laughter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, my love.

My mom, the wise woman she was, always said if you could find the one person to complete your heart, you were lucky. Today, I'm thinking about how a number like one can bring so many other numbers to your life. 

Did you know one can become greater than 5,000? As of today, I've loved to for 14 years, 7 months, and 4 days. That's 5,333 days, to be exact. Although if I'm being honest, I fell in love with you the day I met you at Jose's apartment. So let's just up that number to 5,722. 

And 1+1 does equal 2 - two sweet, sassy, independent, funny, and sometimes aggravating kiddos. We've been parents for 4,082 of those 5,722 days. Because of you, 100% of my dreams of motherhood came true. 

10 will be another magic number in 2.5 months. We've been married for 3,580 days, which is 9 years, 9 months, and 17 days (a bit more than a quarter of our lives). And, at least on my end, I bet I've been happy about that for about 3,570 (oh come on, you're thinking the same thing).

We've probably had 1,000 disagreements, but 30,000 laughs; more than a full hand of hospital trips (thanks to bats and car accidents) and home repairs (so, what will break down next?!), but 10x as many happy and healthy adventures throughout the U.S. We've cried thousands of tears over miscarriages and family and friends lost too soon, but shared tens of thousands of smiles with the amazing family and friends in our lives.

There always seems to be a lot more pluses than minuses with you. Because of you, the hard times shrink while the good multiply. And I cannot wait to love you on day 5,723 - and day 5,724 (and so on, and hopefully thousands more!) Thank you for adding more to my life with every additional day. 

Love always, 
Your +1
 

 

 



 


Monday, January 23, 2017

A box of tissue

One morning when my son woke up, he had the beginnings of a cold. He had one simple request.

"Mom, tonight, would you please bring home a box of tissue? A box just for me?"

It seems like a really small request, doesn't it? And something that yes, I can very easily do on my way home from work. 

It might seem silly, but the thought crossed my mind that even as a simple request, it is a sign of how blessed our family is. Yes, we are blessed to be able to bring home a box of tissues. When I tuck him into bed with his tissues there next to him, I know that while he may feel icky with his cold, he'll still feel safe and secure. He won't be worried about if he'll have tissues tomorrow, because he knows he will.  

I hope that as he grows, he really understands how important that box of tissues is. There are so many children going to bed tonight - some tucked in gently and others tucking themselves in - who will fall asleep unsure of what tomorrow will bring. They'll worry if they'll have the basic necessities to make it through the day. Instead of sweet dreams, concern will fill their mind. Will they have food for their lunchbox or perhaps be embarrassed at school because their lunch account is empty? Will their clothes be clean? Will anyone notice they wore that shirt twice already this week? Will someone make fun of them carrying their books to school in their hands because they can't afford a backpack? 

There are many issues to address in today's world. As we watch the media and Facebook and the many other avenues of communication fill our lives with what's happening across the country and the globe, I hope that in 2017, we can all make an effort to add one more task onto our lists: creating a better community in which to live. 

Let's start small. 

Let's pick up one extra box of tissues to donate to a local women's and children's shelter so when a child has a stuffy nose, mom can provide him that small comfort that she might not be able to, because she's already deciding whether to use her last $20 to buy food or new shoes for school.

Let's buy a few extra cans of soup or vegetables and drop them off to the local food pantry. It doesn't seem like much, but it means a little something extra in someone's stomach for the night.

Let's clip the coupon for the diapers out of the Sunday paper and pick up a pack for a local shelter. Then maybe a mom can pick up a clean blouse for an interview instead of passing over an interview that would help her better care for her family because she has nothing nice to wear.

We don't have to save the world in one day (although that would be nice). What we can do is start small, start at home, and teach our children how to care about the others in the city they live in. Then maybe someday, tissues won't be considered a luxury.



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Oh, American Girl.

Oh, American Girl, I have to give you guys props, even though I have a complaint. It's not about your cost (hey, if people will pay mega-bucks for your brand, more power to ya), but rather how incredibly well you've developed your product and infiltrated my home.

We made the decision five years ago that we weren't going to have anymore babies. While it was a little sad to know that the baby days were over, I was also looking forward to the fun we would have as a family of four. And by fun, I mean not having to carry around a diaper bag or bottle bag again as the kids were potty trained.

My youngest is eight years old and has been potty trained for years. Yet here we are and I'm back to carrying around everything I was so excited to move on from.

Yesterday, I found myself at the grocery store with aforementioned kid asking if she can push the full cart. Sure, I say. To which she hands me her American Girl doll, strapped into a doll car-seat carrier, and a dolly diaper bag.

"Oh, how cute!" you say. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. You'd think a dolly diaper bag would be small, right? No way. This thing is only slightly smaller than an average human-baby sized diaper bag. And it's legit filled with the following: diapers, fake wipes, multiple clothing changes, burp clothes, bibs, an extra blanket, fake bottles, fake snacks, silverware and dishes to eat the fake snacks, shoes, doll-sized baby toys... you get the drift. (Thank goodness most of our stuff comes second-hand or we make clothes for them, like we did in a few of these pics!)

And here I am, 3 29-years-old (Again. And again. And some more agains.) and carting around a doll and all of her goods. (Which honestly, yesterday wasn't as bad as when she doesn't have the doll car seat carrier, because I end up holding the doll and bouncing and just look like the crazy doll lady picking out her groceries.)

Now, I love seeing my little girl playing with her dolls. (Not because "that's what little girls are supposed to play with," because little girls should play with lots of stuff, including mud and basketballs.) I love watching her care for and nurture them, with her big heart. She so carefully dresses them, tucks them in, and it's adorable. I know that those skills are helping her learn how to treat others, and helping her learn in a way she's comfortable with. And I love playing dolls with her (yes, I even have the American Girl doll Kit, my absolute favorite).

And though I complain, American Girl, you will probably find me at the grocery store next week bouncing her beloved (beat up and stained) Bitty Baby on my hip as I pick out bread for the week.


Touché, American Girl.

Score: American Girl 1, Allie 0.

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