KimmyK asked about my step father...thank you for remembering.
He is as well as can be expected. He's in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's but it's strange because he still remembers us. He can't remember how to tie his shoes or get dressed but when when Alice runs to him screaming "papa papa," his arms open wide to hold her as close as he can. Maybe him remembering us is God's way of retribution, at least for now. I am grateful he knows my name, grateful more that he remembers his love for my mom. I can't imagine how hard it would be to watch someone you devoted your life to, forget you.
The value of one's life really can't be measured by the number of moments that happened in your life. The value of one's life is measured by the moments you can remember.
For so much of my life I've dreaded silence. I remember trying to fill up the moments in my life with noise so that the silence never trapped me in a world with no escape. Noise came in many forms, men who were never good enough to keep my company, drugs or alcohol that filled my head with so much garbage there was no chance of a quiet moment, and many many conversations with myself just because the sound of a voice - even if it was my own, was better than no sound at all.
This morning I came to work early, 7:00 a.m. to be exact, and as I sat down to turn on my computer I realized that something was different; I couldn't hear anything. It wasn't that I was deaf or that I wasn't listening, it was that I was surrounded by silence. For a moment I wasn't sure how I felt about that silence. To be honest, silence is something I rarely have a chance to experience so when it was there, staring me in the face, I sort of froze. I let it wrap around me and sink into my bones and you know what? It felt wonderful. I could hear my heart beat and even though I know I'm alive...I have forgotten to feel that thump in my chest to verify its existence.
It's amazing how many things you can hear when the world is silent. Maybe all this time that I've been filling up my moments with noise I should have been putting my ear plugs in.
I've been away for so long, willingly some of the time - not so willingly the other. Time has flown by since the birth of Patrick, he's already 9 months old, but it's always amazed me how sometimes when the rest of life is flying by - parts of it remain still. I suppose it's like taking a picture of yourself, one that shows off your best angle; you tuck it away in a hidden drawer so that sometime down the road you can take it out and remember how one time, you liked yourself. It's not that I don't like the me that's here now, it's that there are parts I liked better before. Ah...anyway, such is life right? Maybe that's why I stayed away from blogging for so long, so I could somehow find that part of myself that makes me grateful that I'm in this skin.
So...while I was away I bought a new house which is pretty much why I've had no time. It was such a big change moving from the city back to the country (well not exactly country but after you live in Chicago anything outside of it is country). I actually have a yard now and we can see stars every night. I never really imagined how awful it could be not to see stars. We take them for granted ya know, but trust me, when they are invisible - you miss them.
I guess I'm back and although I've been meaning to come back for some time, Keda made it real for me. You know...I've really missed this place and all of you.
I'll be back tomorrow. I promise.
Trudging left a comment on my last post 'God is somewhere there...in the details.' I kept reading that statement over and over and realized that thought should be something I remember every single day. I'm not sure she knows just how profound that statement is but usually that's when statements have the most effect, when we just speak from the heart with little fore thought.
God has always been a part of my life. He's been there for the lowest points when I almost believed He'd forgotten me. He's been there for the highlights when I was grateful that He'd remembered me. There have been moments I questioned His intentions; moments I teetered on the edge of faith. Somehow I've managed to keep believing. It's been no picnic, no ride on the merry-go-round, rather it's been like climbing an enormous mountain with all the wrong gear. Once or twice I've reached the top of that mountain only to realize that climbing back down was a much harder task. I suppose where I'm going with all this is that I often forget to look close enough while I'm in those moments that test my faith - and see God in the details. It's usually only after the moment's passed that I give God credit for helping me survive.
It's hard to imagine that God was there, somewhere in the details, of that horrible tragedy at Virginia Tech. It's hard to imagine that God was there, somewhere in the details, as that Blue Angel pilot plunged to his death as his parents looked on from the crowd of spectators. But I'm going to try, to figure it out, to see Him, to believe He was there. Maybe He was the last thought of a loved one that passed through the mind of a victim. Maybe he was the light that someone saw as they left this world. Maybe he was holding the hand of that pilot so he wouldn't be scared of what was coming. Maybe he was the distraction that made his mother look away as his plane fell from the sky. He was there, in the details. Details matter more than anything. Thank you Trudging for reminding me to pay attention to detail.
It's been a busy week and it sure started off the wrong way. You know when I first heard about the Virginia Tech shooting I sort of...didn't pay attention. I know that sounds horrible but sometimes I just get so caught up in my own stuff like work, kids, husband, that I forget I am not an enigma. But now as I sit here in the dimly lit space I call my living room, my husband is away on a business trip, my babies are fast asleep, and it's just me and my cats Leo and Bobo trying to soak up all the 'quietness'. So now, I spend moments thinking about what happened in Virginia. I think about the husbands, wives, lovers, brothers, sisters, friends - people that no longer exist and the ones that are left behind. Sometimes they say tragedy unites but if that's true why are so many people left torn apart? I can understand how life can make someone feel 'ganged up on', how it can make you feel bloodied and bruised, but I cannot understand how you could be so angry, so hopeless, so lost in despair, that you would drag innocent people right out of this world with you. I suppose part of me doesn't want to understand because if I did, if I could, then I may have to accept that some people really are evil.
So I've said a prayer, for them, for me, for my kids, for my friends, for the people I know, for the ones I don't, for people everywhere - that they may stay unburied, unbruised, unbloodied. Sometimes it's so hard to have hope but somehow we must believe that there is more goodness than evil, more peace than war, more time - to make us all have faith again.
I can hardly believe it's been over a week since I posted. Time flies doesn't it, well actually for some - it -stands - still.
Over Easter I went back home to see my mom and my step dad. Some of you may remember that he's now in a nursing home and he has Alzheimer's. It's been awhile since he could leave because his condition is getting so much worse so quickly so I took my kids to see him. As I walked through the front door the smell of urine and 'despair' was just about enough to choke me. It amazed me how my 3 year old never turned up her nose, never noticed that something smelled awful, instead she just smiled and ran to Papa to give him a hug. She didn't seem to notice that Papa now lives somewhere else with other people or that he can't talk as much as he used to. He can hug her and that's about all that matters in her world. God what I wouldn't give to be able to make things so simple in my own life. So we're sitting there pretending that things are not as grim as they seem and I begin looking around at the other 'lost souls' who seemed frozen in time. Some have visitors, some don't. Some smile because that's all they remember how to do, some cry - because that's the only thing left they can do. Each and every one of those 'people' appear to be waiting for something. I hesitate to say it's death they wait for but if I'm honest, it is all that's left for most. My step father is only a shell of the man I used to know. Somewhere deep inside there are remnants of him, but as hard as I try I cannot see them anymore. My daughter sees them but I'm starting to believe it's almost like believing in Santa Claus, the older you get, the less real he becomes. I wonder if some day only the 'virgin eyes' of a child will be able to find me in the shell that becomes my home. I hope not.
Before we left I hugged my step dad as tight as I could hoping that somehow he'd feel my touch down to the parts that still remember how wonderful it feels to be loved. I think the saddest part this disease is knowing he will die without the memory of a life lived, a life loved, a life full of so much more than he has right now.
I keep picturing my sweet Alice kissing her papa's cheek just before we walked away and I'm praying that for him, time is frozen in that moment.
I was going to write about something serious, something not pleasant but worth thinking about. I changed my mind after looking at these new photos of my kids. You know what? It's Friday and I don't want to think about anything other than how damn lucky I am. So instead I am going to share a new pic of my kids. I have to laugh every time I look at this because it's truly an exact expression of my daughter's personality. It seems she's a lot like me, always looking sideways at people wondering what they are really thinking. My son is a lot like his dad....he just sits back and takes it all in and then gives me one of those "Are you kidding," looks when I've gone overboard. Ah...children really are the most wonderful gift in the whole wide world.
Have a wonderful weekend.
It happens, the loss of innocence that is. It's as inevitable as death and most times, as unexpected.
Innocence is like a shiny new penny laying face up in the street; when you walk by you can't help but stop to notice how bright and new it looks, untouched, unscathed. Sometimes we bend over to pick it up, shove it down deep into our pockets, saving it for a rainy day with the hope that some of its newness wears off on us. Sometimes we glance at it, reminisce about how we once owned our own shiny penny - and then we move on because it's like staring into the sun, if you look at it too long it will blind you.
I've always wondered why innocence attracts us so. Is it because we can remember what it felt like to be naive? Or is it because it's concept has become so far removed from our own reality that we gawk at it's existence in wonder and amazement? Try as I may I cannot remember the exact moment that my own innocence was lost but I do recall waking up one day confused at my apparent 'worldliness'. The thing about innocence is that it's rarely given like a gift, wrapped pretty with a bow and a thank you card. Innocence is stolen. That shiny penny lays gleaming in the palm of your hand, sparkling as if it were worth a million dollars - and then it slips from your grip and suddenly becomes as worthless as a two dollar bill. Sometimes as it's rolling down the sidewalk you have the urge to run after it, pick it up, and hide it where no one can steal it from you again. But your feet are slow to move and soon it's fallen into the gutter beyond your reach and you let it go because that's easier than playing search and rescue for something you were not even sure you wanted to keep in the first place. After all what does innocence really get you - more admirers?
I knew that it was coming, that moment when my niece's innocence would join the other 'once shiny pennies' in the bottom of an old whiskey bottle. And now it's there, sitting on top because it's still new but with time, it will work it's way to the bottom where it will tarnish. And for now she says, "It's only a penny, not worth much." But one day not so far from right now she's going to realize that having a pocket with one shiny new penny can make you the richest person in the world.
Three years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I still remember the phone call where she told me they found cancer in one of her breasts. I remember feeling my heart skip a beat, my chest become tight as if a hundred pound barbell was laid upon it. I remember thinking that there must be some mistake because my mother - was invincible. We want to believe our parents will live forever but the reality is, they won't. That day that I learned my mother wasn't invincible, changed me. My mother is a survivor, she's cancer free 3 years and counting and there is not a day that goes by without me telling her how much I love her. Sometimes I call her, sometimes I send an email, but one moment in every day that I wake up alive - I reserve just for her.
One week ago I woke up with swollen lymph glands under my arm. When I ran my hand under my arm and felt a lump, once again my heart skipped a beat. Cancer was the first thought that popped into my mind, the second was, "My babies need me." At first I tried to ignore the thoughts but I'm one of those people that never has much success quieting that 'little voice' inside my head. I called the doctor and made an appointment and was kind of disappointed when she told me I had to go for an ultrasound. I wanted her to tell me it was nothing and I'd be fine so I could go back to my life the way I needed it to be. I debated on telling my mother, partly because I didn't want to worry her, partly because I didn't want her - to worry me. I ended up telling her because that's what her and I do, we tell each other things. She told me it was probably nothing but I could tell by the pause in her response that she was now afraid she'd passed something 'unwanted' on to her child. I couldn't get in to get an ultrasound until today so for the past week I've been contemplating the worst. One moment I thought I'd convinced myself that everything would be alright and in the next, I'd be begging God to spare me for my children. Maybe I'm selfish but I cannot bear the thought of my children growing up without a mother. For them not to be able to call out to me when they needed to me. There are a gazillion words in this language but none compares to "Mom". Death robs you of that word. I cannot put into words how much I love them, just know that it's more than I ever imagined loving anyone. So this morning I went to the hospital to get the ultrasound and as I sat in the waiting room with my husband, he gently held my hand as if he were afraid he might break me if he held on too tightly. The nurse called my name, I took a deep breath and stood up to follow her. Never in my life have I dreaded moving my feet more than I did at that moment. One foot in front of the other I slowly made my way to the place that may change my destiny. I undressed and laid on the table trying desperately to pull the gown over my exposed skin. My nakedness seemed due less to my lack of clothes and more to the fact that I felt completely powerless. A few months ago I laid on a table similar to this one as they swirled a wand around my belly to see the life growing inside of me yet now the wand was in search of something that could end my life instead of fulfilling it. I studied the nurse's face instead of the screen with the hope that her expressions would give me the hope that I needed. As I stared at her, this stranger, I placed an enormous burden on her shoulders - the burden of making everything alright. As unfair as making someone your savior is, I could not help myself. Finally the nurse told me she would go get the doctor and I convinced myself that this could only mean bad news. When the doctor came in she was quick and to the point, "Everything looks normal, the nodes are most likely swollen due to an infection, a cold or some other virus." At first, I believed I'd willed the doctor to say what I wanted as if I were a ventriloquist but then she repeated, "There is no mass, no cancer, you can get dressed and go." She had no bedside manner but I didn't care, still I wanted to hug her. I dressed and made my way out to the lobby to tell my husband the good news and somehow his arms around my shoulders never felt so good.
I'm not sure if you've ever experienced how it feels to have your life handed back to you, but if you have then you know what grateful means. I took a moment, that moment I take out of each day just for my mom, and I called her. "Everything is ok Mom." I'm so very thankful that word has not been stolen from me.
Before now in some other life that I pretended to live, I never thought about death. When you are a kid death is something that escapes you. You go to sleep each night assuming that the sun will rise again, there will be more hours to play, more time to get chores done, more chances to do the things you neglected to do. For some of us, we briefly experience death when our beloved pet dies or a grandparent is laid to rest. For some, the less fortunate, they realize way too soon what death means by losing their parent or a sibling. But me, even though I remember standing over my grandfather's casket when I was seven I also remember thinking that it wasn't real. A child has that wonderful ability to make things into 'make believe' by simply refusing to pay attention. That's what I did. I'm not sure when it happens but at some point you realize that death means an 'ending' yet even then we still carry that 'infallible' feeling around with us. I suppose sometimes that's a good thing after all who wants to wake up each day thinking they are going to die right? When I think back to all the moments I wasted believing I'd always have another chance to do what I didn't get done today I realize how incredibly selfish that is. There has to be some balance, some way to be grateful for life without constantly worrying about it ceasing to exist but I'm not really sure how to achieve it.
I think about death now, since I've had children. I don't fret over the things I've yet to accomplish, I fret over the chance to see my kids accomplishments. I worry about who will raise them if I pass, who will teach my daughter how to love with all that's inside of her without losing all that's inside of her? Who will teach my son that loving a woman completely doesn't make you weak, it's makes you strong? Who will protect them from harm? Who will love them the way that I do? I have no answers and maybe that's why I think about death. It's not something that consumes me, but it's there right beside the mental list of groceries I need to pick up tomorrow at the market. I'm not really sure I want it to go away because somehow being a little afraid of death makes me a better person or at least it forces me to be a lot less selfish.
Before, I was angry at God for not letting me take my son home from the hospital the day I was discharged. I can't take those moments that I felt that way, back. I can only stop being angry now. This past Sunday Patrick was baptized. The ceremony means different things to many people but to me it's standing before God and saying, "Here is my child, bless him, watch over him, keep him tucked safely beneath your arms." So now....God and I are sharing that responsibility of keeping my babies safe. I think He forgave me for being angry...after all He's the one who made me human.
While I was on maternity leave my niece, the one I've posted on many times before, threatened suicide. She's a troubled 14 year old who's been put on and taken off more drugs than I've ever been in my life. I've often disagreed with my brother's take on the whole thing, he thinks every time she acts up it's due to her being AD/HD or some other 'condition' he's not yet diagnosed. He can't seem to link the start of all this bad behavior to his marriage about 3 years ago. I could lay a lot of blame on my brother but what's the point? Blame really gets you nowhere, instead I've chosen to just be extremely disappointed in him.
So anyway, he's tired of the 'drama' my niece brings to him and his new family so he's told her she has to go live with her mother. Funny thing...when he divorced her mother he fought tooth and nail to get custody and now he's ready to just hand her back over because things are a little too 'inconvenient'. Imagine this, a teenager sneaking out to see boys, staying on the phone too long, forgetting to hand in homework, or fighting with her step mother....stop the presses! I guess my brother has forgotten the time he dumped his car down a ravine and told the Police it was stolen so my mom would by him a new one. Or the time he stole my mom's car and drove to Iowa to go to a Frat party and then finally called my mom to tell her where he was three days later. Yeah, he was a real gem. So his daughter has been acting out, trying to get his attention, trying to let him know that she's hurting. What's he do? He proves to her that she was right, he doesn't care enough to keep trying so she tells him she wants to die. Of course he doesn't believe her, she's dramatic after all. So I call him up, I yell in his ear, I make him listen. He finally calls the hospital and they admit her for observation and tell him to let her go live with her mother because she's into much pain to be around him.
So, she's 14 years old and she has learned her very first life long lesson - people abandon you. My heart aches for her as my mind swirls around my own memories of being 14 and abandoned by my own father. I wonder if my brother realizes that he's just done the very same thing he hated my dad for. I see her life ten years from now as she's letting some man abuse her because she's terrified that he'll leave. I see her life fifteen years from now when she's convinced herself that there is something 'unlovable' about her and that's why people always leave. I wish I could see something else but as much as I'll try to change the course my brother has set her ship a sail on, I know in all likelihood - I'll fail.
For now, she'll hate herself instead of him. For now, she'll seek love from him with every ounce of her strength - we always want love from the people incapable of giving it. For now, she'll believe that life is not worth living and thoughts of ending it all will pass through her beautiful mind more often than thoughts of beginning again. For now I'll hold on to her as tight as I can and hope that I'm strong enough for the both of us. And one day she'll turn the light on and begin counting the scars she's collected and hopefully she'll learn, just like I did, that although some people do leave, it's the ones that stay that matter most.
Sometimes I wish that the lessons we learn could be 'unlearned' or turned back in like an overdue library book, pay a fine and the slate is wiped clean. Life doesn't work like that does it.
In my life I have changed many many times and once or twice I've made a desperate attempt to change back. I thought that in my 39 years of living I'd done all the changing that was required but 3 months ago when I brought Patrick into this world and then had to leave him at the hospital while I went back to an empty nursery, something in me - changed again. I was angry, at God, at my husband for not being able to understand my pain, at myself for somehow not being able to go just two weeks longer so Patrick would be full term. I've been angry before but never the kind of angry that consumes you until you feel so empty that a strong wind might blow you half way across the universe. I don't know if you've ever felt weightless before but it's not a good feeling. I felt like I was floating away and no matter how tightly those that loved me held on, I fought them. I remember my daughter sitting on my knee wiping tears off my cheek whispering, "mommy don't be sad." God gave me that angel to watch over me, and watch me she did. I never wanted her to see me sad but sadness was all I had left. It was the first time in my life that I felt completely out of control. The moment I walked out of that hospital without my son, I changed. The unwavering faith I'd always placed in God seemed to be faltering. For me, believing in God has always been what's gotten me through but now I felt completely alone.
It seems like an eternity since I've posted and although some may think I've forgotten my blog friends, nothing could be farther from the truth. Honestly I've thought about this place often but life had me 'tied' up. After Patrick was born I took 3 months to enjoy being a mom but now it seems the time has come to leap back into my other reality. Coming back to work was hard the first day. I must have kissed my sweet babies ten times before actually making it out the door and as I sat on the train blasting my music trying to drown out the whispers of a reality call I wasn't ready to hear, I realized that for once in my life I was actually content. It's such a strange feeling ya know? There have been so many moments spent searching for something more than what I already had that I'd kind of forgotten what content actually felt like. It feels damn good.
So much has happened since I've been away, some good, some bad. I guess life wouldn't be life if it didn't have both of those ingredients would it? At least it's given me much to write about so I hope you'll stay tuned because starting tomorrow I have some pretty deep stuff to scribble across these pages. I know...you're thinking "Networkchic has deep things to write about?" Amazing isn't it? :-)
I've missed you all and in between my catching up on work I promise to visit each and every one of you.
For most of my life I've searched for love. There were brief moments when I thought I'd found love, moments that filled me up yet somehow left me emptier than when I started. When I was a child my father would sit by my bedside with his guitar in hand singing Irish ballads to lull me to sleep. I remember thinking, this is love. When my parents divorced and I watched my mom starve herself because of depression I thought, that is love. When I was 14 and my boyfriend told me he'd be with me forever as we laid in the bedroom of his sister's double-wide trailer while he took my virginity, I thought, this is love. The next day when he broke up with me because I was just too young for him, I thought, "Is this love?" When I was twenty-three and I stood before God and recited marriage vows I thought that would make me loved. When I was twenty-eight and I signed a divorce decree dissolving my marriage I thought I didn't deserve love. When I was thirty and I moved to Chicago to be with someone that wanted me, I thought, now he'll love me. When I was thirty-two and the man I'd moved here for broke my heart I realized, it didn't matter if he loved me. When I was thirty-three I decided I didn't need love. When I was thirty-four I met a man who loved me even though I told him not to. When I was thirty-six I brought a child into this world and as they laid her in my arms I discovered that all that came before that moment, were only preparing me for real love. I thought I'd discovered all I needed to know, about love, about myself and then I met my son two short months ago. When I looked into his eyes I saw how simple love has always been. It can take a lifetime to find the definition of love, and a moment to believe in it.
Happy Valentine's Day. I wish you many moments of clarity.
Over the years I have collected many things that I thought would keep me safe, some tangible, some that are not. When I was a kid I kept a shoe box stashed in the back of my closet filled with things that 'meant' something to me, things that made me feel safe when I touched them or held them in my hands. When I was scared or upset I'd hide in my closet and take each treasure from the box and hold it close to my chest as if it's existence could transport me to another moment. God, when I think how simple it was to feel safe back then it makes me envious of children. As I grew older the things I collected to make me feel safe no longer fit inside a shoe box, most were still hidden but no longer could they be discovered by opening a closet door. You learn to bury your treasures much deeper beneath layers of brick and mortar so that they cannot be accidentally discovered which immediately nullifies their ability to keep you safe. And then one day something happens. You wake up and you feel that old familiar need to feel safe again so you reach down deep inside yourself and search for just the right tool to make it all better but as you roll it around in your hands and hold it to your chest you are not transported to another moment, and still you do not feel safe. You turn the light on to examine it more closely only to discover that your hands are empty. And now you are left to handle this alone. Sometimes being alone is the scariest thing in the world but sometimes, it's what saves you.
There have been moments lately that I have felt overwhelmed and that scares the hell out of me. I'm used to being in control and when I'm not, I pull out those 'tools' that make me feel safe enough until the moment passes. The old tools don't work any longer, either because I've changed or they never really existed. I didn't think I really had anything else to learn but apparently I was wrong. Right now in this moment I'm searching for something to make me feel safe again. Maybe I'm just not looking in the right closet.
It seems like forever since I posted but my time seems to be pretty well spoken for these days. I swear my days are spent with my breasts hanging out the majority of the time and the left over moments are used up with diaper changes. Don't get excited...the breasts hanging out are anything but sexy when you've turned into a milk factory. :-) I meant to post on New Years and then on my birthday which was January 2nd, but both days passed so quickly and I chose to use my very few spare moments catching a few Z's.
Anyway I'm here now right? So, another year has begun and I've managed to make it past another birthday. I remember when birthdays were exciting with parties and presents but as you get older birthdays become more about regrets of the things you have not accomplished than they do about a celebration. I've had so many birthdays where the list of regrets spanned too many pages to read. Birthdays where I drank myself into oblivion because oblivion seemed much more pleasant than reality. This time, this birthday was different because the regrets I carry were overshadowed by the accomplishments that lay beside me. I woke up on my birthday with a sweet little girl named Alice with her feet planted firmly against my back and a tiny boy named Patrick who sees me as a much better person than I actually am. My children are my accomplishments because both of them proved that I can be selfless and that in itself makes me feel like the luckiest woman alive.
So I'm old - er now and somewhat wiser thanks to the education my children have bestowed upon me. My new year although uneventful to some, has brought promise and hope into my life and every time I look into the soulful eyes of my sweet babies I'm reminded that a life without hope is not a life at all. I have a life...a very wonderful one.
May your new year be filled with hope, hope that lifts you up when you have fallen, hope that lightens the load you carry upon your shoulders, hope that lets you love your life.
I'll be back soon....I promise. :-)