Thursday, May 24, 2012

Being the "Other Mother" and Saying Goodbye

I have 3 children to whom I have given birth.  Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time with many of their friends as well, and there are certain ones who have spent more time here than others.  As a result, I have grown very fond of them and consider them my other children.  I have accepted their Facebook friend requests and read their Facebook statuses, rejoicing with them when they are happy, feeling concern when they are sad and worrying when something is bothering them.  I try to have these feelings from a distance, particularly for the friends of my oldest son Jake, as they are now young adults and don't want their own parents asking them questions, much less me.  But I care nonetheless.

In January one of these other children came to live with us.  I always knew the situation would be temporary, but the longer he was here, the more I dreaded the day that he would leave.  He wasn't used to living with younger children and wasn't used to my style of mothering that some might call "smothering mothering" or "helicopter" mom behavior.  I gave him the rules and also warned him that there would be home-cooked meals, laundry services, annoying "where are you" phone calls, intruding questions and hugs and love.  I knew it would be an adjustment for him, and it was. For a month or so, he asked if he could get a drink or snack or take a shower and never ate the suppers I made and left in the refrigerator for him.  But gradually, he became more comfortable.  He reheated his suppers every night when he came home, he stopped being so polite and showered when he wanted to and felt comfortable to help himself to the fridge and pantry.  He also said good night to me every night before he went downstairs to his room. 

Yesterday he told me that he was going to be moving back home with his mother, and I'll admit a part of me wanted to say, "But I'm your mother."  But I'm not, and no matter how much I love him as my own, I have to let him go.  We talked for awhile, he thanked me for everything the way he has done so many times in the past, we talked about his future plans, we promised to still see each other occasionally and said we'd miss each other and when he said "I love you", I said it back with a lump in my throat and fought back the tears.  And when we hung up, I felt sad and let the tears fall.

Today after work I went to his room to bring in clean laundry.  As I opened the door, I noticed he had been packing, and it hit me...hard.  My other son was leaving... and soon.  He texted me a little while later to ask if it was okay to start moving some of his things to his mother's, and I wrote back "Sure, but I'm sad."  While I was at Nathan's game he called to say he had moved everything out as he had a truck tonight and just did it all in one shot and said he was sorry to have missed me but would stop by.  The lump in my throat immediately returned. 

When I got home, I went downstairs.  The door to his room was open, and I walked in.  The room was empty.  I stood in the middle of the room and cried.  I haven't had to say goodbye to a child who has left for college or who has gone into the military or moved out, and one of my birds had left the nest.

So to my other son...I will miss you, I want nothing but the best for you, and I will always be here for you.  Thank you for letting me be your mother even for a short time, thank you for letting me be a part of your life and thank you for being a part of our family.  You are important to me, you are special, and I love you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Get the Funk Out

I'm in a funk this week.  Too many of my loved ones are hurting, and I can't fix them.  I am a control freak, and I like to fix things and have everything be good and everyone happy.  No drama for this mama, I just can't stand it.

So, being in my funk, I have very random thoughts.  I stay up too late, thinking. I drive 2 hours a day, thinking.  I stand in the shower, thinking.  I walk on the treadmill, thinking.  I can't keep my mind on work, I forget why I went into a room or what I was supposed to do, and I have that constant distracted feeling about me.

So today's thoughts started with wondering how I was going to zig zag between Winchendon and Gardner tonight to go to dek hockey (on the W/G line) for 5, then to softball (Winch) for 5:15, then back to dek hockey for 6 and then back to the Winch and then to Gardner for a hockey meeting at 7.  Ya, it was too much for me, we skipped dek hockey.

Then my thoughts jumped to words I hate.  I was listening to the radio, and the DJ kept saying the word "panties" over and over.  I hate that word.  Maybe I watch too much Law & Order SVU, but every time they use the word panties it refers to either a sexually abused child or a rape victim. So yeah, I hate that word. 

Another word I hate is pantyhose, and maybe because it is a derivative of panties, I don't know, but I don't like it.  Is it supposed to mean a pair of panties with hoses hanging off of it for your legs?  Like a flat fireman's hose that fills up with water, much the way the legs of pantyhose lie limp until a pair of legs fill them up?

My next hated word is actually a phrase that a coworker uses: "boo boo belly". This is in reference to a stomachache or an upset stomach, but every time she says it, which is almost daily because she has constant stomach issues, it goes through me like nails on a chalkboard, and I feel like she is a grandmother trying to talk to a 2 yr old and explain why the toddler's tummy hurts.

The next two words go together: "blouse" and "slacks".  To me they imply old lady clothing, a silky top with a really bad print paired with a polyester pair of pants with an elastic waist.  Any time I hear those words, I immediately think ugly, old lady clothes and am reminded of the Blair ads I used to see in the Parade section of the Sunday paper. There is a reason those prices are so low, it is because they are trying to appeal to a Social Security or Retirement salary and...because they are ugly.  So if someone says to me "Nice blouse" or "Are those new slacks?", I immediately want to remove the offensive items that immediately feel like they are burning my skin and throw them away or, at the very least, hide them in the back of my closet with the other clothes that I am too kind to throw away because I don't want to hurt their feelings, but there is an understanding that they will not be worn again.  I secretly think that even though they know they won't fulfill their destiny in being worn, they are relieved that I have a "no kill policy".

The other side effect of my funk is that while I am disgusted with my body and weight and had all good intentions while grocery shopping over the weekend when I was funk-free, I am now irritated that there is no chocolate in my house.  I have pushed past the granola bars, the pretzels and the low-fat crackers in search of chocolate chips.  I have moved the cantaloupe, the strawberries and the watermelon in the fridge in search of a possible left over piece of fudge from Christmas.  Why, oh why was I so motivated on Sunday when I was at the store?  Is it too late, at 11:49 PM on a work night, to whip up a batch of brownies? What time will they be done and cool enough to eat?  Too late, I suppose. 

It's late, too much thinking, gotta get the funk out, or at least buy a candy bar first thing in the morning.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Reflections

Yesterday was Mother's Day, a day when we remember our own mothers, our friends and loved ones who are mothers, etc., etc.  I got spoiled, spoiled by gifts, beautiful and heartfelt cards, special texts and Facebook messages.  But more importantly, I spent time with those I love, and I was reminded of the importance of family.

Being the oldest of 8 children, I always knew I wanted children of my own.  I loved the way there was always a sibling home to play with when I was bored, there was always something going on in the house, and it wasn't quiet.  And I liked it that way.  I loved playing Mommy to my younger siblings, and I know I was bossy, but I liked to feel that I was in charge, too, because I was the oldest.  I remember the disappointment of my high school guidance counselor when he tried to convince me to go to a prestigious college because I had such high grades and I told him that I wanted to be a wife and mother and maybe a teacher and that I didn't want to go to an expensive school.  He finally gave up on me.  Yes, I always wanted to be a Mom, and I have been for almost 20 years.  Being a Mother is my greatest joy in this world and my 3 children are my greatest accomplishments.  So see, Mr. Daley, I was right, this was what I was meant to do.

I remember being pregnant with my oldest child.  I had gone to lamaze classes, had watched the birthing video and had talked with others about pregnancy.  But yet, when I woke up one morning with contractions and timed them to be 3 mins. apart for a couple of hours, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I remember waiting until 8 AM to call my mother and telling her that this was so easy.  The contractions were already 3 mins apart and didn't even hurt; as a matter of fact, I was playing solitaire killing the time to avoid calling her at the crack of dawn.  Well, I went to the hospital 4 times that day, and 3 of those times they sent me home because things weren't happening quickly, and I wasn't in enough pain for them to admit me.  By the time they admitted me, I could barely walk or talk through the contractions, which was the criteria they said I needed in order to be allowed to stay and give birth.  And by the time my son was born just after midnight, I no longer thought it was a piece of cake, and my solitaire card game was long over.

And the longer I am a mother, I realize that the labor and delivery was the easy part.  Once you become a mother, you are responsible for someone, you have a job to do, a person depending on you for their physical needs as well as their emotional needs.  It is up to you, the Mother, to show them the way, to do your best to teach manners, to teach responsibility, to teach kindness and respect.  Sound like a big responsibility? It is.

That said, all we as Mothers can do, is our best.  Will we screw up occasionally?  Of course we will.  But own it when you do, the same way we expect our children to own up to their wrongdoings.  Don't be afraid to say to your child "I don't know" or "I'm sorry" or "That wasn't right of Mommy".  Be real, be a person, be human and admit to your wrongdoings.  We don't know it all, and we do screw up, and if we can't admit it when we do, then how can we ask that of our children?

I have many hopes and dreams for my children.  When they were younger, I wished for them to be polite, have good manners, not hit or bite, and to be respectful.  Now that they are older, I still wish all those things for them, but my list has grown. I wish that they be strong, be honest, be true and loyal, always do their best, treat others with kindness and the same respect they want from others, and to be real.  Stand up for yourselves, but do it in the right manner.  Hold firm to your beliefs, and if you feel strongly about something, be respectful about others' opinions and beliefs, but don't back down if you think you are right.  Treat your friends and your boy/girlfriends with dignity, don't lie, be honest about your feelings, even if those feelings differ from theirs and don't leave someone guessing as to their importance in your life.

And most of all, my child, be YOU, because you are special, you are funny, you are kind, you are wonderful, and you are loved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tears of Joy

Last week my Dad completed his first round of chemotherapy after 12 weeks of 3 days of treatments every other week, anti-nausea medication, stomach issues, fatigue and a modified diet of less than desirable foods.  He was told that because he tolerated the chemo well, he could do another round and keep up with the same schedule.  "Oh, goodie, can I?" would have been my response.  It's kind of like when you do a job that is out of the realm of your regular job duties, and because you did it well, you are now deemed to be that person...for example, the "toner replacer", the "bathroom cleaner", the "bill collector".  Yes, because Dad tolerated the treatments, because he managed to deal with the nausea, the pills, and the gross foods, he wins another 12 weeks of more of the same.

So before the "prize" could be scheduled, a PET scan needed to first be approved by the insurance company and then performed.  The PET scan is a test that he had prior to chemotherapy and is a test that pinpoints and measures the cancerous tumors.  Bloodwork and labs performed during the course of the chemotherapy weren't very positive and seemed to indicate that the chemo wasn't doing its job, that is, to kill or slow the growth of the cancer.

Today was the PET scan.  I talked to my Dad late morning, and he said that it was all very quick, and that they didn't expect to hear anything until his appointment next Wednesday, but that no news was good news.  Less than an hour later, I received this email from my Dad:

"Mom took a call from my oncologist, Dr. Samaha. He already got the report from my PET scan and said there was a lot of improvement, which means that the chemotherapy will continue. On the negative side they have to replace my port before the treatment. But the good news is that the chemotherapy worked. We’ll know tumor measurements and how much improvement later."

Immediately my eyes started to fill with tears, but for the first time since this journey began, they were tears of joy.  I have received emails from my parents after every doctor's appointment and every lab, and many of these emails were not upbeat or positive medically.  I have cried, I have been sick to my stomach, I have driven around aimlessly, and I have thrown things.  But more than all that, I have prayed as have countless others.  Hundreds, and maybe thousands of people, all around the world have been praying.  We have been praying for a miracle because the medical diagnosis was grim.  Well, today that miracle came in the form of a PET scan and 4 beautiful words "a lot of improvement".

And I know that prayers have been answered,  God has heard all of our prayers, and God has given us the gift of more time.  I am thankful to those who have prayed, I am thankful to God for his gift, and I am so thankful for my Dad, who is my pillar of strength and my inspiration. It is he who comforts me on the difficult days, and it is he who reminds me where my faith and trust should lie.  Thank you God for giving me more time with this amazing man, my Dad.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Love/Hate Relationship

My treadmill and I are in a love/hate relationship, and it's all my emotion ~ some days I love it, some days I hate it.  I'm pretty sure the treadmill doesn't love me or hate me, but it may be relieved to have all those bags of clothes and Christmas decorations and dust off of it.

Every time I enter my bedroom I see the treadmill sitting there alone and empty in the corner.  It's almost like it is beckoning me at times to help it serve its purpose.  It's like that shirt that hangs in my closet saying "pick me, pick me", and I keep ignoring it. And yes I feel bad for lonely clothes and exercise equipment so I try to humor them and not leave them lonely.

Now, this treadmill came to live with me after I found it at the end of a driveway on a nearby street.  It was wearing a sign that said "FREE", implying that it had no value, and the owners had no more use for it and were discarding it to anyone who was willing to drag it away.  So as much as I long for the days that a newborn baby gets left on my doorstep, I made the treadmill my baby.  I loaded it into the van and drove away.  To be honest it wasn't quite that easy, but let's just say I made it fit, and only came away with a few bruises and scratches.

I hauled it up to my bedroom and set it up in a corner of the room and plugged it in.  It started up with a loud hum, but it started up nonetheless.  I tried it out and immediately was grabbing for the safety rails (that's what I call them for obvious reasons) as I was almost thrown off the back into the wall, like a bucking horse who knows its rider has no idea what she is doing.  Now this free castoff didn't come with directions, nor did it come with a knob to control the incline setting which seems to be in the inclined position, because I can't really be THAT out of shape. No, really, it is inclined a bit, I measured.  So after the "buck-off", I took a little break, maybe a little out of fear and a lot out of laziness.  Slowly but surely, the treadmill became an extra closet.  Boxes and bags of Christmas decorations found their way there as did bags of maternity clothes and chldren's clothes returned to me from my sisters.  It was easier to enter the room and not hear the treadmill calling out, "Try again, saddle me up, I won't buck you off" when it was covered with things.  Only the lonely safety rails kept peeking out at me as if they were offering reassurance that they would save me once again if only I dared to hop back on.

Well, I have dared.  Two weeks ago after a particularly self-revealing moment in my room with my summer clothes, I decided enough was enough. I can be rather hard on myself at times, and this was one of those moments. It was "do or die", or "do or diet" which to me means the same thing since I love food.  So I cleared off the bags, dusted off the safety rails, plugged in the treadmill and climbed aboard, all while holding onto the safety rails, of course.  Well, that day I did 2 miles, alternating every 1/2 mile between running and walking.  The humming seemed increasingly louder so I turned the ipod up louder and louder.  The music of Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC and Motley Crue pushed me forward.  Between the sweat forming on my whole body and the fact that I was short of breath in that I couldn't sing along to my favorite songs, I knew I was doing something right.  I didn't do a .001 mile past the 2 miles, which was the goal I set for my maiden voyage, and I almost fell as I dismounted because my legs were so weak, and I was so dizzy, but I did it.  Inspired, I also did 50 sit-ups as those were my saving grace after my first pregnancy when I wanted to get immediately back into my faded jean size 5 booty shorts.  After the sit-ups, I crashed, hard, onto the bed, and only got up to get some water, not to drink, but to pour over my head in the middle of the kitchen, knowing and not even caring that I would also have to be the one to clean it up.

Two weeks later...I haven't visited the treadmill every day, and some days I can hear it sigh as I walk past, and I know it's disappointed that I haven't taken it for a ride that day.  And then the next day when I plug it in, and its loud hum starts going, I know it's ready for me.  And it's getting easier...the incline isn't so bad anymore, the music still pumps me up and pushes me forward, the safety rails are still my friends and the dizzying dismounts aren't so intense.  I'm doing the same 2 miles in less time and increasing my speed.  The 60 sit-ups that follow aren't making me want to vomit, and I've added 50 girl push-ups too, and I've lost 5 lbs.  But more importantly I feel better. I feel like I'm accomplishing something and I might even be starting to like exercise a little bit because I find myself enjoying my late afternoon rides on my treadmill and actually looking forward to them some days.  Yes, we are and my baby left on my doorstep.