28 August 2011

Miss Hill

     I went to kindergarten in 1955.  Yes, I'm a baby boomer, and our class of 52 kids which was just the morning class, certainly reflects that.  Can you imagine?!  Our little town barely knew what to do with the explosion of kids.  They couldn't build schools fast enough.  
     Our teacher, Miss Hill, (that's her, second from the left) was about 6' tall and rail thin.  She was stern, but loved us all.  We knew that, in spite of the fact she said she'd 'grind us up in the meat grinder' or 'throw us away in the garbage can' when she was mad.  I was lucky enough to have her babysit my brothers and me when I was younger but once she became my teacher (for both kindergarten and 1st grade), our relationship changed.  I wasn't her favorite anymore.  Well, at least not in the classroom.  She would whisper to me that I was still her favorite but that was our secret.  It was a great secret.
     Miss Hill died while I was in high school.  I don't remember why.  She never married.  The school erected a plaque on the playground, honoring her and her service to all those kids through the years.  As a teenager, when we were bored, my friends and I would go to the playground and swing on the swings, go across the monkey bars, acting all cool but secretly wishing we were little again.  I would always find her plaque and trail my fingers across the raised letters, remembering her and how special she had made me feel.
     Sometime during the later decades, the school population dropped, the needs of the town changed, people moved away from the sleepy little bedroom community and several schools were razed to make way for parks or just empty space. Both my elementary and junior high schools were leveled.  
     About five years ago we happened to be nearby and so, impulsively, I took my daughter on a mini-tour of where I grew up.  We drove to where the school had been and I saw the park it had become.  We walked the path surrounding a huge grassy expanse and I looked.  I looked for the plaque.  Surely it would have been saved and put into a place of prominence.  But it was no where to be found.  It made me quite sad.  I hope that it's displayed somewhere else; that people see it and think, just for a moment, "That Miss Hill must have been SOME teacher."
  

14 April 2011

What To Do Before Taxes are Due

http://bit.ly/hT9Cxm

This will totally occupy your time and make you finally feel like the musical genius you always knew you were/wanted to be.  When you get frustrated when you find you you can't deduct something, give up for a while and play a little tune.  Come on!  It's fun! (And you have some extra days this year anyway before tax deadline.  Play!)

:)

05 March 2011

Why Do I Care?....and....Whose Story Is It?

     
     Thirty years ago I went through a very difficult, high-risk pregnancy. Unexpectedly, at 23 1/2 weeks into it (normal gestation lasts 40 weeks) I was put on forced bedrest. We endured alarming consultations with a neonatologist concerning the odds of having a living/normal baby, and I tried mightily to stay calm despite being so frightened at times I couldn't catch my breath. Family and friends rallied and helped us through many of the rough patches during the very long, tedious and scary weeks. On a beautiful sunny Sunday, eight weeks later and still nine weeks before he was due, I gave birth to a premature baby boy. He was alive...he had ten fingers and ten toes...but it was a really scary time.  He spent weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) but thankfully had very few setbacks.  
     In retrospect, his positive, upbeat personality and temperament were evident from the get-go. My son is now 30 and a successful, happy man. He has a fiance he loves, a career which fulfills him, a new home of their own, an adorable puppy, many hobbies and passions, and...well...in sum, a very fine, happy life.
     So, Why Do I Care what people think of his birth story?
     Well, you see, I discovered about six months after he was born that if I was asked about the circumstances surrounding his birth, people didn't believe what I said!!  At first I was dumbfounded.  What do you mean, you don't believe me?  The circumstances were unique, I'll give you that, but you don't believe me??  I carefully explained what had happened.  I made sure to use all the proper medical terms.  I began to feel a bit desperate, like I wanted to get my doctor on the phone to talk to the person, to convince them...to prove I wasn't lying.  How crazy is that?  Why would I lie?  Of course, all the people who mattered--our families and good friends--had all lived through the scary times with us and knew what had happened. 

     Over the years I came to expect this reaction if the subject came up, and I chose deliberately who to tell the story to.  I got tired of questions that started with "Are you sure....?"  It was easy to choose not to tell strangers, but with new friends--especially after we moved two states away--it made me nuts when people looked at me patronizingly as I said, "Yes, I am sure!!" It even happened with new doctors but thankfully, I had our medical records.  They were always surprised that it happened just the way I said it did.
     It hasn't come up much in the past decade, or so.  I don't think I've told the story in quite a while, actually.  But this year...when my son turned THIRTY, I was thinking about it a lot.  On his birthday, I got out some of my diaries and was sort of reliving it all, remembering...when I got a series of texts from my sister.  She was marveling, as was I, that he was THIRTY (because that makes ME really ancient, you know) and then she asked me some questions about the details of the pregnancy and his birth because she had been telling someone about it all and they didn't believe her!!!!  
     The frustration started all over again.  I wanted to drive over to that friend of hers (over 1,000 miles away) and shake my sheaf of medical records at her.  
     But as I said at the beginning...WHY DO I CARE?
     I don't know, but I do.


     The other part of this week's musings was the realization that maybe this isn't my story to tell.  Maybe it's his. At what point in our children's lives does what's happening to them become their story to tell and not ours?
     I notice all the parenting blogs on the web with cute stories and accompanying pictures and it makes me think.  The moms are just writing about their kids...those cute kids walking around with fingerpaint all over their face, or a droopy diaper filled with marbles, or streaking down the hallway, naked-with-only-a-smile.  These moms are just writing about the joys of being a mom.  
     But now, because my kids are grown, if I put a picture of one of them up on Facebook, I think long and hard about it first.  Will they be upset by it? If it's a picture I know they don't like, I won't post it, even if it's one of my favorites (and I have many of those).
     I don't know when this shift of emphasis happened, but at some unknown point, they took ownership to the rights of their story.
     So....is this my story?  Or his?  



    

    

08 December 2010

MAKE

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)


     My dad is turning 86 in a few days, although you would never guess that.  Every morning he gets up eager and anxious to get the day going.  He and my mom live in a two-story house that they bought in 1969 and he literally sprints up the stairs. They have a pool in the back that he cares for even though they don't swim in it.  He and mom plant interesting things in a small side garden and they eat what they sow.  
     My dad still exercises every day.  Some days this means a game of tennis with a much-younger partner whom he can still beat.  Occasionally, his knee will act up, but he tells me that he takes 1 (one!!) glucosomine/chondroitin and it immediately feels better.  Many days he runs.  Yes, I said 'runs!'  It's not far, maybe some days just around the block, but he runs.  When the weather's bad, he will run in the house. He has a loop that goes: living room, into the dining room, through the kitchen and, rounding the entry way, back into the living room.  He does twenty or so laps and feels he's had his exercise. (This makes my mom crazy, because it has worn a pattern in the rug.  "He wears his shoes!")  And, on all days, he starts first with old-school calisthenics.  When I was in high school, I remember the irritation I felt each morning when this woke me up earlier than I wanted with his gruntings...."one, two, three...." as he counted out his push-ups, sit-ups, squats.      
     He reads the daily paper, the internet, news magazines and an occasional book.  This, all despite a type of dyslexia.  Sometimes he quietly reads out loud, as his index finger underlines the words, but he always reads.  There is always a jigsaw puzzle being worked on in the family room.  TV is frequently on in the kitchen while he works on a project.  He and my mom go out to eat almost daily.  They love to go out to breakfast, but any meal is enjoyable to eat out for them.  He talks to anybody he meets.  Again, when I was in high school, this was irritating.  He would stick out his hand and introduce himself to ANYONE and ask about the other person and sometimes INVITE THEM HOME!  I was mortified; now, I wish I could be more like him.
     He spent his first 15 years in a foreign land where they worried about the food.  It has stayed with him all his life.  I don't believe he has ever eaten the skin of a tomato.   Produce was always washed with a vegetable scrubber when I was growing up and we were careful how we ate fruits and vegetables.  He won't touch most of his food with his hands.  Oh, how my siblings and I used to laugh at this...still do, actually.
     Take brownies.  My dad LOVES brownies.  Loves, loves, loves.  He makes them himself, frequently...Betty Crocker brownies, add the walnuts.  The way my dad eats them is that they are cut, placed on a plate, and then while he stands at the counter in the kitchen, he will bend down and eat them off the plate with his mouth.  His hands will be clasped behind his back.  That's a funny image, right?!  
     But so what?  That's my dad.  And, so, for this year's birthday present, I went to one of those ceramic paint-your-own places and made him a plate.  


     HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!! 



04 December 2010

WONDER

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)


With my camera.....



Who else do you know who has a rocking
chair in their backyard?
I love how the two floor patterns merge...inside to outside....

Water always makes for interesting pictures.











MOMENT

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)


     A lot happened in 2010.  Some good, some not so good, some bad.  How to pick just one moment to describe for the Reverb10 project was at first hard, until I focused on that one phrase, felt most alive.  For me, that moment had to do with death.




     Our beloved 18-year-old cat, Jazz, had to be put to sleep on November 17th, less than a month ago.  He was old...I don't even know for sure how old in cat years--90-something?...so it was not that this was unexpected.  He had been having kidney problems for several months and had been getting subcutaneous fluids every day at our vet's.  But the only way--for a long time--that we knew anything was wrong was through the blood test results.  He was still acting like his normal self up until the last few months.  He had Siamese in him and had that characteristic caterwaul of a meow, but was such a lovable old guy.  He spent most of his days sleeping in the sun--how he loved the warmth of the sun!--and would sit on anyone who would give him a lap.
     The week before his death, he had been hospitalized.  He just wasn't dealing with food in his normal way:  he'd come out to the kitchen and sit patiently by his dish, and look up expectantly as I spooned food into it, but then when he bent down to smell it, he'd react as if it were rotten.  Dr. Wendi said that frequently nausea is a side effect of renal problems, so initially, he was going to stay overnight to get IV fluids.  That overnight stretched into a week as they took his blood daily and sent it to a lab for more precise measurements of his BUN and creatinine levels which were dropping every day.  Finally, Dr. Ryan said that we should take him home because the levels had somewhat stabilized and although they were abnormally high still, he would probably do better at home.
     Three days later, it was obvious he wasn't doing better.  He was having problems walking--listing to one side, running into things and falling down--and wasn't eating at all.  The night before the 17th, my daughter and I sat with him on the couch.  It was so quiet in the house.  Jazz just wanted to rest, just wanted to sleep but his body was jerking and tic-ing.  These were neurologic problems that he had had for about a year but it had never been this bad.  In the beginning, we had noticed a little tic, a movement of his head.  Then a few months ago, he began to sometimes jerk out a leg as he was settling down to sleep.  But that night, his head was jerking so suddenly, violently, and randomly that he couldn't lay his head down to sleep.  It was agonizing. 
     The next morning, I called and talked to two of the vets.  We all knew it was time to help him die.  The picture above was taken about an hour before we left for the vet.  He lay on the wing-back chair in the sun and was somewhat at peace, I think.  He wasn't tic-ing just then.  He slept in the warmth next to the window, purring a bit when I petted him.  I sat on another chair next to him and watched him sleep, knowing that in just an hour..less, even...he would cease to be.  The knowledge was so painful.
     I'll spare you the details of his actual death, except to say it was quiet, painless as far as I could tell, and very, very sad.  Dr. Mike was wonderful with all of us, especially my daughter.  But in that moment of his death, I felt, FELT, my alive-ness the most. 

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I am curious about everything, all the time. Sometimes it's exhausting. (I even wonder WHY I wonder.) It would be so much easier to not be asking "Why?" all the time.

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