Sunday, November 28, 2010

I love you, Grandma

All weekend I have been meaning to write this post have been having a hard time finding the courage to do so.  On Wednesday of this past week, I opened up a Macy's add and was overwhelmed by the smell from a perfume add for White Diamonds.  Tears welled up in my eyes and it took all my strength to fight back the tears and keep a stiff upper lip.  I stashed the perfume add in my top drawer in my bathroom and several times have picked it up and inhaled deeply.  That was the fragrance my grandma wore every day.  My Grandma Marjorie passed away last year unexpectedly the day after Thanksgiving.  I can still hear her voice, remember the smell of her perfume and still catch myself meaning to call or write.
When I was twenty, I dropped out of Wenatchee Valley College and moved out of my parents’ house.  All my friends had moved away to college, I was floundering around with some not so desirable townies and was honestly bored and lost.  Although I had lost weight (65 pounds since high school) grown my hair out and totally changed my image, I couldn't shake who I had been and who people knew me as.  My friend Nicole had recently moved to Tennessee and kept telling me how she felt like she could finally breathe.  It was a Wednesday night, the week before Thanksgiving in 2002.  I was sitting around waiting for a guy from my astronomy class to call.  Nicole had just told me what a relief it was to be away from Wenatchee.  I sat on the couch and pondered.  There was a coffee shop in Cannon Beach, OR where my grandma lived that was always hiring.  She was 86 years old and I always heard my dad and his siblings talking about how they wished she didn't live alone.  Without thinking too hard I called my grandma.  I nervously asked if it would be okay if I came to live with her for a while.  She was thrilled with the idea.  We decided after the first of the year would be a good time.  That would give me time to wrap up loose ends at home and have the holidays with my family and she could get the upstairs of her house ready for me.  After much convincing my parents got on board with the idea and I moved in with Grandma on January 15.
I arrived at her house, freshly heartbroken by the guy from the astronomy class.  I started working full time five days after I moved in at a clothing store in Cannon Beach.  Grandma and I started slowly learning to live together.  She was very routinized in her day to day life and was not used to sharing the house with someone 66 years her junior.  She laughed hysterically about my love for tanning at the time.  Grandma was from the depression era and believed in hard work, and not wasting anything.  Including time.  If I was not out of bed by 9 in the morning she would come knock on my door and ask if I was okay.  If I was still in my pajamas and sipping coffee at 10 am she would start prodding, asking if I was going to do something with my day, telling me what she needed from the market and she needed prescription picked up.  Not wanting to be a bother I would oblige right away.  Soon, I started waking up early and having my day planned.  I started organizing my bathroom upstairs and my dresser and closet the way she did.  Grandma was organized, but not uptight.  She took good care of what she had and was frugal.  She was the most stoic woman I have ever met in my life and also one of the strongest.  She lost one husband to suicide and another to alcoholism.  She got another chance at love but he died a year and half before I came to live with her.  Together, our hearts mended, she gave me the jump start I needed to become a successful adult and I gave her company.  Every night I was there we sat at the kitchen table watching the evening news.  Grandma followed the new and politics with an incredible appetite.  Never have I been more well versed in current events than when I lived with her.  To this day, every election night I plant myself in front of the TV and follow it to the bitter end.  Grandma was a huge proponent of education and convinced me to take a few classes at the community college in Astoria.  She also encouraged me to apply to a university and was there when I got accepted to Eastern.  Grandma attended UCLA when she was 16 and was thought to be sort of a freak since she decided to pursue her education before getting married.  Every time it came up she reminded me how lucky I was to be able to attend college and have so many choices available to me.
I moved out of Grandma's house to attend Eastern in the fall of 2003.  I left her house with immeasurably more confidence than when I moved in.  I carried it with me all through my time at Eastern and most of the time today.  I returned the following summer and Grandma and I picked up right where we left off.  I would tell her in detail about my college shenanigans and she would not bat an eye and match each of my tales with one of her own from her early days and it always amazed me how similar they were.  The following summer, I was starting to put down roots with David and Grandma was starting to age.  She was less patient and needed a lot more help.  She had a date set to move into assisted living.  I left early that summer because I was renting a house with Dave and didn't like paying rent for a place I wasn't living in.  Dave flew down and he and I drove back to Spokane the day after I turned 23.  As Dave was outside packing up my car, she told me she really liked him, he had her approval.  That meant the world to me.
After I moved back to Spokane, my life started to move in a opposite direction.  I dove headfirst into working as much as I could, interning and school.  Dave and I got engaged and I became more involved in the life him and I were starting.  I would send Grandma a quick card when I thought about it and called the night I got engaged.  I missed the family reunion in 2006, right before she moved into assisted living because I had to work.  Gradually, communication became less and less.  I would talk to Grandma on holidays and we would send each other occasional cards.  She flew up to Spokane for my wedding and I was so busy racing around I only got to spend half as much time with her as I wanted.  Dave and I made a trip down to Cannon Beach the summer after we got married and got to see her apartment at her new assisted living home.  I called her to tell her I was pregnant, sent her a copy of the sonogram and called the night Riley was born.  When Riley was nine months old I saw Grandma at the family reunion.  She looked more frail and moved much slower than I remembered.  She was still so beautiful.  She loved Riley and I sat next to her and talked to her as much as possible, but Riley still required a lot of attention and she was very tired and took frequent naps.  I hugged her goodbye thinking I would see her the following summer or sometime around the holidays.
Last Thanksgiving was horrible.  My sister was in jail for violating her probation, my parents were weary from all the drama from my sisters most recent incident, Riley was crabby and under the weather the whole time and Dave and I both had to work the following day.  My parents were babysitting Riley the Friday after Thanksgiving.  When they arrived in the morning, I was frantic to get out the door.  I couldn't be late to work.  My mom told me she wanted to talk to me.  Grandma was very sick and was airlifted to the hospital in Portland.  She had a bowel obstruction and she was refusing surgery.  There was a very slim, if any chance she would recover.  I couldn't process the news.  I told my parents Grandma was a fighter and it would be okay.  After all, she was a fighter, and as strong and scrappy as they come.  I went to work and couldn't shake the thought that this was serious.  No one at work seemed at all concerned when I brought it up so I kept my head down and kept working.  When I got home my parents handed over Riley and let me know they were driving to Portland.  Grandma was passing away.  I immediately started crying and didn't stop.  Dave left work early on Black Friday.  I held Riley close to me and tried explaining to him that Grandma was going to meet Jesus, but mommy is going to miss her.  My mom called later to let me know that they made it, and Grandma had passed away.  She told me about all the family that came to visit and say their goodbyes and all I could think about is how I should have been there.  I kept saying I hoped she knew how much I loved her.  How much she meant to me.  I sat sobbing out loud on the bathroom floor.  Riley came in a wrapped his arms around my neck.  David helped me into bed and poured me a glass of straight gin.  I sipped and thought about what Grandma would do.  I just couldn't shake that she would tell me tears wouldn't bring her back.  And that I needed to be strong and take care of my family.  That night Dave, Riley and I held on to each other and slept on and off throughout the night.  The rest of the weekend I stayed in a fog.  At work, I had to do my best to press on even though my heart wasn't in it. 
A year has passed and I still can't shake the guilt that I didn't call and write more.  It only would have taken me a few minutes.  I took one of the people who mean the most to me for granted and that's a horrible feeling.  People tell me that she knew how much I loved and appreciated her but still find myself doubting.  She used to always say "I'll see you when I see you" at the end of conversations.  So Grandma, I'll see you when I see you, and the first thing I will do is tell you how much you mean to me and how much I love you and apologize for my lack of communication.  Then we can watch some news together.  Until then, I'll keep your picture up, keep the perfume sample, and keep myself busy and productive.  I love you Grandma!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's the most dramatic time of the year

This is the first time since 2005 that I have the opportunity to have Christmas at home.  In 2006 I had my first Christmas away from home.  Dave and I worked Christmas Eve at our retail jobs and then went to PF Chang's.  We stuffed ourselves full of Chinese food and sipped gin and tonics in the bar vowing to make that our new Christmas Eve tradition.  We then went back to our apartment and drank egg nog in front of the fire and exchanged gifts.  We then spent Christmas Day with his family exchanging gifts and stuffing ourselves full of ham and rolls and pie.  The following year was spent in our tiny apartment over in the Seattle area.  Our good friends, Christopher and Tiffin were not going home for the holiday either so the four of us ate, drank an inordinate amount of grown-up egg nog at our place on Chistmas Eve and did the same thing the following night at their place and finished out the night by going to see Sweeny Todd in downtown Seattle.  The year after that, R was only two and half months old, Dave spent all day Christmas Eve working and Christmas Day is kind of a blur.  Seattle was shut down that year by the huge snow storms.  Last year we did Christmas Eve at my aunt and uncle's house and my parents came over to join us and left that night.  We spend Christmas Day at our family friends' house stuffing ourselves full of Turkey and wine and watching Riley start to understand a little bit about the holiday. 

This year it seems like all hell is breaking loose.  My brother and sister in law recently purchased a house in Spokane and they are eager to show it off and had a wonderful Christmas Day event planned.  My sister in law's family celebrates on the Eve so when this idea came to fruition, they planned on Day, everyone else was planning on Eve and then celebrating with our other halves on Day.  There is so much drama boiling in me right now and so many thoughts and feeling I want to write down and scream from the mountin tops.  So many personal opinions I want to blurt out and so much nasty, disgusting word vomit I want to spew.  But in the name of keeping the peace, I will not.  There is a huge e-mail circulating debating the get together between all of us.  I am kind of pissed about someone else proposing an idea as new and their own that I have brought up several times throughout the years but I'll get over it.  In the name of love, peace and patience, we will have a family Christmas.  This will work out and R can have Christmas memories that he will visit fondly, and his mother will be cheerful and kind in his memories, not annoyed and acting touchy.  I have to remember that I will still get to sit in the living room on Christmas [Day] morning, listening to Nat King Cole and eating an ooey-gooey cinnamon bun as we all take turns opening gifts.  We will get to see all the family that we love and stuff ourselves full of delicious food before having to go back to reality.  And I guess that's what really matters. 

Now time to go throw in a load of whites and fold the other laundry. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Take Good Care of Yourself....

That is what my after lunch Dove Promise told me to do.  My other Promise told me to "Keep the promises you make to yourself."  Believe me, I have been trying.  I'm back on the Weight Watchers horse hoping to lose the last 20 pounds once and for all.  I've been walking the dog, cleaning the house, washing the dishes, and getting us to our various playgroups, pre-school and church.  I have meals planned out for the week and got my cleaning schedule organized for the week.  However, I feel like I'm still falling short.  When everything feels like its all in order, something happens that makes me feel like I'm missing the boat.  Take yesterday for example.

On Monday Riley and I always go to the gym.  I dropped him off at the nursery, had a great workout that left me tired and sweaty and headed down to the locker room to shower and get ready.  I started to unpack my gym bag and realized a few vital pieces were missing.  I forgot a towel and a change of clothes.  All I could think was "Are you freakin' kidding me?!"  I sat down to think.  I had a few options: I could go get Riley, go home and stick him in front of the tv and shower at home (but that rarely works), I could wipe myself off with baby wipes or I could take my shower and dry off with a few of the gym towels and change my clothes when I get home.  I chose my final option.  All while I'm going through this, there were a couple "with it" moms discussing Arbonne cosmetics on the other side of the lockers as they applied their mascara.  There is a mother who is always in the locker room with her toddler getting ready when I go down to take my shower.  I know it's only a matter of time before my turn comes to be hit up to host an Arbonne party so I avoid her and her toddler son that she keeps with her in the locker room (Hello!  There's an awesome nursery upstairs!) like the plague.  I ran upstairs and grabbed a couple towels from the gym.  These towels were really more like an oversized washcloth.  I got to the shower and stripped myself down in a bathroom stall.  Just as I was completely undressed, I see a little hand creeping under the stall door.  The next thing I know, I am joined in the stall by Arbonne Lady's toddler.  He crawls under the door and laughs with pride as I am standing there naked as a sweaty jaybird.  "No, no no!  You need to go back to your mom!" I tell him as sternly as possible.  He crawls back out as his mother asks where her little bear went.  I stealthly run from the bathroom to the shower and manage to shower, run through the locker room past the "with it" moms stark naked and get back into my sweaty work out clothes and make it home without much more drama.  All I could think about was maybe if I was a little more organized, maybe if I did a little more laundry, maybe if... 

Maybe I need to be a little easier on myself.  I took good care of myself, set a good example for my son, and kept the promise to myself to work out more. 

Monday, October 25, 2010


So far during my wife/mother journey there have been many times when I felt like I am in limbo.  When I was working, I knew it was temporary, the ultimate goal was for me to stay home.  I knew early on that sleep deprivation, bottles, diapers, baby swings, baby bouncers, strollers etc would all come and go.  We're now in the full-fledged toddler stage where we sleep through the night and are starting to gain a little independence.  I can turn on Super-Why and trust that R will be okay while I go shower and get ready.  But I still rarely leave him unsupervised for even a minute. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to let him out of my sight.

Tonight we went to a small group meeting for the new church we're attending.  I'll write more about the church thing later when I'm more ready to open up about it.  But, some members were very gracious and invited us to join their small group.  All the families who attended the group had four kids a piece.  The rest of the moms were totally fine letting their kids run around, go up and down stairs and independently play while we had our group discussion.  I tried to let Riley run free but both Dave and I had a hard time.  He's only two.  I was so worried about him going up and down the stairs without me, or playing somewhere that wasn't in my line of vision.  Dave was a champ and spent most of the evening chasing R while I participated in and enjoyed the company and discussion.  Next week I promised Dave could be the grown up and I would chase Ri.  However, tonight got me thinking; do we hover too much?  Granted, the next youngest child there was three, but everyone else was letting their children run free, trusting their judgment and letting them play.  At what stage do you let them run and wait for them to let you know that they need you instead of watching their every move and intervening when you deem necessary?  I want Riley to grow to be strong and confident and capable.  I also want him to know how much he is loved and wanted and I do not want to see him hurt.  This week I'm going to work on letting him be a little more independent.  I'll start taking baby steps so hopefully my baby and I can hopefully grow together.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mother of a Two Year Old

A long time ago, B.R. (Before Riley) we asked my parents what the one thing was that they wish someone had told them about having a baby and/or parenting.  Their response was "nothing can prepare you" and that had become a mantra that Dave and I have repeated over and over and something we tell everyone we come across with a baby on the way who dares to ask for advice.  Truly nothing can prepare you.  The other thing my dad mentioned was it takes about two years before you are fully transitioned into the role of parent.  You spend the very early time with the newborn grieving your lost freedom and then the memories of spare time and extra money gradually begin to fade.  Sure you have moments every now and then when you want to trade everything you own for a weekend in Vegas, an impulsive dinner and movie or a Saturday morning sitting around watching E! and sipping coffee until noon.  You hear people who don't have children complain about being busy or tired and you want to laugh.  They have no idea what tired or busy can possibly entail. 

Riley turned two on the second of this month.  It was his golden birthday.  Although he had no idea, we did it up.  It started with cupcakes at his pre-school on the morning of the first.  That afternoon we had a birthday party here with all of his playgroup friends.  We played out in the back yard and had  Thomas the Train themed decorations everywhere.  The next day we drove over to Spokane to celebrate with David's family.  We met at Balfour park in the valley and once again, decked out our little corner of the park with Thomas the Train.  Riley ran around and played with his cousins.  We served cheese and crackers and cupcakes.  Riley's cousins played well and chased balloons in between rides on Grandma's Rascal.  When his cousin melted down, those of us with kids nodded sympathetically to my sister in law understood how to disengage and let him have his moment.  My brother and sister-in-law (without children) looked like deers in headlights as the kids ran around with limitless energy and took turns in time out.  After a few hours we packed up and headed home.  The next day Riley had his family birthday party here at home.  We took him to Red Robin for lunch and he got the special birthday treatment.  I know we probably went a bit over the top for his birthday but he's the most deserving kid.  He has the best attitude and is such a much needed joy for David and I and my parents. B.R., David and I were completely fine with working as much as possible and going though the motions.  Since having him, we've been forced to grow and change in ways that we never could have predicted.  We had to become completely selfless and make that a way of life.  We've had to learn to slow down, appreciate the little things.  Most of all, we've learned to be true to ourselves so we can be true to our son.  Without Riley, Dave would still most likely be slaving away at his corporate job instead of chasing his true dream and passion.  I would probably still be plugging away at my old job, instead of having to grapple with what I want to be when I grow up (yes, I'm almost 30 and I still don't know.)  Having a child changes you.  And that's kind of an understatement. 

So here I am, the mother of two year old.  I've learned how to shower and get ready in 20 minutes, always have at least three diapers, wipes and snacks in my humongous purse along with a change of clothes and more diapers in my car.  I have been the woman in the store with a screaming child, I can't remember that last time I was in a restaurant that wasn't family friendly, seven-thirty is sleeping in and honestly, I don't care.  A year ago, I may have gotten a little snippity when someone told me they slept in until noon and then went and got a pedicure.  This year, that sounds nice but it's not me anymore.  I have vague memories of times like that, but their just that, memories.  I am now a full time mom to a little boy and has been, is, and is to come, my life and I'm going to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why the Gym is a Mom's Best Friend

Now hear me out.  I know many of you are going to roll your eyes and think I've lost it.  But I haven't.  I have discovered the secret to being a happy stay at home mom.  Twice a week I take Riley to a playgroup at the library and once a week we go to a parent-toddler co-op preschool.  Those groups are great.  I have met all my local mom friends there and are always a great source for playdates.  However, the other two days I'm usually at a loss.  That is why the gym is a lifesaver.  It's guarenteed childcare, me time and a shower all in one.  I drop him off at the nursery and he loves it.  It took a couple weeks for him to get fully acclimated but now he runs in and says "Bye Mommy" before I can get him signed in.  There are new and exciting toys and he gets to be social.  The I get to go work out.  Depending upon how I'm feeling I may have a great workout or just take a stroll on the treadmill.  Then, here's the best part, I get to go take a shower and get ready.  By myself.  It is so luxurious!  And, if it's a really good day, I dry my hair and put make-up on.  I don't care how broke we are when David is in school, I will sell off my car if it means I can keep the gym membership.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Some things are better off forgotten We bury them in places that we really only visit by ourselves...--Stone Sour

One of my Facebook friends posted this as her status earlier today and it really struck a chord with me.  It is the opening line of the song, Imperfect by Stone Sour. Everybody has skeletons in their closet, that's no secret.  It's the part about only visiting by ourselves that I found compelling.  This past week, for some reason, has brought forth a flood of old memories and experience, some wonderful and some that I have had to process.

My sister is still in Salem.  She is in the hospital and is committed for 180 day.  This is a relief.  She will be there for my son's birthday, so I will be able to enjoy the day, knowing that she is safe and supervised.  She will also be there while my parents take their trek through Nepal, so they will be able to enjoy that experience.  David and I met in the midst of my sister's first hospitalization and he has never known her not to be ill.  His family has never known her or me either, without the chaos that accompanies a family who has a member that is mentally ill.  Tonight as we were out walking the dog, we heard the marching band practicing.  When my sister was a freshman and sophomore she was very active in band and my parents followed her around chaperoning her and her band buddies.  Every night our home would be filled with the saxophone part of the band songs as she diligently practiced.  She loved that sax and the band.  In some ways, I wish I could forget the memories of who she was before she was overcome with this ugly illness.  I miss the energetic, giggly blond girl who would bounce from band to sports to dance with such energy and zest all while maintaining impeccable grades and working toward her life long dream of being a pediatrician.  Those memories are buried and and at times all I feel I have left.  I visit those memories as I watch the band practice and when I hear a saxophone.  While David observed and relived his band days, laughing at the two guys hamming it up with their clarinets, I visited the memory of my sister.

I am back in the town I grew up in and swore I would never return to.  When I left in January 2003, I left a lot of wounds open and a lot of feelings and memories un-dealt with.  In late 2004, when I was attending Eastern Washington University, I went to a hockey game with some of my new college friends.  A friend of my friend poked me half way through the game and asked me if I knew the girls a few rows back from us.  Sure enough, it was two girls who were part of the popular crowd at my high school.  Nicole and Sarah.  I had maybe interacted with both of them a grand total of three or four times in my life.  She wanted to know if I knew them because they kept pointing at me and talking about me.  I immediately left and waited in the lobby for the remainder of the game.  When we got home I locked myself in my room and cried.  I hated thinking about those days of high school and elementary and middle school.  Back then, the memories were too painful to visit.  Now, I see people from growing up around town, and sometimes, it throws me.  Sometimes, I find myself feeling insecure and upset.  I want to go home and drown myself in food to try to stuff down the emotions and memories. But other times, I surprise myself when the reaction is positive.  A happy memory or a kind interaction.  Two Sunday mornings ago, I was at Safeway wearing an old sweatshirt, yoga pants, flip-flops and no make-up with my hair back in a ratty ponytail.  I was quite the sight to behold, but I was grocery shopping alone (!).  I saw one of the girls from the hockey game by the deli counter.  I threw the bagels in to my basket and put my head down.  Immediately I started thinking of a comeback or a look I could give for what I was sure was about to come my way.  I had been dreading this since we moved here and now it was happening.  I bit my lip and started to push my cart.  But instead, as we passed, we gave each other half smiles and kept walking.  Maybe it's parenting, or maybe it's just growing up, but up until that moment, as odd as it sounds, it had never occurred to me that maybe other people were softening.  Trying to become kinder and wiser, or simply had been in the trenches of parenting and understood that it can be a victory in itself just to get out of the house some days and could be empathetic.  So maybe it's time for me to do my best to let some things be forgotten.

And...not to drone on, but I think one of the greatest parts of being a parent is getting to share your memories and favorite experiences from your childhood with your children.  I love singing songs with R in the bathtub and Dave loves cooking him a huge breakfast on Saturday morning.  Dave and I laugh sometimes when we each have "ah-ha" moments when we realize that memories and traditions we have were not the norm in other families.  This past weekend we took Ri to the Chelan County Fair.  Growing up, the fair was a a huge deal.  We would go with our classes during the week and then as a family on the weekend.  It was one of the few times a year when all bets were off.  My dad would ride the rides with us and hand over dollar bill after dollar bill as we tried to win goldfish and other prizes.  We would always get treats.  My sister and I would indulge on cotton candy, curly fries, corn dogs, caramel apples, apple pie, chocolate dipped ice cream bars and frozen lemonade.  We would run around the livestock barns, looking at the animals and begging my parents to let us get a rabbit or a pygmy goat as a pet so we could show it in the fair the following year.  (They never indulged us with that one.)  This year, Riley rode in his stroller as we walked him through the livestock barns.  He felt a little intimidated by the animals and their enormous size in proportion to him, but loved walking through the carnival.  We ate corn on the cob on a stick and he ran around chasing after a balloon from a vendor.  After three and a half hours, he cried and had his public melt-down when we told him it was time to go.  I'm not sure if he'll remember the day, but I hope I can help create some memories that he will visit fondly.