Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Story about Time and Finding Friends

What difference can a year make?  It is a funny thing, this thing we call time.  We, as humans, are the only creatures who mark it out, count it, rely on it even, and worry so much about it running out.  One of my favorite books is called The Timekeeper.  Mitch Albom of course, is one of my absolute favorite authors of all time.  In this book about the Timekeeper and time he explores it all in such a poignant way.  It is really a good book so check it out if you haven't.

We have lived in our current location for almost a year and a half.  I think about how different things are from when we first got here.  It is amazing really how much smaller a place can get.  Don't get me wrong, it is huge.  Two to three lanes per side on any given road to get where you are going is not unusual here.  A traffic jam here is not just a few cars behind a tractor and not once have I had to try and get around a combine that was moving between fields.  It just isn't a thing here...at least not where we live. Perhaps the more appropriate word is familiar.  Most places are now familiar and feel like home.

When first we arrived things were not familiar.  Even our home wasn't familiar.  People weren't familiar in almost every location we went and the locations weren't familiar either.  I was afraid.  I won't lie to you about that.  Obviously I was afraid.  I've always been afraid of one thing or another.  Afraid to go down the big slide at the park, afraid of the dark, afraid to drive on the big roads, afraid to speak in front of people, even if I know them all, always so afraid.  Mostly though I think my fear was bigger of what our lives would be if we didn't move.  That fear was bigger.  The fear of settling and always being afraid of everything because the comfort of the familiar was just so comfortable.  The comfort even started to scare me because what if I never stopped being afraid and I stayed that way and eventually it became worse?  What kind of life is that for my family?  What does that show our children?  Is that what I want for them? The answer was and is no.

We arrived as aliens in an unknown but beautiful place, knowing only four people in our location and three others that lived hours away.  My husband and son were the lucky ones.  They had work and school.  That helped them to be submerged into the environment a bit quicker than it happened with the girls in the family.  We mostly stayed home except for going to the grocery and church.  But then something amazing happened, our pastor's wife started taking me out on excursions and showing me around.  We quickly became friends and in no time (there's that word again) at all we were getting together most weeks even if it was just to go to the grocery together.  Everyone knows going with a friend to the grocery makes that chore more tolerable.  

In the year and a half since we've been here I have met some great people and made some friends.  Our son has made friends at school and even ventured to a school dance (something he never ever did back at his old school).  Our middle child started a job that was temporary and then started a different job and started college.  She has made friends and started getting more grounded.  Our oldest daughter has graduated from her college she was attending on line and is getting ready for her next chapter.  My husband has turned his store around.  It is no longer quite the trouble store it was upon arrival.  It is still insanely busy and ridiculous at times but improvements have been made and small glimpses of light are being seen at the end of a very long tunnel.

I drive.  I drive on three lane roads and cut in and out of traffic when people go too slow.  I have driven to the beach.  I have been forced to drive places that I wasn't familiar with to get my son places he needed to be for activities.  It seems that if my child needs me to go somewhere, my fear gets put in the corner and I go.  It is good for me.  We take walks and it gets dark.  It storms and I find I am not concerned.  I have ridden rides (simulated rides but I think that still counts).  It seems as though things have started picking up.  Life has started and we are hitting our rhythm here.

But as per usual life always likes to hit you with a curve ball to make sure you are paying attention.  Life is a Rocky Balboa quote.  "You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain't about how hard ya hit.  It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  How much you can take and keep moving forward."  My friend is leaving.  Our time together is short now. Their family is moving and I'm so sad.

It is harder I think, as an adult, to find friends who get you.  Someone you can laugh and be silly with that won't secretly judge you for being a nerd bomber.(Does that term date me? I feel like it dates me.)  I'm a huge nerd.  I like super heroes and Star Trek, and Star Wars and singing to the muzak in the mall and singing in the car and pretending I could rock at lip sync battle.  I walk out of movies feeling like a ninja and like I could conquer the world.  I have unrealistic expectations of things I think I should be able to do, that I cannot, and I speak in movie quotes and sarcasm.  As you can see,it is hard to find someone who can not only deal with that kind of charm but embrace it and dive right into your life and be the kind of friend that seems as though you have always been friends and the time you didn't know each other seems of no relevance at all.  I get I'm weird and my only fear now is that once my friend leaves I may not find that one friend here that can fill that void.  The one I can call and say "Hey let's go to Target and look at clearance." or "Hey I need you to talk me down from the ledge cause I'm losing it."  or "Hey, go to Aldi's with me because I don't want to go alone."  I need that kind of friend in my life and while she reminds me that she isn't dying she is just moving, there is still a sense of loss.

I am blessed to have made such a good friend shortly after my arrival and we will always be friends.  Just as it was when I moved from my home town to here, I didn't just stop being friends with the friends that I had there.  I have several friends that I miss dearly from my home state.  That said I don't so much miss my home town.  I don't miss who I was when I was there.  I kind of feel like in leaving I found a piece of myself that was missing.  I gained a bit of independence that I may not have found otherwise.  God sent me just the friend I needed here to help me adjust and learn to step a few toes outside of my comfort zone...to learn to fully live my life in this new environment instead of just moving to another house and nothing really changing.

I am no longer sitting on the sidelines. I am diving in, looking around and absorbing it all.  I'm looking for my tribe and I'm not so concerned about the timing.  Sooner rather than later would be nice as she's leaving next month but it's OK, she will still take my calls.  I have a routine and I'm still figuring out who I am outside of the motherhood.  I've always just been someone's mom and while I'm still the mom, they don't really need me or want me around so much.  I'm not sure who I am outside of that.  My cousin reminded me that I did once have interests and I was once human before I had the children.  It's hard to remember but I think when the time is right God will reveal the plan.  Until then I'll bide my time and wait for God to send me a friend that likes to sing along with Bohemian Rhapsody and go to the grocery with me and speaks fluent sarcasm.  Ironically my friend is moving to my home state.  I did warn her and I sure hope she likes corn.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Phone Calls from Heaven

Dear Mom,

It doesn't really get easier.  Mother's day is tomorrow and I suppose I should focus on the fact that I, myself, am a mother.  I realize that, of course, I realize that and yet I want my mother.  Everywhere I go people are talking about buying cards for their mothers and I don't have a card to buy.  I don't have a call to make or flowers to send.  I would have sent you sunflowers.  You should see the sunflowers they have at the farmer's market.  They are breathtaking.

I had this fantasy, a dream really, you were here.  We were making plans for dinner for Mother's day and talking about how to spend the day today.  Were we going shopping or to the beach to work on our tans?  There are so many choices here.  So many places to eat, I think you could go somewhere different for an entire year and still not try them all.

I drink coffee now.  Did I tell you that?  Your granddaughters like it too.  We don't drink it black like you did but I often think about how much fun it would have been to go to coffee shops with you.  How you would have ordered yours black and we would have tried to get you to drink coffee like we do with all the stuff in it that makes it taste good.  Would you have enjoyed it the way we do?  Would it have been a running joke between us?  Can you imagine the four of us girls shopping and drinking coffee together?  I never did...I imagine you thought, like I did, that the girls would be little forever.  It never occurred to me, when you were here, the things we would be doing together as the girls got older.  Now we are visiting colleges and in a few short years they will be working and on their own.  You would have been right in the mix of it all.  How different would our lives be if you were here?  What would you have taught the girls?

Amazing...it is really amazing to me how much difference a year can make.  We moved almost a year and a half ago and I was so frightened to drive on some of these big roads.  We felt like aliens in a strange land and now, well....we're not.  Yesterday your grandson pointed out a kid on a bike and said he was a great guy.  We have friends here now.  I have driven to the beach.  If I want to go somewhere I'm not so scared to go anymore.  I have found that it doesn't matter where you go, people drive like idiots.  I have thought about how you would have handled driving here and then I was remembering that you drove us to North Carolina.  Do you remember that?  Just the two of us on the open road and I realize you were fearless.

You were fearless and yet I have always been afraid of everything.  You were the hardest working woman I ever knew and you raised me alone.  It wasn't easy.  Raising a daughter is hard, I get it, I have two.  PMS and drama and all the things...throw in the eye rolls and the door slamming and it's enough to make anyone slightly crazy and you did it without help.  I, at least, have a partner in life.  We can tag team and team up and support each other.  Remember when I was having the boy?  We were so scared of a boy.  He's so easy...always was really.  He would put himself down for naps.  Such blessings each and every one, with their different personalities, and they would have enjoyed hanging around you as much as you would have them.  You would have spoiled them.  I hope you would have taught them to be fearless like you.  I wish I could have been fearless too.

So many changes and I can't call you.  I can't call you and talk to you while I'm cooking dinner.  I can't invite you to dinner.  You were always on the other end of the line.  You could be so mad at me but you were always on the other end of the line.  You might have yelled at me but you would have been there.  For the record, I was always right, but I'd say I was wrong if I could have one more conversation. It's been almost thirteen years and I have to focus to remember the sound of your laugh.  I have to concentrate to remember the melody of your voice.  I remember the way you would say things, the expressions you would use, like it is ingrained into the very fiber of my being.

I can close my eyes and see your smile and the way you would chew on your pinky finger when you were tired. The way you were late for every party always but you made the best cakes in town.  The way you always looked so tired because you worked all night in a factory for my whole life so you could be available if I needed you in the daytime.  I remember it all.  I thank you for it all.  I was a sarcastic kid and maybe I'm not a much better adult because my entire vocabulary is full of sarcasm and movie quotes but you did teach me to appreciate everything.  You taught me right from wrong and you taught me that love is a verb.  That it's showing up.  And maybe you taught me a little bit about hard work too but I was always too scared to fail to really go for dreams I knew I didn't deserve. And yet you were never the one who told me I didn't deserve anything, you only told me I was spoiled but you were mostly to blame for that and you loved it.  You loved me.  Always.  For better or for worse you were always the one person in my life that I could run to and all I want is to talk to you on the phone.  If only there could be phone calls from heaven.

I have been so very blessed with a wonderful husband and three great kids I've gotten to love here on earth and one that I hope to meet in heaven someday.  I have this beautiful family and some great friends but on mother's day I miss my mom.  No one loves you like your mom.  I know though that if I can't be with you that you are with the only one who could love you better.  I'm so overwhelmed that you came to know Jesus before you died.  I think that is the best part of all this.  His love for you is so deep and so true.  I know His love for me is too.  I love you and miss you to infinity and beyond.  I just wish there were phone calls from heaven.  Until we meet again.

Love,

Your favorite daughter, Heather
(I win by default, only child and all)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Shot in the Butt

A shot in the butt should cure any ailment that you may have.  That should be a thing.  You have hypoglycemia, go to the doctor for a shot in the butt and BOOM you're cured.  Cancer?  A shot in the butt.  Thyroid issues?  A shot in the butt.  Bladder infection?  A shot in the butt.  A cold, the flu, kidney stones, gallbladder attack, essentially any way that the body can rebel against you, a shot in the butt should take care of that and get you back to normal.

I'll take this one step further.  Are you suffering from a lack of filter?  Do you have a disease where you are just a jerk?  You're teenager's lack of respect and hatefulness should be cured by a shot in the butt.  I'm just saying! 

You laugh but wouldn't life be just so much easier if things could be taken care of so easily?  I mean sitting might be uncomfortable for a couple of hours but essentially the main problem ceases to exist.  Oh if only it could be that easy. 

I once read somewhere or saw in a movie about someone who wanted their memories erased so they wouldn't have to feel the pain of losing the person they loved.  There have been times in life where the pain of losing my mother and so many others, beloved pets included, that I have had the very same thought.  But then I got to thinking how sad an existence that would be.  A life where you couldn't remember your precious loved ones seems like you wouldn't have lived much of a life at all.  To be able to truly love I think you have to be willing to take the chance of being truly hurt.  To feel pain makes feeling love and joy that much more precious and special.

We've been having a rough time of it lately.  We buried our beloved cat Gabby on what would have been my mother's birthday this last Saturday.  Our entire way of life has altered significantly by just not having this cat in our home.  It has been an entire reset of our way of life and this is from a cat.  Perhaps that seems odd to people who do not own pets but they become a part of your family and a part of you, especially when they are with you as long as our Gabby was with us.  Seventeen years with man or beast is a commitment.  Seventeen years is a long time to have a relationship of love and like and dislike and every phase that one goes through when you truly love a part of your family.

As I spent my time remembering my mother and my cat and thinking about how things used to be and all that was lost, I wished I could forget even a little bit, maybe just the bad parts when they were sick.  What kind of service would that be to them though?  To truly love and be loved you have to be in it for all of it.  The good, the bad, the ugly of life is just that...life.  I believe a full life includes all of the good, the bad and the ugly.  Without all of the components you miss a little something along the way.  A lesson maybe that helps you get to the next step or phase in life.  I don't want to forget any of it, not really.  In time, pain does fade from a sharp stabbing to a dull ache that you just can't shake.  I remember every bit of how my mom was and how my cat was at the end but I also remember how they lived. 

My mother was a force to be reckoned with.  She worked so hard and showed up for everything.  She didn't hold any fancy degrees and she may not have made an enormous amount of money but she did pretty well.  She did well enough to take care of herself and her child without much help from a man and she apologized for much.  She loved her family and she loved the home shopping networks.  She had friends that I never even met until she was sick or after she passed.  She was loved by many.  My mother baked the best cookies in the county, she made the best spaghetti sauce, she had an infectious smile and she loved all things sweet.  She watched Days of our Lives and she drank black coffee and smoked cigarettes at the same time which truly did seem counterintuitive but that's what she did.  She used to run her hands through my hair when I was younger to help me sleep.  She called me Kong when she would ask me what I wanted to do next.  She hated it if I called her by her name and not mom.  She made me go to bed at nine on school nights until I graduated high school.  She loved shopping and could never turn down a good sale. She loved her mother and she could argue with me like a champ.  She had 'the look' and I never developed 'the look' which is my greatest disappointment as a mother. My mother was all of those things and my mother died at fifty two years old from cancer but my mother cannot be and will never be defined by the disease that killed her.  No, if anything came from her cancer, it was that it just showed those around her that she was an even bigger fighter than what we knew.  What's more is that my mother came to know Jesus.  She was a child of the Lord and he came down personally to escort her home.  I know this because I was there and yes she argued with him too because you could see the struggle on her face and then the relaxing and the letting go when she went.

My cat could scare dogs and she was fiercely jealous of all other animals.  She was also kind of a jerk sometimes.  She loved us but then loved the very creatures (other cats we brought home that she supposedly hated and wanted to kill) more than she loved us.  They would become best friends and they would gang up on us and they were our friends too.  Linus being my sidekick and Gabby tagging along only because he wanted to be around me.   She preferred having him all to herself.  Also I think she was still mad at me for going to the bathroom so much when I was pregnant with our son because as guard cat she would follow me around to protect me.  I'm not sure if she thought I was going to fall in the toilet and how she would help if anything did happen during that time but she would no sooner get comfortable when I was up to go again and she followed me every time.  She liked eating and sleeping and she totally lost it if catnip got involved.  She would act like she was higher than a kite and she wouldn't share with the other cats.  She would growl at them if they came near the catnip.  We only got it a couple of times and we never got it again because she got that weird about it. 

A shot in the butt.  It would be so easy and my mom would be here.  My cat would be here.  Cancer would be as rare as Polio.  Or if not that then the pain of losing so many would cease to exist and yet how do we really appreciate what we have until it is gone?  As human beings we know what it is to love and what it is to lose but we don't really spend our days, not the day in day out daily grind anyway thinking to ourselves, "I want to remember this moment right here for when they are gone.  Or I want to forget this happened or reshape it to fit the memory I wanted to have if this person dies before I do."  No, we go about our lives as though tomorrow will come and the next day and nothing ever changes.  We take people, animals, and things for granted not because we mean to but because we are busy and we are human.

Mitch Albom is one of my favorite authors of all time.  I just think he is brilliant and so talented.  In The Time Keeper it says, "With endless time, nothing is special.  With no loss or sacrifice we can't appreciate what we have."  I think that is true. We get stuck, we get into the daily grind and we forget that life is short and precious and temporary.  I also think that that is how the devil distracts us and tries to keep us from growing closer to God when really we need to be so focused on God that we can learn how to better love and serve the very people we don't want to lose.  We need to be so focused on God that when we do lose them we can remember that he is there to help us heal from their loss.  I remember being surrounded by people and never feeling more alone than when I lost my mother.  That's how I managed to crawl into the pit and stay there so long.  I believed the lie that I was alone and stopped thinking about what I still had but focused all my attention on what I had lost.  Even when I knew that God was with me, knew he had stood at the foot of my mother's bed, felt the presence of the One who brings peace that passes all understanding.  I fell.

As I said before though, even though a shot in the butt seems easier and I would be all for it if it meant that it would take care of our ailments, I wouldn't want to forget.  Only by remembering do we remember that life is temporary and only with God can we feel the permanence of lasting love. 



Thursday, February 23, 2017

God's Love and A Soft Fuzzy Blanket

I'm not sure how it occurred really, this love of soft furry things.  Today I find myself cuddled up with a soft fuzzy blanket and it seems too lightweight as if it isn't right somehow.  I have these jackets that I love that are soft and fuzzy.  It is a texture thing with me I believe, as when in stores I am always touching blankets or pillows or jackets to feel how soft they are.  I am drawn to them as if they bring comfort some how like a mother's hug.  Today however, while I sit wrapped up and just exhausted with life in general, my favorite blanket isn't cutting it.

Two days ago you may have read we lost our Gabby.  Gabby was all cat just like people say boys are all boy.  I'm not precisely sure what that means but she was always herself.  She was seventeen which translates to about eighty four in human years.  She was like a teenager in the sense that she only really wanted to come around us if she wanted something from us.  She was like a little old lady in the sense that she was going to do what she wanted when she wanted.  For example; she knew where her litter boxes were but she would look at you even if you caught her in the act like, I know I have  have a litter box over there and I'm going to pee or poo right here.  I do what I want and you are my people who clean this up.

When she was younger she wouldn't really have anything to do with other humans except for my mother who hated cats.  Somehow she seemed to sense this and would always rub up against mom and try to win her over or being that she is my cat she probably did it just to tick her off.  A cat's attempt at sarcasm and jerkiness perhaps.  As she grew older though she would kind of be jerky to us and then be all angelic when other people came over.  It was pretty hilarious. 

She loved us like a teenager loves their overbearing, overprotective parents.  She was too cool for us but she did need food and water.  She also was protective of us.  She would scare off other animals when she was in her prime.  Other dogs and cats didn't stand a chance.  If a mouse got into the house, well, he could stay because she had no interest.  Lucy was our mouser.  She got so many mice even after she died mice were scared to enter the premises.  At least that is the story we tell, it is probably more likely that all the houses in the neighborhood got built up and the mice stopped coming from the fields to our house and sought their refuge elsewhere.  Gabby would take one look at a mouse and go the other direction. 

When we were sad, she was there to sit in our laps and comfort us.  When our Linus died she took his spot at the foot of our bed and she grieved his loss with us.  They had been friends for nine years as we brought him home once we lost our Lucy.  She was there for us through the birth of our son, the loss of my mom, and the loss of our number four.  She comforted and guarded and protected and loved us through so many years that I keep looking for her even now when we are mourning the loss of her.  I keep thinking I hear her meowing or that I will open the garage door where her litter box was kept and she will come slowly walking back into the house after doing her business.  I keep closing the doors inside the house then I remember that I don't have to anymore.  And yes, as I sit here cuddled up in my soft fuzzy blanket, tired and just worn out with life in general, I keep looking for her and wanting to feel the weight of her sleeping in my lap or nearby to comfort me in my distress. 

It seems silly to most I suppose.  I broke down at work yesterday when I first got there and all that happened was that the pharmacist asked me how I was.  Sometimes I think it is the days after a loss that are the hardest and not the actual day of.  The day of you are just in shock and running on shock and adrenaline.  The days after are when it seeps in and settles.  When the cloud just seems to have fully formed and decided to stay for awhile and rain.  It seems no accident to me that we have had rain yesterday and today.  It feels as if the heavens are weeping with us.  It seems so odd for her to not be underfoot and then I always lean on her more two weeks out of the year and this week is one of them.  The week of my mother's birthday when my inner demons come to call once again. When the struggle to put one foot in front of the other is harder and usually her fur catches my tears as I mourn another birthday my mom didn't get to have with me. A time when I replay every decision and try to align everything to make sure there isn't anything else I could have done for her.  This is my burden to bear and Gabby has always been there for comfort because I try to be so strong around everyone else.

Today we returned Gabby's food and medicine to the animal hospital. We also went to the store to buy things for cleaning up the garage where as I said before she went wherever she wanted.  We cleaned up after her daily but now it comes down to a complete fumigation process.  As if we need to remove all traces of her being there.  Our lives are changed so irrevocably by the loss of her.  But what is more is that our lives were so changed by having her and loving her and even if I had known the day and time we would lose her I still would have brought her home that day.  We were so blessed by having her.  That's the thing about love, no matter what form it comes in, even though it will cause you pain sometimes, it is always worth it in the end.  Love transforms us, it molds us, it helps us draw closer to God who is love.  I believe he designed it that way. Our love doesn't end when we lose someone or something it only expands to stretch to the other side. 

So this week I am sad but the sadness will eventually subside just as the clouds will part and the sun will shine again.  But my love for all of the blessings I've been given, well...that will last long after my time here.  In the meantime, I will find comfort in God's love and a soft fuzzy blanket.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Goodbye Gabby



Sadness permeates and settles into the soul really.  Like a dark cloud descending upon a day that was once full of sunshine and happiness.  It moves in dark and heavy.  The weight of it settling into your bones making movements heavy and awkward.  Rains come and pour down washing away everything in its path like a tidal wave coming on shore and taking everything the shore has to offer back out to sea with it.   It is so heavy and burdensome and yet....

Storms end.  Sometimes they seem to last forever with no end in sight and the heaviness seems almost crushing under the weight of it all.  Sometimes they are gone almost as quickly as they arrived.  But storms do end.  One way or another the end comes and with it the sun does shine again.  It breaks through the clouds in brilliant light.  It shines down through lifting and moving the clouds away.  At times when you look up you can almost see a robe through the sun's rays.  As though the Son has come to clear it all away and stand and survey the wreckage left behind.  For from wreckage can come great beauty.

I wrote the above last week when I was told that my seventeen year old cat was running out of options.  While once before she wasn't a good candidate for surgery because of her age, now she is in need of surgery to try and improve her life.  It was going to be a gamble but if it could improve her quality of life it was worth the risk.

Today my Gabby girl went in for surgery.  She had to be there between seven and eight in the morning and would be staying the night.  We took her in and brought her two cans of food for her stay.  We told her to be good and we loved her then we left.  We went about our day, dentist appointment, take the boy to school, go to the beach....

When my phone rang and I heard it was the vet I honestly thought, "Wow, my girl did so well that they are calling early to tell me about it."  I thought she was going to be fine and would have a weeks worth of recovery and then she would be good as new....at least that is what I had hoped.  I just wasn't prepared, you know, I don't know how you prepare really.  Can you get use to losing those close to you?  I wasn't expecting the vet to say that when they opened her bladder it was full of cancer.  That there wasn't anything they could do for her.  There were stones sure, but the bladder was full of cancer and it would be the most humane to let her go while she was still under the anesthetic. 

She once scared a dog from our yard just by hissing and raising her back up.  That was at least fifteen years ago but that is what I remembered.  My oldest child was three and my middle child was about two when I brought Gabby home. My son doesn't know life without Gabby in it.  I don't know how to live in this house without keeping the doors shut because she's been old and sick the entire time we've been here and we had to keep her out of the bedrooms so she wouldn't pee on our beds.  I don't know how to do this.  It seems as if Gabby has always been in our lives, a part of our family and now she's just...not here.

As I rode in the car with my husband I could feel the walls going up.  I could feel myself disconnecting and shutting down.  I don't want to be that person though.  Not really.  I just, it's easier to shut down.  It's easier to disconnect to try not to feel.  I'm pretty good at it.  I shut down or I feel all the things all at once...and then I shut down.  I enter hibernation mode and crawl into my pit.  I thought about that but then I remembered what I had written down not even a week ago.  I realized that the heaviness doesn't last forever, the clouds do part, and the sun will shine again.  I know this from experience. 

It is supposed to rain tomorrow for most of the day and I keep thinking that even the angels are sad and they are going to cry rains of tears tomorrow just as we will for days to come.  I believe that God knows and feels our hurt.  I believe that we are not going through this alone because God will never leave us alone.  I also know that God has a way of making beauty from ashes and I don't understand how that is going to happen but I never do and yet he does.  I did not want to say goodbye to Gabby today. I didn't want to go home and tell my kids that the pet that has been around them almost their entire lives was now gone.  Today I did all of those things and tomorrow we make more decisions about her final resting place and we'll breathe in and out and pretend that our hearts aren't broken until we are back home when we can join our tears with the angels tears. 

Goodbye sweet Gabby girl.  We love you and we'll miss you always. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Quality of Life: A Story About Gabby

Seventeen years ago I went into a pet store to look around.  We were living in my grandmother's house while our house was being built and my grandmother was living with my mother because her health was declining.  I had a preschooler and a toddler and somehow I ended up bringing home a kitten.  She was just so tiny and cute and when I held her I couldn't put her back into the cage. She was the cutest little calico fur ball and we named her Gabby because she 'gabbed' all the way home.

As she grew so did our love for her.  Once we were moved in and settled into our new house we happened to go into the pet store again.  This time there was a cute little white kitten with black patches and somehow we ended up holding this one too and were unable to let her go.  We brought her home, named her Lucy, and introduced her to her sister.  They did not exactly hit it off right off the bat.  Much like my Daphne was none too pleased with Megan when I brought her home, Gabby was not interested in having a sister either.  It took some time for them to become good friends and good friends they became. (Daphne and Megan are another story altogether.)

When I was pregnant for my son these sisters would essentially stand guard over me.  They would sleep near me while I sat in my rocking recliner watching A Baby Story and preparing for my baby while my girls were in school.  By this time I had a second grader and a kindergartener.  These fur babies grew alongside my babies.  When I had my son they were his guards when his sisters were playing or at school. 

When my mother became ill and was eventually diagnosed with cancer, they were there.  They comforted all of our broken hearts...even my mother's much to her dismay as she was always partial to dogs and not much of a cat fan. In July of 2004 my mother went home to be with the Lord and they would watch me fall apart in the depths of my despair.  When I cried they were there.

They were there for every birthday, every Christmas, every celebration, every argument, and every temper tantrum.  They were there for all the pet fish, all the pet birds, the newt, and the hamster.  They were there when we got a mouse in the house and I brought Gabby in to catch the mouse.  I put her right in front of the mouse who thought he owned my house and she took one look at it, sniffed it, and wanted to go back outside.  She had no interest.  I brought Lucy in and she chased it all night long and woke my husband up early with her prize on the stairs. 

The Easter following my mother's death Lucy was hit by a car.  We were all sad.  My beloved couldn't stand to see us sad so he asked a girl at work if we could get one of the kittens her cat had just had.  We went and picked one out. A long haired black kitten with a white patch on his neck.  We were actually told he was a she and we named her Lilly.  At "her" first vet visit we found out she was actually a he and changed his name to Linus. (No we never actually looked ourselves.  We took her word for it.  Also he was a long hair cat.)

Gabby was even less happy with a brother than she had been with a sister.  It took her some time to adjust to the idea.  Once she did however, they were inseparable.  They were two peas in a pod.  We had two girls and a boy in human babies and one of each in fur babies.  As Gabby grew older she spent more time with Linus than she did with us.  She would be in the same room but she wasn't really interested in us like Linus was.  Linus and I became best buds.  He would sit with me while I read books.  He would sleep at the foot of my bed.  He stayed near me after I miscarried my number four.

For a brief instance, they even had another brother when we took in a stray.  We named him Rerun as he looked just like Lucy.  Plus we kind of liked our Peanuts theme we had started.  But Rerun only stayed with us for a few months.  Once we got him fixed, which we only did once we were pretty sure he would stick around, he took off and we never saw him again.  We looked everywhere for him to no avail. 

Gabby and Linus were our comforters and they were each others best friends.  When Linus was killed by a stray dog, Gabby mourned his loss with us.  Where Linus had sat beside me while I read, now she sat in his spot.  While I cried myself to sleep at night she slept in his spot at the foot of my bed.  We saw each other through.  She had been with us through it all.  Our twelve and a half pound cat who loved eating and tried to take walks around the neighborhood like a dog was now our only fur baby.

A year ago we moved south to warmer territory.  It started before that though.  She started not going in the litter box.  She started declining.  Our girl, we realized, was getting older and we hoped she would survive the trip.  She has continued declining much to our dismay.  Our sweet Gabby who has been with us for so long and through so much is now seventeen.  She has two stones now in her kidney and essentially gravel in her bladder.  She also has hyperthyroidism.  Our once twelve and a half pound kitty as of today is now seven pounds and one ounce.  Her coat is thinning.  She looks frail and she pees blood.  Her Cat Chow that she once loved is a thing of the past as she now has to have special food for her bladder.  We've been dealing with this for months.  Today we found out it is getting worse.  And where before they talked like surgery wouldn't be a good option because of her age, now we are discussing quality of life and if surgery is worth the risk if it could improve her life if she lives through it.

Quality of life....interesting words when you think of them.  No one seems to discuss quality of life until life is coming to an end.  Why is that, do you think?  I'm no stranger to loss.  Our family at one time was losing so many that I though the funeral home was going to start offering us a group rate.  End game talks are not new to us.  They never get easier.  It seems to me though, that perhaps we should start talking about our quality of life while we seem to still have a lot of life left to live.  I don't know....just a thought. 

I keep thinking about We Bought a Zoo.  They discuss the end game for the big cat.  I keep hearing Scarlett Johansson saying that they are in so much pain but they can't tell you.  That you can see it in their eyes.  My cat who used to see a vet once a year for shots.  My cat who has grown up with not just my kids but me as well.  We've all grown up together essentially.  We were so young or maybe it just feels that way now that we are older.  My sweet Gabby who hated getting into her carrier actually fought to get back into her carrier while in the vet's office today.  She has been there more in the last year than any of us care to remember. So today we got more meds and made a tough decision.  Tuesday we will take the gamble.  We are going to try surgery and see if they can improve her quality of life.  They can't do anything about the kidney stones but they can hopefully take care of her bladder. 

I don't know how this goes.  I know that I can see it in her eyes.  I know that it is bad and I know that I can't say goodbye...not yet...not without trying everything.  I'm selfish.  I want her here with us for as long as the good Lord allows her to stay.  I have to know that I did everything I could because I haven't always been certain of that in other cases.  The doctor said it is routine and that while she is old she also doesn't have any other options.  She has had a good life.  She has had a family who has loved her.  She had a sister and a brother to love.  We've loved her even when she frustrated us and she didn't really like us. 

So here we are, once again in a place we don't much like and I come to you dear ones; our family, our friends both new and old, our beloveds who read and follow along with our family's crazy antics and our struggles and I ask you for your prayers.  I know that God already knows the outcome and I know that he will sustain us no matter what comes....good or bad. I know cats can't live forever and I know to some maybe she is just a cat but to us she is a part of our family.  If you could spare a prayer our way we would be grateful. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bras or Haircuts....How do you choose?

Some years ago I wrote about Victoria's Secret.  I couldn't understand why their bras were so expensive.  What made them so special?  Fifty dollars for a bra that no one is likely to see (outside of your husband) seems a bit much you have to admit.  I contemplated different scenarios that would make them more special.  Did they come with free WiFi?  Do the cups automatically adjust to size when you lose or gain weight?  I had a lot of questions and being the bargain shopper I was raised to be, I wasn't likely to ever find out.  Except....after my book came out that covered this topic my husband took a photo copy of that excerpt and put it in a gift bag along with two Victoria's Secret bras for Christmas so I could find out what the hoopla was all about.

I get the hoopla now.  While the bras that he bought me were nice (after I exchanged them for the correct size) it wasn't until just recently that I really realized how nice these bras were.  Did you know that there are bras that you can get to pick the girls up without an underwire and they go on like a sports bra?  Seriously?  Where have these been my entire life?  So comfortable and without making you look flat chested.  It's a miracle in innovation.  I may be in love and I may never wear another bra again.

So obviously I figured it out and I get it now.  Today I have another question on my mind.  What is with the $37 and up haircut?  OK before you jump all over me with the whole "It cost money to be beautiful" and "Beauty is Pain" business let me just say that when I was growing up haircuts were $5.  Imagine the first time I paid $15 dollars for a haircut.  Seriously though I have never paid more than $20 for a haircut.  EVER!  Maybe it is because I'm from a small town in the middle of the Midwest that had one stoplight and was surrounded by cornfields that I don't know about such things.  But let me tell you this, the gal that did my hair for years in the middle of that one stoplight town was fantastic.  I have yet to get a haircut in this giant metropolis that is as good as the haircuts I would get from my girl back home.  In addition to that, where I am from getting a haircut included having it styled afterward.  They never let you out of the chair without looking your best.

I ask because my daughter and I went into a makeup store and didn't realize that they gave haircuts there.  So we went back to check it out and get pricing.  They start at $37 and go up depending on how long they have been there.  The gal said it was not reflective of their skill as they were all good but on the length of time working there and experience.  So...if they all cut hair well and equally as good as the next guy, how can the person who has been there say...5 years get away with charging $70 (hypothetically) and still make money?  If the person who charges $37 is just as good wouldn't most people want to pay less for the same haircut?  How does this make sense?  Please explain this to me like I am four because I just do not understand.

Have they gone to more training?  Is it some kind of prestige thing with working at certain places because of the name?  I don't know what to make of this.  It is my understanding that all of the stylists have to continue to go to training to keep up with new techniques and like a lot of jobs there are always new things to learn.  So why is there such a vast difference in pricing?

I was just wandering.  If you know what I am missing out on let me know.  But let me say this; if I have to save up for these expensive bras that are almost like not wearing anything at all because of comfort, I'm going to need to find another job to save up for expensive haircuts.  Bras or haircuts how do you choose?  Until next time...let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Monday, February 13, 2017

I'm Going Deaf?: My Time Living At The Drive Thru

Over twenty years ago I had a brief stint as a Medical Assistant.  I also received a degree in Marketing.  My point being that I did at one point in life receive an education.  I only remember however, how to kiss booboos and have garage sales.  That is how I used my education as a mother.  I remember bits and pieces of abbreviations.  Things like bid=twice a day, tid= three times a day.  Barely anything really but I do recall a bit.  Blood doesn't freak me out but vomit is beyond my skill set as a sympathetic puker.  I am telling you this because in October I acquired a job in a pharmacy and it has become increasingly clearer to me that I was not then nor am I now cut out for the medical profession. 

There are things that I have learned about myself that I didn't realize about myself as an avid reader.  I read quite a bit and it doesn't matter.  Names to drugs should not be twenty seven letters long.  I cannot pronounce half of them.  I am always messing them up.  Because my husband says that I have to sandwich things good bad good or bad good bad. I will say that if you want someone to ring up your purchase without any judgement whatsoever, I am your girl because I have no idea what most things are for either.  I have also learned that apparently I have a hearing problem and I am going blind.  (Stop laughing at me.  I know you are imagining how this goes down and from the outside it probably is pretty funny although not so much to my coworkers. Remember the story from long ago about me in a McDonalds drive thru?) 

Now listen to me.  If you learn nothing else from me in life but this, remember what I am about to tell you.  When working in a drive thru it is extremely difficult to hear with the activity happening inside plus the activity of the busy road and the McDonalds next door and the mowing of the yard and the blowing of the leaves happening.  If you are in the passenger seat talking, I am unlikely to hear half of what you are saying.  Maybe I need hearing aides.  I'm not sure.  I did listen to a lot of big hair bands in the 80's and I did get perms and I did wear parachute pants.  It may be payback for poor style decisions.  Anything is possible here.  All I know is that it is a struggle and the struggle is real.  Added to the fact that I can barely hear and I am attempting to read lips (yes it feels just as creepy to me as it must be for them)to just get through this uncomfortable situation are the accents.  If you have met me you know that I LOVE accents.  I love accents to the point of telling the lady from the dealership with the English accent that she needs to talk to me longer just so I can enjoy the melody of her speech patterns.  I welcome accents in my life, BUT sometimes different accents make it even harder to understand in a drive thru.  I'm not trying to be rude when I ask you to repeat yourself again, I just want to get this right and I honestly am not catching what you are saying with all the other noises happening and my lip reading is still in its beginning stages. A 'P' can sound like a 'T', a 'C'  or even a 'D' in some cases and an 'M' can sound like an 'N'.  The list goes on. (Hmm, perhaps this is why call letters are alpha tango bravo. Also good to know that sometimes it isn't just the person inside that sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown.)

The blind thing is troubling really.  My glasses were just updated last summer.  Thank heavens I work with a girl who will laugh with me and help me find things that are apparently right there under my nose but I can't find them.  I have said, "I know that I kind of suck at this job.  I don't count fast, I sometimes break the computer or printer (This is a problem really and I may be bad luck because the printer has jammed my last three shifts and apparently this only happens when I am there.  Technology hates me is my only explanation.), and I don't know ANYTHING about a bunch of stuff but I do take pride in my ability to know my alphabet."  I worked in an elementary and math admittedly was not my specialty(although I do know how to count) but reading and writing are my jam so...  I try.  Lord knows I try.  Sometimes I just can't find stuff so I take longer than some.

Another thing that I will tell you is that I do not get paid to say certain things.  Because I like to bring movies in on everything do you remember Pitch Perfect when Fat Amy says, "Not a good enough reason to say the word 'penetrate"?  Well I am with her and on so many other words.  Medication comes with a paper that tells you what it is for.  Please read it.  I don't want to say certain words in mixed company.  I implore you please do not make me say words like erection, lubrication, and prostate.  I can't.  I have sold condoms exactly two times now and I assure you I was more uncomfortable than the customer. (Oh sure tell me I'm almost forty something years old and that I'm ridiculous.  My mother told me about the birds and the bees when I was growing up and all she said was "bees sting and birds poop on cars and those are the facts of life. What do you want from me?  I'm inherently predetermined to not handle these kinds of things well.) At heart I am a shy fourteen year old kid who just happens to look like an adult.  I'm not mature enough to not turn beet red and not die inside if you make me say these things.  If you ask me what certain things are for I am going to open the paper and dance around what it is if it is for any of those things. 

I am the woman who had her husband have "the talk" with her daughters.   I was there for moral support...mostly for them.  I am the woman who is completely comfortable in front of an entire school full of kindergarteners or third graders at recess or in a classroom reading books that have made up words in them.  I am comfortable with belches and farts and even fingernails on a chalkboard don't scare me.  I even got over my fear of getting properly fitted for a bra because I was not comfortable with a stranger seeing me in a bra.  I haven't worn a bikini since I was a teenager except around my own pool behind a privacy fence.  I am comfortable and uncomfortable with probably all the wrong or right things.  It's all on your outlook I suppose.

I tell my coworkers that they may not believe me but I was actually pretty good at my last job.  I feel bad that I don't seem to be picking up on things faster working my fifteen hours a week.  I thought before taking this job that I was a reasonably intelligent person.  These days I'm not so sure.  I prefer to help in life and not hinder.  I do have a willing heart and able hands.  If I am good at anything at all in this new vocation it is that I am pretty good at making conversations with customers.  I am also pretty good at being the comic relief with them.  Trying to use "The Force" to make the register move faster and telling the older gentlemen that the card reader is obviously a woman because she is temperamental and will not be rushed.

I am not sure what the lessons are here.  I have doubts about this entire thing to be honest.  I feel like I may be too old to fully grasp new concepts.  Perhaps others my age are far more brave than I am.  I know people who have gone back to college as adults with children and I am in awe of them.  In my eyes they are some of the bravest people I know.  I couldn't do it.  It isn't in me.  Just getting the computer to print has proven beyond my skill set recently.  (I still say that technology hates me and that is the reasoning behind that because seriously I may not understand spreadsheets but I have printed many times in my life without incident.)  Knowing what I do about myself though, I have a feeling that I am to learn patience.  I cannot possibly imagine why I need to learn this or why God thinks I will grasp the concept of patience this time.  I've been so good at learning it in the past....ok I'm not particularly patient with myself especially.  I want to be good at things I try right away.  I spent some time making jewelry and I do not have my own line.  I wrote two books and I am not a best seller.  To be fair though writing books and selling them are completely different things and I am not a salesman.  While I enjoy sharing thoughts and stories I do not particularly enjoy crowds and being the center of attention.  I like blending in and writing in my pajamas from my living room.  I follow some amazing writers that go live from their living rooms on social media and even that gives me heart palpitations. I'm good with one on one conversations but I am uncomfortable with too many eyes on me.  Clearly I want my cake and I want to eat it too. I just want my cake fat free and without calories. 

I'm a work in progress and progress in slow.  I have a newfound appreciation for what my husband does for a living.  Perhaps if I have learned at least one thing it is that my husband is even more amazing than I imagined him to be for doing what he does for over twenty years.  I've only been a sidekick for almost four months and it is overwhelming me and I'm part time.  He goes in and he's in charge.  It's amazing.  I couldn't do it.  I wouldn't do it.  So patience it is and I'll be learning it between the thermometers and the condoms....

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Wonder How I Can Get Out of This?

Today started off like any other Thursday.  My son had an NJHS meeting and had to be at school early.  I got up put some sweats and a baseball cap on and proceeded to pack his lunch and get him to school.  I then came home had some coffee and cereal and watched a recording on the DVR that I hadn't gotten to yet.  About 9:30 I decided I had better kick it into high gear and start getting ready for my day because today I had a doctor's appointment to prepare for plus I had to get my daughter to her college class by eleven.

I am not a fan of going to the doctor...any doctor but I especially hate going to the lady doctor.  What makes it even worse is when you have to go to ta new doctor and you aren't sure what to expect in terms of how uncomfortable or comfortable they are going to make you.  It is a lot of information to share with anyone much less someone who have seen a total of two times which includes the visit you are at.  Today I was to go to have my annual exam so preparations were to be made.

I started with coloring my hair.  Why it matters that my grey was showing when the majority of this type of visit doesn't include the doctor looking above my waist, I have no idea.  If I learned anything from my late grandmother, it is that you try to look your best when going to the doctor.  I'm not sure why that is a thing but there you have it.  So I colored my hair but this left me running late and I had to shower quickly because I had to drive my daughter to school.  As anyone knows, one must shave on 'lady doctor day' and ordinarily shaving is not necessarily a dangerous activity...an activity that I engage in almost daily in fact since I moved to a warmer climate.  Today however, in my rush to get going I apparently thought shaving meant trying to shred my legs like a head of lettuce and my first thought was "Well, this should make an impression."  Not only am I probably going to let her know of my extreme discomfort at having to be there and how I would really rather have a root canal because at least at the dentist they have a television and they let you have custody of the remote but now I get to explain why my left leg looks like I took a cheese grater to it.  Fun!

I finished my shower and got dressed and took my daughter to school then came home to finish getting ready for my appointment.  I had several thoughts during my prepping....

1.  Whose idea was it that the way to check for this kind of cancer was to use 'the jaws of life and a forearm length cotton swab?  Were there scientists having a conversation that went like "Hey Bob, I think we should use a forearm length cotton swab and a cold metal device because that seems like it would be comfortable for everyone involved."  "Hey you're right Roger!  But you know what would make it even better is if we had a light for our heads.  Like a head-light.  Get it?  A headlight!"  "Genius!"

2.  I wonder if other women pee six times and then have to go again right before the doctor comes in the room?  Does that count as performance anxiety?

3.  I wonder how I can get out of this?  If I sign up for a hysterectomy does that mean I don't have to go to this kind of doctor anymore?  Because that is an elective I could get behind.

I don't know about you but I feel uncomfortable meeting people naked.  Call me a prude but it makes me uncomfortable.  This appointment would be the second time I would have met this woman.  It is an odd way to have a conversation.

So I got all ready for this appointment and drove all the way there and....the door was locked.  I checked my phone, I checked my appointment card because I brought it with me.  No issue there but the door is definitely locked so I knocked.....and I knocked.  Finally someone came to the door and I showed her my appointment care and said I was supposed to have an appointment.  She has me come in and tells me that the doctor is in a meeting and that they need to reschedule.  Apparently they tried to call my cell the day before but they neglected to leave a message and I don't tend to return calls from people I don't recognize the number to.

The good news is that I did get out of it, at least for the day, and now my leg has time to heal a bit.  The bad news is that now I get to go through the process all over again.  I like to think positively though so perhaps she'll have a delivery and I will get out of it again.  One can only hope.