31 August 2010

Never a good sign

It is 4:34, and my mind is racing. That is never a good sign.

The full plate may have tipped over last night. Just a hard, busy, frustrating day yesterday. Trying hard not to sweat the small stuff, but yesterday there was just too much small stuff. And still, too much of my time is spent trudging through the jello of grief. During the open house at Julia's school last night, I just could not manage to connect with the people I wanted to see, needed to see. It was not that they were not available to me, but I had no energy in a place where I usually can manage so well. I felt like part of my brain had been cut out. It was all swampy and impossible. It was me that was unavailable.

I am not describing it adequately. It was like a dream of the event. I could not focus where I wanted to. I was losing control. I don't mean that I did not smile and greet people that I know, or ask a few relevant questions, but I was stopped cold when someone asked how I was. "Fine" seemed like an impossible answer. I did not grab the principal when I spied him out of the corner of my eye, and he owes me a meeting. I was just not myself.

Oy, not a good feeling.

Maybe this will all clear when school starts and I have my days to myself. Very unsettling right now.

Maybe this is just another phase of what I must deal with, go through, but how am I to function -- well, I am not functioning at full capacity.

Gosh, I can't even write a complete paragraph.

This is all in my head! It is. And I can accept it -- although not doing a good job at the acceptance -- for what it is. I don't know how much to just trudge through, straining to be some normal self, and how much to let go of at least for now. And I don't think that yesterday was anything special -- I think it was a day full of little tasks that . . . . I could not juggle the way I usually can. And I don't know what to do about that.

I usually have my lists of things to do, but I usually have a list inside my head -- a mega list not of tasks but of big concerns - and I can turn quickly from one to another of those concerns. And I can't. I cannot make myself be flexible. Maybe I shouldn't. I just don't know.

Should I be emptying the plate? A bit?

Yeah, things were going a bit too smoothly for a few days.

Never a good sign.

30 August 2010

The day continued to be slightly off and frustrating. I kept plugging along like some little engine chanting "I think I can" until it got to be 5:30 and time to get ready to go to Julia's open house at school tonight. We had a tough time getting there with Julia deciding she did not want to go and getting very afraid which manifested itself as anger. She hated everyone, she did not want to learn, she did not want to see kids, etc., etc. But I held her for a few minutes, put her hair in pigtails and shepherded her into the car. One of our therapists followed us in her car and she also tried to calm Julia and watched her carefully. Julia was stand offish, she told her teacher that she was scared and nervous. She did not want to meet any of the kids in her class but she did. And she found some books too. Before long, she was in a corner with two other girls, Peyton and another girl, looking at the dinosaur books and commenting on the action.

We have another day before school starts on the first. I am so hoping that Julia loses a bit of her fears, the anger diminishes, and she can find reason to learn. The last is really the toughest. Learning has to happen on her schedule and in her time, but boy, none of that is easy on a mom.

For the first time tonight it passed in my head that maybe I should give up being president of PT"O. I feel already behind and school begins. i have to sleep on it and talk to a few friends, but right now, getting that going and moving feels impossible.

But then it was one of those days.
Today, I am stressing and worried about 1,000 little things. I know, I know. Silly and a total waste of time. Still, that is where I am today. And seemingly hard to make anything happen. I have been mistaken about the schedule for today, have a list in my head that I should write down, and a pile of things to do. And i am wasting time.

None of this good.

But Julia is playing with legos, making robots and letters and numbers. Letters and numbers out of legos. She has never done that before.

And so, what was I worrying about?

29 August 2010

Julia and I made it through a weekend. At home. Without huge plans. But with some carefully constructed time.

Weekends are somehow harder than week days. In some sense that is surprising to me. I am not working and so every day could be the same. But we have appointments and therapists, and I feel the need to get lists of things done. Somehow weekends are suppose to be different days. Yes, those were the days of doing family activities. Days of strolling, of cooking together, of movies, of afternoon naps, of just spending time together.

Those are tough days to be alone.

And so. So. So. Yesterdays, I finally decided I needed to clean the house! Actually, I decided on Wednesday, but yesterday was the first day I could do it. I cleaned, as Julia played in the morning. And then, she had a play date that grew to the entire afternoon. How wonderful is that! I am so grateful to this little girl who likes Julia. Julia is not the best friend to have right now. Not yet. She is getting there, but not yet. She is still too bossy, and inflexible. But this girl puts up with her. And seems to like her as well. What a gift!

So, cleaning for me, playing for Julia, left overs for dinner and early to bed. And that was very much fine.

And the today, Church, and a visit to the camera store to fix my broken camera, a visit to best buy to buy a cheap substitute until my camera gets fixed, a one-on-one class at the apple store with Julia playing on the kids computer they have set up (after she waited her turn, extremely patiently, i might add), home to finish the first floor cleaning, a short nap, and then dinner with my neighbor. A day filled with small tasks, but a day filled nonetheless. It is what I must do for us on the weekends. At least, for now.

And I can.

I cleared out the box of David's books and hats and a bit more that we used at the memorial service and found a stack of cards that I had never seen or opened. It is still not easy to open those cards, but it is not as hard either.

I am coming to acceptance, not happiness, but some sort of understanding in a pretty deep part of myself that I am alone now. It has been here for awhile but it has been like an open sore. I have not wanted to touch it. The tender place is beginning to heal. Alone is a reality and I am feeling more neutral about it.

28 August 2010

Family Day!!

Four years ago today, Julia joined our family and we were forever changed into Julia's very own family.
If I remember correctly, this is Julia in the pool in our Nanchang hotel. It was her first time in a pool; she refused to put on a bathing suit or take off her necklaces. And this just was just hours after China has pronounced her ours!

The making of a Daddy's girl. This is my favorite picture of the whole trip. We were not always sure that Julia thought our family making was a good thing and we had plenty of challenging behavior along the way, but those arms outstretched and a glowing face only I know was there was so good for us to see.

27 August 2010

LEND orientation

It is hard to write about the last two days. They were so full! I was fully engaged, worked hard to absorb as much as I possibly could, met some fabulous people, was assigned to the intensive autism group, listened, listened, and listened some more. And came home exhausted. I had homework to do last night and could not do all of it last night because I was so tired and Julia needed a little of my attention. The hardest thing for me right now is to try not to be totally overwhelmed -- so much information, so much incredible research, so many people interested in adding us, the LEND trainees, to the work of the Waisman Center.

We listened to overview upon overview of the Center, of the Program, of the disciplines included in the Program, of the research of some of the departments, of the projects happening and in planning stages. And everyone wants to share!

I listened to the many young people who are part of this program -- they are working towards masters, doctorates, or doing post-doc work. The know where they want to go and how this program will fit into their career plans. I am free falling right now. I am a sponge to their discussions. I have little regrets now and then that I am coming so late to this vocation -- whatever it is -- but I am sure that I have some expertise from my past workings that will be useful to me.

Where am I going?

Already I am doing what I am there for -- to add the family viewpoint, to contribute my life experience. My comments are about Julia and our experience with her. I have comments about David's care in the hospital and at home. I am intentionally opening my life to this group. I too want to share.

And so I write of this exciting time here. I write a short post on facebook. I tell it to Mary who took Julia and I out for dinner to celebrate yesterday. I send an email message to another friend who asked about the day. But I feel the missing. I do not have David to talk too much to, to bore over dinner and after Julia goes to sleep about every little thing that one or the other person says. I am every so grateful to those friends who have asked and who can share part of my excitement, but I miss the partnership. I miss knowing that there is another person who will share the energy, the work, and the outcome.

I have not been alone for such a long time. The time immediately before my time with David, I was also partnered. So, time alone was before that. How many years? How many incarnations ago? I remember hating being alone then. That is what I remember well. And again, I pick up the refrain, as fresh as it was then.

I have never wanted to be alone, never wanted to live alone. Should I be fully embracing it now? Of course, but why?

Tonight, I could look for another kind of rescue. Not someone or some situation to solve all my challenges, but someone or something to provide a clear path. I know that I am describing, or thinking about, just another form of safe rescue. Tell me the right way. Give me the crystal ball, the divine inspiration, so that I will know that I am doing what I should be. So that I will know how to enter this new phase of my life is the most wonderful way.

I applied for LEND at the urging of a friend, someone who didn't even know me well at the time. As soon as I heard about it, I felt in my gut that I wanted to be a part of it. Do I really need the clouds parting, the single beam of light, and the deep, rich voice giving me the answer? Isn't that feeling enough? How do I grow to a place and time when I can trust the gut feeling, the urgings of a friend, the excited giggle deep inside?

25 August 2010

Today, in attachment therapy, Julia created a queen, a pretty human looking queen, out of clay. After she was finished with it, Marilyn asked her some questions about the figure, and both Marilyn and I admired it. It's gold crown was a different color from the pinkish body. The hands has long red fingers that could have looked scary, and the body had breasts. It was quite sophisticated. Julia clearly did not want to be asked about it, and as Marilyn persisted, Julia became less communicative about it. Then, like so many other times, Julia just smashed the form into a lump of clay -- a rock of clay she called it.

It is process, or is it be almost afraid of what she can create. She replaced the queen with a T-rex, but small arms and sharp teeth, but then added a nest and eggs. This was a good T-rex mommy who looks after her eggs and her babies.

I begin my LEND program tomorrow with a 2-day orientation. I am nervous. Like Julia, I am scared my classmates will not like me. We are all that little child going to school -- hoping for the best, the meeting of a new kindred spirit and the doing of some valuable work, but fearing the worst, that I am too different from the rest of them.

24 August 2010

One more post today. Can't seem to finish.

Julia went to the dentist today, and had her best check up ever. I was so proud of her.

Oh my, I don't mean that her teeth were the best ever. In fact, the oral hygienist who cleaned her teeth noted that it looked like Julia had been taking care of her own teeth for awhile which she has. What I am proud about was how Julia acted. She did tell her hygienist, Christy, that she was scared of being hurt. And did complain when she felt hurt, but she also very willingly opened her mouth and followed directions. She let Christy brush and re-brush her teeth, use those pointy picks to removes the "rocks" around her teeth, and paint on the fluoride treatment. Julia was just as cooperative when the dentist came in.

I am thrilled by this level of regulation. Oh, how I wish it would carry over to school.

Tonight, while we were watching a very interesting PBS show about winged dinosaurs (and lots of the winged dinos were found in China. Julia was very proud of this. Cute!), Julia's school friend, Peyton, called. I put Julia on the phone and they were able to exchange a few greetings and sentences. I took over when Peyton asked Julia to come over this weekend, and Julia was excited to here that she would go over to Peyton's house to play.

Maybe some of Julia's challenges are getting lighter??

Tippy tables

Feeling like complaining a bit about finances -- nothing is coming together as quick as I want it to. David's tiny Wisconsin pension plan -- tiny because he worked there for only 3 years was the easiest to figure out, the best call in help, and they will actually give me a small annuity for the rest of my life. It is tiny but it is impressive. If David had retired from there in another 10 years or so, we would have had a very nice retirement plan.

Indiana, on the other hand, is hard to figure out, call in help is unorganized and not incredibly helpful. "They" have also lost one copy of the death certificate that I send, and did not get another one that I faxed. I re-mailed today, certified this time, and will call next week to make sure they got it.

As a surviving spouse of a fully vested worker who was not in his Indiana employment at the time of death, there is no pension for me. I will only get what is in his account. We had held onto that account and did not re-invest it because we thought it would be good for a pension for either of us. We should have investigated further. It would have been better to roll it over to our own IRA, Indiana has just had use of our money without giving us much in return.

Ok, I am over it.

I am also rolling over money I have had in an Indiana pension account and from what they tell me, it will take up to 6 weeks for the roll over to happen. All of this is electronically done. I can't believe that it takes so long for verify information.

So, yes, I am still concerned about money. I am trying, trying very hard, but trying to be open hearted about money. I can live for another month or two even if nothing comes in, but I am nervous about dipping into savings. Just nervous. I am trying to live the image of the lilies of the field, and also "work as if it all depended on you . . . . " but I find that kind of trust hard.

I am writing this here, not because I need advice or help or even support really, but because I want to remember how tough financial matters are at this point. I have always worked and been able to be responsible for at least myself and usually a good percentage of bills and maintenance. Now, relying on government money and investment money and little pensions feels life putting soup on an uneven table. But if I want to be following my bliss, I have to set myself up. Tippy table or not, I need to push ahead. I am still a bit scared.

So, okay, I do need a bit of support.
Yesterday we went to visit Julia's classroom and teacher, Mrs. Cote, and the special ed teacher, whose name is not in my head yet. The formal name for this conference was a "Ready, Set, Go" conference and from what I gather, this was a regular part of the school year until three years ago. It makes sense -- meeting the teacher and sitting down to talk before the year begins, but it was cut from the budget the year Julia started school. I am not sure how it has been included this year with all the budget cuts that were instituted.

Julia was able to answer some of the questions asked of her -- what do you like to do? what do you want to learn about? She was also able to tell Mrs. Cote that she was very nervous about school. This voicing of feelings is so much better than a tantrum! And even though I could tell that she didn't really believe (and believe is not quite the right word here) that other kids were nervous and scared as well, she heard that as well. She will understand that someday.

Later, she told Morgan that she was scared of school because she is different from the other kids, because the other kids might not like her. I have been waiting for this self-knowledge to come to her. Dreading it really. But I am so glad that she is able to put it into words and to talk to Morgan about it.

At the conference, I asked that Julia be called "Julia Dinosaur" and her teacher agreed. Of course, she turned to Julia and asked about being called Julia Dinosaur and Julia said, "I am not insisting on that today." Was that out of fear? Was that out of wanting to conform and be like everyone else? Or something else?

They also agreed to try to teach Julia using things she liked -- dinosaurs and bugs -- and they took notes on what she did for regulation, and how she needed some time to herself to do as she wished.

Julia found a new dinosaur series of simple chapter books and although she is not ready to read anything near that difficult, she loved the pictures and wanted to be read to. And we can do that! Julia was not shy about going through the book bins and picking out things she was interested in.

I am not going into this year with many expectations. I have been disappointed with how much time her teachers and aids have had to spend on regulation and getting Julia to follow the social rules of school. I am wary of the transition to the bigger and more crowded Randall School. But I am ready to be surprised and pleased as well. I have no great need to home school if Randall can give her what she needs. And she needs to learn -- the simple truth is that she needs to conform. Gosh, that was so difficult for me and sometimes for Cheshire as we are both NTs. I have no real idea of what that means for Julia, but just from the conference today, I can see what a year of intensive therapy, growth and maturity and drugs have done for Julia. If she can just conform enough to learn what she must. I don't need her to be on the honor roll, I need her to read, write, tell time, understand money, and count. Maybe we'll deal with state capitals and the explorers, but if she never learns them she will be in the same place as so many who have forgotten those things. I wonder if a European education includes so much about the explorers who "found" and colonized our New World, or if that is more a new world emphasis?

23 August 2010

David and I would have been married for 30 years today. Would have been. But are not. Not now. Not ever. But almost. I wrote this last year:

"Today, we acknowledge but are doing nothing special for, our 29th wedding anniversary! David and I as so fortunate. I cannot put into words (not that that ever stops me writing) the joy and fulfillment of our love and companionship. Neither of us is perfect, but I cannot imagine a more perfect soul and body to travel through this reality. We have grown and changed so much since we met 35 years ago -- EEEgads, 35 years! I still want him to be the first person I see in the morning and the last person I see at night. I still call him everyday at work to see how he is doing. I still want to talk about everything with him even though he still rolls his eyes sometimes. I would have no objection to another 29 years together!"

I am so glad that I wrote that last year, when David could read it, when we could look forward and imagine another 29 years together. Today, I miss David, but there is some strength growing deep inside of me. The love that I celebrated last year nurtured and encouraged the spirit of this time. I can see this clearly and I am grateful.

Happy Anniversary my dear one.

22 August 2010

A few more weekend pictures

Clearly from better photographers. Julia was 5 and a half; Chloe was 2 and a half. Now the girls are 9 and 6.
This is our "red couch" picture with almost all of the siblings. Yitong is missing from the Smith family, and Cheshire is missing from ours.
The little girls who came home almost 4 years agao. so beautiful every one.
Another picture of Julia and I. There are so few. How dare I close my eyes!

And my girl.

China Reunion 2010

I don't have as many pictures as I usually do for a reunion weekend, and I don't have the all important "red couch" pictures as my camera lost power just as the girls posed for that one. I am sure someone will send me copies of our most successful red couch pictures yet!

We had a good time, Julia and I, talking and playing. I love watching these girls interact. Some of them are as old as Julia was, or almost so, as when we brought Julia home.
Julia dressed herself and got ready for our journey on Friday morning. Note that pink fluffiy heals that Julia has on. She has been wearing these shoes all week, and she walks quite well in them. The plastic is slippery and she volunteered to changed on Saturday because the floor in the lodge were stone and slippery. but she loves clicking along in these shoes. It is fun to see her having this kind of fun.
I'm not going to post names of kids or parents. We did a lot of sitting around and talking.
Some of us learned new skills. This little photographer used mom's camera it was almost too heavy for her to hold up. So very cute!

We try to do some family pictures. I missed a few, but I'll pilfer from someone else's pictures. This was a sweet picture of the two of us.

Wall photos were pretty flowers behind were also popular.

Look at this squirmy worm! He is 3, all boy, and has the best laugh in the world!
And then this smile.
And this lovely blossom.

Every year, the person/couple who organizes the weekend comes in with a craft for the kids. And the kids get more and more willing to sit down and work. I wonder what we'll have them do when they are 14?
I love watching the kids interact. Every year these relationships are growing.
And look at this bossy little face.
Just before we left, we took red couch pictures. This was taken just before we got all the girls and boys together to take the group shots. I will have some soon, I'm sure.
Check out previous "red couch" pictures here.

20 August 2010

I did it!

Every little victory is a big victory right now.

It is 3:28 my time, 4:28 Abe Martin lodge time. Julia and I are checked into the lodge and waiting for our comrades. It was an easy drive down, even Chicago was not as bad as usual. I could not have done it last night, but today was fine.

I still have this cold, however, and if it does not leave me by next week, it will be doc time.


We had a lovely dinner and chat with two of families who are here for the weekend. It was good to see them, and good to see the children. Julia ran, shared dinosaurs and sat with the other children and not next to me. She even ate the bowl of soup for dinner without fuss or bother. She was a very good girl.

For me, there was a bit of sadness. I watch the children pair off, clumps of them going off to play together. Julia stays with the youngest or she is left behind. These are kind children who include her when they are able but no one suggests that Julia do the sleep over in one family room. And Julia does not know that her friends, as she calls them, were planning such things. This is my sadness, not hers, not yet. How I hope, hope and pray that she grows into a social life before she grows to realize how different she is from other children.

19 August 2010

Time for my drive to Indiana but I am feeling the cold taking over. Deciding to stay in tonight and try the drive tomorrow. Upsets all of my plans for tomorrow, but I doubt that I would even make the 4 hour drive tonight.


I hope that Julia can get to sleep early so that I can do the same.

18 August 2010

A second day of feeling more like myself. A pleasure like none other.

Julia and I are going to Indiana this weekend. We start tomorrow night and will drive to my niece and nephew's house to spend the night and a few morning hours with little Noah. Then, we go down to Indy and have lunch with Marcia, and finally, we'll make it down to Abe Martin Lodge for our China reunion weekend. I had to call and check that I had made reservations. I could not for the life of me remember calling them! But, I had.

How much of the last few months have I forgotten? I am sure I've missed a few things. I am writing most things, moving to writing everything down. The mush of my brain makes menopause look easy.

I also have been double booking things this week -- 3 times! And my PTO work is slipping. Oh, I have to find my new normal so that I can get to it. I hope that once school starts, I will be able to organize a bit better.

I puttered around the house -- kitchen, laundry, a bit of clean up upstairs -- while Julia had therapy today. I got rid of a few coats in anticipation of putting up a new coat rack in the cellar after I get rid of the rack that collapsed. I weeded out a few of David's coats and jackets, keeping two that someone might want to wear. When Julia starts school, I am going to have to get to cleaning the cellar in earnest. It was to be our summer task, when it was still we. We were going to lighten our load. I have stuff -- 2 microwaves, an old but working lawnmower, some furniture -- that I am going to sell or give away. There are those boxes of David's manuscripts but for now I will just make sure they are all in one place. I need to wait a year or so for that task. Gosh, I have an electric keyboard that I bought for David, and I know I will find more stuff that just needs to be gotten rid of. Somebody should be using it all!

And then there is David's desk upstairs, clothes (although Cheshire did a first round of this weeks ago), and at some point, computer files. Right now, I am still doing estate work now and then. I did figure out (after a phone call and a bunch of stupid questions) one of the pension plans. Two more to go.

Julia was pretty incredible today. Things are changing for her -- more awareness, more interesting questions. I can't quite quantify it, but it is as if she is waking up, coming of age. Both of her therapists worked on reading with her, and Julia knows more than she wants to admit to. Interesting. She can look at words and make an attempt to pronounce them. She is not that crazy about doing it, but especially when she is interested, the reading is coming along. Writing is the same way, but she is still not inspired to write. And this child has so many stories.

I moved her up to 15 mg of Adderall a day after our last doc visit. Today was the first pill change.

She is also desperate for attention. Mary came over this afternoon and the three of us went for a walk at our little zoo. Julia insisted on having Mary's attention -- at times, rather rudely. And we will curb the rudeness but how wonderful is that?

If we (me, teachers, therapists) can only steer this changeling of a child.

After Mary left us, around dinner time, I went in the house to do something about food, and Julia asked to stay outside to catch bees. Her usual bug catching routine is directed towards ants or rolly-pollies. I told her that bees were hard to catch and that she should be very careful not to get stung. She told me not to worry, she would use leaves. I didn't think much about it. I mean, who catches bees?

I went looking for her a few minutes later and she was in front of our next door neighbor's house, under the pear tree, putting the bees that were eating the fallen pears into her bug box. I thought she was working on getting her first bee in, but she had captured three already. We put some fruit into the box and the bees are outside on our patio table.

When she came in, she wanted to learn more about bees, and we looked them up on the computer. This is what this child's education should be like.

Later, when we were getting ready to go upstairs and go to bed -- and it was late because I was talking on the phone too long -- I told Julia to put away her whicky sticks while I closed windows and turned out lights. I went through my tasks and came back to the living room to find the whicky sticks still on the floor. I picked them up quickly, thinking that Julia went upstairs to the bathroom and if she did, I didn't want her coming down again. I turned off living room lights and went upstairs but Julia was not there. I checked the upstairs rooms, then went to the first floor and basement, calling Julia all the time and wondering where she went to. She might not answer me if she was too involved in something but she would never stand for being left in the dark.

Julia was not in the house.

My heart started racing. I went to the front door that I knew was locked and it was open. I stepped out and Julia was on our deck checking the bees. "I got some mosquito bites but I needed to see my bees," she said by way of explanation. Well, I never told her not to do that, and she was perfectly safe. I just wish she had told me before she went out.

16 August 2010

a spectacular recurrence of infection

I finally connected with one of the heart docs today for an autopsy report. To begin with, I wanted this report. I wanted more dots connected so I would have some feeling of completeness, or something.

I wanted it.

And I am left with a downward spiral, a new low. And the thought that if I was ever going to be rescued, this would be the perfect day for it. At one time, rescue may have meant the prince on the white stallion. Unfortunately that holds no appeal right now. I want to be wrapped in softness, hugged and told that I had nothing at all to worry about. I want to be made happy. Made happy. I want to feel safe and cared for, I want to know that the future will now be wonderful.

A awful lot to expect of any prince, even a charming one.

So the doc explained how there were no surprises in the autopsy -- no glaring or misplaced tools left inside of David, no obvious broken organ or spurting vein. I was just the infection, reasserting its power. "Spectacular" because it came on so quickly, and because it came on so quickly (which is uncommon but not unusual) David's body had to fight it hard. But his body was still so weak, and it was indeed so very weak, from the fight just 8 days before (the Saturday the ambulance brought him to the hospital), there was no strength, no reserves. His body just lost to the infection. There were clues -- that low grade fever he had the night before, the blood pressure and sugar level that could not be controlled that morning -- but even by that time, even if they had understood what was going on exactly -- and they did understand some of it -- there was probably little they could do. The doc spoke as if I understood that David's first brush with infection the Saturday night before was life threatening. I knew it was serious. But I did not think of it as life threatening. "We could have lost him that night." I did not know that. Had I realized that, I would have called Cheshire home immediately. And when I called her home, there was no reason to believe that he was in that sort of danger.

It all matters, none of it matters.

Someone recently said to me that it was two years after her husband's death that she felt like herself again. Two years. I have 6 weeks under this belt, and if there was an escape hatch, if there was a magic pill, if I could do some really good drugs, I would be tempted.

The only thing that helps now is to talk and to write here. Talking to those lovely friends who call as ask how today has gone and who listen to my endless woes, my awful feelings and do not back away. The shiva of the phone. And writing here, of course. Writing here.

No other answers. None at all.

But if you know of a prince thinking about a noble quest . . . .
Julia and I have taken to waking up relatively early. Just this weekend, I have been turning on the tv for her and I doze until I am ready to open my eyes. I let her watch a bit more and I pick up the computer to write a bit. Not a great habit but very sweet for this last week of summer vacation.

Yesterday was hard because Julia and I went to the grand opening of our new kids museum. So many happy families. So many couples. Doesn't usually bother me, but I had no one to talk to, couldn't complain/vent to Julia. She had fun. It would have been better had I gone with some other adult and Julia. I will have to remember that.

The weather did cool off yesterday and we were able to turn off the air conditioner and sleep with the windows open. And with blankets! Pleasure! And I swear, a better night's sleep.

I dreamed of David last night. For the first time. He was very young, looking very much the way he did when I first met him. And I looked like I do now. It was rather depressing to try to get his attention. We were having dinner with a group of people and were seated next to each other. I could not get his attention at all. I wanted to touch his hand. I felt the separation keenly.

I am hoping to do a bit of school work this week. Some easy books and number work. I know that it will have to come with stickers and bribery. We haven't done any think vaguely school-like in weeks now. Cleaning up is about as close as we've come to anything routine.

Feeling rather dull this morning. Wanting what? Conversation. A snuggle and a kiss. An arm always ready to take me in. This is what I am missing this morning. Life is not what I have known.

15 August 2010

Today, I woke up strong than I've felt for awhile. The cold is still with me but definitely it is losing ground. I am sleeping. And the very hot spell that we've had since we've been home has broken. We still have lots of bugs, but one can breath outside.

Julia made a lovely dinosaur bride and groom out of pipecleaners and tuelle. I can't seem to get a good picture of it. Too bad. Maybe there are courses in taking pictures of kid art.

14 August 2010


Farmers Market, Co-op, looking for lavender, craft store for pipe cleaners, a "u" and an "r", and sheer bags to put the lavender in. Home for a nap, making pesto, giving the girl a bath, and playing with pipe cleaners.

Is this enough for one day?

We are moving slowly.

I bought two small bunches of basil today at the Farmers' Market and made some pesto. A usual August routine, but missing for the last two years. These years are so hard. But I made some into salad dressing and froze little containers for the winter. If I make it twice more, we will have enough until spring. Frozen is not as good as fresh, but frozen is better than anything store bought. And it was always part of our yearly round. And it was something I wanted to do today -- something of the old, something that I want to have again. Something we did not have last winter.

Now, can I put it on rice? Considering the way that Julia is eating rice these days. Almost every meal which is fine but then there is no room for another starch. Or is there?

Still napping, and still with a cold, but I am healing. Not as much coughing today, and hopefully, no cold meds for sleeping tonight. The cold meds make me bleary the next day, but I so need the sleep. Trade off after trade off.

Ah, the other of the day's tasks was the reclaiming of the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. I did it. No more of David's pill bottles line the shelves -- Actually, he had moved into the desk in Cheshire's room after transplant because there were too many meds for the cabinet, but he had used the cabinet for two years before that for his meds. And my bathroom stuff removed to a basket on my dresser. Now, the bathroom looks like women live here.

Julia is routinely getting dressed herself in the morning and putting on pjs at night. Right now, she is looking for a book to read together before bed. This may be what we can say we learned this summer. It is not a bad thing.

I let Julia have a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast -- I was a bit ashamed. But she had noodles for lunch and a great supper. Saturday breakfast isn't everything.

13 August 2010


Could not resist sitting down and working this morning during Julia's therapy. I paid OZB estate bills and made a few calls, did some of my own, cancelled a magazine subscription that David never ordered, and changed addresses on a few things. How much of this is there?

I have the letter of benefits from social security for Julia and myself. We will have a bit of money coming in each month until she is 16. Other money matters are coming along. Still, in the short term, it may be tense.

I registered Julia for school on line (though I still must do it physically next week); I registered for my own course work at UW. I will be a UW Fellow for the year. Almost official now. I have one course to take via internet. Most of the students will have done it this summer; I must do it this fall. We do orientation next Thursday and Friday. I will be meeting people, lots of them, people who I will work with for the year, and I will be saying that I am single. My husband died during the summer.

Is it alright that I don't use the term widow?

I feel like I have been spending a lot of time changing my status on the outside, external. Soon or now, I will start to change things inside the house. Some just make sense -- David had taken over the medicine cabinet during the last few years as his medications increased, I put my moisturizer, deordorant, etc., in a basket on my dresser. I can move it back now. I'm going to take one of the sets of drawers out of the bedroom and maybe move a chair in. These changes are small. All small changes.

Joys of the beach

I have some beach pictures from the Isle of Wight that I have not posted. Some of them should really be enhanced and scrapped, but I have no time or patience for that right now. But I didn't want to miss the chance to post the joys of the beach for my girl.

Woke up this morning and was thinking about a kitten. I dreamed about three wild kittens and living in a big, old rambling house. I think the maxim of waiting a year before making any big decision is a good one; I will refrain from the temptation of a kitten for now.

Feels good to remember a dream, but those kittens were scratching me. Lots of claws but no scratches this morning.

12 August 2010

Day-of-Death Chili

On face book, I wrote: Yesterday sucked. Today, I took a nap, ignored the mail, and made chili. And that was life affirming.

Yesterday, I had so much help -- doing a bit of PTO work with Amy and Suzanne, and then having Mary for company as I went through the ton of mail from the last two weeks. Mary took Julia and I on a campus tour, and I was shocked that in the three years I've been in Madison, I have never been to the student center or any other of the old buildings on campus. So now we have a start at that. It is a lovely campus, and there for us to enjoy -- the center faces the lake where sail boats play. All very peaceful the week before school opens. Still, we need to take advantage of it.

Mary made sure we had something to eat -- no one has ever had to do that for me before -- and dropped us at home. Julia and I watched a movie and then went to bed. Together. I took cold meds and went to sleep.

And slept a long time.

So, today, waking up coughing, still with this cold, I resolved to concentrate on the cold and nothing else, except Julia of course. Funny about this cold, (I am an awful, awful patient!!) my irrational mind now equates grief with feeling sick. Although the two may be related in some way, the truth is that I don't have to be sick to grieve. I found time during Julia's clinic time to come back home and take a nap, and after almost two hours of sleep, I felt the surge of a little energy.

Just a little but enough to carry my through the rest of the day.

And I made chili.

Yeah, it is hot, hot, hot outside, but this is not ordinary chili, this is day-of-death chili.

The day that David died, I felt I had a mound of chores to do. We had no food in the house, so shopping. Julia was really dirty, so bath. And I wanted to have something that Cheshire and I could eat at any time, so chili. (We had most of the fixings because David had planned to make it the weekend he was hospitalized). I was going to do it all while Cheshire went to the hospital that morning, but Cheshire volunteered to do all of my tasks while I visited with David. This was lovely at the time, but in retrospect, it was a best gift that Cheshire has ever given. If she had gone to the hospital, and I had done my tasks (tasks which made me very stressed at the time), I would not have been with David when he died. And I so needed to be there.

So, I went to the hospital, and Cheshire shopped and bathed Julia. And she took out all the makings for chili, including two pounds of chopped beef. It was then that I called her to come to the hospital.

Much later that day, when my friend, Cathy, came over to oversee what was going on with Julia (she was in therapy most of the day, but I wanted Cathy there because I had no idea how long we would be at the hospital). At some point, Cathy figured out what was up with all the stuff in the kitchen, and decided she would saute the defrosted beef and put it in the frig. Later still, I put the cooked meat in the freezer and there it stayed until today.

Today, after my nap and picking up Julia from clinic, I took that meat out of the freezer, opened all those cans of beans that were gathering dust in the cupboard, and started making chili. As I cut garlic and onions and celery and carrots, I realized that I had not made chili in a really long time. That was David's task and he loved making big pots of chili for us and for office pitch-ins. We always had some in the freezer for quick suppers. And it was delicious. Just before he went into the hospital, he had given Cheshire directions for chili one evening, and Cheshire making chili the morning was sweet practice. But today, I was making chili. My own chili. And it is not bad. Not David's, but not bad.

And that has to be good enough now.

Mommy's Day-of-Death Chili.

11 August 2010

of self pity and pain

I am back to the old schedule of falling asleep and then waking up 5 hours later for awhile. I hope that this is the while and that I will get back to sleep in a little while -- like an hour. Julia is asleep and I am hoping that she stays this way until 7 or 8.

I wrote to a friend "Grief makes hope seem so youthful" and he picked it out of my ramblings to comment on it. I am at least knee deep in it -- grief that is. Another friend, Robin, sent me a few books, two of which were about widowhood. I was not ready to even open them before I left for vacation. One almost opened itself yesterday and I found time to sit myself down and read.

I don't really want to claim the title. Widow. Widow. My grandmother was a widow, but me? It is so final, the reverse side of married. That club no one wants to join. And it lasts forever.

There I wrote that.


Yes, life gets better. Go through the tunnel and come out the other end. Lots of healing to do, lots of emotions to get through, but the nitty gritty is that the most important person in the world is gone and I will miss him for the rest of my life.

Should I be looking for a group?

One of the interesting things that one of the books says is about how hard it is to deal with people telling you that you are looking well (which no one is saying yet) or you are so strong and able. I get this all the time and it is very frustrating and in another way it stops conversation dead. Maybe I look strong, but all I want to say is -- this is me falling apart. Nothing about this position is strong. As I type this, I wonder if I will really be able to participate in the LEND program this year. Gosh, I so want to, but suddenly, just now, I worry if I will be able.

And I hate that I am not good company right now. I talk on the phone to Cheshire, to Lisa, I see Mary, and I have little conversation. It is as if I want to be entertained by them. I think I want to be filled up again by them. And so, stories come to an awkward end, anecdotes die mid-sentence.

And to keep myself sane, I need to constantly reach out, ask for help, say, yes to the offers. And that is exhausting now. Right now, I feel tired and weak. I don't know if I can bear to even say yes to one more person, can't bear to answer the phone. My impulse right now is to curl up and stay away from people until some healing gets done. but I know that is now wise.

And I know that I have to let myself go through this, cannot distract myself with anything until this is over. I am not numb anymore.

I did function today. I asked intelligent questions. I phones more people that I need to. I returned calls. I made small but useful decisions. Tomorrow, with luck I will do the same thing.

I hate that functioning makes me look competent and together.

I am surviving. Maybe that is the best that can be said. Maybe this is why, others who have passed through this tunnel have offered help and an ear without even knowing me well. I am feeling so sorry for myself tonight. Life as I knew it is over. Sorry for that and for myself. I don't/ didn't want that life to end. And I can't hold on to it. Even as I type, it slips further away, like dry sand through fingers, like running water.

If this is a precursor to wisdom, I don't want the wisdom. But of course, the wisdom may be the only reward at the end of this tunnel. Talking about redecorating the house is so much easier to deal with, but this ache, this now and then razor pain ripping at my soul, is what I have to come face to face with. Is this the reason for all those fairy stories where the hero/ine confronts the most fierce-some monster/villain they can imagine?

I am going to try to sleep again. After this tirade of pity and pain. After this messy wound opening. I hope to move a bit along tomorrow. That's all, not a better tomorrow, but some movement through the tunnel.

09 August 2010

Sore throat continues until I get to the airport and buy some cold medicine and lozenges. I could have asked Brad and Anne for something last night, and don’t know why I didn’t. Being sick makes me feel pretty vulnerable.


I’ve explained the last year to A FEW people in a casual way. Mother died, two plus years after my father. Now David. And this morning something sunk in. I am what is left. I did not get my security from my parents, but they were still there, and part of me never gave up that they would offer me the security and love that I wanted from them. David, of course, I fully depended on for the love and security, and he is gone now too. So, whether it was hoped for love (always the optimist) or actual love, they are all gone. This morning I realize that I am at the top of a pyramid. There is no one -- but that is not true. There are friends and they are offering me support because they understand this vulnerability either because they have felt it themselves or because they can see see what it might be.

I can lean on people, but it is myself. I have to find it-- strength, support, even love -- inside of myself. I have been taking one step at a time. I have let myself feel the journey the last two weeks. I slipped back into planning and regretting, but for the most part, for a larger part, I was there and just being. I took in what there was and now I am heading for home. It is time to take it all back up again -- to pay bills, to see of the Jersey house has progressed any, to work on a remortgage of my house, to get child care figured out so I can easily do the LEND coursework.

And is this where I am going to report my day? Am i going to continue to empty the care and triumphs of my day? Will I really start making calls every night to Lisa, to Marcia, to Mary, to Jan, to others? Just to have some adult to check on how I am doing?

And maybe I am looking too far down a path that I have not travelled on. Maybe I should just appreciate that Mary is coming over tonight with pizza and salad for us to have some dinner together. And let next week, next month, and the following time go for now.

It’s hard.

I have not planned this trip that we are finishing in anywhere near the detail that I usually plan trips. And it was fine. I was not exactly a lilly of the field, but I was taken care of, I did find my way. Every night there was a place to eat, a beach to walk, buses to catch, and a bed to settle down into.

Now and then, I want to resist the change, but admittedly that impulse has weakened, but no impulse has taken its place. If not the old way and not change, then what. Standing still offers no comfort at all. Maybe inertia. A body in motion tends to stay in motion -- Maybe it is just that I am sitting on a plane for 8 hours and need a bit more sleep.

I cheerfully told Julia about our day plans -- how we would get up early, take Brad’s ride to the airport, check in and get on a plan, fly to Chicago, and then drive home. Did I need the day’s list as much as she did?

08 August 2010

Leave taking

I wake up this morning with a very sore throat and a stuffy nose. I am getting a cold. I hope I can get home before I feel more.

Lisa said something like -- I would have to do more leave taking before I knew what to do with the house. She was talking about the house, but I see how right she is. I see that I want to know now, soon, immediately how I am supposed to act and what I am supposed to do to get through the process of grief and on to the work of the rest of my life, but it is not so straight forward and easy.

The house is a good metaphor here. We had plans. David and I had talked about it, agreed upon things, found the people we wanted to work with, and decided on the money part. It was all planned! But it was only planned for that life that David and I were living. This was the forever house -- at least for foreseeable future. Part of me is the spoiled child who wants to insist on the perfect kitchen, the layout for giving parties, and housing our books. I want to scream to the wind that this was all already planned.

These house plans are, right now, the toughest things to let go of. It is tough to let go of because it was and is some vestige of our lives together, our future together. And that is over. There is no future together with David.

Cheshire was able in a very cool and detached way to explain why I should not do anything to the house, at lest right now because my house plans stood in opposition to what I say that I want for a living arrangement. She saw that very clearly and she is right.

I have more leave taking to do before I know where I am going.

During this time on the Isle, I have thought many times how David would have enjoyed this vacation on the Isle of Wight, But we would not have gone on this part of the vacation if he was alive. We had other plans. This is the journey that I’ve taken because David died. Because he died. I can’t capture in words what this means, what this feels like.

Maybe it was the first thing that I decided, that I did because of his death. Because David died no decision, no plan, no forward looking idea is the same. This is what I am wrapping my entire brain around this morning. Julia has had a tough time understanding and learning consequences. She is closer now but I wondered how she did not understand them before this -- and here I am saying that even though David died, some big part of me did not want to acknowledge that there would be consequences. It is not quite the same, but I see connections.

I have leave taking to do in ways that I don’t even have any idea yet.

07 August 2010

A visitor and Julia's ruminates on death

Our last day on the Isle of Wight (check out: http://www.iwight.com/just_visiting/isle_of_white.asp) has been beautiful. Finally, a beach day after a few cold and wet days. It did rain but we were taking a bath before supper and missed it entirely.

Julia and I walked today about 4 hours all together, playing on the beach part of the time, running and daring the waves. We said hello to a few people we have seen on our walks. This is a small island and Julia and I are conspicuous. I have not seen another Asian face here, and no Americans at all.

We stopped in Shanklin for lunch and I finally had a very good scone and delightful clotted cream -- thank god, I don’t live here. I might be tempted to have this treat every so often. I don’t even think four hours on the beach would make up for that treat.

Still, it was good.

I have at times been skipping Julia’s stimulant and she is eating. I am continually happy when she eats, my skinny dinosaur.

So, today we had a visitor. Alice’s father, Anthony, comes from the Isle of Wight and it was because of his stories that I knew about it. He has a brother, Noel, who still lives on the Isle and works in a hotel not far from where I was staying. He is an older man, shy and of this place. He met me after breakfast and we talked for a few hours. I did n’t really think I would be able to when I met him at the wedding, but alone he was much more personable and generous. He walked with us down to the beach before he had to catch a bus. we exchanged addressed and I am sure he will write. He is lonely, and he is losing old friends as they get old. He bought candy for Julia for the plane ride and we hugged before he left. I felt that I had met a very sweet soul.

And Julia is thinking about death. It was unfortunate that Osborne House was built and lived in by a dead queen and a dead prince, and by children who have grown and died. There was no way to avoid those facts and it started Julia talking about death again. She had stopped for a few days -- really since we came to the isle.

Some observations of her: She asked about my mother (Babja to Julia) and I confirmed the fact that she died last year. She then asked if Daddy would be seeing Babja now. This from a child who has not really heard about life after death. What has she picked up and did she really make these connections?

She wanted to know if Daddy would be seeing dinosaurs. She asked if Daddy could decide to come back home when we got home. And then, she wanted to know what it feels like to be dead. She says she is still missing Daddy and hopes he decides to come back. She would like that. And then she says that she will use her magic wand to bring him back.

What else in in that head? And am I answering her with comfort and sense?

And then, she is looking for a new husband for me. She has not forgotten this quest. She asked if I wanted to get married. If I wanted to be a bride again? And could a mommy also be a bride. I told her that right now I was sad and didn’t think I was ready for a new husband. And she asked when. Then, I told her that I had not met many men in my whole life who I would marry and I thought it would be very hard to find me a new husband. And she turned to me, patted my hand and said, “Mommy, I find you a China man who looks just like me.”

And I have just no idea where to go with that.