28 February 2011

Why We Write About Grief, By JOYCE CAROL OATES and MEGHAN O’ROURKE, Published: February 26, 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/weekinreview/27grief.html?scp=1&sq=grief%20&st=cse)

I read "Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, a few years and opened it again when a friend sent it to me months ago. What I got from that short look and re-reading a few chapters was how miserable Didion was for the entire year after her husband's death. Although she certainly seemed to grow during her year, she was still pretty miserable at the end of it. When I read that, it gave me pause. I was still pretty miserable and I wanted to get out of it. I wanted to pick the wild card and go directly to home, bypassing all the muck that I saw ahead of me. I really didn't want to be miserable for a year, but as my own year mark gets closer, I see no alternative. I figure I will be miserable in July, but I will not be paralyzed. Didion wrote a book. Miserable or not. I

I have not sought out other grief books and reading the Times article I was surprised to see that there are more. Right now, I’d say I am not going to check any of them out but I liked what O’Rourke and Oates had to say in the article that I’ve posted above.

And so a few things from that article: Oates says: “The diarist doesn’t know how a scene will end, when it begins; she doesn’t know what the next hour will bring, let alone the next day or the next week; she is wholly unprepared for the most profound experience of her life — that her husband will die.” The morning that David died, I was sitting by his bed and tapping away on my key board. I was composing an email to my circle of friends, bringing people up to date, saying that David would probably be transferred to the rehab unit very soon. I remember the shock of going back and reading that hours later. When I wrote it, life was still as I had known it. On my first re-reading, I desperately wanted that time, that me back. I had no idea that David was breathing last breaths, that the infection was mounting a final attack. I was guardian of a scene that I could not fathom.

Oates says: “Later, I thought of composing “A Widow’s Handbook” — to offer advice to others who, like me, had been totally unprepared and na├»ve. But all that remains of this is a final, brief chapter of a single sentence — the essence of widowhood is to find a way, however desperate, to keep yourself alive.” Unprepared and naive. Oh, yes. Unprepared for the kind of tears, the time of shock and disbelief, the days of alone, the unwanted decisions of tomorrow. Unprepared to find that way of keeping myself alive. And naive to imagine that this was like some other experience. This was like losing something, someone else. Naive until some form of truth descends.

This morning I was in a nurses office answering questions so that I can buy some life insurance. She asked the cause of my mother’s death, and I hesitated. Of course, my mother did not find that way to keep herself alive. When no illness would take her, she allowed herself to die. Although I did not really understand her decision at the time, and still ponder a soul making such a decision, I have so much less judgment. She did what she did. Her church would call it a sin, and her church was useless to her in making her decision.

I cannot help to reflect back to the discussion of change and decisions that I had with various friends and relatives a few months ago. The overarching advice to wait to decide anything. Wait to heal. Wait to find yourself again. Wait before making major changes, before making any changes at all. I did some scoffing at that advice then, was chided, and retreated with my tail firmly between my legs. Maybe they were all right and I needed to wait until . . .

In truth, they were all wrong. Oates and O’Rourke talk about feeling that they could not conform to the “normal” conventions of mourning. They were embarrassed how their private and public lives collided. They found their own rhythm though the heat of grief. I see that now.

Around Christmas time, more than one person suggested that I appeared to be “over” David’s death. That my process certainly had seemed to move along quicker than the norm. That bothered me on a bunch of levels. I let myself believe that maybe I did not feel correctly or deeply enough, or worse, maybe I really did not know myself. Maybe I was in some deep valley of despair that I could not even recognize. To the extent that I listened to any of that criticism, I was very foolish. I knew myself. I knew what I wanted almost immediately after David died. I knew myself through that white hot pain. I have not changed in the least.

In a few days it will be the anniversary of David’s transplant. I remember a day after the operation when we talked about what we would do for this anniversary. I will do none of those things.

27 February 2011

Julia and I have a little schedule that we are going through. It will be a quiet and lazy day. I need to do a bit of food shopping so we have something for Julia's lunch tomorrow, but we are just doing chores, a bit of home work, and some fun. Doing the wii fit again after a break for my flu. I am remarkably unfit, and I vaguely remember that I was doing the Y often after the transplant -- David to rehab, me to the gym. A few weeks, months of good training. My body -- when it is at rest -- longs to be back there.

I wrote this yesterday. Yes, indeed, slowly waking up to myself.

I was accepted to LEND seminar held in a Disney World hotel in April. I may do a presentation about complex childhood trauma. I volunteered to do it and waiting to hear if I am given time. I am a bit nervous about the prospect -- I know it will get me ass in gear and I know it is perfectly in line with my LEND goals, but I could also find plenty of excuses why I should not do it. I am no expert. I have no concentration. And my research is too wide flung to say anything at all useful. I will try to quiet those nay-sayers within and just do my best. Too much Pollyanna?

Bath time for Julia and cleaning the bathroom closet for me. Another few checks off on our schedule.

26 February 2011

Yesterday, I took part in some Waisman Research and took the ADI-R. The Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R) is a structured interview used for diagnosing autism, planning treatment, and distingusing autism from other developmental disorders. Three hours worth of interview. I almost wish I could have the transcript or the interview notes because they asked about so much behavior. This test is the gold standard for autism diagnosis but it takes so long that it is only used for research most of the time.

From a parent perspective, I wish that I had been asked some or all of these question before Julia was diagnosed. I might have caused me to think harder about some behavior. Of course, back then, there was so much behavior that it would have been difficult to tease out some of the threads of autism.

From the student perspective, I had heard about this test but had no idea what it was like. Now I know! It was interesting that even after three hours of answering questions, the researchers said that they would have needed to meet and spend time with Julia to feel comfortable diagnosing her.

Really messy hair but it is the weekend, Julia is eating well, and dressing and taking care of herself. She will probably be the height of fashion one day!
A quiet day. Julia had therapy this morning and I thought we would go out for the afternoon, but it was cold and snowing and I just didn't feel like driving in the snow. We have plenty of food in the freezer to avoid a food shopping, and I am a bit down that I cannot go to the demonstrations with Julia. I just think it would be really hard on her, but I feel so left out -- okay, a bit of self-pity here.

We colored, I fiddled on the computer, we worked on addition, and did some wii fit with Julia working pretty hard to learn the stepping, and both of us doing really awful on the balancing games -- it was pretty funny! Then we watched the new Karate Kid and ate sausages and sauteed cabbage and called it a night.

Maybe this was just being gentle with myself. I broke a 3-day fast today. My first fast since David died. I was fasting the night he was taken to the hospital for the last time. And just this week, it finally felt like the right time to pick up again and spend a few days without food.

Little by little, I am coming back. Today was anxious and confusing, but coming back nonetheless.

25 February 2011

Just got a call from our New Jersey oil spill remediators. After a year and a half, the neighbors have agreed to have the regulation mandated work on their property done. It has been hell waiting! I have no stronger language to describe this time, but I will, from now on compare very little else to that place below. And has necessitated a total giving over to the whims of others -- maybe a good god lesson for me, but I so hope the lesson is over and work can be done in March. Then, just maybe we can sell that house, and I can be free of my mother's estate before the end of summer. My fervent prayer is to be finished by July 1, but that may require miracles.

And I note, not without a sly grin, that the work on David's estate was short, intense for even a shorter time, and smooth. Our last joint IRS filing which will be done next week, and which I was worried about, will yield me a refund enough to pay for the accountant plus a little more. The work on my mother's estate, though absolutely no fault of hers, has been full of drama, frustration, some very bad feelings, and bump after bump after bump. And so, thank you higher power or power within for such a clear analogy to my lifetime experience with these two people.

God laughs!

23 February 2011

When normal blankets lives, I tend to forget what it was without normal. Today, Julia and I got her off to school with not a shred of stress. My energy level is so very normal after weeks and weeks of that flu. My knee is getting better. For all this feeling of ease, I am still impatient for the ice and snow to disappear, but it is a small annoyance rubbing at the heel of the day.

And today, I meet with an accountant for the first time. Ah, change!

22 February 2011

Games. Julia has a few new games that she is playing. She is also doing story worksheet by herself. I am sure that is going on for the rest of her class in school and so Julia is doing it with a workbook that we have at home. Most of the words are spelled wrong and she doesn't get the idea of crosswords puzzles at all, but her interest is great. I am sure that between her therapists and me, we can get her doing them correctly pretty quickly. It is great to see her interest in what is going on around her and to try to imitate her peers. Thumbs up for inclusion.

Julia's reading moves ahead -- when her therapists have reading on the schedule, Julia wants to read far more than there is time for. And she retains more and more words. Yes, sometimes guessing from pictures, but better guesses -- a few months ago, she would guess a word that started with a different letter than the word she was looking at. Not so much of that at all now.
And then games. Both KNU, which we've have for awhile but was too hard for Julia, and this drawing game called Who, What, Where, Jr. are being played and played rather well. She played Who, What, Where with her OT (can I say often enough that I love OTs!) yesterday. Three cards give the drawing player what they are drawing, and the rest guess -- yeah, like Pictionary. Julia could even read some of the cards. She did have a bit of trouble keeping what she was drawing a secret from Annie, but after a few turns she got better at that. She had no trouble drawing a Unicorn in a space ship. When I play games like this, I look at the direction and then pause to consider how to draw to give the other players clues. Not Julia. She heard what she needed to draw and went right to it. And the drawing looked like what it was supposed to! The snake, talking on the phone, in a bird's nest was a good one.

With GNU, she is spelling. Sometimes it takes a long time, and sometimes the rules needs to be modified over and over, but she is getting it. Spelling is talking on some shape. Yes, three letter words, but words nonetheless.

And in other corners of my world, I am selling the first piece of old furniture tonight. Great Nana's (David's grandmother) pink marble topped end table should find another home very soon. This is my favorite piece of the old furniture, but really, 20 years of living with furniture that I don't really like is sufficient. I don't even need to replace it. I have two more end tables that we brought from Indy and that live in the basement right now. I'll bring one up, take pictures so that that too can go on Craig's List, and feel a tiny bit freer of "stuff."

I've decided to get some help this spring getting some of the furniture that I want to sell out of the house and into the garage. I'd love to sell it all of Craig's List but nothing seems to be moving fast. It might be time to have that garage sale. We did one a long time ago when we were moving into the Washington Blvd. house. The biggest item that we sold was Cheshire's loft bed that she had outgrown. I kinda hated parting with the loft bed too. But most of the the feelings then, like now, are sentimental. And I've never missed that loft bed, nor did Cheshire ever ask to use it again.

Change is uncomfortable. Even when it is for the best, even when it is good, it can stir up the chi. Stirring the chi is and will be so much of this year.

21 February 2011

Ice, sleet, rain, and snow are back. It is a mean February storm to come right after that bit of thaw. I know it will probably not last as long as other ucky weather, but I am so over winter. And my knee is hurting again. Scraping ice off the sidewalk with a sore knee is no fun at all. I put down salt today, and I am hoping for a bit of a warm up tomorrow before I get out there and scrape hard. I will be out there tomorrow morning to get the damned sidewalk clean!

Julia was home for a final, I hope, day of school closing. Nothing is resolved politically -- it is a stand off with both sides standing way too firm. I have to admit to feeling nothing but depressed. The wonderful political action that has gone on in the last week is invigorating and inspiring, but marching and rallies don't change much in reality. I keep wondering whether all those who are at the capital voted in the last election? That may be cynical. I hate to see this governor get his way. It will go far to really ruin this progressive state. I think that it also will send a very powerful message to the rest of the USA -- we can defeat the liberals in Wisconsin, and you can do it in your state. In some newspaper article, I read that Walker was emailing Mitch Daniels, governor of Indiana. This does not please me at all.

Julia is showing the very normal kid signs right now of wanting to never return to school I don't want to read books, she tells me. I don't want to do hard math work. The fact that we have been doing it at home together, and with her therapists, doesn't seem to register. I think she will be fine tomorrow when it is bus time.

Tonight, I feel the wind knocked out of me. Late last week, in one of the many odd circumstances I find myself in, I told a perfect stranger about the circumstances of my life in order to get information from her. The next day I sent her an email thanks for her information and she responded with some harsh judgments about my life and an opinion which I had not asked for. The details do not matter here. I was taken aback, generally offended. (not that her criticism mattered). But the fact that someone, and a stranger at that, could shake me, even momentarily, from a course that I know is correct bothers me.

I am not strong. Not strong alone. The strength I've known and enjoyed was built after David and I started our relationship. I forget that I have lost some of my source of strength. I have not yet found the source squarely inside myself. I will need that grounding inside to live the adventure that I expect.

And then I look at the calendar and realize that next week is the anniversary of David's transplant. Well, no wonder I feel a bit beat up. We had a feeling that morning when the phone rang before dawn that we were going to do it! We were going to beat David's bad heart! We were going to have a very long time together. This feeling of loss is not grief -- maybe a part of it, but not weepy and weak. It is grave disappointment, like losing the perfect plan. We have been artists. We lost lots of times -- book deals, parts, movie deals, perfect jobs, dream schools, perfect houses, miscarriage, infertility, a referral. Lots of loss. The difference here is that I don't have David to move on with. And so this loss, the terrific chance we took to beat David's congenitally bad heart, stings. And stings longer than all those other losses.

A friend in Ohio reminds me that her daffodils are 2 inches high. There is some lovely news for a gardener.

19 February 2011

We really wanted to get outside today. Julia has been positively jubilant the last few days when we've walked the dog together. She wants spring to come and to come soon. This afternoon at the height of the warmth of the day we ventured out to a park to play in the playground. This is a playground that we frequent and usually we do meet up with someone that one of us knows. Well, not so much today. But that sky was blue and that snow is melting away.
Julia is really doing great on the swing alone these days. No mama pushing for her!
But it is getting cold.
Up went the hood as Julia climbed on the rocking things.
The rocking dinosaur is no long the right size.
Julia managed a few rocks but I think it was really uncomfortable.

And we managed about 20 minutes of play before we retreated to the car. Still, it is going to be spring very soon.

Time for riding

I want to say/write/ shout again today -- I feel better! Finally, finally the flu of the last weeks is almost gone -- yeah, well I cough now and then. But there is a spring in my step and some concentration in my work. Thank the gods!!

During Julia's therapy today, I was able to do some class work. I haven't done any this past week -- at least none since Wednesday. It has been a joy being home with Julia but it was also good to get back to work today.

I have been doing some research on Hippo-therapy for a report I have to give in a few weeks in class -- alternative therapies is the topic. It is good reading some of the scientific stuff about the therapy and its efficacy with autism. There needs to be more research, but the findings dovetail nicely with my own feelings about getting Julia involved with horses.

When Julia began intensive therapy, I cut out all of the extracurricular activities that she had. Well, she didn't have that many, but we had found a barn just outside of town that was willing to give Julia very preliminary riding lessons. At the time, Julia wasn't getting along at all with Latkah, but she liked these big animals. She was excited about riding and seemed to find a calm inside of herself while she was on top of the horse. The instructor led her around and around a ring while asking Julia to sit up straight, hold her arms out and up, find her balance, move her body as the horse moved. Julia was still so very unregulated but she was able, at least at times, to do as she was asked. And those were in the days that following directions was more than a challenge. Julia also enjoyed brushing the horse after her lesson and touching the huge side of the horse. Its being excited her.

So there is this, what I saw, affinity with horses.

Then there is the simple and quite practical circumstance that my sister keeps horses at her virginia home. Julia and I could visit and get lots of exposure and riding time. I also have a childhood friend, who lives close by my sister, who has been a riding instructor for years. Julia could learn a lot from these women. Good for extended family getting together and spending time together in a different way, good to have different teachers who teach about very different skills, good to be taught by people passionate about their subject, good to go to Virginia and enjoy the country, nice vacation.

And then there is the research, "Although current research regarding hippo-therapy with autistic children is limited, the existing studies have found it to help with sensory motor, communication, and overall social interaction skills. A previous study on adults with mental illness found that hippo-therapy is effective in increasing people’s self-efficacy and motivation. Overall, the adults became more engaged in their recovery and life. Another study completed on children between 9 and 13 years of age with language learning disabilities found that hippo-therapy was effective in increasing children’s attention, participation, and motivation." (citations removed to make that paragraph readable)

My thoughts: Julia is not ready for sports. She is not able to follow complex instructions and, even if she could, I don't think she could cope with the excitement of team play. She is also not ready for music instruction -- our version of learning team play for Cheshire. She is also not a big outdoors person and could use another reason to get her outside.

But she did like horses a year and a half ago. Horseback riding, even therapeutically, would eventually put her in touch with other kids who like to ride and open her up to friendships based on a shared interest. I mean, how many friends can you get loving dinosaurs -- okay, a few, but Julia could use a less extinct interest. And maybe, this could grow into an interest and expand Julia's world.

I am also very interested that this would be a different kind of learning. I benefited from dance, Cheshire from music. It is good for a brain to be stimulated in another way. This would be physical learning, more directions to follow, more skill to use. Sooner or later, I will start art lessons with Julia -- I mean, find her a teacher, not teach her art myself. I want her to have some alternative learning under her belt, and maybe riding would serve that.

Now to arrange a tour of the barn and hopefully, a preliminary lesson. Strange, but I have a sense of great adventure.

18 February 2011

As a kid, I was really good at memorizing. I read using whole language before the term was invented. I learned math facts that same way, and my first experience of extreme embarrassment was the result of just such learning.

I had the math fact 4+7=11 down securely, since I knew all of my 4+'s, but the day I was called, Sr. Theresa asked me what 7+4 was and I had no idea. My shame came from being told that I should have known that if 4+7=11, then I should have known that 7+4=11! I don't know if I had learned the cumulative law of addition, but I certainly had not absorbed it.

Cheshire learned math in a very Montessori way -- she understood it all. It was fortunate that she was in a Montessori for the first three years of schooling. The teaching technique perfectly matched her learning strength. She was, however, pretty terrible at memorizing facts, and we worked long and hard, with the help of Kumon math, to get her through those arithmetic days when knowing math facts made a big difference in how she was doing in math. Once she got out of arithmetic, she flew -- her math understanding, unbridled from memorized facts, grew by leaps and bounds.

And then there is Julia. How I wish I could see some brain scan as she works at numbers! Where she is excited by words, by reading, by stories, by facts about dinosaurs, number leave her more than cold. These days, she is counting to 20, although she will still forget 14 from time to time. Why 14? She is getting a grasp of more and less in terms of numbers -- Her teachers at school work constantly with a number line. She can be led through simple addition and subtraction when we use little dinosaurs or stones or blocks. We've started working on money and she can identify all of our coins, but she does not understand what they are worth or what the equivalents between coins are. We are also working on time, but there are still concepts of later, soon, today, tomorrow, someday, that are very unclear.

This all whirls in my head -- numbers, time, money -- it is all connected. I am sure, but I have no idea how. I don't know whether it is a permanent disability or if it another box to find the key to. Either way, I will not stop teaching her. And given the choice, as if there was a choice, I would so much rather she be interested in reading than math, but without any number sense, life will be hard. Time, money, leaving tips in restaurants. Life does not favor the number-less. Still, even as Cheshire and I have distinctly different math learning styles, maybe Julia's will also be different and will emerge when she is ready.

Just observations. Just thoughts.
Julia calls this a sassy picture. Three days home with mom and she is still sassy. We are doing reading and math and playing Super Mario Brothers. We are walking the dog and going to therapy. We can't go to the protests because it is just a bit too much stimulation for my girl, but I've explained what is going on to Julia. She is not at all happy about not going to school.

And she is (1) becoming a democrat -- nothing like early and appropriate indoctrination. (2) She wants to send a T-rex to the Capital to eat Gov. Walker. I like a girl who believes in direct action.

17 February 2011

Just so pretty

Cheshire sent me flowers for Valentines Day -- very pink and pretty. I put in the two red roses that the folks from Forward Theater gave to me on Friday night and the bouquet grew richer.

About 20 minutes, 18 or so. Sitting in one place and deciding to write something.

Julia: Had the day off from school today. Unexpected. Due to a teacher call in day. A bad new conservative governor move, trying to force further cuts on our schools and teachers. Conservative rural Wisconsin who voted the fool in might be willing to sacrifice quality education for their kids but noisy, liberal Madison was not going to stand for it. Noisy rallies yesterday and today (not something we could attend -- a bit over the top in stimulation), a sleepover for college students in the Capital last night. All very exciting -- democracy or mob rule? Depends on which side of the cuts you are on.

Back to Julia: She was sad that she could not go to school. Which was great! Amy, who is now in the neighborhood, walked over this morning. Had tea with me, while her girls played first with the cat and dog and then with some toys. At the point that Amy put on her coat, ready to leave, the three girls were playing together. Julia having refrained from playing “with” and preferred to do a bit of bossing around from her perch on the couch. So, Amy left and the girls stayed and they played together for another almost hour. The social skills being practiced were almost worth the day off from school.

We are settling back into some calmer way of being together. Was it just me? I am not sure. Heck, I have no idea. I know it wasn’t just her. But we are loving again, not fighting so much. She is listening sooner and is also telling me to take deep breaths and calm down. She is my teacher.

Waiting for Julia at clinic, and watching a teen group assemble. Will we be coming when Julia is a teen? Until this moment, I have assumed that therapy will end somewhere around the end of middle school, but who knows.

I went into the Waisman Center for an appointment with “Ann” while Julia was at the clinic. Ugh. I insisted on a meeting with the wrong Ann -- yes, there are two teaching in our program. And did not realize my mistake until Ann 1 was gracious to spend some time with me. Actually both were gracious, listened to my moaning and groaning, and tried their best with my questions.

And my question, although I had one more specific question about general brain development, was about how I can fit into the Development Disability World. Of course, I just do not want to fit in, I want to find something to do related to children and complex trauma. I want it connected to the adoption world. It amazes me how mercurial I am -- I both know and don’t know. I am still living on the fence.

The line from the monologue -- what if you are, and had been for quite a long time, exactly what you should be doing -- is constantly surfacing. What if . . . what if. . . what if. And what does that mean? Life is very cluttered right now, still. PTO, LEND, my mother’s estate and house, my renovation, and then Julia’s therapies really do crowd me. There are messy piles in the house and in my head -- piles that I keep planning to organize, maybe take notes on, and then get rid of. I wish that I could just get rid of the easy stuff -- easy=stuff I know that I want to get rid of if only to move on from. My mother’s house! My old tv and vcr! Furniture that I am not using! That is the easy stuff on the periphery of my concerns, but clearing those things would feel like movement and would feel up some space, inside and out, to consider other things. How is this related to that line. Well, I am wondering whether I should take a year off from commitments to sort it all out. To see where I would lean and where I would go if the clutter cleared. Part of me is definitely scared of slowing down. Yes, indeed. If I slow down, I may just stop and never start again. Ever. Irrational and intense fear. If I slow down, I may get lazy and not long for the passionate life -- but I don’t believe that one. If I slow down, I may be even sadder and more unhappy than I am now. That is real. If I slow down, I may feel more alone that I do now. That too is a real fear.

Ya’ know, I am getting used to slogging through muck! I have bought the heavy goulashes, put on my best comfy socks, and tucked my favorite jeans inside. I wrote a month ago, that I thought I saw some light at the end of the tunnel of grief. Well, I think I’ve lost the light, but I do believe in it. Meanwhile, I slog. I will go to the grief group at church which started in another week. Honestly, I don’t expect much from it. Some companionship, I guess, but no answers, nothing really helpful. Is that too cynical? Life simply hurts, but in some sense I am getting used to it. I don’t mean that I never want the hurting to stop. Of course, I do. But I don’t really expect it to anytime soon. That is a new feeling.

Maybe having this long flu, which is by the way getting so much better, and straining the back of my knee, which I did last week and which has left me on the couch whenever I can, have provided somewhat of a physical metaphor. Nothing I could take really got rid of that flu, no action really helped my knee. Rest and stillness. Taking care of my body and not pushing at all is finally what had helped. I have not been ready to do this for my grief, could not let go of all structure and let the grief lead. Rest and stillness of the soul. I think I may have to get there. There is still a well of tears to cry. There is still a pit of sorrow. So much muck and no way through it but through it. Thank goodness for those heavy goulashes.

13 February 2011

Article in the newest New Yorker by Tina Fey ("What the worst question you cans ask?") about the dizzying decisions between mom v. career. So nice to hear that even the rich and powerful, well, relatively rich and powerful, are up at night anxious about the same things that I was at her age. Telescoped out a few years, still am wondering about.

Decisions. As if I can really control much of anything that happens in time.

A Findhorn friend wrote in answer to something that I wrote last month that time had passed, that Egypt was free now, and then went on. My own little world, very little world is such a juggled jumbled, and I had never mixed Egypt into the mix. I never mixed in so much. Would more in the mix make anything easier?

And then, listening again last night to An Evening with Jon Jones, and hearing loud and clear the exhortation from Jim via David, "Just suppose you are, and have been for a long time, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing." I remember hearing that idea so long ago from Jim. Maybe David did get it. But oh, I moan and groan, couldn't we talk about it again???


When I took the thought in, I wanted to freeze and ask, so, what am I doing? Just getting through day by day? Making dinner, getting Julia ready for school, taking a shower, washing dishes. And madly scrambling to DO SOMETHING.

Long time ago, David and I had a conversation about this ambition, ego, doing something THING of ours -- art back then. I asked what if what I was supposed to do was to merely tell myself stories inside my head. Those days, my internal narrative was strong and constant. It had been since I was a very little child. As a kid, it was a good escape from a growing up that didn't agree with me, and then, be it good times or bad, it was a way of passing the days.

Has it just been a confusion ever since I gave it up -- not gave it up, but the narrative stopped when there were too much occupying my heart and soul to . . . too much present living.

Whew, I can't keep up with my own circular path. Am I chasing my tail? Both the cat and dog do it -- they never tire of it. Did I just have a good tail chase?

I have been in tears most of the weekend. Ummm, yes, slight exaggeration. Big exaggeration. Some exaggeration. As I give up this flu, my high and low notes are coming back. A full keyboard -- not necessarily a good thing, but my thing. No where near enough patience with Julia as we repeat ugly scenes with my getting too angry and not doing her or me any good at all. She is forgiving when not being frustrating. Again, I wonder, how much is for her, how much for me? As if I could channel my behavior to be good for her, as if I had as much control as . . . okay, another tail chase.

I had a terrible/lovely time on Friday night when I went to see the monologue festival. It was the first time I was in the theater, that theater, since last March when David's Kiritis was produced. I went in the same door, a back door, on Friday. Planting my feet and pulling open the big, heavy, metal and glass door remembering the overwhelm of finding the in-theater wheel chair, getting David from the car, leaving the car with flashing lights, while I maneuvering David to the theater space, and going back to park, and get to the theater myself. I don't mean that any of this was hard, damn, it was hard. I remember the physical feeling of it -- fighting through the fog of fear, of possibility, of eggshells, of just wanting to go back and get my old life back. On Friday, I remember viscerally. My cells remember. I tear up for that simpler time, the time when it didn't seem simple, but yes, it was.

I walked in alone of Friday. No one need feel sorry or guilty for my being alone. I would have been alone no matter who was beside me, and it was good to be that alone. Warrior like.

The artistic director met me with a rose -- okay, just typing that tears me up. Hugs from everyone connect with the theater in the front of the house. I keep gulping, I let myself go a bit. I know I have to walk this gauntlet of kind regard.

I walked in with the rose and sat in my seat. The strangeness of going to the theater alone. With a rose. I felt people look. No one looked. I had time to read the program -- a page of the festival being dedicated to David and I teared up again, wondering if anyone was watching the rather anxious woman with the rose tearing up. Just one part wondered, the other was just there, hurting, but being there. The lights dimmed and Jenn, artistic director, came to the front to speak. Welcoming and thanking, and then talking about David, how he died, how shocked they were, how wonderful the gift of his last monologue in amongst the monologues submitted for the festival. More tears. I was going to be dehydrated by the end of the night.

An Evening with Jon Jones was fifth or so. A chubby man in a navy silk bathrobe came onto the stage and started talking. He was more Nathan Lane than Willie Nelson. Jon would have been closer to Wilie, a mid-west boy still deep inside the NYer. But Jon would have loved being played as slightly Nathan Lane. I think so anyway. There are still those who remember him, who might/could comment, but that night, no one else was there who knew him, so he was as this actor, Tom, portrayed him. I listened and heard only some -- songs and intonations -- maybe a thought or two. Then it was over. Way too fast. Not quick enough.

Intermission came and I was of interested to the kindly regarding people. Sweet. Tough. I wondered if I should have stayed in my seat. After the show I asked to meet the actor, met him and the director, and told them that Jon was a real person. Of course, David had submitted the piece and had not talked to anyone about that. I told them of Jon and Jim and NYC and us -- just a bit. Now, I wonder if David would have done that, or left the Jon Jones of the piece as the character that he now is. Words on a page, and the ghost of a performance that echos in at least my head.

They were all so sweet, supportive of me. And I had nothing to say to them. I have no touch with them. I wanted to be all their friends, because they knew David like my circle of friends -- PTO, LEND -- don't.

Last night, Saturday, I went again to see the monologues. No, not a glutton for punishment, but something that David and I would have done. And after much resistance from myself, I let myself go twice. It was better last night. Three friends came -- funny, we could not sit together, and sat spread over the house, getting together for intermission and afterwards.

There were hugs, but no roses last night. Thank God! I could take hugs. I guess I could take roses, but not together. Again, the program said what it said, and Jen said what she said, and the pieces began. I could hear last night. I enjoyed more, I took in more. I remembered Jim saying what he said. I remember brunches, supers, late nights at the Crab House (where Jon and I were singing waiters) talking and talking more. And I longed with ragged breaths for those conversations.

After the show, my three friends, from different parts of life here in Madison, went out with me for drinks and tapas. How now. We talked awkwardly at first, I was not expansive in making the conversation easy, I was not up for finding the common ground. But they are resourceful women and did it for themselves.

What if we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing . . .

I am ungrateful enough to say now that I would have rather have been in conversation with Jon and Jim and David, but I didn't think of that then. I did realize that these friends from different parts of Madison life could find connections, and it was not hard to imagine that I could build some sort of web of meaning right here, right now. It was fun, ending on talking of travel -- how I love travel -- one to go soon to visit her Peace Corp sister and the rest of us plying her with stories of Peace Corp friends and traveling in third world countries.

On the way home, I was groaning about liking those theater people so much. I wanted to be in their company and yet, David was my way in. I was no artist any more. And my friend laughed, and told me to start writing.

I was hoping for a catchy ending here. Nothing comes. I am chasing the ghosts who ask what if I was doing just was I was supposed to be doing. Then what? I ask. Then what? And surely, you don't mean this. This life that I am living. This could not be it. Could it? Really? Could it?

12 February 2011

An evening with Jon Jones

Channelling Jon remembering Jim via David's words last night. Listening to Jim teach us all that art is made for the artist and for God. No one else. All else is incidental. I think David got it, maybe not until June of last year, but got it nonetheless. Missing the NYC circle more than anything today.

09 February 2011

I have been yelling at Julia too much recently. It is so wrong to do this, and this kid pushes so many buttons. She always has something better to do and does not listen to what I say. I am really trying to find alternatives to yelling, but my patience is tried with my continued cough and lousy feeling. I've worked so hard with Julia. I don't want to wreck it with my yelling.

Julia is working through a "volcano" book with Marilyn -- learning to deal with her anger and trauma. An unsafe volcano/heart erupts suddenly and hurts itself and others. A safe volcano is a heart with hurt and anger in it but can erupt slowly and has safe ways to release the anger.

I fear I am an unsafe volcano these days. Not all of the time, but sometimes. How can I be a better self, a good self most if not all of the time? This, for me, is the ultimate challenge of single parenthood -- There is no balance of a partner. There is just me. And I am so far from perfect.

On another front, I am listening to music again. I did not know that I stopped, but I had. Music was playing sometimes. I even turned it on. But music lost its effect on my heart and soul. I am no music expert and never the person in any relationship to drive what is listened to, but music has a way of creeping under the cracks and into the crevices deep inside of me. Music has great power over me, it does move my soul's stirrings. (And Julia has no real relationship with music -- so much my fault this past year or so) But for more than a year, I have been deaf to music's urgings. Maybe just too much of living life was urging me along; Maybe just too many hard, hard emotions that needed to be dammed up to get what needed to get done.

These days being cracked open again and again. Losing myself in old Joni Mitchelle tunes, music of my much younger self. Reaching back to catch up with myself. Tearing down walls that have helped me survive since Julia came home. Fall, 2006 until July, 2010, no longer than July -- four years of a path so rough that my soul's shoes are warn to nothing. So much, so hard, so unrelenting, so many losses, so much ambiguity, so much wandering around in the dark. So much dark.

Like what I've written before, this is not a bad place to be in. As crushing as I can feel (especially when I am failing Julia), this time is exciting with possibility and prospects (I think I wrote about the excitement of the time very soon after David died. That was no foolish thought. It is the adventure and the possibilities that have urged me on and through. I am still the optimist.) I am still in the middle of this muck, but I can see something behind me. I guess that my ability to take a slightly bigger view, seeing where I have been, doesn't guarantee anything about tomorrow. There could be more muck ahead, much more. I have a rich life. I am privileged in so many ways. And I don't necessarily ask the universe for easy. I don't want to retire from the action. Drink deeply, laugh loudly, cry hard.

And I don't even know what to wish for in the path ahead. For tomorrow. Being useful? Finding a partner one day? Loving those I have? All of that. More. But do I ask to stop crying, or should I ask to cry everyday? Should I ask for an end to the heart break, or a bigger heart?

I do wish for the map.

08 February 2011

Valentine Window Art

Next on the agenda is making class and family valentines. We've begun.

And note who is kissing who . . . it is the princess dinosaur who has her prince up against the wall. A girl after my own heart!

07 February 2011

The feeling creeps up on me sometimes. Out of the blue I am ambushed. I am alone. It startles me. Yes, there are still pockets of my soul that doesn't really know this fact of singleness. Part of me that still assumes that life will get back to the coupled normal that I've lived with David. I know I've written this before, and I probably will do it again. From what I've read about the brain, we store memories and information is many different parts of the brain. I am beginning to believe we store love in so many of our cells as well. And some way I moved today, something I listened to, some place I passed stirred assumptions stored deep inside.

Not even sad. Not really. Well, yes it is sad, but today more surprising than sad.

This weekend and most of the end of last week, PTO friction has eaten away at my time and energy. I did what I had to do, only now resenting the time spent because it was almost futile and pretty ugly. It comes down to a committee chair not accepting my authority as president -- and oh, I have so little authority and power. It is almost laughable to have someone challenge. Of course, this has nothing to do with me, but with this particular chair. I am merely the easy object of demonization.

Umm, a Pollyanna thought just occurred to me. This is the most uncomfortable PTO friction that I've been in. This is the most difficult person I've had to deal with. And I've had support in dealing with this person. Two years, and only one #$^$@. Not bad.

And I missed yesterday's anniversary. And ya' know, that's not so bad. Like I said above, not sad today, but I wonder if I will ever be happy again.

05 February 2011

A hyacinth bulb, bought last spring to bloom in the kitchen and then stashed under the sing during summer sometimes, is blooming. The scent is intoxicating, filling the kitchen with spring.

Cleaning the top of the frig where used recyclable bags collect and reproduce. I found tiny card that came with chocolates, maybe last year. Definitely last year. Nothing fancy. Coolly brown and blue with the word Valentine on the outside. Inside the message: "I (heart) U. D."

Eyes filling up. Smile. Thanks.

04 February 2011

Julia and wii fit

The Christmas gift that Cheshire gave me -- wii fit -- is proving to be very interesting to Julia. She is running, biking, doing step dancing, and a little bit of yoga. Plus, having her own mii that is weighed and assessed each time really helps her to keep focused on taking in enough calories to gain weight. And plus, plus, there is a "meditation" game that helps her do her strong sitting.
And yes, I am using it as well. Thank you, Cheshire!!

03 February 2011

Frigid this morning, waiting for the school bus. As Julia was getting dressed to go out, she said, "Mom, I need the scarf too." I guess bundling up to the eyeballs yesterday was fully appreciated.

Julia is not a snow bunny. She doesn't like the cold, but she is incredibly good natured about getting dressed for it. Some of the Wisconsin culture has definitely seeped in.

02 February 2011

snow removal

There are stairs somewhere here.
Maybe mom did go overboard on keeping the kid warm, but honestly, she did not complain at all. And she was able to breathe.
Helping me was such an incredible thing for Julia to do.
I've gotten side tracked, distracted from the narrow path. The flu kills my readiness to be researching and working on projects. The snow slows my pace of the daily round and tires me incredibly. My meanderings about my amazingly unknown future, tomorrow, next year and five years from now, erases all focus. Disappointment makes me selfish and crazy. I want to whine and complain that living in the now is too hard for me. Some kind of Buddha voice comes from deep inside -- breathe, slow down, focus on the path and the process, let go of expectations and the clutching feelings of scarcity and want. I whine again but weaker this time I know that Buddha voice is right. Grrrr, I want a different Buddha voice.

Julia came out with me to shovel snow. She stayed about a half hour and shoveled the back steps and a bit of the front path to the steps. We also spent a chunk of time playing Super Mario Brothers. We are generally still pretty awful at it. I am hopeless, but we play together, we save each other, and Julia loves cheering me on.

01 February 2011

Our second round of snow has begun. And everyone seems to be rushing to close everything. 8-20. 12-20. 6-18. All predictions for inches. I blew our "little" pre-storm this morning from walks and the driveway, re-fueled the blower, and put the shovel near the door. We are ready for the big one.

Of course, I have appointments and meetings set for the next three days, and if anything is cancelled it needs to be moved to next week. Should be an interesting few days.

I also continue to be sick. And now, it is worse again. Damn! The cough is a killer and I am drained too much of the time. My doc said another two weeks and she may be right. Damn!

Yesterday, I went to Julia's IEP meeting. Everyone expects that Julia will finish the kindergarten curriculum in most areas this year. She may be a bit behind in math but her reading is great. Julia did not test especially well, but her day to day work is much better. I have no need of tests, and rely much more on what her teachers see every day. We have also been able to erase the "safety" goal from her IEP. Safety referred to her safety and that of others, i.e., Julia behavior and its consequences. It seems that her behavior has been so good this year that there is no need to be concerned about safety. Yahoo! The reports coming home all year indicated this, but it was nice to officially cross that goal off our list. Julia still needs reminding and re-direction, but she is doing a good job with regulation and obeying her teachers.

All of her teachers felt that Julia wanted to please them, and her speech therapist at school commented on how attentive Julia is to her two classroom teachers. I hear from Julia all the time how much she loves them. So love and listening are going hand in hand.

We have had some listening issues at home, and frankly, I have been incredibly frustrated by Julia's behavior over the past week or so. I began using consequences -- taking away a coloring book, some clay, a dino or two, when Julia does not behave well. So, if she takes out a row of my books, I take a dino and make her put the books away. If she doesn't listen when I tell her to do something the first time, I take crayons. And then she has to wind back her possessions with good behavior. She doesn't like giving up her things and she gets angry at me, but so far no hitting or tantruming at all. This feels like pretty normal kid stuff. Let's hope now.

And on a rather sad note, another family has been approved to adopt the girl that I had requested to apply for.

I am smarting some. Disappointed to say the least. This child seems like such a perfect match for our family -- I could see that she was compassionate, that she cared for other children, and that she loved to dance. This very second, I think there is not another little girl like that in all of China, but of course, how silly is that. I was not shopping with change in my pocket (as my grandmother used to say. And it means, looking with the intent to buy) when I "found" this child. I didn't mean to be looking at all.

Just before we found Julia, there had been another girl. A 13 year old who really attracted us -- David and I, that is. We had her file, back in the day when agencies had lists and decided on the process of showing files to families. We were on the cusp on the decision of whether to adopt at all, and the day that the decision was made, I emailed a yes, to the facilitator. But someone had emailed before me. But the decision that we made led us to Julia.

So, you just never know. Meant to be, meant to be. Amen.

And the snow has started. And the wind. Wow, the wind. I am very happy not to be living in a log cabin 125 years ago tonight. Heat, light, and a gas stove are wonderful!