31 March 2012

This morning during strong sitting, I felt the other side of a divide. I have been there for some time, a small time, but only noticed it today.

“The death of a beloved is an amputation.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

And like an amputee, the widowed left does not really heal, does not forget that she once had two arms to accomplish all of her tasks, but she does in time compensate. Writes with the other hand, opens a jar holding it between her knees while the remaining hand twists. There comes the day when the amputee is close to fully functional and pity turns to wonder in other people’s eyes. For herself, she has survived amputation and for moments each day forget that there was such a time when she had two arms.

I have those moments now. I am not as much of a couple as I was. More and more of me believes that I am alone. I work towards strength and competency. My self-talk is like the little engine’s, my plans begin with “I.” And decisions. Decisions are still not easy but there is a history now that they have, for better or worse, been made. There is precedence and the lawyer in me loves precedence. Loves taking the most conservative route to the answer. The answer is that I am surviving. I change out sponges without reminder. And there are now pictures of me smiling. Proof that I am choosing tomorrow even if I must be alone.

How amazing it is to bind yourself to another person so intimately that death is an amputation. What power this love. How awesome its complexities.

I tell you, there are still parts of me that lives each day to be over and to be lost in the oblivion of sleep. When sleep comes. But those parts are smaller and take up less time. There are days that I fill with meaningful tasks that I take up with relish, if not always in happiness.

The summer that David died, we had been planning to go to three weddings. I bought a beautiful purple dress and I couldn’t wait to wear it. It seemed like years since I had been dressed up. Dressed up for David. Gosh, that was in my head. We never made the first wedding. I wore the dress to David’s memorial. I wore the dress in stubborn statement of my continued life to the other two weddings, each one far enough away to require planned travel. No one said that the dress was beautiful or that I looked lovely.

I thought of that the other day, and somehow forgetting death and grief and mourning, I wondered how the dress looked on me. If it looked good. If it fit and flattered. And I felt the insecurity of possibly choosing to wear something that was not appropriate for me at all. Something that I did not look good wearing.

I felt embarrassed.

And then, I had to laugh out loud to myself! Good? Lovely? Fit? Flatter? I was in those first days of death. The first months. My outsides and insides were in shambles. I looked, in jeans or in a ball gown, my worst. I was at my worst.

Should I wear the dress again this summer. Last summer I avoided it. Should I give it to St. Vinnie’s.

I’ve sorted through all of the cast off toys in the basement. I have a trash bag full of stuffed animals for the yard sale, and so much more. I will have a large tub to save -- Cheshire’s American Girl doll, the baby doll that Julia rejected (twice), two of my own childhood dolls, my china tea set, plastic animals, plastic people/characters. I’ve set old puzzles and games for the sale, saving only one puzzle of Cheshire’s that I’ve always loved. Is this for grandchildren?

I have not worked on the photos with gusto this week. I’ve worked around the edges of piles and discovered what I could do with them, but the meat of the matter is overwhelming. I turn from it for a few days and then will dig in. I move back and forth between the photos and chrono file in the dining room and the boxes of the basement. I nibble more than bite, and work in circles. The electronic cords, connectors, and components, together with cameras, chargers, lenses, and cases call, but there are drawers full of tools. Did we bring them all? I never paid attention. David did not by any means collect tools. Tools were just that, utilitarian devices that were bought and used but not savored. I think that my father savored tools. Is that a man’s man sort of thing? I can understand the savoring. For David and for myself, those things were books and the damned paper that I’ve complained over and over about weeding through. I do not look forward to sorting tools but they should be easier than the paper. I will keep what I can use in the garden and a few for “my” tool box -- the red metal box that David used to store important papers and that I have under the sink with the hammer, wrench, nails, and few other things that I know that I can use. Should I be saving the socket wrench? I cannot imagine being confident using it. I will save a few small hand saws but only because I think I will use them in the garden. Interesting the chores that I choose to take on and the ones that totally intimidate me or that I have absolutely no interest in learning. As a younger person, I believed that I should have an interest in most everything that touched my living. I find that that idea is no longer present. I don’t know when I stopped thinking that way -- maybe it started when I was pregnant with Cheshire and read that pregnant women should not clean the cat litter.

29 March 2012

Craig’s List has the first kittens of the season listed. This bunch is too far away, but I suspect we will have a kitten in the next few weeks. Spring break is next week. It would be great to find him then.

Sorting out the day. Teary all day and at time, it seemed that I was encouraging my tears. Cheshire “pinned” a picture of a bouquet of lilly of the valley. It was very sweet and so her. She has always loved that flower. And then, I had to go further in my head, thinking that it would be a perfect bouquet to carry at her wedding (not that any is happening) and of course, then that David would not be there for her wedding. Just a place that I don’t have to go. Too much of that kind of thing.

I set another few pages of Julia Dinosaur’s Tale for her to work on at Marilyn’s. Oh, some of these pages are so sad. The little dinosaur is left in a part of the nest alone when she is very angry and how she imagines a person to love her. I don’t know if the younger Julia had those imaginings when she was locked away from others, but perhaps. That too made me cry.

At Marilyn’s, Julia drew around the page of being left alone, but gloried in the page in which the little dinosaur makes up someone to love her. She read that page and her eyes just lit up and she rushed to draw.

Cooking for the weekend -- two kinds of quesadillas for a lunch or supper. Six families are going to Wisconsin Dells for two days of water parking. Indoors. I thought we would try it. See how Julia does and these people are all very nice. I’ve cooked on and off all day and my meal is in the freezer ready to travel and then defrost. As I was working, I felt so nostalgic. When did I last cook for a crowd? I miss doing that. I want again to be more of this world. A few more months of fallow work and perhaps I will have a party.

The idea of throwing a party by myself startles me. "We" threw parties and dinners and seders, but I. At times, many times, I did all the cooking, all the prep work, but I never served alone. I never hosted alone. And I never cleaned up alone -- the end of a sweet night, when conversations still echo in ears, and the fuzzy wine brain is silly and tired. Maybe loading the dishwasher with a second load, the first loaded and washed before and during dessert. Lovely leftovers put away to nibble on tomorrow and trays and the last of the pots stacked and put to soaking.

Can I do that all alone? Will the quiet after company sting? Or will I putter around the kitchen and dining room humming the last of the music and making up a few words? I will hold onto the second imagining.

I’ve started on photos. I have mountains of them. In our Washington Blvd house in Indy, there was a large built in nook by the fireplace that was perfect for photos. I framed many, many over the years we lived there. Those pictures in frames are neatly packed in boxes now. I am slowly taking pictures out of frames, except for a few that I still need to have out. Lots of frames for the yard sale. Then there are the boxes of “ancestor” photos -- my parents, their parents, David’s parents, and their parents. Slowly I will go through them and figure out what to do. Today, a tentative plan dawned on me. I have a beautiful album. It may have been a gift to Cheshire. That book, or that kind of book with representative pictures of families and years. Something simple to look through without digging into the chrono files that I am making. A short cut. It is a solution that has been right in front of me and I have only just seen it. Refocus. Re-see. Perceive differently.

An easy metaphor for this time.

I had a session with Ellen today. Work on letting go of the Bloomfield house which still houses a stubborn spirit that the new owners will have to ease out. But with assurances that I will soon be free of the responsibilities. Work on Julia. Her anger which is resurfacing and on which we are all working. Helping Julia to find her strength to control her out bursts. And re-affirming the intensity of her art of which I have no doubt. For me, affirming that what I should be doing, I have started and I am doing it. Again, refocus but when the time is right. And suggesting affirmations for me: I’m ready willing and able to do what ever spirit wants me to do with Julia’s story. I’m ready willing and able to receive money for the work that I am here to do. How many clients does Ellen bring up money with? I have to ask Lisa, but each time Ellen brings it up it seems surprising.

28 March 2012

At the maple sugaring festival last weekend, Julia tried all sorts new, old experiences. This may be the only time she washes clothes by hand. Maybe a few delicates but certainly not with a washboard.
Then she hung up the cloth to dry. Very carefully.
Then, we visited a very small wooden cabin where Julia enjoyed writing on a slate.
And of course, there was the carrying of water. These pails were only filled up a very little bit, but they were pretty heavy.
Julia got in the swing of a sack race.
She had wanted to complete the course.
But fate intervened, but Julia took it very well, laughing.
Julia practiced using a hand drill. This is the way to make a hole big enough to put a sugaring spot into a tree.
Julia built this "log" cabin. She was incredibly persistent.
Julia by the water. Looking very wistful, but not really.

27 March 2012

Message from Julia’s teacher: The students are working on a project in TAG (Talented and Gifted) art - drawing the picture onto a grid. She said the students could practice home. I am send home paper you can use, as well as the picture in a folder. You would have to make the grid on the paper in order for Julia to do the activity.

Kati had Julia look at each square at a time and draw what was in each square- she use a wipe-off marker to mark the square as Julia worked on it. Julia was not happy with her final of the first draft she practiced but she had followed Kati's directions and tried it!

My response: A college friend of mine did this exercise in an drawing class at SLC and I watched in wonder. It is a very cool exercise. Julia has had a very much simplified version of this exercise in some of her coloring/work books. She is NEVER patient enough draw the picture according to the rules. I have an idea of what to do that may help, but I doubt that it will be finished by this Friday -- we have too much therapy to get it all done during the week. Would Kati mind of we worked on it over the weekend?

I think these art projects are really good for Julia. They are homework that she can learn a lot from.

My IDS team had a meeting yesterday and we spent part of it talking about Julia's anger and the physical manifestations. In the past few weeks, Julia has been hitting some, pulling hair, and generally saying NO to more suggestions. Consensus is that it feels like she is regressing; however, when I think about it, any forward leap that Julia has made is always presaged by some "bad" behavior. Fingers crossed that this will be the case. In the meantime, we are working on trying to get Julia to identify things that she can do when she is angry in the moment that she wants to be aggressive. One thing I suggested is strong sitting which has worked on and off for me. Julia doesn't hit me but she has not been listening and has refused to do more than usual which has been incredibly frustrating for me. I didn't put it together with the reports from school, but I think we are all seeing a return to dealing with anger and frustration in a physical manner. I will keep you in the loop as to what we figure out. Please share anything that you are trying in school.

The schedule for Upham Woods sounds great. Those kids will not have a minute free. I am so excited for Julia. I think she will have a good time. There are times she so wants to spend more of her time with other kids -- not that she always engages in discussion or play, but she still really wants friends.

25 March 2012

Wanting to escape. Into another time, another place, another circumstance. Still, it is spring. Gardening. Walking. Capris and flip-flops. Open windows to sleep by.

Last week was pretty awful. Estate work exploded in all the wrong ways. I was on the phone for 10 hours in two days. More than the time was the energy I needed to expend. Energy that I resented terribly. Succor from dear ones was my only consolation, and a day spent walking a small, quiet town, examining antiques and junk and talking. For such care, I am so grateful.

I’ve found even again. At least for the moment. Dyanu.

The weekend has been good. A very busy Saturday with our school’s International Dinner on Saturday. This is an event that I really enjoy working for. So much so that I am willing to beg donations at a few area restaurants, something that I am just awful at doing. But to be a part of getting about 300 people together for a huge ethnic pot luck is something fantastic. We had three dance groups perform, including an African drum and dance group. They ended our night on an incredibly high and energetic note. I swear that I drank in their energy and it filled me up.

Today, Julia’s morning therapy was was cancelled so we went outside and did some garden cleaning. I was happy raking and cutting and looking over what needed dividing and replanting, and Julia was very happy to look for bugs and pull a few weeds. We went to a Maple Sugaring Festival with Mary and Robert and then home for a very quiet evening.

After Julia went to bed, I filled out the form for an exchange student and finally, wrote to David’s heart donor family. And so, now to bed. Who knows the adventures ahead of me tomorrow.

22 March 2012

This is Julia's entry into the Doodle 4 Google contest. I really love it. After she turned it in on Monday, I checked out more about the contest and found last years regional, state, and grand winners. My mom opinion is that Julia's entry is the best in the world, but I have to admit that there are an awful lot of great kid artists out there. Still, I think that she could be comfortable in the company of regional winners.
I so hope that she is able to take direction and learn about art. I see such potential but talent is a small part of an artist. Mentors, teachers, guides and practice, patience, and more practice. Would that she love the work enough to make that journey.

21 March 2012

When we were at the hairdresser on Saturday, Julia was looking through a hair magazine and saw the pictures of a very attractive African American man. She told me that it was President Barack Obama. Mr. Obama would have probably felt the compliment -- the young man was much better looking but the facial type and features reminded me of the president as well. I had no idea that Julia even knew the name! I emailed Julia’s teacher and she let me know that Julia's class has been reading about government and the president. Another something that Julia brought home from school! Yahoo!

Julia spent the weekend working on an entry to the Doodle 4 Google contest that her art teacher gave her. The theme was : If you could travel back in time, you would go to . . . Well, that was a no brainer! Julia did a dinosaur themed google doodle. It took her awhile to figure out just what she was supposed to be doing, but once she understood, she had lots of ideas. Ellen, one of Julia’s therapists and I made some suggestions. She really ran with any suggestion and the work is all hers. She did drafts/sketches and made the letters bigger or smaller to fit the page. She took direction. I was especially excited that she could listen to what I told her and take suggestions into account. After she worked on each letter individually, we worked on tracing and did a few versions of the entire work before all of the letters looked good together. And then, I made a copies of the pencil drawing and she colored them until she found the best combination of colors. I would have never thought to suggest this for Julia because of all of the technical demands and patience it required, but she had a blast!

Julia and I worked at the ARC of Dane County Ball on Sunday. Julia is very curious about people who are differently abled and has in the past asked inappropriate questions very loudly. Because we travel more and more in the society of people of all sorts of different ability, Julia needs to learn appropriate social skills. I was not completely comfortable exposing her to those attending the ball -- not for her or for me, but by chance her inappropriate questions could really hurt feelings -- I talked to her a long time before the event and she had a lot of questions for me after the event. But during the ball, Julia was very appropriate and helpful (and a little bored after all of our tasks were finished). She was great about talking to people -- there was one man who is quite challenged who was carrying a dinosaur that Julia has at home. She talked to him for a long time and I saw her listening to him. I don't think that her replies were necessarily appropriate to what the man said, but she is working at the give and take of conversation. I am very forthright with Julia when she asks questions about abilities and challenges, but I insist that she is kind to everyone. And also that people with challenges are happy with their lives.

I also had a report from Julia’s teacher that she did awesome on Friday when the class performed their Hip Hop for the school. She was in the front row dancing and going along with the rest. Oh to have seen that!!

18 March 2012

I posted these pictures two days ago now and have written nothing! I tell you that willingness to share a life with words demands a lot of energy and every so often more energy than I can give out. Over the past few days, I've gone through, organized, and filed all of my writing. This task really dragged me through so many times in my life. I did not read much of any of the many, many journals that I've written, but I did read some of the other writing -- poems from high school, letters never written to be sent, plays and screen plays, and stories, stories, stories. Some of the stories are based on the most emotional times in my life. They may not be published or praised by anyone in the world but they can pull me into the time and put tears in my eyes. I am not a bad writer, at least for myself.

So, that's where I've been.

Now the pictures. I love this one for all the color! This was taken at the new IDS clinic where Julia goes twice a week for therapy which includes social skills work/play with other kids on the spectrum. Look at her looking at me!
This past weekend, Julia was so, so excited with all the flowers coming out. Our early spring is so appreciated! I know that it may be bad for farmers and who knows how many bugs we will have later in the summer, but for now, and since there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, it is wonderful!

Julia remembered that it was St. Patrick's Day on Saturday. Lots of talk about it in class, and a leprechaun pin and green beads, brought it to her attention. What I still marvel at is that she is bringing home what is talked about in school. Not everything, but now and again some things. She wore her best green jacket and a spring skirt. She received lots of compliments all day from people who saw her, and she loves that. I don't know if she made the connection of wearing the color of the day and getting noticed, but she will.
Look at her looking at me! More often then ever, when I saw look and smile, she does it.
Last pictures with this year's long hair. Julia is showering almost completely on her own. I want to up the self-care and add in washing her hair. There is no way she could do it alone right now with long hair, but shorter . . . .
I love this face so much!
First pictures after the hair cut. She loved being pampered, washed and cut. She asked not to have her hair blown dried. She hates the sound. She was so pleased that we listened and finished her hair without a blow drier.

17 March 2012

Life seems to ramping up. With the very, unseasonable warm weather of spring, emotion and chaos intrude and demand that I take action. And slowly and more carefully than ever before, I put myself into the fray. And question, always question right now, my reactions, my gut feelings for action versus some more compassionate reaction and response. I am not good at this -- compassion and the like -- but I am eager to learn.

My reactions to Julia are both examination-worthy and a good metaphor for so much more that is going on. Julia does what I tell her to do if I am angry. If I yell, she is compliant. If I am very angry, she scurries to keep me happy. When I am loving and kind, when I ask her reasonably, she is distracted. Yes, some of this is normal in all kids, but Julia is not a typically developing kid and so this behavior, any behavior really, is of bigger consequence. I know that I only have a few more years -- pre-puberty years -- to train her up and instill the right kind of behavior and the most appropriate response.

Julia has been sleeping in my bed since the fall because of her skin. I wanted to try to protect her from scratching at night. The night scratching has waned but she doesn’t want to leave my bed. But she is a tough one to sleep with and finally two nights ago, she was trying to keep herself awake and I finally just put her in her own bed. She did fine. Last night, she tried to settle into my bed while we read but I moved her. I told her when I kissed her good night that if she had bad dreams or needed me during the night she was welcome to come into my bed but that I wanted her to sleep in her own room. She called me back for another kiss and then settled down and seemed to be asleep very quickly.

Also, a few nights ago, Julia was not listening to me or following our usual bed time rituals. I began to get angry and then stopped myself. I told her that if she didn’t want to follow my directions, she could put herself to bed. And I let her do just that. She changed, put her clothes in the hamper, brushed her teeth, put on her night light and got under the covers. When things got quiet and after awhile, I went in to kiss her good night. Since then, she has made a point of telling me she is doing things the first time that I ask.

Julia is learning. And her mother is learning as well.

And other things.

A young colleague from last year’s LEND program gave birth this week. What joy! What wonder! How sweet to see the beginning of a new life.

A dear family who went to China with us to bring home their daughter is welcoming another daughter into their family this weekend. That is, the placement is final this weekend. They celebrate and I can feel the warmth of their joy miles and miles away.

A church friend, who I don’t know very well, has a husband in hospice. And now, I understand. At least, just a little. All I want to do is to be present and helpful to her. This is an opening of the heart that is quite new to me. And wonderful in its own way.

At the same time, I have a colleague who is very angry and is reaching out for some response. There have been times when my first impulse would have been to take sides, to try to flesh out facts and the “truth”, and to make sure justice was done, no matter the pain that such action meant. My view of what is in front of me has changed. I see with different glasses. It is not truth but perception. It is not so much justice, but compassion that is needed. I see pain on all sides. I am looking for another way and I don’t expect to make everything right again. I don’t know if this new way of seeing will result in any help to anyone. At this moment, it is enough to see. If I grow the wisdom to respond helpfully, then I will be thankful.

And Julia is waking up, in her own bed. I hear her pick up a book and start reading. How about that for a miracle?

14 March 2012

Yesterday was tough. Julia lost two chances again and hit a teacher -- not hard and on the arm, but still. We had another "talk" which I am sure resolves nothing. She is hitting because she gets angry when she loses chances. If she loses three chances she gets sent home and she doesn't want to miss school. She makes sure she doesn't go over two chances but she gets angry at losing any chances and lashes out at the person taking the chances away.

She only lashes out where she is safe.

Smart kid, huh?

This too will pass but while it is here, it is the pits.

Spent too much of yesterday preoccupied with the Jersey house and the estate. I don't want to talk in detail about it. With anyone. I don't want to give a second more than I have to to it. And I have to give over days as it is. Tax information is organized and sent to the attorney. Waiting for a closing date. Other complications. Of course.

I've come to accept, very begrudgingly and not without a lot of ill feelings, that the estate work will be with me during my ENTIRE fallow year. And beyond. If the house closed today, there would still be taxes to file next year.

Trying, but not succeeding very well, to take the long view. Lessons learned. Points towards sainthood, but then my bad thoughts probably cancel out any quiet endurance points towards sainthood. Endurance. Perseverance. Looking ugliness in the face. Those are the lessons. That is what I see. Exhaustion is what I feel.

I've kept my process and feelings about the estate, my mother's estate, out of the blog for months. I write now only because it intrudes into my solitude.

Enough and no more.

12 March 2012

Selling the portable typewriter that David took to Italy, England, and France. The one that he used to write his first novel that was never published. It is in pristine condition and really quite lovely. But should I put it on a shelf? Odd to find out that is it a pretty valuable machine -- as standard typewriters go, that is. My neighbor offered to buy it and I told her that I had not done any research but that if she could come up with a price, I’d sell it to her. She looked it up a bit and found that is may be worth a few hundred dollars which is way more than she was looking to spend. And way more than I thought it was worth. In one sense I hate to let it go. It is a lovely little machine. Like I said. Lovely. Still, it has been sitting in the basement since we moved to Bloomington for law school. Maybe I can find out what a dealer would give me for it and bargain with my neighbor from there. Maybe just sell it to a dealer.

Poor Julia had a rough day. When she got on the bus this morning she was so excited about the lamb we saw yesterday that she told a little boy about them. The boy told her that he hated lambs and that he wanted to hurt and kill them. This did not sit well with Julia and she pushed him, and then when she got to school told her teacher about what happened. Both kids got talked to and later in the day they apologized to one another.

What was so disappointing was that Julia was so excited to talk about the lambs with her teachers and other kids. What are the chances that she would run into the only lamb-hating kid in the world?

Julia also lost two chances due to scratching today. Not only did she lose the chances but she became upset about losing the chances and hit her aide on the arm. At least, she told me it was on the arm. She had to leave the classroom and go to the room where she can calm down. I had to ask her about this after I got an email from her teacher, but Julia told me pretty much exactly what her teacher wrote once I asked.

Both of these behaviors is such an improvement over a few years ago that it seems somehow small minded to complain, but to succeed Julia needs to control her anger. Slow but steady, she will get there. She told me tonight that she wanted to have real friends. I told her that we were working on it. I hope that I am right.

I spent the day getting ready to have taxes done -- mine and the estate’s. When I started work in the morning, I had this awful fear come over me, but as I got down to making my lists of expenses and deductions, I fell into a groove and worked well throughout the morning. Later in the afternoon, I realized that I had been channeling the feelings of the fall of 2010. I had been cleaning out the medication bottles and charts that David kept by his computer when I found our tax file. David had done our taxes for years using Turbo Tax. I discovered that he had never finished Cheshire’s taxes, and that our tax form had a mistake. It was fear. It was shock. It was realizing that David really could not handle this task that he had done so many times before. It was realizing that he was sick on a whole other plane. Sure his body was not in the best shape after the transplant, but this was the working of his mind. It was coming to grips with what I had not known, had not looked at or understood. It was finding out what David had kept hidden.

So, that old fear started the day but by day’s end I thought that next year, I’d do the taxes myself. I needed help last year for sure, and I haven’t invested the time to figure it out this year, but unless there are many more financial changes in the next year, and I don’t expect there to be, I can handle it after this. And by that time, my mother’s estate should be long closed (please, God!) and I’ll only be preparing and filing for myself.

As I was driving to pick Julia up from therapy, I was remembering how weak I felt last year at this time. If there was anytime to be rescued, last year would have been the time. I would have been so grateful to lean, lean harder that I was already leaning on friends. If someone volunteered for the position of protector and knight in armor, last year would have been the time. But without a savior, I shouldered on, not always efficiently or successfully, but I did it. Today, I felt the first feelings of strength, of courage, of the beginnings of the new. One of my new year’s resolutions was to disengage from people and situations that fed my weakness. Today, I feel that I’ve taken steps to accomplish that goal.

11 March 2012

Sunday activities

We went to A&Z Farm in Oregon, WI, about 15 minutes from our house yesterday for their lambing weekend. I am not a farm animal aficionado but baby lambs are so very cute. Most of the families visiting had younger children but Julia loved it as much as the youngest kids. She pet lambs, she watched as they tried standing up and teetered over to their mothers. She recognized that when a mother couldn't find her lamb she would bleat and bleat until the lamb was once again close to her. There was also a spinning room set up and a few women were making yarn. This was great to be able to show Julia. We watched Sleeping Beauty last week and it was really hard to explain what a spinning wheel was. Yes, she asked! I guess I could have looked on youtube and found a video but my mind doesn't quite run that way yet. She asked lots of questions and two of the women were very kind to her and answered all of them, including the question if dinosaurs liked to wear sweaters.
This was my favorite lamb. Ah, a black sheet. What a cutie.
The triplets were less than 12 hours old. We watched them sleep and then their mother wake them up to nurse. Sheep, at least that one, are good mothers.
This little guy was born a few hours before we arrived.
Next, we headed out to Olbrich Gardens for their little garden show. Not incredible, but pretty and Julia was into posing for me. Will wonders ever cease?
My girl as a model.
Julia matching in the garden. Oh, we can't wait until the flowers are growing outside.
When we got home, Julia ran outside to look for rolly-polly bugs for her new bug box. It was hard to get her in for supper. For Julia, that is wonderful!

10 March 2012

Today was a wonderful spring-like day. We are still in jackets and hats but the jackets are lighter and the gloves thinner. Julia and I visited the zoo after she finished therapy this morning. We walked, Julia wanted to see all of her favorites. She was so surprised that the baby lion had grown so large over the winter. He is almost the same size as his mother. Unless they changed out lions? I have no idea. The giraffes were still in their house. I imagine that it is too cold as of yet. There too the baby from last year had grown although no where near the size of his parents. Julia read signs everywhere -- all the animal names, some she needed help pronouncing. She is sounding out more and also using parts of words that she knows to help her. She reads directions to not smoke, not carry guns, not make too much noise. It is all a discovery for her.

In front of the primate house, she paused for her yearly arm measurement. Those arms are still not as long as a gibbons, thank goodness, but prefect for a little dinosaur.

Yesterday, I sorted, separated, made space on shelves, and finally shelved the kid books that I unpacked the day before. In the living room, there are now three shelves of these kids books. When I finished I stood back and felt like I was taking back a piece of myself that I had lost a long time ago. I cannot quite say what piece it is -- something to do with kid’s lit? Writing? Full shelves? But there was an emotional quality of coming home. Of being there with myself. A bigger, fuller self.

The feeling lingers, fading in half lives. It got my attention. Maybe there is something very obvious that I am not seeing. I need to refocus or let go of focus. I need to shift realities.

How strange to feel a piece of myself return. No one ever told me to put all the kids books in Cheshire’s room, or to pack them away and not open those boxes. I can almost laugh at myself. Is there an elephant in the room that I am refusing to see?

Today found me in the basement again clearing out the little area beneath the stairs. I could do it because I started bringing garage sale things out to the garage, leaving the car outside again. Yes, I am banking on spring. As I was sorting I came upon a box of framed family/friend pictures. The house is Indy had that great nook by the fireplace that was perfect for pictures. For 10 years I filled it with so many pictures of Cheshire growing, of our parents and David’s grandparents, of friends and their children. So many pictures. This was a box filled with them. And as I wondered what I was going to do with those pictures -- because when I packed them, I remember thinking that I would need to find a place to put or hang them all again -- it came to me that the time of those pictures was past. It is time to put away those pictures and get rid of the frames. It saddened me to know that I have to let go of that time -- the time of gathering pictures, the time of that house with space to have so many pictures -- and for a moment I wanted very badly to hold on to the time. It crossed my mind that perhaps holding on to the pictures would hold on to the time. But I breathed them out, I breathed out the desire and some of the sadness. A time that is past. During the gathering and during the packing up, I did not look back. I was not nostalgic. I know it was because I had a tomorrow that was full and rich. Now I don’t. It occurs to me as I write this that I have no idea why I am so driven to sweep so much of the past away, so much of what is unused. No idea, but a knowing that there is some reason. Partly, I shudder in anticipation, part fear, part excitement. Then again, I may just be cleaning, nothing more, nothing less.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

“. . . you would not be able to live them. . .” I hope that is not always the case.

Julia is interested in the Bible. It is rather amazing that I seem to raise spiritual children. I don’t go around talking to Julia about god or devotion or my beliefs. She has not, up to this point, asked and talking about belief to a child who is bound in the concrete world of things, who needed to be drilled in emotions -- that she had them, that they had names and that other could have them as well -- has always seemed to far out there for her. But this year in church school, Julia has a bible class and she is fascinated by the stories. Yes, they are wonderful stories and I can remember my own intense interest when I first read the stories of the old and new testament. We found a child’s bible with pictures in the church library and Julia has been devouring it. Her interest in intriguing and remembering the Cheshire grew up to be a religious studies major, I do wonder what I am doing. As long as Julia has interest, I need to find other stories from other religious traditions to tempt Julia into more exploration. Again, I remember how concerned her school team is with reading comprehension. Julia is comprehending. She wants to read stories.

Julia lost a first molar tonight, right after tooth brushing and flossing. She was concerned about losing teeth, but remembered that the tooth fairy needed that tooth under her pillow. Oh, how we tried to hook her into that tradition when she lost her first teeth and oh, how she didn’t understand! Now, she gets it. She also wants the money! Even that, which other parents might groan over, that I might have mixed feelings about at one time, is wonderful!

And today when I asked Julia what she wanted to be when she grew up, she answered, an artist. I think she is saying what she thinks I want to hear, but at least she is no longer refusing to ever grow up. I don’t know why she was so afraid, and I don’t know what changed, but I am so happy that it has changed.

One more picture from today. After the zoo, we go to Zuzu’s Cafe for hot cocoa and an oatmeal cookie. Just enough to hold Julia through church until supper time.

09 March 2012

"Beyond this place, there be dragons!"

In 1992, Megan McKenna, a Ph.D. in Liberation Theology and Scripture from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, wrote in an article under this title:

“THESE words, found on every map more than five hundred years ago, are what the mapmakers wrote at the place where their worlds stopped. It is the place beyond that lures every adventurer, every dreamer who lives out the lure, every missioner, everyone who searches for God.”

“Where their worlds stopped.”

From yesterday: I am busy and not taking time to reflect here. I find it hard to balance my moving forward and looking backwards but I value the exercise.

I started working on my Quest application (http://www.questaspiritualjourney.com/). The application is due April 1, the program starts in September. I am taking the application seriously and considering it part of this exercise in reflection. I am excited to enter a program to deepen my spirituality but ask me why and I cannot really provide a cogent answer. It is what I am. It is a path that I am compelled to follow.

Is that enough?

I finally got down and started reading about investing. Nick has encouraged me to understand my financial affairs and to learn enough to be independent. I am dreadfully scared of doing so. I tend to become immediately bored, even though I have enjoyed listening to financial reporting and stories on NPR for years. I need to abandon my fears and slowly I am doing so. Very slowly.

I found another five boxes of books -- labeled Cheshire’s stuff, but really just books that were on her shelves. Some are kids books, in fact, some have been missing from Julia’s shelves since we got to Madison. Clearly, I had packed books of similar size together very efficiently and then spaced the idea when those boxes hit the basement. There are tween and teen books that I will shelves with my books and have them available for when Julia is ready. There are many books that Cheshire had “borrowed” from other bookshelves in the house. I sorted out some which will go to the school bookfair and some for Half Priced Books.

I had them in piles by the time that Julia got home after Attachment Therapy. She wanted to look at them and there was no reason other than my ordered piles not to let her do it. She asked about some of them, what they were about, if they were for kids. I answered the best that I could. I allowed her to make a mess, totally dismantling my piles, mixing all of the books, even going into the boxes that will leave the house. I will do a bigger clearing, sorting, and rearrangement of books -- the books on her shelves in the play room and in her bedroom -- tomorrow. She is ready for some changes. She is also ready to have some of what is upstairs brought down to encourage her reading different books with her therapists. I have time on Friday to do this and hopefully I can do it all in one day. Although I had no problem with her destroying my ordered piles today -- she was thumbing through, reading a few words, looking at pictures -- it is work to be done and moved on from.

This weekend, I will tell Julia what I did with the books on the floor and will show her where “her” books are put on our living room book shelves. They will be the books without many pictures which rather annoy her right now. I am almost confident that she will seek them out one day.

Julia is almost ready for reading silently. When she reads out loud now, she sometimes skips ahead to check out the end of a page. She skips little words -- the a’s, the’s, but’s -- in an impatience to understand and swallow the story. I don’t remember this particular state in my own development and not in Cheshire’s. It seemed that one day, I was reading out loud to my mother and teachers and the next I did it silently. Julia’s transition is more drawn out, but what it is to see it coming!

In Attachment therapy, we worked again on “A Dinosaur’s Tale,” the trauma workbook that I wrote about Julia’s early life. Marilyn suggested that Julia read again the page she was working on last week. That text was:

“The Ayi galimimus took the crying baby girl t-rex and gave her the bottle that was wrapped with her in the blanket. She laid the little t-rex down next to a baby stegosaurus and covered them both with the blanket that the baby t-rex had been wrapped in. She called the baby t-rex, Bai-Bai, and the baby stegosaurus, Miao-Miao.”

After Julia re-read the page, she decided that she had to work more on the picture she had drawn and colored last week. The original picture was of the two baby dinosaurs -- a t-rex and a stegosaurus -- curled together in sleep. They slept on a big checked blanket. Julia added the bottle that the Ayi gave to her and also dream bubbles -- like thought bubbles -- from the two dinosaurs of the two babies playing together. When she brought the finished picture back to us, she was happy. The words she wrote belong the picture were about loving each other and loving to sleep together. The joy she took from this picture filled her.

Then it was time to move on to the next page. In truth, there are very few very happy pages in this workbook and it does pain me over and over to have to move from the joy to the pain. The text of that page is:

“The Ayi galimimus fed all of the little dinosaurs in the big nest. She changed their diapers and changed their clothes. Sometime she kissed a baby dinosaur but she did not look lovingly into the baby t-rex’s eyes and she did not say loving words to the baby t-rex. She did not have time. Sometimes the baby girl t-rex cried because she wanted the Ayi galimimus to hug and kiss her and look lovingly into her eyes, but if it was not feeding time or changing time, the galimimus did not come. The baby t-rex learned that even when she cried for a long time, no one came. She stopped crying and just felt very sad.”

As Julia read this page, her demeanor changed. She slowed her reading and by the end of it, she looked like she was ready to cry. Julia has not yet cried over words on a page, but that will come. And come soon, I think. This was the first time I’ve seen her so effected by written words. She is understanding and taking in the journey and the message of this workbook. I hope she is owning the story, and she claimed it as her own from the very beginning. She works and draws dinosaurs but she is very aware that it is her story. The first thing she said was that “the little dinosaurs didn’t want to be left alone.” Then she took the page and went into the other room and started drawing.

A side note: I have worried at the suggestion, implied not made at school, that Julia’s decoding is far ahead of her reading comprehension and that just maybe it would always be so. When she feels the story as she did on this page, I have no need to worry. She is growing in comprehension.

She drew a lot of baby dinosaurs crying together. She drew the little t-rex standing slightly away from the others, looking sad and confused and somewhat upset. Yes, indeed, I could read all of that from the picture. Her comment was that “she couldn’t stand that noise of all that crying.” And Marilyn said that Julia was commenting on her real experience. I wonder if that is the origin of her sensitivity to sound.

Julia didn’t finish that picture. She will next week. This is page 10. She is working on one or two pages a week although I suspect that this will slow down now. I don’t know so much about this process and I depend totally on Marilyn to keep us, especially Julia, safe on this exploration. It will take months to get through this very sad workbook. I see Julia’s strength and endurance as she dives into each page. Even when she is reluctant to begin, she finds a way to do the work. She does not look away. She tried to avoid one sad picture a few weeks ago, but it seems like she understands the value in the process. At least on some level. And she works hard and takes the work seriously. Whatever comes from this process, we will end up with a book that is at least as important as the photo life book that I made for her. Maybe much more.

06 March 2012

I get it. The journey is hard, and the metaphor of the hero's journey is intuitively wise and breathtaking. But why place that journey in a category above others? Why not say: this is the work we must do if we choose our own authenticity? Not as heroes, but as lovers of soul's truth. -- Lisa Ward, Pondering on the Path (http://ponderingonthepath.blogspot.com/)

I straightened up today. Lots of sorting of papers and pictures that I’ve accumulated on the dining room table. Still a pile there but must less of one. Then I sorted photo albums and made up some boxes to ship out to my siblings and sister-in-law. I had had bigger plans with the pictures of my family of origin after my mother died in 2009. I thought to organize a digital photo array with that started with my parents’ earliest days, though our childhood, up until my parents deaths. But that was when I was only custodian of one family’s pictures. One plus my grandmother's pictures which were never organized. But David had custody of his family’s pictures, and we both had many pictures of our own. In this sorting that I have been doing for months now, I’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of family history that I had in my possession and no idea how to wrangle it. And so, instead of delaying longer, I am getting some of it out of my house and into someone else’s house.

I've save some pictures of David's early life and pictures of his parents and grandparents, but there are so many shots of people that I don’t know. So many pictures of family vacations destinations, parties, weddings, celebrations that belong much more to his sister than to me. It is a bit different with my parents’ pictures. I know who is in the pictures, but what do I do with their pictures of Italy in 1978 or the cruise of 1975 or the anniversary party and grandchildren’s happy faces. And all of the pictures of my niece, Jennifer, who my parents raised after my sister left. Too many pictures of events that I was not a part of, or in which I played such a minor part so as not to really count. I will send them off to those who played bigger roles.

This process of letting go what has accumulated has its own tempo. Step, step, glide. Tomorrow, the post office. I was in a fury as I packed up the four boxes late in the day. Now, as I contemplate mailing them tomorrow, a sense of clarity and calms comes over me. Yes, I do have trouble letting go of all of this history, whether it is mine or someone else’s history, but I do not want to be carrier of history that is not mine and rightly belongs to others. Truth be told, I am worried that “they” will not take good care of it, but for that I cannot be responsible. I need to keep what is mine and release what is not. What would I have been like if I devoted my life to history? I can clearly see how a twist or turn could have landed me there, but would I be hoarding piles of documents in my files? Would I have been the librarian twisting my mouth in critisiam as I stood over researchers who touch too roughly or without gloves the histories of cities or courts or organizations? I don't think I could have become a moderate historian. I could easily believe that I kept histories in a former life. It comes so easily to me.

The straightening up extended outward. I picked up in the house and then vacuumed and washed floors. So much of the materials that I am sort is dusty. I feel the constant need to wash my hands before touching anything clean. By association, the house feels dusty and musty. I am dying to open windows and let the fresh air in. Today’s temperatures temped me to do so and tomorrow is it does reach the 50’s, the urge may become irresistible.

Every so often, Julia pokes at my stuff. She is deeply offended when I trash kid art, even when it is not hers. She is very interested in old jewelry and the old jewelry boxes that I was thinking of throwing away. I will make up my childhood jewelry box for her and put in all sorts of necklaces and bracelets and earrings for her to play with. Although most girls would be putting it all on themselves, I am sure to see dinosaurs with my old precious gems.

Julia saw the picture of herself playing her recorder. She commented that she was paying attention and I told her how proud she made me. She told me she had to work hard to play her recorder and I gave her a big hug. Julia knows that she did a good thing last Friday. She wanted me to be happy and proud. I hope that she is inspired to do her best at every opportunity.

Maybe she is not perfectly attached, but I am important to her and I think the mommy voice is getting inside of her.

05 March 2012

Julia and I did very little on Sunday, at last very little that was planned and purposeful. I think we needed that kind of day. It has been snowing this weekend, lightly, very prettily, but slightly annoying at the same time. Ok, so I am a curmudgeon about the late dose of winter, but heck, it is March and I want snow drops and crocus and I have to keep shoveling or at least, pushing the bits of snow around. Yes, white is prettier than the browns that we’ve seen all winter, but SPRING!!!

Anyway, weather kept us pretty much inside most of the weekend.

On Saturday, Julia had morning therapy and then we headed to the International Festival. We only had a few hours and could only catch two performances, but the two we caught were very good. First up was a local Bolivian dance group. Who knew? They were a small group of young women. They wore the glittering, over decorated costumes that I saw when I visited Cheshire for the Festival of Urkupina. The skirts are short, the heals are high, and the dancing leaves very little left to the imagination. Julia loved the costumes; I enjoyed the music. I do want to go back to Bolivia. We followed Bolivian dancers with Chinese Dancers. Julia recognized two of the dances that we saw at the New Year’s party. Remembering is playing a bigger part of her life these days. After the performances, we had some Costa Rican rice and beans for lunch. Not bad for a Madison winter day.

Sunday, we had no therapy and no schedule. We slept late, had bacon and eggs for breakfast, put on sweats, walked the dog, shoveled the snow, bought groceries, and then went home for the rest of the day. I gave Julia a huge amount of time to color. She never seems to have enough time to color. She went through pages in coloring books and then did word searches and easy cross word puzzles. I went through boxes of computer storage disks and, thanks to Mary’s good counsel, threw away what I can no longer access. I have been fretting about the boxes of computer disks that I had no idea of what to do with. When I looked at what was on those disks, much of it was back up disks or law school notes or drafts of stories, plays and novels. I had 6 inch floppies, 3 inch floppies, and the hard cased “floppies.” I am sure that I’ve lost something. I will never know what. But if I had saved them all, I would probably never know.

I keep in my mind that when the storage room filled with things that I use or want to save. The sureness of each item that is in that room. I want everything that I keep to be intentional and of use and value.

Julia had a hard time getting to sleep tonight. I wanted her to try to go to sleep without gloves on and that was a mistake. The gloves will phase themselves out. I need to let the process go at its own pace.

Oh, isn’t that what I need to do about most things.

03 March 2012

I have a few more picture of the concert to post, but can't resist getting this one up here to share as soon as possible. My heart was bursting with pride. That girl works so hard!

I posted an entry yesterday morning and then later pulled it off. It was so negative, so very cranky that I couldn’t stand it. Lots of trouble being in my own skin yesterday morning. And those days, those awful days, there is nothing to do but to wait it out, talk way too long to a friend -- Thanks, Mary --, have some popcorn, and hug the kid when she came home.

Because, in truth, the day did get better.

There were a lot of straws breaking this camel’s back yesterday and for the past few days. Lingering feelings that I couldn’t dispel. These days the dining room and the basement are in chaos and I have no patients with the mess. Digging boxes out of piles and sorting through is messy. No denying that. I try to create order but before order comes undisciplined piles and mounds of stuff that I have no idea what to do with. I have been here before! I just forget that. Right now, it looks like there is no end in sight. I’d like to have friends over for dinner but there is no place to eat. Julia and I are relegated to the tiny folding table in the kitchen or to eating off the coffee table in the living room.

Ach! I am not really complaining, just explaining. I am not a neat freak at all. Well, maybe I am growing some neat characteristics. At my worst messiness, I crave order. I am usually a few hours, at worst a few days, from order. And I think that is what is most disturbing. I could just chuck everything downstairs again and make piles against the walls and say I will take up this unpleasant task some other day. But I insist on doing it.

When I started the process last year now -- oh, maybe 10 months ago, I had a fully loaded basement. I worked around the edges and couldn’t even conceive of an ending. After the initial renovation, when the whole house got packed up, I put away, I brought upstairs just what I wanted and left what I didn’t want and what I had no idea what to do with in the basement. Then, I started sorting. Now, I am many boxes down, and though I complain of chaos which is no exaggeration, I do conceive of order and completion. It is vaguely in sight but so far away. And therein lies the rub.

When I saw no hope of completion, I’d look at any day’s work and think, wow, I did three boxes today. I put the dusty box in recycling. I threw out or stack for a garage sale the stuff I don’t want and considered what to do with the much smaller pile of what was left. Now, I look at any day’s sorting and can see only that it does not make much of a dent in the total chaos.

I need a step back. I need to see what is in front of me and what I am doing. I’ve worked on gardens for much longer than I’ve worked on the accumulation of my years. I need that injection for perseverance and patience.

Umm, and I realize that the statements of affirmation that I took from my last phone visit with Ellen are so appropriate at this moment. “I release all dilemmas. There are always solutions.” I have been holding very hard onto those dilemmas.

This makes me think of some of what I said to Ellen. I told her how I love being at the Waisman Center for lectures these days, but that I fear greatly that I will not find a place to fit in. The picture in my head is of my roughly made square peg self squeezing into some smooth and polished round hole. I keep saying and thinking that I have to work hard, press hard, figure out the exact way that I can position myself, to learn enough, to please enough that I will fit in. All the energy only points out how I cannot fit in. Me, with my theater and law background and training, do not logically fit into the science, research, and helping world that I see. But Ellen and a number of more enlightened beings that I’ve listened to tell me to let go. “I trust my wisdom and my future.” I’ve sent the intentions into the universe. I do and want to continue to do my part to avail myself of the learning and experiences that present themselves. I need to trust that I will find clarity, that the path will present itself when it is time.

Oh, but that takes patience. I smile to think of the lesson presenting itself over and over.

I have always loved the prayer, “not my will, but thy will be done.” I’ve said it more times that I can count and it amazes me how little I understand it. To put intentions or prayers out there. To just ask. I know there is some bible verse that says it well, some phrase from every philosophy and religion but the reading alone is not enough. At least for me. I don’t have the faith of blind belief -- and blessed are those who do -- I need to reinvent the wheel, to put my fingers in the holes in his hands and feet. I need to live it.

Did I really ask for this exhausting life?

Also, this morning I received an email from the donor family of David’s heart. It was too jarring, to shocking to receive on a day when straws were piling up and breaking this camel’s back. I could only read it and find more pain. This was not the intention, to be sure. When I took my red cross life saving swimming course I was taught that a drowning person will grab onto their rescuer and pull them under the water instead of cooperating with the rescue in order to be saved. The intention to save themselves goes awry. Wounded beasts are not rational and do not always react in their best interest. I would say that was me. I did not respond irrationally, and only bent Mary’s ear for an hour. And Mary is kind. No damage done. Later in the day, I got another email from the donor family. This email not impersonal. I cannot quite answer it right now. But soon.

Amazing. Every dear friend that I have has saved me over and over in the past two years. Talk about having faith in the universe. Over and over, I have been sent angels to catch me as I constantly trip and go plunging over emotional cliffs.

And Julia. Julia has been driving me nuts recently. Part of the driving is pretty typical kids behavior -- not wanting to get up in the morning, fooling around instead of doing the tasks set out for her, saying ‘sorry’ to fix everything without meaning a letter of the word, preferring to live without picking up clothes or toys or art supplies. And then, after my sorry beginning of the day, I went to the school’s fourth grade music concert. Julia has never been able to take part in a concert. When she was in Franklin for K, 1, and 2, she sat on my lap and we watched her classmates perform. For two other concerts, she was able to sit away from me but also away from her classmates. Today, with some prompting from her loving teachers, and with putting in the emergency ear plugs that are always in my pockets, Julia was able to stand up with her class, sing three songs and play two songs on the recorder. She could tell us that it was too loud in the room and she could accept that putting in earplugs would help that. She could pay enough attention to attend. No, she was not completely engaged and her behavior was merely odd and a bit distracting, but others could, if they wanted, have ignored her and focused elsewhere. Of course, everyone on her team has been working towards such behavior and attention for years now, but to have it creep up on me today was like a miracle from the heavens.

Success favors the well prepared. Miracles probably favor the same.

Yes, I will post pictures! Although the pictures aren’t that good.

It is almost 4:30. Two years ago at 4:30 a.m., the phone range. David jumped out of bed and answered it, but we both knew what it was. A heart had become available -- someone had died -- and we needed to be at the hospital within the hour. We were ready to leave within minutes. So much energy, so much love, so much help. We stepped over the cliff and the angels caught us. We didn’t know so much. I didn’t know so much. I still don’t. The phone will not ring in 8 minutes to give David a slim chance at a longer life but I have been given so much to make my life. I trust that I will learn the lessons I need to and make something wonderful of what I am given.

An optimist with tears. The goody two shoes with scars. Sure. Yes. That’s me. I recognize myself.