28 August 2012

Yesterday, in the middle of the day, I wrote a whinny, complaining entry that I will post below this.  I could chalk it up to backsliding or rekindled grief but it was really fear.  Tomorrow is LEND orientation.  It marks the end of my fallow year and the beginning of the activities that follow from the applications and decisions of the last few months.  And I am terrified.  

What if I can’t do what is asked of me?  What if Julia needs me while she is in school?  What if the respite plans that I’ve made fail?  What if I don’t find what comes afterwards?  What if this is a bad path?  A dead end?  What if I fail?  What if I can’t figure out a future?

And then I breathe.

Julia is with her therapist Morgan and I am at Panara.  I needed to get out of the house and away from her.  It is not Julia but me -- she cannot do things fast enough and in exactly the way I want them done -- ooo, shades of my mother’s style.  It is just me that is like a untethered sail in a gust of wind.  

I had thought to do some house work this morning or garden or put some food in the house, but I am going to indulge myself with coffee and a muffin and then on to shop for a blazer for an hour -- does anyone find clothes in an hour?  

So many doorways.  I see myself in my mind’s eye walking through doorways.  Leaving comfortable, well-appointed rooms and striding into new damp, blank spaces that don’t even have a chair to drape a coat on.  David’s death was such a door.  Julia’s adoption was another door.  Some possibilities were closed off, some were opened.  On the eve of entering this new room -- once again at Waisman to toil among the experts and at the Quest retreat later in September -- I pause at the door way in utter terror.  I have no idea where I am going.  Hyperbole to be sure.  I have some idea, just not a ticket and seat assignment for a hub city.  

There is no rational way to calm myself, to assure myself that all will work out.  Just a whiff of such pandering and I am defensively screaming that “all” has not worked out.  Instead, I need faith.  Leap and wait for the angels.  Work and keep my sights on today, and just know that tomorrow will be taken care of.  Be a lilly.  Faith, trust, knowing, wisdom.  Absolutely none of this is easy for me as I wrestle my demons of ambiguity.  Living the questions.  How the hell do you live the questions?  

“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet.
I have admired that quote for so many years.  Thought of it often and told other people of it.  And here it is again and I am have so much trouble really living it.  Can I force the learning?  Will I get it this time through?
Yesterday’s entry:  Today is our Gotcha Day -- 6 years as a family.  Any remembrance and/or celebration is my responsibility and I am very ambivalent today.  It feels like a chore today to be so responsible.  I have to talk about it, remember it, encourage Julia that this is a notable day.  And it all takes energy, much more than I have today.  Julia is not the child jumping up and down, wanting the party, the remembrance, the story of our first meeting over and over.  It was easier when there was three of us to be celebrating.  If I asked Julia what she would like to do to celebrate gotcha day, she would ask to play with her dinosaurs or the new game on her iPad.  Probably alone.  Not really appropriate requests for celebration and so I can’t ask.

And yet, I do not want every special day to go by just because it is me remembering.  I have been enthusiastic in the past because I believed that one day, Julia would be part of the anticipation and the celebrating.  Maybe that is happening, and I am just too grumpy today to see it.  With the first fall decorations in the stores, she is ready to talk about Halloween.  She does love to sing Christmas songs.

I need to breathe.  This is not all about today.

Wednesday is LEND orientation and I am doing a small powerpoint presentation.  

This is Julia’s last week of summer vacation.  Today, it is beautiful outside and I have the intense feeling that I should be gardening or doing something fantastic with Julia.  Instead, we have meeting, therapy and inside chores.  This morning, Julia and I went to a conference to sit and talk with her teachers.  Julia was able to answer some of the questions they asked about what she enjoyed doing and what she wanted to do this year.  Her anxiety was lower than it was last week, but she was far from focused.  She will settle down a bit when school is in full swing, but her special ed teacher’s work is cut out for her.  What will Julia learn this year?

Julia had therapy all day today and she is having a hard time listening to my directions.  I let her work/play with her iPad when she is free and in the car while I drive, but she does not turn it off when I ask.  That is driving me nuts!  There is a combination here of age appropriate behavior and her behavior age-level that is compounding the annoyance.  I am also having a hard time giving up her summer academic curriculum, but it is time to let the school take over.  

And I am not focused.  I have a list of shoulds’s and coulda’s and feeling very stressed and unprepared for the week.  I have child care for most of the time that I need for orientation but I will be coming on the late side and leaving early each day.  

And I have a headache.

Oh, I don’t mean to sound so ungrateful for this beautiful child and her strange, but magical journey.  Today’s anniversary is encumbered.  I cannot see it -- at least right now -- with that joyful time of family building.  I see losses that have diminished our family.  I see changes that stole the last whiff of naiveté from my expectations.  

And I didn’t know that today was going to be hard.  

We had a nice evening.  We picked up Chinese take-out from our new favorite place after therapy.  I gave Julia a tea set that I bought in China six years ago and she had a wonderful time serving us tiny cups of tea during supper.  We watched a bit of a movie and then we got ready for bed.  Harry Potter I is just about over, but Julia has two books that she wants to start -- she is interested in these chunky chapter books that are mostly too hard for her to read.  She is interested in the stories.

And when Julia’s light was turned out, I went downstairs and organized my desk, paid bills, and got ready for my week.  

I am breathing again.

24 August 2012

Started late on the 23rd

I’ve been wanting to write something all day but tonight, after Julia went to bed, I’ve only been dragging my feet.  

Strange day.

I was not completely sad.  I sort of went in and out of it.  High waves of realization that today was an anniversary and then low tides of focus on the present.  Is it because after the crush of heavy grief, the truth is that David and I never made a big deal of anniversaries?  Than again, the happiness of just wishing him a happy day has receded so far in to the background.  

And the day was busy.

I have a list to get done before the school year starts, but every time I think that I can get started, something comes up.  A therapist cancels and we have the afternoon to ourselves.  I get poison ivy and have to get a doc visit for a round of steroids.  Today, it was trying to close out the sbcglobal email accounts after being hacked.

It’s all okay.  I don’t want to miss time with Julia to clean the basement.  School begins in another week and then she will be gone for whole days at a time.  I relish the time when I can be productive but I will miss our summer time together.  

And Ed, my contractor and handyman, and the painter were working today.  The porch is painted after the leaks in the roof were sealed.  Now, the entire first floor matches.  Same wall color, ceiling color, and molding color on everything.  It may sound a bit boring but I find it so soothing.  It is so me right now. 

At the end of the day, Julia and I rushed home from therapy to get to my conference call lesson for Lay Trainers.  I am on the phone listening and responding to the class.  Julia is at my feet playing with her iPad.  The painter is touching up the hall ceiling -- where he painted last year and it peeled.  And Ed is sanding the front door opening.  Just a slice of chaos.

In attachment therapy today, Julia started by saying that she didn’t want to sit by me.  I grabbed her -- gently, really -- and pulled her towards me.  She complained that I was squeezing her too tight and she couldn’t breathe.  I wasn’t really holding her, just an arm around her shoulders, and not tight at all.  Marilyn asked if she had ever been held too tight and could not breathe.  Julia said she didn’t want to talk about it.  Marilyn pushed, asking again, rephrasing but asking.  Julia stood her ground and insisted that she didn’t want to talk about it.  She could have just said no, but instead she got angry, yelled at Marilyn, and made fists in her lap.  “I do not want to talk about that now.  Not ever.”

We switched gears and she wound up cuddling in my arms, very sweetly and lovingly, and then Marilyn asked her again.  I don’t think Marilyn expected Julia to answer, but Julia seemed to straighten herself up and answered.  “Yes, someone squeezed me.”  “Yes, it was too tight.  I couldn’t breathe.”  “It hurt.” “It was a mama.” “At the orphanage.”  “She wasn’t made but it hurt.” 

Julia was clear.  Much more cogent than usual.  Direct, like she rarely is.  

The moment came and went.  Julia asked to go into the other room to draw cars and seemed to leave the words behind her.  

I said, “I don’t know if that was real.”  Marilyn said, “It was real.”

Another sad, awful memory.  Resurfaced and faced head on.  Julia is more willing to go through the tunnel of pain and sorrow, still fighting at times, but learning to surrender, feel the hurt, and then move on.  I hope moving on includes healing.

During class this evening, each student did a five minute teaching.  I was nervous but I was one of the last people to do it and by the time I heard the others, I was confident that I would do much better than most of them.  Ok, I admit it.  The thrill of competition rose and I took the bait.  Oh, it was only that I had a page to teach, I prepared thinking of the exercise like a performance piece, and I am comfortable talking to people and presenting.   I find myself wondering about that rise of competition, the wanting to be the best.  It has been a long time since that has been any sort of an issue for me -- heck, there has been no competition in my life for years now.  Am I just biding my time to get into some race?

On another hand, I think that I can do a decent job of teaching parents about topics related to their kids with special health care needs.  I find that as we go through the topics, I am learning a lot.  I need to learn a lot and I really wish someone had organized the material for me this way about 6 years ago.  If I can insert a little clarity into someone’s life, clear a bit of the fog of challenges and systems and demands and requirements, I will be very happy.

23 August 2012

From Facebook: Just a simple Juxtaposition.  Today would have been my 32 wedding anniversary.  For the past hour and a half, I've been on the phone with AT&T who took over Yahoo who took over SBCGLOBAL, with whom I had my email account for a long, long time.  My email account was a sub account of David's account and David's account was active enough (not fully active, mind you).  I had to log into his account, delete my sub account, and then delete his account.  Now, I am sitting here trying not to imagine that some higher being was micromanaging.  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

18 August 2012

Vacation - Chautauqua

Vacation - Red Couch Picture

The group picture that China travel groups try to get is taken on a red couch at the White Swan Hotel.  Scream babies.  Crying babies.  Babies falling asleep or unable to to sit up.  Then there were the crawling babies.  Getting that shot was nigh on close to impossible.  The pictures have gotten better every year and this year there are numerous group shots to choose from.

And many, many out takes.  Here was my favorite.

Vacation - China Sisters Reunion

We spent the weekend at Indiana Dunes.  The beach was wonderful - a lake so great that there were little waves and an undertow.  And the kids had a great time.
One of our families brought matching dresses for the little girls and a coordinated dress for Julia and the other bigger girls.  Too cute.

This is all of us, after swimming and dinner.  We clean up rather well.

On Saturday night, right before bed, Julia went up to Tracy and crawled on her lap and gave her a big hug.  Sweet, wonderful and unexpected.
Sunday morning breakfast with the kids all on one end.  I think that Julia cut her pancakes.  Whatever she did, she ate her whole breakfast and then had fun with kids.
Julia and Petra getting ready for that red couch picture.
One of the best treats of this reunion was the pillow pets that Petra's family gave to each of the girls.  They found a dino-pillow pet for Julia.  He was christened Duffy and he has been a fixture on any bed she has slept on.

17 August 2012

I have a load of things to write about, a s*$%t load of stuff to talk about, but first, oh, do I miss David today.  Lately, I have been thinking about all the ways that we were not perfect for each other, how we may have hindered instead of helped each other, how we could have been better, more supportive, more loving, more intuitive.  How we had such potential and how we fell short for each other.  Then, I had a bounce back and was very sentimentally lost in how lovely it was to have a true love for years and years and changes and changes.  But today, especially after my first LEND meeting for facilitators, I miss the ability to just dump out my day for him.  I miss the specific way that we were together.  David was always the guy who when you ask how any experience was  -- work, a party, a trip -- the answer was “fine.”  To get more, I’d have to probe and question.  I had to learn patience in order to deal with his brand of a thoughtful person.

Me.  I was/am completely different.  To me, true love meant never having to shut up!  I’d walk in the door ready to talk about every aspect of my day -- the joys and the sorrows, what I had for lunch and what the Supreme Court wrote, and what I thought, thought, thought.  David had much more information on me than I ever had on him.  His comments were well chosen and considered, mine were like cleaning out a backpack after a long vacation.  

And oh my god, do I miss that.

Some of this feeling is post-vacation.  Spending the week with Lisa who has always been my excellent sounding board.  Spoiled by having a week of deep talking with her.  And I have been indulged by other friends and by Cheshire who let me go on and on regularly, but none of that is like having a live-in listener.  

Sometimes I am very aware that I engage someone in conversation longer than they want, or someone like Julia’s therapists who don’t need to know what I want to tell them.  I am not totally inappropriate but I can hear in my conversations the desperate longings of a lonely person.  It is part of this new normal to remember to monitor interactions, make sure they are appropriate and timely, and keep conversations on track.  Not always easy for such a one as me.  Of course, there is glory even in this acknowledgement.  As I kid, I was painfully shy and such a severe stutterer.  So much of the time I said so little to anyone.  If shyness and stuttering were my afflictions, I have certainly recovered.  Remarkably cured?

So, now on to the content.  We have been busy this week and I have been grumpy as well.  It was hard to come down from vacation.  Why is it that I always feel so on top of things on vacation?  My balls are all in the air and I am doing a marvelous job juggling!  But then, I get home and those balls are bouncing all over the street!  My task list is as long as my arm and I have the cold, dark feeling that I have indeed taken on this next school year much more than I can chew.  I am sure I will not finish those remaining fallow year projects before the LEND year begins and finishing the old before beginning the new is of utmost importance.  

It was Thursday, yesterday, before I let go of all of that.  I breathed, made a nice supper for Julia and myself, played some wii dance games, read some Harry Potter, and fell asleep over my first LEND reading of the semester.  

I only need to know what to do with the balls in my hands.  Those balls in the air will come down at just the right time.  I can trust gravity.

And trust that following my heart is exactly where I should be as well.

Now on to content?

Julia and I went shopping.  Underwear and shoes.  We have been talking about growing up and changing for the whole summer.  I have worn Julia down.  She no longer says that she doesn’t want to grow up.  I have assured her over and over that she can live with me forever (a real concern of hers) and that if she grows so tall that her head touches the ceiling that we will move to an appropriately tall house.  Yes, I was being very careful about discussing body development and menstruation and she was worried about height.  With all that assurance, on Thursday we headed for Macy’s to buy bras for her.  

Julia has been developing this summer and in the last weeks she has said that shirts make her uncomfortable, but she was scared to death that I was going to buy her “big bras” and she didn’t want them!!!  The woman in the bra department was an angel.  She could not help us because the trainer bras and smallest cups were in the kids department, but she told Julia that they make bras that would fit her perfectly.  Julia was being her less than completely appropriate self, expressing way more of her feeling than the typical 11 year old expresses, and this woman answered every question more than once in a calm and lovely voice.  I do get more than typically nervous with Julia in a situation like this one.  I want to her interact with other people and I also want to completely protect her from less than positive responses.  This woman could have been a therapist!  Or maybe someone who knows and understands autism.  Or maybe just an angel sent by a micromanaging god.  There is always that possibility.

We got to the kids department and we found the kid bras and we picked out some to try on.  There was no one there to help us but then, maybe there was no one there to bother us as Julia tried on bra after bra first, for size and then, for style.  We had to go to a second store because there was just not enough in her size in Macy’s.  Julia had no problem with any of the shopping.

Talk about relief!!  My shoulder dropped.

But then, we went to our favorite shoe store.  There is a story behind needing to buy shoes immediately.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am shopping challenged.  I was getting anxious in Macy’s passing women’s clothes and thinking that I was really going to have to buy a few things for school.  I have been living in jeans and black tee shirts for two years and I need to go up a notch, just a notch, for my Waisman days.  (Not to mention that those particular black tee shirts look like I should only wear them around the house now).  So, I was not crazy about extending our shopping once we found the requisite number of bras, but during the last day of girls’ club at Chautauqua, Julia’s shoes were taken by another girl.  They were changing after swimming and some other kid had the same sneakers as Julia did.  Just a size smaller.  We had no idea who took them and no way to find out on Friday evening.  And so, Julia needed something immediately when we got home.

So, I waited until Thursday to shop.  

The nice guy at the shoe store measured her feet.  She is now between a 4.5 and a 5.  We went to the aisle that we usually shop in and Julia started looking at the Sketchers.  She loves those fancy shoes, and especially because there is so little that she cares to pick, I indulge her preference.  Lights and sequins and hearts and beading -- I let her buy the gaudiest pair on the shelves.  She loves them. I love them.

But no more.

Gaudy kid shoes including Sketchers stop at size 4.  There may be a few 4.5’s but Julia really needed a 5 and that is a women’s size.  

So here I thought that we might have a tough shopping experience with underwear and we had it because of shoes!  We had to have a discussion, which was fine.  A bit sad.  Giving up gaudy shoes was not easy.  I felt a bit blindsided.  Julia felt cheated.

So, we bought a very brightly color pair of sneakers and she is really fine with them today.  I talked to some friends who had all sorts of suggestions and we will find or make some gaudy shoes to satisfy her longing, but really, that was a lot of growing up to do in one day.

We also visited her classroom after a last minute call from her teacher, Beth.  Beth and the new special ed teacher and the teacher who shares students with Beth were setting up their rooms and thought that it would be great to see Julia.  It was a good idea and I hurried over to school.  Julia interacted some with Beth but did not even greet the other two teachers.  She spent her time checking out the cleaned out classroom, every nook and corner.  This is not exceptional or surprising behavior on Julia’s part.  It reminded me so much of her hyper vigilant days when checking out the environment instead of focusing on people was the way she spent her day, every day.  But what was surprising was that when we wrote in her journal that night, she wrote that she was unable to say Hi to the other teachers, that she was shy and was a little bit nervous (which means that she was very nervous).  Julia was able to observe and reflect on her feelings in a way she has never done before.  This comes after months of working on identifying her feelings and learning appropriate reactions -- like, identifying her anger and then saying that she was sorry.  These observations were not prompted at all.  She identified and she felt the need to write it down as well.  

Another step for her.

Today, I went to a first LEND meeting for people who will facilitate one of the instructional modules.  All those feeling of overwhelm flooded back in.  There are three second year LEND trainees who are paired with regular faculty but the other two are grad students who have spent plenty of time in clinics.  Those feelings that I am crazy for engaging in this process were front and center.  Why?  What possessed me?  I still know nothing!  The high waves of self doubt washed over me.  I could have drowned right then and there.  But no one spoke to me as if I was an idiot!  They all assume that I can do it!  Hell, these university professionals are sure that I will fit in just fine.  And right now, scared out of my wits, I have to trust them.  I have to believe that they see ability and potential.  I have to believe them more than I believe my demons who want me to crawl into some hole.  I need to harness they belief to my passion.  At least until my own belief comes in.

And writing this, I almost believe that I can do that.

14 August 2012

Yesterday, first day back after vacation felt like utter chaos.  Too many chores and tasks on the list to get done.  All seeming to need immediate attention although most had no emergency status at all.  Just my own need for post-vacation order.  The list of household fixes that I left Ed with remain in medias res -- I just hated a few of the new lights that I had picked out and bought.  And just noticing too many things undone -- the garden, the list of fallow year chores to complete asap before the fall begins.  Generally grumpy and dissatisfied.  Allowing myself to be disappointed that my gardens are overgrown and ugly and that I’ve enjoyed little time in them.  The inside of the house has a tasks in every corner.  Waiting.  Just waiting.  

But made a list and checked off a few tasks during the day.  Spent some time writing email to a few people long due to be written to.  Organized Julia’s work for the week and just let the dust settle.  

We are home.   Looking forward to a day of tasks and maybe a swim if it is warm enough in the afternoon.  That patience in the small and the single step is a soft blanket thrown over the shoulders of dissatisfaction.  New morning eyes that know that everything that needs to be done must be done or delegated by me and that I certainly have limitations of time, interest, and abilities.  Then again, there is my need to waste a bit of time.

Just a Tuesday morning.

Julia continues to work at reading Harry Potter.  Asking her questions last night as we read.  She remembers many more facts.  Inference is still very hard but she seems to follow the logic of inference more consistently.  Addition is coming along.  I am hoping that our work on math facts will lead to next steps of double digit addition and subtraction and understand multiplication during the school year.  I type the last thought and erase it and type it again.  I know that I am expecting a lot.  Maybe the impossible.  But I do and I will continue to.  My job is not to be satisfied and complacent.  At least, I do not judge it to be.  At least, not yet.  

10 August 2012

"Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it." ~~Pema Chodron

Is that my life or what?!

Last full day at Chautauqua.  Really felt totally settled in yesterday, but very content to have the experience on whatever terms it comes.  The morning lectures have been spotty this year for me, but yesterday, with Erroll B. Davis, Superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools, spoke.  Considering the theme of the week was cheating, he was an incredible speaker.  Of course, I have the feeling that he is one of those people who could make a rendition of the phone book interesting.  The afternoon lecture was Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Islamic Society of North America.  Again, a strong, compelling speaker who had thought provoking things to say.  Then there was the symphony last night playing George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F and Beethoven’s Symphony in E-flat Major, the Eroica- conducted by Mei-Ann Chen with Ian Parker as soloist for the Gershwin.  Chen is described as a dynamic young conductor -- an understatement to say the least.  She was a joy to watch and she danced her orchestra through each piece.  This was a long concert -- 2.5 hours and Julia sat through the entire thing, relatively quiet until the very end.  Beethoven’s never seem to end!  There was a moment during a quiet movement of the Beethoven when the orchestra was accompanied by the swish of a steady downpour of rain.  We were all dry in the amphitheater with just the sound an the smell of fresh rain-air wafting through the open hall.  It reminded me how much I have been music-less during the last two years, and how much I want to listen to music that I have chosen.  Not to deny all that has come before, not at all, but to be the background and at times, the focus of this new life.

And that is what I continue to feel.  New Life!  Not that I have stopped thinking of David or miss him less -- maybe more in a less grief-stricken way -- but I am feeling like the infusion of life that I first felt on the eve of the second anniversary can now be trusted to be the norm and not a pleasant aberration.  

Julia has had a good time too.  She and her aide, Lizzy, have gone to Girls’ Club every morning and afternoon.  She gave Lizzy a hard time yesterday and hit her, but apologized afterwards.  No where near the behavior of a few years ago, but not to be tolerated or accepted.  Other than that, Julia has been friendly, more than ever, with her fellow campers, and they have grown to like her as well.  One day, Julia was reluctant to get into the lake to swim and her colleagues encouraged her.  Julia, loving that sort of attention from her peers, jumped in!  She is remembering a few names and wrote a very sweet friendship note to one little girl named Hillary.  During the lunch break yesterday (from noon to 2) we went to the little library on campus (can’t believe that it was Thursday of this week, our second trip here and we are just visiting the library!).  Julia headed straight for the kid’s section and finding a little boy there, took out a book and read him a story, explaining parts of the story that she thought he didn’t understand.  Possibly remarkable behavior for any typically developing 11 year old and a marvel for my girl.  

Julia is also enjoying having Lisa around.  There is no question that I am her mother but the attention of another dear adult is so good for her.  We have built a family -- far flung and with few blood ties, but strong and vibrant.

Which brings me right to Traci’s comment on the last entry.  First, correction, we have gotten together with our China travel group 6 times since we’ve been home.  Incredible that time has passed and that we make our getting together a priority year after year.

Traci said: “I think we did a terrible job the year that David died. Or, at least, I did. I'm so sorry about that. I think we were all lost on what to do or how to.....I guess just how to be. David was part of us and we miss him.”  People, usually the most dear, have said some version of that to me over and over.  At first, I had no words to ease their uncomfortable feelings.  Now, I understand so much more.  In one sense, we all did a terrible job right after David died with every encounter.  How could we not?  We were all reeling from an unexpected trauma.  We were all lost, without moorings, without compass.  Very recently, I realized that in our circles of loved ones, David was either the first or the first in a long time to die.  We had our AIDS deaths in the late 80’s and 90’s which wiped some of the soul out of our circle of friends, and we lost Barry in 2001, a loss that had us pull together and love hard.  Between and afterwards, we had life without such devastating loss.  We grew complacent and were sure that we were all safe from loss.  Not in our rational minds, not intellectually, of course, but in that more primitive part of our hearts and minds.  We would go on forever.  

All of this to say, that I am grateful for the dear family who gathered around me, and abided with me -- who visited or wrote, who talked about David or didn’t mention his name, who remembered in some physical way or who spent time thinking about him and us and our family changing.  I think of appropriate after-death behavior and I realize that those who are the best at it are those who have lost the most.  And so I wish the knowledge of best behavior on not one of my dear friends.

Now, time for this morning’s lecture!

07 August 2012

Sitting in the main square cafe at Chautauqua with coffee, laptop, iPad, and the book that I promised myself that I would read for an hour today.  Julia was off at 8:45 to Girls’ Club with a very capable Lizzy as her aide.  Lisa off before that to teach her class.  I tidied up our room, washed dishes, made our bed, and headed out.  It is a cloudless blue skyed cool day with low humidity.  Quiet, with the rumblings of talk about the NY Times, last night’s concert and what someone was wearing.  And laughter.  An older man gets his wife coffee and a muffin while she thumbs through her Chautauqua Daily news and strains of a choir rehearsing  waft in the air.  Echoes of a sermon enthusiastically delivered in the amphitheater down the street.  To be here for a week is pretty much heaven.  To stay for the summer might be more wonderful than a simple soul could handle.  The topic is cheating this week and the two speakers I heard yesterday asked hard questions.  After a summer spent figuring out next week’s spelling words, keeping toys and the house orderly, and taxiing Julia to therapist appointment, a bit of brain exercise is most welcomed.  And of course, Lisa, to talk out the kinks in my heart and hers.  

Julia and I had a glorious weekend with the group we call China Sisters -- the group of families who traveled to Nanchung to get our girls.  This was our 5th reunion -- the little girls are 6 or so and Julia is 11.  Angela who organized this year toasted at Saturday’s dinner, saying how thankful she was for our group, for our willingness to be together, for what we share.  I wanted to, but did not, offer a toast of thanks for the love and support these people have offered me over the past two years.  There has been no demand on my energy to help get our reunions together since David died.  And there is never a time when we are together that I am not offered a hand with whatever is in my hands or Julia.  Never a time where I am short of hugs and kindness.  And when these people tell me how far Julia has come and comment on this behavior or that, I know that they know.  And I know that they share in her growing.  What a blessing from where blessings come from to be given such companions.

So many times I worry about not having what I need -- and to the extent that I need my partner, David, I know I cannot have him.  I can spiral down with that thought at times, but I can be rescued just remembering what is it that I have been given.  I can still summon up the feeling of amazement and wonder that I felt after David died.  That had everything that followed close on death’s heals had not been connected with losing David, that the time would have been so exciting.  I am still living in that wonder.  People, places, opportunities -- I have needed and what I needed has appeared.  Again, being so thankful for the blessing.

04 August 2012

Smoothed Pebbles

I have wanted to revamp my blog for a long time -- move on a bit.  Maybe put things in useable categories.  Starting LEND again, I would like to write about my experience and separate it just a bit from my writing about Julia and my thoughts about healing and this new life of ours.  It has been on my task life for months, but I’ve been stuck on what to call it, how to format it.  Finally, last week I found a format that another blogger was using that I really liked.  Clean and easy on the eyes.  I’ve started to build it for myself, hoping that I can copy the elements that I like.  The issues of a name which you need in order to begin a Blogger blog surfaced and I had no idea.  I have been through with Spicy Dragons and Dinosaurs for a good chunk of time now.  That title has seen me though Julia’s tough days and David’s transplant and death.  It has seen me through the long dark tunnel of grieving and my first tentative steps towards some right livelihood.  It is a wonderful name but I want to begin with something fresh and unburdened.  I want to begin anew.
A few nights ago I wrote: “How lucky we were!  How fortunate to have loved so well, so completely.  Not perfectly, but then we were not about perfection, we were two rough edged stones smoothing each other’s edges.”  Smoothed Pebbles.  That is what Julia and I are.  Like rocks and stones whose rough edges have been worn away by water and sand, whose faces have been shined, and whose beauty is most apparent when they lay just under a thin layer of clear water.  Not water and sand but journeys that have brought us together.  Roads that hone the soul.   
This is how and where I want to begin again.  Recherchez. (Fr. second person plural present indicative to look for again).  Now, it is a task at hand.

02 August 2012

Supper time.  Last one at home for a week.  Vacation begins tomorrow!
Julia’s iPad now has a cover -- big, heavy, and cumbersome over such a sweet, sleek, little machine, but safe.  Julia immediately took it over.  Now to get her taking pictures for a vacation photo journal.  
Julia used a simile for the first time today!  Butterflies around our Hibiscus Luna White.  Julia said that the the flower was sweet to the butterflies like candy.  Julia who has disagreed and fought with anyone who made any simile about her and didn’t understand any comparison between things or times or people.  My black and white child, made her first simile.
There will  be more.
Over the past few days, I’ve shifted books - to make room so that Ed could hang some lights - and pictures.  I caught sight of a few pictures of David and I, or David alone looking at the camera as I took his picture.  And in some of those pictures, it was clear to me that we felt so lucky to be together.  I’ve spent a few months being angry, feeling cheated, and also wondering if our partnership could have been better.  I could see how we held each other back, how we did not always allow each other to live up to our highest potential, how each of us compromised to own detriment.  I have felt ornery inside although I would have done anything to get back that imperfect union.  Noticing that look in those pictures brought back some sweetness.  How lucky we were!  How fortunate to have loved so well, so completely.  Not perfectly, but then we were not about perfection, we were two rough edged stones smoothing each other’s edges.  
I interviewed for an internship to do some policy work with a wonderful woman at Disability Rights Wisconsin.  It will be part of my LEND program for the year.  By the end of the interview, we had set up a date for when I begin.  The list of current projects on this woman’s white board was like a check list of issues that I want to understand.  She didn’t ask what I wanted to be doing in five years.  I hate that interview question.  Always have, mainly because I have never had any idea of what those interviewers wanted me to say.  And maybe because I have not forged my own way but tried to bend my way into something acceptable.  I told my interviewer twice that I didn’t know where this second year of LEND was leading me, that I had no specific goal set but that I was sure I was in the right place doing the right thing.  Later, it struck me that this was not fodder for an interviewer but true.  Right now, it is very simple.  Just do it.  Play out my heart and let it take me.  Live this day and then the next fully and without second guessing where I will arrive.
I feel some strength returning.  What a gift.

Written 1 August 2012

It is 8:17 and I’ve been at email, scheduling speech therapy for October 1, and changing my August dentist appointment.  We’ve had breakfast and are at the pool for a lesson for Julia.  When I stepped outside an hour ago, the air was still very cool and pleasant.  I quickly opened windows to catch some morning cool.  I even brought a light sweater to sit as she swam and worried that Julia would be cold in the water.  By 7:55, the cool is gone.  
It is Wednesday and we leave on Friday.  I have a list of to-dos before I am ready to leave but I am working through it.  Strangely, I find myself instinctively yearning for the overwhelm that I usually put myself in before any unusual event.  And I can’t muster it.  I’ve planned, scaled back my ambitions for the week, cut off the fallow year work for the most part, not even expecting myself to spend time in the garden.  I had some correspondence and forms to do and some prep work for Ed’s work while we are gone.  I even met with Chrissy who will be taking care of the cat and dog while we are 
Julia is giving MaryBeth a hard time.  I guess MaryBeth is not going to see the result of our practice during the past week.  Too bad.  I thought Julia had progressed some in her strokes in our practices this week and I wanted her to show off.  To the extent that I can take any ego gratification in what Julia does, she does not preform on cue.  Ever.  
Ed, my handiman and contractor, and a crew are next door repairing my neighbor’s chimney.  They have been at it since late last week and in the morning when Julia finished cleaning the cat box and puts the plastic bag of poop in the trash, she says hello to the “guys”.  She greets them very appropriately and spontaneously although her followup does not always make sense.  But the guys are usually busy and up high on a scaffold and Julia’s chatterings are only half heard.  They are cheerful and always respond to her.  And again, I am grateful.
Someone has posted on FaceBook, “There is always something to be grateful for.” When I saw that, I immediately took exception to that in my head, muttering and moaning but most days, most times, that is true.  
I am cooking a bit for Chautauqua so that we will have a few meals set and easy.  I ponder whether to bake another of the short cakes that I made for last Sunday’s Circle Supper (church planned get together).  It was so good and Julia loved it -- eating the last piece after supper last night and savoring every bite.  But if I make it, surely Lisa and I will eat it as well.  I debate the wisdom of providing dessert.  There is a great ice cream place on campus and we will undoubtedly have cones once or twice.  
More later.