Remembering Mom Pt. 3

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Hi there. I am all settled in Baltimore. My brother received his transplant and is now making healthy, donor generated blood cells. He has a lot more energy these days and things are looking up. It’s kind of crazy that all this would go down almost exactly three years after we did it the first time. April, man.

My mom’s birthday was April 15, she would have been 63. The anniversary of her passing was April 19. I sometimes wonder what place she would have in all of this if she were alive. I speculate on whether or not she would trust me to take care of Bryant, if she would be here taking care of him too…how she would have handled it. IF she would have been able to handle it at all?

I don’t know, in some ways it’s probably better that she’s not here for this. I, of course, selfishly wish that she was so she could comfort me. So I guess craving your mother’s comfort is something that never goes away with time.

Some things do change though. While last year and the year before I was concerned with what impact my mom’s death had on me, I now find myself looking for answers about the impact her life had on me.

Maybe coming to terms with who exactly she was and what influence that had on me is what I need in order to be able to celebrate her now that she’s gone. Up until a few weeks ago I had been focused on her death and consequently, my grieving.

Now I want to focus on life and healing. The process of grieving led me on this ongoing journey of personal growth. This journey has brought up very important questions about who I am and maybe even more importantly, why I am who I am.

The influences my parents had on me will stay with me forever and I’ve only been looking at the big picture. I am only just now realizing that events that, at the time I thought had no effect on me… are actually at the core of who I am as a person.

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Wedding day!

It’s not always fun or easy to answer questions about who I’ve grown to be. But as my very wise big brother tells me, “once you’re done growing, you’re done living.” I never want to stop growing, improving myself, learning. The bottom line, and I’ve said it before, is that I have a responsibility to the people that love me. You see, if I stop growing, I’m not only cheating myself, I’m cheating the people that love me and the people that I love.

I’m not sure if that makes sense but I hope it does. I can’t explain it any other way except that I never want anyone that ever loves me to feel like I gave up. My mom labeled me a fighter the day I came into this world (prematurely, dangerously underweight with a hernia) and I will remain a fighter until I absolutely cannot win anymore.

So, that’s that. I was able to keep myself distracted on April 19 with some of my amazing friends here in Baltimore. They were kind enough to take time out of their Easter weekends to join me on a local pirate cruise. It was ridiculously fun, I laughed the entire day.

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Getting knifed and photobombed simultaneously

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World class scallywags

Last year, my best friend and I went to the Perot museum in Dallas and also laughed the entire day. I decided that after this year I’d like to try to make it a tradition to make April 19 the most fun day of the year.

Mother’s Day was tough, I can try to laugh as much as I want, but deep down, I never stop missing my mom. The pain is always there. My brother was there for me though, he hung out with me all day, hugged me while I cried and tried to keep me laughing as much as possible anyway. Lots of people tell me he’s lucky to have such a great sister, but it’s me who is lucky.

Next time I’ll write about my trip to Dallas. It was super fun, and nice to have a break and be home. Thanks for reading as always!

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it ain’t no lie, bye bye bye

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Hi, thanks for reading. As many of you know, my brother is having a relapse of Aplastic Anemia. In case you don’t know what that is, the easiest way to explain the disease is to say that it’s a blood disorder in which the bone marrow doesn’t make enough cells. This causes my brother not to have enough red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. It’s dangerous because blood cells fight off infection, stop bleeding, make blood, etc.

Anyway, my brother was on a pill we were hoping would work to get things back on track over the course of six weeks. Unfortunately, my brother didn’t respond the way we were hoping for. The result is that he has to get a bone marrow transplant.

Dear old Stanley the manly, my dad, is going to be Bryant’s donor. It could change to me at any point, but right now, they think my dad’s marrow is a better match.

The hospital has expedited this entire process and my brother’s actual transplant will be April 4. There are many tests, preparations, chemotherapy, radiation, etc. that need to be done before that though.

My brother has an amazing hematologist in Baltimore that will be doing the transplant. We’re lucky he will be under the best care possible for this disease. However, his doctor being in Baltimore and me being his caregiver after the transplant means I will be moving to Baltimore indefinitely once again.

The timeline calls for my brother to be near the hospital for 100 days after the transplant. If they extend the time they want to keep an eye on him or there is any other unforseen circumstance then it’ll be longer. I don’t really want to speculate as to when I’ll be back.

Good news is, we’ll be living in the old place! Love the row house, familiar territory…I’ll also get to see some old friends I made the first time around. I’ll also have a lot of time on my hands to update my blog?

Bad news, obviously it’s pretty serious that my brother has to get a transplant. I’m going to miss my dance class and the kids I nanny for(don’t tell any of the other kids, but ESPECIALLY my little chickpea. I mean seriously, how will I get through the weeks without pinching or kissing those checks and seeing that smile?). Also her brother told me I am his best friend, and all my other little ones are just sweet as pie to me as well. I’ll really miss them all a lot.

If you want to do anything to help, I need a ride to the airport the morning of April 1. Also, anything that would fill up time would help, as I feel relatively useless when I’m not working. Book and movie suggestions, adult coloring books, recipe sharing because I’ll be cooking a lot, cheap hobby suggestions, good vibes, prayers and just keeping in touch with me. If you were linked here from Facebook there were only a small number of people I shared that link with, so if you saw it I want to stay in touch.

So that’s basically it. Thanks again for reading, and I hope you’ll stay in touch while I’m gone!

The Thing That Leads to the Thing II

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Hello! It’s been a long time since I have written. Part of it has been because it was a fun, eventful summer and part of it was lack of motivation, I won’t lie. I’m trying to work through it and today has been the first day I have even felt like I could sit down and focus long enough to get anything out that made any sense. So, here we go!

This summer has been great. I hope I can write about everything that took place one of these days, but today, I just want to write about my job.

I mentioned back in March that I was a nanny for a family who asked me to be their night nanny for their new baby. I was hesitant to do this because of my commitment to my other families, Trader Joe’s and of course the fact that I had never taken care of a new baby before. Well, I threw all of that caution to the wind and decided that I was going to do it anyway. My job was to train the baby and her older brother to sleep through the night.

Princess Buttercup was born on May 28, 2013 and I have been her night nanny ever since her first night home. I believe she was three days old and barely weighed six pounds. The trainer was there with me for our first two nights together, then Ms. Kasey was on her own. Taking care of someone so tiny and so helpless is absolutely terrifying and absolutely exhausting. The first three weeks, I never knew what I was going to get! The next three weeks were probably the hardest, most exhausting I’ve ever experienced. I seriously doubted if I was cut out for taking care of newborns. They’re adorable, but, obviously, very needy.

Watching older babies and toddlers, while it can sometimes be thankless, can pay off in other ways that are encouraging. The reason I enjoy being around kids so much is because they make me laugh to no end with their endearing words and behavior. Kids also just tend to have a “thing” for me, so they’re constantly climbing all over me, touching me, hugging me, holding my hand, using me as a human chair, etc. Older toddlers can also be reasoned with, and we can both see a clear line between behavior and consequence, positive or otherwise.

I bring this up because between weeks three and seven, I really thought this baby didn’t like me and there was nothing I could do to convince her otherwise! Finding that delicate balance between my love and doing what’s best for her was not easy. Sure, I could pick her up every time she cries, rock her to sleep, not stretch out the feedings, etc. But ultimately, that’s not my job. I’m getting paid to teach her how to soothe herself so she can sleep through the night.

And realizing that was tough, because even though I think most of the time I find a great balance between firm and loving with the toddlers I watch, the lines are much more blurred with a tiny baby because she can’t talk to me. Then when you add in the fact that it’s not my baby, I’m just entrusted to judge the line correctly, it was a lot for me. Kind of like a weight on my shoulders, or a voice in my ear that was like “don’t screw this up.”

I take great personal responsibility when I am watching kids. Probably too much, if there is such a thing…We all know I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I just try to put myself in the parent’s position. Like if this were MY kid, what decisions would I want my nanny to make, and I mostly go off of that. Having the feeling that the baby didn’t like me was making me feel guilty. Then I remembered my old friend, neurotic fear. My bully that likes to make claims that aren’t rooted in reality to block out my healthy conscience.

As soon as I recognized it, I was able to change the way I felt at my job. From that night on, I went into work assuming this baby LOVED when Ms. Kasey took care of her and put her to sleep at night. And it worked! Within a day, she was smiling at me…and not just a small, gassy smile. She does these HUGE, toothless grins that make my heart smile. By week nine, the Princess was sleeping through the night. And she has been ever since.

It’s been great, now that she and I both know what to do at night. She makes me laugh to no end, with her dozing off in the middle of eating, waking herself up with her loud burping, and her adorable cooing. Even when she’s fussy, she doesn’t really cry, she just complains. I have a great time putting words into her mouth, trying to imagine what she’s trying to tell me. I’ll definitely miss putting her to sleep at night and getting to see her smiley face in the mornings.

Tonight is my last night as a night nanny with Princess, or, as I prefer to call her, my little chickpea. The three months of newborn experience have been invaluable not only to my job as a nanny, but to my capacity for love, patience and compassion. I can be having a bad day and all I need do is think of that first huge, toothless grin from my little chickpea and I feel better.

What’s next? I’m not sure. I’ll still keep the Princess and her brother on most weekends, so I’m glad that I still get to be in their lives. I still feel like I’m on the right path, because it’s no sooner than the words “I’m finished night nannying” come out of my mouth that I’m inundated with babysitting offers. I really love what I’m doing and for right now, that’s enough. Til next time!!

remembering mom: year 2

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It’s very strange to  think that I haven’t talked to my mom in two years. I haven’t heard her tell me that I’m her favorite daughter (I’m her only daughter) or that she loves me or simply that everything is going to be all right.

Over the last two years I have realized it’s hearing little things like that, that I miss the most about not having my mom here anymore. Especially since I’m like a child in the sense that I never tired of hearing stories from her about myself as a baby. I always asked to hear, and she would always tell me without complaint, how she was absolutely certain that she was growing a tiny alien when she was pregnant with me. This is because I used to sit in there and run my fingers down the inside of her stomach. I can imagine myself doing it, too. It certainly sounds like something I would do.  She said it was the weirdest feeling ever. It’s because of this story that I tell the kids I watch that I’ve had a tickle monster inside of me since before I was born.

Another good one that I liked to hear her tell is- well, let me back up, the first thing you need to know is that when I was a toddler, I had this weird accent. I really have no idea where it came from, especially considering that as an adult, I have almost no discernible accent. So when I was three, my favorite color was purple (shocking!) and one day, my mom picked out this pink dress for me to wear and I straight up told her I didn’t want to wear pink, I wanted to wear “puhhhpul.” It’s the way she said “puhhpul” that made the story so funny to me. Her impression of me saying purple as well as her telling me that I wanted us to be together because we were “guuhls” (girls) never failed to make me laugh.

I wanted to talk about what has changed in the second year without her compared to the first year.  Everyone grieves differently, and this has been my experience compared to last year: I miss her just as much but it’s a little easier not to cry about it. I don’t get the urge to call her anymore, although I still wish that I could. I still think about her everyday, but not the entire day. I no longer feel the weight of my grief holding me down, although some days are still better than others. And the biggest difference between this year and last is that my memories of her are much more pleasant and I no longer feel any guilt whatsoever.

As far as what hasn’t changed…how much I love her, for one. I still want a hug from her, I probably always will.  I’m also still not ready to celebrate her life because even with so much progress- and there has been a lot of progress– I’m still not there yet. I feel like I can’t truly celebrate her life like she deserves from me, which is genuinely, until I’m more happy that she’s free than sad that she’s gone. I haven’t reached that point yet, even though I realize how selfish it sounds. However, even though I know without a doubt she wouldn’t want me to be sad, she definitely wouldn’t want me to pretend to be happy when I’m not. She knew how important she was and is to me and would be able to see right through it anyway.  She didn’t even have to see me to know if something was wrong, she could always detect it in my voice, even if I was deliberately trying to hide it.  She knows how bad I am at pretending, hell, it’s because of her that I’m so incorrigibly genuine.

I think as a daughter, sister, cousin, niece, friend, babysitter and whoever else I am to anyone- the most important concept I’ve come to accept from a major loss is that now, more than ever, I want to take responsibility for the people that love me. By that, I mean do whatever it takes with what little control I have over how long I live to keep myself happy, healthy and safe so I can be around as long as possible.  I hope that the people that I love take responsibility too, because I don’t want to miss anyone else.  I can see how easy it is to get wrapped up in my own worries, or even fun, for that matter- without regard to what life would be like without me for everyone else.  And I’ve learned that if someone loves me, I should hold that in extremely high regard because I would never wish losing someone you love on anyone.  Especially if I love them, and especially if it’s forever.

Rest in peace, Mom.  It’s been two years since you left, but your influences continue to live on in my life daily.  If I become even half the woman that you were, I’ll be doing pretty well. I miss you and I love you.  You’re the bestest in the westest.

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Peggie Anne Gardner

April 15, 1951-April 19, 2011

the thing that leads to THE thing

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In my last post, I mentioned that I think I am finally on the right path. Things have really been falling into place with work and I am so happy that I make enough money that I can save almost half of my income doing something that I really like. I am saving to do something that I love, but being a nanny is a great job in the interim. I am not confident or sure about many aspects of my life, but one area that I am confident in and know with absolute certainty it’s what I am supposed to be doing, is working with small children. This has been constantly reinforced throughout my life, but especially this year.

Last month I started working with a new family through the agency and I instantly clicked with the little boy and his family. I sit for them about 35 hours of my weekend. The sacrifice of giving up my weekends for a while is worth it to me because I love the little boy and they compensate me so well that I am able to actually save what I need to get to where I want to go almost 5x faster than I did before I started with them.

My dilemma started yesterday when they asked me if I would night nanny for their little girl on the way. Now, if you know me you know that I am absolutely CRAZY about very tiny babies. I nearly burst into tears at the sight of them. If you know me even better, you know that while I love newborns, I have very little experience taking care of them. And better still, that I have a rough time functioning on no sleep.

I will be trained of course, by the agency and the family and I feel like it’s an honor that they trust me so much even without that experience to take care of their little newbie for six months. In that six months, I already know I would be able to save probably more than what I need to get my business started. The prospect of that is super exciting to me and makes me want to do it. However, will I be able to hold down two jobs if I am a night nanny 3+ times a week? What about Trader Joe’s? What about my other families that have grown to depend on me? What about sleep?!

My instinct is to go ahead and do it and just play the other stuff by ear. I have way more to gain than lose from the situation. I already lost my insurance at Trader Joe’s because I got scheduled for too few hours, so what’s another six months without it, really? I mean, with the exception of these three months, it’s been six years anyway. I’ve adapted, barring any life threatening illnesses or injuries which, let’s face it, are far more likely to happen at TJ’s than babysitting.

I want the six months after the baby gets here to be the thing that leads to THE THING. I want THE THING enough that I want to make sure I don’t get trapped being a night nanny for longer than that. I feel like I should put a limit on it until the end of this year and then continue to move forward with everything else.

I think that I may have actually solved my dilemma while writing this, so thanks for being my sounding board! If you have any thoughts on the situation feel free to comment. Til next time!

halfway there

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Hi there! I am a deadbeat blogger lately, my apologies. There has been so much going on with work, which is why I’m starting to write this at nap time on a Sunday, at the end of a 50 hour work week.

I’ve read time and time again about how once someone is on their right path, they start getting lucky all the time. Things all of a sudden just start falling into place and aligning correctly in a path that leads forward. That isn’t to say there aren’t any or many bumps along the way, but generally, circumstances start moving in your favor.

This year is the first time I have ever felt that in my life. I decided what direction I want to take my life toward the end of last year and set up small goals to work toward being able to start by next year. As “luck” would have it, I’m ahead of schedule for once in my life! Okay, twice, if you count being born early.

As a late bloomer in most, if not all aspects of my life (as well as being an unrelenting realist and somewhat of a pessimist) I can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of something I want actually coming to fruition. It’s still really early on, but I have a lot of encouragement, determination, and faith that I’m going the right direction. And really, that’s the only feeling I’ve ever wanted in a career.

I’ll reveal more when I have more and get all the way to goal #1. I’m halfway there already, just have to keep my eyes on the prize.

How’s YOUR year going so far?

Year in Review 2012: Final

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All right, all right, I am finally wrapping up my extremely breathy year in review!  Hopefully I haven’t bored you to tears yet.  I’m just going to jump right in to my last trip of the year!

At the end of November, I took a trip to Xenia, OH.  What’s in Xenia, you ask?  Well, that’s where my dear old dad went to high school.  Xenia High School created a sports Hall of Fame last year, and this year my dad was inducted into it for his achievements in football, basketball and track.

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coolest dad ever?

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It was awesome to watch my dad  be honored.  It’s one thing to hear about it from him but it’s quite another to hear other people share stories of his greatness.  The speeches were a riot and it was a really fun, inspiring atmosphere.   I also got to spend time with both my immediate and extended family so it was really enjoyable to catch up with everybody.

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my brother put it best, “do you know who my father is?!”

 

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with my cousin and aunt

The most inspiring thing I heard all weekend was that the kids that go to that high school now walk by the hall of fame, point to it, and say “That’s going to be me up there one day.”

Christmas came quickly, didn’t it?  Every Christmas Eve I go over to my friend Kimmy’s house for her parent’s party.  They always have tasty champagne punch and delicious food.

Photo: happy christmas!

happy christmas!

Photo: best christmas present ever! only had to wait twelve months to get it.

Kimmy caught this at a show last January and saved it to give me until Christmas!

My brother came down to Texas for a few weeks to spend Christmas with my Dad and I.  It was great to have him here, as usual.  We usually don’t do a Christmas tree or lights or anything, but this year my dad put up a few lights outside and I put up a small Christmas tree.  We all made a big Christmas dinner (similar to Thanksgiving), and relaxed the rest of the day, watching movies and napping.

Unfortunately, the week before Christmas, one of my old friends passed away suddenly.  His funeral was the day after Christmas.  Clint was just a big bucket of fun.  There was absolutely no way anyone could ever hang out with him and NOT have fun.

this is a nice picture of us, but…

this is a more accurate representation of the times we had…

He put a smile on the face of anyone he came into contact with and I know he is greatly missed by scores of people, including myself.  Up to that point I was lucky enough never to have been to a funeral for someone my own age.  I really hope I don’t have to do it again until I am very old.   It’s tragic to see life cut short so young and continues to make me think about how short life actually could be, every day since it happened.  One positive that came out of the tragedy– it brought my old friends together again for the first time in around six years.

celebrating our friend

New Year’s Eve was very low key.  I was originally going to go to Austin, but my car wasn’t cooperating so I ended up staying right here in Dallas.  I actually had a very relaxing, four-day “staycation” that culminated on NYE by spending the day at King Spa.  After that I went home, turned on the fireplace, made some hors d’oeuvres, drank prosecco and watched the clock turn to 2013!

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artichokes, tomato, fresh cracked pepper on salt and pepper tricuits

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New Years Day dinner: fried chicken, fried corn! kale greens (for money) black eyed peas (for luck) and jalapeno-cheddar cornbread (from scratch)

What do I want out of this year?  Well, hopefully 2013 will continue to bring clarity for me.  Last year, first finding out how much fear I actually have, followed by finding out that (after MANY years of joking about it) I actually AM a full blown introvert opened up an entirely new level of consciousness for me.  My personality, feelings and actions became much easier for me to understand and that knowledge has set me free.  Realizing that I’m not actually an all-around miserable person has brought me a lot of peace that I have lacked for many years.

This year I have two very specific goals that I’m not going to go into full detail with right now.  But, I can say that for a very, very, VERY long time I feel like I have repressed and downplayed the creative and artistic side of my personality.  I’ve never been particularly confident in my abilities in the arts, but as I’ve reflected on my past and look toward my future, I’m starting to notice that they are of great significance in my life– and it’s helped me figure out exactly what I want to do.  Of course I’ll keep you updated on each journey when the time is right.  What are your resolutions and goals for this year?

Thanks for reading the saga, apparently, that was 2012.  Til next time!