October, 2012

October, 2012
October 2012

Monday, February 28, 2011

What was I thinking?

I would consider myself a fairly good parent.  I have been at it for over 21 years, so you would think I had it down pat.  Yet, sometimes I get "ideas".  Mind you, they seem good at the onset, creative solutions even, but it doesn't take me long to realize they aren't very well thought out.  The latest of these ideas came last week.

You see, my kids are driving me crazy.  They can completely destroy a room in about five minutes. Like miniature tornadoes.  I had begun to feel like all I ever do is bark orders about cleaning up messes.  Most of the time it is me who cleans up the messes, but not with a smile on my face.  I believe if they see how frustrated it makes me, they will feel bad and help me out.  WRONG.  I have finally accepted that this will never happen, ever.  They do not care.  In desperation I came up with what I thought was a solution for Brooke and Anna's room.  I would make the room being clean a competition.  Whichever one had the cleanest side of the room when I did a random check would get 50 cents.  Great idea right?  

The thought behind this idea was that they would see how easy it really is to keep their room clean...that it would become a habit after a while and they wouldn't need the reward.  They would magically hang up all of their clothes and stop stuffing everything they didn't want to put away under their beds. They would get a sense of satisfaction from the experience. Plus, competition can be fun and that would be a strong motivator.  The biggest part of this farce though was that I thought I would no longer have to say the words "clean your room" or that this type of competition would be a good thing. 

Basically all I accomplished with this was to create an additional problem. Oh, it went o.k. for the first 2 days.  O.k. for Anna anyway.  You see I forgot that Anna is already neat, so this was a breeze for her.  Brooke on the other hand is scatterbrained and chaotic by nature and there was no way she would ever win. The room was clean, but that problem had been replaced by a new problem.  Brooke was whining and Anna was gloating.  Shouldn't I with all of this parenting experience have predicted this? 

So I have come to a new conclusion about the whole cleaning their room thing.  This is my problem and my problem only.  THEY DON'T CARE!

Here is my new idea...I am going to let the mess go.  I am going to tackle MY problem and let my children be normal children.  It is time to do what I did with Ashley.  When she got to a certain age, I just started closing the door.  If I didn't have to look at the mess, it didn't bother me as much.  My hope is that they will get sick of it and clean it up every once in a while, but I am not holding out a whole lot of hope. 

After all, this is MY problem.  They are not crazy, but it is quite possible I am. I should be glad that my children are comfortable in their own mess and don't mind showing it.  I think that cleaning, even as a child, became a way for me to control something about my world.  I would close myself in my room and empty every drawer and closet shelf and then organize everything and put it neatly back in place.  This would take hours, but it gave me a "high" of sorts even as a child.  When all else failed, I would clean and organize something and suddenly feel better.  I have done this my whole life. My children don't need the same safety net I needed as a child.  They are already feel safe and a clean room is not what has given them that feeling. Brooke and Anna are in the bedroom I grew up in.  A room that truthfully held a lot of dark memories for me.  I have to shift my focus and be thankful that this room has become a place of happy memories.  They laugh, they fight, they share "sister" secrets in that room.  Things are just the way they should be even if there are clothes and toys all over the floor.

I am still taking bets though on just how long I will be able to go without saying "CLEAN YOUR ROOM"! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three Names

Last night I was watching a new show called "Searching For..." on the OWN network.  I love this new network.  Most of the shows appeal to me.  A lot of real life stories, but positive ones.  The show "Searching For...." particularly appeals to me because it is about family members finding lost loved ones, mostly adoptees looking for parents, and birth parents looking for children they had given up to adoption.  Their stories are mine.  

Most people come in to the world and their parents give them a name that they have thought about for months.  Many times it has a family connection as my children do. Not the case in my life.  I have really had 3 names.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.  Laura Anne.  I always liked my name it had a pleasant ring to it.  I knew quite a few people with the name Lori or Laurie, but no one with the name Laura. Originally I was going to be a Rebecca after my aunt, but they quickly settled on Laura.  My parents didn’t have the usual amount of time to come up with a name.  The announcement of a daughter to come came in the form of a phone call from the Kentucky Child Welfare Cabinet.  They had been on a waiting list for a couple of years to adopt a girl to join their adopted son. The call came at the end of February 1969.  

It is really interesting how it works……kind of like giving you a call to let you know that “something” you ordered has finally arrived and you can come and pick it up.  So my parents and my brother loaded up in the car and drove to Frankfort the first part of March to check out the merchandise and decide if it met their specifications.  I was five weeks old and had been in foster care since my birth.  On this day, I was at the office waiting for “inspection”.  Parents go in and “check out” the baby----make sure it is cute enough and passes muster.   I couldn’t lose, I mean who could possibly turn down a cute bald headed baby girl?  My dad told me just a few years ago that he really hadn’t been on board for adopting another child.  He was 51 and really felt that he was too old to take it on.  I could see where he was coming from.  I can't imagine starting with a newborn at that age. He said he thought about his misgivings from the time they got the call until he walked into the room and saw me.  He swears that at five weeks I looked at him and smiled and he knew I would be alright……and more importantly so would he.   My life as Laura Anne had begun.

I had no idea I was adopted.  I always thought I looked like Dad.  He was left handed and so was I. If you have ever heard adoptees tell their story, many will tell you they always felt different and that is true.  There were subtle hints along the way, but I was too young to pick up on those.  I was different than the rest of my family.  I was always more outspoken.  They were very reserved. Unlike most children, I never heard stories about my birth or me as a newborn.  There were no pictures of me early on.  But there were no pictures of my brother either, so I guess that didn’t seem strange to me.  I can remember as a little girl sneaking into my mom's closet and looking for her maternity to clothes to play dress up in.   I did this more than once and never could figure out why there weren’t any.  I never asked her about it though……then she would know I was sneaking around in her closet.  Life went along and I truly never had a clue. 

There are certain memories we all have in life that stand out clear as a bell.  As if we are right back in that moment.  Vivid.  I remember the day I found out I was adopted as one of those moments. I think they are vivid because they are pivotal moments in life.  Moments that change you forever even if you don’t realize their impact just yet.  I was 13. I was sitting in the passenger seat and mom was driving. She often had to be at basketball games at the school where she taught and I usually went with her.  We were coming back from a game and were having a conversation about a boy in our church and I told her that someone had told me he was adopted.   I will never know what came over her at that exact moment.  Maybe she had been waiting to say those words.   Instead of answering my question about the boy, she very quietly said…..”well, you are adopted too.”    Believe it or not, that was that.  She didn’t say another word about it.  I just sat there in silence thinking about what she had said.  Her lack of emotion and matter of fact tone didn’t surprise me.  She was a no nonsense kind of mom and she also had an impeccable ability to completely ignore difficult emotional things.  Now some kids might have burst into tears or expressed any number of emotions, I mean I was a 13 year girl after all.  My first thought though…..oh that’s why she didn’t have any maternity clothes.    Silence the rest of the way home.    A few weeks later, I wrote a poem to my birth mother thanking her for giving me life and letting her know I was ok.  I was proud of this poem and it had allowed me to get a lot out.  I somehow thought mom and dad would like it too.  I was wrong.  My mother was angry….really angry.  I think she missed the part about thanking her for the life I had.   I never spoke with my mother about my adoption again.  
As a child I didn’t understand her reaction.  As a woman and a mother I understand it better and it has taught me some great life lessons.  In her time, my mom was born in 1927, it was expected that women would marry and have children, but not being able to have them wasn’t talked about.  My mom couldn’t have children and adopting made that known to everyone.  There was also the stigma of illegitimacy. My mother told me when I was pregnant with my oldest and not married that back in her day if a woman had a child not married and she happened to die she was buried in an unmarked grave.  In their day, illegitimate children were scarred material somehow.  I also realize now that she didn't want me to think about "another mother".  I understand her fears but also know these were my mother's problems.  Deep seeded beliefs that only in recent years I have I realized had nothing at all to do with me. 

Her reaction hurt me though and I think a part of me wanted to get back at her.  My mom valued silence.  Silence was golden, especially if it was something she wanted to keep secret. So that was in part why I told anyone whom I felt like telling that I was adopted.  I was actually proud of this in many ways.  It made me unique.  This all made my mom really mad…..she asked me several times why I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut!  By this age I couldn’t keep it shut because she was telling me too, but also because I needed to talk about it.  I had gone from thinking I knew who I was and where I came from to suddenly knowing nothing and all of this during those turbulent teenage years.   I suddenly knew that my left handedness had nothing to do with dad and when I looked at family pictures any resemblance was now just coincidence.  I had lost my identity and due to other events in my life, I desperately needed it.  When you are young the world still seems like a small place.  Even in my teenage years I didn’t understand the scope of this so I would search crowds looking for myself.  Imagine not knowing who you are.  People at the grocery, classmates, people at church…were they related to me?   We all need a face to put with our own.  How often do we hear you look like your father or you have your mother's mannerisms.  I wanted that.  

Wasn’t until after Ashley was born that I felt some relief about my own identity. I was now connected to someone else.  This someone looked like me in many ways……a fact that we would hear about for years to come and something I treasure.  A gift that I can never be thankful enough for.  Ashley's birth really got me to thinking about finding my birth mom.  I wasn’t dreaming about magical reunions or craving mother daughter moments.  But I needed to know where I came from and I was growing tired of not having a health history to put on medical forms.  Those health history questions seem like no big deal for most, but imagine how many times we are asked those questions in our lives.  Imagine never having a single answer, then also not having those answers for your own children.  This reason alone was enough to push me into searching. 

For several years my search got me nowhere.  I started with nothing. I had a birth certificate, but I found out it wasn’t the original.  Once you are adopted the certificate is amended to show your adopted name and the original is sealed away in a file.  A file I could never have access to without my birth mother's permission.  How could I get that if I didn’t know her?  Then something wonderful happened.  I was told that there were indexes at the Fayette County library.  These indexes listed birth certificates in alphabetical order by birth mother's last name and went through 1969.  They ended in 1969, the year I was born. I was in luck.  One problem I didn’t know her last name.  What I did have though was just as valuable.  The number on my amended birth certificate was the same as the original.  That number, like a social security number, never changes.  This was going to be quite a task, but I was hopeful.  I started with the first index of 1969.  Letter A.  Each index had probably 500 pages or more and I had to look line by line and match the number.   This was going to take a while.  I spent about 10 hours over the course of several days then on the 10th day I found what I had been looking for.  Volume G.  I had to look at the number several times before I was convinced I had the right one.  The number matched so I traced my finger along the line.  There in front of me was a piece of a puzzle I had dreamed about for years----Anna M. Gordon, my birth mothers name.  Wow!  Not only did I have her name, but it was similar to my middle name and the same as my youngest daughter.  What are the odds of that? The next part of the line…..Amy Jo……my first real name.  Hum…Amy Jo.  I kind of  liked it.  Suddenly I felt like an Amy Jo.  Forget Laura Anne.  I was Amy Jo and I was happy.  

Of course my search had only just begun.  There was no way I could stop at just a name.  I spent the next 8 years on and off searching.  I searched death records, marriage records, any records I could find.  I even had a subscription to Ancestry.com.   I eventually found she had been born in Michigan and that she had a sister named Susan. Then another dead end.  I had come this far and felt that hiring someone to complete the search was the only option I had left.  I located a reputable searcher whose cost was $750. This was a lot cheaper than most searchers, but I had done most of the work that they would normally do.  I sent him an e-mail with the information he requested.  I wasn’t sure he would ever respond.  Within 3 days he contacted me by phone.  He had found her.  Anna Mercia Gordon, along with an address and last known phone number.  She lived in New Mexico.  He also told me my aunt lived in Cincinnati and he gave me her last name. 

My hands were shaking and quite honestly I was scared to death.  Twenty-five years of knowing I was adopted and I held the possibility of her in my hands.  Of course I called right away…..no answer.  I did this several times over the next several days, but never got an answer.  Maybe the searcher had been wrong.  I finally got the idea to search her address and find other addresses and phone numbers in the area.  I called one of the neighbors and yes they knew her although they seemed hesitant.  I realized they probably thought I was after Anna but maybe not for anything good.  I decided the best thing was to let them know who I was.  They told me she wasn’t there very often but they would leave a note on her door and talk to her when they saw her.   I was back to the waiting game….or so I thought.  I had almost forgotten the aunt in Cincinnati.  Didn’t take me long to find a number I felt was probably hers.  I called and Susan answered.  I asked if she was Anna’s sister.  She hesitated, and before she could answer I began telling her who I was.  She was very nice and said all of my facts added up so she felt I was telling the truth.  We talked a long time but she never offered Anna’s phone number.  I was so excited I didn’t find that odd.  She said since she lived so close she would love to come down and meet me and I agreed.  

You can’t imagine how this all felt.  If you have ever seen these stories on tv and thought the people were being overly dramatic, I am telling they are not.  Years coming together in an instant.  The first time in my life I had spoken to someone who shared my blood.  Each moment in this journey was getting more and more exciting.  I had never in my life been on such an unusual high.  I still knew there were rough spots ahead in this journey…scary moments, but I was excited.  This was my aunt, who was so welcoming and open, but what if my birth mother didn’t share the same warmth?  Over the years I had heard other adoptees talk about how difficult it had been to deal  with the rejection involved in being given up at birth.  I had never felt that.  I knew that if I had the opportunity to find out why, I would understand no matter what the reason.  I had been where she had been…young, pregnant and scared to death.  Whatever her reasons were, I knew how personal and painful the choice may have been and knew I wouldn’t harbor any resentment.  I also knew that she might not want to know me or even admit I had ever existed.   Again I had heard those type of stories and how hurt and bitter the adoptees had become at a second rejection.  I knew whatever the outcome with my mother, I already had more than I ever had and knew how lucky I was. 
So my Aunt Susan came.  Honestly, she didn’t look a thing like me.  Although she searched my face, I don’t think she saw them in me either.  None the less we spent the next several hours talking.  I suddenly had tons of medical history. I learned about my grandparents and my mother's childhood.  She brought pictures and a huge box of writing my grandmother had done before she died in her early twenties. Not all of the story was warm and fuzzy, but a true family story is rarely free of dark moments.  I found out I have 4 brothers and sisters. Yes, you read that correctly …..4 siblings.  I have an African American brother, 2 brothers who are Guatemalan, and a sister with Peruvian roots.  Imagine this blond haired blue eyed girl as part of that family.  I also learned that my youngest sister was younger than Ashley.  Crazy and exciting. 

As the visit drew to an end I finally asked Susan if she had a way to contact Anna.  I now knew that my mother had lived a rather nomadic life and so I really thought she would tell me she didn’t know how to reach her.  Instead she pulled out her phone and said, "Well let's call her right now".   Seriously.   Right then? Oh my, could this finally be it?   I heard Susan say hello to Anna.  There was a short conversation about something, I honestly can’t remember, and then Susan told Anna she was sitting there with Amy Jo.   Apparently there was silence.  Susan repeated Amy Jo.  More silence.  Then Susan said, I am here with the daughter you had in 1969.  Then I could hear her.  What I heard was excitement,  what I felt was relief.   As you can imagine I don’t remember every detail of what was in the conversation that followed, only that I was handed the phone and I heard my mother's voice for the first time.  What do you say after 38 years?  In our case, you say “How have you been” and you go from there.  Pivotal moments…memories frozen in time.

So what about that third name?  The third name is why she didn't recognize the name Amy Jo.  Turns out that back in the days of Catholic homes for unwed mothers, the girls were encouraged strongly not to name the children as if they were their own.  It was suggested that she choose the name of a character from a book. She chose Little Women, Amy and Jo…..so I legally became Amy Jo.  How strange and how perfect that from those characters she would choose the two that I would turn out to be the most like! When I asked Anna what she would have named me if they had let her she said…….wait for it……..Emerald Sky.  My name would have been Emerald Sky.   All of those years, in her heart, I had been Emerald Sky.  Well, I was born in the sixties after all! God bless her, and mom and dad.  At that moment I decided Laura Anne was a perfectly beautiful name.     

    I have met my mother and have a lot of respect for her.  She came and spent the night with us not long after I first talked to her. I see a lot of myself in her and finally understood why I had always felt so different than my own family.  Anna is opinionated, strong-willed and passionate in her beliefs.  She has lived through a lot of adversity. I could relate to that although I knew by comparison I had been lucky to have the life I had.  She had done the right thing for me. Even though distance keeps us from getting together very often, we do talk several times a year and I feel a connection and a bond with Anna that I am so thankful for. 

Anna, in her late twenties
 My grandmother Beth, Anna's mother

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Chainsaw Nightmare

We didn't realize until we moved into my parent's house in the fall of 2009 what we were getting into.  Not a lot of thought went into going from 1/8 acre to 2.  We also didn't realize that many of the trees on the property were in bad shape.  Of course my thought was to hire someone but Jason had other ideas.  He could do it himself.  

I have to admit I didn't have a lot of confidence in him.  Not because I thought he wasn't capable, it was just that Jason is more of a hang out on the couch kind of man.  I knew this fact well because that's where he usually was at our old house when I was out mowing and doing yard work. 

Something about this yard must have motivated him though because many times he would come home from work and hop on the mower right away.  He said if he was on the mower he didn't have to listen to me.  That's fine, and true, but it didn't explain the subscription to TURF Magazine that began showing up in the mailbox. 

Our first spring he decided it was time to get serious about the trees.  Time to bring out the chainsaw and get down to business. I have to tell you, I hate chainsaws.  They terrify me.  Being who I am, a chainsaw brings to mind images of Jason laying on the ground minus a leg or arm.  When I tried to plead my case, he told me to stay out of it.  I decided to change my outlook and try looking on the bright side...when I  thought about it, a man wielding a large power tool looked kind of sexy.

Maybe I told him he looked good with the chainsaw because it suddenly seemed like he was pulling out the chainsaw more often than needed.  Even our neighbors started to notice.  I would be sitting on their porch and Crystal would say, "What's that sound?  Does Jason have the chainsaw out again?"

The sporadic chainsawing continued through summer and early fall.  Little by little there was improvement in the yard.  My Dad had moved home and he and Jason decided there was an old apple tree that needed to come down.  Just what I needed, another chainsaw happy man in my life. My dad set himself up in a lawn chair near the action.  I reminded Jason to be careful because I certainly didn't want my 92 year old father crushed by an apple tree while sitting in his lawn chair.  Things went smoothly and by next year we should have some nicely seasoned applewood to burn in the fireplace.  

You may be wondering why I called this a nightmare.  Well, I learned nothing gives a man with a chainsaw more confidence than successfully taking out a 15 ft. tree.  Jason informed me that next he was going to take out the 50 ft. wild cherry tree that sits between our house and the neighbors.  Huh?  I surely didn't hear him correctly. My pleading about the dangers began again and I felt my case was strong this time since the neighbor's property was involved.  Knowing Dad wouldn't be much help, I decided to talk to the Sam and Crystal.  Surely Sam could help me.  

I guess all men think alike because Sam suggested he could help by tying a rope to the tree and pulling it with his truck as Jason was making the necessary cuts.  This is not at all what I was hoping for.  The only one on my side was Sam's wife Crystal, but we were outnumbered.  At this point the only good thing about this situation was that the weather was turning cold and Jason needed a new chainsaw.  The tree would have to wait until spring. Maybe Jason would lose motivation and decide bringing in a professional wasn't such a bad idea.

So here we are just a few short weeks from spring.  Although I prayed really hard that the winds of recent weeks would take the tree down, naturally not even a twig fell.  Talk of the tree has begun again.  Jason has a new chainsaw and I have officially given up my fight.  In fact Crystal and I will probably sit in lawn chairs next to my dad and watch the show.  A pitcher of margaritas with a little extra tequila may be in order and I will have 9-1-1 on speed dial just in case.  

You can probably tell that it is the dead looking tree farthest to left. The picture doesn't do it justice.  There is a huge branch on the back side that accounts for some of the tallest parts of the tree.  That is the part that will probably land in the neighbor's yard.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Righting a wrong......AGAIN

I should have seen this coming.  I was very proud of my slideshow of Ashley because I can be technologically challenged at times.  I was excited to show it to the rest of the family.  They watched it giggling and reminiscing through it and then they all went on their way.  Except for Anna.  She sort of lingered.  I thought she was just hanging out, but she had something on her mind.

"Mom, do you love Ashley more than us?"  

"What?  Of course not!"

"Well, how come you made her a slideshow but you didn't make us one?"

Now normally I don't fall for the you didn't do it for me kind of stuff that is fairly normal when you have more than one child.  In fact just recently Brooke was dramatically explaining to me how I don't fuss at Anna and Ben as much as her and I actually said, "Well, today I like them more.  Maybe tomorrow I will like you the best."  She stomped off just as dramatically.  

Asking me if I love one more than another though, well, that just got to me.  That just isn't possible.  So to make sure everyone feels the love I decided to do another slideshow. 

That will be it for my slideshow making.  This second go around was so frustrating Jason had to make me get up from the computer and go to bed last night around 12:30.  When I finished this one Anna actually asked me if I was going to do one for each of them by themselves.  I said, "ABSOLUTELY NOT.  I love you.....but not that much!"  She responded by saying "Yeah, right.  You do to."  I am glad she knows it now.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Seriously....I am not impressed

Today during "My Friday" I got to experience customer service at its best....and at its worst.  I'll begin with the best.

I love Toyota on Nicholasville.  I pulled up in the service line and a very pleasant young man opened my door for me.  "Hello!  How may I help you?"  I explained my purpose and he pulled some paperwork and pointed me in the direction of my service guy's office.  I am already pleased because my paperwork and car tag are ready to go.  I opened the door of the office and my service guy, whom I have only met once said, "Hello Mrs. Craven!"  "I have your paperwork ready and it will only take a moment to have your loaner car pulled up."  Of course they new why I was there since I had already had that discussion early in the week. A discussion in which all of my questions had been skillfully answered, so I stood to the side and let the person behind me approach the desk.  This next man asked the service guy some sort of car related question and the guy answered it in full, easy to understand detail along with several questions that followed.  In fairly short order my loaner car, a Camry like I suspected, was ready and they helped me move some items from the van to the car, shook my hand and I was off.  At that time I wasn't thinking about customer service....that would come later.

On to Barnes and Noble with high hopes that my current Nook problems would be solved.   I had the utmost confidence that they would be because the guy who sold it to me seemed very knowledgeable and was able to answer my questions. I walk in and there is another lady waiting at the "Nook" desk.  She seemed sort of frustrated, but before I had time to think about that a gentleman asked if he could help me.  I will call him guy #1.  I proceeded to explain my wi-fi connectivity issues.  I won't go into it here, but for the past several weeks it just won't connect the way it should.  Here is where it goes downhill.  Guy #1 didn't even know where to look on the Nook to find the wi-fi button.  I showed him, then went on to show him what it does when I try to connect by trying to connect to the Barnes and Noble wi-fi.   Thankfully, my Nook cooperated by doing the same thing it had been doing at home.  Guy #1 didn't say anything, although he seemed to be trying to think of something to say.  

Now as hard as I try to refrain from saying the first thing that pops into my head, that doesn't always work, so I said very softly to him...."You don't know what you are doing do you?"  He said "No.  I sure don't".   In walks guy #2 who I realize right away is there to help the frustrated lady next to me....I notice her now because she quite loudly tells guy #2 that he had better figure out a way to fix this while she is in the store because she had trusted them when she bought it and she wanted it fixed.  Turns out she is having a problem downloading books from the B & N site.  Guy #2 is shaking....I mean that literally, his hands were shaking.  Guy #1 obviously not picking up on the fact that Guy #2 is at his capacity to handle anything, starts telling Guy #2 my problems.  Guy #2 looks up at me, then past me with a bit of a relieved look on his face.  Turns out Guy #3 is headed our way.  Guy #1 by this point is backing away, slowly trying to escape the whole mess.  Guy #2 quickly explains both of our problems to Guy #3, lays both Nooks on the counter and walks away.   I haven't said another word and the lady next to me is showing great restraint also.  Guy #3 doesn't even try to find out more info he just says he will give us both new Nooks.  Really?  

We both left the store with OUR Nooks and an 800 service number to call.  I may end up calling that number, but the first call I make will be to Barnes and Noble customer service. The other lady, well she was already on her phone and judging by some of the words she was using, she was already talking to customer service. 

Consumers really don't ask that much if you think about it.  We aren't complaining needlessly.  I don't know about you, but all I really want is when I spend good money on a product, I want part of the cost to go towards someone being there for me when I have a problem.  They should understand the product. I received some of the best customer service possible at Toyota on Nicholasville.  Yes, I am a smart enough consumer to know that it is all part of the overall Toyota marketing plan and that I am paying for it, but they don't just have a plan.....they execute the plan.  What they do is instill confidence in their product.  I would never question buying another Toyota, or having it serviced at that location.  The jury is still out on Barnes and Noble.  Maybe I should have gotten a Kindle. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Righting a wrong.....I think

Lately Ashley says little things that make me think she may think we have forgotten all about her.  Of course we haven't, but I can see how it could feel that way.  I post pictures of Brooke, Anna, and Ben on Facebook and in this blog.....but no recent pictures of Ashley.  So Monday for Valentine's Day I decided I would go up and take her out to lunch.  I like to see her whenever possible, but with her schedule and mine, it can be difficult.  Most of all though on this visit I wanted to get a few pictures.  So off I go.  I get all ready to take pictures, turn on my camera......no memory card.  Apparently Brooke had borrowed the card and not returned it.  Urgh.  This has bothered me since Monday, so today I thought I would put together this little slideshow for her.  Most of her baby pictures were before digital cameras and of course I have put them all in scrapbooks, but I managed to find one or two and put them in with more recent favorite photos.  The song is one that means a lot to me, it is my "Ashley" song. I hope I don't embarrass her too badly....but then again, that is what moms are for!!!

Is it Friday yet?

"Is it Friday yet?" is a commonly used expression. This didn't use to mean a lot to me.  Just another day of the week.  Things have changed though and Friday has taken on a whole new meaning.  I even get mad if someone tries to mess with Friday and this winter that has happened quite a bit!  

Friday has become MY DAY. Well, at least about six hours of it anyway.  On Friday this wonderful angel comes from a caregivers group and takes care of Mom for me.  I see her as an angel, because she makes my day possible. That means that unless the kids are out of school, I have the day all to myself.  This is the day I re-charge my batteries.

By Wednesday I am already talking about Friday, and by Thursday I have usually added a little dance to the talk.  I wonder sometimes if this hurts the kids feelings when I dance around talking about how great Friday is because I get to spend it by myself.  They look at me kind of strangely and Brooke usually rolls her eyes.  

So what is on the agenda for this Friday.....mostly the usual stuff.  I start with a stop at Starbucks, where last week the cute young man at the window said "Hey, it must be Friday!"  Then I will be dropping my car off at the dealership for some warranty work.  Lucky for me, the van won't be ready until Saturday, so I get a loaner car.  I'm kind of hoping the loaner car will be a top of the line Sienna with motorized doors and a sunroof, but I am not usually that lucky.  Most likely, it will be a Camry.  I will make my usual stops at Hobby Lobby and Michael's to check out the crafts and possibly use my weekly 40% off coupons.  Some Friday's I eat with Ashley but since I saw her on Monday for Valentine's Day, I will probably opt for a bagel at Panera.  Then I will probably head over to Barnes and Noble with my Nook to check out the free Friday deals. After that, it will be time to head home so I can get there in time to see those smiling faces hop off the bus.   

This may not sound exciting to some, but to me it is a perfect day.  I never knew how important it was to make time for myself, but I know now it helps me keep a positive outlook the rest of the week.  Jason says that's just the Starbucks talking!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Disaster Preparedness

A couple of weeks ago I was enjoying my morning cup of coffee and watching Good Morning America as I usually do after the kids get off to school.  This particular day they had a segment on whether or not having a happy disposition is genetic.  You mean whether or not I am negative or positive might not be my own choice? Intriguing.  I had never thought of this.  I had been looking for someone to blame for my attitude and this might just give me what I needed! Turns out, it didn't give me an excuse, but it did get me to thinking about this whole idea of whether or not I am a glass half full or glass half empty kind of girl.  

My life has been pretty good.  Bumps in the road, well sometimes mountains, but overall life is wonderful.  At least this is how I viewed it.  Sure I complain, can be difficult to tolerate, often think about all the things that could go wrong with a situation, been called Negative Nellie more than once, but I have never considered myself an overly negative or pessimistic person. 

I didn't always think the way I do now though.  I can remember being a happy go lucky kind of kid.  I made mud pies, played with Barbie Dolls, and rode my bike all day long.  Life was simple and carefree.  Around the age of 9 events happened that changed the way I looked at things.  I wasn't consciously aware of those changes or hadn't connected them to particular events, but things were different.  My world had changed and I didn't really understand it. I can remember when we would return home from a trip and turn onto the road to the house that the anxious feelings would start.  By the time we topped the hill where you could see our house my mind would be racing.  I would be thinking "Please don't let the house have burned down".  As soon as I would see that the house was still standing, the feelings would go away.  I think it was then that I began to think of the worst things that could possibly happen then feel a huge sense of relief and excitement when they didn't!  That's where disaster preparedness came to life.  It was my protection. 

My life continued on this way through many life changing events and even the small events of life.  I didn't want to believe that something would be great and wonderful just to have it shattered so instead I would think of the worst things that could happen and then devise plans to either avoid the worst or ways to fix the worst.  A lot of things happened that might have taken most people out.  Not me.  I felt strong because I was always prepared.   Not very spontaneous, but ready! Those that know me well, know that I am a take the bull by the horns, fiercely independent kind of girl.  I see something that needs to be done and I do it.  I may not be pleasant about it, but it gets done.  I am nothing if not consistently prepared and reliable.

The truth of the matter though is that in all of these years of being prepared for impending doom I had really created a life in a bubble.  I didn't take risks  or get involved in things I couldn't control.  Sort of thinking like if I don't get on the roller coaster then I don't have to worry about the seat breaking and plunging to my death.  I protected life inside the bubble and as my family grew I protected them in the same way.  Don't get me wrong, we had a lot of fun in our bubble. Life went along relatively smoothly. Then I got a "real" job as some would call it.  Let me tell you, I learned quickly that bubbles are really fragile.  

I had always dreamed of being a teacher.  It seemed that teaching would be right up my alley.  Working with children meant you always have to be prepared for potential disasters and I was definitely aces at that. That was not my problem.  Being in the classroom was a joy to me.  I loved the kids, the planning, pouring over data, seeing them learn. Outside the classroom was a different story. I suddenly found myself swimming in a sea of strangeness. Strangeness that I couldn't control.  What is with all of this positivity?  Coming up with problems and solutions together.  Teamwork.  They didn't really talk about what could go wrong.  Uh-oh. They didn't teach this in college. What the hell was this?  I felt awkward right from the start.  Of course, as with most jobs, there was plenty of negativity to go around, it just wasn't in your face.  I was utterly miserable and perfectly happy all at the same time. I didn't understand what was going on with me. 

I was 39 years old and had worked a lot of jobs in my life.  I had been a waitress, a factory worker, a secretary, a pharmacy tech, a grocery store clerk.  I had even cleaned houses for several years.  I had never in my life had trouble working with people, or problems feeling awkward.  Problem was none of those jobs had required me to work WITH people, only around people.  I had never had to think about being positive. These were people skills I didn't have.  How do you act positive when you feel negative? How do you take what you want to say and make sure there is a positive spin on it?  It didn't take long for a teacher who worked diligently with me my first year, and for whom I have the utmost respect, to label me "Negative Nellie".  This became our joke, even though in reality it really wasn't funny.  It hurt because I didn't see myself that way. I also really admired my partner teacher because she had the skills I needed.  She had the ability to put a positive spin on things when needed and tell it like it was when needed without being seen as negative. More than once, I wished I was her. I not only felt down most of the time, but like I brought everything down around me.  This was a DISASTER....a real disaster. 

Where am I going with this?  Right back to the Good Morning America segment I mentioned earlier.  You see what I have learned is that no matter what kind of research you find on genetic connections or the power of positive thinking, life isn't an either or situation.  Sometimes the glass IS half full and sometimes it IS half empty.  Yes, part of me does believe I was born this way so there is a genetic connection, but most of it comes from life experiences that have shaped me, good and bad, into who I am. Not that I haven't changed from 39 to 42 because I have.  I don't live in that bubble anymore.  I live in a house with a door partially open...I am still prepared for disaster but I smile more, laugh more, and think more before I speak.  I often choose positive expressions intentionally over negative and have learned that it can feel pretty good.  I don't have to broadcast all of my negative thoughts anymore. I can't plan for everything because I am not in control of everything and I finally figured out that for me the bigger disaster is focusing too much on stopping it in the first place. 

Life is good.  In fact I would say my glass is half full. 

Dreams and Google

I love Google.  Makes me feel powerful.  If I want to know about something, I just Google it.  Don't know the meaning of a word or how to spell something, just Google it.  Kids driving you crazy or husband lost his mind.....google it. This has become quite a habit.  I am not even sure if I can get through a day without googling.  On days when I am googling too much, I call it research so my family doesn't think I am just playing around.  I think they have caught on though.  Last night Brooke came in to the room and said quite seriously that she needed to do some research. I thought, "Yeah right.  Research. She just wants to play."  Turns out she is working on a science project and really needs to do the research.   

So this morning I decided to research dreams.  I have been having the same 2 dreams as far back as I can remember and I am determined to figure out what they mean.  Google would have my answers. I should say though, that I am not a big believer in dream interpretations.  I tend to be fairly data driven kind of person, so I am starting out a skeptic....but with a partially open mind. 

The first dream I have had as far back as I can remember.  This dream always happens when I am sick, especially as a child when I had a lot of ear infections. I am small, I mean this literally, I am tiny like an ant.  I am in a huge room sitting on a chair in the middle of the room.  Walking all around the edges of the room are bugs.  These aren't little bugs.  They are gigantic, 20 feet tall.  They stare at me as they walk along and occasionally one will come over and look at me as if he is deciding to eat me or not.  I want to scream but I can't.  Nothing comes out. 

Knowing that this dream always occurs when I am sick, I pretty much felt it was related to running a fever.  I wondered what google would say.  I googled "Feeling small in dreams and surrounded by big bugs".  I wanted to make sure I included all the important parts.  So what did my search come up with? FAIRY SIGHTINGS by ADULTS. Ok.  Not exactly what I was going for.  I finally found entries that seemed to be written by sane people and learned that this is actually a fairly common dream people have, and occurs mostly when you are sick.  Of course each dream is in a different form, but the essence of it is the same.  When you are sick, you feel small and weak, and in all actuality are being attacked by a "bug".  My friend google did a good job on this one.

On to the next dream.  I have to say when I have this dream, I always wake up with a smile on my face and that feeling that I just want to go back to sleep and finish the entire dream.  I have even tried to do that.  I usually succeed at going back to sleep, but I never fall back into the dream.  I will go ahead and tell those of you with dirty minds....it has nothing to do with sex.  

I am at the beach.  I live in a light blue beach house with black shutters.  The house has a fabulous wrap around porch.  You can't see the beach from the front of the house, but when you walk around to the side, it is there.  Gorgeous.  I can smell the ocean and the water is a perfect blue. The sand comes up to the house.  Feels very peaceful. I bet you are thinking that this is a simple dream.  A lot of people probably have beach dreams right?  Here is what makes this one different.  I have had this dream for years.  It used to be just Ashley and me in the the dream.  Then Jason started showing up in it.  As I had more children, each one would show up in the dream.  In the dream the kids are playing on the beach, but I am in the house.  Apparently it is a gigantic house and it is full of furniture and stuff that previous owners have left behind.  Used to be just me cleaning and sorting the stuff, then eventually Jason was in the dream helping.  Another interesting part of the dream is that I am always finding hidden doors.  They seem to be everywhere and it frustrates me.  When I get frustrated, I go out onto the side porch and watch the children who are building sand castles and I smile.  That is when I wake up.  Every single time. Just once in this dream I would like to walk down the porch steps and feel the warm sand between my toes.  That's why I always try and go back to sleep.  Wonder what google would say to this one.   

This time my "research" really paid off.  I came across a dream dictionary.  You can search the dictionary by keyword and it will give you a variety of possibilities for that word.   

First "beach".  There were several possibilities for this one, but I settled on the one that seemed to fit the best.  
  • To dream that you are on the beach and looking out toward the ocean, indicates unknown and major changes that are occurring in your life. Consider the state of the ocean, whether it is calm, pleasant, forbidding, etc.
House.  There were a lot of possibilities for this one.
  • To dream that you are cleaning your house, signifies your need to clear out your thoughts and get rid of old ways. You are seeking self-improvement.
Housework.  Only one choice and it really made me laugh.  
  • To dream that you are doing housework, suggests that you are making changes in your lifestyle and the way you are living. You are doing away with your old ways and habits and starting anew. Alternatively, the dream may just be a reflection of the monotony of your daily life. Do something adventurous.
You know, Google is smart.  All joking aside, I believe this dream "interpretation" is really accurate for where I am right now in life.  I also believe when I look back, I have always had this dream when my life has had big changes. 

I find being able to have a tool like the internet at my fingertips to be completely fascinating.  This didn't exist when I was growing up.  Now you can learn about anything, anywhere, anytime.  I do wonder sometimes though if we have become too reliant.  Truthfully, I don't need the internet to figure out my dreams, my friend Crystal already told me what they meant and she was more accurate than my research.  She pointed out that my OCD is connected to the cleaning as well as life changes.  Yet I am sure I will continue to be amazed by what I can learn from the internet and in years to come be equally amazed by what my children and grandchildren will be able to do with computer technology. I just hope along the way they also learn to rely on their own brilliant minds to figure things out.   


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Morning Chaos

I have always wondered why mornings are so chaotic.  No matter what I do to lessen this I always feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day.  The alarm goes off and the craziness begins again. By the time I send them out the door to catch the bus...I am exhasuted.  I can't believe I ever got myself ready too when I was working.  

I have tried everything to fix this.  Laying clothes out at night and making sure backpacks are packed ahead of time.  I try to remain calm....which lasts about 15 minutes.  I try deep breathing, I count to 10.....wait I am trying to keep myself calm and I am not even the problem!  

We have the usual problems.  I have one who moves at a snails pace and she seems to lose things quite frequently.  I have one who gets mad at everything anyone says to her in the mornings.  According to her even Captain Crunch is looking at her funny.  Then the fights.  They fight over who sits where at the table.  The girls fight over clothes.  Ben whines because, well, everyone else is.  Last week at the Valentine's Day Party I asked their bus driver, who is also a room mother, if my kids get on the bus fighting.  Thankfully she said they don't.  I couldn't believe it because they sure are mouthing at each other all the way down the front sidewalk. Believe it or not, one of their almost daily arguments is who is going to get on the bus first!

Not all mornings are bad.....sometimes everyone is so quiet and calm you could hear a pin drop.  We had one of those mornings about three weeks ago when Anna went down to the basement to get a gallon of milk then proceeded to drop the milk on the den floor.  She hit the milk against a table in the den and it split open. The entire gallon of milk hit the floor.  Did I mention it was carpeted?  Did I mention it was my birthday?  They got really quiet then.  I was doing all of the fussing.  There were a few four letter words said as I drug out the steam vac.  Poor Anna, who I knew had done it accidentally, looked like she was going to cry.  The only one happy was the dog who couldn't stop licking the floor.  The saying don't cry over spilt milk is wrong...if you have a gallon of milk in your carpet, you will cry, trust me.  

By the time they got on the bus that morning, I had calmed down.  I hugged Anna and apologized to her for getting so mad.  She apologized for dropping the milk and they all headed out the door.  

I am certain that we will have more mornings like this and I don't know what the solution is. What I do know is that every afternoon when they get off the bus, I watch them run to the house with smiles on their faces and I know without a doubt that I will miss this one day.  The sweet moments will last longer than whining and fights.   

UPDATE:  Not 10 minutes after I posted this blog, Jason went downstairs to get a gallon of milk out of the downstairs refrigerator.  Simple task, I thought.  He was gone for a long time and when he came into the kitchen, he only had 1/3 gallon of milk and he had a towel under it.  Seriously?  He dropped it on the carpeted basement floor right in front of my parents who are watching a UK game.  I mean literally right in front of their TV.  I said the same four letter words I said when Anna dropped hers.  This time though I am not the one who had to get out the steam vac so things are looking up! One problem though....we don't have enough milk for breakfast which might cause chaos in the morning.  


My newest "toys"

About a month ago I was flipping through channels late at night. I never watch home shopping channels, have never bought a single thing off of TV.  But I had wanted one of these for a long time.  It is called a Cricut Expression and is used to make die cuts for scrapbooking, cardmaking, etc.  This particular promotion also came with a handheld design studio called the Gypsy.  At the bottom of the screen it said 10 minutes remaining then this bundle would be gone forever.  I was excited now.  Just to make sure though, I ran to the computer and looked up the price of both machines individually and cartridge prices.  The total came to @850!  HSN was selling it for $350!!! I don't usually spend that much on stuff like this, but I lost all self control and ordered it.  I am so glad I did.  Well worth the money.  I wish I had it when I was teaching to make bulletin boards and posters for the classroom.  I can even make those vinyl wall words with the machine although I haven't tried it yet! 

Cricut Expression

Cricut Gypsy
Of course new toys like this deserve a nice place to live, so I once again moved my scrapbooking room.  I painted the living room a beautiful green color and moved everything upstairs.  This needed to be done anyway because when we were in the room downstairs, Mom couldn't see us and was making herself crazy trying to figure out what we were doing.  Of course I would tell her, then she would forget what I had said within a few minutes and start getting agitated.  She kept telling Daddy those kids (she forgets they are her grandkids) are going to tear the house down.  Eventually he would get up and come say hi to the kids just to make Mom think he was doing something about the situation.  So all of my "stuff" has a wonderful new space upstairs.  This is the best scrapbooking/craft space I have had so far.  17 feet long, the most space I have had. I thought it would bother me to have a space where the kids would always be looking over my shoulder, but so far that hasn't been an issue.  We have the Wii in this room and a great place to curl up and read a book or drink a cup of coffee and chat. 

My latest project is a 24 x 18 canvas that I painted using a dishcloth.  I used the Cricut to make some of the accents and the lettering.  I haven't even glued this down yet, something is missing from the layout, but I haven't figured out what yet!

These are masks that Anna made.  The picture doesn't do them justice.  She is actually very creative and loves to do crafts with me. 

Letting Go

On Facebook this morning a friend had a post about "letting go" and forgiveness.  Of course I had to give my 2 cents and qoute Oprah..."Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be changed."

I love this qoute.  I do believe many times when we hold on to the past we are mourning a loss.  Over the past year I have found myself thinking about loss and forgiveness quite a bit and it has been a real growth experience. I have worked not only on forgiving others, but on forgiving myself....perhaps the hardest thing to do. 

In early December I had an "Ah ha" moment that was so monumental for me I had to call my friend Dana right then.  I proclaimed to Dana that I could finally move on with my mother.  It was over.  She sounded skeptical and rightfully so.  After all, this whole forgiveness thing is really difficult and she knew the history with Mom

When Dad and I decided in October to bring my Mom home from the nursing home, I told him that I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do.  He had adjusted well to living with my family, but she really doesn't like small children and although they would have their own space downstairs, it would be difficult to keep three children quiet to the level she might need.  The other problem, which I didn't share with Dad was that I wasn't sure I could stand to live with her.  She and I have had a contentious relationship most of my life.  Although there have been many problems over the years, the main problem without going into it a whole lot, is that she had covered up my brother's sexual abuse of me.  She had protected him and made me feel at fault. So there isn't an emotional connection that a lot of people have with their mothers.  I knew Dad wanted this though.  He missed her and I couldn't really blame him.  57 years is a long time together.  So she came home.  Jason, me, 3 kids, 2 cats, a dog, and my parents.  Oh my!

For the first month, it was probably as bad as I thought it would be.  She yelled at me, hit me a few times....even in her dementia, she was still mom.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do this.  At the same time I had pneumonia and was really struggling with everything.  We were all adjusting and I would just have to give it more time.  I did talk to Dad though...he acted like he hadn't noticed a problem.  I told him I would keep trying.  I could feel my anger and resentment though and poor Jason, as usual got the brunt of my frustration.  He wondered why I had done this in the first place. 

We went along like this for about a month.  I read a lot about other caregivers in similar sutuations and took some of their advice about scheduling, being stern without being mean.  Still it was difficult because I was dealing with all of those "mom" issues. I never knew when I went to change her or get her to supper or bed if she would be nice and cooperative or we would have problems. 

Then came that night in December that changed everything for me.  I was putting her to bed and we were talking about this and that.  Out of the blue she asked me if I was from Russell Springs too.  I just looked at her and asked her if she knew who I was.  I don't remember who she thought I was, but the important thing was that she didn't know I was Laura.  I continued with the conversation and asked her if she had any children.  She remembered that she had a son but when I told her who I was, she didn't remember me.  Now some people may think this is horrible.  I suppose on some level it probably is, but in my case, it was the opposite.  

I WAS FREE.  In that moment, a 33 year battle was over.   Of course this isn't how I dreamed it would end.  I had envisioned a moment when Mom would look at me and say I am sorry I didn't protect you the way a mother should.  It ended without any of that.  I would never have that.  But in that moment, it was just like Oprah's qoute.  "Forgiveness is the letting go of the hope that the past can be changed." 

There are many blessings in this.  The best one being that this occurred at all.  If my mother had died before this happened, I would have carried it for another 30 years.  Now I can tell jokes and laugh with her.  It isn't so tense.  I can more freely make sure that these last years are spent with the dignity and compassion that any human being deserves.  She told me this morning when I was getting her dressed how thankful she was to be there and have me there to help her and talk to her.  About 10% of the time she knows who I am so I asked her if she knew who I was.  She said, "Why yes, you are the girl who takes care of me everyday".  I responded by saying, "That's right.  That's exactly who I am." 


Monday, February 14, 2011


I was reading my sister-in-law Rachael's blog and it suddenly dawned on me what a great idea!  I love to talk....too much perhaps...and Jason gets tired of listening to me....so why not.  Kind of a scary prospect though.  A space to possibly write whatever comes into my head.  Hopefully it will occasionally make sense. My sister-in-law Genie told me once I should write a book because my life has been kind of crazy at times and blogging may be as close as I ever come to that.