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You aren’t going to hear from me for awhile.  August looks to be a very busy month with several trips and lots of extended working hours to make up for the time that I will be away, so that I can take a long maternity leave without guilt.

Lately, my days have been filled with reading up on potty training, searching for baby names, renewed pregnancy exhaustion, and in general, getting very little else accomplished.  My mind just has not been focused on reality.  I realized yesterday, after scheduling two different appointments at times when I had conflicts, that I need some real organization in my life.

So, while Bear sat in the front of the cart crying about the Shrek Band-aids that she had seen a few aisles back and that she desperately wanted, I searched for the perfect wall calendar for my kitchen.  I finally settled on two dry-erase calendars with notes sections and a small pocket organizer for my purse.

In the past, I have attempted various other organizational methods.  My mind loves the thought of order and organization.  My life, however, does not seem to lend itself to such, and I seem to lack the patience and follow-through to actually stick with any one method of staying organized.

But, I’ll try again.  I felt so good nailing the calendars to the back of my basement door, which opens to the kitchen and is always open.  Then, I began gleefully adding appointments and dates to my calendars.  When my husband came home from work last night, he didn’t even acknowledge my new system.  However, later in the evening, under his birth date, he wrote:  Gifts: (1) dinosaur (live), (2) winning lottery ticket, and (3) desert island for said dinosaur.  I’m glad to see that he is participating!

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Bear is getting old enough that we’re starting to think about potty training.  Some days, I could care less about the subject.  I don’t mind changing diapers.  I don’t even mind washing her cloth diapers.  But others – like today – make me think that Bear needs to get potty trained and quick!

Bear is no longer content to wear a wet or dirty diaper.  So, as soon as she goes to the bathroom, and usually before I can catch her, she takes off her pants and her diaper.  In the world of wet diapers, this isn’t a big deal.  However, when I find my toddler running through the house with a dirty behind that has touched many things in the few minutes since it left the safety of the diaper, the story changes.  And then, once I have cleaned Bear and diapered her again, she and I go on a diaper hunt to find the discarded dirty diaper that (if we’re lucky) still contains whatever was left in it.

It’s days like these that make me think that Bear needs to be potty trained.  Diapers don’t do anyone any good if they don’t stay on!  And, Bear’s are cloth, so they aren’t that easy to remove.  She has to undo snaps to get the things off.  Not to mention, she is interested in the potty thanks to her potty-trained friends at daycare.  She wants to go.

This said, we will be traveling in August, and this upcoming trip has me questioning whether now is a good time to start.  Once we return and Bear gets readjusted to life at home, we’ll be looking at early September before I can really jump us both into potty training, which is also just a few short months before the next baby comes along.  This has me hoping that Bear will catch on quickly and not regress once she sees a little baby wearing her diapers.  Not to mention, I just don’t know if I can last that long with a little bare-bottomed toddler running through my house!

What is new in your life?  I have been asked this question by various family members multiple times in the past few days of my life, and depending on who is asking, my answer changes.

My first response is usually “nothing.”

Then, depending on how well I know the person, I’ll follow up with:  Well, have you heard our big news?  Particularly since I seem to be the only one in the family with good news.

After answering questions about due dates and whether or not Bear wants a brother or a sister, we usually talk about my grandmother.  She has about a week left at the rehabilitation facility and then we hope that she will be well enough to move back to the assisted living facility where she was living before she broke her hip and had the strokes.  When I have spoken to her, she sounds upbeat, and my dad says that you cannot tell by looking at her that she has had a stroke.  She thinks that rehabilitation has also helped her wrist, which she broke after her back surgery last year.  The physical therapists are not working on her wrist, despite that it has not regained much mobility, but in some way, the physical act of walking with her new walker is requiring her to use her wrist more, and she says that this is a good thing.  I say, find rainbows wherever you can.

Conversation also often turns to my brother who recently moved home to help my father manage the family farm.  After his short marriage ended and learning that his ex-wife had quickly moved on to someone else, my brother re-evaluated what he wanted out of life and moved home.  His first harvest since returning has just now ended, and although I don’t frequently talk with my brother about his feelings, he seems happy enough.  Either this, or he is trying to convince everyone of this by posting humorous picture after humorous picture of harvest on Facebook.  My family seems to want confirmation of his happiness from me, so I always tell them what they want to hear.  I hope that what I say is true.

So far, it seems that very few of my extended family know about the divorce that I wrote about in my last post, and I am glad.  It seems too new and feelings are still too raw to talk about it in general conversation.  I spoke with the person in the middle of it today, and she still is in shock.  Because the divorce is uncontested, it is on the fast-track to finalization, and in a few short weeks, her marriage will be no more.  She told me this morning about how educational it has been to learn about her own finances and how good she feels about the idea of selling her house and starting over.  I am not certain that she completely believes it, but again, if she can find the rainbow in this, then we will all cling to it.

I thought about how I just want my family to happy as I took my morning walk today.  As I walked, I surveyed the damage of a strong storm from the night before.  Large tree limbs – almost as big as small trees – blocked one street near my house.  In other places, I could see the charred, blackened wood where lightening had forcefully removed entire sections of trees.  Small limbs and debris covered the streets everywhere that I walked.

As we returned from lunch this afternoon, someone had already chopped up the tree limbs blocking the street and had stacked them neatly in someone’s lawn waiting for the city to pick them up.  Electricians were working on the street lights outside of our neighborhood to make them functional again.  Somehow, the debris that had covered everything this morning was already gone as though someone had run a vacuum sweeper down our street.  I suspect that by tomorrow morning the only evidence of the storm will be the burn marks and bare spots on trees from the lightning strikes.

I hope that sometime in the near future, when someone asks about my family, that my answer will look like those trees.  Although the storm has come and left its mark, quickly enough, one cannot tell at first glance that anything was once wrong.

Some things should be sacred. I would like to believe that at some point a marriage has lasted long enough that one partner should be free from the fear that the other would suddenly end it.

After my mother died, a family member became like a mother to me. We always had a special relationship, but it became even more so after my mother was gone. And now, my heart is breaking with hers at the news that her husband of 35 years has suddenly decided that he does not want to be married any longer. Her heartbreak is compounded by the fact that he has chosen to pursue a relationship with someone who came between them 22 years earlier. Wounds that she thought were healed have been ripped open anew.

I am also grieving with her children. Although I have never suffered through a divorce, I know full well the sadness that comes from having your family ripped apart. I understand the death of the dream of happy future gatherings with both your parents and your children. I comprehend the pain of knowing that your life will never be as it was only a few moments before.

Once again, I am asking myself, even though I know, what can I say? Words seem so insincere, even though they are far from it. There is nothing that I can say to rectify this wrong. There is little that I can do beyond just being. I can let my family know that I am grieving with them. I can listen when they want to talk. I can be with them when they are ready for company. And someday, when they are ready to hear it, I can tell them that it is possible to accept a new reality – even one that you don’t want – and move forward.

I love summer for so many reasons.  But, in-season, local vegetables and fruit top my list.

Two years ago, we joined a CSA.  In fact, we got our first share on the day that Bear was born.  Once I got home from the hospital, at my request, my mother-in-law made me a salad from local lettuce and homegrown asparagus that, along with cheese and an olive oil vinaigrette, tasted better to me than anything I could have imagined.  My body was spent from a long labor and probably depleted of nutrients thanks to a hungry Bear, and I began craving fresh vegetables.  I nearly ate nothing else for several days, and my mother-in-law became worried that I was not getting enough calories to make milk, so she began boiling eggs and roasting chickens.

Admittedly, I am less inspired by grocery store vegetables.  Even the vegetables and fruit at Whole Foods, although better than that at our local grocery store, can hold nothing to the bounty that comes in our share every week.

Today, a little over a month into the season, we received a carton of tiny strawberries, four ripe tomatoes, a bunch of green onions, two good-sized zucchini, a carton of snap peas, and a large bag of green beans and new potatoes.  Over the past month, we have been living off of a variety of kale that looks nothing like any I’ve ever seen in a store, various herbs, Swiss chard, onions, bags of lettuce, rhubarb, strawberries, and eggs and more eggs.  We had so many eggs at the beginning of the season that I ran out of ways to cook eggs.

This year, our friendly farmer, Betty, includes a recipe list with our weekly share in case we need some direction in cooking our goodies.  I love that her recipes read like those in my mom’s old cookbooks.  The finished products remind me of casseroles and salads that my grandmother used to make for church potlucks.  A lot of them include little quips, such as “put a little flour on your nose so they will think that you slaved in the kitchen” and “did you know that there has been a scientific discovery that tomatoes are good for the skin?  I’m going to eat two a day.”

Lately, Thursday evenings have become CSA dinner night at our house featuring mostly vegetables, which has been just fine by me due to the extreme heat and a slight, pregnancy aversion to meat.  Last Thursday, I made baked, stuffed tomatoes, tabouli, and a pasta salad with broccoli.  Today, my dear husband pulled steak out of the freezer to defrost.  I got the point.  Even so, he still is going to get a snap pea salad and green beans and potatoes with his meat tonight.

See this shirt?

Yesterday, it was brown.  Although the picture doesn’t do its new color justice, today it is orange.  It was my favorite shirt, and now, it is an attempt at deep-cleaning gone wrong.

See this bread?

This morning, it was a whole loaf that I had slaved one Saturday in the kitchen to make.  A few hours ago, it was the dog’s snack while Bear and I were at music class.  He is still hiding in Bear’s room.  For good reason.

And see this?

It’s just because.  Happy Friday!

P.S. Dear friend whose birthday is today, that is your birthday card is under that destroyed loaf of bread, and it is still waiting for a stamp.

My dad called a few days ago while I was getting Bear ready for bed. My husband answered the phone and brought it to me as I struggled to force kicking legs into pajama bottoms. I tried to listen to my dad as I worked on Bear, but the reception was not clear and Bear was not compliant. I could tell that Dad’s voice had an edge of concern that he was attempting to hide. I had heard this tone before, and it had only brought bad news to me.

I left Bear with my husband so I could focus on my dad’s message. He had gone to visit my grandmother at the hospital where she was recovering from a broken hip, and when he arrived, he could tell that something was not right. Grandma could tell it too.

He didn’t offer much in terms of details, but he said that he was following the ambulance carrying my grandmother as it raced her to a larger city hospital about an hour away.

Five years ago, he called me in this same manner to tell me that they were rushing my mother to this same hospital after she began coughing up blood and having heart problems related to what we later learned was a systematic strep infection. At the time, he told me that the trip to the city was precautionary. I think that was trying to convince himself that this was true.

Fortunately, unlike with my mother, my father’s concern turned out to be justified but resolvable. My grandmother is doing as well as can be expected. She had two small strokes that were likely related to the fact that doctors had decreased the amount of blood-thinning medication she was taking due to her recent hip surgery. I have not yet been able to talk with her, but I have been assured that she is quickly returning to her stubborn, spit-fire self.

I worry, however, that the events of the past several years are beginning to break my grandmother’s resolve to keep fighting. Four and half years ago, my grandfather died. He and my grandmother nearly had been life-long loves, and for the last five years of his life, she was his primary caregiver as he struggled through the throes of dementia that robbed him of his memory and eventually his life. Before he became sick, she waited on his every need and desire, as was characteristic of many women of her generation.

After he was gone, Grandma didn’t seem to know what to do with herself. She struggled to find an identity independent of him. Even as she told my father that he needed to stop grieving my mother and move on – a sentiment that, as much as I love my grandmother, didn’t surprise me since she had never warmed to my mother’s independent personality – she could not do the same for herself. I once pointed out this discrepancy to her, as she shared her thoughts that my dad should leave my mother’s memory behind, but she could not – or would not – see the parallel.

We are all human. My mother was human. I am human. Certainly, my grandmother is human. And, as her granddaughter, I love her for who she is, and sometimes, in spite of herself.

A year and a half ago, my grandmother began experiencing severe back pain. Doctors told her that her only hope of recovery was to undergo a painful spine surgery. She had the surgery in April of 2010 and then spent the rest of the summer with an open wound. Several days before she was slated to go home, she fell in the middle of the night and broke her arm. This injury required more weeks in the hospital.

When she finally moved back to the small, farming community where I grew up, my father convinced her to move into an assisted living facility. Although reluctant to give up her perceived independence, she agreed and after several months, she seemed to revert back to her old self.

A few weeks ago, I traveled with Bear to my hometown, and my grandmother seemed sharp and healthy. She still struggled with mobility, but otherwise, she seemed well. The day after we left, she decided to sweep her own floor and broke her hip with the twisting motion required by the sweeper.

And now, strokes. My grandmother is clearly human, and her body is frail. Each illness and injury seems to lead to another. I hope and pray that she can pull herself out of this down-spiral and right herself to recovery.

While at work on Wednesday morning, the sky clouded over and rain began lightly hitting my window.  It was cool outside, and nothing like the day before when weather forecasters had predicted that huge tornado-bearing supercells would form and cause massive damage over most of the Midwest.  We expected storms and even tornadoes on Tuesday, but they never came.  On Wednesday, though, we were almost caught unaware.

When the tornado sirens sounded, most of us kept working, despite the fear instilled in most of us by the continued news coverage of the massive devastation in Joplin.  Frequently, the city tests the tornado sirens on Wednesday mornings.  This just seemed like any other test.

On Saturday evening, I had awakened from a half-sleep and shook my husband awake.  We could barely hear tornado sirens sounding in the distance.  My husband shrugged and fell back asleep, but I immediately turned on the television.  Within minutes, the sirens were sounding locally.  I was prepared to grab my shoes and to wake Bear so we could go to the basement when the meteorologist explained that there were no tornado-producing storms over the metro.  Rather, a tornado had been sighted approximately 50 miles away and had just crossed into my county.  I got back into bed, and watched the news until the storms had passed over us with only a little wind and rain.

It is no wonder that sound of tornado sirens has lost its power over many of us.

About five minutes after the tornado sirens began sounding on Wednesday, a co-worker popped his head into my office.  This is the real thing.

What?  I grabbed my phone and my purse and followed the small crowd forming in the hallway.  We headed into the stairwell, and after a few minutes, our business manager burst through the outside door talking incoherently about how the post office had forced her to leave.  She began sobbing.  Her grandchildren had lost their house in Joplin.  Fortunately, they were not there at the time.

I called my husband.  Like the rest of us, he had continued working, oblivious to the situation.  He assured me that he would go somewhere safe, although others in his office opted to stay on their 20th-something floors and continue billing hours.

In the stairwell, we all began searching for news about what was going on.  I texted a teacher in Bear’s classroom at daycare.  I didn’t want to bother her, but I couldn’t imagine where they would take the kids, and I needed to know that Bear was OK.  I received a brief reply that everyone was OK, but then I heard that a tornado had been sighted about 30 blocks from Bear’s daycare.  Other reports indicated that other tornadoes had touched down elsewhere in the city, mostly a little Southwest from Bear, but then word came that tornadoes had been sighted near my home and apparently, were headed toward my office.

Employees of a bank on the first level of my building ushered us out of the stairwell and into a bank vault.  There, we all waited for something to happen.   Because cell phone service was not good, many of us had to leave the vault to get a signal, and every time I stepped outside, I searched for word from Bear’s daycare.

People worried aloud about their homes and their kids.  I realized in that moment, that I didn’t care if my home was destroyed, or sadly, if even my dog got blown away.   I only wanted to leave and pick up Bear so we could be together.  I needed to know that she was alright.

The next time I stepped outside the vault to check for messages, I discovered that Bear’s teacher had called.  The message was a little unclear, but I thought that she said that Bear had gotten hurt.  I quickly called her back, and when she answered, she explained that Bear was not hurt, but that she had gotten “ahold” of some crackers that they were using the placate the kids during the sirens, and these crackers had soy in them.  Oh, thank goodness.  Despite the exposure, Bear was happily drinking both milk and Benadryl, and they thought that she was OK.

I was relieved.  I can handle a food allergy.  And Bear was OK.  Although the sirens continued sounding, a weather report signaled that the tornado warning for our county had expired, and most of us went back to work.  The clouds above us had rotated, but fortunately, no tornadoes touched down near my office.

Later that day, as I drove to get Bear, I was amazed to see no damage at all, even in areas where a tornado had supposedly touched down.  When I picked up Bear, she seemed oblivious to what had happened, expect that she had a lot to say about the crackers she had eaten.  For a kid who gets very little processed food thanks to a soy allergy, she must have thought that those crackers were the best things she had ever eaten.  It was all she talked about that night, and I was thankful that she had been spared the fear that other older children must have felt when asked to crouch in a hallway.

I kissed her and held her that night with a perspective that I rarely have.  Still fresh in my mind are stories from Joplin about a little 16 month-old boy being ripped from his mother’s arms while they took shelter inside of a bathtub, or one told to me by a friend about her former classmate who took his two young boys on an errand to the Joplin Home Depot that Sunday and left his wife without a husband or her two precious children.

I cannot imagine.  We are so lucky.

 

Bear ran out of milk at daycare yesterday.  Actually, she ran out of Lactaid.

In a pinch, my husband, who dropped Bear off and who was already running late, agreed that they could give her regular milk instead.  He did not have time to think about the consequences.

When I picked up Bear, she refused to walk with me.  When I held her, she screamed.  So, I let her walk, while I half-dragged her to the car.  She cried the entire way.  I assumed she was in a bad mood.

On our way home, I attempted to console her by explaining in detail all that we would do once we were there.  We would see Doggie.  Yes, she nodded her head.  We would change her clothes.  Yes, she nodded her head.  We would make dinner.  No nodding.  No eat, she said.  You’re not hungry? I asked.  No eat, she insisted.

At home, she agreed to a warm bath, which she quickly ended because of tummy trouble, and then I propped her up on the couch with her pillows, blanket, babies, and a sippy of Lactaid.

My husband called to say that he would have to stay late at work, and I mentioned that Bear seemed to have a stomach ache.  He cursed and explained why.

We have tried several times to slowly transition Bear back to whole, lactose-containing milk, but each time, she has developed issues fairly quickly.  We don’t dare introduce legumes into her diet, because we know that she will have an allergic reaction, but with intolerances, sometimes, we are a bit more willing to stretch her boundaries.

However, giving her multiple cups of lactose-containing milk in one sitting was not a good idea.  I don’t blame my husband, because he is not well-educated on such matters, but switching cold turkey must have been a shock to her system.  And, it is a good reminder for us that a problem that seems non-existent when well-controlled comes back in a fury when given the chance.

How are you feeling?

In the dim light of my sunrise yoga class, I watched the instructor direct her question toward another regular student – a woman about my age.  This woman’s eyes shifted downward.

Well, I miscarried, she responded.  Her voice wavered.

Our instructor responded quickly with an obligatory “I’m sorry.”  Without looking up, the woman replied bitterly; sarcastically.

Well, you didn’t do it to me.

The only other regular student in the class, this woman’s mother, walked quickly away.  The woman pulled out her phone and began typing on it, attempting to ignore me and clearly trying not to cry.

I didn’t know what to say.  I don’t know her name, but I see her every Thursday morning.  I know that she is a lawyer, like me, but I’m not sure that she realizes that we have that connection.  I know that her mom comes with her to every class, and I know that she lives in a house without an attached garage.  But, I don’t know her name, and I didn’t know what to say to her in that moment.

Instead, I looked at her apologetically and squeezed out the door.  What could I say?

My mother died five years ago, and I that time after she died was the darkest time that I have lived.  To escape that darkness, I found a quiet little place to put that hurt, and I let life’s layers cover it, so that I didn’t have to experience it anymore.  However, with this conscious attempt to ignore my pain, I find myself ignoring the pain of others too.

Occasionally, this hurt works its way back to sunlight, and I find myself dealing raw grief – both mine and that of others.

In church several weeks ago – only a week past the five-year anniversary of my mother’s death – I found myself sitting next to a very well-put-together older woman.  We spoke briefly several times throughout the service, and by the end, I realized that I knew who she was and that she had recently lost her husband to a heart attack.

After the service, I introduced myself, and she told me that she had been recently widowed.  I could have offered her an obligatory “I’m sorry,” and escaped back into anonymity but instead, I told her that I knew.  I quickly explained that my mother had died five years ago, and even though it wasn’t the same, I knew how hard it was to lose someone you loved.  We both left that service crying.

These two experiences have left me wondering if there is any sincerely, compassionate way to handle the grief of others without diving into yourself.