Trying to help and making matters worse

Where to begin? Struggling this morning with trying to help a beloved daughter go through a break up. At one point or another in our lives we’ve all experienced this. You know how it feels. Whether on the receiving end or the sending. It hurts. It’s grief and pain and loneliness. When you try to help someone feel better, it’s with the hope they will be OK soon. When you go through the pain, the days are infinitely long and dreadful. We forget about that later, after the time has passed, and came out the other side as a survivor. The problem is remaining patient, while the suffering person suffers. You want the suffering to end quickly and renewed optimism to burst through the surface of sadness. When our impatience and worry doesn’t allow time for the grief to evolve naturally, that’s when you unintentionally hurt the other person’s feelings and make matters worse. Now, they’re upset with you and trust is lost. I guess time truly is the best healer. That, and being a good listener. Less talking is more helpful.


The UTI and the flash flood

Ok, I’m going to make this quick, mostly because I’ve found out from my initial attempts at blogging that constant interruptions come and find me, so here it goes…..again….”starting today” again…

Our initial plans for a week of summer vacation went by the wayside as the rain continued to fall during the month of June. Turns out, in my neck of the woods June 2013 was the 6th rainiest in weather recording history. The original plan for a quiet, full week of relaxation up north at the lake (just got interrupted….sorry), was discussed and a decision made to postpone for a “rain check” in early August. However, this writer was definitively suffering from work and life-related burnout and needed some kind of a time out even if spent at home in the rain. The Thursday and Friday were therefore kept as “vacation” days and a long weekend loomed in the not too distant horizon. Vacation day one was yes, a rainy one, and I smiled thinking about the mosquitos and black flies that weren’t going to be getting a taste of this old girl’s O positive. Had a few errands to run and enjoyed my favorite brand of TV trash for several hours. All that was missing was a cold rocks glass of JD/lemonade followed by an effortless power nap. Unfortunately, hunger struck and dinner had to be made. Later that evening, noticed some unique “symptoms”…ladies out there….you know exactly what I’m talking about here when I say “symptoms” and UTI in the same sentence, right? OK, good, that being said, I didn’t give it much mind and headed off to bed with the husband, pillow bumper pads in place between us to save (sorry, another interruption….)me from unwanted kicks from the nightmare lying next to me…..but, I regress…that’s a whole other blog topic.

Friday morning: Yea! I can sleep a little longer. Sounds good, but I’ve got one quick change of plans and then back to sleep. ……YEEEEOOOUUUCCCHHH! That’s not good. I’ve got definite problems and have to call the doctor. Thank goodness I’m home for the day and can get in right away. Call the MD office and unfortunately, they’ve got other plans, my appointment has to be squeezed in at 1:30pm. Just great. I start chugging the cranberry juice and notice the gray skies outside approaching. Rainy days have become a normal part of the scenery this June. No big deal.

Later that day, (I won’t bore you with all the incidental details of how I managed to make it through the hours, minutes, seconds, microseconds, that passed.) (sorry, but that’s interruption #3–husband has come to check on me and wants ice cream….I’m not kidding.) (Now daughter comes to check on me too. She’s a good kid.) I start the drive to the MD office and it’s guess what? Raining, yes. Lightly. The normal kind that’s been hanging around all month, incessantly annoying and giving me a low pressure system headache. I check in at the office and hit the ladies room immediately. Wait patiently in my holding room, pacing, praying, actually starting my Lamaze breathing exercises, grabbing a tissue to dap tears, looking out the window at the steadier rain now falling and finally the PA comes to attend to my concerns. Thanks heavens for electronic transmission of prescription medication script to the pharmacy. I pretty much sprint out the door to my car with the five minute ride to Walgreen’s in store. Little did I know what was waiting for me down the road.

The rain was now pelleting down in very heavy showers. I got going to the main drag, turned the corner and noticed the ponding. “Holy cow, that’s a lot of water”, I thought. Got myself shifted to the inside lane and kept going. Cars ahead of me served as water guides as I noticed the level of water spraying out from either side of their tires as they drove through the main roadway. One thought was on my mind, besides the increasing desire to “you know what”….the rain was only helping to further exacerbate my symptoms…”I have to get to the drug store”….”KEEP DRIVING!!” I started down the slope in the road, heading towards the canal section of town. Water was pouring down the hill. Lots of water. I’m not just talking about a little trickle of water here, this was major water. The storm drains were bubbling up next to the road. I saw several emergency vehicles in the distance, where the roadway crosses the canal at the lowest point. “Holy crap, I’m not going down there.” I quickly made a Louie in a driveway and waited for the road to clear. Backed up and headed up the hill this time. Made it to the light and thought “where is the high ground” and “OMG, I need to get to Walgreens NOW.” Slowed down as I approached the four way stop intersection, now under a few feet of water. Drove through slowly, saying several Hail Mary’s, tapping the brakes and pretending to be a monster truck or an amphibious assault vehicle of some kind….with my only thought being “get me to Walgreens or get real wet, real soon” (if you know what I mean.) I made it up the next slope in the street and cut back around the other side of the canal and to higher ground. The intersection ahead was clear and I made the quick final maneuvers into the parking lot of Walgreens; presently under a foot of water. Put the car in park and ran into the store, with bottle of water in hand, to the heaven-like prescription counter. The angel that waited on me must have noticed my urgency and found the prescription medication transmitted through the magical system right away. Within a few minutes, I had the first dose down and thanked God profusely. Unbelievable. Found out later that evening, when watching the local news that our town hadn’t experienced flash floods in more than a century. Just my luck. Now, that’s a vacation day to remember ūüôā

(Sorry, got to go…another interruption is calling my name. More interesting blog thoughts to come again another day; just like the rain.)

Birthday soup (revisited)

little bear birthdaylittle bear party tableMy youngest daughter had jaw surgery recently. She’s on a liquid diet for 6 weeks. Needless to say, I can’t let the kid starve. I’ve had to figure out what foods she likes and can swallow easily with no chewing involved. Initially, I assumed the milkshake, ice cream, jello route would be the way to go. However, she pulled a fast one on me and went in the savory direction. Chicken broth was her first “like”, followed by pureed ham and bean soup….lots of fiber and protein in that one. That was the ticket for several reasons. With the return to school came the necessity for brown bag lunches and the discovery of a modern, microwaveable version of chicken & and stars, a childhood favorite from the past, finding favor once again.

Going into week #3, she’s asking for rice pudding (after my first attempt at making my husband’s, mother’s homemade recipe which required two hours of vigilant, non-stop stirring.) The trial batch turned out more like creamy, rice soup, but she ate it and enjoyed the cinnamon/egg/sugar creamyness. (My husband didn’t care for it….not enough like his mom’s, but, if I tried again, he reassured it would “get better everytime and pretty soon, would be perfect…just like mom’s,…. but might take more than two or three more tries, eventually, it would be edible. Just great.)

Recently she’s requested instant mashed potatos with gravy, moved onto mushy rice with butter and loosely scrambled eggs with melted cheese. Not bad, I say, what with three more weeks to go, we’re working this out and she hasn’t really complained yet. But, my dilemma is with tomorrow; it’s her birthday. I gave thought to the menu and it’s going to start off with “birthday soup.” What else? As I reflect on that title, my mind immediately returns to years gone by, a special nighttime story book and a different birthday soup. Thoughts of Little Bear, Cat, Chicken and Duck making their special soup for his birthday party. Each character brought a special item to contribute to the pot. They all were so proud of themselves and loved their celebratory soup while sitting around the table together. The best part was when Mother Bear brings in the birthday cake glowing with lit candles. I have the ice cream cake all ready to go. I’m sure my little bear will be so pleased.

My McDonalds Jesus

Chance encounter or meant to be?

Chance encounter or meant to be?

It was a dark, wintry night, the kind with squeaky snow under your feet and car tires. I had taken the kids to the big mall nearby for a special shopping trip. I hate shopping; but I did it for the kids. They really enjoy looking at all the cool stuff in the stores, while I grimace in thought of the price tags. After a few hours of somewhat manageable shopping we were done and ready to head home. Got in the van, rounded the bend leading out of the mall parking lot, and headed towards the main drag. I could see McDonalds golden arches in the distance. “I have a great idea”, I said to myself, “I can be a really cool Mom and treat the kids to a milk shake or fries.” I knew I had enough money in my wallet, something I very rarely did. Seemed I had grown used to having a semi-empty wallet, with an occasional twenty or ten, most normally a few singles keeping each other company. Tonight, I knew there was a twenty in there and wanted to make the evening a special one for the kids. This was going to be a great surprise. “How about we stop at McDonalds for a shake or something?”, I asked. Both kids cheered in agreement and I headed towards those magical, glowing arches. As I approached the stop light, I could see the restaurant’s parking lot across the street, a few cars parked under the street lamps in the darkness, the wind blowing snow around on the ground. There was a man. What? Was I seeing things OK? Yes, there was a man in the darkness, out in the cold, without much of a jacket on. He was walking through the parking lot, stopping at the garbage cans, looking inside. Looking for something to eat, I wondered? He was carrying a wooden stick with a cloth bundle tied on one end; like a hobo fresh off the train tracks. I watched him from the intersection as I waited for the light to turn. With “green” on my side, I pulled into the parking lot and found a spot for the van. The kids piled out and I looked for the man. He was at the end of the restaurant parking lot, looking inside another garbage can. Something inside me said “help him”. I walked toward the man and called “hello”, “are you hungry?” “I’d like to get you something to eat.” “Would that be OK?” “Come with us.” The man looked at me and walked towards me and the kids. I asked him again if he’d like something to eat and he said “yes”. I led the way inside the McDonalds and waited my turn for the counter. The man hung back by the doorway. I asked him what he’d like? “Cheeseburger and fries would be just fine, thank you”. I got the kids their milkshakes, along with a few cheeseburgers and fries. I gave him the bag and looked at him in the indoor light. He was fairly young, slight build, maybe around 30 years old, light brown hair, scared, but sincere eyes and a bruised and scratched face. He told me that some kids had beaten him up for fun and took his bag of stuff. Now, he said, he had to carry his belongings on the bundle tied to the stick. He had made the contraption himself and was very proud of it. I asked him if he had a warm place to stay and he said he would figure something out; not to worry. Another person gave the man a hot coffee. I wished the man a good night and asked him if he had enough to eat. He said he was “good” and “thank you for the meal”. He walked out of the restaurant back into the darkness and cold. Then he was gone. We walked to the van and I couldn’t see him anywhere. Where the heck did he go? Even today, I still remember his face. The cut on his nose and cheek. Dried blood and a bruised lip. My God, what do we do to each other? Seemed to me I had just looked upon the face of Jesus. I had the overwhelming feeling that this chance encounter was something special. A life experience that will stay with me forever. Whatsoever you do, to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me…..

“Penny” or Angel?

"My penny angel"

“My penny angel”

I’ve always had a fascination with finding pennies on the ground. Seem to find them at very coincidental times of my life. Heading on a trip and afraid to fly….found a penny at the airline ticket counter. Leaving the hospital after my late husband passed away….found a penny near the car in the parking ramp. Struggling with family issues and deep in thought…found a penny on the sidewalk walking into the store. It seems to happen at the strangest, but most opportune, times. I equate finding pennies on the ground with an angel grabbing my arm and saying “hey, I’ve got a message for you! Listen.” Pennies placed in my life path always get my attention.

The most profound experience I recall with “angel pennies” was the day of my hip surgery. I was fairly anxious, but so ready for the procedure. I wanted the procedure done and over so the pain would go away. I’d never had surgery before in my life. That morning, as I walked towards the hospital with my husband, I found a penny on the sidewalk right in my footsteps. Somehow it didn’t surprise me. I took it as a sign that my angels were sending another message. Everything would be OK. Once inside the surgical registration area, I met with various nurses, residents and my doctor in preparation for the procedure. Laying in the bed, waiting my turn to be launched down the hallway to OR, I pulled the blanket tighter, said silent prayers and tried to remain calm. A patient to my right, behind the privacy curtain, was highly agitated and nervously chattering away to the nurse. I couldn’t see her, but her nervousness was eating away at my composure and the anxiety inside me was starting to build. When will my bed get the green light to “go”? To my left, the post-op recovery area starts to fill up with noises of returning patients. I hear an elderly woman moaning and crying. My nerves start to elevate along with the increasing strength of her cries. “Please, dear God, get me the heck out of here”, I silently say to myself.

In the distance, walking towards me I see a woman in surgical garb. She is wearing a bright red sweater. My Grandmother’s favorite color. My favorite color. When I was a little girl, she knit me a bright red sweater. I still have it. Stored in a box in my closet. No longer able to wear, due to size, but still keeps me warm when I see it and reflect on memories of Grandma. She was the best. Had such a beautiful and mischievous smile. She’d always have something funny to say or make a face that would get me smiling. She loved african violets too. So do I. Miss her very much and wish she were still here to keep me warm and smiling.

The nurse walks up to my bed with a big smile. She says “hello” and informs me that she will be with me during the entire surgery and not to be afraid. I tell her I like her sweater and ask her name. She replies, “Penny”. Unbelievable. A huge grin covers my face and tears begin to well up in my eyes. A comforting, warm calm covers my body and I relax. I’m in great hands. She rolls my bed down the hallway to the operating room. The surgical team helps shift me over to the operating table, lay my arms out to each side, my thoughts turn to Jesus on the cross, I close my eyes. “Dear Jesus, help me”.

“You’re OK.” “You’re in the recovery room.”
I made it. Holy crap, I’m OK. I’m alive. I’m waking up. It’s all over. Thank you, God. Thank you, Grandma.

"Grandma's red sweater"

“Grandma’s red sweater”

“Surgery is now in progress”

My "baby" and her friend.

My “baby” and her friend.

I read the words on the message board and take a deep breath. My baby is in surgery. She’s only 16 years old, going on 26, but still my baby. She’ll be just fine. I repeat that thought in my mind. Already visited the chapel, said many prayers, had several cups of coffee and a bite to eat. Settling in for the several hour wait. Recalling a time similar to this, years gone by, when only an infant, the waiting and praying also took place. So tiny. So scared. Listening to Mommy’s voice and songs, through bandaged eyes and covered head, the little soul inside hung on bravely. My voice and attempts at lullabies the only form of communication she knew. The pinky finger I offered her to hold onto was the lifeline between the two of us. I remember her tiny little fingers, a few of them, holding onto my pinky. Curled around mine tightly, afraid, but safe with Mommy nearby. She survived that day’s experience and grew beautifully in life. Now, another stepping stone to be crossed over before moving forward again. Just as scared. Just as brave. She’s in good hands again today and everyday in God’s good hands. So blessed to have her in my life and proud to be her Mommy humming the lullabies in my head.

Why am I such a techno-phobe?

All I wanted to do is just get back to writing. Unleash my inner thoughts upon the world and I can’t figure out how to use the silly buttons. Categories, tags, links, widgets, whatever!!!! I constantly struggle with the fact that I can’t get how technology stuff, like setting up a blog, using a digital camera, using a “smart” phone (I have a “dumb” phone), understanding how to use facebook, what the heck a twitter is or tweeting or the next new form of communicaton….maybe just reading my mind? I am frustrated that I can’t seem to wrap my brain around how to understand and use all these options. I just want to write. All this complicated “stuff”¬†I have to learn to make the blog look pretty or connect with the right audience is making me want to run and hide. I need this outlet to make me feel worthwhile, in a certain sense, and it’s making me feel like such a loser instead. All the other blogs I review look so professional and competent and confident. I’ll keep practicing and hope that eventually my stuff looks just as good.

Going home

I experienced a “going home” moment today. After over 12 years, I walked back into my childhood home. The house I grew up in. The house my sisters and brother shared with me, Mom and Dad. The place I hadn’t been able to re-enter since leaving the interior of a life without my Mother. She passed away on May 10, 2000. I remember coming there to gather clothing for her burial. My Dad walked in the door as my sisters and I were gathered in the kitchen. It was the oddest feeling seeing him there without my mother to serve as buffer and sanctuary. When I walked out the door that day, the background lights went dark and the door on that part of my life closed. I never wanted to go back inside ever again if she wasn’t there. That house was my home because of her presence. She was our everything.

I was afraid to go back. Afraid that I wouldn’t be able to handle walking in the door and find the shell of a home¬†lost in a state of fragile deterioration. The return actually came easier than expected. He needed help.¬†This was an opportunity to be a blessing. “And now¬†faith, hope and love abide; these three and the¬†greatest of these is love.”

Some super bowl chili, and dog bones for¬†his new best friend, got me in the door with ease. What was I so worried about? Next time, I won’t let 12 years get in the way.¬†


therapeutic soup

There’s something very therapeutic about making soup. Something about creating the heavenly, aromatic concoction in my own way that starts the healing process. Starting with heating the broth slowly. Working the slap-chop to prepare uneven pieces of onion, carrots, and celery. Adding the vegetables and spices. The taste begins with the scent. Tonight, it’s what I call my “Diversity Bean” soup: ham chunks with black and white beans. When I’m in soup-mode; I’m starting to feel good. Saturday nights during the Fall and Winter, the pressure’s off my “what’s for dinner tonight” plate, because I know soup’s on. Easy, delicious and my family loves whatever I create, whether it’s the well-loved chicken noodle, beans and greens, beef vegetable or ham and bean. Got to run now, the pot’s simmering and I’m feeling better already.