Saturday, December 29, 2012

12/29/12 Letting Go

The kids and I made a circle pact a few weeks ago: anytime anyone is with Meow-stache, everyone else stays 10 feet away. She does a lot better with just one person at a time.

Today I gratefully showed around a very nice woman who will take care of my cats in our absence starting tomorrow. To my surprise, Meow-stache didn't scurry away, and in fact, watched the stranger intently. This lady is an animal expert, and approached my new BFF...I moved to join the party, but then realized: no! I had to invoke the circle pact! And so I just backed off and let them get to know each other without interference.

Such a nothing moment in most lives, but for a mother already adjusting to missing children and the loss of continuity of their lives, it was almost like a referendum. I've ever been a possessive or protective or involved sort of mom; I give my kids -- and myself -- a lot of space and mostly let them drive our interaction. Turns out, the hands-off thing doesn't work well with this new concept of "quality time" -- making the most of every moment, enjoy all of it, blah blah. Moments pop up and present themselves, we do things sometimes, but I've never made the most of every moment. There's always been a lot of just being in the same space passively without making it active togetherness, doing our own thing, being available to each other, passing in the halls. I like to listen to their activity in the background (well, until the boys turn it into a bloodbath).

Should I be on with them, sit and read books, play games, do puzzles? I've never been that way. Gardening, the occasional foosball war and of course baking together, but they might not want to do those things at any given moment and they're not things I do to be with them; they're just things I do. I miss hanging in the same space all the one-degree-of-separation mom-style doesn't work nearly as well half-time.

Meantime, I'll give myself credit for letting my nervous cat go meet someone else! And of course, I'm so so happy to have my children back close to me....and just around when that's what they want too.

Tomorrow we depart westward and upward into the beautiful snowy Sierras for a glorious week of winter! Nothing more spirit-refreshing than a trip to the mountains with my children.


Friday, December 28, 2012

12/28/12 The Watch

It's been a long time since someone was waiting for me by the door! But this is one funny face to be greeted with.

In an amusing coincidence, I needed to test my scanner tonight, and this was the handiest item to do it with: a note from Katrina she wrote a few weeks ago:

Dear Meow-stache, I
think you are crazy. Love,
Katrina. I also think you are
a little bit silly. And loveable.
I wonder if poor Meow-stache thinks about us as much as we do about her!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

12/27/12 The Morning Notes

My goodness, I'm overwhelmed at the outpouring of support, from friends, family and strangers alike, from my yesterday's heartfelt painful post. My gratitude and comfort is deep and sincere.

It's occurred to me before that writing about my angst and pain unwittingly gives the appearance of overweighting those emotions, and could present the impression that those dominate ones' life....and while there's no question that I have moments of being overwhelmed, in fact writer-types like me are most inclined to to dish at difficult moments. It's how we cope. I suspect all artistically-inclined people encounter the same phenomenon: angst drives expression. Van Gogh didn't do a self-portrait of himself with his damaged ear just for fun, after all!

So I'll balance my written ramblings with an amusing (?) writing-related anecdote. When I was 15, for some reason, I felt my day-to-day life was sufficiently tragic that I needed to write myself an inspirational note every night. I'd write a few words on a card that I folded in half, to prop up by my alarm clock, so that in the morning, the first thing I'd see was a positive inspiring thought.

On the surface, that seems about as trite as dotting 'i's with hearts, but where I am in my life now, that's actually a pretty darned good idea. Those of us in a traumatic period know that mornings are the what a perfect bridge from the relatively relaxed night before. I think I'll start tonight!

Wouldn't it be amazing to find the "morning notes" I'd written myself some 35 years ago -- it'd be so fascinating to see what was so important to me then!


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

12/26/12 Sad Things

I was thinking today about grief and loss and trauma. Nice, light thoughts!

Four years ago, an acquaintance from Las Madres lost her 2-year-old son to leukemia -- her only child actually died in her arms. The loss was just unthinkable. I couldn't bring myself to attend his funeral, but did visit the child's grave later that day -- unfortunately while the gravediggers were preparing the site, thinking the coast was clear after the service. How uncomfortable my untimely visit made the heavy-equipment drivers who were preparing the grounds! After brief quiet moment, I slinked away.

OK, if that's not chilling enough, two years later, a Mom friend from that same Las Madres group died suddenly from a stroke. That was really devastating, she was such a wonderful, warm, bright, energetic woman. I'll never forget the time she brought me a wonderful meal for a "Sunshine Service" when I'd just had a baby (Katrina, I think).

During her service, one of the saddest moments was during the bereaved husband's painful speech: suddenly their 3yo daughter cried out, "Daddy!" and ran to her father for a sobbing hug. It brought the house down. It just doesn't get sadder than that.

I couldn't take it, and left the service...But as I rushed through the parking lot trying to hold off my tears, I ran into, of all people, the mother of the lost child. She comforted me, and my guilt was overwhelming. This woman of all people, is comforting me?!

Well, I'm happy to say that she went on to have another son, who as far as I know is healthy, and her family is doing well. I'm ashamed to say I don't know about the little girl who lost her mother....she's about Julian's age. Which is 9, today.

But I'm the one who couldn't take someone else losing their child, or someone else losing their mother. I didn't even know these people all that well.

Now my own life with my own children has been suddenly cut in half. I don't know if what I feel is grief or loss. The feeling of trauma is more from the past, more insidious, seeping out from what I endured over the years leading up to this -- but the loss is more immediate.

It's not a complete loss like at those funeral services -- my children are still alive and healthy and happy. Is it just my grief about my loss then? Does it make sense to grieve when they're not really gone? Shouldn't I be grateful for the half-life I do get with them? Shouldn't that gratitude push away my grief about losing half their lives?

I couldn't take attending a service for an acquaintance's loss of a son, or stick one out for the loss of an acquaintance. How on earth would I ever survive a true loss of one of my own children?

Today, I just learned of another friend's marriage ending, and I'm in a deep funk on his behalf. This man was so devoted, so adoring -- he cherished his wife and family, something I barely dared to long for, knowing it wasn't possible. If his family couldn't make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Maybe my former partner was right that there is something wrong with me. Maybe my emotional needs are excessive as he said, and my feelings and reactions can be explained by the various syndromes and disorders he diagnosed me with. Everyone else was able to stand those funeral services, but I couldn't. And then there are the dreams...intense, short, clear, vivid, starkly symbolic. Recently I had a dream of watching a wedding band slip off my finger and roll away, and I wasn't able to catch it. Ouch. Do my reactions to painful events cross the line into disturbed, syndromatic? I always thought they were just strong reactions.

A onetime close friend said to me, upon learning of my family's ending as I did via Facebook, "At least you get some time to yourself now!" Is that really how simply people see this? I think that was a little insensitive -- what a thing to say to a mother about to lose her children. But maybe I'm too close to it all.

Are my feelings of grief and loss "too" strong to be merely reactions, and cross the line into disturbed? Would anyone say that to my friend as he is losing his family? If he cries in pain or or throws something in agony, will he receive sympathy or diagnosis? Do I take this all too seriously? What's "too" seriously?

I guess the answers are irrelevant. My feelings -- strong, valid, twisted, sick or not -- are there, regardless of what's "right" or "wrong" or if I'm in need of "help" as I was told many times. Today, I'm deeply sad for my friend's family ending....and intensely missing my beloved son on his 9th birthday. I think that's worth a tear or two.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12/25/12 More technical troubles

Ah-HAH! After all my wrestling yesterday with my home wireless network, only for my Roku to fail at the end of the day -- turns out, my Roku failure truly had nothing to do with my mistakes for once: Netflix Outage on Christmas Eve.

(Hmm, but another coincidence: Netflix blames Amazon for Christmas Eve outage -- "...the issue was the result of an outage at an Amazon Web Services' cloud computing center in Virginia" -- As someone who's now responsible for things like sufficient power supplies, this makes me shiver a little. Sure would like to know what -- or more likely, who -- failed in a major data center!)

OK, but those aren't the technical troubles I'm writing about.

I had grand intentions of starting out Christmas morning with homemade cinnamon rolls -- until my dough refused to rise. It did nothing more than an imitation of a giant hockey puck, no yeast action at all. Ick! I threw the whole mass away, it made a heavy thunk when it hit. What's wrong here? I've had nothing but rank failures in dough-rising lately, using the same recipe and ingredients I used as a "beginner," then with moderate success.

My Christmas pumpkin pie didn't work so well either. The top was crackled instead of smooth, and it didn't set right -- even Gabriel, who loves pumpkin pie, didn't finish his mushy, if tasty, slice (though Katrina was very complimentary). At least I was able to get these decorative dough leaves on there without sinking -- barely, because I didn't wait for the proper technical advice from my inspiring expert.

I didn't bother with a whole Christmas turkey, but did roast my usual lemon/onion chicken, filling the house with homey warm succulent smells. Happily, roast chicken is now one of the few things everyone agrees on.

After dinner, I had a very interesting conversation with Katrina about dreams -- as people close to me know, I have very intense and vivid dreams sometimes, that create feelings that follow me for days. Katrina showed me how she wakes herself up from dreams with her fingers on her eyes -- she said that makes the "pictures" go away, but she can still hear the "voices" for a while. I asked her about the feelings that dreams leave you with, and she said with certainty, "For that, you just have to go back to sleep, and the dream feeling will go away." She talked with remarkable insight and clarity about dreams and how they affect you, and appointed herself my "Dream Advisor." These were no childish ramblings, they were considered and thorough thoughts -- so much so that it actually ran chills down my back at one moment. It was almost like my father was trying to speak to me through her.

Christmas was another exercise in bounty and plenty -- er, perhaps plenty of excessiveness, but a fun success nonetheless. No one can complain about boredom for a long long time -- including the pampered kitties!

(photo courtesy of Gabriel and my iPhone -- not bad for either!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

12/24/12 Technology Troubles

I got Julian -- who will turn 9 in two days -- what I thought was a pretty cool birthday gift, a coveted electronic device, and planned to have it all set up and ready to use before giving it to thim.

Instead, I spent far too many hours today trying to figure out why I couldn't get this device to do the most basic operations, like download its content. One of the worst problems, I traced to a very unexpected bug -- yes bug, and I don't use that term lightly -- in the wireless equipment I'm using at home, which isn't anything you'd ever pick up at Fry's. One perk of my job is being handed all sorts of free demo enterprise-grade stuff, but it doesn't work the same way as it does "home" stuff. That means it sometimes also has "enterprise-grade" problems too.

It took all day, but once I pinned down the problem in my home network, I spent about an hour panicking about a customer in Texas using the same stuff, and I'm bracing myself for a crisis when their business re-opens after the holidays.

So what to do? I just want to connect to the Internet to download stuff. It's one thing to disappoint your CEO by picking inadequate network gear, but another thing entirely to disappoint your son on his birthday.

So I worked on workarounds on and off all day, taking extended breaks for silly chit-chats, foosball games, and woodworking demonstrations with kids. I was so happy to have them home, if even for two days. But how frustrating that even 2 milliseconds should be spent not connected to the Internet.

The truly final straw was when my beloved Roku stopped working. Incredibly, despite all my machinations, I'm pretty sure it's just a "Roku" problem, since I could take the same wire that plugs into the thing and plug it into something else, and it works. That's how Katrina watched her dear "Dora" tonight, on a teeny little laptop. Meantime, my technical troubles relegated my sons to an old-fashioned DVD. Oh, the indignities!!

I sure had a nice day with my kids today though, basically doing....well, really, very little, if woodworking guidance and foosball competition count for anything.

I even made a steak for dinner, for the first time in many months. I relished in its sizzly sounds and pervasive smells, and the intracacies of making a perfect pepper crust... it made me feel so at home. Even though only one kid will deign to touch my carefully crafted pan sauce, it still makes me smile to imagine future days when all my grown children will look forward to coming home for the same intangible joys, the sounds and the smells... and perhaps sometimes the delectables, while chuckling good-naturedly about their childhood rejections.

Meantime, I must just get some silly apps downloaded!!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

12/23/12 Rainy RAINY day!

Good heavens -- and I do mean heavens, did it rain today.

I think here in the Bay Area, we get those "pouring cats and dogs" sort of days once every 5 years -- and today was one of them. Just when you think it can't rain any harder, suddenly something blows in and send everyone scurrying for cover.

Of course, it had to be one of the biggest "shopping days" of the years, and only made competition for primo parking even fiercer. I braved one place after another, figuring the rain would slow down at some point, but it only kept getting worse.

What a missed opportunity to hide inside all day, reading in front of a fireplace!!