Be Happy Anyway

Be Happy Anyway
From Brave Girls Club

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Boys Will Be Boys - This Mom Will Always Be Neurotic

Today I went to my friend's house for her son's fourth birthday party. It was an experience. My son had a great time, and I had to bite my tongue about dirt and boyish rough behavior. This is not an easy thing for me to do. I usually am the one ensuring my children stay clean and safe, while my husband lets them run and get dirty. I usually have to leave the area. I didn't have that luxury today as I was the only one home to take my son to the birthday party.

James had a great time climbing the backyard fort with a slide that runs right into the path of a tire swing. Twice he slid down only to be knocked in the head by swinging party goers. Unfazed by the possible concussion he may have just received, James proceeded to climb a tree that later he couldn't get out of.

By the time the hot dogs were ready for the kids to eat (and superb steaks for us grown folk,) you couldn't tell where James began and the dirt ended. Nonetheless, he reached for a hot dog and devoured it (sans bun) and quickly ran off for more fun in the sun. (Did I tell you that the 90-something degree weather felt like a hundred with the humidity?)

Shortly after the dinner had been cleaned up, My friend brought out cake, cones and ice cream. (ICE CREAM!) I know that ice cream is par for the course when it comes to birthday parties, but remember it is 90-something degrees outside. Now James is quite the mess, but he wants his cake and ice cream cone just like the rest of the children, and who am I to deny him what everyone else is having? My friend is kind enough to cut him a very small piece to help me out, and her sister-in-law graciously gave James a small scoop of ice cream on his cone.

It is at this time that I realized that I have been up since 4:30 a.m. (another story for another time,) and I am the one who is very cranky. I am envisioning making a quick exit when James is done. I have come to the conclusion, however, that my son is the world's slowest ice cream eater. I watched him as he is enjoying his dessert, not caring that it is slowly becoming mixed with the dirt on his hands and face or that his mommy is a little crazy. Instead he carefully licks the ice cream from the cone while I quickly spoon cake into him - secretly plotting how his cone could "accidentally" end up in the dirt.

Fortunately, he announced, "I'm done." The relief that came over my face couldn't be more apparent, but I am not ashamed to admit when I am at the end of my rope. I told my friend I had to leave, and she removed James from the fort and carried him to the gate so I could make my escape before the pièce de résistance, the traditional whacking of the piñata. Who can resist watching 4 and 5 year olds swinging an old broomstick at a crepe paper covered model of Thomas the Tank Engine?

Poor Thomas - he never saw it coming. And neither did James because at the exact moment of the
piñata's demise, he was safely buckled in his booster seat, and we were winding our way home for a much needed bath for James and well deserved rest for Mommy.

PS - Thanks RJA for being an understanding hostess and knowing that I am completely neurotic and loving me anyway.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The First Day of School

Should have gone off without a hitch, but did it? Well, I was not personally there to witness, but this is what I learned when I got home from work.

The day before, I made sure that Caitlin was all packed and ready to go to her first day of Junior High including laying all of her clothes out. I put her bus ticket and locker combination in a snack sized zippy bag with $5 hiding in between the two pieces of paper. Mind you this would be the first time she had to go to a school that I hadn't taught at. (It is really hard to be late to school when your mom is the teacher.)

The next morning, Caitlin got up to her alarm clock without being prompted, got dressed, and prepared herself some breakfast. My main worry was that I had to leave by 6:45 to get to work no later than 7:00, and her bus wasn't to arrive until 7:39. I was going to have to rely on her father to get her on the bus.

Feeling a little wary, I left for school, dreading the worst...her missing the bus.

It wasn't until I got home that I found out my fears weren't unwarranted.

First of all, I rushed home from school to catch Caitlin getting off the bus, only it wasn't there. I waited a reasonable amount of time until I called her school, not wanting to sound like an overanxious mother. The secretary told me Caitlin's bus was on the route and should be by our house in about ten minutes. In the meantime, my husband called asking me how Caitlin's day went, and I had to tell him she wasn't home. I then asked him how Caitlin's morning went, and he told me this story:

I sent Caitlin out to the bus stop at 7:30. Around 7:42 I looked up and saw the red-headed boys from down the street walking back home from the stop and getting in their mother's car. I walked down to the bus and found Caitlin sitting on the ground. I asked her what the matter was, and Caitlin said she couldn't find her BUS TICKET (You know the one that I so carefully put away for her.) I brought her home and dumped her school bag and couldn't find it until Caitlin remembered about some secret zipper she had put her things in. After packing her things back in her bag, I opened the front door only to see the bus passing by. I threw Caitlin in the car and followed the bus to the next stop and got her on the bus.

All I could think as my husband was telling me this was, "Better you than me." I then hung up the phone and went outside to wait for the bus that still hadn't arrived and ten minutes had long since passed. Now I had to decide if I would continue to play the part of the overprotective mother or just wait patiently for the bus to come. I chose the latter and sat in the dining room where I could see the bus roll by.

Five minutes later I saw a bus go down the road, so I went out to watch Caitlin get off the bus and then ran back in the house and put my feet up to act like I never had a doubt that she would get home in one piece.

Caitlin came in and told me all about her day, including being late to band because she couldn't find the band hall. Well, hopefully the next day goes better.

Annemarie Victory for President

Thanks little brother. Without you this would never have been.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Tusen Takk (Literally "A Thousand Thanks")

I wanted to thank everyone who has helped make this time easier for mother, brother and me. There is no way I could list everyone, but in general the following things truly were helpful.

Food - We had so much food brought to Mom's house over the past week, that I think she will still be eating it long after the guests are gone. Something about good eats helps take away a little bit of the pain of losing someone. I am not sure why, maybe because we think of being social when we eat and let our guards down, and we forget that we are supposed to be sad.

Hugs - So many people came to visit us that I couldn't believe it. The line went out the door on Monday and the church was packed on Tuesday. Mom said she had so many hugs that she had to go the optician to get her glasses adjusted from all the squeezing.

My brother - He is so wonderful and so helpful. He figured a way to get photos off my dad's "deflicted" computer so that we could give them to the funeral home for their slide show on Monday night. I took those pictures and a couple more and used them to make a slideshow on If the link works, it will show up below.

There is no way for me to thank everyone, but please know that if you did something for us, it was certainly noticed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cell Phone Slap Happy

You know, after feeling so bad for so long you finally have a break where everything is just funny. Yesterday was that day.

I was coming out of the grocery story feeling sad about everything that has been going on these past few days when I heard the phone ringing in my car. It was my mother who had taken my brother to buy some clothes for my father's funeral this coming week. She wanted to know what color pants my husband had and if I thought he would like a new shirt to wear. I didn't know, so I thought I would try something I had never tried before which was three-way calling. I told her to hold on and not hang up and hit the send button. Next, I called my husband, but the phone rang and rang. I was ready to hang up on him so I hit the send button again when I heard him say, "Hello," and I heard my mom say, "Hi." My husband had no idea I was on the other line. My experiment worked. Finally, I had to say that I was on the other line too. When I got home, he asked me where I was when mom was talking to him, and I had to explain the whole process all over again.

Later I was at my mom's house and my brother was there. Mom had been puttering around finally got a moment to sit down with the two of us. Somehow the topic of the earlier phone conversation came up, and my brother asked me how I did it so I explained. He had to try it out because he didn't believe it would work. That is when I got a funny idea. Why don't we see how many people we can get on one conversation? My brother called mom, mom called to dad's old phone and my brother used that phone to call me. I in turn called my husband. There we were, three grown people just laughing away when my husband answered. I am sure he thought we must have lost our minds, but it was so funny to hear ourselves talking in the room and on the phone and to wonder how many people we could get on a conference call using only cell phones.

My brother figured that theoretically we could get everyone with a cell phone in the US on a conference and possibly the world. That would be a great test of the Six Degrees of Separation theory, wouldn't it?

It was great to just sit and laugh with my mom and brother and let loose a little of the grief. I am sure we were quite a sight, but if my dad had been there, he would have jumped right in on the fun. Do you think conference calls can be made to heaven on a cell phone?

Friday, August 8, 2008

He's Gone

and I can't truly grasp it. I still think that I can push #4 on my cell phone and he will answer. That when I get a flat on the side of the road or can't start my car, he will come to the rescue. Unfortunately, this will no longer be the case.

When I got to the hospital with my mother this morning, the doctors told her that dad's breathing was indicative of someone who had only hours to live. This turned out to be the case. We all sat around talking and telling stories on each other and him laughing and crying all the way.

We were fortunate to have our pastor there when he passed. I saw it happen first and said something and my mom's best friend said, "He's gone." It was the strangest thing. You would think that it would be more...I don't know...more something. (Gee, has anyone who knows me ever seen me at a loss for words?) But then it was just over. The pastor began to read some scripture when we realized that one of the aunts was out of the room with my daughter. I, being a person who doesn't handle strong emotions well, volunteered to go find her and went downstairs with mom's friend. Said friend went into the dining hall and told my aunt and sat with my daughter while I gathered my self together. Then came the time I had to tell my daughter that her Papa was gone.

I just sat there watching her eat her pizza and listened to her go on about how great it was and how the crust tasted like French bread...It was so interesting. When she was done, we went for a walk out to the garden and sat down. Explaining things like death are hard for any person at any age, but my daughter has Asperger's and many times has a hard time understanding certain concepts. After a brief talk, however, she was able to tell me that her Papa had died. The rest of the afternoon she spent folding origami and eating snacks that her aunts and uncles would buy her from the vending machine. For my girl, life would go on at least for now. I know that reality will set in when she goes to my mother's and sees Papa's chair empty. Now all that is left is to explain to my three year old that his Papa whom he knew was very sick will never be coming home. We will see how that goes.

Thanks again for "listening." Your friendships mean so much to me.

A Rambling Update: Dad

So yesterday I went up to the hospital to see Dad and I was told it could be a couple of hours or a couple of days. Well, that's not what a person wants to hear, but I don't think that was what was so upsetting. I look back at pictures of my father who was such an encourager, who would be the first to volunteer to get something done. He was the one who a person could call on day or night and know he would get results.

When I see him now, unable to talk, take care of himself, or truly respond to what he may be hearing around him, I get upset. No one should have to be that way. Would it be better if he had just suddenly been gone by some accident? No, I don't think so. But the selfish me can't stand to watch him suffer. I don't think he is pain...he has been given enough morphine and tylenol. It is the psychological part of it all. Is he hanging on for some reason? Is he saying, "Hey, I'm in here." Or is he trying to tell us anything at all?

Before you read the rest of this, you need to know that I love each and every person who has come to stay with my father during this time, but each and everyone of them is a strong-willed personality with their own opinions, and they don't give up easily when they think something should be a certain way. So this is in no way should be construed as a slam of any one person, but as an expression of my frustration that I am currently feeling and can't express any other way than to write it down.

The night before, my mother felt guilted (unintentionally) by well meaning relatives who wanted to stand constant vigil by his bedside, and so she stayed which is not her usuall course of action. My mom is of the mindset of "what will happen, will happen." She knew my brother would be there all night, yet somehow, she let someone get into her head. Well, who can truly sleep or get any needed rest when sitting in a hospital room hearing bells and whistles from other people's rooms. So the next morning she went home (45 min. drive) to wash and change and pick up her sister. She came back right away and the rest of the day felt sick and dizzy. When I got there, the well meaning people were all telling her, go to their hotel and take a nap. She has never been able to take a nap. It makes her sick. Then they told her she shouldn't drive herself home because she was so dizzy. That is when the disagreements started...each person in the room trying to convince her to stay at their hotel that night. Mom didn't want to for many reasons and every time she gave an objection someone would try to overcome it. Fortunately, my mom's good friend was there telling them to leave her alone. That stopped all conversation and my mother was finally given a little peace. I told my mother I would drive her home and that was basically the end of that. Or so I thought.

Mom is not one who likes to depend on others and she has her many quirks and idiosyncrasies that people just don't understand. For example, she likes her own pillow. She has a strong sense of smell and it doesn't matter if the pillow has been washed, she can smell who was there before her. She likes her own underwear. It doesn't matter if she goes to JC Penney's to buy new ones. If it wasn't a planned event, she doesn't want to wear them because they are not HERS. My mom can't sleep in certain types of hotels/motels, so even if she is exhausted, she would be wide awake all night tossing and turning, leading to another tired day the next day.

To continue...So mom went downstairs to eat dinner and the conversation starts again. I guess people thought I could talk some sense into her, but they didn't realize that I am not much different than my mother. They kept saying, if she stays at the hotel tonight she will be just down the street should something happen. She can buy new underwear. She doesn't need to be driving, and so on. I finally had to say, no. That is really hard when every person in the room is 20-30 years older than you are, but I had to do it.

Now it is morning, and I am procrastinating getting the children up and dressed and taking the little one to daycare and picking up my mother. I keep telling myself, "If I get up now, I will have 2 hours...1-1/2 hours...1 hour and 15 minutes....Man, I had better get a move on.

Well, I am posting without truly editing, so please excuse any errors you might encounter. I do know better. I just don't care.

If you have managed to put up with my ramblings to read this far you deserve a reward of recognition, so please leave a post, and I will visit your blog or website as soon as I can to thank you personally.

Thanks for listening to a slightly crazy woman today.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Love is

My parents have been married for 41 years and have always been the role models for many young couples in our church.

With my father currently being under hospice care, it makes a person reflect on his life and what makes him such a well-loved person.

Thanks to all of my friends and family who have been calling and writing. It is certainly appreciated.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Puerto Ricans are Coming!!!

So those of you who know us know that my dad has been severely ill due to complications related to his leukemia treatment. Because of this, he has been in the hospital for almost a month. The strange thing about the whole ordeal has been that some days he is awake and able to talk to use and other times his eyes are open but he can't tell us anything. Right now, he is unable to talk. The problem is the doctors don't know ANYTHING. It is highly frustrating.

Since my dad has been doing so poorly, his brothers and sisters are making their way here to spend time with him and at it is overwhelming. My dad has 11 brothers and sisters and the first one to come was my Aunt Ali, but she had to leave due to other commitments. Next came my Aunt Anna who lives in Connecticut. She and her husband got here yesterday morning. Later that afternoon, my dad's sisters Carmen and Lolin and his brother Tony came in from Puerto Rico.

During this time all the people who know and love my dad started filing in and out of my dad's room. There were people from church, people from Texas Baptist Men, and relatives who technically aren't relatives but love him nonetheless. It was amazing to see how many people love one person....One day I will write about how he has managed to touch so many lives.

I am glad that they are all coming because they help distract my mom by taking her to the dining hall or telling funny stories about dad, but it is hard to have to continually tell each visitor about Dad's status and then watching each person be upset.

Then there is the phone...My Aunt Anna's daughter is back in Connecticut fielding phone calls from the rest of Dad's brothers and sisters, and I am sure it is overwhelming for her. Each time that someone calls her, she calls her mother to tell her, so the phone is ringing off the hook. From what I gather, my uncles Osvaldo, Roberto and Pablo want to come from Puerto Rico later this week. (More people.) That will make 7 out of 11 siblings.

I am glad they are able to come visit, I just wish it was under better circumstances.

I hope this will able be over soon and that dad will be able to come home permanently.
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