Tag Archives: family

Two Days: Day Two

I paid my respects. The loss was felt deeply as I reconnected with family, and I will pass on their sentiments to my brothers in the best way I can.

Then it was Saturday and time for me to prepare for departure to Los Angeles. There were storms in the Midwest and everything was delayed. My Delta flight took off for Minneapolis twenty minutes late which turned into a real problem. It was announced as we landed that they were holding the plane to L.A. so I was not alone. Remember where they park those smaller planes? It was with a feeling of brotherhood that 22 strangers ran across the airport to desperately catch a plane which really wasn’t being held – they closed the door after the person just behind me. I thought I was dying and was grateful for an uneventful flight, a good seat, and my inhaler to recover from my sprint.

So….arrival at my home airport means I am done with the hard work, right? Uh, not so much.
I had booked and prepaid (including tip) a shared ride van. I had traveled that way problem free years ago but apparently things have drastically changed. I will summarize what I did for an hour. I fumed. That’s it. When they finally realized they couldn’t find a driver who would go the distance for me, they arranged a taxi – who didn’t show up. The taxi company kept calling me to say he was there. The van rep even got on my phone to convince her I wasn’t blind. So they ordered another taxi. And another. Into what black hole were these taxis going? Finally one guy showed up and said he hadn’t been able to find me. The van rep called him a liar and suddenly I was the voice of reason refereeing a screaming match. Then another taxi materialized from the black hole. This driver started yelling that the first guy was stealing his ride. Then we had a two taxi drivers and a van rep all yelling at each other. I was busy looking for the hidden camera.

I did finally get home, holding tight while taking Mr. Toad’s wild ride. And the moral of the story is….there is no moral. It’s all a wild ride. Just keep moving, hold on tight, and take it all in while you are here.

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A Happy Trigger

I am only 1% through Tyler Henry’s Between Two Worlds: Lessons From The Other Side and a moment from his narrative mirrors one of mine. I haven’t gotten any farther as I had to stop and write.

My taste in books is best described as eclectic and, although I lean heavily toward nonfiction, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt is my guilty pleasure. I started Tyler’s book, a memoir of his young life as a medium, because I was intrigued by snippets of videos of his abilities and, before cutting the cord, occasionally saw other individuals with similar talents. If you have read my previous entry A Good Day, you know already that I am drawn to the subject. So what slice from Tyler’s ten year-old’s memory drove me from my Kindle and onto the keyboard?

The day after his grandmother died, Tyler was just falling asleep and “…noticed a sweet fragrance wafting into the room.” He recognized it as his grandmother’s. Immediately, my own memory popped into my head and halted all reading. My mind’s eye was in a moment of time in my bedroom just about a year before. I was beginning to doze and a sudden odor forced me back to the shallows. I say odor since I couldn’t place it. I just knew it wasn’t normal for my bedroom. I sat up and actually looked over each side of the bed, which now makes me smile. I listened for sounds of my daughter moving around and, hearing none, I laid back down. I was at ease because it didn’t smell like smoke so I could rule out fire, or possibly a stroke. The entire time I tried to place it, the fragrance remained and didn’t begin to dissipate until I nailed it. It was Chantilly Lace, my grandmother’s favorite and a touchstone of my youth. Nana, my dad’s mother and the one in the photo on my dresser, had come to say hello. We were very close, me being the only girl grandchild in the area, and my grade school memories are filled with games of Canasta, tea parties with cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, multiple viewings of The Mike Douglas show and, of course, her signature Chantilly Lace.

The fragrance was gone as I said goodbye and thanked her for coming. Is that strange? Not to me. And, now that I’ve cleared my head, I can return to Tyler Henry’s fascinating gift.


Credit: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DTAPXRM?storeType=ebooks

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Just Breathe

I am told I have mild sleep apnea. I don’t understand where they get that. I don’t snore and my daughter on the other side of the wall from my bed never hears anything. But I am fatigued, bone tired, and more exhausted when I wake up than when I went to bed. Depression doesn’t fit my numbers or the way I live my life. Except for a couple of minor age related issues (oh joy) no other issue seems to be affecting me. So my doctor ordered a sleep study.

Terrified that I might have to be locked into an office building overnight – the stuff of horror flicks – I am given the option of wearing a recording device on my head overnight and then returning it for analysis. I picked the thing up near my doctor’s office where I was also instructed on its use.

Device is a loose term. It is really a collection of straps, tubes, and electronic chips which, when secured later that evening, gave my daughter a bout of hysterics and hiccups. Although it looked strange, it wasn’t terrible to sleep with so I had high hopes of an accurate read; that is, if I didn’t keep sneezing out the little nasal tubes.

Fast forward to the sleep study I receive in the mail. At least 2 apnea episodes lead to my diagnosis and to a new challenge of sleeping with tubes, machines, and assorted accessories. It’s now been a week since I began using my air machine and I have had some good days, some not so good ones, and one truly surreal experience.

I opted for the “pillows” style mask, a somewhat misleading term for something that sounds fairy-like yet plugs into your nose. It isn’t terrible but it’s not a spa experience, either. And don’t open your mouth or it will blow in your nose and out with your words. It is the voice of nightmares.

Then there’s the ramp. It is the system by which the air coming into your body gradually increases through the night, adjusting higher as it senses the pushback from the apnea. Mine is set between 4 and 20. The first days I would wake up and feel like a giant wind was taking my breath away. Thank goodness for that reset switch. I have gotten more tolerant to it in a week. Just this morning, I was taking my time, slowly waking to the rhythmic breathing which showed the ramp at almost 9.

Along with these different adjustments I’ve had to make came one of the creepiest experiences ever. On morning, I woke up at 3:45 am unable to speak. I was Wade Wilson in X-Men: Wolverine, wild eyed and mouth sewn shut. I must have fallen asleep with my mouth open and been dried out by the great north wind screaming from the depths of my nasal passage. I grabbed my water cup and managed to slide the straw through my tight lips, only to realize I couldn’t suck. Everything was stuck together and nothing would work. After several attempts, I finally got enough moisture in to create a wave of saliva which (too slowly) freed up my membranes. The humidifier comes out tonight because I refuse to use the face mask option. I am not Bane – I’m one of the good guys, Batman.

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A Good Day

I am told signs from the other side are all around us but people don’t recognize them. This is one of my experiences:

This was one of many first days of school. The year before was so traumatic for Little E. But this year, she did a total 180 degrees. She was jazzed, got the teacher she wanted, had a nice friend in the same class, ready to be a fifth grader.

Her song was from American Idol, the one they played when they show the clips of who got kicked off – “Had a Bad Day” by Daniel Powter. And we have always called it her song because of when it shows up. While picking up the balloons at the florist at 8:00 a.m. on her birthday party morning, it was playing. Again the same day when we were in the Paint-a-Dream with the girls. I know it was popular but the timing was always interesting, coming up at unique but clearly appropriate moments.

I told her I would walk her to class but she just wanted to be dropped off to meet her friend. As she jumped out, I warned her that there will always be ups and downs. (“I know, mom, I know” cue eye roll.)

I turned the wheel to pull out and the song came on. I almost stopped to catch her when I figured out it was probably for me this time, telling me she will be okay this year. Then I thought about who would be trying to tell us these things. Who would use that song? It could be my dad. Never into music since Glenn Miller, quirky cute songs like that appealed to him. Or it could be Grandpa Mike, who waited years for a granddaughter after so many boys, only to die suddenly when she was 18 months old. And it could even be my mom, who obsessively worried about our futures. No matter, the message is always at the right time and taken to heart with a nod to the heavens.

American Idol has been gone for a while, and the song is now old. But it still shows up just before we realize we really need it. It is my touchstone to slow down – to stop, look, and listen for the other signs I’m missing because I am racing through my life.

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An Open Letter to my Daughter’s School District

I am a college graduate with a good secure job so I feel that I have an objective view, although how objective can anyone be when the conversation involves your own child? So I ask that you excuse my passion.

My daughter is not high risk or learning disabled. She is personable and bonded with her teachers, enough so as to get them to occasionally let her off the hook for things. She worked harder at avoiding work than doing it. She was at times bored. She doesn’t care for sports. She speaks English and she’s smart but not a self-starter, nor a high achiever, unless it is in something she passionate about. So where does she fall? Through the cracks, that’s where.

The ultimate goal of California high schools is to pass the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam.) It was mentioned frequently in the taped school updates on my answering machine at the end of the day. I think my daughter got 100% or close to it her sophomore year and she celebrated. While it always feels great to get a perfect score on anything (and I gave her some time to enjoy it), I told her that she is getting her perfect score on the lowered expectations of other people. I said she should aim higher than getting a great score on an exam that rewards the testers on being able to pass the maximum number of kids with a minimal amount of knowledge. Her goals should reflect the best of her.

I have nothing but admiration for the teachers. They work ridiculously hard for what they earn in money and respect. However, except for a few absolutely amazing ones, although all were very intelligent in their career choices, their knowledge of human psychology is lacking, and for that I blame the school district and the required prep courses for teachers.

You may say that teachers are only part of the equation and they need parents to work with their kids. And you may say you are doing the best you can with a minimal budget. I am a single working mother who has taken advantage of counselors, psychologists, paid tutors, used free library and museum offerings, made myself available at any time for homework or special projects, and driven everywhere and anywhere I could to help her, and I would do it all over again. Yet I feel I have dragged her through every semester for the last six years. I am exhausted but I will still admit I am not the perfect mother. Will you admit that you still have a long way to go?

I believe my daughter will go on to love education again, and I expect she will approach it with her own expectations, not lowered or compromised. She will survive your school, but is that the legacy you strive to leave?


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Earthquake Central

Summer is almost over and the Great California Shake Out earthquake drill approaches. Everyone in the state, from secretary down to the smallest kindergartner, “ducks and covers” at the exact time of 10:16 on 10/16 to prepare for the next “big one.” It seems like just yesterday I found myself sitting, hardhat and all, on the floor under my desk, thinking about how late I am in updating my emergency stash and hoping the “big one” wouldn’t beat me to it. I also remembered about how much of a time-suck this is for me.

I have earthquake bags in my car, at work, and in two closets at home. These bags contain 5 year water (yuk), freeze dried food (double yuk), and things like clothes, flashlights, emergency blankets, and toilet paper. Inside one of them is a gas turn-off tool to shut the gas down in case of leakage – something you can find hanging at most Southern California checkout lines and my girl knew how to work with it since she was just a little thing.

In the front hall closet, there is a list taped to the inside of the door listing the most important things to remember. It does triple duty for fire, flood, and earthquake and it needs updating since we’ve lost and gained some pets since I wrote it. The only possessions on my list are my grandmother’s vase, little E’s cherished stuffed dog named Sammy, photo albums, and a laptop – in that order. Anything else I can grab is gravy and my firebox will hopefully keep my important papers safe until I can get to them. As we always say, “things” are not that important when your life is at stake.

There are two hardhats in my closet, two in the car and, of course, a couple at the office. I have a bin in the backyard with inflatable mattresses and other survival gear, and a portable fire pit packed up in the garage ready to go.

You can’t pick up any of our weightier knick-knacks because they are “quakehold-ed” to the shelves (Christmas decorating is a nightmare) and nothing is on my uppermost wall shelf because I can’t find anything nice that won’t injure someone when it falls. Bookcases and wall units are bolted to the walls, and TV’s lashed to their entertainment centers like lifeboats to a ship. I have nothing heavy on the walls near our beds, and any tall furniture is purposely angled to hit something else before the floor – ninth grade Physics wasn’t lost on me!

Every year at daylight savings time, I am supposed to check, and usually replace, all the batteries that go into my numerous bags and bins –it’s built into my annual budget (don’t worry, I recycle.) And let me tell you, I am conservative in the area of preparedness. My friend has a generator – try replacing those batteries a couple of times!

Finally, my daughter has known for a long time where to go and what to do in the event of the “big one.” She has been practicing at school and at home for most of her life. For example, she knows that her uncle is the designated out-of-state phone call, don’t go after the animals because they will find their safe corner, avoid the kitchen – it’s a deathtrap – and hide under the dining room table with your arms around the legs because it will walk away.

If any of my non-west coast family ever comes to visit, training sessions are available.

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Poker Face

When dealing with a girl-child, you need to keep your wits about you, not tip your hand. I have been doing that since Little E was a baby and I’m exhausted. Keeping from getting sucked into the big argument, making them think some task is their idea, and turning a nagging sentence inside out to become offhanded and subliminal as it proceeds down from the brain and out of your mouth – all part of living with a girl. My question to the gods is this….where do we learn this if our mothers used it on us? Did we absorb the parenting style? Maybe we don’t learn it. Maybe it’s innate, like breathing ………or shopping.
Granted there are minutes of relaxation when things run smoothly you think she’s grown more mature. Then the moment is over and you are again the worst mother in the world. Yes, sometimes we need those small victories to re-energize and steel us for the next round, when discussing yet another pet, yet another new dress for a Friday school dance, or a new cell phone with all the bells and whistles.

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Time Flies When Drama Unfolds

Yes, it’s been another year and, yes, I promised to write more. I won’t try to catch you up the same way I did last time. Suffice it to say the year held more drama than the last, and not all about my darling daughter. My broken ankle unleashed an emotional tornado filled with highs and lows never experienced in our home before. I think when mom is down and out, life is not as secure as it once was and much lashing out ensued that second semester. With patience and work, we came through the darkness into the light with minimal damage. Summer school is a must this year to fix the credit deficiency created by tanking Chemistry. And French 1B will be retaken in the Spring. However, an ease has settled between us and arguments have narrowed to just the subjects of picking up clothes and choice of TV (“How many times do I need to see this episode?”) A new maturity has moved in to organize and refocus her days. Taking ownership replaces the head-in-the-sand method. Requests for DVDs, CDs, and theme parks aren’t on her list this summer. She now asks for money for battered textbooks so she will be prepared for the new year, and talk of college has replaced the moody silence. Most meaningful for both of us….I can say “yes” more than “no.” We can all breathe again but I must keep my wits about me. After all, 16 is coming up and a teen is still a teen. But for now, I will enjoy this clean air left by the dark heavy showers that rolled through our home.

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Another Door

Suddenly a year has gone by and junior high school is over. Let me catch you up:
Buses, lunches, stolen iPod, friendships tested, lunch table, A’s & B’s, late homework, tests, web design, great teacher, no one asked her to dance, tears, too much paper, homework not handed in, teacher hates her, status reports, C’s & D’s, tutor, counselor, hates PE, loves dancing, new friends, working hard, B’s & C’s, trip to Disneyland, awards night, summer break. Whew! It was actually harder than it read.
After dropping her off at her first high school meeting, I am thinking I felt the same as when I was driving away from the first day of preschool. The only difference was that 10 years ago she was sobbing, and this time she was saying…”Mom! I don’t need you to walk me in. Just go!!!” Girls are tough, they are sometimes hormonal and lean (heavily) towards the dramatic side, but watching her grow has been my idea of an all time great movie – thrills and chills, leaving me wanting to watch it over, again and again.

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Recession and Homework

It seems the recession has hit eighth grade. At least that’s my best guess. After the third semester of  junior high school spent dragging my kid over the June finish line, my nerves were frayed and sensitive.  I mean, really…. what is the big deal with completing and actually handing in homework? Yes, my Pisces kidlet is the “floating through life” kind of girl but there is just so much yelling, grounding, and electronics banishment I can do before my Capricorn tendencies start me towards a better way – or at least an explanation or something to help me understand and reformat my approach. There just had to be a reason.

I put a label to it one night when I asked her why she didn’t care. All I got was a shrug but it was added to my mental list of reasons and stuck. She just didn’t care. I started to look towards moms and dads in my same orbit to form a hypothesis and help me understand why evenings and weekends were just so tough. After mentioning my issues, I found sanctuary. They all had the same problem to varying degrees and listening to most of them was like hitting replay on my evenings. These families were all different, some with dads, some without. A grandma lived in one house. Commuters and stay-at-home moms. The common thread was always the same….why don’t the kids care? Validation meant at least now my mind could move forward instead of floundering every night in Algebra hell.

Let’s cut to the chase on this, and remember, this is strictly subjective. A couple of teachers had told me that, after the last round of budget wars, some carry upwards of 40 kids in classes, with a possibility of more. Add to that furlough days and reduction of class help. With those kind of distractions, kids who don’t become involved are just left behind. Teachers just don’t have the time to connect with them all. So normal kids like mine who lack the competitive streak need the spark at home, or they will be lost. My mission is now clear, and turns out a little more cerebral and less combative. Well, still combative, considering hormones. But my thoughts on this are more ordered and have direction. However, the computer is still locked up until the next progress report.

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