Happy Birthday Brett!

Just realized that I had thought this post was set up to post, but of course, I hadn’t done it. I did, however, set up my Two for Tuesday to post on Wednesday . . . This week-long migraine is wreaking havoc on my synapses.

Today is Brett’s 21st birthday. My youngest is now officially an adult . . . Here is a rare picture of Brett actually hiding a smile (taken at family birthday party). We have a theory that whenever Brett gets his pictures taken, he tries to look as morose as possible.

Brett with small smile
Brett Trying Not to Smile

And then here’s one of me with almost all of the kids. Alexis was running around at the time.

Almost all of the kids Olivias 1st
Brett, Eamonn, and Olivia with Me
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Reflections on Hope (part 2)

 Reynard 8-2009

 Fox by Brett Sutcliffe (August 18, 2009)

The Possibility of Hope

Maybe im still searchin
But I dont know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still
Burnin’ in my dreams*
 

Corn Queue Henry County Indiana Julayne
Corn Queue, Henry County, Indiana, by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I’ve sat down at this “add new post” page for the past four nights. I’ve sat, waited, and then closed the page. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say; more, it’s that my mind seems to be in recovery mode still after so long away from this forum that gives me a voice, as if I’m in the same room with a long lost friend, and we are still in those first few moments of awkardness, when there are a million things to say, but none of them seem to be the right way in which to begin again.

I love this blog. I appreciate the people who stop by just to read and even more, those who leave comments and words of encouragement. I love being part of a bigger blogging community, filled with people who sent me messages over the past three weeks, letting me know that they were out there if I needed them, that they would wait for me to come back.

But my last post was so full of despair that it actually left a physical pain in my heart. To put into words all of the bigger things that have happened over the last two to three years somehow makes it more real, and therefore, that much harder to reconcile.

That post also did something else to me: It made me a bit nauseous. It smacked of poor, pitiful me, and far too much navel-gazing. So let me just pause here to apologize for being so maudlin. Admittedly, though, wearing a virtual hairshirt every once in a while does seem to help.

But time to move on.

I wanna come in from the cold

Tree Frog at Rest
Tree Frog at Rest by L. Liwag

Last night, as I sat here, I heard the wonderful chirrups of the tree frogs in the backyard, and then as I was walking through the dining room, I looked out in the backyard and noticed that a strap on the pool was vibrating. A tree frog was inside the little tunnel, and every time he sang, the strap vibrated.

He was too far inside his shelter to get a picture, but I could see his small green body peeking out. Unfortunately, my invasion of his space made him cease his calls for a bit, but in about half an hour, I could hear him again.

And make myself renewed again

Uncle Melchors Trumpet Flower
Uncle Melchor's Trumpet Flowers

My uncle’s funeral was Saturday. He never regained consciousness. I wanted badly to go to the funeral, but the family lives almost 800 miles away in Florida, and this just isn’t the best time to rent a vehicle and get a hotel room.

So I stayed in touch by telephone. My aunt, who retired only last year, told me that all of the people who used to be in her department came over one day and did her yard. What a wonderful gesture. My uncle loved his yard and would send me pictures of his flower gardens when they came into bloom.

To hear about people who cared, taking the time to care for one of the things that he so enjoyed made me smile. A happy remembrance.

It takes strength to live this way

Tillie Happiness b&w
Tillie Happiness

Today, I braved the brightness of the sun to play ball with Tillie and Shakes in the pool. I think that I must have done a good job because both of them are sound asleep.

Tillie is a ball hog. The only way that I could get her to release the ball in her mouth was to tease her with the other tennis ball. Wanting both, she would drop one while I threw the other ball, and then I would throw the ball that Tillie dropped for Shakes to retrieve. Quite a complicated system for a simple game of water tennis.

I found myself relaxing, though, and just enjoying the moment—something that I do too rarely. I didn’t think about anything of consequence, and I just focused on exercising the dogs and looking at the birds flying overhead.

The same old madness every day

Captain Corey
Happy Birthday Corey

Tomorrow is Corey’s birthday. He is none too happy. It’s all well and good for me to try to point out to him that he is hardly old, but he doesn’t hear me. I know old. He isn’t old.

When I told him to go ahead and flirt with someone while he was at Costco, he said that he couldn’t because he was losing his hair. What bollocks. He has a head of beautiful, healthy hair, and he is losing a few hairs a day in the shower, undoubtedly because of the stress. My husband is too funny.

We won’t be doing too much of anything to celebrate this week, but with any luck, maybe we can have sushi sometime soon.

I wanna kick these blues away  

On other fronts, Brett is trying to gear up mentally for the school year. It looks as if they have set up his schedule for him to go every other day, which is wonderful.

I’m hoping the day off between class days will allow him to rejuvenate and to feel less pressure. If this works out well, he should miss less school and be able to stay more caught up with his work.

I’m very grateful that the head of the program at his school, as well as his guidance counselor are working with us and trying to come up with a way in which Brett can succeed this year.

Unfortunately, Eamonn was not able to start fall semester, as I had feared. Even if we had come up with the funds, we don’t have a second vehicle at the moment, and the fate of Izziethe Trooper is uncertain at best.

I feel really terrible that we weren’t able to get everything together in time, and to make matters worse, my ex called me up last week and cursed at me for three minutes for not getting the financial aid taken care of. It was a short conversation that ended with me saying something along the likes of, “If you’re so freaking concerned, why don’t you do something about it.”

Talking to a brick wallHis (my ex’s) reasoning that I needed to take care of everything and was falling down on the job was that his schedule is so full, and if that my computer was broken, why didn’t I go to library or something to use a computer? My pointing out that the financial aid was just one part of the equation didn’t matter. When I tried to tell him that even with the tuition taken care of, there was still no vehicle.

He actually asked me what happened to the Trooper, this after I had a conversation with him over two weeks ago about the Trooper dying on the way to Ohio. That’s the problem with trying to have rational conversations with someone who has an alcohol problem: You never know their condition when you tell them something important, and then they claim they were “never informed.”

Of course, I thought of a really good rejoinder after the nasty conversation ended: He lost the right to speak to me when he moved out of the house . . . This from the man who never took a day off to take any of the kids to the doctor. I did it because somehow I let him drill into me that it was easier for me to take a day from work.

Then I thought about it for a minute. He should have never had the right to speak to me that way. Why did I give him that right? Too often, verbal abuse isn’t recognized, even by its victims.

I wanna learn to live again . . . 

Butch Edentons Sunset
Sunset by Butch Edenton

Which brings me back to the subject of this post: the possibility of hope. I won’t pretend that Corey and I have a perfect relationship, but we have a really good relationship, and he doesn’t verbally abuse me. He doesn’t belittle me for my weird habits, and he loves me, imperfections and all. As do I him. Immensely.

Life has sucked lately, a lot. We run into walls, and we seem just cannot seem to get a break. But as I have been reminded of all too much with the loss of my uncle, we live in minutes and hours, not days and years.

I will make certain that Eamonn is ready for college next semester. I will take extra care to watch out for Brett’s signals that he is overwhelmed. I will enjoy the joy that my animals bring me.

I will remember to tell Corey that I really do appreciate everything that he does for me, even something as small but caring as making sure that I have Pepsi in the house. And I will appreciate the fact that I have a partner in life who could belittle me if that were his way, but it is not. His way is to tell me that he loves me every day of my life, to lie to me when I ask if I look fat, to tell me the truth when I ask about my writing, and to love and care for Eamonn and Brett unstintingly, including taking both of them to the doctor more times than I can count.

They are my shelter, my comfort, my great joy, and my peace of mind. With them, I really need nothing more.

Shantih, Shantih, Shantih.

Thank you for allowing me to be self-absorbed and for your kind words. But thank you more for continuing to visit here, for reading my words, and through your own words and beautiful images, for reminding me of all of the good and wonderful things in this world, one of which is this poem by one of my favorite writers, Langston Hughes.

Goodbye Uncle Melchor.

More later. Peace.

*Lyrics from “Dark Road,” by Annie Lennox

Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Your Call Will Be Answered In The Order In Which It Was Received

Bureacracy and Me: Not a Good Fit

Being On Hold Does Not a Nice Lola Make

Did you know that Glaucoma is the third leading cause of blindness in the U.S.? Did you know that exercising in cold weather has its hazards, like icy patches in the road if you are running? Do you know why I know these little tidbits? Because I stayed on hold an inordinate amount of time today trying to get through to the prescription center with whom my insurance is affiliated. It was wonderful. Every few minutes, a nice woman would come on and tell me that I needed to “please continue to hold as [they] were experience heavy call volume and someone would be with [me] soon.”

operatorI thought that that was terribly nice of her, to speak to each and every person on hold, who, if they were anything like me, were approaching the 20 minute wait time. But I really needed to speak to these people. I needed a new card, and I needed to find out how much longer it was going to take for the processing of the prescriptions that my doctor had called in on December 22. Boy was I in for a surprise, and it wasn’t a good one.

Live human being comes on the line, very nice human, only to tell me that there are no prescriptions in process for me. The last thing she has for me was in September. I patiently explain to her that I was standing next to my doctor when he was telling his assistant who was on the phone with my prescription provider at the time as to what to call in, and that was on December 22, the day of my appointment. Sorry, nice human being, apologizes, but we have nothing for you, and as a matter of fact, you account closed on December 31, so we cannot send you a new card or process any more prescriptions . . .

Long pause on my end . . . I’m sorry . . . what did you say?

Your account closed on December 31.

No, that’s not possible.

Still nice human: I understand, but perhaps you need to check with your provider. You can have them call back, and we can expedite your order.

Fine, through clenched teeth, trying to remember that nice human is only doing her job and has in no way caused this situation. I’ll have someone call you back. I hang up the phone and call my health insurance provider. On hold for about 20 seconds. Live human being, also nice asks for my ID number.

I reply, well that’s going to be hard since my wallet was stolen and my card was in it, and I need a new ID.

neon-fuschia-on-hanging-on-the-telephone
Hanging on the Telephone with Neon Fuschia

Oh, how terrible, says Live human, and asks for my birth date, address, all of the info to confirm I am who I say I am and not some nut job wanting an ID from a health insurance company who happens to know all of my bona fides. Oh, happy birthday early, she chimes.

For a moment I don’t know what she is talking about, and then I remember. Oh crap, another birthday, mine, this month. Shit. Great. Moving along.

She tells me I’ll get the card in about 8 to 10 days. I stump her with my next question: So I do have active coverage then?

Um, yes you do.

So I tell her my plight and ask if she’ll call my prescription provider and verify that I have coverage because I’m out of my migraine medicine, and things are getting critical. She tells me that she would if she could, but she can’t as she can only verify that I have health insurance, and I need to have someone else verify prescription insurance. At this point, I am totally lost because I thought that my prescription coverage was part of my health insurance. Obviously, I am mistaken.

So This Much is True

However, since it was a little past 5 and no one at GW main campus stays a second after 5, so my big plans for taking care of all of this unfinished business are screwed. I hate dealing with this stuff, that’s why I’ve put it off for so many days. I did manage to get Brett’s appointment straightened out, call his doctor’s office to get the letter faxed to his school about his absences, reschedule the orthodontist appointments, and find out that I don’t need an appointment for my stretchy/bendy test at the radiologist’s at the hospital. I know that it’s not called a stretchy/bendy test, that there’s some other name for it, but I figure that’s better than calling it a Gumby test. The point is that I have to stretch and bend and they take x-rays.

So tomorrow, I get to deal with GW Human Resources. I can hardly wait. I can’t hardly wait. Which is it? Which one is worse? If you can hardly wait, does that mean that you can wait forever? If you can’t hardly wait does it mean that you cannot wait at all? I’m confusing myself. The point is that a telephone call to GW Human Resources is akin to “Once more into the breach,” and I’m sorry dear Henry, but I just don’t have the stamina to go into the breach with you and on to St. Crispin’s Day.

But Wait, There is Good News After All

concretecherub013But there is some good news: It turns out that my picture of Caitlin, the one that I’ve carried around for 20 years, was not in the wallet that was lost/stolen. It was in my smaller card wallet. I don’t remember putting it there, so I never bothered to look. Imagine what a wonderful surprise it was for me to find it there when I was looking through my card case to see if I had perhaps lost my Social Security card as well (I had not). 

Finding that picture means more to me than I can possible put into words. It’s just a simple snapshot of me holding Caitlin; she is wearing a pink dress, and everything looks absolutely normal. That’s what is so wonderful about it. It’s before we knew that she was sick, before the operations, before the PICU, before all of the tubes, the intubation, the vials and vials of blood, the respiratory therapists, the neurosurgeons, the oncologists, the nights spent on vinyl furniture. Before life turned to hell. Life was still normal, and Caitlin was just my baby girl.

But that snapshot is one-of-a-kind. I don’t have the negative. I don’t have a copy. So whoever took my wallet, a belated Merry Christmas to you. I hope you really needed the money. We needed it, but maybe you needed it more. I got back the one thing that I truly missed, the thing that I thought was gone forever. Everything else can be replaced, even if it means staying on the phone forever listening to recordings and fighting with bureaucracies. You cannot take away the one thing that would mean nothing to anyone else.

And with that, I’ll close for now. More later. Peace.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree?

On Bearing Fowl Gifts and Other Sorts

What Kind of Present is a Bird Anyway?

19-partridgeinapeartree72I was in a girls’ ensemble in the eighth grade, and we learned a very rambunctious song called “The 12 Days After Christmas.” I remember thinking it was a hilarious parody of the original. For example, the first line: “The first day after Christmas, my true love and I had a fight, and so I chopped the pear tree down and burned it just for spite.” The rest of the song continued pretty much in the same vein. I liked it much better than the original, which I always found to be very tiresome and not very pleasant as far as the gifts were concerned.

Years later, I was subjected to the religious interpretation of the “Twelve days of Christmas.” You know, each gift represents something holy like the tenth day represents the ten commandments, etcetera, and the song was a code to reveal true believers. However, the original song was written in old French, and some lines have been misinterpreted through the years. The fourth day’s gift is four collie bird not four calling birds, which would actually be black birds, and the five gold rings refer to ring-necked pheasants.

I realize that to have such bountiful gifts— birds for five days— would have meant a lot in those days, but I’m just not a gaming kind of woman, and I really would prefer pears and gold rings, and as for lords-a-leaping, maids-a-milking, and all the rest, well they could all be distributed evenly among people who like to bake and dance the gavotte and all of that kind of stuff. But I swear if someone gave me  pipers piping and drummers drumming knowing my predisposition for migraines, I think that I would have a good defense for extenuating circumstances in an assault case.

Creative Gift-giving Means More

So anyway, the whole partridge in a pear tree made me think of a few things. This year, we’re really stretching our dollars to be creative with presents. I usually go overboard and buy everyone way too much simply because I usually can, and I love to buy presents for people. I love to search for things that are different and special, things that are suited to an individual’s personality. For example, one year, I was able to surprise a friend of mine with some antique cuff links. He had occasion to wear his tuxedo often, and I knew that he had a fondness for vintage 50’s items, so I happened upon a pair of cuff links in an antique store. They weren’t terribly expensive, and I thought that they would be a different sort of present, so I bought them. I believe that he liked them very much. Unfortunately, we fell out of touch years ago, but that’s the sort of present that he might hold onto.

One year, I took a black and white photograph of mine of which I was very proud, and I had several copies made, and then a friend of mine helped me to mat and frame them. I gave these to several close friends for Christmas; my only regret was that I did not make one for myself. This year, my youngest son is into thrift store and vintage clothing, which is helping with the shopping budget. One of my nieces wants Obama memorabilia, and I have plenty of that from the campaign, so I’m going to make her a few memory pages.

I was trying to remember some of my best presents, the ones that have meant the most to me over the years, and here are a few that stand out in my memory:

The first birthday present that Corey bought me was a wooden trinket box that had a few dried sweetheart roses and some baby’s breath and a very beautiful quote enclosed in glass on the top. I put my special jewelry in that box.

When the boys were working with clay in grade school, Brett made a clay dog and a clay cat; it’s a little hard to tell the difference. I still have both of those.

My friend Becky from the Museum once gave me a card with some fairy dust in a little glass vial tied to the fairy’s hands on the top of the card. I thought that it was one of the coolest things ever. She was always giving me really unique cards. I love cards, and I keep most of the ones that I get. The fairy dust card always goes on my mural.

My best friend Mari gave me a soft white sweater when I was going through my white sweater phase. I won’t tell you how old it is, but it’s cotton and it’s extremely soft from wear. Whenever I’m feeling blue or lonely, I pull out that particular sweater and put it on, frayed collar, split seam, and all.

Alexis took a photography class in high school. One of the most memorable shots she created was with a friend. Alexis laid down backwards on the staircase with her long hair flowing backwards, and her friend shot it. Lex developed it and mounted it on a piece of black board. That shot always goes right in the middle of my mural wherever I go. It is one of the most unusual photographs I have ever seen, and people who see it always remark on it. I don’t ever want to be without it.

The best present my ex-husband ever gave me, besides my children, was a cup of lilacs that he cut from a tree outside our apartment in Blacksburg in the spring.

My mom gave me a garnet tennis bracelet for a significant birthday. I finally had to stop wearing it every day because the jeweler said that I was ruining it. I love that bracelet.

bw-infinity-w_noise
Infinity Series

A very dear friend who used to work with me at the newspaper bequeathed the Konica 35 mm camera to me when he moved on to the Boston Globe. I still have that camera, and I’ve taken some of my best shots with it.

One year at the Mother’s Day tea at preschool, Eamonn gave me a green felt magnet with his picture on it that he had made himself, and then a couple of years later, he gave me some purple stick on earrings that he bought at the school Christmas shop because purple is my favorite color and he said that I would look “elegant.”  The earrings are in my box from Corey.

My mother-in-law was cleaning out her jewelry box, and she and my sister-in-law decided that a gold and multi-colored jewel ring that she had had for years but never wears should be mine. They both said that the ring looked like me. It came from overseas somewhere, probably Thailand. It’s not a temple ring, but similar because it is in rows, and it is absolutely gorgeous. It is one of my most-prized possessions.

One Christmas about three years ago, Corey surprised me with a full-length black leather coat that I had seen at the store and really loved but knew we couldn’t really afford. I still have that coat, and it’s as soft as ever.

My friend Kathleen and I used to work together for a government contractor in Northern Virginia. We would go out to lunch frequently, and because she made more money than I did, and I had a young baby at home, she mostly treated. She called me her therapist. Those were some of the best two-hour lunches of my life. I don’t think that there was any subject that we didn’t talk about. You don’t get that kind of friendship often in your life, and when you do, it’s a rare gift.

Recently, Corey’s mom surprised us by treating us to a night out at the Kennedy Center to see “Phantom of the Opera.” She knows how much Corey and I both love the play, and she has always wanted to go to the Kennedy Center, so it was an extra special treat for all of us. The four of us really enjoyed ourselves.

Speaking of nights out, Corey surprised me with tickets to see Lewis Black at the Warner Theater for Mother’s Day. He bought the tickets when he found out that Lewis Black would be in D.C. on the same weekend as my commencement from George Washington University so that we could make a weekend out of it. He knows how much I love Lewis Black. It was a hilarious show.

When my friend Rebecca lived in England for a couple of years, she sent me a beautiful kilt pin for my birthday one year. It is so me, and it meant so much that she thought of me while she was far away. We always end up giving each other jewelry somehow.

My niece in Germany just sent me a shamrock from Ireland. I found out that she was going, and I told her that I had always wanted to go to Ireland, but since I couldn’t go, maybe she could send me a piece of Ireland. She sent shamrocks for Alexis, me, her other cousin, and her other aunt that is here. What a sweetie.

These are the kinds of presents that you cherish. They don’t all cost money; some don’t cost anything at all. It’s the thoughtfulness behind them that makes them remain in the sandcastles of memory. I need to remind myself of that. Too often on Christmas morning, after everything has been unwrapped, it looks as if ten people live here instead of four. Part of it comes from being an only child, I think. I want that big family feeling I remember from Great Bridge at Christmas. But we can do it with fewer presents and more love.

More later. Peace.