Friday, January 28, 2011

Mom is Resilient

Mom’s birthday was last week so my sister and I took her out for lunch. There’s strength in numbers. I told my sister recently that I wish I was as patient as she is with Mom. Sis takes it all in stride and smiles and soothes and makes Mom feel comfortable. I cringe and avoid eye contact and bite my tongue to keep from crying.

Mom needs help getting in and out of the car. She has a hard time with steps and moves slower than she ever has. She fumbles and can barely feed herself. Her speech is broken and often trails off into nonsense as she loses track of what she was saying. She’s easily distracted and comments on odd things.

The amount of patience it requires to spend time with her is excruciating to me. It’s hard to distinguish the pain of seeing her struggle with the frustration of having to help. Bottom line is that I’m angry. Being around her churns up all my anger over the unfairness of her disease. I try to make Mom laugh and stay light hearted but often it’s a false happiness I model. She can no longer tell that I’m faking it.

My sister told me that her patience took practice.

So I cut myself some slack on our outing and allowed myself to be out of practice. We had fun! Mom is still in such good spirits. She LOVED seeing us and said repeatedly, "My girls! I miss you!" We fussed over her and helped her change into a fleece jacket. She put on her new slip-on shoes with gel soles which she loves. My sister fixed her hair. Mom told us that Dad said to let us help her style it after he blow-dried her hair that morning. It still looked like she'd slept on it.

We said goodbye to Dad around 2:30pm and I said, "don't wait up!" Mom was all smiles.

Mom got into the car without any help, probably because she was excited and didn't over-think the mechanics of maneuvering into the seat. We buckled her seat belt and pulled out of the driveway, commenting on the new neighbor's changes to the property next door. There were backhoes and trucks in their driveway. The lilac bushes I loved as a kid were all gone. Mom said, "I worry about Zelda [the cat] getting out. They have lots of dogs."

We had a late lunch in one of our favorite restaurants. We took a bunch of pictures of each other at the table while we waited for our food. We joked and told Mom stories. She loved listening, like any mother would. Her sense of humor isn't gone and she laughed over our exaggerations, miscommunication with our husbands, cooking foibles, and adventures at work. And when we repeated stories, she enjoyed them just as much the second time around.

We were talking about headaches and I told my sister, "Maybe sneezing really hard would help; you could just shoot it right out your nose."

Mom frowned and said, "Oh, goodness" with the exact same inflection I'm used to. That's always been her indirect way of saying, "Ick! Stop it!" It was nice to hear that familiar phrase, as if she was good-naturedly scolding me like she did when I was a kid.

After eating, we did some antique shopping. I was worried Mom might break something, but she followed us around the store without help and gently touched the things that caught her eye. I felt like a parent as I supervised her. We laughed over the weird things we saw and pointed out the dishes and fabric that reminded us of family friends or grandparents.

I caught Mom looking at me a few times and when we made eye contact, she smiled really big. It was obvious she missed us and was happy to be with her daughters for the afternoon. It was really healing for me, too: relieved the guilt I was feeling about avoiding discomfort. I genuinely enjoyed myself.

It was a really nice time. I love and admire you, Mom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Survey: Flannery O'Connor Quote

This quote stopped me in my tracks when I read it a week and a half ago. It's been ringing in my ears ever since.

"Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see, and they will not be a substitute for seeing."
-Flannery O'Connor
I'm curious - what does it mean to you?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Interesting Things Happen at Work: Life as a Loan Officer

Why is it that I have the most ideas for writing when I’m at work? My mind is just bursting with images and phrases I want to get down, but of course I can’t spend the day online. When I get home I’m too tired. I'm a loan officer at a local financial institution. I open new accounts and process loan applications so I meet lots of interesting people.

I met a case worker who came in with a client I helped last week. She was my hero, I’d just never met her before. She was good-humored, sarcastic, didn’t get swept up by irritation, and seemed like a really fun person to be around. Today I helped a preschool teacher who I assumed was older than me (she had that coolness about her that I’m so used to looking up to). She was a year younger than me. She was really expressive but soft spoken (like…the perfect preschool teacher). We clicked. I also helped an elderly women whose husband had recently passed away. She came in with her son and daughter in law to take care of her late husband's accounts. I tried to be efficient and patient, even though her son was on edge and didn’t like being in my office as long as he was. I got flustered and made mistakes. At least the lady and her daughter in law were nice.

I feel the need to explain myself in tense situations like that. There’s this welling up of justification and I want to blurt, “Hey, this is a delicate process, and it’s confusing because our computer system doesn’t update every account by default. I have to go into each one of your individual records in each of your individual accounts, so chillax. It takes TIME to reconcile a person‘s accounts when they die.” Of course, because I’m a good employee who values her job, I just smiled and worked silently.

The longer I'm under pressure to hurry, and the more a person I'm helping is antsy or irritated, the higher my anxiety spikes. I get sweaty and flushed and angry.

These are the kinds of scenarios you do NOT mention during a job interview when you’re asked “how do you perform under pressure?”

My anxiety
Instead, you should talk about how much you enjoy helping preschool teachers and social workers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Recommendations: Pricilla Long, Mt Hood, Lammott, Levine, the Spa

The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life
If you are interested in improving your writing, I highly recommend this book: The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. I read several sections aloud (yay!) over the weekend, while my long-time-friend-and-former-roommate and I drove across Oregon. We created our own writer's retreat.

It was a great three days in the mountains of central OR, and we both made progress in our writing (she fine-tuned the structure of a few passages in the book she's working on, and I decided what direction I want to go with all the bits and pieces of writing I've done over the last several years). BIG steps in the right direction.


In case you're planning a getaway for writing, here are some elements I strongly encourage you to incorporate:

Multiple journals and writer's notebooks (don't pick a blank book so fancy that you won't write it in, or something boring that will inhibit your enthusiasm. It's a delicate balance).

Favorite pen(s).
Books that inspire you.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

    A friend who is OK with silence and with whom you won't run out of things to talk about even if you spend 72 hours together.

    4-star resort and reservations at the spa.

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    January 2011: Puget Sound View, Chuck Norris, Snow, Art

    I'm enjoying 2011 so far.

    Spent New Year's with this view

    From this porch

    I've been making progress on a granny square afgan I started months ago and I'm also working on a Valentine's Day project (stay are coming).

    Chuck Norris has been kicking my butt

    Enjoyed a few more snowy days
    That's the tree we had our wedding pictures taken under

     Survived a little mishap
    Sis and I waited for help...good samaritans in a Hummer pulled us out of the ditch.

    Attended a surprise birthday party for my brother, planned by his girlfriend. He was shocked! So fun.

    Discovered another favorite artist. This makes me happy
    Found here
    How is your new year shaping up?

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    What I want from myself in 2011

    "Resolutions" always give me pangs of anxiety because I know I'll be disappointed in myself within a month. Or less. But a new year just seems so...well...NEW. 2011! What the heck?! Why not start off optimistic and tidy? A brand new year feels like a blank book before page one is written on, or pencils sharpened for the first time, or my childhood bedroom after Mom helped me re-arrange it, with shadows in new places and clean surfaces and a little startle each time I open the door.

    Here's what I want out of life, in my heart of hearts. Not necessarily THIS year, but someday. It feels safer to say "eventually."
    • Travel in the UK with my husband. Live there? Vacation there? Not sure.
    • Go back to Uganda. It's true that Africa gets under your skin and once you've been there, feel some kind of crazy kinship with it. When I hear about people who are working there now or I see pictures like these I feel jealous, like somebody's in my place instead of me. I keep visualizing myself here:
    • Compile some shareable format of my photos, journals, and thoughts. I have mountains of journals, discs filled with pictures and hundreds of memories that whisk past me, but there's got to be a better way to store and share them. This might mean a big scrapbook project. Or publishing a book. Or a giant shadow box (haha).
    • Generate income with my crafty endeavors. Last month I sold enough felt ornaments to buy myself these shoes.
    MAN that felt good. I've worn them everyday since I bought them (seriously). Do people really make enough money to live off their hobbies? Inconceivable. I keep telling Hubbins I'm going to make millions every time I have a new brainstorm. He rolls his eyes because he knows I'm so excitable that I'll come up with another bright idea before making enough of anything to have an inventory. But I gave some awesome handmade gifts this year (if I do say so myself).
    • A family. I can't even bring myself to say "I want babies" without quotation marks, because that scares the youknowwhat out of me. But I do want a family. I find myself drawn toward little people lately. Babies are cropping up all over the place. I got to hold my co-worker's newborn last week (as in still-in-the-hospital new, still-wearing-that-weird-umbilical-clip new, still-crunched-in-the-fetal-position new). Oh lordy. I had to keep myself from smothering him in kisses. My sister in law is expecting her first in February; I bought picture books and sewed bibs for Christmas. I'm not even sure I want to publish this in my blog; like once I admit it in writing there's no going back. HELP.
    • Buy a house. Our current townhouse is great, but we won't be here forever. We have no yard. This is not a good place to have kids.
    These someday-dreams seem incompatible. I can't schedule them all on my calendar. But there they are.

    All my old standard goals still apply: pay off debt, save money, lose weight, write more, be a better wife. But they aren't the accomplishments I want in and of themselves. They are only stepping stones to the bigger goals. And that motivates me.