“Losing” Mini Me

I’ve been away from the blog for quite a while. I have had plenty of subjects that are worthy of a post, but some I am not comfortable sharing yet, and others were just not striking any deep resonance within me to write about. In a way this is good because it means nothing especially terrible has happened. Plenty of great memories have been made in the last six months, including a husband and wife trip to Spain and Italy, and a family trip to Philly, Stone Harbor, NJ, and NYC. At some point I’m sure I will post about these wanderlust travels. Today, I want to talk about our youngest son. My taller-than-me male duplicate. My mini me. 

Brennan turned 18 in June. He graduated from high school in May with his International Baccalaureate degree and a departmental award in History. He is such a bright kid. His book smarts far exceed mine. He loves to learn, and really enjoys physics and history. I am one proud mama. We must have done a few things right along the way because he has grown into a wonderful young man. We have been preparing him for this moment his whole life. I knew it was coming, but time goes too fast. On August 23rd, We moved him into his college dorm. I had to say goodbye to my little boy. My mini me. 

We have been fortunate because our eldest, Ethan, has been commuting to college while living at home. We still get to see him every day. We know where he is most of the time, and we know he is safe when he comes home at night. I knew It’d be hard when the first one left, I’m sure it will be hard when the second and third do, but you never really know how it will feel until they are gone. I tell myself we are lucky. This is a good event. a GREAT event. We succeeded, HE succeeded, but I miss my boy regardless. I miss my mini me. 

It is getting better day by day. I even go a few days without texting him now. I try to give him space. Space to grow, to learn, to thrive. The nights are the hardest. I think it’s because even if he were gone all day before, he always came home at night. I don’t know where he is, what he is doing, or if he made it back to his dorm at night anymore. I have to rely on what we have taught him, the decisions he makes, and God’s protection. Stay safe, my mini me. 

I love you, Brennan. This house will never be the same, but this world will be better because of you, and I’m proud to be a part of it. You be you, my gift from God. My mini me.

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Welcome to My Party! 

Many of you know me personally. I am a cheerful person most of the time, however, every now and then life gets me down. I’m not looking for advice. I’m not looking for encouraging comments. I am taking today for what it is….my own personal pity party. Welcome!  Feel free to enjoy some refreshments! There is red wine, or red wine, or maybe you’d like some red wine?! Is it okay that it’s from a box? Only the best at our house. 

I can’t say I woke up knowing that today was party day. It more or less smacked me in the face like a frozen glove not long after that though. It’s dreary outside, it’s cold, and Mother Nature is having a hard time deciding if she wants to make it snow or rain. It’s a holiday, so I should be happy that the entire family was home for at least part of the day. We went for a walk at the mall. I was trying to change the theme of the party, but after my delicious fruit smoothly got knocked out of my hand and spilled all over the floor, like the proverbial kid with the ice cream cone,  I lost all hope. 

Do I know why I am depressed today? I have some ideas. Life. It sneaks up on you, and before you know it kids are getting ready to leave home. It’s good and bad……because they CAN. We have prepared them. They grow so fast though. At times it seems like life is constantly trying to bring us down. We deal with the hand we are dealt, but sometimes it seems like the deck is stacked against us, which brings me to…. worry. I try not to spend too much time partaking in this activity, but sometimes the unknown gets to me. Sometimes, I worry about what is yet to come. 

I saw an article online this morning referring to today as “Blue Monday.” By the time I read it I had already realized that it was party day, but it did explain my feelings a little. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is down today. The holidays are over and spring  is still to far away. The weather is crappy. There are pity parties happening all over the world. As they say…..”misery loves company”…… so CHEERS to you and yours!  This, however, is one party that I won’t miss when it is over. When you leave the party, take all your belongings. There is no coming back. Tomorrow is a new day! 

Into the Light

A little over four years ago, my son told me about a friend of his from school. He told me he was helping her study for math, as she was close to failing the class. As he proceeded to tell me a little more about her, he told me that she cut herself. Intentionally. She was actively self-harming. My first thought….the very first thing that came to my mind was……she must have a difficult home life. She must have absent parents. How could they NOT know what was going on with their daughter? The visions of her sad, lonely, parent-lacking life filled my head. I was not unique.  I was among millions of other people who don’t understand, or have never experienced, self-harm, suicide, or suicide attempts in a loved one.

My family is your average nuclear family. My husband and I have been married for 26 years. We have lived  in the same house since the oldest child was 15 months old (We lived in Shanghai for four years, but returned to our American home during the holidays and in summer.)  We have two dogs, two cats, great neighbors, and a small-town-feel neighborhood in a large metropolitan area. We go to church. We take family vacations, go out to eat, to the zoo, museum, baseball games, and more. We visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The kids play sports, but not too many. They have plenty of relaxation time. We are always there for our kids when they need us, and at times when they don’t. However, regardless of all we do right, we cannot control what happens all of the time, and things can go miserable wrong.

This will be the first time I have said this publicly. Close friends and family know, but we have kept the circle close. This is very difficult to say, because of the stigma, and they way many of those who have never had to deal with it react. In February, 2014, my 10 year old daughter attempted suicide. More than once. Without my knowledge. She was taking my prescription medication. I noticed I was low on pills, but thought I had been shorted by the pharmacy. It wasn’t until she came downstairs to me crying, on her third try, and told me what she had done, as a result of bullying. As a parent, it was like being hit by a train. How could this happen in our family? What had we done wrong? How could we not know that the bullying had continued at school? What do we do now?

I immediately went into panic-mode. Bill wasn’t home yet and Ethan had just left with my car. I asked what she had taken and how much, then I called a neighbor to take us to the hospital which is luckily only a few blocks away. I didn’t not tell her why, and she did not ask.  In the next few hours we would learn the extent of the situation.

I will not go into the details of what happen with the school and the bully, but you can get the story in my prevous blog post for which I attached a link below.

https://superfiveshanghai.com/until-the-scars-fade

In the two and a half years since her attempt, my daughter, and our family, has had an amazing amount of support and growth. With the help of her phenomenal psychologist and her psychiatrist, and with education on the subject and guidance on looking for and dealing with symptom we have all learned. We have not just learned how to deal with suicide, attempted suicide, and self-harm. We have not just learned how to create a new normal. We have learned that no one is immune.

I am walking in an “Out of the Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I am walking for my daughter. I am walking for her journey from darkness to light.  I am walking for my friend’s son, who gave up on life last October, who couldn’t find light in his life, and for whom I wrote my blog post linked below:

https://superfiveshanghai.com/the-death-of-a-son-the-death-of-a-star

I am walking for all of those who have experienced any sort of mental illness in their life, or in the life of a loved one. I am walking for those who may experience it in the future. I am walking to raise awareness, to educate, to teach compassion and understanding. I am walking because suicide does not discriminate.

i am walking into the light.

 

 

 

 

FIRE…..Again…..and Again…..and Again

I have issues with fire. I know, not many people like a fire that’s not In a pit or a fireplace, but I have more encounters with fire in the WRONG  places than the average person.

My first  encounter with the bad kind of  fire  was when I was  9 years old. We had been at a parade a few miles away from our house and saw the smoke cloud.  Completely out of character for my mom, she  decided to see if we could find it. We drove through a nearby subdivision before giving up and heading home. When we got to the end of our street we saw the fire trucks. It turned out to be two houses over from our own. Neighbors were spraying our shingles and shutters to prevent them from melting, or catching fire. For me it began a fear of fire. For years I would constantly check the stove, hair dryer, curling iron, and other appliances. Unfortunately it would not be my last…..or second to last……or……third.

Moving on to my wedding day. A bit of advice for all of my readers………DON’T LEAN OVER CANDLES. Not even when your drink is on the other side of them, and especially not while wearing a veil. As I stood by the head table talking to my lifelong best friend and bridesmaid, I began to smell something burning. I looked down and noticed a brown spot on my sleeve. “Oh, look Lynn……I burned my sleeve.”  At this point she looked down and started beating my leg, while my father-in-law grabbed my veil from behind, threw it to the ground, and started stomping on it.  Pieces of my veil were burning off and falling on to  the sleeve and skirt of my gown, causing the fire to spread al over me……while I chatted away. Luckily, I got married in the early 90’s and the dresses were big, so no damage to my body. Maybe a few shorter hairs on my head though, as it was not In a fancy upswept style, but hanging down around my face.   It’s amazing it didn’t go up in flames with all the hair spray I used.

A few short years later I was cooking in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. I was pulling something out of the oven, and I heard the potholder “pop.” I knew it must have hit the heating element, but couldn’t see a flame on it. I took it off and started moving it around to check it.  All of a sudden I felt a bit of a burn and as I pulled the potholder away, all the layers stuck to my thumb.  Found it!

When my oldest was about three years old he was sitting at the table eating dinner. I was in the living room and decided to straighten a picture frame that was sitting on our fairly tall entertainment center. I reached over a lit votive to do it. It was already burned pretty low, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. Let me remind you, and rephrase what I said earlier……. DON’T EVER REACH OVER A CANDLE!  Needless to say, my sweater caught fire. Once again I heard a “pop.”  I went into a little panic and did exactly what you should never do……I blew on it, then I watched it race up my arm. Being silly, I was afraid if I stopped, dropped, and rolled, I would start the carpet on fire. It occurred to me to open the door and run outside and roll in the snow, but I can’t imagine what that gust of oxygen would have done for it.  Instead I started doing a little dance and a low scream…….” I’m on FIRE!”  My husband came running out of the kitchen and yelled “STOP, DROP, AND ROLL! ”   Feeling sensibility return, I did just that. The fire really just burned the fuzzies off of the sweater and it was one of my favorites so I asked Bill if he thought I could salvage it. His response….. “You smell like a barbecue.”  My son’s response……. “It’s okay, Mommy. Next time you catch fire you can just stop, drop, and roll, then take off your sweater, throw it away, and buy a new one.”  My thoughts are…..I hope there’s not a next time.

Today. I finished cleaning the kitchen and headed upstairs to get ready to go out. My son, Ethan, was off of work today, by the grace of God, and decided to go in the kitchen to get a drink shortly after I went upstairs. He screamed up to me with panic in his voice, but I didn’t hear what he said and had to ask again. “THERE’S AN ELECTRICAL FIRE IN THE DISHWASHER!”  I started  running downstairs, then had to back track to get my phone. When I got downstairs I opened the dishwasher and asked him to go flip all the circuits off (I am proud of this moment of intelligence compared to what follows.) Next,  I spent at least two minutes trying to remember how to work my phone to dial 911, because that’s what happens with me in these situations.  When my memory returned I dialed. I proceeded talk to them in panic-mode (which I’m sure they’re used to) and within minutes the entourage arrived. Three cop cars and a fire truck. Nothing like a good neighborhood show.

All is fine. The neighbors have been filled in. The crowds have dispersed. A new dishwasher will be here soon……and I pray that this will be the last fire situation I ever have to deal with.

I’ll end this with some advice……….. DONT EVER LEAVE YOUR WASHER, DRYER, OR DISHWASHER RUNNING IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HOME, OR ARE GOING TO SLEEP.  We were lucky. We were home and awake, but there have been many times I have left or gone to sleep after starting a cycle on one of these appliances. Never again.

…….. and an ever-so-appropriate quote from my sister-in-law.

“Seriously, woman. You and fire…….”

 

 

 

America….Stop Being So Sensitive!

Why are American’s so easily offended theses days? I really don’t get it. I don’t care what someone else says, does, writes, or “tweets.” They cannot change who I am, what I do, or what I believe in . Why does everyone have to watch everything they say so carefully? One wrong, most likely unintended word, and the whole context of the statement is blown out of proportion.

The other day an NBC announcer tweeted the word “real” in a statement about an adoptive child and her parents. What they really meant was “biological,” but because of one word the news exploded. It was like a call to the country, or at least those who feel the need to be easily offended even when it has nothing to do with them, to validate adoptive parents.

I am an adoptive parent. I know who I am to my daughter and no one can change that.  I am not offended by that statement and neither should anyone else be. No one can change who you are or what you do with a word, or a statement. Why do we as Americans feel the need to place so much weight behind another individual’s off-handed comment? Why do we feel that everyone has to use specific terminology or we will immediately be offended for whoever it may remotely apply to? More often than not it does not apply to the offended one, and does not offend a majority of those who it may apply.

This is merely one example of what continues to be a growing  issue in this country. I could go on forever.

Please America…..STOP BEING SO SENSITIVE!

 

 

I am a Teenager Stuck in a Middle-Aged Body

I am 16 years old at heart, but I am stuck in a middle-aged body.  I may not wear bootie shorts and crop tops, every calorie I eat goes right to my hips, and can’t dance to save my life, but in my heart and soul I am still a teenager.

There is nothing more satisfying than sleeping in on a Saturday morning, and a weekday sleep in makes me giddy. I prefer to stay up late at night, and even if I didn’t, I have a hard time going to sleep at all, much less early. My body, however, prefers not to hang out at a movie, restaurant, bar, or party into the wee hours. It would rather plant itself firmly on my bed in the comfort of home, with my husband next to me, and the dog curled up under a blanket at the bottom of the bed.  I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I will never fill my closet with black and beige, and I refuse to wear “mom jeans.” There are certain styles of tops I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and I was once told (by a slightly older friend) that the cute brown and pink hoodie I was buying looked like it was for someone younger. Recently, I was at a shoe store and the sales associate took me over to the clunky, white, walking shoes. My body was suddenly (and horrifyingly) taken over by a rude teenager who shouted out, ” I’m not wearing those ugly things!” I spent the next 10 minutes apologizing for my alter-ego. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

When my husband goes out-of-town for work I sleep with a stuffed animal  that we got while on a date night. We were at Build-a-Bear and he pulled all the cloth hearts out of a large tube and put them back in the top until he got to the only one we could find that said “I Love You” on it.  I won’t change the sheets on the bed until he gets back, and before he leaves I change my jammies every night for a few days so I have several pairs to wear while he’s gone that I have worn with him by my side. If those get dirty, I resort to his t-shirts. He is my movie star. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

A few years back, I was driving my son and a friend’s daughter to school, we were talking about a specific person and I said, “She’s OUR age.” I was a 40ish year old woman talking to a 16-year-old girl. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

Although I appreciate many genres of music spanning over a number of decades, I will also listen to (and enjoy at a frightening level) the music my pre-teen and teen listen to. Some songs I will play over and over, never tiring of them. I will sing along, and may even dance. If only the dance moves matched the age of my heart and soul. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I would rather feel young at heart, with the knowledge and experience of a seasoned adult than be 16 again. Being a 40-something kid has plenty of advantages. The most important being an appreciation of and love for life.  I’ll take being trapped in this middle-aged body any day of the week. It has been through many trials and tribulations, and it has made me who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Me? Why Us?

There have been times over the years when I have said “Why me?” “Why us?” Why did this happen to us and not somebody else. Sometimes it just seems that no one else has the same misfortune. I know that isn’t true, and our situation could be much worse, so I don’t dwell for long. I thank God that it isn’t, and for the blessings He has given us.

A majority, if not all, of these events have been medical in nature. My health, and the health of my family. Severe allergies as a child, Crohn’s at the age of 29, which progressed at an alarming rate, cataracts at the age of 32, removal of my colon at the age of 33. Most recently, the Essential Thrombocythemia diagnosis at 42.

The last few years have been no exception to this question. It has floated in and out of my brain, off and on, for months, but after a few moments of self pity, I remind myself of our blessings. This time, though, it was the health of our children.

In 2014 my daughter was bullied, as I wrote about in the post titled, “Until the Scars Fade” (https://superfiveshanghai.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/.) At the time, a number of the parents who learned how she attempted to cope were scared of her. They didn’t want their children to be around her. Their ignorance on mental health astounded me. These were well-educated individuals, who must have known that depression isn’t contagious. This is a 10 year old child we’re talking about. She was literally shunned. She had left for the school year and was being tutored, while receiving therapy, and I was encouraged NOT to bring her back for any school functions, so as not to upset other parents, while the bully continued in school with no repercussions.

It has taken two years to be able to take a deep breath. To feel like she is back on track to health. From the outside, it is not apparent. No one else would know what she has been through, and the resulting depression she experiences. No one would know the struggle it has been. As a parent, it has been stressful and heartbreaking. Why my baby girl? Why does she have to deal with this?

Last spring, my oldest son, who suffers from ADD, had some serious anxiety issues. This had never appeared to be a problem before, but it escalated quickly. He was working his first job, taking a few too many college classes, and the pressure and responsibility overwhelmed him. He has always been very independent, and doesn’t like to ask for help. Up until recently, he preferred that we didn’t. We knew he was skipping some classes, and calling in to work, and we had decided that it was time for him to learn the hard way. We had no idea it was due to anxiety until the end of the semester, when he finally told us. After four months of keeping it to himself, he finally released himself from carrying the burden alone. The semester was a bust, and he left his job, but we could, and would, help him.

He spent seven months after the failed-semester ended, in twice-a-week therapy, having medication adjusted, and spending hours and hours in his room. It was, once again, heartbreaking to see one of our children suffering. We spent most of 2015 worried that he might never come back up for air, while his therapist told us it would just take time. She had enough faith for all  of us. She was right. In November, he got a new job, and he started classes in January. He comes home from work happy and talkative, something we have rarely seen from our quiet boy. He goes to class, and has been getting high A’s. Once again, I feel like I can take a breath.

After the events of the last few years, I look for ways to spread awareness about mental illness, and mood disorders. I need to do more. Obviously, I have written about some of it in the blog. I hope that readers will share my posts to spread the word. My Facebook page, Sunrise Strong-Mood Disorder Awareness and Acceptance, is a another step, but it is not enough. As stress at home continues to decrease (fingers-crossed and a bunch of prayers), I hope to have time to find other ways to spread awareness. Maybe that’s why……..why it’s me, why it’s us.

“A Storm’s a Brewin'”

We have had a house guest this week. A nasty and violent visitor reeking havoc where it is not wanted. We have been free of its wrath for several years. I guess our time was up. Stomach flu, we abhor you.

Bill stayed home Tuesday, to keep tabs on me…..from a distance whenever possible. I had spent the night with the porcelain prince, and although he proved useful, I did not ask for, nor want, the date. It had been years since I had spent such time with him, and hope it’s years before we meet in this manner again.

Shortly after 9am, Bill came running to the bottom of the stairs in concern. The visitor was raging again. Loudly. Once he found me resting peacefully, he started searching for the source. The youngest child was at school, the sleeping, middle child,  was fine, and the oldest was at chemistry class….or not. Ethan had made it to school, taken a quiz, turned in a paper, and told his professor that he was ill and would have to make up the lab. He raced home at break-neck speed, pulled into the driveway, grabbed his bag, opened the car door, dropped down to the ground, and decorated the front lawn with his breakfast. He was driving my car.  Bonus points for keeping it outside. Number one child, was the second victim.

It was at this point that Bill and child number two started to bond in brotherhood, to protect their right to health.  The Clorox wipes and Lysol came out. Lines were drawn. We are here. You are there. Do not cross this line.  They went to the raw juice bar, and downed immunity ginger shots together, then questioned their sanity as the intense spice burned its way down to their bellies. They each had an extra large green juice chaser, cooling the flame,  and cleansing the body, in hopes of further protection. They swore their allegiance to health. They would not fall.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, after 24 hours of reprieve, it felt safe. I don’t know why I thought it was okay to take a deep breath, but I did. I continued washing the linens, towels, and bacteria-laden clothing, optimistic that a full family infection had been avoided. Unfortunately, as I walked past Brennan late in the afternoon, he angrily mumbled….”a storm’s a brewin,’ and I blame you.”  Dad walked in minutes later, pumped his fist in the air as he saw Brennan, still residing in the land of the living, and shouted “Solidarity, son! You’re still on the island!” He was answered with doubtful head shakes. As I write this, the second child is the third to go down.

There were only two left on the island. Father and daughter allied. Fist bumps ensued. Who would be the last family member standing? How long would they last? Realization hit. The allies became competitors.

At 3:12am, unusual activity is heard from the bathroom, and lights are being turned on. From a dark bedroom the sounds of the third child…..”Hey, Dad?! Are you off the island?! I imagine a fist pump may have taken place n that dark room. The fourth has succumbed. Survival of the fittest.

Carleigh is still going strong. I fear she may be dripping in germs, but she has a reading at mass today, and she has no signs of illness. May God protect her and her classmates from our unwanted visitor, and me from their parents, if things go awry.

 

 

Hiding in the Bathroom

Let’s face it. We’ve all done it at one time or another. You just can’t handle it anymore, and you head into the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. It’s one of the few rooms in the house where you can lock the door, and convince all but the smallest of children, that it’s best to give you your privacy.   If your lucky, you can sneak in with a glass of wine and a good book. Turn on  the shower, and  up the music, to block out noise (and claim you couldn’t hear, if called), and you never know, you could get mommy-alone-time for…..and I may be overestimating……….10 minutes?!

For whatever reason, men do not have the same problem as us. No one follows them and sits outside the door. No one screams from another room, begging for their attention.  If this does happen, they ignore it, and it goes away. The persistence just isn’t there if it’s not the mom.  In my house, the men use this to their advantage.

Bill goes into the bathroom every morning to get ready for work. He takes his iPad with him, and listens to music, and reads his book. I’m pretty sure he has no intention of spending a long time in there, but he gets distracted. “I’ll just finish this chapter.” “Listen to _______ song.” “Hey! That reminds me of _______song.”    I have to strategically plan my bathroom usage around this habit. Do I go in before him? After him? Or do I just go in once I hear the shower water go on, and screw the privacy rule?!

When Brennan was little, if a situation came up where he was asked a question that made him feel uncomfortable, he would say “I have to go to the bathroom, ” and sprint away from said conversation. As he’s grown, it has continued in some form or another, and although he doesn’t actually leave conversations anymore, he won’t hesitate to avoid them before they begin. He uses this method to escape unwanted tasks, as well. When it comes time to unload the groceries, or put them away……nature calls. Time to vacuum……going into the bathroom may result in parents forgetting for a few more hours, and due to the fact that I can be absent -minded…it works!

Ethan doesn’t even try to hide the desire to flee. If I am going into his room to ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer, and he feels he can’t escape the conversation with half-hearted responses, he will push past me to relocate to the bathroom, and  will hide for as long as it takes, reading, or watching videos, until he feels the coast is clear. He is a stubborn kid, and can outlast the best of us, so this tactic works amazingly well.

After years of finding safe haven in this room, the boys have found that they LIKE hanging out in there, even when not avoiding the wrath of mom. Overall, I don’t mind, but even though we are lucky to have two bathrooms, we do not have an endless supply of hot water. There are nights I hear the boys’ bathroom door close, and I make a beeline for the upstairs bathroom, so I can take a HOT shower. Who would have thought that I would have to worry about my teenage BOYS  bathroom time more than my daughter’s?! No one warned me!

As I sit here writing this post, Brennan is in the bathroom, sucking every ounce of deliciously toasty water out of the hot water heater. He should be out in an hour or so. I will eventually go bang on the door and ask him to save me some hot water, and later I will take a less-than-satisfying lukewarm shower, while the family finds ways to need me, immediately……..if not sooner.

 

Mama

I’m one lucky girl. My mom has always been there for me, through thick and thin, good times and bad. I don’t remember ever having to question whether I could count on her when I was in need. I just knew. Considering she didn’t have much of a role model (her alcoholic mother died when she was 13, and her dad, of a stroke, when she was 18), she has done a phenomenal job.

When I was a baby, I was allergic to almost every food, as well as mold, dust, pollen, and animal dander, and had severe asthma, as well. Although I eventually outgrew them, they were a daily obstacle throughout my infant, toddler, and young childhood years. My diet required that she co-ordinate my food not only at home, but also at school, friend’s houses, and even the occasional restaurant. She spent many weekends fishing with a family friend for blue gill, to add to my limited diet of lamb, rice and apples. She bought soy baby formula for me until I was 10, as regular soy milk was not on the market yet, and ordered special rice bread which was delivered to our local Sander’s freezer. She didn’t even have to ask for it, she went right into the “employees only” door and got it out herself. She has always been a friend to everyone, and they trusted her. That’s just the kind of person she is.

As the mother of a special needs child, she was ever vigilant of my food, and surroundings, and I was in a never-ending state of testing her skills. I was constantly finding ways to sneak the food I wasn’t suppose to have, and hiding under tables, or outside, to relish it. She was continuously in fear of me dropping dead of an allergic reaction or asthma attack. The poor woman could never let her guard down.

My mom and I had a rocky relationship in my latter childhood years. We fought frequently. We are very much alike, and we were constantly butting heads. We both felt we needed to win any given argument. When I was a teen, and young adult, our conversations were confrontational and loud. She worried about so many things, and I was constantly defensive. She had a difficult childhood, and between that and my stressful younger years, she spent her days in protection mode. She was always trying to help, and I  resisted. In my defense, if I had followed every bit of advise she’d given, there are many things I would have never done, a number of which helped me to become the outgoing, semi-adventurous, person that I am. I have always been headstrong, and prefer to do things my way. I have never really felt comfortable accepting others help, even when it was obvious I needed it.

In the worst of my Crohn’s years, when 105 degree fevers were a daily occurrence, and my husband had to travel often for work, I would tell her I was fine, and she didn’t need to come stay with me. She has had serious back problems since an injury when she was in her mid-thirties, and I knew it would be rough for her to take on my daily chores, and spend the night in a bed that was not adjusted for her back. I had a very active 1 year old, and a 4 year old, and thought that it would be better to do it on my own, than risk her further problems. I was feeding the kids wrapped in a blanket, shaking with fever-induced chills. I concentrated on tiny increments of time, just trying to make it from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, to bedtime, but would not take her up on her offer for help.

My mama is not one to take “no” for an answer, so she came anyway.  She took over the household, and caring for the boys, so I could rest. She drove me to doctor’s appointments, did the grocery shopping, made meals, and doled out medication. She may have even tucked me into bed. Following my abdominal surgery, she came again, and even though Bill was no longer traveling as much, she stayed for several weeks to help him with the kids and me. We spent more time together during those years, than we had since I was very young, and I started to realize she was not only a loving and attentive mother, but fun, and I actually enjoyed being with her.

When Bill, the kids, and I packed up and moved to Shanghai, we only saw my parents when we returned in the summer, and not many times at that. We’ve all heard the old saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and it proved to be true. It was while in China, that my mom and I had some of our best telephone conversations. At least up until the line went staticky and we realized we had said something that the Chinese monitors didn’t like, and we had to end it for the day.

My mother was never comfortable with us moving to China, as I’ve said, she has always been a worrier. She would much rather have her children tucked safely under her wing . It was while living abroad, that I started trying to calm some of her fears and worries, instead of taking offense or fighting them. It was then, that I started being an adult on the phone with my mom, when I finally stopped arguing and started listening, and discussing, that my mom and I finally fell into step together.

In 2013, and again in 2014, I went down to my parents’ winter home to help care for my mom after back and neck surgery. It felt good to return the favor, and spend some time with my parents by myself.  We had the best time together, especially our 5 AM mother/daughter coffee talks….. and it takes something pretty special for me to enjoy anything at that time of morning. She shared stories from her childhood, and her young adult life, and we reminisced about our early family memories. Of course, one of my favorite things to talk about with her as an adult, has always been the things my siblings and I did that she never knew about. And, hey! We lived to talk about it! There was never any time of day better than those crack-of-dawn mornings, in the rocking recliner chairs, in their tiny TV room.  I will always cherish those moments.

My mama is a giving and compassionate woman. She will go out of her way to help a friend or family member. If you are good to her, you are a friend for life. She doesn’t take friends or family lightly, and she will not let you down. She is as good as it gets, and more than you could ever hope for in a friend or relative. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I am forever grateful for the gift from Heaven that is, my mom.