I hate that PVNS still has a hold over me after all of this time. Symptoms began about 7 years ago and went undiagnosed, well undiagnosed and misdiagnosed, for about three years... During that time it wreaked havoc on my body and my mind. I remember the pain being so bad that I could not stand at my kitchen counter and even cut up a salad without tears coming to my eyes from the pain... When I was officially diagnosed and set up for surgery, I cried... not from the fear of the surgery or of the disease, but from relief, that there was something specific causing my pain and that there was a potential solution. While the surgery was tough, and the recovery tougher, I already felt better than I had felt in years. I was afraid that I would be one of those people for whom PVNS returns...and I feared that it would come back stronger than ever and once again consume my life. My six month and one year check ups were great, and there were no signs of PVNS rearing its ugly head... on my two year check up (2009) the MRI report noted that there was a cyst in my knee... When I heard that I panicked, certain that I was once again going to have to have major surgery and go through this process again... but when I talked with my doctor, he said the cyst was scar tissue from the surgery, that the person who read the MRI would not recognize it as scar tissue because so few people are familiar with PVNS and what to look for on the MRI. I left that appointment floating on air as my doctor told me he did not need to see me for two years. Which brings us to now...
Although my appointment is not until June, having played the insurance company games and having learned that as the patient you must advocate for yourself... I began, in March, talking with my primary care doctor's office and got the ball rolling. I had my MRI in late March... and at the MRI got a hard copy of the disc of images, and asked that a copy be sent to my Boston doctor, to which they agreed. I tld my doctor's office in Boston it would be coming and they agreed to let me know how it looked before my June appointment. At the beginning of last week I contacted Boston to see if they had reviewed my MRI. They had not yet received it. I had to make contact with the place where I had my MRI and have another one sent. Apparently the woman who had taken down the information when I had the MRI, of who to send it to, didn't complete the order and it was never sent. (This is why I start early... AND get a hard copy for myself.) This week the MRI images arrived in Boston and I got an email from one of the doctors who works closest with my specialist, who said that there were PVNS nodules in the knee but that my specialist said the MRI looked alright. This, of course, confused me and made my anxiety about pvns start to stir...
So we started several emails back and forth... it is possible that the nodules that are now visible on the MRI were also there in 2009. (I do remember at the time, my Boston doc saying that the images in the 2009 MRI were not as clear as the images from 2008, which is why I went to a different place to have the MRI this year.) Because PVNS is what it is, I know that it is impossible to remove every pvns cell... I opted for the open anterior and posterior synovectomy because it is the most radical and has the best chance of removing the most cells... but I know that it is possible, probable actually, that not all of the PVNS cells were removed in my surgery. I asked if having pvns nodules meant that I was heading down the path I was on before... pain...swelling...immobility...etc..And wanted a clear yes or no... I was told that I should not let my anxiety start to get excited... that if pvns is once again trying to come back, that it will be a slow progression and that I should not let this news in any way impact what I am doing, how active I am being, etc. I have been asked to get a cd from my 2009 MRI in order for them to compare the two, to see if there are changes, and if so, if they are significant.
So... I am waiting... and am feeling less anxiety than I might expect myself to feel, knowing that my head can often get me into trouble with overthinking... I will be glad to have the opportunity to see my doctor again in June and in the meantime will think of questions to ask him... I always have a list... which I think he now expects...
I remember, somewhere along the way, I wrote a letter to PVNS, via this blog... I did so to try to take power away from it and to not let the fear of its return stop my life or prevent me from doing what I wanted to do because I was afraid I would trigger its return... (which to my knowledge because of its nature is impossible...)
I admit that while PVNS has not been in the forefront of my mind, until recently, it still has power over me... any minute pain in my knee and my head goest to PVNS... any little snap, crackle, or pop, and my head goes to PVNS... but for the most part I have done what I wanted to do... and I can't say that without thinking about having walked two half marathons in the last two years... and planning to do my third this fall...
But... I also admit that I do not push my body as hard as I could during my workouts... I do not go as fast on the elliptical as I could, and didn't shake my booty as much as I could at Zumba the other night... because there is a part of me that thinks, if I overdo it will come back... full blown... so... it still has me... power over me...
I am going to assume that all is well, until I have my face to face conversation with my doctor in June. And I am going to continue to work out, walk a lot, and remind myself that if I ever do need to have another surgery like I have already had... I need to be in shape for it, so that recovering would be easier and faster than it was last time...
That being said... Positive thoughts are welcome!
Today is Easter... to some, the holiest of Christian holidays. People spend time at church, with family, or in my case working... Yup.. I spent today working on the tolls. I worked from 7a.m. to 3p.m. Getting up this morning was a little hard, considering it was the last morning of my school vacation week... but once I was out the door I was rewarded by the sunshine, the fresh smell of the air, and the glistening dew drops hanging onto the grass... it was a beautiful morning. It felt like a new beginning of sorts because the spring, here in Maine, has been playing hide and seek with us... and this morning I felt like spring had arrived.
I worked quite a bit this weekend. Friday afternoon, before napping to head in for my midnight shift, I was looking for a version of the bible, online. I figured that there must be copies of the bible on the world wide web... and I was right. I have toyed with the idea of reading the bible... for a lot of reasons... one of which is curiosity. I have never read the bible. I have read passages, heard passages read... but that's about it. Mom participated in a few different bible study groups during her life, and she enjoyed it. I have been pondering, more and more lately, about church, religion, and what it all means... So... I have been thinking maybe I will start reading the bible.. not because I expect to have a moment where I am suddenly a devout Christian... but because I want to know what it says... I want to know what it is people are believing in... and if I can relate to it...
So...I had taken my laptop to the turnpike with me, with the bible webpages saved so that I could revisit them while I was working...figuring a midnight shift would be a good time to do some reading and thinking about the bible. Let's just say that I didn't get to it... I had other things to do... like watching television. I worked again today and had my laptop with me, and did start reading the bible. It starts with Genesis... about the creation of the earth and of Adam and Eve... I did not get very far.. because the toll was kind of busy, and I didn't want to get into it too deeply... so I read a few sentences here and there...
I am not sure how to read it... meaning.. when I read other books, I usually come at them from already knowing a little about the book, its plot, setting, etc... and also kind of knowing where I stand on things, so I can formulate opinions about the content of the book based on my paradigms... When it comes to the bible... I am not sure what knowledge/experience I have that will allow me to relate to it... so... it makes me a little uncomfortable... but maybe that's a good thing... to not have preconceived notions... ok.. I probably do have preconceived notions... because I have had my share of doubts in recent years... but... I really don't know where I stand on many religious topics...
The most reading I have done about religions was in a college class... world religions... taught by a Jewish professor...taken in the fall, when many of our classes were cancelled due to the observation of Jewish holidays... I really enjoyed the class, the discussions, the debating, the various philosophies... so.. maybe I look at it from that perspective... that I am reading something that I am examining... and reading it to see what it's about, not as something that I do or do not agree with or believe in...
So while I am in the midst of reading a few lines from the online Bible... a patron comes through my lane and with his payment hands me a small bible looking book: Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament.....
Just thinking... no big epiphanies... yet... but... don't be surprised if I start blogging a little more about spiritual stuff... but don't be disappointed if I don't!
Posted by TallGal at 9:13 PM
My sister posted something on facebook recently... about it being the anniversary of our mom's death... and after many of her friends commented offering support and relating their own losses, my ssiter wrote "There are a lot of special people in this club..." Losing a parent does make you feel like you are part of an exculsive club... and it is truly not something you can understand until you experience it... I remember writing about that topic before... and it is not the topic of my blog tonight... well... not really.
It's about how being in the club has given me a perspective... and I am learning that it is important for me to not project my experience onto others. On Friday I met up with my good friends to take a walk with them and their five month old daughter. We have not seen each other much since the birth of their daughter, between their adjustment to being a family and my hectic schedule, it has been hard to find time to connect. I was very thankful for having time with them Friday. My friend has bee having a difficult time... her mother is sick and thus far there are no explanations for her illness. She is unable to keep food down, is throwing up often, loses her balance, and has become very dependent upon people for most of her daily tasks. Her mom has spent several days in the hospital on a variety of medications to try to stop the vomitting... My friend is scared. She described seeing her mother in the hospital, how much she looked like she had aged in a short period of time... how unlike herself her mother seemed... and it was hard for me t onot jump in and relate my experience... I remember having some of those same thoughts about my mom... but I did not share that with my friend.. because it wasn't about me.. it was about her... and talking about my mother's symptoms and experience was not going to comfort my friend... she talked about how frustrated they are about not knowing what is going on... and my heart goes out to them. There is such a feeling og helplessness when someone you love is sick... she is conflicted because while she wants to know what is wrong with her mother, she is terrified to know the answer... fearing what that answer could be. I know her mind has gone down the thought process road of what it would mean to lose her mother, but yet she hasn't verbalized it yet... she talked about how she doesn't think her mother could survive in a certain way... that when her mom was in the hospital, at times she thought her breathing would simply stop...
I don't know how to help my friend... and those who know me well know that is a hard place for me to be... I feel conflicted because I do feel like having gone through what I went through with Mom, I can understand what my friend is feeling... not saying that her mom is going to die... I hope not... but those fears and realizations of the mortality of our parents... I get that. I am trying to look at things from her perspective and not through the lens of my own experience... I need to be mindful about not projecting my feelings onto her.. and just be her friend, let her talk, and listen to her...
I hope they get some answers soon... and answers that have solutions...
Another friend I have... who likes to be referenced here, and for spite I will not use her name... who had a health scare this week... She is a person who lives far from her family and despite having a wonderful husband, often feels lonely. They live close to her husband's family now. She knows she has moral support, can call or email people when she needs to, but it is not the same as having someone come over to your house, sit across from you at the table and really talk... she lost her mother in law to cancer not too far from the time I lost Mom... it's funny... because when she talks about her mother in law's death, she always talks about by referring to it as when we lost [husband's name]'s Mom... I don't think I have ever heard her say I lost MY mother in law...which I think allows her to put some distance between her and her mother in law's death... I don't have a mother in law, never have had one... so I cannot speak to what that kind of relationship entails.. but.. from knowing my friend, she very much loved her husband's mother. I wonder sometimes if my friend has not allowed herself to truly grieve the loss of this person in her life because she keeps it at a distance... I hope she allows herslef, at some point, to recognize that yes, her husband lost his mother, but that does not take away from the fact that she lost someone too, someone who mattered to her...I think the impact of losing her mother in law to cancer is deep. My friend did not spend as much time with her mother in law during her illness as she may have wanted to because she has two very young children who needed their own mom to be there for them... she has tried hard to be there for her husband and his family and worries that no matter what she offers for support, it isn't enough... and I think she feels inadequate for not being able to make her husband feel better... or accept things... in addition my friend has been a loyal blog reader, perhaps the most loyal blog reader... so she knows much of what I experienced with my own mother... and knows the pain I have gone through... For her, cancer is familiar. It has been on the circumference of her life for a while now... and one way in which she has reacted is by fearing that she, herself, will have cancer at some point in her life.
Perhaps that reaction sounds a bit extreme, but I think it is more common than you may think. I have heard other people, who have lost loved ones to cancer, predict their own deaths resulting from cancer... I had those moments too, after Mom died.. worrying that my fate was sealed... I am not in that place any more.. but can understand why people's minds go there.
So... this friend found a hard spot, about the size of a pea, uner her arm... in what she thinks are her lymphnodes. She immediately had thoughts that she would die of cancer, leaving her children motherless... and she was scared... As it worked out the lump disappeared which also made my friend's concern disappear...for now... she canceled a doctor's appointment she had made to have it checked out, I think, because she didn't want her doctor to think she was crazy... and is telling herself she needs to get over her irrational fear of cancer.
I respect her decision... but I also want her to know that there is NO irrational fear of cancer. Cancer is very real, and despite the medical reports we hear about all the progress that has been made in cancer research... it is very real... and is worth being afraid of...
I feel like I am rambling tonight.. but my head is thinking about this week and conversations I have had...
I need to work on not projecting my experience, fear, ideas, or prejudices onto my friends... and just be there for them... to listen... and need to remind myself that it's okay that I don't know how to fix things for people...that by definition, a good friend, is not someone who has to have all the answers...
Posted by TallGal at 10:25 PM
I got to spend part of Earth Day with some of my favorite people. I went for a nice walk with Sara, Phil, and their daughter... then got to spend part of the afternoon with them and my friends, Matt and Melissa, and their two sons. Tobias, who just turned 5 gave me a pansy as an Earth Day present. How sweet!
Posted by TallGal at 6:16 PM
Tonight I am at Matt's house. He is at class and I am in the process of making dinner... (How domestic, right? Yes Jill, I know!) While cooking dinner I havebeen listening to music using Pandora Radio. if you haven't used it yet, you should. I love music, although I am no music guru. I can't tell you who sings what or what song title belongs to the music I listen to. I do know the names of a few artists I enjoy and at Pandora you type in the name of an artist and it plays music by that artist and similar artists... soo nice!
It has been a really relaxing evening... cooking and relaxing to some tunes... ahhhhh ... Just relaxing... ahhh... feels good!
Posted by TallGal at 8:08 PM
Two years...104 weeks.. 730 days...17,520 hours, 1,051,200 minutes... since my mom died... I am not trying to be dramatic by showing the time that has passed. I go back to thinking about how we got through things with mom... week to week, day to day, and as things got worse we went from one hour to the next... and then moment to moment... Two years in some respects doesn't seem like much... and in some ways it feels like she was here, just yesterday... but then... it seems like it has been forever since I last got to talk to her, to hug her, to see her smile... time is strange...
Today was, of course emotional for me... and I can't say that I did not wake up in the night last night and think about what today meant... but... it was also a day with many wonderful aspects... Since Matt and I both had the day off, we had been planning to spend the day together. The other day I had talked to Dad and assumed that he would be spending the day with is girlfriend, but then he told me that she was out of town, visiting her daughter. This meant that Dad would spend today alone. This day is no easier for Dad even though he has a girlfriend...I have been wanting Matt and Dad to meet... and it seemed like today would be a great day to make that happen... and so I asked Dad if he wanted to meet up with Matt and I for lunch and he agreed!
I was very happy about getting to see my dad today. And part of me wondered/worried that seeing him today would make me emotional... When we met up at the restaurant and I got out to give Dad a hug, I asked him how he was doing... He said he was doing alright until he read my blog this morning... I didn't mean to make him cry... never my intent with my blogging, but... he should also know, given the timing, that my entries may be a little... intense...
So Matt and Dad and I walked into the restaurant... and it was a very rare occasion, I was the shorty in the group! What? Yup. At 6'6" I was the shortest member of the group. Both Matt and Dad are 6'7" ... doesn't seem like a big difference, but...I am so used to being the tallest person in the crew! We had a good lunch and while Dad and I talekd about my hometown and people we know there, Matt did well staying engaged in the conversation.
I liked having Matt and Dad together today. It was a nice thing... a very nice thing. It's poetic really...
So Mom... Not a day passes where you are not on my mind... not a day where your absence is very much present... But we are living our lives... and moving forward... you have helped us with that... thank you. I love you.
Posted by TallGal at 10:12 PM
So I promised that the posts in the days leading up to the anniversary of my mom's death would be good memories... today I have been thinking a lot about my mom and dad... and so while these memories may not be as happy or jovial as others, they are good memories...
My mom loved sunsets... even before she knew she was sick she would sometimes say that after she died, she hoped God would let her help paint the sunsets... Mom was an artist and her paintings and crafts brought smiles to many people. Every year at Christmas at least a couple of my friends will say to me, "We couldn't wait to get out the Santa Slate that your mom painted..." I am just realizing I am not sure if I have a picture of one of her slates... I should do that... anyway... My mom used to paint slate shingles, the kind that were and are on many old homes throughout New England. One of her designs was this plump, jolly Santa sitting in a tall straight back chair carefully checking his list of names. He wears fuzzy slippers as his bright blue eyes scan down through the names on his scroll which gathers around his feet. Over the years I would ask my mom to make one for my friends, and Mom would personalize them by painting people's names onto the list... and several of my friends display their slates each year. She made one for my sister as well as many of our family members as well... Mom loved to paint and her skills would be well used in painting sunsets.
Sunsets are so peaceful. When I see a beautiful sunset I just like to watch it... the colors change so much form beginning to end and no matter how skilled one is as a photographer, the intensity and integrity of the colors cannot be captured in pictures. It is close, no doubt, but, there is still nothing like it.
My mom and I always had the kind of relationship where we could just talk for hours... while playing canasta or scrabble, while kayaking, or while laying on her bed before going to sleep for the night. The memory that I woke up with this morning involves one of those conversations. I was home visiting my parents, this was probably a couple of months before Mom died... maybe a month and a half... it is so hard to remember the timing of things... and it was when Mom was still able to go up and down stairs, although it made her quite tired. She had gone upstairs for the night to go to bed and I had gone up to see if she needed anything and to keep her company.
I remember watching her get into her bed.. how every movement was calculated and tiring for her. After arranging her pillows she got into bed and covered herself up with her blankets. She laid on her back with her head slightly propped up so she could see the television. I laid with her, on Dad's side of the bed, on my right side, facing her. I don't remember exactly what we were talking about at first, but I remember at one point she reached over and held my hand. And she said something about knowing how hard this was for me. I looked at her hand on mine, felt its warmth and looked into her eyes. She had a look on her face of love and compassion and her features looked so soft and gentle.
During Mom's battle with cancer I tried hard to not cry in front of her, not because she would have minded... but I felt like I needed her to know that I was strong and wanted her to think that we would all be okay...even though I didn't think I would survive losing her. I remember this evening, after looking into her eyes, I did cry... it wasn't my hyperventilating kind of crying that I have been known to do... but warm tears just streamed down my face... and I said to her, "I am going to miss you. I love you so much." And she laid there rubbing my arm slowly and after a while she said to me that she needed to talk to me about something that I might not want to hear.
She told me that she knew she was dying... and I can't remember what else she said... I remember crying a little harder and didn't say anything.. I just let her talk. She told me that she wanted me to know that she did not want my dad to be alone after she died. She told me that Dad was still very young and that she wanted Dad to keep living and that she hoped he would meet someone with whom he would spend time. She didn't want me or my sister to not accept someone into Dad's life because that woman wouldn't be her...She told me she had tried to have that conversation with my dad, but he wasn't ready to hear her, that it was too hard of a conversation...
I knew what my mom was doing was important and selfless and something she needed to say and knew I needed to hear it...but I remember being a little mad at her for saying it... because I think in my mind, in that moment, I realized that Mom had accepted the idea of dying... and she had begun, in her very caring way, of trying to take care of us at a time after she was gone...
I look back at my mom...and how many gifts she gave us as she was dying. And it really is a testament to who she was. My mom was a care-taker... always was... and I think I get some of my nurturing nature from her. She really wanted us to be okay...and when we were okay, she was okay... She had told me at one point, that she had signed a DNR order... so I knew that if there was an acute emergency (I say acute emergency, because for me, my mom's entire illness was an emergency, to which nobody could respond and save her... but at this phase of things, an emergency was deemed to be something that would have required additional, immediate care) and she was taken to the hospital or was in the hospital and things deteriorated, that there would be no heroic measures put forth to save her... She told us that she did not want to be in pain.... that if she had a choice between being able to breathe while in pain or not being able to breathe without pain, she would choose no pain. She told us she loved us whenever she could...these things helped us get through her death...helped us help her die I suppose... but by telling me about wanting Dad to have a companion... she was helping us live beyond her death.
I think my mom knew she had to have that conversation with me. This fall, when Dad started contemplating the idea of dating someone... he kind of sought permission from my sister and I, which I must say is very adorable. My response to Dad was the he didn't need my permission, because Mom had already given it to him. Dad did not remember the conversation or probably conversations, that Mom tried to have with him about his life after she was gone. He told me that he didn't remember her telling him that it was okay, that she wanted him to not be alone. And I am sure on some level my mom knew he would not remember...
Last week, as I reread my blog posts from when we lost Mom, I had written about the last lucid interactions I had with my mom.. it involved a home health care worker coming into our house to help get mom clean and to change her bed. This had become a painful experience for mom because her body was so riddles with cancer, that movement for her was painful. I remember Mom being in the hospital bed and I was kneeling on the floor in front of her.. As the home health care worker had to move mom onto her side Mom was facing me, her arms kind of on my shoulders... and she winced from the pain... and I put my forehead on hers and told her that I was sorry it hurt and that I loved her. She had so little energy at that time, and was hardly communicating with us... and I remember the corners of her mouth slowly moved into a very faint smile and she whispered, barely audible, that she knew... And I knew, too, how much she loved me.
The memory I am sharing today, is hard, and is making me very emotional... but with that emotion I feel gratitude to my mom... for caring so much about us to have those very difficult conversations. Losing someone is never easy... and in the midst of things it is hard to understand that there is anything that can be done to make things easier... or less difficult....but looking back... we are so fortunate that Mom said what she said... and those memories, as hard as they are to think about, to relive, to reflect on... are part of what made my mother who she was... there are no words flattering enough, big enough, strong enough, to describe my mom... there just aren't...
She was my mom...
Posted by TallGal at 10:53 AM
As I said yesterday, I want to spend the next few days sharing memories about my mom, good memories...
You may find it surprising that at 6'6" tall I played basketball. Okay, maybe that isn't surprising, ha ha... But what may actually surprise you is that I did not like basketball... for a long time.
When I was young, probably second or third grade I had already been targeted as a ball player. I am sure that had nothing to do with the fact that I was taller than both my second and third grade teachers. I think it was third grade... when my parents, probably Dad, decided I was going to play basketball through the rec department. Our family friend, Kenny, was the coach if I remember correctly. I don't remember specific games or playing at that age, except I remember one of the gyms I played in that was poorly lit and had rubber floors. I remember not liking it and while I finished the season, had no interest in playing again, ever.
In junior high, 7th grade, many of my friends were going to try out for basketball and told me I should try out too. I told them they were nuts. I wanted to be on the team with them but didn't want to play. So I showed up at the first try out session and the coach asked me why I wasn't changed up, into shorts and sneakers. I told her I wanted to be the manager. She looked up at me (I was 5'11 at that age) and basically told me there was no way I was going to manage her team, but that I would play.
I made the team... or I should say, my height made the team. I was AWFUL. Awful! My coach soon realized that I didn't have a lot of skill with basketball and my job usually involved defense. I was told to stand in the middle of the basket, put my arms over my head and scare the other team. It worked, usually. I suppose I improved a little over the season, eventually being able to make a lay up in warm ups and eventually scored a basket. My parents came to every basketball game I ever played form third grade through high school, except one. My mom had bronchitis and was so sick she had to stay home from the game in 7th grade where we played against Lee (the next town over) and where I scored my first points! Mom was so upset that she missed the game and missed my first ever basket, a fact about which she often lamented.
At the end of 7th grade our team had a tradition, a mother daughter basketball game. My mom, being the good sport that she was, agreed to play. Her skills were worse than mine, but she tried to make up for it with enthusiasm and silliness... She started out strong in the game, running around, often with her tongue out.. which she would often do when she was concentrating... and as she ran her... well endowed chest was... well out of control.. and it didn't take long before Mom sat on the bench and asked my coach to be my adoptive mother for the game. It was funny and became the source of Mom's stories she liked to tell to make people laugh.
I played basketball again in 8th grade and did better... I got to play offense and defense...but was still told to scare the other team. That was the year I earned the nickname, "Holy Sh*t." The reason being, that at 6 feet tall, whenever I walked into the gym, the opposing team and parents would say, "Holy Sh*t!" Mom got a kick out of that, and when she told that story it was often accompanied by one of her knee slaps as she cracked herself up.
In high school, as a freshman, I was not chosen for the varsity team... thankfully. Instead I was on the JV team and had an AMAZING coach. (Who in recent years has become a colleague, running into him often at sporting events where I was coaching.) I would often get to practice early and stay late working with my coach on the basic skills I had never acquired. As my skills improved, my confidence improved. The coach didn't play me for long periods of time until my mother convinced him that my really red face was normal and did not mean that I was about to pass out. My face gets very red when I exercise, always has, always will. That was the year I became a ball player. Again, my parents were in the stands for every game.
I continued playing basketball through high school and improved every year. As I got better my playing time got better and my mother got her own nickname.... My parents kind of became seen as the team's parents, because they were at every game, home and away. My teammates liked knowing that they would be in the stands and Mom and Dad looked out for all of us... My team quickly recognized my mother as the cheerleader for each and every one of us... and my mother was... well... LOUD! She would yell, scream really... but she wouldn't yell phrases, like "Go Girls!" or "Defense!," nope, MY mother would yell, "Whoo whoo whoo whoo!" over and over and over... in a higher pitched tone... and could be a little annoying.. BUT... the team loved it because they could ALWAYS hear my mom cheering for them and they knew it was their mom, their team mom... so... she became "The Whoo Whoo Lady!"
My parents were great parents... My dad is still a great parent... and when my sister and I were at home, our house was often the gathering spot for us and our friends. It was common for our friends to refer to our parents as Mom and Dad... and Mom and Dad loved it.
It is fun to think about my mom, about these kinds of memories... it triggers other memories.. the face my mom made while playing basketball, sticking her tongue out and to the side of her mouth as she concentrated... used to make me laugh... I was telling Matt tonight about my Mom playing the boxing video game on the Wii and she was making that face the entire time... along with some funny noises and gestures. THAT was a funny thing to see.
My mom was such a good sport, such a good cheerleader for me, always supporting me in what I wanted to do. And... she was a ham... plain and simple... totally liked making people laugh, even if it was at her own expense. I think that was one of the things my dad found endearing about my mom, but at the same time made him shake his head and wonder who this crazy woman in front of him was... and I think it made him love her even more.
Mom, you gave me many gifts... including your ability to laugh at yourself...and BE yourself...thank you for that.
Posted by TallGal at 5:35 PM
This is a picture my dad took last summer, from the campsite where he spends his summers. It is one of my favorite places...because of its beauty...and because of the memories it holds for me, which makes this picture all the more appropriate for today's post.
Life is good right now... and I am feeling very grateful. But... with the brightness in my life right now... there is an important day coming up that is weighing on my mind... Monday will mark two years since my mom died. Two years. It is hard for me to believe...but I don't know whether to say that it feels like it has been longer or shorter than that... Some days it feels like she was here yesterday... other days it feels like she has been gone forever... time is a crazy thing that way. The amount of time that has passed is not important I suppose... the important thing is that I miss her, every day I miss her.
I have heard people say how, after losing someone they love, they had moments where they picked up their phone to call that person...forgetting that they were gone... that hasn't really happened to me... I think I am acutely aware that my mom is gone... but I will say that as time has passed I do find myself thinking about how much I would like to talk to my mom about certain things...or something happens and I think, Mom would like that, or would have liked to talk about that.
I was home a lot this week, suffering from a sinus infection and strep throat. I found myself reading my blog... the posts from the couple weeks before Mom died to the few weeks after... I had written that I hoped my memories of that time, of mom's illness and death would fade... and even hoped that I would forget some of them... so why did I write about it and keep it in a blog if there were things I wanted to forget? Because it's part of me, what I experienced... and looking back at it now, as emotional as it makes me, I am glad I wrote what I wrote... even though it was hard to write and is hard to revisit.
The truth is, for me, two years have offered some healing... It took a long time for me to think of my mother without thinking of cancer, of her frail body, of her exhaustion... Following her death, my memories of my mother were of her being sick and of her dying... and I resented cancer even more, for not only taking my mother, but for taking my memories of her as well... That has changed... When I think of my mom now, I can laugh about something she used to do or say, or think about the things she liked and enjoyed... and I can remember her smile.. and recently remembered how she looked when she would say something to crack herself up... and it makes me smile.
My mom was an eternal optimist... no matter what the situation, she would find the silver lining... although I don't think she had found the silver lining of her disease... even though I do think she had come to terms with it.... Her optimism is one reason I like this picture, the rainbow. I also like it because that river, is where Mom kayaked... spent hours on that river kayaking... and to her, it was a pot of gold. She and I spent hours together on that river... paddling up the river, looking at the plants, mom especially loved the ferns, the roots of the trees, the reflections, the clam shells we saw along the shore, and any critters we encountered... Mom often sang as we paddled... anything from the song "Rubber Ducky" to "Amazing Grace"... or she would make up her own melody...
As I reflect on Mom's death this year.. I also want to think about her life... her death has been such a big part of my life...and for so long felt like we just lost her... that her death overshadowed her life... and I want to reverse that.. So I have decided that I want to share some stories about my mom..
Sticking with the picture... I want to share one of the moments my mom and I shared on this river. This campground is in a part of Maine where the weather can change instantly.. from sun to rain...calm to windy, and when there are thunderstorms up there they are pretty intense. I was visiting Mom and Dad and it was a day that was pretty warm, no wind, and it was partly sunny. The radio had said there was a good chance of rain showers... and Mom and I wanted to go kayaking.
The sky was a little dark in places, definitely looked like it may rain.. but up there, it can look like that all day and not rain at all... Dad told us if we went kayaking we would probably get wet... because he thought it was going to rain. Mom and I looked at each other, kind of shrugged our shoulders and said.. oh well, we might get a little wet... since we often wore our bathing suits kayaking getting a little wet was no big deal. So... we started paddling up the river... we headed into one of the small ponds that goes off from the river, we named Tadpole Terrace. (Because the tadpoles gather near the surface of the pond to be in the warmth of the sun... and as you paddle your kayak through the water, the tadpoles get startled and literally jump out of the water... and it startles me and perhaps I scream a little... well not really scream... squeal is a little more accurate... and Mom got such a kick out of it. That was the part of our excursions where the most tadpoles were found, so the name, Tadpole Terrace was coined. Ironically the beavers built a dam after mom died and accessing tadpole terrace is no longer possible...) Anyway... Mom and I paddled into tadpole terrace and as we normally did each started paddling in slightly different directions, quietly, seeing what we could see and enjoying the peace of coasting on the water. we ended up each circling the pond in opposite directions and when our kayaks crossed paths we were in the most open part of the pond and we talked about noticing that the sky had darkened a bit. All of a sudden we heard it... and it grew louder... we looked at each other, then looked towards the sound and we saw it coming... not drops, not sheets... a huge WALL of rain, coming right at us. We both had the same idea, head for cover! We both paddled towards a beautiful old tree whose branches extend over the pond under which I have paddled many times. Mom and I got under the branches, hoping for protection, and backed our kayaks up against the bank of the pond and laid our paddles across the kayaks. The rain was so loud we couldn't even hear each other talk unless we shouted. The branches offered some protection, but we were getting soaked... I looked at mom, rain pouring off her face, and she looked at me... and we both just started laughing... we laughed so hard that day... and we could barely hear each other's laughs, but that made us laugh even harder. before long the rain stopped, the sun peeked out, and we started paddling. We had both accumulated a little rain inside our kayaks (we do not use those fancy kayak skirts, and the opening of our kayaks are pretty big.) Si we started paddling our way out of tadpole terrace...and instead of returning to the campground, we kept going up the river to see what other adventures we could find.
After a while we heard the motor of a boat and my dad had come up the river to check on us. He found us and after making sure we were okay, hadn't drowned in the rainstorm, shook his head at us, turned his boat around and headed back down the river.
When mom and I did return to the campground, the other people camping there, who we have known for years, told us we looked a little wet and thought we were pretty foolish... but... we had a great adventure that day, and WOW... the memory we made was well worth it!
I miss you mom. I miss the time taken from us, but cherish every minute we had together.
Posted by TallGal at 7:54 PM
Wow... I typed "reflection" into google images and this was one of the images that came up. It's from a website called "Pick Your Art.com," to visit it click here. I love it! I love the sunset colors, the tree... the way the reflection of its branches look like its roots... which I am sure is not done so mistakenly... poetic how the branches we grow and the strength of our 'tree' often reflect our own roots. I also love that it is in panels. And the branches... they go out and up and and even down... the tree looks as if it could, at will, move its branches.
The picture momentarily distracted me from my train of thought... which is reflections... I have had a lot of time to think today... and for my loyal blog readers... don't say,"uh-oh." I have not had any great epiphanies or deep internal philosophical discussions about the meaning of life... nope, just reflecting on where I am in life.
I graduate in a few weeks with my masters in educational leadership... it is surreal... surreal is one of those words that I believe are overused and often don't use it because of that reason...but.. here, it fits. I started my masters about 6 years ago... I think... At that time I was struggling with many things... my undiagnosed knee was in pain, my anxiety from the doctors making me feel like the pain was all in my head was high, and my job was difficult.... I shouldn't say my job, what I should say is that where I Was working was a difficult place to be at the time... the culture and climate were terrible... and there were days where I drove into the parking lot and could not make myself park my truck and go inside. Something had to change. I loved my work with the kids... as I always have... it was the adults that made things hard... and I knew I was in a place where I had to do something to make it better for myself or else I would need to leave. That's when I began taking classes in educational leadership. Ironically, at the time, my motivation was a horrible building administrator... I got so frustrated with his actions that I began being one of those people who sat around and talked about how bad things were getting instead of being the person I had always been, one of the people trying to make it better. And in one of those crab sessions it hit me, what was I doing? Maybe I was wrong, maybe this administrator was doing things right and this just wasn't my niche. (Now I KNEW this was not the case.. my gut knew what was happening was not best for kids, but... I had to look at things through a different lens.) So I decided that in order to figure it out.. I needed to take a class or two, in administration, to see if my boss really was as bad as I thought he was, or... if I was completely off my rocker... after taking those couple of classes, I decided I wanted to take more classes... and it wasn't long before I was sure that my administrator was not doing what he should be doing... and I knew I was ready to step up into that role...
I figured that my degree would take me three years to complete, with teaching full time, coaching two seasons a year, and working on the tolls... Well.. as I said above, those three years turned into six. I had to take a semester off when my grandmother was sick, I had to take a semester off when I had my knee surgery... and then when mom was sick... I can't even remember how my classes fit into that time-line. Mom was proud of me for taking classes again... and I am sad that she won't see me graduate... but as many people have told me, she would be proud... I know this. So... her it is six years later... and graduation is just around the corner. I am DONE - D - O - N - E with all of my graduate papers...all of my graduate readings... and all of my graduate projects... all I have left is a 15 minute presentation... Easy as Pie!
My degree means I will be able to be an administrator (principal) in a school... I am hoping that opportunity presents itself for the next school year, but we'll see how it plays out. I do know that moving in that direction is the next career move for me. I do want to make sure that a new position would be a good fit for me. My current job, with a different administrator than described above, has it's difficult moments, and I have been known to want to risk going to jail to beat some sense into some of the other adults I work with...(kidding, mostly) but.. I also have a different perspective, and am making small changes where I can. And, of course, I focus on the kids, which keeps me happy. I work closest with other special education teachers, and while I may be biased, I challenge someone to find a more dedicated group of teachers. It is a great team and I have a niche there... It would be hard to leave, but if I find the right opportunity, I will take it.
So... of course I can't reflect on my life without including my new relationship... Matt and I met less than two months ago...which is about the time that I started feeling that my graduate workload was lifting and that I would once again have a life that didn't involve typing papers and doing research... so the timing was good for me. It's funny because I don't think that either of us are typical of the type of person we have dated in the past... we are still learning about those things, our relationship pasts, but I am pretty sure I unlike other women he has dated. ... we are learning more about one another... and I feel like it is based on who we are... and... so far so good. To use a bit of a gardening pun, since Matt is in a horticulture program... perhaps we have 'grown' on each other... I like that...
I like that at the end of the day I want to hear about his day and share mine with him... I like that we are laughing together and seeing what makes the other 'tick' so to speak... and yes blog buddies, Matt is aware of my blog... and perhaps reads it from time to time... Hi Matt!... The more time I spend with him the more I want to learn about him and spend even more time with him...
It's funny... since mom got sick and lost her battle with cancer, the expression "everything happens for a reason," makes my stomach turn... there is NO reason for that kind of suffering...period... and when people say that, an image of my pale, weathered mother asleep in the hospital bed in my parents living room comes into my mind... I don't care who or what you believe in...not everything does happen for a reason...
Yet I do believe in timing... For me other relationships have not worked...and I believe timing was largely responsible for that... people are at different places in their lives at different times... with different goals and different experiences...and even if two people may work together in many ways... the timing of things throws too many curve-balls...and eventually you strike out. I feel like the timing of things with Matt is good... This may surprise some of you who know that when life is up in the air I get stressed... and the possibility of a new job and wanting a new apartment (new job or not!), might be enough to make me feel really unsure of things... but I am not feeling overwhelmed... surprised? I am... a little. I am not saying that my relationship is headed to happily ever after... but I am saying that I believe in that happily ever after is a possibility... and this has potential... and I am enjoying it in the moment, without looking too far ahead, yet looking far enough ahead... if that makes any sense... Anyway...
I am in a place where I am happy. It has been a while since I felt like it was okay to be happy or maybe safe to be happy... and yes Matt is a part of that...but there is so much more.. I think that meeting him, being ready to meet him... is in part to being able to breathe a little... life has forced me to examine pieces of it very closely in the last few years...neglecting other areas... and I finally feel like I can step back and see the whole picture... appreciate it as a whole vs. focusing in on all of the parts that were scary and uneven, vs. worrying about the pieces that are still a work in progress, or criticizing or being upset about the pieces I would change but can't because the paint has dried... and I can now, look at the whole piece and see how those pieces have been fit together... and recognize that I have been the one putting it together...
And as I look at the big picture... I can see that it is the little things that matter most... moments...truths...pain...joy... love... that make it so beautiful... I feel lucky to be in a place where life feels good. I am grateful.
Posted by TallGal at 5:44 PM
Yup! today was the day I decided to go to the beach! And what a GREAT choice it was! It was cool, but not frigid... I wore my winter hat and had mittens on (which I had to take off a lot to play with shells and sand dollars!)
I am sooo glad I went today. I got up and did some things around my apartment and the sun kept calling me... so I decided it was a beach day! I am including some pictures for you.
This is the pier! I start walking at a beach that is about 3 miles form the pier and try to get there before turning around. Sometimes the wind is too cold, but today it was bearable and I really enjoyed it! I love the way the sunlight and shadows play on the pier!
The pier from afar! ONe of my good friends once told me... if you can see it, you can walk to it!
I liked this shell... not because of the shell actually, but because of the way its presence changes the texture of the sand...
I almost missed spying this little sand dollar. I loved how subtle it looked!
I like sand dollars. Today I found a few diffrent sand dollars that had different colors in them. I am not sure if that's because they were at different stages...meaning that I wonder if the color is because of how long ago they died... but I also would like to think that it's just originality!
A day like today is always good for me. Walking on the beach, feeling the sun, and just being... Of course I would have loved to have had Matt's company while walking there, but since he had to work, the beach was a good place to spend part of the day. I also thought a lot of my mom today... as the beach, the ocean, was something she loved so much.
It was a nice way to spend the afternoon and I can't wait to do that walk again soon!
Posted by TallGal at 9:21 PM