Monday, September 12, 2016

Culinary Fight Club!

I don't often get excited for blogging events anymore, but when an invite to the Culinary Fight Club at Navy Pier came my way, I could NOT resist. My eldest kid just so happens to be a foodie-wannabe-chef, so this Monday the two of us will be living it up at The Billy Goat Tavern, watching as 3 local chefs battle it out to see who can create the most amazing, perfect bite of food.

AND WE GET TO SAMPLE IT, TOO!


Honestly, I would have been happy enough with just the sampling of creative foods; but knowing that 20% of all Culinary Fight Club Chicago Event proceeds benefit feeding the hungry through the non-profit - Fight2Feed, well that just seals the deal on making this event a Must Not Miss for me. 

Interested? Tickets are still available


~ This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own.~

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What do you do when your method of release (social media) isn't something you can release your emotions on anymore? What do you do when the bad stuff is just SO bad and SO MUCH and you are overwhelmed with sadness? I am at a loss here. There are too many things to worry about, and absolutely NOTHING I can do about any of them. I want to help my family but honestly, I can't.

I have no release right now and I need to find one again. Maybe make this blog totally private and write all of the things, all of the details, all of the specific shit that is falling from the sky all at once.

I wish certain people lived closer. I wish others hadn't left. I wish so many things.

Fuck. I don't want to handle this anymore.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Well Fuck.

I'm procrastinating like it is an Olympic sport today. I am a gold medalist in this event.

I don't want to see the fear in my dad's eyes and wonder if this chemo treatment today will actually make him feel as awful as the treatments he had 30 years ago. The medical staff insists it won't. They've repeated that his first chemo was one of the hardest and most brutal regimens, and that it isn't even CLOSE to what he will be receiving today...and he has zero belief that they are telling the truth. Honestly though, if I had a traumatic medical experience and then someone said "let's do a treatment with the same name, but it ISN'T the same, we promise"... I probably wouldn't believe them, either.

It's not natural to know that someone you love is going to die. I mean, we ALL KNOW that EVERYONE we love WILL DIE; it's the only guarantee in Life. But to know that a particular person will most likely pass before you do messes with your head.

I cannot describe exactly how this feels... it's a thousand moments of pain each day. Knowing I can do nothing substantial, aside from being there, being present, doing the daily things that need to be done... My sisters, Mom and I are all in the same boat. It is a sucky, holey boat, but it's the only one we have right now, and my dad needs us to keep paddling and bailing it until he says he's done...

FUUUCCCKKKK!!!!!!

I need to cry for a few minutes, wash my face, find something cheerful to wear, and pack a bag of books, snacks, and drinks for a long day at the hospital. I need someone to tell me it will be ok, even though that's impossible because the only way that would happen is if someone could save my daddy...

FUCK YOU CANCER.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

It's Not Enough

I'm one of those "lucky" people who remember their dreams. I have vivid, in-depth, multi-chapter dreams which are sometimes so real, I wake up believing in whatever scene my mind concocted. It's not usually a great way to wake up; either I am petrified from the natural disaster that I obviously didn't go through or I am elated (and then destroyed) from holding a newborn baby that never actually existed. Both scenarios aren't super-awesome starts to a fantastic morning. Most of those dreams never actually "leave" me, either.

One particularly horrific nightmare takes place on the section of I-80 that crosses over an enormous quarry. It's so massively deep, you can't see the bottom, no matter how hard you stretch your neck as you're zooming over. In the dream, I spin out, and my van teeters on the edge, dangling but swaying in a way that I know means we are going over, and nothing I can do will save me or my children. The entire dream consists of me looking back into their eyes, reaching for their hands as we start to fall, and calming the panic that is trying to make me pass out. And I repeat, "I love you. I LOVE YOU. I love you..." I can feel the acceptance of the knowledge that this is how my children's last moments on Earth will be, and all I can do is try to make it peaceful...

~

Corinne has a tendency to ask me deep questions. Shit, all of my kids have that tendency. The main ones being "Why are we HERE?" and "What happens when we die?" These questions are usually asked at the most convenient times possible, i.e. in the van as we're pulling up to a sporting activity. 

My answer to the former is, as always, that we are here to love each other. End of story. We are not alive to build skyscrapers or create "masterpieces"; we do not exist to worship deities or "change the world." We exist simply to love. I know that when I die, I will hold this truth in my heart; I have loved many, I have loved fully, and I have been loved in return. What more can anyone ask? 

My answer to the latter is, as always, that nothing in the natural world ever ceases to exist. It just changes. Trees become logs that burn and become ash; it floats away with the wind, lands on the Earth, and becomes nutrients in the soil so that new trees may grow again. Boulders become sand, and glaciers melt into the oceans. Everything on Earth becomes something else, including energy. Why then would anyone think that the energy that fuels the human heart would ever cease to exist? Just because we cannot fully comprehend what it is exactly that happens when our hearts create their final beats, doesn't mean that the answer to the most existential question is "A Void of Nothingness."

~

Justin did some shopping for me at WalMart yesterday. He hopped back in the van and said that the one item he couldn't find were the molds for the popsicles I wanted to make at home. "I asked TWO workers, and no one could find them! They think they sold out because they were such a great price."

I told him it was ok. We could figure out a different way to craft the frozen yogurts I was going to make for my dad. Justin loves to cook, and was giving me ideas on different foods to test that are high in protein to help my father build back some of his weight. The idea of him trying to cope with the potential upcoming chemotherapy without even a bit of strength doesn't seem possible. I explained to Justin how important it was for me to do something, ANYthing, for my dad; "And I really just want him to be able to enjoy eating again. Everything tastes bad for him and he just can't palate it. He has to put on weight.... I just want to do something for him, and this is all I can do..." 

I am constantly amazed at how quickly I can go from "ok" to choked up and unable to breathe. Knowing that this tiny little thing I am able to "do" isn't going to make any real difference in my dad's terminal outcome feels like I am looking back at my children in my van dream again. All I can do is look at him and say "I love you. I LOVE YOU. I love you..." But it's not enough. 




Sunday, June 05, 2016

Do This Parenting Thing. Trust Me.

I know that not all of my parenting choices are perfect, but there are a few decisions I've made that I can confirm are Fantastic. One of the best ideas I've ever had was to take each child on a special Mother-Child trip when they turned 10.

Why ten? 10 year olds are still "kids" and enjoy much of the innocence and wonder in the world of childhood. Not quite pre-teens with all of the hormones and angst that arises from the struggles of growing up, 10 year olds are kind of a perfect mix of little kid and big kid.

It's a sweet spot.

And so, I take them on trips. Nothing over the top like flying across the world, but somewhere relatively close, affordable, and unique to their interests. The other qualifying marker is that the trip must be somewhere where neither of us has ever gone before. :)



And tomorrow, Corinne and I will travel to West Virginia to zip line through the mountains, kayak in the morning quiet, raft in white water for a full day, hike and climb and spend quality time together where we can listen to our music, be silly and giggle, and simply enjoy our bond as Mother and Daughter.

If you know me even a little bit, you probably know that I am quite nostalgic and wistful concerning my kids and the speed at which they are moving through their childhoods. Whenever my youngest completes a milestone, it is all the more poignant knowing that this particular moment is the last of its kind for our family. This week will be the final Mother-Child-10-year-old-spectacular-vacation. Knowing just how distant the boys' special vacations already feel in my heart only cements my need to sigh wistfully and feel poetic about her dirty feet and swiftly growing limbs. 

To put it succinctly, I feel as though this is the final "sandcastle" on this particular beach...

Ready or not; Here comes the tide.

(2015 LTYM Chicago - "Sandcastles")


Monday, May 09, 2016

Stream of thought on raising teenagers...

I need good teenager stories. Not stories about good teenagers; in fact, keep those to yourself, please. I only want the stories from parents whose kids have grown up and past this phase I find myself drowning within.

I am not one to accept abusive relationships. If you treat me badly, we will part ways. This is the only time in my life that someone I LOVE is anything other than respectful towards me... And I can't leave.

Granted, I don't WANT to leave. I want to be here, in this house, with these people. I want to be living and laughing and struggling through life's crap with all of them. But I never expected that parenting through the teenage years would be more difficult than they were as an actual teen.

I don't know... this shit is rough. Rougher than anything I've really had to deal with before. The absolute astonishment I feel over some of the arguments we've had (over COMPLETE BULLSHIT) have floored me. If I had spoken to MY parents the way that E has spoken to me this past year? HAHAHAHAHA!!! He doesn't know how lucky he IS. And maybe THAT is the key? Do I take everything and everyone away from him? Seclude him from life and hope that his particular personality doesn't react in the opposite of our desired outcome? Some kids, when you punish them THAT way, turn to hatred, drugs, running away... I honestly DO NOT SEE THAT as a possibility for this particular kid, but it's there, in the back of my head. A little voice saying "Does ANY parent REALLY know what goes on inside their child's head?"

Nope. They never do. There would be a lot less tragedies in the world if parents could actually see into their teen's heads...

He's so deceptively difficult. He is the dream teen for everyone else; Helpful, kind, hilarious, etc. This indicates to me that he understands what is expected of him in society and life. It also means that he feels that I am worthy of less respect than the average person on the street.

That's some effed up shit right there.

If my friend or significant other treated me as less than an average person on the street, guess who wouldn't be in my life any longer? JUST GUESS.

My God, I wish he was 7 again. Not that he was a perfect angel, because he was NOT, but at 7, he hugged me voluntarily. At 7, he understood that I was in charge, even though I was willing to talk through situations. At 7, there are clear definitions to the mother/son relationship.

At 14, not so much.

People tend to mock the teen years. They laugh over how stressful they are, how crazy teen hormones are, yadda yadda. This honestly is no laughing matter. It's not fun. It's not rewarding to be on the receiving end of unwarranted anger, resentment, and disrespect on a regular basis. My own life has value that exists outside of being Mom, and DAMNIT I want it to be recognized!

Whatever. I have too much laundry and too many dishes and too many errands and too much school work to help with to spend on here, trying to figure out life. I am hoping and praying that this stream of thought is one of the last about this particular teenager. Maybe he's nearing the end of his hormone issues? Maybe he is ready to really accept responsibility for his actions and tone of voice? I just wish there was a real and true crystal ball that I could look into that will prove to me that he WILL TURN OUT OK and that we WILL have a good relationship as he becomes and adult. I just want my kids to be happy, to be loved, to feel their value. And I just want the same for myself.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Remembering Grandma...

Driving in the car with the windows open, sun (finally) shining on my face, I can't help but reflect. My mind wanders. Memories surge.

My grandmother passed away when I was 8 years old. My mom was only...God. My age? Younger. She was younger than I am when she lost her own mom. That's baffling to me...

I have a few real memories of my grandma. Strong ones, like sitting behind her, brushing her hair, even though she would pay to have it set at the salons. (Or did she do her own, but do it so well that I couldn't tell?) Either way, she let me and my sisters brush and comb and put in "fancy barrettes" without much fuss. How generous a heart she had. How kind...

We (my younger sister and I) used to "sneak" her romance novels and move her bookmark to a different chapter. We'd then ask her if she wanted to read for a while, giggling behind our hands. She would always gasp "in surprise" when she'd realize that "someone" had moved her bookmark... It wasn't until much later that I actually understood how sweet she was about our little pranks. She adored us and didn't care if she had to reread a chapter more than once.

I can distinctly remember sitting on her bed in the mobile home she and my grandfather lived in. She collected beads and sequins in a large bin and would let us sort through them to our hearts' content. There are still a few Christmas ornaments on my own tree that were constructed by her crafty hands made up of stick pins, sequins, and beads all arranged in a truly perfect order around styrofoam balls. I don't know how she did that; I tried once, to recreate her designs... It's not as easy as it looked. The patience and artistic talent she must have had makes me smile whenever I see them reflecting the lights on our branches.

She cooked the best spaghetti with... rabbit meat. Seriously, if you've never had it, I cannot describe it. I probably only had it a few times in my young life, but the memory of that smell and taste is one that has stuck. I've tried to cook it with chicken instead; the sweetness of not only the meat, but also her hand, is lacking and the sauce does not compare.

There was an assortment of magnets on her refrigerator that were somehow exotic to our little minds. It was truly FUN to spend our afternoons arranging the dimestore flowers, vegetables, and random doo dads into scenes that would then hold up our drawings. The magnets always seemed to just "be there" but I wonder, did she scour the flea markets in her free time, picking up new ones here and there so that we would be surprised on our next visits?

My God, I was only 8... Younger than Corinne is now. I try to not focus on the memories of her final months, but she was so sick, so fast and I was so little. It was scary, despite my parents' efforts to shield us from her disease. When they removed her larynx in an attempt to get rid of the cancer, she couldn't talk anymore, but she still found a way to write out how much she loved us... As a kid, that paper didn't impact me as much as it does now. What kind of effort must that have involved to hold the pencil to the paper and shakily write for 3 little girls?

Driving today, it hit me again how much I owe to all of the women before me. My mother, her mother, and all of the mothers before them... The women who have held their babies and loved each generation, raising them in one continuous line until it reached me...and extends beyond me. I cannot feel alone or disconnected when I count the mothers before me. The mothers who will come after me. the babies who become women who become mothers, all because of the love and hope of those who surrounded them.

Springtime never fails to remind me of renewal. No matter how empty a field, how barren a tree, or how gray a sky, the spring always comes.
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