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Friday, May 27, 2011

Undefeated (so far)

The church softball team played a double header tonight and we managed to pull off a win in both games. So far, we haven't lost any. I got to run across the home plate three times as well. In the first game, I had it easy as I was an extra hitter and didn't even have to field, sweet. This team is awesome in their support of one another. After the game, I got in the car and desperately wanted to call Mom to tell her how I did. I know she would have given some sort of praise and then told Dad what I had just told her so he could also give me some praise too. They were always supportive about sports things. Not that I ever qualified as especially good in any game. The ride home became pretty teary but the day had been tough in terms of just missing talking to her so it was probably coming regardless. I was lucky to have a friend willing to take that phone call so I could get myself together before walking in the house (thanks Tricia). I know my family is supportive but I just don't think it is a good idea to walk into the house crying. It sets people up for worry.

Despite my faults, I am loving the game. Next week we have games on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I may not love it so much after that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


I finished my blog for tonight and then read over it and thought it sounded like I was very depressed. I want to clarify before you read on that I am not. I am so thankful for all the good things that are going on in my life right now. Maybe I only come to blog when the melancholy hits me or maybe it hits me when I really sit down to think. I'm not sure. Either way, I wanted to state right here, up-front that things are going well. The kids are loving the pool, and I'm excited about some redecorating we plan to do.

Tomorrow morning Christopher will graduate from K-5 to the world of the elementary student. Already we have his reading list for the summer along with his math packet. It is also another event that my mother would attend were she still with us. I know I've written this before but it really does seem that my life will forever after be divided into two segments-The before Mom died era and then everything after. I had the end of the year conferences with both kids' teachers today. Kelsey's teacher asked how we were holding up. I started stammering and then finally said, "Ok, you know." Not a very eloquent answer but about all I've got because if I start talking about it at great length I will certainly cry.

I remember Mom still crying whenever she talked about her mother or her brother so I don't guess the feeling of loss ever goes away. I am grateful for the perspective it has given me though. Never before did I feel so deeply for others who have lost their parents as I do now. It is a heightened perspective. We have finally begun working our way out of the mess in our upstairs. In fact, we are ready to paint Jeff's office and I have hired a teenager to come on Friday to begin removing wallpaper. I know this can be our home but it still feels like a different kind of strange to be creating a space that Mom will never visit.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Permission to vege

I did very little in terms of productivity today. I signed some papers, made copies of my drivers' liscense for estate stuff then mailed it, paid a bill, picked up kids and went to the grocery store for some essential items. Other than those things which probably took about three hours, reading a novel consumed the rest of my hours. Nothing literary or non-fiction that would improve my mind but Emily Griffin (who is my current favorite-"Something Borrowed" and this one "Something Blue"). I do not actually enjoy reading material that makes me think too hard. That is probably a commentary on my level of intellect but there it is anyway.

Jeff went back to bed this morning after taking the kids to school. Instead of beginning my daily chores with a righteous indignation, I took my book, climbed into the bed and read/dozed until he got up to get a shower before heading upstairs to work. I laid around for about an hour more before dragging myself into the shower as I realized the extra hours in bed had given my sinuses permission to begin to congeal from allergies, so let me add shower to my list of productive things above. Then after that, I made the bed and sat in a chair in my room and read. It occured to me somewhere during that time that I would never be as accepting of Jeff doing the same thing. He sat upstairs working and as far as he knew I still lolled in the bed. Sure, I can justify it with my grief but it wasn't that I was thinking of Mom and Dad, truthfully I just wanted to finish the book.

About an hour after that, I went upstairs and thanked him for being so laid back. I acknowledged that I would probably never be as good at that as he is. I usually want things done when I want them done including his time. I wonder if it is a male-female thing or if in our case it is personalities. Either way, I'd like to think that remembering how much better this day (and the mountain dew I purchased at the grocery store) made me feel will help me remember that taking some time to do nothing every now and then is okay. Maybe I might even be able to extend that gift to my husband as well. It is a worthy goal.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anniversary dates

One year ago, around his time, we  found out Mom had a tumor on her pancreas. We didn't know what it meant or how much our lives would change in less than a year's time. We are coming up on the date when we discovered Mom's cancer was inoperable, June 1st as I recall, something none of us ever anticipated. I can't believe how far that was from my mind only a year ago. I believe it was May 12th. I was getting a massage because of shoulder problems and had turned off my cell phone or it was on vibrate, I can't remember which. When I checked it, I had two missed calls from mom and three from Sharon. I knew something was wrong but had no idea how wrong it would be. I thought something must have happened with Dad. It never occurred to me it might be my ever giving, completely healthy mother.

Today in church it was Senor Sunday. The choir director who sang at Mom's funeral sang Hallelujah Square, the song he sang at Mom's funeral, then the outreach minister preached and said, "You want to know what living strong looks like, look at the life of Sandra Graves." Just after that, I glanced back and saw Pastor Larry Williams, who did Mom's service, sitting in the pew. The pastor who preached today said one of the last things Mom said to him was about her concern for a person who didn't know Jesus. I think it was the guy she picked up in the freezing cold who was walking to Walmart with no gloves. She offered to buy him some after giving him a ride but he turned her down. She took him home too. No one has been able to find him since even though they have been looking. I wonder, does Jesus still make special appearances? After all, scripture does say, what you do unto the least of these, you do unto me. I know Mom got quite a greeting up there. Here are the lyrics to the song.

I saw a blind man tapping along
He could not see like you and me
I said, Oh mister, I feel sorry for you
He said, When I get to heaven, I'll see just like you

I'll see all my friends in Hallelujah Square
What a wonderful time we'll have up there
We'll sing and praise Jesus, His glory we'll share
There won't be no blind man in Hallelujah Square

I saw an ole cripple dragging his leg
He could not walk like you and me
I said, Oh mister, I feel sorry, so sorry for you
He said, When I get to glory, I'll walk just like you

I'll walk with my friends in Hallelujah Square
What a wonderful time we'll have up there
We'll sing and praise Jesus, His glory we'll share
There won't be no cripple in Hallelujah Square

I saw a beggar, begging for bread
He did not have food to eat, like you and me
I said, Oh, oh mister, I feel sorry, so sorry for you
He said , You see, when I get in glory, I'm gonna sit at the table just like you

I'll see all my friends in Hallelujah Square
What a wonderful time we'll have up there
We'll sing and praise Jesus, His glory we'll share
There won't be no beggar in Hallelujah Square

There won't be no blind man in Hallelujah Square
There won't be no cripple in Hallelujah Square
There won't be no beggar in Hallelujah Square

Saturday, May 14, 2011

You know you're hormonal when...

1. An old promo for Superman on your child's dvd brings tears to your eyes
2. You either a)wake up on fast forward with everything needing to be done on your mind or b) can't seem to pull yourself out of bed
3. Everything your partner says makes you want to grind your teeth while rolling your eyes.
4. You're fine with your children watching TV all day, as long as they leave you alone.
5. You feel as if you are marshmallow man fat (real weight gain rarely makes you feel fat).

Fell free to add to the list. The Superman thing got me this morning so now I will try to justify it. Because that is the thing about hormonal stuff. It is all a reflection of how you really feel just amplified. I began to tear with the music. I think one reason Superman is so loved is because he exemplifies hope and that there is something greater than we are out there. In his case, it is, of course, another planet. For most of us, it is God.  Not that Jerry Siegel tried to write about God. He just wanted a character that would impress women since it seems his wooing skills were less than note-worthy .That article is on how Superman was created and how he sold the idea for not much money at all. But I digress.

We want a God that will swoop in and fix the problem like Superman does. He is also inspired by his love for one person. The relationship we would like to have with God. If you think about it, he even brings Lois Lane back from the dead. So where are all these good guys now? Everyone has to have angst, a dark side. It seems like any kind of glowing good has to be rejected. Is this because we have become so jaded? Who is it that my son is supposed to worship and emulate? I guess that question takes me back to God again. Our world is increasingly providing "heros" who are only motivated by what they can get out of it.

The problem with that is no one seems to want to be good for other's sake, even if it gets you a kick in the pants. Given that issue, I don't think it is surprising the state our world is in. One critique of the Bible/God is that it is "an opiate to the masses." Certainly, religion has been misused (an huge understatement) through the years but the real message is to love God first (because we were created to worship and if we don't worship God we will worship something else) and then to love each other. The purpose of Jesus is that God is so perfect he cannot be around sin and he wanted us around him so much he gave part of himself (his son) to take our consequences so we can be with him in the end. To be washed in the blood of the lamb is to be made clean of everything that separates us from God. Given that, and the loss of the belief in that in the world at large, I think maybe some shed tears aren't out of place. What began as an intention of a comic peace turned into God thoughts. As a side note, I bought the first season of Smallville yesterday at McKay's and can't wait to start watching it. I do love some Superman.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dream Interpretation 101 or why I shouldn't go back to bed in the morning

I dream vividly. I always have. Usually, the interpretations of those dreams aren't difficult. One of the therapists I saw for LCSW supervison said I had the most concrete dreams he'd ever heard anyone tell about. I don't think he wanted to insult me, although that isn't exactly a testament to brillance, I think he just spoke without thinking about how it sounded. However, this morning a more complicated one came to me. At least it seemed that way, I'm going to put it out here because sometimes ones that seem complicated in my mind are in fact more simplistic than I think. I will put my thoughts about the portions of the dream in parenthesis. It began relatively benign and then moved into scary.

Against my better judgement, I went back to bed this morning after the children went to school. I dreamed, as I usually do. I faded into this dream talking with the doctors about my mother. Somehow she was back but in the hospital again with a heart attack. I asked her, "How long will you stay this time, Mom?" The question was in regard to how long she would live not her hospital stay but she doesn't answer. (this portion of the dream was probably triggered by a friend of mine's husband being in the hospital. He was not having heart trouble but has in the past. I'm not sure about the question and  her not answering unless it has to do with Mom not answering so many questions about the estate that we are having to try to settle right now).

Most of my dreams have blurred edges and fade from one moment to the next which can be in a different location. In the next segment, I was on my cell phone going back to the hospital talking with Blood Assurance, telling them that my mom might need some blood. I wanted them to be fawning all over her because she had been so dedicated to giving blood in her life so felt frustrated that they were not. Finally, I shouted her name at the person on the phone, "Sandra Graves, O+, Sandra Graves." The person faded out as I reached the double steel doors that led to the patient area. I pressed the automatic open button. (this portion likely has to do with my fear that Mom is being forgotten. There's also the possiblity that having trouble getting the blood could stem back to blood being symbolic of life. )

This next part is where it gets weird but stranger things are to come. The doors swing open and both my sisters are sitting in plastic chairs looking at something, my nephew and his wife sit there too but aren't looking at whatever Cindy is holding. As I walk in I hear my oldest sister say, "We won't show this to Nancy." Rage fills me as I turn to walk into Mom's hospital room.

Before I go in, I spew at them, "I hate you. I hate you. You can never come over again." Then I turned and looked at my nephew and niece and said, "You can still come over." (I have no idea what this is about unless it is a fear of abandonment by my sisters so I will reject them before they can leave me. the most obvious theme is that my sisters are keeping something from me. But I have no idea what that would be or that they are protecting me from something, also don't know what that would be. When I woke up I felt pretty shaken by what happened next in the dream but also by those words. I adore my sisters, both of them. I can't imagine ever feeling that way about them. The nephew and niece thing is kind of funny since I think that comes from me inviting them to come swimming on facebook and my niece saying we'd get sick of them and me assuring her we would not. Although I'm not sure why they were there at all.)

Now comes the part that made me come awake with my heart pounding. I walk into Mom's room, Jeff's with me. Remember I have just yelled at my sisters so I throw myself across the bottom of Mom's bed hugging her legs and crying. Then I realize she is naked except for the sheet I am on so I get up and look at her. I realize then that she is in arm restraints. "Mom?" I say and she opens her eyes but they aren't her usual green eyes, they are black and very liquid like dark blood.

She spreads her arms wide crucifix-like and says, "I am Sandra."

I back away and say, "You aren't my mom." She laughs and tries to grab at me but the restraints keep her from reaching me. The cords cut into the soft part of her upper arm. She struggles against them. Her skin is very white next to the dark eyes.

"I'm Sandra," she rasps.

"It's a demon," I tell Jeff and then I wake. (I don't get this part at all or maybe I am just too close to it. Sometimes dreams are just runoff from the days events but I haven't been reading any demon stories. I wonder if I fear my grief is going to somehow become a type of false God to me. Jeff, my former therapist husband cleared it up. You always know when you have hit on the right dream interpretation because it usually makes the person cry.

He said, "I would wonder if you were having some kind of faith crisis."
I said,"But how does that make sense since if I'm believing in demons I have to be believing in God."
He said, "Well, taking this a bit further, how could such a good Christian woman be stricken with a demon like that."

It hit me at that moment. The cancer, the demon that takes so many of us. The tears came then so I had to admit, "That's it." It was a simplistic dream after all. I'm still struggling on some level with how God could have allowed Mom to die of cancer. Why she wasn't healed. Apparently, my conscious mind wasn't able to deal with the existential issue s my subconcious had to come knocking to remind me it was still there. Geez, sometimes, it would be nice to process things without having to have the images in my head first. Oh well, any thoughts, alternate explations?    

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day m'lady

The Renaissance Faire in Atlanta provided the appropriate amount of entertainment and exercise to keep me from getting maudlin today. I also got wished Happy Mother's Day in British accents with various degrees of excellence. The first one coming from my sister-in-law Louise who is from England so was spot on with the accent.

Other than that it didn't feel much different from the kid's days we usually have. In that, we went to the shows the kids wanted to go to, bought the kids the things they wanted, and rode the rides the kids asked to ride. However, I guess that is what being a mother is so I truly experienced a "being a mother" day.

Our pool liner is now finished so I think we will be able to fill the pool this week. I am very excited about that. It looks beautiful. Although I may have to change the color of my kitchen because it looks right out onto the pool and the kitchen color seems off now for some reason. I think there is a possibility that next mother's day may actually be harder than this one. Right now, I am missing Mom intensely every day so the fact that it was Mother's day didn't make me miss her anymore. Next year, I may have moved more into the habit of knowing she isn't around so it might actually be worse. We'll see. I had many wonderful friends wish me well for they day and send me texts to make sure I was doing okay.

My flowers that Sharon sent me on Friday had bloomed and were a beautiful greeting for me when I walked in the door tonight. Overall, the weekend went well. When I got home, I found out a good friend of mine's husband had to go to the hospital for observation. I can not imagine how sucky a mother's day that was for her. Still, she was checking on me when she sent the email. I do have very kind friends and family. I hope you all know that you are appreciated.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Getting out of Dodge err Ooltewah

Tomorrow, my family and I load up the hybrid and head to Hot lanta or for us married with children folks, a simple Atlanta. I think it is a good call to get out of town for Mother's Day. I have been woefully weepy the last few days. I don't know if it is the holiday, just more regular grief, or hormones. That will probably be my question from now until I wait outside the pearly gates. Jeff keeps asking me, "What's wrong?" when I say I'm sad or if he sees me crying. I keep saying, "just assume it is because my parents died unless I tell you differently." I think some part of him is hoping for a problem that he can solve so he keeps asking. One of my wonderful sisters, Sharon, sent me flowers today. There was no card which had Jeff asking if I was having an affair. But when I spoke with Sharon (trying to find out if she got flowers so I would know it was family) she said a card was supposed to be in there that said, "In honor of our mother and the mother you are." I wish I could execute doing nice things like that for other people. I think of nice gestures often but rarely do they reach fruition.

The puppet show went well on Thursday which I didn't even realize was Cinco de Mayo until I got on facebook. Too late to plan for that then, oh well. Today, I have just returned from Nashville where I visited the Hermitage along with my daughter and the rest of her third and fourth grade schoolmates. They had 150 slaves at one time to run that plantation. Can you imagine never knowing if your family was going to be complete on any given day or if someone was going to decide to sell them. At least when we lose someone to death we know it is because God has a better place for them to go and that He knows the ultimate plan. They just had to hope their family members weren't getting beaten or raped in their new "homes." It was a grand estate but I don't think I would want to live in a house that big. I'll let you know if I ever make my millions and decide to buy an estate. Although I think I would want to avoid one built on the backs of slaves. Have a happy mother's day all. Talk to you again later.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tomorrow is National Day of Prayer

My sister Cindy and I are doing a puppet show for the younger kids tomorrow at school for the National Day of Prayer. Jeff has been helping me learn my lines. I hope that goes well. I am having some mom guilt because Kelsey is going on a field trip to Nashville on Friday and I am not chaparoning. At least, I don't think I am. She is still wearing me down. It will be the first field trip either of my children have ever gone on without me. Although, I do know Mom didn't go on every field trip with me and I still miss her quite a bit so maybe it won't be the end of our relationship. I may still fold, we'll see.

Turns out I didn't have to worry about Jeff getting home last night. He got caught on 1-75 between Cleveland and Chattanooga for about two hours due to a traffic fatality. I didn't hear anything about it on the radio which is sad knowing someone died and it didn't even rate a mention. I hope I remember that in the National Day of Prayer. I wonder what that will look like at a Christian school. Make a comment if you want prayers and I will pass it on. I hope you all feel peace in your hearts today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

and the cleaning out goes on

Yesterday, I found a Mother's Day Card my oldest sister made for my mother sometime in her childhood. At least, I assume it was childhood based on the rhyming verse and the picture on the front. I gave the card to her today and I don't know what she will decide to do with it. I remember when Mom and Dad moved out of the house in which I grew up. They gave me my yearbooks at that time and prom dresses, probably some pictures but a lot of my stuff stayed. Mom didn't seem to mind, I assumed it was because the stuff held memories for her too. Now the question becomes, do I hold onto things that were special memories between me and my mom for someone else to have to decide what to do with them or do I go ahead and purge these things. There are photos and scrapbooks.

A lot of these things make me cry. I found the other day a mother's day present I made for my mom about four years ago. It was 52 pieces of paper with memories on them or things I wanted her to know I appreciated. It was supposed to be one for every week in the year. Mom read them all the first day. I am so glad I did it when I did. Here are a few of them with some extra explanation from me for your benefit:

Mom, Thank you for always helping me when I get behind. Whether it was in school or housework you are always there to pitch in and often lead the way for me.
There were many nights in high school where Mom and I got giddy with exhaustion because I had waited until the last minute to write a paper and she stayed up with me to type each page as I finished it. I'm sure she would have preferred to be sleeping at 3a.m.

Mom, Thanks for all those peanut butter and brown sugar or fluffanutter sandwiches. Yum, I wish I could get away with eating like that now. Mom always worried that I didn't eat enough and would make these dessert like concoctions to entice me into it (as I do for my own children now). I think she assumed if she got the peanut butter in it was at least a little bit of protein. I used to give half the sandwich away most days. In high school, she would make me milkshakes in the morning to make sure I ate before school.

Your prison work is admirable and a Christian example. I am always filled with pride when I talk about you doing it. Mom used to volunteer at Silverdale Correctional facility with the women inmates. She also traveled to Florida every year to participate in a prison ministry there. Mom had a heart of love for people, all people, and wanted them to know Jesus is always waiting with open arms no matter what has happened before.

I love your chocolate chip cookies. To this day that is my comfort food but none match yours. Typing this one has made me cry because it is still true and I will never get to eat Mom's cookies again. It was the tollhouse recipe but it was something about the way she baked them. I used to eat them until I had a stomach ache because they were so good. A lot of time she would have them baked when I got home from school and often when I came home from college. She used to save me the batter to eat too before we got careful about salmonella.

Remember Kelsey's first bath. You gave it to her while Jeff and I looked on not knowing what to do. Boy, did she scream.  My sister talks about how alone she and her husband felt when Mom drove off after that first week helping with the baby. It was the same for us. How were we ever going to take care of this little baby? I still wonder how I am going to do this without Mom around to answer the questions.

I think that is all the memories I can handle for tonight. I'm not sure if the memories are more intense at the end or if I just let myself get saturated in sad. My keyboard is looking a bit shiny from crying. It's hard to wipe away tears while also typing. I always wanted to be a pretty crier. You know the kind where fat tears roll down from beautiful eyes. Instead, I'm a scrunch up my face, nose gets red kind of weeper. It's not pretty and Jeff is coming home after a two day stay in Knoxville in an hour or so. I'd rather not meet him looking like I lost a bar fight with a water hose. I am lucky to have had so much to lose in a mother but it sure makes the waves of loss come frequently and with persistence.

Monday, May 2, 2011

hello blogsphere

Did you miss me? After various events including a stomach virus (both kids), pink eye (also both kids), a local tornado, power failure, and a lot of random weeping, I'm back to comment on life. We are so lucky the storms did next to no damage on our property. A friend of mine in Knoxville found a check from someone in Ooltewah in her yard. When her husband looked up the names, the couple and their child died in the storms. Another person posted on facebook that he drove through Ringgold right after the storm and there was a guy in the middle of the road. He put his window down and asked the guy if he was okay. The guy said, (with a dazed look on his face) "Yeah, I was just blown here." All I can picture is a Bill and Ted moment and the guy saying, "Dude."

The storms have shaken the writer in me out of inertia.That might be an overstatement. I'm still just thinking about it. However, if I don't write my stuff and some random thing occurs and I die than it will never be written. I'm not such a megalomaniac as to suggest that the world would be greatly diminished minus my stories. Still, I am the only one who can write my stories so if I don't do it, it doesn't get done.

Speaking of megalomania, because I like that word today, when I heard about Osama Bin laden's death it didn't take long for me to wonder if Mom had something to do with finding him (or Dad). Maybe there are enough people in heaven now for a quorum. I can't remember what quorum means right now so I may be horribly misusing it but it seemed the right word. I'm glad Bin laden's been caught but I do worry about repercussions. I know God tells us not to worry and I acknowledge that he can turn all things for good. But, he also tells us our lives will be full of pain and hardship and I have a hard time being all groovy with that idea. I can deal and I will but it does cause some anxiety.

One of my writer friends, Rusty, has a blog (The Blutonian Death Egg) and on it he wrote about blogs often being too long. I winced and thought, 'is he talking about me?' gulp. Which, of course, suggests that he is even still reading my blog which is unlikely. I think the majority of my readers fell off when the primary story came to an end (parents died). I don't know whether short or long is better. Most of the time I enjoy several paragraphs when I am reading other people's blogs so I try to do the same on here. Maybe it ought to be more of a check-in. I guess I need to sit back and think, 'What would Doogie Howser do?' Because after all, isn't that where blogging began? If only I had the theme song going in the background.