Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Meniscus

The port I'm sipping tastes like raisins soaked for an eternity in sticky, dry wine. It's the color of a starless sky unless you put a light to it and then it shimmers from within like a ruby. It's delicious.

One day I hope I'll be this content and happy all on my own. One day this'll be easy. One day.
But right now, this day is very much like this:

"You always try to see yourself
Through the eyes of someone else

Too shy to say that you need help
You and everybody else
You and everybody else

One day it's here and then it's gone
How are you still holding on?"

How indeed! Today I can tell you that I held on because of my friends. Because of my succulent ladies draped across the low branches for me to pick off with ease and devour.

A billion times today I tried to come up with a reason why I wouldn't be able to make it out tonight. I'm too tired. Nothing fits. The kids will miss me. It's almost Christmas; too much to do. I'm waaaay toooo tired.

But I also knew that If I had one really good shot at rallying some Christmas spirit, it would be in the company of the hot blondes and the smoking brunette.

And oh, wow! Do they fill me up! They are as sweet and dark and delicious as the wine I'm sipping while all cozied up in my bed. And they're just as complicated and mysterious.

I need to remember that that is how I should judge my relationships. Do you suck me dry? Or do you fill me up and let me overlfow? So simple. So excruciatingly difficult.

And while I don't feel any more merry than I did earlier today and I still can't find the spark in my gut that I can usually ignite into a Christmas flame but I am calmer, less lonely feeling and more comfortable in my skin.

The lyrics I included above are from a song called "One Day" by a band called Kodaline. And while the whole album gets to me like bees in a hive, this particular tune as mattered most as of late. Give em a listen and be good to yourself.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

All I want: Update

Alright! Message received. Jeeesh.

So, as it turns out, while I DON'T have a 6 year old boy who can put his business in the can, I DO have a 6 year old boy who can keep himself occupied without incident for a few hours while his mother gets shredded in a game of Monopoly by the rest of the family.

We can't choose these gifts, people. They're just doled out.

Again, Merry Christmas.

All I Want For Christmas Is...

I told Hot Husband this morning that the 3 words I fear most in this world are "Mom! Lincoln pooped!"

In the span of 36 hours I have cleaned up vomit, shit and blood all from my children none in an appropriate receptacle.

The best day could be swallowing me whole and then a body fluid disaster happens and suddenly I'm in the belly of a whale, desperate to gain traction on its huge, slimy tongue. It isn't a good time.

Perhaps the bloody noses, periods, stomach bugs wouldn't bother me so much if Captain Crap wasn't my 6 year old son. Maybe the grip of the whale's digestive tract wouldn't be such a burden if I had a boy who was confident  in the loo.

Keeps me real, though. No getting all haughty and high and mighty around here! Nothing quite like wiping shit from the walls and floor and toilet seat when your son tries to dispose of the load himself to keep a woman's head out of the clouds.

"Shit" is the word I use because that's what it is. He's a gyoza guzzling, mac n cheese munching, scrambled egg scarfing little man and his BM's hold all the glory of his varied, protein rich diet.

Hot Husband laughed when I said it, he's been there. He knows. He mourns this part of our son, too. As he so eloquently puts it: "Lincoln will always be the most interesting person in the room, he's just gotta stop shitting his pants."

So this Christmas, among all of the other things I'm sure my totally charmed life will be handing me, I have one extra request (obviously our of pure selfishness): Please, Universe, don't let him poop under the tree. Thank you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The First Cut Is the Deepest. Baby, I know.

Lat night, Ruby asked me to stop loving someone. She had crawled into bed with me and the small boy and snuggled right down and let us be with her, on her. But just like that! She was up and out and said to me from the foot of the bed: "I need to ask you something. I need you to stop loving ___. It hurts me that you do and I need you to stop."

The cruelty of the whole thing, the way she let me in and then cut me to the bone. I was instantly cold and my heart was pounding and the pressure in my face, eyes and head from the wanting to cry was overwhelming.

"OK." I said. I said "OK", I didn't have a choice.

She is my daughter! My love! The one I need to keep me going for the other two! Without her and her trust and devotion I am not whole.

It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do for her. She is demanding I have a broken heart to match her own.  All of this without even knowing how broken hearts really work yet.  Like a Joffrey, she is demanding sacrifice. Mercilessly.

They don't tell you about this part of mothering. About these exquisitely painful slices of pie you are asked to eat in one gulp with no sip of water, no mastication.

Her defiance is at once terrifying and exhilarating. She has strength and power I never did as a young woman. And since she has been given the freedom to wield her sword at will, sometimes I am the target.

Never once have I wished my babies to be a different age than they are. I pride myself on loving them right where they stand at the moment but today, as I spied her sleeping in her bed, if she had suddenly turned small and a little bit helpless, I would have been happy and I wouldn't have wept silently in her doorway.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Now You See Me

Hello, my Dreamlets. Let me tell you a story about things before I dreamed you*:

I wasn't always who you see now. I used to be under some covers. Some crocheted with affection, some perfectly matched to the curtains and the mat and the wallpaper, some soft and lovely, some scratchy and rough.

As much as love has always been my strongest desire, fear has always been my greatest motivator. Before you all knew me, fear was my friend. My jelly. My ketchup. My meatballs. My constant companion.

Before you all knew me, Houdini had nothing on me. I slid and skulked and moved through rooms and days like a ghost. You will not see me, hear me, touch me. I will escape. This was how it went and it went on and on and on.

When I would dance and sing and put on a show at Thanksgiving dinner, I hoped. When I'd do great in school, I hoped. When I learned how to make American Chop Suey without anyone asking me to, I hoped. When I got friends and boyfriends and jobs and I was away I was still tangled up in those blankets, dragging some of them along behind me, some clutched in my fingers.

And I did alright. I did pretty fucking good, actually. And I grew up and packed some things away and found my love and moved on and away and up and up and towards something that I didn't know what.

Then November 16th, 2008 @ 1215 happened and within minutes it was clear that there was a thing in my life that would not be very interested in who I had been. Something that only needed me for who I could be, the someone I was capable of finding underneath the pile.

He was a lovely, trusting baby. He believed in me from his first breath and every day since, I am the one he looks for when he opens his eyes in the morning. I'm the one he demands join him in bed when he lays down his downy head at night.

Every day for 6 years that boy has pulled me more and more into the light of the goddamned day.

My blanket cocoon  hangs on. Let's not get crazy. It's attached at certain parts of me that are hard to reach. Parts that are hard to name because I don't like to look at them very much. But a lot of it is gone. Gone and burnt to bits or stuffed into dank and dusty cupboards. And I have to thank my son for that. My boy. My Lincoln. My love.

Happy Birthday, baby.

* That first line is paraphrased from my absolute most favorite book: "Geek Love" by Katherine Dunn

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Maybe if I Squint I'll See Straight

My perspective is a drunken sailor riding a skateboard listening to Dolly Parton songs on a Walkman.

My judgment is a sea bird not waiting another second to snatch that delectable little fishy.

A little boy hit me square on the back with a piece of a dripping wet clam shell as I moseyed along in the tide pools searching for small critters to delight my Prince with. Instinct dictated that I turn my head around to see who'd thrown it and in that shutter snap of a moment, I clapped my hand to my mouth to stifle a laugh.

The kid was knee high to a horseshoe crab and standing like a damn boss as his father admonished him with a finger so waggly it looked disembodied. "Your mother would go CRAZY if she saw you do that!" He whisper/screamed.

Whereas I was all like: Good arm, dude.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer 2014

Here again. Here in Falmouth. Here and happy. I am so much beach, nearly an even split with city (depends upon which one I'm in, obviously). Even with the screamy kids and passive/ineffective (in this moment at least) parents right next to me in the pool I am happy.

The ocean is to my right and its smells and sounds provide a background that grounds. The sea informs my joyful choices and dictates my joyous mood. The beach gives me power and shows me that I am a million feet tall and a part of every other thing there is. This shit I'm typing is not hyperbole. I am here on the edge of the physical earth, right on the water and I totally fucking get how monumental that is.

I share a bed with Lincoln when we come here and these are nights I keep in a perfect little box sealed tight for later, later when I may need to breathe easier and feel better and not be so sad. His need for deep pressure and comfort translates into a boy who snuggles like its his goddamn job. His full weight is pushed into me and his horsey head snuggles almost hurt. He drifts off to sleep mumbling about horse-shoe crabs and his daddy.

Ruby is languid here. Legs to her ears and hair down her spine. She's lazy and sleepy and calm and bends to my whims like warm licorice.

And it never fails that Penelope crosses a threshold here she's never dared to traverse. This time, she walks to the beach BY HERSELF. Always with a target in sight, always armed with a cell phone and always a glorious puffed up peacock as she marches away.

Hot husband said a bunch of years ago that it was important to him that we build memories for the kids with our trips and vacations. I kinda dismissed it, like "duh", no kidding.

But now I get it. He didn't have so much of that as a small boy, while for me, my summertime memories remain the absolute best thing about my childhood. And I'd bet a shit-ton of dough that my kids are gonna feel the same.

This place.

Next time, next year, Sgueglia is coming. He is coming and along with all the requisite and charming and delightful things we'll do with the kids, me and my man are going to get it on like it's the end of the world because that is the only thing keeping my days here from being absolutely pristine.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Michele OBrien, RN

This is nurses week. It's pretty amazing we get a whole week. Probably because we're pretty amazing.

We are the workhorses of healthcare. We're the first ones in, the last ones out. We are the eyes and ears and hands and hearts of our facilities.

True connections, life-long bonds and memories are created under our care. Our patients and our patient's families will remember us forever.

Our job is a privilege. Not many people see and do the things we handle on a day to day basis. We have a window into life and death. Our job is not to be trifled with.

Then why am I so unhappy this year? Why am I not feeling so proud and accomplished?

Maybe this is my year to feel the weight and exhaustion of the job. Yes, it's *only* a three day work week. I know, I know, I know.

I'm lonely. That's really at the crux of things.

I changed jobs at the beginning of the year for all the right reasons but the net result has been loneliness.

Hot husband is traveling. A lot. Add that to the deep , intense, core driven affection I have for my friends I left behind at my previous job that is burning a tremendous hole in my heart...

This is not a job you can go to and do well at if you HAVE NO BACK UP. No love in your scrub pocket. No knowledge from those around you of who you are, what you can do, the breadth of your talent.

I'm lonely.

I'm a lonely nurse.

I'm a lonely mama.

I'm what a you'd call "sniffing my own drawers" right about now. (A phrase borrowed from the mother of a woman I used to be very close to).

I can't get out of my own way.

I am not so independent.

I'm not that tough.

The other day at my new job I replied to a co-worker who said that my glasses were "fabulous" and that I must be a real "trend-setter", that she had no idea of the level and scope of my awesome.

I grossly underestimated the social aspect of changing jobs. I didn't realize how much going to work was as much about doing my job as it was about being with like minded women and laughing and talking and crying and sharing things that have nothing to do with said job. Connections and bonds that in turn, make the job possible, doable.

This thing that is happening to me is forcing some realities to the surface. Stuff about my confidence and self-worth and my fragile little ego.

So. The fact is that I am a nurse and this is my week and before it's over, I will find a really good reason to celebrate. I have about 18 hours to accomplish that…. Ready! Set! GO!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Breathe In, Breathe Out. Repeat.

I'm not alone. I'm not the only mother in the world with multiple children. I'm not the only mother in the world with the majority of those children having a disability.

I am the only mother in my house who does, though.

Today is a day that I am under the weight of my children. And trust me, that feels as awful to me as it is for you to read.

There are moments as a mother in my house where I am sure that I am experiencing on a visceral level what it's like to be my son and my daughter. Moments where there is nothing but sound and movement and input and pressure and it's loud and unrelenting and pushy and pully and I'm whirling through the waves kicking and paddling in a futile attempt to keep my head above water.

The difference is that I have speech and cognition and the ability to reason. But that difference can make the scene all that more maddening and uncontrollable because my talking and thinking and rationalizing doesn't work all the time. Sometimes it just doesn't work.

I haven't yelled at my kids in so long...  I can't remember the season I last yelled. I don't know if I was barefoot or boot-clad, sweating or chilled to the bone.

An unconsolable Lincoln clutching and yelling and whining and pulling demands all of my attention.

A desperate and wronged Penelope cuts a nasty gash that needs me more.

A defiant and belligerent Ruby staring me down.

Direct requests shit on.

Disregard and mayhem in the form of glitter flung far and wide and all over the dinner I was about to serve. Empty plates of mochi shoved in the face of me asking no one to eat before I could serve that now bedazzled dinner.

I fucking lost it.


He only wanted me. He needed me. It had to be me.

Here's the kicker: I'm here, ripped apart and licking my wounds and I hear Penelope and Lincoln in the other room playing and talking as if nothing happened.

And I can feel the weight of Ruby's anger seeping up through the floor, because she, like me, takes much longer to go from boil to simmer to cool.

This is hard.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Need to Know Basis

"Where are we going?"
"Where are we?"
"What's he doing?"
"Where is he?"
"Where is she going?"
"What are we doing?"

With a tiny hand, palm side up, fingers slightly spread and bent so sweetly at the wrist. Hair making tender, vanilla iced slashes in the air as his head flits from side to side looking for more things, people, stuff to ask questions about. Incessant goddamned questions! His questions are Indy cars flying though his mind and out of his mouth.

"What is that?"
"Who is coming?"
"How are you?"

He is EXHAUSTING with his questions. Even once he knows the answer, he ASKS ON! It starts from the moment his downy head appears at my bedside each morning and goes till that same fluff-ball of a noggin is down for the night.

"Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy!"

"Yes, baby?"

"Love you, too!"

That last bit right there is why I keep entertaining my newly minted linguist/inquisitor/sergeant-of-all that-must-be-known.

To those of you who told me this day would come, I thank you and I love you and we're here, with lots of wine and snacks if you'd like to stop by and acknowledge some of these questions for a few hours? Please? Pleeeeeaaaaasssse!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Day in the Life

Started crying in the car the other day when I was driving home from Trader Joes with the Great One and her friend, Kat and we  put on the Idina Menzel version of "Let it Go".  Kat had only heard the Demi Lovato version and it was vitally important to readjust her worldview.

I cry every time I hear that woman sing that song.  PJ, my sweet and precious elf is playing it on her iPad next to me right now and I get so overwhelmed, so taken…

Show tunes? Me?!? For the love of all that is good and holy, what in the world has happened here?!?

It's change. Pully, stretchy, achy, thickly sweet and stingingly sour change. While this nasty beast of a Winter is dragging her brutal ass off the stage, pulling mild, shy and unctuous Spring behind her I am swaying from side to side; caught in their fickle fucking dance. And when I make a big enough move from one side to the other, a new tiny shred of new and knowing forces itself to the surface. I'm collecting the pieces and building them up in a way that will eventually fit me (maybe when Spring finally takes over and resets the scene once and for all?).

I feel stronger, more capable, more in love. I also feel vulnerable and unsure and aware of how fragile my whole life is. Appreciation? I think I've always had that. But it's different, tougher.

Like the other day in Sephora with Ruby and Kat… We were there (as promised) to fulfill one of Ruby's magical birthday wish list  items and because of a lack of childcare and an overabundance of attachment, we took Link with us to NYC for the day. Sephora was the final stop.

He was WILD. He was crawling around my body without touching the ground. He was yelling and would sometimes shriek. He was rubbing his open mouth all over my arms and face and pulling my hair over my head to cover his head. I held tight. We were next in line, backing out now wasn't an option. The young woman checking us out never skipped a beat, never a sidewise glance or exasperated breath (she even gave us an EXTRA birthday gift). All the while I'm thinking to myself: How lucky am I! I get the trust and the love of this boy! This, the most fascinating and confounding boy within miles of where we were standing LOVES ME! He loves me. And I also brought the feeling into my veins that shopping isn't always like this. Shopping is usually NOT like this and those flutters of calm and reason flowed in and out of my heart muscle with every breath I took. I swear my pulse was never above 70 the whole time we were in the store.

As we were leaving, I looked at our salesperson and I thanked her for being so patient and gentle faced and when I said those words, the whole line of women at the registers turned their heads to the left and smiled at me and Lincoln in unison and I wanted to go all Oprah on them! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car!

I wanted to scream with glee: See! is that so hard?? Is a little understanding of something so obviously different from yourself so hard?

Walking along Houston St. back to the parking garage with my beautiful daughter and her pastry shop pretty friend sashaying along in front of us, Link's saliva was drying on my arms and face and it left behind a scent that was so comforting and delicious. My arms were getting sore, my back hurt (even today, days later, I have an ache in my forearms that P90X would have a hard time inflicting) and I was getting a blister between my big toe and my flip-flop thingy and I couldn't think of a time that I had felt happier, more at ease.

That's the change I'm talking about. The giving in to the magnetic pull, the not resisting, the staying strong.

What does this have to do with that song? Listen to it. Listen to it and tell me it doesn't make you feel something. And it you don't, if it doesn't' dig in (even just a bit), think about that and try this change shit. it's pretty damn transcendental.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

If you look, you'll see.

Baby. Boy. Bam.

I think about him all the time. I say his name in my head just like that, like a mantra. When I get out of my car in the morning to go into work I think about him and I say his name. When a mother is pushing and pushing and pushing, I say his name.

When a mother is rushed to the OR I say his name. When a mother is a scheduled c-section and things are calm, I say his name.

Baby boy Bam. He lives with me and I love him.

I fell in love with him first when his mother actually took a nap during one of her night shifts and I started to wonder if it was because a wee babe was growing in her belly and the tired during those first few months was just too much. I didn't say anything because she didn't say anything but, still...

When it was obvious and we could see it was indeed a small, vivacious human being taking up residence in its mom's belly, all bets were off and I was head over heels for whoever was in there.

That baby scared me too many times with the worry that it would come too soon. That my love would have to turn into something else for a long time and, well, that was just terrifying.

Turns out that, Bam, the sweet angel boy did come too soon. Too soon to cry and nurse and laugh and wet his diapers and keep his parents up at all hours. Too soon to grow hair & teeth. Too soon to look at his mama and his dad every minute with wide & loving eyes. Too soon to use those eyes to take in the rest of us and see how much we loved him.

Baby Boy Bam came too soon for so much. But he came right on time for so much more.

I was able to handle the grief of my own son's diagnosis with more courage and love because of him.  I don't get as upset with my daughters for their minor transgressions because of him.

And I don't want to speak for his mom, his exceptionally wonderful mom, but I'm pretty sure he made her a better person. Better mother, friend, wife, nurse (if it were even possible for her to be better at those things).

Thank you, baby. Small, precious, perfect baby. Baby who never had to feel pain or grief or loss. Baby who was simply and will always be just love.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Don't Call me Daughter

So this one is a little bit harder to distill, to put into a digestible form.

Another one of my dad's died a few weeks ago. That makes 2 in the last few months for those of you who are keeping score.

Ray. Lauren Raymond Pike. Sonofabitch Supreme. Major Dick. Captain Asshole. I wasn't angry when I started writing this, but typing those last three phrases literally raised my pulse. Makes me believe that I do this to myself…

He died of a massive stroke. There was no chance. One of his carotid arteries had been %100 blocked for years and the other had been scraped to %75 efficacy. He was a violently uncontrolled diabetic with an ego problem.

He was a know-it-all and a loud mouth and a bigot and a misogynist and a pervert.

He was not OK to me. But as an effect of his terrible (step) parenting of me, I got tough. I rose up and did good and distanced myself in body and mind and spirit as far as I could from him as soon as I could. His presence in my life was the single biggest motivator for me to succeed and get the hell out of Dodge. And as I grew up a little and moved further and further away as a person from him, I would cringe whenever he'd compliment me or take credit for my accomplishments. Ironic.

Here's where it's tricky: People loved him. He made some people happy during his time on planet earth. His mother adored him. And she was one hell of a lady! A gorgeous, vivacious woman who lived out her days in a fab apartment on Michigan Ave. in Chicago. His two children (at least at the end of his life. I didn't pay attention to their relationships when I was a kid getting terrorized by him or when I became an adult and didn't have to worry any more) cared for him very much so he must have done some good for them and their children…  And he was married a bunch of times. I guess those wives loved him for a while, I'm pretty sure my mother did. Although their fights and general shitty attitude towards each other is what stays with me most.

When I was 19 or so I started having pretty elaborate fantasies about what I'd do if I was ever faced with him, a ventilator and the ability to pull the plug. In my early thirties I was called to help by my mother because he was in a diabetic rage and I had an insulin syringe in my hand filled and ready to get his +600 blood sugar under control. I gave him the medicine, but I had to think about it first. Really think about it.

Anyone who really knows me know what a pacifist I am. Violence is not in my nature but I was willing (at least in my mind) to hurt him. What does that mean?

As an Atheist, I don't have a lot of places to seek shelter when I don't understand something about myself or other people or the world. There is no "let go, let God" for me. And I'm not saying that believers have an excuse, that it's definitely easier (is it, though? in a way?). I'm saying that my belief system, that is my belief in humanity, my belief in the things that I can see and feel and touch all around me, forces me to keep looking.

I thought for such a long time that when he finally died, I'd have an answer, something final. Not true. Not true at all.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nurses: A Cautionary Tale

 I am a nurse.

So what does that mean, exactly? It means I go to work every single shift with the sole intent of helping. It means that when I walk through the doors of my facility I am taking on the responsibility to care for other human beings regardless of my personal feelings, biases, emotional state, political leanings or religious beliefs. It means that when I step onto my unit in uniform I take my assignment with pride, with a positive attitude and grace.

I am a nurse. I am technical, I use computers to care for my patients, to keep them safe from medication errors and to comply with federal regulations. I am clinical, I start IV's, perform procedures, dispense medications orally, intravenously and by injection to ensure your pain and disease processes stay within normal limits or improve. I am nurturing, I hold your hand, your family's hand. I cry with you and for you. I call case management if your physical or emotional state is threatened and sometimes I call security for those same reasons.

When things are perfect, ideal. When the census and acuity are low and the nurse to patient ratio is safe, my job is difficult. When management is involved and aware and attentive to the needs of the staff, my job is difficult.

And I'm going to be egotistical here: Like most jobs it provides my family with income to buy food, pay our mortgage, give us health insurance It gives me a sense of self-worth and my kids a positive role model But it is unlike most jobs in that it has more intrinsic value. It is more important and life affecting. There is more risk, more opportunity for catastrophe and exultation. My job is more important than other jobs. Period.

The support staff we need, that we rely on is crucial to our survival and our ability, as nurses to perform at peak levels. Our housekeepers, surgical techs and nursing assistants are the safety net we couldn't fly without. Taking them for granted is a huge diss/piss/black mark on our karma and we know it.

Conversely, when management, leadership, administration takes us for granted, things fall apart.
Things rust. Things like morale. Things like the drive to do more, do better. These things rust and crack and stop working.

When nurses aren't supported by the people put in place to support them we have anxiety attacks in the parking garage. We don't sleep well at night. We are on edge. We don't eat well or take care of ourselves. When the structure loses its integrity, the human body that the nurse occupies breaks down and loses confidence.

We are the user interface that is backed up by the machine. If the machine fails, we fail. And if we fail, we fail our patients.

Very recently I resigned from a facility that is seemingly working very hard to be the defining example of what I've just described. I am lucky that I was able to find a new job at a facility that treats its nurses with respect and kindness; treats us like human beings.

This has to be the trend, this notion of giving to the nurse what the nurse is expected to give to their patients. Because if it isn't (and I'm afraid it isn't, I'm afraid I didn't get just a little lucky. I think I got a LOT lucky) the future is very bleak indeed.