Granny AGMA’s confession

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Dearest B-Man,

Hallelujah!

I finally get it! I get the whole grandparent thing!

Granny AGMA’s slow. Up until now, I was clueless.

Three of my grandparents had already passed by the time I was born. My sole grandparent – my father’s mother – was in her 70‘s, wracked with horrible rheumatoid arthritis and severe osteoporosis. In my memory, she looked like she was ancient.

Today, 75 is the new 55. But not back in the day.

She died when I was 6.

You dada and uncle really didn’t have grandparents either. Well they did. But they didn’t.

My father, your great grandfather, remarried a lovely woman named Louise after he divorced your great grandmother. Louise never had any children of her own, but she grew to love me as a daughter after I came to live with them in 1965.

Louise loved your dad and uncle too, but she wasn’t very maternal. She seemed a bit frightened of children. Besides, she was all about trying to keep my father happy. Not an easy task.

Great granddad was a narcissist. Like The Donald.

My dad “loved” your dada and uncle, but it was in his own, narcissistic way. Meaning that, he would never spend any time on them or with them if he had anything better to do. Which always seemed to be the case.

His great loss

I suspect my own mother would have been a superb grandma had she lived to meet her grandchildren…

Your grandpa’s (“Bumpa” as you call him!) parents had no clue how to parent or raise emotionally, mentally or spiritually healthy children. There was abuse on multiple levels. Bumpa managed to pull his life together and do quite well, but still bears the emotional scars. His siblings weren’t as fortunate.

When Bumpa and I realized his parents weren’t interested in being a part of your daddy and uncle’s life, we were relieved. They saw them once a year. Perfect.

They’re all gone now other than Bumpa’s mother, your great grandmother. Who’s never met you. And she hasn’t shown any interest in seeing you although we’ve offered to fly her to Chicago to visit.

Her great loss. And terribly sad.

When I found out 2+ years ago that I was going to be a grandma, I did all the right things. I cried for joy. I organized a baby shower for your mom. We traveled to Chicago to welcome you to the world.

But I still didn’t “get” the grandma thing.

Friends had been posting on Facebook for years how wonderful it was to be a grandparent; that it was the best thing ever.

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Blah, bIah, blah…

I thought they were possibly exaggerating a little bit. Or a lot.

Then, you arrived. You were very cute, adorable and cuddly. But I wasn’t sure of the “best thing ever” part.

And your folks, being first time parents, went a little crazy after you were born. There were lots of rules around seeing you. Those were kind of tense times and led to some family discord.

That was no fun.

And I was still trying to riddle out what was so fabulous about being a grandparent other than cuddling said cute, adorable baby.

Fast forward to last April when we found out you were going to be a big brother. Very exciting but…

Now I really needed to find a Remedial Grand Parenting class. I didn’t know how to do this supposedly epic grandma thing with you. Now there was going to be another baby.

Then you started walking. And talking – sort of. And you could understand what we were saying. And slowly, very slowly, we started falling under your spell.

A glimmer of understanding of all those goofy grandparent Facebook memes appeared.

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You totally sealed the deal last week.

I went to Chicago to help your mama out for a few days. Your sister’s fine, but your mom’s body isn’t taking to kindly to this pregnancy. She’s really, really tired.

And you aren’t. You’re a very active boy who has many interests.

Very.Active.

So I came to hang out with you so your mama could chill a bit before all hell breaks loose with a newborn in the house.

And you totally and completely enchanted me… So much so that I ignored my WordPress friends and my blog last week. WTF?

But I couldn’t take time out from our walks. It would take 20 minutes just to go to the end of the street. So many interesting things to pick up and study – dirt, leaves, rocks. I did discourage close examination of the dog dodo…

And I couldn’t take time out of our mornings together looking out the window for trucks and airplanes. Or playing with your toy trucks and Sammy.

And I absolutely couldn’t take time out of our afternoon visits to the park. You needed pushing on the swing and catching at the end of the slide. And chasing as you joyfully ran headlong into your next adventure.

So I get it now.

My job…no, my delight…is being able to slow down with you to help you discover the world. To talk with you about bugs and rocks and trees. To hang with you as you experience the joy of being alive. And to let you know how much you are loved. By me, your bumpa, your dada & mama, your uncle. And God.

Your mama and dada are busy and tired and stressed. I was there once so I totally get it. Lots of times they just don’t have the time or energy to go on 4 walks a day with you. And things are going to get crazy busy when your sister arrives in a few weeks.

But between all 4 of your grandparents – your mama’s parents adore you as well – you’ll still get plenty of time to discover the world. You lucky young man!

Yeah…I get it now.

I’ll love you forever; I’ll like you for always,

Granny AGMA

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I’m Still Jet Lagged So I Can’t Think of a Catchy Title

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We just got back on Sunday from a 12 day trip to Belgium and France.  I missed y’all and AGMA!

But it was fun.  Lots of fun.  Beautiful cities, great Belgian beer, WWI and WWII history, great Belgian beer, wonderful food, great Belgian beer, the amazing Mont St. Michel, great Belgian beer.   Brilliant!

I may have mentioned this before – I love to travel.

The travel bug bit me back in the day when, if you were a student, travel was cheap.  Like ridiculously cheap.  When you could fly “student stand-by” for practically nothing.  Remember the classic book Europe on $5 a Day?  As Archie and Edith sang, “Those were the days…”  Sigh.

I took my first international trip in 1972 when I was 18.  We flew from Dallas, Texas to Athens, Greece with a stop in Bangor, Maine and Shannon, Ireland to refuel.  Yeah – the plane had to refuel twice.  At least it didn’t have propellers…or did it?

I was hooked.

In 1976, I did the semi-obligatory post-college trip to Europe.   An organization called “The International Student Exchange” advertised a fabulous eight week tour of Europe by posting flyers seemingly all over every college campus in the US.  A lot of us took the bait.  It was run by a man called “Uncle Roland”.  Kinda creepy.

This operation was intense.  Every week for probably a month – mid May to mid June – a charter took off from New York to London. Everybody on every plane was between the ages of 18 and 22.  Yes – the inmates were in charge of the asylum…

Each planeload was divided into five groups.  After the first night in London, group #1 left on the “official tour”.  Then the next day group #2 would leave.  Yada, yada, yada until all five groups had left London.

My group was J-10 because we left London on June 10th.  Clever… So we did and saw everything that group J-9 did, but a day later.     J-11 was a day behind us.  J-12 was two days behind us.  If it’s Tuesday, where the hell are we?

Each group had it’s own bus that met them in Calais after the Channel crossing.  Our bus driver was Robert.  He couldn’t speak English and may have been a dirty old man – he was probably all of 35 – but this man had the patience of a saint.  Our guide for the eight weeks was a 24 year old man from Austria named Eric.  He was only two years older than me.  Again, an inmate was in charge…

So there we were – 36 hormone super-charged, ADHD, mixed gender late teen/early 20-somethings craving excitement and adventure, all crammed on a bus for eight weeks driving through 11 countries in Europe where attitudes about alcohol, drugs and sex are way different than the US.  Whatever you imagination can conjure up, it probably happened.  Yeah – that too.

Naturally, by the end of the eight weeks, we basically couldn’t stand the sight of each other.  Some people hated each other.  And nobody liked the girl who decided not to use the toilet and used the back of the bus instead.  Especially Robert.  Plus everybody stunk a little…

A few years ago, I found the flyer for the trip that my pack rat alter ego saved for all these years.  It advertised “Come join us for eight happy weeks in Europe!”  Okay – I’ll give them six happy weeks and two pretty crappy ones.  But 38 years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Good times.

Total cost in 1976 for 11 countries, 17 cities, hotels, breakfast, most dinners, tours in each city plus lots and lots of special extra events – $1195.00.  Sigh.

“Those were the days….”

Memories of Slurpees

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“My feelings hoort!” declared our two year old, grabbing his head after eating a big spoonful of soft serve ice cream.  My husband and I looked knowingly at each other.  Brain freeze.  Only in the wonderfully wise and mysterious mind of a two year old would he think to describe the pain as “hurt feelings.”  So cute and charming.

Nearly thirty years later, I find myself getting my “feelings hoort” a lot when I eat or drink cold things.  Actually, they don’t even have to be very cold.  Just a smidge above 98.6F.  Anything minutely above my body temperature will send shudders of pain through my mouth and head.  And you can forget ice cream, frozen margaritas and Slurpees.  But this isn’t brain freeze.  And it’s not charming.

I’m talking, of course, about receding gums.  Yet another one of those “delightful” by-products of the aging process nobody tells you about when you are younger.  Or maybe they did and you just didn’t pay attention.

Okay – so it’s not totally caused by aging.  Part of it is my fault. Probably a big part.  I know that I should have taken better care of my teeth over the years.  Brushed more, flossed more, rinsed more, seen the dentist more regularly.  Honestly, when you’re young, all of that sounds so boring…

It didn’t help that we moved several times in the last six years and I was just too lazy to find a new dentist.  What the frack was I thinking?

Oddly enough, the crisis came when I started using an electric toothbrush a few years ago.

My teeth and gums started to hurt.  I mean really started to hurt. Bad.  Nothing will get you off of your lazy ass to find a dentist like throbbing pain in your mouth.  Yeah – you know what I’m talking about…

Diagnosis: gum disease. Treatment: periodontal scaling and root planing.

So I had both of my kids “unmedicated” in the early 1980’s.  This means that I had no pain meds at all when I delivered my children who were each the size of a football or large meatloaf.  A extra long, large meatloaf.  The birthing experinece was like a walk in the park compared to being scaled and planed.

Thank you sir, may I have another…

My gums just felt so traumatized and violated.  I had to have a stiff drink, two ibuprofen and a two hour nap when I got home.

I never want to go through that again.  I’ve changed my evil ways. I’ve become the poster girl for outstanding dental hygiene and regular trips to my dentist.

Only YOU can prevent gum disease…

But now my dental visits have a new element of torture to them. Aside from the run of the mill, normal torture.  My gums aren’t understood and handled with the TLC I feel they deserve.  Young dental hygienists don’t seem to get the connection between my nerve-rich exposed tooth roots and my contorting body emanating low guttural noises when they start digging in with their ice picks, rinsing with cold water, and blowing their cold air on my teeth and gums.  OMG – shoot me now!

My next visit is in July.  My mouth is hoping for more mercy

And maybe some nitrous oxide.  Or that awesome stuff they give you when you get a colonoscopy.

But that’s another post…

Confessions of a Former Ubertasker

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I used to be productive.  I had a professional job in IT, school-aged, active children, aging parents who needed help, a house and yard, and volunteer positions in my kid’s school, the community and my church.  Oh, and a husband.  All at the same time.  And I got it done. No nanny, no cleaning service, no smartphones or apps to coordinate it all.  But I got it done.

Remember (if you are of a certain age…) the 1970’s commercial for a perfume call Enjoli?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Q0P94wyBYk

Yeah – that’s how I rolled in the 80’s and 90’s.  Jack of all trades, master of none, but in my own way, I was awesome.  I got it done. And, most of the time, in style and with a smile.  Okay – some of the time.

But now something is wrong.  Terribly, horribly, awfully wrong.

My kids are now grown and living successful lives of their own.  My parents passed away in the early 2000’s.  I no longer have a “real” job – I’m on hiatus remember?  The community and school volunteer positions have long been filled by other parents who were themselves in high school when I was volunteering.  I work couple of hours at my new church in my new city each week, but that’s about it.

Based on my past performance of successfully doing six things at once, you’d think that by this point I should have learned three languages, hiked the Appalachian trail twice, gotten another Master’s degree or two (maybe a PhD), started a tech company and become a 50 state marathon runner.  And still had time left over to master the art of the French soufflé and blog five days a week.

But that’s not how things are now.

If my day starts out with three thank you notes to write (so old school…), a prescription receipt to submit to the insurance company, a couple of loads of laundry to do, two bills to pay, blog posts from some of my favorite bloggers to read and a hotel reservation to book, I start stressing.  Too much to do.  And it’s very likely I won’t get it done that day.  Any of it.  I might play on Facebook for a while, answer a few emails, run out for coffee, start a blog post (not finishing it mind you) and buy a new running visor.

Like Scarlett O’Hara said, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”  Fiddle dee dee…

How could I have fallen so far so fast and become so unproductive?

In the past two months I’ve restarted my little one person business and am working about ten hours a week.  Now I’m having a hard to finding time to go to the grocery store.

Really??

This past weekend I went to a three day conference that started on Friday.  On top of that, I had to run on Saturday morning and go to church Sunday morning to meet a commitment.  By Sunday evening I was saying (to quote Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory”), “What fresh hell is this?”

How does one go from being ubertasker to being a slug?  I’ve been trying to figure it out…

In the past, was it a matter of just gritting my teeth and mentally forcing myself to go non-stop to get it all done?  It didn’t feel like that at the time.  Because everything seemed so “important” back in the day, does everything now feel trivial in comparison and just not worth very much effort?  Am I finally exhausted after all those years of non-stop activity and drama – a sort of PTSD response?  Did I burned out my adrenals and am now incapable of producing the cortisol my body needs for coping with stress?  Beginnings of dementia maybe?  Oh – I really hope not…  Have I gotten lazy?  Or is it just the simple fact that I was younger, and had more stamina and energy?

I don’t have an answer.  I wish I did.

I bought some bacon a few months ago.  I finally had to put it in the freezer because I just couldn’t get around to “frying it up in a pan.”

Maybe I should see if they are still selling Enjoli…

Ode to My Firstborn: Thank You for Making Me a Mom!

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It never dawned on us that it might be difficult to conceive a child. We just thought that when we decided it was “time”, we’d stop using birth control and poof… we’d get pregnant.

But in early fall of 1981 our neighbors, who were going for their second child, were having trouble getting pregnant.  Hmmmm – we didn’t feel as if we were quite ready to be parents yet (I mean, who is?) but we felt compelled to “get busy” trying.

Remember when you were young and your parents gave you the stern warning that “it only takes one time?”  They were telling the truth.  It only took one time.

Clearly you were destined to be.

I was commuting weekly for my job to a city that was a hundred miles away from our home.  Long, stupid story, but I would leave on Monday morning and come back home on Friday night, staying at a small apartment during the week.  Not sure why I thought this was a good idea…

One Monday morning, I got up bright and early as usual, made my HUGE thermos of coffee and hit the road.  And that’s when it hit me. I’ve always loved the smell of the coffee, but this particular morning, it was making me sick.  I couldn’t drink any.  At all.

Hmmmm…

Home pregnancy tests made their debut three years before in 1978. They were very different from the immediate results tests available today.  It was a delicate operation that took several hours.  After spending $30 on three tests and getting three positives,  I still couldn’t believe it.

Holy crap!

I bought all the books I could find on “how to be pregnant.”  We looked at the pictures of the fetal development.  We started to call you Peanut.

And I started eating everything in sight.  It wasn’t pretty.  Forty pounds later, my OB didn’t think it was pretty either.  I’ve been trying to lose that baby fat for nearly 32 years now.

You were a busy baby.  You tumbled and rolled and kicked.  I loved every minute.  I sung to you, patted you and dreamed of you.  My heartbeat was your constant lullaby and your gymnastics were my joy.

I was going to be the perfect mother.  I was going to give you a life of emotional security that I didn’t have.  I was going to give you the love that I had lacked.  I was going to care for you as I hadn’t been cared for.  I continued to dream.

At some point about month six, I realized with horror that you couldn’t stay where you were forever.  You had to get out somehow.We dutifully went to childbirth classes where the instructor assured me that the body makes “allowances” for moving a seven pound baby, four pounds of which is head, down through a passage that seemed like it was never meant to have something the size of a football move down.

Yeah, sure…

Ten days before your anticipated arrival date, I felt something odd. Like I sprang a leak.  Ick.  You were getting ready to make your grand entrance!  But it wasn’t time yet…  I hadn’t packed my bag. Dad’s vacation didn’t start for another ten days.  I wasn’t quite ready to be a mom just yet.

In God’s infinite wisdom, God was preparing me for parenthood. The lesson was: your kids don’t always cooperate with your plans. You let us know that from the very start…

I packed my bag, Dad made chocolate chip cookies and we were off to the hospital.  This was going to all work out!  After five or six hours of “unmedicated” labor, I would deliver my firstborn and still get a full night’s sleep.  This is when God’s plan kicked in again…

Fifteen hours of labor later, the doctor decided to give me something to “kick it up a notch.”  Holy cow!  I was exhausted after being up all night and the contractions really started coming fast and furious, and they hurt.  Really hurt.

I gave up.  I couldn’t do the unmedicated thing.  I asked for an epidural.  But right before they administered it, you decided you’d had enough.  It was time to get the party started.  I started pushing. This was not a good thing because there wasn’t a doctor anywhere in sight.  The nurse told me not to push.

Right.

From what I remember, think I basically told her to go to hell.  You say crazy stuff when you have a seven pound football coming out of you.  The nurse started getting ready to deliver you when my handsome OB swept into the room just in time to catch you.

This was the days before doing ultrasound was standard practice so we had no idea if you were going to be a boy or a girl.  We were both breathless (especially me!) as we asked,  “What is it?”  It??  A boy!  I was a mother.

Holy crap again!

That’s when the fun really started.  And that’s when my life really started.  I thought I understood what my life was all about until I held you for the first time.  I didn’t know shit up until that moment. Nothing was ever going to be the same.  I was never going to be the same.  And I haven’t been.  And it’s been a good thing.

Turns out, I wasn’t the perfect mother.  I made lots of mistakes. Sometimes I embarrassed you, made you angry, made you sad, made you cry, criticized you too much, said some harsh things, didn’t understand you.  Everything I swore I would never do to my most precious and beloved son.  For that and the myriad of other times I disappointed you and let you down, I am sorry.  Really sorry.

But I think we had many good times too and there were a lot of things I, miraculously, did right.

With age comes wisdom and now that I’m older, I know I would be a better mom if I had a chance for a do-over.  More patient, more laid back, more fun.  We’d laugh more, do more goofy things, have more adventures, play in the rain.  Time for grandchildren?  Remember, it only takes one time…

Please never, ever doubt this…  I loved you Peanut, right from the start.  And through all the mistakes – both mine and yours – I kept loving you.  Fiercely loving you.  You were then and will always be the shining light of my life.  I have been so incredibly fortunate to be your mother and I am so very proud of you.

I hope that somehow, that’s what you will remember about me when you’re my age.

Happy Mother’s Day to me!

No Close Ups!

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I have to buy lightbulbs today. To some this might seem like a simple, mindless task of daily living. To me, it’s become a task full of trauma, gnashing of teeth, and denial.

Once upon a time, in the good old energy-wasting days of the 90’s, you’d go to your local hardware or discount retail store and see shelf after shelf full of beautiful 40, 60, 75 and 100 watt soft-light incandescent lightbulbs in clever, multi-bulb packages all eager to jump off the shelf into your cart. It was a splendid sight. Okay – maybe I’m exaggerating…  But there were lots of bulbs to choose from and they were all pretty cheap. Except the extended life ones. I always wondered how “extended” their lives really were. I mean, who keeps track?

Now, I have to ask a store clerk where the incandescent bulbs are on the light bulb shelves because I can’t find them. I think they try to hide the few they have for kicks just to frustrate those of us of a certain age. Then, when you find them, you have a choice between two 4 packs of 60 watt bulbs and a 2 pack of 100 watt bulbs. How did this happen?  When did this happen?

A number of years ago, I do remember half listening to a news story about the possible phasing out of incandescent light bulbs in favor of the more energy efficient, but more expensive LED, florescent, and halogen bulbs. Dismissing it as hearsay nonsense that would never make it past our Tea Party/Libertarian “defenders of the right to buy any lightbulb we damn well please”, I ignored it.

But The Energy Independence and Security Act was indeed signed into law by then President George W. Bush in 2007. What?? No wonder the Tea Party mobilized for the 2008 election…

Evidently the 75 and 100 watt incandescents were phased out in 2013. The 40 and 60 bulbs are the latest to go as of the beginning of 2014. Oh, the humanity! I’ve moved four times since 2007, restarted my little business twice plus one of my sons got married. I’ve been busy, but I honestly didn’t think I was that THAT preoccupied. I don’t know how I missed this. I could have stocked up!

Have you seen the light from those LED, florescent and halogen bulbs? Harsh, glaring and unnatural. Ugly. Flashbacks to my Junior High girl’s bathroom [shiver] and every morgue scene you’ve ever seen on film. And you know how those corpses looked…

Thirty years ago, this would not have been a personal crisis. However, I’m at an age now where gentle, friendly lighting is my friend. A very good friend. My best friend. Possibly a lover. As a teenager, I remember hearing stories about Doris Day being filmed thought gauze. Now I understand. With age comes great wisdom and insight, but also the need for gentle, soft lighting.

I’m a fervent supporter of policies/legislation that deal with environmental protection, finding “green” alternatives and developing clean, renewable sources of energy. But, seriously, everything has it’s limits. Oh, I know that the “new” ugly bulbs pay for themselves in two years and have an unnaturally long life. I’m sure some of the bulbs I buy today will outlive me. There’s my happy thought for the day…  And I realize that I’ll be saving money every month while becoming more energy efficient and helping to do my share to reduce toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants. It’s everything I support. I just don’t want my house looking like my Junior High bathroom. Or a morgue.

Mr. DeMille, looks like I’ll never be ready for that close-up unless I can get some gauze. Lots of gauze.