Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Going with the Flow

Long summer days leave more time for early morning walks with friends and girls' nights out on back patios. Sleep can be elusive but the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular and moments with friends who have been cocooned by work and weather throughout the winter and spring can make up for lost Zzzz's.
At several recent gatherings we have chatted about being "Mom" to teenagers and adults, how often we're the butt of their jokes or their teasing, especially since we bear the load of planning and prepping for major activities.

My family laughs at my need for plans and schedules, the lack of spontaneity that causes me to freeze when some brand-new chore or event lands like a bomb in my carefully plotted calendar. My husband joins the kids in teasing me about my need for advance warning and they all ganged up on me at a dinner in Rome. I joined the joke on myself at first, mellowed by a glass of wine, but eventually grew tired of the sting and threatened to walk home alone.

When I relayed the story to friends, they all had similar examples of being the butt of the joke. "That's just part of a Mom's job," one said.

Another chimed in with a story her next-door neighbor told. "She was at dinner with her adult kids and they teased her for her routines and her long lists. They told her to 'just go with the flow' and she got so angry she shouted 'I AM the f***ing flow!!'"

We chuckled as we strode along the greenbelt, sounding out those words in our head, on our tongues. The rightness struck me at that moment, how my schedules and signups, my plans shaped the daily lives of the kids until now, when they plan their own work and social events. I was the flow, and easy for them to say 'take a break' or 'let it go' when I've been paddling the boat for almost 20 years. Now they will start to understand why it can be difficult to drop plans or miss events, lurch from the plan to the unknown. It will still be easier for them to do as they're each only planning for themselves, but maybe someday they'll understand the plan and love it - as I do - when the plan comes together. They can be their own flow, and I can lay back on the lifeboat and take a rest.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Giving Care

I forgot how Daniel reacts to anesthesia.

Silly me, for planning any work or activities on the same day that he got his wisdom teeth out. I was rapidly disabused of my faulty logic when the nurse came out of the procedure (finally) to say, "he's very emotional - I need your help!"

"Now you need me," I thought but didn't say as I picked up all my belongings from the waiting room where I'd spent the last two and a half hours, "You should have let me go back with him for the IV and pre-op stuff so he wouldn't be so anxious."  

Daniel was moaning and weeping and incoherently asking one question repeatedly as I took his hand and tried to get him to slow his breathing. The machine monitoring his heart rate beeped like crazy as he muttered "air ar air ods" over and over.  After ten minutes of this I finally understood him saying "where are my air pods?"

"You brought your airpods to the surgery?" I asked in disbelief. "Where did you put them and why?" Daniel gestured wildly to his pocket; I looked in both and under him but no airpods to be found. I dismissed this as A. Ridiculous and B. More than I could handle at the moment.  The nurse and I helped a weepy, staggering Daniel out to my car, where he limply lifted a hand for the seat belt and began crying again about  - you guessed it - airpods.

The emotional outburst slowly diminished over the next forty minutes as I sorted piles of drugs on the counter where William's meds had just abdicated space. From ACL surgery to wisdom tooth removal, over the last two weeks I've remembered the every-minute crisis care and nursing skill that sometimes goes hand-in-hand with mothering children. This type of hands-on, sacrificial, round-the-clock care is not so common with children in their late teens and early twenties, and boy, do I NOT miss it.

Difficult to maintain a calm, caring presence when Daniel's meds wore off and gave way to anger, frustration and stomach issues. Similar scenes floated to my consciousness of his early surgeries: tonsils and adenoids removed when he was two, ear tubes put in when he was four. I guess I can be forgiven for forgetting or blocking out those difficult days, after all the twelve years intervening have been full of other adventures.

Caregiving is HARD, and so many of my friends and family are in unexpectedly difficult times of caring for others. Teachers are overwhelmed by serious needs of students, pastors are similarly drowning in the needs of their flocks, and we all know how stressed medical professionals have been over the course of the pandemic. Friends have aging and ill parents to care for, spouses have their husband or wife, parents have ill children and children have parents who are sick. At least, I reason with myself, we are so fortunate that both the boys' surgical procedures achieved good results and the recovery time is fairly quick. Having lived with chronic pain myself for the past ten years, I am appreciative of solutions that promise relief.

I wish our society appreciated caregiving, because it demands so much from human beings and makes other parts of our lives difficult: other jobs (that actually pay), time to restore ourselves, time to sleep, even. I'm grateful for the friends and family who take care of me and firmly resolve to be a much better patient in future, whenever the opportunity arises.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Two Million Envelopes

While checking out at Trader Joe's this morning, I opened my Alexa app to make sure I got all the necessary and asked-for items. One line on my list was unexpected - "two million envelopes." I texted the family chat to see if anyone really needed envelopes, and shook my head at Alexa's spendthrift ways and lack of concern for the environment.

Which of course brings me back to our Italian vacation. European countries have much less space and fewer resources than we have in the US, so they use both more economically and in environmentally friendly ways. In Florence we couldn't find paper products anywhere, and we had to look after spilling red wine on the kitchen table in the VRBO (repeatedly). No napkins, towels, or other wasteful items - only sponges and dishcloths that had permanently changed colors by the time of our departure.

Also a source of amazement - ages-old fountains in certain city squares and taps that perpetually run, offering clean water to anyone stopping by with chapped lips or a reusable water bottle. We filled up at taps all over Venice and even Rome, receiving clean, free water in the middle of the city at sources that were established hundreds (or more) years ago.

Cars are small, streets are small, apartments - you guessed it - small. When Tiziano told us that our VRBO in Venice was his childhood home, we walked around and marveled at how the space could hold an entire family and their (for lack of a better word) household junk. Then we realized that there was no space for household junk - no storage for Christmas decor, baby objects, high school letter jackets, ancient photo albums, and the like. They must have just got rid of all the stuff we accumulate, because there are no public storage spaces for rent in Italy, none that we saw, anyway.

We usually travel abroad with one small roller bag and one backpack per person, so we each got used to traveling with less, wearing the same clothes repeatedly, and eating the food from each apartment before we left it. Because each household in Italy has a maximum amount of electricity they can use per day, we were warned to turn off lights and air conditioning whenever we left the apartment, and not to run too many appliances at the same time. One of our GF restaurants in Rome ran afowl of this provision and we sat through a blackout one night when a few too many watts were demanded of the system.

The Italians we saw live perfectly well with a little less, a sense of limits. In fact, they live better in some ways; they eat better food, have better public transportation, put less stress on the earth and have better fashion sense. Not too many European women walking around in athleisure gear; I had to up my game just to be a tourist!  I came back with a strong desire to get rid of as much as possible, to live bigger while making my footstep a little smaller.