Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Last Day

Today we slept in and I finished my second book (Blindness). 

Kelly and Molly and I got pedicures while the rest got coffee and shopped.
We had lunch at a bakery. Yum! 

Jim drinking coffee and reading the paper. 

We had smoothies and coffee at one of Brenna's favorite hang-outs.Everyone looks happy except Brenna on our last day here. 

 Naps were next. Then Matt and Brenna went on a romantic date to an Italian restaurant, while the rest of us dined at another bakery. It was a yummy day. 

It's Hard having a Child in a Foreign Country, Especially a Violent One

Brenna with one of the Salvadorian staff members of CCCI

One thing I'm going home with is a sense that Brenna is safe in El Salavador. It is a very dangerous country, but CCCI (the organization she is with) has put many safeguards into place. Before she went I was really upset that the young adults on her team would be driving. To be fair, I had been told that the driving was crazier in El Sal than in Asia. As it turns out this isn't true. I won't say that Chinese drivers are WORSE than other drivers, but they certainly have their  own set of rules and secret handshakes that I think you have to have grown up with to understand. Salvadorian drivers have seemed calm in comparison: they follow lane lines, and know that traffic lights are not just suggestions. So I'm happy to see for myself that she is safe on the road. I would feel comfortable driving here, where I would NOT feel safe driving in Thailand. 

Even though our children are adults, I'm glad that CCCI has taken the feelings of the parents into consideration and are doing everything possible to keep our kids safe. This means that the kids have very little freedom. Their worlds have iron bars, gates, and armed guards. They are delivered in cars from their home to the university; from one hermetically sealed world to the next. Or they can go from their house to the mall. In a group of two or more. They are either at home, at school or at a safe environment protected by a soldier with a rifle. Brenna can't just decide to go to the grocery store or the mall. She has to have someone with her, and she has to call one of the boys or a familiar driver to take her. She can't walk down the street freely. She can't be anywhere outside her house alone. Jim and I haven't been able to walk  the two blocks from our hotel to her house--it's not safe. We have to take taxis or the rental car. Every little restaurant we visit, or store we shop at has an armed guard. I'm not sure whether this makes me feel safe, or scares me to death. I will go home and worry about her, but my rational mind knows she is taking a reasonable risk. She is in good hands here. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

Lake Day

Jim and me 

Today we went to a beautiful lake and had lunch. The drive there had beautiful scenery, and the beautiful restaurant was an idyllic setting. 

We've taken pictures of the girls on bridges all over the world, so naturally I wanted a shot on this one (at the restaurant), too. 
At one point we got just a teeny bit lost, and ended up driving through the middle of a very crowded market. It was fun to see the stalls up close and personal, with our car nudging the people out of the way ahead  of us. No one seemd to mind or think it was at all unusual that they had to fight for space with this giant SUV. We passed two stalls where they were selling nothing but live chickens. Brenna, ever the animal-lover said "I don't think they like that." Then we passed a third stall where they were selling nothing but dead chickens, displayed hung by their feet with all feathers intact. Brenna was now wailing "THEY DON'T LIKE THAT." It was bad  enough that they were being held captive, but the fact that they would be held against their will when NEXT DOOR their dead friends were being displayed was just too much for her tender heart. Here's a picture of a woman with a box of chickens on her head. (You have to click it to make it big to see the chickens.) 
Later we went to Brenna's favorite "hang-out spot" and had lattes. They draw pictures, like this flower, with the foam. 

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cafe Ole

Brenna and Molly 

This is Brenna's neighborhood. It is incredibly nice, and  so is her huge house. One team family member is irritated that the girls are paying $400 less for this large home with an exquisite view than she is paying for her small apartment.

The beach at Casa de Frida (This is not a great picture. It's much  prettier and exotic-feeling than this photo shows.)

Today we had quite the experience getting a rental car. Brenna had planned and researched and made arrangements, but even her expertise is thwarted sometimes here. You have to be flexible in Latin America. There is a shortage of cars this week and one car was not returned. The one we were to have. "Wouldn't you like this nice pick-up truck instead?" Um. No. So Jim and I Skyped and called and found the last 6 passenger car in the country. The people at the rental agency were so kind and nice. They picked us up at our hotel, took us to their business site, and led the way back to our hotel in another car so that we wouldn't get lost. (And we SO would have!!) Streets don't really have names on them here. Instead the locals say, for example:  "Do you know the street that goes to Santa Tecla? Yeah, well, you take that and turn at the tire shop." I love being in situations where I have to use my Spanish, and I love being in really small out-of-the way, villages where tourists never go. Speaking another language is like magic. You make strange sounds, and magically (if you do it right) the other person understands you. It's so fun. So getting the rental car was right up my alley. 

Then we took our 1992 four-wheel drive Montero to a coffee plantation on the volcanoe. There was a beautiful view and great food, and we just sat and talked and enjoyed the scenery. Sigh. I'm so happy here. (You can click on the images to make them big.) 

Molly and Kelly at the Coffee Plantation

Jim, Molly, Matt, Brenna, and Kelly

Saturday, December 27, 2008

He Restoreth My Soul

Today I read in a hammock by a black sandy beach as I listened to the waves. All day. I finished my book. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

If I Could Save Time in a Bottle

I had the most delicious fajitas of my life at this cute restaurant. The handmade tortillas were just the BEST.

It's great to see Matt and Brenna back together. 

We've been able to relax a lot. These hammocks are on Brenna's terrace.
Look how happy Kelly is here!

Usually when I take a trip I've researched the history of the country and planned out all the things I have to see. On this trip, I'm just happy to be here at all, and I'm loving the plans Brenna has made. There's been plenty of time to relax, read, nap, eat, and have casual conversation. I do whatever Brenna tells me, and it's worked out great. Today we went to two museums and out to lunch. The Marte (Museum of Modern Art) had a great Miro exhibit. The anthropological  museum gave me a good overview of the history of this country. 

Every day a couple more families arrive. I was fine on the names until today. There are now about 33 of us here. We need name tags that say "I'm Jeff's Mom." It's like a family reunion.(The difference is that instead of explaining how you tie back to the oldest person in the family, you are connected to the youngest. I'm "Brenna's mom", not "Susan's Granddaughter.") Although I've only met these parents this week, I feel I have so much in common with them because our children are here together. All the kids attended Cal Poly, too, so we've been on similar journeys.They all miss their kids who are so far away. They are all proud of the things their children are accomplishing and how they have hearts to serve the world. Tonight we all had dessert at Layo and Luchi's, who have been parents to our children here. They graciously accomodated all 33 of us at their house, and gave us gifts and talked about our amazing children. It was a special evening. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Se Habla Espanol

I spoke to Kelly only in Spanish for the first year of her life. When she learned to speak, she spoke only in English. It was so discouraging to me because it was important to me that my children be bilingual. So it's fun for me here in El Salvador to hear the three of them speaking Spanish. Kelly's has a Castilian accent from her year in Spain. Molly learned a lot in Honduras. Now Brenna's Spanish has a completely different accent, and it warms my heart that she speaks it very well. I like being someplace where I can use my Spanish, too. It makes people (like the hotel reception or the taxi driver), happy when they think they're going to have to struggle to communicate, and then I talk to them in their language. Very fun.  

Feliz Navidad

Christmas morning at Brenna's. Simple presents like Trader Joe's trail mix and Mother's striped shortbread cookies were the big hits. 

The view from Brenna's house.

Today is  the kind of Christmas I LOVE...Being somewhere different, surrounded by my family, with the emphasis on Jesus, and not on the presents. Brenna and I (with help from others) made breakfast for her team (ten people), our family (+five), Jenna's family (+three) and Marijke's family (+four) for a total of 22. I love the noise, the confusion, the hubub. Having the house full and people  eating is the best! We made cinnamon rolls from scratch, muffins, fruit salad, eggs and bacon. Yum! Brenna opened her Christmas stocking. (The other girls had theirs at home before we left.) We sat around eating and laughing. Many of the girls Skyped home. Lauren, whose family isn't coming opened her present in front of her computer so her family back home could watch. There's something surreal about getting a digital picture frame filled with family pictures and showing it to your computer when a cool pic comes up. "Oh, this one's great Mom. Remember when..." The technology really helps keep you in touch, but also pulls at your heart because you can actually see what's going on at home that you are missing. 

There is no middle class here. There are wealthy gated neighborhoods, and poor slums. The shopping malls are huge, and fillled with high-end stores. Brenna's neighborhood is guarded by two men with huge rifles. In a way it makes me feel safe. On the other hand, it scares me that she lives in a country where she needs this protection. When I asked Brenna how the guards would know it was OK to let me in today, she said "They'll know. You're white." Oh. 

We had lunch at this shopping mall yesterday. We actually ran into Salvadorian friends of  the team's. She's made friends. Cool!

I didn't realize how little freedom Brenna has. She didn't know that there was a grocery store down the street from her house, because she never walks the neighborhood outside her gates. The girls aren't allowed to go out alone. Instead, the boys have to drive them everywhere. They ran out of flour today making the cinnamon rolls and Brenna couldn't just go to the store. The boys are such servants. They know the girls are completely dependant on them, and the lack of freedom chafes, so they always try to cheerfully get the girls  wherever they need to go. It's inconvenient for both sides, but there is no complaining. Today when we made breakfast, all the boys pitched in cutting fruit, frying bacon, taking out the trash, and doing dishes. There are no slackers in this group. The girls reacted to the boys' present to them as if they had been given expensive jewelry: "Golden berry blend from Trader Joe's! Trek Mix! Granola!" The boys had sacrificed part of a cherished care package some friends had sent them. The ultimate gift. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Greetings from El Salvador

Sitting in Starbucks at LAX last night, surrounded by most of my family, I couldn't believe my good fortune: that I was actually going to get to go to El Salvador to see Brenna. It's like Christmas already for me! My life has been torture for me navigating the medical world, enduring hour after hour in the ER, being punished with a broken furnace (which means a cold house, AND having to research and pay for something that doesn't even make home better--it only gets me back even.), and various other slings and arrows, like a stressful deposition. When I got on the plane at 11:30pm for the five-hour flight, I knew I was actually going to get to see Brenna and have my family back together again. Halleluah!  

She was happy to see us,  and had freshly-baked scones and tea waitning at her house. Other families are coming, too, and we were on the plane with Marijke's family. It's fun seeing her beautiful home and neighborhood and getting to meet her team mates whom I've heard so much about. I had to chuckle at the neatly printed schedule on her white board delineating the events of the day: 5:15 drive to airport, etc.)...Naturally it would be in HER handwriting. She's the baker  and planner of the team. It was like Christmas for her already when she opened the suitcase full of items we brought at her request: a five-poound bag of chocolate chips, Trader Joe's trail mix, Costco yeast, and moleskin journals from Barnes and Noble. Our hotel, which is walking distance to Brenna's house,  is darling. It has a Salvadorian feel and is only one year old. I can feel the stress melting away. 

On another note...Yesterday I found out  that they caught the man who stole my mom's wedding ring just before she died. Mom and Dad had commissioned the ring to be made in Hawaii, and it was incredibly sentimental to me and impossibly irreplaceable. The thief has confessed, and only has this one case against him. I'm hoping against hope that he can give us information about where he sold the ring that would enable us to track it down. The police have been helpful and kind in this matter. 

People have a hard time remembering where she is. One pastor prayed for her in front of church "Please bless Brenna in Costa Rica." Another person told us to have a great time in Equador. When we landed I got a text from Verizon "Welcome to Guatamala." Friends ask frequently "How's Brenna doing in Honduras?" When you haven't been to Central America (and perhaps even if you have) the countries seem the same. But it's easy to remember when you know El Salvador means the Savior. He's the reason for the season, and I feel it's very appropriate to be celebrating his birth in a country named for him. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the Road Again

My dad's life has always revolved around cars and driving. When I was growing up, he restored antique automobiles. He bought a new car almost every year. When Mom died, he took a road trip of 6000 miles around the USA. So, it was great fun to take him on a road trip yesterday as we met his sister in Paso Robles, half way to her house in San Francisco. He will stay with her for a week while we go to El Salvador. He was happy, and felt well. My aunt is a giving, caring person like Dad, and I think she's amazing to take on the extra work of caring for Dad. They have an amazing sibling relationship. They just adore each other. It's rare and beautiful to see. 

Before we left the girls gave him Christmas presents. He wasn't expecting it, and was emotional. He loves his granddaughters, and the fact that they don't have many Christmases left together made it a poignant moment. He told me later he felt like he had nothing to give them. But he's given them so much already. 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

This is Why I Haven't Posted

Since the Gingerbread party, I taught school, decided to have my dad move in with me permanently, met with a realtor, starting cleaning out Dad's house, had the locks changed, found he had a leak in the roof, hired a roofer, went to the cardiologist, taught school, discovered the furnace had broken and was spewing gas into the cabinet, met with furnace salespeople, came home one afternoon dead tired rejoicing that nothing was on the docket, found my dad very ill that same day, called 911, spent until 1 am in the ER, met with the cardiologist again, attended a very fun work  party, and cried a million tears. 

The last visit to the ER, I drove Dad to his house and called 911 from there, since when the ambulance comes to my house we go to CMH hospital and from Dad's house it's to SJRMC hospital, where his ten doctors are. The ambulance drivers knew us because this is our fifth 911 call in two months. They said "Boy, it's really cold in here. Why don't you turn on the heat?" So next time I should drive him to his house, heat up the whole house, THEN call 911?! Then I wouldn't look like a bad daughter who can't even give her poor father a warm place to recuperate. As it turns out SJRMC was full and we ended up at CMH anyway. Sigh. Let me just hit my head against this wall for awhile. They were kind and knowledgeable there, but there really is no solution to Dad's issues. He is on medications for both his heart and his kidneys. When you adjust the heart medications, the kidneys fail. When you adjust the kidney meds, the heart goes into atrial fibulation. It's a fine line. Dad is insistent on going to San Francisco tomorrow to spend Christmas with his sister, while I head to El Salvador to be with Brenna. I have mixed feelings about going. If he dies while I am gone, will I be able to live with that? If I stay and he's fine, will I be able to live with that? I have to sort of go with what HE wants. He'll be in the best hands at my aunt's house, and my cousin is a registered nurse. I'm torn up inside. 

Molly and Kelly are home, and that makes me happy. I'm really proud of my three daughters. Jim's home, too, and I love him and am thankful I have such a great husband/partner/friend. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Sweet Story

See? I'm not unhappy ALL the time. I'm even smiling in this picture. We had fun with good friends at a gingerbread house-making party. Never mind that my heart was a little sad to be doing this event without the girls. It's something we've done as a family since they were little. 
But we did have fun seeing RA make one for the first time in his life. Since Turkey is a Muslim country, there are few Christmas traditions there. As pastor of a Turkish church he gets to establish new traditions. 
His pretty wife also had fun. 

He needs the Spirit, not the spirits

My brother, who lives in Palmdale, came to my Dad's house and didn't call Dad to let him know he was there, or come to visit Dad at my house. Jim and Dad went to pick up some things from the house, and found my brother very drunk. He had been staying there awhile. Dad was upset. I was upset for Dad. Neither of us need this on top of all we are dealing with. Life is hard enough without that. I pray that my brother will get the help he needs, and will be whole and healed and start making good choices for his life. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends

The weird thing about going through a tough time is that there are all these wonderful, kind, heart-warming things that happen, and they ease the pain, but don't erase it. If people were this kind to me when nothing was wrong, I would feel guilty and not enjoy them then, either, but I wish that I could experience the joy without the overlaying of sadness. And the kindnesses come from all kinds of places. Everyone seems to want to help. For instance, I have a good friend who moved away when our kids were little. We will be friends forever and can pick it right back up even after not seeing each other for awhile. She became a librarian after she moved. Now, it's hard to picture her as a librarian, because although she's fabulous at her job, she doesn't strike me as one of those "rules-follower" type. And maybe that's why she's good at what she does. I called her to ask if she thought I was being unreasonable to call the librarian in my city and ask them to pick some books out for my dad. I had time to run in and pick up books, but not really time to browse. I had a list of authors. She assured me it was fine. So I called our library, which is open about four hours a day. Sigh. The librarian was much snarkier than my friend and in a chilly voice said "OK." I was as if she MIGHT have a few minutes that she could lower herself to do that. "What's your library card number?" Oh, shoot. My library card is in the Honda, which was stolen in another city. "I don't really have one with me." She reacted as if I had just left my most valuable possession in the hands of drug dealers. "Well, I'll have to break the rules. I'll set these aside with my number and you can bring your card when you pick them up." I didn't have the heart to tell her I wouldn't be getting a card any time soon. Fortunately, my friend from Turkey was at the gym right down the street, and SHE HAS A CARD!! So she picks up the books, and gets ten books for my dad. Seven of which he hadn't read. There are all kinds of things that are beyond my control, but because I have friends sprinkled through my life to rescue me and encourage me, I think I'm going to make it through.  My friend KW gives me hugs and listens to me. My friend KA leaves me puns, candy, sweet notes, little cards and books on my desk. My friend RP has wise words and has been through it so much that she knows and really understands what I'm going through. Having Jim home is good. 

Friday, December 12, 2008

I'm under More Stress than the San Andreas Fault

As if what I'm already going through isn't enough today I went through an EXTREMELY stressful deposition about a past student. Said student was involved in a car accident while she was  in my class. The lawyer representing me wanted me to answer the questions as briefly as possible so as to not reveal something they wouldn't have found on their own. Nothing I could say would help my student...it could only hurt her. That was stressful. Additionally I had to remember to wait until she had asked all parts of the question before answering. Sometimes the questions had ten kazillion parts and pauses after a part, so you naturally want to say "No." but then she says the last part "In your wildest dreams, did you think this might be true or could be true if someone gave the student chocolate and dressed in a magician costume." "No." "I'm not done with the question yet...Or held her at gunpoint hypothetically or..." What was the first part again??? Then I would try to answer short, but some of the questions, like "Can you tell me how your school differs from a normal school?" are just insulting. "I consider my school normal." It is perahps untraditional, but is it "normal" for kids to be in a factory setting with 2200 other students, proceding from class to class where the teacher doesn't even know half the names, and makes few allowances for differences? Stressful. Then I came home and dealt with Dad's banking. When he had his first heart attack I paid the bills. With his checkbook. Turns out there are two  checkbooks for two accounts and I used the account with no money. And I didn't write down where the checks were to because I have carbon checks and just forgot that not everyone else does. So the check to pay the line of credit bounced. But I didn't know this, and wrote a check out of it for Decemeber bills. They  suspended the line of credit and all the December checks bounced. Sigh. It's a big mess. Once the train was derailed, it kept running. Meanwhile, Dad's had an account in a small town near us, but the bank was a big bank. The branch in the small town was sold off. It's currently a two branch bank. Now, we have to drive half an hour to deposit checks or do banking instead of having 50 branches in town. And we can't access the account via the web, either. Unless it's during the hours of 8 and 3. We need to change the account back to a bigger bank, but Dad's not well enough to go into a bank and do that yet. AAAAGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!! Stress. I have another stressful situation related to a committe I'm on, that I can't share anything going on because it's all confidential. The fact that I have something stressful and can't share it makes it even more stressful. I'm like one big ball of stress. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today was a Good Day

It didn't start out to be a good day. At 1pm after I was done with students, I dissolved in tears at my desk. Jim came by school to deliver a latte and a card, and when he walked in, naturally I cried harder. He had come at just the right time to listen to me. I am surrounded by dear, caring friends, and a loving husband. Soon after that I drove home, and in my driveway was my Turkish friend, sweeping. He had cleaned out our whole garage! I had never seen our things organized so neatly and the floor was clean enough to perform surgery on! Inside, the floors were vacuumed and mopped, and the counters cleared. Sigh. Yesterday, his wife had done my Christmas shopping for me. I had given her ideas, and she came home with beautiful, wonderful presents! It was like Christmas for me to get to see all the special surprises! She did such a beautiful job. Far better than this is having these friends around all the time. Their company has added so much to our lives. 

The other thing that has taken some stress off is that I've figured out the medical system more. I still can't ask Dr. Cardiologist questions, but he has an amazing Nurse Practitioner who knows my dad intimately and will answer all my questions knowledgeably. I don't have Dr. Cardiologist's ear, but N.P. Paul does, and that's OK. I don't feel as responsible for the overall care because Paul oversees everything, and nothing slips by him. Paul is the "touchy-feely" side of that practice, and he put his arm around my shoulder and said "And we're going to get your life back to normal, too." Additionally our visiting nurse is my friend, Jane, who cares for Dad with love and a sweet disposition. And Dad also has a good Physical Therapist who comes to the house.  We're both in really good hands. 

I had no doctor appointments today, so I was able to go home after school and rest. I feel like a new person. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Amazing Race

I feel like I'm running a triathalon every day. I get up at 5, do some stuff (like banking or paperwork or cleaning). Then I teach school all day. Then I take Dad to a Dr. appointment, make dinner, clean up dinner, make sure Dad's taken his pills, change the meds in the pill boxes for the 2000th time (b/c every time we go to the doctor it all changes), make phone calls, and fall into bed. I am so tired, but I do remember that I sound happier during the day. It's not all bad. I just can't remember the good things past 7 at night. Isn't that what happens to athletes when they are competing? 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Yo Yo Pa

Dad had horrible night. He was in a deep sleep when his blood pressure went dangerously low. They woke him up, and kept working with him for hours. This morning he looked groggy and was crabby. The last two times he was discharged he was sent home as if they were expecting someone with a medical degree was waiting to take care of him at his house. I think he had boasted to hospital personnel about what great care I was giving him, while at the same time neglecting to say the part about how I work full time, am at the end of my rope physically, and have no past experience in taking care of an elderly ill person. "Yeah, my daughter, she's amazing! She nurses better than Florence Nightingale." "Oh, Wonderful! We'll send you home with no support." So this time I wanted to tell the discharge planner that he lives ALONE and has NO help. The nurse said "He's not going home yet." "I know, but I wanted to do it ahead because the last two times it was a fait acompli by the time they told me he was being discharged." So I talked to the discharge planner. Then two hours after they told me he's NOT going home, they call to tell me he WAS going home. Right then. Holy Mackerel! So, he's home. He's stable for now. Both of us told the doctor he doesn't feel well enough to be at home. Dad, in particular, said he didn't want to go home until they solved the problem. But he said "You came in with nausea, shortness of breath, and feeling like you were about to die." You don't have any of those symptoms anymore, so we're sending you home. Hmmm. So, he's at my house. In. Out. In. Out. Soon I'll have to be treated for a stomacheache caused by fear of the unknown. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Life Goes On

As people have emailed me I realized I never said that, yes, my dad was finally admitted to the hospital. I think by the time he spent all that time in the ER he was too worn out to go home anyway. I don't think he's in immediate danger of dying, but he is not well, either. I hope they can figure out what's wrong and stabilize him. He looks like and old man. A sweet old man, but old. He didn't look 83 two months ago. Perhaps he'll be driving across country again, yet!  

Thursday, December 4, 2008

About my Turkish Leprechauns

I think they should make suspected terrorists wait in the ER, worrying about their loved ones hour after hour. They'd confess quickly after that torture!! I walked in the door at home after eight hours of ER misery and found a gleaming home. My carpets were vacuumed. Quilts were folded. The dishwasher was unloaded. The laundry was washed, dried and folded. Dinner was made. My old movie rental was returned to the store, and a new movie awaited me. I was overwhelmed. We have friends from Turkey staying with us, and they have been so kind, good and generous to my Dad, Jim and me. But their gift tonight was over the top. My foul mood and exhaustion melted like that snowman in the Campbell's soup commercial. Perhaps I will make it through after all. God sent them into my life at just the right time. 

Not a Third Heart Attack

This post should go before the last one...I thought I had published it, but I had only WRITTEN IT. As I've stated before, I'm sort of losing my mind. The following I wrote yesterday. (Before today's post.)

I think I’m going to implode. All week I’ve felt like I couldn’t handle one more thing, and then one more thing happened. My dad looked terrible enough when I got home from work that I called 911. I thought he had experienced another heart attack. We argued with the ambulance people to take him to the hospital he was in before, but they had to take him to the one closest to my house, which meant we have to start all over again with new doctors, new nursing staff, and a new, unfamiliar environment. As it turns out it wasn’t a heart attack, but rather a drug reaction. I’m becoming too familiar with hospitals, and I’m worn out.

The other things I’m dealing with: Doctors’ offices, the auto insurance company, the police, the health insurance companies, and trying to keep my life and my job running. There’s also a huge family rift developing around ranch owned by my family. One of my cousins wants to sell out to a developer. She refuses to be bought out by the family partners. It’s a mess. They found my car. Damaged. Three hours away from me. “You need to pick it up within the next half hour or we will have it impounded and it will cost $400 to get it out.” Great.  Called the girls. Molly could get a friend to drive her, and was all set to go when she realized she didn’t have a key. What to do? Call a locksmith? We finally called the insurance who let it be impounded and will pay the charges to get it out, and towed to a body shop and delivered to us. We love our new auto insurance.

There are bright spots. My teaching partner is going through a tragedy parallel to mine. Each morning we debrief on the wonderful or terrible event that happened with our parent the night before. I have good friends who have surrounded me. My brother’s been sober for four days. My children are doing well, and they bring me joy. Friends from Turkey are staying with us and they are a blessing, and a help. Tonight, when she offered to run any errand I needed tomorrow, I burst into tears and hugged her. I am too overwhelmed to actually think of anything for her to do for me, but just knowing that someone is willing to do anything for me, and actually has her days free to do it, is like getting an early Christmas present. 

We're in the ER again. Darn.

I changed young lives for two hours this morning, when it became apparent to my husband that my dad was not doing well again. I came home at 10 am. SJRMC hospital is closer to our house than CMH hospital, but the ambulance service won’t believe the most trustworthy information provider ever: Google. The ambulance service people prefer to rely on their own pea brains which claim that 6 miles is shorter than 5. WHATEVER.  We drove to Dad’s and called 911 from there so we could go to SJRMC. When the ambulance arrived and they asked what hospital, I told them, and then they said “Well, we may have to take you to CMH because SJRMC is full.” AAAGGGGHHHH. I feel like I have something figured out, then another thing blindsides me. I can handle A. I’m good at A. I’ve learned about A. Then it’s B. Gotcha! Sigh. I’m becoming far too competent at these medical things: take Dad’s precious Cross pen out of his pocket and leave it at home, guard the hearing aids, get a list of medications, pick up the notebook with the medical history, then grab the phone charger and a bunch of food. At the hospital: keep track of every doctor's name, the nurses are your best source of information, don't ask questions while a doctor is thinking or reading a chart b/c you will interrupt his train of thought, the coffee lady is very sweet, there's no wireless anywhere, and when people get to know you, they try to help. 

So, we’ve been in the ER for a million hours. Tomorrow maybe I’ll be able to do something more fun, like have a root canal or be pecked by a thousand chickens, or get to watch ten crying infants. But for now I’m stuck in ER hell. And I’m so tired I can’t even watch my language. I’m way past the end of my rope. I’ve let go of the rope and I’m in freefall. They’re going to admit Dad to the hospital. My friend RP assures me that I’ll make it through and look back on this as a rich time. The intimacy I will gain when I walk with someone through the shadows of life will add richness to my own life that I will always treasure.  At least that’s what she says. My brain is too full of mush to know whether that’s true. I have no deep thoughts. Only blathering. Please let me lay in my bed and drink tea and surf the Internet. PLEASE!!! 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Help Us, Click and Clack!

It's a good thing I have the blog because I can read it and remember the happy part of yesterday. Jim and I had spent a nice afternoon at Starbucks in a shopping center. Later, when we went to the car to go to the Persian restaurant with the girls the car was gone. We kept thinking "Maybe we parked somewhere else, and we're just forgetting where." Or "Maybe we've been towed." (Even though we were at the shopping center, perhaps they thought we were hotel guests, parking illegally.) But soon it became painfully clear that the car was stolen. Honda Civics are stolen all the time in San Diego and taken across the border. I'm trying to see the good. Our computers were not in the car. Everyone's safe. No one died. It's just another aggravation added to my life. (I do not look forward to the many phone calls with the insurance company, the car rental agency and the police, among others.) A sad part was that Molly's notes and textbooks from her college classes were in the car, and she has finals in two weeks. Why couldn't the thieves have just left the notebook and books gently on the ground and then driven away? It wouldn't have looked suspicious at all, right? 

I just feel a sense of loss. Someone took something valuable from me, and my thoughts range from anger, to relief that it wasn't worse, to sad, to frustrated to wanting to look again in the parking lot...maybe we just overlooked it. Then I think "What else?" Against the backdrop of the life an death situations I've been facing all year, this is minor, but it still feels like one more papercut, one more insult, one more blow. 

We did enjoy a nice evening with the girls at the Persian restaurant. It is my favorite place to eat. I love everything about it. I love the waitress who is always there and good with a quip, the atmosphere, and the amazing food. I always have fun there and it's become a traditional part of all our SD trips. 

Friday, November 28, 2008

We're Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo

The girls went Black Friday shopping at O'Dark Thirty, and then we went to breakfast at Mystic Mocha, a neighborhood coffee shop full of ambience and great food that we have grown to love. My sister-in-law gave us tickets to the SD zoo, so we spent the rest of the morning there. Kelly has a season pass but even she got to see animal behavior she's never seen before. The tiger cubs came right up to the window to frolic. The Polar Bears put on an amazing water-wrestling session. One woman said "This makes the San Francisco Polar Bear exhibit look so sad." I liked the baby Panda, too, and thought of my friends in China. I love all the languages being spoken at a tourist place like this. My favorite "animals" were the little children, jabbering in French or Indian, excited about the fish or the bears . 

(You can click on a picture to see it larger) 
I want it known that it was NOT me who suggested we send this out as the Christmas photo of the three girls. 

My dad was not feeling well yesterday, and sounded terrible when I talked to him on the phone. The good times are tempered knowing that he would get better care if I were home. We are so close that I can "read" him like no one else. I understand him, and am able to meet his needs in a way outsiders can't. I'm so thankful for my dear friend, Jane, the home nurse who took care of Dad before, who went over to his house after I called her. She solved his whole problem, and encouraged me to stay in San Diego and not come home.  Without her I would be in Ventura right now, and my dad sounds better today. 

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Jim and I are in San Diego to celebrate with Kelly and Molly. Originally my dad was going to drive up north to celebrate with his sister's family, so we made non-refundable hotel reservations in San Diego. (An inexpensive, yet luxurious room in the DoubleTree. Inexpensive because it's nonrefundable.) Now that my dad is out of the hospital, but still recovering I have mixed feelings about coming. On the one hand, it's really fun to be in one of my favorite cities to play in with my girls and Jim, but I feel guilty leaving my dad in the care of my brother and sister-in-law. Dad adamantly encouraged me to come, but I worry nontheless. It is good to be out of the stress for a little bit, and recover emotionally. Before I came I was unraveling at the edges a little. Now my happiness bank is being filled up with riding the trolley with Molly, and seeing Kelly's 450,000 pictures of baby Cole, and thick hotel towels that I can throw on the floor instead of hanging up. I have so much to be thankful for including my many treasured friends, and my good family. 

Waiting for dinner outside of Mimi's .

Everyone in my family does Sudoku except me. 

Skyping with Brenna. We really missed her, but she was the Project Manager of the Thanksgiving dinner in El Salvador. I think she had a fun time cooking a big dinner with her team and celebrating the holiday in a new way with new friends. 

Jim may need a lot more practice to be a  Guitar Hero, but he'll always be a hero in other ways to me. We all had fun playing with Kelly's Wii. I had heard of the Wii, but never seen it in real life.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hooray! They're Letting my Dad Leave!

Today has been a great day. I LOVE the Sabbath--to follow a religion that gives me an excuse (no, COMMANDS me) to lie around and rest is just TOO COOL! I also like how church gathers many of my amazing friends together each week to laugh, sing, share burdens, and encourage each other. I don't have to do any of the planning, cleaning, or cooking, yet I get to be with these wonderful people. Then I went out for coffee with my best friend (Jim). I feel that our marriage has a deep foundation that gets richer as the years pass. We may have surface issues, but the depth of our love is unquestionable. Then Jim and I went to one of our favorite date spots: Trader Joe's. We love that place! It's the great food and the dreams of good meals and snacks ahead, but also the fact that we always see so many of our good friends there. It's like the village well of the 21st Century. The rest of the day I slept, read, surfed the net, watched the last half of a movie, (Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants 2), and slept some more. I just got the word that Dad gets to leave the hospital. I am SOOOO happy. I hope he's home by Amazing Race! (You know how hospitals take two years with all their release procedures...)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Tale of Two Heart Attacks

I took a time out from my own grief today and along with another friend,  played a good prank on our two newest teachers at school. (One teacher is going through chemotherapy, the other's mother survived being accidentally run over by a motor home. It's a tough time for both.) On the front door of both classrooms was a sign that said "Prepare for a heart attack." Then we covered their desks, drawers, floor and every flat surface with hearts. (I give Brenna credit for the idea.) We had heart chocolates and puns on hearts and even put hearts in ther attendance books and student folders. They will be finding hearts for a long time to come. My partner walked in and said "What now? Prepare for a heart attack!!!???" She sounded like "Don't I have enough on my plate without this too?" but when she saw the hearts she was so happy that she started crying. It was great! She didn't know it was me (and my accomplice) until she found the hearts in the refridgerator only on her food. Drats! I'm not an expert yet at all this covert stuff. The other teacher was thrilled, too, and it felt so good to get my mind off my problems and be able to make someone happy during this trying time.

And what about the REAL heart attack victim? He's in ICU. They were going to release him, but during some routine vitals check they discovered his blood pressure was REALLY low and he was immediately surrounded by ten people and they moved him to ICU. Since then he's had trouble graduating to a regular room--a prerequisite for going home. My head almost exploded the other night when a nurse told me my dad's heart was only functioning at 10% capacity...She had the wrong patient!!! Dad's actual heart is fine...it's the veins leading to the heart. So we were devastated by this new bad news for about 20 minutes before she realized her error and apologized profusely. Mistakes happen, and I don't hold it against this woman, but my heart hurts and this was one time that I just wanted to go home and cry. I don't know how people cope when the medical crisis goes on and on. Mine's only been a month-- October 20 to November 21. I feel like such a whiner. My dad is an easy patient, and most likely will make a full recovery. There's much to rejoice about, but I'm not always good at seeing the tapestry created from life's knots. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Am I Almost at the end of the Race? Because I'm Getting Really Worn Out

I am so tired and worn out that I'm trying to decide whether to go to bed at 6:35 p.m. or whether I should spend the evening crying, since I haven't had time to do so all day and have really wanted to. Dad's fine, but has a new, interesting scar to add to his huge collection. He had surgery to put a defibrilator under his collarbone. The defibrilator is not like the old pacemakers, which had only one wire, or the pacemakers of a few years ago that had two wires, but this new one has THREE wires, and it does everything except call 911. The doctor was so nice and informative, and thought Dad was the greatest patient he's had in a long time. I think this is about the tenth doctor (cardiologist, kidney specialist, endocrinologist, vein specialist, and who knows what else) and they all have been excellent. After the rough start that I last wrote about, I can say that the doctors have been informative, helpful and caring. The excellent nursing staff is eager to meet Dad's needs before he knows he needs something. I love a hospital with a good union! Dad has three library books overdue that he wanted me to take back to the library. It's not in a convenient location, and since I have so much on my plate I asked "What's the fine?" He said "Oh, there's no fine, but I have a moral obligation to return it as soon as possible in case someone else wants to read it." So he's in the hospital having had two heart attacks, and he's concerned for the people who might want to read the books that he hasn't been able to return. Guess I'll be going to the library tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dad's better, but Still in the Hospital

When Mom was in the hospital, she wasn't the best patient. I wondered what was the fewest number of times I could visit and still be a "good daughter." Dad is so fun to be around that I find myself wondering what's the most visits I can make in a day. I can't remember most of his jokes, but the following is typical. A doctor came into Dad's room while I was there and asked a bunch of questions and listed to his heart. "Who was that?" I asked when he left. 
Dad: The kidney doctor. 
Me: I thought your kidney doctor was a woman.
Dad: I have two kidney doctors. But, I have two kidneys, too! 

A Night with Progressive People

My Sunday School class had a progressive dinner last Saturday night that started at my house for appetizers and then progressed to three more houses for salad, main course and dessert. It was great fun to have lots of good friends together eating and laughing. We developed new inside jokes and learned things like who's in love with Google Chrome and who doesn't have a shower in her home. I cleaned the house and bought sodas and Jim did the manly yard things. We found out at 2:35 that the party didn't start at 5:15 as I had thought, but rather at 4 pm. AAAGGGGHH! It was a little rushed there for awhile, but we made it in time. I love having the house full of good friends, and it was a respite from the stressful events in my life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Not Quite Ready for Comedy Central

My dad is better today than yesterday. He's so fun to be with because he has a great sense of humor. My brother and my sister-in-law visited him last night. My heart goes out to them because he has a serious neck injury that causes him constant, severe pain, and she has lymphatic cancer. When I asked my dad how they were he said "GREAT!" "Really?!" "Yeah. They're vertical. That's better than me!" He wanted me to pay his cell phone bill, so I called, but they needed his verbal OK. So he took the phone, and when the guy asked "How are you, sir?" he said "Well, I just had a heart attack, but other than that I'm fine." All of us in the room burst out laughing. He tries to give people respect by calling them by name. Unfortunately, it's not usually the right name. Yesterday the nurse was in several times and dad would say "Thank you so much, Fred." or "You're a big help, Fred." Finally I asked the nurse "Is your name 'Ray'?", and he said "Yeah, but I love it when your dad calls me Fred." They sense his heart and know he means well. His sister, my dear aunt is here now, too, and it's fun to be all together. They have such a great sibling friendship. We're hanging in there today. 

They Will Know You by your Love

The other day I ordered coffee at the little stand in the hospital to take up to my dad. I got halfway to his room when I remembered it had to be decaf. So I went back to the stand and told the woman I needed to buy another cup. She dumped out the real and gave me the unleaded, and when I tried to pay her, she wouldn't accept it. I was so emotional at that moment that I burst into tears at her kindness. Today, when I returned she said "Oh, I remember you--the DECAF!" "Yes, and you were so kind to me when I really needed it," I said. "How's your dad doing?" "He's better." "Oh, good. What's his name? I want to remember him in my good wishes." "Frank." And I don't know why I asked, because I don't usually, and I don't believe only Christians have the ability to pray (and she didn't use the word "pray"), but I asked "Are you a Christian?" "Well, I believe in Jesus and I follow his teaching, but I don't like all the connotations connected with being called a Christian." Hmmm. Sad that Christians are regarded as close-minded, homophobic, hell-preaching, judgemental, hypocrites. I know we've earned the labels. We mess up IN THE NAME of Christianity (Like in the case of the hellfire preacher or the people who are mean to gays.) We mess up unapologetically, as if Christians have a RIGHT to be judgemental or mean-spirited. I'm frustrated that a label that should have good connotations,  (if we really lived the life he taught), makes people cringe. Christianity is radically different from other religions because instead of saying "Here's how to live a good life and find fulfillment and reach heaven," it says living a good life is impossible. We are self-centered people who are incapable of living in a kind, moral way. We all blow it. We need forgiveness. So, in a way, the kind woman at the coffee kiosk was right-Christians are often unkind. I feel bad about that, and try to follow his teachings, but I also realize it's impossible, and that's why he came. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Earth's Best Patient is Back in the Game

I wrote yesterday about the pastors praying with me last night. It was so comforting just to be touched, to feel God's amazing presence and peace as each person spoke. They each prayed something different, and yet they prayed things that really spoke to my heart. Obviously that my dad would be healed completely and have many more days with us, but also that I would have wisdom about whether the girls should come home, and that I would have good communication with the doctors, and for my brother and our family relationships at this time, and more. I hadn't shared many of the thoughts on my heart, but somehow God revealed them to  these people as they prayed. It was one of those truly remarkable times. If the only result of these prayers was gaining the comfort I felt from the act of praying, it would have been enough. The really cool part is that the prayers actually worked. My dad, who had five major organ systems not working right and was ready to give up last night, woke up in the night and started eating. His kidneys, digestive tract and liver started functioning, and he started to feel better. By the time I saw him in the hospital he was joking with the doctors again, and was cheerful. Prayer works!

I did face the language barrier again. The doctor came in and said "Your liver function is high." Dad said "That's great!" "No, that's bad." Well, it sounded great. They also ordered a scan of his gall bladder, and Dad cheerfully said "OK, that's great." But then when the doctor left he said "I don't actually have a gall bladder, so I wonder what they'll scan?" Dad didn't even complain that now that he finally had his appetite back, they wouldn't let him eat because of the scan. I would have been mad or unhappy, but he just said "That's the way it goes!" 

It's been a Difficult Journey

I have entered a new culture with a new language and customs I don't understand. This time, my ability to understand and be understood has life and death consequences. My dad had another heart attack last Saturday. (This follows the one he had three weeks ago). The doctors, nurses and staff at the hospital he's at are kind and caring, but I have a steep learning curve. Last night my dad was throwing up all night, and was very weak in the morning. I was very worried about how terrible he looked, and called Jane, the visiting nurse who took care of him last week. "Don't worry. It could be ileus.  Sometimes when the body has had a trauma, the digestive system shuts down. They'll do an Xray and figure it out."  So, when the doctor came in, he asked a million questions about Dad's nausea, and even though the medicine they were giving him wasn't working, the doctor didn't propose anything new. So I said "Could it be ileus?" (It's always good to try out the few words you know in a new language.) And the doctor said "Maybe. Let's do an abdominal Xray to see." If I hadn't said it, would he of thought of it? I don't have a medical degree, and yet I feel if I don't gain some medical knowledge, my dad won't get the care he needs. I don't know if this is the end, or something that he will recover from. I don't know whether to tell my daughter to come home from Central America. When I asked the cardiologist today "Is it possible to stabilize his heart so that he won't keep having heart attacks?" he said "I have to go look at his chart." We never saw him again. He didn't lay out a plan, but he didn't indicate that my dad's situation was insolvable. Maybe in this culture I'm not supposed to bother the physician with questions. I want answers. They want to ask questions. I love my dad so much. I want to make sure he's getting the best care possible, but I don't know how. I don't know the culture and feel I'm going to unintentionally insult the people of this culture and then they won't ever tell me what I want to know. There's lots to be thankful for in all this. I'm thankful for nurse Jane, who is a good friend and a wealth of information. She visited Dad in her off hours today and brushed his teeth for him. I'm thankful for  Kathy, who is willing to take my students so I can run to the hospital, even though the kids take full advantage of her when I'm gone. I have a handful of treasured friends who have been supportive and faithful. Last night all three pastors at church huddled with me and prayed for Dad and me, and that was a great comfort. I'm thankful for my dear dad who continues to laugh and be kind to others, even through his pain. I'm thankful he knows where he's going next and is looking forward to it. He said "I'd gladly trade places with Mom at this point." I've learned to survive cross-culturally many times before, and while this feels like the most dangerous trip I've taken, I know God's by my side, leading me through it. 

Friday, October 31, 2008

My high school is on a college campus whose mascot is Pirates, so this year, in homage to them, my staff dressed like pirates for Halloween. I have a fun staff. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Double Heart Attack

When I think about my most valuable possession, it's probably my wedding ring designed by my father's friend since childhood. Or the ring I wear with it from Ireland that Jim gave me for our 20th wedding anniversary. I hope I never lose these precious items. But I think about my dad, whom I love far more than these, and no matter how much I try to hold onto him, and how much I protect him and care for him, I'm going to lose him. It's a given. When my dad had a heart attack in the wee hours of the morning last Monday, I realized how quickly things can change. One day he's planning his next road trip and practically needing a social secretary to keep up with all the fun things he does, and the next he's in the hospital looking more tired than an old Rambler. The head of cardiology said "I've done a lot of heart surgeries, but I've never met anyone with 16 heart bipasses." (He was one of the first people to have open heart surgery in 1975, and had two more heart surgeries after that.) He's out of the hospital now, and I hope he'll make a full recovery. But I think my heart is a little damged from the ordeal, too. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Parent Weekend

We attended Parent Weekend at SDSU and had a great time. We had hoped to meet some of Molly's friends, but since it was Parent Weekend, all of her friends were busy with their parents. It is fun having both Molly and Kelly in the same city, and we are slowly developing fun traditions. We walked on the promenade at Pacific Beach (see photo), which is a yuppie beach town, where we consumed huge quantities of sugar, carbohydrates and caffeine. We usually go to Ikea, but this time we deviated and went to Costco. (Dorms don't supply toilet paper any more, and apparently Molly's room mates could win a prize for using the most paper in a week.) Last time Kelly gave us directions to Ikea, we thought she said "Turn right at the rock." OK. The rock. Hmmm. Turns out she said "The Ross." We didn't get lost quite as much on this trip as we have on previous trips. San Diego has a zillion ethnic restaurants, which works well with our adventurous tastes. The Persian restaurant there is my favorite restaurant in the whole world. (Sorry, Tipp's). I suggested eating at the Moroccan restaurant where Jim and the girls ate last time without me, Kelly suggested Ethiopian, but in the end we ate at a delicious Thai place. We shopped at the Japanese store where you can buy a wide variety of fun items for $1.50 each. Then the requisite trip to Yogurt World, where you can load seven pounds of toppings onto your yogurt as you read a huge sign detailing ten health benefits of eating frozen yogurt. People in San Diego feel strongly about their yogurt and are more loyal to their yogurt brand than their coffee store brand. We don't even HAVE frozen yogurt stores in my town. It's extra sad to say goodbye to the girls these days. We kissed Molly farewell last night, and had breakfast with Kelly at a coffee place with amazing muffins. (Today--pumpkin raspberry corn muffin). Jim and I are both a little depressed on every drive home. We don't know when we'll see them again, and we just miss them.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News of my Family Flung Across the Globe

So I’ve made it through a week and a half with an empty house. There are days when the three girls, Jim and Matt all check in. Hearing about their happy, sad, exciting, or frustrating days helps me cope with mine.

Molly is meeting lots of good friends. On the Saturday we were there, she introduced us to a friend, whom she seemed to know well. “So are you from Ventura?” I asked. “No, we met on Facebook.” Later Molly took her computer to tech support, and a girl there said uncertainly “Molly?” “Um. Yeah. Do I know you?” “It’s _____. From Facebook!” “Oh, HI!” She’s connecting in real life with people she’s been talking to for months, and has friends who will give her rides to church and invite her to their family’s home for games. It’s really cool. Her room mates all steal food from each other. But no one seems to want to steal Molly’s hummus, edamame, tomatoes, snow peas, and other food.

Brenna is living in a part of El Salvador that is perfectly safe. That is, it’s safe because it’s gated and has guards with huge guns patrolling her neighborhood. Not exactly comforting to me. But no different than the Guardia Civil that were on every corner in Spain where I lived for a year under fascist dictator Franco. Somehow activities that seem perfectly safe to do myself, seem worrisome when my kids do them. She is one I don’t have to worry too much about, though, because she makes good decisions, and has “street smarts”. She’s got a great team and I’m happy to support her in what she’s accomplishing there.

Kelly gets to go to Norway next week. She has this nanny job for a sweet toddler, and his mom is going to Norway, so Kelly gets to go, too. It’s very exciting. She really wants a teaching job, but to do that may require actually quitting the nanny job (that she loves) to substitute teach (which probably isn’t as much fun as teaching toddler Cole “A is for ‘Abolition’”). After Norway.

Jim has work in Chicago, Florida, San Diego and Los Angeles. That he has work is wonderful. That it’s not in our town. Not so much.

And I wish Matt a happy 21st birthday. Although he'd rather be celebrating with Brenna, I hear he isn't spending his days in a a corner crying into his root beer waiting for her return.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Still Working out this Empty Nest thing

Is the world still turning on its axis? Because it feels like my world has stopped. Every landmark in my town brings pain. Jim said "B__ V____ park! Remember when we used to take the girls there?" Seeing a little girl with her mother at Peet's was painful. We ran into the owner of the children's bookstore that holds so many memories for us. We loved seeing Jodi and hearing about her new endeavors, but knowing we'll never take our girls to story time again seems sad. Church is painful. We first starting attending this church when I was pregnant with Molly. My friend Linda is going through a similar struggle, sending both her girls off to different places. It was good to collect a hug from her. We don't spend a lot of time together, but we are almost always on such similar journies that I feel that she shares my heart. Must send chocolate. Another friend, Paul, said "It's not over. It's just different." But, see, I don't like the different. I like having the kids around every day. On the one hand, I love the people they've become so it's easier to let them stand on their own. I trust them, and know they will do well. On the other hand, I love the people they've become, so it makes me even more eager to be with them. And I'm not with them.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The End of an Era

Kelly and Molly in Molly's newly-dorm room

On the way to Convocation.

I should not have gone into her empty room. And I should not have sat down on her stripped bed. Her room, which has NEVER been this clean seemed so dead and lifeless. It is truly the end of an era. I will never be a mom in the same way again. Yes, they'll come home and visit. Yes, they'll still love me. But I won't be actively mothering them on a daily basis. My last baby has grown up, and my heart is splintering into a million pieces.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Saying "Adios" twice

Molly's dorm

Molly and her room mate as they begin to move in.

Brenna left for El Salvador last Tuesday, and I've been so sad I can't even blog about it. I believe in what she's doing so much, and I'm enormously proud that she would give up the comfort of life in the US, leave her boyfriend and spend a year trying to help others. Selfishly, she feels very far away. I think I’ll feel better if she gets steady Internet access and can write, or if she has a phone and I can call. It’s the being out of touch that hurts. Once she starts sending back great stories and blogging, I’ll be happier. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

We’re now taking Molly to school. I am also enormously proud of her. She is calling all the shots and doing a great job. She did all the packing, and organization. She knew to arrive at 7:30 am and avoid the long lines and traffic that formed behind us. There were all kinds of students from sports teams and sororities to help us move in. We were done unpacking in a few hours. One of her room mates who arrived later said (not about Molly’s room) “Dad, make my room look like that!” Jim thinks the parents of college students are getting younger. This is a huge difference from taking Kelly to school, when WE were the younger ones. We made the requisite trip to IKEA to pick up stuff, and had lunch. Then Molly said “I’m ready to be on my own now.” And in almost every way, she is.

This picture is symbolic to me because when Molly was born, our physician, (and good friend). and Jim sat around eating Oreos while I was in labor. It seems apropos that he's eating Oreos as we cut the umbilical cord once more.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No wonder the World thinks Americans are Crass

Is anyone else unhappy with the cultural insensitivity of the US commentators at the Olympics? China is an amazing country of fabulous wonders and amazing people, and the reporters seem to seek out stories that are demeaning, rather than complimentary to the Chinese.

For instance, they commented about how New York cabbies would think Manhattan was Mayberry compared to driving in Beijing. They don’t talk about how beautiful the city is or how friendly and kind the Chinese people are. The media representatives are GUESTS there, in a culture that is so eager to gain the world’s approval. What do you gain from laughing derisively at your hosts?

In a later segment they showed the Great Wall. One of the great wonders of the world by any measure. But did they comment on that? No! One of the athletes is pepper dancing down the stairs on the wall. The Chinese woman behind her is just trying to get down the steps, but the crazy American keeps weaving from side to side, so the woman can’t figure out how to proceed. So they circle the woman onscreen and mock her!! In China they revere older people, and this set my teeth on edge.

China has the most delicious, and wonderful food, but the reporters have sought out only the weirdest foods like seahorses on a stick, duck feet, and scorpions. They leave the impression that China has only bizarre foods. The woman last night said “I FINALLY found something good here.” What about beef and broccoli or spicy green beans? I loved all their fresh vegetables stir-fried to perfection, and their fish was to die for. It’s like they sought out bad food, and then complained that Chinese food is horrible, when delicious food is available at every turn. But the Chinese are such good hosts—they even provided a fork to eat it with, which I didn’t know existed there. To scorn China for its human rights record or its treatment of Tibet would be fair, but to criticize Chinese food and driving just seems tactless.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Goodbye Aleksandr Solzenitzyn

Author Aleksandr Solzenitsyn seems like someone who should be immortal. I haven’t thought about him for a long time, but when he died last weekend I realized how much he impacted my life. I am a strong believer in the power of the written word, and his tales of life as a prisoner exiled to the Gulag Archipelago revealed the evils of communism in a powerful way. Living in Palos Verdes, I always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I couldn’t compete with the girls who had live-in seamstresses, and mothers (or servants) who bought them the latest shoe styles and accessories. I wasn’t athletic, didn’t write for the school paper, and couldn’t sing well enough to get a part in the school musical. I didn’t fit in anywhere in this materialistic and shallow world. But when I read The Gulag Archipelago, it revealed a world to me that I had never seen in my insulated town. There were people out there who were suffering for what they believed?! There were people who felt lucky just to be alive and to not receive any broken bones that day? There were horrible atrocities perpetrated on other human beings? The issues he brought up seemed really important, and I began to see that perhaps knowing how to put on make up perfectly or being able to lead cheers at football games was not the most important thing in the universe. Having compassion and working to make positive change in the world began to seem much more imperative. I still felt out of place in Palos Verdes, but Solzenitsyn made me think less about the kids who were handed shiny new cars, and more about the kids in Russia who had no say in their future.