Saturday, October 10, 2015

Miscarriage and child loss grief resources

I am aiming to find an organization to direct funds toward that aids people in times of child loss. I was exploring my options as a fundraiser, and where to responsibly direct support to help others. In asking friends about the idea, someone sent me this link. I have not fully explored every link contained on this page, but if it helps anybody else, it's worth it to share the link.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Go Pink AND Blue for October

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day, and has been seen abbreviated as PAIL in some places.
There is a link going around crackbook with the headline saying something about how it is important that Mark Zuckerberg is being open and honest about the miscarriages he and his wife had. I shared the link with this blurb of commentary. I share it here, because at any point I may accidentally make a public post not so public, and the sentiments need to be shared where possible. The awareness ribbon for this is half pink, half blue. There's a hashtag going around social media, #goPINKandBLUE related to the awareness campaign.

"Talking about miscarriage should not be taboo, nor should it bring criticism and shame. No one should suffer alone or in silence in the wake of a pregnancy loss. I didn't, and that was only because I have amazing people in my life. They're amazing because I gave them the opportunity to demonstrate as much having reached out and shared with them. If you know someone who had a prior loss, or is going through a loss, do not be silent. Even if you only say "ugh, that sucks", that is better than no words, or worse, the crappy attempt at platitudes. When we're in the throes of grief, we do not want to hear "God has other plans" "you're young, you can try again", "it wasn't really a baby", "get over it already", or any number of things that are well meaning but actually hurt more. God may have other plans, but it still sucks monkey butt. Some people try and try and try and babies don't come easily to them. It was definitely a baby to that parent, because it sure as hell wasn't a puppy. There is never any getting over it. My 89 year old father still mourns the miscarriage losses of 50 & 30 years ago. And he wasn't even the one who was physically pregnant.
If my annoying people by talking about my miscarriage helps even one person to feel less alone in their grief, then you'll just have to suck it up and be annoyed about it. I don't keep talking about it to get sympathy. I talk about it because it not only helps me heal, but it helps someone else to just know they are not alone in their sorrow."

Forever My SweetPea is offering a free awareness ribbon graphic through October 14, 2015. This project is an amazing work of kindness, and I know it is taking a chunk of extra time and effort for them to do this for those of us with angels. If you have a moment, thank them for their generosity.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A month seems so long yet is not

As I got dressed for church, I grumbled. I could not just wear jeans today, since I was scheduled as Lector. Most of the pants I have are either too small, or too big. Or they fit my waist, but my hips and thighs make them too tight. Or they fit my hips and leave so much gap that it would look crappy with all the fabric bunching in a belt. Such is the life of having a ghetto bootie. Dammit, I should be fitting in to that pair of maternity pants, not trying to figure out if this regular pair might fit. They should ALL be too small! None of these pants are supposed to fit. I am supposed to be seeing a little 14/15 week bump and lamenting that nothing fits because there is a mini human in the making who is causing me to grumble about my wardrobe. I huffed as I settled on the purple striped dress. I was running out of time to look for anything else, it was appropriate for church, and it fit.
It was not till I was about to walk out the door, that I realized I was wearing the same dress I was wearing 5 Sundays ago. And the same shoes were on my feet. The only difference was the undergarments, and that was only because the ones I wore 5 weeks prior were too big for me now.
Then my friend came by with a shawl she knitted for me, made out of the same yarn as the tiny miniature blanket and hat she made while we sat vigil over a month ago. It is a beautiful blue, with beading, and lace, and a lot of love in it. She said it was so that I would have a warm hug when I needed it. I knew she was making it, but had not seen the pattern. She wouldn't have posted the project in her Ravelry project page because she knew I might run the chance of seeing it before she gave it to me. I tucked it into my bag because I wanted to show it to anybody who would listen, and I might need a hug.
I arrived at church early enough to catch any instructions from the sacristan, and glance over the Prayers of the Faithful. If you are not Catholic, this is the part where the congregation responds to prayer intentions with "Lord, hear our prayer". I was stopped cold at the 3rd line. That one was for people in grief. I asked the eucharistic ministers for extra prayers during that portion of Mass. I was afraid I would lose my composure at the ambo in front of the congregation. I sought out Father J to ask him to send up extra prayers and shared my concern. I got through it with a cracked voice and I  could feel the prayers bolstering me, cheering me on with a quiet "You can do this. Keep going." I went to my seat but did not stay there but a few seconds. I escaped to the conference room to cry because I could not hold it in any longer. It took me several minutes to regain my composure and return to the sanctuary. I could see Father J was relieved that I was back. 
After Mass, my daughter said that she heard my voice crack and she immediately looked at Fr J, and he was about ready to continue for me if I wasn't able. I was also greeted by a couple friends asking what was going on with me. I told them. I had a miscarriage at the end of July. It has been a tough month. One of these friends has always told me I need to stop saying "upright and breathing" as a response to someone asking me how I am doing. My answer to that is if I'm having a craptastical day, I am not lying by saying "fine" when I am in fact not fine. She argued that it was speaking something other than gratitude or joy into the world. Today I told her that it was perfectly acceptable to say "upright and breathing" because I am just *not* fine, well, dandy, or good. Some days I'm barely surviving. 
I came home, changed clothes and just crawled into bed. I didn't even greet my husband. I was just on the verge of tears. He found me a few minutes later, asking if I was mad at him. I related the gist of things and bed surfed most of the afternoon. I could not muster the energy to do anything. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and it was taking a physical toll on me. I fell asleep a while later, and when I woke up, my husband was making soup and grilled cheese for dinner. Once again he is picking up my slack and taking care of me. I don't know where he is with his grief or mourning, but I do know that he wants me to just be ok, and when I am not, he does what he can to at least bolster me. I am in awe of how much he pours his love in to me and just wants me well. He will tell you he is not good with words. Sometimes he has said things that did not help me in my grief, although well-intended. But his actions speak volumes to me. And I don't know how long it will take till I don't need to rely on those little actions so much to get through the moment. I only know exactly how much they mean to me when I am at a weak spot.

Friday, September 4, 2015

You look good for .... what?

In the past several weeks, I have repeatedly heard "You look good for having five kids."

whut tha whut??

First of all, what *SHOULD* I look like for having five children? Well, 6 when you count angel Francis. Seriously. What is anyone expecting? Frumpy? Dowdy? Do they expect that I'll be dressing like the stereotypical evangelical homeschooling matron? Do you expect that I am supposed to look like I just rolled out of bed in my clothes from yesterday like a slovenly teenager from a 1980s movie?

Stop saying that to people.

Either we look good, or you look silent. Full stop. When people say to me "You look good for having 5 kids", I have taken to snarkily responding with "How about I just look good, period." What people see about me is physical appearance, and it is one that people want for themselves or they hate me for it. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I. CAN. NOT. HELP. THE. PHYSICAL. PERSON. I. HAVE. Do not hate me for winning the genetic lottery, because it comes with caveats. My grocery bill will forever look like I'm feeding a herd of teens. My clothing is difficult to fit properly because of curves, a long rise, big feet, and broad shoulders, and what is available in stores is not always appropriate for my age.

What you don't know or care to know is that I am not the picture of health. I have weak core that my chiropractor has been nagging at me for 6 years to rebuild. I have not done it. I own my laziness, and I make no excuses such as time, energy, etc. I just do not do it. I know this. I admit every second of it. What you don't know or care is that I have a high metabolism, and if I skip meals, I get migraines. It has gotten worse the older I get, too. What you don't know or care to know is that I think people who say "You look good for....(insert qualifier)" are problematic. You need to know and you need to care about that last one.

When you tell me I look good for having 5 kids, what you are telling my best friend with 5 kids is that she's fat, slovenly, ugly, a pig, or she is lazy. A lazy day for her still outpaces my busy ones by a million miles. She battled an eating disorder and STILL fights it daily as an adult. She has diastasis recti which is only going to be corrected by surgery because pregnancy really did a number on her and physical therapy has only done so much to improve it. When you tell me I look good for having 5 kids, what you tell another friend of mine is that she is inadequate for not being able to lose all that weight after just one baby. She has PCOS and some other issues, not that it is any of your business. Maybe it needs to be your business, so you can educate yourself on the challenges of that situation. What you're telling another friend who doesn't have any children is that she is not enough because she's overweight, and has no excuse for it since she didn't have any kids yet.

What you're telling me when you say I look good for having 5 kids is that I am doing something wrong. You're telling me that I shouldn't "qualify" to look this way, or that I shouldn't "qualify" to have 5 kids. Nope, no way. I don't need to qualify for either equation. I am raising kids to be independent, capable of functioning without me in the adult world, and to have the kind of work ethic to be a leader that gets stuff done. THAT is what matters most. Am I proud of the way I look? Yes, I am. There is no shame in the way I look. I know I am easy on the eyes, but I also know that could change in a BLINK with one momentary turn of the world. Do I enjoy getting compliments? Absofreakinlutely! Who doesn't!?!?!

I do enjoy the reactions I get when people learn I am the mother of many, and that my oldest can make the beer run for me, or that I am nearing age 40. It's fun. It gives people something to think about in terms of looks being deceiving. It boosts my mood when I hear a compliment. But a compliment should not come with a qualifier, or at the cost of someone else. Lift up someone's soul without exception, qualification, or exclusion. Do it because it is the right thing to do, or because someone's spirits just need the boost. Don't do it because your expectations and their reality are in different lanes.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Finding our new normal here

So, it's been a month.

It has been a busy month at that.

Trying to deal with the mental and emotional aftermath of a loss, and still keep going with life is a challenge at best. It's not entirely as difficult because I dealt with a lot of junk that whole dreadful week. But it has still been difficult. It has been compounded by a new school year in a new school. At the same time, Devildog changed jobs and entered into the electrical apprenticeship program, which comes with him going back to school part time, and working full time. Clone is really having to step up the ante in her game across the board after 2 years of  middle school elsewhere, and having been in remediation that still did not bring improvement in her test scores (not that I rely on test scores for assessing her ability). Blur requires extra monitoring to keep her moving and develop the habits she needs to make her self sufficient. Speedy has been a typical toddler and just exhausts me. But on the upside of things, I have begun attending Mass daily at a geographically nearby parish since I'm right there every morning anyway. There is no excuse for missing it. I am not rushing off to punch a clock, and I would otherwise be at home doing little else except trying to do something productive or being lazy. So, I go 4 days during the week that there is Mass in the morning. I'd been attending mid-week Mass at my parish while Clone was in religious ed classes for the past several months. I can't say I am able to pay a whole lot of attention because Speedy is not still, and I am incessantly chasing him. I figure this is my opportunity to help teach him during the week at a shorter Mass so that he can manage to sit through Sunday Mass just a bit more. At least, that is my hope. Some days are better than others. Tonight...I struggle to shut my brain up so I can sleep. Hence this brain-dump into a blog to get it out of my head so I can't mentally harp on it so much like I am hard-wired to do. And writing this has brought tears to the surface - not entirely a bad thing but not really a way I wanted to end my day.

My hormones are still out of whack, and I know they will be for a while. I was surprised that my first post-miscarriage menses would bring up so much emotion and difficult pain for me, but it did. To be blunt and border on TMI here, I had heavier bleeding than when I was miscarrying. I had cramps that needed heat to alleviate them, which is totally new for me, and they were in a different spot than usual. I've also been wrestling with the idea of another child. I do not quite know where I am in terms of wanting another child versus preferring to avoid another pregnancy. There is fear of a lot of things. Some of that is the fact that I'm nearing 40, I never rebuilt my core muscles after my 4th pregnancy, dealing with symphasis pubis dysfunction sucks royally, I don't know that I want to re-enter that phase my mommy-board friends call "baby jail". Speedy is at that point where he can feed himself, get his feet into his shoes himself, identify when he needs a diaper, occasionally uses the potty, starting to talk, and he's just plain a monkey toddler who gets into everything. It really is exhausting, and my attempts to get anything done in a day are interrupted by his antics. Do I really want to go back to a mewling newborn, completely dependent upon me and start the clock all over again? Am I feeling like I want another child only because Francis was taken from us? Am I even considering this idea because I don't want a loss to be the end of the story of our babies? Or do I really want to enter that realm again and have another child solely because I really am crazy enough to actually legitimately want that for our life? And here is a lame one: But I have these cute cloth diapers and was looking forward to putting them on the new baby since I can't use velcro diapers with Speedy. I was loving the idea of using cloth on our next baby too, and not having to buy diapers because - hey look here's a really good stash of butt covers. I honestly have no answer for any of it. I just know that a month ago, my life spun a different course and I am still having moments of reeling, frequent spots of sadness, and forever wonder who my child would have become. And I will always have them. My 89 year old father lost 2 children to miscarriage. Each of his two wives bore a 4th child directly into heaven, and to this day he still laments over them - some 50 and 30 years later. It will never go away for any of us.

And then there is the other side of this loss. A strange sense of relief that I won't have to deal with an expanding body that physically struggled with the 4th & 5th pregnancies. That the exhaustion of pregnancy is not coinciding with the exhaustion of raising a child in the toddler stage. That the exhaustion of a newborn and infant stage isn't right there with the exhaustion of a toddler becoming a preschooler. And then all that sense of relief leaves me feeling guilty for feeling relieved. And I grapple with the reconciliation between the pain of a loss, the relief of not having that segment of my life to handle, and the guilt of it all. I ache to know who my child would have become, what kind of personality quirks would appear, the kind snark our family is known for having, what kind of amazing things would be done at my child's hand. And that is an ache I feel in every part of my person. I get sad, angry, frustrated and sometimes just have to stop what I am doing and spend time being in that moment of emotion to acknowledge it and let it have a visit. I am also always afraid of getting stuck in that emotion too long, or even not enough. I am afraid of moving onwards and forward too much or too soon. I'm afraid of allowing myself to be angry too long or too much. I just don't want to get stuck there, and I know I run that risk every time I let any of it visit. But I can't run away from it or hide. I have to run headlong into it so that I don't ignore it, shove it aside, or insulate myself too much from it. Maybe I have some warped logic that wants to immerse myself in the pain in hopes of getting it over with so I can find some kind of normalcy that I lack currently.

I don't even have a lot of direction right now, and I am feeling like I have an idea of where I want to head, but there are so many spoons in my fire at the moment, I can't do everything. And that is bugging me because Devildog is making dinner more often than he should have to, especially since I am the one at home most of the day. I'm fighting to up my own ante, and I feel like I am battling muddy banks on a rainy afternoon. I just want some kind of normal and not this haphazard random flopping around that I feel like I am doing. But I don't even know what my new normal is supposed to even look like. I am just incredibly grateful that my husband is this patient, understanding, and kind man who does not complain when I haven't gotten dinner ready and it's nearing dinnertime. Which then prompts more guilt. But it's laced with immense gratitude for his help and strength where I can't muster it. He spurns me forward when I stall out, and he graciously takes up my slack as I work to heal. Every time I think I have gained some measure of improvement, I hit a point of detour or pain and he bolsters me yet again. I keep feeling like I can't let that stay the norm, even though he can cook some amazing food that makes mine look boring. A girl could get really used to that, and my husband would be willing to keep it up if that's what it took to get me over the hurdle.

Regardless, I am still patiently seeking to find our next version of our normal. This just does not feel like it's

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wheelbarrows are not always fun

Several years ago, a visiting priest gave a homily that stuck with me.
He told of his childhood visits to see the circus, and the high wire act in it. He told of the guy who pushed his teammate across the high wire in a wheelbarrow. He said he was impressed with the amount of trust the guy in the wheelbarrow had in his teammate, because you can not be both in the wheelbarrow AND pushing it.
We are supposed to trust God to lead us and direct our path. Outside of the recent miscarriage, we've had another big issue that has been brewing for a while, and it's reaching a tipping point and it too can alter the course of our journey into a different direction completely. It has been a huge challenge for me to stay in the wheelbarrow. I admit to having control issues. I want to know what is going on, how it is happening, etc. It's the Type A side of me. In reality, I live in the Type B side, but the Type A side has strong influence. So, this tumultuous part of life is wearing on me, and testing my mettle and my faith. I am aware that I have a part in things, and decisions I make and action I take factor in to the results. But my faith tells me that God is in control and our role in our own lives is smaller than we would like to think it is. But there are also other people involved in making decisions about this situation and that is scaring me to no end. This other pile of stuff I'm dealing with is wearing on me, and I am prone to feeling like I just want to throw my hands up and walk away from it all and start over somewhere else.
And then, my husband changed jobs this week, leaving the company after 3 years, to take a lower paying job through the electrical apprenticeship program. It's a scary proposition and change always upsets my apple cart. But my husband's soul and being are lighter for not having to face an environment at work that played by rules he does not follow, and where the behavior of a handful of people make the existence there difficult at best. He decided that long term, this path was going to provide him more opportunity and afford him certifications and credentials that he would not be able to attain without formal training.
Once more, I am being asked, ... no, told, to get my butt in the wheelbarrow, and hang on tight. Wheelbarrows can sometimes be pretty damn exhausting. It adds to the exhaustion on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. So, hang on tight I will. The ride is a bit bumpy.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Uncertainty, Hope, and Waiting

This is a somewhat graphic, quite long, and emotionally charged post. 

It was drafted as I traveled this journey over the course of several days. I am baring my soul in this post, and this is part of how I work to heal. My pain is not unlike almost every other woman's in the world. There are millions suffering in silence. I refuse to be one of them. I will use my big mouth to help others. The world needs to know how this affects those around them, and that certain comments are best left completely unsaid. Be respectful in your comments, and if you have a point of disagreement, choose your words carefully.   

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All I am able to do at this point is pray, hope, and wait. And repeat.

As I type this while lying down, I am completely uncertain. I think my brain knows more than my heart wants to admit. And I hate that this is where I am.

I am on doctor's orders for rest, and a follow up with my regular doctor in a few days. I am home from the emergency room because of spotting. I thought it was just because I overdid it on Sunday after church, shopping with 2 kids in tow while wearing wedge heeled shoes. Seeing it when I went to use the bathroom made me gasp loudly, and Devildog came to check on me. It was brown and it subsided after several hours of rest and plenty of water. Spotting is considered a normal occurrence in this situation, and as long as it's not red, and cramping is not involved, it could just be a slight swish in the cycle. And then today, it resumed, increased, and at some moments blood-tinged. Plus there has been some cramping that feels like dull pressure. I was advised to go to the E.R. because all diagnostic tools were there, and if this was an ectopic pregnancy, I would need to be there anyway. It's not ectopic. But I didn't see a heartbeat in the ultrasound. I don't have a trained eye, but having had 5 children before, I know what to look for and where. To the best of my ability, I was unable to see what I'd hoped to see. Every ultrasound tech is quick to point out fetal heart rate. There was no such point of conversation today. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It just means my fears were neither confirmed or denied. But I still didn't *see* a heartbeat. According to what is known as LMP dates, I should be 9 weeks 4 days. According to charted details, that's farther ahead than my potential actual dates. My HCg beta levels are measuring 7-8 weeks. But even this early, a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Sadly, I am only clinging to a thread of hope here. And as the pressure has increased the last few minutes while typing this, I'm losing my grip on even that.

I'm fairly attuned to my body, and when something isn't right, I can usually tell. I haven't been feeling the same way this pregnancy as the others. People ask how I'm doing, and I feel normal. I don't feel exhausted, nauseated, or have sore boobs. I was still nursing when I got pregnant, and I weaned shortly after discovering that I was pregnant because the vasospasms were really problematic for me. Between the hormonal dump of that, and the hormonal surges of pregnancy, I figured it was just balancing itself out. But it was always something in the back of my mind that felt different. I know every pregnancy and baby is different. So I just chalked it up to being different.

This was something that we did not look for in our journey, but having it happen is not a bad thing. We were growing excited about this new baby, and joking about how to reveal the pregnancy, and deciding when to do so. My sister-in-law is due in a few months with their first, and some of my hesitation was a worry about stealing some of her thunder. Other issues are the opinions of others who differ from ours about this, and have said things to us in the past about our family size. I opted to wait because I did not want those opinions to spill over in conversation in earshot of my 13 year old daughter while traveling with relatives to and from camp. She doesn't need to hear that commentary, nor does she deserve it. She is one of my children, and criticizing our family in front of her, means she too is being criticized. I needed to spare her that nonsense. Right now, I am kind of regretting the decision to wait to share the news, only because I want so desperately to have support and prayers from those who know us. Right now, only select friends who we trust and who we know will not make backhanded comments have been told that we are pregnant. Some people we do trust still don't know because we haven't gotten around to it. So if you didn't know, please don't take it personally.

And if this pregnancy does end in loss, do us and every other parent who has lost a child a huge ass favor. Shut up. Don't say a word about "at least....", better places, better off, you have enough kids, you're young, you can try again, God has plans, etc. Don't. Just  Seriously. I don't care that you think things will be better off this way. I don't care that you think I have enough kids. I don't care. I don't want to know your opinion. All you have to do is say "I'm sorry. That really sucks." and leave it at that. That is a million times better than some of the other stupid crap well-meaning people say. It does not help assuage the pain. It hurts. It jabs the knife deeper and twists the blade. So shut up. Never say those things to me, or any of the others you know who have had a loss, are experiencing a loss, or will experience a loss in the future. If you say it to me, you are seriously at risk for having a new butthole drafted for you.
(July 27, 2015 - 5pm)
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Here it is, a couple hours later, and the spotting has become red. I am fairly certain that I am in the early stage of losing this pregnancy to a loss. And I am in tears. I want to go cry in my husband's arms but he's asleep, and I don't want to wake him. He would hold me, and let me cry. But I'm on the couch for now. I will probably go cry with him later. Right now, I want to let him rest. He's been dealing with a lot outside of home and he's exhausted. I will call on him when I need the extra support. For now, I am chatting with friends online and getting support that way. He too, will mourn his own way, and we will walk this leg of this journey together. In the meantime, I retrieved the old chuckpad I swiped from the hospital when I gave birth to my eldest and put that under me on the couch. This thing has seen 5 kids' fourth trimesters, potty training, sick nights of pukey kids, and a few hefty visits from Aunt Flo. Somehow there is a measure of comfort in its presence beneath me. (7 pm)
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And an hour and change later, I got up to pee, the bleeding has increased and clotty tissue has started releasing.  I crawled in bed with my husband, woke him up with my crying, and he did all he could do. He held me as I cried. An incredibly amazing friend took the kids so we could go to the ER and is keeping the 2 youngest kids overnight to allow us uninterrupted time and space. She just left with a bag of clothes for them, and to drop off a jar and saline solution. She is sadly all too familiar with this experience. I want to help my husband in his mourning, but I don't even know what I'm going to do to get through this, much less help him. I am regretting that I didn't ask for a printed picture of the ultrasound. I'm not even sure I would have been granted one.
And another wave of abdominal pressure is starting to appear. I don't want to go pee even though my bladder feels full. I would rather not be in this situation. (8:40pm)
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As the night has progressed, my butt was growing sore from 2 days of couch surfing. I got up to clean my tub around 10:30 or 11. Some of it was because I needed to just DO something instead of laying on the couch waiting with dread. It was also that I'd rather not reach into the toilet to reclaim my child's remains. I've been peeing in the tub and washing it out instead. I was using the hall bathroom earlier, but my tub has this divot where water pools in it. I decided that this one was going to enable me to catch anything I don't want going down the drain. But it was in dire need of cleaning. And especially in this situation there is no dignity in a gross tub. I have decided not to return to the ER unless it becomes emergent. I don't want that experience. I don't want the sterility and cold and strangers. I had called a new OB's office on the way home from the ER and booked an appointment for a follow up check. At that earlier hour, I was still holding hope for viability. That appointment will be altogether different now. As I started scrubbing the tub, the tears began to flow, and my body heavy with the sobs. Here I was on a perfunctory level, just cleaning my tub. In reality, I was preparing the place where my child's person would land for me to collect. In essence, it felt like I was preparing a coffin of sorts. My husband found me several minutes later, half scrubbing, half sobbing and unintentionally startled me. He listened to my lamentations of how unfair it was that people fight and struggle to get pregnant and can't, yet I seem to get pregnant just looking at him sideways. Or people who harm their children get to keep them, and people who would make amazing parents have empty arms. I later apologized in advance to him for any unexplained emotional outbursts or upsets. They are bound to happen. The cramping is more like a dull pressure and ache at this point, and I feel the bleeding. I occasionally get up to use the bathroom or check things. My husband is worried about me. I know this is weighing on him, and his primary concern at the moment is me, how I'm doing, and how I'm handling this. But I know his heart is breaking too.
I got a text from a best friend checking on me. Then another from the best friend keeping the kids for me. I laid out the tub story for her. This loss of mine is churning up deep pain for her own 9 losses. I am glad for her support, but heartbroken for her that I am part of a painful experience for her. She said she was knitting a hat and a blanket. She is always knitting. Last month when I'd told her I was pregnant, she'd found a heart lace blanket pattern to make for this baby. One of the things in her projects includes finishing projects for others who can't complete them. I thought when she said she was knitting, that it was for one of those things. I said "well I suppose this helps shrink your queue." She stunned me silent with "they're miniatures". I don't even have to ask. (July 28, 2015 - 12:30 am)
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After finally crawling into bed at 2am, I drifted off to sleep, albeit lightly. My husband's bi-pap machine often disrupts my sleep, but it's nothing like his snoring. He and our oldest left for work at 5:45, and I crawled back in bed with my laptop and a bowl of cereal to try to get something done but the printer wasn't working. I eventually tired again and fell asleep for a few hours. I have been getting texts, and messages on facebook checking on me. That comforts me, and I am thankful for this circle of support around me, virtual and real. I can not imagine doing this unsupported in the physical or the emotional aspects. In my reflections and hindsight, I suspected that the feeling normal was not normal, and the sixth sense I have, I knew before I knew. I also had a weird loss of hair last week when that much hair loss only happens postpartum. At the time, I chalked it up to stress from another big life storm brewing outside of this pregnancy. I now suspect that was when this baby actually died, and my body has finally responded to the cessation of life within my womb many days later.  (11:00 am)
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I had to go register my girls for school, and that was an exercise in fortitude on a day I didn't want to face people. In the activity of getting myself ready to leave, I began crying again, lamenting aloud while alone. It took me a while to muster the energy to get back up off the couch and go, but it's mostly completed save a trip tomorrow to collect grade and test reports and take to the new school. That two and a half hours has exhausted me. I'm nauseated, partly due to insufficient food, and partly due to being part of this process. I'm hoping my husband is able to leave work on time. He is always a comforting presence to me, even at those times when I'm upset with him. At this moment, I just want him near me for solace, and to sense his own grief. It might be weird to some, but I can feel his energy, and he needs comfort just as much as I do. (3:45 pm)
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I've been bedsurfing most of the day. Too much activity is wearing on me. I find the waiting game to be wearisome and am ready for it to finish its course. It's not unlike any other labor where I await it to commence and get annoyed that my body is taking its time like it is. I'm still bleeding, and clots are more frequent. I think I'm starting to see bits of tissue and I feel a bit like a weirdo sifting through this gross stuff in my tub when I go pee. But this is how I am processing this loss, and I need to do it this way. Around 5pm, I found in a Facebook group the midwife who I have the follow up appointment with on Thursday. I asked if I should keep the appointment considering the progress and she said it was my call. I answered her questions with what I know or suspect, and she was very kind. I felt that I was intruding on her mom-duty, and told her deal with mom stuff first. Work later. I know she has a difficult job sometimes, and her family needs her. She would have kept talking to me if that's what I needed. I felt her kids needed her more. I have other support, her kids may not. But I later asked if she could get me a picture from the ultrasound. I wanted to ask for one, but felt that I wouldn't have been able to get one. She told me that she could. As the evening progressed, I dozed off and on, my husband made dinner for me, and sat with me. Then nausea crept in and hung around like a drunk acquaintance, annoying but not enough to get to me. It subsided after I took my allergy med and nixed the post nasal drip that was probably a culprit. I still have the headaches. I think its related to the BP or slacker bun, or both. My husband eventually found me in the bathroom, and asked if I was ok. I find myself wanting to shield him from the imagery of what leaves my body, because I don't know how he would handle it. He tells me it wouldn't bother him. Some of it might be my fear of being considered weird or crazy for sifting through this stuff to find the pieces that do not deserve to flush down the drain. My husband and I crawled into bed around 11pm and he held me, we talked, I cried, he said some amazingly beautiful things, and apologized for making me cry. He's worried about me, and his wish is to take away my pain. I brought up the idea of naming this child, and why, and the names I was considering. I have felt this child was a boy, and have been looking for names that have good meaning. I am careful about the names we give our kids, because the meaning is important to me. (July 29, 2015 - 12:13am)
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I laid in the bed from the time I woke at 8 till after 10, when a caffeine withdrawal headache and a high-metabolism-starvation dragged me to the kitchen to get breakfast. I felt a hair tickling my arm, and couldn't catch it, so I grabbed my comb, and stood over the trash can, combing, and combing, and combing. I got pissy. I told myself that it was just hair. But it wasn't the hair. It was what the massive hair fallout represented. And then I got angry. My anger was because we hadn't told our parents yet. And instead of sharing exciting news, we will share heartbreaking news instead. I am angry at how we let the reactions of others cause us to hide the last 3 pregnancies, even though we were married and over 18. I am angry that people were doubly robbed of this joy. I am angry that we felt shamed, as if we were still 17 and in high school. I was angry that we have not been granted the same joy and dignity at the news of an impending child that other people receive. I told my husband that we will never hide another pregnancy, should one happen. "We will not hide God's light under a basket." were my exact words. I updated the handful of friends walking with me through this virtually, and my best friend who has my kids - still, 3 days now. And I talked with a friend who is on my team to share the news with her. I only left the house because I needed to collect my daughter's report card and test history to take to her new school, and find remaining pieces of uniforms I needed for the girls. I was up and moving another couple hours. I stopped at the grocery store but forgot the debit card, so I was only able to get some raspberry zinger tea that I needed to steep with the red raspberry leaf tea. Up to that point, things were not progressing much more than the pace already in motion. My plan was to drink the tea to help my uterus do its job. Which by the time I got home, it was starting to do on its own. Kinda like taking the car to the mechanic, oh look, it behaves. My husband called at 4pm to update me on his whereabouts due to work. I came home, steeped tea, chatted with friends to update them. I've been sitting at the table because the thought of laying in the bed or on the couch another day was not where I wanted to be. And in the last 2 hours since getting home, things have started moving faster and getting messier. I don't wish this on anyone. I'm having back labor again, like I did with my 5 previous live births. I've grabbed my rice sock and heated it so I can try to ease the discomfort. TENS unit is another option if I need relief. And my husband is finally home so that I'm not alone. My best friend was about ready to come over here if he wasn't going to be home soon. She really worries, and wants to make sure I am safe. I am forever grateful she is helping us. It is truly a gift. (July 29, 2015 - 6:15pm)
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It's been a few hours, and the pressure and discomfort has been in varying waves and extents. I've been back and forth to the tub, changing the pad almost hourly at some points. My husband has gone to bed because he's exhausted (I can see it in his eyes), and he needs to go to work in the morning, barring my needing him. I was instructed to call upon him if I needed him. It's been 4 days, and the wait is wearing on me. The tea helps encourage things along, it just tastes awful. Some of the contractions are gaining intensity. I am hoping for this to complete soon. It's dragging on for days, I want my younger 2 kids home again, and my husband is having a hard time with their absence. I just know I can't get through this with a toddler in the house who is prone to getting into EVERY thing he can. And I need to hug my babies. Like many labors, mom's body often waits till the house is quiet and everyone has left her in peace to progress. I wonder if that is what is happening with me. (11:10 pm)
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I ended up falling asleep on the couch, and after waking up and crawling into my bed in the morning I wished I'd slept there instead. I was so tired the night before that I was afraid moving to the room would wake me just enough that I'd have a hard time getting back to sleep. I lazed in the bed for a while till hunger dragged me to the kitchen. I asked my husband if he was interested in or able to get off work to come to the follow up appointment. He's been so focused on me that I am not wanting him to be left out of anything if he can be part of it. He can't take away the pain. But he's setting his own aside to help me with mine. And if there is a step in this journey that he can join, I invite him to do so. He couldn't get off work early enough to come, so I told the doctor's office that if they nudged another patient ahead of me, to allow him time to come, I wouldn't have issue with it. The midwife who had already been awesome as it is said she would move my appointment to later so he could join us. My husband left work a little early and was able to be there. While waiting, I started having cramping and it was getting stronger. Then in the exam room they were getting downright unpleasant. I needed my husband to apply counter pressure on my back. Really? Even in a loss, I freaking have back labor? I drew upon the hypnobirthing lessons from my 5th birth to get through it. After answering the nurse's preliminary questions, she left to get the midwife. The midwife came in, introduced herself, told me what the ER records indicated from Monday's visit. The ultrasound measured 6 weeks 3 days, and registered no heartbeat. I was 9 weeks 4 days at that point. I *knew* there was no heartbeat. I should have been told, instead of being allowed to leave the ER with a thread of pointless hope. She said it infuriates her that it happened that way. She then had me get on the exam table so she could see what was going on with me. And as she started, her tone got very subdued and you could tell she was affected by what was happening. The placenta and sac were passing through my cervix, and she was witness to it. She asked if I wanted it sent for genetic testing, and I declined. She carried it like precious cargo, asking if I wanted to see it. "This is what I've been waiting for?" came out of my mouth. I asked for gloves so I could get a closer look. The midwife gingerly set it on a chux pad and began to separate the clots to find the sac. She stopped, realizing that wait...she was leaving me in a bit of a compromised spot, went back to complete the exam and do an ultrasound to check for retained tissue. She gingerly resumed her search and asked me if I wanted her to open the sac to find the baby, telling me that if she did anything to upset me to say stop. She was intrigued by this on an intellectual level as much as I was. But she was reverent and respectful about it. She felt honored that we would indulge her curiosity, and allow her to be part of something so intimate. She had never seen a baby at that early gestation. The earliest she'd seen was 14 weeks, and here she was witnessing a 6 weeker. We were both in awe of it. It may seem gross or weird to some, but I had my husband take pictures. I think it bothered him a bit, but this is how I've been processing it as it happens. I didn't get an ultrasound picture, and I may not be able to get one. If I'd kept the earlier appointment I might have, but then, we might not have been granted the opportunity we were as things ended up unfolding. The midwife hugged me, saying she was sorry we had to meet under such circumstances, and thanked me for allowing her to be part of it. She was so careful and respectful in honoring everything, I am grateful for her role in this journey over the last 5 days.
Francis Anthony
born 9w3d gestation
Thursday July 30, 2015 approximately 4:18pm
Into the hands of the midwife, and laid on mom's stomach.
His names mean Free and Peace.

Having spent the last 4 days in lamentation, reflection, and tears, I have gotten a lot of catharsis out of it. I know reading this has yanked hard on your own heartstrings, and if you are part of this club, they get yanked harder. I will be forever changed by this. As much as it hurts, I do actually have peace. I've worked through some of the immediate emotional stuff, but I know there is a lot more coming. I'm mentally at ease because I'm no longer waiting for things to culminate. I can pee on the commode again! Physically I felt better immediately, with some residual soreness and tiredness from the whole experience. Based on the lingering dull pain, I'd venture the placenta was attached at the top left side of my uterus. I can now put my life back in gear and move onward. In serving me, my friend was helped with her own healing. She was able to give me the support those around her were unable or unwilling to give her. I am forever grateful and I have been given a gift that most do not receive. I have been supported near and far, prayed for, listened to with a wide berth, hugged, and loved. I know I have been blessed with amazing friends, and I have never taken any of it for granted. It is times like this, you discover just how much people really do love you.
(July 30, 2015 - 11:39pm)

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Fluffy tush and how it started

I don't know that I've shared here that I started using cloth diapers for Speedy last year. It started on Ash Wednesday, as part of my Lenten Penance. It need not be abstaining from something. Sometimes, it can mean adding something, especially it has value, merit, or conserves resources, or it increases one's spiritual connection to God. I needed to find a way to save money since the merchandising job went away with the company shuttering shortly after my maternity leave ended, and my Thirty-One business was not yet consistent. I had a literal handful of pocket diapers that a couple friends gave me. I liked them, but didn't have enough of them to make it fully feasible. So, I started out with using cloth while at home, and disposables while we were out of the house. At that time, we were leaving home to go to a lot of places, so it was about a 50/50 split. As we used up the disposable diapers, and I gained confidence in using cloth diapers, I found myself leaving the house without changing the fluff butt to paper butt. Plus, I was growing fond of the cute prints some of my covers have.

Fast forward to this year, and I've scored a couple ninja deals on a couple bundles of second-hand diapers that I have shared with a friend. She expressed interest in trying cloth for her youngest, and got hooked on it, to the point that she decided to start cloth diapering her 3 year old triplets who have shown no interest in using the potty. She bought more diapers, costing as much as 3 months' worth of disposables. The diapers have already paid for themselves, and the family is using that money to pay off debt. I know some people look at me sideways when I tell them that we use cloth diapers. But these are not the ones I had when my 22 year old was born. If I'd had the diapers I have now when he was a baby, all of my kids would have been in cloth. These do not require pinning a moving target. It doesn't mean I touch poop. Besides, if you actually read the instructions on a package of disposable diapers, it tells you to knock solids into the commode. Nobody does that, and there is a lot of unfiltered biohazardous poop in landfills as you read this. I am guilty of putting a share of it there. 

It does mean that we save easily $30+ each month, going on low estimates of using store brand diapers, or the big case of Luvs at BJ's. It does mean that I can't remember the last time we had a poosplosive diaper. It does mean 2 extra loads of laundry a week. Since I don't wash my husband's laundry, or the older kids' stuff, I have room in my repertoire. This goes back to other posts where I explain why I don't do the family laundry, among other oddities my household practices. I can guarantee you that my electric and water bills have not increased $30 each month since we've started cloth diapering. The human ovens in my household playing dial-down-the-AC causes more havoc to the bill than washing 2 loads of diapers a week does. So, if you want to say it's too expensive, your argument is invalid.

Personally, I have spent $95 between the 2 lots I purchased second-hand, and the diapers gifted to me from friends. There are lending programs in many places that loan out diapers for families to try, or to help them avoid having to decide between diapers and something else that is needed. I *might* spend $10 a month in electricity, water, and detergent to wash the diapers, and that is a high estimate. When I am done with the diapers, I can sell them and make back what I have paid for them. You can't resell used disposable diapers. And when we do some math, based on the history of my older kids finally potty training at age three and a half, we're looking at three years of using cloth, which means a savings of $1080, based on a $30 per month expenditure on disposables. Those numbers can be higher if national brands are used and couponing deals not utilized. Even subtracting the cost of laundry, my savings is $720. This is for one child. When I resell the diapers, I am going to recoup the initial investment. So, even if I break even and sell them for what I paid, we're looking at $815 saved on one child. There is a chance I could sell them for more than I paid, but since I'm still using them, we won't know that till later. Again, all of these figures are personal to my household, and if a child can't tolerate store brands and must use a national brand disposable diaper, these numbers will be very different.

Yes, time is money, and my time has value. When you think about it though, the time spent going to the store and arranging the trek around kids, naps, meals, other errands, and payday takes longer than throwing a load of laundry into the machine between other tasks, refereeing kids, and keeping the toddler safe from himself. Plus, I don't have to be publicly presentable to do it. I also do not have to deal with the challenges of taking my very active children to the store to procure the butt covers. Some days it is just not worth leaving the house.

So, all that said, it isn't for everybody. It works for me. It works for a lot of other people. There are just as many brands and types of cloth diapers as there are disposable diapers. Pockets, flats, fitteds, covers, PUL, aplix, velcro, snaps, .... yea, I've been acquiring the language. As I learn more, I will share, including products that I have used and what I think of them. In the meantime, on other social media venues, you can search for the hashtag, #makeclothmainstream so you can see some of the cute fluffbutts that make mamas like me happy to see.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My kids don't do your idea of normal

For years, there have been stereotypes as to what little boys and girls do in terms of playing, socializing etc. And for the last 21 years, MY kids have been doing their own version of these things. My eldest asked for a Barbie for his 7th birthday. My 3rd child wanted a toy dumptruck for her birthday. I have provided my boys with toy kitchens alongside their cars, and my daughters with Rip-Stiks alongside their dolls. Honestly, my girls have a tiny doll collection by comparison to some of my friends' daughters. I did too. And I dug in the dirt as a kid. If my dad, who abhors yardwork, had a tree I could've climbed in the yard, I would have. He bought the smallest lot on the block so he wouldn't have to do much mowing or gardening. So my tree climbing skills never blossomed.

I also was prone to hanging out with boys more often than girls, because boys didn't have the same B.S. going on than my female peers. The fact that I now have a TON of female friends is sometimes boggling to me. But, I've also gotten girlier as I've gotten older, and then this crazybaglady gig I do *is* rather girly. And my daughters are a healthy blend of girly and tomboy, and I am not doing anything to squelch it. It does pose some challenges at school because our genetic quirks make us and our children outside the herd. The herd doesn't know how to handle us right away, and the kids struggle with fitting in at school.

My 5 year old tells me with regularity that the girls in her class move away from her, and that it makes her sad because she likes them. It hurts my heart because I know what that means for her. It means that she isn't someone they relate to easily, and she's probably a bit rowdy at school (because she is at home too), so the girls don't want to get involved with a rowdy girl who would probably play better with the boys. My suggestion was to just leave the girls alone and hang with the boys. My daughter said that the girls are better than the boys and she didn't want to play with boys. I told her that sister and I were faced with the same problems as little girls, and we decided that girls were annoying and we hung out with the boys instead because they were just more fun.

It is a bittersweet realization that my daughters are SO much like I am, because I know the difficulty they have been living. My 12 year old was one of 2 girls in 5th grade who opted to go play football with the boys instead of walking around the playground gossiping. Middle school has been tough on all of us, and I truly wish more parents embraced variety and encouraged their daughters to go climb a tree, play football, go fishing, or skateboard. I wish more parents embraced their sons' softer sides a little more and let their sons play with kitchens and dolls. All of these things for each gender serves purpose, and makes them more well-rounded individuals. My oldest sons are awesome caregivers to their siblings, and can care for a home. My daughters will eventually learn the nuances of mowing the yard so my husband won't have to do it as often, and basic hardware use so they can install their own curtain rods, unclog the sink drain, or check the fluid levels in their cars.

Why do I do things this way? I do it because I don't want my sons to be a source of frustration for their partners by never helping around the house. I do it because I don't want my daughters to feel like they must settle for a partner who does this stuff, but neglects her soul or worse yet, abuses her. I want them all to appreciate what their partners do for them, because they understand what it entails. We're too weird to be your idea of normal, but we're too normal to be weird. And speaking only for myself, I am absolutely ok with that because... well, frankly I don't care if you think we're weird. I do, however, care that you teach your kids to not be jerks to mine for being slightly off center from your definition of normal.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Weddings and bridesmaid torture

There is a post elsewhere asking for pictures of people in their wedding dresses which spun off to another thread asking for pics of bridesmaids in their attire.
So, here ya go...I've been a bridesmaid twice. And I can safely say that the honor is work regardless of where in the lineup a girl is. I am insanely thankful that neither bride was a horrible witch.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Daylight and diapers

Again, with the preference for the instant gratification of being on crackbook and the feedback I get over there.

It's been a crazy few months with taking care of my dad, then him being tired of being here and going to my sister's house. Dealing with him is more exhausting than dealing with a toddler. At least with a toddler, you can redirect and reframe things. With an elderly adult having dementia, Plus he helped install the buttons, she he can find them easier than the kids do. Mad props to anyone who works with elderly, or has a caretaker role of the kind.

The ability to breathe again has made me realize that I was whiny when I didn't want to take the kids to the store with me. I still prefer to go alone, but I don't bemoan schlepping kids as much - except when my 5 year old has been on Spring Break and not having a big enough outlet to expend energy. Taking her with me added about 45 minutes to the journey, and prompted me to get cranky.

And in my cloth diapering adventures, a product I use broke. I contacted the company about replacing it under their warranty, and was asked about using a new product. I'm certainly amenable to beta testing things. If the product can withstand my brute force crew, and our distinct lack of dainty-floweredness, then I will gladly talk about it. I have been tossing around the idea of creating another blog page specifically for product reviews anyway.

I recently posted a picture on Facebook of my drying rack full of diapers sunbleaching in the front of my house which faces West and gets more hours of sunlight than my well-shaded back yard. It apparently created an uproar with a neighbor. If you're a reader of my blog, you know I did not give a rip that this person took issue with it. It just means the connection with that individual got relegated to the next concentric circle away from the center of my people. I value experiences and insight from those around me. What I do NOT value is condescending opinion of how I should be doing things in my household, or opinions from others who do not take active part in my day to day living. I value people who are heart-in and hands-on with regards to our friendship. The fact that I have a better friendship with some people online elsewhere who I've never met, than I have with some of the people geographically nearest me is sad. It's not for my lack of trying. I do try to make person-to-person connection with people. The problems start with my shooting from the hip, but to put it nicely, I am authentic. Then it continues with my hybrid traditional/modern approach, because some people can not handle a blend when they want all one way or another. In short, I am too weird to be normal, but too normal to be truly weird.

I am comfortable in my own skin, and have been able to discern people fairly quickly in their motives and what kind of behavior I expect from them. I do my version of me really well, and that is what draws the kind of people to me who appreciate it. The ones who don't usually end up looking foolish in the end anyway by their own actions.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Opportunities wasted

My son has T-Mobile for his cellular service. He went to a local franchised store to get a phone, and in the course of the transaction, the associate didn't give him his ID back, and he forgot to ask for it. Crap happens, everyone is human. When he was called later to notify him that his ID was there, he said "I don't have a ride to get it, I'll be back when I can." He could have called me to help him, but he knows we're quite busy here and it would be a bit of challenge getting it for him with everything going on over here.

Getting the ID back has proved impossible, and has demonstrated this local franchisee's lax levels of customer service. I spoke to the store manager yesterday, and was given one set of information. My son was there the day before but nobody could find it, and as such, he couldn't start a new job since he needs the ID to demonstrate eligibility to work. He called again today and was told the regional manager took the IDs to the DMV "to be mailed" but they automatically get shredded due to security regulations. OK, fine, but be honest with us, and say "sorry, they get shredded". Or maybe if your store routinely has a stack of IDs, get on the ball and make sure the IDs get returned.

On the first visit, my son was told that someone may have taken his ID home even. Uh, hellooooo!!! Now we're looking at the potential for identity theft! I am beyond livid with these individuals for their slackass handling of this, plus the appearance that there is a repeated problem with failing to return IDs, and the store manager not having the keys to the safe while in the store. My son called the corporate office to find out what he can do about it, and the corporate line said he would need to handle it locally. Well, clearly after the store manager gave me a line of fluff while I was there, and then told my son the regional manager took the IDs to the DMV, we were not going to get far locally. He called the store to find out the corporate number for the franchisee owners, and was told "1800TMobile" and the person hung up the phone.

I was done. Two trips to the store to attempt to retrieve the ID, various stories given about what came of the ID, the possibility of identity theft being raised, the abrupt response and disconnect, all left me livid. I called TMobile corporate on my son's behalf. Yes, he's 21, but he's also got a snot-filled head, and coughing, and I've got some skill in dealing with customer service.

I spoke to Adrian at the corporate office, related to her what our experience was and that we're horribly frustrated, having to replace the ID, and that now personal information has been compromised, leaving us facing any number of scenarios. Then there's a week of lost income for not having the ID. Plus, the store had the opportunity to demonstrate stellar service, and instead took the crappy path. Just be honest with us if there's a problem. If we had to get a new ID because his was shredded, we could've dealt with it Tuesday, yesterday, or this afternoon between appointments for my dad instead of chasing down bad information and service, and trying to sort around other logistics tomorrow or Tuesday - both horribly busy days for the DMV. We can't do it Monday because it's a holiday. Adrian offered a partial credit toward the ID, and advised us on putting a consumer statement on the credit files (which we already knew to do). She apologized for the way things got handled, but she shouldn't have to be the one to apologize. She said she would be forwarding the complaint to the company's appropriate channels.

When tasked with serving customers, mistakes can and do happen. However, HOW the rest of the problem gets handled makes a huge difference. Owning up to the error, apologizing for it, and doing what you can to rectify it will leave a positive mark for the customer. I will say that given the entitled mindset of a huge segment of the population, some people will never be satisfied because their tush wasn't kissed enough. But if there is an opportunity to make a positive impression, do everything possible to avoid warranting a call to corporate to have me vent about the poor service. I've been on the receiving end of those kinds of complaints and they are no fun. It's not cool to have to apologize for the errors other people make. And when you have to complain about someone else, be as kind as possible to the person tasked with taking your complaint. How you lodge it could have an impact in the resolution you get from them. They're trying to make it right with you, they don't deserve being abused for the screw-up someone else caused. They are taking the opportunity the first person didn't take.

Monday, February 2, 2015

My welcome? Wha?

When I re-start my search for a job, my resume will include "FIRM grasp of the English language and grammar, including appropriate punctuation, contractions, and spelling"
This is just one of the bazillion I've seen already in the course of dealing with the people tasked with the administrative segment of dad's care.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Birthday gifts

It's been a while since I posted anything, which is not uncommon for me to do around here. Like a lot of people, I thrive on the instantaneous potential for feedback over on crackbook. As those folks over there know, I've recently been tasked with my father's care. He had a stroke, or multiple strokes, over the Christmas holidays. It is coming to light exactly the small missteps others made that led us to where we are today. It has only been a week, and like God tells us, "we know not the hour" of the culmination of this leg of the journey. I have high hopes to tolerate it for the long haul, with the rocky crags, the beautiful sunrises, the smooth terrain, and the potholes along the way.

As my readers know, I couch virtually everything in humor, whether it's truly an amusing situation, a heart rending one, or something that has drawn my ire. My father has a certain wit about him, and he instilled it in me. He is also the genetic source of my debaucherous side. He also taught us many other lessons. He is a living message of "preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary." He has always given his time and talent where he could. He has served as church sexton, usher at Mass, and bread slinger at a food mission. The bosses at the bread mission expressed concern over a man of a certain age who was heaving stacks of full bread trays, 5 at a time. My father quite handily put their concerns aside with his feisty wit and determination, outslinging "the young bucks"  as he calls them, and finishing the prep work for his station in less time than it took for the younger volunteers to even get their product to their stations.  Telling him no means he is even more determined to prove the naysayer wrong.

And this stroke has slapped him with a big fat NO. No, sir, you can't drive anymore, because you are blind in the right half of both eyes (hemianopsia). No sir, you can't be alone anymore because not only can you not see half your world, but you will now start seeing things nobody else can, your depth perception is skewed, and your idea of slow is still too fast for your safety. No, sir, your dementia has been made worse by the stroke, and life as we know it has changed. No, sir, you must use that walker because the vision loss is going to affect your balance. No, sir, it is no longer your time to give and do for others, but it is your time to receive. And he quite simply does not know how to sit back and accept others serving him.

For a man who has always given, always done for himself and others, this is a huge blow. It is a slow painful death to a man to not be needed. And as I just typed that, I realized that in my insistence on serving him, I have inadvertently caused him to not be needed. My oldest sister suggested I have him help with small tasks that he can do, like folding the baby's diapers for me. This is a lesson to me as well, because like my father, I have a need to do things for myself. I need to loosen the reins on the small tasks so I can focus on where my purpose currently lies. That purpose is to manage my father's care and keeping, that of my household, and to work on growing my business. And my other purpose is to serve as my dad's protector - from himself, the pitfalls of his environment, and people who would take advantage of him.

Dad has always taught us to never expect anything from anyone, but should someone give you something, you are to be damn grateful for it. It has a link to his upbringing during the 1930s, with parents who, to be polite, were difficult. For whatever reason, Dad feels unworthy. He's always felt that way, but it is truly showing itself as an impediment at the moment. He feels unworthy of being served in his old age. I know how that feels. It's exactly how I felt when I attended a retreat at church, and these women refused to let me lift a finger to do anything except tuck myself into bed, dress myself, and use the bathroom. To a mom who did so much for her family on a daily basis, it was truly FOREIGN to have someone else take care of her. Right now, I've been speaking a horrible foreign language to Dad, and he can't translate.

So, here's this aged man, who has been forced out of his world, and into ours. His presence in our home was my birthday present. He was discharged from the rehab hospital the day after my birthday. I was joking the week prior, and still do, "Happy Birthday! Here's the care and keeping of your father!" It's a very important task, and it's not rainbows and sparkly fairy unicorn farts by any stretch of the imagination. But humor is how I handle things. Despite the snark of the outward appearance of that statement, I am finally getting the opportunity to see a part of my father he hid from the world. His vulnerability calls for my strengths to be put into action. The life experiences I've collected along the way with Devildog have been training grounds for this stretch of the journey.

Having a dad who was 49 when I was born, I always had an appreciation and respect for the elderly. They've been there, done that, got a thousand t-shirts to show for it. Just this week alone, I have seen beautiful things about him, about my oldest sister, and about my husband and children. And that is a gift that can't be taken lightly.