Love is letting them have the last cookie.

So, there have been 4 times my son has said things to me that have literally gobsmacked me…made my jaw drop and my eyes bug out. Did I get over it? Of course. Do I still bring these up to him around holidays when he’s shopping for my gift? Of course. 😐

The first time was when he was 18 and while I was walking out the door to get to school, he said this: “Ma, so and so moved to an apartment and needs help with the rent. I want to move in with him.” I said, quite reasonably I might add: “Over my dead body. We’ll discuss it when I get home.”

I got home and he was packed, the living room was full of his stuff, and 2 guys were loading up their van. I said: “O. What in hell are you doing?” He said: “Ma, I told you I was moving out.” I replied: “NO you didn’t! You told me that some boob I’ve never heard mention of before couldn’t pay their freakin’ rent so you were ‘wanting’ to move in with him. I said we’d discuss it.” His response? “Ma, I talked to him about it.”

So, discussing this issue with ME…the person who raised him, loved him, nurtured him, paid for private school for him, and spent every waking minute of his 18 years adoring every bone in his body is NOT who he discussed this with. Instead, he listened to this guy who promised living with him would be nirvana. Blech.

Little did I know how insignificant this was until he popped over about a year later and said this: “Ma, I want to move to Texas for a promotion at Verizon.” I said: “Over my dead body. You are NOT moving 800 miles away from me. Period.” This was all said with as stern a look as I could muster as well as forcing a couple tears in my eyes which were hard to come by through my shock. His answer? “Ma, I’ve already accepted the job, rented an apartment, and am getting a U-Haul on Tuesday.”

WHAT? As much as I love my son, there are times I wonder if he understands the difference between asking and telling…between throwing an idea out there to discuss and having a solid plan with monetary investment. I said: “O, we need to DISCUSS this! This is a HUGE step! I won’t be there for you when you need me…it will take me a day to get to you!” His smile couldn’t be hid and I starting looking for condos on Zillow. Unfortunately, I was married at the time and didn’t think relocation would go over well. Fortunately, I taught over-load every semester so I could fly down and grace him with my presence every couple of months. I know how much he longed for these trips. 🙄

The factory in better days.

The third time I was stunned by another revelation of his was when we were driving on an overpass in our town and went by an abandoned furniture factory that looks like a strong wind could raze it. He said: “Me and G have climbed up that a few times and messed around on the roof.”

Heh?

Me: “You did WHAT?” (please say WHAT in the screechiest voice possible)

O: “We climbed to the roof and played around…you know, doing flips against some of the ventilation hoods, sitting on the edge, and poking around just to explore.”

Me: “How the hell did you ‘climb’?”

O: “Mother, we shimmied up drain pipes until we could find pieces of fire escapes that weren’t rusted through and then pulled ourselves up by ledges.”

Me: “Ok. Let me get this straight in my head: You and G climbed up a dilapidated, crumbling factory that was built during the time of Jesus and used pipes and rusty stairs as a means. Then, when those weren’t available because of 1000’s of years of corrosion, you used ledges like a mountain climber uses rocks.”

O: “Yes! That’s exactly it!”

Me: “I forbid you to ever ever ever ever do anything that stupid again. What the hell were you thinking?”

O: “We were just bored.”

After he shared this little tidbit with me and saw my conniption fit happen while I was driving 45 MPH in rain, he said he would never tell me anything else he did as a teenager. As much as I’m a believer in transparency, I said this was for the best. I preferred not to have a heart attack in my 40’s.

The last time (and I know this announcement won’t be the last, but as of now, it is) was just this past weekend where we had a conversation that went like this:

Me: “O, have you thought about ever getting engaged to K? The woman who you have been with for a few years now, have bought a home with, have adopted pets with, and who you can’t walk by without hugging/kissing/touching her while calling her baby, angel, and love to the point I think you’ve actually forgotten her name?”

O: “No.”

Me: “Why?”

O: “Ma, I don’t ‘believe’ in marriage.”

Me: “For fuck sakes, why?!”

O: “Ma, it’s antiquated and only a piece of paper…there’s no reason for marriage in our society anymore!”

AAAAGGGGGHHHHH! I hate it when people say ‘it’s only a piece of paper.’ Let me tell you, that ‘piece of paper’ is powerful!

In the U.S., there are 1,138 benefits that are granted to couples when they sign that paper. Examples are making medical decisions and being able to visit your spouse in the hospital (ICU, etc.) – God forbid that ever happens, sharing joint parenting rights, not having to testify against them (which in O’s case and his climbing predilection may be in his favor 🤨), etc. However, understanding my son as I do, as well as acknowledging the genes he inherited from his father, I know that hitting him in the wallet is much more appealing so I prattled on about income tax breaks, insurance benefits, spousal IRA’s, selling homes (in regard to capital gains), etc.

Now, this made him think a bit. Just a bit though. Then he said: “Ma. I am a wedding photographer and I’ve seen people that spent $30,000 on a wedding while demanding perfect pictures of their ‘forever’ day only to get divorced a year later.” OK. He has a point. A huge point. However, I see marriage and living together analogous to owning a house and renting an apartment. So I said:

Me: “O, in all of the apartments you’ve had over your many years of life (28), did you ever paint them, repair their plumbing, strip and re-varnish the cabinets, pay for new carpeting, shovel the walkway, mow, replace windows, or anything else that would fall under the heading of maintenance.”

O: “No, ma.”

Me: “Now that you’re in your house…your mortgaged home in which you have a long term financial stake (note: reasoning involving money seems to work best for him…), are you doing these things now?”

O: Rolling his eyes: “Yes, ma.”

The point I was making to his was this: renting and owning are 2 different things. Now, before you comment about how you are just as committed to a live-in as you would be a spouse, I don’t doubt it! I felt the same in relationships…totally! However, walking away from a live-in partner is easier than divorcing…and yes, I speak from experience. 😬

It’s kinda like when people say: “I love my dog/cat like I’d love a child.” OK. I’ve been there…done that. I LOVED my first little dog, Scooter, with all my heart…as I have every other furry sweetie in my life. {In fact, it’s been 9 months since Dottie died and I can’t go a day without crying. I miss that little shit so much.} However, after I had my son, I realized my love for pets and my love for kids is simply different (this may not be the case for everyone, it’s just my experience). The feeling I have for O is so much more ‘inside’ and that’s the only word I can think of. It’s so much more primal…emotional…deep. All animal species risk their lives for their kids…protect their kids to the bitter end. Channing Sargent writing for oneearth.org says this: “The fierce and protective maternal instinct in different species is at least equal to, and in some cases maybe even stronger, than ours. Biologically programmed to preserve their species by protecting and caring for their young, some species go to incredible lengths to do so…” Even wolf spiders will carry hundreds of their kids on their backs to protect them. Hmmm. Carrying O in a back pouch was difficult enough.

Would I do anything for O? In a freakin’ heartbeat. I can’t see myself in a situation where I wouldn’t run in front of a bullet or pin him down under me during a tornado. Not one. If you told me today: “Kristi, you have to die right now in order for your son to live, I’d say okey dokey.” If it were Edward or Mally? Honestly, I wouldn’t. Because I have O (and ma, pop, T, etc.) to live for. It’s as simple as that. Mom’s have been known to lift cars, walk into fires with no hesitation, jump into swirling water, and the list goes on. I’m not saying all people don’t love completely! Not at all! I’m just saying it’s a unique love with kids, whether they’re biological, step, adopted, nieces, nephews, or any kid you see as family. It’s just ‘more.’

Yes, divorces are easier to get nowadays and Lord knows I’ve had my share. But you’re always ‘connected’ in a way when you’ve been married…especially when you have kids. And even when you don’t, things pop up: when I applied for my passport this week, I had to list my last spouse and other married names I’ve had (thank the Lord I’ve kept mine for 30 years now…it would be too much to write out if I hadn’t). That’s why health forms ask if you’re married, widowed, divorced, or single…because it makes a difference in terms of stress and other potential physical and psychological issues.

So, O’s response to this ‘rant’? “Ma, you are just so old fashioned…you just don’t ‘get’ it.” And he’s right… because I am old and fashionable 😏.

I guess I do want O to be more traditional…more willing to commit to someone by declaring it publicly and having a legal ‘piece of paper’ to show that. But really, all I want is my baby to be happy…to live a healthy, content life…and to eventually, give me ‘something’ (I can no longer say the g_______ word…I’ve been forbidden) to hold and cuddle since all of the people I went to high school with have them. If does this without paper, I’ll love him and support him. If he gets married, I’ll love him and support him. And, I’ll be able to buy a rockin’ mother of the groom dress too. In fact, I’m gonna start looking now. 😉

Kristi xoxo

“I am thankful for laughter except when milk comes out my nose.” ~ Woody Allen

So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I have so much to be thankful for in my life. It’s also the season of buying gifts and I’ve been working my little fingers to the bone making stuff as well! However, my son has told me he doesn’t want another quilt from me even though he loves the ones I’ve made him over the years: it’s a storage issue and I understand!

Anyhoot, I was putting the idea of thankfulness and gifts together in my mind (🙄) and realized that the people and things I’m thankful for have given me lifelong gifts I cherish.

Ma has given me so much over the years that it’s hard to sort them all out. I think the biggest gift she’s given me is that of support. I actually call her my bra because no matter what, it’s there holding things up. Yes, sometimes there’s chafing, but that’s to be expected. If I said “Ma, I want to fly to the moon and plant a quilt I’ve made on a pole by the American flag” she would say “That’s a great idea…how can I help?” I’m not kidding…her support is unconditional and always there. I have taken that gift and tried to pay it forward with my son. When he wanted to quit his job at Verizon and start a photography business, he needed to live with me to save on bills in order to buy equipment he needed. I was happy to do this for him…even though there was some ‘chafing’ there too! He had lived on his own for a few years prior to this and for both of us to live together again was sometimes a challenge. (The best part was when he’d make me supper…he’s a great cook! The worst part was me seeing my basement full of dirty clothes…he’s not OCD’ish like I am 😐).

I also supported him in his move to Texas…just like ma supported me when O’s dad and I moved to Kansas for his job (O was born in Kansas). Ma visited a lot even though it was 8 hours away and we yacked everyday on the phone. Back then our phones were ‘on the wall’ so I’d sit with O sleeping in my arms while talking to her on her work line so I wouldn’t have a humungous long distance bill. Thank goodness for that…I don’t think B would have appreciated that.

My first visit to Texas!

I went to Texas as much as I could…at least every 12 weeks or so and I know O appreciated it (since I cleaned up the apartment and bought food) and I always loved seeing his face looking for me as I exited the airport! One day he came home and said that another guy was in the store that had moved and he hadn’t seen his parents for a couple of years. He told me how much he appreciated my effort in seeing him so much and that just made my heart sing.

And what has O taught me? Love. It’s that simple. Yes, I loved people very much before having him but the love of your child is just a another thing entirely. The minute he was put in my arms I thought: “I would kill for you, kid…I already adore you that much” and it grows everyday. Literally. It’s hard to explain how much space he takes up in my heart…but I know that no matter what ever happens in this world, the love I have for my boy lights me up from the inside out.

And my pop? He’s given me so much as well but a couple of things really stand out. First is the love of running he instilled in me. I began running in the 4th grade when pop started our local running club and have pretty much run since then. Pop has gone to EVERY single race I’ve ever run in…whether they are in town or miles away and whether they are a 5k or a marathon. I love running…it’s not a chore to me but a pleasure and I know that comes from him. When I train for marathons, pop rides his bike next to me and those are the best times I’ve spent with him. We talk and reminiscence and say things to each other we probably never would have in another situation.

But he also gave me the gift of being a good neighbor. Pop has always helped neighbors and made sure they are taken care of. He mows, scoops snow, helps unload trucks, takes food to those who can’t get out, and the list goes on. I’ve done the same in my neighborhood. I raked my leaves last Sunday and then raked 2 more neighbor’s yards. One of the old men came home while I was working on his lawn and asked why I was doing it (we’re friends…he was being sweet) since he was able too himself and I said this: “Norm, you are always helping out neighbors and I wanted you to do the same for you!” He was so thankful and it made me happy. I guess pop has shown me that helping and doing for others is a gift of enjoyment for yourself.

My sissy has given me so many gifts too but I think the most important one is that of being authentic. My sissy is who she is…she doesn’t wear masks and has the attitude of ‘take me or leave me’ like I am. I love this! She is so strong and when we were little, she was my protector. Every pic of us when we were kiddos shows her with her arm around me and even now she wants to look after me. For example, she has offered to punch various guys in the face and tell them exactly what she thinks of them…which I know would include some VERY colorful language! If I need to vent or cry or bitch or anything, she’s there to listen and do what she can for me.

Me, sissy and ma!

She also has the biggest heart…especially when it comes to kids. She adores kids and is Gramma T to the dozens that have come into her life. Kids adore her too and she knows how to spoil any kid rotten. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her this but I love this about her…it’s her ‘soft’ side and it’s a beautiful thing to see.

I’m really thankful for my pets too…Edward and Mally (they don’t mind me using their full names 😉). All of my pets, past and present, have taught me patience, joy, affection, loyalty, enthusiasm, and most importantly: unconditional love. It doesn’t matter if I’m down, grumpy, manic, sick, or stressed, I get snuggles, cuddles, wagging tails, licks and life is just better because of that. Wouldn’t it be nice if people could do the same (especially the licks 🤭)?

And my students? Wow. I’ve had thousands of students over the 25 years I’ve been teaching at my college and they have all had an impact on me. They have taught me strength, motivation, compassion, understanding, kindness and have given me the huge family I always wanted. They are the recipients of my passion and I’m the recipient of them…each individual ‘them’ that put just one more spark in my heart. They are the best.

I could add so many other people I’m thankful for like my extended family (my nieces and nephews rock), colleagues (especially you Grand Poobah, who can be quite the ass at times which means we get along great), neighbors, friends, and the list could go on and on.

But I’m also thankful for the things in my life that I tend to take for granted: my cozy house, my Jeep, my job, the fact I always have enough food and clean water, etc. How do you even begin to count all of these blessings?

Finally, I’m thankful to all of you, my sweetie readers! You’ve supported this blog for the last couple of years and I’ve made wonderful connections with you…as well as a super great friend (Hi Susan!). Writing is an outlet for me and for you to appreciate it makes it all the more special.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you…eat a lot of turkey, stuff yourself, fall asleep on the couch while you digest, and then wake up and have just one more piece of pie. K? 🦃

Kristi xoxo

“My mama told me…you’d better shop around.” ~ Captain and Tennille

From the Dallas Morning News

So, when I go to the great heavenly crafting area in the sky, I’m hoping my last conscious act will be buying something at IKEA. Preferably, I’ll be buying yet another organizing system while shoving Swedish meatballs down my gullet. Awwww…what more could I want? Well…that my son and my 15 grandbabies are there with me…but…that may be too much to ask. 🙄

Anyhoot, I had never heard of IKEA (except in a King of Queens episode and I didn’t understand the reference) until Oliver moved to Texas and we went to one in Dallas. Before we left he said: “Ma. This is a really cool store and we will be there most of the day. Be sure to pee before we leave and have an appetite.” I said: “Oliver. We won’t be there most of the day because you are not a ‘browser’. I always have an appetite and the next time you tell me to pee as if I’m an elderly aunt, I’ll ‘forget’ all about your next birthday. Kapeesh?” So I peed, had an appetite and made sure my debit card was handy.

Everywhere you drive in Texas takes forever since it’s so freaking big (I LOVE Texas…I’d live there in a heartbeat! 🤠) but I knew we were getting close when the hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle and the smell of furniture was in the air. We found a parking spot so far away that we could barely see the store on the horizon, but after a nice trek over the macadam, we entered the doors.

My IKEA living room!

My first thought was “What the hell? This sucks balls. It’s a concrete warehouse.” I rolled my eyes at Oliver and he pointed to the escalator. We got off and I swear I heard some angels singing while I took in the sights: furniture, dishes, lights, full decorated rooms, linens, rugs…it was like every single store I had ever dreamed about was rolled into 1. I had found my utopia.

I started, manically I might add 🙄, running around and exclaiming over everything with glee. Oliver reigned me in (which is never an easy thing to do) and said: “Ma. You have to follow the arrows. We walk through the entire thing.” WHAT? OMG! Not only did this store have everything my little heart desired in life, but directions? That was super fine for my OCD tendencies. Could it get any better? 🤔

Yes, it could. We started in living rooms and I took pics of EVERY single one (to Oliver’s obvious embarrassment 😐) exclaiming in my LOUD professor-teaching voice: “I want my house to look just like this!” If I had my way, my dream home would consist of a humongous structure that had as many living rooms, kitchens, and offices as IKEA does. I’ve already started saving.

Plants at IKEA? Yes!

I was amazed by all the colors and design ideas and funky looks but said to Oliver: “But what can you buy?” Dumfounded he said: “Ma. You can buy everything. Just don’t go overboard like you usually do.” Apparently my eyes rolled back in my head and I started having heart palpitations…I was able to squeak out “GET A CART” before I had to lean against a wall and catch my breath. It was a moment of pure elation.

Now, for those of you who may not know, IKEA is a Swedish company and all of their products are priced low but are quite chic. For example, my sofa cost $1300 at a furniture store in town…I could have bought one at IKEA for a couple hundred. And, believe it or not, the quality is really good for the price. They specialize in affordable products that are decorative and sturdy. And yes, that’s all well and good. But I’m going for looks, peeps! And they got ’em.

Our First Trip!

So I began pushing my cart around the maze of rooms and started coming across the bins of items and tags you snap a pic of to pick up later. Within 5 minutes, the cart was full and Oliver was saying: “Ma. You flew here. What the hell?” And I said: “Oliver. I’m your mother. Hush it up. I’ll figure it out.” Which, by the way, I did. Sort of. Oliver had to ‘store’ some of my things for future trips when I only packed a few pairs of undies and 1 extra shirt so my suitcase was empty for more goodies to lug home.

After we shopped for about 4 hours, I was exhausted…both mentally and physically and Oliver told me I just had to eat IKEA’s famous meatballs. Sure! So, we chowed down on a couple plates of meatballs and I told myself I will never eat another type of meatball in all my life. And actually, that ended up being a lie. Not 2 days later I was gorging on Olive Garden’s spaghetti and meatballs, but that doesn’t really count. Different countries…different balls. 😉

Anyhoot, the other day, Oliver, his girlfriend (K) and I went to the IKEA in St. Louis to get some things for their new house. I sternly told myself: “Kristi, this trip is for Oliver and K. Not you. You don’t need to buy anything…you have enough ‘stuff’. Focus on your son and save your money.” So, I ended up only spending around $700. I was quite proud of my restraint. However, Oliver and K bought about the same amount of stuff too…and as stoked as were were about our finds, we started to worry as we pushed out a furniture cart, 2 regular carts, all while carrying 3 huge IKEA bags to the loading zone. We drove my Jeep Renegade and it’s not a huge SUV. In fact, it’s a bit small. But my son is a complete rock star…he was able to get everything packed in with ‘justenoughroom’ for the 3 of us. You couldn’t have added a pack of gum to the Jeep…it was that tight.

Oliver and K trying to figure out how to load the Jeep!

My big find was a cabinet I’ve been wanting that I saw people on Pinterest using for plants. I got it put together and ta-da…I loved it…but a bit too much. The next day, I ‘had’ to drive all the way back down to St. Louis (5 hours round-trip 😳) just to buy another one. That’s all I wanted and all I ‘basically’ got. Well…I did buy some artwork. And storage bins. And towels. And plants. And a couple cute garbage cans. But that was all. I ate my meatballs and headed home.

When ma visited Texas with me, we took her and she had the same reaction…she was gobsmacked. It was so much fun showing her around and seeing her get excited about $.99 potholders. Sissy, ma and I are going down for a girls day this summer, and I have a feeling we’ll buy out most of the store. I can’t wait.

Anyhoot, now you know why I want IKEA as a final resting place. It’s always fun…there’s so much to see…there’s so much to buy…there’s so much to eat…and for a manic gal like me, the space, colors, and ideas satisfy my need for stimulation. Win win. So…if you ever come to IL, look me up and I’ll take you down there. Not for me, mind you…but for you. I won’t buy a thing. Except maybe another cabinet. And a new rug. And maybe a few knick-knacks. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Kristi xoxo

He’s Not Heavy. He’s My Son.

So, my son has been living with me for about a year and half (or if you ask him, it’s been forever) in order to save up money and invest it in the equipment needed for his professional photography business.  Now that he’s on track, he’s going to be moving out this week for his own place, and I’m feeling such mixed emotions about it.

O was always my little buddy and we did so much together when he was a kid.  I had summers off, and we always swam, fished, rode bikes, played basketball, and went to the library, children’s museum, and zoo.

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O always had his buddy Barney with him.

During the school year, I was always room mom, and since I taught at the college level and could pretty much make my own schedule, I always was able to get him off to school in the morning and be there when he got home.  It was a perfect set-up.  As room mom, I was known far and wide (in a small school) as the “Goodie Bag Queen”, a title that had no sash, but a lot of respect to those under 4 foot tall.

When O was in Kindergarten, I subbed one day and O couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.  While the other kids were calling me “Mrs. Palmer”, O would say “MOM” very LOUDLY just so everyone would know he was the teacher’s pet!  Years later, when I volunteered as ‘lunch lady’, the most God awful job one can have for the Jr. High crowd, I came in the first day and my precious son said this:  “Look everyone…it’s the friendly neighborhood volun-turd.”  So, I responded:  “Look everyone…it’s the kid that won’t get any Christmas presents this year.”  ‘Nuff said.

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O in Kindergarten…My little Harry Potter!

During the summer when O was going to be a 5th grader, he had worked his way up by having short sleepovers at a local Christian camp, and was ready to spend 5 days there…overnight!  I was a nervous wreck, but his dad most lovingly said, “Get over it.  We’ve paid the fee.”  Quite comforting.  Anyhoot, we arrived, got him settled in,  and after a sobbing goodbye (on my part), drove away.

The next morning, as I was in the process of painting his room to surprise him when he got home in 5 days, the phone rang and it was O, telling me he threw up and needed to come home.  I threw down the paintbrushes, grabbed a bucket, and was on my way…speeding the entire 20 miles along country roads.  He was quite subdued when I picked him up and held the bucket, but didn’t make a peep.  We got home and I plopped him in my bed since his room was torn up.  About an hour later, he came plodding out and said, “Mom?  I LIED TO YOU!”  I asked him what he lied about, and he said, “I wasn’t sick and didn’t throw up…I just wanted to be home with you!”  I told him I was glad he lied in this case, because that was all I wanted too.

Fast forward to when he turned 18.  (Actually, most of his adolescence is a blur…a defense mechanism that serves me well).  One morning before I left for classes, he told me a buddy of his had an apartment and needed a roommate.  I told him I would think about it and we’d have a nice long chat that evening.  When I got home at 1:00 (a mere 4 hours later), he was packed up, guys were carrying boxes out of my house, and O said he took the offer.  Great chat.

o and mom
O in High School before a Prom.

After a variety of jobs, O started working for Verizon and when he was 21, told me he had taken a transfer position in Fort Worth…about 780 miles from home.  I was gobsmacked.  How could I be that far away from him?  What if he got sick?  Hurt?  In an accident?  (I’m a very optimistic person).  But, we got him moved down there and I stayed with him for a couple of weeks to help get his apartment fixed up.  When it was time for me to fly home, O drove me to the airport, but dropped me off at the QUICK drop off where they rush you while yelling the entire time.  He hugged me and said he would call me that night, and I trudged into the airport.  I was at the TSA desk where you show your ID and boarding pass and this adorable Texan gal said, in the greatest southern drawl ever:  “Did y’all have a good time in Texas??”  I started bawling.  Wailing might actually be a better word.  She said, “OH MY!” and proceeded to help me through the line as if I was an invalid on my last leg.

And then he was back 3 years later.

Believe me, it has not been all sunshine and rainbows living in the same house together.  It was hard on him to have to move back to a place where he felt like a kid again, and not the independent self he was used to being, and it was hard on me not to turn him back into my ‘kid’.  Plus, he’s messy…I’m tidy.  He’s quiet…I’m loud.  He’s calm…I’m emotional.  He’s a procrastinator…I’m a doer.  We’ve had a couple of arguments, but really, this time has gone quite well, despite the fact that the one trait we do have in common is stubbornness.

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O and I in Texas…I’m getting ready to leave him for the first time there…hence, my VERY forced smile.

I’m excited for him to be on his own again because I know that’s what he wants.  I’m also  so proud of him for building a business in a couple of years that’s already sustaining itself.  His work is amazing.  Plus, he’s only going to be 2 miles away, and I run by his apartment complex almost daily.  He’s still going to be around a lot since my garage is storing his vintage car and Harley, plus, his darkroom will probably stay in my basement.  He knows this is always going to be his home and he’ll never be without a key.

But, I’m going to miss him.  In so many ways, he’s my crutch.  The person I can talk to about everyday things.  The noise in the house.  The shoes on the floor.  He’s the one that can see my moods and ask me how I’m doing.  He’s the one I get a hug from  The one who made me not wake up alone on Christmas.  The one who’d watch a movie with me when his girlfriend worked late.  The one who made me amazing dinners and ‘plated’ them so beautifully.  The one who made me laugh again after J left me.  The one that understood how broken my heart was and encouraged me to do things.

I’m not afraid to be alone in the sense of not being able to take of myself.  Nope.  I’ve been working non-stop since I was 16 and everything I have, I bought myself.  I’ve always done everything around the house anyway, and have lots of interests to keep me ‘busy’.  But I think that’s what bothers me the most…the word busy.  It’s like kids’ worksheets in elementary school.  When I was teaching 5th grade, I once had a parent tell me I should give homework.  When I asked her why, she said, “Because that’s just what teachers do.”  I told her I didn’t believe in busy work for the sake of busy work.  After all, once you learn 2 + 2 = 4, you really don’t need to write it out another 100 times (plus, if you forget, for fuck sakes use your fingers). But, if the student actually needed more help on something with additional work, then that was another thing.  She looked at me like I was nuts.  (Hmmm…)

I don’t want the rest of my life to be ‘busy work’.  I don’t want to just fill up my days so I can go to bed and have another day to face again.  I don’t want to look out my window in the afternoon and say ‘What now?’  Instead, I want someone to go down this new path with me.  To be my confidant.  My partner.  My sounding board.  My comfort.  And I want to do the same for them.  I’m one of these people who need to be needed…if that makes any sense.

Maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself…but hey, I’m a sensitive, feeling bipolar (had to throw that in there, in case you forgot or something) so what do you expect?  I know I’ll be fine.  I know Eddie and Dottie and I will have good days and not so good days.  I know I’ll continue loving my teaching, spending time with O, ma, and sis, doing my art, reading my books, working in my yard, running and all, but I guess I just want to add someone to the mix to enjoy it all with me.

Kristi xoxo

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“Great Gobs of Goose Shit” (Clay – City Slickers)

So, I love to go back and watch older movies and one of my favorites is “City Slickers.”  If you’re not familiar with it (because of being much younger than me…sigh…) it’s about 3 guys who take a trip to a ranch where they learn to round and drive cattle while working through the various issues in their lives.

City-Slickers
City Slickers – 1991

Anyhoot, in one scene (my fave), the men share what their all time worse day was and all time best day was.  It’s always made me think about what I would have chosen, and I finally have an answer…at least up to this point in my life.  After all, our best and worst days can change, can’t they?

Of course my all time best day was the day my son was born…that’s a given.  My all time worse day was when my nephew died on the USS McCain.  Both of those are above and beyond anything else, so I’m going to talk about 2 other times in my life.

Let’s start with worse day(s)…so we can finish on the positive (that’ll be a switch…huh?).  When my son was a sophomore in high school, he started having stomach problems.  His dad has always had them, and O was tested for IBS, Crohns disease, food allergies, etc.  Those tests all came up negative, and then we started thinking that maybe it was psychosomatic.  The divorce from his dad was still pretty fresh and because O is very much the type of guy to push feelings down, this seemed to be a possibility.  That was pretty much ruled out too.  Finally, the specialist told his dad and I that he needed to biopsy lymph nodes in his abdominal area (they seemed to be swollen) because there was a possibility that O could have Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

The minute I heard those words, my world completely shifted.  It’s hard to explain, but before even knowing whether he had it or not, all of a sudden I realized that something horrible could befall my son without me being able to just fix it with a smooch or band-aid.

O was admitted to the hospital and had his biopsy, then spent the night for observation.  After the biopsy was done, I asked the doctor this:  “Would you be worried if this was your son?”  He said:  “Yes.”  OOOKKKAAAYYY…thanks for the reassurance, doc.  O told me and his dad that he would be fine spending the night alone…he was 15 after all!  I went home, which is just a couple tenths of a mile from the hospital…I can see it from my back windows, but couldn’t sleep.  I went back to his room and slept in a chair just so I could be with him.  The next day, we got him showered and he came home.  Then, the waiting game started.  His doc said it would be about 72 hours before we knew anything conclusively.

I gotta tell you, this started the longest 72 hours of my life.  My ma and I weren’t talking:  I couldn’t take her husband anymore and she wouldn’t be around me without him because she knew what the consequence of leaving him out would be.  So, it was pretty much just me, my hubby, and his dad.  Even though hubby tried to comfort us, he still wasn’t as invested as O’s dad, and so he and I talked a lot during this time.  It was our son, and we were the only ones who could really relate.

Obviously, O was aware of what was happening and tried to be brave, until that first night at home when he called me into his room and asked me to read some of his old books to him like I used to when he was a little guy.  I got a few of his faves out, and in a choked voice started reading.  It was so hard to do, but I wanted to reign in anything I was feeling and do what he needed me to do.  We trudged through every day, trying not to think the worse, and even though hubby kept telling me to be positive, your mind can’t help seeing the darkness.

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My awesome son!

Finally, we got the call that O was OK.  He didn’t have leukemia.  He was battling some kind of bacterial infection in his stomach that made his lymph nodes swell.  I can’t even begin to express the relief I felt.  I truly couldn’t see myself living in a world without him, and to think of such a talented, sensitive, genuine boy to not have his whole life ahead of him was too much to bear.  Going through something like this with your kid makes you realize the gift they are.  How they are so much a part of you that you can’t really see them any other way but connected to you.  How they are so inextricably tied to your heart that they have become the biggest piece of it.  No matter how much I knew I was blessed with O before this, I’ve never forgotten how incredibly lucky I am to have O in my life.  Truly.

Now, my best day?  Easy.  Y’all know I had a breakdown around 2 and a half years ago, and I hit rock bottom.  We don’t need to yack about all that contributed to this, but it was a combination of so many things that I simply couldn’t handle my life anymore.  I have to admit something horrible though:  prior to this, I really didn’t think ‘nervous breakdowns’ happened.  I thought that was a histrionic term for “I can’t handle things anymore so I’m labeling it as such.” What a stupid asshole I was.

The break was a few weeks coming as situations kept piling up.  And then POW;  I found myself broken with absolutely no ability to care for myself.  I would cry for hours at a stretch and was incapable of eating, showering, dressing, or doing anything in terms of self-care.  Just getting out of bed was a major feat, and the cry of my dogs needing to pee is the only reason why I had too.  I couldn’t think straight at all…it’s like my mind got so jumbled up nothing made sense.  I’d hear my doctor, my counselor and my mom talking, but I was in a dark tunnel where their ‘words’ registered, but not their ‘meaning.’  I was living alone and getting through an hour by myself was hell.  This is when I started cutting, badly, and also when I attempted suicide.  I truly didn’t want to live (which is so hard to recall now) and I kept sobbing to my mom that all I wanted was to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven.  And I meant it.  It wasn’t a metaphor, it was a truth.

The tunnel I found myself in was dark as hell, and I was petrified to even try to crawl out because that meant facing some of the demons that were challenging me.  But I had too.  It was slow going…two steps forward…one step back.  It took weeks, but I managed, with the help of those around me, to do it.  Like the breakdown, it was a process.  But light started shining again.

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I have this on my bedroom mirror to remind myself every morning that there’s always reason for me to smile.

This pic of me and Edward is so important for a couple of reasons.  First, my son was visiting me from Texas where he was living at the time, and took this pic.  He knew what was going on with me to a degree, but until he was here, he didn’t realize how bad I was.  This particular afternoon, since I was getting better, he talked me into taking Ed to the dog park.  He snapped this pic of me smiling.  The first smile I had smiled in a couple of months.  Having my son with me gave me so much more motivation to keep pulling myself out, because I could see the pain I was causing him.  I realized I couldn’t hurt myself…couldn’t kill myself…because it would kill him.  He made me remember that I was needed.  Wanted.  Loved.  And that day in the park was my best day:  I smiled.  I knew I was going to be OK.  I knew I was going to fight this.  I knew I had people here on earth I needed to be with.  I knew there was an end to this pain.

Isn’t it something how our own worst times can lead to our best days?  And how the worst times in our kids/loved ones lives can give us the understanding just how precious life is?  Just how much we need to enjoy each and every day we’re given?

In the movie, as 2 of the men are talking about their worst days and their best days, they use the same day for both.  I guess I could too.  Both of these times for me were horrific.  O’s the worse…my son is everything to me.  But I guess in retrospect, they were my best times too.  Each made me realize how blessed I am.  How lucky I am.

It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?  I hope I never do.

Kristi xoxo

 

 

 

Living with Me.

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So, my son lives with now.  He’s 26 years old and is a professional photographer (who, by the way, is freaking amazing!) and needs to put his money into his equipment which means living on his own isn’t possible right now.  Previously, he lived in Texas for 3 years, and even though I went down to see him a few times a year, it wasn’t the same as having him close by.  Having him here right now is special to me…it’s like we’re catching up on lost time.

But.  And there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there?  We are 2 adults, with very different personalities, who are sharing a house, kitchen, shower, food, etc. and there’s bound to be difficulties.

I know I’m not easy to live with.  Sometimes I hate living with myself!  Having bipolar means I’m very unpredictable.  I don’t care how ‘stable’ one is with this illness, there is still ups and downs, and I’m sure it’s very hard for my son to know what ‘ma’ he’s dealing with day to day.  There are days I’m laughing.  There are days I’m crying.  There are days when I’m so tired or crazed or impulsive that figuring me out is probably next to impossible.  I get that.  I really do.  And I admire him for being able to adapt to what woman I happen to be that day.

Yet sometimes my son isn’t easy to live with either.  He’s a 26 year old young man, who has lived on his own since he was 18.  He’s used to his independence and being able to have his home his particular way.  He’s also starting a business that requires so much marketing, web site work, along with mastering the use lighting, film development, and editing.  In addition to all of this, he’s scared.  Scared of taking this chance and making this work.  So much is riding on making this business a success.

I’m so proud of him for doing this though!  Taking this risk and putting everything he has in it – money, time, energy – is stressful, and I tend to forget that.  I forget that this stress affects him, which can make his mood unpredictable as well.  Like me, he has great days when things seem to be in place, and hard days when he questions his work and wonders if he’s made the right decision.

Together, we can be awesome!  There’s no one I’d rather spend time with and his sense of humor, his ideas, the way we can joke about things is so fun!  On the flip side though, we can also be volatile!  Two different adults, with different ways of communicating, different ways of dealing with conflict, different ways of seeing the world.  When this happens, there are hurtful words exchanged with feelings damaged and tears flowing.

But you know.  That’s OK.  We can’t grow as adults without resolving these issues.  Without using conflict as a way to move forward in our relationship as grown ups.  With our contrasting personalities, and my mental illness, conflict is inevitable.  But it doesn’t have to pull us apart.  Conflict can aid in more understanding of one another, more compassion towards one another’s needs, more depth in our connection.  Something I think we both want.  And need.

All I know is this:  my son is my heart.  Truly.  Having this time with him, watching him build something that’s uniquely his using a talent I could see in him when he was only a few years old, and experiencing his growth as a man is worth any arguments we might encounter along the way.

Kristi xoxo

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