Everything is Perfect (Part 2)

A little bit ago, I wrote about how everything happens in its perfect time. I like to remind myself of this when things don’t seem to be going particularly perfect.

For example, an inflamed temper tantrum (don’t you ever just want to throw something?) over something that wasn’t really a big deal, has me writing on my son’s computer. My computer, currently, will not turn on.

My husband asked if money were no object, what would I want. I want my computer to work again, that’s what I want. I then started dreaming of a desktop computer. Something permanent, maybe I do most of my work there. Right now, I do my work on my (sorry now my son’s) laptop. When we chose to buy me a new computer, there was enough in the budget for ONE, not two, so we bought one. I picked out the model that was the easiest to open and repair, that had all the ports I like to use, that still had the CD ROM drive because we haven’t completely let go of that technology, and the fastest processor I could put in it. And, it has served me well for 2.5 years. And, then there was the unfortunate liquid incident last Friday that now has my computer rendered useless.

Funny story, husband thought that this particular model wasn’t as easy to repair as it might be. So, we had a friend swap the hard drive for son’s computer before our vacation. His money and fix-it values prevent him from willingly giving money to “contractors” (I don’t care if they are pouring cement, fixing a car, or fixing a computer, they are all contractors of a sort). But, we did take my machine to the contractors to fix. And, now, because of the ill-timed tantrum, he is getting really acquainted with my machine.

It went like this. The unfortunate incident happened. I grabbed my computer, mopped up as much coffee as I could, and I worked quickly to shut down the computer, correctly. I changed me, which also got soaked, and then I went back to my computer and tipped it over on end, and more coffee leaked out. I put towels underneath, and I walked away.

Then, I called Apple Care and confessed the liquid damage. No, it is not covered under your basic Apple Care (the new Apple Care + has a clause for liquid, though). (“What did I pay for?” I consider.)

Husband got the machine, and he opened it. He worked to rinse the interior of the machine with isopropyl alcohol and then blew it out with an air compressor. He has since read that sucking liquid out is the optimal choice. After about two hours, we plugged in the machine, and it turned on. The keyboard did not work, so we grabbed a spare keyboard and plugged it in. The trackpad worked, the keyboard did not. No key worked. The spare keyboard did work, so I logged in, and I began updating where I had left off. If that worked, I would take computer upstairs and back up data before resuming. I walked away again because I am a mother and despite my grief over my non-working computer, dinner still had to be made.

About 30 minutes later, we both looked back at the computer and it was off. No one turned it off. It was in the middle of an update. So, the next day, after some morning appointments, we took it to the Genius Bar. I chose not to make an appointment, as the earliest available was days away. We were able to divert the “pre-launch” line and enter the store. My no appointment showing up got me served in less than five minutes. The sorry news was that because it was liquid damage, that I yet again confessed, to the ire of the husband, we were looking at the low price of $755 to send off and repair. No computer was opened to verify if and where damage was. My verbal, “it won’t turn on,” was the only thing taken as proof, perhaps aside from the Apple Care call of the previous day.

We left and went to the Simply Mac store. I had called the day before and they assured because I had Apple Care, the $70 diagnostic fee would be waived. (The next day, they called, and the said it was the logic board. After reminding him that it was liquid damage that brought us in, he came up with about a $650 repair cost. Our research yields that a used or refurbished machine of the same or similar specs is about $800, online or at the Simply Mac store. )

So, off to Free Geek we went to continue the exploration. Times have changed, and the Apple is much more popular than when Free Geek rooted its humble beginnings. There were at least 5 iMac’s on display, with prices, gauging their value between $250-$400 (for the 21.5″ machines I was interested in).

And, I remind myself that everything is in its perfect time. I love my 2012 top case and subsequent keyboard. The typing is softer and more accurate. I cannot even count the errors I am making on this machine that can’t quite keep up with my speed.

Monday, I collect my computer. We would rather buy a “parts” computer than giving someone $800. This is our choice. And, I solemnly leave my computer in its case. What’s there to protect now? Husband gets a hold of it. Simply Mac could not even turn the computer on because they assumed the logic board had died. Husband plugs in the computer, and it powers on.

We question yet again what service these technicians have given us and how complete their tests really are. The computer does not shut down this time, but the keyboard still does not work. I back up everything and transfer current working files. Pictures have to stay where they are for now. We restarted the machine a few times, and it powered back on just fine. I updated everything. And, then, after all that was done, I decided to turn it off. And, it did not turn back on. So, I sit here still with my son’s computer. He shouldn’t use it during the week anyway (in fact we have rules about this). And, I remind myself, it’s only a thing, it doesn’t really matter in the long run, and everything happens in its perfect time.

10 Years – a Quiet Reflection

My son’s age is a constant reminder of how long I’ve been without my sister, Cristi. This year, he turned ten. This year is the tenth year of her not being here. This day is the tenth year of her not being there, though we found out ten years ago tomorrow.

Every time I think about this, I think about an image of a 29-year-old woman on the brink of blowing up her career (for good), touching all the lives of the students she worked with, and the laughter she brought to my family. Forever frozen in time, and now we only have her memory to hang on to.

We are back, traveling again, celebrating family, sites, and death. Two of the deaths we are going to celebrate are the lives of my grandparents, my maternal grandmother, and grandfather. We will have a memorial around the family farm, celebrating their lives, their legacy. At the same time, our immediate family will hold tight to the memory of our sister, daughter, friend, who died ten years ago, much too soon.

In the midst of this intimate memorial will be nearly 4 generations of people. People who wouldn’t be here or have come together without my grandparents. And, then, of course, there will be the people who couldn’t make it. Maybe it was money or time, or in the case of Cristi, maybe it was because a life was taken too soon. We will celebrate. We may cry. We will share stories. We will laugh.

Then, we will depart and go back to our regularly scheduled lives. Some of our travels will take us to exciting new adventures. Some of our adventures will take us to the normal routines of daily life. Wake up, go to work, go to school, get dressed, eat a meal. We go on living while the dead do what dead people do according to your respective beliefs.

I was raised in the Catholic church. My husband and I are raising our son with Christian (Protestant) – Catholic views. Yet, I hope for an afterlife that is kinder and more loving than that which these religions preach. I dream of an afterlife where our loved ones are walking with us, guiding us, our guardian angels. I dream of an afterlife where we’ve made pacts with each other, and we are each others soul mates. Where we are learning some spiritual lesson, every day, and we have the support of those around us. There is no accident when it comes to where we are.

In this moment, I am writing this at a yummy café near where my mother’s new job is. Near where high school friends are employed and helped me with certain esthetician tasks. Near where I’m meeting another old friend for lunch. Near where I’ll meet up with my family at a beloved fabric store (that happens to be having a tent sale today). None of these things happened the way I envisioned. And, it’s all working out perfectly. I will take this sign on this tenth anniversary of my sister’s death that no matter the heartache we’ve had or is to come, everything is unfolding as it should.

I’m not sorry

This is home. My grandparents picked up this property around 1961. 80 acres on one side of the highway, 80 acres on the other. This is what my first idea of a “hobby farm” looked like.

I love, so much, the outpouring of support, love, prayers, and friendly thoughts to me and my family in this time of grieving. The kindness in the thought expressed, “I’m sorry,” means a lot. But, I need to acknowledge that I am not sorry.

I was sorry when Cristi died. Hers was a life cut too short, unfinished. She was my sister, and I felt robbed that we didn’t get a chance to adult together. I was very sorry when she died. And, I really appreciated the sentiment expressed, then. No one really knows what to say in times of such a tragic situation.

I found the words, “I’m sorry,” were the best choice for others also experiencing grief. “I am sorry that this thing is happening that is causing pain.” But, pain is life. Life is full of promise, joy, pain, happiness, tears of sadness and gladness. So, in a sense, I am far form sorry that you are experiencing that we are experiencing this human existence to its fullest. I am glad that we have the opportunity to feel sadness and grief over a life no longer with us, immediately right now.

How lucky am I that, in this immediate instance, I have a grandfather that lived to be 93 years old. Though he wasn’t always lucid the last ten years of his life, by all accounts he lived a full life. He married his high school sweet heart, he served his country, he raised a large, boisterous family. He provided for his needs, his children’s needs to the best of his abilities, and supported the next generation. I am so happy that I get to call him my grandfather, and I am so happy that he had this rich story cultivated around his values and his expression of life.

I am not sorry he died. I am not sorry he lived. I am not sorry for his story, as it was a glorious one.

In reflection, there are a few things I am sorry for. I am sorry that Alzheimer’s consumed his existence these last ten years. I am sorry that dementia made him into a man I didn’t recognize. I am sorry that old age brought bloating and other ill-health side affects that mostly made him unrecognizable. I am sorry that the last time I saw him, five short minutes, was largely spent with him sleeping.

But, I am not sorry I did get to see him in his end of life. I am not sorry for that last hug. I am not sorry that his life helped me reshape what I think about aging and the aging process. Like leaves that wither and die in the fall, all life has a season, and I truly believed my grandfather and grandmother lived their season to their fullest. I am not sorry I got to witness so much of their life.

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for continuing to show me what love and life can look like, even past your end of days.

In memory of…

I took this picture September 2004. I came over, from Oregon, a long weekend to celebrate (surprise!) Grandpa’s 80th birthday. The cool, beautiful September, with the crisp temperature and changing colors. This is how I will remember my grandparents.

It’s Thursday. It started out as a normal Thursday. But, now, it will forever be known as the day my grandfather died. He was 92.

He lived a long life. He met his sweetheart in 7th or 8th grade, and they courted through high school. He served as a nurse, stationed in Germany, during World War II. We didn’t call it PTSD back then, but I was instructed never to ask about the war (to any of my grandparents), rather to listen kindly if they shared stories. Grandpa Woodaz didn’t share any stories.

Uncles talking, about what? Does it matter? This is a common occurrence. Groups of men gabbing, outside, on the farm.

Growing up, I thought of him as fierce. Like my grandmother, he was always there. We spent a lot of time on the farm when living in the UP, where I was born. One entire summer, we lived with my grandparents. I remember being told our car needed to be fixed.

We would wake up and go to bed with the rest of the farm, which included my grandparents and my uncle. He was the youngest and finishing high school. Together, they had ten children, never loosing any, within an almost 30 year span. That uncle, Danny, was an uncle when he was born. Their legacy includes over 40 grandchildren and many, many, great and even great-great grandchildren.

My grandfather offered me my first beer. It was likely Pabst Blue Ribbon. I was 8. I had a sip, because, why would you say no to Grandpa? I hated it. And, boy did he laugh. His Polish blue eyes twinkling, and the smile that lit up his whole face. Contrasting with his deeply tanned, brown skin, and white hair, always short in a buzz cut. We often saw him after he came home from work at the paper mill. And he always asked, “Do you want a whisker rub?” The worst kind of cheek-to-cheek kiss a child could ask for, with his five o’clock shadow, like sandpaper on your baby soft, childhood skin. And he would laugh, and laugh.

Munising Paper Mill

Sometimes, he wouldn’t laugh, and the fierceness would come through. When I was about 5, my cousin, Darryl, did not obey my grandfather, and he climbed on a flat bed trailer that was on the property. The wood was rotting, and Darryl fell and cut his lip. The next thing I knew, Darryl was in Grandma’s chair, in a timeout in the living room, a little blood coming from his lip. How could he be in trouble when he got hurt? He did not listen to Grandpa, and that’s why he got hurt.

They had 10 kids. TEN. Can you imagine? I can’t. We’ve stopped at one. I’m guessing that’s one reason why it was a never-ending parade of weddings when I was a little girl. All the weddings were held at the Hall. This was a community building, and every single reception was held in this hall. We had a formula for weddings. From my young eyes, it looked like: potluck made by all the gray haired aunts, kegs of beer, and a DJ who played polkas. The building was like a large pole barn with hard, concrete floors. They were perfect for dancing, and boy did our family dance. I have memories of begging to polka with Grandpa. Why? Because you didn’t actually need to know how to dance! He would spin you around, and you would fly. Uncle Tommy was the only other person who would dance with you, like that.

Eventually, Grandpa retired. And, then, he was home all the time. But he never stopped moving. He was always puttering to and fro. Coming in the house, periodically, for another cup of coffee. When I was younger, he’d open the fridge when the day was done and get a beer. That stopped after some time. Coffee, though. Never ending coffee. After my Uncle Danny returned from his tours in the Navy, the coffee got better. You see, Danny spent time in Seattle. So the Midwestern, watered down brew turned into good coffee. When it was the Midwestern brew, we had a church coffee pot in the kitchen. And it was never empty. The coffee was always on.

Sherry shared this photo. This is a GREAT way to remember Grandpa.

Eventually, age settled in. But, it was after they both turned 80. Though I’ve heard that the human body has the capacity to live to 120 years old, because our life expectancy is in our 70s, I was amazed they made it that long. That feels like a long, full life. The end of life cycle turned into a challenge as health related issues arose. That’s not how I will choose to remember either of them. This image in 2004 is how I will remember them. Vibrant and full of life. The laughs – everyone always laughing. The big, giant bear hugs (and yes, this is why I’m a hug person), the traditions old and new, the pride of our Polish heritage. I miss my grandparents, as they were, every single day. I cling to hope they are reunited, maybe ready to recreate their love story.

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for showing me what love can look like.

Use Essential Oils in the Laundry

One of my favorite ways to use essential oils is in the laundry. I like slathering my wool dryer balls with an oil of my choice. Not only do the dryer balls reduce drying time, but then I get an all-natural clean smell for my laundry – with therapeutic benefits.

A few tips using essential oils in the laundry.

More on youngin’ emotional identification

I did get this one of him, though
I did get this one of him, though

Using oils to help my son isn’t something new. I started applying them on me and Levi as soon as I got my first package.

What is surprising, though, is how often I use them in conjunction with helping him find emotion. He got in trouble, again, at school. Sure, part is the age, but part — why can’t he just remember?

Then, I have to consider. It’s taken me how long to learn to identify and name my emotions? And, he is only eight years old? I must give this young one at least a grain of salt.

This particular week, he had two days in a row where he was disrupting his class in some way. His teacher purposefully addresses the outcome that wasn’t met to incite a conversations with parents or care givers. She marks off the one of four student-learning-expectations that were not followed. Often, though, our darling son “cannot remember” what happened.

Levi has a very distinctive “flight” response when he doesn’t want to talk about a thing. He clams up. He freezes. And, he runs away. Usually, he runs to his room.

As he’s gotten older, Peter and I have gotten more stern about telling him to stop, come to us, and try to talk.

I have tried to articulate emotions – attempting to model by showing him through me, like this action makes me MAD. We sometimes try to name what we think he’s feeling, choosing a few different words to see if we land on something that resonates with him.

This particular time, those strategies weren’t working.

So, I went to my oils and grabbed Balance and Citrus Bliss. I told Levi to take his socks off, and we both sat on the living room floor. I grabbed his feet and I massaged a drop each of the oils on each foot. I talked, specifically, about something other than the bad behavior.

Within a few minutes, he started to open up, and he was able to remember that he talked out of turn in class.

I love this power of touch, this power of aroma, this power of these gifts of the Earth.

Coaching Levi through Emotions

Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi walks into the church with his class.
Levi participated in his First Communion last Sunday. He has accepted this rite of passage I’ve introduced for him, but he hasn’t had any particular high or low emotion about it. He certainly loves getting dressed up for church, always insisting on wearing his Sunday Best.

So, in many ways, this Sunday was no different. The biggest difference was that this was First Communion, so we had to arrive early for set up and photos.

He was excited when we arrived. Most of his 2nd grade class was also participating in this rite of passage. I had to read, so I had to leave his group 20 minutes before mass started. The typical, “Mommy, don’t go!” commenced. I pealed myself away, and readied myself at the church.

I saw him, and his class, again just before church started. We were all waiting outside, for our cues. Levi asked me to sit with him, and after getting permission from his teacher, we arranged a way for me to join them.

What I hadn’t noticed at the time was the sort of typical emotional roller coaster my son ventures on, daily.

After I was done reading, I joined him in his pew. His behavior wavered from paying attention to mass to small misbehaviors. Small misbehaviors that I worked on correcting. Pay attention to this. Control that. Mind yourself. It’s not time for questions. It’s time to pay attention.

First Communion went without a hitch. Levi couldn’t help but tell me that the wine was less than desirable. The small misbehaviors continued, along with the small corrections. Usually, we don’t allow treats post-Mass when small misbehaviors are so consistent. But, today was special, so full participation in the reception was, in my mind, mandatory.

We walked over, and it was quite full – both First Communion families and regular Mass attendees. So, I found a space next to one of his friends, and pulled up a chair for only Levi at this already crowded table.

One mom invited us to brunch, knowing we didn’t have plans. I made a call to check in with my husband, but there was no answer. I checked in on Levi, and everything was buoyant and fine. Then, I needed to chat with another mom. I was gone, maybe, 45 seconds. When I walked the 20 or 30 feet across the school hall, Levi had leapt from his chair in tears!

I escorted/chased him towards the bathrooms. I wanted to be able to talk to him, privately, without any onlookers. He walked into the men’s bathroom. I scolded him to come out, and we went to the unisex bathroom. Tears, quick breaths, red face. Finally, he says, “She took your seat!”

The best I could decipher was that his friend’s sister took the last remaining seat. A seat that Levi had assigned to me. A seat I never knew was vacant and certainly didn’t assign to me.

Levi helping me frost the cake.
Levi helping me frost the cake.
We couldn’t even leave because there was always someone else to chat with. Levi only wanted to go home. I told him if we went home, we’d miss brunch.

After two brief chats, both with parents (and principals!) who assured this was a normal phase, we went to the car.

The poor boy was still a mess when we got home. We tried to help him name what he was feeling, offering sad, mad, frustrated, to no avail. We gave the poor boy time outs hoping he’d be able to ponder more, to no avail.

Finally, we settled on making him sit in my husband’s for some parental snuggles while I made frosting, all of us in the kitchen.   I also took him aside and rubbed his feet with Citrus Bliss and Balance – the goal to help him be more open to his feelings and even them out. Soon, his mood changed. He was never able to fully tell us what was going on, but he was able to lighten his mood.

We were able to finish the cake, he changed, we lunched, we had cake.

Then, almost two hours later, Levi wanted to know when we were going to brunch. Among other connections we are still working on – cause and effect tops the list. Although we ended in a good mood, the progress always seem slow trying to help him make these emotional connections.

Diffusing Citrus Bliss

Citrus Bliss in its 15 ml bottle.
Citrus Bliss in its 15 ml bottle.

I no longer remember how I got Elevation and Citrus Bliss. I’ve scoured my past invoices, and have resolved they must have been a promotion.

I cannot imagine, though, a life without these two oils.

Previously, I learned I have vitamin B and Vitamin D deficiencies. One test clocked in my Vitamin D at “11”. A friend exclaimed, “What do you have rickets?!”

I haven’t asked for a new vitamin panel, so instead, I go off how I feel. After learning that a symptom of deficiencies in both vitamin B and D can be “low moods”, I was keenly aware of my mood when I decided to stop taking my Walgreens supplements.

But, how was I going to support my moods to get my “cheery” stasis consistent?
I decided to wear Elevation daily, as a deodorant. I also diffuse Citrus Bliss when I am home.

Aside from my husband commenting, the other day, how much he’s appreciated what a good mood I’ve been in the last few weeks, I immediately noticed the difference in our home.

Citrus Bliss in my nebulizing diffuser.
Citrus Bliss in my nebulizing diffuser.

After diffusing Citrus Bliss a few days after that initial package dropped on my doorstep – it was so clear how much “lighter” our moods were. We were more open to talk about whatever – our days, our feelings, what’s for dinner. We were less tense, and the mood in the house was joyful.

It’s amazing, this realization… that bringing plant-based oils into our home has allowed us to be more open. I enjoy the scent, like smelling a fresh rose blooming in a garden. I enjoy watching the moods. I enjoy learning about how the oils can clean our homes, ourselves, our lives.

It’s joyful knowing the empowerment that comes with this oil and all its brothers.

I will not be ashamed

Refusing to be photographed in Italy.
Refusing to be photographed in Italy.

We do what?

A photographer friend noted how common it was for her women clients to refuse photographs of themselves. They are too ashamed of how they look, so they erase themselves from their children’s lives for shame. What happens is that children, when as adults looking back, children then have no photographic keepsakes of their mothers. Their mothers have been erased from their lives.

I was horrified at the thought of my son looking back when he becomes a young man only to find no pictures of me or his father. Sure, we’re not model beautiful. Yes, we have our own identify issues, but to erase ourselves from our son’s life because of shame of how we look?

I was simply horrified.

Begrudgingly accepting I need to be in photos.
Begrudgingly accepting I need to be in photos.

Until that day, I had accepted that I needed to be in photographs. But, that need was limited to special occasions. At Levi’s birth. His birthday parties.

When I heard that anecdote years ago, now, I resolved to be in Levi’s photos unashamed.

I have tried to make a routine of taking little selflies whenever Levi and I do something. Maybe we’re getting coffee or playing in a park. Maybe I’ve taken him volunteering or brought him to a social justice something. Maybe we’re with friends.

On the coast with family.
On the coast with family.

I also take pictures of Levi and my husband, lest that stage be forgotten.

I always cringe looking at certain pictures. Criticizing myself for my looks. Continuing to be very uncomfortable while trying to be unashamed. I try suppress the shameful thoughts while I embrace the things I love: my son and my husband and the moments we share.

I am my son’s mother. My husband and I are his immediate role models. I want my son to be able to express his emotions. I want him to look back at his childhood with fondness. It takes a sense of courage I never considered.

It takes acceptance of where I am. I cannot figure out how to get more movement into my days. If I can’t get more movement into my days, and I eat a moderately healthy meal, and I know there are obstacles stacked in front of me, then I need to be somewhat okay with what I present.

I am not sharing this to say: do this. Rather, I am sharing this to capture this journey I am on. How I have faced hating how I look, being ashamed, facing the model I am to my son, and trying to assess how I want to show up in life.

I am trying to remember that I like it when I am truly cheerful, despite my (perceived) flaws. I am trying to remember that I like having even emotions so that I can be present to whatever situations arise.

I can’t be present when I am dwelling on things I cannot or am unwilling to change. So, I must face them with owning who I am and being unashamed about that person. I have a story, just like we all have a story. I am living my story, and it is unique to me. It is special for my family to share, and I have to be present for them. And, to be fully present, I will not be ashamed.

Last week in photos

This week, we just got by. Peter started his new schedule. Seven years after working at TriMet, we have finally been besieged by the dreaded midnight schedule. In large part due to TriMet management’s refusal to understand scope of work and fail to fill 7 retiree jobs. So, our schedule is upheaved, again.

Here are a few pictures of a few moments that captivated our attention during this adjustment to upheaval.