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Anniversary.

September 5, 2016

So, I have been writing this post in my head all week…but I have not figured out a good way to begin.  I guess I just have to dive right in the deep end, even though it isn’t at all the way I want to begin.

A year ago, today, my dad passed away.

My dad had Lewie Body Dementia.  He was having trouble with his Parkinson’s symptoms more so than the dementia, however, he definitely had his moments when he was off his rocker and in a world of his own.  He was still lucid though.  He still knew who everybody was and could talk about current events and could remember things that were happening.

Every day since Tuesday I have been trying to remember what happened on that day.  A week of anniversaries.

I didn’t write at all during this time last year.  Everything was just too much.  And now, I regret that .  I wish I had recorded that last conversation.  I wish I could remember the exact words.  Here is what I can remember:

8/30:  I get the call that my dad is sick, and I go to my parents’ apartment.  It is decided that we will call the ambulance and take him to the closest hospital.  He is admitted.  We have no diagnosis.

8/31:  I go to work.  It is the second week of the semester.  After work I speed to the hospital and hang out with my mom and sister.  My dad is talkative and accuses me of not voting for him.  I tell him that of course I voted for him and he says, “Well, then I mistreated you.”  I tell him to be nice.  We also have a normal conversation, but I can’t remember it at all.  Still no diagnosis.

9/1:  I go to work.  Diagnosis:  Congestive heart failure.  He had a valve replaced with a bovine valve several years before and now it is leaking.  He wouldn’t understand surgery, and open heart surgery is invasive and painful.  We opt not to do surgery.  We decide hospice is the best choice.  After work, I speed home to bake cookies.  It is the first day of school, and it is my tradition for my kids.  I race to the hospital  when I am done and hang out with my mom and sister.  I stay after they leave and Jeff joins me.  We hang out with my dad.  He is really talkative.  He isn’t really making sense, but he is entertaining.  There is something about hamburgers running a machine?  It was a fun night.  I am so grateful for it.

9/2:  I go to work.  I race to the hospital after work.  He is moved to N.C. Little Hospice in time for dinner.  I get there way before he does, and the nurses show me around.  I ask what the average stay is…they answer:  three days.  I am shocked.  I assume we have weeks to go on this journey.  I have class, so I meet him there and make sure he is comfortable and dash back home to get on the computer for class.  My sister stays with him and eats dinner with him.  I know she is grateful for this time.  She encouraged him to have some mashed potatoes, “I don’t care for potatoes,” he said.

He shocks the hospice nurses in the middle of the night by getting out of his bed and asking for them to show him to the bathroom.  We still don’t know how he got out.  The bed rails were up, and his mobility was limited.

9/3:  I go to work.  I speed to N.C. Little.  I get there to find my dad in a very different state than I had left him. He is awake -ish, and dozing.  He is trying to talk but very hard to understand.  My kids and Jeff are coming to eat dinner.  I thought we would be eating with him, but it is obvious that he won’t be eating.  I can’t remember if he had been awake in the morning when my mom arrived, or if he had slept most of the day.  I think he was out of it most of the day, though.  I remember thinking that it must be because he had been up at night.  Denial is strong.

My family still comes to eat.  We sit with my dad, and then the kids go into the basement to play a little.  My dad tries to talk a little.  He definitely perks up when the kids are in the room, but he is still hard to understand and still looks like he is struggling.  We decide to go get some food, and Sarah hangs back.  She tells me she wants some time alone with Grandpa.  The rest of us go get our food.  Once everyone is settled, I go to check on Sarah.  She leaves his room and bursts into tears.  He had his “moment of clarity” with her.  He sat up and asked her if she would be alright without him.  He told her he was leaving soon, maybe on Saturday [which was accurate].  He was going to see his mother and his Grandpa Chris.  He was going to read books when he got there.  Sarah was a wreck.  After several conversations, she was grateful that he told her.

9/4:  I go to work.  I speed to N.C. Little.  I get there to see a sleeping father.  He doesn’t wake up while I am there.  I sit and talk to him, but I can’t remember what I said.  I have dinner plans with my in-laws.  They have no idea what is going on, and I don’t really want to tell them.  It is too close.  It is too hard.  It is too much.  I check with the nurses to see if it is safe to leave.  I don’t want my dad to die alone.  They assure me it is fine, and they have my cell number if anything changes.  I go to dinner and pretend to be normal.

Jeff comes back to N.C. Little with me.  We find a nurse sitting with my dad.  She had been sitting with him since I left.  She knew I didn’t want him to be alone.  I am awed.  So grateful.  We sit with my dad until 10:00-ish.  Jeff leaves to go home.  I stay for another hour.  I don’t want to leave.  The nurses come in to ask if I am sleeping there.  I show my ambivalence and reluctance.  They tell me to go home.  They will watch him.  They will call me if anything changes.  I am grateful.  I want to sleep in my bed, they helped illeviate my guilt.

9/5:  I get up early and pack my grading.  I am at N.C. Little around 7:00-ish.  My dad’s breathing is awful.  It sounds like he is drowning.  I am upset.  I sit with him for several hours, talking and grading, but mostly not grading.  The nurses come in late morning to give him a bath.  I am weepy, and the nurse hugs me.  I tell them how awful it is to witness him drowning, and they quickly correct me.  The breathing is not because his lungs are filling with fluid (congestive heart failure) but it is the “death rattle.”  This is oddly reassuring to me.  I thought he was struggling, but evidently this even occurs with people who are concious that are approaching death.  The nurse tells me she has asked patients if the “death rattle” bothers them and they have said no.  This helps my composure.  My mom arrives.  We sit with him.  A therapy dog comes to visit.  The dog is disinterested.  The owner says something like “Dogs can tell when there isn’t any response.”  My sister arrives.  We decide to eat lunch.  The social worker comes at lunch time and gives me books about death to give to my kids.  We chat and linger in the living room.  Finally I decide I need to go back in to my dad’s room.

The rest I will save for my notebook.  My mom and sister and I were all there when my dad passed away.  I am so grateful that I was there.

 

I really can’t believe it has been a year.

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A Busy Sunday

September 4, 2016

I woke up this morning at 5:30.  Since I am old, sometimes sleeping makes me sore, so I went downstairs to get some Advil.  Of course, Franklin needed to get up because I was up.  I don’t really understand this cause and effect.  Literally anyone else can get up and he doesn’t care.  But if I get up–well then everybody needs to be up.  It is annoying.  I took him outside and then brought him back to bed with me (he usually sleeps with Sarah).  I was pretty much waiting for Jeff to get up so I could get some work done, but instead I fell back to sleep!  I slept until 9:00!  (That is really late for me.)  So, that put me behind.  I had to go grocery shopping, make potato salad, clean up the house, and take the kids school clothes shopping before taking Sarah to Choir at 3:00.  Jeff’s dad was coming to dinner.

I got everything done.  Whew.  I had about 10 minutes to spare.

Jeff got up early and tended the brisket in the smoker all day, and then made “beer can chicken” to boot.  Dinner was delicious.

Jeff’s dad stayed later than usual talking, so I just sat down because we had some cleaning up to do once he left.

I am tired, but it is a good tired.  I have a stack of work I am going to try to get through tonight.  I hope I can find some motivation.  Then I have another stack for tomorrow.  I have forgotten how much I hate grading papers.  It sucks.  However, I have some fun things to read, so once I get started I know I will be interested.  I am grateful for that!

Tomorrow we go to my sister’s house for Labor day.  I will have to prepare fruit before we go.  I am so blessed with a full life and a loving family.  Grateful.

I hope your weekend has been as wonderful as mine! xo

Today

September 3, 2016

Today I woke up and read things for fun.

Today I didn’t leave my bedroom until after noon.

Today I got a little work done–things crossed off my list.

Today I talked to a good friend on the phone for longer than I should have.

Today I went to a movie with my family–the new Ghost Busters!

Today after the movie everyone scattered, and I had the evening alone.

Today they found Jacob Wetterling’s body.

Today I opened my door to a 13 year old boy who was dropped off in my neighborhood to sell candy for a cause that is not known.  I googled it.  Nothing.

****

He rang my doorbell as I was watching the clip about Jacob Wetterling.  I asked him who dropped him off at 7:00 at night in a strange neighborhood.  I asked him if he was okay.  I worry so much about these kids.  But what can I do?  I don’t want to get him in trouble.  And he is alone.  And he is vulnerable.  Gah.  He was such a cute kid.

Today my heart is broken.  For Jacob.  I was 19 when he was taken.  I remember clearly.  The whole state was praying for him to be found.  Everyone was keeping an eye out.  Patty Wetterling became an advocate for missing children.  Because of her, we have a national registry of people who have a history abusing children.  Because of her we have “Amber Alerts” that puts the public on the look out for missing children as soon as it is found out that they have been taken.  When we were at Target a couple of weeks ago buying school supplies, all of a sudden there were alarms coming from everyone’s phones–Amber Alert.  That ended in tragedy as well.  A seven year old girl.

Today I am worried about that 13 year old boy who came to my door.  I worry that he is alone.  He is from North Minneapolis.  That is not close to here.  I hope he is okay.

Where are you from?

September 2, 2016

A couple of years ago a friend of mine, and a colleague…more a colleague, I guess, but I like her…decided that we would like to teach a learning community together.  She teaches Sociology, and she “gets” my students. She understands that they have a steep hill to climb when they come to college.  She wanted to pair my Reading class with her Diversity class–sounded good to me.  Long story short, we didn’t do the paperwork.  I didn’t really know about the paperwork, actually.  So, we were denied.  We were still talking about it when I was slotted to teach the course that could be paired with her Diversity course, so I decided to pilot some new books and use the theme:  Diversity.  I taught it last spring.  It was a fun class.  I was uncomfortable sometimes, but some topics will never be easy to talk about, and learning how to have uncomfortable conversations is a skill everyone needs to practice…including me.

And then the summer happened.

So much violence.  So much hate.  So much blame. So much fear.

Everything I read from higher ed was about diversity.  Everything on Facebook was about racism, or the police, or…or…or…name your group/cause.  The politics that were racing around were not helping anything, either.  I began to rethink my theme.  Everything seemed to be such a hot topic.  Everything was divisive.  That is not how I wanted my classroom to feel.  To be.

But.  But, but, but…isn’t it my responsibility to teach students how to function in our society?  Isn’t that EVERY teacher’s job?  I know my methods are narrowly focused on READING, but still.  I let this marinate in my head during the summer.  I didn’t want to give up the books I read last semester.  And I wanted to make some sort of difference.  I wanted to help students confront being uncomfortable without being divisive.

Therefore, I decided to change the name of my course.  I would call it “Living in a Pluralistic Society.”  I felt good about that change.  Academic language.  No automatic groan because–more diversity.  Then I thought some more…and changed society to Community.  I wanted to stress belonging…  And then I thought BELONGING!  That is perfect:  Belonging in a Pluralistic Community.  Ta-da!

I also thought that I needed to begin the semester in a place that was comfortable.  To make sure everyone felt like they belonged in our classroom, to make our classroom a community, before we approached any subjects that were uncomfortable.  The best place to begin:  Identity.  Who were my students?

We began with an image assignment.  Ten images that represent who you are.  We shared.  Then they had to revise these images down to five or less.  We talked about the difference between what someone likes and who someone is.  It was a wonderful discussion.

Next, we read the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.  We talked about her choices that she made as a writer.  Why did she come from “clothespins?”  What did she mean by “He restoreth my soul…and ten verses I can say myself?”  Then I sent them home to use the same pattern as George Ella Lyon.

We shared our poems yesterday.

Now they have to pick one line that fits their idea of themselves the best and one image that might (or might not) depict their line.  I will piece together our class poem this weekend, if everyone posts to the discussion board.  I am so excited about this!

We also had a terrific discussion about “belonging.”  How it feels.  What it looks like.  And how it feels when you don’t belong.  What are some things that make you feel like you don’t belong.  They were all so thoughtful, and sincere.  It has been a great place to start.

Here is my poem.  I was deliberately thinking about my audience:  my students.  And my context:  belonging in a pluralistic community.  And my own identity:  heritage, faith, culture, etc.  I wanted to push some boundaries, and take some risks.  And yes it was scary.  But they were so great, it gives me hope.

 

Where I’m From

___

 I am from chocolate chip cookies made from scratch

still warm with a side of milk.

I am from dressed up Sunday mornings

turning into Sunday mornings in my PJs.

I am from the swimming pool in the back yard

blue with helicopters floating on the surface.

I am from entitlement and privilege.

*

I am from sleep-overs and junk food,

talking too much, and flirting with boys

I am from being loved to loving freely.

I am from use your manners and respect your elders.

*

I am from “them” to “us.”

I am from doggy-kisses in the morning,

from General Hospital and playing cards.

*

I am from kissing in the family room

long after dark

I am from spoiled rotten to spoiling rotten.

I am from just playing

to just working.

*

I am from “clean your room” to “this house is cluttered”

From “calm down” to “chill out.”

*

I am from rocking chairs and lovies

“let me kiss it” to “say you’re sorry”

from “ask me anything” to “be kind to your brother.”

I am from Love matters most

and Love wins.

___

What would your “Where I’m From” be like?  I would love for you to share!

Ready? Ready.

September 1, 2016

Today I was scrolling through my RSS feeds to take a quick break, and something caught my eye.  Elizabeth wrote a blog post!  I am so excited, and grateful.  I have been having a little bit of a hard time this summer, and especially this week.  I am happy I saw her post.  I am going to try to blog along for the month of September.  I already have a few things I know I would like to write about.  Here is to the first step…cheers!

Off Balance

July 2, 2016

For the past year, possibly two, maybe even three years, I have been pulled in many directions.  It seems like I always have something BIG looming on the horizon, or I am undertaking a HUGE project.  I keep thinking to myself…once I do x, y, and z THEN I will have time to [insert things I actually want to do].  But it is not like I don’t EVER do ANYTHING that I want to do.  I am writing here right now, and there is no deadline, no expectation (although I did challenge myself to write….), no consequence if I don’t write.  I just want to.  I like to write.

I feel like the x, y, z things just get replaced by the a, b, c things and then we run through the alphabet again.  So, I think I just need to be okay with “cheating,” and maybe I shouldn’t call it cheating.  Maybe I should call it “living.”  I don’t think I will EVER be done with the HUGE projects and the BIG things looming on the horizon.  I do think I need more balance in my life.

Last week, or maybe it was the week before last, I had a big project due in my class, plus I had our weekly homework of reading and posting a response to the “prompts” that my teacher assigned.  I started it right away, and read whenever I could in between softball games and baseball games and all the other driving responsibilities that I have.  I had my post done early, and then I started on my project.  I did my responses to my classmates posts and did my second weekly post and then finished my project.  It really took all week with no real breaks.  Once I was done with that I was in charge of a faculty book club at work.  We read The College Fear Factor by Rebecca Cox.  I hadn’t read the last section, and we were meeting on Monday.  So, I had to read and take notes and then figure out talking points (that I knew I wouldn’t use) because I was sort of in charge of it.  On Monday the book club went great, and I wrote up a little reflection–and yay! Done.  But I was DONE on many levels.  I had my next assignment for class due on Wednesday, but I just couldn’t face it.  I did a crappy job this week.  And that feels yucky.  But, Tuesday?  Was divine.  I played.  I relaxed.  I felt guilty, but not guilty enough to read my textbook.  Wednesday was hell.  I was up until 4:00 AM doing my homework.  So, I am not sure it was a good solution to take a day off.

I finished all my homework yesterday, and began on my reading for next week today.  But I was distracted.  I also played a little bit.  I am having people over for the 4th of July, so I really need to get my reading DONE by tomorrow.  And go grocery shopping.  And clean my house.  See?  How do you achieve that balance?  How?  I honestly don’t know how to schedule my time so I can relax.  Except to just say fuck it, I am writing a post.  And then, of course, pay for it later.

I guess I have some thinking to do.  I really do need to figure this out.

A New Month, and a Challenge

July 1, 2016

July.  It’s been a while.  Again.  I am not apologizing for my absence, but I am sharing my regret.  My life has turned into a crazy thing that I have a hard time keeping up with.  Even now, I should be in BED, because I have been up so late doing homework this week.  But, I felt drawn here.  I have on many other occasions as well, but there was always some other fire to fight first.  So.  Hello.

I went fishing tonight with my husband.  It was the perfect summer day: sunny, warm but NOT HOT, no wind.  Perfect.  The lake we went to was not really developed.  There were a couple of houses on the lake and there were a handful of boats out on the water, but for the most part it was quiet.  OH!  And there were loons!  We saw three of them, but we didn’t get close enough to get a picture.  They have the most distinct call, it is beautiful.  They were talking to us all evening.  Jeff caught fish.  I casted and reeled.  I watched the dragonflies, admired the trees and the sky.  I was wishing that I brought a Mary Oliver poem book with me.  Then it would have been perfect!

So, there!  A post here in July.  Now  I hope I can come back and write more  again!