Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Memories, Like The Corners Of Our Mind

As I drove back from Nashville today, I listened to my XM Radio. I pretty much keep it on two channels even though there are over 150 channels. My channels of choice are Oprah and Friends and Take 5. Oprah has a lot of interesting shows on a wide variety of topics so I can always find something interesting. Take 5 has Broadminded, my favorite show on the radio, and Dr. Laura. I can't stand Dr. Laura - the reasons could be a whole other post and I will do that another day. But I still get sucked into her show and reluctantly find myself listening. I hate it when I agree with her.

Today, Oprah was interviewing Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, about her book A Stroke of Insight. Dr. Taylor had a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She was a Harvard trained brain scientist and only 37 at the time. She was reduced to the level of an infant and, through the help of her mother, had to relearn everything.

Among other fascinating things, Dr. Taylor talked about feeling as if she started her life all over again, no baggage, no relationship issues, no self-conciousness, no preconceptions about anything. She said that when her brain and body felt a "connection", basically the brain's reference to a memory, if she didn't like the feeling, she could repress the connection. Her message was that everyone has this ability. Our memories and experiences from the past are there. But we have a choice to allow them in or not. We can choose only to allow peaceful thoughts.

So I was really into this discussion. The brain and how it works fascinates me. The show ended and I had so many questions with no answers. I will have to go buy the book and read more. But I still had some drive time and continued to ponder this topic.

I began to imagine what it would be like to have no history, to start you life over in your own mind. As an adult, to relearn who you are. To go into every experience with a truly open mind. To not hold onto hurt from a relationship. To not remember the stupid mistakes you made in your youth. Although I don't believe she intended to, Dr. Taylor almost made having a stroke sound like a great thing.

I cannot imagine or comprehend it being a good thing. To give up the bad would also mean giving up the wonderful. To not remember my mom and the amazing mother she was. To not remember the birth of my children. To never recall the security of my grandmother's hand on my shoulder and waking up to the smell of her cooking breakfast in the kitchen. To not tap into the feeling of coming downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing the tree, light, tinsel, and the perfect presents from Santa around the tree. That would be devastating.

I'll take the bad stuff. It is my choice how I choose to remember and use the bad stuff. I'll take the hurt and the baggage of the past. I can choose not to let the connections come in and affect me. I can choose to turn them into positive. I can choose to create a peaceful place in my mind.

I wouldn't change a thing about my life. We are constantly reinventing ourselves, growing, learning, creating new memories. Stuff happens - to us, because of us, in spite of us. It makes us who we are. I like who I am.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Celebrate

We celebrated. We laughed. We cried. We ate yummy food. We drank a little champagne. We stressed. We slept very little.

My in-laws arrived on Friday. I'm not sure why I still call them my in-laws but I do. When I say it, it seems to infer that I am still married. I was married to their son until his death in 2001. But it seems impersonal to say "my children's grandparents" or "my late husband's parents". I love them and will always feel a part of their family. So I still call them my in-laws. Or Mimi and Poppy.

The kids shared stories of their graduation practice that morning. They were instructed that there would be no dancing or cartwheels across the stage. No flip flops. No beach balls. Girls should wear dresses and boys should wear ties. I was pretty sure that no one was listening.

The faculty wants to make graduation a solemn occasion, full of seriousness, or if you prefer . . . pomp and circumstance. But it is truly a joyful occasion for the students. And a little sad at the same time.

That evening, the students marched in. Flip flops showed beneath their gowns. As they were seated, a beach ball began to be tossed around. It was batted from one side of the students to the other and back. The parents and families cheered. An ROTC color guard retrieved the ball. The parents and families booed. Another beach ball appeared.

The speeches began - 3 students - and they were quite good. The principal spoke. It was a little long. And then the names of 500 students were called, each coming to the stage to receive their diploma. Some danced. No one did cartwheels. Some held their hands up in triumph. Parents and families cheered. Some blew air horns. It was joyful.

Later, the kids met at our house before going to an all night lock in party. They were all a little quiet. I asked if they were okay. They looked shell-shocked. "It feels weird" was all they said.

It was joyful. It was sad. It was over.

Monday, May 12, 2008

She Did It

She will graduate. She did it. For those that do not know what that means to me and to her, you can read about it here. She earned her 4 credits + the 3 she had to make up in a little over 4 months. She got up on Saturday mornings, logged on, printed off her work and completed it while she watched TV. She did the same when she was home sick. She took work with her on the cruise. She was determined. And she finished early.

Because she completed the requirements on time, she will be re-enrolled in her original high school on Tuesday and it will be as if she never left. On Friday, she will step through graduation with her friends at a huge arena downtown. Just like she never left.

But she did leave. Had she not left, she would not be graduating. I read recently that in our county, the drop out rate for high school seniors, not everyone, just seniors, is 27%. We are not a poor county. We are the 3rd largest in the state. Is it the parents? Is it the schools? I know the kids feel as though there are no options and they leave. Some get their GED, some never do. No one is telling them, or their parents, about this option. It is part of the county school system but the high schools know so little about it. I called the school board looking for options and found out about it there.

This was the best thing for my daughter. She feels like she accomplished something. She is applying to colleges. She has her confidence back. I know she is on her way to success. And that makes me very happy.

Friday, May 9, 2008

My Lesson For Mothers Day

We all have mothers. But the differences are vast in what we think of them. Most of us know our mothers but some never met them. Some are with us and some have passed on. Some were wonderful and others downright evil.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have written a lot about my Mom on this blog. I am not going to repeat my adoration of her or my deep respect. I simply want to relate a light bulb moment that I had this week.

My Mom passed away in 2005. Things in our family have been very different since then. We all realize the tie to each other that Mom created for all of us and have done a pretty good job of banding together and being there for each other. We do pretty well to be scattered in 4 different states and on 2 different coasts.

My realization this week was also about my father. My Dad was a pretty good parent. He tried and he was a better father to us than his father was to him. But he is a difficult person. My Mom used to say he was like living with a piece of sandpaper. That is the perfect description. I appreciate his efforts but they frequently fell short. We had many battles as I was growing up because our personalities are similar. We butted heads most of my life. It is difficult to explain because I had a really happy childhood. Things between us got worse as I grew up and became more difficult. But then, as I became an adult and gained a small amount of wisdom, I realized I was never going to change him and I quit trying. I started to accept him for who he was and learned to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

So why, at 47 years of age, do I allow myself to be disappointed by him when he does exactly what I expect him to do? He has forgotten my birthday three years in a row since Mom died. I expect it. Still it hurts my feelings. I told him last week that I would be on a cruise on his birthday and wished him Happy Birthday in advance. When I returned, he shared all the details of his birthday and never asked how my cruise was. I didn't expect him to ask but was disappointed when he did not. Stupid me!!!

And then I realized why. It reminds me that Mom is not here. And I realized that my Mom made him the parent that he was when he was a good parent. She guided him just as she guided each of her four children. I knew that it was always her that created our happy childhood and our view of our parents but I never appreciated the impact she had on him as a parent. He no longer has that guidance. And being the person he is, he doesn't know how to do it on his own.

So, once again, he is doing the best he can. I can't change him. I need to accept him and quit being disappointed. I can do that. But I am just not ready to laugh about it yet.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Cruising

Where have I been? Why? Did you miss me? I have been on a cruise to the Bahamas. Tough life, huh?

I won a cruise at work back in December. Originally I intended it to be for my kids and me. Then they each wanted to bring a friend. That was over the award amount and did not fit in my budget. So my daughter suggested that I take my two best friends and turn it into a girl's trip. I thought that was a great idea and so did they. We had a plan.

My two friends, Lori and Kay, are "work" friends but it's more than that. We have worked together for about 11 years but have know each other longer than that. We were all district managers together, Kay in Kentucky, Lori in Missouri, and me in Tennessee. We have done road trips together before - the best one was Vegas. If you have ever seen the play "Mama Mia", the three main characters are us. Lori and I each saw the play separately and agreed that we had to see it together so, while in Vegas, we did. Even a guy that worked at the theater said "you're Donna (Lori), you're Tanya (Kay), and you're Rosie (me)." Then Lori got promoted to our boss. That was an adjustment, to say the least. But we make it work.

A few weeks after we finalized our plans, due to some events within the company (scandals, gossip, and West Coast drama), Lori decided she should not go on the cruise with us. It was disappointing but I understood. I asked my daughter if she would want to go with Kay and me. She said she would feel better if she had a friend go. Again, not in my budget. I suggested that if her boyfriend could pay for his cruise, I could use airline miles for his flight and he could go. So we had another plan now and that is what we did. We chose a 3 night cruise to Coco Cay and the Bahamas.

Now, there are people that are your friends and then there are those friends with whom you can travel. They are not always the same. We had fun. Really. But it was not the vacation I planned. My idea of the Bahamas is the photo above - my own personal Corona commercial. I had the moment but it was short lived. I also love learning about the history and interesting areas of the countries I visit. I know no more about Nassau today than I did last week. But it was fun. Really.

In the airport on the way home my daughter said "Do you realize we had no "us" time?" And she was right. There was not a moment in 4 days that the two of us spent alone. She is graduating and moving on with her life. Our times together are changing. We both appreciate our time together even more now.

We may need a do-over.