Saturday, March 26, 2011

At Peace....

It didn't happen the way I envisioned.

I was watching the Arizona vs UConn game - not that I really care about basketball or March Madness - but that is what I was doing when I received a phone call.  Not from the hospice nurse whom I thought would call, but from the home health care provider.

photo credit:  my brother
Mom passed away quietly in her sleep around 6:40PM.  I did not fully believe it until the hospice worker officially proclaimed her death at 7:15.

It all seems so very surreal right now and yet....I am so thankful that I know she is finally at peace - rejoicing with the angels and being reunited with my dad - something that she has envisioned for over 5 and half years now.

Mom - you will be missed but I take comfort in knowing that I will see you again.  Save me a mansion next to yours, ok?

Friday, March 25, 2011

God's Waiting Room

Mom is still hanging on.  No one quite knows how or why.  I am constantly being asked if there is something that needs closure for her:  is there someone from whom she needs to hear; some significant date looming in the distance.  How am I supposed to read my mother's mind?  I have no idea why she is clinging so tightly to the life that she wanted so desperately to leave.  So I cling to the imagery that the hospice nurse provided:  we are now in God's waiting room.

The last time Mom ate or drank anything was 10 days ago.  The last time she spoke or opened her eyes was 8 days ago.  That person lying in the bed is no longer my mother, she is just a corpse who continues to have a pulse and every once in while gasp for air.  I was told 12 days ago that the end was "eminent". I was told a week ago that any breath could be her last.  I was called out of school on Wednesday because "it could be any minute and she is just hanging on for you to come."  And yet...she still continues to hang on.  I was told that she will probably not make it through this weekend, but I am sure you can understand why I don't hold much faith in those words.

It occurred to me one day this week as I was taking my daily walk - that nature mirrors my own life.  My mother  continues to hang on - much like the withered leaf that clings to the branch.  New growth is starting to bud and perhaps that old leaf wants to ensure that the next generation will continue before it is willing to fall to the ground.  As it stands now - I have a number of significant milestones to experience - all within about a month of each other.  I will become an orphan - a grandmother - and the matriarch of the family.  That is a lot of changes to learn to accept in a very short amount of time.  I'm not quite sure where I fit in this nature metaphor.  My mother is the withered leaf - my granddaughter is the new bud.  I suppose that makes me the mighty oak?  Not quite the responsibility I bargained for.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Personal Ramblings on a Saturday morning....

I am sitting in Starbucks writing this post trying to make good on a promise that I made to myself over two weeks ago.  In short, I know that I need to exercise and walking is my preferred form.  I know that I want to write more, but I find that I am too distracted at home.  So, I want to try to combine the two into one (hopefully) manageable routine.  There is a Starbucks exactly 1.1 miles from my home.  My plan is to walk there - have a cup of coffee and do some writing or brainstorming or journaling - and then walk the 1.1 miles home.  In addition, I thought during this Lenten season I would use this time to listen to praise and worship music, rather than my usual Coldplay.  My drive for efficiency is in high gear - can you tell?!

On Wednesday the temperature was in the high 60s and I thought it would be a good day to start this new routine.  I set out on my first walk - but the traffic was bad and waiting for the crosswalk seemed to take forever, so I went a different route.  On Thursday the temperature had risen to nearly 80 degrees; I felt adventurous and went a totally different direction.  Yesterday was too busy to take a walk (or at least that is what I told myself).  Today is the first day that I actually took the walk with the expressed destination.  the temperature was far from ideal, however:  40 degrees with a wind of at least 20 mile per hour.  I was fighting it the whole way.  But I was determined.

So here I am, sitting with my skinny cinnamon dolce latte, writing a blog post about my spring break - such as it was.  I will warn you in advance - this is nothing but a bunch of rambling thoughts and probably not of much interest to anyone.

On Monday I went to a quilt store with a friend.  Since I had done so well with my Bitty Baby quilt, I thought I might like to try something bigger.  And I did.  I am now in the midst of trying to quilt a 50x50 throw for the baby to lay on.  I have cut out all the fabric (a little scary - and time consuming) and have actually pieced 4 of the 25 blocks.  I am rolling along - ha!  I am doing the piecing by hand - mostly because I am afraid of the sewing machine, but also because hand piecing is portable and I can take it with me anywhere.  I do plan to put the entire quilt together on my mother's machine, but that is probably a few months (years....) away.

And speaking of Mom....while in the quilt shop I received a phone call from the hospice nurse.  She relayed Mom's vital signs and said a number of other disconcerting things.  Finally I asked her if "eminent" would be an appropriate word.  She said that it would be a very good word to use.  Ok - so my plan goes into motion. I email all pertinent parties, and I go to visit Mom for what I think might be the last time.

On Tuesday I visited her again for what I thought would be the last time.  On Wednesday the hospice nurse said that she must be holding on for some reason - for some unfinished business.  Could I ask everyone to call Mom and say their final good-bye.  So on Wednesday night another email is sent.

On Wednesday night I wrote Mom a 3 page letter because....well....I tend to say things better in writing than I do in person.  On Thursday I read Mom the letter.  By Thursday afternoon all pertinent parties had called and spoken with her one last time.

On Friday I visited Mom and the hospice nurse came to check her out. She told me that any breath could be her last.  I stayed and read Mom scripture after scripture.  Finally I said good-bye - thinking that it was for the last time.  I waited on pins and needles all night for the phone to ring.

And now I sit here in Starbucks preparing to go see Mom again "for the last time" - but fully expecting to see her tomorrow as well.  I am mentally and physically exhausted and I must be prepared to teach the hardest two months of the year starting Monday.  Spring break was anything but rejuvenating.  My new mantra has now become:  May 23 --- May 23 --- May 23.  By that date I will lose a mother - become a grandmother - have my youngest graduate high school - and then I can collapse!

On another note....I had my first art class this week!  I have been attracted to mixed media art for quite sometime and a friend of mine has offered to help me learn how to express myself in a new way.  We met for about two hours on Monday night - talking a lot and instructing a little.  She has an idea for me to try to do a series of four paintings:  Molly the daughter - Molly the mother - Molly the grandmother - and Molly the person. My "portfolio" will be a 12x12 scrapbook - which I will fill with 12x12 trimmed Artist paper.  This will allow me to create a fairly large project that can be shown to others, or kept private (somehow canvas paintings on a wall are far too public for me).  I have already found the pad of paper - I plan to use a Michael's coupon this week to find the scrapbook - and I have started collecting memorabilia, photographs, and iconography to use for each of the paintings.  I probably can't start the actual projects until after the magic May 23 date -- but I can collect, brainstorm, and reflect a lot between now and then.

I hope that in this season of spring breaks you are all experiencing warmer weather, budding flowers, and renewal of spirits.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Well, I had intended to post this as a Sunday Salon, but time just got away from me.

I think, that just maybe, I am ready to get back into the blogging saddle again.  I have a couple of ideas for posts roaming around in my head, and that is usually the precursor to some form of activity.  I am hoping to find the time this week to write them up.

We are on Spring Break this week - although you would never know it by looking outside the window and observing the 1.5 inches of snow on the ground.  We hit a high of 70 degrees on Friday - and snow today.  The Midwest is nothing if it isn't unpredictable!

It is supposed to warm up starting tomorrow and actually hit the 60 degree mark a couple of days this week.  I plan to implement my walking/writing routine at that time.

While I have to work on a Journalism unit study this week for my English 1 class, I do plan to truly take a break from the academics and pursue other personal interests.

I have vowed not to waste these precious hours of freedom known as spring break - and so far, I have done a pretty good job.  I finished reading The Second Journey and plan to write a short review later in the week.  I have nearly completed Howard's End is on the Landing and have taken so many notes on Ms. Hill's literary commentary.  In fact, I think I will use these notes as prompts for several blog posts in order to seek your literary opinions as well.  I have thoroughly loved this book - not necessarily because I agree with all her opinionated statements, but because those statements cause me to think about my own love affair with books and authors.

Mom is still hanging in there - although she is rarely conscious anymore.  She is now on morphine as needed - with the directions that it can be given every hour.  She is not my mother anymore; she is a corpse lying in a bed.  I do not want to remember her this way and am struggling with knowing how often to visit - especially when she has no idea that I am there.  As guilty as I feel for saying it, I hope that she soon passes to a better life and leaves behind the illness of this one.

In addition to reading this weekend, I have also continued with my new-found interest in quilting.  I did not want to start a large project, because I am known for abandoning projects long before they are completed.  My goal for this first quilt was to make four-squares:  large enough for a doll.  I have hand pieced three of the four squares and plan to purchase background material today or tomorrow.  I am SO excited to start another piecing project. So far I really enjoy the fabric selection process - matching colors, hues and patterns, - the cutting process (finally geometry class makes a bit of sense!) - and the slow, leisurely pace of hand stitching.  I am not looking forward to actually quilting the three layers together, but who knows, I may find that I like that aspect as well.

Finally, I am going to tackle another project of which I have had an interest for months:  mixed media art.  I am not an artist in the least - I mean, I can't draw a stick figure.  But lately I have been attracted to the expressive, abstract art of mixed media.  I like color and the idea of whimsically applying splashes of paint here and there depending on mood and atmosphere; I like the various layers that can be applied - each one carrying some kind of personal, symbolic meaning for the artist; I like the idea of incorporating my love of writing/journaling, with photography, with colorful paint, with collected memorabilia, and with torn paper to create an entirely different work that can be hidden in a private journal or on a large canvas for public display.  I have found someone who is willing to take me on as a student - insecurities and all - and I have my first class this evening.  I am SO excited!

While I know that my time this week is not entirely my own - much will depend on Mom - I must say that this break from the academic world comes at just the right time.  I think I am mentally and physically ready to utilize this free time to bring about many positive changes that will result in a renewed passion for life.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

TSS - 3.6.11

It is hard to believe that it is March already:  Mardi Gras is this Tuesday, which means that Easter is forty+ days away.  Spring break starts in six days (but who's counting) and graduation is in a little more than two months.  Yes, spring is a time of great anticipation in more ways than one:  longer days with the advent of daylight savings time; warmer weather which means a more colorful landscape with green grass and pretty flowers; and hectic schedules to accommodate the end of another academic year.  If I thought the first two months of 2011 passed quickly away, I can't imagine how quickly these next few months be.

Mom update:
Without going into much detail - because quite frankly I think I have written about this subject far too much on this blog - Mom has taken a turn for the worse.  Last weekend was a terrific weekend, as she saw my son and her half sister.  On Monday my youngest and I had a very pleasant conversation with her.  She looked good, sounded good, and acted in good spirits.  By Wednesday hospice called to say that she was declining; by Friday they put her on daily visitations (translation:  she is in the active stage of dying).

I have spent the majority of the past three days trying to gather all my paperwork in order so that if I need a substitute this week before spring break, then he/she can easily slip into the role.  This is all such a surreal experience.

I am normally not much of a movie goer.  I'm not sure why - although I think it started when the cost of going to the movies rivaled the price of a nice dinner at a fine restaurant.  But somehow that evolved into not watching movies ever - not on DVD nor television.  So I found it rather surprising that I had a desire to see not one but two movies over this past week: The King's Speech and Black Swan.

I had seen The King's Speech in the spring when my daughter invited me to attend a preview.  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie at that time and I was anxious to see how much had been edited for the final release.  Not only is the story an encouraging one of overcoming life's obstacles, but the on-screen chemistry between Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush is delightful.

Photo Credit
I had mixed feelings about seeing Black Swan.  I desperately wanted to see the ballet scenes (of which there are many and all captivating to watch) and I wanted to see Natalie Portman's award winning performance (which I totally understand the academy's vote:  she is in nearly every scene of the movie and gives a gripping performance of someone who has become ensnared by the tentacles of perfectionism her entire life).  There are a few rated R scenes that I would prefer left on the cutting room floor, and the bloody scenes were a bit too realistic for my queasy stomach -- but other than that, I found myself reflecting on the movie and its message long after I left the theater.

I have so thoroughly enjoyed these movie experiences that I ordered two other award nominated films through Netflix, The Social Network and Inception, and I hope to watch them in the comfort on my own home next weekend.

Teaching 1 - Film Scripts:
Last week Belle posted a link on facebook which provides the PDF files of the top ten nominated movies.  I immediately checked out the site and began to brainstorm ways in which to use this as part of a lesson plan.

Photo Credit
As I have mentioned in the past, my English Comp class is quite interested in making some short films at the end of the year.  They completed the final drafts of their narrative stories two weeks ago, and this week they will begin to translate that narrative into script form.  Now, I know absolutely nothing about writing film scripts and I was planning to do some extensive online research to help with this deficit.  However....with this amazing site I have decided to let the students teach themselves.  I strongly believe that we can learn about writing well by reading good writing (does that make sense?)  By having the students read the best of the best - they are bound to learn something about this craft.  I figure that this is perhaps a real application of the old proverb:  give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.  I reason that if students can learn to teach themselves (of which I am quite certain they are capable) then they can truly accomplish any goal that they set for themselves.  Of course, I may be working myself out of a job, but if I can teach students this lifetime skill, then I am willing to take that risk.

Teaching 2 - Literary Merit:
I am going to begin literary circles in my English 1 class after Spring break.  One focus of this year's experiment is to ask students to discuss the literary merit of each of the books that they choose to read.  As an introduction to this unit study I asked students to research literary merit for homework and come to school prepared to develop a class definition.  Some students chose to jot down their own thoughts (not exactly what I had requested, but at least they spent a few minutes thinking about it), some chose to look up the words "literary" and "merit" in the dictionary and then develop their own compound word definition; and some actually chose to google search the term.  Imagine my surprise - and the surprise of my students - when that search led them to my blog!  In fact, I believe that my humble blog was about the fourth suggested website for that topic.

When I asked the students if they actually read the entry, one student replied, 'Yea - it was about a bookstore"  Well, this is true - but had the student read further she would have discovered that I actually outlined six points that I believe are a part of this broad concept.

So this was a lesson for me as well as the students.  Students learned that sometimes you have to read more than the first paragraph to discover the desired information; and I learned that perhaps there are more than just a few casual friends who read what I write.  That is quite a sobering thought!

So perhaps I owe it to myself - and the google crowd - to update my post on literary merit to include a more in-depth discussion of that particular term.  In an effort to perhaps be a bit more inclusive, I would like to ask you today:  How would YOU define literary merit?

As you can probably guess, reading has once again taken a backseat.  I have but one more chapter and I will have completed Joan Anderson's The Second Journey.  I do hope to write a short review of that book on my blog when I finish.  It has been a good book for me to read during this difficult time dealing with Mom.

I have also read the first six chapters of Jane Eyre.  While I do not think I will finish this classic prior to the March 11th movie premier, I am hopeful to finish it during spring break so that I can take advantage of those days off to see a matinee performance.

I am most excited for the Spring 2011 Read-a-thon, and I am hopeful that the timing of this semi-annual event, the weekend of April 9, will correspond with a much anticipated rekindling of my reading passion.  I know that I have plenty of material in house to participate --- it is just a matter of academic scheduling as well as personal interest.

Are any of you planning to participate in this fun, literary event?

While I would not be truthful if I said I was looking forward to this week, I am certain that by God's grace I will find the joy in the difficulties.  I hope that you have a good week, however, and that the promise of Spring's rebirth is evident in your neck of the woods.
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