Monday, October 13, 2014

Growing Up and Away

"Noi-noi?" She murmurs. "Noi-noi?"

It's 3 AM. I slowly turn over in bed to find little Felicity snuggled in next to me, sleepily patting my chest.

No, I never expected to have nursing or Felicity's made up name for it last this long. But as a pretty laid-back mama, it has, on and off. Of course, I never expected many things to happen to me that have happened. What human can?

"Noi-nois are tired," I sighed."They're just tired, hon. Maybe in the morning." My nearly three year old sighs too, but doesn't protest.... she knows nursing always "work" anymore, anyway. She drifts back off to sleep, her little rose bud lips relaxed, and I place a kiss on her ever-lengthening blond hair.

For a "Lactating Catholic," I don't talk about it much these days. But a state of life that has defined me is slowly changing. Being a MOP--a Mother of a Preschooler--is drifting away too.

I'm losing my current "baby" to toddlerhood, and my toddlers to preschool-hood... it's what all we moms both hope for and dread.

Thank God, the kids are growing up. Strong and healthy. Thank God. But oh, if they could only stay young...

It's something you don't realize is happening till it's already happened. The last time you have to ease their little shoes in and out of the "baby" swing at the playground. The last diaper. The last night in the crib. The last night in your bed. The last time you help them pull on a shirt, wipe their bottom, brush their teeth, wash their hair, slide on their water wings, push them on training wheels. The last time they ride in the grocery cart. The last time they ask you for a bedtime story. The last time they draw on your walls, (from my lips to God's ears.)

(At least she went around the picture, right?)
Suddenly, the helpless cooing creatures become self-feeding organisms.  They grow in confidence and then, slowly, in skill.  And then they don't need us as much anymore. And they put on backpacks and look all innocent when it's so obvious that they're trying to grow up...

"I a baby!" becomes "I do, myself!" Felicity goes back and forth between those phrases all the time.

Cecilia spoke both in the pool last year, all in the space of five minutes. "Don't let go Mommy!" She clung to me in the cold water, not trusting her new "floaties." I held her, encouraged her, easing her into the water. And so much sooner than I expected or hoped, she was calm and confident.

"Mom... I can do it!  Don't hold me; let me go!" And off she swam.

It breaks our hearts. It makes us proud.

Soon, if it hasn't happened all ready, I will no longer be "The Lactating Catholic." Not for awhile anyway. Perhaps never again. You don't know, you see, until you look back, that oh... I haven't had to carry her in days; she hasn't even asked to be picked up. She hasn't used this high chair in weeks. I can take the stroller out of the car, for now. Perhaps forever.

You see, we Catholic mamas sometimes don't know we're "done" until we look back, and we're 44 and our "baby" is five.  Only then do we go to the bins of tiny clothes we saved "just in case" and think about what lucky young mom with a swelling belly could use these now, as we start another, less familiar journey: growing in age and wisdom...right?  Huh.


Felicity turns three this week... Okay, well, to be honest, I wrote most of this weeks ago and she turned three last month (!) and Cecilia turned five.

(With her artwork, on paper and wall)
I'm doing more living of than writing of stories these days, figuring out how to take life one day at a time. 

It's been such a joy to see my girls grow. I wouldn't want it any other way, of course!  And oh, I do like to sleep, and I don't actually like buying diapers, and it's such a delight to have experienced Felicity's pointing fingers and monosyllabic words turn into longer and more colorful sentences. It was so fun to hear her say "Good grief" for the first time. Currently, she is trying to talk like her favorite character, "Peppa Pig"; she regularly requests her "swimming costume," tee hee.

Oh yes, and she really likes band-aids. A lot.

It's an adorable phase.  Soon she'll be on to something equally cute, and then she'll be ready for college.  Okay, maybe not that fast.

Thank God.

How is it that something that feels like it will never end--those sleepless, drool-filled, crazy newborn nights, those hectic shopping trips with little people who intend to buy out the store--how is it that, looking back, it all seems to have gone by so quickly, to go from chaotic present to precious past?

Growth and change, I'm realizing, are earthly activities as we move closer towards our unchanging, all-loving Father.  It is blissful to think of perfection lasting forever, isn't it?  It would be hard to say what that is, here, in this world: the fuzzy warm baby heads, the toddling steps that bring us wilted dandelions, the joyful shouts when they ride their two-wheeled bike away from our careful grasp.

I wouldn't know which moment to freeze.  I'm glad I ultimately don't have to decide. I love C.S. Lewis's take on eternity in The Last Battle... gotta re-read that, now that I have more "free" time.

I admit, I have an ache inside that approaches physical pain when I wonder if I'll have another baby. I'm trying to offer that up to the Giver of all good gifts, and trusting He has a wonderful plan for me, who's now been a mom of preschoolers for almost half her life.

Maybe I will be ready when it's finally, really, over, this phase of motherhood. Gosh, I hope I will feel ready. If the ache does ever completely go away... In the words of fellow blogger Sarah Bessey, whose article I linked here:

"The Ache reminds me of the great and terrible beauty I have seen,
 of what love I have experienced, 
of the sorrow and brokenness of loss, 
of all the love that is still here, 
of the wonder and miracle of life, 
of the sweetness of co-creation, 
of the labour and release, of transcendence."

I suppose there is beauty in this pain, too.

Sometimes, I sure do feel "done." For instance, I'm now writing at dawn after four hours of choppy sleep spent dealing with wet beds and bad dreams. Naturally, I'm not alone; an overgrown preschooler has squeezed in to lie down in the other half of the loveseat. Legos litter the floor, birds chirp in the rising sun, and I can smell the faint but unmistakable scent of... pee.  I'm facing the new artwork,,, remember what I said about wall art?  Yeah.

"Sometimes, Mom, I'm just tired of paper,"she had explained. "I hope you like my flowers. And the dinosaur walking down the stairs."

"I love them sweetheart... just not on the wall..."  Though part of me loves them, even there.

Happy (belated) birthday, big girls: five and three.  I loved watching you grow from the babies you were to the wonderful children you are now.  I can't wait to see what you will be.

I take that back: I can wait. Today I'll change your sheets (again) and your diaper and feed you at your little table.  I'll take you on your tricycles to the playground. Then I will put you on the big girl swings, tell you to hold on tight, push you to the sky and watch you fly.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you,
May the Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-6

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Worth your weight

So, I was about to pump gas. I mean, after I flipped the visor mirror up for just one more look.  And okay, taking a moment or two to fish in my purse for my lip gloss. And while I was at it, some powder. And fine, whatever, maybe some mascara...

Truth be told, I personally didn't like myself much today. I'd just gotten off the phone with my total blonde of a rheumatologist who wears leopard print leggings and heels with her lab coat. (Oh, I wish I was kidding.) The one who clapped in sheer girlish glee when she discovered (squee!) that I had "evidence of [some unusual type of] arthritic activity" in my spine.  

"Oh I knew it was possible! My colleagues didn't think so, but with you... oh I knew it!" she gushed. "Wait till I file the report!"

I had smiled blandly, waiting for my doctor to realize what she had said to the person with the spine in question who was sitting in front of her.

"Oh. I'm sorry. It's just that... this is so... rare. I mean, really, wow..."

Yeah. I'm rare. Felt "rare" today, starting with the phone call from "Dr. Barbie's" secretary who explained that "an x-ray was just as good as an MRI." When I disagreed, I was offered an appointment to speak with the dear doctor in person. 


I continued feeling "rare" when I stepped on the scale this morning. The vagaries of my various meds cause fluxuations, but then again, so does increasing the amount of chocolate one consumes. Maybe drinking coffee that was too sweet.  And okay, I had, I guess.  And I've been exercising more but sleeping less and the scale wasn't fooled. But I could trick my phone into finding the right angle...I only seem to take "selfies" when I'm trying to prove something to myself. In the end, it only proves that I'm having a rather "off" day, as is probably already demonstrated by my "Tempest" cast shirt:

"It's not like your worth decreases when your weight increases, you know," I said out loud to the cold square I stood on.  But then I realized I needed to say it a couple more times to make it feel remotely true. 

So back to where I'm gonna pump gas, for real this time. But first, I take a moment to look at an exhausted mom in that visor, and half-heartedly swipe at her with makeup. 

I grinned, but primarily to look at my teeth. Coffee wasn't helping there either...

"You're beautiful!"

Startled, I snapped the visor shut, automatically looking apologetically towards the muffled voice. What the heck...

A friendly face. A bright smile that barely cleared the passenger's closed side window. A woman who was not a day younger than 80.  

"You're beautiful." And turning her head of ivory-permed hair, the sweet little lady walked slowly back to her vehicle; it took her awhile to arrive. It must have taken her awhile to come over to me, as well. A deliberate journey of kindness to the mom in the mini van mirror. And a sacrificial one as well; being "rare," I understand the price of extra steps for elderly knees, hips, and spine.

Realizing I had obviously been tarrying too long before buying petrol, I jumped out of the van and swiped my card. Quickly blinking back tears, I peered at the woman who deliberately walked to replace the gas cap, gingerly got into her car, and drove away before I could collect myself to thank her for one of the nicest compliments I'd ever received.

I wish I had returned the compliment. I bet, 50 years ago, she had been beautiful in appearance; I could see past the wrinkles well enough.  And she was definitely still beautiful, possibly even more so with age: to be able to confidently approach a complete stranger with a possibly unwanted compliment, just because she wanted to lift someone's spirits... yeah.  She's beautiful.

I'd talked myself out of the urge before. To tell a teen fussing with their hair or smoothing their clothes that they were beautiful. To tell an elderly person with a laugh that made those around them smile that they were beautiful.  Sure, maybe they wouldn't appreciate it; it's possible they'd get irritated...

But maybe they can't see that truth in the mirror. Maybe you're the only person who sees it. The only person who tells them that they're beautiful that day, or that week, or that year. Or maybe you're the only person they would believe, because... well maybe they are told they're beautiful, a lot, but by the same person who also has said so many, many other things...

Sometimes it's easier to believe a stranger saying something nice to you. At any rate, it was easier for me that day.

So I'm gonna say it right now: you are beautiful, dear reader. Maybe today you can't see it yourself, but I can. Even from here. And you are well worth the time it takes to get out of a car and walk over and tell you that. 

You're beautiful, and you uniquely reflect the beauty of your Creator in a way no one else does or can. Your worth does not change with your weight. Or your age. Or your income, where you live, what you own, what you wear, or so many of the foolish things we use to weigh a person's worth, particularly our own.

You're beautiful, child of God. Just... beautiful.

And now, I suppose I should make my kitchen look beautiful too... ;)

"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts..." 
Col. 3:12

Friday, August 15, 2014

First (Erstwhile) Birthday

Dearest Pepper,

Today, you would have turned one. I so wish you could have.

I would have done what I've done with all your sisters on their first birthday: strapped you into your high chair and given you your first piece of cake, sans fork. Chocolate, of course. You would likely also have been sans shirt, since I've learned through my dozen years of motherhood that I'd rather wash baby bellies off than a baby bib, a baby shirt, and baby pants. Diapers are the best eating costumes for one year-olds, like you.

Except you never needed a diaper, did you? Huh. Advanced in so many ways, you heavenly kid you. Instead of just toddling your way out of babyhood, you've now spent over a year (in some timeless way) beholding the Eternal Light. Lux perpetua

It is you who continually teach me, little one. There is little I can teach you.

Other than to tell you stuff like what your birthday here would have entailed (you'd be stripped and grinning, covered in cake: a very classy, delicious disaster), and to tell you how I arbitrarily decided that August 15 was, indeed, to be your birthday, given that you were never, actually, born.

You see, your big sister Felicity (how odd and delightful it is to call my littlest one here a "big" sister) was born on September 15, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, as I ruefully noted while getting checked into the hospital almost three years ago that day. I was glad her name meant "happiness," making up for a dolorous-sounding day.

So you were due around September 1st. I tended to give birth a couple weeks early. Therefore, August 15, exactly a month before Felicity, and also on a feast of Mother Mary... well, that just seemed appropriate when picking a birthday out of hat. Particularly since it is the feast of the Assumption, when Our Lady arrived at where you are.

Since today is a Holy Day, it will also ensure I'm always at Mass on "your birthday," in the presence of the Lord for whom earth and heaven are no further apart than a footstool and a throne. I like being close to you, little one, older one, sweet, sassy and super-involved one. Our whole family is saturated in your prayers; thank you for them! You've been busy, I can tell.

But because you're so darn cool and invisible and stuff, I can't treat you to a messy cake decorated by your doting sisters today, can't take a million pictures of you liking your frosting-covered hands before bath, breast, and bed. Instead... well, I've got a cute teddy bear "Happy Birthday" balloon which I'll take to your grave.

I'll kneel on that precious rectangle of dirt and try to drive it as far into the ground as I can so it stays long enough to be noticed by the other grieving moms who come to decorate tiny graves with little toys and cherub statues that the lawn mower frequently breaks and smashes into dust. Every token I've brought you has been destroyed or disappeared for the sake of greener, trimmer grass. Even the windcatchers and chimes I securely tied to nearby trees have been taken away.

Frankly, it sucks. The whole thing sucks. Children don't belong in "Babyland, Section 29B." They just don't.

Now I've done it: I'm venting in your birthday letter, but I know you're somehow okay with that, patting my hand, shaking your head and smiling, telling me it's all somehow okay in the grand scheme of things. Because unlike me, you understand much better "the Grand Scheme of Things," and you know things ultimately won't "suck."

And you can handle my poor language, because... you're more like my teen than my toddler. And in some ways, more like my mother than my child. How wonderfully strange, how strangely wonderful.

I love you Pepper. Loving you has taught me so much about that word: "Love." And about God. And about the person called Katie that I get to be here, while you get to be Perpetua by "the river of the water of life."(Rev.22:1)  It's sad, it's glorious, and it's many things in between

Meanwhile, I have your earthly sisters to tend to. I'm typing feverishly on my laptop while no less than two of the kiddos have tried to climb onto my lap, computer and all. One is now yelling "I'm hungry!" while the other is hanging upside on the couch bellowing, "Look! I'm a fireman!" Oh, and we are watching "Bubble Guppies." I'd explain that nonsense, but you really aren't missing much.

But I am missing you today. And I'll miss you everyday until my own soul pierces the sky to finally hold you again. I long to be where you are. And yet, you're now whispering, "I'm right here, Mom." And I somehow see you wink and hear you giggle until your sister demands a drink and I'm back to wiping mouths and cleaning floors in this vale of spilled lemonade and broken toys.

Just like I have to do now: calls for "Shaun the Sheep," the need for baths and yet another snack (really kids? really!?) are becoming increasingly apparent. I've gotta keep being Mom over here.

You keep being you, beautiful girl. Say hi to Gabriel for me... I'm so proud of my two "heaven kids."

Happy Birthday from your family here, where with baked goods and candles we'll tick off the years till we hopefully join you in eternal bliss. Well that and such celebrations offer a perfectly good and reasonable excuse to eat chocolate. I'd tell you all about that, but I know there's chocolate where you are. Like, duh. ;)

A thousand kisses and a million hugs,

P.S. It's kinda neat (though the art is kinda weird) that people have calendars turned to this page this month, with my quote about you. Thanks for that, baby girl.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Way Things Are Now

I'm in an odd writerly situation over here: there's much to write about, but not terribly much I can say because of how events involve other people's business. At least, so it seems so far...

When I lost Pepper, I could write my heart out because it was "my" story and she didn't mind a bit. But it is different at the moment.  Perhaps these frustrating clarifications don't help much, but I thought I'd try them anyway: I'm doing much better than some people fear and somewhat worse than other people expect...

That help any? No? Sigh...

Let me try this: life has been about finding "the new normal": paying household bills, arranging visitations, and managing--on my own--anything that goes "bump" in the night. (It's usually my sleepwalking 10 year old; she tried to go to school last week at 3 AM. Keeps things interesting, it does.)

Alone at night, with kids asleep, I never turn on the TV now; it's much more important to try to sleep (though I find the harder you "try" to sleep, the harder it can be to achieve.) I occasionally scroll through Facebook news feed, and stop because there are so many pictures of the traditional type of family I so wanted to be, and it just hurts too much to see sometimes. I'll lie in bed and think about whether I set up auto-pay right on the electric bill.  I wonder where I put that book I'm supposed to read about "Rebuilding" your life as a single. I finally fall asleep, and wake up 20 minutes later with a preschooler who wants water. When she has to go potty an hour after that, there is no one else to "take turns" getting up with. It's just me.

I'm tired. That stinks.

Life is trying to address the very kindly-meant questions I have no answers for: Where are you going to work or earn money? When? How about here or there? Are you going back to school? Are your kids? Are you moving? When? Where? How?

Sometimes the even harder questions seem to be "Are you okay?" And "What do you need?" I don't really know sometimes. I tend to say I'm okay, because there are so, so many worse problems than my own First World issues.

As for what I need.... I mean, I know what I want. But no one can simply hand me an intact, reasonably happy family, and restore plans for my future: the at least imagined security of "knowing" when and how and where one will retire; if another baby could ever (somehow?) be in my future; when the next "vacation" will be; and the darker thoughts of who I will grow old with, or if I will grow old alone, or even if I will grow old at all.

I try not to brood or give myself over to anxiety. I'm fully enjoying the summer with my kids.

Well, enjoying it most of the time anyway. :)

And during my child-free time, I'm full-tilt pursuing a long-neglected hobby of mine: acting. I'm finishing up some short, "original works" plays this weekend at a local theater, and just got cast in "Guys and Dolls" at this coolly historic theater.  I'm now one of the "Barker Players." While I dearly love my married and mommy friends, it's been good for me to spend time with "theater people," who overall seem to be a sensitive, kind group of singles with an appreciation for silliness, fun, and good stories: performing them as well as sharing their own. It feels like where I need to be right now. As a Christian, I appear to be rather a minority in these circles; it's been a neat opportunity to here and there share what I believe, and why.

I'm in an awkward phase of my life where what I'm doing doesn't necessarily present--from the outside--like the best idea. But then again, neither does walking on water.

"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'" 
Matthew 14:27

Friday, July 25, 2014

The kids are just fine

I love the summer.  I have an English degree.  And I've needed a hobby right now. So performing "Shakespeare Under the Stars" with an outdoor theater company seems just about heavenly these days. We're wrapping up a production of "The Tempest" where I got to play stage manager for the first time, trying to keep track of props, running lines, and getting scolded by divas when they miss a cue they were really supposed to know by now.

As this play calls for a scene with fairies, my girls were asked to be sprites. "Absolutely!" I said. 

"Oh cute!" I thought. "This will be adorable." I thought.

In answer to everyone's questions: the kids are doing fine. And they absolutely hate their costumes. Folks, this is reverse psychology; they have promised me several times already never, ever to have a "goth" phase. I'm delighted. Delighted that they usually look like this:

And do wholesome looking things like this at Children's Museums and stuff:

Not that I have anything against Shakespeare and the need for harpies, it's just... yeah...

But oh, look look, she does cooking competitions too, not just crazy drama:

And she does pretty darn well.

That's it for now folks. Writing has been hard, recently. I'll get there, and I'll have great stories to tell when I do. But for now, as you can see, all is well. :)
"The Lord will guide you always, 
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength." Isaiah 58:11

Saturday, July 12, 2014

When Life Hands You Convertibles

"No more coffee for you today honey."

Okay, so maybe I was talking a little fast. You see, about every two years, I reluctantly take one of my fave devices-my digital camera--to be "pronounced" by the nice camera-fix it guys down the street. And I'm usually in a friendly yet agitated state. 

And this guy says the same thing to me, every two years. (No more coffee, indeed!:)  And every time, the camera is just dead. 

But this time...

"Sweetie, you see this knob? Yeah, just put it on Auto. See? It works fine on Auto... you had it basically on the 'action shots at night' setting."

Oh. Of course.  I should have known that. I take pictures as one of my many mini jobs, after all. 

But I'm not quite myself these days. Mommy-brained, but even more so. Not widow-brained but... Something single-sounding like that.

Confused? Catch up here. Yeah, things have been different recently. Quite sad in spots. But not all bad, not at all. Space is good for growth and stuff. I mean, I can't get into all the reasons, but Dan being in an apartment with some good Christian friends and me being here with the kids... it's what is needed. I'm absolutely certain of it.

But yes, my mind is elsewhere these days.

Kinda like when I took all the kids to the pool and remembered to put it all in locker 10 though who locks it, right? And then came out of the pool with four dripping wet kids and nothing in locker 10! Nothing! Most immediately alarming, no dry clothes. After a tense half hour with squealing naked preschoolers, I rightly reasoned--after checking 216 other lockers in my very finest frayed bath towel--that a thief would unlikely want our clothes along with my van keys. Figured this out after YMCA staff ascertained my van was still, very much, there.

That's when I found my stuff in the family changing room.  Neatly folded on top of the paper towel dispenser.  

So I'm not exactly myself these days... or I'm like myself but even more so?  Living in separation can be a good thing but it's also stressful in new and unique ways. Like which circuit breaker is for the living room? And when do I pay for the van lease? And what animal is near the trash can at 3 AM?

And how to drive a standard 2006 Mustang convertible.  Because all four kids need the mini van to go out with daddy, regularly.  And after round the clock kids, I'm left alone sporting a loudly roaring car at a time in my life when I feel kind of... lost.  

I first, I protested firmly.  Didn't at all want to drive this recent acquisition which I had no part in choosing. Despite that (it's quite complicated), Dan and I are currently on civil terms, and may even be spotted at the grocery store occasionally--so neither panic or party if you see us, just smile and wave. Or chat. Chatting can totally happen; it's okay. You may even at some point see us driving around in a mini van or an obnoxiously loud topless vehicle.

So I'm not very fond of the thing. Not like my camera-friend or anything.  Not something I'm familiar with and know what I can expect from. Usually takes me a few tries to open up the roof.

But I'm getting used to it.  And it is really nice to have so much air and sky.  

Keep the prayers up.  I'll figure this thing out...

"Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.
My hope is in You."
Psalm 5:25

Friday, July 4, 2014


Hi.  I want to write again.

But there's one thing I need to do first, as briefly and simply as possible.  It's important that I mention it, because the entire landscape of my life has changed.

This past month was a quiet one blog-wise because I have new responsibilities and some new roles, beyond the three small plays I'm currently in. Theatre has seemed more normal than normal life most of the time this month. But we did the normal things too: my sister-in-law visited, and we've been swimming and sailing in boats shaped like waterfowl.

As for the rest... for awhile, I was caught up on a funny word: detraction. But then I realized, I can "just say it."

With a long story, of course. :) Here was one of my attempts:

Lawning the mow, solo

I was rather proud of my Lowe's purchase.

Right up until the moment my favorite neighbor said, "Hey! Doing it old school, huh?"

I suppose a push, rotating mower is--rather--"old school."  And yes, I just bought it new, and yes, they do still make them.

My Dad had one when I was growing up. I remember the large rotating blades.  I remember it quickly finding a permanent home in the damp garage, replaced by the power version.

My manual lawn-mower version has a nicely rubberized handle and is "rust proof."  But yes, it's essentially the same thing.

I've never mowed the lawn before. I don't ascribe to "man's work" and "woman's work" when it comes to household chores. But there are enough household chores that the lawn had simply never fallen to my care. Until now.

Whirr whirr whirr pop.  Whirr pop.  Whirr pop pop.  I started timidly, going after the tallest grasses first (and yes, we grow every type of (legal) grass here on Ingleside.

But the blasted thing did not respond to timidity. It needed full control.

Standing squarely behind it, I rammed the thing, up and down the uneven ground, in fiercely determined rows.  It worked... better. But not well.  Far from well.  I pushed faster.

I realized I was angry. Angry at the stubborn straggling grasses that refused to yield, or break, or even bend. That popped right back up, mocking me.  Despite the fact that I had gone over them over and over and over again.

It didn't seem fair. To try so, so hard to make something work, and have it refuse to cooperate. To have the stupid grass stay the same problem it was before, no matter how many passes I made at it, how hard or how many times I tried.  All that work... seemingly for nothing.

Maybe I was using the wrong tool.  I'll find the weed whacker and have another go at it, after I take a bit of a break. I need a break.  In the process of charging through the grass, glorying in the carnage of the more cooperative vegetation, I plowed my face into a low hanging dogwood branch. I now have an impressive scrape on my eyelid.

Yes, I'm very glad it wasn't my eye. I'm not above being grateful. Even now, when I'm the one to mow the lawn.

There are many reasons a woman finds herself in charge of the yardwork, and the housework, and indeed any work that comes to keeping a house with kids in it. Some are good reasons, and some aren't so great.

And while I can't share them all, I know I have the best of reasons for being alone right now. And I know everything will be okay.

But I'm still mad at the grass I couldn't cut. I mean, I saw the problems, saw them for a long, long time. Worked so hard to fix them. I don't understand why they didn't go away. I really don't. It doesn't seem right not to succeed in the end, when you try and cry and pray and hurt so hard for so long with such determination. You know?

And like I said, I'm willing to try again, later. I think. But for now, I have to take time to tend to my eye first, and rest my back, and hug my kids.

Formally separated, I currently live in a household of five females. Thanks for your prayers.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Dozen Years of Motherhood: 7 Quick Takes

1.  Some would say it's my oldest daughter's birthday.  I say, I did all the work. :D  But yes, she's helping out now, for sure, enough to pass for a mom herself sometimes. And she's the same height as me!

2. 12 years ago, I was ridiculously naive.

I didn't know enough to be terrified that the 4.5 pounder was 32 weeks.  I really didn't.  I was 24, 12 years ago.  

Since no one wants to know my age and no one likes math, I'm not worried about y'all bothering me about my advanced years.  :P

3. 12 years ago, I thought I could handle a natural birth with nothing more than deep breathing and measured sighs.

12 years ago, I had no idea how loud I could be.

4. 12 years ago, I realized my own mom was right.

"Katie, you aren't gonna care who's in the room when you give birth.  You'll just be really... focused." And I would blush and demurely shake my head.

Having given birth four times in these twelve years to a collective audience of about 32 people, I can say she's absolutely correct.

5. 12 years ago, I found out that breastfeeding is natural, but it ain't necessarily simple. Like at all. I found this out--12 years ago--after a hospital that didn't yet believe in nipple confusion (they sure do now!) had every confidence that a premie baby could "figure it all out" after a month of exclusive bottles.

12 years ago, I had no idea that all my attempts to nurse this baby would be unsuccessful. 12 years ago, I had no idea I would pump, every 4-6 hours, for 12 months.  A sound I can still hear in my head today...

12 years ago, I would have cried with joy if you'd told me, "Listen, you'll get this someday, for real.  You'll have actually have a blog called 'The Lactating Catholic!'"

I would then have cried to know I would have someday be so unnaturally bold as to choose such an inappropriate-sounding title... and would then have asked you what on earth a "blog" was.

6. 12 years ago, I began to learn what mother-love is. And it has been made every sacrifice of the past 12 years make a lot more sense.

And I'm sure, as a 12 year old, I would read all this and be like, "Uh, okay mom.  Thanks...?"  So I'll have her read this when she's 21.

7. Here's to the next 12 years of being a mom. It's exhausting. It's painful. It's hard.

It's worth it.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Sleeping peacefully

No time tonight, again.  So just this:

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Birth of the Woman Who Gave Me Birth

Was today.  June 1st.  No, I don't know how old she is, and dare not ask today. But she's getting up there. Looks good though: very young in spirit and in smile.  I'd do well to take after her there.

Wish I could claim a more personal touch to it all, but I got her a cake at Stop and Shop, and yellow flowers, and dressed up. I expect I'll like to see my daughters dressed up for my birthday when they're too old to be forcibly dressed in frilly clothes.

When she left my front porch party to be feted by my other siblings, I drove that mini van off to a Mom's Night Out, where I was overdressed.  I expect when the destination is a discount cinema, you come in jeans, right?  I got a little teased.

So that's how, an hour before my self-imposed "deadline," I owe y'all a (short) post. Because for better or worse, I'm blogathoning again.  I look forward to writing with you more.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorable Week

I have an email in my inbox thanking me for both having written a letter to the governor and for having signed a petition to "Save the Greater-Sage Grouse." Not kidding.

As admirable as such causes are, I have no recollection of doing those things.  Such are the risks of leaving email open in a one computer house of five other people who love to tap/beat on keys.

Though given the week I had, I would not be absolutely surprised if I had done these things and simply forgotten.  Stress can do that to a person, right?

What stresses... well, my grandfather, a WWII Navy sub vet, is not doing well and is currently refusing medical attention, preferring to "tough things out" at home. Finances have been... fun. Our 1997 car is finally dying, though I'm thankful the van holds up. And this post written by a college friend felt right on the mark in some areas of my life.  

Also we had to say goodbye to "Annie"!  It's an adjustment, going back to "normal" after so many weekends of "life on stage." I'm adjusting well, only have four auditions planned. :) Warbucks and Grace are gonna miss this Annie; Rhiannon is going to be trying out for the national "Annie" on tour... we wish her the best!

And yes, Dan's hair is growing back.  Thanks for asking. :D

Some good things have happened though.  We, tearlessly, replaced this beauty that's been with us for almost a decade, and has been baking cakes for longer than I've been alive, I fear:

My eldest showed me that hundreds of dollars and tens of hours driving to her music homeschool co-op was totally worth it.  She played violin. 

She rang hand-bells. She sang a solo. All in a black dress with heels, calm, cool, collected, and confident.  Can't help but be proud as a mom in such a moment. Proud of that and of the four year old who can now pump on the swing herself, no pushes necessary.  Bittersweet.  Oh, and this one "learned" to put on makeup while behind the couch with my purse. Scary. 

Other positives is that we've been putting the grill to work, seeing some friends, and overall enjoying the "weather nirvana of the northeast." Don't be too envious; we were seriously overdue for a break up here.

Hope we all have a better week, and a peaceful remembering day, particularly of those who served our country.  Thank you Grandpa.  

And thank you to all I've never met who fought for our freedoms.  We honor you.

Psalms 33:20-22
"Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you."

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Let it Go" and Desires of the Heart

You know those dreams where you go to the mall and realize you're wearing pj's?  Kinda like when you do a 2 AM rant and you wake up to find it on Patheos.  On the blog of one of my favorite writers, no less.  (blush)

Inspired by Simcha, plush animals, the urge to just laugh at the whole thing, and a rainy day... I felt the need to sing and act for you, putting my own interpretation on this "art":

Yes, that's a blue marker.  A "washable" one...

And then to get just slightly serious: why yes, this is all fuss about a drawing.  But it alarmed me personally because I was once "the girl with the smaller bear."

I was raised--with the best of intentions--to believe that sacrifice was good simply because it was hard.  I'll get into all that more later I'm sure, but generally I was taught that "God's will" was often discovered by seeking what was most difficult, something that would hurt to do but that "God would reward" me for.

This impression can send a person down a lot of wrong paths. Instead of listening to what God has put in one's heart to love--the interior inclinations He uses to direct us to His will--a person raised with, well, this drawing's "philosophy" does the exact opposite. "If I love x, it would be 'the better/holier/right thing' to give x up." One is definitely left with the overall impression that if something is difficult, it is "good/holy/meritorious"; if something's easy, welllll you're doing something wrong. And having grown through these notions... I don't think God intended us to quite have such perspectives.

Children need to be taught, first, that God loves them.  That tremendous truth alone takes a lifetime to learn.  Not only that: He wants us to be happy. Sometimes it is by trusting Him blindly and surrendering to a Divine Will we don't understand.  But more often than not, it's probably by loving Him from where we are and keeping the darn teddy bear He knows we love, because--after all--He created us.

And yes, from now on, I should totally--somehow--work a teddy bear into any theology I touch on. This is a must. You're welcome.

Give God Your Teddy Bear and Get a Bigger One!

I'm in an online group of Christian homeschoolers.  Their posts at times make me wonder if I, myself, can actually be Christian or homeschool... I mean, maybe one or the other, but surely, not both. 

About 50 of them "liked" the following picture:

This drawing (by an unknown source and author) was hailed in the comments as "an excellent visual for our kiddos," "Profound... says it all," "a vocation story in pictures" and as... well, she-who-will-remain-anonymous (because I'll assume she meant this really well) puts it best:
AWW!! Thank you for sharing this. I'm going to share it with my 5-year old. I don't think he needs any help in this department since he tells me that he loves Jesus more than he loves me (yes, my heart swells), but I want to keep reaffirming his beliefs. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Yes, "reaffirming his beliefs" that... but wait. No. I will resist commenting on that comment for now, in hopes that God will take the sarcastic comments that I'd currently love to utter and--in return--inspire me with even snarkier things to say, later.

Oh dear, ahem, I-should-be-sorry-but-I'm-tired-and-annoyed: Anyway, when I first saw the pic, I actually thought someone was just making fun of us crazy Christians again. But then, I realized it was--likely--well-intended and promoted by a Christian. I also realized that my dismay was a minority position... not just from the 47 likes, but from the lack of an answer to my objection to this drawing (though it did get "liked" once, so it's me and that gal, yeah!) 

I thought it wisest to spell it out my concerns here on my own personal soap box / blog rather than start a firestorm with well-meaning enthusiasts of the dear Lord's desire for teddy bears:

1. The "Give to Get" implication.  Don't give something to God expecting something better back. He probably gave you what you love in the first place, and also, when we "give" we're not supposed to expect anything back, right?  (Luke 6:35)

So don't give to acquire, and please (please) don't teach your kids to give up what they love so God gives them something even better. Please.  Especially not your five-year-old son.  

Like... here's some five-year-old reasoning using the above illustration: "I will put 25 cents in the poor box, and God will give me $25 dollars back."

NOT that He won't, necessarily.  But it's really, really bad motivation for giving up your favorite stuffed animal. Or giving up anything you love, for that matter.

2. The Completely Hidden Bigger Bear

Yes, God does sometimes require us to give up things that we love. And let me be clear: if Jesus appears to me, gets down on one knee, and asks me for ANYTHING, I promise to give it to Him. 

But when God wants us to give up a job that we love, for instance, in order to be freed up for something more important like, say, having kids... well, first of all, He often does give us a glimpse of "the bigger teddy bear" to keep us motivated.  

Sometimes we give up good things for better things that we perceive God to be calling us to. Not that God hasn't ever asked people to give up good things "blind"... but I think a positive motivation is probably, most often, at least somewhat apparent.

3. "If it's hard, it's holy; if it's difficult, it's good; if it's painful, it's progress" etc etc

Oh, not necessarily.  And that notion is written all over this pic... giving up that teddy bear might be as extreme as God's testing of Abraham, at least to a little kid, c'mon now... Nuff said on that. 

4. "You should give up what you love."

Took me till adulthood to learn that God actually often guides us to His will using the desires of our heart (Psalm 20:4), not by teaching us to always "give up" what we love. 

There's another Psalm that speaks of this too: "Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desires." Ps. 37:4 

5. "God wants us to give up what we love."

Similar to the above, but emphasis on what "God wants."  Guess what I think about WWJD when this girl said, "But I love it God"?  I think He'd grin and tell her to keep her tiny teddy (I mean really, "unknown artist." Really?!)

6. Using a tiny teddy bear instead of a knife. 

Or a rusty nail.  Or a lit match. This picture TOTALLY works if the child is holding something dangerous, bad, or otherwise unhealthy. Then, Jesus is being a good and loving Parent who knows best even if the child doesn't, not a creepy stranger asking for a kid's favorite toy...


7.  The presence of random blue paint splotches. Look:

What's up with that?  I asked all the 40-odd "likers" on the wall and no one explained it to me... sniff.  And who says "bigger is better"... I mean, we're talking about teddy bears here. I prefer Beanie Babies, myself...

Oh, and the complete lack of proper punctuation... I think I spy an incorrect use of ellipsis (_I_ should know, I do it all the time. Like here... and here...) And yeah, where's the, like, comma? Or a period.  

I'm going to bed... But in the meantime: Please, please don't use that picture to demonstrate to your children our relationship with God.  Instead, how about teaching about trusting God and His love for us with:

"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, 
will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 
or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  
If you then . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, 
how much more will your heavenly Father?"
 Luke 11:10-12
(N.B. The ellipsis was used properly in the above quote. But no where else...)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

When the reverse proved unrealistic and somewhat undesirable, for various reasons

I've locked myself out on the porch this evening.  :D

It is an absolutely perfect time to be outside: the lowering sun glowing through the vines winding up the pillars, birds and lawn mowers competing to be heard, the smell of cookouts and lilacs in the air.  When the weather permits time outside, I love our little home across from the park, where all four of my girls gathered fistfuls of dandelions to wilt on my windowsills. I hope they never outgrow the belief that I--most particularly--"love" these weeds, if only because it keeps them from picking the neighbor's tulips and daffodils.

I determined to not have unrealistic expectations on this day, and this year, it worked for me. So when I was woken up too early in order to be given handmade bookmarks they couldn't wait one more second to bestow, when cards were thrust at me in the shower by grinning toddlers, when church involved a communion line fit over a misplaced barrette, when it was discovered that all the nutella for the crepes had been eaten via spoon, and when four-year-old tempers flared when, at first, they couldn't get into the tree by themselves, and again later, when they couldn't get down solo either,

Cecilia, in the extremely brief time between tree tantrums
when the cut-outs from handmade cards were left all over the table and floor, and when we somehow ended up at Aldi to buy liverwurst... I've been fine.  I've been happy, grateful, kept my focus, and was generally non-PMSy about the whole thing. As you mom's know, it's not always easy to see the blessings through the mess.  But the moments when we can... those are beautiful.

And.... no word of a lie... my preschooler just came outside to see me in her birthday suit with a happy sigh, commenting, "Mom, it's just you and me, on Mother's Day," shortly followed by her little sister exactly as pictured above other than that she has since accessorized with an opened, industrial-sized bag of chips. Can't make this stuff up....  Think "Mom" might just be needed about now...

In brief, I'm hoping that all of you with mother's hearts out there had a similar experience of feeling the blessings of today; would love to know what your experiences were if you care to share here.  :)  Love, peace, and joy to you all.

(Love this image!) "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you ..."  Isaiah 66:13
Linked to This, That, and the Other Thing

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lessons at a Death Bed

She had been widowed in her 30's.  Raised four boys on her own.  Scrubbed floors for decades to support them. Read herself into an education she wasn't allowed as a child, being a girl and all.  Read until her sight failed her in her 60's; after that, she'd crank her hearing aids to listen to books on cassette. Photos from a lifetime of birthdays and babies hung above her bed. 

Bottom right: Nana in the middle of her 4 sons; above that, her and her husband and oldest child
And yeah, I'm up there in a high chair, stirring cookies with a wooden spoon :)
Over the years, somehow, she had put enough dimes, nickels, and dollars aside to fully pay for a funeral she thought she'd need a whole lot sooner than she did.  

But at 98, with a broken hip, a sudden onset of dementia, and a body that was finally failing, she'd finally find a use for those 1980 savings bonds.  

Nana knew she was going.  And she handled it with the simple grace she'd shown in the face of any adversity.  

"You're going to God, Ma," her son choked.  "You'll be on your way soon." 

She had squeezed his hand. "I'm so tired. I'm ready. It's okay." She gave him a shaky kiss on the cheek. "I love you.  Tell everyone I love them."  

As her mind started slipping, she wandered into her past. Gleefully, she told one of her favorite stories: she reminded her baby boy of how he'd been caught speeding when he'd first gotten his license.  

"Do you remember, Bill?" 

"Yes Ma.  I sure do."  

She chuckled. "The judge told you, 'You listen to your mother or you'll hear from me!' And you listened from then on." Her eyes twinkled a little.  But then she settled back into her pillow with a vague look.

It was her last story.  We sang some old songs with her, including "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." She actually sang with us for the final few words.  Her last song.

"Terminal agitation."  I hadn't known what that was before, but I do now.  And Nana... man, she was a fighter.  While her mind had acquiesced to the fact that it was "her time," her body and spirit were used to fighting through every adversity.  I admired and pitied her, stroking her hand as the morphine for her hip pain started to take effect.  I jumped when she'd suddenly lunge from a lying to a full sitting position. Over and over again.

"Something's wrong. Oh, there's something wrong." Wincing, twisting, and moaning, she slipped in and out of lucidity, uncertain what was going on.  "Where am I? What day is it?  Oh. Help me." 

It was heartbreaking.

We'd settle her down back into the pillow.  We'd tell her the time, the date, who was there, where people were, and encouraged her to relax.  

"We'll take care of you, Nana.  You're all right, you're all right," I'd soothe.

It felt funny, saying that.

Finally, she settled somewhat. A sense of determination was about her. "Water," she'd say calmly and firmly. "Water." I'd shakily hold the styrofoam cup with the bendy straw to her lips. She'd drink a little and cough a lot; her brain was forgetting how to swallow.  I'd put down the cup and stroke her hand.  A minute later... "Water." I fumbled for the cup, and she fumbled for the straw, again.  And again. "Water."

Her last comprehensible word, repeated and responded to, over and over, till the sleeping came.

My kids came to say goodbye.  I waited till she was settled more, then had them quietly slip in to give her a kiss on the forehead.  The preschoolers came in next.  My four year old solemnly waved at the food of the bed. Leaving, she loudly declared, "I'll miss her a little bit." Classic Ce.

We chuckled.  But when it was my toddler's turn, Nana was agitated again.  

Darn it.

I paused for a moment, then went with my gut.  Since Fliss seemed calm, I walked swiftly up to Nana, put my daughter's small hand in her gnarled one, and announced, "Nana, the baby's here." 

Nana actually stopped moaning. She actually opened her eyes.  Leaning forward, she pressed her forehead to Fliss's forehead, which was their special way of greeting each other. 

And there it was.  Nana's last smile. 

"So, it could be any time.  Well--to be precise--it could be seven minutes, or it could be seven days.  I'd advise you all taking shifts through the night; don't all be here all at once, you'll burn out."

Hospice left us with that advise. Four adult brothers who had gathered from as far as Nebraska and as near as down the street stood somberly around the bed, looking at their intermittently breathing, unconscious mom: a powerhouse of stubborn will and determined energy suddenly stilling. And none of them could stay to watch the inevitable happen, gradually or suddenly, however God had ordained this passing.  And none of us knew when that would be.  

That's how my sister, my cousin, and myself ended up spending three nights with Grandma/Nana.  Three nights the still trouble my dreams, because it's so sad to see someone you love leaving so definitely.  But also, these were three nights of lessons that I'll truly treasure forever.  

1.  As I learned awhile ago now, you don't have to be physically present with someone in order to feel their love.  In a special way as she was leaving this world, and particularly since she's left it, I've felt a connection with my grandmother like never before.  Now it's no longer about whether or not I have time or a possible cold that would prevent me from getting to the nursing home. In a heartbeat, I can be "with" her in spirit, in memory, and in love.

2.  Being beside a deathbed made me see in a renewed way what honesty is. There is no pretense when death is approaching. People cry and laugh openly, together and without a sense of shame for doing so.  The important things are spoken, sung, and prayed.  You find yourself doing all the things you wish you had done before, and the ones, looking back, that you're glad you'd done.

Suddenly, it was perfectly normal for me to address a sleeping woman with the following: "Hey Nana ,I'm gonna remind you about a story about the time I kicked you when I was three--sorry about that, by the way--followed by a rosary, and then remember those lemon drops you used to give us?  We don't actually like them, but we love you... and you know, I think I'm gonna like them, now.  And here, I'll sing Amazing Grace. Two or three times. Yes, there are that many verses.  And then I'm gonna swab your mouth with ice water and eat about a pound of chocolate... man, I wish I could split this with you.  I wish I remembered if you liked milk or dark best.  Hey, does anyone remember which Nana liked best? Huh. Hope someone asked her. I'd want to know that, about her..." 

3. Fear is definitely a part of the experience, though it wasn't the overriding emotion.  In the quiet hours of the night, very drowsy and drained by emotion, my tired brain would wonder if Nana "being comfortable" simply meant "too doped up by meds to tell us otherwise."  

I prayed this wasn't so. I prayed the noises she made weren't all moans, or more requests for the water she could no longer swallow.  I hoped she was talking to the angels already. I prayed the nurses were right about not giving her an IV (which they swore would just worsen her condition), and right about giving her oxygen, which they insisted would simply make her more at ease.  It was alarming when her breathing suddenly changed, or when her feet twitched. I hoped she was okay.  I knew she both wasn't and was. I knew she would be okay, ultimately. But it was hard not knowing when. I hoped. I prayed.

4.  Death is conflict.  The body fighting to stay, the spirit fighting to go. Seemed kinda like coaching a woman in labor sometimes, urging the one in darkness to find the light. 

My sweet cousin Deb, a 50 year old mom of 7, tried her best. When Nana started to gasp, we'd all lean forward, stroking her hands, murmuring encouragement and comfort. "Go Grandma. You've done your work. Fly to the Lord." Deb urged. "Take Grandpa's hand, he's waiting for you; Freddy's waited for you for 66 years, that's a long time apart..."  

A couple more gasps followed. Then Deb was suddenly saying sternly, "Breathe, Grandma! Breathe!"  

It's hard to know what to do.  Every other time in life, we want the person to "just breathe."  But now...

Please go.  Please stay.

5.  There is room for humor and joy, even around death.  Comic relief is kinda necessary for humans... you can't maintain the weight of sheer sorrow for hours on end.  At least, not at the deathbed of someone who's lived almost a century.  Sad she was leaving of course, but so, so happy for her; she had outlived most of her family and friends, and a glorious reunion was at hand. And the Beatific Vision wouldn't be bad either. 

So there were tears of hilarity too. Nana, my sis, my cousin, and I: we were a bunch of gals having a slumber party, in some ways, something the nursing home and Nana's stern practicality would never have allowed at any other time. At one point, there was a fashion show with a pair of brown plaid pj's.  

We argued that, hereafter, we would be "The Sisterhood of the Traveling PJ's," and would be sure to mail the lovely things to Nebraska so Deb could have her turn with them. Maybe you'd have to be there but oh... I think Nana was enjoying it, thoroughly. She was always a prankster and a witty practical joker herself.  Which might have been why... she wasn't going anywhere. So we drank strong coffee, and accepted the staff's offer of danishes. And waited. 

And this will be my sister's expression, again, if she finds out I've used these photos. 
6.  Hospice told us that the dying--despite being asleep--can definitely hear us. And that they, in some ways, choose when and how to go.  I'd always been told that pets--cats in particular--choose where to die, and whether or not to die alone (seems cats usually like the privacy.) So when Nana had hung on for three days of sleepovers with us, we figured we were all much too entertaining to possibly leave behind, and maybe her body and spirit just needed some quiet and privacy to slip away.  

We left her that night.  I still couldn't sleep.  I'd toss and turn, reaching for my cell phone to check to see if I had missed "the call."  I wondered if this greatly independent spirit did want to do this all on her own. 

She apparently didn't.  She was waiting for us in the morning, still sleeping.

7.  I wasn't there when Nana died. After three nights of very little sleep, my own body wasn't happy with me.  

But I was torn, not being there. Just after midnight on May Day--the same day Nana had run around the Maypole as a young girl back in the 20's-- I was still dressed, keys on the table beside me.  I was surfing Facebook for the first time in many days, checking in often with my sister and cousin who were keeping watch, asking whether anything had "changed," whether or not I should come.  I was told "things are pretty much the same.  Have progressed slightly, but hey, we've said that every day..."

I had just signed out of Facebook at 12:45, resigned to start another uneasy sleep, when the home phone rang. 

"I think... I think she's gone Katie," my sister sniffled. "We were just telling the nurse that, by now, everyone who could come to see her had come.  And we just looked over, and she had slipped away.  I think she was waiting to hear that, Katie, making sure she'd given everyone a chance to say goodbye."

I grabbed my keys and flew out the door. Driving to the nursing home, I was smiling and singing hymns through tears. "You did it Nana.  You made it; you're with Grandpa now..." I tuned into an AM channel and heard a song I'd never heard before, on the radio or otherwise; a folksy song from an actual Bible verse: "Arise, my love, and come away..." 

It was a verse I'd look for, but wouldn't find, when picking out the readings for her funeral from the section "Funeral Mass in the Easter Season." But it didn't matter, because it was the verse that the priest who said the Mass, the dear "Fr. Roger" that she had befriended and kept house for for 20 years, somehow chose to close his homily. 

A robin was singing as I parked the car and booked it down the sidewalk to the nursing home. I was practically skipping.  Apple trees lined the pavement, covered with bridal-white flowers that shone in the streetlights. Round white pedals glistened on the wet pavement. I pulled a low hanging branch and watched the tiny circles dance downward as I jogged along, pausing long enough to pick some tiny blossoms for Nana. It had started to lightly sprinkle, and the rain was cold.  But I was positively buoyant.

"Mary I'm here!" I texted my sis, and waited in the cold for her to open the door. A big hug.

"She made it Mary!" I exclaimed.

"I know.  But... hey, don't be quite so happy.  It's sad.  She's so still, now."

I got quieter.  The elevator took us to the third floor.  I walked into 303.  

Mickey, her roommate, was mercifully asleep.  "My Vera will be okay, yes my fluffies," she'd kept saying. (Everyone's name was "Fluffy" to Mickey, except Vera.)  "My Vera needs to sleep, but in a couple of days, she'll be so well I'll have to peel her off the ceiling."  

Well... sorta true.  

Nana was indeed still.  The oxygen pump was silent.  The nurses had laid her flat on her back, her arms flat by her sides.  Her eyes were closed, her mouth was open. She was silent.  Her skin was relaxed and as young looking as ever, an odd testament to a lifetime's use of Dial soap and water. There was a fiercely raw beauty about her.

I kissed her warm forehead and rested the flowers on her blanket.

"You did it, Nana," I whispered. "You made it Home."

I decided that I'd wait till my uncles and dad arrived to say goodbye; she'd have wanted me to give them hugs for her. So what if it was one in the morning? I am like her; I'm tough, I'd survive. Taking off my jacket, I pulled up the old folding chair. I slipped my chilly hands into hers, and quietly sang: "I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now... I see."

And for the last time, Nana warmed my hands with her own. 

“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.  
See, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. 
Flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come..." 
Song of Solomon 2:10-12