Thursday 19 November 2015

Friday the 13th / Eye of the storm

Going to make a generalization and say that Friday November the 13th was not a good day for a lot of people. For some, the worst day possible.

It wasn't great for me either.

I found out about the terrorist attacks on Paris at about dinner time. People react to news like this in different ways, for all sorts of reasons: personal connection to the people/place, beliefs, knowledge and interpretation of current events, culture, values, religion, etc. etc.

My reaction was a blast of anger.

Anger because why this? why this again? how much worse will it get? what now? who's next? who's fault?

My social media community, who apparently are a lot more optimistic about humanity than I am, posted how sad they were, how they wished for peace. Prayers were fashionable, including a great many atheist/agnostic ones. Candles and French flags multiplied.

Anybody who talked about peace, hope or reconciliation with me on Friday the 13th would have gotten a reaction something like this. (starting at about 0:40. No musical introduction necessary!).

Just as well that nobody tried.

About half an hour after I started following the news, I got a call from my mom that my dad had been admitted to the hospital. He was no longer able to swallow food. (In September my dad was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus.) Up until this week he was strong, although eating was getting progressively harder. This sudden apparent turn for the worse was very scary, especially since the hospital staff tried to insert a feeding tube when my dad was admitted and weren't able to get it by the tumour. Fortunately, my middle brother was visiting and was there with my parents through all of it.

I booked this week mostly off work, not knowing what would happen next. However, things seem to be going well, for now. The cancer specialists were able to get the feeding tube through on Monday, although even they had some difficulty. My dad has regained a lot of strength and is continuing to run his consulting company from his bedside. All our family has been able to get together on a few occasions and talk about the situation.

My dad has also made his wishes known to us and his medical team. It appears the cancer has spread to one sentinal lymph node, which is in a very difficult location to operate. There is no evidence that it has spread to other organs however. At least one doctor was suggesting palliative care, concerned that aggressive chemo/radiation and surgery could kill faster than the cancer. My dad does not want that. He wants the chance for a cure or a death that comes quickly. His mind is strong and clear. We are glad that he knows what he wants, but deeply sad that all of the options are painful, both physically and emotionally.

I spent Monday and Tuesday with my mom, offering company and ways to help. It's hard in some ways to offer help to my parents because they are so independent, and so insistent that we focus on our needs, not theirs. I pretty much had to show up and be like "I'm here and there's nothing you can do about it." I guess I also want to be there to share the burden, to not be an outsider. After a couple of days, however, my mom seemed to be worrying more about me than herself, so I gave her some space. I understand that it's hard for her to know what she wants.

We respond to stress in similar ways, so it is sort of comical when we are together, as we both try to make up for the gaps in awareness we both have. I put my phone down and can't find it five seconds later. My mom looks furiously for her scarf, and when she gives up and starts to put on another one, realizes she already has the one she wanted around her neck. Reading and processing information is a struggle: we both stare at the same document without being able to find the word we are looking for. I finally find it and we breathe a sigh of relief. I scrape the car on the side of the garage I've backed out of dozens of times. My mom back seat drives constantly when I take her places. I tell her I do better when I use my own brain. Then I leave the window open when I park (luckily nothing was stolen). We laugh hysterically as we try to set the voice mail on her new cell phone and our snickering and bickering gets recorded on the message.

Oh well. From what I've read, sometimes the most important thing in a crisis is just to have a few hours here and there that feel normal. Being able to work has much improved my dad's spirits. And the rest of us have been able to share and enjoy a few moments of the mundane, even of the humourous. I try to make a plan for the day and follow it. It's weird because I feel tired but can't relax and rest, and feel like I should be doing a lot but struggle to get motivation/energy.

I finally sent an email out to my friends because I was worried they would think I didn't care about them anymore. As an introvert socializing takes effort so during hard times I usually don't bother. But I know it's not good to be isolated either. Luckily the people I am close to are much the same in temperament and they understand, and it has felt good to reach out.

I understand that my dad will start chemo/radiation next week. The next few weeks will be hard. We don't know how he will respond to the treatment or even if he will survive it. It feels like I am in the eye of the storm right now.

As for the situation in the rest of the world, my anger has cooled to a slow burn and I no longer want to blast anyone in particular to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. I know it isn't anywhere near that simple. I have a renewed resolve to be the best and most informed citizen I can be.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying all the AJ hugs and Mr. Turtle hugs I can. A couple of shots from our professional photo shoot at the beginning of October:

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Monday in November: Working parents

I've been trying to think how I can keep the blog updated, keep it as my outlet....without being repetitive. Because honestly, I'm preoccupied by the same stuff every day. I could write the same entry over and over again. But that gets boring and I don't think it will be very helpful to me either.

So, I thought I'd try a new "day in the life." After all, I've been a working mom for two and a half months now, and Mr. Turtle has been back at work for about a month. Sometimes focusing on what we do in a day makes more sense than focusing on what's on my mind every day.

But first of all, I hope everyone has a fulfilling and contemplative Remembrance Day (aka Veteran's Day / Armistice Day). I used to always try to go to a public ceremony, but since marriage/home ownership/baby we haven't gone. And we probably won't until AJ is old enough to understand a little, and then we will introduce her to the idea of Remembrance Day. But I do feel obliged to acknowledge that it is an important day and not only for sleeping in and catching up on chores, although that is what we are doing in our household.

I did attend a very well done Remembrance Day ceremony at my school yesterday. One of the speakers, a veteran, talked about a trip he took around Europe some years ago, including a visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

One of the photos he shared was of "Mother Canada" on the Vimy memorial.
"Mother Canada” or “Canada Bereft”: A female figure draped in a cloak stands alone on the wall at the north-eastern side of the memorial. She bows her head and is looking down at a stone sarcophogus, representing Canada's war dead, at the base of the 24 foot (7.3 metres) wall below her. The magnificent view across the Douai plain and the location of the old enemy of the time spreads out before her. This figure is called Mother Canada or Canada Bereft, representing the nation of Canada mourning for her dead. [source]
I am grateful for all the sacrifices that veterans and their families have made, and are still making today so that I can live my ordinary life, in a free and just society (one we are always trying to improve).  My father and aunt lived  through war when they were tiny children like AJ. (World War II/Nazi occupation of Greece/Greek civil war. My great-grandfather also fought in World War I.).  In their 70s and 80s now, my dad and aunt are still haunted by what they saw and experienced. I on the other hand did not experience a World War, or the Cold War, or any war first hand. I hope AJ never has to either, although we will not see world peace in her lifetime. Her generation may or may not experience the same privilege that we have. If she is so lucky, I hope she doesn't ever take it for granted.

With this added appreciation of the mundane, back to my day in the life. It was a Monday in November. Two working parents and a baby. Note I put the emphasis on "parents" not just "mother." Because we are both parents to AJ and we both made the decision to work.

5:45: Alarm goes. I get up, brush teeth. See that it has snowed outside overnight. Then go to AJ's room and wake her with lots of silly talk and cuddles. Boob feed. Mr Turtle gets up and showers.

~6:15: Take AJ to kitchen. Lots of cuddles along the way. Sit her in highchair and cut up an orange for her, which she gobbles up.

Around 6:25, Mr. Turtle is out of the shower. Hand AJ over to Mr. Turtle to wash and dress. I have shower. I take rather too long. Mmmm, hot shower.

6:50, I'm dressed and sort of ready for the day. Goodbyes: Mr. Turtle goes outside to shovel snow and make his way to work.

AJ plays on the floor while I sort out breakfast and my lunch. I can't see her but she is playing with this musical turtle toy my parents gave her for her birthday. You push a button on top and it plays a tune. As long as I can hear the tunes playing, I'm reasonably sure she's in one place and not into too many things. I boil an egg. Spread hummous and lettuce on two pieces of bread (which will become my sandwich.) I wash raspberries and strawberries.

At some point AJ is bored/fussy so I bring her back into kitchen, put her in the highchair. I mix up some plain yoghurt with honey and raspberries for her. I do much the same for myself.

I feel like I'm multitasking quite efficiently, then realize it's 7:30 and really we should have been done breakfast by now. I decide I don't care. With the snow, what are the chances that anyone or anything will be on time?

I make a cup of chai tea. I no longer drink coffee in the mornings; I find it too strong. Early mornings are stressful for me and my stomach is always a little bit upset. No, I'm not pregnant, but I get morning sickness anyway. At least on work days; weekends I'm fine. I feed AJ her yoghurt and manage to also eat mine. I notice the place mats and tablecloth are really dirty. Ugh. I feel like this shouldn't bother me but it does.

AJ is done eating so I give her her Kitteeees. I move her chair to the kitchen to tidy up a bit. The kitties get hugs and kisses and then get thrown on the floor. There are only a few dirty dishes in the sink. Decide I don't care about that either. I don't drink most of the tea.

I then proceed to put together my bags, put AJ into her car seat, finish making my sandwich, and get outside clothes on, including putting the keys in my pocket where they are easy to grab (otherwise I have to put down all the bags to find them. This is an important detail). All of this happens by about 7:50am. Which is fine, although later than I usually aim for. But I know what I'm doing at work (isn't that a good feeling!) so there's no particular need to be there very early.

Outside I go with AJ in carseat, a bag full of boots and shoes that one of the other special ed classes is polishing for work experience, AJ's diaper bag, and my day bag. It all ends up in the car somehow.

8:10: Daycare drop off. AJ is happy; they are getting ready to have a snack. I am surprised by guerrilla tears in the car afterwards. It doesn't happen too often. I talk to AJ the rest of the drive to work even though she isn't in the car anymore.

8:25-ish: Arrive at work. Drop off the boots and shoes. Fill up tea and water cups (if I don't do this first thing, I won't get to it and may have a day where I don't drink and don't pee all day. Not good.). Tomorrow my students have buddies from another class working with them and I haven't decided what they are going to do. I go online and look for ideas. I discover toilet roll people. Love it. I make list of things I need to buy at the dollar store for toilet roll people. This means I have a good excuse to leave early-ish to go shopping.

9:00ish, students arrive, we do our usual routines. The morning goes smoothly. I've had a new student start last week, and although we are still getting to know him, he seems to be adjusting well and the others are getting used to him and that's a huge relief.

12:00ish: Lunch. I go to staffroom, eat rather quickly, and return to classroom to write emails, especially one to a parent who is annoyed about something. Long story, can't go into, but the situation is not my fault. I feel bothered by it anyway, because I am the kind of person that likes everybody to be happy and getting along, and if they are not I feel like I have to fix it. In this case however other people need to take action themselves to fix the situation, including the parent, and that is just the way it has to be. So I write an email response that is polite but very much to the point.

12:40ish: Students are back, but off to phys. ed. I have some prep time. I prepare a Remembrance Day craft for last class.

2:00ish: Last class with students. Goes OK, although they are tired. We decorate our door with poppies.

3:15, goodbye students. Today is flu shot day so I go to get mine. The teacher before me is scared of needles and comments that I am "much braver than her." I reply that I've gotten so many needles in my life I don't care anymore. This is true but they have never bothered me much at any time. I add that I did IVF so I had to give myself needles, and that was hard. Mentally, anyway. Sympathy cringe. The other teacher tells me she doesn't want her kids to go to the doctor with her and see her reaction to needles and think it's normal. I tell her that her feelings are normal for her. Isn't it funny how harshly we judge ourselves for our feelings?

I have no reaction so far to the flu shot unless I lean my right shoulder up against something, then it feels sore.

4:00, out the door. This is very early for me to be leaving school but I'm making a dollar store run as planned. I buy felt, glue, googly eyes, plastic containers. What can't you do with felt and glue and googly eyes! (and lots of plastic containers).

4:40 (approximately) Next stop: Grocery store. As I walk through the parking lot, I notice that there is a beautiful sunset. High windblown clouds glowing red. The air is cool but not cold. I feel a sudden rush of optimism: The world is beautiful, and good angels walk with me. I ride this wave of hope and peace into the store.

I want to make a pot of slow cooker soup and take it over to my parents' tomorrow so I need ingredients. While I'm at the store it occurs to me I should pick stuff up for our dinner tonight. I call Mr. Turtle and ask what he wants because this suddenly feels like too many decisions for me to handle alone. Mr. Turtle says something quick because he needs to meet his online study group tonight. Sigh. I find tortellini and cheese sauce, and then walk around the grocery store far too many times because I can't remember what I need when I'm near the right aisle.

Back to car with groceries: appreciate the sunset and the fresh air again and the good feelings I'm getting.

5:00ish: driving to daycare. Talking to an imaginary AJ again, telling her I'm coming.

5:10: Pickup! AJ gives me a big smile and starts crawling towards me when she sees me. I'm not in a hurry for her to walk because she is so cute when she crawls, like some small adorable animal who is also human.

5:20: Home! I sit in the car for a few minutes, procrastinating going in, because I have so much stuff to carry and I want Mr. Turtle to come home and help. AJ gets bored with sitting in the car seat and starts to fuss so I have to go in. Luckily, as soon as we are in the door Mr. Turtle arrives too. Yay! He takes AJ downstairs to play while I unload the car: newly polished shoes and boots, 4 bags of groceries, daycare bag, dollar store purchases.

I unpack groceries (throwing out a few yuckies in the refrigerator at the same time). Mr. Turtle puts AJ in high chair, puts tortellini to boil, then goes to computer for meeting. Sigh.

Things don't go too great after this point. I make a salad, avoid the totellini boiling over, and feed AJ finger foods. She eats a few grapes but then she starts throwing everything I give her on the floor and crying. We've noticed she's been a somewhat fussier eater the past few weeks (but just as hungry as ever.) Grapes, floor. Strawberries, floor. Tortellini, floor! Water and milk: get it away from me! Splash, splatter! Then she starts to cry loudly and angrily. I finally open a package of baby food, sit her in my lap, and feed her with a spoon. She doesn't seem to like this much either and still fusses but she eats it, and that calms her down at least. Mr. Turtle has heard her racket and pops upstairs to check, but then he has to get back to his meeting. I peel an orange and AJ eats most of that too (I help with a few pieces.)

I change the dirty tablecloth and place mats because after all this, a dirty table is just unacceptable.

Dishes washed (mostly). Still no Mr. Turtle. I wander down a couple of times and ask him if he's done yet. I know this is not really fair; he has to finish meeting with his group. I bug him anyway.

AJ is getting cranky again, but happily eats one of the home made cookies my mom made her.

7:00ish, Mr. Turtle is done, comes upstairs, apologizing for being absent. He knows all the right things to say, and I appreciate that. AJ wants her glass of water. I give it to her, and she pours the whole thing down her lap. We have to give her a bath now, or she'll get cold being so wet. Mr. Turtle fills the bath, I peel off the wet clothes. AJ likes her bath and splashes gleefully. Also likes the parental attention, I'm sure.

7:20ish, Mr. Turtle finally gets to sit down to eat. He assures me everything is delicious. Yes, he is wonderful. I play with AJ, cleaned up and in her PJ's, on the floor.

8:00ish: Bedtime for AJ. Boob feed. She falls asleep quite easily.

I grab my dollar store stuff and head downstairs to organize it and make a couple of examples of toilet roll people. Mr. Turtle gets pie and tea for us. I whip together two dolls and they are actually pretty cute. A little bit minion-like. I hope the students and their buddies like making them tomorrow.

Between 8 and 10:00: AJ wakes up a few times crying. Mr. Turtle rocks her back to sleep each time.

I start writing this entry, and actually get most of it done. I feel accomplished.

11:30ish: We go to bed. A bit later than usual.

It's been a good day, altogether. What more can we ask for?

Hey, who am I kidding? Of course there's always more we can ask for. But when I can say "That was a good day, and I'm warm and fed and with the people I love the most" I am very thankful for that.