Monday, May 26, 2008

Summer is Upon Us

I always listen quizzically to those who are proponents of year-round-school... Not because I necessarily disagree with the concept, mind you, but because summer break feels like such a sigh of relief. School is out in May here in Mississippi, so the entire month feels like an Olympic trial. It is mainly school-related activities that cause the majority of my angst, but some things are seasonally thrown in for good measure to add greater stress. (i.e. family birthdays, Mother's Day, dance recitals, etc.) Thus, as I sit here this Memorial Day, I'm not necessarily remembering and honoring fallen soldiers, I'm just resting and regrouping in an attempt to regain some of the sanity that was necessarily lost throughout the month of May.

Sarah gave and excellent performance in her dance recital this year. However, that came with trials and tribulations of its own. She has spent approximately the last month on I.V. meds. One of the selling points of the port was that she would be able to participate in all of her dance and gym activities without recourse. However, I'm not sure Dr. Sindel was entirely educated on what can happen to an accessed port-a-cath during a back handspring-back tuck combination. After one practice leading up to recital, the needle popped half-way out, causing great pain and an even greater sense of drama. We had to pull the line and miss two doses of meds before Nurse Tammy, our homehealth nurse could come reaccess her. I have been trying to talk her into letting me access her, but she isn't ready for that yet. Our friend, Lauren, accesses herself and I really aspire to that level of independence for Sarah. Even with the ups and downs with the port, Sarah didn't have to be hospitalized in May, which might have very well sent me completely over the edge, as I had a loose grip on sanity and serenity in general at the time.
Danielle also gave and excellent performance in her band concert. She had two solos and performed flawlessly. She also made Symphonic Band next year, so she is very happy about that achievement. I'm most proud that she managed a "C" in Astronomy after making an "A" on her final exam. She struggled with the course, and after I conferenced with her teacher and determined for myself that he is a complete baffoon, I am really proud that she pulled a "C" in the class. I always tell parents at school when they complain about various teachers that it builds a child's character and intrinsic sense of self-esteem if they are able to cope with whatever teacher they are given. That is an easy lecture for me to dish out educator to parent... Not as easy when my own child is struggling with an incompetent boob charged with the responsibility of providing an education to her... However, I stand by my beliefs. Danielle hopefully learned that she is responsible for her own education, even when her teacher has been unable to successfully impart knowledge to her.

Both girls are struggling to achieve optimal health right now. I.V. meds for Sar, and oral antibiotics for Dan haven't really seemed to make an impact this time. We return to Dr. Sindel's office on June 2nd, so I trust you will keep us in your thoughts and prayers as you read this. Both girls are doing well with their weight, so we are grateful for that upturn of events. Sometimes CF is so mysterious... Especially when the doctor has recommended this or that and nothing seems to be helping. Right now, I'm reading "Lessons in Truth" by Emily Cady. She talks about the "appearance of illness" being outside of the reality of God. If we are created in God's image and likeness, truly an expression of God's spirit, then only in aligning ourselves with that Presence and Spirit can we expect to break through the appearance of illness, lack, poverty, or any other image that seems "less than". I continue to pray and meditate upon that idea, and lead the girls in affirming that idea. But, I'm certainly not perfect at maintaining that level of consciousness, when the appearance of illness rings with such clarity in the form of hacking coughs throughout the house. However, I know that I don't have to do it alone, and I trust that those who are praying with us and for us often have greater faith than I.

I also go back to the doctor on June 2nd for an ultrasound. The baby is moving all around. I can sit and watch my belly jump as she moves around and kicks like the Karate Kid. I went to Maternal-Fetal medicine last month to have a "level 2" ultrasound because of my "advanced maternal age", which the doctor kept referencing much to Dave's delight. The funny thing about it all is that I have enjoyed this pregnancy much more as a result of my "advanced maternal age". I was 23 when I was pregnant with Dan and 26 when I was pregnant with Sar. The morning sickness, the swollen feet, the fatigue... All of those things seemed like they would last forever. Now, that I am 38, all of the symptoms of pregnancy, while annoying, don't seem as overwhelming. I know that it is really such a brief time and that the whole experience will be over before I know it. That realization has helped me to enjoy the experience more than when I was younger. I don't mind sharing my body as much.

Dave has accepted a job as the Assistant Director of the Technology Center. He has wanted to work in administration since receiving his Master's degree in the field, so I am very excited and happy for him. Currently, he is fulfilling his last teaching responsibility by writing next year's math curriculum. However, he seems to be handling the change much better than I would. He has been a little sad or nostalgic about not coaching next year, but otherwise he seems ready to embark upon his new path in educational administration. I'm sure he'll be brilliant. I mean, he is brilliant already. He's also extremely forthright, so I pray that he will be able to hold his tongue when it is pertinent to do so.
Anyway, I hope you will join me in a deep cleansing breath as I relax into everything that is summer. Upon reflection, I'm not exactly sure I will regain any sanity. I have only a nodding acquaintance with the concept. But, serenity and clarity of thought seem to be a little closer within reach, and for that I probably won't ever endorse year-round-school.


Saturday, May 03, 2008

He has Ears!

"Does he have ears?" This was the first question I asked when Mom called from the hospital to inform me that I had a brand-new baby brother. I wasn't sure if babies came with ears or if they grew on later. Given I was a mere 3 1/2 years old when he was born, I wasn't exactly sure what I was dealing with, but my earlobe fetish presented full force, even back then.

I always knew my brother was destined for fame, fortune and greatness. I knew that right from the start. He was absolutely beautiful, and I was immediately enamored of him. My fascination has never waned... Tom and I are so completely opposite. I was always struggling to be the "good girl"... The one who did everything to please everyone... The child who made parents smile broadly and think, "I am so proud." My attempts at fulfilling that role were often met with feelings of serious inadequacy, given that our home was rife with alcoholism. Mom always thought we were the greatest, but I didn't have to work hard to please her... It was always Dad that I wanted so desperately to please. Being good enough for Mom was easy. Being good enough for Dad was impossible... So, of course, his approval was what I sought early in life. Alas, most of the time nothing was ever good enough. Imagine the blond-haired, blue-eyed, little girl struggling for Daddy's love walking hand-in-hand with a blond-haired, brown-eyed little boy, who had no use for conventions or rules of any kind. That was me and Tom. He bucked the system from the word "go". He never cared about approval, about pleasing anyone, or about having ironed clothes. He marched to his own beat, and I trotted along sometimes trying to catch his rhythm.

As children, we were inseparable. We developed an unhealthy emotional dependence on one another to survive the chaos at home. There are hair-raising stories that I won't share here, but these episodes only served to bond us more closely together. And, more than anything, we were each others biggest supporters. We fought and played and laughed and yelled. When we were young, a part of each of our identities was reserved as a piece of the other.

With the onset of our teen years, we both became more uncoventional. Tom had always been the rebel, so it was only natural when he began piercing, tattooing and wearing combat boots. I rebelled in other ways that weren't outwardly obvious, and we both remained inseparable. We were an odd pair. Tom traveled with the punk crowd, so I often found myself surrounded by guys with 1-foot-high mohawks hanging at a skate park. My long blond hair, and clean cut manner of dress never seemed to fit, but I was allowed access because of my brother. And, I envied them... I envied him, because he didn't care what people thought. He would not play the game the way society dictated, and I sat in awe of him. I would bounce between being frustrated with his lack of convention, when I wanted him to conform, and jealous of his ability to laugh at the expectations of the world. Tom was weirdly brilliant. He failed in school, but read Walt Whitman. He listened to Larry King on talk radio late at night when he should have been in bed. He tried to introduce me to the genius of ee cummings, but I couldn't get over his shunning of capital letters. He was further frustrated by my lack of reverence for Jack Kerouac and Henry Rollins. He didn't understand my affinity for lip-sincing Madonna, but together, we sang a mean duet of Prince's "Anothalovaholeinyohead".

In our late teen years, we moved in different directions. The unhealthy dependence became a healthier friendship. Our differences were magnified, and we shifted toward our various interests. Tom continued on his path of marching to his own beat. I pursued more traditional avenues. Tom's path included joining the high school drama club and going to Virginia Tech to pursue acting. I was thrilled to watch my brother perform in in different plays. He played Kinicke in "Grease", which was more like type-casting than anything else... But, I remember him playing a character in "Sweet Charity". I think he played Vittorio Vidal (courtesy of Google), but I'm not sure. All I know is that I knew that the person on stage was my brother, but I was also thoroughly convinced that he was an older gentleman. Tom was brilliant. He played his greatest role in marrying his first wife. The wedding was a zany affair and the college students at Virginia Tech all played their parts admirably. It was a wedding filled with characters, and I sat with my new baby, watching as two-year-old Danielle danced with the beautiful people, staring in fascination at the goings-ons. Tom's marriage didn't last, but the wedding was one of the most incredible productions I have ever seen.

Tom's life led him away from Virginia to Nashville, working in various capacities on and around movie sets. He has moved hither and yon... I think he lived in Ohio and then moved to Orlando, FL. Whatever he has done, it has been in some capacity that his unconventional and much less "secure" than anything I would have chosen. There are times when I know life has been harder for Tom than for me. He wrestles with life, and making it work for him. My choices have led me down the road of being the mom of two children with cystic fibrosis, making security and steady income absolute necessities. Tom has lived a different life, moving from place to place and rubbing elbows with beautiful people. And, he doesn't know, but sometimes I have watched with envy. There are times when I know I couldn't live life the way Tom does, but other times when I yearn for the freedom offered by his lifestyle. Mostly, I am content and happy, but sometimes, just like when we were kids, I am so enamored of his ability to only be accountable to himself. He wears "To thine own self be true" like a badge of honor.

Tom has married a wonderful lady, Kim, so he has more ties than normal. Together they have embraced "the life". They work on movie sets, and describe some of the work as "babysitting the stars". It is such a fascinating way to live. We love when they visit, and enjoy hearing all the stories. Although, sometimes I am greatly disheartened when I hear that one of my favorite stars is less than pleasant in real life. Dan and Sarah both love Uncle Tom and Aunt Kim. But, Sarah in particular, is completely enthralled with her uncle. She identifies him as her favorite person in the world. Perhaps because Sarah is much more like her uncle than like me. She has always marched to her own beat, just like her uncle. And, I work on honoring that quality with Sarah, just as I always did with Tom.

Now, Tom has landed a role in a movie about Billy Graham. I am especially thrilled for him. The picture above is from the movie set. Tom plays the doctor that delivered Billy Graham's first child. I think we will make a big family event of going to see the movie. We can't wait! And, I know he will be brilliant, just as he has always been.