Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sleep Just Gets In the Way

Sleep is overrated.

I’ve always fallen asleep easily, but I’ve always been one to wake-up throughout the night.  Sometimes I’m able to fall back to sleep; sometimes I’m not.  And then, regardless of how much I’ve been awake during the night, I wake-up early in the morning.  Last night, after going to bed at midnight, I woke up some time later.  It was still dark outside, but, since I wake-up early, that didn’t give me any clues.  I thought surely it must be morning.  But, no, it was only 3:00 (an hour I see on my clock almost every night).  I was disappointed, but I made an effort to snuggle back under the covers and fall asleep.  I woke up again thinking surely now it must be morning.  But, no, it was only 3:58.  I realized then I just don’t like to waste time sleeping.  Each time I wake-up during the night, I hope it is morning.  I eagerly anticipate the morning hours.  I like having time to putter, to write, to read – all in the quiet of a sleeping house.   I also like having time to exercise in the early morning hours when it isn’t so easy to make excuses.

I know my body needs rest, but ME, that inner part of me, has to so many things it wants to do and sleep just keeps me from them.  Somehow that realization comforts me.  I like the idea that I have purpose, that I’m excited for each new day.  I do, however, wish I wasn’t so tired during the day; then I’d have more energy to do some of those things.  Hmm, maybe sleep isn’t overrated.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best Gift

I don’t get very excited about most holidays, but Christmas is my favorite time of year.  The lights and decorations, the songs, the traditions, and, most of all, time together with the people I love.

One of our Christmas traditions: the angel
tree-topper I made for our first married
Christmas.  It has graced our tree for 36 years.
This year, due to a tree malfunction, it
is gracing our mantle.
This year as I compiled and distributed Christmas Wish Lists from each of our kids, I didn’t make a Wish List of my own.  For years I’ve told the kids I don’t need gifts for Mother’s Day or my birthday.  One year the kids all got together and decided to write me letters for Mother’s Day.  We spent the day together at an Oregon Ducks’ baseball game.  I was speechless (and then tearful) as they arrived and, one-by-one, handed me their letters.  This year I decided to extend the I-don’t-need-a-gift idea to Christmas.  I said if there was something sentimental or something they simply came across that they thought I’d enjoy, that would be fine, but with everyone on limited budgets I didn’t want them to feel like they had to go out and shop for gifts for me.  I did receive gifts and they’re all lovely, but the best gift was having everyone together.

Our family has many Christmas traditions and I love that, with the exception of one year when oldest son was living in Texas, we have always been together for Christmas.  Last night there were thirteen of us around the tree:  seven kids, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law, one boyfriend, one girlfriend, my husband and me.  I remember fondly the years of going home to my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses for Christmas, but I also remember when it became important to us to celebrate Christmas with our children in our own home in order to create our own family traditions – some drawn from our families, others we started on our own.  I know the day will come when our children (who are really no longer children) will want to begin creating their own family traditions and we will no longer all be together.  (I just hope my husband and I are invited to join in somewhere.)  I know that day will come, but I hope it is many years away.  In the meantime, I will cherish the best gift of all:  having our entire family together teasing, taunting, laughing and loving.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Two Arms

I got my baby-fix today.  A little more than an hour in the infant room at the children’s home our Gift Team visited.  This visit is always a mixture of joy and sorrow.  A building full of children from newborns to five-year-olds, laughing, playing, running around like children do – joy.  A building full of children from newborns to five-year-olds, laughing, playing running around like children do, but as part of a group, not as part of a family – sorrow.

There were four babies in the room I was in and the two workers were, obviously, very attentive, but two adults have just two arms and four babies want eight arms.  I was holding one baby when the worker asked if I would please feed one of the other babies who had become fussy (the babies are held while they’re fed, a big plus).  I handed off the baby I had been holding and picked up the fussy baby.  While he sucked down his bottle of formula, he played with my hand, looked in my eyes and the worker took his temperature.

When he had finished eating, I put him up on my shoulder to burp and realized how hot he was and then I also realized that he was wheezing.  It was the same sound my middle daughter used to make when she had bronchitis, which was a regular part of her childhood.  The baby eventually burped, then cuddled into my shoulder as I rubbed and patted his warm back.  It was clear he didn’t feel well and just wanted to be held.  How many hours have I sat holding and rocking sick babies?  I knew well this type of cuddle.  This was an I-don’t-feel-well-and-I-just-want-to-be-held cuddle.  That was fine with me, I was enjoying my baby-fix, so there we sat – me relaxed against a pillow, wheezy baby falling asleep against my shoulder.  But then our team leader stuck his head in the door and said it was almost time to leave.  With reluctance I motioned to the lead worker (I don’t speak Korean) to ask where to put the baby.  By this time there were three workers in the room, all feeding babies.  She indicated a crib and the baby was carefully laid inside.  Of course, as soon as he was put down, he started to fuss.  He was sick, he was tired, and he just wanted to be held.  But even with six arms now in the room, that still left one baby looking for the two that would hold just him.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Many Hands

This is the time of year when, for six of the last eight years, I’ve joined with a group of people to spread Christmas cheer in South Korea as well as in our own souls. Yesterday was the first official day of the 2013 Holt Christmas Gift Team Tour and the first order of business was to assemble 96 gift bags for the foster mothers we would be seeing later in the day. Word went out that we would meet at 9:30 in room 1720. When my 15-year-old daughter, who is traveling with me, and I arrived at room 1720, activity was already underway. We were directed to the tissue paper – take a piece of tissue paper, grab it in the middle and slip it inside a bag to make a poufy resting place for the gifts. Others were stuffing candy bags, opening bags to ready them for the tissue paper, dropping gifts into bags and, very importantly, keeping count of the bags since there were different gifts for different recipients. It would have taken one or two people hours to assemble these bags, but with our group working together, we had the job done, the area cleaned and the bags on their way to the bus in less than half an hour. Many hands…

The foster mother event we were attending is an annual event that began in 1969 to honor the foster mothers who so selflessly give of themselves to create homes for children waiting to join their permanent families. Each year, Holt honors foster mothers who have served 5, 10, 15, 20 years, sometime even more. The women being honored are normally formally dressed in traditional Korean hanboks, their hair properly coifed and faces made up. In addition to the 46 women being honored other foster mothers from the area are invited to attend the festivities – most bring along the children they are currently fostering.

The room buzzed with activity throughout the event. The emcee announcing each foster mother by name, the foster mothers each taking their turn to go to the stage, receive their plaque and gift and have their photograph taken with the President of Holt Children’s Services of Korea, other foster mothers milling around in the back of the room trying to keep babies and children quiet (and not succeeding), Holt staff shuffling throughout the room to have plaques and gifts ready for presentation and to help foster mothers with the task of entertaining little ones – it’s a very formal occasion made light by the reality of so many people in a small auditorium with so many of those people being under the age of two.

As I looked around the room I smiled at the thought of all these people: Holt staff, foster mothers, foster fathers and other family members, all working together not just to find families for children, but to give the children a sense of family and a family’s love while they wait for that forever family. The work of providing a child with a home and love is not light and is, obviously, much more difficult than simply assembling gift bags, but again, many hands…

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Dining Alone

For the third time in the last eight days I dined alone at a restaurant.  Prior to this last week, I could count on one hand the number of times I have eaten alone in a restaurant.  Having been married all of my adult life, there just haven’t been many times when I’ve traveled by myself and, the few times I have, I’ve almost always chosen to get something to-go to eat in my hotel room, rather than brave the restaurant scene on my own.

Last weekend, I chose to eat breakfast by myself twice rather than scarf down a breakfast on the go.  I was in Eugene where there is a restaurant that serves one of my all-time favorite breakfasts, so I endured the discomfort and forced myself to head for the restaurant.  I had prepared myself for the idea of sitting at a table alone, but when I arrived and found there was a wait to be seated I was a little taken aback.  I hadn’t planned on standing around waiting – the only solo amongst families and couples chatting and laughing while waiting for seats.  I did fine, though, but I have to admit I was relieved when there wasn’t a wait the second day.  The second day I was seated next to a window, which I found to be much, more comforting than being seated against a wall as I had been the first day.  With a window I could look outside and daydream without the need to busy my eyes in an attempt to keep from staring at those sitting at full tables.

Tonight when I had to make the decision whether to eat out at a local place highly touted for its food or to just drive thru Taco Bell, I headed for the waterfront restaurant.  I almost turned away at the last minute, but realizing it was still early, I was hopeful a good table would be available.  Summoning my self-confidence (or, at least, faking it well), I said to the hostess, “I’ll be dining alone tonight.  Is there a table near the window that would be conducive to looking at the scenery?”  I was seated at a table with a view of Puget Sound and the ferry landing – beautiful!  I had a wonderful dinner, enjoyed the scenery and complimented myself on my ability to enjoy my dinner even though I thought it would have been more enjoyable with a dining companion.  However, as I left the restaurant I looked around at the couples and groups seated throughout the restaurant.  Most looked like they were having a good time, but there were a few that were, obviously, only going through the motions.  One woman in particular caught my eye.  She was seated at a two-top across from a man who seemed to be her date, maybe even her husband, and she looked miserable.  As I walked by her and felt her boredom, her discomfort, her sadness, I realized that, while dining alone isn’t my preferred choice, at least I enjoy the company I’m with.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Transitions, Giddiness and a Caveat

There has been a lot of talk around our house recently about transitions and kids growing up.  My husband and I are signing today on the house that will become our home in three years when our youngest graduates from high school, our oldest daughter and her husband are moving out of our basement this weekend into their first home, and I am right now sitting in a hotel near our middle daughter’s college where she set up her freshman dorm room yesterday.

I left home yesterday morning with six kids living in our home (and, yes, I refer to them all as kids regardless of age) and I will return home Saturday to only three.  It has been almost twenty years since we had only three children in our home.

I find myself conflicted about these changes.  I'd like to have the kids around forever, but I know these are the proper next steps and they are inevitable.  I also know I get somewhat giddy looking forward to the time when it's just my husband and me (and a clean house).  We’ve been doing this parenting thing for 32 of our 36 married years and more couple time will be nice.  But the giddiness comes with a caveat:  I want the kids close.  I want to stay close to them emotionally, I hope to stay reasonably close to them physically and I want them to come for dinners, visits and celebrations or to share those times with them in their own homes or even in a restaurant when needed.

I’m excited for both of my daughters who are setting off on new adventures this week.  I’m looking forward to seeing what my oldest daughter does to make their new house their home.  I’m thrilled for our middle daughter as she begins her college career with so much opportunity for growth.  But when I get home Saturday night and walk past those two empty bedrooms – yes, there will be a tear on my cheek…maybe even a few between now and then.  I can’t see my screen very well right now – if you know what I mean.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Matter of Time

How do we spend our time?  Is it productive?  Are there lost minutes, hours throughout the day?  I’m enrolled in an on-line workshop right now called The Productive Writer.  It’s causing me to take some hard looks at how I spend my days.

As I look back on the way I’ve used my time over the past several years, I realize I spend a lot of time participating in 21st century activities:  checking email and Facebook, browsing the internet, shopping on-line and, of course, playing games.  When I think back to the time saving devices that are available to me that weren’t available to my grandmother or even to my mom, I feel like there should be an abundance of time for other pursuits, but the reality is much of our time today, or at least mine, is spent on activities also not available to our mothers and grandmothers.  Yes, I can run the dishes through the dishwasher instead of standing at the sink for half an hour, but I can also blow an entire hour checking out craft ideas on Pinterest.

I’m a very organized person and, even with a schedule full of family, work and personal interests, I do get a lot done.  However, I’m always looking for new ways to increase my productivity and lessen the stress of jobs left undone – looking for time to do those things that always seem to get shoved to the back of my mental To-Do list.  Recently I became more productive as I scheduled myself an entire day for paperwork (home/family paperwork as well as work paperwork).  I have blocked out Mondays as Paperwork Mondays, also known as Soul Sucking Mondays.  I am amazed by the amount of work I’m able to get done when I commit to myself that my entire day will be spent at my desk.  Following that idea, I am now implementing Errand Tuesdays, which will include grocery shopping, banking, checking the dry cleaners and the Post Office, even browsing a local thrift store if there’s time.  I’m looking forward to Errand Tuesdays; they’ll be a nice reward for Soul Sucking Mondays.  If I’m able to stick with this schedule, I will have plenty of time for writing and other business ventures, but I realize I also need to look at those other activities that burn up the minutes of my day.  Specifically, I need to look at those 21st century pursuits and figure out a plan that allows me to still enjoy reading emails, catching up with friends on Facebook or playing a few games of Words with Friends while insuring I’m not using them to avoid other work, to forestall boredom or as a form of active-meditation (as in zoned-out).  How do I do that?  I’m not sure.  Right now I’m at my kids’ dentist office waiting for them to complete their semi-annual cleaning and check-up.  Normally I would be playing a game on my phone or checking my email, but, as part of this week’s workshop assignment, I have, instead, spent the time writing.  It’s felt good to steal a few extra minutes to write and, I have to admit, I wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the workshop assignment.  However, now that I’ve been productive, I think I’ve earned a few minutes with Facebook…

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Forever House

After thirty-two years of parenting, we’re in the countdown to when our youngest child graduates from high school in three years.  We began this countdown five years ago, but it’s picked up speed the past year as we’ve begun to research, discuss and plan where we want to live and how we want to live.  At the top of my list is to be near the kids who are currently all living in the same metro area.  I thought a condo on the river in Portland, with our Sunriver house as a backup gathering spot, would be ideal.  This was going to require some major downsizing since the condo would be small relative to our current family home.  I had begun the process of going through items, discarding those we no longer needed and planning for what else would need to be discarded in the future in order to accomplish a move from a large home to a small condo. 

Then, a house in Sunriver we’ve looked at twice in the last two years came back on the market at a substantially reduced price.  With barely a second thought, I said, “Let’s make an offer on it.”  We did.  Offer accepted.  Plans totally change.  Now, our main home will be in Sunriver, still with some type of condo in Portland, but our lifestyle will revolve around Central Oregon, not downtown Portland.

The house needs quite a bit of work, but it’s large enough for our kids and someday grandkids to come visit, to be home for college summer breaks and it doesn’t require any downsizing.  I’m excited about spending time there, making it our home.  I can see us living in this house, working in this house, entertaining in this house.  However, even though I can see us aging in this house, I was bothered when my husband referred to the house as our Forever House.  Of course, all the research, discussion and planning we’ve been doing has been with the goal of finding the place we want to live for the last decades of our lives, but calling it the Forever House was startling.  While I know I am not immortal and death will find me eventually; it is easy to go through my days as if I’m looking toward a far off horizon that seems to go on forever.  Now, we’re moving into a house we acknowledge may be our final home – that makes it quite clear there is a “final” – this horizon really doesn’t go on forever.  I get that.  I’m not in denial, but I also don’t want to be reminded of my mortality on a daily basis, so we’re no longer referring to this house as our Forever House, instead we’re going to it call Toad Hall – “…the finest house on the river”.