Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Another Day This Month (Day 138, Year 2)

Last night, during our evening stroll, my husband asked me if there were any other dates this month he should be aware of that might be emotional triggers. 

We are opposite like this. The dates give me a certain control over the memories of hard things; for him, he copes by not living with the dates top of mind, but with the memories organized differently. 

The thing is this entire month--heck the entire summer-is another day of remembering all those things that happened 15 years ago. On May 18, 2007, Lily was one day post-op. The day before was her surgery to have her tumor removed. We still had no idea if it was completely removed or not; mostly because neither one of us had the courage to ask. She was in bed, with an external drain coming out of her head. I called it her snorkel. It drained excess cerebral spinal fluid and the efficiency of the drain was reliant on the height of the tube. 

To pick up my daughter--the one who I was used to holding whenever I wanted without assistance just a couple days earlier--required ringing for the PICU nurse; who often was delayed because one of her other patients an intense and urgent need. The nurse would get me situated, she'd fiddle around with the drain and the tube and I'd pick up my daughter.

She had vertigo, we believe. The sudden shifts made her world spin. Lily would scream. 

But, I'd hold her and beg her to be strong. 

I was really begging for God to make me strong. Because 15 years ago, friends, I was not strong. I was angry and scared and useless and in shock. I was not strong enough to ask questions that I needed to know the answers to. I was not strong enough to speak to any of the wonderful oncology parents who saw me and knew I was one of them. I was not strong to mother my daughter in the way I did before. 

I am glad God knew what I was begging for; because I was not strong enough to ask Him either. 

I know some of you will find fault in my reliving this part of my story. You might find it sad (and it is). You might find it negative (and it is). But, it is my truth. And every day this month there are other truths that flutter up--truths about myself and that time and now and forever. Our stories stay with us--even when they are sad and negative and traumatic. 

But those stories don't make us sad or negative or traumatized. Our stories make us real and complicated and beautiful. We all have them; and we should sit with them sometimes. 

Something else happened on this day, 15 years ago. 

Lily smiled at me when I read her a bedtime story. We didn't know if she could smile--the neurosurgeon warned us that nerve damage might affect her smile. 

But, it did not, because 15 years ago, I read Lily a bedtime story from her Disney Princess anthology. We pressed the button on the front--it played "Once Upon a Dream," and she smiled. 

Our stories are complicated, friends. We cannot have the one where the baby smiled; without the one where the mother cried. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Gardening in White Jeans (Day 137, Year 2)

I wore my white jeans today. 

I did not let my mother see me in my white jeans. Despite the fact she often dresses in ways reminiscent of someone who does not give a thought to clothing, she has a very, very strict sense of old school fashion rules. So while she will wear a t-shirt from the craft store with a floral skirt to church; she would never, ever, wear white jeans before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. 

I know I am a grown woman; but I don't have it in me to navigate these differences of opinion on a Tuesday. 

Also, I didn't think I had it in me to wear my white jeans all day long without an irreversible catastrophe. 

White jeans, friends, always feel risky to wear. It is like giving a group of children a few cans of spray paint and then saying "have it at." Terrible things will happen; you will be all spotty and splattered. However, if you wear black, you are basically untouchable, except, of course, if you have a white cat and sit in their spot. 

Then it is all over. 

When I wear my white jeans I feel a bit like a prisoner. It is as if I am walking around wearing the formal living room that you were never allowed to sit in as a child. I don't feel like I can do anything; even going to use the restroom feels risky. 

The dangers are everywhere! 

But, today, I wanted to wear them, even though no one would see them and even though I needed to thin out my radishes and lettuce seedlings and despite the fact that spaghetti and meatballs was on the menu tonight! I wanted to wear an entire out of light colors--bone and brushed gold and white. 

I did it. At lunchtime, I somehow splattered them in balsamic vinegar (and then had to use Mike's man soap to spot clean them). When I prepped dinner, tomato sauce sprayed on them (I used my cherry seltzer to spot clean). I cuddled with our black and white cat. I even walked in the neighborhood on a post-dinner stroll. 

THEN, I went to the garden (my mother goes to bed at 7pm, so it was save at 7:30pm to enter outside). I fought and murdered lantern fly nymphs (they are total MFers). I thinned out my Parisian green leaf lettuce and my purple radishes. I kneeled and I crouched and I tugged and I pulled and I weeded out dandelions and other green debris.


And you know, what? It was fine. I spot cleaned the messes. I bravely had an entire day in these pants and nothing horrible happened. In fact, it is 9:33pm and I am still wearing them, WHILE WRITING (and holding a pen, adjacent to my leg, with the cap off!). 

Friends, I think these white pants are a reminder of three very, very, very, very important things:

1. Mothers judge us for our entire lives. So when partaking in fashion risks, avoid your mother!

2. You can do all the things you do in black pants in white pants! 

3. While you may think this blog is ridiculous, I think my white jeans days is a reminder that you can do anything you set mind to, even if it is risky and might result in irrevocable stains and fashion shaming by your live-in mother. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

To my Dad, on his 102nd Birthday (Day 136, Year 2)

Today, my Dad would be turning 102, had he lived to be 102, which is a ridiculous and impossible age to imagine. Today is also the anniversary of Lily's brain tumor diagnosis, 15 years ago, when she was just 14 months old. It's an emotional day; as it always has been. The emotions shift and change. I am so filled with gratitude for my daughter's survival. I am so gutted that my Dad isn't here anymore to witness it all and them all--Lily, Chloe and Nicholas. 

Anyway, I wrote him a letter. 

Dear Dad, 

When I woke up today my first thoughts were: I need to call my Dad for his birthday. It has been like this every year since you died. I almost wrote "left us," but you always taught me to say exactly what I meant to say--just cut to the chase, Tricia. 

So, yeah, you are dead. And I assume you know you are and I believe you are somewhere and live on. But I have no idea what you know about us and what you don't. Like do you know everything? Like every last thing? I have no idea how it works when you die and that is so frustrating for me, because I just want to be sure you know every last tiny detail about everything. 

I decided to do this silly exercise and write you a letter that I have no idea if you can read (can you read when dead?) or maybe you just sense the meaning. Maybe everything I am writing here is redundant. Maybe it isn't. I just don't know. I don't know if you are watching out for us or looking over us. 

Okay, cutting to the chase. 

On your 86th birthday, I called you. You picked up expecting me to say "Happy Birthday" and instead I had to tell you that your first granddaughter, Lily, had a brain tumor. 

I hated telling you that. I know it's silly to have this feeling; but every time we had to tell someone the news, it was so hard to hear and see their shock and sorrow. But, that day, you told me two things: to pray and that Lily would be okay. 

I did pray, under protest, because I was really angry with God. And Lily, well, Dad, today, she brought me home a stack of college brochures. 

You told me 15 years ago, that she would be okay. And she is. 

Lily reminds me so much of you, Dad. She looks like you--the Carrington is strong in her and she has your nose. She even talks to herself, just like you did when you were trying to figure out a complicated problem. Lily lives everyday and every moment to the fullest; just like you used to say "I am going to die with my boots on." Lily is never down--even last year when she had to have emergency surgery, she was wheeled out of the operating room telling the team that she needed to be discharged to get back to school for her choir concert. 

She decided she wants to major in Theater and Psychology. I know, know, it does not sound very practical. But, Dad, Lily has a dream of helping people--kids--kids like her--through drama and art. I remember how you used to get caught up in my dreams. I'd tell you my wacky idea and a day later, you had your own amazing idea for me--a spin-off or an angle I never considered. 

Thank you for doing that for me; you taught me how to dream with my kids--and then them run with it. 

And Chloe, Dad, she is exactly how you predicted: giving us all a run for our money. She is smart and opinionated and has the biggest heart. The talks the two of you would have about everything! She is also really great at helping fix things and build things; in a way I never was. She'd be the one helping you on your projects. She is in love with the outdoors. She wants to be a scientist--any kind of scientist. I'd be remiss if I did not mention Chloe's long, long hair. She loves her hair. 

Chloe has David's eyes--big and gorgeous and twinkling. I love looking at her and seeing him. 

Chloe tries to remember you, Dad, but I know it's hard for her. The sad stuff is really hard for her; but somehow she's taken everything sad and just transformed it into becoming such a powerful force. 

You saw it when she was just a little toddler. 

And Nicholas, well, I never got to see you two together. He is absolutely something else--endlessly curious, knows everyone everywhere, remembers everything and is fiercely loyal. He gave up baseball this Spring for lacrosse. His favorite sport, though, is soccer. He loves talking sports with Mike. He loves talking, in general. Last night, he was so excited to hear a song that begins, "My grandpa fought in World War II. ." He wishes he got to know you Dad. 

I don't know what he'll be when he grows up; but I know who he will be: your grandson, always. 

I always knew you would have limited time with your grandchildren. I can't imagine how that felt for you--knowing, as you always told me, that you "can't live forever, Tricia!" You always tried to prepare us; but in retrospect, I think you were trying to prepare yourself. 

You did really good, Dad. I know you worried that you didn't. But, you did so good. I am so sorry you aren't here. We wish you were. 

I love you. Happy Birthday. 



Sunday, May 15, 2022

The Musical Start of It All (Day 135, Year 2)

One of the foundations of my relationship with Mike is our shared loved of music. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about those moments on the steps of a very, very seedy Albuquerque, New Mexico motor lodge--me in my Vans and Mike in his very 90s colored jean shorts and his backwards White Sox hat. We were chatting about Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the Singles soundtrack. 

I cannot say I knew in that moment we'd be married. Or even that we would become a couple. But, I knew he'd be my prom date and I knew for sure, he'd kiss me just right. 

That one shared interest launched everything that exists today. 

Music is important in this house. Mike geeks out about it much more than I do--he can keep a beat and play music with an instrument. I can only play music by tapping play in Apple Music. 

I match my music to my moods--Sam Smith when I am feeling introverted and moody; Nirvana on Fridays, always; P!nk when my rage is on; Lady Gaga when I want to feel close to my brother; Sinata when I am talking to Nicholas about my Dad; Elton John when I feeling nostalgic; and of course, my most favorite song on the planet, Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns, which I listen to at least once a day.

And yes, I did name my daughter Chloe, after my favorite song. 

We've both worked hard to make sure music is accessible for our kids. Mike is the best at it--always asking what they like and finding out and listening to it, too. Sharing new songs and band news with us all. Curating playlists for car rides that play our girls favorites. And securing AJR concert tickets--before the pandemic--for the whole family (plus Lily's friend Audrey, who is an honorary Adkins when it comes to concerts!). It is the sweetest Dad thing in the world to make a concert happen for his kids--all three of our kids love AJR! And seeing a band you love play live is an experience every person should have as often as possible and with the people you love!

So even though I know our kids will grow and go to shows without us, and giving them wings to experience the world on their own is important; it is just as important in this house to give them a crew to attend live shows with--concert friends (and family!) who get how amazing music is live and how sharing a song can be the start of big, beautiful things--like a family. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

They did not like the movie (Day 134, Year 2)

We attempted to have family movie night tonight. It both began and ended in disaster. In fact, as I write this, the only way members of my family will speak to me is to say something in a poisonous voice. I fully expect that upon reading my review, my family ceases speaking to me altogether. 


Anyway, movies do bring on strong feelings, don't they? 

The movie, in question, was the latest remake of West Side Story. There was tobacco use, which apparently I missed, but caused triggers amongst our family. There was violence (I mean it is a GANG movie) and now I feel like I am living in the midst of a gang war without the professional singing and dancing. 

So, if you love peace and calm, DO NOT WATCH WEST SIDE STORY. If you enjoy family irrational family arguments and the bubbling up of long held resentments, DEFINITELY WATCH WEST SIDE STORY. 

I get it, it is a sad, sort of ridiculous story. Tony knew Maria for like 24 hours; but somehow they were bonded until death (which also happens 24 hours later). And no one is comfortable with gang fights and stabbings; even if the choreography and costuming is on point. 

As an aside, the costuming was really fantastic. If we are ever stand to be within 3 feet of one another again without fighting and I remember to schedule family photos, I am taking color palette inspiration from the 2021 version of West Side Story. 

However, the costumes fail to make the characters likable; with the exception of Anita. I am still rooting for Anita and her post Sharks-Jets life. The rest of them are total losers.  I don't remember feeling that way when I've watched other West Side Story versions. I also wonder if this lack of likable characters is what truly made everyone on edge. If everyone seems so awful, it makes you wonder if maybe you are also unlikable and awful or maybe you begin to notice how unlikable and awful your family is? I mean, I think they are all wonderful. But they clearly have other opinions. . . . .

Before the movie began, Nicholas was upset it was not Batman; but was then upset over the violence (strange, since he spends his afternoons fashioning spears out of bamboo) and tobacco use. (He's very passionate and a dedicated opponent to the tobacco industry, apparently.).  He had a brief moment watching the movie with our dog Henry (see the picture); which ended with Henry scratching him and some shouting (not pictured. but you can imagine the shouting about being scratched, the shouting about the shouting about being scratched and through it all the dog kept watching the movie, so I think he disagrees with the family disdain.). 

Chloe was upset because everyone was annoying (She had placed a blanket over her head and napped during most of the death.) and because she decided everyone would blame her for the movie choice (I mean if she takes the blame it keeps the shade off of me. .).  Mike was upset because it was all horrible and like eight people were murdered (a valid complaint) and the cat peed somewhere (not in the movie, but in our home) and he wanted to have a nice night. Lily was upset because she said she knew this is how it would end (both the movie itself and family movie night) and because she is a teenager and therefore always right and also very contrary. 

I was not upset. Well, at the beginning I was upset, because of the Batman movie whining of Nicholas. Then I calmed down and enjoyed the gang fight dancing and the accelerated plot line that aligned in believability with the dancing gang members. Then, like the rest of my family, I jumped in the melee and began saying: "I DON'T KNOW WHY EVERYONE IS SO HYSTERICAL." I said this at least seven times.   Then, I was yelled at for a slew of crimes and misdemeanors unrelated to West Side Story, which resulted in me slamming a door. 

Maybe we can have a family dance-off tomorrow. 

I haven't experienced this level of emotion over a fictional movie since Mike tricked me into watching My Dog Skip, which is the worst, most vile movie ever made and should be banned everywhere, including outer space. I am still angry Mike made me watch this and as I soon as I hit publish, I plan to yell at him about it. 

I know, it's all very dramatic.  

But, their dislike of the movie did give me a Yoke, when I had none, so I guess that's something. 

Stay cool, friends. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

On my small town (Day 133, Year 2)

We inadvertently moved to the smallest town in the middle of one of the most densely populated places. We knew the size of Haddon Township; but it wasn’t until we really lived here that our town revealed itself for what it was:

Mayberry mixed with Stars Hollow. 

It is also a place where tradition and family and love for one another is the guiding force.

It is not that my town is perfect—trust me there are plenty of wankers. I might be one of those wankers. And it’s okay, because it takes all kinds, right? 

It is just that it is a home. 

Our kids run wild in their neighborhoods. They know all the school traditions, as told to them by older siblings and neighbors and parents, who grew up here. Generations live here. Everyone’s prom date from 1994 lives here. And while, I am still a newbie (6 years this August!), it is the type of place where you walk in a door and everybody knows your name.

I never thought I’d like this. I traditionally enjoy flying low and solo. No roots or entanglements or affiliations. (I’ve been burned by affiliations; so I mostly avoid.) But I love it. I love walking around our town’s elementary school field day and every few feet seeing someone I know and adore. Old friends, new friends, acquaintances, soccer moms and Girl Scout parents—all these wonderful people who know my name. 

And it’s not the notarity; it’s just that we all know each other. 

For the first time in my life, I am not alone.

And truly, friends, all I’ve ever wanted for myself is a big huge family and I’ve got that, at home, in our small town in the middle of bigness. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

5 Things That Make Me So Bored (Day 132, Year 2)

My Nana used to tell me "only boring people get bored." I would secretly roll my eyes about this hours later, when I was safely back at my home in Pennsylvania and she was in New Jersey. I was scared of what she'd say if she saw me rolling my eyes; probably something about cursing me to blindness.

The thing is, I am definitely NOT boring. I mean, maybe I am boring because I am bored. 

Did I mention I was bored? SO BORED. 

Anyway, here is my list of things that bore me lately. Let me know if you have any completely impractical suggestions on how to spice things up. (Practical suggestions are boring.)

1. Words. This one is a bit of a problem because I am a writer. WRITING AND ITS ASSOCIATED WORDS ARE BORING ME. It's all very apocalyptic and definitely a situation; but I am bored. Bored with everything I write and bored with reading things people have written! I am bored with my made up words like "Sciency" (although on a slightly bright note, I did get a real-life PhD scientist to begin using SCIENCY in her daily communications). Words are dull. Dull like a cheap, old table knife from Kmart. (remember Kmart?)

2. Food. I am sick of thinking about food, wondering which foods will make me vomit, pondering which will send my blood sugar skyrocketing, making food no one eats and thinking about what to eat. I've suddenly only be able to muster enough energy to make taco salad. And now I am bored with taco salad, which is pretty much rock bottom. 

3. Peloton. I am bored with my Peloton and even my beloved Boo Cody Rigsby has been unable to make me less bored. I just like spin the pedals around and think about how mundane it all is. Round and round, blah, blah, blah, snore, it's boring. 

4. Gossip. Friends, I love a good story especially when it is about someone else and definitely when it is about someone I don't like. I know, I know, I am the worst kind of asshole. BUT WHATEVER, I am being honest and raw. Anyway, I don't even care for gossip anymore. I try to muster up some interest and then I just grow bored. I blame all of you, by the way, for not doing anything scandalous. Someone needs to become a serial shoplifter or like reveal they have a secret family or something, please! 

5. My Routine. I have so many recurring meetings (all boring, sorry to my brilliant colleagues. It is not you, IT IS ME). School is at the same time every day (dull!). And, as I mentioned, I am eating taco salad all the time. Plus, I now have to have a Chobani Madagascar Vanilla Less-Sugar yogurt daily and an apple. Why? BECAUSE I AM NOW OLD AND SET IN MY BORING WAYS. 

One thing that isn't boring: my Ozempic injection day, which is tomorrow. However, how boring is it to be excited by diabetes medication?