Routines & Motivation ~ by Sam

I feel that title is lacking, but I did the best I could. I keep thinking I should come here and write something meaningful about things that are going on in the world ~ because so many things are going on in the world ~ and then I keep thinking, “Wait, what? It’s what time? I have to make dinner…or…Oh…you all already had dinner? I guess I should eat dinner. And like…do…something…” It’s been…you know…weird around here, as I am sure it has been for most people.  It’s been weird in ways that aren’t worth writing about, because there all the same ways it’s been weird for everyone: our 16-year-old is learning remotely, husband is working from home, all 5 of us are here all the time, it’s hard to keep track of the days, the time, etc.  It’s been weird in other ways, too.

I spent 19 days home isolating under doctor’s orders for symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath from late-March through mid-April. It was…strange, and sometimes scary. I wasn’t hospitalized, and there was no known exposure, so I wasn’t tested. It got pretty bad, but not hospital bad, and for that, I thank my lucky stars. I may never know for certain if I actually had the virus or not, but , more than a month later, I still don’t feel fantastic.  I lost about 10lbs I didn’t need to lose while I was sick, and I’ve only gained back 2-3. I still get tired, and easily winded. It’s…well, it is what it is. I expected it to take some time before I felt up to speed again, but I am starting to feel a bit daunted.

On May 8th, while watching TV with two of the kids, I had what turned out to be a complex partial seizure, and ended up taking an unscheduled field trip to the ER. Not my favourite way to spend a day, by a longshot, but, after a few hours there, lots of tests, a consult w/ the attending neurologist, and a follow-up with my regular neurologist, I do FINALLY have a diagnosis. (Some of you might remember that I have in the past eluded to some unnamed medical issues ~ this is that.) So, yes, I have epilepsy. It wasn’t a great surprise, and I have been taking an anti-seizure med for some time now, but, hey, now, when filling in forms, I know which box to tick when I get to the question about whether I have epilepsy/seizure disorder.

So, now, officially, I have CRPS, fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s Disease, IBS, asthma, and epilepsy.  And I’ve been trying to recover from frozen shoulder since November, and, I have to say, that one is starting to get on my nerves, which I think might indicate progress.

I have a couple of meds I take to manage some of this stuff, and then there are some lifestyle changes that help.  Things like physical therapy, keeping a somewhat regular schedule, taking my meds on time, exercise, good nutrition, good sleep habits…Of course, the caveat is that some of these things interfere a bit with things like regular sleep, exercise, good nutrition, but, look, I’m not here to argue about this.  I’m just trying to do my best to achieve these things.  Really, I am.  I swear.  It’s just…I’m having a hard time, y’all.

Boy, I feel this has turned into a much whinier post than I intended.  Sorry about that.  I logged on here in the first place to talk a little bit about how I have been feeling unfocussed/unmotivated.  I want to establish a better daily routine. In my dreams (not the real ones, but the ones I make up) I want to get up every morning, take my meds, start my day w/ yoga, followed by a healthy breakfast. Instead, I hit the snooze button too many times, sometimes forget to take my medication until after breakfast (getting kid to school, when that’s happening), have nothing but coffee for breakfast, realize I am running around in yoga pants at 3pm, but haven’t actually done any yoga, feel light-headed, eat something stupid, because I have forgotten to eat all day, look at my messy house, get irritated and start trying to accomplish something ~ anything ~ get distracted and start doing something else, still don’t do any yoga, maybe realize it’s time to make dinner, if we’re lucky that day, but, more likely, there’s been some small disaster (a cat knocked over something and I have to clean it up, or the fence fell on the apple tree, or I took a jar of sauce I’d made out of the fridge for dinner, but didn’t have a good grip on it, dropped it on the floor, had to clean that up ~ bonus: floor’s clean), and whatever it was, there’s not going to be time left to make dinner.  I’m still wearing yoga pants.  I haven’t done any yoga. Or done my physical therapy, which I’m supposed to do every day. Or gone for a walk (which is also supposed to happen every day).  Or done any sewing, or worked on the blanket I am supposedly crocheting…and I keep wondering what it is I DO all day long.

Right now, for instance, I am sitting here doing this, and I know I need to pay bills and balance the checkbook. On the up side, at least later I will be able to look at this and know what I did ~ and I put in laundry earlier, so that will be done, assuming I remembered to start the machine.

I’ve been trying, in the past few days to “just do it,” but my body is still adjusting to a higher dosage of anti-seizure meds, and it’s kinda like, “HAH.  No, seriously.  Where’s the coffee?”

So, for now, I’m trying to take things slowly.  Of course, if you know me, you know this is driving me nuts. I’ve done yoga twice this week. That’s better than never. When I sign off here, I will probably do it again, and I might even practice my banjo, too (which would be the second time this week ~ and is a big deal, because I only started being able to hold it again last week). Maybe I’ll sew. Or maybe not. I did at least cut one of the curtain panels that needed to be hemmed yesterday, and I made dinner.

One evening recently, while I was washing veggies to prep them for the grill, I felt the ground swell under (and then kind of up through) me, and I had to call the kids to ask if we’d had been a tiny earthquake. We hadn’t, it was just me. I’m luckily everyone is here, and someone was nearby so I could go sit down, and the veggies got prepped.  We had fantastic veggie kabobs, tiny earthquake notwithstanding.

Veggie Kabobs

Unfortunately, I’m not here to give you any advice, or tell you that I have solutions to your organizational, health, or daily planning problems. Ultimately, my goal would be for things like taking my meds, doing my exercise and integrating the necessary healthy lifestyle habits into my life that will help me feel my best to become so much a part of my routine that it feels effortless. Maybe that’s a a lot to wish for, but I’ve always believed in aiming high.

Boxing, part 2 ~ by Sam

So, that was done.

Sort of.  We still had some things we wanted to store.  You see, Kaia is 15.  When she moved in to her bedroom in 2012 (which was actually 6 1/2 years ago, not 5 1/2, as I said in the last post, wasn’t it?), she probably didn’t mind having bins full of things like puppets and American Girl clothes taking up space in her room, but let’s get real.  I, personally, love my American Girl doll, but, at 15, I probably would have needed my shelf space for something other than storing all of the the entire household’s American Girl doll clothes and accessories.  And puppets!  Do you people even know how many puppets we own?  Seriously, we needed to free up that space for things she was actually using on a regular basis (which doesn’t mean we don’t still love our puppets, says the drama teacher inside me).  Besides which, it’s her bedroom.  She should get to keep her stuff in there, instead of stuff that’s kind of community property.  I think, again, in our haste to move, we just never reorganized that shelf after we moved it into her room, and, since she was the youngest, it made some sense for toys to be stored in her room, at the time.  Now, on the other hand…

Well, I needed just a couple more large boxes, so I headed back to Michaels, and, as anticipated, all of the good 80% off boxes were gone.  But I did find two very lovely ones that were 40% off, and that was okay.  I mean, it felt a little splurgy, after the 80% off boxes, but I guess I’ll survive buying boxes at 40% off, just this once.

After all, they are the perfect boxes for treasures.
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They fit perfectly into the space I had for them (if you ignore the fact that one overhangs the shelf just slightly), and they were the right size to hold all of our puppets.

When the old bins were empty, I removed the old tags from them, knowing Kaia wouldn’t need them anymore, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them away yet.  Is that silly?  It’s just…it’s the end of an era, isn’t it?  I know, it’s the beginning of an exciting new one, too, as my three little babies, little no more, continue on their journey through life.  Two in college already, and one a sophomore in high school.  You know, I always believed those people when they told me the years would fly, but I didn’t understand how it would feel until I was folding all of the little dress up clothes, having weeded out the ones that were just beyond repair and not worth saving.  I didn’t get it, until I was carefully tucking the matchbox cars into their boxes, and trying to remember their names, making sure the puppets weren’t too crowded, and no one was getting smushed…and I could hear their little voices just like it was yesterday.

“Today, I’m going on an adventure!”

“I’m a pirate, so I need this hook, and I need to get on my pirate ship…”

“Hey, sisters, sisters!  Look at what I found!”

And now it’s quiet.  The boxes are all put away.  Justice is at school tonight.  Shane is not yet home from work.  Hallie, of course, is living on campus this year.  It’s very quiet, except for the faint sound of one voice, not so little now, talking and laughing with a friend on the phone.

Pizza’s ready, so I go to pull it out of the oven, and there on the counter, I see them.

I still haven’t thrown these away.

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I’m thinking, maybe, I’ll keep them for a while.  It’s silly, isn’t it?  But then, I’ve always been sentimental.

Boxing, part 1 ~ by Sam

If you’ve known me for some time, you might know I like boxes.  I mean, not like cats and small children like boxes ~ although, lets be honest, large boxes made really great playhouses, and trains, and rocket ships, and…well…so, maybe a little bit like small children like boxes, but, for the purposes of this narrative, let’s assume I mean decorative boxes.  You know, the kind you might use for storage, but that don’t necessarily look like just your average storage boxes.  I like fancy hat boxes, and boxes that are made to look like books and treasure chests.  I like boxes covered with beautiful papers and fabrics ~ I’ve even covered some of my own.  I like cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, metal boxes, even plastic crates and baskets, in a pinch, but fancy boxes are my favourite.  And, although you might not know it if you dropped by right now and saw the half-painted Little Free Library on my parlour floor, the empty boxes and baskets, the unfolded laundry on the chaise, the books that need to be put away, I really like it when everything is put away neatly in its place.  It’s one of the reasons I really like boxes.  You can put things in them, and ~ look at that! ~ all of the sudden, instead of a bunch of clutter, you have this attractively ordered space.  I like it that way.  I like knowing where my stuff is, so I can find it, and I like it to look nice, too.

So.  Well, there was this one area of the house in which we had really been struggling with the whole “neatness” and “order” thing.  A place for everything?  Are you kidding me?  Nah.  Just…stick it over there…somewhere.  I guess.  We’ll figure it out later.

Sometimes, I think that’s a little bit how we moved in.  Things were moving along swimmingly, but then there was a family emergency, and Shane had to leave town, so we moved a bunch of stuff over very quickly, with the help of his parents, who were in town.  Then, the kids and I finished moving the rest of the stuff over from the old house, but I never felt like we got things quite settled here.  I still don’t.  It’s been more than 5 1/2 years since we moved.

In that time, time has marched on, and children have grown.  When we moved, we set the toy shelf that used to be in the bedroom that the two youngest kids shared at the old house in the hallway outside of the bedrooms they would have (and not share) at the new house. It seemed to make sense at the time.  The shelves contained stuff that belonged to both of them, as well as some stuff that was used by all three kids (like books, costumes, and matchbox cars, for instance).  Over time, however, more and more of the stuff on the shelf fell into disuse.  The kids just grew up.  They still loved and had fond memories of some of those things, but, you know, they weren’t leaping around the house in tiny tutus battling each other with rubber swords.  They need bigger tutus now.  I’m kidding.  They hardly ever wear tutus now.  As far as I know.

Anyway, there was a bunch of stuff just sitting there on the shelf, not being used very often, and taking up a lot of space.  We also had other stuff that just didn’t seem to have any place to go.  Stuff like shoes and hats and jackets.  Backpacks.  A trumpet.  Bags.  Just, you know, a lot of stuff.  So I started thinking, you know, what the kids could use outside there rooms might be something to store the stuff they actually use.  I knew, however that, like me, my kids are sentimental.  Over many moves, and in years since the last move, we had already weeded through toys, and what was left on that shelf really was the cream of the crop.  This is stuff we want to have around for days when little ones come to play.  It’s the cool stuff.  The keepers.  The question remained, with no useable attic space to speak of (it’s basically a crawlspace full of insulation and ductwork), and very little available space in the garage, where were we going to keep all this stuff?

What stuff?  Oh.  THIS stuff.  And, while we’re at it, can we do something about this colour, because I vowed when I moved in to banish this colour from the house, and this, Justice’s bathroom and the laundry room are the last holdouts (trust me, it’s worse in real life).

I chose the above photos because I think they highlight the stellar organization.  Not pictured: socks, shoes, backpacks, trumpet & music bag…

Well, it took some planning, and a couple of coats of Behr Marquee flat ceiling paint in pure white, and a couple of coats of Behr Premium Plus Paint & Primer interior semi-gloss in Vintage Coral to fix the colour problem.

We had already made a trip to IKEA to purchase the coat/shoe rack/bench that we wanted to put in place of the old toy shelves.  Of course, we realized that taking down the shelves and replacing them with a coatrack would leave us with some major storage problems.  After some brainstorming ~ and let’s be honest, the storm had been brewing in my brain for years over this plan ~ I discussed my design plan with Shane, who went off to the hardware store to have the wood cut to make the shelves we wanted.  He primed and painted them, and, between coats, we kept searching online for shelf brackets we both liked…or at least one of us liked…or, you know, maybe that we didn’t hate.  I mean, could they, at least, not look like they should be shut inside a closet?  Hey…those are ni…Oh, I mean, could they at least not look like they should be shut inside a closet AND not cost a million dollars?  We finally found some that fit the bill at Lowe’s.  When we got there, they didn’t have the ones we’d chosen, but I think the ones we got are just as nice, at least.

It just so happens that Lowe’s is in the same shopping center as Michaels, so we stopped to see if they might have any boxes that might suit our needs. They did, you guys, and they were 80% off.  That’s, like, pennies on the dollar.  (Or like, a few dollars instead of $20, but still, quite the deal, and really, the only way we could possibly afford to do this.)

Look what a change we made:

Little Squirrel ~ by Big Tree

Yesterday marked the first day of classes for both of my college students.

Yeah.  I am now the mother of not one, but ~ count ’em ~ TWO college students.

On the 18th of August, Hallie moved to the dorms at Otis College of Art and Design.

I still feel like I am finding my footing.  Kaia has long schooldays 2 days/week, due to  band practice, and then there will be football games or drill days on Fridays.  I won’t be going to pick up anyone at the bus stop after school.  If Hallie forgets something at home, it’s just a walk across campus ~ and it doesn’t involve me, anyway.  I won’t be running anything to school, or meeting with teachers or administrators, or trying to figure out how to juggle the two back-to-school nights that always seem to fall on the same day ~ one over the hill, one in the Valley.

There’s only one kid to wake, one lunch to pack (yes, we still pack their lunches ~ I know some kids pack their own.  Fight me), one homework progress to check.  I’ve walked away from that one high school for the last time, forever.

I have all this time, and I need to figure out what to do with it.

But, really, enough about me.

This kid. Well, not really a kid, anymore.  This whole entire grown up human.  How did that even happen?

It’s like…one day you’re watching them play in the mud and sing with the Care Bears, and the next day they’re in college.

Seriously ~ didn’t you have pants on your head just a minute ago?  But I know.  I know it’s been years. Some of them have not been so easy, my sweet, and that breaks my heart, but here’s what I know: if you made it through that, whatever life throws at you now, you can handle.  And, you know, if you can’t, call us.  Because it’s not like we won’t help you now that you’re off at college.

I feel like, as you head to college I should have some advice, but, you know, I’ve always said, I am the Sergeant Schultz of Parenting: “I know NoThing!” That’s super helpful, I know.

I do know a few things about you.

You are and will always be worthy.
You are smarter than you think you are.
You are incredibly talented and creative.
You are kind.
You are capable.
You are compassionate.
You have a strong sense of what is right.
You are a good person.
You are brave.
You are strong.
You are resourceful.
You are witty and clever
You’re an excellent problem-solver.

When you were small, you used to hold my hands and climb all the way up to my shoulders, telling me you were “Little Squirrel Climbing Big Tree.”

I might not be such a big tree by comparison anymore, as you take flight, ~ because you’d have to be a flying squirrel, wouldn’t you? ~ but I hope you remember where your roots are.  You’ll always have a tree to come home to, my Little Squirrel, no matter where your journey takes you.

I love you so very much, sweetheart.

Here’s to an excellent first year of college, and to the wonderful life it unfolds!

Echoes in the Hall ~ by Sam

Girl walking away 2010
New backpacks: 2010 (l-r) Justice, Hallie, Kaia

I’ve just returned from dropping off Kaia for her first day of 10th grade.  This year’s  picture will have to wait until after school.  We weren’t running late, but we weren’t running early enough to stop and pose for pictures, either.  With or without photo evidence, she’s off to 10th grade, and great things like AP World History, and her second year of Marching Band, in brand new sunshine yellow Chuck Taylors.  Do they still call them Chuck Taylors?  I’m probably dating myself.

It was a quiet morning, with just one kid to get ready and out the door for school, and it occurs to me: this is how it’s going to be now.  Hallie will be moving into the dorms this Saturday, and Justice’s schedule varies, but, really, being almost 21, she gets herself up and out the door to work or school without any help from us.  Honestly, at this point, I’m mostly just company and a ride for Kaia.  She’s pretty self-sufficient.  So, for these next few years, it’s just us.

It was really, really quiet.

It felt like I was learning to do this all over again.  I’m used to juggling many things, both parents up, dodging each other in the kitchen, calling over my shoulder to one kid, and then to another…but…oh…there’s just this one kid.

And one day…there will be only echoes in the hall.

For now, it’s still me and my youngest girl, in the morning, riding to school together.  I’m glad we get that time.  Last night, Shane asked, “You’ll probably want to drive Kaia to school in the morning, won’t you?”  He sounded vaguely hopeful that I might say no, and  it surprised me to realize how important driving her was to me.  Now that we’ve got just this one kid to drive, we will no longer have to “divide and conquer” as we once did, and it’s not like I ever begrudged him those rides to school with Hallie.  I knew I would get the rides home.  Maybe it hadn’t yet occurred to me how fleeting time is.  Maybe, now, as my older children are growing older still and moving on, I am finally beginning to feel that tug, that gradual letting go.  Maybe it’s just harder with the youngest.  The last.  My baby.  It occurs to me now, however, that he hasn’t driven Kaia to school in a very long time, and I am probably going to have to let him (she says, as if she gets to “let him”).  Isn’t that odd?  That I would think of this as a thing that is “mine?”  It’s ridiculous.  Of course, he will drive her some days.

Our mornings aren’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes, they are hectic.  Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to wash something that needed to be washed, or we’re scrambling to find a decent lunch to pack.  Sometimes, we are late getting out the door, and she’s eating breakfast in the car on the way to school.  Sometimes, I’ve forgotten to sign something, or she’s forgotten to tell me about something at school, or there’s a disagreement about who forgot to do what.  In short, it’s not all a bed of roses.  Sometimes, we bicker.  Sometimes, we listen to KUSC, covering the display on the dash and challenging ourselves to answer their Great Composer Quiz.  Sometimes, we talk.  Sometimes, we’re just quiet.

Always, the moments are precious.

Because, someday, there will be only echoes in the hall.

 

Food & Stuff ~ by Sam

(in which I swear once, which is not a lot, since I am talking about food & stuff)

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I really thought Marian might pull through, until I awoke one day to find nothing but two bare stalks.  I think, this time, she truly is a goner.  I am so sad.  The next time I was at the nursery, I asked what I might be doing wrong for my maidenhair ferns, and was assured that I have done exactly what I should.  It seems my home just might not be the best environment for them, for whatever reason. It was suggested that I try a different, heartier variety of fern.  We selected this lovely sliver lace fern, which i promised to not to name, just in case…then promptly name Mathilda as I was pulling out of the parking lot.  Apparently, all of my plants will be named after literary characters.
Mathilda

I am going to try to refrain from buying (or killing) any more houseplants for some time.  Instead, I will work on trying to keep alive the ones I have.

In the interest of posting about something other than houseplants ~ ‘though I do love them ~ I thought I would share some of the meals I’ve been eating.  Because no one ever does that on the internet.  It’s a totally revolutionary idea.

I know.  Like, half of you ~ more than half of you ~ already walked away.  That’s okay.  The rest of us are still here, and we like each other just fine, thank you very much.

But food. Well, you know, food and I have a storied history.  I loved food when I was a kid.  I loved some foods other people might find really weird.  I ate stuff like butcher bologna and fried brains (no, really, y’all ~ I tell my kids I’m actually part zombie, as a result of this culinary adventure), and slim jims, and those hot sausages that came in wrappers like slim jims.  I still love red beet eggs,  and my mom’s ziti and shoofly pie ~ all of which I am pretty sure I am not supposed to eat, and that is a travesty, by the way.  I ate crabs and scallops and lobster and shrimp, and clam chowder.  I mean, I grew up in Maryland.  We ate seafood.  It’s kind of a thing.

Now…well…

First, I had an eating disorder.  When you have an eating disorder, you don’t hate food.  I think that’s a common misconception.  Maybe it’s more of a love/hate relationship.  I became positively obsessed with food.  I knew everything about it.  I was obsessed with what nutritional value of everything, how many calories it had, what was the fat content, sugar content, serving size… Not that any of it mattered.  I wasn’t actually eating much of it.  I did love to cook it.  For other people.  And watch them eat it.

Then, I became (and have remained) vegetarian.  That’s working out okay for me.  I mean, y’all can have your brains.  I have to say, I am pretty much over that.  I was vegan for about 8 years, and I felt pretty good at the time, but I’ll admit, it was difficult, especially when I got pregnant with my first child.  That’s about the time I decided to start eating cheese again.  I really like cheese.

Which totally doesn’t matter.  Cheese hates me.  With a passion.  It turns out, I am allergic to milk protein.  So, some years (yes, it took years ~ many, painful years), and many health problems later, I gave up all dairy products.  I miss cheese so much it hurts ~ but you know, not as much as that feeling in my throat when I ingest it, so this is really much better.  (I’m also now allergic to shellfish, which I had already given up eating, for what it’s worth, which doesn’t impact my diet, but is a weird side note considering that I ate it as a kid, I guess.)

Also, (and, well, really, I should have thrown this part in a while ago, because it originally reared its ugly head in high school), I have IBS.  That’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome, in case you didn’t know, and, as is evidenced by the name, it is just a festival of fun times, as I am sure you can imagine.  I won’t go into detail.  I mean, it involves your bowels, being irritable.  You can figure out what that means.  Or, you know, google it, if you want to, but I really can’t imagine why you would want to do that.

So, here I was going along, doing my thing, trying to be healthy ~ and I was really making a concerted effort, too, because I had some long-standing terrible habits to break.  Habits like not eating breakfast.  Forgetting meals altogether.  Eating chocolate for a quick burst of energy to get me through to the next meal, and then not taking time for the next meal.  Eating things like the crusts of kids’ pizza, the ends of their poptarts, and the few green beans that were left in the pan, and thinking, “That was probably a meal, right?”  Drinking a frappuccino instead of lunch.

I figured this was bad for me, bad for my body, and a terrible example for my kids, and I decided to do something about it.  I started doing things like eating more vegetables and fruits.  I love roasting vegetables ~ broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage ~ especially with lots of fresh garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  I love artichokes.  I don’t like fruit, but berries are good for you.  I ate berries, even though I don’t like them.  I actually like pears, and some kinds of apples, and I can eat about half of a banana, sometimes, but only half.  I was trying with the fruit.  I started drinking coconut water. You hear so much about how good for you it is.  Man, I really bought that.  I used coconut milk in my coffee drinks, instead of soy, because I know too much soy is bad for you, and I already use some soy.  I was eating whole grains.  Oh, and beans.  I was trying to make sure to get enough protein, but from a variety of sources ~ nuts and nut butters, seiten, quinoa, seeds, tofu and tempeh, some commercially available meat substitutes, and beans.  I love beans.

For some reason, my digestive issues got worse.  At first, I thought, maybe it was just that I was eating meals that were too large, so I started eating smaller, more frequent meals. Then, I thought maybe it was just that was still getting used to eating well ~ maybe my body was adjusting to digesting all those fruits and vegetables and stuff.  Maybe it was too much of a transition all at once.  I even thought maybe it was a medication side effect…or maybe it was a symptom of something else.

The truth was much simpler: my IBS was completely out of control.

So, after one doctor’s visit led to another doctor’s visit, which led to some labwork, and a referral to a gastroenterologist (and more labwork ~ with more to come), I find myself on a very restrictive diet.  I am currently on a gluten-free low FODMAP diet, and it is the most restrictive diet I have ever had.  I am forced to be obsessed with food again, which is a little bit scary, to be honest, and I have to be careful not to fall back in to old patterns.  I think the key, in that regard, is to keep eating the food.  That, and the fact that the goal this time is to keep the food in my body and maybe actually gain some weight, which is really weird for me.  But it must all look frighteningly familiar to people who  have known me through all of this, and it must be worrisome for them, too, because here I am, again, very thin (due to medication) and obsessing about food.  My understanding is that at least some of this could be temporary, and then we can start trying to figure out what foods, specifically cause problems for me.  For now…

Ah, well, it is what it is.

If you are interested, you can look up the low FODMAP diet. For me, it’s basically like this: Make a list of all of your favourite foods. Write: “DON’T EAT THESE” at the top. Now, start eating eggs again.  What?  You don’t like eggs?  Fuck you.  Eat them anyway.  You don’t eat meat, and there are only like 4 other protein sources on this list that you’re allowed to eat.  Eat the freaking eggs.

If you have IBS, or another digestive disorder, you might want to talk to your doctor about whether or not this plan might be helpful to you.  I know, I just made it sound super appealing.  (sorry.)

Here, to entice you are some pictures of things I have been allowed to eat, to prove that it is not actually terrible:
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Vegetable curry w/ quinoa

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Maple walnut oatmeal with bananas & cinnamon

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Baked potato topped w/ veggie chili and avocado

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Egg salad, avocado, red pepper & olives

So, maybe I make it all sound very dire, but I am eating a lot of beautiful, delicious foods.  Most importantly, I seem to be getting it right, most of the time.  Eating out is still difficult, because it’s a bit of a craps shoot.  You know, you order the potatoes, and hope they aren’t seasoned with anything your gut’s gonna hate.

Feeding the whole family is a challenge, because my needs often require a little more creative meal-planning ~ and it does get a little bit redundant, sometimes.  I’ve hit on some recipes I can make that we all like, and, at the very least, I can often make a meal from which I can easily adapt something for myself.  If not, I usually have leftovers in the fridge, because I tend to cook for more than one meal at a time, anticipating that need.  I am still learning, but I’m getting there.

In the end, if I feel better, am able to keep the foods I eat in my system long enough to actually process the nutrients my body needs from them, and do important things like socialize with other humans, take my medication and, you know, absorb it so that it actually works, I think that’s a vast improvement.  You know, when things like that start working, the hope is that I will be able to do more of the things I want to be doing.

I would say things are looking up.

Today, for instance, I was able to get up and go with Shane to help sort Girl Scout cookie orders at the warehouse, and bring back all of the cookies Kaia intends to sell this season.  I loaded and unloaded cars, grabbed a coffee, came home and practiced banjo, cooked dinner, sat down and wrote this very long blog entry.  Now I intend to clean up a bit, and try to get my PT done before bed.  It might not sound like a lot, but I think it’s not bad for a Saturday with chronic pain and a digestive disorder.  I mean, let’s be honest: there are still a lot of days when I just want to pull the covers back over my head as soon as I wake up, but, you know, I have a Girl Scout, and those cookies aren’t gonna drive themselves home.  My banjo’s not gonna play itself.  I mean, come on ~ I’ve got stuff to do.

cookies

 

…and in with the New

While we were busy getting ready for the evening’s celebrations, it seemed like we might never get there.  Just one thing after another seemed to keep getting in the way, hindering our progress in one way or another.

First, the washing machine decided to start making that horrendous noise AGAIN, and then just quit about a minute before the cycle ended, but a minute early was nothing.  The clothes were done, so we put them in the dryer, and moved on to the next load.  We weren’t so lucky with that one.  The second load stopped mid-cycle. The machine was locked.  It refused to let us reset it, turn it off, unlock it, open it, change the cycle, stop it.  It was just stopped there, and we could do nothing.  I got the brilliant idea to unplug it.  That should work, right?  I mean, you would think.  At this point, I jus wanted to get the clothes, which Justice needed, out, and take them to the laundromat.  I plugged it in again. Still locked.  Everything still the same. I tried again.  This time, it wouldn’t let me turn it off, but it did at least let me reset the cycle.  Since it had stopped during the rinse and spin, I set it to rinse and spin only.  Luckily, it finished rinsing and spinning, and, miraculously, unlocked.  I have been terrified to use it since, and we desperately need to do laundry.

I planned to make two treats to take along to the usual New Year’s Eve party: Fantasy Fudge, and Amaretti.  One, I had made dozens of times, so it was a no-brainer.  The other was a brand new recipe, but one I had long wanted to try, and had been reading about for some time, so I had a good idea of how it should work.  I felt confident enough to give it a go.  I was all set…except that I didn’t have sugar.  So, I decided I would have to run out and get some sugar. Since the store is just up the block, and everyone else was home, I turned on the oven to heat, while I ran up the street to get the sugar I needed.  Then, I went to grab my purse from the bedroom where I’d left it.

That’s when I smelled it.

There was a very strong, obvious gas odor.  I first noticed it as I approached the door of our bedroom.  My first thought was to ask Hallie to check all of the burners on the stove, which, in retrospect, was silly, since I was nowhere near the kitchen.  They were all off, but we made sure, and decided to turn off the oven, too, after Justice confirmed that the room did, indeed, smell strongly of gas.

Kaia, who was resting in the room with a heating pad, had been complaining of a headache, and I started to put two and two together at this time.  I texted Shane, who was out front, checking a few things on his new (used) car.  He brought in the cat carrier.  Justice started opening windows and turning on fans;  and we let out the two cats who are allowed to go out, and everyone set to work trying to find the one who isn’t allowed out while I called the gas company.

While everyone tried to wrangle Leia, who is still a bit skittish, has no interest in going outside, and doesn’t especially like to be picked up, into the carrier, I talked to a representative of the gas company.  We realized that the closest gas appliance to the odor was the fireplace.  I made sure the pilot was shut off, removed the key; and, at some point, they managed to get Leia into the carrier.  We all went outside to wait.

Luckily, the guy arrived quickly.  It seems the key that turns on the pilot to the gas fireplace had been left in, and had been accidentally tripped slightly.  He also replaced a couple of fittings that were incorrect.

Finally back int he house, we had only lost hours and hours to washing machine and gas woes.  Shane let Leia out of the carrier, then ran to the store for me.  I think I was doing something, but I can’t remember what it was at this time.

At some point, much earlier in the morning ~ and really, it had come up days before, too ~ Justice had told us that, this year, for the first time ever, she would be spending New Year’s Eve celebrating with friends who were home from college, instead of hanging out with the family.  Of course, that’s totally fine.  She’s an adult, and can celebrate New Year’s Eve however she wants.  It is a big change, however, and one of those things about raising kids ~ they grow up, and one day they are adults, and off doing things on their own.

And Hallie was busy with school stuff, so we decided that Shane would come to the party a little later with Hallie, and I would go earlier with Kaia.  So, I made my Fantasy fudge and Amaretti (they’re little Italian almond cookies, in case you don’t know), and got myself a little bit gussied up, and Kaia and I headed out to the party.  Then, later, Shane and Hallie joined us.

As always, it was a fabulous time.  Our friends, the Foxes, always host a marvelous New Year’s Eve party.  I feel like it was a smaller crowd this year.  I know we weren’t the only family who was short a kid.  There was no shortage of desserts!  (I brought, like, four pounds of fudge, you guys.) But, as always, we all had a lovely time, and it was a nice crowd.  The “core group” was all there ~ the 5 families who were all in that MOMSClub playgroup together many, many years ago, when our kids, who are now Seniors in high school, were babies.  The youngest kids are freshmen in highschool now.

We rang in the New Year, watching the ball drop on TV, and toasting with champagne for the adults and sparkling cider for the kids, just as always; but it seemed, this year, everyone lingered a little longer.

Leftovers were packed up by one family, who will be distributing them to homeless people, so they won’t go to waste.

We all said our goodbyes, “Happy New Year’s!” and headed out into the crisp night air.

Shane and Hallie hopped into his car, and Kaia and I into mine.

As we drove off, Bob Dylan sang over the car stereo:

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Out With the Old…

I am not going to pull any punches, 2017 was a tough one.

I know, at the end of a year, we are supposed to stop and count our blessings, and, as always, our year has been filled with those; but I would be lying if I sat down and wrote a post about how great the year has been, and pretended it hadn’t been hard.  It’s been a hard year, in a lot of ways, for a lot of people I know.

I am not talking about politics.  I know that the social and political climate has been difficult for a lot of people to navigate, and that has put real strain on familial relationships and friendships.  I know there has been a great deal of social upheaval, and stress, and anxiety, and real life consequences as a result of what is happening in the political arena, because those things impact us all every day.  I don’t want to discount that, or for anyone to think that I am not taking those issues into account ~ they are part of the reason this year has been difficult for a lot of people.  In fact, for some people, that is the primary reason this year has been so difficult; because, for some people, those issues directly impact their daily lives so profoundly that they can’t help but think about them every single day.  So it’s hard for me to come here and say, “but that’s not what I’m talking about.”  Perhaps what I meant to say was, “That’s not all I’m talking about.” I would be remiss not to mention it at all.

There were deaths in families, and deaths of long-admired celebrities, as there always are.

Here, in California, we recently had the fires, and so they are fresh in my mind, but all over there the world, there has been disaster, and violence, and so much suffering, anguish, and frustration.  It’s difficult to even know what to say.  Some days, it felt like the world had gone mad.  It was hard to want to read the news ~ there was a genuine fear there.  What else could possibly have happened?  

On a very personal level, it’s been a difficult year for me, in regard to my health.  If I were to say, “I don’t talk about my health much,” you would probably think I’m being ridiculous.  It seems I talk about my health all the time.  But, really, I don’t.  Or, perhaps, I do more than most people, but there’s a lot I keep to myself.  So, when the CRPS started flaring up, I didn’t mention it, because, frankly, I feel like all I ever do is complain about my health issues, and, quite frankly, people must be tired of listening.  Nevertheless, it did start flaring up.  I figured it was probably because I had slacked off on my exercise routine.  I wasn’t doing my PT every day, and I wasn’t walking as much as I should.  Oh, and also because I had cut the dosage of my daily medication down just slightly because, in combination with the other medication I take daily ~ for that other issue that I am still reticent to discuss, because I STILL don’t have a diagnosis, so I feel weird about actually saying much about it ~ it was making me VERY SLEEPY; but only at night, after I took it, and upon waking, but this matters, when you have school-aged teenagers, who might still need your help, sometimes…and they do, sometimes, and I am their mom, so I want to help. (Do I win an award for that run-on sentence?  I think it was fairly spectacular, ‘though I am not convinced it was actually a sentence.)  So, I decided, first, to try doing all of the Right Things.  I exercised.  I took my medication.  The CRPS kept flaring.

I did the logical thing.  I kept going to my class taking kids to school, doing chores, attending performances, meetings, shopping, driving all over town, picking up, dropping off, running errands… You know, all of the usual “mama” stuff.  I kept tie-dyeing things, and playing my banjo when I had time, but it kept feeling like I had less and less time.  Everything felt like it took so much longer.  You know, because it did.

While all of this was happening, other things were happening, too.  I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.  Other people I knew were having hard times, too; and, while I am not at liberty to share other people’s hard times, you know, when people you care about are having hard times, you want to help, and you probably try to, and I hope that I did.  I think, at least, I tried.  I keep trying, and I will keep trying.  I feel like, a lot of times, I fall flat on my face, or my back.  Sometimes, I feel like I started there, and, if we are both there, maybe we can just lie there, hold hands, look at the stars, and know that, whatever is going on right now, it will all be better someday.  It will.  I promise.  It always is.

Also, while all of this was going on, I was having increasingly terrible digestive issues.  I’m not going into detail, because nobody wants that (and also because I don’t have all of the answers yet), but, basically, it breaks down like this:  I was diagnosed years ago with IBS.  I hadn’t had a lot of symptoms for a very long time.  Then, in recent years, I started having trouble again.  This year has been the absolute worst.  (This is NOT the undiagnosed issue I’m not talking about.  That’s still something else.  Sorry to keep being cryptic about that.  If you know me, I’ll probably talk to you about that ~ I just feel weird putting stuff down in writing and out on the internet about that one.)  So, I saw a gastroenterologist who has put me on a low FODMAP, gluten-free diet.  I was skeptical, but cautiously optimistic.  I have to tell you, after two weeks on the new plan, not only are my digestive problems virtually a thing of the past ~ as long as I stick to the plan, which is very restrictive, and difficult to stick to when I am away from home, and can’t cook my own food ~ but, now that my digestive issues are under control, the medication I am taking for that other (cryptic) issue seems to be working well again, because my body is actually able to absorb and process it.  I still need to return for a couple of tests to make sure we aren’t missing anything, but the good news is, things are much better.

So…back to the CRPS:

While I was busy getting everything else under control, it was still flaring out of control. To the point that I was having difficulty getting around to complete simple tasks like a trip to the grocery store.  Pain was interfering with my ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, eat, remember things.  It was bad.  Worse than it had been in a long time.  I contacted my neurologist and my pain management doctor ~ to see if there was any way we could change either medication, since, in combination, they made me SO SLEEPY.  To make a long story short (and remain as cryptic as possible), neurologist said something like, “This medication is controlling your symptoms, so NO.  We won’t be changing that.”  Upon reviewing that situation, we all agreed, this was a good plan.  After an examination, my pain management doctor determined that the CRPS was not just flaring up, it was progressing.

As you can imagine, this is not the news I was hoping to hear.  He scheduled me for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block, as soon as possible, in hopes that I would get some pain relief, and that we might stop any further progress.  That would be December 21st, and I would need to rest for several days after the procedure.  Perfect timing.  I hadn’t been able to accomplish much shopping, due to pain, and now, I had to be completely done by the 20th, so I could rest until Christmas Eve.

But, there was nothing else we could do, and just that little glimmer of hope that, maybe, we could stop it from progressing…or, at the very least, get a little bit of relief.  So, I agreed.

It’s been 10 days since I had the nerve block.

I think I must be in that “might get worse before it gets better” phase.  This hasn’t happened to me before, but I am trying to be optimistic.  They say you might not know until at least two weeks after how effective it will be.  So, I am waiting.

During all of this, there was this whole swirl of life events going on around us, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  I tried to attend to events I could attend.  I went to the performances and parties, I smiled, I chatted, I tried to make small talk, but, you guys, I am an open book.  I’m not good at this.  I am a terrible liar.  I don’t just wear my heart on my sleeve; it’s stamped all over my face.  Which is weird, because I’m an actor, right; or, well, maybe I was, many years ago.  But I think that’s different.  I like to think, in my real life, I’m not assuming a character when I interact with people for whom I actually care; and so, it’s different.  In real life, I am an open book.  If I am upset, or angry, or tired, or sick, or sad, or anxious, or lonely, or in pain, the whole world will know just by looking at me.  I thinkI have been every one of those things this year.  I suppose we all have, at some point, every year.

Some great things happened this year, and others are still in the process of happening.  Justice finished her Child Development certificate, and CPR and first aid training, and was accepted to the Music Performance program at her college.  Hallie is a Senior in high school this year, and is busy earning A’s in classes like AP lit and Digital Imaging (things I couldn’t even grasp in high school ~ and let’s review the fact that I didn’t make it through Senior year of high school, so kudos to kids who do), and looking into art schools for after graduation.  Kaia finished middle school and moved on to high school where she is participating in and loving Marching Band. She finished her Computer Science class early, and was allowed to move on to the AP course in independent study.   I took my first ever ASL (American Sign Language) class, and finished with an 87%, which is a B, but a high B, so I’m cool with that.  I probably can’t take another class just yet, but I will keep practicing what I have learned, so I don’t get too rusty before I can continue.  I do plan to continue.  Shane has worked on so many projects that I just can’t name them all ~ and I probably shouldn’t here ~ but I can say that he was recently able to purchase a used 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4×4 that appears to be in very good condition (fingers crossed).  I bought him a repair manual, so he can maintain it.  It’s a vehicle he’s wanted for a long time, and it means that, with Justice’s busy schedule, and with us on the brink of having a 4th driving in the household, we finally have a 3rd car.  I think it should make think easier for everyone.

There have been weddings, and engagements.  There have been children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews ~ oh, heavens!  Not all mine!  I just mean, in the world, there have been these things. In lives of my friends and family members, I have watched them unfold.

So, as I look forward ~ ever forward, never back…well, occasionally, wistfully, back, but never, ever with regret ~ it is with the very highest of hopes.

Here’s to 2017, and all of it’s challenges. Here’s to the tears we’ve wept, and the losses we’ve suffered.  Here’s to the lessons learned, and to every victory, every happy memory, every blessing and every joy this year has brought with it, as well.  For some, this might have been the best year yet.  For some of you, this was the year you were married, or the year your child was born, the year you finally bought your first home, or brought home the pet that filled that hole in your heart and made your life complete.  So here’s to 2017, for everything it’s been to every one of us.

2018, we see you on the horizon, and we have pinned our hopes on you.

We’ll see you soon.

 

 

All That Glitters ~ by Sam

IMG_4854This morning, while Shane took George the cat to the vet, and found out that he is, most likely, allergic to plastic, making him even more perfectly suited to our family, with all of our allergies and specific dietary needs, I decided to take a long-awaited bath.

I mean, well, that is to say…

I had bathed recently, for heaven’s sake.  I just hadn’t, like, soaked in a hot bath.  After the recent nerve block, I was told I had to wait for a couple of days ~ or maybe it was only one day, and then time got away from me, because it was the Holidays, and I would say I was busy, but, actually, I was lying around doing next to nothing, because I had recently had a nerve block, and was under doctor’s orders to lie around and do next to nothing for a few days…but THEN it was actually Christmas, and I was actually busy, SO, as I said: I had bathed, as in had a shower, but I hadn’t taken the time to relax and soak in a bath.  It’s a completely different thing.  This morning, I decided to run a bath, and relax, for just a little while, before driving Shane to work.

We only have one bathtub, in the kids’ bathroom, and I happened to notice, before I ran the water, that there was some glittery residue left from a silver bath bomb Kaia had used the last time she’d bathed.  It looked like the tub had been rinsed, but there was just some glitter left behind.  So, I gave it a quick once over, rinsed it again, and ran my bath.

I’ll tell you, that glitter is tenacious.

To my surprise, floating atop the water, was a fine glittery film.  Now, I suppose I could have emptied the bath and started again, but I’ll be honest: by this time, I had already cleaned the tub once, Shane was already at the vet, so I was running short on time and already starting to feel a little less relaxed, and I kind of like glitter.  For those of your worried about how sanitary this might be, I will say this once.  I was in a bathtub with hot water, literally washing the glitter.  It’s all going to be okay.  I promise.  Also, if you are uncomfortable with me and my glittery bathtub, that’s totally okay, and you can leave.  I promise we can still be friends.  Or not.  Or, I mean, if we weren’t ever friends, that’s okay, too.  I mean, sorry.  I’m not trying to be mean.  I mean, it’s all okay.  Me, my glitter.  You, your uncomfortable feelings about my bathtub glitter.

You know what?  I’m just going back to my story now.  You can work out your own issues.  I’m sorry.  I tried.

Okay.  SO.  I got in the bathtub, with the glitter, because, honestly, I was too tired to start over, I really needed a bath, and I just wasn’t going to get one any other way.  And besides, it’s glitter.

I slipped into the bath.  I figured, what’s the worst that could happen?  I was right.    Nothing bad happened. I just…took a bath.  I came out a little bit glittery.  Sparkly, you might say…or “farkly,” a little girl I knew would have said, many, many years ago, when she was very, very small.

Then, I cleaned the tub again.

Thinking it was funny, I told Kaia about my glittery bath, and sure enough, she apologized, saying she, too, thought she had washed away all of the glitter.  Glitter is like that.  You never really get rid of it.  Tenacious, I tell you.  I think there’s still glitter around my house from projects the kids did in preschool.  I don’t mind.  Glitter always makes me smile.  I told her so.

I think there’s something in the tenacity of glitter that touches me.  Something in its ability to reach back to the recesses of my mind, where memories aren’t always so forthcoming, and find them.  Something about its ability to elicit a smile, something about that tiny twinkle of uplifting light.  That sparkle.  As I said, it’s tenacious.  Some of our glitter came home from preschool on art projects and survived, like, 8 moves.  We’re still finding it in our pillowcases, even though the kids are practically all grown.

Good grief.  Are they really?

They are.

At least they are still leaving glittery rings in the tub.  For now.

Later, I happened to sit down at my computer to check my email, read a little news, check my messages…and that’s when I saw…it was a reminder that popped up as a Facebook “memory” from a year ago today.  If you use Facebook, you’ll know that they do this thing, where they remind you of posts you made on this day a year ago, 3 years ago, 5 years ago, etc.  This particular memory happened to be of a post I made on this day one year ago today with a link to an article about Carrie Fisher’s death, and I thought, Well, then.  How appropriate that we should find ourselves accidentally covered in glitter on this of all days.  

I said something to that effect to the kids, and wondered aloud why it was that people started #GlitterforCarrie in the first place, and we decided to look it up.  Do you know?  If you don’t, you should.  We did.  Look up why people wear glitter for Carrie Fisher.  There are some great stories, and I won’t bother retelling them here, because they aren’t mine to tell, and they are already all over the internet, anyway.

This is my little story.

I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you find ways to make your world sparkle.

What’s in a Name? ~ by…someone

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

So says Juliet, upon discovering her true love’s despised moniker, and perhaps it rings true.  After all, it is our character that truly defines us.  Isn’t it?  We could be called practically anything, but it is our actions ~ how we choose to conduct ourselves ~ that really matters.

Why then would I find myself hopelessly bereft over the notion that I might be in danger of forever losing my name?

This occurred to me earlier this week, on the heels of yet another call from yet another healthcare provider calling me “Kathryn.”  Only doctors, police, the DMV and IRS call me Kathryn.  Well, and my dad, who calls me by my full name, sometimes, and that’s okay, because he’s my dad.  I have never been Kathryn.  Aside from the first day they called role and I corrected them, even teachers didn’t call me Kathryn.  I was Kay when I was little, then Katie, and, ultimately, Kate.  Everyone back home called me Kate, up until I started college.  Except my dad. His nickname for me (when he wasn’t calling me by my full name) was Sam.  But then, being an adolescent girl, I got, well, you know, adolescent, I guess, I demanded he stop calling me that, because it was NOT MY NAME!

And so, he did.

But then, I felt kind of rotten about it.

So, I told him that, when I grew up to be a famous author, I would use it as my pen name.

Obviously, you can see the odds of me being a famous author are quite high.  Did you note the wry wit?  The affable charm?  The effortless prose?  It’s inevitable.

Then, I went on my merry way, being a Katie, and then a Kate.

I did all kinds of things.  Strange, awkward things, really, because I was, not surprisingly,  as strange and awkward a teenager and young adult as I am a full-grown human.  Also not surprisingly, I have not yet become a famous author.

What did happen was I went to school.  Well, everyone goes to school, I suppose.  Well, not everyone; but most everyone in the U.S. who falls above a certain tax bracket, anyway, after a certain point in history (after which I was most definitely born) has some kind of education, and so, I did go to school.  I even almost finished high school.  Wow.  What I meant was I went to college.  Junior college first, and, in fact, I liked it so well, I went for a very long time.  It’s either that, or I wasn’t very good at it, and I had to spend a lot of time working out the kinks.  Whatever the case may be, during my seven illustrious years in junior college, I pursued acting.  I did quite a lot of acting at school, and even outside of school.  Since, during that time, I found I wasn’t getting any closer to becoming a famous author, but I was acting quite a lot, I decided to use Sam as my stage name.

The thing is, when you do a lot of theatre, it tends to lead to more theatre, which leads to more theatre, which leads to more theatre…and, well, pretty soon, most of the people you know are people you met doing ~ guess what ~ theatre!  So, pretty soon, I had a lot of new friends, all of whom were calling me “Sam.”  I was having a grand time, making friends, doing shows, going to parties, trying to remember to do my homework because ~ whoops! ~ that’s what I went to college for!  It really was great fun. Some of the best years of my life, to be sure.  I made some of the best friends I have ever had during those years, and I have even managed to keep in touch with some of them.  I learned so much.  I landed an incredibly important (to me and my future) job that ended up shaping my career, completely changing the path I thought I wanted to take in life and helping me find the direction I had lacked.  There were so many great things I accomplished as Sam.

But it was always great to go home to where the people who had known me and loved me since I was a little girl still called me Kate, because, somewhere in there ~ strikes breast ~ I will always still be Kate, too.  You see, I like Kate, and I never meant to lose her entirely.

When I transferred to Arizona State University to pursue my Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Education, I got a job at a childcare center to help pay rent and bills.  I used the name Kate at work, and Sam with friends.  When we moved to California, I initially used Kate when I was teaching and at places like the children’s school and our church, and   Sam friends, but I found, as the children got older, it got confusing.  It probably wasn’t confusing for the kids yet, but it was confusing for me, and for others around us, and I worried it would be confusing for them.  What would happen when someone asked, “What’s your mom’s name?” and they gave a different answer than the name by which that person knew me, or the name they had on record?  It was too much to expect a kid to remember.  It was too much to expect me to remember.  Now, what name did I tell THESE people?  And so, gradually, I just became Sam.

Looking back, now, I don’t know why I became Sam, and not Kate.  At the time, perhaps, it felt comfortable, because I was used to it.  It hadn’t been long since my college days.  Maybe I longed for the days of rehearsals and greenroom chatter and late nights at Denny’s.  Maybe I just wanted to be different, because I was still young, and kind of ornery.

But now…

Well, now…

Now, I think, with the advent of social media, we don’t talk on the telephone as much as we used to.  So I don’t hear the voices of my family and friends back home as often as I once did.  They don’t hear mine, either, because I don’t call, and I should.  I mean, I think I should.  They might be reading this and thinking, “Oh, dear God ~ now she’s going to call me!”  I like hearing people’s voices.  Unfortunately, I think our lives have all evolved in ways that don’t allow for telephone conversations often.  I fear…or, no, not fear, exactly, but suspect…I strongly suspect we are all now hardwired in to social media communication, which is a wonderful convenience, and I am thrilled to have it, but I do miss the voices.  I miss hearing them say my name.  It’s old-fashioned, I know, and, perhaps, a little bit self-centered.  I can accept that.  I have lived a very other-centered life as a wife, mother and teacher, so, on this point, I can be the tiniest bit self-centered. I think it’s been a little bit too long since my last trip back to Maryland, and I want to hear people say my name the way they have said it since I was a little girl.  People like my mom, my siblings, my cousins, my childhood best friends.

Then, of course, there are the ones that will never say it again: Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt Fran, Uncle Frank, Aunt Dody, Uncle Jack, Uncle Jim, Uncle Joe, Aunt Eleanor, Aunt Kay, Uncle Tony, Aunt Dee…  I haven’t even named them all.  I could never name them all.  It’s too hard.  I feel bad.  I keep thinking of people I need to go back and add. Geez.  That’s a lot of people.  And it’s probably still not everyone. What do you do about them?  I can still hear them, clear as a bell, in my mind, so, sometimes, that’s what I do.  I just close my eyes and listen.

What occurred to me recently, I think, is this notion that I am losing my name.  That, if I don’t hear it ~ if fewer and fewer people are calling me Kate, and no one out here in California calls me Kate ~ I will just gradually stop being Kate.  I felt like Alice, walking through the forest with my arms looped lazily around a fawn, both of us blissfully unaware of who we are, because we’ve lost our names.  As if somehow I will simply cease to be Kate altogether, when I know well and good that all the Samming in the world couldn’t un-Kate me.  I mean, let’s face it: once a Kate, always a Kate.  Am I right?

In the end, I might have to take exception with Juliet’s opinion on names.  While I don’t think our names necessarily define us, I have to admit, there is something decidedly “Kate” about me, and there always has been.  After much consideration, I am not ready to completely divest myself of my Kateness.  I suspect, like Shakespeare’s Kate, I have and will be called “plain Kate, and bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst,” and I can live with that.

I’m not asking any of you to change anything.  If you call me Sam, continue to call me Sam.  If you call me Kate, call me Kate.

And, you know, if either of us ever has a minute, we should probably call each other.