Friday, February 25, 2011

I learned something today

To be fair, I've learned this particular lesson several times during my life, but I had a refresher today. Fact: Not everyone likes me. Or perhaps, more accurately, I'm not a breath of fresh air to everyone I come into contact with. (It's okay, Mom. You can take your hand down from your mouth. This is actually true.)

I mentioned earlier that I started visiting a person of advanced age (just felt like being p.c. there for some reason). The visits have been of mixed review. I developed hope after last week's visit because conversation was easier and more frequent. Of course, it ended as every visit does. I woke her up to say goodbye.

Today she was perky, so I hoped that it would be a lively discussion. On the contrary, she focused intently on her small television during the entirety of my visit - even during commercials. Each effort I made at conversation was politely, but firmly, rebuffed. It was excruciatingly awkward. My open-ended questions were answered by one or two word responses. Eye contact was rare and challenging when received.

I am not going to dive into hypotheses about why and how this happened. At least not here. I have my ideas. I am neither offended nor belittled by today's interaction. No fear - I am still confident in my winning personality. However, I am not confident in my effectiveness or aid in this particular situation.

All that to say that my role at the care facility may be changing soon. Now, I'm not just going to give up on her because it's difficult. I would actually love another crack at it. However, I think it would be selfish of me to continue just to prove that I can stick it out or to "win" her trust. So, I'll talk it over with the people who know her. Judging from a few inferences, they may not be surprised.

I'll let you know how it turns out. I may be working on my craft skills after all...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sometimes I...

...feel melancholy. Like I said, when the weather pushes me back inside, that's when things really get tricky.

Perhaps it's strange, but the days that I feel most connected with my humanity are days when I am feeling melancholy. For me, that entails quietness. This is disconcerting for the people around me. I'm not normally quiet. However, on melancholy days, I am quiet for two reasons: first, I am a big believer in "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm thinking mean or nasty things...

Second, on melancholy days, I have a harder time putting together coherent thoughts to begin with. It's like my thoughts are reclining on a memory foam mattress and can't be convinced to get up and grab a cup of coffee to join the conversation.

To be honest, I love these days. It's like a rest for my soul. And my face. I smile a lot in general. And I mean it when I smile. On these days, I don't smile as much (still more than many). I am, however, more conscious of my eyes. Does that sound creepy? I just mean that I am more aware that my eyes are looking out of my body and you are looking into my depths through them. Okay, that does sound creepy, but I'm sticking by it because it's true.

So today, I'll have my iPod stocked with great folksy tunes with meaningful lyrics. Because the thoughts that won't present themselves to me will often respond to the emotion of others. Other than that, I'll just enjoy hanging out. Maybe get some work done around the house while my mind is quiet and less distracted.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February Redeemed


This weekend did not entirely feel like February. Saturday was chilly but more like a spring chill. Linda and Russ came to visit us this weekend, and that was a huge treat. We all enjoy their company immensely.

We spent most of our time with them here at home hanging out, but we did get out to the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Erick and I have never been there before, but we'll definitely be going back. So much to see and do. They had enough indoor things to keep us busy on a cold day. My favorite was the Temperate House, where I took this picture of Linda and Russ. It felt like a beautiful European garden. A lovely little spot of color and fragrance in the middle of winter.


When Linda and Russ left on Sunday, we had a visit from Paul, Risha, Lilly and Nora. Because the day was so lovely yesterday, we decided to walk to the zoo. It was a perfect day for it. Being at the zoo in short sleeves is another big February treat. The hippos were enjoying the weather, too, so the girls enjoyed watching them. Not gonna lie. The adults may have enjoyed it even more.


While having a snack, Lilly and Sophia walked to see the camels. They hid their crackers from the camels because they had somehow gotten the idea that camels might eat them....


I am always so grateful for these pleasant weekends at a time of the year when we could easily be stuck inside. And to get to share them with people we enjoy so much makes it that much sweeter.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best Valentine Ever!!



On Valentine's Day, we got a piece of mail from Sophia's preschool that said "Mom and Dad." Of course, my first assumption was that they forgot our names and were telling us about the next tuition date. So imagine my surprise when I opened it to find Valentines from Sophia! A picture of her at school, too. So sweet. In her own hand, "Mom, I love you." and "Dad, I love you." Then we find out why. Erick's is definitely less conditional "Because you give me hugs and kisses all the time" than "Because you read me books." But, to be fair, I am really good at reading books. Seriously, it was the sweetest thing I've ever received in the mail.

It made my month. Thank you, Sophia!!
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Happening Again

If you've been reading my blog through a few season changes, you're probably sick of hearing about what it does to me. Fortunately, I rarely let that stop me from talking.

So here we are, in the middle of a heat wave - relatively speaking. The snow is melting away, leaving puddles and mud everywhere. I bought some rain boots, so now I can fully relish the puddles. I've always wanted rain boots for just such a purpose, and they do not disappoint.

Even while I'm inside, my spirit is outside. My computer is in the sunroom, and this is a problem. Right now, I'm typing while staring out the open window. I have learned to proofread as a result of this situation. Also, I get distracted by the cool breeze, and before I know it, I'm reclined in the office chair and haven't written or entertained a coherent thought in five minutes.

There is no cure for what ails me. I must push through to the other side. When I no longer want to just lie around in the sunshine, talking to strangers and friends, drinking coffee and waxing philosophical about the simplest things. That is the greatest symptom of my disease. Nothing is simple. Everything is a broad, general, debatable idea that I want to talk about and hold up to the light of the sun until I get bored with it. Not until I find an answer, mind you, because what, after all, is an answer? Poor Erick. Things take much longer than they should at this time of the year. The only hope is that this is the last time this happens until the fall. Because once I push through, I am myself again - still doing all the things I just mentioned, but in a less ethereal state.

However, a problem occurs when I get forced back inside by another cold snap, and the process must begin all over when the sun returns to warm the ground. It's a vicious cycle really.

Wish Erick luck.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Greatest Loves


I am a person who loves deeply. I feel strongly. And I like to talk about it. So it won't be any surprise to you that I love these two people. A lot. This time, I'll let the picture do the talking. See how cute they are? Sweet boogers. See how they love me too? How could I help but be madly in love with both of them?
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Thinking Out Loud


I have tried for the past few days to put words to my latest attempt at connecting to myself and others here in St. Louis. I have a feeling it could be lengthy so feel free to save this for a quiet moment or fifteen...

When Sophia started back to school five weeks ago, those mornings became stark reminders of my solitude. For many reasons, the solitude has been welcome. It's obvious, though, isn't it, that those empty slate mornings have provided more opportunity for loneliness. Not frequent, but it happens. Driving home on one such morning, I noticed a nursing home - or residential care facility, if you will - and had a moment of realization. A couple of months away from constant interaction had given me a shadow of understanding of the loneliness for some of those people. I decided I could do something that would help me feel less solitary and hopefully help others feel more like themselves.

After applying and talking with the volunteer coordinator, I scheduled my orientation. I was more than pleased to find that the feeling of the home is much like an extended family, with obvious attachments between staff and residents. This particular place specializes in assisting patients with Alzheimer's and dementia.

The first two floors are filled with people who are highly functional and enjoy many normal activities. The third floor, however, is for people whose needs are more constant. I was so impressed by how the staff cared for them. I was also reminded of how varied and interesting are the people who just happened to grow old. While on the third floor, a resident who had been staring vacantly during my visit, walked to the piano, sat and began playing old standard lively tunes very well with no music. I was also introduced to a former model and a painter. It was humbling, to say the least. No accomplishments or level of success exclude you from frailty.

After our tour, the coordinator and I sat to talk about where I would be needed. I had no expectations. This is my first attempt to volunteer with the elderly. I'd be willing to drive, help with crafts, sit with people, whatever. When she asked what I enjoy, I answered honestly that I enjoy listening to and telling stories. But certainly, I would do anything that would help.

The volunteer coordinator had something specific in mind for my time. One of the residents has two children, both out of the country, many friends who are not able to visit and life experience and disposition that don't draw her to the group activities that help other residents stave off the loneliness. She went on to describe her as the most interesting person in the building - with a PhD in Philosophy, having traveled and taught all over the world. Would I be interested in sitting and visiting with her when I come in? Yeah, I think I could do that. So we went down to meet her. She was sweet and excited to have visitors. We were both excited for my impending visit.

This week, I had my first visit alone with her. It was a stranger experience than I expected. How does one get to know another person after she has already lived and experienced so much? What do I offer exactly? An ear? A window to the outside world? A hum of chatter? The hum put her to sleep. I chose not to take it personally. When I woke her so I could leave, she gushed about a wonderful visit, talking of the things we'll do next time.

Honestly, I'm not at all put off by the experience but it does case me to realize that I might not be quite as captivating as my own grandparents led me to believe. Next time, I will definitely bring my A game.

If that doesn't work, I'll bring Sophia... I kid.

Thursday, February 10, 2011



I am really excited to get this girl outside. I am growing more than disgusted with the frigid temperatures and the ice that is still on the ground. I have kept my eye on the forecast for the weekend, and it seems that it's going to be pleasant - or, in this case, heavenly.

Of course, I'm hesitant to get my hopes up just to have them dashed on the frozen tundra. so we haven't made any plans that are dependent on nice weather. Trust me, I'll let you know what we manage to get outdoors to do.

Saturday morning, Erick and I are going to have our Valentine's date. We have decided to try out one of our new local bars that specializes in showing sporting events. We're going to watch a soccer match. It's my new thing. Erick's enjoyed soccer a while longer, but I'm new to the game. That's how we'll spend our lunch date. Saturday evening will be our first visit to a local place of worship. If a good story results, I'll share.

Anyway, I can hardly wait to get this weekend started! On through Friday first...
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Week Remains a Smudge

I haven't had much to say over the past week because there has been illness amongst us. Pretty much just Sophia. She came down with the flu on the day of my last post, which makes the snuggling that much more understandable. By the end of the week, I was actually just hoping for excuses to extract myself from under the needy weight of a sick child. I sound like a terrible mother, but I know that almost every mother agrees with me.

Now she's healthier, and Erick and I are trying to regain a little rest that we lost. I bought some curtains for our room today. In the alley next to our apartment, there is a motion light that is quite bright. It hasn't bothered either of us until this week. Now all the sudden, it's blinding!! Not really, but you get the point. So some cheap but attractive curtains from WalMart may do the trick. We'll find out tonight.

Yesterday was Sophia's first day back at preschool for a week. I used it to read. The entire time. I haven't done that before, but I'm looking forward to doing it again one day. I read a fantastic book called Those Who Save Us about the lives of one German mother and daughter who lived through WWII. It's a tale of how the mother saved them and the daughter's desperate need for answers about how they survived. I would highly recommend the book.

Tomorrow night, we're looking forward to having some friends over for dinner. That means the rest of my day will be spent cleaning in preparation. I have several ideas about things to share but they will wait for another day.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groaning Heart

This winter has been unique for our family in so many ways. We are in a new place, dealing with problems we've never had before that come with renting an apartment in an old building. We are isolated in so many ways in spite of being closer in proximity to many people. In spite of all this, most days don't find me lonely. My family can't live like this forever, but I highly recommend living like this for a while.

Sophia has always had a little trouble sleeping, more at some times than others. Over all, she's actually done great here. However, with the noise of the radiators in the early morning, she's been spending most early mornings in bed with us. The other challenge is that she ends up really tired after an early morning. But if she takes a nap, the possibility of her going to sleep in her own bed is almost non-existent. Anyway, all that to say we spend a lot of time "co-sleeping."

One night this weekend, after our trip to Columbia, we all went to bed at the same time. Sophia's face was pale and relaxed in the light of the streetlight outside our window. Erick on her other side already settled in for the night. And all of the sudden, my heart hurt. This is a feeling that I've tried to describe before. It happens when I feel so full of emotion that my heart actually groans under the weight. Maybe it's a brief growing pain. My heart must adjust to allow for the surge of contentment and gratitude.

I will probably always look back on this winter as the season of snuggling. The snow has helped with that, too. We have been out often and had some great visits around, but the all too frequent snow storms have kept us at home more than we normally would. Sophia and I have spent so much time snuggling to watch a movie or read a book or even just chat that I have come to appreciate the snow. I know that even though I am content and, judging by Sophia's sweet smile when she looks up from my lap, she too is happy with our seclusion, we will need to venture out of this cozy place sooner or later. For now, I'll just enjoy the weight of my groaning heart.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Schmebruary


While the rest of Missouri seems to be getting snow, we seem to be sticking with ice. We have an inch of ice and another inch of sleet on top of that. It's gross. But beautiful.

Hope everyone's staying safe and warm.
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