Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Camp - On Our Own

Yesterday, I spent part of the afternoon on a phone interview. At the end of the call, I was offered the opportunity to be a counselor at a heart camp for kids in Southern California. This is the same camp our son, Cam will be going to this summer. The plan was that I would go too, volunteer, work with other kids, all while spending time with him. That however, is not going to happen. There are rules, policies, about parents not attending the same camp session as their children. It interferes with the process, the intention of the camp, which is for the kids to find themselves and build up their self esteem. While, Cam is extremely independent, when he is scared or confused, the first person he runs to is me. So, understandably that would keep him from learning to rely on and trust himself, at least at camp it would. So, I will be going to camp a week after him to act as a camp counselor for 8 teenage girls.

Cam was, to say the least, not pleased. I explained that he won't be the only scared child, traveling far away from home without his parents. There will be 7 other kids in his cabin, as well as 4 counselors, and a medical nurse. Cam will be busy from sunup to sundown. I know after he gets over the initial fear, he will, as he does with everything in life, wholeheartedly embrace the experience. I full expect he will come home and ask when he can go back again. I fully expect that he will be touched in ways he can not yet understand. That being surrounded by 100 other kids who have experienced the same surgeries, traumas, fears of dying at such an early age, will change his life and perspective forever. The choice is his to make and he stated without reservation that he still wants to go.

So come August I will take him to the airport to join 40 other kids. I will let him go, knowing he will return to me full of stories, adventures, fun, happiness, perhaps a few tearful moments. He needs to go and so do I, just not with him. I can't wait to have him tell me all about camp and then get on a plane myself a week later and see the camp through my own eyes. The volunteer coordinator asked me what will be the biggest challenge for me and I told her not getting too emotionally attached. I know I will also be touched by the kids I will meet and counsel. My perspective will change, be enhanced, my world will be better for reaching out to these kids. Somewhere deep inside of me, I need to know these teenagers. Maybe, I hope, I will see little bit of my son in all of them. Perhaps, I will have a deeper, broader hope for the future that lies ahead of him.

Most importantly, I want more than anything to give back. To share and touch these kids lives the same way the counselors and campers will touch my sons a week earlier. I know one thing for sure, I will miss my son. I will miss him when he goes and I will miss him when I am there by myself, without him. It was not the original plan, but perhaps it is a far better plan. We each will get to have our own experience and adventure, separately. Then we can come home, compare, enjoy, and look forward to the next year. Honestly, I am just as scared as him. I have never been away from home by myself either. Every time I have traveled alone, there has been a friend or family waiting on the other end for me. There's a first time for everything and I have a strong suspicion Cam will not be the only one that comes out of this experience a stronger, changed person.

Endless Possibilities

After rereading my last post I realized it sounded like I was seriously depressed, which I can assure you I am not. Many of my blogs are just small snippets of thoughts, ideas that feel better out of my head, rather than swirling around tormenting me within. The day after I posted last I had a lovely lunch with the owner of the black box theatre I manage, Linda. She has been my mentor, friend, surrogate mother, and confidant for the past 4 years. After much discussion about what had been going on in her life and mine of late she said to me "You are overwhelmed". Um, what? She went on to tell me that it sounded to her like my brain was straining itself to process all of the new experiences and traumas I was witnessing and experiencing on a daily basis.

It made such perfect sense, I couldn't believe the thought had not occurred to me. Sometimes, it really helps to get a different perspective, one other than your own. The picture instantly became clear. Truly I feel like I have been sheltered, never having seen the seedy underbelly of what exists in this life. I have never been poor, clinically depressed, mentally disturbed, exposed to true trauma - blood, guts, screaming, moaning, people coding and dying. It is an eye opening, soul churning, at times deeply disturbing process to experience each and every day. It would it seems, be abnormal to not be affected by everything I am experiencing. There are moments when I wish I had not seen the things I have in the past few months. On the other hand, I feel like my world has literally been split wide open. This overwhelming need to not run, but instead help in anyway I can overtakes me. I also finding that I am so much more appreciative of the life I have had and the people I share it all with. Each day I can't wait to get home to my kids and husband, to hug and kiss them, tell them how much I love them.

A few days ago, I mentioned to Craig that our family is the most important thing in my life. I don't need things or money, just them by my side, happy and healthy. We have been reassessing our life of late, sorting out where we want to be and how we want to raise our kids and live our life. The conclusion is that we want to simplify, get away from the parts of life that distract us. Work less, spend more time at home, show our children the world, expand their horizons and perspectives, explore. Inspire them to help others and be grateful for all they have in this life.

Many options are being discussed, among them relocating our family. Not just a different house, perhaps a new adventure in another place, far from home. When I was 7 my parents moved our family cross country from New York to Arizona. It was a culture shock, a lifestyle change, for them a chance to start life anew. While I grew up in Arizona, I tolerated the state, the summers. All the while planning my escape, but that never happened. Instead I met my husband when I was young, not content to be anything other than his wife, I quickly married him and we embarked on our life together. In Arizona. It was never an option to move anywhere else, as his son lived with us, and his mother was in AZ as well. So I tied myself to one man and one state for at least 15 years.

Thirteen years later, there are endless possibilities opening up around us. My biggest fear is that we will make the wrong decision, the wrong choice. Maybe there is no right or wrong decision in this case. Perhaps, we should just make a choice and move forward, knowing that if it is meant to be, it will all work out. Craig has an interesting offer that is taking shape. Change it looks like will come sooner rather than later. I am ready to embrace it all and make our own big move in the near future.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Bit Of A Funk

For some reason I have one line from a song playing on repeat in my head "stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it". How depressing, not only that, it's not even a song that I particularly care for in the first place. Truth is, I am in a funk and I can't seem to lift my spirits. For the past few weeks I feel like this dark cloud is hanging over my head. I could surmise it is due to working odd hours and having my sleep schedule disrupted or spending almost a week sick with fever, body aches, stuffiness. Honestly, I have fallen prey to bad moods in the past, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

They got really bad after Cam was born and I was overcome with emotion. Adjusting to life with a newborn, dealing with his health issues, feeling like a failure after a difficult pregnancy and emergency csection. I felt like I missed out on so much, his birth, the thwarted attempts to breastfeed, not to mention a year and a half hooked up to a breast pump. After the first 18months passed and Cam had flourished and survived two surgeries with flying colors, I began to relax. The world changed seemingly overnight from stark shades of black and white to a swirling meld of colors as endless possibilities opened up around us. I spent 18 months anguishing, quite certain in my doom and gloom mood that my son would be lost in all of the doctors, interventions, tubes, wires, and scars that marked his journey in life. I was fearful, uncertain, unsure of how to proceed, where to go next.

The colorful, intense happiness that surrounded me did not last long. Less than three months after his second heart surgery, I found myself pregnant again and scared to death. Within 10 weeks that fear intensified as I found out the one baby I was expecting was actually two. On December 30, 2000 I found out I was expecting my first child. Exactly three years later on December 30, 2003 I gave birth to our twin girls. Three kids in three years, when I thought I never wanted any. I felt sideswiped, overwhelmed, lost in a mass of crying babies, diapers, feedings, sleepless nights. It took another year and a half before I could take a deep breath and look around at the new world my life had become. It was at that point I began to implode.

I never really took the time to decompress or examine my feelings after all we had been through with Cam before I was pregnant again and gave birth to multiples. I lost all sense of myself, who I was as a woman, my fears, hopes, goals, dreams. Readjusting my views on almost everything was a delicate process, one I did not handle well. It would take another two years of introspection, brutal honesty, therapy, and a near divorce before I had some sort of handle on my life and balance was restored again.

I was not a fun or nice person to be around during those two years, I carry regrets and guilt from that time period of my life. Even three years later, I can not look back without feeling the pain of my own words and actions. I did not realize at the time, that you don't have to tear yourself down to build yourself back up again. That destroying the one person who loves and supports you will not make you stronger, instead it will cause you to question who this stranger that appears before you in the mirror truly is. My marriage did not fall apart, I systematically attempted to take it apart one piece at a time. The one saving grace was that my husband held it all together in the best manner he could, all while telling me that no matter what happened next he still loved me. I still question my motives, it seems to me I lost sight for a while of what was important, my marriage, my family, my life. If I had thrown them all away on a quest to find myself, where would I be now?

Recently, a good friend sent me an email about how my kids are amazing, how she doesn't know how I balance school/work/kids, that I should bottle my secret and sell it. I laughed, because in all honesty there are cracks in every aspect of my life even today. My girls are late for preschool a lot, because I have been sleeping, doing homework, running errands on an off day, or coming straight from work to bring them to school. My house in all honesty would be a mess 24-7 if it wasn't for the simple fact that my husband cleans more than I do. If I don't write things down on my to do list, they don't get done and even if they are on the list, often times there simply isn't enough time in the day or I still forget. I do the best I can and many days, like today and every day the past week, I actively fight the desire to get into my bed and pull those covers over my head. I know how lucky I am, that my life though far from charmed is blessed and full. My son is happy and for the moment healthy, he charms me with his words and smile, when he is not busy questioning everything I say. My girls are sunshine, laughter, full of youthful giddiness and candor and lots of attitude.

Me, well today I am here, trying my best to be present. No one ever told me motherhood would be this hard, or this rewarding. Ever moment, day in and day out brings its own new set of challenges, I just hope I am up for whatever comes next. While the desire to wallow may be there, the time is not. Now, if I could just get this dark mood to pass. Right now, the only thing I am certain of is that my bed still looks really tempting.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catching Up, Looking Ahead

I haven't been posting much of late, mainly due to working a lot. The new job has been a big adjustment, with my hours all over the place. Over the weekend, I worked from 6pm-2am and then had to be back at work the next day at 12noon. Last week an anniversary of sorts passed, marking 7 years since the day Cam almost died. It was a surreal experience to be working in the same ER where we almost lost him those years ago.

Each year, I keep thinking that it will be easier. That I will be able to feel peace and happiness over the fact that his life was spared. Instead, the same as past years a dark mood settled over me and it did not pass until after Easter. Catharsis seemed a safe bet, so I wrote, took to my bath and bed, cried a little, and finally my spirits began to lift. Cam really is such a miracle, I can't imagine my life without him in it. I loved his father almost from the first moment we met, but my love for my son runs deeper and stronger than anything I have ever experienced in my life. It is fierce, protective, nurturing, unconditional, fulfilling. I feel like he is such a reflection of my personality, yet his is enhanced with the love and wisdom of a small child that has been through more than I could ever have thought possible. He is a survivor, one that often stands out alone in our family. He gives me hope, fills me with love, inspires, and challenges me each and every day. So much more than I ever could have hoped or imagined when I carried my first born within my womb. I think it is fear of the kind of loss I don't know that I could ever recover from that engulfs me. Yes, he lived, but that dark place where the what ifs live at moments consume my thoughts.

Our kids were almost unrecognizable all dressed up this past weekend. I am so used to seeing my girls all mussed and dirty from rolling around with their brothers, and playing in the yard. They really are both little tomboys, uber competitive and athletic. It is difficult at times to recognize the little girls that have replaced my sweet babies. I watch them and wonder what piece of me is inside of them? I see so much of their father and brothers at this age. The age when sex makes no difference in play, before boys and girls discover they are really different and that great divide begins. I wonder if the parts of me that float around somewhere inside of them is more likely to emerge as they grow older and leave childhood behind. Stretching their skin to emerge as the women they will one day become.

They are so much their own individuals, these two girls that share the same set of genes. While they look alike, they are each so unique and different. Allison is all heart, full of smiles and laughter while Rebecca is more solemn and quiet, with her tough exterior protecting her inner sweet, gentle, and quiet self. When they were babies, Craig and I would each take responsibility for one at night. I generally had Rebecca while he cared for Allison. We have often remarked on how much their personalities reflect ours in many ways. At times we wonder, would they be different if we had each cared for the other babies? Nature or nurture...were they born with these predispositions or did we shape them into the people they are becoming. I tend to think it is a little of both.

Friday, Craig and I slipped away to go see Columbinus at Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe. It was provocative, witty, masterful, eye opening, painful, touching. All of the things that in my eyes makes great theater. If you only go to see one play this year, it should be this one. Craig is planning to go back this weekend with Chris, our teenage son. I think it would be a compelling work of art that he will both understand and appreciate. Our son has complained over the years that theater is boring, which as managing artistic director of a theater is heart breaking to me. We have tried to find theater that will speak to him, as everyone has different viewpoints and experiences in life that color their perceptions. The last few plays I have directed, he enjoyed, Columbinus I think will really get to him, and that is the true heart of theater as an art form. It should touch you, make you feel, and think, and talk.

More busy days ahead, filled with ball games and ballet classes. Summer is coming our way with cool evenings following warm, sunny days that will not last long. Soon, it will be unbearably hot and our home will be filled with the constant whirr of the ac, wet foot prints tracked across our tile as we retreat to the cool respite our pool offers. I can hardly wait for our vacation, the opportunity to see the Midwest, Canada, to experience a different side of summer. It seems so far away, yet last Friday we came one step closer as we all applied for our passports. The anticipation is so lovely and there is so much planning left to do. So much to savor as the summer stretches out in hot waves before us.