Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Winter

It's looking very stark and wintery outside. I'm fighting my usual winter blahs with continuing to workout. My energy is high, I don't get out of breath as easily, and I'm up to 3-4 miles a day with the Walk Away the Pounds tapes. I don't see any huge changes in my appearance, but the increase in my overall sense of well being is greatly improved.
I think the leaves are finally all down, and we're still working like mad people to get them all bagged up, raked up, mulched up, whatever. Those three mammoth maples in our yard produce enough leaves to cover the entire neighborhood and then some. I raked Saturday for over an hour, and on Sunday my body reminded me just how many muscle groups is involved in raking. Egads! I appreciated my heating pad after that experience!
Well, on to work. We've got a manager on vacation, which means I get some of his work load in his absence. It's mainly keeping track of customer inventory levels and various other fun numbers, but every extra task means rearranging my priorities a bit to get it all done. No sense letting my work pile up in the process.
Hopefully I can find more time to write later this week. I'm finding myself more and more eager to write. It's just great stress release.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Getting Out of the House

Well, we got out of the house for a few hours. We went to visit Robert's mom, and of course, like all good moms, she had to sort of lecture us about visiting her more. She's right, of course. We work too hard. We don't visit enough. We don't bring the kids over hardly ever. Perhaps when they're grown ups and we're no longer trying to squeeze something meaningful into every second, we'll sit around and wonder why they don't visit us more often. But maybe not right at first. Maybe we'll breathe a collective sigh of relief that they made it to adulthood. That's my prayer. And maybe we'll go on a cruise. Right now we'll settle for an occasional date night. The comedy club date night in September was such a good one it should carry us for a little while.
Anyway, Robert, the boys and I went to Big Lots and bought a few items for the house...nothing major. Hangers, trash bags, WD40, necessities. I looked at ornaments, but didn't buy anything yet. It feels rather extravagant to buy ornaments for a tree when I have boxes of ornaments packed up that I haven't opened yet. Where they are exactly in our storage room in the city house is a mystery, but we still own them, and I feel like buying more is just....wasteful. Maybe next year we'll have unpacked. But I won't hold my breath.
After Big Lots we headed out to Ponderosa, which is a bit of a drive from us, but worth it to eat anything but Thanksgiving type food. That was a peaceful meal. No arguing. Usually if there are two kids, fighting is reduced. Add that third kid and someone has to disagree about something. We did a lot of talking, reminiscing. Josh is going through a phase where he is focused on how fast time goes by, and has been in the mood to talk about the past. Perhaps losing his grandmothers so quickly has triggered that. I am more than happy to indulge this talkative side of his personality, since he is usally so tight lipped. I'd say it was overall a sweet, peaceful evening. What's weird is that it feels like Sunday night, as I've had two days off. But I don't have to go back to work tomorrow. I can sleep in again. Eight o'clock, at least. I can scrapbook tomorrow, hopefully. Maybe do more organizing and cleaning. Putter around the house....maybe even work on this blog again. After all, I have all day. Today I skipped my workout, but I should make that priority tomorrow. I've been doing too well to stop now. So, that's 45 minutes of the day....the rest is up in the air. I've washed many of our comforters and pillows and throw rugs....if this keeps up, I'll be taking down curtains and pulling out the ironing board....
Naaah....scrapbooking sounds like a much better idea. The ironing board has been in the closet for the last 8 years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Who irons anymore, anyway? I've got a dryer and a full bottle of wrinkle relaxer. What more could I ask for?

Second Day of Four Days Off

I am enjoying the second day off in a series of four. Yesterday, aside from alot of kitchen duty, I have a pretty restful day. We shared the cooking. The kids got in on the act. Jess made the deviled eggs. Josh made the potato salad, and Jo helped me with the tarts and the pumpkin pie. Robert cooked the turkey and heated the ham, I did the sweet pototoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, baked the rolls and made cherry tarts and pumpkin pie for dessert. I only ate once, around noon, and didn't eat the rest of the day. That one meal was enough.
I woke up this morning with my stomach growling. Today I've nibbled here and there, but I mainly cleaned, did laundry and cleaned more. What I love the most about yesterday was that I didn't GO anywhere. I didn't rip and run all day, I got to stay home and kick back. I got my Christmas cards done, which just needed signing and sealed, labels slapped on and special notes written where applicable. I love days where I don't have to put on makeup and I can just sit around in sweats and look like a homebody. It makes all the other days when I DO have to do get dressed and look presentable more tolerable.
Robert is working the shop today, and we're having a pretty busy day he says. Jess went with him to help out and the boys stayed home with me. Jess wants to spend the night with one of her friends that she met at the shop several months ago. This just means more peace for us, so we both agreed. This will be the second time she's gone to this girl's house, and having gotten to know her mom, I know she's in good hands. We've had her friend over once, and they seem to get along pretty well.
Robert says he wants to go shopping tonight, just to get that holiday feel going. I put up Mom's little fiberoptic tree today, added a few decorations and plugged it in. I pulled out some of Mom's decorations as well, including the little pixies sitting on pointsettas that we've had since probably before I was even thought of. I found a huge stack of holiday kitchen towels and potholders, which I put out. I used to buy Mom kitchen towels all the time, and she always acted thrilled, saying how much she needed them. Then when I was going through her stuff after she died, I found box after box of towels that she never opened up or used. Perhaps she was saving them for a special occasion. Or maybe she just didn't want to hurt my feelings.
Most of our holiday stuff and non-essentials are still packed up at our "city" house. I'm thinking a lot of that stuff is going to be yard sale relegated real soon. It's that whole "haven't used it, get rid of it philosophy." I wish I could be more faithful to that creed.
Well, on to bigger and better things. I suppose I will have to actually comb my hair if we go out shopping. I guess ya can't win 'em all. I wouldn't want to scare any hapless shoppers with my no makeup, wild hair persona. That kind of trauma could ruin a person's holiday spirit.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A Beautiful Sky

Yesterday the sky was beautiful as we made the mile treck to the ancient Native American burial ground where, in the surrounding area, we found a quiet area to bury mom's ashes. From there we had the memorial service, which was truly touching. I was impressed with how well done everything was, from the compilation of pictures to the timing of the music and the song selection.
Here's a picture of the sky, which I thank God for. This was the first service I've ever been to that the weather cooperated. It was unseasonably warm and breezy, a truly nice day for walking.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Taz the Court Jester

I've decided to go with my moods for awhile in an effort to get through this new phase of grief in my life. My little baby puppy, Taz, who we got in August, has been like a psychologist, psychiatrist, grief counselor, comic relief specialist and court jester to me. When he got sick with Parvo, I quickly realized how much I missed him when he was in the hospital on an i.v. drip for a week. I am so happy to have my little lap dog again. I know now even partially immunized puppies are at risk, and the disease can live for months in the atmosphere. Scary stuff.

Anyway, he's part Chihuahua and part Blue Heeler, which is hilarious. He tries to herd the cats, and since they're 3 times bigger than him, they don't go for it. He was so little when we got him that the herding instinct almost got him hurt since he was constantly running under our feet. We finally got him some bells for his collar, which was his saving grace.

The Chihuahua in him, I've noticed, gives him the shivering thing, even though he has fluffy hair; so I got out my measuring tape and called upon both my 4-H sewing skills from way back in my childhood as well as my grandmom's stash of thread and fabric and fumbled around until I had made a little jacket for him. I have to finish it yet, but it's nearly there, complete with convenient snaps for putting it on him. It has gotten so cold outside this week, that until I get that done he's been banned from outdoor potty breaks and the puppy pads are it for him. He can't stand using the puppy pads; he looks from the door to me like I'm playing some sort of cruel joke on him. He'll hold it until he realizes he isn't going out, and then he'll reluctantly use the pads.

When I was making the jacket, Jo-Jo said, "Mom, make him some boots, too." I don't think the boots are going to happen, but I was thinking, "What's next? A scarf? A warm up suit?" Little dogs in spiffy little outfits always used to annoy me, but I've made him something basic just to keep him warm. I still can't believe I'm a dog person now. How he creeped up on me and took my heart is still a mystery to me.

I thought I'd share a photo of the little guy. Maybe later, just so they don't get jealous, I'll post some photos of the cat clan. Wouldn't want them to feel left out, since at heart, I really still am a cat person. Really.

So the Cats Don't Revolt

Tiga wants in on the action!

Sheba has it made!

So that the cats don't get jealous and revolt, here's my tribute to them, my first love: felines.

Tiga was hanging around while I was taking the kids' annual fall picture, and he seemed quite interested in the whole process. So, when the kids got up and moved on, he decided he'd like to hop up on the chair and see what all the excitement was about.

The photo of Sheba is one of my favorites, although the only drawback is one can't see her absolutely gorgeous green eyes from that angle. She just looks so relaxed and carefree in that picture.

The next step is to get a better photo of Leo, the gray tiger who was dropped out last November at the country house. At the time, no one was living there, but I was out taking care of the place when I found Leo and his sister, Piper in the barn. It was so cold, and I knew the babies wouldn't survive the winter, so I brought them in (after several scratches and bites from their little tiny claws and mini teeth) and kept them in a large dog crate until I decided what I should do with them. I wasn't successful placing them through the Humane Society, so Leo ended up staying. Piper has since gone to live with my mother-in-law., who has renamed her Pepper.

The first place I tried to place Piper was with my step sister. L had her in her crate, all ready to go, but the door to the carrier wasn't fastened right, and out jumped Piper. She ran up a tree and L had to leave without her. So we all concluded that it wasn't meant to be.

The other two cats we claim were two of Mom's that we couldn't place. Like ours, they're spayed and nuetered. They stay in the barn, primarily, and aren't much for socializing. They prefer a quick meal on the run and I'm the only one who can touch either of them. Mom could get them to sit in her lap, but they haven't quite warmed up to me all the way. Some days the twelve year old male will let me pet him and other days he won't. So I will most likely never get them to sit still for a picture. At least they're no longer hissing at me the moment they see me.

Until I get Leo's new photo, these pictures will have to do. I simply refuse to post photos of our hermit crabs. They're just not all that cuddly.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tribute to My Other Mom

May you find the peace that escaped you in this life.
May you finally feel completed, accepted and loved.
One day we'll meet again and we'll both be okay.
Until then, I will remember the good times
and smile when I think of them.

The cartoon that IS my life right now

I purchased the right to use this cartoon in our company newsletter a while back, and have purchased others from the same cartoonist over the years of doing the personnel newsletters. We stopped doing those company newsletters several years ago, but I was looking through them one day and saw this cartoon. I think this cartoonist must be my long lost twin brother or something, because he hit the nail right on the head on how I feel about my life these days. He is truly a smart and talented man who does a lot of office and manufacturing-related humor.
I used to want to be a cartoonist when I was a young girl, but life has gotten in the way of the dreams of my youth, which included: Wanting to be a missionary-to never marry and have kids, but to adopt them and devote my life to helping spread the love of God and help curb hunger in the be a skilled and avid guitar play tennis speak many languages be an award winning author and poet, then there was the cartoonist open and manage a youth center for teens where there could be game playing and music and snacks, but a safe drug-free environment...and the list goes on. I had big dreams and now I've scaled them down to fit my life.
I have my own three kids and I am married, but I have helped raise several other children in our extended family that were not my own. I have one niece that is with us every weekend, so I think of her as a second daughter. I've mentioned in earlier posts that I am slowly trying to learn to play guitar and learn Spanish. I play tennis with my kids often in the warm months and we have a good time doing so. It's not an event covered worldwide, but it sure is a fun way to pass the afternoon.
I write this blog, I scrapbook and journal as I go and I jot my poetry on every napkin and loose scrap of paper in my car when inspiration hits. I doodle on my desk calendar, which is the extent of my cartooning. I have more teenagers in my 1 acre of land most evenings than I knew even lived in our little neighborhood. The only hunger I have accomplished curbing is that of my 8 year old, because my two teenagers never get full. One day when they're grown up and out on their own, the thought occurs to me that I'd still like to go on a mission trip. It's not a lifelong commitment, but it's not something I've ruled out.
So, that's how I've taken my childhood dreams and reassigned them new priority in my life. Sure beats not dreaming at all.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Irony of ironies

I tell you that 2005 single strangest year I can remember. I think that every day has been something of an anomoly. What I am sure of one day is never what I can count on the next.

If you have read any of my previous postings, you know I was adopted by my paternal grandparents, both of whom are gone now. My granddad passed in 1995, and my grandmother, who I called Mom, died last New Year's Eve. I've been facing a slew of emotions this last year, making funeral arrangements, being Mom's executor, getting her affairs in order, buying her house, sorting through memories. After Mom's passing I felt like I could say, "It is finished." where that chapter of my life was concerned. I could stand at my grandparents' graves and know, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that I did right by them. There was a need for someone to stand by them, and I bridged that gap. There were times when I was overtired, there were times when my husband and kids came last, and most certainly, I came last. I gained weight from running through too many drive throughs for too many meals at ten oclock at night too many times to count. I gave up on being organized and efficient at home, and I simply decided to spend as long as it took coping day by day. I had boxes of family photos that went unpacked from a move three year prior. I remember sitting on the floor pulling up tile in our fixer-upper that we bought in 2001 when I got the call that I needed to get Mom to the hospital right away. I think I gave up trying that day and decided just to hang up my goals on a hanger in the back of the closet until I did what I needed to do for Mom.

In 2003, my husband's grandmother died unexpectedly in her sleep, and if that taught me anything, it was love, love, love and do so verbally, and then when you grieve someone it won't be so laced with guilt that you can't cope. Grandma M passed away a month after her 80th birthday in the fall of 2003. She was our cross- the- street neighbor, the reason we bought the fixer upper in the first place, the person who got the kids on and off the bus, our advisor and friend. In the summer we could count on looking out our window and seeing her sitting on the porch, laughing at the kids' antics. Every morning she cooked breakfast for the kids, and every day she fixed some kind of potato. She bought potatoes by the 50 pound bag...or was it 100? All I know is I don't remember ever seeing anyone use a bag of potatoes that big. Every day I said, "What did you have for breakfast this morning, kids?" Every day they said, "Bacon eggs and potatoes," or "toast and jelly and potatoes,"potatoes and french toast," or "potato casserole." I don't know how the potato industry has survived her passing. ;) But that was a huge adjustment, losing her. I couldn't imagine that she wasn't the first person I'd see every day after work. And we adjusted, eventually, to life without Grandma. Our reality became a new reality.

Same with losing Mom.

Well, life dictates that I adjust again.

I've mentioned my birth mother, Arlene. I haven't gone in to details about our relationship, but for awhile, this my blog, will be my sounding board.

I met Arlene when I was 18 years old. She and my dad got married in the late 60s and stayed married for five years, long enough to produce my older brother, E, and myself. She left my dad when I was 4 months old, and not long afterward, married again. She and her second husband stayed married for something like 11 years, and they had three kids, two boys and a girl.

I've heard varying accounts of how she and dad's marriage failed, and who did what, but what it boils down to it neither one of them could find it in themselves to raise E and I. Dad married two more times. His third wife was a keeper, apparently. They've been married 20+ years and she is a saint, an angel and a doll. Dad adopted her daughter, they had a son together when I was about 12, and now they are raising her great neice. Arlene remarried a third time, got divorced, and then just had a series of boyfriends over the years.

Anyway, I met Arlene when I was 18 and not ready to deal with her. I was waitressing and she came in to my job and thrust herself upon me. I resented it, and I avoided her as much as possible. At our initial meeting, she went on and on about how much she loved me and thought about me all the time. I kept thinking, "How can you love someone that you don't even know?" I remember watching reunion shows on t.v. where birth parents and their children were reunited and thinking, "That is so unrealistic." They would grab ahold of each other and hug and kiss and just cry and sob and bubble over with joy....but I never felt that way reuniting with my birth mother. I never felt like I was missing anything inside myself that she completed. It was just like meeting someone vaguely familiar.

It wasn't until my daughter was about 4 or 5 that I allowed Arlene to have an active role in my life. Over the years I realized that she had serious mental issues from being raised in an orphanage, and was an on again off again recovering alcoholic. I decided to try to give her a chance, but keep her at arm's length, because the drinking changed her into someone I couldn't relate to. I mainly decided to give her a chance so that I could get to know my half brothers and sister from her second marriage. It was going to be a lot easier to do that if I let her come along for the ride.

I can't remember how it transpired, but at one point she began attending E's church and for a long period of time, we were all going to bible studies together at his house. My half brother and half sister were attending also. I remember one day my regular church had a Mother/Daughter banquet at a fancy restaurant, and I thought it would be nice to take Arlene. Jess, Arlene and I had a great time.

Arlene ending up winning the door prize out of approx. 100 moms in attendance. She was thrilled. Later that weekend, she came over for dinner. My husband cooked, and she helped me plant a roll out flower garden, which turned out to be a roll out weed garden. That was a good time that we all enjoyed, and my neighbors enjoyed the weeds in their yards for years to come.

Eventually, Arlene's twin, Marlene, got in on the bible studies, and for a couple of years we were all in harmony. I became very close to Aunt Marlene. We had some super fun days just hanging out in Aunt Marlene's back yard drinking diet tea and yacking for hours. She is a tell it like it is type of person and she just cracks me up whenever we're together.

In 1999, Arlene was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. I remember I took off work to take her to some of her chemo treatments. We all did a lot of praying. She laughed through a lot of it, stayed upbeat, and within a several months, she was in remission. She lost her long, beautiful black hair, and I have pictures of her at a "Light the Night Walk" event to benefit the Luekemia/Lymphoma Society that we did right after her treatments ended. When her hair grew back, it was wavy with a lot more gray, but thicker than ever. She was so proud to have her hair back.

It wasn't long after the chemo that she began drinking again. In fact, I suspected that she was drinking during her last treatment. I had an intervention of sorts with her. I told her what I suspected and that I could not have a relationship with her if she started drinking again. I told her that it was too hard and she lied too much for me to cope with that behavior. She denied that she was drinking again and I didn't hear from her much.

Every time I talked to her she had some excuse about having the flu or a cold and she couldn't see me. She always said, "Leave my birthday gift over at Aunt Marlene's house and I'll get them later. I have the flu or I have bronchitis or I have this or that or the other." Or the lamest excuse which was, "I can't see you because I took Dayquil and I'm sleepy and slurring and in no shape to visit." Isn't that the non drowsy formula? Anyway, this happened two birthdays in a row. One year she claimed she sent me money for my birthday, but mysteriously, it never arrived. One year she gave one of the kids birthday money ...$10 I think, and the next day called to ask to borrow $20. It got to be exhausting.

Needless to say, this type of behavior made me pull away, and the last time I saw her in person was November of 2003. I had taken the kids up to her apartment to see her. She smelled of alcohol then. What struck me as odd was that her apartment was pristine. No dust, no dirt, no clutter. We had a pretty good visit, talked about her grandkids, looked through pictures, took some pictures, then I left.

After that we talked on the phone weekly, but I decided not to take the kids back to see her until she got treatment for her alcohol dependency. Over the next two years, I sent her Christmas cards and birthday cards and pictures of the kids, which I think she was proud of as much as she could be. Once the kids saw her in a local shopping center parking lot. It was 8:30 in the a.m., and she was staggering drunk, wandering around the parking lot, waiting for her ride to pick her up. My youngest called over to her, and she staggered over. She made some comments about Jess gaining weight and some other nonsense, and wandered off. Jess was mad about it for weeks, as preteens don't need those type of comments to lower their self esteem. Life has a way of lowering young girls' self esteem by way of awkward development and peer presssure.

So, that's how it went for the next two years. She would call me at work sometimes 4-5 times a day, just to repeat what she had said the last time she phoned. Often she'd call to tell me one thing, and then call back minutes later and contradict herself. She might go for several days that way, and then she'd stop calling for several weeks. I might get one or two sober phone calls, and when those calls came, we had wonderful chats. She was indeed a very nice lady when she was sober, but those times came fewer and farther between.

Something changed with her last October. The phone calls started becoming more frequent, and she became increasingly confused in her speech. One day she called over ten times. I started to get concerned about how my employer would view these calls and I wondered how long I could maintain my own sanity if she continued in that pattern.

I wrote her a note and asked her to please limit her phone calls to one a day if at all possible. I am not sure if she ever got that note. She continued to call several times in a row, even if I said I was with a customer or on another line. She started ranting about people who lived in her apartment complex, about Aunt Marlene, and she was making all kinds of inflammatory accusations about everyone in the family. I told her on several occasions that I would not engage in gossip with her. I told her the best thing to do, if she had issues with Aunt Marlene, was to call her and talk to her sister to sister.

Finally, one day I called Aunt Marlene and asked her if she had been noticing a change in Arlene's behavior. She said indeed she had, and that Arlene was calling her roughly every 15 minutes to the point where she was checking the caller I.D. and not picking up most of the time. She said that Arlene had told her that I had threatened to kill her because she had made comments about Jess' weight.

I think something snapped in me when I heard those words. I was angry beyond words. How dare she! "I cannot put up with another minute of this insanity!" I raged. I sat down and wrote her a scathing letter. I was determined that I had taken enough. I told her that until she got help for her drinking, I didn't want any more phone calls or contact from her. I was not going to have her defaming my character, and I told her that if I had to, I would file phone harrassment charges against her.

"She didn't even raise me, I've given her chance after chance to get her act together and be a part of my life and my kids' lives, and this is the repayment I get. I can't be a part of this insanity anymore!" I sent the letter out by certified mail. I wanted proof that she got it.

Weeks went by, and I didn't get anymore phone calls. I didn't get a receipt back, either, for the certified letter. Then early in the first week of November, she called. I was still seething. I asked her, "Did you get my letter?" She said, "Letter? What letter?" I said, "I wrote you a letter. I don't want you to call me anymore. Not a work, not at home. Don't call me anymore."

She said, "But I just called to tell you that I love you." Before I could reply, she hung up. I decided to let the matter ride, and see what happened when she got the letter.

On Wednesday, November 9th, I got a phone call at work from Aunt Marlene. This automatically alarmed me, as Aunt Marlene very rarely ever calls me at work. She explained that she just found out that Arlene had checked herself into a local nursing home. Apparently, Arlene had gone to the hospital on Friday, November 4th, annebriated and unable to walk. The hospital staff admitted her to the mental health floor in an effort for her to dry out over the weekend. The weekend came and went and she still couldn't use her legs. They weren't sure why this was, so they recommended physical therapy.

At this point, Arlene decided that she was afraid to go home and be alone in her apartment, so she agreed to rehab at the nursing home. None of us were called, and we didn't know she was in the facility until Wednesday.

Somehow an aide on that floor knew Aunt Marlene and she gave her a call. Aunt Marlene said told me was going out to see Arlene, and we talked about what I should do. Aunt Marlene basically recommended that I take time to think it over, not to rush in to any decision. She said that the nursing home was planning on keeping Arlene there for at least 30 days to get her legs strengthened. I think Arlene was assuming that this would be a way to help her dry out, too. So we closed the conversation with the agreement that I would pray about what I should do and just give it a few days of thought.

Meanwhile, my husband saw his sister and it turned out that she was going to be Arlene's nurse for most of her stay. Years prior, Arlene and my sister-in-law, K, worked together at a nursing home. They had an amiable relationship, and both were glad to see one another. K told us that Arlene was asking for me constantly, so in order to pacify her, K had told her that I had mentioned that I was coming to see her as soon as time permitted. K felt this would give Arlene some comfort and enable her to rest better.

I was restless all Wednesday night. I was teary eyed and couldn't sleep. Robert kept asking me what was wrong, as I am normally a pretty laid back person. I kept saying, "I can't put my finger on it. I just feel....lonely." He gave me lots of support and encouragement, as well as hugs. Robert is not a hugger, but he amended that for me that night, and I appreciated it. He kept assuring me that I shouldn't feel badly about anything, nor did I have any reason to feel badly. He kept saying that we both knew it was for the best that Arlene was in the nursing home, because there she was safe from herself. I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep.

Thursday came, and I got up and worked out to my 3 Mile Fat Burning Walk Away the Pounds dvd. I felt great after the workout, and very relaxed. The rest of the morning went smoothly. At lunchtime, Robert came up to work and sat with me and we again talked about what I should do. I told him that the way I felt was this, "God doesn't say, 'I'm done with you' to any of us, and I am not better than God. I don't know how and when I'll go, but I will go." Robert then assured me that either way I had his support. He then left for work and I went on doing my daily tasks.

It wasn't fifteen minutes after he left that my cel phone rang. This, too, was unusual, because I mainly use my cel phone to call Robert or the kids and folks just don't call me that often using my cel number. I picked up the phone and the caller identified themself as Robert's brother, F's, (who is stationed in New York) former girlfriend. I was thinking to myself, "Why would T be calling me?" We would speak to one another in the grocery store and we were friendly with one another, but not that friendly. She said, "I had to call F in New York to get your number, but I finally got it. But I am so sorry I have to call you and tell you this, but I didn't know who else to call. We just found your mom. She's dead."

I sat there, shocked and dumbfounded. I think I sputtered something like, "How? What? When?" T explained that the staff did physical therapy with Arlene, and when they walked out of the room Arlene seemed fine. They walked back in and she was dead. They didn't know the cause of death, but they needed someone to come down and sign papers to have her body taken in for an autopsy. She was 58 years old. No one expected her to drop dead.

I was so shaken I told T that I would get a hold of someone and get back to her. I told her I wasn't sure of the legality of me making this decision, as by law she wasn't my mother due to the adoption. I quickly made some calls and within a few minutes I had gotten ahold of my half brother, T, the oldest of her second family, and he went down to make the arrangements.

Since then life has been a flurry of phone calls again, but this time I am not in charge of any of the arrangements. The autopsy came back that the cause of death was a blood clot moved in her lung. Her lungs were a mess from years of smoking. Unrelated to the clot, they found that the reason for the lack of feeling in her leg was from poor circulation, attributed to inactivity.

What T and Marlene decided to do was have her cremated and scatter her ashes at a local Native American burial ground. Arlene's mother was Arapaho, raised on a reservation and Arlene was very proud of her Native American heritage. We all felt this was a beautiful thought and certainly what she would have wanted. They arranged to have a memorial service this coming Saturday at the church where E is a pastor. I've been helping them gather photos for a power point presentation they're going to do, which sounds lovely to me. Turns out, I am the last one to have taken pictures of her, and that was back in 2003.

I'm coping better today than yesterday and better yesterday than the day before. It's just that life keeps changing so much lately I can barely keep up. There's a cartoon that I love that I used for one of our company personnel newsletters years ago that sums up exactly how I feel about my life right now. The cartoonist is a genious in my opinion, and I want to try to post this cartoon here if I can remember how I go about doing that. Sometimes when I cry too hard for too long I have to laugh for awhile to cleanse my wounds.

What's so ironic, even more so than losing my adopted AND birth mothers within 11 months of one another is my statement about what I wanted to do in 2005. I think at this point I'd like to revise that statement. What I want for the next six weeks of the year is just to not to lose anyone else and to be able to keep my sanity in tact. That will be quite enough in and of itself.