Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Decking the House -A work in progress

The second week in Advent

Sunday dinner

Still working on it.


Special nooks in the tree.


Our first Snowman (and hopefully not the last) for 2005


Presenting the Finished 2005 Christmas Tree

Lighted Christmas Tree

After the Decorating

Sunday afternoon

Sunday nap

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Buying Hope

I listen to Radio 4 in the mornings as I pack my kids lunches and get breakfast. I always try to tune in to their "Thought for the Day" because it is a great source of inspiration and alternates between representatives from all different faiths (rabbis to islamic ministers to priests to agnostics). I was particularly annoyed by a speaker last week however who spent the precious minutes he had berating the Western world for demanding rocket lettuce year round and saying that obsession with food here was taking food from developing countries. When ever anyone tries to make me feel guilty it puts me in defensive mode and when they offer not suggestions but only shame it infuriates me. I remember as a very young university student I was representing Bread for the World and standing in front of my state's congressman in his office in Washington DC. His belligerent reply to my attempts at shaming him about world poverty was "What do you want me to do--send them my cheese curls from lunch?". He was a miserable man but he had a point. What did I want him to do? He was one bureaucrat buried in a sea of ineffective legislation. What are we to do?

I do know what we should not do. We should not feel shame for being born in the west nor feel guilty that we have food to feed our children. That is a good place to start. The Bible however does tell us that it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven maybe because it easy for a rich man to avoid seeing the need outside his gates and maybe because we have more to give up and that is hard. The bottom line seems to be the problem looks so big and complicated with corrupt governments, natural disasters and lack of opportunity.

I believe I have found part of my answer on " What to do" and it came from a nurse that I work with at my local hospital. She comes from Nigeria and has been working on my ward about 2 years. She held a clothing drive last year as British Airways had offered free shipping for a few containers to be flown back to Nigeria to her father who runs an orphanage for 12 or so street children who have no home. She works here in order to send her pay back home to support her father and the orphanage in Africa. She works almost everyday-as many hours overtime as she can. She works here providing good nursing care for NHS patients despite the fact that her children (the youngest was 11 when she left) live with a friend in Nigeria while she is away. She sees them once a year.

It occurs to me that is what I can offer as an individual living in the west. I have the opportunity to work and have an income. That is a blessing and one I can share. My giving will not solve world hunger but it just may make a difference to one or two people who get a fresh water well or tent from Oxfam or a goat from Cafod. I can take some of what I have an give to the poor. They need my family to be able share what we have and it is possible to do. We try to give little by little each month sometimes from our excess, sometimes from our need. It isn't much. It may be only 5% of what we earn each year but we hope it can make a difference. My daughter is 16 and questions that the money we send will get where it is needed. That is a valid point and the answer is no I can not guarantee that it will not be misused by those charities we entrust it to or be stolen by the corrupt governments that lie between our countries. But if some gets through to help even one family than I consider it worthwhile because the alternative is to give nothing and then there isn't even hope.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Are you going to work today?

My husband and kids often ask me in the morning, "Are you going to work today?". I am a nurse and work various shifts on a variety of days and my schedule is forever changing so this seems like a fair question. My reply is always the same however. "I work everyday." I tell them.

Today I am a housewife and mother. It is difficult to keep from feeling like an under achiever when I am in this role. Maybe it is because the work can not be measured in hours and the pay is not in currency. The only sincere way to evaluate my job is to look at a typical day and see if it was worthwhile. So here goes.

I get up somewhere between 6am and 6:30 whenever I can stop the urge to press that snooze alarm just one more time. I go down stairs turn on Radio 4 and find my childrens 5 lunch boxes usually located in the vicinity of their knap sacks and begin the day making custom lunches for them and my husband. Not too taxing and done in about 20-30 minutes. My 3 children in secondary school are up and looking for breakfast by this point. I make a coffee for me and a tea for my husband. Anyone eating cereal or toast is on their on but I do start eggs and French toast up for grabs. At 7:20 I announce it is the last call for shoes to be found before the 7:25 shuttle(that's me) to the tube station departs. I make sure my 6th form daughter and primary school daughter are now awake and depart with my 3 children and husband for the tube station stopping to pick up a friends children in route and get everyone to the station around 7:30 (I hope) . I also hope that I never get into an accident or have engine trouble as I do this in my sweat pants and usually with bed hair.

Arriving back home I check in with my two remaining daughters ensuring both are in the middle of their breakfasts. I let the dog who has wandered out of bed at this point out into the back garden. My eldest daughter heads out to catch her bus and if she is running late I drive her to the bus stop. My youngest daughter usually lines up a few things for me to do in my day --today it was completing her costume as the school has a fancy dress party is tonight. I manage to clean the kitchen and throw in a laundry and sometimes fit a shower in before walking her to school down the street. I appreciate this time with Shana as it does give me a picture f her world as we chat.

Returning home from the school run I open the door to my dog who leaps excitedly at my return expecting a walk/run mommentarily and no later. Off we walk for the next hour. If all goes well he comes home and thankfully collapses to sleep.

At this point I grab a second cup of coffee and survey the time and my day. I check my emails and update things. I realize I had better postpone the trip to the shops to get Aidan a jumper so I can start baking for Shanas holiday school party. I start folding clothes as the cookies bake. Six dozen frosted sugar cookies later I realize I have 30 minutes to blog before trying to finish Shanas costume and starting the school pick up runs.

At 3:30 I head down to pick up Shana and two friends from school. Getting home they have time for a quick snack (some of those cookies should do) and dress for their fancy dress party. Luckily my older children get out later today from school and I run Shana to the party before they call for a lift from the tube station. I pick up the 3 older children and get a started on a dinner for the 7 of us . My eldest daughter arrives home and gets ready to walk the dog with my oldest son. If she stayed late at school I would have headed out again with the dog. I drop them at the reserve(a open area great for dogs) since it is already getting dark. As they are out walking I pick up Shana from her party.

When everyone is home from dog walking and parties we have dinner followed by homeworks and the multiple signing of link books. My husband walks in about 8pm and I reheat his dinner. The younger kids relax in front of TV and my older set finish off their homework. I send my youngest up to bed at 8:30. I try to sort out the kitchen a bit (usually failing here) and get onto the computer to chat with my mom on aol chat line. We finish about 9:30 and I send the boys off to bed.

At this point I usually collapse on the couch and watch TV for about an hour before we go to bed. And before I know it the alarm is ringing at 6am and I hit the snooze button.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Halloween 2005

scary pumpkins
Originally uploaded by ailishsul.

Every year starting on October 1st I start my steady journey into Halloween mania. There is something that stirs my spirit about this holiday and I can't figure it out. I have a few theories but nothing that sits right. It is not that I like thrillers or slasher films. I abhor them. When watching creepy adventures like Alien and Sixth Sense I close my eyes through theintense parts. I don't even like roller coasters. So what is my fascination with the Hallowed eve.

When I was a kid I remember the fun of pulling out the costume box each October. I still remember the bits of costumes it held. A American Indian costume complete with a papoose and feather headress, a red velvet jypsy skirt with gold trim, an old prom dress, the full length grey pilgrim skirt and the white sheet for ghost or angel. I remember the last time my sister went trick or treating. She wore old clothes, a tweed cap and rubbed brown makeup on her cheeks to be a bum. After th
at year she helped follow me from door to door . Dad always had to inspect the sweets before I could eat them.When my children were young I remember carrying on the tradition of "inspecting" the sweets. About 50% would disappear so that they wouldn't get sick or maybe that was my share of the takings. With 5 children trick or treating it was quite a haul.

The night before Halloween my Dad would carve the pumpkin but it was my job to clean out the innards. We would roast the seeds after calling my sister Barbara yearly for the right oven temperature. I wish we lived closer to her as the yearly burning of the pumpkin seeds forgotton in my oven would make her smile. I remember one year Barbara was concerned that I would be lonely as the last trick or treater in the family. So she came and made donuts with me. We ate donuts and popcorn and set out all the mini chocolate bars in bowls waiting for trick or treaters. I remember the morning after Halloween being happy our house was not the one egged and glad our pumpkin was not the one smashed in the street. My parents always said that it was a good thing my teenage sisters new a large number of the neighbourhood teenagers so our house missed the tricking.

My Halloween celebrations are happy events with a twist of mayhem. Over the past 5 years with the hel
p of some friends that I've converted to Halloween we have run Trunk or Treating (trick or treating from one decorated car trunk to another) at one primary school and Halloween games for over 100 children 2 years running at another. Halloween Parties involving 100+ children are amazingly chaotic -hence we have moved to home parties with less than 15 .

At our teen Halloween party this year we arranged a murder mystery. We had punch in a witches cauldron complete with floating ice hand and served it in Halloween goblets. I found a ceramic skull candle holder at a charity shop to create atmosphere. Pumpkin man (see photo) greeted guests at the door, ghosts hung from our patio umbrella and the house was lit only by candles. We discovered Count Dracula did it in the end.

On Halloween itself we had a childrens party for my youngest daughter and my friends children. Following a lunch of severed fingers(hotdogs with ketchup), slug guts and brains(sphaghetti and meatballs), and pizza the kids dunked for apples,ate donuts off a string, had a dip in some gunge and played Halloween Bingo. I had an immense amount of fun.

And maybe that is why I love Halloween. It is a chance for me to have fun with my kids and a chance for me to continue to be a kid. Glad some things in life have simple answers and don't change like enjoying Halloween.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Good in People

I know that when bad things happen it can bring out the worst in people. But not today.

Today I was driving to the reserve to walk the dogs. I came upon a man lying in the street. Seconds earlier a car had struck him as he followed the garbage truck collecting the local refuse. His coworkers were dialing an ambulance. A woman stood in tears shaking uncontrollably aside her stopped car near him and one of the workers was comforting her and telling her these things can happen. The other workers took off their jackets and covered their coworker and got a rolled towel to support his head. The man himself was awake and lying on his side unable to move the lower part of his left leg and foot. He was blind in his left eye and hadn't seen the car coming. He was in pain but calmly answering questions and staying still. I told him I was a nurse and did the three things a non-trauma nurse can do in that situation-keep him warm, keep him still and keep him breathing. A health aide stopped as well and brought a blanket from her car. A retired ambulance driver riding his bicycle had stopped to do what he could and kept the man chatting. What I noticed most was the support that the coworkers gave their mate and the comfort they gave the driver who was distraught. There was no blame ,no cursing , no yelling --in fact the absence of these things would be encouraging enough. Yet there was much more than that--there was comfort and caring among strangers whose only thing in common was being in the same place at that moment. The coworkers continued to comfort the driver saying that it wasn't her fault. The ambulance arrived. The injured man told me it would be alright and squeezed my hand. The health care worker waited with the driver supporting her while she waited for the police. People are amazing.

I drove away relieved the dogs hadn't eaten the car while I was gone and believing again in the good in people.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I am getting tough skinned

Remember when I told everyone that soon I will be 40 and I would really like to be a ski bum but my second choice was trying to write a novel. Well as I look back over my blog I realize it has become my practice pad for trying to develope some writing skills as that must come before the novel. So all thoughts, comments and critcisms for what works and what doesn't will be happily received. Please be honest and give me your thoughts or else I'll continue to write trite pieces. You have been warned...

Remind you of anyone??

I have seen trees that stand straight and tall; the maple, the conker tree, a mighty oak. I remember as a kid my arms would only just fit around their trunks. Rain, strong winds--even stronger hurricane winds and they will not bow. Their branches may sway and creek but their trunks stand firm. Their roots run deep from years of growing down. And the older the tree-the thicker the trunk, the bigger the branches and the less they sway.

I have seen trees that stand straight and tall; the pines. Growing taller before their trunks grow rounder, it seems that they are in a race to touch the sky. When the winds and rain come they sway as if dancing to music in smooth and liquid motion. Their roots run shallow reaching out over the earth rather than down.

I have seen trees that twist and turn taking many diverging paths but always moving up; the willows. Never do they seem to take the straight path to the light but get there by twists and turns avoiding this fence or that other tree. They mold themselves to their environment and become a tangled and gnarled mass of life and when mature they look weathered and wise. Their roots run deep and true for when cut down by lightning or saw they sprout again and within a years time are adolescents beginning their twisted journey again. When the wind blows their branches dance but their trunks remain firm.

I have seen trees that seem lost amid these giants;the beech trees. They do not try to touch the sky but relish the light. Their bark is skin like thin and in various states of peeling. They are white and scarred with trunks that never seem to thicken and draping leaves that move when bidden by the wind. They often are frail when the wind blows too hard but shelter in the midst of the larger conifers and survive.

When I look at the world I see whether we weather this life by standing resolute in adversity, swaying with the change, adapting to the times or sheltering in another's' strength, each one of us is rooted with the same needs, shares the same desire to survive and ultimately we all are reaching for the light.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Listening to London

Today I saw so many faces but less joy and more of the busy of business. I expect there to be noise in the city. But you know the amplitude doesn't impress me. The variety of noise catches me. The beep, beep, beep, beep...of the pedestrian traffic light. A girl bumps me with her rucksack. I hear the sound of my English and the sound of her Dutch. I barely notice the underlying scuff of shoes against a concrete sidewalk. It is the undertone of the city as the sound of katydids in a field in July. I would notice it more if it stopped. I didn't have to worry about that in McDonalds at 12:30. I looked around in Mc Donalds and didn't see smiles. I didn't see contentment. I didn't see leisure. People sat and ate. Maybe they were thinking there was more tasks -ones that came after lunch and before home. I couldn't tell. I was a part of this time somewhere between lunch and dinner and someone offered me a seat next to my son. He was grabbing lunch a literal quick bite and took time to shift down a seat as someone left and offered it to me. No eye contact, no reply to my thanks as he continued biting his Mc Chicken. His action is what I heard loudest today. Bet he never guessed.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Autumn Gardening

One thing that I miss here in London in the Autumn is picking Macintosh apples. Having a crisp apple straight from the tree is amazing--especially my favorite macs. So this year I planted an apple tree in my garden. Not macs but if it grows I should be able to get some cooking apples from it each autumn. Today I went out to give my sapling some attention and remove the brambles and other intruders from its immediate area. It took awhile as I tried to avoid the dozen spiders and their webs. Spiders in London are much fatter and more numerous than in Massachusetts (hence the smaller amount of mosquitoes-a fair trade).

Clippers in hand I looked from the pile of clippings which needed bagging to the clippers and decided the bagging could wait a bit longer. I'd rather clip than bag.

My garden is lovely but it is the last owners' garden. They set out a 3 foot perimeter around the square of green grass filled with an assortment of bushes and trees each flowering at a different time so there is always colour in the garden. The first summer we moved here I was in awe of the blossoms and variety. I just removed the brambles and removed some rubbish from the corners and got to know it. The following year we made a few additions like a grapevine and the apple tree. My dog Dude deleted a few items to suit his tastes and created a few bald patches on the grass to make things homey. I can't bring myself to cut anything down so started giving a bush at the corner a trim as the kids have had to duck beneath it to get their bikes. As I clipped I realized there was a whole lot of space under that tree so I kept clipping. This branch seemed interconnected with that branch so if one went the other had to. I found an old birds nest and thought I better keep clipping now rather than in the spring when I would disturb a new nursery. I did find a lot of space under that tree and it does still have a few leaves left at the top.

I looked at the clippings again. This is always fatal as who wants to pick up clippings. As long as I am making a pile of clippings I might as well clip the pine tree branches away from the shed door. So I got my heavy duty clippers out. The ones that have expandable handles and whose blades can take down a small tree.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A story for Shana

Once there was a tree. She was big, gnarled and spoke quietly when the wind blew. Once there was a child who could hear what the trees said when they talked on windy days. That child listened often and grew up loving the trees. She remembered many of their stories including this one.

"I was a sapling ever so long ago. Next to me grew a pack of trees bigger than me but only just. They stayed green in the summer no matter how dry it was, green in the winter when I was bare and green in the autumn and spring. People came each year to put lights on them and sparkling bits that reflected off the snow. They loved the greenest trees.

I was small,gangly and barely green. No one noticed me much.

As I grew a bit taller I saw another tree in the garden next to mine. She was covered with pink blossoms in the spring and was the most elegant tree I had ever seen. The bees sang to her each day and hummed in her blossoms. By autumn she had made glorious apples that the people gathered round to collect and treasure.

They loved her. I didn't have flowers or fruit.

As I grew each year I saw a bit farther a field and saw a magnificent strong tree. Its dense green foliage provided the safest homes for the starlings and sparrows, cardinals and robins. Its strong arms barely swayed in the highest winds and its solid trunk never failed. Its confidence and strength were its beauty. I even heard that people would draw pictures of its leaves and collect its sap to make a coveted nectar.

I swayed with every passing breeze and didn't have its strength. People did not admire my leaves.

One day you children came. You couldn't climb the bristly pine. The apple trees limbs' broke when you sat on them. The Maple tree was too tall to get a leg up. So some of you children came to visit me.

My branches were low enough and strong enough to climb. I could help you find new heights. You ran your fingers through my long trestles and created houses and games beneath them. And I realized they could shade you in the summer. I was spooky and creaky enough to tell ghosts stories beneath at Halloween. I caught the snow in my boughs for you in the winter. And in the spring I sheltered you from the rain. One child called me willow and said that I was a great tree. Me?A great tree?

I am not evergreen like a pine. I do not have beautiful pink blossoms like an apple tree. I am not as strong as the Maple tree. But I am a place to nestle and dream and share. Now I know I'm special too."

With a sigh the willow was still.

After listening to her story and with her head leaning close to the tree's trunk,the child whispered back to the willow. "I am glad you are you."

Friday, September 16, 2005

Turning of the season


One of the things I enjoy most about London is that we are a short tube ride from the heart of the city and yet when I walk my dog I can lose myself in a green fields and trees. The country is at my doorstep. I frequently walk the dog at a place we call the Reserve. We speak of it as if it is a well known spot for tourists yet really it is one of many quiet reserved spaces located in every borough where nature can get on with it. It is truly a gift to all the locals not only dog walkers. Dog walkers just find these places a little more often as our ramblings are driven by our dogs energy levels .

On Wednesday of this week the reserve still echoed the trill of the surviving cicadas and grasshoppers from the summer months. When the sun peaked out of the clouds I stripped off my sweatshirt and was still warm in a tank top. When the path lead beneath the trees I appreciated the coolness and thought it better than central ac. The last of the bramble berries were fermenting and a fruity smell drifted around . The mud in the old watering hole was becoming baked and fields were browning The 4 foot sticks that had once been towering lush weeds made me sure that there wasn't much water left in these once wet lands.

Thursday the reserve had a chance to begin its change back to the wetlands. Rain fell and cascaded from the trees especially while I was under them. As nature does get on with things in the reserve there was a wild array of weeds. Some of these grew over 5 feet high this summer. I know this as they were distressingly taller than me at some points around the path. There are the usual nettles and brambles and a immense number of varieties of green I can't name. But on Thursday there was one in particular that stood out. It was a reddish tinged plant, whose multiple stems were slight and each ended in a triad of round tips (once flowers). These tips caught the water droplets and held them so this weed was a shimmering vision. A red skeleton decked out in glittering droplets.

It wasn't the only thing shimmering as Thursday was also marked by the return of the spiders. First I noticed a stickiness across my face when I walked between two bushes. I looked frantically around for hitchhikers at that point. But the real webs were strung between stalks and weeds and the biggest catch today had been raindrops. The webs had a spotted spider sitting right in the middle just like I've seen in National Geographic pictures and documentaries on the BBC.

Today I walked in the reserve past the mud hole that now had a small amount of standing water. The first mud of the season!! Even more exciting was the fact that my dog didn't find it. He is white. The cicadas and grasshoppers were all quiet but what replaced them was the movement of hundreds of thousands of leaves rubbing against each other as a fresh breeze blew. It is an incredibly big sound. Like waves crashing on the beach fills me with an awe of the sea, the breeze forcing its way through the trees filled me with awe. Walking under the trees today I zipped up my fleece and I realized within the past few days autumn has arrived.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Should you stand under a tree in the rain?

It is a rainy English day and the beginning of a very long season of rain. It will rain a few times a week now progressing to more like 90% of the time by January. Sometimes you can prepare for things. If you live down south during the summer months in the US you get air conditioning if at all possible, make sure your ice maker works and have a plan to get to a large body of water be it the local pond or backyard pool. It seems that here I ought to have a plan for the rain. Umbrellas and waterproof raincoats (not just the water resistant ones) should be on my priority list. I drove my children up to the train station after we all had listened to the news that it would rain all day and verified this looking out the window. Yet everyone entered the car to go to the train station without a rain coat. It is only when we picked up another group of friends with raincoats that it occurred to me that my kids had no common sense and I had been a negligent mother. To redeem myself I ran home-grabbed the water resistant coats and got them to the children before they hopped on their train. Maybe subconsciously we figure denial is best.

There are many words to describe rain--soft, drizzle, lashing, pelting, pouring. I have to say that we are between soft and lashing today and as I walked the dogs it was only pleasantly moist. The first thing I passed was a muddy pit that is usually a small watering hole brimming with water and tadpoles. It hasn't been like that since April and suddenly the rain felt good. As the soft rain moved to lashing I walked beneath some trees. A slight breeze stirred the leaves who had been collecting rain for the past 5 minutes. They tipped just enough to make major drops dump upon me. I think there should be a name for this phenomenon. Dumping? No the picture that conjures is smelly. A waterfall perhaps? It wasn't that bad. Drenching? True but not poetic. Since I am in London I should sound more polite. Cascading seems to fit. The rain cascaded down upon me. You know the rest.

You would think there are obvious easy answers to some questions in life. But when it comes to the rain I think you should face it right on as hiding from it usually means you get wet anyway-at least if you stand under a tree.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Comic relief in my Day


My dog's name is Dude.

As the "dude" of the house he gets to lounge for hours at a time preferably on the leather sofa. His leisure is broken by two walks a day. He has trained us that these walks occur about 9 in the morning (except on Sundays) and 6 at night. Deviating from these times means a disappointed Dude and the negative reinforcement that follows is messy at best. Today I delayed our walk by an hour to visit with friends and returned home to find that luckily there was not too much negative reinforcement.

I opened the door. He sat staring at me somberly. Slowly he started to shake - little tremors down his back and legs until he no longer was able to contain himself. He leapt. First in circles in front of me and then at and around me. Next he looked for something to grab (today-a child's PE kit) and bolted.

It really was time for Dude's walk. I put on his lead. He sat seemingly patiently at the door until it is opened. I managed him into the car to pick up his friend Bran, his walking mate. We got to Bran's house and through the door I see this small black and white terrier leaping 3 times his height up the door frame to the window. He has heard the my car pull up.

After coaxing Bran into his halter and lead he trotted out to the car and in through the passenger door. Dude leapt upon him desperately searching for Bran's lead which he grabbed to haul him around the back of my mini van. Bran snarled a greeting and a quick nip on Dudes ear said, "Get off the lead!". In the meantime I raced back to the drivers seat to start the car moving before the inevitable.

Dude barked.

He barked and barked and barked at Bran as if to say this is the best thing in world. I rolled up all the windows as we drove past neighbor's who stared at the mysterious Barking Car. He continued to bark loudly and enthusiastically unable to contain his excitement. Bran occasionally gave a high yip but generally ignored Dude as an embarrassment.

A mile later (seemed like more) we arrived at our dog walking hot spot. This is the place for dog walkers who need to contain their animals who may not come when called. It is usually devoid of joggers, bike riders and small children. The occasional fox and squirrel that cannot be caught frequent the field. It is perfect. I opened the car door. Dude stopped barking and searched for any lost balls in the car. Bran began a litany of piercing yips leveled at the ball thrower which holds the BALL--that prized possession which Dude and Bran secretly know has a life of its own.
Bran continued to Yip in high excitement anticipating or demanding the ball's release. Dude however would not leave the car until a nonexistent ball could be found beneath the seats. Yip, Yip,Yip, Yip,Yip...After a few moments he decided the ball in the thrower is a good substitute for the one he cannot find and exited the car.

Finally the Ball was released and so were the hounds. A typical walk with the dogs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

My Heros

Two stories define my past week.

My 11 year old daughter started at a new secondary school last Monday. Her first day was great as she came home full of adrenalin and excitement. By dinner time the adrenalin was wearing off and she went off to bed early. Next day she awoke with a fever and vomiting. She went on to miss the next two more days in her new school. As classmates made new friends and found their way around the school and met new teachers, she laid in her bed. She tried going back on Friday where she vomited in class by mid day and came home. She sported a high temperature over the weekend and had to stay home again on Monday.

Cara never lashed out at others over her predicament.
I did. I worried and fretted on her behalf.
She didn't wallow in self pity or concern herself with what she was missing out on during the week she was sick.
But I spoke with whispered anxiety to my husband and friends about how hard it was to miss the first week at a new school.
She was bored more than once but never complained even when going to bed for naps.
I admit I didn't mind the naps.
She was concerned about returning today only over the point that she never wanted to vomit in class again.
Who can blame her.
While I worried and fretted on her behalf she calmly faced what life had in store and patiently let herself heal. I guess you can say Cara is "laid back" (may she forever be) but her way of accepting what comes day to day without the baggage (worry, pity,guilt) or in spite of the baggage is heroic.

I am an oncology nurse and my second story is in remembrance of a long term patient who died this weekend on my shift. This young husband and father had been fighting cancer for well over 2 years. I watched him on various readmissions and could see his road was full of the intense disappointments at times. He never had a cross word--really-- though I would have expected more than a few as the treatments failed and options ran out. While in hospital he never withdrew into himself and always had a smile for nurse and fellow patients. This last admission he was matter of fact as he realized there would be no going home. I am sure he was afraid. Where do you get that kind of bravery to accept your immanent death. He didn't give up but reached that rare state of acceptance. He died peacefully and quietly after saying goodbye to his wife and children and having planned his own funeral. He is not my only patient that has died with such dignity.

I've been a mother and a nurse for over 15 years and am realizing what a privilege it is to be a part of peoples lives at defining moments. I see heros and they inspire me. My daughter and this patient's story is a tribute to the greatness in people. It is locked inside each of us and sometimes on rare occasions and at a defining moment in life it is unlocked.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My escape pod

Today I am deciding to make my life even fuller--probably overflowing the cup a bit and taking time I don't have. Reflecting on the fact that my second 40 years will begin soon and on the fact that my bank account will not allow me to become a ski bum, I have decided to try to write that novel I always wanted. So some of my future blog sites will include excerpts of a new world I hope to create. My only goal is to create something unique but vaguely familiar and above all entertaining.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

London Portrait Gallery

Yeaterday my daughter and I visited the BP portraits exhibit at the National Gallery in London as part of her sixth form homework. The display was truly impressive and the artists unique and inspiring. I began to think about what a portrait of myself would portray. Would I exude confidence or compassion or shyness? What would my self portrait portray in contrast to anothers view of me? I once had a pencil drawing done by a street artist in Leicester Square--half price as I would be the last one of the night. I never thought it captured me but maybe it cpatured what I don't see. It is rolled up under my socks somewhere.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Rolling Stone Gathers no Moss

The kids are almost all back to school today except Cara who is home with a stomach bug. I love my children but I have to say my personal space has been obsolete this summerwith all 5 home and one or another taking turns being bored or worse succombing to playstation and computer games for hours at a time.. They needed to be challenged again and I need time to blog.

I am turning 40 this year and suddenly all that confidence I felt in my 30's is melting away. You see I had gotten my head around communicating with kids, teachers and parents. I knew my role and felt secure in it. Now I have rejoined the work force and am learning that communicating with adults again in a professional manner takes effort, confidence and self promotion. It is rough to get your thoughts across in a non threatening way and even harder to get lots of other insecure and overworked people to see your point.

Suddenly at 40 I find myself feeling 18 (and like my 16 year old) making choices about the next 40 years. My mom is 84 and always says she feels like she did at 18 but is trapped inside a body she doesn't recognize. Maybe we never stop being teenagers with all the insecurities and questions about our futures. I guess maybe that is a good thing and keeps life interesting. No moss growing over me.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Starting 6th Form College

My daughter turned 16 recently and is starting sixth form college. She came home with an array of courses and opportunities and questions about what to do with her future. A blast from my past 22 years ago.