who's the mommy around here anyway?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I've been in a mood lately...

...so as Monty Python would say, "and now for something completely different!"

My kids are natural athletes. Liz played basketball as a tween, and though she was short, she could steal the ball from even the tallest girl on the team. She'd make a fast break and be under the basket all by herself before the others knew she was gone. Unfortunately, that's where the excitement ended 'cause she couldn't shoot for beans, and had to wait for the rest of her team to catch up for someone else to dunk it in the basket, but you couldn't keep the ball out of her hands. Laura swims and dives and does gymnastics, and she's good at it all. She's fast as lightning on a rock climbing wall. She has a natural agility that amazes me.

My kids don't get their athletic talent from me. In school, when the kids chose teams in gym class, I was always chosen last. Well, not last, but next to last, a fact I was somewhat proud of, pathetically enough. Over the years I've tried to encourage myself in athletic pursuits, but with no natural aptitude, it's been tough.

I've learned to swim after a fashion, but I can't swim and breathe at the same time because I can't exhale when my nose is submerged in water.

I tried water skiing, but couldn't get stand up on the skis and had to swim back to shore in disgrace.

I tried playing tennis on a date I had with a corrections officer. I don't really remember the date, but since he didn't call me back for a doubles match, I assume it didn't go well.

I once went skiing with friends. I couldn't make it up a small incline to the bottom of the bunny hill to where the rope tow began. Toddlers went running by me on their tiny skis as I tried and tried to get up the small slope that led to the tow. I kept slipping and sliding further and further away, getting perilously close to a small stream on the edge of the ski slope. I quit before I ended up in the small stream and took my skis off, leaving the white powder for the safety of the ski lodge and comfort of steaming hot chocolate.

I went with my husband to a batting cage when we were young and our relationship was new, before he realized what a klutz he was dating. I swung at the first pitch and missed completely. I swung at the second pitch and hit a home run with the middle finger of my left hand.
I called out to my yet-to-be-husband, "I think I broke my finger!"
He called back to me, "Nah."
I called back to him, "Yeah!"
He didn't believe me till I tried to flip him the bird and couldn't because my finger wouldn't straighten out.

And then I went horseback riding and my bra fell off.

I went for one horseback riding lesson. It went well until the end when the instructor increased the pace of the horse to a quick 'canter'. I felt one bra strap start to slide down my shoulder till it landed at my elbow. "OK," I thought to myself, "I can handle this, it's only one strap," but then I felt the other strap fall. Next thing you know, I'm two tits to the wind. The horse and I are bouncing up and down as we circle the ring. My elbows are pressed to my sides trying to hold my boobage in place, and my hands are holding the reins with the white-knuckle grip of death. I remember thinking to myself that I needed to get off the horse while my breasts were still attached, before the horse got to wear them as saddle ornaments.

The lesson ended, I said thank you and left, never to return.

I now only participate in things that require me to sit still and watch. It's safer for all concerned. My new favorite sport is spectating. I can spectate like it's nobody's business. I don't break any bones, and all my undies stay right where they belong.

The Courage of Your Convictions

I was at Blogs are Stupid reading this particular post which brought back my own memories. I sit at the computer, crying. I remember this incident every now and then, and it always hits hard.

As you may know, I was an operating room nurse. I practiced for many years and participated in thousands of procedures of all types, no exaggeration. I have very few memories of individual procedures. They all just blur into one big amalgam of surgical experience. A few things stand out, though. This is one of those things.

I've always been a supporter of the Roe v. Wade decision. As a teenager I would have told you that I supported abortion, but as an older and wiser woman I can tell you that what I support is not abortion, but the right of a woman to make her own decisions about what is best without interference. I am not going to use my blog as a soapbox, and if you go to the aforementioned blog, she states the case much more concisely and eloquently than I'm capable of doing. Suffice it to say that because of my convictions I was often called upon to participate in abortion procedures performed in the operating room where I worked. Nurses were allowed to refuse to participate based on religious or ethical grounds, but I was not one of those nurses. I didn't find it pleasant to participate. I didn't find any high moral ground in it. I also didn't judge the women undergoing the procedures and treated them as courteously and caringly as I would treat any other patient. These women were neither young nor old, rich nor poor. There was no unifying characteristic among them except that they were having abortions and I was not always aware of the reason for the procedure.

Abortions performed during early pregnancy are fairly uncomplicated and quick procedures. One does not generally get emotional while watching them. There is no baby as such, usually just blood and tissue. Late term abortions are another thing.

I took care of a woman having a late term abortion. She was having the procedure because her continuing pregnancy was endangering her life. She was pretty sick. If you're squeamish, skip this part. The baby was removed from her uterus in pieces using metal instruments and force, and it was barbaric. I don't remember the details, but I remember that finesse was definitely not involved. I do remember tiny body parts and the horror I felt, not because we were there doing this, but because as this tragedy was occurring, and indeed I did believe it was a tragedy that we all had to be there, but because of the callous attitude of the other caregivers. The doctors, an attending OB and his resident and an anesthesiologist, were talking about their vacations and laughing about something or other throughout the procedure. There was no dignity in the OR on that day. The baby passed into oblivion with no one to mourn, never to be held or cuddled or kissed. It was awful.

I cleaned up when it was over and I was alone in the OR. My good friend, another RN, came into the room. She's a devout Christian and someone who would not participate in the procedure. She's also an incredibly special person with a big heart. I was in a mood. I told her what had happened, how terrible it was and I broke down. I think I said something like "...and no one cared." She held me while I cried.

To this day, I mourn that baby. I don't even know if it was a boy or girl. I just think that I should remember. I wonder how the baby's mother did, if she recovered and went on to live a long life. If I had to do it again, I would, but I wouldn't be silent. I'd be strong enough to tell the others in the room to show some respect for the life that was leaving this world. Even the tiniest and most unwanted of us deserve that much.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Art of Perfection

I meant to take a week off, but that's turned into a long time away. Maybe it's the change in weather or the decreasing sunlight but I've been unable to concentrate on anything meaningful. My mom asked me to write something for her. I've been procrastinating, but here it finally is.

Mom thinks of herself as a perfectionist. She calls it her sickness and tells me that it permeates every aspect of her life. It was ever present in her child rearing technique. She tells me perfectionism reared its ugly head when she'd clean her house till it shone rather than spend time enjoying her children. She'd make sure her children were polished and put together, and God help us if we got dirty. I remember being the only kid on the block not being allowed to play in the dirt, because if I came home with a speck of mud on me, I'd be in big, big, serious, couldn't-sit-down-for-a-day-after-my-rear-end-met-the-hair-brush-kind-of-trouble. Mom keeps apologizing for this and it's one of her biggest regrets, but my interpretation of her parenting is much different, and doesn't revolve around her need for perfection, at least I don't think it does.

Mom thinks she was a "bad" mother. To her, I think it's an all or nothing deal. Either she was a perfect mother or she was a bad mother, but the truth is she was neither perfect nor bad. I keep telling her that she did the best she could with the tools she had. She was only 20 when I was born, a veritable baby herself, and a new mom to boot. I think of myself at 20 and there was no way I could have handled that kind of responsibility.

The thing that disturbed me most about mom's parenting was her unpredictability. She was a screamer when she became angry and lost her temper often, though probably not as often as I remember. I remember that being around her was sometimes like walking on eggshells. I was never sure of what would set her off and bring out the frazzled and screaming woman who could scare me half to death. This kind of uncertainty is awful for a child and I'm afraid that I brought this to my parenting when my kids were younger. I also think that this is a result of things that go on in our brains that we're not in control of, and for which there is now wonderful medication. If you think you're having a problem with mood or anger control, you're probably right. Don't let it go, seek help, you never know who you're hurting.

On the positive side of things, mom taught me invaluable lessons about the person I wanted to be and the things I wanted to hold dear. She did this directly and indirectly both by example and by speaking to me about the values she held. I remember when I was about 10 and we lived in a neighborhood in Queens, in the second story of a courtyard garden apartment. I was hanging out with a group of girls from my area and we played in a playground behind the courtyard. The ringleader of our group, a nasty and pretty little girl named Debbie, had decided that we should ostracize another little girl, for whatever reason, and being the mindless sheep I was, I went along with it and was cruel to this little girl. My mother observed our group behavior one day and approached me in our home. She wasn't angry or loud. She was patient and kind and loving as she explained to me how hurtful this kind of behavior was to the outcast little girl, and how she expected better of me. I remember thinking about it and being ashamed of myself. Mom was right, what we'd been doing was cruel, and really, there was no reason for it. She was a perfectly nice girl. I went back to the group and told them that we were no longer going to behave this way, and fortunately another girl backed me up. Debbie, the ringleader of nastiness, told us we could do without her, she refused to play with the object of her rejection, but now Debbie herself became the rejected. I moved away shortly thereafter, but I always wondered how that worked out for them. Mom had forced me to examine my behavior and values and to think for myself. In retrospect, I look back to that incident and see it as the place in time where I began to question the world around me and the choices I made. I tried, from that point forward, to make choices for good, choices for kindness. Thanks, mom.

I remember these things also. Although we were poor, I never felt poor. I felt loved and cherished and secure. If my mom and dad fought, I never remember it because they didn't fight in front of me. They always presented a united front to me and my brother. Very wise of them. I wish my husband and I were capable of such wisdom in raising our own children, but sadly we were not.

And I've told this to mom just recently, because I've only recently figured out that when mom would wake up at night when I was a young child to find me sitting on the floor on my dad's side of their bed, it wasn't because I was favoring my dad, as mom had always thought, it was because I was scared of the big bad things that go bump in the night, and I knew that my big strong daddy would be able to protect me. Even so, even though I may have been daddy's little girl, I'm also my mother's daughter. She's the person I am most like and closest to. And, Mom, neither one of us is close to perfect, nor do we need to be. I love you Mom.