Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Life revolves around the periodic table.

Summer has arrived and I am so relieved. For "fun" I am taking a non-credit basic chemistry course online and I am committing to memorizing the periodic table. Trust me, I'm fun at parties. I took chemistry 100 out of necessity and was not good at it. I went into it with a sour attitude and like a self fulfilling prophecy, I barely passed. But I passed and that is all I cared about because I needed it to take biology and more advanced chemistry for my degree. In high school I avoided chemistry like the plague. That periodic table mocked me with its letters and numbers that had some sort of significance that didn't make sense to me. I skipped it altogether by fulfilling my science credits with biology and advanced biology. I thought I outsmarted the school gods, but I really did myself a disservice. In chemistry 100 I fumbled along the best I could but once I took biology I was able to gain a more robust understanding of this mysterious table and make it more applicable to life. In the fall quarter I have to take a more difficult chemistry class. I am worried, not in a failing grade sort of way, but a barely pass, C sort of way. Hence the summer practice for fun. 


The left side of the periodic table needs additional electrons to stabilize where column 18, the right column, has its fill of electrons and needs nothing from anybody. This row is content, actually called noble for all intents and purposes. Sounds somewhat aloof I'd say. The middle of the table is variable as to how needy the element is. Whether it is willing to give or desperate to take from others. Every column and every row has a particular significance. It is exact and full of purpose with no room for error. When I first laid eyes on the table, it made no sense to me. All of the abbreviations and numbers, sometimes a decimal point and sometimes not. Most of the elements I had not heard of and had no idea where they are found or how they are used. All of the variables made the table look full of chaos. The more I studied, I discovered that all matter on this Earth is made up of these elements. Everything that is visible and invisible. Carl Sagan once said, "We are all made of star stuff" and that we are.

Within all things, these elements are held together in various ways called bonds. Some bonds are weak, like hydrogen bonds. Ionic bonds are stronger, but it is not the strongest. I consider it an unfair bond. One element hogs the electrons more than the partner. I remember this as "ionic" reminds me of "I own it". Like, I own your electrons sucker. A stronger bond is the covalent bond. I remember this through the "co" as sharing evenly. Think of the times you use "co" in conversation: coworker, co-parent, cohort. The more I analyzed the terms, the more I compared the table to relationships in all things. Is the periodic table so foreign? Nobody wants an ionic bond type relationship for any length of time. It's draining to hang out with someone in column 1, you can only give without receiving as much for a limited amount of time. Sometimes we are content where we are at like column 18, and at times, we have covalent bonds where we share things evenly. We usually hang out somewhere in the middle, depending on each other and able to reciprocate in time. These relationships are ever changing also. Sometimes we need more from other people than they need from us and vice versa.

When I was younger, I needed my Mom a great deal. I depended on her and she always supported me emotionally, sometimes financially, but always giving more of herself than I was ever able to give. She has dementia now, and at this stage of her life I can't lean on her like I used to. At this point, she needs me more now. She needs me to remind her who she used to be, and that she used to be needed. It goes to show that life sometimes moves us into a column we never intended on falling into. Carson asked me if I wished my Mom's brain wasn't sick. (This is how we explained Grandma's dementia.) I truly wish for that all of the time. One day life may move me into a different column as well. I asked Carson if he would still love me if my brain got sick and he reassured me that he would. I don't know what the future holds and if dementia is in the cards for me. He needs me now, but one day I may need him more than he needs me. To remind me of who I am, and who I used to be. Shifting from one column to another. Perhaps life does revolve around the periodic table. After all, we are all made of star stuff.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Same color crayon as me

A few days ago Liam had some good questions about skin color. Why is it different? Are we the same? There were more questions, equally difficult to explain. I tread lightly, pausing because this was a make it or break it moment and I couldn't be flippant or brush it aside. He had real questions that deserved thoughtful answers. The problem wasn't that I don't know how I feel, but how to articulate my beliefs to an 8 year old. I knew I had mere seconds to start explaining and thought back to what my Mom said when I had similar questions. "You don't dislike a person by what they look like or who they love. You judge a person by their individual behavior. It is not natural to hate a whole group of people that you have never met. Ask yourself if that person did you wrong, if the answer is yes then make a decision. You can choose to dislike that person." Every day I miss who she used to be. When I needed words of wisdom she always came through. I desperately want to be that for my children. That I can instill good values and generous hearts in them.

I've been taking a lot of Biology classes lately so I started off technical.
"People have different skin tones because we all have melanin cells in our skin. Some people's melanin cells produce more than other people. It is neither good nor bad. It is the same, it's just skin. Skin colors differ in the world because some places are sunnier than where we live, their skin is darker to try and prevent sunburn. We have to wear sun screen for the same effect. We all have different tones to adapt to our environment. Sounds lucky to me." I said.

"But there is no crayon that matches, Mom." he says.

"Honey, what color  do you think your skin is?" I asked him. I had a real reason for asking. I didn't realize that I had darker skin from my Japanese/Hawaiian lineage until I was in junior high. We never talked about it because my parents always taught that we are all the same.

"I'm white," he says.

I pull out a white crayon and show him. "Like this?" I ask.

"No, like this," he says pulling out the tan crayon.

"So not white then?" I ask.

He took a long pause. And I said, "Listen, every person short, tall, fat, skinny, light skinned, dark skinned, have several things in common. We all have skin, we all have skeletons, we all have brains that think our thoughts. We love, hate, and are indifferent. We all have different paths and the choice to love who we love. The world is big. Does any of this make sense?" He nodded yes slowly. I had trouble telling if I should end it this way. Too much information could turn him off. "Did you have anymore questions for me and Dad?" I asked, and by then, William was joining the conversation. He added a bit also, reinforcing my feelings. I sagged feeling that this would be a real telling moment and that I wasn't sure that I was able to convey acceptance, love, and equality. This is the environment I want my boys to grow up in. I've prayed each night that something out of that talk sticks...nobody said being a Mom was easy.

I hope my words of wisdom were more wisdom than just being words.

Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values. 
Ellen DeGeneres

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Unpacking the backpack

I realized that I have been carrying a heavy weight since I was 9 years old. I can tell you the year that my life spiraled out of control, 4th grade. My teacher's name was Mrs. Darling, and she was anything but a darling. I honestly don't remember how good of a teacher she was to the other students, but I felt terrorized by her. I have inattentive ADHD and anything that does not hold my attention, does not get retained. Things that seem simple, like a book report, was not completed. I was failing 4th grade. She could have been my hero. She could have been that one person that tried to figure out why this bright girl could not get her work done. When I asked questions in class she would sarcastically say things like, "Well, just like I already told the class...". My Mom brought cupcakes to class on my birthday. When I saw her it was a surprise and I lit up like a Christmas tree. On her way out she asked my teacher how I was doing. She loudly announced every assignment I was missing in front of the whole class. I was placed on restrictions when I got home. I can't remember for how long, but I know that the embarrassment was worse than the actual punishment. To lay this heavy backpack to rest I decided to write my 4th grade teacher a short note. I sent it through Facebook Messenger (after reading it my babysitter asked if I had been drinking). It was time to unpack my 32 year old luggage and let it go, but not without this teacher knowing that she did not always make a positive difference in this world. It may seem harsh, but these words were written to stick up for my 9 year old self, who didn't feel like she had a voice to protect her at the time:

Hello, You probably don't remember me, I had you as my 4th grade teacher approximately 32 years ago. You may not have thought about me again after that year, but I think of you often. Not for the reasons you may expect. To me, you were a dream killer. I had trouble following lessons and turning in homework. I knew I wasn't stupid, but I just couldn't keep all of my thoughts together. Instead of encouraging, you made fun of my inability to turn in assignments or follow instructions. My self esteem tanked that year. I suffered anxiety due to my school environment and had stomachaches daily. My mom even met with the principal, Mr. McPherson if I remember correct, and he heard her out and said that there was nothing he could do since you had tenure. I felt helpless. 

 Two years ago my son started having similar issues, we discovered that he, and I suffer from inattentive ADHD. I was able to get him medication before the stomachaches and anxiety ruled his life and ruined his outlook for school. Thankfully he had a supportive teacher that looked for solutions instead of targeting a child that didn't know why he felt so different. I hope retirement is treating you well. I'm glad that you no longer have the opportunity to kill the self esteem of other children.

Sincerely, 
Bree

So dear 9 year old me,
I've got your back. It gets better, and through your suffering you are able to provide help for your son who looks just like your sweet husband and is wading through life just like you did. You have been a great guide and are working every day to get him tools to prevail. It was not in vain. Throw away that backpack, Trapper Keeper and all. 
Love,
41 year old me

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thank you to the Mom whose name I don't remember

Growing up I was not a scholar. I had always heard that I was not living up to my potential. My brains didn't match my 2.5 GPA. I felt inadequate and didn't understand how people could grasp a concept the first time hearing it when it took me multiple examples and a lot of trial and error. By the time the concept made sense, I was already behind on the next lesson. I tried to go to college twice in my younger years, but found that this learning problem persisted. I've been lucky enough to have office jobs which allow me to use my brain and make a decent wage for lack of a college degree. I always felt like college wasn't meant to be for me, and couldn't see spending that kind of money to fail and have no real direction as to what to major in.

A few years ago something changed. I discovered I'm not lazy or learning disabled, but have ADHD. I started taking a medication and found that the haze in my brain lifted. I was able to hone in on one task at a time and get things done for the first time in my life. There was an answer to the question I've been asking myself all of those years, "What the Hell is wrong with me? I'm better than this". Having ADHD feels like having 40 tabs open on your computer desktop and not remembering which is the important one, yet they keep randomly opening and you need to check to see if the information is still necessary with a lot of pop-up ads. Sometimes it's a cute cat video that you have to stop and watch, and before you know it you are late for something. But, you probably can't remember what it is that you are late for... all of the time.

Every August we spend a week in Eastern Washington. It's one of our favorite places to be and have experienced everything from a dust storm to an eclipse while there. I did not expect to meet someone who would change my outlook on who I am as a person through casual conversation. The family camped right next to us was from the town right next to where we live. They were very nice and had kids the same age as ours so they could play together. I cannot remember that Mom's name for the life of me but she changed my life that weekend. She reached out to me and talked about being in school for nursing. I told her I had thought about going back, but it was hard with my kid in school. She said, "I figured it is better to go while my kids are in school so they aren't graduating before me". And it hit me, I can do this. I was worried about mentioning it to William as it would just be accumulating debt for our family and I was really scared to fail. It took me three days to work up the courage to mention it. He said, "I was wondering when you would talk about going back". Because that is the kind of guy he is. He believed in me long before I believed in myself.

So thank you to the Mom who lives in the next town, who traveled 180 miles just to tell me to believe in myself. I know that wasn't what you set out to do that week, but you did and I thank you every day.

Why I do what I do:

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Loving people one Saltine at a time.

Becoming a Mom was a long road for me. We tried for two years before I got pregnant with Liam. I was thinking that was the hardest part, but I was wrong. There are different levels of difficult in the world of motherhood. My pregnancy was uneventful until the end when I had pre-eclampsia and was in dangerous territory. I had 38 hours of labor which seemed like that should be the hardest part, but nothing prepares you to have a sick child. There were days that Liam and I cried together. He was in pain and I just felt like I was failing him over and over again. Through it all, I had a tribe of women that propped me up when I felt like I couldn't do it on my own. When I was on maternity leave with a screaming toddler, I had a friend who would occasionally "drop things off" because she knew I would say we didn't want visitors. She knew me well enough to see that I was struggling and wouldn't ask for help. She would stop by and rock my crying baby reassuring me that she had nowhere else to be. I have thanked her multiple times and I don't even know if she remembers doing it, but I wanted her to know that it mattered to me. 

I canceled plans all of the time because my baby was always crying and I felt like I was not a very good Mom. I had another friend who would take Liam and I out to a restaurant that was not very busy. She would smile and tell me, "Babies cry. It sounds louder to you than it does to anyone else. He'll fall asleep soon. Have lunch." And I had lunch, and he fell asleep just as she had predicted. I needed that encouragement.

Liam's first Christmas was celebrated with him getting his first round of a stomach virus. I felt trapped at home and was worried about taking him out, but had nothing but goldfish crackers. He was hungry, I could tell, but I was worried about upsetting his stomach further. My neighbor knew William was working on Christmas and went out to find the only store open to buy us Saltines. He'll never know how thankful I am for that. So I befriended his wife when he got married and try and be the best friend to her that I can be. 

When Carson was tiny and Liam was a toddler I discovered to my horror that I was down to one tampon. This is not an item that you can wait to pick up. You can't just add it to your list to buy next time. It was an emergency and my kids were melting down like nuclear reactors. Crap. I texted another neighbor to see if I could have a few to tide me over until the next day. Chernobyl had nothing on my toddler. She texted that she was already at Target and would grab me some. A half hour later there was a knock at the door and she handed me a Target bag. "You still have some things in here." I said. "Nope, that is for you." she said and bounded down the driveway. I looked inside and there was a box of tampax, Midol, a Glade candle, and chocolate. Regardless of what I do, nothing can repay her in the same way that she blessed me that night. I've always surrounded myself with good girlfriends who lift each other up. But these Mom friends showed me next level friendship. The "I can never repay you" type of friendship. 

A few nights ago I was at Target and my kids went from being saints to hangry devils (hangry = hungry and angry). I saw the transformation and realized we were at the danger zone, I needed to get them home fast. I saw a messenger message from my neighbor. "Totally random, do you have any kiddo glycerin suppositories over there?" And I saw my chance to repay the ones who came before me. I grabbed a jar of glycerin suppositories, paid for my things and got home as quickly as possible. I knocked on her door but didn't get an answer. I left them on the doorstep and messaged her that I had left them there. She messaged back, "Thank you! Thank you! You are the best." and I wrote, "There was a village of Moms that helped me and kept me sane in the early days. I'm glad I can return the favor". 

Maya Angelou said, "I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

So thank you to those who have come before me. I will continue your good deeds and keep loving other Moms one Saltine and glycerine suppository at a time. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The good teeth

I've never examined my own mortality as much as I did today. I adulted hard today and met with lawyers to have my last will and testament made. My husband makes comments occasionally that he realizes he probably has more days behind him than he has ahead of him, but I am usually more optimistic than that. I realize that it isn't the number of days that you have, but how you live them. A lot of things went through my mind though, realizing that one day I would not be here and someone else would be looking after my boys. Parenting is hard and not something to be taken lightly.

As I was leaving the meeting I took a mental break and looked on social media for a few minutes. A friend had posted a picture of a new looking car with fancy rims and tires. I commented with a picture of the boys in my backseat that it looked similar except mine had a few more juice spills and goldfish crackers inside. He commented back that those are badges of honor and that he would keep his car in the garage until spring to be safe. It made me think of a story...

My maternal grandmother worked all of her life making minimum wage. She saved a lot, yet always splurged on us grandchildren. She didn't spend much on herself. I remember being in my teens telling my grandmother that she should buy herself new dentures. All of us grind our teeth, and her dentures were starting to show wear and tear. She told me, "I have new dentures, they are for special occasions". I wouldn't think of buying new teeth as a "treat yo'self" moment, but that was just her way. Saving things for a rainy day. I don't know what sort of special occasion would warrant wearing the good teeth, but I feel like any mealtime should have sufficed. When she had a debilitating stroke, she owned three rental properties and had $70,000 in her savings account. All of that was saved from the salary of a minimum wage worker. She still wasn't wearing her good teeth. She never got to enjoy all the things that she was saving for a better time. 

Once I got home today from the lawyer appointment, I hopped back on social media. I made an addendum to my earlier comment. I said, "No, you can't put your car away like fine china. Now is the time to enjoy it".  Today made me feel mortal, like maybe we do have more days behind us than ahead of us, but maybe we don't. In Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, he talks about gravestones. That it doesn't say much about us. Usually just our name and two dates, the day we were born and the day we die. In between those dates there is a dash. The dash represents what we did in between. How do I want to live my dash? I've thought about it a lot and I am going to live my dash using the good china, ordering extra cheese on my burger, and if I ever end up wearing dentures, I'm wearing the good pair everyday. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

The best day ever

Carson started kindergarten a few weeks ago and I didn't know how it would go. With Liam there were so many concerns about allergies, medication, 504 plans, health care treatment, social anxiety, attendance limitations, and anxious parents. When we went to meet the teacher day for Carson, she sat down and asked if we had questions or concerns and I didn't know what to say. I wanted to say, "Take care of my boy. Don't let the world hurt him. When he stumbles on the playground and in his mind, please remind him he can dust himself off and start over." But I said, "No, I think we've got it." He is very shy to start and passive because he treats others how he wants to be treated. I treasure that sensitive part of him, but dread him being taken advantage of. It happens to all of us, the world hardens us a little bit at a time. Most of us keep just enough soft spots to be optimistic.

I ask him about recess when he gets home. He says he didn't play with anyone today, but sometimes some names leak out. Last night I was laying with him talking and he told me he had a friend named Dayton, but they broke up. I asked him what happened and he told me that Dayton was playing with a different friend today. I told him that it is okay to have more than one friend, and can even play with several at the same time. I listed off my friends so he picture having multiple friends. In my heart I was a little crestfallen that Dayton (whom I do not know yet) was playing with someone else and it may make Carson sad. I asked him if he was sad and he said, "Nope because tomorrow is going to be the best day ever." Wow, the best day ever? I asked if they were doing something special at school and he said, "No, I'm just going to have a great day." And that, my friends, is what I learned from a kindergartner. He could have been sad, but he chose joy. He wakes up with renewed optimism daily and in his mind life is a clean slate. A new day is really a brand new day. There are a lot of things going on in this world. The media and politicians would like to lead us down a path that makes us feel divided and hopeless. But I can wake up each morning and say, "Today is going to be the best day ever." And then I can strive to make it happen.

Perspective allows us to see things in a positive light or a negative light even if things are good or bad; our attitude about the situation shapes whether it is positive or negative. We can make a difference, just as my five year old did to me. When life gets you down think of the Coldplay song, Clocks: "Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?" Which will you choose? I know when I wake up in the morning and a tiny person tells me, "Today will be the best day ever," I need to follow his lead.