The name we share

Elizabeth T. Hayes died today. I am Elizabeth H. Hayes. The weight of that name weighs heavy tonight.

My Nanny’s obituary¬†is ¬†full of accolades and accomplishments; full of awards and honors. She did something with her life. She did things, saw things and changed things. You don’t meet anyone that knows Nanny that doesn’t remark “what a wonderful lady.” As I hear that this weekend I am going to ask, “what made her wonderful to you?” So maybe I can learn things about her that I don’t know.

The name is too big for me.

I’ll never measure up the Elizabeth Hayes. Literally and figuratively. She was over 6 ft tall. Her shoe size almost double my size 7. She had a bearing about her that made grown men stand up straight as is they were afraid of being reprimanded by the forever teacher in her. To this day I’ve never been referred to as a “wonderful lady” and there isn’t much that I do that will change that.

I’ll never be or do what Nanny was.

I will however carry on a few Elizabeth legacies.
Stubbornness. I get it honest. I guess you had to be stubborn to do all she’s done. If we get something in ours heads we don’t quit until we get it. Headstrong is another way to put it.

I used to love to read like my Nanny. There is hardly a room in her house without books. She read up until she couldn’t read anymore-right until the end.

To be honest, We aren’t much in the way of housekeepers. It’s not that we can’t do it but more so that there are just other things we like to do better.

Nanny was an adventurer. When I was 14 she loaded my sister and a cousin into a car and drove is to visit relatives-in Idaho. There we went white water rafting an school camping with Nanny and her size 13 pumps and purse were right along with us. I always wondered why she thought she needed her purse I’m the middle of the snake river. She was about 70 at the time (?) yet she piled is in a car and off we went without a backward glance. She planned stops along the way: wall drugs and the house in the rock were 3 of the quirky stops we made. An adventurer.

Others talk of Nanny and her lovely conversation. To be honest, I never had any lively conversations with her. Nanny, like me, was quiet unless she had something to say or unless you asked her a question about the past. I didn’t ask the questions so I missed out on a lot of her stories. Shame on me.

Nanny, like me, is a saver. I believe she had every card and envelope that was ever sent to her. Or did before my mom and aunts whipped her house onto shape for her 100 year celebration. Nanny would open a card or letter. Read the card or letter and the slowly—and I do mean slowly—slide the item back into the envelope and slowly—and again I mean slowly—lay it to the side. When looking for something needed at her recent birthday party I found an incomplete savings stamp book from eons ago right beside my uncles grade school report card. He’s 60 or so now.

As we were gathered around to say our goodbyes my mom pointed to the shoe rack on the back of the door and pointed out the number and the style of shoes. “You’d never know those belonged to a 100 year old woman would you?” She remarked. “I know you are laying an egg over those.” She pointed to a pair of beige and pink patent saddle oxfords with beige ribbon ties that I was indeed laying an egg over. Nanny had a sense of funky about her that I think I share. Sunday I am wearing my funky boots in a salute to a fellow funk-an-ista. Somewhere there is a recent picture of her at a dedication of a pavilion bearing her name with her face framed by the high collar of a large, ostentatious fur coat. It’s a statement coat and I love it. It’s something I would wear. I share that with her. We aren’t afraid to make a statement with attire.

She had a funny little smile and a great big one that lit up her face when something pleased her. I have a big smile. She had long, graceful hands-I have short hands that used to look graceful. We share that.

We share that we both love a Henry-she my grandpa and me my dad and my son.

We share that if we are sitting down we like covers. I cover up every night in what used to be a quilt. A quilt nanny gave us long ago.

Nanny loved apples and so do I.

She liked wild flowers and would craft an arrangement of them to take to the church she attended every 4th Sunday so long ago. I love flowers and prefer the wild, natural ones.

Elizabeth Hayes. It’s a beautiful name. It’s a big name. It’s my name.

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At the Center

My cousin and I sat on the worn, gold carpet on the stairs tonight. My grandmother lay in the room off the hall surrounded by family. Though she’s 100 saying goodbye isn’t easy. Watching her struggle is even harder. I had succumbed to the sad and escaped to the stairs. My cousin sat beside me and grinned, “remember those green cushions we used to slide down on?” She tilted her head indicating the top of the stairs.

For a few moments we laughed as we remembered days gone by when we would take those hard, cheap plastic avocado green with chartreuse flowers and bump our way down these very stairs. The banister and these stairs are at the start and at the center of most of my childhood memories in this house.

We were sad but we didn’t have to talk about being sad-we just sat shoulder to shoulder on the stairs and were sad together. “I never knew this stairway was painted green,” she said after a few minutes. I looked and there in the worn wood were faint traces of green.

There was only one person who could tell us if that stairwell had ever been green. My nanny. She could have told us thousands of things about this house. This house with all it’s history. And she would have-happily-when she could have.

My nanny isn’t warm fuzzy. We didn’t bake cookies together or snuggle under covers while she read us stories. That wasn’t her. But she did tell is stories. Stories of who we were-who we came from. One Christmas she brought out a bunch of letter written by my ancestors. They told the love stories and told tales of war. That was what my grandmother did-she kept history alive. She would have known if the stairs had ever been painted. She would have known the color and the year they were painted, why they were painted and probably even who had painted them.

But I never asked her about the stairs. And tonight I sat on them knowing I never would. And my heart hurt.

Moments later 2 cousins and a cousins -in-law joined us. Then another. Then one more. Then an aunt. We sat-as grown ups exactly where we had once played together as children.

And I cried…cried because nanny was the center of it all. There were 70+ people on the family picture taken in the front yard is this very house just a few months before. And nanny sat in the very center of us all. She sat in the middle if the picture with all of us that bear her name. She sat in the center of the boys and men that bare my Grandpa’s name. The center.

And now she’s at the center again. Only this time we are gathering around a hospital bed in a room in her antebellum home. At one point there were more then 11 of us in there. Only this time we were gathering to say goodbye.

I believe she heard us-each whispering some version of goodbye. For each of is she represents something different and so each of our goodbyes are unique. My heart wants to believe she heard each one and that she will soon find peaceful sleep there in the center of us all.

And I’ll forever wish I would have asked her if those stairs had ever been painted green.

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Dats a bad word!

“Mom-did I tell you I signed for the secret Santa at school and that I got assigned toys and…well…oh…Like I need a toy for 5 month old by, like, uh…tomorrow,” stutters by 12-year old. Segue: my 12 year old who had just lost her phone a few hours ago for loading dirty dishes in with the clean dishes. Again.

“Uh, like, no-you failed to mention that,” I say incredulously. You see she mentioned this to me while I was laying down with my 4 year old-tucking her in FOR THE NiGHT.

She has the audacity to be irritated, “Mmmmmaaaaaaammmmmmm,” this is her “tell”–elongated words that have no business being elongated and odd sounding vowel sounds. Her I am about to push every button you have tell. “Eye hhhhhhaaaaffffff to take something.”

I mumble (loudly) that she should have thought of that prior to bedtime. To which she argued,”but I like totally forgot.” I had heard this argument just hours before.

“Like you forgot that 1/2 the dishes were clean when you loaded the dirty ones. Again?!”

That flies right by her. Just like that speech on being responsible. She’s in full on mom-you-ruin-my-life-and-it’s-all-your fault-mode. “Don’t you have anything. It can be used. Ms. Teacher saaaaaaiiiooiddddd it could.” That elongated and irritating vowel sound is also her lie tell.

Her big brother chimed in,”Thats stupid. Why would they let you take some used toy for Santa presents…it’s supposed to be a good deed.”

Let me take a moment to paint this picture. All 3 children are in one large room. My son is in the glorified closet so he’s got a trifold door. For all intents and purposes it’s one large open room. I am curled up on a crib sized cushion that my daughter is sleeping on because the accidents at night have rendered her used mattress unsleepable. It’s late. Too late. After 10 late because baby girl won’t go upstairs alone and 15 year old child doesn’t particularly want to go to bed at 8:30; especially when we don’t get home until 8:25. Now you have the setting I’ll continue with my tale.

Dude dare contradict girl and it’s on like donkey kong. They stand there arguing with phrases like, ‘things might have changed since you went to that school ya know” and “lying” and “needy kids used toys…” And so on and so on and so on. The dog is running circles jumping up and bouncing around thinking this scuffle is all kinds of fun. Baby girl is crying-it’s late and she still doesn’t feel good–kids are screaming at one another-dog is acting a fool and we are still without promised present for a baby.

And I lay there thinking, ‘I had such a big day and this is how it ends?’

As is usual sassy girl out talks wonder boy who stalks off. It’s pretty hard to make a dramatic escape to your own room when you don’t have a door to slam. Sliding a tri-fold door across plush carpet is not nearly as satisfying. He tried though.

Without a target Priss turns her attention to me. “What exactly is it that you want me to do??” I demand. She hurrimphs and throws up her hands and spins around like Glenda the Good witch in the Wizard of Oz. Too bad she wasn’t-she could have conjured up a baby toy.

After her whining and complaining a few more times I–I am ashamed to admit this–said, “What exactly is it that you want me to do at 10:15 at night?” Oh I can’t believe I said this, “pull something out of my butt?????”

The shameful words are no sooner out of my mouth then baby girls peeks up from her almost asleep daze, pops her thumb out of her mouth and says,”Mama! Dats a bad word. You no say butt.”

And so ends my grand and victorious day. Using a bad word while depriving some small child of a Santa toy.

The battle ground:

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I did it.

I did it. No exclamation point. A period. Something ended today. The preparation ends and the maintaining begins.

What I did-I did it quietly -as is NOT my typical style. I hope I did it humbly. I thought I would happy dance around the office WAHOO’ing and hi-diving anyone in sight. I didn’t.

I was loud and boisterous during the project. My nickname was brazen and bold because I forged ahead into unchartered territory. I learned things I didn’t know. I taught things to others -things that they didn’t know (and didn’t really want to learn). During The project I whopped and hollered at every victory and ranted and railed at every set-back. That’s more my style…today I did none of that.

There were people who didn’t think I could do it. There were people who hoped I couldn’t do it. But I did.

“Don’t let no one steal your joy,” a wise woman tells me weekly. I don’t know if I did or if this is just a different kind of joy.

There were people that believed it would happen…people who believed I could do it. I didn’t always think their faith was well placed but in the end they weren’t wrong.

All that I am-stubborn, intense, diligent , determined and headstrong…they were all needed here. With this project those traits weren’t faults-they were strengths. And that feels nice-to know that some of the things people don’t appreciate the most had a place, a purpose here.

I proved something to myself. I hope I proved something to some others as well though I doubt I did. Sometimes people believe what they want to believe despite what they see. And I have to be okay with that.

I didn’t do it alone. It took a team. But I was part of it-part of a team. At times I even led the team; sometimes I followed. I did both.

This has been a year in the making. A long, hard, horrible year occurring in parallel to this long, hard and ,at times, horrible project. I survived both. I am proud of that. Proud that I didn’t fall apart while the world around me did. Proud that I kept working and building and pressing even though there were moments when I wanted to do nothing more then curl up in a little ball and cry. Today was a success but I was vividly reminded of my failures. The failures of the past year(s).

“How was your day?” I was asked today.

“It was great. My project went live today.” I answered.

“That’s cool. What’s for dinner?”

And that was that. And that’s it. It’s over and done-today that is. The anticipation is over. The chance to celebrate is past. Tomorrow it’s just my job-a part of my job. Tonight I’ll lay down and maybe quietly whisper, “I. Did.it.”

Collision course

It’s 2am. My baby is tucked up under me with skin so hot it’s burning my leg. 103.3 while on tylenol. She’s shivering and pitiful. I’ve dosed her again with Motrin and am anxiously waiting for it to take effect.

This is when you miss another adult. Miss having some to ask,”should I be worried?” Someone else to hold the sick one while you do the work that has to be done. Someone to calm you down when she starts panting and moaning.

I don’t have another adult. It’s me. I didn’t do the work but held the poor thing instead. I calmed myself down and I jumped on the internet to find out if I should be worried. That’s just the way it is.

Now it’s 2am and I am worried about that work that didn’t get done. I am worried about that 9 am meeting I have with someone way more important than me. I am worried about the 10am presentation that I have to give. At work there is a high priority list of things that have to get done, by me, tomorrow because a project that I have been working on for over a year is set to launch. There is so much that needs to be done-so much I have to do.

And then I fret because a sick little girl is curled up next to me. I feel guilty for worrying about work when she needs me so much. I am lucky that I have a mom who is coming in to save the day and keep my sickling tomorrow. She’ll love on her and keep her comfortable so that I can go and load data and attend my meetings and do all that needs to be done. I am grateful for that, grateful to her

But it’s 2:20am now and the Motrin hasn’t worked yet. I can’t sleep until it does. So I lay here-eyes wide open with my girl laying on my shoulder. All I can do is type this on my phone and think about all I have to do. And worry. Worry that I’ll won’t be able to do anything tomorrow because I didn’t sleep tonight. Worry that this Motrin isn’t working. Worried that I might miss something. I worry that this is more than a cold. I worry that she will think that I think work is more important.

It’s the working mother syndrome with acute single-working-mother symptoms. There isn’t a cure. You just work through the symptoms as they occur.

With my 2 worlds spinning so fast it was inevitable that they collide. That they chose this moment to collide sort of points to how my luck has been running this year.

Its 2:40 and I’ve distracted myself long enough for the Motrin to work. She’s resting more peacefully. I’ll try to do the same.

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It’s enough

How do I teach my children “it’s enough, you are enough” when the world always wants more?

In my day the pinnacle of youth sports was starting for your high school alma mater. Now with travel teams, elite blah-blah, year round, etc. The high school athlete is 2nd tier.

I watched tonight as my fella worked hard to nail a dive. He’s been taking lessons for 2 1/2 months. He’s okay. He dives beside year rounders. They are great. No matter how hard he works he won’t beat them. He’s started too late. At 15 he’s too behind to catch up. I watch the swimmers to my right and the divers in front of me and I am overcome with guilt. We couldn’t/didn’t do year-round, all season and I feel like I didn’t do enough. Crazy?

Points in a high school match to help his team win is enough. We won’t ever be junior national champs or earn a spot on…I don’t even know what the next level is called. And it’s okay…right?

So how can I teach them they are enough when I am struggling because I don’t feel like I did enough? The old “do as I say, not as I do” line echoes in my head.

As parents we do all we can do to pave a path for them. We love them, protect them and provide for their needs and for as much of their wants as we can. And that is enough…right?

His being a contributing member of a high school team is enough. He is enough. I have to teach him that. I have to. I have to teach them all that. If they work hard, are coachable and are good sports who always give 100% then that is enough.

At last weeks swim meet my fella finished his heat in first. By quite a bit. Others finished and got out of the pool. My fella stayed. He stayed until the last swimmer finished. And when that swimmer touched the wall he reached out a had to congratulate him on a good swim. Out of 8 lanes they were the only 2 still in the pool. That’s good sportsmanship. And that—that single act IS enough.

So I’ll keep trying to teach the lesson: it’s enough…you are enough and maybe as I am teaching it I will start to believe it for myself as well.

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Getting the holiday spirit

Christmas lights from an unexpected source who knew this Christmas was hard on us…

A little girl learning to write proudly spelling her brothers name on a package…

My funky, sassy daughter happily asking to use our “brown paper packages tied up on string” theme again this year…

Knowing my daughter spent her own money on a gift for me but more importantly and that she’s so excited to give it and so proud if herself for what she bought…

The same girl spent her own money on her grandmothers gift too and she’s equally thrilled…

The Sound Of Music’s “brown paper packages tied up with string” playing while my girls and I wrapped up brown paper packages tied on pretty strings.

After my song the Frozen soundtrack was found and my little elf sang every word of most every song while she held the marker and asked,”what’s next”…

We didn’t unpack much but our favorites are all out. My years of Santa pictures and my babies nutcrackers. We all have what makes us happy…

Yesterday we tried version 4.0 of 3 kids in one large room and a closet. As Colton and I lifted and hefted the solid wood dresser thru the garage and up the stairs me fella said,”we got it mama,” just when we thought we weren’t enough. Later, when the room was complete, the furniture all moved and the room all re-designed he looked around and said,”This what we do mama. We do hard stuff and just get it done. That’s who we are.” Best. Gift. Ever.

I had no expectations of this year. But it looks like the holiday spirit is alive and well in out teeny-tiny home this year.

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