Thursday, October 16, 2014

The End of the Line.

Somewhere buried in my basement is a box filled with a little of this and that. There is an envelope with my college diploma, my graduate school diploma, and my references from my professors, my internship supervisors and my Campus Life Directors. I haven't read them for years but I know what they say. Without fail they all note my energy, enthusiasm, intelligence, and creativity. (To be fair, there are also some allusions to the fact that I was slightly immature, which is a comically fair assessment both then and now.) I bring this up not to brag, but to make a point.

For many years I was chronically ill. I had to leave a job I loved, my ability to be a bright light in my children's life was diminished, and I did not see a way out. It was a long haul, mostly uphill, and discouraging, but I have to say I never quit. I eventually weaned my way off a multitude of prescription drugs I was on (from Elmiron to opiates) and I am healthier than I have been in years. I had a bout of CFS that lasted almost ten years but it seems to have finally resolved itself.

I started this blog two years ago to grieve the health I thought I lost forever. I was lonely, I was sick, I was sad, I was overwhelmed, and while I still believed that I could get better, it was an act of faith rather than medical knowledge that propelled me forward. I took a long detour in dealing with a daughter who was caught in the grip of addiction and that really threw me off my game. The sadness and grief of dealing with the life and death struggles of addiction are unparalleled. I have found a lot of knowledge and comfort in the rooms of Al Anon and I strongly urge any of you who are dealing with the fallout of addiction to find a meeting and just keep going.

I haven't written in my blog much because honestly I seem to only want to write when I am sad, and discouraged and grieving. When I am out and about living my life I have no urge to write. I was trying to do a big recap of all my favorite blog posts but I couldn't even follow through with that. I am busy, I am happy, and I have realized it is time to say goodbye.

Back in the day, I was really bad at saying goodbye. I would simply quietly disappear leaving people to wonder, "Whatever happened to Mrs. Dubose?" I don't want to quietly disappear so I am taking the time to write this one final post.

I want to thank you for letting me share my stories and my heartache. I loved writing this blog so much and it healed me. Initially it was read by my son, my friend, and my mom but it soon expanded to another reader who truly understood how much the blog was about the writing AND the music. It was always both. This reader might have wandered away when the blog veered into an addiction blog but I will always be grateful that there was somebody out there, a total stranger, who just got it, so thank you MAZ001 for connecting to me and to this blog. Eventually this blog was read by a whole bunch of somebodies, parents' of addicts I presume, and I will hold all of you in my heart and my prayers.

Recently I was asked to be on the Board of Directors of a theatre company, which is a far cry from the unshowered mess of a woman I was two years ago. I got some feedback last week that they are thrilled with me joining the board and was told that I bring in energy and creativity and enthusiasm, just like I used to in graduate school, oh so many years ago. I still struggle with all that I lost in those years I was so ill I could barely put my children to bed at night, but I am hoping that as I continue to get stronger those memories will fade and be replaced by happier memories.

A quick update: My daughter seems to be doing well. I am sure there will be bumps along the way but I am not as fearful as I once was. My oldest son is working as a professional actor and is mulling over his future options. My youngest son (da baby) is a sophomore in college and seems to be on a promising path.

Me? I am finding my light again, after so, so much darkness. I am overwhelmingly grateful.

It's so very hard to say goodbye, but it's time.

I leave you with this:

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Mrs. Dubose

Sarah McLachlan. Answer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


(I hope y'all aren't tired of reading these blasts from the past! This is a post I published on July 16, 2013 about da baby! This is the last one about him.  Tomorrow I am switching gears and will begin to highlight my favorite series: Mrs. Dubose and ... )
When I retired from my career at the ripe old age age of thirty-eight due to health issues, I loaded up on the self-help books about coping with chronic illness. One of the books had the audacity to pose the following question: “What blessing have you received from being sick?” WTF? That was easy. None. There were no blessings. I went to school until I was twenty five years old to get my licence to be a psychologist. I was good at it. I made very good money and I worked family friendly hours. Now, I was a stay at home mom.

Oh, wait! I was a stay at home mom. My two oldest children were in school and my youngest, had just turned two. We were laying on the floor coloring one day and I looked at him, with his sweet, sweet face and big blue eyes and I thought, this is my blessing. I am able to quietly color with my boy. It wasn’t a gift I had requested and it might even be a gift I would exchange for good health, but nevertheless it was a gift, and I recognized it as such.
We spent long quiet days together. He was born a Mommy lover and years later, remains one. He was such a content child, so very imaginative, and we spent our days doing art projects, baking, and playing. If I was worn out and in pain, he was none the wiser at the time. I was just Mommy and he was glad to be with me.
My little Mommy lover graduated from high school this past June and in six weeks, he is leaving to go away to college, more than one hundred miles away. Although he was the most attached, he is also the most independent of my children. What I know for sure is that he is ready for college.
We just spent a few days on his campus at summer orientation. After we had dinner together one night he went off to more meetings and I went off to my hotel. I went to a joint parent and student meeting the next morning and saw a very handsome, self-assured young man give a nod to me and honestly, it took me a second to realize it was my son, ‘da baby’, as we called him, all grown up.
We drove home singing along to the oldies, content with where we’ve been, excited about the future.
Da baby! is ready for college. Somewhere along the way, I must have done something right.
God Bless you little one. You’ve been a pure joy. (for the most part)

Don McLean. If We Try.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Little One.

(This is a post I wrote on June 22, 2013 the day da baby graduated from high school.)
My youngest child graduated from high school tonight. He completed high school in just three years and graduated with high honors. He is leaving for college at the end of August.
My friends have been very emotional this past month as graduation approached. Not me. Hell, this is my third kid.  I was happy for him and so very proud of him, but I just wasn’t feeling that emotional or sentimental about it. Like I said, third kid.
The commencement march begins and so do the tears. Not pretty, quiet tears but big, fat gulping tears. No one was more surprised than me.  It felt like I couldn’t breathe. I almost left, I was so overwhelmed. There were almost three hundred students graduating tonight and I cried until every one of them walked down the aisle.
Oh, there’s my son! My baby boy. He is all grown up now, practically. I never went to one of his high school open houses, not one parent-teacher conference. I was recovering from back surgery, then tapering off medications, and always dealing with the fall out of his older sister’s substance abuse issues. Despite the chaos, incredible chaos, he maintained good grades. He has had a job since he was fifteen years old. He was accepted into every college he applied to and received scholarships from every one of them.
He is wise beyond his years. He is smart and good looking and so very funny. He loves me with all of his heart. We’ve been through a lot together. Tonight was a night of celebration. He did it! And he did it all by himself. He demonstrated strength and courage and stamina. He certainly had moments where he faltered and where he wasn’t his best self, but he persists in trying to do the right thing. And isn’t that what every parent wants? A kid who will try and do the right thing?
There is no place in the world I would have rather been tonight than sitting in that arena, watching my son graduate. My family has been through a lot these last five years, but I wouldn’t trade any of us, for anything. We are a messy bunch, but we are resilient and kind. We are overcoming our obstacles and it feels good.
Tonight we closed the book on his childhood, which just about breaks my heart.  I am sending out into the world, a good and honest man.
Hopefully the world will treat him kindly.
Congratulations, my sweet boy. It sure was fun watching you grow up.
Mommy loves you.

Deb Talen. Comfort.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chasing After Some Finer Days.

(I am currently revisiting some old blog posts. This post was written November 1, 2013, with my youngest son (da baby!) in mind. I was heartbroken that we seemed to be growing apart. Now two years later, he is away at college, but we are closer than ever. It's hard to let go, but they come back. It's just different. To be honest, I am kind of enjoying my empty nest and I finally admitted that to one of my friends. She was relieved. "Me, too," she said, " I thought I was the only one.")

I was never a big fan of Halloween. I don’t like to dress up and I was never that creative when dreaming up costumes for my own children. Two of my kids are deathly allergic to nuts, so sometimes Halloween could just be a big worry fest for me. That is until darkness came and I went out into the streets trick or treating with my own little children. Then I loved Halloween. Each of my children were so different. My oldest daughter ditched me at a very young age to go trick or treating with her friends. My next oldest went trick or treating with whoever could move the fastest. I have never seen someone who could run through the neighborhood as quickly as he did. My baby, well– he just wanted to “be with Mommy," and we spent most of his Halloween's together. Peek into my window tonight and you will see us arguing about what time he has to come home from God knows where, because my baby is seventeen and his world is so much bigger than “be with Mommy."
Where did those years go? Honestly, it has been hitting me like a ton of bricks. I don't know if it is this hard for every parent to let go, but it is hard for me. I can close my eyes and see my children, so clearly, at almost every age. I studied them nightly, their sweet little faces illuminated by the light of the moon, as I tucked them into bed. When did my own little trick or treaters grow up? Where did they go? I can see them in their costumes: I see Barney and a cowboy and a fireman and a witch and a pumpkin, and oh! there goes Albert Einstein. I remember their Halloween parties as they excitedly participated in the parade, marching up and down the hallways, shyly waving to mommy as they shuffled past.
As they got a bit older, they stayed home and enjoyed passing out the candy to the younger kids and we would turn out the lights afterward and watch a movie and life was good.

Now at ages 17, 19, and 22 they are just out living their lives. I am trying to hold on tight to that 17 year old and he is trying just as hard to shake me loose.

There is an old adage about parenting: The days are long, but the years are short.

This Halloween I understand those words more than ever.

Carly Simon. Anticipation. (acoustic)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Little George Jesus.

(Throwing it back to the sentimental Christmas post published Dec. 19, 2012. Remember when you were a kid and Christmas just took forever to come? Now it seems like I blink my eye and here it is again.)

As I sit quietly frosting Christmas cookies and listening to Christmas music, my heart is aching. What is it about remembering Christmases past that makes one so nostalgic? Surely, they were not all happy Christmases. When I was little I am sure we were sleep deprived and cranky. Spending the afternoon and evening in my grandparents’ small house, which was filled to the brim with cousins and aunts and uncles, must have been loud and chaotic . As I got older, Christmas past gave way to Christmas present and new traditions were formed. Marrying someone with a child definitely changed some of my own family traditions and then a subsequent marital separation after eighteen years of marriage, changed the traditions once again. It is not as if I would go back in time so why the sadness?
It isn’t even a bad sadness. I wish I could identify it. I am not even sure what it is I am thinking about. It is almost like I have a kaleidoscope of pictures twirling through my brain. They are out of order but they flash by — there is my Dad, coming home from work on Christmas morning to watch us open our presents before turning around and going back to work. There is my Mom, lifting up the towel on the bowl to see if the bread has risen to make cinnamon rolls. I see my grandparents pulling up in the driveway, their faces so filled with sweetness and love, ready to share Christmas breakfast with us. Oh, there is teenage me in the light of the Christmas tree, getting a beautiful gold necklace from the boy I loved. Some years later I loved a different boy who gave me the sweetest sentimental gifts a girl could want. Both boys are now men and (almost) long forgotten — hearts broken, hearts mended.
I see my sweet children coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, some years bounding down, some years coming down much more quietly, but always, always excited to see what Santa brought them. Such gracious, grateful children. I remember when my daughter was five years old and she bought little treasures for us all, and her little brother’s favorite gift was the fifty cent rubber duck she bought him — he lugged it around with him all day. “I didn’t know it would be so fun to give presents," she said before falling asleep that night. I see her at age three singing Away in a Manger, insisting it was little George Jesus and at the end of the song screaming, in a very annoyed way, “Go to bed, Jesus!” (One time she told me she thought Jesus was sort of a show off.) Oh my goodness, where did that wild- haired, crazy girl go?
My littlest one was just two months old his first Christmas. We slept in the living room for a bit so we would not wake the rest of the house up with his feedings. I used to put him in his little sleeper  around ten o’clock each night and one night in mid-December he just would not close his eyes. After a few hours, I realized that he was mesmerized by the lights on the Christmas tree and when I turned them off, he fell fast asleep. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, the best present a Momma could ask for, soundly sleeping under the tree. I can still feel him in my arms, such a gorgeous happy baby, sleeping heavily and quietly, with his little hand balled up in a fist. Where did that baby go? How is he now old enough to be going to college?
Oh, a quick flash and here is a picture of my other boy, just filled to the brim with good cheer. He was three years old when Santa swung by one night and there he is sitting on Santa’s shoulders, strolling around the living room. This boy is now twenty and will once in a blue moon ask me, “Who was that guy?” and I tell him, “It was Santa." This same boy once wrote Santa such a beautiful letter asking for a Play Station that he received one, making a liar out of his mommy who learned to never say never, again. Such an eager, sweet face my son had, round and happy, ever engaged. Where did that little boy go? He is almost a foot taller than me now, and even he sometimes seems surprised at how little I am compared to him.
Now those children are practically all grown up. They still love their stockings and their ornaments and the Advent calendar and spending time with family and friends. They are gracious and grateful, still. I am lucky. Just so incredibly fortunate to be their mommy.
The cookies are frosted and it’s time to put the kaleidoscope down and tidy up the kitchen. I wipe away my tears and smile because Christmas is right around the corner and Santa is coming. We will have good cheer and make new memories, happy ones.  Christmas present will one day be Christmas past and then it will be these lovely memories that will break my heart.
In retrospect, it seems like all of life’s struggles fade away, and only the good remains. I have had so much goodness and light in my life and I am most grateful.

Katherine Jenkins. Away In A Manger.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Demons Are Prowling.

(I am taking a look back at all my favorite blog posts. I wrote this post about my daughter on April 13, 2013.)

When I was pregnant with my daughter I used to take a daily walk and listen to music.  I always listened to the Barbra Streisand Broadway album and when it got to the song, ” Nothing’s Going to Harm You,” I would take off the headphones and put them on my stomach so my growing baby could listen. My daughter was born on a cold November day after a difficult labor and delivery. That song became our anthem. My beautiful baby girl.
What a lively, quirky, stunningly beautiful girl. I tell with sincerity that she was such a beautiful baby and toddler that people would gasp when they saw her. She has wild curly hair, bright blue eyes that morphed into green as she got older, and a smile so bright it could blind the sun. She was a feisty one, my girl. She was busy and talkative and not too cuddly and had a mind of her own. Everyone who knows her says she was born talking and it's true. She was fully conversant before age two and she had strong opinions that she was not too shy to voice. She was my little buddy and I was very protective of her.
When she was about four years old we moved into our house very close to a playground where my daughter spent much of her childhood playing. On our very first visit, some kid knocked her completely to the ground. I am ashamed (and a little proud) to admit that I grabbed the kid and said, "What the hell is wrong with you?" I was one fierce momma. DO NOT mess with my kid. Period. 
As she grew up I learned that she had to fight her own battles, but she has so little fight in her. Unless she is fighting me. I have had to step out of the way, but the professionals who are treating her, are just as concerned as I am.
I want her to be happy so bad it physically hurts.
I heard "our" song today in the car. I was blinded by my tears. In those early, optimimistic years of motherhood, I had no idea that the person I would most need to protect my daughter from, was herself.

Barbra Streisand. Not While I'm Around.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Another Perspective: Strength

(This post is from January 15, 2013. It is my favorite blog post but I didn't write it. My oldest son wrote it while I was away at a medical detox. Many of my later readers may not realize that I had two back surgeries with a long and complicated recovery. I had great difficulty finishing my taper off the opiates that I was on so I decided to go to a medical detox and rid myself of them once and for all. I am now pain-free and medication-free.)

While my mom is away at medical detox, I will be filling in for her. I am her oldest son and love her dearly. I think she is tremendously brave for doing what she is doing, despite the fact that she, among others, may see checking into a facility as a sign of defeat, or a sign of weakness.
My mom has been sick for as long as I can remember. I know there was once a time she was not sick. I even know that I was alive for some of that time. All I can remember, however, is a mother with an illness. Yet, it is not her illness that defines my memory of her; the fact that she is my mother is what defines my memory of her.
During one of the meetings held as she was leaving her job, she was asked what she does throughout the day. Does she fulfill her duties at work? Does she cook? Does she clean? Does she fold laundry? She answered honestly: “I’m falling behind at work. My husband does the cooking. I’ve had to hire a cleaning lady. She helps with the laundry, too.” And though the purpose of the meeting was to establish how difficult it was for her to do things, when she was asked about her children, about me, about my siblings, she still answered honestly:
“Who gives them their baths?”
“I do.”
“And who reads them bedtime stories?”
“I do.”
“And who tucks them in at night?”
“I do.”
And it is true. Every night, she did. I remember a time where she would lay on the hallway floor between tuck-ins. A tuck-in at 7:30, one at 8:00, and the last at 8:30. The stairs were too difficult to travel more than once, but she was determined to put us all to bed.
Can you imagine? Can you imagine being a woman in your late 30s who has to lay down on the floor of your upstairs hallway because you can’t make it any farther than that? Seems like defeat, huh? I promise you, it’s not. Defeat is going to bed and not tucking us in at all.
The weakness of being dependent on medication is out of her control. It affects her entire body in ways she cannot overcome through will-power or determination. Nobody could. Yet she has admitted her weakness, and has sought help to overcome it. She is overcoming it. She is laying down on the hallway floor, trying her very best.
And that, Mom, is strength.

Jump Little Children. Cathedrals.