Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wherever You Go, There You Are

And so, despite the fact that I am seated in a cushy lounge chair near the pool at a lovely resort in Kauai, life is still upon me.  I had no illusions that time would stop or there would be a brief window of ultimate peace while I went away and, to be honest, I am relieved to be contemplating my challenges in such a glorious place.  During my younger years, I would have been honestly surprised that coming to such a place for a vacation wouldn't instantly put on hold any angst or difficulties I was experiencing, but I know better now.

Lola, despite the sun and relaxation and pretty much 24/7 access to a body of water in which to swim, is struggling mightily with her SPD symptoms.  Transitions are hard for her and this absurd cliff-dive from regimented school days to completely structure-free summer days leaves her adrift every year.  No matter how much I try to impose predictable mealtimes or down-time in the middle of the afternoon it seems that the lack of scheduled activity pushes Lola to a place of discomfort in her own skin. She fights to put a name to what she is feeling, unsure of what it would take to make her comfortable. She doesn't acknowledge hunger or thirst until it is far past the point of no-return, she flits from activity to activity, immersing herself in one or the other at some point in an effort to simply shut out the entire world around her.  

Yesterday she sat by the pool playing games on her iTouch until the battery died. I sat nearby chewing in the inside of my lips in an effort to leave her be, hating the glow of the screen on her face on such a glorious day. I wanted to ply her with a beach walk or a dip in the pool or a shopping adventure and couldn't seem to discern whether it was because I thought it would be better for her to get up and do something or because I hate the notion of her sitting still playing video games on a sunny day in Hawaii.  Predictably, she melted down in the afternoon, hot, thirsty, hungry and weepy and I berated myself yet again for not knowing how to help her navigate this move from school to summer.  I feel as though it surprises me anew every year and I have yet to feel like I am surmounting a learning curve. Instead it looks like a series of dashed lines all on the same plane, interrupted by the blank space of the school year.  But the transition from summer to school is just as difficult and disruptive, the Monday mornings fraught with tears and hysterical pleadings to help get SOMEthing right - her hair, her shoes, the seam on her jeans - me knowing it isn't those things at all but unable to convince Lola.  

And yet, the vacation is giving me some solace as well, if only in its distance from 'home.'  My mother's husband has been in the hospital since before we left, first fighting a severe infection and then undergoing two surgeries with prospects for a third today.  The solace is that, for me, setting boundaries with others who are struggling has never been easy but this, the fact that I am a five or six hour flight away from sitting by her side and the knowledge that both of my siblings are close by, means that I have artificially imposed boundaries.  I am learning to empathize and have compassion and hold space in my heart for her as she deals with her fear and the logistical challenges of running his business and their life without dashing in to fix things like I normally would.  

The first book I read on this trip was Anne Lamott's "Some Assembly Required" and while I highlighted many, many astonishing bits of wisdom in it, one keeps coming back to me as I check in with my mother via phone every day.  "If it isn't my problem, I don't have the solution."  While that may sound callous, the truth is that I don't have the solution. I could run around giving advice, searching for answers, talking to doctors and nurses, holding my mom's hand and generally making myself feel better because I have the illusion of "doing something," but in the end, what is going to happen is going to happen regardless of whether I am there or not.  I know that offering my mother love and comfort over the phone is better for both of us - we will end up not resenting each other's lack of boundaries - and the outcome will be the same.  

And so here I am.  In this lovely, lovely place with my family, warts and all.  And I shall rub sunscreen on those warts and go forth to enjoy the day, knowing that what happens is all part and parcel of this life of mine and I feel pretty damn lucky.    

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You Can't Make This S^%t Up

Imagine this:

A family of four (plus a dog, two hamsters, a cat and a fish) were moving. The new house had been purchased and would be available on June 6. The current house had been sold to a lovely couple with three small boys who wanted to take possession June 6. Sounds good, right? Perfect timing.

Until Bubba remembered he had a business trip that week (where his client was oh-so-lovingly putting him up at the Ritz Carlton).  Until I realized that in order to let the new family have our house on June 6, we had to have our house packed and emptied and cleaned by then.  Which necessitated at least one night's stay in a hotel on our end. With the dog.

And the one hotel in our area that allows 80-pound retrievers (but not cats, hamsters or fish) charges $250.00/night.

I made a reservation anyway because, what are you going to do?

So Sunday night the girls and I packed a suitcase each (for two nights plus an additional night or two of not really knowing where our stuff was in boxes at the new house) in anticipation of moving to a hotel while our house was (THANK GOD) packed up by a moving company on Monday and loaded into a moving truck on Tuesday.

Monday after school we headed to the hotel to check in after settling the cat and the hamsters for the night in the old house. The fish, sadly, died a few days before moving. Perhaps it knew what was to come....

We arrived at the hotel only to be informed that it was under a great deal of renovation and we had been put in a room on the 6th floor. With our dog. Meaning that every time he had to pee, I had to take him out from the top floor of the hotel. Despite having requested a ground-floor room for this very reason.  But I didn't make a fuss.  The receptionist assured me it was a lovely room at the far end of the hotel complex and she was sorry for any inconvenience.

Oh, and had someone neglected to inform me of their new policy regarding dogs? They needed an additional $100.00 non-refundable deposit since they had decided to shampoo the carpets in every room following a pet's stay. Whether you stay 2 days or 32.

I had no choice. With two tired, hungry kids, a rambunctious dog, three suitcases and a 30# bag of dog food in tow, not to mention the fact that there was no other hotel I could likely sneak the dog in to, I paid.

We drove to the far end of the complex, unloaded the car, walked in the door and saw a prominent (read: LARGE, RED) sign on the elevator door: CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION.


So now every time the dog has to pee, I have to schlep down (and then back up) six flights of concrete stairs. And first, I have to lug three suitcases, a dog, and a 30# bag of dog food up them simply to get in to the room.

We made it through Monday night and the girls headed to school on Tuesday.

Had you been anywhere in the vicinity (did I mention this hotel is attached to a mall?), you would have seen a pajama-clad woman in flip-flops trudging outside in the pouring rain at 10:30pm or 6:15am, a sopping wet dog in tow and green plastic doggie-do bags in hand.

Tuesday I picked both girls up from school and we headed back to our room. This, after I spent the day helping load our earthly possessions into the moving truck and making sure the house was ready for the new owners. Both girls were tired and asked if we could have take-out for dinner and I heartily agreed. I left them doing homework and headed out, but not before realizing that the deadbolt on our newly-remodeled room's door was stuck in the 'on' position, effectively rendering the door incapable of closing.  The deadbolt stuck out and slammed into the door frame despite all my efforts.  I figured I'd solve that problem later and went in search of dinner.

The girls and I sat down to a feast of Thai favorites and then worked on the door unsuccessfully for a while.  Eve offered to run down to the front desk and ask for help after I phoned them and it rang unanswered 30 or 40 times.  She returned 15 minutes later saying nobody had been at the desk.  We barred the door with our massive cooler, full of the remains of the fridge from the old house and fell asleep.

Around 3AM, I heard Eve's alarmed voice, "Mom?!?" and sat up just in time to see her hang her head over the side of her bed and start barfing.  I leaped out of bed, pulled her long hair out of the way and watched her entire dinner make its way on to the carpet next to the pull-out couch.  After about 20 minutes she sat up and said, "Whew! I feel a lot better, now!" All I could think was, 'Wonder when Lola and I will start regurgitating dinner...'

She fell asleep nearly instantly and I spent the next 5 minutes locking the dog in the bathroom so he wouldn't eat her mess before I could clean it up.  Lola slept through the entire event and by 4:00 I was back in bed, having cleaned it as best I could.

The following morning, Eve assured me she felt just fine and we packed up to leave.  I headed to the front desk to retrieve a luggage cart so we wouldn't have to make more than one trip and, while I was down there, I informed the staff of the malfunction with our room's deadbolt.  They fell all over themselves assuring me that I was mistaken about nobody being at the desk last night, and I simply turned to walk away and said I was checking out.  I was furious at this point and, unfortunately, probably translated that to the girls as I stomped back to the room and asked them to hurry up and get their stuff together so we could get them to school on time.

As we made our way down the now-working elevator (on the day we were checking out, of course) with three suitcases, two backpacks, two lunchboxes, a massive cooler and a 30# bag of dog food on the cart, not to mention the dog and the girls, we rounded the corner and the entire bag of dog food tilted crazily off the side, spilling kibble in all directions. Just then, my phone rang.  It was Bubba, calling from the Ritz.  I silently handed the dog's leash and the phone to Eve just as Lola burst into tears and fell to her knees to start scooping dog food.  I heard Eve tell her father, "I spent the night throwing up, Lola's crying, Mom's pissed, and the dog food is all over the hallway!"  Bubba wisely told her he loved her and hung up the phone.

Somehow, we made it out to the car without the help of any of the staff or other residents of the hotel (don't ask me why - they all saw the chaos that happened. Perhaps they found the steam coming from my ears intimidating).  We missed Eve's carpool, headed to the house to retrieve the hamsters and the cat and drove to the new house, dropping Eve at school on the way.  Lola decided to skip her last day of school and help me get the pets safely to the new house instead.

Through it all, I didn't crack.  I wanted to, don't get me wrong, but I didn't.  I kept thinking that something was bound to go wrong during the process of the move and, if this was it, I'd take it.  Better than broken treasures or really sick kids or financial issues.  In the end, we laughed heartily at the mishaps and craziness and after a long, very calm but pointed email to the manager of the hotel detailing our horrible stay, the cost of our entire stay was refunded to the tune of about $650.00.  I don't feel a bit bad that they had to shampoo the carpet where Eve tossed her cookies - they were going to anyway, remember?

It could have been a whole lot worse, but when I look back on people's pitied reactions to the news that we were moving (things like 'Oh, I'm sorry. Moving sucks. Good luck. You poor thing. I hate moving. Etc., etc.) now I get it.  There are so many moving parts, so many balls to keep in the air, that moving is bound to have some insanity involved.  I'm just glad I'm looking at it from this side now.  And, yes, Bubba did come home after all the chaos and insanity and yes, we welcomed him with open arms despite his perfectly lovely stay in a lovely hotel.  He knows how lucky he is.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Support Your Local Business

I've been absent for a while, thanks to the upheavals of moving our home from one place to another.  While I have had some access to my computer, most of my waking hours have been filled with logistical challenges of getting kids to school from in-between places and unpacking boxes, boxes, boxes.  We are now mostly settled in to the new house and are loving our transformation from the 'burbs to the city.  There are three coffee shops within six blocks (only one of them a 'chain,'), locally owned restaurants and galleries and hardware stores close by, parks and shaded sidewalks in every direction, and the dog has never had so many walks.

The other day I couldn't find the toilet plunger (and when you need one, you need one) in any of the boxes I tore open, so I snapped the leash on the dog and walked eight blocks to Shop Well, a corner store that sells everything from lighted Seattle Mariners caps to tupperware to allen wrenches. These guys could give anyone on the television show "Hoarders" a serious run for their money. The 'aisles' cleared for patrons are more like deer paths through the woods, and while there are shelves stocked with every item imaginable, the floors are lined with boxes of smaller items as well.  After searching in vain for five minutes or so, I walked to the counter where I heard voices (but couldn't see the owners over the towering displays of pens and gum and candy bars) and asked for help.  Without rising from his chair, a heavily-accented man said he would direct me.  Without seeing me, he asked me to turn around and head straight forward until I could go no more without crashing into something.

"Turn right and go four paces. Then turn left and take two paces. Then take a hard left and look down at your feet."

I stuttered at the second direction because I saw PVC pipe and toilet lids of every color hanging on the wall in front of me.  Instead of continuing to listen, I made my way toward the plumbing display and scanned left and right, up and down for plungers.


Feeling slightly embarrassed and somewhat bewildered that he thought he could direct me without even laying eyes on me, I hollered back, "I'm lost. I don't see them here. Maybe I didn't get the directions right? I see plumbing things, but no plungers."

A moment later the man rounded the corner, eyes twinkling, pointed behind me where I should have taken a hard left, and cocked his head to the left.

"Sorry. I got distracted by the toilet lids and stopped listening."

I felt like a child as he simply picked up a plunger and handed it to me.

I'm pretty sure this is my new favorite store.  It gives me the beginnings of hives to go inside because of the clutter, but I love that the owner knows every inch of his store so well that he can tell me how to find something as unusual as a toilet plunger without ever getting out of his seat.

I refused a bag and walked the eight blocks home with a big black dog on a leash in one hand and a fire-engine red plunger in the other.  Nobody batted an eye.
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