Saturday, November 12, 2011

House Guests

The dinner party was in full swing. The table was set for four in my best china. The pork roast was glistening on the platter covered in some sort of red rhubarb sauce. Just because the sauce came from a jar, doesn't mean it wasn't homemade. It just wasn't made in my home. It's a tiny little secret, I'd like it to stay that way if you don't mind. Fabulous Andrea Bocelli music filled the air with glorious sound. Candles were lit and the chandelier was, as all my chandeliers are, quite incredible. Beyond the beyond - so very tres chic. Conversation flowed easily between us and we had that easy, familiar laughter of four friends, two couples. It was my first dinner party in my newly rented home. It was also the first time I had cooked for my date AND my friends. Holy crap! Talk about some pressure. It was all I could do just to come up with a menu, take my list to the market and then just how many pork roasts do you need to feed four people? I bought four big ones, just in case.

I'm not one of those cooks who makes everything look effortless. I'm a nervous OCD humming wreck trying to time everything so it's all ready at the same time, or at least within the same hour. Good Lord. I'm just not all that comfortable in the kitchen. It's like a foreign land and I don't speak the language. When my son was younger he came running through the house one day, saw me in the kitchen, and screamed out in terror "mom, mom, come quick there's a stranger in the kitchen." Smart ass. His other favorite thing to do if I was whipping up a little something in the kitchen was to ask if I was making a science project. So, its fairly safe for me to say I'm not The Barefoot Contessa or that perky little Rachel Ray, but I really can make that microwave purr.

Anyway, back to the party.... Mid-way through dinner my handsome date, who I'm trying way too hard to impress, looks out the living room window and says "There's a lady at your back door. She's can't get the door open." I wasn't expecting any more guests. I got up and walked to the door thinking "who could this possibly be?" When I opened the door, there was no one there. She had just vanished. I went out into the yard thinking perhaps she had gone up the sidewalk. But, no, she had disappeared into the night. Odd to say the least. Oh well, I had more pressing issues to deal with. Dinner and dessert. Not to mention that nagging little question at the back of my mind, "is he going to kiss me goodnight?" And if I have to say so myself, and I do, it turned out beautifully. The dinner, I mean. The kiss was quite delicious, too, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The dinner was an orchestrated masterpiece of epicurean proportions. At least that's what my wine-muddled mind told me.

A few days later my new next door neighbors met me at the communal mailbox and welcomed me to the neighborhood. They mentioned that they had frequently noticed me sitting out in my backyard late at night star-gazing. What? I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought, "oh great, more crack-smoking, looney tunes neighbors." They looked normal enough, but you just never know with people. I just smiled, shook my head yes, and acted like I knew what they were talking about, walked back into the house and promptly forgot all about them.

It took a little while, a few weeks maybe. My first real clue that there might be something amiss came when I was sitting in my living room. The wrought iron book shelf that holds a magazine-worthy display of antiques, books and tsotchkes gave away a secret. Three books on the bottom shelf just fell to the floor. There they were, Conversations With God (somewhat of a slow laborious read, in other words boring), The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and my favorite, Dog Love. I thought "oh, maybe there was a little tiny trembler of an earthquake." I picked up the books and put them back. A few hours later I was making that microwave sing a familiar but happy song nuking up a frozen cheese pizza. There it was, a thudding sound. Something had fallen. I went into the living room to investigate. The same three books were on the floor. I'm absolutely positive there was no earthquake tremor. Maybe there's a message here. Maybe God really does want me to have a conversation with Him. I made a solemn promise to myself to give that Conversations With God book a thorough reading. I put the books back again and took my melty hot pizza into bed with me, chomping away to a somewhat disturbing plot of Law and Order. As it so often happens, I fell asleep with the TV on. Somewhere in the dead of night, I'm thinking it was exactly 3:33 a.m., I woke up from the sound of the TV. I'd fallen asleep with all the lights on too. Forcing myself to leave the cozy warmth of the down comforter and flannel sheets, I got up to turn off the lights. Oh My God - there they were again! I'm living in the god damned twilight zone! The same fricking three books are laying in the exact same fricking place on the fricking floor! Totally freaked out, I picked up the books and put two of them back on the shelf. I took the Conversations With God book with me back to bed. I'm a little slow sometimes, but I eventually get the message. I'm pleased to say there have been no further falling book issues.

Something new is happening though. Now my lights, lamps and chandeliers are coming on in the middle of the night. All by themselves. The first time it happened, I awoke to find the kitchen light blazing away. I explained it away to myself, maybe there's a short in the electrical system. I've been blaming the electrical system for so many oddities. There's a light in the family room that's on a dimmer. I turn the knob to dim the light and turn it further to shut off the light. Sometimes I can turn it 20 times in a full rotation and the damn light just won't dim or go off. Then other times, it'll come on all by itself. All by its fricking self. Just two nights away I woke up, I would swear, again, it was 3:33 a.m. and the chandelier in the dining room was giving an impressive show of glorious light. It doesn't feel quite so glorious though when I know without a shadow of a doubt that the chandelier was off when I went to bed. My skin is definitely starting to tingle and the hairs on the back of my neck are straining to stand. It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear the soundtrack to a Stephen King thriller or one of those god-awful Chuckie movies.

So, there they are at the mailbox again, my crack-smoking, looney tunes neighbors. I rush to the mailbox like I'm expecting Ed McMahon's Publisher's Clearing House check to be waiting for me. Breathlessly, I ask the neighbors if they've seen me star-gazing lately? Now they are looking at me like I'm the crack-smoking looney tune. So, I start to explain a little bit about what's going on in the house. Well, of course, now they tell me that the lady who lived in the house before me actually died in the house. They think it was a heart attack, but they're not sure. They think she died on the dining room floor, but they're not sure. They think she was in there, lying dead on the floor, for a long time, but they're not sure. What the hell are these people sure of? Couldn't anyone have mentioned this to me before? Her name was Sue. Everyone in the neighborhood loved her. Sue had a big personality and was full of practical jokes and laughter. Who's the joke on now?

Later that day, I had a little chat with Sue. I wandered around the house by myself, talking out loud to Sue. I told her that I loved her home and that I hoped she was happy with my decorating. I asked her if she liked the way the living room had turned out as I was particularly proud of how the twin french sofas looked angled toward the fireplace as a focal point. I asked her if she'd put in a good word with the feng shui folks since there was a huge mirror facing the door and windows. A feng shui no-no for sure. I'm pretty sure Sue knew what I was talking about though as the room was small and space was at a premium. I I told her I'd take care of her house for her. I told her that I felt safe, comfortable and very much at home - in her home. I asked her not to harm me in any way. I think Sue enjoyed our little chat.

She still loves her practical jokes though. Shortly after my little chat with Sue, a week or two later, we had a "tiny" house fire, electrical in nature, of course, which involved a full on 911 call and the quick arrival of three hook and ladder fire trucks complete with a boatload of handsome firemen. Watching those fireman storm into my house was like watching the best parade I've ever seen. Each and every one of them took my breath away. I fantasized about needing CPR. And there I was salivating away with absolutely no make-up on and wearing baggy ass sweat pants. This should be a lesson to every woman - don't ever wear baggy ass sweat pants. It's just not a good look. What the heck, Sue, give me a little time to glam it up a bit before the firemen come next time. At least give me time to put on a push-up bra. I'm a single woman for God's sake. That Sue, she's quite the little prankster. Her new favorite thing to do is wake me up at o'dark thirty by picking out few tunes to play on my iPod. It just comes on willy nilly at 3:33 or so and belts out an old favorite. I barely register it, reach over and turn it off only to have the monitor screen from the computer come glaring on. She is persistent. We have a good understanding now. I only say wonderful, incredibly nice things about her - at least when I'm in her house.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Beloved Boxer Named Romeo

In my lifetime I've written several love letters, some I've sent too soon and some I've sent too late. This is the first one I've ever sent to a dog. His name is Romeo.

I first met Romeo while dating Billy. Having always been an animal lover, especially dogs, I had an instant bond with Romeo - but that had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Romeo. He was special. He was on the very verge of being human. His eyes, his expressions, the way he would tilt his head when listening to you or asking you a question. Yes, he asked questions - he had this certain way of looking right into your soul and it was as if you could hear his voice. It wasn't just me who felt this bond with Romeo, it was everyone who came in contact with him.

Romeo was a big boy - an albino boxer with pale pink skin and black spots, as Billy always liked to say. When he would get hot the pink in him would show up even more. His ears were like velvet upon velvet. That was my favorite place to pet him - pulling on the length of his ears gently to get that feel of velvet in my hands. He loved to sit up on the couch like a person - his body half erect with his head resting on the highest part of the sofa. The perfect spot to watch football, baseball or The Dog Whisperer. It was also a great spot for scoping out whatever food might be left out on the kitchen counter, like a whole chicken still in the box or a package of doughnuts. He was equally comfortable jumping quickly onto the warm spot of the bed if Billy left the bed for even a minute. It's amazing how quickly he could transition from jumping into bed into a full-blown "I've been sleeping here for hours" kind of snore.

Romeo had a partner in crime, his beloved Juliet. Juliet is a fancy little dog full of light and energy - her official breed name is a long-haired, deer-legged chihuahua. Romeo probably weighed close to a 100 pounds. Juliet weighs about as much as five feathers. Maybe six. She is so small she could curl up in a ball and rest comfortably in the space inbetween Romeo's outstretched paws. They had a love affair and a playfulness that was wonderful to watch. Rolling around together, chasing each other up and down the hall and exhausted at the end, curled up entwined with other. Juliet delighted in torturing Romeo to no end with her constant nipping at his ankles - that was their foreplay. He loved her enough to endure it all with grace and sometimes a heavy sigh.

Romeo got sick a short while ago. It was sudden and devastating. This beautiful, wonderful dog who was still just a young dog, passed away from heart and lung problems. He wasn't even mine, but my heart aches for him. I can't even begin to imagine the loss that Billy feels. As Billy said to me recently, Romeo didn't belong to him - he belonged to God and God had loaned him to Billy for a short while. It was a very generous loan - the kind that can never be paid back - the gift of loving Romeo is immeasurable. Billy decided to have Romeo cremated when he passed away. So, for now, Romeo is home with his loved ones, Billy and Juliet. Perhaps one day they'll have a private moment and go on another adventure together - someplace Romeo loved.

Dear Romeo........ I love you and I miss you. Thank you for the love..........

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We all have stories of how we got to where we are today........... I'm the mom to two incredible children - Chelsea and Bryan. I often tell people that I've won the lottery of motherhood to have been blessed with these wonderful children. I am equally proud of both of them. But then something happened and my life took a turn that I never expected. That something is called Rett Syndrome. I'm always amazed at the stories we all have to tell - how the forks in our road changed our lives and our paths forever bringing us to our destinies.

When I was a little girl my grandmother told me that if I didn't stop crying over every little thing that someday when I really needed my tears I wouldn't have any left. My grandmother was right about many things, but not about that.

After growing beneath my heart for nine long months, Chelsea Morgan Howells was born in 1991. She was perfect with beautiful blue eyes that connected instantly with mine. When she was about 10 months old, I noticed that her skills weren't keeping up with the schedules mapped out in the baby books. On the advice of her pediatrician I put the books away and let her set her own pace. But by the time she was 18 months old, I knew without a doubt there was something wrong. She still wasn't walking and could barely pull herself up to a standing position. She had also stopped talking. Her last words to me were "up, mama, up" as she raised her chubby little arms up in the air to me. Chelsea's pediatrician recommended I take her to a specialist. The pediatric neurologist was puzzled by her symptoms. Test after test came back normal. When Chelsea was about 3 years old, the doctor called us back into his office. Chelsea sat quietly on the floor of the cold, windowless room, ignoring the array of brightly colored toys before her. Breaking the silence, the doctor said the words that would change our lives forever. Chelsea has Rett Syndrome.

With grandfatherly kindness, he explained that she would continue to regress and lose skills and that there was no cure. Swallowing hard, I forced myself to ask the hardest question of all. "She's not going to die is she?" Gently taking my hand in his, he answered "sometimes these girls live a long life, but there have been deaths in the early years as well. They frequently die in their sleep or succumb to respiratory illnesses like pneumonia." He told me that she would never lead a "normal" life. Leaving the office, I searched for the strength and the words to tell my family that our precious little "sweet-pea" was far worse off than we had ever imagined. The days and weeks that followed were filled with tears. I wondered if I would survive the pain and heartache that followed me even into my sleep. In my dreams, Chelsea and I would walk hand in hand as we talked and sang songs together. When I woke up the wonderful dreams would disappear and I knew I would never hear her sweet voice again. I tried so hard to remember that last time when she had called out to me, "Ma-ma," but I couldn't. Rett Syndrome has robbed Chelsea of the ability to walk, talk, stand or even sit-up without help. She has lost all speech and has lost all purposeful use of her hands. Sign language is out of the question. We communicate through our eyes, our hearts and a good dose of ESP. She has frequent seizures that exhaust her already fragile nature.

The new life we have with Rett Syndrome is not one I would have chosen. But because it comes wrapped up in this beautiful child that is connected to every breath I take, I accept it and focus on what Chelsea can do versus what she can't do. I no longer cry for the dreams that will never come true. There will be no piano lessons, no ballet recitals, no whispered secrets, no giggling girlfriends at slumber parties, first dates or even a walk down the wedding aisle. The list of things that will never be is long, but the sheer gift of this child is greater than all of these things. I have her with me for now and while I can, I will hold tight to her and know that each day is precious.

At one point, I prayed and prayed that God would grant us a miracle. Then, one day as I was praying, I realized that God did indeed grant us that miracle. God had healed my heart and my eyes so that I could see that my child is perfect just as she is. She didn't need to be healed or fixed - it was only my perception that needed to change. I know how very blessed I am to have been chosen to be the mother of these two incredible children. They have changed my life in wondrous ways that I never expected. At night when I tuck Chelsea into bed, she looks into my eyes and louder than the spoken words could ever be, her eyes say what her mouth cannot. I reply, "yes honey, I know you do. Mommy loves you too."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Series of Miracles.....

I'm so thankful today. It's amazing how life turns out - never exactly the way we planned it or imagined it, but somehow, miraculously, it turns out. Actually tomorrow is the BIG day - "the miracle day." March 8. My beautiful little girl, is going to turn 18 years old tomorrow. She is a living miracle. She is also a beacon of light, a source of joy, a handicapped child, and the love of my life. I have personally witnessed more than one miracle with Chelsea. When Chelsea was about 4 or 5 years old, I prayed for God to heal her. God heard my prayers and gave me a miracle. He healed my heart and my eyes so that I could see that my child was perfect just the way she is. She didn't need to be fixed or healed ~ the only thing that needed to be fixed were my own perceptions. That miracle led to another and another.......

I often tell people that I've won the lottery of motherhood. My child is as close to an angel as is possible here on earth. I know without a shadow of a doubt she talks with angels each and every day. There is a certain spot in her room where she looks up and I can see her eyes "talking" with them. She cocks her head to the side and listens and then smiles often at what they say back to her. Just the other day I was sitting on the side of her bed talking with her about her angels and I said, "Chelsea, where are mommy's angels? I want angels, too." Chelsea immediately moved her eyes to just a foot away from my shoulder and rested her eyes there for just a moment and then moved them back to mine. She was telling me, clearer than words could ever be, that my angel was right there with me, too. I loved that - just another miracle, that's all.

One day last week when Chelsea was sitting in class at school, another "special needs" child walked up to Chelsea and stared into her eyes and smiled for a long time. The teacher asked Austin what he was doing. He said, "Chelsea and I are talking to each other." Now, that's what I call a miracle. My child can't speak a word outloud but she can have wonderful and truly meaningful conversations through the light in her eyes. Miracles comes in all sizes - they don't all need to be Moses parting the Red Sea. The small ones are just as important.

When I reflect on my life I know how extremely lucky I am. Because of all of the twists and turns in the road, my life has led me here. I'm very happy as a stay-at-home mom with two incredible kids, a beautiful home and a loving, supportive family. In addition I have you - my friends. Whether we've met or not, talked on the phone or not, whether we've ever shopped together on the internet or not, it's a warm and wonderful thing to know we can connect with just a few clicks of the keyboard.

It's a wonderful world and I'm so proud to be here at this time in history. Many people are negative right now about the economy, the war, etc. etc. - but honestly, isn't it truly exciting to be part of the change, part of the improvements, part of the incredible group of people who can turn it all around. Historians will be talking about us for a long, long time..... Let's all do the very best we can to make a difference - big or small. It's all about miracles and how we see them, make them, live them, and enjoy them.