Friday, September 16, 2016

Windows on the World

About last night: (two, er three glasses of wine and a whole Xanax)...Pretty coherent until I fell asleep.

I had plans to leave the house today for a reason other than to try to get this child to sleep. She did sleep, but only during the Window.

Parents know what I mean. There are these rare opportunities of time called Windows, that must be used wisely, or else you end up un-showered, unshaven and dressed in pajamas or sweats all day. These Windows are like anomalies in the space-time continuum when you can get a very specific task completed while the Babe is asleep--until it closes and then you are back on her time. In my world, the Window only lasts for about 90 minutes.

Last week in Chicago, I was blessed with a Window. The Babe was restless and needed her nap, I had an errand to run, so I strapped her in the stroller and rolled out. First errand completed, but of course, this chick did NOT go to sleep, so I had to think of a Plan B--an impromptu trip to the mall. She found her second wind, so I let her run free around the Nordstrom until she began circling the stroller. I let her climb aboard while I took a spin through the food court. She was still sitting upright as I searched around for an elevator, but just as I found it and leaned over to press the button, the Window opened! I made a mad dash back to the hotel.

My official apologies to the Planned Parenthood activist in the wheelchair, because yes, I really do support your cause, we do give money, but no I had NO time to talk because you were cutting into my Window. By this time, the Babe had been asleep for maybe about 20 minutes. I needed a shower, to get the room in semi-decent shape since the cleaning service had not come while we were gone, and time was a-ticking.

Yesterday as usual, the Babe was refusing to nap and was literally spinning herself in circles fighting valiantly to stay awake. So I loaded her into the car and with no particular destination in mind, got ready to leave the house. The mailman saw me and trotted up to me with a package. Bless his heart (and I do not mean it in the snarcastic way), he hands it over and says I see you are about to roll out with the kid, good luck Mom. I'm guessing he recognized the exasperated I-need-tranquilizer-darts-NOW, or maybe he knows all about creating the Window.

This might be the only parenting advice I ever offer because I am THAT hot mess mom: the one who barely makes it to story time even though it is a 15 minute drive away; the one who takes her kid to the matinee where they show rated R indie films and is not the least bit ashamed; the one who believes cheerios eaten from the floor must have special powers. The Window is real.

And a word to anybody who writes one of those mommy-war envy pieces about wishing she could stay at home and get stuff done while her kids napped...again, one word: Window. Lady, I don't get anything done unless I get that Window. (Except right now since I have turned the Babe over to her father for the day). Your lovely fantasies about immaculate homes, well-balanced dinners already prepared from the slow cooker, Martha Stewart decorating projects, and Hallmark card moments of hugs and kisses...yeah, right.

Let me go take a shower.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Reconsidering Mother's Day

I actually wrote the piece referenced on Mother's Day for the BBW blog, but I am now going back to read/edit/publish a few outstanding pieces here at the Cafe. Bear with me.

I've been trying to gather my thoughts to write over at the Busy Black Woman blog about Mother's Day for a while, but I think that effort is futile. My emotions are a little too erratic for I am here to be raw and serious and to try to express my emotions in a more or less coherent manner.

Because I hate Mother's Day. I have probably admitted this previously, and maybe I will go back to see if I am right, but for now, I will let that declaration stand alone. I. Hate. Mother's. Day.

At some point, my mother made Mother's Day a test of how much anxiety could she force upon me by making me feel that I never loved her enough, or that I never demonstrated the right amount of gratitude. You see, before the Alzheimer's my mother was a pill--at times, a bitter, oblong, hard-to-swallow horse pill. In the years after my grandmother's death, and literally up to the year I revolted and determined that something was terribly wrong (when all of this was becoming a reality), she could be a...bitter ass pill.

I will not recount how bad, how bittersweet, how utterly insufferable this time of year could be for me--when nothing I did was good enough (but the nothing my Dad and brothers did was somehow, just fine). But I will say that even after spending my first Mother's Day last year with my in-laws, practically spoiled because the Babe was brand-new and this was the first time everyone was meeting her, I still dread this stupid holiday. Even though it felt good to be the quasi-center of attention for once. Of course, they were all excited about the Babe, a month old, but I have come to realize that a lot of my happiness nowadays comes from her.

All of that was written back in May. All of this below is new:
I survived Mother's Day by going to church, which has become a refuge for me. That is unbelievable because it was only a few years ago that I was declaring myself a proud member of Bedside Baptist. Life, man.

Someone at my church (and I will have to write about this at some point) has decided that they will find whatever opportunity possible to stand me up in front of that congregation. I was asked to give the welcome for Mother's Day, which meant a lot of preparation before and then a lot of rushing the morning of, but we made it! And several months later (because I was asked to give another presentation at church just yesterday and had to do the same thing) I am now getting it.

Public speaking was something that my mother did very well, but as usual, her stage mommy ways made it an uneven experience. As kids that grew up in the church with both grandmothers, an aunt and then later in Catholic school, we had plenty of opportunity to speak in front of church folks. Many of those experiences did not involve my mother, but her spirit was there because the Hawkins children never read from a slip of paper in front of an audience. The Hawkins children always memorized their scripts.

Did I tell you that my mother taught public speaking? And drama? Do you see where this might be going?

I will actually go in the opposite direction to say that she seemed pleased by my presentation. And that I am already thinking of how well-trained my daughter will be when she reached the age of standing in front of the church. Like they say.

Since the tone of this piece has changed from a whine to a tribute I must say that for all of her faults, my mother was right (just not about everything). I learned a lot from her example. I may never become a great public speaker, but if the people at my church think that I am a decent enough speaker, then it is because of her high expectations. This past Mother's Day, when I was just happy that we made it to church on time, I forgot to reflect on the reason why...

I hope I made her proud.

Sunday, September 04, 2016


I have been blogging a lot lately, which is great. Except I need to be packing right now for Chicago. So I am blogging as a new way to procrastinate.

I am also here to vent after a monologue with my husband. I went to talk to him about something and I guess I cut into his podcast time because he had to actually listen to me. Or he just had to fake like he cared.

I am so over this.

Am I so inconsequential? Actually a better question is when did I become so inconsequential, but since my answer is as far back as I can remember...

I am not in the mood to bare all. But let's just say that I am always alone except when I'm with my daughter, but even then we are always alone. I was telling the hub my feelings of isolation and suggested that I might try (again) to connect with one of those exclusive membership organizations. He responded in his usual manner of telling me how I would find fault and be turned off by the pettiness, and I left feeling like he missed my entire point.

I am lonely. And I think my loneliness and isolation will have an impact on our kid.

I don't wish to bemoan the state of my life because it should be rather obvious since I write about this topic at least a third of the time. I found some great photos of us from a few years ago when I did not feel this way and they make me sad. When did this happen?

Friday, March 25, 2016

In the Morning Light

I'm back to flesh out more of what I was feeling last night. I feel horrible for yelling at my mother. My outburst was not about her at all, but it was about me and how I feel unappreciated, disrespected and as always, exhausted beyond what should be acceptable as normal.

Going back over last night is not really the point because what I said to her I meant. Every single word of it, and it wouldn't matter if I had whispered it or if I said it with a fake Southern grin while pouring tea. I meant it. I will abandon her to be cared for by others if she isn't more careful with what she says to me or to my child.

And that is the crux of where all of this is--in the family support system that barely exists.

My father is at home with her all day because he is now retired, and while I know that he does the best he can, he also breaks the hell out of dodge whenever the opportunity arises. He has hired help in the form of the home health aide so that he can go to church twice a week. And while she is not the best that money can buy, she does a lot more than babysit despite what my brother thinks. He, who lives there and is also at home all day with his toddler daughter and comes upstairs to oversee and nitpick. The other brother is MIA except on weekends when he blesses everyone with his presence. Other family, well... Thus whenever there is a need for assistance, I am the one who gets called.

Mind you, I had a baby a year ago. Weeks after I had my baby, I started back assisting with my mother. I have left my child behind for hours to help with my mother. I have packed up my child and gone over to help. 

Before I accuse anyone of not doing enough for her, I will admit that I do not do enough for her either. I definitely put my daughter first, and the price of that choice is that my mother often spends her days in front of the television. To offset this, I have invested in plenty of home-based enrichment projects that have gone untouched. I have investigated all kinds of outside activities, but she still rarely leaves the house. Since I don't live there, I keep my mouth shut, but whenever I can, I try to engage her in something or at least take her out of the house.

Yesterday was typical. I drove across town to take my mother to the hair stylist who lives ten minutes from her house while my Dad was on a conference call. I was running behind by an hour, but thankfully her stylist was understanding. I paid him with practically all the cash in my wallet; luckily, it was from her account because I needed cash to pay for her dry cleaning (another bag of which is still in my trunk). I was running late because I had to pack the car with all of the new stuff I had been buying for her--clothes, towels, an outfit for Easter. On Sunday, I will get her ready for church.

I...I...I...I could go on. And that is my point. I do a lot for my mother, so when things fall apart I lose it.

I know she never means what she says, and I could just limit her contact with the Babe (which is what the other siblings do with their children). I could limit my contact with her. I could just decide to live my life, and just fit her in whenever. But I would never forgive myself.

I already feel guilty about backing away while I was pregnant. I had to because she became physically difficult to manage and sometimes was combative. It stressed me to deal with her and when it became clear that she was defiantly uncooperative, I had to make a choice. I do not regret that choice, but I resent having to make it.

AARGGHHH. I can't win.

In all of the chaos of a squirmy, restless child and a cranky mother, I did manage to hear the message of the sermon last night. Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane and the disciples had fallen asleep. He was distressed by the knowledge of what was to come, and he asked God to take away the burden. But then he accepted his fate, and the message was that God's grace comes to help us face certain obstacles. Very much tailor-made for me.

My family are like the disciples--asleep on the job. Maybe they aren't, but it sure feels like it. The pastor referred to Jesus' need for their presence, and quite honestly, that is what I need. I need to feel their support in some tangible way. I need to know that someone is watching my back. Maybe no one can do what I do, but at least someone can stay awake long enough to take notice!

This morning after going to bed feeling terrible and waking up feeling just overcome and defeated, I am seeking grace. This entire situation feels like a horrible nightmare that has swallowed up so much of my hope, so many of my dreams, and just everything. But this is my cup and if no one else can drink its bitter content, then I just need the grace to swallow it myself.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Rant Too Far

Before I start off with an explanation for my absence...there is none. I stopped blogging for a while, got pregnant and had a kid, then restarted blogging sporadically over at Busy Black Woman. I had been attempting to keep a journal...but that was in the handbag that got stolen last month when my car alarm malfunctioned. I also have the journal that I am supposed to be writing for the Babe's benefit, but I think it is either buried under the mountain of shit on my bed or I have no idea...

I am here to vent about my behavior towards my mother this evening, which might be considered horrible or it might have just been I don't know, me venting for all of frustration I felt this evening (these past five or perhaps even thirty plus years).

I took my mother to church service this evening along with the Babe. I have done this before and have had varying degrees of success, so you already know where this story is headed. It was hot in the sanctuary, we arrived late because there was no parking, and the Babe was restless. In hindsight I probably did a dozen things wrong, but without exhausting you with too many details, it was a disaster.

My mother attempted to 'discipline' the Babe, which I resisted and the more I resisted, the worse the entire scenario got. Each time she leaned over to hush the kid, the squirmier and more restless the Babe became, which only agitated my mother even more. And that only made the temperature more unbearable. So as soon as we could, we left.

I yelled at my mother in the car. During her several attempts to discipline the baby, she said a lot, and despite the fact that there was a church service going on and that I was holding my BABY, she was totally oblivious and cruel and inappropriate and so I let her know how I felt in the car. And I can admit that I have yelled at her other times and have threatened to leave her to the whims of the other family that barely take notice of her condition, and honestly one day I might just make good and walk away and never look back.

Because I hate her.

I hate that I hate her because I want to love her. I want to overlook her cruelty, her meanness that seems to only be directed at me, her inappropriateness, her self-centered obliviousness and I want to remember who she was before all of this happened. But on days like today I cannot remember who she was before the dementia changed her. People always talk about how loved ones cannot remember my case, I am unsure who suffers more from memory loss.

If I am being honest, then there are times when she was a bitch and then at other times she was not. She was not physically abusive nor did we suffer from any neglect, but she was aloof. She was not the Mommy to kiss scraped knees--she was the Mom who fussed about the hole in the knee of the pants caused by the fall. She was the Mother who sent me $200 every month when I was away at college, except that time I spent all the money on a birthday party (she was teaching me a lesson about sticking to a budget that I have YET to take to heart). She did not buy me designer clothes, but when we wore the same size, she let me wear her designer clothes. She gave us money for Christmas once we got too old for her to care about shopping anymore.

She was not a bad mother at all. And I love her.

But when she threatens to kill my child because she is whimpering because it is hot and she is restless and tired...yeah, I lost it. Not because I believe she actually means my child any harm, because I believe that she is not looking at the baby and comprehending that she is a baby who cannot use her words to express any emotions. In the very next breath Mom flirted with the Babe and wanted to console her so I know that half the shit she says is meaningless.

I had a lot more to say earlier during the internal monologue on the drive home, but I'm really tired now. I feel bad about my disrespectful conduct, and I feel like a bully. But she pushes my buttons (on purpose) and my primary job as a mother is to defend my child. And my nieces. And other helpless people who are being bullied, even if the bully is a mean woman with dementia...