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gratitude journal

I know it’s only the 21st, but I am already eager to put this month behind me. It’s been another month of ear issues (both ears this month) for Josh and we are not sure exactly what’s going on. We haven’t been able to get his ears stable enough/healthy long enough for even an audiology evaluation since October. He just finished up another course of strong, broad spectrum antibiotics. I have an essay coming out soon in The Mighty that will shed some light on how I feel about our latest run in with antibiotics.

In light of all of this, it is time for some mood-boosting gratitude.

  1. There is an owl living in one of the large pine trees behind my house. I hear him hooting each night at about 5:30 pm (dusk here in Minnesota in January) and sometimes just before dawn. I went out into the woods behind my house on Sunday, with my long wool coat over my PJ’s–it was ten below zero at the time, and I listened just below the tree. I cannot tell you what a singular thrill it is to hear an owl up close. But then, he decided to swoop down on some prey and I saw his wings spread over me (I wasn’t the prey). It will likely be one of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life. I feel most protective of this owl and sometimes I fancy the owl is protecting me.
  2. I’ve finally set up my own writing room in the upper level of my house. It is a light, airy space. It is a piece of heaven in my own home.
  3. Trampled by Turtle’s song “Duluth,” which gets me through these cold winters. “Still I like the quiet/Of Duluth in the winter/In the sacred bond/There’s no place like home.”
  4. The rosary. I’m not Catholic, but I’ve had lots of Catholics in my life, including my dad’s whole family. All of my kids have spent time in Catholic schools; now, Josh joins the ranks. He’s learned to pray the rosary. I’m learning too. I’ve thought much about how Mary was acquainted with this experience of watching her child suffer. I feel a kinship with her when I pray the rosary. Although, I’m not sure I’m doing it right, maybe “right” doesn’t matter so much as the act of saying this prayer with a willing heart.
  5. I was given the guidance to get my hands on a copy of Paul Kalanithi’s book When Breath Becomes Air. I elevated this book above the waiting 25 or so books on my “to read” list. I read this book in less than 24 hours; I will read this book again. It is a magnificent, life-changing read. I thank Paul for leaving behind surgery to write before he passed away last March. God be with you, Dr. Kalanithi. You’ve made a huge difference in how I view life, God, vocation, the act of writing, and how I view my son’s doctors and surgeons (I think I wanted them to be small gods–now I realize it can never be so; God can use members of the medical profession, but they will never be perfect, as life will never be perfect).
  6. My thesis project seems to be falling into place, during this second semester of thesis writing; and I have a new blog to support the putting of my thesis out into the world, when it is time. See www.heidifettigparton.com.
  7. I get to see the below view when I leave my local food co-op; even beautiful on cold winter mornings.

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I was nominated by my dear (and long-known) friend, Julie, on Facebook to record three things I am grateful for each day for five days. It’s been sort of a wild and crazy past few days, so instead, I’ve decided to record 15 gratitudes all at once. I have many gratitude lists on this blog and so I’ve decided to change things up a bit today with a photo list. Indeed, thanks to the iPhone, I always have a camera at hand these days and tend to take photos in some of my most grateful moments; moments when I can truly let myself into the overflowing joy and abundance that, while always present, often gets choked out by my affinity for worry and mindless clamoring after the ever-elusive sense of control.

15 Gratitudes:

The Stone Arch Bridge

The Stone Arch Bridge

One: I am immensely grateful that I live in a place where there is such an abundance of accessible green space, even in the heart of the city.

The Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater

Two: I am grateful for the depth and variety of cultural experiences available in the Twin Cities area.

Presiding over the Mill City Farmer's Market

Presiding over the Mill City Farmer’s Market

Three: I am grateful that on any given day from May to October, I can purchase locally-grown organic produce at countless Farmer’s Markets available throughout the Twin Cities area.

They're Always Waiting for me

Four: I am grateful for books. They are always waiting for me, no matter how much time has elapsed since we last had time together.

snow dog

snow dog

Five: I am grateful that I spent so many years in the cold, frozen tundra of North Dakota. Now Minneapolis winters are (mostly) a breeze (except last winter–that was truly a North Dakota kind of winter).

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

Six: I am grateful for the preservation of wild places; places where people can hear their soul speak.

From The Minnesota History Center's Currently Running Toy Exhibit

From The Minnesota History Center’s Currently Running Toy Exhibit

Seven: I am grateful that “my past” is now being preserved as history. The Minnesota History Center’s Exhibit on toys from the 50s, 60s, and 70s is extremely well curated and so worth seeing. I hail the efforts of all historic preservationists everywhere.

Wild Flowers

Wild Flowers

Eight: I am grateful that beauty erupts of its own accord. Life is celebrated daily by all of creation. Sometimes, finding this beauty is just a matter of changing one’s point of view. In this photo, if I turned the other way, I’d see a broken old highway.

Cottage Flowers

Cottage Flowers

Nine: I am grateful that we have been given the tools to help cultivate beauty in this world, if we so choose.

Vintage bowling pins and croquet balls.

Vintage bowling pins and croquet balls.

Ten: I am grateful for the thrill of the hunt. Wooded trail or estate sale? Tough decision. Either place, I touch down into the soft, unexposed underside where my dreams, hopes, and greatest love resides.

A Room of One's Own Cottage.

A Room of One’s Own Cottage.

Eleven: I am grateful for this little yellow cottage; a place where my voice has found it’s way to paper this past year.

Olson Family Cabin (photo credit: Tiffany Rae Fettig).

Olson Family Cabin (photo credit: Tiffany Rae Fettig).

Twelve: I am grateful for this little brown cabin that my Grandpa Roy built; a place that contains most of my very best memories (because, like Neil Young, “in my mind I still need a place to go”–from Helpless).

La Jolla, Ca.

La Jolla, Ca.

Thirteen: I am grateful for the deep love I’ve had in my life, as well as the joy found in letting go, repeatedly, of that which I love.

A place where Deaf and Hard of Hearing children learn to listen and speak

A place where Deaf and Hard of Hearing children learn to listen and speak

Fourteen: I am grateful that Minnesota mandated newborn hearing screening by the time Josh was born; I am grateful for early intervention so that now I can hear my four-year old tell me that he “might get carried away and decide to be Darth Vader” this year for Halloween. I am so grateful I get to hear all of the funny little things Josh has to say everyday.

The One (who gets me)

The One (who gets me)

Fifteen: We risked a good deal for this love; in return, it gave us everything. Gratitude.

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Dear Hannah,

I was married at your age. You don’t even want to learn to cook dahl. (line from Bendit Like Beckham—just for fun and since you are a film girl and all)

You graduate from college in just three days. I want you to know that I am so proud of you and all that you have accomplished in your almost 22 years. You are an amazing, inspiring, creative, strong, loyal, dedicated and intelligent person. Often now, when we are talking, I am awed by the maturity and wisdom of the words you speak to me. It is hard to believe that you began as that tiny, dark-haired girl with the rosebud ears that came out of me when I had just turned twenty-two. I was still a baby in a sense, and I was continuing to raise myself as I began to raise you. You were the child meant for me at that time in my life—you were the one strong enough to withstand my cutting teeth.

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The two of us–Just after you were born. You can sort of see from this picture that I didn’t know the first thing about babies.

I think you know me well enough now to know that, when faced with transitions, I tend to write. It is no different on this eve of your graduation and imminent move to California. Instead of thinking so much about your accomplishments, which are many indeed, I find myself filled with gratitude for all of the people that helped me along the way in raising you. When you were about four years old, the wise Hilary Clinton made famous the African proverb that states, “It takes a village to raise a child.” At that time, I was practicing law and very reliant on daycare providers, babysitters, and your grandparents to help me raise you. This moment of your graduation will be a mountain top vista for me—a time to look back and embrace the village that helped me raise you.

Because I am not only a lover of the written word but also a devotee of making gratitude lists, what better way to celebrate your graduation from Beloit College and your leap into the world of adulthood than with a gratitude list for all who helped you along the way. I may never get an Academy Award (but maybe you will–do they give Academy Awards to Casting Directors?), but I did manage to raise you and that, my dear, is one of the singular accomplishments of my life. So here goes a list of thank you’s that would send the “exit the stage” music playing long before it was done–here’s to your village:

  1. Your dad, for believing in my ability to be a mom when we found ourselves unexpectedly expecting you during our first year of law school.
  2. My Constitutional Law professor, the late Marcia O’ Kelly, who taught so eloquently about the rights of women but also of the sanctity of family. I didn’t tell anyone I was pregnant that first year of law school because I was embarrassed. I hadn’t ever planned on children—only ever a career. When you were born, in the fall of my second year of law school, Professor O’Kelly gave you a little snake, covered with black and white fabric in geometrical patterns and stuffed with crunchy, sensory-rich filling. It was less about the gift to you, but her acknowledgement that I could be a law student, a career woman, and a mother that was so supportive to me. *You too will find surrogate mothers down the paths you walk in life. Be ever on the look out.*
  3. Law Professor Patti Alleva, who gave me a job as her research assistant after you were born. She was more than flexible and accommodating of my schedule as a law student and new mom. She’s continued on in both of our lives as a friend and support person.
  4. Your Grandma Melinda, who helped out with you during my first semester back at law school.
  5. Your own Grandma Marcia, who retired from teaching early to take care of you during my second-third year of law school and the summer before my second year, so I could write my law review—the summer after, so I could clerk in Fargo, ND.
  6. All of your kind and loving daycare providers through your formative years: Kim, Kari, Cheryl, and Karla.
  7. My dear friends, study partners and fellow UND law graduates, Pat, who baked you beautiful birthday cakes when you were younger and helped us out of many needful childcare dilemmas (like when I had to go to the ER with dehydration from the stomach flu) during our Brainerd years and Shari, who lived across the hall from us in married-student housing when you were born—already a mom and law student—she first taught me how to balance career and motherhood and still being a person; she continues to do so to this day.
  8. Your Aunt Tiffany, who took care of you on short notice so many times when our daycare was closed and was such a loving force in your life.
  9. The warm, caring, nurturing relationship you (and Ethan) have always had with Aunt Tiffany and Uncle Scott’s children, Phoebe, Jake and Nick.
  10. The prayers and guidance of your broader family of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Grand Aunts and Uncles, as well as cousins of all sorts (first, second, first once-removed etc).
  11. Your Godmother and Aunt Sarah for helping out with you at so many junctures (she watched you when I had my wisdom teeth surgically removed when you were just four months old and couldn’t nurse you for a whole day—she struggled with the pre-frozen breast milk and a baby who wanted her mama). She also threw you a confirmation party when I had to be out of town on your confirmation day in 2009.
  12. Your Irish Step Dance teacher, Katie who created such a wonderful dance community, all of whom became sisters that helped to raise you.
  13. Laurie, another dance mom, who sewed you vests and skirts, because I couldn’t sew, and set your Irish Dance curls for you—in your pre-wig days—because I did not have a way with curlers or hair products.
  14. Jean, your youth group leader. You were the one that led us back to church and specifically, to St. John’s Episcopal Church on Kent Street in St. Paul. I think you found your own way to Jean, who nurtured your spirituality. Perhaps Jean was one of your first surrogate mothers.
  15. Your second mom, Cindy, who helped your dad raise you during your visitations with him and who has worked so hard to continue as a supportive friend to you after she and your dad’s engagement ended. Another surrogate mom, to be sure!
  16. Your Grandma Melinda (again) for coming and staying with you guys after your dad and I divorced, to help accommodate my business trips. She was such a huge support to me through the years and I miss her greatly.
  17. Your Grandpa Spencer, who had the foresight, discipline, and generosity to purchase US Savings Bonds from your date of birth until you began college. These funds paid for travels overseas for your Rotary Exchange and your study abroad, paid for housing costs and books while in college, as well as other incidental expenses. What a huge gift he and Melinda gave you.
  18. Your Grandma Marcia (again) and Grandpa Duane, who also both helped out watching you and Ethan while I was away on business trips or wanted to entertain my hobby, concert going.
  19. When you don’t have another parent to discuss your kids with, you really rely on your friends. As a working single parent, I did not have much time for friendships outside of work and so I am ever grateful for all of the many friends I had along the way at work who listened and laughed and worried right along with me as I endlessly shared kid stories, issues, and joys, long before any of them had children of their own. In the order they came into my life, I want to thank: Christy, Kim, the triumvirate power of Louis, Staci, and Alice (oh to the life-saving power of the corporate coffee break), Bonnie (another surrogate mother who gave me the best advice ever and I followed it too!), Trina, and Tessa.
  20. My boss (and your boss, after you started babysitting her kids!) Pam, who was really so gracious and understanding when it came to the challenges I faced raising you and Ethan as a single mom. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive manager during the near seven years that I balanced being both a single mom and a woman with a demanding–but fulfilling–career.
  21. Suzanne, who started out as my author and became my friend. She also became your friend and was so supportive always of us both. She continues to believe in you and for this, I am grateful. She is another one of my surrogate mothers and, in such a way, has become your surrogate grandmother (a very beautiful, young-looking grandmother).
  22. Chris, your second dad, who came into your life just about a year before you left for Japan. I am so grateful for the loving relationship you guys share. I am grateful that he brought you on all those college visits and got you through the bed bug experience in Pittsburgh. I am grateful for the solid, loving, supportive presence he’s been in your life throughout the past five or so years. As you know, he loves you so very much.
  23. Your two brothers. Siblings are a blessing. From Ethan, you’ve learned how to be in relation with people who are very different from yourself and I’ve watched proudly as I see the two of you closing in on a more mature, adult-sized relationship. And Josh–well, we all know that Josh is sort of like pure light and love. What could be better than a daily dose of Josh. Hopefully he’ll get better at conveying that light and love via Skype.
  24. Your Japanese Tutor, Kate, who did such a great job preparing you for your year in Japan with such a small window to work with (February through July, 2009).
  25. Your three sets of host parents (the moms in particular) for looking after you so well during your year in Japan. Sending a sixteen year old off to a strange country for a year is perhaps one of the more daunting things a parent can do. I still remember my last glimpse of your long brown hair as you went through security at the Minneapolis International Airport around 5:30 am on August 13, 2009 (I didn’t even have to look up that date—that’s how well it is burned into my head)—it was all I could do to let you go. So grateful that you had good host families and I know that your second host mom most especially became another surrogate mom and I am glad you’ve been able to see her twice now since your year in Japan. I hope you can continue to keep in touch with her in the future.
  26. Your Rotary Liaisons, John and Tom, who helped smooth out all of the many issues with your exchange on this end and many a time, helped smooth out your anxious mom who had a difficult time letting go of her baby.
  27. All of the people who prayed for you while in Japan—especially your step Grandmother, Helen, who has now passed on. Once, early on in your time in Japan, she wrote me a message that said, “Just want you to know…a silly little thing I do…do you remember when you were young and wished on a star?…well, each early morning and evening when I am outside with Sadie, I look for the brightest star, and do not ‘wish’, but pray for Hannah to find her place of joy there in Japan.” I like to think that both Grandma Melinda and Grandmother Helen are out there somewhere, looking out for you–still praying for you to find your place of joy.
  28. Ellie Roscher-your senior year English teacher at Cretin Derham Hall. She too had re-entered after a time abroad and I think it was just so helpful for you to know that at least one other soul understood what you were going through when you returned to an American high school after your life-changing year abroad. I thank God that this exceptional teacher was placed in your path the year you attended Cretin Derham (and that someone in the CDH office had recommended that you take Spectrum). She is the teacher everyone hopes their child will have someday.
  29. Three key best friends along the path of your life so far:
    1. Julia—Oh we love Julia so much. We’d adopt her into our family if we could. But I love how she stepped into your life when you transferred to St. Joe’s and I pretty quickly saw what a quality friend she was and I hoped she’d be a friend for life. It appears that is certainly the case. I think you already realize how blessed you are to have Julia in your life.
    2. Hikaru—Dear Hikaru who befriended you in your school in Nagasaki and made your time in Japan better in every way—introducing you to other friends, eating lunch with you and inviting you to social gatherings. I think it is neat that you were able to do your study abroad at a college so close to her college last year. It was fun to watch you guys (via FB on my end) reconnect.
    3. Sydney—Not everyone leaves college with a close friend like Sydney. I think you were friends with her from nearly the first day of freshman orientation—the day Chris, Josh, and I left you crying in the parking lot outside your dorm room. Knowing how she was placed across the hall from you, perhaps you can trust how all things truly do work out for our good, in the end. Sometimes our best of girl friends can also, at times, be surrogate moms to us. This is certainly true of my friend Shari’s role in my life. Embrace Sydney always, as a friend, a kindred spirit, and a mother in your time of need (P.S. I just realized that you have her listed as your mom on Facebook—kind of apropos).
  30. Debbie. I am not sure how you managed to find your career mentor last summer or how she found you, but I am so grateful that you two intersected and she has given you such a great internship experience this year and continues to mentor you in your chosen career field.

Seems to me, you’ve already learned a thing or two about finding surrogate mothers. But always remember, sometimes, as much support as you find around you, you still have to reach deep inside and mother yourself. I ask that in your life ahead, you be kind, compassionate, and forgiving of yourself. Please, treat yourself with as much loving care as you are able—it is more than okay to care for yourself in this world; it is a necessity.

And to all that I forgot on this list, and I am sure there were many, thank you. Thank you so much to all of the diverse members of the village that helped to raise my only daughter, my first born, my beautiful, smart, strong-willed girl with the teeth marks. We did it!

I love you to the moon and back into the atmosphere and deep down into the smallest fiber of my being.

With Love,

Your mom

 

Chris told me that my last entry for this blog was a bit of a downer–too much of a downer for what, he says, has been a fairly uplifting blog. Chris would never tell me such a thing unless he really believed it. Chris, like Ethan, is a bit of my “true north,” helping to point me in the right direction. Both have strong intuitive souls, but Chris has the wisdom of the years added to that intuition and oh how I value his opinion and views.

So on this lovely Mother’s Day, I have decided to write one more ending for this blog about motherhood, with one last gratitude list because I indeed have so very much to be grateful for in this life of mine and as a mother. I am grateful that:

  • Chris insisted on a second opinion for Ethan’s epilepsy diagnosis.
  • Ethan’s stay in the hospital (as difficult as it was) and second opinion, led us to an opinion by an epileptologist that Ethan does not have epilepsy (he does have a condition tied to his heart, blood pressure, circulatory system–but much less devastating than the epilepsy diagnosis).
  • Ethan was able to go off the horrible, brain-altering medications that he had been placed on for 6 weeks this past spring.
  • Josh went nearly a full year without a cold. This is a MAJOR miracle given the amount of sickness he had last year. Thus, he had his first real cold this year just 2 weeks shy of the year anniversary of his ear surgery. We were praying for as much time as possible for the ear to heal before an influx of fluid and pressure hit it. All of you who have had preschoolers will understand just how amazing it is to have such a lengthy cold-free stretch.
  • The ear surgery restored Josh’s hearing in his right ear to a level where he no longer requires a hearing aid in that ear and his language development has just exploded this year.
  • The perforation in his ear drum post surgery appears to have healed itself.
  • Josh is sleeping much better these days and thankfully, so are the rest of us.
  • Just two weeks until Hannah comes home from her study abroad in Japan and it has really gone smoothly.
  • Hannah has seemed very happy and content during her time abroad.
  • My older children both have such kind, interesting, honorable, upright friends in their lives.
  • I get to be married to my best friend.
  • I feel myself moving towards a place of beauty and passion not yet before experienced in my life. The wisdom of age is a blessed thing.
  • Right here, right now, right where I am–I am content. All is well with my soul.

Everyone needs places of refuge. Here are some of my places:

  • The rest, the spacious comfort, quieter mind found in meditation
  • Walking outside, particularly on a wooded trail

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  • Just sitting in my pjs in my chair

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  • Being fully captive in a book has been a refuge of mine since the day I first could read
  • The lake cabin my Grandpa Roy built
Photo by Cousin Leif

Photo by Cousin Leif

Photo by Scott (brother)

Photo by Scott (brother)

  • Resting in my Chee-E-O’s loving arms

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  • Listening to my music in the dark or by the light of one candle

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  • Yin Yoga (practicing and guiding others)
  • Green Jasmine tea at 5:30 am, before the rest of the house awakens
  • Ithaca, NY

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  • Just browsing used books stores, antique stores, and thrift stores
  • Finding “the flow” while doing my art
  • Being with my kids

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  • And, of course, that humbling place down on my knees. When life brings me to my knees, it is  exactly where I need to be and there I find the ultimate refuge.

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From looking at my blog stats over the past few months, I realize that the most popular search terms leading to my blog have to do with Tympanoplasty and Tympanyplasty recovery. It makes sense because just as I was, people having tympanoplsty surgery or parents with children undergoing this surgery are hungry for information since we are provided so amazingly little information on this topic by our ENT offices. Yes, the 3-6 paged tri-fold brochure doesn’t even dip below the surface of what this surgery is really like and doesn’t tackle the recovery process at all beyond the first week or so.

My son Josh had a Tympanoplasty with a TORP, replacing the malleus and incus bones of his right ear, on May 3, 2012. He was recovering well (although it was not an easy road by any means–see past blog posts by searching on the term tympanoplasty in the upper right corner of my blog), but then developed a fever and slight perforation after the two month post-surgery point. He began intermittently draining from the right ear. The drainage was never all that fluid. We’d simply see a large build up of amber heavy oily waxy coating sometimes almost blocking his outer ear canal and often it looked decidedly moist at the back of his ear. The build up would reach a peak every 7-10 days and then we’d use antibiotic ear drops. After our ENT finally got a culture (this build up usually peaked over the weekend) in October, he determined it was not infected and so we switched to a vinegar and cortisone based drop. Putting in these drops was never fun for Josh. Ear drops seem to put kids in agony, especially when tubes or a perforation is present. Looking in Josh’s ear with a flashlight became a daily routine. I love that I am using the past tense in the last sentence because now I am doing this only about once every week. Every time I’d find the build up it would cause extreme stress because somewhere in late August, our ENT mentioned that he might have to remove the TORP (prosthetic device serving as Josh’s first two middle ear bones) if the drainage continued. We’d learned at Josh’s three-month post op audiology testing that the TORP had raised Josh’s hearing in his right ear to 20 db across all of the frequencies; a significant gain for a child born with conductive reversed slope mild-moderate hearing loss. Needless to say, Chris and I are very attached to this TORP. I realize my extreme attachment here causes me intense suffering and I work with this in both prayer and meditation. I realize this restored hearing was a gift and it can come and go as it will. Tightly holding and gripping this healing will not make it stay. Better to open my palms wide in thanksgiving and accept what comes and goes then to walk around with tightly-clenched fists hoping no one takes “my precious.” (oh my, it always comes back to a Tolkien reference for me, doesn’t it?)

Anyway, at more calm times, I’d tell myself that both the ear perforation and the drainage were somehow serving Josh’s healing process. Although the ENT thought that Josh should be healed by three months post-surgery, I’ve learned from other tympanoplasty blogs that those undergoing this surgery don’t usually feel completely recovered until the six month post-surgery point. For Josh, I think it was even a little longer. I remember seeing the awful drainage again right before Thanksgiving and trying to get a Josh an appointment with the ENT. That would have been about 6.5 months post surgery. They told me that the ENT’s next available appointment was on December 13, which was Josh’s technical six-month post op check anyway (we pushed it back a month to the seven month point since we’d seen the ENT so many times throughout the fall–I am just glad we happen to live about seven minutes from our ENT’s office which is located on a major university health care facility and hospital grounds). So, the day before Thanksgiving, I just put the dreaded drops in Josh’s ears again, this time bribing him with a trip to his favorite place, the Science Museum, to get him to hold still for the drops and then endure the next hour or so of intermittent pain that’s he now remembers will be ahead after the drops.

About a week before Josh’s appointment (notably exactly seven months post surgery), I stopped seeing the drainage. The next week, Josh first had his audiology testing. He came back with 15 db across the frequencies. Wow! I was so pleased and grateful to learn his hearing had improved yet further since August. His ENT appointment was fairly uneventful and our ENT didn’t even see the perforation anymore, thinking it healed on its own, which is probably why Josh gained another 5 db in his hearing. Amazing. Yes. This places Josh’s hearing firmly within the speech spectrum without hearing aids on the right side. Chris and I celebrated with chai tea at our local food coop, allowing Josh to push the little cart around the store, as he likes to do, before Chris had to hurry off for work. It was a very good day indeed.

I guess I have hesitated to place this post out here because something more might go wrong in the future. But that is the case with anything, isn’t it? You can send your six year old off to what you think is a safe school, in a safe neighborhood and then never see him or her again. One can never completely find solid ground on which to stand, at least not here, in this temporal world, which by it’s nature is impermanent. Everything is always changing, nothing stays the same. I must endeavor to love and rejoice in the gifts I have while I have them and . . . not delay the rejoicing because something might go wrong in the future. Things will go wrong in the future, in fact, but it will probably be something completely different from that which I’ve spent my precious time in this life worrying about. And so here it is. I firmly rejoice this morning in Josh’s restored hearing in his right ear. What an amazing gift.

**Note–Josh continues to wear a hearing aid in his left ear and is completely happy with it. He always tells us when it is out of batteries and acknowledges that it helps him hear better. We cannot imagine allowing the same surgery on his left side. We only did the right side because of an extreme perforation that required surgical intervention.

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The above photo is not of our house, but something about this photo both delights and haunts me. When I was younger, there was a tall old tudor situated quite near the river in my home town. It was beige stucco with dark red trim and surrounded by tall trees, always barren in winter of course as I lived in the bleak far north. This generous portion of trees was only to be found along the river. More common were the wide open fields of rich farmland in this river valley-based agricultural community. In December, the beige and red tudor was always laced by Christmas lights. As we’d drive by the house, which was on our way to the other side of the river–a whole different state, where I went most days for gymnastics practice, I’d see this house and I’d be filled with intense longing–especially with the outline of lacy bare trees highlighted only by the hush of sun still left in the sky, just as in this photo. And when strung with Christmas lights, it gave me hope that this Christmas would prove magical; that my mother might be healed from her demons and that peace might be known between my father and mother, at least for a short period of time. Back then, we lived in a 1970’s ranch house. I somehow thought that if I lived in the red and beige stucco house, all would be well. I guess children need coat hooks to hang out garments of hope.

Bad picture, I know. It shows the back of my tudor. Only picture I have. It was the last day in my house before it was sold.

Not a great picture but I didn’t own a digital camera until the very end of my single years. This photo shows the back of my tudor. It was the last day in my house before it was sold.

After my divorce in 2002, I bought my own stucco tudor-ish house. I established a house of peace for my own two children who too had suffered through a few years of marital discord the likes that I certainly regret. I worked to establish our own health inside and out. I banished sugar and embraced whole grains–real whole grains (not General Mills cereals). We ate a very simple and affordable vegetarian diet. I worked for inner peace, taking up yoga and reading endless books on Buddhism and simple living. I listened to Ellen Stanley aka Mother Banjo’s two-hour women folk radio show every Sunday afternoon when my children were at their dad’s house and I drank tea, journaled. At this time, I really felt a deep satisfaction with my life. Sure there were dark hours like the time the boiler went out in the middle of the night in the dead of winter and I sat with a 65-page manual to my boiler trying to figure out how to restart in, finally falling on my hands and knees on the cold cement basement floor tearfully praying. It all worked out in the end and I don’t even quite remember how–I think when I got up off my knees I was able to address the problem. Good times, hard times, but they were my times. I wasn’t looking into the window of another person’s home, wishing it were mine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI just found a few more pictures in my archives. Above is picture of Hannah from 2007 taken by my dad.  She is seated at the front of my house. She was in a play that day, hence all of the excess makeup. And then I also found a picture from our last Christmas in the house together, four years ago. Chris was in our lives then but still living in his cool Cathedral Hill town home at the time. He was with us for Christmas that year and took the below picture of me, Hannah, and Ethan. I didn’t even know it at the time, but I was about 3 or 4 days pregnant with Josh in this picture. So Josh too was present.

I still miss that tea cup. It broke a few years back. Ellen Stanley and that tea cup were essential parts of my seven single years.

I still miss that tea cup. It broke a few years back. Ellen Stanley and that tea cup served as essential props to my seven years of single life.

We once again live in a lovely stucco house. Not a tudor but a sturdy four square. I too have always loved four square’s, which is what my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Lee live in, just down the road from my house. I think I’ve previously mentioned in this blog that the week or so I spent with them each summer was the most peaceful, satisfying part of my childhood and young adult years. They grounded me and provided me with a sense of stability in an otherwise chaotic world (my parents finally divorced when I was thirty one and now have, seemingly, become best friends in their aging years although remain separate. So you just never know).

Ethan was recently accepted at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and also awarded a generous scholarship by MCAD. Today he decided to attend MCAD. He wants to live at home, at least for the first year or so. He loves Josh so much and Josh loves him so dearly. They are really the best of buds and so I am happy they can live in the same house for a few more years. Ethan also told me this morning that, last year at this time, he thought he wanted to go away some place warm for school, in California or in the south. He than said, “but now, I really love it here. I really love being here.” And by “here,” I think he was referring to this house. This glorious house which is a place of peace. Chris and I live together in such amazing peace and harmony. I never knew this was possible. We certainly make a very good team. Even if we are facing some exhausting days parenting these three. It’s mostly the little one that provides the material for our exhaustion, but every now and then, one of the other two comes into the mix–in need of more intensive parenting for a time. But I am grateful for it all. I am grateful to be right here in this moment, in this family. It is all I ever wanted. I feel like I finally found my way home.

I'll see if I have a winter photo.

I’ll see if I have a winter photo.

Umm, well, sort of . . .

Umm, well, sort of . . .

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