Balance? What Does That Mean?

15 04 2011

I woke up early this morning and listened to my children breathing all around me.

I missed them already.

Their dad is coming to take them back to Washington, back to school and normal life, and I am staying here in Idaho to be with my mom when she starts her cancer treatment next week.

I’ve thought a lot the past two weeks about balance, and especially about balancing my responsibilities as a daughter with my responsibilities as a mother. (Although I’m not sold on that word “responsibilities.” That makes it sound too onerous, since I love being a daughter and I love being a mother. But since I can’t think of what else to call it, “responsibilities” stays for now.)

I’ve never been without my kids for more than a few days at a time.

Not in almost 11 years.

I’ll miss Colby’s counting, his little smile, his building of walls and lines, snuggles in the morning, and (most of all) giving him “Mom hugs.” The other night I put him up on my shoulders and he rubbed my fuzzy head like there was no tomorrow.

I’ll miss Rainbow’s jokes and laughter, her flexibility, and her fun personality. While playing charades with the cousins last week, she got the word “stapler.” She didn’t act like she was using a stapler, she acted like she was a stapler. Now one of my favorite memories.

I’ll miss my Eden’s goofy faces and silly dances, her desire to do all things creative (even when her mom tells her, “Later.”), and her constant measuring to see if she’s taller than I am (not yet). I dragged a box with all my (and Niki’s) Sweet Valley Twins and Babysitters’ Club books out of the loft for her this trip; she’s already on book six of the SVT. (Eden has promised me it won’t turn her into a drama queen.)

I’ll miss Zack explaining things to me, his excitement about Pokemon (I’m still clueless despite repeated attempts to educate me), and the small kindnesses he does when he thinks no one is watching. His cousin gave him a book the other day to read on his trip home. It’s the first of John Flanagan’s The Guardian’s Apprentice series, and happens to be one I recommended to him about six months ago after I’d read it. No dice, of course. But after his cousin gave it to him, he read it within 24 hours. (Yes, Mom’s opinion has been outranked by a peer’s opinion. And not for the last time, I’m sure. Ouch.)

I will miss them, but it will be good for them to spend some time with their dad. (I think it will be good for their dad, too. An educational experience all around.)

And it will be good for me to spend time with my mom and my dad.

I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve that elusive thing called “balance,” but I’m doing the best that I can. And really, that’s all a body can do.

All photos taken at Colby’s last occupational therapy session in mid-March. It happened to coincide with a day off of school for the other kids, which they were thrilled about (as you can see). He’s back on the waiting list.

It’s Only Hair

8 04 2011

It’s interesting to me how one moment–one tiny second in our entire lives–can sometimes change everything. You are going along, minding your own business, doing whatever it is that you do, and BAM! Things change. You change. You are no longer the person you were a moment ago.

On Sunday, my mom had what we first thought was a TIA, and then thought was a small stroke, and then discovered was a brain tumor.

My world completely changed.

It isn’t that I’ve taken my mom for granted, exactly. I’ve always been grateful for her. She does so much for so many people–me, as the one blessed to be her daughter, most of all.

I think it was that the future, the one I had built in my mind, suddenly wasn’t so certain. The nebulous figure Death that I knew would visit my immediate family sometime had suddenly gotten sharp edges and came into much more focus than I am comfortable with.

The same thing happened 2 1/2 years ago. My mother-in-law got cancer and we held our collective breath, hoping Death wouldn’t notice us.

Thankfully, he walked on by. Or perhaps I should say “miraculously,” because I truly think it was a miracle.

However, at the time of her diagnosis I remember feeling completely useless. What could I do, so far away? My heart ached. I couldn’t cure cancer. I couldn’t even understand half of the explanations.

I recall getting ready for bed one night in the middle of her treatment. I looked at myself as I brushed my hair, crying and praying. And I thought of something I could do.

“I’ll grow out my hair,” I thought. “I’ll give it to Locks of Love so they can use it to make a wig for someone who has cancer.”


This is a picture from the early fall in 2008, soon before her diagnosis. I’ve always been a short-hair kind of person. I had my moments of growing out the mane, but it never really made it past my shoulders–and that was in 7th grade. I thought I looked better (and it was certainly easier) with short hair.

From then until now, I’ve grown out my hair. My hair stylist was convinced I’d get attached to it and change my mind.

By the beginning of 2010, it was brushing my shoulders. I liked it in some ways, and in other ways it drove me crazy. Long hair takes so much effort, what with the drying and straightening or curling. When I put in the effort, it looked pretty good. All too often, though, I’d be pressed for time (what? Who, me?) and it would end up in a ponytail or a messy bun.

When I went and got my haircut last week (seriously, it was just last week. Even though it feels like it was about six months ago.), I told her I was still going to donate it. I’d figured it would take another year to grow it long enough to be able to cut it off at my chin and have the required ten inches to donate.

I can’t tell you how many times I wished  I could cut my hair over the last 2 1/2 years. I didn’t count. But every time I wanted to cut my hair I’d remember my mother-in-law and how happy she was to have a wig so she didn’t feel embarrassed about her bald head. I’d think to myself, “It’s only hair.”

So when I woke up at 3 am the other day and was thinking too much about how helpless I was, I realized that’s what I could do. I could shave off my hair. If I was shaving my head, there would be ten inches.

The longer I thought about it, the more determined I became to do it. I worried a little about how it would come off–would I appear like a martyr? I didn’t want to seem like that. I wanted to help somehow, and it seemed like one way I could do that would be to experience hats and head wraps and very little hair with my mother.

At one point I realized I was doing it more for myself than I was for her. I needed to do this.

In the scriptures, God and the prophets are continually urging the people to remember. Remember the great things I’ve done for your fathers. Remember Lot’s wife. Ye are slow to remember the Lord. Remember how great the Lord has blessed you.

It’s part of the mortal condition to be distracted. So many lessons I’ve had to learn more than once because I haven’t sufficiently remembered what I needed to.

I realized I wasn’t only shaving my head because I love my mother, and it sure as heck wasn’t to be a martyr. I shaved off my hair so that every time I see myself in the mirror, every time I feel the wind touch my scalp, every time I put on a hat, I can remember how great the Lord has blessed me to give me such a mother.

Her surgery is today to remove the tumor. I appreciate so much all of your prayers.