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WhereIAmNow

Last night, I had dinner with one of my favorite people in the world.  Becky and I have been friends for over a decade.   Whenever we get together, there is always so much to talk about; our lives have followed very similar courses.  We worked for the same company when we met, we got married within a few months of each other, each our our first child within weeks of each other, and you guessed it, had our second child within months of each other too!  Now, we go to the same church, volunteer on Wednesday nights, and still work in the same industry.  So, there is never a lack of conversational subjects. 

Becky is also a blogger and like me, she hasn’t blogged in a while.  We were talking about the need to “catch up” on our blogs. I haven’t blogged in months and months.  I have this big post talking about all the things we’ve done and all the things that have happened since last October when I last wrote.  It’s massively long and it’s taking me hours to try and find the pictures that I want to go with it.   I thought about that post when I got home last night and decided I didn’t want to finish it – too much time has passed and too many things have happened to try and cram them all in a post just for the sake of “catching up” feels overwhelming and pointless.

So, I’ve decided to pick up where I am now and go forward and maybe fill in the gaps as I go.

 

PumpkinMuffins-1

I’m the first to admit that quite often, I take on too much.  Last Friday was one of those times.  I volunteer every other week for an hour to read with a small group of fifth graders at a school across town.  Truthfully, it is one of my favorite things to do.  The students I work with are amazing, the books are great, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a really easy volunteering gig – I just have to read a book every two weeks and show up and talk.  I have to be there at 7:30 a.m. which is actually good because it doesn’t really interfere with my work schedule.  If it started at 10:00 a.m., I can almost guarantee that any day I volunteered we’d have server crash or a program bug at work.  Anyway, back to last Friday.  The day also happened to be the quarterly teacher breakfast at the girls’ school.  Again, for me, it’s a perfect volunteer opportunity – I get to cook and show the incredible teachers just a little bit of my appreciation.  So, I signed up to make two dishes for the breakfast – my lemon blueberry breakfast bake and these muffins.

Now, common sense would tell you that if I had to have my baked goods to school by 7:00 a.m and then be downtown at the other school by 7:30 a.m. that I would have at least baked one thing the night before.. You would be assuming that I have common sense.  I don’t.  So, I got up early and tried to bake.  I made it through the blueberry bake quickly, but these muffins were more labor and time intensive than I’d originally thought.  So, they were still in the oven baking when I left and I asked Steve to pull them out when they finished.  Then, once I got home from volunteering, I added the glaze.  I was so disappointed that I didn’t get to share them with the teachers at the breakfast, but Abigail LOVED them and had one for breakfast for several days, so I guess it wasn’t a complete loss!

Honestly, the recipe isn’t difficult and it really doesn’t take too long – if there hadn’t been so much going on, I would have said it was fairly quick and very easy!. Here’s the recipe so you can try it for yourself.  I found the recipe at TidyMom.  Check out here site – she’s got some other yummy recipes, too!

Ingredients:

For the Muffins

  • 1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature

 

  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon coarse of sea salt
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 1/3 cup of whole buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups of pure pumpkin puree  (you’ll have a little left over or not if your husband kindly cleans the kitchen before you get home from volunteering and tosses the extra pumpkin – luckily you’ll have 27 other cans of pumpkin in the pantry
  • 1 cup of packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • For the Glaze
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon of half & half
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons of pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 12 standard muffin cups with cupcake papers (I found the cute Chevron ones at Publix!)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla and the pumpkin.
  5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin mixture, then the flour mixture.  Beat on medium speed to combine
  6. Pour 1/3 of a cup of the batter into the muffin liners.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let the muffins cool for about ten minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze.  Put the powdered sugar in a bowl, and slowly whisk in milk and vanilla until there are no lumps. Continue to whisk while adding the pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and melted butter until smooth.
  8. Place a layer of wax or parchment paper under the cooling rack. Dip the muffin crowns into the glaze, place the muffins back onto the cooling rack and allow the glaze to harden.  You can dip them again if you’d like to get a little extra glaze on the muffins, but I found that one dip was plenty!

Enjoy!

In the dark, Steve reaches across our bed for my hand and says softly, “I don’t want to scare you but there is a bat on the other side of the dresser.”  Because my mind can’t quite process the events of the last few days, I think he is talking about a live bat.  My first thought is, “Why the heck are you telling me this?  Why aren’t you already out of the bed and getting it out of our house?”  Then I remember.  He’s talking about the aluminum baseball bat, not a live one.  The one he wants me to use to protect myself and the girls.  I tend to be the over-reactor in our family; few things ruffle Steve.  In our fifteen years together, not once has he ever coached me on protecting myself or suggested that I have a weapon of any kind.  The comment about the bat tells me that my fear is not my imagination; it is real and I have to face it.

The back story on this is somewhat long and torrid.  I have made some huge mistakes and I fear that my hubris has brought this fear into my house, into our lives, into my children’s lives.  About eighteen months ago, my mother hired a handyman.  I have had some misgivings about this from the beginning.  She found the handy man, not by calling a reputable company or even through a friend of a friend, but by hiring the man who came to change her flat tire.  Since then, he has followed her from Louisiana to Florida and has gone from being her handyman to her full-time caregiver.  From the start, it was been a volatile relationship with repeated fights, multiple “I quits!  You’re fired!” with periods of relative calm in between.  The caregiver has issues with alcohol and would show up drunk at mom’s house, one time even taking her car without permission in the middle of the night (I would call this stealing but my mother doesn’t agree with me on that point).  I would occasionally think that I should say something but honestly, I was busy and my mother is an adult; I should have listened to that little nagging voice in my head.

This year, my mother has been in the hospital four times.  After the third time, our family moved mom to a rehabilitation facility to help her get some therapy to get some strength back.  It was a categorical disaster.  Mom didn’t want to be there and the caregiver enabled all of her concerns.  The whole thing ended with him checking her out of the facility after five days instead of the minimum of three weeks that she needed to be there.  I was furious and I let the caregiver know.   We were communicating by texts which proceeded to get increasingly ugly.  So, I did what any over-the-age-of-twelve person would do in a no-win situation.  I blocked his number on my phone and told my mom that he behaved inappropriately and that while she was welcome to visit me any time I wasn’t going to have any interaction with the caregiver.  I didn’t give her the specifics of what had happened.  I know what you’re thinking and trust me, I’m thinking it too.  I am an idiot.  But, truthfully, there wasn’t much that I could do – my mother is an adult and who she chooses to have in her life is exactly that – her choice.

On September 13th, Mom fell outside her house and was gravely injured.  She has spent the last six weeks in the hospital and in a rehabilitation facility while she tries to heal.  I have had to see the caregiver on several occasions.  I have not spoken to him.  I have chosen instead to completely ignore him.  I have also done as much research as possible and learned some disturbing things about this man that is my mother’s caregiver.  My mother has reprimanded me for being rude; I have stood my ground.  He has continued to make veiled threats about me and my family on Facebook (“don’t you hate when you have to be nice to people when you really want to throw a brick at them?”  “some people’s children are b**ches”)  ***Note:  If you want to make veiled threats about someone, please have the sense to learn how to manage your Facebook privacy settings.  Also, writing them down in texts probably isn’t a good idea either****

Tuesday morning was horrible.  I went to visit my mom and the caregiver was there and I continued my ignoring act and he finally walked out of the room and my mom again reprimanded me for my behavior.   Later, as the caregiver was leaving the facility, he just glared at me – gone was the sad, injured persona that he puts on for my mother.

Tuesday night was the pivotal plot point in this story.  The caregiver posted another derogatory note on Facebook, again veiled so that unless you knew what happened earlier in the day, you couldn’t be certain who it was about.  I am tired, my friends.  Six weeks of worry about my mother and dealing with this man have worn on me.  I read the post and the tears just started and I couldn’t stop them.  Steve, from across the room, asked what was wrong.  And for the first time, I realized what it was.  I am scared – what can the caregiver do to me?  To my family?  To my babies?  The veiled threat on Tuesday night implied violence if you read it one way.  What have I done?  Pretending to be tough by simply ignoring him and making my feelings know to anyone who will listen.  Have I antagonized a monster?  At this point, if this were a play, the notes would say “Our hero enters stage right”.

Because that is what exactly happened.  Steve took my fear and my worry and he took action.  One look at my face and he immediately called my mother and told her what was happening.  Then, he called the caregiver and told him in no uncertain terms that if he continued to harass me in any way, he would be calling the police.  The caregiver hung up on him, removed the offending post, changed his cell phone number, closed his Facebook account, and called my mother and told her that he quit. Steve held my hand, whispered calming words, and told me about the bat.

On Wednesday, I was home alone with Gracie and the caregiver drove by our house (a place he has absolutely no need to be near) , stopped in the road, and turned and stared in my living room window.  He did this not once, but twice.  Anger and fear immediately began a vicious war in my chest.  I’m sad to say that fear won.  After I dropped the girls at choir, I went immediately to our sheriff’s sub-station and explained everything.  The deputy said what I already knew – the caregiver hasn’t broken any laws – he’s skirting them and trying to intimidate me.  But, the deputy said they will make extra patrols around our street and if at any time I feel scared, he told me to immediately call 911.

An hour later, I drove past my mom’s house and the caregiver’s truck was parked there.  Again, some place that he had no reason to be.  My mom is still in the rehab facility and he has supposedly quit working for her.  Steve and I each drove by a few more times over the next few hours and the truck was still there.  We called my mom and she asked us to call the sheriff.  So, after living here for twenty years and never having to call the police, I called them twice within four hours.  About the same person.  A deputy met Steve at my mom’s house and the went inside and there was no sign of the caregiver.  Apparently, parking the truck there is just another intimidation factor.

I have thought seriously about posting this story.  Obviously, since you’re reading it, I decided to brave it.  The truth is that there are times when the story behind your fear must remain hidden from the world – times when your very safety depends on that.  This is not one of those times. I do not have the weapons of intimidation in my arsenal; and making veiled threats on Facebook isn’t my style; neither is using language that I find offensive.  I do have a weapon though – my weapon is my story, my words, and what I know to be true.   I will not cower in silence; I will not hide my fear inside my house, afraid to live my life.  I am aware that what happens after I post this may cost me my relationship with both my mother and my grandfather, since they still refuse to fully believe my fears.  But, I will not hide.  I am surrounded by love that gives me strength.  That, and I have my bat for protection!

I’m driving home from dropping the girls off at school and to my right, I see a beautiful linear rainbow, shooting down out of a storm cloud.  It is a the fifth or sixth rainbow I’ve seen in the last three days.  My eyes start to fill with tears and I begin to wonder if maybe all these rainbows are a sign from my father that everything is going to be okay. 

My mother has been in the hospital (again) for the last three days.  She fell, outside, sometime during the night Friday and fortunately, a passerby spotted her on her driveway early Saturday morning.  Mom was lucky in a lot of ways – lucky she fell in the front yard, lucky the passerby listened to her instincts and made her husband stop, lucky that she lives relatively close to a major hospital.  Definitely lucky, but at the same time, it was a close call and there were a lot of scary moments – her blood pressure when she arrived a the hospital for 47/18, her blood sugars were brushing with 600, and there is a long, deep, deep, deep gash in her left calf that will take months to heal.  Hospital stays are never easy with my mother, even for “easy” things like cellulitis infections.  She seems to follow this pattern of being almost impossible to wake for a few days, followed by a period of confusion that usually involves ripping out IVs and her mediport, then a period of belligerence where she accuses the doctors and nurses and me and my brother and sister of trying to kill her, and then finally she starts to get better and doesn’t remember anything that’s happened in the previous days and says that we’re all lying about her behavior.  Exhausting doesn’t even begin to cover it.  I’d rather have a root canal.

Today, Mom is between the confusion and belligerence stages.  I’m trying to keep my energy up with green smoothies and long walks at the park, but sometimes that feels like protecting your house from a hurricane with cardboard.  Still, when I see the rainbow I think my dad is sending me a sign.

Then, I realize that is ridiculous.  My dad would never send a rainbow as sign.  My dad didn’t work that way.  He’d be far more likely to send someone to tell a completely tasteless joke at the most inopportune time.  Or, he’d send something useful and home-baked, like a pumpkin pie.   And I start to laugh because, I’m telling you, if I see a random pumpkin pie on the side of the road, I’m stopping and eating the whole thing.  And I laugh more because the thought crosses my mind that I should probably start carrying a can of whipped cream around with me.  And I laugh more because I realize that this ability to laugh at inappropriate times, to see the humor in even the most difficult of situations: that is a gift.  And it comes straight from my father. 

AbigailIsSeven-1

Eight years ago, at the end of August, I started to feel horrible.  I was seven months pregnant and I put my feelings off to a combination of that, the fact that we were in the of a blistering Florida summer, and that two women at work were taking a perverse pleasure in bullying me (for some reason, on of them decided she wanted my job and they joined forces to try any way they could to undermine my work).  By early September, I was miserable.  I spent a lot of time crying; my feet were swelling; I was so tired that it was all I could do to make it through the day and fall into bed at night.  Labor Day weekend, we tried to go shopping for things that we needed for the baby’s arrival in eight weeks.  I didn’t enjoy it – all I felt was a sense of doom and overwhelming sadness.

On September 13th, I went to my regular OB/GYN appointment.  I was actually feeling a little better that day, probably because the appointment was earlier and I hadn’t been to work yet.  I sat in the waiting room, leafed through a magazine, and admired the outfit of the beautiful woman sitting across from me.  I thought to myself that since I still had almost seven weeks to go before my due date that I should probably buy one more maternity outfit.  The nurse called me back to the room and then took my blood pressure.  That was when everything changed.  My normal non-pregnant blood pressure tended to run pretty low, somewhere in the 110/68 range. When the nurse read the numbers that morning, they were 190/110.  The doctor came in and repeated the test and got the same numbers.  He sent me straight to the hospital.  I hung out in triage and after some medicine and rest, the numbers started to come down and they decided to admit me for at least one night to see what would happen.  While I was waiting for my room, I had a placental abruption and fifteen minutes later, Abigail was born by emergency c-section.  And, my life has never been the same.

By all indicators, both Abigail and I made it through our scary ordeal completely unscathed.  She wasn’t breathing when she was born and had to spend a week in the NICU but now she is a happy, intelligent, stubborn, funny almost eight-year-old.  I spent 24 hours after surgery in a high risk room with round the clock care and a continuous magnesium sulfate drip but recovered quickly and I don’t seem to have any lasting consequences. 

But, every September, I start to feel a surge of sadness that I can’t quite shake.  I start to play the “what if” game.  What if I hadn’t had a doctor’s appointment that day?  What if I hadn’t been at the hospital when the abruption happened?  Three years ago, I thought that I might be moving past it all, but then, that September, Abigail started having something that looked for all the world like nocturnal seizures (she ended up having a periodic limb movement disorder that was alleviated when we removed her tonsils).  And September again became a time of anxiety. 

This year, though, September is going to be different.  I love September – it is  a month of new beginnings, the last grasp of summer, the beginning of fall.  The month my sister was born.  The month my baby was born.  The month that could hold so much joy, if only I would let it.  Maybe I’m feeling this way because the last few months have been exhausting, emotionally and physically and I’m ready for a change and I’m not willing to to sacrifice time that I could be joyful dwelling in the past.  Whatever the reason, this year I’m taking back September.