Visiting Her

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Saturday marked the 10th visit that I have escorted Ethan on to visit his mom.  It also marked the most uncomfortable one.

Ethan and I didn’t have to wait long for her to come out.  Eliza was on time because she was called to the visit from her culinary arts class.  This time I didn’t get out of my seat to hug her.  She didn’t make her way over to my chair to hug me either.

She appeared a little surprised to see us because we did not visit on the day they we normally do.  Eliza gave me a half-hearted smile as she signed in at the desk.  I don’t think she was prepared for a visit.  Usually that’s why it takes so long for her to come out because she spends about an hour and a half getting ready.  Her hair was pulled in a simple ponytail (no bells and whistles) and her face was free of vivid eyeshadow and mascara. 

Eliza seemed embarrassed to be “caught” not looking her best.  She kept her head down most of the visit and made little eye contact with me.  She even gave an explanation for her appearance saying that her hair was frizzy from working in the garden on the previous day. 

We played card games and ate snacks.  Mother and son did most of the talking as I said very little.  I gave her an update on Evan and added a few remarks here and there, but that was basically it. 

I think I was sulking a little.  I was polite yet reserved.  Just being in the prison was a reminder of how she failed to notify me about the lockdown.  I recalled reading comments on the prison message board from posters who had received letters from friends and family warning them of the situation.   Once again I was stung by her discourtesy.   

When Eliza mentioned the woman who escaped (providing Ethan with a detailed version including how she knitted herself an entire outfit to escape in), I used the opportunity to let her know that I had planned to bring Ethan down that very weekend.  I explained that it was Tasha who had informed me of the restriction–saving me time and gas.  I told her that I appreciated Tasha’s thoughtfulness.

I hope that she read between the lines.  I did not want to address the matter directly because I did not want to air our issues in front of Ethan.  Nor did I feel like writing her a letter  beforehand to request that she share these minute occurences with me.  I just want her to grow up.

I could write her for future reference (in the event that it never occurred to her to inform me) and request that she keep me abreast of anything that might affect our monthly visits.  However,  I’m not sure that she would comply anyways.

At the end of the visit she hugged Ethan goodbye.  I inched far away from the table because I did not feel like hugging her.  However, Eliza walked around the table so she could hug me.  I was a little surprised because if she would have read my body language she would have known that I wasn’t up for it.  Maybe she felt bad. 

Maybe I am too sensitive.

My fellow blogger friend Stacy wrote a great a post about hug therapy.  It made me realize that I do need to hug her.  She wrote There are actual health benefits to hugging.  According to one article, we need 8 hugs a day for maintenance and 12 hugs a day for growth.  Two other articles expressed that hugging lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.  In the third article, I read, it talked about how being hugged makes us feel accepted and compassion.  These emotions tend to make us feel more relaxed and improve our attitude. 

Maybe one day my warm hugs will melt the polar region of her heart.

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To Her, with Love

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I have received such an outpouring of love from students both past and present.  Upon learning of my loss, I have had mounds of student visitors bearing cards, teddy bears, flowers, and plants.  Not to mention the  myraid of text messages and phone calls I have gotten. 

There have been so many former students visiting me in the last couple of weeks that the staff has been forced to escort various groups to my class.  Typically visitors are asked to come during a prep or teacher’s lunch, but I guess I must look like I need cheering up because they have definitely relaxed the policy for me.  

I was a bit surprised how quickly word spread.  However, when I learned that the majority found out through a current student’s message of condolence for me on her Facebook page, I smiled.  The kids put everything important to them online.   This act spurred text messages sent and forwarded to any student who has ever had me as a teacher.

I have barely had an appetite and have eaten little here recently.  I was quite touched earlier in the week when Ashley, one of my students who comes to my room for our lunch period placed a bag of chips in front of me.  She shyly explained that she had to make sure that I ate something becasue she has noticed that I no longer eat.

Really, I am filled with such gratitude and awe that they care so much about me.  A teacher couldn’t ask for anything more.  I know exactly how Sally Fields felt when she uttered those lines after winning the Oscar.  Not only do they like me, they love me!

Her Sleeve

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By now, I know that Eliza has received our letter that we wrote in response to hers. I’m sure she was not happy with what was written considering that we soundly refuted every concern she raised.  Eliza thought  she was going to be able to write the judge without us ever knowing and get a ruling in her favor.  It probably was a shock to her system when she received the letter from the clerk informing her that we were sent a copy.  So at today’s visit I had no idea what to expect from her.  At the last visit  she was nervous and insecure.

 I suppose I thought she would be somewhat distant and/or hostile.  With that in mind I braced myself for whatever was coming.  However, she was on her very best behavior, other than throwing one jab my husband’s way when I gave her an update about Evan (She declared that Evan’s mental illness derives from my husband’s family because he has a cousin who is schitzophrenic.  I told her that it was unlikely because it was his cousin’s mom who suffered from mental illness. My husband and his cousin are related because their dads are brothers.)  She was quite charming.  She even asked about Nicholas–something that she has NEVER done before.  Eliza also asked if I would write her regarding the conversation that I have scheduled with Evan’s pyschiatrist on Wednesday.  And:

  • She apologized for taking 45 minutes to come out.
  • She shared with me that she is interested in taking cosmetology classes.
  • Eliza has put in a transfer request to a prison that is much closer.
  • Eliza hugged me at the end of the visit.
  • She shared with me that her culinary arts class would get to cook a Thanksgiving dinner which gave her something to look forward to.
  • She asked if I would send her more of Evan’s drawings.
  • She inquired about how my stepfather was doing.
  • Eliza told me the times that her other son has football games so that I could take the boys if I wanted.
  • She expressed her thanks and appreciation to me for bringing Ethan down.

It was a tad unsettling.  She is the proverbial box of chocolates that Forest Gump spoke of, you just never know what your gonna get.  Generally she is pleasant in person because for some reason, I think she is intimidated by me.  Once she is no longer in my presence, her true self and feelings emerge.  She allows her paranoia and anxiety to take control.  She is also aided and abetted by the numerous prison attorneys who work for free and supply her with poor, illogical advice.  Let’s not forget about the other pot stirrers who love to cook up batches of trouble and contention. 

I wonder if she felt bad for writing what she did?  Or is it that she misses the special favors that she used to get from me?  Maybe she misses hearing her name called at mail time and receiving the care packages that I used to send.  Sometimes she is so hard to read. Forgive me for being suspicious, but I am left to wonder what Eliza has up her sleeve!  It could just be her arm, but her sudden change in attitude makes a girl wonder…

Her Final Gift

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When I was in junior high my mother would often speak of wanting to donate her body to science.  She worked in the medical field and was very conscientious about the need for medical research.  However, I didn’t place too much stock in her desires.  I was certain that it was just wishful thinking on her part.  After all, I had never heard of anyone who had actually done this before.  Plus it was too weird to consider.  It sounded like something that a character would do in a 1950’s B movie.

A year and a half before my mother’s death this very conversation surfaced again.  I was visiting her at home when she asked me if I was okay with her donating her body.  It still felt creepy but I told her that it was fine with me if that was what she really wanted.  I could see the look of relief on her face.  I didn’t like the idea but I didn’t want to tell her that; I just wanted to change the topic. 

A few weeks later she asked me to write down a number.  She said “When I die I need you to call this number.  Put it somewhere safe because it’s important that IU receives my body in a timely manner. (She held up her small Anatomical Will card) I even have to keep this on me at all times.  Feeling very chilled to the bone I replied, “Mommy, don’t say that, you are not going to die!”

I programmed the number in my cell phone with dread.  I didn’t ever want to have to dial that number!  I knew that my mom was pretty ill but I didn’t want her to be so accepting of it!  I didn’t want to think about her dying.  I had to choke back tears.   I knew my sadness would worry her.  I wanted her to think that I was stronger than what I really was.

The day she took her last breath and gave into death I thought of her instructions.  I hesitated briefly to make the call.  I felt horrified at the thought of both students and instructors discussing her in impersonal tones and dissecting her diabetes ravaged remains.

A little while later I managed to compose myself enough to make the call.  The people at the IU Anatomical Gift Program were very kind.  However, they were appalled that the hospital staff had allowed me to make the contact–asserting that they should have made the arrangements.  It was a difficult call to make but I remained encouraged by the notion that I was carrying out her final wishes.

It was strange not having her body at the service.  I knew many people were wondering if she had been cremated.  On her program I made note of my mother’s contribution.  I was undone with emotion when the funeral director read the statement. 

I felt so blessed to have had the generous, gracious, and thoughtful mother that I had.  She wanted to help advance the research for diabetes, a disease that has all but annihilated our family tree. 

Three weeks after her death, I received a letter from the IU School of Medicine.  It read: “The generous donation of Mrs. D. Cooper is much appreciated.  Human bodies used for teaching are obtained entirely through donations.  This gift has contributed significantly to the advancement of health science education programs in our state.  Teaching and research programs at the IU Schools of Medicine and Dentistry rely on these generous body donations to teach physicians, dentists, physical therapists, nurses and other allied health professionals.  Those who decide to bequeath their bodies to the health sciences have made a significant contribution that benefits the quality of life and care for the living.”

I was simply overcome with admiration, pride, and solace.  I could not stop my tears from flowing or my smile from forming.  I realized that my mother was beautiful in life as well as in death.  It was a bittersweet yet triumphant revelation.

I know that my mother cared enough to carry out this final act of grace in hopes that her children and grandchildren won’t have to suffer the same fate as she did.  Or her mother, baby sister, only brother, and great-aunt did.  Not only would we benefit from her selflessness, others would as well.  My mother, the giver, had one final gift to share with the world–herself.

The Empire Strikes Back

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I’ve known for awhile that I need to set boundaries with certain people.  However, I am too “nice” for the most part.  I have a hard time with this because I don’t want to hurt anyone.  There have been periods in my life where I have let others take advantage of me because I have been too meek to put up fences.

Not anymore! I have a new attitude because I am tired of putting the needs of others before mine. Cases in point:

  • When Jazmine’s mom is being whiny about my lack of visiting trips, I ignore her.  I no longer get defensive and angry.  I’ve decided that I will take her to visit when it is convenient for me, and it may never be convenient for me to do so! 
  • I’ve decided if Eliza’s sister tries to contact me again that I won’t hide from my ringing phone.  I am going to answer and kindly ask her not to call me ever again. I’ve already donated their clothes so there is no reason to bother me.  I’m done with that chapter.
  • My little brother loves to borrow money from me.  However, he only calls when he needs something which in turn, makes me feel used.  I don’t like this feeling! Therefore, the next time he calls I am not going to allow him to manipulate me into giving him money.
  • If I don’t feel like doing something, I’m going to take Nancy’s advice and “Just Say No!” My hair stylist was hosting a cosmetics party that I did not want to attend.  One, because I had attended a gathering from the same company a couple of months ago.  Two, I don’t really like their products.  I am proud to say that I stuck to my guns on this one!  In the past I would have went regardless of my true desire.
  • The custodian at work has been trying to use his broom to sweep me off my feet.  I haven’t told him outright that I am not interested in fear of hurting his feelings.  However, I know that I can no longer tiptoe through the tulips–I plan to tell him firmly how I feel because I don’t want to land myself in a situation that I don’t want to be in.
  • I haven’t attended any of the meetings at the new school that I have been assigned to in the fall.  After working a full day, attending meetings at my present place of employment, and picking up and caring for the kids–I have no time.  I refuse to do double duty and try to serve two masters.  When I am an official employee of the other school, I will follow their program.  Until then, I am not going to drive myself ragged, not to mention, locate and pay for a babysitter!

These are only a few ways that I am staying true to myself.  How about you?

The Simple Life

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I have always been a simple person.  And I’m finding that with each passing year that I am becoming increasing more so.  I don’t believe in having too much of anything.  I only want enough to get by. 

We live in a simple house with simple decor.  I drive a simple car (at least by my standards). 

I save for what I want.

I don’t like to accumulate things.  I am the type of person that if I have an excess of something, you better believe  it will be given away.  My motto is “if I”m not using it, someone else should.”  There is no room in my heart to be wasteful.  My sister always says, “Can I ever leave the way I came?!, as she carries out armfuls of things after visiting me.

It’s not that I don’t like nice things because I do. 

Lately I have been more deliberate about what I buy.  One reason being is that I dislike cluttering my purse with receipts!  These little pieces of paper really help curtail my spending.

I also like being creative.  I want to try to find ways to refurbish, recreate, renew, or reuse what I already have.

I’d love to hear some of the tips that you all use to help keep life simple.

Happy Birthday!

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Ian turned six last week.  It is our tradition to go out to dinner on the birthday no matter what.  Usually we make reservations at Benihana’s and invite family and friends.  This year we asked Iam where he would like to eat.  Afterall, he is six and might want to go to Chuckie Cheese for dinner.

Much to our surprise he opted for Olive Garden instead.  I just knew we were headed to Chuckie Cheese.  Darn!!!  I was looking forward to visiting with Chuckie himself!

On the way to school the morning of his birthday, Ian changed his mind.  He decided on Benihana’s so he could wear the balloon hat and dance.  My husband takes them to school so I had no idea this conversation took place until mid day. 

I called my husband on my lunch break and he told me about the change in plans.  He said that Ian and Imani were in the back seat arguing about where to go.  Ian told her it was his birthday and he could go where ever he wanted to go.  Imani really had her heart set on Olive Garden and was trying her best to get him to go there for dinner.

After school, Imani did not forget the earlier argument.  “Ian we are going to Benihana’s for Daddy’s birthday.  I want Olive Garden Ian.  You said that first anway.  I want to go to Olive Garden Ian.  Mommy, how much longer is my birthday?  I want to go to Olive Garden.”

Imani was fine after we arrived at Benihana.  She even helped Ian dance when the restaraunt staff sang to Ian.

On Sunday, we gave him a big birthday party.  Our friends and their children were invited along with our neighbors.  We grilled and had cupcakes instead of a cake.  The kids loved this idea.  Husband found the cupcakes with toy Spiderman and Transformer rings sticking out of the icing. 

Ian’s birthday wish was to have a Bakugan.  When he first told me what he wanted I had no idea what he was talking about.  My husband asked one of the older boys on our street if he knew what Ian wanted.  He had one and showed the toy to my husband.  When my husband went to find it at the store the sales clerk told him that the store could not keep it on the shelf.  I ran around on Saturday looking for the toy.  I finally found what I was looking for.  Luckily they had just a few left so I grabbed what they had.

Ian’s eyes lit up as he opened each one.  I’m still not sure what it does even after watching him play with the Bakugan.  It really makes no sense to me.  But hey, if he’s happy, I’m happy!

Night at the Museum

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A popular place for both tourists and locals

A popular place for both tourists and locals

Rhonda and I took the kids to the children’s museum last night.  It is the best one in the country–no kidding!  Visiting the museum brings back so many memories for me as we use to go often when I was a child. 

Welcome to the Dinosphere!

Welcome to the Dinosphere!

I love the thought and creativity that they put in every exhibit.  It is truly a magical wonderland for kids and the kid at heart.  Not only is it entertaining, it is also educational as well.  You see kids of all ages learning and exploring at every turn.

Don't you just love Wonder Woman?

Don't you just love Wonder Woman?

Who is your favorite comic book super hero?  Rhonda and I both chose Wonder Woman–for obvious reasons!  We also chuckled at the fact that we used to wear the Wonder Woman underoos!

Who wants to go rock climbing!

Who wants to go rock climbing!

                            Nicholas loves to climb the rock wall.

Was this once an elephant?

Was this once an elephant?

                                                 Isn’t this neat!
Carousel Wishes and Dreams

Carousel Wishes and Dreams

                                     There is so much to see and do!

 

Dale Chilhuly's Fireworks of Glass

Dale Chilhuly's Fireworks of Glass

                             This amazing piece stands 43 feet tall!

The Dunes

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We spent the weekend visiting Evan.  He was supposed to have a twenty-four hour pass but it was revoked at the last minute due to aggression.  However, his therapist was very understanding of the distance we traveled and gave him a ten hour pass.  When we arrived we took him out to dinner.  He was pretty keyed up about seeing us and was wide awake.  This was unusual because typically he goes to bed very early. 

 

The kids were especially excited to see him.  Being Evan, he had gifts in hand for each of the boys.  On the first night he gave them a toy motorcycle.  He had also colored a picture for me. 

 

On the ride from dinner Evan had fallen asleep in the car.  While walking up the path to the center he sleepily inquired “Momma, do you see our shadows?”   I smiled and acknowledged that I did see them looming ahead. 

 

Climbing the mountain

Climbing the mountain

We picked Evan up early the next morning.  This time he presented each of his brothers with a coloring book.  We stopped by Target to grab snacks for the cooler.  Then we ate an early lunch and headed for the beaches located at the Dunes.  Ethan and Evan were in awe of the sand mountains and couldn’t wait to climb them.  Nicholas, an old pro, gave them pointers as they raced up Mount Baldy. 

 

Almost at the top

Almost at the top

It was a beautiful day for beaching.  It was not too hot, the sun was shining, and the air was breezy.  The water was full of waves, too.  Evan was busy collecting rocks (which gave me an idea for a Christmas gift) while I buried Nicholas in the sand turning him into a merman.  Ethan pretended to be a surf board while my husband sat back enjoying the scenary.  Jazmine spent the weekend with my brother.

Beautiful Day

Beautiful Day

After enjoying the water for a couple hours we headed to the LightHouse Premimum Outlet Mall for a little shopping.  Then we went to another beach to see the lighthouse upclose.  Usually we like to walk on the big jagged rocks that border the lighthouse walk, however, due to the choppy water and high level of bacteria at this beach, we used the catwalk that is suspended above.  When we reached the lighthouse I was able to take some great pictures.

Nicholas getting wiped out!

Nicholas getting wiped out!

We spent the rest of our time eating elephant ears, feeding the ducks, walking the gardens, and watching the boats in the harbor.  Our final stop was for dinner at Red Robin’s.   

 

It was sad saying goodbye to Evan.  To prolong the visit he talked nonstop as I signed him back into the center.  I can only hope that this extended time with us gave him some motivation to hurry up and come home! 

 

Amazing

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I just finished reading Out of Control by Steven Long which is about the Clara Harris murder case.  I also bought the movie for $3.99 at Blockbuster’s.  The movie, I might add, was a horrible depiction of the events that occurred. 

 But what surprised me the most about the case was the following article that I read about how Dr. Clara Harris received joint custody of her twin boys while incarcerated.  You may read the article by visiting: http://www.glennsacks.com/convicted_murderers_can.htm

I am interested to hear your opinions.