He Flies

I’ve kept this to myself for more than a year and at the risk of sounding completely delusional, I’ve decided to share my secret, I talk to flies.  Not so bad?  OK, it gets weirder…  I talk to my dad as a fly.  Yep, I warned you, now hold your judgement and let me explain.

I know a lot of people who see signs, symbols or animals and remember a loved one.  Most of the time I hear butterflies or cardinals, usually creatures with less filthy and annoying reputations.  My dad always wished he had the ability to fly and beginning with the day he passed it seemed he was communicating literally as a fly.  After battling a cancer that ate away at his bones, robbed his ability to move comfortably and provided a hellish amount of pain, he was finally free to fly.

The police arrived after his last breath before 4 AM, a fly flew in with them.  It was early spring and the first fly I had seen that year rested on the ceiling in his bedroom as I sat with my mom, numb from the previous year leading up to that moment.

fly-machu-picchuBreaking the empty silence,  “I still want to go on the family vacation we talked about,” Mom said.  We had been trying to keep my dad encouraged during his illness by talk of taking a big trip to Machu Picchu, a place he had always wanted to see.  We promised him we would all go when he regained his health, as we all believed he would.  The fly took off from the ceiling and circled around the room several times before landing again.  Half joking, I identified the fly as “Dad” and stated he was showing his support of us going.

Over the months that followed, I continued to have symbolic moments with flies.  Times when I was overwhelmed with sorrow, flies seemed to appear in the most unlikely or random places.  I didn’t associate all flies with my dad and there was some frustration within myself for even recognizing the connection an insect could have with someone I admired so much.  Generally, the disgust I had for flies and what they represented before, turned to comfort and humor when I needed it during the darkest moments of grief. An early fly memory was watching as the creature floundered in flight, wobbling like a drunk as if it were learning to fly brought a smile.  I lost my natural instinct to swat away flies and instead forced me to tune into the present in those moments they appeared.

Six months after his death, I dreaded my parent’s anniversary.  I knew it would be unbearable for my mom and I figured she wouldn’t want anyone around.  The hopelessness I felt during his illness returned with the hopelessness I had knowing there was nothing I could do to help my mom.  For the better half of the day I debated whether I should bring her the roses I knew my dad would have brought to her as he did every year.  I agonized, cried and could not turn my thoughts to anything else as I sat at my kitchen table confused.  Of course a fly appeared and circled around me, maybe out of anger he wasn’t physically present and my mom was suffering, I left for the opposite corner of the house to let my tears continue to flow.  The damn fly immediately followed and rested on the ceiling above my head.  For the first time in six months I spoke to the fly, to my dad.  “Do you want me to bring her roses,” I asked.  The fly left the ceiling and flew into my raw wet cheek.  “Fine Dad, I will go get them.”  I can’t imagine they helped Mom much that day, but Dad wanted her to have them.

Without hearing his words, the fly has been his form of communication to quiet my emotion, to remind me to breathe, at times to let me know his disapproval and more than anything to signal he is and always will be with me.  As strange as I know it is, I accept my bizarre connection to this six-legged, giant eyed buzzing creature.

This past summer my uncle also passed.  My cousin, sister and I all decided to get a tattoo for our dads, likely one of the last things they would have wanted us to do for them.  My uncle even told his daughters “tattoos are like putting a bumper sticker on a Cadillac.”  I guess I think of my body as more of a Volkswagen bus with a statement to make.  Of all the words or imagines I debated to use as a tribute to my dad, one thing seemed make the most sense.  The fly sits high on my left femur, the bone which broke on my dad’s way to being able to fly.

Happy Birthday Dad, the flies are not much of a substitute for being able to see you, talk to you and feel your hug.  I appreciate them either way.  You are free from pain and at peace now,  I miss you today and always.

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Alone and Full of Questions

I’m going to admit, I am struggling this week. It’s times like this, I really miss my dad. He and I would talk in ways I haven’t found anyone else I can speak openly with. It was easier to keep it between the two of us, basically only to avoid frustrating other people, facing their dismissal of our point of view or hearing their opinion of how we are crazy to have questions. But I still do have questions, I still am curious, I miss my confidant to share this perspective and so I struggle. I struggle with the hesitation to bring it up to anyone else but it’s a lonely place.
 
I don’t understand when it became unintelligent to ask questions. It’s curious to me how it is disrespectful to seek the truth. It’s frustrating to me when their is no accountability and total acceptance for news reports changing or omitting facts and filling with hours of persuasive commentary rather than providing actual details.
 
What happened in Las Vegas this week is concerning and confusing to me. The narrative being given has no logic and does not match what witnesses at the concert reported immediately following the event. The “facts” of the story are not static, more answers only lead me to to more questions. This event has many more people than usual scratching their heads to make sense of why things are not adding up. And I, like many of them are not tin foil hat wearing, Alex Jones following, conspiracy theorists – all things my dad and I despised being identified with. We simply have questions.
 
Questions are not disrespectful to victims, in fact it’s the opposite. If my loved one were injured or worse, I would demand justice. And based on the state of media in the United States and the corporate ownership, it would be foolish not to question why they can’t clearly articulate details and stick to them. Mark Twain said it best, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
 
If you have read this far, I appreciate you. Please for one minute, drop your feelings of why my opinion is all wrong and sit in a place of being curious. What if I am right and there is more than we are being told.

Grief at Five

“We feel mad and sad,” these were the words my five year old daughter articulated to my mom’s neighbor when Mom couldn’t respond to his question the day after my dad passed.  Parker’s wisdom in the moment demonstrated some maturity and emotional understanding of what we were all experiencing.

And just as everyone in the family has shown moments of strength, we have all succumb to the weight of his loss in different moments too.  For my daughter, she began grieving the changes to her Papa long before he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Parker and Papa shared rituals.  She would get the stick and flashlight for Papa and they would get down on their hands and knees to get kitty toys out from under the stove.  She would bring him the DVD case and together they would put in a movie and she would snuggle on his lap to watch.  Parker would sit with him after dinner to have dessert and he would allow her spoonfuls from his bowl of ice cream even when she had her own.

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Papa would let Parker interrupt his work in his home office to let her sit in his chair and play on the computer or make copies of her hand on his printer.  She would get excited when Papa would fill up the teapot and assist by getting out the honey and a spoon then patiently waited for her helping of honey.  Parker started calling him “Poppy,” a term of endearment he adored.  And a favorite ritual before we left their home was for Papa to pick her up for a giant sandwich hug with Poppy and Nana.

When my dad injured his back we made modifications to the sandwich hug.  Instead of getting down to play on the floor, she found joy in getting to play in his remote lift chair.  She naturally became more gentle with him and found on some days when he was more comfortable, she could still snuggle in to watch a movie with him.  Parker asked a lot of questions and mourned why Papa couldn’t pick her up anymore.  I tried to reaffirm it would only be a matter of time, he would heal and things would be back to normal.

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30 July 2015 – One month before diagnosis.

This time last year, her worry became even more evident, she questioned daily when Poppy’s back would be better.  He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma about a month shy of Parker’s fifth birthday and it seemed too complex to try to explain what was happening to her Papa.  “The doctors are helping Papa because he is sick,” seemed the only rational thing to say to a five year old.  Then we would talk about praying for him to heal and for his back to be all better again soon.

Repeating this conversation seemed to temporarily satisfy her and my dad improved through the autumn of 2015.  He was showing signs of healing and getting around easier.  Parker understood his limitations and adjusted to how their adoration for each other was changing.  A huge setback came just before the new year when a lesion on his femur broke with only the weight of his body standing.  With the exception of medical appointments, Papa lived in his own personal medical suite upstairs.  As the months passed in late winter and early spring, Parker went upstairs less and less.  I could see how nervous she felt in his presence and witnessing him suffer.  I made attempts to encourage their interactions with playing games or showing him a dance she was practicing in class.  Right or wrong, I tried to explain what was happening to his bones in five year old terms.  For months straight she would pick out the same bedtime story “Magic School Bus: The Human Body,” and often stopped on specific pages displaying a graphic of a skeleton to talk about Papa’s bones.  It was her own way of coping and trying to understand.

Dad never rebounded from the surgery, medications and treatment.  He passed at home in his sleep days after Easter.  Since it was early in the morning when I got the call, I left before Parker woke.  My husband and I agreed not to tell her, instead sending her to school so we could have a day to sort out arrangements.  The following morning, I dreaded telling Parker what happened to her beloved Poppy.  I worried she wouldn’t understand what death meant as she had no memory of losing someone.  We sat down with her in the kitchen and I did my best to conceal my tears and calm my voice.  Her tears were immediate as though she completely understood the gravity of him being gone.  We embraced and tried to turn our sadness to appreciation for him to no longer be in pain.  When we told her we would be going to Nana and Papa’s house for the day Parker begged to go to school, a place where she could be happy and forget.  She didn’t want to go to the house where Papa is supposed to be and him not be there.

As always, the opportunity to see her cousins and trumped the fear of the empty house.  She played with her cousins while the adults seemed to float around the house without intention, numb from the turbulence of the last year.  After her cousins had been gone a while in the late afternoon, Parker came running from upstairs sobbing.  Mom and my dad’s sister and I all felt the ripple of emotion and broke down with her.  I believe she had been upstairs to play in his lift chair, a game that was no longer fun with him gone.

In the days and weeks following we cried together frequently.  We expressed gratitude he was free from pain and we talked about how he would always be with us.  I encouraged Parker to know he could be with her whenever she felt she needed him.  On the way to school she would say she was going to bring him with her and talked to him on our way there.  She joked “He’s going the wrong way, no Poppy that’s not the right turn…”  And when we talked about him being with his mom, she would sometimes bring Grame along to school too.

It seemed the tearful sadness of losing Papa was lessened during the early summer.  She could talk about him without the heavy emotion and I was relieved she was coping so well.  Then there were times I wondered if I was doing everything right to help a five year old with grief.  On a few occasions she got stuck looking at pictures and would break down unable to catch her breath.  I validated her feelings by recalling stories of him and the funny things we would remember him by to help in the moment.

I had been concerned maybe my daughter was reflecting my emotions, maybe she was feeling the grief I was immersed in and so I have been careful to not initiate her thoughts or feelthelightfeelings.  I know her moments of grief are her own because many times I am blindsided by her eruption of sadness.  Like a peaceful ride in the car interrupted by a quivering voice in the backseat “I miss Papa.”  Parker recently began associating one song to Papa, a song she has loved for a long time but now can’t manage to hear without thinking of how much she misses him.There are even joyful celebrations where she turns to despair because Papa is not there to share in it.

The variety of ways Parker has expressed her heartache demonstrate how much she deeply loved her Poppy and also resemble the complicated way our whole family is coping with his loss.  In the last six months there have been times when talking about him was easy and then there are days when even the sight of a bird soaring can cause hysteria.  We know we each have individual triggers which can cause deep sorrow; a song, a date, a place or any synchronistic event.  And then there are other waves of grief which don’t seem to have a pairing, the misery builds to a peak and subsides.

The helplessness I felt with my dad in the last year of his life has transitioned to feeling helpless to support my mom and my daughter.  I want to always have the perfect words to make them hurt less.  And just as there were days I couldn’t do anything but stare at my dad, there are moments I am paralyzed in the faces of my mother and my child.  I am managing as best I can and accepting the unpredictable nature of grief and how it is impacting us in unique ways.  I understand it will get easier over time, though the waves may be less intense or less frequent we will ride these waves of grief indefinitely.

My hope is the waves Parker experiences will calm much sooner and easier than my own.  I want her to be able to remember the love he had for her without the deep sorrow of missing him.  I worry her memory of their rituals will fade, though I know she will never forget how much she loved Poppy.  And I know the pride he had in her will live on forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life on Purpose

As a mother and wife, it has been an extreme importance to provide a healthy life to those I love.  Until recently I believed I was doing a great job by being mindful of nutrition, being aware of toxic products and making conscious decisions about medical interventions.  It seemed simple because it was the lifestyle I was fortunate to grow up with, though something changed to make me understand there is more I can do to improve the environment I am raising my child in.

When my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in September 2015, I watched his condition deteriorate and felt the confusion, frustration and fear involved with cancer.  He was the only person in our family to ever receive a cancer diagnosis and I thought he was doing everything “right” to avoid getting cancer.  He was one who rarely got sick, religiously took vitamins, stayed active, maintained a healthy weight, often ate a vegetarian diet and stopped using the microwave because it zapped nutrients from foods.  Dad had never been hospitalized for anything ever, I wrongly assumed he would be safe from this type of disease.  Like most cancers, myeloma doesn’t have a direct cause provided with the diagnosis.  My dad received a double major in chemistry and biology, then made his professional career working in the chemical industry.  Despite the doctor’s hesitation to name a cause, it’s easy to see some correlation in how his cancer likely developed.

About the same time of the diagnosis, a friend contacted me about Norwex and emphasized how important this product could be in his home.  I declined hosting a party or learning more about the products as we were all engrossed in treatments, symptom management and appeasing his appetite.  At the end of March 2016, my dad passed and was finally at peace from the pain.

In the cycle of grief, I consider what we could have done different, how I could have helped more or what might have changed his outcome.  There are many things I wish could have been different for my dad and because I can’t change what happened with him, I am propelled to try to reduce the chances of anyone else suffering in the same way.

In every home there are known cancer causing agents; environmental toxins we clean with, put on our body, ingest and breathe on a regular basis.  Because they have commercials and are available to buy in stores, it’s normal to believe they are safe.  Alarmingly, of the 80,000 new chemicals which have been introduced to our market in the last fifty years, less than 200 have actually been tested for safety.  Many we use on a regular basis in the United States have been banned across Europe.  The statistics are shocking and really show consumers are not protected.  Norwex can provide the same or better standards of clean and can do so with only water and a lot less time.  Don’t believe me?  I’d be happy to prove it and help you create a safe, chemical free environment in your home.  While I cannot change the past, I am confident in my choice to live life on purpose now and share the microfiber magic with those I love.

The very best way to experience this safe clean and do it for free is by hosting a party.  Norwex is an extremely generous company by spoiling a hostess with free gifts just for bringing friends together to learn about the products.  Please check out my website, contact me about hosting a party and share with those you love and wish to protect.Norwex life on purpose

My Father, My Friend

Early yesterday morning my dad passed at home in his sleep, he had been ill and fighting for his life for the past year except we didn’t know how quickly it would take him from us.  How unfair it had been for him to get sick right at the time he should have been celebrating his retirement and living well-earned carefree years traveling with Mom.  I keep thinking of other things I wanted to tell him, words I wanted hear from him one more time and other ways we would have handled things if we weren’t acting out of a paniced fear.  My Dad and I knew each other in a way no one else on earth could relate to and I can’t think too long about how lonely life will be now without his connection.

I knew he was dying, I could see life fading away and I felt helpless to know there was nothing I could do to take the agony away from his body.  He pushed his body past it’s limits while bones collapsed and broke with no effort at all.  Dad’s steps became slower, his body weaker.  Towards the end he was sleeping more and eating less each day.  I knew he was dying, I could see life fading and I still believed I had more time.  His appearance became more fragile, he avoided having visitors because he didn’t want others to see him and remember him so sick.  For months I avoided being physically close to him when I came to the house, afraid I would unintentionally infect him with germs and make him feel even worse.

In the past few weeks I returned to giving him kisses on the forehead or cheek when I said goodbye.  Being so close, I could feel his bones protruding through his face and still I wanted to believe he would rebound, this would not be his fate.  I realize now our final interactions were my last goodbye.  If I had known, I would have stayed for longer. I would have told him I’m okay with him going because I don’t want him to be in pain.  I know he knows this now.

There are moments when peace calms the house and I feel reassured, Dad is not in anymore pain.  He is not suffering.  Our family is together now and connected by hugs, holding hands and laughter.  Then there are waves of grief which catch me off guard and squeeze the air tightly from my lungs, how did we get here to this point, how could this have happened to him?

Seeing how family and friends have responded in the last day has made me observe I am not the only one who has a unique and special connection to my dad.  It’s both comforting and distressing to recognize how influential my dad was to so many people.  He taught life lessons, was an example for how to be genuine to people and a devoted husband, father, brother, uncle and friend.  His cancer spread to impacting the lives of so many who loved and respected my dad, the grief is widespread.

In one of the moments of calm yesterday, I looked through the photos on his cell phone.  As predicted there were pictures of his grandchildren, of him with my mom, of his motorcycle travels with his brother, of the only cat he says ever loved him “Mozie,” and of the countryside in Italy where he took his last international trip.  Some pictures made me sob to see the joy on his face and the love in his eyes, knowing I wouldn’t ever see this in person again.  Then one image seemed to stand out from the rest, a heaven sent message from my dad for exactly this moment.oksign.jpg It hurts so much right now to think about him being gone and I know down the road everything is going to be okay, even if I can’t see it or feel it today.

Going to Prison

“Can you watch my daughter when I go to prison?”

In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have phrased the question to my mom in this way.  As if any mom would plan on their offspring going to prison, a law-abiding, mid-western,  suburban mother of three adult children with no criminal history might have an immediate stroke at the image of their beloved going to lock-up.  So I quickly backtracked to explain, “Only for one dinner.”

Llama Chuck teaches my Basic of Buddhism class and facilitates Buddhism for prisoners too, once a year he gets to invite others to attend a dinner with the prison participants.  He mentioned this outing for several weeks at class and encouraged people to sign up to come.  I had considered it, thought it would be an interesting experience, though I wasn’t sure it would fit in my busy schedule of motherhood.

Class seven was about Equanimity and The Eight Worldly Concerns.  Equanimity is the power of the mind being able to experience change and remain unmoved.  As a mountain remains stable through snow, wind and lightning; equanimity can maintain the mind through trauma, accidents and emotional pain.  In the Buddhist perspective it means accepting things as they are and not how you want them to be.  In the moment of crisis it would be difficult to engage my Buddha mind even though I understand the concept.  What is more challenging for me to grasp is how you can accept circumstances of the world and avoid apathy, indifference or detachment.  How do you care, without caring to be truly identifying with equanimity?

The usual rhythm of the class discusses the chapter and then breaks into smaller groups to talk about discussion questions.  The question of the day related to situations where equanimity would be best utilized and asked “How do you feel about inviting pain into your life?”  No one in our group admitted to masochism and struggled with the term inviting pain.  Once we agreed to think in terms of accepting pain as a part of life our group shared different sides of the spectrum, one individual reporting she avoids pain by keeping people at a distance in her life and not maintaining relationships while another woman stated she has noticed being ultra sensitive and feels she is in pain more than necessary.  Our discussion turned to opportunities we do “invite pain” when we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations like helping struggling friends or volunteering.  Spending time working at a soup kitchen or with hospice patients could be a way to practice equanimity, accepting things as they are without being apathetic.

At the end of class Llama Chuck reiterated his invitation to prison stating it was the last day to sign up.  Going to prison prisonsounded like a practice of equanimity for me.  I am angered at the prison system in our country and the rate of incarceration for petty and nonviolent crimes, and because of my feelings towards the system I have detached myself in many ways.  After his closing people began gathering their belongings.  In that moment I knew it would be an opportunity to practice caring without caring.  I needed one final push to nudge me all the way in to my decision.  I looked forward to a classmate who I had socialized with for the last several weeks, a Spanish teacher at a local college.  “Do you want to go to prison with me?”  I nonchalantly inquired knowing if she denied I was not signing up alone.

“I don’t have to teach a class that night,”  she thought for a second, “Sure.”  And within seconds we were jotting our names on the sign-up sheet.  (Sorry Mom, I’m locked-in to attend the prison dinner but I am not going to lock-up.)

The prison dinner is later this month and I will try to multiply my meditation practice to prepare to be equanimitable in prison.  Afterall I am only going for a few hours as a guest, equanimity as a true prisoner would take much more strength of the mind.

Lost Without My Mom’s

I hear a lot of women complaining about conflicts with their mom’s or with their mother-in-laws, and while any two people can’t see eye to eye on all issues I have to say I am eternally indebted to these two women in my life.  I am continuously amazed and appreciative of the love and support of both my mom and my mother-in-law.  Last week was another reminder of how I would be drowning without their help.

nanajacksonParker and I both came down with stomach flu-like symptoms, except her illness came first and included some diarrhea and mild fever.  When my flu came it hit me hard like a bad hangover only without the fun drunken state before hand.  I actually had to run out of a wedding reception to get sick and thankfully crawled my way back into the hotel room we reserved in the same building to begin my flu coma.  My mother-in-law had planned to keep Parker for the night to let us enjoy our evening as an adult couple, and despite my reservation leaving her in a not so perfect health I also knew there would be no better place for her to be than with her Nana.

When we finally made it home Sunday I quickly realized I was in no shape to care for myself and continue to clean up the messes in my daughter’s pants.  On Monday morning I alternated between resting and preparing to go to my parents.  It took all of my strength to get Parker loaded up and drive over to my waiting mom.  She played with, toileted, washed and fed my girl for the next two days while I faded in and out of conciousness letting the illness pass.  On Tuesday the symptoms of flu were gone; weakness from days with no appetite and great appreciation for my mom’s who helped me through the storm were what remained.

It still is astonishing to me how my body and my daughter’s body reacted to the same germs so dramatically different.  Parker sang and danced through her flu, while I could barely stand.  Is it a testament to her young healthy immune system and doing our best to protecting her from toxins for two and a half years?  Or is it a sign of my emotional stress taking it’s toll on my physical self?  Either way, I would be lost without the support of my mother-in-law and my mom and I am so thankful for them both.

 

Like Mother, Like Daughter and Daughter

“You have to slow down and watch what you are doing,” the words escaped my mouth echoing from my own childhood.  My mom would calmly and assertively interfere in careless actions or growing frustration with this statement.  Now decades later with my own child it seems an automatic response, my mom’s words filtering through my mouth.  When I first noticed this and other comments I have relayed to Parker, I couldn’t help to stop and think I am turning into my mom.

I know this thought evokes a comedic horror for many, the idea of resembling parents.  For me, the thought of turning into my mom carried a chuckle in a different sense, there is no way I can live up to who my mom is.  It would be a blessing if I could maintain a portion of her patience, an ounce of her generosity, or a sliver of her organization.  I envy her diligence and work ethic while I have mastered procrastination – efficiency under pressure.  She is the most dependable person you will encounter, and since she is a horrible liar you know you can trust exactly what she says she will do.  There are so many incredible characteristics my mom emulates, it wouldn’t be a burden to be more like her.  So I guess if I mimic some of her phrases, that’s just fine with me.

Nana & Parker

Nana & Parker

If I do my job right, decades from now, Parker won’t mind repeating my words either.  These days she is constantly cracking me up with the things I tell her for encouragement or warning which get reflected back to me.  Parker congratulates me with “Good job Mommy,” when I use the toilet.  She cautions me to “Be careful Mommy,” when I am mopping and the floor it wet.

I so appreciate the statements from both my mom and my daughter.  It’s a small reminder of the beautiful generations of women in my family, strong influences who have shaped who we are and how we think.

Sentimentally Adorable

prairieback“Dressing her in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ again?” my husband remarked at the sight of our daughter dressed on Easter morning.  Without clear intention to find this dress I stumbled upon it the night before in a box my mom had given to me.  The box contains my three decade old baby book, a kindergarten t-shirt, a hideous beaded shirt friends signed at my 9th birthday party, and countless school and girl scout projects.  The real treasures of the time capsule are the clothes my mom made for me when I was little including a lavender dress with white smocked pinafore.  It may be slightly home on the prairie, still it is too sentimentally adorable not to have my daughter wear it too.

We had a family celebration on Saturday at my parent’s house where Parker wore a new, very cute, brightly colored, springy dress.  Then Sunday our plan was to go back again for dinner with more family.  Despite there being plenty of dresses to choose from in her closet; I opted to take it back to 1986 or 1886 depending on how you look at it.  I knew no one else cared what she looked like on Easter and my mom would appreciate and love it.

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Finally with spring weather arriving we were able to play out in the yard on Sunday morning.  Her Easter basket from Nana contained some fun outdoor activities like bubbles and chalk.  Parker also got her first glimpse of flying a kite, though with trees and power lines constricting the yard it wasn’t as entertaining as I remember from my childhood.    She was delighted watching me run back and forth across the yard to get it up a few feet, and when it was her turn she was thoroughly disappointed when she didn’t get the same result.  Perhaps another try in a park or open prairie would be worthwhile.

prairiekite

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           Out of curiosity…

                 Would you dress up your child in

                            something you wore at their age?

Dollhouse Foreshadowing

My sister and I spent endless hours playing with dollhouses when we were little, I’m talking NASA astronaut training hours.  Our first dollhouse was constructed by my mom from a wooden craft kit.  The four room house was decorated and redecorated by painting the interior, gluing felt for carpeting and paper on the walls.  We bought furniture and accessories down to potted plants, tiny picture frames, dishes and tea cups.  Later we planned to add to our dollhouse neighborhood and each bought our own craft kits for additional houses.  My house, like many of my master-minded projects, never got completed.  I lost the directions and the beginnings of a large three-story house remained untouched in my parent’s basement for nearly 20 years.  Call it divine intervention interrupting either mom’s hoarding reservation in throwing things out or my inability to follow-through with projects; the remaining contents in the doll house kit got wet in a minor leak in their basement and the house was finally set out on the curb.

The clean up effort lead my mom and I to rediscovering the remaining dollhouses last week.  I assumed at some point I would introduce my daughter to the houses, thinking maybe when she is a little older.  Two years old is too young for the fragile old wood, it doesn’t light up or make sounds like other plastic houses she’s seen, and all of the itsy-bitsy accessories to keep track of is enough to cause me an aneurism.  In a few years I figured she would love the houses.  Then as quickly as the dollhouses were at table level and within reach, a childhood wave of sentiment rushed over me and I couldn’t wait for her to wake up from her nap to come and play.

My mom and I sorted through the miniature time capsule of our youth, cleaning up, dusting off and discarding what was broken or not worth keeping.  My sister was mighty pleased, back in the day, to use some creative skill in making her own dollhouse furniture.  Foam haphazardly covered in fabric as the bed would have been fit for a dollhouse equivalent to a crack house.  There were a few surprises in the excavation of the houses which ironically seemed accurate in our lives today.  My sister’s house was filled with pets, including two tigers.  This spring she will be completing her vet tech degree and the journey to get her there was inspired by her time working with the tigers at Endangered Animal Rescue in Citra, Florida.  (Click HERE for more on that story.)  My sister plans to work with a zoo veterinary department and continue her passion with big cats.

The other foreshadowing shock from our childhood houses, we found a black family.  In our suburban caucasian home I can’t remember or imagine why we had purchased a black family.  Perhaps my sister and I needed a way to distinguish who’s dolls belonged to each other?  Were we impatient with a store who ran out of white families?  Could it be my sister and I wisely saw a value in increasing the diversity in our dollhouse community?  Whatever the reasoning was back then it has long since been forgotten and I’m sure my twelve-year-old self would have never been able to know she would one day fall in love and marry a black man.

dollWith the components freshly sanitized, small accessories stored away and rooms reconfigured the houses were ready.  I barely withheld my desire to wake my daughter up to come and play…  Finally she arose and joined us downstairs to get her first glimpse of the hand crafted childhood treasure.  Parker jumped right into investigating the pieces of furniture, opening the refrigerator, rearranging the living room, and pointing out the bird-cage.  She opened the toilet seat and promptly put the little girl on it, holding the “mommy doll” near by to applaud her when she finished.  Dollhouses may predict the future and when a two-year old plays it replicates her present life with plenty of potty practice.

If you are interested in having your own fun with this creative and playful hobby you can find doll house kits online or at craft stores like Hobby Lobby or Jo Ann ETC.  In the Kansas City area you can check out Mini Temptations at 3633 West 95th in Overland Park, KS for a greater variety of houses, decorations, furniture and accessories you can see first hand.