Saturday, December 28, 2019

Aunt Gerri, with a guest post from Lottie

Dear Aunt Gerri,

I have tried to write this so many times in the last few weeks, but every time I sit down, I freeze. There is so much to say, but it’s difficult to find the right words to say it.

So many of my best childhood memories involve you. We all spent so much time together at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. The kids would play in the huge yard, which isn’t so huge now that we’re older, while the grownups talked, cooked, laughed, and did grownup stuff. It was magical to spend time with all the cousins I love while exploring the house our mothers grew up in: laying in front of the gas fireplace, holidays, random Sundays with Noble Romans pizza, ping pong and pool in the basement. There were all of the brunches at Innsbrook with eleven of us trooping in to a big table dressed in our Sunday best. I don’t think you adults knew that I used to basically just eat caviar and lox. I remember our trips to Lake Lawn Lodge in Wisconsin in the summertime: all of us eating dinner together, dancing on the patio afterward, and spending lots of time in the game room. We rode horses, took boat rides, and even had fun in the car caravan on the way up to the resort. I wish I remembered the CB handle I used when we would talk between cars. All of our trips to Disney also stand out in my mind. I loved when Grandpa and Grandma did the Easter egg hunt in their resort room for us one year; I can’t believe they let us ransack their room that way! And of course there was the year we went over Christmas break and explored the Magic Kingdom until the early hours of the morning. . I know that you loved spending time with everyone, all together, no matter where we were. You and I had some adventures of our own, too. We took a road trip to Greenfield Village and learned all about Henry Ford, and we went to Venetian Night in Chicago a couple of times to see the boats and their beautiful lights sparkle on the water.

I took for granted that things would always be that way, and then as everyone got older, people began to make new places their home. We were together for holidays, but I missed the concentrated time we would spend together. When Trevor and I decided to move from Kentucky to Indiana, I was hoping to recapture some of that time together so I could share some of my childhood with my own kids. We had already lost Grandpa and Grandma, but I looked forward to spending time with the rest of you all.

Things changed when we lost Lynn way too early. I can’t imagine that you were ever the same after that. The only positive thing to come out of missing Lynn was realizing that none of us is promised much time in life, and we have to make the most of the time we do have. We started to get together more often, and it was amazing to watch my kids get to know and love you. Other than my parents and Trevor’s parents, you were the first to come to Kentucky to see them after they were born. You flew down and held them, admired them, and smiled your crinkly-eyed smile. Remember how we found the possum in my yard when you came to meet Dallas? You held him and watched toddler Lottie while I ran out and tried to move it out of the yard. I’ll never forget looking at the window from the yard and seeing you laugh at how scared I was.

Even though I’m an adult now with my own family, I just always assumed that you would be here, that our lives would go on with our Sunday get-togethers, articles from the WSJ in the mail from you, and holiday shenanigans. I’m still not sure that it has fully hit me that you’re gone; I think about you all the time. Selfishly, I wasn’t done. I wasn’t done spending time with you and learning things from you. I wasn’t done hearing stories from when you and my mom were kids, stories about Grandpa and Grandma when they were young, and stories about the six of us cousins when we were little. I wasn’t done taking walks with you and watching you have in-depth conversations with Lottie and Dallas about a variety of topics. I just…wasn’t done.

I feel a little unmoored, to be honest. Those of us left behind are searching for a new normal without you, and it’s hard. I hope that as lost as we feel, being with Grandpa, Grandma, and Lynnie makes you feel found. I promise that we will never stop sharing your stories, your memory, and your heart. We miss you, and we love you, Aunt Gerri.  

K. C. 

         I don’t know how my mom starts these, so I’m going to start it like this: Geraldine Mary Pigott died. I don’t know exactly how she did, but what I do know is that it was fast. Gerri wasn’t the type to be hooked up to machines or in a nursing home. She was an independent woman that could do amazing things. She would walk everyday (I think, she did it often, I know that.) She delivered Meals on Wheels to people younger than her. She gave birth to 4 wonderful kids in her lifetime: Sharin, Ted, Tim and Lynn. Lynn died at the age of 49 and I’m sure that devastated Gerri. One of the things that comforts us is knowing that they are in Heaven hugging and reuniting. 
          At the visitation and funeral, there were photos of her doing all the things that she loved in life. This includes reading, singing, hugging, talking, telling stories, recycling, and helping people. One specific photo caught my eye; it was a picture of her standing on a stage holding flowers. The caption in sparkly purple letters said “1st PROM QUEEN!” Turns out she was the 1stprom queen ever at her school. When I went to ask my grandmother about it, she said that she had cared so much about her education she told her dad about how her high school was unaccredited, and without a certification on her diploma, no college would accept her. Her dad and some other men fixed it, and she was able to go to college! She didn’t stop at one college though; she went to a lot of them. I remember Ted saying, “she would go to every college if she had the chance.” Gerri really loved school and learning, on the day of the prom, she didn’t go home early to get ready, even though she had the opportunity. 
        I’d like to share some of my most treasured memories with her. At my uncle’s house we went on a little hike. I was in the back walking with her when she said, “You know, Lottie, Tim just never liked peas.” She went on to tell the most random story ever told. I also remember her basement, it was like the cave of wonders. It had all this old stuff that my mom used to play with. It was so cool to see! 
        She loved so much in her life: Lynn, Sharin, Ted, and Tim as her children. Kathy as a sister. Carolyn, Tommy, and Theo as grandchildren. K.C and Matthew as her niece and nephew. And me and Dallas as great-niece and nephew. She also loved Shuting with all her heart. Sundance, Minny, Honey, and Judy all had special places in her heart. We love you, Aunt Gerri! 

Written by:
Lottie Wells

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Echolocation, schmecolocation

Ever since we got Honey last December, Minny has quit sleeping in our room, for the most part, and sleeps in the living room instead. She has her big blue chair that looks out over the backyard, and she can check on the outside world with barely a lift of her head. The bad part about her switch in slumber spots is that she often wakes me up in the middle of the night because she has seen something outside that she needs to investigate. This makes for some long nights and short sleeps.

Last night, Minny came to wake me up, quietly whining for my attention, her tail whomp-whomping against every piece of furniture in our room. I sighed, hauled myself out of bed, and watched both dogs tumble down the outside stairs in search of a squirrel or a blowing leaf. When it's warm out, I usually sit on our screened-in porch to wait for them, often falling asleep on the daybed. Now that it's colder, I wait in the living room for them to decide they're ready to come in. As I was sitting in the dark living room last night, I heard a funny noise. It was a quiet "flump" happening every 10 seconds or so. I figured it was just the ceiling fan, but when I glanced up, I realized the fan wasn't even on. Odd. I looked up again and saw a shadow that appeared to be flying around the ceiling. When I saw it again, I finally saw that it was a bat. In my living room. Flying around. Probably ready to attack me.

To be honest, I had a fleeting moment of "I can just pretend I didn't see it and deal with it in the morning," but I knew that was a bad, bad idea. I ducked, ran into the bedroom, and breathlessly stood at my side of the bed. I very gently said Trevor's name once, twice, thrice...and he slept on. I said it for a fourth time, figuring if that didn't work, I would have to try something else. The fourth time was the charm. Trevor woke up, but it wasn't a placid fluttering of the eyes into wakefulness: he sat halfway up in bed and screamed. My heart rate ratcheted up yet again that night, and I shushed him and waited for him to calm down. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "I think there's a bat in the house."
A moment passes.
Trevor: "What makes you think that?"
Me: "I just saw a bat. In the house."
A moment passes.
Trevor: "Do you want me to get up and help you with it?"
Me: "Um, yes, Yes, I do."

After a few moments, Trevor stumbled out of bed and joined me in the living room. "Yep," he said. "That's a bat." Glad we got that out of the way.

Meanwhile, the dogs are whining to come inside. I let them onto the porch but not into the house while Trevor went upstairs to shut the kids' bedroom doors. He whisper-yelled to me that the bat was on the catwalk, still and quiet. I ducked again, ran into the office, and grabbed the trash can. I dumped the trash all over the floor and told Trevor to try to get the bat into the can so we could let it outside. No dice. It wouldn't settle down enough for him to catch it, so we needed a plan B. I frantically googled and read that people recommended to open a window or door. So once again, I ducked, because my brain told me that ducking would ensure that the bat didn't come near me, and I skittered to the front door. I opened the storm door and the inside door, and then I went back onto the porch to hide with the dogs. Within sixty seconds, the bat had found its way outside.

Trevor whisper-screamed, "It's out! It's out! Shut the door!"
I whisper-shrieked, "I'm trying! I'm trying!"

The inside door shut with a bang, and the great bat escapade was over. Lottie sleepily emerged from her room to find out what was happening, and then she came downstairs to give me a hug. I must have looked stricken or freaked or something. A bat is basically a mouse with wings, and mice are my Kryptonite, big time. We all made our way back to our respective beds, but it took awhile for Trevor and I to calm down enough to get back to sleep. Dallas, by the way, slept through the entire thing. Lucky kid.

The moral of the story, to me, at least, is that it isn't fun to wake Trevor up in the night. Trevor's moral is probably don't wake him up in the night for any reason. The bat's moral is not to get trapped inside a house with a couple who screams or whisper-screams. Nothing like some fun on a Monday night to get the blood pumping.

Friday, September 6, 2019

4,015 days

My sweet boy,

This year for your birthday, I'm going to do something a little different. Because you are turning 11 (!) today, I'm going to share 11 reasons I love you.

Eleven reasons I love my boy (in no particular order)

1. You are hilariously funny. Almost every day, you say something that makes me laugh hard. Most of the time, I don't think you have any idea how funny you are because it's just WHO you are. Although you are an eleven year-old boy who loves scatalogical and slapstick humor, a lot of what you find humorous is rather highbrow. I'm not entirely sure people your own age understand your humor sometimes, but that doesn't seem to stop you from enjoying what you really enjoy.

2. Part of why you have such a sophisticated sense of humor is because you're whip smart. Ever since you were a toddler, you have done and said things that have amazed me. You absorb facts and statistics in the blink of an eye, and you constantly amaze me with bits of trivia you have learned from something you read. I know you love your video games, but you're just as happy with a good book in your hand. I'm so proud that you're well-rounded in your knowledge and your interests.

3. Being sensitive tends not to be cool, but I think you're very cool. Good or bad, happy or sad, you  feel all of your emotions with your whole heart. You save worms in the driveway and caterpillars in the street; you truly feel that their lives have just as much meaning as ours. You hate to disappoint anyone or hurt their feelings because you know how that feels, and you hate it. I don't think you expect everyone to be happy all the time, but you certainly don't want anyone to be sad.

4. In the last year, the biggest change I have seen in you is your willingness to try new things. You have gotten into fishing, and you seem to enjoy that quiet time to yourself. You have done dodge ball, theater classes, surfing on the sand at Folly Beach: things I never thought you would do. The older you get, the more confidence you are finding within yourself, and that makes me incredibly happy.

5. You're a rule follower who believes that life should be fair for everyone, and I admire this about you. Intellectually, you know that life really isn't fair, but that doesn't stop you for wanting it to be true. You know right from wrong, and you want justice for those who have been hurt unjustly. As long as you continue to follow your heart, I know you'll be fine when you have to choose between different paths to follow.

6. I'm fully aware that you and Lottie fight sometimes and have disagreements. I also know that you love each other. I mean, you're never going to admit that, not now, but I know you do. Even when you two are mad at each other for whatever reason, it blows over quickly and I smile because I hear you laughing together. When one of you has good news, you run to tell each other as soon as possible. Don't ever let anyone tell you that being friends with your sister is silly or weird; she was the first friend you ever had, and she'll always be there for you just like you'll always be there for her. Because...

7. Once again, I know it isn't cool to be sweet, but you are, kid. You worry about people and do you best to make them feel good. I think being sweet and kind is different from being sensitive, and I think it's lucky that you're both. You have the ability to read people and know what to do or say. You carry their pain in your heart until you know that everything is okay.

8. When you laugh, really laugh, you do it with your entire body. You roll on the couch, on the floor, and you let it all out. Seeing you laugh delights everyone around you, especially Dad and me. Your smile takes over your whole face, and a beautiful smile it is.

9. I adore the way you treat animals. From the time you were little, I rarely had to remind you to be gentle with pets because you always were. When you spend time with our dogs, you're not mindlessly petting them but really playing or just having quiet time with them. I think that's why they love you so much; they know that you would never hurt them and that you love them for who they are. They're so lucky that you're their boy.

10. You know how to have fun, but you also take things pretty seriously. I think you're determined to be the best you can be at everything you do, and if you're not good at it, it's dumb. You're getting better at giving yourself a break, though, and realizing that you don't have to be perfect at everything. Life takes practice, and most of the time, the only way to get through something is to go right through it.

11. You are one of the shining stars in my life. I'm beyond grateful that you're mine. There are so many more than eleven things that I love about you, but if I were to list them all, this blog post would never end. Thank you for being unapologetically you. I love who you are, and I always will.

I love you the most of the most,

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Trying to be a Wallenda

I think every phase of life with kids can be equally joyous and difficult. When they're babies, we get to see the milestones like first smiles and first steps, but that time is also fraught with so many questions and often isolation. The toddler stage is crazy because they learn so much so quickly, but they can also be stubborn little people with unlimited amounts of tantrums. Elementary school-aged kids are gaining independence and learning socialization, but sometimes, they still want to be little for a while. Now, we're at middle school chez Wells, and that change has brought a whole new level of adjustment to us all. It was honestly a great first year of middle school, and we're quickly coming upon the second year. I don't know who learned more this year: the parents or the school kid.

Middle school is a weird, weird time. Physiologically, things are changing practically by the minute. a middle school kid (MSK) can be happy and on top of the world at one moment, and the next moment, he is upset about things unknown. Hormones are raging with little to no control over them. Bodies are changing, and to an MSK, that's gross and full of ewwwww. It's strange for parents, too, to watch their MSK grow taller with bigger feet and funnier smells. Emotionally, being an MSK is a complete crap shoot from day to day. MSK's spend hours at school trying to navigate the shark-infested waters of moving from class to class, new teachers and their expectations, and worst of all, friendships with other MSK's. Although they don't mean to be, they're fickle creatures who would rather have the blessing of the crowd than the blessing of their own hearts. I mean, I know plenty of adults who do the same, so it's not a big shock that kids have a hard time keeping things balanced. They don't quite yet understand that they don't have to befriend everyone even though that is what they are taught in the younger grades. Being cordial and being a friend aren't the same things, but MSK's are still figuring that out. Emotions aside, MSK's get beat up mentally, too, with all of the work they have to do at school every day. There aren't a lot of second chances, and in order to be successful, they have to be really organized for each class: different folders, different notebooks, different requirements for six or seven teachers a day.

This is where things get difficult for the parents of MSK's. How much do we help? How often do we rescue them? How hard do we push and when do we step back and watch them fall because it's all for the greater good? There is no simple answer because I can tell you I sure haven't figured it out. It's a delicate balance, being the parent of an MSK. We are always there for our kids to listen, to hug, to sympathize, and to help: it's increasingly clear, though, that this is the time they have to learn some things all by themselves. If you haven't been there yet, allow me to tell you that it's hard. That lesson is hard for the MSK and hard for the parent. I don't want my kids to fail because watching them be hurt in any way, shape, or form breaks my heart. What I have come to realize, though, is that someone is going to teach them lessons in life, lessons about getting things done on time, doing what is expected of them, and doing things alone. I would rather my kids learn those things from me than from someone else who isn't as invested in them as I am or someone who doesn't care.

And so begins the tightrope walk. As the parent of an MSK, I only take one small step at a time before stopping to assess the situation. If the MSK has a missing assignment, do I give a lecture or simply remind the kid that zeros will hurt them in the long run? I take another small step as I listen to how mean some of the other MSK's are being at school. Do I encourage my kid to be kind or do I tell her to walk away from nonsense and drama? Maybe I say nothing because what she really wants is to be heard, not to get advice she neither wants nor needs. Another wobbly step and we're not understanding the math homework. If I help, she gets frustrated; if I don't help, she gets frustrated. I take a tinier step this time, and the math frustration has turned into hysterical laughter because I don't remember my order of operations. I attempt a bigger step, but I am stalled when trying to help both kids with homework and not doing a great job being stretched between the two. That's another piece of the puzzle, too. I have a younger kid who is watching how his dad and I deal with the MSK, and he is learning from all of this as well. That just serves to add weight to the pole I am using to balance myself on the rope.

My feet want to slip off the rope, and I can feel my entire body listing to one side. I know I can't stop walking, though. This is a tightrope I have been walking since the day my first child was born, and when I look ahead of me, it's stretched out as far as the eye can see. I don't feel weary even though I know it's going to be a long, long walk. I can see the fruit of my efforts , though, when the MSK unloads the dishwasher just to help out or offers to bring me some applesauce when I'm not feeling well. I can see it when she shows her brother how to make an online comic because she knows he loves to create his own. I see it when she can laugh at a mistake and realize that failure isn't the end of the world but an opportunity to learn and grow.

We have a long road ahead, but it doesn't have to be a rough road. This is where the parenting gets tough and sometimes it's the hardest thing I have ever done. There are some days when I am exhausted, and I don't think I have the energy to say "no" one more time. That's my job, though, like it or not. My MSK might occasionally (or more often) wish for a new parent or sob in her room, but I'll be damned if I let anyone else do my job. So if you ever see me with my head in my hands in the pillow aisle at HomeGoods, it's okay. I might have temporarily lost my balance, but I'm planning to get right back on.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Beach baby

Ever since spring break, I have been seeing ads for weight loss and exercise that tout getting your body "beach ready." Many people before me have had the same reaction that I am having, and I'm sure many have expressed it better than I'm about to, but enough is enough.

I think exercise is great. If you want to lose weight, you should go for it. Being healthy is important for both physical and mental well-being. That all being said, quit thinking that people have to look a certain way to enjoy summer activities like the pool or the beach. For the love of God, y'all, summertime is about staying cool, playing, lazy days, ice cream, sunblock, and enjoying oneself. Every single one of us has a beach body: it's our own body that we take with us to the beach. (Don't try to take another body to the beach; that could get creepy.) But, really, what's the hang up? A few extra pounds? Lots of extra pounds? I get it. I have those; however, I'm not going to let that stop me from having a good time.

Here's the thing that might shock you. It's a big one, so brace yourselves. Ready? Deep breath.

No one is really looking at you in your bathing suit.

Well, let's amend that. Yes, people are looking at you in your suit. People actually see you in your suit. Those people, though, don't really think about you after you have passed their line of sight. Why? Because those people are too damn worried about themselves to worry about you and what you're wearing. For the most part, we are selfish creatures. Our vanity overrides many other emotions, so we're more concerned with sucking in our own stomachs than watching other people do the same. Can there be a certain amount of pride in seeing someone at the beach and feeling like we look better? Sure, but I imagine that feeling doesn't last more than a minute. And if you're still thinking about how much better you looked than that other person when you go home at night, you have a problem, and you're kind of a creeper.

My daughter is only 12, and she started having worries about her body image a couple of years ago. That's not something that is innate: that's learned behavior from constantly being barraged with "get skinny" ads. For a long time, I reminded her of all the things her body does for her every day, and that she needs to appreciate it for what it is. The hardest part of that phase was showing her that I can accept my own body for what it is as well. I'll do anything for her, though, and the more I talked to her about it, the easier it got. This body of mine carries extra weight, sure, but it has also served me well in the last 46 years. This body gave me two beautiful, smart, generous, and kind children; this body got me through thyroid cancer; this body helped me pack up and move three houses; this body kept everything as normal as possible while Trevor was fighting colorectal cancer. When I think about it in those terms, I hate that I am always trying to fit the societal norm of what a body should look like.

 So to you, my faithful bag of bones, I ain't mad at cha. As a matter of fact, the past few years of my forties have taught me to give zero fu...I mean, cares, about most stuff that happens. I'm proud of who I am, I'm proud of what I have accomplished, and I couldn't have done any of it without the body that houses my brain, my heart, and my soul. My beach body and I will be at the Dunes this summer, and my pool body and I will be swimming. If you see us, make sure you catch our attention to say hello because chances are we'll be having too much fun in the sun to really notice everyone else around us.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

4,380 days

My girl,
Just like that, you are twelve years old. Things are changing quickly these days: new school, new friends, new feelings. This journey is yours, but we're all along for the ride with you as well. As you experience new situations, so do we, albeit in an entirely different way. When we brought you home, I remember thinking that I had absolutely no clue what to do with you. I figured it out, but diapers and baby food all seems easy compared to what's coming now. (Lack of sleep was not easy. Truly. No sleep almost killed me.)

 The next few years are going to be full of ups and downs, and you have such a tender heart that I tend to worry about you. We have already dealt with mean girls at school, the new academic load, all of the extracurricular choices, and lying friends. You have faced each challenge with a true desire to do the right thing - the good thing - but you're also finding out how difficult that can be when peer pressure rules its ugly head. With each week that passes, though, I become less and less worried. I watch you go through all of the options and decide which one feels best to you. You usually pick the choice that won't hurt other people, and we have talked about how that's not always the way to go. Lately, you're looking at the bigger picture: how the choice may affect the future, how the choice may affect others, how the choice may affect you. I'm proud of you for looking at a situation from all angles before tackling it, and I'm even prouder that you are standing up for yourself.

One of the things I love the most about you is how loving and inclusive you are to everyone and everything. You came with me to say goodbye to Judy even though it broke your heart because you knew both Judy and I needed you. You make both Minny and Honey know how much they are loved, and whether you realize it or not, you make Dallas feel important and adored, too.  From the time you were a little girl, you have never met a stranger. You're the first to welcome someone new to your class or talk to the kid at the park who is playing alone. Often before I knew it, you were dragging your "new best friend" over to meet me and then running off just as quickly to play. I want you to always be a kind person - always. I don't want you to forget, though, that you matter, too.

My advice for you in this new year of your life is to keep love, kindness, and acceptance in your heart, but take no guff. Hang on to the friends who build you up instead of tear you down, and be sure you build them up, too. Ignore the meanness and jealousy that inevitably pops up in the coming years because when it's all said and done, none of it really matters. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Be strong enough to walk away from it with your head held high in the knowledge that you're on the side of good. If people make fun of you for that, so be it. That makes it easy for you to recognize them as people you neither want nor need in your life. Remember what Dumbledore said, "It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends."

I know that you know all of this; we talk about it a lot. When you're in the middle of it, though, it's hard to remember exactly what to do or how to feel. This is where it gets hard for me and for most parents. My instinct is to swoop in and fix it all so you never have to feel any pain or disappointment. Of course, realistically, that's not possible nor is it healthy. I have to loosen my grip a little and let you make your own mistakes and learn from them. Man, that's hard. I know that I have to let it happen now so you feel confident making your own decisions in the future. You can always come to me for help or with questions or just to talk: I promise that I'll be your soft place to fall. But it's time for you to start spreading your wings. Don't spread them too far, too fast, though. I may seem pretty zen about all of this now, but I'm not ready for nose piercing or dates or college applications. Not yet.

Thank you for making me a mom, for making me laugh every day, and for being such a unique and amazing human being. There is no one else like you.

As you would say, you're so SPICY!!

All my love,