Monday, August 13, 2012

Sink or Swim

I've been quiet. Not writing much. Just living.

Single froggymama living.

By the time I get Froggy into bed (she's a night-owl, inherited from my father's side where 2am rolls around and we all say, "It's getting late, better hit the hay in an hour or two.") So, by the time my little nocturnal amphibian falls asleep,  I check emails, do dishes, boil nebulizers,  and only have enough energy to lie horizontal on the sofa with a glass of wine to glutton myself for an hour of bad reality programming (ones so heinous I will not admit to them in writing). However, I am getting rather good at drinking while lying down. A talent tragically overlooked in the last Olympics. Harder than synchronized swimming. Synchronized drinking. Not for the weak of heart, or weak of liver.

I am just now starting to get my writing mojo back. I wrote a spec script, a few essays and I'm currently working on a television treatment. This sounds like a bad excerpt from my writing bio, but where do I begin after I've ignored you so long, little blog? Little frog blog. It's been too long.

So much has happened the last couple years, but most was better kept to myself. The transition from married to divorced, from family to single parenthood...well I could write a book. But I won't. (Communal sigh of relief) I think you need clarity to write, confidence in what you're experiencing, and I hadn't either. Clarity and confidence - those are hard ones to find once you've lost them. Harder than drinking wine while lying down and simultaneously watching Teen Mom (oh damn, I said too much).

But we survived. And what comes next is very exciting. Get ready for this...

I'm happy.

I've found someone who not only makes me very happy, but my little Froggy too.

Enter "Atticus," a handsome Midwestern attorney who can recite a soliloquy while baitin' a hook, teach a six year old to walk on the ceiling, while grilling up a mean wild salmon and asparagus, and looks just as debonair on a hike in Topanga as he does in his city attorney duds.  He's a smarty pants who uses big words- like cattywanpus and delivers clever puns in his sleep. He's funny, and even more importantly, laughs at all my jokes. He has the patience, endurance and stamina for Froggy, and incredible ability to save the day; when mama's hit the wall and Froggy has just thrown a naked barbie at my last nerve. We love the same books (although disagree wholeheartedly on  Shadow of the Wind - seriously a fantastic book, what is the matter with him!), but find common ground in To Kill a Mockingbird and Let the Great World Spin. He has a cabin in the Missouri woods and a great love of nature, poetry, and Shakespeare. He also happens to think I'm the bee's knees. So much so, he asked me to marry him -on the beach where we had our first kiss. I can't believe how lucky I am.

As wonderful as this last year has been, it's also been one of major transition. Finding the time and energy for another person when I don't have enough for myself is even harder than drinking vino while lying down and throwing a javelin with one hand and a shot put from the other.

I am also learning that I am not the best partner. The Olympic judges gave me a 5.3 and the dismount from the singlehood beam was a sad and wobbly stumble off the mat. I was so green, I didn't even throw my hands in the air in triumphant defeat, just sulked to the bench for my Russian coach to give me a "That's the best you got?," look.

I've made the decisions, all the decisions for as long as I can remember. I did the work, the research, made the calls, set the schedule, took Froggy on trips, ordered and planned, delegated and enabled. Turns out in a partnership, those Napoleon qualities... not so healthy. What was my life raft in the last ten years was dragging me out to sea in this one.

Just let go.

What if I allowed myself to be happy? Let go of the heavy raft and just floated, trusted the current to take me to shore?

Oh no. I couldn't do that. What if happy bleeds into spoiled? What if I can't survive without this? I already know how to play the angry martyr role. I mastered that part, received my PhD in throwing my hands in the air while stating, "Find, I'll do it myself!" But allowing someone to help? Allowing someone to love me and say, "Sit down, while I do the dishes, read the kiddo her bedtime story." Well, I couldn't possibly do that.

When it was just me and the Frog, I enjoyed the lack of audience.  There was no partner, and there was no choice. I was exhausted, but I could do it.  No one on the sidelines making comments or affecting the outcome of us. If Froggy didn't get a meal from scratch, if our house was a mess, it was my fault and I only had myself to blame. There was a strange comfort in that.

I got used to the silence, the resignation that this was my job. When it was 11pm and we were out of milk for breakfast, or unpacking from a weekend, carrying all her supplies and a tired, heavy child up a flight of stairs;  it became normal. And after a while, safe.

I was a single mom a kid with CF. I could do it alone. I was capable. And strong. Stronger than I ever thought I could be.

And that is where Atticus entered. When I knew I could do it alone, but realized I didn't want to anymore. I wasn't desperate or even really looking. Just putting my toes in the water, not expecting to be swept out to sea. Perfect timing. 

I'm still learning, or rather unlearning, all the terrible way of drowning in this life. I have decided to dive in head first, because I know now there is someone really there to catch me, to swim and float and fight the currents, together.

Froggy has never been healthier. She's in the 50th percentile for height and weight. She's had clean cultures. Her PFT's are in the 100's. She's thriving in school. She is a happy, happy girl.  We have family dinners and consistency. I see the joy on Froggy's face, and feel the safety she knows in us. I am backed up in my parenting and told everyday what a good mother and partner I am.

I don't know how many people find this in life. With all the blows we've been given, someone out there must be saying, "Okay kid, you've had enough. How about a lifeboat? Just sink your toes in the water, look up to the sky and let the wind take you where it will."

And I'm finally ready to say, I do.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Addie: The life of a Frog

I've been going through old boxes, letters, photos and found a great history of things.

When Addie was a year old, I wrote Frank Deford. He's a famous sports writer whose daughter Alex died of Cystic Fibrosis at the tender age of eight. He wrote a book after her death entitled, ALEX: THE LIFE OF A CHILD.  It was later made into a Movie of the Week. I watched it (ironically when I was about eight), and it has stayed with me all these years.

I remember sitting in our basement sobbing and thinking, "That is the very worse disease anyone could ever have." It was such a concrete memory, where scenes were cemented like a child's hand in the driveway, where you look back and say, was that me? Was I ever that little? Did this really happen?

One scene stuck with me: Craig T. Nelson, who plays Frank Deford is holding his daughter upside down, pounding on her back as she's coughing up blood. He's trying to stay positive, trying to act like his daughter isn't coughing up blood, isn't dying in front of him. And it was one of the hardest things I'd ever seen in my life. To this day. I can't get that image out of my head. My mom had just returned home from a meeting, and I buried my face into her. It was the first time I realized children die - life was excruciatingly unfair.

When we were diagnosed, that scene played over and over again.

I don't know if this was a premonition or glimpse into our future, but I do know I was changed.

Because of that film, I started donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It was actually the first donation I ever made. And strangely, beautifully enough, I have been donating to my daughter's cure, every year for 17 years. And eleven of those years I had no idea.

I told Mr. Deford this in my letter and sent an essay I'd written entitled WHEEL OF MISFORTUNE. He wrote me back, in his own writing. He even addressed the envelope. I kinda love the guy. Here's what he wrote:

November 2, 2006

Dear Elise,

Thank you so much for your lovely letter and your brave essay. I can see that your beautiful daughter is in good hands - so she should be just fine when we find that elusive cure... which we must and will.

Things are so different now with CF then they were when Alex had to deal with it. I'm sure Adelaide will live a long and prosperous life.

All my best wishes,
Frank Deford (Alex's Father)

I treasure this letter. And I like to think that it was a preparation for what was to come. I got a glimpse of what CF looks like and I started early on my journey to raise money for her cure, for all the kiddos and adults and in memory of those who didn't make it, for all the Alex's out there who changed lives, who inspired donations, who made a difference. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.