Paula Kornspan, RN

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I stayed up late a lot as a kid. I was way too young and it was way too late. The four of us kids had little black and white televisions in our rooms. My mother was on survival mode by that time of day. Whatever kept the kids quietly in their rooms so she could finally sleep was okay with her. It was the mid 1970’s. My father worked long hours at my grandfather’s gas station.

 

The Mary Tyler Moore Hour and Twilight Zone were my teddy bears. The movies from the 1940’s and 50’s were my introduction to grownup life. I was certain my future held silk peignoir sets as a married lady and spotless aprons while cooking for my husband and children.

 

I was confused by one thing that happened repeatedly in these movies. A gentleman would offer a lady a drink. And the lady would say “No thank you, I don’t drink.” I obsessed on this sentence.

 

What do you mean you don’t drink?! Drinking is optional??!! Don’t they get thirsty?! I finally asked my mother after weeks of confusion. And she explained alcohol, while trying not to giggle at my 8-year-old innocence.

 

She explained a lot of things to me while stifling a smile. And now I’m the mommy. And my inquisitive child is named for you in Hebrew.  Peninah Tikvah, our Pearl of Hope. Thank you for the secret talks we had. Thank you for staying strong during my teen years. You prepared me for this life without you, without me even knowing it. I grew up to be the mother I am. Unconventional in so many ways. I wish I could do it all over again with you. You were spectacular Paula Kornspan, RN. And never forget the RN. Because like she always said, “she worked hard for those two letters.”

 

I Traveled Back in Time Last Night…

Now that I’m in my second year of my blog, the person I was last year visits this year through Facebook Memories. Sometimes she’s very different but sometimes the same. And sometimes somewhere in the middle. I still struggle to be “in the present” sometimes but I try hard every day. We can’t be our “present selves” without being our “past selves” also. They just need to learn to play nice together.

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I traveled back in time last night.

Just for a moment.

Where everything flowed freely in my mind and body. No ugly fears or visions jumped out in front of my mind’s train, driving it to a screeching halt.

I just was there. I just was.

I playfully chased Miriam through the apartment with a warm washcloth to wipe her sticky hands and face. This wild blonde blur ran to take refuge with her Daddy in our bed. I attacked with the little blue square of terrycloth and sweet smelling coconut soap. She fought me, with a smile.

She wiped her own face

and hands,

her arms,

her feet,

her knees.

“Daddy, you wipe your face!” Daddy draped the washcloth over his face and Miriam burst into

surprising,

innocent,

crystal clear laughter.

She pulled the washcloth off, exposing Daddy’s face. I hadn’t seen this face in a long time.

His…

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For Ten, You Get Tin…

 

On Our Tenth Anniversary

05.06.17

 

Sometimes it stops me cold.

A feeling of calm will wash over me.

The “go-go-go” becomes “whoah-whoah-whoah” and I realize what I have.

I have a husband who gets annoyed with me.

I have a husband who disagrees with me.

I have a husband who is proud of me.

I have a husband who fights for me.

I have a husband who still shakes his head at my clothes on the floor and every time he catches me on the toilet with the door open.

I have a husband who isn’t always listening to me but always wants to hear what I have to say.

He brings me eggplant parmesan because I told him about that old boyfriend who wouldn’t.

He brings me roaster chickens because that’s our inside joke symbol of love.

He brings me a book he heard me mention or a CD he knows I’d like.

I hate his TV shows and he hates mine.

But his hugs feel like home.

His face is the most handsome I have ever seen.

His eyes are still the same eyes that locked with mine on our first date…and we just knew.

Ten years together.

Ten years of the lowest lows and the highest highs.

Sometimes it stops me cold.

A feeling of calm will wash over me.

This is love.

 

I like to say yes…

Yesterday was my one year anniversary of starting my blog. It was also my one year anniversary of really giving my dreams of writing a swift kick in the pants, as my mother would say. A lot has happened in a year and I’m not turning back now. Reposting one of my first stories because it makes me smile. Say YES today.

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I say yes a lot. Not in that “pulled in every direction” busy working mom way. Not in the “sure I can cover your shift/bake orange cupcakes for color day at school/bring that 45lb bag of cat litter up the steps for that asshole neighbor” kinda way. I say yes to “let’s garden Mommy” at 10:30pm. Yes to 10 more times down the slide, yes to putting my most expensive glittery makeup all over our arms even after she took a bath. Yes to a bowl of peanut butter on the couch for supper. And I’ll even ask what color bowl she’d like.

I am always 5-10 minutes late to work because I say yes to watching the birdies fly from the trees on our street. I say yes to red licorice in the shopping cart. Yes to hiding under an umbrella outside on a damp rug pretending to be…

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Neighborhood Watching

With a rock in her left hand and a stick in her right, we set out on our walk. At the cherry blossom tree halfway down our street, I pick her up so she can touch the pink blossoms. She’s heavy but super human mother strength makes me think I could lift her to the rooftops. There is nothing in the world like holding my child in my arms. And I will do it for as long as I can.

We say hello to the garden statuettes on the neighbor’s front lawn. The frog, the cat, and the turtle. I met the man who lives here awhile back. His wife had just died he told me. I see his house has fallen into disrepair. Grass overgrown, window shades askew. The statuette animals even looked like they were grieving. Dirty and tilted in the mostly soil garden. I always think of how he’s doing when we make this stop on our walk. I rarely see him.

We walk to the STOP sign at the end of our block.

“Which way do you want to go?” I ask.

“This way to the fishies,” she says.

We make a right and go half a block to the spot that looks down into the stream that runs through town. There is a railing but it’s still possible for a child to get through. When we first moved to this street and started taking our walks, I remember thinking I was going to ask the town for a better railing. I never did. Before she could even string a sentence together herself, we always said to her at each and every sight of water, “Never go near water without Mommy or Daddy.” She recites that sentence to me without even being prompted as we look down at the fish swimming through the muck.

We keep walking through our microcosm. Every walk is different yet the same. And when she puts her rock in my pocket to “hold for later” and drops her stick on purpose, I reach my hand out hoping she’ll grab it for a little while. I realize I need to hold her hand even more than she needs to hold mine.

 

When a Mug is Not a Mug

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About five years ago, my boss brought in a bunch of extra mugs he had at home. We seemed to never have enough at work for all the hardcore coffee drinkers we were at the time. They were all sorts of designs and his wife was probably thrilled to get them out of the house. I know I would be. Mugs seem to multiply like rabbits over the years.

The “My Mom is the Best” mug used to stare me down every day. After Noah had died and we were desperately trying to get pregnant, this mug mocked me for two years from the cabinet above the industrial coffee maker in our break room. If a coworker was drinking out of it, I would watch the words on the mug as they went from desk to lips and back again. I would never ever choose it from the cabinet. Ever. Even if it was the only mug left, which it never was thankfully. I set a little goal for myself. Once I was a mother again, I would be able to drink from this mug. It became a talisman of what needed to happen. It had to happen. I need to be a mother again.

I choose this mug often now. Miriam is four years old. As I pour my coffee in and add my half ‘n half, I still can’t believe I made it through those years. I still can’t believe I have my perfect daughter, Miriam. I still can’t believe Noah is really gone.

Tangible things help us make sense of what is not tangible. The emotions that are too hard to sort through. The fears that are too big to rationalize. This mug stays the same as I change constantly. This mug waited for me. And I drink a lot of coffee.

 

Starting Forty-Nine

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Today I’m starting forty-nine. Forty-eight years came before this one. And each one of those years led me here.

I’m starting forty-nine with scarlet red hair. My sister-in-law, Sharon, seemed to sense what I needed for my jumbled pieces to fall into place. She surprised me with a trip to her hairdresser who brought out a younger version of me. The version that wasn’t afraid to stand out. The version that didn’t listen to naysayers. This scarlet colored hair makes me think it’s not too late. For anything.

I’m starting forty-nine chubby. I’m starting forty-nine putting everything into my writing. I’m starting forty-nine a few weeks shy of ten years of marriage. I’m starting forty-nine with holes in my underwear and socks. I’m starting forty-nine with a son in heaven and a daughter on earth. I’m starting forty-nine always exhausted but ready for everything. I’m starting forty-nine filled with fears and anxieties. I’m starting forty-nine as me.

My new scarlet red hair enters the room loudly while I’m still quietly observing. We work well together.

(Inner)Voices

 

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We’re talking about colors right now. I’m sitting on the bathroom rug and she’s in the bathtub.

“What’s your favorite color, Mom?” she asks in this crystal clear little voice. As I start to answer, she whispers the color she wants me to say.  I declare loudly “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS PIN…” and before I can finish saying the “k” sound, a tiny whisper says “no mommy, it’s green!”  I quickly correct myself loudly. “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS GREEN!” We do a few more rounds of this game. PURPLE! (no, blue!) BLUE! (no, teal!) I MEAN TEAL!! (yes, she’s four and loves the color teal)

I wonder what she does in school all day? From one activity to the next, I get snippets of reports on the way home. “I played Legos and dollhouse with Maddie and Lily! Then I do library and sand table and kitchen with Olivia and Gracie.”  I love picturing these little groupings of friends. How big her little classroom must seem to her at this age!

Her daily world is so small. But at the same time, it’s enormous. Expansive. Endless. It’s pretty similar to mine, really. Or any of us. Our mundane tasks get done while our minds wander. I ring up customers while I tell myself fictitious stories about their lives. I read and answer monotonous emails while thinking about my next short story. Or that trip to Dutch Wonderland we hope to take.

Not much in this world is more exciting than the imagination of a four year old. Miriam mixes “witch’s soup” with her green spoon in her watering can in the bathtub. She creates rescue missions with her stuffed animals in the slats of her headboard. She pretends to eat the Play-Doh spaghetti she makes nightly.

Our inner dialogue vs. the inner dialogue of a child can’t be too different, can it? We try to control our world internally while it assaults us externally. We stir up excitement in our minds as we go through our daily routine.  I learn so much from Miriam. How every moment is the opportunity for magic. Imagination. Daydreams.

I have this game I play with myself when I go to the bank drive-thru. (The uber friendly bank that prides itself on personal customer service) I send my cylinder filled with a deposit slip and ID into the tube. The teller greets me with a giant smile through the glass and calls me by my first name over and over through the intercom. It’s excessive but strangely pleasant.

“Will that be all today, Erica?”

“Are twenties ok, Erica?”

“Have a great weekend, Erica!”

I pretend I’m a famous movie star, depositing royalty checks. My appearance in the drive-thru makes this teller’s day. I live in this little town in New Jersey because I’m humble and simple despite being world famous and rich. I’m often seen around town with no makeup. I still drive my 2004 Jeep. I’m down to earth like that.

It’s ridiculous, I know. But it makes me feel special for a few minutes. It makes me wonder what it would be like to be someone else for a little while. It’s just a little harmless fantasy. It’s my inner dialogue having a little fun.

To be four years old with magic everywhere must be incredible! I’m going to harness Miriam’s surplus energy and try to make my small world bigger. Through imagination. Through my inner dialogue. I cheer myself on from the inside while protecting myself on the outside.

Mourning Their Littleness…

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This is my rocking chair. It was my rocking chair with Noah. I remember shopping for it in Babies ‘R Us like it was yesterday. It was the softest and the widest and my 9 months pregnant body fit in it. Sold. My head was filled with the first time mom images. Perfect breast feeding sessions and storytimes and cuddling and Mary Cassatt-like moments. There is nothing like being a first time mom. The excitement and non-stop reading like it was a test you would be given on your due date. The advice and knowing smiles from the pros. The sisterhood that comes to the rescue if you say the word. Because we all know what it’s really like. The Good, The Great, and The Ugly.

I kept my rocking chair after Noah died. I’m not sure why. After all, we even got rid of our couch because that was too hard to look at-let alone sit on- without him. The rocking chair came with us to our next childless apartment. It stayed in the corner in the front sunroom across from where Noah’s guinea pigs played in their cage. They didn’t seem to know he was gone. There was usually one or both of our cats curled up in the seat, almost like place savers for me. They made my rocking chair look alive and loved instead of gloomy and deserted. Cats are good like that. I never sat in it. Not once. It was a monument to what we didn’t have.

About five years ago, my friend Ina wrote me one of many letters saying something that hit me hard. She herself lost her almost five year old son, Luca, in an accident. It’s been about twenty years now I believe. She has three other children and watching them grow is bittersweet. That part I understand. Watching them get to milestones Luca and Noah never will. Ina wrote back in my early days of loss of “mourning for the little children her growing children now were becoming.” I wasn’t able to really understand back then. I was still so numb and hopeless and simply sad. At least, I thought, you have other children. At that point we weren’t sure it would happen for us again.

But tonight I sat in the rocking chair while Miriam sang herself to sleep in her bed. The thirteen songs of The Trolls soundtrack. She was still wide awake by song number nine so she got out of bed and came to sit in my lap. We cuddled and held hands. I tried to synch our breathing patterns just like when she was a baby. I stroked her hair and touched her lightly behind her ears. “Pet me, Mommy!” she says.

I stared down at the top of her head and thought about what Ina had said in her letter years ago. I was now in the stage of mourning her littleness. I am hanging onto every bit of baby Miriam I can. She will grow on her own just fine. She doesn’t need me to push her any faster. And maybe it’s a little selfish, but I’m never going to turn down one of these nights in this rocking chair. This rocking chair has been through the ringer. I’m so glad it’s stayed strong. Because the payoff is beyond belief.

 

Trolls Lessons

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This is my new karaoke machine! Um, I mean Miriam’s new karaoke machine. And the soundtrack is Trolls. Miriam is singing her small head off and sometimes she lets me join in. This song is speaking my language. Damn it, Justin Timberlake!  You are so damn talented.

Get Back Up Again (lyrics by Justin Timberlake)

I really hope I can do it
‘Cause they’re all depending on me
I know that I must leave the only home
I’ve ever known
And brave the dangers of the forest
Saving them before they’re eaten
I mean, how hard can that be?

Looking up at a sunny sky, so shiny and blue
And there’s a butterfly
Well, isn’t that a super fantastic sign
It’s gonna be a fantastic day
Such marvelousness it’s gonna bring
Gotta pocket full of songs that I’m gonna sing
And I’m ready to take on anything
Hooray!

Some super fun surprise around each corner
Just riding on a rainbow, I’m gonna be okay

Hey!
I’m not giving up today
There’s nothing getting in my way
And if you knock knock me over
I will get back up again
Oh!
If something goes a little wrong
Well you can go ahead and bring it on
‘Cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again

Woah oh oh oh oh oh oh, get back up again
Woah oh oh oh oh oh oh, ahhhh!

I’m marching along I’ve got confidence
I’m cooler than a pack of peppermints
And I haven’t been this excited since
I can’t remember when!

I’m off on this remarkable adventure
Just riding on a rainbow
What if it’s all a big mistake?
What if it’s more than I can take?
No! I can’t think that way ’cause I know
That I’m really, really, really gonna be okay

Hey!
I’m not giving up today
There’s nothing getting in my way
And if you knock knock me over
I will get back up again
Oh!
If something goes a little wrong
Well you can go ahead and bring it on
‘Cause if you knock knock me over, i will get back up again

(Get up, get up, get up) woah oh oh oh oh oh oh
Get back up again
(Get up, get up, get up) woah oh oh oh oh oh oh

I’m okay!

(Get up, get up, get up) woah oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
And if you knock knock me over, knock knock me over
I will get back up again

 

This is the ultimate self-affirmation song. Forget that it’s sung by a small pink troll. This is an important song.

Let’s dissect.

Unhappy monsters are trying to eat the happy little trolls because the monsters believe that is the only way that they themselves can truly be happy. Woah. That is deep. Princess Poppy is terrified of these monsters too but she will brave her fears to save the happy ways of her people.

It’s a big mission. She has self-doubt. She has setbacks. But she has determination. And she repeatedly tells herself “it’s all gonna be okay.” She also wants the unhappy monsters to be happy too. She wants to show them, through her endless supply of rose-colored glasses, that you can be happy. Not just by devouring others, either.

Resilience. That is an underused word in our vocabulary. I don’t hear that word often but it seems to sum up so many feelings. If we’re not resilient, we cease to exist. Illness. Rejection. Disappointment. Relationships. Grief. Failure. Money. The resilience that Princess Poppy sings about is a rah-rah song for us all.

I’m obsessed with signs and symbols. Most of them only make sense to me. They’re like a little game I play with myself. Some days teetering on the edge of OCD, signs and symbols are my version of rose-colored glasses. Like Princess Poppy says:

“And there’s a butterfly
Well, isn’t that a super fantastic sign”

Today I took Miriam to the park. It was cold but beautiful. She was all rosy cheeks and smiles to be outside. We ran through the soccer field and climbed the bleachers. We played I-Spy. We climbed up the slides. While we ran back and forth until we were both breathless, I stopped in my tracks at this brown leaf.

“Miriam, what does this leaf look like?!” I asked.

“A BUTTERFLY!!!!” she yelled.

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It is my nature to dream. It is my nature to want to simply be happy. I’m not always successful. But I am resilient.