Highs and Lows of High Summer

cchitnissummer_9063 Here we are nearing the end of August and nearly a month has past since I last wrote. It’s not for lack of wanting, but this past month has been difficult. It’s funny…I keep running into acquaintances who follow me on Instagram and they’ll say, “You’ve had the most gorgeous summer ever!” And yes, it has been gorgeous in so many ways. But social media is terribly one-sided I’m afraid. In fact this summer, Instagram has really been an escape for me- a way to showcase the beautiful moments of each day and escape the underlying realities. cchitnissummer_9104 cchitnissummer_9074 cchitnissummer_9125 Since January, my mom’s health has been declining. The link between Parkinson’s and depression is well established given the fact that Parkinson’s affects many parts of the brain that are crucial to controlling mood. My mom has been suffering greatly for the past eight months, and without getting into the specifics, I can tell you that it has been an emotional roller coaster for the entire family. There were many points at which we thought we might lose her. For those of you that have been reading here for a while, you’ll know that I count my mom as one of my very best friends. And so not only is this entering into the very heavy territory of ‘caring for your parents as they age’ it is also veering into the ‘losing your best friend’ territory. A double whammy of emotions, if you will. cchitnissummer_9106 cchitnissummer_9045 cchitnissummer_9089 cchitnissummer_9124 So in between a book tour, a month in Northern Michigan, and an August filled with wonderful work opportunities, I’ve been back and forth to the Detroit area trying my best to be there for her. Mental illness is a bitch, to put it bluntly. There is no outward sign of disease, and yet the suffering is so real and so terrible. There are moments when I lose my patience and think, “Just pull yourself together.” More moments than I’d like to admit. I want to see her fight to reclaim her happiness, and yet I know it’s not that simple. Throughout the past year, with all of its heartache, I have realized how incredibly thankful I am for the support of my husband, who has been loving and caring for my mother as if she was his own. And then there are my boys, who love my mom with such a pure, selfless love. Their presence brings her great joy during this dark time.cchitnissummer_9008 cchitnissummer_9015 cchitnissummer_9022 cchitnissummer_8962cchitnissummer_9016 cchitnissummer_9019 cchitnissummer_8971And so here we are, all finally back in Providence, settling in for the school year ahead and hoping that we’ve made it out of the woods for now. It will be a year of great change for us. Both boys will be in school full-time this year, and I will continue working at their school part time. It is going to be busy, to say the least, but the boys are ready. It’s quite amazing to see how they’ve matured and grown this summer. They are busy these days running around with their friends, eager to spread their wings. It all reminds me of how precious time is, and how unbelievably fast it all goes by (I mean, remember when I had two little BABIES??!!).cchitnissummer_8985 *The photos here are from my quick trip to NYC- Saipua and Frances Palmer’s gorgeous home studio and gardens. So much beauty.

Your thoughts on “Highs and Lows of High Summer

  1. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to work though and face these challenges. Sending my best wishes for health and peace to you and your family!

  2. Thank you for the update on your mom. I had wondered how she was doing since your trip to Savannah last summer. I know every person and every sickness is different, but I can relate to a lot of what your saying since I experienced some of it with my mom when she was dying of cancer (2010 – 2013). Besides the sickness, my mom was on medications (steroids) that brought out and strengthened the more difficult sides of her personality.On top of all the stress and grief I was feeling, I felt an added burden of trying not to do or say anything I would regret after she was gone. I finally decided to be cognizant of that thought, but that I also would have to put more focus on giving myself grace – grace during that time and grace now that she is gone. It’s just hard and it stinks and that’s all there is to it. Now when I think about my mom and miss her – I am remembering all the time before those last few years of sickness when she wasn’t herself. I was afraid that that difficult time would cloud my good memories. It hasn’t. I just skip over that time in my memory and remember all the good. I’m so sorry for your pain. I’m glad there is some beauty around you for you to focus on. I hope that you will also give yourself plenty of grace.

    1. Nina, I am just so sorry to hear about your mom’s suffering. Is there anything harder than watching our mother’s suffer? I completely know what you are talking about- not wanting to act in a way that you will regret, even though biting your tongue is so damn hard. I have to keep reminding myself that when she is upset and irrational with me, that it is not really her talking, it is the disease.

      I’m just so reassured to hear that you remember all the good times with your mom. That’s my mom’s greatest fear- that as the disease progresses, we’ll forget all our good memories and just remember the difficult times. I try to reassure her that we have built a lifetime of beautiful memories together- and that is what we’ll remember. But it is really, really hard. Sending you lots of love, Nina.

  3. I am so sorry to hear of your mom’s suffering. I can imagine how hard it is for you to be so far away and pulled between teaching/mothering/wifely duties and your mom. Be kind to yourself and know you are doing the best you can.

    1. Thank so much for your kind words Cynthia. It is certainly a challenge to juggle “life” alongside this illness. Despite the many days when I feel like I’m not doing enough, I am trying to treat myself with grace.

  4. I’m so sorry that you and your family are going through this. I know you don’t know me, but I live in Farmington Hills and I would be happy to do anything to help if you ever need help from someone local to your parents.

    1. Oh Sherri, you are just so kind. I so appreciate that you’d be willing to help, without even knowing us. Someday we might take you up on that offer, if the need arises. I will say that the one blessing in all of this has been to see the outpouring of love and support from all of my mom’s friends. She is a women who is truly loves by so many.

  5. I think on social media we only present the good, and that is something people need to realise, that our real lives are often not as beautiful. So sorry to hear about your Mum, and the stresses you and your family are under. I completely sympathise with the wanting to tell her to ” buck up, pull your self together” depression is hard for those not suffering to understand. Warmest wishes to you.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Julie. I think all of this has certainly been a good reminder for me that no matter what we all show on social media, the reality is often quite a bit more complex.

  6. Dear darling daughter
    Thank you for your well chosen words and sentiments about our struggles. I’m so very blessed to have such an amazing family that has been at my side every step of the way! Things are starting to look up and I feel excited about the future for the first time in a very long time! Love you so! Mom

  7. There is so much I want to say to you and do for you right now but most of all I really just want to give you the biggest heartfelt hug! And I want to leave dinner on your doorstep for you to discover at the end of a long hard day and I want to organise a sitter so we can have a girls night out and I want to hang out with you one night when you are solo parenting and our babies have been tucked up early and we can watch some girlie movie on Netflix and sob our eyes out with a box of tissues between us. I want to be able to do all those things and more. Keep holding onto those beautiful moments in each day and know that I am sending you and everyone in your family, all my love. I think you are doing an amazing job and you are so incredibly special! BIG hugs my friend xoxo

    1. Oh honey- if only I could pop in for a girls night. I’d be sure to give you an earful! In the meantime, just knowing you are out there is a source of comfort, dear friend. Sending you BIG hugs right back! xo

  8. I am so sorry to hear about this struggle. I have been thinking of you and your mom and wondering about her since you posted about her health before your wonderful road trip. I am glad to hear she is feeling a bit better! I will keep her and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Mental illness is completely awful. If she isn’t already, I wonder if she could would consider trying to see a therapist or counselor for a bit? It can be hard to understand how it would help at first (and might take a few tries to find a good fit) but I’m amazed by how different things can sound coming out of my mouth rather than in my own head, and the things they can see about you that you don’t know or are too afraid to recognize. I know this might be tricky because of the physical parts of her disease, but every time I’ve sought help I wondered why I waited so long. Being an adult is so FREAKING HARD sometimes!

    1. Oh Caitlin- if you only know how many times I have said that exact phrase lately- being an adult is SO hard! If I would have known I would have joined Peter Pan and staying a kid forever!

      My mom is finding help through a combination of counseling, medical treatments, and exercise. We’re hoping that fighting it on all front will help, and indeed she is getting better. It is a long road though. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  9. Oh, Christine, I’m heartsick for all of you. My dad had Parkinson’s and the journey was more than difficult. I read your mom’s comments and it brought tears to my eyes. As this God awful journey continues, try to find a bright spot…one very small thing…to be grateful for each and every day. Maybe hugs from your boys or support from friends and colleagues. I know it isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. Long term illnesses are the worst roller coaster rides ever…and trying to be a caretaker long distance compounds the problem. Have patience as you continue to support your mom, and do everything you can so you’ll have no regrets
    down the road. Please know I’m here for you…lean on me. Sending hugs and prayers…today and always.

    1. Oh Maureen, I had no idea your dad had Parkinson’s. It is such an cruel disease, isn’t it? Thank you so much for your kind words- I know you know all too well the sadness that comes from watching a loved one suffer. I hope I get to see you soon, dear friend. Sending prayers and love right back at you! xo

  10. I am so sorry for the journey your family is traveling together, but I am so glad that you are openly discussing depression. My husband suffers from depression and for far too long it has been a taboo topic. More and more I am starting to find people openly discussing depression – their own or a family member’s. I, too, have had moments of “just pull yourself together”. Depression doesn’t just impact the person who suffers from it…it impacts every single member of their family and their close friends. We need to pull together as a society and bring more light and discussion to depression.

    1. Hi Kirsten, My heart goes out to you and your husband. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to watch him suffer. I think talking about it openly, and sharing our stories is the only way to shed more light on this horrible and debilitating disease. And I wholeheartedly agree with you that we need to support the close friends and family of those that care for people suffering from depression. It is so hard on the whole family. Sending you love and healing Kirsten.

  11. Thinking and praying for your family and strength during these hard times. I was recently directed to your page via a fan of your Icy cookbook and am in love with your posts! You are so talented!

    1. Hi Rainie! Thank you so much for your kind words, and for taking a moment to visit my blog. I am thrilled that you are enjoying Icy Creamy- a few weeks of summer left to try all those frozen treats!

  12. Dearest Christine,
    I admire you sharing your most honest, vulnerable self. It truly is a contagious practice that is good for all of us. Your mom is my hero. She is working so hard because she dearly loves her people, especially her family. I have had the pleasure of witnessing Vijay and Vic’s presence be the ultimate healing balm.
    I echo your friend’s sentiment about grace. Be kind to yourself.
    You are gifted in crafting words as well as treats. Congrats on your recent book. Love, xoxo Kathy (Mrs. Rheaume…wish your were Peter Pan too!)

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