Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Gift of Time

This is my Dad.  I want to tell you about him.  2012 started with my Dad learning that a spot on his pancreas, originally identified as a cyst, was actually a malignant tumor.  He also learned that some other spots on other organs, initially thought to be of little concern, would now be biopsied as well.  He further learned that the tumor on the pancreas was wrapped around 2 veins, and inoperable and that he would need to begin radiation in hopes of killing the cancer, shrinking the tumor and/or keeping it from growing and spreading its nasty little germs.  Happy New Year, right?!

So after crying for hours, I finally thought I had composed myself enough to call and be a comforter to my Dad so I made the call.  Dad answered with his usual cheerful voice, and I asked, in my shaky voice filled with tears, how he was.  He answered by telling me that he was fine, he really was fine, even if my sisters and I didn't believe him.  He then told me that God has a plan for everyone, we don't know the plan and don't always understand it, but God has a plan and a purpose for everyone.  I told him that I didn't want God to take him away from me.  And he honestly answered that he wasn't ready for that either but that we all have a time to go and that God is in control of our lives and the plan for our lives.  

In my blog in early January I wrote:  "My Dad is the godliest man I know. His faith and his relationship with God leave me wanting more, and make me feel ashamed for questioning how God could allow something like cancer to affect my Dad.  My Dad has devoted his whole life to working for God and to reaching people for God so that they too may have the special personal relationship that he enjoys with his Savior.  Why would God want to take one of his greatest workers from the earth? And when that time comes, who am I to want to hold onto my Dad's ankle as God calls him home to Heaven?  I am trying to be positive, trying to have the peace and faith that my Dad has, and praying constantly for healing.  The practical, worldly side of me knows what cancer means and what cancer does, and I hate not being able to reach into my Dad's body and pull out every bit of the poison that cancer is.  I want to fix it, control it and make it all better for him and my family.  I will try to learn from my Dad, to listen to him, to learn from his example and to trust that God does indeed have a plan for each one of us, and a purpose for our lives which we may not always understand or see.  Who are we to question God's plan for our lives and for the lives of those we love?  In the meantime, while I'm learning, I will pray for my Dad, pray for his healing, pray for his courage and his strength.  I will pray for the doctors, that they will know what they're doing and that they will do it well as we entrust them with our Dad.  I will pray for my Mom and my siblings and our children that we can offer support and encouragement to my Dad and to each other.  And I will thank God for this wonderful man that is my Dad, for the man he has been, for the man he is and for the man he will be.  His example, his faith, and his peace are to be admired and followed.  As my children have said on more than one occasion, "Grandpa works for God, and Grandpa is best friends with God." Who better to have in your corner than God?  Who better to have as a BFF than God?"
Since then, my Dad has gone through 2 rounds of chemotherapy.  The first round consisted of 6 treatments, each one done every other week for 12 weeks.  He had a good result and, although he felt tired and nauseous, he quickly found that a good nap and anti-nausea medication helped with that.  There was a PET scan after that first round, and it showed much improvement so another round of chemo was scheduled. This time there would be 4 treatments, over a period of 8 weeks.  

During these rounds of chemo, my parents took 2 trips to Illinois and 1 trip to the Grand Canyon.  I commented to my dad that his cancer was really lucky to be able to go on all these great trips.  But it's not luck, it's prayer, medical technology and my father's great health and tolerance for the chemotherapy that have allowed to him to, for the most part, continue living his life.  He often writes that he is thankful for the prayers, for the way his body has been able to tolerate the chemotherapy and that he is anxious for God's plan for him as a believer with cancer.  After the completion of the 2nd round of chemo, this is what my dad sent in his email to his prayer warriors:  
" Having cancer is always on my mind. Our church worship teams consistently select music that reminds me of the glory that waits me on the other side. I’m beginning to think they do it purposely to have me shed tears of anticipation and joy when I lead the congregation in prayer. I am enjoying my time with Linda, realizing how few times may be ahead of us. I’m ready to be with the Lord but wouldn’t mind if he allowed me a few more years to enjoy him here and serve him here."

Last week Dad had his 2nd PET scan, and this is the news we received from him today:  
"The scan revealed that there was no cancer activity in the pancreas, though there was thickening of the pancreas. The cancer in the abdominal cavity is still too small to be detected; so we don’t know where that stands, although the cancer has not settled in the stomach.

The doctor said we could take a break from the treatment and run the risk of the cancer reactivating or just continue with the treatment. I chose to continue treatment to maintain the positive momentum of the chemotherapy. So my next treatment is August 13th. The average number of my kind of treatments is 12 (I’ve had 10). The most treatments he has given is 18 and I’m going for the record!"

I know the ups and downs of cancer, I know that cancer doesn't discriminate between old or young, sick or healthy, man or woman, parent or child.  I have watched cancer take my grandmother and take one of my best friends.  But today I rejoice because today is an "up", today is a day that God has shown me that prayers work and that there can be healing.  Today I am thankful, thankful to God for allowing me more time with this wonderful man, thankful to friends and family for their constant prayers and thoughts and support.  And I am thankful for the gift of time, for each and every day, each and every minute that my parents have together and that I have with my Dad.  He is truly an inspiration and his faith and contentment continue to amaze me and make me proud, so very proud to be his daughter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh, Baby

It's happened again. Another baby has been born, and I'm jealous.  Over the past few years, as I have reconnected with high school classmates, or caught up on their lives by reading their Facebook posts, I am amazed that some of my classmates are still having babies, or are having their first babies.

Most of these new mothers or young mothers have established careers, have completed many more years of schooling than I, or have been married less time than me.  But they are making me feel old. I have been a mother for 20 years and have almost been a mother for more years than I have not.  My baby is almost 10 years old, and when I see the pictures of the new babies, I can almost smell them and feel them snuggling in my arms and wrapping their tiny fingers around my one finger. 

These moms are women who, I am almost positive, did not torture their guidance counselor the way I did when sitting in his office discussing their post-high school dreams.  When my counselor kept handing me brochures for Ivy League schools that cost a fortune but that I "should be considering with my great grades", I pushed them aside. When asked whether I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, a businesswoman, I always responded that I wanted to be a wife and a mother but that in the meantime until I reached that goal, I might want to be a teacher, the counselor would shake his head. I was sure he was thinking "What a waste."

Well, Mr. Daly, it wasn't a waste.  I love being a wife and a mother, and although I never became a teacher, I teach my children things every chance I get.  And even though it took me years to get my Associates Degree, I did it when it didn't interfere with my first priority of being a mother.  And I'm proud...proud of my 3 children, proud of the time when I was a single mother on my own, and the job I did with my babies.

And even though the practical side of me is glad that I can say "Come on, kids, time to go", and they put on their own shoes, their own jackets, walk to the car, and put on their own seatbelts, there will always be the other side of me that wouldn't mind packing the formula, the bottles, the extra clothing, the diapers, the wipes, the back-up pacifier, the burp cloths, putting the infant carrier on my arm and trying to juggle the carrier, the overstuffed diaper bag and the pocket book through the doorway while still being able to close the door behind me without dropping everything and then loading my precious newborn cargo into the car.

So, to my high school classmates in their new careers as mothers:  enjoy every second, every minute because it all goes by so fast, leaving behind precious memories and making way for new ones with your "grown-up" babies.  And please keep posting those pictures!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

There's Something About the Beach

I LOVE the beach. When I was a child, I loved going to the beach with my family.  We would park and then all walk down to the beach, armed with blankets, towels, sand toys, sunblock, food, a cooler and many times a stroller.  We could never get too far walking in the sand before our sandals or flip flops would come off and then we would run the rest of the way on the hot sand looking for a large area where we could drop everything and run to the water or settle down to build our creations in the sand.

My sisters and I would play in the sand for hours, building sand castles with moats that went all around the connected castles and would eventually empty out into the ocean, the same ocean that would also fill the moats.  I remember building underwater tunnels and the thrill we would get when the water poured through without collapsing our castle.  Then we would go splashing into the water, riding the waves, laughing at each other when the undertow would occasionally take one of us down.  I can remember coming back up from one such takedown only to have another wave immediately take me back under while I was trying to get my hair out of my face, get the seaweed off of my body and to get the horrible taste of saltwater out of my mouth and eyes.  I remember stumbling blindly to the beach blanket to grab my towel and wipe my face, only then realizing that my towel was full of sand, and I was only making it worse.

Then I became a teenager, and I loved going to the beach with my friends.  These were the easiest trips.  Teenage girls throw on their bikinis, put a pair of shorts over them and don a pair of flip flops and sunglasses.  As long as we had baby oil or some low SPF suntan oil (always oil, never lotion), Doritos and Cokes we were ready.  Towels and beach blankets were optional as we spent most of our time cruising the strip, either in the car, on foot, or on the backs of motorcycles.  We bought tie-dye half shirts and short shorts, took goofy pictures of ourselves and got fake tattoos.  If we got hungry we grabbed a slice of pizza or fried dough.  We were there to soak up the sun as we walked around looking cool.  We were there to get tan, to shop and to meet boys. Those were fun trips!

Then I became a Mom. Trips to the beach now meant juggling baby bottles, formula, a stroller, toys to keep the baby busy, sunblock (SPF 50 for the baby and SPF 6 for me - I was young and still on the prowl), an umbrella, beach blanket, towels, snacks and juice boxes.
I would exit the car and try to load as much as I could in the bottom of the stroller and the rest on the top of the stroller. 
 I would push the overloaded stroller to the beach entrance and then frantically struggle to push it through the sand until finally I would just pick it up and carry it to an area close enough to the water to watch my toddler play but where I could actually push the stroller on the wetter packed down sand.  Then I would unpack everything, apply sunblock to my baby, position the umbrella and spend the next few hours ensuring that the sun didn't shine on him but that it did shine on me while we were only inches apart from each other.  We would make the trek from beach blanket to the water with little toddler steps and then kick the water and jump and laugh as the waves splashed on our feet and ankles.  We would build sand castles and we would eat cut-up fruit and drink from juice boxes.  As this adorable little toddler grew into a young boy around the age of 4 or 5, I remember one beach day where my sister Terry and I were lying on the blankets soaking up the sun while little Jake played next to us in the sand. As I was drifting off to dreamland in the sun with the sound of waves crashing, I thought I heard a voice, a little voice saying, "Excuse me, excuse me."  I didn't recognize the voice and as the words spoken didn't include the word "Mommy" I didn't pay much attention. Then the voice got louder.  "Excuse me, excuse me, lady.  You have a wedgie."  I now recognized the voice to be that of my boy.  As I rolled over and sat up, I noticed him standing and pointing at a lovely young lady walking along the edge of the water and wearing a pretty red thong.  To a 4 year old boy, she most definitely appeared to have a wedgie.  His public service announcement continued, despite my pleas for him to stop and my insistence that she knew she had a wedgie, only to hear back, rather loudly, "Why would anyone want a wedgie?  Why isn't she picking it?"  Yes, it was a fun day at the beach, but I did smile as that poor young lady ran off to probably put some shorts on.

Now I have 3 children. The wedgie patrolman is now 20 and probably seeks out women wearing those particular bathing suits.  My other two are 11 and 9.  No one likes to go to the beach, at least not with me.  They will go with friends and make a day of it, but when I suggest going, someone always says "not today".

Well, this weekend we are going.  I am going to make sandwiches designed to taste good even when mixed with particles of sand. I will pack cookies and chips and fruit and waters and sodas and juice boxes.  I will pack varying degrees of sunblock - 30 for them and 15 for me, I've gotten a little bit better.  I will dig out the beach blanket and the sand toys and the beach towels.  As we search for parking, I will unroll the windows so I can smell the saltwater and hear the crashing waves.  I will scan the crowds of people, remembering earlier days of hanging with the girls.  I will search for that little hole in the wall that sold the best fried dough. I will drag the kids and all of our gear through the hot sand until we find the perfect place to put it all down - right next to the large woman in the small bikini - hey, I don't look as good in my suit as I used to, and I need to make myself feel better.  Call it conceit, I call it careful planning.  I will ride the waves with the kids, we will kick and splash in the waves.  I will hold hands with my kids and run in the water.  I will eat sandy sandwiches and junk food. I will lie on the beach blanket and try to get a tan while reading my romance novel.  I will watch the clock so I know when to turn over so that my sunburn is even on all sides.  When it's time to go I will help the kids wash off their feet so they don't have to be all sandy and uncomfortable on the ride home.  And then I will make the drive home.  They will sleep, I will turn the radio up a little louder, and I will smile because we just made a memory.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day to the Dads

A father is one who conceives a child. That's the easy and fun part.  Turn on any daytime talk show on any given day and you'll hear at some point in the show, the host's announcement of "You ARE the father."  But usually those who are receiving that announcement are only getting the confirmation that they have made a child, and they have yet to be more than a father and to be a dad. 

But what makes a father a dad?  A dad is there when the baby smells like powder. A dad is there when the baby doesn't smell so nice.  A dad is there when his child begins to eat real food.  A dad is there when his child throws it all up.  A dad is there when his child is healthy. A dad is there when his child is covered in chicken pox or up all night with a bad cough. A dad is there when his child learns to ride a bike. A dad is there when his child falls off that bike and is crying because of skinned knees.  A dad is there when his child comes home from school with smiley faces and "A's" on his or her homework. A dad is there when his child comes home with his or her first "F".  A dad is there for the parent-teacher conferences where the teacher raves about what a great student and child he or she is. A dad is there for the conferences that don't go quite so well.  A dad rejoices with his child when he or she gets the winning run, the winning goal or the winning touchdown.  A dad comforts his child when he or she misses the catch or the pass and feels like a failure.  A dad is there when his child gets his or her license.  A dad is there when that same child gets his or her first speeding ticket or is in an accident.  A dad is there for the school dances, the first boy or girlfriend, the first date, the graduation, the first job, the wedding, the birth of a grandchild, the joys, the tears, the ups, the downs. 

A stepfather is one who marries a woman who already has a child with another.  He becomes the stepfather to that child.  Sometimes this is a very sticky situation for the stepfather.  His stepchild already has a father.  If the father is involved in the child's life, it can be tough on the stepfather who is with the child every day and is many times "the everyday father".  However, some fathers don't appreciate the difficult role of the stepfather and don't understand that the stepfather is also now in a parenting role of his child.  But the stepfather loves the mother and wants to help her by helping to take care of her child, loving, providing and disciplining.  A good father and a good stepfather are good dads and good stepdads when they realize that they are co-parenting, not trying to take one job away from the other, but simply just another parent who loves the child.  And a child can never have enough love.  Stepdads are there for all the times that the dad is there, and they love that child as their own.  And the dad should get that and appreciate the assistance.  My husband and I married when my son was 7, and there have been many times that my son's father has said that he appreciates my husband and is thankful for him being there for his son, and for that we are all fortunate in that we can see the bigger picture of working together as parents.  My husband and I have 2 children together, and he loves all 3 of my children the same, as if they were all 3 his own.  He provides and cares for them and is there for all of the above occasions.  Next Sunday we will celebrate Father's Day, and they will both be there, my son's father with his own family, and my husband with us.  Co-parenting for the greater good of the child...because he is loved by both his dads.

My thoughts today are also with the dads who are parenting alone, whether by choice or not by choice.  I think in particular of two very special dads who lost their wives, the mothers of their children.  These dads have had to become both mother and father and have worked hard to make the transition as smooth as possible for their children, by keeping their schedules, their activities and their hopes and dreams going.  Through their own grief and their own tears, they have devoted their lives to continue the parenting plan they had made with their wives for the children and to ensure that their children still have plenty of reasons every day to smile and laugh.  God bless you for all that you dads do.

So today I would like to honor the fathers who are dads, the stepfathers who are stepdads and the fathers who have the very tough job of being moms and dads.  I would like to honor my dad who has always been there, when I've made him happy and when I've disappointed him.  I knew he loved me the same during both of those times, and I never doubted his love, his support and his prayers for me.  I would like to honor my son's dad for loving him enough to share him with my husband.  I would like to honor my husband who I respect and admire every day for the gentle and quiet ways he shows his love and care for our children, all 3 of them.

Happy Father's Day to all you DADS for all you do and all you are!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What would you do?

There's a term called the "bucket list". The "bucket list" is a list, written or mental, which includes all of the things you would like to do before your time on earth ends.  But what would you do if one day you were told that there was a distinct end, a light at the end of the tunnel if you will, or a limited time left here on earth?  Would you make amends with someone with whom you had parted ways?  Would you spend as much time as you could with those you loved, doing the things you love?  Would you become the daredevil you always wanted to be?  Would you go bungee jumping? Skydiving?  Parasailing? Would you get a tattoo? Would you travel and visit all the places you always thought you'd have the time to visit?  Would you make sure you never missed a single chance to tell your loved ones that you love them?

I've been thinking of my own "bucket list". I've gone parasailing.  I've always wanted to go hang gliding.  I've always wanted to go to Italy and Hawaii.  I'd love to take my parents and all my siblings and their families to Disney World.  I'd like to just walk the beach holding hands with my husband and children, kicking our feet in the water as we walked, and NOT picking seaweed off our ankles or from in between our toes.  I'd like to get a tattoo, and I just did that.  I'd call a former friend and apologize for the mean letter I sent her when she hurt me.  I'd like to get together with old friends and laugh and reminisce about good times.  But mostly I'd like to spend every moment making memories, memories to treasure in my heart to carry me through dark times, and memories to leave in the hearts of those I'd be leaving behind. 

It's hard to think about things like this, much in the way it seems morbid to make a will or to talk about who you would want to raise your children if you were no longer here to do the job.  But why does it take receiving a death sentence to make us live?  Why don't we do these things each and every day?  Why don't we say "I love you" more often? Why don't we make more of an effort to spend time with our families and friends? Why don't we build memories now? 

There is a saying that I like that says "Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children".  It's so true...what kind of memories are we giving our children?  What kind of stories will they someday share with their children about what it was like when they were children living with us?

Tim McGraw sings "Live like you were dying", and maybe we should.  No one knows when their last day is so why waste a single minute?  Life here on earth has so much to offer, there is so much to see, so many things to do, and so many people to love and treat well and memories to be made every day.

I'm going to work on making memories, leaving good memories in the hearts and minds of my children, never missing an opportunity to say "I love you" and maybe, just maybe, go hang gliding in Hawaii someday. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fun Friday!

Today was the best Fun Friday ever.  For those of you who don't read my blog regularly, there will be some references to previous blogs so let me catch you up to speed.

Fun Friday originated at work between me and my co-worker Hailyn.  Fun Friday is a day that you wear jeans, order a really good lunch, and by really good, I mean really bad in terms of healthy eating.  Some Fun Fridays even begin with chips 'n dip that we buy from the convenience store across the street at 10 AM.  But there's always bad eating, that's a given.  Sometimes we even go out for a long lunch, with the boss's permission, mind you, or the boss buys us lunch.  The other definite of Fun Friday is doing little work, unless you count shopping online or watching music videos on YouTube as work.  Yes, there is also dance music playing, rather loudly at times, and dancing in our cubicles.  Fun Friday is, in a nutshell, FUN!

The only downer to Fun Friday is when others don't understand the concept of Fun Friday.  For example, our other co-worker is a little bit of a downer, all right, I'm being nice, she IS a downer.  She doesn't wear jeans EVER, doesn't eat bad food, and if she ever feels evil enough to order with us, she hardly eats anything and tells us repeatedly how her meal is going to last her all weekend while we shovel the entire meal into our mouths and then immediately thereafter begin talking about how we need something sweet to polish off the meal and thereby enhance the fun that is Fun Friday.  The downer also almost always has a "boo boo belly" which is fancy talk for an upset stomach, and from previous blogs, you will have learned that every time she says "boo boo belly", it is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  She is also a hard worker and ALWAYS overwhelmed with work, but it is work that no one can help her with.  I know because I have asked in an effort to make her more fun.  So picture Hailyn and I eating, dancing, laughing and shopping while she runs around from computer to copier to file cabinet all while complaining of a "boo boo belly" and wearing dress-up clothes.  DOWNER!  There are also clients who don't understand Fun Friday, and they show up or call, expecting us to take messages or make appointments for them or listen to their tales of woe, self-inflicted tales of woe, mind you, as there would be no tale to tell if they didn't get in trouble in the first place for their own wrongdoing.

The other thing you need to know is that I have been trying to get past my aversion to exercising and have been spending a lot of time bonding with my new treadmill.  I've only seen a weight loss of 5 lbs, but have been told I look better so I'm guessing my hard work is paying off.

Now fast forward to today...today being Friday.  I took the day off from work.  Initially I asked for the day off because I needed to take my son to a doctor's appointment.  I thought I could go to the mall before picking him up at 11, and spend my Christmas and Mother's Day gift cards.  However, the mall didn't open until 10, and that wasn't going to allow enough time. So although I had the day off, I wasn't thinking I would be able to observe the weekly holiday known as Fun Friday.

So this morning I was awakened by my husband telling me that he was taking his motorcycle to work and Jake would take his car to work so that I didn't have to bring Jake to his doctor's appointment. Bonus!  Now I could go to the mall.  So as I lay in bed, I planned my Fun Friday.  I got Nathan and Allie on the bus and off to school; we average MAKING the bus in the morning maybe twice a week, so this was already a plus.  I then came home, threw in a load of laundry and baked a cake as my husband of almost 13 years had just announced the other day that his favorite dessert was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Staying with the positive theme of Fun Friday, it's good to learn something new about your spouse after all these years, right? I'm not a bad wife for not knowing that, right?

Then I headed to the mall which is just under an hour away.  Oh yeah, I was also having a good hair day.  On the way to the mall, I heard all my favorite songs which I sang at the top of my lungs.  My first stop was DSW. I had never been to DSW which is SHOE HEAVEN!!! 
I didn't know where to begin, but then saw my favorite sign "Clearance" so headed to my size.  DSW isn't cheap, and for someone who doesn't like to pay more than $20 for any item, this was the section for me.  I found 2 pairs of shoes here and then began to walk the hundreds (all right maybe more like 40) of aisles of regular-priced shoes where I found another pair.  I paid with my gift card and coupons and ended up leaving with $10 left on my gift card for a future visit.  Then it was off to Macy's to spend my other gift card.  I was in search of pants for work, Monday thru Thursday pants, in other words, not jeans.  I found 2 pairs in my size that were regularly $98 but were 80% off which would have made me buy them just for that but then the best thing happened.  I tried them on, and they were TOO BIG!  After a quick thank you to my treadmill for not bucking me off anymore, I returned them to the rack and grabbed the next size down.  I then found 2 cute summer tops and headed to the cashier.  I went over my gift card by $7, but I gladly paid it for my smaller-sized clothes.

Then I headed home, windows open, good hair blowing in the cool breeze, sunglasses on, again hearing my favorite songs on the radio, singing along, pleased with my new purchases and looking forward to my daughter's concert at school at 2:00, and then it happened.  Something that could potentially be a literal buzzkill to Fun Friday...a bee flew into my open window and flew into my shirt.  I pulled my shirt out and could see it and feel it flying in my armpit.  I tried to reach it through my shirt to no avail so I ripped off my seatbelt, ripped off my shirt and began beating the bee until it could fly no more.  It was then time to get off on my exit so I figured I would just put my shirt back on while on the exit ramp.  Then a car began to pass me, and I thought, "Oh great!"  I looked over and a nice young man, who was clearly in need of an eye exam, gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up.  So see, nothing bad really ever happens on Fun Friday!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Being the "Other Mother" and Saying Goodbye

I have 3 children to whom I have given birth.  Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time with many of their friends as well, and there are certain ones who have spent more time here than others.  As a result, I have grown very fond of them and consider them my other children.  I have accepted their Facebook friend requests and read their Facebook statuses, rejoicing with them when they are happy, feeling concern when they are sad and worrying when something is bothering them.  I try to have these feelings from a distance, particularly for the friends of my oldest son Jake, as they are now young adults and don't want their own parents asking them questions, much less me.  But I care nonetheless.

In January one of these other children came to live with us.  I always knew the situation would be temporary, but the longer he was here, the more I dreaded the day that he would leave.  He wasn't used to living with younger children and wasn't used to my style of mothering that some might call "smothering mothering" or "helicopter" mom behavior.  I gave him the rules and also warned him that there would be home-cooked meals, laundry services, annoying "where are you" phone calls, intruding questions and hugs and love.  I knew it would be an adjustment for him, and it was. For a month or so, he asked if he could get a drink or snack or take a shower and never ate the suppers I made and left in the refrigerator for him.  But gradually, he became more comfortable.  He reheated his suppers every night when he came home, he stopped being so polite and showered when he wanted to and felt comfortable to help himself to the fridge and pantry.  He also said good night to me every night before he went downstairs to his room. 

Yesterday he told me that he was going to be moving back home with his mother, and I'll admit a part of me wanted to say, "But I'm your mother."  But I'm not, and no matter how much I love him as my own, I have to let him go.  We talked for awhile, he thanked me for everything the way he has done so many times in the past, we talked about his future plans, we promised to still see each other occasionally and said we'd miss each other and when he said "I love you", I said it back with a lump in my throat and fought back the tears.  And when we hung up, I felt sad and let the tears fall.

Today after work I went to his room to bring in clean laundry.  As I opened the door, I noticed he had been packing, and it hit me...hard.  My other son was leaving... and soon.  He texted me a little while later to ask if it was okay to start moving some of his things to his mother's, and I wrote back "Sure, but I'm sad."  While I was at Nathan's game he called to say he had moved everything out as he had a truck tonight and just did it all in one shot and said he was sorry to have missed me but would stop by.  The lump in my throat immediately returned. 

When I got home, I went downstairs.  The door to his room was open, and I walked in.  The room was empty.  I stood in the middle of the room and cried.  I haven't had to say goodbye to a child who has left for college or who has gone into the military or moved out, and one of my birds had left the nest.

So to my other son...I will miss you, I want nothing but the best for you, and I will always be here for you.  Thank you for letting me be your mother even for a short time, thank you for letting me be a part of your life and thank you for being a part of our family.  You are important to me, you are special, and I love you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Get the Funk Out

I'm in a funk this week.  Too many of my loved ones are hurting, and I can't fix them.  I am a control freak, and I like to fix things and have everything be good and everyone happy.  No drama for this mama, I just can't stand it.

So, being in my funk, I have very random thoughts.  I stay up too late, thinking. I drive 2 hours a day, thinking.  I stand in the shower, thinking.  I walk on the treadmill, thinking.  I can't keep my mind on work, I forget why I went into a room or what I was supposed to do, and I have that constant distracted feeling about me.

So today's thoughts started with wondering how I was going to zig zag between Winchendon and Gardner tonight to go to dek hockey (on the W/G line) for 5, then to softball (Winch) for 5:15, then back to dek hockey for 6 and then back to the Winch and then to Gardner for a hockey meeting at 7.  Ya, it was too much for me, we skipped dek hockey.

Then my thoughts jumped to words I hate.  I was listening to the radio, and the DJ kept saying the word "panties" over and over.  I hate that word.  Maybe I watch too much Law & Order SVU, but every time they use the word panties it refers to either a sexually abused child or a rape victim. So yeah, I hate that word. 

Another word I hate is pantyhose, and maybe because it is a derivative of panties, I don't know, but I don't like it.  Is it supposed to mean a pair of panties with hoses hanging off of it for your legs?  Like a flat fireman's hose that fills up with water, much the way the legs of pantyhose lie limp until a pair of legs fill them up?

My next hated word is actually a phrase that a coworker uses: "boo boo belly". This is in reference to a stomachache or an upset stomach, but every time she says it, which is almost daily because she has constant stomach issues, it goes through me like nails on a chalkboard, and I feel like she is a grandmother trying to talk to a 2 yr old and explain why the toddler's tummy hurts.

The next two words go together: "blouse" and "slacks".  To me they imply old lady clothing, a silky top with a really bad print paired with a polyester pair of pants with an elastic waist.  Any time I hear those words, I immediately think ugly, old lady clothes and am reminded of the Blair ads I used to see in the Parade section of the Sunday paper. There is a reason those prices are so low, it is because they are trying to appeal to a Social Security or Retirement salary and...because they are ugly.  So if someone says to me "Nice blouse" or "Are those new slacks?", I immediately want to remove the offensive items that immediately feel like they are burning my skin and throw them away or, at the very least, hide them in the back of my closet with the other clothes that I am too kind to throw away because I don't want to hurt their feelings, but there is an understanding that they will not be worn again.  I secretly think that even though they know they won't fulfill their destiny in being worn, they are relieved that I have a "no kill policy".

The other side effect of my funk is that while I am disgusted with my body and weight and had all good intentions while grocery shopping over the weekend when I was funk-free, I am now irritated that there is no chocolate in my house.  I have pushed past the granola bars, the pretzels and the low-fat crackers in search of chocolate chips.  I have moved the cantaloupe, the strawberries and the watermelon in the fridge in search of a possible left over piece of fudge from Christmas.  Why, oh why was I so motivated on Sunday when I was at the store?  Is it too late, at 11:49 PM on a work night, to whip up a batch of brownies? What time will they be done and cool enough to eat?  Too late, I suppose. 

It's late, too much thinking, gotta get the funk out, or at least buy a candy bar first thing in the morning.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Reflections

Yesterday was Mother's Day, a day when we remember our own mothers, our friends and loved ones who are mothers, etc., etc.  I got spoiled, spoiled by gifts, beautiful and heartfelt cards, special texts and Facebook messages.  But more importantly, I spent time with those I love, and I was reminded of the importance of family.

Being the oldest of 8 children, I always knew I wanted children of my own.  I loved the way there was always a sibling home to play with when I was bored, there was always something going on in the house, and it wasn't quiet.  And I liked it that way.  I loved playing Mommy to my younger siblings, and I know I was bossy, but I liked to feel that I was in charge, too, because I was the oldest.  I remember the disappointment of my high school guidance counselor when he tried to convince me to go to a prestigious college because I had such high grades and I told him that I wanted to be a wife and mother and maybe a teacher and that I didn't want to go to an expensive school.  He finally gave up on me.  Yes, I always wanted to be a Mom, and I have been for almost 20 years.  Being a Mother is my greatest joy in this world and my 3 children are my greatest accomplishments.  So see, Mr. Daley, I was right, this was what I was meant to do.

I remember being pregnant with my oldest child.  I had gone to lamaze classes, had watched the birthing video and had talked with others about pregnancy.  But yet, when I woke up one morning with contractions and timed them to be 3 mins. apart for a couple of hours, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I remember waiting until 8 AM to call my mother and telling her that this was so easy.  The contractions were already 3 mins apart and didn't even hurt; as a matter of fact, I was playing solitaire killing the time to avoid calling her at the crack of dawn.  Well, I went to the hospital 4 times that day, and 3 of those times they sent me home because things weren't happening quickly, and I wasn't in enough pain for them to admit me.  By the time they admitted me, I could barely walk or talk through the contractions, which was the criteria they said I needed in order to be allowed to stay and give birth.  And by the time my son was born just after midnight, I no longer thought it was a piece of cake, and my solitaire card game was long over.

And the longer I am a mother, I realize that the labor and delivery was the easy part.  Once you become a mother, you are responsible for someone, you have a job to do, a person depending on you for their physical needs as well as their emotional needs.  It is up to you, the Mother, to show them the way, to do your best to teach manners, to teach responsibility, to teach kindness and respect.  Sound like a big responsibility? It is.

That said, all we as Mothers can do, is our best.  Will we screw up occasionally?  Of course we will.  But own it when you do, the same way we expect our children to own up to their wrongdoings.  Don't be afraid to say to your child "I don't know" or "I'm sorry" or "That wasn't right of Mommy".  Be real, be a person, be human and admit to your wrongdoings.  We don't know it all, and we do screw up, and if we can't admit it when we do, then how can we ask that of our children?

I have many hopes and dreams for my children.  When they were younger, I wished for them to be polite, have good manners, not hit or bite, and to be respectful.  Now that they are older, I still wish all those things for them, but my list has grown. I wish that they be strong, be honest, be true and loyal, always do their best, treat others with kindness and the same respect they want from others, and to be real.  Stand up for yourselves, but do it in the right manner.  Hold firm to your beliefs, and if you feel strongly about something, be respectful about others' opinions and beliefs, but don't back down if you think you are right.  Treat your friends and your boy/girlfriends with dignity, don't lie, be honest about your feelings, even if those feelings differ from theirs and don't leave someone guessing as to their importance in your life.

And most of all, my child, be YOU, because you are special, you are funny, you are kind, you are wonderful, and you are loved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tears of Joy

Last week my Dad completed his first round of chemotherapy after 12 weeks of 3 days of treatments every other week, anti-nausea medication, stomach issues, fatigue and a modified diet of less than desirable foods.  He was told that because he tolerated the chemo well, he could do another round and keep up with the same schedule.  "Oh, goodie, can I?" would have been my response.  It's kind of like when you do a job that is out of the realm of your regular job duties, and because you did it well, you are now deemed to be that person...for example, the "toner replacer", the "bathroom cleaner", the "bill collector".  Yes, because Dad tolerated the treatments, because he managed to deal with the nausea, the pills, and the gross foods, he wins another 12 weeks of more of the same.

So before the "prize" could be scheduled, a PET scan needed to first be approved by the insurance company and then performed.  The PET scan is a test that he had prior to chemotherapy and is a test that pinpoints and measures the cancerous tumors.  Bloodwork and labs performed during the course of the chemotherapy weren't very positive and seemed to indicate that the chemo wasn't doing its job, that is, to kill or slow the growth of the cancer.

Today was the PET scan.  I talked to my Dad late morning, and he said that it was all very quick, and that they didn't expect to hear anything until his appointment next Wednesday, but that no news was good news.  Less than an hour later, I received this email from my Dad:

"Mom took a call from my oncologist, Dr. Samaha. He already got the report from my PET scan and said there was a lot of improvement, which means that the chemotherapy will continue. On the negative side they have to replace my port before the treatment. But the good news is that the chemotherapy worked. We’ll know tumor measurements and how much improvement later."

Immediately my eyes started to fill with tears, but for the first time since this journey began, they were tears of joy.  I have received emails from my parents after every doctor's appointment and every lab, and many of these emails were not upbeat or positive medically.  I have cried, I have been sick to my stomach, I have driven around aimlessly, and I have thrown things.  But more than all that, I have prayed as have countless others.  Hundreds, and maybe thousands of people, all around the world have been praying.  We have been praying for a miracle because the medical diagnosis was grim.  Well, today that miracle came in the form of a PET scan and 4 beautiful words "a lot of improvement".

And I know that prayers have been answered,  God has heard all of our prayers, and God has given us the gift of more time.  I am thankful to those who have prayed, I am thankful to God for his gift, and I am so thankful for my Dad, who is my pillar of strength and my inspiration. It is he who comforts me on the difficult days, and it is he who reminds me where my faith and trust should lie.  Thank you God for giving me more time with this amazing man, my Dad.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Love/Hate Relationship

My treadmill and I are in a love/hate relationship, and it's all my emotion ~ some days I love it, some days I hate it.  I'm pretty sure the treadmill doesn't love me or hate me, but it may be relieved to have all those bags of clothes and Christmas decorations and dust off of it.

Every time I enter my bedroom I see the treadmill sitting there alone and empty in the corner.  It's almost like it is beckoning me at times to help it serve its purpose.  It's like that shirt that hangs in my closet saying "pick me, pick me", and I keep ignoring it. And yes I feel bad for lonely clothes and exercise equipment so I try to humor them and not leave them lonely.

Now, this treadmill came to live with me after I found it at the end of a driveway on a nearby street.  It was wearing a sign that said "FREE", implying that it had no value, and the owners had no more use for it and were discarding it to anyone who was willing to drag it away.  So as much as I long for the days that a newborn baby gets left on my doorstep, I made the treadmill my baby.  I loaded it into the van and drove away.  To be honest it wasn't quite that easy, but let's just say I made it fit, and only came away with a few bruises and scratches.

I hauled it up to my bedroom and set it up in a corner of the room and plugged it in.  It started up with a loud hum, but it started up nonetheless.  I tried it out and immediately was grabbing for the safety rails (that's what I call them for obvious reasons) as I was almost thrown off the back into the wall, like a bucking horse who knows its rider has no idea what she is doing.  Now this free castoff didn't come with directions, nor did it come with a knob to control the incline setting which seems to be in the inclined position, because I can't really be THAT out of shape. No, really, it is inclined a bit, I measured.  So after the "buck-off", I took a little break, maybe a little out of fear and a lot out of laziness.  Slowly but surely, the treadmill became an extra closet.  Boxes and bags of Christmas decorations found their way there as did bags of maternity clothes and chldren's clothes returned to me from my sisters.  It was easier to enter the room and not hear the treadmill calling out, "Try again, saddle me up, I won't buck you off" when it was covered with things.  Only the lonely safety rails kept peeking out at me as if they were offering reassurance that they would save me once again if only I dared to hop back on.

Well, I have dared.  Two weeks ago after a particularly self-revealing moment in my room with my summer clothes, I decided enough was enough. I can be rather hard on myself at times, and this was one of those moments. It was "do or die", or "do or diet" which to me means the same thing since I love food.  So I cleared off the bags, dusted off the safety rails, plugged in the treadmill and climbed aboard, all while holding onto the safety rails, of course.  Well, that day I did 2 miles, alternating every 1/2 mile between running and walking.  The humming seemed increasingly louder so I turned the ipod up louder and louder.  The music of Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC and Motley Crue pushed me forward.  Between the sweat forming on my whole body and the fact that I was short of breath in that I couldn't sing along to my favorite songs, I knew I was doing something right.  I didn't do a .001 mile past the 2 miles, which was the goal I set for my maiden voyage, and I almost fell as I dismounted because my legs were so weak, and I was so dizzy, but I did it.  Inspired, I also did 50 sit-ups as those were my saving grace after my first pregnancy when I wanted to get immediately back into my faded jean size 5 booty shorts.  After the sit-ups, I crashed, hard, onto the bed, and only got up to get some water, not to drink, but to pour over my head in the middle of the kitchen, knowing and not even caring that I would also have to be the one to clean it up.

Two weeks later...I haven't visited the treadmill every day, and some days I can hear it sigh as I walk past, and I know it's disappointed that I haven't taken it for a ride that day.  And then the next day when I plug it in, and its loud hum starts going, I know it's ready for me.  And it's getting easier...the incline isn't so bad anymore, the music still pumps me up and pushes me forward, the safety rails are still my friends and the dizzying dismounts aren't so intense.  I'm doing the same 2 miles in less time and increasing my speed.  The 60 sit-ups that follow aren't making me want to vomit, and I've added 50 girl push-ups too, and I've lost 5 lbs.  But more importantly I feel better. I feel like I'm accomplishing something and I might even be starting to like exercise a little bit because I find myself enjoying my late afternoon rides on my treadmill and actually looking forward to them some days.  Yes, we are bonding...me and my baby left on my doorstep.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Walk This Way

I work in downtown Worcester on Main Street where there are streetlights at each block for a good 2 mile stretch that seems more like 10 miles when you catch all the red lights.  But when you get the green lights, you should be able to drive right?

Not so!  It is nothing unusual for pedestrians walking together deep in conversation to just step off the sidewalk and cross the street right in front of you.  They don't skip a beat in their conversation and don't even glance your way, even if your brakes screech or you beep the horn. They are oblivious.  It is also nothing unusual for them to dart out in front of you, thinking that if they run and wave their arms like it's an emergency that it will be okay.  These are all people I would like to refer to as "speed bumps"; however my legal training knows that "the pedestrian always has the right of way".

And how many more tools can we give these tools, I mean pedestrians??  They have magic buttons at each intersection that, once pushed, will give every driver a red light, making it safe for the pedestrian to cross.  Additionally, they have crosswalks, designated areas that they should be walking in, and when a driver approaches, it has the same effect as a dog approaching an electric fence as you slam on your brakes because someone is in the designated area.  And furthermore, there is a 10 or 15 second countdown that flashes for the pedestrian so they know how much time they have before someone is going to get a green light and be allowed to drive over the restricted area.  So, my dear pedestrians, if the number is already on 3, you better book it across the street, not step off the curb and take baby steps across as if the leader of Mother May I is waiting across the street instructing you to take 100 baby steps.  And if you are blind, there is some leeway (sp?), but you also get a beeping sound to let you know when it is safe to cross, and you also have a walking stick and a dog.  However, I will not ever label you as a speed bump so you are good there.

Now, when I am not in the car and am a pedestrian walking the sidewalks of Main Street, I stop at the intersections.  I may not use the magic button because I find it demeaning and more fun to play Frogger and dart across the street, but I honestly only do that when it is safe and no cars are coming toward me.  I would never dream of just stepping off a sidewalk, while looking down, and walk into oncoming traffic forcing drivers to stop because I have the right of way.  Wise up, walkers!  And P.S.  The customer isn't always right either, but that's another rant.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sing It, Sista!

Music has always been a great enjoyment of mine.  As a child, I loved learning new songs at school or at Sunday School and singing their simple, rhyming words.  As I became a teenager, music served many purposes.  I remember listening to particular songs that reminded me of certain boys and labeling them as "our song" but never telling them.  I remember driving around in the car with friends and cruising the streets, with Salt n Pepa songs or Buffalo Stance blaring from the speakers.  I remember other times driving around while blaring the latest rock songs from all my favorite bands and shaking (alright banging) my head and big hair in tune with the beat.  I remember when I felt angry and went to my room to play my Guns n Roses cassette, very loudly.  And I never thought my parents paid much attention until many years later when my parents and I were sitting together at a Worcester Ice Cats game, and "Welcome to the Jungle" was played, and my dad turned to me and said, "This song sounds familiar" with a smile.  There were other times sitting in front of my boom box with my fingers on the record and play buttons waiting to record my favorite song when it played on the radio so that I could learn all the lyrics and sing it and play it whenever I wanted.  Those were the times when I only liked one song that particular band or singer sang and didn't want to buy the whole cassette.  This became easier with the invention of cassingles, which I LOVED, because it served the purpose of just purchasing the one song and not the whole album.  Ahh, yes, music, it was my friend and my accompaniment for all my teenage moods.

Then came the joy of concerts, and I've been to many.  I still have the guitar pick thrown to me from the AC/DC concert and the controversy over Tommy Lee's choice of underwear as he descended from the ceiling at the Motley Crue concert at the Worcester Centrum. I have good and crazy memories of each and every concert and love to reminisce about them with my concert counterpart Andrea. And fortunately for us, some of our favorite bands still tour so we still get to go to concerts together.  I took my brother and my son to their first concert, and we had a good time which was no surprise since it was my favorite band, Bon Jovi.  It was a little different than going to concerts with Andrea, but fun nonetheless, from the tshirts I bought from the "tshirt bootlegger" in Burger King to the songs we were singing at the top of our lungs along with the rest of the crowd, while walking out of the Boston Garden.

But now I have children, and my love of music has been passed on to them, for better or worse remains to be seen.  My siblings laugh when I teach their children songs.  But I think songs can help you remember things and make learning more fun.  I still recall the order of the planets by using the phrase "My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" for the first initials of the planets.  When reciting the alphabet, I still find myself singing the letters.  When my children were learning their colors, I would buy Scribbler popsicles with their multiple colors, and as I removed the paper, would sing "Colors, colors what are your colors?  Colors, colors tell me your colors."  And then they would look at their popsicle and identify the colors.  I created a bedtime lullaby song for each of my children when they were young, and if they had a bad dream or were having a rough day, I would lay with them and sing it while stroking their hair until they fell asleep. When I got married, my parents took my 7 yr old son home, and then my Mom called me at the reception, on the function hall's phone, to ask me to teach her the song because Jake was asking for it.  There are times I still sing the bedtime songs to my children, to calm them down, help them sleep or simply because they request it.  And today, as I was cleaning the bathroom and wishing everyone peed sitting down, my 11 yr old Nathan reminded me that it wasn't his fault because he remembered the song I taught him. That song was "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie."  So I guess songs stick with everyone in some way or another :)

And then there is my new-found love for karaoke where I have gone from the girl in the car using the end of the seatbelt in the back seat as a microphone or the girl with the hairbrush microphone to the girl on the stage with the real microphone and sometimes even lights and fog...still belting out my favorite tunes, for my own enjoyment and that of my friends, and hopefully not the unenjoyment of the other patrons.  And just a sidenote, if you are afraid to do karaoke, afraid you'll be off tune, that's when you dance or have movements or sing just a little quieter until you're ready to belt out the chorus that you know oh so well and have rehearsed in your living room with youtube.  Wait, you don't do that?  Me either.

And now, as I prepare to go bond with my treadmill, I will set up the Ipod while "Headstrong" and "Eye of the Tiger" and all my other "fight songs" prompt me to keep going.  It just stinks when I get to the mile marker and can no longer sing along, ya know?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Resolution: Failed

I had such great intentions for 2012.  I was going to make it my healthiest year yet.  I was going to lose some weight, eat healthier and exercise more.  I really meant it.

I like to cook, I like to snack, and I don't like to exercise.  These aren't excuses but facts.  I'm that girl who thinks chips 'n dip is one of the best creations, and has broadened that to not only include regular-flavored potato chips and good 'ol french onion dip, but also Cool Ranch Doritos and vegetable dip.  And although I do enjoy a nice walk on a nice day, and an occasional jump on the trampoline with the kiddos, I'm not into exercise.

But I wanted to do better this year. I wanted to look better in clothes, to have more freedom when shopping because I would look good in today's styles, to look healthier, trimmer and sexier, to have a new hairdo, to wear high heels more often.  Maybe it's this new decade I find myself in, but I look in the mirror and see frumpy, and I need to step up my game.

Well, the year is 1/3 of the way done, and I have not lost any weight, have not taken more than a couple walks and am still buying the same old sizes in clothes, and yesterday I ate chips 'n dip.

I am going to try to finish the rest of the year honoring my resolution.  It will be in slow steps so that I don't get overwhelmed and quit, small goals will be set and hopefully met, but as long as I am plugging along and trying to make some changes, I think I will be happy.

So hopefully soon I can look in the mirror, and I won't see frumpy, I won't feel like telling my reflection, "Liar, liar, pants on fire".  Actually, I'm really not that harsh on myself, it's more like "Fibber, fibber, don't break your zipper", and if you say it with a Boston accent, it does rhyme and is still a reference to my pants.....

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Feelings ~ we all have them. Sometimes they make us happy, sometimes they make us smile, sometimes they are full of pride, sometimes they are hurt.

I feel very deeply...about a lot of things.  I embrace my children's friends as if they were my own children. I am happy when things go well for them and sad when they don't.  I worry about them when they seem upset about something, and I am proud of them when they figure things out and do the right thing.

I worry when my children are having difficulties in their relationships with others.  I worry when they are away from me and hope they are doing okay and are safe.

I try to fix things when my children's feelings are hurt and try to make it all better, putting an emotional band-aid on their wounds.  Sometimes I can't fix it, and that is hard for me.  Sometimes all I can do is offer a hug and a listening ear.

I watch my children make mistakes, and it's hard, but I know that sometimes lessons will be learned more from them making the mistakes than from me telling them what's going to happen.  It's difficult to watch, but it's sometimes the only way they learn.

I worry when people I love are sick or hurting.  I take it all on very deeply and can withdraw into myself with concern, almost like a turtle brings its head into its shell.  Sometimes I think I'd like to be a turtle, pull my head inside my shell, and cry where no one can see me.

Then there are the days that there are proud moments, the days where a teacher has nothing but good things to say, the days my boss compliments me on a job well done, the days one of my children's friends tells me they love my pancakes, the days that someone tells me I look good. 

Those are the days I enjoy having feelings.  Sometimes I wish I didn't have feelings, wish I didn't feel things so deeply or let things bother me.  I envy those people who can "go with the flow" or "roll with the punches".  Sometimes I can do that, but not really...those are just the days that I try unsuccessfully to push the feelings to the back burner and not let them show. 

All in all, I feel glad that I have feelings, that I feel things, even that I cry at commercials, because it means I have heart.  Things matter to me whether good or bad, things make me feel alive and happy, make me feel sad and worried.  I think the problem comes when people don't feel, when they don't care about things, and when things don't cause them to think, to feel proud or even to feel sad. When you stop feeling, you stop caring and you become self-absorbed, only caring about yourself and not how your actions or words make others feel.  So feel...feel deeply...smile at someone, pay someone a compliment, offer a hug or a helping hand...just feel.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Holidays can be hectic times, expensive times, stressful times and enjoyable times.  Thanksgiving is my favorite because there is no shopping for gifts, no expense, little preparation and LOTS of food and time with family.  Plus, it's on a Thursday so you get the next 3 days to recover.  Christmas is great, and while I do enjoy watching my children and my nieces and nephews open their gifts with their sparkling eyes and anticipation of what the carefully wrapped presents might hold, Christmas requires much preparation.  For me, it involves shopping for a month, making lists of what I want to give for gifts and then trying to find the best deals and coupons so I don't break the bank and can get the most bang for my buck.  Only when all the gifts have been opened, all the food made and the house in seemingly good order, am I able to relax and enjoy the holiday.  Halloween is fun as long as it's not too cold and the kids are happy with their costumes, but I can take or leave that holiday.  I enjoy the summer cookouts that come with Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, but we always seem to have 2 or 3 cookouts on the same day and then try to make an appearance at each, making for a long day and a cheeseburger, potato salad, corn on the cob coma-induced evening.

I've never been big on pushing the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus with my kids.  I grew up celebrating the real meaning of Easter and Christmas, and our gifts were never tagged "From Santa" or "From the Easter Bunny". Once I became a mother, I realized how commercialized these 2 holidays can be, and during the month of December it seemed everyone asked my young son what he had asked Santa for and if he was excited for Santa, and then in April, what did he hope to get from the Easter Bunny.  I tried to do Santa when he was about 3.  I wrapped all his gifts from me and labeled the gift tags "From Santa".  He was too young to know my handwriting, so I thought I was good to go.  He ripped through his gifts with the excitement that only a 3 year old has, now that he could open them by himself and knew that all kinds of fun and exciting new toys were hiding under the Christmas paper. There were ooh's and ah's and big smiles until they were all unwrapped.  Then he started crying.  I asked if there was something wrong, something that he didn't get that he had really wanted, and my heart broke as he answered, "There is nothing from you, only Santa.  Don't you love me?"  I tried to get out of that one without giving away the secret, not that it would have disappointed me as much as it would have his paternal grandmother who loved to play Santa.  The following year, I was careful to tag the labels some from Santa and some from me.  But that year, he questioned why Santa and I had the same wrapping paper.  The following year, I took him to get his picture taken with Santa at the Greendale Mall, and the line was really long so we went to the Auburn Mall where there was a shorter line.  However, I knew I was in trouble when he was less concerned with telling Santa what he wanted and instead began interrogating Santa about how he had gotten to that mall so quickly when he was just at the other mall and he hadn't seen him pass us on the highway.  Santa said "the sleigh, of course".  Then Jake asked how his beard got so much longer on the trip because when he just saw him 15 minutes ago, it wasn't as long.  Santa was speechless, and I think at that point may have been more comfortable with a screaming 1 year old on his lap, or even a peeing child, rather than my inquisitive one.  That was it for Santa at our house.  From then on, my answer to "Is Santa real?" was always "If you believe he is, then he is for you.  But if you don't believe, keep it to yourself because some do believe."  And last year, I overheard my 8 yr old daughter telling my 10 yr old son that she didn't believe but said she did, because you got more presents if you believed.

But Easter, Easter, how I love Easter.  Most importantly, it is the best holiday for a Christian as it celebrates the whole reason we are able to be Christians and be saved.  Secondly, it is FUN!  Coloring eggs is fun with younger kids, although when you're the only one in the house who eats hard-boiled eggs, it loses its appeal about 3 days post-Easter.  Hiding eggs and watching the kids hunt for them is also a good time, and I love listening to them laugh and seeing their smiles as they dig into their baskets.  There's also a big meal shared with family, and when you have a big family as I do, and enjoy good food as I do, it's a good time!

In the past few years, as my children have aged and can all read and go up and down stairs safely, I have stepped up my game.  I no longer hide quarters, candy and gum in the plastic eggs and hide them, but I now make a treasure hunt with clues leading them to their Easter baskets at the end.  Each child has their own color eggs and starts with a clue.  Once they decipher that clue, and some are tricky based on their ages, they head to the hiding place and retrieve their next clue. There are 10 clues, and the baskets can be found in the last location.  I think I have as much fun preparing the clues with my "plays on words" and sending them up and down the stairs, watching them perplexed sometimes with clues such as "Let us find your next clue", not knowing until they say it over and over, that they need to go to the lettuce drawer, or "You're on a roll" sending them to the toilet paper holder, or "Do you want to be a boxer when you grow up?" and heading to their bureau drawer.  Today's hunt took about 20 minutes, and Allie was done first, and Jake last, but to his credit, I did send him back and forth to the car, upstairs, downstairs and up again. Good times, and you can't help but smile when your 6'2", 200 lb almost 20 year old son is running around looking for colored eggs for his Easter basket.

I am blessed, blessed to have children who will humor me, who are appreciative and thankful, and who enjoy each other's company, and blessed to have a husband who stays up with me while I wait for everyone to be home and go to bed so I can hide my clues hidden in the eggs and the baskets.  I pray for all of you reading that you too will enjoy your family today, as I most certainly will enjoy mine, not just because it's a holiday, but because you love them.  Treasure them as they are treasures and each day with them is a gift ready to be unwrapped and enjoyed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dear Cancer: I Hate You!

Dear Cancer:

I hate you!  My father did nothing to deserve you. He didn't smoke, didn't drink, has eaten well and has exercised.  My mother had to think long and hard when asked by the doctor the last time he was sick.  He was never sick.  He never took medicine.  He was healthy.  You were like a parasite that looked for the healthiest person you could find and latched on.  You have changed his life. He now takes medicine so he doesn't throw up, and disgusting chlorophyll tablets and every 2 weeks has to have medicine pumped into his body for 2 days.  You made him sick and made him have to take medicine every day now.  You took a man who was full of energy and never napped and made him tired and need to rest.  You took a man who was enjoying his retirement and who finally had reached the time that he had worked and planned for, and erased his calendar of plans of vacations and relaxation and visiting with friends and going out to eat and replaced it with chemo appointments and doctor visits and daily medication schedules.

I want to crawl into his body and pull the cancer out, every last disgusting piece of it.  I want to throw it in a fire and burn it, watching it become ashes, disappearing in a big black cloud of smoke, never to return.  I want to flush every pill down the toilet or smash them with a hammer.  I want to take every piece of literature I have read and every sad email I have gotten with new medical updates and rip them into tiny shreds of paper and light them on fire. 

Why him?  Why can't you go somewhere else?  Not that I wish your awful self on anyone else, but I don't want you anywhere near my Dad.  And why won't you go away?  He is fighting you with everything he's been told to do. And still you don't slow down, you won't leave.  When will you get the point? You are not welcome here!  Leave my Dad alone!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring into Action!

Ahhhh, spring, welcome back, how I've missed you.  In all fairness, we haven't had a bad winter this year, and considering I only used the snowblower twice, once in October and once in March, I really shouldn't complain. But I will because I don't like to be cold.  As I sit here by the open window with the breeze blowing my hair and cooling me off, I'm ready for spring.  I love hearing the children's voices as they play outside, riding bikes, scooters and skateboards.  I love hearing their laughter as they jump on the trampoline and play tag in the yard.  I love seeing people walking, jogging and playing with their dogs.  I love seeing the plants as they peek their green heads out of the soil.  I love hearing the birds' sweet songs as they communicate with one another.

When I was a child, spring meant shedding my winter coat, pants and long-sleeved shirt and replacing them with shorts, a t-shirt and sometimes a jacket.  It meant crawling into the shed past the sleds and the shovels and digging out my bike and then racing off to join the other kids on the street.  It meant playing outside from the minute I got home from school until I was called in for supper or bedtime.  Hide-and-seek, TV tag, pickle and wiffleball became games played every day.

As a teen, spring meant planning trips to the beach with friends where we would don our bikinis topped with tie-dye tank tops, shorts and flip flops, climb in the car armed with Cokes and Doritos, crank the radio, unroll the windows (manually) and cruise to the beach.  Once there, we would walk up and down the boardwalk, stopping to play volleyball, grab things to eat, lay out on the beach, check out the guys and the shops even though, to be honest, sometimes shopping and checking out the guys were one and the same. We would cruise the strip in the car or on the backs of cool motorcycles driven by complete strangers who were flattered that we wanted a ride and glad for a chance to show off their bikes.  And as the sun went down, we would reluctantly climb into the car, crank the tunes and head for home, sandy, tired, usually sunburnt, and smiling. 

As an adult, spring days mean a chance to throw open the windows, wash them and the window sills, and let the fresh air fill our homes.  Spring days mean we can save money by not running the dryer and instead hang our laundry outside to dry while also allowing the fresh air scent to permeate our freshly laundered bedsheets.  Spring days means firing up the grill.  Those little plants poking their green heads forth means weeding out the ignored dead plants from the season before, watering, fertilizing, raking.  The children playing outside means another very large room to clean as we go into the yard and collect shoes, socks, and jackets discarded by our own children and their friends.  Toys need to be picked up, bikes and skateboards need to be put away, skinned knees need to be bandaged, bug bites need ointment, bee stings need to be iced, and children need to be bathed constantly.  The kids don't want to come inside for supper or bedtime, never mind to do their homework, even though they can barely keep their eyes open from playing so hard.  And at the end of the day, as they get tucked in, with the scents of bug spray and sunblock washed from their bodies, they are refreshed with their sun-kissed faces as they drift off to sleep, smiling.

Spring is also a reminder of things neglected over the winter. As we put on our short sleeves, we see flabby arms. As we put on our shorts, we see flabby legs.  Flabby WHITE arms and legs that need toning and tanning.  As we put on our sandals and flip flops, we immediately think pedicure.  Suddenly exercise becomes a necessity as we stress over bathing suit season fast approaching. 

Ahhhh, spring...I'm still sitting by the open window, exercising only my fingers as I type, sitting in the dark so I look tanner and covering my lower half with the laptop hoping the heat from it will burn off some of the flab, and all I can think of is getting out the tie-dye and hopping on the back of some cool bike or in a car with the girls cranking the music and cruising to Hampton Beach for some fried dough, and I am smiling. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Homecoming!

Homecoming can be defined or felt many different ways.  To some it means the big football game in the fall when all the school's alumni gather together at the game and then the current students celebrate at a dance later that night or the next night.  To a newly married couple, it may mean when the groom carries his new bride over the threshold into the home they will now share.  To a soldier and his family, it may mean when the soldier returns home and is welcomed with open arms by his family and loved ones.  To new parents, it may mean when they bring their newborn child home from the hospital.

For those of you who may not know, 2 weeks ago, my cousin Patty was rushed to the hospital after falling unconscious at home.  Patty was 8 months pregnant, and when she arrived at the hospital, baby Emily was delivered via C-section.  She weighed 3 lbs and 15 oz.  She joined her 6 yr old brother Johnny and 3 yr old sister Maggie and became Patty and her husband Ditty's 3rd child.  Such a little girl has become such a big part of her family's life already. 

Patty was found to have suffered from a brain aneurysm, and she never regained consciousness and never got to open her eyes to see her baby girl and her arms to hold her.  But Patty opened her heart.  She opened her heart by giving Emily life, she opened her heart by being the kind of person that touched everyone she met, she opened her heart by leaving people smiling as they remember her, and she opened her heart by donating her organs and giving the gift of life to others.  She also opened her heart to Jesus, and because of that, she is now in Heaven with her eyes open and her arms open as she dances and sings with the angels.

And I imagine she was dancing today and smiling as she watched her husband bring their baby home.  Today is Homecoming, homecoming for a little girl who has fought to gain the weight she needed to gain in order to join her daddy and her brother and sister at home, for a little girl who has been the smiles amid the tears, and who has given so much love at a time when there is so much sadness.

Yes, today is Homecoming. Welcome Home, baby Emily.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bad Words

In our house, I am often asked by my youngest children, "Is _________ a bad word?"  Or I'm often told by one that the other one said a bad word.

So what is a bad word?  Of course there are the swear words that most would agree are bad words.  But then there are the questionable words that some may consider bad words and others may not.  Growing up, we had words like "jerk" and "dang" and phrases like "shut up" that were considered bad words, and if said, required that you drop a nickel in the naughty jar.  I don't remember what ever happened to the money in the nickel jar, but I know there was money in it because I put some of it there.

My children will tell you that I still consider those to be bad words when said to one another.  My definition of a bad word is something that is said to hurt someone else, or a word used as a substitute for a "real swear".  But yet I still get asked if certain words are swears or bad words, and sometimes I think they ask me, already knowing the answer, but just wanting to say the bad word, knowing they won't be scolded if used in the context of questioning whether they should never say it again.

As I've grown from a nickel-depositing girl into a swear-defining mother, I have come across a few more bad words that should be added to the list of words I'd rather never hear.

The first is the C-word:  CANCER which I define as an evil disease that inhabits the bodies of my loved ones and poisons them and threatens to take or does take them away from me.

ALCOHOL: when abused, this can transform very nice people into not so very nice people who do things without thinking of consequences, who say things that hurt other people, and who don't own up to responsibilities.  Possible side effects are illness, cheating, lying and causing harm to yourself and others.

BILLS:  Annoying things that come, without fail, every month asking you for money.

DEATH:  The ending of a life here on earth; can happen at any time to good people, bad people, old people, young people.  Leaves people grieving and missing the one who is no longer with them, causes tears and sadness and is often met with anger, questions and an overwhelming desire to ask "Why?"

DIVORCE:  At least one person is always affected and hurt in a divorce, whether it is the person who never wanted the divorce or the children who lose out on seeing both their parents every day and have to split their time between 2 homes.

EXERCISE:  This is something we should all do, in some form or another.  Easier said than done, but necessary for good health. Some do this more than others, some enjoy it, some don't.  Every time I whine to my doctor about how I eat better and less than I used to, but I'm still not happy with my weight, she suggests exercise.  I try to argue that sit-ups make me nauseous, but she just laughs.

GROUNDING:  This is a punishment that we parents sometimes assign to our children which means that they can't go anywhere or do anything.  There are different degrees of grounding, i.e. taking away TV, taking away video games, taking away computer time, taking away phone privileges, and banning time with friends.  For parents, grounding means having to referee fights between siblings who now have nothing else to do but bicker with each other, having to play board games for hours or do arts and crafts because "there's nothing to do in this house", and hence grounding should be considered a punishment for both parent and child.

HALF-DAYS:  These are days when children get out of school early and force parents to have to make arrangements to either leave work or find childcare on days that they normally wouldn't.  Sometimes these days creep up on you without warning, and you get calls from your friends at work asking what you are doing with your kids after school, and you realize that they are home alone.

MONDAY:  A day that generally follows either a very enjoyable weekend or a very busy weekend and slaps you in the face with reality, usually very early in the morning.

WORK:  Something adults are expected to do in order to make the money required to pay the bills.  Side effects may include having to get up early, dress up, talk nice to people you don't really like and drive great distances to get to said place of work.  May contribute to loss of sleep, poor housework, lame suppers, and irritability.

So, please try to avoid saying these bad words, but if they must be said, as so often they must, get your quarters ready for my jar, bringing me to another bad word - INFLATION, because nothing costs a nickel anymore.