Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ready or Not

I had asked for advance notice and thought I had 2 weeks before Jake and Mercedes and their 2 dogs moved out.  I made lists of things I wanted to buy to contribute to their new place.  I bought the ingredients to make their favorite meals for their last weeks at home.  I was readying myself for his departure, much in the same way I had readied myself for his arrival 21 years earlier, although with far less enthusiasm and anticipation.  Then Wednesday night, I got a text "We're actually going to move on Friday."  Lump in the throat.  I guess I didn't respond quickly enough because then came the next text "Sorry for the short notice, but Andy can get the box truck that day so we're just going to move everything then."  The lump began to make me feel like I couldn't breathe or would choke.  Then he walked through the door and looked at me... pathetic me with my lower lip trembling, my eyes filling up and unable to speak.  The next text said "Are you mad?"  I finally replied, "Not mad just very sad."  And then I got the text that released the tears I had been trying so very hard to hold back "I'm sad too.  Just know you'll always be my best girl." And with tears rolling down my face, I texted back "And you'll always be the first boy I ever loved."

The tears were tears of sadness, tears of pride and tears of love.  I have spent 21 years readying my boy for the time he would be out on his own, trying to teach him responsibility, kindness, love and a sense of right and wrong.  And in those years, there have been tears of happiness, sadness, frustration, anger but always love and pride. I have always believed in my boy and have always known he had it in him to make it on his own and to be successful, but sometimes I felt he didn't believe in himself.  I have said more than once "I show you and tell you the easy way and the straight road to get there, and why do you insist on always taking the detour?"  Yes, my boy likes to take the hard road, over the bumps and around the curves, usually at top speed, and there have been accidents along the way.  But now he's a little older and a little smarter, and maybe sees that Mom's way is a little easier road to travel.

Today I visited the new place.  He and his girlfriend of a year and a half have a loft in their friends' house.  The bedroom is small, but the loft area is big and will make a nice living room for them.  I watched him as he unloaded the bags of groceries and other things from the back of my car.  I watched him as he helped Mercedes put them away.  I watched as he proudly gave us the tour and showed us the things they had gotten for the new place.  I watched as he played with his dogs and took them outside.  And the lump returned. 

This lump was a different lump.  This lump was holding back the tears of pride, the tears of happiness because I wanted to jump up and down and say "We did it!" with much of the same feeling I had as he crossed the stage and received his high school diploma.  Gone was the boy who had been known to drive me crazy, the boy who used to say "Why can't I?  I'm old enough."  And gone was the answer I had always given to that question "You may be ready, but I'm not."  I was ready.  I was ready for him to take the next step in his adult life, ready for him to get his own place.  I was ready for him to take the next step in his relationship and share that place with Mercedes.  And I was ready to dry my tears, smile and hug him as we said goodbye and drove to our home and left him in his.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Confessions of a Hover Mother

Hi, my name is Beth, and I am a hover mother. Hey, admitting it is the first step, right?  I wasn't familiar with the term "hover mother" when my sister first labeled me one.  Urban dictionary defines it as an obnoxiously overprotective mother.  I'm only obnoxious sometimes, overprotective all the time. 

I have always, and I mean always wanted to be a mother.  I used to beg my parents to have another child, even though I already had 5 siblings.  But every time the baby became a toddler, I thought it was time to bring another baby home.  I loved babysitting, loved being the mother, even if it was just for an hour.  In my senior year, when I sat down with my guidance counselor, and he asked, "What do you want to be?", I answered "A mother."  He rephrased his question, "I mean, what do you want to do with your life?"  And I repeated, "I want to be a mother." He then showed me my good grades and my class rank, brought out various Ivy League school brochures and booklets and tried to convince me that I needed to choose a career and a good school to assure that I would do something with my life.  After I wasn't swayed, he suggested that I be a teacher so that I could "mother" lots of children, while still having a real job (his words).  I decided that would work and pursued that avenue. 

I never became a teacher.  Instead I achieved my own dream at the age of 21 when I became a mother.  I was a single mother, and my son was my life.  I felt guilty leaving him at daycare while I worked and would devote every minute between getting out of work and his bedtime to him. We ate what he wanted for supper, we played whatever game he wanted to play, we watched what he wanted to watch on TV. He was my baby, my best friend, my life, my love.

As a young child, he told me one day that he was going to live with me forever. He said he'd build a candy store in the backyard and sell candy for his job.  I held onto that promise and the joy that my boy never wanted to leave me. Hover mother...

Before long, he became a teenager, and his friends were his life.  He wanted to ride his bike miles to go hang out.  All right, maybe 3 miles, but it seemed like 10.  I had to know what he was wearing when he left just in case he was kidnapped, I had to have him call me when he arrived at his destination so I knew he had made it safely.  I had to know where he was, who he was with, what he was doing.  Separation anxiety was HUGE, and it was all me.  He was excited for the freedom and raced off with a quick "I love you" to go meet his friends, and I was left behind to worry until he got back home.  Hover mother...

Then he became an older teenager, and the bike was replaced by a car.  Now there were more worries: Who are you with?  Did you all wear seatbelts? Where did you go?  Did you get a ticket?  Don't drive fast, don't drink and drive, don't miss your curfew.  All these things I asked and said every time he left the house, and the "I love you" goodbyes became aggravated "I know's" and "You treat me like I'm 5."  Hover mother...

When he was out, I would call to ask what he was doing and when he would be home. He would answer and then tell me to text because he was with his friends and didn't want to talk.  What he didn't know was that I just wanted to hear his voice, that I missed him, that I was saddened that we were like passing ships, pretty much only saying good morning and good night.  I missed my baby.  Hover mother...

Now he's 21 and ready to move out.  I know that this is the natural progression.  Children are supposed to grow up and move out right?  And in my head I know this. I know that my kids aren't going to live with me forever no matter how much I want them to.  I know that he could have gone away to college or the military after high school and that I've already had 3 more years with him than some of his friends' parents have had with their children.  But in my heart, I wonder what he'll be doing every day.  Will he eat good?  Will he take care of himself?  Will he brush his teeth?   Will he have enough money?  Who will text me every day and ask "What's for din din, Mommy?"

I remember something my Dad told me years after he dropped me off at college when he said that as happy as he was when I went running off to make new friends and to embrace the new adventure in my life, that after he kissed me goodbye, he cried as he drove away.

And so this Hover Mother will try to hold back the tears, to be happy for him on his new adventure, but I will always have enough "din din" just in case he wants to come back, even if it's just for supper. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Buzzkill Barb

Buzzkill Barb is a name my friend and I made up as a substitute for the old phrase Debbie Downer used to describe a person who puts a damper on your excitement, or a dream smasher.

I am a planner, I make lists, I research things, and I plan them out...maybe too much.  Don't get me wrong, I can be spontaneous and fly by the seat of my pants if I choose to, but I don't often choose to.  A prime example of this would be the first time I went to a Catholic church. It was for a wedding, and all was good, I could handle the times where we repeated things or the kneeling.  But then came the announcement "Turn to those around you and offer the standard greeting" or something similar to that.  Well, this Baptist girl did what any other Baptist girl would do in greeting time and turned to her neighbor with a smile and a "How are you doing?"  Well, apparently that can't be answered with the normal Catholic greeting response of "And also with you", but since I didn't say the normal greeting of "Peace be with you", my neighbor and I were at a dead silence to which I followed up with "I like your dress."  Yeah, I can fly by the seat of my pants with the best of 'em!

So fast forward to now...I am planning for our vacation to Disney World. We haven't been there in 5 years, and this year my mom and Jake's girlfriend are joining us. I researched almost daily for the best airfares, scanned the "last call resorts" for the best resort for the least money, and then scanned for the best deal on Disney tickets.   I did good. 

We always get a resort with a full kitchen.  I love to cook, and I love to save money even more, and feeding a family of 6 can get expensive.  So in order to make it fun, in my obsessive-compulsive way, I let each person choose their favorite meal for supper.  Then comes the list of meals and what needs to be brought with us and what needs to be bought at the grocery store there.  I mean, if someone's special meal involves a 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder, am I really going to buy a whole container in Florida when I can just throw the spice bottle in a suitcase with my coffee filters and electric skillet?  Ok, stop laughing, have you cooked pancakes and bacon for a family of 6 in a single frying pan?

On to the next list...the checking of the weather, the closest grocery store, the directions from the airport to the resort and from the resort to the parks.

Then there's the list of what to pack.  Again, it's not just throwing shorts and flip flops into a suitcase when you are packing for the family, or in particular, a very stylish 10 year old girl.

Today I felt good, the lists were done, things were getting checked off, I'm staying on top of the laundry so everyone has their favorite clothes clean and ready to be packed.  I excitedly got the Disney DVD out of the mailbox today and practically ran into the house to ask Nathan and Allie to watch it with me, only to be told, "Naaaa, I'm gonna go upstairs" and "I don't want to watch it.  I want to be surprised."  I must have looked sad because the last comment was followed up with "Sorry, but don't you want to be surprised about SOMETHING?"

Apparently, my careful planning, my excessive lists, my knowing exactly what the resort looks like and what they have for amenities and activities, and the exact car we are renting, and the seats we are sitting in on the plane, and what we will eat for every meal doesn't leave much of a surprise.

For the first time ever, I am a Buzzkill Barb, and I don't like it.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Pushing that Rewind Button

The "Rewind" button - used to go back to a previous time, whether used to hear a song again, go back to a favorite part of a movie, or simply to go back because you missed or didn't hear something and wanted to replay what you missed.

Today I want to push the rewind button, to some favorite parts of my life, to parts that I would like to relive, to times that I miss and would like to replay.

1.  Vacations ~ when all I had to do was make a pile of the clothes I wanted, and my mother would pack them in a suitcase, and I'd hop in the car, full of excitement for an adventure with my family.  I didn't pay for the vacation, I didn't have to find caretakers for our pets, and I didn't even pack for myself, much less make sure the whole family was packed and had all kinds of fun times awaiting them for the next week of their lives.

2.  Pregnancy tests ~ I remember sitting there counting down the minutes until I could look and see the answer.  It was much like sitting in the rollercoaster seat, going up the hill, filled with nervous excitement.  Then you near the top, the peak of the hill, you look at the test and see the + sign and then it's down the hill, arms raised high, cheering and filled with excitement for the rest of the ride and the uphills and downhills, twists and turns, and sometimes being completely upside down that await you.

3.  Wedding day ~ Everything was perfect, well-planned out to be perfect.  The bride and groom stare at each other with the stars in their eyes and nothing but love and happiness in their hearts.  I remember thinking "I will never be mad at this man, we will always be happy and agree on everything and never argue.  We will never experience hard times, and everything is now perfect."  Naive and hopeful was I, and 14 1/2 yrs later, we're still here together, being mad, not always agreeing, in hard and easy times, but the stars and love are still there.

4.  Mothering ~ when I was a young mother, it was just me and my son.  My world revolved around him.  After work, we did what he wanted to do, ate what he wanted to eat, and he had my undivided attention until he went to bed.  Then came a husband, more kids, more errands, sports practices and games, and life became a whole lot crazier.  There was a bigger house to clean, more time spent on errands, a bigger commute to work, and more people to care for and who needed my attention.  And as much as I love crazy and love how our family grew, some days I'd give anything for some time spent with each of my children, one on one, just enjoying each other.

5.  Footloose and fancy free ~ I remember when my time was my time, when I got out of school or work and had all the time in the world to do what I wanted to do and to fill with fun.  Sometimes that meant doing nothing but cruising around with friends to our favorite hangouts, sometimes it meant going shopping, sometimes concerts, but almost all of those times involved my friends.  I have had many crazy adventures that I never thought were crazy at the time, but now in my mature grown-up state of mind, I realize some were quite dangerous and are now the things that keep me up at night while my son is not yet home.

6.  Lessened knowledge ~ I definitely would like to rewind to a time when I knew NOTHING about cancer or pancreatitis, to a time when I didn't know anyone who had cancer, or when the only people I knew who were sick or were dying were elderly people, and not relatives or children.

7.  Fat clothes ~ How about a rewind to the time when the "fat clothes" in my closet were size 8?!?!

8.  Disagreements ~ I'd also like to rewind to a time when no one was mad at me or at least if anyone was, I was unaware of it and didn't feel the sense of loss of a friendship that was once a very big part of my life.

9.  Feeling Needed ~  I loved when my children were less independent.  I know that sounds odd, but I liked to feel needed, to feel that they needed me for rides, for company, for someone to talk to and for hugs and pick-me-ups when they felt down.  I enjoyed being the one they came to, the one whose advice they sought and the one they felt could make it all better.  Feeling needed is much better than feeling like a nuisance.

So can I push the rewind button every so often?  Can I have a wild night out with the girls, dancing and laughing, and staying out late?  Can ShBooms open again just for that one night?  Can I go back to the days when my babies were little?  Can I have my dad and Melanie back? Can Jake's pancreatitis and Grayson's leukemia go away?  Can I go back to my honeymoon in Aruba?  Can I go back to a size 8 and feel fat wearing it?  Can I have my friend back?  And can someone else pack for vacation? We leave Friday.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Voting and Labeling

Every time I log onto Facebook I'm asked what I'm thinking, and more times than not, I think to myself "I better not be honest here."  Lately I have had so many different thoughts running through my head, so many strong opinions and then times when I question myself as to whether I have an opinion on a subject at all, or I reflect on how my opinions have changed over time.

I have always considered myself to be stubborn and opinionated, and if I believe that I am right, I will argue my belief to the end.  But recently I've found myself questioning beliefs I have had for so many years, and I wonder if I'm softening over the years, or not being true to myself, or maybe just changing with the times.  Maybe things aren't as black and white as I once believed them to be.

I steer away from political discussions whenever they arise.  I dread voting.  There never seems to be a candidate who believes everything I believe, and then I am left relying on my Dad's advice to just choose the things that are most important to me, and try to choose the candidate who best supports the same beliefs.  Well, that is becoming more and more difficult for me in recent elections.  Maybe it's  because my beliefs aren't as black and white as they once were. Maybe it's because issues that once didn't personally impact me now do, but one thing is certain, I dread voting.  I wish the questions on the ballot weren't "yes" or "no" answers because my beliefs have conditions.  I wish the candidates didn't take positions on 10 different things, 4 of which you support and 6 of which you don't.  How do you pick which oval to color in?  And no, contrary to my sister's belief, you don't pick the more handsome candidate, although in thinking about it, the ovals I choose do seem to be the better-looking ones.

Another thing that has been troubling me lately, and if I'm being honest with myself, angers me is labeling.  We teach our children to be accepting of everyone, regardless of race, sexual preference or religious beliefs.  We teach our children to respect others and not to judge and not to bully.  Yet I see adults, some in positions of power, who do this all the time.  I believe people can change and that people make mistakes that shouldn't label them and define who they are for the rest of time. And sometimes these people are trying, really trying to break out of that label, to change sometimes from all that they've ever known, and to become better people.  They are trying, and for many it isn't easy.  They deserve a chance to rid themselves of that label, to learn from their mistakes and become the person they desire to be.  They do not deserve to be constantly reminded of their mistakes or to be told they are nothing more than that label.  Give them a chance and rejoice in their successes; praise and lift them up instead of stepping on them and pushing them right back down.

And finally, be true to you.  At the end of the day you have to defend your actions, your beliefs and your opinions.  Believe in yourself, believe that you are more than that label, believe that you can peel that label off and give yourself a new one, whatever you want it to be. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Strong

Other than the first year of my life being spent in Illinois and a year in South Carolina, I have lived in Massachusetts my whole life.  I have lived in small towns, and I have lived in a city, but Boston was never more than 90 minutes from my home.  To me, Boston meant a place to go when you wanted a good concert, a good sporting event, an exciting museum or aquarium or an airport to take you to fabulous vacation spots.  It was also a place of culture, of fancy restaurants and of some great people-watching. Never have I thought of it as a scary spot...until Monday.

During one of our state's biggest annual celebrations, and maybe THE biggest, there were two explosions.  As runners completed the 26-mile Boston marathon, some of them were not greeted by the smiling faces of their loved ones at the finish line but instead were confronted with a smoky barrier and police officers rerouting them and preventing them from going to the family members they knew were on the other side of that smoke.  A co-worker of my friend Maureen was at the Boston Marathon finish line with her two daughters waiting with excitement, anticipation and pride for her husband to cross that line and complete his first run of the historic event.  Instead, she soon found herself scared to death, grabbing her children in fear, disbelief and shock as the explosions went off, and they were shuffled away from the finish line.  They passed people lying on the ground, some bloody, some badly injured and everyone in absolute chaos.  These sights are what she and her daughters see even today, days later, every time they close their eyes.  Her husband writes about the experience in his blog.

Yesterday morning on the way to work, Maureen and I were talking about how scary that experience was for Michelle and her family. Our talk led to how sad it is that a fun family event was now marred by fear and destruction and how so many people and children are going to be afraid to go to a crowded place or a big event anymore. We then talked about how scary it is to even be parents in this world and how overprotective we seem at times when our children want to sleep over a new friend's house or want to ride their bikes off the street, and how we try not to push our fears and distrust in this world onto our children because there are still good people and we don't want them to be afraid to live.

Yesterday afternoon that fear was tested. Through Facebook, I saw a newspaper status yesterday that indicated there was a missing 10 year old boy in Clinton. As I read on, I learned that boy was Maureen's son who was visiting family there on his school vacation.  I cannot begin to describe the fear that engulfed me.  I tried to call Maureen but got her voice mail.  After leaving her a hysterical message, I paced back and forth, "What do I do?  Do I drive to Clinton?  Can I make the 20 minute drive?", all while my heart was beating out of my chest, and I was overcome with hysterical sobbing.  I got a hold of Maureen's niece who assured me that Ross had been found and was safe.  As the afternoon progressed, I learned that he had been going for a run with his aunt, and after getting a head start, he took a wrong turn. Not knowing which way to go, he kept walking, hoping to see a familiar site.  Finally he came to an area that he knew was a way to get to another aunt's house and began walking there, only to find upon his arrival that they weren't home.  His parents, the local police, the state police, family and friends combed the neighborhood for hours before they decided to check familiar places where he might have gone, and there they found him resting outside his aunt's house, sunburned, thirsty and tired but SAFE.  He had traveled 12 miles trying to find his way, and I thank God that he had the strength and the determination to persevere until he found his way to safety and to be reunited with his family.  Plain and simply put, he is Boston Strong.

Terrifying events this week, and I pray that those involved in the horrific events at the Boston Marathon will also find their peace and their safe haven in the arms of those they love.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Cyclone Hockey

Ten years ago after a school floor hockey game, a mother of one of Jake's classmates asked me if he would be interested in playing on a travel tournament style dek hockey team.  We got more details and headed to Leominster that weekend to try it out.  Jake had been playing ice hockey for 3 years at that point, but we had never heard of dek hockey or knew that it was actually played as a regular sport, like baseball or football, with a season of its own, never mind tournaments.  That day opened our eyes not only to dek hockey or ball hockey or street hockey or whatever you want to call it, but that day we were introduced to Cyclones Hockey, which is a whole other kind of hockey.

There were never any tryouts for the Cyclones team, you were just kind of chosen and asked to play on the team, and your invitation usually came out of the blue and at the last minute, kind of on the down low, like on Sesame Street when the guy in the trenchcoat meets you in the alley, opens his trenchcoat, covered with letters and says "Wanna buy a C?'  That was the invitation you got to be on the Cyclones, and you said "yes" or "no". There was no coach calling you begging you to play, you got the invitation, and you either committed or you didn't.

Our first year was kind of a blur.  The coaches were crazy to me, a kind of crazy that I grew to love and appreciate, but a kind of crazy that I hadn't seen before in an organized sport.  We traveled locally and started the season with a New Jersey tournament and ended with Niagara Falls.  We would show up for the first game, usually only getting the game time the day before, and never knowing how many other kids would be there.  I'm not even sure if the coaches knew.  I still remember driving to New Jersey still with that wide-eyed kind of innocence where I didn't know how the whole thing worked yet, but the coach said to go and told me what hotel to book, and I just packed up the kids and went.  The first games were always the toughest because we never had the full team, and then other kids would arrive or fill in from different Cyclone levels.  The weekends were fun and competitive and a great bonding time for the kids and parents, as tournaments often are.

On our first trip to Niagara Falls, I was just leaving customs when my phone rang. It was the coach.  "Where are you?" he asked.  I told him I had just left customs.  He said, "Get Jake over here."  I asked why since our game was hours away, and he said, "I need him for the Cadets game."  I said, "Jake is a first year Beaver."  Jeff answered, "I know that.  I didn't ask how old he was.  I asked where you were, ok."  Ok, and off we went to the rink, and my 10 yr old played in the 95 degree temperature with the five 13-15 yr olds who were there, and he scored the only goal that game.

I think that was when I realized that being a Cyclone was more than being a member of a team.  It was a way of life.  You gave it your all and left it all on the dek.  Whether the scoreboard or the bruises said you won or lost, you gave it your all, and that made it ok, no matter which side of the score or the penalty box you were on.  I never really heard the coaches spout off any profound words of wisdom or quote Vince Lombardi or Wayne Gretsky, but they believed in the abilities, skills and dedication of their players, and they didn't have to say much.  I can remember when we first started, and I would say to Jake, "Jeff should pronounce his words more clearly.  Every time he says 'Nice shift', I think he's saying 'Nice shit', and Jake said he was.  Jeff liked the stick-handling that his players possessed, but to a point because if you did it enough that the ball was taken away from you, or you couldn't make your pass or shot, you would hear, "All right, your mother took the picture, pass or shoot."  Penalties weren't discussed, and sometimes there was a nod as if these not so mild-mannered coaches understood the heat of the moment and the call that followed.  And yes just as there were games that we played with 5 or 6 players, there were also games where we only had 5 or 6 players left because the others had been ejected or were sitting in the box.

We learned that the Hudson tournament was always very hot and always under the sun. We learned that Jersey was a great way to kick off the season and the spring and to pack shorts even though it was only early April because chances are you'd need them.  We learned which Leominster refs to yell at, and which teams were good competition or physical players.  We learned to stay away from the Falls district in Niagara Falls to save money on hotels, where the good go-carts were, and lots of free activities to fill up your time between games.  We learned that the Niagara players, while talented, also play very physical and can be dirty at times.  I remember one particular game where numerous fights broke out, where one of our players, tired of being pushed around and hacked in the ankles by his Niagara opponent, finally picked the Canadien up and bodyslammed him better than any wrestler in the WWE.  Fun times!

Now Nathan and Allie play dek hockey at the level at which Jake started, and though they aren't Cyclones, I hope they get some of that Cyclone pride and determination in them, and that they always leave it all out there.  And though he's now Jeff the Ref, and not Jeff the Coach, our family will always have fond memories of our Cyclone days and the game that we have grown to love.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Birthday Eve

Well, here it is...the eve of my birthday.  On the way to my son's hockey game tonight, I reminded him that tomorrow is my birthday, and I would be 42.  He said, "Oh, it's not that bad, you're still fabulous."  And that right there, simply stated, is one of the reasons he is so special.

When birthdays or holidays or a new year roll around, I tend to get to thinking, which isn't always a good thing, but today I'm thinking about age, and how it really is just a number.

I am young enough to have a 10 year old
But old enough to have a 20 year old.

I am young enough to still want a baby
But old enough to remember that my 1st baby is the age I was when I was expecting him.

I am young enough to jump on the trampoline with my youngest nieces and nephews
But old enough to worry about the possibility of an E/R visit if I fall during one of my flips.

I am young enough to still enjoy the occasional late night out with friends
But old enough to pay for it for two days.

I am young enough to still want a Mustang convertible
But old enough to know they are impractical with a family and snowy weather.

I am young enough to wear some of the new styles in clothing
But old enough to know that these same styles were cool 25 years ago.

I am young enough to still go to parent-teacher conferences at the elementary school
But old enough to realize that many of my children's teachers are younger than me.

I am young enough to still enjoy going to the beach
But old enough to look for a spot next to the fat lady in the bikini.

I am young enough to still have little ones at home
But old enough to be reminded that they are not little.

I am young enough to still be up on the latest styles, music and slang
But old enough to not really understand it all.

I am young enough to still enjoy my birthday
But old enough to not really want to be reminded of the number.

Or the fact that the "you're still fabulous" comment was later followed up with the question "So are you middle aged now?"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fly to Jesus (Eulogy Written for my Dad)

There is a poem by Linda Ellis that I have always liked, and I would like to share it with you.

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end
He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

The numerical difference between the numbers on both sides of Dad’s dash isn’t as long as we would have liked it to be, but Dad sure filled that dash.  He was so many things to so many people – a husband, a father, a grandfather, a pastor, a friend and an inspiration to many.  

A husband – Mom, you have been amazing, and I have such admiration and respect for you.  You have cared for Dad, have been by his side, and have shown him the depths of your love.  I am truly grateful for the ways in which you have taken care of my father and made his last days happier.  You have been devoted to making him more comfortable and have made it your mission to ensure his happiness in being surrounded by family and friends and to honor his wishes.  It’s hard to think of Mom without Dad, Linda without Wally, and that is a tribute to the bond and the love that you shared.  You were like one going through life hand in hand, even until the end.  I pray that God gives you the strength that you will need and that God will put His hand in yours and let you know how loved you are and what a blessed wife and woman you are.  Proverbs 31: 10-12 tells us " A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

          A father –I have to tell you that living with dad was a lot like living with God.  It seemed like he knew EVERYTHING, and what he didn't know, my sisters told him.  We didn't just get punished or a speaking to for our wrongdoings, we got sermons and Bible verses to read and learn and figure out how they could be applied to our particular transgression.  Parents always say that there is no textbook on how to be a parent, but my Dad used the Bible as his textbook for life: how to be a good Christian, how to be a good husband, how to be a good father, etc.  I still haven't found in the Bible where it said "Thou shalt not wear make-up until you are 16" or "Thou shalt not get your ears pierced until you are 18", but it must be in there in some form.  Dad has instilled in me and my siblings many of his own characteristics.  Some of us love basketball and football the way he did, although none of us have mastered the excited gesture he would do when his team was winning.  Some of us are stubborn and will debate to the end when we believe passionately that we are right.  Some of us are calm and listen the way he did so many times.  All of us are helpful and will rush to help when we are needed.  All of us love each other and although we don’t say it often enough, it is an unstated truth, and we are extremely loyal and would do anything for each other, even fight someone when we thought they said something bad about a sister.  We like to joke and kid each other, and sometimes in doing so, we hurt each other’s feelings.  We like to discuss who Dad’s favorite is, and though we have come to the conclusion that we all have had that coveted spot at one time or another in our lives, I must remind you that I will always be #1.

          A grandfather – Our children will have many memories of Grandpa and others that we will share with them as they grow older.  Grandpa used to like to hold the babies, particularly when they were fussy and soothe them with his sweet rendition of The Old Rugged Cross.  They always stopped crying, and we’re not sure if it’s because it was soothing or because they wanted him to stop singing.  Grandpa enjoyed cheering on his grandchildren at their baseball and softball games, football games and hockey games and enjoyed sitting in the audience at school concerts and band performances.  Grandpa liked when they were mischievous as he would smile a little mischievously himself and say, “This is fun because they are your kids.”  Grandpa made everything a little extra special just with his presence, and he loved you all so much.

A pastor – Grandpa works for God. That was the best way to explain Grandpa’s job to our children.  A few weeks ago, we sat in this very church as about 300 people gathered to share what my Dad’s Christian service has meant to them.  What a beautiful tribute to a man who spent his life sharing what was once shared with him – the love of God for us.  For 41 years my dad was a pastor.  He started 2 churches – one in Southbridge and then one in Dudley and then went on to pastor 2 different Worcester churches and then to have a pastoral role here at Faith Baptist.  And people came that day, not only from those churches but from community projects that he worked on and boards on which he served.  Dad touched people and left an impression, not only by the words preached from the pulpit, but by the godly life he led.

A friend – Looking around at all the faces here today, it is such a tribute to the person Dad was, to see all of you, some his parishioners, some his friends or both, as those went hand in hand with Dad.  Every single one of you has touched Dad’s life in some way, the same way that he has touched yours, and we are all richer just for having known him.  Dad loved his family and friends, and the times that he spent with all of you were treasured by him, especially when they involved coffee or potluck dinners.  And I thank God for all of you, for your prayers, your love, your concern and your friendship over the years and during this journey of Dad’s. 

         What an inspiration Dad has been – his strength and his faith will not be forgotten.  During his run with cancer, Dad often said, “How can I use my cancer to reach others for Jesus?” and when I cried that it wasn’t fair and questioned why, he told me that God had a plan.  We may not understand it or see it, but we are not to question God’s plan for us.  And how many of you got the medical updates my parents would regularly send where on more than one occasion, bad news would be followed by a pep talk from Dad or Mom with a Christian message and/or Bible verse.  How amazing is that!  Dad exhibited a faith and a hope that inspired and spoke to many.  So yes, Dad, you used your cancer to continue to reach others for Jesus.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I am a pastor's kid, and pastor's kids are sometimes referred to as "PK"s.  I have to admit I didn't always like being a PK.  Many times people expected pastor's kids to be perfect kids.  I may have accomplished that until about the age of 10.  And then there are times that my parents would probably say that I did everything I could to prove that I wasn't a perfect kid.

When I was a teen, most of my friends had a Catholic upbringing or no religious upbringing at all. They assumed that pastors, like priests, weren't allowed to have children, so the first hurdle in saying that my dad was a pastor was explaining that no, he didn't sin a whole bunch of times and have 8 children, but that he was allowed to have children because he was a pastor and not a priest. Then came the inevitable question "So you have to go to confession to your dad?"  I would then explain that we didn't do confession, because we believed that you confessed your sins directly to God in your prayers and didn't necessarily have to go through a priest or pastor.

But,in listening to people pay tribute to my dad this afternoon at his celebration service of 41 years of ministry, I have to tell you that living with dad was a lot like living with God.  It seemed like he knew EVERYTHING, and what he didn't know, my sisters told him.  We didn't just get punished or a speaking to for our wrongdoings, we got sermons and Bible verses to read and learn and figure out how they could be applied to our particular transgression.  Parents always say that there is no textbook on how to be a parent, but my Dad used the Bible as his textbook for life: how to be a good Christian, how to be a good husband, how to be a good father, etc.  I still haven't found in the Bible where it said "Thou shalt not wear make-up until you are 16" or "Thou shalt not get your ears pierced until you are 18", but it must be in there in some form.

We also were not allowed to date anyone who wasn't a Christian, so I'd like to apologize to any boy in the general vicinity of my age who walked through the doors of our small churches over the years.  Sorry that you immediately became dating material and were perhaps ogled throughout the service.  We were always in churches with small congregations, so Christian boys were slim pickings, and I have to admit that I sometimes saw a church service as a "singles club".

As I became older, I know that I fell off my PK pedestal some times, and stumbled off of it more often than that.  I know that sometimes my actions, my words, and my way of expressing myself embarrassed or disappointed my dad.  I also know even more that my dad always loved me, even when I was clinging to my pedestal by my fingertips.

Today I was a PK again, but this time I was a Proud Kid.  I was so proud to look around the church and see almost 300 people who came to pay tribute to my Dad and to honor him and thank him for his 41 years of ministry, a/k/a working for God.  Those who read my blog know that I have struggled with positivity relative to my Dad having cancer, and the human in me still wants to hold onto him and not let him go.  But the Christian in me knows he is ready to go, ready to go meet his Boss, the Boss he has never seen in all these years, but the One he has worked for so faithfully and the One he has introduced to so many others directly or indirectly.  And this Proud Kid was reminded of that today, sitting there, listening to the kind words spoken, the letters that were read, and hearing about the difference my Dad has made in so many lives.  It was like the feeling I get watching my children in their concerts, their hockey games, and other times they've been recognized.  It was seeing my Dad's name at the top of the list of jobs well done, and I am so excited for him to hear those words from his Boss "Thank you for a job well done, my son."  You done good Dad!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Planning a Plan

Long commutes suck!  They make you think too much, analyze things and worry.  This week I've been thinking about death and funerals and what happens on earth after people die.  When you die, you go to Heaven or Hell, but what happens to the people left here, and particularly a spouse?  Does he or she downsize their house? Does he or she move in with an adult child so he or she won't be alone?  What is best for the person left behind?  

Estate planning isn't something people want to think about. As separate words, they are:  "Estate" seems to imply some big beautiful mansion-type house with beautifully landscaping and flowery gardens while "planning" involves preparation, many times an exciting preparation, for events to come.  However, when the two words are put together they have a whole different meaning: planning for what you'd like done after you are no longer in this world to express it yourself.

I am the oldest of 8 children, and as a child, I remember that my parents let us know that should something happen to the both of them, we were going to go live with their friends. The friends had been asked, and they had agreed to this responsibility should the need arise.  In my eyes, all in all, this family was a good choice.  And when you weighed the pros against the cons, the pros won out.  This family lived on a farm, and then later on moved to a house on a lake (pros).  They had a daughter who was fun to hang out with and sons who were fun to look at (pros).  But these handsome boys did like to hunt and were successful enough that we had to try venison once, and that was most definitely a con.

Then when I became an adult I was told that I would inherit my siblings if something happened to my parents.  I have to admit my first thought was disappointment that I wouldn't be going to the house with the boys... I mean the house with the venison.  Who am I kidding...beef trumps venison any day of the week.  Ok, back on track.  Then I felt honored that my parents would entrust their children to me. Wait, they were willing to entrust all SEVEN of their children to me. And how would I take care of them?  For starters, the house we lived in at the time was owned by the church, and since I wasn't going to be the pastor, I was pretty sure we would need a place to live.  And at that time, I could barely cook so how would I feed all these children?  And how would my part-time job support us all?  While I am so thankful we never had to find answers to these questions, I also know that we would have, and we would have been fine.

Every so often TV shows will spark the "estate planning" discussion with me and Brian.  We have had the discussion of who would take care of our children if we no longer could, and we have tabled that discussion as we decided no one could replace us as some were too strict, some too lenient, some didn't share our beliefs, some were too old, some too young, so we just didn't decide on anyone.  

I can remember having a favorite dress when I was in my late teens/early twenties. It was royal blue and beautiful.  I told my Mom at the time that if I died, I wanted to be buried in it.  Well, it doesn't fit anymore.  So part of my estate planning is to make it known that my new chosen burial outfit is the jeans that make my butt look good (Heidi and Lara know which ones), and either a purple or black top, preferably long or 3/4 length sleeves unless my arms are finally toned by the time I die.  Let's be real, they won't be, stick with the long sleeves.  And I don't know if you wear shoes in there or not, but if so, I want stiletto heels.  Since I won't have to stand or walk, I will finally be able to wear them.  Hailyn knows the ones I like.  And have Allie do my make-up, she watches me all the time so she knows how I like it.  And people should cry at my funeral, they don't have to bawl, but a few tears would be appreciated so I'll feel missed.  And then they can laugh and smile and share funny stories.

So I don't know who will care for my children if I can't do it.  I don't know who will get my estate which will consist of clothes ranging about four sizes (clothes I hope to fit back into and fat clothes kept for comfort), shoes, almost brand new unused exercise equipment, cookbooks and recipes, a cool party bus (aka minivan) and bills.  I don't know where I want to be buried or where I want my funeral held.  And I don't really want to think about it.

These Dreams

Mucinex should really list as one of its side effects: crazy, bizarre dreams.

I have been suffering from a cold all week and have been faithfully taking Mucinex.  I take it in the morning, again late afternoon and then before bed.  So I am not abusing it, and I'm not even reaching the daily maximum intake.

But during the day, I have a short fuse and at night bizarre, really bizarre dreams.  I have never taken much stock in dream interpretation, and there have been some dreams that I wouldn't want interpreted for me.  Some dreams I can justify as happening because I thought about a person that day or an event, and then it manifested itself into my dream.  But Mucinex dreams are a far stretch of reality.

The first dream had me driving in a less desirable neighborhood of Worcester and then getting lost there.  It seemed I was driving around in circles until my car died.  As soon as the car stopped, I noticed scary people coming out of dilapidated and rundown buildings all around me.  We'll call these people gangsters.  They surrounded my car, and without ever speaking a word to me or to each other, they removed the door off of my car and pulled me out.  I was brought to a room where I was made to sit in a chair while they formed a circle around me.  Everyone just stared, and no one spoke. Well, except for me, who kept asking what was going on and why I was there.  Then I woke up.  (This dream could possibly be explained by a story I had heard at work that day.)

In the second dream I was in a tree, way up high, by myself.  I wasn't playing with any other children, I wasn't a child in the dream, and there was no other scenery around.  I was just in a tree.  Then I heard a siren, and a firetruck appeared, and a ladder started to be extended toward me.  Firemen got off the truck, and I couldn't make out their faces because I was so high up in the tree.  One fireman began climbing the ladder, and as he reached me, I realized it was a fireman from my town. He instructed me to climb down the ladder, and I did.  (This dream could be explained by my new favorite show Chicago Fire or by my sister's FB posts of firemen; however, the town fireman was no Kelly Severide.)

The third dream had me riding on a sleek black panther with beautiful blue eyes that looked like glass, and we were racing across a big open field.  (This dream may have been an interpretation of my jealousy the day before watching snowmobilers crossing a field in town, or it may have been something else.)

And in last night's dream I was a breadstick...not the lame boring Stella Dora breadstick but the buttery, garlic Olive Garden breadstick. I was in the Olive Garden to go breadstick bag with 3 other breadsticks.  While my head was on top of my breadstick, the other 3 just had those beady eyes that you use with kids for crafts and glue onto things and then shake them to watch the eyes move.  (This dream is a sign of what I should have for lunch today, I'm sure of it.)