If you knew a Genie ..

What would you do if you were walking along and discovered this unique lamp / gravy boat thing.  Would you wash it and buff it up?  What would you do if a genie appeared.  We all know it wouldn’t, but what would you do if he granted you 3 wishes.

We all know that everyone usually says 1. wealth for you, 2. health for you and 3. love for you.  Something like that anyway, but suppose this genie said you have to come up with some other wishes because he was bored with people always wanting these things .  What would you decide to wish for.  It could make the decision a bit more difficult.

Me I would wish for : 1.  for my husband to still be alive.  I know that can’t happen but if we are going to dream, might as well dream big.  He had such an influence on all our lives and is missed more than words can even explain.  2.  for cancer to have never existed.  I would wish that nobody ever was or would be affected by this evil disease.  And 3.  that my children and grandchildren will forever be happy in their heart and mindful of God.  With this they should have or be able to find inner happiness which in turn helps to create a happy family.

I don’t really care about money.  I can’t take it with me when I die.  I have explained to my children just how my will is laid out and what they are to do about that.  As far as health, we all want to be healthy, but sometimes you just get the luck of the draw.  I have done my routine health exams but what about next year?  The year after that?  Our fate is out of our hands.  I have been blessed that I have wonderful children.  We are always there for each other, we always have been.  We are strong willed.  When my husband was suffering from cancer a strong circle of friends said we were “NeffStrong”.  We were but sometimes we felt so tired and weak and they would pull us back up.  They helped to really make us “NeffStrong”.  They loved and care for us and when sometimes we would forget to eat, we never had to look for food. Sometimes when we just needed a hug and for someone to say “it will be okay” even though we all knew it wasn’t going to be. This is the loyalty I wish my children and grandchildren to have and to carry on through their lifetime.  Caring for one another whether you are blood related, work related, neighbors, or friends.  Humankind is such a wonderful word.

 

 

 

 

The Girl’s Got This

I try to stay upbeat on most things.  I am not perfect and every once in a while I get on my pity pot too.  I think it is human nature to a certain extent.  When I have my grandchildren out, we usually get some person who will come up and comment on all the little girl’s we have and how they are going to have to tell their mother’s to even up the score.  Our score is 4 girls to 2 boys.  None of us have ever complained,  we have been thankful for each and everyone of them to make it here.  I know they are only teasing but as my granddaughters get older and can understand the comments, I hate to think that they will be led to believe that that are second rated.  I have both a 2 year old grandson and a 2 year old granddaughter, they are each others favorite frenemy.  My granddaughter this little preemie NICCU graduate will stand up for herself, and she can sometimes overpower my grandson.   I will stand back and smirk knowing she will be fine in life.   She won’t take crap, okay maybe one but after that she’s going to get you.

I admire that my daughters and granddaughters are strong willed.  They will stand up for themselves.  They will fight for what is right.  They get that from me.  Yes, I can be stubborn, independent and bullheaded.  But, I can be loyal, hard working, loving and kind.  I raised my girl’s to be all that they can be and want to be.  I have tried to stomp out the “happy homemaker” stereotype.  When my husband was alive he and I had a deal if I took care of the outside tasks such as mowing the grass, weeding and such, he would take care of some the inside chores.  For some reason he enjoyed doing dishes, who was I to complain and I liked to be outside.  He was petrified of running into a snake if he mowed.  We worked together like that .  That is probably how we lasted over 29 years.  I can whack a snake with a shovel pretty good, chopped one up so bad my friend couldn’t even identify it.

Each of my grandchildren  had difficult entries into this crazy world with either difficult high risk pregnancies or difficulties and drama at birth.  I have never been so relieved to hear these babies as they cried.  I also have one son.  The ribbing my husband would get like “it took four tries to get it right”.  Did these people not hear themselves and how stupid they sounded.  Be a baby a boy or a girl that baby is a blessing.  The parents are very proud of this tiny human they made.  Why make them feel bad because the baby was not a boy, instead embrace the proud parents and simple say “congratulations”.  But people can say what they want I am going to continue to encourage my daughters and granddaughters to be strong in all that they do and to “Fight Like A Girl” .  Now we don’t really condone physical violence but I am more stating in standing up for themselves.  All that is left to say is “You Go Girl”!

The Rights of Passage

Do you remember when we were young children and it was such a big deal to get the training wheels off your 2-wheeler.  You were now an official “Big Kid”.  How about when your banana seated sting ray bike evolved into a awesome 10 speed or a mountain bike.  Now the next step was to convince your parents you were responsible enough for a …don’t say it ..a car.  These were all “Rights of Passage” of sorts.  How many passages have we all gone through in life?  From diapers to death there are many, many accomplishments and responsibilities that go with getting older and growing up.  Many lessons to have learned and to continue to learn.

In our twenties we were career driven, finished college, got a good job.  We found our significant other, the one who made us feel complete.  We started to consider raising a family if we had not already started building one.  More “Rights of Passages” conquered and bigger goals planned.  In our twenties we had no fear ( for the most part) the world was our oyster.  We felt unstoppable.

In our thirties we introduced a few more babies into our families.  We proved you could juggle work and parenthood.  We were more career driven trying to get that prized job or higher on the corporate ladder.  We didn’t really worry about or future…yet anyway… we were young, healthy, and active.  We bought our first or second homes.  We became established in our communities.  We helped at our children’s schools and on the soccer fields.  We could do it all.  A few more “Rights of Passage” conquered and life moves on.

In our forties we realized we were in our forties.  It was starting to sink in that we being out done by the twenty somethings.  What happened to us?  Some of us reached our peak  in our careers.  The excitement and challenges were gone.  Now it was just day to day drudgery.  For us women we have found all the weight we so desperately kept losing in our twenties and our thirties .  Hello muffin top.  I could say I’m still trying to lose my baby fat but come on now she’s 14 years old.  Our metabolism slows down to a turtle’s pace.   Let’s face it we generally are not as active as we were in our twenties or thirties.  We may still walk or work out but it isn’t like we used to.  ( I am speaking for myself ).  Forties can also bring some wonderful “Rights of Passages” as having a child get married or having a grandchild.

 

In our fifties, well let’s just say it’s a whole different ball game.  I move slower.  I think I’m keeping up with my family, but no there is usually one who has to wait for mom to catch up.  The weight still finds me a pound here or there.  If we have not had to come to terms with death before, we sure do in our fifties.  From losing spouses, parents, siblings, co-workers, friends or even a child, we have learned to face grief and all it has to offer head on.  Another “Right of Passage” nobody enjoys.  Also in our fifties we feel our careers are on the down hill slide.  Our mind set is I just have 10-15 more years then I can retire. Some of us thrown into having to make a career change.  We are worn out.  We are grandparents helping with these energetic grandchildren.  We have learned to settle down and understand that more is not always better.  In our fifties our physicians tend to think it’s the magic age to test just about every part of our body.  With this being said today I had my first colonoscopy not really a big deal.  To me it was.  I was petrified to say the least.  I was more scared of being sedated than the procedure.  I am kind of a control freak.  I just don’t like someone having that control.  Anyway, since my husband died of colon cancer it was a big deal for me to do this, not  just for my health but for my children to know I was okay.  I passed with flying colors.  I do believe I shouted “woohoo” a little louder than intended but I was relieved.   Check another “Right of Passage” off my list.

My sixteen year old son is looking for his first job and asking when we can start looking for a car for him.  I sit back and smile as I realize he is only just on the beginning end his voyage through his own “Rights of Passage”.

 

 

Grief, Belief and Remember When

We have reached the age now where at some point we have lost someone we loved.  It could have been a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, or someone who you were very close to.  It could have been a best friend, co-worker or even a neighbor.  Basically we have all been there.  During this lost however profound or minor time, how did you cope?  Did feel helpless?  Did you ask your God “Why”?

As you know by now if you have read other posts, you know my husband of 29 1/2 years passed away after a short battle with colon cancer.  His 2 year anniversary is approaching us in 2 days.  The anxiety levels throughout the family are pretty high.  We are hit with the anniversary of his passing, his birthday, Father’s Day and the anniversary of my son-in-law’s passing, all in a matter of a week.  We have stated that we wish the month of June just didn’t exist.  But that won’t happen.  Now we are beginning to have a few good reasons to celebrate the coming of June.   Our grandbabies.  I believe the birth of these babies is God telling us that life is to go on.  It does, just as you put one foot in front of the other.  Life moves on whether we are ready for it to or not, it is ever evolving.

I am a big believer in Karma  or God pointing you in certain directions.  Our course in life has already been charted, we are the drivers, sometimes we may make a wrong turn and turn around and find the right road, sometimes it may a little longer to find the right road, but we will get to where we are meant to be.  I could be angry that my husband passed away, our retirement plans not going to happen, but through my feelings of sadness, emptiness and the all so famous “What the hell am I going to do now?”, but I was never angry.  I read a lot of passages some religious some not.  These passages lifted me up with the power from within me.  I ended up writing a book call “A Widow’s Memoir” and it was helpful for me to be able to put all the quotes and passages together in a collective book.  I felt God was merciful in taking my husband quickly.  You see, he was very death a phobic.  He was a very proud and dignified man.  As cancer took away his ability to control bodily functions, he cried.  He didn’t want me to clean him but he also didn’t want the nurses to know “it” happened.  He didn’t want to burden any of us.  All I wanted was to savor every second i could get because I could see end was getting closer and closer.  I know he is at peace now and pain free.  It seems unfair we only got 3 months from the diagnosis but knowing it was stage four he could have suffered for the 2 1/2 years.  For this I am thankful.

This week I welcomed another granddaughter into this world.  She came to us via a scheduled c-section as mommy has some heart issues.  I paced, I twitched, I shuffled , I did everything but the Tango waiting to hear that mom and baby were okay. I broke out in a 50 yard dash sprint as my son in law and a nurse surfaced with a bassinet. Baby looked good, pink and crying. I was still awaiting word on my daughter. After almost 2 hours passed she was released from recovery to her room..  But moral is she was okay..baby was okay.   A few hours later we are admiring this pretty little pink bundle, taking turns to hold her.  My daughter went to her wallet felt something in it and began looking.  To her surprise she found a locket she had made with her father’s picture in it.  It had been lost for close to a year as it was suppose to go in her bridal bouquet at the wedding.  We believed he was there too.  The locket was taped to the baby’s bassinet as if he was watching over her.  The next morning she sent me a video clip of the rocking chair in her room rocking all by itself.  No reasons as to how it was, no fan, no air duct nothing.  She was not scared but felt her dad had come to watch over them.  She had said you don’t think he really would of missed this.  He didn’t.

This year we will not participate in Relay for Life.  Not because we don’t want to, as we been there for at least the last 12 years.  This year we are instead celebrating life, rebirth, and happiness.  My other granddaughter who was was born at just under 33 weeks 5 days after my husband passed away, celebrates her 2nd birthday.  This baby was thrust into this world in middle of chaos and grief.  This baby who is independent and head strong.  This baby who kept pulling out her feeding tube in the NICU, and kept trying to remove her oxygen.  This baby who during the drama filled birth, had her own protector, a white butterfly that perched outside the window and stayed there through the hours of a forced induced labor, and intense delivery.  That butterfly didn’t leave.  We believe my husband was watching over them.  I went to window and told the butterfly “see I told you would make it”.  My husband feared he wouldn’t get to see his first granddaughter come into the world.  He did.

Yesterday I made a quick trip to the post office.  I popped a cd in found as we were cleaning the garage.  It was a “Alan Jackson” cd.  I didn’t think much about it.  I have not listened to music really since he died.  I feel the words to the songs, and when you feel you hurt, when you hurt you cry.  I forgot the song “Remember When” was on that cd.  Like a tidal wave the tears came, I almost turned it off but made myself play it thru.  I have accomplished many firsts since he died but could never handle music.  It was one of “our “songs.  The song says so much.  As this weeks of ups and downs hits I will just “Remember When”.

 

June…It’s So Bittersweet

For most people June signals the beginning of summer.  The kids are getting out of school.  It is time to plan vacations or a get away.  It is a time to have a bbq with friends and family.  For most June is a happy month.

For us June signals that it is time to feel bi-polar.  June is when we lost my young son-in-law at the age of 22 from a pulmonary emboli ( blood clot to the lung).  Sadly that day he had returned from the doctor with a bad “sinus infection”.  They were not home from the doctor an hour before he collapsed.   I tried to pull him to a spot I could start CPR.  I did, but it just wasn’t enough.  EMS tried, the hospital tried.  He was gone, how could it be he was young and in pretty good physical shape.  Why?  He left behind my daughter and a 1 year old son.  My grandson doesn’t remember him.  He only has the stories, pictures and few things my daughter selected to pass onto him.     He has his daddy’s big ol’ grin.  We all rallied behind this little boy to be there for him, support him in what ever means needed.  I carried a lot of guilt for quite awhile because nurse-mom could fix it.  You can’t “fix” grief…it takes time.  My daughter wandered thru the first year of widowhood.  I wasn’t much help…I didn’t know what she was going through really to say I had been there done that.   We had encouraged her after a year or so to out with friends.  She reluctantly did, but she felt a certain amount of guilt for enjoying herself.  She met another man and they hit it off and just a year later they got married.   She was feeling happily in “love” again.  All was good with the new couple and 8 months later they announced they were expecting a baby.  Things were looking good.

After the holidays that year my husband continued to not feel well.  I knew he had lost weight.  He was always sick on his stomach.  He skipped a few doctor’s appointments.  I went with him on the next scheduled and asked his doctor to give him something for his stomach.  We discussed some of his worrisome symptoms.  Or should I say I discussed some his symptoms while he flashed me the “shut up” look.  Needless to say he was scheduled for an ultrasound later that week.   You know it is never good news usually when a doctor calls you after 7:00 pm.  My husband was scared to to talk to him about the results so I did.  I can remember his words.  Things like that get forever embedded in your memory.  It showed a large abdominal mass with several small lesions to the liver.  We both knew it wasn’t good.  We went to Walmart ( that is our place we went to talk things out).  I don’t know why, it just was.  He was then scheduled for a CT-Scan and surgery.  I knew what we were facing but when you here the surgeon say “Stage 4 Colon Cancer with cancer into the liver.  I cried.  I cried a lot.  The world as I knew was going to change forever.  I wiped my tears and pulled my shoulders back and explained this to our five children the youngest being eleven.  Just how to you explain that the man that they love and adore is dying,  he won’t be there for your graduation or to walk you down the aisle at your wedding.  He won’t be there to answer all there questions about college, boyfriends, girlfriends or teach them to drive a car.

The next several weeks were filled with oncology appointments, chemo, blood transfusions and him growing weaker and weaker.  I knew we were going to lose this battle.  June 1st of 2016 was the beginning of his downfall.  He passed out a few times at home, I finally had to call an ambulance because he couldn’t stand.  He was nearly 6 feet  tall and I was having more difficulty picking him up, my back was tired and worn.  After being in the hospital for a week, my husband had a episode of respiratory distress.  It happened in the middle of the night.  The doctor figured it was his cancer. I didn’t believe him, or didn’t want to believe him.  They agreed to do another CT-scan.  I was wrong more wrong than I could imagine.   The doctor was kind and gentle but honest.  He brought me into the doctor’s charting area and brought up his old CT-scan from just about 2 months ago to the one they had just done.  His liver was completely consumed by cancer.  He said I’m sorry and turned off the computer screen.   Our focus now was comfort care.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought this is where I’d be,  waiting on hospice.  My husband lingered for another week, some days alert and discussing my future without him, other days he be drifting in and out.    He sighed his last breath on June 15th at about 9:20 p.m.  I became his widow.

During my husband’s final days, my daughter was having some pre-eclampsia issues.  A few days after he passed she got admitted and transported to a bigger hospital that could handle a preemie baby.  Wow, what else were we suppose to deal with?  In the process of trying to plan my husband’s memorial service, thank god my oldest daughter pretty much took over, we was preparing to welcome a premature baby into this world, ready or not.  Family from out of town began to arrive for my husband’s service.  I was not leaving the hospital, not until I knew my daughter and granddaughter we safe.  After a a bit of an anxiety  attack, I was torn between the devotion I felt to both the memory of my husband and the danger that was daughter was in.  On June 20th, 2016 my granddaughter, London Avery came into this world.  She was small, but at 3# 12 oz she was feisty.  Once I knew she was okay not great but okay I traveled back home to have my husband’s memorial service.  Soon she will turn two.  She is going to be independent strong woman.  She has a sweet, funny side and is not scared to tell you “NO”.  She was our glimmer of hope at a very dark time.

Now here in a few days I will welcome another granddaughter to be born on June 6th.  I am relieved to see for all the sorrow June has brought us, we are able to still shine on thru with these two rays of sunshine.  Each and every child is a blessing, some brought here on earth to remind us of just that.  I see my husband in each of of our grandchildren, be it his eyes, his smirk or a certain something they do.  My husband loved his grandchildren  so much and I know he will be shining down on June 6th as we meet our newest granddaughter.  Hug them, love them for tomorrow is not promised.  Go and make a memory with them.

 

 

 

 

 

A Child’s Fear

I am going to try and not get overly political about these school shootings.  My heart aches for their families and fellow classmates.  I pray for them to find comfort, somehow.  Yes I believe something needs to be done now.  I also believe the governing agencies need to allow parents to discipline their children ( I don’t mean abuse or beat them). Some  children of this generation don’t really understand the concept of a consequence for their actions.  Some children think “Oh That’s Awesome” as they blow up and kill victims in a video game.  I do not know what the answer truly is but do know that we together as a nation need to work at a solution for the safety of our children, grandchildren and neighbors near and far.  I am not sure how much of these shooter’s mental states are from a genetic disposition to some mental disorders or how much is from being teased, bullied and taunted for years and years.  Either way it is still unacceptable.

My oldest grandson is seven and goes to a public charter school.  Never would I think he at such a young age would encounter bulling.  This young boy is kindhearted, energetic and very compassionate.  He has had a little bit of a growth spurt and his height has not caught up with his weight, but he is not fat.  Why should a seven year old be afraid to eat a snack or treat for fear that he will gain more weight.  Parents need to teach their children that every child is different, and special in all their own way.  They need to be taught patience and tolerance of one another.  How at the age of seven does one child have the right to make fun of what the other child wears?  What makes that child the wardrobe police?  Why does that child think he is superior to others his age?  I can almost see how a bullied child could snap and “lose it” so to speak.  It does not excuse the shooting by any means, the shooter still chose to shoot.  They knew right from wrong in the end.  Hopefully we will be able to end this cycle of schooling.   How many more people and students must die.

We were in my house the other day just talking about my grandson’s upcoming birthday.  All of a sudden there was a loud BOOM.  My grandson ran around the house yelling “LOCK DOWN, LOCK DOWN” and finally ran in the bathroom to hide.  I was able to coax him out and asked what that was all about.  He thought we were being shot at.  I live in a decent middle-class middle-age subdivision.  It is usually quite and calm.  But I knew it was just a vehicle that had back fired.  To see that he knew what to do to protect himself and the ones he loved ( he grabbed my daughter with him) was grateful but also sad.  Where has the innocence of childhood gone? Why are they having to prepare for incoming bullets.  Now this is a small town where we live , pretty slow paced.  Most of the other cities that have been affected also were fairly small or suburbs.  None of our children are safe.   What can we do as parents or grandparents to protect them?

I have home-schooled my 5 children with the exception of my middle child who needed some special ed help that I could no longer do.  There are pros and cons to both public and home schooling.  As long as kids get socialization whether it be from scouting, community sports teams, or church, home schooling does offer many benefits.  But it is a commitment, it takes time and effort, and you have to be able to tolerate your children for extended periods , you don’t get a break.  I love my kids and can say we have had some fun adventures.  Some days didn’t go as planned but we stilled trudged thru.  Life can be fun, and it can be adventurous, but it does not need to be scary.

I pray that soon there will be an end to all this nonsense shooting and killing.  It is a multi problematic issue.  It is not just gun control, nor is it just mental illnesses, nor is it just bullying.  It is everything, everything that has just snowballed together.  It is a mess…we know..now how can make our schools safe again so our children can focus on learning instead of having “LOCK DOWN” drills.

I will bow my head tonight and ask that all these families receive comfort.  This is awful and unimaginable.  And before I lay my head down I plan to hug my children and grandchildren just a little bit tighter for tomorrow is not promised.

Sleep…The Elective Evil

We all know how valuable sleep is right?  Doctors say you have to get a good 8 hours a night.  What, how is that even possible?  We all crave that blissful slumber don’t we?

No, I don’t have a magical answer, point blank there really isn’t one without including medication into a nightly ritual.  For me going to sleep is usually not the issue, for me it is waking up after an hour or two of sleep and thinking I have slept the whole night.

Strike One for me is I am menopausal, every woman who is in this second puberty so to speak , knows this is real.  We are tired, dragging our butts tired, go to bed, only to wake up a few hours later.  I have discovered I have more energy at 3 am than I do by 3 pm.   Our hormones are upside down and all around.

Strike Two for me is I am a widow.  I still grieve and believe I always will.  The memories seem to come back into my head around 1:30-2:00 a.m.  Why?  Why at this time?  Is it because my guard is down?  Does my mind think, for whatever reason I could forget him? By the time I try to reason with myself ( usually I can’t) a few hours have slipped by and it is now approaching my get up time.  Yes, I am a ritualistic type gal.  I currently do not work, but set my alarm every morning for 4:20 am.  I like the morning, it the only “my time” I may get.  But I don’t like it starting at 2:00 a.m.

 

Strike Three for me is stress.  Why do you have stress people ask, it’s not like you work.  No but that it not the only type of stress.  I stress about not working or about the prospect of looking for work down the road.  What will my body allow me to be able to do.  My hands and my feet have paid the price of my 30 year career of nursing.  I stress about my financial future…don’t we all.  I stress about my daughters and their high risk pregnancies.  I stress about getting small home projects done.  I find myself stressing about my health too.  I ask myself lots of questions, like should I get the carpal tunnel surgery and such.  I bet I can get stressed about my stress .

Try to remove your electronic devices from your room.  I do a certain point but cannot truly take my phone away with daughter number 3  in last few weeks of her pregnancy.  I don’t want to miss that phone call.  But, even when I have tried to remove the devices I found myself listening harder and thus not being able to sleep because I keep thinking I heard my phone.  I try to think relaxing thoughts as I drift off to sleep but I can’t stay asleep.  I have tried several of the “tricks”.  I just know that if I have a few bad nights by the third night or so I can take half of a “Tylenol PM” and it let’s me sleep a good 6 hours.  If I take a whole pill it takes awhile in the morning to shake it off.  I am pretty much a wimp when it comes to medication, it doesn’t take much to do the trick.  What works for one person may not for the next,  we are all individual.

I am not complaining, I know that this is part of the phase of life that I am in.  I thank God each and every day that I can get up and can share another day with the people that I love.  When I fall asleep in my recliner when I am feeding one of my grandchildren ( after they have dozed off), I don’t feel guilty anymore.  I accept that my body and it’s needs are changing too.  So a quick 10 minute catnap is sometimes all that I need to finish the day.   I then start to count how long I will be in this phase of life.  I take a deep breath and charge on through with the day.  Happy thoughts and Sweet Dreams.

 

 

 

When I Look Through My Grandchildren’s Eyes

We have had a fun filled week-end here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Saturday the grandchildren, a few of my children and I went to the science museum.  Some of my children had been there with their dad when I had to work.  I had never been there, so I was expecting it be blah and rather boring.  I am not sure who was more excited about the exhibits, my grandchildren or me watching them explore, learn and be totally amazed.  I believe I even had to “experiment” with some of the hands on fun exhibits.  Some of the exhibits made me wonder where was this place when I was a kid.

Watching the two 2 year-olds be in such awe, brought a broad smile to face.  Watching them jump and dance on the musical rug, to sitting inside a giant model of a mouth, they never stopped to rest.  Me on the other hand, took whatever opportunity I could to sit for a few breathers here and there.  I was thankful that most exhibits had big benches where you could sit a spell.  My oldest grandson who will soon be 7, enjoyed it but had been there a few times and was not as excited as the little ones.  He caught me playing with one of the exhibits and said “Grandmommy, why are you playing with a kid’s toy”?  I told him it was fun and that I enjoyed it.  He replied “Me too”!  I did get stumped a few times and I would usually get ” Grandmommy you have to do it like this”.  Oh okay was about all I could say.  Sometimes this boy can be such a whiz ( I am not bragging…just proud he can think things through).  My younger grandson was trying to convince his mom why he needed to be able to take a baby goat home.   I just sat back smirking and remembering when she was 2 and how strong willed she was.  My granddaughter was so excited about all the exhibits, her favorite was the snakes.  Yes this pretty little two year old loved the snakes.  Oh My..guess I’ll be watching her very carefully when we have outside playtime.

Today (Sunday) after church we went to little town about a half hour from where we live to a Mayfair Festival.  This small town is quaint, pretty, and a bit free-spirited.  It was a small festival, but it also was easy to get around, and family friendly.  They had a few local singers and bands.  My 2 year old grandson loves music, so we pretty much stayed around the bandstand.  It was relaxing as they had had lawn chairs set up around the music area.  We walked around by the vendors admiring their talent, but we always came back to the music area.  What a beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It was partly sunny with an occasional light breeze.  The gently rolling hills and trees burst in a bright green color.  It gave hope that Spring was actually here.  No more snow or freezing rain.  It is really warming up and the re-birth of growth of the new grass and leaves lets us know this is a new season and a new year.  I’m sure in a month we will be complaining that it is too hot but it doesn’t really last that long and before you know it,bonfire, hot chocolate, and hoodie season will be upon us.    Take time to enjoy that gentle breeze, the little flowers that you see.  Take time to see life as your grandchildren do…simple, spontaneous and full of spirit.  Enjoy yourself…..for tomorrow is not guaranteed.

 

When Your Parents Age

What do you do when your parents are aging.  They are doing it right in front of you and you can’t stop it.  It can take a toll on you and them.  Now not only do you have your children, grandchildren that depend on you, you now have a dependent parent.  It can be overwhelming at times.  My sister and I were talking last year about how our mother was declining both physically and at times mentally.  We had tried to encourage her and my stepfather to move closer to one of us.  It went to no avail, they had friends and a church that they enjoyed.  Not even a week after my sister and I were talking about my mom, I got a frantic phone call from my sister, it was April 1st.  She didn’t sound like she was in a very joking mood, she said mom’s gone, I replied “gone where”.  It was no joke, my mom died at the age of 78 trying to mow her yard, I know when it is your time, it’s your time, but a part of me thinks well if she lived here I would have done her yard or had someone to do it.  At least she was doing what she loved, working in her yard.  The question us kids raised repeatedly was “what if they only lived closer, what if we really knew how her health was ( she had a way of sugarcoating everything)what if…what if.  We pretty much all stated our lives were pretty crazy at this point, how would we have been able to care for her too.   I had suggested an assisted living to them a few years back but they were pretty independent and wanted to hear nothing more about it.  So subject was dropped.  She was pretty much was of a sound mind but there times she would get really forgetful and repeat stories until you had them memorized.  But she was my mom and sometimes just the sound of her voice would brighten my day.

I have been a nurse for 32 years mainly doing long term care and rehab.  I thought i was ready for the day when we would have to place her in a nursing home.  I knew what to look for when visiting a nursing home.  I made a list of all the things to observe while visiting.  It went something like this:                                                                                                                                                     1.  Be aware, does staff address or greet you, or do they ignore you?  Does the staff seem stressed out?  Do they seem to have enough staff?  Are the the state survey results posted ?  Are the resident’s rights posted for residents and family to see?  Is the number for the ombudsman posted and easily located?  Look up reviews online before committing to certain nursing home.

2.  Utilize your senses.  How did it smell?  How did it smell as you went onto the actual floors?  What did you hear?  Was there a lot of screaming from other residents?  What did you see?  Did other residents look clean and well kept or did they look dirty and disheveled?  Do the residents seem happy and content, or angry and scared?

3.  You are your parent’s voice …use it…you are their advocate.  If something does not seem right, question it.  Don’t scream and holler over every little thing, but develop a good communication with your  parent’s caregivers, teach the caregivers how your parent may like or dislike things.

These are a few of my main things that I would be doing, had we got that far with my mom.   Some people may opt to take care of them at home.  As noble as that is, make sure you can juggle everything and still take care of you.  It sounds easy but it is not especially if you work full-time and are raising an active family.  We kept my husband’s mother for 19 years.  It was very hard on all of us, from the children on up to her.  Every vacation we took she went with us ( we never had a break from each other).  One time when she was hospitalized from a mini-stroke, we decided we all would go to church.  That was the first Sunday service my husband, I, and our 5 children all got to sit together and attend service.  We would usually switch off because somebody had to be home with his mom at all times.  I am not sure how we made it thru those years, but we did.  If you plan on keeping your parent at home, make sure you have back-up caregivers, if even for just a dinner out with friends.  I also suggest you join a support group.  They are out there to help you feel like you are not doing this alone.

Our aging parents are there depending on us for their basic needs from companionship to actual hands on medical needs.  They have given us life and taught us to be the fine adult we are today.  Many of our parents are living history papers just waiting to be wrote.  They could tell us stories from the “Great Depression”, the “World Wars”, just how life was “back in the day”.   They are our genetic history as to who carries on Grandpa’s bright blue eyes, or Grandma’s dimples.  They at one would have done anything for us..now it is our chance to be able to give it back to them.  Whatever you choose to be the perfect answer I just ask that you consider all the possibilities.  And above all please take care of yourself.

 

 

Taking Life For Granted

Do you ever take life for granted?  Even just a little?  I really didn’t think I did either.  This week I had a close call with reality.  Through this little ordeal I did realize that I did take life for granted.  I was kind of ashamed of myself.

I went and did a mammogram on Friday the 13th ( of all days).  I was bad I never had one before but held my head up high and went and let the machine squash one boob and then the next.  It was basically painless and quick.  I even wondered to myself why didn’t I do this before, It wasn’t that bad.  They said I would probably hear from my doctor that afternoon or Monday.  I waited..I waited … and waited some more.  Monday I got the call no woman wants to get.   The nurse explained the findings to me ” they found a nodule to the right breast”, and “you need to go and get an ultrasound to make sure it is nothing bad”.   I was in shock and had her repeat what she just told me.  My youngest daughter overheard my conversation with nurse and went into a “freak out” of sorts.  You see in the back of all our minds was events that unraveled 2 years ago, my husband received the news that he had a large mass in his abdomen that went into his liver.  My husband fought through surgery and chemo.  He was so weak, so sick, so proud.  He fought but cancer won and he passed away about 9 weeks later.  The image profoundly stuck in all our minds.  My daughter remembers, she remembers everything, all the things that cancer took away from her.  Her daddy, her everything.  Cancer can be evil.  She knows he would not see her graduate from school, teach her to drive her first car, help her pick out the college she would attend, and walk her down the aisle to the love of her life.  She (and I) were a bit scared.  I tried to pretend and say it will all be “okay”.   She reminded me that that is what I told her when we found out about her daddy’s cancer.  I tried to stay positive and strong but inside I knew that things were falling apart.  So.. to say I was cool, calm and collected..well I can pretend, but not well.  Yes I was scared, but in the process of being scared I was trying to rationalize my thoughts saying it’s a small nodule, it’s just in one breast.  I was giving myself such a pep talk.  I was ready to fight…then the flood of emotions …then the okay suck it buttercup …it was a roller coaster of emotions.

I sat there in the dead of the early morning hours, thinking how stupid I was to think I could get by not having a mammogram for 10 years and to think it would be okay.  How vulnerable I felt.  Here is a slice of reality, slap slap.  I then began to think about my life.  I had a good life.  I tried to be a good christian, I tried to help others.  But yet I wondered was I good enough..

I was not scared to die.  I made peace a long time ago.  I worried not for myself but for my children and my grandchildren.  I believe I do make an impact on their lives be it big or little, I am there.   I worried or still worry for my children, yes I know some of them are “old enough” but a mother will always worry.  That is our job.  I blasted myself with all kinds of what if’s.  I thought about all the worst case outcomes.  I thought about what I could of done should have done differently.  Would it really matter?  We all get into our daily rituals or routines.  We trudge through each day like it is a bother not a blessing.  We assume and not think there may be another answer.  We take life for granted.

Well the nurse called to tell me that it was enlarged lymph node and that it was non-malignant.  Best words I had ever heard.   I thanked her.  I actually had her repeat that it was non-malignant.  I could not believe that I escaped the wrath of cancer, if only just this once.  My 13 year old daughter and I were giving high fives to each other.  That was after the embrace and tears of happiness.

The sun looks brighter today.  The sky looks oh so blue.  The grandbabies when they cry it seems like music.  The grass is greener.  Everything seems so much more perfect.  The air smells much fresher.  I am going to live life.  I am going to take in the pretty scenery a think it was was made for me.  I will stop and smell that flower along the way.  I may or may not tell my grandson to hurry up.  Life is full of experiences, embrace them, acknowledge them, and enjoy them.  Remember to accept what life hands you..it is actually a lesson..a lesson we may not even understand yet.