Tag Archive | Memories

Teachable Moments

When my husband’s tumor was first discovered, our children were only ages 9, 7, and 5.  They were really too young to be kept in the loop about what was happening, and we went out of our way to hide it all.  They were too young to hear about doctors, illness, tests, and an unknown prognosis.  We spent two years not knowing anything, so it would have been  impossible to explain to them what we didn’t understand.  Once we started getting answers, the reality of what could be coming wasn’t something we felt they needed to know or worry about.  We wanted them to just be children, with no adult worries, and we wanted to keep their lives as “normal” as possible.  It worked for a while.

Now, our children are ages 16, 14 and 12.  There really is no more hiding, and it wouldn’t be fair to be less than honest with them.   They know Dad is sick.  They see it every day.  We don’t make a point of talking about his illness, but we answer honestly now, when they have questions.  That is a hard transition to make.  As parents, we want to protect our kids from the difficult parts of life.  Nobody wants their kids to grow up with a sick parent, constant financial struggle, and an inability to know what can be expected in the future.  Under the best of circumstances, none of us can predict what the future will hold.  But with an illness, it’s even harder.  Life is lived on a day to day basis.  Plans are hard to make.  Promises are almost impossible.

For a long time, I felt guilty that our kids were dealt this hand…living in a family with a chronic illness that hangs over us every single day.  I felt it was unfair to my husband, and myself, but especially to our children.  I had an amazing, happy, care free childhood, and it hurt my heart to know that my kids wouldn’t have the same experience.  I’ve always wondered how this experience would affect the rest of their lives.  Would they grow up feeling cheated, or insecure, depressed, or anxiety ridden?

As our kids grow older, I find myself looking at our situation in a different way.  I’ve accepted that this is how things are and there is nothing we can do about it.  We can fight it and wish it were different.  That doesn’t work…I’ve tried it.  We can let it consume us and ruin our lives.  For me, that has never been an option and I wouldn’t allow my kids to let it affect them that way either.  Now, I try to look at it another way…a way that will hopefully help my kids.  My kids are, and always have been, watching me and how I respond to my husband, his illness, and our life as a family.  I hope that they have learned that spouses are loyal, through sickness and health.  I hope they have seen that life can be brutally hard and not go as planned, but that you simply don’t give up.   I hope they have learned that sometimes, you just have to put your head down and plow through the tough times, and that eventually you WILL come out the other side.

Now that our kids are more aware of what is happening,  they are asking me more questions, and talking to me about their feelings…whether positive or negative.  It’s my opportunity to continue to teach.  The most common feeling they have mentioned is frustration.  They get frustrated that their Dad sleeps a lot, and spends a lot of time just sitting and watching TV, or wandering aimlessly around the house, not doing much of anything.   They get frustrated when they see that he eats and drinks unhealthy food.  They get frustrated that he is often too tired to do something with them, or drive them somewhere.  They get frustrated when he won’t wear a seatbelt.  I completely understand their frustration, but I take those conversations as the opportunity to sympathize with them and to teach them that we can only control ourselves, not other people.  My kids tell me they don’t like to talk about it (as they are talking about it), and it gives me the chance to tell them that talking about it relieves them of the burden of holding it in.  I encourage them to talk about their anger and frustration because I know it helps to let go of it and share it with someone else.  I tell them it will eat them up to hold it in if they are sad, angry, or upset about something.  They tell me they want to spend more time with their Dad, but don’t know what to do with him.  I tell them to tell him that they want to spend time with him…it will make him feel good, and they will always remember the times they spent together.   Communication is important, and they should always tell him when they want to be with him.

As life evolves, and the years go by in our household, there will always be teachable moments that I hope will help my kids throughout their lives.  I could live with a heavy heart, wishing that life for my kids was different.  Or, I can share my experience with them in the hopes that they can move forward through their lives with a little bit of wisdom, and a foundation for dealing with the hard blows life can throw at them.

Call Me Crazy

I’m about to do the unthinkable.   I never thought this day would come, to be honest.  I had to think about it for a couple of months, weigh the pros and cons, and seriously consider the fact that I just might be certifiably insane.  What would I be missing?  Would my life be over?  What the hell will I do with myself?  How will I survive?  Then it struck me like a lightning bolt.  These thoughts are precisely why I need to do this.  I need to shut down my Facebook page.  That’s right.  I said it.  I’m shutting it down.  Not permanently…I’m not that loony.  The plan is to shut it down for the summer.

For the most part, I have enjoyed Facebook over the past few years.  I’ve gotten to know people better, and I like that I can see what’s going on, and share in people’s life events.  But over the past year or so, I’ve found myself more and more irritated with the nonsense and insignificant dreariness that people feel the need to share with the world.  I’m confident that I can make it through my day without knowing where people ate dinner the night before, what cashier is out sick at the local Walmart, and whose kid saved the world from some imminent disaster.  I can manage to drink my morning coffee without seeing someone’s 137,868th  selfie or picture taken by their bff.  Here’s a newsflash:  We all know what you look like…you haven’t changed since yesterday.   I’m also confident that I can survive, and so too will other people survive, if I don’t share the crap I share, too.  Facebook is ultimately a crapfest of who did more, who did it better, who looks better, who went more places, who has a better imaginary life, who has a smarter kid, not to mention those awesome vague posts that are simply an attention-getting tactic.  I need a break.  I spend more time being irritated than I do enjoying.

As I thought about doing this, I realized I need a plan.  I can’t just go cold turkey without figuring out a way to spend my time sans FB.  At first, I was almost in a panic and came very close to ditching the whole idea.  Then I thought, what did we all do before the internet and social media?  We all managed to have a life before Facebook was invented.  So, I made a plan.  This summer, I am going to do the many things I’ve claimed I didn’t have time for over the past several years.  I am going to read as many books as I can.  I am going to go to the gym several times a week.  My family joined the YMCA, and my kids are just as eager to go exercise as I am.  We are also doing a major nutritional overhaul in our house…no more junk food or processed food.  Well, occasional junk food.  Let’s be realistic.  I used to draw and do artistic things.  I want to start drawing again.  I find it incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.  I lose hours at a time, just by creating a drawing.  I also want to get my house in order so it’s not an embarrassment when people drop by.  I HATE cleaning, so if I get it cleared out and have a plan to keep it up, it will free up time to do the things I enjoy.  I want to get back to nature by going to the beach, going on hikes, or just sitting outside and reading.  I want to spend more time with my kids and give them my full attention.  I want to write.

I’m sharing this all through my blog for two reasons.  One, it’ll keep me honest.  If you all know I’m ditching facebook, then you will also know if I sneak back on.  I don’t have the self-control to do this on my own.  I need to be able to tell myself that I’ll look like a spineless moron if I don’t do it.  It’s the embarrassment factor, which is always a good way for me to not do something.   The second reason is that this is all part of an experiment that I will be writing a blog post on in September.  The experiment is just to see if I can do it, and what I can accomplish by getting rid of a serious time suck in my life.  If I can do it, other people can, too.  Life is too short to waste time reading about what other people are doing.  Life is about going out and doing.  If I die tomorrow, I will be much more satisfied that I spent today sitting on the beach, reading a book, talking to my kids, and enjoying all of OUR moments.

Grandma

This blog post will be a little different today.  I am writing about my grandmother who is celebrating her 90th birthday today.  While most of my readers don’t know her, I wanted to write about her because she has been one of the greatest influences on my life, and one of the ways I can honor her is with my words.  I will be giving her a copy of this post, in a card at her upcoming party.

 

Dear Gram,

Today, on the occasion of your 90th birthday, I want to express to you all the things I love about you and the ways in which you have influenced me over the past 46 years of my life.  You have been there for me since day one and you have always been like a second mother to me.  I don’t remember the first two years of my life when we lived right next door to you, but going to your house, even today, makes me feel like I’m home.  You are always so happy to see me and always willing to make coffee and have a bite to eat and spend time visiting.  I feel like I can talk to you about almost anything and your words of advice stay with me.  Some of my favorite memories from childhood include sleeping over at your house and staying up late to watch TV with you while Grandpa fell asleep on the couch, and the shopping trips and errands we would go on where you would always buy me “a little something.”  I remember all your roast beef dinners, and the holidays that were always celebrated at your house. Christmas will never be the same anywhere else.

I love to hear your stories about France, your childhood, your parents and especially the World War II stories when the Germans occupied France.  Of course, I also love to hear about how you met Grandpa, and the night my Mom was born on your mother’s dining room table.  You are a master story teller with a gift of description that brings your listeners to the place and time of your stories.  You are always willing to share your personal stories, even if it means making fun of yourself or sharing something embarrassing that you did.  Your story telling is one of my most favorite things about you.  My children also love your stories and I love that they will remember you and your stories.

One of the things I admire most about you is your incredible artistic talent.  I don’t know anyone who has a knack for decorating like you do, and I don’t know anyone else who takes it upon themselves to walk into their daughter’s or granddaughter’s home and make adjustments to the decor without being asked.  We never minded because it always looked a million times better!  And you did it from your heart, and to help us love our homes as much as you love yours.  You are amazing with a sewing machine and I know over your many years you have made wardrobes of clothes, but most impressive and meaningful are the many wedding gowns, head pieces, and hats you have made.  I hope someday one of my girls will wear the beautiful head piece you made me for my wedding.  Then there is the knitting.  There have been many babies who have been blessed with the baby sweaters and hats you have made over the years.  I cherish the sweaters you made for my babies, and all the hats and scarves that kept my children warm over the years.  My favorite thing, though, is that every year you take a baby sweater to the hospital on Grandpa’s birthday and donate it to an underprivileged newborn baby.  You are always so generous with your love and talents.

Your generosity is another quality you have that I admire.  You have always been willing to help out any of your children or grandchildren with anything…whether it was a home cooked meal, or an item from your home that someone could use, or even cash to help someone get by during a rough patch.  You have a way of giving without making the other person feel bad or guilty, and you have no idea how much that is appreciated by all of us.  You also are willing to help strangers.  I’ve seen you help elderly people in stores, or assist a child with something out in public, or simply donate something to a stranger when one of your children or grandchildren mention they know someone in need.  I also remember several holidays when you took in people you didn’t know who had no family nearby, and let them spend the holiday with our big family and enjoy an incredible dinner.  You share your love and let your light shine, and the world is a better place for it.  I know mine is.

Your job as mother is where you shine the brightest.   You took care of your children in a way that every mother should.  Their needs were always first, they always had a hot meal, beautiful home made clothing, a happy place to live, and tons of love.  You took care of Grandpa throughout your life together, right up to his last breath.  He was so lucky to call you his wife.  You have that same love for your grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Everyone knows that Mom, Grandma or Grandee will take care of them.  You taught my Mom how to be a Mom, and she taught me how to be a Mom.  I hope that my girls continue to carry it on.

Grandma, you are one of the strongest women I know and that is one of the biggest influences you have had on me.  Life hasn’t always been easy for you.  You’ve survived a war, and left your country to come here to raise a family.  Our family has had it’s share of difficult times, but you are a pillar of strength for everyone.  You never let it get the best of you.  You have survived the worst of nightmares in the loss of your child,  Uncle Jeff.  I can’t imagine the devastation of losing a child, and I know it was devastation for you.  But you carry on, and live and laugh.  That is an incredible gift to him, and the rest of your family.  So many mothers would get lost in their grief and never be the same again, but you are still here for the rest of us.  As I go through difficult times in my life, I think of you and your strength and it helps me carry on and do the same for my family.  Thank you so much for that.

I could go on, but those were the things I especially wanted you to know.   I love you more than words can express, and I want you to know that you will forever occupy a large piece of my heart.  I will carry you with me for the rest of my days, and I will be here for you for the rest of yours.  Have a very happy 90th birthday, Gram.  I love you!

 

Renee