Rich

 

I do not, much to my husband’s recent chagrin, feel the need for large-screen plasma televisions. I don’t have diamond earrings in both princess- and round-cut. I don’t dress my children in designer clothing, or buy it for myself. My purse does not have a “C” or an “LV” or a little upside-down question mark on it. My favorite jeans are plain-old Levi’s. We lead a fairly simple life. We don’t indulge in much.

 

I’ve recently realized, however, that one of the things that is crucial and beyond valuable to me is life experience. I don’t want my children to learn just math and reading. I want them to know about different cultures and different religions. I want them to be comfortable talking with and hanging out with people who are much different than they are. I want to encourage them to explore the world, and the people in it. I want my children to live.

 

I know people who think it’s cruel that I take my kids to museums and try to teach them about the displays there. I know of others who think that I was crazy for taking my kids, when they were younger, to a nice restaurant for dinner. Why should they have to sit still like that? I paid good money to take my six-year-old to the theatre? Preposterous!! They used to express that to take my young children shopping all day with my sisters and mom and nieces was forcing them to endure something they shouldn’t have to endure.

 

And yet, my children learned so much from those experiences. They learned to be patient and how to be respectful and how to be polite. They learned to search out the things that they find interesting and to ask good questions about them. They order their own meals in restaurants, using please and thank you. They know that sometimes, life is not entirely about them, and that they should be kind when there’s something that I think is interesting, even if they don’t.

 

I am currently on an airplane after a week-long trip to Disney World in Orlando. My kids experienced airports and airplanes and shuttles from the airport to the hotel. We went to a luau and ate at an outrageously expensive dinosaur-themed restaurant. We went to a Japanese restaurant where the chefs cooked our food on a large grill at our table. They didn’t eat a whole lot, but they learned a little about Japanese culture, how to say a few words in Japanese, and they conversed with someone unlike any of the people we know at home. We rode on boats and monorails and buses and trams. We heard people speaking French and Mandarin and Spanish and German. We tried crepes and crème brulee and egg rolls and Japanese candy. They said “Merci” to the French guy at the Patisserie. They said “Hola” to the woman at the Mexican store. We talked about the shrine to Buddha that they saw and guessed at how many types of palm trees there are. Don’t get me wrong…we saw Mickey, too, and rode a bunch of rides and saw some cool shows, but more than anything, I treasure the life experience that my kids gained on this trip. They experienced life.

 

I’m not concerned with the brand of clothing my kids are wearing. I’m not going to spend my money on a purse with an “LV” on it. However, if I have the chance to take my children to Europe or the Caribbean or the Greek Isles, I will. If we can go see a volcano in Hawaii or a market in the Bahamas, I’m all over it. If we can see a castle in Germany or swim at the beach in the south of France, count me in. I’ll eat beans and rice for a few weeks if that’s what we need to do to afford it. My children, and I, will be so much richer for it.

 

On Being Girls

My ten-year old daughter, Blondie, is a people-pleaser.  She comes by it naturally…I have only recently learned to do what will make me happy instead of doing whatever everyone else wants me to do.  So I can’t exactly blame her.  And I love that she has such a sweet heart.  She doesn’t want to hurt others’ feelings.  She doesn’t want to offend.  She wants to make everyone happy, often at her own expense. 

I see this especially with her best friend.  The little 9-year-old girl who lives across the street from us is, well, a brat.  She’s used to getting her own way constantly, even with her parents.  It is common to hear her yelling at her mom or dad, talking back, and throwing fits when the world at large doesn’t give in to her every whim and desire.  She sets her own bedtimes, watches rated R movies regularly, and manipulates her way into situations that no little girl should be in.

Last week, I sat in my room with the window open and listened to the way she talked to my Blondie.  Every time Blondie made a suggestion, it was shot down, and Blondie backed off.  Every time Blondie did something her friend didn’t like, she got yelled at.  And Blondie took it.  And it bothered me.  It bothered me a lot.

Later, I talked to my sweet girl about it.  I explained to her that while I was proud of her for putting others before herself, I also didn’t like to see her being yelled at and always giving up her own ideas to someone else’s.  I told her that she can be sweet and strong all at the same time, and that she needs to stand up for herself sometimes.  I explained that while it’s good to be giving and loving and unselfish, she also can’t let people walk all over her and push her aside to get their own way.

But she’s ten.  The most important thing to her right now is that her friends want to play with her.  She wants everyone to like her.  She wants her friends to be her friends and her fear is that someone will be mad at her.  And I, unfortunately, understand. 

Much of my life has been lived trying to make others happy.  I have given up my own desires, my own opinions, and my own strengths so as not to make anyone “mad” at me.  I did what I thought I had to do to make people like me.  And in the process, I lost myself.  It has only been within the last three or four years that I’ve figured out how to be myself regardless of what others might think.  I can have my own opinions and desires and still keep my friends…at least the ones who are really my friends.  I finally…mostly…get it.

So now the next lesson…how to teach this to my daughter.  How do I teach her to be kind and giving and unselfish while also teaching her to be strong and courageous and to stand up for herself?  How do I help her learn to put others first and yet also to do what’s best for her?  Those two concepts seem to be paradoxical, but I know that it’s possible.  I’ve learned that it’s possible. 

It’s really hard being a girl.  I wish daughters came with owners’ manuals.

Fractured

A couple of months ago I was hiking beside a waterfall in the upper peninsula of Michigan, slipped on a wet rock, and broke my arm.  I didn’t actually know it was broken, because while it hurt like crazy when I first did it, within a few minutes it just felt sore and a couple of days later was improving.  I thought I just strained my wrist a bit.  I wrapped it and went about my life.  I hiked some more, I lifted heavy things, I picked up my kids and my friends’ kids, I took the wrap off to sleep or when it got annoying.  I went about my business as usual.  It was sore.  No big deal.

When it didn’t improve after a couple of weeks, I went for x-rays just so people would stop telling me I should, and found out that I had cracked both bones in my arm.  Both very minor fractures, but  fractures  just the same.  The doctor gave me a removable cast, saying that I could take it off to shower or do the dishes if necessary, but that I should keep it on at all other times, even when I sleep, to be sure not to injure the arm further.

So suddenly, I was paranoid.  I didn’t lift things with that arm.  I took the cast off to wash dishes and was nervous about picking up a bowl with it.  I found myself basically doing dishes with one hand, all the while telling myself I was being ridiculous, but unconvinced. 

I think I do this emotionally, too.  I often have a mild feeling of discomfort, wondering if maybe people think my hair looks funny or my nose is too big or I talk too much or I’m selfish and needy.  I’ve never been told these things are true, but I worry about them somewhere in the back of my brain, waiting for some sort of confirmation.  And then one day I pass an acquaintance  in the hall and they ignore me, or a friend tells me that I’m acting weird, or someone jokes about my wind-blown hair, and suddenly I’m paranoid. 

Suddenly I’m waking up earlier to spend more time on my hair, or I’m overanalyzing everything I say or do around my friends, or I’m being extra friendly to the acquaintance who ignored me (or avoiding them altogether).  I know it’s ridiculous.  I’m 35 years old, have some really great friends, and I know, in my head, that there’s really nothing wrong with me.  And yet.

One day a couple of weeks before my “follow-up” doctor’s appointment, I took my cast off and moved my arm around a bit.  I flexed it slowly.  I moved it gently in a circle.  I bent my wrist from side to side.  It felt strong.  It felt able to handle more than I was giving it.  I left the cast off for the day to see how it felt.  (And plus I was going to be out in the sun all day and didn’t want funky tan lines!)  I was careful with it…I didn’t lift heavy things or move it too much.  But I “practiced”.

The next day it was a little sore.  I put the cast back on and took it easy for the day.  But it was just a few days before I stopped wearing the cast altogether, unless I knew for sure that there was a chance I could strain it.  And a couple of weeks ago the doctor proclaimed me “healed”.  My arm  feels strong, and it’s no longer sore at all.  The muscles are still a little weak sometimes, so I know that it’s time for me to start exercising it and building it back up again.

I’ve also been exercising my confidence.  I am practicing being more sure of myself.  I’m stepping out and stating my opinions, and I’m being me.  I’m still unsure sometimes.  It’s a weak area, and there are times when I’ve lost sleep over what “she” thinks or what “he” said.  But I can only get stronger.  And just as someday I will do a cartwheel with my daughter without worrying about that arm, there will also come a time when it’s not an effort to be myself with confidence.  The day will come when I don’t have to practice anymore.  It won’t be long.

Home Again

There are many things about being a military wife that are difficult and unique.  My husband is, at times, gone more often than he is here.  He was in Iraq for 15 months a few years ago, and has recently heard that he will be deployed again (we’re not sure where) next summer for a year.  Then there’s the whole risking your life thing.  And the fact that considering what he does, he doesn’t make a whole lot of money.  For many, there’s the constant moving away from friends and family, though because of Sarge’s specific job, that’s not an issue for us.  The list can go on and on.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected challenges, however, has been a battle of dependence vs. independence.  The nature of being a military wife dictates that you need to have a good measure of independence in you.  There are many times when your soldier will be away for weeks (or months) on end, and you need to be able to make it on your own.  While I’m not big on handy-man type stuff around the house, I’m very used to doing the rest all by myself.  A lot.  I taxi the kids from baseball and gymnastics and doctor’s appointments.  I handle the money and try to keep the house clean.  I make decisions on discipline, bedtimes, house rules, and sibling fights.  I do it all.

When we sign the kids up for sports or other activities, I do so based on if I can get everyone where they need to be by myself.  If I make plans for me, I always do so with the thought of needing to have a babysitter in place just in case.  I’ve hosted parties and attended parties all by myself.  I’ve hired house repairs and car repairs, and purchased new appliances on my own.  I’ve redecorated, rearranged, and reconfigured all alone.  I’ve even coached Spike’s baseball team when none of the regular coaches have been able to go.  (It didn’t go so well, in case you’re wondering.)  I am very capable of…and very used to…doing it all on my own, and doing it fairly well.

But then Sarge comes home.  And he tries to find a place to fit in, when we’ve made new rules, or have been fighting the same battle for a week, or have started doing something a bit differently, and he hasn’t been a part of it.  He wants us to need him, as any man does.  And yet….we have to NOT need him so much of the time.  We’ve had to learn to get by without him, as a necessary part of our life.  We have to be able to survive as just the four of us.

So when he comes home we start this battle of trying to figure out how to move forward without the resentment.  And it’s always a battle.  He resents that we saw this movie or went to that restaurant without him.  I resent that he missed Blondie’s recital or wasn’t home to help when Goo was so sick.  He resents that I moved his favorite chair or that the garage became such a mess after he had just cleaned it.  I resent that I haven’t had time out with my friends or that he came in and dropped all his Army stuff in the middle of my clean kitchen.  He resents that I changed the rule about letting the dog outside without his knowledge, and I resent that I suddenly have to make him aware of every plan or all my whereabouts all the time.  There’s just always this resentment.

So we talk about it.  We work past it.  We figure it out.  Sometimes a little of the resentment remains but we try to be patient and eventually even that dwindles away.  And soon, things are comfortable again and we’re back to being one happy family. 

And then he leaves.  Again.

We’ll keep talking.  We’ll keep battling our way past it.  We’ll keep on keeping on, because we love each other and because we want this all to work out.  But there are days…there are times….like today, when I’m just so tired of the cycle.

Freshman Orientation

Yesterday, I wrote three new things on my calendar.  The first was fairly harmless:  “1st day of school!!!”, which by the way, is September 8th, thanks to the newish law in Michigan that says what we mothers have been saying for years and years:  that it’s ridiculous to send our kids to school for three half days of doing absolutely nothing and then have them home for a four day weekend over Labor Day before starting to school “for real”.

But anyway, I digress.  The second, also fairly simple:  “Register Spike 12-2”.  Fine.  Whatever. 

It was the next one–Freshman Orientation 10-2–that finally made it sink in that my son, my baby boy, is starting high school this year.  High school!  When did this happen?  I’m only barely out of high school myself!  Well, okay, technically it’s been almost twenty years    over eighteen years    at least fifteen years    a few years.  But still, I don’t feel old!

I remember the first time that I actually realized that I could no longer be classified as “young”.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  I get it that “young is a state of mind” and that, at 35, I’m not exactly “over the hill”.  I’m (hopefully) not even middle-aged yet!  But really, I remember the first time that I stopped and thought, “Oooooh!  Wait!  I think I’m old-ish!”

I was, interestingly enough, in London.   I had just finished a whole week without my children, touring Europe with my big sister G, and was in London all by myself for one glorious day before I hopped on a flight that would take me back home to “reality”… in the form of my three children and a husband that was in Iraq for over a year.

I was wandering through Covent Garden, which, if you’re at all familiar with London you realize is a trendy little area with hip little shops and happening pubs and a very, well, European feel.  I was on my way back to the Tube station to go to the National Gallery when I spotted the Swatch store.  I had recently lost or broken my watch (I can’t remember which) and thought:  Hey!  what a fun little souvenir to take home with me!  I could wear the watch every day and think, “I got this watch in London!”  Plus, I had four or five Swatches back in the 80’s (which I wore all at the same time, of course, as everyone did in the 80’s) and I was way cool then, so how could I lose?

As I headed toward the store, I passed a small group of college-aged girls who were sort of standing around looking cute, as only college-aged girls really can.  They had fashionable little jackets on and the latest bags slung over their shoulders, and they were talking and laughing amongst themselves.  As I walked by, I had to get rather close to them in order to avoid a crowd coming the other way on the path, and a couple of them glanced up at me, and I smiled at them.  To me, I realized afterward, I was smiling as though I was one of them.  I was smiling because we were “all in this together” (and if any of you just started singing the theme song from High School Musical, comment and tell me so I don’t feel ridiculous for singing it myself). 

Now they looked at me as I passed.  They saw me smile.  But they just looked away and continued their conversation.  I wasn’t one of them!  They saw me as…well, they saw me as just some lady walking down the street!  Can you believe that?  They saw me as, like, a MOM!!!

Now, I know, obviously, that I’m a mom.  Trust me, I have three children and a husband who’s out of town a lot.  I know I’m a mom.  But I try hard not to seem quite so mom-ish.  I don’t wear Mom jeans.  I don’t tuck in my sweaters.  Most of my shoes are still stylish and cute at the cost of comfort.  I don’t own even one pair of shoes that say “Hush Puppies” or anything with “Comfort” stamped on the inside.  I have tattoos!  I go out with my friends and dance and stuff.  I try really hard not to have “mom-hair”, though the jury’s still out on whether or not I’m succeeding at that one.  But really….I’m still young!!

And yet.  

My son is going to be in high school.  Is he ready for this?  Am I ready for this?  I mean, I really really remember high school.  I remember the peer pressure and the scariness and the unsure-ness of it all.  Have I prepared him?  Will he figure it all out?  Will he figure out how to be confident and okay with who he is?  Will he realize what kind of friends will help him succeed instead of leading him to failure?  Is he ready?

It blows my mind that I’m at this place in life.  It really does seem like yesterday that I was the captain of the cheerleaders and worrying about my science test or if the captain of the basketball team still liked me.  And I’m excited for Spike to experience all the great parts of high school.  I hope he gets involved and makes lifelong friends and learns how to move in the world.  And I also know that all the hard parts of high school are a part of his learning as well:  the pretty girl that doesn’t know he exists or the team he doesn’t make it onto. 

But being young…I mean high school young, not Me-young…is hard!  Even though Spike thinks he knows everything, he really knows nothing at all about how to make his way through this life.  Ug…he has no idea how hard it is going to be.

I wonder if it’s as hard as being the mom of someone who is about to go through it.  I’m gonna say, no.

Six

Today it has been six months since my big sister Donna lost her long fight with breast cancer.  It has been an emotional day for me, and a day that has been full of many different thoughts.  Thoughts of disbelief, as I still don’t completely “get it” that my sister is gone.  Thoughts of anger, as I just don’t understand why God took her.  And underneath it all, always a deep, deep sadness.

But Donna, while she would understand my questioning and anger and sadness, because she had it all at times, she would also want me to just remember our closeness, and our friendship, and our sisterhood.  So today, I’m just going to remember six of the many, many things that I learned from my big sister.  In no particular order:

1.  Donna taught me how to be generous.  More than anyone I’ve ever known, Donna was always giving of herself.  She was giving her time, her talents, her energy, her advice, her gifts, her smile.  Whatever she had to give, she would give it.  I will always remember her generosity.

2.  Donna taught me how to make some of my favorite foods.  Her cream scones are to die for, and her pecan sticky cake is unbeatable.  The one that sticks out, though, is her chicken chili.  Not only is it easy and really delicious, but I still make it from the printed copy of  the email she sent me when I asked her for the recipe.  This way, whenever I make it, I will be able to read her words at the bottom of the page: “Love You, Donna.”

3.  Donna taught me how to really listen to people.  When you spoke to her, she gave you her full attention.  She made eye contact, and paid attention, and you knew that she was totally invested in you at that moment.  As someone who sometimes tends to talk more than I listen, I hope to get better at this.

4.  She taught me to entertain.  When Donna had people over for a party or a holiday, everything was always beautiful.  Even if it was simple–just some fruit and cookies–it was obvious that she had gone to some effort and that she wanted you to feel welcome and special.  And if you were blessed enough to ever be invited to her home, you did feel welcome and special and comfortable and full of yummy food!  Every time.

5.  Donna taught me to take care of my body.  I’m not there yet.  I still have quite a few pounds to lose and lots of changes to make.  But I’m making the effort.  Donna took such good care of herself and of her family.  They ate organic, they ate balanced meals, they watched the amount of artificial “stuff” that they put into their bodies.  She studied and learned what was best for all of them.  She did what she could to take care of her body.  It still betrayed her.  It still fought her until the bitter end.  But she did her part.  And here I am, blessed with a healthy body, and I haven’t done my best.  I’m trying to change that, slowly but surely.

6.  Perhaps more than anything else, Donna taught me how to keep going.  Through the diagnoses and medications and surgeries and exhaustion, she always kept going.  She was still kind.  She was still generous.  She was still fighting.  She had faith and trust and joy.  Up until the very last day, she was teaching her daughters.  She was teaching me.  She kept going.

I miss her so much.  I mean, really….I miss her so, so much.  But I will keep going.  Because she did.  And she wants us to.  I can’t wait to see her again.

I AM NOT OLD!

I am 35.  And despite what I thought of 35 when I was 18, I now know that 35 is not even remotely old.  I’m young to have a 14 year old, I know that.  And I still act young, at least most of the time.  I like to go out dancing with my friends.  I can usually almost  keep up with Spike in a game of basketball in the driveway.  I love roller coasters and I’d go bungee jumping or skydiving in a heartbeat if given the chance.  And most of the time, I look around at my husband and three kids and job and mortgage, and wonder how they all got here when I still feel like I’m about 21.  See?  Not old.

But then every once in a while, I have a day when I feel incredibly ancient.  When I look around at the way we’re talking and the things we’re doing and I think…Oh no!!  We’re old!!  Sometimes it’s when Sarge and I get caught up in talking about his retirement fund and how to best save for those years.  Sometimes it’s when I’m sitting on the floor for a long time and I have to make grunting noises to hoist myself back up onto my feet.  It’s not often, but there are days when I stop and think Yikes!  Yesterday was one of those days.  Or evenings, actually. 

The day started off as usual.  I dragged myself out of bed, went to work, and then went to my parents’ house to see our extended family and to celebrate some family birthdays.  No problem, right?  Typical stuff.    We came home, put the two youngest kids to bed early after a busy weekend, and turned on The Amazing Race.  Still fine.  It’s after that that it gets scary.  Once The Amazing Race was over, there was nothing really on television.  And it was only 9:00.  After flipping the channels for a while, we finally turned on a show on the Travel channel…some show about Alaskan wildlife.  And we watched it.  With interest!! 

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think documentaries are wonderful.  They have great educational value and I’m glad they exist.  In fact, I would be thrilled to walk into the family room and find my children glued to the tv screen watching a documentary about Alaskan wildlife, or rainforests, or sandstorms in the Middle East, or African insects, or whatever.  Especially in place of the Hannah Montana or iCarly or Spongebob (please!! no more Spongebob!!) -type shows that they usually turn to.  And I would not be surprised at all to walk into my parents’ family room to find them watching a documentary on World War II or America’s National Parks or The Seven Wonders of the World or Earthquakes.  See?  I like documentaries!  They’re wonderful for children!  And old people! 

But here’s the problem.  In the last couple of months, Sarge and I have watched two other shows that I see as “old people” shows.  First there was the time we were flipping through the channels and stopped for several long moments paused on The Celtic Woman on PBS.  Now again…lovely show.  Lovely women with lovely voices.  And being primarily Irish myself, I value Celtic music and all that it embodies.  And yet….I am not quite prepared to watch The Celtic Woman on TV.   It’s for old people, right??

Another time, there was a show on PBS that was just comprised of a whole lot of violinists.  Like, orchestra violinists.  And there was one young man…I think it said he was 18 or something…that was outstanding on that violin.  It really was something to watch.  The orchestra would play something leading up to his solo, and then he would go to town on those strings and make some pretty remarkable sounds from his violin.  It was amazing.  Really.  But again, PBS airs it primarily for other violinists…and old people.  NOT for young and hip couples in their 30’s.

So back to my story…and on to the REALLY frightening part.  We finished watching the Alaskan wildlife channel at 10:00, and then…wait for it…we went to bed.  At 10.  Seriously…we really are old.  We barely had the teenager in bed at that point!  And yet, we were both ready for bed, practically falling asleep in our recliners.  Ug.

Now again, I have a little bit of an excuse.  Since my sister passed away a month ago, I have been almost constantly exhausted.  I think it’s my body making me take time to grieve in a busy life.  And admittedly, in an already busy life, I have taken on more responsibility (happily so!) since she’s gone.  I am more active in the lives of her two little girls…caring for them on Wednesdays and helping my brother-in-law when I can.  And this means that my time at home is limited as well, so that when I am home, I am always cleaning or doing laundry or whatever.  It’s also been an incredibly busy few weeks, with a couple more busy weeks ahead.  I get that…I get it that I SHOULD be tired and that it’s okay.  But that doesn’t make me feel better when I climb into bed at 10:00 and fall immediately to sleep.  It just makes me feel, well, old. 

I just never want to be one of those women, you know?  Someone who loses herself in the caring for her children.  Someone who stops wearing makeup or stylish clothes that fit well and making herself look pretty because she just doesn’t have time, or because she’s exhausted.  I want to go out with my friends and stay out until 2am.  (or later!)  I want to travel the world and run from subway station to subway station in London without getting out of breath or complaining about my aching knees.  I want to be able to have a real conversation about my life without needing to talk about my children because there’s nothing left of me.  Especially since seeing the deaths of two people in my life in the last month, both who were under the age of 45, I want to live as much as I can. 

I know, I know.  Watching a documentary about Alaskan wildlife (or even the Celtic Woman!) and going to bed at 10 does not mean I can’t do all those things.  That doesn’t mean I can’t live life to the fullest.  I get that.  It just made me stop and think…wait a minute!  is this how I want to be spending my time?  What else can I be doing with my life right now?  That’s my point.  That’s all I mean.  I just don’t want to act old yet.  I’m still so young. 

So the moral of the story is….(and I mean this!!)  if you ever catch me watching old Laurence Welk reruns, you officially have permission to slap me.

The Gift

One thing I’ve been contemplating a lot lately is how much unhappiness and anger is in the world.  I’m constantly amazed at how many people are so quick to flip me the bird as I “get in their way” on the road, or give me a dirty look if I’m taking too long at the checkout counter, or look the other way if I smile as I pass a stranger on the street.  Just this morning I read an article about a television show, and the number of people who took the time to read the article and then badmouth the tv show was staggering!  The negative comments about the show far outnumbered the positive comments.  I just don’t understand this.  Why would you even bother to read the article, if it was a show that you hated?  I don’t get it.

Two weeks ago today I was standing vigil at the bedside of my big sister in the ICU of a nearby hospital.  I had been there all night and, as it would turn out, would stay all day.  She had been fighting breast cancer off and on for ten years, and it was finally winning.  My sister wasn’t giving up…she was still fighting despite the pain, the exhaustion, and the news from the doctor that she only had a couple of days left to live.  She had hugged her little girls, aged 12 and 9, and held the hand of her amazing husband who she loved so much.  She had said the words we all needed to hear from her, and we had said the words we needed to say.  But she still didn’t give up.  She was still fighting.

In the midst of that fight, during the last two days of my sweet sister’s life, she was smiling.  She was bald and thin and her body was covered in rashes that meant her blood was betraying her, but still she was smiling.  The nurses (they were wonderful nurses!!) came to gently give her medication or change her bedding or check her wounds, and she smiled at them and said thank you.  She was too weak to reach out for her own cup of water or ice chips and would ask me for some, and she would say please.  She was dying, and she was leaving behind a wonderful husband and two amazing little girls, but she was still smiling. 

We all do our share of complaining.  I whine that there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete things at work or at home.  I get frustrated when my kids don’t help out enough or when they fight with each other constantly.  Let’s face it:  life is rarely easy and it’s so easy to complain about the little stuff as well as the big stuff.  And I understand…I really do.  Just because one person is dying from breast cancer doesn’t mean that it hurts less when you stub your toe. 

And yet.  Today I will smile at strangers more.  Today I will not complain about my work load or my messy house or my children fighting.  Today I will say thank you to even the smallest acts of kindness and I will try my best to perform a few acts of kindness myself.  I will hug my children, I will tell my friends and family how much they mean to me, I will work hard, I will play hard, I will live my life, and I will be happy.

I miss my sister more than I can say.  And the fact that she’s no longer here leaves a chunk of my heart missing that nothing else can fill.  But I am so blessed.  I had a sister that was an example to me of who I want to be.  I spent my sister’s last full night with her, smiling with her, and talking with her, and holding her hand, and watching the way she still moved in the world, even though she could barely move at all.  I will never forget those last days, or the thirty-five years of days I had with my sister leading up to that point.  They were a gift.

I will treasure that gift for the rest of my life, and even though it will sometimes be with tears in my eyes, still I will smile.

Saying Goodbye

I’ve never been one of those people that treats my dog like one of my children.  My dog is just my dog.  That being said, we are definitely dog people.  We got Casey when Spike was a year old, so all of our kids have grown up having a dog in their lives.  They have never known life without a dog.

Until now.  Last Monday, Casey started bleeding.  From several places.  And she didn’t stop.  I took her to the vet, and they did some blood tests, and determined that she had a bleeding disorder that caused her blood not to clot.  She would “ooze blood” for the rest of her life, which wouldn’t be long anyway.  She would lose more and more blood until she became so anemic and so weak that she would just pass away.  The best bet would be to put her down, so she wouldn’t suffer. 

It wasn’t a hard decision.  Casey, while she was 13 years old, had never been sick.  She still acted like a puppy most of the time.  She loved to camp with us, chasing mice in the fields and sniffing all the new smells along the riverbanks.  She went to Christmas at both families’ homes with us, and was playful and happy.  When we had a big snow a couple of weeks ago, she was out tromping around with us in it.  She was a great dog.  We didn’t want her to suffer.  We didn’t want our kids to watch her bleed, and get weak, and be sick.  We wanted her to be able to just go to sleep peacefully, and for us to be able to remember that playful, frisky dog we’d always known.  I made an appointment for the next morning, so that I could bring her home first and we could all say our goodbyes.

The kids were, of course, a mess when I told them.  Spike, almost 14,  was the most upset…almost inconsolable for a while.  Casey was, after all, officially his dog.  Blondie, who is 9, cried and was sad, but asked when we could get another dog, because she just “doesn’t feel right” having no dog at home.  Goo, who is only five, understood and cried, and said that he didn’t want Casey to die.  And Sarge and I had our moments of tears as well.  I felt almost silly, crying over a dog.  But she was part of our family.  She loved us unconditionally and asked for very little in return.  She made us feel safe in our home at night, especially when Sarge was away on TDY.  So yeah, we cried.

It’s been a week now, and we all miss her.  Sarge and I miss hearing her snore as she sleeps on our bedroom floor at night.  We miss having her come up and put her head in our laps in the evenings while we watch TV, wanting a little attention.  We miss watching her chase squirrels in the front yard and seeing her fall asleep with her head on her favorite toy, a stuffed monkey.  We even miss her begging for food while we’re eating dinner.  We just miss her.

It took a little longer for the kids.  They cried when they found out that she was going to die.  They cried as they said their goodbyes.  And then, they were okay.  They would forget sometimes.  They would ask if they could give the last bite of their hot dogs to her, and then they would remember.  But they seemed okay.  And then last night, I put Goo to bed and he called me a few minutes later, which is unusual for him.  When I went in, he was crying hard and asked if I would sit with him for a few minutes, because he was “really, really sad right now.”  When I asked what he was sad about, he said that he didn’t want Casey to die.  It hit him that she was really gone, and he lost it.  Poor baby.

Sometimes it feels like there’s a little ghost around here.  I’ll hear a noise and think it must be the dog scratching at the door to come in.  Or I’ll see something out of the corner of my eye and think it’s her, until I remember that she’s not around anymore. 

Someday, we’ll get a new puppy.  Maybe in a few months.  But Casey will always be my kids’ “childhood dog” and she will always be part of our family.  And I think there will be a part of us that will always miss her.
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Slowly But Surely…

The following is a recycled post from my old blog, Lyrics of My Life.  I was reading it over today and realizing that I’ve come a long way since I wrote this post.  I still struggle once in a while, but mostly, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin.  Read on:

 

13 Again…(Summer, 2007)

 

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love music. I’m into all kinds of music, and being a self-proclaimed writer/poet, I especially love anything with great thoughtful and meaningful lyrics. One artist I listen to a lot is Alanis Morissette (No, I do not hate men!) because she sings so honestly about stuff I can relate to. The following song got me thinking about what I wanted to blog about today:

 

“So Unsexy” by Alanis Morissette

 

Oh these little rejections how they add up quickly

One small sideways look and I feel so ungood

Somewhere along the way I think I gave you the power to make

Me feel the way I thought only my father could

 

Oh these little rejections how they seem so real to me

One forgotten birthday I’m all but cooked

How these little abandonments seem to sting so easily

I’m 13 again am I 13 for good?

 

I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful

So unloved for someone so fine

I can feel so boring for someone so interesting

So ignorant for someone of sound mind

 

Oh these little protections how they fail to serve me

One forgotten phone call and I’m deflated

Oh these little defenses how they fail to comfort me

Your hand pulling away and I’m devastated

 

When will you stop leaving baby?

When will I stop deserting baby?

When will I start staying with myself?

 

Oh these little projections how they keep springing from me

I jump my ship as I take it personally

Oh these little rejections how they disappear quickly

The moment I decide not to abandon me 

 

There are times when this is me in a nutshell. I want to not care about what other people think of me. I want to state my opinions and hold my own and stand tall without worrying about what everyone is saying or thinking about me. I want to see people from my past (which for some reason I’ve been doing a lot of lately) and be proud of where I am in my life. I want to feel like I can be a beautiful person even if I never lose this 20 pounds. The thing is, I’m just not always quite there yet. 

I’m better than I was. Much better, actually. While my husband was in Iraq for a year, I gained a little more confidence in what I can do on my own. If I can get through a year with three kids and a mortgage while my husband’s in a war zone, I figure I can get through just about anything. I also went to Europe for a week by myself (well, my sister met me there for most of the time, but I still did most of the scary parts on my own) during that year and it was absolutely the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I gained so much perspective in that week, just experiencing something–life–other than what’s in my own backyard. So I’m not nearly as “scared” as I used to be. 

But still, there are definitely times I feel like I’m back in high school…or middle school…trying to at least look pretty so people will like me, agreeing with the crowd so I won’t be singled out as the “weird one”, shoving my opinions under a pile of smiles and nods. Even this blogging thing makes me vulnerable…putting myself out there and hoping my readers out in cyber-land will comment good things and go away thinking I’m a pretty interesting person instead of clicking on my blog and then looking elsewhere for something good to read. 

So am I destined to be 13 forever? Will I be 80, trying to do my hair in just the right shade of blue so I’ll fit in at the senior center? I think if I could just be me, I’d be so much more free. (Okay, I didn’t mean to make that cheesey rhyme.) I’m just sort of an oddball in my circle. I don’t always “fit in” so easily. I’m Christian, and I go to church most Sundays. I even help lead a Bible study during the week. I also have 3 tattoos, I love Sangria and martinis, I have 2 good friends that happen to be a gay couple, and I’m an avid (read: obsessed) fan of reality tv. The people at church don’t always “get” me. Heck, even my husband is usually clueless. 

So I’m telling myself…I’m not going to give other people the power to make me feel less-than-worthy. I’m going to make a point this week of expressing my opinion even if it may not be the popular one. I’m going to do what needs to be done this week to feel more comfy in my own skin. Maybe by next week I’ll be more like, you know, 14.

 

 

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