Category Archives: Family

Grace Under Pressure

Hooper 3 days post TPLO surgery

Hooper 3 days post TPLO surgery

The last couple of weeks have been particularly challenging.

It began with my dog having TPLO surgery (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy) for a torn ACL. I’m not sure which was more troubling, the $4,000 hospital bill or the news that our overly active dog needed to avoid all exercise for 14 weeks. Strong sedatives were prescribed for the dog but they refused to prescribe some for me. I guess they thought I was joking when I requested them. I wasn’t.

After a week-and-a-half of playing nursemaid to Hooper 24/7, I got an unexpected early morning phone call from my mom. She was calling to let me know that my 87 year-old dad had fallen and broken his hip. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning. The typical “mad scramble“ ensued, with arrangements being made to kennel the cat and the recuperating dog. While my husband was negotiating taking off of work so we could make the 10 hour trip to be with my family, I was busy washing underwear, socks and jeans which I determined were the most important clothing items to have clean and packed. I also decided that the next most important to-do item was to get waxed in case things took a turn for the worse. I didn’t want to potentially look like a gorilla if I had to attend my dad’s funeral. Apparently, fear and anxiety do NOT trump vanity.

During the long drive to New Orleans, we received a call from my husband’s dad informing us that my mother-in-law had also been hospitalized and required surgery. She was in a different hospital than my dad on the opposite side of the river. Looks like we would be hospital-hopping over the weekend. We used to go bar-hopping in college, but hospital-hopping would prove to not be nearly as fun. The only similarity between bar-hopping and hospital-hopping is that you feel equally tired and sick after both. Particularly on this trip, since I managed to acquire a nasty stomach malady of an unknown origin.

But this post isn’t supposed to be about me. It’s about family.

Today, a friend posted the following quote on Facebook by Andy Griffith:

485462_10151522677279086_1690480855_n

I started to look for the gifts of grace, strength and peace of mind that had been bestowed upon my family members during this difficult time. I didn’t have to look very hard, as it was easy to spot.

Strength: My mom had been praying for months for God to keep daddy healthy until she was able to better care for him. She had been recovering from a series of major health issues of her own including multiple eye surgeries and a hip replacement. She just recently got the “all-clear“ from her doctors to begin driving again, which has allowed her to resume visiting my father in the nursing home and now to care from him in the hospital. Had my dad fallen a few weeks earlier, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Peace of Mind: My husband and I recently made the difficult decision to close my struggling business. As a result, we got a nice tax refund this year which allowed us to pay for our dog’s surgery, some needed car repairs and funded the emergency trip back home to be with our family during this difficult time. It also gave me the confirmation I needed that closing the business was the right decision. I am now free to leave at a moment’s notice to be with my family when they need me.

Grace: My father, besides having a broken hip, also has advanced Parkinson’s Disease, Congestive Heart Failure and Dementia. On his “good days” which are occurring less frequently, he believes that his dreams and memories from the past are happening in the present.

Some people say that before you die your life flashes before your eyes. I believe, that for my dad, he is experiencing the highlights of his life in sequential order every time he sleeps or day dreams.

Two years ago he was speaking as if he was still living in his childhood home with his parents and siblings. Last year he was talking as if he was a young bachelor just starting his engineering career and enjoying being a Navy man. Two days ago he was speaking as if he was a middle-aged husband and father. He’s getting closer to the end. While it makes me very sad at times, I think it’s been an odd comfort to my dad and me. He gets to experience all of the best parts of his life again—filled with excitement, laughter and joy. He is reconciling his life in preparation of saying goodbye.

Strength, Grace, and Peace of Mind: My mother-in-law was very fortunate that her emergency surgery occurred when her sister was in town visiting. Aunt Sandra has been the most gentle and attentive caregiver ever. She has slept at the hospital for days, and is always at the ready to jump up and attend to her sister’s needs or simply offer soothing words and a loving hand squeeze. Knowing that she is at my mother-in-law’s side has been an enormous comfort to all of us. I believe in my heart, that although traumatic, this experience has brought an odd sense of peace to my mother-in-law. She now knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she will never have to go through difficult times alone. Her sister, children, ex-husband, best friends and daughter-in-law will be there for her. Always.

Thank you God for my wonderful family and for all your blessings.

Parenting Myself

My husband and I don’t have children, for many different reasons. The two main ones being:

1. We simply never felt strongly compelled to have kids. We’re quite content just being a dynamic duo.

2. In our 40s we are still struggling to properly parent ourselves.

If you were fortunate enough to be blessed with caring parents and a good education, your life was pretty much laid out for you until you were in your mid-twenties. Your parents made sure your basic needs were met and then some. Most kids enjoy some sort of team sport, dance, or other exercise practice. Many also enjoy classes in the arts—guitar or piano lessons, drawing or painting classes, choir, etc. And the bulk of the population also has some sort of religious affiliation or spiritual practice that gives them a sense of peace and community. This balanced approach to life in conjunction with your years of schooling, made you the well-rounded, independent individual that you are today. But what comes after graduation, landing a job, getting married and buying a house? Having kids.

If you don’t take the preordained next step of having 2.5 children most people are shocked, and almost all have their opinions as to why. I have been told numerous times mainly (but not solely) by my mother that I am selfish for not giving her grandchildren. She also thinks that I don’t want to “share” my husband’s attention with a child. (Seriously, where does she get this crap?) I’m sorry, but I was under the impression that “my life” meant I could live it “my way” and for “me”. I guess I didn’t read the fine print on my birth certificate that said as part of my agreement for being born I would give my mom at least 1 grandchild. If I had known, I never would have signed with my footprints. Geesh.

And what do you do once you realize that you no longer want (or are no longer able) to be in your chosen career, but are unable to retire? Do you go back to school? Become an entrepreneur? A bum?

There is a great scene in the movie, Pulp Fiction, where Jules (played by Samuel L. Jackson) tells Vincent (played by John Travolta) his plans to change the course of the rest of his life:

………………………………………………..

Photo Credit: Clip from Pulp Fiction. Originally posted by http://peepgame.wordpress.com/

Photo Credit: Clip from Pulp Fiction. Originally posted by http://peepgame.wordpress.com/

Jules: Basically I’m just going to walk the earth.
Vincent: What do you mean “walk the earth”!
Jules: You know… like Kane in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures.
Vincent: How long do you intend to walk the earth?
Jules: Till God puts me where He wants me to be.
Vincent: And what if He don’t do that?
Jules: If it takes forever then I’ll walk forever.
Vincent: So you decided to be a bum? […] Just like all those pieces of shit out there who beg for change, you sleep in garbage bins, eat what I throw away… They got a name for that Jules, it’s called a bum. And without a job, a residence, that’s what you gonna be. You gonna be a fucking bum.

………………………………………………..

As I was flipping channels and stopped to watch this scene for the 100th time, I thought, “Ooh cool, walking the earth like Kane in Kung Fu. I could do that!” Then I remembered that I don’t like exercise. So much for that idea.

Coming to a crossroads in life and taking the path less travelled is really a scary and unpopular choice, especially at my age. It would be far easier to just do what is expected—work in the same job/career my whole life, raise a family, retire, die, and hopefully leave an inheritance for the kids. But what if I want something a little different—a little less predictable, but possibly more joyful, adventurous and prosperous? Unfortunately, there’s no set guidelines for what that might look like or how to get there. I just have to make it up as I go along, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

So, until I figure out what to do with the next 40 years of my life (if I’m lucky enough to live that long), I’m just going to take some time to focus on parenting myself better in the present. It’s time to get back to basics and to make a list. (My answer to all of life’s big questions is to “make a list”) So here goes:

To Do Every Day:

1. Bathe/ Brush/ Floss

2. Take vitamins

3. Exercise

4. Clean something

5. Work

6. Pray/Meditate

7. Make someone laugh/smile/feel good

8. Be grateful

9. Play with the dog

10. Sleep (8-10) hours and Dream of Wonderful Possibilities for the Future

To Do Every Week:

1. Learn Something

2. Create Something

3. Socialize (With REAL people. Social media doesn’t count.)

To Do Every Month:

1. Save—for retirement, the next big adventure, or the unexpected

2. Try something new and fun. Visit new cities, restaurants, museums, cooking classes, fairs—anything! Time to start scratching things off the bucket list, because the next 40 years aren’t guaranteed. If I’m lucky enough to have another 40 years, then I want to live them to the fullest and with no regrets.

The clock starts now!

The Mad Scramble

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenzy

Photo Credit: Frenzy Theatrical Release Poster found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenzy

Last Friday I hurt myself doing absolutely nothing.

It was a day like any other—I got up (late as usual), rushed to get dressed, fed the dog and dropped him off at doggie day care on my way to work. “Work” these days consists of daily trips to Starbucks, where I camp out to write and enjoy my caffeinated beverage of choice.

I was a little late in arriving, so I had to wait out an elderly gentleman, who was in my favorite secluded seat in the corner. (Doesn’t he know that the few seats next to the outlets are reserved for laptop users like me? Geesh.) No sooner did I have that snarky little thought, then Karma sprang into action. “Ouch!” I had turned to plug my computer into the outlet and managed to somehow seriously hurt my shoulder. I don’t know what I did to injure myself, but my shoulder is now making sounds that only rickety old machinery from the turn-of-the-20th century makes as it grinds to a permanent halt.

My very wise husband insisted that I make an appointment with my massage therapist who is skilled in orthopedic/medical massage. Since I can’t comfortably move my shoulder and have lost the complete range of motion, I complied without much fuss. The appointment is this afternoon.

In preparation for my massage, I went through the daily routine of bathing and scrubbing, but with far extra attention to detail. I exfoliated with sea salt. I used the long-handled scrub brush and broke out the loofah. I shaved—twice. I scraped and sanded my rough heels until they were as smooth as a baby’s bottom. I cursed myself for having not gotten a pedicure this weekend. I dried off, deodorized, perfumed and powdered. As my mom would say, I was “squeaky clean”.

Throughout this ritualistic cleansing, I began thinking about how goofy I was being. One should definitely maintain good hygiene, but I was now obsessively cleaning. And this isn’t the only instance. I do this all the time. For days leading up to my dental appointments, I scrub and floss my teeth like a crazy woman. I use the weird-looking tongue scraper, and I gargle intensely as if I can make up in a week for not flossing regularly since my last checkup six months ago. But the madness doesn’t begin and end with my bodily cleanliness.

A few times a year, I treat myself to having a group of maids come in and clean my house from the baseboard to the ceiling. They do a fabulous job, but they aren’t cheap. So in order to get my money’s worth and to ensure the maids don’t catch on to the full extent of my slobbery, I start cleaning and organizing the house days before their scheduled visit. I wash and fold the laundry and EVEN put it away! (A truly magnificent and rare feat in my home.) I clear everything off of the counters and put anything left out back where it belongs. I straighten up the closets and make sure nothing is left on my newly “Swiffered” floor. Anything that isn’t put away by the time the maids arrive gets hidden in the garage. By the time I’m done, my husband questions why we need the maids to come at all.

This same cleaning frenzy also occurs before the plumber, pest control man, electricians or friends come over. My husband calls it “the mad scramble.”

I could blame this completely on my OCD, but I don’t think that would be accurate. I think it’s genetic, or at least a learned trait. My mom had an enormous hole in her kitchen ceiling from Hurricane Katrina that she refused to have repaired. It wasn’t a cost issue—it was just an inconvenience to go through the motions to hire a contractor, get estimates and get it fixed. Her logic was that she rarely had company other than immediate family, and it didn’t bother her as long as she didn’t look up, so why go through the hassle of fixing it? For five years, that gaping hole drove me nuts. It drove my relatives nuts. My mom, however, was completely unphased—until her financial advisor scheduled a visit. The ceiling got repaired and repainted instantly before he arrived. Poof! It was like magic.

So what does all this mean? Maybe it shows I’m not the best housekeeper. Probably, it proves that I’m motivated into action mostly out of fear of embarrassment and judgment. Definitely, it guarantees that the house will be spotless when you visit and that I will be smelling like a rose.

The Card Lady

valentine's day cards

I dated my husband for 10 years before marrying him. I like to be really sure of my decisions before acting upon them. When we finally did marry, I realized that I would need to carve out a role for myself in my new family. Being an only child, I never had to do this before. But now, I had 2 brothers-in-law, a sister-in-law, and a second mom and dad. That’s a lot of personalities in the mix, and I wanted to stand out.

When I was younger, I pictured myself becoming Wonder Woman. At five, this was a literal interpretation. My cousin even custom-made me a costume complete with bullet deflecting wrist bands and a Lasso of Truth. As I got older my interpretation of what becoming Wonder Woman would mean changed significantly. I pictured an amazing career in advertising, a husband who adored me, a charming, neatly kept house, and the time to craft, bake, garden, and throw decadent parties to rival the ones seen on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (sans all the crazy drama).

But then I met “Leslie” (name changed to protect the guilty). Leslie is my sister-in-law, a.k.a. the second coming of Martha Stewart. She is the ultimate household superheroine. She bakes bread from scratch, grows a vegetable garden in the backyard, wins “yard of the month” for the beautifully landscaped front yard, collects antique furniture, and cooks entrées like Duck Confit Cassoulet that requires two weeks to prepare. Oh yes, and she also sells high-end real estate and is raising the perfect, gorgeous blonde-haired child who prefers caviar to hamburgers and the viola to the violin. She’s 11.

How I would love to wrangle Leslie with the Lasso of Truth to find out how she does it all! By comparison, my house is rarely neat—matter-of-fact there are several doggie fur tumbleweeds rolling by on the hardwoods at the moment. I don’t bake or garden even though the Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter has been collecting dust in my garage for the past two years. I have never baked anything “from scratch” and the edible mainstay of the parties I throw include appetizers from Costco and dinners from the Honey Baked Ham Company. I just don’t have the time or energy for much more. And since I don’t have kids, it doesn’t seem I deserve a free pass for my mediocre existence. (At least, that’s my impression.)

So since the role of Domestic Goddess was so clearly already taken by my sister-in-law, I needed to develop a new persona for myself. Hence, The Card Lady was born. Actually, she wasn’t just born as I had been sending cards to family and friends for years. More accurately, she was rediscovered and newly impassioned.

My card giving surpassed the handwritten thank you note (a sadly dying art) and the traditional birthday card by leaps and bounds. I was a woman on a mission, to send cards for every holiday. And not just ANY card, but the absolute perfect card for each recipient. One that would resonate with them, make them laugh or cry—a card for them to keep and treasure forever. Or so I would like to think.

I scour every card rack that I see. I seek out high-end card boutiques. The magnetic stripe on my plastic Hallmark Gold Crown card is well-worn and I always use the gold seals provided on my envelopes to show that “I cared enough to send the very best.”

And for all my efforts, I have received more than I have given. My family has begun sending cards too—for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. My in-laws even sent our dog a Christmas card containing money for visits to his favorite doggie daycare. (He’s really spoiled.) But by far the very best outcome has been that my husband, for each year since we’ve been married, has given me a custom-designed Valentine’s Day card featuring our anniversary year on the cover. This year marks our 9th Valentine’s Day together as a married couple and he continues to make me feel adored every day.

It turns out that I’m not the perfect homemaker that I thought I would be, but hey, that’s okay. I’ve evolved into someone who I think is pretty wonderful all the same. And it turns out that I had my own unique super power all along—the ability to make people feel loved and appreciated with a simple hand selected card and personal note. Take that Martha Stewart. XOXOXO