Yoga Blog Feature

A few months back while I was traveling to visit Big Miss on her study abroad adventure in Rome, Italy, I received an email inviting me to write a feature piece on my local yoga studio’s blog.  The studio had put out a request for contributors through their Facebook page and I had responded with a very brief description of how yoga helped me.

It took a while to iron out the details and to get my mind wrapped around writing the piece.  It didn’t help that we were also on summer hiatus and all three daughters were home and none of my “to do” items were getting done.  I must have taken some time to write since I received word a few weeks ago that my piece was published on the blog and they want more!  Woo Hoo!

I posted it on my personal Facebook page and received such an amazing response.  If you would like to read it go to this link (http://gowithityoga.com/blog/).

 

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The Birth of Joy

I worked on this piece for a very long time; it had been in my head for so long and took awhile to refine before feeling comfortable about sharing it with the world.

I took a chance on an online site and was thrilled when it was picked up by one and published (https://medium.com/an-odd-mom-s-world/the-birth-of-joy-65901edc74a4).

I submitted to another publication which has both a digital and print copy circulation and was published in their June 2017 issue (http://tbihopeandinspiration.com/June2017.pdf).

It felt so good to get this piece circulated and out to other readers.  As expected, once I was able to get some successes the writing has increased, though not so much on this blog.  I hope to improve the frequency of writing here over the next few months and look for some upcoming links to a website my husband and I developed after talking about it for years.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

 

 

 

 

The Truth Eventually Reveals Itself

maxresdefaultI kept hearing stories about facebook friends who had DNA testing to determine their ancestry and found it fascinating.  So many were finding little traces of unknown heritage that had somehow never been spoken through generations of stories.  I was HOOKED!

At Christmas, Mike gave me a kit as a gift.  I was so excited!  I couldn’t wait to complete it and send it off for processing.  For those of you unfamiliar with these, a small tube is included where you spit some saliva.  Seal it and complete the accompanying paperwork. All of these are placed in a postage paid envelope and mailed it to the lab.  I used Ancestry.com but there are a number of similar services that conduct the same or similar tests.

I received periodic updates explaining where my tests were during the process and as it so happened this was a popular holiday gift so there was more of a back log than usual.

Approximately six weeks later I received an email late at night detailing my results.  I must have been in shock because when I look back on my reaction it was one of disbelief.  I had always believed that I was 50 percent Swedish since my paternal grandparents immigrated from Sweden and 25 percent Irish and 25 percent English from my mother’s parents who were also immigrants.

The following day I sent Mike a text as he was travelling for work. I included the results and he immediately responded asking if I could talk. I could immediately detect from his tone of voice that he was quite shocked.  He wanted to know what I thought before saying anything else.  I told him that apparently the man I always thought was my biological father was, in fact, NOT. My results indicated that I am 49 percent Irish and 48 percent English.  The remaining 3 percent was a mix of others but not a drop of Swedish.

The thoughts that circulated through my head were so numerous and yet I never once doubted the results.  In fact, a lot of things became clearer. When my father passed away, 6 years after my mother, I had the unfortunate task of cleaning out their house.  While going through his dresser I found a manila envelope containing a number of documents.  One of these was my ‘parents’ marriage certificate. I read it at least 10 times before calling Mike in to look at it.  They DID NOT get married until I was 24 years old! There was also a letter from an attorney stating that they lived as husband and wife from 1964 until April 1989 believing that a common law marriage was legal.  I am sure you can imagine the shock!

So, when I found out the man who I always thought was my father, was not, I did not experience the same level of shock that would be expected . Since my brother’s birthday was the following day I decided to call him and ask him what he knew.  He is 15 years older than me.  His father walked out when he was about 2 years old and my mother and he never heard from him again. Though we are technically half siblings I never referred to him as such and have always felt that he is my brother whether half or not.  I was hoping his memory would help explain what happened.  There was, and still is, a part of me that wonders if he knew or suspected about this all these years.

When I told him my news he sounded surprised. I asked if he remembered anyone in our mother’s life prior to my birth.  There was some silence and he asked if  he could try to think about it to jog his memory since this all occurred a long time ago.

The following day he called me and relayed that yes our mother was involved with someone prior to “marrying” my father.  He explained that my mother and “father” had dated for quite a while and one day she told him that they would no longer see Lenny.  We were always told to not ask too many questions so he didn’t.  My mother dated some men and there was one she was dating more seriously than others.  My brother would spend a lot of weekends at our aunt’s home and when he returned one Sunday evening my mother explained that she & Lenny got married.  A few days later they told him that they were moving to another state because she was pregnant and they needed a house with more space.

He further explained that once the move occurred our mother became a very different person.  She no longer went out every weekend.  She stopped working since she was now “married”.  She didn’t see her extended family as much and as the years went on saw them less and less.

I have had this information for a while now and have gone through a lot of emotions.  I started out very confused which turned to anger and then to empathy.  I feel sorry for my mother in a lot of ways.  She had to hide two large secrets and she most likely went through her life terrified that someone would uncover these.  I can not imagine living with so much secrecy.  What an incredible burden.

On the other hand, why didn’t she ever tell me the truth?  There are medical issues I may need to be aware of.  I was an adult with my own family when my mother passed away so she had plenty of opportunity to come clean. I have also wondered why my father never told me the truth once my mother passed away.  I am convinced he knew!

This information does solve a few questions that I have wrestled to understand.  I never felt as though I fit in and wondered what was “missing”.  My mother always held others back and would never let anyone get to know her probably in fear that her secret would be revealed.  I had an eye condition when I was four years old (strabismus-https://www.healthline.com/health/eye-muscle-repair) which is genetic yet no one in either family ever experienced it.  Middle miss also was diagnosed with strabismus at three and had surgery to correct it at four, just like me.  After a miscarriage I had some blood work evaluated and discovered that I had a clotting disorder (www.healthline.com/health/von-willebrand-disease).  The doctors explained that you inherit the gene from a parent.  My mother was deceased but I asked my father and he immediately got very angry with me.  He refused to discuss it and told me he had no idea what I was talking about.

I have reconnected with some of my cousins since this started which I am really grateful. I wish my parents had explained all of this to me prior to their deaths so I could understand what happened and listen to the reasons for their secrets.  I would have had the opportunity to grieve and heal with them supporting me.  The piece I hope everyone takes away from this story is that it is so important to tell the truth whenever possible.  Lies fester and build and hurt so many.  The truth is always the best way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graduation Day

When I think of a graduation I think pomp and circumstance, of course, graduation caps and gowns, an end, and, of course, a new beginning.

Middle Miss walked down the “ramp” and received her high school diploma a few weeks ago.  There were so many emotions and thoughts  going through me in such a quick amount of time.

Obviously, we were so very proud of all she had been able to accomplish.  When she was a little over three years old we were in a horrific car accident where she was very close to death, probably as close as one can get.  A result of this event is she has a severe traumatic brain injury and has endured numerous therapies, doctors, evaluations, IEP meetings, and much more over the last 15 and a half years.  While still in a coma the doctors told us that they did not know if she would ever wake up, and if she did, what the outcome would be. So to arrive at high school graduation at the age of 18 was nothing short of a miracle.

Of course, part of me felt that Mike and I, as her parents, should also receive a diploma since we worked for it by advocating and moving her towards the “finish line”.

The biggest question hanging over our heads is “What’s next?”  This is the question that has hung over her for the last two years since by junior year of high school most students know what they would like to do or how they want to pursue it.  Unfortunately, she is not one of them.

We don’t know if she will be able to earn a college degree. She is starting at community college and will take 2 classes along with a 1 credit college success class for 8 weeks.  She will spend 2 days on campus.  We advised her to take it slow and see how she does. The transportation hangs over us as well. Unlike many other 18 year olds she does not drive which is a further impediment to independence.

I am trying not to worry about all the details yet and bask in her enormous rite of passage which she deserves more than anyone else!
 

 

 

One of the Hardest

I am about to bear it all right now.  One of the toughest things I have had to deal with is loneliness.  How could I be lonely if I live with one cat, one dog, three children, and one husband?  Well, that’s a great question.  I am not deprived of contact with human beings or animals; I AM LONELY!

According to Wikpedia,  “loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, or even physical factors. Research has shown that loneliness is prevalent throughout society, including people in marriages, relationships, families, veterans, and those with successful careers.”

I have felt this way on and off all of my life but it has taken me a very long time to recognize it or define the feeling.  It hits me very hard when I try to have a conversation with someone and tell them about Middle Miss and some of her disappointments or how her life is shaping up and they have nothing to offer.  Instead of saying nothing, or at the very least, “I am sorry, this sucks, etc.”, they turn the subject around to a friend’s  high school son who had numerous ACL injuries and his “career” is over.  Seriously?  That’s all you can come up with?  Is that supposed to make me feel better?  That young man still has a great future ahead of him.  He can go on to a four year college if he chooses and live an independent life.  A hurt knee won’t jeopardize his education.

These are probably the times I feel the most lonely.  No one else has empathy for our situation.  No one else feels the pain I feel.  As this keeps occurring especially during this graduation season, I feel it even more.

Middle Miss’ future was stolen from her while riding in the back seat, strapped into her five point harness car seat, singing along to a Blues Clues CD on the way to her sister’s Nutcracker rehearsal.  Her future will never, ever be the same.  As the surgeon in the hospital said to us the morning after the accident, “The little girl you had before will never return”.

One of the Hardest

I am about to bear it all right now.  One of the toughest things I have had to deal with is loneliness.  How could I be lonely if I live with one cat, one dog, three children, and one husband?  Well, that’s a great question.  I am not deprived of contact with human beings or animals; I AM LONELY!

According to Wikpedia,  “loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, or even physical factors. Research has shown that loneliness is prevalent throughout society, including people in marriages, relationships, families, veterans, and those with successful careers.”

I have felt this way on and off all of my life but it has taken me a very long time to recognize it or define the feeling.  It hits me very hard when I try to have a conversation with someone and tell them about Middle Miss and some of her disappointments or how her life is shaping up and they have nothing to offer.  Instead of saying nothing, or at the very least, “I am sorry, this sucks, etc.”, they turn the subject around to a friend’s  high school son who had numerous ACL injuries and his “career” is over.  Seriously?  That’s all you can come up with?  Is that supposed to make me feel better?  That young man still has a great future ahead of him.  He can go on to a four year college if he chooses and live an independent life.  A hurt knee won’t jeopardize his education.

These are probably the times I feel the most lonely.  No one else has empathy for our situation.  No one else feels the pain I feel.  As this keeps occurring especially during this graduation season, I feel it even more.

Middle Miss’ future was stolen from her while riding in the back seat, strapped into her five point harness car seat, singing along to a Blues Clues CD on the way to her sister’s Nutcracker rehearsal.  Her future will never, ever be the same.  As the surgeon in the hospital said to us the morning after the accident, “The little girl you had before will never return”.

Speaking Her Truth

As some of you may or may not know March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and this past week it was Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill.  Congressman Bill Pascrell of the great state of New Jersey founded The Brain Injury Task Force in 2000 and he continues to co-chair it along with Congressman Thomas Rooney of Florida.  The Brain Injury Association of America sponsors this event with a vendor fair in the morning, a panel of speakers in the afternoon, and a reception in the early evening.  The staff is also on hand to coordinate lobbying efforts by attendees and they can help coordinate these visits.

I joined the Brain Injury Council six months ago just as the planning for this got underway.  It had already been decided that the theme would be Pediatric Brain Injury which seemed to be a perfect “fit” for my interests.  I have only attended the event once which was last year since it takes a lot of coordination with my family and it is a VERY LONG day traveling to the Capitol and meeting with representatives and there is A LOT of walking.

Middle Miss was asked if she would like to speak on the panel since the organizers were trying to find someone who had a brain injury during their childhood and was in the process of transitioning from high school to adulthood.  Her name came to the attention of the organizers through the Executive Director of the Brain Injury Association of Virginia.  I sit on the board and she was aware that Middle Miss had attended the Youth Leadership Forum this past summer.

Middle Miss was asked to speak about her journey as well as touch on the services she had received over the years including what supports she will continue to need as she move on from public school.  We kept reminding her of the date and as each week went by I would ask her if the speech was written.  Imagine our surprise when the Saturday prior to the event the speech hadn’t been started.  She worked on it all weekend and as you can imagine this involved a lot of grumbling, feet stomping, huffy breaths, and breaks.  Finally, the evening before the event we had a speech!  Nothing like waiting until the ninth hour.

The morning of the event we were all racing around since we had to leave the house right after little Miss got on the bus at 7:20 a.m.  As anyone with a teenage girl knows they are rarely on time to leave the house and Middle Miss is notorious for changing her outfit as we are about to leave.  So it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when she had to change.

The weather was quite brisk this morning and as we walked up to the Capitol and entered the Rayburn House Office Building we were quite wind blown.  Middle Miss chose to attend the first Congressional visit of the day along with some Virginia state employees and the Government Affairs Director of the Brain Injury Association.  Following this visit, her anxiety began to increase.  We walked around the very crowded and loud vendor fair and attempted to speak with a few people but she had to leave the area as it was too overwhelming and stimulating of an environment with the lighting, noise, high ceilings and wall to wall people.  Anyone requiring the use of a wheelchair or cane would never have been able to navigate this area.

Finally, the time to head to the room for the panel arrived and we attempted to get her acclimated to the environment nice and early, however, our attempts were thwarted when we all had to exit the room so staff could take away the tables and set the room up for the panel.  Once this all had been completed we entered the room along with the audience members therefore not giving Middle Miss time to acclimate her herself.  What do they say about the best-laid plans?

The moderator who I described to her as a teddy bear proved me right; he really took care of her by making sure she was comfortable and rearranging the speakers so Middle Miss would go second in the lineup of five.  He later explained that he did this on purpose knowing that her story would prove to be the most impactful since she was the only survivor speaking.  She was also seated next to the kindest gentleman anyone would ever meet.  A psychiatrist with the Department of Defense and a career military man he made our girl feel so comfortable which we were forever grateful.

I am not speaking as a proud mama, which of course I was, but she totally ROCKED that room.  She spoke so clearly and eloquently and with so much heart and authenticity.  Her talk was at times sad, devastating, raw, and always truthful.  As she finished we were shocked and awed to see that the audience, us included, gave her a standing ovation.  I could not believe the overwhelming surge of pride, elation, sadness, and awe that came over me all at once.  Here was this beautiful girl of mine, once clinging to the threads of life, speaking in front of one hundred plus people in the Rayburn House Building.  Validation does not come any better than that.  As we all returned to our seats the moderator mentioned that her two proud parents were sitting in the front and the woman next to me turned and said, “that is your daughter, oh my gosh, she made me cry, what a beautiful young lady she is and so brave to share her story here.”

Like I said, validation and the feeling that all of our hard work was beginning to pay off was overwhelming.image-1054_westfrontwithtulipshorizontal-4149

 

I Have A Life

I am a late follower to the podcast, “Serial”(https://serialpodcast.org/season-one) and while listening to the first season I heard a great quote, “I have a life.  It may not be the life I envisioned for myself but it is a life”.  

For those of you who have never listened to this podcast, the quote was said by the main character in the first season’s crime, Adnan Syed.  He was convicted by a jury of his peers in the death of his former girlfriend.  

Adnan was arrested at the age of 17 and has never left the correctional system since that fateful day in 1999.  He turned 18 while incarcerated and has spent his entire adult life in a prison; only leaving to attend court.  The podcast chronicles the crime and the conviction of Sayed while trying to determine if he if was mistakenly convicted.  Sayed has claimed innocence from the beginning of the story.

Here is someone who is serving a life term in prison with all of his freedoms stripped away and yet he claims that he does have a life.  He has embraced his religion, taken his imprisonment seriously, and tried to be a role model for other prisoners.  If he can attest to the life he has made for himself then I must learn to accept the life I have been handed.

Too many times, I get frustrated by the uncertainties being the mom to a special needs child.  It is difficult at this time of year to be on facebook looking at all her peers getting excited to graduate high school and getting all kinds of accolades including multiple college acceptances.  I am happy for all these kids but I can’t help feeling envious.  We never knew what her potential was since it was stolen from us that fateful day.  

lifetitleI remind myself quite frankly that she is alive, healthy, and striving.  It may not be the life I envisioned for her or for myself 18 years ago when she was born a healthy baby but we have made the best of what we were handed.  We will continue to strive forward and reach whatever goals we can and live a great life.  

Thank you, Sayed, for reminding me what life is really all about.

 

A LITTLE POSITVITY CAN GO A LONG WAY

500_f_66251322_xsgw73bmx0qkw6prt205dcuhuma7ks88Our society is drowning in negativity.  Everything we hear in the news is filled with despair, sickness, fear, and so forth.  No wonder so many of us walk around day in and day out feeling like we have a big black cloud hovering over us.  Couple that with the weather we have been having on the east coast and it is no wonder that we feel so blah!!

My children have all, at times, come home to me pouring out the horrible moments of their day.  As a school counselor once told me about Middle Miss, “she walks around school with this bright cheery smile on her face and will never let any school employee know how she truly feels.  But once she steps off that school bus and sees her Mom all the despair of the day comes tumbling out as she can no longer contain it.”  When I heard this 9 years ago I finally felt validated.  I had been telling the school how miserable she was but they didn’t believe me since she never showed any signs of distress while she was there.

It got so bad that I would have to mentally prepare myself for her arrival so that I did not drown in all her negativity.  It still happens at times and I try to get her refocused.  Yesterday, I realized that I need to institute “positives” in our family.  Little Miss has been coming home for the past few weeks telling me how awful her day has been.  I knew the last 2 months of school would be challenging for her since her teacher, who she adores, is on maternity leave but I didn’t think it would be this bad.  She is having a hard time at since the class is misbehaving more due to a substitute teacher, the environment is loud and the routine is different.  She, like my other two and my husband, likes routine and consistency.  When the routine is off for more that a day or two her balance is shaken.

When Big Miss and Middle Miss were younger we instituted a “game” at the dinner table where we all had to say the worst thing that happened during the day and then follow it with the best thing that happened.  What a difference it made!  We all had an opportunity to blow off steam a bit but then immediately follow it with a positive which helped all of us end on a happy note.  Somewhere along the way we stopped doing this but yesterday I decided we have to to reinstate this “game”.

I don’t know about other parents but I get hung up in my children’s moods.  If they are happy it makes me happy but if they are sad or upset I can also take on their feelings which does not help me at all and I am sure it doesn’t help them either.  I am learning that when I am sad I need to stay with the feeling and let it run it’s course so I can then move forward.  My old way was to stifle it and bury it with a project but it kept resurfacing again and again.  I am now trying to feel it so I can move forward and be done with it.

I will let you know how this works for our family and if you try this let me know how it goes for you.

 

 

Liebster Award

 

liebster-award 2

 

Hi, everybody!

A few weeks ago, I was honored by https://kristinwagner.wordpress.com/ a blog and blogger I met through an online writing class we both participated in. She nominated me for The Liebster Award, which is a way for bloggers to recognize other bloggers and introduce websites they like to more people. How very cool is that?!?

The rules of The Liebster Award are a little like a chain letter with a positive spin (there are no threats of bad luck if you choose not to continue it). If you are nominated you include a link back to your nominator’s site.  Next you answer questions they’ve asked of you. Then you nominate five or more bloggers who have less than 1000 followers and who you would love to pass this award on to.  Then you ask them at least 10 questions of your own.

So…..let’s roll!

Who is your favorite author, or alternately, what is your favorite book?

This is a hard one for me to answer as I have so many.  My favorite book growing up was Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier but I don’t remember the book as well as I wish I did.  One of my more recent favorite authors is Lisa Genova who has written Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love for Anthony and Inside The O’Briens.  I really enjoy her books as they all deal with a nuerological condition as well as how it affects the entire family.  A few other favorites are Liane Moriarty, Elizabeth Berg, and Sue Monk Kidd.

 

What is your favorite childhood memory?  

Another tough question.  The first thing that comes to mind is the summer between sixth and seventh grade. My best friend, Pam, had been diagnosed with leukemia the previous year and she was in remission during this time and we spent so many carefree days going to the pool and enjoying our preteen years.  One of the best memories was when our mothers took us to New York City for the day.  We walked around looking at store windows, ate lunch at The Stage Delicatessen, saw a homeless woman for the first time, and went to see our first broadway show, The Wiz.  We thought we were so grown up and mature.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why?

This is probably the hardest question in this post.  There have been so many women I have admired in my lifetime and have tried to emulate. I think I try to take pieces of each one and incorporate them into myself in order to be the best person I can be.

What would an ideal vacation/get away look like?

I ALWAYS answer this question by saying my ideal getaway is anywhere I can get to the beach.  This is true.  I don’t know what it is about the ocean and the sounds, smells, and sand but I am so much more relaxed and refreshed afterwards.

What is one thing you do exceptionally well, but you can’t often talk about it because it would seem like bragging?

I remain extremely calm during a crisis.  I may crumble and fall apart afterwards but during the actual event I am as calm as can be.  I think the adrenaline must hit and somehow I am transformed into a person of zen.

What is your favorite food?

This is the easiest question for me to answer in this post – anything chocolate.

Have you ever practiced an acceptance speech in the bathroom mirror, and if so what award was it that you “accepted”?

I have never practiced an acceptance speech but I did practice a one minute speech I had to give for HubDot, a new way for making connections. One Dot. One Story. Inspiring ways to connect women through storytelling.  I do remember talking into the mirror as a teenager practicing interacting with my friends and “crushes” as well.

What makes you laugh?

A new puppy, a baby, memories.  I think talking with my children as they get older and rehashing their memories is so much fun.  I have learned to laugh as much as possible otherwise life will bring you down.

What is something you would like to see happen in your lifetime?

I would love to see less fighting in our world, an end to gun violence, terrorists, a cure for cancer, and treatment for brain injuries, etc.  Aren’t these all the things every mom hopes for their children?

 

Now I would like to nominate the following bloggers for The Liebster Award:

https://heartlunge.com A blog written by a writer I met during an online class.

http://survivingtraumaticbraininjury.com A blog written for brain injury survivors.

http://amdoingmybest.blogspot.com/  A wonderful blogger who homeschools and arranges CDPs.

 

 

Here are my questions for you:

  1.  What made you start blogging?
  2. Do you have a professional writing background?
  3. Who is your mentor and/or inspiration?
  4. What are you favorite books and/or genre?
  5. Is there anything you would do differently in your life?
  6. Where did you grow up and would you ever live there again?
  7. If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be and why?
  8. Describe your favorite memory.
  9. What is your favorite stress relieving mechanism?
  10. What are your hopes and dreams for the future?