Twenty Five

Mike and I will be celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary tomorrow.  WOW!  Hard to believe!

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Some days it feels we have only known each other a short time and other times it feels we have been together forever.  When we got married there were so many hopes and dreams.  Most of those came to fruition.  I remember one evening sitting in our first apartment, he predicted we would have 3 daughters and a male dog.  Guess what?  He was almost correct.  He forgot to include the female cat!  20160922_201412-e1523579075918.jpg

Those of you who have been married for awhile know that marriage isn’t a piece of cake.  It is not easy.  There are times when things are very smooth and you sync perfectly.  The two of you agree on everything, share goals, political views, decorating choices, etc.  THEN, there are THOSE times when a union on anything seems impossible.  These are the times when commitment really makes a difference.

I recently read a great piece on marriage.  If you have never followed Nina Bazdin  I highly encourage it.  Nina has an advice column on her website and the questions are really interesting.  The latest was submitted by an ambivalent wife who was debating whether or not to leave her marriage.  She wasn’t miserable but wondered if she could be happier.  Nina and her mother consulted on this answer and I felt their response was spot on.

Some say there is nothing better than “new love”.  The love of an early relationship when the butterflies are in your gut due to the excitement.  Not knowing the person well, but eager to learn everything, thinking it’s perfect.  This feeling doesn’t last forever and it shouldn’t.  We start to show our differences, we learn from each other and we get lazy. Life happens.  People evolve.

When Mike and I got engaged one of his aunts hosted an engagement party in the Pittsburgh area where a lot of his family lived.  He was the first of his three brothers to marry and it was such a wonderful gesture.  During this party, a number of women approached me and marveled at the fact that both Mike and I came from homes with parents who were still married.  Little did I know then what I would discover later but more about that here The Truth Eventually Reveals Itself.   We grew up in the generation that had one of the highest divorce rates and we both had extended family members who had experienced one or more.

During the past twenty-five years, we have had our share of highs and lows and we have witnessed other couples go through their own.  What makes our partnership continue and others tumble?  I would be a rich woman if I knew the answer to this.  One reason I think we continue to grow in our marriage is we have a great deal of respect for each other.  Without respect, I don’t think any relationship has a chance.  We argue and disagree plenty of times but we try to listen to other, make a decision and move forward.

I have seen plenty of people stick to their opinion and refuse to compromise out of stubbornness.  This is not going to help anyone.  What transpires is a stalemate and no one is going to win.  I have also seen couples undermine the other in front of their children which, again, only causes rifts to the partnership as well to the relationship with the children.

Children bring such a unique element to marriage.  The parents each come from unique backgrounds and their respective families most likely handled things differently.  Once a partnership is raising their own child there are bound to be conflicts.  One was raised by a helicopter parent and the other by a “hands-off” parent and there you have the potential for a huge dispute. How the partnership navigates this can impact their marriage for years to come.

Two people come into their union with unique narratives of their past, including hurts and betrayals and these also can wreak havoc on the relationship.  Marriage is not just about love.  Yes, there has to be love and affection for one other, at the core, but there is so much more.

We celebrated our anniversary this past weekend with a night away.  Mike had done most of the arrangements and we enjoyed Tea at the hotel in the afternoon.  My children were getting much laughter about this since he is not a tea person but he arranged it because he knew I liked it.  While enjoying the company of each other as well as the scrumptious sandwiches, scones, and treats as well as the champagne, thrown in by the hotel the manager came by to extend his congratulations.  He asked us what our secret was to be able to celebrate 25 years of marriage. We both chuckled and said we don’t know what the secret is but one thing that certainly helped was patience.

Thinking about this I would have to say that each marriage is different, but the two things that have been most central to our union is patience and respect.

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Brain Injury Awareness Month

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The month of March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  There are so many brain-related events happening near me and other places and I really wish I could attend all of them.  Maybe if I cloned myself that would be possible but that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Last week, I attended the Brain Injury Association of Virginia’s 35th Anniversary Gala and the following day their conference was held in Richmond, Virginia.  I have been in attendance at quite a few of their conferences since 2006 especially over the past six years as a Board Member.  I always learn something new.  The brain is the most complex organ we have and there is so much we don’t know.  Every conference or event I participate in is a learning experience.  I always walk away with a new idea or something to research.  This weekend’s event was no exception.

Later this month, I will be attending Brain Injury Awareness Day  This is an annual event but I have only attended the past two years.  Prior to that, it was difficult to arrange child care for Little Miss and I was unsure if I should bring Middle Miss fearing the day would be too overwhelming and/or over stimulating.  Those with a brain injury know that noises, bright lights, echo sounds, just to name a few, can cause disruptions for the individual.

Last year Middle Miss was on the panel of speakers.  Read more about it in this post.  It still seems so surreal that she was given the opportunity and did such an amazing job.  I will relish that day for a lifetime.

I will most likely attend the day’s events by myself and meet up with other brain injury advocates on Capitol Hill.  I am in the process of requesting meetings with my representatives to share our story and request their support in any legislation relating to brain injury.  One of the issues I really want to address is Social Security Disability.  I will write more on that in an upcoming post.

There are other events during that week but I do not know if I will be able to attend.  Coordinating the family schedule is always a complicated task and involves a lot of juggling.  I was invited to a reception on the evening prior to Awareness Day but it doesn’t look like I will attend due to another commitment involving Little Miss’ Chorus Group.  I don’t want to miss these important milestones because I know how important they are to my children and I also know these events will not be around forever.  I am really trying to live in the moment and enjoy the times as they come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing on Facebook

I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I have really enjoyed reconnecting with friends over the past 10 years since joining the social media craze.  It is the competitive nature of the beast that makes me retreat.  I sometimes feel that a lot of members are trying to one-up each other or show how perfect their families and lives are.  This has never been a characteristic of mine but I am sure I have done my fair share of bragging as well.

I recently had my article published on the Thrive Global website.  The article had previously been published on  Medium and TBI Hope.

On a whim, I shared the article on my personal Facebook page.  After clicking “post” I felt a bit of nervous angst.  I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback the article would receive.  Within minutes, my notifications started buzzing with some of the most beautiful comments I have ever received.  There was so much support and encouragement for both the story and our family.  I was overwhelmed, in a good way.  I knew that I had made the right decision when I decided to share the piece.  Some of my Facebook friends did not know our family’s story into the depths of Traumatic Brain Injury and some had been right there with us from day one cheering and praying for Middle Miss’ recovery.

I think it also was a tiny step of putting my writing out there and seeing how it was received.  I think fear has been holding me back while trying to write our book.  Fear that it won’t get published, it won’t get read, readers won’t resonate with the story.  I have finally embraced that no matter what I have to try.  I have to write and try to get it out to the masses.  It doesn’t matter if no one likes it.  As we started to talk about this project our goal was to give other families a lifeline while going through a devastating event such as ours.  When this happened to us 16 years ago there wasn’t a guidebook telling us how to proceed, what types of specialists or doctors we would need, etc. We didn’t have the resources that are prevalent in today’s world.

Now the hardest thing is for me to stay focused and allow the time for the writing to happen.  This has been such a hard thing to accomplish lately.  I need to put aside other thoughts and responsibilities and treat this as my job.  I have really tried to keep a full day or two each week to fully devote to writing.  That means no volunteering at hospitals or schools, no lunches with friends, and no running errands or shopping.  This last one has been hard because I have to fit the food shopping and regular errands in somewhere.

I need to delegate and try to combine errands with other activities which usually requires a lot of planning.  Does anyone have suggestions?  It would be nice if I could hire an assistant but that definitely won’t be happening.

You’re Fat!

Those are words no one wants to hear. But when you are a mom who was teased at a very young age about her extra weight, went through an anorexia/binging phase in high school, gained more than the freshman 15 in college, and your daughter tells you these words were directed her way your heart splits open.

Having experienced body shaming for most of my life I have tried to be very cognizant of the words I use around my daughters. My mother used to say “If we could cut off part of your backside, we would have a really good steak”. I can’t imagine ever saying these words to anyone.

It’s no wonder I had issues.

Since becoming a mother over 21 years ago I have tried to model healthy body image. Both Mike and I have shown them healthy eating habits eating most of our meals at home. The only times we eat at fast foods restaurants is when we are traveling and our choices are very limited. We have shown them, through action, how exercise has helped us maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.

None of the 3 misses are natural athletes, they take after me in this area, but we have enrolled them in soccer, softball, dance, cross country, swimming, and martial arts classes. They don’t seem to enjoy exercise and we sometimes have to really push Middle Miss to do something but we have given them the tools. I am always secretly jumping for joy when Big Miss mentions attending a yoga class, one of my favorite exercise choices.

So, when little Miss came home from school and told me the boy who has been harassing her all year said she was fat my heart broke. It took me back to the school playground when kids would taunt me with, “Kelly her belly is so full of jelly” or “You have such a pretty face but…”.

I had noticed that in the past year she had been gaining weight, especially in the tummy area. Middle Miss had always been a bit heavier than her peers but she had been like that since she was born so I figured it was her body build.

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Little Miss, on the other hand, was petite for most of her life. At her, one year check up the pediatrician told me to keep breastfeeding her since she hadn’t gained enough weight. Her feet have always been much smaller than her peers, she was a little peanut compared to her sisters.

During her checkup last year I asked the pediatrician about her weight after asking Little Miss to leave the room since I didn’t want her to hear the conversation. The doctor did some bloodwork after I expressed some concern about a thyroid condition which I have. The tests were negative and the doctor said she wasn’t concerned about her weight.  She commented that a lot of girls this age put on a little weight due to the hormonal changes that are occurring.

We have tried to get her more exercise but it’s been hard since she has so many anxieties. She doesn’t want to play any sports having played soccer for a number of seasons and leaving once her age group transitioned to the larger field. She still refuses to put her head underwater or get her face wet even though we have tried various swimming programs. She has refused to ride a bike, ice skate, or roller skate fearing a fall. The only activity she has continued is dance and that is precarious at the moment.

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I have done some research about the best way to talk to your daughter about her weight and I am at a loss. All the experts recommend emphasizing healthy eating and exercise and not using the word diet. We have done this all her life.

I recently read a study that was conducted in England which encourages parents to speak about a child’s weight up front. The researchers believe the reason the United States has an obesity epidemic is the lack of conversations about weight. This could be the case but I am cautious with that due to my experience.

I did read another article that suggested speaking to a child about this issue by asking her how the comment made her feel. I get this. I can envision asking her, “so how did the Boy’s comment make you feel?” The only thing that worries me is that whenever I ask her these questions she will usually respond with, “I don’t know”. How do I follow up after that comment? I don’t know where I can go from there.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this talk?  I have but it wasn’t handled correctly.  Any advice to share with this Mom?

Group Dynamics

We all want to be part of some larger ideal.  We are looking for our tribe.  That is why we choose to live in communities or select one particular church to join, or a school.  But what happens when the group we have chosen to call our own is not serving us in the way we envisioned.  Or what if one particular member is not adhering to the group “unwritten rule”?

Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people. - Steve Jobs

According to Wikipedia group dynamics is defined as “a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group or between social groups”.  I have always felt that groups are made of people who either have a common interest, desire, and/or hobby.  I have belonged to many during my lifetime and some have proven very successful while others have fallen away over time due to lack of communication, lives going into different directions or lack of cohesiveness.

One thing I have always looked for in a group is support.  This support could take on many different shapes such as emotional, encouragement, and helpful.  One thing I have always said that could derail these communities is a form of “backstabbing”.  What do I mean by this?  Well, if one group member has a personal motive and refuses to embrace other ideas or values then this will cause the group to splinter.  If a member talks negatively about others the members will splinter into subgroups.

 

I have always felt that groups are there to support one another through hardships and boast each other during the good times.

So what happens when there is a group member who consistently does not encourage or support another?  How does the group survive?  How should members address the situation?

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I am dealing with this issue right now and am at a loss.  I am not a confrontational person by nature.  I have fought fiercely for my children but when it comes to myself I usually back off.  My instinct is to retreat and not say anything.  Eventually easing out of the group. However, this time it feels different.  I do not like how this group is being splintered especially when we all have a single mission.  I don’t want to talk to others and get them involved since I don’t want to be talking about someone, however, I don’t know how to handle this issue.

How would you handle it?

 

 

 

 

Word of the Year

As most of you have probably heard over and over since December one of the trends is to designate a word of the year.  I originally didn’t have a plan to do this but after giving it a lot of thought and reading how other’s word of the year guided them through the past I decided to consider what word I would use.

Since I am trying to focus a lot of my time on finishing a draft of our book (read more here) my first thought was “NO”.  The reasoning behind this was a valid reason to say no to any further commitments.  If I said that was my word then I had the perfect excuse to not commit to anything new.  It all sounded great to me until I read other’s words.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t be worrying about what anyone else is doing or worry what others will think, etc… but, I still can’t stop thinking that way.  I think “no” sounds negative and would that come off to others as a “Debbie Downer” attitude, etc.  It wouldn’t be intended as a negative but that is what I perceived others would think.  Again, I know I shouldn’t worry what is inside someone else’s head but that is my genetic makeup.

So, after much thought and guesswork, I came up with another word that I thought would help me yet not sound so negative.  I am hoping it will help steer me in the right direction and give me a reason to not accept every request I receive to help out with this or volunteer here, etc.

My word for 2018 is PRIORITIZE.  

I am giving myself permission to PRIORITIZE what is important to me and my family.  It will not help me or my family to volunteer to run a committee for the school.  In fact, if anything it will only hurt my goals and probably the well being of my family because I will be too stressed.  I can say no to the lunch date since I need to use that time to write. The more I think about this word the more I have embraced it.   I consulted Wikipedia and the definition is the action that arranges items or activities in order of importance.  

A perfect fit for me!  I will try and update how my word of 2018 is working for me.  I am hoping it will give me enough permission to do the things that are most important to me and the ones I love.

Do you have a word for 2018?  If so, I would love to hear how you came up with yours and how it is working out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beamer Learns About Traumatic Brain Injury

Sometimes you never know how your connections will work.  A local author and I had become “facebook friends” since we both knew another family who had experienced the terrible loss of their child.  I followed her and noticed she was continuing to write books in the “Tell Me Town” series she created.  The series was born out of her desire to give back to the community and help others.

Cindy Chambers was serving on the board of a local hospital and while on a tour she noticed the fear on both patient’s and parent’s faces as she walked through the emergency room.  She thought to herself, “Oh, I wish there was a book that could explain what was happening to a child in words they would understand along with characters who were relatable”.

She left that day and soon after the book series was born.  The books feature two main characters Kyle and his dog Beamer.  They live in a fictional town and have learned about the emergency room, fire safety, Cancer diagnosis, Diabetes I and II diagnoses, and Alzheimer’s just to name a few.  Cindy works along with the experts in each field to understand the complexities of each issue and writes a story kids will relate to and understand.

About two years ago I had noticed that she released a book about a friend with special needs. On a whim I sent her a message and asked if she had ever considered writing a book about Traumatic Brain Injury.  She instantly replied that she had been asked before and would love to meet so we could discuss.

We met at a local coffee shop and as I expected she was absolutely delightful.  She listened attentively to our family’s story and had some great ideas.  We planned to meet again soon and to bring Middle Miss into the conversation.

Our next meeting occurred at our home and Middle Miss and Mike were brought into the conversation.  We met a number of times to discuss the story and finally had a book.  Cindy consulted with a local neurologist to understand what goes on in the brain when it experiences such an injury and works with her illustrator to bring the characters and words to life.

Ironically, the book was released the day before our 16th anniversary of the accident.  Neither the publisher or Cindy knew the date so I call it serendipity.  Although, this is not Middle Miss’ full story she contributed a lot of her symptoms and stories to bring the book to life.  She was also able to contribute a statement in the book and Mike and I did as well.

We are so grateful for this opportunity as it gives Middle Miss a way to get part of her story out there.  We also had the opportunity to meet the neurologist who helped on the project and Cindy presented Middle Miss with the most beautiful award.  It was truly a very special day.

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The book is available on Amazon.  If you purchase the book we would love a review and I would love to know what you think.