Anxiety, Bad Attitudes, Be Happy, Be Kind, Compassion, Happiness, Holiday Spirit, Holidays, Innocence, Kindness, Laughter, Love, Negativity, Passion for Living, Season's Greetings, Togetherness, Uncategorized

Stay Off the Naughty List!

Each year at this time, I’m reminded of the time I was at the grocery store a couple of years ago just before Christmas.  The place was a madhouse, packed with busy, stressed, uptight shoppers.  Apparently, I wasn’t moving fast enough for one shopper, because she very impolitely ordered me to, “Get the hell out of my way!” I moved, but looked her in the eye, smiled, and said, “I guess we know who’s on Santa’s naughty list!”  She didn’t appreciate it, but I got a good chuckle out of it!

I have a ton of holiday cheer.  It’s not unusual for me to be playing Christmas music in the car, in my classroom, at home while I cook, in the bathroom, etc.  I love my decorations and my tree.  I love Christmas movies.  I’ve talked about this before, so I won’t bore you with it again.  But the most wonderful thing about about this time of year is the spirit.  Yet, I try to keep the spirit alive all year with a positive attitude, cheerfulness, appreciation, and compassion for others.  I don’t like it when someone tries to kill my spirit.  That lady at the grocery store tried to kill my spirit.  People who insist on taking the fun out of Christmas or other times of year are attempting to kill my spirit.

I used to stress about the holidays, trying to get everything done with my kids, my family, shopping, wrapping gifts, traveling, cooking, and also taking care of my students, planning fun activities for them as well.  It was ALL on my shoulders.  I felt such pressure to make it all perfect for everyone else, and I really didn’t take the time to appreciate the true meaning of love, sharing, giving, and togetherness……and I never felt appreciated for all I did. I have learned not to stress as much, and to let some things take a back seat to others.  Because of my health, I’ve also learned to say no, and stop with a few unnecessary things.  I’ve scaled back on my decorations a lot, but still have a houseful.  So when someone else puts grumpiness, anger, negativity, or extra burdens on me, it makes me upset that they are trying to kill my spirit.  I want to enjoy this time of year without feeling pressure to do what everyone else expects of me.  I need to stay healthy, so I can’t do it all anymore. I have to slow down and take time to enjoy the spirit.

I decided today that my dog needed a new sweater for Christmas because his is looking a little shabby (Shhh!  Don’t tell him).  I went to the little shopping center where the pet shop is, but I couldn’t find any parking spots.  I drove in circles through the parking lot, trying to find a place to park, for at least 10 minutes.  It seemed like it was taking a lot longer.  I had a couple of spots picked out, and was waiting for the other driver to pull out.  I waited patiently with my blinker on, only to have someone pull in from the other direction before I could get in.  I could have become angry and cursed them out, but what for?  What good would it do?  If they didn’t do it intentionally, then I might be ruining their spirit by getting mad at them.  If they did it on purpose, I wasn’t going to let them ruin my spirit by getting angry.  I eventually found a spot, and enjoyed a nice little (long) walk into the store to find the doggy sweater.  When I got into the store, I was surprised by Santa Claus, who was taking pics with pets.  He was sitting alone, and caught me off guard.  I said, “Oh!  Hello Santa!” He said, “Hello Little Girl.  Have you been good this year?”  I actually stood there, and thought about it for a minute.  Then I told him I have!  I’ve been really good!  It’s been a rough year in a lot of ways, but I’ve been good, and I’m still full of happiness, positivity, good cheer, and holiday spirit.  He wished me a merry Christmas, and then welcomed a couple of little dogs in elf hats onto his lap.

Others can choose to be negative, angry, suspicious, manipulative, mean, and critical.  They can attempt to kill my spirit when they have none.  Others can choose to rush, and put pressure on themselves to do everything, feeling stressed and drained of any Christmas cheer.  Don’t force that on others who choose to be appreciative of life.  Take your “Bah humbug!” somewhere else.  Find your true Christmas spirit, and keep it all year long!  Spread true Christmas cheer year round.  It will most definitely keep you off of the naughty list!

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Be Happy, Coping, Family, Happiness, Home Sweet Home, Love, Relationships, Togetherness, travel, Uncategorized

Togetherness

Well, the holidays are officially here, and I am now ready to celebrate with the decorations, food, and Christmas music…..not a bit too early!

This Christmas is one I am looking forward to.  I always do, but this year, Al and I are hoping to make a trip to Kansas City to see my three children, my grandson, at least one of my sisters, and maybe a few other family members.  My son will be home from the Navy, so I am anxious to see him, and spend time with my girls.  I am one of five daughters, and my parents were each one of five children, so we have a pretty big family.  But I haven’t seen any of them since July, 2015, and it was for less than 48 hours, since we were there for my nephew’s wedding, and then went to spend a week in New York.  It has been over five years since I have seen all three of my children together at once.  Think about that for a minute…..going years without seeing your family…….as different as my sisters and I are, I still love and miss them every day.  I haven’t seen my best friends (and won’t on this trip either) for 2 1/2-5 years or longer.  I love and miss them terribly too.  I do have a couple of uncles, aunts, and cousins who live about an hour from here, but we don’t see them very often.  It’s nice to have some family a little bit close though.

Since Al moved here in 2014, we have been to New York to see his mother and sister three times, and he has gone twice by himself.  He has been to Miami with his friends from Sweden three times.  We’ve been to Orlando to see his father three times.  We’ve been to Sweden.  We’ve also taken a couple of trips to New Orleans, and a short honeymoon cruise, but the focus the last 3 1/2 years has been to make sure he gets to see his family (especially his parents) and friends, after spending so long living out of the country.  Now we have an opportunity to go to Kansas City, between Christmas and New Year’s, and it’s all I can think about.  Kansas City is beautiful during the holidays, and I will get to see my “babies!”

I have friends living all over the country.  But, as women, most of us don’t take the time to take many getaways on our own.  At least, that’s been the case with me and most of my friends.  We have our jobs and responsibilities with our homes, children or pets, and don’t feel like we can take a break from it all.  I’m usually the one making sure everyone has what they need, and I forget to think about what I need.  I’m trying to do better with that.  It’s hard for me to do without feeling selfish.  Since funds are tight, and now with my health conditions, I can’t exactly justify taking off for a week or weekend to hang out with my friends by myself.  Traveling alone wouldn’t be a good idea because of everything going on physically with me.  I’ve been working very hard at school and also trying to get started in the real estate business, to try to get us a little bit ahead.  Frankly, between that, and all of the medical crap I deal with, I’m worn out, and need a change of scenery.  Maybe someday, I can travel alone again, but not now.

While I love living in a warm climate (even though they are predicting snow this Friday!), and it’s much easier on my arthritis, sometimes I need a break too.  Hopefully, I can get a much needed break to see some of the people I love and miss.  And what better time to do it than at Christmas in Kansas City?

Acceptance, Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Being Strong, Coping, Courage, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Laughter, Love, Passion for Living, Thankfulness, That's life, Uncategorized, Unexpected Life Events

Just Keep Going…

It’s been 130  days since my AN diagnosis.  Since then, I’ve been through loads of doctor appointments (I’ve lost count), a variety of tests, another diagnosis of an infection in my mastoid bones (behind my ears), which seems to be resistant (I’ve been on 4 different antibiotics so far), and a seizure.  I’m now on anti-seizure meds, and a few things to try to control my headaches.  This seems to be the new “normal” for me, and we just keep hoping for the best with each appointment.

I try not to miss any work.  I’ve actually only missed 3 days out of 70 so far this year, and have taken an early leave here and there for doctor appointments.  I also go in early almost every day……a habit I’ve had for a very long time.  I know if I sit at home, I would get depressed…..something that is easy to do with any illness.  I don’t want to add depression to the list of conditions and symptoms.  Besides, I love my students, and appreciate that this is probably the best class I’ve ever taught!  I guess I need them right now.  They let me know how much they love me, and how much they care about me.  They tell me constantly that they love me, they hug me, they make pictures for me, are pretty well behaved, and they understand that sometimes I can’t get up too fast!  I told them about my recent EEG, and they enjoyed imagining their silly teacher with the 25 electrodes coming off of her head.

I don’t let a lot of people see me when I’m feeling bad.  I have learned to manage that very well.  The teacher who teaches next door to me, Tamesa, has become such a great friend.  We vent, laugh, cry, and support each other every day!  She is one of the few who sees me holding my hurting head, or can tell by the look on my face that I’m in pain, and knows what is going on, without me having to say anything.  It’s nice to have a friend/co-worker like that, but she also understands my fierce independence, and knows when I just need to push through.

I have had people ask me how I do it.  How do I keep going?  The commute? Teaching 1st graders? The work load? One of my husband’s friends in New York said in his thick NY accent, “She’s a troopah!” Well, what choice do I have?  Like I said before, I don’t want to sit home and get depressed, having no interaction with anyone.  While I might need more rest now, I still believe that I can manage this more effectively by continuing to keep busy, and keep a normal schedule. And…..I don’t want to give up my way of life.  I don’t want to get old before my time.  Young at heart = hopefulness and positivity.

I have seen people with chronic illnesses give up, go on disability, stay home, and become old before their time.  If you know anything about me, you know I have a sense of adventure and fun, and a curiosity to learn about people and places.  I love travel.  I love museums.  I’m not old enough to give up that part of myself.  I might stumble a bit here and there.  I might not hear everything, especially in a noisy room.  I might be hypersensitive to loud noises.  I might have headaches.  I might feel pressure in my ear and head.  I might have vertigo that makes life feel extra wobbly.  I might have to be more aware of the signs (auras) of an impending seizure.  I might have to eventually have surgery. But my life will not stop being enjoyable because I have a chronic illness! I refuse to give in to this.  I guess this is where my stubbornness pays off!

Over the last 130 days, I have learned so much.  I’ve learned that I am much stronger and more determined than I ever realized.  I’ve learned that I keep my balance better if I give myself more time and turn on lights!  I’ve learned that my husband is a jewel (I actually already knew this, but he has just confirmed it, as he helps me up every morning so I don’t fall, reminds me to be careful, and is understanding and supportive with my fatigue and limitations).  I’ve learned who really cares about me, and who is there to support me on this journey, wherever it leads me.  Fortunately, there are a lot of people supporting me that I never knew cared so much!  I’ve learned that naps are not only enjoyable, but they really do help!  I’ve learned a lot about two illnesses that I have, that I never dreamed would affect me.  I’ve learned to really appreciate small acts of kindness, quiet moments, fresh air, a good laugh, a walk, and all of the positive things in life.  I want to be the best me I can be for my children, who I know have been worried and scared through this.  I want them to enjoy their silly mama, who loves to laugh and embarrass them in public.  I want to be the best me for my husband, who shows me his strength every day, but I know he worries and gets scared from all of this too.

So the last 130 days of knowing what is wrong with me has been an emotional and physical roller coaster, but I appreciate what it has given me.  Things can always be worse!  I can do this…..with a few adjustments and a lot of support from those who love me.  I’m not ready to give up anything yet…..and I won’t.

Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Crying, Emotions, Family, Kindness, Laughter, Love, Mother, Passion for Living, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

My Mama

Eighty-six years ago, my grandmother was escorted to a hospital in Peiping, China (now Beijing) in an ambulance, by a military escort because the city was under martial law. No one was allowed to be on the streets because of fighting with the Japanese. She gave birth to my mother, Mary Joan Slater (Mary Jo) shortly after.  Yes, my mother was born in China.  My grandparents were medical missionaries in China in the 1930’s.  My mother’s first language was Chinese.  Her first “family” were the other missionaries and the Chinese people they knew.  Her first school was in Nantung.  Her first HOME was China.

On December 26, 1940, the family was evacuated on the last ship out of China, after the Japanese warned that if they did not leave, they would become prisoners of war.  It was hard to leave everything they knew and loved there, but the Slaters (now with my Uncle Bill and Aunt Joy added to the family) left for the United States.  My mother was painfully shy, and was so afraid to move not only to a new school, but to a new country.  My grandpa enlisted in the Army, and was gone for a few years, which was very hard on them, but so typical of a lot of families during WWII.

Meeting and marrying my father in college was the best decision she ever made.  She was barely 19, and they eloped because her parents wanted her to finish college first.  Fortunately, it all worked out, and my parents were married for 52 years before her death in 2002. I’m pretty sure both sides of the family were in a state of shock, but they soon realized the union was a perfect match.  Both sets of grandparents were very good to each of my parents.

Mama was the perfect minister’s wife.  She was so kind, sweet, smart, honest, and compassionate.  She truly was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known….even through my horrible teenage years, where we didn’t see eye to eye!  She was silly, a little spacey….I know where I get it…….and so much fun to be around.  She was always willing to let down her guard to have a good time, especially as she got older.  Tea parties and pretending with the grandchildren, “antiquing” and going out for tea with her five daughters, and playing with her dolls and her beautiful dollhouse (built by my Grandpa Penry and my father).  I’ve never known anyone who could claim “cleaning” as a hobby, but she could! Her younger brothers, Butch and Chuck, could talk her into anything, even though it was rarely in her best interest!  Rides on the back of motorcycles, and going down my grandparents’ driveway on a homemade go-cart (made from an old ironing board) were just two of the things they talked her into, and she regretted later.  On a few other occasions, she made crazy decisions all on her own……swinging on a vine or a tire swing, and jumping on a trampoline when she was well into her 60’s……..as embarrassed as she was later about these things, she always had the childlike innocence to look for fun.  As mature and composed as she usually was, she still had the ability and desire to look for fun.

My mother was also very strong.  She had to go to work after being a stay at home mom for years.  My father had been sick, and my sisters needed glasses and braces.  Bills were accumulating.  She learned to drive at the same time as my 16 year old sister.  Right after getting her drivers’ license (at the age of 38), she went to work as a social worker, where she had to commute (not easy for someone who had just learned to drive!).  Social work is a tough job, but she did it for a lot of years! She lost both of her parents and a younger brother, and even though she couldn’t talk about them without crying, she kept going, showing her love for them through her memories of them…..and her tears.

Being a minister’s wife was not always easy either, but she loved and supported Daddy through every difficult situation (including the Civil Rights Movement in Arkansas in the 1960’s). She always taught Sunday School, and I know she impacted hundreds of young lives through her own ministry.  She and Daddy were definitely each other’s biggest supporter and the best of friends.  They made a great team!

So Mama has been gone for nearly 15 years now, and today would have been her 86th birthday.  It’s not easy for me, but I always celebrate her birthday by eating Chinese food, and usually go to an antique store and drink a cup of tea.  Tonight, Al came home with roses for me, in Mama’s honor……..

I know I will never be as good as she was, but I can always strive to be better than I am.  She had a way of saying my name, or giving me a look, or poking her finger in my side to get me to behave! Sometimes I swear I can feel that same poke, or hear her say my name…….you know, when your middle name gets tacked on the end when you’re in trouble…..”Lauri Ann!”  I know I inherited her sense of fun, and I am grateful to her for that, along with so many other things.  I know when I do something that seems a bit….airheaded……it’s her way of getting back at me for laughing at her for doing similar things!  My sisters and I refer to these times as “Mary Jo moments.”

My mama was a pretty special lady.  She led a fascinating life from her beginnings in China to her years as a minister’s wife, a mother, and a grandmother.  I miss her every day.  But today, I celebrate her, and the time I had with her.  I’m very lucky.  I love you, Mama.