Be Kind, Bleeding Kansas, Chicken Annie's, Coping, Growing up, Happiness, Home Sweet Home, Kindness, Passion for Living, Respect, Uncategorized, You can't go back again

Thankful for Small Town Roots

Last week I learned of the death of another childhood classmate from my hometown in Kansas.  It seems like there’s been so many…..I’ve actually lost count.  For a small class, it’s been a lot.  These are the people I grew up with, and even though I moved away before graduating with them, they still mean a lot to me, and we share so many of the same experiences of growing up in a small town.

There is so much anger and hatred in our world right now. and the loss of this classmate has made me yearn for a simpler time, and a time when things seemed easier.  Growing up in a small town in the Midwest had it’s pros and cons, but I hold so many wonderful memories from that time.

My hometown, at one time, truly did feel like Mayberry.  It was an historic old railroad town in Southeast Kansas, about an hour from Kansas City, and an hour from Joplin.  It was divided down the middle of town by a highway and railroad tracks….the division having racially motivated reasons dating back to the 1800’s, and the time of “Bleeding Kansas” and the John Brown raids.  It had a dark history of racism (for more on this, look up the author/poet/photographer/director Gordon Parks, and the movie “The Learning Tree”). Yet, in the 70’s, I wasn’t aware of that dark past so much.  I had both black and white friends.  They were restoring the Fort from the 1840’s, had beautiful old Victorian homes, brick streets, and a quaint downtown.  It still has one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen, Gunn Park.  It had two elementary schools (one on the east side, one on the west), a junior high, which sat prominently in the middle of town, and a big old high school, which is now gone.

The town was a bit run down in some areas, had it’s nicer neighborhoods, but it was safe just about everywhere you went.  It was safe to ride our bikes, go for walks, and explore. One of my friends and I used to walk to the end of our street, which was a dead end, and we would climb down the embankment to play at the river banks while our parents were at work.  I could walk to my father’s office at the church where he was a minister, only a few blocks away.  My mother’s office was a block from his office.  I could walk downtown to the library, to stores, and to the movies.  On Saturdays, another friend and I would meet at a certain corner, and we would walk to the library, then go buy a lot of candy with our little bit of allowances we had. In the summer, I would walk or ride my bike to the swimming pool.

The people in our church were wonderful.  Because my father was the minister, we were invited to so many homes for Sunday dinner, on trips to Kansas City, or to our favorite chicken restaurant, Chicken Annie’s (Southeast Kansas is known for it’s chicken restaurants!).  My sisters and I had babysitting jobs for many families in our church.  Our doctor and dentist both went to our church.  My piano teacher was our organist. Everyone knew everyone, or had some sort of connection to them.

Going back there today is different.  My parents and almost all of their friends are now gone.  The church is closed.  It isn’t safe in a lot of areas.  The old homes are in disrepair.  The brick streets are not in great shape.  The downtown is empty and sad.  Most of the manufacturers are gone.  Walmart is the biggest store in town…….

Even though I know we can’t live in the past, and I’m glad I don’t live there today, I do miss a lot of that innocence today.  People really cared about each other.  Small towns are not for me at this point in my life, and I’m glad my parents showed me that there was a world out there through travel and books, but growing up in a small town in the 1970’s was special.  I didn’t realize then what a wonderful thing it was.  I raised my own children there too, but it was already changing, and it wasn’t the same.

Life was easier then.  Times were easier, or seemed to be.  Maybe it was just easier for parents to protect their children from the cruel world without the influences of 24 hour news and social media.  Sometimes I really miss the days when I had no worries, plenty of friends, my parents, a kinder, safer world…….  We can’t go back, and we can’t bring back those we’ve lost.  We can only be more appreciative of each other, treat each other with respect,  be kind to each other, and not take anyone or anything for granted.  Life is too short to not appreciate who and what we have in front of us.  It might not be there tomorrow.

 

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Attitude Adjustments, Be Happy, Be Kind, Being Strong, Coping, Fear, Happiness, Invisible Illness, Just Breathe, Passion for Living, Support, Uncategorized

Coping Through Fear and Uncertainty

The last couple of months I have been dealing with an issue that I have been afraid to write about.  Actually, up until a couple of weeks ago, every time I talked about it, I would cry, but I am learning to deal with this more comfortably, or as comfortably as possible, so maybe writing about it will be therapeutic…..I have a brain tumor.  THAT is a very difficult thing to say (or write).

After a couple of years of dealing with vertigo off and on (mostly when I was tired, or the lighting was low), headaches, tinnitus, balance issues, and noticing some hearing loss last school year, I finally have answers, following some medical tests.  Our trip to Europe seemed to intensify the symptoms…..I guess from the pressure during the flight?  I tried to pass it off as fatigue or jet lag, but deep down, I knew something wasn’t right.  I felt horrible most of the time we were there.  After we got back, the symptoms didn’t go away.  On July 25th, I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, which is a tumor on the main nerve going to my ear.  My husband was in New York visiting his family at the time of my diagnosis, so I was alone, and very afraid when I found out.  I told him over the phone……  I called my three children, and cried while I told them.  They’ve all been very sweet and understanding, very supportive, and patient with my emotions.  I emailed my four sisters, and they were very supportive. They told me not to worry because they would worry enough for me.  I texted my friends because I didn’t want to cry while telling them.  I texted my pastor.

Basically, this thing has probably been with me for awhile.  It’s not malignant, and it’s very slow growing. For now, it’s small (1.7 cm), and we are lucky to have caught it at this stage.  It’s obviously big enough to be causing some serious problems……….headaches, vertigo, balance, tinnitus, pressure, hearing loss, noise sensitivity, fatigue…….but we have chosen to watch it to see if it is still growing, and if so, at what pace.  If I were younger,  and if the location were different, the approach may be different.  Two of the main concerns are total hearing loss and facial paralysis (it pushes against the facial nerve), and of course, if it is left completely untreated, it can cause death.  It does not grow into the brain, as a malignant tumor would.  As it grows, it pushes against the brain and brain stem.

It’s a rare condition, but I actually have two friends who have had this same thing.  Their tumors were larger, and they were younger, and they each had different treatments. Each one was left with problems resulting from the surgery…..facial paralysis, total hearing loss, epilepsy…..and have a lot of the same symptoms that I have which surgery and/or radiation didn’t eliminate.  My doctors want to wait to see if it is growing before making the decision to go in after it.  If I can learn to manage the symptoms I have, and it isn’t growing, my symptoms may never get worse…..but they won’t get any better.  If I have surgery and/or radiation, there is a risk that these symptoms may get worse.

I have had to do some soul searching throughout this.  I was very depressed at first.  I have had to count my blessings though. There was so much uncertainty before the diagnosis.  Was it MS?  Parkinsons?  Cancer? No, no, and no, and now I have an answer, even if it is scary.  I’ve done a lot of research, talked to my doctor, and also consulted with my friends who have been through this. I’ve decided I have to accept what I have in front of me, make adjustments to my lifestyle, position myself in places where I can hear, try to avoid loud noises (my principal will give me a heads up before those screeching fire alarms go off during drills…..that feels like being stabbed in the ear drum with an ice pick!), get up more slowly, don’t turn too fast, take aspirin for my headaches, be careful while walking or standing, especially in low lighting (the vertigo and balance problems are extreme for me in low lighting), fall asleep with the television or fan on to drown out the tinnitus, get plenty of rest, do more yoga, avoid stress, etc. etc. etc. I definitely don’t have time for anything petty, negative, or dramatic.  I’ve never liked those situations anyway, but now I have a legitimate reason to avoid it and brush it aside!  My health depends on it.

I have decided that if I am to completely come to terms with this, I need to make peace with it.  This is the best way for me to stay positive and be able to face it….as I always do…..with humor. The tumor needed a name.  I thought about Tammy, but since that is one of my sisters, I knew it wouldn’t go over very well (she agreed)! So I have named her Tina, and damn it, Tina and I will be friends, whether she likes it or not!  My children and Al make fun of me for my hearing loss, but that’s okay.  What I think I hear is usually way more entertaining than what they’re saying!  For instance, today at work, they announced that the latchkey program would be meeting in the “portable.”  Well, I heard “toilet bowl.”  What I heard was a lot funnier!!!!

I am so thankful to my children, Lily,  Evan, and Grace, who check on me regularly (even when Evan is in the middle of the ocean on his ship in the Navy, he checks on his mama), keeping my spirits up.  I am thankful to my doctors and modern medicine! I am thankful to my wide circle of friends from California, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Florida Europe, and South America…….it makes me emotional thinking about how much support they’ve given me! I am thankful for my sisters, who keep me laughing with their quirky emails (I’m not the only quirky one), my cousin Danny (who happened to be the first person I told because he just happened to reach out to me after I got my diagnosis).  I’m thankful for my church family who has prayed for me, and has checked on me when we have been able to get there.  I’m thankful for my friends at work who have kept my “little” secret until I have been strong enough to talk about it, and have helped me. I’m thankful for my little dog, Andy, who snuggles with me, giving me comfort and kisses! And most of all, I am thankful for my dear sweet husband, Al.  I know that he is probably more worried and scared than he lets on.  But he is so strong for me.  I’ve lost count how many times I have fallen, and he patiently helps me back up, making sure I’m okay and steady on my feet before letting me go.  Falling like a two year old is very humbling!  Through my headaches, emotions, and all of the financial strain I’ve put on us with this…..he is my ROCK. We may have found each other late in life, but I know that I couldn’t go through this without him.  I don’t have my parents anymore, but I have some very good people in my life!  I am the luckiest girl in the world…….

Life is a party……face it head on, embrace it, and enjoy every minute of it!

Be Happy, Don't Judge, Happiness, Passion for Living, Respect, Self respect, Uncategorized

Be Yourself!

Yesterday I was putting on my earrings to go on a lunch date with my husband, and decided on some larger silver hoops.  It reminded me of an article I had read recently about what women over 40 should or shouldn’t wear…..as dictated by women in their 20’s and 30’s.  The article was written by a woman who was frustrated by this direction, and I completely agreed! I have read the articles…..”What Women Over 40 Should Never Wear…..” No large hoop earrings, no tattoos, no skirts over the knee, no sleeveless tops, no blue eye shadow, no leggings, etc. etc. etc. I admit, I used to be guilty of these unfair statements too, but thankfully, I have grown, and realized that maybe I wasn’t comfortable with myself then.  I am definitely getting more and more comfortable now, and this has made me less judgmental of others.

My mother’s sister, my Aunt Joy, was a wonderful woman, who marched to the beat of her own drummer.  She was highly intelligent (an English teacher), loved to read, tell stories, and spend time with her family.  She wore clothes that made her feel comfortable……I’m picturing tie-dyed mumus……she drove a moped around Wichita when she was in her 50’s, and at times, her hair may be blue or purple (before it was trendy to do this).  She was always a lot of fun to be around.  I miss her a lot.  One of the reasons I loved and respected her so much was because she did what made her feel good, without hurting anyone else.  Why should anyone else care?

I had a friend who used to be very annoyed and critical of any woman 30 or over who referred to a man as a “boyfriend.”  Why was that her business?  Why should it bother her?  If a woman in her 80’s wants to have a boyfriend, why is it offensive to anyone else?  If a couple feels young and in love, and wants to use the term “boyfriend” or “girlfriend,” that’s their choice, no matter how old they are.

It is no one else’s decision (or business) how we dress, or what we call our significant other.  When a woman in her 20’s or 30’s tells me I can’t wear hoop earrings because I’m over 40, it makes me want to wear bigger hoops.  It makes me want to dye my hair blue, wear mumus, and drive a moped.  If a woman is 80 years old and wants to wear a mini-skirt and go-go boots because it makes her feel good, then that is her choice, and I will applaud her for not being afraid to be herself.  It may look crazy.  It may even look a bit inappropriate.  It may not feel comfortable to everyone, but if it is comfortable to that woman, then why should it matter to anyone else?

Be yourself.  Do what makes you comfortable.  As long as you aren’t hurting someone, then it’s okay to be you.  Do you.  So, damnit, wear those hoop earrings!

Be Happy, Happiness, Married to My Best Friend, Passion for Living, Relationships, Uncategorized

Happiness is…..Wherever You Find It

What makes us happy?  What are we passionate about?  Recently, my pastor made the statement that you “can’t teach passion.”  He was talking about ministry, but I’ve been thinking a lot about that statement, and how it applies to our happiness, and where we find our happiness.  Is it truly from within?  Without some type of outside influence, we may not find our happiness, whether it’s our jobs, our children or grandchildren, a hobby, or significant other.  Can we be happy just to exist without others, books, art, pets, music, entertainment, or writing? Some people find their happiness in making others miserable, and that’s something I don’t understand.  I’ve spent time being unhappy or unsure of things in my life.  Haven’t we all?  Yet, the last few years I have felt more confident and sure of myself, and my place in the world.  I believe I am much more kind than I used to be.  I would have to attribute that to the love I have for my husband, and strength we draw from each other to be better people.

I had a “friend,” a few years ago, who I will refer to as Olive.  Olive was a very unhappy person, and was in an unhappy marriage.  She and I worked together, and really hadn’t known each other for very long.  Because Al had not yet moved here, and Olive was in a bad marriage, we had time to go to lunch or movies together, or hang out occasionally. If you know me, you know that I keep my circle of friends very small and personal.  I have a lot of friends that have been my friends for most of my life, and I don’t let too many people in my “bubble.”  My friends are spread about throughout the United States from all of the places I’ve lived.  I prefer to keep it that way because I don’t like the cattiness and competition that a lot of women practice.  I don’t like the gossipy, manipulative, controlling ways of a lot of women.  I don’t trust easily because of this, so even going to lunch and movies with Olive was venturing outside of my comfort zone in the friend area.  I witnessed her be rude and catty to other women, and it made me uncomfortable.  She enjoyed telling people what to do in their personal and professional lives, and came across as very bossy.

After Al moved here, he and I were spending our time building our relationship.  We had taken a long time to build a friendship, and then move into a committed relationship. We had both spent time being unsure of ourselves, and our places in the world, and had made the commitment to be together because we made each other happy.  It was time.  Olive did not like this one bit, and was very jealous.  She was still in a very unhappy marriage, and was jealous of Al, and our commitment to each other.  We are now in our 50’s.  We don’t know how much time we will have together in this lifetime. We want to enjoy what time we have.  We had both had failed marriages, and had learned from our mistakes.  Our focus is, and was, on each other, and building our future together.  Our passion and happiness became being together, and just being happy……just BEING.  Our true friends were very happy for us, and several have said that they would love to have what we have…..not petty, or jealous.  They just see and appreciate what we have and what we are building together, and are sincerely happy for us.  We give each other the space and time we each need, when needed, to spend with friends or family.  We respect each other.  It’s very easy to be together because of the respect we have for each other.

I can honestly say that we never meddled in Olive’s personal life, even though she felt compelled to meddle in ours.  We both tried to be there for her when she was struggling with the end of her marriage.  As I spent more time with Al, and less time with Olive, she became very mean and treated me terribly. One day she looked at me with pity, and shook her head, saying, “Ohhhh Lauri! You’ve LOST yourself!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  I was happier than I had been in a very long time, and was trying to focus on the man I chose to be my partner in life.  I was hearing this unhappy woman condescendingly tell me that I had LOST myself!?!? But then, maybe she was right…….I lost the negativity and anger I had about men and relationships.  I lost the insecurities, and feelings of low self worth.  But I FOUND a much happier person that I didn’t know existed anymore.  I found that I was much calmer, and less anxious.  I had a partner to lean on.  I found a passion for life, and was happily building a life with my best friend.  I found that my passion is our life together.  Why was she trying to kill that?  That was very near the end of my friendship with Olive.  She just became too hateful and nasty.  Recently, I heard that Olive is getting remarried. I hope she’s marrying her best friend.  I hope she understands now that being committed to someone else, and being married to your best friend is a really beautiful thing, not something to try to kill in someone else’s life.  I hope she loses herself in this relationship, and finds a kinder, nicer person when she looks in the mirror.

Whether your passion is your children, your travels, music, restoring cars, painting, animal rights, fitness, cooking, entertaining, story telling, friends, religion, reading, or your significant other…..be happy……and remember that we all deserve that.  We all want it and deserve it.