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You Don’t Always Have to Be Strong

I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain lately.  It’s really heartbreaking for their families, and leaves so many unanswered questions, but it seems that only when something like this happens do we really understand how much pain (emotional or physical) someone may have.  Of course, it’s too late to help them at that point, but how do we help someone who is hiding their pain from those they love? How do we know?  Some people love playing “the victim,” and love getting the attention that goes along with that.  Others of us, however, don’t want to be a burden on those we love.

My daughter had a friend who committed suicide a few years ago.  They were very close in high school, and then this friend ended up pushing away my daughter, along with a lot of other people who had been her friends.  Of course, it makes sense why she pushed everyone away now, but at the time, how could anyone know that she was hurting so much?  She pushed people away with meanness and made them not want to be with her.  I guess in her way, she was trying to protect them from the pain she knew she may eventually put them through.  Even when it happened, my daughter was not mad at her.  She hurt for her.  She still loved her.  She understood then that her friend had needed help, and didn’t know how to ask for it.

We all need help from time to time.

Last summer, I found myself in a dark place.  I was not suicidal, but I was sad.  I was afraid.  I was hurting.  And I was feeling a lot of pressure from so many different places.  I had been diagnosed with a medical condition that will be with me for the rest of my life.  I was alone when I got this diagnosis because my husband was in New York with his family.  I had recently been terribly hurt by some people I really cared about. I had no idea how I was going to handle another year of teaching with this type of medical diagnosis.  I was bogged down with some very difficult, important paperwork that was pushing me to my limit.  I was overwhelmed, alone, confused, sad, and hurting a lot.  I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to disappear for awhile.  I laid down on the kitchen floor, and cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And cried.  And finally a calmness came over me, and I got up and finished my paperwork that had been frustrating me so much.  I was still upset and alone, mad and frustrated, but I knew I had to pull myself together to keep going.  It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of me, or how anyone was trying to hurt me.  I had to keep at the paperwork, no matter how confusing and difficult it was.  Al would be home in a few days and we could begin exploring our medical options, and he would be home to comfort me.  It would all be okay.  I was entitled to a meltdown for all I was dealing with.  But I had to get up and face these obstacles.  I had to be strong for my husband and my children.  I couldn’t disappear.

Al and I had a discussion earlier tonight about how when either of us is hurting or sick, we try not to let the other one see how much we’re suffering.  We try to protect each other, even through our own pain.  I didn’t tell Al about my major meltdown last summer until recently.  I didn’t want to worry him, or put any added stress on him.  He worries enough about me….why cause him to worry more?  Why cause him added pain?  When he is sick, he tries to conceal how bad he feels so I won’t worry.  It hurts to see your partner hurt.  We are strong for each other, but we also know that sometimes we can’t handle everything alone, whether it’s a physical illness or a giant weight on our shoulders.  We need help from each other.  We don’t have to do it alone, and it has taken me awhile to learn this.  It isn’t something I’ve been used to.

Those people who are in so much pain that they take their own lives, aren’t trying to hurt anyone else.  So many times they have been protecting their loved ones for so long it becomes too heavy of a burden to carry.  They’ve had to be strong for everyone while they hurt.  They’re really quite selfless, even though some will argue just the opposite.  They’re funny, compassionate, and caring, but they have hidden their own feelings in order to protect those they love.  We know to take care of those who ask for help.  But let’s take care of those who seem strong too.  Let’s be there for the ones who always seem to be there for everyone else.  Let’s be there for the ones who start isolating themselves, even if they don’t want us.  Let’s be there for the ones who make us laugh when we want to cry.  Let’s be there for the ones who say, “I’m fine.”  They may be the ones who are suffering the most, and don’t know how to ask for help.  We are all human, and every human needs help at some point in their lives.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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Appreciating Your Surroundings

It sure was a beautiful weekend here last weekend!  Because I’ve been really stressed lately, I needed the weekend in a big way!  Al and I don’t get to see each other for more than a couple of hours each day during the week because of our work schedules, and sometimes he works on Saturdays, so it felt like we hadn’t really had a chance to talk about much lately.  We spent Saturday downtown, where it seemed that everyone and their dog  were also out and about (seriously…..there are dogs EVERYWHERE downtown, and I love it!)!  It was busy with graduations, the Crawfish Festival, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, farmers’ market, and  people out just enjoying the beautiful weather!  It was nice to see so many people enjoying the festivities.

We walked, and talked a lot, and of course, when we are together, there’s always a lot of laughter and affection.  We started by cruising through the farmers’ market, which is weekly, and we have a our favorite vendors we like.  We sat at the Crawfish Festival, listening to the music, watching the people, talking to new people, and enjoying the food.  There was an abundance of delicious items, besides the “mudbugs” (crawfish, for those of you who aren’t familiar with that term)….shrimp, alligator, oysters, shark, chicken, gumbo, etouffee, rice and beans, paella, etc.  Then we walked through downtown, and stopped off at a few places along the way, just enjoying each other’s company.

This part of Florida has a hillbilly reputation…..some of it earned, but some of that label is unfair.  Pensacola has rich history.  Did you know that it even predates Jamestown and St. Augustine?  We have historical museums, art museums, the Naval History Museum and Lighthouse, Fort Pickens (where Geronimo was held when our government was relocating/imprisoning Native Americans), GREAT food, dolphin cruises, fishing excursions, entertainment, and shopping…..oh, and don’t forget the beautiful beaches (some of the best in the world), and water sports.  Every weekend, all year long, it seems that there is some sort of festival going on (usually free) from Destin to Pensacola.  Whether it’s seafood, art, jazz, Gallery Night, or a cultural festival, there always seems to be something happening, and you can experience it on a budget.  We also have minor league baseball and hockey teams.

No, we aren’t Miami or New York, but that’s okay.  If we wanted that, we could go there.  Those places are fun to visit, and have great energy, but the pace of life here is a lot more agreeable to our lifestyle now.  We have what we need, and enjoy our peace and quiet as well.  We can relax on the beach, or stay busy in town.  We can appreciate our life here, and make the most of what it offers.  We love good weather, and we have over 300 days of sunshine a year…..as Al says, “You can’t beat that!” I’ve been fortunate to live in a lot of different places in my life, and I have appreciated each one for everything it offers.  Take the time to learn about your surroundings.  Appreciate the history, food, culture, and weather.  Even though I have to deal with the lizards, frogs, snakes, and bears, I do like it here, and I get to be here with my best friend.  Will we stay here forever? Who knows?  But for now, this works for us.

 

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How Will You Be Remembered?

How do you want to be remembered?  I think if everyone asked themselves this question, the world may be a better place.  How do we want our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances to remember us? I’ve had a lot of time to think about this the last couple of years.  In 2016, I was facing a potentially fatal health situation with a mass in my abdomen on two major organs.  I wasn’t afraid of dying, but I was afraid of what it would do to my husband and children.  I felt guilty about the potential pain and loss they would feel.  I didn’t feel like I had had enough time with them.  I even took my youngest daughter to Disney World because I wanted her to have happy memories of me, since she is still so young.  Fortunately, that health scare all turned out to be benign, and I made a full recovery (I think!).  Now I’m facing another serious health situation that has me questioning not only my mortality, but also thinking about how I want to be remembered.  As I struggle with the migraines, seizures, balance problems, tinnitus, vertigo, and pressure in my head, I am constantly trying to stay positive, grateful, and keep my sense of humor!  With the real possibilities of hearing loss and facial paralysis, and even death, staying positive can be a challenge!  I lean on my husband a lot, but I know it hurts him to see me hurting and struggling.  I’m just lucky I have him to help me through this process.  I may live another 30, or even 40 years, but I may not.  Any one of us could be gone tomorrow because of things we cannot control.  So even though being sick has made me think about these things more often, everyone should think about this…..see if it changes your attitudes or behavior toward anyone, or about how differently we could be conducting ourselves.

My parents and grandparents were wonderful people.  I don’t know of anyone who remembers them differently.  They may be remembered for their humor, their bravery, their honesty, compassion, and kindness, but most of all, they will be remembered for being good people.  My grandmother had a poem hanging next to her front door written by Samuel Walter Foss.  It was called, “The House By the Side of the Road.”                          It read:

“Let me live in a house by the side of the road, where the race of men go by. The                  men who are good and the men who are bad, as good and bad as I.  I would not sit              in the scorner’s seat, nor hurl the cynic’s ban. Let me live in the house by the side                of the road and be a friend to man.”

On the back of the poem was inscribed, “To Daisy…who lives in the house by the side of the road.” Obviously, my grandmother was thought of, and now remembered, as someone who was a friend to all, no matter how good or bad.  Years later, I told my former sister in-law about that poem, and she presented me with one very similar to the one my grandmother had for my birthday.  I have it hanging next to my front door, as Grannie did, and it reminds me every day to try not to be scornful or pass judgement on someone in need.  It reminds me to be patient, helpful, generous, compassionate, and kind because my grandmother was all of those things and more!  Having people in my life who have been so influential as far as their character and morals has been a blessing!  Not everyone has good role models, and I have been blessed with so many! I have also been blessed with a good sense of humor, which helps me get through a lot of difficult situations!

For a very long time in my life, I was unhappy, and stressed out with a lot of responsibility.  It was hard to stay positive sometimes!  I hope that if people remember me during this time period, they will at least remember my strength and perseverance.  I made it through some really difficult situations! We will all have difficult times in life, and hopefully, we are better people after getting through all of it.

I hope to be remembered as someone who is a good wife, mother, and grandmother, compassionate, helpful, protective, funny, kind, considerate, loving, sincere, welcoming, accepting, strong, stubborn (not always a bad thing, is it?), generous, and loyal.  Are there other ways I will be remembered?  Short? Silly? Sarcastic? Dog lover? Hard worker? Good teacher?

Like I said earlier, I think if we all thought about our own mortality, and how we want to be remembered, we may make more of an effort to be good people.  Who wants to be remembered as mean, petty, selfish, angry, resentful, controlling, manipulative, racist, or hateful? We never know how much time we have left.  We will not all live to be elderly.  If you see any of these negative qualities in yourself, it isn’t too late to change. I want to be remembered as the one who lives in “the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

 

 

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Hocus Focus

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately.  Part of it is because I have a hard time typing with a brace on my wrist. Part of it is just because I’ve been a bit distracted with a few things lately.  I start to write, and I find myself not wanting to finish the topic because I get worried how some people might react.  I try to keep my posts positive, and try to inspire people to do their best, while maybe sharing some experiences from my life, or funny stories.  I know I shouldn’t worry about that, because I know if I’m doing the best I can, that’s all that matters.  I have a level of sarcastic humor that not everyone gets, but I can’t worry about that either.  I’ll try to give you an idea of what my mind has been like lately….

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is today……let’s keep moving forward.  Even my 1st graders think racism is awful.

Broken wrists suck.

Vertigo sucks.

I have a secret crush on Tom Jones.

Migraines suck.

Free movie passes are great.

I, Tonya was a good movie.

Catch the movie, Mudbound on Netflix……eye opening, and should tug at everyone’s heart.  Let’s not ever go back to that. Mary J. Blige does an excellent job in it.

I love Kansas City at Christmas.

I love warm weather.

My dog is the sweetest, snuggled next to me as I type this.

The Vikings had an awesome game yesterday, and I hope they go all the way, especially for my best friend’s sake…..she loves them!

Some people really take advantage, and are attention whores.

I would never have the nerve to set up a Go Fund Me account for myself…….

Therefore, medical bills and trying to get by through this really sucks.

Donald Trump sucks.  Yep.  I said it!

What happened to manners?

Why can’t people respect your time and your finances?  It’s not up to anyone else how you spend these things, and if you have the time or money for something.  I would never tell someone, “You have time for this,” or “You can afford that.”  No one’s energy level is the same as someone else’s, and no one knows what your financial obligations are.

A man complimented me in the elevator in the medical building for the boots I had on….then he asked if that was okay because he wasn’t sure it was acceptable….compliments should always be acceptable.

Work/teaching is exhausting.

Trying to get my foot in the door with real estate is next to impossible while teaching full time.  Taking my post license course now.

I don’t like one of my medical specialists…….at all.

Sometimes no matter how nice you are to people, they just won’t like you.  Be nice anyway, but protect yourself.  You can’t make them care.  Their actions will show you how they feel.  Be kind.

Seizures suck.

My family is wonderful.

I don’t get to see a lot of Al this time of year because he works at lot with youth basketball, so we spent today together.  He helped me with groceries and put gas in my car…..helping me with that wrist thing.

My kids are great…..and goofy, and I worry about them all the time.

Social anxiety can be crippling……try to smile and get through it.  I feel it every day.

Youth basketball games are fun to watch, especially when they’re scrappy little kids.

Some people are heartless.

I’m addicted to reruns of Bewitched.

Spring and summer need to get here soon. I need summer now!

So you can see……my mind is all over the place…..writer’s block, because I can’t focus on anything.  Not feeling bad or depressed….I’m just overwhelmed with a lot right now, so my mind is a busy place.  I wonder if I have adult ADD to add to the list of conditions? Maybe if I am able to reduce the stress in my life and get the rest I need, I can focus!  For now, I will rely on exercise and meditation (and Bewitched) to get me through!

I hope you all have had a great Martin Luther King Jr Day.  Did you do anything to give back? I didn’t this year.  I just don’t have the energy.  My justification for this is that I give back each day when I walk into my classroom. Every teacher does……

Get focused! Now back to studying….

 

 

 

 

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Life Happens…..Make the Best Of It!

Strange things happen to me.  It’s always been like that, especially as an adult.  No matter how odd, I try to always see the humor in it, and make fun of myself.  As I write this, I have a splint on my left arm, breaking my wrist after falling in my bedroom a few nights ago.  Excuse any typos, if I miss them.  It’s taking me forever to type this!

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a sitcom, but someone forgot to tell me that I’m the star!  When I was about 6 months pregnant with my oldest daughter, I fainted at the grocery store.  I happened to be in the baby aisle, and had just picked up a package of diapers (always planning ahead).  The next thing I knew, I was on my back, looking up, with store employees looking down at me, offering to call someone.  My feet were propped up on the diapers I had just picked up!  I was really embarrassed, but could laugh about it then and now!

A year or so after that, I went to the store, and because I lived in a cold climate, I had to walk through two sets of automatic double doors to get into the store.  I walked through the first set, completely expecting the next set to open.  They didn’t.  I stopped and waited.  The first set of doors closed behind me.  I pushed on the next doors, and they wouldn’t open.  I tried to go back out, and those doors wouldn’t open either.  I was stuck in the little entryway, between the two sets of doors!  I knocked on the doors to get someone’s attention, and some boys came over to help…..but they didn’t know what to do.  The doors were stuck.  I was stuck.  Other customers were trying to get in.  I told them I couldn’t open the doors.  Some of them acted annoyed with me, as I paced in the entryway, like a zoo animal!  The store employees told the other customers to go around to the other doors, while they got a manager to figure out what to do.  They ended up getting an electrician, and it all turned out okay…..except, I left without getting the items I went in to get in the first place because I was too embarrassed to stay!  But now I laugh….

Another time I walked to my car in a parking lot, and found a bird sitting on my gear shift…inside my car!  I left my sun roof open, and I guess he decided he needed to take a little rest in my car for a few minutes.  The dancing and screaming that followed, while I opened all the doors and tried to shoo him out must have been comical to other people in the parking lot, but I was ready to have a nervous breakdown!  Now I can laugh…..

I’ve had lizards land on my windshield while I’m driving, frogs land on my feet, bugs crawl in my cleavage while I’m at lunch with my mother in-law, stepped on mice, climbed a tree to rescue a stuck ball, but couldn’t get back down, got my finger stuck in a Coke bottle, and the list goes on and on and on!

Now I’m dealing with things that cause other weird things to happen.  Recently, I had a seizure in a crowded restaurant.  That was embarrassing, but I’m able to laugh about it….my kids are having fun teasing me about it, and what triggers them, even though it’s scary.  When I fell in the middle of the night last weekend, I think I may have had a seizure because I felt disoriented and confused.  It was dark, and I lost my balance.  I knew it hurt, but I was tired, and wanted to go back to bed!  So I did.  When I woke up later, I realized I really was hurt, and my wedding ring was stuck on my finger.  Oops!  Well, I still say that sleep is more important than getting x-rays.  I haven’t slept well since, so maybe getting that extra couple of hours wasn’t such a dumb idea after all.  My balance is off, so I bump into things.  I laughed at myself when I bumped into the wall at work yesterday.  I know I must look like the town drunk at times, but it’s just me!

Things happen.  Funny things, weird things, happy things, sad things, scary things…..just make the best of it.  Laugh at yourself.  Have a sense of humor.  Don’t be so full of yourself or vain that you can’t make the best of every situation.  My sisters and I even managed to laugh our way through a funeral once…..I’m not proud of that, but it made it memorable, and I’m pretty sure our deceased loved one would have understood the circumstances.  Try to make the best of every situation.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor,”  Charles Dickens

 

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Love and Laughter in 2018

Happy 2018!  Last night, we returned from a whirlwind trip to Kansas City, where we spent the week with my family for the first time in years.  It really was a great time, even if it was cold, busy and chaotic.  That’s kind of the way my family is during the holidays….. NOT cold, but busy and chaotic!  Laughter, kids, memories, and constant activity is pretty much the norm for us.

My family is big……maybe not big by some people’s standards, but my parents were each one of 5 children, and I am also one of 5 (all girls).  My parents have 11 grandchildren, a few of them have spouses, and there is one great grandchild (my grandson). My daughter’s boyfriend has 2 children, who only added to the fun!  My sister also had two other guests, who were visiting from Japan, and they added to the fun and laughter.  Between all of the people, 2 dogs, the great food, cousins leg wrestling on the family room floor, Nerf gun fights, building train tracks on the floor, pretending to cook (and eat) the Fisher Price food, and our excursions into the city to visit the Nelson Atkins Museum (Picasso, Monet, Pollock, Warhol, etc), Union Station, Crown Center, ice skating (just the kids….not me!),  breakfast with my aunt and nieces, Al and I going out with a childhood friend of mine, and Al going out for a jazz night at Plaza III with our brother in-law, it was a packed few days!  The cold temps didn’t stop the fun!  My family welcomes everyone, and treats everyone with love and acceptance, if they are willing to put up with our noise and silliness!  This is really the first time Al has had a chance to spend any real time with a lot of my family.  He got to see first hand how loving and accepting they are.

I thought back on times when my sisters and our families would all gather at my parents each year (either on Thanksgiving or Christmas).  At times, there might be around 23 of us packed into their little ranch home in Springfield, Missouri.  Noise, laughter, children, food, games, movies, sports on TV, and just spending time together laughing and reminiscing was such fun.  Or the times when we would gather at my grandmother’s house in Wichita with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins……times change, families grow, and loved ones leave us eventually…….but no one can take my memories.

2017 was not easy on me in a lot of ways.  I’ve tried to stay positive, and grateful for all I have, even when I’m physically struggling.  My first trip to Europe, which I was so looking forward to, turned out to be very hard because of a lot of the physical problems I was having, without knowing what was wrong with me.  I tried to do what I could, but I ended up spending a lot of time unable to enjoy a lot of it.  Once we got back, and I got a diagnosis (a benign brain tumor, called an acoustic neuroma), I had to figure out a lot of things.  I dove into information, trying to learn all I could about it.  But mostly, I counted my blessings.  It could have been a lot worse.  My emotions went into overdrive……I can cry at the drop of a pin, and I have a few unpleasant symptoms that are the new normal for me, but I started appreciating things I hadn’t even noticed before!  I also told myself I would not waste time on people or things that were negative or tried to drain my happiness.

I’ve had a lot of hard times in my life, but I’ve also had a lot of very happy times.  My big family has provided so many happy moments for me, and the memories of the love and laughter keep me going.  I always try to stay positive and not let negativity bring me down, but that seems so much more important now.  So, like every year, I will vow to keep my chin up, stay positive, be nice, friendly, compassionate, and happy.  Even though I have been presented with a new obstacle, it doesn’t change my outlook on life.  It may be a new year, but it’s the same love and appreciation that I always strive for.

The important things in life are love, loved ones, laughter, memories, and good health.  Laugh and learn to enjoy everything you have.  Cut out the negativity and negative people who don’t love you back, don’t care about you, or don’t appreciate you.  Stay positive.  Stay happy.  Enjoy the chaos and laughter in life.  Don’t waste time sitting around getting old. I’m so thankful I come from a family who loves to laugh and have fun…..it keeps us young and healthy!

It’s great to be home where it’s a little warmer, but I have some great new memories of this trip, and of my big family and friends.   Happy New Year, and here’s to a fun 2018, filled with love and laughter……curing all that ails us!

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The Season of Giving……Year Round!

‘Tis the season of giving…….actually, I think giving is healthy year round, especially if you are giving of your time, support, sentiments, prayers, etc.  I have people in my life who I would do anything for.  I don’t give to them for recognition, or because it’s expected.  I do it because it’s the right thing to do.  I do it because I care.  Sadly, I have learned that others just don’t care as much.  I may be limited on finances, and sometimes my health hinders how much I can do, but I still try.  There are other ways of giving.  There are some people who never give, and I actually don’t understand how they can live with themselves.  There are some who give because it’s expected of them.  There are some who take advantages of others’ generosity.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “tis better to give than to receive,” which is from the Bible, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).  I don’t want to get preachy here, but it’s something that can and should apply to all of us, even if you don’t follow Christianity.  Unfortunately, some people just don’t know how to give, or be gracious when receiving.

I have met narcissistic people, who care about nothing but themselves.  They don’t understand or care about the pain they cause by not appreciating everything others are willing to do for them, and aren’t considerate of others’ feelings.  They just don’t care.  Maybe they were spoiled as children, and they aren’t capable of appreciating the little things in life.  They always put themselves first, justifying this by saying they “deserve” to do that, or they’ve earned it.  There is nothing wrong with rewarding or treating yourself, but when that becomes your focus, over what you can do for others, then maybe you aren’t a very nice person.  People like this take advantage of those who love them, and don’t think about how it hurts.  But then…..I guess they don’t care.  They’re very selfish and Ebenezer Scrooge-like!

Don’t be a Scrooge.  Give something…..and give it year round!  Give kindness.  Give manners.  Give politeness.  Give compassion.  Give a smile.  Give understanding.  Give patience.  Give gratitude.  Give communication.  Give humor.  Give of yourself, and don’t take advantage of those willing to give so much to you.  Someday, they may not be there anymore.  Leave your egos at the door, and try to do something for someone else for a change, appreciating what others are willing to do for you.  However, if someone continually rejects your acts of kindness, or shows they don’t appreciate you or care about you, you certainly don’t have to continue giving to that person!  Protect yourself in this process!  Feeling rejection is painful, and damaging to your well-being.  Don’t be unkind, but make sure you focus where the need is.  It doesn’t mean you can’t still offer a smile or politeness to that person.

With our current political and social climate, we are seeing enough egos, negativity, narcissism, and arrogance.  There are enough Ebenezer Scrooges in the world. If we expect things to change, or we want a nicer place to live, then we need to be getting along with each other, and be the givers. Stop putting ourselves first, and think about what a difference we can make in someone else’s life just by giving a small act of kindness or compassion.  And do it year round…….make the season of giving a year round habit.