These Little Moments

These days, my life is so complicated. It’s hard to take care of everyone. When we decided to have five children, my grandparents were in relatively good health. I had no idea that I would be taking care of them and a toddler and newborn (the other kids take care of themselves, for the most part). At least I thought I had a couple of years or so to get everything straight. I was wrong. So, now, I’m doing the best I can.

Normally, life is hurried, but manageable. When the kids are out of school and able to stay with the babies, I do a little more for my grandparents than on normal days. I miss my babies on those days and end up more tired. Often they are on their own for supper or it’s take out.

I have been at my grandparents for 8 days straight. When I am there, I am there for several hours. They like me to stay because they are lonely. Sometimes it’s just a bad day and it takes me that long to talk my grandma down from the ledge. I try to enjoy those moments because I know the moments I have left are limited. I have had nightmares about these days since I was about eight years old. I wish I could enjoy these days more, but when I could enjoy them, I didn’t–at least not like I should have.

Today, was my first day at home since December 29th, 2012. It was also a school day for Nora. Today, for hours, it was just me and Cason. It was time to spend time with him. Cason doesn’t talk much, but he has so much personality and he is so loving. I also try to make time to write. I sat down for a few minutes to write before we went to play pirate ship. He jumped up beside me on the couch and asked for my phone. He has decided to stop saying “please” and uses grunts with outstretched hands to relay his request.

I giggled at his new tactics and allowed him to take my phone. I haven’t done that much since he cracked the screen not that long ago. I found a musical game for him to play and let him go. He started off sitting next to me. Then, he leaned on my arm. He moved again, and again until he was laying on the couch on his belly. His feet were flopping up and down, kicking my arm. I was supposed to be writing, but instead I watched him play that game, flopping from one spot to another.

It seems silly to just watch him move from one spot to another, playing a game. Maybe it was silly. Whatever it was, it made me smile. I completely forgot where I was in my story that I was writing and I just enjoyed that tiny moment. That tiny moment makes me remember what amazing creatures we are. It makes me take notice how our growth and development is to be marveled. It also made me remember all of my other children that came before him and how quickly they have grown. Slipping away from me faster than I could have ever imagined possible.

While my life is busier than I had planned, even chaotic sometimes, I wouldn’t trade it–not for anything. These little moments are what keep me going through the hard times. They are my sanity and make me remember exactly what life is about. Life is little moment after little moment. If we lose sight of that-if we forget to treasure that-then we have missed out on life.

Don’t forget to enjoy your little moments.

Change.

 

I hear ‘time for change’ and I shudder. Anxiety sets in. I know no one is going to throw pennies or quarters at me; that might be rather exciting. Change means there is something different about to happen. It means my normal routine, or at least part of it, is going to be transforming/morphing into something that is different. That always makes me nervous.

I am the girl who stays up late to plan. I make a weekly schedule. I stay up late at night and plan the next day from my weekly schedule. I often have been told how much more time I would have during a day if I would just not plan or if I would just skip the list for the day. That might be true, but I also would have less sanity, more missed appointments, and angry phone calls from kids I accidentally forgot to pick up (yes, that might have happened). I have been so busy, on occasion, that I haven’t had much time to plan. And, as backwards as it seems, during those times I am so tired I can’t make myself make a list, plan, or I just forget to do it. During those times, it literally feels like my life is spinning out of control.

In order to get my life back on track, I make myself spend the time and I plan. Its pretty simple, I feel a little lost without a plan or a list. I have noticed when I am not planning my day, my car gets trashed, my purse fills with junk, I never know where my stuff is (keys and phone specifically), and I’m not able to get as much done. I feel like I am chasing my tail.

I have always been a list maker. It didn’t start with kids. I have made lists as long as I can remember. Pros and Cons lists, To Do lists, Schedules, etc. There are some people who have to schedule in their spontaneity. I’m not that bad. If I have a schedule and a list, I can deviate from it. Sometimes the deviation is even a nice little break for me.

Besides my lists, I am also a binder keeper. I like totes and I like binders. My grandparents have a binder, my fundraisers have a binder, my main recipes have a binder, my toddler activities/themes have a binder, my writing has a binder, and my home organization has a binder. When I need a go to recipe, I know exactly where to find it. If I want to find an apple activity or an acitivity for the color blue, I know exactly where to find it.

People say that I must be so neat. Well, not so much. I should be much neater. I like to leave things everywhere when I am working on them and I never keep up with the house like I should (who has time for that). But, I do know where everyone and everything is, or needs to be, and my kids have a great life. Which is exactly why the word ‘change’ puts a huge lump in my throat.

I can deal with the little changes. I can even deal with medium changes, most days. Big changes, well, that’s not so easy for me.

Don’t be fooled, on the outside, I will convince you that I am perfectly fine. I have to convince myself first.

I can handle anything. I have been through worse, this is nothing. I got this.

Yeah, right! Most of that is true. I can handle anything and I will be fine, but until I am those things, I will feel terrible. My heart will race, I will have trouble sleeping, I will feel like throwing up at times, and I will ask a million and one questions 100 times over again. I can’t help it. I get so pre-occupied with how nervous I am, how unsettling it is, that I will completely forget what I have asked or where I am in the process. I will wake up in the dead of night in the same worrisome thought that I fell asleep to. I try to shake it. I pray, I try to change the subject, I pray again, I count blessings, I go to the bathroom, I get drinks, and I repeat mantras to myself until eventually I fall asleep. Usually, I won’t even need an alarm clock because it’s almost a guarantee that I will wake up to the same worries in the morning. The only good thing about having that much on my mind is when I wake up worried, it actually startles me and then I am absolutely wide awake. Change and how to get through it occupies nearly every thought I have until I either have a solution or enough time has passed I feel at ease again.

I’m not sure why I have the reactions I do. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’s a fear of failure. I don’t mind minor failures. I call those ‘learning experiences’, but when something major is changing and there are real consequences for messing up, especially if it’s at the expense of someone else, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Somehow, amid all the chaotic internal panic, I settle myself and come up with a plan. How can I get through this? What do I need to do to make this successful? What is my goal and if I can’t reach the goal, what is the bare minimum I am willing to accept and still be satisfied?

We all want to rock out every endeavor, or storm, that crosses our path, but sometimes, you just have to survive for a while. And when we think we can finally keep our head above water, we make a plan. Even a plan isn’t enough to reach our absolute goal, but it’s a great place to start. My motto for reaching a goal is: Reach for the moon, grab the tail of a star. To me, that means I should always want to be the absolute best I can. I should always have the highest dreams and goals in mind. I also have to be okay if I don’t obtain that goal. If I am trying with all that I am to reach my ultimate goal, I should be able to at least get most of the way to it and that makes me happy because I know I did the best I knew how. It also leaves me much closer to my final destination. The next time I try, and there will be a next time, I have so much less space to cross. My chance of succeeding is much higher.

I have spent this whole year complaining about all of the blah that has covered my life. I have spent the last however many months hoping and praying that 2013 is different. I’m ready for some pizzazz to cover my life in the new year. I have hoped and prayed that exactly that would happen. But, then, there is that scary word ‘change’. Change has to happen get rid of the funk that has been over my life. Now, 2013, is right around the corner. There could be some big changes heading my way and I don’t even know it yet. As the new year approaches and the potential for change starts toward me, I can feel the anxiety building. I know, no matter good change or bad, I (we) will make it. We will come out the other side with lessons and memories.

So, come on 2013, show me what you got.

Foggy Decisions

Drinking and driving kills. If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. Ask them what it feels like hear their dad is dead, or for my youngest child (of the three with Randy), to never know her biological father at all. Ask my family what it feels like to hear their family is destroyed. Ask his parents what it feels like to have to say good-bye to their son. Ask me what it feels like to be 25 years old with three kids and no future. Ask me how a person starts over from that. Go ahead. Ask.

You won’t ask. No one will. At least, no one ever has.

No one asks because no one really wants to know the answers. The answers are tough to hear. It scares them. For a moment, they even put themselves into our shoes and they feel how terrible it must be. Beyond those reasons, the real reason people don’t ask is because drinking and driving is something most of us have done. Even if it was once. Even if you felt like you weren’t drunk. Even if you were the not completely alcohol-free designated driver. Most of us have done it and knowing someone that has suffered the consequences of something most of us have done, is almost more guilt than we can handle. It also ruins the lies we tell ourselves when we drink.

The lie we tell when we say “I haven’t had that much”. Or when we say, “I can drink all night and not be drunk.” Or how about my favorite lie of all, “Of course I’m fine to drive. I wouldn’t drive if I wasn’t okay.”

The problem with making the decision to drive after you have been drinking is you have an unclear mind. You have no idea how unclear it is until morning. Thanks to the alcohol, it seems perfectly clear. Unfortunately, you are wrong. There is just no polite way to say it. You are making foggy decisions. Foggy decisions that put you and everyone else on the road at risk.

I’m not throwing people who drink under the bus. I am one of those people. I do enjoy the occasional drink (or two). Sometimes, I drink a little and sometimes I drink a little too much. I am also one of the people who has driven after drinking. Unfortunately, I lived the nightmare. I know what it can do; I don’t have to ask. So, I have also made the decision not to let it happen anymore. Thanks to my support system, my children’s reminders, and my own fear, it doesn’t happen. I don’t drink and drive.

There is a large problem surrounding drinking and driving–accountability.

The person who killed Randy was drunk, exhausted, and I believe he passed out (his friends say he fell asleep) about 5:30am and rammed head on into Randy’s car after crossing the center line. Randy was on his way to work. Of course the drunk driver’s friends denied his drunken state, telling me through comments in newspaper articles that he was just ‘tired’.

Unfortunately, the blood test showed differently. Even after massive fluids through IV during the life flight, and the passage of hours since his last drink, by the time they tested his blood, he was still considered legally drunk. Two tests, by two sources differ on the numbers, but both tests proved he was drunk. I was told the average rule of thumb for a male is to add .015% to BAC for every hour that passes from the time of the accident until the time the BAC is taken. That would have put him well over the legal limit at the time of the accident, even if we use the lesser test.

He does not remember anything about the wreck. Part of that is (probably) because he was drunk. The other part is due to the short-term memory loss he has as a result of the wreck and the probable permanent amnesia from around the time of the accident.

For the record, he doesn’t remember portions of the night leading up to the wreck either. His friends filled in the gaps for him. He had a wild and fun evening. He even fell asleep at a friend’s house. He thought he was fine to drive after sleeping. Another foggy decision. He might have felt ‘fine’ or ‘okay’, but clearly he wasn’t.

For those of you who think the drunk driver never gets hurt? I’m here to tell you they do. He almost died (although he was extricated before my husband). He was life-flighted to a trauma center. He had at least 2 surgeries, maybe more, to repair his broken legs and relieve pressure in his brain. He spent months recovering in a facility(although some believe that was to avoid prosecution). He lost some memories of that day, that night, and even the weeks before. He even had to re-take a semester of school because he didn’t remember the information (according to sources, I have no first hand knowledge).

Now, if he were being honest, I bet he wishes he would have made a different choice. I bet he wishes that he would have went home alone that night. Or maybe he wishes that he would have stayed at the friends house instead of driving home. What ever the decision he made was, I bet he wishes he would have made it when he was stone-cold sober. Once  you start drinking, even one, your inhibitions come down, that’s true, but so does your common sense. So do yourself and everyone else a favor: make a decision to drink at home, get an absolutely alcohol-free driver, pay a taxi, or don’t drink while you are out. If you do go out without a plan, and you drink alcohol, I guarantee you’re making foggy decisions.

If you are feeling brave, go ahead,  ask me for proof of the devastation that drinking and driving can (and will eventually) cause.

***Just to be clear, legally drunk is .08%, however, most, if not all, states can ticket you for lesser amounts. In IL, for example, you can be ticketed for anything over .05% if you are showing signs of impairment or fail a field sobriety test. It is up to the officer.

Per DMV.org

If your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher, you are legally drunk and it is illegal for you to drive. However, if you are driving with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, you may still be cited for a DUI if your behavior suggests you are impaired. This is at the discretion of the officer citing you. Even with a BAC of just 0.06, you double your chance of being involved in a fatal accident.

IL informational book on driving and alcohol

So, please, use your clear head, before drinking, and avoid the alcohol-clouded judgment. It could save a life, including yours.

 

Traditions

English: Danboard holding a Christmas gift.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

There are certain things in our lives that you are never too old to enjoy. Traditions, what ever they may be, is one of those. I loved the traditions of home. To me, childhood traditions define home. Time spent with loved ones on Christmas. Bar-B-Que get togethers for birthdays. Coloring Easter eggs as a family. Traditions made memories.

 

I was a young mother. I took my new family and ventured to our very first apartment at just 18 years old. We had no money. When I say we had no money what I mean is Randy’s parents helped us, my parents helped us, and my grandparents helped us and we still could not pay all the bills. We were poor.

 

After we moved out, we had no money to do those things. Traditions looked like they might be a thing of the past. At least for a while. We couldn’t really buy Christmas gifts either. We couldn’t host Bar-B-Que dinners for birthdays. Heck, we were lucky to buy groceries for ourselves. So, we created our own traditions. One of those traditions was making Christmas gifts with my kids.

 

No one in our family wanted us to buy them gifts and they certainly didn’t need a gift. They could buy what they wanted. Christmas really isn’t about the gift anyway, right? Wrong. It is about the gift. It’s all about the gift. There is the obvious gift of Jesus, of course. The reason for the season. There is even more than that.

 

When I get a gift, especially unexpected gifts, it lights me up. It makes me shine from the inside out. It shows me someone cares about me enough to put time, thought, and money into a gift to make me happy. It works, every time. A gift isn’t only about the person who receives it.

 

The person who gives that gift lights up too, from the inside out. There is an awesome feeling that comes with knowing someone else feels good because of something so simple. Something so simple that you did.

 

Our families were the only reason we were able to make our new little family work. They deserved a lot more than we could give. I had to give something though. I had to let them know we appreciated everything.

 

I certainly wanted Kayla to feel that special feeling of watching someone light up when they get a gift. I also recognized every moment is a teaching moment. It was one of the first times that message actually resonated with me. If we spend our whole lives just taking, how does a baby learn to give? I wanted Kayla to learn how to give. Give even when it is hard. Give even when you don’t have much to give. Give something.

 

A tradition was born from that moment. I bought a $20 soap making kit with a couple of extra fragrance oils and additives, a jar of applesauce, a container of cinnamon, a package of cheap plastic cookie cutters, and 2 rolls of thin ribbon (red and green). Kayla and I made cinnamon applesauce ornaments that year. When I say we, I mean mostly me. She was not quite 2 years old; she did what she could. When she was asleep, I made little soaps. We wrapped our gifts and handed them out at Christmas.

 

They were not expensive gifts, or anything special at all for that matter, but they were from us. It took a little thought, a little money, and a little time, but those gifts made a big impression. No one expected anything. They enjoyed those gifts. Kayla enjoyed giving them.

 

A year changed a lot of things. Randy graduated from college and landed a nice job. Money was starting to flow. We also had another baby. We made gifts again that year. Kayla loved it and could help more than the year before. Again, those gifts were appreciated.

 

A tradition had been created. Even after Randy started making enough money to buy what we wanted, we still made our gifts. Each year it got harder to get the gifts done. The kids were growing up and life was moving faster than we could keep up with. I tried to quit making those gifts. It was too much to get done. Kayla insisted we continue. In fact, she was insulted that I even considered such a ridiculous idea.

 

That tradition started out of necessity, yet continues today. It has morphed over the years, but it is still going strong. Every year my kids all gather around our large square table to paint ornaments, shape clay, bake cookies, and form chocolates to give out as presents. We also give to needy families every year. We try to buy gifts for one whole family, or we give small things to several families.  These are traditions that my kids probably will take with them to make their own houses feel like home.

 

It’s those moments that bring families together. It’s those traditions that live on long after we are gone.

 

A Letter

Dear Reader,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know things haven’t been easy for you. That’s probably an understatement. I have thought about you often. I have worried and wondered how you are doing. I never wanted you to think you were alone. I had to wait for you to find me. The important thing is you are here now. And, you definitely are not alone.

I know you are a strong, capable person. I am confident you can handle anything that comes your way. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know you don’t have to do it alone. It feels good to know you have someone to walk along side you. I wish had answers. I wish I could tell you how to make it hurt less or how to make it all go away. Unfortunately, that’s something no one can do.

People will try to solve your problems, or at least make you feel better. There are many reasons they do this. Most of them care about you deeply. The rest, well, they are probably carrying their own pain. Your pain and their pain may be too much for them to bear. They will tell you all those clichés people say to each other during hard times. You know the ones I am talking about. Try to be patient with them. Try to remember they do care about you, even if it isn’t in the way you need them to.

Firsts. Oh, there are going to be many of these. Usually we view firsts as exhilarating. They make us nervous, anxious, and excited all at once. The firsts you have now will probably bring you little more than apprehension, sorrow, and pain. Even the simplest task might make you weep. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Firsts are hard for another reason. They don’t all happen in a certain time frame. It might be 10 years down the line and you might experience a first. And, just so you know, it doesn’t feel any better than the first time you slept in your bed without him. Those are things that always bring you back to the pain.

The first dance our daughter went to, I cried. He was supposed to be there. The first baseball game our son ever played, I wept like a baby. The first time our youngest won a swim meet sent me to a room where I sat in tears. Those moments were all firsts for me, even though they were years later.  And they hurt just as bad as if they had happened right after his death.

Now you know; time does not heal all wounds. It does make it easier. It’s easier for a lot of reasons. Those moments that bring you to your knees come less often. And when you find yourself on the ground, getting up isn’t as difficult. And most importantly, time allows you to be happy more often than you are sad. It allows you to find yourself again. It allows you to sleep at night. It allows you to love and be loved once again. Time is a beautiful thing, and it does help.  Just don’t expect too much. It will not separate you from your past. It cannot build a wall between you and pain.

Time is only as good as its accomplice—you. It won’t happen overnight, or even over a month. It will happen. It will happen when you are ready for it to happen. There is no rule book. No one can tell you to do it this way or that. There are tricks and tips that can help you walk through the process, but nothing that can replace.

I can tell you what I went through and I can tell you how I got through. You might find comfort in knowing though, our experiences are different, many of our feelings are the same. Perhaps you will want to try some of my tips and hopefully they will work for you. I should tell you, I didn’t do this alone either.

I found a grief counselor. I never thought I would be a person to share my pain with someone so openly. I have to say, not only did I share with a stranger, but I’m not sure what I would have done without her. I used my husband’s Employer Assistance Plan to help me find the one I used. It’s something to consider.

Please don’t let fear inhibit your healing. I remember being terrified. I was afraid of forgetting him. What he sounded like. Afraid of not remembering his voice, or the way held me at night. I never dreamed that healing actually allowed me to remember him better. Randy is never a closed subject here. Sometimes it still brings tears, but those tears are sweet tears. I can think of him, talk about him, and still be okay. That is what time and healing can do for you. It isn’t the way I had imagined our lives together, but it is all I have. I feel thankful to have that. It’s a good feeling.

I am so proud of the path you are on. You have already made great strides towards recovery. There is a lot of road left to travel, but please don’t be discouraged. Like I said before, you are strong and capable. And, when you feel like you are not strong enough to take one more step, ask for a hand. If we walk this path together, we can learn from each other. We can lean on each other. We are not alone.

I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, please, take care of yourself.

Your new friend,

Sara

Developing Story

Often people are amazed at my family. Why? Because I have five children. Yeah. I said five. They range in age from eighteen down to one.

The Kids, in Order. 

My oldest, Kayla, was born when I was only seventeen (and a half). She was a surprise and definitely complicated my senior year of high school. Brendan, the first boy, was planned. Why? I’m not sure. We were young, struggling with each other and to pay the bills. I think I was hoping he would be the gift that would draw us together (that’s how a 20 year old thinks). Stupid. I know that now. Nonetheless, he was a gift. He didn’t help or hurt the relationship. He did come at a time when we were starting to get our act together. Shortly after Bren was born, I was able to be a stay at home mom. We also bought our first house and our first new-to-us car.

With all of that good stuff, our relationship still had problems. I had reached my final straw with Randy. Some how (thank ya, Jesus), we managed to come back together and work towards (and achieve) a truly wonderful marriage.We were finally on a path to success. Our finances were finally on track, his job was on track, our relationship was on track, our spirituality was on track, and, we were finally mature enough to be the parents we should have been all along. We wanted to pull us together as a family. Sort of like the cherry on the sundae. We wanted another, and last, baby. We tried for 5 months and finally, we were pregnant with Emily. She was amazing. Our story was finally developing into a happy one.

All babies have their issues, but overall, they were wonderful and amazing babies. So far, amazing kids, too.

If Randy were still living, I’d be standing at a count of three. That didn’t happen. I met someone else, Tim, and several years later we were married. I started and finished college with a BA. It was time to put school on hold before continuing on. It was time for a baby. Tim didn’t have any children of his own. He wanted me to decide when and how many children we had. I didn’t think he would ever want to have any. I had three and he considered those his. Most men, would be more than fine with that. And, he was. He said he loved those kids and if we never had kids together, he would be okay. Just like Randy and I wanted to do, Tim and I wanted to have a living expression of our love.We wanted a child together. So, when the older three were sixteen, thirteen, and eight, Nora joined our family.

Eleanora (Nora) was born with two ecstatic sisters and one brother. Her daddy, over the moon! She cried often and smiled sometimes. She was demanding and serious, but miles ahead in all areas of development (except size, she’s a tiny thing).

About 16 months later, while practicing ‘whatever happens, happens’ method, I discovered I was pregnant again. I wasn’t so sure this time. Four was a lot and I just wasn’t sure how all this would work out. A baby is a baby and there is no greater miracle. I only hoped this one would be a little less demanding than Miss Nora. Cason was born just shy of 2 years after Nora. Thank goodness, my prayers were answered. He was a fantastic baby.

Their Stories.

There are a lot of things you don’t hear from other mothers or experts. Like, no one tells you how hard breastfeeding can really be! No one tells you that having a newborn, fluid coming from several places, and no sleep can leave you feeling on edge and lonely! No one tells you that you will have to say things like, “Quit rubbing that peanut butter and jelly sandwich in your hair,” or the words “Why would you drink someone else’s medicine?” No one prepares you to talk about periods and erections.  No one explained to me that I would have to teach them how to be a human being.

There is nothing more fascinating to me than watching the little pieces of their personalities and intelligence develop, often faster than I can process. It has been so amazing. One day, so it seems, they are drawing a circle with dots and calling it a face. The next, they are learning calculus and picking out colleges. It really feels that fast!

I have enjoyed every second (well, almost!) of every child’s story. The single most amazing part of their story is the moment I realized they are developing their own story! I can tell them how to do things while encouraging their independence, but the moment I notice they have their own ideas solidifies the process for me. It’s working.

I can remember all of their ‘my own story moments’, but will spare you the boredom. I will share Emily’s because she is the last one to reach this point (so far). She was always bugging me to eat lunch with her at school. I couldn’t usually do it because I was in college at the time. If I wasn’t at school, I was trying to get homework done because having three older children and being in college isn’t exactly easy. One day, I surprised her. I knew she would be happy. She bought lunch that day. She sat down at the table with her tray.

“Emily, don’t they have two lunch options?”

“Yeah.” she answered with a confused look on her face.

“Didn’t you like the other option? I know you don’t like that soup. It’s tomato.”

She had the sweetest look on her face as if she was thinking how silly I was. “Yes I do. I love tomato soup. I love to dip my grilled cheese in it. Geez, Mom. Where have you been?”

Well, there ya go, she had her own brain and had likes and dislikes different than me, Tim, and her siblings. She, was her own person.

They all continue to surprise me with how many of our ‘lessons’ we teach that they seem to just blow off. Years later, I am noticing in our older children, those lessons, actually stuck like glue and they have adopted them as their own. When I call them out on how much they used to hate that rule or seemed to ignore this rule, they laugh. They hadn’t even realized we finally agreed. And then there are other things that I watch and think, ‘Where in the world did that come from and why?’

Just proof, and it’s wonderful, that they are their own people. I gave them the slate and the instructions, but they are writing the story.