Archive | August, 2015

Lessons Learned from Eric, Andrew and Amy

27 Aug

To listen along use this link: http://tobtr.com/s/7881745

All writers are story tellers of some kind. They are tasked with painting a picture with words. Even technical writers are illustrating scientific principles in a way that others can understand them. Some writers tell horror stories like my friend Ann Wilmer-Lasky, whose latest book, The Cottage, is now available as a hardback book or as a Kindle book on Amazon. Some, like me, talk about life. Everyone’s life is different, but I believe we all have lessons to learn, and I believe we can use even the worst of situations to inspire us to be better in every way. Every week when I broadcast, and even before I broadcast my radio show, I think about the message I want to share. Some weeks are just about fun and making people smile. Some weeks are more serious, but every week is about living a better life no matter what the circumstances of your life are. It’s what I aspire to do every day. Sometimes I can see the progress like I have this week as I tackle the overgrown parts of my yard. Yesterday our lovely sanitation workers took away five huge bundles of branches and five bags of yard waste. It was a joy to watch it go, and I have been viewing it as a core workout as I pull and tug and rake the weeds and make my yard a lovelier place to be. Weeding is something that I usually detest doing, but this week it has brought me comfort. I began this journey of weeding because my son and his friends took down some very large branches, and the mess in my yard was incredible. My oldest son worked for two hours one day and six on another to clean up the mess and left my yard looking as nice as he could. His work inspired me to get to some of the projects I had been putting off all summer, so I began weeding. I have spent several days over the last week making progress. I work either one hour or until I fill a lawn and leaf bag, which is the only way that our garbage men will take yard waste. It has been satisfying to see the progress and has been a comfort to me emotionally as well because this past weekend was not the kind of weekend I had planned.

Last week, my middle son who had just left for college texted his dad that he would like to have a bike on campus. Since he hadn’t really ridden a bike since Junior High School and had grown over a foot since then, he needed a new one. I got one for him and was delivering it Friday when he asked me to pick him up at a campus building rather than his dorm. My son is majoring in architecture and is required to buy a $400 kit with all sorts of supplies so that he can complete the many projects he has to do this semester. The kit is huge and heavy so we were happy to pick him up. After the kit was in the car with the new bike and my other two sons, there was little room left so my son decided to ride his new bike across campus and have us meet him at his dorm. We drove around and waited and waited for him. He finally drove up, locked up his bike and walked into his building. He was gone for nearly ten minutes and when he came out, he had a bandage around his hand. Apparently someone had stepped in front of him and he wrecked. His hand was a mess and when I asked him to squeeze my fingers, he nearly passed out, so off we went to the emergency room. In my mind, it was worth the three hours to find out that he had not broken any bones and his wounds were professionally cleaned and bandaged. In the midst of this, I got a panicked call from the mother of a schoolmate of my youngest that her son was missing and hadn’t been seen since school let out three hours earlier. We were the last people to see him and my heart just sank because I had this fleeting thought that I should offer the young man a ride home, but I didn’t because I don’t know him well and didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable. Luckily, the young man was found unharmed a bit later. He has walked eight miles home, so that was my Friday night.

Sunday, I got a text from a friend who asked me about a set of twins that graduated with my son in June. She asked if there was a girl named Amy who had a twin named Eric. There was. The same friend told me that it was beginning to surface on social media that she had passed in a car accident and the world stopped. I have known Amy and Eric since they were three when they attended preschool with my son. I’ve watched Amy go from a shy but happy three year old to a young woman who is stunningly beautiful inside and out. I refused to partake in the social media frenzy until I knew it was true because I didn’t want to be part of anything that would hurt her family, especially if it was untrue. Unfortunately, my husband found confirmation on one of our local news websites. This beautiful young woman with seemingly so much life ahead of her was gone. A part of me wanted to know what happened and when I found out some of the details, I was so sad. She wasn’t’ wearing a seat belt, and I know her mom would have been the type to leave the car in park until all seat belts were fastened. I heard that she was driving erratically, and I know her parents would have carefully taught her how to drive safely. The more I heard, the more I realized something. It didn’t matter how she passed. What mattered is that a family lost a daughter and a sister, and I could not even imagine their grief.

This is the third family that I know that has suffered such a loss. In addition to Amy’s passing, the son of one of my husband’s work buddies named Eric also passed in a car accident a couple of years ago. He was the same age as my oldest son. They were both engineering majors who played high school soccer against each other. I remember standing in line at the funeral and looking at the pictures and videos of their family and knowing that there but for the grace of God go I. That event changed me and just months later an online friend lost her son, Andrew, just days before Christmas. He was struggling and sought out help and didn’t get it and he was gone. All that potential and all that future was gone, and nothing I did would bring any of them back. As a parent, I don’t know what you do with that kind of grief. As the friend of those parents, I can only offer a hug and a promise to live better because of those children. Before the passing of Eric and Andrew, I had been struggling with writing my first book. I was so fearful and filled with doubt. I was so caught up in my own life drama that seemed insurmountable. After Eric and Andrew’s passing, I knew that my fear was stupid. I wrote and moved passed the fear of learning how to self-publish. I worked through technical issues. I pushed until the book was finished and published a few months later. I couldn’t do anything for those who passed, but I could live better in memory and in honor of those who passed and those who were left behind. Basically, because of the boys and their families, I got over myself and got on with living.

I am sad and slightly ashamed to say that I have slipped back into that way of living. I have a new dream. I want to create a program to help women, specifically moms, live a better life. I know what I want to do and fear of technology I don’t understand is holding me back. Fear of what I might happen is keeping me from doing the very thing I believe I’ve been called by the Divine to do. Sunday changed that. Sunday reminded me again that life can be short and fragile. Sunday reminded me that answering the call to make the world a better place is bigger than my fear. Sunday changed me yet again.

If I could talk to the parents of these three children, I would tell them that I carry their children in my heart and my spirit always. I would let them know that as they remember their children, I do too. I would tell them that while their time on this Earth was short, they did leave a legacy of inspiration. I am a better person because of each of them. I am a better wife, mother and human being because they existed. They made a difference, and I hope that knowing that would help in some small way. I would also tell the parents of these young people that I love them very much. I admire that they can live each day after their losses. I use that admiration to parent better and to be more understanding and compassionate. I know they may not feel inspirational, but they are. I pray for them often. I wish them joy and peace. I do my best to celebrate their children by raising mine better. It may not be much. It may not be enough, but it is the best I have to give. I hope that someday Eric’s, Andrew’s and Amy’s parents either read this as a blog post or listen to it as an archived broadcast. I hope that it brings them a moment of joy to know their children are remembered and honored and still inspire others to be better human beings because I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I hope and I pray and I continue to move forward in my highest calling in part because of them.

I realize that those who listen to my radio shows or read my blog may not have known any of these young people, but I’m willing to bet everyone knows someone whose life appears to have been cut short and it made an impact. I challenge you to use that impact to change the world or at least your life in honor of that person. Maybe you have already and that’s fantastic. Maybe you’re thinking about it, but you aren’t sure of which direction to go, in which case I would tell you to just move forward on something every day. Maybe you don’t know yet what to do with your grief, so I would tell you to sit with it and let it inspire you. I know that sounds crazy to some but if we use our grief to make the world a better place, even a tragic death is never in vain. It doesn’t bring anyone back. It may not soothe the pain of those who have lost a loved one, but it can change your life, direct you to live a better life and improve at least your corner of the world. It helps even a short life live on and I cannot think of a better tribute than that. Thank you all for being who you are and have a great day.

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When the Stress Piles Up

5 Aug

When the Stress Piles Up.

When the Stress Piles Up

5 Aug

It’s August. School looms ahead. College looms ahead. I thought I was prepared and had it all under control this year. I suppose I gave the Divine a good chuckle. This week was supposed to be about me. This was the week that my youngest is at band camp, my middle is not quite ready to start packing for college, my oldest is moved into his new apartment and finishing up his summer internship and my husband is traveling for business. This was supposed to be the week to get the house and my life in order to be ready for the last bits of family time we’ll have this weekend and be ready to dive into the school year calm, cool and collected. Instead, the chaos is taking over.

On Monday, the marching band director asked me if I was still doing prizes for our band camp awards program. I didn’t think we were doing the awards this year so I’ve done nothing. I also recycled the paperwork because I thought the program was ending. This was something that took six weeks last year and now I have two. I’ve asked for help, but I’m not getting much response, and as much as I would like to be able to be the one to say that I just can’t do it, I know how much the kids enjoyed it, so I’ll do what I can, especially since I may have recycled the paperwork, but I didn’t purge the files, so at least I have a list to go by. Stress is not solved, but it is coming to a manageable level.

I have a wedding video to finish. The wedding was at the end of March. This isn’t something I volunteered for initially, but when the videographer backed out on my husband’s nephew, we were asked to video the wedding. We’ve done it for other weddings and said yes. Several things have slowed this down. I had volunteered to do the senior video for my middle son’s class, which took hours upon hours of time to create. Most people loved it, but one person didn’t and made their feelings known on social media. The amount of support from other parents was overwhelmingly beautiful and took the sting out of the negative, but it made it difficult to get enthusiastic about diving back in. Also, the program we use was upgraded and although they tell me that it’s better, I find it frustrating trying to do things that were easier to do before the upgrade. Have you ever heard of the expression “complicating a one car funeral”? It’s the expression that comes to mind when working on this video. It doesn’t help that my tech guru aka my husband had been out of town most of the summer for work and can’t help most of the time.

Then there is the school situation for my youngest. He’s bright and funny and kind. His teachers love him, initially. They are impressed with how engaging he can be and how well he expresses himself when they speak to him. Unfortunately, they are not so impressed by his output. There is not a name for it, but what my son thinks and what he can get to the page are vastly different. I have always said if my son could go through school orally, he would get straight A’s. That is not how school works, however, and by the end of the third quarter, most of the teachers throw up their hands in frustration because they think he is just being stubborn and noncompliant when he’s being the same way he’s been since he started school. My favorite time is when they tell me how he is as if I don’t already know. That’s when I know we just have to ride it out, yet again. This year, we have the option of requesting that he be put in a class where he learns at his own pace rather than having to sit in classroom lectures. He will have more individual attention and will not have to adapt to the organizational systems of several teachers, an attempted task that proved disastrous last year since he has a 504 with executive skills listed as his disability. Originally, we were told we would know whether he was in the program by the beginning of June. That got pushed back because of changes in the district and can you guess when it’s all happening instead? Yep, it’s this week. I would move Heaven and Earth to help my children find their path to success, so stress or not, we deal with it.

This is all in addition to just keeping up with life as a mostly single parent right now, and for those that single parent 365 days per year, I salute you. I want to whine and complain. I want to talk about how crappy my circumstances so I can be a victim and have everyone feel sorry for me, but I know that’s a waste of my time and everyone else’s. I tried that at our family’s 4th of July picnic. I was feeling the same way and was sharing with some family members about how our air conditioning went out, our dog needed surgery and all four of our cars needed repair within a month. We spent over $6,000 to fix it all, and I was feeling very unsure about being able to pay our portion of our sons’ college expenses. I was looking for compassion. I was looking for sympathy. It’s not what I got. Instead, I got stories about how bad other people had it, and it made me think of something I heard years ago about sharing your problems. The premise is that half the people you know don’t care about your problems and the other half are glad you have them. I realized that on a deep level that day, and I will be sure to remember it.

So, what to do about all of this? First, I am making sure to take care of myself. Just typing that shows me how far I’ve come in my life. There was a time I would drop everything important to me to do everything that was important to everyone else. I would fret about deadlines and being accommodating because that’s what I thought a “good” person would do. I would skip meals or eat meals that are bad for me so that I could make everyone happy, and I could be the hero of the day. I like being the hero or heroine if you prefer, but in the past it has often come at a great cost. I get mean and angry because I’m living by someone else’s standards rather than my own. I do what is most important to them without regard for my or my family’s wellbeing. It makes for a cranky mom and lots of shouting and meltdowns, mostly on my part. Yes, my friends, I am a recovering people pleaser, and the more time I spend in recovery, the more I realize I didn’t please anyone. I was passive aggressive. I deflected my anger with myself or a situation and took it out on my family. I was not the nice person I intended and desperately wanted to be. I have been in recovery for a while now, and I’ve learned so very much. I’ve learned that when my anger and stress levels begin to ramp up, it’s time for me to slow down. I used to clean when I got angry. I could clean an entire two story house if I was provoked enough, but in the process, I was usually finding fault with every family member as I cleaned up mess after mess that wasn’t mine, and I wasn’t nice about it. My family would scatter, which would make me even angrier because I would feel abandoned and alone, but who could blame them for wanting to escape the screaming banshee I’d become? I did at the time, but I see life so differently now.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned in life is that we may not be in control of what happens, but we have choices about how we respond. Yesterday, when the stress was getting to me, I went to the rec center and walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes. While I was walking, I listened to something inspirational and spiritual. When I was finished, I could focus again in peace and the day moved more smoothly. I could deal with the bumps in the day without anger. Instead, I was almost amused by them, and that feels so much better than cleaning rage. I also make sure that I meditate during times of stress. Some days it feels like I just don’t have the time, and on those days, I know it’s most important, so even if I only have ten minutes, I sit in silence and just breathe. I focus on connecting with my highest purpose and the best outcome for the day. It has changed my life. Now when problems pop up, I look for ways to incorporate that into my highest purpose. I look for ways to have a better outcome. I am focused on the solution rather than the problem. It’s amazing to me how much time we spend on the problem rather than on a solution that works for everyone. When you focus on solutions and positive outcomes, the whole world shifts, you no longer look at situations as adversarial. It isn’t about us or them. It is no longer a war on anything. It’s about helping and honoring people. It’s about serving the Divine in the most sacred way. It doesn’t always work out the way you intended, but with intentions and actions filled with hope, grace and focus on your highest calling, it almost always works out enough for you to walk away knowing you did your very best.

Finally, putting my feelings into words helps me to find my center. Nearly every day I write, usually after meditating. While meditating clears my head and lifts my spirit, writing after meditating allows me to permanently record the incredible messages and feelings I have afterward. It has been said that prayer is when you talk to God. Meditation is when God talks to you. I have done both for a very long time and have found that to be true most of the time, and writing, for me, has become an extension of that. Sometimes I keep the lessons to myself because I know they are just for me. Some days, like today, I am compelled to share them. It’s difficult sometimes to admit how I used to be and is an exercise in humility at times. For those who are angry and scared and wish they could be different, though, I hope it gives hope that change is possible. Peace is possible, even when the world seems to be falling in around your ears. Peace comes from doing the things that calm you. For me that is walking and meditating and writing and spending time with family and friends. Especially when it seems like you don’t have time for any of it, it is most important to make time for soothing things in your life. So, I will continue this week to walk, meditate and write, and luckily for me, some of my favorite women are available to have a girl’s night in this week. Additionally, I’ll have all of my family under one roof for the first time since July 4th and possibly the last time until Thanksgiving, so we will be sitting down to family dinner this weekend to connect and enjoy each other’s company. Each of these helps keep me sane. It keeps me whole, and it keeps me focused on the best outcomes. It is part of my higher calling to share the shenanigans of my life. I hope in some way, it helps you cope with life better, connect with your higher calling and move toward your best outcome. If it does, I have truly succeeded. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

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