“Losing” Mini Me

I’ve been away from the blog for quite a while. I have had plenty of subjects that are worthy of a post, but some I am not comfortable sharing yet, and others were just not striking any deep resonance within me to write about. In a way this is good because it means nothing especially terrible has happened. Plenty of great memories have been made in the last six months, including a husband and wife trip to Spain and Italy, and a family trip to Philly, Stone Harbor, NJ, and NYC. At some point I’m sure I will post about these wanderlust travels. Today, I want to talk about our youngest son. My taller-than-me male duplicate. My mini me. 

Brennan turned 18 in June. He graduated from high school in May with his International Baccalaureate degree and a departmental award in History. He is such a bright kid. His book smarts far exceed mine. He loves to learn, and really enjoys physics and history. I am one proud mama. We must have done a few things right along the way because he has grown into a wonderful young man. We have been preparing him for this moment his whole life. I knew it was coming, but time goes too fast. On August 23rd, We moved him into his college dorm. I had to say goodbye to my little boy. My mini me. 

We have been fortunate because our eldest, Ethan, has been commuting to college while living at home. We still get to see him every day. We know where he is most of the time, and we know he is safe when he comes home at night. I knew It’d be hard when the first one left, I’m sure it will be hard when the second and third do, but you never really know how it will feel until they are gone. I tell myself we are lucky. This is a good event. a GREAT event. We succeeded, HE succeeded, but I miss my boy regardless. I miss my mini me. 

It is getting better day by day. I even go a few days without texting him now. I try to give him space. Space to grow, to learn, to thrive. The nights are the hardest. I think it’s because even if he were gone all day before, he always came home at night. I don’t know where he is, what he is doing, or if he made it back to his dorm at night anymore. I have to rely on what we have taught him, the decisions he makes, and God’s protection. Stay safe, my mini me. 

I love you, Brennan. This house will never be the same, but this world will be better because of you, and I’m proud to be a part of it. You be you, my gift from God. My mini me.

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Welcome to My Party! 

Many of you know me personally. I am a cheerful person most of the time, however, every now and then life gets me down. I’m not looking for advice. I’m not looking for encouraging comments. I am taking today for what it is….my own personal pity party. Welcome!  Feel free to enjoy some refreshments! There is red wine, or red wine, or maybe you’d like some red wine?! Is it okay that it’s from a box? Only the best at our house. 

I can’t say I woke up knowing that today was party day. It more or less smacked me in the face like a frozen glove not long after that though. It’s dreary outside, it’s cold, and Mother Nature is having a hard time deciding if she wants to make it snow or rain. It’s a holiday, so I should be happy that the entire family was home for at least part of the day. We went for a walk at the mall. I was trying to change the theme of the party, but after my delicious fruit smoothly got knocked out of my hand and spilled all over the floor, like the proverbial kid with the ice cream cone,  I lost all hope. 

Do I know why I am depressed today? I have some ideas. Life. It sneaks up on you, and before you know it kids are getting ready to leave home. It’s good and bad……because they CAN. We have prepared them. They grow so fast though. At times it seems like life is constantly trying to bring us down. We deal with the hand we are dealt, but sometimes it seems like the deck is stacked against us, which brings me to…. worry. I try not to spend too much time partaking in this activity, but sometimes the unknown gets to me. Sometimes, I worry about what is yet to come. 

I saw an article online this morning referring to today as “Blue Monday.” By the time I read it I had already realized that it was party day, but it did explain my feelings a little. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is down today. The holidays are over and spring  is still to far away. The weather is crappy. There are pity parties happening all over the world. As they say…..”misery loves company”…… so CHEERS to you and yours!  This, however, is one party that I won’t miss when it is over. When you leave the party, take all your belongings. There is no coming back. Tomorrow is a new day! 

Stop Lying! It Doesn’t Become You.

I can’t even express the feeling. Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Disgust? Or a combination of all of these. Yes. That’s what it is.  It stirs within me for the unbelievable number of people who are out there pretending they have never made a comment…EVER…..that could be construed as racist, sexist, blah, blah, blah. It’s a load of baloney. Every single person who is making claims right now about others, has sat in a room with a bunch of friends or family and made a comment in relation to a stereotype about another’s sex, race, or religion. Are they racist? No. Are they sexist? No. Are they human. Yes.

We have lived in China. We have a Chinese daughter. We live in a very diverse area. I have friends of many different races and religions, all over the world.  I have friends who have different sexual orientations than me. We have been friends for years. I love each and every one of them for who they are. I will stop in a store, on the street, or wherever I am and start talking to a complete stranger. No matter what they look like. As I have said before, my husband and now even the kids, say I can make a friend anywhere. I love people. I love interacting with them. I love learning about their lives. I love. With every part of my being. Have I made a joke at some point that could be considered racist. I’m sure of it. Am I racist? No. Am I human? Yes.

So for those individuals, and groups, who are out there spewing hate, under the guise of stopping “mostly fabricated” hate. Stop. Are there racists in the world? Unfortunately, yes. Are there sexists? Again, yes. Are there people we could tag with all these other hateful labels? Yes. Are there many? Probably not. Is it half of our nation? That’s crazy talk. So STOP. STOP PERPETUATING HATE. It’s ugly, and it doesn’t become you.

Celebrate your life

I have been pondering what to blog about for weeks. When I start a post it is usually because I am feeling passionate about a certain topic. Lately that topic has been the election, so I have not posted. I do not want to talk Trump or Clinton. Instead,  I want to discuss a number of  comforts we as Americans are lucky to have, and take for granted every day.

As I stir fried some onions and garlic for a chicken broccoli stir fry for dinner, I looked down at the abundance of food that was already in my fancy pan, and by “fancy” I mean low cost, IKEA, metal, clean. I thought of all the people in this world who don’t have that pan, or the food in it. They don’t have a delicious, warm, apple cake sitting next to it, either. One that my children have already consumed a great portion of in the two hours since they have been home from school.

Speaking of school…….many children around the world don’t get to go to school. Our children do. They leave their soft bed, eat breakfast, and head out the door of the home that keeps them warm, dry, and safe, every day. While they are learning at school, in another safe, dry, and comfortable environment, they eat another meal. Lunch. For those that cannot afford a lunch, our government makes sure that they are provided one. While at school, if it appears that a child is not being taken care of, or is being mistreated at home, our educators can contact social services to make sure that the child is protected. We have services for all kinds of disabilities. We have programs for all levels of learning. Sometimes kids fall through the cracks, sadly, but a majority of our children are well cared for at home and at school. We are blessed. Have you ever thought of the children in third world and developing nations? What happens with them? How do their resources compare to ours? Well……they don’t. Not. Even. Close.

A majority of us Americans wake up in the morning and sift through our closet to decide what we want to wear. We have options. We have more than one or two set of clothes. We head downstairs and open the fridge to see what we want to eat. We have options. We have fresh food. We turn on the tap and fill the coffee maker. We have clean water, and machines that make our coffee in the morning. We don’t have to walk miles and miles for water. You know…..a necessity for LIFE. We sit down at a table to eat. Not on a rug. Not in the sand or dirt. We wash our dishes in a sink mere feet from the table we ate at. When we leave for work, we hop in the car, on the bike, or walk to the bus stop. We have work, and transportation to get there. At the end of the day we come back to the comforts of home once again. Food, water, shelter.

We have healthcare. Phenomenal healthcare. We have the doctors, specialists, medication, machinery, and facilities we need. We need to work on cost, but we have it. We have natural healthcare choices. We have options. There are so many people in this world without any healthcare whatsoever. We, as Americans, also have the technology and resources to research our health symptoms and conditions, our doctors, our facilities. We have options. Many, many in this world have nothing.

Finally, we have family, and in my mind that is what is most important. The presence, love, and support, of my family keep me going on a daily basis. And God. Every Sunday at Church, for as long as I can remember, I have thanked God for the blessings I have listed above. Every single time I kneel down and pray, I thank God for these comforts. We, as a nation, have amazing privileges and opportunities. Let’s not take them for granted. Let’s focus on what is important. 

Into the Light

A little over four years ago, my son told me about a friend of his from school. He told me he was helping her study for math, as she was close to failing the class. As he proceeded to tell me a little more about her, he told me that she cut herself. Intentionally. She was actively self-harming. My first thought….the very first thing that came to my mind was……she must have a difficult home life. She must have absent parents. How could they NOT know what was going on with their daughter? The visions of her sad, lonely, parent-lacking life filled my head. I was not unique.  I was among millions of other people who don’t understand, or have never experienced, self-harm, suicide, or suicide attempts in a loved one.

My family is your average nuclear family. My husband and I have been married for 26 years. We have lived  in the same house since the oldest child was 15 months old (We lived in Shanghai for four years, but returned to our American home during the holidays and in summer.)  We have two dogs, two cats, great neighbors, and a small-town-feel neighborhood in a large metropolitan area. We go to church. We take family vacations, go out to eat, to the zoo, museum, baseball games, and more. We visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The kids play sports, but not too many. They have plenty of relaxation time. We are always there for our kids when they need us, and at times when they don’t. However, regardless of all we do right, we cannot control what happens all of the time, and things can go miserable wrong.

This will be the first time I have said this publicly. Close friends and family know, but we have kept the circle close. This is very difficult to say, because of the stigma, and they way many of those who have never had to deal with it react. In February, 2014, my 10 year old daughter attempted suicide. More than once. Without my knowledge. She was taking my prescription medication. I noticed I was low on pills, but thought I had been shorted by the pharmacy. It wasn’t until she came downstairs to me crying, on her third try, and told me what she had done, as a result of bullying. As a parent, it was like being hit by a train. How could this happen in our family? What had we done wrong? How could we not know that the bullying had continued at school? What do we do now?

I immediately went into panic-mode. Bill wasn’t home yet and Ethan had just left with my car. I asked what she had taken and how much, then I called a neighbor to take us to the hospital which is luckily only a few blocks away. I didn’t not tell her why, and she did not ask.  In the next few hours we would learn the extent of the situation.

I will not go into the details of what happen with the school and the bully, but you can get the story in my prevous blog post for which I attached a link below.

https://superfiveshanghai.com/until-the-scars-fade

In the two and a half years since her attempt, my daughter, and our family, has had an amazing amount of support and growth. With the help of her phenomenal psychologist and her psychiatrist, and with education on the subject and guidance on looking for and dealing with symptom we have all learned. We have not just learned how to deal with suicide, attempted suicide, and self-harm. We have not just learned how to create a new normal. We have learned that no one is immune.

I am walking in an “Out of the Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I am walking for my daughter. I am walking for her journey from darkness to light.  I am walking for my friend’s son, who gave up on life last October, who couldn’t find light in his life, and for whom I wrote my blog post linked below:

https://superfiveshanghai.com/the-death-of-a-son-the-death-of-a-star

I am walking for all of those who have experienced any sort of mental illness in their life, or in the life of a loved one. I am walking for those who may experience it in the future. I am walking to raise awareness, to educate, to teach compassion and understanding. I am walking because suicide does not discriminate.

i am walking into the light.

 

 

 

 

FIRE…..Again…..and Again…..and Again

I have issues with fire. I know, not many people like a fire that’s not In a pit or a fireplace, but I have more encounters with fire in the WRONG  places than the average person.

My first  encounter with the bad kind of  fire  was when I was  9 years old. We had been at a parade a few miles away from our house and saw the smoke cloud.  Completely out of character for my mom, she  decided to see if we could find it. We drove through a nearby subdivision before giving up and heading home. When we got to the end of our street we saw the fire trucks. It turned out to be two houses over from our own. Neighbors were spraying our shingles and shutters to prevent them from melting, or catching fire. For me it began a fear of fire. For years I would constantly check the stove, hair dryer, curling iron, and other appliances. Unfortunately it would not be my last…..or second to last……or……third.

Moving on to my wedding day. A bit of advice for all of my readers………DON’T LEAN OVER CANDLES. Not even when your drink is on the other side of them, and especially not while wearing a veil. As I stood by the head table talking to my lifelong best friend and bridesmaid, I began to smell something burning. I looked down and noticed a brown spot on my sleeve. “Oh, look Lynn……I burned my sleeve.”  At this point she looked down and started beating my leg, while my father-in-law grabbed my veil from behind, threw it to the ground, and started stomping on it.  Pieces of my veil were burning off and falling on to  the sleeve and skirt of my gown, causing the fire to spread al over me……while I chatted away. Luckily, I got married in the early 90’s and the dresses were big, so no damage to my body. Maybe a few shorter hairs on my head though, as it was not In a fancy upswept style, but hanging down around my face.   It’s amazing it didn’t go up in flames with all the hair spray I used.

A few short years later I was cooking in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. I was pulling something out of the oven, and I heard the potholder “pop.” I knew it must have hit the heating element, but couldn’t see a flame on it. I took it off and started moving it around to check it.  All of a sudden I felt a bit of a burn and as I pulled the potholder away, all the layers stuck to my thumb.  Found it!

When my oldest was about three years old he was sitting at the table eating dinner. I was in the living room and decided to straighten a picture frame that was sitting on our fairly tall entertainment center. I reached over a lit votive to do it. It was already burned pretty low, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. Let me remind you, and rephrase what I said earlier……. DON’T EVER REACH OVER A CANDLE!  Needless to say, my sweater caught fire. Once again I heard a “pop.”  I went into a little panic and did exactly what you should never do……I blew on it, then I watched it race up my arm. Being silly, I was afraid if I stopped, dropped, and rolled, I would start the carpet on fire. It occurred to me to open the door and run outside and roll in the snow, but I can’t imagine what that gust of oxygen would have done for it.  Instead I started doing a little dance and a low scream…….” I’m on FIRE!”  My husband came running out of the kitchen and yelled “STOP, DROP, AND ROLL! ”   Feeling sensibility return, I did just that. The fire really just burned the fuzzies off of the sweater and it was one of my favorites so I asked Bill if he thought I could salvage it. His response….. “You smell like a barbecue.”  My son’s response……. “It’s okay, Mommy. Next time you catch fire you can just stop, drop, and roll, then take off your sweater, throw it away, and buy a new one.”  My thoughts are…..I hope there’s not a next time.

Today. I finished cleaning the kitchen and headed upstairs to get ready to go out. My son, Ethan, was off of work today, by the grace of God, and decided to go in the kitchen to get a drink shortly after I went upstairs. He screamed up to me with panic in his voice, but I didn’t hear what he said and had to ask again. “THERE’S AN ELECTRICAL FIRE IN THE DISHWASHER!”  I started  running downstairs, then had to back track to get my phone. When I got downstairs I opened the dishwasher and asked him to go flip all the circuits off (I am proud of this moment of intelligence compared to what follows.) Next,  I spent at least two minutes trying to remember how to work my phone to dial 911, because that’s what happens with me in these situations.  When my memory returned I dialed. I proceeded talk to them in panic-mode (which I’m sure they’re used to) and within minutes the entourage arrived. Three cop cars and a fire truck. Nothing like a good neighborhood show.

All is fine. The neighbors have been filled in. The crowds have dispersed. A new dishwasher will be here soon……and I pray that this will be the last fire situation I ever have to deal with.

I’ll end this with some advice……….. DONT EVER LEAVE YOUR WASHER, DRYER, OR DISHWASHER RUNNING IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HOME, OR ARE GOING TO SLEEP.  We were lucky. We were home and awake, but there have been many times I have left or gone to sleep after starting a cycle on one of these appliances. Never again.

…….. and an ever-so-appropriate quote from my sister-in-law.

“Seriously, woman. You and fire…….”

 

 

 

America….Stop Being So Sensitive!

Why are American’s so easily offended theses days? I really don’t get it. I don’t care what someone else says, does, writes, or “tweets.” They cannot change who I am, what I do, or what I believe in . Why does everyone have to watch everything they say so carefully? One wrong, most likely unintended word, and the whole context of the statement is blown out of proportion.

The other day an NBC announcer tweeted the word “real” in a statement about an adoptive child and her parents. What they really meant was “biological,” but because of one word the news exploded. It was like a call to the country, or at least those who feel the need to be easily offended even when it has nothing to do with them, to validate adoptive parents.

I am an adoptive parent. I know who I am to my daughter and no one can change that.  I am not offended by that statement and neither should anyone else be. No one can change who you are or what you do with a word, or a statement. Why do we as Americans feel the need to place so much weight behind another individual’s off-handed comment? Why do we feel that everyone has to use specific terminology or we will immediately be offended for whoever it may remotely apply to? More often than not it does not apply to the offended one, and does not offend a majority of those who it may apply.

This is merely one example of what continues to be a growing  issue in this country. I could go on forever.

Please America…..STOP BEING SO SENSITIVE!

 

 

Second Mom Love

My husband is playing loud, peppy, music on the Amazon Echo, the 12-year old is trying to comfort me with talking, but what I need is silence. Today has taken a sharp turn for the worse. That day has come. It’s the day I knew was coming for a very long time, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. The day I have to prepare to say goodbye to someone I love. I guess I am lucky, at least I get to say goodbye.

She did not give birth to me, I did not live in her home, I did not give her snarky, teenage lip, but she is still my mother. She’s had more influence on my life than she’ll ever know. She gave me plenty of advice when I was younger, a reprimanding when necessary, a hug when needed. Without saying a word she has taught me to be carefree whenever possible, and that worrying wasn’t something to waste time on. She taught me that kids running in and out of your house are a blessing, and the more the merrier. That if your best friend’s six-year old daughter shows up at your door looking for one of those yummy yellow apples you always have in your refrigerator, invite her in for one. She’s taught me so much that it’s hard to separate it from what I learned from my other second mom, or my actual mother.

There were three of us. Families that lived on the same street in a time when kids were outside playing until dusk.  Between all three families there was someone for everyone to play with. Mrs.Ps kids were my brother and sister’s age. My other second mom, Mrs. E., had kids that were my sister and my age. The youngest, Lynn, has been my best friend since she was born the year after me.

They called themselves The Three Musketeers. They did everything together. Every week they would go bowling. They would throw all nine kids into the back of an old “Woody” station wagon and head to the local alley. We would go to the in-building daycare while they played a few games. They only left a kid once, and only for a few minutes, but lesson learned to count before leaving.

Along with the other neighborhood kids, we could always be heard and seen hanging out on the block after school, on the weekend, or on a hot summer day. I remember once when we had  a massive rain storm,  Mrs. P’s kids pulled out the fishing boat, and we rowed around in the flooded ditch. It was the highlight of the year on our street, at least for us kids.

Eventually all three families moved, and we had to stay in touch from afar. Same state, same county, different cities. We visited plenty, but no more walking down the street for a yellow apple for me. Even later still, my family was the only one left in the state, but no matter how far apart or how busy our lives got as we grew older, the bonds have remained strong. They are my family. They always will be.

One of my mommies is leaving this Earth soon and I’m not ready. I never will be. I thank God that He put her in my life though. She will always be a part of me, and always have a piece of my heart.

 

“How Fast Are You Going?”

Yesterday my parents and I were on our way home from the hospital after my mom’s major back surgery two weeks ago, and a subsequent rehab stint.  She was sitting in the front passenger seat, and due to restrictions from the surgeon, could not lean over to see the speedometer. My mom likes to have control of every situation. She is a worrier. As we were heading down the expressway towards their home she patted my leg and asked me, for the second time in 5 minutes, “How fast are you going?”  I was not speeding and there was no clear reason why she was asking, but she is my mother, and I have known her all my life.

After spending two weeks sitting in hospital rooms for long hours, making special meals due to her restricted diet and incessant worrying, and more time with my strong-willed mother than I am used to, I was reaching my limit.  In the end, that comment in the car was a reminder for me. I have seen how stress affects her and promised myself years ago that I would not do that to myself. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Appreciate what you have. Look for the positive side of everything. Find  beauty in the world.

My parents are only in their seventies, but at some point in the last few years I realized that my time with them is limited. Many of my friends have already lost their parents, so last night when I tucked them into bed, and I mean that literally, I felt pretty lucky. My dad was already laying down, and I finished helping my mom into the bed, covered her up, and turned off the lights. Oh, and I offered to read them a bedtime story, sadly they declined. For me, it was a moment I won’t forget. Coming full circle.  Role reversal at its finest.

In the wee hours of the night she called from the bedroom in a small voice….”help!” I stumbled out of bed to assist her in the journey to the bathroom, reminiscent of the kids’ younger years,  but for her I am a spotter of sorts. As I walked behind her to make sure her legs didn’t go out on her and held  on to a safety belt wrapped around her chest, she pushed her walker across the carpet while comparing the pile to a field of corn. Her arms were weak and it was tough work. We had to take breaks along the 30 foot trip for her to catch her breath, yet she was also impatient to get to the destination. In her rush, she was a terrible driver. Banging the walker into everything, she failed in her mission to allow my dad to sleep and she giggled all the way. She’s pretty cute in the middle of the night, making me laugh, and unknowingly saving herself just like a child does. When she starts giving me step-by-step instructions for a menial task today, I will remember those late night antics.

I will not let the little things get to me.  Instead, I will pick the moments  I never want to forget. These  are the memories I will treasure when they are gone.

Will you do the same?  “How fast are you going?”

 

 

Why Me? Why Us?

There have been times over the years when I have said “Why me?” “Why us?” Why did this happen to us and not somebody else. Sometimes it just seems that no one else has the same misfortune. I know that isn’t true, and our situation could be much worse, so I don’t dwell for long. I thank God that it isn’t, and for the blessings He has given us.

A majority, if not all, of these events have been medical in nature. My health, and the health of my family. Severe allergies as a child, Crohn’s at the age of 29, which progressed at an alarming rate, cataracts at the age of 32, removal of my colon at the age of 33. Most recently, the Essential Thrombocythemia diagnosis at 42.

The last few years have been no exception to this question. It has floated in and out of my brain, off and on, for months, but after a few moments of self pity, I remind myself of our blessings. This time, though, it was the health of our children.

In 2014 my daughter was bullied, as I wrote about in the post titled, “Until the Scars Fade” (https://superfiveshanghai.com/2015/09/20/until-the-scars-fade/.) At the time, a number of the parents who learned how she attempted to cope were scared of her. They didn’t want their children to be around her. Their ignorance on mental health astounded me. These were well-educated individuals, who must have known that depression isn’t contagious. This is a 10 year old child we’re talking about. She was literally shunned. She had left for the school year and was being tutored, while receiving therapy, and I was encouraged NOT to bring her back for any school functions, so as not to upset other parents, while the bully continued in school with no repercussions.

It has taken two years to be able to take a deep breath. To feel like she is back on track to health. From the outside, it is not apparent. No one else would know what she has been through, and the resulting depression she experiences. No one would know the struggle it has been. As a parent, it has been stressful and heartbreaking. Why my baby girl? Why does she have to deal with this?

Last spring, my oldest son, who suffers from ADD, had some serious anxiety issues. This had never appeared to be a problem before, but it escalated quickly. He was working his first job, taking a few too many college classes, and the pressure and responsibility overwhelmed him. He has always been very independent, and doesn’t like to ask for help. Up until recently, he preferred that we didn’t. We knew he was skipping some classes, and calling in to work, and we had decided that it was time for him to learn the hard way. We had no idea it was due to anxiety until the end of the semester, when he finally told us. After four months of keeping it to himself, he finally released himself from carrying the burden alone. The semester was a bust, and he left his job, but we could, and would, help him.

He spent seven months after the failed-semester ended, in twice-a-week therapy, having medication adjusted, and spending hours and hours in his room. It was, once again, heartbreaking to see one of our children suffering. We spent most of 2015 worried that he might never come back up for air, while his therapist told us it would just take time. She had enough faith for all  of us. She was right. In November, he got a new job, and he started classes in January. He comes home from work happy and talkative, something we have rarely seen from our quiet boy. He goes to class, and has been getting high A’s. Once again, I feel like I can take a breath.

After the events of the last few years, I look for ways to spread awareness about mental illness, and mood disorders. I need to do more. Obviously, I have written about some of it in the blog. I hope that readers will share my posts to spread the word. My Facebook page, Sunrise Strong-Mood Disorder Awareness and Acceptance, is a another step, but it is not enough. As stress at home continues to decrease (fingers-crossed and a bunch of prayers), I hope to have time to find other ways to spread awareness. Maybe that’s why……..why it’s me, why it’s us.