“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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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. 

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…….”

 

 

 

Live. Love. Laugh…….and Handle With Care

Sometimes we forget. We forget that life is fragile. We forget that we need to seize every opportunity we can with those we love, because those moments are fleeting and can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Occasionally God gives us a little reminder. Something unexpected and sometimes tragic. A house lost to fire, a car accident, a serious illness in the family, a life taken too soon and without the chance to say goodbye. It is easy to take those we love for granted, to forget we have a gift that can be taken from us at any moment, and that what is here today may not be here tomorrow. We often forget that our blessings must be handled with care.

It is one thing that we all have in common. No one is immune. Even those of us who have had those reminders in the past will eventually fall into periods of ignorant bliss again. It is human nature. We will fall into comfortable denial, until we are once again reminded to appreciate what we have, and who we have in our lives. We are reminded to handle with care.

So what do we do?! Do we live in fear? Do we avoid risks at all costs? No! We live life to the fullest. We step out of our comfort zone and experience the world. We make amazing memories with those we love. We take every chance we get to spend time with friends and family. We never miss a chance to say “I love you.”  Never miss a chance to make a new friend, to reach out to an old friend, or to show kindness to someone we have never called “friend” before. We choose happiness and love. We choose to appreciate the wonders of this Earth, and enjoy them with others. We choose to find something  positive in even our darkest moments. We choose to embrace life, and do our best to live a life without regrets.

If there is one thing I have taught myself in life, one thing that has brought me the most happiness,  it is reminding myself of this:  Live. Love. Laugh……….and handle with care.

 

 

 

 

A Letter to my “Otherly-Raced, Religioned, or Abled” Friends

I am not racist. If you are a good person. Kind. Caring. Thoughtful. Honest. Polite. You will always be my friend. I don’t care what color you are, or what religion you believe. You are my friend.

I could never say that I didn’t notice your color, because I did. Just like my red-headed friend, or my really tall friend. I noticed, but I will not treat you differently than any other friend. If someone asks something, where I have to point you out as an area of reference, like “it’s over there next to the tall, red-headed girl.” I will. I may refer to your color: “See that Asian girl? It’s to the right of her.” But that means nothing about how I feel about you. We all have differences. I am short, and a little over-weight. Feel free to point that out. I don’t care. It’s who I am.

I don’t care if you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. Believe what makes you the best person you can be. What gives you hope. What makes you get up every day. Don’t try to change who I am, and I won’t try to change you, but help me grow as a person. I enjoy learning from my friends, or anyone for that matter. I love other cultures, and experiencing them.

I don’t mind a good debate. Don’t get mad at me if I don’t agree though. I will do the same for you. Mutual respect for differences is important. I have lived in an area that is populated by many, many people who have political views that are not the same as mine, for most of my life. That is not a problem for me. Again, if you are a good person, believe what helps you to be your best you. What makes you happy. What makes you thrive. I will never hold your beliefs against you.

If you have a disability, please don’t be offended if I say that word. It doesn’t mean I look down upon you, or think you are any less than me. It’s just a word. My friends are full of gifts to give the world. You contribute to society in many ways. You contribute to MY life in many ways. I don’t care if you can’t walk, talk, see, hear, or anything else for that matter. It doesn’t mean anything to me, so don’t be offended. It implies nothing, except  maybe a closer parking spot.

If you are not a good person, I don’t care what color you are. Bad people come in all colors, religions, races, and abilities. If I have a friend who is not who I thought they were. If I find out that they are not the kind, thoughtful, honest, and polite person I thought they were. They won’t be among those I call friends.  I surround myself with people who I feel have a positive effect on the world, and humanity. I don’t care what color you are, or what god you believe in.

Good people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and religions. I will take all the friends I can get. They are blessing from Heaven. Be a person to be proud of, and I will call you friend.

 

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.

 

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.

“A Storm’s a Brewin'”

We have had a house guest this week. A nasty and violent visitor reeking havoc where it is not wanted. We have been free of its wrath for several years. I guess our time was up. Stomach flu, we abhor you.

Bill stayed home Tuesday, to keep tabs on me…..from a distance whenever possible. I had spent the night with the porcelain prince, and although he proved useful, I did not ask for, nor want, the date. It had been years since I had spent such time with him, and hope it’s years before we meet in this manner again.

Shortly after 9am, Bill came running to the bottom of the stairs in concern. The visitor was raging again. Loudly. Once he found me resting peacefully, he started searching for the source. The youngest child was at school, the sleeping, middle child,  was fine, and the oldest was at chemistry class….or not. Ethan had made it to school, taken a quiz, turned in a paper, and told his professor that he was ill and would have to make up the lab. He raced home at break-neck speed, pulled into the driveway, grabbed his bag, opened the car door, dropped down to the ground, and decorated the front lawn with his breakfast. He was driving my car.  Bonus points for keeping it outside. Number one child, was the second victim.

It was at this point that Bill and child number two started to bond in brotherhood, to protect their right to health.  The Clorox wipes and Lysol came out. Lines were drawn. We are here. You are there. Do not cross this line.  They went to the raw juice bar, and downed immunity ginger shots together, then questioned their sanity as the intense spice burned its way down to their bellies. They each had an extra large green juice chaser, cooling the flame,  and cleansing the body, in hopes of further protection. They swore their allegiance to health. They would not fall.

Yesterday, for whatever reason, after 24 hours of reprieve, it felt safe. I don’t know why I thought it was okay to take a deep breath, but I did. I continued washing the linens, towels, and bacteria-laden clothing, optimistic that a full family infection had been avoided. Unfortunately, as I walked past Brennan late in the afternoon, he angrily mumbled….”a storm’s a brewin,’ and I blame you.”  Dad walked in minutes later, pumped his fist in the air as he saw Brennan, still residing in the land of the living, and shouted “Solidarity, son! You’re still on the island!” He was answered with doubtful head shakes. As I write this, the second child is the third to go down.

There were only two left on the island. Father and daughter allied. Fist bumps ensued. Who would be the last family member standing? How long would they last? Realization hit. The allies became competitors.

At 3:12am, unusual activity is heard from the bathroom, and lights are being turned on. From a dark bedroom the sounds of the third child…..”Hey, Dad?! Are you off the island?! I imagine a fist pump may have taken place n that dark room. The fourth has succumbed. Survival of the fittest.

Carleigh is still going strong. I fear she may be dripping in germs, but she has a reading at mass today, and she has no signs of illness. May God protect her and her classmates from our unwanted visitor, and me from their parents, if things go awry.

 

 

A Letter to Our Adopted Christmas Family

I don’t know you, nor do you know me, but you have been heavy in my heart since I heard. This December, during a time that should be joyful and merry, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, you have lost a loved one. A mother, a daughter, a sister. It was sudden, and tragic, and my heart breaks for you.

She left you precious gifts, her two young sons, Jay, and Em. Since Jay is two years old, he may grow up with vague memories of his mama, but Em, at five months, will not. They will grow up knowing their mom, through your eyes, their loving family. They may never again feel their mom’s arms wrapped around them,  at least not on Earth, but they will have you, providing endless love and support.

I have had you on my mind constantly this last week. I have seen a picture of mom, Jay, and Em, and my heart breaks for those beautiful baby boys. For their grandma who has lost her daughter, and the rest of the family as well. Christmas will never be the same for you. I hope you can find peace knowing that she is safe in Heaven, and will be watching over the family from above.

You are beginning a journey that you never expected. It will take a level of strength that you may not even realize you possess. Those boys will not forget the sacrifice that you made in raising them, and you will say it was not  a sacrifice. It is what loving families do, and you could never imagine NOT doing it. Make no mistake, it is a sacrifice, but one you will love and cherish forever. Their mama would be proud of you, and can be at peace knowing her babies are in your hands..

When I heard from my friend, when I heard what had happened, I jumped at the chance to help. We, and several of our neighbors, buy gifts for families experiencing difficulties during the holidays. We have gotten together for breakfast on Christmas morning for years, and instead of exchanging gifts, we give to others.  It is one of my favorite December activities. I love the shopping trip, picking out things for children to open on Christmas morning, hoping to bring them smiles and joy. This year is different, though, it feels more personal, it hits closer to home, I suppose because my friend actually knew your loved one, and that it comes in the wake of a devastating accident. One that could happen to any one of us, at any moment.

It is a small act, I know it’s not much, but I hope it helps a little in this difficult time. I wish I could do more. I wish I could take away the pain you are feeling. I pray you find a few moments of happiness this Christmas, whether it’s watching the children open gifts, reminiscing about the good times with the boys’ mom, or merely being in the comforting company of family.

You are in the thoughts and prayers of many this holiday season. May God bless your family with peace and love this Christmas, and always.