Monday, December 31, 2012

Year End Wrap Up

I don't know that I have a photo from every month of 2011, but I'm going to look, and try and come up with one from each month, and see what we can find. It was a pretty lousy year, but let's see if we can find some highlights, shall we?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

One Little Word : Revisited

I can still remember how I felt when I sat down to write last year's post on my word for 2012. How defeated I was feeling by the year that was getting ready to end, and how hopeful I was feeling that the coming days and months were going to be so much better. I find it ironic that I sit here, on the same day at the end of this year, with tears running down my face, feeling sad and defeated. It's no secret around this blog that this has been a difficult year for me. 2012 was NOT the year that I put myself back together. These past months have been like a roller coaster ride (and we all know how I loathe those), and we are currently back in a dip. I am trying to remain hopeful, and positive, but right now I'm having a really hard time. I'm tired of fighting so hard, and feeling like I'm the only one who wants this to work. He says  he is committed, but his actions tell a different story altogether. I never realized  you could be married, and feel so alone all the time. I am tired of crying.

I decided for 2013, I'm going to revisit my word for 2012, which was  REVIVE. Revive, is a verb that means to start again; bring back to life. Some of the synonyms of revive are:  awake, bounce back, breathe new life into, brighten, come around, come to life, energize, enliven, exhilarate, gladden, invigorate, make whole, refresh, rejuvenate, rekindle, renew, restore, revitalize,  and strengthen. Every area of my life needs reviving right now, including myself. If the "us" isn't going to work right now, then I think it's time to focus on the "me". There's only so much sad, wallowing a person can handle. Somewhere, over these past years of struggle and hardship, I feel like I've lost myself. If not, I've certainly changed, and I'm not sure I like the person who stares back at me in the mirror some days. So this coming year is going to be about finding myself again, or rediscovering the person I've always had the potential to be, but just shoved aside. I'm looking forward to meeting her.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Birthday Letter To My Son On His 18th Birthday

Dear Corey,

I've been trying to write this letter to you since the early hours of this morning. I got up before the rest of you, like I do, and I sat here and listened to the snow plows outside the window, as it was too dark to watch it snow still, and I thought about what I could pen to you on such an important birthday. I went back and read some of my old letters to you, and had a good laugh over that awesomely horrible Portal cake, and an equally good cry over this letter from a few years back. I laughed when I read this one, because I still remember this birthday, and then I read the first letter I ever wrote to you on my blog. It touches my mother's heart that you come here every year looking for your birthday letter. It's not quite as good as a hug, or an "I love you mom", but I'll take it.

While I was in the kitchen tonight making the lasagna  you requested for your birthday dinner, I was thinking about how we have sort of grown up together. I wasn't a parent before you came along and so I've had to do most of my learning, and failing, with you. When you were very little your first questions were "Why?" and "What's that?" You were such a curious little boy, always wanting to know about everything. So I would walk around, and you would point to everything and ask, "What's that?" and I would tell you. That was the easy question, and I never got tired of telling you about what things were, because you were so excited to find out the answers. "Why?" was always harder. You have always been a challenger, and I don't like being challenged. On top of that, you often ask the hard questions that I don't have the answers too. I hope that you don't think your old mum is stupid, I'm just not half as intelligent as you have been blessed to be. The greatest part of that has been watching you go find the answers. You never accepted not knowing as acceptable. You have always gone out and found the answers to your questions. I hope you take that with you as you continue your journey in life.

These past few years have been difficult for the both of us. It has broken my heart to watch you struggle through them, feeling so helpless, and wishing there was more that I could do for you. I knew that I had to let you navigate through it on your own, offering only my support, and prayers, and love, but as your mother I wanted nothing more than to just fix it and make it all better for you. Because I am your mother, I feel partly responsible for the whole mess. I know that I'm not, but mother's can't help but play that "If I had only done this, that or the other thing better" or "If I had spent more time doing this instead of that" or "Maybe if I had let him (fill in whatever)"... game. Because your were my first child, I will likely always feel like I have failed you in some way or another. In all truthfulness, I probably  have. I hope you realize that it wasn't intentional and hope that you can forgive me.

Over the past year, however, especially the past 6 months, I have been silently cheering as I've watched you come back to us. It started a little bit last year, more so this year, and more so since the summer. It has been a long time coming, and even though I haven't outwardly made a big deal of it, I have wanted to shout from the rooftops, "MY BOY IS BACK!!" Really, it's quite lovely. Your dad and I have missed having *you* around, and even your sister's noticed. When she scolds you for giggling in the middle of the night, I tell her to get over it, at least you are giggling again. Besides, pretty soon you will be gone, and it will be too quiet and she'll wish you were there laughing about something ridiculous at 3am. OK, maybe she won't, but I will.

So here we are, at eighteen, and legally you are an adult. You can vote now, gamble, smoke, die for your country, drive without a seat belt, go to jail and move out and be responsible for yourself. That's a heap load of stuff to toss at someone just because of an age, if you ask me. I remember being 18, and I don't feel that I was quite ready for any of that. I look at you, and I'm not quite sure you are yet, either. Almost, but not quite. You have a ways to go yet, before "responsible" is a word that I will tag on to "young adult". There is that matter of an English paper that you haven't written yet.  Or the fact that you can't get yourself up and to school on time. Or anywhere on time. Keep working on the rest though. Earn that title of responsible. In the meantime, know that your father and I love you very much. You make us proud to be your parents. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In Which We Find My 1,000th Post

Often times in life we are disappointed because experiences fail to live up to the expectations that we have built up for how things should be in our minds. We plan for discussions, or events, or even quiet evenings at home, running through our minds how they will play out and that carries over in the form of expectations, real or perceived. Then, because life is life, and things never go how we hope or even how we plan for them, we are left feeling disappointed and out of sorts. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is it so hard to just set the stage for events to happen, and then to just enjoy whatever the results of it might be? I think we set ourselves up for failure, and I know that time and time again I am guilty of this.

I've given this a lot of thought over the past few days. On Saturday we celebrated Uncle Christmas, which, if you are new here, is when all my brothers and any of their significant others come over and we celebrate Christmas. Sometimes, if he is up from Florida, my Dad comes with my Grampa. This event started many, many years ago when my Dad and step-mother were moving away and I took pity on my brothers not having any way to celebrate Christmas together. My kids were little and confused because they thought it was Christmas, so for a while I kept saying, "No, it's Christmas with your Uncles".. and they started calling it Uncle Christmas. I've hosted it every year since then, except for last year when we had it at my brother Scott's house so that my Grampa could make it after being in the hospital.

This years gathering involved a lot of stress and arguing amongst the family. We had a problem getting a date picked. We had a huge, ugly debate over the gift exchange. It got to the point where, after the year that I had, I was ready to call the whole thing off. The only thing that saved it was the kids. I wanted to do it for them, at least one more year. I'm not sure what's going on with Corey's college schedule next year, so it's a real possibility that this may have been our last one (shh, don't tell them). On top of that, I wanted to make sure that I could pull off a g.f. Uncle Christmas menu and have it work without complaints. Mission accomplished, and I took notes on a few things I will change for next year, if there is one. Aside from that, it was just weird this year. The whole atmosphere of it was different, and I don't know if we've just outgrown it, or there was too much drama involved or what, but when it was all said and done, I was glad when everyone left and it was over. That made me sad and I'm not sure what to think about it. Even my brother Brian noticed and said something about it before he left.

I noticed that Christmas Eve at The Boys™ had a similar kind of feel to it as well. It was nice to see my nieces, although I didn't get to see them for very long because we got there late, and they had to leave for church within 2 hours of our arrival. In that time, they had to eat, and open gifts and it just seemed rushed and crazy. I don't know if it's because the rest of the family gets to be together again for the rest of the evening, and we are only there for several hours in the afternoon... but that hasn't changed for at last 5 or 6 years now. It was just... different. It didn't seem very festive, or maybe it was just me. The thing is, I didn't have any expectations for how that would go. I just showed up, grateful that we were all going to be together. It was just weird, and I don't know what to think about that either. On top of that, we got back too late to go to Christmas Eve mass, which I hated, though we did have a very lovely dinner and evening together here at home. So there's that.

Christmas day, however, was really nice. I had no expectations for it at all. I tried a new recipe for this year, after the french toast wasn't that big of a hit last year. A g.f. Monkey Bread, which had almost all of the same ingredients as my cinnamon rolls, that turned out fantastic and everyone loved. I think it will be a new tradition. We opened gifts, the boy and I went to church, where my favorite of our three rotating priests said mass and sang to us during the homily, had a late lunch, and then we all went to see Les Miserables. We came home, had a late dinner and just hung out. It was a nice, quiet day and I enjoyed every minute of it. Part of me wonders, if it's because there was no drama involved with us at home (what a nice change, eh?). That because we've have so much of it this year, that being around other people on the other occasions, and having to deal with their issues, and listen to the complaining and problems and such, was just too much for me to deal with. I didn't want drama this year, because really, I've had enough of my own. I guess I just wanted to get together with the people I love and hang out and enjoy each other. I'm so pleased to discover that I found that right here, at home.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Symbol of Hope

On the day that he was delivered, so perfect, and still, I saw a brilliant red male cardinal sitting out in my yard. It came and visited again on that cold, bright January day that he was laid into the ground. Every time that he has been on my mind, and I've had him on my heart for one reason or another, I have had a cardinal sighting. Every year while we are at my MIL's for Easter, I catch a glimpse of one in the trees out the window, if just for a moment. Each year, on the anniversary of his death, I've come home and found one, if not a male and a female, perched on the feeders in the tree in my front yard. They usually stay a while and I have time to reflect on our loss, and let my mind wonder what kind of little boy he would be if he was with us today.

When I made my niece Victoria a lamb for her first Easter, my SIL shared with me how when she was pregnant with her, and after she was born, she felt like lambs where her "special animal" and how awesome it was that I made her one, because I didn't know that. I shared with her back about my cardinal experiences related to Max, and how I felt that, at least with me, that they were his special creature. She really liked that. This year especially, I have had a lot of cardinal sightings, and I shared that with her this fall, because I think of him whenever I see one. She replied that he must have a message for me.

 On Thursday, which was the anniversary of his passing, we had our class parties at school. It struck me then, the sadness of the day, while I was surrounded by all those happy little children, which I thought was so odd. I think I was grieving for what will never be, but then, at the same time, I was glad  to have the kids there for comfort, because it helped. Right after I read a post from my SIL that broke my heart. She has a new baby this year, and realizes firsthand, how heartbroken her sister must have been. For the first time, she has that little girl that she can't imagine losing, and even though she experienced the pain of it before, it's a whole new kind of pain now.

Today, I read that the cardinals are the symbol of hope. That people often have sightings of them before of after the death of a loved one. They symbolically represent hope, and faith, and if ever there was a year that I have needed that, it has been this one. So Max, thank you, for the reminder to keep the faith. I'm doing my best. Aunt B misses you every day, and will hold you in her heart forever.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Light in the Darkness

I was sitting with the kids on the rug Friday afternoon, reading a few chapters from "A Tale of Despereaux" when my phone started vibrating in my pocket, alerting me that I was receiving text messages. I had put it in there during lunch recess duty and had forgotten to take it out and put it away. It vibrated, message after message, which I found a little alarming, but I kept on reading. We were getting ready for afternoon recess in a few minutes, and I would get a chance to check it then. This is our last week of school before our holiday break, and on Thursday the plan is to show the movie to the kids during our reading block, but in order to do that, we have to finish reading the book.

The time came to get our coats on, and as I can get mine on quicker than the rest of them, I used that time to find out what who was so urgently messaging me during the school day. Nothing could have prepared me for what I read. It was The Boy™, letting me know that there had been shootings at a school in CT, and what they knew up until that time. He's on the emergency management teams for both our town and for our school district. The safety of all of our students is the part of his job that he takes the most seriously, even though it's not what he gets paid for. My heart stopped as I read his words, and I immediately wanted to gather all the kids back into the class and keep them all inside for recess. Ridiculous, I know. CT is hours away, and they would all be so upset about being kept in, especially if I couldn't come up with a good reason for why. It was the mother in me, and I couldn't help how I felt. I wanted to keep them safe, where I could see them all, until I could send them home to their parents in 25 minutes when the day ended. I fought back the tears that were creeping into my eyes, and we all headed out for recess.

This weekend, I have tried to stay away from the news as much as I could. I don't believe in the way the media handles these kind of events. Often times there is too much focus on the politics, and the failings of society, and too much sensationalism on the actions of the killer. I know that Adam Lanza was a mentally ill young man, and that we, as a society failed him. Having worked in special education for a lot of years, I have been on the receiving end of violent outbursts from students. I have listened to the parents who don't know what to do with their children, who even in the 6th grade are angry and large, and out of control. I read this story yesterday, and it broke my heart. We need to be doing better.Those parents, and their children, need our prayers too, and our support. We need to look at what kind of services we can be providing for them, and what kind of help we can be providing for them.

Last night, I sat down in family room, and started working on a few things, and World News tonight came on. The Boy™ was waiting for the President to come on TV, and had left the channel on. They did a story about the kids, and the teachers, that immediately sucked me in. It was the first I had really watched, about the whole incident, and it broke my heart right in half. I think I sat there for the full half an hour and just cried. They talked about that brave little girl who was the sole survivor in her class, and how many of the parents in that town have "survivor's guilt". How they feel so guilty for being grateful that their children are alive. Can you even imagine?

There is a quote I love that says, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Instead of pointing fingers, and giving statistics, and talking about how many gun dealers there are in the area of Newton CT, which doesn't solve a darn thing, let's start a movement of change. I propose we start being nice to each other. Acting with kindness and decency. Take a plate of cookies to your shut in neighbor, or shovel their driveway. Send holiday greetings to residents in a nursing home. Slow down for pedestrians in crosswalks. Volunteer at your library. Smile more. Say thank you. Slow down. If everyone started with themselves, it would have a ripple effect, like the rock thrown into the pond. Imagine what we could do. My love and prayers stay with all of those affected by the tragedy in CT. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” John 1:5

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Simple Gifts

At the end of September, The Boy's™ youngest sister gave birth to the most beautiful little baby girl. She was the brightest spot in the most rotten month of this entire year, and has continued to bless my life since then. While her mom was home on maternity leave, I would get photos of her on my phone during my work day, videos of her once she started babbling, and the time that I get to spend snuggling and loving on her is better than any therapy. She couldn't have arrived at a more perfect time. I know that her mom and dad didn't plan it that way, but I really believe that she has been a gift to me, more than to them (shh, don't tell them I said that because I'm sure they don't see it that way), and I can't wait to watch this little ray of sunshine grow up.

On Saturday they came to visit for lunch and to celebrate Christmas a little early, as we won't get to see them on Christmas Eve due to their work schedules. Actually, my MIL will be babysitting that day, so I will get to love on my niece all afternoon long, in between snuggling and playing with her older cousins, but her parents will be missing from the scene. We had such a lovely visit and I instantly regretted that we haven't had them over more often these past few years. We have had plans that have fallen through, they have been busy, we have been busy, and well, this year we (read:I) haven't felt much like entertaining. I'm hoping to change that in the new year. I am not a huge fan of entertaining, but I am a huge fan of my nieces and I want to see them all more often. Because we could, we took some really fun photos of her (Dear Santa, if you are reading, next year I would like a really good digital SLR camera), and I am counting the days until we see her again.

One of my most favorite parts of the day, other than snuggling her, and catching up with my SIL, and just spending time with them all, came at the end. We gave our gifts for her to them, and for my SIL, who The Boy™ picked in the gift exchange. They decided that they would open them while they were there, instead of waiting, which we were totally fine with. So we got to share in her first Christmas gifts, which was totally awesome and I loved that. His whole family lives within a half hour in any direction of each other, and they get to see each other so often. We, on the other hand are an hour and a half away from everyone in one direction or another, and so our visits are limited. I feel like my nieces know and love everyone else better than they do us, which makes me a little sad. But I know that my SILs talk us up, and share our pictures, and I send them all texts and messages and gifts and love, so I hope it makes up for it some. Once I can get over myself, we are going to facetime when she gets bigger. I can hardly wait.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Closer to Fine

Something I've noticed over the past bunch of years is that "How are you?" has become a sort of throw away question. People throw it out there, but not many people really want you to give them an answer. Now I'm not saying this is true of everyone, because I do work with, and know some people who when they ask, do genuinely want to know how you are doing and will stick around long enough for an answer. Overall however, most people don't.

In response to this, "I'm fine, how are you?" has become the standard response. Fine has a pretty big pair of shoes to fill. It covers everything from "I'm doing really great today", to "Things have never been worse but I don't really want to talk about it right now". A few years back, I recognized that I was using 'fine' as a cop-out answer. I didn't want to talk about how I was, because I was having a really rotten year at school. But in order to save my sanity, and to get some help with the situation, I had to start sharing how I was really doing. I had to start giving answers like, "I'm feeling really frustrated and upset right now" or "This situation is really overwhelming me at the moment". Those kinds of answers are completely out of my comfort zone, especially at work, but it enabled the people I work with to help me through that horrible year and together we all pulled through it by the skin of our teeth.

Sharing about job stress, when the rest of the staff is in the know already is one thing. Sharing how you are when your personal life is falling apart is an entirely different ball game. Last year however, I had a co-worker whose daughters are really good friends with my son. They noticed that something was up with him, and were very concerned. So I was able to share with her, in confidence, what was going on with him. Eventually that lead to sharing other things, and it was nice to have someone to talk to. This year she has transferred to another school and I can't tell you how much I miss her. My standard response these past few years has been, "I'm OK", or "I'm doing the best that I can be", when I'm not OK. People seem to respect that answer, and don't push too hard for details, but they sometimes acknowledge for me to hang in there, or say, "Well I hope that everything is going to be OK." I have great co-workers.

Before I get to "good" however, I will have to get to "fine", but not in the throw-away fashion that everyone else uses it for. I will use fine as it's intended to be. According to the online dictionary, fine means in a satisfactory or pleasing manner; very well. Not quite good yet, but better than OK. In the words of one of my favorite quotes, 'I may not be there yet, but I'm closer than I was yesterday.'

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Beauty in Brokenness

For a long time, I stayed away from my blog. There was so much hurt in my heart and brokenness in my life that the thought of coming and writing it down felt depressing. When I went through and added jump breaks to all the old posts (something I've gotten bad about doing again), I noticed that there were lulls during some of the years. If I thought back upon those times I could remember what was going on at that point in our lives. Health concerns. Marriage struggles. Parenting heartbreaks. Not all of what we have battled over the last several years has made it here, because some of it is not mine to share. That, and I'm not sure anyone wanted to read about it(not that I'm sure anyone is reading anyhow).

Then one day this year I had a revelation. If all we ever share about is what is good and right with ourselves, we paint a very skewed image of what is going on in our lives. When I go and read other blogs that I visit, most of them are full of positive going-ons and what is right with the world with a very occasional tragedy thrown into the mix. Reading those all the time, especially when your life feels like it's falling apart, makes you feel like a failure. Fortunately for me, there are a few blogs in my reading list that keep it real. They post the every day trials and tribulations that they go through, though not always in great detail, and make me feel just a little less alone. That's when I realized that this is my blog after all. I write for me, when it comes down to it, and sometimes writing is like therapy. Sometimes when you can't share what you feel with anyone else, it helps just to get it out somewhere.

Maybe it has been a little dark around here these days. Maybe you get here and think, "Oh, really? Another post about how her marriage is struggling? What happened to the fun posts, and the great photos?" Bear with me. Right now I'm just trying to get back in the swing of blogging again. Those post will return, even if they are scattered in between the rest. There is a quote a love that says,"When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something's suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful."~ Barbara Bloom. I'm going to be the most beautiful girl in the world when all this is over. (winks)

Monday, December 03, 2012

A Time for Hope

Late Sunday morning, after he arose and showered, he came downstairs and we talked. We talked about how frustrated I was that no matter what time he went to bed, we typically lost the entire morning to him sleeping unless he had somewhere to be or something to do. He told me that he planned to get up, he just didn't. I reminded him that it was a choice that he made every day, to get up or not, and that he continually chose not to. I explained that I was done caring about it. That on that day, it was going to be the last one that I got upset about it. That from now on he could go to bed whenever he liked, sleep as long as he wanted, and whatever time we got to spend together on the weekends would have to be enough. That I couldn't go on caring about it anymore because it was breaking my heart.

After a few minutes of silence, he looked at me and said, "It's not really about what time I go to bed or get up is it?" I must have stared at him for a good minute with that "how many times have I told you this before?!" look on my face, as the tears rolled down my face, and I just shook my head. He followed with, "I know you have told me about a million times, but I just realized it's about spending time together. That because I sleep away the whole morning, we aren't." When I could speak again, I told him, again, that because he wakes up with just enough time to get ready for work in the morning, I don't see him much then. That because he works late, and then has meetings, and the kids have things, and then he works from home at night.. I don't really spend much quality time with him during the week, if any. So the weekends is all we have. He followed again with, "And I sleep away the entire mornings."

What I wanted to tell him too, but I couldn't find the words to say it, was, "Just like my dad did." My father would come home from work, have his dinner, watch TV and fall asleep on the couch. Then he would sleep until noon on the weekends, and he never spent any quality time with my mother. He very rarely talked to her about anything. He never helped out with things around the house, or took an interest in what she was doing, or what we were doing.  I watched for years as she struggled, alone, taking care of the house, us kids, working at different jobs, and trying to fight for my father's attention. I watched their marriage deteriorate to the point that we all wished they would just split up, and I don't want that. I remember a few years ago when I first started to talk to him about our communication problem and where I saw it heading, bringing up my parents. Today, on my dad's birthday, I harbor some fears in the quiet broken parts of my heart that I'm afraid to share out loud. So I keep going forward. Picking up the pieces, and putting them back together. Grasping at hope when the healing involves growing. Hopeful that it's not temporary.