It Wasn’t All Bad

As bad as it really was growing up in my wild and crazy family, the good news is that it wasn’t all bad. No, in fact, there were some really funny and even happy times. But, I have to say Thank God For My Brother, Danny! He kept things interesting, and was the instigator of the things I remember the most.

My oldest brother, Tommy, was the golden child. Straight (A) student who really never even had to study, it seemed the knowledge just flowed from the universe straight into his brilliant mind. While I, at least,  poured over my homework, or studied for tests, Tommy entertained himself with anything from comic books to Greek Philosophy from the day he learned to read. He loved to read and always had his head stuck in a book of some kind. He was tall, dark and very handsome. All the girls chased after Tommy as we were growing up. As a teenager, back in the sixties, Tommy was a smooth dresser. One memory of him in particular always stands out to me and makes me laugh to this very day. Tommy had a royal blue, Tom Jones shirt he bought with his own money and he absolutely loved that shirt. He wore his hair in a high pompadour hair style. He never had a hair out-of-place. When he walked or talked, he carried himself with a presence of coolness…the Fonzy of our time. I mean he thought he was one cool cat and so did all the girls.

My brother, Danny, on the other hand, was the happy-go-lucky, dare-devil one of the bunch. Nothing bothered Danny. He wasn’t afraid of anything and there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t try at least once, including, but not limited too, steeling Tommy’s royal blue Tom Jones shirt and selling it to one of his friends that lived down the street for beer money. Imagine how pissed off Tommy was when he saw the neighbor kid wearing his new royal blue Tom Jones shirt, and when he approached the kid and asked him where he got it the kid says, “your brother, Danny, sold it to me”. Yes, Tommy was pissed off but good. He hunted Danny down like a rabbit, and the fight was on. I don’t remember who won the actual fight, the after effect was even worse, for Tommy, later that evening. He was still so mad at Danny that when he was getting ready for a date that night, and he thought he was going to thin his beautiful pompadour with the thinning sheers…guess how pissed off he was when he realized Danny had switched the thinning sheers out for the real scissors? The look on Tommy’s face as he realized his beautiful pompadour was GONE was PRICELESS! Of course, Danny was nowhere to be found for the next few days! I never let Tommy see me, but I laughed until I cried, and even now, it still makes me laugh when I remember that day.

Another time I remember well, was when Danny took $20.00 out of mom’s wallet. When mom found out she called each of us in and questioned us at length about who took her money. However, Danny wasn’t in the house at the time of the questioning so mom told Tommy to go over to the little shopping center behind our house to see if Danny was there at the hamburger joint. Sure enough, Tommy found him there playing the pinball machines, that happened to have several dollars sitting on top of it, and he was eating hamburgers, and drinking cokes with all his friends. Tommy told Danny he better get home, NOW,  because mom was really mad because someone took money out of her wallet. Danny asked Tommy to watch his stuff and said he could finnish his pinball game while he went home to let mom know he didn’t take her money. He told Tommy to stay there and he would be right back. Tommy, as book smart as he was, never really caught onto what Danny was doing so he agreed. Danny went home and asked mom what she needed. She questioned him about taking her money. Danny said ” now mom, I didn’t take your money, but Tommy is over at the hamburger joint playing the pinball machine and he seems to have plenty of money with him, why don’t you go see about that”. Mom did, and Tommy was caught red-handed, or so mom thought. Of course, when mom wasn’t around, I’m sure Tommy did something equally as rotten to Danny.

Then there was the time when I was home alone because my mother took her Aunt  Ruth,  who was visiting from Pennsylvania, up to the top of South Mountain at night to see the city lights. For some unknown reason, but Danny never needed a reason to do anything, Danny came running in our house with what appeared to be blood all over the front of his white shirt. He was holding his chest and screaming he was going to “kill them” as he grabbed a long pole and ran out the front door and I followed him begging him to stop and let me help him. There was an orchard at the end of our street and I saw Danny run into it. Homeless people lived in there sometimes and it was not a safe place to be after dark. But, my beloved brother, Danny, was hurt and I had to find him. So, I ran into the orchard, alone, after dark, trying to save Danny. I screamed, cried, and ran as fast as I could trying to find him. I searched and searched but he wasn’t there. I ran out of the orchard and to the closest house I could find banging on the door and begging the people I didn’t even know to please help me find my brother. They said they would call the police who came and searched the orchard but found nothing. The police asked me where I lived and took me home. I was sobbing trying to make them understand someone was trying to kill my brother. When we got to my house, my mother’s car was there and the police knocked on our door and asked my mother to come and talk to me. I cried and told mom what happened to Danny. She looked at me like I was crazy and said “Danny is in the house”. Then she called for Danny to come out, and sure enough, out he came, in clean clothes, and acting like he had no idea what I was talking about. Then, he told the police perhaps they should take ME in for drug testing! I could have strangled him with my bare hands at the time, but later, it became one of my fondest memories. To this day I still can’t imagine what made him decide to go to all that length just to trick me…but, that’s my Bro, Danny.  Thank God For Danny!

Next: Friends!

Advertisements

The Care Giver

The role of Care Giver takes on many forms. If your lucky, you parents were your caregivers when you were a child and lovingly provided for all your needs. As you got older, some of your teachers in school might have helped in providing care to you. Doctor’s and nurses are caregivers to their patients, spouses provide care to each other, and sometimes as your parents age, you may become their caregiver, or you might become the caregiver to a sibling other family member or friend. But what does it really take to provide 24/7 care for someone you love when they can no longer care for themselves? In many cases caring for a baby and caring for an aging parent, or other loved one looks the same. They all have the same basic needs. They need shelter, to be fed, diapers changed or help going to the bathroom, bathed, medications if they need it, and love.

The BIG difference between caring for a baby and caring for an aging parent, or loved one is babies willing accept the care you provide. Sometimes, an aging parent or loved one  will too. But what about when the parent, or loved one doesn’t think they need care? What if they are embarrassed or resentful that they are dependent on someone to provide their daily care? What happens if they become angry or argumentative and reject your attempts to help them? What then? Do you just give up? Do you put them in a Care Center? Some do, and take a tremendous amount of criticism from other family members which in turn creates a tremendous amount of guilt for the caregiver as they begin to wonder if they did the right thing. Did they try hard enough, for long enough and with a willing spirit?

A few days before my father died, just before he agreed to go back to the hospital, he was very sick and very, very weak. My mother needed help caring for him in their home. I lived five minutes away from their house where as my brother’s Danny, and Stephen, lived at least forty-five minutes away. My father was so weak he couldn’t walk without help, and it took both my mother and I to help him get into the bathroom. My father was so embarrassed to have me, his daughter, help him go to the bathroom, he said he would rather wet himself in his chair than have me help him use the bathroom. I understood his feelings of being embarrassed, but still he needed help. My mother would insist he let me help and that would make my father so angry he would refuse all help of any kind. How do you deal with that added pressure on the family when you are just trying to do the best you can to help?

When my father died, and we brought my mother to live with us, for the first few months she was functioning on her own. But after her stroke, she needed a lot of help getting in and out of the shower, going to the bathroom,  and when her medications constipated her, I would have to give her enemas and powerful medications prescribed by her doctor that would often times have the opposite effect causing her to not be able to get into the bathroom soon enough. I can’t tell you how many times I changed the bed sheets, cleaned the floors and bathroom, shower etc. after my mother would lose her bowels.

When my mother was so sick she couldn’t get out of bed, I sat at her bedside and gave her a bed-pan or held a bucket while she threw-up until she cried and told me how she just couldn’t go on like that any longer. I spent hours on end sitting in doctor’s offices, pharmacies and hospitals trying to ensure my mother had the quality of care she needed. I wouldn’t put her in a Care Center for several reasons. First, I promised my father as he lay dying I would take care of mom. Second, mom said she never wanted to have to go to a Care Center, and I knew my younger brother, Stephen, just wouldn’t be able to accept the fact that I couldn’t care for mom at home. So I gave, and gave, and gave, until I finally realized I was giving myself away. Then, when mom had another stroke, the decision was made for me because she could no longer walk and I couldn’t lift her in and out of her bed, chair, etc. alone.

It was then that I came to know that caring for a loved one doesn’t always mean “you” have to be the one providing the quality care. I finally understood I could oversee mom’s care without having to be hands on involved on a daily basis. I finally had to give myself permission to admit that I could no longer provide the quality of care mom needed in my home. I accepted the fact that she needed a skilled, 24/7 nursing facility where they had the staff to provide round the clock care. But, that decision wasn’t easy and it had a very high price. It was the root cause of the problems between my brother, Stephen, and I, and several other extended family members. Regardless of who or what was right or wrong, it caused judgements to be made, feeling to be hurt, and sides to be taken. How quick we are to cast judgements, throw stones and break bonds. Caring for a loved one can, and often does, take family dynamics to a whole other dimension that in my family’s case was nothing less than very sad.

These are but a few of the less than pleasant things a caregiver does for the loved one. A glimpse into the life of a caregiver. It can look easy from the outside when one sees everything under control. Sometimes we see what we want to see. But speaking from my own experience as a caregiver, what I sometimes made look easy, often times was sucking my own life out of me.

If I learned nothing else as a caregiver, I learned you MUST, absolutely MUST, take care of yourself FIRST, and never feel guilty for doing so. That includes making time for yourself, giving yourself a break, as well as taking care of your mental, spiritual and physical self. The best gift you can give the loved one you are providing care for is to take care of their caregiver. And, when the time comes that you are no longer the one to provide the care for your loved one, seek the best professional help you can find, and don’t feel guilty letting go of the caregiver role.

Next: It Wasn’t All Bad!

Accepting Change

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Zeale Donald Walsch” A dear friend of mine reminded me of that beautiful quote just today. So, if that is true, why do you think so many people have a hard time accepting change? Is it because they fear the unknown, are they afraid of failure, are they afraid they won’t be accepted if they succeed?

I personally think some people don’t always know when change is needed, or if they do, they may not have the skills needed to accept making a change. Here are some examples:

If you have low self-esteem, and you get into a bad relationship, you may settle for being treated badly because you don’t think you deserve anything better.

If you have a weight problem, you may choose  to ignore the need to get healthy because it would mean you have to give up food you love and look to for comfort.

If you have a drinking problem, you may not be ready or able to see the true effects it is having on your life, or on the lives of the ones you love.

If you have a disability, you may be depressed, weighed down with self-pity, or feelings of rejection that could be crippling your ability to seek the help that could lead to positive change.

If you’ve been deeply hurt, you could be so filled with anger, resentment and/or hate, that you can’t see your way through to finding what you need to accept peaceful change.

For me, accepting change in my life has often times meant I had to give something up, let something go, or be willing to take a chance and try something new. When Shantel lost her sight, I had to learn to let go of my need to control so I could allow her the freedom to learn how to do things the way that worked best for her. I could have done whatever it was faster, neater, and in my opinion more effectively, but I wasn’t the one who was blind trying to learn how to live in a sighted world. When I was so filled with anger towards my father, I had to search my soul to find a way to move past the pain and find forgiveness which also meant I couldn’t be angry anymore. As I grew up never feeling good enough and began to see how it was affecting my self-esteem, I had to learn how to mother and nurture myself and tell myself the things I needed to hear which also meant I couldn’t blame anyone for the woman I became. When I went to New York City for the first time to visit my Frissy, I had never traveled alone before and was terrified. I had to find the courage to trust I could do it which also lead to a more independent me.

All these things took time and started with very small, baby steps. A thought I turned into an action, a criticism I took to heart and searched for a way to change, a need I looked for a positive way to fulfill. I can’t remember who wrote this, but one of my favorite quotes is “Change your thoughts, change your world.” I believe that with all my being and have found it to be so very, very true. We are what we think we are. We become who we think we can become. We get what we think we deserve…

Another thing that has helped me accept change, or the need to change, is a beautiful prayer called “The Serenity Prayer” which says:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I say that beautiful prayer often. It always helps me ACCEPT CHANGE in my life.

Next: The Care Giver!

Control

Some people want it, some crave it, and other’s think they need it. How about you?

Growing up in my family, there was always some crisis going on. My youngest brother, Stephen, had epilepsy and was in and out of the hospital a lot from a very young age. When Stephen was in the hospital, of course, my parents would be at his side ,which meant my other brothers, Tommy and Danny, and I were left with my father’s family, his sisters, Dee Dee and Vonnie, his brother, Grant, and our grandma Vezie. I don’t know what was worse, living at home with all the dysfunctionality and chaos, or staying with my father’s family.

My father’s sister, Dee Dee, was the meanest woman I ever knew. She took care of grandma after her stroke, and ran the house while her sister, Vonnine and her brother, Grant, worked. Dee Dee favored my brother Tommy and would have prefered to have him at her house without Danny, Stephen or I, but she knew if she wanted to see Tommy, she had to take the rest of us as well. She would make Danny, Stephen (when he wasn’t in the hospital) and I stay outside in her backyard in the hot summers, and if we needed a drink  we were told to get it out of the swamp cooler hose while Tommy sat in the house reading comic books she bought for him, drank cokes, and had all the comforts of home.

My father’s older brother, Red, and his wife, Jess lived across the street from Dee Dee. They were very nice but they favored Danny, and he would get to go over to their house to enjoy snacks and cold drinks too. But I wasn’t anyone’s favorite, and I stayed in the back yard all day long by myself when Stephen was in the hospital. Then, when Stephen got well enough to function at home, he would have to go to Dee Dee’s house with the rest of us while my parents worked. Stephen wasn’t anyone’s favorite either, so he and I spent the days in the backyard together. Once in a while Dee Dee would bring us out a piece of bread with butter and sugar on it but she only did that so she could tell my parents she gave us a snack too. We weren’t allowed to go into the house for any reason. One day I had to go to the bathroom so badly I wet my pants. I was about nine or ten and I was terrified Dee Dee would find out before my pants dried. She did, and made me stand out in the back yard in my underwear until my jeans dried. I was mortified and felt like I had no control over what she made me do. This type of treatment went on for years and Stephen and I were afraid to tell our parents because we didn’t think they would believe us, and we knew if Dee Dee ever found out we told it would make things much worse on us. We felt like we were helpless, and had no control over the situation we found ourselves in everyday.

As I grew up, I no longer had to stay with Dee Dee, but the dysfunctionlity of our home move to higher levels as the boys became teenagers and fights would break out between them. I mean all out fist fights with breaking of furniture, bloody noses etc. I would be so scared, I would just go in my room and start cleaning. I would clean everything from top to bottom, rearrange furniture, pictures on the wall etc. I cleaned because it was the one thing I could control in my environment. Even if the room had just been cleaned because I had to clean the whole house every week, I would clean it again just because it made me feel in control. This cleaning activity became my escape and I carried it through into my adult life. When I would get upset, stressed, nervous etc. and feel like things around me are “out of control” I’d start cleaning because it makes me feel like I’m in control of something, anything.

It took years,  and lots and lots of self-help and self talks, but I finally realized all the excessive cleaning wasn’t giving me control over any given situation, it just gave me the illusion that I was in control of something, that and it gave me a really clean house, but that’s beside the point. What I came to understand is that we really don’t have real control over anything or anyone. The only thing we can really control is ourselves. I read a sign once in a little shop that said ” WE PLAN, GOD LAUGHS!” That really hit home with me and was a turning point for me to begin “letting go” of my need to have control. Now, I still clean, but I do it when needed, not as a means to make me feel in control.

What coping methods do you use?

Next: Accepting Change

Why Ask Why?

Often times, especially when something bad happens in our lives, people have a tendency to ask WHY? I’ve done that myself many times over the years until I realized that really wasn’t the question I needed to ask. Let me explain my theory.

When I left home at the tender age of sixteen to marry my ex-husband, all I wanted was to start my own family. I wanted to have lots of children to fill our home. I would have been completely happy being a stay at home mom taking care of my home and family. However, that wasn’t what was written in the life plan for me.

When I adopted my daughter, Katie, after five years of marriage, I was so happy and grateful to finally have a baby of my own, I settled into the thought that she would be my only child, and I was satisfied with that. Then, after eleven years of marriage, I thought I had been blessed with a true miracle when I found out I was pregnant. But, that wasn’t to be either. It turned out to be a tubal pregnancy that ruptured, causing me to have emergency surgery, and I asked WHY? Why did this happen to me?

Then, just three months after that surgery, another miracle…I was pregnant again! A second chance…but no, that ended in a miscarriage that caused me to have a complete hysterectomy at the age of twenty-eight, and ended my hopes of ever having a biological child. I was devastated beyond belief, and I asked WHY? Why did this happen to me again. Why did I ever get pregnant at all if only to lose both babies? WHY?

Later, when Bill and I met, fell in love, and married, within two years of our marriage, we found out he had to have double bypass heart surgery…and I asked WHY? Why was our happiness being disrupted like this? WHY?

When my daughter, Katie, had Shantel and decided she didn’t want to be her mother and gave her up to us for adoption…again, I questioned WHY? Why would she give up her own child, especially being adopted herself? WHY?

When Bill and I found out Shantel had cancer, again I questioned WHY?  Why did this happen to her and our family? WHY?

Each time I asked WHY something was happening to me or someone I loved, I found myself  getting depressed instead of getting answers because the question could never be answered. Over time, I came to realize what I needed to ask was WHAT DO I NEED TO HELP ME DEAL WITH  WHAT IS HAPPENING OR HAS  HAPPENED IN THE MOST PRODUCTIVE AND EFFECTIVE WAY?

I found, for me, when I would ask WHY, what I was really saying was why me and not someone else? When I meditated on that, I realized I wouldn’t wish any bad thing that happened in my life on anyone else so I needed to find a way to deal with the pain, grief, anger etc. of each situation myself, and stop asking WHY?

We all have challenges in our life, and our own “cross to carry”.  I’ve heard it said, “if we all tossed all our problems in a pile, where we could all see each other’s problems, we would race to take our own  problems back. Food for thought isn’t it?

I’ve been blessed with family and wonderful friends who are there for me when challenges come up in my life, and I always have my faith to fall back on as well. I’ve been told I am a spiritual person, I suppose I am, but what I know for sure is, asking WHY never helped me get through the rough spots in the road on my life’s journey, so WHY ASK WHY?

I’d love for you to share what’s helped you deal with your life’s challenges?

Next: Control

I’m Sorry

Two simple words with the power to change lives if said with meaning and a genuine purpose.

To me, saying I’m sorry means I am truly sorry for what I did and I will make every effort to never let it happen again.

Some people can’t form the words in their mouths let alone actually say them with real meaning, while others will say ” I’m sorry’ as part of a greeting. I had a neighbor who would always say “I’m sorry” to bother you… every time she would call me or speak to me in the yard.

The Webster’s dictionary gives the definition of the word sorry as ‘feeling sorrow, regret, or penitence, mournful, sad, inspiring sorrow, pity, scorn, or ridicule. The word sorry is very different from the word forgiveness which the dictionary says means “willing or able to forgive, allowing room for error or weakness”.

I often wonder why it is so difficult for some people to say “I’m sorry” when they have caused another person pain or if they realize they have wronged another person in some way?

When my father brought my world crashing down around me and my family, and hurt me so badly I didn’t know if I could take my next breath, he never said he was sorry. It took me years, but I forgave him, because I needed to give myself that gift so I could let go of the pain, even though it definitely left an emotional scar. You see, I believe when someone hurts you, and doesn’t say they are sorry, and truly mean it, you may be able to forgive them, but it still leaves a scar. However, if a person hurts you, and say’s they are sorry, and truly means it from their heart, it releases the pain, hurt, and anger within you, and allows the wound to heal without a scar. Then you can go on with your life without the constant reminder of the hurt you experienced at the hands of another.

I realize we are all human, and make mistakes, but I personally also believe we are really spiritual beings, having a human experience, not human beings that sometimes have a spiritual experience. I also believe we are all here for very specific reasons. Sometimes we are here to be the teacher’s, and sometimes we are here to learn the lessons. Two of the most important lessons I learned in my life was to always say I’m sorry if I hurt anyone, and to forgive when I have been hurt. I have an example of that to share.

When Bill and I met we were married to other people. Both of our marriages were all but over, but our divorces were not finalized when we decided to move in together. That caused hurt feelings and pain to our children, my ex-husband and his family, Bill’s ex-wife, and my parents. As I realized the far-reaching effect of our decision, I knew I needed to apologize to each and every one of them. It didn’t happen right away because emotions were just too raw, but over time, I went to each person and sincerely told them I was sorry for my part in the hurt they experienced. I didn’t say I was sorry that Bill and I were together because I wasn’t, but I was sorry that we didn’t wait until our divorces were finalized before we moved on with our lives. I didn’t ask for forgiveness either because I believe forgiveness is for the person who is forgiving, but I wanted each person to know I was truly sorry for my part in their pain.

Why am I sharing all this with you? Because, I really believe a lot of people walking around everyday carrying a lot of hurt and pain with them that could be released if they would simply sincerely say I’m sorry if they have hurt anyone, or forgive anyone who may have hurt them. Now, saying I’m sorry doesn’t mean the person is going to automatically forgive you on the spot, in fact they may not be ready to let go and forgive, but when you say you are sorry and mean it, that is all you can do to start the healing process and release your pain as well as theirs. And, when you say you are sorry, you just might plant the seed of forgiveness within the person you hurt.

What do you think?

Next: Why Ask Why?

First Splash Of The Season

Cast your memory back to summer’s as a child…are you there? Now, remember when you would lay on your back on the cool green grass and look at the many different formations the clouds would make? You know we all did that, and we had so much fun letting our imaginations run wild as we tried to pick out different shapes, faces, animals etc. in the puffy white clouds floating across a beautiful blue sky. If you never did that as a child, you really missed an important part of your childhood. But, it’s never too late to recapture or reclaim your childhood. I do it everyday!

As I mentioned in one of my  recent posts, I have many ways of centering myself while finding peace, joy, laughter, and fun in my daily life. One of the things I mentioned was challenging myself everyday to get enough of the right kind of exercise such as riding my exercise bike, walking, and now that we have a pool, I am creating a daily aerobic and resistance weight training pool exercise program.

Now, I have to be honest here, I really don’t like real vigorous aerobic exercise, but I love the feeling of accomplishment after I complete my exercise programs. And, as an added bonus, I have lots more energy, sleep much better than when I don’t exercise, have much better range of movement, my joints don’t hurt like they do when I don’t exercise and it really helps me maintain my weight loss. So, first thing every morning, I jump on my exercise bike for thirty minutes and peddle as hard and fast as I can, getting up to and keeping my target heart rate. I usually get in eight miles in thirty minutes, and burn at least 220 calories. That’s at least a glass of wine I work off first thing in the morning!

Now that it is getting hotter, a lovely 105 and climbing as of yesterday, I have turned my attention to getting my aerobic exercise in our pool. I jumped right in Sunday evening for my first splash of the season. At first the 78 degree water grabbed my breath because I am a desert rat and don’t like cold water, air, etc. but, as soon as I started my continuous, non-stop jumping, kicking, jogging, swimming and doing resistance weight training in the water, I began to warm up. After I complete my full thirty minutes of continuous, non-stop vigorous, water exercise, I reward myself by simply holding on to the side of the pool with my head resting on the edge looking up at the sky, and just enjoy the beautiful cloud formations. And, every once in a while, a plane will fly over and I watch it for as long as I can see it and wonder where its taking the passengers its carrying across the beautiful blue sky. Then, if there is a jet stream coming from the plane, sometimes the jet stream will begin to take on shapes as it collapses into the sky. Beautiful, and so very peaceful… If you’ve never done this, you are really missing a wonderful opportunity to experience inner peace! You don’t even need a pool. I use to do the same thing lying in my hammock after I completed my exercises, or you can simply go lay out in your yard. The added bonus of that is the smell of the green grass, and you can look for small insects that make their home there. That’s a whole world of its own and well worth checking out. All of these things help recapture and/or reclaim childhood. We just have to be open to remembering, then go do it all again!

I hope you will all make time to look for and find opportunities to exercise you body first, then exercise your imagination as you seek out peace in your days. I always find it so worth the effort, I’m hoping you will too!

Next: I’m Sorry!

Previous Older Entries

Wheeling It

On the Road Since 2010, Traveling Across USA & Europe With 12 Paws

The Brantley Blog

In the eyes of the law, we reach adulthood the day we turn 18 years old. God help anyone who actually believes that.

the next few years

family life..with a unique perspective of motherhood

Gotham Girl Chronicles

a mixture of random musings...life in NYC...travel...photography...cycling

Blooming Burgh Boomer

Living An Active Full Life

%d bloggers like this: