Sometimes I Forget

That my daughter, Shantel, is blind.

Being the mother of a blind child, for me, has been both the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It has taught me the delicate balance between heartache and joy, pride and humility, fear and confidence, tears and laughter, but most importantly, it constantly teaches me how to give and receive unconditional love.

The sun never sets on a day when I’m not reminded, on many levels, what a life of total blindness is like for Shantel.

I’m reminded every time I see how hard she works to compete in school to keep up, and even move ahead, of her sighted peers.

I’m reminded when I see how her heart breaks when she hears other’s her age talk about driving or getting new cars when she knows she never will.

I’m reminded when I see the hurt on her face when she finds out she didn’t get invited to “the” party or other event others are talking about.

And, no matter how proud I am of Shantel, and all of her accomplishments, I still worry what her life will be like when my husband, Bill, and I are no longer here to help her when she needs us. With most of our other children living out-of-state, I’m reminded how much more I need to do to ensure Shantel can manage completely independent of us….even when doing so sometimes makes her feel like I’m pushing her away.

But, sometimes, I FORGET, that Shantel is blind.

I forget she is blind when I complain about the fabric sheets she drops on the floor when she is folding her laundry. I forget that she can’t see them and they don’t make any noise when they fall to the floor.

I forget she is blind when were driving in the car and I tell her to look at the Coyote that just ran across the road.

I forget she is blind when I ask her why she didn’t wipe the water spots off the mirror after taking her shower.

And just the other night we all had a good laugh when I, once again, forgot Shantel is blind. Here is what happened:

My husband, Bill, leaves for work at 3:00 a.m. every morning so he goes to bed between 6:30 & 7:00 p.m. Shantel always wants to get her towels and things out of the linen closet (located in the master bedroom) before Bill goes to sleep. The other night Bill was in bed but Shantel still needed to get her towels so I told her she needed to hurry up because papa was already in bed with the light on waiting for her to get her towels…without missing a beat, Shantel simply said “well I don’t need the light on”. I could hear Bill laughing his ass off from our bedroom, which made me laugh even harder, which in turn made Shantel fall over laughing about how easy it is for me to forget.

All I can say is, I thank God everyday that sometimes, I do FORGET!

*This is post number 170 for me and I want to take this opportunity to thank all my readers that follow my blog and an extra special thank-you to those who leave comments.

I wish you all a the very best of the New Year!

Stay Tuned!

Check Out

My new ride!

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This year, I’m committed to getting out and enjoying the GREAT OUTDOORS more often. And, now that our daughter, Shantel, feels confident using dail-a-ride home from school, I actually have some extra time to spend doing things I want to do. My husband, Bill, aka, Bro, has a friend at work who bought this bike for his wife. She didn’t like riding it, so after two attempts, and falling off both times, they sold this beautiful Roadmaster Mountain Bike to me for just $35.00. What a deal, and happy day for me! I LOVE my new bike! All I had to do was buy a helmet, and a new “wide load” seat…I didn’t like the little skinny ass seat that came with the bike because, well, I don’t have a “skinny ass” no, I’m built for comfort, not speed. I also bought a basket for my bike so if I have to go to the store for just one or two items, I can just hop on my new bike and off I go,. I can carry  my items back in the cute little basket. Now how cool is that going to be?

After Bill/Bro put on the new seat, and adjusted the handlebars, I just couldn’t wait to get out on the road. So, right after church, and breakfast this morning, that is exactly what I did:)

I guess it’s true what they say “you never forget how to ride a bike. And, it wasn’t long before I was going…,

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Going…,

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Gone…,

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I also love the basket on my bike because it has the best feature…not only will it hold your items in the basket while you are riding…

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It detaches and has a handle so you can use it like a picnic basket when you get to your destination and what to have a little picnic say under a shade tree, by a river bank, or any other great outdoor place you might find yourself. Did I mention I LOVE my new bike?

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Bill/Bro has his friend at work looking for a deal on a bike for him. His friend and his wife go to lots of garage sales and they are going to make it their mission to find a good bike at a great price for Bill/Bro so he can ride with me on the weekends when he isn’t working. Now that Bill/Bro has new knees there is no limit to what he can do…But, in the meantime, while we are waiting on a bike for Bill/Bro, we decided we are going to get serious about hiking on the weekends when Bill/Bro is off. Check out our new hiking shoes (much better than trying to slip/slide trying to hike up/down hills in tennis shoes) and, of course, all committed hikers  have hiking/walking sticks!

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Oh what a fun-filled great outdoor year this is going to be!

Stay tuned!

Christmas 2012

This Christmas was even more special than usual because our son, Patrick (my husband Bill’s middle son) and his wife Celina and their three children, Aiden, Bailey and Hope, and our daughter Katie (Bill’s daughter), her two children, Alex and Emma, and Katie’s boyfriend Josh, all were here from Colorado to spend Christmas with us. We also had my brother, Danny and his wife, Bea, and her son, Chris, my mom, and our dear friends, Holly and Chuck.

Meet my beautiful grandchildren (minus one). From right to left: 16-year-old Alex, 9-year-old Aiden, 4-year-old Hope, 8-year-old Emma, 9-year-old Bailey (Aiden’s twin).

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They all arrived on Friday 12/21/12 after making the 10 hour drive from Grand Junction Colorado. After checking into their hotel and getting settled in, they all come to our house for dinner. I roasted 4 large chickens, roasted finger potatoes, mixed vegetables, and hot rolls. We all ate, talked, laughed, and caught up on what is happening in everyone’s day-to-day lives.

The following day, Bill, Patrick and Josh went golfing while Katie and Celina did some last-minute Christmas shopping and went out to lunch. I got to just be grandma. I had a fun-filled day all planned for the kids that began when we all held hands and walked about three blocks to the park in our neighborhood. Little Hope spotted the spring ridding toys right away.

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Aiden couldn’t wait to find the hoops for the basketball we took.

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Aiden’s twin sister, Bailey, spent a lot of time running after the ball just like all good sisters do for their brother’s right?

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Emma took a spin on the spring ridding toys as well.

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Then it was off to the swings for Hope.

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And my beautiful, Alex was not far behind.

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The washable sidewalk chalk I took was a BIG hit!

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Even Aiden gave that a try.

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Don’t you fall Aiden. Grandma wouldn’t want to have to explain another broken arm to mom and dad, especially not on my watch!

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After a little more than two hours, Bailey finally said she was tired and  asked if we could go home and have lunch.

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After lunch Emma and Bailey played cards.

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While Aiden sampled the after lunch candy canes.

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Sweet little Hope was all tuckered out, so what’s a grandma to do but rock her to sleep:)

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That evening Alex watched all the grandchildren while our adult children took Bill and I out to dinner. What a treat and the perfect ending to a perfect day.

The next morning I pulled the house back together so everything looked special for Christmas Eve with our family. The stockings were stuffed with special treats and surprises.

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The tree was lit and room made for more presents.

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Everyone arrived at 5:00 for drinks and snacks before dinner at 6:00. Jambalaya, chicken vegetable lasagna, and cabbage rolls, oh my!

Everyone wanted pictures of the grandchildren with grandpa and grandma and just when we thought everyone was in place, we realized Aiden was not sitting with us. He was hovering around the homemade Christmas cookies and fudge Bill and our daughter Shantel made. But, by then, the other children were getting restless so here are our beautiful granddaughters with grandpa and grandma:)

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The only thing left to do was let the celebration begin!

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Then in the blink of an eye, and much too soon, it was time to say a tearful goodbye as our children and grandchildren all had to head back home to Colorado very early Christmas morning. Sadly, even Alex, who was supposed to stay on with us until Jan 2nd started not feeling well as the evening wore on so she asked if she could reschedule her stay over the summer. Of course she can, and I’m already making plans for that!

I’m so very thankful for the many gifts I have been blessed with, but nothing compares to the most precious gift of all, the gift of family and friends.

Stay Tuned!

Giving Back

I LOVE to do volunteer work. Most of my day is spent in volunteering right here in my own home as a cook, taxi service, tutor, cleaning service etc. But I still found that I have some extra time that I can give to others outside of my home. So, this year, in addition to the time my daughter, Shantel, and I spend cuddling cats at the Humane Society, Shantel and I are also going to volunteer at Maggie’s Place.

Maggie’s Place is a community that provides houses of hospitality for expectant woman who wish to achieve their goals in a dignified and welcoming atmosphere following Catholic social teachings. Maggie’s Place provides for the immediate physical and emotional needs of the mothers including shelter, food, clothing and a supportive community. Some of the women that come to Maggie’s Place are from abusive relationships, recovering from drugs, have low self-esteem, little or no formal education and little or no work experience. They are offered hope, encouragement and put in touch with other agencies that can help them begin a new life by helping them achieve an educational plan, learn job skills and in some cases, obtain low-income housing.

Women can join Maggie’s Place at any point in their pregnancy and stay until the child is at least six months old. The women that are parenting or placing their child with an adoptive family are welcome. They must be at least 18 years old, but unfortunately Maggie’s Place cannot assist women with other dependent children in their care.

I have many passions but helping those that cannot help themselves is a very high priority for me. So now that I do have more time to give, I am going to follow my passions in ways I have not been able to do before. I love babies and believe I have so much to give to the mothers and babies we will meet at Maggie’s Place. Being the adoptive mother of two daughters, I know I can help young girls who are considering placing their babies up for adoption. I also know Shantel will be an inspiration to the young girls at Maggie’s Place. When they see how well Shantel has managed her life, and how focused she is on her education, perhaps they will be inspired and motivated enough to take the steps they need to take to turn their lives around.

Shantel and I will need to complete a training course and have a complete background check and finger prints taken prior to working at Maggie’s Place. We are awaiting a call now to have that scheduled. More on Maggie’s Place in future posts.

Another deep passion of mine is my Catholic faith. I am always looking for ways I can give of myself to our church. In addition to attending Sunday Mass, I also look forward to my committed hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every Monday from 11:00 a.m – 12:00 noon, but that gives me so much pleasure and enjoyment that I don’t feel like I’m really “giving” of myself to the church. So, imagine my pure delight when I read the following in the Sunday bulletin” Do you like to cook? St. Anne’s has a wonderful stewardship opportunity that we would like to share with you…bringing an evening meal for our two parish priests. They like anything, are light eaters, and request no deserts. If you are interested, please sign up to bring a meal for our priests each week”. Wow, what a perfect stewardship for me…I love to cook, it’s another of my passions…so I signed up straight away and I am now officially one of the cooks for our parish priests. I already have menus planned out for months into the new year! More on this new adventure as time goes by.

I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful Christmas Season.

Stay Tuned

“WE” Earned A (B)

For the past three months, I’ve been helping Shantel with a research project for her Intercultural Communication Class. The project was a MAJOR part of their final grade and had to be completed to the exact instructions provided by the Professor teaching the class. Each student had to choose a country and write a complete research paper detailing specific things about the country in a specific format with each section worth a predetermined percentage of the overall grade. The research had to be done using scholarly sources. They could use six or more scholarly books or scholarly journal articles, one or two expert interviews, and no more than four scholarly Internet sources from the college databases. So, in other words, they couldn’t just Google the information and write a paper. Once the research paper was completed in an outline format, the students had to give a 13-15 minute presentation to the class and they had to include visual aids that represent the country. Shantel decided to do her research/presentation on South Africa.

Right out of the gate she ran into a major problem when another student, who decided she wanted to present South Africa as well, checked out every book on South Africa from the college library. Then, a lot of the information on the college scholarly database included graphics such as maps and pictures of costumes etc. Shantel’s computer will read words to her but will not describe pictures or maps. Her computer just tells her “there is a graphic” and that’s all. Not much to go on when trying to complete a detailed research paper. Shantel and I had a meeting with the Professor who asked the student that checked out all the books on South Africa to bring them back in so I could copy pages Shantel wanted to research out of the book. Then, the copies were supposed to be scanned into an email and sent to Shantel so her computer could read the information to her. I spent an entire afternoon at the college making the copies but when the information was scanned, the person doing the scanning apparently didn’t know what they were doing and much of the information was missing such as titles, page numbers, and in some cases entire pages…That was a huge problem because the assignment required all information be cited using page numbers, titles, names etc…Well, time was of the essence so when all else fails…it’s mom to the rescue…I requested the hard copies (that I made) back so I could sit and read the information to Shantel as she typed her report. We spent hours and hours working on this project that included three drafts. Draft #1, draft #2, and draft #2 a.

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There were stacks of paper with each completed draft.

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Then, finally, after hours and hours and many months…we finally had our completed presentation report ready.

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Shantel and I were so excited to have the research/presentation completed but we were not out of the woods yet…No, when we went to print the final paper out, the jump drive had an error and wouldn’t allow us to bring up the report…Oh, NO!! But, Shantel being a quick thinker under pressure, remembered to send the report to her email so she forwarded it on to my email so I could print it out for her. But…just when I thought we were “home free”…I tried to print the report out but ran into yet another problem… (keep in mind this is all happening at 5:00 a.m. the morning of the due date). The printer was out of black ink…Now, I’m thinking just shoot me now this just can’t be happening…But, not to be outdone, and mom being a quick thinker under pressure too, I decided to approve any color ink for the printer to use which just happened to be dark blue which when printed looked black. Yeah!!! At that point I wouldn’t have cared if the ink was yellow!

Well, all is well that ends well and Shantel got to class and made “our” presentation and “we” got a (B)!

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The only negative comments about the whole report was it was “Very Long” presenting time 21:30 minutes which was over the 13-15 minute time frame, but hey “we’ll” take it!:)

I just couldn’t be more PROUD of US!!!

P.S. For those who care to know, Shantel is finished with this semester and she received the following final grades:

Phycology – A

Public Speaking – B

Intercultural Communication – B

Nutrition – B

Stay Tuned!

Never Promised A Rose Garden

But what I got is a beautiful garden just the same.

I have been sick with the cold/flu for the past week ,and haven’t ventured out of my house, other than to take my daughter, Shantel, to school. Usually I manage to “solider” through a cold/flu, but this time, I was all but down for the count so to speak… With Shantel in school, and my husband, Bill aka, Bro, at work all day, I was on my own to fend for myself…no one was here to make me hot chicken soup, bring me my medications…, like I did for Shantel, who must have passed this horrid cold/flu on to me as I was taking care of her all last week…Isn’t that just the way it seems to go for mothers…? We take care of everyone, then, when we get sick…no one is around to take care of us… good thing by now we learn how to be self-reliant..:)

But, the silver lining for me this week, as I spent a miserable week inside my house trying to recover from the brink of death… or so I thought anyway, was when I found the strength to walk/pace to my front window ,and look out at the world waiting for me to recover…this is what I saw that brightened my day:)

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The best part of having this beautiful, flowering, garden just outside my front door is they are all really, really, hardy desert plants that I couldn’t kill if I tried…:)

I’m on the mend now. I guess it’s true that what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger… so I’m just very thankful if I had to suffer such a dreadful illness…it happened now, instead of next week, because I have BIG, BIG, REALLY BIG, PLANS to take care of for Christmas  Eve with all our kids/grandkids from Colorado coming home for Christmas. I’ve got lots of Step-mom/Grandma things to finish doing so everything is just right for Christmas Eve…and, I can’t hardly wait!

Stay Tuned!

Such A Beautiful Afternoon

In so many ways!

Yesterday, my cousin, Tracie, came over to visit and see my new home. Although Tracie and I don’t get to spend a lot of time together, when we do get the opportunity to visit we just pick up right where we left off without skipping a beat. I love that! Tracie is such a beautiful, special, woman with a heart of GOLD. She and I understand each other very well because we share many of the same crazy family stories. Tracie’s Grandmother and my Father were brother and sister, so we know “the codes” of the Vezie family which make for some very interesting conversations to say the least.

In addition to being a beautiful lady, Tracie is very creative, and makes the most beautiful handmade scarfs I’ve ever seen.  I love, love, love anything handmade. I just think it is amazing when someone can take raw material and turn it into something beautiful, like these scarfs. And, guess what? Yesterday I was the most fortunate recipient of not one, not two, but three of Tracie’s beautiful, handmade scarfs. Just look at how beautiful these scarfs are:

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What woman wouldn’t want one of these beautiful, fashion statements to wear ? I think they are so beautiful I can’t even decide which color I like best.  I think they even look beautiful hanging on the wall. What do you think?

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After I recovered from the excitement of receiving the beautiful scarfs, Tracie and I spent the afternoon sharing family stories, looking at old family albums, and laughing…OMG, how we laughed…:) We had lunch, and  then just talked and talked and talked. It was so much fun reconnecting with Tracie and we decided we need to not let too much time pass before we get together again for another fun-filled afternoon. Such a beautiful afternoon!

Thank-you Tracie for the scarfs and for bringing so much beauty into my day. XXOO Cindy

Stay Tuned!

Meet Them Where They Are

Yesterday I had two people ask me how I am able to interact so easily with the residents at the Care Center where my mother lives.  At the time I was asked the question I simply said “I don’t know why, but for some reason it just comes easy to me”.  However, as I thought more about it last night, I came to see that what I’m doing with the residents at the Care Center is meeting them where THEY are, not where I expect them to be or even where I want them to be.  I don’t have any expectations of any of the residents because I have no history with them. I don’t know what they could or couldn’t do in the past, I just know what I see today. I’m not there to make them better, help them walk, play games with them or talk about days gone by. I’m simply there with them. I don’t know anything more than what I see each time I visit with them so I start interacting with them just as they are, just where they are.

On the other hand, I do know for a fact, that it is easier if you don’t know or have a history with the resident. I know this because while I do love my mother, I sometimes find it more difficult to interact with her than with the other residents. Why? Because we do have a history filled with good, bad, happy and sad times, frustrations, hurts and disappointments…My mother still has expectations of me in regards to meeting her needs, and I have expectations of my mother which make it more difficult for me to always remember I need to meet her where she is without any expectations.

Here is just one of many examples I can give: I believe with all my heart that my mother quit walking long before she couldn’t walk. That in turn, lead to me having to put her in the Care Center when I could no longer get her in and out of the shower etc., which in turn put a strain on the family as not all family members agreed with my decision…it’s things like this that make it difficult for me to always remember to meet my mother where she is and not where I expect her to be. I try, I really do and all I can say it if you’ve never been in that position with a loved one, it’s better to not judge because no one knows until you’ve been there and done that what it’s like…

I try to practice things I learned when my daughter, Shantel, lost her sight at two years old. I learned very quickly not to have expectations. I had to learn to “meet her where she was” everyday, and celebrate each of her accomplishments as they came. I learned to just be with her and love her through the many trails and errors that were made along the way on both our parts. I try to remember that with my mother, who I love, but who isn’t a child like Shantel was when I was learning how to not have expectations… Shantel was and is perfect just the way she is to me. She didn’t have to do anything to impress me and I didn’t have to do anything to impress her. I learned not to compare her to other children and what they could or would be doing at any given time. I also learned I had to help her not compare herself to others. Shantel didn’t learn to tie her shoes or hook a necklace around her neck until she was in middle school and that was just fine with me. We never pushed her but would sit patiently with her for hours when she said she wanted to try to tie her shoes or put her own necklace on.  Eventually she learned how to do both but if she hadn’t I would have just kept buying her shoes with velcro and keep helping her with her necklaces because what was more important to me was that she knew she was loved unconditionally no matter what she could or couldn’t do. I try to convey that message to my mother every time I visit her and I try not to have expectations that I know my mother can’t meet. I guess that’s all any of us can do.

Stay Tuned!

A State of Mind

When you spend as much time in a 24/7 Skilled Nursing Center as I do visiting my mother, naturally you’ll get to know the other residents that live there. Each resident is unique and special in my eyes, and I find it both heartbreaking and interesting to watch the changes they go through from visit to visit. Most of the residents are experiencing various degrees of Dementia or Alzheimer’s,  and depending on their “state of mind” on any given day, they may converse with me in complete sentences, or I may have to listen very closely to what they are saying and piece together the message they are trying so hard to communicate. I’ve been told it’s better not to try to help them finish their thoughts, just let them call up the words they can find to communicate their needs. So I just listen which is sometimes all they really need anyway, just someone to listen to them…

Some residents become frustrated, angry, and even bitter as they lose control of their command of speech. I’ve watched as some residents, who still show signs of being able to participate in activities, argue and even hit the staff when they are brought out to the activity room for arts/crafts or bingo. They seem to want to just sit in their rooms and stare at the wall. One man, I don’t even know his name yet, cried and yelled today, “I don’t want to be in here, I don’t want to play games, why are you making me do this, I don’t do this to you” Then he started singing over and over “you must play games, you must play games, the problem is the games are the same”. The staff member just rubbed the man’s back, smiled and walked away. I wanted to cry myself, and go sit with the man in his room, but that would be interfering with his care… so I just said a prayer asking God to comfort him.

I also notice how many of the residents don’t seem to see themselves in others. For example: I’ve heard residents talking about other residents saying how “dumb, stupid or crazy so and so is because they do this or that, when in fact I’ve witnessed the resident doing all the talking doing the very same things. It is also very interesting how important it is for some residents to “be right”. If one resident thinks another has done something wrong I’ve seen them go to great lengths to make sure everyone knows that person did something wrong. Then, once they have made the point of letting everyone know that person was wrong…they will continue to keep the pot stirred until someone else does something wrong that gets their attention then they will start in on the person that did the “new” wrong…Some of these residents are relentless in their efforts to complain about what other residents did or didn’t do “right”. Sometimes it reminds me of how chickens will peck sick or weak chickens within their own group to death!

And then there are some residents, like my friend, Sharon, you might remember her from Halloween, she is the lady that wanted Twix candy bars…she is an absolute delight to spend time with. Sharon has dementia, and doesn’t always speak in complete thoughts. Sometimes she will be in the middle of a sentence and notice something on the TV and she will just start talking about what’s on the TV… but when she talks, whatever she is telling you is told with sheer delight on her face. Sharon has the most beautiful laugh. I just love to hear her laugh. Sharon tells everyone that walks into the room they are beautiful. She tells me that every time I see her. She tells all the staff and even people she doesn’t know how beautiful they are. Sharon talks all the time about her son, Stephen, but the stories she tells about Stephen are never the same. One day she will tell you Stephen came to visit her “yesterday” and brought her “tons” of beautiful clothes to wear because he loves his mother so much. Last week Sharon was talking to me about her son, Stephen, and she told me he is a billionaire and has a beautiful home in Maricopa where she is going to go for Christmas Eve and spend the night and have dinner with Stephen and his family on Christmas Day. Today when I was talking with Sharon she told me she hasn’t seen her son, Stephen in five years. I asked her why and she looked at me and said “you know, I told you, he is in prison”. No matter what the story of the day is when Sharon talks to me about her son, Stephen, she always speaks joyfully of him. Her eyes shine and she has the biggest smile on her face when she talks to me about her beloved son, Stephen. I’ve known Sharon for four years now, and I have never seen anyone come to visit her, no one…and it makes me sad for Sharon because she is just an absolute delight of a person to spend time with, and I just love her and treasure our visits.

Now, I’ve been warned by some not to get too close to the residents because it “hurts too much when they are gone, and they all go…” but through all of my time at the Care Center, I’ve come to a better understanding of the old saying “It’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”. So, I’ll just keep loving Sharon, and all the other residents I visit on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings because, “it really is just a state of mind”!

Stay Tuned!

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