No one should die alone…Death is not a solo act.

No one should die alone…Death is not a solo act.

Trigger Warning, includes death

Seriously, this is one of the most difficult blog posts I have written. I have been thinking of it for some time and just have not been able to bring myself to actually articulate the words, let alone type them. However, this pandemic is seriously making me face some tough truths, none of which are exactly comfortable to acknowledge, especially when it comes to death.

I  imagine the majority of you are being hit hard in at least one area of your life right now. Whether it be financially, physically, or within a relationship, none of us could ever have prepared for what our world would look like at this very moment. I can’t imagine any of us would have predicted this reality when the world shut down in March of 2020.

Impending Death

There are times when death sneaks up on us without warning. That was the case with my brother a few years back. Honestly, out of all of the people in my life, I truly thought he would be the one to outlive us all. He didn’t. Ironically, he had made plans ago meet us that next week. No one could have predicted his untimely and unexpected passing.

Other times you have warning. For instance, we knew my mom was ill, we just didn’t realize exactly how far she had declined. The last day we talked, I received a call a short time later, saying she was declining and she wanted me to make a decision about her being vented. I was so taken aback, after all, I had just chatted with her a few hours before. To this day, I remember hearing her in the background and begging me to help her make this decision.

So I asked if she was ready. She was changing her original decision of not prolonging her life (which is not uncommon). Than I asked who her Power of Attorney was (POA) and was told it was me.

Well fuck…

Keep in mind, this conversation as taking place in front of my boys’ school, as I picked them up for the day. I briefly remember asking one of my friends to take the boys until I completed the phone call. After all, illness doesn’t occur when it’s a convenient time.

She went on the vent

I knew from the moment she went on the vent that she would not come back to us. She was depressed, she was lonely and her body was failing. As her POA, I received countless updates and had unlimited decisions to make on her behalf throughout the next three days.

None of it was easy.

The only thing that was keeping her alive were medical interventions. I arrived three days later and on the drive, I received a panicked phone call from family, telling me she was declining fast. Consequently, I was unsure if I would reach the hospital before she passed away. With the help of my sister in law and my dad, I  arrived at the hospital and incidentally, I had totally forgotten how to get there, even though that was my hometown.

Those last moments

It isn’t a secret that my mom and I had an adversarial relationship, but she was my mom. She gave birth to me. She fought her demons, but don’t we all? I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived, but for hours, my aunt, uncle and cousin and I sat around and told silly stories, which I am sure my mom listened to. While it was a shitty time to visit, we actually had a few laughs.

Then they all left and it was just me and mom. I pulled up a chair and sat by her bed and as the minutes ticked by, I watched her heart rate become sporadic. Her heart rate would dip and skip beats, before getting back into a rhythm. I watched her hands and feet turn dark. As medical personal stopped in to check on both of us, I sat in awe of her body shutting down.

I held her hand and played music that I haven’t listened to in year, cracking bad jokes because that’s what I do when I am uncomfortable. Of note, other than being with my pets when it was their time, I had never witnessed another living being shut down. It was painful. It was emotional, and it was so final.

A decision needed to be made

The next morning, I felt compelled to make a decision  I did NOT want to make. However, watching her struggle was unfair and Modern Medicineshe had declared me as her decision maker. When I talked to the nurse, she knew enough about impending death that she told me it would be soon; as mom was already fading away from us.

I made the calls and together with my aunt, cousin and family friend, we gave her permission to go. And as her heart rate faded away, we said our final goodbyes. There were so many mixed emotions at that time because while we knew it was in her best interest, it was so incredibly final.

Covid 19

My mom’s passing never quite goes away. Being with someone as they pass is both a privilege and a curse as it is beautiful and painful. My consciousness understand that she is no longer in pain and she is reunited with loved ones who were already gone, but my heart still holds on. It’s the what if’s that are haunting.

Covid 19 robs our current society of the ability to be with a loved one when that time comes. Our loved ones are forced to die alone, or with caretaker who are hidden behind protective gear. They don’t have someone there to guide them into the next life, nor can they hear the words of their family and friends, telling them it is ok to go.

Covid 19 is a cruel their who is robbing us of what makes us humans…the ability to touch, to psychically connect and to provide comfort when it is most needed. My heart is breaking for the patients who have or will succumb and the staff members who do their best to accommodate their needs.

For once, I have no advice or motivational words. This just fuckin sucks.Take care of you, my friend.

 

 

The Circle of Life… in real life

The Circle of Life… in real life

The Lion King

Remember watching the movie and listen to the song, “The Circle of Life” and the celebration that ensued with the birth of the baby? And who didn’t cry with Simba’s father died? I know I am a bawling mess every time I watch that show. there is a part of me that wishes real life was more like cartoons though, as they seem to quickly move through those tough emotions.

In real life, those emotions don’t move that quickly. They ebb and flow, allowing us to feel focused one moment and utterly drowning the next. believe me, I understand why Simba disappeared into the unknown to be alone and refused to come back to what he knew.  There are so many emotions vying for control. Guilt, grief, anger, sadness, joy and then they all start to mess together until we are not sure what we feel anymore.

Real life

Four years ago we unexpectedly lost my brother. I am still grieving and sometimes that hurt hits as and feels as though I have been gut punched. In the time following, our family lost a well loved minister, two beloved uncles and my mother’s partner. Last year my mom passed. Additionally, my immediate family lost two loving dogs, which also sucked.

For four years, I have been on the fuckin roller coaster of living and loving and crying and grieving. There have been times where I have been truly paralyzed by grief and there have been other times where my motivation to live was overpowering.

Grief doesn’t come with a handbook (ok, maybe a guidebook)…but one size does not fit all. For me, as I struggled, being a mom was my foremost goal and I while I wanted to keep a sense of security for my kids, I knew there were days that I just wasn’t present. Putting a smile on my face while talking to my loved ones about their own losses was so terribly hard. Keeping the consistency of a somewhat schedule and getting the kids where they needed to go kept me focused for short periods of time.

Anniversaries Suck

June has some tough anniversaries for my family. First my brother and more recently, we had our mom’s first anniversary of her death. Sometimes I think the anticipation of the anniversary can be worse than going through the day itself. Honestly, I suck at remembering anniversaries but my mind and body seem to know what’s going on, even when I don’t.

The best unsolicited advice I can give anyone reading this is the following. “be gentle with yourself”. Grief can come in like a fricken hurricane, go into a wave pool and return to a level five storm before we even know what we are dealing with. I now there were so many times I was figuratively getting ready to dip a toe into the water and BOOM, I was fricken sinking into the deep end.

It’s time to live

I know one thing. My brother would be irritated with me for not stepping up and taking life by the wings. He was a live in the moment type of guy and I remember him always falling asleep in his recliner because he ran himself ragged. While my mom’s body just wore out. She never recovered from the death of my brother, and especially the death of her other half, Ray.

She was done and her body was done. Thus the circle of life was complete.

Both of them taught me that life is meant to live. So challenge yourself today to take a new route. Step out of your comfort zone. Share those compliments you keep in your head. After all, sometimes tomorrow never comes…and what will your legacy be?

 

 

 

 

 

You are always so positive…no, I’m really not

You are always so positive…no, I’m really not

You Are Always So Positive

A friend recently reached out to me for some support and in her opening sentence, she stated “you are always so positive”. I took a breath and told her that I am really not always positive.

And I really am not.

The positive posts I make on social media are often those that resonate with where I am in my own emotional health. My hope is that if I can get a positive feeling from them that others may also. I work hard on feeding my mind positive affirmations so that they may take hold of my anxious thoughts.

I have doubts

Self disclosure…I have always had low self esteem. Well, that’s not entirely true. As a child, I believed I could do anything and be anything that I wanted. I excelled at school, creative writing and sports. However, I did struggle from severe anxiety. Even as I excelled, I went to bed so fearful of our house having a fire, that I would unplug every appliance that I could. I would be afraid to leave my brother alone in case he chocked while he was eating. The thoughts were exhausting, yet I excelled at school, so know one would ever know.

I still have doubts

As an adult, I have always struggled with the comparison game. Looks, talent, parenting…the competition is always there and I work hard on telling it to get the fuck out of here. As a woman, I know how debilitating the comparison game can be. Today, I can literally feel how damaging that stupid game is. I admit I am blessed that God changed my thinking and taught me to lift others up. Thee is room for all of us in this crazy world.

I truly believe that many of us are doing the best we can and by tearing others down, we are also revealing the deepest and darkest parts of ourselves that we keep hidden. Being an asshole does nothing but let other’s know we are focused on the wrong parts of ourselves.

The struggle is real

“Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” is my favorite quote. I have it on my wall and I focus on it regularly because it reminds me that we cannot see what’s happening behind the shy smile of the new mom. We tend to judge the stony faced woman and make an assumption that she thinks she is better than we are. When is reality, she is terrified to be in a public place with no friends for support

We admire the strong muscles of the woman working out next to us and have no idea that she has struggled with body image since the age of ten. We look at the artist who is standing at her gallery with a huge smile, not knowing she is terrified of being judged.

We watch the mom carry her screaming toddler out of the store and immediately think she needs to get control of that kid (this one was me). In reality, all we needed was another mom to share the understanding…seriously, we have all been there.

Anxiety is…

For me ANXIETY is an ongoing battle. Click To Tweet I work out in order to give that energy somewhere positive to go. I continually refocus my thoughts and remind myself that I am worthy of being happy. It is the reason I need to spend alone time after a large gathering, or I may not accept an invitiation. Trust me, I want friends and I want to be invited. However, sometimes I let those crazy ass thoughts overpower me and I just retreat.

So, am I always so positive?

NOPE. Negative. Not even close.

But I am a work in progress and I believe we are stronger together in this battle. To my tribe that continually lifts me up, thank you. I love you more than you will ever know and thank you for sharing your light with me.

 

Self Perception or Reality, what do you see?

Self Perception or Reality, what do you see?

Self Perception

How often do you look into the mirror and instantly regret doing it?

What do you see?

How do you honestly see yourself?

Are you focusing on the stretch marks, the sagging boobs and the newly formed wrinkles? I ask, because sometimes that’s exactly what I see. However, on other occasions, I see the strength of a woman who has experienced multiple pregnancies, incredible weight gains and losses and survived multiple surgeries.

I see sagging and dimpled skin and I wonder when those bags underneath my eyes became permanent. WTF, right? When did my boobs decide to move south and not send a forwarding address? And the hormone changes? I dont’ care who you are, that added fluff to the middle is NOT welcome.

You are more than a reflection

What happens when the person in the mirror actually smiles back at you? Do you acknowldege the twinkle in th eye or the genuiness of the wink? How about you see past the reflection and look into her eyes. I challenge you to do that and look deeper into her soul. Your physical body is absolutely your responsiblity  and furthermore, so is what’s inside of you.

You are a reflection of how you feel. When you feel horrible about yourself, you will project negative statements about yoruself. Conversely, when you have fallen in love with who you are, you will welcome the wink from the person in the mirror. Ultimately, the choice is yours. You will NOT find love from others until you love youself.

Self Love

It sounds like something out of the 1960’s.  Self-love. Love thyself. But, HOW? I wrote a blogpost years ago about stopping those old tapes from playing over and over again. We are all programmed differently and that programming is based upon our life experiences. At some point, we personalized what someone told us and we took it to heart, ultimately believing it.

Therin lies the damage. To love yourself, you have to challenge those old tapes. You need to realize you are more than a physical body. People don’t love your for how you look (if they do, get rid of the superficial asshole). Other’s love you because of who you are, becuase of the energy you bring and how you make them feel.

So here is my challenge to you, my friend. Go stand in front of the mirror and tell those old tapes to “Shut the Fxxk up”. Take a lipstick or a window marker and write down what you love about yourself. I promise you that doing this over and over will make you more confident and an even better friend.

Let me know how it worked, I love a great transformation story!

 

The Favored Child…which one is yours?

The Favored Child…which one is yours?

The Favored Child

If you have more than one child in your family, the chances are great that you have the favored child. Whether you think so or not, I guarantee that your children think you do. This is a tough one to swallow, isn’t it?  As parents, we try so hard NOT to focus our attention on just one child. However, the truth is that it may be beyond our capacity to show love and more about how our children internalize our actions.

I did a poll on my Facebook page a few days back asking if people have a favorite child. They had two choices…Absolutely not and it depends upon the day. The vast majority agreed that it depends upon the day. So let’s explore what may be the resoning behind that answer.

A day in the life

Look, I get it. Parenting is hard. As moms, we are expected to put aside our own needs to meet the continual needs of others. I have always said that becoming a parent is putting your needs aside for your child’s wants. Truthfully, that is sometimes easier said than done. And let’s face it, each child is different and each child has good days and bad days just as we do.

But wow…when we all have those bad days together, things can go from perfection to destruction in a matter of seconds. My two boys are like night and day. Their demeanors are so different from one another. Honestly, I try to respect their differences regardless of how trying that can be. The irony is that when we found out we were having another boy, I was stoked because I thought i knew what I was doing.

Let’s just declare right here that I was wrong.

Where it all began

My family loves watching Last Man Standing. We get such a kick out of watching another famiy work and often laugh at their antics. We also talk about how we would handle those same situations. If you are a fan, you already know that Mike, the father always claims that Eve is his favorite daughter.

I took this to a whole nother level in our home and began telling the boys that they were my favorite child after they did something helpful or amazing. This little interaction resulted in them trying to outdo one another in order to be “mom’s favorite child.” Fast forward a few months and I began wondering if there will be any  psychological ramifications to their adult psyche.  Both the social worker and mom in me is always worrying that I am jacking these boys up. That struggle is real.

Adult Relationships

Which led me to my thoughts as an adult. I always though my parents favored my brother. After all, he was rarely in trouble, he was the first in our family to go to college and he went on to be a very successful and respected professional. I, on the other hand was the difficult child and while I used to joke with my parents that they would have been bored if I had been more like my brother, they didn’t necassariy agree.

Looking back, he may have thought that I was the favored child. After all, we grew up very differently, as he was raised by my grandmother, my mom and dad and I was primarily raised by my mom in the younger years and my dad and brother as I grew older. 

Grandparents and the favored child

The favored child doesn’t just stop in one generation. That favored child’s kids will also feel the difference in how their grandparents interact with them. Where the grandparents choose to spend their time and the relationships they may or may not cultivate say more to the next generations than they may have ever thought.

According to an article on Owlcation, there definately can be long term ramifications when children do not feel as though they are always being compared to their siblings or are always in continual disagreement with their parents. Wow, no pressure, right?

The truth is that as parents, we need to be aware of how our interaction are delivered AND how they are being received. each child responds to interactions based upon their individual experiences and expectations. And, as parents, we are responsible for interacting with each child according to their own indivudal needs.

What if you clash

Let’s face it. There will be many many times where our kids will do something that just make us shake our heads. And there will be times as parents when we make a decision and shake our heads. As parents, our job is not to be their friends, rather our job is to teach them about how they fit into the world around them. It means that sometimes we all lose our shit and we can model how to apologize and own our actions.

It also means focusing on the postives and letting our children know they are loved and accepted for who they are…not who we want them to be. Maybe that is the key. Allowing the children to be who they are rather than holding on to a dream we had for them. Allowing them to fail so they will learn how to work through the tough times. It’s been said that it takes seven positive statements to undo one negative statement. Those are some big numbers, however I think we can do it. 

I will leave you with one last thought. Don’t push yourself so hard that you have nothing left to give. These children didn’t ask to be brought into the world, we brought them here. Take care of yourself, mama because these littles are only little for a short period of time. Grant yourself some grace and model setting boundaries so your child can also learn to do the same.

 

 

The Empowered child is one who sets boundaries.

The Empowered child is one who sets boundaries.

Empowered educator

As an empowered educator, I communicate directly with kids via classroom settings. Furthermore, our topics of conversation can be difficult to process. My experience has taught me that children react differently to the tough topics that hit them close to home. Because of this, I am always alert to the signals from my audience. Incidentally, a few weeks ago, as we talked about “consent” a young man responded with something that still makes my stomach flutter.

To set the stage, as I present, I often share stories from my own experience to provide context. On this particular day, we were discussing how our parents often instruct us to hug other adults, even if we don’t want to. When I asked the students what this experience teaches us, this kiddo responded “we need to do what adults tell us”.

Whoah. 

Mind blown

As a result, I stopped in my tracks. I was mind blown. First of all, not because he said anything wrong, on the contrary as I looked at the larger picture, I mentally asked myself if we (as adults) help our children create their own boundaries or create uncomfortable situations for them. Even more so, the look in his eyes was haunting and the social worker in me wondered what had triggered fear for him at this particular moment that he was remembering.

Ultimately, by forcing our children to hug and kiss other adults, are we truly doing something good? Consequently, are we showing our kiddos have no voice over who or how they have physical contact with others? Click To TweetLikewise,I know that as a child there were certain adults I felt comfortable with and others who I didn’t. Even at a young age, I could recognize who I was not comfortable with…even if my parent’s didn’t.

What if we empowered 

Conversely, as I procrastinated by scrolling through FACEBOOK, I watched a video of a teacher welcoming her children to class. Ultimately, she provided the children with a choice of options on how they wished to be greeted.  What an empowering way to begin the school day! These students were given choices based upon how they were feeling at that very moment. Above all, these children were empowered.

What if  we allow our children to choose how they want to greet others. This doesn’t allow them to be disrespectful, in contrast, it empowers them to make their own choices. Above all, let us teach them to create boundaries and empower them to redirect others when their boundaries are violated.

Authors Note: For more information on ways to keep your child safe, please visit The Set Me Free Project.