The List

As the 5 year anniversary of my Mom’s passing approaches, my mind goes back to the months following that day. As many of you understand, the first year after the loss of a loved one is full of firsts — firsts days, first weeks, first months and so on. In the midst of this comes the first holidays, birthdays and anniversaries and no clearcut guidelines as to how to approach and deal with these events. Looking back, the first few months are a blur and I really don’t know just how I processed those first few months, especially that first Mothers’ Day — I just know I did. As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approached, I found it to be more difficult than I though it would be — you know what I mean. It had been several months and I was “supposed to” be getting on with my life and starting to heal, but that wasn’t the case. Because of this I knew that I would have to make a concerted effort to bring my focus back to where it needed to be. My Mom would not want me moping around feeling sorry for myself and missing out on the true purpose of these holidays, so I made a plan and, thankfully, I stuck to it. Sometime in October I made my mind up that on November 1st, I would start a list of things I am thankful for and post it to Facebook each and every day the month of November. Looking back, it really did allow me to search for things that were a positive in my life and there were many. I also chose to stop posting them after November 30th; that doesn’t mean that I stopped being thankful, it simply means that I make it a more private endeavor — and the things became more and more personal as Christmas approached, but the habit was in place. For that I am very thankful because I needed the focus for a while longer. For some reason, I kept that paper with my list — I guess it was a symbol of how strong I could be when necessary; then I lost track of that list, or so I thought…

While going through some papers the other day, that list reappeared and at that moment I remembered why I had put it in that place. It was one of those days that I needed a pick-me-up and I was not disappointed. In honor of April 23, 2009, I want to share this list with you. Please keep in mind that the list you are reading is a much condensed version of what I posted each day to Facebook in November of 2009, but I am still thankful for each and every one of them. I hope this list brings positive things to your mind.

I am thankful for:  You, yes you…God is… True Friends… Music… Family… Forgiveness… Freedom… Today… Military… Veterans & their Families… Inspired Writers… Justin… Change of Seasons… Laughter… Andy… Andy’s continued employment… Memories… Random Acts of Kindness… Conversation and Dialogue… Andy’s Contest Entry & win… Another Day… Time with Mom… In-laws… Joy… Thanksgiving… Relationships… Love… Anniversaries… Simple Pleasures…

When originally posted, I expanded on some of these a little, others a great deal and still others were simply left alone — it all depended upon how much I chose to share at  the time. At first sight of this list the other day a smile immediately came to my face and a lot of emotions followed — yes some sad, but mainly happy. While it is true I am a fairly private person, I needed to share this list 5 years ago, but I also need to share this now. Looking back, my list is in no way complete — it doesn’t even come close to covering all that came to my mind while I was doing it. This list helped me through a tough time, but more importantly, it taught me that I could and would make it through a very rough time in my life. I hope those of you that are going through something will be inspired to find your strength to persevere and push forward.

My Mom is no longer here with us, but her spirit, her memories and her energy will always be a part of my life. Was my relationship with my Mom perfect? Absolutely not, but there are plenty of good things and pleasant memories I have to keep her alive in my heart. Maybe one day I will write a blog on her, but we will have to see about that.

 

Let’s see what’s next…Thanks for reading!

Braver, Stronger and Smarter

When I was a little girl…just a couple of years ago…I absolutely LOVED a certain cartoon bear named Winnie the Pooh! That relationship still exists to this day — he is a special source of comfort and friendship for me. It is for this reason that I introduced my son to him from the very beginning; it just so happened that Disney decided that the world had been devoid of a full length movie about that lovable bear and his friends not long after his birth. Before the time “Pooh’s Grand Adventure” was available on tape, we were limited to a variety of short videos starring this “tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff.” From the very start, Justin was just as enthralled with him as I was; this of course was heavenly for me. There is one quote from that movie that still lives in our family. A. A. Milne had it right when he wrote: “Promise me you’ll always remember You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” To this day, those words have special meaning and touching memories tied to them for our family.

Isn’t that the epitome of what we, as parents, dream for our children — that they would be confident in themselves and their abilities? That they would be braver, stronger and smarter? Of course it is! Naturally, each child is different and one or more of those qualities will be more readily attained than the others. In addition to that, some kids are naturally more receptive to the encouraging we provide and even some of us, as parents, are a little lacking in the abilities to follow through with our ideal plan. Even with those limitations, we still hope and dream that our kids will achieve greater than we did and become the very best they can be and achieve lofty goals — because of, or inspire of, our own involvement.

Justin turned 19 yesterday and I wanted to write something on his Facebook wall for the world to see. As I sat there trying to come up with something particularly witty or sentimental, my mind kept drifting to the above quote; I quickly determined that this quote was exactly what I wanted to say and that I didn’t need to reword it or even try to catch the sentiment. I really needed him to hear — ok, read those words from me. Then the realization happened; at that moment I realized that I needed to say them. Not because I thought he had forgotten or that I was afraid he would not remember — I needed those words to flow between us because I just needed the connection. From his 13th birthday through his 17th, I was not able to celebrate his special day with him — it has always been put off for a day or 2…or 5 because of traveling with his youth group. They returned from the trip ON his 18th, so at least I saw him for a few hours of it. All of that was ok because I had the luxury of seeing him daily leading up to and following. This year is different; not only did I not get to see him ON his birthday, but I don’t get to see him daily any more. That is just how it works when college years attack. We are at the phase of his life that he is spreading his wings and learning to fly on his own. I guess in a very real sense I am doing the very same thing, but that is a good thing. (That is not the subject of this post, but it may come out in another — who knows?!)

The entire quote goes like this:  “Promise me you’ll always remember that you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is,even if we are apart, I’ll always be with you.

As Justin has grown and matured through the years, this quote has always been a part of our lives — and I expect it always will be. We learned it well before he started school and repeated it as recently as yesterday — its message remains the same. To be honest, I expect him to be telling me this one day as he moves on with this adventure called life. When that day happens, I will have to remember that I am braver than I believe, and stronger than I seem, and smarter than I think. But the most important thing is, even when we are apart, you (Justin) will always be with me. 

Let’s see what’s next…Thanks for reading!

Almost There

For so long Justin has been the center of my life — as it should be. But lately the realization that my focus will shift in the not too distant future has been weighing on me. Don’t get me wrong, as he has grown up over the years I have done my best to foster independence and self-reliance, but somehow as the time approaches to put all of that into real life action, I find myself wondering, hoping and praying that I did the very best for him. Some will say that I have been too strict, others will say I have been too indulgent, and still others will say I was somewhere in the middle; the truth is — I did the best I could and that will have to be enough.

In many ways, the very essence of my job has been to prepare him to be able to live on his own without me or his Dad; that is something we have been praying for, literally, since before he was in our arms. As parents we are not given a book of any kind to help us navigate this amazing miracle thrust upon us. Oh, sure there are books out there on every topic under the sun, but none of them can be so specific as to apply to any one baby all the time. Sometimes you just have to wing it. Well, that is exactly what we did, but I am not going to sit here and pretend that we did everything right, or even close to it. I will tell you, however that we did everything the best way we thought we should. Over the years there have been some (sometimes many) that disagreed with how or what we did with our son — sometimes even family members. One thing I think everyone was clear on, however, was that we loved him and wanted the best for him. In the end that is what really mattered.

As we approach his 18th birthday and subsequent high school graduation, I am suddenly a little overwhelmed. Ok, maybe not the exact word I am looking for, but somewhat accurate nonetheless. Anyway, as that day approaches I am hit square in the face with many questions and wonderings; at times I question if I did enough to make sure he will thrive and not just survive on his own — other times I wonder if I did enough to foster a sense of independence that will push him to be his very best. The list goes on and on… Then all of a sudden out of the blue he will say or do something that speaks directly to these things and I am assured that he will indeed be ok. He still has a lot to learn, but don’t we all, really? After all, none of us know everything, so we are all still students of life. Right?

Now, before you start to think that I am wallowing in grief, self-pity or something else similar, I will tell  you that I am not — not at all. There are just as many days, probably more, that I sit and wonder at how well he has turned out and marvel at the future that awaits him. Because of (or in spite of) his upbringing he is an intelligent, strong, capable and engaging young man who truly enjoys helping others. Somehow, that helpless newborn with whom we were blessed is set to venture out on his own and put his mark on this world; he is almost an adult and headed off to college. Wow! Where has the time gone?! I think, for me, the simple answer is — it has gone into his life — every second — every tear — every smile — every moment — has gone into his life so that he can one day make a difference. He has already made a difference in my life, as well as many others, but now it is time for him to find his own path and seek his own destiny. Armed with what he has been taught, what he has seen and what he has felt; the good and bad together have created this wonderful young man ready to stretch his wings and fly. Now, the real test begins…

Now, the big question remains — when do I plan the BIG party? Hmmm… What? oh, no, not his graduation party thing. I mean the real party — you know the one — the one where Mom and Dad celebrate the fact that they not are no longer dealing with teenage high school drama.  YES — the one that comes the day AFTER he leaves for college.  After all — we deserve it, right?!  🙂

Let’s see what’s next…Thanks for reading!

It’s a Mom Thing

Nothing quite compares to the flood of emotions and thoughts that happened when Justin left for his Jr. Prom; a flood of emotions — good, bad, realistic and unrealistic — made sure my attention was grabbed. I was excited, happy, proud, anxious, nervous and a little scared. That list may not make sense to some, but it does to me. As a Mom I have spent the last 17 years trying to prepare Justin to be able to handle himself in the real world and be independent, but letting go that little bit more was a big thing. It wasn’t the first time he took my car and drove it alone; it wasn’t the first time he had gone with friends. It wasn’t even the first time he would be out late; it was just different. That night was a process for me that started when he came home and announced he wanted to go to prom. Something in me kicked and screamed “NO!” but a bigger part of me yelled “OH YAY!!!”  Such was my battle — one side wanting my son to be happy and independent; the other wanting him to be my little boy forever.  He was growing up and there was nothing I could do about it, so I did what most parents do. I pushed all that stuff back and concentrated on the fun and happy details. That worked until I saw him ready to go — looking handsome in his tux with corsage in hand. All the good emotions flooded, but the fears and other things started creeping in too.  Then he was gone — off to a wonderful night he had worked so hard to plan and I was left at home with only my thoughts and emotions.

After everything was said and done, he had a fantastic time and we were all happy about that. I know that I have many more times in the not too distant future that I will need to let him go and do and be whatever it is that his life has in store; there is no doubt about that. My only hope is that I can be the kind of Mom that not only allows those growth opportunities, but encourages them as well. After all, that is the whole point of raising them up to do things for themselves and think on their own, right?  Well, that is my approach; so far it seems to be paying off — then again some of the things he comes up with… Well, those are for another day, or another post.

Let’s see what’s next…Thanks for reading!

Yellow Daffodils, Root Beer Floats and Stan the Man

To most people, yellow daffodils, root beer floats and “Stan the Man” have absolutely no connection and would be hard pressed to find one. I, on the other hand, have them inextricably linked in my mind and memories; these were 3 of my Mom’s favorite things and I will forever think of her when any of them are mentioned. This was the case the other day when I made a routine stop by my local Kroger to pick up an item or 2. As I entered the store, there they were — row upon row of beautiful yellow daffodils; ironically the exact kind I tried to find for Mom just before she died 3 years ago but could not. I won’t say that they have never carried them, but I don’t usually see them; I presume that they just sell out before I get to see them. This day, however was different — and yes, I stopped a moment and enjoyed their fragrance and beauty. I thoroughly enjoy moments like this because they bring back a flood of good memories of my Mom. Some would say that it was sad or that it should bring back the sorrow, but not me. To me the daffodils are just a symbol of the good I saw in her and in our relationship — a relationship not unlike most — we had good and bad times. I choose to focus on the positive instead of the negative.

Now, root beer floats and Stan the Man are a little more elusive — until I see floats on a menu or it is baseball season. The menu connections is pretty straightforward, but perhaps the “Stan the Man” reference is not.  “Stan the Man” Musial was my Mom’s absolute favorite baseball player growing up; he was with the St. Louis Cardinals and is an iconic legend in baseball history. We live within a few hours of St. Louis, so we hear A LOT about the Cardinals and I have several friends that eat sleep and breathe Cardinal baseball. This year is no different — and of course, all the talk brings me back to my Mom. I do have to chuckle a little every time I think about her and the Cardinals; most of her family (my son included) are diehard Cubs fans. Again, if you don’t know, they are MAJOR rivals. While I too lean towards the Cubs I must admit that I do pull for the Cardinals when they play — if for no other reason than to be connected to my Mom. As I stated before — these are good types of connections. Continue reading