Keeps on Giving

If you know me personally, you know I’ve been sick. Since Thanksgiving. That’s a long, long, time of being sick. It was dragging my ass through my December teaching, feeling poor for the holidays, not being productive because I haven’t felt right. It’s been tough. I powered through and still did things, including all my holiday celebrations, but I wasn’t my usual sparkling self. People kept saying to me, go to the doctor. But I don’t. I’m not a doctor person. And a cold is viral, there isn’t anything a doctor can do. But it wouldn’t quit, it wouldn’t go away.

2014 ended rough for me, my mom being so sick and having surgery, then me getting sick, then my aunt was diagnosed with cancer, and Kelly found out she needed surgery, and Mindy learned her collapsed lung will always be partially collapsed, and suddenly I blinked and went from August to December.

When the new year hit, I was actually relieved. I felt like things would have to start trending upward. And they have, sort of. Kelly had her surgery and while it didn’t go perfect, she is recovering and will be fine. My aunt had surgery to help with her cancer and it went very well. Now we have to hope this is the start of a healing process for her. My mom is scheduled to have her reattachment surgery in February, earlier than expected, so this is great news.

But I’m still sick. My ribs have been sore for a while now from all this coughing. Then Saturday hit and things went sideways. I got a flat tire on my car. I’m blessed that my dad took care of it for me, even though it still cost me $120. Then I coughed so hard my back spasmed and I couldn’t move. But luckily my sister had pain medication to help me get through. We finally saw my nephew Simon for Christmas and got to spend some much needed time with him. Sunday I wasn’t really feeling better. And my house was a disaster. Literally a mess in every room and I still hadn’t taken down my Christmas decor. The tree, yes, but not the decorations. But I was in such pain I couldn’t move. I called in sick to work for Monday and then I was sitting in my chair in my living room and I started crying. I was in pain, feeling poorly, and feeling overwhelmed. Everything just got to me, all at once.

Finally, I took a deep breath (which hurt) and starting talking to myself. Out loud, yes, but sometimes it helps to hear the words. I told myself it was okay, there really weren’t that many problems, and the mess was something I could easily fix once I felt better. I reminded myself that while this was a thing, I’m generally healthy, I have a good job, a good family, wonderful friends, and while we have had our share of problems, we are all still here. (Side note to mention this has been on my mind often because when my mom was sick, I worried she might die and it scared me, and with all the health scares for my loved ones…then Kelly just learned that a close friend of hers, her husband unexpectedly died at the age of 43. I know it can happen so it has been on my mind.) But the people I love are still here.

Monday, after another night of barely sleeping, I called to get a doctor’s appointment. Of course, I couldn’t get in for a week. So I looked up urgent care and they opened at 1:00pm. I got ready and headed over and was there at the stroke of 1. I got right in and had an exam, where I learned I am actually much sicker than I realized. I have a sinus infection and bronchitis. Far more than just a cold. It started as a cold, but developed into these other things at some point. I also have sprained my ribs from coughing. Fortunately, I have not fractured my ribs, so that is a bright spot. I got medication (though it took me 90 minutes at the pharmacy, grrr) and headed home to my messy, messy house to recover. I took my pills on Monday and they knocked me out. Asleep before 9pm. I woke up once during the night, took another dose and slept until 10 am Tuesday morning. Luckily I had already told my boss I wasn’t coming in on Tuesday.

I relaxed and recovered for most of Tuesday. I read a new book. It felt good, I haven’t felt like reading at all since I’ve been sick. I actually forced myself to read a few books in December, but otherwise, no interest. Then, about 7pm last night, I felt like myself. Not completely recovered, but better. So I got up and tackled my house. I put all my Christmas stuff away. I broke down the boxes in the corner that had been taunting me since Christmas. I gave homes to all my new Christmas gifts. I organized a cupboard in my kitchen that needed it. I did my dishes. I handwashed several items that wouldn’t fit. I cleaned my counters off completely. I ran three loads of laundry. I got everything back in order.

When I went to bed last night, I slept, deeply, soundly, and dreamlessly, for the first time in weeks. I finally felt as though I had turned the corner. I was up this morning to my clean house, ready to tackle the day and head back in to work. I hopped out of the shower, dried off, and used the toilet, then headed into the bedroom to dress. Suddenly I heard a sound I shouldn’t have been hearing. Running water. Did I not turn the shower off all the way? I went in to check and….stepped into a mess. My toilet was overflowing. Dirty water running everywhere. My bathroom is bordered by carpet, so I grabbed clean towels from the closet and built dams. I called my dad to find out what to do. He talked me through it and okay. I then called work to tell them I would be late and set about taking care of yet another mess. And it was a mess.

But now it isn’t. I got it fixed and cleaned up and threw in a whole load of dirty towels in the wash before I left for work. I also jumped back in the shower to rinse off and wash my feet. Gross.

When all is said and done, this has been a pretty awful week for me and many people I love. Yet, here I sit, blogging, not to tell you how rotten it was, but to tell you how lucky I feel. Life will always throw messes and challenges at us and we have to learn to deal and try not to get overwhelmed by it. At the end of the day, what matters is the people we love. If you still have everyone you love and they are, healthy (mostly) and happy, then it’s all going to be just fine. And if you don’t, if you lost someone, then it’s heartbreaking and horrible, but you still have all the moments that you shared with them. You still have the memories, good and bad, because for whatever time you had, you got to love them. So I’m happy and blessed with the people I love.

I don’t do resolutions in my life, but I notice a lot of bloggers choose words to help define their year. I don’t do that either, but this year, if I had to, I’d choose love. I’d choose to be happy and blessed with all of the life in my life and let that be my focus for 2015 and every year beyond.

My Real Mom

I was reading a blog this morning and it was a writing prompt. It said: write about an UNtrue family story

And, just like that, I was inspired. For those of you who follow me but don’t actually know me, here’s a little background before we begin. I am the second of four children. Two boys, two girls. We are insanely close in age…five years for four kids. We also look a lot alike. I don’t have a picture of the four of us, but take my word for it. We’re similar looking.

When we were growing up, our parents’ best friends, the Kranz family, had five daughters, all roughly the same ages as us. We spent many an hour with that family, many a party, many a family vacation. We were one big extended family.

Now, I honestly can no longer remember the exact origin of this particular tale, but it has become family legend. A story to be dragged out at parties and reunions. The occasional allusion in a fit of humor.

Once upon a time, as children, we somehow got it in our heads that it would be fun or funny to convince the Kranz girls that our mother is not actually our mother. Of course, the problem was that the older children could remember my mom (Kaye) being pregnant with the younger kids. So, the legend developed as follows.

John (my dad) and Kaye (his wife) are parents to two children. Zack and Emily. Nick and Olivia, the older two are the children of John and his first wife (unnamed or else I’ve forgotten what we named her). As these sad tales are wont to go, poor unnamed first wife ended up in prison, resulting in divorce and John getting full custody of the children. 

Prison? 

Oh yes, it was burglary. We didn’t have much money and she stole to feed her children. (Wouldn’t do at ALL to have her be a complete villain). But, she got caught and in order to create a cautionary tale for mother’s everywhere, the judge threw the book at her. Possibly literally. I was so small when she was sent away I wasn’t actually present at the trial, nor would I have remembered it if I were. 

My father, being the brokenhearted, desolate soul that his wife’s perfidy rendered him, decided the only recourse was moving forward. He got a divorce, met Kaye and married her very soon afterward. Kaye, being a wonderful, delightful, warm, and loving woman, took John’s children and raised them as her own, right along with her own. The newly added Zack and Emily. 

This was the story as it was created. Mostly. I may have squandered a detail here or there. Like the name of my inmate mother?

Well, one night, hanging out with the Kranz family, we take it upon ourselves to tell them the whole sordid “truth” about our family. They were shocked and….disbelieving. Of course, being consummate storytellers at our tender ages (perhaps I was 12 or 13 when this first came up) we added layers and details to the story. We told of how once each month John would drive us to the prison where we got to spend 30 minutes talking with our birth mother. We told of how we call Kaye “mom” because she is truly the only mother we’ve ever known. We said that we all look so much alike because we DO share the same father.

The girls were starting to believe. We were THAT convincing. But, the ultimate test…if you’re a child and there is something you aren’t sure is true, what is your next step? You ask your parents. Right there, that night, at our house, they marched up to the four adults and demanded to know, “is it true?”

This was it, the con was surely blown.

Except…

Frank (their father) said gravely, “yes, it’s true.”

Kaye and Kathy, the mothers, gamely jumped in and confirmed the story.

Then, all eyes swung to John. His hangdog expression was perfect as he confirmed the story of his first disastrous marriage that gave him his two older children.

They backed us up! I think they thought it was funny or else they were just drunk, but either way, they confirmed the story and possibly filled in some details of their own and just like that, we had them convinced.

We were children of a broken home. I am the daughter of a criminal. Kaye is not an evil stepmother, but a benevolent fairy godmother. This is the stuff of  legends. Or, at least, movies of the week.

For quite some time, very possibly YEARS, we continued this charade. It didn’t come up every day, or even every time we were together. After all, it isn’t like preteens and teenagers sit around doing nothing but talking about their parents. But, every once in a while, a word or a story or a memory would surface that would drag the story back into the spotlight. “Have you seen your real mom recently?” “Don’t you mean half-brother?” “I can’t believe you’ve been inside a prison.” And we would rehash and maybe shape new details into the lore.

Eventually, at some point, we gave in, we told the truth. It was a dramatic affair full of exclamations that “I knew all along” and “I never really believed it” but the tall tale itself persists. Now, as adults, we see each other less frequently and don’t talk nearly as much, but then, in a moment, someone will mention HER. My long lost real mother.

Most recently it was wondered why she wasn’t yet out of prison (bad behavior, I think. Or maybe recidivism). And we laugh and remember the innocent days of youth, before Google, when it was possible to lie to your friends and have them still love you after The End.

 

Dreaming

This morning I woke up with a dream in my brain. I was dreaming of a better life for someone I love. It sounds so nice to think of it like that. However, the problem is, the better life is what *I* want for this person not what he wants for himself. He’s never wanted things from life that I have wanted for him. He makes choices I don’t understand and decisions that mystify me. His life is not my own. It is his.

I think the hardest part of loving someone is realizing that you don’t get to make the choices. You don’t get to decide. You have to understand that they will choose what they choose. You can advise, you can suggest, you can help, but you cannot make someone be someone they are not.

All you really can do is love someone for who they are, bad decisions and all. You have to love them even when you don’t agree with them. You have to love them even when they scare you. You have to love them, even when they are at their most unlovable.

That is what it means to love. That is what it means to be a family.

It might have been a good dream, but that is all it will ever be. I need to let go and remember that I am not in control of this situation. I don’t get to decide what happens. All I can do is be there, for whatever comes next. All I need to do is keep on loving, because that is what he needs me for, right now.

I need to work on not letting my dreams get in the way.

Things I Love -2013 Edition

Last year, to celebrate Valentine’s day, I posted my first Things I Love list. This is a tradition I want to continue. What is better than taking a moment to reflect on all the good in life?

Here we go (in no particular order):

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Camden (yeah, okay, he gets to be first)

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Sneaking kisses

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Breathtakingly beautiful winter mornings

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Laughter
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My dad
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My mom. And happiness.

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Mickey Mouse

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French braids

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Baby hair

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Play time (and cousins)
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Big families
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Little families

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Crazy Uncle Zack

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New red shoes

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Lanie

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Christian Kane
Christmas 2012

Friends

Oversized chocolate (and Valentine’s gifts)
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Inspiration

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Simon

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Arionna

It’s so easy to let the little moments slide past, today I choose to acknowledge that I am living a life filled with love and family, friendship and fun. I’m fortunate in my life and lucky in those that I love.

Happy Valentine’s Day

 

Thankful – 2012

Last year I posted a “things I am Thankful for” post. I liked it so much, I decided to repeat it this Thanksgiving.

In 2012, these are all the things I am thankful for.

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My mom

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My dad
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That they love each other (and me!)
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Siblings

Simon

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Arionna
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Besties

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Christian Kane

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A new nephew

Friends AND babies!

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Identical goofy expressions
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Outdoor concerts (music in general)

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Gaggles of friends

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Photographs

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Kisses

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Happiness
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Affection

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Large families

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Swimming pools
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Dreams

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Books (I’ve been reading like MAD lately, 6 books in the last week!)

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Colors of Fall

First snowfall

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Sunsets
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Trying new things

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Josie

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Cranberry splash season

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Baby anything
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And me. I’m happy just to be me.

Have a grateful, extraordinary, loving, and unseasonably warm Thanksgiving!

Conway Picnic

This one goes back to July, which is actually not too bad for me.

My sister and I made a decision to see more of our extended family. We see my mother’s family only at Christmas. So we decided to have a summer picnic this year. It was fun to see everyone in the daylight.

Unfortunately, it was blisteringly hot at the picnic, so everyone was a bit listless. Well, not the kids, they played like little maniacs, the whole time.

Most of the rest of this will be photos….
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Best shot of these three. Why, oh why, will they not take a good picture with Grandma ? It’s bizarre.

However, they are the best of friends. Walking to the playground:
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Does it get any sweeter?

Answer? Yes, it does. Ten minutes later, coming back from the playground:
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Running down the hill, once again holding hands.

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Just a random sweet moment with my niece.
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The kids. Just digging in the dirt and playing happily together.

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Candid shot of the adults, just hanging at the pavilion.
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Conway men. (L-R) Uncle Dave, Uncle Bri, Jake, and Tommy. They were also our cooks for the afternoon.

After we ate, a spontaneous game of baseball cropped up.
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Pretty sure that was a home run for Tommy.
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A motley crew.
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Arionna’s first at-bat of her life.
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She hit it. And looks thrilled.

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This just made me laugh. Em was talking to someone, just holding this basket ball and I turned and saw her. I thought, in a few months, she’s going to look just like that!

At this point, Arionna was in dire need of a nap and wanted nothing more than to sit on a lap and cuddle. She chose me and wanted to play with my camera. I let her and these next shots are hers:
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What I like best about this one is Chad in the background. Even far away, he knows exactly what his daughter is up to and is dutifully smiling for the camera.
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Somehow, she managed this incredibly cute shot of my parents.
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She got Aunt Carole.
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And, even though it is blurry, this cracks me up to no end. He looks so scary!

I finally wrestled the camera away from her and got this.
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That is my mom and her two brothers. It’s such a nice photo. They actually have another brother, Pat, who was estranged from the family and recently passed away. It’s too bad for him. He missed out on a very nice family.

And, in keeping with my plan to take more group photos, I wouldn’t let anyone leave until I had this.
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Isn’t that lovely? It’s hard to get that many people to be looking and smiling at the same time. And the beautiful weather made this turn out perfect.

I was prompted to finally sit down and write this because about 15 minutes ago I got an email from my sister entitled “Never too early” and asking me if I think January 5th would work for Conway Christmas.

Made me laugh. She’s right, it’s never to early to plan to be with family.

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful moms I know, most especially to the wonderful mom I have.

We decided to spend mother’s day at my mom’s house, but I volunteered to cook dinner. I made Honey-Chili Chicken (these were both easy and delicious, the juiciest chicken we’ve ever had–and kid friendly. Arionna loved it) and Chipotle Sweet Potatoes (these were okay…I used too much milk and toned DOWN the peppers and they were still too hot for everyone but Dad and Chad) and Vinaigrette Slaw (this is my favorite budget bytes recipe…except for maybe Burritos Blanco…toss up). The potatoes kind of flopped, but the rest was terrific.

Besides cooking, it was just a day of hanging out. Trivia, cards, and lawn games. Grandma had to leave early, she had a second dinner to attend, and Zack had to go to work, but the rest of us were there all day.

Everyone was outside while I was cooking, until Arionna came inside. She said she didn’t want to play outside anymore. I asked if she wanted to help me and she did. She helped me measure and stir the honey chili sauce, then we had to brush it on  the chicken–which is about the perfect job for a kid, if you can stand the mess.
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She loved doing this. She kept telling everyone, “I did the sauce”. Which is true.

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Grandma and her girl. So cute they are!
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These two are just the best of buddies. They are so cute together, even if she’s obsessed with the McFlurry.

After Grandma and Zack left, and we had all eaten, we decided to head out into the sunshine for a rousing game of croquet. In our family, you are never too young to learn to play games,
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Arionna had her own ball and mallet and Emmy was teaching her how to shoot.
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I love that the mallet is bigger than her!
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Random snapshot
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Lady of the day, observing the game. She was all alone because she was in first place.
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As I watched, she got tired of waiting and decided to rest. Love her, so very much.
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Candid snapshots don’t get much better than that!
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Oh, the cuteness!

Later, we switched to Bocce ball. Arionna couldn’t play because she kept stealing the palina and wrecking the shot. So, I picked her up and put her on my shoulders. She was surprisingly content to just sit up there and chatter at me while I still played the game. (I’m not that good at Bocce, but with an extra 30lbs on my shoulders, and the inability to bend over, I was pretty atrocious. But I hung in there and played anyway).
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Eventually, my shoulders were aching and so I handed her over to her dad.
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(Ssh, don’t tell my sister, but I am giving her that as a bday present!)

Chad lasted less than 5 minutes with her on his shoulders. Wuss.

I was still trying to get a perfect shot of my mom and Arionna:
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I didn’t get any good ones, but this one, the expression on my mom’s face makes me so happy. She’s just so happy!

And, speaking of cuteness:
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He was observing the game, and she just stood next to him, calmly holding his finger. Even he thought it was sweet.

And, because it was so beautiful outside, I said I wanted a group photo. I’m trying to be better about taking more of these.
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That’s pretty good for a self timer where the camera is balanced on the bed of a pickup truck.

And that was my incredibly perfect Sunday with my family…to celebrate mother’s day.

Mom, I hope you loved your day as much as I did.

For those who didn’t see it, this was my tribute to my amazing mom last mother’s day.