Finally, A Win

I started this blog just after learning I had miscarried in 2015.

Eight months ago, I just stopped posting. In my mind, I had figured this was just another blog that fell by the wayside. People say if you are still blogging 6 months after you start, then it was meant to be, or something whimsical like that. The truth is, as things in my life got more awful, I just didn’t feel like sharing. To write down my thoughts, would be to acknowledge them, and I wasn’t ready.

But, I just got off the phone with my lawyer, and this was the first window I opened in my browser. I wanted to share with you again, not a loss this time, but a win.

And I have to say after being gone so long, it was really nice to see that people had visited this blog while I was off going through my trials and tribulations. Thank you.

My lawyer had called to let me know that my long fight with my company over my worker’s compensation claim had been ruled on, and it was in my favor. It isn’t a large sum of money, but it filled in the missing income while I was out of work, getting treatment for my injury.

I’ll make a post this week, for those that want all the sordid details of this drama that has been unfolding in my life since 2014. But right now, all I can think about is my kids. As the breadwinner and supermom wannabe, my family relies heavily on me. I bear that burden gladly, I cherish it. Maybe I’m not so thrilled at changing stinky diapers and dealing with teen angst, but celebrating my successes of my children and family as a whole, makes me feel whole.

So, tonight, we celebrate being whole. Cheers!

Togetherness

The family that _________ together, stays together!

Is it possible to fill that blank with just about anything? Well, barring any illegal activities… yes, it is!

There have been many versions of the saying through the years, and in fact I think it started as ‘The family that prays together stays together’. While this saying may have started out as a slogan to get families to church, I find it has much more meaning when you look at the word ‘together’.

You would think the emphasis should be on the activity the family does, however, I think it’s more important to be together. This isn’t meant to minimize the effect prayer has, but rather to take a look at togetherness in the family setting.

The family that cooks together, stays together!

When I was a child, we were exiled from my mother’s kitchen. Anyone that dared to traipse in there looking for a snack would have to answer to the guardian of all our food, my mother. I frequently have to explain to my mother, that I don’t have time to guard food. I put the best choices I can in easy reach, and hope for the best. It is demoralizing when I have to throw away wilted salad, and then vacuum up debris from chips they got into while I was busy, but I try to remember that more often then not the salad bowls are in the sink to wash, and the chips are still in the cupboard!

When you start to have a larger family, food preparation time can really eat into your schedule. So why do it alone? I like to prep vegetables at the kitchen table, where my two-year-old can always be found. He always is curious about what I’m doing and we have fun naming each item and their color. It also helps me be more mindful of my selection of veggies! If he says “Green!” three times in a row, I know I need to get some more colors into my veggie diet.

Of course, there are endless blog posts about food creations you can make with your kids, in fact I have one myself! Play with Your Food was a post I did last year with Halloween food crafts. But what these posts don’t tell you is the finished product isn’t always so pretty, as the nice pictures bloggers put into their posts, and afterwards, the kitchen is a huge mess. I actually remember taking pictures for that post at such an angle that readers would be able to see the huge mess the kids had made. Although I did mention the mess in a post later that month, about Being Present in the Moment. Maybe, this year, in an effort to be more transparent, I’ll include the mess in my blog pictures, so people will know what they are getting themselves into when they decide to cook with their kids.

One thing I can’t show you in a picture, is the pride my kids have, as they grow older and are able to (and do!) make better food choices for themselves. With the knowledge of how to prepare food, they are given more to choose from than just whatever plastic bag they can rip into. Plus, it becomes an activity that brings them fond memories of their early childhood and time together with us, their parents.

The family that eats together, stays together!

Many people don’t even have time to ponder if sit-down meals bring a family closer together, never mind actually have one. With all the schedules of parents and children’s after school activities, it sometimes seems impossible to get everyone under the same roof, forget about getting them to the same table. But I am a supporter of the family sit-down meal.

When children are small, it is mostly on you to clear enough room in your schedule for a sit-down meal each day. If you don’t, you not only rob your children of time with you, interacting unfettered by the outside world distractions, you rob yourself! We spend so much time doing the less than pleasant part of parenting, it is a really nice change to just slow down and take your children in for a moment. How big they are getting, how much they have learned and what thoughts run through those little minds.

When the kids get older, it becomes more difficult to find that slice of time when everyone can sit down. I remember that my mother somehow made it work, and there was an 18-year age span between the four of us. So, when I started school, my brother was graduating and going to college, and my little sister had just been born. When we all got older, my mom still made us sit down for dinner at least once a week. And I adore her for it. I can recall the enthusiastic way my dad and brother would discuss New England sports, and how my sister and I, only 4 years apart, would kick each other under the table, and then my younger sister would say something adorable and everyone would stop and say “Awwww, how sweet.”

Of course, you can only remember these things if there are no phones at dinner, and although back then, it just meant you would let the phone ring, or later, let the fancy new answering machine pick it up, it’s the same concept. No phones at dinner!

The family that cleans together, stays together!

All this cooking and eating makes a huge mess, of course, and it’s why so many chose not to do it. It takes less time to get through the dinner routine if you don’t pull out all the stops. I mean, for some of you, as you read through the last two sections were already picturing your kitchen sink with plates, pots and pans, the floor and table covered with food and not enough energy to deal with that.

When you have a heavy load, it’s always easier when you have some help. Plus work aids in digestion. So, we all clean it up together. Someone takes the baby and cleans him up, someone else put away the leftovers, while another cleans the table and floor. In 10 minutes we have the whole mess cleaned up and everyone can relax. I have never had a meal cleanup last longer than 15 minutes. I know you may think that’s impossible, it takes forever to do all that work, but in reality, it just doesn’t take that long.

I have many friends that clean the house themselves, to avoid the long, inevitable, drawn out task of getting their kids involved in the effort. Even older children can break out the toddler tantrums when you ask them to do chores. So, I use the same tactic I use with my toddler when I want him to eat something, I make them pick between two things I want to happen. Then I just do the other one and my work has been cut in half. I will warn those that are very particular about how chores are done, you may find yourself going behind your children and re-doing the task up to your standard, but don’t use that as an excuse to skip having them so it. When children see what it takes to keep the house nice and tidy, they appreciate you more. Plus they’ll live on their own someday, and they won’t be able to say that you never taught them how to clean!

The family that games together, stays together!

You begin to see that anything that your family does together can have benefits for your family and strengthen your bond, but what about broadening your horizon, and getting into your kid’s turf for a little bit. My parents never had video games, in Ireland, they were lucky to have much at all, but I got into gaming in college, and now I play with my kids. The games they have are very different from what was available to me, and most of the games, I really can’t see myself playing. But I do play Minecraft with the younger kids and last weekend, we started a action role playing game called Diablo, with the older kids. While they saw it as a chance to show off their superior gaming skills, my husband and I used it as an opportunity to teach team work. With four players on the screen, you need to work together to accomplish the game’s goals. Not only that, but you have to sometimes sacrifice for the team. It is obvious that the other games they play teach them to grab all the loot and horde it for themselves. But in Diablo, your team is stronger if you support each other by sharing loot with the team, so that each player has the best statistics for game play.

It’s great for families to do things together, and you don’t need things to be perfect to spend time with your kids. Other things we do together include working out and vegging out in front of the TV; Being super productive and finishing a big project and being super lazy and doing nothing all day. Any and all of these things are opportunities to spend time with your family. Then, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to use the bathroom by yourself again!

What are some of the things your family does together?

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of YOU – Health Scare

I don’t take care of myself. It isn’t a priority to me. As I type that out, it really looks like crazy talk. Who says that? “My health is not a priority.” Everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to own up to that. But in fact, the first step to making your health a priority, is to acknowledge where your efforts to stay healthy stand.

If you must quickly decide your first three priorities, what would they be? You have 30 seconds to decide. Go!

  1. Children
  2. Husband
  3. Job

That’s what I came up with, did you notice anything missing? I am not even in my top three!?

I love being a Mom, I think I’ve made that clear. I love my husband, and everyone knows you have to put effort into a good relationship. I love my job, I am good at what I do, and it gives me purpose, but also, I just need my job. We have kids to feed!

I don’t just need to move myself up on my priority list, I have to. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen, if you choose to ignore your health for too long.

Quick background, I was athletic as a kid and teenager. I carried a little extra weight when I was young. My mother had an aversion to vegetables, and loved things like Shake&Bake and Hamburger Helper.

Senior Prom 95

All dressed up for my Senior Prom

I didn’t start eating properly until high school. I thought I was so fat. I would make my own dinner of steamed vegetables and whole grain rice and turn my nose up at my mother’s roast beef and potatoes – a staple in my diet my whole life. My health was a priority then. In fact, all my priorities back then had to do with … ME.

The girl in this picture had a different top 3 priorities, namely getting fit, making money and picking the right college. Me, me, me.

And that seems to be the nature of young people. Even the high school students I meet as part of my brother’s memorial scholarship fund hold community service as a resume builder. The school district had made it policy that the students must complete 30 hours of community service in order to be eligible for graduation. And as young people tend to do, status was awarded to those that volunteered at the chicest charity.

But, I digress.

I’m not young anymore, and I don’t prioritize my health, and that seems to be the status of too many moms. If you follow my blog, you know that an x-ray recently showed a small tumor on my right femur. Doing his due diligence, my doctor promptly ordered an MRI, but told me not to worry, it was most probably benign and it was very small.

I haven’t received the official doctor’s reading of the images, but I am not happy with what I saw on the MRI. Yes, I am such a smarty pants that I requested to have the MRI saved to a CD, so I could look at it at my leisure, Google bone tumors, self diagnose and generally drive myself crazy.

Small bone tumor on right femur

The bullseye in the middle of the picture is a small bone tumor on my right femur.

Due to an error on the MRI order, the technicians at the hospital decided better to be safe than sorry and scanned both legs. I am so thankful for whatever error caused them to make that decision. I do have a small tumor on my right femur, as seen in the image on the left. I don’t know what it is. I’m not a doctor, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s kind of a little growth on the outer part of your bone, like a barnacle on a boat.

I could be completely wrong.

But I had to look through all the images closely to find that small anomaly. It’s strange to imagine this small bone blemish, being in close proximity to my knee, happened to show up on my knee x-ray. Because it did, I happened across this:

Left femur tumor

My left femur with a scary looking tumor.

A scary looking thing on my left femur. What is that!?

It was the first thing that took my notice when I opened up the pictures on the disc on my laptop at home. How lucky was I that they even scanned my left leg?

I spent a whole day looking up MRI images of femurs to try to figure out what it is. I stopped. It was making me sad and scared. I will speak to my doctor about it at my appointment next week.

The second thing I noticed while I looked at my MRI was not the related to tumors at all. I think it is a much more telling factor in my overall health though. Look at all that fat!

Cross section of my meaty thighs, ugh.

Cross section of my meaty thighs, ugh.

When did that happen!? For those of you unfamiliar with these types of images, the white stuff is fat, the darker area is muscle, and in the middle, are my bones. My fat doesn’t even totally fit on the screen.

I can’t stop looking at it, how it has found it’s way into my leg muscle, how hard it must be for my wimpy small muscles to lug that extra weight around and how unhealthy I know it is for me.

This can happen too easily, if you don’t keep yourself as a priority.

I continued to workout after college. I continued to work out at gyms into my 30’s. So where did I go wrong?

In 2011, I was in a terrible car accident.

My poor Corolla, RIP

My poor Corolla, RIP 2010 – 2011

The lady in the White Trailblazer was texting instead of driving, and struck my little and stationary Corolla at over 40 M.P.H. It resulted in many injuries, including a disc herniation in my neck. I could barely walk, let alone work out. My new routine consisted of flexing my neck muscles. The rest of me got very little use. The next year, my brother died, and I became terribly depressed. I became pregnant in 2013, and used it as an excuse to eat way too much. When the baby came in 2014, I wasn’t even doing my physical therapy anymore, and just took naps in the middle of the day with my little one. Now, it’s 2015, and my knees are killing me!

It is important to process and recover from setbacks, like the ones I had. I was off work for nearly 2 months with the car accident, and nearly 4 months in 2014 on maternity leave. Looking back, I wish I had made myself more of a priority. I became swept up with the idea that I would lose my job, and so started putting in longer hours and eating lunch at my desk. This led to exhaustion which caused me to wake up late nearly every day, and skip my breakfast. Somewhere amongst all this, I forgot that in order to give people the best of you, you must be at your best.

Now, I’m past the time of needing to make a change. I have to make a change. If things stay the way they are, my kids will have to take care of their mummy, and that is not what I want for them. No one ever wants to burden their kids.

No waiting for New Year’s resolutions or cheating at holiday parties, I need to move more and eat less. Any favorite tips you have, things that worked for you? Help get off on the right foot, by leaving helpful comments below. Thanks!

Just Say YES!

To keep your sanity, just say NO YES!!

There are many sources of advice on how to say “No.” An internet search will pull up many tips and hints on how to say no to people to lower your stress and increase your productivity. I’m going to tell you the opposite – just say YES!

With the myriad of things each day we have to do, choose to do or do because we finally have two minutes of down time, it is important to limit how thin you spread yourself. Only, that isn’t what people are doing. We end up saying no to family time and yes to more work.

I’m not economy expert, but I can see people happy to still have a job, while they watched coworkers laid off or forced into early retirement. It certainly doesn’t seem like a good time to ask for that vacation time off, does it? Sometimes, the work of those that have gone is foisted upon you, as the positions at your job go unfilled.

So, when you shuffle on home at the end of the day, you just need to relax. We’ve been told, letting stress build up is no good for your health. So, you have to take action to control your stress. Maybe you workout to combat stress. Maybe you eat your feelings. Whatever your plan (or non-plan) may be, you have your routine to keep your sanity. So, when your family asks you to change that, it is understandable why you might get a little nervous and cling to your routine with a resounding “No.”

Work commute

Even though this is part of my commute, I still need to de-stress when I get home from work.

All work and no play makes Supermom a dull girl. It’s a good thing I’m not yet Supermom, because I can set my routine aside and get me some yes.

If you follow my blog, you may know I’ve been suffering some leg pain, and recently was told I have a bone tumor in my femur. So, when my husband asked me out of the blue to go for a walk with him one evening after work, I definitely had a valid excuse. When I opened my mouth to answer him, “Yes.” came out instead. It wasn’t a long walk and we didn’t break a sweat, but I had a chance to connect with my husband, which I would have missed out on had I declined his invitation.

My 12-year-old suddenly emerged from his room, which is a rare circumstance indeed, and asked if he could watch TV with me. I had too much to do to play couch potato in the middle of the afternoon, he must see how busy I am. “Sure.” As we watched one of his favorite shows, he started telling me about the people on the show. Then we ended up having a conversation about his future, and that he may not want to go to the regular high school, here in our town. Even though all his friends will be going there, he thinks he wants to go to the Technical High School. Now, we could have discussed this later, he has the rest of this year and next school year to decide. But I was there for him, and now we both know that when he needs a sounding board, I’ll be there for him.

I am by no means a superfan of sports, but I like cheering for the local teams, and this time of year that means watching Patriot’s games. (I love the Bruins, but the channel their games is broadcasted on, is not in our cable package, BOO COMCAST!). Then, the baby indicated he wanted to explore outside. The sun was going down, and it would be getting cool. I was all comfy, settled in to watch the game. Don’t I deserve some “Me” time?

Instead, I said “Okay.” and outside we went, where this happened:

IMG_0927

Maybe that isn’t so much, but I bet it meant something to him, more than looking at the leaves through the glass door, or hearing me cheer for the Patriots. Then something even better happened. My husband came outside to join us and snapped this picture of me and the baby:IMG_0923

That’s my hubby’s finger in the upper right hand corner, but who cares? I love this picture. And all I had to do was say “Yes.” So, go out there and get yourself all of the Yes you can squeeze in.

What did you say yes to today?

Things Work Out

My sister sent me this poem in an email some years ago. I don’t remember what the occasion was, maybe it was during the time of my divorce, or that time I got fired for accidentally exposing my company’s owner as fraud (I’ll have to write about that one). Whatever it was, it passed and things did, indeed, work out. I’m hoping they will again, as I go in tonight for the MRI on my femur to check out that bone tumor. As the doctor said, it’s most likely benign, and the only evidence that this moment gave me a little scare, will be this post, which I share with all of you.

Things Work Out

by Poet: Edgar A. Guest

Because it rains when we wish it wouldn’t,
Because men do what they often shouldn’t,
Because crops fail, and plans go wrong-
Some of us grumble all day long.
But somehow, in spite of the care and doubt,
It seems at last that things work out.

Because we lose where we hoped to gain,
Because we suffer a little pain,
Because we must work when we’d like to play-
Some of us whimper along life’s way.
But somehow, as day always follows the night,
Most of our troubles work out all right.

Because we cannot forever smile,
Because we must trudge in the dust awhile,
Because we think that the way is long-
Some of us whimper that life’s all wrong.
But somehow we live and our sky grows bright,
And everything seems to work out all right.

So bend to your trouble and meet your care,
For the clouds must break, and the sky grow fair.
Let the rain come down, as it must and will,
But keep on working and hoping still.
For in spite of the grumblers who stand about,
Somehow, it seems, all things work out.

This is actually part of my commute to work. I get to start the day with this view.

This is actually part of my commute to work. I get to start the day with this view.

How to Stay Strong in the Face of Bad News

There will always be times in your life when things do not go your way. To be able to move forward despite your disappointment is a skill that any supermom, or any one for that matter, needs to master.

For many years, this was a skill that eluded me. I looked to my brother and his struggles and learned from his example. He never let obstacles slow him down, he would just adjust course. To read more about his story, please read my post Loss of a Sibling.

It would seem that recently, life has been testing my ability to stay strong in the face of utter defeats. I think I’ve done well coping with my new struggles this year, and I hope you can employ these tips and stay strong.

#1. Reach out for support.

It is my time to shine. I had a good year at work. I met my goals, I even surpassed some. I did get a “Good job.” from my boss for the marked improvement in report submission. The improvement is appreciated. Perfect time to ask for that promotion, right?

Maybe not. But next year looks good.

I was crushed. I held it together, and finished the meeting with my boss. We finished with a strategy to get me that promotion, next year. After she left my office, though, it was time to call in my support group. I called my husband first, who promptly called my boss a jerk. After, I called my mom, who of course decided that my boss was only trying to keep me down because I was her work horse, her secret weapon. I made her look good, and it just wouldn’t do to have me be promoted out of there.

These things aren’t true, of course. But in that moment, it’s what I really needed. Because I didn’t want to end that meeting with a smile and a handshake, I wanted to scream in her face! Doesn’t she know how expensive things are? How hard I’ve worked? How much I needed that raise? How can I work properly when I’m constantly worried about providing for my family? I can’t even afford their health insurance benefit anymore. Each year the premium has risen, so they are taking more and more out of my check. A small raise would help at least cover their expensive premiums, but without one, my check gets smaller and smaller.

But your support group shouldn’t just put down those that disappoint you. Nothing will show my boss that I deserve that promotion more than taking her constructive criticism and coming back more dedicated than ever. After that initial emotionally charged period, your support network will help you move on to the next step. From the extra hug I got from my husband the next morning before work, to a coworker that gave me tips on how she got her promotion when she was in a similar situation at our office, they give you the support to come back strong.

#2. Be sad.

Sometimes, I just have myself a little cry. It may not sound like something a strong person would do, but to keep your emotions stuffed down in side you is not good for you. A very smart lady said “It takes a shit ton of strength and courage to be a sensitive person in this world.” (Thanks Hattie Cooper/The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Dating in 2013)

People tend to give you space and time to be sad when catastrophic events occur. I still shed a tear for my brother at random moments. Misting up over the miscarriage is more difficult, because I didn’t tell people at work what had happened, and I don’t want to. Taking those few moments to have a cry can reinforce you. It is a release of the stress and emotion building up inside you. Let it go, let it out, and you’ll feel better.

For smaller disappointments, this strategy still works. Give yourself a little time to release the emotion from each small disappointment. If you are a private person, that is fine. Excuse yourself and find a space where you can release the emotion. This leaves you unfettered and ready to handle the next emotional thing that will happen in your day.

#3. Process what happened.

After you let out the emotion, there is more room in your brain for making plans.

At a recent doctor appointment for my chronic knee pain, the doctor let me know at the end of my visit that I had a tumor on my femur. His attitude was laid-back, meant to keep me calm about what he was telling me. They wanted an MRI of my femur, so they could better judge if it was benign or malignant, but I shouldn’t go home and worry because they were confident it was benign.

Well, Google isn’t so confident. It seems these types of tumors are more common in young people who are still growing. So, to have developed this in my late 30’s tells me (again the source being Google) that it is most likely malignant. Freak out time!

Nope, I’m going to stay strong. The fact is, it could be malignant, but all the Googling in the world won’t diagnose my tumor. I need to get an MRI, and then maybe a biopsy, gather the data to determine what type of tumor it is. Either way, some type of treatment will be called for, and I can deal with it when that happens.

To try to process something that hasn’t happened yet can just drive you crazy. There are so many ‘what ifs’ out there, it’s a miracle we make it through each day. But we do, most times without incident. So, stick to the facts.

#4. Make a plan.

Plans are great. They can fill you with energy. It is like looking up at an insurmountable peak, and then seeing that around the corner, there are steps that you can take to the top. The steps are your plan. My boss and I made goals for the coming year. Reaching those goals will make it easier to get a promotion. So, I made plans on things I can do at work that will help me reach those goals. My husband and I, though crushed by our loss this past summer, plan to continue to try for another baby. Just making that decision helped me recover some of my strength. We have also planned a memorial on what would have been the baby’s birth date. He wants us to get matching tattoos to remember our son – that plan isn’t final yet. My doctor and I have a plan for my femur. I’m going to get an MRI and see him again at the end of the month.

Having a plan can make you feel in control over a situation that may have left you feeling helpless. You are not helpless, make a plan, or adjustments to your previous plans, to get to where you want to be.

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Moms are pure strength. We have to be strong for many reasons. But it isn’t something that just happens overnight. If you are feeling downtrodden, reach out to your support network, feel all the feels, but keep your focus on the facts of what happened, then, make a plan to get yourself back on track. This will lead you to see the strength that is within you.

How do you stay strong? Please share in the comments.

Being Present in the Moment

As parents, we have many responsibilities, ambitions, tasks and burdens. Corporations should thank us, because multi-tasking was undoubtedly created by parents. With technology making our tasks more accessible, i.e. mobile banking, online shopping and even an APP to help us talk to our kids, we are being driven to produce more results, more often.

In my childhood, I remember clear boundaries being drawn in regards to my parents’ time. When my mother sat down each month and handled our bills, we were not to bother her. My siblings and I would find something to do, and if we argued about it, we kept it down because Mum was busy and interrupting her was not an option. We weren’t scared to interrupt her, we weren’t under threat of punishment and we weren’t all that considerate that we left her be simply because disturbing her concentration was rude. My parents’ boundary lines taught us to prioritize our needs, so that everything we experienced wasn’t an emergency.

Well thank goodness I don’t have to set boundaries! I can just do all those things on my phone while I attend to my children’s every need and want!

Wait a second… but that isn’t a good idea.

Aside from the fact that children do need to be taught boundaries, I am doing no one a service by splitting my attention in too many directions at once. Can I really enjoy their performance at the soccer game, if I’m making my shopping list through my grocer’s weekly ad app? Am I really listening to the song my son made up on his guitar, if I’m running through a To-Do list in my mind? Will I hear the baby’s first word, if I’m listening to the news while making dinner? Probably not.

I have often struggled in my life to be present in the moment. I barely remember my college graduation, with all the logistics of my whole family coming in from out-of-state, getting them checked in to their hotels and figuring out what restaurant could accommodate us, I forgot to stop and take a picture. I had no pictures of my graduation ceremony, or myself in my cap and gown. The professional photographer at the event only has a picture of me hurrying back to my seat. I couldn’t even take a moment on the stage, to savor the culmination of my college career. I had to throw my gown back on, late that night at the hotel, and snap a few pics.

These days, I’m slowing down a little. It is important to me to make these memories not only last, but exist! Making memories is an active participation task. You must do your part to not only plan these things we do with our family, but you must participate as well. I have gotten a little better at it now that I’m more mature, but I wish I knew these things when I was younger, especially as technology has become a larger part of my life.

These are a few tips, that I would have given to my younger self:

Life isn’t made up of ambitions

When I was small, I was a bit of a dreamer, and spent much of my time planning my future. I’m not talking about the normal run-of-the-mill “I want to be an astronaut” day dreaming. I mean I did research, made lists and planned it out, I even had a list of dogs I wanted to own! (Although, I DID want to be an astronaut, very much so, for about 6 months.)

Now that I am older, I realize life isn’t about the specific job you hold, things you own or places you visit. It is the attempts to achieve your ambitions. It is the memories you create for yourself and others. Especially when you have children. Those memories will hold value to your children when they’ve grown, and they will pass those values to their children.

Set a time to focus on your business, and take care of your business during that time.

When I come into my office during the day, I have time set aside for daily tasks, like running reports, checking emails and making phone calls. It works well at home too. When I get home, I have a little 30 minute routine that I go through that gets me up to speed with the rest of the family.  I talk to my husband, during this time I assess his stress level. If the baby has been crying all day and has worn him out, it is easy to tell. Because he is a man, he just says “The baby cried all day, I’m going to lay down, you’re up.” (A side note, I’ve encouraged my stay at home mom friends to use this line as frequently as needed.) My husband will fill me in on the day, what the baby did or didn’t do, and since I want to teach the baby to talk, I ask him about his day as well. Did he play with his favorite toy? Did he take a nap? Did he drink juice? He just sort of gazes at me happily, I can only assume glad to be part of the conversation. I check in with my older son the same way.

The reason I can take this time to connect with my family is because I have set aside time to deal with the business of running my house. It is so tempting when I see the mail by the door on my way in, to pick it up and start going through it, but knowing that I have time set aside to handle my correspondence leaves me free to check in with the rest of my clan. I planned dinner the evening before, so I’m not stuck trying to figure out what to eat and there is nothing thawed, or I need to go to the store for that one ingredient item, which somehow ran out. And the mail will be handled, just not in this moment.

My secret productive hour? It is actually in the morning. Since I’m blessed with a stay at home spouse, I don’t need to prepare the baby to leave the house for the day. Most days he is only waking up when I am leaving. I realize this is not everybody’s situation, and morning can be quite hectic. But take a look at your day and find that time you can get down to business. Then stick to it, everyday.

Note that it doesn’t have to be the same time everyday. On weekends, my productive hour can shift to just after lunch. Everyone is fed and happy, the baby takes a nap, and I have some quiet to deal with my responsibilities.

No one is saying emergencies won’t pop up, and thankfully we have the technology to make those easier to handle, but paying your electric bill at your kid’s dance recital is not one of them. Transferring funds into your checking account because your husband mixed up the debit card with the credit card might be.

During an activity, don’t worry about the mess.

My kitchen must be cleaned daily, as most people’s do. So, when I decided to do those Halloween food crafts two weeks ago, I started to notice that we were making a huge mess. I immediately shut that thought down.

How do you eat this thing?

How do you eat this thing?

That is the old me, the me without a graduation picture. When I shook the thought off, I caught a glimpse of my stepson opening his mouth super wide to bite into the skeleton pretzel brownies. I wouldn’t have missed that moment for anything, especially not a little extra mess in the kitchen. Ok, a super big mess. But who cares? I’m still going to have to sweep the floor. The odd thing is sweeping the entire floor takes about the same time with a little bit of dust as with a lot of pretzel salt and brownie crumbs. You’re still covering the same area. So, don’t worry about it and instead pay attention to what is happening in front of you.

You are responsible for you

Well, sort of…

You are responsible for your kids, yes, but can you make them feel differently about a moment by changing your behavior? No.

I really wasted so much time worrying about everyone feeling good in the moment, that I failed to notice how I felt about what was happening. When I look back at those memories, they are faded somehow. On my graduation day, I was totally worrying that everybody was comfortable, watching all the interactions between my friends and parents, looking out for my brother, in case there was an area he couldn’t take his wheelchair. But nothing I could have done or not done would have changed their day. It only changed my memory of the day. I definitely wasn’t thinking about how I felt about completing my degree and savoring the victory of a job well done.

Feelings go hand-in-hand with memories, and strong emotion can boost your memory. So, take a second to feel all the feels. And you don’t have to do this only at special family events, do it every day.

Pay attention to these tips, and when you look back, you won’t see lists, bills and your phone. You will see your life, made up of wonderful memories.

This post was inspired by the photography of Eric Pickersgill and blog post by

Loss of a Sibling

The past week has been difficult for me. Three years ago, on October 18th, 2012, my brother passed away suddenly from an aneurysm. Every year, my family holds a memorial mass at our church in the old neighborhood where we grew up. We go out to dinner afterwards and share memories of him. He was only 45.

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I miss him every day.

He was our family’s golden child, the first-born and the only son, he adored his three little sisters, and doted on us readily. When I was just 4, he would play-wrestle with me, and somehow I always won. When I was small, I would go to his high school basketball game with little pom-poms and cheer for my brother, but I didn’t want to be a cheerleader when I got to high school, I wanted to be the starting center, just like him. He was the ultimate in coolness to me, watching a new thing called MTV and wearing Ray Bans and a Members Only jacket. All my friends though he looked like Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

My brother was 10 years older than me, he was giant, standing 6′ 7″ tall. But he was also larger than life in his personality. He was the type of person that you were just drawn to. He was smart, but incredibly easy to talk to. Every where he went, he made friends. He was my hero.

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When I was 9, he was in a terrible car accident. He had been in accidents before, in my mom’s car, and mom got so mad at him and she yelled and yelled. But this wasn’t like before. My mother didn’t look like she wanted to yell at anyone. Actually, she looked like wanted to cry… all the time. At my young age, I couldn’t have understood what was happening back then. He was in the ICU for a long time. In fact, I didn’t see my brother again until I was 10.

I remember going into Boston, to one of the big hospitals. My parents took me to a scary part of the hospital I had never seen before. There were very sick people there, and all kinds of machines attached to them. They led me into a room that held a single bed. The walls were covered with get well cards, there were balloons and flowers of all sorts. My father got a stool for me to stand on.

As I climbed up, all I could think about was how I had been trying to send my beloved Pound Puppy in to my brother via my parents for months. When they returned from visiting my brother, I would always asked if they had given it to him, and was always told he couldn’t see it.

0e98ffbc25303b503d123f93333f2627What I didn’t know at the time was he couldn’t see it because he was in a coma. So, of course my first order of business was to show my brother my Pound Puppy and explain that my puppy would make him better. I held it out over the hospital bed above my brother’s face. He tried to show his appreciation, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. There was a big tube in his mouth, a ventilator, to help him breathe. No matter, I thought, I gave him a big hug, and told him to hurry home to play with me. He spent a year in that hospital.

His car accident was the first time I was told to be prepared, that my brother could die.  But he pulled through. After he came home, there was a period of adjustment. Our ancient colonial was not wheelchair friendly. But, my dad made the house wheelchair accessible, my brother returned to college and life went on.  I think many people would have a hard time finding out they would never walk again, but if my brother struggled with it, I couldn’t see it. Some years later he was playing another sport, Quad Rugby, and I was again on the side lines cheering for him.

Shortly after, I graduated and moved off to go to college in the South. It had been 10 years since my brother’s accident. I was out, partying with my friends, and I got a message, “Call home.”

My parents had been calling all over to find me (Ah, the days before cell phones, how did we do it?) and when I finally got in touch with them the news was not good. My brother was in the hospital with a mysterious heart problem. I jumped on the next flight home to be with my family. It turned out to be an aortic aneurysm.

I didn’t know much about his condition, but the doctors told us it was a grave matter. The aneurysm could burst and he would die within a matter of moments.

It turned out that my brother had Marfan’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue. My brother’s athletic nature may have contributed to the formation of the aneurysm, as all those years of pushing himself, and his heart, can cause these issues.

My brother traded in his Quickie quad rugby chair, for a more sleek black chair. He started wearing suits and ties and settled into a more calm way of life, keeping his blood pressure down so as to not aggravate his condition. Again, life went on, and we went on with it, adjusting as need be.

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After the Marfan’s Syndrome diagnosis though, something strange happened. Each time they would check my brother and the status of his aneurysm, we were told to prepare for the end. My brother developed additional aneurysms over time. When they grew too large, he underwent surgery of the most amazing nature, they patched up his bulging arteries with sail cloth!

In 2009, my brother agreed to an aggressive surgery to repair an abdominal aneurysm. It did not go well, and we were told once again, it was the end. In order to do the operation, they essentially stopped all of his systems, and once they completed the patch up job, they started him up again. But his kidneys didn’t startup with the rest of him. He had dialysis treatments, and eventually was put into hospice care. But he had had enough.

By this time, he had negotiated his retirement from his job of 14 years. They were so thankful for his service, they gave him the full benefits package normally reserved for those that had worked 15 years or more. (After his passing, they named one of their conference rooms for him.)

I rarely saw him out of his hospital bed in his home after that. He had an electric wheelchair, and his wife managed to buy a wheelchair van suited to the heavy electric wheelchair. But he could no longer drive. My mother, sisters and I took turns each weekend sitting with him and his daughter, while his wife worked. When I would stay with him, our kids would play in the living room, leaving us to have wonderful long conversations. We had such fun.

In October of 2012, my parents called to let me know that my brother was once again going into the hospital. He was having some pain and not feeling well. I sent my well wishes with them, and told them to call me with an update after they visited him. Our family had learned over the years that when you first get to the hospital, there is a lot of paperwork, and nurses and doctors coming in and out of the room – it is not the best time for visiting.

On their way in to Boston, my parents had a fender bender. It had made the car inoperable, even though there was only slight damage. I loaded my son into the car and went to pick them up. Together, we continued on into town and waited while my brother got situated in his hospital room. Finally, we were able to go in to see him.

I remember everything about that room. It was small and there was nowhere to sit. My son was, oddly enough, 9 years old at the time. He told his uncle all about our upcoming cruise for his 10th birthday. We exchanged some more news amongst ourselves, and then decided to get going. My parents made plans to come see him the next day, after they took care of their vehicle. We all hugged him, and took off for home. It was very hectic, I had some of my parents belongings stuffed into the trunk of my Toyota Corolla. I ended up losing my phone somewhere in the car.

At 2am, my parents rang my doorbell. They had been trying to call me, but I didn’t answer, so they had to come out to my house. They had to drive out in the middle of the night to tell me their son, my brother, had passed away. I was in shock.

The doctors had told us this was possible, but my brother had beaten the odds so many times, it seemed run-of-the-mill to us. He was my hero and he was infallible. I was in such shock, I actually went to work the following day. I broke down in a meeting around 11 o’clock, blurted out, “My brother died.” and just left.

I don’t know that I’m not still in shock, three years later. I do know it helps that people remember him. To this end, I established a scholarship that is given to a senior at our old high school. It was something I could do to keep his memory going. And each year, when we go to the old school to give out the award, we see old faces, friends of my brother, who remember him fondly. It makes my parents proud to see good being done in his name, because he was so good.

By reading this, now you know his story too, the story of my hero.

Ready to Try Again

When I suffered my miscarriage back in the summer, the question hung in the air; Would my husband and I like to try to conceive again?

This was a hard thing to think about while I dealt with my grief. I felt like there would be time later to decide this. Then we got the all clear from my doctor. We are physically able to try to conceive. But am I prepared mentally?

The miscarriage shattered the world I lived in previously. In that world, nothing bad could happen, I was a super pregnancy unicorn. With my first son, I was very sick and lost 30 lbs., due to my nausea. I couldn’t keep anything down. Somehow, he managed to grown to a whopping 9.5 lbs! I don’t know how I did it, but I did. With my second son, I was scared of giving birth. I was 11 years older and not in the great shape I was in at 25 years old. Would I be strong enough? Apparently, I was too strong, as I barely got into my first good push and the doctor yelped “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” – the baby was already out!

So, I felt like I was made to have babies. It just seemed to go well for me. Extreme nausea aside, most people didn’t even realize I was pregnant until I was almost due. My tall frame made for plenty of room for little ones to grow.

Back in the summer, in that doctor’s office, with no heartbeat to be found, I just knew it must be something wrong with the equipment. Things just work out for me, this couldn’t happen to me.

But it did happen.

Now, we have to decide if we want to try again. We are certain we want another child, but now the worries are around every corner. I am fallible.

The questions are many and none are productive thoughts. “What if it happens again?” “What if we struggle to get pregnant?” “What if the doctor missed something?” “Can I stand to go through that again?”

To dwell on negative thoughts such as these is not helpful, but they creep into your mind, and you can’t help it. Before, I would just assume things would be fine, but now, I know better. Things can go awry, for apparently no reason. But it’s in that fact that I find my hope to push past the negative fears in my head.

There was nothing I could have done to save my baby.

So, going forward, I can only do my best, and hope that we will be blessed once again with good news. I will use my fear to motivate me to a healthier state, both physically and mentally. Because to let my fear paralyze me will cause me to miss out on what’s to come.

My Swagbucks Experience

I joined Swagbucks 3 weeks ago, and I have definitely learned some things. You should read this before you try Swagbucks (SB) for yourself. On a boring Friday evening, I was reading some blogs about bringing in extra money. I came across some information about Swagbucks and decided to give it a try. It was easy enough to sign up, after a minute, I was up and running. When you first begin, they have tutorials you can watch to learn how to use the site. You can watch them, but the site is very intuitive, it doesn’t take long for your clicks to add up some SBs.

I started with watching videos. There are tons of videos on the site; the types of things I was watching everyday anyways. The news headlines may not be as current as you would like. I watched a video about Hurricane Joaquin’s path, and how it might hit New England, the day after the storm had already passed us, way out at sea. As much as I liked the videos, they repeat day after day, normally being updated weekly. Which means I watched that hurricane video every day for a week. But, it’s not a big deal, because I just left the string of videos running in the background, and switched over to it when a story came on that I wanted to see. They give you 1 to 7 SBs for a playlist of videos.

You learn very quickly that 100 Swagbucks can normally be redeemed for about $1. This helps you figure out what is worth your time. So, the playlist of videos earns you just pennies. This makes it unlikely you will sit there and play videos that you aren’t interested in. I got a bunch of ideas for things to do at Halloween from the videos and I can’t wait to try them this weekend with the kids. So, they are entertaining and even useful videos.

Then you may want to start to branch out. The website sets a daily goal of SBs to earn, and you’ll find that watching videos won’t cut it. They have polls you can take, websites you can explore and even offer SBs for money spent at online websites, like Target, Groupon, etc. Generally, you would earn 1SB per dollar spent, which is like a 1% coupon. Would you even cut out a coupon for 1% off?

Well, I went for it, in the interest of seeing what this website had to offer. I needed some Polo shirts for my son, so I decided to buy them online at Old Navy, which for this week, you get 6 SB for every dollar spent. I was thinking, “Alright, a 6% coupon, that’s much better! I would maybe cut out a 6% off coupon…”  Well, I had some reward points from my Old Navy credit card, and decided to apply them to my purchase. Even though I spent $100, the amount credited to my Swagbucks was less the rewards, or $50. They only credit you for money that came out of your pocket. Same thing happened for another store, where I had a rewards check that I used during checkout, and I wasn’t credited for the full amount that I spent there either. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, I’m just saying it is what it is.

Being the competitive type, I pushed to see how much I could earn. I ended up with about $10/week, just over 3,000 SB in three weeks. I requested my first cash out yesterday, in the form of a Visa Reward Card. It turns out that has to be used online, because it’s a virtual Visa. You don’t get a card in the mail. They also have gift cards to just about any place you can think of, or anything you can think of (ebay, Amazon, Playstation Store, restaurants, etc.).

Overall, it seems harmless, and a way to make some pennies that you don’t have to dive through your couch for. But as I think back, I have to ask my self, was $30 worth it?

Some offers on their site should be avoided at all costs. The iPhone 6S release in September had a unique offer popping up on Swagbucks. To earn your SBs, you simply had to tell the site where to mail your iPhone 6S, and it would be on its way to you. This is a complete scam (read more here). To their credit, Swagbucks removed the offer fairly quickly, I only saw it offered that one day, but if you thought you could get an iPhone 6S for free, then you probably are too busy with the spam hitting your phone and email to even read this post.

I also took issue with some of the websites the Discover option took me to. Most websites were fine, you could explore stories from all over the web. Others were just blatantly installing cookies, without even the guise of having interesting content. My computer started having issues, and my web browser would close unexpectedly. I started noticing the ads on every page were things I had recently searched for online. I was definitely being tracked.

Undoubtedly, if you are on the internet, there is some tracking going on. Just by saving preferences on some websites, you are actually installing first party cookies. But if your web browser is crashing, you’ve got some cleanup to do on your system, if you haven’t inadvertently downloaded a virus somewhere along your travels.

I think that overall, Swagbucks could be a fun way to pass your time on the internet, but watching videos and visiting sites you aren’t interested isn’t worth the pennies paid for these actions. If you add the headache of selecting an offer that gives your email to third parties, or worse, your phone number, it’s worth it to pay them to leave you alone. In fact this week, that offer showed up on my Swagbucks page – I can earn Swagbucks if I let an app have access to my account:

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Um… no thanks. I don’t want to sell my privacy for pennies, which incidentally, is what I was doing for the past three weeks. Time for me to go to the National Do Not Call Registry, to re-register my number.