Friends Filling the Void … Hockey Style

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Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp … after Sharp SCORED!

It is somewhat incredible how God can step into your life and bring with Him people that fill a void that you didn’t even realized needed filling.  Oddly enough, my life has been enriched beyond measure by what I call my hockey family.  Crazy, I know, but that is how God works sometimes.   He is all sorts of stealth, and I love Him for it!

Some three years ago, on Facebook, another Chicago Blackhawks fan was razzing me and when I saw the last name, I remembered having a former student with that name and assumed it was John giving me a hard time.  After chatting a bit and realizing that it wasn’t the John I knew, just for fun, we became friends anyway because he was just so damn funny.  John lived on the west coast and was married with two kids.  We both joked about how our spouses hated hockey and we decided to become each other’s hockey spouse.  That meant sharing cool articles and texting each other game scores when the other was working, etc.  If I got caught up in family things and forgot to text him, he would message stating that I needed to get my act together or else he was going to file for hockey divorce! HA HA!

Over these past two years, John has gone through some very difficult times and I watched a man go from an all time low to now flying high by getting his life straight with a new job, a new lady in his life and a beautiful relationship with God.  The women in his life consider me his sister and his kids call me “Auntie.”  My kids call him Uncle John and the relationships that our families have is amazingly beautiful … all because of a hockey team.

This summer we have plans in place to finally get out families together and meet.  My Bella texts her Uncle John every day with a countdown of the number of days until we all get together.  My husband is a real sport about it, I have to admit, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I have someone else to talk hockey with and it saves him from having to feign interest!  HA HA!

My friend Andy (short for Andrea), is another Blackhawks fan and is just all sorts of crazy!  We met the same way I met John and we have a similar relationship.  We come from the same ethnic background and while I’m probably old enough to be her mother, I am her Hawk sister!  Game days we have our own special ritual and just last month, I was dying laughing, she sent me a pic of her computer screen during her night class – she had her ear buds in and was watching the game on her screen instead of paying attention to her professor.  I just LOVE this girl!  We will be heading to Chicago to visit family this summer and meeting Andy is on our list of things to do!

There is also Mike, he and I became buds on a hockey website where I wrote an article he liked, we exchanged a few emails and now, he is like my big brother.  He was quite a great ear last week when I was ready to choke my LBD-wearing cousin until her face turned blue. His family makes him crazy too so we share war stories that don’t seem so bad when someone else knows the shoes you are walking in.

He and I have very warped, twisted senses of humor and we swap jokes and funny blogs all the time.  We share strong opinions on certain players and general managers in the NHL and often have “I hear ya!” bitch sessions via email.   The only thing we disagree on is Patrick Sharp.  I love him, Mike hates him and whenever Sharp misses a pass, has a puck hit the cross bar and not go in – I get a text from Mike telling me that we need to trade him.

Mike and I share an appreciation of cynicism as well.  We regularly joke about writing a book about how to be a good cynic.  He calls his wife “The Warden” so I think we have the potential for a best-seller.

So, who needs selfish, pain-in-the-ass relatives when you have friends like these?

Damn straight!   Go Hawks!

And People Wonder …

Diana hard at work apparently …

As is quite clear of late, my give-a-damn is busted.  Often times when you have special needs kids the loop with medical care, specialists and medical opinions can seem never ending.   We try our best to stay on top of things, to make sure medical offices have all the paperwork, that insurance companies have prior approval of appointments, etc.  We make follow up calls, emails and send letters making sure everyone is on the same page so that appointments go as planned.

Well, back in August of last year, I started to get paperwork moving for an appointment that is next month for an out-of-state specialist for Bella.  I was given a contact person and told to exclusively work with her.  Well, after FOUR separate emails that all received out of office automated replies back and no action whatsoever from her I had to go over her head twice to get her to do her damn job. Then this morning after another email to the powers that be, I find out that last week information was sent to the wrong doctor (and the doctor’s office not even questioning why they were getting the paperwork), and now new people are joining in after I go over the head of my initial contact and now am having to dig through my files to find paperwork that has been misplaced.

Yeah, as one friend on Facebook wrote this morning, “We should all be thankful that you have hockey as an outlet, otherwise there would be a trail of bodies behind you!”  Couple this medical nightmare with the BS from the last few weeks with my extended family, it really is a miracle that I haven’t killed anyone yet.  I just got off the phone with my mom and told her this whole sorted story and she laughed like crazy when I told her that our old pediatrician (the one who got sent files erroneously) should thank his lucky stars that I hadn’t showered before taking the girls to school because I would have been in his waiting area talking loud and letting every parent in the room know what a hack they have as a pediatrician for their child.

Now, just a few moments ago, I get a call from the specialists office, asking for some info to set up the appointment that I have been trying to get set up since AUGUST!  The nice girl Courtney said that Diana had called her this morning and asked her to call me to set things up.  I will give you all one guess who Diana is – ding ding ding – you guessed it, the one who was my point of contact whose email apparently only send out of office replies.

I sat for a moment and wondered why Diana was suddenly doing her job … then it hit me!

I guess that veiled threat of printing out the email thread and sending it to the Board of Directors of the hospital with a chronology of events did the trick!

Oh!  What a surprise, the present pediatrician’s office just called, they got the paperwork they needed and have forwarded everything to the insurance company – the decision should be in by early next week – shocker!

The Aftermath …

ImageSo, here’s the deal.  If you read yesterday’s post, Family Funeral Etiquette, I am sure you sensed there was much more emotion there than just venting about a daughter who could and should have done more to help her parents during the last few months of her father’s life.  There was family history busting out all over the place and while I will not get into the gory details of the family drama, I will share with you the aftermath of an entire series of very thoughtless events – I’m done.

Literally, for decades I have watched one faction of my extended family run roughshod over the rest of the family that certainly didn’t deserve it.  Yet, the victims of these callous people, myself being one of them, all tried to be the bigger person, rise above it, etc.  Well, you can only turn you cheek so many times before you simply say, enough.

After letting things fester and churn inside me, I had what can only be described as a moment of silent lucidity Saturday night at the Wendy’s drive-thru, of all place.  My daughters wanted Frosties so I caved and headed to the near-by fast food mecca, the entire time with all of this anger, disappointment, frustration and hurt inside me.  There were a few cars ahead of me so I sat there in the quiet and, while I have no way of knowing where any of you are with you faith, what I can tell you is that in that moment God spoke to me loud and clear and I realized in a split second that I had had enough.

I called my mom in tears once I got home and told her that I came to the realization that there were no words that needed to be said, no explanation or justification for my feelings or why I was so hurt and upset.  The bottom line is this, they knowingly made a choice to not just invite but intricately include someone in the funeral service who, for the past 40 years, has been nothing but toxic to her immediate and extended family.  She had left a wake of harsh words, insults and negativity that had hurt every single member of my extended family.  Yet, because there was a show to put on, someone decided that this toxic person should be included.  I was even given a phone call to warn me that that person was going to be there and to please be on my best behavior.  I was the toxic one’s most recent target and the wounds, as everyone knew, were still fresh.

In the end, this one faction chose the toxic one over me.  So, as I told my mom, they can have each other.  I am just walking away and leaving them with the one they chose.  I have watched them do the same thing to my dad, over and over again for over 50 years when Dad did nothing but help them all out when they needed it.  Why?  Because that is what family is supposed to do – help each other.

I regularly tell my daughters that decisions need to be made with great care because there are some decisions that you cannot fix, you cannot come back from them.  I have used this family situation as an example of a conscience decision that cannot be undone.  Thankfully, knowing what they know and having seen (and heard) quite a bit, they get it.

So with my head held high, my moral compass in tact and a tinge of self-satisfaction, I am walking away from it all … and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

Family Funeral Etiquette – Oh the Things I Didn’t Know!

ImageAs I referenced in an earlier post, there was a family funeral on the horizon.  For some, a funeral is a somber occasion, a time to reflect on the life of the deceased as well as a time for family and close friends to join together and share their grief.

For others,  it is SHOW TIME!  Sadly, the branch of the family tree in question here, falls into the latter category instead of the former.  The daughter of the deceased, in the months and weeks preceding her father’s death,  did next to nothing to help her mother and father out.  If she had a 3-day weekend for Martin Luther King Day, there was an excuse why she couldn’t come from some 90 miles away and spend time with her dying father and lend a hand to her caretaker mother who lovingly insisted on caring for her ailing husband on her own.

During his last two weeks of life, again, her participation was minimal, leaving others in the family, like yours truly, to do things that a daughter should have done.  While her mother stayed by her father’s bedside in the hospital in his last days, her visit were brief and often not even daily because, well, the cars needed to be inspected.

Said daughter had a week off from work the week before her father passed and still only made brief nightly visits to the hospital.  During those visits she and her live-in boyfriend would take off, one night in particular for two and a half hours, to get dinner for themselves because that 45 minute drive from their home to the hospital really took a toll.

The night her father died she was just too distraught to stay the night with her grieving mother and left the poor woman alone in a house full of memories.  But, I must give the daughter credit because the next morning she was at the house bright and early to help with the preparations because now, it was show time!  Photos needed to be organized for the slideshow at the funeral home, displays needed to be made for the area near the guest book sign in podium and of course for the area around her dad’s casket.  Because, you see, the show must go on!  There are people to impress, hands to hold and hugs to give!

In closing, I did want to share with you all that I learned a few very important things this weekend from this amazing daughter. Apparently, it is now acceptable to wear a Little Black Dress (mid-thigh) to your father’s funeral. It is also apparently acceptable to hang back from your immediate family and live-in boyfriend (and his parents) as the funeral procession is leaving the church after Mass … and wrap your arms around your ex-husband and give him a kiss on the lips, complete with leg-lift.

I guess I have been living under a rock, and thought I would let you all know about this new etiquette.  Since I didn’t get the memo, I thought you might not have either!

Does Your Family Think Less of You?

While the world around us is ripe with outcries against social injustices, people crying racism, ageism, bigotry, sexism, hate, etc.  I have been regularly taking a good hard look at how my family treats me, compartmentalizes me and sees me.  It is hard to even type but for a multitude of reasons, the most significant one being that both of my children have special needs, based on their actions and words, I have been made to feel less in the eyes of my immediate and extended family.

I honestly would have never thought it would come to this but I really do think it has.  It has everything to do with the fact that everyone wants their life to appear as a Christmas card – everyone handsome, well-dressed, smiling and uniformly looking like the perfect all American Family.  That is the opinion and perspective that most people want to emanate to those on the outside looking in.

We as a culture have an insatiable appetite for Hollywood stars and their glamorous lifestyles and seemingly perfect lives.  If only we looked like them, had their money, our lives would be perfect – or at the very least, much better than the lives we have now.  I don’t know about you but my Facebook timeline is constantly jammed with comments about reality shows and completely unrealistic TV shows about people who have everything and still want more.  While some may crack up at all of the dysfunctional family TV shows on these days, they only want to see it on TV, not in their own family tree.

Well, I live in reality and refuse to live my life by these terms and because of it, I often feel that I am being marginalized, often by my own family because we aren’t that Christmas card family.  We live our lives around the needs of our children, drive older cars and don’t dress like we walked out of a fashion magazine every time we walk out of our house and don’t live via credit cards.  Good Lord!  We actually live within our means and don’t try to appear to be anything more than what we are – a middle class family with two special needs kids trying to do the best we can with what we have.

Yes, I wear jeans and T-shirts most days because that is what is most comfortable for me.  Let me say this for the 5,000th time – I have no one to impress.  I can’t even remember the last time I went on a specific clothes shopping spree for me because we simply can’t afford it.  If I need something, I get it when I need it and that’s it  This lifestyle works for us but it seems to make my family think less of me – even at times my parents.

I see the look in their eyes all the time, they see the smart, intelligent and highly educated daughter they raised who had the world as her oyster when she was 28 years old and now they see a tired, often worn down woman whose choices they respect but really can’t brag about with their friends.   I have often been hurt by things that my mom says to me about her friends kids and how successful they are, their nice homes, new jobs, exotic vacations and then my mom will turn around and tell me, “What do I have to brag about?”

You see, while she respects my decision to stay at home to do what is best for our daughters, she cares about what others think and in our day and age it’s all about what you can brag about.  No one gets excited over the fact that her daughter has two special needs kids and stays at home – they only give her the “oh that’s too bad” look and that stings her.

She keeps telling me that she can’t wait for me to get my life together and make something of my life.  Caring for her granddaughters apparently isn’t good enough.  And I see these same looks in the eyes of other family members when we show up for family events.  While they are genuinely happy to see us, and don’t get me wrong, my family loves us, I just feel that we make them uncomfortable at times because we aren’t the picture-perfect Christmas card family.

Because they think less of me, they do treat me differently, that there is no doubt about.  I am the first one many of them come to when they need a favor or someone to go the extra mile for them because they know that my mindset as a special needs mom is one of self-sacrifice and that I am a pro at putting everyone else before myself.  If they need something researched online, writing done, errands ran during the day while everyone else is at work, etc.

Yet, here I sit today with a family funeral on the horizon and I almost don’t even want to go because I don’t want to be an embarrassment to them because what other people think is more important than how I feel.  They want to show the perfect happy family to everyone on the outside looking in … and my family isn’t aesthetically pleasing, I see it all the time when their eyes dip down for a moment or when I run into them in public and they just introduce us by our names to their friends, not mentioning the fact that we are related.  It hurts but at least they are being real.

The Joys of the Over Parenting Parents!

Good Morning, Readers!

I hope you don’t mind my taking a week off from blogging.  Here in snow country the kids get two breaks in the early part of the year; Winter Break in February and then another week off for Spring Break just before Easter.  Last week the girls and I had a blast, which I will write about in upcoming posts.  But today, I am going to take the opportunity to share another of the things that irritate the hell out of me.  It is going to seem so trivial but when it happens five times a week for some 35 or so weeks a year, it grinds at you – and then the expletives start.

I just got back from dropping the girls off at school.  As you may recall, I explained several posts ago that Mia’s school is actually in a highly commercial area.  The school was built in what was then a rural area and over the past 20 years a commercial corridor built up around it. The grounds are quite impressive, they extend at least 200 yards and there are some five athletic fields surrounding it. It is quite convenient for moms who drive their kids to school because we can get shopping done once we leave off the kiddies.

Because the school is set back a good distance from the road there is one entrance that forks off in two directions; one for the buses and another for staff and parent parking and drop offs.  In the mornings parents line up in a circle-like drive to unload their precious cargo.  I don’t know if it was in reaction to Sandyhook or not but over the past few months, either the principal himself or the PE teacher are posted in the circle drive to greet the kids as they arrive and wave good morning to parents. 

As you can well imagine, at any given time, that circle drive can get pretty congested with vehicles.  For some odd reason, some parents, even with presence of the principal, feel the need to wait in the circle drive and watch their little ones and their bouncing backpack walk the entire way up to the front doors before they pull away and allow the next vehicle to pull to the curb for drop off.

Now, if you are dropping off your child and the school is set back from the road with only one way in or out and there is a school administrator at the drop off point; do you really have to sit there for three to four minutes and physically watch your kid into the building? Let’s get real here, you have no honest to goodness reason to do this other than wanting to make yourself feel better or to make others think you are some kind of wonderful parent. Between the administrators, teachers working bus duty and the dozens of parents in the drop off line, do you really thing that someone is going to be hiding in the bushes in front of the school, jump out and grab your kid and escape with him or her? Let’s not forget the twenty plus security cameras that directly feed into the District’s security center.  This waiting until they walk to the door is just over kill.

It only makes you look like an ass, pisses off other parents and makes other kids that much later for school than they need to be.

To quote Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men

“Thank you for playing, should we or should we not follow the advice of the galactically stupid!”

What Friends & Family Are For …

ImageThe past few days have had me on the go.  A family member whose final days are numbered, was admitted to the hospital and we have all been dealing with the emotional toll.  Yet God has surrounded me with some wonderful people who were able to make me smile today.  So, I thought I would share these gems with you!

My infamous friend Mark, the one who encouraged me to start this blog, was just being himself, not knowing about my loved one in the hospital, and made me laugh for the first time in days.  You should also know that Mark loves it when I mention him in my posts so, this is a win-win for him!

I was running some errands for family today and thought I would call Mark while I was on the highway, let him know what was going on and that I would probably be incommunicada for a while.  Mark and I, because our individual family lives are so busy, usually email when it is convenient for each of us and just catch up via email.

Around 11 am this morning I called Mark’s cell.  After a few rings he answered and instead of his usual jovial greeting, he just yelled “WHAT?”  I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was playing around and it just hit me as over the top hysterical. I burst out laughing, as did he, and then I said something like, “Well, that was a hell of a greeting!”

Then we went right into our typical conversation topic, hockey.  Mark, like me, is a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan.  (Mark, I was so tempted to write, “Mark, like myself …”)  🙂

Let me digress from my story for a moment to fill in the blanks for you all.  A few weeks ago, Mark emailed me asking a grammar question about the grammatical correctness of a sentence that included the phrases, “John and myself participated in the event.”  Without boring you with the linguistic mumbo jumbo, it suffices to say that myself is being used incorrectly in that sentence. So, I became his heroine when I confirmed for him that it was used incorrectly and restoring Mark’s faith in humanity.  If I had used “myself” I can almost guarantee that Mark would have spit his coffee out all over his keyboard at work.  Since he just started a new job a few weeks ago, that would have certainly been some serious no bueno yet damn funny!

So, Mark and I had a detailed conversation about the previous night’s game and for a short time I forgot about our loved one in the hospital.  Without knowing it, Mark was being a great friend.  When the time was right I told him the real reason for my call and things got serious for the rest of the call.  Yet, even after hanging up I had a smile on my face because he reminded me that smiling was important, even in sad times.

Later in the day, more laughter while I visited my aunt and uncle.  My uncle is a born story teller.  He had a colorful childhood – he grew up with my dad – enough said.  He and my dad were such good buds growing up that he eventually married my dad’s sister.  Best friends also became brothers-in-law and I can honestly say that I probably have only two memories of him in my entire life where he wasn’t laughing, cracking jokes or telling one of his hysterical stories.

The next hysterical moment was when I stopped by the home of my family member who is in the hospital to get a few things they had asked me to pick up.  They live in a close knit neighborhood and everyone knew that no one was home.  So, while I was there the door bell rang.  So I went to the door and opened it up to find a half-scared 2nd cousin who didn’t recognize my car and came over to make sure everything was safe at the house. The look of fear in her eyes was hysterical as I slowly opened the door.  She was standing there with inquisitive eyes half afraid that the face would be that of a thief.  Her eyes widened when I opened the door and then her shoulders went limp as she let out a sigh of relief when she recognized me and put her hand over her heart.  Once she caught her breath, she went into a length story about her concern, how she’d forgotten her cell if she needed to call 911 anyway and that her husband probably wouldn’t have come looking for her, etc.  It was certainly one of those, you had to be there moments, but nothing is better than scaring the shit out of a relative.

Picking up the girls at school is always a happy time of day for me, but today in particular they made me smile again.  They went with me to the hospital to visit our loved one and then on the way home they had one of their over-the-top laugh-out-loud conversations.

Bella commented how at this time of year, the trees were naked.  She was obviously referring to the fact that the large majority of the trees didn’t have leaves on them.  In typical Mia fashion, she didn’t miss a beat and said, “Yeah, I know, they should be charged with public nudity!”

This is my life and I love sharing it with all of you!