The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Kids …

ImageI have always told my over-worked husband that the greatest gift you can give your kids in your time.  I can completely understand his desire to relax, watch TV or work in the yard when he isn’t working but I always tell him that he has to make time to just be with the girls.  He agrees but often times there is very little follow through on his part.  This past week, I really don’t know what got him to this point, but he has finally starting drinking the Kool-aid.

He came home a few days ago and told me that he was going to cut his hours and add another evening off during the week to just be here with us.  While I am thrilled with his change of heart, that means I have another night where I have to be good! LOL

In all honesty, I really am over the moon with his realization.  I have a close friend from high school who learned this lesson too late and his two oldest children tolerate his presence at best.  Yet, he does get kudos for making more of an effort with their youngest and being more involved in her life.  Unfortunately, I don’t think he will ever be able to fix the damage with the older two but, he does deserve applause for what he is attempting to do with his youngest.

Thankfully The Hub is making this move before the girls are too old and turn their backs on him.  He still needs guidance but he is realizing that he needs to connect more with his kids.  It can be something as simple as having a TV show that they are both into or taking them out on a date to get ice cream.  Maybe take one of them to the store with you or something as simple as that.  All they want is to be included – Your time is all kids really want.

Last night, Bella was having a rough time with some friends so I picked her up and without saying a word, instead of heading home, we went to a family restaurant and had an appetizer and just talked.  I didn’t say much, I just listened to her and let her talk it out.  I could see in her eyes that this was all she really wanted and needed, just some time with me, away from the house, the phone, the rest of the family to just talk.  It was actually quite entertaining to watch her talk her way through the situation, rationalize it and come to a conclusion about how to handle herself.  As I mentioned, I said next to nothing but at the end, she said, “Thank you, Momma for talking through this with me.  I feel much better.”

All I did was eat onion rings … but I gave her what she needed my time.

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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!

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.