Friendship on Friday

Friends can be like family. But the difference is they can come and go. Some will stay with you for a lifetime and some will stay with you for a season. Leaving a mark on our heart no matter how long their stay.

I look at Mom and Dad and their friends. They have friends from all periods of life. Before kids, after kids, parents of our friends, work friends, church friends, the list goes on. What I think is interesting though is I believe certain people are brought in and out of our lives depending on when we need them. Sometimes I think people are placed in our lives before we even know the strong presence they will serve at a later time…and sadly when their presence is no longer beneficial, it can also be time to move on.

I am only 28 but I already have had many experiences like this with my own friends. Coming in and out. Certain ones having a stronger presence than others at certain times. Almost like they silently take turns. Like life is a play and they are being directed in and out of different acts of my life. But as I have dealt with some big challenges with Mom’s MS, I have also learned which friends I can depend on and which ones I can call. Sister K has learned the same lesson. You can’t predict how your friends will react when you are in a crisis until you are actually in a crisis. It is surprising in good ways and bad ways.

When Mom was in the hospital in May, Sister K and I sent an email to all of our close friends asking them to send Mom cards. We didn’t really know what to expect but we knew they would cheer her up. The end result was inspiring. Mom received stacks of cards- funny, uplifting, light-hearted, even musical. And with each card a message of inspiration. A message to let her know they were there for her because she was important to Sister K and me; since they were our friends that meant Mom was important to them too. Mom has a special relationship with our friends as well as us. She is like a second Mom to many of the friends in our lives. When things get tough, it is nice knowing that in addition to Sister K and me she has an entire network out there of second children waiting to send their love and support to her too.

I am off to visit one of my college best friends this weekend so I guess you could say I have friendship and nostalgia on my mind. What are you up to this weekend? Do you have friends from different periods of life? Have you ever been amazed at the support you receive from friends or surprised when they didn’t meet your expectations? Have a wonderful weekend!

“In sickness & In health”

September 13, 1980. I wasn’t born yet. I wasn’t even a flick on their radar. I imagine they stood there though. Mom and Dad. Not yet a Mom and Dad, just a man and woman in love. Saying their vows. Living in the moment as a bride and groom. Relishing in the excitement of getting married.

On that day they also said some vows to each other.

“I ___ take you ____ to be my lawful husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

Simple words. Powerful words. I have thought a lot about these vows for the past 3 years as I have watched Mom and Dad deal with Mom’s MS. Dealing with an illness that has brought circumstances they never could have imagined standing there together 32 years ago. Circumstances no bride and groom could probably imagine as they stand together saying their vows on their wedding day.

I have watched my parents wrestle with Mom’s MS for the past 3 years since her diagnosis. I have watched the love and support. I have watched Dad deal with so much. I have watched Mom deal with so much. Their life is very present in those marriage vows. “…in sickness and health..” They live their marraige vows everyday.

Today as my parents celebrate their anniversary I can’t help but thank them for providing the ultimate example of love and committment to me. They show me everyday the true meaning of wedding vows. The circumstances may have changed a bit in the past 32 years, but the love that was there as they said those vows remains the same. It’s love that allows them to hold on to those vows. Never wavering or faltering. It’s from them I have learned the power of love.

Happy 32nd Anniversary Mom & Dad!

Scary Feelings

Mom’s mind is getting a little fuzzy. I’ve mentioned this before but I think I’m going to mention it again. This also probably won’t be the last time I mention it. I think it is becoming a regular symptom of Mom’s MS and a symptom that may be the most difficult of all for me to deal with. Is it strange that I have an easier time with her inability to walk or other issues, but start messing with her mind and I am struggling with how to handle it?

I was on the phone today having a conversation with Mom about this past weekend. She couldn’t keep the details of what happened straight. I listened half-heartedly, filling in the blanks and not making a big deal out of it. But secretly inside it was a big deal to me. Minor details of stopping at McDonald’s, who was there, driving back from the game, things that are pointless but easy to remember. The same thing happened at the football game this weekend. She asked me several questions several times or made the same comment several times. I snapped at her. Sister K looked at me and said my name implying I needed to chill out. I just looked away. I felt bad. I lost my cool once again. It’s hard because I truly don’t know how to deal with this. The closest comparison is my Grandmother who had Alzheimer’s but that is also not the same as this. This is a weird symptom of MS. It’s also a weird symptom that comes and goes. More so when Mom is tired. Sister K tried talking to her on the phone Saturday night and then got on the phone with me saying, “What is wrong with Mom? Is she tired? She’s tired.” And we agreed she was tired.

I don’t know if I am supposed to answer Mom’s questions multiple times. Retell the same stories multiple times. Go through the motions of reptition but not think about the real meaning of it. That is the hard part. The only comparison to dealing with this is how I dealt with my Grandmother- and I did answer her questions multiple times and listen to her stories multiple times. But doing that with Mom in some ways frightens me. It frightens me because it means we are back there again even though it’s in a different way, except this time it is Mom.

This seems to be a tricky symptom for me to wrap my head around. It’s easier when I’m completely rested and in a good mood. This isn’t easy when I’m tired and life has got me down. It also isn’t easy because I don’t know what I am supposed to do. The topic of this makes me scared inside. It is one of the symptoms I don’t share with anyone. I don’t think anyone except Dad, Sister K and Husband know it is out there. Sister K and I discuss it with each other but we keep it light-hearted. We try to sorta laugh it off when things happen so we don’t get upset- “Mom’s being crazy again” is what we say. That’s how we deal. Maybe there is nothing to do. Maybe I just need to embrace the repetition and come to terms with the scary feelings inside. Push them away when they bubble up. Realize I can’t react based on the scary feelings. The struggle is deep down I know it’s serious. No one gives you a manual for telling you how to deal with the scary feelings.

Have you ever been secretly scared of something? Have you ever reacted to a situation on impulse based on your negative scared feelings? How do you block out negative thoughts? How would you deal with something like this?

Seeking Approval.

“Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned.”

This pretty much describes Mom and her role of defending Sister K and me in life. My happy go lucky, unassuming mother remained that way, until you messed with her child. Then she became a lion.

7th Grade was a tough year for me. I switched schools in middle school and had to deal with making new friends at a new school at a time when no one wanted to be my friend. I am not going to relive the experience here but will say it was awful. 17 years later it’s still difficult for me to think about. At the same time it showed me a different side of Mom. I had never seen her so upset and defensive of something I was going through. I learned very quickly you do not mess with Mom’s daughters.

Recently I have had an issue with a friend. The issue actually began during my wedding planning 2 years ago and I feel like it’s finally coming to closure. What is coming to closure is the fact that we are not friends anymore and will not be friends in the future. I won’t get into it but what I will say is it’s hard. The neutral notes: Something sad happened. I acted how I thought was best and would do it again based on the situation and based on everything I was managing at the time- wedding planning, dealing with a Mom newly diagnosed with MS slowly declining, and a Grandmother dying of Alzheimer’s. She didn’t realize the stress I was under. In her eyes, my response wasn’t enough for her. It’s almost a he said/she said situation now. Bottom line though is if it’s really a friendship it’s worth fighting for, forgiving and moving on, realizing we both probably made mistakes- I don’t think she sees it that way. That’s fine. I am working towards moving on realizing it is all I can do.

The point though is through talking with a mutual friend I realized the full extent of all of this on Friday night. I was upset and kind of defeated. As I updated Mom on the phone about it she rose her voice and defended me. Defended me to thin air. No one could hear except Dad who was in the kitchen, but she defended me. I don’t know why but it was nice. Knowing that in her eyes what I did wasn’t as bad as it was being made out to be made me feel less upset. I had her approval.

I know it may seem strange that at 28 I still want Mom’s approval, but I do. It’s also interesting to me because sometimes it is tough approval to get. Sometimes it is hard to talk to Mom. Sometimes I think she isn’t connecting what is happening or what I want her response to be the way she used to. This continues to be hard. I am having to in a sense move on from my quest for approval. Find a way to know I am not always going to have her approval. First of all I am an adult and our relationship is evolving as a result of this. But then mix in MS and how my role as Mom’s daughter is also changing and that makes this difficult too. It’s something I am wrestling with. Wanting approval- not getting the response I want- dealing with it.

Do you ever want approval from the people in your life? If you have children have you ever watched yourself turn into a lion to protect your cubs? Any tough moments realizing friendships are over? My hearts go out to the USA on the anniversary of 9-11 and all those who lost their lives.  

A Family of Tortoises

We move slow. Like really really slow. If you compared us to The Tortoise and The Hare, we are a family of tortoises. This requires patience. It requires me to shut my mind down and not be in a hurry. It requires some practice too because slowing down doesn’t just come naturally.

Saturday after our football game, Sister K and Husband headed back immediately. Husband had to study and Sister K had evening plans. I stayed behind with Mom, Dad and Grandpa because I didn’t have anything going on that evening. There are two ways for Mom and Dad to get home and one of them would pass through our city so they could drop me off en route home. This way I could drive the majority of the way back and give Dad a break.

As the four of us walked into a restaurant to meet up with my Godfather and his wife after the game, I noticed how slow we were moving. As I helped Mom to the restroom and back to our table, we moved slow. Then en route on the way back we made a restroom stop at McDonalds and this ended up being about a 30 minute break for us.

I did a good job of not getting frustrated. I think I mentally was just thinking, this is what it is. This is what it is. Getting frustrated is not going to make Mom move faster. Mom is moving as fast as she can. She was worn out by the time she had walked inside McDonald’s with her walker and back out to the car. I saw it in her face how much effort was involved for something that many people take for granted. But even though she is moving slow, in the world of MS the important piece is she is moving. And for that I am thankful.

But it’s still hard. It’s hard because you have to desensitize yourself to your surroundings. Stop watching the people who are able to get in and out of McDonald’s in 5 minutes. Stop thinking of the clock ticking by into the late night while you are tired and patiently walking slow with Mom. Making sure your face stays pleasant during all of this patient waiting. Continuing to small talk with Mom so she doesn’t feel awkward as she moves so slow. It is effort for everyone. For Mom and for all of us. In a way. it is more effort to move slow than to move fast.

But, no matter how slow we are moving, we are moving. Sometimes it allows you to really pause and absorb the moment. Sometimes you are fighting everything within you not to just throw your hands up in frustration. You have to control your mind and mentally let the thoughts that come along with regular day to day life disappear. The impulses you have to hurry up and move fast, you have to let them go. And I was proud of myself because Saturday evening I was able to let my inner controller/planner go and just exist. Knowing eventually we would leave McDonald’s. No matter how long it took eventually we’d be outside. But most importantly was that Mom was doing this on her own.

Do you consider yourself a tortoise or a hare? Do you struggle with moving slower when you are used to moving faster? Do you ever allow your mind to mentally zone out of a situation to better deal it?

Football and Accountability

College football season has begun. I am not a huge football fan, even in college the games were more of a social event than an intense sports experience for me. I went to the same college my Grandpa went to. He and my Grandma had season tickets to the games all their lives and this became very special when I started there as well. The funny thing is I had never intended to go to this university- Mom and Dad didn’t go there and I was considering other schools. I had applied, was accepted and just decided in March of my senior year I would go. I based this on deciding one college I was considering was too close because it was in the same city as my parents and the other was in another state and too far away. This one seemed like the perfect compromise.

That decision began a series of memories I could not imagine my life without. When I started college I would visit with my Grandparents before the games. When Sister K decided she also wanted to go there Mom and Dad also bought season tickets. They would come up with my grandparents and visit with us before the games. I only experienced that for one year because Sister K and I only overlapped in college for one year- I was a senior and she was a freshman.

Two years ago my Grandmother passed away from Alzheimer’s and around that time Mom’s MS symptoms were making it more difficult to attend the games. So Sister K, Husband and I started going with my Grandfather. He would ride up on a bus chartered by the school or we would go home for the weekends and drive him up and back.

Last football season Mom and Dad didn’t go to any games. It became too much with all of the walking and our student center was being renovated so there wasn’t a place for her to sit and watch indoors with Dad. But now our student center is finished and tomorrow we are all going to the game. Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Husband, Sister K and Me. Mom and Dad won’t go to the game but will sit inside the student center to watch. We’ll wheel Mom around in her wheelchair and she will love being back in the middle of the game day atmosphere. More than anything we will be creating new memories.

The day will probably bring some challenges for us. I am sure there will be new things to learn as we navigate Mom around our college campus, figure out the best place to eat for everyone to feel most comfortable and get Mom and Dad a nice spot to sit and watch the game at…I have given it just a “little” thought. But at the same time I am excited to share this with everyone again. I am hoping I remain patient and am able to roll with any bumps in the road that may occur along the way. I am writing it here as a way to remind myself to be patient and avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated- to hold myself accountable.

What are you plans for the weekend? Do you like college football or ever go to any football games of any kind? How do you hold yourself accountable when trying to change?

A Little Rant

My mom walks with a walker. But aside from that, she is still the same person and would like to be treated the same way she has always been treated by friends and family. She doesn’t want a lot of attention drawn to her. In my head this logical train of thought makes sense.

For some reason though there is a disconnect between my thoughts on this and the way Mom is treated at gatherings with friends and family. People seem to insist that because Mom has a walker, she goes first. For example at a dinner gathering, people insist on Mom walking first to get to the table and they follow behind. They insist upon waiting on the driveway until we walk all the way to our car as a family and even watch us get Mom in the car. The biggest one recently was at a family birthday party gathering- they announced it was time to eat and then insisted Mom go first along with her 85 year old uncle who also has trouble walking to be followed by the other elderly grandparents present. This irritated me. I know they were trying to be nice but it was irritating. Irritating on a number of levels. First of all, I understand people giving respect to elderly relatives and allowing them to get their food first. However, Mom doesn’t want to be lumped into the same category as her elderly relatives just because she has a walker. It also takes Mom awhile to move around. Then she feels pressured because everyone is staring, waiting for her to move, waiting for her to get in her car or get to the restaurant table. On top of that, I was just going to get Mom’s plate of food for her so she didn’t have to drawn any attention to herself. So then I had to explain that instead of just doing it quietly. 

I have talked to Husband about how much this frustrates me. He said he thinks people just think they are being courteous and don’t know what else to do. What I would like to tell everyone else is to just be normal. Go walk to your table, go get in the car, go ahead and start the food line- we don’t mind. The fact that you are stopping to wait also means you are stopping to stare. This then adds pressure and stress to an already sometimes stressful situation. Becuase yes, it takes awhile for Mom to move. Sometimes we have to help her move. We don’t want a lot people standing there staring and waiting while this is happening.

This is kind of a bit of a rant. I do see both sides and understand the point of view everyone is taking. What I don’t know is how to fix this. I don’t know if in the moment I should suggest to people to go ahead and not wait for us. I just find it awkward and irritating. I think I take it more personally because in my eyes Mom isn’t an elderly grandparent, she is my 59 year old Mom. So don’t treat her like she is my grandmother, treat her like the person she is, my Mom.

Do you have any experiences where you think people may just be trying to be nice but in the process they are irritating you? Do you think people have a tendency to treat others with handicap needs like they are on an elderly level? Am I being too sensitive and need to blow this off?

Let’s All Go To The Movies

Do you enjoy movies? I do. I like going to the movies, renting movies, basically movies of any sort. They are a nice break, they can provide a fun activity and they can provide a cheap date night for Husband and me especially when we rent a RedBox for $1 and watch at home.

My family has always enjoyed movies. Being from a house full of girls, Dad typically got stuck at lots of chickflicks and not too many action packed adventures. We do love comedies though. Nothing is funnier than a chaotic family comedy scene in a movie full of one liners that we know we will be reciting again and again.

Today I was online and saw the Top 40 movies coming out this fall and it looks like there are some good ones. One in particular made me think of my mother- Parental Guidance. It is starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as grandparents watching their grandchildren for the week. Not only do my parents love both of these actors, I can already hear my parents laughing, especially Dad. As I read through the preview, I was thinking I can’t wait to take them to see this.

The other nice thing is knowing that seeing a movie isn’t going to be a big stress on Mom. She knows the theater, knows the set-up and they even have handicap accessible seating. Buy some popcorn, plop down and enjoy a mindless break for an hour or so. Or we rent the movie, all sit around in the living room and enjoy an evening of laughter together. That’s the great thing about movies. We have so many alternatives to how we can experience them but regardless of which way we choose I know it will be a fun escape.

Does your family enjoy movies? Have you found movies to be an stress free or stressful activity? Do you all agree on movies? Anyone out there looking forward to “Parental Guidance?”

Baseboard Horror

I am by nature not a neat person. But that being said, I love the feel of a clean house. This past weekend I cleaned our apartment and when I say cleaned I mean “really cleaned.” Husband and I both tend to lean towards the messier side with clutter so I had to start there and then went into cleaning products mode.

Please don’t be too harsh on me as I begin to divulge the secrets of my messy apartment. I decided to pick up a towel and dust the base boards just to see if anything would come up. Then I stood there in horror at the amount of dust/dirt that did come up. I then felt like I could feel Mom standing there laughing at me. Laughing because whenever Sister K and I go home we have a tendency to get after Mom and Dad about the state of our house. It isn’t a disaster but with everything with Mom’s MS it isn’t exactly a priority either. Mom can’t clean it on her own, we don’t have a maid so they do what they can. But Sister K and I have a tendency to go home and get frustrated about this. We are learning to just go with it though. Realizing our parents are happy, they are doing what they can and whether or not the floor has been swept really isn’t as big of a priority as whether or not Mom has exercised today.

Sunday afternoon as I looked at the towel of baseboard dust I thought to myself, who do you think you are going into Mom’s house and judging how clean her house is when look at your own. And then I laughed. Another lesson learned. I should probably not consider myself to be high and mighty in the cleanliness department after thoroughly examining my own apartment this past weekend. I definitely got kicked off my “know it all perch” I like to place myself on from time to time.

Regardless, my apartment is now clean. And I am trying to keep it that way as long as I can.

Do you tend to be a neat or messy person by nature? How often do you clean your house? Has anyone else ever been horrified by their baseboards?