The Cover-Up

I love gloves. I notoriously have cold hands and gloves provide the ultimate in warmth. I wish you could wear them year round but it is only really acceptable to wear them in winter. But I was thinking today how gloves provide me the ultimate cover up, enabling my hands to stay warm and function. It got me thinking about how we cover up things in our own lives.

Dad called me today because he and Mom are going to meet with a therapist again tomorrow night. It was advised to Mom and Dad after her last doctor’s visit that they needed to see someone. The main reason is Mom is not admitting to herself or dealing with her MS diagnosis. They met with someone in December and will meet with the person again tomorrow night. I had been asking Dad if they had another appointment scheduled but he thought that with the holidays things seemed to be improving. But now in the second week of January it seems as though we still have the same issues, just a new year.

Dad mentioned Mom’s MS doesn’t seem to be improving and her mobility seems to be getting slower. It is also becoming a little more difficult for him to assist her. These are little things but little things that are big things. He asked if I had noticed anything over Christmas and I said honestly, I think Sister K and I are just turning our head the other way. The holidays were not an appropriate time to bring up this argument again but in many ways I think Sister K and my days of bringing up this argument are gone. I think we have done everything we can and now it is up to Mom.

Someone gave me some good advice once: She said people speak verbally and non-verbally and their non-verbal actions typically mean more than their verbal actions. Mom’s non-verbal actions are very honest and when I stop to think about and look at them they tell a very honest story. The avoidance, the lack of initiative, the negative attitude at times, the contentment with where things are- they tell a lot. A lot that I can’t really write about because I am still working it out in my mind. It’s a cover-up. A cover-up that allows Mom to stay warm and cozy within the life she wants without getting out in the cold and beginning to deal with things. It’s a cover-up that I am not sure any of us have any tools left to uncover. I think Mom may be the only one who can do it.

Do you ever cover things up or not deal with issues in your life? Do you think at a certain point you just can’t push someone to deal with things anymore? What is your favorite thing to wear to keep warm during winter?

Everything Will Be Okay

I had trouble sleeping last night. I was lying in bed and commanding myself to go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Instead my mind swirled with worry. Swirled with uneasiness about the future. Swirled with imagined “what if” scenarios. None of the “what ifs” were ever good…all bad. All stressful. I felt a lot of anxiety. Then I did fall asleep and would wake up and something would trigger another anxious thought again. I still don’t know why last night caused this or what the root of the issue was…Was it just an isolated sleepless night of worrying or did it mean more than that?

But in the midst of it all I was trying to just lay there and calm myself into a relaxed state instead of the wide awake and stressful state my body felt like. I laid on my back, I put my hands on my stomach and pretended one of my hands was someone else as they held each other, and I envisioned Mom. I envisioned her saying “everything will be okay; everything will be okay.” As I did this, I seemed to move into a more relaxed state. Eventually my mind stopped racing and I drifted off to sleep.
It was a frustrating night to say the least…especially being a Sunday night. I am a little tired today but not as tired as I should be based on the low amounts of sleep I got last night. But the thing I found most interesting in all of it was that at 28, the thought of Mom, my Mom, being there with me calmed me down…in the same way it would have if I was a little kid. And in those moments when I was thinking of Mom, I wasn’t thinking of Mom who has MS, I was just thinking of Mom. This was something MS couldn’t impact because it can’t. It can’t impact the feeling I get from the comfort of feeling or envisioning the presence of my Mom.

Do you ever have trouble sleeping because your mind won’t stop racing? Does it ever happen to you more on a Sunday night with a looming new week ahead? What calms you down or relaxes you? How was your weekend?

The Cards We’ve Been Dealt

On December 23, Sister K, Mom and I all headed to the mall…Husband and Dad headed to the movies together. It was girl time/best friend time/mother-daughter time/all of the above. We were done with our holiday shopping but went to enjoy the sales, soak up the frenzy of the pre-Christmas chaos and spend time together.

As I was there I saw other families together, other mothers and daughters but for the first time I didn’t feel the instant twinge of jealousy I used to feel. Sure Sister K and I pushed our Mom around the mall instead of walking beside her…but instead of focusing on the differences between our Mom and other Moms…I just focused on being with Mom. We had a wonderful day. We wandered around, in and out of the stores, showing Mom things, trying clothes on, stopping to grab something to eat, and to insert a line from a familiar Christmas tune “laughing all the way.” It was a special time and the perfect way to leave the cares of my life behind and become focused on being home with my family for Christmas.

I felt very blessed by the relationship I have with Mom and Sister K. I felt blessed that I “wanted to go home to spend time with them” as I listened to people complain about being home with their parents for holidays. Instead of thinking of the frustrating cards we have been dealt with Mom’s MS I thought about the good cards I have been dealt with my family. I am learning to take all the cards I’ve been dealt, the good and the bad, and to make it work. And if it means taking turns pushing Mom around the mall in her wheelchair, sometimes having some minor issues with navigating through doors, and sometimes taking up too much space- I’ll do it. I’ll do it because as I sit here today I don’t remember those things, I just remember the time spent with Mom.

So a week after Christmas and with the holidays behind, here are some pictures of
Sister K and Mom “rolling” around the mall:

Enjoying the lights of the season

Enjoying the lights of the season

Avoiding the cobble stones to the left- we learned Mom isn't a fan

Avoiding the cobble stones to the left- we learned Mom isn’t a fan

We also learned Mom's wheelchair doubles as shopping bag storage

We also learned Mom’s wheelchair doubles as shopping bag storage

Did you do anything special with your family over the holiday season? Do you ever focus on the negative cards you’ve been dealt and overlook the positives in the process? Does anyone else enjoy going to the mall to enjoy the pre-Christmas chaos or are you among those still doing last minute holiday shopping up until Christmas Eve?

The Paper Timing of Life

I am old school and still love my hand written pocket calendar.I like to get out my pen and fill in the dates of a new year. I like to use my pen to cross of the days that have passed. It is how I keep appointments and keep my life organized. My calendar is one of my most favorite things I own. I also love watching my calendar fill up. I get a thrill out of a busy schedule..every once in awhile.

I noticed while I was home that Mom also seems to love calendars. She owns three. She has her Thomas Kinkade calendar which is more of a wall piece of art in the kitchen than actually used as a calendar. She has a white board calendar that sticks to the fridge that does most of our household managing. Last but not least she has has this wooden calendar she has been ordering paper refills to fill up for at least 20 years. This calendar organized our household activities for pretty much my entire childhood until we got the white board one. Now I feel really old.

But I think calendars are magical. Dreaming about the future. What kind of events or appointments will fill up the days. I have also noticed during times of high stress I don’t pay as much attention to mine because it tends to stress me out. I don’t anticipate the next activity or cross out the days as religiously as I normally would. I think I try to block out the passage of time.

With Mom’s MS I feel I have become increasingly more aware of the passage of time. I look towards future months and wonder how Mom will be doing. I look back a few months at how she was doing and where we are today. I can pinpoint her health by looking at events and remembering how she was health-wise when we attended them.The journey of MS can’t be chronicled into appointments and events. It lands on the unexpected. It can squash all other appointments and events in its path. Mom’s MS has a mind of its own and in no way respects or cares about my pocket calendar and my plans.

But I continue on dreamingĀ filling in my calendar. And so does Mom. Because at the end of the day you have to live. I read a quote recently about travel but I think it also applies to my life: “You have to fail to plan and plan to fail.” So I sit here with my calendar knowing that it could all be flipped on its head in a split second…but for now, it is all organized neatly into its dates and times all wrapped up in its maroon cover.

My 2013 Pocket Calendar

Do you keep a paper calendar or an electronic one? Why do you prefer one over the other? Have you ever been excited about being busy with plans? Does looking at all the days of the year and all the changes that could happen ever overwhelm you? Do you enjoy filling in the dates of your calendar too?

New Year, New Perspectives

Happy New Year blogging friends- after a bit of a holiday hiatus I am back!

I am also curious…Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I am not big on them. The main reason is because I feel like if you want to make a change in your life do it, don’t wait for a new year to do it. But with that being said, there are a few I am making this year just because I am feeling like the timing aligns well with some changes I want to make in my life.

I thought I’d share these too since I figure that if you are reading this blog you know me pretty well even if we’ve never met in person:

My Superficial Resolution:
1. Stop picking/biting finger nails. This has been a looming issue for me. I actually think I picked it up from Mom which is kind of comical. But as a reward for stopping I made an agreement with myself that I’d treat myself to a manicure.

My Carry over from Last Year Resolution:
2. Cherish the Moments. I have talked a lot about this on here and it was a central theme throughout my holidays. Really trying to be present and almost take a mental snapshot of my time with loved ones or memories with myself that I let slip by or not appreciate. I felt like I really soaked up my time at home with Mom over the holidays, but I also really cherished my time at home. I cherished the little moments with Mom and with my family. I really want to strive to be better at this rather than always thinking two steps ahead or not being fully present.

My Epiphany Resolution:
3. “Evacuate MY dance floor.” I love to dance. This is no secret and I have talked about this many times on this blog. New Year’s Eve as I was staring at a football bowl game Husband was forcing me to watch by taking over our TV, I had a thought- I have really struggled with letting people bother me. The kicker is these are people who in no way directly influence my life on a daily basis. They are people from my past, people I only know about through Facebook or people who used to be friends and I am working through the ending of that friendship. The point though is I allow these people who I never interact with to control my moods sometimes. I allow myself to ruminate on their actions or words that were hurtful to me and in effect I end up in a downward funk. I am realizing though that my family is facing and is going to continue to face some trying times with Mom. And using her as my focus, if there are people in my life who I don’t think I can pick up the phone just to say “I am having a hard time” then those are people who should not be in my life. So in effect I will be asking them to “evacuate my dance floor.” I will not literally be informing them of my decision but I am going to internally hold myself accountable to evacuating them from my dance floor and therefore my thoughts. This is going to be my motto of 2013. Because I do believe I am hitting a point where friendships are harder to maintain, life is throwing bigger curve balls my way and I need to surround myself with people who I want to be surrounded by whether it is being in their company or thinking about them in my mind.

So here we go. Thank you for sticking with me as I kick off 2013. I love this blog and am so thankful for the people who have found it and read it- more than you know. I look forward to navigating 2013 with you by my side and knowing that no matter what life throws at me this year, I am lucky to have this place to come and deal with life.

How were your holidays? Do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Do you think it’s important to take the time to “cherish the moment” everyday, not just during the holidays? Did you know there is a song called “Evacuate the dance floor”?…it may or may not be my new anthem šŸ™‚

The Importance of Good MOMents

It’s a big day so it deserves a big post- Sister K officially has a boyfriend! I realize some of you may think this is funny or not that eventful but in my silly family of girls, things like this are a big deal. It’s also a big deal because I actually like this guy….as opposed to Sister K’s other “ghosts of boyfriends past” who I was not the biggest fan. Husband told me last night that he thinks it’s funny guys worry about meeting the Dad because in my family they should really be more worried about meeting me. Probably not my greatest quality…ha.

But today at lunch Sister K called me and we three-way called Mom. As I walked around on my lunch break we were listening to Sister K’s story, full of excitement, telling us about her new boyfriend, how much she likes him- lots of gushing and lots of happiness. I sat down on a bench and was listening to both of them in my ear, my best friends…and I listened as we all tried to take turns chiming in and catching up. I looked out at a tree and felt the crispness of the winter day and for a moment I wanted to freeze time. I wanted to freeze it because this moment- this is my life. It was a moment where we weren’t discussing MS. Mom’s MS hadn’t affected her mood. She was joyful and happy- allowing herself to be absorbed and wrapped up in her youngest daughter’s story. I could feel the love we have for each other while I sat on that phone. I realized that is what makes us so strong and our bond so unbreakable in the really tough moments. It’s these moments of pure bliss that build us up so we are able to fight hard in the tough moments. And as I have been trying hard to do lately, I paused for a moment and allowed myself to embrace and cherish this moment. It was a good one.

Have you ever thought about the importance of the good moments in life to form the bonds that help us get through the tough ones? When was the last time you wanted to freeze time? Does your family make a big deal about silly things? What do you think of the phrase “MOMents”?

Lost in Memories

I have mentioned before, I am a cat person and a dog person- all rolled into one.

Husband only grew up with dogs because his Mom is allergic to cats. Therefore he doesn’t know if he is allergic. This has placed a nice little wedge in any plans of ours for a pet. We could get a dog, but until we live in a house we just don’t think we have the time to devote to it. Recently though someone in his grad program mentioned she was looking for someone to “cat sit” while she was studying abroad for the next few months and weĀ  offered. We have our own motives too because it is a true test of whether Husband is or is not allergic to cats.

Well, Chloe arrived last night. It was a funny evening with her getting used to us and us getting used to her. Especially Husband just because he has never been around cats. But I called Mom to tell her about our new furry friend and I could sense some nostalgia for both of us. It made me feel like a little girl again with our own cat. It transported me back in time to our old house…growing up with Sister K, two little girls and our cat we loved to put in baby strollers, carry around the house in the oddest of positions, or even snuggle with to take naps. It’s taken me mentally back in time- a time filled with Mom and her minivan, carting us to lots of activities, volunteering at school, talking on the phone in the kitchen, all sprinkled with memories of my cat throughout. Almost as if I am appreciating childhood and memorializing the memories of it just a little bit more thanks to our new furry friend. My lesson of the day, sometimes it is nice to be nostalgic and to get lost in memories.

Do you allow yourself to get lost in old memories? Do you think it’s difficult to not be sad when you think of a time without illness in your life? Are you a cat person/dog person/neither person/both person/or alternate animal person?

Soak Up The Smile

Do you love Starbucks? I do. Even though I am not coffee obsessed, I do love a Starbucks drink. I especially love a Starbucks drink when I am feeling exhausted…like right now.

I was talking to Mom this afternoon at lunch and telling her about everything I’d been up to with volunteering for this coat drive. While I was talking to her she was engaged, listening and really taking everything in- this may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it was a big deal to me. It meant Mom was having a good day. It made me smile.

I told Sister K about it later and she was excited too. It’s not because we never have good days or good moments with Mom; however, we realize that when we do have a good conversation, where everything seems to be clicking and aligned, it is important to cherish that moment. To truly appreciate it. To not take it for granted.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned through dealing with Mom’s MS has been don’t take any moments for granted. Cherish the good ones and remember them. Allow yourself to be happy and really feel it when something positive occurs. So today when I got off the phone, I allowed myself to smile and to soak up the happiness from that smile- to smile a smile that said I may be 28, but I just had a great conversation with my Mom and she is proud of me!

Do you allow yourself to truly cherish moments of happiness? Have you ever found yourself taking good moments for granted? Do you enjoy a Starbucks “pick me up” from time to time too?

A Big Fat “No Comment”

I am currently on a committee that is helping to plan a big coat drive for the city. The portion I am in charge of involved a coat drive competition between schools and business to see who could raise the most coats. This morning I got to be at a live radio remote at 5:30am where we announced the winners and presented them with banners. Needless to say I am a little tired this afternoon after waking up at 4:30am. It’s been a long day. If this post doesn’t make any sense, that is why.

I am curious if you all send out holiday cards? I have always loved Christmas cards. Ever since I was little Mom has sent them out every year with a picture of our family or Sister K and Me. As I got older I helped her design and address them. Now I have taken on the task of being the main creator of the Christmas card and Christmas letter, getting input from Mom on the picture and design and taking the reins from there. I don’t mind since I happen to love Christmas cards.

But I also think they are interesting. They are a split second, a moment in time when my family takes a picture and sends an image to say “look world, we’re doing okay.” This has become important since Mom got MS. Maybe even more so than it should be. It’s become a way my family makes a visual statement to say we are still smiling. Some people who receive Christmas cards don’t know Mom even has MS. But I think that’s also why I love them so much. It is a way we make a statement not through our actions but through a picture. Behind the smiles no one can see that Mom was struggling to walk to that moment to take this picture; no one can see we were arguing as we tried to get Mom in the car; no one is questioning how we are handling Mom’s MS; no one is watching our every move; we are just sending a stamped smile. A big fat “no comment” to all of your comments and opinions surrounding our life right now. And I enjoy that. I enjoy moments where I am able to “tell off” the world with a smile…instead of using the “words and phrases” I’d really like to use sometimes that are not so nice.

Do you send holiday cards? Do you enjoy sending/receiving them? Do you agree that sometimes it is a way to show a moment in time where your family appears to have it all together? Have you ever told someone off with a smile instead of not so nice words? Do you believe 4:30am is entirely too early to begin anything?Ā 

The Magic of a Snow Village

Christmas is Mom’s favorite time of year. She has always loved Christmas, loved decorating for it, loved everything about it. Unfortunately, Christmas decorating also makes Christmas a very labor intensive holiday and with a Mom who has MS that can be challenging.

Sister K was home with Mom and Dad the week before and week of Thanksgiving. She stayed with Mom one week while Dad was out of town and the other week Dad had knee surgery for his torn meniscus. While she was home she basically did all the Christmas decorating for Mom. She set up the tree, put up the stockings, displayed Christmas pictures on the wall, the list goes on. One thing she did this year that we haven’t done in awhile is set up the pieces of Mom’s snow village.

Some people can really go all out with a snow village. I have always dreamed of being one of those people someday. But while Mom has her pieces, we don’t traditionally set them up every year. It is a hassle and can be kind of a pain when you get down to it. But this year Sister K got them all out of the box and had them sitting out on the dining room table ready to be placed and assembled. So Sunday evening before she and Husband headed back, Sister K and I worked on the snow village. The pieces included “The Flamingo Hotel”, “Dick Clark’s Band Stand studio”, “Santa’s work shop”, a school, a toy shop, a house and restaurant. We had people, trees, bridges, walkways and signs. We created our own little world on the dining room table. But more importantly, I felt like this was a very special way for us to brighten up the holidays for Mom.

Mom walks slow and to get from her bedroom to the kitchen she pretty much walks through the dining room everyday. The snow village gives her a fun decoration to look at while she walks through in what is sometimes a tough process for her. It gives her a reminder of her daughters who set it all up. It also puts a different spin on Christmas in another room of the house.

As I sat there and looked at the snow village all lit up Sunday evening (praying Sister K and I didn’t start a fire with all the things we have plugged into two surge protectors), I just felt overwhelmed with happiness and love. As you stare at a snow village your imagination can take over. Looking at the places and the people. Imagining what life would be like there. I was happy we had this world of happiness and perfection to give us a moment to forget about any issues within our family- a moment to just reflect and feel the love of each other, the love of an imaginary community and the love of the holidays.

Did you put up your holiday decorations over Thanksgiving? Do you have a snow village inside of your own house? Do you believe in the power of imagining and reflecting on something imaginary to change your mood or help you to appreciate the wonderful things in your life?