Thankful for Feeling Sad

I stayed up very late last night making cake balls to take to Husband’s family’s Thanksgiving. So I am tired today and my head is not working properly. I can make the cake balls portion but it is the bark melted covering on the outside where I have issues making them look presentable and not a disaster.

Then Sister K called since she is home and we all used “Face Time” on the iPhone to late night chat. So one thing led to another and it was midnight before I went to sleep.

Being married is tough for me around the holidays because we have to split time between my family and Husband’s family. So far we have just been alternating Thanksgiving with his family, Christmas with mine, then switch the next year and so on….so this year it’s Thanksgiving with his family and Christmas with mine. But it doesn’t change this tiny feeling inside of me as I head off to celebrate a holiday without my family- I miss them. To put it even more simply- I miss my Mom. Mom has always had a way of making the holidays special. They have always been low-key occasions but special at the same time. A very come one, come are not a guest in our home, you are automatic family. It’s hard to imagine everyone eating Thanksgiving without me. Sitting around our kitchen table in that green ivy filled kitchen. Getting recipes together, making drinks, snacking on appetizers, all of it.

I know these are simple memories. Our holidays have changed some in part because of Mom’s MS. We don’t make all of the food anymore but order some of it from a local restaurant. We have done this to make things easier…to make things less stressful on Mom and that is fine by us. We are easy to please. But the point though is even in its imperfect state, the holidays at home with my family are perfect to me. And today I have a tiny twinge of sadness that I am trying to mask with a smile on my face. But I am thankful for that sadness. Thankful I love my family enough to miss them at the holidays and thankful for the blessing of them this Thanksgiving.

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? How do you divide your time between families? Do you do all your own cooking or buy anything pre-made? So thankful for my readers! Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!

My Twinkie Filled Childhood

You have probably heard that the Twinkie is in trouble since the company that creates them is filing for bankruptcy. Thinking of Twinkie’s made me nostalgic thinking of my childhood. Thinking of Mom buying Twinkie’s for Sister K and me, as well as those cream-filled chocolate cupcakes with the white wirl on top. Nostalgia.

It seems hard these days to reminisce about the past when I look at where we are now. Finding the balance in my head adjusting to Mom from childhood and Mom now. How she has changed. How our roles have changed. I know growing up can be painful but I guess I never expected to be dealing with a Mom with MS in the midst of it. It goes back to my struggle with expectations. Setting expectations and the disappointment when the expectations don’t come to fruition.

But here I am in the present. Looking at an image of a Twinkie and thinking about my childhood house. Thinking about my childhood in general- a Barbie house in the dining room, a Fisher Price kitchen set in the kitchen, constant dance performances in the living room and never ending afternoons spent in dress-up clothes. My memories are magical. They are free of stress. They are blissful. They are the polar opposite of life today. But in many ways, maybe that is the way it was supposed to be. Maybe those care free afternoons at home were teaching Sister K and me valuable lessons in becoming good people- the kind of people who would one day help their Mom deal with MS. The kind of people who wouldn’t walk away from their Mom in the midst of distress but instead would run to her no matter how difficult it was at times.

Thank you Twinkie’s for being part of my childhood and part of my memories. Thank you for playing a part oh the journey that prepared me to be the person I am today.

Do you have any childhood snack treats you fondly remember? Do you find it painful to grow up sometimes? Are you a fan of Twinkie’s? Husband informed me he was more of a “Little Debbie guy.” I was shocked.

The Changing Faces of Shopping

I know it’s a little early to begin talking about Christmas but I think it is acceptable to start talking about Christmas shopping. Specifically in my family, Christmas shopping has definitely evolved.

Mom has always loved Christmas and growing up I would hear her brag to her friends about how her Christmas shopping was done by July. I can envision her driving around in her minivan while we were at school buying things for people as she saw them and then hiding the gifts in the back of her closet. That vision seems like a long time ago. It makes me nostalgic but I find it important to remember those memories.

The point through is now instead of driving around, Mom opens her iPad and shops around all while sitting at the kitchen table. She tells us to email her “links” instead of the traditional handwritten Christmas list. And though the methods of obtaining the gifts may be different, she still feels useful and in charge of Christmas gifts just like she always was. This is important. It’s another way we fight to to continue living as we always have and another way thanks to modern technology Mom can still feel like Mom…especially at Christmas.

How do you holiday shop? Are there little responsibilities in your life like Christmas shopping that would be hard for you to have taken away? Do you prefer internet shopping? Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

The Reality of Birthdays

Today is Mom’s 60th birthday. She kept saying leading up to her birthday this year that she wasn’t looking forward to it. She didn’t want to turn 60. But now here we are, ready or not it came and ready or not it’s happening. Sister K, Husband and I will be heading home tomorrow evening to celebrate with a family dinner.

We have had a lot of debate in our house over Mom’s birthday this year and the possibility of throwing her a party. Because 60 is one of those birthdays. It’s a big one and with big birthdays people sometimes have parties. We went back and forth over it and ultimately decided the timing wasn’t there for it. This is for a lot of reasons, most of which have to do with MS. Parties can be stressful and stress seems to flare up Mom’s MS. The two go hand in hand. As well, a lot of people haven’t seen Mom since her relapse and it would be stressful on her to know she was going to be seeing a lot of people for the first time. You also need to be on time to parties, primarily when they are your own. In case you are just tuning into this blog, my family is never on time for anything anymore. And on top of everything else but a very selfish reason- recently Sister K and I haven’t enjoyed seeing a lot of Mom’s friends.  Because when we see them we get asked a lot of questions about Mom and to put it bluntly we are just “over it.”

But I think this was one of those instances where we really did something in the best interest of Mom’s MS and really thought through the scenarios. I have to believe in the past we would’ve pushed ourselves to act as we always would have- succumbed to the pressure placed on us to throw a party and celebrate. Pressure placed on us by strange invisible voices, based on nothing in particular other than ourselves. So for the first time, we ignored the voices and blocked them out. We realized those ideas and plans don’t align with where we are at in our family. Mom never really made a decision one way or the other so in many ways we made it for her.

So instead we are going to go home and have a birthday dinner with just our family. Go out to a nice restaurant- probably be running 30 minutes late by the time we get out the door and it won’t matter one bit because it will just be us. Relaxed, carefree and celebrating Mom. To me it sounds like a perfect birthday considering where we are all at and a perfect way to honor Mom this year on her special day.

Happy 60th Birthday Mom!

Do you throw birthday parties for big birthday occasions? Do you ever feel pressure to celebrate and throw a birthday party for yourself or others? Would you consider this letting MS controlling our lives or being realistic with the MS in our lives? Do you think we made the right decision?

Confused by Encouragement

I’ve always been encouraged and pushed to succeed. Not in an unhealthy way but in a normal, “you can do this” sort of way. I also have always responded to it. It had the desired effect on me. I push and continue to push myself to succeed. If I am afraid to do something I figure that means I really need to do it- as much as I don’t want to, I will force myself.

What is strange though is I am not sure where I got this from, this trait. Mom is one of the biggest people who has always pushed and encouraged me. She pushed me onto a plane to study abroad, she left my 18 year old crying self at my dorm room freshmen year of college, she moved me to another state for graduate school- she did all of these things because she knew I’d be okay and knew I needed to do them.

But the strange part is the same does not exist in the reverse where Mom is concerned. Mom does not operate this way. If we try to push her to do more where her MS is concerned, she gets frustrated. Most of the time it doesn’t end well. She doesn’t fight for things the same way she taught me to fight. But in the same way I am simply trying to instill in her the same ideals she has instilled in me. It leaves me confused. I don’t exactly understand how that works. I know she wants the best for me the same way I want the best for her- but when the role of mother and daughter switches into reverse and I become “the encourager” and she becomes “the encouragee”that gets lost in translation. Yet I know that in life the person who has always encouraged me and pushed me more than anyone is Mom- at the same time I know this baffles most people because this is the same Mom who struggles to push herself.

I don’t really know where I am headed with this but it’s an observation I’ve made and one I want to file away…I do believe all these observations will intertwine themselves into a life lesson that is forming. I am just not sure what it is yet.

Did your parents push or encourage you to try things you were scared of when you were younger? Have you experienced moments of trying to push or encourage your own parents but not getting the desired effects? Do you think paying attention to comparisons in our life can lead to many life lessons if we pay close enough attention?

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.  

The Power of Personality

I wish I could spend time observing and analyzing family personalities. I find it fascinating how much the personality of parents can impact their child. How siblings personalities can be so different yet so similar even though they have essentially been raised in the same manner. Then how much the personality of a person will impact who they attract in life. And the cycle continues.

I think I have become so interested in this because my family is a unique one. I have been asked by many people “what did your parents do to make all of you so close?” Or “what did your Mom do to make you so close to her?” When I get asked these questions I feel dumbfounded in a way. How did we get this way? Could it simply just be our personalities?

Especially since Mom got MS I feel at times like everything but the kitchen sink is being thrown at us. It is testing us individually and as a family on a regular basis. It can leave us questioning our actions and responses. Actions and responses that are deeply rooted in our personalities which are deeply rooted in Mom and Dad. I never realized how valuable and how much of a tool my personality would be in dealing with the big parts of life. And of the many traits of my personality, the part that’s the biggest tool against a disease that has potential to destroy my family- my loyalty. Loyalty to my family who I love. Loyalty to our relationship that I am incredibly protective of and will fight to preserve. Without that loyalty I think I might have given up several times, but I don’t. I grab hold of the people I love and together we continue to fight and figure out our new normal.

Do you think it’s interesting to think about people’s personalities? Within your family does your personality play a specific role? How do you think your personality impacts how you deal with challenges? What is your greatest trait to aid you through your tough moments?

Let Me Tell You Something About Me…

My friend Jackie at Swerving for Butterflies who I have met in this blogging world “leap frogged me” meaning what I do not know exactly. I do know she gave me this list of questions to answer and it seems like fun to let you know a little more about me. Curious based on what you have read, if you would have predicted any of these responses…

1. What song do you never tire of hearing?
That would be “Dancing Queen” by Abba. Dad and I used it as our father/daughter dance at my wedding and it was one of the greatest moments of my life. People thought we had rehearsed a performance but we just did it on the fly.

2. What things give you the chills?
It seems everything does. I am cold natured and always carrying a cardigan around. Sister K and Husband on the other hand are naturally hot natured and freezing me with the a/c in the car.

3. What event in your life has shaped you the most as a person?
Going to college. I never realized who I was capable ot becoming socially or the caliber of friends I was capable of attaining until I went to college. Middle school and high school were tough. College in a way redefined me and redefined the confidence I had in myself. Of course it also provided a great education for myself, but the impact it had on me as a person is my big take away. (It is also where I met Husband so I guess it wasn’t too bad for that reason either.)

4. What worries you the most on a day to day basis?
Definitely Mom. I worry about her MS and the future. It has given my life a big unknown that I wrestle with on a daily basis.

5. Can you keep secrets? Why or why not?
Yes and no. But if it’s serious, always yes.

6. What do you wish you could change most about yourself? (personality)
I wish I could be more “go with the flow” like Sister K. I admire that a lot in her. My ability to be a planner and have some sort of control sometimes gets the best of me. I blame being the older sister on that quality.

7. What quality do you most admire about yourself?
My loyalty. I am insanely loyal to my friends and family. I think that is why when people “hurt me” I have difficulty getting over it or blowing it off. I would never act in certain ways like that to the people I love so I don’t understand why people do it to me.

8. When you were a child, what did you wish to be when you grew up?
First I wanted to be a pediatrician. Then I wanted to be a news reporter.

9.  Do you ever get road rage?
No I am very much a rule follower on the road. I follow speed limits and drive slow. This drives Husband crazy.

10.  If you could write a book knowing the whole world would read it, what kind would it be?
Thinking of writing one someday based on this blog. It is a secret dream of mine. We’ll see if it ever becomes a reality. Not sure how I would even go about doing it, where I would begin, who would read it, what I would write but it’s sitting there in the back of my mind waiting it’s turn.

11.  If you could filter the news you see and read, what would you want to exclude?
I am a big news fan so hard to think of eliminating it. I really do think it all has a place in our lives. But, I could really care less about sports. I don’t understand them nor do I really want to understand them. This pains Husband greatly since he loves his ESPN Sportscenter and fantasy football league. I guess yet again opposites attract.

Instead of tagging people of other blogs in this post I’d invite anyone who reads this to pick a question and answer it or answer all of them if you want. I’d love to read your responses and hope you have as much fun answering them as I did. Gives me a chance to get to know you better too. Thanks Jackie!

Don’t judge me but…

Would you believe I am afraid of the blender? Not a lie. I am afraid of most major kitchen appliances and since I got married I am also now the owner of most of these kitchen appliances. Why would I register for them if I already knew I was scared and never going to use them? Because your wedding is the only time you have the opportunity to get these items and that’s what you are supposed to do. For instance here is a list of items Husband and I now own that I have yet to use after almost 2 years of marriage because I am afraid of them: blender, waffle maker, KitchenAid mixer, and food processor. The last two really freak me out. Go on, laugh or judge.

In the past day I have been thinking about why I don’t just jump right in and figure these things out. They can’t be that complicated to use. What is holding me back. Why do I even have this silly fear in the first place. I realized I have inherited this from Mom. In Mom’s own way she avoids things she is uncomfortable with…and with her MS this has been a big issue. I realized this especially last Saturday when she admitted herself she is pretty much avoiding dealing with MS. But the point is whether it is a big issue like MS or a small one like kitchen appliances, I am doing my own dance with avoiding. Avoiding the unknown, avoiding failure at using these, avoiding having to figure them out. They aren’t something I am comfortable with and in large part because I don’t come from a big family of chefs- kitchen appliances were not readily used a lot growing up. I don’t knock that. In a similar way I have realized Mom’s family growing up was not very aggressive about health issues. It all contributes to fear and being uncomfortable dealing with the unknown.

The point though is I am seeing random qualities in Mom’s handling of bigger issues like MS that may have begun on a smaller level, for example say in the kitchen. I know children pick up traits of their parents. They just do. Sister K even has her own levels of avoidance involving other things in her life. One of mine just happen to involve avoiding kitchen appliances.

I don’t want to phrase this as I don’t like this quality and want to change because I was given this quality somehow from Mom. By knocking this trait I am knocking her and that’s not what I want to do. But in wanting to be different from your parents is that wrong? Is that insulting? And how do you even go about doing it when it is all you know? When the person you could ask for advice to begin with is the person who you most likely got this trait from? I don’t know. But I know I should probably try. And I should probably start by attempting to use the blender.

Are there qualities you have inherited from your parents for good or bad? Do you ever seek to change things about yourself? When you are afraid of something do you dive right in to tackle it? Do you think it is absolutely insane I have a fear of kitchen appliances? Did you register for things when you got married that you have never used?

My mom has MS: 101

My mom has MS.  Words that have become part of my identity.  They are now an element of my family and an element of my life.  When I processed these words in my head for the first time I didn’t know the perfect way to react.  I still don’t know the perfect way to react. 
No one writes an instruction manual to help you deal with the words.  I wish they did.  Instead I am making it up as I go along, trying to do give myself lessons day by day, trying to deal with this day by day.  Some days I do really good, some days I do really bad, some days I give myself an A+ and some days I give myself an F.  I was a good student when I was in school.  I studied hard and I made good grades.  But this test I am now being given everyday, this class I am now enrolled in everyday, I didn’t register for it.  I didn’t get a syllabus for it.  I don’t know how to study for it, how to prepare for it or how to get an A+ in it and that frustrates me to no end. 
Everyday my world is the classroom and everyday I am the student.  My hope is that through this blog I can become a better student.  I can collect my thoughts so when I return to the classroom I am better prepared.  I can take a break from this class and enjoy recess.