This past weekend Husband’s family visited. I struggle sometimes because it is difficult to have a mother-in-law who is healthy and active and then have my own mother who is struggling and not as active. It brings to mind a lot of challenges internally for me and has pretty much since we got married. But this weekend, I really put those aside and tried to just enjoy the time with Husband’s parents and I found that when I did that things worked smoothly. My mind was more at ease. When I just lived in the moment, not worrying about the future with my parents and inlaws but instead just enjoyed the weekend…things just worked.
One interesting thing did happen though. We took Husband’s parents to a university basketball game. My father-in-law is having issues with his hip and may have to get a hip replacement eventually. There was a quite a bit of walking to get into the stadium. We saw an area for accessible entry and Husband and I walked up to ask a question about how to get to our seats from outside. The thought went through my mind to ask if we could enter in this specific spot, but I held back since it wasn’t my own parent. In hindsight I should’ve just asked and next time I will. Later, Husband told me he wanted to ask but didn’t know how. He said he didn’t know how to word it. He said he was unsure what was appropriate to say or unsure what they would say in response. He also said he thought I would’ve known exactly what to say in this situation…I deal with this all the time…and I am years ahead of him on this topic.”
And he was right. It made me take a step back and think of the lessons I am learning in the process of dealing with MS. Sure there are tough moments. There are also good moments. There are also moments of complete failure and moments of complete success. But through all of them I am learning lessons. Life lessons.
In no particular order, I offer you a few of my own personal lessons learned:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for anything. What is the worst that will happen? Someone will say no. They might..but most of the time they won’t.
- Chivalry for Mom exists 100%. People hold doors. People get out of our way. People don’t mind stopping their cars while we cross the street. We force people to press pause in a very hectic world. They press pause and watch. Sometimes they are impatient and rude, but for the most part they are kind. Blow off the rude ones but embrace the feeling of the kind ones.
- Also realize people are selfish and are not paying as much attention to you as you think. They are not staring at you pushing your Mom in a wheelchair or getting in and out of the car. Even if they are staring they will forget shortly. Because strangers don’t really care that much about you..and take comfort in that.
- Assume your plans will fail. Something will go wrong. Learn to roll with the punches of MS and the punches of life.
- Stay calm. Mom is watching me and waiting for my cue. If I get stressed it means Mom will get stressed. And a Mom with MS who is stressed is a full on recipe for disaster.
- Cherish the moment. Cherish the phone call. Cherish the experience. If Mom is having a good day, cherish it. Take seconds to remember it and embrace it. Don’t assume these will come everyday. But cherish them because the memories of these are what gets you through the tough moments.
- Life is going to bring people into your life. Wonderful people you never imagined meeting. Realize these people are your support team and they are gifts. At the same time, people in your life who you always thought would be your support team are going to disappoint you. You will have to find a way to “let them go” realizing at times we have to clean out the old to make room for the new.
- Keep perspective. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Realize the importance of MS in your life and the large place it holds in managing your daily stress level. With that being said, little things don’t deserve a big place in your stress level. They don’t deserve a place at all. Anything unnecessary that contributes in a negative way to your daily stress- get rid of it.
Only the strongest families are given MS to deal with- and even more so than that, only the strongest children (no matter what your age) are given a parent with MS. Life is going to give you the tools you need to get through it, but it is figuring out what those tools are and how to apply them in your life is hard. Find your tools and embrace them. And above all, remember we are warriors.
What lessons have you learned from dealing with a disease such as MS in either yourself or a family member? Do you know a child who has a parent with MS? Take a minute sometime to recognize them for what they are- a warrior.
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 🙂
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”?
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?
I have a little bit of a routine when it comes to calling Mom. I do it everyday at lunch as I have pointed out and talked about before. Today I called her while I was walking to run an errand. She didn’t answer the first time I tried so I figured she was just a little farther from the phone. So then I tried Dad’s phone and he didn’t answer. I’ve been trying to call Dad periodically just to check on him and see how things are going.
Mom called back and we chatted for a little bit but then I needed to get off the phone. When I got done, I noticed I had a missed call from Dad, so I called him back. We talked while I walked back to work. I have to take advantage of this time because typically he is around Mom and isn’t free to discuss everything. I never called Mom back. I told her I was going to, but I didn’t. I had just a few minutes and was debating if I should call Mom quickly but then I had this awful thought- Mom is probably not even going to remember I told her I’d call her back…or if we get on the phone we aren’t going to have anything left to talk about…so I didn’t call her back. I didn’t think much of this. Normally I might have but today I just didn’t.
Fast forward to 3:00 today, my phone rings and it’s Mom. She said “I thought you were going to call me back? I wanted to hear about your trip and the wedding this weekend.” She didn’t sound upset but just friendly and cheery. I was able to talk to her a little bit at my desk but then I had to get back to work. I also immediately felt bad because in my eyes she was having a good day/a good moment and I missed it.
It’s tough. I feel bad because I usually do have those thoughts but I ignore them. I push them away and do what I know is right. Today though I listened to those thoughts and in listening to those thoughts I pushed aside Mom. Pushed her aside like she didn’t matter and she does. I also don’t think I realize how important our daily chats are to her. Sister K has told me this as well. She said you don’t know how much Mom looks forward to those conversations. Today I ignored that thought as well. I feel like I was a little selfish and that’s not how I want to act. I don’t want Mom’s MS to interfere with my relationship with Mom and today I let it win. Lesson learned. I now know what it feels like to let those thoughts win and I don’t like it. I’ll do better next time.
*I guess I felt I needed to come here and be honest- and confess these thoughts to someone. Thanks for being that someone.*
Have you ever had moments where you don’t realize the importance of your actions? Have you ever felt bad for something as simple as not making a phone call? Do you like to talk on the phone while you walk around?
Every week Dad buys Mom a bouquet of flowers. Flowers are a little thing. A little thing, a small gesture but it brings a big smile.
Mom doesn’t leave the house a lot. She can’t unless one of us is going with her. She has been forced, not by her choosing, to give up a lot of her freedom. I need to remember to think about what that must be like. Losing the freedom to just get in the car and drive somewhere. Run a simple errand. Go to the post office. She can’t do any of it anymore. Dad realizes this. He realizes her house has now become her safety blanket. Her house is now her world. He knows he can’t do much to change this but the one small thing he can do is buy Mom flowers. Flowers to brighten her day. Flowers to brighten her kitchen. They are a little thing that makes a big difference.
What kind of little things do you do that may mean a lot to someone? Do you enjoy having fresh flowers in your house? What is your favorite flower?
Alright I am back. Not that I every left, but over the past month I’ve had a lot going on that had nothing to do with Mom’s MS. In a way Mom having MS took a backseat to everything else going on in my life. Maybe that is good from time to time. Maybe it is necessary to help me to keep things in perspective and continue to live my life. But things are resolved, I am feeling back to normal (after you read this post you may change your opinion of that comment..ha), and I am ready to share my words regularly once again.
Oct. 25 was Mom’s 60th Birthday. I posted about our plans for her birthday here. What I didn’t post about was the performance that Sister K and I conducted for her when we got home after her family birthday dinner. We ran upstairs in our house and raided our childhood bedrooms trying to find and piece together old dance recital costumes that may somewhat fit in one way or another. We were going for poodle skirts. We only found one poodle skirt and sequin jacket. Sister K took that outfit. Just as we felt we were about to fail at our mission we discovered the ultimate in past costumes:
- My California Raisin Halloween costume circa 1992
Let’s just say it was amazing. Sister K and I put on the song “Welcome to the 60s” from the musical turned movie Hairspray and began just randomly dancing and serenading Mom in the kitchen. The dogs were barking at me the entire time. Mom and Grandpa sat at the kitchen table watching. Dad on a bar stool wondering where exactly he went wrong with raising us and Husband rolled his eyes continuously because nothing surprises him anymore.
But the point of all this- the costumes, the music, the dancing- this is how we survive. This is how we cope with MS. We remember to not take life seriously. We realize the importance of laughter. And we have no shame and will do whatever is necessary to bring a laugh and a smile to our family, especially Mom. We will do whatever we can to distract our family from the dark place we can easily find ourselves in because of MS.
Have you ever done something silly to get a laugh out of an otherwise tough situation? Do you think it’s important to not take life too seriously sometimes as a way to cope? Were you a fan of the California Raisins? Did you hear that I got an iPhone Friday night? Lots of tweets and more pictures to come now that I have officially entered the real world. Be on the lookout.
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?
I am heading out of town this weekend to see some of my college friends and go to a football game. Looking forward to the weekend away full of laughing, reminiscing and catching up.
But before I left, I wanted to get some feedback from my readers out there– I know there is a variety of people who read this blog, some have MS, some have been affected by a family member with MS, or some find they can relate to the stories I share. I wanted to see if there were any topics, issues, ideas you wanted me to expand more on, talk about more, etc. Please leave me a comment and let me know.
Thank you for continuing to read. It means so much to me. Have a a great weekend!
I like to fix things. Within my family I sometimes consider myself the “peacemaker”/”the fixer,” but a problem arises when I take it upon myself to do these things without being asked. This happened last night…via the phone.
I called Mom in the evening to talk. She said Sister K and her were not getting along. So I got on the phone with Sister K and began inserting myself where I shouldn’t have. She said Mom wasn’t doing her exercises like she is supposed to so she was frustrated. I have mixed emotions on this. Sister K and I try really hard to balance this out- Mom is still our Mom. We can’t make her do anything. At the same time she does need to be pushed and at times told to do things when it involves her physical therapy. This is just how this works in our family. This is our dance.
But the issue comes when it puts Sister K and I in a tough spot. We need to focus on enjoying Mom and keeping our visits with her positive. This benefits Mom and it also benefits us. At the same time we also feel a little responsible to push Mom along. Encourage her to take more responsibility, more initiative with her physical therapy. The problem has and continues to be that this very element of MS is something that has never been a big part of Mom’s life even prior to MS.
The point though of this particular instance is I inserted myself into “fixing” a situation that quite frankly was not my place to fix. I don’t know why I did that, but I did. I think with Mom’s MS I am finding myself doing this more and more. I don’t know if I am trying to shift into a bigger role in my family. In many ways I think all of our roles are shifting slightly. But I have to find a way to balance that shift and to remember that at the end of the day, Mom is still the Mom and I am still the daughter. And in instances like this, I am Sister K’s big sister, not her Mom. And I have to let issues arise and let everyone work them out themselves without getting involved when it’s a situation no one asked me to get involved with in the first place- another lesson learned.
What is your role in your family? Do you ever find yourself trying to help in a situation but quickly realizing it’s not your place? What are your weekend plans? Have a great weekend!