Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Taking a Stand..Or Not.

As Thanksgiving approaches,  I am taken back to a Thanksgiving day that challenged my thankfulness. A day I had great promise for, and then, great disappointment. It was the first time in this journey I felt defeated. If you don't know where it all began, please start HERE.

 The journey continues... HERE.

Which brings me to the day before Thanksgiving, 1997...

A day I had been looking forward to... sort of.

The day I was hopefully getting the pins removed from my left foot and told I could start rehab. I was nervous...anxious, but excited.  I knew this was the first step to finding my way back. Yes, this would  literally be my first step to recovery.

The first thing was removing the pins. Do you KNOW how they remove the pins?  With a set of PLIERS...NO numbing agent..just grab on and YANK those suckers out! Now, the doctor reassured me it wouldn't hurt. I didn't believe him. Seriously, how could it NOT hurt? Well guess what..he was right. I mean he tugged pretty hard to get them out and there was some blood, but no pain...NONE!

Then, he told me what I had been waiting over two months to hear...I could put weight on that foot. I could start rehab.  I could STAND!

I went home elated, but I had already made up my mind that I wasn't going to stand that day. No, I was going to wait until the following day...THANKSGIVING.  What could be more poignant than standing for the first time on Thanksgiving day? It would be perfect.

And then...it wasn't.

I had been waiting for this day...longing for it, really. I had remained positive for months.  Even through the torturous obstacles my body had put me through to get here, I remained steadfast and it was going to pay off.

As the house filled with the smells of Thanksgiving I became more and more anxious. I was ready to stand, if only for a few seconds. I was ready to give thanks for my family, my doctors and nurses who had gotten me this far. I had the whole thing rehearsed in my head. I knew I was still a long way from being "OK", but it was the first step and I was going to beam with thankfulness.

I sat up slowly..positioning myself so that I could swing my legs off the edge of that hospital bed. My husband at my side, I took a deep breath and....


I sat there, unable to lift myself to a standing position.  Even with the help of my husband I couldn't budge. I looked at him, dumbfounded. My dad stepped in to help..still, NOTHING.  Then, my brother...three big men and still, I COULD NOT STAND! It felt as though I weighed a million pounds, and this leg... this foreign-looking twig of a leg was useless in supporting me.

My heart sank.

My eyes filled with tears, and for the first time, I broke down.  For the first time, I could no longer see the light at the end of this very long tunnel.  All I could see was darkness. At that moment, I could find no reason to be thankful.

I hadn't even considered that when the doctor gave me permission to stand, it would not necessarily  mean that I COULD stand. I had a lot yet to learn about this journey. It was going to be a battle and I was finding out that my biggest obstacle would be myself. Physically, mentally and emotionally I would be challenged at every turn.

I had a lot to be thankful for that day..I just wouldn't realize it until much later.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Anniversary THANK YOU

I tell him I love him every day. EVERY. DAY.  Even on the days he drives me a little crazy. Even on those days, I love him more than I thought possible. Maybe that sounds mushy or sappy.  I don't care. I've waited my whole life to find this..to find HIM.

Today, we celebrate our 7th anniversary. In those 7 yrs. I don't think there has been one day, not one, that I haven't told him I loved him. But what I'm not sure I've told him, or told him enough anyways, is thank you.


Thank you Joel.

Thank you for everything.  For having enough foresight to slow things down in the beginning. For recognizing that when we met, I wasn't ready for "us". Thank you for not wanting to be the rebound and waiting to be the right one.

Thank you for being such an incredible dad.  For loving your kids beyond measure and for proudly showing that love in everything you do.  There is nothing sexier than a dad who loves his children...nothing.

Thank you for being there for me in both the good times and the bad...especially, the bad. I don't know how I would have gotten through losing my dad if I didn't have you to lean on.  You are my rock and my soft place to land all wrapped up in one. You always seem to know just what I need. Whether that is to be left alone or needing to lie in "my spot" because it's the only place I can breathe. You just always know.

Thank you for always making me feel beautiful and special, even in those times when I couldn't feel further from it. For always seeing the best in me, when I seem to see nothing but the flaws.

Thank you for making me laugh...every. day. Even on the days I don't feel like smiling you always find a way to bring laughter into my life.  You always find a way to make my soul smile. You are my light on the darkest of days.

Joel, thank you for being you.  The you that takes 20 minutes to tell a 30 second story. The you that dreams big dreams with me, and works hard every day to make those dreams come true. The you that is sweet and tender, and even the you, that sometimes says things out loud I wish you wouldn't.  You are authentic and honest and those qualities are hard to find in people these days. I am so very proud of the man you are Joel and I am incredibly blessed to be your wife.

Happy Anniversary Honey... I Love You!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

JUST a Stepmom...

At first it was a choice. I had plans, you know.

Funny thing about plans, they don't always go as planned. By the time I was ready, by the time I had found the right man, by then, it was too late. And so now, I live with the fact that I will never have children of my own...ever.

When I was younger I never gave it much thought.  I never had an overwhelming maternal instinct.  Never sat around doodling the names of the children I would have one day. No, I guess I figured it would happen when it was right.  When I was ready. I never considered that when I was ready, it would already be too late.

Don't get me wrong, physically I could have had children, but it was like that window of opportunity was closed. The man I fell in love with, he already had two half-grown children. He wasn't at a place to start over again, I knew that.  We talked about that. So, I made a choice. I chose to love him anyway, and to also, love his children.

No, I would never be a mom.  I would choose instead, to be a stepmom. And it's been both the hardest and the best decision of my life.

Being a 'stepmom' is hard.  First,  you must have thick skin..VERY thick skin. You will hear, more times than you can count, "Oh, you're just the stepmom? Don't you have any real kids?"  You will be expected to sacrifice and care for these children as they are your own, but you will be reminded in many different ways, they are NOT your own. You will love them, but you will always worry that their love for you is conditional. You will worry that if you allow yourself to love these children too much, you will only end up hurt.  And you will worry, that you are stepping over the line in every situation.

I am NOT their mom.  I have no delusions about that. My stepkids have a mom and she is 100% present in their lives.  I WANT them to have a great relationship with their mom.  I will always want that for them.  Why?  Because I LOVE them, that's why.  Because the relationship between mother and child is so very, very important.

I am always trying to balance doing enough, but not doing too much. To giving enough, but not expecting much in return. No, it's not easy, but I can't imagine my life without them in it. I am fortunate that their real mom includes me in their lives.  I am sure it is not easy for her either.  I can't imagine feeling like you are sharing your children with another woman.  Early on, it was difficult.  We knocked heads a few times (maybe more than a few).  There were unpleasantries said from both sides, but there was a learning curve to figure out...for both of us. She needed to draw that line in the sand... making sure I knew she was the MOM.  I needed to make her understand that I was here to stay and that I needed to be respected for the role I would play in her children's lives. It's been a roller coaster at times, but I think we have navigated our family dynamics the best we know how. I hope, always putting the interests of the kids before our own.

So yes, I may be just a stepmom, but I hope I am being the best stepmom I can be.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Mom..My Hero.

After the passing of my dad I sat down and wrote a couple of posts about him. It was a way to work through some of my feelings and a way for me to share with others the wonderful man I was privileged to call "daddy". It was therapeutic for me,  but it also made me sad that I waited until after his death to do this.  I wish I'd had the foresight to write those words before it was too late for him to read them. I told him all the time that I loved him, but how nice it would have been for him to know some of the reasons why.  I don't want to make that mistake again.

So today, I want to share with you the most important woman in the world to me...my mom.

I am in awe of this woman...complete and utter awe. She has devoted her entire life to putting her family above EVERYTHING and I have had the blessing of her sacrifices. It's funny,  I know of so many mother/daughter relationships that have gone through very rocky times.  I've heard this is "normal" and although that may be true, I am so glad  we never experienced those times.  Oh, I'm sure there were times, in my teenage years, where I didn't get my way and stormed up the stairs, locking myself in the bathroom, screaming about the horrors of my life and how UNFAIR it all was. I mean what teenage girl isn't overly dramatic at times, but I can honestly say that I have never gone through a period of time where I didn't like my mom or wasn't proud to be her daughter.

My mom is a very private person and she will probably be uncomfortable with me singing her praises in such a public way, but I hope deep down it makes her feel good.  She DESERVES to be celebrated. I know I would not be the woman I am today without her for a mother.  I know my mom thinks that I carry a lot of traits from my father, but the truth is, she is the one who grounds me.  She is the person that makes me a more compassionate, less selfish person.  It is because of her that I understand unconditional love.

 In one of my posts about my dad I spoke about how, without him here, I no longer have anyone who thinks I'm perfect.  No one who sees me as flawless. My dad always looked at me with rose colored glasses.  His little girl could do no wrong. What a wonderful feeling to have someone like that in your life, but let's be honest, as much as I'd like to think he was right, I'm as flawed as a human can be.  My mom, she sees me clearly and loves me unconditionally in spite of those flaws.  She's the one I can turn to when I've screwed up and know that she will always see through the mess and make me feel loved. Knowing that no matter how off course I may wander there she is... always guiding me back on track. She is my compass, and I am never lost for long because of her.

Growing up we were fortunate enough to have mom at home.  There was never a time I needed her and she wasn't there...NEVER. I know that isn't an option for many families and I am both grateful and conflicted about that.  Grateful, of course, because I never wondered who would pick me up after school or who would help me with my homework. I knew who would be there...mom, would always be there. Conflicted, because looking back, it saddens me that she didn't take care of herself more.  That she didn't allow herself to dream bigger because she was always helping us realize our dreams.  It is my hope that in this new chapter of her life she allows herself to dream big. To throw caution to the wind and try new things and to put herself first, for once. I know my mom though, and I have a feeling she will continue to take care of her family..it's who she is.

My mom is a caregiver.  She is the strongest person I know and she has NEVER complained about how much we have depended on her over the years. When I was recovering from a car accident, that left me completely helpless for months, it was my mom that had the wonderful responsibility of taking care of all those 'needs' I just couldn't let anyone else do for me. It was like taking care of a 6 foot baby, and yet she never made me feel guilty or embarrassed, no matter how horrible the situation. She was my angel during a very difficult time.

I can't possibly talk about my mom's strength and love for family without talking about my dad.  It's a difficult subject.  One that brings up so many emotions, but above all, it makes me appreciate the blessing that my mom is. Growing up, I witnessed first hand the love between my parents. Of course all marriages have growing pains, no relationship is perfect, but learning that you stand by one another through those difficult times is something my parents taught me. They made me believe in 'happily ever after' and because of them I was determined not to settle until I found my own fairytale.

When my parents took their vows, I'm not sure they realized how important, in sickness and in health, would become. For at least the last 5 years of my dad's life, my mom took care of him in ways I doubt most people understand. She spent endless hours in hospitals and more time than anyone should have to, worrying about and watching the pain and suffering my dad was going through.  She watched as 'friends' slipped away. I won't lie, I'm bitter about that. My mom and dad never spoke of it, but I could see it...I could feel the hurt it caused them. Yet my mom never let it deter her from the long, lonely and painful journey she needed to help my dad through. We forced her to take some time away from their reality, to try and recharge her batteries, and when she did, she heard the whispers...she felt the judgments. It made me furious for her. I watched my mom deal with her own pain quietly, privately and with more grace and dignity than anyone could expect. She is amazing.

She is also funny and makes me laugh all the time. She has taught me to laugh at myself and to not take myself so seriously. I am grateful for that lesson. Laughter really is the best medicine and because she NEVER forgets the stupid and silly things we do, we always have things to laugh about.

Her strength is undying...her love unconditional..her beauty unmatched. She is the reason I believe in true love. She is the reason my loyalty to family will never waiver.  She is simply the most remarkable woman I have ever known and I am so blessed to call her 'mom'.

I Love You mom...you are my hero.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Dancing thru life...

He taught me to dance.  Not just on the dance floor, but thru life.  Sometimes to the beat of the music and sometimes to the beat of my own drum, but always to dance.

He taught me to be strong.  Standing up for what's right.  Standing up for those who can't stand for themselves. Never being afraid to speak my mind. I sometimes think he regretted he taught me that lesson so well.  Knowing that there were times I may end up hurt or targeted because I refused to stay silent. I, however, have NEVER regretted that lesson.

He taught me to be a winner, but also that there are more important things in life than only winning.  And that sometimes you learn more from the times you lose.

He taught me to be modest.  He told me that when you are good at something you don't have to boast.  You don't have to tell others how good you are, because if you ARE that good, then others will tell you.

He taught me to be kind and generous. To be thoughtful. If there is a way to help make someone's life a little easier or their day a little brighter, then it is ALWAYS worth the effort. Take the time to do for others and do so, with no expectation of getting anything in return. 

He taught me to be honest..to be truthful.  People may not always like what you say, but they will respect you for it. 

My dad taught me so many lessons and although I have not always lived up to his example..I continue to try to lead my life in a way he would be proud.  I hope he can always look over me and be proud of the woman I've become.

I am certainly proud of the man he was and I hope he is still dancing.