ecard

A Huge Mistake Many Women Make

Check out this little e-card going around on Facebook and tell me what you think. [I’ll wait.]

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Being that this is my blog, I’ll go first, ‘kay?

Equality and respect for women has been quite the hot topic of conversation lately. Women in the workplace is an ongoing online debate… female reproduction has become political fodder… and even the United Nations has announced a plan to combat violence against women. We ladies have made huge strides over the past century and, with hard work and determination, we can continue to blaze a trail for the future of our daughters and granddaughters.

But ladies… we will never, ever, ever get where we need to be if we continue to spread stupid, male-bashing “jokes” like the one above. It’s one thing to perpetuate stereotypes among the sexes (however sophomoric), but to laugh over violence against men when we’re fighting so hard to stop abuse of women? That’s a dangerous double standard.

Read the above card again and reverse the role of male and female. Tell me, does that feel right to you?

Love, Marriage and Jazz Hands

[Caption Contest]

Ten years of marriage. A whole decade. Our tin/aluminum anniversary. Who would have thought Jeff and I would pack so much life into ten short years? Let’s see, we’ve lived in four houses, had three kids, survived six surgeries… we’ve experienced more love, loss and growth than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even think about the next ten without smiling and then breaking into a cold sweat when I think about how things will change over the next decade.

[Don’t miss 5 Random Wedding Fun Facts from November 30, 2002]

During our recent Thanksgiving weekend family photo shoot (with the ridiculously talented Renee Bowen Photography), we decided to take a couple of shots to express our feelings about our ten year anniversary. Now your job is to caption it!

Comment by 11:59 pm on Friday, November 30. Our top 5 picks will be shared on Facebook for readers to judge (through Sunday 12/2) and the top vote getter will get a little holiday gift from me (don’t worry, it won’t be tin). Good luck!

The Final Chapter: The Tragedy that Changed My Life (Part 6)

While this is the last post in the “Tragedy that Changed My Life” series, as the title says, I’m forever changed. The lasting effects my family’s loss will have on my life will continue — probably forever — and bring up feelings, questions and major life decisions, many of which I will share here. I could never sum up in six parts what impact my family’s loss has had on me, my husband and children, and will probably never truly grasp it myself. But I can share the insight, wisdom and clarity I feel I have been given, maybe helping others who struggle in certain areas of their own lives.

Kristen and Me 2003

5 Life Lessons I Learned from Loss

Teach by Example Since July, I put myself and my work on hold. For a while there, I felt paralyzed, having no clue how to move forward in that arena while being the best possible wife and mother to those who needed me most. But I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and my needs during that time. In fact, I’ve learned over the past six months that to be the best I can possibly be and to teach my children everything I can, I need to lead by example — not by words. And you know what… that example sometimes means prioritizing my own needs whether they’re physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual. I’ve learned that I need to just say no when necessary and I am working on taking time to live in the moment (and breathe). I may make mistakes (many, many mistakes), lose my temper or temporarily forget to focus on what’s really important, but I am human. It’s not about the mistakes I make, but how I respond to those mistakes, learn from them and grow as a human being.

Stop Focusing on the Shell For one day, stop and count how many times you negatively refer to your own body. Think about all the things you do trying to keep yourself looking young and how much time, effort and money you spend to get there. As a society, we are so focused on a person’s “shell” and so often miss the beauty within. Spend time fostering your inner spirit, finding the people, activities and choices that make your heart sing. Instead of an hour at the gym, take a hike with friends… commit to taking a couple of hours on the weekend to do something you’ve never done before… or choose to let go of that person you think everyone else expects you to be and just be yourself. In my opinion, we could eradicate obesity, disease and depression if we let go of focusing so much attention on our shell and, instead, spend time everyday feeding our heart and soul.

Simplify This has been one of the biggest life lessons for me and has created some major change in our family. Since July, we have decided to up the ante on the quality of life and do away with anything that keeps us from achieving it. I no longer dream of the day I can unload my mom car (the ever-sexy “Hotyssey“), have cut down on unnecessary spending (like those five billion channel TV packages when we hardly watch live TV) and have cleaned out closets, drawers and those baby items we will never (yes, I mean never, ever, ever) need again. Life is too short to live among the clutter.

But the biggest step in simplifying, hands down, is the huge undertaking that is downsizing our home. When we bought in 2005 — with a 14 month old and 7 months pregnant with our second — we could never have imagined how different our life would look just a few years later. I always figured I’d be working full time, bringing in a hefty second income and living the dream with our two elementary-school-aged mini men. Adoption, autism and asthma weren’t even a consideration — all of which require more money, energy and effort than I could have ever imagined. We moved over the holidays and now live comfortably (as soon as we’re entirely unpacked, that is) in a home that’s in walking distance of the boys’ school — giving me an extra 20 minutes of walking exercise each day (woot!) — and cutting down our living expenses by approximately 35%. We have absolutely no need to keep up with the Joneses and even less interest in being friends with them.

Let Go People can be mean. You know it’s true. And sometimes, no matter what you do, they’re just not going to like you (sometimes even your own family). Does that mean you should bend over backwards and try to change who you are? Hell no. Accept that they have their own things going on and let go of trying to please them. Often times, those who judge others the harshest are the ones who aren’t happy with their own choices and behavior. Smile and move on.

Create Your Own Legacy Every one of us will die some day. While I hope to have several decades ahead of me, we really never know when our time will come. One thing I learned from my niece’s death is that it’s all about how you touch others’ hearts and lives and what you choose to do with your time on earth that will live on forever. Kristen, who worked tirelessly to earn the title of paramedic just months before she died, spent her days doing for others, whether it was saving a life, holding a hand, or just smiling at a frightened patient. She never hung up without saying “I love you” and was the first to cross a room and make a person — whether it was a cousin, her grandparents or someone she had just met — feel like the most important person in the world. Her legacy continues to inspire others to be the best they possibly can with our short time here, something the rest of us can learn from and aspire to achieve as well.

Words can’t express how grateful I am for all of the comments, emails and words of support and encouragement I have received from writing this series. It has allowed me to re-connect with family friends I haven’t seen in decades, meet new friends and talk with those who have shared similar experiences.

While I write for myself, I keep writing for all of you. For that, I thank you.

 

The Day I Went to My Mother’s Funeral (The Tragedy that Changed My Life: Part 5)

Also known as “The Tragedy that Changed my Life: Part 5”

It’s been six months since my niece left this world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started and stopped this post — part 5 of my story. How could I even begin to put into words one of the most significant days of my entire life? Well, here goes..

I walked up to the grave I had been to hundreds of times before. My mother’s burial place was my go-to spot for as long as I can remember, whether I was celebrating my high school graduation, crying over a boy who had broken my heart or just needed to be alone and feel closer to my mom. On so many occasions, I would kneel down on the grass and spend a moment missing her, the woman who was taken from me when I was just three years old. The cemetery was the one place I would truly allow the feelings to wash over me, the place I would talk to my mom and work through anything I was experiencing in my life.

It’s strange and I really don’t know why, but my moments visiting the cemetery have always been so difficult to share with others. It’s rare that I would go with anyone else — so overwhelming, it even took years to finally bring my children to visit “Nana Janice.” Maybe I was afraid to cry, afraid to feel too much in front of others. Maybe I was conflicted, feeling that my grief could be seen as being sort of disloyal to the mother I had been given a second chance with.

But six months ago, that all changed. Even now, if I close my eyes, I find myself right back there in that moment… that significant, life-changing moment. Because for the first time in years, I walked up to that spot in the cemetery alongside a sea of family, friends and strangers — all of whom were there to bury my beautiful niece, Kristen, tragically killed in a car crash at the age of 30.

I stood there, in front of my mother’s resting place, the one she would soon share. The grave, already dug, had been draped in a grass-colored covering. The casket rested upon iron bars, keeping it above ground until it was time to place it permanently. I couldn’t help but fixate on the hole in the ground. Oh my God, my mother was down there. The woman who gave me life, the mom I love so much but have no memory of, she, at least her physical being, was somewhere near that hole in the ground. If I were an actress on some dark Showtime comedy, that would be the very moment I would crawl down there, calling out for her, only to be pulled out kicking and screaming. But I stood frozen next to my husband, crying, crying, crying, grieving both the loss of my sweet niece and for the mom I never really publicly mourned.

As the priest finished the service and requested that only immediate family remain, they¬† began to place flowers on Kristen’s coffin. It was then that one of my siblings placed a flower on the ground below, honoring my mother. That simple act was so significant, like a window had been open to all of us, allowing us to ban together through our grief and collectively honor the woman who had been taken from us 37 years earlier, the one who would watch over Kristen — if not literally, then at least metaphorically.

I looked around to find a flower. I’m not sure where I heard it as a little girl, but I always connected my mom with white flowers. In my head and heart, I started to get a little frantic, I just had to find a white flower. Through my tears, the only white flowers I could see were carnations. I remember thinking to myself, “This is my one shot, I’m certainly not going to remember this moment as giving my mother a cheap carnation.” (Seriously, this is how I think?)

As I looked through the bouquets lined up around the casket, I heard Mary, my mother since I was four years old, say “Jackie, come on this side.” I was confused and walked around to the other side of the coffin to see what she was referring to. As I did, I noticed the green faux grass covering didn’t reach over the entire area. Under the casket and the iron handles below it, was a four-inch opening that revealed a deep hole in the ground. Covered in white, it looked like it went on forever. My heart was beating faster, I was overcome by the moment. Here I was, 40 years old, standing next to a huge, gaping hole next to where my mother was buried. This was it. This was my chance to finally say goodbye to my mother. I had never attended her funeral and had lived almost four decades with an overwhelming feeling that my goodbye was left unfinished.

I held the white lily in my hand and bent down, closer to the opening. I suddenly had a vision of me tossing the flower in and missing the mark, the flower hitting the iron and flinging right back, smacking me in the face (my imagination really runs wild in times like this). But that’s not what happened. With a flick of the wrist, I sent the flower through the hole and watched it slowly float into the white endless tunnel like a feather caught in the wind. Even as I did it, I knew I was experiencing one of the most important moments of my life.

I stood back up and slowly made my way over to the other side of the casket to my husband. As I walked, I could hear these involuntary sounds coming from my body, a wail you don’t hear often in your life. Thirty seven years were flying through my mind, my heart, my body — it was all too much. Everything around me began to close in, the blue skies and hot sun felt like a black cloak suffocating me, I had never felt anything even close to this — ever.

As I stumbled across the grass, I felt myself taken into someone’s arms, making me feel so safe, so comforted. I didn’t know who it was but knew it was someone who understood — someone who had been there. The tears streamed, my body shook, but the arms felt so good. After a few minutes, I looked up to find my brother Ed holding me. I will never forget what he did and will always love him for taking care of me in those brief moments when I needed it most, maybe he needed it too.

To Be Continued…