Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Time Flies--Happy Anniversary!

I know I wrote the entry on marrying a school teacher some time ago. That tells the story of us meeting, and getting together. But what makes two people stay together for thirty-four years?

STUBBORNESS!

Key to a successful marriage:
Just let her talk, guys.
Keep smiling!
I would be lying to you (and many reading this would know it) if I said there hadn’t been some rough spots. There have been; but somehow you work your way through it.

After the kids came, it all changed. Our family would have been more difficult to break up. Whatever lacking we had in our relationship with each other; we were both totally devoted to the well-being and upbringing of the two children God gave us. Whatever it took……financially, emotionally, time-wise, we were on the same page.

I remember another time when we said “whatever it takes.” It was the night after Loren’s accident; we lay in bed crying for the loss we felt and for Loren’s loss, but we said “whatever we have to do, we will do it.” Little could we have imagined how highly rehabilitated Loren would become; our imaginations took us to another place, but we were absolutely united in the resolve that we would do whatever we had to do to make sure he was taken care of as well.

I believe another quality that we both have developed over the years was loyalty. When we didn’t exactly feel love, we acted upon loyalty to each other. I can’t speak for Jerry in this particularly, but I felt that I was loyal to our legacy, our children and future grandchildren. Although it’s hardly comparable, I was influenced by a statement Rose Kennedy made in which she stated (Denise’s paraphrase) that one of the most important things to her was the legacy and influence she had upon her children and the future. She said this as she overlooked obvious flaws in her husband’s character; flaws which I have never had to even think about!

Jerry had other flaws. I have a few. But we both have gifts also, and the key to this whole business is realizing what they are and what they are NOT! We hire plumbers. I cannot even type that sentence without a big smile. However, if you need a painter, Jerry is the MAN! This is a learned talent. When we were engaged, Loren, Jerry and I were painting the house we had purchased. Loren and I were rolling the paint on all over the place (as we had many times in our home of origin!) while Jerry was painting up, then down, then up, then down. He got mad at us in our lack of perfection. We said “OK, fine, you do it,” left, and came back three hours later to find Jerry on the SAME WALL while ours was dry and looked perfectly fine. Jerry’s attitude improved, but his perfection is amazing. I dare you to find a mistake in my house.

Taken at my Mom's
80th birthday party.
Credit to fabulous
cousin, Sherri Callison.
Things change over time and we change with them. The first thing that comes to mind is my lack of cooking. I CAN cook, I am not the greatest, but as we entered the teen years in approximately 1998; it all changed. Our schedules were all over the place. Yes, I still think eating meals together is a good thing; but we got creative. When Jessica worked at Blimpie, we joined her on her break. We had many meals between ball games. Today, this me working from 10-2 thing has us all messed up, but I realize this is but a season, and it too will change someday.

I think that’s a key word…..seasons. As I age, I am more and more aware of the “seasons” of life. As I have heard many times, we (women) can have it all; we just can’t have it all at once. I think that’s a reasonable approach for all of us to take, and realize that each marriage goes through seasons.

For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, we vow to remain FAITHFUL. We’ve had all six of those scenarios and worse and/or sickness may still come to pass in the future. Faithfulness, perseverance and yes, stubbornness!

Happy Anniversary, Jerry!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Am Thankful For......

I am thankful:
  • For my eternal and abundant life in Jesus Christ.
  • For my wonderful family: supportive husband, fabulous daughter and son, wonderful son-in-law and fiancĂ© of my son.
  • For the sweet smile of my grandchild.
  • For my extended family; my mother, brother and sister-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws.
  • For my supportive and loving church family.
  • For all believers who don’t happen to attend my church, but are my family too.
  • For all the great friends in my life, those that are seasoned, and those that are new.
  • For those who agree with me and those who sharpen my thoughts in disagreement.
  • For community: more than an address.
  • For my health.
  • For my doctors, and my dentist whom I adore!
  • For my warm and comfortable home.
  • For attached garages.
  • For a bathroom attached to the bedroom.
  • For a carpeted closet floor.
  • For carpet on almost every floor.
  • For plenty of storage.
  • For my job, and working with sisters in Christ.
  • For the fact that I do not have to work full-time.
  • For quiet times.
  • For busy times.
  • For tasks that impact others in the process.
  • For music.
  • For laughter.
  • For books.
  • For the Internet.
  • For the Word of God.
  • For provision of necessities.
  • For provision of non-necessities once in awhile.
  • To be able to give away.
  • To be living in the United States.
  • For the first amendment.
  • For love.
  • And for pumpkin pie!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Love People But I HATE Crowds!

I have mentioned this before. I am claustrophobic, but like many issues, I manage it. I know the triggers and I work with it.

That said, I am about done with shopping. I know there are women reading this that are thinking, “Is she kidding?” but here is where I am coming from. Retailing is not what it used to be. Customer service is becoming extinct. I like to give gifts. The longer I live, the more I want to buy quality; and like anyone else, I like to get the best price. But my patience is wearing thin within the retail culture.
No can do this! Just can't!

I am not even discussing Black Friday. That would be the ultimate anxiety attack. 

I went on a weekly shopping trip to Meijer, and the place was packed. I am compassionate with the older shoppers who are slower moving and spend more time reading the labels, as there will be a day—fast approaching—when I am them.

I am less patient with the entire families which make grocery shopping their Saturday “event.” While I am focused and trying to get the items I need, I must navigate around a morbidly obese mother and morbidly obese father with two preteens who are, guess what, on their way to obesity, throwing whatever into the cart. I am the last person to talk about weight gain, I am trying to lose weight and I struggle with it, but families such as this take up the entire aisle! Where are you Michele O, when we need you?

Then there are the “sample” vendors. Actually, I usually avoid Saturdays to avoid them. I avoid the first, 15th and end of the month if I can. It was Saturday the 15th, so that was my fault.

Although I can usually get better prices at Meijer (or fill in the blank of any other large grocery store) my sanity is much safer at the local IGA.  The prices are higher, so I offset with Dollar General for paper products, cleaning supplies, and sundries.

After my trip to Meijer, I went to the Beavercreek Mall to get gift certificates at a store that does NOT sell gift certificates at the cute little card display at Meijer. I dislike the Beavercreek Mall. Everyone thinks that the Upper Valley Mall is terrible, but it has the major anchor stores, Penney’s, Sears, Elder Beerman and Macy’s, and I am fine with it! The rest of what I need I can order online.

I go into the Beavercreek Mall and three times before I reach my destination store, I am “approached” by three people standing OUTSIDE their retail establishments trying to get me to come into their stores. I felt like I was at a carnival, or at the very least, some tourist trap. I get to the store I want to purchase from and it’s busy, I am OK with a line that has about 7 people in it on both sides; I can wait in a line. But after I finish my business, I look for the quickest way out of the Mall, I do not look to the right or the left, and I cut through Macy’s, which is relatively quiet.

Much longer and the symptoms would have begun —the pressure in the chest, the racing heartbeat. Sounds like a heart attack? Nope, just an anxiety attack. Get me out of here!

So now, I will shop online. I once thought I would never shop online, but that is mostly what I do these days. Most of my clothes are purchased online. Most of my gifts are purchased online. I still have to go to the grocery regularly though. It won’t be on Saturday!

As a postscript: I truly am disappointed in customer service today; but I take every opportunity to fill out surveys when someone has done well, or not so well. I never do this to get “freebies,” although that sometimes that does happen. I just want the management to train their staff better. Many need to learn how to interact in a professional manner with the public. Some do not know the basics. I fear they are not being trained at home.

As another postscript: I recently ordered something online. I used my credit card through the seller's Pay Pal. It is a home-based business and it is a specialty item. It didn't come. It hit my credit card and it still didn't come. I have paid the credit card because I am prompt. 

I started to get nervous because she would not answer her email. I called Pay Pal. They are looking into it, and have taken the money temporarily out of her account. I didn't bookmark the URL so the nice man at Pay Pal sent it to me. It went nowhere. Hmmmm. I got an email the following day from Pay Pal, saying they contacted the seller and she gave them a tracking number for UPS. I poke it in and duh, no tracking number with UPS. Hmmmm again. Pay Pal sends me another email whereby I am to click the link when the package arrives, if it does. 

In ten more days, if I have not clicked that link, Pay Pal will credit my credit card. I am feeling pretty good about it, but this is the only time I have had an issue with online shopping, and I believe it's because it's a home-based business. LL Bean, Amazon.com, other stores, never an issue. I love online shopping. I am ready for Cyber Monday. You can have Black Friday!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Medway Area Historical Society

I can’t believe where I find my inspirations for this blog. As the name implies, my entries will be about one of two things (1) relationships with people or (2) issues that go along with aging; and yes that will include health-related issues, which I know none of us want to hear about…but it’s happening. Accept it.

My third grade class at Medway Elementary
School. Find Me!
One of the most exciting things I have found on Facebook (and this is open, take a peek) is the Medway Area Historical Society. This blog is written for my “friends” in this group. We are having a blast with our remembrances.

I have previously alluded to growing up in the 50’s with relationships with our neighbors.  This group broadens that idea. Anyone who lived in Medway, Crystal Lake or New Carlisle—or other “western Clark County” communities is welcome. It was started by a man named Scott whom I do not know, but he opened a can of worms!

UNLIKE some other community groups, this is small. As I write this, the group numbers less than 400. I like small. We talk about our memories and growing up in a very special place in a very special time. This is not a place to advertise today’s businesses, although there is much discussion about businesses of the past and what they meant to us; and some (few) are still in business today. (I really, really need a Tavernette fix!)

My own family (Kline) was from the Medway area. My grandmother came from Greenville, but married into the Kline family. They raised three boys who were part of the community too. My oldest uncle made a mid-life change and moved to Florida. It was not retirement; he still worked there. The middle uncle was the U.S. Postmaster for many years before his retirement. My father was the youngest. We lived in Medway until I was 11, when the birth of my younger brother forced us to make some assessments as to the size of our house.

Daddy could have finished the basement; but I think my mother saw the future of running kids here and there; and with moving to Fairborn, I could walk to Girl Scouts and whatever, making her life easier (she was taking care of a baby). This is not meant to disrespect Fairborn; I had a good life there too. I lost touch with my Medway friends as I made new ones. My grandparents lived in Medway 6 and 8 more years and my uncle for many more; so I still connected with Medway.

To this day, when the road is not under water (!), when I drive Spangler Road north into Medway, I feel like I am moving through a time-warp. It’s a spiritual thing. It’s a “connection” that goes beyond people.

I could take you to the Medway Cemetery and not only show you my immediate family; grandparents, aunts and uncles, father and brother, but could also show you two sets of great-grandparents, great-aunt and a cousin.

Jerry and I have our names staked out on four plots in the cemetery; no, we are not planning to gain that much weight, but we wanted extra for anything that would come along. One will be for the baby brother should he need it. Kim Martin and I need to get our act together and we need to actually pay for these plots; but that’s how it is in Medway. I jokingly say that we have a “contract on this property but we haven’t closed yet.” As long as Kim and I are still living, it’s not a problem. By the way, Kim and I lived about 250 feet away from each other in childhood and—well, we won’t tell the rest of that story!

It has been sheer delight to reconnect with many people I knew, barely knew, maybe knew their siblings, or just find out we have something in common that we didn’t know of before. Someone recently posted our Medway Elementary yearbook when I was a third grader, which means I was in the middle of this crowd. Ben was in first grade, and I knew people on either side (grade) of me, and some two years either way. So this book is right where I was at! We have all been tagging everyone we remember—and I am totally amazed at how many people I do remember!

Several have found old pictures of buildings and landmarks; making me feel quite young actually, but also giving me an appreciation of where I fit in history. Some have found old newspapers that they are able to scan, and that has brought much interest. There is history that has not been discussed for many years and by the time we all comment, we have brought new information to some very old and interesting stories. The Dingledine shoot-out stands out in my mind. Life was interesting in Crystal Lake!

As I raised my kids, I began to wish for them part of the kind of childhood that I had in Medway. I didn’t move back to Medway, although I thought about it, and who knows how that would have changed the stories of our lives; but I did choose to move into a similar type of community. This was hardly planned—but we closed and moved into a home and three days later my mother flew in from Florida on a trip she planned four months previously; before we even THOUGHT of moving! I would not have chosen to have company three days after I moved; but I picked her up in Vandalia, we drove to our new home and turned the corner down the cul-de-sac, and she says, “Denise, you live on Wilts’ Lane!” Well, we didn’t, the lots were larger, the street was wider, but the similarity could not be missed!

I am grateful for that small community where everyone knew your name and relationships went back generations. I am grateful for Scott Suther, who created this Facebook group and for the other members who join me in jogging each others’ memories. If you are on Facebook, put in the search bar “Medway Area Historical Society” and enjoy the banter. We are having fun!

Friday, November 18, 2011

First Spendover at Grandma and Grandpa's

Becoming a grandparent is a chapter of life that many go through. We are not unique. There are many who relate the following story.

This is Kyah; the next day. Her
grandparents didn't look so good!
So…..we kept the granddaughter overnight for the first time. We know nothing about caring for babies, having raised two of our own. Daughter brings baby over and baby refuses to follow her evening routine anyway…..she’s having too much darn fun because Grandma has gotten out new (to her) toys and she is showing us all her new tricks. Pelvic thrusts on a five-month-old. I tell her “No pelvic thrusts for awhile.” She laughs and does it to spite me!

Granddaughter really doesn’t like cuddling. That’s fine. We watch her roll around on the floor and talk with Mommy. It is time for Grandma to move some of her decorating items. Mommy wants to make sure her bed time routine is normal, so breast feeds her and puts her down. Then she leaves her baby in a strange room and leaves the house. That lasts about 45 minutes.

We did the “put the pacifier back in and pat her and talk to her quietly” thing. I guess we call it “ferberizing” now (google it!). But Grandpa is a rocker. He has rocked dozens of kids to sleep. When all else fails, we call Jerry. But NOT Kyah! She arches her back and she does not want to be rocked.  He even brings her out to the living room and we turn off the TV. That rocking chair makes him more comfortable anyway. Not Kyah. He puts her back down again. Nada. We try a little more milk, as our experience has shown us that sometimes they are just a little hungry and it knocks them out. Nope.

I begin the side-to-side rocking that I have seen her parents do. There is a reason why God does not give babies to old people. I am not aerobically fit enough to do this long enough to actually accomplish the task. I put her down again, stick the fooler in her mouth and tell her to go to sleep.

After about three hours of doing everything we can think of (I am missing my Dancing With the Stars, thank God for DVR) finally, I change her pants which ARE wet, and I admit, I don’t like wet diapers either; and she LOVES being half-naked (“Stop those pelvic thrusts!”). Then I give her a blanket from home. Her mother doesn’t want her hooked on a blanket, another thing we apparently ruined our kids on. But we never used a pacifier either and they both still needed a good bit of orthodontic intervention.

The blanket from home is SOMETHING familiar. Think about it, you’re a baby in a foreign land….and you can’t quite get your brain around this. You are confused.

I go back into the living room to try and catch some of Rob Kardashian, who is my new crush, and it’s suddenly……quiet. I just have to look. She is asleep with the blanket from home pulled up over her face. Yes, sweetie, I would try to block out Grandma’s scary room too. Her left leg is crossed over her right leg. Good, maybe Grandma will make a lady out of her yet. It’s a moment I wish I had a camera for……but NO WAY!

We get a good 4 ½ hours in this time and Grandpa gets up for the next feeding. I hear him and I wake up and then I can’t get back to sleep. I have another blog on sleep disorders; mine started when I went through this the first time. Grandpa goes back to sleep. He can sleep standing on his head.

About 4:00 I get up and Grandpa is also up. He had put her down and she was quiet for 15 minutes. He decided she needed a little “more.”  He has googled “reusing breast milk” and decided we can do this, the milk has lost a little of its nutrients but it won’t give her a tummy ache. Oh well, next time we will be giving her candy. But she goes back to sleep and we get another couple of hours sleep. At 6:30, Grandpa listens to her coo awhile, decides she’s been playing long enough and he goes in and gets her up. This would be close to her regular time anyway. She plays and we give her a bottle before leaving about 8:30.

By five months my kids were on four bottles of 6 oz. of formula a day and sleeping 12 hours at night. They were also taking cereal, some fruits and possibly some peas. But taking care of a breast-fed baby is different. You don't know if she's getting enough, or whether something else is going on!

However, being in a strange place changes everything. And that’s going to change!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Coming Full Circle: I Knew I Was Grown Up!

Disclaimer: I actually wrote this originally for a contest. I didn’t win. The title was supposed to be “When did I realize that I had become a grown-up?” Since they wouldn’t publish it, I think I will! This is a follow-up to my previous blog, taking one season from that discussion, and elaborating on it a bit.

Growing up, I was always on the short end. Everyone treated me as cute, little Denise. I tried to act grown up; but I was seen as younger than I was—almost always. I remember our last vacation as a family; Mom was telling this lady at the motel swimming pool that one of her children was 18 and the other 16. You guessed it—they thought I was the younger one!

There are life circumstances that are supposed to make us feel like grown-ups, college graduations, wedding ceremonies or the birth of children.  For me, I think a circumstance of mid-age brought me full circle and not only made me “feel” grown up but made me increasingly aware of the “circle of life.”

I was the mother of two children, happily married, when I found myself dealing with the care of my father’s brother who had no children. My dear aunt had died of chronic pulmonary disease at the very young age of 62, after my uncle had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He wasn’t really “ill” yet and I had to let him take care of his own life for as long as possible. 

He and I were able to talk about what was going to happen. We agreed that my house was too small for me to bring him to live in, it was barely big enough for my growing family. I remember calling him one day and saying “What are you doing today?” to which he responded, “Oh, I just planned my funeral at [the local funeral home].”  All I could bring myself to say was, “Thanks, Uncle Ray.”  He made me POA and Executrix of his estate.  We talked about what I probably would do.
My aunt Dorothy and uncle
Ray. They died
at 62 and 67, respectively,
which is sounding younger
and younger every day!

Until the birth of my daughter, we hadn’t been particularly close. My aunt dragged him up to the hospital and they saw her before any of her grandparents did. They babysat frequently and kept my daughter during the birth of my son. She used to call him “Uncle Money” because he would let her count the bowl of pennies he kept on his buffet. How prophetic that would be!

Even though they did not have children, they became surrogate grandparents to my kids and helpful mentors to me as a young mom. Old school about many things, they supported me as a stay-at-home mom. The year my daughter was 7 and my son 2, April 1991, we lost my beloved aunt. It was a bad week. My brother was permanently disabled in an auto accident on Wednesday and my aunt died on Saturday. As we buried her in the family plot on the following Wednesday, it was not lost on me that we came extremely close to having two funerals within days, and two burials within feet of each other.  I was so very grateful that my brother was alive.

As I sat beside my grieving uncle, patting his thin and wrinkled hand, it was a turning point in my life. He was 66 years old and ill. I realized that I now was going to have sole responsibility of this man whom I was related to, but whom I barely knew.

Things went smoothly until October, when he needed to be hospitalized the first time. I remember it was my son’s birthday, the 17th. His neighbor called me as Ray was being removed to the largest hospital in our area. During this hospitalization, we discussed the fact that he was dying, and what I probably would want to do during the administration of his estate. I was thankful that we were able to be so honest with each other. Once he was released, I was responsible for providing home care for him. Resources were not the problem, but I could not be there 24/7 and there needed to be some daily care. Ray, however, didn’t see the need to spend the money and kept firing everyone I hired. I worked part time for an employer that was certainly flexible with me, as it took quite a bit of time making calls to negotiate all of the details. By December he had to be hospitalized again. We were called home early from visiting with my brother Loren in Georgia to take care of Ray. I began to research some of the options of nursing home or rehabilitation home care.  When I went to visit him in the hospital, he was angry that I was looking into nursing homes. He tried to make me promise that I would not put him in a nursing home. I couldn’t do that, but tried to assure him that was the last resort.

From January to summer things went pretty smoothly. His friends were a support system and took him to chemo treatments and helped with the after effects of those treatments. I could never have dealt with that while taking care of my young children, husband and job. By summer things were getting worse and I know Ray knew it, but didn’t want to admit it. The last Sunday in July my husband’s family has their family reunion and we went to it, planning to stay a few days after to spend time with his parents.

We were called home once again to take care of Ray. One of his friends had stopped by the house and found him in a bad situation and called the squad.  He was hospitalized again and while I was thinking of getting him declared incompetent so I could do the things I had to do; found it was unnecessary. He was so sick that he didn’t know I had to place him in a nearby skilled facility. He just thought he was going to another hospital.

I paid a month’s fees and got a refund. He died August 25, 1992. Although I went to the home daily, the week before he died, I was unable to go from Tuesday evening until Friday morning as my husband was away helping his parents, and I did not want to take my children to see him in the nursing home at this stage of his life. His failure between Tuesday and Friday was incredible. At this time I began to pray for God to take him. I also prayed that he would not die on August 24th, the anniversary of my own father’s death. They called me about suppertime of the 25th and he passed away about 11:00 PM. Although I went in to say goodbye, I was not with him when he died. If I had known what time he would pass, I would have stayed, but I had a child to get ready for school in the morning and a job to go to.

My next day was spent at the funeral home. Thus began the next phase, executing an estate. I was the next of kin and for the most part was alone in decision-making. My aunt did have some siblings that offered moral support.  Her sister told me to not worry about using professionals to do certain tasks; that I had enough on my plate raising small children and working.

The will was somewhat complicated, and executing the will was unlike anything I had done in my life. There was a house, car and boat to sell, and an estate auction to have. I had to manage details and multi-task in a way I had never experienced. I realized that I was most capable of it. I had a wonderful attorney to guide me, utilized wisdom and experience from those who knew what to do and when to do it. The estate was divided among 18 heirs from my aunt’s family and my family. 

First thing up was opening the safe deposit box and the attorney helped me with that inventory. Then we had to have an official appraisal of the house and contents. There was jewelry of my aunt’s to appraise. I worked at the house to go through personal and family possessions that would not be part of an auction sale. I had a wonderful woman at the hospital that helped me navigate the hospital bills. This service was $40 a month and was the best money ever spent as long as I needed it. We had a contract on the house in early October and the estate sale was October 10th. I closed on the house in early November. I remember going through the empty house for the last time and that was when I realized the last connection to my childhood was gone. 

It took us until May to finally settle the estate. I did inherit enough to purchase a bigger home in a better area to raise my children. We moved June 11th. Yes, Ray had been “Uncle Money” and how I wish I could thank him (and my aunt) for providing a better life for my children.

For me, I realized I could handle something that put me in the middle of controversy. I could handle a task which had multiple aspects of administration. I had help, but I could do it! I was no longer “the kid” and had become the adult. I turned 40 the month after we moved into the new house.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Life Comes At Ya!

When I think of myself at 18, I think I was a pretty wimpy person, although in retrospect I may not be giving myself a fair shake. I had already weathered two pretty intense break-ups. They all seem that way at the time, but even at 58, when I look back from an adult’s perspective, it was intense! I could probably write an entire blog about how those break-ups made me stronger or weaker. I definitely think there was some damage to my self-image, but I certainly wasn’t special in that. Lots of young women and men were going through similar experiences.

So, I look at the past 40 years and several things stand out.

The death of my father by suicide when I was 24. I don’t know how I put one foot in front of another for awhile. I had no business getting married within three months of that event, but in some way planning for the wedding and the festivities of that got me through it. I can say this though, that time does heal all wounds. Today I can talk about it intelligently with others without becoming undone. Back then, I had nightmares every night.

My brother’s auto accident at the age of 27. He was driving home from his employer’s bowling team night and he struck a half-dead tree about a mile from home in Stone Mountain, GA. My brother was left a C 6-7 quadriplegic. To those who remember this, this happened the first part of April the year we had our 20th Reunion, which was held the third weekend in June. I was headlong into registration and details. One of our classmates called me the day we learned of the accident (which was the night before) and I couldn’t even talk. He promised he would call again in two weeks and he did.

When I think of the summer of 1991, our 20th Reunion, which by far has been our largest, was really totally a blur. Jerry and I went to Atlanta in April; I went for Mother’s Day and spent the time with my good friend Linda Delarios. Jerry went down in early June, I just could not spare the time from the Reunion, but we left again as soon as it was over! Watching my brother rehab from that accident and watching the “new normal” unfold; gives me little tolerance for little aches and pains, either mine or others’.  I have little patience for those I know are abusing the SSDI system (or any system for that matter). He has rehabbed into a full-time working person who I like to say is paying into my Social Security fund!

It is often said that we are only given what we can handle. Earlier in the day (Wednesday) of Loren’s accident; my other brother Ben was released from a VA facility with—finally—a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  Up until that point, no one, including himself, knew what to do. But when we had the diagnosis, we knew there was treatment. I often thought, what would I have done had these two situations overlapped?

Executing the estate of my uncle. I honestly think this situation, at the age of 39, was where I finally grew up. I actually have written another article on this very topic: that of knowing “when” you finally grew up. (That will come later) My dad’s brother never had children. His wife preceded him in death in 1991, the same week of my brother’s accident! She died on Saturday of that week.  My uncle had already been diagnosed with lung cancer. Between Jerry, myself and the neighbors and friends, we dealt with his decline for about 16 months and he died in late August 1992.

He left a will with 18 heirs and multiple streams of assets. I had to sell a house, car and boat, and sell jewelry of my aunt’s to her family. I hated some of the decisions I had to make within the confines of the will. But I did it, and I stood up to those who didn’t agree with it. I developed my spine during that time. It was another year where the taking care of him and then settling his estate took over our lives. I was grateful to work part-time at a preschool where I could drop my children off for childcare, while I went to the funeral home to plan the funeral!  Later, I took my little boy with me to the lawyers’ office and he became a favorite, but he was the best little guy playing with his dinosaurs while I conducted business.

The house we were able to purchase in 1993.
This is where we raised our children.
When it was all said and done, I was able to provide my family with a new house and a new way of life. This move specifically was the most important decision we ever made with regard to raising our children. I have never forgotten that my uncle and aunt made this possible for us.

Life marched on. I had a nine year old and a four year old to raise, and we became involved in the community and schools. I don’t believe anything that happened during most of those years contributed to my strength beyond what is common to all women who raise families, work and are active in church and community.

In 2006, I found myself in a situation I certainly was not asking for and wish I had some of the knowledge back then that I have now. My mother’s cousin was dying and she literally lived on the other end of the park from the organization I worked for, the Springfield Museum of Art. Again, I had the flexibility to “drop in” on her caregivers to see what was going on at any time of day, even though she had given a non-family member, who lived in Texas, her POA. It couldn’t have been easy for him either, he was there and I was doing the legwork, but he made the decisions. When she died, we were CO-executors, and I did the work and he signed some papers. Yeah, I got screwed there, but life isn’t always fair.

That estate was still “open” when my brother Ben died in April of 2007. He was 51 years of age. It is devastating to lose a younger sibling any time, and his cause of death was ambiguous. He had heart problems and he had Diabetes II, take your pick. Again, I would find myself an executrix of an estate.  This one was trickier as he didn’t have much, but the will he had was as ambiguous as his life and death. Again I would find myself in a decision-making role.

I have never had a career which defined me. I have almost always worked, learning from every situation. I have found myself in these places which strengthened me in ways I would not have expected at all. I learned things I never knew before, I developed a backbone to deal with people who did not agree with me and handled details in a way I never expected! Handling a reunion is a piece of cake, really!

I could not finish this blog without mentioning the growth of my faith during all of these years and experiences. We give lip-service to “God will provide,” but I watched it happen time and again through these situations. We say to ourselves, “God will give me the words to say,” and I am here to say that He did time and time again! My faith was strengthened by watching these things happen and IN THE ORDER they happened. This would not be complete or accurate if I did not give God the credit for making me who I am, teaching me the things I needed to know, and leading me day-by-day in the big and little deals of life.