I Don’t Know What to Say…

CaringBridge.org

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. Today’s post is a little depressing – just warning you. If you live in the Northeast, my mood right now is reflective of the gloomy weather we have been having. Almost a full week of rain is enough to make anyone a little sad. But the sun is coming out in two more days.  Or so the weathermen say…

Have you heard of Caring Bridge?

It’s an online journal for cancer patients so that their families can keep friends and family updated on their loved one’s progress. I have two friends who have Caring Bridge Journals set up for them. Both of them are younger than me. Both are in their 30′s. One was in her 20′s when she was diagnosed. Both now have cancer ravaging through their bodies despite years of chemo, radiation and other medications that are wearing their bodies down. However, these girls have a strength and determination that is unwavering. They are amazing and I admire their strength and courage.

Last night, I was telling my mom about one of my friends and she said, “It’s just not fair.” And it’s not. Cancer is terrible at any age, but when someone who is younger than you gets it, it really hits your heart. My heart is aching for my friends and their families.

Cancer has touched all of us in one way or another. I have lost several family members and friends’ mothers to cancer. My grandfather died of lung cancer at 53. My grandmother died of complications due to Hodgkin’s disease at 59. My dad’s cousin died of lung cancer that spread to her brain. She was 52. Three of my very close friends’ mothers are gone due to this rotten disease. Unfortunately, I could go on and on and on about how cancer has touched me personally.

My sister-in-law had thyroid cancer, but is now considered a “survivor” after almost 10 years of treatments, two surgeries and medication. I know there are more survivors and hope my friends will be added to that list one day.

When I hear that people have cancer, I am sometimes unsure what to say to them and their families. I usually tell them that they are in my thoughts and prayers (which is true) and that seems to be good thing to say, but sometimes I want to say more and am not sure how to do or say it. So I say nothing.  And then I feel guilty.

One of my uncle’s favorite sayings is, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I keep that in mind when I read the updates on their conditions. And I pray the right words will come out of my mouth to show them my support, love and concern.  Words can mean a lot.  I just need to find the right ones.

 

A Recovering Catholic or an Enlightened One?

Today is the third Sunday of Lent.  Over the past three weeks, I have been to three different churches on a quest to find one that will teach me about the Bible, God’s word and most importantly, to help me to be a better person.

I was raised Catholic, but over the years, I have come to disagree with many of the church’s teachings. For example, I do not agree that the wafer and wine are actually the body and blood of Christ and turn into them because of the powers of the priest. I also do not believe that a priest can absolve me from my sins through confession. Yes, I confess my sins, but I go right to the big man.  He is the only one who can forgive me in my mind.  In addition, I have never felt comfortable with the elitism that is associated with Catholics – that only those who are Catholic can receive Communion. I stopped going to Catholic churches and tried a few other denominations of Christianity.  I did not find any that I really liked, so I just stopped going. And kind of strayed away from religion.

I began praying less often, even though I still felt incredibly blessed.  I was often so tired at night that I would start to pray and then fall asleep. Or, I would start saying the “Our Father” and a million other thoughts came into my mind distracting me.  I would try and clear those thoughts out of my head and start over again and again. Yet, those other thoughts or sleep would always prevail and I would go to bed without thanking God for all He did for me that day.

A few months ago,  I started watching “Duck Dynasty” and my interest in religion and God was reignited.  I liked how none of the family members are cruel to each other, there is no drinking and sexual talk and that every episode ended with a prayer. It got me thinking that I needed to focus more on God.

For Lent this year, I decided to give up something, but to also read more about God and go to church every Sunday. I bought the Duck Dynasty Devotional book which gives a verse from the Bible, an explanation and a prayer each day.  I have also gone to church every Sunday to try and find a religion and place to pray (even though I know God is everywhere).

The first Sunday, I went to a Born Again Christian church with my husband. The first 40 minutes was singing and greeting/talking to other people. The pastor finally read from the Bible and talked about Lent, but I honestly did not learn anything new.  The whole way they did the service was very different from a Catholic church and hearing a loud band singing songs was a little too much for me at this point. However, I am willing to try another Christian church.  My husband’s aunt and uncle are very active in their church and I love talking with them about their beliefs. Plus, they are wonderful people who are truly living their lives according to God’s word.

I went back to a Catholic church last Sunday(to give it one more chance) and listened to a priest saying that Jesus gave priests and bishops the power to forgive people for their sins.  I still feel that only God can forgive you and wonder how a priest making you say 10 “Our Fathers” and 10 “Hail  Mary’s” can absolve you over your sins. In fact, I am not even sure we are supposed to pray to Mary.  So, that experience solidified the fact that I no longer consider myself a Catholic.

Today, I went to a Presbyterian church and really enjoyed it. Plus, I actually learned something! I went at 8:00 and was among only 7 other attendees. It was held in the church’s chapel and was slightly informal.  They did have a later service which the reverend said always has more people.  I ended up speaking with the reverend after the service.  He asked what brought me to the church and I told him that I was raised Catholic, but had a lot of disagreements with the church.  He said that I was one of many “recovering Catholics” that have switched to a different denomination of Christianity. (I also heard that from the pastor at the Christian church I attended.) It makes me wonder – why are there so many “recovering Catholics” and what does that mean?  What is the church trying to do to keep people there?  One thing I do not want to be is a hypocrite, so I will not be going back to a Catholic church, but I do wonder – am I a recovering Catholic or just an enlightened one?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.  Are you a recovering Catholic?  A devoted Catholic? An enlightened one?

Teachers Get…

Teachers get summers, weekends, holidays and snow days off!

This is a common statement that I have heard for the past 19 years that I have worked in education.  While it is true that teachers get these days off, they also “get” a lot of other things…

Teachers get much smaller salaries than other professionals, even with Master’s Degrees.

Teachers get students who do not speak any English and are expected to bring them up to meet the Common Core State Standards.

Teachers get parents who also do not speak English and getting support from them or even trying to communicate how to reinforce learning at home is a challenge.

Teachers get students who come to school hungry because there is no food in their houses.

Teachers get students who cannot sit still, so they are allowed to stand up and walk around in the middle of class while the teacher is instructing.

Teachers get students who are being abused at home.  Many times, teachers are not even told about the abuse, as it is an issue of confidentiality.

Teachers get students who are on medication.  Some are getting used to their meds, some are overly medicated and then there are the days when a parent forgets to give a child his much-needed medication.  But the teacher is still responsible for dealing with those children no matter what.

Teachers get students of varying ability levels in their rooms.  They might have gifted students in the same class as special education students and they are expected to make three or more assessments for every quiz, test, etc to meet the needs of all students regardless of the range of abilities.

Teachers get students who are classified as special education students and do not always have a special education teacher with them or the teacher is only with them for part of the day.

Teachers get emails from parents questioning their teaching, lessons, and assessments.  Helicopter parents seem to think they know more about education than teachers do. If a child does not get an “A” it is blamed on the teacher.

Teachers get no extra pay for the numerous extra hours they work. There is never overtime and certainly not enough time in the day to teach, plan, grade and prepare in the contracted time.  There is no such thing as an 8 hour day for a teacher.  Nor is there overtime.

Teachers get students with severe behavior and anger issues and end up having to deal with constant disruptions because those students are placed in regular classrooms.

Teachers get no extra money for supplies and end up spending hundreds of dollars each year on things for the classroom.

Teachers get constantly slammed in the press for low test scores.  However, most people don’t get that if students do not come to kindergarten prepared, they are already at a disadvantage.  Schools no longer turn children away who might not be ready.

Finally, and most importantly,

Teachers get how important a child’s education is and despite all of these incredible challenges, they never give up.  One thing is certain – they will always get respect and admiration from me!

Teachers Get…

Teachers get summers, weekends, holidays and snow days off!

This is a common statement that I have heard for the past 19 years that I have worked in education.  While it is true that teachers get these days off, they also “get” a lot of other things…

Teachers get much smaller salaries than other professionals, even with Master’s Degrees.

Teachers get students who do not speak any English and are expected to bring them up to meet the Common Core State Standards.

Teachers get parents who also do not speak English and getting support from them or even trying to communicate how to reinforce learning at home is a challenge.

Teachers get students who come to school hungry because there is no food in their houses.

Teachers get students who cannot sit still, so they are allowed to stand up and walk around in the middle of class while the teacher is instructing.

Teachers get students who are being abused at home.  Many times, teachers are not even told about the abuse, as it is an issue of confidentiality.

Teachers get students who are on medication.  Some are getting used to their meds, some are overly medicated and then there are the days when a parent forgets to give a child his much-needed medication.  But the teacher is still responsible for dealing with those children no matter what.

Teachers get students of varying ability levels in their rooms.  They might have gifted students in the same class as special education students and they are expected to make three or more assessments for every quiz, test, etc to meet the needs of all students regardless of the range of abilities.

Teachers get students who are classified as special education students and do not always have a special education teacher with them or the teacher is only with them for part of the day.

Teachers get emails from parents questioning their teaching, lessons, and assessments.  Helicopter parents seem to think they know more about education than teachers do. If a child does not get an “A” it is blamed on the teacher.

Teachers get no extra pay for the numerous extra hours they work. There is never overtime and certainly not enough time in the day to teach, plan, grade and prepare in the contracted time.  There is no such thing as an 8 hour day for a teacher.  Nor is there overtime.

Teachers get students with severe behavior and anger issues and end up having to deal with constant disruptions because those students are placed in regular classrooms.

Teachers get no extra money for supplies and end up spending hundreds of dollars each year on things for the classroom.

Teachers get constantly slammed in the press for low test scores.  However, most people don’t get that if students do not come to kindergarten prepared, they are already at a disadvantage.  Schools no longer turn children away who might not be ready.

Finally, and most importantly,

Teachers get how important a child’s education is and despite all of these incredible challenges, they never give up.  One thing is certain – they will always get respect and admiration from me!

50 Years of Being Together!

50th Anniversary Picture

Last weekend, we threw a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for my in-laws.  As I was planning for the centerpieces and decorations, I found that most craft and party stores had very little for a 50th anniversary party. There were a lot of things for a 25th, but not a 50th.

Fifty years is a long time to do anything, but especially to be with the same person every single day of your life.  Every marriage has ups and downs, but it seems that the key is going through life together.  Together, they endured hardships and pain.  Together, they shared the joys of raising two sons and working hard to make a good life for their family. Together, they created many happy memories with families and friends and together, they have remained.  For fifty years!

I got to thinking…how many people in my generation will get the chance to celebrate 50 years of marriage? Let’s face it. Once a couple marries, there are only two ways to not remain married – divorce or death.

As far as divorce goes, most people in our parents’ generation have stayed married (sometimes for the wrong reasons). The divorce rate is very high in our country and many of the people who are divorced are of my generation.  But I have hope.  I really believe that the fact that many people are getting married when they’re a little older may lead to more lasting marriages. People can get the partying and carousing out early and not want to do it once they are already married.

Getting married in my 30′s was right for me.  No way I was ready to settle down in my 20′s, and I don’t think my husband would have been either. I think you know yourself better as you get older and have a deeper sense of commitment and loyalty.  Many of my friends also got married in their 30′s and their marriages are also going strong.  That is not to say that if you marry young, it will not last, but with everything going on in today’s world, I think people really need to know themselves first and know what they truly want out of life before making a lifetime commitment to another person.

As for the “death” part – luckily, we are living longer and longer which also makes me think that celebrating 50 years is more feasible. With new medical technology and early detection, illnesses are being identified early and cures are more possible.

So, to all the craft and party stores that currently do not have supplies for 50th anniversaries – better get those shelves stocked!  A new generation of golden anniversaries will be coming in the next few decades!!  Get ready!

A Real Adult?

I think I have actually turned into a real adult. It’s true.

On Saturday night, my husband’s friend invited us to go hear him play in his newly formed punk band.  We always try to support our friends, so we decided to go.  Plus, we were curious as to what a 40+ punk band would sound like. As the day went on, I began to feel a sense of dread.  The band was going on at 9:30 and I realized that 9:30 is normally about a half hour before I go to bed.  How the heck was I going to go out to a bar at that time?  Then, I wanted to slap myself. What was I? Old?  How could that thought even enter my head???

As the time grew nearer, I tried to talk myself into how great it would be to go out and hear a band, maybe do a little dancing and have a few drinks.  Yeah! Just like old times! I then went into our room to get dressed and there, at the foot of the bed, were my very comfortable, soft, and warm pajamas.  It was almost as if they were calling to pick them up and put them on and forgo the bar and head straight for the bed.  I  fought the urge to put them on and quickly threw them into the drawer so they were out of my site. They would not win!!

After that little temptation, I went to apply my make up in the bathroom.  As I looked in the mirror (trying to  ignore the ever increasingly deep lines forming between my eyebrows), I felt a yawn coming on.  And then, with one eye adorned with my Ivy Green eyeliner, I yawned.  And my eyes got teary, as they do when you yawn.  I quickly blinked as fast as I could to prevent the eyeliner from running. What was going on? A few years ago, 9:30 would have been EARLY to go out and here I am wanting to put my pajamas on and yawning while I am putting my make up on! This is a disgrace!

And then I realized that I just might be a real adult.  Yes, I’m 40, but never really considered myself to be an actual grown up.  It’s true. After all, I still dance around the house, sing off-key (the only way I know how) and do silly things with or without kids around. Suddenly, my mind began racing at things I have heard myself say over the past few hours/weeks/months which have me learning towards this “real adult” theory brewing. They are as follows:

1.  ” The band goes on at 9:30? That’s almost my bedtime!”

2.   “No, I am wearing a sweater to the bar.  It’s cold out!”

3.   “How can that kid only be wearing a sweatshirt when it’s this cold out!”

4.   “The music today stinks.”

5.  “When I was a kid…(add whatever you used to hear your parents say here)”

6.  “How will that eyebrow piercing look when she’s 55?”

7.   “What time is The Late Show on?  That’s way too late for me.”

8.  “Wow, I remember that song like it was yesterday.” – (listening to a song from my high school years on the “classic rock” station)

9.  “Tell that kid to turn his music down!”

10.  “No, I can’t eat that. It will give me indigestion.”

It’s pretty scary, I will admit, but I am not totally convinced that I am a real adult.   I am still holding onto the fact that I did go out, I did have a drink, I sort of danced (it’s kind of tough to dance to punk unless you are moshing) and we stayed out all night.  Til the next day in fact. Well, technically it was the next day.   Okay, who am I kidding? We were home and in bed by 12:30, but when you think about it,  we were out all night.

Therefore, I must conclude that I am not totally a real adult.  But I’m getting there.  Slowly but surely…MAKE IT STOP!!

All You Need is LOVE!

 

Today is a day that is all about love and whether or not you have a sweetheart, there is love all around you.  Open your eyes and your heart and see it.  And feel it. And know that giving love can be just as rewarding as getting it.

I am extremely fortunate in that I have always felt love from God, my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew,  friends and even my beloved dogs! I now feel a love for and from my husband that is more powerful than anything I could have imagined. It is a wonderful feeling that warms my heart and soul.

But, for many years, I did not always see how much love was around me. I wanted the wrong person to love me and sometimes for the wrong reasons.  I saw my friends go through this as well in our numerous years of being single.  But now that I am older and wiser (I think),  I have realized a few things:

  • You cannot make a person love you.
  • It is never wrong to give or show a person that you love them.
  • Love is the strongest force on earth.
  • Letting someone love you is not always easy.
  • Being in love is wonderful, but it should not define who you are.
  • You have to love yourself first. No matter what.

So, as you celebrate Valentine’s Day (or not), remember those around you who love you not only today, but every day. And love them back. As the Beatles said, “All You Need is Love.”

 

Snow Days!

Okay, if you live in the Northeast, you might be sick of those two words.  In fact, you might resist the urge to even say them since we have had so many so quickly.  And it’s only February!

On Wednesday, while I was working from home (now that I am a consultant, there are no more real snow days), I saw on the news that parents and kids were going stir-crazy and that parents were walking or driving out to places where kids could play.  That made me stop and think.  Was I ever bored as a child when it snowed? Did my mom have to take my brother and I somewhere to be entertained? The answer is unequivocally – NO.  In fact, I rarely ever remember being bored when I was younger and especially not in winter!

When my mom would let my brother and I know that we had a snow day, it was a a cause for celebration!  Vince and I savored an extra day off because we used to PLAY.  All day. If it was really nasty out and we ran out of pretend games like Batman and Batgirl or having stormtroopers invade the family in my doll house, we would break out board games.  My personal favorites were Monopoly, Parcheesi, and Pokeno.  We also played card games such as Go Fish, Crazy Eights, War and Spades.  My mom would join in with those games as well, which was great!  When we were able to go outside (which we both preferred), our imaginations ran wild.  If we were not running from the abominable snowman, we were trapped on Plant Hoth (I was always Princess Lea, he was Luke Skywalker and our neighbor was Han Solo). We also went sledding, held running contests in the snow, made snowmen and snow forts and had snowball fights.  And, yes, we also helped shovel the driveway. In fact, my parents got us each our own red shovel.  Hmm. Now that I think back, I guess that was smart parenting move.  No excuses for EVERYONE not to help out!  But we just loved being in the snow and having fun!

Bored?  A need for entertainment?  My mother having to take us some place to be entertained on a SNOW DAY? Not for us!  Our house (inside and out), our imaginations and our games were all we ever needed.

Too Casual?

“Clothes allow you to see yourself in a different light. They can transform you instantly and have a very real, visceral impact. Clothes become symbolic of who we are.” – Stacy London

 

Jeans. Most everyone loves them and they are probably one of the most commonly owned pieces of clothing by Americans.

Here are two interesting facts about jeans:

1.  In 1873, Levi Strauss and Company received a patent for blue jeans.  A durable pant was needed for gold and silver miners and so they were created.  The material was called “dungarees” (which is what my grandfather used to call them!) Later on, mostly Cowboys wore jeans working the cattle ranches since they lasted much longer than cotton pants.  Since then, jeans have evolved into many different cuts including boot cut, low waist, skinny, boyfriend, straight leg, etc. Everyone in America owns a pair of jeans.

2.  Elvis Presley could only afford dungarees when he was a child because his family was so poor. As an adult, he rarely ever wore them because of that.

While jeans are great to wear for comfort or working (as originally intended), I think we have gone a bit overboard on when it is appropriate to wear jeans and there are times when more formal attire is appropriate.

 

This is totally my opinion, but I really don’t feel that jeans should be worn if:

1.  You are attending viewing or funeral.  Yes, I have seen it. To me, it is terribly disrespectful that the time could not be taken to dress up to honor a person’s life.

2.  You are attending a wedding. I don’t care if you have a button down shirt and tie on as well.  Unless the invitation states that it is very casual, a wedding is not the place to sport your Levi’s.

3.  You are a teacher – Now, wait. Don’t get angry! By all means, participate in dress down Fridays and Jeans Days (I always did!), but please do this only on Fridays. I cannot tell you how many teachers I see wearing jeans during the week. And the ones I have seen wearing jeans pair them with sweatshirts, dingy sweaters or t-shirts and old sneakers. After being in education for almost 20 years, I can say with certainty that dressing too casually affects how students treat you and perceive you as a teacher.  It can affect the whole mood of the class. If you are going to wear jeans, remember two things – you are not going to be working outside (wear nice jeans and shoes) and you are not going clubbing (lose the hoochie-mama tops and skin tight skinnies).  You are still a teacher and a professional who deserves respect. You are a role model for your students and reflection of your school. Dress like it!

4. If you are the first person a customer/client/patient sees – You are making a first impression of the office, store, doctor, etc.  I remember taking my mother to her orthopedic therapist one time and the receptionist was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. And it was a Wednesday. I immediately questioned my mother about what  type of office this was and the credibility of the physician. It did not seem very professional to me and I immediately thought negatively about the doctor, whom I had not yet met.  As it turns out, I did not care for the doctor, but my mom liked her and she got better, so I might have judged her wrong. But I did judge her and I have not forgotten that. Most people do not easily forget first impressions…

5.  If you are going to church – I know some churches say that it does not matter what you wear, as long as you are there, but I just don’t think it’s right to wear old jeans and sweatshirts to church.  Black or colored jeans or corduroys with a nice sweater and boots – yes, but not old, faded, ripped ones.  And don’t even get me started on those wearing SWEATPANTS to church! AHHH!!  I think that God deserves more!

People form opinions about us based on our appearances.  We can’t help it. It’s human nature.  And clothes are usually the first thing people notice, even before your face. Doubt me? Go to the mall and people watch.  The clothes that we wear are more powerful than we might think.

It Happened…

As I opened up my blog today, I took a look at the categories on my page.  I was scanning down when I saw the one titled, “Since I am going to be 40.” Well, it happened. I am now the big 4-0. And yes, life IS a little different than when I was in my 30s.  I didn’t wake up that morning feeling any different. I didn’t do anything special that day (I had to work), but I did look in the mirror to study my now 40 year-old face.  I didn’t notice any new wrinkles (thank you, Mom, for starting me on a moisturizing routine when I was in my teens), no dark circles under my eyes. Yet. No sagging skin. Yet.  But I know these things will come slowly but surely over the next decade and I sighed. Where had life gone?  It seemed only yesterday that my friends through me a surprise party when I turned 30 and now, here I am 10 years later. Ugh.

I am not sure why 40 is such a difficult age for women.  Some women fear turning 30 more than 40, but 30 did not really bother me. I still felt young and vibrant and attractive.  I have a few friends a little older (and wiser) than me and they all said that your 30s are your best years.  I have to say, they were definitely the best decade of my life thus far. I had the most wonderful times with my girlfriends, met and married the man of my dreams and advanced in my career. Now, there is a very strong possibility that I killed a few (dozen) brain cells during this time from drinking adult beverages (and lots of them) but I think I have enough left that I will be okay. At least, I hope.

My girlfriends and I got together last night for some drinks and dinner and our conversations proved that we were definitely all officially 40 and above (I am one of the youngest in the group). After talking about how most of us were on medication for high blood pressure, we then went into discussing the increasing number of gray hairs popping up (not just on our heads), acid reflux and the fact that we all have to work out way longer and harder than we did years ago to stay in shape. Yep. These were the topics of our Friday night conversations.

We also gave advice to a 30 year-old (my darling cousin) about dating.  She is recently divorced and has never been on the dating scene.  She was with her husband since high school and has NO CLUE what is out there.  We all chimed in and gave her our advice since we could write a book on the horrific and comedic dating experiences we’ve all had (some of us had been dating for 20 years before we met the right man!)  Here were some of our best tips:  Don’t sleep with him on the first date. Don’t only get to know him through Facebook or other social media.  Make him take you out and talk face to face. Don’t sleep with him on the first date.  Don’t settle for less than what you want.  Don’t get drunk on the first date.  Make sure he has a job.  Don’t sleep with him on the first date.  Remember, pictures can be posted anywhere and have lasting effects on your reputation and even your career. (Thank God there was no such thing as Instagram and Facebook when we were in our prime!) Don’t sleep with him on the first date. Watch how he treats his mother and other women in his life.  Don’t sl…you get the picture…

I just hope that she listens to her elders (dear Lord, that’s what we are now) and enjoys her 30s as much as we did. Well, actually, since she’s my little cousin, I hope she enjoys them just a little less than we did… :)

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