Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Choosing Happy

Choosing happy.  I spent a good couple of years waking each morning telling myself before I got out of bed “choose happy.”  It was my daily mantra, over and over again.  For every challenge I faced, for every encounter that I had wished never happened, I closed my eyes and chanted, “choose happy, choose happy, choose happy” over and over again. Fast forward a few years…I have become so accustomed to “choosing happy” that I no longer have to tell myself this.  It just comes natural.  I no longer battle between how I think I, or anyone else, thinks I should feel or react, I just simply choose happy.  That is not to say I don’t have bad days, sad days, frustrations, or down right anger over situations out of my control.  However, when it all boils down, remaining happy and counting my blessings is a much more appealing place to be emotionally.  

Trying to explain this to others who accuse me of wearing “rose colored glasses in my unicorn and glitter world” and not seeing reality is a much harder thing.   And, I suppose it is hard to explain because, well, I have no explanation.  I don’t know why or how I have come to accept this “happiness” as reality. I have no explanation as to why getting stuck in traffic, finding myself the topic of gossip, being disconnected from those I love, searching for a quick and easy way to blend two families into one, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and being “strong” when what I would rather do is hide under the warm covers of my bed and wait until all the problems of the world, or at least my world, have been solved, among other things, doesn’t drive me to the brink of insanity or to the nearest bar for happy hour, as a minimum.  Other than of course, I have a network of friends who love me for who I am, I have a mom and dad that support me without question (even though I question them), I have four children who depend on me to be their guiding light, I have two new children who are watching closely with a wait and see eye, and of course I have a God who loves me as I am and walks beside me when I need a friend and who carries me when I can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other.  It is that last explanation that leaves me baffled because, well, it seems so easy, almost a cop-out really…I can’t deal with it…surrender, give it to God.  Wow!  Why don’t more people do this?  How easy my life has become since I have discovered this.  It is very easy for me to say to others…release it, give it up to God, he will take care of it.  But I think reality is that if you have never been in a place in your life where everything, I mean everything, has been taken from you and you have nowhere else to go but up to God, you just won’t understand.  (I may be wrong; I wish I were wrong, I hope I am wrong)

So, back to my unicorn and glitter world…how does all that fit into reality?  Yes, I understand that the world around us is not perfect.  Choosing happy does not mean I am oblivious to global issues such as poverty, crime, inequities and war.  It does not mean that differences of opinion, and different views of the same thing do not exist and are not real, present and needing attention.  What I do think however, is that those who “choose happy” see those things as situations that need to be resolved and worked out rather than something that is going to control how we feel and live our lives in the present.  There is so much beauty and happiness in the world around us that is intertwined with the dark and negative.  I am just choosing to focus on the good and deal with the bad rather than let the bad rule my world and thoughts leaving me to chase happiness.  Why chase it?  It is right in front of you.  Embrace it, cling to it and let it help you get through the dark rather than the other way around?  This holds true for the simplest of challenges before us as well as those things that seem insurmountable. 

Henri Nouwen said it perfectly in his daily meditation:

At some moments we experience complete unity within us and around us.  This may happen when we stand on a mountaintop and are captivated by the view.  It may happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend.  It may happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal.  It may happen in church during a service or in a quiet room during prayer.  But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves:  "This is it ... everything fits ... all I ever hoped for is here."

These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away and everything appears empty and useless.  These experiences are true moments of grace.

I suppose I have taken those “true moments of grace” and learned to live my life by focusing on those moments rather than the empty and useless ones. I think by far the greatest gift I was given…and I don’t know how or when I was given this but think if I asked Fr. Joe or Fr. Gary they would say it was always there, I just needed to discover and realize it, is the gift of hope.  If you never lose hope then the world is yours.  You can get through anything… losing a child, having a child with an illness you can’t “fix”, losing a grandparent, a parent, a spouse or a close friend, taking caring of a loved one who is ill, watching someone you love destroy their life with addiction, relationship struggles with your children or your spouse and dealing with even the basic everyday struggles we all go through in life, if you hold fast to hope.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Perspective

Having the words and experiences of others that convey the same message, or thought, of my own is a blessing.  It takes me off the hook of having to write.  Don't get me wrong, I love to write and express myself but when I find someone else who can convey the same message...why reinvent the wheel...? Following is an article, story, that was published in a recent AZ Republic newspaper by one of our teaching assistants at St. John Bosco.

New York is setting to one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most popular marathons, drawing more than 45,000 participants who will pound the pavement for 26.2 miles. Whether you will be running this iconic marathon or not, whether you are a runner yourself or know someone who is, then you surely know that everyone runs for a different reason. These reasons – whether it be to lose weight, train for a race, raise money for a charity, or to burn off stress – is what drives runners to push through the miles. 
I have my reasons, too. In 2006 my world fell apart. In a week's time my mother passed away from cancer and my wife walked out on our marriage. Not long after, I started to run to help get me through it. But I also started to pray a lot more. Growing up in a Catholic family, I was accustomed to turn to God all my life and now I needed him more than ever.
I took it a step, many steps actually, further. Having run several marathons, although not New York (yet), and two 100-mile races, I felt called to take on the ultimate challenge – to run across America -- and I seemed in the right place in my life last year to make it happen. So I quit my job and started training. But I needed a good reason to do it.
My mom used to run and pray the rosary, and I saw this as a chance to use my gifts as a distance runner to give back to those around me by sharing with the world the importance and power of prayer. Instead of running for a particular charity, I decided I would pray for whatever anyone wanted me to pray for so that everyone would have a stake in my mission.
Thanks to a couple stories about my run before I started, intentions started pouring in from all over the globe. I promised I would pray a decade of the rosary for each intention I received through my website, email or Facebook. My journey from coast to coast ended up taking me exactly four months and just over 3,700 miles. Fortunately, I had thousands of intentions and a great deal of time to pray for them.
I started out alone at sunrise on January 20 of this year at the shores of the Pacific in California. There was no support crew, as this was a solo and unsupported effort. All my supplies were in the 75-pound baby jogger I would be pushing across the country, but the most important item I brought with me was my rosary ring.
To say the road was difficult would be an understatement. I had to constantly battle all types of obstacles including injuries, long mileage days, bad weather, rain, dust storms, wild animals, and loneliness. It seemed that nearly every day tried to give me a reason to quit, but I was motivated by what people were asking me to pray for.
But isn’t life like that? Filled with daily obstacles that seem nearly impossible to overcome. It occurred to me that so many people were at the point in their lives that I so often found myself in physically – the feeling of being unable to continue and totally helpless. I believe the answer to both situations is to ask God for the strength to make it through, and that is precisely what I was encouraging people to do. 
It is almost impossible to describe just how taxing the run was both from a physical and mental perspective. As a runner, sometimes those first steps are the hardest after you manage to drag yourself out of bed. It was like that for me often on the journey, but I know that despite the run going down as a solo effort, God was with me every step of the way and that is the only reason I was successful.
On May 20, 12 pairs of shoes and 35,000 Hail Marys later, I finally reached my finish line at the Atlantic off the coast of New York. To celebrate, I ran into the ocean with a huge smile on my face and an even bigger sigh of relief.
While my own run has ended, I know the struggles we all face continue on. I was humbled by what people asked me to pray for -- all kinds of illnesses in loved ones, especially children, as well as economic issues, people struggling with addictions, and relationship problems. I have learned to look at everyone I meet with sincere kindness and compassion because there is always so much more happening than meets the eye.
I sincerely hope that people who are fighting their battles will look to God for help, because if I have learned anything, it’s that all things, even getting one of the lucky lottery numbers to run the New York City marathon, are possible with the Lord.
Jeff Grabosky lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and teaches at a Catholic school. He still runs, just not hundreds of miles a week. He can be reached via his website at www.jeffrunsamerica.com.

"...because if I have learned anything, it's that all things, even getting one of the lucky lottery numbers to run the New York City marathon, are possible with the Lord."   Perfectly said!  Thank you Jeff.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/11/06/every-marathoner-is-running-for-their-lives/#ixzz1e18klVqn

Friday, August 19, 2011

Packing, Moving and Moving On

I had an afternoon of pure bliss.  The moons aligned, it was the third Friday of the non-leap year, Sagitarious in the moon of Venus with an ebb tide on the west coast combined with an Easterly, West blowing wind that brought me a house with no children for FOUR – 4!! Hours.  My first thought was to run through the house with complete abandonment signing and dancing to Neil Diamond or John Denver.  I am not really sure what it was that changed my mind on that first impulse but I soon found myself taping boxes, opening cabinets and carefully wrapping dishes and other breakables and placing them in boxes.  I packed the laundry room, the hall closet (gift closet slash craft closet slash I have no idea where else to put this closet.) That stuff was easy.  I then moved on to the unassuming, big red hunk of furniture in the pool room.  Until just then, when I started packing its contents, it was the holder of picture frames that proudly displayed each of my childrens’ school pictures from 2005 on top and the keeper of adult beverages on the bottom left and on the right, stacks of photo boxes, each labeled with a year.  It was the photo boxes that got me.  I opened one and then another and another and another.  I laughed, I cried (A LOT.) Before the age of digital cameras I took such great care in my photos.  I always printed in at least duplicate, one to keep, one to give away.  Looking at them now, I wasn’t so good at giving them away.  I pretty much have at least two of every photo, even the blurry, out of focus ones, for some reason I can’t bring myself to toss them.  There were some I looked at and immediately remembered the day, time, event.  Others I looked at and thought – wow, I forgot about that.  Being a photographer at heart I have TONS of photos, not just special occasions, but every day in between.  I saw in the photos the times when, as my kids were getting older, they were so “done” with me taking photos and others when they didn’t notice I was taking the photo and I captured the pure joy or frustration of the moment - those are my favorite. 

Next up … Cal’s room.  He went off to a weekend of pure 7 year old fun with his best buddy Andrew and Andrew’s dad Fred off to a cabin in the high country.  No mom’s, no brothers or sisters, just plain fun.  I am sure there will be no brushing of teeth or hair for the next few days! 

With Cal being gone, this was the time for me to purge and pack his room for the move, mostly purge.  Saying Cal is a pack rat is a huge understatement.  He collects everything.  He saves everything.  Everything seems to be special or hold meaning for him.   I started by getting two big contractor bags for trash, two boxes for Goodwill or yard sale and one box for stuff to keep.    At first it was easy to decide which pile something went in.  Dr. Suess books – yard sale, he has outgrown those.  Two or three week old Poptart under the bed – definitely trash.  This was easy I was thinking.  I can get through this and then plop myself down on the couch and relax for the rest of the night. 

As I started going through his little collection of things scattered through his room I began to think of my things, my stuff.  I know all too well that “you can’t take it with you” and I thought I had done a pretty good job of sorting and catoregizing things.  There are definitely things I can do without and need to get rid of rather than move it to the new house.  And that is when it really hit me.  I got to decide what was important, what held meaning and what could/should be tossed.  For my stuff, that was easy, for my kids stuff…not so much.  Maybe I was reading too much into this.  A broken army man was a broken army man…right? Trash.  The crayon picture of stick figures on the half sheet of paper ripped from a notebook with vocab words on the back .. trash.  Or not??  I suddenly found myself thinking - who am I to decide what is important and what is not?  I immediately began to think that if I was not capable of packing my “stuff” and someone had to go in and do it for me, would they toss the picture of my grandmother holding Logan as a baby because it was a bit out of focus and the corner was ripped? (not knowing that this was the very last image I had of my grandmother before she passed away?) Would they toss the “gold” coin from the mint in Philadelphia that was on the floor in the back corner of my closet not knowing it was the coin that Cal and I got on our first trip to Philli when he not only began to eat regular food but stood in line for an hour to just go through the mint and he didn’t cry, throw a fit or freak out that someone was standing too close to him?  Needless to say, Cal’s room is half-packed.  Left up to him, he would bring everything to the new house.  As the adult and parent, I know that is not the best decision.  As someone looking from the outside, in … who am I to decide what is important to him and what is not?

I am not a pack rat in any sense of the term.  I often find myself looking for something and then remembering … Oh yeah, I gave that away or I tossed it.  I am thankful that I packed most of my “stuff” before starting on my kids rooms.  Some times as a parent you do what you have to do for the best of the family.  I know if I didn’t pack up my kids stuff and help them along the way it wouldn’t get done or we would be moving boxes filled with half empty goldfish boxes, shoes that don’t fit, socks with holes and notebooks with a whole two pages of notes.  I now wonder if the memories I have of my childhood are the result of what my parents decided to save or toss, memories of what they decided to talk about or not talk about.  Certainly there are times in everyone’s lives that you don’t forget..the big things.  However, it’s the every day, nothing going on days, that parents really play a big part in what their children remember.  As I pack up my kids rooms (certainly easier to do when they are gone) I hope that what I remember as fun and meaningful will be the same things that they remember, plus some.

I love hearing the feedback on my blog but the common thread from readers seems to be that while they love reading it, it leaves them in tears.  So, some humor to leave you with…

Now that Brennen has his driver’s license he is my pick up/drop off slave. 
An excerpt from the life of the Campbell family… Friday, 8:15pm…

Olivia – Brennen picked me up WAY TOO EARLY.  I WAS THE FIRST TO LEAVE THE PARTY!! (all caps because she was screaming as she stormed into the house)
Brennen – The party was over at 8pm.  I was there at 7:55.  That is NOT too early. 
Olivia – I was the first to leave!
Brennen – It was time to go.
Olivia – screaming something that no one could understand
Brennen – I brought you there and picked you up.  You didn’t even say Thank you.
Olivia -  Thank you for what??  You picked me up early!
Brennen – I had to plan my night around YOU and leave what I was doing to come and get YOU.  You can’t even say Thank you?”
Olivia – Fine…Thank you!  You’re a jerk.

Does this sound familiar? It took everything I had not to laugh.  What comes around, goes around.  Our kids are a product of us.  Hearing Brennen tell his sister exactly what I told him at that age (all though I would like to think/remember that what I said to him was more inspirational to change) made my night!

Mom … niiiiicccce.

Life is good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Telluride 2011

It was 10:40pm, twelve hours and 10 minutes since we left the wonderful 75-degree weather in Telluride, CO., we were home.  As my son Brennen stated “You took the longest  route possible.”  Yes, indeed I did.  Partly because I needed to cross off Canyon de Chelly, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater off my bucket list and partly (and mostly) because I love road trips and think there is no better way to have family bonding than in the confines of the limited space of a vehicle, that we arrived safe and sound in the driveway of our home.  The hounds were so excited to see us and surprisingly, even to myself, I missed them and was excited to see them both.  Thank you Tammy for watching over them for us!

This trip was not without significance for our family.  In July of 2009 we took this (minus the side trips) same vacation.  Both Brennen and Logan were playing with club ball teams and both participated in the Telluride Wood Bat Baseball Festival.  It was a trip to remember.  Not only because both boys’ teams did extremely well – 1st place (Logan’s team) and 2nd place (B’s team) finish – but also because it was the last trip we took together as a family.   When we were in and out of doctor’s offices with Joe, the oncology surgeon said to us “go and have fun, take the vacation, be with your family, we will schedule everything after that.”  To Telluride we went.  What a great trip it was. 

Two years later, many games, a few changes of team uniforms and colors, here we were again.  Telluride Baseball Festival.  I could not wait or hold back my excitement.   A) Colorado in the summer is beautiful and, B) I could plan the trip and stop at every stop along the way that Joe, we must get from point A to point B with the least amount of stops in between, would never think about stopping at.  What could be better?  The world’s largest ball of twine exhibit, here we come. So, stop we did.

We left a day early and spent the night in Monument Valley.  It was beautiful and Majestic.  It was everything I thought it would be and more.  Unfortunately my kids did not have my same enthusiasm.  After the first three or four stops they opted to stay in the car while I got out and took pictures.  What I found funny was the flashback I was having of my family vacation in 1978.  We flew out to Arizona from Massachusetts.  We went to the Grand Canyon.  The first few stops and overlooks were amazing.  After that my dad got out of the car (convertible Camero for a family of five, hello??) and took pictures while we all sat in the car, no air conditioner, and waited for the next stop, hoping it would be some place that had a pool or, at a minimal, someplace that had food.  At this point I turned to my kids and said, “I have become my dad, I am sorry.”  They didn’t know what to make of this.  Later that night, as I was trying to fall asleep in the little inn we were staying at, in the middle of seemingly nowhere, I knew what to make of it.  I was not sorry I had become my dad, or my mom, I was thankful.  Thankful because, looking back, these are the things I remembered.  My parents, setting out to do something that was important to them, but at the same time, including the family and trying to make lasting memories.   I realize now, unlike then, the world did not revolve around me. It revolved around them.  Having a mom and dad who loved each other but at the same time showed us kids daily, that we mattered to them had a lasting impression. 

Earlier in my life I would remember this as the family vacation that kept me from the trip with my friends to camp Ponkapoag that year.  Now, I remember the trip as an amazing trip with my brothers (who of course breathed on me the whole time which was so annoying) and mom and dad who tried to give us and expose us to the world beyond anything we knew at the time.  I appreciate now the fact that they had a priority to each other and what they needed as husband and wife, and to us kids, keeping the bigger picture in mind.  I think the best gift and the best example you can give to your children is to show them a healthy love between husband and wife, mother and father.   

Which, I suppose at this point in time, is somewhat ironic.  Here I am a single, widowed mother of four on a road trip with four kids, trying my hardest to have this particular memory stand out in their minds, years later as adults, as something that will shape their future or at a minimum something that makes them go “hmmm….not going to do that…” Either way, if they look back and go Yes, I want my kids to learn the same thing or NO, HELL NO, I don’t want my kids to go through the same thing as I did!”  I will think I did my job.  My kids will have something to base their decision on.  I think that is the best we can do as parents, whether we are married for years, single because of divorce or single because of circumstances out of our control … give our children the best thing to base their decision on as adults.  It may be or not be what we would do but we are not them. It is years later, circumstances are different, times are different. The cards we are dealt are not the same cards they are dealt.  The best we can do as parents is do our best and love each other (and by each other I mean your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, and those around you) with the knowledge we have and bank on the theory that “when we know better, we do better.”  My hope is that my children, as they reach adulthood, will know better and thus will do better.  I will not be angry that they didn’t do as I did, I will not be resentful that they are doing for themselves or for their children, the things I that I couldn’t do.  I will be thankful and my prayers will be answered when see them living my prayer “When I know better, I will do better.”  

So, as usual the shout outs and things that just didn’t fit in with what I was talking about above, however related or unrelated it may have seemed. …

Sue and Randy … Congratulations!  May your love and happiness be an example to your children, yours and his.  Including Dani in the celebration of your love and family with a promise ring is an example for all to follow!

Tammy … thank you for jumping in, stepping up and helping me despite the distance between my brother and me.

Lightning Team … thank you for a wonderful finish to club ball before my second baby goes to high school.

Wendy … what can I say? My daily words of wisdom.  I love you.  Thank you for being my friend for 20 years, okay, 30.  Okay, more than that.  Let’s not give our age away here.

The original peeps … Maija, F’in Bern, Kari, Tami and Terri, Collen, Kelly … I will always save a beach chair for you!  Tami, Happy birthday!  The picture of your birthday lunch looked like so much fun even though I didn’t recognize anyone.  I miss the days of our birthday teas!

Jim … after enjoying home made ice cream at the Sweet Life in Telluride with my children and their non-stop conversation about it since … thank you for following your passion and providing memories for families with more than just the delicious sweet treat of ice cream in the summer but the memories that go along with it.

My children … Soup, Soup Jr., O and Cal.  Thank you for putting up with me.  I hope as you read this now you know how much I love you even if you don’t understand it.

Soup … because you asked for a “shout out” even though you have no idea that most of my posts are about you and your brothers and sister…here you go…I love you, my oldest, the guinea pig so to speak.  I HOPE I didn’t wreck you.  I LOVE you no matter what you may think at times.  I have FAITH that you will be an amazing person and that God will shine his GRACE upon you at the times you need it most.

Ron … for loving me despite all the craziness in my life.  For making me realize that not only does life goes on but that life can be good, very good.  For making me realize that these days are not just something that we need to get through but something that will be a lasting memory for our children so we need to make the most and best of each day because when they are gone, they are gone.  You can’t get them back.  Cat’s in the cradle.

And finally, to all ... although I love to write, spelling and grammar were my least favorite subjects and usually the courses that kept me from the 4.0 average.  I know there are typos, mis-spellings and grammatical errors.  Thank you for ignoring and not bringing them to my attention.  :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Here comes, there goes Father's Day and every thing in between then and now

So Lisa S. comes into my office weeks ago and asks me for the link to my blog.  She said she enjoyed reading it but lost the link, could I please give it to her.  Ummm. Yes, of course.  But, ummm, you haven’t missed anything because I don’t remember the last time I posted something.  That interaction has been in the back of my mind ever since.  I have started, and then abandoned, many posts since.  The latest, about Father’s Day, was titled “So here comes Father’s Day.” Obviously the day has come and gone so the title is now “Here comes, there goes, Father’s Day and everything in between then and now.”  That should catch me up. J 

I am going to work backward in this post.  Starting with “everything in between.”  So, since Father’s Day, summer has been in full swing.  My glorious Mondays off from work are just not the same with the kids home.  Ron has offered me the key to his house for “Summer Mondays” so I can have some peace and quiet.  I knew my house was loud but didn’t realize how loud until I sat on the couch in Ron’s house and heard the clock ticking away.  I can’t remember the last time I actually sat and heard a clock ticking away.  But sitting here writing that I think … how wonderful is that??  My kids are having fun.  They have friends over.  My front door is constantly opening with the arrival of another friend.  I feed them lunch, sort of, dinner – most definitely, and sometimes breakfast (usually they are on their own.) But, just the thought of them going on with life, creating lifetime memories with friends – that in itself, makes me happy.  It is what I would have imagined life would have been like if things didn’t turn out the way they did.  With the hand they were dealt, things could be so much different.  I am thankful that they have seemed to take what was dealt and just rolled with it.  Yes, we have always been a pretty laid back family, roll with the punches kind of brood, but, well, you just never know.  I will never be the parent that says “Not my kid!”  because you just never know. 

So, Father’s Day.  I suppose each of us (the kids and I) have our own vision of what it is and what it was.  As their mother I think I think too much.  For weeks before the day I was constantly thinking about how they feel, how can I make the day better for them?  Are they thinking of their dad, essentially a good thing? Or, are they thinking how it sucks that everyone gets to celebrate and it is just another reminder of what they have lost?  My kids don’t talk much about it unless I force them to.  Actually, Cal talks with me all the time about it.  The other three, not so much.   I know in time they will.  I am envisioning a time when the kids are all grown up, with families of their own, and we are sitting around at Thanksgiving, after a few bottles of wine, and they just let loose.  They tell me everything I did wrong and hopefully a few things I did right.  Either way, I will love them just the same.  As Oprah said “I did the best I could.  When I knew better, I did better.”  This is as much a learning process for me as it is for my kids.  I think this is pretty universal for all moms.  Our biggest worry is our kids.  Are they going to grow up and be OK?  Is what I am doing now going to have a positive influence on their life as an adult?  I don’t think it matters what the circumstances are, all moms (and dads) just want their kids to be “okay” when they grow up.  Meaning, no lingering negative effects from childhood … what we, as parents, did wrong or could have done better.  The only challenge is that I think my learning curve has to be much smaller so that I can stay ahead of the kids and what they are feeling and going through.   
Going back a few weeks before Father’s Day….

So here comes father’s day…

I would have to say that Father’s Day, September 8th and October 7th are the most difficult for me.  Not because of the way I feel about those days but because of the uncertain-ness of the way my kids feel about those days.  How do you celebrate Father’s day when you are a young kid and don’t have a dad around?  What is the best way to recognize and celebrate your dad’s birthday if he is not here to celebrate with you?  And, do you mourn or celebrate life on the anniversary of their death?

I am so blessed to have both of my parents alive so I don’t know what it is like to lose a parent.  I can only think though, as an adult, losing your mom or dad, however painful, is not the same as losing either one when you are 5, 10, 12, and 13.  There are so many missed memories when you lose your mom or dad as a kid, so young.  As the surviving parent of such a situation, I feel an overwhelming need to make sure and have a driving need to keep the memory alive, move forward, remember and not forget and at the same time remember how blessed we are with what we have.

My kids seem to be well adjusted.  They are doing great in school.  They are active with sports, academics and community service.  They have an amazing group of friends.  They seem happy.  Sometimes I wonder if it is just me that looks at the dates on the calendar and assigns them a level of significance.  I seem to be the only one who brings up … “so what do you want to do on Father’s Day?” or “It’s Daddy’s birthday, what do you want to do?”  One side of me thinks that it is my job to bring it up and if I didn’t I would hear years from now, as we are all sitting around a table, me old and gray, and them chasing their own kids around, saying “mom never mentioned Dad.”  Or if I bring it up too much I will hear “We were fine until Mom kept bringing everything up and made us think about every holiday, every memory.”  Who knows what the correct balance is?  Certainly not me.  I guess this is the perfect time for a shout out to my cousins Heide and Christian and ask … what the hey??? What do you wish adults would have done differently when your mom was sick and passed away?  I know as a kid when it all happened, I was confused and had no idea what was going on and I was only a niece.  I can’t even fathom what it was like as a child whose mom/dad was no longer there.  Or, now that I am older, the adult, the parent … Uncle Peter, what do I do?  What should I do, say or not do and say?”  I am going to bet on the fact that there is no correct answer to that question.  Every situation is different.

And now… a week or so after Father’s Day…going into July…summer in full swing,  LC has transitioned into high school without missing a beat.  Cal is ready for second grade. I am not sure second grade is ready for him.  B is looking into colleges and O has taken in stride the fact that her best friends are not going to be with her for Junior high.  All this seems normal and exactly what would have happened if their dad were here or not.  I know he would be proud of them.  They are amazing kids. 

My first thought is…wow…this is so long.  Thank you for staying with me to this point.  Second thought…this is so much information that I should be good for at least a few more weeks, a month, before I blog again. 

And finally, I have found that some people really, for some reason, like to have a shout out.  So, here goes the shout outs…for those who have been waiting for it and for those who are taken totally by surprise …

Lisa S. – Thank you for giving me the motivation to continue to write the next post
Sue V.H. – For your bravery and love – you are amazing!
Terry T. and Nancy  – for not judging, knowing life gets busy, and for keeping in touch!
Lunch Bunch – my lunch half hour/hour is just not the same without you.
Tami/Bern/Kari/Terri/Bern – original peeps – “nuff said.
Mai – I miss you!

I am thankful for the countless people in my life who have kept me and my family in their prayers.   Hope and Faith.  That is all you need.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I am thinking/hoping what I am going through is normal.

What it is like looking in on your kids without a dad.

Most days there is something that happens that I think “Wow, I really need to write something and post it on my blog.”  Reality sets in, days, weeks, go by, and before I know it I am receiving emails asking…Hello?? Where are you?? When are you going to post again??  So, I sort through the last couple of weeks and try to pick out the most significant things I can think of.  The basic premises of this blog was following Tami’s suggestion to tell my story.  Once again, I don’t really know that I have a story to tell.  Getting from point A to point B, but more of just writing about stories is what I hope to accomplish.  Tonight’s entry is a story. 

I find so much of my mental time (the time when I think about the kids, how they are feeling, are they happy?  Are they doing OK?  Will what I am doing now make them love me or hate me when I am older?)  I have a vision of all my children looking forward to either coming to my home with all their children or me going to their home with all their children on every holiday.  (side note…I am assuming all my kids will marry orphans so the only option is Mom Campbell on holidays.)  Seriously though, my children’s happiness is my main concern in most everything I do. 

If there is one thing, one project that I love about 6th grade it is the project “About Me” that the kids need to do this time every year.  When Brennen and Logan did it, I found it amazing.  I didn’t help either kid with the project.  I wanted to see what they came up with and what stuck out most in their minds from the last seven years of their life and schooling at St. John Bosco.  After reading Olivia’s story I was moved beyond words.  I thought..wow…something I am saying, something I am doing, is getting through.  Her story was the first I read without a dad in her life.  Things change for a kid without a dad.  As the surviving parent you hope that all you do can fill the holes of what is obviously missing in their life.  The frustrating part is that you never know for sure.  Is what is happening now going on because they are teenagers, pre-teens, normal every day stuff or is there something else going on?  I continuously find myself asking this question.  Is this normal or is this because they are dealing with other outside circumstances that, thankfully, most kids don’t have to deal with?  I don’t know for sure and probably never will.  However, Olivia’s story, from her point of view, made me feel that, even on my saddest days, I am doing something right and she is going to be ok.

Olivia’s story from her point of view…
Be content with what you have, because God has said
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“ The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”
                                                                        Hebrews 13:  5,6

             In this bible passage it is saying don’t be greedy. Be thankful what you have. You could have nothing. God will never leave you or forsake you. He is our helper and we should not be afraid.
            I love my life. I like this passage because I don’t take my life for granted. I think that God gives troubles to those who can handle it. That’s what my mom always said when we have had something bad happen to our lives. I love my life because of what God has given me. I am thankful, thankful for my family, my life and others. I am thankful for the troubles I have had.
            Some important lessons I learned throughout my life so far are always wear a helmet, and don’t put anything or throw anything into an electrical outlet. Also mistakes are what get you through life. This means every mistake I made during my life made my life a lot more interesting.
            My life philosophy is Live Love Laugh. The word live means is that go outside live your life. Be yourself, don’t be who people want you to be. The word love means is love yourself others and God. Don’t love yourself less because you made a mistake love yourself even more. The word laugh means is laugh in your life. I laugh every day.  Laugh at your mistakes.
            Some of my current goals are to get in a cake decorating class so in ten years maybe I could become a cake decorator. I love to decorate things. I love working with food. My brother and I both want to become chefs. I also want to become a dancer. I love to dance. I live to dance.
            The most important thing to me is my family, my life, and others. I think my family and others are what gives me tomorrow to live my life. Don’t put off what you can do today. I always try to get as much done today so tomorrow I can live my life more. My family is important to me because they love me and I love them. My friends are important to me because they make me laugh. They make me smile.
A message I want to leave with those who read my life story is be thankful.

WOW… as her mom, I am proud.  People say that what you put out on social media is forever out there.  I hope that when O finds this years later, when she is out on her own, living her own life, she will stumble across this and know how much I love her and how much her words have inspired me.  From the mouth of babes...may we all be able to pause and reflect on the wonder of life.  What is given, what is taken away, and what is yet to come.  We may not not know the reason why so why not take what is given and let it unfold in front of us.  Embrace Life and all it has to offer.  I love the statement "For this too shall pass."  It not only helps us get through the tough times but also reminds us that....that this too shall pass...cat's in the cradle (thank you Ron) and all those other easier said than done statements.  Live today.  Worry about the laundry tomorrow.

Friday, April 8, 2011


I came across this poem in the April addition of Oprah magazine.  I read it once and then read it again three more times over.  For some reason it really struck me and I couldn’t stop reading the words over and over.  I ripped out the page from the magazine, re-wrote the poem in my journal and re-wrote it in an email so I could share it.  I then stuck the page in my journal so I could keep reading it over and over. 

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
You must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lunch Bunch

Over the past six months, the highlight of my workday has become the time I spend in the teachers lounge with a small group of women I affectionately call my lunch bunch.  For all outside appearances, other than believing in the same God and working at the same place, we don’t seem to have much in common however, over time, we have found common threads that have somehow woven our lives together.  We talk about our families, the struggles, the laughter, the highlights and of course the lowlights.  We commiserate about the challenges of our work place, the gossip we have heard and the truths we have come to learn.  We discuss shoes, fashion, food and diets.  We share stories and keep each other up to date about the goings on of our mutual friends.  Most of all though, we laugh.  We laugh A LOT. 

After my lunch today (in actuality it was last week.  I started writing this post several days ago) I had to leave campus to run a few work errands.  I am so incredibly busy at work these days and I had originally planned to use my lunchtime to run the errands.  As I was driving to my appointment I was thinking back about lunch and was so happy that I decided take time for lunch with friends before continuing on in my day. It is so easy to get caught up in “catching up.”  In our efforts and attempts of getting ourselves organized, we miss out on the good things that are actually the fuel that keep us going.  During the week, it is my “Lunch Bunch” that keeps me going.  In the big picture of life, it is the time I carve out with friends and family that keep me going.  Whether it be a few moments of shared laughter and catching up or hours of gossip and reminiscing, the time spent with friends and family are the very thing that keep me grounded and remind me of what is important in life.   I took some time today to go through my photo library.  I could have spent hours, days, going through the memories.  Long story short…friends and family are the common threads that weave the blanket we take comfort in and snuggle around our bodies when times are hard.  I offer you this…take the blanket and wrap it around yourself when times are good and enjoy, embrace, make time for and cherish the moments that you can spend with friends and family when times are good.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Thank you for understanding.

I knew when I started this blog that I wouldn’t be able to write every day, every week or on any sort of regular basis for that matter.   Since my last post I have thought about a couple different topics to write about.  However the other day (actually it has probably been over a week now) I received an email from a parent at the school I work at that simply said “Thank you for understanding.”  It struck me so profoundly and I knew this had to be my next topic.  I have been thinking about it for several days now.  The email was in response to my reply to their original email about why they responded past the deadline, why they were hoping I would bend the rules for them.  In the original email they stated their case and asked if I would make an exception to the stated rule.  To be honest it was much easier at the time for me to say yes, no worries, than it was to explain why I had to deny their request.  I didn’t understand, I just did what was easiest for me at the time.  Now, looking back, I am happy that they think I took the time to understand their situation.  Not only because it made them feel better but because it made me stop and think about what it really means to “understand.”

With friends and people we love it is much easier to say we understand and accept them for what they do, what they say, who they are.  With strangers I think it is much harder.  However, after getting the email I think about how much nicer our world would be if we could extend the understanding we give to those we know and love to those we don’t know as well.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes if only for a minute.

LC’s 2nd grade teacher, Mr. Ronquillo, said it best when he tried to explained to the kids that you just don’t know where someone else has been in the last five minutes before you encountered them.  Treat everyone with kindness and understanding.  Doing that is so much easier said than done.  It is so easy to understand the big things or the obvious things that we can see…I understand you missed the meeting because your child was sick.  I understand you didn’t volunteer to help because you were committed to supporting another cause.  It is trying to understand the other things that upset our world with no explanation or apparent reason that we all seem to have a hard time with.

With the exception of a few years (or so) in my twenties, I have always been a stay between the lines kind of girl.  I just couldn’t understand why people couldn’t follow the stated rules, policies and procedures.  Now older and wiser (HA!) I have discovered life is not always as it seems.  As much as you may want to “stay between the lines” life doesn’t always work out that way.  Having people along the way that say “I understand” make a world of difference to those that are trying their best to keep it all together. 

So with that said, here is my list of “thank you for understanding” going out to friends and family.  Thank you for understanding when…
  • I didn’t return your email, text or phone call in a timely manner
  • I forgot my kids at your house; you entertained them, helped them with homework and sent them home with a full belly.
  • forgot your birthday
  • forgot to send a thank you note for all the wonderful things you did for me
  • I was cranky and tired and snapped at you for no reason
  • I didn’t listen
  • I didn’t seem to care
  • I drank your best wine and didn’t even stay to help with dishes
  • borrowed something of yours and kept it way too long
  • I was too tired to lend a hand

I am sure the list could go on and on but it is late and I am tired…thank you for understanding.

Oh…and for my friend Sue V….here is your shout out…I love you.  Thank you for being my friend and for understanding when I drop off the face of the earth and don’t see you or talk to you for long stretches of time.  Two things I love most about you are it doesn’t matter how long it has been, we can always talk and share smiles like it was yesterday and when I run into you at school and haven’t seen you in forever we always hug.  I love that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Optimism and Hope

“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes. Optimism is the expectation that things-the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on-will get better. Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God's promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.”  This is taken,in part, from a reflection by Henri Nouwen. If you don’t already subscribe to these daily reflections, check it out at www.henrinouwen.com.  For some reason, 9 times out of 10 the daily reflections sitting in my email inbox have an uncanny coincidence of being relative to the day/time I am reading them.

From this particular reflection my thoughts go directly to the line “…the person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all is in good hands.”  I never really thought about it before but after reading this I thought I am really a person of hope rather than a person who is simply optimistic.  I have always considered myself a basically happy person despite what is going on around me.  However, after living through a life changing diagnoses of autism for my youngest child and more recently the diagnoses of pancreatic cancer and much too soon death of my husband Joe, I truly understand the difference between optimism and hope. 

Hope is what is left when you are trying to figure out what is “wrong” with your child or how you can make the cancer go away.  You know both (child and husband) are beautiful and blessings in your life, but something is not right and you need to fix it.  In your search to help them, you fill your days and nights by reading book after book, you google, you read through every news clip and article that your friends pass on.  You wear out highlighters, go through stacks of post it notes marking and tabbing information that may be important to know.  In the end, you find yourself on your knees asking God for help.  That, to me, is hope.  And let me just say, I didn’t ask for God to make them better, fix what was wrong.  I simply asked to give me strength to face what lies ahead.  And of course being the human that I am I asked for Him to carry me through what I could not walk through alone.
That, to me, is the difference between optimism and hope.  I didn’t realize it at the time.  But, like I said, Henri Nouwen’s reflections seem to hit my inbox at just the time I need to read them.

My son still has autism.  Joe is not here with us.  But having hope, I know all is as it should be. Life is good. I have so many things to be grateful for. My friends are amazing, the ones I have known for years and the ones who have come into my life because of what has happened.  I am especially grateful for the new people in my life who, by their words or actions (and I hope you know who you are without mentioning names) have shown me that, more than ever, life goes on.  Don’t just take the journey, enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This is where I start...

Let me just start by saying this first post is ... Not from the beginning.

Today is the day I decided to start writing. The suggestion came from my dear friend Tami. She said "you have to share your story." I asked where do I start?? and "Why?" Do people really want to hear my story? I am not so sure of that. She said yes. You have to share it. Start by saying ..."Today is the day I am starting." Or, something to that effect. (Sorry Tami, my memory fails me.) But, I got the gist of what you were saying and it has been on my mind ever since. Another friend, Julie, has told me I have the gift of writing. Again, I am not so sure of this. I know I love to write and I find I am a much better communicator through written word than through spoken word but to take the next step, move into todays technology and blog about my life journey, my thoughts, my reflections is a completely new thing. Welcome to the age of technology I guess.

Most mornings I start my day, before getting out of bed, with prayer... "I Thank You for all the blessings You have given me, those I see, know and recognize as well as those blessings I have yet to realize. Shine Your light into me so that I may be light for others." I then, after wishing I could just stay in bed for "five more minutes," get up and head for my laptop. New England time is either two or three hours ahead of Phoenix time, depending on the time of year. Most mornings my dear friend Wendy of 35 plus years is waiting for my morning update. I fill her (bore her) with my days to do list, ask her what I should do about this or that and ask her about her day and going's on. I feel like I am always talking about me and my issues ...what I should do, not do, etc., and she always answers, offers advise and never says ..ok..enough about you and your issues, let's talk about me. Thank you Wendy!

So, with this first blog post I am going to try and follow Tami's advise and write my story. I am going to take what Julie told me about my writing and hope that anyone who reads this or follows this will find/see the same thing that Julie sees in my writing. I am going to continue to take Wendy's daily advise and post what I have learned from her wisdom.

Technology what it is today, I am hoping my children will be able to see a glimpse of their mother. Who and what I am as a person. Someone other than the bill payer, taxi driver, rule enforcer, taker-away of xbox privileges...

My goal is at least a once a week update. Hopefully it will be more than that. If not, well, all you moms and dads know the commitment of those time sucking aliens we call kids!