Wednesday, March 30, 2011

a blast from the past

This month I celebrated my 50 something-ish birthday. I was thinking about how much things must have changed in all these years. Which got me to wondering. What were things really like back in the year I was born? So I did a little poking around and found out some interesting facts about the year of my birth. 


One thing I love about having a blog it always has me thinking about things to write about and I am constantly learning new things. My Aunt Gen sent me an e-card that had tons of info about the year 1959 and this idea was born! I learned a few things so read on and maybe you will too!

United States Population: 177,829,62
Yearly family salary 6,600.00
Minimum wage in U.S. was $1.00 per hour
Gallon of gas was .25
Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and Richard M. Nixon was Vice President in 1959
Alaska becomes the 49th state
Hawaii becomes the 50th state
Cost of a first class postage stamp was 4 cents

My parents, aunts/uncles and grandparents were probably stuck to the tube watching t.v. shows like:

Rawhide
Hawaiian Eye
Dragnet ends after 8 years 
Bonanza ( in color)
The Twilight Zone
          
In the sports world in 1959
         
Dodgers. vs. Chicago White Sox (4-2)
Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants. (31-16)
Canadians vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (4-1)
NCAA: California vs. West Virginia (71-70)

My parents went to the movies a lot when they were younger. It was not uncommon to go to the movies and spend the day there. In the year I was born this is what was going on in Hollywood.
And the Academy Award went to:

Best Motion Picture: Ben- Hur
Best Actor: Charlton Heston – Ben- Hur
Best Actress: Simone Singnoret- Suddenly, Last Summer
Best Supporting Actor: Hugh Griffith- Ben- Hur 
Best Supporting Actress :Shelly Winters-The Diary of Anne Frank

Here are some other interesting bits of info that I found.

The Frisbee came to be…
Fidel Castro forced the revolution that brought him into power
Playboy debuts with Marilyn Monroe in the centerfold
The Barbie doll became a girls best friend

So can you tell me; did anything interesting happen on the year you were born?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

a cinderella story

I live in south central Virginia. So it is not uncommon for my husband and I to go to Richmond frequently. All of our kids ended up migrating there after they moved out. It's a cute little city with a nice theater, frequent concerts, some good restaurants and plenty of festivals and museums. Not to big and not to small I would venture a guess that the population is about 200,000 or so. The people are generally friendly, shopping is decent and malls abound, we have a canal walk, a beautiful river and remember if you ever visit and ask for tea it is always sweet!

You would have to be pretty much living under a rock at least around here not to have basketball fever. People around here are going crazy since my sons alma mater the VCU's basketball team were invited to the NCAA tournament. It seems the whole city is in on the fun and enjoying the city's Cinderella Story. There are kids beeping their horns, t-shirts with the college logo are the usual garb now, downtown buildings are lit up with the college name, banners hanging from buildings and houses everywhere. 

Not many people thought VCU deserved to be in the NCAA tournament to begin with- there are always naysayers. They advanced first after beating some of the best college teams in the nation, USC and Georgetown Purdue and Florida State . Then into the elite eight where they beat Kansas. Now this team of kids-living a life's dream have earned their ticket to the final four. Saturday they play Butler for a chance to be in the national championship- wouldn't that be something? 

I saw a interview with the president of the University last night on the local news. The college had had millions of hits on the college web site- they have also had a quarter of a million in donations in the past three days.It's a nice campus down town and my sons received a good education there. It's good to see the University and the City of Richmond both have their moment in the spotlight.

I am in awe of this amazing group of young men and their coach Shaka Smart who have worked, prayed and played their hearts out and won the hearts of their city, their state- all of us who love a Cinderella Story.


Monday, March 28, 2011

-from my kitchen- well isn't that special

Is there something special that you just love about your kitchen? A favorite appliance, your wallpaper or curtains? I don't know about you but I spend a good amount of my day in my kitchen. It's my domain, I know every little inch of it. The fridge, stove and sink all remain in their original places I just added some touches- a cutting board counter-top, accessories and lighting added-all in the right places. 

When we bought our house 25 years ago it came with a little bonus, well maybe it's not so little..... it's a wood stove from Ireland. I have upon occasion cooked on it- even baked in it and I have most certainly heated my house with it.This thing turns out awesome home made pizza by the way. 

One Christmas for six long days without electricity due to and ice storm we used the stove to heat our home.  We hosted our neighbors who had small children, no heat and no other place to go. Add to the mix our large family and what we had was one of the most memorable Christmas's in my memory. We actually baked a large turkey dinner with all the trimmings using that stove.

For many days candles and lamps gleaming as if we were from another time, bedrooms overflowing with blow-up beds- sleeping bags everyone staying warm and cozy. Amongst the board games and card games, memories were made as the adults watched the kids play with their Christmas gifts- no electronics, no TV. Even with all the inconveniences-and there were many- it may have been on of my favorite Christmas's ever.

As a former New Yorker I have come to understand the "country life"and the ways of the south. I used to view the stove as a bit of a beast in the middle of my house. I've come to respect and appreciate it- it's grown on me, it's just a little something that makes my kitchen special.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

-from my garden- weather delays

Boy the weather's not cooperating with my plans to plant potatoes or tomatoes so far this season. And the guy is taking forever to fix our tiller; it's been two weeks and still no word on how that repair is going, oh brother! 

I have a flat  of tomatoes/lettuce in the house by the front door ready to plant, but it's to cold to plant them. The weather here in the south was beautiful last week, wow was I energized. I went into a bit of a cleaning jag with the sunny warm weather, waiting for the above mentioned tiller.

the house tomatoes- the blue spruce in the front yard

But alas the cool rainy weather has decided to rear its ugly head for the last time this season-hopefully. Last night before turning in the weather man uttered the word... snow...as a possibility for this morning! I was under the impression it was spring, I guess mother nature is confused, we're getting an inch today.... So much for my garden....  Oh the horror! 



Friday, March 25, 2011

poor customer service or just bad manners?

hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil,
the qualities of  a poor customer service person
What I want to know is when does poor customer service step over the line into bad manners or are they the same? Are people just getting by by doing the absolutely the minimum and not one iota more or is it just my impression? Am I the only person who still takes pride in the way I treat people  and in the things I do?

I went for my routine mammogram last month, prior to my appointment they called to get my insurance information. I'm sure they would have ruptured something if I were uninsured. My insurance is what they call a split contract, I have one card which represents both my blue cross/blue shield and my other carrier that covers doctors/ drugs- not rocket science right? I explained this to the woman (the insurance rep) prior to my appointment so that  the hospital and the attending Radiologist had the information on record with the hospital for filing purposes. She called me back after verifying that my insurance was current/active and my appointment was confirmed.

Wouldn't you know it, today I received a bill from the Radiologist. The hospital had failed to record the information I provided them about the second half of my insurance- the doctor/drug part. This bothers me to no end, no service-nothing beyond self service -them making sure they get their payment at the hospital period. So I had to call the Radiologist Group and explain the ins and outs of my insurance so that the can file the claim and get paid. I went back and looked at the print out of information they gave me at check in. You guessed right, the insurance information was only partially complete- the hospital part. Be honest people tell your patients you don't provide the doctors with insurance information for crying out loud.

Then as if that wasn't enough, the last time I saw my gynecologist at the latter part of last year they didn't have her 2011 calendar available so they told me they'd e- mail me with an April appointment. Two weeks ago when I hadn't received any such e-mail I called to make the appointment myself. They were already scheduling her appointments for June I'm guessing I was forgotten/overlooked somehow. O.K these things happen I understand that.

They were kind enough to give me the number of her personal assistant and I left a message with her explaining the situation. So I'm polite I waited for the call back thinking I'm an established patient even if they can't accommodate me with an appointment they'll surly call me and tell me so right? Today, two weeks later  and still no return phone call from the assistant, nice right?  I called back to the office to schedule an appointment thinking June's not sounding so bad after all and frankly now I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. When I spoke to the girl in the office she told me the first available wasn't until July, two weeks ago it was June. So much for waiting for that call back that never came!!

Why is it that the best doctors have the crappiest staffs?

So what do you think? Unprofessional or just bad manners? Or both?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

-post card- my journey-my road

I will say this I have received more loving compassion, sympathy and empathy then any one person can ever hope or imagine receiving since the death of the children.

But to truly understand what it is like to travel the road of a mother after the death of a child or in my case two then you must travel it yourself. I will also say that I would not wish this fate on my worst enemy if I actually had one. It is my hope however when I write about my experience I give you a glimpse and a better understanding of what it was like for me. Who knows maybe some day it may be helpful to you- heaven forbid- if you have a friend or a loved who is experiences the death of a child, or maybe your just curious, that's OK too!

I was looking through some pictures and this picture jumped out at me. Most people refer to grief and bereavement as a journey. If I could illustrate to you what the road were to look like- feel like, it would be this picture. The death of the kids put me at a crossroads in my life, it left me never knowing where I was going where my life would take me next.


My road had many pot holes however, it was filled with emotions that at times I found difficult to control and I was plagued with self doubt. I was easily overwhelmed by things that were once natural for me to do and I had great difficulty making even the simplest of decisions.

I stopped dreaming for a long time until my dreams turned rather vivid; they became a window to my subconscious. They believe it or not revealed many things to me which helped me along the road.

I have questions that will never be answered- that is a hard fact to accept. I had difficulty with the changes that the kids death forced upon my life and had problems adjusting to the changes. It is frightening, was depressing and could sometimes be isolating.


Every stage of this experience  was so profound so overwhelming when I was in it until the next stage came hit and then I'd do it all over again. I was hard to imagine that things would ever get better that the barrage of emotions that was ripping me apart internally would ever subside; but it did. Letting go of different issues that arose felt like losing my kids over and over again. It sounds a bit crazy but its true, it goes without saying that trauma made me feel pretty crazy most of the time. 

I have an acquittance who is a Minister whenever I saw him, I would worry aloud about this or that but mostly about that I had't been attending church for a period of time- had questions about my faith. He would say to me "this is your journey- on this road you are never alone don't forget that". He of course was referring to not only to the blessings of my amazing support system of family and friends but to remind me that God was by my side.

I know I will travel this road forever but not alone, until the day that I am reunited with my children. My road is lighter now not at all as dark as it used to be. The pot holes are mostly filled with more positive things like joy and hope and forgiveness and finally I am no longer afraid.... finally.


‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you,
 for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, 
surely I will uphold you with My righteous right
 hand.’ Isaiah 41:10

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

-from my kitchen- holy junk drawers batman

Starting the other day I have made this little deal with myself to take on these little projects in the house to get it in order before the southern heat sets in and we have to turn the central air on. For some reason when the summer heat comes mama doesn't get much done in the house. I happily dedicate my summer to the garden getting some time at the beach and spending some time with my family.

Anyway so far the den, my laundry/pantry room and the food shelves have been cleaned off and re-arranged.  The area going out to the garage where we keep the chest freezer is all spiffy and is ready for the new refrigerator that we ordered from Lowe's the other day. 

before
This brings me to my next project, do you have junk drawers in your kitchen? Believe it or not I have three. To put it lightly they are a mess and filled to the brim with all sorts of....how should I put this politely....crap, the pictures in this blog post show the before and after of just one of the three. True story- three weeks ago we had a birthday party for my mom, I had to use a votive candle on her cake, in all this mess I couldn't find the b'day candles and I know I had them in there somewhere.

So I lined up the three drawers, positioned the trash within arms reach and went to work on trying to make some headway on the madness.
I was a bit shocked to find a few things like.......

    1. the birthday candles- sorry mom!
    2. 11 decks of  playing cards
    3. 4 rolls of scotch tape and 3 rolls of packing tape- all partially used
after
    4. 4 nice wine corks and 5 bottle pour thingees  I didn't even know I had
    5. 4 cat flea treatments- the ones you put behind their necks-(those things are expensive!)
    6. 2 packs of gum that are a million years old.
    7. 4 ash trays- who smokes anymore anyway?
    8. an I-Pod nano
    9. enough 22 caliber ammo to make Dirty Harry dirtier.

It took a while but I got all three drawers done. I'm not really sure how long my efforts will last but at least for now I feel like I've accomplished something. 

  

Monday, March 21, 2011

-from my kitchen- a little italian

When I was a child my parents were always in the kitchen cooking up one thing or another. I don't remember ever hanging out watching everything they did or getting lessons from them. I often wonder if there's such a thing as a natural cook if there is then I'm one. I just like to cook by taste, sight, smell and even sound. I don't do anything fancy- at least I don't think so,  but I guess it helps that I enjoy doing it. I guess it doesn't hurt that like to entertain as well.

My younger brother is the same way, I should probably give him a shout out since we have upon occasion had a bit of sibling rivalry about a certain methods of cooking a particular thing. You can read about it here if you click on meatball wars  It's a post I did on my vacation blog we're on hawaiian time about our family vacation at our older brothers in Hawaii when we cooked an Italian night dinner together.

In the past few weeks I have gotten two separate requests from different friends who were doing cook books and wanted to include a few recipes of things that I cook regularly in them. If a friend wants a recipe, you know what I have to do? I have to cook whatever they want from scratch so that I can measure every ingredient and write it down for them.

Today I put together the actual recipe for Italian sauce and meatballs/ hot sausage. We're gonna eat it later with spaghetti and a salad. The left overs I usually freeze and it will go to my son who lives up in the city, and he'll do Italian night when the guys come over to watch sports. I would be remiss if I did not mention my son is an alumni of VCU and the basketball team from that University is going to the big dance....GO RAMS!!


Italian Sauce & Meatballs

SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:
2- 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes (hunts) plus ¾ can of water
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves fresh garlic whole
1tbsp. Parsley (dried- fresh if best)
½ tsp. Oregano (dried) if fresh basil is in season use that instead
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar

METHOD:
1.      Put oil in the bottom of a sauté pan ( not aluminum)
2.      Add garlic, be sure not to let it burn.
3.      Then add on can of tomatoes and ¾ can of water and all the spices
4.      Bring to a boil, then add the other can and reduce to a simmer.
5.      Cook for 1 ½ hours uncovered.

MEATBALLS

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup parmesan cheese
2 eggs beaten
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp parsley
2 lbs ground beef (you can use 1/3 part ground pork)
¾ cup plain bread crumbs
 olive oil for cooking


METHOD:

1.   Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl.
2.      Then add the ground meat and blend them both well.
3.      Sprinkle the bread crumbs and mix them until they are full incorporated in the meat.
4.      Form the meatballs- they can be any size.
5.      Heat a frying pan with some oil and fry the meatballs so that they are browned- they do not have to be cooked fully thru. ( you will see pink, so  don’t worry)
6.      Add them to the sauce.
7.      This recipe makes 25 Forbes size meatballs, enjoy! Sauté hot or sweet Italian sausages and add to sauce .
      
     They'll be more recipes coming after this,  if you try this one please let me know what you think. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

- post card- and then the walls fell

St Josephs
Any of you who have ever belonged to a church and go on a regular basis know that the sanctuary is always the heart of a church. This is my church, I love this place and the people who go here are some of the finest people whom I have ever met. The people here are from all walks of life, a diverse mix of cultures, it was a wonderful place for my children to have grown up, to received their sacraments. I actually drive 30 miles to belong to this church.- that's each way!!

 It would make more sense to write about St Joseph- the man after all, this past weekend when we honored the patron Saint of  The Universal Church- fathers. I am however going to write about our parish hall;. Quinn Hall  named fondly after Francis Quinn a former pastor at our church. I'm afraid its not included in this picture, its in a separate building on the other side of the parking area.

It serves  the usual needs of the parish, wedding receptions, christenings, The Knights of Columbus breakfasts, church dinners for Ash Wednesday, receptions after funerals, functions for our school, I can go on and on. There are many memories made in this place, I have many memories of this place. But the four walls of Quinn Hall contain a far greater thing than just a "Catholic place" it is a community place it is the symbol of so much more- it is truly universal. The poor get fed there for lunch weekly, there are holiday dinners as well, food gets sorted for Christmas giving, its doors are open on hot days the cities people go there to be in the air conditioning, we have dinners and sales that fund our church outreach to the poor of our city. Many people are helped in this place.

Tuesday at 2:39 a.m an adjoining building caught fire and not only were several businesses and empty apartments engulfed but Quinn Hall burned down....it was a complete loss,  there were no injuries thank God. Our beloved meeting place is gone, the brick shell was taken down for safety reasons.

Quinn Hall was at one time a grocery store that our parish purchased back in 1981. Donations were made and the necessary renovations  were done to suit our needs; it became a place of great importance for us.The parish  is already hopeful about rebuilding, that is their nature. Like our Patron Saint- Joseph they have a genuine faith that this will work out and they look forward to making new memories when we build our new parish hall.

Friday, March 18, 2011

getting things done

wind chime in maple tree
I love the feeling of getting things done around the house especially this time of year- when I can throw the window open and breathe in the fresh spring air. I feel so alive and invigorated and that translates amongst other things into a bunch of good cleaning days. This is the season when we have a lot of company at our house so I need to get it done when the mood strikes.

Room by room I will tackle with help from my husband when i nag when i ask  so that this house will be in order for who ever shows up on our doorstep this season. My cousins from the Philly & Charlotte area are coming for Easter, a different cousin already e-mailed ahead for a claim on  a bedroom with a queen bed for the 4th of July- it can get busy here but always fun.

Today we did the den- rearranged furniture and the plants into a more open floor plan for the grandkids and my cousins kids to play video games. They'll be plenty of room to entertain with this floor plan and then all we have to do is just move a thing or two and the sofa opens up to a bed. I love this room, it's off the kitchen and it has a ton of windows and lots of light- fans in the ceiling. The other half of this room is dedicated to my husbands desk/computer all his stuff .He gets to have his own space, which he loves- what husband would complain about that?
den
There's still plenty of house left to do and I'm particular, I admit it. We did have a few obstacles that have gotten in the way of our spring preparation. Our extra fridge lovingly know as the "beer fridge" bit the dust so we have to buy a new one- this is crucial for not only beer but extra food when the masses show up for the holidays or just because they feel like visiting. Then because that wasn't enough our grill pooped out too, so we had to get a new one, but it didn't quite end there- does it ever when one owns a home?

young peach tree
I have this mental list of all the things that need to be done outside as well. Our tiller was sent in for repairs so we didn't get our potato garden in yet. We are hoping that's all it is and we don't get bad news that it needs to be replaced on top of everything else. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! After that we need to plant our tomatoes and other vegies but it will need to bet a bit warmer first. There are flower pots to be planted and placed on the decks. Lawn and deck furniture to be pulled out and cleaned and put into place. I think if I wrote a list it would make me crazy. Its just better for it all just to float and rattle around in my brain until I get it all done.

Oh and did I mention we will have to evict our roommates out of the guest rooms  to make way for our cousins or other guests? Meet two of our three little devils, they love to sleep on clean linens.

cheetah & tarzan

Thursday, March 17, 2011

i am embracing my irish american chef today



Oh what would St Patrick's Day be without a good  Irish American meal. Of course my relatives in Ireland probably would  think this was a little strange, but hey we enjoy it. Probably the only thing that really is embraced by the Irish that I'm going to have today is beer. There's no Guinness in the house so we'll have to settle for a Stella which is a Belgian beer- but in a green bottle. So- I put my corned beef, cabbage, potatoes. carrots and onions into the slow cooker and then gathered up my ingredients for my Irish Soda bread- American style.  This is what we ended up with. I hope you all had a Happy St Patty's as well. 



Irish Soda Bread
INGREDIENTS:
4 c sifted flour
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 c sugar
1 c raisins (or cranberries for a nice change)
2 tbsp melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk

1 tbsp caraway seeds
DIRECTIONS:
Mix dry ingredients. Mix butter, eggs and buttermilk. Stir into dry ingredients. Use a 2 qt pan (like a pyrex) because it works the best  since this batter is rather moist. (it may be necessary to add more flour). Don't forget to put the cross on top with a knife..
 Bake at 350 degrees for 1.25 hours.

Corned Beef and Cabbage







INGREDIENTS:
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound baby carrots
3 cups water
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf


2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cider 
vinegar
1/2 tsp pepper
1- 3 pounds of brisket corned beef with spice packet
1 small cabbage cut into wedges
DIRECTIONS:
Place the onion, potatoes and carrots in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Combine water, garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, pepper and contents of spice packet; pour over vegetables. Top with brisket and cabbage. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

-post card- and then the tears came



Holidays and the kids birthdays can be terribly difficult since their deaths.

Surprisingly enough on my birthday this Sunday I found myself struggling a bit,  here's why.

This is one of the few days when I am truly the center of attention, not the attention giver and thats a hard role for me.

We had a nice dinner out, my mom, my husband, my son-in-law and daughter, the boys and my son. I sat and watched all of the people I love gathered around me and I am reminded of all that I have in my life and I am grateful.  At times like this however I can't help but see the empty seats at the table in my mind and feel their absence in my heart.

 Since the accident I tend to get a bit emotional about these things, here is what my sons card said.....


I love you as a Mom
the wonderful woman
who has done more for me 
than any other person in the world.

I love you as my friend,
someone who understands me, 
takes time to listen, 
 and truly cares about
 how I'm doing.

I love what you made me-
a happy child,
a grateful adult,
and someone who will always
look up to you.

Happy Birthday


and then the tears came.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

she was an Irish women

Nana
With St Patrick's Day only a few days away I can't help but think of my grandmother, she was a proud woman. Her name was Mary Fenton, born in County Cork Ireland and one of twelve children.

She immigrated to this country as a young women with three of her brothers. She married my grandfather Henry who was also an immigrant but from Canada. After first living in Lynn, Mass. they then they moved to Brooklyn NY. where they raised five children thee daughters and two sons, my father Henry was their second child.

 And although it always puzzled me why she rarely spoke of Ireland, I know she missed her family there. I remember when she would receive letters from her sister Kit who was only a small child when she left Ireland.  She would carry the letters in her apron and I would watch her with curiosity carefully unfold them and read and re-read them, wiping away a  tear when she thought nobody was watching.

Nana & Daddy
I can close my eyes now as I write this post and see her sitting  in front of her sewing machine making clothes for me and many other family members all who benefited from her sewing talents. She made all her own clothes as well.  She had a closet full of pants suits- remember when they were in style? She never wore another dress after they came into fashion.

Many a day we'd walk up the avenue together hand in hand to Woolworth's and have lunch at the lunch counter. Followed by a trip to church to light candles for those of our family member who had passed. As a child I would kneel at the alter copying everything that she did wanting to be just like her, her faith was so strong, unwavering.

She loved to bake bread in these old black pans that were Popa's, my Grandfather was a baker; I think bread baking reminded her of him and filled the entire house with the most wonderful aroma. But no matter what her day time activity every evening she'd assume her position in her chair in the living room in the house she shared with my parents, my brothers and I and she would  and  knit or crochet and watch the news and her favorite game shows.


Nana- cousins Pat (left) Genevieve (right)
me  Jen in front

I will always remember our talks, our walks and the clothes she made lovingly for me.

I couldn't imagine my life without her, she was a good example and a role model. I will carry her strength with me every day of my life. She was a good and decent person she was an Irish women. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

words matter- hope

Words Matter
     My husband and I sat on a beige love seat in a small office on that first day meeting with that therapist who helped  guide us through our nightmare, we were numb.  Everything as if in slow motion, we recounted what the State Police had told us what had  happened to our children. As we delved further into the details  I recounted what I said that night as I lay shivering in bed I told my husband " this is the worst day of our lives, tomorrow will be better". 

     As our relationship developed my therapist confided in me what he thought about those words, something I didn't even know at the time I possessed. He remembered the words as powerful- to him they conveyed hope.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

recycle yourself

Several months ago my husband came home with shocking news, our friend who is a prominent community leader was in the hospital. He was in such grave condition that they had no other choice but to remove his heart and replace it with a mechanical heart.

I was amazed, horrified then I just cried, for him for his family. For heavens sakes he was in his 50's he was a healthy family man, active, a successful attorney, a soccer coach and then this. How could this possibly be happening to him?

They saved his life with the surgery with the hope that a donor heart would become available. We live fairly close to one of the few hospitals in the country that have doctors who are qualified to implant mechanical hearts; what wonderfully talented doctors and what amazing technology. Word spread thru our small community, phone calls were made, cards sent, prayers were said and then we waited along with him and his family.

Organ donation is a gift don't you think? To save the life of another or to help another with a tissue donation, we hear of it regularly but I'm not quite sure how many of your lives this has touched. My own son received a tissue donation when he had his ACL replaced while a freshman in college by a person who was an organ donor. It doesn't sound  as sexy as a heart or a kidney but his knee is like new eight years later and we are so grateful.

After a considerable wait our friend received the gift of a new heart over the weekend, we were overjoyed to hear the good news. Even better than that is he's doing great, sitting up eating, no complications from the surgery.

We continue to hope for his increased strength and improved health and pray that his body doesn't reject his new heart.  And it is also my hope that the donors family might find peace and comfort after a time that this gift has brought joy to so many by saving his life.

If you aren't a donor, think about it. I am a donor, and so are all my family members ....
 Sign a donor card give the gift of life.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

-post card- a lesson this mother learned


I am a mother of dead children, how exactly does a woman do that; be a parent to children who are no longer alive? I ventured a guess it had a lot to do with what kind of mother I was to my living children.

The timing of accident happened at the point of transition for me. I had two married daughters a married son, grandchildren and a soon to be empty home. My youngest two boys in their early twenties, the one involved in the accident had been in college, living off campus near his college with his brother-in-law and the sister- the one who he died with in the accident. The other son had graduated college was starting a law enforcement career working long hours, hardly ever home- both ready to make the transition themselves to full independence.

What I found out thru a good bit of reflection and yes- therapy was that I had an over exaggerated sense of my own importance in my children's lives, they were adults after all. I didn't need to remind this one of the others birthday or smooth over this or that spat, feel responsible to accommodate get together's "just because" I wanted family togetherness. If the kids were in touch with each other or not that was their own is their business, and they were free to conduct separate relationship free of my involvement or judgement. I was their parent- not the social director-communications director- feeler of all things responsible-my involvement to the extent that it was, was too much.

I could write a list as long as my arm of  those little things I did to accommodate. I am a caretaker by nature the hub of the family- the peacemaker, I think most mothers are. If the people who I care about need me I'm there- that's what I do, but there's another layer to it, why I did it- it fulfilled a need in me.

And that's the rub here of course, when I did all the things I did I told myself it was for them, but under all of it what drove me was this need- this feeling to be involved to stay relevant and to hold on to how it felt to be that mother of children that were actually children. So with that knowledge I transitioned rather painfully I must admit from the mother who was rather enmeshed in her adult children's lives to a concerned mother who was involved but no longer enmeshed.

Even though not the original  purpose for going, the death of my children brought me to the therapy which helped me to grow as a mother.  I gained valuable insight into my relationships with my children. I learned that stepping back, that letting go isn't withholding attention or love but the complete opposite and that lesson applies to my dead children as well as my living ones.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

-post card- protect us from all anxiety

In the hours and days following the accident that killed the kids the phone kept on ringing. There were reports that the accident site was a terrible scene, the coroner was away for a holiday so there would be delays releasing their bodies. The accident details were reported on the national news, reporters were calling the house, Fed- Ex was delivering packets from high priced attorneys promising to "represent" us as if somehow money would compensate us for our loss. I had lost all sense of what was normal as my anxiety grew to levels well beyond what any one person should be able to bear.

I've never really given much thought to why the words  that are below are part of the liturgy but my pastor brought it up this week in his homily since the gospel teaching dealt with Jesus teachings on worrying. Many Catholics, myself included tend to listen to those parts of the Mass that have always been- without ever questioning why.

There is a part in the Catholic Mass after the Lords Prayer and before the Sign of Peace where the Priest does a declaration of praise or a doxology if you will; at each and every Mass he says:

 Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant 
us peace in our day. In your mercy in, keep us free from sin,
 and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful
 hope for coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

It seems in a previous parish my pastor had a parishioner who was a mental health professional who had an issue with part of the prayer ( protect us from all anxiety ) he felt anxiety was necessary even a healthy part of life. I tend to think worry is healthy to a certain degree, anxiety when it reaches levels so great it can't be managed and interferes with your life is just plain unhealthy.

My level of stress and anxiety was off the charts those first days and stayed that way for a long time, this type of stress makes you alert to everything- does something to your brain. The bumps in the night were real to me then, I heard each and every one of them since I hardly ever slept. Its hard to explain the feeling of being intensely afraid but not really knowing what I was afraid of, it is an awful experience. My sense of safety was gone, I was constantly plagued with this feeling that another shoe would drop, that something awful was going to happen to us again. So I waited and waited some more, rarely able to get the rest I needed to function normally.

Once ordinary occurrences like the sight of State Troopers speeding down the Interstate were enough to make my blood run cold until I checked to make sure my children were OK; the vision of their cars lined up in my driveway the morning of the accident seared in my memory forever. A dashboard light on the car had new meaning to me, the slightest threat that anything would place me stranded on the side of the highway, the place my children perished filled me with paralyzing fear.

My life as it was felt horribly wrong to me for a very long time, there was part of me clinging for all I was worth to the past before the accident; as another part of me was at the same time acknowledging  the need to move on, my turmoil was intense.

I think the point I'm trying to make is that prayer takes time, a quiet mind, focus and dedication,  none of which I was capable- due to my anxiety. I would venture to guess that might be why this is included in the Mass. Anxiety can be a barrier to God and it was for me for a time. So if you ever attend a Catholic Mass and wonder if praying to protect a person from anxiety is worthy of your time, take it from me it is.