Leaving a Legacy: My Father’s Story, in His Words

In My Father’s Footsteps is the title I chose for my Dad’s story in my new blog, Leaving a Legacy.

At one point, I thought about having it published through Amazon, but I wasn’t sure how I would edit it.  While he is an awesome writer, the story he wrote while recuperating from a knee replacement in 1994, is hard to follow at times. He switches channels a lot. (Now I know where I get it.)

My dad died in September 2008, the same year Cedar Rapids had the flood that heavily damaged the downtown area.

He died peacefully, sitting in his favorite chair, eyes closed, a book on his lap. Though he had been in and out of the hospital with congestive heart failure, it was a shock to the family.

As I was helping my mom clean out the storage room, I came across a box of papers title, “TPMLIFE.” As I read the first page, I realized I held my dad’s life story, which he started in 1994.

I gathered all I could find and took them upstairs to my mom, who told me my brother had the rest of the pages. I put them in order and began the laborious task of transcribing them onto the computer, with the intent that I would share them someday with the world.

That day has some, and though I know not everyone will share the same enthusiasm that has driven me to work so hard to put them online, hopefully some of his lessons learned will make you laugh, cry, and think a little bit about your own life.

tributecr.com

 

Happiness is a Verb

“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” –  Og Mandino

My fiance and I are currently reading, “The Greatest Miracle in the World,” by Og Mandino. I read aloud to him, and he listens. This way, we both get to enjoy it.

One of the things discussed after today’s reading was how the great writers of the world could very well be messengers of God. Not so much in the biblical sense, but offering hope to those who are searching for happiness and not able to find it.

According to Mandino, these  great writers believe the soul requires cultivation, and whether it is cultivated with blossoms or weeds, that is strictly up to the individual. It is always their choice if they will choose to cultivate the positive side of life, or the negative. Happiness, therefore, has everything to do with your perception of life. If you are a negative person, who only complains and feels sorry for themselves, chances are you will not live a happy life.

I’m sure everyone has their own definition of what it means to them, but for me, happiness is a state of being. It’s how I live my life. Maybe it’s because before I realized I had the power to choose, I lived with a dark cloud hanging over me, and a few times consider seriously about ending my life. I struggled through my day just to wake up and struggle through the next.

I lived this way for years, until something happened to wake me up. My grandson was born, and I realized I wanted to watch him grow up and be a part of his life.

The first thing I did was to quit smoking, which was no easy task. I made it through the first day, then the first week, and before I knew it, I had been smoke-free for a month. I realized I actually accomplished something I set out to do. I honestly think I had forgotten that such a task was even possible.

I began to wonder what else was possible.

I took a good look at my life and saw that my drinking had become a problem. The thought of not being able to drink made me anxious. I had gotten used to using alcohol to “take the edge off,” after getting bad news, or just to celebrate making it through the day.

But I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. Alcohol not only kept me from expressing my true emotions, it actually contributed to my depression, which I struggled with most of my life. I had become a co-dependent people-pleaser. I wanted to be accepted so badly, I became whoever you wanted me to be. Honestly, I didn’t even know who I was anymore.

I took my last drink Aug. 30, 2005.  I started seeing a therapist to help me face my demons. I let go of resentments and forgave myself and others.  I walked through my fears of criticism and failure, and began to like myself again. I did things I only dreamed about, and then I went beyond that, and did things I never dreamed of.

I have cried more than I ever thought possible, perhaps grieving for a life I thought I’d wasted. But once I realized I had the power to become whoever I wanted to be, I decided to make every day count.

Today, I do my best to accept things I can’t control. I have a faith that can move mountains, and a hope that is endless. My life is far from perfect, but I am at peace with who I am.

I am happy, but it’s not because I arrived at a place where all my problems disappeared, but because I continue to do things that bring me happiness. I spend time with those I love. I spend time doing things that nurture my soul; praying, meditating, and exercising. I spend time cooking, crafts, writing, and other projects that make me feel like I am contributing to the world.

It has taken a long time and a lot of hard to get to where I am, but I’d do it all again. I am happy because I choose to be.

 

 

When the Internet Goes Down, Improvise

I created  a new blog at the beginning of the month, just in time for my internet to go down. At first we though it was wide-spread, then found out that no, it was just us, and Mediacom wouldn’t be able to come out until the next Wednesday to fix it.

When Jeff told me the bad news, I started to panic, with the gears working fervently in my head to figure out how I was going to work on my marketing business and website, tributecr.com, as well as my blogs on WordPress.

As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. After all, we managed to live our lives without internet and cable for 40 years before this, right?

We did what most people do in our situation; we improvised. We grabbed out laptops and tablets and headed to the library to conduct our online business, and then rent a few DVDs for later, all along, assuring each other “We’ve got this.”

yesterday we had coffee at a local coffee shop and “borrowed” their internet. We also have a lot of friends who offered to let us use theirs.

I think it’s safe to say, we’re going to be just fine. 🙂

(You can check out my new blog, Leaving a Legacy, by clicking here!)

 

Community Combats Hunger with Little Free Pantries

A few months ago, I read a story about someone who took the initiative to build a Little Free Pantry. The idea came out of the Little Free Library concept: “Take a Book; Leave a Book.”

The Little Free Pantry’s goal is the same, but with non-perishable food items instead of books.

The Little Free Library began with the goal to promote literacy, while the Little Free Pantry was born to not only to help those in need, but to raise awareness about the hungry some people face on a daily basis.

Kid-Powered Kindness is the organization behind the Little Free Pantries in the Hiawatha and Cedar Rapids communities. According to the Hiawatha Library website, it was created in 2014 after 4 year old Annabelle opened her Christmas presents and looked around at all of her new toys.

Alicia Mangin, Youth Services Librarian for the Hiawatha Library, said Annabelle told her Mom, “We have so many toys and there are kids who don’t have enough.” Annabelle reached out to her friends, gathered toys they no longer played with and donated them to kids in need.

“Kid-Powered Kindness is driven by the philosophy that kids can make the world a better place. Annabelle’s belief in this simple but mighty premise led the group to their newest world-bettering project.”

Hiawatha Public Library is just one of four sites that will be home to a Little Free Pantry.  Other sites include Hy-Vees on Edgewood, Collins, and Mt. Vernon roads.

The ribbon-cutting will take place at 2 pm today at the Hiawatha Library, 150 W. Willman Street in Hiawatha.   Lemonade and cookies will provided by Hy-Vee.

tributecr.com

 

Winds of Change

Purpose is life in motion. If you can figure out what your purpose is, the reason you get up in the morning, you pretty much have it made.

After all, being grateful for where you are, along with having peace of mind, are two key components of living a happy life.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out, but I’m still learning. I find myself constantly adjusting to the Winds of Change, whose fickle existence teases me with her bipolar whims.

I am accepting, eventually, because I know there are many things that I can’t control, no matter how hard I try.

There are times when I just want to break down and scream at the top of my lungs, “Why is this happening to me?”

I already know, but there is something about letting everything go, even if it has to be ripped from my hands, that makes me go a little crazy. And it feels good.

Life is constantly in motion. Change is inevitable, and the Winds of Change doesn’t discriminate.  Go with the flow, but go a little crazy sometimes. It is how we keep our sanity.

tributecr.com

 

 

Tommy’s West Restaurant Believes in Traditions

Tommy’s West Restaurant, 393 Edgewood Road NW, has been a mainstay in the Edgewood Plaza in Cedar Rapids for many years, but tucked in the corner of the strip mall, it sometimes gets overlooked.

adam

Chef Adam Mykris

But it shouldn’t. Tommy’s employees not only believes in good dining traditions, the amazing kitchen staff dish up home-cooking style cuisine that is comparable only to Mom’s.

Tommy’s dishes include Broasted Chicken, Meatloaf, and Chicken-Fried Steak, as well as Tenderloins, Philly Cheese Steak and Hot Beef sandwiches. They also offer a variety of traditional breakfast items and homemade pie.

And even though the folks at Tommy’s provide their customers with the best food and service possible, they are stepping up their game even more. There is a new chef at Tommy’s, who not only loves to create new dishes, he also believes in the value of traditions.

Adam Mykris started at Tommy’s earlier this year. He is the mastermind behind the restaurant’s current special, Summer Salads, which he created uniquely with Tommy’s customers in mind; a fresh twist to healthier eating.

The Spring Salad is made with fresh spinach, candied walnuts, fresh strawberries, and dried cranberries, with Chef Adam’s special poppy-seed dressing.

The Teriyaki Chicken Salad starts with shredded lettuce and is topped with a chicken breast marinated in teriyaki sauce. It also includes mandarin oranges and almond slivers, and is topped with Chef Adam’s Ginger Dressing.

The Fruit Nut and Cheese bowl is a variety of fruits, feta cheese, and candied walnuts with a raspberry vinaigrette.

The Creamy BLT Salad is an old favorite with a new twist; a Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato, without the bread. It is also topped with cheddar cheese and croutons.

The Greek Salad begins with fresh spinach, Kalamate olives, feta cheese, and croutons, and tossed with Caesar dressing. You can add a grilled chicken breast for an even better flavor.

The salads are available for a limited time, so come in soon and experience one for yourself!

About the Chef

Chef Adam grew up in the Marion area and graduated from Linn-Mar High School in 1999.

“I’ve been interested in cooking most of my life,” he said. “I started helping my mother when I was little. As I grew older she let me help a little more, making pasta, cutting vegetables, things like that. I just really enjoyed it.”

After graduation, Adam said he took some time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life and realized his passion was with cooking.  He looked into the program at Kirkwood and knew that’s what he wanted to do.

Chef Adam worked at the Doubletree Hotel for two years before coming to Tommy’s. He started as a line cook, and was promoted a few months later as a sous chef, or assistant to the head chef. He has also held positions at Granite City and New Pioneer Co-op.

Besides creating the Summer Salads, Chef Adam recently introduced a homemade strawberry lemonade pie, which is made with a lemon meringue base and fresh strawberries.

“Tart and sweet; the best of both worlds.”

Chef Adam is also beginning plans for a fall menu, which will feature a few new dishes.

“Most people like to try new things, while others like things the way they are. We want to make sure everyone is happy, so if you have a favorite, we would love to hear from you!”

In his spare time, Chef Adam enjoys spending time at home creating new dishes and experimenting with the recipes he already knows.

“I can take an ordinary recipe, add a few new ingredients, and make them even better than before.

“It’s what I love to do.”

 

Insight

Mom and Dad, 1989

It’s been a tough few months. My mother woke up one day and said her back hurt terribly. We were hoping it would get better, but instead it got progressively worse.  

The next day when she couldn’t get out of bed, I had no choice but to call an ambulance. It turned out that she had five stress fractures in her spine, a result of osteoporosis and sitting all the time.

She spent a week in the hospital and was moved to a nearby skilled nursing facility, where she got the care she needed, but she still complained of intense pain. They took another x-ray and found that she had fractured her hip somewhere between the hospital and care center. Probably because her bones are so brittle, but I think, too, that the aides didn’t realize how fragile she is.

They sent her home a few weeks later because she really had nowhere else to go. Her case worker helped as much as she could, but the family had to decide the best option. So here we are, playing the waiting game, literally. She’s been put on the waiting list for three different care facilities. I didn’t realize there were so many older people, but I suppose it’s because people are living longer.

I always told my mom that I would stay with her until I couldn’t take care of anymore, and I’m afraid we’re there. She can’t do a lot for herself and I’m sure she will be much better off, getting the care she needs, in a care center.

It’s horrible watching your parents get old; not being able to do the things they used to, depressed because they can’t remember the things they did.  And to experience that close-up and personal, well, it’s quite an awakening. I’ve had to adjust my attitude more than a few times. My patience has been tested to the limit, and it’s all I can do to keep it all together.

But it’s not just the taking-care-of-her part, it’s all the emotions that come with it. The family unit is being tested, and with so many different personalities, everyone wanting to be heard and in control, it’s sometimes hard to tolerate. And I’m right in the middle of it all.

Some days I just want to run away.  But I won’t. I know God has put me here to take care of my mom. The things I am learning about myself and my mom are astounding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I get to spend quality time with one of the most amazing people I know.

Our relationship has changed over the years. There was a time when I was angry with her and resentful, but that has long-since been resolved. I know it’s because of the time I have spent with her. I’ve gotten to know her not as my mom, but as a person, and I have seen a side of her most people never will.

I didn’t get a chance to tell my dad how much he meant to me before he died, but I can tell my mom. Or at least show her; I do that by being here for her.

We all think we have time – time to tell people how we feel, heal broken relationships, and do all the things we want to – until we don’t anymore. I’m just grateful I have the insight to realize that.

 

 

 

 

Visit my website at tributecr.com