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

 

 

Nothing New About Resolutions

Like many others, I made a resolution in honor of the new year. I also wrote an article on how to keep those resolutions.  But then a thought occurred to me; even though resolutions are made with the intention of learning how to live a better life, no one seems to talk about what they learned in the process. And while 2016 wasn’t what I would consider a triumphant year, I managed to learn quite a few things. Here are a few of them:

  1. I have limits. I get so caught up in the “doing” that I sometimes neglect the quality. A few times last year, I knew I was being stretched to the limit (with three jobs and caring for my mother), but I just kept going.  I became moody and short-tempered and my work began to suffer. I found myself exhausted and constantly apologizing for not doing what I said I would. After it was pointed out to me that my work was suffering, I realized something needed to change. I learned to balance my work with taking care of myself. Otherwise, no one wins.
  2. I am only human. This is something I have tried for years to accept, but for some reason, haven’t been able to (insert laughter here). Consciously, I know I’m not perfect; but there is a little voice inside of me that says, “You can do anything you want to if you try hard enough.” Believe me. I have tried. And there are some things I can’t change, no matter what I do. I will always be clumsy and sensitive and a bit of a weirdo. I have learned to accept myself the way I am.
  3. I think I have known this for a while, but last year occurred to me that I don’t like to follow the crowd. It’s not just the fads, fashions, or the latest cool idea; I really don’t want to be like everyone else. This is strange for me because at one time, I had a real fear of not being accepted. Maybe it’s part of getting older, or maybe I’m just tired of the bullshit. But I am honestly past the whole “afraid of being judged” phase in my life. I learned that if I want to change the world, I can’t be afraid to do something different.

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.” -Steve Jobs

A Shoebox Full of Holiday Surprises

I saw a post the other day about an international program that sends shoeboxes of gifts to little children across the globe.lily2

Operation Christmas Child, started by Samaritan’s Purse, “a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.”

The person who posted the information on Facebook is a good friend of mine through a little more research, found out the collection would take place next week, Nov. 14-21.

So, wanting to teach my grandchildren a lesson about helping others, I picked them up and we set out to buy a few toys for a little girl, who lived on the other side of the world.

I expected a barrage of questions such as, “Why do we have to buy presents for someone we don’t know?” or “Why can’t I have a present?”

Instead they asked questions about where it might go and who might receive it, and concentrated on picking out gifts that a little girl might like. We couldn’t send chocolate, or perfume, or nail polish (all the things Lily wanted), but she decided on a Barbie doll, a puzzle, some gum, colored pencils, and a notebook.

“She might like to have this, too,” she told me, holding up a little white bear.

“Do you really think she’d like something like that?” I asked, teasing her.

She laughed and handed me the little bear. “Yes, I think it’s something she could sleep with, so she doesn’t have bad dreams.”

We added a few notecards to the box, as well as Lily’s name and address, in case the little girl wanted to write her.

It will be interesting to see where the shoebox ends up. I just hope it brings as much joy to the little girl who receives it, as it did to the little girl who put it together.

 

 

 

It all sounds good in theory

I spent the past two weeks preparing for a Halloween party for my grandchildren. It was going to be our first “real” holiday party, and I wanted it to be special.  I threw parties for my kids all the time when they were little. But this time was different. This time I had the internet to help, and I turned to Facebook and Pinterest for ideas about how I could make this the best Halloween party ever.table2

I printed off recipes and photos of all the cool things I wanted to do. I bought all the necessary ingredients and props, and I worked diligently to make sure it went off without a hitch.

But as we wanna-be perfectionists already know, it all sounds good in theory.

I imagined that everything would go as planned; the food would be perfect, the decorations, the music, and the activities would run themselves. But with 6 energetic children ranging from 5-11 years old running around, each going their own way, it was chaos.spider-cookies

After years of trying to throw the perfect party, I should have know better. And even with my party planner in hand, there were still a few mishaps. (For those who do party planning for a living, I salute you!)

The cake balls turned to mush, because I added too much frosting (and you can’t “Undo” something like that.) The spiders on the cookies didn’t get their legs piped on, because I ran out of time. And the “Pop the Pumpkin” game was scrubbed because I couldn’t get it stuck to the wall.(It was difficult to make,anyway.) And I forgot all about “Stick the Spider on the Web” game until after the party was over.popcorn

The banana ghosts and apple mouths were okay, but didn’t turn out like the picture. I scurried to get the mummy hotdogs out of the oven and get the meat eyeballs in before the guests started to arrive. Lack of time became an issue, and I found myself getting stressed out.

Next year I will take an entire day to get ready, instead of just a few hours.

So why was this party important to me? For the same reason I had a lot of parties for my kids when they were little. Kids aren’t little for very long, but these memories will last a lifetime.

I still hear from my adult children, “Remember when …?” And the smiles and laughter that follow tells me I did a good thing.

And when Lori laughed and asked me if I had ever seen the pictures of “Pinterest Fails,” I smiled, because I knew it was true. You have to be able to laugh at yourself. Otherwise, it’s no fun.

The ruined cake pops and the other mishaps didn’t matter. No one ever knew I had forgotten a few things and there was plenty to eat and everyone had a lot of fun.

I created a good memory for my grandchildren. They know I’m not perfect but love me anyway. I can’t ask for much more than that.

“Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”

300

Earlier this year, I celebrated the milestone of being a blogger for 6 years. But that is small compared to reaching 300 posts. It is for me, anyway.

Yes, this is my 300 post, but that doesn’t count the 20 or so drafts I should have deleted, but decided not to, for whatever reason. Many are the result of rants I went on, after which, coming to my senses, decided against posting. I don’t need to spread all that negativity. I’m a lover, not a fighter.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t stand up for what I believe in. I’m just not as naive as I once was.

I have learned a lot since publishing my first post, “Note to Self,” in 2010.  For example, I can’t control how people feel about me. I used to bend over backwards for people who didn’t respect me, trying to gain their favor. When it didn’t work, I thought there was something wrong with me.

It took me a while to figure out that that’s just who they are. It’s nothing personal; they treat everyone that way. And with all the different personalities in the world trying to work and live together, people are not going to agree on everything, no matter what you do.

Oh yes … you can do everything to accommodate them, but that only reinforces what you already think about yourself; that you are less than they are, and that’s just not true.

We all start out the same way. Our personalities, our environments, our family, friends, and experiences shape us into who we become. And if our personalities are such that we look outside ourselves for approval, well, we’re kind of screwed. Because no one tells us this. We may go years trying to please others to gain acceptance, when in reality,  there’s just no pleasing them.

Ricky Nelson knew this when he sang it in his 1972 hit, ‘Garden Party.’ “You see, you can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”

You can’t make everyone happy. You just can’t. You will be disappointed if you try. All you can do is be true to yourself and live your life the way that makes you feel good about yourself.

We have to accept who we are, all the good parts and bad parts, and either change the things we don’t like about ourselves, or learn to manage them.

And if you make a mistake, learn from it, even if it takes you a few times. It’s ok. It’s called being human.

Another thing I have learned, is that we are capable of so much more than we know. Once we wake up to this fact, once we open our minds and challenge our beliefs and look at what is possible, nothing is impossible! As Audrey Hepburn once said, “Nothing is impossible; even the word itself says, ‘I’m Possible!'”

In the book, “Conversation with Gods,” by Neale Donald Walsch, the Almighty Him/Herself states that life is energy in motion. I take this to mean that life is all about creating. And we can create our lives to be whatever we want it to be.

It really is that simple.

Tried & True: Snickers Pie

Most of us like pie. But if you’re like me, you try to stay healthy, too.  When my daughter asked me to taste a pie she made a few weeks ago, I hesitated because I’m watching my weight.

“Come on,” she said. “One bite won’t hurt.”

I took a small bite. It was so good I took another. And then another.

“It’s called Snickers Pie, but it tastes more like peanut butter,” she said and watch me take another bite.

It was so creamy and delicious, I couldn’t put the fork down. When I realized what I was doing, I stopped myself.

“It’s good, isn’t it?” she said with a laugh.

I looked at her with an “I can’t believe I just did that” look.

“It’s too good,” I told her jokingly, as I wiped my mouth with a napkin.

“I know! It’s addictive!” she said, still laughing at me.

The pie tasted just like the Peanut Butter Pie Bishop’s Buffet used to sell (where I worked in high school), minus the Snickers candy bars. I have been looking for a good peanut butter pie for years but could never find one I really liked.  Until now.

My youngest daughter rarely bakes, and when she does, it’s for a good cause. “What’s the occasion?” I asked her.

“Someone told me this was really easy to make so I decided to try it. It’s so easy, even I can make it,” she said with a chuckle.

One thing’s for sure; she’s definitely not as bad as she thinks.

The sugar content is quite high, as can be expected, but it’s not as bad as I first thought. I entered the ingredients on Fitnesspal.com, and found out that for a delectable slice of heaven, it’s only 530 calories, about as much as a small chocolate shake. The pie is not something I would eat every day, but it is great for special events; it’s quick, easy, and awesome.

And it’s definitely worth the extra 1/2 hour on the treadmill.

Snicker Pie

Ingredients:
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 to 2 containers Cool Whip
3 Snickers candy bars
1 prepared graham cracker pie crust

Directions:
Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and peanut butter until smooth. Stir in 1 tub of Cool Whip until well combined.

Cut Snickers bars into small pieces. Add chopped candy into PB mixture and stir (Save some for topping). Spoon mixture into pie crust. Top with Cool Whip and sprinkle with chopped candy bar.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

nutrition-value
Courtesy of Fitness Pal

 

Building Lasting Self-Esteem

I stumbled across a TED video the other day on Facebook which gave suggestions about a problem many of us have; low self-esteem. (TED.com is a website dedicated to helping people with the every day problems life throws at us. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment, and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics.)

This particular post got my attention, because I have a problem with low self-esteem. It’s improving as time goes on (now that I know how to manage it) but I think I will always lack confidence in certain areas of my life. It’s just who I am.

I definitely need to be reminded from time to time to take better care of myself physically, as well as emotionally. The author, Guy Winch (who is also a phsycologist), has some great suggestions:

“1. Use positive affirmations correctly
Positive affirmations such as “I am going to be a great success!” are extremely popular, but they have one critical problem — they tend to make people with low self-worth feel worse about themselves. Why? Because when our self-esteem is low, such declarations are simply too contrary to our existing beliefs. Ironically, positive affirmations do work for one subset of people — those whose self-esteem is already high. For affirmations to work when your self-esteem is lagging, tweak them to make them more believable. For example, change “I’m going to be a great success!” to “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”

2. Identify your competencies and develop them
Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us. If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.

3. Learn to accept compliments
One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments — even though that is when we most need them. So, set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable (and they will). The best way to avoid the reflexive reactions of batting away compliments is to prepare simple set responses and train yourself to use them automatically whenever you get good feedback (e.g., “Thank you” or “How kind of you to say”). In time, the impulse to deny or rebuff compliments will fade — which will also be a nice indication your self-esteem is getting stronger.

4. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it even further by being self-critical. Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute self-criticism (which is almost always entirely useless, even if it feels compelling) with self-compassion. Specifically, whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation (we tend to be much more compassionate to friends than we are to ourselves) and direct those comments to yourself. Doing so will avoid damaging your self-esteem further with critical thoughts, and help build it up instead.

5. Affirm your real worth
The following exercise has been demonstrated to help revive your self-esteem after it sustained a blow: Make a list of qualities you have that are meaningful in the specific context. For example, if you got rejected by your date, list qualities that make you a good relationship prospect (for example, being loyal or emotionally available); if you failed to get a work promotion, list qualities that make you a valuable employee (you have a strong work ethic or are responsible). Then choose one of the items on your list and write a brief essay (one to two paragraphs) about why the quality is valuable and likely to be appreciated by other people in the future. Do the exercise every day for a week or whenever you need a self-esteem boost.”

I think the one that would help me most to remember is to focus on those things I do well (#5) and focus on that. It will be difficult, because I enjoy doing a lot of different things. The things that come to mind are writing, cooking, and crafting.  

Honestly, I should pay attention with # 4, too, because I’m not always the nicest person to myself. I judge, I criticize, and I’m not very patient when I make mistakes. The negative self-talk can be extremely damaging to one’s self-esteem. If you’re like me, we tell ourselves how stupid we are for making a mistakes, hoping it will help not make the same mistake again.

And though it might prevent us from making the same mistake, it also reinforces the fact we think we are stupid, and that’s something that’s just not true. We are all works in progress and we need to be kinder to ourselves.

I also loved the author’s reminder: “Whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself, ‘what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation’.”

Most of us would never treat our friends so harshly.

For more TED Lessons, visit the website or find them on Facebook.

Crafters Are Happier People

If you think about it, crafting is just another form of creating, and creating gives us purpose.

Why is purpose important? Because it’s one of the keys to being happy, the state of being that all people strive to get to.

With that being said, how can crafters not be happier people?

I have observed, and experienced, this phenomena myself. A group of women, of all ages, who didn’t even know each other, got together recently to learn how to do a certain project. In just a few minutes, we were talking and laughing like old friends.

I have seen it in my own grandchildren, who are rambunctious and full of life, as most children are. But as soon as we sit down to do a craft, they are so focused on what they are doing, they don’t have time to complain or fight, and we all have a great time. Plus, they get to take their creation home for their parents to ooh and aah over, which helps build self-esteem.

I have heard teachers say crafting time is their favorite time. Not only does it calm the students down, but it gives them a chance away from the usual structure of the school day and lets them think freely. The students are more relaxed and they can let the creative juices flow much easier.

My youngest daughter has in a funk lately. The stress of life is taking a toll on her. Kids, work, a demanding husband, and the burden of running the house and paying bills is overwhelming. I’ve been there. I know what that feels like; you’re stuck and can’t really do anything about it. Or can you?

When you’re stuck, you have to get “un-stuck,” and one way to do that is do something you have never done.

So I asked her, “Do you have a hobby? Is there something new you’d like to try?”

She gave me a funny look, shook her head, and laughed. “Nothing. I don’t have time.”

“You have to make time,” I told her. “This is the part where you turn off your phone, tell your kids you need some alone time, and lock your bedroom door.  It’s important to take care of yourself, which includes doing something for you, something you enjoy doing.”

The more we talked, I discovered she saw a craft project she wanted to try involving string art.

“But I don’t know how.”

I grabbed my computer and googled string art. We looked up different varieties and got some ideas for a project of our own. We bought some nails, grabbed a hammer, a piece of finished wood, took out my embroidery string, and went to work.

We haven’t quite finished the project and I want to wait to unveil it, but something happened to Lori as we were working on the project. Her mood changed from one of depression to light-hearted. She was genuinely excited about what we were doing. And she smiled, a lot.

It was nice to see my happy-go-lucky little girl again.

I know achieving happiness is not as easy as that. It’s a complicated. We have happy moments, but most people can’t maintain that peaceful and content feeling very long. Life is stressful and we tend to get lost in the day-to-day struggles.

True happiness is a state of mind. Not only does it involve having a purpose; you have to decide that you aren’t going to let anyone or anything disturb your peace. You have to let go of those things you have no control over. And you have to be grateful for where you are at any given moment, something that requires more than a few hours of crafting.

But it’s a great start.

tributecr.com

 

 

Paper Mache Harder Than It Looks

According to Wikipedia, paper mache, or papier-mâché, (French for chewed paper), is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.

Paper Mache
Paper Mache

I learned how to paper mache when I was little, around 5 years old, when my oldest sister showed us how to make puppets. She took a balloon, strips of newspaper, and a flour and water mixtures.

She saturated the strips and wrapped them around a balloon she had blown up. SHe let them dry and reapplied the paper mache until the blob was thick enough to stand alone when she deflated the balloon.IMG_9190

She then went to work cutting out fabric and sewing the two sides together, while us kids painted the faces on the paper mache. She added yarn for hair and viola! We had puppets!

I don’t remember if we ever had a puppet show, but as a 5-year-old, I thought the idea was pretty awesome.

I brought the idea up to my 10-year-old granddaughter, Isabelle, who agreed to help me. First, we asked the rest of the grandkids what character they would like to be. The answers ranged from a ninja, to a princess, to a baby elephant (a challenge in itself).

Then we made a list of things we’d need. We bought bits of fabric and googly eyes from Create Exchange and went to work on the paper mache. We found step-by-step instructions  to make paper mache online. sewing2

The process was slow and the paper strips might have been too long and wide, and maybe the balloons were too big (lesson learned), but we got the first layer on. We let it dry for a few days and applied another layer.

While the heads dried, we found a pattern online for the bodies and cut out the fabric. I showed Isabelle how to pin the two pieces together so they would be easier to sew. (She ended up putting a lot of pins in, so it took her longer to prepare the fabric than actually sew it.) She finished one set and decided that was enough for her.

The day came when it was finally time to decorate the puppets. I glued the heads to the fabric bodies with a glue gun, and used Elmer’s glue for the yarn/hair, smearing it around the head exactly where we wanted it.

After the hair dried a little, I let the kids put on the eyes and the mouths and whatever else they wanted, using Elmer’s glue. The elephant took a little more time, with the pink felt floppy ears Natalie wanted. Lennox’s ninja required a headband and mask, and Gianna’s princess needed a tiara.

After we were finished, we had to think of a story we could tell with our puppets; short and sweet,  and easy to remember. All the puppets had a part, even the baby elephant, who carried the ninja to the tower where the princess was held captive by the evil “other-mother” (according to Natalie).puppets

Everyone had a lot of fun, and though it was a lot of work, the memories we made will last a lifetime.

tributecr.com

 

Sensitivity is a Gift

I came across a Facebook post that contained a link to a study that was done in 2011 that links social anxiety to empathetic individuals.

And because I am always intrigued with articles that try to explain my unique character, I read on:

“Being an Empath means you literally feel what other people are experiencing emotionally. You can feel it in your body, your mood, sensations and in your thoughts. You can also feel it consciously and on a subtle level without realizing it.”

I know this for a fact I can literally feel the tension and negative vibes when I talk to people who are upset or excited or anxious, even on the phone, and I can’t wait to get away from them. I want to stay and listen, and if they need me to listen or talk, I will, for a while anyway. But the entire time, I am looking for an out, trying to wrap things up, or ask them to call me later when they calm down. (I leave out that part so I don’t offend them.)

Which brings up the whole co-dependent thing. Consciously I know I am not responsible for people’s feelings, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings if I can help it. Sometimes I can’t and I just have to accept it. But I know I am more considerate than many, and I take that into consideration. (It’s exhausting just listening to myself as I write this.)

It’s not just people; social activities, even the ones I want to be at, or so draining I have to leave after a short amount of time.  I can tolerate social gatherings, but I’m not comfortable. I would much rather be home, in my room, on my computer. I’m a journalist, and kind of expected to experience the world I am writing about.

It was easier when I was drinking because a few drinks would take the edge off and I could relax. But since I quit almost 11 years ago, I don’t have that “crutch,” and it’s difficult to relax at social gatherings, even with my own family.

Most people understand, but some are offended when I leave a party early. It’s just to hard for some people to understand.

Imagine a wild deer in a locked pen. It realizes it’s trapped and frantically looks for a way out. It paces back and forth until finally the gate opens and the deer bolts out. That’s kind of how I feel in many social situations. A little extreme, I know, but I have learned to manage it. I no longer run for the nearest exit. I edge my way towards it …

I have always been extremely sensitive and because I  care so much about what other people think, I viewed my sensitivity as a curse. It wasn’t that long ago that I heard, “Don’t let people walk all over you,” “You need a thicker skin,” or “Get a backbone.”

I thought there was something really wrong with me. When I was angry, I’d cry, because I was more hurt than angry. I couldn’t understand how people could be so hurtful and hateful. I became confused about love, because how could people say they love you, and then hurt you?

But once I understood how my sensitivity is a gift, not a curse, I accepted it, and now I’m glad I’m ultra-sensitive.

I feel things deeply and I connect with others on a new level, which is important to me. I actually look for that connection, that common bond, which helps me relate to that person on a deeper level. By empathizing with them, they will know they are not alone with whatever they are dealing with.

Some people say, “You’re too sensitive,” like it’s a bad thing. But maybe the people who see it as a bad thing are actually jealous because they don’t have the same ability.

And for the record; being sensitive is not the same as being emotional.  According to psychologist, Nancy Schreinre, “being sensitive implies empathy towards others outside of yourself. Being emotional doesn’t necessarily imply empathy and is more about the person being emotional than about the person needing empathy.”

Crying at sappy movies is one thing, but I cry at the horrible things going on throughout the entire world. I cry because I feel bad that others don’t have a place to live, or not enough to eat, or are abused, neglected, or bullied.

I cry for all human kind. That’s who I am. And though I am learning to stand up for myself and getting good at creating boundaries, I will always feel empathy, and I will always be socially anxious.

Psychologist, Nathaniel Branden said, “The first step in changing anything is being aware it needs changing.”

I agree with the statement, but there are some things you can’t change no matter how hard you try. Besides, in this case, would I even want to? I would much rather be sensitive and have to manage the anxiety that comes along with it, than be inconsiderate and uncaring toward others.

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