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.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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.