Mindset

I was raised, like many of you, when my grandparents came from a very poor time (The Great Depression). But hard work and changing times finally paid off. The money began to add up because they were raised to live frugally and make due with what they had. When they had a little money, they saved it for a rainy day. They wanted nothing more that for their own children to have it better than they did. Many of them did. They became our parents. And then Generation X kind of became a hot mess. Well not all of us. There are a few of us who have worked hard, lived beneath our means, and want nothing more than for our children to be more successful than us. When we got married we bought a house with a $6000.00 down payment we borrowed from Dave’s folks. We paid it back in a timely manner. We were anxious for a home. We wanted a dog to call our own. Our first house was a little, bitty house with one bathroom on a quiet street. My mother was very upset about it at first. Her best friend’s daughter was building a new house. We didn’t even investigate if we could build a house. I sat down with out little payment book and quickly realized that our $48,000 house was going to cost us $115,000 after paying back a 30 year loan. We immediately started making extra house payments. We could afford to do it because our payment was way below what they actually “said we could afford”.  A few years later, we sold for a profit and moved up a little. We sold again when the market was in our favor to make a nice profit and buy our “family” home. Why don’t you build a house, Mari?  “Because Mother, I don’t want a house payment.” At any rate, we stayed here, updated it as we could afford it and made it our home. We didn’t demand and we certainly didn’t expect the biggest, best and newest. We were raised to save for that rainy day, and as most of you know, that day came. Yesterday my friend asked me sarcastically, Tell me how that kid, working part time jobs, can afford that car?”  The simple truth is that he can’t. If you watch one episode of Suzi Orman, you know he absolutely can not “afford” that car. When I was fresh out of college, I went car shopping. I found the car I wanted. It was red. It was new. It was loaded. Little did I know, my dad had already found my car. The car that I could really afford. We had a little chat. I agreed. Within 6 months, I had paid that car off. It was the same car I had picked out, but fewer bells and whistles and it was used. I loved that car. I started saving my money. When Dave and I borrowed that money from his parents, we actually had the money. It just made me nervous to take out that much money from our savings. I already had the mindset of needing it for an emergency. Somehow we need to turn our thinking around. We have too much stuff. We buy frivolously. Banks let us borrow too much. Our cars are 2010’s. Dave’s is pitiful. I keep saying that he will get to trade next. He could walk into any dealership and get any car that he wants, but he won’t…

Voice

I usually write as a response to something that has happened or was said. Not too long ago, I wrote The Forgotten Ones. It created a lot of interest, and great things have happened in a very short time. I cannot believe the people who have handed me money, no questions asked. I am just a voice. Beth and Staci work daily with these kids, and without them, I would have just written a blog. Thank you!!!!!! Thank you for trusting me and Staci and Beth. Thank you Brenda, Angi, Tanner, and Laken for quickly stepping up as well. Thank you, Angi for saying, “let’s stop talking about this and do something”. We did. But without our caring, trusting friends, neighbors and community (and beyond), we would have nothing. I appreciate the ones who inquire about our kids! Someday I will write more about them. There are rules, regulations, and roadblocks sometimes. Trust me, someone is doing the leg work. Before we ask for money or goods, we have exhausted other avenues. When I came on board, Beth had already done the legwork for the kids’ apartment. Why Maple Ridge? Well, first of all, Kara! She is the manager. She is THERE! She cares about her community. She makes them tow the line. It is peaceful, lovely and safe. These kids are living in the nicest place they have ever lived. They have lovely neighbors. I have personally met 2 of them. They are women a little older than me. If the kids needed them, they would be there. They welcomed them with open arms. This is not some dump where they use space heaters and have to argue with the landlord over and over again to spray for roaches, bedbugs and fleas. This is a HOME. A 3 bedroom home where there is a closet just for the washing machine and dryer. They pay $400.00 a month. They work closely with Beth to budget. When they saw their electric bill was higher than expected, they applied for second jobs. We hope to help more kids. We can do this with your help, support, love and prayers. Thank YOU for trusting us and believing in us. And thank you for giving me a voice…

Best Christmas

Here is what I learned from my son being critically ill. I felt the kindness and love of many people, some complete strangers. If nothing else, we felt their prayers. You don’t have to give a fancy gift or a big check to be kind, generous or caring. Sometimes just a hug, prayer, kind words or a smile is enough. When Jake was in Intensive Care, I was afraid to leave his room. It was 2 months before I knew where the cafeteria was. They sent up protein shakes with his meal tray, and I survived on them. One day a lady from the hospital stopped by to visit. I didn’t know her, but she was checking in on us. She had coffee, a muffin and fruit for me. I was scared to death, alone, needed a shower, but at that moment, I felt so appreciative and surprised by her gesture. She continued to check in. For 2 years she visited us. Jake finally told her, when she asked, that he’d like some Dr. Pepper. She brought a case. Jake received gifts from complete strangers. They were the families of Rose students. I was overwhelmed by the love and support of our community, friends, family and strangers. Recently I wrote a blog about The Forgotten Ones. We have formed a group, and in a very short period of time, we have made a difference. I’m not surprised by the generosity of people. I’m amazed at the people who trust in us and trust us to do good things with their donations. I am thankful for Staci and Beth, the two women who work every day with the kids we are working to help. I trust them. I am thrilled to be able to be a voice for them, and I am especially thankful for the trust people have given our group. We are making a difference. People have beds to sleep upon, couches to relax upon, clothing and shoes. Maybe, for once, they feel like they’ve been wrapped in a big hug, like somebody gives a damn. People get into situations they can’t control. It’s easy to sit back and criticize. Until we’ve walked in their shoes, we’ll never fully understand. But for those of you, who want to help, to ease a little of the burden- thank you so much! If you have nothing to give, give your prayers. They are felt too. This is probably going to be the best Christmas of my life…

Kind

It takes so little effort to be kind. I witnessed a father arguing with his son over the name of the local hardware store. It didn’t matter. We all knew what he meant. The father just had to be right. The kid wilted, afraid to say anything else. I gave him a smile, I knew exactly where you meant. Thanks, kiddo… He gave me a smile back. I love to smile. It comes naturally; maybe for some it takes a true effort. I’ve never understood the mentality of getting my way by being a bully or stomping on someone just because I could. Being a teacher, I could have taken two paths. One way is to encourage, compliment and nurture. Or I could belittle, criticize, and make it impossible to succeed. I had the power to do either. I chose kindness. I’ve been the new person at a job several times in my life. It doesn’t take long to figure out who the kind co-workers are. I gravitate towards them and thank them for their kindness. I find myself saying thank you or I’m sorry a lot. The quickest way to win an argument is to diffuse it. When someone is ridiculous, do you have the power to say I’m sorry?  It will shut them down pretty quickly. I have learned not to judge people by their looks. I’m as kind to one person as I am to the next. I guess teaching in a classroom full of diversity helped me overcome being judgmental. You can quickly assess the group and make judgments, but being forced to spend nine months together, it always surprised me who ended up being my favorite kids. I would show my sister pictures of the students. See this kid? Funny as heck. This kid? My favorite. This kid? Cute, but a total jerk… It takes so little effort to be kind. My experiences shopping, dining, traveling, working, etc.are much more pleasant because I choose for them to be that way. I engage the waitstaff. I ask their opinion. I treat them kindly. I cant remember the last time I had an unpleasant dining experience. Oh yes, I took my son for his first hamburger at a local restaurant after his stem cell transplant. Jake wanted a latte, which I thought was strange. Our waiter didn’t know how to make it, so the other waitress shouted the directions across the restaurant. Jake tried a sip and immediately asked me to taste it. It was bad. Our waiter never came back, and I didn’t want to embarrass him. So when I went to pay our ticket, I chose not to pay the $3.55 for the latte. I know this isn’t your fault, and I don’t want to embarrass our waiter, but the latte was undrinkable so I don’t want to pay for it. I had caught her off guard. She knew she didn’t have the authority to take it off the bill. She asked the waitress who had yelled the directions. She turned to me. “What was wrong with it?  I don’t think it was made correctly. “What was wrong with it?” she demanded again. I don’t know. It was bitter. Do you want to taste it? That shut her up. “Tell him,” as she pointed to the owner. Of course our waiter had witnessed it. “I told you I didn’t know how to make it,” as he and the waitress continued to fuss. I watched the hostess crumble as the owner barked at her to take it off the bill. I apologized to her again, but what I had witnessed was ridiculous. I hoped someone figured out how to make a latte after that, but I doubt they cared. I expected to be treated better at a restaurant I had frequented many times. I decided to take a break from that restaurant. When I finally returned with my friend, the waitress wouldn’t acknowledge me, but she was overly nice to my friend. Had the tables been turned, I would have fixed a latte for her, on the house, and delivered it with a smile on my face. To me, kindness comes naturally, but I guess others have to really make an effort…

Mysterious ways…

The Lord works in mysterious ways. No one knows this better than my husband. Dave is a good man. He is honest, hard working, patient, kind, wise… He’s never said a terse word to me in my life. Once when he was frustrated, he said “Marianne” in a way that I could tell I had frustrated him. He chooses not to make matters worse by arguing with me. If it was that important, he’d speak up, but the little things simply don’t matter. Our home is peaceful. Dave went to Chicago this weekend. I stayed home so I could see Molly and take her to the airport in the opposite direction. My last blog opened a lot of hearts, and in one day, we managed to furnish an apartment for 3 homeless siblings. I had promised a spare bed from my parents’ house. When I got over and looked at it, sentimental feelings overwhelmed me, and I decided I would give the kids the stuff in my spare bedroom instead. My dad and I decided we’d move it later when my nephews were here on Thanksgiving. I make decisions like these, always have, without discussing them with Dave. He never seems to mind what I do. The movers came to my house right as Molly and I left for an overnight stay in St. Louis. This morning, Dave and I headed home about the same time. He arrived first. While in Chicago, he and our friend went to a communal confession at a big Catholic church in downtown Chicago. He was given 7 choices for penance. He came home and called me. The Lord works in mysterious ways, Marianne. I started giggling. One of my penance choices was to give to the poor. I came home, and my bed was gone! Dave usually sleeps in the spare bedroom since we both snore ridiculously. I thought,  “God  must really think I need to think about my sins”. Do you have a plan, or is this a permanent penance? I was giggling pretty hard by this point, imagining what he must have thought when he discovered it gone. I thought I could get it taken care of before he noticed. He reminded me of the time, years ago, when I went into confession before him. I had thrown him under the bus to the priest for missing church. The joke ever since then has been to never, ever, follow me into the confessional.  It kind of hit me then, at what point did I think it was ok just to take a man’s bed and not tell him?  I do have my reasons. A few years ago, I bought identical mattresses for all the beds. Molly has always complained that she doesn’t like hers. My mom’s mattress seemed perfectly good, and I wondered if Molly might like it better. My plan was to exchanged Molly’s into Dave’s room, and give her my mom’s. In my head it made perfect sense, but I can only imagine and laugh picturing Dave when he arrived home…

Forgotten…

We as a community, just like many other communities across the nation, have proven over and over how generous, caring and compassionate we can be. This is the time of the year when many organizations and groups will come together and discuss helping those in need as the holidays approach. I’ve been out of the loop the past few years as we have spent pretty much every holiday in the hospital. I’m ready to jump back in, but I need some assistance. I made sure a little girl last year got her wish for Christmas morning. She dreamed of a Barbie Townhouse, and I was able to make it happen right before Jake was hospitalized. She is the daughter of a single, working mom. A mom who makes about 10.00/hour. A mom who was lucky enough to secure housing at Maple Ridge, but a mom who still has to make rent and car payments. A mom who gave up (lost) benefits because she chose to work. A mom who will no longer get a $9,000.00 check from the government in January because she chose to work. She wants to set a good example for her child; she wants to be a productive member of society. It would be so much easier, and she would get more benefits if she would just choose to not work. These are the ladies you see working in fast food places, grocery stores, drug stores. Maybe you’ve been rude or snarly to one of them. Maybe you’ve never even noticed them. They are the forgotten ones. Are they on the list to get a Thanksgiving dinner delivered to their door? Do people remember them when they buy Christmas presents? I imagine that Kara, the manager at Maple Ridge, could give us the names of single moms who could use some assistance and not just at the holidays. The other group that will get lost in the shuffle are the homeless teenagers. Yes, we have teenagers sleeping on different couches several nights a week. Mom moved on. Mom has a new boyfriend, new babies, and a new life with some guy you don’t want near the teenaged daughter anyway. Yeah, there’s no room for you at our house.  Me and my new old man have gone back to the same old habits. You’re my dependent until your older, so I’ll happily take that government check I earned from having you. Yeah, it’s my check. I earned that check. You wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for me. Hell, I cant even send you to the gas station to buy my cigarettes any more. You think that’s funny? Get the hell out of here. No one wants you, if I see your ugly face one more minute… Not only is there a need for a permanent, safe bed for these forgotten kids, but they have needs. Girls have monthly needs. They all have daily hygiene needs. What about a decent pair of shoes? Walmart gets a lot of holiday business from groups buying for underpriviledged kids. We have to cut the tags off because all your gifts were being returned after Christmas. Maybe a teenager would just like a pair of Vans or Nike’s for a change. Maybe for once they’d be able to fit in among their peers. I find stuff in my kids’ closets all the time that have never or barely been worn. There is a local gal named Beth who could probably give us names and ideas for these forgotten ones….

Other peoples’ problems

This morning I woke up with a Golden retriever laying across my chest, and Dave unloading a problem from work on me. I’m that person. I get to carry the burden of what’s troubling him. Who else is he going to talk to? I don’t want it- not today. Not this week. I can’t handle it. Temporarily though I’ve allowed it to eat away at me all morning. I want to be able to fix it for him. I really want to go out on my back patio and scream and yell and cry. Jake was mad at me this morning. He yelled at me and refused to say good bye as he left for his new job. I had talked too much. How do you feel? Why are you coughing? You look so handsome! Can I take your picture? He was already irritated just by me existing, but asking to take a picture was too much. He looked so handsome in his khakis and royal polo with his name tag “Jacob”. I have been analyzing and worrying about every cough, every bite of food, every minute he’s up or sleeping. Use lots of hand sanitizer. There’s all kinds of weird viruses being passed around. Is it a mistake to let him get a part time job? I recently went back to work, and its been a good thing around here. It gives Jake a little respite from me (apparently asking if you want something to eat is hovering). It keeps my mind occupied as well. People seem to be asking a lot this week how Jake is. Ok, I think. He seems to be ok. I’ve been putting on my happy face and not telling the whole truth. I can’t face it. Hopefully it’s not bad. I have to wait though. I have to wait until Monday until his next blood test. His hemoglobin has dropped. It could be one of 3 things. It could be a normal dip that seems to show up when the body’s own red blood cells finally die off. Then it’s just the red blood cells of the donor. It could be because he just went off the anti-rejection medications. We are supposed to watch for signs of host vs. graft disease. There have been signs all along. They are visible around his eyes. The fragile skin on his eyelids cracks and peels. It’s a good thing. It is a sign the Molly’s cells are there, and they have engrafted and are working. But the past week, we were watching for new signs. The third (horribly scary) reason for the hemoglobin to drop is relapse. I’ve avoided saying it for a week, but I haven’t avoided thinking about it. It was about a year ago that his hemoglobin was really low. “I don’t know how he is conscious,” low Dr. S. had said. This is the first time Dr. N. has said anything scary to me. Before, he just kept his mouth shut- kept it to himself- then when the results were ok, he’d tell me later what he’d been worried about. I don’t want to think about relapse, and I certainly don’t want to worry about the petty problems of other people. I want next week to be here, be over with, and be good again…

PS Today I need to focus my thoughts and prayers on Ryley. She’s a senior in high school who has been battling Ewing’s sarcoma. After weeks of chemo, the doctors are operating today to hopefully remove the tumor.

Halloween

As a kid, I loved Halloween. My mom painstakingly crafted our outfits, not because we were poor, but because she thought store bought outfits were tacky. We won many contests. She didn’t sew, and we didn’t have Walmart, but she put together some really cool costumes. The kind we were proud to wear to school in the Halloween parade. Me being crafty myself and able to sew, you would have thought I would follow in my mom’s tradition. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I had three good years of Halloween with my kids. Oh, I tried- trust me. Our house was decorated from top to bottom. Dave did the annual pumpkin carving. I was willing to create any costume within reason. When Molly was one, she had a little Denver Bronco cheerleader outfit. Jake had a jersey and helmet. Perfect. They were adorable and matching. When she was a baby, Jake was a cow. She was a pumpkin, and Dave and I were farmers. We have the perfect neighborhood to trick-or-treat in, a couple of subdivisions with lots of neighbors we know. It was like a fairy tale. Until Molly could voice her opinion. I quickly came to realize the kids didn’t want my homemade costumes when there was a perfectly good Walmart nearby. Anything they wanted, I hated to have to spend money on because it was so horrible. Halloween quickly became a holiday I dreaded. I was never so glad when junior high rolled around, and we were done. When Molly was in kindergarten, she balked at everything. Her classmates were all Disney princesses, but that was a definite no. She probably wanted to be the guy from “Scream”. It got so bad, that when the class party day rolled around, we had nothing. She ended up wearing Old Navy Halloween long johns, a black wig and a witches’ hat. I thought it was cute and acceptable. She still talks about the embarrassment she felt. You brought that on yourself, sister. She doesn’t agree. Jake had been sick for six weeks, and was barely able to go to school and also had nothing. I constructed a mummy costume out of material I already had and long johns. He was too tired to protest. When I put black around his eyes, I was reminded of how sick he’d been. Molly’s 5th grade and last year found us at a stand still again. Her best friend’s mom had bought her daughter a candy corn witch outfit online.  Yes, online was the place to buy costumes, but somehow I’d been out of the loop. They were either sold out or too expensive, but I found myself at the fabric store buying all the materials I would need to craft a candy corn witch outfit. It went together brilliantly. It was adorable and constructed 10x’s better than the store bought one. The girls were adorable. My friend later confessed that she felt embarrassed by how good my outfit was. Molly later confessed how much she hated that outfit. Why couldn’t I have just bought one like Jessica’s? I’m glad she didn’t tell me that until much later. I couldn’t have taken it. I was in my full glory that Halloween. It had been many years since I had outfitted my kids in something I felt proud of…

Tattoo

Just as I finished college, tattoos came into vogue. My mom said a hundred times, I’m so glad you graduated college before the kids started getting their Greek letters tattooed on their ankles. I know you would have gotten one.”  She was probably right. Maybe at 49, I would regret getting my Greek sorority letters on my ankle. I never had any desire to have a tattoo. In many cases, I don’t think they are  attractive. I started to warm up to them when one of my best friends got a cross tattooed on her wrist in honor of her childhood best friend who had been battered and eventually murdered by her husband. I was a little shocked by it. It was fairly big, I thought, for her wrist. As time went on, she got more tattoos. I started to warm up to them, especially the meaning behind each one. One night she explained to someone the significance of each tattoo, only to have the person question if it was appropriate for a teacher to have a tattoo. Sometimes places of employment do have policies on tattoos. They require you cover them with a bandage or clothing. We debated it one night in the pharmacy. The two pharmacists had tattoos. The male remarked that his goal was to have a “sleeve”. He figured he’d always wear a dress shirt to work so it wouldn’t be a problem. None of his were visible. When the female pharmacist wore her hair up, you could see one her tattoos. It certainly wasn’t offensive. One of the girls got a tattoo of an infinity circle with her 2 kids’ names near her heart. I thought it was pretty. Tattoos are so popular, it would be difficult to hire only people without visible tattoos. Who is going to make the decision of whether they are offensive or not? I thought when my mom died, I would get a tattoo. I wanted to get her signature on my foot. I saved a card she’d signed, “Lots of XO, XO’s, Mom”, so it could be copied. I have not gotten it yet. This summer, when Molly turned 18, she declared she was getting a tattoo. I wanted to go with her. She took her best friend instead. She decided on “& sometimes, all you need is one” with the date 4/27/16. I approved. It was a favorite quote of hers- “6 billion people in the world. 6 billion souls. And sometimes, all you need is one.”  The quote has special meaning to me because all Jake needed was one person to save his life and how remarkable that it was his only sister! 4/27/16 was the day she donated her stem cells, the day he received her stem cells- the day she gave him new life. I went to visit Molly at college the other day, and she suggested we have a mother/daughter tattoo date. I didn’t disagree. My biggest concern, as I discussed it with the tattoo artist with cotton candy blue hair, was what my 74 year old father would say. When I showed him, he rolled his eyes and sighed, “That’s a prison tat!” Don’t you think it’s pretty? I love it.  He finally declared, “How can I argue against something with that kind of meaning behind it?” He’s found a few times to tease me though, and Dave declared that he never dreamed he’d be with a tatted woman. I’m already thinking about my next one. Yes, even though it felt like she was cutting me with a piece of jagged glass, they are addicting. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired or too old to tell the meaning behind my tattoo…

Blessings in disguise

When Jake and I were driving home after he withdrew from college, he was lamenting, why couldn’t this have happened when I was a freshman in high school? I didn’t disagree. The few documented cases like Jake had leukemia in their 30’s. I was so thankful he wasn’t older- with a family, kids, career, a mortgage… That was a blessing in disguise. It took me a minute, but then I had an answer. “Jake, the NK deficiency wasn’t even diagnosed until 2012. If you would have had leukemia earlier, they would have gotten you into remission, and we would have been happy for awhile, but the leukemia would have returned. It probably would have been a different, harder to treat kind. They wouldn’t have known that your only chance for a cure was a bone marrow transplant. Today I was thinking about the long holiday back when he was being treated for the leukemia. Everything took longer. We didn’t know Molly was his perfect match until the day before the bone marrow registries. I worried that people would think the Be The Match drives were a waste of time. They were careful to let us know that the registry was in honor of Jake, but it was likely they wouldn’t produce his match. I hoped the participants understood. The morning we received our wonderful news, my friend stopped by. She too was in the middle of a mysterious illness that had plagued her since elementary school. It would be months, but she would eventually be diagnosed with Lupus. When my dad also showed up, I asked him if he minded me riding home with my friend so I could shower. We left, and she wanted to take me out to lunch. We settled in at the bar of her favorite Italian restaurant with a waiter she seemed to know. We visited. We were almost giddy. She told the waiter a little of my story. He seemed surprised that I seemed so happy. “Yes! There’s a lot more to the story. Do you want the short version, or shall I go back to the first grade?” We were the only ones there so I had plenty of time.  I looked at my friend. “We have an announcement we are going to make at the Be the Match drive tomorrow night. We just found out Molly is his perfect match!”  I looked back at the waiter. “So you see, leukemia was a ‘Blessing in Disguise’. Jake has a chance to be cured of everything. He will have a whole new immune system!” We all agreed it was cause for celebration. At that time, I was oblivious to all the things that could have gone wrong. I’m thankful I did not know. I only had hope. There were many times that people expressed sympathy for Jake’s cancer, and many times I explained how the leukemia was a Blessing in Disguise…