Adulting, family

Living the Dream

Sometimes when I write about my life being a mess, I include #livingthedream or something similar. I enjoy making light of the hard times, but life isn’t all hard times. Life is full of beautiful moments, adventures, and love.

A couple years back, a friend of mine encouraged me to start keeping track of my kid’s accomplishments (awards, activities, etc.) in a document which could later be used to help them in writing out their college applications. She said that they are often busy and don’t keep track of these things, and then they forget about them when the time comes to list their accomplishments.  It made me start to think that I should do the same for myself. Not for a job resume, but simply as a reminder of the amazing life I have been fortunate enough to live.  I called it my Reverse Bucket List.

I thought I would share it with you in hopes of inspiring you to do the same thing. These are in no particular order.

Things I have done in my life (aka – The Reverse Bucket List)

  • Worked security for Mexican rock star, Yuri (AKA The Mexican Madonna). (Missions trip to Mexico)
  • Helped judge a spear throwing  and gum boot tossing contest among Masai warriors in Kenya. (This was more honorary than real, but I’m okay with this.)
  • Set foot in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans as well as the Caribbean Sea.
  • Snorkeled in the Caribbean. Swam with sharks and sting rays.
  • Sang the National Anthem at a Phillies Game (twice). (HS choir)
  • Marched in the NYC St. Patty’s Day Parade (twice). (HS marching band)
  • Visited prisons in the US, Mexico, and Belize.
  • Won 2nd place at the Stockton State science fair (NJ) and advanced to regionals in PA where I won 3rd  place. (MS-Physics).
  • Taught sex education classes in high schools, drug education in a detention center, and tutored in an adolescent rehab facility.
  • Visited with Mayan Indians in Belize and a Masai village in Kenya.
  • Traveled solo into the city of Amsterdam for a short walk and breakfast downtown.
  • Slept in a tent in the African plains while on safari in Kenya. (resort camping)
  • Was a grave digger! (Mom and Sean’s cremains.)
  • Won writing contest at a writer’s conference (GPCWC 2016)
  • Been to 41 of the 50 US States and 5 other nations.
  • Helped rebuild/repair homes in KY and NJ through ABCNJ-Youth Work Camp.
  • Taught numerous children how to read.
  • Earned a BA and an MA from TSC / TNCJ.
  • Wrote the first draft of a book.
  • I have hiked with llamas in Massachusetts, got a little too close to a bear in the Smokey Mountains, touched snow on the top of the Rocky Mountains, gone caving in West Virginia, saw a lion on safari in Kenya, and been white water rafting in Tennessee.
  • I have raised a family of 4 great kids and been married to the love of my life for over 2 decades.
  • I’ve run in an official 5K race (twice).
  • I have successfully navigated the NYC subway system solo. I have also flown solo internationally, and taken and cab and a train (either alone or with only a child in tow.)5Kmayan temple

Spear throwingwhitewateramsterdamKenya beachlion

wedding

I am looking forward to adding to this list of all I have seen and done. Life is not all adventure, but it is far more than the daily grind. I don’t want to forget what I’ve done for fear of forgetting that there is so much more left to do. This life is good, and I want to savor it.

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Adulting, elder care, family, Gangrene Gables, grief and loss

Harbinger of Doom

 

Me: I just spoke with the lung doctor – I have a prognosis.
Sharon: Guess we all will be chatting later today then?
Me: Want the blunt version or wait for me to call tonight
Sharon: I’m all for blunt.
Me: Eric?
Eric: Whichever is fine. My prognosis is 2-5 hours if she keeps this attitude.
Sharon: Lol
Me: 6 months – year
Eric: Wow. That changes things a bit.
Me: I cried. Now I feel better and feel like we need to make plans. The lung doctor will see her this week and give her a prognosis
Eric: Good that it’ll be coming from him.
Sharon: I agree. This changes everything.
Me: Alright I need to go back to class and be grown up

As a pastor, Mom helped walk quite a few people from this life into the next. She had been there when a mother told her young son that his father had died, she had helped people share with their loved ones that they didn’t have much time left on this side of eternity, and she had cared for countless families in their grief, and had always taken time with them so she could write a eulogy that was extremely personal. Some of those times were sweet and meaningful; occasionally they were not. Mom recounted a tale of a family watching Baywatch while their loved one was lying in the bed next to them in the last hours of life. We joking asked her, “Well what do you want us watching when we tell you that you’re dying.” Mom’s response was Young Frankenstein, her favorite movie. Don’t judge! Mom wasn’t always a pastor. From that day on, long before Mom even got sick, we would joke that we were going to regularly put Young Frankenstein on and then call mom into the room to tell her, “We need to talk.”

In addition to Power of Attorney for all underwear related things, I gained a new title, Harbinger of Doom. I had been the one tasked with the responsibility of gathering my siblings and heading home the night my Dad passed away, although at the time the call came all we knew was that Dad had been in an accident. I spent hours on the phone that Easter weekend calling straight through our phonebook trying to reach friends and family. I was the one that sat down just over a year ago and explained to Mom that while we didn’t have a prognosis for her illness, the more generic prognosis via the internet was 3-5 years with a range of less than a year to 13 years. I was the one that finally forced the doctor’s hand into giving us a prognosis for Mom, so I would be the one to tell Mom what he said.

I called the lung specialist while on lunch break, hoping to catch him. He returned my call after I had returned to class, but fortunately I was assisting another teacher at that moment and was able to step out and take the call. I stood there in the entrance to my school, between the two sets of doors where I would have privacy, cell signal, and protection from the elements. He explained that no one really knows when these things will happen and how quickly or slowly the disease will progress. I told him we weren’t going to hold him to it, but we didn’t know how to plan without some idea. I told him that Mom recalled the other specialist talking about her lungs being a miracle, and being convinced she had at least ten years. I said we needed to be thinking about nursing care, assisted living, etc. and two years or ten years made a big difference. That’s when he said, “Six months to a year.” I thanked him, went to the staff room and cried. Another teacher comforted me as I gave in to the grief that had been growing for over a year since the diagnosis came through. The people I work with have always been incredibly supportive. When I did return to class, the teacher who had been teaching my class at that time asked me if I was okay. All I could do was shake my head no. I sat down and sent him an email explaining. Before he even got the email he had offered to come back during his prep period in an hour and cover my class for me. I declined but with much gratitude. Teaching has always been a comfort to me. I can shut out most of the struggles of my outside life, and it offers me a respite from the trials.

Harbinger of Doom            That evening my siblings and I would gather at the rehab and give Mom the news. It would be hard. It felt a little like role reversal, telling your parent about their life and helping them to navigate this road. How many times had my parents nursed me to health, helped me walk through break ups, or advised me on the best paths to take for my future. Here we were returning that favor to Mom. We were gentle, but blunt. I delivered the basic news and offered to further explain what the doctor has said, which wasn’t much. Mom cried. We cried. We were sorry we hadn’t brought Young Frankenstein.

Eric: Barb, if you are coming tonight, we should meet in the lobby and all go in together, I think.
Me: Almost there
Eric: I am at the intersection outside of the center. I will be there in 30 seconds.
Me: Overachiever. Did you bring Young Frankenstein?
Eric: I forgot.

 

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Adulting, family

The Yes Game or How to Travel with Your Mother

After my father passed away I wanted to ease my mother’s loss by doing some traveling with her, something her and Dad had done together. However, after I got married, I spending extended time with my mom could be frustrating. We had very different ideas of what family travel looked like. I recall one long weekend my mother, my sister, and I traveled to Lancaster County, PA. Upon returning home I told my husband that 48 hours was about the maximum amount of time I could spend with my family in a single hotel room before wanted to bang my head against the wall. And, don’t even get me started on what a cross country camping trip looks like with my mom.
Once I had kids, this got a little more complicated. Mom wasn’t great at saying what she wanted, and I wanted to maintain some semblance of normal parenting for my kids (i.e. 3 large desserts the same night is not okay). This meant we would sometimes be passive aggressive or bicker like an old couple. While we had some fun vacations, including a trip to Disney, I began dreading taking the kids up to Vermont for time with their grandmom.

Vermont 1

Then, Jay made a suggestion. Make a game of it: The Yes game. Whatever your mom suggests, just say yes to. No conflict, just say yes. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. Here’s how it went.

Mom: Do you want to go to the Maple Museum tomorrow?
Me: YES! Of course I do.
Mom: Great. I’ve wanted to take you there. The kids will love it.
(Arrive at Maple Museum. )
Mom: I’m going to stay in the car. My knees are bad, and I was here last week with friends. Take your time.
*Me in utter disbelief: WHAT THE WHAT?

Mom: Do you want to go to the Bennington Battle Monument?
Me: YES!
(Arrive at monument.)
Mom: I’m going to stay in the car. I can’t walk up all those steps.
*Me thinking: I guess that makes sense, but why are we here?

Mom: Those statues are all around town, on the way home, do you want to take some pictures with the kids and them?
Me: Yes! That sounds like fun.
Mom: I’m not going to get out. I’ve seen them before. You take the kids, and I’ll wait.
*Me thinking: This is actually getting pretty funny now.

Pretty much, this was the entire week. I said yes to everything Mom asked about. Mom did approximately none of these things. And you know what? The kids had a great time. I had a surprisingly good time. And Mom, sure seemed like she had good time. What Mom really wanted to do was show us her world, the things that interested her, and the town she considered her second home. I learned a lot that week, both about how to make for a low conflict family vacation, but also about what brought my mom joy. So, do I enjoy traveling with my family? YES! Of course I do!

Rhode Island

 

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Adulting, elder care, Gangrene Gables

Poopsicle

I have done many things in my life as a parent that I never thought I would do. I have uttered phrases like, “Don’t put rocks in the dishwasher!” I have done disgusting things like using a thermometer to help a constipated infant get it all out. While one can never be prepared for parenthood, I had expected these things were just part of the territory. I didn’t, however, know that over the course of one year I would experience just as many of these joys as a daughter.

Sharon: We need to get stool samples to a Quest lab. We picked up the containers on the way back from the dr. One will need to be kept frozen or on ice when being transferred. Sure you are all excited about that.
Me: Sharon has power of attorney on medical decisions, which should include taking stool samples.
Sharon: The new medication for the diarrhea has a restriction of no alcohol, which means no perfumes, lotions, mouthwash, etc. I’ll start checking stuff later tonight for any problematic items.
Eric: But we can still drink when we are around her, right?
Sharon: Anyone know where Mom keeps dish sponges or dishrags? There wasn’t one in the sink today.
Me: I used it to clean up poop. I threw it out even though I knew Mom would want to save it for another blow out.
Sharon: She had several false alarms of diarrhea. Or a tiny bit. The collection hat is next to the commode with the hopes that she will use it in the morning so the collection can be done.
There is a little Lysol in the commode so if either of you is the lucky collector don’t use anything in the commode.
Me: I guess I’m the winner. What are the instructions for freezing and packing the poop on ice? Collecting? What should I know?
Sharon: Bring a plastic spoon that you can throw out. Instructions are on the desk in the kitchen. One teaspoon or thereabouts in the large container which is frozen. Add enough to each of the other vials so the liquid rises to the red or black line on the bottle. Those do not need to be frozen.

I don’t know what the doctor was looking for, but he ordered a stool sample. This is not a big deal for the doctor; he just writes out an order and scrawls his illegible signature on a piece of paper. Honestly, with today’s technology, he might not even need to do that much. He probably has an office assistant do it for him. But for us, this is no easy task. We, the caregivers, are left with all the dirty work.
The instructions were to get a sample of Mom’s diarrhea, to spoon a small portion into a testing vial, and put the sample in the freezer. Then, deliver the frozen sample to the lab. Gross, but doable. Certainly not the worst things we’d had to do to date.
I arrived bright and early on a Saturday morning, unprepared for what the day would hand me. After repeatedly trying to explain to Mom that her part was pretty simple, just to sit on the commode and go, I was finally rewarded with the gift of loose stool. Yay! I set up my scientific lab in Mom’s kitchen sink which I would never be able to look at quite the same again. Rubber gloves on and using a plastic spoon, I was able to prepare the sample in the least nasty way possible. I definitely did not need to be told I should throw away the spoon. I cleaned up the commode, and froze the sample in a double wrapped bag. I was envisioning some poor person getting a nasty surprise when they pulled this treat out of Mom’s freezer and decided to investigate its contents. I labeled it to prevent such a tragic situation.

Me: Two things- I hate my life, and we have a stool sample

Me (later): I’m going to drop the diarrhea off at the lab in a few minutes. (I just wanted to have record of the many things I have had to say lately)
Eric: You know, Barb, you may think it is funny…
But it’s really hot and runny!
DIARRHEA
phpplt phpllt!
DIARRRHEA
phpplt phpllt!

While the fecal matter began chilling in the freezer, my next step was to find the location of the specified lab that also had weekend hours. I scoured the Internet and found one only moments from home. Score! I retrieved the frozen poopsicle from the freezer and embarked on my errand. Unfortunately, upon arrival I discovered that the lab was closed; their hours had changed. Now I am sitting in the car with defrosting poop that I need to deliver it to another lab pronto. I find another lab in an adjacent town, 20 minutes away, but they aren’t open for that much longer. I understand the absurdity of this situation. I am a poop delivery girl, racing down the highway trying to assure the proper temperature of my poopsicle. This is where my life has taken me. This is my new normal. I check yet another item off my bucket list: Deliver frozen poop to laboratory- check.
The front desk nurse was kind and efficient. She assured me that the temperature of the poop was fine, and they would return it to the freezer promptly. Deep down, I was hoping the staff had a separate freezer for their lunches.

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Adulting, women

Housekeeping Made Simple

People are always saying to me, “Your house feels so lived in.” You know why that is?  We live here. We don’t have a separate breakfast parlor for company, or a media and game room in the basement for the teens to congregate. We have basically one living area in which we all share. All 5 of us. You might think that this means that our little space is neat and tidy, but you’d be wrong. It is a magnet for everyone’s everything. So here are a few tips that have helped us maintain that “lived in” look without crossing the line into Hoarders.

carpet

Carpet

Get rid of carpet. If you must have carpet, limit it to small area rugs or mats. Anywhere you can have hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum the better. Outside of the occasional spot cleaning, you can go a very long time without cleaning these floors. Hair, lint, dust, even dried leaves and dirt will be blown across these surfaces and collect at the edge of the room and even more specifically, corners. Grabbing a few of these dust bunnies occasionally, can give you home a lovely fresh look with almost no effort. I use my vacuum cleaner so infrequently; I would need to think about how to turn it on.

vacuumChild labor

There is no reason to do a chore that your spawn is capable of doing. The earlier you train them up the better for everyone. They are learning important life skills. Who cares how sloppy they put away their clothes, you didn’t have to do it. Laundry, dishes, scrubbing toilets, whatever. I’m not saying they need to work like little Orphan Annie, but they can be responsible for themselves and contribute to the family. They should be doing all their own laundry, cleaning their room, clearing their place, putting away their things, and doing one or more chores that contribute to family life. What that means in a practical sense? I don’t wash dishes anymore. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking, along with the vast majority of cleaning, so unless they would prefer to do the grocery shopping and cooking every night, they can do the dishes. Oh, kiddo, you missed a spot.

hoopla

Multi-task

There are only so many hours in a day. I barely have enough time to get the most crucial things done, like feeding all the humans I am responsible for. So, I scrub the bathtub while I’m in it taking a shower. This gives the conditioner a little longer to work while I wipe crud from tiles. This is a quick spot clean process done without the benefit of corrective lenses. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better then it was yesterday. Occasionally, I wipe down the microwave after I pull out that cup of tea I made and forgot and had to reheat now for the third time. Also, I listen to audio books on my phone while I grocery shop.

bed

Don’t Do It

There are certain chores that are just not that important and, bonus, not doing those chores makes your life easier. Take linens for instance. Sure, it’s nice to climb into a bed made with crisp new sheets, but not only does it take time to change those sheets, but it takes time to wash those sheets, dry those sheets, fold those sheets, and put away those sheets. So don’t.  Put those kind of chores off as long as possible. Win-win.

It won’t look like a Better Homes and Garden Magazine spread, but whatever, I’ve got better things to do.

car freshener

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Adulting, women

A Night Owl’s Guide to the Day Job: 7 Tips

Nothing should ever begin before the clock reads 8 am. This should go without saying, but is seems this world is populated by less spiritual people who do not appreciated God’s glorious creation of sleep. Genesis 1 tells us that in the perfect order of things, “There was evening and there was morning the first day.” Evidently, even God didn’t want to start the day off with a morning. I have no idea why these morning people want to mess with the natural order of creation, but as long as we live in this fallen world, we must learn to be in but not of this world. So here are a few tips to help you survive getting up for your day job.

Showers

The only thing worse than getting up on a dark, cold winter morning, is getting up and getting in a shower that will alter my body temperature half a dozen times before I have fully comprehended where my own feet are. I cannot handle it. Shower at night. And by night, I mean after work. I have been known to come home from my job at 4:00 and already be showered by 4:30. If I can shower while dinner is cooking, I do. Earlier showers mean plenty of time for your hair to dry naturally and avoid all that wasted time with the blowdryer. Win-Win.

Clothes

Plan your wardrobe. After your shower, pull out your outfit for tomorrow. I am a huge fan of skirts and leggings. Match a pair. Put your leggings on now. Add a comfy shirt and an oversized sweatshirt and life is good, even if you still need to drive your kids around to scouts or a fancy dinner parties at the country club. You are already halfway dressed for tomorrow morning, and you haven’t even eaten dinner. BAM!

collared button down

Husband: Are you in your pajamas already?  Me: Um, no! This is a collared, button down shirt.

Food

I am an equally big fan of food as I am of sleeping in. “Skipping meals” is a concept I assume was invented by the same people that schedule meetings for 7:30 in the morning. I want my breakfast, but I can’t deal with pondering my options that early in the morning. While you are cleaning up dinner, pack your lunch. Use leftovers whenever possible. And when you’re done, pack your breakfast. You are fully functional and conscious now, so use this to your advantage. It also has the bonus advantage of allowing you to snatch up the last chocolate chip muffin for your breakfast to eat in the car tomorrow. Sorry kids, you snooze, you lose.

muffin remains

Alarms

Setting the proper series of alarms is crucial in the actually waking up process. The appropriate timing of these must be backtracked from the necessary leave time and the number of snoozes needed to move from sleep to semi-conscious. Give your alarms funny names that you are never going to read because your eyes aren’t open. Mine include: “Time to make the doughnuts”, “Open your eyes” (for the ironic factor), and “Big Girl Pants Time.”

Warning: Some people will try to shame you into one single alarm with false logic about how you’d get up quickly if there was a fire alarm. This is categorically false, proven by several vacation incidents and an entire year in college during which drunken students, who seemingly had made a pact with the devil, set off alarms at 2 am every single Wednesday morning. I might get out of bed, but I will wander around in dazed confusion unable to find the exit without assistance. Even if it were true, adrenaline is responsible for such actions. If an ax murderer was coming after me I would run, but that doesn’t mean I should run absent of that kind of motivation.

hotel fire

The 20 Minute Rule

I once read a devotional that said I should always spend the first 20 minutes of my day with God. I tried it. It turns out that I don’t like anyone, including God, during the first 20 minutes of my day. I have since matured in my faith and now give Jesus some prime real estate. He gets some time post dinner, and Bible study is a whole lot less hostile now. So who gets the first 20 minutes of the day? Facebook. Judge all you want, but as I am trying to will my eyelids open, I scroll through my FB feed. All the research about cell phones keeping people awake at night does not seem to apply to helping people wake up, but spending those first few moments in my bed, delirious with exhaustion, in utter silence (minus the few moments I accidentally play a video when I fall asleep and turn the phone on its side) is just about all my brain can muster up while there is a 6 looking back at me from my clock. No one speaks to me; no one gets hurt. The system works, so leave well enough alone.

Getting ready

Sometime around the time that your 8th alarm has rung, and you’ve scrolled past the same kitten video 16 times, your bladder will give you the only true motivation to get out of bed. Congratulations! The worst part of your day is over; you’re up. If you can manage to not fall asleep again on the toilet, which I’ve heard has happened to some people, then you’re gold. You’re already half way dressed. Throw on your top and that “eat-as-much-as-you-want” wrap skirt and you’re practically done. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, apply deodorant, and grab your shoes. Don’t wear makeup. This new natural look requires zero minutes to apply and bonus, zero minutes to wash off. I just saved you time this afternoon. You’re welcome.

Routine

Falling into rote patterns allows muscle memory and your subconscious brain to do the work that a conscious brain would override if you had a conscious brain at 6-something in the morning. Efficiency in these routines is the key to staying in bed longer. Start brewing your piping hot, caffeinated beverage and then put on your shoes. Do everything in the same order so you don’t forget your lunch or shoes. Yes, it can happen. Don’t break this routine. If you absolutely must do something out of the ordinary in the morning, set a reminder on your phone. I have set alarms that said, “Don’t forget the kids!”

forgot the tea

Sometimes I forget the details, like putting tea in the tea ball.

Total time from feet on the floor to bottom in the car, 16.5 – 17.5 minutes depending on level of delirium.

Warning: Not taking adequate time to work through these steps might lead to unfortunate driving issues such as mistaking the tachometer for the speedometer, or driving past your exit. Do not operate motor vehicles or heavy machinery until legitimately conscious. 

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