An open letter to my little sister on her day of marriage

I don’t remember the first time we met, whether it was at the hospital or at home, but I do remember the first time I held you like it was yesterday. I can clearly recall looking down at your little perfect face. You were a magical wonder to me. I had no idea how you came to be. I just knew you were growing in Mom’s belly and then you were there in my arms and I was your big sister. I remember trying to help you not to be scared at night in our shared room. Telling you stories and singing you songs, like Lionel Ritchie’s “Ballerina Girl“, after we were tucked into our bunk beds. Decorating the underside of the top bunk like the night sky with puffy paint so that it didn’t look like spiderwebs anymore. Fighting every fiber of fear in my body to get up and throw the creepy clowns in the closet so they didn’t scare you. Teaching you to tell time on the wall size wristwatch that hung on our pepto bismol pink bedroom wall to distract you from things I didn’t want you to hear. Taking the blame so you didn’t in get in trouble for your experiments and inventions. Growing up fast so that I could protect your innocence when heavier things surrounded us. Looking over my shoulder to make sure you didn’t follow my own path.

I know you had some trouble as you forged your way into adulthood, attempting to navigate life and love.  It hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies. There’s been hurt and bitterness. You’ve learned some lessons the hard way. But I hope today as you leave life alone to join together with your husband, that you can look back and see that EVERYTHING that has happened, good and bad, has led you right to this point in your life and made you the woman that he fell in love with.

When you love someone, you can see all the things that make them wonderful very clearly. I know that you see your husband-to-be in that light. But I think you struggle to realize that all the things that are wonderful about him, that you love with all your heart, that you are willing to sacrifice for, willing to give everything you’ve got without thinking twice … finds it’s equal in you.

You are just as wonderful. You are just as magical. You are just as real. You are just as worthy.

As I sit here, with tears of complete joy for you streaming down my face and words failing me, I just want you to know this:

Sister, you are a beautiful, one of a kind, fully deserving of every happiness. Today’s the day. The day you are marrying the love of your life. Please allow yourself to be completely vulnerable. Let everything that has come before go and move ahead and risk it all.  Because you have to in order to fully experience the complete joy and love that is waiting for you. Know that love is the answer to most questions in life. You are ready and he is “the one”.

Go ahead and jump into the great unknown, holding his hand, with your beautiful smile and laughter.

I’ll be right here … always.

Chris’ Healthy Heart Fund

Guys, this is my beloved cousin, Chris.

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On Sunday, February 8th Chris went to the ER with severe abdominal pain. The doctors at UNMH determined that he had a blood clot that was preventing blood flow to his kidneys.

Chris did not realize it at the time, but he was experiencing Heart-Failure.

Chris’ Heart-Failure is a side-effect from his pre-existing diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation or “A-FIB.” If not treated properly, A-FIB causes blood clots that can result in stroke, heart-attack and other dangerous outcomes.

Chris’ heart has been determined to be at a 20% ejection fraction measurement, where a “normal” heart should be between 50-70%. (This is a measurement of how much blood the left ventricle pumps out with each contraction.)

…After 10 days of being closely monitored, Chris was released on Tuesday when medication began to stabilize his condition.

We hope to get Chris’ numbers up over time. His condition is not curable but it is manageable with medications and serious lifestyle changes.

Chris needs rest. He will rely on a number of medications for a while; some of them he will be taking for the rest of his life.

Chris still has a clot near his heart that is preventing him from getting a shock-treatment that would likely improve his situation.

Chris’ existing health insurance expires in March! His doctors have advised him not to go back to work until his overall health has improved considerably.

This fund will help assist Chris with medical bills and will help support a program of healthier eating.

Chris needs all the help he can get as he is transitioning to Medicaid (and whatever else he can apply for), during this financially stressful time.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/chris-nelson-woods-healthy-heart-fund/308050#.VOoKe414m7s.facebook

Relocation:Pen to Paper; Pros vs. Cons

I spent the weekend in Kentucky with my Mom’s side of the family. There is something about changing my surroundings that deeply affects my psyche. I didnt feel weighed down. Even went for a jog. I breathed easier, slept so much better. Drank a lot of sweet tea. I swear it heals the soul.

Everytime I take the kids to visit at Nana’s and they get to playing with my cousins I hear the same thing: “Momma, lets move to Kentucky.” I always think that would be nice but the reality of it is tough. I sit down with pen and paper and start the pros and cons: Hubster finding a new job, selling and buying a home, changing schools, everything surrounding My Pickle, my doctors, our friends here. There’s a lot.

This time the suggestion not only came from the kids, but various family members and as I went through my list of issues, there were less negatives and more positives in weighing a move. My husband isn’t happy in his current job and layoffs have not only been talked about but happening all around him. He’s already circulating the resume. With his Mom and grandparents having passed away, he has no real family strings tying him here. The housing market is up in our area and our house would likely sell fast and leave us with a hefty chunk of change. We could buy a house with more land like we’ve wanted much cheaper in Kentucky. My Pickle will be headed to college and most college kids live away from home, which will not only be good for him, but if Im honest, it would be good for me to loosen the leash too. Jedi is switching to high school, Diva to middle school. It’s actually good timing where that’s concerned. People travel from all over the world to get treatment at Cleveland Clinic. Id be 6 hours away. And also, my EX wouldn’t know where I live. No more late night drivebys and all the nerves surrounding holidays and his unpredictable behaviors. AND there’s REAL potential for my husband and I’s little idea for our own business. Our friends will travel, we can travel. Lastly, I was raised in the South. Yes, Im pretty liberal but Im always gonna feel more at home with dirt on my jeans and sweet tea in my hand, than all prim and proper lady with a “pop”. Id take a good ol boy, than a suit anyday of the week.

Holy crappoly, ya’ll. This could happen. For serious.

I had a lengthy talk with Hubster last night and reviewed all this with him. He sat listening, quietly. At the end I said, ” Well babe? Whadaya think?

Let’s do it.”

I was in a state of shock. I didnt know whether to be completely terrified of all of this or to jump up and down. We said our I Love Yous and Goodnights. I fell into a completely peaceful sleep.

I woke up this morning with a new resolve to let go and let God. Be vulnerable. Caution to the wind. Jump. Accept it as an adventure.

Husband has already started applying for jobs.

Off we go. Into the great unknown….

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Things kids say

Jedi: What does it usually mean when your Dad says “Ill think about it?”
My Cousin: Depends. What was he doing when he said it?
Jedi: Watching a movie.
My Cousin: Nothing. He just gave you an answer so you’d leave him alone. Ive thought it was a real answer before. It’s just something he says so he can go back to watching the movie. He’s not thinking about nothing.

Take a look around

It’s New Years Ever. The end of a period of time. A period of time that everyone takes notice of and we take a look around. A look at where we’ve been and where we want to go. Who’s still around. Who and where we lost others. We reflect on what we might like to have done differently and how we might do it differently in the future.

This year was very introspective for me. Mostly because I was forced to face my own mortality much sooner than I expected or anyone else is readily able to accept. I can hope and pray all I want for a different set of circumstances, but the reality is something that I’ve suspected for some time. I am not well suited for this world. I will likely leave it sooner than I’d like. So long as I get to see my kids through to adulthood, I’ll be satisfied. Everything else will be a bonus.

When you start dealing with your own mortality you see the world much differently. It’s not hard to ignore the small stuff when you are beginning to grasp the big stuff. You begin to conserve your energy for where it’s not only needed, but also wanted and appreciated. The other stuff, the other people, just fade into the background. The things that would have eaten me alive in years past are just water under the bridge. It’s hard to convey this in words. It may be something no one can understand unless you are actually going through it. You can read books and promise yourself that you are going to focus on forging ahead and being happy, but you’re not likely to really grasp what Im trying to say until you reach this point in your life, or at least have an experience that makes it feel as though you had a very close call with death. Even then you could choose to sit around and feel sorry for yourself, I suppose.

This may sound really strange, but I am actually grateful that this has happened to me now. It’s like being given glasses and getting a totally new perspective. This self-actualization has finally allowed me to love myself. I mean really, truly be ok with all of me, inside and out. This woman that I’ve become, I have fought pretty damn hard to be and my worth isn’t based on my job, my kids, my marriage, the clothes I wear, the handbag I carry, the makeup I apply, it’s all me, baby. Im cool with that.

There are some relationships I’ve lost this year that, while it broke my heart to arrive to a conclusion at the time, I am now at peace with. I don’t expect anyone to agree with everything I do, but I am certainly done with explaining myself. Look, people who REALLY know and love you don’t need your explaination and the people who don’t, why bother? They’ll never believe you anyway and arrive at their own conclusion. Fine. They can call when they find have something to say or not at all. That’s on them.

This also led me to the realization that I am incredibly blessed to have my immediate family and closest friends. They are my first responders. When I’m down for the count they swoop in via text, phone calls, visits and outings to help my get back up again and fight the next round. Come hell or high water they are there. They are the ones who know the song in my heart and sing it back to me when I’ve forgotten the lyrics.

Yes, I’m going to have days in 2015 where I am going to feel like shit and just quit. Everyday won’t be wonderful. Yes, somedays I will be overwhelmed with everything I have going on with my health, my marriage, my kids, my debts, etc. There are going to be days that I just want to be “normal”, however, it will be a year where I take what I’ve gained this year and manifest it and gain clarity with it. Things will change, but this love I have found for myself and for life will remain. And really, isn’t love everything worthwile anyway?

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Philadelphia

It’s the weekend just before surgery. I needed to get away and I also recognized that my best friend needed kidnapping. My Mom really wanted to come visit my Aunt here in Philadelphia. So here we are. 

My Aunt’s birthday was today and the anniversary of my Uncle’s death was just days ago. This is my Aunt by marriage. She was married to my Mom’s brother.

My Uncle that attempted suicide 4 years ago. 

While he survived initially, the effect on his body was too great for him to survive. He passed a couple weeks later. It was a very difficult thing for our family and somewhere along the way, certain members of my mother’s family, arrived at the conclusion that my Aunt had somehow caused his death. Having been the first ones to arrive in the ICU and myself being the one who stayed that first night with her, my mother, father and I will NEVER believe that. Never.  

And really, even if she had contributed in some way to his depression that’s not how depression works. Depression is a lying bastard. I also feel strongly in my heart that my Uncle would be seriously pissed off to know that any member of his family had an ill word to say about her, much less turn their backs on her two girls and his only granddaughter that he did a lot of raising. No, that’s a fact. Even though she has since remarried, it’s painfully obvious that she loves him still and I have no doubt that he would want nothing but happiness for all of them. 

 Given everything hanging over everyone right now it was quite relieving that our first night was spent shedding many tears, sharing memories, looking at old pictures and just generally being grateful for good company. Today was also the anniversary of my best friend’s son passing. Our ride here was spent reliving that nightmare. It’s heavy on our minds and heart. The one responsible for it being released a fee days ago brought back a rawness that wasn’t expected even if the release date was. That we were all together at such a time…it was impactful. 

 Today was my Aunt’s birthday so we forged ahead with making new memories and trying to have a good time. We all went out sightseeing and marking some items off our bucket lists, like the Mutter Museum, eating a real Philly cheesesteak. It all seemed very fitting. Like when I do most outings with friends and family, Im snapping pictures and sharing them to my Facebook and as we’re all making check-ins I update my newsfeed and see that another cousin, who isn’t here, has posted some words about  people having no loyalty to family. She is disgusted. I realize that it is only minutes after my posting the first pictures and that while it is vague, because that’s how people on Facebook roll, it is about me. 

At the time, Im standing in line at Geno’s getting a cheesesteak with my best friend while my cousins are across the street at Pat’s doing the same. I tell my best friend, who is dumbfounded, and ask her not to mention it to my cousins. That was in vain since within minutes one of them brings it up to me. Not wanting to get into family politics, I write it off and move on until it occurs to me and my best friend, while we’re alone getting coffee, that if Im disloyal, my parents are being labeled disloyal as well and that’s not  cool with me. 

 My parents are the first ones people run to in our family in a crisis. They are the most loyal people I know and my best friend is kind enough to offer that I have done well by her and many others in the loyalty department, almost to a fault, and that the statement is so far from being true that it can only be more about my cousin herself and not us. She says  people  often see in others what they recognize in themselves but dont care to admit. I consider it and accept her own truth as my own. But this cousin was someone I always considered myself closest to. We grew up together as children and navigated adolescence together. My parents have done a lot for her, her brother and mother through the years. I just cant make sense of such an accusation. 

I mean,  what does loyalty look like exactly? What has she done? Post pictures and sad songs on Facebook about my Uncle on Facebook? Hit my Aunt up for money when the life insurance policy came through? Does she ever attempt to have a relationship with me? No. Who does? My Aunt and cousins here in Philadelphia. I consider that there are much greater things to concern myself with this weekend and unfortunately  I’m not really losing anything.

I could make excuses for her and why she has this view. She has told me herself that her mother is the source of many of the ill feelings and ideas about my Aunt in my family. But my cousin has also complained about her mother’s irrational behavior, her words not mine, and out of loyalty Ive never shared that with anyone. So why this and why now? 

I already know that if I attempt to talk to her about it she will hide. She will likely block me from contacting her because that what she does. She’ll probably prevent my kids from having contact with her kids because she’s always been vindictive to the wrong people when she’s angry. 

But what can I do?  ((sigh))

All I know is that love is always the answer for pain. Love outlives us all. I haven’t felt the love from her in a very long time despite reaching out. But in reaching out in love to my family here it’s not only be reciprocated, it’s been multiplied and it’s honored my Uncle’s life and love. Sure, I could hide, choose a side, not expose the wound or experience this pain but I choose love. I’ll always choose love. image

Adoption Day

Today was an exceptionally special day.

Today was the final adoption hearing which made official my husband being our children’s father.

Although they are not biologically his, he has always treated them as such and never complained or so much batted an eye at the responsiblities. He’s provided for them financially and emotionally. And he says it’s his privilege.

He is a true father.

We may not be traditional but we are a family. We are blessed and I am so grateful.
My cup runneth over…