Conversations about love, acceptance and my dog.

His blue eyes lit up as he gazed at my dog.   The twinkle in them was the first thing I noticed, followed by his friendly smile as my dog approached his chair.  Memories seemed to flood back to his brain as we spoke about how he once had a dog and how he just loved him.  He gently pet Cap, laughing and commenting on the softness of his fur and the attractiveness of his eyes.  Cap is a pet visitation therapy dog.  He visits elder-care homes, schools and other organizations that can benefit from the amazing bond between humans and animals.  Quite frequently he visits those affected by some form of dementia.

Dementia is a growing epidemic.  By 2050 it is estimated that over 135 million people will have some form of dementia (http://www.mba-healthcare-management.com/dementia/)   Dementia is a disorder of the mental processes and can be related to memory loss, personality changes and impaired reasoning.  There are many studies that suggest that exercise, mental stimulation, vitamins and simple stress reduction can all decrease your risk of early dementia.  Unhealthy lifestyles tend to be the leading factor that increases the risks for all of us.  We know what to do.  Eat less, move more, grow in your heart and mind and take your vitamins!  Once the disease has a hold of you it won’t let go.

She was resting on top of her bed but welcomed us into her room.  A fake flower adorned her hair and pictures of yesterday decorated her walls.  Cap immediately figured out that her bedspread was very soft, a velvet-like texture,  and jumped up to lie down beside her.  His eyes started to droop as he realized that THIS was a human he could bond with through napping!  She just sat there and told me that the secret to living a long life was to NOT get married.  Who knew that we would discover the fountain of youth in Virginia!  She chuckled lightly as I considered this little secret and just decided to rest with contentment as Cap closed his eyes.  Her room was Cap’s favorite room.

I’ve learned that for some people, the unconditional love of a dog is healing and therapeutic.  These pet therapy dogs bring out the foundational remnants of kindness, humor, and love that still reside in those afflicted by dementia.  The visits break up old routines and encourage an interest and interaction that would ordinarily be difficult to elicit.  It’s not for all patients and there is careful consideration and permissions put in place for those uncomfortable with a pet visit.   This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for not only myself but for my dog.  He loves to go for a car ride and enjoys meeting new people.  He does get very tired after working so hard but he is slowly getting used to the job.  Pet visitation therapy dogs are used in elder care homes, schools and other organizations that want to benefit those struggling with dementia, anxiety or depression.

Pet therapy is not only for those with dementia or those who are elderly and in nursing homes.  Younger children and teens with learning disabilities, social anxiety and depression also benefit from these healing visits.

The peer counseling group at the high school was getting ready for winter break.   They decided that the day before break they would invite pet visitation therapy dogs to visit the school and take pictures with the students.  Cap and two of his doggy friends put on their best bows, winter vests and Santa hats and visited the high school for a three hour photo shoot.   The result was a joyous three hour extravaganza that raised the spirits of those who were not be looking forward to being home for two weeks and those who simply loved taking photos with the dogs.  All dogs were tuckered out and over fed with treats by the end of the day!

There is a bond of love between all living things and the nature that surrounds us.  Have you ever gone for a walk in the woods only to find that you feel just a little better about your day?  Have you every played with a kitten or puppy and experienced a joy or calmness in your heart afterwards?  The world around us is God’s gift to us.

Years ago I remember an old native American Indian tale about man and animals.  I will probably get this wrong but it goes something like this.  God was separating man from the animals.  He put man on one side and all animals on the other side.  He then caused a wide chasm to start to open up between the two sides.  At the very last moment  “dog” jumped across to stand with man.

I don’t know what’s next for Cap and I when it comes to pet visitation therapy.  He turned five this year and I know that my days with him have a time limit.  His sister Mocha has not yet been cleared for pet therapy because I suspect her tendency to jump high and lick people head to foot would cause her to fail her assessments.  For now she cuddles next to him after a long day and after asking him where he’s been and why he smells like perfumes, numerous people and other dogs.   The interrogation is quite thorough!  I’m hoping that Cap and I will be able to expand into the school system through our organization and help those children who struggle every single day with anxiety and depression.  I also hope to expand our presence in Loudoun County.

Today, at this moment, we will share our love with one person at a time.  It is enough to pursue conversations about love, acceptance and my dog.  Conversations that say “we see you,” and it is OK to be who you are today.  Conversations that say we are here because of love.  Conversations of grace.  We get more from the people we visit than they could possibly imagine.

Gifts of wisdom, life and dignity.

I love all of the things that truly make you…well…you.

My dear friend, I want you to know that I only see “you.”  I’ve known you for years.   I knew you when you were fifty pounds lighter, ten pounds heavier, five pounds near your goal, and I’ve seen you in sun dresses, the skinny jeans, and the sweatpants.  You were married, you were divorced, you were single and you were pregnant. During all of those different times in our lives, all I’ve ever truly seen was “you.”   We are friends because of your smile, your positive attitude, the perspective you give me on life, your loyalty, your intellect, your dedication to your friends and family, your weird laugh and all of the truly important things that make you….you.   We are friends because we have laughed until we have cried, we have reassured each other, we have been honest with each other, we have said the easy things and the hard things to each other and at the core, we have truly “seen” each other.

I only see “you.”  The real you.

When you look in the mirror and criticize yourself, well, you are blind to what I see.  You are looking in the wrong place.  The real self, the one the world falls in love with, is simply shown in the sparkle in your eyes, your loud laughter and your zest for life.  It does not exist inside of the meal you did or did not eat, the fact that you skipped the gym today, or the fact that you have beautiful stretch marks on your belly from giving birth to your sweet children.  The real you does not appear in the lines in your face but rather in the twinkle in your eyes.

I only see “you.”  The real you.

When you are sick or bitchy or tired or sad or simply a pain in the ass, I still only see you.

So the next time you look in that mirror, I hope you see what I see; a beautiful, strong, funny, loyal friend who brings lots of happiness to others.

That is you and I love all of the things that truly make you…well…you.

Are you an organ donor?

Currently I am not registered as an organ donor.  For the first time in my life, I am seriously giving it some thought. In the last six months there have been two experiences that have touched me to the very depths of my soul.  The first experience was the loss of a teen in one of our local high schools.  His family’s willingness to donate his organs saved eight lives.  My second experience is happening right now with a dear friend who is waiting for a transplant.

How many people are waiting?

How many lives could have been saved if more people became organ donors?  You can simply register online.  Then why don’t people do it?  I started to look up people’s fears, the myths and the information that exists online for organ donation.  I also had to look inside my own heart.  The number one fear seems to be this misconception that you won’t get the best care in the hospital if you are an organ donor.  It’s a fear that is unfounded.  Doctor’s are there to save your life, not to end it for a high-risk procedure that may save another person’s life.

I sat here for an hour and read and read and read.   The truth is that considering becoming an organ donor makes one reflect on their own death. That scares people.  Others who are already donors reflect not on their death but the gift of life that they can provide.   Once you experience brain death, there is no pain, there is no consciousness and there truly is no life.  Your body is kept alive by machines.  So why not register?

Here are some of the common myths (also in the link above) taken from the website Gift of Life and paraphrased by yours truly.

  1.  Doctor’s won’t save my life if I’m a donor.  – They will do everything they can to save your life and will only proceed if all life-saving efforts fail.  Permission must be given by the deceased’s family.
  2. If I am registered, doctor may remove my organs before I pass. – Brain death is the medically, legal and morally accepted determination of death.  Again, the family is presented with an opportunity to donate and a series of tests are given to ensure brain death.
  3. Organs can be bought or sold on the black market.  It takes a team of medical professionals to address the complexity of transplantation.  We watch too much TV.
  4. I am too old to be a donor.  False.
  5. I have a history of medical illness so no one one could benefit.  False.  A determination is made by medical professionals and is case-by-case.
  6. I don’t need to tell my family that I’d like to be a donor because it’s already in my will.  No.  By the time anyone reads your will it’s too late.  Tell your family.
  7. My family will have to pay if I become a donor.  False.
  8. My religion does not support organ or tissue donation. Most religions consider it an act of charity.
  9. I can’t have an open casket at my funeral.  False.  Clothes and funeral homes have the utmost respect and funeral traditions can be upheld.
  10. Rich and famous people get moved on top of the waiting list.  False.  The organ allocation and distribution system is blind to wealth and social status.
  11. The recipient will know who I am.  Your family can request or agree to releasing your information and you can even write a letter.  If you do NOT want that you can be reassured because the norm is extreme patient privacy for both donor families and recipients.

Becoming an organ donor is truly a gift of life.  Are you an organ donor?  I would love to hear from you even if you are not.   Do you know someone who has received a transplant?  Tell your story.  I’m seriously considering registering but before I do, I need to sit down and discuss with my husband and children to inform them of my wishes.

Personally, for me, it may be time to register to give this gift of live and love.

Leave Barron Trump Alone!

Image Source: NBC news

Dear celebrities, the media and all citizens:

Stop picking on Barron Trump.  Just stop it.  He’s ten years old.  The next four years of his life will set some serious groundwork for the man he will become.  You cannot sit on your high and mighty pedestal pontificating about Donald Trump’s character and then turn around and pick on a ten year old.  That makes you a hypocrite.

Barron Trump is the same age as my son Max.  If Max had to sit through a long day of pomp and circumstance, he would not only be whining but would probably fall asleep in his chair.  Barron was extremely composed for a ten year old.  I loved watching him play peek-a-boo while his father signed his first order of business.

If my son Max was walking in a parade dedicated to his father, wearing a suit, feeling proud and I tried to grab his hand in public, he may have torn his hand away.  He would want to be perceived as strong and proud and would not want me to lovingly try to hold his hand.  Melania did what all mothers have done, she held her husband’s hand and in the moment, reached for her son out of love.  Intuitively she probably understood why he pulled it away.  Any preteen boy could have reacted the same way.   Why is this news?

Max is blessed in life.   I am constantly amazed at how my children are growing up.  Compared to the majority of children in the United States, my kids definitely have the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths.  My husband and I have worked hard, have made sacrifices and we have provided this lifestyle for our family.  So has Donald Trump but certainly on a more grandiose scale.   So who are you to punish Barron for his lifestyle?

Leave Barron Trump alone.   Stop being the bullies you claim to so despise.  We the people are watching not only our President; we are also watching you.

Regards,

An imperfect parent

Own Your Truth. Live Your Truth.

My grandmother and their great-grandmother!

In December I lost my strong, slightly eccentric, very colorful and loving grandmother.  I will love her and miss her forever and my world has become just a little bit too quiet with her gone.  Although she lived until she was 93, losing her was not so easy.  Is it ever?  When you lose someone you love?  Is it ever easy?  She lived a long life, but my life was just a little bit better with her on this earth.

If I would have to describe the one lesson my grandmother taught me that stands out the most, it was to simply be yourself.  Don’t apologize for who you are, what you have, what you believe and what you want out of your life.  Own your truth.  She did this every single day and drove many of us crazy in the process.

Own your truth.  Live your truth.

These statements are life changing.  What is your truth?  Are you living your life worried about what other people are thinking?   Do you spend too much time on things that don’t matter?  I really believe that if we all stopped for one minute and really thought about these questions, we would be surprised at our own answers.  Live your life for yourself and for your family, and not according to anyone else’s rules.

In the end, if you are lucky enough to age, memories of today will fade away and the memories and people that will be left, holding your hand, will be your family.   Invest your time and your knowledge on making an impact on your children, your nieces, your nephews and you grandchildren.  Use your time wisely.  Pass your gifts and your lessons to those you love and hold dear.

I’ve said goodbye to my last grandparent, and she was the last in a generation of my elders.  I am better for having known her and for having loved her.  I love and miss them all.  Now it is time to step forward in line.

 

New Year’s Resolution: Be human.

Last night,  on New Year’s Eve, I stayed home with my children.  I ended my year with a typical epic mother fail.  We stayed up to watch the ball drop but I had the wrong channel on.  This resulted in my ten year old having a bit of a melt down and me frantically searching for a do over.  Just so you know, there are no do-overs on New Year’s Eve.   I’m hoping that today we can see a replay of the festivities.

Many of you have made, or may be making New Year resolutions.  Before you do, take your coffee into a quiet room and look back and reflect on the past year.  Only when you briefly look back can you move forward.  I haven’t done this yet.  I’m going to do it right this second as I write to all of you.  Hold on…let me get my coffee!  Shit’s about to get real.

  •  I did many things right in 2016 and many things wrong.  I think it’s called being human.
  • I made many memories with my children but allowed them to be on technology oriented gadgets for too many hours.  When your child gets a new video game for Christmas, boots it up for the very first time and pretends he’s a You Tuber (is that a word), then you know you’ve failed as a parent.  He’s also my little guy who pretends he’s a super hero and runs around the house with light sabers.   I’d rather him to do that than pretend to be a You Tuber.  For those of you who may not know what that is, think Martha Quinn from MTV but on the internet and instead of music, introducing video games.
  • I helped a lot of people and hurt myself in the process.  That one needs explaining.  I put too much time and energy into other people’s life challenges.  I have a save-the-world mentality.  Sometimes you can’t fix things.  Sometimes people need to fix things for themselves.  You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
  • I cleaned too much instead of making my family members clean.  It seemed easier and faster at the time but now I’m pissed.
  • I said Yes too many times instead of saying No.  No way.  NO!  NO NO NO!  (I’m practicing)
  • I took my role as a wife way too seriously.  My husband lost his job and I spent too much time playing a supportive role.  As long as we are financially “OK” for now, he can figure his own shit out.  I have stuff to do.  I think he would also appreciate less nagging.  I need to get involved in more activities that are just “mine.”  I need to figure out what’s next.
  • I loved fiercely.  I knew my grandmother’s days were numbered and I sent her flowers, visited her twice in her final months and sent her a Christmas present.  She has passed and I have no regrets.  She knew she was so very loved.  I will miss her.
  • I worked with my dog and he became a pet visitation/therapy dog.  We rocked it.  Can’t wait to do more of that!
  • I lost my way while blogging.  This is because I was focused on the wrong things.  I’m back.

New Year’s Resolutions

Read and write more and talk less.  Hold my children and husband more accountable around the house.   More quality time with friends.   Continue to love fiercely.  Learn from my mistakes.  Try new things.  Be brave.  Be human.

Have another cup of coffee.

 

Taking a break from the revealing world of blogging!

blogging-cookiesI’m struggling with content for my blog.  It’s not writer’s block or lack of motivation.  I’m wrestling with ethics.  When I started to write posts for my blog, I did so with the intention of reaching peoples’ hearts.  I wanted to make a difference, be relatable and hopefully help someone in the process.  I shared stories of love, marriage, divorce, children and friendship.  Some of my posts were well received.  Life went on and larger topics loomed.  Then I hit a wall.  Blogging is so personal and sometimes it can be almost like walking on a tight rope.

When is writing about a topic hurting someone more than helping them?

My ex-husband reached out to me one day about one of my divorce posts that I had written two years ago.  He didn’t like what I had written.  I was very defensive.  I have always tried to be extremely careful with how I presented our past.  I even sent him some other posts he had not read.  I explained to him that my intent was to inspire and lift up others.

And it got me thinking.   If inspiring followers resulted in embarrassing the father of my first child, regardless of whether that was intentional or not, then I had to question if it was even worth it.  I kept writing but stayed away from topics that were so incredibly personal.  The blog started to feel forced.

Blogging is very personal.  Subject matter and inspiration come from real life.  To be truly successful at blogging you have to open up but in doing so you can risk your personal relationships.  Why?  Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  There are people involved in each and every one of our lives.

My kids struggled but I did not write about it because I didn’t want to embarrass them.  My “village” lost friends to tragedy and I did not write about it because pain is not to be exploited.  Friendship lessons were learned but friendship is about trust so I did not write about it.  We ourselves had a career change and are in the middle of transition and my husband and I want to keep our plans private.

Lots of content that should not be shared.

This leaves me at a crossroads with blogging and a need to reflect on how I want to proceed in the future.  I’ve decided to put it on hold while I think about the impact it has on my own personal integrity and authenticity.

So for now I am silencing the voices in my head.

Until I write again…..

 

Balancing expectations. A visit with the in-laws.

img_5593I’ve been missing in action because I have spent the last two weeks with my in-laws who were visiting us at our home in Virginia.  Yesterday I dropped them off at the airport for their flight home.  To be honest it was both a wonderful visit and a difficult one.  It was wonderful because I truly love my in-laws and am so thankful for all that they do for our family.  It was sometimes challenging because we live such different lives and I personally struggle with meeting their expectations, not because they put many on me, but simply because I am their daughter-in-law.  The difficulty also came from my husband’s hectic work schedule these past two weeks.  He has been working night and day and was not able to take enough time to spend with his parents. Continue reading

Political posts, rants and Facebook.

401af15529c096a70da250cbbf5cf78cNothing makes people more miserable on social media than political posts and rants on Facebook.  I respect your choice to support a different candidate and to vote for your candidate.  I respect your freedom to write whatever you want on Facebook.   Here are some of my thoughts on the subject and why you may want to think again before you post that next status update. Continue reading

Super Mom! Super Wife! Super Tired?

IMG_1026My last blog post was written at the very beginning of summer.  Summer, self-care and boundaries outlined the steps I wanted to take to improve my quality of life.  I am committed to staying on track!

I recently saw a mom with a stroller and her diaper bag had the following words imprinted on it.  Super Mom.  Super Wife.  Super Tired.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

This is why I wrote the blog in the beginning of the summer regarding boundaries.  I still have to ask though, how much of that “super tired,” is a result of each one of us taking on too much?    What kind of resolutions will help you reduce the stress in your life?  Today is August 10th and New Year’s Eve is only three weeks away.

Huh? Continue reading