Category Archives: Inspiration

What My Sister’s Cancer Diagnosis is Teaching Me

My twin sister found out last month that she has ovarian cancer.

She had not been feeling well since before Christmas, and the symptoms were similar to how she felt over a decade ago when she had to have a tumor removed that was attached to her right ovary. All was fine back then, and our family hoped that all would be OK this time around too. Unfortunately it wasn’t OK.

Jennifer has been amazingly positive and calm about it all. She has seemed, to me, less anxious than the rest of us. Her oncologist has told her that her ovarian cancer is a “easier to treat” type, called granulosa cell tumor. While that is the positive in the daunting world of cancer, and we know Jennifer will be tough through her upcoming treatments, so many thoughts have gone through my head the past month.

This cannot be happening.
When I first got the text letting me know that the doctor found cancer during Jennifer’s hysterectomy, I couldn’t believe it. All I felt was shock and fear; and I’m sure she had many more intense emotions as she learned the results of surgery. I was so convinced that a cancer diagnosis couldn’t be right.

Jennifer is one of the healthiest people I know.  She exercises almost every day. She eats right. Our family doesn’t have a history of ovarian cancer. She basically didn’t have any factors that would increase her risk.

But cancer doesn’t discriminate.

Is she going to be OK?
I love my sister more than words. We have been together longer than we’ve been with anyone else. We are “the twins”. I cannot imagine not having my sister around.

After her diagnosis, fear set in. I was scared for days. Was I going to lose my sister? Would I get more time with her? I needed and wanted more time so we could vent to each other, laugh together, go to lunch or dinner and spend time together. I wanted time to take our daughters out shopping on weekends.

As her diagnosis sunk in, I reminded myself that instead of worrying about an end, I needed to focus on the now and living and enjoying life with her.  All of us have an expiration date–none of us know when our time is up. Jennifer could have 30 or more years left, and I couldn’t let my anxiety twist my thoughts into shortening my time with her.

Is the rest of our family going to be OK?
Of course, I also began to worry if my sister’s diagnosis meant a higher risk of ovarian cancer for her daughter or my girls. This now meant that ovarian cancer is in our medical family tree. How would that affect other females in our family? Breast cancer already runs in our family, so I know that this will be another type of cancer I need to inform my doctors and my children’s doctors about so that extra care can be taken during check-ups if necessary.

What can I do to help my sister?
Most importantly, I was so concerned about how I could help my sister. I wanted to take care of her, prepare her meals, spend as much time as I could with her, and offer to run errands for her. While I’m sure she appreciated those things, I slowed down and realized that what helped her most was just keeping life as routine as possible, treating her no differently than I treated her before. I know that if she needs help getting to doctor’s appointments, is tired and could use some help cleaning up the house or finishing up laundry, or if she just needs someone to come over for coffee to hang out and gossip, she will ask and I will be ready to provide what she needs. She knows that as she needs me for anything, I will be there for her.

 

While it’s been unexpected and scary that Jennifer is only in her mid-forties and living with cancer, it has reminded me how grateful I am for her and how much she means to me, how important sister relationships are, and I shouldn’t stress over the small stuff.

I’m so inspired by how she is handling this journey so far and I know she is going to end up being stronger than ever.

 

What Was On My Mind As A Teacher After The Sandy Hook Shootings

When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings took place back in December 2012, I remember having a different mindset coming back to preschool after winter break.

Instead of worrying about winter crafts and what science projects my three year-olds might enjoy, do you know what I worried about?

I worried about how I could protect the nine small children in my classroom if something horrific happened at our preschool.

I remember my teacher assistant setting up the room at the beginning of the new year during a teacher workday, and we discussed where in the classroom we could best protect the preschoolers if a shooter would make his/her way on campus.

We had to be concerned about where we could best hide nine three year-olds in our small classroom.

Think about how awful that sounds that we were concerned about this.

We both had all kinds of thoughts. What exit was closest depending on which way the shooter was coming through the building? How in the world would we be able to get a bunch of toddlers to be quiet and hurry down the hall to get them to safety? What furniture could be put in front of the door to help blockade it? How many children could each of us shield with our bodies to protect them if we had to? Could we protect all nine?

I know that my assistant and I would do everything possible to protect our classroom, but would it be enough if we encountered a shooter?

It’s so incredibly sad that teachers, students, parents and administrators have to worry about attacks and plan for them.

I pray each day I send the girls to school that they will be safe.

I talked to my oldest daughter this morning about “run, hide, fight” if something would ever happen at her school. We talked about things in the classroom to hide under and hide behind…things some of her teachers had already discussed with her in the past.

It’s a scary world that we live in. As a past teacher and as a parent, I am not naïve to think that this will never happen again.

I am hopeful, though. I am hopeful that very soon our government and leaders can agree on ways to keep schools (and other places like shopping malls, concerts, and movie theaters) safe and more protected.

I don’t want to live in fear, and I don’t want my children to have to live in fear either.

What I Know About My Sister

I have my sister on my mind this week.

I am a twin. My sister and I have always been together, way before we were with anyone else.  We grew together, both inside the womb and outside.

Once, when we were young, my mother told me I was the stronger twin. In reality, my sister is the stronger, braver one.

As I remember it, she was the one that decided we should attend different colleges, even though I was desperate to go where she went. She bravely knew she needed to make her own path, and I needed to make mine.

She quit her job when she was in her twenties and moved south with her now-husband, with no apartment and no job. She confidently made a decision to change her life and she followed through. It ended up being a great move, and she still works for the same company that hired her the first week she showed up in her new town.

When she had some medical issues years ago, she worried most about her son, who was three at the time, and who would care for him. When she was healthy again, her daughter came along, growing their family. Her family came first then, and she still strongly puts her husband and her two children first now.

When I decided to train with her for a half-marathon, she encouraged me. She got up early each weekend to run alongside me, and she stayed with me even though I slowed us down. She stayed next to me at the race, and crossed the finish line with me even though she could’ve run up ahead. I was grateful to have her next to me to support me and cheer me on as we ran 13-plus miles.

My twin sister is the strongest, bravest, most loving and most confident person I know.  I’m so grateful and proud that, as her eight-minute younger sister, she has guided me on how to handle life as it comes. She is an amazing sister, friend, and role model.

I Am A Homebody

I am not ashamed to admit it.

I am a homebody. I love nothing more than to be at home.

It’s not that I’m anti-social. I love my friends and time with them.  But if plans get cancelled or if I have a day that I have nowhere to go, I’m a happy girl.

I love getting to stay in, read a book, organize a cabinet, drink some coffee and write, or sit on the couch and watch meaningless Bravo TV shows. I like being with me. I don’t mind being alone. I actually crave “me” time.

Sure, it’s not for everyone. I have a lot of friends that would much rather travel around, go out with friends and make plans to be social rather than stay at home. They hate being at home. It bores them. They need to have things outside of the house to go to and do.

That’s not me, I guess.

There’s a quote that says, “home is where the heart is”. That’s exactly where this homebody’s heart is–at home.

And I wouldn’t change a thing about being a homebody.

 

Back When I Was a Teen…Some Of My First Poems

Over the weekend, I was cleaning out my closet and came across a box containing a bunch of old stories and poems from my high school days. Many of them were written and created while I was a student at the Fine And Performing Arts Center–FPAC, at Howell High School in New Jersey.

Many of them made me roll my eyes and giggle. How dramatic I was back then, like many teenagers. I thought my writing was so amazing…I thought it would be fun to share some of the first poems I wrote.

Enjoy–and have a good laugh!

ALONE
I sit alone in the darkness
With only a candle
Illuminating the night
And I think of you
And I think of me
And the memories I have of you
Because memories are forever
And that’s all I have left

A single tear rolls down my cheek
For it is alone too

 

HATE
Hate–I hate you
But hate is such a hard word
I still hate you anyway
I don’t care how harsh the word is

There’s a fire burning deep inside me
It’s raging–raging at you
Wanting to hurt you and burn you
Because it hates you too

Not even a thousand leeches
Could suck the hate out of me
The hate I fee when I see you
Hear you, smell you–I hate you

 

UNMASKED
You hide behind that mask so dark
Why can’t I see the real you?
I really can’t tell who you are,
I can’t get through to you.

You portray yourself as a confident person,
But pull off that mask and see…
Unlock the door you wait behind
Let the child inside run free.

Unmask yourself and take a look,
Learn to live your life each day.
You have so much you can live for,
So throw that mask away!

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve

I had a week last week. It was one of those weeks where I moaned and groaned and did the whole “poor me” thing most days….

I should’ve been a librarian.

I should’ve never quit my job.

I would’ve volunteered this week if someone had asked me.

I could’ve been a better mom today if I had read that second book to the girls.

Could’ve. Would’ve. Should’ve.

Do you over-fill your head with these thoughts some days too? I can easily make one “could’ve” turn into hundreds. Then I am down and miserable about myself. Then I want others to tell me that all of that stuff isn’t true, and I am an amazing person. Then I just want to sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself as a wolf down a pint of cookie dough ice cream.

That’s the point where I tell myself I need to get over it. I need to be an adult and be responsible and accountable for my decisions and not mope over them.

One thing I need to remind myself of sometimes, and I’m here to remind you, too, is that it’s never too late.

You should’ve never quit your job? Well, then go an get another one. Or contact your old employer and let them know you’re interested in returning if something opens. You should’ve gone down a certain career path? Then go do it! You could’ve been a better mom? We all could be better at something, you can’t beat yourself up.

We are all doing this life thing the best we can.

We all have regrets.

We are the only ones that can make changes for ourselves.

So instead of pulling the “poor me” card, do something about it.

You always wanted to be a teacher, doctor,  or a (fill in the blank here)? Then go for it! Do what you love and don’t live regretting that you didn’t.

Someone makes you unhappy? We all deserve happiness, so it might be time to have a heart-to-heart with that person or make the decision to move on and find happiness in yourself or elsewhere.

You must take care of you. No one or no thing can make you happy. As I get older, I realize more and more that I am in control of my life, my wants and needs, and I need to make the changes to be who I want to be and live the life I want to live.

I can’t “poor me” all day long, because it gets me nowhere. I need to get up off the couch and decide what I want to do and make the changes to achieve it.

We can’t beat ourselves up over every little thing. There’s always going to be something we should’ve done, we could’ve changed, or we would’ve completed. It’s up to us to decide if we are going to do those things, make those changes, or complete those goals.

So, a little less “poor me”, y’all. And a little more, “I can, I will, I should….”

Be more kind to you, and take care of what you need to feel happy and successful.

My Girls are Kind, and That’s Most Important To Me

I am probably one of the world’s worst parents. I wish I was more like other moms that have set routines for their children, only feed them organic meals, and limit TV time.

But that’s not me. My kids eat cookies and sweets more than twice a week.  The twins sleep in my bed or on the couch way more nights than they sleep in their own bed. Our TV is on a lot, and the girls watch You Tube on our home computers daily. I don’t push them to read extra, and I let them read the minimum minutes required each night for homework if that’s all they want to do.

I would never be nominated for The Best Mom award by far.

But, the one rule I am consistent about and will not give up on is this:  It’s important to be kind. I will not put up with unkind words or actions.

I believe my most important job as a mother is to raise kind, caring girls–girls that take care of others, give when they can, and want to make our community better.

I expect my girls to participate in community service events, and I expect the same from myself. I expect my girls to have nice things to say to others, and I expect this from me too. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t share it. There’s always something kind you can do for someone each day. Find ways to be kind.

I encourage my girls to help others, whether that’s in their classrooms, on the playground, or out in public.

I am inspired and proud when one of them asks for money to help an organization, or when one of them asks if we can volunteer for an organization.

Through acts of kindness, I’ve seen my daughters take quiet friends under their wing, select and provide needed supplies to their teachers, help around the house to raise money to give to organizations in need, ask if we can help bag or deliver food for families in need, and collect books and blankets to give to small children.

These kind actions mean more to me as their mother than any other routine. I don’t care if they wear mismatched clothes, if they watch too much TV or if they eat cereal and milk for dinner.

I care that they know the importance of giving and being kind to others, and that is the greatest skill I can teach them.

 

I Let My Kids Do The Christmas Decorating Because I’m All About The Memories

A couple weeks ago, we put up our Christmas decorations. Stockings, the tree, snowmen and Santas….my husband pulled all the boxes down from the attic, and we went to town getting the house all festive.

Our decorations in the house are kind of a mess….most rooms don’t “match”, the ornaments aren’t placed evenly around the tree, and there’s a little bit of Christmas in every room.  It’s a bit chaotic and mismatched, but we love it.

Why? Because it was created by the kids. The girls do the majority of our decorating. I let them be the creators because they all love Christmas, they get excited about decorating the house for the holidays, and I want them to be making memories.

I don’t want them to think the house has to look perfectly put together to be a Christmas beauty. I don’t want to criticize them for how they arrange the stockings or where they put the ornaments on the tree. I want my daughters  and my husband and I to have a fun and enjoyable time getting our house ready for the holidays. I want the girls to pull out their preschool creations and say, “Oh, mom! Remember when I made this snowman in Ms. Laurie’s class?” or “Look at this picture of me in kindergarten! My ponytails are so crooked!”

I truly believe life and growing up is about spending time with each other, making memories and less stress. Our Christmas decorations are hung with love, a little creativity from three very talented girls, and with joy.

Hanging decorations at our house isn’t a chore each year. It’s full of fun memories and sweet moments spent together, and I hope to keep it that way for years and years.

Through It All, There Are Blessings To Be Discovered

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to focus on my blessings. I let greed, self-esteem, and disappointment get in the way. I have moments when I grumble and complain and “poor me” myself throughout the day.

Those are the moments I really have to push myself to remember how truly blessed I am.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote some pretty heavy stuff about my childhood. Despite those years being a very difficult time, there were some blessings that came from them. I learned how strong I could be. It took me awhile, but I discovered that I was more than my past. I learned how to love myself.

Yes, I had a difficult time struggling with an eating disorder. But I’m blessed that it made me more aware of the importance of a healthy body image. It’s helped me speak to my daughters positively about self-esteem, nutrition, and exercise.

In my 20’s, I moved to the west coast for a job, knowing no one in my new environment. I’m blessed that that time away from friends and family taught me to be more independent and assertive.

In my 30’s, I suffered a miscarriage. While it was an extremely difficult time for me and my husband, the blessing from the experience was that we realized how much love we had to give to a child once we conceived one. That unborn child taught me how much I could love another being, and how painful loss is.

In my 40’s, I lost a close friend of mine. While I miss her dearly, I’m so very blessed our paths crossed. I’m so grateful for the times we did get to spend together and the laughter we shared. I’m grateful for all the advice she gave me through the years. She was classy, confident, and caring.

On those days that I’m in a downward spiral, convinced that my life sucks, I try hard to focus on the blessings in those crappy moments. I (almost) always can find something positive that leaves me remembering what a blessing that moment is and how truly grateful I am for all the experiences and moments.

Dear Husband, I Want Another Baby (Or Maybe A Puppy Will Do)

Dear Husband,

Let’s have another baby. Seriously. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think we should consider it.

For 12 years, my main role has been “mom”. Sure, before getting married and having kids, I didn’t imagine this would be my role. I really thought that I would be a corporate girl. My only concern would be racking up degrees and promotions.  I liked being needed and in charge at work. I liked making important decisions. I liked helping and serving employees and customers.

Then you came along, and my goals changed to seeking marriage and growing a family with little ones running around the house.

So here I have been for 12 years, running our “family corporation” (and killing it, by the way), and now it’s getting to a point where I’m  not needed so much by the kids. Sure, I get a still snuggle or some hand-holding, but it’s few and far between. But gone are the endless hugs and the “I love you mommy” comments throughout the day.

While I’m so proud of all that the kids are accomplishing as they are growing, and I love watching them exert their independence and make their own decisions, the nest is feeling quieter. I’m feeling more lonely.

So…maybe we should try for that fourth child. Sure, it’d be super-difficult, nearly impossible. But a little one to watch giggle, and sleep, and crawl, and stuff Cheerios into his mouth….I miss all of that. We might have better luck waiting for grandchildren in 20 years or so. I really don’t want to wait that long, though.

On the other hand, we could always get a puppy. You could be a hero, and come home with a sweet little doggy that needs love, needs potty trained, wants to be loved.

I know, you’ll tell me that the timing isn’t right. Was the timing ever right when we found out we were pregnant with the girls? The timing won’t ever be right, really. We just will need to jump in and do it. And the girls would be so excited to have a “little brother” or a “little sister”, even if it is a fur baby rather than an actual baby-baby.

Help me get my “baby fix”, dear husband. Let’s have that baby. Let’s look at adopting…adopting a young dog. He or she would be welcomed and loved by the whole family.