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Not the Same

I’m at my childhood home… but it’s not the same.

I wake up in the morning and go downstairs to fix a cup of coffee. My dad is not sitting in his chair reading the newspaper. I don’t smell coffee. I don’t hear his voice saying “Mornin’ Babe! You sleep okay?”

I take my coffee outside to the front porch and watch the sun rise over 12 Mile Island on the Ohio River. My dad does not come out to tell me how humid it’s supposed to be today.

My dad is not in the kitchen cooking bacon. There are no eggs on the counter getting “the chill off” so they are just right for frying. ESPN is not on the tv. The kitchen is quiet.

The house is changing more and more everyday as we clean out each closet, cabinet, and drawer. My parent’s closet and bathroom are bare. My dad will never wear his University of Kentucky t-shirts again or his favorite jeans. His work clothes will help men who cannot afford nice clothes for an interview. I hope his immaculately pressed and starched dress shirts bring them confidence. Thinking about how much my dad’s clothes can help makes packing them in a box just a little bit easier.

But it still pains my heart as I hug his soft turtleneck and remember how it felt to hug him when he wore it.

Rooms are beginning to fill up with “stuff.” Some of it will be packed. Some of it will be sold. Some of it will move to my mom’s little assisted living apartment.

The garage has become a sorting area between trash, items to sell, and items to ponder. My dad’s car is not there. It’s in my driveway, 5 hours north of my parent’s house.

The grass is just a tad long, but not bad. My dad’s long-time friend cuts the grass every week. He tells me that he has to “keep PL’s yard lookin’ nice.”

There’s some drift wood on the beach and dried river mud leftover from the last time the “river was up.” But the dock built by my dad and Uncle Ronnie (at least 30 years ago) is still strong. That makes me incredibly proud.

Tonight, I’m lying in my parent’s bed, in the divot made by my dad. I am staring out the windows watching a summer storm over the river. I’m remembering every feature of my dad’s face and how his laugh always made me smile.

I’m also fighting off a huge sense of guilt. My mom is still alive yet I’m going through her stuff like she’s not. She wants to be here, in her home, but she no longer can take care of herself. It makes me so sad. I wish I could do something more. I remind myself that I didn’t always like the decisions she made for me as a child. But she always had my best interest in mind… even if I didn’t think so at the time.

This house is full of memories. The land itself holds a lot of our family’s history. I’m still making memories now with my family… just without two major people who I love.

The house is not the same… but I do still feel the love that has lived here far beyond my existence. I know my dad is with me… but it’s really not the same.

I miss you, Daddy. I’m not the same without you.

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Parenting Through Loss

I was 6 years old when I lost my last grandparent. The same age as my oldest son.

I don’t remember much about the time surrounding my grandparents’ deaths. I only remember feeling very sad. I never felt deprived or unloved. My parents did their best to give me everything that I needed during that time. Especially my mom. I always remember her telling me that it’s ok to be sad. Even though I didn’t fully understand, I knew that I was safe and everything was going to be okay.

My mom did her best to help me through, all while she was experiencing tremendous stress and grief. My last two grandparents passed away within nine months of each other and they were both my mom’s parents. I only know that she was struggling through that time because now I understand how it feels to lose a parent.

Here I am, 34 years later, trying to do my best to help my children… even though I’m faced with the greatest sadness and stress of my life.

I had to say goodbye to my Dad.

My grief is compounded by the loss that my children are experiencing. My boys love their Papaw and he was so in love with them. My heart breaks and soars simultaneously when the boys talk about Papaw.

I encourage my boys to remember their favorite times with Papaw. I don’t force it and try to keep it a natural flow. If my eyes should happen to well up with tears, I reassure them that it’s only because I miss him. I want them to know that they did not make me said and it actually makes me very happy to hear them talk about Papaw.

I’m trying to be open and honest with my kids about my emotions. Sometimes my emotions come out as anger and I might snap easily. I have found myself less patient which typically leads to yelling. I really hate when that happens. Once I remove myself and calm down, I make a point to hug my boys and let them know that I am sorry. I remind them that I miss Papaw and I get upset easily. They are such sweet boys. They always respond with hugs and “I love you’s.”

That is good for my soul.

You know, as a social worker, I’m constantly on alert for atypical behavior. I know that my emotions, stress, and behaviors are affecting my children. I’m starting to notice that they are acting different. They too are having outbursts of anger, crying easily, and a little bit of regression.

In the past, when I’ve experienced extreme emotions surrounding a stressful situation, I find that educating myself allows me to make sense of the craziness. I’m reading everything that I can about grief for myself as well as for my kids.

Currently, my only educational conclusion is that I cannot effectively help my own children on my own.

I’m relying heavily on my husband, friends, and family. People want to help… and I have to be ok with asking for this help. If a friend asks if they can take the kids for awhile, I am graciously accepting the offer.

Play dates that involve me being with with my kids, their friends, and my friend, are not going so well. My kids are starving for my attention and I’m incredibly anxious. Plus, I’m usually in a deep conversation with my friend, which causes our attention to not fully be on the kids. And if you’re a parent, you know what comes next… It’s best for me to just not be there right now.

I have found that activities with my kids need to include me being active as well. Trying to play toys with my guys becomes frustrating and tiring for me. So, we go hiking or kick balls around. Walking is the best thing for me right now. And really, it’s good for all of us.

I’m struggling. The kids know that. Sometimes all I need to do is just let them know that Mommy’s having a hard time and could really use some snuggles. I know that is the best way for me to be a parent amongst grief.

My parents didn’t teach me how live. They lived. And let me watch them do it.

They did a pretty damn good job ♥️

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Sometimes the Toilet Overflows

Why don’t toilets overflow when there’s substantial amount of time to clean up the mess? Or when you have a lot of extra money to actually spend on something like a plumber? Why does it always seem to happen when things are already going bat shit crazy?

We don’t choose when life gets hard.

The first weekend in January of 2019, changed the trajectory of my year.

My dad… the epitome of everything strong… my rock… my biggest fan… was admitted to the hospital, for reasons unknown.

And I am 5 hours away.

Simultaneously, my mom’s dementia was rapidly progressing. I discovered just how bad it was when my mom could not tell me which hospital Dad went to.

There are at least eight hospitals in the metropolitan area where my parent’s live. By the time I found my dad, I had called five of them.

I found out that he was being admitted to the Critical Care Unit and almost fell on the floor. I work at a hospital and knew that meant there’s something serious going on.

But wait!!! My mom is alone in their house. She cannot be alone!!!

Quickly, my husband and I went into planning mode. I had to call my boss because this was a Friday and I had to work the next two days. Then we needed someone to pick our son up from school. Luckily the other could stay longer at preschool if needed. Then I had to pack and decide if I’m leaving immediately or in the morning. We chose the morning for safety reasons.

When I arrived at my parent’s house the next day, I was faced with the sight of how bad things have been. Like I said, my dad has always been strong. And because of that, he had not been honest with me about how bad he was feeling. The house was 83 degrees. It smelled. There were dishes with moldy food and cups with curdled milk. Actually, there was even more that I just cannot mention because I might break down while typing.

Over the course of the next few days, I took care of my mom, cooked, cleaned, and removed countless bags of expired food. I drove back and forth to the hospital and talked to nurses about the situation. Honestly, I did so much over the course of four days, a lot of it is a blur. When my dad called to tell me that he was getting discharged, all I wanted was to get him home. Stupidly, I thought that his discharge instructions would supplement the fact that I could not be in the room to talk to his nurse and ask questions. I didn’t have the energy to drag my mom in a wheelchair back up to his room.

Luckily, a few days later, my aunt flew into town to stay with my parents so I could get back home. I missed my husband and my kids and plus I had to work.

So why the toilet analogy? Well, let me tell you!

Two weeks after I got back home, I found myself back at my parent’s house because my dad had to be admitted again. This time, our 4 year old made the treck to Pappa and Grandma’s with me. We walked into a much better situation than before. My aunt had been there for two weeks and my mom had a smile on her face.

Now, I was faced with taking care of my mom, who needs as much care as a toddler, and my soon to be 4 year old (we celebrated his 4th birthday during this trip). The stressors were a lot different this time. Imagine trying to coordinate two cats simultaneously. One cat who can’t groom herself anymore and the other who keeps chasing after birds. Getting those two cats ready to leave the house plus trying to shower and get yourself ready. Can you feel the chaos?

Then take a big ole shit and clog the toilet. Feel that panic starting to set in? Imagine how fast your heart would start to race when you’re standing naked in the bathroom with the shower running and water starts spilling over the toilet bowl. And the water keeps coming. And the clothes you were going to wear after the shower start getting shit water on them (by the way, you only brought one bra).

Oh! And add a dog to the mix! (Cause my parents have a little Boston Terrier).

So here we have my mom bitching from the other room about how she’s going to be late to her hair appointment. My son running around because that’s what little boys do. The dog trying to get into the bathroom to lick the water. Me, naked, trying to throw towels on the floor and stop the water flow. With 10 minutes available before I had to be showered, dressed, and get my mom and son buckled into the car.

What did I do?

Contained the mess until I could have time to clean it up later. There were too many other things that had to be done and not enough time to sufficiently do it all. Somehow, I was able to pull myself together and get on to the next part of the day.

If you haven’t figured out the correlation, here it is…

The toilet represents the shit that life sometimes throws at us. It’s never a good time for a toilet overflow as well as it is never a good time for a life changing circumstance to explode into your life.

We have a saying in the social work field, “just roll with it.” When you don’t have the time to process what is happening, you have to quickly make a plan and somehow be okay to come back to clean up the mess later.

The technical term for this is compartmentalization. Basically, if you shift your focus to other things, instead of the situation at hand, you can temporarily avoid the emotions that can consume you. That’s not the same as suppressing, or burying the emotions. This just allows you to revisit the mess when the time is more appropriate.

It’s been almost a week since we left my parent’s house. Right now, I’m in “clean up” and “fix it” mode. I’m completing intermittent FMLA paperwork, working with my parent’s insurance provider and family to arrange the care needed for my parents at home. I’m taking care of my kids, grocery shopping, getting back to my small business, and selling my old toys that I’ve brought back home with me.

The mess has been contained, and now, the emotions are bubbling up. This is definitely a better time for me to be able to process the situation and allow myself to feel the emotions. It’s totally normal to be sad. It sucks to see my parents struggle with their health. Coming face to face with the inevitable is… well… I just can’t find the words to appropriately describe how it feels. I only know that my life is different and will not ever be the same.

So, I have to take care of myself somehow. I’m seeing my therapist and I’m going to schedule that massage my husband got me for Christmas. I’m listening to Mel Robbins’s “Mindset Reset” YouTube videos to keep my head in check. I’m doing the best damn job that I can. And I’m putting things into place so that the next time the toilet gets clogged and overflows, the mess will be easier to clean up.

Thanks for reading.

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The Realistic Holiday Survival Guide

Ahhhh…. The holidays are upon us. I’d love to blog about a fun family holiday tradition or maybe share a favorite family recipe along with witty quips of my darling children helping me in the kitchen. Even better! A blog about a holiday craft that I did with my adorable sons.

Well, no. None of that over here.

I look around our little house and see an explosion of toys, clothes, kid’s artwork, pictures that are not in frames, pictures that are in frames but not on the walls, stuff from work, stuff for my home business, everywhere there’s STUFF… (insert facepalm emoji). There’s a part of me that feels down about our lack of space. I don’t like that we are still in my husband’s former bachelor pad. I don’t like that we have a litter box in our living room because our old, sweet cat started using the corner as her new potty. I don’t like that our furniture has rips and our kitchen table looks like it belongs in a grade school art room (as my 6 year old pointed out). I don’t like that despite being married for 11 years, my husband and I have never hosted a family holiday gathering due to the size of our house and lack of room for eating/sitting/cooking/breathing.

First World problems. Having too much stuff in a small house. When I see my mental struggles in writing, it seems so insignificant.

There’s a couple of ways to look at my inner turmoil…

1. Be thankful for what I have because someone else has it worse.

OR

2. Acknowledge the problem as well as the emotional component.

As a child, I was often scolded with the following statement (make sure to read this with a Southern accent):

“Julie Amber! There are little boys and girls who live in shacks with dirt floors and don’t even have toys. Be grateful for what you have.”

My adult brain understands what my parents were doing. They were trying to teach me to be thankful for what I do have. I get it. Unfortunately, adolescent minds can interpret this message as “your problems are insignificant, so get over yourself.”

Yes, my particular problem may be insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I can appreciate that. But the focus is not on the severity. The root cause is a sense of inadequacy. That feeling should not be minimized.

Acknowledging that the problem sucks, allows the underlying emotion to be heard. It is not a form of weakness.

In other words, identify the emotion and then acknowledge it.

What can I control?

When I think about things that get me down, I have to look for the things that I can control. Some things are just too big and overwhelming. Those problems have to be set aside. Unless I can personally change the situation, I cannot let myself stress, worry, or feel down. The problem has to be compartmentalized.

So this is what I need to do:

  • Take a closer look at what I DO have control over. What are the little changes that can I make RIGHT NOW?
  • Become a “master of the mundane.” Do these little things over and over on a daily basis, with a good attitude. I don’t always have to like it, but if I keep doing these little things, eventually, they will pay off.

Here’s an example of how I put this into practice this past week when my parents were in town for Thanksgiving…

After my parents had been here for five days, I realized that my mom and my 3 year old display many behavioral similarities. My mom’s dementia has increased dramatically and my dad is not looking so good. I feel like I need to something but have no clue what to do. This has been weighing on me like a ton of bricks.

On top of those major life stressors, it’s cold and gloomy here in Northern Indiana. The kind of weather that makes me want to stay under a warm blanket and do nothing. I’m riding the Struggle Bus and make it stop!

How to Stop the Struggle Bus

  1. Is there something that I can do to make an immediate impact on this situation? — No. I can’t change the fact that my parents live five hours away. I can’t make my mom’s dementia go away either.
  2. How does this situation make me feel? — Sad. Powerless.
  3. Is there something that I can do today that will make the situation better in the future (or just allow me to feel a little better)? — Yes. I need some self care. I’m eating crappy, not exercising, and staying up too late. These unhealthy habits for sure have a negative impact on my life stressors.

Look, I have found something that I do have control over. And you know what? It’s ok to put the other things to the side because I know what I can do right now! Making the choice to do little, positive things, consistently and persistently over a period of time, will lead to a greater outcome.

So how does this tie into the Holidays?

The holidays can be overwhelming. Especially when everyday things like work, family, and life events don’t stop. If you find yourself spiraling out of control, take a minute to identify what is truly going on. Acknowledge the emotion(s) at the root of the problem and look for the pieces that you can control. Become a master of the mundane with a good attitude.

Your Holidays may look different next year. Step out of the whirlwind and admire the beauty of the moment.

Acknowledgement: “Master the mundane” is a phrase from the book The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. If you’re looking for more ways to positively impact your life, this is definitely a must read.

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Too Tired to Wash My Face

(Disclaimer: I promote and earn commissions from the products discussed in this article).

Have you ever felt like that? I sure did tonight!

I worked a long Power Weekend at the hospital. 12 hour days, back to back. I’m a Clinical Case Manager, which is a glorified title for “social worker who gets people out the door.” It’s challenging, sometimes rewarding, and most of the time, a stressful position. But working this shift allows me to be with my kids more during the week and build our dreams together.

Anyway, after coming home from my second long day/evening shift and helping my husband get our kids to bed, I collapsed on the couch and began my enjoyable “work.” Took care of some tasks for the children’s museum, checked in on some babysitter requests for Bambino, and followed up with some recent samplers who are loving Nerium products as much as I do.

11:00pm came way too fast! My hubby and I briefly caught each other up on specific highlights of our days and kissed goodnight. We will be sleeping in different beds tonight due to the 3 year old boy in my husband’s spot. Some things are not worth losing sleep over.

By this time I was whooped and contemplated going straight to bed. Too tired to brush my teeth. Too tired to wash my face.

But I’m 40 now. My face is more prone to the effects of aging more than ever. If I don’t take the time to remove makeup and everyday pollutants from my face, I’m going to have breakouts and potentially cause more damage to my skin. (Former tanning bed junky here!) Seriously? Can I not take 2 minutes to do something for myself?

By the way, I’m not joking when I say 2 minutes. I timed the process. Removing makeup, washing my face, and putting on a protective, skin detoxifying, wrinkle-fighting powerhouse, took 1 minute and 32 seconds. It takes me longer to brush my teeth! I can do this!

How can all of these benefits happen in less than 2 minutes? I’ll tell ya!

The face wash that I use goes on like an oil. Sound weird? It’s pretty genius, actually! Here’s why. Makeup, sunscreen, and environmental dirt (smog, smoke, yuck) don’t just come off in the wash. Double cleansing with an oil-based product first, to melt that grime off, and then washing your face, is what’s recommended nowadays.

Like I’m really gonna add another step before bed. Pa-lease.

So, when I wash my face, I put this stuff right on my face without water. I hate splashing water on my face and have always wished that I could just put face wash directly onto my face. It’s the little things, right?

So after I put the face wash on, I add a little water and do the normal face washing thing. This changes the oil into a silky lather. It seriously feels amazing! Then I take a wet wash cloth and wipe it off. Simple.

Despite the simplicity, this face wash does some pretty amazing things! Check it out:

• Removes makeup and impurities

• Helps remove the effects of air pollution on the skin’s surface

• Has a pH that works in harmony with the skin

• Is ideal for all skin types (dermatologist tested)

• Can be used morning and night

It’s kinda hard to put this whole act of face washing into words. But this video will show you how it’s done!

http://ltl.is/d7TSZ

Next, I use three pumps of my night cream. Doesn’t matter if my skin is wet or not. If I really want the night cream to feel tight, like a mask, I’ll dry my face first. Leaving water on my skin just holds more moisture in the night cream.

Check out the things that my “magic potion” can do!!

• Helps reduce appearance of wrinkles and addresses signs of aging

• Helps instantly tighten and firm skin’s appearance

• Works to remove skin-drying urban stressors accumulated during the day

• Improves skin clarity and radiance, and provides smoother skin texture

• Helps fight the appearance of discoloration, enlarged pores and sagging skin

• Has a mask-like consistency, which creates a barrier to guard against wrinkles caused by sheets and pillowcases

Isn’t that awesome? It’s ridiculously simple. Watch this little video clip to see exactly how long it takes.

Want to try it for yourself? Just go to the site listed below and click on the sample you’d like. You only pay for shipping and there’s absolutely no commitment!

http://www.julielovisa.trynerium.com

I love the simplicity of everything about these products and the business. If it was hard, there’s no way I’d be using or promoting this!

Thanks for reading!